During the course of the investigation and accumulation of the scant facts that our society has gathered about the organic tryptamines, there has also undoubtedly been generated far more pure speculation, as DMT and 5-MeO-DMT (in a variety of forms) have continued to developed a mythology uniquely there own. In an effort to separate the fact from the fiction and the known from the unknown, this section considers some common speculations about DMT.
In the 1970’s, DMT and 5-MeO-DMT were both discovered to be endogenous to the human body, though their function and the source of their origin remain a mystery. Probably the most commonly misrepresented piece of speculation amongst DMT and ayahuasca enthusiasts is the theory that this endogenous DMT is produced by our pineal gland. While the ancient and mysterious pineal gland has long captured the human imagination having been identified by the Hindu’s as the site of the ‘third-eye’ and more recently said to be ‘the seat of the soul’ by the French philosopher Descartes, there is absolutely zero proof that DMT is produced by pineal gland. This is therefore, pure speculation, even though many people in the psychedelic community often present this theory as if it is a proven fact.
The origins of this still-unproven speculation first appear in the mid-1980’s :
This hypothesis that the pineal gland is the source of our endogenous DMT gained substantial traction amongst the psychedelic community after the publication of Dr. Rick Strassman’s book, “DMT: The Spirit Molecule’. An account of the clinical trials that Dr. Strassman ran on the effects of DMT on human volunteers at the University of New Mexico in the early 1990’s (in the first FDA approved human-trials of a psychedelic since the 1960’s), Dr Strassman’s hypothesis about the source of our endogenous DMT is mostly based on the fact that the pineal gland is know to produce melatonin (which is a tryptamine), and contain the highest concentrations of methyltransferase that would be necessary for the production of DMT. In his book DMT: The Spirit Molecule, Dr Strassman proposed (apparently very convincingly!) that:
These self-admitted theories in DMT: The Spirit Molecule have been so convincing that many of Dr Strassman’s fans (the comedian Joe Rogan being the worst offender) have apparently not realized that these are unproven hypotheses; perhaps an unforeseen effect of Dr Strassman’s book mixing personal theories with the clinical results of his trials. Some of these admittedly fascinating theories – for example the release of DMT into the fetus at 49 days old (the day it first shows sex) as Dr Strassman proposed – clearly cannot be tested under current scientific parameters, while the fact that Dr Strassman did not find any DMT in the cadavers of the 10 human brains that he looked at has generally been dismissed or ignored. Nor has anyone been able to prove Dr Strassman’s theory of DMT being produced by the pineal in the decades since his original trials.
The lack of accurate DMT testing methods, complicated by the legal restrictions against investigating DMT (and especially in live subjects), undoubtedly hinders further research in this field, and much of Rick Strassman’s current work at the Cottonwood Research Foundation is apparently being directed towards developing new ways of assaying DMT levels in the blood. However, even if more time passes by without anyone finding DMT in the pineal and it appears that Dr Strassman’s theory is wrong, the fact will still remain that DMT and 5-MeO-DMT are endogenous; and the search for the origins of their production will continue.
Another hypothesis that is commonly passed as fact is the hypothesis that DMT is released by the pineal gland in our deepest states of sleep, and that the wild and chaotic dreams we sometimes have (and sometimes have a hard time remembering) are being caused by this internal DMT-release.
Since there is no proof that the pineal is producing DMT this is obviously at the very least unproven. However since DMT is known to be being produced somewhere within our bodies, the hypothesis that endogenous DMT is affecting not only our dreams, but perhaps other parts of our consciousness, is apparently scientifically legitimate, and of some interest to the neurological sciences;
One of the most common reoccurring themes of the DMT experience is encounters with language – flowing alien codes, runic symbols, information transforming to symbols and than into thoughts, the sense of being “down-loaded”. Participants can also experience “glossolia”, or “speaking-in-tounges” where they spontaneously speak strange languages or make alien sounds, the result of which often influences the DMT “trip” itself.
This phenomenon has led to various speculations that there is a link between DMT (in the body, and/or in plants) or psilocin (4-OH-DMT, in mushrooms) and the human species acquisition of language. Two of ayahuasca and DMT’s greatest pioneers were apparently influenced by the possibility; William S. Burroughs most famous statement – that Language is a virus from outer space – would later find its extreme extrapolation in Terence McKenna’s hypothesis was that the psilocybin mushroom spore is both an alien intelligence and a spaceship seeding language throughout the Universe.
Today, heavily influenced by McKenna’s ideas, there is an emerging field that is attempting an scientific investigation of this phenomenon which it calls Xenolinguistics – the study of non-human intelligences. Numerous speculations have also be raised around the concept that Everything is language, a common intuition to many DMT users. The DNA sequence which is the basis of all life that we know of is a complex language or code, and anthropologist Jeremy Narby proposes in his book The Cosmic Serpent (about ayahuasca) that DMT allows shamans (and us) a visual encounter with this DNA ‘library. While at the quantum level, all physical reality is in fact an exchange of information in the form of energy … a seething maelstrom of possibility waiting to be born into form that some would argue mirrors the intense mental fluctuations of the DMT experience.
Meeting with ‘Aliens’ whilst under the influence of DMT has been a pervasive theme of DMT reports since the wide-spread use of the compound first began in the mid 60’s; numerous positions on this phenomena have evolved since it was first noted, with no single theory gaining common credence. Judging by certain examples of the current ‘Visionary Art’ the contact between these strange beings and DMT users is obviously continuing!
William S. Burroughs and Alien Intelligence
In his letters written to Alan Ginsberg in 1956 about his ayahuasca experiences (later published as The Yagé Letters) William S. Burroughs first suggested the idea that the ayahuasca experience is actually an access to some kind of an alien reality. Thus it could be suggested that the inspiration for both one of his most famous statements – that language is a virus from Outer Space – as well as the hallucinatory alien-filled world of Interzone in his most famous work Naked Lunch, in fact come from his pioneering experimentation with both ayahuasca and DMT. The existence of this ‘alien reality’ would continue to be a prevalent theme in Burroughs work throughout the rest of his life.
Terence McKenna and Alien Love
William S. Burroughs pioneering ideas and explorations would remain unreplicated for nearly a quarter-century before reappearing in the speeches and writings of Terence McKenna, whose first book (The Invisible Landscape, written with his brother Dennis) was also about going to Colombia (unsuccessfully) in search of ayahuasca (yage).
There can be no doubt that when the true history of the rediscovery of entheogens is written, the McKenna brothers Colombian expedition of 1971 will be recognized as a water-shed moment in modern spirituality, if only for the fact that upon returning from Colombia the two brothers were largely responsible for introducing the psilocybe cubensis spores to the United States and subsequently published the first enormously popular “Magic Mushroom Growers Guide” (under the psydenoms O.T. Oss and O.N. Oeric). These actions helped to establish psilocybin (or “magic”) mushrooms amongst the psychedelic culture as a ‘natural’ alternative to (synthetic) LSD, with psilocybin mushrooms becoming the first of the ‘traditional’ entheogens that were made widely available. Their universal popularity, combined with Terence McKenna’s extensive advocacy of both psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca, were the catalyst for the continuing large-scale rediscovery of the use of natural plant-entheogens, and for the subsequent current widespread interest in indigenous shamanism.
Terence McKenna’s own influence on post-60’s psychedelic culture certainly does not stop there however, for it seemed like he was indeed a ‘mouth-piece for the Logos’. Over the next nearly 40 years before his premature death, his fertile mind both generated and revisited an extraordinary number of brilliant and unusual ideas, many of which have since had a noticeable impact on our underground culture. Much of that cultures current interest in shamanism, post-modern tribalism, and the reputed Mayan End-of-Time date of Dec 21st, 2012, originate in Terence McKenna’s written and spoken advocacy of ayahuasca and psilocybe mushrooms.
After emerging as the primary voice in the post-1960’s psychedelic culture, McKenna became a popular speaker throughout the 1980’s, especially once he was embraced by the emerging electronic music culture where his ideas on the intersection between technology and psychedelics found a ready and willing audience. The majority of these ideas were published in short-succession in the early 1990’s in McKenna’s two major works – Food of the Gods, The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution, his magus opus on the unrecorded history of psilocybin mushrooms that expands on Gordon and Valentina Wasson’s theory that Mankind first conceived of God after accidently consuming some kind of entheogenic mushroom; and The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, and the End of History, a collection of his essays and speeches that is arguably both his most radical, and increasingly most influential, work. It is in this book (along with the assertion that the mushroom spore itself is a spaceship capable of inter-stellar travel) that Terence elaborates most eloquently on his ideas about the Alien, or the Wholly Other.
Terence McKenna proposed that the transpersonal dimension of the Wholly Other that one can experience on psilocybin or DMT/ayahuasca, is in fact, the true Alien, and that Humanity was approaching an event-horizon where we were increasingly making contact with this ‘alien intelligence’ in the psychedelic realm of pure information. For Terence McKenna, the UFO – the shiny disc in the sky – is actually an object from the Human Unconscious, from ‘this murky region, beyond the end of history, beyond the end of life’ that is a premonition of the arrival of this singularity, the Eschaton, and the realization that the Alien was Us all along. A transformational event that – according to the Timewave software developed on Terence’s ideas – will occur in mid November 2012, or December 21st, 2012, if you prefer.
The saddest thing about this extraordinary prediction is that Terence will not get to see it; he died on April 3rd, 2000 of brain cancer. It is more than possible that we will never have a spokesman with quite the same connection to the Logos again; and there probably will never be another quite as original.
Dr. Rick Strassman: Aliens in the Lab?
As fantastical as many of Terence McKenna’s ideas may appear to be, it is interesting to note that many of his ideas regarding the similarities between the Alien Contact Experience and the Psilocybin/DMT experience actually replicated themselves when they were reproduced in a clinical environment during Dr. Rick Strassman’s human trials with DMT at the University of New Mexico in the early 1990’s.
Strassman goes on to list many fascinating similarities between his own volunteers reports of their clinical DMT experiences, and the accounts of the Alien Abduction experience as related in psychiatrist John Mack’s books Abduction and Passport to the Cosmos. They included:
1. Consciousness is disturbed by a bright light, humming sounds, strange bodily vibrations or paralysis. Many UFO abductees report a sense of high frequency vibrations, which may cause them to feel that they are coming apart at the molecular level.
2. Abductees find themselves on some type of examination or operating table.
3. Experiencers are absolutely under the aliens control. No matter how bizarre and unexpected the environment, there is no doubt in their minds that it is happening – it is ‘more real than real’.
4. Reports of rapid transferences of information (between the Alien and the Abductee). Aliens that communicate using a language of universal visual symbols rather that sounds or words.
5. Visions of energy-filled tunnels, and cylinders of light.
6. The collapse of space/time perception, a sense of entering other dimensions of reality or universes.
7. Along with reports of ‘typical’ (Hollywood) aliens, there were also reports of reptiles, mantises, spiders, and “human-alien” hybrids.
8. A message that the Earth is in danger.
9. Many abductees no longer feared death, knowing that their consciousness would survive the body’s death.
Nick Sand on Aliens
As might be expected, not everyone agrees with the idea that DMT is responsible for alien contact! The following is a response to Dr Strassman’s commentary from the man who has arguably had more hands-on experience with DMT than probably anyone else, the former underground chemist (and the man who realized that DMT could be freebased) Nick Sand.
While numerous commentators have pointed out the apparent similarities between high-dosage DMT experiences and the near-death experience (NDE), Dr. Rick Strassman was the first to suggest a biological reason why.
In his book DMT: The Spirit Molecule, Dr. Strassman proposes the hypothesis that the pineal gland floods our brains with DMT when we die, and that this wave of DMT is the vehicle that allows our consciousness (or spirit) to leave the physical confines of the body. According to Dr Strassman’s hypothesis;
The search for a biological explanation for both the near-death experience and the mystical state was the major goal for Dr. Strassman’s clinical DMT trials, and a small number of his volunteer subjects did in fact report experiences that were similar to ‘classical’ NDE or mystical experiences. The subsequent publication of DMT: The Spirit Molecule has created a great deal of discussion and pure speculation on this point; and while the fact that there is are entheogens endogenous to the human body that are capable of replicating the near-death experience should seem to be of obvious importance, it should be noted that to date there is still no proof that the pineal gland does in fact produce DMT – this is only Dr Strassman’s hypothesis. And Due to the draconian laws that virtually deny all research into these clearly important compounds, there is currently no ongoing research into DMT or 5-MeO-DMT.
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