“Metaphorically, DMT is like an intellectual black hole in that once one knows about it, it is very hard for others to understand what one is talking about. One cannot be heard. The more one is able to articulate what it is, the less others are able to understand. This is why I think people who attain enlightenment, if we may for a moment comap these two, are silent. They are silent because we cannot understand them. Why the phenomenon of tryptamine ecstasy has not been looked at by scientists, thrill seekers, or anyone else, I am not sure, but I recommend it to your attention.”
~ Terence McKenna, The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelics, Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFO’s, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, & the End of History. (1991).
Dimethlytryptamine: the granddaddy of all hallucinogens. I’m not interested in trying it, as the results sound a little overwhelming, but I am very curious about the psychological, emotional, and spiritual implications of the experience that many of its users have shared.
Terence McKenna described the five-minute DMT trip in great detail: after smoking or otherwise ingesting the ayahuasca plant, the user sees a colorful mandala. It starts out small, as if in the distance, but then it grows and approaches. When it fills the user’s vision, a tearing sound is heard, as of ripped cellophane. The user pushes through the mandala like a Trojan onto the football field, and enters a vivid, sharp, unearthly landscape that is described as a vast, underground dome.
Then the entities show up.
McKenna called them “self-transforming machine elves,” which sounds ridiculous. Nevertheless, he insisted that this was the most fitting term for them. They are the size of basketballs, and their surfaces continually roil, bubble, and shift. They bound up to the user like happy dogs, and they speak in a nonsense language. Nonsense or not, though, the user understands exactly what they’re saying. The message is understood as, “It’s so good to see you! We’ve been waiting so long for you to show up!” This message is “felt,” rather than translated. McKenna says there is a warmth and a welcome, a sense of hospitality and eagerness that has no menace or threat to it at all.
After the greeting, the elves, as though knowing that their time with the user is short, quickly demonstrate their powers. They urge the user not to give in to astonishment, but to pay careful attention to them. Then they pull a series of miraculous, impossible artifacts out of thin air, like a child eager to show off his or her toys. These objects, like all the other elements of the experience, are mystifying and bizarre, both organic and geometric, and constantly changing. The user is invariably amazed, whether it’s a first-time trip or not.
Next, the entities remind the user not to freak out, and they do something even weirder than the demonstration: they gather before the user, and leap into his or her chest! Users say there is no discomfort in this, or any physical sensation at all, though that fact alone can still be disconcerting or frightening.
At this point, a sort of “bubble” grows in the user’s body, like an expanding gas. It rises into the user’s throat. If the user relaxes and lets it come out of the mouth, the most incredible part of the trip occurs. The “bubble” expresses itself as a song of glossolalia, a musical string of gibberish that the user cannot fathom, even though it is not dissimilar from the language the elves used.
What’s more, the nonsense words manifest themselves visually: expanding from the mouth as artifacts of the very same kind that the elves created.
In describing the trip, McKenna didn’t go much farther than this, so I guess that the user wakes up shortly after this curious creative rush.
Now, what the hell does this all mean?
While tripping, a DMT user does not physically go anywhere, and yet, by all reports, the landscape they envision is completely foreign, and clearer than any dream. It all looks “realer than real.” What this tells me is that the user does not travel outward, but inward.
Somewhere inside his or her own mind.
The subconscious, perhaps? The entities are so glad to see the user that it reminds me of the near-death experience — those who’ve gone through it describe the sense that loving spirits are awaiting their arrival. It’s such a warm feeling that they presume the entities to be deceased family members beckoning them to Heaven. Are they peeking into the same realm where the DMT dome lies?
I think – and this is the theory of an untrained goofball with limited formal education – that the “elves” are messengers, ambassadors of that subconscious self that we usually suppress.
I see the subconscious mind as a foundation: a neglected part of ourselves upon which we build an identity. This identity is a hemlock chalice. It is the product of societal myths that are drilled into us from childhood: values, judgments, opinions, worries, assumptions, things we think we want, ways we think we should behave, things we think we are. We perch at the top of this tower with a monocular, watching for trouble ahead.
Sometimes, the subconscious foundation doesn’t like the weight that’s pressing down on it, and it lashes out. Being so far above it, we sense this shouting as feelings of unease, a distant banging on the pipes beneath us. Most of us ignore these unbidden thoughts and ideas, or bury them under distractions until they go away.
The DMT upends this situation. It pulls the user down from the imaginary tower and forces him or her to look at the foundation, at the dreams and thoughts that they ignore. And they have a lot to say.
“Pay attention. Don’t freak out. Watch what we do, and then do it yourself.”
So what is the lesson to be learned? How does the spontaneous creation of impossible objects help us? Moreover, why is it that we’re able to imitate these alien beings so accurately? It can’t be done in the real world, but in the trip it happens by simply allowing it to happen. It is simple, and yet inexplicable, like willing our hands to move. It must be because the elves are part of us, right? So it seems to me that they’re not teaching us something new; they’re reminding us of something that we have forgotten.
I say “we” because this is an experience shared among DMT users of many stripes. This raises another question: how can so many people receive such a singular message? Is it possible that they all receive it from the same source? If so, what is that source? Instinct? Adaptive memory? Jung’s collective unconscious?
Alan Watts, a staunch advocate of Hinduism, pointed out a fundamental difference between the religions of the East and the West. Whereas Christianity and Judaism profess that God is a sort of engineer, an omnipotent father figure that built the universe and knows its every end and purpose, Hinduism describes God as a dancing, many-armed force that did not construct the universe, but expressed it, and continues to express it, like a song. The concepts of past and future, good and evil, death and life, are all meaningless to God; It simply is, right now. The vibration of existence, the so-called “cosmic wiggle,” is the result of the endless movement of God. This means that each of us is an extension of God’s dream. We are not connected to each other laterally, like a spiderweb, but rather we each extend from the same hub, which is…well, I don’t know exactly.
It is possible that the machine elves, by joining with us and showing that we are as powerful as they are, want to help us regain our true personas, return to our foundations. That wouldn’t explain, however, why so many people experience the same thing. Perhaps the machine elves are trying to remind us that since we are capable of creating life and matter with nothing but wholeness and will, we are not far removed from God Itself. God exists through us, and as such – blasphemous though it may sound – we are God.
It’s a theory. I would never presume to know what God is, or why It does what It does. However, these concepts seem to line up with the psychological knowledge that I’ve gathered. The problem I have now, though, is that I don’t know how to apply these ideas. I am still too shy and afraid to heed my own feelings as a writer, as a cartoonist, and as a person. I may be part of God’s dance, but that doesn’t mean I know the steps.
I suppose that, when I am ready, the answers will come to me. Should I continue to examine my dreams, act on my true feelings, and follow the directions that my being provides, I think I might figure it out.