Scientist disagree as to whether or not the Hallucinogenic N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is magic or hype a.k.a. bullshit. DMT is notorious for producing one of the most intense psychedelic hallucinogenic experiences possible, sending users into intense and vivid hallucinations. But one of the lingering mysteries with DMT is the encounters it produces with ‘entities’ or ‘aliens.’
Terrence McKenna is not as much as scientists as he is a DMT poet, who helped popularize the drug in the 70s. He introduced theories that the entities were evidence of alien life, or that the drug facilitated trans-dimensional travel.
Spine-tingling ideas or bullshit?
“They’re really amazing, spine-tingling ideas. But, you know, arguably they’re bullshit,” Robin Carhart-Harris, head of psychedelic research at Imperial College, London commented. Carhart-Harris is part of a team of researchers on a mission to tap into these entities.
Two years after the first fMRI scan on volunteers that had ingested LSD, his team is performing a similar experiment with DMT—targeting the pseudoscientific ideas that sound the “spirit molecule.”
“What may be glamour for some people – or may be baffling, such as ‘machine elves’ – for us is an opportunity,” said Chris Timmermann, a PhD candidate conducting the research.
Volunteers trip on DMT
The researchers have already given a dozen volunteers DMT in a pilot study. Testing is expected to continue for at least six months, with the primary goal to map brain activity during the experience. Carhart-Harris also hopes to reach some conclusions about these psychedelic encounters in the process.
“Perhaps [entity encounters] relate to the fact that, certainly throughout our lives, but especially early on in our lives, we’re surrounded by entities – as in people,” says Carhart-Harris, who has a background in psychoanalytic and psychodynamic psychology. “The first thing that we manage to focus our gaze on are people, and their eyes, usually. So it just follows that this will be a major part of the human psyche, and likely a major part of the unconscious.”
Carhart-Harris is hopeful he can prove that an encounter with an entity may show a similar pattern of brain activity to an encounter with a person. The researchers will also be paying close attention to the transcendental qualities of the DMT experience.
“Done right, with all the appropriate caveats and safeguards, it could be a revolution in psychiatry,” he says. “It’s quite a reasonable thing to say.”