What Happens on DMT for Me

Partial Transcript of a taped workshop with Terence McKenna, May 1990, New Mexico

What we're talking about here is a continuum, I'm talking about a very narrow band of experience. A continuum of experience that comes through tryptamine hallucinogens: DMT, Psilocybin, and the DMT-Harmine combination ... and that's it ... Mescaline doesn't, isn't what I'm talking about. Ketamine certainly isn't what I'm talking about. Datura certainly isn't what I'm talking about. And some of these are plants, and some of them are synthetic drugs, but it's a very narrow spectrum of these highly visionary ones, and then the most visionary, the quintessence is DMT. I mean, I think that DMT is as intense as any drug should ever get; I don't ever want to be more loaded than that. I don't think you can be more loaded than that and come back, you know?

What happens on DMT for me, and this is based on, you know, composite image of many experiences, and I've confirmed it to some degree with other people, but I was talking to somebody the other day, somebody who had just done it, and I said, "What did you think?", and they said: "It's the most idiosyncratic thing there is", and I thought, what a wonderful description, that's exactly what it is — it's pure idiosyncraticness. It's so idiosyncratic that's all there's there — it's like idiosyncracy without an object, is what DMT is.

When you smoke this, the onset is very rapid. 30-45 seconds, you know? There's this feeling which comes over your body — half arousal, half anaesthesia. The air appears to suddenly have been sucked out of the room because all the colors brighten visibly, as though some intervening medium has been removed. And then there's a sound, like a piece of bread wrapper or cellophane being scrunched up and thrown away. A friend of mine says this is radio-entelechy leaving the anterior fontanelle at the top of your head. [laughter] I'm not sure I want to line up with that ... but a membrane is being ripped; something is being torn. And then there is a total (what Mircea Eliade called in a wonderful phrase) "complete rupture of the mundane plane." [laughter] You know? That's like a hit and run accident except the car came from hyperspace, you know? A complete rupture of the mundane plane. And you fall back into this hallucinogenic space, and what you see is a slowly rotating red and orange kind of thing, which, over the years we've nicknamed, uh, 'The Chrysanthemum.' And it's ... this represents some kind of disequilibrium state that has its roots in the synapses. What's happening as you're watching this Chrysanthemum is that millions and then hundreds of millions of DMT molecules are rushing into these serotonin bond sites in the synaptic cleft and disrupting the serotonin and switching the electron spin resonance signature of these neural junctions in this 'other' direction. And this is taking, you know, 30 or 40 seconds, and there's this rising hum, this mmmmMMMMMMMM that rising tone; the flying saucer tone of Hollywood B movies ... you actually hear this thing.

And then, if you've taken enough DMT (and it has to do entirely with physical capacity: Did you take, did you cross the threshold?) something happens [clap] which ... for which there are no words.

A membrane is rent, and you are propelled into this 'place'. And language cannot describe it — accurately. Therefore I will inaccurately describe it.


The remainder of this article is available on the CD-ROM.

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