You don’t have to know much about psychedelic drugs to know that DMT is renowned for its particularly mind-bending effects. One of the few short-acting psychedelics, DMT trips usually kick in 20 to 40 seconds after smoking, and can last between five and 20 minutes — but what happens during that short time can feel like a lifetime. Yet while some people say the trip is similar to a near-death experience (there’s a popular myth that it’s released from the pineal gland when you die), a recent study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, found that it actually more often involves an encounter with an entity. Indeed, people regularly report “breaking through” during DMT trips, and meeting different beings, aliens, god-like figures or even god themselves.
The DMT subreddit is awash with stories like this. Some people pontificate over what the entities represent or what they mean, and others look for reassurance that their encounters are like other people’s. Mostly, they share, in detail, their experience meeting these entities in other worlds. “This almighty and all encompassing entity just smirked at me,” reads one post. “In a very loving way, the entity signaled its superiority, while at the same time carefully mocking my pathetic ignorance and inexperience.”
“Very calming, short trip,” reads another. “It ended with a very bright, positive, attractive female entity saying, ‘Touch me more,’ while being very flirtatious. She then belly flopped onto me, burst into a million pieces and those pieces sunk into my body.”
These kinds of stories also emerged in the study, which saw researchers conduct in-depth interviews with 36 experienced DMT users immediately after a trip (for which they took a big dose of 54.5 milligrams). Nearly all participants reported contacting another being or entering into an alternate reality, and most said the meeting was a positive one — just eight percent said the entity they met had “some menace to their demeanor.”
“DMT was certainly shown to be prodigious in its capacity to floor consciousness with a deluge of rich experiential content,” Pascal Michael, the study’s author, told PsyPost. “The most typical type of otherworldly being would have looked somewhat like the following: carrying the functions of teaching, or presenting the experient with something, and while humanoid, would have more stylized features such as being clown-like or even octopoid, with an often shifting, sometimes geometric form.”
For those who want to meet these beings without going to the trouble of huffing a load of DMT, I found three pseudonymous people to share their otherworldly experiences — alongside some rather unhinged drawings — to help you visualize what it might be like.
‘I Followed a Double Helix Snake/Worm, with One Large Eye on Its Tail, as It Twisted Through the Crowd’
Blaine, 26, Colorado: Twenty milligrams, six minutes. I went through a warmly colored whirlpool, filled with organic shapes and patterns, vaguely suggestive of animals or organs. I came out the other end into a very strange place, like an expansive, dark void, but filled with all sorts of cartoony entities. Everything that wasn’t pitch black was made up of a brightly glowing outline, filled in with more diffuse pastel colors. The place had a kind of carnival or state fair vibe, with one long avenue along which all sorts of tents, shacks, towers and other buildings were set up. There was no ground, only a blank void, but all the buildings and entities were on the same plane as if there was [a ground]. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of entities crowding all over, playing games, talking, working.
I followed a double helix snake/worm, with one large eye on its tail, as it twisted through the crowd, leading me to a small huddle of entities passing around what looked like a four-dimensional bong. It looked about the size of a water bubbler, but it had all sorts of tubes and chambers intricately woven through the fourth dimension to make it much bigger than it looked. A large yellow barrel-shaped — almost Minion-esque — entity waved me over.
They all welcomed me and said how much they missed me. It showed me the bong, then pulled out a torch that looked surprisingly normal, and demonstrated the correct method to vaporize DMT in an oil burner. (I had trouble burning it before, looked all over for a detailed guide but couldn’t find anything that helped. After this trip though, it was a piece of cake). They said they hoped this experience would ease my anxiety about DMT and that I should take more next time, then handed me the bong. I took the hit, and very rapidly returned to normal consciousness a bit earlier than I usually would.
Before I took DMT, I was an atheist with really bad general anxiety and seasonal depression. I felt out of control of my life and my body, and was just generally sick of [everything]. My very first trip was like a wake-up call — some might call it a bad trip, but I think I really needed that kick in the ass. It made me look at myself in the mirror, and see clearly for the first time what was actually wrong — that I was doing all this to myself. More than that, it showed me firsthand that my entire perception of reality up to that point was fatally flawed — that there was something going on in my brain that I’d completely overlooked. I was literally told by an entity in that trip that if I wanted to get better, and if I wanted to have a decent trip, then I had to start meditating.
So I did. I began a daily meditation practice and have kept up with it since — going on three years now. That first trip made me rethink my stance that there were no spirits, ghosts or aliens, but it didn’t convince me, and I’m still not entirely sure what to think about the entities. It did catalyze my first spiritual experience with meditation a few months later though, which convinced me for sure that there’s more to life than what we can see. Now I’m a more whole, resilient person without a trace of anxiety or depression. I would attribute that largely to meditation, but I had tried many times before without results — it took DMT to really make me stick with it.
‘I Was Sitting at the Bottom of a Waterfall Looking Up, and the Water Was Vibrant Color Fractals Engulfing Me’
Nik, 31, North Carolina: DMT is a dreamlike state, and the exact details are usually fairly hazy and hard to retain, so most people have a hard time pinning down exactly what it is they saw. People go to different locations, meet docent entities that go by many, many names, but what we bring back with us is an impression of the experience — kind of like a dream or a memory — so far away that it’s hard to grasp, but the meat of it is there. The details aren’t important, the context is.
For me, it takes three big, long hits — I hold each in as long as possible, and have a buddy to take the pipe from me when I sit back and blow out the final hit. The onset is always intimidating — you’re letting your ego die, and it doesn’t want that. It starts with a hum — a vibration, a frequency. It’s said that god spoke the universe into existence — if that’s true, then this hum is what’s left of that utterance, and it’s this frequency that kills your ego and takes you away. (When [the trip] is done, it’s done. It just stops. That’s when you notice the hum — when it gets cut away without warning. Its absence is deafening.) Then there’s transposed hallucinations — did my friend’s face just twist into itself, or are the bricks from the mantle growing from his eyes? — then you blast off. Once one of the fractal vortices that have started to spread in your area draws you in, then you’re flying or falling.
This is when people “land” somewhere along the path — they see different terrains or worlds, or maybe they meet what [ethnobotanist and advocate of psychedelics] Terence McKenna called “the clockwork elves,” or extra-dimensional beings, like demons or God. I’m not sure for me, because I never land. For me, I scream past all that like a jet, faster and faster, until it looks like I’m sitting at the bottom of a waterfall looking up, and the water is vibrant color fractals engulfing me. It pours over me, around me, through me — it becomes me, and I’m told by an impression far in the back of my head that this is it. This is everything, infinity. It’s the most exhausting thing because it’s everything, all the time, all at once.
People say this place we go to is heaven — the 12th dimension; Shangri La — but usually, there’s an agreement that this place is where we come from, where we are before we’re born and where we go when we die. And if that’s the case, I’m not surprised that we decide to take a break from all that and live a short, linear, three-dimensional life.
So every time I do DMT, I come back with the same impression, the same context: That our existence is outside of our bodies, that infinity is our normal and that we use physical life as a way to calm down and relax — almost like a drug. It dampens our senses and stunts our abilities, all so we can do something as profound as stop, in one point in time that will never exist again, in a single point in space exactly as it is — close our eyes, ignore everything else and smell a rose.
‘It Was as If I Was Seeing the Sun Outside of Plato’s Cave for the First Time’
Jacob, Mid-30s, Southwestern U.S.: I had my breakthrough experience after vaporizing 30 milligrams of DMT in my home, alone, having prepared the environment to be safe in the event that I lost control. I was wearing a blindfold and earplugs, and within seconds of inhaling the entire dose in one hit, it was as if I was seeing the sun outside of Plato’s cave for the first time — the ontological shock of a profundity beyond description. More so, there was a sensation of sinking back, out or away from reality, as if I’d been wearing VR goggles my entire life without knowing it.
But it was even more profound than that because the worlds presented in VR are at least commensurable with one another. I couldn’t comprehend how my brain could be creating what I was experiencing, which was multi-modal, rich and complex beyond description and imagination. Somehow it was very clear in this experience that I was in some sort of contact with ultimate reality, and it felt terrifyingly spiritual. During the peak of the experience, I had no awareness of my body, no idea if I was still breathing or if my heart was still beating. I had thoughts of a parent who recently passed away. But the astonishment and shock I was experiencing left little room for processing emotional and spiritual lessons.
As a cognitive scientist, I can comfortably assert that no living person has the faintest clue what’s going on with consciousness, so the facile idea that psychedelic experiences — especially DMT — are something akin to distortions of reality or simply outright hallucinations doesn’t have much purchase. Consciousness, in fact, is a total mystery, scientifically and philosophically speaking, and the DMT experience is something like the capstone of that mystery.