If we recognize the plant as an autonomous power which enters in order to put roots and flowers in us, then we distance ourselves by several degrees from the skewed perspective which imagines that spirit (Geist) is the monopoly of human beings and doesn’t exist outside of them. A new world-picture has to follow the planetary leveling; that is the task which the next century will take up. –Ernst Jünger, The Plant as Autonomous Power.
Where are the liberating effects of these plants and chemicals to be found? Of course in the consciousness of their users and the technologies and wisdom it produced. But outside these well-known facts there is a less known revolution going on. I was pleasantly surprised by Raph Borges talk about ethnobotanical research being done at an online community called DMT Nexus.
DMT stands for di-methyl-tryptamine and is extremely interesting for the following reasons; it is abound in nature, it is literally everywhere (and as such, it can never be completely controlled), it is produced endogenously in the human brain (see? everywhere!) and completely non-toxic, the effects are short-lived (DMT leaves the system within 20 minutes) and do not cause any hangovers or withdrawal symptoms. And, most importantly, it is surprisingly easy to extract DMT yourself. DMT Nexus has been researching techniques to extract and use DMT for years and has made it possible for any one of us to do it ourselves, at home, with no prior knowledge of chemistry whatsoever. All you need is a plant source of DMT (which can be found anywhere), a non-polar solvent (available from many DIY shops), a bong or pipe to smoke it and a willing mind that is not afraid to let itself be changed by the powerful journey into the mystical realms of hyperspace.
Why is DMT-Nexus, a whole community, devoted to a single molecule? Why is this not any other molecule but rather called The Spirit Molecule? One of the most interesting talks was given by Mathew Johnson, one of the pioneers of the second wave of psychedelic research. The talk can be found online here. It focuses on the initial double-blind study that assessed the effect of Psilocybin, the active ingredient of magic mushrooms. They studied 36 healthy and spiritual involved adults whom had never taken entheogens before and gave half of them 30mg/70kg of psilocybin and the other half 40mg/70k methylphenidate (to resemble, as close as possible, the physical effects of psilocybin.) The tests were taken at a hospital room dressed up like a living room. The participants had to lie down on a couch, listen to classical music through headphones, wear eyemasks, and were told to focus their attention inward, trust it, be open and let go. The results were beyond amazing.
Seven hours after the session the participants were asked to fill in Pahnke Richards mystical experience questionnaire. The questionnaire consists of the categories Unity, Sacredness, Intuitive Knowledge, Transcendence of Space & Time, Deeply felt positivity and Ineffability & Paradoxicality. All of the subjects who had taken the psilocybin, as had been hypothesized, indeed scored significantly higher on all the ratings as opposed to the subjects in the control group of which none scored higher.
Even though 7 out of 18 participants reported extreme fear of insanity or of being trapped in the experience all of them reported an increase in well-being and life satisfaction in the 2 month and 14 month follow-up questionnaires (as experienced users often attest, even bad trips cause a beneficial change). This has probably to do with another spectacular result of this initial study. When assessing someones personality, psychologists often use the Big 5. Neuroticism, Openness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. Now, it was often thought that these dimensions of personality did not change in any significant way after a certain age. However, this study found out that one of these dimensions can change, and a very important one at that – Openness (to new experience). And not while on magic mushrooms, but after taking them. Exploring the mind space with ecodelics causes a long-term increase in openness which equals an increase in aesthetic appreciation and sensitivity, imagination and fantasy, and broad-minded tolerance of others viewpoints and values (of course caution is advised, a score too high on Opennes can lead to schizotypical behavior). Mushrooms thus cause long term changes in the people who take them!
One more important finding over the course of more studies was the correlation between mystical experiences and drug dose. Some fans of the late Terence Mckenna might believe that the higher the dose, especially the heroic 5 grams dried alone in silent darkness; the more you can get out of the trip. Yet, this has proven false (if we take mysticalness as our yardstick.) A higher dose does not correlate with a higher chance of getting a mystical experience, it does, however, correlate with a higher chance of getting a bad trip. It is thus better to focus on your intentions (set) and the ecosystem you find yourself in (setting) than to stare blindly at the dose. It also implies that which we take with us is just as or even more important than the drugs we take.
In the next part of this three part article I will go into the implications of the mystical experience, how they show us that we are not seperate from the world around us but are actually implicit in it.
Check out the Psychedelic Salon podcast and the book Darwin’s Pharmacy by Richard Doyle. Both sources have brought me many new ideas, without which this article would have never seen the light of day. I can not recommend both highly enough.