Get into the head of the man known only as DMT in the only interview he ever gave
Elizabeth Gips: We're here in the living room at 328B Union and I'm doing an interview with D.M. Turner, author of The Essential Psychedelic Guide, and it's quite different from any psychedelic book that's around, actually, because it's personalized.
DM Turner: That's right. It's personalized and it gives a lot of direct information on what actually happens when you take psychedelics. And it's based on my own experience as well as experiences of many people that I've talked to over the years.
EG: You must have started young.
DMT: Oh, probably about 13 years old.
EG: You're very lucky. I was in my late middle age before it happened to me. Imagine that. Let's talk a little bit about what's essential about psychedelics. Why bother even writing a book?
DMT: There are a few different reasons that I wrote the book. I wrote it mainly for the people that have not already read twenty other books on psychedelics. I've been involved a little bit in the rave scene - a lot of the younger kids going to the all-night dance parties. A lot of people are being introduced to drugs like Ecstacy and LSD at these events and a lot of them are taking it without very much preparation, without really knowing very much about the substances, without having much of an idea about the potential benefits or the potential dangers of using these substances. And so I thought that those were the most important people that could benefit from a book like this, so that was one of my objectives in writing the book.
The other reason is that by being a long-term user of psychedelics, I've tended to develop an interest in some of the more exotic psychedelics: DMT, ketamine, 2-CB, ayahuasca and the harmala alkaloids. And with substances of this type there's a precious small amount of literature out there.
EG: I'd like to get back to the essence of the psychedelic experience. What is it about it that is not accessible to us going to the bank or the post office or to the beach?
DMT: Well, I think the psychedelic experience is a very different experience than what most people experience during their lives. A few people try to attain similar experiences through various spiritual practices, meditations, yogas, things of that nature. Essentially what happens when someone takes psychedelics is that their consciousness, their perspective, is enlarged. It goes outside of the boundary that they normally consider to be themselves. The individual perspective is more or less obliterated, and one finds himself viewing and experiencing things from a much more vast perspective a perspective which is a little further upstream in consciousness than the normal narrowed-down perspective of a human being with a particular personality with a particular life experience.
EG: Is it something like an electron jumping to a higher orbit? Is it some kind of quantum leap that is just not ordinarily accessible?
DMT: That's a good analogy. It's like a quantum leap in consciousness.
EG: And what's the importance of that quantum leap for you? Because it's going to be different for various folks, I'm sure.
DMT: I think the most important thing for me is it gives me a more vast and it seems more accurate perspective on everything. For example, say you were an animal that lived only on the ground, and you only knew what your world looked like from the ground. Now say you were suddenly able to fly up high in the sky and you were able to see large areas vast continents and oceans. You would be able to take in a much larger picture of your reality from this new perspective.
EG: Is there a quantitative or qualitative difference between the various psychedelics?
DMT: Yes, there are differences. I think the most important thing with psychedelics is what I will call the basic psychedelic experience - the process of dissolving the identity and moving to a place where you have a larger space of consciousness. This happens with all psychedelics to a greater or lesser degree. Ecstasy is probably the only one of the more popular psychedelics which does not quite produce that full experience, and I don't see it as a true psychedelic. However, as you experiment with some of the different psychedelics, you do find that each one has some of its own significant things which it does that none of the other ones do.
EG: OK then, let's do some for instances.
DMT: Well how about LSD, which a lot of people know about. The experience of LSD tends to be something which is very personal. Most of what people experience on LSD is based on their own personality and makeup of their mind, the way that their mind operates, and what happens when that dissolves. When the ego starts to break apart you can start seeing things from a freer perspective. Even with very large amounts of LSD you tend to stay within this very particular realm. Although, with larger amounts of LSD you start experiencing things which tend to look like the beginnings of life in the universe, the whole process of creation.
EG: Phylogeny and all of that stuff.
DMT: Yes. And when you start using a lot of psychedelics, and particularly a lot of the natural psychedelics, my experience has been that I come in contact with some very old entities. And these entities have been around for a while, at least since humans first started experimenting with these plants.
EG: Excuse me? Entities? Is that on any psychedelic, or are we talking about DMT?
DMT: Yes, usually plant psychedelics; DMT in particular. And so much of these plant psychedelic entities are at least 4,000 years old. Now, when you experiment - when you work with these plant psychedelics, what I have found is that these entities are actually there. They are aware of you, they are aware that you are a person, and they are able to communicate with you. They are able to tailor the whole contact experience in such a way that they move you through different levels of relevance and meaning at a very particular rate.
So in a sense you're surrendering to entities who may be wiser or have a greater knowledge of the universe than you as an individual.
Whether you surrender to these entities is of course each person's decision. My feeling is that yes, you do come into contact with entities that are much more intelligent than any human.
EG: So Terence McKenna's little green men are some of those entities?
DMT: Those are ones which most people encounter when they're doing something like DMT.
EG: Well, what do you encounter?
DMT: I've encountered those entities. Those entities actually seem to be part of a larger entity which, for lack of a better word, I simply called "the DMT entity." One of the things I find with my DMT experiences is that regardless of the particular manifestation of the entity that I might be seeing at any given time, they all partake of the same wisdom and intelligence and consciousness. I can have an elf come up and communicate with me and tell me something, or I can be approached by a godlike being. They may have slightly different personalities, but they are both partaking of the same wisdom.
EG: So we're talking about smoking DMT?
DMT: Well, either smoking DMT or ingesting it.
EG: And how do you ingest it?
DMT: Traditionally DMT is ingested in conjunction with an MAO-inhibitor. The MAO (Mono Amine Oxidase) enzyme exists in your stomach, it's in your blood, it's in your brain, and it breaks down all sorts of different chemicals in the metabolic processes. One of the things that the MAO breaks down is DMT. If someone were to consume DMT without taking an MAO-inhibitor, the DMT would be destroyed in the stomach and they would never feel any effects from it. Maybe if they ate enough they would, but it would have to be a very large amount.
EG: Interesting. What do you suppose is the innate function of the MAO? Is it to keep us from having the psychedelic experience while wandering around in the jungles of old?
DMT: That is quite possible actually, because a lot of psychoactive chemicals such as DMT are present in our brain all the time. Possibly the MAO is something which is like a regulator for the psychedelic experience, as well as many other things. It regulates how many of these chemicals are present in the brain at any given moment, which allows us to function on this particular plane as human beings. If we had, say, ten times the amount of DMT in our system as we always do, we may not be able to function in this particular realm.
EG: Now what about the yogis in India? What about the remarkable things they do?
DMT: Well, it has been shown that while yogis are in deep meditation, even without taking any drugs there is apparently some measurable change in the mixture of their brain chemicals.
EG: So what's happening at the raves? Have they been a venue for higher consciousness, or just fun? Or do the two go together?
DMT: I think that the two go together. And one of the things that I found when I was attending more raves is that the success or failure, the whole mood of the event, is really made up of the people that go to it even more so than the people that are performing at it, the DJs, or the people that are putting it on. The state of consciousness you get is very dependent on who's attending the event and what state of mind they're in.
EG: There is a very large ongoing debate about the benefits and disadvantages of "chemical" or "synthetic" psychedelics versus "natural" or "plant" psychedelics. How do you feel about that?
DMT: Well, I'll start off by saying that the first psychedelic I ever took was LSD, and the effect that it had on me was absolutely profound. I was transported to the most magnificent spiritual joyous place that I could ever be, which was filled with light and knowledge. The psychedelic provided everything which was needed of a psychedelic. And I've had many other wonderful experiences with this and other chemical substances since then, so I don't have anything against the chemical substances in that they are not able to do the job. However, I have found that there are some problems with chemical substances in that they are usually not pure.
EG: Why is that? You'd think they would be more pure.
DMT: The main reason is that these chemicals are usually being manufactured in underground laboratories, so the quality depends on the equipment being used, the starting substances, the skill of the chemists involved - all of these things would be different if this was something which was legal in society and could be done completely above the ground. However, I have found that the purity and the quality of the chemical substance very much affects the experience.
EG: In what ways?
DMT: Well, LSD is probably the best example. And I didn't really write about this in my book, but most of the LSD on the street is not very pure. There are a few reasons for this. The most pure LSD that I've come across is what people sometimes call "quad sep". I don't really know too much about the chemical process of making this, but apparently in the manufacturing process, they go through a final crystallization and purification stage four times. So the quad sep LSD is dissolved and recrystallized four times, and each time it's recrystallized it gets out more of the impurities.
EG: Are those impurities - do they tend to make you nauseous, like some of the alkaloids in peyote?
DMT: No, I wouldn't say that they do that. I would - well, when I first had quad sep LSD - I actually probably had it a long time ago, probably in my high school days. However, I did not have any of it for a very long period of time, probably for over ten years, until somebody gave me some about three or four years ago and I tried it. At that point I had thought that all the LSD I had taken over the previous ten years was completely pure. You know, it was all the same, even though it was from many different batches. And then I took this quad sep and I realized that none of what I had taken during the previous ten years had been pure. I did recognize the experience produced by this was something which I had taken before, but a long time in the past, and the difference is phenomenal. With very pure LSD there is almost no bodily sensation. The feelings which are absent, compared to most LSD on the street, are a very slight amphetamine quality, a very slight edginess that most LSD produces, a slight metallic taste in the mouth, a very slight agitation of the nerves.
EG: That comes and goes?
DMT: The edgy effects are not there at all with the pure LSD. I've noticed that as you become more familiar with the experience of LSD, actually the feeling of the experience seems to become subtler and subtler. Since LSD itself, pure LSD, is so transparent, it's almost a completely mental experience. There is virtually no bodily type of sensation. But if you take LSD which is not pure, one of the main things you experience is actually the impurities.
EG: Does this translate into a "bum trip"? I mean, something
DMT: Not necessarily. But I think that if all of the LSD which had ever been distributed underground - you know, beginning from the mid sixties onward - had actually been completely pure LSD, there would be a much different perception of it. The fact that there has been almost none of this type of LSD distributed does account for why a lot of people do not trust chemical substances.
Now, when we get into the phenethylamine substances like MDA, Ecstasy, and 2-CB, these psychedelics, MDMA in particular, are quite hard on the body. And if you talk to people who have tried them, they'll tell you that they usually feel a little bit wiped out, drained, the following day.
EG: What about the jaw clenching effect and the shifting eyes?
DMT: Those are definitely amphetamine side effects. A lot of the chemical psychedelics have this effect, and they certainly do not have the perceived purity that the natural psychedelics have.
EG: So we're back at the purity.
DMT: Sure. Well, if you have a dried psilocybin mushroom or dried peyote buttons or something of that nature, assuming that you are dealing with a known psilocybin mushroom - the most common one being Psilocybe cubensis (it's also called Stropharia cubensis) - basically what you have is the natural psychedelic in its natural form. Psilocybin does degrade with age, exposure to heat and oxygen and so on, so the potency may vary. However, you don't have some of the impurities that you might find in a chemical manufacturing process. With true psychedelic mushrooms, then you're basically dealing with the pure substance.
Now, one of the other things that I've noticed is that when people are using natural psychedelics they very rarely have negative experiences. Much less so than something like LSD. And I think that one of the reasons for that is that LSD is so transparent.
EG: You better explain transparent.
DMT: When I say transparent I mean that it has very few qualities of its own in terms of directing the experience. Mushrooms have a very strong flavor to the experience. When you take a large dose of mushrooms, you will definitely feel the mushroom guiding the trip.
EG: So are you saying that there are innate intelligences in the substances themselves that control you, or at least are aiding and abetting you in raising your consciousness?
DMT: Yes. I wouldn't necessarily say that they control you, but I would say that the intelligence is definitely present and that it affects the experience. And these entities can be communicated with. They would like to communicate with people. When you learn to listen you can actually work with these - I call them allies.
EG: Is it possible for those people who don't take psychedelics to communicate without the aid of some sacramental substance?
DMT: Well, it's quite possible. There are a lot of branches of shamanism which use different routes of essentially altering your consciousness.
EG: Drumming or something like that.
DMT: That's right. Drumming or chanting. Painting, making masks. All sorts of things. Rituals.
EG: Back to psychedelics. I really want to discuss in some detail the combinations and the various experiences that you can have. That's been something that has had very little publicity before.
DMT: That's correct. And that's one of the reasons I wrote about it is because when I had an interest in doing these things myself, there was no place that I could find information on it. I had to experiment. I had to work with each of the individual substances and try to get an idea of how they would work if they were combined. Try and get a feeling if it would be appropriate.
EG: Did it scare you sometimes? I mean, when scientists take something new they take such tiny little bits and then they add a little bit and a little bit and a little bit. You just plunged in!
DMT: That's true. Well, with all the experiences I have had, I would say the most disappointing ones are the ones when I have not taken enough.
EG: Let's get back to negative experiences a little later. What substances, what combinations (and we haven't even mentioned ketamine yet) - but what combinations of sacraments, I like to call them, substances, have you found were most optimized?
DMT: I would say one of the most optimized certainly is taking DMT in combination with an MAO-inhibitor, which could be either Banisteriopsis caapi, which is how they make the ayahuasca brew in South America, or with Syrian Rue, which is a much more potent MAO-inhibitor and much more readily
available. And this can be done either when DMT is smoked or when DMT is ingested.
MAO-inhibitors actually combine quite well with psilocybin as well. Psilocybin is actually very closely related to DMT. As a matter of fact, it's almost identical. Psilocybin is basically a long-lasting tryptamine.
EG: So you recommend taking an MAO-inhibitor if you're going to do psilocybin mushrooms?
DMT: It will potentiate the mushrooms and it will enhance the experience. There are some drawbacks however, the main one being that these MAO-inhibitors are emetics. They tend to produce nausea. And mushrooms also tend to produce nausea or often give people borderline nausea. So taking the two of them in combination increases the chances that somebody's going to be nauseous during the trip. That's not necessarily the worst thing that can happen to somebody.
EG: Yeah. Sometimes it's a real cleanser, but good to be aware that that's a possibility.
DMT: The other combination which I found to be particularly useful - this gets back into the synthetic drugs again - is combining 2-CB with ketamine.
EG: Oh ketamine - I've only experienced it once. I'm really glad because I'm sure I'd get addicted. It's such a beautiful experience. But you're out like that. I mean, you don't have time to get scared.
DMT: Oh, yes. Ketamine is extremely different than any of the other psychedelics. It seems that the mechanism by which it works is almost the opposite of the regular psychedelics in that you become unconscious. It's an anesthetic, whereas the other psychedelics make you super conscious. Ketamine seems to actually open you up to a realm of the subconscious which you're not normally aware of. What I like about the combination of 2-CB and ketamine is that when doing ketamine alone, just by itself, I find that during much of the experience I'm not really aware of what's happening. I may be aware on some level of consciousness, but when I come out of the experience and I go back through all the various gates of consciousness which make up human consciousness, I find I lose quite a bit of the experience.
Now, the perceived effect of 2-CB is in many ways almost opposite that of ketamine. 2-CB in some ways tends to make you - it sort of makes the ego like a superstructure. It's a very body-oriented experience. It puts you very much in your body, very much into your sense of self identity. And when you take 2-CB before taking ketamine - what happens is that you still go through a ketamine experience, however you are much more aware. It's sort of like you bring a little bit of human awareness into the ketamine realm and you bring more of the experience out of the ketamine realm as well.
EG: It always seemed to me that one of the beauties of psychedelics is actually the death of the ego. And I'm not sure that I'd want to take a substance which increased the you-ness of the experience.
DMT: I think that you can break down the you into several different levels. You can take a physical level, you can take a personality level, you can take a mental level. You can start stripping these layers off of the you, and it seems that when you get deep inside, at least the furthest that I've ever gotten in with ketamine and other psychedelics, all that's left is just a pure witnessing consciousness. It's just a pure awareness. It sees all that is happening in the universe, sort of like the great tape recorder in the sky.
EG: Oh, that's a way of putting it!
DMT: Or the Akashic records of metaphysics.
EG: The great hard disk.
EG: OK, that's good. So the you becomes that which is the observer and can actually watch DM, or Elizabeth or whoever is listening, maneuver through the melodramas and then out of them into something that's more expanded.
DMT: That's true. That's right.
EG: What's the difference to you in the ketamine experience and other psychedelic experiences?
DMT: There is a vast difference. The substance is very different. When the ketamine experience comes on, you don't feel the dissolution like you normally do with most psychedelics. Ketamine is used clinically as an anesthetic. It's given mostly to children and to elderly people when they're being operated on. It comes on very quickly when it's injected, which is the way that it's usually taken for psychedelic use. And there is almost no transition period. You feel very slight dimming of consciousness, and then the next thing that you are aware of you're in a completely different place.
What happens during this time is that it so effectively wipes out your perspective of being an individual that when you're in this realm, the ketamine realm, you've actually forgotten that
you are a person. You've forgotten that you are a human being. Even the concept of human being may not be anywhere near consciousness. And you have certainly forgotten that you are a human being that is taking a drug and is now having a psychedelic experience. It seems like the boundaries between self and what is perceived are dissolved, much more so than with any other psychedelic. It feels very much like the place which I go into when I take ketamine is the space of infinity. This is sometimes represented visually.
EG: Your consciousness has become infinite. You have identified with infinite consciousness.
DMT: That's correct.
EG: What some people call God.
DMT: Yes. This experience is always blissful, very profound. The visual component, for myself at least, is extraordinary. I mean, I can see complete detailed universes blending into each other like somebody shuffling a deck of cards or something of that nature. It's infinite, and it's fascinating. And the type of things which I perceive and experience in this realm completely boggles the human concept of existence and the universe and what that's all about. It is from a different realm. It is altogether alien to how we normally perceive things.
EG: And is that different from the DMT experience or the LSD experience?
DMT: What I will say about DMT and LSD is that you can certainly get a glimpse of the same experience. I've even had impressions from DMT that if you work with it enough (and this is actually what happened through a state of very deep trance), you can actually experience a vast cosmic space. It seems to be much more difficult, however, to do this with these other psychedelics. And the main reason for this, or my theory of this, is that with ketamine for a period of maybe a half hour or 45 minutes the ego is completely obliterated. There is no effort to try to come back into the picture to get a handle, to get a foothold, to try to get a perspective and understand things. With ketamine, the ego takes a rest for half an hour and you experience this state uninterrupted. When I find this state on LSD or DMT or some other psychedelic, it tends to be very brief. If it lasts for two full minutes, that would be a very long period of time.
EG: Wait a minute though. You are saying it lasts for two full minutes, but then when you're experiencing it, you're out of time. Does it matter if it's only two if it's still an eternity?
DMT: It certainly feels like eternity when you're experiencing it.
EG: Are there negative aspects to ketamine?
DMT: I have some problems with ketamine in that it does obliterate some aspects of awareness which you don't necessarily want to have obliterated. Ketamine wipes out a whole lot of human perspectives, a whole lot of your personality, some physical control. I would say that you probably have less control of the experience with ketamine than you do with any other psychedelic.
EG: I guess that's why I like it, because with all the other psychedelics there's a period where the ego struggles and says, "You're not going to kick me out of here" and the higher intelligence says, "Oh yeah, I am!"
DMT: Yes. Well, I think that there are certainly advantages to ketamine. I certainly have had experiences with it that I do not think I could have had without it. At the same time, I went through a period of probably about two years where I was using it quite frequently and I found that I got addicted with the once-a-week habit.
EG: That's very common among friends of mine.
DMT: And one of the things I found happened during this time is I started losing some of my abilities to direct a trip with my own will power, with my own mind. I got so used to just letting the flow guide me along with ketamine that I sort of put to rest some of the other things which I should be working on.
I think that one of the important things with psychedelics is that you have this experience which lasts for anywhere between 20 minutes and 12 hours, depending on what it was that you took, but then you still have a whole life that you come back to. And I think that it's very important that you bring something from these experiences back and try to develop your life to further yourself along your own personal evolution. And I think that ketamine is not particularly effective at that. I won't say that it's completely ineffective, but it tends to be a little bit more like an escape. It's sort of like, "I need to take a break from this life as a human for 45 minutes and go experience a little bit of immortality." And it feels very good, and you start doing it and you do it again and again. It feels so good. You keep going back to it. And what I found about the other psychedelics is that they are much more challenging, DMT in particular. One of the things which sort of alerted me to this habit that I had developed with ketamine is the fact that it was not a challenge any more. The only challenge with the ketamine experience started to become "What will I be able to bring back from it?"
On the other hand, DMT is always a challenge. It's a very difficult experience to control. It's overwhelmingly powerful. It can be overwhelmingly frightening, and it takes a lot of effort to work with it. But it seems that the results from working with it can be very beneficial.
EG: You also said frightening.
DMT: Well, frightening experiences are bound to be encountered by people who are using psychedelics, I would say maybe with the exception of Ecstasy, which tends to not produce the full spectrum of psychedelic effects. And these experiences happen for many reasons. I would say the main reason people have these experiences is because they are afraid of losing control of some aspect of their personality, some aspect of their life. Taking psychedelics is like opening the floodgates in a way, to all sorts of experience. It's sort of like opening up the door to the subconscious and the superconscious. So when somebody takes psychedelics, they can have very positive, cosmic, loving experiences their first ten times, then on the eleventh time they might run into all sorts of feelings and visions which really frighten them.
It can be very disturbing. People who are not prepared for something like this will become very frightened. Some people seem to develop long-term types of neuroses from having these experiences, and it's a very powerful experience. I think that the most important thing that somebody can do who is going to be using these substances is to just expect them and be prepared for them.
EG: They didn't discourage you, obviously, from going ahead.
DMT: They didn't discourage me. I would say they may have made me a little bit cautious, but they didn't discourage me. One of the important things that I found is that when I have had experiences of this type, especially as I've done this more over the years and I started to know a little bit about what causes these experiences, is that these experiences tend to be very beneficial. Even if you're using these substances frequently, a whole lot of the personality does not change on a regular basis. It's like I've gotten to the point where I can take psychedelics once a week or twice a week, and a large amount of them even, but certain aspects of my personality still seem to be fairly stagnant, and that's not necessarily good, but I have decided that I want it to be that way. I've learned to work with these psychedelics enough that I can pretty much keep myself together through anything. But I'm also often in for a surprise.
EG: Ultimately what is the advantage of taking psychedelics as a spiritual practice? Do you feel as though you personally have changed?
DMT: Well, when I first started taking psychedelics at 13 years old, I had been brought up in a fairly strict Roman Christian family. The only things I had to look forward to in life was a job and a career and a family and just going through the whole cycle. It just seemed like what everybody else was doing. And I looked at people around me. I looked at the people that taught the schools and around the government, and I looked at the type of work that my father did, and none of it really interested me that much. And when I first took psychedelics, I felt like I was admitted into a world of compassion and beauty and creativity. It was like nothing I had experienced in my regular life. And almost instantly that became the goal of where I wanted to be, sort of a direction that I wanted to move in.
I think that what is very important with psychedelics is that they tend to show people what the right direction is. They show people these places of love, these places of beauty. Then people can make a decision. "OK, do I want to be there? Do I want to work towards that?
EG: Do I want to move towards that?" And as far as your own life, you spoke of taking one or two psychedelics a week. And I just wondered whether you're able to surround those experiences with gardening or working or whatever it is you do.
DMT: Yes, I am. I'm sort of a multifunctional. Throughout most of my life I've had fairly demanding corporate jobs where actually I worked as a senior manager with a lot of responsibility. And at the same time as I was doing this, I usually would have businesses that I was running on the side and these would tend to be more artistic and creative businesses. And that's the place where I felt like I could really apply this. And presently all the work that I do is in the creative field. I have two businesses which I operate.
EG: Really? Amazing. And you wrote a book. One of the things that I enjoyed very much about this book is that you actually put in some of the philosophy that you've gotten from psychedelic space, as you say, and that you know
that you are a transmutational being - and, of course, we all are.
DMT: Yes. Well, I think that (and this is a philosophical point) - I think that everybody who exists on this planet, and everybody in all other places in the universe, we are all in the process of becoming fuller, more evolved, and more knowledgeable. We are all on that road, and I think that we are always, however slowly, all moving in that direction.
Audio copies of this interview can be purchased from Big Sur tapes http://www.bigsurtapes.com.
Tags : psychedelic
Rating : Teen - Drugs
Posted on: 2001-05-01 00:00:00