Sunday, November 4, 2012

Everything Entheogen

What is a psychedelic?

The term usually represents a group of compounds or plants that change perspectives, feelings, and generally, reality. Under this definition, most things are psychedelics - caffeine makes you more alert (or nervous), sugar can make you hyper (or tired if you're me), and high amounts of nicotine can make you not want to move. If you wanted to be even more broad, since food releases endorphins, you could classify foods as psychedelics.

This is "Fly Agaric" or Amanita Muscaria, a strong psychoactive reportedly used by the
Scandinavians for "berserker rage". If you attempt these - make sure to boil or bake them, as they are
poisonous otherwise!

However, I'm going to use the term to describe, analyze, and reflect on the strong psychedelics - those that distort vision, bring bold revelations, and perhaps even cause hallucinations. Most psychedelics are not hallucinatory - they simply distort visual capabilities - they do not, generally, create fictitious visions of dragons and monsters. So what are some examples of psychedelics?

The most well know are definitely Marijuana, LSD, and psilocybin, with mescaline (peyote), ayahuasca, ibogaine, Salvia Divinorum, DMT, LSA usually taking a back seat and only known to the people actually interested in the substances. For those foreign to psychedelics these words may be new, but all of them are derived from natural substances, with LSD being the only one that isn't found in nature.

EDIT: As Martijn from pointed out, the word Psychedelic has unfortunate bias, tying it to hippies, the 60's and an image generally not accepted to be powerful and serious. Thus, I'd like use the term Entheogen - which, I agree, is more appropriate. The term Entheogen (from wikipedia) is summed up as "generating the divine within". Usually entheogen also includes the experience of a ritual, but I will use it more broadly, to represent all these psychedelic compounds.

So what is a psychedelic entheogen experience like?

In all honesty, no sum of words can ever truly represent the experience. It is like trying to explain to a taxi driver what its like to walk on the moon - the feelings and emotions are completely subjective and can only truly be experienced "on the other side". One person's interpretation (and subsequent explanation) is going to be dramatically different from many other's.

It is very dependent on who you are as a person, where you are in your life, and how you view yourself, as well as others. In fact, this is one of the most useful and powerful reasons to partake in entheogen use - you will be able to see (if you allow it) the explanations of these questions, or qualities of yourself.

When we go through our life, we feel good days and bad days. We focus on the negative, we focus on the positive. We go back and forth, and our thoughts usually don't amount to much, it is the untrained monkey brain that allows this to happen. That is we "swing from tree to tree" or "thought to thought". We lose so much time worrying or occupying our minds with thoughts that go back and forth - rarely do these random thoughts amount to any intrigue, excitement, or curiosity. These beneficial feelings usually come from experiences, not simply thinking on one's own.

Below I illustrate this; a jumping back and forth between thinking good about things and thinking bad, but there is not much more to be said.

Psychedelics aren't always so different, that is, we can often simply amplify our jumping thoughts, or our monkey brain. We jump from positive to negative, the difference now being our feelings are incredibly amplified, and there is a sense of clairvoyance as to why certain things are negative and positive. This can be helpful, but this isn't one of the most profound experiences, or reasons why I take entheogens, rather - there is a certain change of experience, of perception...

In the entheogen experience, a rarely encountered feeling while sober occurs - enlightenment. Its when we see things from "above" we become aware of ourselves and our surroundings to a level almost incomprehensible while sober. There is an almost sure-fired path to enlightenment, as long as we look for, and accept it when it is presented. 

An illustration is below, and, although simple, the feeling that it is accompanied by is profound.

Now we have become aware of our intrinsic monkey brain! We become aware of our awareness - a hyperconsciousness, a new, higher level of consciousness. No longer do we see the vantage point of "I" - we start to question the I, and view it as a stranger. The body, the mind, the "me" becomes separate, and we can see without the filter of our social lives. 

The revelations here can be soothing or confronting. We can become enamored with how great life is, and the endless possibilities we have before us, or we can become trapped in thoughts that seem to limit us, relationships that block us from fuller potentials. 

The most profound feelings I have had on entheogens is when I see how the "I" acts in certain situations. It is as if I have been constantly living life with a veil over my perspective, blinding me of my own actions. Entheogens puts up a mirror, allowing one to dissect, examine, and understand one's self.

My Experiences

I have a few experiences, but am by no means extremely experienced (which I would define as 15+ strong trips). I have taken psilocybin, DMT, Salvia, LSD, Mescaline, marijuana, and a very weak brew of ayahuasca - I tried LSA but it only made me want to puke. My experiences are mostly moderate, with my first psilocybin trip and many of my DMT excursions being the most intense, and Salvia being one of the most vivid. Smoking weed for me is on par with a mushroom trip, I kid you not.

What happened on these trips - where did I go? What did I see? Why did I keep going back?


My first mushroom trip was exhausting and debilitating. I had taken them at a party, and suddenly became overwhelmed with sleepiness. I decided to drive home, expecting the mushrooms to be a dud. As I got in the car, suddenly my small coupe became as large as a limousine  and the sky became a vibrantly on fire with blue and green. I drove around, admiring this, but with my pre-conceived notions to fall asleep soon, I went headed home. As the world started to warp for the first time, I ran over a curve and suddenly realized the severity of my situation. I needed to get home fast, but safely, as my condition was escalating. I made it home safely, but approaching the door of my house a wave of dread came over me. Being inside a house was so much different than being outside. It was as if I knew as soon as I walked into my house, my world would change - and it did. Its almost as if someone took my brain out, and replaced it with a new one. I became a different personality inside, as I was expecting to interact with my Father (Which didn't happen, thankfully).

As the trip escalated, my thoughts became sporadic. I started to wonder if this was going to end or slow down at all (a beginners foolish thoughts), but of course it would. My mind raced - I kept imagining myself dying, and everyone else becoming sad, friends and family committing suicide from my death. People forgetting about me later. The emotions came like hurricanes that rocked my body and heart. I was becoming weak physically and mentally. I just wanted it to end.

I awoke anew, fresh and happy to have survived the night. Life was so calm, everyone seemed so quaint and happy. It was almost as if everyone knew what had happened to me, but was being extra nice and comforting. This comfort didn't last long - my perspective jumped from "everyone is so nice" to "does anyone know about this stuff at all?" to "what if everyone knows about this type of thinking, and I'm the only one that doesn't?". My thoughts became paranoid, stressful and panicky. I became ultra-aware of what everyone was saying and doing. I tried to find out if what I was projecting onto people - whether they were intelligent or not - was true. I would search for words people used, and phrases, tones, and body language - anything to validate or falsify whether or not I could "read" people.

Analysis of Post Trip:
The trip brought up so many questions and realizations, but it seemed unfinished. I had been confronted with the fear of (painful) death, the fear of being alone, the fear of insanity. The way I had seen things was brand new, it was like all of my deeply rooted thoughts, lodged way deep in the back of my brain had emerged all at once, and all in unison. It very much seemed like my subconscious had taken over, and these thoughts that were foggy little things, biting at my heels my whole life had completely consumed me. I was not ready for that night.

Yet I had heard so many stories of absolute bliss and happiness on these substances and I wanted to obtain that - so began my psychedelic excursions and so began the most introspective and challenging years of my life. I needed to find that bliss and happiness that seemed to elude me. I left the trip with the question of "Why was my experience so incredibly negative, while others were able to experience such great things?"

Salvia kind of makes the world look like this...

After a few unsuccessful tries with psilocybin again to clarify things in my head (they were just not potent enough to induce strong effects) I was offered Salvia Divinorum. I knew about it, and thought I'd probably never try it, but I gave it a shot. The person who gave it to me kept taking tiny, tiny hits, and I thought how stupid he looked, and figured I better show him how its done. I took hold of the glass pipe, lit the plant matter, and inhaled the biggest lung of smoke I can think of. As my body began to shake, I fell back to the ground, and as I hit the ground my body became 'stale' and I found myself falling through a vortex of body parts. 

It is so uncanny how the world turned into human figures and this prius commercial I simply MUST add it:

Falling through an tunnel of hands grabbing and pointing at me I descended into a tiny vibrant, primary colored house (yellow, blue, red). Obviously designed for children. There were my four friends, standing there - in the house which was about 2 feet tall and 10 feet wide (I was crawling beneath ceiling and floor). Yet I somehow knew they were actors. That this Salvia Reality was the actual reality - the more valid reality - and they had known this all along, but were acting as if they didn't. Almost like a cosmic Truman Show. I was to just be something to watch and learn from, but with no awareness of my own. This was the confrontation of my greatest fear - that all reality was an illusion, and everyone knew this but me

I came out of the trip shaken, but not broken. I was determined to conquer this fear.

Analysis of Post-trip:
I had been shown my absolute worst fear. A fear I had subconsciously created since I was a child. When I was young I was constantly depressed about death, and God. I was one of those "Why is there so much suffering if there isn't a god?" kids. Unbeknownst to me, I had created this fear that I was alone in this world - that even the closest to me were simply 'actors' of some sort in a cosmic play. I was the only one unaware of it going on - the guinea pig for some kind of existential analysis. A fear so grand and so complex - yet it hid beneath my line of sight for so long...

A good rendition of a full ayahuasca experience. 

This section will be very short. I had brewed my own ayahuasca with little understanding of what I was actually doing. The concoction turned out to be very weak, but I had ingested it anyways. I laid on the beach watching the sun set over the horizon. As the feeling began to creep up on me that something was going on, the innate fear of my previous trips exploded. I attempted to accept it and hold it in as a powerful person would, but this beast could not be contained. I turned on my stomach to the sand, and there, hugging the cold grainy earth - I heard and felt a heart beat. Earth was hugging me back, but it was miles down. At the time I had figured it would be best if I do not partake in this trip any further and forced myself to vomit.

The visuals were beautiful - the horizon was waves of purple and orange. My friends felt very warm and close to me. Everything they said I examined with the up most clarity. A wave of my hand displayed to me the internal skeletal structure, as if an X-Ray had been given. Speaking to my father shortly after was the warmest conversation I had had in a long time. I was generally interested in every word he had to say. I had never felt such contentment with the small things in life. But again, I felt as if I had been blocked, by fear, from my goal.

Analysis of post trip:
The light load of the trip was extremely beneficial to mental clarity, and my ability to respond to stimuli. I could drive my car without worry, and holding conversations was a pleasure. But the X-Ray hand bothered me. It was a split second - like the substance wanted to show me it's true potential. It has been foretold that many Shamans, after ingesting Ayahuasca, can immediately explain all ailments of a man or woman. They can easily tell an intestinal parasite has taken hold, simply from the skin color - but its more so that the drug shows these deep qualities of health within us. Upon taking the drug, understanding and empathy were at their peak. I understood where everyone was - as if they were all on some mental journey towards something- some had given up, some were ambitious, some were fearful. Things the sober mind lacks in understanding. After these trips, ayahuasca and psilocybin, it became apparent to me that the subconscious is always doing these things - it knows where people are (metaphorically), and how they feel, and what they believe of the world yet it doesn't communicate that to our consciousness. Why is it so? This very fact is why I continually go back to entheogens - I want to see that connection between the subconscious and the conscious mind. To have full awareness of my mind. Even the highest levels of meditation, I do not believe, can mimic this type of full-bodied awareness.

Alex Grey's rendition of "DMT Dreaming"
Oh, DMT, how you've treated me so. DMT, Spice, Elf Spice, Hyper Space - these are all synonyms for the compound. It is naturally derived from many plant sources, but most likely anything you come across will be from Mimosa Hostilis Root Bark (MHRB), which is a pretty tropical plant with purple root bark. Although MHRB has a very large amount of DMT (relative to other plants) it is not known to have been used in many ayahuasca rituals, this is where Psychotria Viridis comes in - a tropical plant that grows in the Amazon.

My experiences with DMT are anywhere from mild to absolute awe-struck, bodily detachment, speaking to gods, and so forth. My first trip that I actually felt on DMT (previous were completely unsuccessful) destroyed me. I was warped to another plane of being and judged in front of three gods. They told me horrific things, terrible fears, and confronting truths about the world. They told me how the universe actually worked. Then, they said "Do you want to hear it?" I knew what "it" was - it was the answer to everything. Before I could answer they told me. I remember the feeling, although it fades with each passing month. What the said was so profound, so disturbing, yet what followed will explain:
"Now that you have heard, we will give you the choice - completely forget what we have said, and go back to your life, or keep what you have learned."
In my mind I said "I cannot possibly deal with this. There is no way I could live with knowing this..."

And so, I was sent back to Earth, my memory wiped clean of the exact details of the conversation, but the feeling remained. A sunken absence of a soul, almost. I wandered that day as if I knew the world was going to end. Everything seemed different, but sad. I knew I needed to change myself. I had too much fear, too much pent up anxiety about things - why was I so afraid of what they told me?

Analysis post-trip:
These gods were images I had seen before, and as I looked at them, I knew I had created them - they were figments of my imagination. I had seen these images of Gods from video games, movies, and various other places, so as they approached me (or I approached them, I can't remember) it became apparent that these were parts of me, not some extraterrestrial beings. So how could I have come up with something that so distraught me, as to completely wipe it from my mind? How could anything possibly explain what had just transpired? The paradox with these higher levels of consciousness is - at one point, you may realize that everything you see is some kind of regurgitation of all you know. This isn't new information that's being presented, its just a separate perspective being seen, a separate paradigm being understood. Yet how can one create such incredible visions? How could I induce my own amnesia of the event?

Subsequent trips:
After my heavy trip I've gone in and out of DMT space multiple times. The ability for DMT to completely change what reality is is an incredible tool for our minds. We can see the connections of all things so easily; I sat on my friend's floor and inhaled. As I sat, the world became vibrant with energy - all things were electrical impulses, vines of energy and information pulsing and throbbing through all matter. My hands became one with the floor, and as I lifted off, the vines took shape again. Instantly I seemed to understand the "physics" of this realm. I understood it didn't have E=MC^2, or our various mathematical 'laws'. Here it was completely different - all things flowed and changed rapidly. There were no laws.

Again - how could I have come up with such intricacies on my own account - my own subconscious?

I've never felt bliss to such an extent on DMT. It has gotten to a point where every breath is reminiscent of a whole-body orgasm, a result from asking the substance to "Show me happiness". I was clutching my pillow, giggling with the most incredible sensations of love and goodness, almost to a point where it was unbearable.

Take Home Message

I could think of so many things to say, but none of them really give justice to entheogens, but I will attempt to sum them up in as precise a manner as I can;

The Hidden Mind

Entheogens are very subjective, depending on what you expect of them, how you feel about your life and yourself, and your spiritual or religious perspectives will influence your trip to a great degree. Not everyone is fully aware of what they really believe, though. We have these fleeting thoughts in our subconscious, or even our conscious that we are not always aware they are there. Our fears, our deepest beliefs. Those of us who label ourselves as "Christian", "Jewish", "Hippie" or "Goth" will come to terms with these labels - as they are only illusions. Our true beliefs shine forth in entheogens, and that is for sure.

A person can go their entire life acting, and believing that they are a good person. Yet every once in a while they may have a question, or a doubt "Am I really doing the right thing?", the slightest doubt of ones self can come full force in a trip, presenting many conflicting view points in the person's life.

In the same way, a person who is doubtful of one's self constantly, but knows "At least I'm doing the right thing" will more likely than not be immensely rewarded in a trip - as their true nature shines through.

The smallest of doubts and fears can consume us, just as the smallest pick-me-ups and positive thinking can elevate us to new happiness on these substances.

Duality of Entheogens
This is one of the hardest questions I deal with today - Is what I 'see' on Entheogens an absolute truth, or is it simply warping of the mind to produce intense revelations, paradigm shifts, and perspectives. Were the Gods I saw on DMT truly other beings, souls, or entities that simply took form into my memories? Was it just a self-created illusion, produced from the new drug in my brain? 

Countless times have I tried to examine this, and many times I have been shown that not all revelations I see on these entheogens, no matter how truthful they seem, are in fact truths. There has been many times where, while quite high, I imagine that people act a certain way for a certain reason, and it is true for all of us. Yet, in a sober light it becomes an obvious fallacy - nothing more than a thought based on curiosity and imagination.

Is what we see while experiencing entheogens true, but when we come down to sobriety our the laws and truths that govern our lives change? Could it be possible that while peaking on ayahuasca - everything one sees is an absolute truth, as long as the entheogen is active, yet upon coming down, we enter back into the physical reality?

How can one answer these questions? As you can imagine, these can be struggles to answer and deal with, and puts the entire use of entheogens into question. Are we merely kids in a sandbox, playing with our brains, or is there something absolutely profound here? I would hope for the latter, but we may never understand.

Changes in Life

Without a doubt taking a strong entheogen for the first time will change your life. It describes the world in such a new perspective, that no matter what is being shown, the experiencer must learn something incredible, confronting or comforting. Life becomes both more real, but less serious, as we see things from an outside perspective. What was once a hectic race to become something, to fill goals, now is seen as a steady trail, possibly branching off in many directions. Life becomes a journey, and we become observers of this body, along for the ride, attempting to gain as much happiness and goodness as possible, while minimizing the negativity and sadness. 

There is without a doubt in my mind that this simple "bird's eye view" that these entheogens give us at moderate doses is worth the effort. The higher doses are for those inquisitive enough, and curious enough to stress the mind on existential questions at hand. 

Generally, people will see life as more or less a play - we are all actors. Some of us more believable than others. But on entheogens we put down the mask, we put down the act and we watch, at least for a while. Sometimes what we see may be disturbing, sometimes absolutely beautiful. An incredible journey through the mind and soul.

Lifting of the veil

I love this term, and when someone recognizes this from their own experiences, often they also adopt it. No matter where we are in life, no matter how we feel, we are always filtering our reality. We only see what we want to see, or what we've been trained to see. Our entire lives are built on efficiently examining our environment. A hunter may never see a diamond in the dirt, but a gem hunter may be unaware of the deer only a few yards away. We are constantly going through life, choosing (subconsciously, or indirectly) these filters we put on. I call them veils, because sometimes what we see, profoundly impacts our mood.

Entheogens lift this veil. High doses create an incredible wealth of information to flow through us. Things that once seemed simple become incredibly complex and dynamic. We are able to master feats before that seemed difficult. Ideas sporadically come to light, and problems seem to be solved much easier.

Depression can be removed. Finally the day comes when the world is no longer grey, but we have a chance to see all the vibrant colors of life, all the happenings, the details that surround us.

Anger diminishes, as we empathize with those we have hurt. We now see the true implications of our actions, far beyond what is simply said or done from our hand.

Stupidity and intelligence become meaningless. We see all things as simply beings; existing in their lives. Who was once stupid becomes intelligent, and who was once intelligent becomes stupid in face of how relative the terms are.

Finally, and most dramatically, we see the web of life, or the web of existence. All things seem intimately connected. Every action we make effects everything else, from the feeling of our home, to our relationships with friends, to the light and energy being emitted - travelling far beyond this solar system. We are not alone in this universe, we are never alone. A quote from Cloud Atlas wraps this up nicely;

“Our lives are not our own. 
We are bound to others, 
Past and present, 
And by each crime
 And every kindness, 
We birth our future.”
Final Thoughts
My final thoughts are important, and I want to emphasize them. I no longer feel a need to take entheogens. I have been there, and seen what was presented to me, and have gained so much that it will take me a life time to observe and analyze what's already happened. I may go back now and again, but these experiences have shaped who I am to a great degree. I enjoy my place now, and need not to question it for some time.

In the words of the Great Alan Watts:
"When you get the message - hang up the phone."

Thank you for reading.


  1. Thank you for this article, very interesting and well-written. Salvia and DMT sound very interesting for all they're not well-known. What was your experience with LSD?

    1. Hi DH, LSD was an odd trip. I woke at 6AM and took it, and tried to go back to sleep. I got about 25 minutes of sleep when my body started to feel it come on and I awoke, somewhat in a panicked mood.
      The day continued with me trying to fight off panic, but at one point I found myself at a friends house playing with a young puppy. All negative feelings left as I realized the puppy's enjoyment of life, and fascination with his new companion (me). It was so interesting to watch him, frolicking and playing, never tiring of the same game.

      After this I road my bike, felt the wind in my hair, laid in the grass and felt very relaxed. Not much insight came, though, beyond the puppy.