If you think hallucinogenic drugs are for hippies and rock stars then you may be startled to learn that our bodies are making a psychedelic substance that would have us arrested if we tried to get it through airport security
Mind you, it’s only produced in trace amounts – which is why airport sniffer dogs leave us alone and why we’re willing to accept consensus reality.
This particularly potent member of our internal, black-market pharmacy is DMT (dimethltryptamine) which is closely related to the neurotransmitter serotonin and to the pineal hormone melatonin. It’s made in our lungs and red blood cells and possibly in our pineal gland, too. DMT is also called the Spirit Molecule because it induces mystical,trance-like states when taken in greater quantities than our bodies normally produce.
The strange irony is that a substance made freely in our bodies cannot be legally ingested from external sources. That’s right, taking a DMT – containing drug is illegal in most western countries.
Origins Of Consciousness Conference
I learned about DMT, plant hallucinogens and our culture’s uneasy and confused relationship with psychedelics at a recent conference on the origins of consciousness. Author Graham Hancock and researcher of all things psychedelic, Dr Denis McKenna (among others), spoke passionately about the crucial role plants and their psychoactive components have played in human evolution.
They were adamant that our culture’s hostile and prohibitive attitude toward hallucinogens is denying us access to altered states of consciousness and leaving us in a rigid, rational mindset.
By the end of the conference, I was willing to consider the possibility that plants are wise teachers and that our distressed society could benefit from reacquainting itself with their powerful ability to heal and transform.
No Sacred Context
Hallucinogens have no sacred context in our society and are taken recreationally rather than reverentially. Without a spiritual dimension accompanying their use, and a structured, supportive environment in which to take them, people find themselves in all kinds of trouble and opportunities for insight into one’s life are limited. Stories of people’s bad psychedelic experiences are remembered far more vividly – and give hallucinogens a poor reputation to boot – than are the stories of people’s more benign experiences.
Our relatively casual use of hallucinogenic drugs could be one reason we’re suspicious of them. Fear is another likely reason because flirting with altered states of awareness is a direct threat to the status quo. People who’ve taken psychedelics commonly report feeling less connected to our consumer-driven culture than they were prior to their visionary experience.
Our society allowed a brief encounter with psychedelics in the sixties before panic about their safety and mystical qualities drove them underground – where they’ve largely been ever since.
There are signs – such as the packed conference I attended – that this is about to change. If so, DMT could be the psychedelic to watch over the next decade.
Amazon Shamans and Ayahuasca
Amazon shamans have been using DMT – rich plants for healing and spiritual insight for thousands of years and the knowledge gleaned from their psychedelic journeys is brought back to their tribe. These shamans also provided people with opportunities to take their own ritual hallucinogenic journeys – under the shaman’s expert guidance, of course.
A particularly popular shamanic brew – rich in DMT – is Ayahuasca (the Vine of the Souls). It’s an ancient and profoundly sacred mixture that’s been used by Amazon shamans for many, many centuries to access other realities and to induce powerful and lasting shifts in consciousness.
Dearth of Western Shamans
You may have noticed Shaman is absent from the list of job possibilities offered to us by our school careers’ counsellors. This is a pity as we have few legitimate, experienced people to take us carefully and gently through a psychedelic experience. As such, many westerners travel to the Amazon (where being a shaman is a highly respected profession) to imbibe Ayahuasca in a sacred setting without fear of arrest.
Psychedelics have had a rough time here in the west. We’ve used them capriciously and without a sacred context. However, with more and more of us journeying to the Amazon to see for ourselves the spiritual dimension of hallucinogens, we may begin to organise our own sacred rituals and reacquaint ourselves with psychedelics in a mature and life-affirming way.
Hippie Shake Up