For young people in the late ’90s, access to unbiased information on drugs was hard to find. Our teachers, whether they believed it or not, said all drugs were bad. D.A.R.E programs told us stories of falls from grace, psychotic breaks, and brain damage, which frightened some, and increased curiosity in others. (As Scientific American reported in December of 2013, data collected regarding D.A.R.E. shows “that the program does little or nothing to combat substance use in youth.”) Thankfully, in 1995, when Amazon, Ebay and Craigslist got their start, so did a website called Erowid. Erowid’s motto describes the site as “an online encyclopedia that documents the complex relationship between humans and psychoactives.”
In 2011, the site had over 93,000 daily visitors. In their mission statement, they describe their goal as “providing access to reliable, non-judgmental information about psychoactive plants, chemicals, and related issues.” Erowid is donor-funded, and includes some creative incentives to donate — like a piece of LSD blotter art signed by Albert Hoffman (who first synthesized LSD) for donations of $25,000 or more.
A big attractor to the site has been the user experience vaults, which contain personal reports on various drug experiences that are usually anonymously submitted. The reports cover the spectrum of known substances, and experiences range from the mundane to the inexplicable. Some are heartwarming, others foreboding and cautionary. (The experience vaults can seem mind-altering on their own, especially when read consecutively, alone, at night and for extended periods of time; let’s call this the Erowid Effect.)
Operated by founders who go by the names Earth Erowid and Fire Erowid, the 501(c)(3) non-profit has a group of dedicated volunteers who edit, as a publisher would, the ever increasing backlog of submissions.
Many of the juiciest experience reports are in the DMT realm of the Erowid vaults. DMT naturally occurs in the human brain and it is theorized that it is released during peak experiences like birth, death and, possibly, orgasm. It is also an active ingredient in ayahuasca, an Amazonian brew traditionally taken by shamans as religious sacrament and for healing purposes. A psychedelic trip on ayahuasca can last four to eight hours, and involve deeply spiritual experiences and visions.
When the DMT (dimethyltryptamine) is synthesized into crystalline form, it can be vaporized and inhaled. This is the most common method of ingestion. In this form, its peak effects last just 15 minutes or less. But DMT often causes the perception of time to shift so those 15 minutes can feel like hours, or even years. User’s descriptions of their DMT journeys often include such powerful themes as psychic death and rebirth, meeting strange entities, grappling with eternity, traveling to different dimensions and feeling both overwhelming terror and unconditional love.
Here are a few of the most astonishing DMT-related user experiences on Erowid, excerpted for your enjoyment (and copy edited for clarity and length):
1. Guilt and love.
(From a post titled “Hierarchies of Hyperspace, A Collection” by Erowid user Psychedaniellia.)
“I was transported to that extremely alien-like realm that I had been to so many times before. I felt like I was being schooled on existence. A teacher entity that seemed to have some sort of almost condescending power over me was trying to convince me that ‘they’ constructed our reality completely, and tried to get me to agree that this reality was not under our control; it was being constructed and predetermined by an outside force completely. Even though I had lost complete touch with reality, I did not listen blindly. I was skeptical. ([It was] not that I disbelieved it, but I didn’t believe it either… I always like to keep an open mind when it comes to these sorts of existential matters). The entity was so persistent about trying to convince me! I remained neutral on the matter, but courteous and attentive all the same…
“I don’t know where I was, but I was confronted by a mother entity. She was shapeless; dripping, melting, ugly, terrifying, disgusting, and even smelled bad. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but next thing I knew, she was engaging me in psychic conversation. She had a wallet of some sort, and began showing me photographs of her son. I could tell that she loved her son very much. She also had a bunch of his artwork that she was obviously proud of, and began showing it to me. The problem was, her son and all of his artwork were also melting, grotesque and disgusting. I could still feel her genuine love for her son and pride in his artwork, but at the same time, no matter how hard I tried to show her love, I couldn’t hide the fact that I felt grossed out by her and the entire situation. I could tell that she could tell that I was feeling uncomfortable…
“When I came down from this trip, I found myself feeling guilty for not being able to feel/give the love that I felt that I should have given her. So I had another hit of DMT and tried to meditate on the experience and its meaning. I tried to send out my purest, most intended form of love to her and every other entity under this umbrella called consciousness. I even tried to psychically apologize to her for my reaction to her. I felt a little bit better after that, like I had resolved something.”
“A black field. I am ensconced, but know of nothing other than vision. I see black. Then, and I am sure for this happened several times (so similar, but never identical), the most adorable, invitingly furry, bipedal creature that I had ever seen walks from right to left. Best resembling a lemur or other prosimian animal with supernaturally cute features, this object of my endearment walks, from right to left, with purpose. Before reaching its destination, it looks to it’s left and meets me in the eye. This is where things unexpected enter…
“It looks at me with astonishment, clear from its physical and facial reactions. I recognize that look… the creature bounds over to me, kneels down and begins to pet me as though I am the most adorable creature it has ever beheld. Although hands, feet and body in general had ceased to exist for some time now, I was aware of this creature’s enfolding embrace. It felt so good, to be pet and loved as I loved so much! My insides were utterly tickled. The smile I wore seemed larger than all space. My grin seemed to wrap around my everything, keeping me warm.”
(From a post titled “Homecoming Raised to the DMT Power” by Erowid user Phineas C.)
“I find myself looking down from great height on a house at night. I hear music; it sounds (and feels and smells and tastes) like Howard Shore’s “Shire Theme,” from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings (LOTR) film, but infinitely more complex. I have come to realize that ‘hear’ is not the proper verb here. Perhaps ‘experience’ is better, as I was aware that my physical ‘ears’ had nothing to do with this music. As soon as I become aware of this music (and even while I am still making the LOTR and non-audio connections) my perspective begins to change as though I were falling, though I feel no sensation of free-fall.
“Soon I find myself looking at the house I grew up in, from a vantage point of 10 feet from the property line and 15 feet up. The music swells to a dynamic peak and I think, “I’m home!” I feel a sense of homecoming like nothing I’ve ever felt before, like when you return to a beloved childhood haunt years after your last visit, but magnified 10 times. Even though it is night in this vision, the entire landscape is colored in reds, greens, and golds; the same colors that I see when I close my eyes and press on them.”
4. Into the void.
“I cannot recall the transition to the void. There were no colors or visions, in the traditional sense. I realized immediately that I had actually poisoned myself, and this was not a DMT trip at all, this was death.
“This period of time is impossible to relate. Try to understand that there was no sensation of time at all. Nothing was linear, and my ideas seemed to come to me at impossible intervals. My brain had been killed, I could tell, because I could not think. I could only sense the overwhelming loneliness and shame. I had actually believed at some point, somewhere, that I was alive, but this was not possible, because I was a scrap of discarded thought, not worthy of keeping. It was a foregone conclusion that I would destroy myself. This seemed to be forever.
“There appeared in the vastness a tiny point of light. I remember realizing that I had not died at all, but that I had been dead. Then, not dead, but dormant. Dormant. I was about to be born.”
5. Dancing with strange entities.
“To the right of my mind space was a blue mass. [It was] a large entity formed of layers of strata, and bejewelled with many crystals along geometric fault lines which folded, twisted and morphed its form in a mechanical fashion. The blue color [surrounded] the entity like an amniotic sack. I moved my mind towards it and I burst into the sack which fell away enough for the entity and myself to make some kind of contact. It was a light green to yellow colour underneath the sack…
“I sensed a blue sheen spreading over my own body which was rigid but gently juddering with a fine tremor similar to which I have experienced with DPT. I also became aware that I was pulsing and stretching rhythmically beside the fine tremor, matching the oscillations of the entity to my right. When I did so in phase with it, the spaces between the strata of its twisting form widened, and the jewels inside showed even more vivid crystal surfaces… The more my body matched the entity’s dance, the greater one of these crystal windows became, filling my minds eye and almost breaking through into the scene I beheld.
“The entity itself is hard to describe in great detail. It had something akin to an Inca or Aztec architectural influence, combined with the opulence of a wedding cake, except that it could rotate, twist and shuffle like a Rubik’s cube. In this latter trip, I noticed a neon green amniotic sack along with the original blue one I was familiar with. I did not have a chance during the time available to explore the possibilities with that entity, though I sensed it was of a species with the first. As I returned to conscious reality I sent my now habitual prayers out and wished all souls well.”
6. Advanced beings.
“I continued floating around in the three dimensional DMT space without anything too significant happening, when I was found by a very advanced extraterrestrial being. His kind liked humanity and they enjoyed helping humans evolve at a very fast rate. I could feel this being empowering me and showing me advanced things. He helped direct my awareness to different things, all of which were helpful to my evolution. Anytime my awareness shifted to something of no use, especially things that would enable fear, he would give me a nudge to not pay attention to it but to focus on the useful things that were good for me. He also could sense weaknesses in me as I brought them up from out from my consciousness and would helped me overcome them. At the same time this being was learning from his interaction with me. It was a positive experience.
“I learned that these beings existed [alongside] another type of beings. [The two] did not like each other, but instead of fighting, they just avoided one another in a respectful way, knowing that engaging in problems was a waste of time. They knew what they wanted and applied themselves fervently to related tasks.”
7. Utter surrender.
“I couldn’t believe the breakneck speed with which I was beginning to move, like a proton in a hyperspatial supercollider. The breathtakingly ecstatic sensation of being literally shot out of the confines of my corporeal body was overwhelming, and already my mind was grasping wildly about for some semblance of familiarity. No previous DMT journey had ever moved this fast…
“ Ahead was an entirely ludicrous, tensile, concentric, mandala-like disco-medusa that wore about it a technicolor dreamcoat of fibrillating antennae, surrounded by an ultraviolet aura. Instantly I could tell it was alive: some sort of a sentinel. Then seemingly out of nowhere and from every direction at once came these freakish tentacles of liquid lapis lazuli. They began moving together with an almost orchestral hyper precision, and I was completely mesmerized — it was like nothing I had ever seen…
“The presence of what is awesome, what is wildly and passionately and luminously alive, filled every meridian in the vast continent of my expanded being, an intensity of joy and love and life coursing like heavenly ambrosia through my electrified veins. It was as though I myself was God, moving through liquid ecologies of God, the self-crystallizing emerald labyrinths of the tryptamine dreamtime, a marvelous infundibulum of plasmodial calisthenics. What occurred was a total meltdown of everything I know and hold dear. [It was an] utter surrender into the honeycomb love womb of the universe reborn, born anew in a thousand unendingly magnificent eyes, and Maya and Lila handheld spinning in sundream dandelions, my five senses spinning like a zillion gyroscopes round the centripetal amethyst of this all and everything.”
8. True love.
“I’m in a room. There are two adults, female and male. I sense their glorious power, it flows off them like the sun radiates light. I am a child here, ignorant, frightened and confused. I only see them from their waist down to their feet, I don’t even try to look up to them, I am not worthy. I’m not the only child, there is a table/box full of toys and there is a young child exploring them. My God, this is so intense, I don’t know if I like it. Panic grips my body once again, everything is so alien and terrifying. Wait, I’m here! I’m right here, right now! I’ve dreamed of being here, I’ve fantasized about meeting these beings, I’ve prayed for conclusive answers possibly arising from a ‘breakthrough’ experience, and here I am. Why am I clinging so tight to my thoughts and emotions, why not investigate, forget life and death, absorb myself into what is happening right now?
“I’m in the room, and without speaking I ask the adults why I’m here. Immediately she hands me a toy. I look at it — its some magnificent geometrical building block. I stare into it, focus entirely on it. It begins to glow bright, I focus harder, it glows brighter, it transmits an energy to me, something familiar. The feeling overwhelms me and it feels heavenly. This is true love, and I’ve felt it before. My heart is back again, there is no more hole, just complete wholeness. I look back up at the child playing with the toys, he is so happy now, he begins tossing his toys into the air in celebration and it hits me. This is the love I have for my son, it is a reflection of my intense feelings for him.”
9. Cluster headaches.
(From a post titled “Cluster Headaches and Psychedelic Cures” by an anonymous Erowid user.)
“I had my first cluster headache when I was 15. I can still remember it clearly. Although I had only heard about migraine as some kind of nasty headache I immediately, almost instinctively, recognized it as such, strange as it may seem.
“My typical symptoms, when the headache really starts distinguishing itself, include a painful pressure behind the left eye which usually spreads up my forehead. Vision becomes severely impaired but nausea is actually rare. Loud sounds and bright light usually triggers tremendous pain, thinking becomes difficult.
“At this point I was in some pain, I had problems keeping my eyes open due to the fact that it hurt to look at things, sounds were slightly distorted and amplified. The pipe was loaded with 30 mg [of DMT] and handed to me. I emptied the pipe in one huge breath and laid down on the couch. What happened next still baffles me. Right before I enter hyperspace I feel something snap in my forehead and just like that my headache is gone! Not just dulled away by drugs but actually completely gone. The experience itself was not affected by this at all (although I would still advise anyone attempting anything similar to use caution) and the headache didn’t return when the experience ended. I’ll definitely try this again when the circumstances are OK.”
10. God Central.
(From a post titled “DMT – How and Why To Get Off” by Erowid users Gracie and Zarkov.)
“Closing my eyes, I got a glimpse of several entities moving in front of a giant complex control panel. The visions were not crystal clear and seemed as if I were viewing it through a scrim. The creatures were bipedal and of about human size. It was impossible to say more, other than they did not move like the giant insect creatures I have seen clearly under the influence of stropharia mushrooms. There was a direct awareness of an overwhelmingly powerful and knowledgeable ‘presence.’ It was neither frightening, nor encouraging. It was just mentally there. A thought came, unbidden, into my head. I realized that I was viewing ‘God Central.’ The central panel I saw was the control panel for the entire universe.”