or: Tripping on the natural DMT inside your body
During the past year I've had a few strange, psychedelic experiences that have involved no external compound at all. I described one such "trip" in an internet forum and received the comment that it probably was a spontaneous release of DMT. Such events are known to exist, but appear to be pretty rare. Comparing my experiences with various DMT and ayahuasca stories, I concluded that the suggestion could well be accurate.
More recently I came across a scientific reference to that type of state, by the pharmacologist J C Callaway, who has written extensively about ayahuasca among other things. Callaway has posited that self-release of DMT within the body is entirely possible under certain circumstances. Commenting on this hypothesis some years back, noted entheogen researcher Jonathan Ott named the phenomena 'Endohuasca' (=Endogenous + Ayahuasca), which I think has a nice, useful ring to it.
Below is my description of these puzzling, memorable experiences.
ENDOHUASCA TRIP #1
My first experience occurred in the late Fall 2008. Some months earlier I had been through a fairly powerful psilocybin trip (described elsewhere), which may have played a part in what follows. I had recently moved into a new flat, which among other things meant trying to adjust to new sleeping quarters, with different lighting, scents, and so forth. I had some minor problems with insomnia during this period.
On the night in question I had felt "weird" for several hours. Earlier in the day, while busy unpacking boxes from the move, I came across some items related to old acid trips -- some paintings I had made in a psychedelic state, and also an LP that we used to listen to when tripping. I put the record on, and sorted through the LSD paintings. I began to experience acid flashbacks, which did not surprise me. These faded away soon enough, but a strange mood lingered. I went to bed fairly late, but could not fall asleep at all.
Lying in bed I felt the odd, somewhat eerie presence of something alien. I sat up in bed and noticed that it was almost exactly 3 AM. "Something strange is going to happen", I thought to myself. I remained sitting and waited a few minutes. But nothing seemed to be happening, and I laid down again, and closed my eyes. And this is when the trip began.
Behind my closed eyelids tiny figures appeared, moving about and maybe even speaking (I thought I heard faint voices). It was like looking inside a doll house, or the scene in The Shining when Jack Nicholson is looking down on the small model of the garden maze and sees his family in it.
My closed eyes reacted upon this unexpected hallucination by trying to open themselves, and when they did open, the whole vision naturally disappeared. I was completely awake and felt that I was experiencing something entirely new, and so I tried to prolong the experience. I placed my hand across my eyelids to keep them from opening, and this worked surprisingly well. As soon as I closed my eyes the visions reappeared, after a few seconds of darkness.
These hallucinations were very sharp and very detailed, and also very alien to me. I was nowhere near any dream-state, but rather wholly alert and clear-headed, fascinated by what I was seeing.
What I saw were three different scenes that recurred over and over, one after the other:
- Scene #1 showed a multitude of brightly colored insects in what looked like a toy world. The insects were crawling upon each other, and were somewhat plastic-looking, like toy grasshoppers in different pastel colors. The mood in this scene was playful and upbeat.
- Scene #2 was set in a dark, cave-like environment where big, formless mammals were resting or sleeping. Their shapes were somewhat like hippos, or more precisely some ancient predecessor of hippos. It seemed to be very long ago, in an earlier stage of evolution. There was a small pool of water in the cave, and some faint moonlight, but so dark that the mammalian creatures were barely visible.
- Scene #3 showed human beings who were dressed in old-fashioned clothes, perhaps Victorian or pre-Victorian. There were many of them, like an extended family, and they seemed to be in a rush, as though they were leaving. There were suitcases and people running about dressed for travel. The house itself was old, cluttered and somewhat bourgeoise, and it seemed almost like a doll's house that was inhabited by small human beings. The dominating mood here was one of break-up and hurry.
If I kept my eyes closed and neither focused nor unfocused my attention, these extremely realistic scenes were visible for a fairly long time, 15-20 seconds for each. After each 'intermission' (due to losing concentration or involuntarily opening my eyes) I would return to one of these three scenes, which were continuing as before. The scenes seemed to occur completely independent of me, as though I was looking into another world(s), where events unfolded on their own. I was not really inside the scenes, but was watching somehow from outside and above, like peeking in through an opening in a wall. It felt neither like a nightly dream, nor like a daydream fantasy, but belonged to a different kind of sharp, clear, inner perception that I had never experienced before, not even on psychedelic drugs. After some time, maybe 6-7 minutes, the experience faded away, and did not return that night.
Those familiar with DMT and ayahuasca trip reports will undoubtedly recognize some elements from this experience. The brightly colored insects and the very ancient mammals in the cave are both typical tryptamine visions. Various interpretations could be made of these 3 scenes and the relationship between them, but the experience itself was so remarkable to me that it tends to overshadow my interest in the content of the scenes.
To differentiate this Endohuasca trip from a fullblown DMT trip, I should mention that there was no powerful experience of colors or light, not even in the scene with the brightly colored insects. What I saw seemed to be fairly naturalistic in its presentation, and nothing was charged with the extreme visual attributes of classic DMT trips.
On the other hand, I recently found an intriguing passage in Benny Shanon's major ayahuasca study Antipodes Of The Mind. When discussing the various types of visualizations encountered during ayahuasca sessions, Shanon mentions a mode of seeing which he calls Glimpses: "...It is as if a hole was opened and a remote scene is perceived as when peeking through a keyhole or periscope. Unlike snapshots, glimpses are not single shots: the things one sees change and develop. Characteristically, the glimpses seem distant not only in their texture but also in time. [...] The glimpses often appear in advanced stages of intoxication." [p.91] Elsewhere [p.100] Shanon describes the type of none-interactive, outside observer mode that I mentioned above as something that may also occur during ayahuasca sessions.
The next day I remembered the entire experience very clearly, and the strangeness of it had me bewildered and excited for quite some time afterwards.
ENDOHUASCA TRIP #2
My second experience with what seems to be a spontaneous release of endogenous DMT occurred around 3 months after the first one. This "trip" was quite brief and happened in a somewhat different way, but the fundamental feeling was the same as trip #1. It also introduced a new element that would become stronger expressed in a later experience.
I was asleep and having a regular night dream, when a sudden and unexpected change of the fundamental dream modality occurred. The haziness that I associate with normal dreams disappeared, and was replaced by mental clarity and a sense of urgency.
The shift from the dream mode to the Endohuasca mode happened in a very concrete, "hands-on" way. My ongoing dream was interrupted by someone grabbing my shoulder in a most physical way; the contact seemed to occur on a different and more real level of perception than anything that happens in dreams. If I hadn't been alone that night, I would have assumed that my bed partner was grabbing my shoulder out in the real world -- that's how concrete the feeling was.
As this hand is grabbing me, an orgasm-like feeling of warmth/cold/electricity fills me, radiating from the point of contact (my shoulder) downward through the rest of my body. Again, the experience is more physically real than anything I experience in regular dreams. I am now half awake, and aware that something unusual is happening. I recall the experience from a few months before (Trip #1), since the strange mood I'm now in is similar or maybe identical, although my consciousness is not yet fully out of the dream state. An advantage of this is that my eyes remain closed, which facilitates the visualization.
With my earlier dream now completely replaced by the Endohuasca vision mood, I see a woman standing in semi-profile in front of me. The feeling of great physical pleasure, like a body high, remains or increases. The woman is neither beautiful nor ugly, neither happy or sad. There is a classical air about her, like something from a renaissance painting, as well as something vaguely unearthly. Her presence is charged with meaningfulness. The woman's attention is directed towards me, and she seems to motion me towards an opening behind her. This opening is a horizonless space, surrounded by a circle of clouds. The view reminds me of a few fantastic baroque paintings of religious themes I had seen in the Tate Gallery in London many years earlier. The vision remains fixed; the woman -- whose facial expression is perhaps like the expression of Botticelli's "Venus" -- and behind her the opening towards unknown space between the white clouds.
This heavenly vision scene and the physical, orgasmic body feel fades away after a few seconds. In their place follows a brief sequence of the sharp, lively hallucinations of moving figures that had made up my Trip #1. This does not linger long enough to warrant any detailed description, but I recognize the mood and style of the scene from the earlier Endohuasca experience. Following this, both my physical and mental state return to baseline; I'm half-awake with the feeling that something important has happened. Once again, I remembered the experience in detail next day, and felt a longing for this briefly experienced state, which this time also entailed great physical pleasure alongside the sense of alien, vital communication.
ENDOHUASCA TRIP #3
My third and most recent Endohuasca experience occurred some weeks after #2, with which it shared several traits. It was however more powerful and lengthier. I have to look at my most dramatic hallucinogen trips to find something comparable. I've divided the description into three segments, to match the structure of the experience.
3a) In a manner similar to #2, this trip began with a drastic change of mood and modality during a regular night dream. I've now become familiar enough with these events that even in a sleeping state I recognize them, and part of my consciousness quickly takes on a fully awake, observational mode (maybe somewhat like lucid dreaming). Once again, the Endohuasca modality is both mental and physical, with a bubbling sense of euphoria rapidly spreading through my body, while my mind enters the strange, highly specific DMT mood.
Remnants of the common night dream affect the early stages of this Endohuasca vision, in which I find myself climbing up through a vaguely defined, moist, jungle landscape. The dream remnants fade away, and in their place I see a silhouette, as in a 19th century drawing, of a young man (or boy) walking in an otherworldly cloud landscape. The main theme of this vision is the silhouetted young man's progression towards an unseen goal. The Endohuasca state temporarily fades out after this quick glimpse.
3b) Shortly (maybe a few minutes) thereafter, the DMT-like feeling returns, now both stronger and purified from anything dreamlike. In this vision I find myself in something that is like an underground aquarium, except that it seems organic and not man-made. Floating before me is a huge, octopus-like creature with a female face instead of the usual octopus features. It is not exactly the same female face as in Trip #2 above, but with similar qualities -- serious, powerful, very much present, and communicating directly with me. My mind sends a question to the woman-octopus (similar to how one communicates with "guides" during mushroom or ayahuasca trips), who responds with a nod and an affirmative facial expression, as if to tell me that I'm on the right path.
A brief pause enters into the vision (unclear to me why), after which I find myself back in the same scene as above, repeating my question and receiving the same affirmation, more forceful this time. A spoken message from the woman-octopus reaches me, in English:
- BGE is the way ahead.
I try to decipher the abbreviation 'BGE', and my mind produces the suggestion 'Body Generated Energy'. The creature's response to my interpretation appears again to be affirmative.
I move ahead, or am transported forward, in the vaguely defined environment, which has a strong sense of water and being underground. I find myself at the edge of an abyss, and feel the encouragement from my woman-octopus guide to throw myself over the edge. This I do, and the strong, electric, emotional-physical feeling fills me once more. This is followed by yet another unexplained intermission.
3c) A few seconds (I think) later I return to the visionary Endohuasca state, and once more I find myself at the edge of an abyss. The environment has changed its nature, from earth/water into water/air. I throw myself over the edge again, and again I experience the massive, orgasm-like body and mind euphoria, this time stronger than ever before. I feel weightlessly hurled through a kind of aether, yet with full control. Around me is an alien space, perhaps like the outermost atmosphere of an unknown planet. Involuntarily and with extraordinary speed my weightless body (now more like an astral silhouette than fully physical) goes through a number of somersaults and changes of posture that seem somehow ritualistic. The 'witness' part of my consciousness interprets this as a series of lightning fast hatha yoga movements.
In this extreme state of mental-physical pleasure I continue to whirl through the alien aether, and then I perceive a white circle or sphere far ahead. In the next moment I am suddenly right next to this smooth white sphere, as if my thought/perception of it instantly transported me to it. I have time to observe that it's hardly a heavenly body, since its surface is so white and smooth and it seems relatively small. The next moment I pass through this sphere, or we pass through each other. I continue to whirl beyond this object into a dark, starry space, before the Endohuasca vision state fades away. In connection to my encounter with the white sphere, these words (coming from the woman-octopus) reach me:
- Now you know that you are immortal.
I return to a more conventional, half-awake state. The experience I've had is so overwhelming that I deliberately change my position in bed, in order to try and pause the trip flow and memorize what I've just been through. On this occasion, there are no more hallucinations of moving figures or 'worlds' that I had in Trip #1 and #2. The vision/journey ends, and I fall asleep soon after. The next day, and still now, many months later, I remember these strange experiences in great detail.
Reflecting upon the last stages of the trip above, it seems possible to interpret it as a vision of a physical conception; the sperm reaching the egg, and a consciousness leaving its old form for the next. The words about being 'immortal' also seem to imply this. Of course, on a mundane level, the idea of reincarnation occurring on any kind of mentally aware plane isn't a very common notion, even among those who do believe in reincarnation. As a side-note, I looked up the archetypal symbology of the octopus, and found that it's usually connected with very deep-set memories.
On an emotional-instinctual level I believe that I may never before have been as deep into my mind as I was during Trip #3, perhaps not even on peak experiences with LSD or mushrooms. It felt like an exploration into truly uncharted depths of my consciousness, or into the transpersonal, where my ego or identity is dissolving into a general species realm. In addition, I must stress again the pure bodily pleasure of the experience, which was like an orgasm evenly spread through my organism, rather than radiating from the genital area. The physical aspect is perhaps the part of the trip that sets it most apart from any type of night dream or fantasy. I think that this state may be within reach via tantric meditation, although I've never even been close to it.
I'm not directly concerned with interpreting these Endohuasca visions here, but am mainly registering and reporting them, with the added observation that despite decades of work with psychedelics and meditation, I've never experienced anything like it before.
© Patrick The Lama 2009
The Lama Workshop