DMT shadow people

DMT: The Experience, How It Works, And DMT Entities

In this post I look at the psychedelic substance DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine), also known as the ‘spirit molecule’ or ‘God molecule’, and the peculiar experience of  seeing and communicating with ‘shadow people’ and other entities encountered on DMT trips.

(Disclaimer: This post is only for educational purposes. Obey your local laws. Etc.)

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.

We live on a placid island of ignorance amid black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

― H.P. Lovecraft

Psychedelic Substances

Naturally occurring psychoactive substances from plants and animals have been used by humans for thousands of years, in order to reach an altered state in which they can “communicate with Gods and spirits”. From shamans and occultists, to members of various religions, since time immemorial. From primitive hunter-gatherer tribes to the ancient Greeks consulting the Oracle in Delphi, and to present day in the desert with neon electric lights and vape pens at Burning Man. It is a deeply embedded practice of human history and one that will probably remain for millennia.

“Through all of history, mankind has ingested psychedelic substances. Those substances exist to put you in touch with spirits beyond yourself, with the creator, with the creative impulse of the planet.”

– Ray Manzarek

While plants like coffee and cocoa have been consumed for thousands of years, they have undergone such radical changes in how they are prepared, served and consumed that they taste vastly different now to how they would have tasted in ancient times.

While some psychedelics are made in white coat laboratories – such as the man-made molecules lysergic diethylamide (LSD), many psychedelics are taken in the identical way that our ancestors in ancient times had. Psilocybin mushrooms, mescaline cacti, and certain amphibian toxins and secretions which are inhaled, licked, or smoked.

It is interesting how we still consume these substances the same way that we have for thousands of years. Harvesting mushrooms in a forest and consuming it in the same ways as our ancient ancestors had with little or no change. Sometimes under the guidance of a traditional shaman singing and chanting songs that have been passed down for centuries – possibly thousands of years – as in an Ayahuasca ceremony in the Amazon Rain forest.

“The history of human use of plants, mushrooms, and animals for their psychedelic effects is far older than written history, and probably predates the appearance of the modern human species.”

– Rick Strassmann

Psychedelics and Drug Culture

I feel it is important to state here that I am not for ‘drug culture’. I am aware of the results of allowing drug culture to the one extreme, and the liberal cities riddled with crime, open drug use, and homelessness. However, psychedelics are a unique case for a variety of reasons..

They are legitimate treatment options for incurable or extremely treatment-resistant mental health conditions. In some cases more effective than any Big Pharma solution without the terrible or debilitating side effects that often accompany medications for serious conditions. To say nothing of their uses in the context of psychological well-being, psychotherapeutic use, and to deepen one’s religious or spiritual journey. As opposed to being taken just to have a wild trip.

Psychedelics have been used to treat various addictions such as prescription opioid addiction and heroin addiction and even reduce 90% of cravings in heroin addicts – from a single session. Psychedelics in general seem to have an immensely powerful ‘anti-addictive’ property. There is no other medication that can cure some people’s addiction entirely from on single dose.

There is a legitimate case for their use in the treatment of otherwise incurable mental health conditions and healing from past trauma – such as PTSD and depression that is ‘treatment-resistant’ and does not improve with traditional methods. And in fact some medications in traditional medical treatment can cause permanent damage and in some cases debilitation.

The proponents and users of these natural and manufactured drugs range from chemists, philosophers, writers, mathematicians, and everyone else in-between. Everyone can benefit from them – they are not just for the outliers of society.

One can be for the responsible use of psychedelics and for meaningful psychedelic experiences (therapy, healing, or spiritual) without being for “drug culture”. (I recommend checking out Legalize Psychedelics.)

For further reading on psychedelics, take a look at my previous posts Psychedelics: Recommended Books & Sites and What to do before taking Ayahuasca.

Entheogenic vs. Psychedelic

‘Entheogen’ is a word coined by scholars proposing to replace the term ‘psychedelic’ (Ruck, Bigwood, Staples, Ott & Wasson, 1979), which was perceived to be too socioculturally loaded from its 1960s roots to appropriately denote the revered plants and substances used for traditional sacred rituals.” (Source)

This post from Double Blind Mag goes into more detail on how the term entheogen came about, and how it is used.

What is DMT? 

DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine) is a psychedelic tryptamine compound “a chemical substance that occurs in many plants and animals and which is both a derivative and a structural analog of tryptamine. It can be consumed as a psychedelic drug and has historically been prepared by various cultures for ritual purposes as an entheogen.”

It’s worth noting that there are two different hallucinogenic drugs with similar names, 5-MeO-DMT and N,N-DMT. Both are powerful psychedelics but are different molecules and provide different experiences. For this post though the difference is only in name, as both drugs seem to have the phenomenon of ‘shadow people’ and encounters with ‘intelligent beings’.

DMT is commonly found in a variety of plants across the world, ranging from South America to South Africa. Plants containing DMT are surprisingly easy to find. However, extracting it and using it turns out to be much more complicated. The Acacia tree is one example containing DMT which the Egyptians revered.

Although only first synthesized in 1931 by the Canadian chemist, Richard Helmuth Frederick Manske, it has been used in the ancient tribes and cultures for thousands of years. Ayahuasca ceremonies in the Amazon Rainforest use DMT as the main psychedelic compound. The reason that DMT is taken as a blend of ingredients, such as in Ayahuasca, is that the brain releases an enzyme that interferes with the absorption and metabolism of DMT. Ergo it is combined with other psychedelics that prevent DMT from being broken down, to produce the world’s most powerful psychedelic.

It was only identified in natural sources in 1946 by the Brazilian microbiologist Oswaldo Gonçalves de Lima.

Graham Hancock is critical of the ways in which our culture suppresses our potential and growth through its various norms and social constructs (often influenced by powerful people and groups) – which suppress the potential of the individual.

Our society is absolutely designed to shut down 90% of the potential of the human creature. Why should it be the case that the society is afraid of realizing human potential. What it comes down to his special interests. That there are those who run things in society, and that there are those who are there to kind of serve them. Serve their ends and serve their needs. And so what our society has created is a realm of unquestioning meat robots, who will perform their daily tasks without complaining, without causing any trouble. And that may be very useful to certain small interest groups but it’s extremely damaging to the rest of humanity. Once we realize our potential we don’t need elites any more. Who needs elites who needs to be led. This is another revelation that comes from working with psychedelics.

– Graham Hancock, The real reason why DMT is banned

Although the science is still hotly contested as to whether DMT is actually produced endogenously (in the body) there is a lot of evidence to believe that it does and many experts in the field tend to interpret and even claim, the findings that way. Rats have been found to produce it in their brains – which doesn’t mean that we do – but it’s what is speculated.

The ancient Egyptians believed the pineal gland to be the source of mystical experiences, and many believe DMT is produced in that part of the brain.

The DMT Trip

To say that I am not a fan of Vice is an understatement – but this is in incredibly insightful read on the work of legendary ethnobotanist, mystic, psychonaut, lecturer, and author Terrence McKenna – DMT: You Cannot Imagine a Stranger Drug or a Stranger Experience.

These psychedelics  – DMT – are well known for their extreme intensity and mind-blowing hallucinations of color, sound and spiritual experiences – even when compared to other psychedelics…

“Beyond any experience you can possible have…It’s just so beyond everything you’ve ever experienced in your life that…It’s like loading a gun with the universe and firing it at your head…


This is how one Reddit user put the difference between these two compounds:

  • NN-DMT: Super intense, colorful, cosmic
  • 5-MEO-DMT: Mega intense, white light – near-death experience. More potent than NN.

Users of other popular psychedelics express bewilderment when hearing about people’s reports on DMT. They describe the most popular psychedelics taking you to another dimension – and struggle to understand how DMT taken by those who have experienced it – is orders of magnitude even more intense and profound.

Shadow people that are regularly seen during a DMT-induced trip. Other common experiences include a giant praying mantis operating on your brain, and ‘little people’ – gnome type creatures running around doing tasks. You can hear more about this here.

Terrence McKenna describing DMT:

He said it was not a drug, but “something masquerading as a drug.”


“is an intelligent entelechy of some sort that is frantic to communicate with human beings for some reason.”

McKenna described the DMT entities as “translinguistic elves,” “friendly fractal entities,” “elf legions of hyperspace,” “tykes,” “meme traders,” “art collectors,” and “syntactical homunculi.”

It is remarkable that a molecule, common in nature, can trigger Out of Body Experiences (OOBE’s) and encounters with “God”. Some of these experiences are remembered for the rest of a person’s life, including personal revelations around unhealthy coping mechanisms and expectations of other people’s behavior.

Some people even become completely transformed into healthier behaviors and rewired their minds into healthy thinking patterns. In some cases, all from just from 30 seconds of inhalation…

The Spirit Molecule

DMT has been called the spirit molecule or God molecule for various reasons. These include the experience of connecting to something larger, communicating with various entities and beings, in some cases, people felt they connected directly to God as well as the mysterious other beings and even aliens. While these experiences are not unique to DMT the incidence with which they are reported with DMT is baffling.

What’s interesting about these plants, in general, is that atheist and spiritual/religious people alike find these experiences to be the most meaningful experiences of their lives – even more than their child’s birth.

“There is a wealth of information built into us … tucked away in the genetic material in every one of our cells … without some means of access, there is no way even to begin to guess at the extent and quality of what is there. The psychedelic drugs allow exploration of this interior world and insights into its nature.”

Alexander Shulgin

DMT and Entities

Encounters with apparently sentient beings are reported by half of all first-time users of DMT.

You may be familiar with the concept of ‘shadow people’ in the context of sleep paralysis. These shadow people are hallucinations of entities that are dark shadow-type entities or beings, often felt as an evil and conscious entity. Explanations for seeing these shadow people range from the psychological to the spiritual to the scientific/medical domains.

What is quite interesting though is that the entities encountered on DMT are often not described as terrifying but helpful. They appeared as guides. Some describe these beings as angels – but this is more rare.

It is possible that the shadow people experienced during sleep paralysis are the same as those experienced while on DMT, but the drug perhaps shuts down the part of the brain that would induce a ‘fear response’ to seeing something seemingly supernatural. (These are just my own musings and are in no way backed up by any findings.)

In 1990, Strassman conducted research into DMT. He administered around 400 intravenous doses of DMT to 60 heavily pre-screened volunteers  (all with extensive experience with psychedelics).

These trials resulted in an unexpectedly high number of encounters with entities in seemingly “freestanding, independent levels of existence.” Strassman wrote he was “neither intellectually nor emotionally prepared for the frequency with which contact with beings occurred in our studies, nor the often utterly bizarre nature of these experiences. Neither, it seemed, were many of the volunteers, even those who had smoked DMT previously.”

DMT Spirit Molecule

Some other hallucinogenic plants such as the deliriant, Datura Stramonium, have a somewhat high number of reports of seeing shadow beings but the drug often produces terrible visions, and ‘bad trips’, that people never want to repeat.

It is possible that there are other dimensions with realities that we cannot experience. By whatever mechanism it seems that DMT is a chemical key to enter this hidden world, a chemical door into another dimension or just boring epiphenomena.

Whatever these beings are, it is very curious that only one substance so consistently is tied to this experience (based on the research to date). There really is so much that we do not know about the mind.

If we are to be reductionistic we are a conscious pool of chemicals. It makes sense that certain chemicals will have very strange reactions on us.

I find this all truly fascinating. And agree with the general sentiment around entheogens – that we are only beginning to discover something so profound that it will – once understood completely – change many of our currently held views of consciousness, ego, spirituality, and possibly even our place in the universe. 

If our brains do, in fact, produce DMT – it makes me wonder just how much of our reality is an embellishment or extension of that provided with DMT. In other words, without DMT what would be left of our perception of our reality? What would be different?

I think the ‘spirit molecule’ could help many who grapple with existential fears and beliefs by actual confrontation and experience through a DMT trip, rather than abstract philosophizing and treading the waters of the meaning of life in doubt and uncertainty.

Whether religious or not, the experiences of the person going through the trip are often more powerful than any prior beliefs and rationalizations or experiences. Believers and non-believers alike often rationalize positions to themselves. Powerful trips seem to give a conviction, real or not, that cannot be shaken.

Embarking on psychedelic journeys could lead people to be less cognitively dissonant and might be the ‘soul searching’ we actually need. Some have proposed psychedelics are the answer to the current ‘meaning crisis’ of modern life.

“It’s a very salutary thing to realize that the rather dull universe in which most of us spend most of our time is not the only universe there is. I think it’s healthy that people should have this experience.”

– Aldous Huxley

What is Morphic Resonance?

Morphogenetic resonance – morphic resonance – for short, is a metaphysical concept and hypothesis coined by biologist Rupert Sheldrake. Sheldrake describes morphic resonance as a process whereby self-organising systems inherit a memory from previous similar systems. It is proposed that morphic resonance is the reasons for seeing DMT ‘beings’.

In the same way that radio can tune into frequencies that can’t be seen, it doesn’t mean that the shadow beings are not there. We might just need something, some chemical, to perceive them. These chemical molecules may be decoding particles giving access to other dimensions.

I also like to imagine what other psychoactive molecules we have yet to discover – or if DMT is the ultimate. And if we did find or make more powerful psychoactive molecules, what would it do to us? Would we even be able to comprehend it?

“There is a self-erasing mechanism in it. I have the feeling that you find out something there that is so contra-intuitive that you literally cannot think of it sitting here. So, as you go from there to here, there comes a moment where it slips below the surface of rational apprehensibility.”

– Terrence Makena

With all the research into parallel universes and a fourth dimension and the implications of quantum physics, it is not impossible that drugs like DMT allow contact with multidimensional entities – if such things exist.

Shadow people – whether real or imaginary phenomena – are interesting nonetheless and to those who have experienced them they make you do a double-take on reality. I’m undecided.

Bringing DMT into the Mainstream

Drugs can be experienced responsibly. Currently, the many known benefits and potential as yet undiscovered benefits are buried beneath red tape and are being heavily influenced by the perception of degradation of society.

Many people don’t understand how many, if not all, the views of scary trips and horror stories are simply false and made-up scare tactics. If you understand the importance of set-and-setting when it comes to psychedelics and safety, and take basic precautions, it is very unlikely you will experience any of these ‘horror stories’.

These drugs should be regarded with enormous respect and care and taken in a setting or approach that reflects their profound nature – as they were in ancient civilizations.

“The [psychedelic] experience corresponds almost exactly to the theological concept of a sacrament or means of grace—an unmerited gift of spiritual power whose lasting effects depend upon the use made of it in subsequent action.”

– Alan Watts, The Joyous Cosmology

As I mentioned earlier, I am not a proponent of “drug culture”, but I like many others believe that psychedelics should be treated differently. It is a false dichotomy to believe that there are only two options on the table – drug-riddled cities with homelessness and crime, or no drugs at all.

Conservatives, in general, could be more open-minded in a skeptical way, and the left could have more respect for these substances and their implications. 

Too often the talk of psychedelic drug use gets lumped into the fear-based, ‘snowball effect’ thinking of general drug use in a culture of uninhibited, thoughtless, drug use. But it does not have to be. Reducing the complexities of the multi-varied reality we live into two neat categories is just a slippery slope, and is sloppy thinking. We can be against indiscriminate drug use and for mind-expanding meaningful encounters and exploration of ourselves.


I find this all deeply intriguing and mysterious. A subject around which the themes of consciousness and existential speculation flow into each other seamlessly, around a molecule that we know so little about, and which produces otherworldly sights and encounters.

I used to be a staunch atheist, but there are things from my past which I simply cannot ignore and cannot explain. To rationalize them away as I did for many years felt like betraying a part of myself. I do believe that some beings encountered are likely real. And feel that DMT might give me answers, or a delusion convincing enough to be true.

Even if all of these experiences can explained by science, it is nonetheless remarkable. While I haven’t yet taken DMT I would ABSOLUTELY LOVE TO.

People have been ingesting entheogens in one way or another for literally thousands of years, possibly millions, and done so specifically for spiritual reasons. I don’t see why this will end anytime soon but only increase in that trajectory with the aid of technology. Understanding hallucinations, psychedelics, and some aspects of the supernatural could probably cover a lot of ground once combined and understood as such a connected experience.

Who would have thought that a molecule inducing chaotic fractal kaleidoscopic trips of color, sound, and meaningful encounters with visions of entities would be so interesting and cover so many areas of life and philosophy?

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