Friday, October 15, 2004

DMT The Spirit Molecule

Okay, so I am putting myself out on a limb here by admitting I have a vested interest in this- but I swear it is just because of my background in Anthropology. Although the study of DMT has seemingly nothing to do with monstrous machines, it is particularily relevant to the notion of Cartesian Dualism we have looked at in The Ghost in the Shell, and will look at again in The Matrix.
My first encounter with DMT happened in grade 12, when a rather experimental friend of mine obtained some over the internet. LITERALLY 4 months later he was shipped to the USA, to a psychiatric hospital because of severe delusions: he believed he had, and could again, communicate with God. Since that time I had assumed that DMT was a rather potent halucinogen, not entirely unlike acid or PCP or something not to be tampered with- I failed to note the significance in his supposed communication with God.
Then a few years later in an Anthropology class entitled "Myth, Ritual,and Symbolism" I had my second encounter with DMT. It seems it is/was a shamanic tool used throughout tribal communities to empower the Shaman. As I studied it in Anthropology, the Shaman takes some DMT and then travels into the spirit world to communicate with "God" (as each respective culture perceives the notion of God)
Then, earlier this year, a new, rather experiemntal aquaintance of mine obtained a MASSIVE amount over the internet; however, this person had no intention of experimenting with the drug in any recreational sense- to him, it is(and I quote) "pure, cultural science". After much "mothering" from myself, he gave me a book; rather, a chemistry students doctoral work. The book is entitled DMT: The Spirit Molecule. This chemist had administerd the drug to a great number of individuals. Time and time again, the exact same response was brought out by the drug, namely: out of body experience, communication with some form of God. Some people saw the ghosts of loved ones, others fairies. Each case involved a serious lapse in time perception( the effects of the drug usually last 3-8 minutes; however some people experience so much in this time that they truly believe they have been "away" for periods of up to 6 months).

Background aside, here is what is relevant about DMT to our class, and the notion of the "ghost in the machine"- the chemist's conclusion, after 5 years of administering the drug: "Dmt is linked to the pineal gland, considered by Hindus to be the site of the 7th chakra and by Rene Descartes to be the seat of the soul. In Dmt: The Spirit Molecule I (Strassman, the chemist) make the case that DMT, which is naturally produced by the pineal gland, facilitates the soul's movement in and out of the body"... as the book progresses he explains that in a chemical sense, (he believes) the composition of DMT, when administered in large doses, can somehow "free the human soul" from the confines of our chemical make-up, allowing our spirits to interpret reality in various ways (like seeing ghosts/ fairies/aliens- all components of various layers of "dimension")... it is very strange stuff indeed, but it is quite similar to the idea in The Matrix or Ghost in the Shell that you can free your soul/mind/ or ghost from your body. DMT is just an organic version of a jack, or of a microchip. The interesting difference between the technological and organic is that the DMT consistently produces experiences of a "spiritual' nature (more than half of the individuals who participated in the study are now devoutly religious, although all of them are part of different denominations, not all of which are Christian) whereas, in the works we have studied, spirituality has either become totally irrelevant to the technological societies, or has literally been replaced by technology (as we saw in The Machine Stops). It is interesting to me that an organic "soul free-er" (sorry) would produce a spiritual response, where a technological/mechanical "soul free-er" is hypothesized as an end to spirituality in general...
Ps: Rick Strassman is now Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico, School of Medicine, and can be easily looked up on the internet, as can various sites that log people's personal experiences with "the spirit molecule."
PPS: The DMT phenomena reminds me of the Science Fiction novels by Jeff Noon, particularily VURT, wherein the society of the future is collectively addicted to a bizarre form of drug known as feathers...


Blogger bumblepanda said...

In some (2) instances I have for some reason referred to Dr. Strassman as a chemist... not sure why, but in fact I meant Psychiatrist...although I guess the two aren't that different...blargh...

4:43 PM  
Blogger Allison Muri said...

The mechanistic-cyborg question always comes back (for me at least) to the old "soul" conundrum: not just the question of dualism, but also the question of whether the material processes of this molecule in our brain simply create a series of actions and reactions that generate out-of-body, spiritual experience (since, as various philosophers have pointed out over the centuries, "reality" is mediated by the brain's reception of sensory perception and interior thought processes; the brain receives molecular stimuli that tell it to have an out-of-body it does). What came first, God or the brain?

8:48 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

I highly recommend Roger Walsh's "The Spirit of Shamanism" which provides a nice overview/context of shamanism. There are many techniques for journeying, all capable of achieving the same effect with the same degree of rapidity, for the most part, for most people.

He's also a neuroscientist as well, I think.

The comic series "Ghost in the Shell 2: Man-Machine Interface" (not to be confused with the movie "Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence" - their story lines are about 5 years apart) does begin to touch upon possible connections between technology and spirituality.

I think the reason the organic "soul free-er" is seen to produce a spiritual response is because the organic is seen as natural, whereas the technological/mechanical "soul free-er" is hypothesized as an end to spirituality in general because the technological/mechanical is seen as unnatural, and people continue to fear/value the un/natural. Also, the technological winds up being seen as a replacement-for or proof-of-the-non-existence-of the supernatural - whereas the organic is seen as the path to the natural and hence, if there is a way to get to the supernatural, it would be through the natural.

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Perhaps this is why I continue to bring up the natural/unnatural distinction.

10:22 PM  
Blogger Warren said...

Yes, it is totally Vurt. I was going to bring up Jeff Noon last friday when we were talking before class started...crap.. I can't remember what it was about! If anyone remembers what we were talking about, please fill me in! Ughh...I am sure it had something to do with Frankenstein.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Dustin said...

I think this kind of thing generally goes back to Aldous Huxley's (yes, that's the author of Brave New World) 1954 essay The Doors of Perception, which most of you have undoubtedly heard of. In it he attempts to draw parallels between types of religious experience and the experiences of a user of peyote, or later LSD. So far as religion is meant to reveal "another world," which guys like Plato located "out there," there are definately some similarities. Of course there are huge chunks of religious fundamentalists out there who found his suggestions ridiculously offensive. Huxley never suggested a mind/body dualism, rather suggesting only that religious experience could be accounted for scientifically. One of his more impressive points is that depriving the body of food and sleep, common practices in a variety of religions, will eventually produce a mental state very close to a peyote trip.

8:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that the "technological" via to higher levels is: Psychedelic music. (electro and goa). Obviously the other way would be the "natural" and some drugs.
Thats why I dont think "tech advances" damage the human positive development but the human himself is not able yet to open his mind to superior concious states. Lets wait until 2012.
Excuse my english.

Id like to know what you think.

8:02 PM  

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