What Are DMT Machine Elves?

Explore the mysterious world of DMT machine elves: from ancient rituals to present-day research, uncover the debate on their reality and ongoing research insights

Overview: DMT, a psychedelic compound found in nature and the human body, has various proposed functions, including neurotransmission regulation and potential protective roles. It has a rich history in indigenous rituals, notably in ayahuasca preparation. DMT induces intense, short-lived psychedelic experiences, often involving encounters with entities termed “machine elves.” The nature of these entities sparks debate, with perspectives ranging from psychological symbolism to alternate realities. Research on DMT's impact on the brain supports diverse viewpoints, urging an agnostic stance. Ongoing studies, including extended DMT experiences, aim to deepen understanding, emphasizing the complexity and curiosity surrounding DMT-induced encounters with machine elves.

DMT: The Spirit Molecule 

DMT (N, N-dimethyltryptamine), is a classic psychedelic compound that is found naturally in many plants and animals. DMT has even been detected in the human body, though the function it serves in the human body is the subject of ongoing scientific investigation.

Some of the main suggestions regarding the function of DMT in the human body include:

  • Biological Role in the Brain: Some researchers, including leading DMT researcher and author of the classic book DMT: The Spirit Molecule, Rick Strassman, propose that DMT may play a role as a neurotransmitter or neuromodulator in the human brain. 
  • Connection to Dreaming and Sleep: Considering that DMT is naturally produced in the human body, some hypotheses suggest a potential role in dreaming.
  • DMT as a Regulator of Neurotransmission: There is speculation that DMT may modulate the release and uptake of other neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin.
  • Potential Protective Role: Some researchers have suggested that endogenous DMT might have a protective function, particularly in response to stress or neurodegenerative conditions. 
  • Immunomodulatory Effects: There is limited research suggesting that DMT might have a role in regulating the immune system. 

DMT has a rich history of use in indigenous cultures, particularly in South and Central America. Evidence suggests that DMT-containing seeds, such as those from plants of the Anadenanthera genus, have been ground into snuffs called “yopo” or “cohoba” and snorted in traditional rituals in these regions for thousands of years. 

Additionally, one of the most well-known traditional uses of DMT is in the preparation of ayahuasca, a psychedelic brew used in Amazonian Indigenous ceremonies. Spanning at least 500 years, the use of ayahuasca has deep cultural and spiritual significance among these communities who regard it a sacred medicine used for healing, divination, and spiritual exploration.

Ayahuasca is typically made by combining the leaves of the Psychotria viridis plant, which contains DMT, with the Banisteriopsis caapi vine (also known as the “ayahuasca vine”). The ayahuasca vine contains certain compounds called harmala alkaloids that act as inhibitors of an enzyme in the human body called monoamine oxidase (MAO). This enzyme rapidly breaks DMT down when it is consumed orally. Inhibiting MAO with harmala alkaloids allows DMT to reach the brain, and a 4-6 hour psychedelic experience to unfold.

Recreationally, DMT is typically consumed by smoking or vaporizing the pure form of the compound, first synthesized in 1931 by German-Canadian chemist Richard Manske.

First explored by Hungarian physician Stephen Szára (though, in his case, via self-injection), consuming DMT leads to rapid and intense psychedelic effects characterized by extremely profound changes in perception, including an often quite overwhelming experience of having been transported into an entirely different reality. Szára's personal DMT experience consisted of moving, brilliantly colored oriental motifs. Interestingly, he extended his exploration by administering DMT to his colleagues, some of whom reported encountering "spirits" and "sunlit Gods" during their  journeys.

Often to the great surprise of those who have just come out of it, the DMT experience typically lasts just 5-15 minutes. 

The DMT Experience 

As noted earlier, when individuals consume a sufficiently high dose of DMT, they consistently experience a “breakthrough” into what appears to be an entirely different reality. This alternate reality, commonly termed “hyperspace” in colloquial terms, is often described as a distinct “world,” “universe,” “realm,” or “dimension,” depending on one's preferred terminology.

Mental imagery stands out as one of the primary effects of the DMT experience, as reported by users and study participants. Many describe encountering extraordinary visuals characterized by kaleidoscopic lights and highly complex geometric patterns.

What distinguishes these visuals is the vividness of the colors, which seem to surpass what is ordinarily perceived by the eyes. In Rick Strassman's DMT research conducted in the early 1990s, study participants have described these colors as “brighter, more intense, and deeper than those of normal awareness or dreams.”

The dimensions of the geometric patterns also contribute to the unique nature of DMT experiences. Frequently described as “four-dimensional” or “beyond dimensionality,” these patterns seem to go beyond our usual ways of seeing and perceiving. Interestingly, the DMT experience is characterized by a strange sense of familiarity, as if returning home.

In a 2005 survey of psychedelic transpersonal experiences, one of the most common experiences in DMT research was to encounter seemingly intelligent beings or entities.

Encounters with DMT Machine Elves

In various studies on DMT, encountering entities stands out as one of the most common and intriguing aspects of the experience.

Described as ‘entities,’ ‘beings,’ ‘aliens,’ ‘guides,’ or ‘helpers,’ these entities can take on many different forms ranging from elves, gnomes, fairies, and pixies to goblins, clowns, reptiles, mantises, and stick figures. Additionally, participants report encounters with angels, spirits, and gods that may be “charming,” “inviting,” “wise,” and “loving.” 

Referred to as “machine elves,” a term coined and popularized by psychedelic explorer Terence McKenna, these encounters remain a mysterious, fascinating, and puzzling feature of the DMT state of consciousness. McKenna also described the DMT machine elves as “Fabergé eggs from Mars" and “jeweled self-dribbling basketballs” in an attempt to capture the complexity of their physical appearance. 

Of course, machine elves had been around long before Terence McKenna first encountered them, as is evident in reports of "rooms filled with spirits" in Stephen Szára's research in the 50s.

During these experiences, people commonly report that the entities share profoundly intelligent insights about themselves and the universe, resembling the role played by similar beings encountered in near-death experiences. Others describe undergoing mysterious interventions, such as entities seemingly conducting a form of brain surgery, resembling accounts from alien abduction experiences

In a recent survey study conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers involving 2561 individuals who had experienced encounters with entities after inhaling DMT, noteworthy findings emerged:

  • More than half of the respondents indicated that their encounters with entities ranked among the top five or even as the single most personally meaningful, spiritually significant, or psychologically insightful experiences of their lives.
  • A majority reported enduring positive and beneficial changes attributed to the encounter, impacting aspects such as well-being, life satisfaction, life’s purpose, life’s meaning, social relationships, attitudes toward life and self, mood, and behavior.
  • Over 80% of participants felt that the entity encounter appeared more real than normal reality during the experience, with 65% still holding this belief after the encounter.
  • Three-quarters of respondents believed that the entity existed in a different dimension or reality, or in a combination of a distinct dimension and everyday physical reality. 
  • 96% of participants described the encountered entity as conscious and intelligent. 

Encountering machine elves can leave a lasting impact, even triggering shifts in one’s beliefs about the nature of reality, and, in some cases, prompting a departure from atheist views.

Terence McKenna describes the profound astonishment he felt after experiencing the effects of DMT for the first time:

“I sank to the floor. I had this hallucination of tumbling forward into these fractal geometric spaces made of light and then I found myself in the equivalent of the Pope’s private chapel and there were insect elf machines proffering strange little tablets with strange writing on them, and I was aghast, completely appalled, because in a matter of seconds . . . my entire expectation of the nature of the world was just being shredded in front of me. I’ve never actually gotten over it.”

The perceived reality of these encounters, coupled with the fact that most people have similar experiences, has sparked much discussion about what these beings are and whether they really exist in some way.

Are DMT Machine Elves Real? 

Although many people report meeting DMT machine elves resembling dancing jesters, praying mantises, and more, exactly why or what they are is not fully understood.

The nature of these entities remains controversial, with different viewpoints contributing to the ongoing discussion. The debate surrounding the reality of DMT gmachine elves  encompasses three main perspectives, which researcher Peter Meyer has proposed: 

The Psychological/Transpersonal Perspective 

The psychological/transpersonal perspective suggests that these experiences reveal unfamiliar aspects of the self, providing a unique window into the psyche.

According to this view, DMT machine elves represent unfamiliar aspects of ourselves, ranging from the reptilian brain and aspects of psychiatrist Carl Jung's theory of the collective unconscious — a part of the unconscious mind shared by all human beings containing universal experiences, symbols, and memories inherited from ancestral and cultural origins - to cells, molecules, or even subatomic particles.

This interpretation delves into the idea that machine elves are symbolic representations of internal elements within our mind.

The Other Worlds Perspective

As we have seen, some believe that these encounters reveal genuine insights into alternate realities, suggesting a connection to beings from another dimension populated by independently existing intelligent entities. The other worlds interpretation proposes that DMT acts as a gateway to this alternate dimension.

In this view, machine elves are not mere projections of the mind but rather entities residing in a distinct reality accessible through the psychedelic experience.

A variation of this perspective suggests that the alternate dimension, "hyperspace,"a is not an entirely separate realm but rather a four-dimensional or hyperdimensional extension of our everyday reality. In this interpretation, machine elves are seen as manifestations or inhabitants of this hyperdimensional space, accessible through the effects of DMT.

The Hallucination Perspective 

On the opposing side, the hallucination perspective asserts that encounters with machine elves result from powerful hallucinations triggered by the impact of DMT on the brain.

In this view, machine elves are considered subjective hallucinations — creations of the brain. This perspective aligns with those adopting a neuroscientific or material reductionist approach, which involves explaining complex phenomena by breaking them down into simpler components.

Essentially, proponents of this viewpoint suggest that the origin of the machine elf experience is internal and rooted in changes in brain function caused by DMT.

Researcher Christopher Timmermann has delved into the impact of DMT on the brain in several studies, employing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalogram (EEG) to gather insights. fMRI is a neuroimaging technique that measures and maps brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow, whereas EEG, on records the electrical activity of the brain capturing real-time brainwave patterns. 

The findings from the research of Timmermann and others rhave significantly advanced our understanding of how DMT affects the brain. His studies have revealed that DMT induces a decrease in connectivity within certain brain networks while simultaneously increasing connectivity between different brain networks.

Additionally, the research indicates a decrease in alpha power, which refers to a particular range of brainwave frequencies that typically occur when the mind is in a calm and relaxed state. Moreover, the flow of information from the limbic system, a brain region involved in emotions and memory, has been shown to increase under the influence of DMT. 

Keeping an Open Mind: Considering Different Views on DMT Machine Elves

In summary, the discussion on the reality of DMT machine elves involves three perspectives, each providing unique insights but also posing significant challenges.

The other worlds perspective suggests that machine elves exist in an alternate reality, prompting metaphysical questions about the nature and existence of these dimensions. Grappling with the definition and accessibility of such alternate dimensions raises metaphysical complexities, challenging our understanding of the fabric of reality itself.

The psychological/transpersonal perspective views machine elves as unfamiliar projections of the self, presenting metaphysical challenges in understanding their origins within the human psyche.

In the hallucination perspective, machine elves are seen as products of brain activity, raising metaphysical questions about the blurred line between chemically induced perceptions and the potential existence of alternate realities.

One significant metaphysical challenge with this perspective is the so-called "hard problem of consciousness," also termed the "explanatory gap" — how the physical processes of the brain give rise to the rich, subjective tapestry of hyperdimensional spaces filled with seemingly hyperintelligent beings remains a puzzle, highlighting the limitations in our current grasp of the interplay between brain functions and the profound nature of the psychedelic experience.

Though most scientists adopt a material reductionist approach, philosopher of metaphysics and consciousness Peter Sjöstedt-Hughes, in his recent paper titled 'On the Need for Metaphysics in Psychedelic Therapy and Research,' underscores the words of philosopher of mind Jaegwon Kim: "Making a running list of psychoneural correlations does not come anywhere near gaining an explanatory insight into why there are such correlations."

According to Sjöstedt-Hughes, we do not yet know the necessary and sufficient conditions for conscious experiences, including encounters with machine elves. As a result, he encourages an open mind to a range of metaphysical positions, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging the inherent mystery in these experiences and the limitations of reducing them to mere brain functions.

These interpretations of DMT machine elves underscore the complexity of the ongoing debate. Given the challenges in untangling the metaphysical aspects and the lack of sufficient evidence backing any single viewpoint, it might be sensible to take a neutral or unsure stance on the reality of DMT machine elves for now.

Opting for an agnostic viewpoint means acknowledging the uncertainties, respecting diverse opinions, and recognizing the current limitations in our understanding. It promotes an open-minded approach that leaves room for future exploration and research. In essence, maintaining an agnostic stance may allow for an ongoing inquiry into the uniquely strange nature of DMT-induced experiences with machine elves without prematurely settling on a particular conclusion.

While the precise reasons for encountering machine elves during DMT use may still elude us, ongoing research holds the promise of shedding light on this central aspect of DMT experiences.

In a new line of research, neurobiologist, chemist, and pharmacologist, Andrew Gallimore, collaborating with Rick Strassman, has developed a technique to extend the DMT state of consciousness. Utilizing a method from anesthesiology known as target-controlled infusion, researchers can now maintain stable DMT blood concentrations, keeping participants in hyperspace for durations exceeding 30 minutes 

One of the main objectives of this research is to deepen our understanding of the DMT world, exploring aspects such as its otherworldly geometry, color, and of course, machine elves. While ongoing research holds promise of enhancing our understanding, elf-like entities remain a subject of deep curiosity and speculation. 

"My technique is don't believe anything. If you believe in something, you are automatically precluded from believing its opposite." - Terence McKenna.

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