- Religion and Philosophy
Dimethyltryptamine and the Argument for an Afterlife
Of all the attempts religion has made at irking its way into my life, there's only one experience that can occur in this reality we're adhered to that has made me doubt the absence of the supernatural. That experience is caused by, of all things, a drug. A drug has made me more likely to believe in the afterlife than any church, sermon or anything of the sort. The drug is Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT. The experiences I've heard of that have been described by users has me wondering how the hardest of atheists can say once they've tried it that they believe in some existential plane beyond the one we know.
Users describe the opposite of an ego trip, losing all identity and perception of time and space for the roughly five minutes of a trip. Some believe it's the ego that determines the trip. Yet it's not the experiences themselves that make me believe there might be some truly spiritual purpose for it, but rather the physiological structures we're composed of that allow us to experience this drug universally. Both humans and animals all have receptors in the brain specifically meant to react to DMT. Dimethyltryptamine is released both when we dream and when we die. It's believed that this substance may be the catalyst for our dreams to take place, which play on our egos and the unconscious.
DMT as a Compound
In nature, several different cultures in South America have found the ingredients for DMT, which can be either ingested through a concocted drink or smoked. It's a drug commonly associated with Buddhist philosophy, in that with just about every experience reported, a single trip usually supports the idea that all of humanity and every entity in the universe is interconnected. There's a holistic principle to DMT that surpasses most other substances, though some have reported bad trips, though they're usually the ones not ready for it, anticipating a bad time instead of rolling with the experience.
When artificially ingested, DMT induces an experience that lasts for an extremely short period (about 5-10 minutes) but in that time, so much happens that it often feels like hours. Everything from a loss of identity, to a cathartic epiphany and voyage through the universe has been described. Imagine a drug that plays on your innermost being, projecting all your desires and wants in the form of a peaceful resolve. This is usually what's described by people who've experienced a near-death experience, for which it can be argued naturally produced DMT is responsible. When we die, our brains convert serotonin and other hormones into DMT, making the slip into death a more easy transition.
My question about this is: why does nature do this? What evolutionary purpose does DMT serve us? Why build in a psychological defense mechanism when we're dying? Anybody with logic running their brains knows that nature is cold and largely unsympathetic, and yet we're infused with receptors and the ability to experience something so potentially life-altering and lucid when we pass on. Even in a traumatic situation such as a sudden car crash, this substance has allowed people to experience near-death visions that they're lucky enough to speak of later. It's almost as if DMT is something meant to assist us when we're transitioning between the reality we know and the next we'll face. What strikes me as most unusual is the fact that every near-death experience (reported at least) is positive. There's the ever-present white light, always calming and inviting, and everything else usually revolves around the psychology of the person (usually he or she confronts someone they love, loved or admire). Sure, you could argue that it's just something that occurs naturally before we slip into the infinite abyss of nonexistence, but why does this need to happen to so many people?
Also, there's an element to control in most DMT hallucinations. People are able to manipulate the worlds around them and even communicate in engaging conversations with people in their hallucinations--all within a quarter of an hour! Maybe the mind goes into hyperdrive, and since our perception of time is lost we simply lose ourselves in what's happening, but it just seems like so many of the experiences are only, like near-death experiences, reassuring in the idea of another reality outside of what we normally perceive. That DMT could be a temporary, universe-provided window into what we'll all experience when we die, is an idea alone that calms me. The fear of death is my biggest, just the idea that we'll never be able to experience again once we cross over, which is making my desire to seek this (unfortunately illegal) miracle out. Of course the DMT experience discredits the idea of a permanent heaven for the most part, in my eyes. If anything, the experiences I've read and heard about suggest we view the universe from different vantage points throughout eternity (which would keep things from ever becoming boring), resembling more the theology behind reincarnation. Gaspar Noé's film Enter the Void is the closest to anything made that describes what kind of experience I believe could be in store for us when we go over the ultimate line, and explores DMT heavily from the first person perspective throughout the entire thing. Though it's a long-ass film, running at about three hours more than an actual DMT trip, it's definitely one of the most entrancing and unique experiences I've ever had.
I've never actually been able to experience a trip myself, as I haven't even tried acid or shrooms at this point, but one thing is for certain: there is more than we can ever understand in our lifetimes here, on this Earth. So before we fall off, why be afraid of what we have access to? I believe life is fundamentally about experiences, and if it's not hurting anyone, it's an experience worth indulging in. Call me a hedonist, I don't care.