Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Psychoactive plants & DMT and the existence of spirit

  1. May 8, 2004 #1
    ie. plants that get you high.

    Why is it they evolved? What is the purpose of these plants that induce such states? Or is it just something "that happened"?

    I read that Terance McKenna (strong supporter of psychedelic drug use, philosopher, etc.) believed that mushrooms in specific is what caused cavemen humans to evolve into what we have become. Through the hallucinogen they gained a better understanding of their capabilities and so evolved. I don't know, somehting like that anyway. Your thoughts.

    More interestingly, DMT, a very powerful hallucinogenic drug, produces outrageous states in an individual. You are sent to another world, a new dimension, and you see and feel things that reality cannot offer you.

    "I then realized that they were being driven from me. I was undergoing a type of exorcism, and I was immediately aware of a ram on a hill of purple grasses, beyond a rushing stream of beautiful microscopic geometries. The ram had eyes all over its head, and beside was a horse that was ten feet tall at the shoulder, and breathing heavily. The horse watched, and then ran towards a greying horizon, while overhead a silver sun was spinning sounlessly.

    The ram had driven the lies from me, and I approached the stream. There were machines in the stream, and I was told not to touch the water, but to find the crossing, and I realized that the cross of Christ was not a cross, but a crossing, from judgement into salvation, and that the stories of religion were allegories, froming themselves again and again until they could be superimposed over the framework of machinery that was my own personal syntax.

    I realized the glory, the importance, of TRUTH.
    The truth was that my fear ruled my existence.

    Could salvation be truth?

    I was guided to my soft, pink brain by a dragonfly, which was piloted by a man with no eyes.

    It is impossible to adequately relate to those reading this that all of the above was occurring simultaneously, and yet, in right angles, and even moreover, in a corner of what I was to discover was a pile of powder on a floor, into which my eyeballs fell, and the dust did adhere."


    I think we can all agree that our world is not made up of the above mentioned incidences. What's REALLY weird is that we produce DMT in our pineal gland...

    "N,N-Dimethyltryptamine and 5-Methoxy-Dimethyltryptamine are naturally occurring psychedelics found in a variety of plants around the world, several of which are native to the Amazon region. These alkaloids, which are usually found together in the plants, are also found in the human brain as neurotransmitters, as well as m our blood, urine, and spinal fluid [1]. DMT is produced in the human pineal gland which is correlated to the "3rd eye" or Ajna Chakra in the Indian spiritual system. Meditative states attained by yogis who concentrate on the 3rd eye may be the result of increased DMT levels."


    One author who wrote a book called "DMT: The Spirit Molecule" claimed that DMT links us to our spirit world. A world that is untouched by reality and we are unable to percieve it without the aid of this chemical.

    I was just wondering what use a chemical like this has in the human body. Do any of you, offhand, know whether or not DMT has any particular use aside from making one "dive into the spirit world"? Because I know that increased levels of serotonin or dopamine give many of the effects of many other drugs, in increased concentration I'm guessing, and these neurotransmitters have other purposes aside from this.

    Assuming that this molecule does link us to the spirit world, is it exclusive to humans? Do all animals have a pineal gland to produce DMT? If not, then I guess we are the only ones who are given the gift of percieving the other dimensions. But this does not mean that everything is not linked to this, anyways, food for thought...

    So what's the deal with all of these chemicals that induce spiritual states? Is there something outside our reality that we can only touch upon via hallucinogenic drugs? Does this reality exist? If not, then what is the purpose of these chemicals, what role do they have in our world?

    Thanks, an interesting topic I think...

    Anyways, for those who are interested in learning more about DMT, www.erowid.org...plant's and drugs, DMT, and there you go. I think it is the most interesting drug there is.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 10, 2004 #2
    Please, try to refrain from posting all at once.

    I left something out...Perhaps people who have near death experiences are actually just secreting a lot of DMT. You've all heard the stories about people seeing the white light when they're on their death bed...

    Indians also used to try and focus their meditative powers on their "third eye" (pineal), presumably to increase the secretion of DMT.

    The pineal gland is most interesting. I will have to read more about it.
  4. May 10, 2004 #3
    And so I have! I'm just going to string together some interesting pieces of information...

    "Dr. Callaway of the University of Kuopio, Finland, has after all, conclusively demonstrated that the Near Death Experience, Out Of Body Experience, and death itself (by blood plasma spinal tap readings), are based on Pinoline, DMT, and 5meoDMT release."

    "Every night we produce Pinoline, 5meoDMT, and DMT, in fact they are in the cerebral spinal fluid right NOW. LUCID dreams are induced by DMT, again Dr. Callaway demonstrated this objectively."

    I like this one...

    "By taking Creatine or vitamine Q-10 for ATP synthesis, one is also taking an external source. In fact we are drug addicts to 20 essential amino acids, which we require from food, to produce the brain drugs of: Dopamine, Noreadrenaline, Serotonin et al. These are EXTERNAL SOURCES, and drugs unto themselves, they are highly PSYCHOACTIVE, not only that, but presently, we are also addicted to them."

    Okay, this guy locked himself up in darkness for 14 days. He claims that this darkness increases melatonin production and makes the pineal gland become more active, on day 10 he says...

    "After some 10-12 days one starts to see in infra red, and ultra violet, one can actually run accross the room and touch a person, by seeing their heat patterns."

    I don't know how factual this actually is but interesting nonetheless.


    Is the link. This guy is pretty nutty, looks as though he's got quite a perspective on life.

    And now some more! To just kind of sum things up:

    "The highest amount of serotonin in the body are found in the pineal. Serotonin can be converted to tryptamine (DMT is N-dimethyltryptamine). The pineal appears to have this ability. Methyltransferases, enzymes that convert serotonin, melatonin, or tryptamine into psychedelic compounds, reside in unusually high concentrations in the pineal. Finally, the pineal produces the potentially mind-altering substances, beta-carbolines. Beta-carbolines inhibit the breakdown of DMT by the body's MAOs. These compounds enhance and prolong the effects of DMT."


    "The most pronounce activity of DMT within the human body is usually connected with Psychosis, dreams, Near-Death-Experiences, spiritual experiences, the birth process, and psychedelic drugs. However, DMT could regulate our entire three dimensional experience. Dr. Rick Strassman refers to DMT as the spirit molecule. DMT may act as an anchor to this mundane reality. However, altering the levels of DMT may open up infinite possibilities for the human condition."

    http://www.selfexpressionsunlimited.org/SELF_EXPRESSIONS/Publication/Pubs-Current/Fal2001/SE-DidYouKnow-3.htm [Broken]

    Another very interesting link:

    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  5. May 10, 2004 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    So what exactly was your question? :smile: The purpose of the plants is to either reduce the survival chances of animals that feed on the plant by making them high, or by making them addicted to the plant so that pollination is insured. The rest goes above my head :)
  6. May 11, 2004 #5
    Ah yes, the question! Sorry, I got a little carried away there with all that information. :biggrin:

    Okay, I see your argument, Monique. The truth is that most psychoactive plants require a bit of preparation in order to benefit from their effects. I don't see most animals breaking out the crack pipe to smoke some DMT, which they extracted, of course, from large amounts of tree bark :biggrin:

    There are exceptions, surely, to my little example above. I'm sure there are plants which don't require much preparation, but anyways, the majority do! So it seems that humans are the only ones capable of doing the substances...

    And as to how it effects our evolution, I'm not sure. Many precivilized cultures used these plants and they may now cease to exist but I don't think it's due to their ingesting drugs.

    So, agree/disagree?

    I realize that this is all a bit flawed due to the fact that plants contain a WHOLE LOT of random (or so it seems) chemicals...So arguing for psychoactive compounds is just like arguing for any other chemical. But we'll just pretend I never said that!

    Edit: Again I forgot the question! To what purpose does DMT, and other psychedelic drugs, have on the body? Pushing aside the spiritual mumbo, is there any reason we get high like this? Why do we see gods and elves and ladies with fire for hair (personal experience, 'twas grand! Salvinorum A!)? Are their any implications of these experiences, are we supposed to believe that there is another world? Are these plants messangers to deliver us from the walls of reality?

    ...and so on!...

    Last edited: May 11, 2004
  7. May 11, 2004 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I happen to have a report lying around I wrote a few years back.. see if anything useful is in there :)

    Not a psychedilic drug, but here is what cafeine does: it has the same structure as the hormone adenosine, which slows down nerve cell activity and widens bloodvessels for increased oxygen uptake. Cafeine binds to adenosine receptors and thus inhibits its functioning, increasing nerve activity, which again stimulates the hypofyse (not sure how it translates) that signals the liver to make adrenaline. Cafeine increases the levels of dopamine in the body, which stimulate pleasure centres in the brain, making it addictive. Regular usage of cafeine results in a lowered sensitivity to cafeine, if cafeine usage is decreased the body will become oversensitive to adenosine. The result is that the bloodpressure lowers, and that too much blood stays in the brain causing a headache.

    Marihuana, a hallucinatory drug from the plant Cannabis sativa, the compound is THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. THC binds to cannabinoide receptors of neurons in the brain, which influences other areas of the brain like the hippocampus (memory), the cerebral 'schors' (concentration center), the perception center and the cerebellum (movement center). It is addictive, THC takes over the role of anadamide, that also binds to the cannabinoide receptors to give a feeling of euforia.

    XTC: 3,4-methylenedioxymethamefetamine (MDMA), loss of the neurotransmitter serotonin, blockage of reuptake of serotonin at the synaps, indirectly decreases the level of dopamine.

    So to 'answer' your question why these drugs make you halucinate: they mimic molecules that are natural present in the brain or interact with them. This throws off the balance of sanity and breaks down logical barriers, which allows the brain to imagine things and go with the flow of sensory information. It's just your brain playing tricks on you and not some kind of other world opening up.

    I'd have to say not to play with things like this, they áre addictive and it is your brain/sanity you're messing with. The treat especially lies in stepping over from seemingly harmless softdrugs to a single try of a harddrug (maybe unknowingly), which leads into a habit.
  8. May 13, 2004 #7
    Thank you for your reply.

    Although I am already aware of the whole structure resemblence thing. Serotonin and MDMA have so much in common. Not to mention dopamine (I THINK!) and methamphetamine. Could be wrong on that one, too lazy to check, but I get the picture.

    Okay, so you believe that it's simply our brain tricking us. Although I can not directly argue against that, I still disagree to an extent. I'm tired now and may reply further some other time if I think of something..bah. Goodnight.
  9. May 14, 2004 #8
    Okay. Out of body experiences. Is it just the mind playing a trick on you? I've read, and neevr experienced, about people being able to see themselves from the outside of their body. They were able to travel around, look at the surroundings, and see themselves sitting there or whatever. What do you thinik?
  10. May 14, 2004 #9


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    You might find the following an enlightening connection between psychoactives and NDEs.

    I believe it's an open question as to what significance such altered states of consciousness possess. The common response that they are meaningless since they are just caused by chemicals in the brain is ridiculous; everything we perceive is caused by chemicals in our brains, but clearly we ascribe some significance to our everyday perceptions.

    Personally, I do not think such experiences are really literally the doorway to 'other worlds.' However, they are quite enlightening as to the nature of consciousness itself. The typical person who is limited to the experiences of 'normal' wakefulness and varying stages of dreaming is correspondingly limited in his notion of what consciousness is and what consciousness can be.
  11. May 14, 2004 #10


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    I believe it's an open question as to what significance such altered states of consciousness possess. The common response that they are meaningless since they are just caused by chemicals in the brain is ridiculous; everything we perceive is caused by chemicals in our brains, but clearly we ascribe some significance to our everyday perceptions.

    It's the difference between chemicals produced naturally by our bodies in response to our natural experiences, and chemicals made up in a lab and artificially introduced. You might as well wonder about the significance of the stars we see when we're whacked on the head.
  12. May 14, 2004 #11


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Why is the 'natural' more epistemically priveleged than the 'artificial'? If someone's brain naturally produced a rush of DMT in response to a natural experience, would that experience be more meaningful than the one where DMT is artificially introduced? If tomorrow everyone's brains started producing massive amounts of DMT, and the only way to return to previous brain states was by ingesting some artificially contrived pill, would that be an exercise in self deception or a restoring of sanity? What about so called 'smart drugs'-- if there really is any benefit to be had from them, is this benefit automatically deflated and shown to be misguided because it stems from an artificial source?

    I personally see a distinction to be made, but it's certainly not about natural vs. artificial. Everyday experiences are taken to be veridical, ie being true representations of external reality, in virtue of their functional covariance with causal agents detectable by independent means (such as light, heat, etc.) In the hallucinatory experience, the isomorphism between information in internal brain states and external stimuli typically becomes degraded, and so in this sense such states can be said to be less veridical.

    However, there may still be a functional covariance with factors other than those typically encountered in everyday experience, and in this sense altered states may be taken to be veridical representations of these new factors. For instance, at the very least, visual hallucinations are a case where visual experience covaries with internally generated activation of brain states, and in this sense visual hallucinations can be taken to be veridical representations of the visual brain processes themselves, as divorced from the causal chains of organization that normally shape them and artificially restrict our notions of them. This is surely insightful insofar as the workings of the brain are essentially invisible in everyday experience, and all we 'see' is an apparently concrete external world in a fit of naive realism.

    Thus the significance of psychedelic experiences at the very least lives up to its name-- 'mind revealing.' And depending on the metaphysical nature of consciousness, it could be something more significant than one's own brain that one is gaining new insight into.
  13. Oct 24, 2005 #12

    all this chemical talk, but no one answered the simple question of, WHY.

    chemicals do this and do that, but why do i see these wild beings, why are experiences different in each person. why why why, and just typing about chemical interactions during altered states of consciousness, doesnt answer the question of simply, why am i seeing elves, gods, spirits, whatever it may be.

    chemicals equals side a. what happens within the body during these altered states and apparently, which chemicals trigger such a state. now we have side b. this is the why.

    there is no one ive read about or talked to via, personal, or internet, that can tell me the WHY.

    not testing anyone, because i dont know why and im not arguing against the significance of the chemical reactions within us during altered states, but some of the post above made it seem like they were explaining the why, when they were really just explaining the chemical reactions within the body and how it happened.

    not why it lead to me talking to my dead grandmother or a tree elf:tongue2:
  14. Oct 24, 2005 #13


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Well.. I had an encounter with Salvia divinorum and I dont think we know enough to conclude exactly why it happens. Part of the reason is the interaction of different sense signals within the brain - perhaps a synesthesia between current environment and our memories, sort of like when you sniff a smell and you think of some event in your life or someone.

    Perhaps even because of the holographic principle and ways our memories are stored there are overshadowing playbacks and flashbacks to your past, synergising with the present in your mind.

    On the other hand there are a lot of similarities in the structure of serotonin and psilocin. If you considered the function of serotonin, then perhaps the function psilocin plays is simple alter and wobble the representation of reality around you - not particularly opening any new worlds or dimensions. Its not real.

    DMT on the other hand, I'm not sure of. Ive heard some crazy things
  15. Oct 25, 2005 #14

    Since things caused by chemicals in the brain are meaningless, and everything we percieve is caused by chemicals in our brains, everything we percieve is meaningless. Completely agree with this, yes, it makes sense.
  16. Nov 1, 2005 #15
    The purpose of these chemicals for many plants is to protect themselves from being eaten, either by killing predators, making them sick so they avoid that plant in the future, or distracting them so that food is the last thing on their minds. Many plants don't need any preparation and can take effect if you just eat the leaves or seeds. Also, many of these chemicals are geared towards other animals besides humans, so they may have a milder effect on us- like a chemical that is meant to kill insect predators, but has a psychoactive effect on human minds because our nervous systems are very different from theirs, but still have some common aspects.
    There is a whole class of plant chemicals called "secondary metabolites" which includes many of the chemicals we use as drugs. They are not essential to the plants' basic metabolism, but plants use them for various purposes, including antipredator defense, disease resistance, UV protection, and attracting pollinators or seed dispersers. Some plants even release chemicals into the soil to keep competing plants from growing nearby. There are three basic types: terpenoids, phenolics, and alkaloids. Humans use many of these chemicals for medicines, psychoactive drugs, poisons, dyes, flavorings, etc.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook