A chronological composite of McKenna’s DMT experience

N,N-dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, is an illegal, psychedelic tryptamine compound found in the human body and at least ~60 species of plants worldwide. Rick Strassman, MD, described it as “the first endogenous human psychedelic” in DMT: The Spirit Molecule (2000), and in an interview in 2011 said that DMT “seems to actually be a necessary component of normal brain function.”

Terence McKenna (who, “more than anyone,” Strassman wrote in 2000, “has raised awareness of DMT, through lectures, books, interviews, and recordings, to its present unprecedented level”) called DMT “the most powerful hallucinogen known to man and science” and “the commonest hallucinogen in all of nature” in his 1994 lecture “Rap Dancing Into the Third Millennium.”

McKenna wondered why theology had not enshrined DMT as “its central exhibit for the presence of the other in the human world,” and said: “Why this is not four-inch headlines on every newspaper on the planet I cannot understand, because I don’t know what news you were waiting for, but this is the news that I was waiting for.”

McKenna first smoked DMT as an undergraduate at Berkeley in early 1967. He had experience with LSD—ingesting it “once a month or so”—and other psychedelics, but as he said in an interview in The Archaic Revival (1992): “It was really the DMT that empowered my commitment to the psychedelic experience.

DMT was so much more powerful, so much more alien, raising all kinds of issues about what is reality, what is language, what is the self, what is three-dimensional space and time, all the questions I became involved with over the next twenty years or so.”

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