An online survey on DMT entity encounters reveals a deep consensus around a benevolent, intelligent, and often otherworldly entity which frequently evokes profound love, surprise, and trust. The survey, conducted by researchers from the John Hopkins Center for Psychedelic Studies, elicited responses from 2,561 people, and shed light on the characteristics of entity encounters during inhaled DMT experiences. The results of the survey were published this month in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
“Why were [these entity encounters] primarily reported as positive? We don’t know,” acknowledged the paper’s lead researcher Alan K. Davis, PhD, an adjunct assistant professor at Johns Hopkins’ Psychedelic Research Unit.“However, it is possible that for most people they are positive, and bring about insight and meaning in a way that changes people’s entire perspective of what is possible in the world/universe.”
The paper does note the overall homogeneity of the survey’s respondents, most of whom were white males from the United States who had never married. Yet even amongst this cohort, there were some surprises. In his 1989 book True Hallucinations, ethnobotanist and philosopher Terence McKenna first coined the term “machine elves” when referring to playful entities he encountered on DMT, a descriptor that has since been widely associated with DMT entities amongst psychonauts. But in the Johns Hopkins study, entities were more often described as a “guide,” “helper” or a “being” than an “elf.”
“I think this demonstrates that there is a much larger variety of DMT entity encounters that haven’t been adequately defined or described,” says Davis.
Occasionally, these entities imparted advice about the future of humanity, offered support or reproval for a respondent’s life choices and in one case taught a respondent NFL rules and regulations. A vast majority (72%) believe this entity exists even after the experience’s termination, either in this dimension or another, and over half of the respondents who were atheists before the experience came to believe in a God after their encounter.
The paper raises the possibility of integrating DMT into a similar therapeutic model like that currently being considered for psilocybin and MDMA, although senior author Dr. Roland R. Griffiths, PhD, the director of the Johns Hopkins’ Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, insists that it would have to undergo the same battery of clinical trials before this happened. Greater advances, however, are envisioned for illuminating neurotheological intersections with other anomalous phenomena like alien abductions and “God-encounter experiences,” says Griffiths.
Chris Timmermann, a DMT researcher and PhD candidate at Imperial College who co-designed and co-wrote a 2018 paper on DMT and near-death experiences, commends the paper’s elucidation of DMT’s visions. As for future exploration, he agrees with the Hopkins researchers on furthering the neurotheological inquiry, but also recommends “digging deeper on what are the underlying mechanisms that may be inducing long-term shifts in beliefs [concerning the nature of reality], both at the psychological and neural level.”