“Alan Watts had a DMT story to tell. He took the drug as part of a California research and had planned to demonstrate that he could maintain rational control and verbal fluency during the experience. The closest equivalent might be to attempt a moment-to-moment description of one’s reactions while being fired out the muzzle of an atomic cannon with neon-byzantine barreling. Dr. Watts gave an awe-full description of perceptual fusion.”

N,N Dimethyltryptamine is a highly active and short acting psychedelic compound, most commonly referred to as DMT. During the course of his experimentation with psychedelic compounds, Alan Watts was involved in at least two sessions with the substance, one with Oscar Janiger, and the other with Timothy Leary.

“…then he called up Alan Watts and bet him he had a drug that could finally shut him up. Watts took the bet and the DMT, and for thirty minutes he lay there staring at Janiger, who kept repeating “Alan, Alan, please say something. Talk to me. Your reputation is at stake.” But Watts never said a word…”

– From Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream (1987), by Jay Stevens

Since 1955, DMT has been found in a host of organisms: in at least fifty plant species belonging to ten families, and in at least four animal species, including one gorgonian (also known as “sea fans”) and three mammalian species. A 2013 study found DMT in microdialysate obtained from a rat’s pineal gland, providing evidence of endogenous DMT in the mammalian brain.

Subjective experiences recorded from participants in Rick Strassman’s human trials, conducted in the late nineties and detailed in his book, “The Spirit Molecule”, indicate that individuals feel a dilation of time and space and a movement from their ordinary reality into “other” worlds, often futuristic or organic in their aspect. These worlds are often reported to be populated by various “entities”, from insectoid creatures to what the psychedelic bard Terence McKenna called “self-transforming machine elves.” Many people report having extremely similar experiences to one another, visiting the same “worlds” and meeting the same “inhabitants” of these places. A documentary film based on these experiments can be found here.

DMT has been used by traditional cultures, such as the Shipibo people of the Peruvian Amazon, for potentially thousands of years as part of a psychedelic brew known as Ayahuasca. Other forms of the drug, such as oo-koo-he, have also been recorded. With our scientific understanding of the substance in early days, we can look forward to discovering in greater detail just what DMT is, why it happens to be present in so many living creatures, and why it produces the kind of bizarre and transformative experiences reported by those who have taken it.