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The book reveals and analyses Strassman's clinical research into DMT, a plant-derived substance which is also produced by the brain. As such this is one of the most thought-provoking studies on altered states and the nature of consciousness. The volunteers reported an amazing array of positive mystical or frightening hallucinatory experiences including encounters with intelligent entities.

Strassman's research connects DMT with the pineal gland; this corresponds to the esoteric belief that the pineal, connected with the Crown, Keter or Sahasrara chakra, eases the spirit's movement into different levels of consciousness or various dimensions of existence. Graham Hancock's Supernatural similarly explores the use of psychedelics to induce altered states or allow the soul to explore other dimensions.

Psychedelic substances in science and society, the chemical qualities and molecular structure of DMT, the pineal gland and its role in the psychedelic experience are all discussed in the first part. Part Two relates the history of the author's research, from the actual research proposal through the process of obtaining permission; this section may be skipped by the average reader.

Next Strassman describes the process of selecting volunteers, obtaining DMT and the first experiments, whilst in Part Four he examines the case reports: what the volunteers said and did, their behavior, etc. This makes for strange and fascinating reading. Some experiences were positive and illuminating, resembling uplifting meditative states, whilst others were eerie or deeply unpleasant.

Part Five takes stock of these reports and considers the question of whether the experience was worth the effort for each individual that took part. Strassman attempts to assess the ultimate benefit that each person derived. Definitions come into play and determining something so subjective is difficult but it would appear that the experiments did reward each individual in some way or other.

Then follows a discussion of the soul/psyche and states of consciousness. It seems that spontaneously occurring psychedelic experiences are mediated by elevated levels of endogenous DMT. This `spiritual' molecule thus unlocks unknown territory. If the brain is a receiver, DMT fine-tunes this organ so that the individual consciousness moves beyond familiar awareness into other realms, most of which are inhabited. Many volunteers mentioned a `ripping' sound as they made the transition.

There's a difference between this awareness and normal dreaming. Current psychological theory does not satisfactorily explain the phenomenon or the peculiar experiences, especially as regards the entities encountered. This leads to a speculative discussion on cosmology, the possibility of parallel universes, a multiverse and dark matter with reference to David Deutsch's book The Fabric of Reality.

The author concludes his extraordinary work by looking at the practical use of psychedelics in therapy, as promoters of creativity or as entheogens (substances that trigger spiritual/religious experiences). In this regard I recommend Huston Smith's Cleansing the Doors of Perception: The Religious Significance of Entheogenic Plants and Chemicals.

A varied body of literature is available, from the old classic Phantastica by Louis Lewin through Aldous Huxley's collection of 1960s essays Moksha, to the more recent contributions by Abraham, McKenna and Sheldrake and Giorgio Samorini's Animals and Psychedelics. Plants of the Gods by Schultes et al is a valuable encyclopedic reference work on ethnobotany that is occasionally revised and updated.
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on 20 November 2002
In this book Strassman describes a number of research projects he has undertaken into the effects of DMT (one of the most potent hallucinogens/entheogens known to man) on human volunteers. Rather than merely presenting a bunch of trip reports, he gives plenty of relevant background, and details the research methods used and the hassles he went through to get approval for the trials.
The book is both written and arranged in an easy-to-handle manner, and I found it highly readable. The experiences documented are fascinating, and much of Strassman's commentary about them is interesting and insightful.
My only reservation is that some of the ideas he presents are initially pure speculation, by the next page have turned into a fundamental assumption on which other speculations may be based, and for the rest of the book appear as solid fact.
This is true of the central theme, that DMT is the "spirit molecule", somehow representing or intimately connected with human spiritual experience. Strassman misses a couple of opportunities to make his case more robustly, I feel. But that doesn't mean he's wrong, and it doesn't negate the overall value of the book.
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on 3 March 2001
The theories that Rick Strassman has concerning the D.M.T. molecule as being the "Spirit Molecule" are astounding!!! Readers will be amazed at the information this book contains, Rick brings the story of his research alive with his straight forward and scientific approach on a type of research that is considered "Tabboo" in the normal stream of everyday life. I found his speculations about the production of D.M.T. in the penial gland of a fetus 49 days into it's development and how he considers this as the vehicle of the soul moving into the body before birth astounding!! Also in the same chapter he mentions that upon dying D.M.T. is produced in large amounts in the human brain,,(the soul leaving the body) This book is the history of his research, injecting humans with D.M.T. the most powerful, and short acting psychedelic known to man. he includes detailed information about "what's on the otherside" from test members in this project, describing their experiences in their own words. The book represents a possability that through the clinical use of this chemical we can actually experience what it is like to die and travel to new dimensions in 15 minutes with no adverse effects!! Amazing factual data on this subject which brings forth the possibbility of researching this and other chemicals for the benifit of mankind, in a proper time for such research to begin again,,,not as it had begun during the war torn times of vietnam when the counterculture tried to find "Enlightenment" through just taking these drugs. Their enthusiasim got the best of them and therefore led to the problems that interfeard with further research in the scientific community. These are valuable chemical keys to the nature of the human mind and how it works, and i feel it is time that we wipe our bloodied noses and start again in this exploration of "inner space." Thank you Doctor Rick Strassman for this wonderful book, and opening the doors for future scientists to work with psychedelics again, unhindered by negative publicity and bias!!
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on 26 May 2008
Ever so often I find myself going "YES!" "YES!" again and again. This book brings together spontaneous mystical experiences, states of illumination and enlightenment and the NDE's with the secretion of DMT in the pineal gland. His research into laboratory administered controlled doses of the DMT and the emerging parallels in the description of the individuals is fascinating.
Not only does he take the lid of the "mystique" of the way in which we think that our perception of reality is unshakable and predetermined, his research also opens up doors to many more avenues and I hope that fellow researchers will be able to carry the batton further into this field.
This is essential reading for anybody with an intereset in the workings of the mind, in mystical experiences, the question of what happens to us after death, mental health and deviations from the norm, energy healing and manifestations of other-dimensional phenomena. DMT goes way beyond other psychedelic drugs, and is truly the bodie's own doorway to expanded perception.
The book is easy to read with a good balance of technical detail and background information with fascinating stories and often supplemented with the personal testimony of some of the volunteers.
This research is important as it brings para-psychological anecdotal evidence into the laboratory and thereby into serious science. I had the same reaction when reading Dean Radin and Candace Pert.
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on 20 October 2015
Really enjoyed it; the author fully embraces the metaphysical aspects here; that consciousness can leave the body, exist independently and post death and that we can visit through OBE experiences, other realities, universes and dimensions. Obviously he is coming from the angle of these experiences being aided by the DMT chemical although other explorers such as Jurgen Ziewe, William Buhlman & Bob Monroe are among thousands who can do all this without the use of chemicals. I would recommend their books too. Lots of stuff in here about the pineal gland and the notion of the departed soul reentering a new fetus at 49 days if so desired.

A good companion I found to Graham Hancock's Supernatural. Also sits well with Anthony Peake's books too.
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DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine) is a natural hallucinogen produced both by plants in nature and by the human pineal gland. Though shorter-acting (minutes rather than hours) than LSD or mescaline, DMT has similar effects in that it initiates `spiritual', `cosmic consciousness' and other-worldly experiences. It is speculated that one of DMT's natural functions may be the initiation of such religious, transcendent experiences and might, for example, be the source of so-called `near-death experiences.'

Rick Strassman MD was for 10 years a tenured Professor of Psychiatry at The University of New Mexico. A keen advocate of the potential of psychedelic drugs for therapeutic psychiatric use, between 1990-95 Strassman designed and supervised several double-blind clinical trials on the effects of DMT on groups of carefully chosen and supervised volunteers. This book is the full story of this project, from original proposals through dealings with the FDA to gain approval, difficulties in obtaining a medically approved pure source of DMT, agreeing protocols, screening volunteers, trial design, and what the subjects reported having experienced.

Strassman's detailed explanations of the chemistry, biology and psychiatric background to his project occupies roughly the first half of this quite lengthy (345 pages) book, useful for the non-psychiatrist to more thoroughly understand what he is trying to do. However, the most interesting part kicks off about half way through, as the volunteers begin to record their experiences both orally and by filling out lengthy and detailed written questionnaires. For a small minority - even experienced users of hallucinogens - the `screening dose' given to each research subject was enough, and they left the study. The great majority, however, continued with the project and reported some perplexing and indeed astounding experiences.

Many subjects consistently experienced `interactions' with what they variously described as `aliens', `elves' or `others' whom they insisted were real, separate entities and with whom they had meaningful dialogue; not, they insisted, some dream or artefact of the imagination. These entities were described as `waiting for me', `taking charge' or `pleased to see me', and took various forms from humanoid to beings of `light', to on one occasion giant insects and to another subject, `crocodiles.'

It is Strassman's intelligence and open-mindedness in reporting these encounters which is most refreshing. Rather than slavishly following a reductionist scientific paradigm and dismissing the consistently similar experiences of his research subjects as some artefact of the mind under the influence of DMT, he speculates that our current model of reality may be insufficient; that some kind of inter-dimensional interaction between different sentient species might be possible. One is strongly reminded of the intelligent perspectives of Professor John Mack, MD, as expounded in his book `Passport to the Cosmos', and indeed Strassman admits that the consistent findings of his research forced him, reluctantly, to study the alien abduction phenomenon in more detail (something about which he previously knew almost nothing) only to discover many parallels between the reports of serial abductees and those of his research subjects under DMT.

Strassman is a good writer (maybe not a great one though) with a conversational style, and the book contains just the right amount of scientific detail for the intelligent but non-expert reader. His concluding chapters are wide-ranging and cover his personal dealings with Buddhism (the local Buddhist community ultimately rejected his investigations as potentially damaging and `wrong', and this is in itself a very interesting story), reactions from the American psychiatric community to his research, and what the implications for his findings might be.

Though the narrative occasionally drags a little, overall `The Spirit Molecule' is excellent: a deeply though-provoking and 100% original piece of work. The book has a good notes section but no index (which would have been useful), and the only illustrations throughout are molecular diagrams of various hallucinogens on pp32-37. Rick Strassman is to be commended for his courageous persistence in the face of bureaucratic obstacles, resisting and overcoming barriers created by the litigious medical environment in the USA which above all encourages risk-averse behaviour, and his intelligent and open-minded conclusions about what his DMT studies reveal about the nature of reality.

A film has subsequently been made (in 2011) about Strassman's work with DMT, directed by Mitch Schultz and with many of Strassman's research subjects from NM interviewed on camera. Check it out.
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on 22 April 2016
First thing to say about this book is that is written superbly, and that Dr Srtassman as a psychiatrist has even dared to venture into this realm is a credit to his personality.

I'm sure in years to come this research will be well read and built upon, maybe not in the USA but somewhere in the world.

As I read the final chapters “what could be and might be” It came to me that we may all have different levels of DMT awareness in our brains. This could well lead to different personality traits within us.

1. People with high levels of Dmt would become more spiritual , becoming shamans and the like, and want to live within nature accordingly as tribes in the rain forest do now. They would totally within their means and only take what they need.

2. People with mid levels of DMT have a yearning for a spiritual understanding but are materialist to want but want security and safety. They can tolerate some injustice and destruction if they feel it's will keep them safe. I.E.: they except over seas wars and rain forest destruction as part of keeping our economy functioning.

3. People with low levels of DMT will be totally materialist, will crave power over others at any cost, Destruction of people and planet will be condoned as long as it increases their power base, and will have no understanding of anything of a spiritual nature, looking at these people as weak and inferior .

It will take more people like Dr Srtassman to have the courage to really look at the spiritual side of human nature and reveal the truth as they are sidelined and ignored by funding agencies.

Thank you for a beautiful well written book
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on 24 February 2014
What an amazing read. This book is fantastic, if you have seen the documentary you MUST read the book too. The documentary and the book are two completely different things, there was SO MUCH in the book that was left out of the documentary, all the good bits. The documentary wasn't even made by Dr Strassmen, they just took some parts of the book and made an attractive movie, which i enjoyed but i would highly recommend the book too.

Having tried DMT myself several times, this book has really helped me understand where the place i visit every time i use DMT is and how i can use these tools to further enhance my consciousness.
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VINE VOICEon 27 August 2015
This isn't really what you would expect - it is all about experiments done with DMT, which are fascinating, but also - perhaps what was unexpected - is all the related issues that came up in doing these sorts of experiments in the US - people helping just to get access to drugs, people who promised to come and join him if he got all the paperwork completed and then just decided it wouldn't help their career to get involved - there are a lot of "human interest" aspects to this story, not just finding out what happens when people take DMT within variously planned and framed scientific experiments.
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on 14 December 2014
I'm 70 and I came to this book via lucid dreaming (which I can do but only occasionally) LD led me to Melatonin and that led me to DMT and the Youtube documentary...then this book

I'm firming-up on my belief that we reincarnate and that the Buddhists have got most things right. Apparently "The Book of the Dead" postulates that it takes 49 days to reincarnate ...exactly the same time that the DMT loving pineal gland first appears in the mouth of the fetus AND the embryo determines which sex it will be. Startling coincidences.

IMO Rick Strassman (clearly a quiet, studious man) may well turn out to be at the vanguard of THE most important discovery in science and spirituality...Nature's mechanism for birth, death and beyond. I would dearly love to take the DMT trip BEFORE my departure for shores unknown but I doubt that my heart would tolerate it. So I must continue lucidity and the meditative approach.

DMT...it's in us all and this book presents a powerful argument why that might be so .
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