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5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary research into consciousness, 4 Dec 2009
This review is from: DMT, La molécule de l'esprit : Les potentialités insoupçonnées du cerveau humain (Paperback)
This work is a detailed report on the author's clinical research into the substance DMT, a plant derived psychedelic which is also produced by the brain. It remains one of the most thought-provoking studies on altered states of consciousness. The volunteers reported an amazing variety 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 as it is with the Crown, Keter or Sahasrara chakra, eases the spirit's movement into different states of consciousness or different dimensions of existence. Further DMT research might lead to major progress in the study of consciousness. Graham Hancock's Supernatural similarly explores the use of psychedelics to induce altered states or allow the soul to enter other dimensions.

Part One deals with psychedelic substances in science and society, describes the chemical qualities and molecular structure of DMT and discusses the pineal gland and its role in the psychedelic experience. 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.

Part Three describes the process of selecting volunteers, obtaining DMT and the first experiments, whilst Part Four details 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 the mystical states achieved during meditation, whilst others were eerie or deeply unpleasant.

Part Five takes stock of these reports and considers the question of whether it was worth it for each individual. There is an attempt to determine the ultimate benefit derived from the experience for the person concerned. Definitions come into play but it seems to me that the experiments did benefit each individual in some way or other.

Part Six is an absorbing discussion of the soul/psyche and different states of consciousness. It would seem that spontaneously occurring psychedelic experiences are mediated by elevated levels of endogenous DMT. This spiritual molecule thus provides access to unknown parts of the psychic realm. If the analogy of brain as receiver may be used, the substance fine-tunes the brain so that the individual consciousness moves beyond familiar awareness into invisible realms, most of which are inhabited.

There is a difference between this expanded 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 this study with a discussion on the practical use of psychedelics as therapy, to stimulate creativity or as entheogens. In this regard I recommend Huston Smith's Cleansing the Doors of Perception: The Religious Significance of Entheogenic Plants and Chemicals.

The literature on this issue is vast and arresting. There's the old classic Phantastica by Louis Lewin, Aldous Huxley's collection of 1960s essays titled Moksha, and more recent contributions like Chaos, Creativity & Cosmic Consciousness by Abraham, McKenna and Sheldrake and Animals and Psychedelics by Giorgio Samorini. Plants of the Gods by Schultes et al is a valuable encyclopedic reference work on ethnobotany that is occasionally updated and enhanced.
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