The following text was based on experiences from members of different online psychedelic communities. This blog post presents information that is not based on scientific research and should never be regarded as facts. We do not encourage anyone to try to reach the so-called hyperspace or to use illegal drugs.
After smoking enough DMT, trippers enter what is known as “hyperspace,” a place beyond any language, and rumored to be populated with intelligent life many describe as DMT elves.
Meeting the DMT entities is often associated with smoking or vaporizing synthetic DMT, but traditional DMT use, dating back thousands of years in South America, was also associated with other dimensions and communicating with other beings described as “spirits.”
So why does DMT have this effect across cultures and timelines? If they are hallucinations, why does everyone see the same thing? If the elves are real, what do they want? After exploring hyperspace online and offline, we still don’t know, but here is what we found.
What are DMT Machine Elves?
What do DMT Machine Elves Look Like?
Because “breaking through” on DMT, also known as smoking enough to disassociate from your body, is a short, chaotic experience that is so strange it is hard to describe with precision. While it seems easy to dismiss the hallucinations as simply what the human brain does on DMT, the patterns within the descriptions are surprisingly consistent.
People often use the term elves, but also common are jesters, clowns, and harlequins, as is evidenced in this trip report from a database of DMT experiences:
“I stared up at the stucco patterns on the ceiling and noticed they had begun to crawl. Random bumps became little eyes, pointed noses, giggling mouths. The little people had arrived and were literally coming out of the woodwork. They poked out of the ceiling, waved, and made faces. I could make out four of them; a sickly troll, a laughing clown, a dancing harlequin, a diabolical imp.”
Other DMT Creatures - Reptilians, Mantis, Aliens
Another common motif is checkboard patterns, aliens, insects, and reptilians. However, the list of potential interpretations is very long as evidenced from the DMT Nexus list, online conversations, and from folks like Joe Rogan.
While not everyone sees elves, visual artists who create DMT-inspired images of the entities can become very popular when their depictions resonate with the DMT psychonaut community.
DMT Elves Drawings and DMT Inspired Visual Art
On the internet, there are so many fantastic artists who are passionate about sharing their past experiences with DMT.
Instagram is full of amazing artists who take their inspiration from their past DMT experiences, A good example is Incedigris, whose elf-like beings, checkerboard patterns, and exploded heads capture the confusing, strange, expansive, yet tangled and confusing nature of DMT entity encounters.
AyJay, a digital artist from Australia taking psychedelic-inspired art into Virtual Reality, captures the color, feeling of being watched, and the endlessly transforming nature of DMT hyperspace.
Another artist that is worth mentioning is Salvia Droid, or Kyle Sawyer, who has a wide variety of work in his online gallery. Inspired by Salvia Divinorum, a plant that can induce an experience that feels interdimensional and sometimes also involves entities and DMT, Salvia Droids' work encompasses the complex spectrum of strange, beautiful, terrifying, and overwhelming associated with taking DMT or Saliva.
Reddit - r/DMT and the Elves
Images work well when trying to explain DMT, but perhaps one of the most fun and fascinating places to get information about DMT elves remains psychedelic Reddit, in r/DMT and r/Psychonaught. Experience reports and speculation are in constant supply, ranging from conversations about trying to understand what the beings want to philosophical questions about what is real.
However, after years of debate, Reddit, too, is still stumped at what DMT is or means, with one poster smoking it for 78 days straight, but on the final day still commenting, “I can’t even begin to describe their world.”
The DMT Purple Lady
In relation to DMT entities, the Purple Lady is one of the most well-known and frequently mentioned entities online. From what we could tell most of the experiences concerning this entity were positive. The Purple Lady is a repeating theme for DMT explorers and stories about her were popularized by a Youtube video of comedian Shane Mauss. Reports of this dancing purple woman have continued to echo around the internet.
Traditional use of DMT
None of the stories of entity contact are new. They are ancient. As far back as 3000 BC, people have used a psychedelic snuff called Yopo in South America. A tree called Anadenanthera Peregrina drops seed pods containing DMT and 5-MEO-DMT, which would be prepared into a powder and then blown up another person's nose.
The experience that followed the snuff allowed access to another dimension populated with spirits that could assist in healing, divination of the year's harvests, future disasters, or locating lost objects.
Do People See Entities on Ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca famously contains DMT. Those who drink it sometimes have similar visions, with jaguars and anacondas being common, along with a sense that ayahuasca itself is another consciousness that can be communicated with. These commonalities are documented in Listening to Ayahuasca, by psychologist Rachel Harris who records one of her patients saying in regards to meeting entities:
“The notable aspect of the worlds of possibility that ayahuasca opens up is this: These realms are occupied. This is shocking. There are others.”
Modern DMT Entity Contact
DMT was synthesized in 1931 but wasn’t really studied until the 1990s. There were some early experiments by Stephen Szara in the 1957s, but despite encountering “two quiet, sunlit Gods” DMT was put on a shelf. However, the underground of beatniks and hippies remained interested.
Tim Leary and William Burroughs
Tim Leary, an infamous ex-Harvard professor infamous for allowing “LSD to escape the laboratory,” began interested in DMT after hearing about it from William Burroughs in 1961, a beatnik author. Burroughs and a doctor friend injected DMT together, and after watching his friend turn into a crocodile, Burroughs dubbed it the “terror drug.”
Time Leary, however, due to his experience conducting psychedelic research, managed to have some pleasant experiences and encountered “godlike creatures” and “magnificent insects” inside “dancing workshops” and “clockwork factories.”
Terence McKenna and DMT Elves
The concept of DMT elves began with Terence Mckenna, a legendary ethnobotanist and psychonaut.
Terence frequently lectured about DMT, impressed by its ability to “shatter reality,” He coined the now-iconic term “self-transforming machine elves.” Mckenna lectured widely on the subject, claiming that “DMT isn’t paradigm-shifting, the content is” calling it “the ultimate convincer” to anyone doubting there is more to reality than meets the eye.
It wouldn’t be until the 1990s that DMT would reemerge into the mainstream when Rick Strassman conducted the first clinical research in decades on psychedelics. Strassman later wrote about his experiences in The Spirit Molecule.
His test subjects consistently met jesters, clowns, aliens, even reptilians, mantises, bees, spiders, or cacti. Strassman was simply taking vitals and determining whether or not DMT was safe to use, not studying its subjective effects while his patients reported stuff like:
“There was an initial sense of panic. Then the most beautiful colors coalesced into beings. There were lots of beings. They were talking to me, but they weren’t making a sound. It was more as if they were blessing me, the spirits of life were blessing me. They were saying that life was good. At first, it felt like I was going through a cave or a tunnel or into space, at a fast rate, definitely. I felt like a ball hurtling down to wherever it was.”
Participants often interpreted this as an encounter with “God” or “higher reality,” but Strassman never concluded what DMT elves are. However, he did state:
“I’m hopeful that these reports will accelerate interest in the nonmaterial realms, using whatever intellectual, intuitive, and technological tools we possess.”
Current Psychedelic Research into DMT Entities
Decades after Strassman, the current psychedelic renaissance has made DMT a topic of interest again. A survey of the online DMT community on Reddit and other forums has documented some fascinating statistics on DMT entity encounters:
- Before taking DMT, 55% of participants were atheists or agnostics. However, post-DMT, only 26% remained atheists.
- 72% believed the entities still existed after their meeting.
- 69% communicated with entities, felt an emotional exchange, and clear message.
- 20% claimed that they received predictions of the future.
This study was only of people’s anecdotes and offered no conclusions about how “real” any of the experiences are. The researchers did not follow up to see if future predictions came true, but they concluded that 80% of the participants felt DMT altered their perception of reality.
DMT’s Effect on Brainwaves
Other recent studies have been conducted by Christopher Timmerman, who documented brain activity with EEG readings of people on DMT, which suggest dream states and showed visual centers in the brain active:
”The changes in brain activity that accompany DMT are slightly different from what we see with other psychedelics... From the altered brainwaves and participants’ reports, it’s clear these people are completely immersed in their experience – it’s like daydreaming only far more vivid and immersive, it’s like dreaming but with your eyes open.”
Andrew Gallimore and Extended State DMT
Computational neurobiologist Andrew Gallimore has explored the possibilities of the DMT world with his book Alien Information Theory, scientific papers about “building alien worlds,” and theories about extending the DMT state beyond its usual couple minutes in hyperspace.
Gallimore holds that contact with otherworldly beings should be a “very big deal” and that we should be training our best people to explore the DMT dimension and make contact with the beings. He has summarized DMT as “changing the channel on a TV set” and says this idea doesn’t necessarily mean the DMT experience isn’t real.
These ideas have led an organization known as DMTx to use machines designed to control doses of anesthesia during surgery to carefully control the “depth” of the DMT experience and allow for deeper exploration and theoretical contact with the elves. The organization is currently training “DMT astronauts” with the intent of expeditions in the DMT realm.
How Can We Explain DMT Elves?
Terence Mckenna said it best in the movie, ‘The Transcendental Object at the End of Time,” when he described the DMT experience as “Un-englishable,” and science hasn’t come up with conclusions, outside of entities being hallucinations. While the mystery remains, there are certainly theories available to try to explain DMT.
Rock Doblin tried to explain machine elves with expectancy bias by saying that Terence Mckenna set the standard of machine that has been repeated throughout popular culture, a prime example being Joe Rogan’s delight in chatting on his podcast. While this seems possible, it neglects patterns starting with indigenous cultures working with spirits and people like Tim Leary and William Burroughs seeing entities long before Terence started speaking about DMT.
Carl Jung, Archetypes, and the Collective Unconcious
One theory is that of archetypes, which were created by psychotherapist Carl Jung. He believed for example, that dreams can be interpreted as symbols from our subconscious mind. Jung suggested symbols could be interpreted as they related to common themes found in mythology and religion. Jung referred to come of these patterns as archetypes - symbols existing universally across humans creating a pattern of meaning he dubbed the collective unconscious.
Rick Strassman explores this briefly in his book The Spirit Molecule but he also notes it failed to explain the “realness” of DMT entity encounters, and that his attempts to “explain away” the elves or aliens as hallucinations were often met with resistance from his patients.
Are DMT Elves Hallucinations?
Officially, yes, DMT elves are hallucinations. Because of the dominant models of consciousness and reality, currently, there is no way to prove that DMT entity encounters are anything other than constructs of the mind and psychedelic drugs.
However, this also goes down a philosophical rabbit hole about what is real, the origins of knowledge, and particularly if the knowledge gained on psychedelics is valid. Philosophy of Psychedelics by Chris Letheby outlines many of these arguments.
Does the DMT Experience Have Any Meaning?
Clinical trials with psychedelics for addiction and depression are showing that personal insights can lead to real, valid changes in life. This has been criticized in Micheal Pollen’s How to Change Your Mind as potentially a “comforting delusion,” and while personal insights are helpful, they offer no proof that the insights are real or true.
Even more debatable is if the knowledge gained on psychedelics about the nature of reality or other people is true. Anthropologist and author Jeremy Narby points out that “proving, reproducing” hallucinations aren’t possible.
Traditional Amazonian ayahuasqueros apparently heal by using DMT containing ayahuasca to have visions about their patient’s sickness, with sometimes miraculous results as documented in Fellowship of the River. However, this is once again way beyond anything that makes sense to modern science or rational thought.
So What are DMT Elves?
The short answer is that we don’t know. What is clear is that the sensation of encountering other entities is a staple of the DMT experience and has been for as long as recorded history can show us. The phenomenon is very much alive today and remains one of psychedelics' most fascinating and mysterious aspects. While smoking DMT hasn’t proven the existence of other dimensions full of elves, it seems it will undoubtedly be teaching humans about the power of our own minds.