A Reply to Martin Ball’s “Terence on DMT”

In June, Dr. Martin W. Ball published an article on Reality Sandwich entitled “Terence on DMT: An Entheological Analysis of McKenna’s Experiences in the Tryptamine Mirror of the Self.” The present article is a reply to it.

Terence McKenna (1946-2000) is widely acknowledged and respected as a modern pioneer in the use of psychedelic tryptamines, in particular N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), to explore altered states of consciousness and (according to some) an alternate reality which is revealed by their use. Terence has described tryptamine usage, and his experiences under their influence, in several books, a number of interviews and numerous audio and video tapes. Ball begins his article with a derogatory dismissal of Terence’s contribution to psychedelic research by his use of the term “musings”, as if Terence’s contribution consisted merely of a page or two of idle thoughts jotted down one afternoon. Ball’s assertion of “wild accounts” and his imputation to Terence of “fantasy projections” sets the tone for Ball’s article — which is itself based on wild accounts and fantasy projections.

Ball suggests that the reason for the interest in Terence’s accounts of his DMT experiences is to be explained, not in terms of what Terence is saying, but rather in terms of the psychology of his listeners (their propensity to identify with “an outsider and free-thinker”). Thus Ball distracts our attention from what Terence is reporting by resorting to a shallow pop psychology, a tactic which he resorts to elsewhere in his article.

Ball writes:

When analyzed from the perspective of what I call the “Entheological Paradigm,” Terence’s experiences do not present us with an intrepid explorer discovering new realms. Rather, we are presented with a clear picture of an individual who is unable to recognize himself in the mirror of tryptamine consciousness. In short, Terence’s experiences boil down to one fundamental truth: They are the experiences of someone who is consuming very powerful entheogens, yet is failing to recognize the projections and creations of his own ego while in that state.

Ball’s entire article can be summed up in the extract above, and the rest of what he writes adds very little.

We shall examine later what Ball means by the “Entheological Paradigm”. Ball asserts “one fundamental truth”, but why should we believe him? But to be clear about what he is asserting (when we extract this from his attempt to dismiss Terence’s claims as deluded), Ball is asserting that what Terence experienced by the use of DMT (and by implication what anyone experiences at a similar dose level) consists only of “the projections and creations of his own ego”. What Ball means by “his own ego” is entirely unclear. Is there some identifiable entity which is (or was) Terence’s ego? Or anyone’s ego? But we can put Ball’s claim into more comprehensible language as follows: What is experienced by the use of DMT is merely a content of personal consciousness. That this claim is false, and demonstrably false, will be shown later in this article.

Ball writes:

When this perspective is understood, it becomes immediately clear that virtually all of what Terence has to say about DMT experiences are projections of his own ego. Terence has not explored some other realm or brought back valuable information for other would-be explorers, as he imagined himself doing. Instead, he explored the confused projections of his own ego and never achieved anything close to clarity about those experiences. Ultimately, Terence brought us deep and abiding confusion, and his confusion has subsequently been eagerly and whole-heartedly embraced by countless others in the entheogenic community.

These assertions are odious, opprobrious and slanderous.

Ball says: “In order to demonstrate the above conclusions, I will analyze three talks given by Terence on the subject of DMT.” But Ball’s “conclusions” are not conclusions — they are simply false assertions put forward by Ball for his own purposes.

Ball encourage his readers to listen to Terence’s talks, and rightly so. Terence’s spoken rants are much more impressive than what you can read in his books. That’s because he was not a discursive thinker in the style of academic philosophy, but rather he was a visionary philosopher and an erudite word-magician. His talks are more art than science, and it is his talks which captivated his audiences in the 1980s, and which motivated the publishing houses to publish his books. Here are links for MP3s of Terence McKenna rants and more Terence McKenna rants. Video footage is available from Sound Photosynthesis. Web pages with material by Terence concerning DMT may be found here.

Ball writes:

Terence lamented that there weren’t enough people who were familiar with the DMT experience to really converse about it at length. In his estimation, no one had as much experience with this tryptamine as himself. He saw himself as a pioneer — as mapping new territory, so to speak. As a result, most of his public talks were one-way conversations, with Terence being the sole voice of those who had gone beyond into the great mystery that is DMT.

Terence was indeed a pioneer. And in fact perhaps only one person in a million has experienced “the great mystery” revealed to us by DMT. But actually what is revealed is so incomprehensible in terms of conventional notions of “reality” that “mysterious” is too weak a description. “Totally mind-boggling” is more like it.

Ball writes:

I never met Terence. I have no idea what his level of personal use was of DMT. Nor do I know what his level of personal use of 5-MeO-DMT was, though one gets the impression that it was significantly less than of DMT. Given my own personal experience, I seriously doubt that there are many people on this planet who come anywhere near my experience level with 5-MeO-DMT, and I probably have more experience with the far weaker DMT than most as well.

In the preceding paragraph Ball insinuates that Terence was inflating his own importance by (allegedly) believing that “no one had as much experience with this tryptamine [DMT] as himself”, yet in this paragraph Ball asserts that he seriously doubts “that there are many people on this planet who come anywhere near my experience level with 5-MeO-DMT”. Ego-inflation by Terence but not by Ball himself?

Ball asserts that DMT is “far weaker” than 5-MeO DMT (5-methoxy-dimethyltryptamine). He does not say what he means by “weaker” but he is probably alluding to the fact that 5-Meo-DMT is effective (when smoked) at the 1-2 mg. level, whereas the effective dose of DMT is 10-20 mg. This difference does not imply that the experience resulting from smoking DMT is “far weaker” than that resulting from smoking 5-MeO-DMT. In fact, in my experience the contrary is the case. 5-MeO-DMT does not produce the amazing visuals that DMT produces, and contact with entities is seldom (if ever) reported. Smoking 5-MeO-DMT has been described as like being sat on by an elephant. I tried it a few times and found it to be fairly unpleasant and (in stark contrast to DMT) an experience not worth repeating. Perhaps Ball’s preference for 5-MeO-DMT is due to his ability to handle it better than he can DMT. Ball does not mention any personal experience of entities from his use of DMT, so perhaps he just never used it at the required dose level. However, 5-MeO-DMT is not totally worthless because at least one psychotherapist (Ralph Metzner) has reported that it can be useful in psychedelic therapy.

Ball asserts that, because he has had (in his estimation) “ample experience” with DMT, “I therefore feel uniquely qualified to comment on Terence’s experience.” The arrogance of this assertion is amazing! Ball admits that he never met Terence yet knows what he experienced. If he had never talked with Terence then how could he be “uniquely qualified to comment” on Terence’s experiences?

Ball says, “I routinely counsel people about their entheogenic experiences and help them sort out the illusions of ego from the reality of genuine being”, and fantasizes providing “counsel” to Terence, which counsel he will graciously impart to us in the rest of his article. Ball appears to have delusions of grandeur.

Ball writes:

As mentioned above, the diagnostic tool that I will be using is that of the Entheological Paradigm. … The basic premise of the Entheological Paradigm is that all of reality can be comprehensively understood as a unified energetic system that is conscious and self-aware.

Ball’s ‘Entheological Paradigm’ is a form of pantheism, a view of reality which can be traced back to the pre-Socratic philosophers of 6th Century BCE Greece. However it is somewhat pretentious for him to call it a “paradigm”, since a paradigm is a conceptual or methodological framework, whereas (in contrast) pantheism (even combined with advocacy of the use of psychedelics) is too simple an idea to be called a ‘framework’. Ball’s ‘Entheological Paradigm’ will be examined in more detail at the end of this article.

Ball writes:

Within the Entheological Paradigm, entheogens, or substances that “generate the experience of God within,” are understood primarily as tools to open one’s perception and experience of energy. This can be understood as the process of transcending the ego, which is characterized as a self-referential energetic pattern in consciousness that functions to create the perceived experience of separation between subject and object and therefore establish self-identification. However, this energetic pattern is based on the maintenance of an illusion: that of a unique, separate self.

Philosophers and psychologists have not arrived at a consensus regarding the concept of “ego”, though Ball writes as if this concept was well-understood (at least, by experts such as himself). However, if one must use the term, it seems clear that “the ego” is indistinguishable from experience of oneself as experiencing. “Ego loss” occurs when there is experience but no sense of oneself as ‘having’ that experience. “Transcendence of ego” might then mean the transition from an experience with a sense of oneself to an experience without such sense.

Ball defines the ego as “a self-referential energetic pattern in consciousness that functions to create the perceived experience of separation between subject and object and therefore establish self-identification.” Since it is not clear how an “energetic pattern” can be “self-referential” this (insofar as it is comprehensible) seems to be saying no more than that the ego is an experience of a difference between oneself and what is not oneself. However, this definition is not in accord with experience, since it is possible to have an experience of oneself without a concomitant experience of what is not oneself. I had this experience after snorting a large dose of ketamine; all awareness of anything other than myself gradually disappeared, but there was still a sense of myself as an experiencing being — experiencing only myself. In such a state there appears to be nothing existing other than oneself; this is pure solipsism, not merely theoretical but experienced.

Ball asserts that “a unique, separate self” is an illusion (a claim made also in Buddhism, and in the West by the 18th C. philosopher David Hume). Accepting Ball’s claim (as part of his ‘Entheological Paradigm’) that “there is nothing that is not God”, this is true, in the following sense: To experience oneself as a separate self is to experience oneself as something other than the totality of all that there is (call this ‘God’). But since there is nothing that is not God, the experience of oneself as other than God cannot be true, and is thus ‘illusory’. But this does not imply (as Ball will later assume) that all egoic experience (that is, experience in which there is a sense of self) is illusory, in the sense that the contents of that experience are merely contents of experience with no existence beyond the mind of the experiencer. In particular, it does not imply that entities experienced with the aid of DMT are ‘merely subjective’ and ‘projections of ego’.

There are instances of consciousness in which there is no ordinary sense of self, so not all experience involves experience of oneself as experiencing (at least, in the usual way). This is the state sought and attained by mystics such as Meister Eckhart, and the Austrian mystic Agehananda Bharati called it the zero-experience. But in such experience there remains a more subtle level of experience of oneself as experiencing, so perhaps there are levels of such self-experience. Or in other words, “transcendence of ego” may simply be transcendence of one level of ego, though the ‘self’ beyond ego is not properly called ‘ego’ (Hindus call it ‘Brahman’).

Ball writes:

While high doses of extremely powerful entheogens such as DMT and especially 5-MeO-DMT (which is stronger than DMT by several orders of magnitude) can produce ideal experiential environments for transcending the ego, it is always a matter of choice, and it is always possible for people to choose not to let go and release. Egos that choose not to surrender and release always manage to hold on to various illusions and projections out of perceptions of self-protective fear. Energetically, this internal struggle then becomes projected out as energetic environments and visionary scenes and phenomena.

Ball repeats his spurious claim about 5-MeO-DMT vis-a-vis DMT. And he is mistaken when he says that “it is always possible for people to choose not to let go” of ego (self-awareness). Some psychedelics, including DMT and Salvia divinorum, may wipe out one’s sense of self whether one likes it or not.

Note how Ball speaks of “egos”, as if these were some kind of entity. He has defined “ego” as “a self-referential energetic pattern in consciousness that … is based on the maintenance of an illusion: that of a unique, separate self.” These “energetic patterns” somehow have freedom of choice, and they “hold on to …. projections”, thus producing “visionary scenes”. Ball is here attempting to persuade us to accept the existence of entities called “egos”, with the help of which acceptance he will later draw his “conclusions”.

Ball writes:

Given that the experience of temporary ego transcendence is just the beginning, and certainly not the end goal of entheogenic work, we can see immediately that Terence didn’t even make it out the door. What we get instead are other realms with alien languages, machine elves, and self-transforming objects that amaze, confuse, and often terrify the subject of “Terence.” It’s all ego. 100%. In order to see how and why, let’s consider carefully what Terence has to say for himself, and how he goes about saying it.

Let’s take the latter issue first: how Terence communicates. For anyone not familiar with Terence’s tone of voice or speaking style, you need only find any audio file of Terence and hit play to hear his distinctive, nasal voice. You can also hear, especially when he gets excited, how quickly his speech becomes fragmented. He has numerous false starts on sentences and long run-ons with endless “ands” between clauses. When he ponders questions, there are many “uhs” and “ums” mixed with “you knows” and “I means.” These all reflect Terence’s relationship with his subject matter, often in surprising ways.

Terence’s tone of voice and nasal timbre is uniquely telling: it shows us his energetic relationship to himself and to his subject matter, the object he is sharing with us. The energy of his voice dramatically reveals how far Terence is from his energetic center. It tells us, immediately, where he is coming from.

This is complete rubbish. Terence was one of the great raconteurs of the late 20th Century. That’s why there was always standing room only at his talks at “Shared Visions” Community Center in Berkeley in the early 1980s, and when later he spoke at psychedelic conferences at Stanford University and other places.

Ball then writes: “Within the Entheological Paradigm, the human being is described as being comprised of five primary energy centers, all of which run along the central axis of the body.” He then proceeds to describe a system of five cakras, similar to (if not identical with) the system many people are familiar with who have studied Tibetan Buddhism. Some DMT reports do mention cakras, but Ball is not relating his cakra system to DMT experience. Instead he introduces it simply as a means of insulting and maligning Terence in the next three paragraphs of his article.

Ball’s three paragraphs are not worth quoting, but they begin as follows:

What is the energetic quality of Terence’s voice? If I were to describe it, I would say that Terence appears to be speaking energetically from a point directly behind the midpoint of his brow, directly between his eyes. It is this energetic focus that gives his voice that nasal, droning quality. Physically, we can see that this energetic focus is quite distant from Terence’s heart. …

The analysis, therefore, is that Terence is talking about his ideas, but that these ideas are not in deeper alignment with the truth of his energetic center. …

Energetically, Terence also often sounds fragmented in that he presents numerous ideas an descriptions in rapid sequence, and he also shows a lack of commitment to any specific interpretation or central point of his discourses. …

This is total rubbish and does not even deserve a reply.

Ball writes:

Admittedly, one of the things that catches my attention with regards to Terence’s attachment to DMT is how he has very little to say about 5-MeO-DMT. His preference is clearly for DMT. This is interesting for a variety of reasons. The first is that 5-MeO-DMT is so much stronger than DMT that making comparisons is difficult, if not futile. Yet this fact is not what Terence focuses on. Instead, he identifies the “main thing” as the fact that he is not “hallucinating” on 5-MeO-DMT. At best, he can only describe 5-MeO-DMT as “a feeling,” as “huge” and as “velvety.”

For the third time Ball claims that “5-MeO-DMT is so much stronger than DMT” — a meaningless claim (except when expressed in terms of potency, which implies nothing about the quality of the experience produced). It appears that Ball is attempting to persuade us that, because “5-MeO-DMT is so much stronger than DMT”, and Ball has so much more experience of 5-MeO-DMT than has Terence, Ball knows so much more about psychedelic tryptamines that he deserves greater respect. But actually the reason that Terence “has very little to say about 5-MeO-DMT” is simply that, compared to DMT, 5-MeO-DMT is quite uninteresting. When Terence speaks of “not hallucinating” on 5-MeO-DMT he means that the experience is lacking the totally amazing, mind-boggling fractal-pattern visuals that are typically produced by DMT.

Ball writes:

What is that “feeling”? I would describe it as the feeling of absolute energetic and conscious unity of all things and the certain knowledge, as experienced immediately in the energy of ones [sic] being, as your genuine self as identical with the Energy of All. … Now, that’s quite a “feeling,” and goes so far beyond machine elves that it can render the DMT experience quaint by comparison.

5-MeO-DMT may well produce in Ball and some others the experience that he describes. Fine. But to declare that it “goes so far beyond machine elves that it can render the DMT experience quaint by comparison” simply reveals Ball’s ignorance of what DMT can reveal.

Ball writes that:

it’s the visual nature of DMT that Terence finds so fascinating. At lower levels, there is very little distinct visual quality to a 5-MeO-DMT experience and indeed, the “trip” is more something that one might feel than specifically see. However, at higher doses, 5-MeO-DMT can appear as amazingly sophisticated fractal crystalline refractions of pure white light and luminous rainbow fragments, like the most pure of light shining through an unimaginably complex prism. Yet DMT still seems to have a more distinct visual nature to it than 5-MeO-DMT, so to some extent, here Terence is being reasonably accurate.

Ball makes a feeble attempt to show that, yes, 5-MeO-DMT is not totally lacking in visuals. But why bother? Let’s read some extracts from actual DMT trip reports (more will be given below) regarding visuals on DMT; these confirm what Terence is saying.

I took the second hit and instantly heard that carrier wave that McKenna talks about. … But as I lay there, with my eyes closed, I saw the most amazing visuals unfold right before my third eye. I saw very exquisite geometrical patterns, morphing in and out, and “breathing.” There was no fright or fear of any kind, even though this was a surprise trance. The visuals were very detailed, and very three-dimensional. It was as if I suddenly found myself in a vast 3-D space with geometric landscapes that move and undulate like ripples on water. It was beautiful. — Report #244

The visuals were interlocking sinusoidal patterns arranged in a Japanese chrysanthemum pattern that filled my entire visual field. The pattern was ever-changing and the colors of the individual patterns changed independently of the underlyng pattern. The colors were intense and came in a magnificent variety of colors: metallics, monochromes, pastels, each flickering in and out of existence as if obeying some undetected ordering principle. — Report #19

I see more swirling, kaleidoscopic universes per square millimeter of visual space [on DMT] than on anything else. The detail and intricacy of the patterns and the brilliance of the colors are also unsurpassable. The visuals are usually a mixture of kaleidoscopic-geometric forms, archetypal symbols, and outlandish and unimaginable images of people, places and things. The images also “move” and are arranged in a manner which is different than the traditional psychedelics and in keeping with DMT’s enchanting nature. — Report #114

The second I exhale, the 3D world collapses, or better, dissolves into geometric spheres of the utmost beauty. … My eyes closed, a new world opens up. I see this gigantic flying ship/castle of light with swirling geometric spheres coming over me. Words cannot possibly describe the visuals because I’m not only seeing them, I AM them. — Report #325

A gooey liquid of phosphorescent brilliance knits itself into neon lattices of emerald green and iridescent blue against a molten gold background. Always changing, always new, always novel, these geometric storms of shape and color never cease to amaze me with their beauty and intricacy; something one can FEEL as well as see. Clouds of molten gold liquid, boiling, seethe into arabesques and chainwork networks. Each node of each net and lattice form a jeweled point of incredible pure color, all rotating and pulsating through the eyes, brain, and stomach, as one becomes a transparent electric ghost deciphering mysto-glyphs for eternity! — Report #115

These beings just kept on grinning. They knew that I knew that this was the price paid to enter their “special” world. They were very keen to show me their magic. I would try to look away but each time I tried, they would stop my breath and do some amazing transformational magic which I simply can’t describe and was so amazing that I was prevented by awe from looking away. Sorry, I can’t even hold it in thought for more than a fleeting moment. It was very beautiful and totally bizarre. It was as though the strength of magic taking place was way too much. Solid forms of colour and shape, way beyond the geometric forms. In your face. They kept on fanning out this magic like opening one of those decorated hand fans. They knew that this was the only place that I could experience it. Not even in memory could I see this stuff. I couldnt take it back with me. They were going for it big time. It was a really solid reality but constantly changing. — Report #97

Now back to Ball. He writes:

Terence is impressed with DMT not only for it’s hyper-real and super-detailed objects, but also for the entities that he encounters. Yet he immediately expresses his confusion about these beings. What are they? Are they part of his “personal mythology”? And if they are, what are they doing here, in the DMT experience? … Yet he is so perplexed and fascinated by his experiences that they have become the “center of the mystery” for Terence. They are the ultimate puzzle. And it terrifies him. It requires “a huge mustering of courage” to embark on such a journey and to contemplate such an enigmatic object.

Ball here displays his ignorance of what Terence is talking about. It seems that Ball has never had a full-on DMT experience wherein he experienced not only mind-boggling visuals but also the very weird entities/beings/creatures/elves that so many DMT trippers report. By now hundreds of explorers of the DMT space have reported experiencing these entities, appearing to them at least as real as people seen in day-to-day reality. In 340 DMT trip reports 226 observers mention experience of one or more apparently independently-existing beings which interact in an apparently intelligent and intentional way with the observer. The existence of these entities can no longer be doubted. But Ball apparently has never seen them.

Even though Ball does not understand what Terence is talking about, Ball’s use of the terms “unimaginable strangeness”, “enigmatic object” and “ultimate puzzle” is entirely apposite. The DMT entities are unimaginably strange, they are enigmatic, and they are the ultimate puzzle. Here are some comments by those who have actually seen them:

The vaults seemed to zoom explosively outward then and the gallery expanded ad infinitum into a gargantuan, labrynthine, almost interstellar space, and through every vault poured the miraculous and zany imps who make the tryptamine hyperdimension their home. The tentacles of lapis lazuli gathered these capricious, multi-colored enigmas in towards the center, and became the architectonic scaffolding of their new multi-dimensional reality, a world which I found myself dab smack in the middle of. It was like a liquid mind ecology of staggering and alien complexity, the mind as it crosses over into quantum warpdrive and migrates ever further out into the oceanic beyond. At this point the glorious geometries transcended what is even vaguely feasible in this three-dimensional mundane world, constantly concrescing into new and varigated permutations, exfoliating out of themselves what might be called hyperspherologies of the divine, and to look anywhere was to be shot clean through with scintillating amazement. Crowding and cramming themselves into my field of vision were thousands upon thousands of beings of every imaginable sort and many that were completely unimaginable. — Report #66

I look around, amazed at the impossible DMT-space. I see the multidimensional strings tying the multiverse together. Then it hits me, there are squid-like fractals crawling up my body making strange clicking and humming noises! As I investigate them closer I see anatomical parts forming, eyes, mouth, tentacles. I realize that this is a lifeform completely independent from me, it seems very friendly and makes sure not to scare me. It works its way up to my head where it opens its mouth and puts its tongue through my head, ear to ear. — Report #245

When I recognised that there was definitely something living swimming through this scaffold of unbelievable shapes and colours, it came out. It was a non-human female being flying around this hyper-dimensional ‘room’. She wore a flowing cape or gown that streamed directly off a big round glowing face, the kind of face that a 3-year-old kid draws — a circle with dots for eyes and a curved line for a mouth. That’s all there was of her. But her face was so alive, compassionate, and enlightened. She was so happy when I realised she was there. Then I watched as a pedestal literally grew out of the floor of this ‘room’, made of the same unearthly super-brilliant scaffolding. My attention must have been distracted by this thing growing out of the ground because the female being got in my face and communicated to me (not in words) “look at what’s ON the pedestal!” I looked up and saw a diamond shaped object that was made of similar stuff to the walls — but infinitely more brilliant, more dazzling, more unspeakably awesome. And as my smile grew and total awe and amazement filled me, this female being began flying around the object at great speed, keeping her eyes fixed on me. She was doing flips and sharp turns and cheering as though she was celebrating the fact that she had the chance to show me. She kept communicating to me, “Look at it! Look at it! Isn’t this awesome?!” This continued, and I kept my eyes on that unbelievable object as the scene began to fade. — Report #40

Now back to Ball …

Terence laments that he is one of the few that have been to the center of the mystery and come back to give any reports about it, presenting himself as a lone explorer into the unknown realms. He feels himself to be affirmed by others, who appear to speak his language about the objects and contents of the experience, but still, it’s only “close.” He’s looking for universals, but they aren’t easily forthcoming. Are gnomes the same as elves the same as alien carnival as machine elf? How could one possibly know?

When Terence began publicly speaking about the DMT elves in the early 1980s there were very few people who had smoked DMT. In the last 10-20 years a lot more people have come to know by direct experience what Terence is talking about, as shown by the 340 DMT Trip Reports already mentioned. As those reports show, people’s experiences are extremely diverse, and the entities do not appear in just one way (as gnomes, or elves, or “self-transforming machine elves”) but rather appear in amazingly diverse forms, most of them bizarre. The answer to Ball’s question, “How could one possibly know?” is obvious: Just smoke 20-50 mg. of pure DMT. The people who do this, and who go beyond the 2-dimensional “chrysanthemum pattern” to come face-to-face with the entities, are the true gnostics of our age.

Ball relates how Terence says that:

DMT takes you to a place, somewhere that you must “break through” into, and therefore is distinctly characterized as other or not here. Wherever DMT seems to take Terence, in his mind, it is definitely not here. This is a clear indication that Terence is dealing with ego projections. When one is centered, present, relaxed, trusting, and open, no medicine, no matter how potentially powerful, will take you anywhere but right here, right now; anything less than that is an energetic reaction of the ego resisting the energy of being completely centered and present.

For sure, DMT takes you to a place — the world of the DMT entities — which “is definitely not here”. No matter how “centered” one is, boarding an airliner bound for Timbuktu will definitely take you somewhere other than “right here”.

Ball next criticises Terence for frequently mentioning to his audiences that entry into the DMT state is accompanied by “the sound of cellophane being crumpled”. It’s true that Terence did tend to describe “the DMT experience” in the same terms, but so what? Big deal! Ball is really grasping at straws in his attempt to put Terence down.

And in fact Terence did not always mention the sound of cellophane crinkling when talking about DMT. See, for example, this extract from his book Food of the Gods: The DMT Experience.

Ball writes that Terence

completely disassociates from his body, and with it, consensual reality, and envisions his “soul,” (a concept that is dismissed within the Entheological Paradigm as a clear product of ego projection) as leaving this world for an alien universe. Terence finds DMT to be alienating from reality.

It’s true that on a high dose of DMT you leave your body and you leave consensual reality for an alternate reality which is definitely an alien universe compared to the physical world of which we are aware by means of our outer senses. Ball identifies that physical world with “reality”, which is why he says that “Terence finds DMT to be alienating from reality.” But Ball’s concept of “reality” is false. It is too narrow. There is more to reality than the physical world. This is one of the most important lessons we learn from using DMT.

Ball relates how Terence says that when entering the world of the DMT entities it’s as if “they’re waiting” for him. Ball goes on:

Now we have reached the true crux of the experience for Terence: the beings! … Terence is captivated by DMT as it is the only psychedelic he’s used that has allowed him to experience “beings,” and he is clearly deeply fascinated by this. This is what makes DMT the center of the mystery for Terence. Is it possible to make sense of what’s going on here?

The phenomenon of meeting beings, upon entering the DMT world, who were apparently waiting for one is mentioned in several DMT trip reports:

Not only did I have what I can only call a “close encounter,” I was left with two thoughts. First, they were waiting for me, and they were not “friendly.” — Report #69

I passed abruptly through to another realm, losing all awareness of my body. It was as if there were alien beings there waiting for me, and I recall that they spoke to me as if they had been awaiting my arrival, but I cannot remember exactly what was said. — Report #72

It now appears to be a temple structure of some futuristic sort, like some space age Hindu/Mayan temple with the walls displaying architecture similiar to the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan except the walls are inverted to angle outward with the terraces reversed. It seems very real but also very fleeting, changing rapidly. There are beings that are here the whole time from the very moment I entered the trip right to the moments of trying to get out of it. They seemed to have been waiting for me. — Report #97

After my last ride I was almost terrified to go back. To be honest I wasn’t sure if I could handle what else they wanted to show me. That changed last night. I had a feeling they where waiting for me, so I geared up, took a hit, and there they were, mocking and laughing at my fear. I could see 20-30 dancing and flying around me but I could feel the presence of thousands all laughing and mocking me. — Report #288

To Ball’s question, “Is it possible to make sense of what’s going on here?”, the answer is, No. The DMT world is completely incomprehensible in terms of our experience of the everyday physical world (which is the only reality that Ball allows within his ‘Entheological Paradigm’). It may to some extent become comprehensible when we (a) admit that reality encompasses far more than the physical world, (b) we have, collectively, acquired sufficient experience of the DMT world in order for explorers to agree on its outlines and (c) we have listened to what the DMT entities are willing to explain to us about their world and ours. Obviously we are at present nowhere near that.

As regards Terence’s ongoing amazement and awe on experiencing “the machine elves”, what’s Ball’s problem? The entities in their diverse bizarre forms are in fact awe-inspiring, and their existence is the single most amazing thing revealed by DMT. Terence was was not alone in feeling this way, and many DMT trip reports mention that the observer was in awe at what they beheld, for example:

I was in a room looking at a wall. The wall was like a complex scaffold of constantly morphing angular prisms shimmering with colours that are completely beyond the descriptions of any language, and totally awe-inspiring. — Report #40

The visual world that engulfed me consisted of nothing less than the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. It was a wholly awesome world that was bizarre, beautiful, captivating, and infinitely intricate. — Report #43

As my body disappeared I began to see dim colors in geometric patterns on the ‘walls’ around me, in a tunnel shape. I was moving at warp speed through this ‘wormhole’ bobbing and weaving in the space that is my mind, as the colors and patterns became brighter and brighter and began to move in a fractalized glow. The only thoughts I was able to have at this point were just total shock and awe at what I was experiencing … — Report #37

They were everywhere jabbering in indecipherable tongues, juggling incandescent neon microworlds of dancing beings, and morphing with a zen-like, diaphanous fluidity that remains a primal miracle no matter how often you lay your all too human eyes on it. The primordial intelligence being manifest before me was palpable, undeniable, transcendently amazing — it shook me to my core in a more-than-real gleeful profundity. All I could do was sit there in divine liquid awe, my soul gaping wide open, and stare at the incalculable proportions of bizarreness and the downright weird that lay before me. — Report #66

Upon entering hyperspace I perceived myself falling through a tunnel in zero gravity at light speed then once again I penetrated a ‘bubble/membrane’ and was in what I refer to as ‘The Dome’ or ‘The Control Panel’ only this time instead of a percieved ‘octopoid’ redirecting my awareness to various structures there was this huge gelatinous-hexagonal-rubix-cube type machine that would reform itself into structures according to these progressive harmonic tones that permeated my reality causing various emotions to emerge; in addition it was redirecting my attention to various intersections of its restructured embodiment. Each time my attention was pointed to one of these intersections/nodes a vision followed by a revelation would envelope me along with an emotion I can only describe as pure elation and awe. — Report #5

Back to Ball:

Virtually every account he gives of DMT centers around the supposed production of objects through the use of song, or what Terence otherwise describes as “alien language.” Terence seems to feel that this is a monumental discovery and at some level, a metaphysical truth about reality: the world is made of language.

It’s not clear exactly what Terence meant when he said that the world is made of language. It might be a variant on the thesis that the world (or our world, either individually or collectively) is made from our beliefs about the world (which beliefs are mostly expressed in language). And it might be connected to the fact that several observers report that the DMT entities are in some way creating our world, indeed that they “work” — perhaps to produce and direct the physical world that we experience.

There were at least two presences, one on either side of me, guiding me to a platform. I was also aware of many entities inside the space station — automatons, android-like creatures that looked like a cross between crash dummies and the Empire troops from Star Wars, except that they were living beings, not robots. They seemed to have checkerboard patterns on parts of their bodies, especially their upper arms. They were doing some kind of routine technological work and paid no attention to me. — Report #172

There was one big machine in the center, with round conduits, almost writhing — not like a snake, more in a technical manner. The conduits were not open at the end. They were solid blue-gray tubes, made of plastic? The machine felt as if it was rewiring me, reprogramming me. There was a human, as far as I could tell, standing at some type of console, taking readings or manipulating things. He was busy, at work, on the job. — Report #180

The faces have one blue eye each, which looks almost as if it is radiating with a phosphorescent light. I close my eyes and the faces begin to change and move independently of one another. They appear to investigate me, like they are curious. It was almost as if their initial appearance was a greeting, and after investigating me they go back to their business, paying me no attention. They are clearly working, doing something, but it is completely unrecognizable to me — nothing I have ever seen before, so I could never describe it. — Report #236

This realm was in a state of continual transformation, yet solidified in synthetic matter. Everything I “saw” glittered with an artificial sparkle. There was something impersonal, detached, about my visit. It seemed as if the entities were tranquil, even unemotive, as they went about their work of cosmic supervision. … I was left with little doubt that I had visited what we, for lack of a more accurate word, traditionally call “spiritual reality.” The trip supported the idea of a soul existing outside the body, woven into the extradimensional fabric of the cosmos. The cosmos, what McKenna called the “cosmic giggle,” is something they were spinning, or we were spinning with them. — Report #338

Ball writes: “Terence clearly believes in magic.” And Ball clearly does not. The ‘reality’ allowed in his ‘Entheological Paradigm’ is the reality of the physicists (and what they might yet discover) — there is no place in this for magic.

Ball writes that Terence

repeatedly tells us that the machine elves are instructing him to “not be amazed” and “just do it,” meaning to sing an object into existence. Yet at virtually every recounting of his DMT experiences, he tells us that this he is dumbfound by this command. Odd, isn’t it that he never attempts the one thing they tell him to do?

Trying to follow basically incomprehensible instructions when one is completely flabbergasted by what one is seeing is a tad difficult.

Ball writes, “Taking into account the perspective that the machine elves are projections of Terence’s ego …” when if he were honest he would write “Assuming that the machine elves are projections of Terence’s ego …”, and then launches into three paragraphs of psychoanalysis which is just guff and is best ignored. Ball clearly doesn’t know what he is talking about, and he is just fantasizing, projecting his own assumptions onto what he imagines to be Terence’s experience.

Ball writes:

Being a tryptamine, and also being the active ingredient in ayahuasca, DMT is very similar to psilocybin mushrooms and the ayahuasca experience. The duration is much shorter and the intensity can be many, many times greater, as can be the visual quality of the experience, but none of these are entirely dissimilar from each other. Even 5-MeO-DMT is experientially of a similar nature. In fact, all entheogenic medicines are the same in the sense that they open up ones [sic] ability to perceive and experience energy. … The difference is in degree.

This is false. For example, the effect of ketamine (which could be described as an “entheogenic medicine”) is quite different to the effect of psilocybin. And even among tryptamines, many people remark on the “special” quality of DMT.

To get the full-on DMT experience it is necessary for the DMT to enter one’s brain suddenly, all at once. (There are efficient biochemical mechanisms for the breakdown of DMT so if it enters one’s brain gradually then the concentration never becomes sufficient for the full effect.) To produce this sudden impact DMT has either to be either smoked or injected intravenously. Since the latter should only be done under medical supervision (and if in a medical clinic then the setting is definitely not the best), for most people that leaves smoking. A quantity of 20-50 mg. (when pure) spread over some vegetable material, vaporized and inhaled in two or three lungfuls is usually sufficient to get you into the world of the DMT entities. The experience will be qualitatively different to what you might know from using mushrooms or ayahuasca. I have taken 13 grams of dried psilocybin mushrooms (about 2.5 times the normal dose), and while the experience was intense, it did not produce the DMT visuals and there was no contact with alien beings. However, a friend who took the same amount, and then went to see a movie in San Francisco, did report seeing angels in bodily human form at the cinema.

Ball writes:

From the ego’s perspective, yes, all these “realms” and their unimaginable contents do seem “unimaginable” and appear unrelated to the self. Yet, the question then becomes: What actually is the self? Is the self what the ego thinks it is, or is it something else entirely? Who, actually, is the author of all this visionary content? Is it “me” or something “other.”

The “natural” reaction on the part of most egos is to assume, given the grandeur of the experience, that some “other” is involved in its production. Initial impressions can be radically deceiving, however, and those initial impressions can get energetically stuck if one attempts to wrap too much ideational structure around the impressions. For advanced practitioners, it becomes increasingly apparent and undeniable that all contents of entheogenic experiences are projections of the self. It just becomes obvious — although admittedly, this is only for those who reach a deep level of self-acceptance and responsibility.

Ball is here arrogating to himself the role of the guru, the expert, the one who has reached “a deep level”, not just an “advanced practitioner” but one who counsels them. Since nothing in Ball’s article up to this point has been in the least bit enlightening, we need not buy into this pretense.

As for “the self” — there is no self, only a sense of self, and that sense of self is a basic, primitive awareness, not capable of analysis. There is neither self nor ego, only self-awareness. Ball wishes us to believe that there are selves and egos, as entities of some kind (even though he claims they are illusory). In that case he can then allege that selves and egos “project”, and then he can dismiss the contents of psychedelic experience as (mere) projections. In this way he can deny the reality of what is experienced by the use of DMT, in accordance with his ‘Entheological Paradigm’, which admits of no reality other than physical reality.

Ball writes:

Within the Entheological Paradigm, visionary states of consciousness are characterized as experiences of the Divine Imagination. … Within this perceptual energetic space, the energy of egoic consciousness bounces off the fundamental matrix of energy, so to speak, and creates images related to the individual’s consciousness. … Egos however, get very confused about what is going on in this process as they perceive the contents of consciousness as being distinct from the subject experiencing it. … Confused egos have visions. Confused egos see “content.”

Because the phrase “the energy of egoic consciousness bounces off the fundamental matrix of energy” is meaningless, Ball must add “so to speak” to slip it past our critical faculties. Such language is admissible in art, such as the word-magic of which Terence himself was a master, but it is not admissible in science, and Ball is certainly not treating us to any sort of artistic experience in reading his words.

Note again Ball’s reference to “egos”, as if they were self-existent entities.

Ball’s preference for 5-MeO-DMT, in which there is almost no visual content, just a humongous energy pressing on one like an elephant, has apparently led him to claim here that DMT users, who frequently have awe-inspiring visions, are “confused”. We have no reason to accept his claim.

Ball asks:

Does he not realize that he, himself, is making exotic “objects” out of language by putting thoughts into the minds of others of machine elves and self-dribbling basketballs and reality made out of language? Isn’t this a perfect metaphor for exactly what Terence is himself doing?

No. Among the 340 DMT trip reports Terence is mentioned just 15 times:

I’ve since read accounts from McKenna … (#1)

Terence McKenna is apt in calling these entities ‘elves’. (#2)

… the “chrysanthemum” that McKenna talked about … (#4)

I recall once hearing from McKenna that not all the entities you will meet on DMT have the best intentions. (#9)

I suddenly realized that I was having Terence McKenna’s trip. Damn if he wasn’t rght-on-the-nose about these crazy elves. (#14)

Although I had read about people like Terence McKenna seeing gnomes and machine elves as he put it, I experienced orb-like creatures who would come close and then come together in formations almost as if to try and tell me to do what they were doing. (#20)

… colors of burnt amber, tangerine, ochre, and black were a coalescing congression of a rose window-mandala of complete improbability: Oh shit, McKenna didn’t make this up! (#123)

At this point I thought “What would Terence McKenna do?” (#229)

I took the second hit and instantly heard that carrier wave that McKenna talks about. (#244)

He remembers seeing someone whom he thought for sure was Terence McKenna (SWIM had been doing a lot of reading about Terence/DMT). Terence and the female elf were showing SWIM something … (#256)

I recalled the story McKenna related about certain entities becoming “pushy” and “wanting to make a deal”. (#269)

I had been diving into the ‘ecology of souls’ that Terence McKenna had mentioned in his book, and this ecology is the substance reality is made from. (#312)

Having read many of McKenna’s books and hearing some of his interviews over the years I recently decided to peek through the doorway to see for myself what he was talking about. (#321)

The cosmos, what McKenna called the “cosmic giggle,” is something they were spinning, or we were spinning with them. (#338)

[DMT] is, as McKenna put it, just too much. Once you have had the experience, you are permanently rewired. (#338)

Ball’s claim that Terence had been “putting thoughts into the minds of others of machine elves and self-dribbling basketballs and reality made out of language” is simply ludicrous — as if, on smoking DMT, they could only experience what they had heard from Terence or read in his books. In fact most of the experiences reported in the 340 DMT trip reports are quite different to anything Terence said.

We might note here how valuable Terence has been as a guide to the DMT state (and still is, though he has left this world for the other). He was the first person to reveal publicly that there is another dimension of reality inhabited by independently-existing intelligent beings who can be contacted by smoking DMT at the required dose level. This was a revelation to many, and even more of a revelation for those who “decided to peek through the doorway” for themselves, and were able to confirm what Terence had said.

Ball writes:

Of course, now that Terence has shared these experiences with the world, he has inspired many others to go out in search of machine elves. And you know what? They’ve seen them too! Why? Because the illusions of Terence’s ego spoke to the illusions of other peoples egos, and they too find themselves reflected back to themselves in the form of machine elves and self-dribbling basketballs. Congratulations, Terence! Your words have created new objects in hyperspace! You did it! You can relax and trust and let go now. Mission accomplished!

Ball’s claim is both stupid and ridiculous, for reasons given above, and his fatuous psychoanalysis of Terence in the next five paragraphs is especially tiresome. Really, the arrogant condescension that Ball exhibits toward Terence is amazing. Of course, this is just Ball’s way of placing himself on a pedestal, pretending to be the one who really understands the truth about DMT, whereas his article shows that in fact he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. His main purpose appears to be self-aggrandizement. Few readers will be fooled.

Ball writes:

The proposed use of DMT to replace one set of beliefs with another is a waste of time and energy. All beliefs are limiting energetic constructs and while some sets of beliefs are more realistic than others, they are all still beliefs. … Somewhat disappointingly, Terence rather sees DMT as a tool to convince someone of the reality of an illusionary belief system. How is this different from religious indoctrination?

“The proposed use of DMT to replace one set of beliefs with another is a waste of time and energy.” But no-one is proposing this (except perhaps that the CIA did, back in the 1960s), least of all Terence.

“All beliefs are limiting energetic constructs”, which doesn’t stop Ball from believing in the doctrines of his ‘Entheological Paradigm’, or from trying to persuade us to believe in the existence of things he calls “egos” and “selves”.

“Terence rather sees DMT as a tool to convince someone of the reality of an illusionary belief system.” Rubbish — Terence simply said: This is what I saw with DMT; smoke it if you dare and see for yourself!

“How is this different from religious indoctrination?” Need Ball ask? Religious indoctrination is practised on children. Obviously Terence is talking to adults, presumed to be able to think for themselves.

Ball writes:

Our final selection is entitled “Too Much DMT,” … [Quote of Terence describing an interrupted DMT trip omitted.] … The most interesting way to view this account of too-muchness is to appreciate the fullness of the perspective provided by the Entheological Paradigm. … So, from that perspective, what is going on here?

Note how Ball judges Terence’s account by reference to his ‘Entheological Paradigm’ (assuming its truth), a point to which we shall return later. He provides us with his psychoanalysis of Terence’s interesting story, but this is completely implausible, and is used merely to try to persuade us further to buy into his ‘Entheological Paradigm’.

At the end of his psychoanalytical guff Ball writes:

So shaken by this experience was he that Terence goes on to claim that using DMT for anything is blasphemous. Indeed, it is terrifying to challenge ones [sic] belief systems. Challenging beliefs is the very definition of blasphemous, and it is the fear and terror that this causes the ego that has led religions to react so strongly to the blasphemous.

Ball is mistaken when he asserts that blasphemy consists in challenging beliefs. Rather it is an impious utterance or action concerning anything held sacred or priceless. When Terence says “the idea of using it for anything just seems like blasphemy” he means that DMT is a sacred substance, not to be used merely for entertainment or for some selfish purpose, that it reveals a world which, although it may have the qualities of a carnival, is also a sacred world. His meaning is well expressed by the first extract below from the 340 DMT trip reports:

This substance is special. Sacred. DMT is by no means a way of getting a kick. It is serious stuff only to be used by open minds and sensible users who are willing to learn something from the experience. — Report #283

[I] was completely overwhelmed with infinite knowledge of how the world really was and that the love that was all around us always could bring so much power and manifest into anything we wanted. I also experienced visions of the sacred geometry that I am now finding out to exist everywhere. It is the fabric of these realities that we experience. It represents the perfection in all that we are. — Report #20

[DMT] opens the doorway to the vastness of the soul; this is at once our own personal soul, and its intrinsic connection to the universal soul. When the underlying unity of this fictional duality is seen and felt, one experiences a completeness and interconnection with all things. This experience, when we attain it, is extremely beautiful and good. It is a song that rings and reverberates through the lens of God. Now we know why we were born; to have this intense experience of the sacred, the joyous, the beauty, and the blessing of just being alive in the arms of God. — Report #340

At the end of his long and tedious article Ball writes: “Using DMT to affirm beliefs is just delusional, in the worst way. We are not what we think we are. We are not what any of our belief systems have taught.” But Terence never advocated “using DMT to affirm beliefs”, and he would probably agree that “we are not what any of our belief systems have taught.” Ball asserts that Terence is “a great example” of projection of “illusions and fictions”. Somehow Ball overlooks the fact that in his assertions of the existence of “egos” and “selves” he is himself projecting illusions and fictions, and asking us to do the same, to follow him in his error.

Early in his article Ball says:

… the diagnostic tool that I will be using is that of the Entheological Paradigm. As I have lectured and written a great deal on this topic, I will only present salient points here matter-of-factly. Those who are interested in more in-depth presentations should visit www.entheological-paradigm.net. The basic premise of the Entheological Paradigm is that all of reality can be comprehensively understood as a unified energetic system that is conscious and self-aware. … This is a unitary energetic system, thereby indicating that all living beings are in fact direct embodiments of the One Energy Being.

By examining Ball’s ‘Entheological Paradigm’, as given on his website, we can come to understand clearly why Ball wrote this article and why he felt it necessary to ridicule Terence and portray him as deluded, as misled by his own “egoic” projections of “illusions and fictions”.

On Ball’s website (in the “Overview” section) we read:

All of reality, including all life and consciousness, is the manifestation of a Unitary Energy Being. In simplest terms, everything that exists is God. There is nothing that is not God.

Reality, the physical universe we live in and our perception and experience of it, is what God is “doing.” Reality is an ongoing process of transformation of energy in the being that is God. God is the only being that exists.

As noted above, Ball’s ‘Entheological Paradigm’ is a form of pantheism, a view of reality which can be traced back to the pre-Socratic philosophers of 6th Century BCE Greece, and whose most notable modern exponent was Spinoza. I myself have put forward this view in an article I wrote in 2002, On God, where I say:

There can be nothing other than God. … All that exists is within God. … There is only one being, here called God, and this being is one of unlimited love-intelligence-energy (since there is no other being which could limit it). There is no limit to the ways in which this energy can organize itself and manifest itself in various spaces, times and spatiotemporal structures.

So clearly Ball and I agree to some extent in our basic ontology, but there is a major difference. On Ball’s website (in the “Belief Systems” section) we read:

Unlike most religious and spiritual traditions, The Entheological Paradigm promotes the distinct view that “this is it!” Reality, as we experience it as embodied beings in a “physical” universe is what is “real.” There is nothing “beyond.” Simply put, this is it. What we see is what we get.

Also unlike most religious and spiritual traditions, The Entheological Paradigm concludes that there are no intermediary realms, entities, or metaphysical energies between living beings and God: Living beings are God directly in embodied form. In the case of humans, it is only the limiting energetic constructs of egoic-beliefs and projections that separate humans from awareness and acceptance of their true natures as embodiments of God.

Ball says that what is real is the reality that we experience as embodied beings in the physical universe and that there is nothing beyond this. In other words he is espousing physicalism, which is the claim that only what is physical is real, where ‘physical’ means: To be found or inferred by measurement and reason as existing in the world observable by the outer senses (mainly sight, hearing and touch). But he is mistaken, as I have shown in my article Physicalism: A False View of the World. And the proof that physicalism if false is that (as attested to by 226 out of 340 observers in the 340 DMT Trip Reports) DMT reveals a world of independently-existing intelligent beings which is obviously not a part of our physical world.

Ball assumes the truth of his ‘Entheological Paradigm’. Part of his ‘paradigm’ is that there is no reality other than physical reality. From this assumption it follows that the DMT entities cannot be real, because obviously they are not part of physical reality (are not observable by the outer senses). So to deny the reality of the DMT entities Ball tries to portray them as merely “projections” of Terence’s “ego”, and more generally as merely “projections” of “the ego” (a fictitious entity which Ball tries to get us to believe in). And since Terence McKenna was the most well-known exponent of the view that the DMT entities are real and inhabit a reality which is other than physical reality, Ball felt that he had to discredit Terence and portray him as uttering false and misleading claims which lead the gullible into delusion and confusion.

Once this is understood then Ball’s article can be seen for what it is: a hatchet job done on a highly respected psychedelic pioneer whose view of reality differs significantly from Ball’s, the purpose being to promote Ball’s reputation as the supposed founder of the ‘Entheological Paradigm’. But in attempting to portray Terence McKenna’s reports about his experiences in the DMT world as deluded, Ball has shown only that either he does not know what he is talking about or he is willing to ignore and misrepresent the available evidence for the sake of self-aggrandizement. His article is thus worthless.

Peter Meyer is best known to McKenna fans as the author of the Timewave Zero software. Information concerning its latest (and last) incarnation is given on his website Timewave Zero and the Fractal Time Software. He first smoked DMT in 1987 in Hawaii, with Terence holding the pipe for him. After about 30 more DMT trips he wrote the article “Apparent Communication with Discarnate Entities Induced by Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)” published in 1992 in Psychedelic Monographs and Essays #6 and available on the web in the “Psychedelics” section of his website Serendipity. He makes his living as an independent software developer. In this field his work can be seen on his website Hermetic Systems.

Image courtesy of “thöR, courtesy of Creative Commons license.

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