There are surprising and remarkable consistencies among volunteers’ re- ports of contact with nonmaterial beings. Sound and vibration build until the scene almost explosively shifts to an “alien” realm. Volunteers find themselves on a bed or in a landing bay, research environment, or high- technology room. The highly intelligent beings of this “other” world are interested in the subject, seemingly ready for his or her arrival and wast- ing no time in “getting to work.” There might be one particular being clearly in charge, directing the others. Volunteers frequently comment about the emotional quality of the relationships: loving, caring, or profes- sionally detached.
Their “business” appeared to be testing, examining, probing, and even modifying the volunteer’s mind and body. Sometimes testing came first, and after results were satisfactory, further interactions took place. They also communicated with the volunteers, attempting to convey information by gestures, telepathy, or visual imagery. The purpose of contact was un- certain, but several subjects felt a benevolent attempt on the beings’ part to improve us individually or as a race.
I was baffled and nonplussed by the sheer volume and bizarre nature of these reports. My crude and minimal responses to volunteers’ tales in this chapter clearly reflect my quandary. At first I tried to avoid the pitfalls attendant to developing any explanatory model, either for my benefit or for that of the subjects. After a while, however, we all needed to make sense of these types of sessions.
As a clinical research psychiatrist, I entertained the idea that the regularity and consistency of these reports, and the strength of the sense of reality behind them, supported a biological explanation. We were acti- vating certain hard-wired sites in the brain that elicit a display of visions and feelings in the mind. How else could so many people report similar experiences: insect-like, reptilian creatures?
I believed that these experiences were hallucinations, albeit rather complicated ones—simply products of brain chemistry brought on by a “hallucinogenic” drug, like a waking dream. Several volunteers’ eyeballs did rotate in their sockets during high-dose DMT sessions, reminding me of rapid-eye-movement sleep, when dreaming occurs. Maybe DMT was inducing a wakeful dream state.
However, research subjects tenaciously resisted biological explana- tions because such explanations reduced the enormity, consistency, and undeniability of their encounters. How could anyone believe there were chunks of brain tissue that, when activated, flashed encounters with be- ings, experimentation, and reprogramming? Neither did suggesting that it was a waking dream satisfy volunteers’ need for a model that made sense and fit with their experience. Many even prefaced their reports by saying, ”This was not a dream,” or, “I couldn’t have made it up if I wanted to.” At a slightly more abstract level, I tried a psychological explanation. That is, these experiences were symbolic of something else: wishes, fears, or unresolved conflicts. However, these “symbolic” explanations weren’t any more successful. Even gently persistent interpretations fell flat. How could these experiences reflect unconscious psychological issues like aggressive or dependent wishes?
In some volunteers the need to make sense of the strangest sessions was almost academic: “It was just the drug.”
For others, however, this need took on a pressing urgency. How could they have possibly undergone the experience they just did? Was it their imagination? How could their imagination generate a scenario that felt more real than waking consciousness? If it were “real,” how does one now live his or her life, knowing that existing right now are multiple invisible realms inhabited by intelligent life-forms? Who are those beings? What is the nature of their relationship to the volunteers now that they had made “contact”?
At a certain point I decided to suspend my reductionistic, materialis- tic, “I know what this is” approach. Not that doing so helped me feel any more comfortable with what I was hearing. But at least I no longer would risk making things worse by explaining away people’s experiences as some- thing else. Interpreting, explaining, or otherwise reducing their reports usually caused volunteers to shut down, and I knew I would be missing valuable and important pieces of the entire story if I couldn’t encourage them to talk.
So, as a thought experiment, I decided to act as if the worlds that the volunteers visited and the inhabitants with whom they interacted were real, as real as Room 531, the hospital bed, the research nurse, and my- self. There now was freedom to respond more empathically, and to see where it led. It also made it possible to start considering other ways of understanding research subjects’ eerily consistent reports.
Nevertheless, there was a nagging discomfort in taking this approach in responding to reports of contact. I began wondering if I were starting a descent into some sort of communal psychosis.
So did the volunteers. Upon hearing of similar encounters by their comrades at our post-study socials, several subjects decided to form a DMT support group that met every month or two. Their reason? “I can’t talk with anyone about these things.” “No one would understand. It’s just too strange.” “I want to remind myself that I’m not losing my mind.”