A stormy wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with flashing fire and a brilliance surrounding it…and from its midst, a semblance of four Living Creatures.… And as for the appearance of the Living Creatures, their appearance was like fiery coals, burning like the appearance of torches…. There was a brilliance to the fire, and from the fire went forth lightning…. Then I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of great waters…the sound of the words like the sound of a company…I fell upon my face and I heard a voice speaking,… “Son of man, stand on your feet and I will speak to you.” (Ezekiel 1:1-2:1)
Large crystalline prisms appeared, a wild display of lights shooting off into all directions…. My body felt cool and light. Was I about to faint?… My mind was completely full of some kind of sound, like the aftereffects of a large ringing bell….Out of the raging colossal waterfall of flaming color expanding into my visual field, the roaring silence, and an unspeakable joy, they stepped, or rather, emerged. Welcoming, curious, they almost sang,… “Now do you see? Now do you see?” (DMT: The Spirit Molecule, pg 344)
The first excerpt is from one of the books of the Hebrew Bible (the “Old Testament”), attributed to the mid-sixth century BCE Hebrew prophet Ezekiel. It is an account of his initiatory vision, standing by a river in Babylonia. The second excerpt is from a psychologist who participated in DMT research at the University of New Mexico in the early 1990s. DMT or dimethyltryptamine, is a powerful psychedelic substance found and made in all our bodies, in the bodies of other mammals, and in thousands of plants.
The similarities between accounts are striking. At the same time, the two settings could not be more different. Ezekiel’s take place during the exile of the Hebrew people from their country by the Babylonian legions, involves no exogenous psychoactive agents, and was intended by the God of the Hebrews— YHVH— to instruct the exiled community. Leo’s state was occasioned by the administration of a drug, on a bed in a university hospital room in a research unit in Albuquerque New Mexico. He was in a scientific protocol that he had volunteered for, funded by the National Institutes on Drug Abuse and the Scottish Rite Foundation for Schizophrenia Research. Regardless of the differences in setting and set, both states contain a flashing, flowing preternaturally intense display of lights; the emergence of nearly overwhelmingly powerful, sentient, apparently living, creatures interacting with the experient; great emotional intensity; a sound that fills the mind; and physical lightness or weakness.
What do these similarities mean? How are they relevant to the contemporary psychedelic drug experience? Or, for that matter, to the Hebrew Bible’s notion of prophecy, both in the past and in the present? These are some of the many topics I raise and discuss in my new book, “DMT and the Soul of Prophecy” (Park Street Press, 2014).
At the end of my DMT study in 1995, which I describe in “DMT: The Spirit Molecule” (Park Street Press, 2001), I was left with questions regarding how best to interpret the DMT experience. Was it real? What did it mean? Why does the body synthesize DMT in the first place?