‘Visions and Pablo Amaringo’ by Loes Modderman

Here’s an article by the Dutch artist and writer Loes Modderman, which takes a look at the Ayahuasca-inspired visions of the late Peruvian shaman Pablo Amaringo. As with everyone who partakes of this potent psychedelic brew, Amaringo was able to touch diverse metaphysical realities, and interact with entities there, several steps removed from anything in our consensual physical material world. His large body of artwork is testament to what he found within these realities. Loes ties in Amaringo’s visions and art with a discussion of plant consciousness, UFOs, out-of-the-body experiences and Charles Bonnet Syndrome. All of this this relates to the faeries and their otherworld at a deep level. When consciousness is altered from its normal state, we can experience beings that appear to have an autonomous non-physical existence, and which interact with our material reality when certain conditions are met. Sometimes they appear as faeries, sometimes not. But whatever they represent, the ontology of the entities that are regularly experienced in altered states of consciousness demands investigation and interpretation.

The article was first published by The Fairy Investigation Society. Thanks to Loes for agreeing to allow deadbutdreaming to republish it here.

‘Visions and Pablo Amaringo’ by Loes Modderman

Plant Consciousness

On the question of how the Shamans of the Amazon know that certain plants contain exactly the right chemical components to induce otherwordly visions, these shamans tell us that they know it from the plants themselves. ‘The plants tell us’ sounds crazy in the ears of Western scientists. Or used to. But the subject of plant-plant and plant-human interaction has been explored by a lot of people, in the wake of the groundbreaking 1973  secret-life-of-plants-bookbook by Tompkins and Bird: The Secret Life of Plants. That plants are endowed with a particular kind of consciousness that makes them aware of us and able to respond to stimuli like attention, voices and music has been proven. They even compose their own music, as experiments in the Italian ecological community Damanhur seem to indicate. Plants also have empathy. Whoever reads the book Primary Perception (2003) written by lie- detector specialist Cleve Backster may still have a kind of guilty feeling whenever they slice a carrot or peel a potato. I have, time and again, but we have to eat, haven’t we?

In the longstanding Scottish community of Findhorn miracles happened. The barren ground in the harsh climate of north eastern Scotland was magically transformed into green gardens that yielded enormous vegetables and lots of flowers during the 1960s. Eileen Caddy (1907- 2006), one of the three people who started the community in the years after their arrival in 1962, was a clairvoyant, who talked to the plant spirits , just like the shamans of the Amazon and everywhere else in the world do. Nature spirits, caring for the plants, as is their given assignment, worked with Caddy and the results were not a question of belief, but of obvious fact. Caddy was able to see the spirits, which facilitated communication. They told her how to, and how not to. In this light the simple remark of a shaman is utterly believable: ‘the plants tell us.’

What is commonly known as ‘Ayahuasca’, a brew from a vine growing in the Amazonian rainforest, is actually made from two different plants, which supplement each other in making it work on our brains. The active substance is DMT – Dimethyltryptamine. This chemical compound differs from most other mind altering drugs: it takes the user into a different reality. And here it gets interesting, for in this reality there are elves as well as UFOs, and a lot of other real and mythical creatures. People using Ayahuasca in the forest or pure DMT in the laboratory come up with the same experience of having been somewhere outside normal space and time. Their experience is real and transformative, different from LSD or the more common psychoactive chemicals that manipulate this reality.

The Visions of Pablo Amaringo

Pablo Amaringo (1938-2009) was an ‘Ayahuasquero’, a simple Peruvian who took the brew regularly and transformed his visions into colorful paintings of exquisite beauty and multi-layered symbolism. Amaringo painted hundreds of them, and in his later years taught others. Spaceships and Faeries are intimately connected in Amaringo’s family of paintings. The first time Pablo took Ayahuasca he saw a huge UFO. Manuel, Pablo’s older brother, is a curandero, a healer. He employs mostly one special icaro – a sacred song rooted in the ‘music of Creation’ – which he learned from a faerie, named Altos Cielos Nieves.

The-Ayahuasca-Visions-of-Pablo-AmaringoIn 2011 an exceptional book was published, The Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo (parenthesised numbers relate to the indexed images in this book), which sadly Amaringo never held in his hands while still being in this world. The book is a true legacy of the artist and his philosophy. Every painting is commented on and explained by Amaringo himself, and there are also several articles from Dennis McKenna, Jeremy Narby, Graham Hancock and other ‘psychonauts’ with DMT experience. Amaringo roamed many worlds. Reading through the explanations of his paintings and looking at them, one is overcome by the feeling that here is a reality more real than ours, and we ‘normal people’ are the ones living in a dream world.
 The interconnectedness of everything is the central theme; the universe is alive, there are multiple dimensions, plants and animals are conscious beings, conveying deep wisdom to the shaman. Amaringo’s Ayahuasca world is populated with mythical beings, the kind we have banished to faerie-tales or religion. There are many mermaids, shapeshifting animals, talking birds and dolphins, spirits of place like the undines, salamanders and sylphs of Paracelsus or the Comte de Gabalis. There are Angels, Devas, enlightened beings and extradimensional visitors. Heavenly, as well as under water cities exist in this visionary world.

‘Yana Huaman’ by Pablo Amaringo

Essential to all life are the Icaros, according to Amaringo, being ‘the sound of the Universe – the planets, stars, comets, Everything is created by music, by vibration, by sound. Icaros is the music of creation’ (172). Here many other traditions come to mind, and one is reminded of the Music of the Spheres, an old concept, which lately came to life again with the discovery of the sounds planets and the sun make and on which even electronic compositions were based. The painter sang Icaros into the paintings when working, which, he said, ‘makes them alive and endows them with healing powers’.

‘Pagoda Dorada’ by Pablo Amaringo

As for the UFOs he painted so colourfully: ‘Extraterrestrial ships visit Earth frequently. They come from parallel universes with Sumirunas (human beings that attained mastery over land, air and water) aboard them to understand the mysterious forces of electromagnetism and gravity that maintain the cosmos’ (128). In his explanation of the painting ‘Pagoda Dorada’ (145), Amaringo says: ‘In in the corner are extraterrestrial ships carrying beings who visited primitive peoples on earth in prehistoric times, and gave them laws and spiritual teachings.’ A repeatedly painted subject is the transformative power of shamans and living things. Matter is not something static, spirit is what determines its shape. ‘You see extraterrestrial ships arriving from a celestial city to teach sumirunas and banco sumis (maestros who have attained the level of an angel) the science of the transformation of physical matter’ (147). And: ‘The Incan masters transformed themselves into machaco runas (a being with the head of a human and the body of a serpent) with ease, and in this form were able to traverse the great distances between the galaxies at the speed of thought. These great maestros developed extrasensory abilities that allowed them to explore other dimensions and celestial realms’ (147). In another painting (149) Amaringo explains: ‘Here you see the flower of toé, a plant sometimes combined with Ayahuasca to intensify your visions. With toé you can learn what a person is thinking, and it can enable you to see spirit beings as they are in their natural form. Shamans use toé to help them delve into profound mysteries. They may be assisted by extraterrestrials, coming from Mars and Jupiter, and from other galaxies (150).’

‘Sumac Icaro’ by Pablo Amaringo

When the Shaman is in the process of healing someone from the influence of a malignant spirit, he sings the sublime sumac icaro. ‘The spirits always accept the invitation, and nymphs, dryads, faeries and hamadryads who live in the trees , and elves and sibyls all come to listen to the sumac icaro. Spirits arrive in spaceships from far away galaxies to see if someone needs them’ (151). In one painting Amaringo states: ‘There’s an extraterrestrial craft radiating a blue beam, which transmits knowledge from other dimensions’ (153). In one of the last paintings in the book, Misterio Profundo, a space ship has a central position. He explains: ‘The spaceship that has arrived from a distant galaxy brings spiritual beings to teach the sumiruna (far advanced humans), muraya (master with the ability to live under water) and banco sumi (master of wisdom, as wise as an angel) in their ceremony. They warn of the imbalance of the biosphere caused by man’s destruction of the rain forest. Through negligence, ignorance and greed, humans have prejudiced the delicate web of life on which we depend. The beings are giving shamans’ energy to heal the planet with icaros and soplos (smoke used in rituals and healing)’ (159).

‘Misterio Profundo’ by Pablo Amaringo

It is clear from these fragments that in the wisdom obtained by regularly drinking Ayahuasca no clear distinction is made between different realities. The idea is that multiple realities overlap and in fact fill the same space, only at different vibrational levels. Amaringo’s descriptions of what ‘extraterrestrials’ are doing in his paintings is seemingly as much part of our own abduction lore (the environmental warnings, the extraterrestrial origin on other planets) as it is of interdimensional origin, as described in the interaction with nature spirits, shamans and holy humans in an extradimensional space-time setting. Some elements also sound reminiscent of our own UFO lore: the shapeshifting abilities, the sudden appearance when being called, the ancient astronaut analogies and even the disappearances under water. Amaringo says that these vehicles may take many shapes, are able to attain infinite speed, and can travel under water or under the earth. The beings travelling in them are like spirits, having bodies more subtle than ours, appearing and disappearing at will. They belong to extraterrestrial civilizations that live in perfect harmony. Great Amerindian civilizations like the Maya, Tiahuanaco, and Inca had contact with these beings. Pablo says that he saw in his journeys with Ayahuasca that the Maya knew about this brew, and that they left for other worlds at some point in their history, but are about to return to this planet. In fact he says that some of the flying saucers seen by people today are piloted by Maya wise men. Just wondering: could the amazing frequency of UFOs seen in the heavens and on the grounds of the Latin American continent have any connection with their being ‘called’ and contacted by Ayahuasquero and shamans? Or do otherworldly beliefs and practice like those of the Candomblé and Umbanda religions in Brazil have any influence? If UFOs really are (sometimes) liminal objects, between ‘real’ and psychic, this could be a possibility.

‘Llullun Llaki Supai’ by Pablo Amaringo

Ayahuasca, OBEs, Faeries and DMT

Ayahuasca doesn’t yield its wonder-world easily. One has to grow into the experience and in this it is no different from moving to another country: one has to learn and adjust before one can easily find the way. What makes the Ayahuasca different from other drugs is that in time one encounters beings that seem to be aware of you being there. They react, and talk to you. There is interaction. How strange is that? No more strange than what Ingo Swann, the late psychic and Remote Viewer encountered when he visited the dark side of the Moon. He saw beings there, buildings, saucers, and they saw him too (Penetration, 1998). Imagine the power of the human mind, which allows us to project our consciousness over enormous distances and take an astral shape that can be seen, and talked to. Ingo Swann didn’t let that happen, he was simply afraid and left. What’s the difference between inner and outer space when Remote Viewing as well as Ayahuasca allows the psychonaut to have a conversation with beings from other worlds or other dimensions, while physically sitting in his easy chair? The late Terrence McKenna in True Hallucinations (1993) wrote: ‘A UFO is essentially this hyperspatially mobile psychic vortex, and the trip may well involve contact with some race of hyperspatial dwellers. Perhaps it will be an encounter similar to a ‘flying lesson’: instruction in the use of the transdimensional stone, how to navigate in hyperspace, and perhaps an introductory course in Cosmic Ecology tending.’

DMT-The-Spirit-Molecule-M-D-Rick-EB2370002753142People having Out of Body Experiences are doing the same thing, and some of them mention encounters with other OBE-ers, or frightening encounters with less agreeable astral beings. Probably the air around us is alive with astral junk, and not being able to see them is a gift. ‘Only with DMT do people meet up with them, with other beings in a nonmaterial world’, writes Rick Strassman in his book DMT – The Spirit Molecule (2001). No other drug has this effect. From 1990 till 1995 Rick Strassman carried out government sanctioned research at the University of New Mexico (normally DMT is a scheduled drug) with 60 volunteers, by injecting them with various doses of pure DMT. Karl, a 45 year old blacksmith, described his experience: ‘This was real strange. There were a lot of elves. They were prankish.(…) They commanded the scene, it was their terrain! They were about my height. (…) one of them made it impossible for me to move. There was no issue of control; they were totally in control. (…) I heard a giggling sound – the elves laughing or talking at high speed volume, chattering, twittering’.

Elves were met by Terrence McKenna too, on his regular DMT trips. He calls them ‘machine elves’. Some of them, seen by him and others, wear pointed hats and green elf- garb and are around one metre in height. Aaron, another of Strassman’s guinea pigs gave the following description: ‘An insectlike thing got right into my face, hovering over me as the drug was going in. This thing sucked me out of my head into outer space. It was clearly outer space, a black sky with millions of stars.’ In the next experiment Aaron felt helpless and being watched by reptilians. This all sounds very much like an alien abduction scenario, only nobody was abducted – not in the flesh, anyway. A guy named Lucas said: ‘There was a space station below me and to my right. There were at least two presences, one on either side of me, guiding me to a platform. I was aware of many entities inside the space station – automatons, androidlike creatures, except that they were living creatures, not robots.’. Experiences get increasingly strange and the whole hodgepodge of beings from faerie folklore and abduction scenarios are encountered. But if there are many dimensions, there is no reason to assume that every user of DMT end up in the same dimension. Some experiences are good and warm, others are extremely frightening, but all are absurdly weird. For almost every person who participates, these experiences are among the most impressive and unforgettable of their whole lives.

9780987422484Jacques Vallée has done pioneering work in Passport to Magonia (1969), in which he explores the many similarities between folklore and Ufology. He was the first to study this subject scientifically, though not the first to pay attention to the phenomena in this way. Many followed, among them the Fortean writers John Keel and Jerome Clark. I’m not going into Vallée now, everyone should read this book. Vallée never mentioned DMT though. In the light of the DMT related visions we can safely assume that the world of spirits and elementals, and the world of UFOs are somehow connected by inter-dimensional strings. How, we don’t know. Maybe all dimensions are endowed with the same ‘magic’ and the same characteristics. Something really fascinating is going on.

A Postscript – Charles Bonnet Syndrome

‘CBS’ by Cecil Riley

People with a form of macular degeneration, known as ‘Charles Bonnet Syndrome’ lose sight at the centre of their vision. But in some cases that is not all that happens. Some of them, maybe many, start hallucinating. They see all kinds of beings parading through their rooms and in the street. Some are ‘extra’ people or animals, others are characters that seem to be out of faerie folklore. Ophthalmologists are quick to point out that this is one of many tricks our brains play on us, when there is lack of visual stimulants. Our minds tend to fill in the blanks. Oh, is that so? I always have the feeling that some scientists can’t think straight, because of all the eye woes that people suffer – cataract, inherited bad eyes, you name it – Charles Bonnet Syndrome is the only one where the brains seem to produce ‘replacement’ stimuli in this particular way. Strangely enough, this theory is the accepted one. Clifford Pickover, who talks about Charles Bonnet Syndrome extensively in his book Sex, Drugs, Einstein & Elves (2005) compares the Bonnet experience with DMT visions. Elves, strange midgets with pointed heads, angels, ghostly figures, aliens, floating processions of the damned parade where they should not be. Small wonder that the sufferer thinks he is raving mad, and is reluctant to mention his visions to his family. DMT is a substance that naturally occurs in our brains: it makes you wonder why it is forbidden in many countries! Just a thought: could it be that the brains of people with Charles Bonnet Syndrome are somehow opening up, or producing more of the chemical for some unknown reason, rending the veil between dimensions? Are there always, in every Charles Bonnet patient, the same sort of visions? Somehow these visions are triggered. Somehow these visions must be real, somewhere. Maybe these people are compensated in a very unusual way for the partial loss of sight.


The cover image is ‘Sumac Ňusta’ by Pablo Amaringo. He describes her thus: Sumak Ňusta – Hermosa Doncella. She is a faerie from the Aquarius constellation and she stands in front of a celestial temple inspiring love, beauty, and gentleness. In her hand she holds a jar of aromatic balsam, and flowing from this are iridescent waves that transmit the sublime fragrance of flowers. She is a specialist in the extraction and distillation of balsams, scents, and incenses from flowering plants found only on earth. Her delightful perfumes are a source of joy and contentment for these extraterrestrial beings.

Loes’ artwork can be found at her website here. She also has a blogsite ParaVaria. Prints of Pablo Amaringo’s original artwork can be viewed and purchased here.

Shamans, Faeries, Aliens and DMT

Who are the faeries? In 1969, the astrologer and computer scientist Jacques Vallee, in his book Passport to Magonia, put forward the theory that they were one and the same as the alien beings who had been purportedly abducting people around the world for a couple of decades by that date.

passport-to-magonia_0His hypothesis is that there is a commonality to the experiences reported in alien abduction scenarios, and the reports of interactions with faeries in folklore. He suggests the aliens and the faeries are essentially the same phenomenon, tuned through the cultural receptors of the time and then interpreted accordingly. He makes special reference to the regular motifs in faerie-tales of the abduction, by various means, of humans by faeries. There’s a lot of data here – it’s the commonest motif in faerie folklore. For a variety of reasons humans are taken to faerieland in the stories, either as midwives or nurses for faerie children, as servants to the faeries, for sex, as punishment or reward, or just because the faeries feel like it. They were also keen on abducting babies, and replacing them with changelings; wizened old faerie creatures who would usually die before the end of the story if a ruse to return the human baby wasn’t discovered. These motifs, of course, coincide with many aspects of the monumentally strange phenomenon of alien abductions, reports of which have grown at an exponential rate since the early 1950s. Vallee uses a range of evidence to tie-up faerie abductions from folklore and alien abductions from modern reports, and goes as far to state:

… the modern, global belief in flying saucers and their occupants is identical to an earlier belief in the fairy-faith. The entities described as the pilots of the craft are indistinguishable from the elves, sylphs and lutins of the Middle Ages. Through the observations of unidentified flying objects, we are concerned with an agency our ancestors knew well and regarded with terror: we are prying into the affairs of the Secret Commonwealth.

The Secret Commonwealth was the term coined for the faeries by the Reverend Robert Kirk in a manuscript of 1691. Rumour is that Kirk himself was taken by the faeries for revealing too many of their secrets, but not before leaving us with a detailed description of their appearance, habits and exploits. It’s a remarkable and deeply strange (in a good way) book that was evidently produced by a man either psychologically disturbed or psychically enhanced… or both. A full version of the book with an introduction is here: The Secret Commonwealth, and there is a fuller investigation of Kirk and his writings in another blog post here. But, as Vallee points out, Kirk’s descriptions of the faeries and their modus operandi bear more than a passing resemblance to the alien visitors of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Cu Martel Satyr

Amongst their attributes were an ability to float through the air with insubstantial and fluid bodies, that they could make appear and disappear at will. This allowed them to ‘swim’ through the air and carry off mortals, usually to large circular abodes, that Kirk presumed were underground, and which were lit by a dim, unknown illumination. They even had ‘ætheriall vehicles’ to carry them around the sky. Kirk also asserted that the faeries had a nature intermediate between humans and angels.

Their habit of abducting humans was usually for the purpose of wet-nursing faerie children or as midwives; a theme that fits in with the deluge of recent alien abduction reports (mostly unknown to Vallee in 1969) that would suggest one of the main reasons for abduction is to obtain wet-nurses for hybrid human-alien offspring. Vallee quotes the 19th-century folklorist Edwin Hartland’s suggestion that such a programme of hybridisation was right up the faerie’s street:

The motive assigned to fairies in northern stories is that of preserving and improving their race, on the one had by carrying off human children to be brought up among the elves and to become united with them, and on the other hand by obtaining the milk and fostering care of human mothers for their own offspring.

In 2005, Graham Hancock followed Vallee’s lead and took the comparison of faerie and alien abduction much further in his book Supernatural. He compiled a range of faerie-tales from various time periods and geographical locations and set them against modern-day alien abduction events. He pays special attention to the faerie abduction of young women, such as Mrs Sheridan, an Irish woman, who seems to have spent much of the last decade of the 19th century being whisked off by the fairies for wet-nursing duties.

Where they brought me I don’t know, or how I got there, but I’d be in a very big house, and it was round, the walls far away that you’d hardly see them, and a great many faeries all about… but they wouldn’t speak to me nor I to them.

These ‘long-faced’ faeries had a definite purpose for kidnapping her and weren’t too concerned with her tearful appeals to release her – she had a job to do, and that was feeding their faerie babies. The correlation between these types of folkloric encounters and the alien abductions of women is striking. Hancock surveys the work of the late Harvard psychiatrist John Mack and David Jacobs, a cultural historian, who have made extensive studies of people who claim to have been abducted by aliens, often using hypnotic techniques to extract memories from amnesic events. It’s a minefield subject, but John Mack in particular is a convincing advocate of the notion that whatever the experiences represent, they are genuinely real to the participant (this is a good overview presentation of the phenomenon: John Mack on alien abduction). The abductee, after being floated or beamed aboard the UFO is taken to a part of the ship where there seem to be drawers or tanks of hybrid alien-human babies, which they are expected to nurse. There is a consistency to these experiences (there are thousands of them) that provides a dataset of testimony that Mack and Jacobs insist must be taken seriously as a phenomenon. For the abductees, the experience is often highly traumatic (Mack states that the best psychiatric diagnosis for many abductees is post-traumatic stress disorder), and no wonder, when they are confronted with alien hybrids often described as more like foetuses than babies. One abductee described to Mack their appearance, which is fairly typical:

“Their bodies were short for their heads. Their heads seemed oversized. They had very blue eyes. They had very thin, wispy hair… I would say they were probably three and a half feet tall, but they all looked the same age. ‘You’re our mother and we need you,’ they said.”

The evidence presented by Jacques Vallee and Graham Hancock makes a convincing argument for the tight relation between faerie abductions in folklore and alien abductions in the 21st century. The experiences are culturally coded to time and place, but the correlations and similarities are intriguing, and suggest a common source for the phenomena. But what is that source? Are there really faeries and aliens who are able to abduct humans at will? And if there are, where do they hang out when they’re not on abduction duty? This is where things need to get deeper… much deeper.

Cave paintings from Hunan Province, China, c.10,000 BCE

Not content with suggesting that alien abductions are modern folkloric faerie-tales for our technological age, Graham Hancock puts forward the hypothesis that the shamanistic cultures of the Stone Age were also interacting with these beings. Around 50,000 years ago there was an explosion of symbolism in human culture, primarily represented by cave art. This cave art is usually located in hard to access underground spaces that must have had significant meaning for the artists and those who would have been experiencing these strange images by torchlight. And strange they are. Much of the cave art represents therianthropic beings, that is half human, half animal shape-shifters. There are also many beings that seem to be distorted humans, sometimes even suggesting the ‘Greys’ of alien abduction reports. And this gets to the core of the subject. Hancock makes the convincing argument that these cave paintings were produced to represent reality as perceived in an altered state of consciousness. Twenty years ago this idea was anathema to anthropologists, but since the work of the anthropologists David Lewis-Williams, Thomas Dowson and many others, the theory has tipped over to become an accepted orthodoxy. There are motifs by the hundred in the cave paintings that correlate with the visionary states of people in an altered state of consciousness, brought about most especially by the ingestion of a psychotropic substance. Lewis-Williams’ exhaustive study of this phenomenon is nicely summarised here: Art, Shamanism and Entoptic Images. The basic premise is that the shamans of these stone age cultures transported themselves into altered states of consciousness and then painted the results of their experiences — experiences that frequently included therianthropic beings.

Cave painting showing entoptic imagery from Pech Merle cave, France, c.25,000 BCE
Rock shelter art from Nawarla Gabarnmung, Australia, c.30,000 BCE

These works of art are manifest throughout the world over a vast prehistoric time period and demonstrate a universality of experience, from the entoptic images (dots, spirals and geometric patterns) frequently seen by trippers, through to the imagery of time-lapse perception, often called tracers. It is convincing evidence that our prehistoric ancestors were dabbling with psychotropic plants and mushrooms in order to gain a state of consciousness that was fundamentally important to them. The cave paintings could be seen as the earliest folklore, told in pictures. Further investigation into the cultures of modern indigenous tribes confirms the importance of induced changes in conscious perception, to what are still shamanistic peoples. The best example is the extensive use of the substance Ayahausca by Amazonian tribes. Here is a brew that might make you projectile vomit and clean out your bowels, but which also reveals a reality that includes many non-human intelligences (usually called simply ‘spirits’ by the shamans), that can be interacted with directly. There is usually a highly-charged feminine element to the Ayahausca experience, but reports will also consistently describe therianthropic beings, reptiles, the ability to fly and yes, even grey humanoids with big black almond eyes.

This brings us back to the source of all these experiences. If shaman spirits, faeries and aliens are all part of the same phenomenon, what is that phenomenon? The evidence from modern and archaic shamanistic cultures confirms that an altered state of consciousness was/is required to access the places where the ‘spirits’ lived. It’s more difficult to prove that faerie-tales were generated from information gathered in an altered state, but there is a predominance of mushroom imagery historically associated with the faeries, most especially the highly psychedelic red and white Amanita Muscaria (fly agaric) mushroom, and the psilocybin mushroom, both prevalent in Europe and Asia. These may have been responsible for purposeful or accidental psychedelic trips, but there are a range of other triggers for altering states of consciousness (such as sleep deprivation, trauma, illness etc.) that may also have contributed to people travelling to faerieland and bringing back the experiences as faerie-tales.

17th-century woodcut showing faeries dancing outside their dwelling to the tune of the fly agaric mushroom

As discussed in a previous post The Deeper Meaning of Faerie-tales, most faerie-tales contain dream-like situations, where the laws of physics are suspended and the experienced reality is different than the usual five-sense reality. It’s no accident that the tales are often described as trippy. They can be seen as  basically describing events from a participatory altered state of consciousness, that have then gestated and formed into oral faerie-tales until fossilized into literature by folklorists at various times in the 19th and 20th centuries. So what about alien abductions? They represent an outrageous transformation of reality, but what is causing them?

The answer may lie with a substance called N,N-Dimethyltryptamine – DMT. This molecule is one of the main active ingredients in the Amazonian Ayahausca brew, but it is also produced endogenously in everyone’s brain, probably (but not definitely) in the pineal gland. It’s usually safely dispersed around the brain and body for functional duties, but it seems that under certain circumstances, it can be released in higher quantities, causing an altered state of consciousness. There is some evidence that this can happen during a frontal lobe epileptic seizure. So are abductees thrown into their experiences through a flood of DMT in their brain, which takes them into an altered state of consciousness, where reside alien beings, not altogether unlike the faeries and shaman ‘spirits’? The late and great Terence McKenna was an enthusiastic user of the synthesized form of DMT to access different realities, and coined the term self-transforming machine elves for the creatures he regularly found there. He can be heard talking about them here: Terence McKenna and the self-transforming machine elves.

As if to confirm Terence’s assertions, a research study conducted between 1990 and 1995 in the General Clinical Research Center of the University of New Mexico Hospital, by Dr Rick Strassman found that volunteers on the study injected with varying amounts of DMT underwent profound alterations of consciousness. This involved immediate cessation of normal consciousness and transportation to a different realm of reality inhabited by a range of creatures described as elves, faeries, lizards, reptiles, insects, aliens, clowns (yes, clowns) and various therianthropic entities. One woman even describes a pulsating entity that she described as ‘Tinkerbell-like’. The experiences, especially at higher doses, represented to the participants a parallel reality that was ‘super real’, not an hallucination, not a dream, but a substantial built reality with full sensory interaction + telepathy. Strassman published the results as DMT: The Spirit Molecule, which has been made into a brilliant documentary here: DMT – The Spirit Molecule.


The experience reports from the study are irrational, absurd, frightening, illogical and surreal… much like alien abductions and (sometimes) faerie-tales. It’s worth reading the book or watching the documentary to get the full range of what are incredible records of accessing very different realities. Unlike the alien abductions, there is no question of any of the volunteers physically leaving the hospital bed during their experiences, but for all of them (without exception) the DMT-world was every bit as real as the one their minds left behind. After the injections participants frequently talked about ‘blasting through’ or ‘breaking through a barrier’ after which they found themselves in a realm with its own laws of physical space and movement, and its own inhabitants. Here is an abbreviated version of one of the volunteer’s description of his experience; 50 year old Jeremiah. After hurtling through a void he found himself:

… in a nursery. A high-tech nursery with a single Gumby, three feet tall, attending me. I felt like an infant. Not a human infant, but an infant relative to the intelligence represented by the Gumby. It was aware of me but not particularly concerned… Then I heard two or three male voices talking. I heard one of them say “he’s arrived.” … I was in a big room… there was one big machine in the center, with round conduits, almost writhing – not like a snake, more in a technical manner. The machine felt as if it were rewiring me, reprogramming me… This is real. It’s totally unexpected, quite constant and objective… an independent, constant reality… I’m lucid and sober.

This brings us finally to the crux of the matter. If there is a common source for these experiences of shaman ‘spirits’, faeries, aliens and the creatures in DMT-world, that can be accessed via an altered state of consciousness, are the experiences real? The crux is; what is consciousness? A reductionist materialist would tell us that consciousness is an epiphenomenon of the brain, and so whilst they might accept that all these experiences happened subjectively, due to an altered state of consciousness, they can all simply be reduced to the brain making it up. Brain chemistry changes, experience is imagined in the brain, stories are told about that imagined experience. Simples. But to dismiss the subjective experience is to dismiss consciousness itself. There is a reason reductionist materialists call consciousness the hard problem – it’s because consciousness is all we have and nobody has ever captured it. It exists purely as a subjective experience in a closed system. As the old metaphor goes; looking for consciousness inside the brain is like looking for the radio announcer inside the radio. S/he isn’t there, s/he is an electro-magnetic projection being tuned into by the receiver.

Aldous Huxley called the brain a ‘reducing valve for Mind at large’. We are transceiving consciousness not producing it. This corresponds with the philosophy of Idealism, beautifully articulated in recent times by Bernardo Kastrup, and just about every Oriental spiritual movement for the last several thousand years. Put shamanism and Gnosticism into the mix and we find a cohesive hypothesis for consciousness creating reality, not the other way round. But what trumps everything is direct, personal experience. This is the only true route to understanding existence – what Zen masters call direct pointing at reality. And that’s exactly what is happening in shaman journeys to the spiritworld, faerie-tales, alien abductions and DMT trips. They are experiences, accessed through altered states of consciousness, that are direct participations in Huxley’s Mind at large, a reality that exists to the consciousness of the observer but which is at the same time greater than the observer. But only by experiencing these realities through direct encounter can they be understood to be real. Nobody can tell you about them, you have to know them. Perhaps, for our benefit as a species, we need to take more notice of the stories that are brought back.

Graham Hancock summarises many of the ideas expressed here at: Graham Hancock – ancients and altered states of consciousness. Well worth a watch.

Ongoing consciousness research by Rick Strassman can be found at Cottonwood Research Foundation.

Aboriginal cave painting from Kimberley, Australia, c.5000 BCE

The cover image is Pablo Amaringo, ‘Ayahuasca Vision’