Photo: Enter the Void / IFC Films

'Machine Elves' Are Entities People See While On DMT, And Some Think They're From Another Dimension

Dimethyltryptamine, more commonly known as DMT, is a powerful psychedelic that some believe can be found naturally in almost all living creatures on Earth. DMT functions as a hallucinogenic that typically causes the user to see beautiful fractal patterns, though some users say the experience is beyond human language.

Over the years, users have claimed they entered separate dimensions, sometimes encountering otherworldly entities. Ethnobotanist and self-proclaimed "psychonaut" Terence McKenna called these entities "machine elves" after he first encountered them during a hallucinogenic journey brought on by a shamanistic medicine called ayahuasca, or "the vine of the dead." The main ingredient in ayahuasca is DMT.  

But what are machine elves? Where do machine elves come from? Are they friendly or dangerous? Some of the world's bravest psychonauts have attempted to answer these questions, and their stories are equal parts chilling and fascinating.

Photo: Enter the Void / IFC Films

  • Some People Believe DMT Occurs Naturally In The Human Brain

    When Terence McKenna was studying the effects of DMT on humans' minds, he noted that remembering his hallucinations was incredibly difficult. He compared the task to trying to remember specific details from a dream.

    After some theorized that human brains could make DMT naturally, Dr. Rick Strassman, author of the book DMT: The Spirit Molecule, hypothesized that the human body secretes large amounts of DMT when dreaming and when nearing death. Strassman also wrote that the brain could actively transport DMT across the blood-brain barrier into its tissues.

  • Terence McKenna Claimed To Discover Machine Elves In The 1970s

    After their mother's death in the early 1970s, Terence McKenna and his brother traveled to the Amazon basin to study the link between hallucinogens and the mind. Together, they took a medicine used in shamanic practices called ayahuasca and studied the brew's effects for 11 whole days.

    At the end of their 11-day study, the brothers reportedly walked away with an altered perception of reality. Notably, the brothers spoke heavily of "a universe of active intelligence that is transhuman, hyperdimensional, and extremely alien." They dubbed these transhuman creatures "self-transforming machine elves" and claimed to have had numerous interactions with the entities during their trip.

  • According To McKenna, Machine Elves May Exist In A Separate Dimension And Speak In 'Fabergé Eggs'

    Some people who use DMT claim the drug takes them to another dimension. In his research, Terence McKenna noted that reality itself is layered with all sorts of dimensions, and DMT simply allows its user to see some of them.

    In a lecture called "Psychedelics Before and After History," McKenna described how the machine elves came into view and welcomed him into a dimension of their own creation. McKenna explained that the machine elves "were speaking in a colored language which condensed into rotating machines that were like Fabergé eggs but crafted out of luminescent superconducting ceramics and liquid crystal gels."

  • DMT Reportedly Distorts One's Perspective Of Space And Time

    When someone smokes DMT extract, their trip may last anywhere from five to 20 minutes, depending on the potency. However, many who undergo this trip say it feels far longer, and some have said it felt like hours before they were done.

    According to users, once DMT smoke has been ingested, everything else peels away. The world melts into beautiful fractals, and users often feel their stomachs drop as though they were on a roller coaster. One neuroscientist described her experience with the substance another way: "What I was seeing was no longer a 3D world. It became like a 4D world."

  • Certain Shamanic Practices Have Used DMT For Centuries

    Amazonian shamans have used a medicinal brew called ayahuasca for centuries to help people heal and to divine the future. Ayahuasca is brewed with two distinct plants: Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis

    Individually, the two plants do nothing. However, when they’re boiled and prepared together, they create a highly hallucinogenic concoction rife with DMT. Whereas smoking DMT only produces about 15 minutes of hallucinations, ingesting ayahuasca leads to a trip lasting anywhere from two to 14 hours.

    Important to note is that shamans don't typically administer ayahuasca to their patients; instead, they usually ingest ayahuasca to divine their clients' ailments. They then may prescribe other natural remedies revealed to them by their hallucinations. However, in some parts of the world, ayahuasca clinics exist, wherein spiritual guides help interested users navigate their trip.

  • McKenna Claimed His DMT Experience Transcended The English Language

    Terence McKenna gave many accounts of his experiences both during and after he tripped on DMT. He noted that what he saw transcended language, and all he could do was talk about it through metaphor. McKenna explained, "The syntactical machinery of description undergoes some sort of hyper-dimensional inflation instantly, and then, you know, you cannot tell yourself what it is that you understand."

    He stated that a "low dimensional" language like English couldn't properly explain the experience of taking DMT.