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DoseNation 41: DMT in the Pineal

Hosts Jake Kettle and James Kent discuss a rat study which shows trace amounts of DMT in the pineal gland, read viewer comments, rant about the New Age vs. traditional approaches to spirituality, and much more.

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Posted By jamesk at 2014-01-22 13:17:51 permalink | comments
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Jake : 2014-01-24 08:13:23
SubstanceD - not at all! I apologize if I came off that way, it was more from a place of genuine frustration rather than anger or being condescending, if I came off that way I'm sorry. Yes, I think some of the points you made are quite valid, and though we differ in practice, the main point we were trying to drive home I think, especially James towards the end, is that it's not good enough to just read and talk about it, but you have to actually practice something, whether it be Christian Monastic prayer or Buddhist Meditation, or Yogic Postures, etc. And as far as Eugene's argument to me, that I can address quickly, none of the practices with the exception of maybe yoga are exclusive to any of those religions. Prayer is not exclusive to Christianity, Ritualism to Paganism, Meditation to Buddhism. I could use all of those in any way. For example, I could say Catholicism is Ritualism, Paganism is prayer, and Sufism is Meditation. None of those statements would be correct, but their not the totality of it. And for the record, when I was speaking about the religious systems, if you're not looking into the mystical end of it, then there's really no point in looking haha! At least to one degree, unless you're just looking for something to do on a Sunday. Anyway, thanks for the comments. I'd address the finer points of your arguments SubstanceD, if you want to chat about it feel free to email me, it's easier for me to do it that way than in this comments section. Just use contact@dosenation.com and I can respond to it from there, just easier. Thanks again everyone!
SubstanceD : 2014-01-24 06:39:39
Haha, I didn't mean to cast you aside Jake. The same way I'm sure you didn't mean to personally cast me aside with some of your comments I took issue with. And look I don't mean to out myself as a fanboy here, but as I said I've heard every episode of the show, some multiple times.. so obviously i love the show and love the dynamic between you guys. By the way I work a desk job in a loud environment, headphones are my own personal antipsychotic, so hopefully that explains my dedication to the show. Having said that I did think your rant was a bit condescending and offensive. Anyway, I look forward to the episode in February you mentioned, and what will most likely be a catalyst for another long winded response on my part. Some of the points in my previous post i thought were valid considerations, and I welcome some friendly rebuttal!
Eugene. : 2014-01-22 20:28:44
I meditate, but I am not a Buddhist; I practice Yoga, but I am not a Hindu; I pray, but I am not a Christian; I participate in ritual, but I am not a Pagan; I use entheogens, but I am not a shaman. Does this make me a ' new ager?' Or am I a human exploring the nature of Being with all available technologies?
Eugene. : 2014-01-22 14:28:05
Hi all, I'll have to chime in here, as I agree that the rant against "new-agers" was a bit judgemental, categorizing people with a simplistic label. Who are these new-agers? Just people trying to figure it all out, in a new world where all information is available, allowing all brains to interpret and integrate the info in their own way. This was not possible in the past; folks were locked into the prevailing beliefs of the local environment. And let's get real, organized religion has created more mass suffering then any other human construct, not better people. And there is a huge difference between mysticism and religions; all world religions have a mystical core (Gnosticism , Kabbala , and Sufism for Christianity, Judaism , and Islamic respectively), and mysticism is based on practice and innere revelation, therefore being empirical and scientific. Religion is a set of beliefs, myths, and stories that actually muffle free thinking and personal exploration. To call a group of people new-agers, hippies, whatever is to prejudge and therefore oversimplify the world into simple little categories that can lead to violence (the us against them mentality). Peace
Jake : 2014-01-22 13:19:38
SubstanceD it seems as if you were to have it your way I wouldn't be on the podcast at all haha. But thank you for the continued support, both James and I do appreciate it. Thanks for the input though, has spurred me to do a more compelling show about these topics, inviting on a special guest. It'll be in early Feb. so keep an eye out for it. Thanks to all our regular commentators and listeners, we appreciate the help and support.
Chris. : 2014-01-21 17:25:49
Well said SubstanceD and dig the PKD reference
davey. : 2014-01-20 21:24:21
I particularly liked Eugene's commentary on this podcast. I think maybe the main objection Kent had re eclecticism is the tendancy to cherry pick ideas that support apriori assumptions. Of course this is a valid concern to raise. Kettles main objection (not quite as vehement as Richard Sherman's recent diatribe) was that traditional approaches have gone through a process of testing and have demonstrated themselves as efficacious over the span of centuries. I don't think this perspective holds much water. I don't see the results. Also, I am doubtful that the practices handed down have gone through much of an r and d process. Not much empirical testing and modifying... if so, I don't think we'd be talking about the rule of St Dominic (might have gotten that wrong) instead Wed be discussing the current revision of those rules. I think science is our best model here. Do we refer back to "on the origin of species" when we are trying to understand modern evolutionary theory? Not much. This is because science actually does refine its ideas and processes in the way that traditions are here implied to do
SubstanceD : 2014-01-18 15:55:03
So let me start off this rant by first saying that i'm a huge fan of the podcast, and also of the work James Kent has done over the years in general. I've listened to all 41 dosenation episodes, however this one i sort of took issue with, so i figured i'd break my silence. To me, this entire podcast came off as a bit arrogant and contradictory. So i wanted to just run through a few of the points and quotes, and share some of my thoughts in response. I hope none of this is taken personally, just engaging in some friendly discussion.
As far as the discussion about DMT is concerned, i think it's important to acknowledge that James tends to jump back and forth between two theories and uses the same blanket response for both. First there is the idea that endogenous DMT is some type of a regulatory chemical excreted by the pineal gland, and may be responsible for our spiritual side or perhaps consciousness in general. Then there is the argument that excess amounts of endogenous DMT could be the cause of things like Near Death Experiences, spontaneous mystical experiences, and aspects of dreaming.
These are two entirely different arguments, whether or not some of the same people tout them. I agree that since DMT is sort of an accidental byproduct of other processes and no one gland appears focused on its production, it is not a regulatory chemical. However, that really doesn't have anything to do with the potential for excess amounts causing trouble in certain situations. The endo-alcohol example James offers fits, but it to can be created in excess, sometimes causing natural drunkenness (see gut fermentation syndrome).
James also argues that because DMT is found all over the body, Strassman's research confirming the presence of DMT within the pineal gland is not all that compelling. But DMT as a drug has never been all that exciting outside of the brain. As mentioned in the podcast, when it is present in the gut by means of ingestion it only really becomes of interest when MAO is inhibited and the body is allowed to absorb it into the blood stream to carry it into the brain. And regardless of the fact that enzymes within the body break it down quickly, it still appears to cross the blood-brain barrier pretty easily (which is interesting). Once it makes it to the brain, the real fun begins. Having said that, i can see how DMT being found in organ tissue isn't exactly a breakthrough for psychedelic science - but a little actually found within the brain itself, now there's something that might deserve some research, right?
James goes on to describe the DMT experience as "unlike anything else in the world," using this as evidence against DMT as some kind of endogenous hallucinogen (which is interesting because he later declares that there is "nothing new under the sun" and uses this as a way to deter DMT-smoking new agers from alternative spiritual approaches). He uses the example of endo-morphines and heroin being a pretty solid match in terms of subjective experience (orgasm, excersize, etc.), and how no one comes back from the DMT flash and says "that's like that time i yawned really hard." He completely fails to mention the often reported comparison to dreams. And you might say, 'well i've never had a dream quiteee like a DMT trip.' And what i say to that is this: opiates really are physical drugs, in the sense that it isn't necessarily mind-altering. When you take an orgasm or the feeling you get from finishing a king's feast and multiply it by 100, you might end up with this feeling that opiates give you - and one can easily make this connection. When you are dealing with psychedelics, we all know the results are much different when you double the dose or multiply it by 100. For instance i get really giggly on a gram of mushrooms, but when i eat 3.5 grams (or god forbid 100g) of mushrooms i get a MUCH different reaction and might even stop laughing all together. That's because these things aren't working on my physical body so much as they are working on my psyche, hence the term psychedelic.
What i'm getting at is that it would be an interesting thought experiment to imagine a dream x 100, for example. What would that be like? And since your pineal gland does have a lot to do with sleep, i don't really see much of a reason to totally ignore DMT in that regard. Not that i'm 100% sure of anything, i just think the research is necessary. It's also important to consider this whole set / setting thing we all always stress so much. The set / setting during deep sleep or in the context of an NDE for example are dramatically different than the set / setting of a typical DMT administration. So i'm not sure the content of the experience matters much anyway.
On the topic of content, James discusses how DMT would be more believable as a "spiritual gateway" if it always transported everyone to the same place with the same entities (elves, aliens, jaguars, etc.). There is then contradictory discussion about how Jesus, Buddha, and other prominent spiritual figures clearly did not experience endogenous DMT overloads based on their reports because they are unlike modern descriptions. If they had, they would of course report seeing elves, aliens, jaguars, etc. So does the DMT flash take us to the same place or doesn't it? Furthermore, having read / listened to some of James' previous work, i know that he has never been all that focused on the content of the psychedelic experience (in his own words). So does the content in question really matter? Or is it more about this underlying mystical experience as the common denominator? Perhaps that itself is the "place" it takes us to, not necessarily a literal physical dimension.
I should also say that i too believe that those who think DMT literally transports us to a spiritual dimension and puts us into contact with physical beings are either crazy or simply just don't know how to express things figuratively or allegorically. It's a fun hypothesis, but let's try to rule out the more-likely options first right. In fact, i think an important distinction needs to be made between words like "spirituality" or "mystical" and the word "literal." All things spiritual and mystical in their most rudimentary forms are a strange result from experiencing the ineffable in one way or another. The word "literal" is related to the word "letter" and fundamentally revolves around words and speech. Literal and ineffable are antonyms and should never be used in the same sentence together, much less to describe the same experience. I don't take any form of any mystical experience as being literal, and neither should anyone else. What we do know is that people do report mystical experience, both spontaneous and elicited by psychedelics. Simply put: if a chemical can reliably produce what users whole-heartedly refer to as spiritual or mystical, then you might say it is a spiritual gateway.
As a side note, Jake's angry rant was entirely belligerent and offensive. The picture he paints of the lazy guy on the couch smoking DMT - first of all, this is reminiscent same straw man tactics and propaganda people use against cannabis usage, and I'M tired of it. These spiritually lazy people exist, we can be sure. We can also be sure that some of us use psychedelics intelligently and with guidance, whether it qualifies as guidance within the monastery i can't be sure - but guidance none the less.
Moving on to the whole "hodge podge" thing.. First of all, i'll make the argument that MOST if not all religions are pretty hodge podged. Christianity itself is a fairly new religion in the grand scheme of things, an offshoot of Judaism that has been split into who-knows-how-many different sects. Hmm, taking pieces from previously established religions and combining it with others / new ideas? Sounds a bit hodge podged to me. You can move on down the line from there back to the origin of man. There's a reason why there have been so many religions through the ages, and this time period is no different - except that now we have the ability to draw on all of these ancient traditions given the current access to information, not to mention the incorporation of science and current understandings of the universe. If there weren't new religious and philosophical approaches in this period, i would think there was something very wrong with us.
Now you might say, 'well listen, we are more talking about people who do take things too far and who do take things too literally', and my response to that is then stop lumping us all into the same category. I myself would probably be considered a new age hodge-podger by the definitions outlined in this podcast. I tend to not really cling to any one religion or spiritual focus - i am just very interested in reading about various ones, extracting what i find to be particularly compelling or useful, and try move on with some sense of greater understanding of spirituality as a whole and what it means to me personally. And some might that that’s what really counts as we lay on our death beds. Given the sheer quantity of religious beliefs and variations over the ages, it’s safe to say millions of people have died being completely wrong after a lifetime of devotion. And we can have a discussion about what that really means.
Having said that, I have to take a moment to stick my neck out for Buddhism and Hinduism. Buddhism is mentioned in the podcast as having "just as much BS as any other religion." I've got to just categorically deny this based on two fundamental differences. The first being that Buddhism does not command belief in God as a prerequisite to subsequent understanding, and the second being that ANYONE can become a Buddha (try telling a Christian that you’re well on your way to becoming Christ). These two basic characteristics of Buddhism free itself from most of the BS that surrounds other spiritual approaches. Now, you will find Buddhists that believe in God and they might even mention it in certain Buddhist temples, that's really up to them. The fact is that Buddhism was developed through the ages by people with preexisting religious beliefs in things like Hinduism, which accounts for any mentions of God in their texts. In fact Buddhism could be practiced alongside a lot of other religions and beliefs, not something which can be said of most others. Given that Buddhism revolves around abstaining from the act of clinging to things, a practicing Buddhist can even take or leave any mythology surrounding its roots.
As far as Hinduism goes, the reason Hindu gods are often portrayed as having a thousand arms has nothing to do with commandments. This just goes to show us how deeply ingrained modern models of God are within us, as even a non-Christian would probably assume these arms might represent commandments. The Hindu model of God (Brahman) is drastically different than that of Christianity. To Christians, the world is an artifact made by God and he is the ruler - to Hindus, the world is God at play and you’re it (as demonstrated by the phrase tat tvam asi). And the thousand arms represent the many parts played within the drama.. every human, every animal, every rock, tree, and every molecule and force is God so taken in by his own act that its now long forgotten that it really is God.
So to sum up this essay i seem to be writing, i want to re-emphasize the point that i'm not trying to lash out at anyone. This podcast has become a staple of my podcast intake, and i look forward to it and other future works of James Kent. I just really didn't dig the overly opinionated and otherwise arrogant approach to knocking on new age spirituality. Not all new agers are the same, and the whole "hodge podge" term sort of makes that self-evident. Some of us listen to a Terence McKenna lecture and wind up teaching a telepathy class on a mountain top somewhere, while Talat Phillips' helps cure their Hep.C using the long lost art of demon possession and spirit healing. And some of us listen to that same lecture and say "wow that's interesting, i'm going to get back to my physics homework now." So perhaps the discussion should be a little bit more geared towards containing this beast and trying to help guide young people going through mystical experiences, teach them how to ward off the bullshit and understand reality. Maybe that's why James Kent says he's always asked to take a more vocal role in the psychedelic community - we need more people like him with a presence in this community, someone who acts like less of a salesman or a guru and more like an intelligent researcher with enough sense to keep his head out of his ass.
Eugene. : 2014-01-14 09:36:12
Final comment: religion does not make you a better person, it is an inner transformation that shifts you from an egoic existence to one that acknowledges our interconnections. And I have to say that it was psychedelics that catalyzed that transformation for me, not religion. But after the vision of oneness I had to walk the path, and for me that was deep meditation and yoga (for others it could be religion). The reason these two work for me is that they are scientific, grounded in practice and inner verification of the divine, not just stories and myths but inner revelations.
Eugene. : 2014-01-14 09:30:02
Hey Fellas, fun musings as always. Here are some inspired thought-forms from above discussion(s).
While I agree that there needs to be much more research done on the pineal-DMT hypothesis from the empirical end, it is a very compelling argument when you follow the metabolic trail of tryptophan. Tryptophan, a crucial amino acid for life, seems to be modified into serotonin in the presence of light. In the absence of light, the pineal converts the serotonin into the "sleep hormone," melatonin. The hypothesis here is that in prolonged darkness, as experienced in sensory-depravation, dark cave meditation, prolonged silent meditation (as in my ten-day silent meditation retreats), ascetic isolation, or in the deepest dreamless sleep at nights (delta brain state) the melatonin is converted into 5MeO-Tryptamine by the HIOMT enzyme, which is one or two atomic shifts away from 5MeO-DMT and DMT. It is very conceivable that the deepest illuminations of nirvakalpa Samadhi after years of prolonged meditation can be mediated by the modification of these endogenous tryptamines. James pointed out that the traces of endogenous DMT are too small to really have a psychic effect, UNLESS we were to have endogenous MAOI's to potentiate the DMT. And apparently, the pineal does produce MAOIs, such as the pinole enzyme, and possibly harmaline and harmine, therefore hypothetically making the endogenous tryptamines effective in the brain. Now James also points out that if this were the case (DMT as source of spiritual experience), then the literature would be littered with depictions of elves, aliens, etc. (Tibetan Buddhism, Celtic pagans, and Hinduism do have some trippy imagery..), which is really not. But, the literature of ALL wisdom traditions do speak of the brilliant White Light of the Illumined Enlightened Mind, and if you've ever tried 5MeO-DMT you would instantly know this experience. In other words, it seems to me that 5MeO is a more likely 'sprit molecule' candidate given the similarity of experience; namely the experience of the Pure White Light. I have personally spent many hours in silent dark meditation (no drugs), as in the 10-day vipassana silent meditation retreats I attend yearly. In these retreats one has the option of meditating in a sensory-deprived cell; total darkness and silence for hour on end. My experience after seven days of this, at the peak, is very similar, if not identical, to the 5MeO flash. I even feel experientially how there is an inner shift in my brain, as my focus is the third eye (pineal). As I focus on the center of my brain, I seem to experience an inner secretion that literally fills my entire being with light (the inner nectar that the yogis talk about). Anyhow, given my inner experiences and the fact that DMT is so easily manufactured in our brains, the pineal-DMT hypothesis seems a worthy endeavor of pursuit.
Chris. : 2014-01-14 08:50:22
I think one of thr biggest problems I have with following a religious practice as a discipline is that most religious ideology, if taken literally, conflicts with science. If taken metaphorically, I could get behind certain methods for finding "contentment" or enlightenment or whatever. I also have a huge problem with the long history of injustice and oppression that has been done in the name of religion.

That's my big beef with following specific religious wisdom traditiona. There's definitely some wisdom in their but that wisdom needs to be extracted from its historical context. New Age mish mash can be useful but you need to be extremely critical of everything.

Chris. : 2014-01-13 19:54:13
Another fun podcast. I have a question. How do you think meditation relate to the psychedelic experience neurologicaly?
Jake : 2014-01-12 09:32:02
Buzz, though I do agree with you, the people that I was referring to were men like St. Anthony the Great, Evagrius Ponticus, Origen, Marcarius, St. Benedict of Nursia, St. Bruno (Founder of the Carthusian Order), Fr. Lazarus el Anthony (who is still alive today), Pantenjali, and so on. These people are mystics who spent their entire lives attempting to understand greater truths in the universe, and greater truths about human nature and so on. I think it's an unfair comparison to say that their body of work has less value than someone who has smoked DMT on their couch for 15 minutes, and that the retention and the usage of cosmologies as a way to find some sort of spiritual or mental balance is better than using the New Age method because it gives someone a base. It also helps prevent massive ego trips on the part of the seeker, which in my opinion is one of the biggest issues in this journey, the egotism, which in my understanding of these systems, is something that one seeks to move away from.

Greg thanks for the comments as always. If people aren't putting in the practice then they are not going to find results. Even if that practice is simply understanding and reading, and attempting to find some kind of message illuminated in the texts that you're reading, you are still practicing something (specifically Lectio Divina). I would still argue that staying with one Cosmology, or one grouping of them (let's say Eastern, or Western, in practice not in research I mean) is beneficial so that you can make your way through the waters so to speak with some sort of framework and history behind you so you're not lost at sea for lack of a better way of putting it.

Thanks again for the great comments!

Buzz. : 2014-01-12 06:01:28
Good job with stalking the ego in this episode.

And yet there's something to be said about the complacency of the psychedelic community or in general, endless hand-wringing tendencies of the left.

There was a comment made by Jake in this episode about how people who have a 15 minutes experience on the couch cannot claim to know more than the people who have been at it in one way or another for 40 years. While I tend to agree with your sentiment on that, I immediately thought of a counterexample. Compare for example the person who has had the 15 minute couch experience with DMT, and a mainstream psychiatrist, who has not ever tried DMT, but who has been practicing for 40 years. Not all of them, but many psychiatrists have not experimented with mind-altering drugs, and yet they often claim to know what's going on with mental patients or patients with mood disorders, even at the chemical level. Can these psychiatrist claim any more right to understanding psychosis than the guy who has had a 15 minute experience on the couch? I think more often than not, the guy who has had the experience has more understanding than the guy who has been observing, for 40 years, others have the experience. At the very least, he would understand that its not cool to insist that someone else take a drug he has not tried himself, which is very often what many psychiatrists do.

I think Jake's point was mainly to say that people who have a couple of drug experiences cannot claim to be ascended masters, and yet, this population does have something on those who are just keen on psychology.

Greg. : 2014-01-10 21:52:55
Howdy folks,

Thanks for answering my question on air! That was nice of you, I enjoyed your responses.

I agree that it's really frustrating to hear someone inexperienced with spirituality speaking as though they have stumbled across some great universal truth that only they really understand. I actually quit a job once because too many of my co-workers wouldn't stop going on about the Secret and the "law" of attraction.

I think you both really hit on the core of the issue, which is whether or not a person is actually putting in the time with a daily practice to make a spiritual development that manifests itself in personal satisfaction and positive community involvement. That said, I still feel that if a person's spiritual path takes them through fifteen years of Catholicism, a decade in Santo Daime, five years in a yoga ashram in Pune, and another fifteen years of Dzogchen meditation in a Tibetan monastery that it wasn't wasted time because it wasn't all in one place. I feel it's the devotion and the daily practice that really matters. Even that kid on the couch with his DMT pipe will figure something out if he keeps at it for forty years (and gets over the proselytizing).

Thanks again,

Greg

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