Nick Sand is one of the most prolific and well-known underground chemists in history. Along with Tim Scully, Nick Sand was responsible for producing over 3 million hits of Orange Sunshine, a brand of LSD that was renowned for its purity in the Sixties.

Sand has a particular fondness for DMT. In fact, it was a DMT vision quest in the 60s that convinced Sand to dedicate his life to producing and distributing entheogens. He was the first underground chemist to synthesize DMT rather than extracting it from natural sources, and the first person to discover that the DMT freebase could be smoked.

This essay, Just a Wee Bit More About DMT, was originally published in The Entheogen Review in 2001 (PDF copy here). It is a follow-up to Sand’s first DMT essay, this time focusing on the finer points of set, setting, of intention. I also highly recommend How to Prepare a Spiritual DMT Ceremony in 5 Steps, a guest post by Lee here on Psychedelic Frontier.

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Author Nick Sand

Author Nick Sand

Consciousness is very flexible. Like a gas, it will fill any container in the form of that container. It is as ubiquitous as the universe, subsuming and interweaving with the fabric of nothingness, matter, and energy. This fabric is a naturally evolving pattern out of which we and the cosmos are woven. This for me is the level on which DMT functions. We can focus on any part of this pattern, minuscule or cosmic, depending on our orientation, environment, expectations, fears, and if we are dedicated to having a transcendent vision, our intention.

By and large, it strikes me that intention is the basic formative influence on the type of vision one will experience on DMT. Of all the psychedelics, DMT might be the most visionary one. I have many reasons for this declaration: DMT is produced by the body; it is found in hundreds of different plants and animals all over the planet; its tryptamine structure is woven into numerous important psychedelics (psilocybin/psilocin, LSD, ibogaine, the ß-carbolines, etc.); and it is one of the most purifying and curing of the psychedelics. It is also very close in structure to serotonin, possibly the most important nerve impulse facilitator. This is not to say that mescaline, LSD, psilocybin, et al., are not important; it just strikes me that DMT is the touchstone of the psychedelics. The body and consciousness recognize DMT and work with it almost instantaneously. The visions it produces are here and gone in a matter of minutes by clock time, but by our existential clock, time has been transformed—by the concentrated and incredible fullness of the experience—into eons. All this and only 15 minutes have passed? Wow!

From the first time I made it and took it, I knew I had discovered something so deep, so magnificent, so profound, that it blew away everything I had ever experienced before.

We create our reality. We are all individually responsible to ourselves for the reality we create, whether we are miserable or joyous, this is our choice—our design. We are not alone; we exist as an integral part of all life, breathing, pulsating, vibrating, giving off plant food, absorbing animal food, in a multi-level fabric of incredibly beautiful designs and patterns. This is what DMT shows us—those patterns, as much as we can absorb at one time—to realign us to the sacred design of which we are a part. DMT works with the energy that surrounds and enters you. If you are an artist, you are likely to see an array of color and design that will fascinate and delight you. If you are a psychiatrist, you may interpret what is happening according to the psychological fashions or, perhaps, as a model of psychosis. Demons, doctors, elves, guardians, magicians, guides and Gods are the manner in which we sometimes manifest this paradigm-revealing substance. Is it we who are choosing the manifestation, or the DMT? Where do these creatures come from? Why do we see them? To what good effect can we put these visions? These are a few of the questions that I needed to answer for myself during the 40 years in which I made and used DMT. From the first time I made it and took it, I knew I had discovered something so deep, so magnificent, so profound, that it blew away everything I had ever experienced before. Period.

I have taken DMT thousands of times. I never had two trips that were the same. Mostly I had good trips—only a few were unpleasant. But I figured out why; it was always a mistake in preparation, set, or setting. I began to investigate and plan how to best use this divine sacrament to find my place in the Grand Design. The best trips always seemed to come when I was in the best place. If I had used Cannabis, alcohol, or amphetamine in the day preceding a DMT journey, I usually had the more unpleasant type of trip. Once after an intramuscular injection of 60 mg of DMT, following a bit of Cannabis use, overeating junk food, and an inappropriate setting, I had a stressful period building up to the trip’s peak.

It put me right into a field of pretty cartoon flowers, with little faces waving their petals and leaves in unison, singing together, “You know that this is not the way to use DMT.” I looked up and saw the monolith from 2001 hovering above me, massive and dark; then instantly it came crashing down on me again and again, beating me down and spasming my whole body with cramps. I crawled to the toilet to puke huge amounts of vomit. The toilet bowl was crawling with mysterious interlocking hieroglyphs that seemed to be the keys to the universe. This was a clear message to enter into the DMT space with my system clean and no hectic social scene going on around me.

If you are an artist, you are likely to see an array of color and <br/>design that will fascinate and delight you. (Art by NinthTaboo)

If you are an artist, you are likely to see an array of color and
design that will fascinate and delight you. (Art by NinthTaboo)

Another time I had been travelling in México, and wound up on a deserted beach in Zihuatanejo, leaning against a huge rock. I was tired, and I had just had a fight with my wife. I went for a walk and sat down against this rock at the end of the beach to smoke some DMT. It was a dark night, and a distant street light cast a wan light over the sand, as soft sounds of the jungle surrounded me. I lit up my DMT pipe and took 3 or 4 tokes. Suddenly, I shot upwards and was at an upscale cocktail party. The colors were rich and enchantingly beautiful. The men were very big and handsome, dressed in well-cut suits. The women were gorgeous in gowns and cocktail dresses. They were gathered in groups of 4 or 5, discussing very arcane, deep, and interesting topics. I couldn’t quite hear and my head barely reached up to their shoulders. I felt like a juvenile trying to crash an adult party. I was standing on my tip-toes, looking into one of these groups, trying to hear, when an intelligent-looking large fellow in a light grey suit turned to look at me. He regarded me with a benign expression of friendly sympathy and said, “You know you are too tired to be here.” With a wave of his hand, he threw a lightning bolt at my feet. There was a flash of light, an explosion under me, and I was falling into a black void at whose depth I settled slowly, finding myself seated cross-legged on the beach with the pipe in my hands. I was clear. I was completely unintoxicated, as though I had not smoked any DMT. I understood one of the many lessons that these guardians were to teach me over the years about the proper and most enlightened way to use the sacrament. Who are these creatures? Where do they come from? I don’t know, but I have my ideas.

What is most important is that I recognize that I have touched a really beautiful place, the source of all creation and healing, and that the projections I see are beneficent beings spun out of consciousness—as everything is, but just on a higher plane of realization. On this plane, there is no “other,” no subjective/objective—no duality at all; just convenient structures for teaching ourselves those sacred lessons that we have known, but forgotten. These guardians are a reminder of this knowledge, whose pattern is that of which we are also composed.

This quest then, is about re-emerging from the swamp of forgetfulness and distraction in which we live, and being reborn in consciousness. 

Perhaps you are finding this a little hard to follow, but at the same time it seems like common sense? I feel the same way. But some things just have to remain mysteries—we cannot analyze and dissect everything. At some point we have to put it back together. Humpty-Dumpty wants to be whole again. When we constantly pull everything apart trying to see how it works, we may end up with only an understanding of how to destroy something. We can have piles of spokes, rims and axles, but the beauty only happens when we see the wheel rolling. The guardians are our inner Gods, teaching us from the well-springs of unity. That’s my conclusion anyway. I have learned to listen to them and come to them clean and pure, and let the nectar of their approval bless my soul. This is what I have found with DMT through the experiences of myself and those of fellow psychonauts, in environments of support and love. The environment makes a big difference, as it does with all psychedelics.

DMT is the weaver. Whatever you give DMT, it weaves this into patterns. If you are a doctor sitting in a hospital room filled with people watching a “subject” and injecting said subject with DMT while people are acting out their roles of nurse, doctor, researcher, government representative, etc., and your subjects have little alien robots, insects, reptiles or what have you, crawling all over them, probing and examining, is this really so strange? You are just seeing a DMT woven projection of the very environment you have created. What would happen if you changed the environment?

Suppose now, that instead of a hospital room with beepers and weird electromagnetic currents in the subliminal environment and medical personnel with odd motivations and curiosities, you were in a beautiful wooden house in the woods with a stream outside making gurgling and tinkling sounds. Inside there are friends in casual clothing—soft, tastefully-colored robes. Men and women dressed for a celebration, seated on velvet cushions on oriental carpets with candles and flowers, and beautiful music. Flowers in vases, mandalas, and wondrous paintings on the walls, aesthetically lit by natural and traditional lights, not fluorescents. A fire glowing in the hearth, multicolored fish swimming in an aquarium. Before you is a teacher who has decades of personal DMT experiences who is serving as your travel facilitator. You’ve prepared for days with yoga, meditation, and pure food. What kinds of trips do you think happen in this type of environment?

Instead of reptiles, aliens, and robot doctors, you have Gods, magicians, celestial and magical beings—intimating, winking, indicating, and even speaking to your inner being with lessons of love, healing, inspiration, and creation. You enter into the temple of the source of creation. Everything is ensconced with magical, crystalline beauty. Your heart and mind fuse in loving understanding that heals the rifts in your heart. Tears of gratitude stream down your face, joy lights in your being. Everyone around you understands your bliss— you don’t need a support group of fellow “subjects,” so that you won’t think that you are losing your mind. Perhaps this is the difference between unauthorized research and “authorized” research. What I wonder about is, what authority has the nerve to dictate to God? But before I get lost in a rant…

There is no danger of descending into some communal psychosis. We are already there! (Obviously, in case you hadn’t noticed.)

DMT is the doorway to the intensely personal temple of our own sacredness.  (Art by Michael Divine)

DMT is the doorway to the intensely
personal temple of our own sacredness. (Art by Michael Divine)

Below the surface levels of subliminal advertising and purposeful disinformation, we can move toward truth. Below the level of our contradictory morals and values, and the walled labyrinths in our minds that keep them from explosive collision, we can move deeper towards the truth. Below our myths, below our method of splintered and fragmented communication called language, we can move still deeper towards truth. Below our culture and the conditioning embedded in our minds and egos, we can move deeper toward truth. Passing beyond all this, we penetrate the limits of perception and ride on the electric-energy-impulse highways at the center of our hard-wired biological construction; moving further towards truth, until we move past even this, and find ourselves joining ourselves in the cosmic hard-drive.

We have arrived at truth, and now we find truth is a mystery— a play of joy, creation, and energy. This is Source. This is the mystic touchstone that heals and renews. This is the beginning again. This is entheogenic.

Once I was chatting with Jonathan Ott when I had dropped in on an Entheobotany conference at Palenque. At the time I had been underground for about 30 years, and a fugitive for about 20. No one knew who I was. We were discussing sacraments, and I used the word “psychedelic.” Jonathan responded, “We prefer to use the word entheogen.” I replied, “When it is used sacramentally, then it is an entheogen. Until then, it is just a psychedelic, or perhaps only just a drug.”

Intention is everything. The more care and love and consciousness that you put into your preparation, the better the results, of course. But, if you knew completely what to do before the experience, you might not even need the experience. So this is an adventure into the unknown, an experiment or series of explorations in which there is a great deal of trial and error. We are moving into our own unique inner terrain, and it is difficult to find a set of instructions that will fit everyone perfectly. This is your uniqueness, your inner journey, your own quest for truth or answers that you have hidden away inside you. Everyone has those answers inside, but only those truly seeking self realization will have the courage to go beyond the veils to the center. Having made this journey many times, and mostly failing and wasting a lot of time, I would like to relate what I have found in the hope that this will help others to access the cosmic hard-drive and find some answers.

We live in a maze of conditioned responses and conflicting directives, our programmed biocomputer functions to produce a distracting nonstop wash of unconscious noise. Waves of voices, fears, thoughts, plans, ambitions, etc., wash over us constantly. We follow these directives of our mind like robots. We don’t think; we are thought by our minds. We are in a swamp of impulses and thoughts that never let us rest, and prevent self-realization (whatever that is).

Intently, we listen for the single true voice that sings out from a unified heart and mind, beyond the infernal chorus of conditioned commands and conflicting directives.

This quest then, is about re-emerging from the swamp of forgetfulness and distraction in which we live, and being reborn in consciousness. Here there are no landmarks, no limits, no boundaries, no road signs. We progress in this nether landscape, this cosmic interiority, by accessing intuition, by observing carefully all that happens, and by following penetrating vision. And above all, by following the heart. Intently, we listen for the single true voice that sings out from a unified heart and mind, beyond the infernal chorus of conditioned commands and conflicting directives. Let me backtrack a bit now.

Having set up one’s space as aesthetically as possible (eliminating the possibility of any interruptions), one readies one’s self for a DMT trip. Having followed the previous indications of peaceful set and setting, sensible diet, and totally supportive companions, one sits down and ingests the DMT. Here is what I have found: DMT can be used to find answers.

You can enter into the trip with a strong desire to find an answer to something that is bothering you, something you need to know, either in your practical life or to find a direction or vision to carry you forward on your spiritual quest. You can draw answers from the Akashic record in this DMT space. However, there are some problems and difficulties that have to be overcome. Let us consider some of these.

The contradictory programming and natural impulses that course through us are not just ideas. We are a unity, and the body, the heart, and the mind are all together on the most basic level. If there are any contradictions in you, it will manifest physically, emotionally, and mentally. You will be a little sick from this. Most disease is psychosomatic. This means that faulty programming manifests itself in sickness. This can happen by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or by eating incorrectly, or being unmotivated to properly exercise and care for your body. This can cause an effect on your immune system (which normally protects you from invasion of foreign organisms).

DMT is a healer. It is a curing drug. DMT purifies your systems by quickly eliminating the toxins that have built up from unconscious living. If your gut is filled with junk food, you may spend your trip vomiting. DMT will clean you out. If you are coming down from too much smoking, drinking, eating, drugs, etc., you may have to go through some unpleasantness, as DMT cleans your house with awesome efficiency. Even having mental conflicts and worries will produce toxins that need to be cleaned out. This can take some time, and since DMT is of fairly short duration, you may be down by the time this is over. So DMT can be used for curing and it can be used for getting answers. If you want the big answers, then you do not want to waste your DMT trips on junk food habits or whatever negative conditioning you want to escape from. I have found that pretreatment with LSD and subsequent ingestion of DMT works very well in this regard and produces an impressive synergistic effect. For example, 200 ug of LSD followed by 60 mg DMT HCl or 80 mg DMT fumarate IM in the tenth hour works very well. Or simply smoke the DMT base until you disappear. No Cannabis.

DMT colors

“Let all these pretty baubles be gone, and let me see beyond,”

All of the psychedelics are curing and purifying agents. What happens with this combination is that by the time you reach the tenth hour of an LSD trip, most of the pushing through the envelope and inner cleansing has happened. LSD is not as acutely dramatic as DMT is. It lasts so long though, that the inner cleansing can happen. When this stage is reached, then you can approach the DMT experience more efficiently and access deeper levels of understanding and realization without wasting valuable DMT clock time on gross cleanouts. IM injection need not be the only route; smoking the DMT can work quite well also. Three or four good tokes will usually do the trick. If you do it in the eighth or tenth hour of your acid trip, you can move right into the DMT levels as I have experienced them. My experience has shown me three distinct levels. The first level is the region of incredible design. Multi-colored grids flexing and slowly twisting, carnivals of colorful patterns, and little people peering through fences; hieroglyphs of arcane and hauntingly familiar aspects, but not quite decipherable. Floating spheres of lambent iridescence descending through diaphanous veils of woven infinity and passing away leaving a poignant feeling of missing, of not quite understanding, and aching to find the meaning behind it all. Although something is definitely indicating a deeper level, this region is incredibly beautiful and worth the trip just for this.

For a variety of reasons, probably youth, psychological readiness, and spiritual naïveté, I stayed on the level described above for hundreds of trips. Part of it was probably that there was no one who could teach me how to use this sacrament or had any idea how deep you could go with it. I had to blaze my own trails through my jungles of ignorance, conflict, and confusion. There was much I was not ready to accept, especially about myself. So I had to let DMT seduce me along the path of the vision quest, through beauty and mystery, until my rigid psychological structures and boundaries had relaxed enough and I had gathered enough courage to look beyond the veils of these incredible designs.

At some point I had gotten sated with all of these beautiful patterns and designs, and I understood that there was a much deeper level of knowledge that I could access. I had also gathered my courage and was ready to look at myself in a deeper way and see how I was the only obstacle in my path. I became aware that self-realization meant going deeper, and all I had to do was give up this exquisite layer of beauty. I began to realize that these beautiful patterns and designs were disguises that protected my limited mind from seeing a deeper reality that would be disturbing until I had reached a stage of readiness. Of course, this understanding cued the arrival of that stage of readiness. I began to realize that all the designs were symbols of psychological states that were in this form because I didn’t want to see that truth about myself yet.

These are our creatures created by the infinitely capable creative force to teach us about ourselves. They are mirrors that help us to do the difficult job of looking at ourselves, and remembering who we are.

Inside I said, “Let all these pretty baubles be gone, and let me see beyond,” and immediately the beyond opened as the pretty designs disappeared. Suddenly, I was walking up a steep road carved into the side of a sheer, jagged wall of grey rock. On my right was the mountain, on my left a cliff that dropped straight down into a huge canyon whose other side was a range of these jagged mountains. I was hiking up this steep mountain to a higher place of knowledge. I had penetrated the veil of superficial distractions of the lower mind, and I was approaching the region of the higher mind—a land of magic and realization. As I trudged along this road I saw a gate—a huge ornate rusty portcullis beside which stood a small but very nasty looking beast with piercing red eyes, no neck, large fangs, and an obviously very bad temper. This demon or demigod was without doubt the guardian to the gate of higher knowledge. Humbly, I begged permission, “May I please pass?” The guardian choked and snarled, then fixing me with a penetrating stare, nodded unpleasantly while he hauled laboriously on a chain that slowly lifted the gate. As I passed through, everything faded away and I was back sitting with the pipe in my hand. I was totally disappointed that I had gotten through the gate but had not made it to the magic land just beyond.

In my ignorance I did not realize that I had passed from level one to level two, and the gatekeeper was my initiation. This was the first of many encounters with various teachers who were all symbolic representations of an immanent state of realization of a higher order of understanding and interpretation.

Another time, I smoked and found myself in a beautiful wood-panelled and crystal-windowed room with easy chairs and couches all around. Next to me was an incredibly beautiful white-haired old woman crocheting doilies. The designs on the doilies were all symbols of the world’s religions. I looked at her and said (without speaking), “Where is this place? What are we doing here?” It seemed like a very beautiful waiting room. She peered at me over her spectacles with her piercing blue eyes, and smiled at me kindly, patiently, while she indicated with a flicker. Suddenly it dawned on me—I was in God’s waiting room! All I had to do was wait to be called, and I could step through the door.

The beings and creatures I’ve seen have been curious and various, but they have never looked like anyone I’ve ever seen, nor any mythical creature from history. Nor did I ever feel that these creatures were extra-terrestrial. Although they were totally original and amazing, never did I feel that they were strangers. I recognized them immediately. They had a bizarre but faintly and curiously familiar feeling to them. I think that this is significant, in that the lesson is one of personal responsibility. These are our creatures created by the infinitely capable creative force to teach us about ourselves. They are mirrors that help us to do the difficult job of looking at ourselves, and remembering who we are. In the overworld and underworld of shamanic journeying to the beat of the shaman’s horse—the drum—we also experience passageways, guardians, and guides. The denizens of these netherworlds, although symbolic, do not resemble those of the DMT worlds—they differ. This mind we wear has infinite creative abilities.

Getting back to the ascent from level one DMT experiences to level two for a moment, I remember coming down from that trip thinking, “Boy, that was really a bit disappointing. Here I’ve found the gate, and been grudgingly passed through by some terrifyingly ferocious curmudgeon who I had best pass by humbly with folded hands because I inherently knew he could slap me down with a flick of a finger, and then I am on this same road and everything fades. DMT is too short— that’s the problem with it.” And so on, my mind went. That’s the way the mind is; it is always thinking more is better. So why didn’t I arrive at the promised land, and have all of my questions answered? The point I was missing was that I had gone through that gate. I had moved from a series of colorful hallucinations to a completely different place—going up to a higher place—and I had found the gate. And by an act of sincere humility, I had been permitted to go past this gate to a new level of consciousness, to which I had not had access before. This was a great thing, but the mind is such that it is always rushing hither and yonder, looking for a new distraction out there, that it misses the simple profundity that comes from looking inward. I had passed through the gate. Not only had I passed through the gate, I had found the gate in the first place! Such simplicity. The road was the same rocky road through a dangerous mountain, defiled on either side of the gate, so what was so great? This precious entry into a place so fascinating was the entry into the inner world of spiritual messengers, the land of teachers. And I had figured out how to get there, all by myself. At the time I didn’t realize that. I just thought, “Here I am on that same rough piece of road.” It was the same road, but my attitude and intention had almost totally undergone some subtle and unconscious change (underneath that trite chattering mind that never shuts the fuck up), and on that road I had my first touch of the whisper of creation that underlies all things. This is to me the point about DMT. It can be a doorway to the Divine.

It opens the doorway to the vastness of the soul; this is at once our own personal soul, and its intrinsic connection to the universal soul.

Used with the intention of contacting our inner creativity, we meet our higher selves. The higher the intention, the more devout the sincere supplication will be. While crying for a vision, the higher will be that aspect of self we meet. Properly prepared, we enter into a fluid multi-dimensional field of interpenetrating realities, which are all things to all people. On this path, when we are ready, we meet the Gods that live deep within all of us. In that meeting we experience intense recognition of the oneness of all things. We receive true and simple instructions. We experience such poignant realizations that we are swept away by the exquisite beauty and truth of this inner knowing, which is utterly undeniable.

Dimethyltryptamine is unique and extremely powerful. If I were asked what its most important attribute was, I would have to say that it is the doorway to the intensely personal temple of our own sacredness. It opens the doorway to the vastness of the soul; this is at once our own personal soul, and its intrinsic connection to the universal soul. When the underlying unity of this fictional duality is seen and felt, one experiences a completeness and interconnection with all things. This experience, when we attain it, is extremely beautiful and good. It is a song that rings and reverberates through the lens of God. Now we know why we were born; to have this intense experience of the sacred, the joyous, the beauty, and the blessing of just being alive in the arms of God.

So there it is. And it is there. The mystery. Beyond the known, beyond logic, there is the experience. Each one is a unique journey. There are way-markers, however, and signposts at every turn. And if we are but intelligent enough, we understand that the language of mystery is written on water. Fleetingly, we glimpse the ordinary, and in that momentary flash—if we are quick enough—we see the doorway. When we see it, we must knock. Remember though, that there are no guarantees for the explorer; only the frontiers of consciousness and the blazing of new trails.

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