In this continuing conversation with 5-MeO-DMT expert James Oroc, we dig into the nitty-gritty surrounding underground 5-MeO-DMT facilitators: where they get it right, how they get it wrong, and what to look for (and look out for) when considering a 5-MeO or toad ceremony for yourself. Oroc is the author of Tryptamine Palace and The New Psychedelic Revolution: The Genesis of the Visionary Age. You can see our previous two interviews with him here and here.
Thanks for continuing this conversation with us, James. In our previous talk we were speaking about the future of legal psychedelic treatments. The fact is, here and now, if you want a 5-MeO-DMT experience or really any entheogenic experience, you often have to find it underground. When things are underground, they are… tricky.
[Laughs] Well put!
I’ve seen you be an outspoken critic on social media of certain 5-MeO facilitators who were filmed doing things that were not safe or conscionable during their “ceremonies.”
I’ve kind of been forced into that position because a lot of people write to me about their bad experiences. Tryptamine Palace is pretty much considered to be the reference book on the subject, and I’m not a facilitator myself, which I think people appreciate, so I get a lot of the feedback. I respect what these 5-MeO-DMT facilitators are doing- going around the world and bringing these experiences to people- I just feel that they needlessly create a smoke and mirrors appearance to what they are doing. When I started to see the YouTube videos of some of the more unsafe things, it’s kind of my responsibility to say something about it. If they could explain to me their methods, that’s fine, but what they are doing doesn’t make any sense to my understanding.
I have been invited to speak at the World Bufo Alvarius Congress in Mexico City, and I’m going to deliver a talk on the importance of creating a neutral container that I will then publish, and it’s going to pretty much state my views on practitioners and what’s necessary and what’s not necessary. I think the whole underground thing is that these guys and girls are really just conduits. They are the ones that happen to have the drugs, and unlike a normal drug dealer, you have to go through their whole ego trip to get the experience. Now if you want to have their experience, you can do that. I feel very fortunate that my first experience was delivered in a brown paper envelope, legally online through the mail, and I got to experiment with it with my friends in a completely neutral environment devoid of symbolism. And I think it’s very important that we are modern about this thing, and not fall back on cultism.
To call it an ego trip seems pretty justified. Dennis McKenna mentioned to me a while back that the best ayahuasca facilitators he has found are extremely humble, and put the “medicine” rather than themselves at the center.
To me, the ego is just like a muscle. Psychedelics rip the ego down, but then it will build up stronger again afterwards if you don’t stretch it, challenge it, and understand the process. That’s why I’m a big fan of Eckhart Tolle. You have to realize that by doing psychedelics there’s a propensity for your ego to build back up, and you see all the major figures in the 60’s take huge ego crashes in the end.
A lot of these practitioners like to take the tail hit on the end of the pipe because they believe if they are in tune with you, they are influencing your 5-MeO-DMT experience. I would say for one, if you’ve had a true 5-MeO release your experience is almost un-influenceable. Music can affect it and touch can bring you back a little bit, but the whole point is for your consciousness to go and for your body to be safe and undisturbed. I actually think the best practitioner is a licensed nurse who can put you in the recovery position. Any practitioner who would actually mess with your body in any way while your consciousness is out surfing the Akashic field, that’s unethical in my opinion. And that’s a common theme among all these practitioners- they all like to get really involved with your experience. So that’s going to be the next major thing I write about: my ideas on the importance of a neutral container.
I love how you put that: the ego being like a muscle, and that if we’re not careful after being torn down it can rebuild stronger. I’ve been trying to find words to describe that for a while, and I think you hit the nail on the head with that one. I think it’s a good thing for any psychonaut to be aware of.
It’s crucial, especially if you want to have a long-term relationship with these substances. You see a lot of young kids thinking they are the answer, you know? I’m actually a little irritated at the moment, the way the whole movement has sort of been swept up by the New Agers and falling back into this kind of cultism. Because there was a moment when Burning Man and psychedelic culture were actually breaking free of that, and heading into a much more William Gibson punk-anarchist kind of reality. That’s still mixed in there, but I feel like we keep getting pulled back into this New Age bullshit. To me, the toad shamans are a classic example of that.
I was actually thinking about it today, and part of the issue is that newcomers are looking for someone to make them feel safe and to protect and enhance their experience. An experienced psychonaut kind of recognizes that he is in control of his own destiny, and the other people in the experience just need to be respecting that experience. So I think there is a very different expectation between these two approaches.
It’s also been very interesting seeing many of these practitioners poo-pooing Michael Pollan’s negative 5-MeO experience which he writes about in his new book. If you don’t have a respect for the “hell” portion of where 5-Meo-DMT can take you, you shouldn’t be giving it to people. You’ve got to understand that the low is just as low as the high is high, and that’s part of your responsibility as a practitioner. I see a total disregard for that.
You’re so right. That “New Age BS” is a kind of spiritual bypass where people are just trying to manifest good things without respecting the shadow work, emphasizing heaven and pretending hell doesn’t exist. It’s not just “To soar angelic, take a pinch of psychedelic.” It’s “To fathom hell or soar angelic…”
It’s funny you mention that, because a book that is mentioned a lot when it comes to spiritual bypassing [Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters] was written by Robert Augustus Masters, a guy who had a very bad 5-MeO-DMT trip 15 or 20 years ago that completely wrecked his ego and his community and everything he had going on. He wrote Darkness Shining Wild, which is mentioned in the appendix of my own book Tryptamine Palace where I talk about heaven and hell. My book was so overwhelmingly positive about 5-MeO-DMT, I felt a responsibility to include information about the potential of the opposite. Masters’ book is the anti-Tryptamine Palace: it’s like he had the exact opposite experience as me, and it was as terrifying for him as it was liberating for me. You almost have got to read the two of them together, one after the other, to get a feeling of how far apart experiences can be. That’s the problem: people who go into the heaven zone can’t accept or imagine the fact that there is a hell zone.
This idea that Michael Pollan should smoke it again, or he should have smoked more, is ridiculous. He smoked toad, which means he didn’t really know how much he smoked, because it’s venom and there’s too much variety, in my opinion. There’s no way in hell you will ever convince him to smoke it again. Same thing happened to Robert Augustus Masters. When you go to that lifeless, chaotic, hellish place you do not want to ever go back there again. So the fact that there are 5-MeO-DMT facilitators making these ridiculous claims is very indicative of where they are at as practitioners. There’s a distinct lack of empathy, let’s put it that way.
I have acted as a conduit for 5-Methoxy DMT to other people, but it has always been my friends or people I’ve met or been introduced to; it’s never been a commercial venture, obviously. The one time in all these years that I’ve actually seen someone go to the hell state, it was someone who I didn’t want to give it to. I was convinced by other people that he was a suitable candidate, even though something told me he wasn’t. But then I was like, “Who am I to decide who gets it and who doesn’t get it?” so against my own better instincts, I gave this guy 5-MeO in a very safe environment, and he took the hell ride. And it was something to watch. [Of] the other two people who had the heaven ride, one of the girls was trying to talk to him afterwards, and it was like they had been to different planets, and were both trying to describe the same ground. The void was almost infinite.
So I wish 5-Meo-DMT was more readily available, ideally in a synthetic form so the poor toads don’t need to get persecuted, and that people develop decent psychedelic protocols so they feel safe to work with it themselves and with their friends. Let people become more experienced with these things naturally. The idea of rocking into a town and blasting 15-30 people who I’ve never met before with 5-MeO who just signed up on the website or whatever, and then rolling out again, to me that is just extraordinarily cavalier. But I understand that the demand is there, so we’re in a catch-22 until prohibition is removed.
Very well put. Prohibition being at the heart of all these issues, of course.
Yeah, and it’s been over 50 years now.
We are very grateful to James Oroc for speaking with us. You can see our previous interviews with him here and here, and check out his new book The New Psychedelic Revolution here.