Dick Khan is not what you might expect from a man who has expanded his consciousness to the furthest reaches. Cropped grey hair, clean shaven, a soft Yorkshire lilt and not a thumb ring or dreadlock in sight. Dick (not his real name, he prefers to remain incognito) is an "independent DMT researcher".
Shaman have, for centuries, concocted ayahuasca brews containing the so-called "spirit molecule" to summon otherworldly beings and receive instructive messages from another realm. In recent years, Westerners have trumpeted the therapeutic, if mind-boggling, effects of this little-understood medicine of the mind and soul. However, few have as much experience with N,N-Dimethyltryptamine as Dick. Over the course of three years he courageously vaporised in excess of 600 doses, and chronicled his experiences in a book, DMT & My Occult Mind: Investigation of Occult Realities using the Spirit Molecule.
Following a riveting talk at Breaking Convention 2017, the fourth International Conference on Psychedelic Consciousness, I collared Dick to see what I could learn about one of the most profound and mysterious known psychoactive substances.
VICE: Hi Dick. Can you take me to back to the start? How did this all begin?
Dick Khan: I've had a longstanding interest in esoteric philosophy. As a young child I had three or four out of body experiences (OBEs). From a young age that convinced me there was something within me that could exist outside of my physical body. They were classic OBEs. So I think my interest was born from that. Obviously, as a young child, I didn't turn to esotericism; it was an individual who introduced me to that. But it chimed very powerfully with me and I spent many years digesting esoteric philosophy.
What inspired your interest in DMT specifically?
When I was a young adult certain recreational drugs were available and I enjoyed some great nights on ecstasy and LSD. Then you grow up and your situation changes. I just chanced upon the documentary The Spirit Molecule and, honestly, I had goosebumps, especially when those volunteers [in Dr Rick Strassman's experiments] described what they'd experienced under the influence of DMT. I had to try it.
What about that piqued your curiosity?
There were people saying they were experiencing spiritual phenomena. For me, that is a serious statement. That's big news. And with my interest in esoteric philosophy I needed to see what all the fuss was about. I read accounts for months, none of which mattered when I tried DMT for the first time.
What happened the first time you tried it?
The first hit was just a few milligrams, but I was just absolutely awestruck by the potency of it, just from taking one inhalation. I was like, 'Oh my god, that is powerful.' My wife was looking on with concern and disapproval, and said, "You've tried it now, leave it alone." I was like, "No."
Then I had an experience with 15mg in the bedroom on my own. The curtains were open and I was laying on the floor looking up at the ceiling, and within seconds there was an old cinemagraph image of my family all walking hand-in-hand, smiling, and it was crystal clear. It was a scene of absolute bliss. I was thinking, 'How is this happening?!' It was so crisp and at the same time I could see through the ceiling. I came out of that experience absolutely infatuated with the apparent magical capacity of DMT.
I have a full time job, a family and I always made sure that my familial and vocational commitments were my utmost priority. That aside, let me at it. So I continued.
Did you ever think the first few experiences were enough and that you should stop?
Midway through a moderate dose indoors I did experience a regrettable change in my mental state. I was on the landing and it took a very dark turn. It's something I document in my book, as far as I dare. I spoke to my wife about it and it was really, really difficult. It was with great trepidation that I returned and I was fearful to return in an indoor setting. With DMT I would say there is a big difference between amplifying your consciousness indoors, where it can become very turbulent and imposing, and outdoors, where – forgive me – the sky's the limit.
What were your most profound experiences, be it visually or spiritually?
Seeing beings which I would consider to be spiritual entities. You can call them conscious energies, discarnate intelligences... some people choose to call them aliens, although I disfavour that term. The geometry, the beauty, the size that they exhibit – it's clearly a natural thing, a something. It's not a projection of my mind; I'm clear on that, having undergone 600 experiments. Those sights convinced me that humanity is not the pinnacle of evolution, neither are we alone. Those sights were tremendously rewarding.
On one occasion I saw an entity that was clearly geometrical and symmetrical, but its exterior was gnarled and rough. I could sense its mind and it was indifferent, just showing itself to me. It wasn't going to impose upon me; it was just saying, "Look at me."
Do you feel as though your experiences have changed you, either for better or worse?
I already believed in something beyond humanity. That was faith, because I had no knowledge of it. But having seen what I've seen, I am now certain. In terms of changes, they have been subtle but significant. In my personal life I'm far more conscious that relationships with people are important; how you deal with people is important. It's tempered my urge to judge others and made me more mature in that respect. I feel more ingenuous. I'm not saying I'm perfect, but there has been a change. I'm more patient. You know that you're going to die and you're convinced that your personality isn't going to last, but something, somewhere within you, is going to persist. You begin to think more profoundly about these deeper aspects of your life and beyond.
That sounds very positive and enriching. Has it been a lasting change or does it subside with time?
It's been seven months since my last experiment. I feel that I'm still changed. There was one experience when I was outside and the wind was really blowing, and I was struggling to maintain my composure and keep things from turning negative. Then this image flashed up in my mind, and I won't tell you what that was, but it left me with a sense that the highest aspect of humanity is positivity in the face of any adversity. The experience changed immediately. I thought, 'Blow as hard as you like. You're going to kill me? Kill me two times.'
That had a huge influence over me. Of all the DMT experiences I had, that wasn't fantastic, but it hit me deeply. I don't think it's something you need to keep taking to maintain that change. I feel as though that change can last a lifetime.
Your approach to experimenting with DMT has been pretty rigorous. At the very least it's been persistent. Do you think this molecule requires scientific interrogation?
Traditional materialist science really cannot ignore this field of research if it wishes to stay true to its roots, because this is something that is life changing, culture changing, society changing, and science should revolutionise this field of human learning.
But do you think it's possible to subject the experience to scientific scrutiny?
This is where it comes back to esoteric and occult thinking. One definition of the occult is knowledge of the immeasurable. I would love to be able to take a picture of what I've seen or bring something back in a jam jar. It's one of those things where you have to see it to believe it.
You abstained from booze and masturbation during your period of experimentation. Why is that?
At that stage I had an inkling that this was dealing with spiritual phenomena. In terms of my health, I didn't want to be pursuing this, with something spiritual interacting with me, and I'm half hungover. That seems disrespectful. Same with the masturbation – it felt like something I shouldn't be doing while pursuing this line of inquiry. And on both counts I've remained abstemious.
Good for you. Do you think you'll smoke DMT again or have you had your fill?
That is a great question. Doing three years with definite intention, writing three books, one of which has been published, it would be so easy to say yes. I really don't know. I just don't know... but somewhere deep inside of me I think I do know! Be cautious, but never say never!