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Full Review
DMT: The Spirit Molecule
by Rick Strassman, M.D.
Park Street Press 
Reviewed by Lux, 12/10/2007

DMT: The Spirit Molecule has already been been admirably reviewed by Scotto, but several years have passed since Strassman’s seminal book was published. It can now be evaluated not only for what it is, but for its legacy as well – a legacy that is both powerful and mixed.

Strassman must be commended for taking his DMT study through what Sasha Shulgin called “the “Kafkaesque processes for approval for human studies” [TiHKAL, 419]. After a decades-long embargo on psychedelics research in the United States, this was an enormous achievement. It is very likely that his success in navigating the bureaucratic minefield helped pave the way for subsequent research into compounds like psilocybin. Strassman not only traveled that hard road, but has also been an important member of the psychedelics research community ever since. In a series of articles he has offered important suggestions and reflections about psychedelic research. He has done a great service to those interested in psychedelics, science, and religious experience, and opened many important doors.

However, the shadow side of this book’s legacy is that it has helped create a state of confusion among its readership. Strassman’s outstanding work is marred by unsubstantiated speculation regarding possible connections between meditation, death and dying, the pineal gland, endogenous DMT, and quantum mechanics. It is difficult to venture into a DMT discussion forum without this book being cited in support of all manner of erroneous ideas – I literally see it every week. Presenting speculation side by side with scientific data in DMT: The Spirit Molecule has left a plethora of readers convinced that there is scientific evidence that shows endogenous DMT is involved in visionary experiences, and this is simply false.

The language of science is often taken in modern cultures as the language of legitimacy, and it is risky for a scientist to present metaphysical speculation in scientific language. In this book, Strassman speculates about matters in which he admittedly has no training, and the result is a confusing blend of fact and fiction. This is too bad, because there is so much of extraordinary value in this book, and it did not need the passages on Descartes or the Tibetan Book of the Dead – or, if they were to be included, they could have undergone more careful framing.

Whatever its faults and virtues may be, the book is out there, and it is now up to us as careful readers to critically evaluate Strassman’s claims. We must distinguish between arguments that are supported by evidence and ideas that seemed interesting to the author. As we become better readers, the legacy of this book will become that much greater.

Other Reviews of this book:


  1. And this is a great and intelligent critic, as well as a good warning to all the people who still take the time to read :)

    As the dormouse said, we must feed our heads. But we must be able too to handle “knowledge” with humility and make the difference
    between facts and possibilities.

    Comment by Krow — 12/24/2007 @ 5:41 am

  2. This book is amazing, I bought it yesterday and I finished it the next. It really does put a great deal of insight into the drug DMT and the experiences that it can induce.

    Comment by Jonathan Carter — 2/12/2008 @ 2:07 pm

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