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The DMT Chronicles: Parmenides, Plato, and the Psychedelic
by Terence Turner
Publisher:
The Translinguistic Press 
Year:
2010 
ISBN:
0982730209 
Categories:
Book Reviews
Reviewed by David Arnson, 1/31/2013

The DMT Chronicles is an autobiographical account of a Texas college student’s odyssey into the worlds of psychedelics and philosophy. “Terence Turner”, the author’s pseudonym, is of course derived from two late, great authors of this genre: Terence McKenna and D.M. Turner. The book is a revision of and expansion on a series of accounts previously posted to an Internet message board. It’s an idiosyncratic and unique account, with the author’s writing style and observations consistently veering back and forth from the awkward to the insightful.

The book begins as Turner explores psychedelics (mainly psilocybin mushrooms and LSD) as a way to parallel the experiences and philosophical conclusions of the ancient Greeks’ Eleusinian Mystery rites. Turner purports that many of the treatises produced by Plato and Socrates resemble concepts rooted in psychedelic thought. He describes his frequent conversations with “the psychedelic”, an internally “heard” voice that answers his queries and instructs him on the nature of society and civilization while he is tripping. With his curiosity piqued from reading books by McKenna and the Shulgins, as well as Rick Strassman’s DMT: The Spirit Molecule, Turner seeks out and finally finds some DMT. He embarks on a quest to be “a lab rat [...] a specific, well-documented case of a single person using DMT numerous times, taking into consideration each and every significant trip”.

His subsequent DMT experiences reveal to him Terence McKenna’s fabled “self-transforming machine elves”. But more significantly, he discovers that the voice of “the psychedelic” he has been hearing during his previous explorations is none other than that of the “Elf Goddess”, who sometimes appears to him as a nude dark-green female figure. Over several of his journeys, she reveals to Turner that she and “the Forms” described in Plato’s Parmenides dialogues are, in fact, one and the same.

The numerous journeys on DMT that Turner relates often expand into philosophical reflections. Some of the frequently allegorical situations that he finds himself in, within “the elf world”, are very science fiction/fantasy-like, similar to those presented by other psychonautical authors, such as the late Dan Carpenter in his excellent book A Psychonaut’s Guide to the Invisible Landscape, or J.D. Arthur’s equally fine Salvia Divinorum—Doorway to Thought-Free Awareness. While I really enjoyed Turner’s observations on organized religion, some of his trip sequences result in him having uncovered what seem to me to be more like personal lessons, as opposed to universal truths.

Within one chapter of the book, Turner attempts to break down the essential nature of Parmenides by describing his dialogues with a mysterious friend who he happens to meet in a park. I expect that this section will be a bit difficult to get through for many readers, unless they really enjoy an X is made up of A, B, and C, with X1 and X2 components sort of mathematical approach toward deconstructing philosophy. (“Deduction #6 – If the X is not, then the X is not Y in relation to itself”; and so on.)

Eventually, the DMT spirits finally tell him to stop smoking so much. This advice seems warranted, after he visits a doctor who discovers that he has “extreme scaring [sic] on [his] lungs.” And a third incentive to stop hitting the pipe, in the form of a girlfriend, is presented near the end of the book.

Overall this was a fairly interesting but extremely unpolished piece of writing. If the author hadn’t related that he was from Texas (and a 4.0 student, even!), I would swear that English was his second language. The book is full of curious examples of phrasing such as: “Her hair was rigorously wavy”, “a vastly large and systemically shaped house”, “’Come on, man,’ said Shaun unremittingly”, and “effectively appearing to be completely unabridged at what was going on around him”. I did appreciate that Turner does not proselytize, and I found his honesty to be endearing. From the get-go, he describes himself as “an ignorant person”, and notes that what he has discovered “may very well not be the truth”. (Although his own story is presented as being a true one, related as accurately as he can tell it.) His youthful enthusiasm was sometimes amusing, such as when he asserts that: “Terence McKenna is a fucking genius, the smartest man to have ever walked this Earth.”

A couple of topics Turner brings up are tantalizingly left hanging. He reveals toward the end of the book that he: “was being authoritatively ordered by the Self-Transforming Machine Elves to mass produce DMT and distribute it widely [...] There was no utter way I could’ve gotten caught. At least, that’s what I thought at the time.” [emphasis added], and he relates: “I got a job to help me come up with around a thousand dollars that I needed for the synthesis.” (Presumably by “synthesis” he means “extraction”.) Alas, he provides no further comments on how he fared as a DMT manufacturer-dealer. In the very next line he meets his first-ever girlfriend, who later tells him: “it’s either me or your psychedelics”. Her ultimatum helps him realize: “Everything is psychedelic. [The] Forms are everywhere”. Yet readers are left wondering how the love story of a hard-core psychonaut and the teetotaler for whom he reformed his ways could have turned out in the end. (Hopefully the two of them are currently living happily ever after?)

Despite the sometimes stilted writing and typesetting errors in this evidently self-produced, published-on-demand book, I can still recommend The DMT Chronicles as an interesting and courageous journal of entheogenic exploration.

2 Comments »

  1. Just got through reading this book. This was a truly fascinating read. With his descriptions, I felt like I was right there in each trip with him. Excellent writing. There weren’t any typesetting or grammatical errors in the book I bought off of amazon. Don’t know what this reviewer was talking about. Eh??? If Turner says he was going to synthesize DMT, then he was going to synthesize it and not do a simple extraction, which anybody off the street could do. Synthesizing it is not easy, but Turner sounds like he knows what he is doing. I don’t know why the reviewer said he was extracting it when he said he was going to synthesize it. I guess the reviewer doesn’t know beans about chemistry. Overall, this was a nice piece of outstanding prose. This book presents a great take on Plato’s forms. I learned much that I did not know.

    EROWID NOTE: The printed copies of this book that we have seen contained no contact information for the author or publisher; however, it appears that the book is being produced via print-on-demand (POD) technology, as the last page of the book includes a code with a specific “printed on” date listed. The copy here is dated “16 December 2012”. And this copy contains a level of typesetting and grammatical errors high enough that it induced repeated and frequent wincing. (Indeed, the reviewer included a quotation that happened to evidence one such typo (which also appears in the copy here): “extreme scaring [sic]...”.) One of the somewhat strange, wonderful, and concerning things about POD—and e-book publishing, as well—is that many companies who offer these services will allow authors to resubmit the digital master file for their books. While this provides multiple opportunities for correcting errors within books, it also means that the printed word has become less reliable as a static source of information. (Minitrue visions spring to mind!) If your copy of the book was produced sometime after mid-December 2012, it is possible that the author/publisher rectified the myriad mistakes previously peppered throughout. But Erowid can certainly back the reviewer’s remark on the matter, based on the two copies of the book that we have seen.

    It is understandable why the reviewer would suspect that Turner was “presumably” extracting rather than synthesizing DMT. Extraction is, as you point out, much simpler. Extraction carries substantially less potential legal risk, since chemicals needed for synthesis are on the DEA watch list and may be restricted in other various ways at the state level. Synthesis requires more specialized lab ware, which can be difficult to obtain without providing ID, and which will add to the production costs. Synthesis can be more dangerous; for example, a DMT synthesis using lithium aluminum hydride (a DEA Special Surveillance List chemical) carries the risk of accidentally starting a very hot-burning fire, if the chemical comes into contact with water. You comment that Turner “sounds like he knows what he is doing”, and while we agree that he gave the appearance of being an intelligent and curious individual, we don’t recall that he mentioned having any training in chemistry. Considering the increased legal risks, added costs, higher level of potential physical danger, and need for more specialized knowledge, we suspect—as the reviewer did—that most novice DMT producers would opt for extraction over synthesis. However, Turner does say that he needed “around a thousand dollars” to pull off the synthesis. Since a DMT extraction business could be started for a fraction of that cost (ramping-up production to meet demand via sales income, thereby negating the need to come up with anywhere near $1k in advance), it may indeed be that Turner wanted to produce DMT the legally riskier, costlier, more dangerous, and more challenging way—perhaps in order to learn more about chemistry.

    Like yourself and the reviewer, we also enjoyed this book.

    Comment by Bryan Nguyen — 3/7/2013 @ 11:53 pm

  2. I read the spirit molecule by dr. Rick Strassman and found it very informative. This book also sounds interesting. Thanks for the review I will most likely check out this book.

    Best regards, Robert from drugtimes.org

    Comment by Robert — 5/29/2014 @ 3:14 pm

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