Psychedelic Medicine


Exploring DMT Entities with Matthew Johnson, PhD


In this episode of the Plant Medicine Podcast, Matt Johnson, PhD returns to discuss previous survey research he conducted regarding DMT entities. Dr. Johnson is the associate director at the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins University, where he also works as a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. He has published widely in the field of psychedelic science and has guided over one hundred psychedelic experiences. In 2019 Dr. Johnson was the president of the psychopharmacology division of the American Psychological Association, and he currently serves as the president of the International Society for the Research on Psychedelics.

In this conversation, Dr. Johnson shares findings from his 2020 publication of survey research which investigates peoples’ experiences with DMT entities. To preface these findings, however, Dr. Johnson first lays the groundwork by explaining the limitations of scientific investigation into these kinds of psychic phenomena. He explains that science is unable to answer questions of whether or not DMT entities are ultimately real, or what the fundamental nature of these experiences is. It can, however, employ rigorous methods for analyzing reports of entity encounters in order to document common features of these experiences and the types of effects they can have on individuals.

In the survey, around twenty five hundred respondents shared their experiences of encountering an entity during a DMT experience. From the data collected, Dr. Johnson shares some of the common features of these entities. The beings are typically perceived as benevolent though there was a wide variety of ways the entities were conceptualized, ranging from aliens and machine elves to spirits and angels. Often participants believed the entities revealed metaphysical realities and the presence of these beings was frequently accompanied by extrasensory phenomena such as telepathic communication. Due to the dramatic nature of these experiences, Dr. Johnson’s research found some lasting impacts as reported by respondents, and he concludes by briefly discussing the effects of entity encounters on religious belief.

In This Episode

• What questions science can and can’t answer, and the boundaries good scientific research has to take when investigating something such as DMT entities
• The findings of Dr. Johnson’s survey research—some general trends regarding the qualities of entities described
• Effects of entity encounters on religious belief


“My bet is that if people believe that there’s some sort of reality to these disincarnated entities—that it’s not just in their mind—there are certain people that can hold that experience in a positive way that might benefit them… and probably some of these over 2,000 folks, there’s probably some people that—again, aside from whether we know it’s true or not—believing in things that no one else can prove are there is probably a bad thing.” [12:38]

“The machine elf thing, I mean, that was Terrence McKenna’s trip. And he described it—and I think he was very honest that that was his experience—and I think people who’ve heard his experience, a good number of them have had machine elf experiences because they heard Terrence McKenna’s experience.” [16:17]

“Before the experience, 28% of these people identified as atheist, and then after the encounter that dropped to 10%.” [20:53]


* The Psychedelic Medicine Podcast has allowed the Psychedelic Medicine Association to post episodes as an educational resource, and in return the PMA is hosting the podcast show notes.