Friday, July 22, 2011

Elves of the Apocalypse: "Machine Elves" and the Self-Sabotage of Psychedelic Research

By Prof Rowan
(Note: Someone tried to scrub this from Wikipedia (restored as of 6am Friday) yesterday. Hopefully this makes it all the more futile to try to make this little gem go away.)

I guess when getting worked up over whether "beings exist and not nothing at all" or whether "the nothing is really nothing" just isn't enough, you can always get worked up over the "clockwork [sic] elves" who control the global elite promising them "eternal life, total power, total control, everything you could ever want, just kill everyone [...] friendly little guys..."

Right. Most if not all mythologies include creatures resembling elves. Therefore the archetypal image must be based upon encounters with the Machine... Er... Clockwork Elves. As with all paranoid logic, this argument is easily felled by Occam's Razor, which advocates that "entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity," in short, that the "simplest answer is most likely the correct one." It is much more plausible to propose that the entities encountered during the DMT-experience could very well bear some measure of resemblance to elves (elongated and angular shapes are common); that one comes to think "if they look like elves, they are elves" at least makes sense!


To be fair, Alex didn't make this shit up. It's not just conservatives, authoritarians, loons and republicans who make research concerning the nature and uses of psychedelics virtually impossible. In the years following the relatively methodical experiments of the first psychonauts - Albert Hoffman, Aldous Huxley and Ernst Jünger (the term "psychonaut" was coined by Jünger in his book Annäherungen [Approaches] (1970)) - waves of naïvely uncritical and over-enthusiastic "researchers" provided untold amounts of ammunition to those wishing to de-legitimize, halt and prohibit psychadelic research.

J'accuse Terence McKenna! You asshat extraordinaire. I'd ask what the hell you're smoking, but we already know that!
 [Machine Elves] are dynamically contorting topological modules that are somehow distinct from the surrounding background, which is itself undergoing a continuous transformation. These entities remind me of the scene in the film version of The Wizard of Oz after the Munchkins come with a death certificate for the Witch of the East. They all have very squeaky voices and they sing a little song about being "absolutely and completely dead." The tryptamine Munchkins come, these hyperdimensional machine-elf entities, and they bathe one in love... saying, "Don't be alarmed. Remember, and do what we are doing." One of the interesting characteristics of DMT is that it sometimes inspires fear... A touch of terror gives the stamp of validity to the experience because it means, "This is real.”
The fractal elves seem to be reassuring, saying, "Don't worry, don't worry; do this, look at this." Meanwhile, one is completely "over there." ...The elves are saying, "Don't get a loop of wonder going that quenches your ability to understand. Try not to be so amazed. Try to focus and look at what we're doing." What they're doing is emitting sounds like music, like language. These sounds pass without any quantized moment of distinction... from things heard to things beheld. One hears and beholds a language of alien meaning that is conveying alien information that cannot be Englished.he fractal elves seem to be reassuring, saying, "Don't worry, don't worry; do this, look at this." Meanwhile, one is completely "over there." ...The elves are saying, "Don't get a loop of wonder going that quenches your ability to understand. Try not to be so amazed. Try to focus and look at what we're doing." What they're doing is emitting sounds like music, like language. These sounds pass without any quantized moment of distinction... from things heard to things beheld. One hears and beholds a language of alien meaning that is conveying alien information that cannot be Englished. [Tryptamine Hallucinogens and Consciousness]
They're like jeweled self-dribbling basketballs and there are many of them and they come pounding toward you and they will stop in front of you and vibrate, but then they do a very disconcerting thing, which is they jump into your body and then they jump back out again and the whole thing is going on in a high-speed mode where you're being presented with thousands of details per second and you can't get a hold on [them ...][The Invisible Landscape]
I don't blame people for having misconceptions; try getting approval for a study involving DMT - then try your luck at getting a grant - not with this nonsense having long since made the rounds.

One of these guys needs to get some drugs and some sense of perspective. Too much 'reality' easily gives way to a sort of syncretic tunnel-vision: unable to accept that the real is not the rational, the mind goes to any lengths to somehow make it all fit together and make sense.

The other guy needs to put down the pipe and spend some time in the 'real world.' He also makes the absurd claim that "the major quantum mechanical phenomena that we all experience, aside from waking consciousness itself, are dreams and hallucinations." (Tryptamine Hallucinogens) Um... The last time I checked, quantum mechanical phenomena are never experienced, whether awake, dreaming, tripping or hurtling into a black fucking hole. 

Descartes was wrong, it just makes you trip.
A recently published paper on the role played by endogenous DMT (yes, right now you have DMT floating around your body; in minute quantities) makes a great point: "ASC [Altered States of Consciousness] are only possible because of a normal waking state of consciousness. I propose that it is the role which [endogenous tryptamines including DMT] play in our waking awareness which allows them to play a role in the ASC as well.” (Endogenous hallucinogens as ligands of the trace amine receptors: A possible role in sensory perception,” J.V. Wallach, Medical Hypotheses 72 (2009) 91–94. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2008.07.052. 94). In this case, if endogenous DMT is in part responsible for how we experience waking life (visually), it follows that altered and normal states of consciousness might not be so radically divergent as we might be led to believe. It also stands to reason that if conscious experience has no intrinsic meaning, altered states of consciousness are no more intrinsically meaningful than waking life.

Alex and Terence don't just share their belief in mechanical elves; as if the elves weren't enough reason for ridicule, it gets worse. Terence has seen the Mayan Elvish Horsemen of The Apocalypse riding toward us - and predicts their arrival on *gasp* December 21st 2012.
In Case of Apocalypse Use Harpoon to Shoot Legolas
Question: In your book you sketch out what you call a quantized modular hierarchy that tries to pinpoint the points in history where all this information floods in from outside the manifold... why did you pick 2012. It is also the end of the Mayan calendar.
Terence ...My original reason for choosing the 2012 date was very idiosyncratic. It had to do with temporal distances from the date that the atomic weapons were used on Hiroshima. But once we had this program running well enough that I could see what was happening, I felt that the time-wave gave very good agreement with the historical data. The time-wave maps novelty, coming and going, from historical time. Configure it so that you'd have the zero point in November, 2012; in that case the deepest ingression of novelty before modern times was in that fifty year period in the fifth century B.C., when Laotzu, Mencius, Ezekial and Zoroaster and Plato were all active. Such a moment! Nothing has been done since except adumbrations of that work. Then, of course, as you mentioned, the end of the Mayan calendar, which is a very, very strong coincidence. The Mayan calendar was right once before. They predicted that on a certain morning on a certain day in a certain year, men would come in white ships and should be treated like gods. And on that morning of that day of that year, the ships of Cortez dropped anchor off the coast of Mexico. We're talking about forces which wrecked a civilization. Are we to believe that the Aztec civilization was wrecked on the basis of a coincidence? It isn't like that. The prophecy was fulfilled. They had good agreement between prophecy and fact, but it set them up psychologically to be conquered in a way that would never have happened had they not had that prediction in their world view. I don't want to get into it in great detail, but I think the modern relationship of science to the flying saucer is approximately at the same level of sophistication as the Mayan astronomers sophistication was to his ability to predict future events. So prophecies do have a way of coming true when you look at civilizations on the scale of millennia, and it usually bodes great change for the society in which it happens. (DYNAMICS OF HYPERSPACE: a dialogue by Ralph Abraham and Terence McKenna. Santa Cruz, CA, June 1983)
Is it too much to ask, dear reader, that this man not be taken seriously and recognized for what he truly was: an embarrassment, liability and asshat. Can we get on with it and recognize that responsible psychedelic use, especially of DMT, can have numerous beneficial effects that ought not be discounted and should be properly studied? I think it's beyond dispute, at least, that the "war on drugs" was a spectacular failure and that it's time for the puritans of the world to give up the ghost, live and let live.

Pre-order a copy of The Immanence of Myth, published by Weaponized. (Or sign up to be notified of its release on


  1. I had heard of Alex Jones but never actually heard him until encountering this. Thanks, I think.

    As for the late Terrence McKenna, the fact that he was guilty of numerous crimes against sound analysis never stopped me from enjoying his wonderfully zany and colorful prose. Since I have never encountered anyone who took him all that seriously, and he himself cheerfully offered up the proposition that he was simply nuts, his frequent forays into utter nonsense never bothered me. The two ideas that this non-user of psychedelics takes as most central to his writing - that cultures are partly defined by their favored psychotropics, and that hallucinogenics provide for a mode of exploration as valid as physical travel - both seem pretty valid to me.

  2. Ezra Ravencroft4:29 PM

    Having seen Terence McKenna speak twice I think he may have been the closest thing to an elf I've ever encountered... Personally, I rather liked the guy and thought he was a humorous, observant and responsible advocate for Otherness.

    That Alex Jones guy, on the other hand, seems chock full of asshattery.

  3. Anonymous12:35 AM

    "try getting approval for a study involving DMT - then try your luck at getting a grant - not with this nonsense having long since made the rounds."

    Dr Rick Strassman?

    Got the approval, did the study, couldn't shake the unsettling universality of the subject's experiences, hence the massive increase in interest since the late 90s.

    Would've been nice had Terence lived to see the progress of the mission he pursued so nobly and with such gentle humour and awed appreciation of the reality-shattering implications.

    Of course, there'll always be some who encounter without understanding, and ignorant of their deficit, assume the fault to lie elsewhere than in themselves; ignorant of their unknown unknowns, in Rumsfeld-speak.

    Such folk should be cautious about both projecting the intensity of their fears onto the breadth of their ignorance and also throwing around terms like "asshat".

  4. For what it's worth, I've always been somewhat fond of Terence myself, even if a lot of his work verges on fiction. (And so what? We're all about the psychological power of absolute fictions?)

    But Rowan's often one to throw punches in the dark just to see who gets angry and rushes into the fray.

  5. Anonymous12:42 AM

    Whats this shit article about? Write something original and stop criticizing the people you rip off because your mind is boggled by simple shit. I say goodaye sir, I say goodaye.

  6. Elfie the Machine elf9:17 AM

    This is a poorly constructed and misinformative article. Besides, anyone who uses the term asshat and well as drops the F-Bomb and other unnecessary profanity cannot expect to be taken seriously.
    And judging by this sad excuse for an article, I'm guessing your advertised book will be best utilized as kindling.

  7. You all realize there are multiple authors here, right?

  8. Fascinating "Prof" Rowan, a few points... and if I have misconstrued your intent with this article then that can only be due to the low level of communication you attain with your choice of words and phrase, so please excuse.
    I would openly dispute your assertion that the prohibition of psychedelic research is in any way related to the writings of Terrance McKenna, seems an easy target, you could only hope to speak with a fraction of the charisma, wit, and, dare I say experience?
    Alex Jones .. who he? Seriously what the heck has he to do with anything in the nature of research.
    I really can't see a connection between the two.
    James..."Rowan's often one to throw punches in the dark just to see who gets angry and rushes into the fray"
    Yeah he's just one crrraaazzyyy dude, doesn't excuse the very poor quality of writing and resort to insult though.
    Did I mention I didn't like the article?

  9. Has the writer of this article ever taken a DMT-related drug? No? Then shut the fuck up.

  10. Connection: who coined the phrase "machine elves" and popularized it?

    Never claimed that McKenna's responsible for the prohibition (or at least extreme difficulty) of psychadelic research. My point is that he's done us no favors.

    Alex Jones has quite a large audience. Not sure whether any portion of that audience is rational or relevant, but it definitely amplifies the discrediting effect of wild flights of fantasy.

    Out of professional concerns, I can disclose no more than that I speak from no small amount of experience.

  11. You are all free to like or not like what you want. I think if you read a thorough selection of the material on this site you'll have a better sense of the big picture here, but either way, it's interesting to me that this post has brought in over 2000 unique visits in the past day - more than any other unique post on the site in the past day. So whether or not you *liked* it, it's certainly bringing in the crowd.

    Isn't that an interesting thing about traffic?

  12. It was linked on No surprise that it's getting traffic.

    And it was linked there by who knows for whatever reason.

    Fuck Alex Jones.

    The term "machine elf" is a colorful way of describing the entities encountered during DMT trips. "Elf" is not used to denote physical appearance, but rather the nature of the being.

    If you've taken these drugs and haven't had the same experience that so many others have had, I can see why you'd think there simply is no such thing. Or, even if you've seen them for yourself, I suppose you could explain it away as a hallucination since, essentially, that's what it's defined as. Even still, it's as impossible to disprove their existence as it is to prove ours.

    So what, really, is the point of this article? To dismiss an idea because Alex Jones is trying to bastardize it? That would seem awfully shameful.

  13. James... I'd second the previous explanation re traffic & Disinfo.
    And also wonder, "Why must you defend something that requires no defense?"
    Nothing is true, everything is permitted.

  14. It wasn't 'linked' on Disinfo - I posted it there. :)

    And yeah, I post a fair amount of material there, including stuff from here there. This one has gotten more than those often do by a factor of maybe 30%.

    >Nothing is true, everything is permitted.

    Didn't Hassan I Sabbah say that? Or was it Jesus? Or Robert Anton Wilson? I forget. :D

  15. Heh, just the thought of Bob warms me cockles.

  16. Anonymous2:26 AM

    That piece was moronic and insulting. Don't get too excited about any traffic your site has none anyway

  17. And you're being moronic and insulting yourself. Alexa isn't a very reliable resource, but for what it's worth the site sees about 30,000 unique visitors a month on an average month including the 1200 subscribers subscribed through various methods.

    Which no - it isn't - but for what is considered an eclectic subject matter, explored in sometimes unorthodox ways, is not bad at all. I've worked for many web publications (and many print ones) that saw greater traffic, and many that saw less.

    My point wasn't to boast but to simply state that being contentious is sometimes a surprisingly effective traffic draw. Though you'd have to ask Rowan what his intention was in writing it.

  18. I just don't understand how or why anyone would/could write an article calling out a scientist (who is dead), saying they are an "asshat" without coming even close to providing proof or even a real reason why their ideas should be dismissed. If you claim he's wrong, the burden of proof is on you. Its already been proven that many people see the elves. But the article is nothing but "Haha, isn't he crazy? Call him crazy with me." An 8th grader doing a book report on the Spirit Molecule could come up with better arguments than are presented in this article.

  19. I agree with you about the burden of proof, actually.

    I don't agree when you say McKenna was a scientist. I'd much rather say he wrote fantasy based on experience (as most good fantasy is), and the danger arrives in people taking him literally.

    But that really doesn't matter. Neither of those things matter, so far as I'm concerned. What matters is that on the internet, you write something that gets people thinking but that your audience generally agrees with, and no one says something. If you piss people off, it's comment after comment.

    Coincidentally or intentionally, this post was written shortly after I pointed out to Rowan that though thousands of people are reading most of the posts on this site these days, very few people are saying much of anything.

    Well, he got people saying things.

    Here's my offer - I'll push the other writers here to stop the attack pieces if more of you will agree to offer constructive thoughts and exchanges in the comments that themselves don't descent into ad hominem. "I'll put away my pistol when you put away yours."


    (Of course, I don't have any kind of control of the other writers here and don't want it- but I'd like to think I have some influence.)

  20. Well said, James.

    Note the tag 'picking a fight.' The provocation was intentional, and it had the effect intended.

    No amount of proof will convince one to slaughter and eat a sacred cow (see James' post).

    Proof of elves? I'd like to see that. Anecdotes don't count: I've found that the DMT-state makes one extremely suggestible and the myth of the machine elves is widespread enough to prime the subconscious.

    It's funny that no one has said a damn thing about the Alex Jones rant. Don't you think that someone a little less crazy could also take up this myth and use it with the express purpose of discrediting psychedelic research, rather than merely fit it into a pre-given paranoid fantasy about the New World Order? It at least makes it harder to take the more important aspects of DMT and psychedelic experiences seriously.

  21. Hmmm.... technically my comment did address Jones' rant, albeit in a dismissive three words. Really, what's to say? There's no shortage of loudly vocal buffoons, and it's not fair to ask narrativists to carefully watch their every utterance to avoid being misconstrued by the least clever and clear-headed interpreters.

    I enjoyed McKenna's storytelling skills and colorful descriptions of alien encounters. His comic-book eschatology and historical analyses were to mind silly but fun. As mythmakers went he seemed fairly responsible, even admitting he had no idea what his DMT encounters actually meant and trusting his audience to draw their own conclusions about psychedelics. That's a pretty good stance for a storytelling shaman to take.

  22. Again, I say "Fuck Alex Jones."

    What Alex is doing is attempting to completely hijack a fringe concept, in much the same way the producers of 2012 popularized a complete and utter clusterfuck interpretation of the whole Mayan calendar thing. 2012 blew up the subject as much as it did it disrespect. Jones is no different here.

    @ James - the reason people don't comment when they can't challenge the information in an article is because they can't challenge the information in an article. If someone walked up to you on the street on a sunny day and said, "Gosh, it's dark ouside," I think you might be inclined to correct him. On the contrary, if he just said, "Awfully bright day," more than likely I guess one would probably nod in agreement and let it be.

    Internet blogs and news sites should seek to spread information for the sake of sharing knowledge, not to to disinform or to invoke controversy in order to invoke a response. If response is what you seek, it looks like you're flirting with the Fox News approach to getting it. Be warned: social engineering is a competitive field.

  23. I guess this site is a social experiment of a sort. But what we make of it is what we make of it. Browse around a bit. I don't know about you but I'm sick of talking about Adam Jones and even Terence McKenna.

  24. Haha. Fair enough.

  25. The problem with Prof. Rowan's argument is that he is actually a time traveling machine elf from the planet Nibiru. OK.



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