The DMT Breakthrough: A Journey into the Bardos?

Anthony Pellegrino
Apr 19, 2020 · 6 min read

There are few experiences quite as mind-boggling than that of the DMT (N, N-Dimethyltryptamine) breakthrough. For those who may be unfamiliar, a ‘breakthrough’ is defined as a complete out-of-body experience following the consumption of a sufficiently large dosage of the psychedelic compound.

While the individual experiences can vary from person-to-person, there is a general consensus regarding the phenomenology of a DMT breakthrough experience. Under high doses, it literally feels as though you have lost touch with your physical body and break into another dimension or space. And this dimension that is very very different from the waking reality we are accustomed to.

DMT seems capable of reliably producing an out-of-body experience (OBE), in which users enter what is affectionately called ‘hyperspace.’

Journeys into hyperspace regularly involve reports of entering strange and alien spaces, encounters and communication with entities of some kind, and incredible auditory and visionary experiences.

Descriptions such as this one from Dr. Rick Strausman’s book, DMT: The Spirit Molecule, are extremely common:

Then it breaks into a ruffled reality. When I looked around, it seemed like the meaning or symbols were there. Some kind of core of reality where all meaning is stored. I burst into its main chamber.

I don’t know if it’s because of my interest in computers or not, but it seems like it’s the raw bits of reality. It’s a lot more than only ones and zeroes. It’s a higher level, very potent bits.

Hyperspace is an incredibly fascinating topic in its own right. But if you’re anything like us here at BardoVR, you may be thinking what we’re thinking.

That is: what if these DMT breakthroughs are actually journeys into the Bardo states outlined in the Tibetan Book of the Dead?

The similarities between trip reports and how the Bardos are described are certainly powerful enough to raise some eyebrows.

The separation of consciousness from a physical body; many visionary experiences; seemingly metaphysical perceptions of ‘ultimate’ reality; transcendental insight; feelings of timelessness, peace, or terror; spiritual rebirth — all of which can be used to describe both the Bardos and hyperspace.

Now, this is all conjecture, of course, but the concept is still worth exploring.

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Photo by Valeriy Andrushko on Unsplash

Timothy Leary famously thought so, too. In the early 60s, he, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert (Baba Ram Dass) authored a book on the psychedelic experience. They described and compared the mystical occurrences under substances like LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline to the Bardo states in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The idea being the Buddhist text can serve as a guide to ego death and depersonalization under the influence of psychedelic compounds.

It should come as no surprise that they titled their book, The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

While they didn’t say your mind was literally traveling into these Bardo states, they dedicated the book to Aldous Huxley, whose ideas in his book, The Doors of Perception, could be more sympathetic to such a thought.

But how could we possibly rectify some sort of inter-dimensional travel using psychedelic compounds with our everyday conception of reality and our common conceptions of brains and consciousness?

The mainstream view of consciousness is that it is an neural-physical phenomenon generated by our brains. Most brain scientists would argue, then, that consciousness is produced by fully physical means. Therefore, the feasibility of your consciousness being able to travel outside your body into other realms is ludicrous and impossible.

However, this ‘physicalist,’ as it is known in philosophy of mind, conception of the mind does lead to some serious conceptual gaps. Most notably is David Chalmers’s hard problem of consciousness.

These problems certainly leave open the possibility that the mind is not necessarily generated by the brain. Psychologists such as Peter Fenwick and Stan Grof postulate that the brain is actually a receiver for consciousness and that the mind exists independently of the brain. Possibilities such as this, at the very least, make such inter-dimensional psychedelic travel a bit more conceivable.

Aldous Huxley’s experiences with mescaline led him to think that psychedelics could be chemical devices that disable the brain from filtering out numerous signals and stimuli from reaching our conscious awareness. In effect, taking psychedelics can open this filter and allow our minds to receive these signals that are normally viewed as extraneous by our brains.

The latest brain research has more or less confirmed such an idea. The brain uses filters not spotlights in its everyday cognitive processing.

Huxley states in The Doors of Perception:

Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe. The function of the brain and nervous system is to protect us from being overwhelmed and confused by this mass of largely useless and irrelevant knowledge, by shutting out most of what we should otherwise perceive or remember at any moment and leaving only that very small and special selection which is likely to be practically useful. According to such a theory, each one of us is potentially Mind at Large.

This is no different from the idea of cosmic consciousness, or the idea that the universe, even all of reality itself, is just one, infinite, interconnected, higher form of consciousness.

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Photo by Shot by Cerqueira on Unsplash

Now, what if our ‘material’ reality wasn’t actually material at all? What if it’s all mental instead of physical? What if it was all just composed of this cosmic consciousness?

Let me put it this way:

Think about your dreams.

While you’re immersed in your dream states, you may interact with the environment generated by your brain.

You could theoretically manipulate the objects in your dream, right? And while you’re fully immersed, it all feels real, doesn’t it?

Now, if I was to ask you, what is that dream object made out of? How would you reply?

Well, it’s made of your dream, out of your mind, is it not? It can be said to be ‘made’ out of consciousness, right?

In metaphysics and philosophy of mind, this is called idealism. According to this philosophy, reality, at its most fundamental and irreducible level, is composed of dream-stuff.

The dream-stuff of infinite cosmic consciousness.

Under such a philosophy, it could be conceivable that an individual mind could ‘travel’ into other dimensions of consciousness.

If all of reality is a dream within a cosmic consciousness of sorts, and your brain receives, rather than generates, your individual mind from this cosmic consciousness, could it not be plausible for certain entheogenic compounds, like DMT, through some mysterious mechanism, to allow us to access ‘more’ of this cosmic consciousness?

As if it’s a Russian nesting doll. Imagine that smoking DMT allows us to perceive the otherwise invisible dolls that supersede our base reality.

What if these DMT trips, then, are actually ‘tuning’ into states of consciousness that ancient Buddhist teachers described as the After Death Bardo states? What if the Bardo states exist like these Russian nesting dolls and rest above our everyday waking reality?

Could it, then, be possible for your mind to ‘travel’ outside your body?

Are these DMT psychonauts truly launching themselves into new dimensions or metaphysical realms, or is it all just an overwhelmingly powerful hallucination?

If such a thing were to be true, the notion of your consciousness existing after death is incredibly promising. It wouldn’t be hard, then, to conceive of an after-death process being present in our universe like the one described in the Bardo Thodol.

Perhaps these DMT psychonauts have been visiting the Bardos all along. Maybe, after they die, they’ll be in for quite the surprise when they find themselves in very familiar places.

We’ll all just have to wait and see.

Interested in taking a VR journey into the Bardos? Be sure to check out our site

BardoVR Blog

Official blog of BardoVR, creator of AfterDeath: a…

Anthony Pellegrino

Written by

I’m a rather bohemian freelance journalist and tech content writer. Philosophy/CS student - A.I. & Consciousness.

BardoVR Blog

BardoVR’s is the creator of AfterDeath, a highly-interactive, game-based, virtual reality simulation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which describes the journey consciousness takes from the moment of death until its rebirth in another form. Check out our website:

Anthony Pellegrino

Written by

I’m a rather bohemian freelance journalist and tech content writer. Philosophy/CS student - A.I. & Consciousness.

BardoVR Blog

BardoVR’s is the creator of AfterDeath, a highly-interactive, game-based, virtual reality simulation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which describes the journey consciousness takes from the moment of death until its rebirth in another form. Check out our website:

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