The term “entheogen” literally means, “generating the experience of God within”.
Historically, entheogens have been used by various cultures around the world
throughout human history to assist in the process of generating “spiritual” and “religious”
experiences. While there are potential connections between
entheogens and historically non-dual or mystical religious traditions, in many cases we
can find more clear connections to shamanic traditions, which are often more of a
dualistic nature and may or may not involve emphasis on non-dual states of awareness
Shamanism vs. Non-Dualism
Within shamanic practice, the distinctions between “self” and “other” are maintained, promoted, and even
cultivated and refined. The non-dual experience is what is often called in religious literature a “mystical”
experience wherein the apparently artificial boundaries between “self’ and “other” disappear and reality and being
are appreciated and directly experienced as one unified system in which any distinctions are understood as merely
conventional constructs of the mind. Another way of putting this is to say that in non-dual experiences, the limited
identification and association of the individual with his or her ego has been transcended, along with all sense of
separation or isolation.
The Nature of the Ego
The ego is an individual’s sense of self as distinct from other people and things. Regardless of any culture’s
worldview or religious or spiritual practice, the default state of being for humans is to have a sense of self that is
experienced as somehow distinct and separate from others. It is the aspect of our awareness that allows us to self-
reflectively ponder the nature of our being and provides for a sense of personal identity. It is also that part of
human awareness that gives rise to all manner of forms of identification such as culture, religion, spirituality,
politics, etc. Virtually all aspects of human cultures are, at root, manifestations of the ego and its need to create a
sense of self that is distinct from what is characterized as “other” or “not self.” The “problem” with the ego is that it
is a fiction, and at its core, it is fundamentally empty or without inherent identity or substance. The ego itself is not
so much a thing as it is a collection of various patterns of thought, behavior, belief, and expression. Taken
collectively, the various patterns of mobilization of energy that the individual uses to create a sense of self, is the
ego. While ego-based consciousness and identity is the default setting for human awareness, it is not absolute and
can be transcended. Liberation from the ego occurs when the individual has reached a deep enough level of
awareness to be conscious of the illusions, fears, and motivations of the ego and consciously chooses not to engage
them on a moment-to-moment basis as they arise.
Transcending the Ego via Entheogenic Experience
We are now ready to look at the question of how entheogens relate to the
possibility of ego transcendence and ultimately, liberation from the ego. From a practical
standpoint, entheogens are the best possible tool available to human beings for
experiencing transcendence and liberation from the ego. This has to do with both the
energetic nature of the ego as well as the nature of the amplification and enhancement of
experiences of energy as afforded by ingestion of entheogens: this is an “energetic”
question and not a question of religion, spirituality, or metaphysics. It is a very practical
question with practical applications, and does not require anything even remotely
understood as spiritual.
To restate, the ego is comprised of a collection of patterns of thought, belief,
behavior, and expression. All of these patterns are fundamentally energetic in nature:
they are expressions and mobilization of energy within an individual’s being/body/mind.
By definition, all such patterns are limited and are based on making dualistic distinctions.
It is their limitations/distinctions that provide for a distinct sense of self and identity.
More importantly, these energetic limitations are challenged by the energetic expansion
and awareness afforded by entheogens, which is why entheogens are the ideal tool for
transcending the energetic limitations of the ego.
From the perspective of the ego, a full energetic opening (or non-dual experience)
feels like the dissolution of everything that the ego thinks, believes, understands, or is
able to identify or conceptualize. For the ego, it feels like, “Oh my God, THIS IS IT!”,
whatever that “it” is. It is the direct experience of the infinite, beyond all limits and
without boundaries. It is timeless, eternal, and universal. Perceptually, everything appears
as universal and symmetrical patterns of multidimensional fractals of pure white/rainbow.
As stated previously, an individual must choose to let go of all identifying
patterns in thought, belief, behavior, and expression in order for entheogens to produce transcendent or non-dual
results. Radically strong entheogens, such as N,N DMT, and particularly 5-MeO-DMT, (both of which are naturally
present in all humans and mammals endogenously), are the ideal tools for assisting in full ego transcendence. This
is especially so for 5-MeO-DMT. The overwhelming sensation of the experience of 5-MeO-DMT is one of
immediate and potentially infinite energetic expansion and identification.
Practically speaking, theexperience of 5-MeO-DMT, from the ego’s perspective, is akin to dying. As the sense of
energy begins to expand into a sense of the timeless and infinite, the ego has a choice: just let go and surrender
completely, or try and hold on through any of the various patterns of thought, belief, behavior or expression that it
has at its disposal. If the individual can fully let go of all structures of the ego, then the individual is able to have a
full mystical or non-dual experience. In this experience, there is no subject and no object. There is only the
immediate experience of complete unification without any distinctions. In practical language, it is an infinite
experience as there are no boundaries or limitations of identity. This is the deepest level of non-dual experience as
expressively, it is equivalent to the statement of “I AM EVERYTHING” or even “I AM GOD.”
The greatest power of entheogens is that they make the possibility of genuine
non-dual liberation possible outside the bounds of any pre-existing tradition or system,
most of which are filled with potential ego traps and attachments. Truth, ultimately, can
only be found within, and that is always a solitary and personal journey. Entheogens are
not a short cut, though they can greatly accelerate the process. Non-dual awareness and
being is an energetic issue, not a spiritual one, and therefore tools that affect our energetic awareness, such as
entheogens, can serve as primary, and in many ways, incomparable tools in the personal quest for liberation from
self-generated illusion, separation.
This essay is an edited version of the introduction to the mini ebook, All Is One: Understanding Entheogens and
Nonduality by Martin W. Ball
(Kyandara Publishing, 2012).