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Mystical Molecules and Other Trips to Ego Death [Episode 7]

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

Have you ever wondered how taking psychedelics (or, "tripping" as it’s typically called) leads to experiences with the unknown?  Or how some people have trips that completely transform them?  This week we’re unboxing what “ego death” means and how humans have long sought to lose their egos, to transcend themselves, through a variety of pre-mortem death and rebirth rituals (ex. baptism) including… psychedelics.  Yep, drugs!



  • Transformation is a mystical experience that can lead to ego death

  • Pre-mortem death (a “death” before death) and rebirth is seen across various cultures

  • To become a revered Bezerker, Vikings first transform themselves into their totem animal and battle in the wild

  • Pain may allow for transformation

  • Psychedelic experiences can be mystical

  1. Meditation: the goal is changing your relationship to your thoughts without changing their content; no attempt to alter thoughts

  2. Psychedelics: contents of consciousness change radically-- sights, sounds, and thoughts are impacted.

  • Symptoms during a Trip (“Ego Loss”):

  1. Bodily pressure (Earth sinking into water)

  2. Clammy coldness followed by feverish heat (Water sinking into fire)

  3. Body disintegrating or blowing into atoms (Fire sinking into air)

  4. Pressure on heaven ears (Rocket launching into space)

  5. Tingling in extremities

  6. Feeling the body melting or flowing as with wax

  7. Nausea

  8. Trembling or shaking, beginning in the pelvic regions and spreading up the torso -- taken from The Psychedelic Experience


  • “To experience ego death is to confront your worst fears in a brief period of time. With its ability to clear a safe space for getting over yourself, an acid trip substantially reduces the fear of death and probably reduces fear in general, which I imagine is the case for many frightening things. I imagine skydiving has a similar effect or bungee jumping -- anything so conducive to extreme anxiety that you feel bolder for having survived it.” --Hamilton Morris, VICE correspondent

  • [Ego death is] “a very complex and strange thing that involves, at least, loss of consciousness, like washing away into a black ocean of unconsciousness, then coming back and not really knowing where you were or what happened. You could just as easily call it being reborn, but you don’t need to call it anything. There is no word to describe it — who knows what it is? It’s a pharmacological fact and no language will ever describe what it is accurately. It’s a neurochemical change.” --Hamilton Morris, from “The Ego’s Death Trip

  • “The mystical experience is doubly valuable; it is valuable because it gives the experiencer a better understanding of himself and the world and because it may help him to lead a less self-centered and more creative life.” --Aldous Huxley

Referenced in this episode

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