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  • Author or Editor: Michael James Winkelman x
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Background and aims

Psychedelic entity experiences are examined from perspectives of evolutionary psychology and neurophenomenology. Their similarities with other entity experiences illustrate the need for a general biological explanation of entity experiences. Mechanisms are proposed to involve innate modules, operators, and intelligences that underlie ordinary cognitive inferences and provide the basis for supernatural thought.

Methods

Comparisons of ayahuasca and dimethyltryptamine (DMT) entity experiences with other types of entity experiences show their fundamental similarities to conceptions of spirit guides, mythological beings, divinities, extraterrestrials, angels, celestial beings, demons, gnomes, dwarfs, elves, and others. Entities exemplify the properties of anthropomorphism, exhibiting qualities of humans. Comparative methods are proposed to identify common features and differences in psychedelic and other entity experiences.

Results

Features of psychedelic entities reflect the functions of principal innate operators and modules (i.e., animacy detection, social role inferences, and mind reading) that have central roles in the explanation of the genesis of spirit experiences and beliefs. Humans’ innate psychology includes diverse forms of self and alien self-phenomena, providing mechanisms for explaining psychedelic entity experiences. Neurophenomenological approaches illustrate that the physiological effects of psychedelics can account for release of innate modules and mental organs. The concept of the phantasy mode of consciousness provides a mechanism through which our unconscious causal and explanatory mechanisms produce accounts of encounters with non-human beings. The extensive interaction of DMT with the receptorome explains why these experiences give such a powerful sense of ontological certainty.

Conclusion

Psychedelic entity experiences share central features with a robust innate human tendency to attribute agency, intentionality, causality, and personhood and to create accounts involving human-like qualities and entities.

Open access