The quintessential psychedelic experience is ego death. Ego refers to our “self” or rather our sense of what our self is, it is what makes us feel like an individual separated from the world around us. It is the constant “I”. Death refers to metaphorically losing that sense of self.
Ego death can take many forms, including “ego replacement” which is where rather than experience death of a sense of self, who you are is simply replaced. For example, you may “become” your grandma or “become” a character from a TV series you know.
The sense of self can also fracture into seemingly many parts, and you can experience numerous elements of your own self that lie behind the main self. It is like getting in touch with the board of directors who run your subconscious mind and decide what gets put into your main consciousness. Sometimes these different elements of your personality will have a different voice when talking in your head… Not like schizophrenia hearing voices, but like the mental voice we all hear when reading something in our minds, or thinking about something. It is usually our own voice but this changes.
But the true “ego death” experience that most are interested in is the absolute and utter loss of “self”. Total unfication with the Oneness of all things, complete awareness of the now seemingly obvious knowledge that all things are one, everything is an aspect of one thing.
Like leaves on a tree. We are a leaf that forgets it’s the tree.
Quite literally and scientifically, the sense of self is a construct of the brain and we can accurately explain precisely which systems in the brain give rise to the sense of self. Therefore, the sense of self (even if accurate) is the real hallucination since it’s created by our brain – not something inherent to being a living conscious thing. It is likely living things with brains not nearly so developed as ours would live in a constant state of “egolessness” or closer to it than we are.
Also quite literally and scientifically, we really are part of one whole. Everything in the universe is simply a formation of universal matter, the wall beside your bed, the floor beneath your feet, the car driving past you on the street, the trees, other animals, the clouds… Every single particle, every atom, everything in this universe quite literally IS the universe, in the same way a leaf IS the tree… It is a matter of perspective. Whether you choose to focus into the smaller parts of the whole, or zoom out and view the singular object – whether you choose to view the leaves or the tree.
This doesn’t seem very interesting to our usual selves, but “experiencing” this fact is unbelievably intense and profound…
In the state of ego death you are entirely aware of and unified with the “tree”. Your “leaf” self evaporates into nothingness…
To explain how it feels…
This is something incredibly difficult to explain. But look at another person’s chest rise and fall as they breathe right now, do this for maybe 30 seconds, get used to what it looks and feels like to watch this. Now… if you were to say – hit a decent amount of DMT – you could look down at your OWN chest rise and fall and it would be identical to how it looks and mentally feels watching another person’s chest breathe. It does not feel like you, it no longer belongs to you, it is like you are observing another person completely.
The ego death experience follows the path of narrowing your field of self more and more until nothing remains but that formless point of awareness. So maybe your chest seems like it isn’t you but your neck still feels like it is. As the feeling intensifies your awareness may narrow so your neck goes the same as your chest in that it is no longer you, then your mouth, nose, etc. and it keeps going until nothing is left BUT your mind.
Eventually, you experience a sensation of being without a body at all. You are just pure awareness in a void. You have no body… It is not an out of body experience in the sense that you are in a fake “spirit” body looking down at yourself like accounts of near death experiences… Rather, your awareness is simply “out there” as a singular point without form because every part of your physical form ceased to belong to you (or even ceases to exist) from the perspective of your mind…
Throughout the experience, the more and more your “body dissolves” to put it metaphorically, the more and more you feel at one with everything.
The less you are “you” the more you feel you are an “us” or “it”, and that “it” is the entirety of existence itself. It is spacetime, it is reality, it is existence itself – and you and it are one and the same. The fact that your body is LITERALLY a formation of universal matter (scientifically speaking) and thus everything in the universe IS the universe, and therefore one and the same (like leaves on a tree) doesn’t come to you as a thought like an LSD revelation… You experience it viscerally. You – now no longer a “you” but rather a disembodied awareness with no identity – ARE EVERYTHING. The everything which is the ONLY thing.
Your awareness reunites with all of reality and completely and entirely encompasses all that there is and ever will be. If a sense of “you” remains or returns it is no longer you, it is no longer your body, it is a new “you” which permeates absolutely everything. It’s in everything. If you were to watch another person’s chest rise and fall right now, it now feels like you, THIS you flows in absolutely all that exists. Your bedroom wall will be “you”… As said you permeate everything if any sense of “you” remains or returns.
In this state you often forget things about your own self and life. You might forget who you are, what you are, where you are – you might forget your loved ones and memories of your past. Coming back to sobriety again can feel like waking up from a dream. It takes some time for your system to “boot up” again – so like coming out of a dream there’s that small moment of “what’s going on? where am I?” and then “oh right, yeah, I’m *NAME* and what’s this-OH right yeah I’m holding a pipe because I just smoked DMT from it, okay…”
In some cases you may become convinced that you are dying or that you are literally dead. The latter is particularly common though I have not experienced that myself… Depending on the headspace you are in and put into, the experience can be devoid of any emotion whatsoever (probably the strongest form of ego death as human emotion and everything human ceases to exist), “loving”, peaceful, astonishing, overwhelming, and even absolutely horrifyingly scary.