Did Ebenezer Scrooge take a mountain of DMT?


Spirit guide? The British Library/Robana/Getty Images

Christmas is magic.

Christmas is transformative.

And since wee dropped two episodes on the psychedelics, science and shamanism the week of Dec. 25, I keep wondering if everyone's favorite holiday curmudgeon didn't smoke DMT on that fateful Christmas Eve.

Because what happens in "A Christmas Carol?"

A self-centered old miser barricades himself in an empty house and experiences a ghostly visitation from a dead friend. Next, three outlandish spirit entities arrive and take him on a mind-rending journey through time and space.

At the end of that experience, Scrooge re-engages the world with a profoundly increased sense of openness -- which brings us to DMT.

N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in plants such as the ayahuasca vines of South America. As with all natural psychedelics, the stuff has factored into shamanistic ritual thousands of years before anyone knew what a hippie was. Under a shaman's guidance, individuals partook of these perception-altering elements and endured intense and sometimes harrowing mental journeys through time and space. They encountered unreal entities and shades of departed loved ones. They saw the world around them as if for the first time and perceived deep truths about themselves and the cosmos. Finally, as the effects of the DMT wore off, they emerged from their mental journey transformed.

As we discuss on Stuff to Blow Your Mind, this isn't mere new age nonsense either. Researchers at John Hopkins Medical Center and other esteemed medical research labs continue to study the effects of DMT and other psychedelics -- not only to better understand how our minds work, but also to learn how these powerful substances might help us treat mental illness and maybe even find enlightenment.

Maybe even a little Dickensian enlightenment, eh?

Consider: A 2011 study at John Hopkins University gave high doses of psilocybin (magic mushrooms) to 51 test subjects. According to ABC News, thirty of these individuals experienced measurable personality changes that lasted more than a year.

And what changes? According to researcher Dr. Katherine MacLean in this episode of The Secular Buddhist Podcast, openness was affected out of all measurable personality traits.

So think about that when you watch Scrooge sprint gleefully through the streets of London embracing his fellow man and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. To what does he owe this transformation of spirit? Ghosts, a near-death experience or maybe a certain psychedelic plant slipped in his evening gruel?

"There's the saucepan that the gruel was in!" cried Scrooge, starting off again, and frisking round the fireplace. "There's the door, by which the Ghost of Jacob Marley entered. There's the corner where the Ghost of Christmas Present, sat. There's the window where I saw the wandering Spirits. It's all right, it's all true, it all happened. Ha ha ha!" -- Charles Dickens, "A Christmas Carol."

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.