machine elf

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Terence McKenna, who coined the term, during a panel discussion at the 1999 AllChemical Arts Conference in Kona District, Hawaii, USA


Coined by American ethnobotanist and author Terence McKenna (1946–2000), who advocated the responsible use of naturally occurring psychoactive plants.



machine elf (plural machine elves)

  1. A kind of otherworldly humanoid figure sometimes seen during dimethyltryptamine (DMT) hallucinations.
    • 1983 December, Terence McKenna, “Tryptamine Hallucinogens and Consciousness”, in The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, and the End of History, [San Francisco, Calif.]: HarperSanFrancisco, published 1991, →ISBN:
      [] I describe them as self-transforming machine elves, for that is how they appear. These entities are dynamically contorting topological modules that are somehow distinct from the surrounding background, which is itself undergoing continuous transformation. [] The tryptamine Munchkins come, these hyperdimensional machine-elf entities, and they bathe one in love. It's not erotic but it is openhearted. It certainly feels good. These beings are like fractal reflections of some previously hidden and suddenly autonomous part of one's own psyche. And they are speaking, saying, "Don't be alarmed. Remember, and do what we are doing."
    • 1988, Diana Reed Slattery, quoting Terence McKenna, Xenolinguistics: Psychedelics, Language, and the Evolution of Consciousness, Berkeley, Calif.: Evolver Editions, North Atlantic Books, published 2015, →ISBN:
      I found myself in the sort of auric equivalent of the Pope's private chapel, and there were insect elf machines proffering strange little tablets with strange writing on them. And it all went on, they were speaking in some kind of—there were these self-transforming machine-elf creatures—were speaking in some kind of colored language which condensed into rotating machines that were like Fabergé eggs, but crafted out of luminescent super-conducting ceramics, and liquid crystal gels, and all this stuff was so weird, and so alien, and so "un-English-able" that it was a complete shock.
    • 2004 December 1, Dan Carpenter, “The Invisible Landscape”, in A Psychonaut's Guide to the Invisible Landscape: The Topography of the Psychedelic Experience, Rochester, Vt.: Park Street Press, Inner Traditions – Bear & Company, published 2006, →ISBN, page 91:
      There were times when I would watch this action for 45 minutes at a time … so long that the gravity of watching these melting Lego-beings (machine elves?) slice little pieces of themselves off, to create emotions and other information, was lost in boredom. (This has to be the machine elves. McKenna may have missed something by not investigating DXM—namely that the machine elf world appears to be self/brain.)