Wednesday, September 26, 2012

In Which I Hallucinate a Mental Lava Lamp: Ganzfeld 2

Turns out, extended phone calls are perfect for Ganzfeld experiments (cut ping pong balls in twain, shape them to fit over the eyes, and voila--unified field of vision).  

Within a minute, the visual field disappeared from perception, and because I was paying more attention to the conversation than to what my eyes weren't seeing, slow pulses of blue-violet began to well up through the otherwise colorless field. 

A spectrum of green, blue and violet shifted constantly through the visual field. Occasional patterns emerged--a few times a sphere of the prettiest electric violet seemed to float up through an opening where the underside of an umbrella was perceptible. 

The visuals resisted my attempt to control them, and a few other attempts brought on a quick-pulse phase, where everything was in a state of fast vibration and I knew I was only seeing the "on" moments of vision. 

It's quite hard to explain a colorless field, but it is not an experience I'm likely to forget.  Seeing but having the brain shut off vision and then replace the visual field with its own construction is as equally fascinating, and I'm wondering if I can, with practice, convince the brain to expand the visual field beyond the angle usually afforded by the eyes. 

Having seen a 180 degree field in lucid dreams makes me very interested in attaining that state in a more easily accessible way.

Other things I noticed:  moving my hand and seeing an imperfectly placed phantom of it where it would be if my vision wasn't obscured, the physical experience of the visual pulsing effects, and the ease of returning to the state after a brief interruption.

Just what can the brain do when it becomes accustomed to the Ganzfeld?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

In Which I Mutilate Ping Pong Balls

The What: The Ganzfeld effect occurs when a person stares into an undifferentiated visual field for a bit.  The brain starts to “fill in the blanks” and hallucinations tend to occur. 

The Why:  Sounds like my kind of thing.  Hallucinations while sober?  Sign me up.  I experience hypnagogic hallucinations regularly, and if I lay awake for a long time in the dark, shapes arise, usually layers of intricate designs that remind me of the artwork on playing cards.  If I'm really focused, I can bring color into it.  If I'm extremely tired, usually from a long bus trip, I can close my eyes and see a scene as clearly as I can with my eyes open.  I already see plenty of things that I know aren't physically external, so this simply seems like an opportunity to experience it at will.

The How:  Procedure!  Ping pong balls, when cut and shaped to fit over the eyes, provide a featureless field of uniform vision.  So I did that.  I also downloaded a white noise app with a setting for a static sound and used plug-type headphones to block external noise.  A light is supposed to shine into the experimenter's face, but I simply looked toward my lamp to prevent shadows.  Next time, brighter lamp.

I just realized wandering about whimpering “my eyes, my eyes” while wearing Ganzfeld goggles would be cruel to anyone who cares for me. 

Observations:  It took awhile, but eventually I realized I was no longer seeing white.  There was no more experience of color.  In one of my stories, a character is in a completely featureless place, and this was exactly what I was imagining it to be like.  It was as equally white as black, or as red as yellow or purple.  Total neutrality.  That was the only out of the ordinary experience on the visual side. 

The strangest thing was that whatever I paid attention to in my body started to happen.  I could feel my heartbeat against the edge of one of the ping pong balls, and with attention, I moved the pulse across my face and down into my hand or foot.  I could extend it to occupy my entire head.  I imagined pain, and experienced it wherever I directed it.  Also successfully experienced at will:  warmth, coldness, and tingling.

My eyes got pretty tired, so I ended up shutting them only to see a black field alight with pinpricks of various hues.  The particles of light shaped what looked like a shed.  My response was, “really?  All that and I should have just laid here with my eyes closed?” 

Blocking external sound was important—but I'll be experimenting with instrumental music as well as other forms of noise.  If you've ever experienced riding a song emotionally, you'll understand why.