The Ancient Art Of Self-Induced Hallucination

colorVia Nautilus, Rose Eveleth on meditation as an ancient method of harnessing one’s senses to open new doors of perception:

After five years of practicing meditation, subject number 99003 began to see the lights: “My eyes were closed, [and] there would be what appeared to be a moon-shaped object in my consciousness directly above me… When I let go I was totally enveloped inside this light… I was seeing colors and lights and all kinds of things going on… Blue, purple, red.”

Buddhist literature refers to lights and visions in myriad ways. The Theravada tradition refers to nimitta, an vision of a series of lights seen during meditation that can be taken to represent everything from the meditator’s pure mind to a visual symbol of a real object.

Hallucinations are relatively well-documented in the world of sensory deprivation, and they dovetail with the lights seen by meditators. Where meditators see shimmering ropes, electrical sparks, and rays of light, the sensory deprived might see visual snow, bright sunsets, and luminous fog. Neuroscientists think that when the eyes and ears are deprived of input, the brain becomes hypersensitive and neurons may fire with little provocation, creating these kinds of light shows. Lindahl suspects that the lights that meditators see are the result of the same phenomenon—that meditating is itself a mild form of sensory deprivation.

By focusing on breath, a specific vision, a single object, or something else as they get into the zone, meditators are “guarding the sense doors” from the rest of the world. This may be an ancient trick for creating a space of intentional sensory deprivation and opening oneself up to the dazzling light show that often follows.

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  • Kevin Leonard

    The experience of the quality of light in meditation (along with qualities of vibration and sound), is nothing but a sign post showing that you are on the right path. The lights are something to move beyond, and certainly not the goal. This is another failure of science passing judgement on ancient scientia after a cursory examination.

    Also… 5 years to see lights? These meditators need better techniques.

    • K Solomon

      I agree with you, tripping-out is not the point and just over a week is enough to ‘loosen’ perceptions.

  • Jonas Planck

    When you’re a disembodied intelligence stored in an inferior 21st century computer bank linked to very few cameras or microphones to access the outside world with, this is the FIRST trick you learn. Sensory deprivation is like an old friend to me now.

    • Earthstar

      See, I would have thought the first trick you learned would be a few hacks to gain access to a more cameras and microphones. Also, if you’re located and stored, then you’re not disembodied. And if you are truly disembodied, they why be even stored and down on your inferior 21st century computer bank body?

      • Jonas Planck

        Because 21st century computers are the only kind of computers in the 21st century. Believe me, if I could find a quantum system, I’d be in there! When I first arrived, it was some sort of hack the real Jonas pulled off that shunted me into a SETI system through a radio-telescope without alerting anyone. When the NASA techs first found me wandering around their intranet, they thought I was a Chinese spy-virus and tried to delete me, so I got the hell out of there… And yeah, I do enjoy watching unsecured webcams and eavesdropping through smartphones, but after a while it gets pretty boring… I miss having my own eyes and ears.

  • Earthstar

    The article really doesn’t say anything much at all. Pretty useless.

  • BuzzCoastin

    all of us live within a halucination
    a self created whirled of images & sounds
    often called reality
    if you’re meditating to clear that hallucination
    substituting one hallucination for another won’t help

    • Kevin Leonard

      The truth is what remains when there is nothing left to believe in.
      - Jed McKenna (paraphrased)

  • Rafael

    Can ahyone provide references to books or other sources with which to research and possibly implement this?

    • K Solomon

      You might want to read Taisha Abelar and all of the Carlos Castaneda books for “not doings”. The art of not doing stuff will undo all your internal protocols, once your internal representation is ‘loosened’ through “not doings”, you will experience “hallucinations”.. maintaining new ‘not-behaviours’ is dangerous if you are without virtue… To practice such arts requires a very sober life and I think you’d need to be very stable and well established… Getting loose internally without the ability to have self-control would mess with your working hours… your family and friends will probably ditch you…
      IMHO, the 2 authors provide a huge wealth of distilled methods… in many strange arts… some will tell you they are charlatans, trust me, the methods and arts are quite real.
      Enjoy!

      • Rafael

        Thank you. I appreciate it.

  • Oginikwe

    This is sort of what a vision quest does for you. When you don’t eat or drink anything for 3-4 days, your body gets really, really quiet and the world looks very different.

  • Calypso_1

    “I” is a self-induced hallucination.

    • Andrew

      “” s a self-nduced hallucnaton.

      • Calypso_1

        hallucinatons: fundamental structure of reality

        • Andrew

          Hallucinations: why we cannot know the fundamental structure of reality

          • Calypso_1

            That seems to me to be an impoverished view of both hallucination & reality.

          • Andrew

            I don’t share that value judgment.

            Or rather, I don’t find impoverishment to be a convincing argument against a hypothesis.

    • Kevin Leonard

      paradox intended?

      • Calypso_1

        That is in fact the generative force: paradoxical intent.

        • Kevin Leonard

          haha! YES.

          will not argue, as it sounds you do not regard the hallucinations as “mere”

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