Psychedelic Technologies

Science & Technology — POSTED BY David Luke on July 26, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Imagine… you are strolling along the Esplanade at Burning Man, and something catches your eye. Bands of lights are rapidly moving up and down a 30 foot high pyramid, from Red at the bottom, through Orange, Green, Turquoise, Indigo, Violet, and finally White light at the top. Nothing too unusual, but look! Projected on 10 by 10 screens to either side of it are complex geometric patterns pulsing like fractal mandalas. You say, “What’s the big deal, I see that everywhere?” But upon closer inspection you learn that the people waiting in line are eagerly anticipating the moment they will stick their finger into a Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) meter, measuring the electrical conductance across their skin. It’s like a lie detector test, measuring just how calm or agitated these Burners are. This in turn produces a tone, which varies according to the relative stress of the Burner. The tone is then translated into a geometric pattern by a cymatics device. This consists of a transducer, which is basically a speaker, underneath a flat (now vibrating) metal plate with grains of salt on top. The salt, sand, water, or even cornstarch, is now creating beautiful geometric patterns, which is finally projected onto a screen for all to witness.

By Tom Jenks

You’ve waited patiently and now you’re up at bat. You want to take a few practice swings before the real thing right? Here, lie down on this comfy memory foam, inside a chamber fitted with noise canceling material, and wrapped in wire mesh and aluminum foil to block any stray electromagnetic radiation. “Here, put these on and just float on a sea of bliss,” the facilitator says as he hands you a pair of glasses, headphones and GSR meter for your finger. A flicker of doubt crosses your mind. “What the hell, it’s Burning Man, man,” your inner psychonaut reassures you as the lid closes. Inside you hear the GSR on your finger driving the sound in your headphones. You’re agitated and so is the sound. The light from the special glasses also indicates significant stress. “Shit, I’m a mess.” Bhvvvv. More agitated sound. Bhvvv. “Damn it!” Bhvvvvvvvv. “Forget this crap I’m just going to get comfy on this memory foam and float through the clouds.” Beewwwww. The sound is calm, the light is serene. “Wow, that was easy. I just let go of fears and relaxed into the moment.” The lid opens, you step into the hot seat, slide on the GSR meter, and instantly the cymatics projection explodes into the most beautiful shimmering fractal the crowd has ever seen.

This galvanizes the mass of onlookers into a frenzy. You whisper to yourself, “I never thought such beauty was possible!” As you stand there in a state of unrivaled ecstasy, the crowd catches your fire and starts chanting – beauty, beauty, beauty, beauty!!! Bvvvhhaaaaaoo! “What the?” The pyramid of lights whirs to life as the sound amps up and lights go from red to orange to green up towards the top. The crowd is overjoyed! A facilitator notices your perplexed gaze and tells everyone, “Beneath the pyramid is a Random Event Generator and the lights and sound goes up or down depending on the coherence or odds against chance of the outcomes. It has been found that focusing intently on it can raise the coherence and thus elevate the light, pure white light being the highest level of coherence at the top.” The energy is electric. A bolt of lightning blasts through your head and ripples out through the people concentrating on raising the pyramid of light. The words come out of nowhere and past your lips, “We are infinite potential!” The light races through indigo, violet and ultraviolet – a sudden collective gasp – boom. Pure white light blasts out of the top and bathes all in the primordial essence of being. All you can do is wonder. You’ve disregarded Terrence and have given in to astonishment. You think it’ll never end, but something creeps up, like a serpent through your veins, a nagging doubt – “is it real?” Immediately the light is gone, the pyramid plummets to a dull red and blackness envelops all. Guess not. You walk off the stage, kick the dust, and choke down a sugary drink at the nearest bar. A single tear rolls down your cheek and splashes in the playa dust. “For a moment… it was real.”

And it could be. It’s all technically possible – just a matter of connecting a few cords to a few computers and whatnot. I’m not an audiovisual or computer technician by any stretch, but I don’t see why it can’t be done with a little group mind and elbow grease. If this project piques your interest, join up and let’s make it happen!

Some operational thoughts: The above is only one permutation of many amazing possibilities. I’d like your input to improve it! For example:

We could use brainwave entrainment with an audiovisual synthesizer (using specific light and sound frequencies) to drive the brainwaves into say, an Alpha or hypnagogic state, and see how that affects the GSR and cymatic patterns.
Audiovisual synthesizer:

Perhaps a dance floor covered with salt, with a massive transducer underneath, pumping in the vibes from wireless GSR meters on the dancers?

Could the cymatic pattern be projected as a 3d hologram instead of merely on a flat screen? Or we could throw on a mixture of cornstarch and water to create a non-Newtonian fluid and grow some 3d cymatic creatures!
Cymatics in action – video of changing sand patterns:
General Cymatics info:

We could have 4 participants each with GSR meters hooked up to the original setup, with one side getting as agitated as possible and the other trying to remain calm, and have emotion battles! Perhaps the tones from each side would be averaged together to produce 2 different cymatic patterns, one the product of restlessness, and the other the result of serenity.

Other measures of biofeedback could be used, such as the coherence of heart rhythms, pulse rate, or even an EEG of brainwaves. The raw data from each of these could be displayed on a separate screen, with a high/low record holder list.
Biofeedback devices:

The Random Event Generator idea could be expanded to have 3 separate towers of lights with three different REGs, with one mega tower in the middle averaging the coherence of all three. We could add some kind of reward, like a beautiful sound when the lights reach certain levels of coherence, with a loud gong at the top. Perhaps integrate specific chakra sounds from the root (red) with a C sound to crown (white) B sound.
Chakra sounds:
REG general info:
REG light:
REG capable of linking with computer:

The original color progression was inspired by the levels of consciousness chart here:

The REG aspect would be interesting to simply record and correlate it with events such as Burning the Man or the Temple, or even with the level of ambient sound or light levels on the playa.

We could strategically place some dream machines around the REG pyramids to help entrain brainwaves to an Alpha or hypnagogic state. These are rotating cylinders with slits cut up the sides, on top of record players with light bulbs inside.

Finally a very basic option is to simply have microphones for people to sing, chant or play music into and see what cymatic patterns they produce.

I would also propose we develop a short survey of people’s experiences, to get data on how well it works (how mystical/transpersonal the experiences are) for different people, and particularly of interest would be to record a rough estimate of people’s value structure (developmental stage) and also note any pharmacological agents at work. This data, when correlated with people’s biofeedback record, would be invaluable!

This entire setup may seem like an impossible dream, but so has every idea that ever tested the perceived boundaries of creation. I cannot think of a more empowering or trans-formative technological achievement to devote resources to. Let’s use our ingenuity, our technical expertise, our vision, and our burning passion to do what has never been done, to manifest the mind, and will novelty into being. Let’s go to moon, 21st century style.

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  • jedimindtraveler says:

    I’m delighted to see this here! To me this is the most exciting kind of project one could be involved with – practical displays of mind manifestation, pointing to the vast uncharted power of the mind to play a role in conscious creation of reality.

    I would particularly encourage people to develop hardware and software that can display the results of Random Event Generators and biofeedback such as Heart Rate Variance in creative, stimulating ways. The more feedback we get from our thoughts and focus, the more sensitive our mental machinery can become, and the better we can fine tune and train our minds to create the realities that we imagine.

    If you’re interested in contributing and collaborating, email me at jedimindtraveler at

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