The Ganzfeld Experiment 09.04.17, Oslo (Praksis)
(initiated and organised by Monika, photographed by Monika and Nina T)
Some years ago – during development of my forthcoming work “Every Thought There Ever Was” the psychologist Julian Leff (an expert on schizophrenia and an advisor to the UK government on policies on mental health) had told me about experiments he had made to test the occurance of hallucination by decreasing sensory input. To do this he blind-folded the participants, they wore gloves and were taped into armchairs so that they could not move and listened to white noise. Quickly most of them began to hallucinate. When Monika proposed a similar experiment I was really excite to see what would happen.
Monika set up an hallucination labs in the practice office using red lights ping-pong balls (cut in half) and headphones with white noise playing out of them. We were instructed to not shut our eyes beneath the halved ping-pong balls, which were cellotaped to our faces, but to stare into the middle of them without focusing. I was tired so couldn't keep my eyes open (I was probably the one snoring in the video…). Every time I closed my eyes I fell into a dream. All of the dreams with the exception of one (an image from the side of a man with a long black beard) were located in the room I was lying in. Each time I started to see other things (beyond the red wash of light passing through the balls) I was unaware that I'd fallen asleep. As soon as I opened my eyes the dreams stopped. All of the dreams were of Charlotte and Nicholas Nicholas.
When I was awake and staring at the interior of the ping-pong balls I did have a very strong impression that I could see through them to the ceiling. I had some doubts but it was so vivid that I felt that it was happening. I can not say for sue that this was also a dream – I questioned this at the time but was confidant I was awake.
There was some corruption of the experiment as the wooden floor betrayed any movement in the room and documentation of the process by members of the group gave too much exterior phenomenal sensory information to allow the brain to seek out imagery outside of reality (i.e. to hallucinate).
The time seemed very short and the sudden ceasing of the sound after one hour came as a shock. This may have been because I had been sleeping more than I was aware of!
The white noise made me very relaxed, far more then I had achieved in the flotation tank earlier in the week but the experience was not as phenomenally extraordinary as the anechoic chamber.
Visit to an Anechoic Chamber
The chamber itself was visually arresting but it was as the director started to speak to me inside of the foam filled room that I realised that his voice had become oddly remarkable. The voice came out of him in such a way that I had never experienced a voice before. The sound was over located. It hovered around his mouth as if from a highly tuned directional speaker. It became lmost like a visible lump in the front of his face. But I also couldn't place his distance from me, the volume seemed wrong.
He had stood quietly when we first entered and after a few moments. He was watching me to see how I would react. I was overwhelmed by a feeling like relief at the intense silence. I found myself crying inside and the hairs on my arms were standing on end. I had a feeling of utter peace that also felt like a collapse (a folding in). It was as if I had found something I had been looking for/longing for without knowing it.
I also realised that I had had this sensation before, also in Norway. This was at a time in the winter in the mountains on a frozen lake where there was a similar silence. The snow seemed to absorb and buffer anything that would have been audible.
Later I realised that most of the intense sublime experiences in nature that I had experienced had this quality of audible peacefulness. This would have been reinforced visual perception but it was the sound/ the silence of it that elevated the event into something more transcendental.
I recall hearing the sound of tiny broken shells gently moving in the water on the shores of an island in Lofoten, it was overwhelming…