‘Ganzfeld’ is a German word for a featureless field. The Ganzfeld effect is a phenomenon where a person of normal sight is unable to see anything after staring at any featureless, monochrome field for even a few seconds. This is a normal response from the (human) brain when it is starved of any stimuli.
Some of the earliest reported occurrences were of the artic explorers. When the environment around them, both ground and sky, was all white, due to the ice and the atmospheric conditions they would suddenly see darkness setting in and everything would be black. At first they thought they were going blind. Later, whenever there was any movement in their field of vision or with some features showing up everything would be normal.
We know now that the human brain needs continuous and changing input from the eyes for it to be able to process information, otherwise it just cuts off the signals from the eye. There’s nothing going wrong with the eye or the brain during the process and the condition is reversible. The portion of the brain responsible for this is the Reticular Activating System (RAS). When you wear something on your arm, say a watch, you are aware of its presence for a short while initially. But after you get used to the sensation it is relegated to the back of your mind. This is because the brain is no longer interested in the stimulus that it does not need to be aware of. There may be more important tasks to manage. Even as you are reading this, there is the pressure that your shirt is putting on your body (come to think of it, our clothes are not exactly weightless) and the pressure the air around is putting on you. We are not aware of the atmospheric pressure when we step outside, which is a miracle, considering the immensely heavy volume of air weighing down on us from above as well as around us.
We are constantly being bombarded by stimuli from our environment, but we may not be aware of all of them at all. It is possible to artificially simulate a Ganzfeld. There are goggles of various kinds available in the market designed to do this. A simple home-made Ganzfeld goggle would have two halves of a hollow plastic ball of appropriate size covering the eyes and light shining on it from outside. It must cover the eyes completely and be padded around the edges to prevent any detail in the surroundings from being picked up by the peripheral vision. With the right conditions the effect is dramatic and takes place consistently. Interesting, but what is the use of this effect? Frankly, we have to explore the possibilities. People use it to meditate, in hypnosis and all activities where an altered state of consciousness, one different from the normal waking state, is required.
Hypnotic Visions: The Ganzfeld Effect, the Dark Retreat, Prisoner’s Cinema
The Ganzfeld effect is the name given to the hypnotic phenomenon in which visual imagery manifests from the subconscious mind while staring at a featureless expanse of color. Experimenting with some variation of this phenomenon is a faster way to reach a deep hypnotic trance than many forms of mediation. Wolfgang Metzger, who found that when his experimental subjects stared at an undifferentiated field of color they began having visions (“hallucinations”) and measurable changes in brainwave activity. Metzger claimed the phenomenon was the result of the brain’s search for missing sensory stimuli, resulting in amplified neural noise which was interpreted in the higher visual cortex.
The field of manifestation could be anything from the field of color perceived when the eyes are closed, to the darkness of a pitch-dark room, to the rather comical practice used in Ganzfeld experiments of taping halved ping-pong balls over the eyes and shining a colored lights onto them until the experimental subjects go into trance.
The phenomenon itself is has been well known since antiquity — it is the result of entering a fairly deep hypnotic trance in which the subconscious begins to bring emanations of its contents upward toward conscious awareness. These messages manifest through the same sensory metaphors that the subconscious mind already uses to create our perception of the physical world.
The Dark Retreat
Occultists among the ancient Greeks and Tibetans engaged in the process of entering dark caverns to receive insights from their subconscious minds, or from the otherworldly realms which occult theory suggests can be reached through the psychopompic faculty of the subconscious mind. The ancient Egyptians did the same thing in lightless rooms inside the pyramids.
The phenomenon has also been experienced by also sorts of other people such as arctic explorers staring at featureless expanses of white snow, prisoners in dark cells (for which the phenomenon has been termed “prisoner’s cinema”), astronauts, pilots, and miners trapped in underground caverns who end up having visions of apparitions.
Staring at any fixed point induces a hypnotic trance, but an undifferentiated field of color is particularly desirable because it minimizes sensory focus points for the analytical conscious mind to latch onto. This is the same phenomenon induced by sensory deprivation experiments.
Ganzfeld experiments have been used to test for latent ESP and has been investigated as a parapsychological technique to study telepathy since the 1970s. The subjects described the exact process one experiences when tapping into the Inner Mind and having hypnotic visions: First they saw only a fog of murky colors which initially caused doubt in the first-time subjects, then brief flashes of clear high fidelity visions of strange phenomena. These included all sorts of things ranging from symbolism to landscapes, or fantastic, mythological, or alien beings.
Often during this process all color will drain from the field of vision and become a black void, in which there are usually lots of swirling colors and lights. As the trance deepened the subjects experienced hallucinations, time distortion and many other classical hypnotic phenomena. Deepening the trance resulted in the visuals bridging over into other sensory metaphors such as hearing, touch, etc.
One of the Ganzfeld experimenters’ interesting insights was that interlacing the hands and fingers or crossing the arms associated in disassociation from normal kinesthetic sensations and enhanced the synchronization of the hemispheres of the brain.
Inducing a Psychic State with Ganzfeld Effect
The human brain produces a great deal of electricity—perhaps as much as 10 watts. A relatively small number of brains wired together could power a light bulb! The electricity that comes from your wall outlet oscillates, pulsates, or switches 60 times per second. That means the current flows at 60 hertz (Hz). Your brain current also switches at various Hz. By measuring these differing hertz, we can divide normal brain activity into four basic states: Delta, Theta, Alpha, and Beta.
When the brain produces 15-40 Hz, it’s in the most active state, Beta. One engaged in conversation, reacting quickly and efficiently, is in this state.
If one takes a break, perhaps using the restroom, and is reflecting alone, the current lowers to the Alpha state, 9-14 Hz.
One in meditation or deep, focused thought (such as working on a math problem) is usually in the Theta state, 5-8 Hz.
At 1.5-4 Hz, the lowest frequency, Delta, is usually only reached during sleep.
Monks, seers, and those who enter “psychic states,” like remote viewers and precognitives, are usually in a Theta state. However, it can be difficult for some to switch into this state at will. However, there is one simple method that can be used to make the brain automatically enter this state. It’s generally known as the Ganzfeld technique.
Take a translucent ping-pong ball, cut it into two perfect halves, and place each half over each eye, careful of any jagged edges. If the ball has writing on one half, you’ll have to use the clean half of two balls, since you want a uniform surface, free of writing or defects. If you stare straight ahead, the mini-domes take up the entire range of vision, including peripheries. This leaves no edges or contrasts on which the eyes can focus. Once the brain determines there is nothing to distract the eyes, it automatically shifts into a Theta state within a few minutes. Since the light still stimulates the optic nerve, it seems better than simply using complete darkness.
Try this while lying on your back in a quiet, peaceful environment, pointed toward a bright light. The effect can be enhanced by using light-blue balls, or staring at a light-blue light through white balls. If you use the color red, a variety of strange hallucinations can be triggered. You may experience better results.