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Are All Hallucinations Really Hallucinations?

Freedictionary sums it up quite nicely:
"The term Hallucinogen, in this context, is largely a misnomer that classifies drugs with disparate effects into an inappropriately general category. Some of the effects of mind-altering substances could be labeled hallucinations, as could some of the effects of alcohol or cocaine.
From a historical perspective, however, the seminal importance of these substances to human culture has arisen from an effect that is the polar opposite of a hallucination, namely the ability of these substances to elicit different states of consciousness that provide perspective on one's ordinary mindset."

One of my favorite things about Psychedelics
is examining & attempting to define the mysterious fractal boundaries
between unfamiliar zones of sensory intensification, and actual 'hallucinations'

As some may remember from 'back in the old days' there is a certain mid-range dosage level where there is just increased perception, with very novel effects to the experimenter - but no hallucinations or non existent scenes or objects ........ At first I was disappointed(!) that i didn't see the kind of 'hallucinations' i had heard about ... fantastical bizarre things, then i realized others were describing a very complex process in a simplified way,
or lacking in words & neurological concepts to describe their experience.

Most Importantly:
Let's not jump straight to the words sensory 'distortion', and 'Hallucination'
There are many distinct levels or operational modes of sensory alteration &/or re-calibration -

because any tripper can attest to the fact that sometimes
there is no distortion at all but rather the opposite -
an incredible fine tuning of the senses and imagination,
where every detail of everything within your field of perception is razor sharp and the linear reasoning abilities are still intact.
However -
Take a bit more and you start to have so many neurons firing in response to each-other, each signal traveling to more adjacent neurons, you get feedback layered on top of this perception. This Feedback is the perception of the sense organs themselves, and how they transmit their data to the brain. Eventually, at high dosages, the condition is one of perception of just the fractal feedback itself.
This is true 'Hallucinatory Vision' or perception of infinite internal feedback loops within the mind, driven by incoming sense data, but multiplied by itself and everything else ever stored in the mind and memory, at light speed.

I see it as having 8 or more levels (based on a good bit of ... errrr .... uh, 'research')
1. Increased pattern perception:

- You notice a pattern or subtlety that is super-obvious but previously un-noticed (repeating texture on ceiling, a slight smudge on a white surface, fine details of a painting, the refresh rate on your computer monitor, etc) ... and it's still there the next day.

2. 'Creative interpretation' of actual sense data:
- where you are not actually seeing anything not-real, but re-interpreting the data in creative ways. Ever seen a face-like pattern on a wood panel, your brain picks out as having 2 eyes and a mouth, or the shape of a profile? you can outline it and make a cartoon-ish face ... the face is not there, but the brain can take the random patterns and pick & enhance the ones that are the right shape. - when tripping many forms one sees are not 'false' sense data but new ways of putting it together and applying 'meaning'. Super-fueled pattern perception& tracking mixed with the brain's natural tendency to see or recognize faces, and anthropomorphic forms. - but still in the realm of "there the next day" when you are back to normal

3. Discrete Body perceptions:
- Bodily perceptions that are usually screened out by the brain, but are real. including the pattern of the 'pixels' of the visual field, internal tactile sensation of blood flow, sound of heartbeat, 'feeling' the nerves in the teeth and interior volume of the sinus cavity, etc. Still real stuff, but not useful or pleasant to perceive all the time, lol.

4. Borderline mental stuff that's hard to prove:
- such as occasional feeling you can more deeply 'understand' the 'real' meaning of an artwork, or piece of music, or the unusual ESP-like experience that Django and I shared ... a very general conversation that was non-verbal, then mutual recognition of this without ever saying it, and then some toying about with it to make sure we weren't just losing our minds. To us it was self-validating, but an observer would have just seen us looking astonished at each-other and vaguely gesturing in the air like a couple of whitfield patients. yet to us, volumes of data were passing back and forth.

5. 'Good' and 'Bad' Trips / Paranoia / Social Hallucination
- Just as all other senses and mental processes can be accelerated by psychedelics,
Paranoia can build to darkly insidious and superhuman proportions.
Your friend is acting oddly - maybe something terrible has happened and they are afraid to mention it, you feel as though everyone knows you're tripping or is staring at you, a thought about going insane becomes self-reinforcing and soon you're convinced you will never come down.
The enhanced imagination can make a perfectly logical scenario of impending disaster
by discarding all information that doesn't match the paranoid thought train, and magnifying all info that does.
After a couple of these experiences one can recognize this as what it is ...
a runaway train of negative thought propelled by some insecurity, fear, regret or misperception.
Once you realize you are the conductor of this runaway train, its easy to stop it instantly or change tracks.
Or detach yourself from the experience, knowing it's a delusion and go along for the ride as an impartial observer,
learning in-depth & first-hand of your deepest fears, prejudices and nightmares.
If someone can't master this discipline after a couple of tries, maybe 3,
they should never take hallucinogens, or only in tiny doses.

This is why I mentioned earlier that Hallucinogens are not necessarily safe as a "party" type experience.
Nor is it necessarily always gonna be fun in the normal sense of the word, a good trip is also challenging.
Ultimately it REQUIRES:
a bit of curiosity and courage,
Somewhat positive self-image, normal or near-normal intelligence and reasoning abilities,
and preferably an above-average ability to maintain total self-control or alternately,
the ZEN ability to release all control attempts & defer to inner detachment / intuition
in unpredictable, agonizing, totally alien or unrecognizable situations.

for me, even the rare occurrence of a stressful, paranoid or delusional sequence within a trip is not such a bad thing.
After that happens, and I recover and see where i went 'off track' - i'm at once more humble and thankful, but also more adept and experienced at being able to directly identify, confront and transform nearly any fear, weakness, habit, desire, false need, inner demon or outer consequence that may present itself at any time.
After a few seconds in these micro-hells you learn real quickly how to release anxiety, root out the problem
and take responsibility for your own state of mind ... no matter how many Insect Cyborg Aliens are dissecting your brain for horrible cloning experiments in a secret space-station orbiting the moon, or whatever the hyper-paranoid or real circumstances happen to be your experience.

6. Internal Imagery of various types (closed eye):
- Semi-hallucination but more of an intensification of the natural phosphene patterns we see when the eyes are closed.
It's not a total featureless blackness,
close your eyes for a moment, gently press on them and pay attention
to the subtle colors, textures and shapes in the void of the minds eye.

The low-dosage closed-eye visuals are just an amplification of this randomly geometric looking background noise
- but with more neon colors, movement, depth and geometric regularity to the patterns.

First some background ...
In Medical LSD research the basic array of visual patterns are called "Form Constants".


"One author tries to account for the different form constants by referring to the various structures in the eye. He concludes from anatomical and observed data that,"the rods and foveal cones can look backwards and that the retinal pigment and the choriocapillary circulation can, therefore, be seen under certain conditions" (Kluver, 65).

"In essence, some of our 'hallucinations' are actually views of looking backward at the retina."

"These same form constants are also commonly observed under a wide variety of conditions of psychological stress, or threshold consciousness, including falling asleep, waking up, insulin hypoglycemia, the delirium of fever, epilepsy, psychotic episodes,

advanced syphilis, sensory deprivation, photostimulation, electrical stimulation, crystal gazing, migraine headaches, dizziness and a variety of drug intoxications (Siegel 1976). The diversity of different conditions which provoke the same kinds of patterns suggests that these form constants reflect some fundamental property of the visual system."

"Form constants reported under intoxication by mescaline which are described as (a) lattice, fretwork, filigree, honeycomb, and chessboard patterns, and (b) cobweb, tunnel, and funnel patterns. These same form constants are observed under a wide variety of conditions of psychological stress, or threshold consciousness, suggesting that they are a manifestation of the eigenfunctions of perceptual processing."

- Steven Lehar, Research Fellow in Ophthalmology, Harvard University

In essence,
he is suggesting that hallucinations are not actually that, but 'real' perceptions of the 'eigenfunctions', the very mathematical processes operating within the brain/mind that produce the ordered 'visual-construct-mental-TV-reality' we normally experience as 'sight, and that psychedelics are the ideal and most direct way to study the neurophysiology of sight and the interrelationship of sight and the 'mind's eye'.

(This perfectly dovetails with my developing theory (as of 2003) of discrete psychedelic states representing increasing levels of iterative fractal-feedback within the brain/mind system and various commonly reported 'trip experiences' as particular strange-attractors in this acceleratedfeedback/chaos environment.)

6-a. Open-Eye "Visuals":
Similar to but not quite true hallucinations ...
visuals are unique and often fascinating visual effects
caused by hypersensitivity and independent action of the visual cortex
and core-level pattern-seeking functions of the brain.
(which, when coupled with our intelligence, was our primary survival asset
back when we all lived in the jungle and scanned constantly for predators and food).
Here is one example of the types of visual effects that are accelerated by LSD, etc, but also produced when the brain meets a stimulus that exploits it's own natural processing algorithms in the visual cortex, like the extreme movement in this optical illusion. (LINK).

7. Hallucinatory and visionary imagery (closed eye):

Beyond the basic 'form constants' there are other visual experiences
which are much more difficult to explain or even communicate about.

This level is paradoxical ....
Although we think of hallucinations as being 'random' or the result of 'randomly firing neurons',
the interesting (to me) feature of strong psychedelic visual experiences is their rich complexity and continuity -
Often way more complex, intricate, mathematically elegant, colorful, inexplicable, non-derivative and detailed
than anything I have ever seen in 'real' life experience, art, sci-fi effects or whatever.

It makes one wonder, with absolute astonishment, how is it even possible
to be clearly perceiving this stuff inside one's head, which is beautiful beyond all arts, languages and forms of nature?!!!

This (to me) indicates that rather than random stimulation of the brain,
being our most ultra-adaptive organ, the brain itself may be using that extra electrical signal strength
to hyper-extend it's normal routines and abilities to visualize, compute and interpret data in incredibly coherent, non-random, elegant ways that are fantastic and futuristic beyond recognizability to the 'everyday' conscious self,
as it tries to interpret the flood of internal and external data.

I have observed consistent 3-d patterns that were composed of dozens of angled layers of multicolored, semi-transparent, complex surfaces covered in mathematical looking facets & curves with every conceivable variation of hue, texture, movement, shadow and reflectivity. But unlike in dreams, they don't go away or get fuzzy when you focus on them, you can inspect fine details as though looking at something real in the mind's eye .....
The really alien hyperdimensional seeming ones are practically impossible to describe or pin down because languages are comparative - and these visions are qualitatively unique, in the sense of not being remotely derivative or traceable to anything stored in memory.

People seem to fall into two classes; ones who will experience psychedelic imagery as:


Geometric imagery or highly-complex
repeating, rotating or morphing patterns


Those who instead see faces, bodies, plants, animals and organic beings of fantastical types

I am definitely type A,
I see turning, multiplying, intersecting, glowing, blossoming geometric patterns in at least 3 or more dimensions.
without much recognizable content (in terms of conventional mathematics visualizations i'm familiar with)
definitely fractal-ish but not mandelbrot or any of the common ones.
Closer to a mix of 4-d knot visualizations arrayed with neon minimal surface domains -
always profoundly meaningful in it's ultra-elusive defiance of description.

I have never experienced much of this,
but many of the 'B' type report open-eye visions of jungles, ancient futuristic temples, clear visions of distant people or events. This type of hallucination seems more akin to a waking or fully conscious dream, with recognizable objects and landscapes and scenarios. Sounds way cool, but in all my trips I have never had that kind of hallucination.

The closest thing(with closed eyes)
was a complex 3-D scene that almost resembled stone tablets with dozens of constantly morphing & merging letters or symbols of some unknown but ultra-elegant language, they were shining like light out of the hewn-stone-like borders, arranged in a radial pattern, and seemed always just on the border of 'making sense' but always instantly evading my attempts to reconcile or match it with any remembered language or symbols.

Apparently Peyote (Mescaline) has more of this 'visionary' quality to the hallucinations
, being transported into a different scene, but an earthly type one. After the hard-to-explain-away 'psychic-ish' experiences i have had on psychedelics, i'm always amused at the stories of college kids and others who report jumping into some space/time and seeing a surprised or bemused native american shaman who is also doing an out-of-body / out-of-time trip.

8. Open-Eye Fully Immersive Hallucinations:
Well, i sure have tried ..... but,
I have actually seen very few, if any of what most would think of as a true 'classic' hallucination:
Something or someone appearing to be there with no basis at all in the incoming sense data.
A gorilla sitting on the couch or a pink elephant walking thru the wall, etc. With eyes open I have never seen anything that was not somehow based in the visual data coming in ...

tracers for example are not really a hallucination, but an afterimage, a visual echo that lasts for longer than usual.
Or, the movement of patterns on the carpet - the movement is illusory, but the pattern is real.
I recognize the crawling movement of the patterns, it's a natural algorithm in the visual cortex, the exact same movement produced by this optical illusion. (LINK)

I really can't recall a single incident of seeing a definite eyes-open hallucination -
even at levels equivalent to 15 or 20 doses of lsd.
With the eyes closed it's an ever changing, infinitely detailed fractal wonderland,
but when i open my eyes i'm still in the room, on the couch, with proper contextual orientation.
I have certainly been severely disoriented and/or misinterpreted situations and circumstances.
One time i saw jumbled letters formed by the thousands of tiny rocks embedded in asphalt (but that was a case of type 2 or 'creative interpretation' hallucination) but never have I seen any gremlins on the lawn, spirits, angels, demons or faeries

But there is hope ...
Whenever I have the opportunity to sample smoked n-n-dmt!
i will probably experience total loss-of, or total homogeneity of orientation. Apparently the visual stimulation is so intense that it's difficult and ultimately meaningless to even determine if the eyes are open or closed, if you are sitting up or lying down, etc. Things look the same both ways ...
a fully immersive experience in which all senses and even all concepts blend together, but with no loss of 'ego' or individuality - the self-referential "I" function of how you are now still maintains it's usual feel, so you can be less 1st person, and more of an astonished 3-rd person perspective spectator of these super-hallucinations for the short but endless 5 or 10 minutes it lasts ....
But Remember,
Taking Mushrooms, LSD, Peyote, or DMT
is NOT something I would recommend to most people ... (more about this)

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