I’ve never dropped acid. But I did have a memorable drug-induced hallucination once, when I was 7.

I was having a surgical procedure, and as they put the gas mask over my nose and mouth to put me under anesthesia, the physical world quickly dropped away and I was staring at—how the **** do I even describe this?—an array of concentric circles, with harsh brown and yellow stripes, spinning in opposite directions, looking like snakes eating their tails. I remember vividly, too, the moment when they split apart into sections and exploded, slowly, out of my field of view.

Thirty years later, it’s clear as day to me. And I thought of it again, playing Robin Arnott’s Soundself, a virtual reality “technodelic” meant to get players into the same state of mind Arnott felt years ago when he did take acid—and subsequently came to the realization, as you do, that he was one with the entire universe.

Arnott set up a peaceful meditation tent at the PAX East expo in Boston last month, complete with a comfortable rug and a pillow, where I could lay down (praying I didn’t contract head lice), put an Oculus Rift on my head, and lose myself in the experience. Talking, or making any sounds at all, changed the series of patterns, lights, sounds, shapes that I saw, merging me and the world around me into a synesthetic collaboration.

“They call it ‘ego death,’” Arnott says. “Just as when you’re dying, as your body is in grave danger, your memory bank facilities dramatically increase, and you remember it in slow motion. The replay of that is like a step-by-step replay of the dissolution of a human being.”

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