8 Altered States and Paranormal Experiencesused at Erowid with the permission of author William White
Shortly after publishing version 3.0 of the FAQ I started getting letters from people who were having what they believed to be psychic, paranormal, or spiritual experiences on DXM. As time went on, the number of these letters increased, and I received additional information from psychonauts who have used ketamine in paranormal investigations.
I gave a lot of thought to whether or not I should include this information in the FAQ. People have asked me about DXM and paranormal experiences, and in general my response has been, "you're on drugs, it's all in your mind". Unfortunately that doesn't really answer any questions, since people are obviously having these experiences, whether they are delusional or not, and nobody seems to have much idea why.
So I am going to attempt in this chapter to take an open-minded but somewhat skeptical look at the possible relationship between DXM (and other dissociatives) and paranormal experiences. It may surprise you to know that there are very good reasons to suspect that paranormal experiences may involve some of the same brain mechanisms affected by DXM. Whether or not these paranormal experiences have any validity outside of the human brain is entirely a question of faith, and I won't try and make that decision for you.
I'm also using this chapter to discuss in more detail some of the altered states of consciousness and experience that occur on DXM. These are not in any sense paranormal, but they are interesting, and discussion of them doesn't really fit anywhere else.
8.1 Preliminary Information and Discussion
We live in an Age of Reason, where science and technology are viewed as limitless in their ability to explain the world that we perceive. And, living in this age, we like to believe that we are entirely rational creatures, and that what we perceive can be explained in simple, concrete terms.
Unfortunately, it just ain't so. Humans are fundamentally irrational critters, and our conscious, rational minds are just a thin veneer layered on top of complex, unconscious neural networks which occasionally behave in bizarre ways. Many of us assume that our conscious minds are in total control, logically formulating ideas and thoughts, when in fact our inspirations, ideas, and impulses seem to come from nowhere. In spite of adherence to conscious thought, much research suggests that the brain works best when one doesn't try to think too much; as an example, one study found that hunches were considerably more accurate than the conscious mind in choosing among stacked decks of cards.
The most blatant example of our unrepressed irrational side may be the widespread phenomenon of UFO abductions. Thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of ordinarily rational people, most of whom have no good reason to lie, report alien encounters ranging from viewing UFOs to having been abducted, taken into spacecraft, and subjected to experiments. While there is occasionally physical evidence that something happened, many times there is solid evidence that nothing physical was going on at all.
Interestingly enough, these experiences are nothing new. In the 1800's, people didn't see UFO's; instead, they saw floating ships which travelled across the country. And before that, of course, were faeries, elves, and other mythical creatures. Whatever they are, and whether they exist outside of our minds or not, they seem to take on a form appropriate to the society of the time. Many of the features of the abductions stay the same, regardless of the symbols. A detailed examination of these similarities is given in Passport to Magonia (361).
There are numerous explanations for these phenomena, but one thing seems certain: for whatever reason, people are perceiving them. Recent research by Persinger et al. suggests that electromagnetic and geomagnetic fields, earth lights, and the like, may capable of inducing eddy currents in the temporal lobe limbic networks, resulting in all sorts of bizarre experiences (332,333). If you've been paying attention, you'll recall that DXM (like other dissociatives) exerts some of its effects on these very same networks.
There are still many questions to be answered, of course. Researchers have constructed devices which induce these eddy currents and can produce generic "vestibular" sensations, but these simple sensations are nowhere near the complexity of the typical alien encounter. A few have suggested that these "aliens" may be real in some sense, not necessarily little green men in flying saucers, but perhaps noncorporeal, electromagnetic entities. Other people tend to look on those few as kooks.
So in any case, whether or not you believe in the objective validity of the paranormal experience, it is hard to argue with the subjective validity of it. DXM is capable of inducing a variety of paranormal experiences, and even though it's probably "all in your head", there's good reason to believe that non-drug-induced paranormal events are also all in your head as well. Again, let me point out that whether or not you believe these are real in some objective sense is entirely a matter of faith and cannot, in general, be proven or disproven scientifically.
8.2 What Paranormal and Altered State Experiences Occur on DXM?
Here is a detailed list of various paranormal, spiritual, or otherwise altered states and experiences that can occur during the use of DXM. Most of these tend to occur at the upper plateaus and at Plateau Sigma, and many of them are very rarely reported.
8.2.1 The Dissociative Spiral
The Dissociative Spiral is a term which I borrowed (and modified) from Shulgin's PiHKAL. It describes a particular set of characteristic sensations or internal states that seem to occur as a result of some sort of abnormal temporal lobe functioning. In PiHKAL, Ann Shulgin recounts how she would experience the "Spiral" when she was younger, almost always right before going to sleep. Many people have reported the very same set of effects on DXM (and ketamine), and I suspect that people who experience it naturally may have something interesting going on in the temporal lobes that mimics the effects of dissociatives. Perhaps this is due to release of endopsychosin, or perhaps it's just the way these people's brains are wired. One person suggested it may be complex partial seizures, but I don't think there's any evidence for that.
The Dissociative Spiral seems to have four phases, each phase lasting a fixed amount of time. Not everyone experiences all phases. I have given each phase a name which I think is descriptive based primarily on the experiences of DXM users; I also suggest you consult PiHKAL for Ann Shulgin's version.
- Supernova. Ann Shulgin refers to this as "macrocosm-microcosm". There is a sensation that one's "core" is rapidly shrinking, growing ever smaller and smaller, down to the size of a subatomic particle. Accompanying this shrinking sensation is a feeling of one's "outer shell" expanding equally rapidly, until it fills the entire universe. This is generally considered as a pleasant sensation, with a slight characteristic of free-fall.
- Lilliputian Hallucinations. After shrinking down to a proton,
the Lilliputian Hallucinations begin. Everything that one imagines
or recalls seems grossly distorted in size. Human figures alternate
between tall and thin and stretched out like taffy, and shrunken
and rounded. Many people see long, thin ribbons of multicolored
There is a disturbing sense of Infinity with these hallucinations. Most find this phase extremely grating on the soul, mentally painful, perhaps because one is perceiving objects to have totally opposite characteristics at once. Some people are familar with Lilliputian hallucinations from fevers.
- Veils of Light and Darkness. The third phase consists of alternating visual fields of total, thick black and ghostly white or greyish-white. Each visual field gives way to the opposite as if veils were being torn and dissolved. The "black veil" is often described as being much darker than ordinary darkness, since even the phosphenes (the patterns one sees with eyes closed in the dark) are absent. Most people also find this phase extremely unpleasant.
- Contact. The fourth phase, and the rarest, is also the
most spectacular. After passing through the last Veil, there is
a sudden sense of being in the presence of a profoundly powerful,
loving, intelligent entity (or occasionally, multiple entities).
These typically greet the individual with empathic communication,
sending messages of familiarity, joy, love, concern, and occasionally
a vague sense of humorous curiosity at finding a human being in
this place. This phase is the most profound, and the most
To my knowledge nobody has ever done an EEG during the Dissociative Spiral,
but I have a hunch that the temporal lobes would probably be doing something
interesting. Perhaps this is a common occurance, but one that most people
are incapable of perceiving. In any case, it is frequently observed with
DXM, typically phases 1 and 2, occasionally phase 3, and rarely phase 4.
8.2.2 Deja Vu and Other Memory Mishaps
Deja Vu, the feeling that one has had the exact same experiences before, is common both during and after the DXM trip. Somewhat less common is Jamais Vu, the sensation of being in a totally unfamiliar environment when one is not. Other memory mishaps, such as recognizing unfamiliar objects or people as familiar, or familiar ones as strange and unknown, also occur. All of these are probably due to misfiring in the neural networks responsible for recognizing and recalling sensory input.
8.2.3 Out-of-Body Experiences (OOBEs)
OOBEs (Out-of-Body Experiences) are common at fourth plateau doses. Typically these start with a sensation that one is being tugged horizontally out of one's body, followed by a floating sensation. Typically one enters what seems to be an entirely different plane of existence, although rarely people report staying in the physical world as a noncorporeal entity, viewing one's body from above. The various alternate planes each have consistent physical rules, life forms, and appearances.
Explaining OOBEs is difficult and is in my opinion currently beyond neuroscience. The rational explanation is that these are delusions, but if so, then they are delusions that we seem to be in some sense programmed to experience in a consistent fashion. The one explanation I have heard that seems to make sense is that one is experiencing one's world (or more accurately, the internal model of one's world) from a "third person" perspective, i.e., the "fly on the wall" viewpoint that many people have when dreaming or recalling memories. There may be some sort of built-in spatial transformation that allows one to perceive (consciously or not) the world from an outsider's perspective and observe one's own actions. It's possible that the posterior cingulate cortex may be involved.
8.2.4 Near-Death and Rebirth Experiences
Near-death experiences (NDEs) are less common than OOBEs, and also usually occur only on fourth plateau trips. Again this seems to be something that we're wired to experience when the brain is sufficiently disrupted, either by drugs or by lack of oxygen. Following an NDE, and sometimes after a heavy upper plateau trip, one may experience a profound sense of rebirth, a discontinuity in memories as if one has begun life anew. This may be some sort of state-dependent memory phenomenon.
8.2.5 Contact with Alien and Spiritual Beings
Many people report contact with alien and spiritual beings, deities, and free-floating consciousnesses during upper plateau trips, notably during out-of-body experiences and the dissociative spiral. It has been suggested by Jaynes (350), Persinger (330-349), and others that these entities may be fragments of one's own subconscious mind that one is suddenly perceiving consciously. Curiously enough, deities seem to be more commonly female than male. I have no clue why this is the case.
There is also a more complex dissociative effect involving a unique, consistent set of beliefs about, for lack of a better term, an alien conspiracy; see Section 8.3 below.
8.2.6 Clairvoyance, ESP, and Other Psi Phenomena
A few people have reported "Psi" phenomena such as ESP (extra-sensory perception), clairvoyance (psychically seeing distant places), and the like. Telekinesis doesn't seem to be reported, although a few report that, while under the influence of DXM, they felt like they could slightly influence the laws of probability. All of these can be safely explained as simply drug-induced delusions, although there has been to my knowledge no formal research on the subject.
It is possible that ESP and related phenomena (with DXM use or without) exist but occur entirely randomly, or only when not being observed critically. Since repeatability, and invariance under observation, are the foundations of science, it may be that questions about psychic phenomena will never yield entirely to science. At this point it becomes a matter of faith.
One interesting factor which does differentiate ESP from other paranormal phenomena is that while most paranormal experiences occur more often during heavier geomagnetic activity, ESP occurs more often during decreased geomagnetic activity (346). The true believers would probably argue that the geomagnetic field is interfering with ESP; the skeptics would most likely suggest that "ESP" is just a consequence of similar thought patterns leading to similar conclusions, and that the geomagnetic field may be capable of inducing noise into the system.
8.2.7 Memory Loops and Prescient Sensations
DXM can severely alter the sense of causality, and with upper plateau and Plateau Sigma trips, one can lose one's sense of causality completely. One person reported a sudden feeling that he was contacting his own mind in the past, passing to himself the ideas and insights he had experienced as a child. Another person felt such a strong sense of deja vu, coupled with memory impairment, that he believed he'd had a prescient dream of the current events. Such occurrances are probably a consequence of the profound alterations of memory and recognition networks. It's hard to describe how utterly convincing these sensations can seem while under the influence of dissociatives.
8.2.8 Dissociative Thought Patterns
In the realm of altered states of consciousness, there are several interesting patterns of thought that occur on DXM. Typically these include a sense of deep understanding of highly abstract and often multi-level abstract concepts. Examples include self-referential statements ("this statement is false"), multi-level logic, self-creating ideas (e.g., the concept of a self-creating, self-invoking concept), and so one. One mathematics student was suddenly able to intuitively understand Godel's Incompleteness Theorem (this intuitive understanding persisted even after the DXM wore off).
Most of these concepts are in some sense self-referential, and seem to blend levels of abstraction that don't ordinarily go together. My hunch is that DXM allows the mind to create and maintain associations between increasingly far-fetched and unrelated concepts. As a result, these little "nuggets" of self-referential thought, which would ordinarily be discarded or never make it to consciousness, bubble up into the conscious mind seemingly out of nowhere.
8.3 Cosmic Coincidence Central and the Alien Conspiracy
Everyone take a deep breath, we're about to jump off into the deep end. Many people who have frequently used DXM or other dissociatives begin to develop consistent contact with "aliens" (with all due skepticism, these are probably elements of one's subconscious mind that have taken on characteristics of independent consciousness). Regardless of the cause, one particular subset of these aliens seem to have surprisingly consistent behaviour and intentions. Here, basically, is the message that can be pieced together from dissociative users.
There are numerous groups of entities or aliens, but two in particular are relevant. One group, the "helpful aliens", are attempting to guide humankind towards societal and spiritual progress with the ultimate intention that we become so far advanced that we can leave behind the earth (and possibly the physical world), and join a vast, intergalactic federation of other races. In order to keep us from blowing ourselves up or slipping into societal chaos, these helpful aliens do what they can to keep us on the right track.
However, there are limits, either by some sort of convention or law, or by the nature of noncorporeal existence, to what these aliens can do. For example, they probably can't show up in big motherships and announce peace on earth; they can't suddenly make all guns and bombs disappear. They seem to be able to influence human progress only by means that appear as coincidence, such as fortuitous events, sudden insights and inspirations, luck, and that sort of thing. Some people have suggested that these "helpful aliens" are bending some sort of "law" by helping us out, and they can only do it as long as it can't be absolutely proven that they interfered with out progress.
Then there are the "not-so-helpful aliens". Not necessarily evil, but totally unconcerned with our race, and unconvinced that we are worth the trouble of helping. Some would say that they view us as we view ants, and would have no qualms about exterminating us if they felt it wise to do so. They too are restricted to operating primarily through coincidence.
Anyone who has studied the belief systems and religions of the world will of course notice that these sets of aliens are nothing new. They are also angels and devils, good and evil spirits, and that sort of thing. There is a great deal of correspondence with the Seelie and Unseelie court of the faeries.
So we are left once again with a part of human consciousness that we don't understand, that is profoundly irrational, and that keeps stubbornly making itself known regardless of how much science and reason we try to cling to. A lot of people have these experiences, on drugs or not (or maybe the ones who aren't on drugs are connected to an "inner pharmacist" of sorts, the secretion of chemicals like endopsychosin which mimic the dissociatives).
Some people have developed surprisingly complex theories about these aliens and their goals and methods. Sometimes the aliens give their names. One person was contacted by an alien named Calsutmoran who said he was from "very far away" (pers. comm.), and explained the Cosmic Coincidence Theory. What is surprising is that someone else, who had never heard this story, also reported contact with an alien of the exact same name.
In conclusion, while I don't necessarily think we're pawns in some weird game of the aliens or spirits, I do think there's a part of the human mind that we don't understand, that may be receiving, and transmitting, information in ways we do not recognize. This doesn't necessarily require any ESP or other psychic powers; it could be as simple as gestures, tone of voice, and other factors that we use in communication that we are not directly aware of. I expect the next decade or two will see some truly rigorous investigation of these topics, and I eagerly await the results.
8.4 Are These Experiences Dangerous?
Unless you suffer from temporal lobe epilepsy (see Section 8.9), probably not. At least not physically. There is, however, always a psychological danger, and there have been cases of ketamine users committing suicide after forming deep mystical belief systems and desiring to leave the physical world. Some would also argue that any time one is forced into a spiritual contact without all of one's faculties, a spiritual danger exists as well.
8.5 How Can These Be Explained
Okay, so why do people keep having these experiences? Where do these spiritual entities and weird altered states come from? Could a simple molecule be responsible for such a complex set of experiences, or is the DXM molecule just a key that unlocks a hidden part of the brain? Here I will summarize a few theories that I have run across attempting to explain these phenomena.
8.5.1 Temporal Anomalies
The title is something of a pun, since many of these paranormal experiences seem to involve curious twists of time and causality. But the intended meaning is anomalies in the behaviour of temporal lobe limbic networks: the hippocampus and surrounding areas. It is here that memories are stored beyond the immediate (or short-term), and here where these intermediate-term memories (ITM) are integrated back into the neocortex to become long-term memory. We are still a long way from understanding how these areas work.
DXM does seem to exert profound effects on temporal lobe limbic networks. These networks may integrate sensory data from the neocortex and the current contents of intermediate term memory, keeping the results in a resonating feedback loop until it can be discarded, acted upon (by passing it to the motor cortex), or integrated permanently into long-term memory. Dissociatives seem to lower the strength of sensory input, possibly by increasing the firing of neurons which inhibit sensory networks. Similarly, the NMDA receptors which are responsible for forming intermediate-term memories are inhibited. So one is left with a resonant circuit whose other inputs have been attenuated or cut off.
These patterns (internal states) pass repeatedly through the limbic networks (and this seems to be strongly related to the production of theta waves). Eventually, the "goal" (if one wants to think of it that way) is probably to reach some sort of a decision, and then pass the information to the motor cortex where action can be taken; supporting this idea is the fact that theta wave activity drops immediately before motor cortex activation. However, with motor output reduced, one is left with a constant echoing of signals through the limbic areas (possibly bouncing back and forth among the neocortex, prefrontal lobes, and other areas). As these signals bounce back and forth without being "tied down" to sensory input or memory, they become increasingly distant in form from any normal signals you're likely to encounter.
It has been suggested that all human temporal limbic networks share a common "language", i.e., a particular pattern of neural activity in one person's limbic system and an equivalent pattern in another person's limbic system are paired with equivalent mental states (331). This is a bold assertion, and if true means that internal states (such as happiness, anger, boredom, familiarity, comfort, recognition, novelty, perhaps even as complex as "I'm being abducted by aliens") may be encoded in different individuals by the same neural patterns. Thus, the particular patterns induced by dissociatives may simply correspond to particular sensations, states, emotions, and/or beliefs, that people interpret in similar ways.
Going one step further, it may be that the reason that people encounter UFOs and aliens nowadays, whereas they encountered airships, ghosts, faeries, spirits, etc., before, was that while the internal states are the same, the memories or ideas associated with them have changed. The neural network pattern that in a modern human means "UFO" may have meant "demon" a few centuries ago. These patterns are outside the range of normal brain functioning, but may be induced by drugs, electromagnetic waves, temporal lobe seizures, and so on.
8.5.2 Complex Partial Seizures
Partial seizures involve only a subset of the brain and, if they occur in areas without direct connection to the motor cortex, may go unnoticed. Complex partial seizures are those which involve a loss of normal consciousness. Some have argued that there is a continuum between normal and epileptic, and that most people have some sort of simple or partial seizure activity at some point in their lives (343). Some signs of complex partial epilepsy do seem to be more common among females who profess beliefs in the paranormal (341).
On the other hand, a significant lack of humor is one of the hallmarks of people who suffer from temporal lobe complex partial seizures and of the experiences induced by the seizures themselves. Furthermore, those with complex partial epilepsy may show increased fantasizing but often show reduced self-esteem (334). Obviously, many people with a perfectly normal or even well-developed sense of humor are having paranormal experiences (both on and off drugs).
Whether one calls it seizures or abnormal network activity, it does seem to be responsible for some interesting things. Most common are sensed presences (339,348,349) and vestibular sensations (332). The former may be an intrusion of the right hemisphere's self-concept into the left hemisphere's consciousness (335,342). Persinger found that such sensed presences also occurred during times of verbal creativity, and may explain the embodiment of creativity in the form of the Muse (348). In fact, a more general view of the right hemispheric consciousness as an "alien" or "godlike" presence has been suggested by Jaynes (350).
8.5.3 Influence of the Unseen Environment
Another idea is that while these internal neural network states are the reason for such curious experiences, it's not the DXM (or other dissociative) alone that's responsible for the content of the experience. Instead, the DXM is just priming the temporal lobe limbic areas to receive information from "extrasensory" sources.
Before you shrug this off, however, let me explain what I mean by extrasensory. Perhaps I should have used another term, as I am not calling for one to accept psychic powers; I'm merely claiming that the brain may be susceptible to the environment in ways which we don't usually acknowledge.
The most likely of these is ultra-low frequency electromagnetic and magnetic waves, which seem to be received quite well by the hippocampus and surrounding areas (330,336-337,346-347). In fact, many species have a well-defined "inner compass" which reads the magnetic field to help determine position, and in humans, magnetite particles have been detected in the hippocampus (354). These may be an evolutionary leftover, like the appendix, or they may still function, providing part of the overall feeling or zeitgeist of a particular place. Humans are susceptible to low-frequency magnetic stimulation of the temporal lobes, and do respond to geomagnetic events (330,332-333). Alien sightings increase significantly before earthquakes, and some have even suggested using these as a predictor of future geological events. In addition to direct effects on the limbic areas, geomagnetic activity also lowers the activity of melatonin; melatonin has been shown to reduce the frequency of seizures (347).
Another possibility is that information is being perceived by the senses but forgotten, or never noticed, by the conscious mind. This information could form a complex tapestry of ideas and concepts that we are not directly aware of, and could manifest itself in breakthroughs, insights, and so on.
There is a (somewhat suspect) theory called the "100th monkey phenomenon", which posits that when enough members of a society learn something, eventually everyone will become aware of it without directly coming into contact with it. Unfortunately for its adherents, the original research on monkeys acquiring skills turned out to be flawed. However, it is worth noting that slang expressions, ideas, and so on seem to arise in a culture from numerous sources at once. What is probably going on is that the conditions that lead to these expressions and ideas saturate society, and enough people are wired similarly to come up with the same ideas.
This is what I mean by the "unseen environment" -- unconscious factors, whether of sensory or unconscious origin, that can affect us and seemingly come from nowhere. Perhaps many of the experiences people have on dissociatives are a result of this unconscious data coming to conscious mind. One possibility is that with the temporal circuitry in a closed feedback loop, slowly varying geomagnetic waves can induce common sequences of internal states in people. Another possibility is that there are unrecognized influences of popular literature (e.g., science fiction novels and movies) which color the dissociative experience.
8.5.4 Spiritual Explanations
If you want to go really far out on a limb, one can even come up with a possible theory that involves real aliens or spirits. Suppose that these creatures do exist, and that they exist in a primarily noncorporeal form (or, perhaps, they are corporeal, but influence us through noncorporeal mechanisms). Let's say for example, that there are electromagnetic entities, made up of flux lines, charged particles, and undoubtedly things we don't know about, that are alive and sentient. These entities generally hang out in deep space, or in the ionosphere, and can exert only a limited influence on the human mind because sensory data normally drowns them out.
With the senses cut off by dissociatives, however, they can apply enough energy to induce particular states in our minds. They do their best to communicate with us, but can only do so through the roughest of concepts, emotions, and ideas. Perhaps during geophysical events, when a great deal of magnetic energy is available near the ground, they can come down, feed off this energy, and contact people directly. Maybe they can even "construct" objects out of ionized particles and gases. Like ball lightning, these objects may very well tend to be radially symmetric, appearing as spheres, eggs, donuts, saucers, and the like.
Regardless of the situation enabling their contact, once they establish contact with us, they try to communicate with us. However, because of the limitations, we can only interpret their ideas in terms we are familiar with: abductions, experiments, placing microchips in our brains, or taking samples from our bodies. From their point of view they may intend to convey something totally different, but cannot bridge the language gap.
Finally, they leave, often leaving behind such physical remnants as magentized materials, curious radially symmetric patterns on the ground (indicative of a strong magnetic field and radial ion wind, perhaps?), memory gaps (which tend to happen when the brain is exposed to strong electromagnetic fields), and the like.
Of course, this is all so far off the deep end in speculation that there's nothing whatsoever scientific about it. One could just as easily say that these effects are the result of natural magnetic and electric phenomena. Until someone manages to demonstrate that alien encounters require magnetic stimuli of a more complex nature than can be explained by simple natural events, this is no more scientific than any religious faith.
One last point I'd like to bring up. In conversation with these entities throughout history, the entities (from faeries to aliens) typically report a strong aversion to iron. Now, iron has two interesting properties. One, it is at the "bottom of the well" so to speak in nuclear energy -- you can't gain energy by either fission or fusion of the iron nucleus. Two, and perhaps more intruigingly, iron is ferromagnetic, and traps magnetic flux lines. If I were an electromagnetic entity, whose very form was made out of such flux lines, I wouldn't appreciate someone dorking with them. Of course, a more reasonable explanation is that this aversion to iron is a remnant from the end of the Bronze Age, when iron was a magical metal. But the flux line theory makes a much better story, don't you think?
8.6 How do I Maximize Altered States and Paranormal Experiences?
Okay, so whether or not you believe any of this, maybe you want to try for yourself. Many people never experience anything nearly so profound on DXM, but I have heard from many who do. Here are some of their suggestions for enhancing the frequency of paranormal and altered states.
8.6.1 Theta Stimulation
Many of these effects seem to be maximized when theta waves are produced, possibly because theta waves are indicative of activity in the limbic system. Photic (light) and sound stimulation, using "light and sound" machines (see Section 7.4.3), are effective; another possibility is the "Flasher" program described in Section 7.4.5.
8.6.2 Hemisphere Synch Tapes
Similar in concept to light and sound machines, there are "hemisphere synch" tapes which use recorded sounds to induce particular brainwave activity. See Section 7.4.4.
8.6.3 Magnetic Stimulation
If you really want to go for the gusto, you can use direct magnetic stimulation of the temporal lobes. Check out papers by Persinger (there are numerous others in the field) for a start on the nature of these devices. A lot of research is being done currently in transcranial magnetic stimulation, so in addition to dorking with your temporal lobes you can also try mapping your motor and sensory cortex and checking out the potential antidepressant effect of left prefrontal cortex magnetic stimulation. Actually, if you really are interested in any of this, clear it with a physician first.
8.6.4 Sensory Deprivation and Ganzfeld
Refer to Section 7.4.1 and Section 7.4.2.
A few people report that taking a low "attack" dose at lower second plateau levels four hours or so before the main dose will greatly increase the chance for interesting altered states and paranormal experiences. It probably also greatly increases the chance for side effects and brain damage, so proceed with caution if at all.
Meditation is of course a wonderful tool for achieving altered states, with or without the use of drugs. Various meditation techniques exist, and I'm in no position to describe them, but based on published reports I would say that Transcendental Mediation is well documented as capable of inducing these altered states (349). Persinger suggested hypothetically that Transcendental Meditation may induce temporal lobe seizures via a mechanism he called "cognitive kindling" (344), but another paper disputed this, and I haven't noticed meditators convulsing with any appreciable frequency.
8.7 Factors Affecting Susceptibility to Paranormal Experiences
Some have suggested factors which affect the susceptibility to paranormal experiences. Some of the suggested factors (most of which remain to be proven) include: gender (females are more susceptibility), right-handedness, prior paranormal experiences, prior electrical shock (especially from lightning), geomagnetic events, sleep deprivation, underlying seizure disorder, and regular meditation.
8.8 A Warning About "Spiritual Shortcuts"
Drugs are tools and like all tools they have their limits. Whenever one uses a drug for its mental, psychological, or even spiritual effects, one must remember that the tool itself can never replace hard work and committment. Some would argue that using drugs for spiritual or magickal purposes is completely misguided, but others report great benefit from the use of various psychoactive drugs in meditation, spiritual exploration, and development of a personal philosophy.
Most people who are experienced with the use of drugs in this context must never take the place of sober work. Drugs may be ideal for showing one the possibilities of the mind, but once awakened to these possibilities, it is perhaps best to let memory and familiarity take the place of drug use. It is probably best to limit the use of DXM to the minimum necessary to accomplish a given goal, and with time it should become totally unnecessary. Remember, DXM can be a step along the path, but it should never become the path itself.
8.9 A Warning About Temporal Lobe Epilepsy
Many of the methods discussed above are capable of aggravating an existing temporal lobe epilepsy condition (and probably other forms). Furthermore, people who suffer from complex partial seizures may be more likely to experience paranormal events (334,341), so if you're already talking fluently with the aliens, you may want to be wary about giving yourself extra help. This type of epilepsy can remain confined to the temporal lobes forever, or can generalize to involve the cortex, and in extreme cases lead to seizures severe enough to produce brain damage or even death.