Citation: BN. "Blind-folded Session in Three Phases: An Experience with Ketamine (exp110784)". Erowid.org. Sep 8, 2017. erowid.org/exp/110784
[This report originally appeared as handwritten notes in the Shulgin Pharmacology Notes Book C
, PDF page 246]
On November 23, 1986, I took 140 mg of ketamine injected intramuscularly. I entered the session physically and emotionally drained, and psychologically lost. It was the first time I had used ketamine, and my expectations were limited. Ketamine had been described to me once as producing a mental world of mechanical and monochromatic images; nevertheless, in this session I was hoping for a degree of introspection that might allow me to see some sign of the roots of my existing problems.
During the session I was lying blindfolded on a bed, listening to music (primarly Jarre's Oxygene). The session fell into three phases: a first, acute phase in which my consciousness was stripped down to a bare minimum, and I felt a process of very powerful transformation; a second, in which I moved in and out of a series of purely visual images, but with a reasonably complete conscious persona; and a third, during which I lay recovering my strength and balance and chatting with my guides. The three
phases were approximately an hour each. The first phase was interrupted once when I sat up and took off my blindfold for a moment or two--apart from that I had no contact with my guides during the first phase, and only occasional contact during the second.
My memory of the session increased steadily during the first six hours, after which I wrote down a detailed description of it. Since then, although I have thought about it frequently, no other details have come to mind. My memory of the first phase feels somewhat fragmentary, although I am sure I have all of the main points. In particular, and perhaps because of the brief period in which I woke up, the transition to consciousness at the end of that phase feels somewhat disjointed.
There was nothing pleasant in any part of the experience--the first part, in particular, was oppressive, disturbing, and sometimes agonizing. The visions, while multi--colored, were largely drab in tone and substance, like faded tapestries. Nevertheless, I emerged from it feeling much stronger, and calmer, and centered--wiser. That feeling has persisted since the session, and it is most welcome
I emerged from it feeling much stronger, and calmer, and centered--wiser. That feeling has persisted since the session, and it is most welcome
I was on a track that ran around the outside of a large, disc-shaped structure. The track had a curving roof, and a solid fence on the outside; the walls and the fence were red, and beyond them was an amorphous, reddish space. I was an intelligence occupying a large blob of red, striped or veined material on the track. The floor of the track was of the same substance as me, but separate from me and not conscious. Some powerful force was rolling and pushing me end--over-end down the track. At the outset I had some memories and a sense of past, but I knew that whatever was happening to me was irreversible and that I could not return as I had been. As I was turned and toppled I sensed that outside the track people and experiences were disappearing from my life. At the end, I think, I sensed that my son and daughter--separate entities and free to move around--were circling outside the track, watching me with love and concern. I knew, as the pressure built upon me, that I could never rejoin them. I was sure that I would die from the pounding and turning.
I passed from the track into another zone in which I was simply an awareness, with no real memory or sense of personality. The feeling of motion, of being thrust through a process, continued, but I had no real idea what it was. I thought I was dead, but I could not remember life. My surroundings were very confusing--a sense of dim light, and substance, and energy, and perhaps of an outside to this process that I was in, but nothing clearer than that. While I couldn't feel pain, I knew an unbearable sense of pressure and constriction. While I had no sense of a body, I did associate my being with some vague sort of substance.
I became aware as an entity, without form or substance, suspended in a mass of clear liquid, moving down a narrow, dark tunnel with soft red walls. (The liquid wasn't really liquid, but it was substantial; the walls weren't really walls as much as a zone of change in texture and color of the substance; I was part of the walls and yet not; the walls themselves were moving down the length of the tunnel.) As I moved I knew that I had only the slightest trace of a memory of the past--that I was once an animal of some advanced kind, with a family and history of some kind, and that I'd lived in a world attractive in some way. Slowly, as the sense of pressure increased, I felt my sense of personality being stripped away. I lost any sense of past, except the sense that there had been a before. I lost any sense of body except that there had once been mass. I lost any sense of world. I was merely a scrap of energy scattered around and through a few atoms of the substance I was in.
Not only was I being transmuted, but the atoms themselves as we moved into a new universe, a new reality, a new physics. I consisted only of three frozen questions: Would I still emerge as some sort of conscious intelligence; if not would I simply disappear completely, or would I merge mindlessly into some much vaster being. The sense of pressure and torsion was so overwhelming and agonizing that I would have welcomed any of the three options.
I think I lost consciousness briefly. As I became aware I sensed the sound and tracheal movement of my breathing; it was vast, and very slow. Color and light appeared, and slowly I associated the sound with my breath. The sound and movement were very slow and irregular, and outside my control. [As I write up these notes, six days later, I am listening to the same tape, and I realize that I may also have been hearing an interlude of wave sounds on the tape.] I panicked for fear the breathing might stop, and began unknowingly to flail at a scarf that had been covering my eyes, on top of the eye shades, and had slipped over my nose. I suddenly became aware of a room, with me on the floor and another person, whom I did not recognize but took to be female, crouched in the opposite corner of the room. This person moved over toward me, and reassured me, although I could not hear the words. The scene ended abruptly, like a dream within a dream. (It was actually NAME-2, changing the tape that had run out. He laid me back down and replaced the eye shade.)
Self-awareness began to return--more sense of light, and an awareness of my tongue and lips. After first feeling my lips with my tongue, I realized what they both were. I began moving my lips, shaping the word 'who' over and over. Then I began to shape the question 'who am I'. Soon I could hear my own voice, but blurred and fuzzy, and coming from outside me.
I was sliding rapidly down a slope or chute. I appeared to be, or be in, a lozenge--shaped mass of brownish, loose material. As I slowed, I could begin to focus on my surroundings--~brown, baked hillsides, dry earth and dry grass, scatterings of small, purplish bushes. I was on a dirt roadway, moving faster and faster in some kind of vehicle. NAME-2 was with me, and I said to him: 'NAME-2, aren't we moving fast!'
I began to remember who I was, and what was happening--that I had taken ketamine, and had revived somewhat, and was lying blindfolded on a bed. I began to look for images. First I saw a drab, brown space that resolved itself into the ceiling and walls of a large, primitive building. The building grew larger, and then the scene shifted to a birds--eye view (looking up through the top of my head!) of a small formal garden, with a hedge around it and a few topiary figures (grey--leaved plants) in the middle. I thought I could change the figures, and decided one of them should be NAME-3. I knew immediately this was not a good idea (but didn't know why). I watched a little longer, but the figures didn't change or become clearer, and I couldn't make them out.
I was looking at a brown fog, out of which loomed huge high--rise buildings (as with most of the images, I couldn't see either top or bottom). The buildings each contained thousands of rooms, most of which had pale--colored balconies. I knew that these were office buildings, and that their inhabitants were trading in power. I felt a very strong revulsion, and slowly dropped away and down beneath a large wall that shut out the buildings from my view. As my focus shifted, I was in a sort of huge labyrinth, with vast walls of stone and earthworks--no two the same, but soon becoming very drab and oppressive. I tried to move down one, but only got part way when the image began repeating itself, like a broken movie film. I moved to the top, but found I couldn't get quite high enough to see over it, nor could I move right up to it. I decided I'd seen enough walls, and began to dissolve it. It started to fade away from the top, like mist. Encouraged, I decided I wanted a beach scene; instead, I saw steep, wooded hills, with green coniferous trees. I had a brief glimpse of distant, blue waters, but the hills shifted and cut it off.
As I moved closer to the woods, I found myself in a baroque water--garden, with elaborate statues and plants growing in pedestals above the surface of the pool (I could not, of course, actually see the water, but I knew it was there.) My focus wandered among the plants and statues, each of which became more detailed and elaborate as I moved closer to it, then slipped out of my vision. I could never see an entire plant or statue, only portions of them. One or two had human features or outlines, but as I approached they became increasingly elaborate and distorted.
I tried to create human images. I could see NAME-3, naked--cream and pink and gold, and very desirable--but out of focus, as if seen through corrugated glass. I tried other figures, but without success.
I was looking at the top of a wooded bluff, with fir trees on the crest, dry grass on the front edge, and a steep, rocky cliff. I recognized it as the bluff that runs along Village Bay, on Mayne Island, and knew that the ocean lay at the bottom. I tracked down the cliff, but again got stuck before I could reach the water. [NAME-2 told me later, before I had described any of this, that at one point he had seen unfamiliar woods that he assumed were somewhere in the north. He described the top of a rounded bluff, with conifers and dry grass underfoot.]
What did I learn, and what value did it have?
I feared being alone, and I learned what it was like to be absolutely alone, without even knowledge of another.
I feared losing part of my past, and learned what it is to have no past, no memory, and even no concept of what past is.
I feared for the future, and learned how it feels when the future is completely unknown and inconceivable.
I feared death, and knew a state in which death was part of me, and welcome.
I feared change, and what it felt like to be part of a transmutation so profound as to have been previously unimaginable.
I feared being weak, and learned what it is like to be totally powerless, and in the grip of vast, unknowable and impersonal forces.
I have been in a place where I was the least that consciousness could be, without past or future, memory or hope, moorings or bearings, power or significance--~an awareness of no-self.
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