“I felt the light on my face, almost as if butterfly wings were fluttering around me, then as the voyage continued the constantly melding colors eventually embodied a giant electric-purple butterfly.”
Those were the words of the psychonaut from High Times, Cori, who sat in front of the Lucia No. 3 last week and experienced the hypnagogic light machine for the first time. The Lucia No. 3 is a patented Austrian invention that uses light to induce a unique altered state of consciousness, “a transcendental experience that is usually only accessed in extreme conditions like high performance sports, the use of entheogenics, childbirth, or in near-death experiences.”
The Lucia No.3 consists of a head-lamp that hangs from a stand that looks like something out of a dentist’s office. It has a halogen bulb in the middle, and four powerful stroboscopic (flickering) LED’s around it forming a cross. The light connects to a small laptop computer that has special software installed which allows the “administrator” to control the light with ease. The computer comes equipped with over 100 different pre-programmed light cycles that vary the brightness of the halogen bulb and the speed and intensity of the flickering LEDs.
The user stares at the light up close with their eyes closed while listening to calming music. The administrator normally recommends a couple of primer sessions, of two and three and a half minutes, before a full 20-minute session. Experienced users may even go for 40 minutes. The bright halogen bulb and the flickering LED’s almost immediately induce a strange state of consciousness that feels similar to falling in and out of sleep, hence the term hynagogic. The bright and flickering lights create phosphenes, those transient flashes of light you get when you rub your eyes, or that you see dancing around your room right after you shut the lights off (wait, I’m not the only one, right?).
People may also experience synesthesia, the combination of one or more senses. The gentle heat from the lamp made Cori feel a physical sensation on her face she thought was the wind from flapping butterfly wings. The music a person listens to can greatly affect a person visuals and feelings during the “trip.” Noore, another voyager from High Times tried the experience with two different kinds of music, first electronic and then Hindu prayer music. She said the slower, rhythmic prayer songs gave for a far more enjoyable experience, and the faster paced techno made it too much.
Trippy shapes of primary colors or the occasional silhouette of an animal were staples of all our voyages, but something about the light made it more special than just a few cool patterns. The wavelengths of light and the frequency of the flashing the Lucia uses are thought to stimulate the pineal gland, the part of the brain famous for its association with sleep, near-death experiences and DMT, the so-called “spirit molecule.”
“It started with a near-death experience I had when I was seven years old, and it had a profound effect on me so that when I studied psychology I was very interested in what happens in the brain when such kind of things occur,” said Dr. Engelbert Winkler in an interview at the Friends of Stansted hall in Stansted, United Kingdom in 2013.
Familiar with soul-cleansing effects of a near-death experience, Dr. Winkler tried to induce similar states of consciousness in his psychotherapy patients. After creating a state of hypnosis he would try to get them to imagine a bright light, but some patients had such difficulty doing this it would bring them out of the trance. To solve this problem Dr. Winkler started using an external light to help recreate the “light at the end of the tunnel” scenario. When his patients began describing amazing things after their light sessions with Winkler, he decided to go to his friend Dirk Proeckl for more input.
A professional neurologist, Proeckl used electroencephalography (EEG) to monitor the brain waves of a person experiencing the light, and got inspired to combine Winkler’s original warm, continuous light with stroboscopic (flickering) LED’s, and the first Lucia prototype was born. First made out of an old espresso machine, the current version has come a long way. They now have distributors in seven different countries, including its home in Austria.
While people may use a lot of strong words to describe the Lucia’s effects, the experience is as gentle a psychedelic voyage could ever be. Similar to meditation, the device allows you to float freely through consciousness, and sends you to a simple and timeless world for what seems like a lot longer than 20 minutes. Something about its effects makes almost everyone smile at least once during the trip, while some might even laugh all the way through it. Despite some similarities the experience always differs from person to person.
For more information about the light, visit the company’s website. If you’re interested in getting a session with the Lucia No. 3 or obtaining one for yourself, contact Allison Pelissier from The Travelling Light Machine Project, the authorized distributor for the United States based out of Boulder, Colorado.