I am sure we all have once fantasized about being one of the supernatural psychics from movies we have watched. Yet, in real life, we have too often been told that supernatural is just a myth. I know… I know the ability to manipulate, to be invisible or even to be able to communicate without any senses sound crazy, but we cannot deny the possibility of their existence. Years ago, a German psychologist Wolfgang Metzger introduced the Ganzfeld experiment, which claimed to test for extrasensory perception (ESP), also called the sixth sense.
Back in 1930s, psychologist Wolfgang Metzger proposed the Ganzfeld effect, which is when people stared at a featureless field of vision; they would experience constant hallucination, with a change of their electroencephalograms. The word Ganzfeld is a German word: ‘total field’, referring to its method of replacing the whole of your field of perception.
Although both Ganzfeld experiment and sensory deprivation tank sound very alike, there is a major difference between them. The idea of sensory deprivation is to eliminate all stimuli, including visual, audio, thermal and tactile. While for Ganzfeld experiment, the idea is to instead provide homogenous stimuli. So what does homogenous stimuli means? How to ‘provide’ it?
The aim of Ganzfeld experiment is test if the subject could correctly receive information from the other person through the sixth sense. In order to do that, three people must be involved in this experiment. The subject, called the ‘receiver’, covers his/her eyes with half cut Ping-Pong balls and wears headphones with gentle white noise playing in room with red light. The other person, called the ‘sender’, stays in another room where he/she is completely isolated with the receiver. The last person is the experimenter, who is supposed to be separated from both the sender and the receiver, as a third party to record down whatever the receiver says. The sender will focus for 30 minutes on a ‘target’, which is often an image or a video clip. During this half hour, the receiver is supposed to voice out everything he/she sees or imagines. After that, the received will be shown the actual target alongside with three other random objects. The receiver has to guess which one is the target according to what he/she saw during the experiment. Although pure chance predicts a 25% hit rate. The reason why Gansfeld experiment becomes so well-known is that the experimenters consistently found a significantly higher hit rate that is closer to 35%.
Although the Ganzfeld experiment is best known for its uses in parapsychology experiments, it’s also used to induce hallucination and sensory distortion. So basically, by just simply performing the Ganzfeld experiment, you can experience an altered state of mind and hallucination without actually taking any drugs. Most importantly, it is completely safe and reversible. Some people would even carry out the experiment for meditation.
The hallucination happens during the Ganzfeld experiment can be very striking, here are some of the descriptions.
“For quite a long time, there was nothing except a green-greyish fog. It was really boring, I thought, ‘ah, what a non-sense experiment!’ Then, for an indefinite period of time, I was ‘off’, like completely absent-minded. Then, all of sudden, I saw a hand holding a piece of chalk and writing on a black-board something like a mathematical formula. The vision was very clear, but it stayed only for few seconds and disappeared again. The image did not fill up the entire visual field, it was just like a ‘window’ into that foggy stuff.”
“an urban scenery, like an empty avenue after a rain, large areas covered with water, and the city sky-line reflected in the water surface like in a mirror.”
“It was like running a bob sleigh on an uneven runway right down… [There] was snow or maybe water running down… I could hear music, there was music coming from the left side below.”
“In the right side of the visual field, a manikin suddenly appeared. He was all in black, had a long narrow head, fairly broad shoulders, very long arms and a relatively small trunk…. He approached me, stretching out his hands, very long, very big, like a bowl, and he stayed so for a while, and then he went back to where he came from, slowly.”