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LUCIA N°03: Psychedelic experience induced by flickering light

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Johanna Kemmerer, M.Sc.

Psychologist, Psychiatric Nurse

Johanna Kemmerer is the coordinator for MIND's Lucia N°03 light sessions.

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Edited by Jennifer Them & Lucca Jaeckel

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    “Everything that helps us progress could be a good thing to do, even if it scares us at first – as does everything, that’s big and new.”  

    –  Engelbert Winkler1 

    There are many ways to alter your consciousness and encounter a psychedelic experience. Methods apart from psychedelic substances include deep meditation, breathing techniques, music, ecstatic dancing, or flickering light – to mention just a few. 

    We at MIND provide experimental workshops and self-experiences in which altered states can be explored, legally and safely. In this first explorative offer, we induce an altered state with flickering light. The light device we use is the Lucia N°03, which is a combination of stroboscope and halogen light bulbs that can induce a hypnagogic experience, an altered state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep. The effect of Lucia N°03 can also be described as Flicker Induced Hallucination (FIH).

    In 1819, the physiologist J. E. Purkinje2 was one of the first who scientifically described this effect, which he induced by facing the sunlight with closed eyes and making shadows with his hands. In 1963, the neurophysiologist W.G. Walter3 also reported on this phenomenon after stumbling upon it during a diagnostic session for epilepsy. His patients described patterns and colors appearing in front of their closed eyes3. Based on his findings, the poet and painter Brian Gysin invented the Dream Machine in the 60s4. 

    In 2009, the psychologist and psychotherapist Engelbert Winkler and the psychologist and neurologist Dirk Proeckl invented the “Lucia light”, based on findings from research into near-death experiences and hypnotherapy and their use of stroboscopes and halogenic light in their practices5. Since then it has been used by artists, in wellness facilitation, and therapists, to mention just a few. 

    In March 2018, MIND began offering light experiences to those interested. Lying on a massage chair, with their favorite music playing in the background, participants are safely guided through the experience by one of our ‘Light Attendants’. As one lies comfortably with the eyes closed, the light turns on and the psychedelic experience begins. Each session starts with a two- and a five-minute-long demo session of varying intensity, after which the light traveler chooses one of the many possibly Lucia programs. Every session with the Lucia light is highly individual and depends not only on the person, but also on their whole mindset: the mood, the attentiveness and the playfulness, curiosity, and openness to the experience. What the experiences with the Lucia light usually have in common is an intensity that is hard to put into words, although some have tried.  

    Here are some user remarks (translated by the author from German into English):  

    I saw my favorite color, super intense, and it came in a pattern which reminded me of my mother’s sewing machine. I feel like I want to be in a sewing factory and tailor clothes with all those beautiful patterns.”1 

    “I felt like I was dreaming or sleeping, I’m not sure I was awake the whole time. But I can remember beautiful patterns moving towards me, three-dimensional, and it felt like I could see 180°. I feel very calm now.”1 

    “What is it good for? Well, to uphold the beauty in lifewhat else?”1

    Since MIND’s clinical partner organization OVID started to provide psychedelic-augmented psychotherapy in February 2021 MIND does not offer such experimental sessions with the lamp anymore. Stroboscopic light sessions have become part of the prepration for ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. There it plays the role of a low-threshold learning tool: with the lamp, people are invited to explore their mind and their body in a relaxed and curious manner, build awareness for their inner processes, self-confidence and train their ability to let go and accept processes with as little judgement as possible.

    Our work at MIND relies on donations from people like you.

    If you share our vision and want to support psychedelic research and education, we are grateful for any amount you can give.

    References:

    1. Winkler EJ. Streben nach Sein – das Sonnenspiel: Die Entwicklung des heliotropen Atmens für Therapie, Selbsterfahrung und Psychonautik.  Santler H, editor. Textmaker; 2016.

    2. Purkinje J. Beiträge zur Kenntnis des Sehens in subjectiver Hinsicht [Internet]. Prague: Vetterl; 1819. 176 p. Available from: http://echo.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/MPIWG:DFKXMEUG

    3. Walter WG. Das Lebende Gehin – Entwicklung und Funktion. München/Zürich: Knaur; 1963. 246 p.

    4. Eulen BC, Tavy D, Jacobs BC. From Stroboscope to Dream Machine: A History of Flicker-Induced Hallucinations. European Neurology. 2009;62(5):316–20.

    5. Light Attendance GmbH. Statement zur Wirksamkeit von Lucia N°03. [Internet]. 2015. Available from: http://www.gesund-im-licht.at/downloads/2015%20Statement%20zur%20Wirksamkeit%20Lucia%20N03%2020150823%20engl%20dt%20www.pdf