The Visual Components of a Psychedelic Experience
First category of visual effects
The first category of visual effects is the enhancement of vision that is consistently reported at the lowest levels of psychedelic hallucination. It can be generally defined as an overall increase in the level of visual input attributed to the external environment that a person experiences and is manifested in a couple of different ways…
Increased visual acuity:
Visual acuity is defined by the medical literature as acuteness or clearness of vision, which is dependent on the sharpness of the retinal focus within the eye and the sensitivity of the interpretative faculty of the brain. The lowest reported level of psychedelic hallucination is a sharp increase in visual acuity which can be described as a new found ability to comprehend the entire visual field at once, including the peripheral vision. Instead of just being able to perceive the small area that a person’s eye is currently focused on, this is the case during sober living. These results in the level of visual detail attributed to external the environment heightening to the point where the edges of objects become extremely well defined. Making it appear as if all of the air has been pumped out of the room. It leaves the environment extremely well focused, clear and defined.
Enhancement of color:
Although this is one of the more basic visual effects, to be understood completely it needs to be experienced. During the onset of a trip almost all people notice that colors start to stand out more, becoming extremely bright and vivid. Reds will seem “Redder”, Greens will seem “Greener” and all colors will be become much more distinct, powerful and intense than they usually are. A
consistent way to reproduce this visual is to be outside in nature.
Enhanced pattern recognition:
This is an interesting visual effect as it does necessarily change the appearance of the external environment but rather the level of detail in which it is experienced in. During even a mild trip it is common for people to suddenly notice patterns and textures that they may have never previously appreciated or paid any attention to before. For example when looking at a carpet, a pavement or tree barks the complexity and beauty of the texture suddenly becomes obvious.
A person’s sense of Pareidolia is also increased many times over; this is the brains ability to recognize significant imagery (usually faces) in almost any vague stimuli. Common examples of this in day to day sober life include spotting faces in everyday objects and viewing clouds as fantastical objects. This is an innate ability of pattern recognition for human beings that is increased dramatically during a psychedelic experience. For example every single leaf on a tree might look like many tiny green faces,
scenery may look remarkably like people or objects and clouds might appear to be easily recognizable as fantastical objects. All of that is without any visual changes actually taking place.
Second category of visual effects
The second category of visual effects is called a distortion. They can be generally described as open eye alterations and changes in perception attributed to the external environment. They are always obviously grounded in reality and gradually increase as a person stares but are completely non-permanent, meaning that they reset to normal levels once a person double takes on the hallucination. Distortions are manifested in a wide variety of ways…
Breathing is a very common place visual that can happen to any surface or object but is usually associated with the walls of a room. This effect makes objects appear to be steadily breathing in and out, expanding and contracting in the same way a person’s chest does when they slowly inhale and exhale.
A fairly consistent way to reproduce this visual is to stare at a blank wall and lose focus.
Flowing, shifting, rippling or moving textures on surfaces are a strong visual effect that can happen to virtually anything in a
number of different styles. A classic example of this however could be a wood grain pattern flowing like a river in a simple sort of looped animation.
A consistent way to reproduce this visual is to stare at wood grain and lose focus.
Tracers are the simple experience of trails being left behind moving objects such as people, birds or cars. Tracers are usually very obvious and are similar in appearance to the same sort of trails found behind moving objects in long exposure photographs. The trails can be exactly the same color as the moving object that is producing it or can sometimes be a randomly selected color of its own. These tracers float in the air for approximately 2 – 3 seconds.
The deepest or most extreme version of this visual effect happens when your entire visual field smudges into a tracer when you simply move your eyes.
A consistent way to reproduce this visual is to move your hand in front of your face or throw an object.
This is yet another visual effect that applies to textures. Instead of simply distorting textures or making them more interesting
it seems to completely replace them with often fantastical versions of themselves. Quite often the textures on a person’s surroundings suddenly begin to repeat into themselves in a symmetrical nature, revealing images and patterns such as Aztec themed fractals.
A consistent way to produce this visual is to stare at a rough surfaces such as grass, tarmac and gravel.
Depth Perception Distortion:
It is very common to experience both extreme and subtle perspective distortions during a psychedelic experience. This is where the depths and layers of the scenery in front of you can become exaggerated, skewed or completely mixed up. A classic example of this that I often experience is the swapping of layers in scenery. This is where objects in the background come into the foreground and objects in the foreground get pushed into the background. Another example of skewed depth perception is a complete loss of
it, when the different sections of scenery both close up and far away will unify into one flat image momentarily.
An almost consistent way to reproduce this visual is by laying down under a tree and looking through the branches at the sky causing the sections of sky in between the branches to come into the foreground whilst the branches get pushed into the background.
Scenery slicing is a fairly uncommon visual but appears across multiple people and regularly enough to make it worthmentioning. This effect usually happens spontaneously and makes the scenery appear as if it has been cut remarkably cleanly into separate slices with a razorblade. These separate slices can be as simple as 3 separate sections or as complex as multiple slices of a moving interlocking spiral that’s been cut into your field of vision.
Third category of visual effects
The third category of visual effects are known as visuals. They are the experience of a person’s visual field becoming encompassed by geometric forms and are manifested in a wide variety of ways…
Visuals can be described as the sensation of a person’s field of open and closed eye vision being partially or completely encompassed by fast-moving kaleidoscopic and indescribably complex geometric patterns, form constants, shapes, fractals, structures and color. Common descriptions of visuals are generally along the lines of the geometry being fractal representations of repeating forms, embedded within each other. This geometry commonly includes vast and intricate form constants that among many other things, take the style of webs, grids, checkerboards, spirals and funnels in a huge variety of colors.
Fractals are an extremely common feature of Psychedelic visuals. They are a concept that exists within mathematics and can be described as complex patterns that repeat infinitely into themselves allowing for the same self-similar image to be found no matter how far you zoom into any part of the image.
These visuals never stand still at any point and are extremely fast changing in terms of their shape and style within themselves. This happens whilst they are naturally drifting laterally or radially across the visual field to create overlapping webs of many arising and decaying geometric patterns, all of which are visible within a single perceptual frame.
When experienced, visuals somehow have a deep sense of profoundness and importance attributed to them, and feel as if they are perfectly fitting geometric representations of your current mind state. There are 6 different levels of psychedelic visuals each one increasingly dramatic and incomprehensible.
- Visual Noise – This is the most basic level of CEV’s and can be experienced in a completely sober state. It can be described as the random light and dark red regions that can be seen under the eye lids.
- Light / Dark Flashes – This level is also easily obtainable without psychedelics and usually appears as regions of fleeting dark / light flashes of colour.
- Patterns, Motion and Colour – This is the level where things start to get distinctively psychedelic and complex indescribable shapes and patterns begin to show themselves. These patterns are usually brightly coloured and
very fractal like. These closed eye visuals generally only manifest themselves when a person is closing their eyes at first but eventually become laid across your field of vision as a flat translucent veil in front of your eyes.
- 3D Geometry – At level 4 the visuals will become fully three dimensional and sprawled out across the surfaces, walls, objects and furniture of your environment instead of displaying themselves across a simple flat veil.
- Overriding Physical Perception – This is the point at which CEV’s have become so intense, vivid and bright that they have begun to block out and replace the external world. At level 5 the environment begins to be replaced by visuals, with objects and scenery transforming into sprawling masses of geometry. As this increases the environment eventually becomes completely replaced. Giving the sensation that you are blind from being able to see so much.
- Perceived oneness with the universe – The final and most profound level of visuals occurs when the environment has been 100% replaced with visuals. As they reach their highest possible level the mind suddenly feels as if everything has somehow fit together and has become fully interconnected with itself. Leaving the tripper under a sensation that can only be described as the feeling of being exposed to everything in the universe all at once. This is so profound that in a positive setting it consistently induces a feeling that everything has been building up to this moment. As if you have been on a train you’re whole life and have finally reached your destination.
Fourth category of visual effects
Hallucinatory states are the fourth and most profound category of psychedelic hallucination. They are extremely varied in intensity but eventually become full on 3D scenarios that feel completely realistic. They are manifested in a couple of different ways…
The third sensory effect is the neurological basis behind and the subjective experience of, is perhaps the most profound
subjective sensory effect that the psychedelic experience has to offer. This sensory effect is known as a hallucinatory state, beginning at lower doses as imagery embedded within the visuals which can be described as spontaneous moving or still scenes, objects, people, animals, flowers, places or anything you could possibly imagine. They are often formed out of visuals themselves and are displayed in varying levels of detail ranging from “cartoonish” in nature to completely realistic, rarely holding form for more than a few seconds before fading or shifting into another image.
On certain psychedelics, such as LSA, ayahuasca and harmine, the imagery is manifested as an exact visual representation of whatever you are currently thinking about in your mind’s eye, turning abstract ideas into a concrete image. This particular manifestation of imagery only happens on psychedelics that allow you to slip into different variations of an extremely similar
trance-like state; a state that is simply not found within any of the stimulating psychedelics.
Psychedelic transformations can be described as open eye transformation of objects, people and scenery into new and fantastical things and objects. They are progressive in nature, which means they form by arising from patterns or objects, and then over a period of seconds drift, smooth, or lock into an entirely new appearance. The process of smoothing or locking onto a
transformation in a psychedelic hallucination requires some minimal amount of focus and concentration to sustain. Losing concentration for an instant can cause the image to fade away or shift into another image. Holding the eyes still will increase intensity of progressive transformation.
As these states of imagery become increasingly elaborate (proportional to dosage), they eventually become all-encompassing fully-fledged 3D hallucinations. These could be anything but generally fall under common archetypes such as induced mystical states, contact with autonomous entities, imagined landscapes, spirit dimensions and situations that seem so unlike anything previously experienced that they are in all probability untranslatable into English. Hallucinations often feel extremely mystical, spiritual and
religious in nature regardless of the trippers theistic beliefs and it’s not uncommon for people to report that high level psychedelic hallucinations feel infinitely “realer” than anything the person has previously experienced.
Contact with autonomous entities are very common, these entities generally appear to be the inhabitants of a perceived independent reality. They are expectant of your appearance and enjoy interacting with them in various ways. The behavior of a typical entity is one of a loving kind intelligence that simply wants to show you as much of their hyper dimensional space, bestowing specific pieces of knowledge upon you as quickly as possible before you begin to come down or slip into another hallucination. This is often done by directly manipulating what you can see and view; intentionally propelling trippers in different directions at disorienting speeds, forcing them to view or pass directly through macro and microscopic scale settings, including:
planetary systems, galaxies, quasars, natural environments, space habitats, technological utopias, neurons, DNA, mitochondria, trilobites, cephalopods, bryozoa, and artificial self-replicating machines. Once the comedown inevitably begins to happen they are genuinely saddened by your disappearance, often wave goodbye and encourage you to visit more often.
Entities can literally take any form but common subconscious archetypes are definitely present and contact with bodiless super intelligent Humanoids, Aliens, Elves, Giant Spheres, Insectoids, Beings of Light, Plants and Robotic Machines are common.
These creatures and entities are comprised of a non-physical psychedelic visual based material. Communicating with trippers via a combination of telepathy, visual linguistics, mathematics and morphing colored structures of different textures. This complex visual language is capable of expressing pure meaning in a way that our current system of small mouth noises will never be able to become close to matching.
Lower levels of simple entity contact can be described as a sensed presence of “The Other” that is clearly there but unable to fully manifest itself and communicate with you due to too low of a dosage.
Hallucinations are only possible with certain psychedelics. They are never found with LSD or any of the 2Cx and DOx family but extremely common on DMT, Mushrooms, Mescaline and Ayahuasca.
Miscellaneous, Unique and Rare visual effects:
Although there are many universally experienced visual components of a psychedelic experience, you should not allow this guide to give you preconceived notions for two separate reasons. The first reason is that although I’ve done my best with these descriptions and images they will never come close to the real experience, the real thing is incomprehensible, logic defying and impossible to translate into two dimensional images and words. The unenglishable factor is one of the few things that all psychonauts can all agree on so keep it in mind.
The second reason is that the psychedelic experience is still a subjective experience and not by any means confined and limited to these visual components as occasionally, just occasionally rare and one time only visual effects seep their way into the trips. These effects can be anything and usually occur at higher doses. Unique visual effects are completely personal to you and something that nobody else on the planet has ever seen before or will ever likely get to experience again. Psychedelics have led me to the conclusion that the human mind has not even come remotely close to being fully explored making experiencing the unimaginable much easier than most people think. So remember, do not limit your perception to the components described above, because there is more to the psychedelic experience than words can ever say.