Tuesday, February 21st 2017    |   

Toolbox  The Dreammachine

The Dreamachine was invented by Canadian-Islamic poet Brion Gysin and mathemetician Ian Sommerville in 1959. Based on Gysin's divinitory use of Sufic geometry, the motorized lamp relies on the flickering of Ishmaelite archetypes to yield an oracular state. American novelist William S. Burroughs, a devout champion of Hassan I Sabbah ("Nothing is true, everything is permitted"), made rather extensive use of the Dreamachine as a source of inspiration throughout his career.
In its original form, the Dreamachine is made from a cylinder with slits cut in the sides. The cylinder is placed on a record turntable and rotated at 78 RPM or 45 RPM. A light bulb is suspended in the center of the cylinder and the rotation speed allows the light to come out from the holes at a constant frequency, situated between 8 and 13 pulses per second. This frequency range corresponds to alpha waves, electrical oscillations normally present in the human brain while relaxing.

The Dreamachine is "viewed" with the eyes closed: the pulsating light stimulates the optical nerve and alters the brain's electrical oscillations. The "viewer" experiences increasingly bright, complex patterns of color behind their closed eyelids. The patterns become shapes and symbols, swirling around, until the "viewer" feels surrounded by colors. It is claimed that viewing a Dreamachine allows one to enter a hypnagogic state.[citation needed] This experience may sometimes be quite intense, but to escape from it, one needs only to open one's eyes.

Initially, most users observe something akin to a perpetually metamorphosing Persian rug. Within 10 to 15 minutes, entoptic effects are likely to segue into a series of cinematic images, as the brain endeavors to find order in an otherwise endless, abstract chaos. During this process, sensitive users may enter lucid dreaming.

Normally, an awake person's brain functions at between 4 and 8 electrical pulses per second (hertz, or hz). When the Dreamachine's 10 flickers per second strike closed lids, however, the optic nerve sends a 10 hz pulse signal into the cortical tissue. Because the amplitude of the newly introduced signal is greater than that of the waking brain's normal frequency, the waking brain now operates at 10 hz, the synaptic rate associated with the edge of dreams.

The reason for its five discrete shapes lies in the mathematically calculated rate of flicker generated by precise placement of a lamp fixture within the rotating cylinder. The user sits or stands very close to the machine (nose approximately two inches from cylinder), eyes closed. The flickering light induces Alpha waves to defeat Beta waves normally active in the "awake" brain. By subtly shifting facial positioning and proximity to the machine, an Alpha range of light interruptions (8-13hz) opens to the user. Effects of such periodic waves on the human brain vary among users.

Delta Wave
Delta waves
0-4 HZ
     Delta is associated with deep sleep. In addition, certain frequencies in the delta range trigger the release of Growth Hormone beneficial for healing and regeneration. This is why sleep, deep restorative sleep is so essential to the healing process. Delta waves are also naturally present in stage three and four of sleep (deep sleep) but not in stages 1, 2, and rapid eye movement (REM) of sleep.

Theta Wave
Theta waves
4-7 HZ
Theta is one of the more elusive and extraordinary realms we can explore. It is also known as the twilight state which we normally only experience fleetingly as we rise up out of the depths of delta upon waking, or drifting off to sleep. In theta we are in a waking dream, vivid imagery flashes before the mind's eye and we are receptive to information beyond our normal conscious awareness. Theta has also been identified as the gateway to learning and memory. Theta meditation increases creativity, enhances learning, reduces stress and awakens intuition and other extrasensory perception skills.

Alpha Wave
Alpha waves
7-12 HZ
This is a place of deep relaxation, but not quite meditation. In Alpha, we begin to access the wealth of creativity that lies just below our conscious awareness - it is the gateway, the entry point that leads into deeper states of consciousness. Alpha is also the home of the window frequency known as the Schuman Resonance, which is the resonant frequency of the earth's electromagnetic field.

Beta Wave
Beta waves
13-40 HZ
The beta state is associated with peak concentration, heightened alertness and visual acuity. Nobel Prize Winner, Sir Francis Crick and other scientists believe that the 40HZ beta frequency used on many Brain Sync tapes may be key to the act of cognition. Beta Waves are also split into three sections. High Beta Waves(19Hz+) Beta Waves(15-18Hz) and Low Beta Waves(13-15Hz).

Build Your Own Dreammachine

Brion Gysin's Dreamachine plans, as provided by Temple Press (thanks to Paul Cecil)

  • 36"x36" (inches) black cardboard sheet (280 or 300 grams/square meter)
  • a 78rpm turntable
  • a lightbulb (opaque, 60W/100W) with cable
  • cutter, scissors, pencil, a long rule and glue.
  • Layout Plan
  • Shape Templates: 1   2   3   4   5

  1. Divide the paper sheet into a grid of 2 inch squares as shown on the plan.
  2. Trace the templates onto the grid as shown.
  3. Cut out the holes and glue the two ends of the sheet.
  4. Place and fix your Dreamachine at the center of the turntable platform, set the speed to 78rpm.
  5. Suspend the light bulb in the center of the dreamachine, approx at 1/3rd height.