Author Topic: What are Mind Machines?  (Read 781 times)


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What are Mind Machines?
« on: February 13, 2017, 07:00:22 pm »
What are Mind Machines? From the MIND-L list.

Author: "J. Brad Hicks"
[email protected]

Release: MM FAQ version 0.1
Date: Mon, 18 Nov 1991 21:44:00 -0500

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is version 0.1 of the FAQ for MIND-L, compiled by J.
Brad Hicks ([email protected]). The author is not responsible. (grin)
Send clarifications, corrections, and suggested additions to the author.
Send requests for additional info to [email protected] Send flames to


Mind Machine Digest "Frequently Asked Questions"

Q: What do you all mean by "mind machines?"

A: The phrase "mind machines" covers a whole range of technologies that
work directly or indirectly on your mind. In broad categories, this
includes HemiSynch tapes, light and sound mind machines, TENS and CES
electrical stimulation hardware, biocircuits, lucid dreaming machinery,
consciousness alteration software, and of course the old classic sensory
deprivation tanks.

Q: What is a HemiSynch tape?

A: HemiSynch and similar tapes are cassette tapes, meant to be played over
headphones, that play different things into each ear, sometimes to create a
binaural beat frequency. Some use different sythesized frequencies, and the
new Paraliminal tapes use an odd technique of telling two different stories
at the same time, one into each ear, to work directly onto your
subconscious by confusing your conscious mind. And of course, there are the
old classic hypnotic suggestion tapes and subliminal programming tapes.

Q: What is a binaural beat frequency?

A: The makers of these tapes want to play sounds into your head that are
exactly at the frequencies they want to entrain you to. The catch is, there
isn't a human being alive or dead who can hear a 10 hertz "pitch" as one
continuous sound. So they cheat: they play (for example) 450 Hz into one
ear and 460 Hz into the other; theoretically this sets up a "beat
frequency" of 10 Hz (460 - 450 = 10).

Q: What is a light and sound mind machine?

A: These consist of a pair of opaque goggles with built-in flashing lights,
and normally a pair of headphones with synchronized beeping sounds. Studies
have shown that if the flashing lights and beeping sounds start at
something close to your current "dominant frequency" and then slowly change
the "beat frequency" it "entrains" your brain to the desired frequency. So
for example, if you entrain to alpha frequencies, you experience some of
the same benefits as experienced meditators. Additionally, almost all users
report some kind of hallucinations from the flashing lights; mostly colored
moire patterns, but some people see detailed hallucinatory scenes. And, of
course, many of the same effects as hemisynch can be achieved by the sound
synthesizers in a light and sound mind machine. Alternatively, most of the
better light and sound mind machines include sound inputs so you can mix
the headphone synthesizers with your choice of music, environmental, or
HemiSynch-like tapes or compact disks.

Q: What are these "brain wave frequencies" you've mentioned?

A: While only the most science-ignorant fool thinks that the entire brain
pulses in time to one frequency, EEGs show that at any given time, your
brain produces distinct waveforms in four frequency groupings, called beta
waves (14 to 30 Hz, pronounced hertz, meaning cycles per second), alpha
waves (8 to 13 Hz), theta waves (4 to 7 Hz), and delta waves (1 to 3 Hz).
When we say that you are "in beta state" (which you normally are), what
we're saying is that that's the dominant set of frequencies, the ones with
the highest amplitudes. Beta is associated with alertness, with the highest
frequencies in that range often described as "fight/flight" mode. Alpha
frequencies have long been associated with meditation and relaxation. Theta
waves are considered by some to be associated with a dreamy, creative
states. Delta waves are generally strongest when you're asleep.

Q: What is the Ganzfield Effect?

A: The ganzfield effect is a sort of mini-isolation chamber. It turns out
that the mind reacts better to a blank but steadily-lit field for sensory
deprivation than it does to darkness. Many light and sound mind machines
have a setting to produce the ganzfield effect, and at least one, the
Tranquilite, is just for the ganzfield effect. You can get some of the
effects of this, though, with the cheapest mind-altering technology: cut a
ping-pong ball in half, paint both halves orange or light blue, and tape
them over your eyes, then sit where you can look into a bright light.

Q: What is the Schumann resonance?

A: 7.83 Hz. That's the average "resonance" frequency of the Earth's
magnetic field, and some people think that by entraining your brain to 7.83
Hz, you can be more "in tune with the planet." Whether or not that's true,
it makes sense that it would be a perfectly good alpha meditation
frequency, wouldn't it? The idea started with TENS (see below) hardware,
but many light and sound mind machines have Schumann resonance entrainment

Q: What is lucid dreaming, and how do you do it with a machine?

A: A lucid dream is one in which you know that you are dreaming, and
therefore have full control over what happens to you in the dream, even
though you're still asleep. People who are really "into" lucid dreaming say
that it puts your sleeping hours to work to enhance your creativity and
that it helps you get a feeling of control over your waking life to have
your sleeping life under control. The Lucidity Institute pushes a roughly
thousand-dollar piece of hardware that looks like a slightly oversized set
of light and sound mind machine goggles and monitors you for REM state.
When it detects the onset of REM, it flashes a dim LED onto your eyelids.
The idea is that you'll see the light in front of you in your dream, and
remember that that's your cue that you're dreaming.

Q: What do electrical stimulation mind machines do?

A: Transcutaneous Electrical Neural Stimulation (TENS) is sort of like
"electrical accupuncture." Small voltages are run across, for example, an
aching joint, to stimulate healing and endorphin release. Cranial
Electro-Stimulation (CES) is the next major step: transmitting even smaller
voltages directly across your brain (via electrodes that clip onto your ear
lobes), to stimulate endorphin release and produce the same kind of
brain-wave entrainment as a light and sound mind machine.

Q: What is a biocircuit?

A: A biocircuit is made up of copper plates connected via copper wire to
copper plated handles. You arrange them in specially designed "circuits"
and then lie down on them, holding onto the handles, and it somehow
"balances" your body's electrical fields. Sounds silly to some of us, but
there were some double-blind studies which suggest that they may be able to
produce mind-altering effects. They are also available in silver and in
silk, and some people claim different effects depending on the materials.

Q: What do you mean by consciousness alteration software?

A: It varies. Some people stretch this category far enough to include
thinking aids like "idea processors" such as Idea Generator Plus,
Brainstormer, and The Thinking Machine, which offer up thinking strategies
and help you organize your brainstorming sessions, and non-linear
"hypertext" writing systems like HyperTies and Guide. Then there's "shrink
in a box" software like the old classic Eliza, its modern, hipper
incarnation Racter, PC Guru, and Timothy Leary's (now mostly remaindered)
Mind Mirror. But much closer to the idea of consciousness alteration
software is a little gem for both PCs and Macintoshes called Synchronicity,
which uses vaguely oriental art and digitized nature sounds to aid you in
meditation upon computer-generated I Ching oracles.

Q: What are sensory deprivation tanks?

A: Mostly the same old classic "flotation tanks" pioneered by Dr. Lilly and
publicized in the book and movie {Altered States}. A flotation tank is a
light-sealed tank of body-temperature water, mixed with enough Epsom salts
to guarantee that you float in it. After a prolonged period of sensory
deprivation, the "floater" experiences various states of consciousness

Q: You keep saying "consciousness alteration." Does this have anything to
do with drugs?

A: Not in the sense that you mean it, probably. Some (I stress that, SOME)
researchers claim that they've seen a synergistic effect from mixing light
and sound mind machines with some of the experimental nootropics such as

Q: Are all of these things legal?

A: HemiSynch, hypnotic, subliminal and so forth cassette tapes are entirely
legal, though the FDA is considering restricting the advertising claims
that they can make. Light and sound machines are unregulated by the FDA due
to the fact that a crude form of this kind of hardware pre-existed the FDA,
and is therefore "grandfathered." Biocircuits are currently unregulated.
TENS and CES are considered medical devices, and available only by
prescription. And flotation tanks are perfectly legal, albeit expensive.

Q: Well, if the FDA can't regulate it, is it safe?

A: Opinions on the list are sharply divided about this. Some of the oldest
"mind spas" have confirmed that approximately three out of every ten
thousand sessions with a light and sound mind machine have produced mild
epileptic seizures ... but that almost all of those were in known
epileptics, the kind of people to whom strobe lights are dangerous, too,
and the others turned out to be in undiagnosed epileptics. Some list users
believe that these machines may somehow "cause" epilepsy in previously
normal people or possibly worsen epilepsy for undiagnosed epileptics, but
these people have NO research or other evidence on their side.

It was once thought that people with migraine headaches should avoid light
and sound mind machines, on the theory that bright lights can trigger
migraine attacks. In fact, the one real study so far ended up showing that
light and sound mind machines not only don't cause or trigger migraines,
but reduce or eliminate the pain of migraine attacks in 72% or more of
migraine sufferers. (cf {The Futurist}, July-August 1991, p. 5)

Makers of TENS and CES electro-stimulation hardware recommend against using
their devices if you have a pacemaker or other built-in electronics, for
the fairly obvious reason that the current might interfere with your
existing circuitry. Also, please remember that TENS and CES hardware are
supposed to be available in America only by prescription to persons under a
doctor's supervision.

Q: How much will all of this stuff cost me?

A: The cassette tapes and CDs are competitive with music tapes and CDs,
mostly, with prices ranging from around $10 to $40 for most of them, with
some multi-tape sets running up around $100 or so. There are light and
sound machines available for under $150, but according to our reviewers,
they're trash. The cheapest light and sound machine to get decent reviews
is the Shaman, from AlphaLabs, at $180, and better machines run from $300
to $700. Your basic copper biocircuit starts at $50. TENS and CES hardware
runs from roughly $400 to $1000. And even a cheap flotation tank will set
you back $4000, not counting all the Epsom salts you have to keep loading
into it.

On the other hand, you may be able to find alternatives to having to buy
some of this. Michael Hutchison, whose 1981 tome {MegaBrain} kicked off the
current enthusiasm for such hardware, gives a travelling $150 seminar in
which participants get to experiment with various kinds of consciousness
hardware, and some cities have permanent "mind spas" where you can go in
and rent time on the hardware.

Q: Are circuit diagrams available in case I want to build one of my own?

A: Several list-users have promised to design simple hardware and upload
the plans, but so far none of them have come through. The list archives do
include an Amiga BASIC program to produce HemiSynch-like tones on the
Amiga's audio ports. Also, blueprints are available for a few devices, such
as the TENS, for various prices.

Q: If I build one of my own, can I sell it?

A: Lots of people are. You can find the complete list of relevant American
patents in the MIND-L archive at ASYLUM.SF.CA.US. The most important of
these is Denis Gorges' patent on the Synchro Energizer; Gorges insists that
every other machine in the field infringes on his patent, and has been
threatening to sue for quite some time now. So far as we can tell, he
hasn't done so yet.

Q: Where can I read more?

A: The first and foremost is Michael Hutchison's {MegaBrain} (Ballantine:
1986), a $4.95 paperback which covers a wide range of hardware. It's
getting a little long in the tooth, but supposedly we should soon see a
1991 update. A little more skeptical and a lot more up-to-date is Judith
Hooper & Dick Teresi's {Would the Buddha Wear a Walkman?} (Simon &
Schuster, 1990), for $16.95 in trade paperback. Hutchison also publishes
(irregularly) a newsletter called {The MegaBrain Report}, for $36 per year
>from the address at the end of this file.

Q: So what is a [fill in the blank]?


      Binaural Signal Gen. AUDIO AudioImagery $390 Audio synthesizer
      HypnoPeripheral Proc. AUDIO HPP $40 Sublim tape sets
      Paraliminal Tapes AUDIO Paraliminal varies Range from $10-$35
      AlphaSonics AUDIO AlphaSonics $36 40 sublim tapes
      Ultra-Meditation I-V AUDIO Zygon $49 Meditation tapes
      Synchro Energizer L&S Synchro-Tech $9000 Original; 4-user model,
     prices go to $150k
      Relaxman L&S Synchro-Tech $599 10 presets
      MC Squared L&S L&S Research $350 1st home model, 12 preset
      Innervision PR-1 L&S Mind Gear $299 Choice of LED or bulbs
      Innervision PR-2 L&S Mind Gear $349 Same as above, fully programmable
      DAVID Paradise L&S Comptronics $695 Fully programmable
      DAVID 1 L&S Comptronics $3700 Two-person, good audio
      Daydreamer LIGHT ? $15 Manually operated, you blow into it
      Dreamwave II L&S AlphaLabs $695 Programmable, good audio, externally
      Shaman L&S AlphaLabs $180 Externally expandable
      Electro Stim CES AlphaLabs $300 Add-on to the Shaman or Dreamwave II
      EEG Controller L&S AlphaLabs $500 Biofeedback controller for Shaman,
      Mastermind L&S MindsEye $200 12 preset functions, small
      Courier L&S MindsEye $395 Similar to MasterMind
      MindsEye Plus L&S MindsEye $895 Programmable, good audio
      Synergizer L&S MindsEye $495 MindsEye Plus as add-in board for IBM PC
      IQ-Tutor L&S InnerQuest $120 A piece of cheap crap
      IQ-9110 L&S InnerQuest $329 21 preset functions
      InnerQuest II L&S InnerQuest $495 21 presets, programmable
      InnerQuest III L&S InnerQuest $595 InnerQuest II w/ built-in tape
      InnerQuest Pro-S L&S InnerQuest $895 InnerQuest III w/ micro-phone,
     audio out
      RelaxMate LIGHT Shealy $150 Lousy frequency control
      Tranquilite LIGHT Tranquilite $500 Ganzfield effect
      Theta-One L&S ? $195 Ganzfield effect, audio
      DreamLight DREAM Lucidity Inst. $999 Lucid dreaming hardware
      Alpha-Stim CS CES ? $650 Original CES hardware
      Mind Man CES ? $625 German Alpha-Stim clone
      Endo Stim CES MegaBrain $995 State of the art CES
      Nustar II CES Nustar $399 Cheaper, less flexible CES
      Brain Tuner 5 (BT-5) CES ? $350 Inexpensive CES
      L&S TurboCharger CES ? $299 Add CES to any L&S machine
      Alphapacer II L&S,CES ? $495 Combines L&S and CES
      Bio Cy 2000 L&S,CES ? $595 Combines L&S, ganzfield, and CES
      IdeaGenerator Plus SOFTW Experience in Inspiration $195 MS-DOS
      Brainstormer SOFTW Soft Path $75 MS-DOS
      The Thinking Machine SOFTW Psychological Psoftware $90 MS-DOS, Apple
      HyperTies SOFTW Cognetics $349 MS-DOS
      Guide SOFTW OWL ? MS-DOS, Macintosh
      Eliza SOFTW various varies everything
      Racter SOFTW Mindscape $45 MS-DOS, Macintosh
      PC Guru SOFTW ? $100 MS-DOS
      Mind Mirror SOFTW Mindscape $15? MS-DOS
      Synchronicity SOFTW Visionary Sfwr $60 MS-DOS, Macintosh

      AUDIO = Audio stimulation, tapes (audio)
      LIGHT = Photic stimulation (light only)
      L&S = Light and sound mind machine
      CES = TENS and CES electrical stimulation
      DREAM = Lucid dreaming hardware
      SOFTW = Computer software

Q: So where can I find and buy all of this stuff?

A: Some of it's at Sharper Image, Hammacher Schlemmer, and other yuppie toy
stores, but the best selection and prices are from two dealers, both of
whom offer good catalogs:

P.O. Box 2205 Sausalito, CA 94965-9998

Voice: (415) 332-8323 Fax: (415) 332-8327

Tools for Exploration
4460 Redwood Highway, Suite 2 San Rafael, CA 94903

Voice: (800) 456-9887 Fax: (415) 499-9047

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is version 0.1 of the FAQ for MIND-L, compiled by J.
Brad Hicks ([email protected]). The author is not responsible. (grin)
Send clarifications, corrections, and suggested additions to the author.
Send requests for additional info to [email protected] Send flames to