Originally noded as My First LSD Trip
The Thursday night in the midsummer of 2002 was the fulfillment of
my long-term desire to experiment. The previous Sunday I had been offered
this possibility by Mindbender; his friend Wanja (from Germany)
would be coming from London and I could join them.
On Thursday afternoon at 5pm we first went punting, it was a lovely
weather and of course Wanja wanted the traditional Cambridge
experience. Despite my punting background I didn't do any better
than the guys, but we had a good time anyways. Which was a useful
preparation for the rest of the night.
It was probably closer to 7pm when we got to Mindbender's place. There
were six drops of LSD left in the vial, two for each (i.e. 200 micrograms)
which was a good dose. Dissolved into a glass of water we imbibed its
I had talked about beauties of the University Botanic Garden before,
and we agreed to start the trip there. Normally it might have been
closed by that time, but there was a jazz concert that night. Quite a
luck! So after paying a little extra we got in. It was nice to have
the music in the background, although we didn't go to the concert
itself. Preferred walking deeper into the forest and enjoying nature.
Flowers and other plants somehow seemed to exude beauty. The
colours were more intense, as were other sensations. One plant had
soft hairy leaves not unlike a rabbit's ears.
Solitary trees looked wonderful, giants of eternal wisdom. The
patterns on their trunks were captivating, even though we know they
had always been there that way. The beauty of small things in nature
had gone unnoticed until then. Vast walls of hedges started to look
I got to the next stage when Mindbender sat under a tree to stare one
of the hedges. I was on the other side and looked at the tree. I
started to notice the circular and spiral patterns on the ground,
centred on the tree trunk. The slight variations in the soil colour
were massively amplified. I started looking more carefully, if there
might also be some height variations; the ground gradually rising
towards the tree. To see this I thought I should defocus my vision,
like watching a 3D picture.
Something collapsed sideways in my field of vision.
Suddely the ground was painted with human shapes: athletic,
partying, active and happy. The classical psychedelic
sugardolls. I realized they were formed of the grass, leaves and
other debris on the ground; it was just that my brain interpreted
them in patterns I hadn't found before.
The patterns were often changed if I took another look. At one point I
could see my own 'shadow' repeated on the ground, moving as I did, of
course there was no direct sunlight to make a real shadow. The tree in
the middle looked even more wonderful.
I recalled the film A Beautiful Mind, where John Nash started seeing
patterns in newspaper text. Later I saw the same effect in some
writings at Mindbender's place.
I started seeing sugardoll patterns on grass and other simple textured
surfaces. They were wonderful and euphoric to look at. Seeing similar
coloured patterns on dull-coloured surfaces like asphalt was quite
provoking: the patterns were greatly amplified in colour and they
seemed to jump out of the surface. Most of the patterns had
cartoon-like human or animal characters interlocked in Escher-style
Luckily Wanja and Mindbender were there to remind me of other
wonderful things to see, like flowers and other individual plants. At
some point we concentrated on the clouds and the sunset. When sober,
people often find familiar shapes in clouds, but this effect is
massively exaggerated when on LSD. They start moving according to your
imagination, but your rational mind isn't going anywhere, and just by
blinking your eyes you can come back to normal -- if you want. Also,
there is no dull or tiring effect like what alcohol does.
Looking back at the ground after a while, the candy people were back,
and more hilarious than before. As we weren't alone in the garden, a
woman asked us if we'd seen her daughter running around. We told we
hadn't, and managed to contain ourselves from telling her what other
things we'd just seen :-)
The pattern recognition effects became more apparent with plants
that have obvious fractal structures. It normally takes some
effort to spot the structure, now the effect was instant and very
gratifying. It was easy to see the fractality in other forms which
had more randomness in them. This brought to mind Stephen
Wolfram's ideas of how the universe can be described in very simple
structures that are appropriately repeated. I wondered if he had been
on acid when making that discovery. I could certainly see the
fractal patterns pervading the universe.
On the other hand, when looking at clouds I often saw sharp lines
forming, as if there was a crystalline order within the clouds.
realized it's my subconscious that wants to see everything in terms
of precise geometries.
The same idea was more obvious, when
sometimes the pattern that came superposed on textured surfaces, had
letters and numbers, which I doubt are inherent in nature; they
certainly come from my own mind.
Then again, an old idea of mine came back: we find these certain
formulas and models of nature, because we are made of nature
ourselves, and therefore our ideas of nature must be right to some
extent! It's like nature is trying to tell ourselves something about
herself, through our own minds. It's no surprise that this idea was
more intriguing to me while tripping, but I was also able to reject
it. I can't stress enough how cool it is, that you can retain your
rational mind while having these wonderful sensations. In fact, I've
read that it's the 'creativity centre' of brain that is most strongly
accelerated by the LSD.
Since the most stunning and straightforward visuals came with
repeating or random textures instead of macroscopic forms, I recalled
the artistic tradition of Arabic cultures, where repeating patterns
are favoured over other abstract forms and portraits. Also, while
alcohol is banned by the Islamic law, there is a considerable
tradition of using other drugs such as opium. Doesn't this make you
As it got darker, we decided to go to Mindbender's place for a
different kind of experience. The walk back there through the streets
was mildly annoying, because the bright lights and noises were so
strong. I can imagine you could get a bad trip if you stayed in a busy
While walking through the college grounds, I saw something moving on
the grass, I thought this is it, it's getting deeper. Fortunately when
we got closer, it turned out it was a real hedgehog. Cute, as some of
us had been hogging the hedges just a while ago in the garden :-)
Mindbender's room was the setting for another stage: we dimmed the
lights, lay down, and listened to experimental and electronic
music. This was a completely different and yet another wonderful
experience. The set-up was fruitful for synesthesia: visual sensations
from audible phenomena. Not surprisingly I'd already seen the
neon-coloured candy folk even behind my closed eyelids, but this was
something more. The fractal and crystalline lattices were there as
usual, but in addition I saw individual characters: One was a punk,
whose nose grew into a long spike, and his hair got spiky as well, and
soon he was a smiling blowfish-like head. Also saw Giger-style
creatures made solely of flexible tubes/intestines, and they didn't
feel frightening at all!
Changing the music and mood, the lights were on at times. The corners
of the room seemed warped. The carpeting was an excellent substrate
for some more Escher-Paisleys. Donuts and fruit juice tasted amazing,
although the latter may have been a slight mistake; I've read that
vitamin C can speed up the dissolution of LSD. After that the effects
were slightly milder, but it may also have been the natural pace of
Some of the music was quite intense, and it was a good experiment in
hearing enhancement. For a while I used the headphones, and a track of
Hux-Flux contained lots of weird stuff that made me giggle. I
particularly noted a drilling sound which made me feel like I'm being
operated by a dentist :-)
The final destination on our checklist was Grantchester, and it was
dark enough then. Most appropriately we listened to Grantchester
Meadows by Pink Floyd before departing. It may be they had been on
acid or something while recording the Ummagumma studio album.
On the way towards my place, we had to walk through a meadow. It felt
like walking in a tight passage in the midst of shoulder-high weeds;
yesterday I checked that it was really a wide path among plants barely
knee-high :-). We also stopped at several places to marvel at
different plants, and clusters thereof.
Grantchester by night on acid wasn't quite as amazing as I'd
anticipated. The stuff was wearing off, though in the street lighting
I could still feel walking in a candy house. We wanted to lie down and
watch the sky, but it was too damp and in the end (around 3am) we lay
down in the middle of the path for some time. At one occasion we
stared at a distant row of trees; Wanja said it looked like they were
passing by each other, and suddenly I saw the same thing. Similar
effects of collective hallucination had been there already, for
example with clouds.
Once we were approached by a cyclist in a hurry, and I recalled the
idea that other people in those conditions could look frightening or
weird. At the first sight he looked OK but as I pondered on that idea,
I suddely saw that he had a big, green alien head. :-)
Around 4am the trip really started to feel it was over, and I headed
home. Took a shower and checked mail and Slashdot (there was a story
on "periodicity, patterns and chemicals" :). Before going to bed
after 5am, I still noticed the funny glowing patterns on my
carpeting. I slept soundly until 10-11am, feeling no extra fatigue. I
didn't recall any dreams that night; of course, I'd just had enough
REM stage for several weeks :-)
Friday went by in a very meditative and pleasant state. Took long
glances at plants, trees and hedges. As Mindbender had told me:
"You'll never see reality again like you used to." Somehow, the trip
had brought back my usual self which is quiet, pondering,
philosophical, and appreciates the beauty of small and simple
things; that which I'd partially lost in the busy maze of studies
and work. I've now found it very easy to focus and meditate, and I
like this state very much and believe it is beneficial.
I felt that everyone should experience LSD once, to remind them of
that beauty. But what I had seen could not be generalized; there are
many negative-minded people who would probably become much worse with
the experience. More importantly, it takes a strong mind to tackle the
power of acid. If it's your first time, do it with experienced and
trusted friends, in good surroundings and a positive state of mind.
Today (Sunday 23 June) I feel I'm starting to lose the afterglow. It's probably
psychological to a large extent, and last night's computing problems
which took hours to fix, may have played a role. But of course I
haven't lost the general effect of the trip:
There is more than one
way of seeing the world. There is more to nature than meets the
uninitiated eye. And there's a lot of beauty around us which we often
fail to appreciate.
I know most of the structures I saw were products of my own mind. Yet
I felt like I was seeing the underlying patterns of the Universe: the
code of the Matrix (This is a powerful analogy which I can't stress
too much). There may be an apparent contradiction; however, if you
think further it may not be so. For the scientific models can never
tell how the universe really works, rather they tell about our
relation to the universe. Secondly, if the world is a Matrix in the
Buddhist sense, it is in fact created by our minds. It is therefore my
humble conclusion that our peek into the deeper mind, was equivalently
a sneak into the fabric of the Universe.