The Ganzfeld effect ‘Ganzfeld’ is a German word for a featureless field. The Ganzfeld
effect is a phenomenon where a person of normal sight is unable to see anything after staring at any featureless, monochrome field for even a few seconds. This is a normal response from the (human) brain when it is starved of any stimuli. Some of the earliest reported occurrences were of the artic explorers. When the environment around them, both ground and sky, was all white, due to the ice and the atmospheric conditions they would suddenly see darkness setting in and everything would be black. At first they thought they were going blind. Later, whenever there was any movement in their field of vision or with some features showing up everything would be normal. We know now that the human brain needs continuous and changing input from the eyes for it to be able to process information, otherwise it just cuts off the signals from the eye. There’s nothing going wrong with the eye or the brain during the process and the condition is reversible. The portion of the brain responsible for this is the Reticular Activating System (RAS). When you wear something on your arm, say a watch, you are aware of its presence for a short while initially. But after you get used to the sensation it is relegated to the back of your mind. This is because the brain is no longer interested in the stimulus that it does not need to be aware of. There may be more important tasks to manage. Even as you are reading this, there is the pressure that your shirt is putting on your body (come to think of it, our clothes are not exactly weightless) and the pressure the air around is putting on you.
We are not aware of the atmospheric pressure when we step outside, which is a miracle, considering the immensely heavy volume of air weighing down on us from above as well as around us. We are constantly being bombarded by stimuli from our environment, but we may not be aware of all of them at all. It is possible to artificially simulate a ganzfeld. There are goggles of various kinds available in the market designed to do this. A simple home-made ganzfeld goggle would have two halves of a hollow plastic ball of appropriate size covering the eyes and light shining on it from outside. It must cover the eyes completely and be padded around the edges to prevent any detail in the surroundings from being picked up by the peripheral vision. With the right conditions the effect is dramatic and takes place consistently. Interesting, but what is the use of this effect? Frankly, we have to explore the possibilities. People use it to meditate, in hypnosis and all activities where an altered state of consciousness, one different from the normal waking state, is required.