I recently heard legendary psychonaut Dennis McKenna mention on the JRE podcast a powerful experience he had with a mind-tech device called the Ajna Light. He described his time under this light akin to a DMT experience filled with geometric shapes, an assortment of colors, and deep feelings of peace and well-being.
Light machines (also known as mind machines) aren’t something new. Based on a brainwave entrainment, these devices typically come in the form of goggles which deliver flashing lights, pulsing at a specific frequency in which the brainwaves entrain to. By delivering flashing lights at a frequency linked to certain mental state, you can have greater control over your state of consciousness. I’ve written extensively about this phenomenon which you can read further in our Ultimate Guide to Brainwave Entrainment.
There was a wave of mind machines that swept the market in the 1980s and 90s following the cult classic book Mega Brain by Michael Hutchinson which popularized the consumer “mind tech” industry. I’ve tried many of these devices personally, and like McKenna, had powerful experiences with them. Yet unlike the Ajna Light, none of these machines claimed to generate DMT and none came with a price tag of over $3,000. What makes this mysterious machine so special?
The Ajna Light was founded by Guy Harriman, a former Apple Engineer turned Zen Monk who traded his desk at Silicon Valley for yoga mats and the like in Chiang Mai, Thailand. At the time of hearing about him I was in Hanoi Vietnam, and by chance happened to be on my way to Chiang Mai. I knew I had to meet him and try out this mysterious machine.
Fast forward a few weeks later. Inside a friend’s treatment center called the Mastermind Brain Spa, there I laid on a massage table. Above me was a golden Ajna lamp containing 5 LED’s lights at the ready. An assistant fastened headphones around my ears, inputted a few options into an ipad, and hit the start button.
* The following clip contains flashing lights. If you are epileptic or prone to photic induced seizures, do not watch the video below.
Over the next 30 minutes, I had a similar experience to what McKenna described. Geometric shapes morphed all around me. Beautiful colors of yellow, royal blue, and green engulfed my periphery. My muscles loosened, I sunk into a deep relaxed state on the bed, and knew more alpha and theta brain waves were beginning to be produced in my brain. I started to fade out of my body. I felt the boundaries between myself, the music, and the shapes around me beginning to dissolve. Suddenly, a childhood memory that I hadn’t thought of in decades randomly rose to the surface.
Not a bad first go with the Ajna Light. In the days following, I started digging deeper into this technology. I was intrigued how a simple light could create such a powerful, out of body experience. It turns out the device was based on technology created by a duo of Austrian neurologist called the Lucia Light no. 3. Numerous videos were online from past users claiming that the Lucia light gave them:
- Reduced feelings of anxiety and stress
- Reduced feelings of depression
- Greater sense of peace and wholeness
- Increased creativity and intuition
- Access to astral traveling
- Out of body experience
- More restful sleep
In this article, I’m going to shed light on this new wave of light technology – the Lucia Light, the Ajna Light, and similar devices popping up in the mind tech space. How do they work? Do they indeed generate DMT in the pineal gland? Why the hell are they so expensive? Where can users find this device near them to try out? Down below I answer these questions and more.
A Brief History of Light Therapy
In his book Mega Brain, Michael Hutchinson writes about his transcendent experiences gazing into light can lead to:
During the period I spent living alone on the mountainside, I spent a lot of my time staring into the fire. I’d pile up some rocks in front of the lean-to for a fireplace, and would pass the evenings sitting on a log, gazing at the flickering flames, the multicolored embers shading from deep red to pure white.
In a sort of semi trance, I observed images and sometimes whole scenes that were quite realistic—cities rising out of deserts, marching armies, a group of nuns strolling arm in arm, monkeys swinging from tree to tree. I knew that these things weren’t really there, but I also knew that I would not be seeing them if I weren’t staring into the fire. Somehow the shifting, flickering lights were stirring up visions inside my head.1
As Hutchinson cites, light therapy dates all the way back thousands of years to ancient Greece. Astronomer and mathematician Claudius Ptolemy found that when light passed through the spokes of a spinning wheel, this caused feelings of euphoria, lightheadedness, and an assortment of shapes and colors in his field of vision.
In the middle ages, there has been accounts from those riding on horse carriages through the woods suddenly experiencing their state of consciousness altered. Later we realized this may have been caused by pulses of light coming in and out of their vision as the rays of the sun shined through openings in the surrounding tree’s branches.
In the 19th century, the famous psychologist Pierre Janet (who was an influential teacher to Sigmund Freud) noticed that when his patients were presented with flickering lights, they had significant reduction in hysteria, depression, and anxiety.
Fast forward to today, countless studies using high-end EEG technology has shown how powerful the flickering of light can alter brainwaves and modify our state of consciousness – from increasing focus to experiencing deep states relaxation, to even undergoing powerful out of body experiences.
Light Machines were the most ordered products for the popular mail-order catalog Tools For Exploration during the 90’s.
A New Wave Of Light Technology: Lucia & Ajna Lights
As mentioned, the light I tried out in Thailand was originally based on a device called the Lucia Light created by a pair of Austrian neurologists named Dr. Dirk Proeckl and Dr. Engelbert Winkler. Their breakthroughs were part conscious engineering, part pure coincidence.
When Dr. Winkler was seven years old, he underwent a profound near death experience (NDE) that shaped the course of his life. Decades later as a clinical psychologist, he introduced various methods to induce NDE’s into his client’s sessions, one of which being hypnosis.
He would lead his patients through a visualization in which they would imagine being surrounded by bright lights (there are numerous NDE accounts of those approaching a tunnel of light). In order to further assist those struggling with this visualization, he started to use external lights alongside hypnosis, which lead to profoundly healing sessions in the lives of his clients.
Winkler eventually teamed up with neurologist Dr. Dirk Proeckl to design an even more powerful device combining both the steady light Winkler tested with his clients, and flashing light technology used with many of the popular brainwave entrainment goggles.
They hired a technician to create an early prototype, and by chance, the technician chose a halogen lamp to deliver the steady light source, a set of high powered LED’s to deliver the flashing lights, and computer electronics all housed inside an old espresso machine. After speaking with Dr. Winkler over a Skype chat, he’s told me this randomly selected combination unintentionally became the magic behind their technology.
In the same way the combination of Amazonian chacruna leaves and the B. Cappi Vine creates the formula behind Ayahuasca, the combination of these two types of light in that particular configuration seem to create the DMT like experiences with their Lucia Light. In the days following, both Winkler and Proeckl would have some of the most powerful out of body experiences of their life.
Dr. Dirk Proeckl and Dr. Engelbert Winkler, creators of the Lucia Light
They later stumbled upon the idea of synchronizing the frequency of both sources of light in interesting ways. They learned that combining one light at a slower alpha frequency, and another light at a faster gamma frequency could lead to lucid dream induction.
Another discovery was modulating each light source’s frequency based on the movement of the planets – one light source being the sun’s frequency, another being the rate certain planets move around the sun. One client of their’s who used this session actually understood and spoke a completely foreign language while under the light.
Proeckl & Winkler eventually introduced their Lucia Light to a number of colleagues with prior experience with DMT and 5-MeO-DMT, all of which were blown away how similar the trips were. Here’s a video of Dennis McKenna just minutes after his first session with this technology, having a similar reaction to the light. Trying it out firsthand, I can personally attest to the similarities between the two experiences.
The $20,000 Lucia Light eventually got into the hands of Guy Harriman, and as a world-class electronics engineer, he knew exactly how to get the same results for a fraction of the cost, eventually creating his Ajna Light off the same technology at a quarter of the price.
Guy Harriman, creator of the Ajna Light
Can Lights Can Create DMT In The Pineal Gland?
As we’ve stated, this new wave of light technology such as the Lucia Light and Ajna Light famously claim to produce a chemical called DMT in (dimethyltryptamine) in the pineal gland of the brain. For those that don’t know what the pineal gland and DMT are and how they might be linked, here’s a quick primer:
- The pineal gland (shaped as a pine cone and sized the rubber eraser end of a pencil) is located at the exact center of the human brain, and most conservatively viewed as the producer of melatonin (which regulates sleep patterns).
- Both Eastern and Western religions have stressed the spiritual importance of the “third eye” (located in the sixth chakra), in which for hundreds of years many have believed it resided in the pineal gland.
- A breakthrough study has found evidence of DMT produced in the pineal gland of lab rats.2
- South American shamans select shrubs containing DMT and vines preventing the breakdown DMT in a powerful entheogen called ayahuasca.
- In the 90’s, Dr. Rick Strassman created a study injecting DMT into 60 patients in which they famously reported mystical, near death experiences, and contact with beings from other realms.
- Dr. Rick Strassman has suggested life force enters the human body through the pineal gland 49 days after conception. First signs of pineal tissue in a fetus occur at day 49. Tibetan Buddhists have stated a 49 day period between the death of an individual and its soul’s next rebirth.
In the last few years, there is a growing number of scientists who believe the DMT / pineal gland link is a baseless myth. I recently spoke with legendary psychopharmacologist Dr. David Nichols on our podcast Warrior Radio (episode here), in which he was extremely critical of this idea, saying it was a mythology fabricated over 500 years ago. Here’s a clip:
Typically we can only experience DMT through Ayahuasca or smoking pure DMT itself. Although these can be life-changing tools, they have its host of downsides. DMT is illegal in most every country, trips can last upwards of 8 hours or more, and an experience like Ayahuasca be filled with violent bouts of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The ability to create DMT purely with light is beyond appealing – it’s accessible to all, it’s legal, trips don’t have to be an 8 hour journey, you don’t have to experience nausea and vomiting from something like Ayahuasca, and you can have greater control over the experience itself (at any moment you can ramp the intensity up, down, or turn it off altogether – options you don’t have with psychedelics).
But how is DMT actually created with light (if at all)? It’s important to note that it hasn’t yet been scientifically proven that these lights are leading to DMT. All evidence is anecdotal. We are still in the infancy of DMT research, so take all of the following with a grain of salt. What I’m about to layout is part science, part speculation at this point.
After speaking with Guy Harriman, he’s stressed that a recently discovered photoreceptor called Melanopsin contained in the retina is at the heart of this process. The purpose of Melanopsin is to detect time of day (as opposed to assisting in conscious vision) in order to regulate the body’s internal clock to the circadian rhythm.
Melanopsin sends signals to the brain’s hypothalamus which is charge for things like hormone production, thirst, mood, sex drive, and of course sleep. More specifically, the area of the hypothalamus that receives the Melanopsin signal is called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which then sends signals to the pineal gland to produce a variety of hormones, which could explain how DMT eventually gets created.
What’s most interesting is that Melanopsin is most sensitive towards light at 480nm wavelenth (which is the color of sky blue). The high powered LED lights designed for the Ajna and Lucia lights contain this very frequency. According to Harriman, by blasting sky blue LED lights at the eyes, Melanopsin is being triggered, sending a domino effect of events where at the end, DMT comes out of.
Or does it?
When I sat down with Dr. David Nichols (who is as authoritative as it gets on this subject), I asked him his thoughts on the Ajna light. Like the pineal gland / DMT connection, he was extremely critical of this technology, breaking down how bunk the science was behind it. Here’s a clip:
Although it’s an exciting possibility to think lights can product DMT in the brain, much more research needs to be done in this field. At the end of the day, no one fully understands how this is all working. Proeckl & Winkler say its the combination of steady halogen lights with flickering LED lights. Harriman says it’s the light blues of the LED. Nichols says the whole thing is nonsense.
Whatever the case may be, one thing I am certain of is the end result – these technologies do create mind-altering effects (most likely independent of DMT). I share some tips on how to get maximum results out of these devices.
How To Hack Your Light Experience For Maximum DMT-Like Effects
After speaking to Guy Harriman of the Ajna Light and Dr. Winkler of the Lucia Light, there were a few hacks they shared with me to enhance the experience even further.
1.) Deep Breathing + The Light – Dr. Winkler shared a breathing technique that dramatically enhances his experience under the light. The technique involves goes as follows:
- Take 4 or 5 deep, slow breaths
- Hold the breath completely for a count of seven
Although this may sound simplistic, Dr. Winkler swears by it. One of his colleagues said after trying out this technique with the Lucia Light, it was the closest experience to 5-MEO DMT he’s ever had.
2.) B. Caapi + The Light – Guy Harriman shared an interesting herbal formula he’s found that intensifies the light experience. He makes a tea with a B. Caapi extract, which contains harmine and harmaline preventing the body’s breakdown of DMT. The tea also contains low doses of Syrian Rue (larger doses can cause nausea), which contains pure harmala alkaloids known to cause hallucinogenic effects.
I tried the tea myself while I was in Chiang Mai, and although it tasted like I was drinking mud, I can vouch that it enhances the experience. Here’s a video of those who took B. Caapi under the Lucia Light, whose experiences
3.) Personal Experimentation – Dr. Winkler stressed that the most important way to enhance the light experience is simply finding what works through trial and error. No one drug, and no one dosage is right for every person. The same is true with this light technology.
There are a number of settings that affect an individual’s experience – from the brightness of the lights, to the target frequency the lights flash at, to the music you listen to while under, to the type of nutrition you put into your body beforehand. One type of setting for one person, may not be effective for another. Play around with various settings, see how your body reacts, then iterate from there.
- Hutchison, Michael. Mega Brain: New Tools And Techniques For Brain Growth And Mind Expansion (p. 124). Mega Brain World. Kindle Edition.
- Barker, Steven A., et al. “LC/MS/MS analysis of the endogenous dimethyltryptamine hallucinogens, their precursors, and major metabolites in rat pineal gland microdialysate.” Biomedical Chromatography 27.12 (2013): 1690-1700.