I Saw God and/or a Screensaver by Matt Singer
On a recent Wednesday night, I thought it would be fun to sit down in front of my computer, strap on headphones, and listen to some drugs.
No, not the band D.R.U.G.S. Actual, sonic pharmaceuticals, administered directly to the skull.
It is called i-Dosing. Using droning tones known as “binaural beats,” digital dealers claim they can make the brain simulate the feeling of being on anything from cocaine to ecstasy. Sites such as i-doser.com—“the global leader in binaural brainwave digital audio”—sell dosing “packages” that are grouped into such categories as “recreational,” “sexual,” and “sacred.” Each costs $16.95.
Naturally, this sounds like nothing more than a way to scam milk money from suburban 13-year-olds — money that might otherwise go to the burnout down the street slanging oregano out of his mother’s basement. My friend, a professional sound engineer, says the notion of sound-manipulating brainwaves to replicate an exact chemical experience is a myth akin to the “brown note,” the fabled frequency that causes humans to lose control of their bowels.
Then again, music is a naturally transportive medium, right? It’s meant to take us places inside our own heads. No true music fan can deny that songs have the ability to conjure feelings and memories and physical sensations. So why is it unbelievable that certain sounds, in the right context, can trigger specific reactions in the brain? After all, binaural beats aren’t complete malarkey—they’re used for meditation all the time. And all the people who’ve uploaded i-Doser testimonials on YouTube can’t be lying, can they? Wait, don’t answer that.
I suppose I could’ve interviewed a few dozen medical and sound experts to figure out if the i-Dosing phenomenon is utter hokum, but in this case, I felt perpetrating a little first-person journalism would be more helpful. So I went to i-doser.com, downloaded their free player—even cyber-drugs require their own paraphernalia, apparently—and prepared myself to get seriously fucked up. Or, y’know, not.
I figured I’d start safe and begin by hearing a little weed. Full disclosure: I’m not much of a stoner.
I’m really not much of a drug user at all, actually. Of course, I’ve smoked marijuana before, maybe two-dozen times in my life, but I’ve never been able to handle even a mild high. I don’t think I have ever had fun being stoned. Perhaps one time in high school, when my friends and I spent an hour wandering around a 99 cent store. Usually, though, I just clam up and stare at my hands, wondering why they feel coated in Dorito’s dust even though I can clearly see they are not. But it’s the one narcotic experience—not counting alcohol—that I’ve actually had, so I thought it’d make a good reference point.
The FAQ on the i-Doser site doesn’t provide detailed instructions on creating the ideal setting for
consuming these drugs. Am I supposed light some incense? Stare at a blacklight poster? After some deliberation, I chose to just shut off the lights and lay on my bed.
The doses come with descriptions of what’s about to happen to you. According to the description, the effects of the Marijuana dose include “great mood lift,” “philosophical or deep thinking” and “pleasant body feel.” I put on my headphones, laid back, and pressed play.
In one ear, there’s light static. In the other, a gentle, pulsing ring, almost like the sound of a UFO landing in a ’50s sci-fi B-movie. It goes on this way for about 45 minutes (most i-Doses are around 30 minutes). When it finished, I stood up. My mood was about the same as when I laid down: a little sleepy. My body felt like its usual sluggish self. And the only deep and/or philosophical thought going through my head was trying to remember if there were still cheese slices left in the fridge. So I was a bit hungry. But certainly not high.
OK, I thought, I need to take this up a notch. Let’s do some acid.
“This dose will come on very strong,” the description warns, “with an initial burst followed by a
stream of conscious mellowing that fades into bliss.” In order to increase the chances of experiencing something, instead of lying down with my eyes closed, for this dose I opted to gaze at my screen saver, the one that casts ribbons of color across the screen.
Sonically, the acid dose wasn’t much different from the marijuana: white noise with a pulsing ring. Near the end of its 30 minute run, you start to hear popping sounds, which don’t so much help to induce a trance state as make you wonder if you’ve blown out your headphones. I came out with no feelings of bliss, nor any of the “unusual body sensations” it promised. It did kind of make me want to listen to Sun Ra, though.
All right, enough of this bullshit, I thought. It’s time to meet God.
The Hand of God is “a lifetime achievement for i-Doser.com.” From their “Sacred” line, which also includes doses called Gates of Hades and Genesis, the experience is designed to recreate a spiritual epiphany. “It’s like the Holy One reaches from the sky, as you lay with closed eyes, and shows you the world,” reads the description. It alleges “great and almost supernatural clairvoyance,” accompanied by “rings of light and great insight.” But there’s risk involved, too. “It could also force great fear, an unknowing realization of self, and a breakdown of all senses.” It starts with steadily woozy bass (I knew it: God is a dubstep producer!), then gradually increases to a high-pitched ring. Perhaps to simulate the ascent through the clouds and past the Pearly Gates? All it really did was exacerbate my tinnitus.
Well, that’s it: If i-Doser’s greatest concoction can’t make me see God, He must truly not exist.
[Source Image: MRCHRISTIANBALE.TUMBLR.COM ]