External hallucinations

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Deliriants by Anonymous DEL user - This image represents the sinister external hallucinations commonly induced by deliriants.

External hallucinations can be described as the experience of perceiving imagined visual concepts and occurrences which display themselves seamlessly into the external environment as if they were actually happening. This is in stark contrast to internal hallucinations such as dreams that exclusively occur within an imagined environment which can typically only be viewed with closed eyes.

The experience of this effect can be broken down into 4 basic levels of intensity. These are described and documented below:

  1. Erratic hallucinations - The lowest level of external hallucination generally consists of movement within the peripheral vision and ill-defined, fleeting hallucinations which disappear once a person double takes.
  2. Vaguely defined hallucinations - At this level, the hallucinations are visible within one's direct line of sight, but are not fully defined in their appearance. This means that, although visible, they do not look completely detailed and are often extremely blurry or semi-translucent with little, if any, color.
  3. Partially defined hallucinations - At this level, the hallucinations become distinct enough in their detail and vividness to extend beyond transparent, colorless, or blurry manifestations. However, they still remain unconvincing and do not quite live up to the detail of completely realistic and convincing hallucinations.
  4. Fully defined hallucinations - At this level, the hallucinations have become completely realistic, and will rarely disappear simply because a person double takes. They are now capable of a completely convincing and photo-realistic appearance.

It is worth noting that there are certain factors that directly alter both the likelihood of external hallucinations manifesting themselves and the level of detail which they are rendered in. For example, the more unfamiliar with the external environment one is, the more likely it is that this effect will manifest itself. Cluttered areas also tend to produce more external hallucinations. As far as lighting goes, either a dark or dim room is optimum. Darkness seems to produce significantly more hallucinations, while the light present in a dim room will result in less (although more detailed) hallucinations.

The content within this component can be further broken down into four distinct subcomponents which are described and documented below.

Autonomous entities

Main article: Autonomous entities
Namaste (Trifoliata Mystica) by Luke Brown - This artwork serves as an accurate example of a generic geometry-based autonomous entity seen during a psychedelic experience.

Autonomous entities can be described as the visual experience of perceived contact with beings which appear to be sentient and autonomous in their behaviour. Autonomous entities typically appear during a hallucinogenic experiences, during sleep deprivation, during sleep paralysis, and during stimulant psychosis. They can manifest within both external and internal hallucinations.

Autonomous entities will frequently act as the inhabitants of a perceived independent reality. Although many entities seem largely unaware of one's presence, generally speaking, they are often expectant of the person's sudden appearance into their realm and usually choose to interact with them in various ways. The behavior of a typical entity can vary wildly and seems to depend heavily on one's current emotional state. For example, whilst many entities will act like loving, kind intelligences, teachers or healers, in certain contexts, they are equally capable of acting as indifferent, uncaring or even as malicious tormentors.

Entities can take any form but subconscious archetypes are present and commonly include:

Humans, friends, family, loved ones, strangers, oneself, shadow people, bodiless super intelligent humanoids, aliens, elves, fairies, animals, giant spheres, insectoids, beings of light, anthropomorphic beings, plants, conscious inanimate objects, fictional characters, cartoons, robotic machines, gods, demigods, goddesses, bio-mechanical intelligences, hooded figures, demons, indescribable monstrosities, spirits, angels, shamans, ghosts, souls, ancestors, fantastical or mythological beasts, glitch creatures and more.

Personality types

There are a few generally distinct personality types of autonomous entities which one may potentially encounter. They are often percieved to represent a particular subsection of one's own consciousness and can be identified primarily through their personality, but also sometimes their appearance. These individual types are broken down into three separate categories below.

  • Representations of general concepts - This personality type can be described as a hallucinated and seemingly sentient representation of any known concept. This will usually adopt an appropriate personality and set of mannerisms to fit the chosen concept to an impressive degree of accurate detail. For example, the specific concept could include people one has met throughout their life, specific fictional characters or symbolic representations of concepts such as abstract ideas, emotions or key parts of one's own personality.
    • Representations of the self - This personality type can be described as a mirror of one's own personality. It can take any visible form but when conversed with, it clearly adopts an identical vocabulary and set of mannerisms to one's own consciousness.
    • Representations of the subconscious - This personality type can be described as an entity which may take any visible form but is also subjectively perceived to be an autonomous controller behind the continuous generation of the details of one's current hallucinations. They may also be felt to simultaneously control or manage one's current perspective, personality and internally stored model of reality. When interacted with, this category of entity can often possess abilities which allow them to directly alter and manipulate one's current experiences. They commonly adopt an attitude which wants to teach or guide the person and will operate under the assumption that they know what is best for them. However, it cannot be known whether this hallucination is genuinely a representation of the subconscious or is perhaps merely an estimated hallucination which simply behaves in a convincing manner.

Communication styles

Autonomous entities can communicate with a person via a combination of normal spoken word, "telepathy", conceptual thoughts, mathematics and geometry-based visual linguistics which generally consist of morphing colored structures of different textures which are innately readable as representations of specific concepts.

Regarding the conversational topics which autonomous entities choose to discuss, they will often convey insights regarding overcoming personal issues within the one's life and will occasionally help clarify philosophical or spiritual ideas. However, more often than not entities are very likely to speak in cryptic or nonsensical messages which seem to have no clear or obvious meaning behind them.

It is important to note that autonomous entities will never truly convey new information to the person experiencing them. For example, they cannot provide insights about the external world which one did not already know about on some level. Instead, they can only provide alternative perspectives and help build upon pre-existing ideas. This is presumably because autonomous entities do not have access to any knowledge, information or facts which are not already stored within one's conscious or subconscious memories.

When communicated with through spoken word, the level of coherency in which these entities can communicate with is highly variable but can be broken down into four distinct levels. These are described and listed below:

  1. Silence - This level can be defined as a complete unresponsiveness from the side of the entity and a lack of speech despite their obvious presence within the hallucination.
  2. Partially defined incoherent speech - This level can be defined as linguistic conversational responses and noises which almost sound like words but do not contain any real content or meaning beyond a vague sense of emotional intent.
  3. Fully defined incoherent speech - This level can be defined as audible linguistic conversational responses and noises which contain fully defined and understandable words but often lack grammatical structure or an overall sense of general coherency.
  4. Partially defined coherent speech - This level can be defined as linguistic conversational responses which contain fully defined and understandable words with a partially defined grammatical structure and general coherency. It conveys its point on a level which is frequently coherent but may not always be fully understandable and will sometimes descend into broken English or even gibberish.
  5. Fully defined coherent speech - This level can be defined as linguistic conversational responses which contain understandable words and a fully defined grammatical sentence structures. It has an overall sense of general coherency which conveys its point in a level of detail that is genuinely on par with that of one's own intellect.

Image examples

Further information: Psychedelic art

Settings, sceneries, and landscapes

Settings, sceneries, and landscapes can be described as a subjective effect component that manifests within both external and internal hallucinations. They are the experience of the setting in which the plot of an external or internal hallucination occurs. These are capable of manifesting a seemingly infinite variety of potential places and settings.

When explored, the geography of these settings is capable of organizing itself as static and coherent. However, it will usually manifest as a non-linear, nonsensical and continuously ever-changing layout which does not obey the rules of everyday physics. Regarding the chosen locations, appearance and style of these settings, they seem to be selected at random and are often entirely new and previously unseen locations. They do, however, play a heavy emphasis on replicating and combining real life locations stored within the person's memories, especially those which are prominent in one's life and daily routine.

There are some common present archetypes within this component. These commonly include the visitation of:

Planetary systems, galaxies, quasars, jungles, rain forests, deserts, ice-scapes, cities, natural environments, caves, space habitats, vast structures, civilizations, technological utopias, ruins, machinescapes, historical settings, rooms and other indoor environments, incomprehensible geometric landscapes and more.

Alterations in perspective

Alterations in perspective can be described as a subjective effect component that can manifest within both external and internal hallucinations. It is the alteration of the perspective through which a hallucination is perceived. Perspective alterations are distinct from perspective distortions because distortions are more specific to how one perceives their relationship to the environment.

The experience of this effect can be broken down into four distinct perspectives. These are described and documented below:

  • 1st person - This is the most common form of perspective and can be described as the perfectly normal experience of perceiving a hallucination from one's everyday self and body.
  • 2nd person - This can be described as the experience of perceiving a hallucination from the perspective of an external source of consciousness such as another person, an animal or an inanimate object.
  • 3rd person - This is essentially an out-of-body experience and can be described as perceiving a hallucination from the perspective of floating above, below, behind, or in front of one's physical body.
  • 4th person - This the least common form of perspective and can be described as the experience of perceiving a hallucination from multiple or even seemingly infinite vantage points simultaneously.

Scenarios and plots

Main article: Scenarios and plots

Scenarios and plots can be described as the situations, stories, scenarios and events which occur within both external and internal hallucinations. These behave in an almost identical fashion to the plots and scenarios that occur during normal dream states and often include cognitive delusions that result in one accepting the plot as a real life event. On rare occasions, however, they will be immediately recognized as a mere hallucination and not a real life event.

During this effect, the typical components which comprise standard hallucinatory states (settings, sceneries, and landscapes and autonomous entities) begin behaving and co-operating in a manner which results in the experience of events occurring within the hallucination itself. These are often perceived as linear and coherent plots that occur in a logical sequence by leading into other events through normal cause and effect. However, they are equally likely to present themselves as completely nonsensical and incoherent. For example, they may consist of nonlinear or spontaneous events which are capable of ending, starting and changing between each other repeatedly in quick succession.

These hallucinated plots can consist of new experiences that are completely unlike the real world, old experiences such as accurate memory replays or a combination of the two. However, in terms of their precise content, this effect is impossible to define in a comprehensive manner in much the same way that one cannot predict the exact plot of unknown literature and films. They can, however, be summarized as basic occurrences which often entail visiting a setting that contains interactive objects and autonomous entities. It is also worth noting that the possible situations one may find themselves in as a result of this effect can be either positive or negative to experience in a manner which is dependent on both its content and the individual undergoing them.

Hallucinatory plots and scenarios usually feel as if they are being experienced in real-time. For example, when 20 seconds has passed within the hallucination, the same amount of time will usually have passed in the real world. At other points, however, time distortions occur, resulting in plots and scenarios that can feel as if they last days, weeks, months, years, eons or infinitely extended periods.

The experience of this effect is nearly universal under the influence of heavy dosages of almost any class of hallucinogen such as DMT, MXE and DPH.

Shadow people

Main article: Shadow people
Untitled by Anonymous - An accurate representation of the experience of shadow people.

Shadow people are a very common visual hallucination for humans to have. They usually appear as a result of sleep deprivation, psychosis (especially stimulant psychosis[1]), delirium, psychoactive substances, or sleep paralysis. During this experience, the subject perceives a patch of shadow in their peripheral vision or focused visual field to be a living, autonomous figure. This figure can be either humanoid or animal-like in appearance. Due to the unique behavior of these hallucinations and can be considered a sub-type of autonomous entities.

The visual external hallucinations usually, but not always, begin to appear as initial fleeting images out of the corner of the eyes in the peripheral vision. As the duration of the experience (sleep deprivation, stimulant psychosis, diphenhydramine, etc.) progresses. However, shadow people may begin to appear in full view and one will be able to look directly at them. At advanced mental states, one is even able to look away from the entity and look back at the entity without a change in the hallucination. This progression is typically the same whether one is experiencing shadow people from sleep deprivation or from stimulant psychosis.

The bodies of the shadow people are usually perceived as a type of blackness that has a sense of depth with few facial or bodily features. The blackness of the body often seems almost opaque as if one is looking into a "black hole" in anthropomorphic form. They also may appear as animal forms, uniform blobs, disembodied body parts, or a myriad of indescribable shapes. They sometimes appear to have faces, eyes, or mouths and are able to move or change shape. The movement exhibited can be normal human movement or it can be faster, slower, or more choppy than a normal person's gait. It is also possible for multiple shadow people to occupy one's field of vision simultaneously while acting autonomously from one another and even interacting with one another.

This hallucinatory state is often accompanied by a feeling of intense paranoia and anxiety due to the fact that shadow people are subjectively sinister in appearance and usually a result of negative states such as stimulant psychosis and sleep paralysis. Shadow people appear often in sleep paralysis, often carrying with them a sense of impending doom during the experience[2]

Multisensory aspects

Although it is not an intrinsic part of this hallucinatory effect, shadow people can potentially be accompanied by other sensory components aside from one's visual perception of them. This is typically infrequent and usually only occurs during very intense states of sleep deprivation, delirium or psychosis. For example, shadow people can potentially have an accompanying "voice", despite the lack of a visible mouth structure. This auditory communication follows an identical leveling system of progressively more detailed and coherent spoken word in the same manner as a generic autonomous entity. Shadow people may converse with the person experiencing them or they may converse amongst each other - sometimes talking about the person going through the experience.

Alongside of accompanying auditory hallucinations, shadow people may also present tactile and gustatory hallucinations. This is even rarer than their potential auditory effects and typically only occurs in particularly intense and advanced hallucinatory states. Their tactile effects can be indistinguishable from a real human touch and generally varied in temperature.They can also even include physical actions such as pulling of clothing, hair, or the skin.


  • Lucid vs. Delirious - Hallucinatory states can maintain a consistent level of awareness throughout them, regarding the fact that none of these events are really happening and that the current situation is simply a result of drug-induced hallucination. In contrast to this, hallucinations can also become completely believable, no matter how nonsensical they may be, in exactly the same way that we do not have any problem accepting absurd and non-linear plots within our dreams.
  • Interactive vs. Fixed – Hallucinatory states can either present themselves as completely separate in a manner that is similar to watching a video play out in front of one's field of vision or they can be completely interactive. For example, conversing with autonomous entities or interacting with imagined objects in a fashion similar to lucid dreaming is entirely possible.
  • New experiences vs. Memory replays – In terms of their subject matter, hallucinations can either be entirely new experiences or they can follow themes of normal, everyday concepts and a replaying of specific memories.
  • Controllable vs. Autonomous – Imagery and hallucinations can be partially to completely controllable. This can be described as the content of their appearance always seeming to perfectly follow and fit the general topic and subject matter of one's current thought stream, with varying levels of partial to absolute control. In contrast, autonomous hallucinations are completely spontaneous in their subject matter and entirely uncontrollable.
  • Geometry-based vs. Solid – Hallucinations can be comprised of condensed psychedelic geometry or they can appear to be made from realistic materials.

Psychoactive substances

Compounds within our psychoactive substance index which may cause this effect include:

Experience reports

Anecdotal reports which describe this effect within our experience index include:

See also


  1. Vila-Rodriguez, Fidel (September 2011). "Methamphetamine, Perceptual Disturbances, and the Peripheral Drift Illusion". American Journal on Addictions. doi:10.1111/j.1521-0391.2011.00161.x https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51568777_Methamphetamine_Perceptual_Disturbances_and_the_Peripheral_Drift_Illusion
  2. Shelley Adler (15 January 2011). Sleep Paralysis: Night-mares, Nocebos, and the Mind-Body Connection. Rutgers University Press. pp. 3–. ISBN 978-0-8135-5237-8.