Build a Dream Machine, Brion Gysin and William Burroughs’ Device for Sober Hallucinations, for $50-60
Brion Gysin’s Dream Machine is a device that can create and accelerate altered states of consciousness without the use of hallucinogens or hours of nonstop meditation. (You can find out more about it here.)
It’s hard for me to pinpoint the exact resource that lead me to discover the Dream Machine. Was it music, the words of Burroughs or magical experimentation? Regardless of the source, once I saw the price of some prefabricated models (roughly $450) I decided to try creating my own “innerverse” machine. I spent, altogether, about $50-60 in materials to create my own. Although I ran into some obstacles while putting my Dream Machine together, once you get all the materials, assembly can be completed within a day.
(Here’s a Google Docs link to the original plans for the Dream Machine published by Thee Temple of Psychick Youth, now out of print.)
• 32” x 32” (minimum) aluminum sheet or heavy cardboard, depending on how classy you want the Dream Machine to look.
– You can find the heavy board at any art supply store. You can cut out the pattern using any ol’ blade or a Xacto knife.
– You can buy the aluminum sheet at your local hardware store. Just make sure you have the proper instruments to cut the shapes out of the aluminum and avoid warping the sheet.
• 78 r.p.m. turntable
– Can be found at thrift stores or second hand stores; however you must be willing to hunt for one. eBay is another good source. You can find them relatively cheap, but expect to pay a hefty shipping fee. Oh—and make sure it can actually turn 78s, not just 33s or 45s.
• Light bulb, socket and power cord
– You can either take the light bulb and socket out of an old lamp, find an old lamp at a thrift store, or you can buy a lamp making kit at your local hardware store for about $10 and some change.
Step 1: Prepare the record player. Remove any hood, arms or other elements that will serve no purpose for the Dream Machine. Remember, all you need is the spinning table. Everything else will just get in your way.
If curiosity leads you to look under the hood of the record, so to speak, feel free to explore but be careful not to damage any of its parts, otherwise the turn table will not spin for you.
Step 2: Take your sheet of aluminum and create a grid. Each line should be two inches apart, going in both directions, creating two inch squares.
Now you can either print & cut out the templates included in the PDF instructions, or just draw them using the template as a guide. There are five different shapes. They are all a slight variations of each other set to a distinct pattern. If you want to see a full size version of each, refer to the plans or the template.
Personally, I stumbled upon some obstacles while attempting to create the hood using the aluminum sheet. I just didn’t have the right tools to cut the shapes out without distorting the metal. So I switched over to the heavy cardboard sheet from my local art supply store and it worked out fine.
I like to sand the cuts afterwards just to make sure the shapes are even and aesthetically perfect, but that’s up to your own taste.
Step 3: After you’ve cut out the pattern, you must connect the each side of the hood. Be careful! You don’t want to tear the hood by handling it too roughly. If possible, carefully twist the cardboard so it takes the proper round bended shape. You may consider scoring the board so it maintains the shape, but your risk of ripping is higher.
This would be the ideal time to get an extra pair of hands to help you hold the hood in proper shape while you glue and clamp them into place. Let dry.
Step 4: If your turntable plate, like the one I bought, is not large enough to hold your hood, then you will have to create a base for it. I used a piece of the aluminum sheet that I discarded. Make it large enough that the hood can sit easily on top of it but not so large that you can’t get to the buttons on the face of the turn table.
Steps 5: Place your hood on top of the turntable and set the rotation speed to 78 r.p.m.
Step 6: Suspend the lamp about 1/3 but no further than halfway into the hood of the dream machine. I just hung mine from a light fixture on the roof of my room. You may need to get an extension cord.
Step 7: Turn off all the lights and make sure you sit very close to the rotating Dream Machine while you begin your meditation. Keep your eyes closed throughout the meditation.
(If you build one, let us know how it goes in the comments below!)