by guest writer: Lucy Abramelin
Flotation tanks have been used since half way through last century, as a means to create a situation of complete sensory deprivation with the ultimate goal of improved health and wellbeing for their users. They were first developed by an American neuro-psychiatrist, John C. Lilley, and if you have seen the film ‘Altered States’, this gives a fictionalised but somewhat accurate account of his processes to develop this therapeutic device.
The tanks contain extremely salty water at a concentration similar to that of the Dead Sea, which is ideally maintained at body temperature, allowing one to float effortlessly on the surface of the water. At the centre I attend, the tanks themselves look like giant fibre glass pods, are several metres in length and wide enough that one of average height can spread their arms without touching the edges. Effectively they are huge, enclosed bathtubs. Once the cover on one’s pod is closed it blocks out all external distractions such as light, sound, tactile sensations and gravity, in order to create a perfectly peaceful environment for deep relaxation and the sensation of floating in space. The conditions actually trick one into not feeling where one’s body starts and the external world (the water) begins.
Sessions at various centres will vary in length, however at the particular centre that I visit they can range from anywhere between 1 and 2 hours, and some say the longer one’s exposure to this environment the more profound the benefits. Staying in for a significant length of time is important as the sense deprived conditions cause the brain to shift into creating Theta waves, which, as distinct from its usual workaday Beta waves, can lead to a mysterious and enlightening state, also known as a hypnagogic state.
Subjectively, after the initial shock or surprise of how it feels to be plunged into absolute darkness and forced by the salinated water to float, the conditions do become extremely relaxing creating an optimal Yin type of situation to either tune out and go with the flow in, meditate or simply rest. Or what one can do (which is generally more my wont), is take on a more Yang role in the space and engage some more active energy/ritual work.
Thus far, my own experiences with flotation tanks have led me to understand that conducting the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram and the Middle Pillar astrally whilst inside is exceptionally powerful. It seems to have taken my whole personal process and ratcheted it up several notches in a short space of time as complete sensory deprivation makes for an excellent ritual chamber: hermetically sealed.
Quite obviously, the conditions also emulate the womb, however, unless one has done primal therapy work, or used other types of ritual or substance to connect with their pre-natal self, this likeness may be of little or no conscious significance. Unconsciously, however, for many, surely it takes people back to a time of complete and limitless safety. Not an unpleasant feeling in a modern world where stress and fear are peddled on every corner.
All in all, advocates of flotation devices promise a range of health benefits, of the physical and psychological kind; from weight loss and reduction of aches and pains, to greater mental clarity, concentration and decreased depression and anxiety. Some, including myself, also suggest that they are extremely beneficial in a spiritual/left hand path sense. For the budding supreme deity, experiencing this sensorily deprived context and either actively or passively testing it as a tool or chamber for one’s own ritual development is highly recommended.