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Observations placeholder

Monroe, Robert - Accidentally sniffs glue



Type of Spiritual Experience


Robert Monroe is a famous name amongst spiritual explorers – a pioneer in the use of sound to generate experiences and a very extensive out of body explorer.  What many may not realise is that he was also a ‘sniffer’!!

The following quote comes from one of his best known books.  It may be helpful to know that toluol is another name for toluene, however, The Trilene he refers to is the chemical compound trichloroethylene (C2HCl3) - a chlorinated hydrocarbon commonly  used as an industrial solvent. It is a clear non-flammable liquid with a sweet smell.  The IUPAC name is trichloroethene. Industrial abbreviations include TCE, trichlor, Trike, Tricky and tri. It has been sold under a variety of trade names. Under the trade names Trimar and Trilene, trichloroethylene was used as a volatile anesthetic and as an inhaled obstetrical analgesic in millions of patients.

A description of the experience

Journeys out of the body – Robert Monroe

The first consideration might be termed the anaesthesia episode, which took place some six months prior to the first symptom. The beginning came when I noticed an unusual 'heady" effect from the fumes of a gallon can of contact cement. I was installing a cubby-hole desk top in the wall of a bedroom at home when I became aware of the sensation.

The can clearly stated on the lid that the cement should be used in well-ventilated areas. I correctly assumed that this was a fire-hazard warning from the manufacturers.  The sensation reminded me of the strange effect I had experienced in the past just as I was "going under" from anaesthesia. Curious, I experimented with the effect of the fumes a number of times in the following month, with very significant result.

Upon learning that the fuming agents were toluol (a common commercial hydrocarbon detergent) and acetone (once used as anaesthetic), I made several experiments with the subjective effects of light anaesthesia, utilizing a less volatile and relatively safe inhalant, Trilene. In retrospect the results of these experiments seem to parallel closely the reports of those who have undertaken the LSD experience. Intensely vital and not at all unpleasant, the effects may well have triggered an inner desire or need for experiences beyond those I had had to that date.

Reluctantly, I stopped the experiments, as there seemed inherent dangers of physiological side effects if they were continued. Although I had set up rigid controls, there was no certainty that they would always work. However, I did find out some interesting facts about anaesthesia to satisfy my curiosity. In Ireland, it seems, ether was sold by the spoonful by peddlers who ladled it out at street-side each morning. In the early days, medical students often had "ether parties," much like the parties of the "black market" LSD users today.

Doctors have reported that ether addiction has been quite common through the years. Captains of gasoline tankers have problems with a seagoing version of the wino.  When signed on as crew, these men appear completely normal, until they are found unconscious alongside a cargo vent.  I understand they are labelled "sniffers."  Further, I learned the relationship between alcohol and other anaesthetics. Any anaesthetic produces a trail from consciousness to an unconscious state beyond which is death.

The job of the anaesthetist is to "put down" or place the patient in a deep unconscious state as quickly as possible, avoiding any "violent" intermediate condition (which is the area I evidently explored). The technique then is to hold the unconscious patient just above death.

The major advantage of ether when it was first introduced was that it had fewer possible side effects than alcohol and offered greater control of the degree of unconsciousness. The period of consciousness following administration was quite short, and the unconscious state was quite extended before the terminal point (death) was reached.

The period of consciousness following the administration of alcohol, on the other hand, is quite long. When deep unconsciousness is reached, the distance to the terminal point is much shorter. The margin is so narrow that continued administration of alcohol to a patient after he has "passed out" can well cause death.

The source of the experience

Monroe, Robert

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Inhaling volatiles and gases