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Observations placeholder

Roget - The nitrous oxide experiment



Type of Spiritual Experience


I think it was probably a vision. Roget’s experience was much the same as many nitrous oxide observations; people don’t remember them because their memory is so effectively wiped out and they have not learnt to access their perceptions

A description of the experience

From Laughing gas – nitrous oxide – edited by Michael Shedlin and David Wallechinsky
Peter Mark Roget [author of Roget’s Thesaurus]

"The effect of the inspirations of the nitrous oxide was that of making me vertiginous, and producing a tingling sensation in my hands and feet: as these feelings increased, I seemed to lose the sense of my own weight, and imagined I was sinking into the ground. I then felt a drowsiness gradually steal upon me, and a disinclination to motion; even the actions of inspiring and expiring were not performed without effort: and it also required some attention of mind to keep my nostrils closed with my fingers. I was gradually roused from this torpor by a kind of delirium, which came on so rapidly that the air-bag dropped from my hands. This sensation increased for about a minute after I had ceased to breathe, to a much greater degree than before, and I suddenly lost sight of all the objects around me, they being apparently obscured by clouds, in which were many luminous points, similar to what is often experienced on rising suddenly and stretching out the arms, after sitting long in one position.

"I felt myself totally incapable of speaking, and for some time lost all consciousness of where I was, or who was near me. My whole frame felt as if violently agitated: I thought I panted violently: my heart seemed to palpitate, and every artery to throb with violence; I felt a singing in my ears; all the vital motions seemed to be irresistibly hurried on, as if their equilibrium had been destroyed, and everything was running headlong into confusion. My ideas succeeded one another with extreme rapidity, thoughts rushed like a torrent through my mind, as if their velocity had been suddenly accelerated by the bursting of a barrier which had before retained them in their natural and equable course.

This state of extreme hurry, agitation, and tumult, was but transient. Every unnatural sensation gradually subsided; and in about a quarter of an hour after I had ceased to breathe the gas, I was nearly in the same state in which I had been at the commencement of the experiment.

"I cannot remember that I experienced the least pleasure from any of these sensations. I can, however, easily conceive, that by frequent repetition I might reconcile myself to them, and possibly even receive pleasure from the same sensations which were then unpleasant.

"I am sensible that the account I have been able to give of my feelings is very imperfect. For however calculated, their violence and novelty were to leave a lasting impression on the memory, these circumstances were for that very reason unfavourable to accuracy of comparison with sensations already familiar.

"The nature of the sensations themselves which bore greater resemblance to a half delirious dream than to any distinct state of mind capable of being accurately remembered, contributes very much to increase the difficulty. And as it is above two months since I made the experiment, many of the minuter circumstances have probably escaped me."

The source of the experience

Roget [Thesaurus compiler]

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Inhaling nitrous oxide