Many people don’t know exactly what phosphenes are, thus they don’t know if what they see with eyes closed are phosphenes or not; or even they have the feeling that they don’t see anything at all…
That’s the reason why I decided to do this little summary of what we can see, with eyes closed, in bed.
Chapter I: the phosphenes
First, we have to be conscious that there are different types of phosphenes: the phosphenes we are speaking about in this article are much weaker than those we get by retinal persistence after watching a light, or by pressing eyelids:
- I’m in my bed, it’s dark, I close my eyes. Damn, I see nothing!
Oh that’s normal, my eyes are closed!
Or perhaps I see this:
There is a small blue spot at the center, with perhaps a small black dot in the middle: it’s the trace of the fovea which is a bit tired after all this day, and this blue spot tends to fade quickly.
- But in fact, do I really see nothing at all?
If I’m really careful, I notice in the dark sorts of small clouds which are a little clearer and tiny dots of light that appear and disappear: they are phosphenes. They are due to the interference on visual areas of the brain by other active areas beside. If I don’t even see this, it’s probably because I have no brain…
If I pay attention to those clouds and those little dots, they become brighter and even a little colored:
Sometimes, they move on their own and they rotate in circles or do a repetitive motion of translation, a bit like this:
This is because the visual cortex tries to accentuate contours as it does during the day when it defines the objects. And since it cannot do correctly its job because it’s all blurry, this gives almost anything. In fact, it creates an iterative function that takes as input the previous image and will eventually stabilize on a regular repetitive cycle. Here, it has been simulated with Photoshop and its “Sharpen Edges” filter: it already gives a rather correct result, with circles that are growing (although it doesn’t look perfectly-perfectly like what we see for true).
Sometimes these forms, when growing hap-hazardously, give the impression of vague black silhouettes suddenly moving towards you; there are some people who manage to get scared with them and even who tell scary stories to make babies cry (yes indeed! Don’t laugh cause I swear I’ve read lots of topics about this subject on paranormal forums ).
Chapter 2: how hypnagogic imagery forms from phosphenes
Here’s now how phosphenes turn into hypnagogic imagery. The following observations are made from many years of… missed WILD’s! All this happens very quickly; usually it looks like the image appears suddenly and that it disappears as soon as you notice it.
When the relaxation is deep enough and you’re about to fall asleep, the following phenomenon occurs. At a moment, the attention is drawn towards an area in the field of phosphenes and it zooms in it:
At this point, we no longer pay attention to what’s around or beside, we only concentrate on the selected area:
In fact, this area is a big bunch of slightly colored phosphenes, some are lighter, others darker, but the fact that the attention is placed on them must accentuate contrasts and contours:
And then, it’s like a pareidolia or a Rorschach test, one sees an image in what is just a big mess:
Oh the beautiful castle!
Hypnagogic images are usually not very colorful. I have seen some of them with colors, but they are a bit washy. They give the feeling that they are projected in front of your eyes like on a movie screen, they are not really 3D like a dream. It’s easier to watch all this after a waking up in the night: the images last longer and you even may switch from the phosphenes to the image and vice versa. But as soon as you zoom out, you lose everything and you have to start back from the beginning.
Chapter III: zooming into phosphenes
This is the third and final chapter of the small phosphenes story. It’s about what we see (or at least what I see) when zooming in a phosphene.
We saw above that when falling asleep, the attention focuses automatically on an area of the visual field. This is pretty much the same but by doing it voluntarily: we choose an area which is a bit more enlightened than others, or where there are more small dots of light and we focus on it:
The first difficulty is that, to focus on the area, you have to not use your eyes! You must do it exactly as the attention does naturally, i.e. a “mind zooming” in the area you are interested in. Indeed, the phosphenes are not objects in front of your eyes, as in real life, but their image is in the brain. So if you move your eyes to follow a phosphene, well, the phosphenes field remains centered accordingly to your vision, hence the phosphene moves in the same time you move your eyes, and you’ll run after and will never catch it!
Thus, the most practical way is probably to select an area near the center of the visual field.
Once this area selected, you must keep your attention on it without zooming out and, after “a certain time” that can take several minutes, it begins to clear a bit more and some forms start to emerge. At first, they are still pretty flat:
But after a while, the forms take some relief and you can see the phosphenes as they were in volume. It looks like small crystals or small pieces of transparent planes which intersect in every direction.
This image is perhaps a little too “artistic”: for true, it’s often less nice and it looks more like something between the two last images.
The potential value of all this? It may potentially be used for a WILD method based on “zooming into phosphenes”. Now, should we have to see all this to practice this method? I don’t know at all, I never managed to WILD this way! Theoretically, one should try to “enter” the phosphene (some authors speak about “opening” the phosphene), i.e. zooming more and more into a detail of the phosphene. After a while, the phosphene transforms in an image which can be entered in.
But in my opinion, this WILD technique is one of the hardest to implement. It requires a lot of training to be able to prevent the phosphenes to move, to see them in 3D, etc. In fact, if I’ve read three descriptions of this method, it seems that only their authors were able to do it. (One of these authors, Christian Bouchet, said it takes at least two weeks of training before managing to see fixed phosphenes in 3D. And yet, it’s not because we can see them that we are still arrived! )