CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, a “monk for the modern age” by George Parker, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is
Featured Book
The Young Wizard's Hexopedia
Search Site

Breathing Circle
Music Box Moment
Cautious or Optimistic
King of Hearts of War and Peace
As I Was, As I Am
Perdition Slip
Loves Me? Loves Me Not?
Wacky Birthday Form
Test Your ESP
Chess-Calvino Dictionary
Is Today the Day?
100 Ways I Failed to Boil Water
"Follow Your Bliss" Compass
"Fortune's Navigator" Compass
Inkblot Oracle
Luck Transfer Certificate
Eternal Life Coupon
Honorary Italian Grandmother E-card
Simple Answers


A Fine Line Between...
A Rose is a ...
Always Remember
Annotated Ellipses
Apropos of Nothing
Book of Whispers
Call it a Hunch
Colorful Allusions
Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up?
Disguised as a Christmas Tree
Don't Take This the Wrong Way
Everybody's Doing This Now
Forgotten Wisdom
Glued Snippets
Go Out in a Blaze of Glory
Hindpsych: Erstwhile Conjectures by the Sometime Augur of Yore
How to Believe in Your Elf
How to Write a Blank Book
I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought
Images Moving Through Time
Indubitably (?)
Inflationary Lyrics
It Bears Repeating
It's Really Happening
Last Dustbunny in the Netherlands
Miscellanies of Mr. Jonathan
Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led
No News Is Good News
Non-Circulating Books
Nonsense Dept.
Not Rocket Science
Oldest Tricks in the Book
On One Condition
One Mitten Manager
Only Funny If ...
P I n K S L i P
Peace Symbols to Color
Postcard Transformations
Presumptive Conundrums
Puzzles and Games
Letter Grids
Tic Tac Toe Story Generator
Which is Funnier
Restoring the Lost Sense
Rhetorical Answers, Questioned
Rhetorical Questions, Answered!
Semicolon Moons
Semicolon's Dream Journal
Separated at Birth?
Simple Answers
Someone Should Write a Book on ...
Something, Defined
Staring at the Sun
Staring Into the Depths
Strange Dreams
Strange Prayers for Strange Times
Suddenly, A Shot Rang Out
Telescopic Em Dashes
Temporal Anomalies
The 40 Most Meaningful Things
The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine
The Only Certainty
The Right Word
This May Surprise You
This Terrible Problem That Is the Sea
Two Sides / Same Coin
Uncharted Territories
We Are All Snowflakes
What I Now Know
What's In a Name
Yearbook Weirdness
Yesterday's Weather
Your Ship Will Come In


July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006


Magic Words
Jonathan Caws-Elwitt
Martha Brockenbrough
Gordon Meyer
Dr. Boli
Serif of Nottingblog
Joe Brainard's Pyjamas
Ironic Sans
Brian Sibley's Blog
Abecedarian personal effects of 'a mad genius'
A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.

August 21, 2012 (permalink)

An illustration from an 1853 issue of Harper's magazine (vol. 7, p. 573).  The caption reads: "Appearance of things in general to a gentleman who has just turned a complete somersault.  * &c., &c., Represent Sparks of Divers Beautiful Colors."
#vintage illustration #seeing stars
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Pinterest

June 16, 2012 (permalink)

[Newly updated]

The artist Aaron Ross has a great definition of phosphenes: "phantom images seen only in the mind's eye."

Phosphenes (literally "light that shines forth") are luminous, ephemeral signposts marking the landscape of innerspace. Several scientists have found that phosphenes have common features across cultural boundaries. Such findings point to a universal library of symbols.

A phosphene is a multicolored shape or pattern seen in the darkness, without external visual stimulation. Phosphenes can be seen with closed eyes or in a completely dark room with open eyes. Phosphenes may appear as:
  • spirals
  • exploding stars
  • wispy clouds
  • wheels
  • tunnels
  • parallel lines
  • wavy lines
  • dotted lines
  • zigzags
  • checkerboards
  • honeycombs
  • spider webs
  • dot patterns
  • circles within circles
  • crosses
  • thin meandering lines, like lightning
  • geometric shapes, like triangles, squares, pentagons
  • and so on.
They may swirl, pulse, superimpose, fragment, or morph into other images.

If you have ever bumped your head and seen stars, those were phosphenes. You can, however, stimulate the appearance of phosphenes without hurting your head in the process. Hold your fingers over your closed eyelids and make very slow and gentle circular motions or apply very gentle pressure. When images begin appearing, remove your fingers, keep your eyes closed, and watch the visions. Having a tape recorder handy will allow you to describe out loud the colors, shapes, and other phenomena you witness. This information will be helpful later as you study the symbolic meaning of your visions.

Why does pressure on the eyeballs create phosphenes? Mathematician G. Bard Ermentrout explains that the pressure inhibits signals from the retina, thereby encouraging the brain's cortex to fill the void. The brain begins firing spontaneously and creates hallucinatory patterns.

Phosphenes can also be seen under such conditions as:
  • hypnosis
  • reverie
  • fever delirium
  • fatigue
  • sensory deprivation
  • sweat lodges
  • profound concentration
  • hyperventilation
  • medicinal herbs
  • psychoactive drugs (such as LSD)
  • food and water deprivation
  • electrical and magnetic stimulation of the visual cortex
  • strobe lights
  • rhythmic movement
  • migraine headaches
  • meditation
  • trance states
  • intense emotion
  • stress
  • crystal gazing
The behaviour of phosphenes seems to be uncontrollable by scientists. In 1994, vision researcher William H. Dobelle discovered that the phosphene lights flicker at a rate which seems unrelated to the cardiac pulse, breathing rate, or other physiologic functions.

Phosphene researcher and artist Lorena Babcock Moore says that under the influence of drugs and other intense forms of stimulation, phosphenes become "more pronounced and the patterns (called entoptics) increase in complexity and may include flashes, spirals, circles, or zigzags that move in concentric circling, horizontal streaking, vertical falling, or scattering fragments. Motifs may overlap and transform into one another." However, Moore does not use intense methods for her own phosphene work. She prefers outdoor solitary drumming.

Distinct shapes are commonly seen in phosphenes. Phosphenes are said to be generated by the nervous system's intrinsic geometry.

Vivid, morphing colors are typical. Phosphenes typically change color in phases:

1. Yellow
2. Bright green with a red halo expanding toward the center
3. Red with a blue halo expanding toward the center
4. Blue
5. Grey, faint afterimage

These inner visions have inspired artistic works throughout human history. In 1989, researcher Richard Bradley applied the concept of phosphenes to European megalithic art. He attributed many mysterious cave drawings with the phosphene visions of the ancient artists. Art historian A. E. Iribas has traced the influence of phosphenes on such art as:
  • the "childlike" art of Miro
  • the psychedelic art of Michaux
  • the surrealist art of Dali
  • the mandalas of Tibetan Buddhism
  • the architecture of temples
  • alchemical imagery
  • Hildegard von Bingen's illuminations
  • the work of contemporary painters such as Onslow-Ford, Kupka, Kandinsky, av Klint, and others
In 1983, Qabala expert Philo Stone suggested that phosphenes are actually "sparks of pure energy, light perceived at the moment of its conversion into nervous-system information between the cornea and the brain. Thus, phosphenes may be the behavior of atomic particles as observed by the naked eye: the interface of two worlds, the normal and the nuclear -- the fourth dimension."

The French physician Francis Lefebure (1916-1988) experimented with a technique of combining a thought with a phosphene in order to transform the energy of light into mental energy. He believed that conscious phosphene work would stimulate memory, attention, intelligence, imagination, intuition, creativity, decision making, patience, perseverance, self confidence, dreaming, and the discovery of new dimensions. His technique involved stimulating phosphenes with a light source:

1. Sit in a darkened room.
2. Look at the bulb of a small pocket flashlight (non-halogen) for thirty seconds.
3. Turn off the light and, with open eyes, see the phosphene.
4. Place a thought inside the phosphene: "A thought of love, goodness, peace, wisdom, a thought dedicated to unhappy and unlucky people of the planet."
5. Keep both the phosphene and the thought for at least one minute, smiling throughout.

Let's close with our favorite appearance of phosphenes in literature, in which the colored lights are each worlds of their own: "[He] pressed his knuckles against his closed eyeballs. How they throbbed ... those eyeballs ... and what surprising shapes and colours those were, that appeared before his inner vision! ¶ With a sort of sullen curiosity he watched those floating geometric shapes — green and purple and violet. 'Each of these,' he thought, 'might be a world. Perhaps it is ... and from the point of view of the Absolute just as important a world as this of ours!'" (John Cowper Powys, Wolf Solent, 1929).


Steven writes:

My name is Steven Roy, I live in Medford Oregon. This stuff rocks. I am 31 now when I was 27 I was in my uncles house, and quite manic. I was rubbing my eyes for about 2 hours straight. I loved the lights. I saw all phases of the phosphenes, and then everything went white. The white turned to clouds that seperated to reveal stars, space, christ, comets, earth, pyreamids, mermaids, tridents, and hyperspeed tracers, like star trek. I knew something was up, but then my phosphenes wouldn't go away, I started realising I was communicating witht them through my thoughts. I have been working as a succesfull psychic ever since. Not only that, I had to pass tests, and tasks, and rewire my brain, and my body started moving on its own as well. I am convinced that Francis Lefebure, was correct when believing that concious phosphene work, stimulates memory,intelligence, imagination, intuition, creativity, etc. I believe this because I went through it just like scool. Others think its cool, I am not your average psychic worker. I am not a religious person and do believe that the symbols I saw where in fact caused by phosphenes, and somehow were a bridge to establish my own belief system as an individual. If anyone else has had this experience, please let me know. I think this might be a way of completely opening up someones memory bank, because it happened to me. I went from a average Joe who was not happy with life, to a smart person with a new passion for life and learning in 3 months. I had to remember eveything that I could or I couldnt move onto the next phase. Just like the phosphenes, in phases. Anyway take care.


William Keckler writes:

I learned about these early. I used to get on a swing at recess in elementary school and press on my eyes (my arms wrapped around the chains) to "see visions." I used that as a method of divination. Something about flying high on the swing and the sense of rushing through space in darkness made the images more dramatic. I got some of the other kids to do it. And then I had to see the school psychologist. So much for the spirit of inquisitiveness in the American educational system in the 1970s. I suppose I was the Timothy Leary of the playground set. Just, like, without any good drugs.

"At times," writes Vladimir Nabokov in his autobiography, "my photisms take on a rather soothing flou quality, and then I see?projected, as it were, upon the inside of the eyelid?gray figures walking between beehives, or small black parrots gradually vanishing among mountain snows, or a mauve remoteness melting beyond moving masts" (Speak Memory, revised edition, 1967, p. 21).  Nabokov's words are captured by Theophilos Papadopoulos.
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Pinterest

October 7, 2006 (permalink)

"Moonbow" by LizCrimson.  For a full description of the palette and its colors, see ColourLovers.
The moonbow color palette by artist LizCrimson.

A night rainbow glows on a starry night in Hawaii.

A night rainbow in the mountains.

Just as there are rainbows during the day, there can be moonbows at night.  It must be raining opposite the moon and the moon must be nearly full and it can't be any higher than 42 degrees in the sky.  It also has to be dark.  All those factors combined together make for this atmospheric phenomenon to be fairly rare.

A moonbow in the high desert of California.  "The requirements needed to form a 'moonbow' are similar to the requirements of the much more common rainbow -- moonlight rather than sunlight is the light source. Look very closely and perhaps you can see faint star trails between the clouds in this 30 second exposure."

A night rainbow (nachregenbogen in German) in Hammelburg, Germany. "Driving through the fog on this spring evening, my headlight beams created this high arching fogbow. Fogbows are more feebly colored than their Sun illuminated counterparts (rainbows) and usually appear whitish to the unaided eye."

A night rainbow over Waimea Canyon.

A moonbow stretching over Salt Pond Bay in St. John, Virgin Islands.

"It is December, winter in Egypt. Evening there comes early, at five o'clock the sun already slides for horizon. And right after a decline, especially in the winter, the sky is painted in gentle colors of a rainbow."

A night rainbow over South Anchorage.

A fiberoptic mural at the Phoenix Children's Hospital in Phoenix, illustrates a rare night rainbow emerging under a moonlit sky.

A moonbow by Kenna Graff.

Bringers of the night rainbow.

A moonbow over the trees.

A neon night rainbow, and an incandescent one.

Speaking of rainbows ... is this where they come from?
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Pinterest

Original Content Copyright © 2020 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.