From the Archives: Phosphenes (1977)

in Culture

By Peter Kaidheim

“First, close your eyes. Now, with your index fingers at the inner edge of your eyeballs, press in and toward the temples. Press until it’s slightly painful and keep at it for about ten seconds.”

“Like this?”

“That’s right. Now what do you see?”

“The darkness is disappearing. There’s a very bright light swelling up in the center of my eyes. It’s getting even brighter. And now there’s a kind of crisscross pattern coming up from inside the light, like a checkerboard with luminous squares.”

“Good. Release the pressure for a few seconds, but keep your eyes closed. Now, press again and tell me what you see.”

“I see wavy lines this time—lots of them. Colored lines, bright blues and greens. They’re sliding across my eyes from left to right. Reminds me of tripping on acid.

“Okay. Now take your fingers away, open your eyes and focus them quickly on the white wall over there. Can you still see any wavy lines?”

“You’re right. I can.”

What is taking place is a demonstration of phosphene hallucinosis conducted by Dr. Gerald Oster, professor of biophysics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Essentially, phosphene vision is what the followers of Sat Guru Maharaj Ji, the erstwhile perfect Master at 13, used to call the light. When you showed up at a Maharaji ashram, the senior premies, would hold you in a no-food state of sensory deprivation for 48 hours, then press down hard on your eyelids and then you’d see the light. They claimed that only the Perfect Master’s chosen adepts could administer the light, but, as we now know, anybody with eyes to see and two fingers to jab into them, à Ia Moe Howard, can enjoy …

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Author: High Times / High Times

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