Victor Willing’s MS visions: were they Charles Bonnet Syndrome, or simply Famulus and Anthroparion Forms of Haunted Hypnagogy?


rev., Oct 28, 2019.

Note: This is a POV thoughtpiece not a review. With mention of  don’t Be Afraid of the dark (1973).

The paintings of Victor Willing (1928-1988) seem to be being given a second look, with three exhibitions in the UK this Fall, likely attributable the search to find a new grounding for abstract painting, other than it has had in recent times. The story is that Willing was a painter, but, then, at 40, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. For a while, he had not been painting, then, he had time to, so he would see in a room for hours, it is said, staring at a wall of an arrangement of objects, and then he would have a “vision”.


the result was painting like Swing (1978).


this is intriguing because it seems like a still life, an assemblage of objects, that is, laundry, but, then, somehow, it grew sharper, and he had a vision, that told him to paint it. What was the vision part? It would seem to me that the process was, he would look at the arrangement; then, at some point, something in his eyes would cause it to “boil” or rather animate, so that it seemed to come alive; and when it came to that point, that is all it took, it instantly stepped forward with a distinct and shocking sharpness into his zone, so scared him, or enchanted him, so, he painted it. The part of this picture that I think became animated, and caused his mind to skip and scare, is the white stocking on the left, it seems as if it is coming back to life, or is rather a leg, trying to take a step


it is that little startle effect that brings the whole thing to life, that makes him see the whole ensemble as if a vision, coming alive, so that is what he paints. He tried it again with a few others, in each case, what almost looks like a still life assemblage, but, then, something is off, something is moving, or coming alive, it is bumping in the dark like things do, and that’s what prompts him to paint.


here it is, again, I think, the movement in the upper left hand corner that activates, which then, scaring him, or seeming to be uncanny, it causes him to record it in paint. In both cases I have shown it is the upper left hand corner, which would be a curse not to look back on, but he does.


maybe he was in a state of sleep paralysis when he saw these animations of inanimate things. It is also clear that he tried to rationalize them by explaining things to himself, this seems more cubistic, so this is, rather, not him recording a vision, but him thinking about a vision he had, a difference.


Then too it seems with this one he also rationalized by trying to find why these visions were so interesting to him, by looking at the interior work by dichirico, which, of course, I am very interesting in of late. He was thinking, here, what I am seeing, it looks a lot like a deChirico interior.


but the problem above is that the animation is “imagined” in the mind and not a direct recording of the vision event; it is also true that this arrangement seems more premeditated, and not random, altogether this is much more studied picture, really him wondering what’s up, rather than recording what actually is.

But, I know this spot in the mind that he has ended up in. does MS put you in it, if you sit for long enough? is this in any way comparable to my sleep paralysis episodes when I was younger? But, in my system, the sudden, and simple and minimal, animation of the inanimate is a form that aconjure figure takes, coming in on one. I wrote about this with Tala Madani, The sleeper

8to classify it, I wrote

then it scares you a bit by coming in on you, when it crosses from pure ambience, the zone of nonfigurative spin, it latches onto an entoptic staple and thus becomes a Figment, that is, a pareidol in whatever element it takes form in, in my treatment of Bacon and Whistle it was newspaper blowing; then, as it moves closer in to the glass onion stage, it latches onto a more solid object, closer to the materiality as it would be of the thing you suspect it now of being, and in that it also becomes distinctly and clearly animated, so, now more question now, it is there, a kind of ghost, that is, named after the familiar of witches, a Famulus; finally, as it at last comes in on you, to scare you, to cause you to bounce up, that is a Configure, There is also the problem that, if you are like the professor in Whistle, and set up a model of prefrontal rationality to give form to the mind, with no allowance for the fluidity created by surfacings in vigilogogy of hypnagogic effects, then you might be startled awake by the upclose nature of the Configure, for it to then be pulled up with you, to, then, in vigilogy, come out, or crawl out, or come alive, as the bedsheet in the bed next over did to the professor, to, then, disbelieving it, he already being on the edge, drive him mad”.


this then being the best example


so, since blank wall is an entoptic surface, as per davinci’s explanation of how to stimulate the imagination, that would be a figment, if Willing did indeed envision the whole thing become animated before his eyes; but, if, rather, there was set up in the room already, an arrangement of objects, that did not take shape in his imagination until his eyes as they were with MS saw this inanimate ensemble suddenly animate, and, like in a horror movie, or as I mentioned with regard to the bedsheet in reality in Whistle and I’ll Come to You, that would be a Famulus. This means that what Willing painted were conjure figures, and, in particularly, built on entoptic and glass onion formations in light sleep, or a state of vigilogogy made by disease a lot like hypnagogy, figments or famuli.


But, then, the question is, why did he have this problem? It turns out that there has been work done to identify what kind of eye problem issue MS sufferers had. It seems they have decided Charles Bonnet syndrome is one. These are some examples of CBS visions. A couch will grow grass


this is interesting because it is so much like what Aster thinks dani would’ve seen while high on shrooms or a juice in Midsommar (2019), grass growing out of her hand

13then, later, grass taking over her feet.

14In both cases, she was as if sinking into nature. There is a visual similarity. Then, there was a lady on a youtube video who described a vision, things remained framewise as they are, a scaffold, a shelf, but, then, the shelf was covered in mud, which was glowing pink and blue

15another example

16these look like that CBS lets you see Famuli, that is, things, objects, inanimate in the world suddenly animate along the line of the thing, and makes it come alive in a new way. As such, then, I do place these at the glass onion level, a symbol created by an inanimate object made animate, just the very first bit of it. So, the reason Swing by Willing has such an effect is that it is studiously painted as a still life, but, at one point, with the mind pushing the objects around, as it does in a glass onion fugue state, or a situation of STICHOMYTHIA, a fuguelike back and forth, part of it, suddenly, becomes animated


the sharpness of it is what makes it, the definitiveness, the, if you will, indexicality of it. That is, one senses an immediacy in it, that puts it on a whole other level of seriousness from Willing’s other work, it seems to have latched onto something, and what that is, and what attracts people, is that it has visual wisdom, this kind of thing really does happen with real eyes, and, then, as such, this attracts people with its sense of authenticity and reality, it connects.

For me, it is of interest because it allows me to make use of some science of hallucinations, to situate precisely where in hypnagogy, a certain type of formation exists, and what it is called. This is all part of my search for visual wisdom as a grounding factor of art that is real, and not just conceits of the idle imagination. So, that is why Willing is of interest.

But, there is, another related topic. A second aspect of CBS is that, in that scaffold, people see little people, at the interstices, just like diane saw them in her apartment in Mulholland drive (2001).


some of the entries feel like exaggerations, but there is this sense that across the scaffold of things, at the intersections of them, as it were, those joints, as it were, were also separately animated, and in a more figural form, as little imps, or fairies, or the like, one author called them homunculi.


this, in my hierarchy of forms coming in is a Configure figure; and, then, if it comes close in, in to the face, as it did with diane, at that point enlarging, and then chasing her, that circle around from the under the bed, where it was instrumentalized as a figure, then that is a straight up demon. But, I didn’t know what to call them.



but in looking into it, looking at homunculus, there is a secondary meaning, and that is that, while some homunculi are small, there is also a usage of homunculi, which I make use of, which makes it the same size as life size. But, then, it turns out, in Zosimos’s visions, he called a little attacking homunculi an ANTHROPARION. And that is what I will call this conjure figure demon, little, but obviously there, attacking. Zosimos particularly speaks of a priest who turned into the opposite of himself, so there is an enantiodromic quality, and I referred to this too recently with regard to the Joker stairs,


and the pictures.



but, that would be perfect


an opposite of oneself, likely also relating to Girard’s notion of the substitute victim being the monster double. So, anthroparion it is. But, then, the question is where do these rise up? As I map it out more scenically, the lattice forms a lattice.


this then brings little faces into it, as part of the ensemble of possible images that one might see in the CBS hallucinations of Lewy’s bodies, or MS, and maybe even MSA (my now-lapsed diagnosis)? But, then, that is of interest. In Green Tea Le Fanu postulates that behind the prefrontal was an inner eye that gazed into the workings of the body and kept things under supervision. But then, when, upon drinking green tea, or being haunted, the eye flipped, so that whatever one saw inside the eye, flipped out to be seen outside the eye. The issue here is, then, overlay of the entoptic onto the lattice, Willing possibly also painted some things he saw with his eyes closed, gazing into the entoptic. This portrait of him at 70, which he made when he was 60–he did not get to 70–represents, then, a kind of death mask of self-imagining, but, notice, it is on a blue field, then, it is floating, and rough edged, as if just emerging out of its ground, it also has no ground in the eyes; where the eyes are are holes that look back into the blue ground again, which means that it is a mask, and, I think, typical of something you would see on the entoptic field with one’s eyes closed, an accurate picture of a visualization in that field.


but, then, when you close your eyes, and look , it is a weblike maze, so it would be amenable to just slipping in under the lattice, for one to also see the imposition on it of lattice form anthroparion figures, or homunculi.


in fact, as I stated in my post, I do in fact now and then have an entoptic field issue, which I call punks. Somehow, on those fissures, things overboil, possibly resulting from idle churn, body energy that will not normally burn off, so that I see little videos or movies, or scenes, and figures like Russian dolls dissolve into other figures, then become something completely other, it might be the origin of shape shifting, as a phenomenon in fiction, because that’s what happens; but, then, so, now, I see these as intrusive anthroparion, onto the entoptic field, or homunculi. (I also learned the other day that the word for a display in a dutch still life is a pronk, so I will call these, rather, pronks).


In this research period, homunculus, in terms of popular culture, which for Wiki is the only culture, referred me to don’t be afraid of the dark (1973), which became for an afternoon the movie I most wanted to see. I wont pay 3$ for it, so watched a few clips. And in the shower scene, glimpses of Kim darby in the entoptic field of the shower curtain, oddly arranged off to the side.


contrast with the surprise appearance of homunculi, they in the abstract use a hangar to turn off the light


then something comes out


then it is contrasted with, frankly, the homuncular display of her body


then she sees, like Willing might have, an unexplainable how did that get there, a Not Still Life trope, that is, an object that somehow got up and walked there, the inanimate animate.


then it turns out it is them, anthroparia


they freak her out worse than mice


when husband doubts her, it is by a predicament painting, spelling out their problem, they are all in the white area, but then, at the margin, there is a conjure figure, class homuncular

37their possible presence as coming out of the very woodwork was suggested at the opening titles, when they crawl up a figurative snake post.

38to then block the house behind the post

39then there are alibi statues about to let them be blamed

40another almost Marini inside too


causing the eye to start, from across the room



43then she first saw them nervous at a dinner party, in the flowers

44then in the napkin, pulling it off

45then at the end

46they pull her away

47all of this, these anthroparia, are hallucinations of a CBS sort of homunculi on the lattice joints of an overcast of an entoptic field on it, so are distantly related to Willing’s pictures as well. Willing did have more lively animated moments, a bird


then, even, nude dancers


but it does look like all anybody is interesting in looking at right now are paintings that were made as a result of his visions. And this is because as visions, and a symptom of MS, they are not facilely imagined by the prefrontal, trying to imagine what the mind is up to, but actually spontaneous creations of the full brain itself, therefore more grounded, and, for me, with more agency, each vision being a cult moment of keeping alive, in a dying situation, as well maybe to ward off death, and all seem precisely to be images created in CBS by an eye attuned to the entoptic overlay of the lattice formation resulting in Famulus forms that now and then could, by a sharpening of the scaffold, and its joints, stir up some anthroparion sightings too, to haunt him (at some point, I will research as to his response to them). All in all, then, another front in the struggle to document all the phases of visual wisdom in hypnagogy, so that painters can become better navigators of the inner visualizing realm, and make art that is directly connected to agency.

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