31 August, 2022

The Charles Bonnet Syndrome

This paper is taken from Special Issue 70 of SHAPE Journal: Truth and Illusion

The Charles Bonnet Syndrome

Discoveries of the Vision/Brain System caused by significant Loss of Vision

I am a scientist and an octogenarian. I currently suffer from an affliction known as Charles Bonnet Syndrome, caused by macular degeneration.

“Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS) is a disease in which visual hallucinations occur as a result of vision loss. CBS is not thought to be related to psychosis or dementia and people with CBS are aware that their hallucinations are not real.” Rarediseases.info

As an extensively-experienced researcher in both science and philosophy (and their inter-relationships, and cross- causalities) - as well as being a prolific investigative writer of serious academic papers in both of these areas - I felt I was in a unique position to shed some light on this disease, and the insights it offers into how we understand the world visually.

I have a particularly well-endowed background to both accurately describe the changing symptoms involved, and (it seems to me), I possess a unique and necessary ability to draw conclusions, wholly absent from either the usual sufferers or medical practitioners - to play a role in extracting more informatively, exactly what is going on in this less than perfect, and undoubtedly failing system of diagnosis and treatment.

Indeed, it reminds me of the conclusions drawn, many years ago, by V. S. Ramachandran - whose work I have followed closely - from the clinical evidence of both Blind Seeing and Visual Neglect, concerning the Brain Functions involved, and dependable conclusions on how hallucination is actually a fundamental part of vision.

V S Ramachandran

My credentials are actually somewhat understated in the above brief description of my professional career. The last 20 years of my life have been dedicated to understanding the philosophical limitations of all Pluralist Science - a pervasive logic which sees laws as separable, but is blind to the dynamics of Qualitative Change, due to its primary methods of analysis - holding things still and making extractions. Plurality regularly generates untranscendable contraditions and impasses in our understanding, but science is fundamentally pragmatic and finds workarounds, but without ever resolving the underlying problem of its failure to deal with real-world change.

This is certainly relevant to understanding my condition, as the Charles Bonnet Syndrome is about the dynamic interface between signals from cells in the retina of the Eye, to regions of the Brain with the capabilities to construct adaptable, and developable visual models (“as cerebrally-viewable images”), which is what we actually “see” and consider, and which is both constantly-updateable and stable as a kind of “movie” in our minds, and could be called upon when required in both the immediate present, and the distant future as visual memory.

And this is well beyond what any Pluralist Science can possibly cope with! But, what could be the requirements of an alternative Holist Science, one that could comprehend this mental movie? For, it certainly WILL NOT BE as a sequence of stills (as in Film) OR even as a sequence of mini-movies (as in Analogue Video)! NOTE: I studied the dynamic qualities of both of these electronic media as part of my extensive research into Dance Education and Motion Studies, with Bedford Interactive in the 1990s.

What will it have to be then, to be useable, as we know it is in the brain, and specifically, how will it perform as evidenced by the actions of The Charles Bonnet Syndrome?

And the more incidents I experience due to the condition, the more complicated and various are the functions that are demonstrated. So, rather than using the selected examples from a clearly diverse range of accounts, some of them are either remembered or can be somewhat embroidered - to avoid the misleading consequences of such misleading evidence - I will instead commence my own contributions with a range of my own experiences, as a professional scientist and multi-discipline researcher, only recounting what I have personally experienced, and also judging what I consider valid enough to be included, if and only if, an explanation is forthcoming!

Let me start by describing the various types of hallucination I have experienced myself.

1, The Mini Movie

This invariably occurred upon waking and opening my eyes. But, it wasn’t a misinterpretation of “things- seen”, for it was there wherever I looked, and was always containing the very same subject matter. But, uniquely, it was always in full-detailed colour and excellent resolution - a perfect illusion, always of the same restricted scene, but with minor differences. It was always of a Victorian slate roof, containing one or two brick-built chimney stacks, surmounted by ceramic tops, all with the same kind of zig-zag heads. And, invariably, there would be a branch of a tree, with large glossy leaves being blown about in the wind. But that was it! In a way it was beautiful, but like a repeating movie scrap! Surprisingly it was always framed, as if seen through a window. and wherever Iooked it was there! But it always soon faded and was gone.

2, The Misinterpreted Tile

This, latterly as my sight has become very poor, is clearly a rather poor version of something actually seen, but in these cases it fills-in where my macular is detecting nothing. Very recent versions occur when a glance to a new place immediately sees a hole (that is - nothing there at all), and then rather quickly fills it with the circumstances close to the tile from actually seen views near to that hole! But my looking elsewhere and using the part of my right eye macular, still partially working, you can confirm that the patch is wrong.

With further deterioration, it has now become a major problem, as it can deliver buildings or trees to the view, when it should be the sky!

3. The False General Tiling

In relatively poor lighting conditions, a misinterpreted patch from an extended same view, will then fill-in-and-maintain, wherever I look in that extended view with a regular tiling of the same “tile”, this giving it a pattern which isn’t actually there.

4, The Simplified Tiling

If I look intently at a patterned surface or curtain, it simplifies successively (if I continue to stare) into a series of different, but repeated sets, wherever I look. And, surprisingly, the images, then consist mostly of black lines upon a white background, but they are so beautiful. It’s a real shame I can’t “capture them”!

Now, as with Ramachandran’s conclusions upon brain-activity areas, with normal seeing, the revelations of the Charles Bonnet Syndrome sufferers, as seeing functions were damaged, also throws light upon how the brain plays various creative roles in normal sight too.

To consider these phenomena upon sound bases, though, we have to be clear upon the differing functions of both the relatively tiny macular areas of the Retina within the eye, and the much larger non-macular area, which occupies the whole of the rest of the Retina. It has become clear that we actually see literally ALL detail via the Macular part of the Retina - these are the only areas naturally delivering everything we see in any detail: whereas the rest of the retina is only well equipped for detecting the movements seen by our eyes.

Indeed, detail updates for any achieved brain-image of something seen, can only take place via the macular! The macular must be moved about to build up the picture of a scene in the brain.

[Whereas, as the focus of seeing is moved elsewhere, a simplified-and-unchanging version is always left behind in all past positions, in the now non-macular areas of the Brain-image. Clearly that part of the brain-image must all be derived from prior macular attention to such areas. The non-macular brain-image is therefore initially composed of “macular-sized patches” delivering the whole of the non-macular brain-image]

So, immediately, anything no longer being picked up by the macular will NOT now show moment-by-moment changes there. Indeed, it will show what was there the last time we looked at that area, via the macular, BUT, as the non-macular does deliver movement, it will have, in some way, to update that non-macular view!

But in addition, evidence from Charles Bonnet sufferers, reveals an extra fill-in function, by copying in a now- absent-view from immediately adjacent areas.

While the rest of the non-macular view is always rotated according to a previously-learned “algorithm”, while still updating movements anywhere upon that area, as our view is moved on.

Now, some of the built-in mechanisms for updating the brain-image of a looked-at-view, have only been revealed by sufferers of the this Syndrome, particularly when the incoming image delivered by the eye is deemed inadequate, for the initial solution is to fill-each-gap with the same content, indeed as that of a close nearby spot (either a reliable one, or a compromise inaccurate one).

In the latter case, it is revealed to be from the immediately priorly-vistited “patch” - so that in an erroneous viewed area, the moving glance of the viewer will merely leave a trail of identical patches determined by the eye’s line of scanning. So, if I as a sufferer, are not sufficiently careful, the brain can fill whole areas of sky with a fiction of recently observed trees!


Charles Bonnet Syndrome is a very specific form of pareidolia - or visual apophenia. This means that it is evidence of a general tendancy of the brain to invent things in order to make sense of random or meaningless information. For Charles Bonnet sufferers, this is experienced as profound hallucination. In people without sight loss these mechanims are still present, but largely hidden, as the stream of visual information given to us by our eyes is complete enough to correct any mistakes or strange inventions made by the brain. Seeing faces in the dark is an example of pareidolia working under normal sensory conditions. People undergoing prolonged sensory deprivation can also experience hallucinations, similar to Charles Bonnet sufferers, as we see with a phenomenon called Prisoner’s Cinema, in which inmates kept in solitary confinement begin to see strange light shows on the walls of their cell.

12 August, 2022

Qualitative Causes and their Investigation via Systems Means

Now, the sort of Investigation mentioned in the title of this paper, cannot but take us into a Wholly New Realm! Though, it must also be clearly emphasized that it involves an absolutely imperative change in the way all of The Sciences MUST, henceforth, be conducted.

For, the Greek Intellectual Revolution of 500 BC, though undoubtedly an absolutely essential Step Forward in Mankind's Thinking, also achieved - what all such innovations of that kind invariably also install - the usual Inevitable Diversion into misleadingly inadequate Over-Simplification!

Many Inevitable & Damaging Detours are always totally unavoidable as a necessary Unifying Product of the very same Commonly related Developments - for Mankind - is embodied in attempting to understand the processes, which ultimately will totally leave unaddressed the very processes that have produced the investigators too! Think where that omission positions the Investigators, and their employed means...

But, the increasingly evident superiority of the Investigators, unavoidably would be distorted by their clear differences to absolutely Everything else: and, the most obvious conclusion would always be that THEY were specifically included, as some sort of Reflection of an all-powerful Creator!

So, they certainly never saw themselves as a mere part of the remarkable Vista (which they were increasingly converting to Their Own Uses), but outside of it somehow (Idealism): and by their Analyses and Explanations they revealed ever-more about The Supposed Supreme Creator of it all - and especially as they, in their own way, were revealing The Creator's Intentions!

Frida Kahlo, 
Moses, 1945,

The separation of Theory & Practice was physically embodied, for centuries, with Many Different (currently dominant) Social Classes, wherein all the Practical Work (and even New Inventions), were unavoidably-situated with the Skilled Workers, which I term "Artisans", while whole "Explanations" of the World were reserved for the Educated Class of Owners.

So, the many mismatches between these two Class Worldviews (and Approaches), were to some extent softened, by the somewhat privileged positions bestowed upon the Very Best Artisans. Indeed, perhaps surprisingly, easier ways of advancement were afforded to the best Soldiers (for example), and on which side they used their skills against their own Class!

But apart from the "Privileges" that certain highly skilled soldiers could achieve, real Class Mobility was not possible then - prestigious Positions, could happen, as long as they didn't have to Read & Write! But, even that was too much of an economic disadvantage in the end, so the tendency became increasingly to Educate the Working Classes, but to still maintain Class Differentials, as far as possible.

I can speak with some authority on this subject, as I came from an unskilled Working Class background, and after getting Eye Glasses, following General Tests within All Schools in the 1940s, I soared across most of the Qualifying Hurdles, including to everyone's surprise, Passing the 11-Plus Examination to win a place at a prestigious Manchester Grammer School! Where, over the next 7 years, I had an illustrious Career, finally winning a place at University in Leeds! And following an extra year in Leicester University to Qualify as a Teacher, I started out upon a Teaching Career first in a Middle School, then a Grammar School, and finally in a Further Education College.

Schoolboys at Manchester Grammar

But as soon as my steadfastly alternative view of things became evident - certainly different to the accepted Norm - it was then that my Career quite definitely had a restraining lid placed on it! I could not be allowed to in any way "Join the Club",  with all its advantages! It soon became very clear that my abilities were there to be Used by their Class, rather than applauded!

It is easy to explain, by the subsequent perpetrators, by adding that I just wasn't up to the task: but a continuing extension of successes elsewhere certainly didn't confirm their prejudiced conclusions. For, having learned to Read & Write long ago, before I was 5 years old, I was, always, an avid regular visitor to any Local Public Library, and the always assumed usual Lack of Knowledge, that was usual in my Class, was certainly NOT the case with me!

I had realized their purposes, and then by-passed them, by thereafter following any success I had achieved, by an immediate move to another institution. And it worked very well until a post in a University, when a few days off with an old illness gave them the chance to try to terminate the job by asking me to resign! But this, I refused to do - and after confirmation of the non-terminal and easily coped-with nature of my illness by a Harley Street Surgeon, I obtained a Full Early Retirement, and, instead, returned to continue my prior Researches into Motion Study, for the next 10 years, with my Dance colleague, and all that despite an Aneurysm, which did lose me a couple of years!

I finally realized that I had to take a termination of those Researches, when I was presenting a Paper upon my work on the Laban Pure Form, at a Conference in Athens (Greece), when it was finally clear that my eyesight was critically impaired, so that all my usual activities depending critically upon that Sense, would have to cease forthwith!

Jim Schofield presenting his research into the Laban Pure Form

Needless to say, this didn't lead to a restful retirement, but instead to my Final Career as a Full Time Philosopher and Writer, which extended for the next 16 years. For, with the help of my son (who has a PhD, and is a Course Leader at Leeds University) I was equipped with a four-and-a-half-foot-wide Screen for my Computer, plus a helpfully Coloured Keyboard, and radically re-coloured Screen, with much larger and easily variable Font Sizes.

Indeed, for the first time in my career, I was able to pursue, Full Time, the many differences that have emerged in my Academic Interests, that had become evident in my very first Term at University, when I had begun to attend to study Physics, at the very beginning of my career. And, it was clear to me, from the very outset of that Physics Course, their whole approach was damagingly mistaken!

For, in the early 20th century two different kinds of Physical Law had been reliably begun to be revealed: the first was the traditional Causal Laws, which concentrated upon being able to Explain Why things behaved as they did. But, increasingly, there had begun also to also be revealed Solely Empirical Laws, which related measured quantities, BUT explained absolutely Nothing!

Now, these were clearly true! No matter how many times they were repeated, the exact same results would always be delivered. But the Results from the solely Empirical Laws could never be associated with any single Property - so they explained Nothing!

Much later, it was decided that the numeric results DID NOT refer to any Single Known Property: BUT, instead, to a whole set of very different and, as yet, currently Entirely Unknown Properties COMBINED via their numeric Effects alone. And, as we didn't know exactly what they did, OR how much of each were involved, Absolutely NO Crucial Individual Contributions were available!

Indeed, only a combined purely Qualitative overall Effect, in a single associated overall quantity would be available. But, without a breakdown into Individual Qualitative Effects, and the proportions delivered to each, it could still explain Nothing!

Indeed, for these to be combined purely Quantitatively, it also indicated that these combined numeric contributions were of THE VERY SAME THING! It wasn't of different effects, but something common to them all: like Temperature, or some similar accompanying and definitely additive quantity.

Clearly, the 2,500 year old method of carrying out Experiments, supposedly to deliver what happens in Reality-as-is, has been a catastrophic Failure for our Understanding, even though it was completely adequate for accurately guiding Production. Indeed this Wholly Pluralist Mistake has been profoundly misleading in Absolutely All Attempts to Explain Anything!

Instead, a tidy and achievable alternative was established solely with Production in mind, and the Science of Physics was actually-replaced by its many uses in Engineering and Technology.

However, the Theories of Physics DID NOT soundly inform the Processes of Engineering: indeed, it was the Practices of Engineering which ultimately determined the Theories of Physics!

The Full Physical Theories of Reality-as-is are still Unknown! Neither Physics nor Engineering currently deal with any Reality beyond our Technological Control - which instead creates a new Reality that we routinely mistake for Reality-as-is. 

To maintain this effective illusion they must be always strictly limited-to Methods & Materials that can be relied upon to perform as our scientific Disciplines require, and hence always demand Absolutely NO self-modifying Techniques have ever been built into our constructions! When they fail, they Fail!

And, without extensive reflections of True Reality-as-is in our constructions and methods, many limitations within these edifices will NEVER be allowed-for, and the necessary, indeed, the whole constructional (and even medical) built-in changes instituted - due to appropriate continual monitoring, and consequent triggered remedial corrections, will NEVER have even been considered.

Take the obvious medical requirements of at-risk-patients: instead of nurses carrying out somewhat irregular testing: these could be permanently in place, with even immediate automatic changes in treatment coupled with detailed results sent direct to those responsible & capable of checking and in instituting the necessary modifying treatments. But, clearly, Research and Development teams would have to be radically expanded in the range of Disciplines, and Particular Skills present in the team, or available very close at hand.

For 7 years, in two British Universities, I made myself available to all active Researchers, across the institution, as a ready-and-waiting Highly Skilled & Experienced Programmer, to assist them where I could. And these were absolutely NEVER mere technological interventions.

Perhaps the most surprising was in Dance Performance and Choreography, which actually won a British Interactive Video Award in 1989. While another transformed the attempts of a Biologist to Classify (and easily identify) the World's Tardigrades, which was highly successful. With another Intervention I helped a Mathematician, who was attempting to model The Actions of The Human Heart, wherein my help revealed both the equivalents of both Fibrillation and even Heart Attacks in his suggested model.

Many other valuable contributions proved possible, and these were only available from an able Computer Programmer: yet I can think of many other Disciplines even more appropriate in many such Researches. And having specialized in both suggesting and joining such teams, the gains made have been so remarkable, but generally were still very rare at that time, and that where such have been attempted successfully, there has still been a dominating reluctance to recognize where the credit should be both admitted and celebrated!

Interestingly, in one post, I had a visit from the Local Examinations Organisation, because they couldn't understand why my students were so much better than literally all the rest in our Region, and certainly absolutely no credit was allocated within the Institution where I worked! Indeed, the Examination Board also asked me to become their Chief Examiner in my Subject, as part of a concerted effort to increase standards generally: but, at an Assessment Meeting the Teachers involved thought the the Level achieved by my classes were due to favoritism! But, the scores in question, commenced long before I was Chief Examiner, when I could do Nothing about the marks awarded... Meanwhile nobody elsewhere within my own institution were at all aware of the success either!

So, the question arises - "How can such successes be used to encourage successful means across involved instutions generally?" It surely has to be regular Informative & Celebratory Events, and maybe even consequent courses, along with sample materials, exhibitions, and even awards for success, by the Board, for informing & helping interested Teachers.

Now, these things are never as straight-forward, as they should be, Research can never be entirely limited to a Single Discipline, and even when it does involve a measure of co-operation with experts from other Departments, it is NEVER usually officially organised and involving a truly Joint Team! For, the inter-Department-rivalries for difficult-to-obtain Research Funding always puts paid to such official forms of collaboration. Funding is always allocated-to individual Departments, and cross-department co-operations are always strictly ad hoc, and residing in a Single Department officially. Projects involving people from several different Departments are invariably Unofficial, AND always fraught with difficulties!

I managed to make it work, in only two Institutions, fully successfully, and in only one other where I managed it only once! The first was in a Further Education College, where such Research was almost totally unknown. But, in the two Universities, it was only possible by the inter-departmental involvement being coordinated by The Computer Services Department! And that worked because Computer Services was NOT a potential competitor for Research Funding: it had to be a Servant-to-All! And several good projects were unofficially undertaken, but not without some unavoidable calamities.

Indeed, even this solution ran into difficulties, as Computer Centres in Educational Institutions were invariably islands of Electrical Engineers in an Institution of Academics: and they didn't like what was happening to Their Ground! There was undoubtedly a Class dimension to this too

Indeed, in retrospect, it surprises me that Computer Centres were ever willing workers in Projects dominated by Organisers and Academics! They were only really happy looking after machines and keeping them working...


This paper is taken from the ongoing publication The Systems Theory of Everything.