Shedding Light

Afterimage as a Method for Problem-Solving

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
published in The Stream, March 2003
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This technique is not original with Project Renaissance. We heard about it from Stanley Korn. It is used variously in many quarters. We have modified it here to serve as one excellent way to discover answers and solutions.

You will need a live partner for most of this, though a version follows that you can use when working alone with a tape recorder and notepad.

A. Please do the following

  1. Draft 2-3 meaningful questions for which an answer is desired.
  2. Asterisk and separate out the most key such question.
  3. Take a blank sheet of paper, fold it over once or twice.
  4. Sketch a symbol on the top of that folded sheet, or a big “?,” which represents that most key question. Symbol or “?” should be marked heavily enough to make a strong visual contrast with the paper.
  5. Insert that most key question inside the folded sheet, with the symbol or big “?” still uppermost.
  6. Find a partner.

To make this process reciprocal, your partner should likewise prepare a question which you will be answering by the same process.


So that your subtler faculties won’t be overridden by your conscious expectations as to what the answer ‘ought to be,’ thus editing and distorting what your subtler faculties are showing you, it’s important that you not see and consciously know the contents of your partner’s question, or your partner see and consciously know the contents of your question, until Step C.4 below. Your subtler faculties do appear to know, from subtle cues, and this way can give you your best available answer without getting ‘edited.’

One can, instead, use a tape recorder; but that is less fun than a live partner. Also, one then needs to generate at least 6 different questions, choosing one randomly without looking to see which one it is, in order for this procedure to work at its most accurate.

B. Getting a running start with afterimages

Stare for a half minute at the center of a lit lightbulb of from 5 to 40 watts’ brightness, from about 3 feet away, then look at and describe aloud in detail the afterimage left in your vision from doing this. Continue describing as the afterimage changes. Experiment with eyes open and eyes shut and continue describing the evolution of the afterimage. Continue for ten minutes or so.

Afterimages normally last only a few seconds, but such is the power of behavior’s Law of Effect – you get more of what you reinforce – that even for this purely physiological photochemical effect in your retina, the same afterimage can, with this reinforcement, go for an hour or longer.

(This was the “training stage” for this procedure. Now to the problem-solving:)

C. Problem-Solving through Afterimages

  1. Stare fixedly for a half-minute or so at the “?” or symbol over your partner’s question. Close eyes, let afterimages unfold into coherent imagery or let it bring impressions to mind. (Describing all the way, of course.)
  2. Get 3 sets of images or impressions, consciously the same answer to the same question, just shown very differently each time.
  3. Both of you find the elements-in-common to those 3 sets.
  4. Partner “reveals” the question, both of you interpret.
  5. Take turns by switching roles.

D. Solo use

Under Creative Problem Solving (CPS Techniques) on the Project Renaissance website, go to the High Thinktank process and print out the instructions found there. Learn and practice both the Quick Question/Answer (QQA) and the High Thinktank procedure proper given there. Prepare six or more questions, on separate pieces of paper. Fold each piece in on itself.

Each session: select one question at random, without looking to see which one it is. Fit it inside a paper sleeve with a large question- mark on it. Then stare at that question mark fixedly for a half minute and proceed as in “C” above, describing aloud.

Once you’ve solved one question of the six or so, replace it with another so as to have at least six questions to choose from randomly for the next time.


If you can get up a good running start with description, you’ll be amazed at the fluency – and the uncanny accuracy – of your answers resulting from this procedure. It’d be a pity not to enjoy experience of your own remarkable ability at this by stalling out without a live partner and listener to help you off to a good start the first time or so.

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