Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

Ever since reading The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, I've been delighted whenever neurologist Oliver Sacks has a new book out. Hallucinations are the intriguing topic of his latest.

"Many cultures regard hallucination, like dreams, as a special privileged state of consciousness -- one that is actively sought through spiritual practices, meditation, drugs, or solitude. But in Western culture, hallucinations are more often considered to portend madness or something dire happening to the brain -- even though the vast majority of hallucinations have no such dark implications."

In the introduction, Sacks describes the work "as a sort of natural history or anthology of hallucinations, describing the experiences and impact of hallucinations on those who have them, for the power of hallucinations is only to be understood from first person accounts."

I especially enjoyed reading about Sacks' own experiences with the phenomenon of seeing, hearing or smelling things that are not there. In the chapter on altered states, he writes about experimenting on himself with various drugs in the 1960s.

Sensory deprivation, migraines and epilepsy are some of the other causes of hallucinations that Sacks explores. Fascinating stuff!

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