Have you ever seen something that wasn’t really there? Heard someone call your name in an empty house? Sensed someone following you and turned around to find nothing?
Hallucinations don’t belong wholly to the insane. Much more commonly, they are linked to sensory deprivation, intoxication, illness, or injury. People with migraines may see shimmering arcs of light or tiny, Lilliputian figures of animals and people. People with failing eyesight, paradoxically, may become immersed in a hallucinatory visual world. Hallucinations can be brought on by a simple fever or even the act of waking or falling asleep, when people have visions ranging from luminous blobs of color to beautifully detailed faces or terrifying ogres. Those who are bereaved may receive comforting “visits” from the departed. In some conditions, hallucinations can lead to religious epiphanies or even the feeling of leaving one’s own body.
Humans have always sought such life-changing visions, and for thousands of years have used hallucinogenic compounds to achieve them. As a young doctor in California in the 1960s, Oliver Sacks had both a personal and a professional interest in psychedelics. These, along with his early migraine experiences, launched a lifelong investigation into the varieties of hallucinatory experience.
Here, with his usual elegance, curiosity, and compassion, Dr. Sacks weaves together stories of his patients and of his own mind-altering experiences to illuminate what hallucinations tell us about the organization and structure of our brains, how they have influenced every culture’s folklore and art, and why the potential for hallucination is present in us all, a vital part of the human condition.
About Oliver Sacks
OLIVER SACKS is a professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and the author of many books, including Musicophilia, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, andAwakenings (which inspired the Oscar-nominated film).
The author assembles a wide range of case studies in hallucinations—seeing, hearing or otherwise perceiving things that aren’t there—and the varying brain quirks and disorders that cause them in patients who are otherwise mentally healthy. In each case, he presents a fascinating condition and then expounds on the neurological causes at work, drawing from his own work as a neurologist, as well as other case studies, letters from patients and even historical records and literature. For example, he tells the story of an elderly blind woman who “saw” strange people and animals in her room, caused by Charles Bonnet Syndrome, a condition in with the parts of the brain responsible for vision draw on memories instead of visual perceptions. In another chapter, Sacks recalls his own experimentation with drugs, describing his auditory hallucinations. He believed he heard his neighbors drop by for breakfast, and he cooked for them, “put their ham and eggs on a tray, walked into the living room—and found it completely empty.” He also tells of hallucinations in people who have undergone prolonged sensory deprivation and in those who suffer from Parkinson’s disease, migraines, epilepsy and narcolepsy, among other conditions. Although this collection of disorders feels somewhat formulaic, it’s a formula that has served Sacks well in several previous books (especially his 1985 bestseller The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat), and it’s still effective—largely because Sacks never turns exploitative, instead sketching out each illness with compassion and thoughtful prose. – Kirkus Reviews
Exclusive First Read: ‘Hallucinations,’ By Oliver Sacks
NPR Book Review – October 24, 2012 (Excerpt)
Hallucinations can be terrifying, enlightening, amusing or just plain strange. They’re thought to be at the root of fairy tales, religious experiences and some kinds of art. Neurologist Oliver Sacks has been mapping the oddities of the human brain for decades, and his latest book, Hallucinations, is a thoughtful and compassionate look at the phantoms our brains can produce — which he calls “an essential part of the human condition.” In this chapter, Sacks examines auditory hallucinations. “Hearing voices” has long been the classic signifier of mental illness, but many otherwise healthy people just happen to have hallucinatory voices in their heads, according to Sacks. Hallucinations will be published Nov. 6. [Read the full article...]
Oliver Sacks, Exploring How Hallucinations Happen
NPR Book Review – November 6, 2012 (Excerpt)
In Oliver Sacks’ book The Mind’s Eye, the neurologist included an interesting footnote in a chapter about losing vision in one eye because of cancer that said: “In the ’60s, during a period of experimenting with large doses of amphetamines, I experienced a different sort of vivid mental imagery.”
He expands on this footnote in his new book, Hallucinations,where he writes about various types of hallucinations — visions triggered by grief, brain injury, migraines, medications and neurological disorders.
One chapter of the new book deals with altered states and Sacks’ personal experimentation with hallucinogenic and mind-altering drugs in the ’60s. He says the first time he tried marijuana, it induced fascinating perceptual distortion. He was looking at his hand, and it appeared to be retreating from him, yet getting larger and larger.
“I was fascinated that one could have such perceptual changes, and also that they went with a certain feeling of significance, an almost numinous feeling. I’m strongly atheist by disposition, but nonetheless when this happened, I couldn’t help thinking, ‘That must be what the hand of God is like.’ ” [Read the full article...]
‘Hallucinations,’ by Oliver Sacks
SFGate.Com Book Review – November 12, 2012 (Excerpt)
My grandmother had hallucinations every day for the last 20 years of her life. She imagined ghostly figures walking beside her, saying things that she could barely comprehend, though the tone was often threatening. Fortunately, she found a very pragmatic doctor who simply said, “Well, why don’t you talk back and tell them to go away?” Which she did, with at least modestly successful results.
Oliver Sacks’ latest book, “Hallucinations,” suggests that my grandmother was extremely lucky in her choice of doctor. Sacks describes an experiment from 1973 in which eight “pseudopatients” with no history of mental illness presented themselves at various hospitals across the United States and complained of hearing voices. All except one were diagnosed as having schizophrenia – the other with “manic depressive psychosis.” All were hospitalized, for as long as two months in one case, and no member of staff ever saw through them, though the other “real” patients did.
Sacks’ point here is that hallucinations, of whatever kind, are often regarded by doctors, as well as laymen, as indications or even proof of insanity. It emerges quite clearly, and reassuringly, from his book, that this is rarely the case. Hallucinations, Sacks tells us, are a medical symptom much like any other, by no means always malign, and far more common than most of us would suppose. [Read the full article...]
When You Can’t Believe Your Eyes - ‘Hallucinations,’ by Oliver Sacks
The New York Times Book Review – November 26, 2012 (Excerpt)
“Why Kermit?” This was the question asked by a woman who started to have hallucinations of the “Sesame Street” frog many times a day, several weeks after brain surgery. Kermit meant nothing to her, she said, and his shifting moods — sometimes he looked sad, sometimes happy, occasionally angry — had nothing to do with her own feelings. In the beginning, he occupied most of the left half of her visual field, but he gradually began getting smaller.
Her doctor, Oliver Sacks, told her he thought the images’ diminution was a good sign: “perhaps one day Kermit would be too small to see at all.” Such curious apparitions are the subject of Dr. Sacks’s absorbing new book, “Hallucinations.” In these pages Dr. Sacks, a professor of neurology at the New York University School of Medicine, provides what he calls a kind of “natural history or anthology of hallucinations” drawn from his patients’ experiences, his own observations and from literature on the subject. [Read the full article...]
Shock to the Senses - ‘Hallucinations,’ by Oliver Sacks
The New York Times Book Review – December 28, 2012 (Excerpt)
Since his first extraordinary work, “Migraine,” was published in 1970, the neurologist Oliver Sacks has been writing a particular kind of medical literature. His detailed explications of a single patient’s symptoms, his emphasis on the subjective experience of illness, his willingness to share stories from his own life and his references to medical texts from earlier centuries are not only atypical of how most neurologists work today, they defy the status quo. And yet, Sacks’ work is part of a long tradition of descriptive, narrative, case-oriented medical writing he has himself called “romantic.”
The idea of a “romantic science” can be traced to Goethe. The German philosopher, poet and scientist opposed a mechanistic, analytical science of static categories for a fluid and organic one. A. R. Luria, the 20th-century Soviet neurologist, who was a mentor to and friend of Sacks, evoked the tension between “romantic” and “classical” science in his intellectual autobiography, “The Making of Mind.” “Romantic scholars,” he wrote, “do not follow the path of reductionism.” Instead they strive “to preserve the wealth of living reality.” Classical scholars work piecemeal toward the formulation of abstract laws, and in the process they sometimes “murder to dissect.” Romantics may err in the other direction when their “artistic preferences and intuition” take over. Luria sought a middle ground — a science that preserves the part without losing the synthetic whole. This is not an easy balance to achieve, but for Sacks, unlike many clinicians in his field, it remains an ideal. [Read the full article...]
“Hallucinations” by Oliver Sacks
The Washington Post Book Review – December 28, 2012 (Excerpt)
As a young professor, I traveled to Vienna to visit a friend. Knowing that I’d written my first book on psychoanalysis and history, he sent me off to Freud’s old apartment and office, which had been converted to a museum. One rang a doorbell to be admitted, and I was shocked when the museum attendant greeted me by name. Surely, I thought, my old friend had called ahead to play a little joke on me. Again, the attendant spoke to me by name in German, calling me “Professor Doktor Roth” — or so I thought. My wife was right beside me, and she later told me that nothing of the kind had happened. The museum employee had merely told me the price of admission.
I was befuddled by this, and later as I searched in the museum’s library to see if it had a copy of my book, I realized that what I’d heard so clearly was probably an auditory hallucination. I so very much wanted to be recognized in the house of Freud that I’d perceived something that wasn’t there at all. [Read the full article...]
Painted Wings and Giants’ Rings
A Novel by Wilfried F. Voss
The loss of innocence, when “painted wings and giants’ rings made ways for other toys” is the central theme of this festival of children’s dream world adventures against the harsh reality of adult life.
In his newest novel, Wilfried F. Voss delivers a unique and insightful view into a child’s world and how it relates to the harsh reality of adult life, in this case the life of Roger Wilkinson, a businessman who is haunted by childhood memories and the ultimate fear of mistreating his own children.
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
FrogenYozurt.com may generate ad income and accept advertising/ads and links. Paid entries are marked as “Paid Articles.” Entries describing a product (book reviews, etc.) may contain descriptions provided by the manufacturer or other sources (Amazon.Com, etc.).
All entries marked as "Satire" may refer to actual persons or events, however, the content is of a satirical nature based on the writers' personal views and should not be taken seriously. All other entries reflect personal opinions on various topics.
All content on this website has been posted under the impression that they do not infringe any copyrights. However, if this site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner, we believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Should you suspect a copyright infringement or any other legal issues with posts on this website, please contact the editor through the contact form as indicated on the top navigation bar, and we will remove the post immediately. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.