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 SacksSee more books from this Author
Dr. Sacks conjures these apparitions in language that has an easy, tactile magic. As he’s done in so many of his earlier books...he uses his medical knowledge to illuminate the complexities of the human brain and the mysteries of the human mind.Read Full Review of Hallucinations | See more reviews from NY Times
...Hallucinations is really the keystone of the amazing edifice that is this remarkable thinker's oeuvre; a body of work that sets out to do nothing more or less than examine the totality of human being from the perspective of neurology.Read Full Review of Hallucinations | See more reviews from Guardian
Sacks keeps complicated medical terminology to a minimum, giving readers enough information to understand some causes of hallucinations without lapsing into medical lecture mode.Read Full Review of Hallucinations | See more reviews from Star Tribune
...at its best, Hallucinations is an absorbing plunge into a mystery of the mind.Read Full Review of Hallucinations
Sacks has turned hallucinations from something bizarre and frightening into something that seems part of what it means to be a person. His book, too, is a medical and human triumph.Read Full Review of Hallucinations
Unfortunately, the worthiness of a book does not guarantee its entertainment value and Hallucinations can make for wearisome reading. Partly this relates to taxonomy.Read Full Review of Hallucinations
...with Oliver Sacks as our guide, a trip to the familiar always becomes enchantingly, enduringly, strange.Read Full Review of Hallucinations
His gentle, humane acceptance of the vast variety of mental experience is both reassuring and provocative.Read Full Review of Hallucinations
Sacks’ writing can be on the dry side, but this works to his advantage here. When the human brain can conjure miniature pink oxen out of thin air, a little clinical language helps keep things grounded in reality.Read Full Review of Hallucinations
...Sacks's explanations often reek of reductionism. Of missing the forest for the trees and the painting for the brushstrokes.Read Full Review of Hallucinations
Written with both grace and erudition, Hallucinations taps into the mysteries of the human brain in a way calculated to appeal to both the scientist and general reader with a questing mind.Read Full Review of Hallucinations
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