The Unreal World
Oliver Sacks further maps out the human brain in a book about hallucinatory states
by Oliver Sacks
$26.95 List Price
In the best chapter in Hallucinations, Oliver Sacks describes his own history of experimentation with drugs during his thirties, when he was a neurology resident in Southern California on a quest to satisfy an obsessive curiosity about the neurochemical background of dreams and hallucinations. A day on Artane, a synthetic drug allied to belladonna that in large doses can induce delirium, featured a visit from his friends Jim and Kathy. Sacks cooked ham and eggs, chatting with them as he stood in the kitchen and they sat in the living room, then put breakfast on a tray and carried it to them, only to find that they had never been there. Their presence, and indeed the entire conversation, had been “completely invented” in Sacks’s brain. Other hallucinations experienced that day included the sound of a helicopter whirring above—Sacks believed it contained his parents on a surprise visit from London—and a conversation with a spider that asked Sacks whether he believed that Bertrand Russell truly exploded Frege’s paradox. (In a fascinating footnote, Sacks observes that on the basis of this anecdote, and more particularly on the account of the spider’s “philosophical tendencies and Russellian voice,” his friend Thomas Eisner, the great entomologist, claimed to have been able to identify the particular species Sacks saw.)
Sacks’s weekend drug experimentation escalated: a cocktail of amphetamine, LSD, and cannabis let him see true indigo, a color unknown in nature, while morning-glory seeds gave him the conviction that a visitor, in actuality a psychoanalyst colleague of Sacks’s
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