Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Hallucinations Paperback – 2012
|New from||Used from|
Digital, Unabridged, WAV
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2012: A familiar song on mental repeat, a shadowy movement in an empty house--many of us experience minor visual and auditory hallucinations and think nothing of it. Neurologist and professor Oliver Sacks concerns himself with those for whom such breaks with reality are acute and life altering. Dr. Sacks’ latest book--one of the most compelling in his fascinating oeuvre--centers on Charles Bonnet syndrome, a condition characterized by intricate visual hallucinations. Weaving together case studies with anecdotes from his own past and accessible medical explanations, Dr. Sacks introduces us to Sharon, whose vision is invaded by Kermit the Frog; Gertie, whose phantasmal gentleman caller visits each evening, bearing gifts; and a host of other patients whose experiences elicit both sympathy and self-reflection. (The good doctor also shares his own experiments with hallucinogenic drugs, to comic and insightful effect.) Hallucinations is Oliver Sacks at his best: as learned, introspective, and approachable as we could possibly imagine. --Mia Lipman
The Neurological and the Divine: An Interview with Oliver Sacks
The following is an excerpt from a Q&A with Dr. Sacks published on Omnivoracious, the Amazon Books blog. Click here to read the full interview.
Mia Lipman: In Hallucinations, you mention that your childhood migraines are one of the reasons you became a neurologist. How did they help shape your path?
Dr. Sacks: My experiences go back to my first memories of when I was three or four, suddenly seeing a brilliant zigzag which seemed to be vibrating, then enlarged and covered everything to one side. This has happened innumerable times since, but that first time was very terrifying…I know I was in the garden, and part of the garden wall seemed to disappear, and I asked my mother about it. She too had classical migraines, so she explained what it was about and said that it was benign and it would only last a few minutes, and I'd be none the worse. So though I'm not in love with the attacks, it's nice to know that one can live with this quite well.
So that early experience made you curious about why this was happening to you?
Indeed, and there were other experiences. Sometimes it was just color, perhaps in one half of the visual field, or things would be frozen and I couldn't see any movement. So I think this gave me a very early feeling that it's only the privilege of a normal brain which allows us to see the way we do—and that what seems to be a simple vision in fact must have dozens of different components, and any one of these can go down. So it was a learning experience for me as well.
Speaking of learning experiences, you talk in the book about a period in your 30s when you did a lot of hallucinogenic drugs—
Ah, I thought that would come up. [Laughing.]
Of course, it's the best part! I especially liked your description of the results as "a mix of the neurological and the divine." What did this self-experimentation teach you about your field, as well as personally?
I can't conceal that my motives were sort of mixed, but these were learning experiences as well as recreational ones, and occasionally terrifying ones. The gain, I think, [is that] it's a way of revealing various capacities and incapacities in the brain, including, perhaps, mystical ones…I quote William James, who, after taking nitrous oxide, said that it showed him there were many forms of consciousness other than rational consciousness, and that these seem to be uncovered one by one. And that's quite an experience. I do not recommend it to anybody, and I hope my writing about these things is not seen as a recommendation. I think I'm very lucky to have survived them, which several of my friends and contemporaries didn't.
Many of the observations in Sacks's book are couched so modestly and gently that they seem not reductive but transcendent, the dependence of belief on biology representing one more example of the remarkable grace to be found in the operations of the human mind. —Jenny Davidson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
"Hallucinations" is a fascinating book of what Dr. Sacks considers a natural history of anthology of hallucinations. It covers a wide variety of hallucinations through the eyes of those who have them and the impact it has on their lives. Dr. Sacks shares those vivid experiences with the readers but at times it can be overwhelming and hard to follow. This psychedelic 354-page includes the following fifteen chapters: 1. Silent Multitudes: Charles Bonnet Syndrome, 2. The Prisoner's Cinema: Sensory Deprivation, 3. A Few Nanograms of Wine: Hallucinatory Smells, 4. Hearing Things, 5. The Illusions of Parkinsonism, 6. Altered States, 7. Patterns: Visual Migraines, 8. The "Sacred" Disease, 9. Bisected: Hallucinations in the Half-Field, 10. Delirious, 11. On the Threshold of Sleep, 12. Narcolepsy of Night Hags, 13. The Haunted Mind, 14. Dopplegangers: Hallucinating Oneself, and 15. Phantoms, Shadows, and Sensory Ghosts.
1. Engaging prose, well-researched book on a variety of hallucinations.
2. Dr. Sacks is a master of his profession and a very accomplished author.
3. A very good format. Each chapter covers a category of hallucination.
4. A good introductory chapter that covers the essence of the book. "Hallucination is a unique and special category of consciousness and mental life".
5. Full of first-hand accounts and historical accounts of hallucinations. The accounts vary from the common to the bizarre.
6. Hallucinations among the blind. The Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS). "CBS hallucinations are often described as having dazzling, intense color or a fineness and richness of detail far beyond anything one sees with the eyes."
7. The effects of sensory deprivation. "There is even a special term for the trains of brilliantly colored and varied hallucinations which come to console or torment those kept in isolation or darkness: `the prisoner's cinema.'"
8. Hallucinations come in many forms including hallucinatory smells. "Hallucination of particularly vile smells is called cacosmia."
9. Misconceptions. "In the popular imagination, though, hallucinatory voices are almost synonymous with schizophrenia--a great misconception, for most people who do hear voices are not schizophrenic."
10. Interesting observations. "Music calls upon many more areas of the brain than any other activity--one reason why music therapy is useful for such a wide variety of conditions."
11. Parkinson's disease as it relates to hallucinations. "...perhaps a third or more of those being treated for Parkinson's experienced hallucinations."
12. Chemicals and altered states. "But drugs offer a shortcut; they promise transcendence on demand. These shortcuts are possible because certain chemicals can directly stimulate many complex brain functions."
13. Migraine auras, who knew? "She explained that auras like mine were due to a sort of electrical disturbance like a wave passing across the visual parts of the brain."
14. A fascinating look at "hyper-religiosity". "More than any other sort of seizure, ecstatic seizures may be felt as epiphanies or revelations of a deeper reality." A bonus quote of historical worth, "None of these is conclusive, but they do suggest, at least, that Joan of Arc may have had temporal lobe epilepsy with ecstatic auras."
15. Some of the causes of hallucinations are discussed. "...even a "little" occipital lobe stroke can evoke striking, though transient, visual hallucinations."
16. The impact of delirium. "Delirium may produce musical hallucinations." "Fevers are perhaps the commonest cause of delirium, but there may be a less obvious metabolic or toxic cause."
17. A look at dreams. "Dreams come in episodes, not flashes; they have a continuity, a coherence, a narrative, a theme. One is a participant or a participant-observer in one's dreams, whereas with hypnagogia, one is merely a spectator." "The "mare" in "nightmare" originally referred to a demonic woman who suffocated sleepers by lying on their chests (she was called "Old Hag" in Newfoundland)." Great stuff!
18. The trauma of war (severe stress). An important topic. "Such chronic traumatic encephalopathy, along with the psychological trauma of war and injury, has been linked to the rising incidence of suicide among veterans."
19. Out of body experiences. "Out-of-body experiences may occur when specific regions of the brain are stimulated in the course of a seizure or a migraine, as well as with electrical stimulation of the cortex." "They may occur with drug experiences and in self-induced trances. OBEs can also occur when the brain is not receiving enough blood, as may happen if there is a cardiac arrest or arrhythmia, massive blood loss, or shock."
20. Phantom limbs. Test this for yourself...very interesting. "Phantom limbs are hallucinations insofar as they are perceptions of something that has no existence in the outside world, but they are not quite comparable to hallucinations of sight and sound."
21. Links and a very helpful bibliography.
1. This is a difficult book to follow at times. Part of it has to do with the complexity of the condition but I also feel that Dr. Sacks overwhelms the readers with psychedelic descriptions at a frenetic pace.
2. This book is uneven in that that it describes the various types of hallucinations with a luxury of details (first-hand accounts) but the science though present is not as apparent. Granted this book is intended for the masses but I wanted to know more about the potential causes.
3. This book warranted a table that summarized the different types of hallucinations and symptoms. It would have been very helpful.
4. It's the type of book that after reading you are not really sure what you got out of it. Luckily, there are no tests.
In summary, a bit overwhelming and frenetic at times but overall I enjoyed the book. It's the type of book that after reading you have a better understanding of the wide range of variety of hallucinations but you are not able to intelligently provide details on how they differ necessarily. It's an interesting book whose strengths reside in the first-hand description of a wide variety of hallucinations. The science behind the hallucinations though present lags the same attention. That being said, I recommend it!
Further recommendations: "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales" and "Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Revised and Expanded Edition" by the same author, "Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind" and "The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human" by V.S. Ramachandran, "Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep" by David K. Randall, "How the Mind Works" by Steven Pinker, "Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions" by Dan Ariely, "Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain" by David Eagleman, "Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)" by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, "Paranormality: Why we see what isn't there" by Richard Wiseman, "The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths by Shermer, Michael unknown Edition [Hardcover(2011)]" by Michael Shermer, and "Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior (Vintage)" by Leonard Mlodinow.
I had two issues with this book. The first has been noted in a review already posted. I find the long description of the hallucinations to be heavy reading after a while. I agree it is a bit like listening to another person's dreams, which tend to lack the immediacy to the listener. I especially found it tedious to review the author's experiences with drugs that indue hallucinations. This is a subject very heavily covered in extant literature.
Second, he allows only cursory credance to the concept that any spiritual experiences may be caused by anything other than organic function. He notes that James had allowed that practitioners of spritualism may believe their experiences to be true. While I understand that this is the premise of the book, still it lacks some depth of possibility.
Given these caveats, I think this is a worthwhile reading experience. Certainly this book expands the world of hallucinations outside of psychotic cause. Certainly this is important for those people who experience these phenomena to know possible medical issue both for their own peace of mind and for the motivation to seek help. Therefore I would recommend this book.
I found the subject fascinating. Sacks, a neurologist, has spent much of his life researching the mind and, in these pages, he shares some of what he has learned along the way. The language used is easy to understand. Medical terms are clarified and explained. The average person should have no problem reading this.
While I did find the examples interesting, after a while it all became a bit repetitive. Information was often repeated in various chapters. And the book didn't have much of a conclusion. Despite that, I'd recommend the book to everyone. What you'll learn is well worth the time you'll spend reading.
If you love how this neurobiologist thinks ("Awakenings", "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat", "Musicophilia") You will just love this book.
These are NOT the hallucinations of schizophrenics. But rather hallucinations that are found with incredibly "common" diagnoses. People who once had sight but are now completely blind have amazing hallucinations...entire dream sequences BUT while awake! They aren't frightening--well mostly--but amazingly detailed. And this is just the beginning chapters!
His books are NOT easy reading. This is post-graduate med school stuff. But most everyday readers can grasp the central tenets.
Very enjoyable reading...and you will begin to grasp how amazing our minds work!