NEW YORK — Oliver Sacks may be an atheist, but flashes of heaven and hell illuminate his new book “Hallucinations,” which is studded with stories of mystical experiences and ends with a reference to God.
These mind-altering states are an “essential part of the human condition,” says the 79-year-old neurologist in a recent interview in his Greenwich Village office, where on a nearby table sits an antique typewriter, on which he writes his books if he’s not penning them by hand.
Dr. Sacks, who considers himself a popular scientist in the tradition of Stephen Jay Gould and Carl Sagan, is the best-selling author of many books about the mysteries and marvels of the human mind. “Hallucinations,” his 12th, explores the various ways in which we may viscerally experience worlds that, ultimately, do not exist.
“One must wonder to what extent,” Dr. Sacks writes, “hallucinatory experiences have given rise to our art, folklore, and even religion.”
Hallucinatory patterns seen in a migraine attack, for example, recall the arabesque motifs of both Islamic and medieval art. Another type of hallucination — triggered by epilepsy, which Hippocrates called the sacred disease — may be the basis of religious belief and mystical experience, Dr. Sacks speculates. Continue reading at the Washington Times...