Devereux, Paul - The arabesque patterns of hallucinatory experience
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
From Paul’s blog
I’ve been reading Oliver Sacks’ recent book, Hallucinations, and it is jaw-dropping to learn what incredible sights and sounds (not to mention touch and smell) the human brain (or is it mind?) can conjure up. He describes the hallucinations people have had as a result of various illnesses and serious medical conditions like Parkinsonism, drugs both recreational and medicinal, brain damage, sensory deprivation, and several other circumstances.
Sacks notes that it wasn’t realised for years that some medical conditions often caused hallucinations in patients because of people’s reticence in letting anyone know they were “seeing things” in case they were diagnosed as being mad.
The book set me thinking about the whole matter of hallucinations, their nature and implications, and prompted memories of my own occasional hallucinatory encounters over the years. I share my musings here for anyone who might be interested, starting with a few descriptions of my hallucinations.
In 2010, I suffered a mild stroke, and was rushed to hospital. While I was there I began to notice something weird happening with the walls. I would look at a light-coloured, plain surface and watch in fascination as a beautiful and complex reddish-brown arabesque design would softly emerge as if out it until it was as clear and strong as a printed wallpaper pattern. I figured the design originated from the architecture of the blood capillaries in my eyes, but had become somehow greatly embellished into this marvellous arabesque. (There’s more of an artist in me than I realised!) What really got me was that the pattern was not simply projected generally in front of my eyes but appeared stuck precisely on the surface I was looking at and nowhere else, so its distance away from me seemed to vary with how far I happened to be from the wall or cupboard door I was staring at.
When I looked away, it disappeared. This hallucinatory phenomenon occurred for over two days when I looked for it. On one occasion, I peered out of the hospital ward’s window at the tarmac-surfaced pavement three storeys below. Sure enough, the red-brown arabesque patterning emerged on the tarmac, contained within the path’s edges.
Another visual phenomenon that appeared over the same period of time was truly bizarre. When I closed my eyes I could somehow (don’t ask me how) focus inwardly on my veins – I assume eye capillaries – and observe blood sluicing through them exactly as if I was looking through a microscope. I was amazed at how fast blood moves around the body. There were tangles of these fine capillaries with blood rushing around within them like traffic at a busy and complex highway interchange. The imagery was vivid, full-colour, and in extreme high definition. Now, hallucinations are supposed to be pseudo-perceptions, sensory perceptions of things that are not really there, but I have absolutely no doubt that what I was watching was actual activity within my body. Of course, I would have enjoyed all these effects – patterns and microscopic vision – a lot more were I not concerned that I might have a major stroke at any moment and drop dead!