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Observations placeholder

Oliver Sacks - Smells that come from 'beyond the mind'



Type of Spiritual Experience


Number of hallucinations: 1


A description of the experience

The Big Idea #5: Oliver Sacks

By Suzanne Koven

July 9th, 2013

oliver sacks musicophilia

Sacks: This comes up, this sort of thing, strongly in people with olfactory hallucinations. They often say: “Not only can I not describe this, I never experienced it. I don’t know what associations to make.”

A chemist colleague of mine runs a seminar in which art and science are brought together. And one such session was devoted to olfaction. And there was an olfactory physiologist from Columbia and a friend of his, a parfumier. Forgive my French accent. And the parfumier had made something unlike anything ever encountered on earth. And it had a very strong smell which aroused no associations and could not be compared to anything. One realized this was absolute novelty.

And I quote Poe on this: absolute novelty can enter some hallucinations and maybe some psychosis. I don’t know if imagination is enough. I think hallucinations in various ways go beyond imagination. These are not necessarily creative ways, though maybe they could be put down to creativity.

Rumpus: Almost like a visitation? Or would you say hallucinations sometimes come from a part of the person that isn’t part of the “self?”

Sacks: Yes, well that’s what the muse is.

The source of the experience

Sacks, Oliver

Concepts, symbols and science items

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps