Sacks, Oliver - The indigo—whatever I saw—was beyond any spectral experience
Type of Spiritual Experience
Proof of spirit "It’s said you can’t hallucinate what you’ve never experienced—but, then, I think you can"
A description of the experience
The Big Idea #5: Oliver Sacks
By Suzanne Koven
July 9th, 2013
Rumpus: You write about the possibility of art inducing hallucinations. Listening to Monteverdi allowed you to see the elusive color “true indigo.” What do you think was going on there? Can art be hallucinogenic? Or does it just heighten perception?
Sacks: It can certainly transport one. I’m not sure how far the transport may go. Without being quite a philistine, I’m afraid my own sensitivity to visual art is not great. When I see what joy and insight and wonder people can get from visual art I feel there’s something defective in me. On the other hand, I’m readily transported by music. I think there are ways of getting as high as with any drug. I suspect that this happens in some religious ceremonies. I think that, in a sense, this is what happens when one falls in love.
Rumpus: Even to the point of hallucination? Did you hallucinate the indigo? Or did you simply interpret the color you saw as indigo?
Sacks: It was a very sensory experience, as people describe synesthesia. It’s said you can’t hallucinate what you’ve never experienced—but, then, I think you can.
Rumpus: What would that look like?
Rumpus: But you had imagined it. You had thought about it. You knew what you were looking for.
Sacks: I knew it was going to be on the blue end of the spectrum. But in fact, the indigo—whatever I saw—was beyond any spectral experience.
The source of the experienceSacks, Oliver
Concepts, symbols and science items
Activities and commonsteps
SuppressionsBeauty, art and music
Enacting ritual and ceremony
Listening to music