UFO Conjectures

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Oliver Sacks, Hallucinations, and UFOs


A New Yorker article, in the 8/27/12 issue, by Oliver sacks, entitled “Altered States” is about the eminent neurologist’s use of drugs in his early years [Page 40 ff.].

As an Oliver Sack fan, I found the article disturbing: a man I admire was a pot-head and worse during his formative career years?

Setting aside Sacks’ extended confessional, The piece provides some neurological insights and truths that impact (or clarify) my views on why some (some!) UFO sightings and encounters may be attributable to neurological glitches in some witnesses.

Dr. Sacks notes this about migraine headaches, a common affliction among some of the human population:

“[Sacks] was fascinated by the range of symptoms and phenomena that could occur in migraine attacks. These attacks often included an aura, a prodome in which aberrations of perception and even hallucinations occurred. They were entirely benign and would last only a few minutes. [Page 47]

“….lasts only a few minutes.” (Important)

Using chloral hydrate to help him sleep, he related this incident at a coffee shop he frequented on his way to work:

“As I was stirring the coffee, It suddenly turned green then purple. I looked up startled, and saw that a customer  paying his bill at the cash register had a huge proboscidean head….Panic seized me; I…ran across the road to a bus…all the passengers on the bus seemed to have smooth white heads like giant eggs, with huge glittering eyes like the faceted compound eyes of insects…” [Italics, mine; Page 46]

He came to realize that he was hallucinating or experiencing some bizarre perceptual disorder.

When he stopped taking the Chloral Hydrate, he had withdrawal symptoms and a case of DTs (delirium tremens) – the after-effects that alcoholics suffers (and which was delineated in he classic movie, Lost Weekend, with Ray Milland.)
DTs’ produce images of insects, rodents (bats and mice), and other creatures, along with the shakes and debilitating behavior.

Sacks recounts an episode where he greets an old family friend, a psychoanalyst but thinks the friend is a duplicate, not the real person he knew….a replica.

She diagnosed the incident as a form of defense, a disassociation that was psychotic in nature and which he likened, upon reflection, as a bout of schizophrenia, dementia, or delirium known as Capgras syndrome. [Page 44]

Sacks used LSD, marijuana, and other chemicals for escape and sometimes as a sop to his curiosity about how the brain works. (The latter not so much in those formative years.)

His addiction to amphetamines has ceased he writes.

While this written mea culpa is disturbing to me, as a fan of Sacks writings, the article does provide grist to the ideas suggested here: that some UFO sightings and (especially) UFO encounters may stem from neurological bouts induced by drugs, some food stuffs, and/or just a physiological glitch in the brain, that is temporary usually.

Not all UFO accounts may be so based, but some surely are.

And I suggest that some of you who visit here and embark on criticism of the possibility of a neurological explanation for some UFO events, hie yourself to the neurological literature.

Then you may be able to opine in an intellectual way, rather than in an emotional, unread way, as the rabble responds to suggestions that quiver their belief systems.