Monday, 21 January 2013

Rind Mending Beads

Oliver Sacks turns out a nice survey of our current understanding of sensory unusualness in Hallucinations. Specialising, as he does in geriatric neurophys, the book opens with tales of Charles Bonnet syndrome whose sufferers, as their eyesight fails, are prone to vivid and intrusive visions but the book soon moves onto similar stories, spread across all our sense modalities and variously prompted by drugs, disease and degeneration. It's a good read, that shouldn't trouble the laymen but yet enough detail about the more exotic perceptual aberrations to keep the more educated interested. Another worthwhile read from one of the best communicators of psychological understanding.

Robert Irwin’s novels have entertained me previously but having never read any of his academic works I was wary about his autobiographical effort, Memoirs of a Dervish. It is, however, a entertaining and fascinating glimpse of the author’s experiences of the swinging sixties and his meandering, spiritual journey from Oxford University to an unusual Algerian Sufi community. Irwin’s droll retelling of escapades with the mystically inclined and the drug addled are interspersed with vignettes of life as a fledgling intellectual and self deprecating reminiscences of his time in the ‘scene’. Though it’s a little slight there’s plenty of chuckles along the way and he sneaks in a well reasoned, seasoned perspective on the Age of Aquarius and Western spiritual seekers.

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