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Does this explain ghosts and 'divine' visions?
April 8, 2002 12:04 PM   Subscribe

Does this explain ghosts and 'divine' visions? Charles Bonnet Syndrome is a degenerative sight disorder that plunges sufferers into a surreal world of hallucinations and visual distortions. Can it help us to explain many cases of 'divine' visions, ghost-sightings, UFOs and other other-worldly phenomena? (requires registration 4 main link)
posted by RokkitNite (22 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
This is my first post so... aww, no, I'm not going to ask for clemency. Slate me all you want. Just don't ignore me. :) Apologies in advance if I stuffed it up.
posted by RokkitNite at 12:06 PM on April 8, 2002


mefi@mefi.com, mefi
for anyone who doesn't feel like registering
posted by sawks at 12:14 PM on April 8, 2002


Good post, RokkitNite. I suffer from migraines so I know all about hallucinations and auras, unfortunately. But this takes the biscuit. I'll resist a dig at Trevor-Roper and his authentication of the bogus Hitler Diaries. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:27 PM on April 8, 2002


Seriously, this might explain the hallucinations I've suffered regularly on and off for the past few years, usually when I'm trying to go to sleep. People standing at the foot of my bed, odd animals crawling the walls and ceiling...It can be terrifying.
posted by 40 Watt at 12:38 PM on April 8, 2002


It is interesting that Charles Bonnet wrote Essai De Psychologie.  I have not read it, but apparently it is a notable work on the philosophy of psychology.

Of all those great works, I suggest that The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, by Julian Jaynes, would "shed the most light" on the subject at hand.  (pun intended, but you gotta read it to get it!)

It seems to be an underrecognized work that's gradually gaining acceptance in explaining the recent history of our evolving minds.  At least a few of Neal Stephenson's astounding works of science fiction mention the title as a source of aspiration and revelation on the part of a character.

In order to begin even to consider group consciousness, one must first have a solid understanding of individual consciousness.
posted by gkr at 12:40 PM on April 8, 2002


40 watt

I suffer the same hallucinations. Usually it is a cat running around my room or a hooded figure in the doorway that is usually accompanied by whispering in my ear. What you describe is more closely related to "sleep paralysis" (A google search will render some more info.)
posted by bunktone at 12:51 PM on April 8, 2002


Goodness, I'm glad I'm not you bunktone. Seeing something supernatural is one of my worst fears.
posted by Summer at 1:10 PM on April 8, 2002


fascinating! reminds me of an Oliver Sacks' story... The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and all that.

excellent link, RokkitNite!
posted by crunchland at 1:12 PM on April 8, 2002


This is cool. I actually have dreams like this all the time -- I call them architectural dreams. Vast, complex cities right out of Metropolis or the mind of Tim Burton, highways going this way and that, staircases, collonaded penthouse atria. There's usually an episodic human plot of some kind that requires moving through the buildings or riding the hydrofoil under the archway of the Romanesque Venetian fantasy. One time there was even a building that submerged like a submarine.

Then again, I'm asleep at the time.
posted by dhartung at 1:28 PM on April 8, 2002


While the rest of the world was glued to the television watching the famous low-speed O.J. chase, I was asleep on the sofa in my basement. My wife called to me to wake up and come upstairs, and as I began to awaken I could have sworn I saw a four-foot-wide spider on the floor. It was so real that I screamed like a little girl, causing my wife to make a mad headlong dash down the stairs in complete panic mode.

I have no doubt that it's not related to Charles Bonnet syndrome, I just like to tell the story.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:37 PM on April 8, 2002 [2 favorites]


Participants in sensory deprivation experiments have reported similar phenomena; hallucinations, at first of lines and simple geometric shapes, building to increasingly complex waking dreams. I think the old guy in question takes the diagnosis with unwarranted relief; CBS does not preclude dementia, schizophrenia or other nuerological disorders, it simply does not require them in order to manifest itself. It is quite possible to be floridly psychotic and suffer from CBS-like symptoms.
It should also be noted that Charles Bonnet Syndrome is regarded as something of an umbrella term by those in the profession nowadays, covering a wide range of related disorders.

Seriously, this might explain the hallucinations I've suffered regularly on and off for the past few years, usually when I'm trying to go to sleep.
The darkness of your room coupled with the quietude of night constitutes partial sensory deprivation, I imagine. Having said that, most of what I've read regarding CBS suggests the hallucinations are, in the main, emotionally neutral or pleasant. Having said that, seeing a staircase as being six feet away from where it actually is would be a pain in the ass. I'm thinking stubbed toes/broken necks galore.

mefi@mefi.com, mefi
for anyone who doesn't feel like registering

Thanks for the info, sawks.
posted by RokkitNite at 1:43 PM on April 8, 2002


Wait - bunktone? Sleep paralysis includes whispers in your ear? Never heard that phenomena connected to sleep paralysis before (and fail to find any info on that actually). Spooky stuff.

The old gentlemans descriptions of his hallucinations are fantastic!
posted by dabitch at 1:56 PM on April 8, 2002


What you describe is more closely related to "sleep paralysis" (A google search will render some more info.)

Check it kids - it actually reminds me very strikingly of the OOBE reports of Robert Monroe, a guy who claimed to have clocked up more etheric airmiles than Casper. The initial sensations he experienced throughout his childhood sound very similar to those caused by sleep paralysis.
It is pretty spooky, but at the same time it makes me suspect that most if not all supposedly esoteric paranormal occurences will eventually be traced to somatic origins. I guess it just depends whether you think that if you have a vision of Great Aunt Maud from beyond the grave, and it turns out to be the product of neurological aberrations, that it invalidates the spiritual aspects of the experience, or strengthens them by providing tangible physical evidence.
posted by RokkitNite at 2:45 PM on April 8, 2002


Well, they've traced the whole "tunnel" episodes in near death experiences with the physiology of an oxygen starved brain. So you're right, it should be no time before science banishes all the romance and poetry of paranormal experiences.
posted by crunchland at 3:13 PM on April 8, 2002


I personally think many paranormal experiences can be traced to people simply making them up. Especially if they're the owners of castles/old buildings that may benefit from the tourist trade.
posted by Summer at 3:28 PM on April 8, 2002


I ain't afraid of no ghost.
posted by Settle at 3:41 PM on April 8, 2002


I personally think many paranormal experiences can be traced to people simply making them up.

That's such a common-sense answer I can't understand why I didn't think of it. Maybe cos I'm a butterfingers with the ol' Occam's Razor.
posted by RokkitNite at 3:52 PM on April 8, 2002


The very fact that these occurances are a big deal to the people involved leads one to suspect that they are somewhat less than what we're told they are. The human mind is damned easy to fool, especially when it wants to be.

Aw baby I didn't mean that baby. Come back..I was just talking to the computer baby...
posted by Settle at 3:57 PM on April 8, 2002


Having said all this... I know from previous threads that there are plenty of MeFi-ites who claim to have had experiences that don't mesh well with their current ideas of reality. There's a part of me that wants to believe this guy's syndrome was some kind of divine reverie... cataracts sound so prosaic by comparison.
But, for example, if one takes a hallucinogenic drug as part of a religious ritual, in order to commune with a 'higher power', does the fact that we can isolate and describe the psychotropic chemicals and the process they create undermine the authenticity of the experience as a whole? Just because we can break down LSD into its component parts and explain what it does to the human brain, does this mean revelations and feelings of connectedness experienced while on the drug are totally worthless?

I ain't afraid of no ghost.
lol - I'd love to see that claim put to the test, Settle. I admire your bravado, but personally, my bowls would be well and truly evacuated before it could so much as say 'boo!'.
posted by RokkitNite at 4:32 PM on April 8, 2002


My vision is pretty bad without glasses, and when I'm tired and it's dark, I can see some pretty vivid hallucinations. On occasion I've been on the phone with someone when they started and I described them to the other person. They don't seem to be as stable as the one this gentleman describes, changing every 5-10 seconds, but it's a pretty bizarre slideshow, and a bit unsettling to whoever's listening to me describe what I'm seeing.
posted by kindall at 5:44 PM on April 8, 2002


Seriously, this might explain the hallucinations I've suffered regularly on and off for the past few years, usually when I'm trying to go to sleep.

if you're in the process of going to sleep, couldn't they simply be called "dreams"? I mean, i've had hallucinations when I'm half asleep - I remember one in a hotel room where I was extremely tired but really didn't want to fall asleep (I was planning to go somewhere soon or something)... Anyway, I thought there was a large furry spider on the bed. But I was half asleep so i didn't really have a plan. When i fully regained my waking state, I realized that the small arrangement of dried flowers on the wall at the foot of the bed was the impetus for the hallucination.

settle, you're only 19? you're referencing a movie from like the year you were born... I'm such a pop culture loser.
posted by mdn at 10:31 PM on April 8, 2002


may be you can get through it. when i was about 6 or 7 years old i always saw UFOs and stuff. that's gone. apart from these little creatures dancing around my bed every night...
posted by heimkonsole at 1:15 AM on April 9, 2002


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