Posts tagged: entheogens
Great profile of Oliver Sacks from The Smithsonian magazine:
It’s easy to get the wrong impression about Dr. Oliver Sacks. It certainly is if all you do is look at the author photos on the succession of brainy best-selling neurology books he’s written since Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat made him famous. Cumulatively, they give the impression of a warm, fuzzy, virtually cherubic fellow at home in comfy-couched consultation rooms. A kind of fusion of Freud and Yoda. And indeed that’s how he looked when I spoke with him recently, in his comfy-couched consultation room.
But Oliver Sacks is one of the great modern adventurers, a daring explorer of a different sort of unmapped territory than braved by Columbus or Lewis and Clark. He has gone to the limits of the physical globe, almost losing his life as darkness fell on a frozen Arctic mountainside. He’s sailed fragile craft to the remotest Pacific isles and trekked through the jungles of Oaxaca. He even lived through San Francisco in the 1960s.
But to me, the most fearless and adventuresome aspect of his long life (he’s nearing 80) has been his courageous expeditions into the darkest interiors of the human skull—his willingness to risk losing his mind to find out more about what goes on inside ours.
I have a feeling this word has not yet been applied to him, but Oliver Sacks is a genuine badass, and a reading of his new book, Hallucinations, cements that impression. He wades in and contends with the weightiest questions about the brain, its functions and its extremely scary anomalies. He is, in his search for what can be learned about the “normal” by taking it to the extreme, turning the volume up to 11, as much Dr. Hunter Thompson as Dr. Sigmund Freud: a gonzo neurologist.
Avi: What was your aim in turning to academic research on hallucinogens?
Dennis: For me, partly it was an exercise in self-redemption. I went to La Chorrera not really knowing any science, or really knowing very much about anything (I was 20 at the time) but thinking I knew a whole lot. The experience at La Chorrera taught me that I really didn’t know anything, especially anything about science. A lot of what we’d encountered at La Chorrera seemed to challenge all scientific paradigms. But rather than rejecting science outright I determined that I really should learn how to ‘do’ science before rejecting it. And so that’s what I did. I was also interested in the nuts-and-bolts aspect of what had happened to us. I committed the error that many people who work with psychedelics do, the notion that somehow ‘the trip is in the drug’. Of course it isn’t in the drug, it’s in the interaction between the drug and the brain/mind, and it’s mostly in the latter. But in some respects I thought if I studied the drug, how it works in the brain, and so on, that I might somehow arrive at an understanding of how it could elicit such experiences. Of course studying the drug alone will not do that; but I think that many neuroscientists still approach it from that perspective, which is why the picture of what these things ‘do’ will remain incomplete.
See the Technoccult dossier on the Brothers McKenna for much more.