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Chapter 6: Hallucinations 
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 Chapter 6: Hallucinations
Chapter 6: Hallucinations

Please use this thread for discussing Chapter 6: Hallucinations.

We read and discussed this book back in 2003 and then had a live chat session with Ann Druyan. We've decided to pull this discussion out of the BookTalk.org Archives and give the book a second reading/discussion and chat with Ann Druyan. Ann has agreed to another live chat too.

Below you can read the older posts. Just look at the dates on each post to see if they are from the original discussion or the current discussion. Many of the members from 2003 are still members now so don't be shy about responding to their posts.





A fascinating chapter. I found this quote particularly truthful:

"We would surely be missing something important about our own nature if we refused to face up to the fact that hallucinations are part of being human. However, none of this makes hallucinations part of an external rather than an internal reality."

The other evening (last Thursday) I was sleeping when I awoke to the most frightening racket downstairs. I bolted upright in bed, and ran to get my police-issue nightstick from the dresser (don't ask...an officer I did a video for gave it to me on the sly.) I flipped it out and ran downstairs just as my wife woke up, crying: "What? What is it?"

"Stay here, Gail. If you hear anything unusual, call the police."

It was around 12:30 a.m. There was a dog barking outside. My dog, looking groggy, sheepishly scuttled up the stairs. I deduced that whatever was down there had scared him.

I must have searched that house for 30 minutes...doors, closets, windows...nothing. I couldn't understand it. Sometimes my cat and dog get into it late at night, but nothing was misplaced or knocked over that would have made that sound.

Finally, my wife said, "What IS IT? Did you hear something?"

I couldn't believe it. I assumed she had heard it, too. How could she not hear that incredible banging? I was positive I had heard something. I even checked the house again to make sure. Then, I realized that my dog...who barks at every relative, friend, mailman, and pizza delivery guy who comes to the door...had not even so much as growled. He just ran upstairs frightened, probably by my actions as much as anything. He probably thought I had finally lost it.

So, in the end, I had to conclude it was one of those half-asleep dream hallucinations. I've had them before...even the so-called "sleep paralysis"...and the hallucinations usually have to deal with intruders. I lie there, hearing voices and movement in the bedroom, but I can't get up. I am frozen. Then, I wake up...nothing. No one there. It's plain to me the huge psychological component fueling my dream hallucinations. The need to protect my family, especially with the baby coming. However, they do seem very real at the time, and I can imagine those who have similar experiences with intruders, aliens, or whatever could have a difficult time separating reality from fantasy.



Wed Aug 14, 2002 7:14 am
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Post Re: Chapter 6: Hallucinations
Thurkon:

I'll be commenting on this when I get to Chapter 6 later tonight. I've had numerous dreams that I originally thought were reality. Jumping out of bed to challenge an intruder is a regular for me. I'll tell some stories perhaps after I finish the Ch.

(And I have a Police nightstick too...I keep it in my car under the front seat. I wonder if it is illegal for me to have this. Do you know what the law is pertaining to nightsticks? It isn't a retractable one. Just the large black stick with the hand-protector.)

Chris



Wed Aug 14, 2002 12:00 pm
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Post re: Chris
Chris,

Not sure if they are illegal. Mine is retractable, which is great for traveling in bad parts of town...though I usually keep it at home. I'm sure if an officer found this on me he might consider it a concealed weapon. I don't know if you can purchase these at specialty shops or not...but the way I got mine wasn't exactly on the up and up. An officer who I did work for "obtained" it from his station for me.

He was the senior officer of his station, but still I don't think that it's standard procedure to hand these out like lollipops at a dentist office.

Anyway, looking forward to your post. I remember your childhood recollections from the other board, but would like to read them again.



Wed Aug 14, 2002 12:45 pm
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Post Re: re: Chris
Thurkon:

Those childhood recollections were exactly what I was referring to too. I'll post some of them when I have some time, as they sure do apply to your thread here.

I want to post a great paragraph from Ch. 6 that had me laughing:

"Occasionally, I get a letter from someone who is in "contact" with extraterrestrials. I am invited to "ask them anything." And so over the years I've prepared a little list of questions. The extraterrestrials are very advanced, remember. So I ask things like, "Please provide a short proof of Fermat's Last Theorem." Or the Goldbach Conjecture. And then I have to explain what these are, because extraterrestrials will not call it Fermat's Last Theorem. So I write out the simple equation with the exponents. I never get an answer. On the other hand, if I ask something like "Should we be good?" I almost always get an answer. anything vague, especially involving conventional moral judgements, these aliens are extremely happy to respond to. But on anything specific, where there is a chance to find out if they actually know anything beyond what most humans know, there is only silence. Something can be deduced from this differential ability to answer questions." ROFL

Sagan is such a smartass.

Chris



Wed Aug 14, 2002 5:55 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 6: Hallucinations
Thurkon,

I enjoyed chapter 6 as well. Your experience is interesting. I've never had hallucinations but I do have very vivid dreams. Sometimes they're so real I actually believe it was true until I realize it was only a dream. A few nights ago I dreamed that my husband told me that an old friend of mine had died. Later that day I was thinking about it and couldn't figure out whether he had actually told me that or not. I asked him if she was still alive. He thought I was nuts. But the conversation that I had with him in my dream about her death seemed so real. I wasn't sure.

I also hear music and voices in my head. Thankfully they aren't talking to me. That would probably freak me out. I'm extremely sensitive to noise when I'm trying to sleep so I often wear earplugs at night. Sometimes I'll put my earplugs in and then I'll hear what sounds like music or people's voices at a distance. I'll take my earplugs out to try and identify where the voices are coming from and it's silent. Then I'll put the earplugs back in and I hear the music or voices again. Sometimes I'll do this repeatedly because it doesn't make sense. I don't think it's a hallucination because I'm fully awake and alert, but there must be something going on in my mind because it's not going on outside of my head.

Cheryl



Mon Aug 19, 2002 7:18 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 6: Hallucinations
Writing about himself -

"Probably about a dozen times since their deaths I've heard my mother or father, in a conversational tone of voice, call my name. ... I still miss them so much that it doesn't seem at all strange that my brain will occasionally retrieve a lucid recollection of their voices. Such hallucinations may occur to perfectly normal people under perfectly ordinary circumstances."

I mentioned this to my mother, a retired psychiatric nurse, and her response was "Nope, that doesn't happen to normal people". Heh...



Mon Aug 19, 2002 9:03 pm
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Post re:Voices
LanDroid:

I think your mother misunderstood. This has occurred to me several times, and I consider myself fairly normal.

I have heard my Father's voice on occasion...as I'm sitting at the computer or walking in the woods...call out my name. It isn't distinct, and there is always another noise that is responsible. My brain has just interpreted the noise incorrectly. The crack of a tree limb, the squeak of a chair...a sound that is similar enough to the familiar voice of my father, so that my brain interprets it thus. A kind of hallucination, but not quite the same kind that your mother is referring to... the distinct auditory hallucinations that schizophrenics and such have.

Cheryl:

That is strange indeed. There seem to be two possible explanations: (1) You are having auditory hallucinations due to mental imbalance, or (2) You are experiencing the type of hallucination I describe above.

Having known you for awhile, I think we can safely discount number one.

What is probably occurring, especially since it seems to only occur when you have the earplugs in...is that your brain is misinterpreting the sounds you hear with the earplugs. That deep inner ear roar is a weird sound. I play drums and wear earplugs frequently. It's hard to get used to that.

It's kind of like that sound you hear when you press a conch shell to your ear. Strange that our brain interprets that sound to be similar to the crash of an ocean's waves.

Jim



Tue Aug 20, 2002 7:13 am
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Post Re: re:Voices
Thurkon,

Interesting comment about how we interpret the sounds from a sea shell. I think you're right that what I hear when I'm wearing earplugs has to do with the way my brain interprets sounds because sometimes the noises will go away if I change positions. It's probably that in certain positions my breathing, heartbeat or other internal noises sound like something more familiar and my brain interprets the sounds to be music or voices.

Cheryl



Tue Aug 20, 2002 4:05 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 6: Hallucinations
Cheryl,

The voices-or-music thing happens to me too, usually as I'm laying in bed just before I fall asleep. Suddenly I'll "hear" a short burst of conversation or (less often) a piece of music. It sounds completely real and completely external and can be quite startling if I'm still awake enough to think lucidly.

I've always attributed it to the slowly shifting border of consciousness, a bit of approaching dream that intrudes into my essentially wakened - but fading - state. I notice that it tends to happen more when I'm very tired, and that when it does happen it does so repeatedly until I fall asleep. I experience this perhaps once or twice a month.

The thing to remember here is that sometimes you're not really as awake as you think you are. You feel completely lucid, but your conscious mind is actually shutting down fairly rapidly. As it does so your subconscious is assuming control, and your sensory input is one of the first things to "switch over". As far as you - the brain - are concerned, the dream input is just as real as the waking input; it's no surprise that it "sounds" so realistic.

As someone who found it necessary to draw up and sign a non-aggression treaty with his subconscious at a fairly early age, these little border disputes between the waking and dream states tend not to bother me. In fact, I hadn't really thought about it in years until you mentioned it. I'd urge you not to worry about the condition overmuch.



Wed Aug 21, 2002 9:23 am
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Post Re: Chapter 6: Hallucinations
Perhaps this is what drives certain people to be composers? A slight mental imbalance that leads to melodies resounding within their skulls? And then they, good samaritans they are, share these with us?



Wed Aug 21, 2002 9:24 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 6: Hallucinations
Zach,

LOL! God must have a sick sense of humor in my case then... create me with a mental imbalance so that I hear music in my head and then make me tone deaf so that I'm the only one who can appreciate it. The bastard!

Greg,

What you said makes a lot of sense. I don't really worry about the "condition." Actually, I'm fascinated with this stuff. There is so much that we don't understand about the mind and consciousness.

I hadn't really thought about it until now, but perhaps I'm not really as awake as I think I am. There have been times when I was lying in bed having a discussion with my husband and my conversation would become completely inappropriate because I was starting to fall asleep while I was talking. My husband would say, "What in the world are you talking about, Cheryl?" And I would say, "Wow, I have no idea. That didn't make a bit of sense." On one occasion while chatting I continued typing while dozing off. I looked at my screen and what I had typed were complete sentences but had nothing to do with the conversation.

I guess it's possible to think you're more awake than you really are. Perhaps the voices are just an altered state of consciousness or perhaps they are just my brain interpreting internal sounds as music. Or possibly I am experiencing some type of auditory hallucination. All of those explanations are more plausible than aliens, ghosts or demons.

Cheryl



Fri Aug 23, 2002 12:54 am
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Post Re: Chapter 6: Hallucinations
From this point forward all posts are new and a part of our current discussion. Posts up to this point were from the previous discussion of The Demon-Haunted World.



Tue Jan 13, 2015 6:01 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 6: Hallucinations
Well, this is difficult chapter for me to discuss because it made me feel irritable.

If anyone should have hallucinations, it should be me, because a) I am an epileptic and took medication called myceline until I was about 17, when I refused to take any more because the cure was worse than the disease in my case. Anyway, I haven't taken any medication since then and I have only had one attack about 34 years ago now......but I do stress that my attacks were quite mild and not the violent tongue biting efforts. But I did have them from birth and often in quite embarrassing situations - at school on the stage, singing in the choir, and at the bank once when I was delivery the cash takings from the small firm for whom I worked. And b) because my Mum was a Spritualist and I grew up taking the spirit world for granted, and I wasn't interested in it at all. I am now of course, but that is only comparatively recently.

I believe absolutely in the spirit-world and yet I have never seen a spirit person, or ever heard one. I did hallucinate once when I was about eight years old with a high fever, but even then I only saw my playmates on the ceiling, shouting for me to come and play. I never saw any monsters and was never afraid of the dark. Of course I was always taught that I had a guardian angel, or guide, so I always felt protected.

It upsets me to think of Carl's parents trying to let him know that they were still around, it isn't easy for the spirit world to contact us so far as I have read. But, good grief, if his mum and dad had appeared to him in person......Carl would have said he was hallucinating.....He must be clairaudient, that means he hears. Clairvoyant means you can see them. Some can do both. I can't do either.

I felt irrirated because Carl was talking mostly in this chapter about seeing little grey aliens.......not edifying at all and not much use to anyone, to imagine aliens.

I have been convinced by an absolute stranger who spoke to me, but of course, there is no convincing a person who is determined that it is all in our minds and we are either lying or imagining things......so that's OK. It was enough for me.

As most of you know, I am a praying person, and sometimes I feel that I am praying a prayer that wont be answered to a God who isn't there......but I can't not pray.

Today, in our daily newspaper was a 'Notes and Queries' question. What is the purpose of philosophy and philosophers? One respondent said, 'Once we accept that....there is no point in our existence, philosophy and philosophers become redundant'. That sounds like living without purpose to me.


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Thu Jan 22, 2015 2:54 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 6: Hallucinations
Quote:
From time to time, repeated surveys have shown that 10 to 25% of ordinary, functioning people have experienced at least once in their lifetimes a vivid hallucination - hearing a voice, usually, or seeing a form when there's no one there. More rarely, people sense a haunting aroma, or hear music, or receive a revelation that arrives independent of the sense.
- DHW


Well, Sagan is likely to dismiss anything and everything there is no evidence for, or would be contrary to our understanding of the natural world, which Sagan (and others) undoubtedly believes (or has faith) is a complete understanding of reality.

I'm just a little less than halfway through this chapter. And, yes, Sagan starts off again talking about little green men.
Is it just me, or does it seem like Sagan is obsessed with little green men and UFOs? We might as well refer to little green men from outer space as ghosts that Sagan for some reason never lost his childhood obsession about.

The reason I offered the quote above is because I'd like to know if Sagan ever offered an explanation for a joint olfactory hallucination.



Tue Jan 27, 2015 11:51 am
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Post Re: Chapter 6: Hallucinations
ant wrote:
Well, Sagan is likely to dismiss anything and everything there is no evidence for, or would be contrary to our understanding of the natural world


Just curious, but is there another way? How should we treat things that are contrary to our understanding of the natural world?


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Tue Jan 27, 2015 12:21 pm
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