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Marvin Minsky, Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (photo by Donna Coveny). © 2004 Donna Coveny (see here)
By Marvin Minsky
One day, at age 17, I was walking alone at night during a snowstorm in a singularly quiet place. I noticed that the ground looked further away than usual, and then it seems that I was looking down from a height of perhaps 10 meters, watching myself crossing the field.
Well, having some education, I recalled some descriptions of this fairly common type of hallucination, and exclaimed to myself, "how interesting; I seem to be having a mystical experience. I'd better put a stop to this right away, or I might experience a conversion or something," recalling some observations of William James. So I quickly ran over to a nearby dorm and started a social conversation with some students.
Migraine Art: Autoscopy. © 2007 Migraine Action Association and Boehringer Ingelheim Limited
Another time, I forget the circumstances, I was looking at a tree and noticed that it was flickering strangely, sorta like a burning bush. In particular, I observed that it had acquired a sort of colorful, jagged, pulsating outline. "My goodness," I exclaimed to myself, "it would seem that I'm experiencing a scintillating scotoma, and it looks just like the picture I remember from Duke-Elder's Textbook of Ophthalmology. I'd better get ready for a migraine headache." (I had had what aseemed to be migraines before, but never with this phenomenon -- which was actually rather gratifying, because it confirmed an otherwise inconclusive diagnosis.) I always wondered if Moses (presuming that there ever was such a person) had migraines, too. Only a few such patients hear sounds as well.
Hubert Airy's illustration of scintillating scotoma from Sir W.S. Duke-Elder, Text-Book of Ophthalmology: Volume IV. Henry Kimpton, London 1949.
So let's add to the rest of this useful discussion a new point: make sure that your children learn about the 7 most common forms of mystical experience and whatever is known about their neurological mechanisms. ...
Of course this is good advice only for those who like their minds the way they are.
(Marvin Minsky, Newsgroups: alt.atheism,sci.skeptic, May 31, 1992)
Migraine Art: Migraine Computer, 1985. © 1985 Migraine Action Association and Boehringer Ingelheim Limited
Duke-Elder WS. Text-Book of Ophthalmology: Volume. IV, The Neurology of Vision; Motor and Optical Anomalies. Henry Kimpton, London 1949.
James W. The varieties of religious experience. A study in human nature. Macmillan, New York-London 1961.
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