Sam Kean, the author of delightful books on popular science including The Disappearing Spoon and The Violinist's Thumb, has a new one just out, The Duelling Neurosurgeons. The article below is an excerpt from the new book:
He discusses the many cases of visions of God caused by epilepsy and other brain malfunctions.
Perhaps Burpo should have known some of these things before he wrote that book. Lots of things happen to the brain during surgery in similar ways that they happen to us in dreams.
For centuries people have said "man has a dualistic nature" and then they talk of the body and the soul.No, no, no! Let me explain. Man has a dualistic nature. There is the awake man and the sleeping man. That just about does it. Everything is coming from your brain.
There's also Hildegard of Bingen, whose religious visions were apparently caused by migraines.
The neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote a book Migraine, which mentions her migrainous visions.
It's funny, migraines don't seem at all sacred or transcendent nowadays - just very unpleasant. The frame of mind of the migraine sufferer must be capable of transforming the experience.