Say it loud - I'm elitist and proud

Thursday, May 01, 2003

N-R-M-A NEEDS H-E-L-P. Neer Korn writes about how the once-proud NRMA brand is now looking battered thanks to ugly internal politics on the board. As a supporter of demutualisation of the insurance arm of NRMA, my attitude to Nick Whitlam is rather like that of the British people towards Winston Churchill in 1945: thank you, you've done an difficult job, now bugger off.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

RYAN MCKAY, a researcher at Macquarie University's Centre for Cognitive Science, will be presenting a paper entitled Hallucinating God: The Cognitive Neuropsychiatry of Religious Belief and Experience, at a conference on evolutionary psychology in the United States in August. One scientist 'claims to have had a mystical experience of "encountering a God-like presence" - the result of stimulating his temporal lobes electromagnetically - without developing a religious belief in God.'

When I read things like this, I'm reminded of Oliver Sacks' The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1985), which contains a chapter devoted to Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) 'a nun and mystic who experienced countless "visions" from earliest childhood to the close of her life', and who painted and wrote about these visions.

A careful consideration of these accounts and figures leaves no room for doubt: they were indisputably migrainous, and they illustrate, indeed, many of the varieties of visual aura [associated with migraines].

But Sacks does not dismiss these visions as mere delusions:
Invested with this sense of ecstacy, burning with profound theophorous and philosophical significance, Hildegard's visions were instrumental in directing her towards a life of holiness and mysticism. They provide a unique example of the manner in which a physiological event, banal, hateful or meaningless to the vast majority of people, can become, in a privileged consciousness, the substrate of supreme ecstatic inspiration.

Was Hildegard merely deluded?