Rethinking the History, Science, and Meaning of Auditory Hallucination
On Sale: June 15, 2007
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The strange history of auditory hallucination throughout the
ages, and its power to shed light on the mysterious inner
source of pure faith and unadulterated inspiration.
Auditory hallucination is one of the most awe-inspiring,
terrifying, and ill-understood tricks the human psyche is
capable of. Muses, Madmen, and Prophets reevaluates the
popular conception of the phenomenon today and through the
ages, and reveals the roots of the medical understanding and
treatment of it. It probes history, literature,
anthropology, psychology, and neurology to explain and
demystify the experience of hearing voices, in a fascinating
and at times funny quest for understanding. Daniel B.
Smith's personal experience with the phenomenon-his father
heard voices, and it was the great torment and shame of his
father's life-and his discovery that some people learn to
live in peace with their voices fuels this contemplative,
brilliantly researched, and inspired book.
Science has not been able to fully explain the phenomenon of
auditory hallucination. It is a condition that has existed
perhaps as long as we have-there is evidence of it in
literature and even pre-literate oral histories from across
all times and cultures. Smith presents the sophisticated and
radical argument that a negative side effect of living as we
do in this great age of medical science is that we have come
to limit this phenomenon to nothing more than a biochemical
glitch for which the only proper response is medical,
pharmaceutical treatment. This "pathological assumption" can
inflict great harm on the people who hear voices by ignoring
the meaning and reality of the experience for them. But it
also obscures from the rest of us a rich wellspring of
knowledge about the essential source of faith and inspiration.
As Smith examines the many incidences of people who have
famously heard voices throughout history-Moses, Mohammed,
Teresa of Avila, Joan of Arc, Rilke, William Blake,
Socrates, and others-he considers the experience of auditory
hallucination in light of its relationship to the nature of
pure faith and as the key to the source of artistic
inspiration. At the heart of Smith's exploration into the
many extraordinary, strange, sometimes frightening and
sometimes almost supernatural aspects of auditory
hallucination is his driving personal need to comprehend an
experience that, when considered in good faith, is as
profound and complex as human consciousness itself.
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