Earlier this week, I posted about Charles Bonnet Syndrome, a disease where mentally healthy people have very strange and vivid hallucinations. It seems to be tied to visual impairments from old age or eye damage. Over at Omphalos, Aharon Varady considers the possible relationship between Charles Bonnet Syndrome and a Talmudic method for seeing Mazikin (harmful spirits, ie. demons). The magickal technique involves putting ash into the eye. From Aharon's fascinating post, titled "Reality and Hallucination: Towards a Talmudic Ontology of Consensus (by way of demons)":
Mazikin are a class of sheydim (animistic spirits) that pervaded the natural world in the Rabbinic Jewish worldview of late antiquity. From ת×œ×ž×•×“ ×‘×‘×œ×™ ×‘×¨×›×•ת ×• א (Talmud Bavli Tractate Berakhot, 6a):"Reality and Hallucination: Towards a Talmudic Ontology of Consensus (by way of demons)"
Raba says: The crushing in the Kallah lectures comes from them. Fatigue in the knees comes from them. The wearing out of the clothes of the scholars is due to their rubbing against them. The bruising of the feet comes from them. If one wants to discover them, let him take sifted ashes and sprinkle around his bed, and in the morning he will see something like the footprints of a rooster. If one wishes to see them, let him take the placenta of a black she-cat [that is] the offspring of a black she-cat [that is] the first-born of a first-born, let him roast it [the placenta] in fire and grind it to powder, and then let him put some into his eye, and he will see them. Let him also pour it into an iron tube and seal it with an iron signet that they [the demons] should not steal it from him. Let him also close his mouth, lest he come to harm.
R. Bibi b. Abaye did so, saw them and came to harm. The scholars, however, prayed for him and he recovered.
Could Raba’s magic recipe for perceiving demons by placing ash in one’s eye create a condition like Charles Bonnet Syndrome? Could Rav Huna’s 10:1 ratio of ubiquitous albeit invisible demons indicate a left-brained dominance when perceiving/hallucinating these creatures? Curious minds wish to know the answer to these arcane questions.
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.