In a conversation with his physician, a 19th-century resident of Paris who lived near the railroad described sensations of colour generated by the sounds of trains passing in the night. This patient - a synaesthete - experienced colour hearing for letters, words and most sounds. Synaesthesia, a phemomenon now known to science for over a century, is a rare form of perception in which one sense may respond to stimuli received by other senses. This book provides an historical treatment of synaesthesia and a closely related mode of perception called eideticism. Kevin Dann discusses divergent views of synaesthesia and eideticism over the last 100 years and explores the controversies over the significance of these unusual modes of perception. Celebrated at the turn of the century as a uniquely creative form of consciousness, synaesthesia became embroiled in a debate between Romantics who championed it as a desirable harbinger of a new, more spiritual age, and positivists who denounced it as primitive and irrational.… (more)
For seventy years, after the first full description was published in 1812, synaesthesia was unknown in Europe outside the medical community, where it was considered to be a rare pathology of the visual system.
Esoteric theories of consciousness, the very theories that have for so long been employed by Romantics who have falsely seen the bright colors of synaesthesia and eideticism, may yet help to see them true.