"The seizures did not upset her. She had read somewhere that they were considered holy in some cultures"
St. Paul's Conversion on the Road to Damascus, 1601
Public DomainSt. Paul's Conversion on the Road to Damascus, 1601 - Credit: Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
In 400 BC, Hippocrates, considered by many to be the father of western medicine, wrote a treatise on epilepsy called, "On the Sacred Disease". In it, he challenged the commonly held believe that epilepsy was supernatural in nature: “Men regard its nature and cause as divine from ignorance and wonder… But this disease seems to me to be no more divine than others; but it has its nature such as other diseases have, and a cause whence it originates, and its nature and cause are divine only just as much as all others are, and it is curable no less than the others.”

Nevertheless, the auras associated with temporal-lobe seizures continue to have mystical virtue. The auras have been described as similar to satori – in the Zen Buddhist tradition, a flash of sudden enlightenment, the first step toward achieving nirvana. Mystics, monks, saints and artists have experienced seizure-like auras: St. Paul, on a journey to Damascus, converted to Christianity after seizure-like experience in which the Lord spoke to him in a blinding flash of light. Joan of Arc reported ecstatic moments when she saw visions of angels. During his seizures, Fyodor Dostoyevsky experienced a sense of ecstatic well-being and transcendent happiness; Alfred, Lord Tennyson had mystic visions.