Volume 11, Issue 1, 2019
Tolerance and its Limits
Petar Radoev Dimkov
Ecstatic Aura as Mystical Experience in Dostoevsky’s Epilepsy
Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky is one of the best Russian novelists. It is also known that he had been suffering from epilepsy―one can find many descriptions of this particular condition in Dostoevsky’s novels. These writings are most probably based on his personal experience. There are numerous neurological hypotheses about the type of epilepsy with which Dostoevsky suffered, the most notorious feature of his type of epilepsy being the so-called “ecstatic aura.” In fact, the type of epilepsy Dostoevsky experienced is often termed “Dostoevsky’s epilepsy with ecstatic aura.” In the current article, I offer a review of the literature on Dostoevsky’s epilepsy. Subsequently, the notorious feature “ecstatic aura” is compared with mystical experience, and a conclusion is reached: the two states are in fact identical in the sense that mystical experience can occur during ecstatic aura. A neuroscientific explanation of the experience is presented as well. Finally, a philosophical analysis is performed.