Mental Illness & Religion

Vasu Devan

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We now have more research into mental illness and science loves to define much of the experiences psychotics and schizophrenics have as 'delusions'. Does anyone think that the ideas of god and spirit could have been birthed by the experiences among our ancestors where they had respected elders going through what would now be defined as mental illness?

In fact, if i recall correctly, the earliest prophets were known as 'mad' prophets! Early examples of illnesses like epilepsy and even multiple personality disorder were seen as the patient being possessed by evil spirits. As one who has experienced both epilepsy and MPD, I can from personal knowledge say that this is exactly what it feels like!
 
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RJM

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Thank you for this thread. I admire your honesty, and humility too
 

Thomas

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Does anyone think that the ideas of god and spirit could have been birthed by the experiences among our ancestors where they had respected elders going through what would now be defined as mental illness?
It could have been, yes, you can't exclude that.

But that does not mean it must have been.

In my own view, there is the very real possibility that a 'mystical experience', which is a spiritual experience, can have a knock-on effect within the physical person – the person could be overwhelmed, for example, and show the signs of say, epilepsy – they might have a physical 'episode'.

This is just my speculation, I'm not a doctor. In the stories of saints, mystics, etc., there are such tales. Ezekiel, I think, became comatose on more than one occasion. St Paul speaks of being 'taken up' ... then there are various Catholic accounts ...

In the modern American Christian denominations, there's almost a common thread of debilitating illness prior to some spiritual event ...

+++

As for religious belief, from what I've read in New Scientists, it's believed to be hard-wired into the brain. We are religiously-inclined creatures with a sense of wonder. Science, on the other hand, is not so hard-wired ... NS went so far as to say once science has been exhausted, religion will continue.

To my mind, I think many people have simply replaced belief in God with a belief in science, they don't really understand it, but they accept it has the answer to everything, and will come along with a solution to all our ills, in time ...

– The belief, of course, is founded on demonstrable evidence. Science gace us the electric kettle and the toaster, TV and radio, etc... I'm not arguing against a belief in science, but poiting out a kind of 'blind faith' in science as saviour ... although that idea is fading ...
 

Vasu Devan

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It could have been, yes, you can't exclude that.

But that does not mean it must have been.
Well even if it was through what we now call a mental delusion, that does not, IMHO, invalidate mental experiences as experiences of the divine. While my epileptic seizures were almost always manifested purely in a physical form, my MPD was realized as an intelligence speaking with me in my mind and taking control of my body and consciousness when I became too afraid to keep talking with it. It also identified itself as the Devil. There was a God being too and while it communicated very rarely, all its manifestations were very positive in nature. Maybe our human brain is not always prepared to contact other beings in our consciousness.


– The belief, of course, is founded on demonstrable evidence. Science gace us the electric kettle and the toaster, TV and radio, etc... I'm not arguing against a belief in science, but poiting out a kind of 'blind faith' in science as saviour ... although that idea is fading ...

Well, I suppose it's quite possible for even atheism to have its fanatics too.
 
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Vasu Devan

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Thank you for this thread. I admire your honesty, and humility too
You're welcome. And thank you too. It is not always possible to find welcome for discussions of mental experiences considering the huge amount of stigma associated with it. In fact, my main reason for starting the thread was that my own family refuses to discuss the topic with me and interfaith seems like a plausible platform for open discussion.
 

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Does anyone think that the ideas of god and spirit could have been birthed by the experiences among our ancestors where they had respected elders going through what would now be defined as mental illness?

While I'm not a mental health professional, my wife is. What I understand her telling me is that for delusions to be classified as a disorder, or "mental illness", they have to have a substantial impact on the day-to-day experience and functioning of a person. And this is where things get interesting, I think - in a society like the one you portray, with respected elders relating their experiences, it would not make sense to diagnose them as suffering from a delusional disorder, if they are not actively suffering from their subjective experience or their society ostracising them for it. This is glossing over a great many ifs and buts my wife also explained to me, which I am not educated enough in psychology to reproduce here properly.

Takeaway: It depends to some extent on how the individual and their social environment deals with such experiences. Even from today's point of view mental health professionals might not classify a Mad Prophet as being affected by a delusional disorder.

Further, I my position is, what does it matter? Even if a past religious figure was by today's standards delusional, today's believers for the most part likely aren't, and they are getting something of value from the message. I don't even believe in the things the old revelations say, and I still enjoy studying them. So there is that.

Well, I suppose it's quite possible for even atheism to have its fanatics too.

Absolutely. And I heard an interesting thought on that - people like James Randi or the publishers of the Skeptical Inquirer are, from a certain point of view, almost tainted by the subject matter they spend so much effort declaring "unscientific". There was something interesting going on when Randi, an illusionist and stage magician, set up his challenge, and all these shysters would crawl out of the wood-work and try to trick him, the master trickster, into awarding them his sum of money for proving their paranormal powers. There is some subtle acknowledgement going on when the Skeptical Inquirer publishes volume upon volume of results on debunking psychic phenomena, giving them credibility in the first place by placing so much emphasis on establishing their non-existence. (The Scientific method is not designed to investigate the non-existence of anything).

Anyway.

... being possessed by evil spirits. As one who has experienced both epilepsy and MPD, I can from personal knowledge say that this is exactly what it feels like!

Depends on the epileptic seizure type, I would guess. Partial seizures affecting the temporal lobe can result in hallucinations, I believe?

You mentioned the "evil spirit" type experience in the part I quoted, but you also alluded to more divine experiences. In either case, would you characterize these as being about you individually, or was there a sense of a mission, of getting the message out for the sake of humanity (as opposed to relieving the pressure of having gone through the experiece)?
 

'Amir Alzzalam

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We now have more research into mental illness and science loves to define much of the experiences psychotics and schizophrenics have as 'delusions'. Does anyone think that the ideas of god and spirit could have been birthed by the experiences among our ancestors where they had respected elders going through what would now be defined as mental illness?

In fact, if i recall correctly, the earliest prophets were known as 'mad' prophets! Early examples of illnesses like epilepsy and even multiple personality disorder were seen as the patient being possessed by evil spirits. As one who has experienced both epilepsy and MPD, I can from personal knowledge say that this is exactly what it feels like!
Our ability to experience something spiritual or mystical is the result of a specific hereditary gene called 2 (VMAT2) that releases neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, histamine, and GABA which all create this God Illusion within some of us.

This neural pathway is reinforced by religious indoctrination, thus making the delusion stronger and more permanent. Combined with psychological tools such as Shame, Guilt, Punishment, and Reward religion anchors itself into the psyche, and what is nothing more than a genetic illusion becomes a religious delusion.

Fortunately, this gene is not passed down to everyone, and when it is, the neural pathway can be suppressed and defeated by not indoctrinating the brain at a very young age (e.g. religious rituals, schooling, etc.) and through critical religious thinking which is why more and more people are Atheists, NonTheists, and Agnostics. There is absolutely no evidence of some external, quasi-internal, mystical, what-have-you deity/god . . . there is, however, plenty of evidence that through evolutionary processes this illusion of a god/thing has taken place.
 

Vasu Devan

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Our ability to experience something spiritual or mystical is the result of a specific hereditary gene called 2 (VMAT2) that releases neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, histamine, and GABA which all create this God Illusion within some of us.

This neural pathway is reinforced by religious indoctrination, thus making the delusion stronger and more permanent. Combined with psychological tools such as Shame, Guilt, Punishment, and Reward religion anchors itself into the psyche, and what is nothing more than a genetic illusion becomes a religious delusion.

Fortunately, this gene is not passed down to everyone, and when it is, the neural pathway can be suppressed and defeated by not indoctrinating the brain at a very young age (e.g. religious rituals, schooling, etc.) and through critical religious thinking which is why more and more people are Atheists, NonTheists, and Agnostics. There is absolutely no evidence of some external, quasi-internal, mystical, what-have-you deity/god . . . there is, however, plenty of evidence that through evolutionary processes this illusion of a god/thing has taken place.

That's the first I've heard of a gene responsible for the mystical. One should be careful not to jump on every article we read claiming to be a scientific study of depth when it is just an idea thrown out there by a research group looking for funding based on limited experimenting. In any case, I am curious to read your source for the above post. Since a huge number of neuroscience experiments are based on results of testing on rats being extrapolated to humans, science is nowhere near to understanding the human conscious, much less the human subconscious which seems to me more likely the fount of what I call my mystical experiences. There is plenty of evidence for mystical experiences. Just that none of them have been recorded on what science considers valid recording equipment. Try not to automatically dismiss something you have not experienced as 'untrue'.
 
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Vasu Devan

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Depends on the epileptic seizure type, I would guess. Partial seizures affecting the temporal lobe can result in hallucinations, I believe?
Perhaps but while I experienced practically all seizure types(absence, partial and status), like I said, I only manifested it with physical twitches. My MPD was where I talked with 'other beings'.

You mentioned the "evil spirit" type experience in the part I quoted, but you also alluded to more divine experiences. In either case, would you characterize these as being about you individually, or was there a sense of a mission, of getting the message out for the sake of humanity (as opposed to relieving the pressure of having gone through the experiece)?
I can honestly say that the God being had approx 3 communications with me in my entire life so far. The forms i am most certain of were:
1. An almost verbatim recitation of a sentence from a Taoist document(before I had ever looked at Taoism).
2. The words "The future is uncertain. Just be."
3. My experience of nonduality.

In any case, I keep an open mind. Maybe the subconscious is our link to the Divine within. Maybe they are just results of fluctuations in brain matter. Whether this Universe was guided in its changes by an intelligent being or was and still is an anomaly of random chance changes, both ideas are amazing and open to wonder. I believe maintaining wonder is a key requirement for facing the realities every human shares.
 
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'Amir Alzzalam

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That's the first I've heard of a gene responsible for the mystical. One should be careful not to jump on every article we read claiming to be a scientific study of depth when it is just an idea thrown out there by a research group looking for funding based on limited experimenting. In any case, I am curious to read your source for the above post. Since a huge number of neuroscience experiments are based on results of testing on rats being extrapolated to humans, science is nowhere near to understanding the human conscious, much less the human subconscious which seems to me more likely the fount of what I call my mystical experiences. There is plenty of evidence for mystical experiences. Just that none of them have been recorded on what science considers valid recording equipment. Try not to automatically dismiss something you have not experienced as 'untrue'.
What makes you think I "jump on every article we read claiming to be a scientific study of depth"? FYI I have a BSc in Neurotheology and have studied this stuff to an extent. Another thing, why do you 'assume' I have had 'mystical' experiences? Isn't that a little pompous of you? Do you 'magically' know everything about me and what I have and haven't done?
 

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There's more, imo. The society judgement of mental ability is the ability to perform as a useful part of society. A musical genius who needs help to find his socks and cannot boil an egg comes to mind. There are autustic people who cannot effectively dress themselves, but can memorize the phone book.

The mental experience of a seer or savant may just not tick the boxes of the social definition of 'mental fitness'. It does not invalidate that person, or require that person to be 'cured' to fit the box. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest?

The religious experience may not seem useful to function in this world?
 

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While in the hospital after a coma and lots of drugs from surgery I had icu deleriums....hallucinations to which if I could have read the writing on the wall I saw I would have thought G!d was talking to me.

In the 70s I compared some of Thomas Aquinises work to LSD hallucinations...that was not well received by my professors in the Bible belt nor my father.

As Thomas says..your contention can not be ruled out as possible..but that does not make it probable....however we have anecdotal evidence with the various wannabe founders of new religions and prophets that have shown up on this site (currently and in the past) which make it more likely?
 

Vasu Devan

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What makes you think I "jump on every article we read claiming to be a scientific study of depth"? FYI I have a BSc in Neurotheology and have studied this stuff to an extent.
I didn't say you jump on every article you read but did ask for a source for the genetic basis for spiritual experiences that you mentioned. Which you didn't provide but rather took offence to instead. In any case, the god Gene is largely a hypothesis from what I can see. Much like a lot of what science has under its belt when tackling consciousness. Neurotheology is an interesting field but still in its infancy. If you have any books, relatively recent to recommend, I would be glad to check them out.

Another thing, why do you 'assume' I have had 'mystical' experiences? Isn't that a little pompous of you? Do you 'magically' know everything about me and what I have and haven't done?
I certainly don't assume you have had any mystical experiences. If anything, I assume the opposite. While I don't know much about you, I have found it rare for someone who has had spiritually related experiences without the aid of external elements to dismiss them as mere physical phenomena. People in history have had them from using shrooms or other psychedelics but even then became shamans and some such.

My experience of Oneness is one even I assume MAY have been 'mere physical phenomena' but the meaning of the experience(Being infinite/unconditional love is an experienceable state rather than merely conceptual) meant more to me than any other labels I could assign to it. My psychiatrist was quick to label it as delusion but I doubt his ability to know the veracity of something he had not even experienced but merely read about in a book. We humans believe a lot more than we know but belief is also what runs the human imo. I believe we tend to act more on our beliefs than our knowledge.

Believe what you wish Amir. Just like me, you are entitled to them. I did not join this group to push my spiritual beliefs on others as the 'only truth' but rather to learn the spiritual beliefs of others in the world today.
 
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Vasu Devan

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While in the hospital after a coma and lots of drugs from surgery I had icu deleriums....hallucinations to which if I could have read the writing on the wall I saw I would have thought G!d was talking to me.
I had similar hallucinations after my own ICU trip. They were not spiritual in nature but rather vocal where I believed my father was walking around the ward telling other patients and their families there how disappointed he was in me. When I talked with my brother later about that experience, I realized that it must have been a hallucination since that was type of behavior that my father would never engage in. But while experiencing it, the logic center of my brain did seem turned off and I did believe it was happening. Much like in a dream state. Maybe visions and many other mystical experiences are a type of dream state that we have yet define but may be better off not doing so?

Religious and other spiritual phenomena may be purely brain activity but I don't think even if they are illusion, they should be dismissed and relegated conclusively to the 'not-real' pile. The belief in something more, something beyond this current existence, beyond the striving present gives people purpose, meaning and hope in their lives. For science to discover a truth proving beyond any doubt, that it is all mere imagination, is I suspect, a truth that many, myself included, would rather not know. I truly doubt science ever will but if so, it would, for many people, make life meaningless. In fact, some evidence for that may be seen in the large growth of global depression and suicide rates since religion started losing its adherents in the late 20th century....
 
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Vasu Devan

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The religious experience may not seem useful to function in this world?
I would strongly disagree with that based on purely on my experience of my life. It would be based on the fact that what I believed based on what I define as my mystical experiences is what made me stay my hand multiple times when depression made my life seem worthless and meaningless and I planned to end it.

A belief in 'being' when the being is dark and pointless simply because we believe there is 'something better at the end' can give meaning and hope to a lot of people who suffer in life.
 
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powessy

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I hear voices 24/7 non stop. I have minds on my mind or yourselves. I can interact with minds in the veil even have physical contact if desired. I have no god gene as I do not find any thoughts about god in any of our conversations. I was an atheist for all my life until I realized how everything is inside something to become themselves after here.

My life is normal, I work, I am married and I have a wonderful family.

Powessy
 

Vasu Devan

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I hear voices 24/7 non stop. I have minds on my mind or yourselves. I can interact with minds in the veil even have physical contact if desired. I have no god gene as I do not find any thoughts about god in any of our conversations. I was an atheist for all my life until I realized how everything is inside something to become themselves after here.

My life is normal, I work, I am married and I have a wonderful family.

Powessy
Then you are a lucky man.

Out of curiousity, I would ask:
- Do you actually hear voices or are they rather thoughts in your head that you did not think?
- What do your voices tell you?
 

powessy

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Then you are a lucky man.

Out of curiousity, I would ask:
- Do you actually hear voices or are they rather thoughts in your head that you did not think?
- What do your voices tell you?

My voices are fully audible, the process is called thoughts about thoughts within my mind, outside my mind it is called frontal thought genesis. There are many many minds inside my mind to make this possible.

my minds teach me things, this is a hard concept to explain. A rock, a bird, a planet is something they might teach me. It is not just to teach you what these things are it is to teach it inside yourself to become part of yourself.

what do they tell me? Mostly they try to teach me about the veil and why nothing became something here. I have been doing this with them for almost nine years trying to unravel the veil and the matrix. I could go on for weeks talking about all the minds ripped apart to figure this out.

powessy
 

Vasu Devan

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I could go on for weeks talking about all the minds ripped apart to figure this out.

powessy
Then please do, either in this thread or start one of your own. I would be glad to join.

Do you believe these voices are an extension of you or do they have a separate identity?
 
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powessy

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Then please do, either in this thread or start one of your own. I would be glad to join.

Do you believe these voices are an extension of you or do they have a separate identity?

They are yourselves. You are trillions of cells becoming nothing here all the time. New cells replace those that become nothing here, this cycle continues for your life time. It is these minds that teach me things.

The way this should work is that those cells that become nothing here should become you again but they don’t. You have to allow every cell inside you to become you again. I think of this like the rings on a tree, this tells you how many times it has become something here. Inside you there is only one ring because you don’t know how to figure yourself out.

the other voices are mitochondria yourselves as I refer to them. These minds are yourself isn’t yourself. Every cell in your body that has these kind of minds has to teach them inside themselves to become themselves again and again also.

The problem with teaching anyone this is the wording they use.

powessy
 
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