Spirituality and ‘Mental Illness’


Is the suppression of spirituality in the West the reason for our struggle and suffering labeled as mental illness? Are we medicated to numb the pain and psychospiritual protest related to the felt wrongness in our modern lives? Here’s what I learned from my trip to India…

In a story called The Magician’s House by Jan Dean, Genet makes a deal that seems impossible to refuse. She agrees to work for the magician, lighting the fireplaces for a year and a day in exchange for her heart’s desire. Over her tenure, the house grows and grows with the fireplaces multiplying into the hundreds, until the house is all there is on the earth. When it comes time for her wish to be granted, she asks simply for the gift of forgetting home and the good green world that was, as there is now no home to return to.

Does this story have relevance to our American lives today? I think so. We are awaiting the granting of our heart’s desire, slowly realizing the bankruptcy of the promise.

To have been led down the perilous path of greed, shortcuts, and glittering promises is to risk a rupture with the natural emergence of a sacred design. It’s a posture that says — I will architect my experience because I know best what I need. There comes a time when we must reckon with the costs of our desire to “cheat the system,” where perhaps we beg to forget what it is that was lost in the process. So that we can arrive at a place where “missing is any sense that anything is missing.”

* * * * *

I thought of this tale as I rode with my fellow kundalini yogis on a camel cart down the dusty streets of Neemrana village in Rajasthan, India. The scene was psychedelic in nature. There were splashes of every color tracking across my view, cows lounging in the road, peacocks yelping, packs of dogs, lumbering donkeys, people in repose on the ledge of three walled rooms, children playing together, women washing clothes in a bucket, and every imaginable transportation methodology from bike to moped to rickshaw to car, all moving in a structured amoeba-like chaos.

Not unlike a kundalini exercise where the mind is calm amidst a very active body and breath pattern, the busyness was external to and in the greater context of a kind of calm and contentment that was powerfully transmitted. As I looked around, I felt awash with the resonance of a pervasive peace, ease, lightness, and simplicity. Taking it all in brought a swell of an unnamable emotion in my heart. Tears came to my eyes.

This would be one of many experiences I would have in my ten days in India that would bring me into direct contact with a soul-level knowing that we are living in the West with something very important missing from our life experience. It was as if, perhaps, we had been granted that wish of forgetting the wonder we had once known but lost contact with after we collectively embraced the promises of modern medicine, technology, and credit-based economies.

An Atheist’s Journey

When I was 13, I chose not to be confirmed a Catholic to the dismay of my practicing father. An expression of my budding faith in the religion of science, my intellect had little tolerance for the seemingly childish fairy tale stories of denominational religion. I thought of religious orientation, frankly, as a weakness. When we die, we rot in the earth and that’s the end of the story. Life is hard and bad things happen, so get educated and prepared. Danger lurks, but especially around the lazy and naive. This was the mindset that ushered me into my professional life as a physician.

Of course, my trajectory was not to be tracked along the iron rails of a medical career, and the unexpected twists that would emerge could only be referred to as an awakening. First, my intellect had to be humbled by an experience that challenged everything I had known, then my ego had to be broken by earth-shattering loss. I then had to experience the wonder and glory of a life lived in the flow. I have developed a deep awareness around the baited traps that the patriarchy sets to ensnare the hypertrophied minds of today’s Western women. I know what it is that we are up against, and I know that it feels like a reclamation of our wildness. A reunion with our bodies and sensuality. An establishment of a sisterhood. I have learned that when we let go, when we surrender, everything we need and want comes to us effortlessly.

Faith in a Land of Scientism

Every morning, I get down on my knees and touch my forehead to the ground in humbled gratitude for one more day in this life. I call on my guides (out loud!) and I work to quiet my mind so that my heart can receive the light of the universe.

Me. I do this. The former belligerent atheist.

While the word God still makes me wince a bit, to me the cosmos and divine order are my God.  I am animistic in my spirituality now, believing there to be soulful energy in all things, people, and elements. And sometimes it appears in such blindingly overwhelming intensity — the endless inexplicable miracle of this life — that I can only weep.

The American Way

Sure, I know some people who feel and live this way too. But my country doesn’t know me and it certainly doesn’t know spirituality. And my country is commandeering the consciousness of traditional people throughout the world.

Predicated on the belief that technology and science are the objective bottom line of truth, American religions adhere to this split between the material and the spiritual, allowing the material (aka the body and the planet) to be controlled by the dominant corporate forces without consideration. My friend Charles Eisenstein writes:

“If you take for granted a universe of generic building blocks, devoid of the qualities of a self, devoid of an internal intelligence or evolutionary will, then our license to manipulate nature and materiality suffers no limit except for that posed by perverse unintended consequences that we can, in principle, predict and control with just a little more information and technological know-how.”

This fundamental disconnection from the sacred in our bodies, in our environment, and in each other leads us to fill the void with secondary satisfactions such as addictive foods, sex, power, and money. Like Eisenstein says, chewing gum to sate hunger.

India: where God is not dead

When I immersed myself in the experience of India, visited family homes, spoke to children, ate their heartfelt offerings of food (it wasn’t easy but I kept it gluten, dairy, and sugar free!), and prayed in ashrams and temples, I felt endless rushes of energy moving up my body. It was something like joy, but more like simply feeling alive. I had never been among so many people who live devotionally. Who pray with gratitude first. Who trust in the divine order of things even as they struggle with basic needs. Their energy was intoxicating.

On one day, we had the opportunity to visit with a family of three sisters, one brother, and two parents. Their smiles, on encounter, came from a place of authenticity that I had rarely experienced. They welcomed us into their home, which by American standards looked like an austere cave adorned with choice fabrics. We noted that the entropic structures in these Indian towns and cities somehow left the impression that these buildings had been bombed, though amazingly they had not.

We sat on the family’s beds collected in one small downstairs room. Beds arranged in this way because the only bedroom in the house had been given to their sacred Sikh book, the Siri Guru Granth. Singing and playing devotional kirtan music since they were 4, they treated us to a performance that made each of us feel that our hearts might somehow explode.

They showed us the fact that loving creation allows them to love each other, and to love all that comes in their path. When the son asked me about my job, I seized up, certain that the notion of a psychiatrist would make no sense whatsoever to him. The idea that there are professionals trained to manage and alter the human experience through pharmaceutical drugs — to someone who has faith in all that comes, in the many ways that divinity can be expressed, and in the dividends of a commitment to integrity… to this person, Prozac would not compute.

This is what India showed me.

It showed me what my American soul had forgotten… which is that there is something more beautiful, more sacred, more wondrous available when we live connected to our trust in something larger. Because this something larger lifts us up out of our limitations, our smallness, our distractions, and holds us in a web of the collective so that there is never something random, awful, and unlucky that can simply just happen. So that there is always meaning and ok-ness.

Miracles in Our Midst

Before my trip, I was gifted The Journey Home — a story of an American secular Jew who went on a teenage pilgrimage to Europe only to meet his destiny as a Swami in India. He spends time with yogis and mystics who can levitate, bend steel bars with their eye sockets, stop their own hearts for thirty minutes, fast for a month, and materialize ash in their hands. But he states:

“True spirituality is to realize God and be godly, not to show off one’s powers. Because they don’t appreciate God’s power, people are fascinated by these kinds of feats…Everywhere we look, we witness the unsurpassable miracles of God, but because we see them constantly, we take them for granted. Picking up a seed, I examined it. God has put a gigantic banyan tree in this tiny seed and each tree produces thousands more seeds. That’s a miracle. And in a single cloud, so light it floats in the air, He stores enough water to flood an entire city. When a male and female come together to procreate, they have no engineering plan on how the child will develop at each stage. It just happens. What a miracle. Every species of life is empowered with amazing talents to fly, swim, run, climb tree, walk up walls, or create civilizations. Could all of this be happening by random chance? Creation is nothing but one amazing miracle after another.”

When you are connected to the gift that is this life and the irreducible miracle that abounds in every aspect of it, it becomes easier to see that there are struggles, but that there are lessons and meaning in those struggles. That the notion of mental “illness” grows in a soil that ignores all of the reasons that we should be breaking down and falling apart from diet to the toxicant exposures of a raped planet to repressed trauma. Eisenstein writes, “The reason that conventional psychiatry — whether pharmaceutical or psychoanalytic — is powerless to substantially help the vast majority of patients is that is does not, and cannot, recognize the wrongness of the world we live in.”

Psychiatry says something is wrong with you — your genes, your chemistry, your perceptions, your behavior. You are broken and you need Pharma-fixing. It has never been more clear to me that the Guild of Psychiatry is one of the greatest threats to a soul’s journey, perhaps simply because there is no acknowledgement of the soul. This is why I believe that avoiding and coming off of psychiatric medications is the greatest form of initiation to self that exists in the West today.



And so it’s no wonder that as American fear-based consciousness permeates the globe, so does its mental illness constructs — so that it provides both the sickness and the “treatment.” Headlines are claiming that mental illness in India is on the rise, and awareness generating campaigns to medicate Indians are underway.

Is this a new form of imperialism? Bio-imperialism?

It would make sense that as we enter this darkest hour of the old story, the forces of disconnection would be working to desecrate this most sacred land and its people.

Perhaps that’s why we have polio campaigns in India — an oral polio vaccine deemed too dangerous for the first world — which in 2011 alone was responsible for a documented 47,500 cases of vaccine-induced paralysis. And we have 30,000 Indian girls experimented on with the HPV vaccine thanks to the philanthropic efforts of the Gates Foundation. And then, of course, there’s Monsanto’s efforts to commandeer the agriculture of the nation resulting in the suicide of literally hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers who suffered the choke-hold illegalities of Bt cotton. In India, you cannot patent life. Monsanto doesn’t care.

But Monsanto, Gates, and Pharma are just the ugly heads of a monster we have all co-created. They are the ever growing house whose fireplaces we agreed to tend so that we could have our wish granted.

As I watched the siblings  — who don’t have a sink in their bathroom — on their smart phones gifted by adoring Westerners, I felt the pang of what will be syphoned off from their traditional consciousness and sucked into the vortex of a digital existence.

Perhaps what I am sensing is present in India — this deep fabric of spirituality — is actually in its death throes and I am romanticizing a tragedy. I don’t know. But what I do know is that our struggles as Westerners, particularly those struggling with poverty, are made all the more poignant because we are struggling without this fabric — flesh robots on a dead rock in the middle of nowhere. And everything hurts so much more because of it.

Women Awakening

Perhaps, as the Dalai Lama said, it is the Western woman who will save the world. But not until we reclaim ourselves, remember what is lost, and channel our reclaimed wildness into a kind of collective healing that our minds cannot even fathom from where we stand today.

We moved through a microcosmic iteration of this on the fourth day in India. A fellow yogi I’ll call Rachel was immobilized by nausea, diarrhea, and pain. She was pale and dewy with stress sweat, and the group was desperate to support her. There was talk of the hospital and even our local friend suggested a visit to the doctor.

I demanded an opportunity to support her without medication intervention. Other healers and sisters in the group came to her aid as well. I knew, in my heart, that if she aligned with her body, she could move through this. If only she didn’t resist, and we didn’t collude in creating the conditions of a battle.

This was an instance of multiple discrete co-existing narratives, all plausible, simultaneous, and even contradictory.

  • She was attacked and invaded by a nasty germ courtesy of dirty food in a dirty place
  • She was weakened and vulnerable so she succumbed to a passive exposure that her body can’t handle
  • She needed to purge and detox in a way that her body took an opportunity to do
  • She invited a psychospiritual initiation that could only be fully engaged if she shed the fear required to move through a process

The meaning of her experience was for her to determine; it would be a reflection of her consciousness. What I learned when I looked into her eyes was the same thing I feel with my intrepid patients — that when I give them permission to own their experience, they access an endless reservoir of strength.

And she did that. She moaned and cried, vomited, and lost control of her bowels. But within 12 hours, she emerged. We joked that it felt like she had birthed the most beautiful baby and we were all here to ooh and ahh over it.

She demonstrated a woman’s fearless capacity to surrender to a process, and because she did that, it is now easier for every woman on the planet to meet that challenge in the future. This is the morphic resonance of fearlessness.

Contrarily, if she had taken antibiotics, she would have, in my estimation, prolonged and complexified her illness because the body will never be suppressed. Then when she finally recovered, she would have credited the antibiotics — the emblematic sacrament of the patriarchy — with her life and stability. What a loss therein.

We need to know what is possible beyond the bounds of our imposed Western framework. The paradoxes embedded in our assumptions of what it is to not have the “gifts” of Western abundance. We need to remember what we never knew that we forgot.

It’s time.

Call it faith. Call it spirituality. Call it zealotry.

Our consciousness creates the reality that reflects it. If we feel apart, other, afraid, and deadened, we will live in a world that reflects and perpetuates these energies. Push out of your comfort zones, explore, and experiment with new ways of thinking, relating, and feeling. You may find that epic beauty dwells in the most unexpected places.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. The problem with focusing on spirituality, just like with psychotherapy, is that it becomes a tune-out, an escape, a way of avoiding dealing with the sorts of injustice on which our society is based.

    So where as we should be filing lawsuits, people are instead seeking nirvana.

    So send your clients to my website, and I’ll find them an attorney, so that they can obtain justice and then finally understand all the ways in which they have been used.



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  2. Wow, Kelly.

    I’m impressed. So far I’ve only followed your link to the piece about the election on your site, but I am blown away…

    I wince at the word ‘spirituality’ (and ‘God’ o yeah) but that is only because I have seen it commodified and held up and pointed to by egocentric humans. For me, it’s deeply personal and not something I’m likely to discuss with just anyone.

    I have so much more to say, but the brain fog is getting in the way.:( Will come back to your post here and explore your site via the links when I can comprehend things better…thanks for being out there.

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  3. “Our consciousness creates the reality that reflects it. If we feel apart, other, afraid, and deadened, we will live in a world that reflects and perpetuates these energies. Push out of your comfort zones, explore, and experiment with new ways of thinking, relating, and feeling. You may find that epic beauty dwells in the most unexpected places.”


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  4. 1) This piece moved from one topic to another.

    2) when looking at psychosis in particular I think IN SOME PEOPLE the illness causes one psychosis as also causes two a strong spiritual connection or invasive supernatural phenomenon. They both are consequence of abnormal/unusual neurotransmitters sending messages to and from the brain via the nervous system.

    I once heard Will Hall talk about this on madness radio and used term urban shamanism. It’s easy for people to feel their gifted or better than average people, but in reality it’s due to an illness which happens to also be characterized by brain degeneration.

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    • I don’t believe that true shamans feel that they’re better or more gifted than anyone else. Real shamans don’t choose to be such. They are chosen by the fact that they’ve undergone a terrible illness and made it back again to this side of life. Generally, it’s thought that the illness is what we like to call an experience of “psychosis” and “mental illness”. In indigenous cultures you don’t choose to be the shaman of the community, the community chooses you because of your experience of going to the “other side” and being able to come back again.

      New age pop culture has done a real disservice to shamans. Now, everyone can be some kind of shaman after drinking ayahausca and having some “spiritual” experience. True shamans are rare these days.

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        • But in indigenous cultures, past and present, it is often through the experience of psychosis, and recovering from that experience, that constitutes the guidelines for becoming a shaman.

          I would describe shamans as spiritual rather than magical, although they may use some things that look to be “magic” in some instances to our Western eyes. Shamans and how they are understood by their communities cannot be interpreted by western, colonial White European understanding.

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          • “But in indigenous cultures, past and present, it is often through the experience of psychosis, and recovering from that experience, that constitutes the guidelines for becoming a shaman. ”

            Can you name one?

            What we in the West call shamans are what we in the west once called more often ‘witch doctors’.

            In Northern European indigineous cultures, the so-called shaman is chosen at birth. This is widely true also in African cultures.

            People who we in the west call schizophrenic in so-called shamanic cultures are generally considered as demon-possessed in some way or other, and the shaman will direct the magical cure, via one or other kind of violence. Which will often make western-style ‘interventions’ appear like a walk in the park.

            I think so long as the ‘alternative’ movement pushes all this romanticised mumbojumbo it will remain in the shadows.

            “I would describe shamans as spiritual rather than magical, although they may use some things that look to be “magic” in some instances to our Western eyes.”

            Yes. For instance across Africa in so-called shamanic cultures the so-called shaman advise men with HIV and AIDS to rape infants to effect an instant cure.

            “Shamans and how they are understood by their communities cannot be interpreted by western, colonial White European understanding.”

            Although, that’s precisely what you’ve been doing in your comment.

            Primitivism is not the way forward, by any stretch of the imagination. The clue as to why is in the word itself…

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          • Oh thank you for setting me so straight on all of this. I base a lot of my understanding on my grandmother who was a Wise Woman and healer of an indigenous tribe here in America. She was of the Lakota nation, from one of the reservations in South Dakota.

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          • I wouldn’t write it ALL off as new age hokum, rasselas.redux.
            Of course there are weird awful cases of abuses but there is definitely validity in making some connection between ‘psychosis’ and shamanism.



            Also i would look at Sean Blackwell’s videos on youtube if you have the time (bipolarorwakingup)

            My experiences of ‘psychosis’ (and I imagine there are MANY experiences of various kinds under that label) have definitely had lots of amazing spiritual elements, and I am not alone. Indeed one of the reasons I had to be wrestled to the ground by a bunch of cops prior to being taken to the hospital once was that I was in a completely otherwordly state and I felt I was fighting for my life (LONG story for details but that’s what I thought I was doing). I couldn’t see them and I don’t remember a lot of it (which is an extra degree of scary). I could hear them as well as other strange sounds, and I felt like a chain being twisted and turned violently and also like I was on fire. And when I say this I mean this is literally what it felt like. I never felt such pain. I was fighting with every fiber of my being and these poor people around me were probably really freaking out about my behavior. But for me, there was a special degree of trauma, especially not being able to explain it afterwards. But it was also a type of death and rebirth experience however hokey that sounds. I really did descend to the otherworld and come back.

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  5. Always enjoy Kelly Brogan’s pieces in MIA. MIA needs more posts coming from ‘spiritual’ perspectives. Materialism lacks critical parts of the puzzle of what keeps us well, what heals us, and what takes our ‘minds’ apart. MIA needs to be bringing in more people doing work in these fields.

    I work with my son on his ‘chakras’ and on his energy fields. I’ve felt quite strongly for years that he came into this life working issues out from a previous life. He still says things daily that remind me that his anger has nothing to do with this incarnation; and although he doesn’t need to ‘believe’ what I do (reincarnation made sense to me as far back as I recall), he can only benefit by knowing that there is more to life than what the material world indicates.

    Liz Sydney

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  6. Wow is right! My Google news bot (Filter: Spirituality) found this. Thank you so much Kelly Brogan for taking a brave and articulate stand – to advocate for Formlessness, in world where telephonic phantoms-of-form predominate. To paraphrase Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters “You’re either on the bus or off the bus”. Kelly Brogan is not only on the bus, she’s driving it!

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  7. And perhaps we are all god because we contain the one, transcendental, and eternal consciousness. Of course, this idea is the ultimate heresy for psychiatrists and exposes your “religiosity”, which is surely a sign of how terrible mentally ill you are. But every mystical tradition of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam teaches this as well as Hinduism and Buddhism.

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    • Christianity certainly embraces the ide of a transcendental reality and a kind of oneness but it rejects the idea of a oneness wherein our individuality is ultimately obliterated or absorbed as a drop of water in the ocean. Christianity asserts the paradox of unity and diversity. In other words, we will all exist eternally as individual beings and yet in total oneness with those who have put their faith Christs atoning work and literal physical resurrection – his proof that we will be resurrected, not merely absorbed into oneness.The sin that is within us, alongside the image of God, is expressed in our humanly created systems that oppress, whether those systems are political, religious etc.. This is why Christianity, rightly understood, speaks of a need for salvation from sin.

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  8. re: “Of course, this idea is the ultimate heresy for psychiatrists and exposes your “religiosity” …”.

    Yeah, “religiosity” – what a bugaboo! I love how Echart Tolle has taken to using a phrase like “… the three letter word, that when read backwards describes a lovely animal” in stead of using the over-used and problematic “three letter word”. Same for “religiosity”.

    On the same morning my google bot found Kelly’s post, it delivered to me these thoughts from Sri Aurobindo on the true meaning of spirituality. I believe there might be some language here that even skeptical psychiatrists would not find offensive.


    btw, I stumbled into this conversation via my google bot. I’m not a psych person or MD. I’m a sound man hacking away at consciousness: http://www.hearnowsystems.com

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  9. Kelly–I love your article! So vital in today’s world to be aware of the impact of spirituality–how deeply centering and uplifting it can be. So vital to see how the USA is impacting the world with our bio-medicine, bio-agriculture, and screen viewing addiction, etc. Thanks for the reminder that deep spirituality being reborn through American women may have a vital role to play in turning the world away from the self-destructive path we appear to be on now. The Dalai Lama first said it and it bears repeating.

    I offer a Certification program in “Effectively Supporting People in Spiritual Emergency”. The org I direct also offers health care providers continuing ed on phenomena in this same arena. I would love to be in contact with you about it. We are on the same page. IMHU.org/courses

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  10. Thank you for your article. I think spirituality has been a fad since the 80s–but largely ignored in medicine and in mental health. I especially appreciate how you note the integrity between “spirituality” and material/physical.

    Let me take a minor issue with you–coming from a Judeo-Christian point of view (my M.A. is in biblical text). It’s a minor issue and you will see there is more agreement than not. But you say: “Predicated on the belief that technology and science are the objective bottom line of truth, American religions adhere to this split between the material and the spiritual, allowing the material (aka the body and the planet) to be controlled by the dominant corporate forces without consideration. ”

    Now actually, we may have no disagreement here. Americanism, Scientism, and the Western mindset truly is this way. However, traditional Christianity as represented by the New Testament writings and the Hebrew scriptures do not adhere to American traditional religion. Man is not a soul “shackled to a corpse” nor is the body a tomb (both from Socrates–Western mindset). Traditional Christianity (which is middle Eastern, not western) sees human nature as a triune being: body, soul, and spirit–an integrated whole. It also presents the earth not as something to be dominated but cared for (J. R. R. Tolkien, a devout Catholic was appalled at the way forests were being destroyed and nature plundered in mid-20th century England–you can see it reflected in his novel The Lord of the Rings–especially in The Two Towers).

    My father (who died peacefully at age 91) was a devout Christian and a Pharmacist. He denounced “Big Pharma” years ago and took no medications for the last 15-20 years of his life (he did supplement with vitamins and managed 65 acres of pine trees). He was a friend of the land and understood the healing properties of the body. While he never read “The Blue Zones” that was pretty much his lifestyle.

    All of this to say I believe truly traditional Christianity has more in common with your views than you might think. Please though: I am not trying to proselytize you! Just pointing out the similarities. Although I would (if you ever have the time) encourage you to explore some of the writings by Theologian N. T. Wright (Suprised by Hope, When God became King) and Richard Rohr (Falling Upward, the Divine Dance, Breathing Underwater) which you might find intriguing and encouraging. No doubt you are familiar with the writings of Thomas Merton who explored the similarities between eastern religions (especially Buddhism) and contemplative Christianity.

    There are some major differences to be certain between Judeo-Christian theology and other Eastern religions. For instance there is an understanding of resurrection versus reincarnation. The ultimate hope is not the destruction of the physical but restoration and resurrection (the earth “set to rights” and healed along with our bodies–that “integrated whole” of body, soul, and spirit thing).

    The natural result is that physicality and material is seen as holy and precious–something to be cared for, not plundered (opposed to western modernistic thought).

    Again, thank you for a great article.

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  11. Thank you, Kelly, for this article which raises the issue of spirituality in mental health, without the dogma!
    I am a practicing psychiatrist with one foot in the mainstream, pharma based world, and one in the spiritual healing world. I am often moved by the idea of treating people without meds, and have done so many times. But there are times when everything I have tried to do isn’t enough, and meds have been helpful, undeniably. The problem is i can’t tell when it is right to use meds and when it is not. I don’t think anyone has seriously tried to study this question.
    One of the problems in talking about this is that is hard to define what we mean by spiritual in operational terms. What it means to me is, yes, we have a soul, and the basic understanding of hte universe is that consciousness is primary, and the material world secondary in importance, but how do we translate that into action?
    Similarly, when we use the word shamanic, it needs more definition. I say that in my practice I use shamanic techniques. I do not call myself a shaman. If somebody else wants to say that about me, OK, I won’t argue. But I do not live in a traditional, indigenous culture. I was raised in a Protestant way.
    What I mean is that I recognize that disembodies spirits have an effect on people and that effect can be described by a long list of what we call symptoms of mental illness, from lack of energy to hearing voices and everything in between. I have successfully treated people who are experiencing distressing auditory hallucinations (hearing voices), by using a trance based depossession technique. I have also failed to treat some people who have such experiences by using that technique. I know that in some cases the so-called illness simply stops after a few sessions of depossession, and it does not return. And I know that sometimes repeated efforts to remove “spirits” from the patient doesn’t work at all.
    This, to me, is a spiritual approach to healing. When it works, it is like a miracle. When it doesn’t I just feel like I am not as good at it as I would like to be.
    My approach involves some of the things Dr. Brogan is talking about, such as empowering the patient, listening and accepting their understanding of hte distressing phenomenon, not imposing my beliefs on them, not labeling the person by some diagnosis.
    Some of my colleagues think I have gone “around the bend.” Others with whom I have talked about his have honestly told me they are afraid to “go there,” that the idea of doing something about spirit attachment is just too scary. But it is very clear to me that there is no real scientific basis for believing that brain function is the primary issue in psychosis. I think it is more likely that spirit intrusion disrupts brain function.
    I plan to post a case example or two about this here, but I need to get permission from the patients before I do that.

    Robert W. Alcorn, MD

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  12. It’s refreshing to hear of a psychiatrist who sees the spirituality of a person being relevant to treatment. Unfortunately, I seemed to detect a note of irritation (intolerance?) in your comment “without the dogma”. This seemed to be a reference to Darryl’s Judeo-Christian perspective.

    It is impossible to discuss spirituality without dogma. The shamanic concepts that Kelly spoke of are rooted in pantheistic and animistic belief systems or dogma. While there are certainly points of agreement between traditional, orthodox Christianity and all other religions, there are sharp points of division which Darryl alluded to. I understand that traditional Christian dogma may make some people wince at ideas such as the exclusive deity of Christ or his literal physical resurrection from the dead, but I hope we can all be patient with one another when theological and philosophical differences arise. We can’t simply roll them all into one generic brand of “spirituality” and pretend these differences don’t exist.

    As Christian, a recovered schizophrenic, and a therapist for 30+ years, I want to believe that more traditional religious views can be included into this very important discussion.

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