I just ran across an interesting article on psychosis and spirituality. It starts off by pointing out that
“Psychotic and religious experiences have been associated since the earliest recorded history (Lukoff & Lu, 2005). The Old Testament uses the same term to refer to madness sent by God as a punishment for the disobedient, and to describe the behavior of prophets (Rosen, 1968). Socrates declared, “Our greatest blessings come to us by way of madness, provided the madness is given us by divine gift” (Dodds, 1951, p. 61). In more recent years, religious institutions and the mental health field-especially in the West- have taken a more dichotomous view of spirituality and psychosis. When spirituality and psychosis overlap, the experience has usually been viewed as pathological.”
I think it would be fair to call this a “dissociation” between spirituality and psychosis, a sign of something truly wrong with both our mental health system and with our culture generally. There is no recognition that spiritual experiences come in any sort of raw or disorderly form. Consequently, when people do have confusing experiences, it is labeled as illness, and no one helps the person sort out what might be valuable in the experience. I believe this is a sad thing.
The article, INTEGRATING THE SPIRIT WITHIN PSYCHOSIS: ALTERNATIVE CONCEPTUALIZATIONS OF PSYCHOTIC DISORDERS, does have a bit too much of the “some people have real biological mental illness and some people have spiritual emergencies” rhetoric for my taste at points, but it is a good article overall. (Certainly, some people may be more understandable to themselves and others in spiritual terms, but I don’t think there is any dividing line that allows us to “really” categorize people as one or the other, no reason to shrink some people to being viewed as biologically defective while others are allowed to be seen as having valid spiritual journeys.)
I think to really reach out to people in crisis with a spiritual perspective takes an ability to be pretty free of dogma – and that means being free of the kind of dogma that dismisses all spiritual experiences as meaningless, as well as free of dogma that says it can have only one kind of meaning. Not something easy to find in either the mental health system or the wider culture.