“It sounds a little…esoteric.” That was the response I got from a fellow psychology student when I was in university.
We were talking about hypnosis.
On that day, I felt the whole of society’s fear inside a single word. It felt as if my fellow student was taking refuge in the word “esoteric.”
Our survival instincts make us fear the unknown as well as the uncontrollable. If the physical world is all that there is, then I can learn martial arts and be confident in my ability to protect myself from physical beings. We don’t like to consider the existence of unseen forces, because it shows us that we have less control over our environment than we think.
When I spoke about hypnosis, the other student responded in a self-protective way. To hypnotize someone is to have control over a part of them through an invisible force. To the materialist, this can be unpleasant to consider.
“Esoteric” simply means “understood or intended for a select few.” Some of its synonyms are “obscure” and “rare.” That works for the mildly destabilizing idea of hypnosis, which is often used as a practice to help people.
A spiritual psychosis, however, is a different ball game, one that requires much more openness to consider.
To hide from the discomfort of this concept, it requires a much stronger and dismissive terminological refuge. As a result, the inevitable creation of a more potent word-shelter had to surface.
When I speak of the potential spiritual causes of psychosis, I am greeted with the beautifully creative “woo-woo.” According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “woo-woo” means “dubiously or outlandishly mystical, supernatural, or unscientific.” Ouch. Not only is it unscientific, but it is also “dubiously or outlandishly mystical.” Now that’s a shelter that can withstand a storm.
The Fear of Authentic Research
In this article, my objective isn’t to describe the link between mental illness and spirituality. I have done that for years, and I cover these details extensively in my new book, A Tree Taught Me the Language of Light. My objective here is to point out how our fears influence our science.
As a society, nothing scares us more than the concept of insanity.
We fear that if one person suffers from insanity, we all might “catch it.” As if it works that way. Our apprehension prevents us from seeing the ridiculousness of our self-protective ways.
When you ask someone to define “insanity” or “going crazy,” they usually respond with a vague explanation, such as, “Well, it’s when someone’s brain just flips.” You’d be surprised as to how many people answer that way. This exemplifies our fear of even exploring these issues in a conceptual way.
The ones who do venture into these risky waters are our trusted scientists. They are our psychiatrists, psychologists, and researchers.
However, even our trusted, courageous scientists have their shelters. They are willing to examine insanity as long as it is attributed to physical factors. They reduce symptoms and experiences to biochemical processes in the brain. This gives them the illusion of control. If insanity has to do with hormonal imbalances, we can come up with a pill to fix it. We are then safe if we ever “catch a case of insanity.”
The Primeval Mind
Deep in our unconscious, there is a belief that we could mirror whatever we are exposed to. We’ve heard it said before: you become like the company you keep.
We could analyze this in a scientific way and speak of our tendency to mirror mental patterns. If you were to spend a good amount of time with a mentally ill person suffering from delusions, your fear of having their thought patterns imprinted on yourself would be understandable.
This fear arises even when spending a single minute with a delusional person. Sure, we could claim that the unpredictability of their behavior could be dangerous. That is how we rationalize it. We think, “I don’t want this person to punch or stab me in a moment of delirium.”
But what if this fear came from a much deeper place within us? What if the true cause of our fear isn’t what we believe it to be?
Humans are intelligent beings who rationalize their fears according to their level of intelligence. For example, a racist person with a PhD might use statistics to explain why he fears black people. The educated racist person wouldn’t rationalize his racism by saying, “I’m afraid my skin will change color in the presence of African-Americans.” Though this might represent his irrational fear, this explanation would not correspond to his level of intelligence.
Here’s what’s interesting: our fears are primitive. They are not the product of intelligent analysis. They do not need to match our intellect. The true reasons behind our fears are actually ridiculous-sounding. This is why we trick ourselves into believing our apprehensions are based on rational factors.
Studies have shown that attractive people are seen as more trustworthy than unattractive people. The reason behind this could be seen as childish: we believe a beautiful outside means a beautiful inside. As funny as it might sound, this is how our minds work.
The mind is made of organic data. Each aspect of the mind lives and breathes. We aren’t composed of rigid mechanical mental structures. At the root, we think in images and metaphors. Our intelligent rationality is simply a front that we put on to hide our true primitiveness. Our fears and desires are based on primitive magical-thinking dynamics. When we see a pretty face, we see beauty in the person. This is the result of our metaphoric primeval mind.
The Implications of Spiritual Psychosis
This brings me back to the example of the delusional person.
Why are we so afraid to spend a single minute with a person suffering from psychosis? Here’s the answer: we are afraid of catching their disease. The embryonic mind doesn’t discriminate between physical illness and mental imbalance. It sees weirdness in the air and doesn’t want to breathe it in.
A psychosis is described as a mental-emotional disorder that results in a loss of contact with reality. This leads to a deeper question: why do we refuse to accept that psychoses could have spiritual causes?
First, it is because spirituality is seen as higher intelligence and psychosis as lower intelligence. Our primal minds see spirituality as “that which is above” and mental illness as “that which is below.” In other words, it sees connection as the positive polarity and disconnection as the negative polarity. Subconsciously, we think, “How could connection be the cause of disconnection?” It makes perfect sense that someone would be hesitant to embrace the concept of a spiritual psychosis.
The second part of my answer is that we are terrified of what a spiritual psychosis implies. It suggests that an irrational mind could be the result of an experience with a higher intelligence. This comes dangerously close to reminding us how primitive our minds really are. A higher intelligence is that which gives us clarity about ourselves. If that clarity points to an illogical mind, it’s as if we are told, “This is what you are. This is the truth about your mind.”
This irrational magical-thinking logic is already within us, at the core of our psyche. A psychotic person simply embraces it.
The racist person is afraid of “catching the blackness” of African-Americans. We see an ugly man as “that which carries disharmony.” We see a delusional homeless person and walk by quickly to not “be infected by his mental imbalance.” These are what we consider delusional thoughts. Nevertheless, at our core, we carry these kinds of ideas. The “insanity” is already within us. This is what we shelter ourselves from with the use of dismissive expressions such as “woo-woo.”
Unearthing our Madness
We are absolutely terrified of embracing the fact that a higher intelligence could result in a clear recognition of our primeval mind. How could a superior intelligence embrace such ridiculousness? We spend our whole life covering up this madness within us. Why would a superior force want to unearth it? These are the thoughts behind our resistance to accept the concept of a spiritual psychosis.
“Why would a superior intelligence want to unearth our madness?” To show us the truth of what we are. Our primitive minds are beautiful and full of creativity. They are the forces that have created the entire universe. They are only seen as madness through the eyes of those who fear their creative power.
A society is built on security. Anything that reinforces our feeling of security is seen as intelligent. Consequently, we consider our rigid and intellectually advanced logic as the superior operating principle.
What I define as the metaphoric operating principle has been described by many as the subconscious mind, which is said to represent about 90 percent of our minds. The conscious part of us is often described as the “tip of the iceberg.”
We are magical-thinking individuals disguised as reasonable and logical members of society.
This dream-like metaphoric operating principle wants to be seen. It wants to be embraced.
The other day, a friend of mine expressed how she enjoys listening to the sound of the ocean when holding a seashell to her ear. I automatically responded with, “You do know that the sound you hear is actually just the noise of the environment resonating in the shell, right?” She replied, “I don’t know. I just love the sound of the ocean. I believe we can hear it that way.”
I noticed a certain discomfort within myself. It had a fragrance of anger. If it had a voice, it would say, “How dare you accept this childish explanation! The seashell obviously doesn’t contain the sound of the ocean!” It could also have been expressed as, “Be an adult! How dare you enjoy the mind of a child at your age?”
That’s when I understood that the reluctance to accept the primeval mind was firmly anchored in me as well. We allow children to openly expose this aspect of ourselves. However, adults are frowned upon when they exhibit this same behavior. We think, “You’re old enough to know better. Things don’t work like that.”
What exactly do we fear? Do we fear that societal security will be jeopardized by the playfulness of our minds? That if we indulge in recreational thoughts too profoundly, we might get “lost in play”? Is that what a psychosis is? To be lost in play?
The fact of the matter is that you aren’t afraid of “catching” someone’s psychosis. You are afraid of realizing that it is already within you. And, contrary to what you may think, it’s a beautiful thing. It is the inner child yearning for his creative imagination to be embraced.
Madness is the adult’s permission slip to play fully. It is when the inner child puts his outer adult on time out. It is when this inner child rebels so deeply that all that is left is the very thing that terrifies adults: complete and absolute play.