Mysticism and madness: Different aspects of the same human experience?

Heriot-Maitland, C. P. (2008) Mysticism and madness: Different aspects of the same human experience? Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 11(3), pp. 301-325. (doi: 10.1080/13674670701287680)

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Associations between mysticism and madness have been made since earliest recorded history, and the striking resemblance between self-reports of both mystical and psychotic experience suggests that similar psychological processes may be involved in their occurrence. By exploring the similarities, and proposing a common element to mystical and psychotic experience (referred to here as the experience of “oneness”), this paper aims to place mysticism and madness onto the same experiential continuum. However, in contrast to much of the previous literature, the intention is not to pathologize mystical experience, but rather to normalize psychotic experience. The paper argues not only that the experience of oneness is entirely genuine and available to all humans, but also that it has an important psychological (and evolutionary) function. Using cognitive terminology, it then attempts to explain the processes determining whether an individual enjoys a fulfilling mystical experience, or suffers a debilitating psychotic breakdown (i.e., how “oneness” is experienced). Finally, this paper turns to look at some of the important implications such an approach might have for clinical practice and for the mental health of people in general.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Heriot-Maitland, Dr Charles
Authors: Heriot-Maitland, C. P.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > Mental Health and Wellbeing
Journal Name:Mental Health, Religion & Culture
Publisher:Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
ISSN (Online):1469-9737
Published Online:22 February 2008

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