This is a continuation of a previous post titled: Some thoughts on the origin of religion.
The first post explored the world of psychosis, remarking how difficult it is to find any distinction between religious experiences such as visions and hearing the voice of a god etc and the symptoms of psychosis. The outcome of that exercise is to lead me to the conclusion that there is nothing that religious people experience that could not be accounted for by diagnosing a psychotic episode.
However, a lack of identifiable distinguishing features is not, in itself, sufficient to allow one to conclude that there IS no distinction. At this point I am merely looking at these two types of experience, the religious and the psychotic, from the outside and saying that they look the same. Something more is needed, some insight as to causes or meanings.
At this point I have to start thinking about the interpretation of dreams. Dreams are meaningful. They give one insight into what is going on in people’s minds. As I think I remarked in the first post on the subject, the symptoms of psychosis are really just ‘dreaming while awake’, and therefore are interpretable in exactly the same way as dreams. The symptoms of psychosis, therefore, also give insight into what is going on in the mind of the ‘dreamer’. If religious experiences are just ‘psychotic episodes’, then the mythologies that are the result of these experiences, the Old Testament, the Ramayana, the tales of the Greek Gods etc will be able to be treated like dreams, will be able to be interpreted, and will give insight into the minds of the ‘dreamers’.
Here comes the ‘sticky’ bit, the bit where my readers become sceptical to the point of disbelief and start wondering if I am subject to delusions --- and quite right too!
Right, take a deep breath, and here goes: I CAN INTERPRET DREAMS AND I AM THE ONLY ONE (actually, 2) WHO CAN DO SO. (You can start shooting now --- I’ve put on the full metal jacket!)
--- but wait a minute: surely everyone who has ever invented anything or come up with a new idea has, for a time, been able to say, “I am the only one who can do this/who knows this/can make these.”
What can I say? Jung and Freud claimed to be able to interpret dreams, but they could not. What’s more, if they HAD been able to they would never have published their own, because the dreams they have published give the game away. The best is Freud’s famous Irma dream. This shows him ‘having a ball’ and, treating the dream like an illness, and entertaining a variety of theories, represented by a number of ‘colleagues’, before finally ‘injecting’ the dream with emotionalism (chemicals) via a ‘dirty’ needle (dirty mindedness, sex) which was marked with symbols. In other words, he was not READING the dream, but, rather, injecting his own interpretation into it, and that interpretation was CHOSEN by Freud because it was shocking, was about sex and emotions, it was ‘dirty’, and, basically, as the dream says, Freud was just ‘having a ball’, like any dirty-minded little boy trying to shock people by talking dirty --- not to mention the fun it must have been interpreting dreams like that when you have luscious young women as your clients (and, according to Jung at any rate, Freud did not like taking on older women. He like them young.)
Jung made a slightly more respectable effort than Freud, but he had the wrong mindset. He was never going to succeed. Jung suffered from that terrible male failing: he thought with his b—ls. Like Jeremy Clarkson who said that he knew a good car when he saw one because it gave him a hard-on, Jung went for the wow-factor. That may be OK for cars, but it won’t do for dreams. If you really want to learn to interpret dreams your guiding star MUST be TRUTH. Nothing else will get you there.
And the hard bit is that when you begin to make inroads you begin to find out the TRUTH ABOUT YOURSELF, and, believe me, that is something you REALLY do not want to have to face. But, if you want to be able to interpret dreams, FACE IT YOU MUST. You have to accept the embarrassment and humiliation and deal with it and then learn how to turn things around and go on to develop some self-respect and pride. (I say, ‘if you WANT to learn how to interpret dreams’, but, actually, ultimately, it is not optional. You must – but this is taking me into territory which will require too much explanation, so I won’t go any further.)
Also, scientists will never discover how to interpret dreams. They will not yield to an objective, experimental approach. You have to be fully engaged with dreams AS A HUMAN BEING, ie with all your senses and feelings and intuition and understanding and experience. Dreams work for you. You can only interpret them to the limits of your own understanding of human beings, but as you interpret them, they lead you to a better understanding, and that in turn leads to an improved ability to interpret dreams, and so it goes on.
At any rate, since I am the only person that can interpret dreams, from here on in, I really am just ‘thinking aloud’.
There are certain features of mythology and dreams that are common to both and which occur very frequently in both dreams and mythology. For example, there is the FLOOD.
The flood is a very easy one to interpret: it means an overwhelming emotional experience which is so bad as to completely destroy ones confidence in oneself and the world and to undermine one’s understanding/knowledge of the world such that one might lose faith completely in them. The emotion is usually fear, or anger, and the experience can be so bad that you literally do not trust the ground to remain solid under your feet, and the emotion is so strong that you lose awareness of, or interest in, almost everything but the emotion – it takes all your attention, take over your mind; you are swimming in a sea of emotion. This is the flood of dreams. The idea of an ark, a ship that can keep you ‘afloat’, is the idea that you may still have something you can cling to, something that can give you some ‘buoyancy’ when the thoughts are threatening to drag you down, and that thing might be some religious faith.
Lots of people dream about floods, or it can be something related such as a tsunami, when they are in trouble, when they are under severe stress, the kind of stress that will lead to a ‘mental breakdown’ if they do not find some relief. It is well to heed such warnings.
So the flood motif is common in mythology. In the Western world we are most familiar with it in the context of the bible, the Old Testament. This makes me suspicious, because it means that the people who created those myths suffered mental breakdown. In other words, they did indeed experience psychosis.
The floods of mythology do not occur at the beginnings of things. For instance, in the bible we have the creation of the world by God, the expulsion from the Garden of Eden and much else before we arrive at the flood. So, if the flood signals a breakdown, then what precedes the flood should tell us what lead to the breakdown.
Consider the idea of a ‘god’. In a dream a god would stand for something that a person ‘worshipped’. People can ‘worship’ all sorts of things, for example, Art, science, another person. ‘Worship’ denotes a state of mind, an attitude, and one that accepts the ‘authority’ of the thing worshipped. So, for example, a person who worships Art will feel that it is entirely appropriate to sacrifice themselves for their Art, whereas someone else would take the attitude that art should serve the needs of the people.
So, to stick with the Christian God, let’s take what might be considered his main attribute: he is omnipotent, ie all powerful. In dream terms then, this god stands for power, so the thing worshipped is POWER.
When a person worships something, then it takes over their mind. It becomes the dominant preoccupation. This is easy to see if one thinks in terms of the worship of a person. If you worship another person then you will believe everything they say, will drink in every word they utter, and everything they say will be remembered, while anything that someone else says will be forgotten – this is a result of the ‘love’ accorded the worshiped person. In this way, the thoughts and ideas uttered by the worshipped person soon come to be the thoughts and ideas of the worshipper, the ONLY thoughts and ideas of the worshipper. In this sense, the worshipper becomes the ‘child’ of the person worshipped. Also, the worshipper can no longer be said to be his own master; his mind is now ‘governed’ by the person worshipped.
The same things apply even if the thing worshipped is, say, Art, or power. So, just as with worshipping a person, to worship power is to give up being your own master and to allow yourself to be governed by power. This is why a god is something outside of the person, but which has governance of the person.
Ah-ha! Got it! That’s the problem: worship. Give yourself over to worship and, in a very literal sense, you will ‘lose your mind’. This state of mind that develops when people worship something or someone is VERY UNHEALTHY. One way or another it is going to lead to problems. In cases of what one might call extreme devotion, such as prophets and saints might indulge in, these problems would most certainly take the form of hallucinations, delusions and all sorts of other psychotic symptoms leading, if given enough time, to mental breakdown.
Well, I have satisfied myself that religions begin with WORSHIP and that the mythologies that are created merely describe the thing worshipped and what became of the minds of those who created the mythologies. And in view of the damage done by worship, as described by the mythologies, I am satisfied that religious visions and other experiences are, indeed, merely hallucinations, delusions and other ‘psychotic’ symptoms.
In my work with dreams and the consequent development of my understanding of the mind, I have learned that, above all else, if one wants to be healthy and happy, one must be true to oneself. This is achieved by respecting oneself and taking pride in oneself and in what one is and what one can do. Human beings are complex enough that each one is unique, and that uniqueness must be clung to and developed. To do anything else is to ‘deny’ the ‘self’, and to die a little bit. For example, if you like and respect your art more than the art of anyone else, then your mind will work on your art and pursue its own course, but it you like someone else’s art better than your own, then your mind will devote itself to copying that other art, and as a consequence your unique tastes and abilities will not develop.
One might say, “Love thyself better than thy neighbour”, and then a lot of people would throw up their hands and accuse one of being selfish and anti-social etc. Strange to say, that is not the case. In fact, it is quite the opposite. This is, in fact, the ultimate cooperative state of mind, and your neighbour benefits from it as much as you do yourself. But this all requires a lot of explanation, not the job of this post.
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More thoughts on the origin of religion.
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