Where have all the prophets gone? (Part One) 06/18/2012Posted by ALT in Philosophy/Spirituality.
Tags: mental health, prophet, psychiatry, soul healing, spirituality, visionary
I haven’t talked about spirituality much here. In some ways, that’s a glaring omission, given that this blog is concerned mainly with a critique and rethinking of mainstream psychiatry, literally, “soul healing.” The big critique being mainstream psychiatry’s denial of the soul, its insistence on treating only the bodies and the brains, forgetting the spirit that brings them to life.
I’ve avoided it because, well, I didn’t want to offend. Most people (myself most definitely included) are allergic to proselytization — run at the first hint of it.
So, fair warning: I’m going to start talking about spirituality. I may even talk about some of my spiritual beliefs. But with the important caveat that while this evolving faith seems to be true for me, something entirely different may be true for you. And I respect that.
A spiritual battle
I view the struggle for mental rights and freedoms as a battle to secure for the discerning and self-actualizing part of a human being – “soul,” if you will – the right to exist, fully and dynamically. From this perspective, it’s almost inappropriate to approach questions of wellness, of being-in-the-world, from an entirely clinical, secular point of view, because these issues are inextricably tied up with matters of the heart (the seat of spiritual insight).
Again, we’re not robots, not just bodies with a helping of brains on top – there’s a spirit in there that makes us alive! With that spirit we quickly transcend the bare chemical fact of our existence. Carbon atoms bonded to other carbon atoms? That is only the beginning; truly, we are much, much more!
So a person in emotional distress needs more than a chemical intervention, a pharmaceutical or a “natural” vitamin for the body (though a vitamin probably wouldn’t hurt…). This person needs spiritual comfort and guidance. Mind, body, and spirit – I believe that healing requires a balance of all three.
This battle for mental rights and freedoms is fought on several levels: we say forced treatment is a violation of a citizen’s rights (body) and a thinking individual’s free will (mind). But we must not forget the spiritual ramifications – to be restrained, secluded, unwillingly drugged or shocked, is it not a violation of the living spirit?
Anne Woodlen, whose writing I greatly admire, states it starkly:
American medicine treats the body with drugs until it kills the soul. It’s rather like a root canal: the tooth is left in place but the nerve is taken out… More and more people are crying out in spiritual pain, and their cries are being silenced with drugs… You call this caring—this business of silencing the pain of wounded spirits?
– Anne C. Woodlen, “Mind, Spirit, or Soul” [emphasis added]
We live in a society where every spirit, every human being, is systematically assailed. No one escapes entirely. How did this come to pass?
How did we, as a society, come to be so very, very sick?
A related question
I grew up attending Baptist church services every Sunday. In sermons, and in conversations, I would often hear a question that seemed to trouble whoever asked it, and it troubled me, too:
Where have all the prophets gone?
Why doesn’t God send us messengers anymore?
The Old Testament is full of prophets, visionaries, men who saw God, talked with God. If a society was on the path to ruin and evil, God sent someone with a message, a mandate, to make things right. These were real, undeniable miracles, and they happened all the time!
This stuff would be big news, today, right? You just don’t miss a man proclaiming the word of the LORD and then ascending to heaven in a chariot of fire.
Ultimately, I learned to accept that for some mysterious reason, God doesn’t do big, obviously miraculous stuff like that anymore. He answers prayers and works on the small-scale, individual level – but sending messengers with miraculous visionary and prophetic powers to lead a community back to righteousness? That’s a thing of the past; it just doesn’t happen like that anymore. This answer to the question never did sit quite right with me, but it was the best I had.
Until I revisited the church of my childhood a few weeks ago after a long absence, and a resoundingly powerful answer, one that has been building for a while, finally burst into being in my consciousness. There are still spiritual messengers that come to us with a vision of healing, societal change – but they’re silenced. Routinely, as a matter of course. They MUST not be allowed to speak.
This “business of silencing the pain of wounded spirits” and the quelling of revolutionary visions for community-wide healing are one and the same. The practice of biopsychiatry encompasses them both.
I repeat: it is a spiritual battle.
(to be continued…)