Mysticism and Madness Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1309 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

Mysticism and Madness

The Relationship between Mysticism and Madness

The difference between mysticism and madness is the perspective of the observer. To one person, a person's claim that they hear the voice of god is a symptom of madness. The problem is not only diagnosable, but treatable. With the proper medications, hallucinations disappear and the sick individual is able to return to a "normal" life. In contrast, to some people to hear the voice of god signals a mystic, a prophet, a holy person. Instead of seeking to treat the hallucinations those people engage in activities to bring them closer to the mystical, such as fasting or the ingestion of substances like peyote. There are several shared perceptions regarding the observation of both mysticism and madness: loss of self-control, loss of self, and the loss of rationality. In fact, both mysticism and madness are characterized by the central fact that neither can truly be verified by an outside source. However, though the perception of the symptoms of madness and mysticism may be the same, one's perspective about the role of an individual in society determines whether that individual is perceived as mystical or mad. Sometimes, the difference between mysticism and madness comes down to an individual's ability to communicate and to persuade others to understand his perspective.

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One perception of mystical experiences is that they are characterized by a loss of control. The individual is no longer able to direct his thoughts or feelings. Sometimes that lack of control extends to an individual's inability to direct his actions. Instead, the person is said to be a vessel for something greater than the self. The way in which the loss of control in mysticism differs from the loss of control in madness is that people perceive mystics to be controlled by something greater, while people perceive madmen to be controlled by something lesser.

Term Paper on Mysticism and Madness Assignment

Madness is also characterized by a loss of control. However, the madman is characterized as having lost a battle with a disease. Instead of being perceived as elevated, the madman is debased. In fact, in order to escape culpability for crimes on the basis of mental disease, the individual has to prove an inability to control their actions. The madman is medicated, in order to control his beliefs that he is in touch with the divine, which reinforces the perception that the madman is so debased that he could not be sanctified.

However, there appears to be a middle-ground on the perception of madman and mystic. Intoxicants are seen as substances that make a person "more" of whatever they were before ingesting the intoxicants. In fact, in some societies, intoxicants can allow someone to break down the barriers of humanness and interconnect with the divine. Furthermore, the perspective on intoxication differs from public perspective on mysticism or madness. Psychics and schizophrenics are greeted with paranoia and fear, but the drunk with hallucinations is regarded with pity or scorn. In addition, the drunk is considered to be more reliable, more able to communicate than his sober counterparts, because of the ability of the intoxicants to tear down the normal human barriers to communication.

In addition to a loss of self-control, both madness and mysticism are characterized by a loss of self. For the madman, thoughts are taken over by a disease. Quite literally, the brain is re-mapped and re-wired in a way that places new associations with once-familiar objects, makes strangers of loved ones, and enemies of strangers. The very things that humans use to define their own humanity change meaning. Therefore, the perspective of the madman changes; he is no longer the person he once was. Furthermore, he no longer perceives others to be the same as before the madness. Finally, others perceive the madman as having lost themselves; the mad lose their rights to direct their lives and make decisions.

Like madmen, mystics undergo a loss of self. The public perception… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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