O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there.
Sonnet 65, ‘Terrible Sonnets’, by Gerald Manley Hopkins
The SPIRITUAL connection: Spirituality has been referred to as the ‘forgotten dimension’ of mental health care !
Many mentally ill people seem to be addicted to religion or spirituality. It is as though the mind in order to find its moorings, clings to a deity for support. And at the other end we have many philosophers, saints, mystics and even psychologists like Carl Jung, talking about their explorations of that mysterious entity called the mind and often going through periods of deep anxiety or depression. Not surprisingly therefore, many spiritual giants, whether St. Augustine in his Confessions, St. John of the Cross in his prophetic book, Revelations and many others, talk of spiritual experiences culled from the depths of the unconscious mind. They are surprisingly candid and reveal intimate details of the workings of the mind. They reveal how in their spiritual quest for an Ultimate Reality that transcends this world and yet sustains it, they went through despair, loss of faith, and in the case of Carl Jung, might have almost skimmed the edges of plunging into insanity.
There is a very thin line that divides the spiritual and the mentally unhinged. And yet, for those who deal with mental illness, whether in oneself or as care-givers, the mind, that ‘nebulous’ entity and the spiritual process, could be tools to recovery and a profound spiritual experience. Instead of treating the mind as merely a ‘sick entity’ and piling the body with chemicals to regulate the brain (that is said to influence the mind), alternative approaches that involves the aspect of consciousness, could be considered. Here is a link on Spirituality and Mental Health from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK, giving up-to-date and readable information about this topic.
It was St. John of the Cross who coined the term ‘the dark night of the soul’ to refer to periods of spiritual dryness, where he felt disconnected from God or the Source of life. Yet, at such moments, when one feels lost, uncertain, abandoned, when one sinks into the depths of the mind where there might be the darkness of unknowingness and fear, this is the time to hold on. When one manages to not give in to despair, if in all this delving into the depths, the facing of darkness and inner demons, the hold on the mind is retained, there finally comes the light at the end of the tunnel!
Retain this thought on light; it is the material for the next post 🙂
© Lakshmi S. Menon & VOICE’nVIEWS