LISTENING TO THE SILENCES

 

CHAPTER 16 ESSAY 5

Essay 5

“WHAT I TELL YOU THREE TIMES IS TRUE”

Lewis Carroll

The Baron rode along on his favourite horse and finally came to the gates of the city that was his destination. The entrance was well fortified, complete with towers and a portcullis. Just as the Baron was passing through the arch, the rope holding the portcullis snapped, and the spiked barrier dropped onto the horse immediately behind the saddle, severing the creature in two. Recovering quickly from his shock, the Baron cut some thin and flexible twigs from a nearby bush, and sewed the horse together again.
Not only did the horse survive, but the twigs took root, and grew into a canopy that protected the Baron from sun and rain as he rode along.
The Baron in question was the famous Munchausen who has since become notorious by virtue of his name having been expropriated to describe a peculiar psychological condition – a ‘syndrome’, no less. This condition has since become more commonly known about than the original Baron – who in fact was a rumbustious teller of tall tales and vastly removed from the concept of a ‘peculiar psychological condition’ (though he might have been flattered by the notion of having become a ‘syndrome’!). The truth of his reputation has been degraded even more severely by having his name attached to the extended label ‘Munchausen syndrome by proxy’.
This latter label has been degraded itself as the result of certain recent and high profile legal cases, and yet it is not so long ago that the ‘diagnosis’ was being ‘knowledgeably’ bandied about by individuals working in psychiatry as if they were fully acquainted with the condition and its correct interpretation. Each time that I heard these and other similar comments, I was reminded of the results of a survey that I had read, which had been carried out amongst people who worked in areas of high finance. It was found that a significant number used the esoteric jargon of the financial world even though they did not understand it, simply to appear to be ‘in the know’.
Which makes me speculate that in other areas of human activity the same compulsions to appear knowledgeable exist, and in the world of the human mind and its malfunctions, the scope for professional obfuscation and self-delusion is wide, wide, wide. Within the world of the voice hearer, the alleged ‘schizophrenic’, the world that primarily concerns me, I must confess to being disturbed by such comments as:
“Let me specify at the outset which condition I am speaking of here: this is only one of the many syndromes that pass under the name ‘schizophrenia’...” Dr. John Perry, Professor of Psychiatry, University of California.
“A heritage of distortions, stagnant certainty, and self-serving territoriality characterises the fields of knowledge about this dreaded disorder [schizophrenia] – aptly called the cancer of the mind” – Schizophrenias Genesis by Dr. Irving J Gottesman, who offers his book “...to help fill the information gap between the ‘ivory towers of academia’, with its research ‘factories’ and private language, and the idiosyncratic narratives glorifying or obfuscating disorders of the mind”. He further wrote: “The absence so far of a solution compels me to be skeptical about received wisdom from all participants, however noble and well-intended.”
In his book, Dr. Gottesman refers to more than four hundred books and other publications, all aimed at exploring and defining the human condition and studying the aberrant mind. You can search, as I have done, for anything, anything at all, that was written by anyone at all who had first hand experience of the conditions being studied and reviewed. Your search will be in vain; pointless. When you see the sub-title of the book, you may realise where the author was coming from and what his original mind-set was. He chose The Origins of Madness to give a wider understanding of the scope of his book. Other recent authors seem to work from a similar presupposition when they entitle their book Voices of Reason, Voices of Madness.
Coming closer to acceptability in terms of content, and my own determination, is the often-quoted chapter derived from a book by a Clinical Psychologist, Wilson Van Dusen. He writes in this chapter of The Presence of Spirits in Madness, and even though he uses the detestable terminology of his profession, namely ‘madness’, ‘hallucinations’ and ‘delusions’, he nevertheless arrives at conclusions that agree fundamentally with my own personal experience. Van Dusen’s writings are based upon the study of ‘thousands of mentally ill persons’: my experiences distilled into my book* derive from almost twenty-five years individual and daily interaction with what I profoundly know are spiritual intrusions.
Brian Inglis in his book The Unknown Guest provides many instances of well-known artists, musicians, composers, writers and poets who in their lifetimes had frankly admitted that without the presence of their ‘muse’ – this spiritual ‘other’ - in their art, they could only produce work that was mundane and ‘soulless’. Renowned concert pianist, John Lill, OBE, has described many times how he has received spiritual voices and visions during his long and highly successful performing career. To the best of my knowledge, no one has suggested that any of the people cited by Brian Inglis were mad. Foolhardy would be the ones who had the temerity to suggest that John Lill is. (I have a recording that I made of Mr. Lill talking to Sue Lawley on ‘Desert Island Discs’ in which he described graphically various events, but acknowledged how easy it is to be misunderstood).
I have often spoken or written about a former parish priest at my church who would wax lyrical about the marvellous achievements of those who had responded to inner voices, voices that he himself had no doubt were of spiritual origin. Invariably, however, he would end with the admonishment that if any of us heard voices, we should seek psychiatric help.
No matter what I start to write about, invariably and unerringly I am drawn to this same point and the resulting conclusions, conclusions that may be said to be reinforced by the overturning of yet another verdict laid at the door of the now infamous Baron Munchausen and his ‘syndrome by proxy’. A retrial has been ordered in the case of a woman jailed for life for murdering her infant son, jailed by the label given her by the now discredited paediatrician whose diagnosis was invariably accepted because who was there to question it? This very morning I heard on the radio the distressed voices of mothers whose children had been taken into care because of a diagnosis of M.S.B.P. (Munchausen’s Syndrome By Proxy has become just another set of initials to be bandied about in a ‘knowledgeable’ fashion!). These mothers had been trying via the General Medical Council to have their complaints of misdiagnosis heard and their children restored – one woman has waited seven years and her case has not yet been dealt with fully. The mothers have found that the very act of trying to get redress has been treated as yet another bit of evidence that they exhibit M.S.B.P., and that their appeal to the G.M.C. is ‘just another bit of attention seeking’! It makes me think of the times when women were accused of witchcraft: once the ‘diagnosis’ had been made, a form of collective hysteria seemingly took over, and the outcome for the woman was inevitable.
In the world of mental health and psychiatry, labels abound and are fastened on individuals often on the flimsiest of evidence and never subsequently questioned – only added to. Thus the ‘voice hearer’ suddenly becomes ‘the schizoid’; ‘the psychotic’; ‘the schizophrenic’; ‘the paranoid schizophrenic’; finally (beloved of the tabloid media) ‘the violent paranoid schizophrenic’. But who is there to order a ‘retrial’ for the person labelled, found guilty and ‘sentenced’?
How many people in the past have been incarcerated for long periods, possibly for life, in mental institutions because of a label stuck on them early in life? How many even now are ‘imprisoned’ and held in the shackles and chains of some mind bending drug or drugs – held without remission in some cases, for often a point is reached where life without the drugs has become impossible? I am acquainted with one man who had an alleged psychotic episode when he was seventeen. He is now forty-seven, and for thirty years he has never known life without serious ‘anti-psychotic’ drugs. Yet he knows, and knows with absolute certainty, that his ‘voices’ derive from spiritual sources, but he now has lost all confidence in himself and his ability to cope with real life and dare not give up the drugs.
Where are the advocates, the ‘protectors’ of the defenceless? Who is there to ensure that ‘psychiatry’ doesn’t hold sway over the lives and futures of the vulnerable? Who is there to blow the whistle on the pharmaceuticals for whom a successful outcome of their trials is far more important than restoring the lives of individuals whose ‘illness’ is often the result of an intake of prescribed drugs? Recently I read of a report in which responsible authorities drew attention to the fact that tests that had recommended levels of prescription to juveniles allegedly suffering from depression, had been conducted by groups or individuals who are sustained financially by these same drug companies, and the levels were far too high. (I have since heard that results that did not support the desired outcome were actually suppressed). I know, it happens all the time and profits are far more important than individuals. But my rage is intense when I hear of young people being dragged into the psychiatric net, and given mind-altering drugs, when often all that they need are properly balanced diets, and the avoidance of poisons that are pumped into convenience foods and drinks under the guise of additives and sugar substitutes: substances that add nothing to the nutrition of the product but make it more attractive, saleable, profitable: substances that can and do cause asthma, hyperactivity, obesity and depression, and much, much more. And of course, the kids get a label.
Where are the real and genuine advocates? Where are the organisations to which people can turn before they get sucked into the great maw of the ‘mental machine’? Cancer has its ‘Gentle Approach’ organisations. The cancers of the mind need the gentle approach as well, but apart from such groups as the Hearing Voices Network and centres such as The Retreat Hospital in York, where are organisations that are not tainted by the money and support of commercial organisations? I’m sorry, but I could go on and on as I dwell on lives and minds that have been altered drastically and for the worse by the very institutions and research bodies that purport to protect them. Before I carry on getting carried away, let us return to Baron Munchausen for some moments of sanity, and before he became a syndrome:
The Baron was travelling on his own through a tropical jungle, when his way was barred by a large river. He stopped to decide what to do, for he was prevented by forest from going to the right or left, but suddenly realised that a huge crocodile that had been basking was making a rush at him with its mouth wide open and ready to snatch him. He turned to run only to realise that a mighty lion that had been stalking him was about to spring. Instinctively he dropped to the ground, and his terror was immense as he expected to be torn by claws and teeth. When some time had passed and this had not happened, he took courage and opened his eyes to the amazing sight that was revealed. The lion had sprung right over him and had gone head first into the open jaws of the crocodile, which hung on with all its might. Seizing the moment, the Baron cut off the lion’s head and pushed it further down the crocodile’s throat, thereby suffocating it. His triumph was complete when he took the stuffed crocodile, forty feet long, back to his native Amsterdam, where it can be seen even to this day in one of the museums, along with some tobacco pouches that he had had made from the skin of the lion and then given to the Aldermen of that city.


Essay 6.
“Away with the Fairies”
“Anno 1670 – not far from Cirencester, was an apparition. Being demanded whether a good spirit or a bad? returned no answer, but disappeared with a curious perfume and most melodious twang. Mr. W. Lilly believes it was a fairy.”
John Aubrey 1696


Following graduation as an electrical engineer in 1950, I came north from my native Wales, to the Lake District to work at the Sellafield nuclear plant. I spent all of my working life there, and continue to live in and enjoy this spectacular part of the country. My chief role was as an Instrumentation Engineer in the chemical plants, and, principally, within the Calder Hall power station. Many and varied were the types of measurement made, and many and varied were the devices and techniques that were used. But of all this variety, by far the most important, and sometimes most difficult, was the measurement of radioactivity in its diverse forms. The measurements were necessary for the safe and efficient operation of the various processes, and - and of prime importance - for the safety of the operatives and the public at large.
Alpha and beta particles, neutrons and gamma rays – all were there - all potentially dangerous and harmful – and all were invisible. But more than that, they could only be detected by their effect upon something else – a device that produced little flashes of light with each particle; the change in voltage in some other contrivance – and so on. Properly harnessed and controlled as in a reactor, these dangers became converted into a benevolent source of electrical power
In 1979, and several years after my early retirement, I began to experience another phenomenon – one that is entirely invisible, potentially uncontrollable, dangerous and even ‘life-threatening’ to the life of the mind and spirit, and yet of immense power in its benevolent form – but only discernible through its effect upon the human person through the mind and senses. In that year I began to hear voices and experience the full gamut of spiritual intrusion and interaction. In that year, “a ‘presence’ that I couldn’t see, moved from the space in front of me, into me, and immediately my mind was charged with another ‘voice’ or provoker of thoughts, thoughts over which then I had no control, and which were not initiated by me. In my head began conversation as between two separate people, one of whom was me. I began to ‘hear voices’.” And - “Thus in almost 25 years I have never been free from intrusions that enter blatantly or subliminally into my mind and mental faculties, and forcefully or subtly into my body and senses.” (Extracts from my book. *)
My older brother is an Anglican clergyman, and from his late teens he has had a profound prayer life. From that time, and subsequently since ordination, he has been aware of spiritual presence, and the movement within himself as either he settles to prayer, or he consecrates the Eucharist. His mental response has always been – “If you are from God you are welcome: if not, please go.”
What each of us in his own way is really acknowledging is that there are intelligent, freely acting ‘entities’, ‘beings’, ‘spirits’ – call them what one will – and that they are able to move without restraint into the human person, both physically and mentally. In detail I can only write of my own experiences – experiences that have involved the intensely benevolent, the consummately malevolent and others of indeterminate behaviour. I am aware of the concepts of ‘earthbound spirits’ and of ‘lost souls’ attached to individuals or places, although I have never been able to reconcile myself with, or understand the proposition of ‘soul fragments’: however, none of these are within my experience. What I do know with certainty is that in every culture that has ever left a record anywhere on the Earth, this truth has been acknowledged, and a religion or philosophy has emerged that prescribes ways of living in concert with ‘spiritual good’ and avoiding contact with, or the damaging effects of ‘spiritual evil’.
In everything that I have written or spoken about these matters since I first became aware, I have had one purpose, and one only. My purpose has been this: namely to try to convince anyone who would listen or read that the presence of intrusive malevolent ‘spirits’ is the cause of much mental disturbance. Undoubtedly it is the prime cause of schizophrenia, and may be a major component of manic depression, multiple personality, obsessions, compulsions and behavioural problems. My experiences and resultant arguments are described fully in my book, and I can do no more than indicate a few conclusions. I do not write of anything that could be described as ‘spirit release’, because the unwanted spirits with which one is dealing are intelligent, cunning and have free will. Instead I have written to inform and encourage and to suggest ways of coping and regaining control.
I have tried to be careful in that I do not suggest that every mental aberration is the result of adverse spiritual activity. This was a danger that became manifest during the last major ‘spirit release’ movement – at the time of the so-called ‘charismatic renewal’ of the nineteen seventies and eighties. Believing that the ‘charisms’ – the gifts of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost - were for everyone, lay and ordained alike, many groups were formed, many were speaking in tongues, and many were trying individual or group ‘exorcisms’. There was much uncontrolled enthusiasm, and there were acknowledged instances of minds being damaged by, particularly, the DIY exorcisms. (And even now, for only recently I read of an eight year old autistic boy in Milwaukee who died wrapped in sheets in a church service to ‘exorcise evil spirits’.)
Undoubtedly there are responsible minds at work in the current and growing awareness, and several and varied are the books now available that record the work and practices. However, there are also those who are regarding ‘spirit release’ as another ‘Brownie badge’ to sew on their sleeve, alongside Reiki, hypnotism and hypnotherapy, past life regression and Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP), channelling and ‘readings’, aromatherapy, shamanism, et al.
There is already a seriously debased currency in the training and practice offered in some of these and other ‘complementary’ activities. In Reiki, for the expenditure of two weekends and £550, one can become a Reiki Master, capable of ‘training and empowering’ other aspirants – two weekends in which one can “…learn many professional (sic) techniques and possibly heal or cure …psychic attack, auric knots, lost spirits… - as well as Rainbow Reiki, NLP…”. There are allegedly some who will offer ‘empowerment’ over the phone!
The Web will reveal a number of sites that offer training in hypnotism and hypnotherapy – ‘training’ that involves no actual contact between the trainer and aspirant, only taped sessions, with a final certificate that guarantees access to a lucrative source of income in activities that include past life regression and NLP – “Jump start your career for the Millennium” said one advert. I once underwent hypnotism that was practised by someone whom I knew to be competent and well trained. As I was about to be ‘submerged’ I felt my person being entered by a spiritual entity, and was still sufficiently alert to hold myself back from the deep state of hypnosis. I was aware that had I carried on I could have been used and spoken through, as would be a psychic medium. This to me is one of the greatest dangers of hypnotism and regression – how can anyone possibly know what is going on or ‘who’ is speaking through the one being ‘regressed’? Equally damaging is the stage hypnotist – opening minds in a very charged atmosphere – for ‘entertainment’. The human mind with its vulnerability to spiritual intrusion should not be treated merely as a source of income for entertainers, no matter how great the reputation that they have acquired. “The fastest way to learn stage hypnotism and enhance your income” said yet another Web site.
It is possible to buy DIY books on how to ‘channel’ - how to “give oneself ‘psychic protection’; work with guides and angels; conduct channelled readings” – and no doubt contribute to the flood of wisdom that is poured out in constant stream from ‘Ascended Masters’ – with names that range from Aldebran to Zed. A weekend workshop will produce a certificate in Aromatherapy, the practice of which can involve the use of oils that have been demonstrated as having profound effects upon the moods and mental states of susceptible individuals. ‘Shamanism’ leaves me completely baffled, for I just cannot bridge what I see as the vast gulf between those who identify themselves as ‘shaymans’, and the picture that I derive from the description in Encyclopaedia Britannica of the origins, upbringing and subsequent life, and the ‘sorcery and magic’, of the genuine Siberian Shaman.
The human mind and spirit are not there as playgrounds for the dilettante or dabbler. Even the professionals in the workings of the mind can make serious mistakes, as I found to my cost when my own mind was in dire danger of suffering serious and permanent damage as the result of a medical mis-diagnosis, inappropriate and totally unnecessary medication, and the machinations of a consultant psychiatrist who could admit in correspondence to ‘lacunae in my training’. Concerning the potential dangers to my ‘spirit’, I was the author of my own peril through the innocent and gullible use of a pendulum in dowsing. However, if I had not done so, I would not have been able to write as I have done, nor to be constant and insistent, as I shall be while I live, in declaring that spiritual intrusion is a reality, and is the source and cause of many cases of mental disturbance and illness. Conversely, I am equally insistent in my acknowledgement of the existence of a powerful and universal source of benevolent spirituality.
As for the fairies – well, I am sure that you can make up your own mind about them, although, having said that, I once knew a lady, alas now dead, who had a pencil drawing that she had made from sight of a fairy that she had seen among the flowers in her garden. It was an excellent drawing....

 

 

CHAPTER 16 INTRODUCTION

 

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