You, yourself have never heard
discarnate voices
in your mind,
how possibly can you tell
someone who has, that they

There never was a king like Solomon
Not since the world began,
Yet Solomon talked to a butterfly
As a man would talk to a man.

The Bible does not record, neither does Rudyard Kipling, who wrote the verse, whether the butterfly ever replied, and with what voice. Solomon was fortunate in that he wore a ring which, it was accepted, gave him the ability to converse with 'beasts, fowl, creeping things and fishes'; without the ring, and admitting to 'hearing voices', today's Solomon would have an inevitable fate - 'Just like Harpic, clean round the bend!'

There can be no doubt that to many people, professional and lay alike, the hearing of voices in the mind is a mental illness. In reality, it is not an illness at all. That there are people who hear voices who are also ill cannot be disputed. However, as you read on you will see that it is my contention that some voice hearers are already ill, undermined, depleted, isolated, for a variety of reasons and causes and, in that state, begin to hear voices, whilst others start to experience voices through a variety of ways that I shall illustrate, and are then made ill as a result of the treatment to which they are subjected. That a person can be made very ill by medical treatment I have already amply demonstrated, and from the fullness of personal experience - experience which increasingly, we learn, is far from uncommon.

The fact that 'hearing voices' is called an 'illness' and treated as such by those who have public authority in the field of mental health, or have the public ear through the various organs of mass-media; the fact that virtually the only times a voice-hearer features in these media is as a 'schizophrenic' - usually a 'paranoid schizophrenic', and equally usually, by implication or directly, a 'violent paranoid schizophrenic' - because of these facts and a variety of other related factors, there are many voice-hearers who do not reveal themselves as such, because immediately they would be labelled as 'mentally ill', categorised, made to have 'treatment', and would become stigmatised.

Is it not odd that there is no universal definition of schizophrenia? I have a recording of a BBC 'Medicine Now' broadcast of some years ago, that was devoted wholly to the topic, and in which this fact is frankly admitted by speakers - all eminent in their mental health fields - some of whom quite positively asserted that, for example, the definition differed depending on which side of the Atlantic it was made! Thus we have Harvard medical graduate and a Professor in Psychiatry at the University of California, Dr. John W. Perry, writing "Let me specify at the outset exactly which condition I am speaking of here: this is only one among many syndromes that pass under the name 'schizophrenia'..." In the preface to his scholarly, but very readable, and certainly beautifully written book, Schizophrenia Genesis, Dr. Irving I. Gottesman writes that "A heritage of distortions, stagnant certainty, and self-serving territoriality characterises the fields of knowledge about this dreaded disorder - aptly called 'the cancer of the mind' ", and offers his book " 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".

"The scientists" writes Dr. Gottesman "are revealed as the fallible, egoistic, political, territorial, and humane beings that they are" and I can say with the certainty of one who has read his book, that Dr. Gottesman reveals himself to be most humane. There can be no doubt that the majority of those working in the fields of mental health and medicine strive to relieve the suffering of people, whether as individuals or in the mass, and I want nothing that I write to imply, or even to be read as implying, criticism of their intent and motives.

However, withal, many lay people are uneasy when they consider the immense social powers that are invested in these same medical scientists when they acquire the letters M.D. after their names. In matters of ethics and morals, they are expected to have God-like powers of understanding and discernment and of making decisions affecting life and death. In the field of mental health that concerns me now, there are powers of incarceration and compulsion that, in other fields of social activity, require the full apparatus of the law and courts.

An asylum, by definition, is a 'benevolent institution affording shelter and support to some class of the afflicted and unfortunate'. Would that the reality met the definition; would that the concept of asylum as an attitude, embraced not only buildings and establishments, but also the way in which mentally afflicted people were regarded by society. 'Benevolent', 'shelter', 'support' - lovely words, words that I found at the very heart of 'The Retreat' mental hospital in York, which I visited recently; a centre of excellence in its approach to the care of people, and which gives hope of an ultimate change in attitude.

Too often the reality for a voice hearer is a closed ward, drugs that have side effects that can be worse than many illnesses and which carry the risk of dependency - and even electro-convulsive therapy: treatments that it is believed will cure a condition that does not yet have a universally accepted definition, and which appears to have many bizarre causes and by-products:

Some schizophrenics have a thicker than normal corpus callosum

Some schizophrenics have high levels of 'sulphite' in the urine…

Some schizophrenics exhibit high levels of copper in serum and hair analysis…

Some schizophrenics have nutrient deficiencies, especially of B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, chromium, manganese and vitamin C, while food intolerances are common in many…

Some schizophrenics have a greater than normal susceptibility to arthritis…

Babies born in cities during the winter are at greater risk of developing schizophrenia in later life than those born in country areas, or in summer (possibly because of damage in the womb caused by influenza in the expectant mother)…

Some schizophrenics have a larger than normal left lateral ventricle…

Unfortunately, one could go on and on and on…

When I started to write, I did not intend to provide an analysis of Schizophrenia Genesis, neither shall I, except to draw one further quotation from it - Dr. Gottesman writes - "Schizophrenia is a complex disorder of human functioning. The absence so far of a solution to its origins compels me to be skeptical about received wisdom from all participants, however noble and well-intended. I am, however, optimistic about finding solutions via the energies of scientists and the canons of science within a decade."

The decade having ended with the Millennium, and no solution to the problem as perceived being even faintly in sight, I wonder whether I can be accepted as one of the 'scientists' to whom Dr.Gottesman refers? Or, perhaps, accepted as a bridge from scientists to the world of actuality, of the reality of what is? Just as in my work, I was such a bridge between scientists and the engineering functions of the practical, the possible. As I have written, by training and profession I am an electrical engineer who specialised in instrumentation and measurement. For 10 years, I was the Senior Instrument Engineer at the world's first commercial nuclear power plant, Calder Hall. The bridge that I provided was between the scientists who decided what they wanted to achieve within the inaccessible world at the core of a nuclear reactor, and my instrumentation that enabled them to try to achieve it and told them whether or not they had done so.




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