yourself have never heard
possibly can you tell
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!'
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 "...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".
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
have a thicker than normal corpus callosum
Some schizophrenics have high levels of 'sulphite' in the urine
exhibit high levels of copper in serum and hair analysis
have nutrient deficiencies, especially of B vitamins, zinc, magnesium,
chromium, manganese and vitamin C, while food intolerances are common
have a greater than normal susceptibility to arthritis
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)
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
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.