Mystical Experiences, Religion as Mental Illness

Uploaded 3/17/2022, approx. 31 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the infante reble of psychology. I am a professor of psychology and the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited.

And today we are going to discuss a very controversial subject for a change.

We are going to discuss the question, are mystical experiences forms of mental illness?

You know my view about religion? God, angels, the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. And it's a dim view indeed.

And today I'm going to delve much deeper into the neuroscience and other discoveries which link inextricably mystical experiences to mental illness.

And mystical experiences are of course the cornerstones, the foundations of the vast majority, if not all, religions. So religions are founded on mental illness, it's as simple as that. That's not Sam Vaknin. That's another Jew, Sigmund Freud. He said that religions are forms of delusional disorders.

I love that guy.

Okay, and we start surprisingly with a piece of literature.

This is the book Genealogy. Genealogy by Maud Casey. And here is what she writes in an interview.

She says, there's a lot of religious iconography in the delusions of the mentally ill.

Ecstasies struck me as similar to manic episodes or psychotic breaks.

William James, the philosopher and psychologist, the 19th century philosopher and psychologist, William James, in the varieties of religious experience, talks about the way religion exists, not as a dull habit, but as an acute fever.

Religious fervor and insanity sometimes look alike. Change sometimes, always. Hearing voices, hallucinations and feelings of transformation and transcendence are common to both.

The idea was not to romanticize mental illness, she says about her book, or to dismiss spirituality, or worse, to chalk it up to a chemical imbalance that might be cured by the pharmaceutical du jour.

The idea was to consider those things religion and madness have in common, striving to reach beyond oneself and an impulse towards ecstasy.

It seems very human, the desire for more, for bigger, for meaning, for feelings that knock you over or knock you out.

That's from the book Genealogy by Maud Casey. I'm reading it as we speak.

Let's go into more established authorities on the topic.

For example, Roland Griffiths.

Roland Griffiths works at the Johns Hopkins University Medical Center in Baltimore, and he studies mushrooms.

One of his subjects, one of the subjects of his experiments, describes her experience.

She says, they asked me to lay down with headphones. It was powerful music, and I've ever heard. I was blindfolded and I began to have my experience.

She was involved in five sessions and she describes them as the most profound experiences of her life.

I know that I had emerging with what I call oneness. I am. There was a time that I was being gently pulled into it and I saw it as a light. It isn't even describable. It's not just light, it's love.

Her words echo those of mystics throughout the ages. Mystics who talked about a physical union with God, a peek into eternity or an out-of-body experience.

Griffiths says that 70% of the subject had full-blown mystical experiences, which he calls remarkable. Mystical experiences are not limited to the mentally ill or to self-styled prophets or to real prophets.

Mystical experiences happen in daily life.

Jane Goodall, who studied chimpanzees of all things, had written in her book Reason for Hope. Lost in the awe at the beauty around me, I must have slipped into a state of heightened awareness.

It seemed to me, as I struggled afterward to recall the experience, that self was utterly absent. I and the chimpanzees, the earth, trees, the air, seemed to merge, to become one with the spirit power of life itself. Never had I been so intensely aware of the shape, the color of the individual leaves, the varied patterns of the veins that made each one unique. It was almost overpowering.

This is, of course, a great description of the infantile phase before separation individuation when the child is fully merged and fused with his mummy.

We want to go back to the womb. We want to become one again with mummy. We want this oceanic feeling of dissolving and reappearing within mummy, with mummy, being mummy, one and the same, a single organism, a unitary cosmos.

Mystical experiences are forms of consciousness, of course. They purportedly lead to personal insight.

Objective studies have shown that intuition is mistaken 50% of the time. Mystical experiences are often perceived as a form of intuition.

Mystical experiences are profound experiences of a spiritual nature. Many people describe them as a burst of intense energy, a laser focus, an all-consuming love, an encounter with God.

Actually, the six most common descriptions of mystical experiences are the following.

A feeling of surrender, which is where the religion of Islam gets its name. Islam means surrender coupled with submissiveness, to God, of course, to Allah.

A sense of oneness, profound intensity, extreme clarity, new perspectives, enlightenment, either as a lasting experience or momentary enlightenment.

Many drug addicts describe identical experiences, by the way. It is a conjunction of mental illness, drug addiction, substance abuse, and mystical experiences.

Mystical experiences involve narcissism, or at the very least grandiosity, because the enlightenment that comes from mystical experience is perceived by the individual as enhanced mastery, as a form of dominance.

There's a guy called Andrew Newberg, a doctor, a neuroscientist. He's a pioneer in a field called neurotheology. Newberg believes that mystical experiences are great ways to heal and to evolve personally and to accomplish goals, etc., so he is mystical experience positive.

And he defines neurotheology as a field that seeks to understand the link between our brain and our religious or spiritual selves, whatever these may be.

The neuro part includes neuroscience and neuroimaging, psychology and the health sciences. Traditional spirituality, meditation, prayer, and other aspects of human beliefs, this is the theology part, neurotheology.

Now, the guy, Dr. Andrew Newberg, distinguishes between what he calls big E, big enlightenment, events, and small e, or little e, experiences. The little e doesn't induce change. It's not transformative.

The big E is going to rock your world to its core, shifting everything you thought you knew about purpose, health, spirituality, death.

But even Newberg, who is very mystical positive, even he links mystical experiences to mental illness.

In a book he co-authored with Mark Robert Waldman, the book is titled Why We Believe What We Believe, Newberg writes that there is an overlap between spiritual beliefs and psychological disorders.

Patients with obsessive compulsive disorders, for example, often develop very rigid religious beliefs. People with schizotypal personality disorder, or with delusional disorders tend to believe in the supernatural, the occult, the esoteric, and, of course, the religious.

Newberg suggests in this new book that mystical experiences are described as blissful and ecstatic because they share the same neural pathways in the parietal and frontal lobes that are involved in sexual arousal.

This is where mystical experiences are beginning to get linked with the shared fantasy, the narcissist's shared fantasy, often founded on a lot of sex bombing in the initial stage.

Newberg is a polymath. He studied Eastern and Western thinkers. He really, really delved deeply into all kinds of philosophies. And he's asking the core question in mystical experience. Is there such a thing as objective reality outside of human perception?

And he thinks that meditation and mystical experiences, these are reports, actually, reports of experiencing a higher reality, which is more real than everyday perception. We could call it hyper reality.

Newberg says that it's the only description that I've ever seen where somebody will say, I got beyond my brain. I got beyond my ego self. I got beyond the subjective and objective nature of the world. And then they see the universe and they experience the universe in a very, very different kind of way.

Not a bad encapsulation of psychotic disorder by the way.

Okay, so what about the foundations, the body? Where does this arise from?

Molecular Biologist, Dean Hamer, wrote a book and the title is The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into Our Genes. And he identifies a gene, it's called VMAT2.

It says that the way it transports certain neurochemicals can produce intense mystical experiences and also what helps create the magic effect in psilocybin mushrooms.

But the mystical isn't always found or exclusively found in religion. The mystical, as I said, can happen in everyday life. It has several features.

There must be a state of awe. There must be a state of flow. There must be a meditative state, like a trance.

In many cases, there's a feeling of derealization and depersonalization, which are essentially dissociative states, the forms of dissociation, which is a pathology. And they very often provoke the individual capacities, hidden talents that he didn't know or she didn't know had existed.

In a lecture given in Marlborough College, titled Gays, God, and Genes, Hamer compared the effects of this variation to an enhanced capacity for natural highs. And this spiritual tendency also depends on a person's environment, according to Hamer.

He says that the environment can direct the innate spirituality to particular religious beliefs or to steer them away from religion altogether. So he thinks it's an interaction between genes and environment.

But the hallmarks are absolutely the hallmarks of dissociative states and psychosis.

Let's go back to William James. William James was essentially one of the first professional psychologists and philosophers, 19th century. He wrote a magnificent book, The Varieties of Religious Experience, which hasn't aged one day. It's still super valid. The book describes a mystical experience as having four characteristics.

I'm quoting, these experiences we can only find in individuals for whom religion exists not as a dull habit but as an acute fever.

1. Ineffability – they defy expression. A mystical state must be experienced to be fully understood.

2. Nuitic – they include the mind as well as the intellect. These states carry revelations of deep truth that have authority.

3. Transient – they don't last long. Mystical experiences are brief. Even the memory of them may be flawed.

4. Passive – a person having a mystical experience feels like they are being steered by unseen powers. This includes mystical experiences induced by mushrooms or drugs.

Going back another 600 years, in the 14th century, Marguerite Porete was a kind of mystic. She was a laywoman in the technical term, but she was on the verge between a laywoman and a priest, and she was a mystic.

She wrote a mystical text, and this mystical text pushed the boundaries of what had been permitted by ecclesiastical authorities. It cost her her life, actually. She was burned at the stake.

She was not alone. There were others, men like Meister Eckhart, and they also had written the same. She was even called pseudo-mulier, pseudo-woman, or fake woman, because it was inconceivable that a woman could think like a man and come up with the same conclusions.

We don't know much about her early life. She was born in Belgium in 1248 or 1250, and she wrote a book called The Mirror of Simple Souls. It was written around 1300.

It's a mystical text, and it's structured as a dialogue between the personified figures of love and reason. Reason asks love a series of questions about the soul's journey to unite with God. Reason's nitpicking inquiries and love's simple swooping answers allow Marguerite to both answer questions, which the reader might have, and establish the authority of love and faith over reason.

This type of dialogue was pretty common in the medieval ages.

Anyhow, it is true the person of love that Marguerite explored the idea of total annihilation of the self in a mystical union.

At the peak of the mystical experience, according to her book, the mystic can cease to exist and become instead a piece of God, an extension of God, going back to a period in life before separation and individuation, a period when you were younger than two years old.

This is the key to the spiritual anarchy that typifies or characterizes all mystical texts and all mystical experiences, the idea that a person can experience the divine while still alive.

It's a bit of a grandiose idea, actually. It's a claim that calls into question the limits of what humans can know and what they can be.

In a way, it's a slap in God's face. It's the exact equivalent of Eve's interaction with the serpent for which Eve and Adam had been expelled from the Garden of Eden, eating from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.

Marguerite's text claims that humans can in fact become God by unbecoming themselves. So if you become ego-less, you become God.

This is a great encapsulation of pathological narcissism. The narcissist has no functioning ego and believes himself to be God.

Narcissism is a private religion. And when narcissism forms at age two or age four, it's a mystical experience because there is the false self, which is God, a deity, a divinity. The child sacrifices his true self to this divinity and becomes one with the divinity.

There's no better description of a mystical experience.

Narcissism, pathological narcissism, is a mystical experience writ large. It's a fantasy defense.

By stripping away human anxieties, ambitions, the human will, a person can cease to be a person and actually become a deity, a divinity, if only for a few minutes. Doesn't matter.

And the mirror, her book describes a human becoming lost in God and she compares it to a river flowing into and getting lost in the sea.

And her claim to having not only known the divine, but having become part of the divine. This is the source of her spiritual authority.

The text is extremely grandiose by the way. And she felt that she's sufficiently authoritative.

This essentially lay woman, she felt that she was sufficiently authoritative, spiritually, to reject the church as a source of authority. She referred to the medieval churches, holy church, the little, subordinate to holy church, the great, which is made up of mystics who have had contact with God's divine eternity and quiddity.

Holy church, the great, is a domain of love, she said. Holy church, the little, is ruled by reason, the same reason who leaps to conclusions and neglects the sweet kernel of meaning.

Marguerite's personal affective experience of God has a greater authority, she said, than any church doctrine.

So the very title of a book refers to the simple soul, the soul that is united with God, the soul that has no will but God's own, the soul that becomes an extension.

Margaret says that the soul must give up reason. The logical, conventional grasp of reality cannot fully contend with God or comprehend God or the presence of divine love.

The annihilated soul is the one that has given up everything but God through love.

For Poet, Marguerite, when the soul is truly full of God's love, it is united with God. It's a state of union and it allows the soul to transcend the contradictions of the world.

It's a beatific state in a way, because then the soul cannot sin. It cannot sin, of course, because it's wholly united with God's will. It's incapable of acting sinfully.

And so this is the effect of divine grace. It suppresses a person's sinful nature.

One of the main targets of her book was to teach readers to get this simple state through all kinds of devices, for example, images. So she believed that this vision of men united with God through love is about returning to the source, the presence of God in everything that she connects in thought with the simple soul.

You see, of course, easily the strands of grandiosity, narcissism, dissociation, merger fusion, lack of separation individuation, these are all pathologies.

Poet didn't directly reference Meister Eckhart, but she did reference the words of John the Evangelist. And he said, I am God, says love, for love is God, and God is love, and this soul is God by the condition of love. I am God by divine nature, and this soul is God by righteousness of love.

And thus this precious beloved of mine is taught and guided by Me without herself, for she is transformed into Me, and such a perfect one, says love, takes my nourishment.

And this is actually from chapter 21 of the book, love answers the argument of reason for the sake of this book, which says that such souls take leaves of virtue.

So Poet's vision of the soul, which was pretty common among medieval mystics, especially female, by the way. So her vision of a soul is ecstatic union with God, moving to a state of perpetual joy and peace.

And it is not very distinguishable from the Catholic doctrine of the beatific state or beatific region, which is why she was not deemed a heretic, by the way.

But where she differed is that she said you could experience it while alive in this life, you don't need to transition to the afterlife or the next life.

Poet ran into trouble because she described the soul in this state as being above the worldly dialectic of conventional morality, the teachings and control of the earthly church. She argued that the soul in such a sublime state is above the demands of ordinary virtue. Virtue was not needed.

Well, it is needed, but not in a mystical union with God, because in a state of union with God, virtue is automatic. You don't need to work on it. God endows you with virtue when you are part of God, when you're God, as God can do no evil. God cannot sin.

The exalted or annihilated soul, as she calls it in perfect union with God, no longer is capable of evil or sin.

That's, by the way, a wonderful description or capturing of the essence of the shared fantasy. The narcissist's shared fantasy with you as an intimate partner.

So church authorities viewed this very dimly. Anything, her concept that someone could be above the demands of ordinary virtue. They said she was amoral, if not immoral.

But as I said, Marguerite was not the only one advocating the radical annihilation of the soul. And she was not even the only one questioning the church doctrine.

I mentioned Meister Eckhart. He was a male, of course. He was a German theologian, more or less writing at the same time as Marguerite. They may have influenced each other. We don't know enough.

His full name was Eckhart von Hochheim. He was born around 1260. He died 68 years later. And he was commonly known as Meister Eckhart, or Eckhart. He was a German Catholic, theologian, philosopher, but also mystic. And he came to prominence when he wrote a series of sermons.

And sermon 52 says the following. It advises those who desire the spiritual path to make themselves so poor in spirit that they cease to exist and become one with God.

In the same sermon, sermon 52, he challenges the church's authority and the idea that the best way of reaching divine illumination is through reason.

So it's actually a copy of Marguerite's perception. These were common ideas.

And when he wrote, Meister Eckhart wrote, when I preach, I usually speak of detachment and I say that a man should be empty of self and of all things.

And secondly, that a man should be reconstructed in the simple good that God is.

And thirdly, that a man should consider the great aristocracy which God has set up in the soul, such that by means of it, men may wonderfully attain to God.

And fourthly, of the purity of the divine nature, the eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me.

So in Eckhart's vision, God is fertile, fecund. He brings forth an abundance. It's an abundance of love.

The fertile God gave birth to his son, to the word logos. So things come out of God, creation. God is a creator.

And this is, of course, Neoplatonic, the notion of Ibalians, the boiling over of the one, the entity that cannot hold back its abundance of being.

Eckhart had imagined creation, not as a compulsory overflowing, but as a free act of will of the triune nature of deity.

Jung, of course, was very enamored, very obsessed, I would say, with mystical experiences.

And in a book titled Aion I hope I'm pronouncing correctly, Aion, researchers into the phenomenology of self. Carl Jung cites Eckhart. He approves of Eckhart when he discusses Christ as a symbol of the archetypal self. Jung sees Eckhart as a Christian Gnostic.

Jung says, Meister Eckhart's theology knows a Godhead of which no qualities except unity and being can be predicated. It is becoming, it is not yet the Lord of itself, and it represents an absolute coincidence of opposites.

But its simple nature is of forms formless, of becoming, becoming less, of being, being less, of things, thingless.

The union of opposites is equivalent to unconsciousness, so far as human logic goes, for consciousness presupposes a differentiation into subject and object and a relation between them.

So, as you see, Jung himself connects mystical experiences with the unconscious, the seat of all pathologies.

According to both Freud and Jung, Jung says that complexes and shadows reside in large part in the unconscious. And as the Godhead is essentially unconscious, so too is the man who lives in God.

Meister writes in a sermon titled The Poor in Spirit.

He says, the man who has this poverty has everything he was when he lived not in any wise neither in himself nor in truth nor in God. He is so quit and empty of all knowing that no knowledge of God is alive in him for while he stood in the eternal nature of God that lived in him not another, what lived there was himself. And so we say this man is as empty of his own knowledge as he was when he was not anything. He lets God work with what he will and he stands empty as when he came from God. Therefore, he should love God in the following way. Love him as he is, a not God, a not spirit, a not person, a not image, as a sheer, pure, clear one, which he is, sundered from all secondness. And in this one, let us sink eternally from nothing to nothing. So help us God. Amen.

You can't imagine how revolutionary and daring this passage is.

Rewind and listen to it again. It's shocking and it's also one of the best descriptions I've ever come across regarding the psychogenesis, the formation of pathological narcissism in the pre-separation individuation phase.

Jung summed up his view of Eckhart by saying, The world-embracing spirit of Meister Eckhart knew without discursive knowledge the primordial mystical experience of India, as well as of the Gnostics, and was itself the finest flower on the tree of the free spirit that flourished at the beginning of the 11th century.

He is mistaken here, on several fronts, by the way.

Where might the writings of this master be buried for 600 years? For his time was not yet come.

Only in the 19th century, did he find public at all, capable of appreciating the grandeur of his mind.

True that, amen.

What about the brain? What happens in the brain with mystical experiences? Can we connect mental illness with mystical experiences via neuroscience?

Wilder Penfield was a neurosurgeon who developed a new surgery for epilepsy. He was trying to cure seizures, but at the same time he was mapping the functions of different brain regions. Penfield tried to pinpoint the source of a seizure, but he discovered more than he had bargained for.

He said, the brain is the organ of destiny. The brain holds within its humming mechanism secrets that will determine the future of the human race.

He was so shocked and awed by what he had discovered.

Only one of his findings demonstrated that dreams and memory happen in the brain region, as mystical experiences do.

So we dream and we remember the same way we have mystical experiences, the same location in the brain.

We experience spirituality through our biology, memory and dreaming.

In an article titled, Neural Correlates of Mystical Experience, authored by Cristofori, Bulbulia, Jordan Grafman and others. In this article published in Neuropsychology, the authors said that during mystical experiences, people feel connected to a higher power.

They often describe gaining hidden knowledge or having revelatory revelations, insights.

And people around the world have reported mystical experiences, near-death experiences, ecstatic visions, meditative trances, you name it.

But we still don't know what these are. The neuroscience is absolutely not clear.

Previous research give rise to two types of theories.

There's the push theories and the pull theories about the brain origins of mystical experiences.

And so Bulbulia says push theories argue that activation of a single god spot in the brain causes mystical beliefs, suggesting that injuries to these spots in the brain would reduce mysticism.

In contrast, pull theories argue that the suppression of our inhibitory functions opens up the brain to mystical experiences.

And this is a hotly disputed topic and these authors wanted to clarify the debate.

Grafman and his colleagues, they think that pull theories explain mystical experiences much better. They use something called the mysticism scale. It's a test for analyzing reports of mystical experiences.

The scale asks respondents about feelings of unity, feelings of joy, sense of transcending time and space, etc.

They found that, the scholars, these researchers, they found that damage to the frontal and temporal lobes was linked with greater mystical experiences. A damaged brain is more prone to mystical experiences.

What does it tell you about the connection with mental illness?

This research found that the frontal lobes located near the forehead are linked to movement, problem solving, memory, language and judgment, many other functions by the way. The temporal lobes, they're located near the bottom of the brain are linked to the senses, language and memory.

It seems that mystical experiences are brain wide, all pervasive experiences.

And remember, you can't divorce mystical experiences from the vast majority of the religions of the world. They're all founded on mystical experiences.

And if mystical experience is a form of mental illness, I don't need to tell you what it says about religion.

Further investigation revealed that damage to a specific area of the brain known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex was linked to markedly increased mysticism. This brain region is located near or actually in the frontal lobes. And it's a key to inhibitions.

No wonder drug use, substance abuse, like LSD for example, mushrooms, lead very often to mystical experiences because they disinhibit in many cases.

Grafmann says the frontal lobes are the most evolved areas of the human brain and they help control and make sense of the perceptual input we get from the world.

When the frontal lobes inhibitory functions are suppressed, a door of perception can open increasing the chances of mystical experiences.

This goes back a long way. In 1962, there was a major study of psychedelics and spirituality in Marsh Chapel at Boston University.

Researchers from Harvard actually, they gave 10 divinity students LSD to see if the sacred setting in a chapel combined with the drugs would spark a mystical experience and it did, in almost all of them. Soon afterwards, the other universities started to experiment with psychedelic drugs.

But by the end of the 60s, the US government had enough of Timothy Leary type experiments, turn on, tune in, drop out, all this. And so they outlawed psychedelics and the studies of drug and spirituality ended in the 70s.

But it's being done again. It's restarted.

There's a neuroscientist Solomon Snyder, chairman of the neuroscience department at Johns Hopkins. He says that scientists suspect that a key player in mystical experience is the serotonin system.

The neurotransmitter serotonin affects the parts of the brain that relate to emotions and perceptions. Chemically, Peyote, LSD, other psychedelics, they look a lot like serotonin and they activate the same serotonin receptors.

Snyder says, if we assume that the psychedelic drug induced state is very much like the mystical state, then if we find out the molecular mechanism of the action of the drug, then you could say that we have some insight into what goes on or what's going on in the brains of mystics.

Now we know that some psychedelics enhance empathy by creating a sense of connectedness and unity, but this is a transient effect.

And strangely, some substances enhance empathy for strangers, but reduce empathy for loved ones. Alcohol is an example.

In 2006, researchers at the University of Montreal conducted a study, 15 Carmelite nuns, religious women, aged between 23 and 64. They were asked to re-experience or recall or relive a spiritual moment in their lives. They were attached to a magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI, scanner.

So their brains were being scanned as they recalled mystical substances.

And the researchers concluded that brain structures, such as the brain stem or parietal lobe, fired off or shut down when the nuns were immersed in feelings of rapture.

This was published in Neuroscience Letters, volume 405. The title was Neural Correlates of a Mystical Experience in Carmelite Nuns. And the authors were Mario Beauregard and Vincent Paquette.

So currently, we use fMRI, but we also use more advanced neuroimaging techniques such as SPECT, single photon emission computerized tomography and tractography. But fMRI was good enough in 2006.

James Giordano is a neuroscientist and professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington DC. And he has this to say, these networks of brain stem reticular system are initially activated when mystical experiences set in to produce a feeling of heightened arousal.

And then after the phase of heightened arousal, the smaller portion of the brain called the midbrain comes into play.

In the case of mystical experiences, midbrain networks have been found to release opioid peptides, amino acid molecules that bind to opioid receptors in the brain. And the effect is very similar to opiates. They intensify pleasure and satisfaction and suppress pain.

At the same time, says Giordano, at the same time, midbrain dopaminergic pathways, key circuits in the brain that create and release the neurotransmitter dopamine are activated to release dopamine in networks of the forebrain.

At this stage of the mystical experience, it is the abundance of dopamine in the brain that fills the person with unspoken satisfaction.

It's again, an excellent description of addiction. This is exactly how addiction operates.

He continues, when activity in the networks of the superior parietal cortex, it's a region in the upper part of the parietal lobe, it's structured slightly above and behind the ears.

So when networks in the superior parietal cortex or our prefrontal cortex increase or decrease, our bodily boundaries change.

So activity in this brain, elevated or reduced, affects how we perceive our bodies, where our bodies end and the world begin. It's called bodily boundary.

And of course, it could lead to feelings of derealization and depersonalization, which are pathologies clinically known as dissociation.

We lose sense of being a person, we lose personhood, we feel that we are not there, or that we dissolve into the environment, we become one. Anyone who has had an LSD trip will tell you about these experiences.

And similarly, things don't look real. These parts of the brain control our sense of self in relation to other objects in the world, as well as our bodily integrity, hence the out of body and extended self sensations and perceptions many people who have had mystical experiences confess to.

If beings join the mystical experience, we can say that the activity of the left and right temporal lobe network has changed.

Because this network processes sensory input, when its activity increases or decreases, visual other source of sensory hallucinations of others are triggered.

And so the mystical experiences has a peak. And it peaks when the limbic system is set in motion.

That's the most ancient part of the brain structures, it mediates emotions and memories. And it's located somewhere above the brainstem within the cerebral cortex.

And in the limbic system, networks integral to the amygdala aggravate the emotional intensity of the experience.

The amygdala is an almond shaped structure responsible for triggering flight or fight response. The limbic system interacting via networking with one of its components the amygdala, so you have an emotional intensity.

And networks of the hippocampus, it's a horseshoe shaped structure involved in memory storage, retrieval, emotional responses.

So the whole thing when you put all this together, all these parts of the ancient brain and the brain in effect, distorting memory, distorting bodily perception, so you get an other worldliness, you feel you're not in the world anymore. Many people experience visitations, alien abductions, you name it.

Let's go back to Newberg. Remember, he's mystical friendly.

Newberg says, practices that involve concentrating on something over and over again, either through prayer or mantra based meditation, tend to activate the frontal lobes, the areas chiefly responsible for directing attention, modulating behavior and expressing language.

In contrast, when practitioners surrender their will, such as when they speak in tongues or function as a medium, activity decreases in their frontal lobes and increases in the thalamus, the tiny brain structure that regulates the flow of incoming sensory information to many parts of the brain.

This suggests, says Newberg, that their speech is being generated from some other place than the normal speech centers.

When Newberg scanned the brains of nuns and Buddhists undergoing mystical experiences, they reported feelings of, I'm quoting, timelessness, spacelessness and self-transcendence.

Newberg believes the cause of these feelings is the reduced activity he saw in the parietal lobes, the orientation area of the brain responsible for perceiving three-dimensional objects in space.

This text is from an article in The Atlantic.

A meditator may experience a sense of oneness with all living things or unity because the reduced activity blurs the perceived lines between the meditator and other objects.

It's a good description of depersonalization.

When the parietal lobes are damaged, patients have distorted beliefs about their own bodies and are sometimes confused about their spatial orientation to outside objects.

In an example from Why We Believe What We Believe, patients think one of their own legs is not theirs. They have been found trying to throw this other leg out of bed.

In this book, Newberg cites a study led by Dr. Brick Johnston that found the damage to the right parietal lobe caused patients' self-transcendent experience to increase.

There is no question mystical experiences, which are in the heart of all religions, are forms of mental damage to the brain and mental illness.

Now, what you do with this fact is up to you, but it's a fact all the same, regardless of how you feel about it.

Glad to have cheered you up, cheered you up yet again.

Stay with me for extra doses of pessimism and darkness, unmitigated by any solutions, because there are none.

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Closure is necessary for victims of abuse to heal their traumatic wounds. There are three forms of effective closure: conceptual, retributive, and dissociative. Conceptual closure involves a frank discussion of the abusive relationship, while retributive closure involves restorative justice and a restored balance. Dissociative closure occurs when victims repress their painful memories, leading to dissociative identity disorder. Victims pay a hefty price for avoiding and evading their predicament. Coping with various forms of closure will be discussed in a future video.

Evil Rubs Off: Cleanse Yourself!

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the concept of evil and how it is multifaceted. Evil can be found in power plays, self-contempt, self-loathing, self-hatred, and emotional dysregulation. Negative emotions such as fear, envy, hatred, and greed pave the road to evil. Evil is contagious and can infect and possess you. To avoid evil, you must cleanse yourself and avoid it at all costs.

Closure is Bad for You

Closure, a popular concept in psychology, originally came from Gestalt therapy and referred to image processing. However, it has been inappropriately expanded to include trauma, relationships, and more. Many experts and psychologists now consider closure a myth and even counterproductive. Instead of seeking closure, one should focus on embracing and integrating pain and negative experiences as part of personal growth and development.

New Take on Depression (Compilation)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses depression as a cognitive distortion, not a mood disorder. He argues that depression is a filter through which reality is misperceived, and it can have positive adaptations in certain contexts. He also delves into the different types of depression experienced by narcissists, linking their depressive states to their need for external validation and their internal struggles.

Capitalism: Religion of Envy

Capitalism is founded on envy, not jealousy, and this relationship drives the system. Envy is a pathological manifestation of destructive aggressiveness, distinct from jealousy, which is constructive. Envy is engendered by the realization of some lack, deficiency, or inadequacy in oneself, and it is a perpetual mobile that feeds on itself. The playing field in capitalism is heavily skewed and biased, and laws that were supposed to have amended or corrected justice and equity are not being implemented because politicians are in the pocket of the rich.

Addicted to Trauma Bonding? WATCH TO THE END! (with Stephanie Carinia, Trauma Expert)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses trauma bonding with Stephanie Carina, a clinical psychologist specializing in trauma and personality. Trauma bonding involves an extreme, one-sided attachment where the abused is attached to the abuser, but not vice versa. It is fostered by unpredictable, intermittent reinforcement and involves a power asymmetry. The abused often confuses intensity with truth and attention with love, leading to a fear of loneliness and self-deception. Trauma bonding is a collaborative form of self-mutilation and self-harm, serving to numb emotions, make the victim feel alive through pain, and punish themselves. Vaknin emphasizes that the abuser uses the victim to fulfill their own needs, and the victim is often addicted to the drama and intensity of the relationship. He suggests that society should teach people to cope with being alone, as many will not have relationships, and that therapy for trauma bonding must be carefully managed to avoid creating new dependencies.

Silencing Denying Your Pain Betrayal Trauma And Betrayal Blindness

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses betrayal trauma theory, which suggests that trauma is perpetrated by someone close to the victim and on whom they rely for support and survival. Betrayal trauma can lead to dissociation, attachment injury, vulnerability, fear, relationship expectations, shame, low self-esteem, communication issues, and barriers to forming new relationships. The section also explores the relationship between betrayal trauma and Stockholm syndrome, with the former being more common. Treatment for betrayal trauma is new, and relational cultural therapy may be the best approach. The section concludes with the idea that trust is essential in relationships.

Envy is Destructive Narcissism (Jealousy, Romantic Jealousy are NOT)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the destructive nature of envy, distinguishing it from jealousy and romantic jealousy. Envy is driven by shame, humiliation, and the idealization of the envied person, leading to a need for control and ultimately destruction of the envied object. Envy is linked to narcissism and aggression, and its resolution is the destruction of the envied object. Vaknin emphasizes the urgent need to address envy as a root cause of mental illness and societal conflicts.

Mourning Yourself After Narcissistic Abuse

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the concept of prolonged grief disorder (PGD), previously known as complicated grief, which is characterized by an inability to move on from a loss. He explains that grief can become a central organizing principle in a person's life, leading to a constricted existence and an inability to enjoy life. Vaknin suggests that everyone experiences prolonged grief at some point, and it is considered pathological if it lasts longer than a year. He also delves into the relationship between narcissists and their victims, describing how narcissists can induce a state of prolonged grief in their victims by offering a simulation of unconditional love and then withdrawing it, leaving the victim feeling abandoned and mourning the loss of the relationship, which was never real to begin with. Vaknin emphasizes the importance of separating from the narcissist both physically and mentally to break the symbiotic relationship and begin the process of healing and individuation.

Four Pillars of Self-love

Self-love is about having a realistic view of oneself and pursuing happiness and favorable outcomes. It is essential for living a proper life and being capable of loving and being loved. The four conditions for healthy self-love are self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-trust, and self-efficacy. These conditions are necessary for survival and guide individuals to make rational, realistic, and beneficial decisions. Experience alone is not enough without self-love, as self-love serves as a reliable compass in life.

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