Schizophrenia and spiritual experiences: Is there a link?

A work by cat artist Louis Wain. He made this while being treated in a mental hospital for schizophrenia.

I’m beginning today’s article with a little disclaimer: I am in no way, shape or form making light of what schizophrenic people, nor the family members of schizophrenic people go through. Neither am I romanticizing the condition. I am merely exploring a potential idea and seeing where it leads. If you or someone you know has been officially diagnosed with the condition, you should seek professional help because schizophrenia can negatively impact a person’s functioning in society, or cause a person to hurt himself or herself.

Good. Now let’s get started.

For a long time I have been tossing around in my head the idea that those with schizophrenia are more attuned to the supernatural, or perhaps are experiencing some form of extrasensory perception. The reason for my disclaimer (and the reason I hesitated in writing this) is if a person with schizophrenia accepts these beliefs, it may actually impede their progress in attempting to reconnect with reality. However, if we are to be diligent and not dismissive, we still need to explore the possibility, and there’s actually a decent amount of evidence supporting that claim.

To begin with, what differentiates a person with psychic abilities and a person with schizophrenic beliefs and hallucinations? Both claim (or can claim) to witness things that seem incredible, whether you call them hallucinations or spiritual experiences. I think the main thing that differentiates the two is the ability of the professed psychic to shut off the extrasensory perception in question.

I’m going to use lucid dreaming to establish a baseline here. When you lucid dream, you become aware of your dreams and are thus able to take command of them and do as you wish. Once you have that awareness, you are able to bend the rules and manifest all kinds of bizarre things in dream reality. Psychics, in my mind, are kind of like the lucid dreamers of the dream world we call “reality”. It is their increased awareness of the world around them that enables them to bend the rules, kind of like how being aware of our breathing enables us to control it.

Now imagine that you were experiencing all the bizarre occurrences of a lucid dream only without the awareness that you are dreaming. What would you call that roller coaster of an experience? I would call it either a regular dream, or if it was bizarre enough, a nightmare, and in the same comparison to psychics, I think of schizophrenic sufferers as perhaps those experiencing a nightmare in the dream world of reality. It is the inability to take command of the dream that hinders them. If this model is correct, their problem isn’t the ability to see the depths of the universe, it’s the ability to stop seeing.

So to summarize, in the dream of “reality” you have three kinds of people:

1) Those who don’t “pierce the veil” so to speak. They don’t really develop their awareness and never really realize they are dreaming, so to speak. (Regular dreamers)

2) Spiritual people, psychics, and other people who have some level of awareness that they might be dreaming (lucid dreamers).

3)  People who are seeing bizarre things that shouldn’t be a part of reality like schizophrenics, but who have no control over what they see and what they shut out (Those having nightmares)

Since the idea that the world we live is some kind of shared dream is basically unprovable (although if we were in a dream proof wouldn’t matter) I can’t really say this idea is “the truth.” However, there are some related links to the puzzle I can prove.

For example, what if I told you I could establish a strong link between schizophrenia and spiritual/psychic experiences?

The temporal lobe

Location of the temporal lobe

Canadian neuroscientist Michael Persinger has invented what people are commonly calling a “God helmet.” The device works by generating a weak magnetic field over brain’s temporal lobe, causing it to have “microseizures”, which are smaller and more focused solely on the temporal lobe than regular seizures.

According to the book Entangled Minds by Dean Radin, up to 80  percent of test participants who wear these helmets experience some form of psychic or spiritual phenomena, including experiences of “vibrations, tingling sensations, odd touches, inability or reluctance to move, odd smells, odd tastes, fear or terror, intense dream-like images and the presence of another (sentient) being.”

Those of you who have experienced similar events may see a stunning amount of parallels between both astral projection and sleep paralysis, as well as telepathy and other spiritual experiences. My hypothesis is that we often experience sleep paralysis when we are close to astral projection.

While medical professionals seem to think temporal lobe seizures are different than schizophrenia, there does seem to be some kind of link. Here’s a site that compares the two. And this site suggests a common susceptibility between the two. Things like meditation and psychotic drugs can have an affect on the temporal lobe as well.

I believe that while temporal lobe seizures are correlated to spiritual experiences, I don’t think they cause them, just in case you wanted to dismiss the spiritual as the brain messing up. Here’s why: Radin said “Persinger’s team conducted a thorough neurological investigation of renowned psychic and artist Ingo Swann. Swann is the developer of a method of training remote viewing (in earlier times this was called “traveling clairvoyance”) as used in the U.S. government’s STARGATE progam of psychic spying. Swann has repeatedly demonstrated verifiable remote viewing expertise under controlled conditions, and evidence for Swann’s accurate remote viewing ability was also found in Persinger’s study. So the story of psi is not as simple as a misfiring brain.”

Latent inhibition

Another topic Radin touches on is a little psychological phenomena called latent inhibition. Basically latent inhibition is when the brain is biased in a way that it ignores stimuli that have already happened in the past. If, for example, somebody rings a bell outside your door every day, it becomes harder to notice after a while, unless you really are aware and really pay attention. If you want a good example of how this phenomena works, watch this 1 and a half minute video.

People who are considered “healthy” actually have a high latent inhibition, because it allows us to do everyday tasks like driving a car. If we didn’t have that, we would be so focused on every element that driving requires that we wouldn’t be able to drive. Radin says that “low latent inhibition has been studied extensively in schizophrenic patients because a key symptom of that disease is perceiving meaningful relationships everywhere, even where there aren’t any.”

Aha! So right there, if we turn that idea on its head, what if schizophrenics have such a low latent inhibition that they are just more perceptive of us, and able to see meaningful relationships that we just are unable to see? Perceiving meaningful relationships everywhere, from a spiritual perspective, could be the same experience as oneness, or synchronicities. If we are all one or connected, perhaps schizophrenics are blessed with the ability to see that oneness. What is the purpose of meditation? Is it not to increase our awareness?

Dr. Shelly Carson, a researcher on creativity and psychopathology suggested that “some psychological phenomena might be pathogenic in the presence of decreased intelligence…but normative and even abnormally useful in the presence of increased intelligence. That is to say, perhaps intelligence enables us to expand our awareness more without causing us to go mad. Or perhaps schizophrenics are super aware but just not ready for what that awareness means for them yet.

That’s a tough claim to make though. As I said in my disclaimer, I don’t want to encourage a schizophrenic person in a potential delusion. Even if the experience of a “hallucination” is real, it doesn’t mean that “hallucination” is looking out for your best interests. To me, I think delusions are the more dangerous part of schizophrenia, especially if the person in question is experiencing “command” hallucinations. Perhaps the voice commanding is a real spirit, but that doesn’t mean listen to the damn thing! As usual, this is me toying with ideas, so if you don’t believe it, it doesn’t bruise my ego, and just because I posted all this doesn’t make it true. Please do your own research and let me know what you think.

Until next time, stay eccentric but “sane” (or not)   :)

12 comments
  1. Pamela Spiro Wagner said:

    I linked to this post as I found it very interesting, a nice addendum to my own on TLE and schizophrenia. I would note however that in schizophrenia hallucinations are overwhelmingly auditory, and that the first thought upon the presentation of visual hallucinations should be the consideration of so-called organic causes like infections, encephalitis, drug use, and the like. Ditto any other hallucination modality but the auditory. This is not to say they are not due to psychosis and/or schizophrenia, only that these other etiologies need to be considered first.

    Thanks,

    Wagblog

  2. Thanks for the heads up. I did notice that auditory hallucinations are more common for schizophrenia, but I wasn’t sure why.

    Also of interest, there’s now technology that beams advertisements directly into year from a distance so that could make a person think they’re hearing things as well.

    • Susma said:

      My daughter sratted having seizures at one year old & they continue throughout her childhood & young adult at 22 years old she had left temporal lobe surgery & has been seizure free for 3 years in November.Her surgery was a IU Hospital in Indianapolis the doctors & surgeon were awesome. Now she is driving, a volunteer for the epilepsy foundation of Indiana, Angels for Epilepsy & leads a local epilepsy support group. Thanking God for using her to help others.

  3. Thanks for ure time and effort, I am a 63 year old woman with paranoid schizophrenia and I remember mostly auditory hallucinations,,,but I also seen a snake coming out of a woman’s neck…I didn’t attack but observed, and she really was a nasty woman…so I will say this that no matter how strange an intuitive thought occurs, you need to give it some respect…Im on drugs now and much happier….but my daughter says her old boyfriend says we kived together, in the future…soo whats that about..we both had the same hallucination?

    • I have no idea, but thanks for the feedback. I do know that the world is a very unusual place, and truth often is stranger than fiction. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

  4. I’m now not certain where you are getting your information, but good topic. I needs to spend some time finding out more or working out more. Thank you for fantastic information I used to be searching for this info for my mission.

  5. Penny said:

    Hi I found your article very helpful – in the way of thinking ‘thank God I’m not alone. My sister was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic almost 20 years ago in her early 20′s.  Over the last few years I have been toying with the very same thoughts you wrote about. My father was a doctor of psychology before he retired and recently suffered a massive stroke.  Although we were brought up in a very open environment where we honoured spiritual beliefs, went to mind body and soul conventions along with NLP seminars, rebirthing and you name it; my father behaved very differently to these open beliefs with us and also himself. He talked a good game about law of attraction and spirituality, however behaves like he is very tightly woven into conventional thinking and how ‘unfair life is..’. Therefore although he fought to keep my sister ‘out of the system’ he has kept control of her himself – ensuring she knows it’s a ‘mental illness’ she has and that she takes her meds.

    On the other hand, I took all that amazing info I was brought up on and I regularly challenge myself in applying most of it. My view over the last few years is that if what we can see with the naked eye is only a tiny little slice of what is actually happening (you can’t visibly see X-ray, ultraviolet, wifi etc)  then is it also possible that there are other senses we are oblivious to? Is it possible that my sister (who hears voices like she is tuned into a radio station) is actually plugging into an alternate reality, a porthole to another dimension so to speak?

    After all, she, like many other sufferers of the illness dabbled with drugs in her youth, so therefore is it possible that the drugs loosened up some preceptor function we all have, making it impossible to ‘tune out’ like the rest of us. Looking back at our childhood and her attitude to things, I really do believe she was sensitive to contact already, so it wouldn’t have taken much for the switch to flick off – the drugs (weed mostly) just helped things along.

    My hope is that one day we will find someone who will show her how to switch the function off and give her back her protective shield or that she becomes a master of this alternate world and imposes some of her own rules on it. Personally I don’t think the answer lies in pharma drugs or ignoring the issue – there could be a whole world out there that they bring us into contact with, and yes it may not be pleasant, but I would rather see something that might hurt me and have the choice to protect myself than have it creep about in the dark.

  6. Kris said:

    Science does not have all the answers about the human brain, or existence in general. We do not yet understand the earth let alone the universe and there may be another dimension or reality that they cannot measure or prove. So anyone who believes in something other than this proven science is considered mentally ill. But come on if that were the case then everyone who believes in a creator God must, by scientists definition, also suffer from mental illness. People have faith in the unproven and are obviously not labelled mentally ill so what if someone who has other perceptions is also experiencing something not yet proven by science? But no one will talk about this or consider other possibilities because big pharmaceutical companies are getting rich off people hearing voices. Notice that in some people the drugs do not work and they still have these other perceptions. Not to say that mental illness doesn’t exist but we are a long way from understanding our own brain let alone the universe and how it affects people.

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