Thesis

The overlapping boundaries of madness and mysticism

John Weir Perry, a Jungian psychiatrist who works with schizophrenics in San Francisco, has discovered a pattern of archetypal imagery that is commonly experienced by those on the brink of madness. Perry noted that this same pattern was operant in the lives of saints and mystics. Though they, too, saw visions and heard voices, they managed to preserve their sanity. This thesis was designed as a pilot study to investigate and compare the experiences of seven modern-day mystics to the experiences of the schizophrenic as reported by Perry. The results of the interviews and questionnaires revealed that the mystics encountered the same pattern of imagery as did the schizophrenic, as well as the same types of negative childhood factors. Like the schizophrenic, the mystic heard voices and saw visions under conditions of great stress. Religious training or church affiliation was not particularly emphasized in the lives of these mystics, nor were they proceeding from a position of high need satisfaction, as Maslow suggested. Unlike the typical schizophrenic, the mystics in this pilot study usually achieved some level of social or academic competence in their childhood years. They also displayed a high degree of trust after they had received their mystical experience; however, the levels of trust were not measured, Further research on the patterns of mysticism is needed to confirm the trends seen in this study. Future interviews should include both males and females, and should have more information about the levels of intelligence and education.

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