Abstract

The boundary between spiritual experience and mental disorder remains unclear and should invite collaboration between psychiatry and other disciplines, including theology. Jackson and Fulford (1997), using the tools of analytic philosophy, have proposed a model allowing principled differentiation between spiritual experience and psychotic symptoms based on the personal values of the subject, a cognitive problem-solving model. Spiritual experience is described as positively evaluated psychotic experience, which enables the subject to do more than he or she normally does. In the present paper, it is claimed that values and actions cannot alone always discriminate between religious experience and psychopathology. With reference to three case studies, drawn from the practice of one of us, it is argued that spirituality is not all about experience and that it cannot be understood without reference to the subject's personal history and spiritual tradition, however implicit or fragmented. This approach would allow an account of ordinary religious experience in those who have suffered ego disablement during mental illness. Drawing primarily on the Christian tradition, we argue that the use of theological criteria may allow levels of discrimination between spiritual experience and mental disorder not allowed for by philosophical psychopathology.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3303
Print ISSN
1071-6076
Pages
pp. 359-371
Launched on MUSE
2003-08-06
Open Access
No
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