Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Apparently neurologists and psychologists are now making a link between temporal lobe epilepsy and mystical experience. The two often seem to go hand in hand. When having fits, such epileptics often experience what they might call God or Oneness, or indeed, experience themselves as God, or perhaps, as the man on the videos below does, as having "heaven and hell in my eyes".
Somehow, this doesn't surprise me at all. I have long suspected that all kinds of so-called afflictions, physical and psychological (such as migraine, epilepsy, low blood-pressure, brain tumour, mental health issues, personal trauma, neurosis, mental breakdown), can open gateways into bigger, spiritual, experience.
Last week I found out that somebody very close to me has temporal lobe epilepsy. It has been a diagnosis that's been long due, and though in many ways I wish she didn't have to live with this, in others, I'm glad at least we know now what the cause is of her fits.
Without wanting to go into her personal experience, on another level, I've been intrigued by some things she has told me about her unusual experiences during and after a fit, and by the potential implications of that for her, and indeed for myself.
Though I am not epileptic, I do have a strong disposition towards both fit-type experiences and what one might call unusual or mystical experiences. Just after I was born, I started having convulsions which went on for some time, resulting in periodic stays in hospital. Throughout my childhood and teens I had a strong tendency to faint at the slightest thing, where it would almost be like a fit (instead of falling to the ground, I would often still be animated and moving around as though awake, much to the amusement and bafflement of my family). I also had a strong tendency towards both intense psychic, imaginal or 'cosmic' experience, and also, in my teens, a tendency towards extreme mental dissociation, which caused me severe distress at times, as I feared I was 'going mad'. This has continued into my adult life, but has decreased as I've got older and, I think found bigger contexts for it.
Without medical diagnosis, I can't effectively say the cause of this, but my own guess is that it could have been caused by a combination of intense physical and psychic sensitivity and perhaps low blood pressure, which I suffer from. I still seem to often experience extreme physical responses to emotional (and particularly spiritual) input, such as shaking, convulsing, severe coughing, gagging, involuntary laughter etc. I wonder what it is about my physiology, if anything, that perhaps encourages me to experience things this way?
Though I am not denying the physical nature of temporal lobe epilepsy, I do find the link between it and spiritual experience fascinating. It raises many questions. I also find the reverse connection interesting also (and somewhat unnerving), that is, perhaps mystical experiences are just our way of interpreting certain patterns of neurological impulse/connections which are taking place in the brain. It also makes me want to mull over again the connection that I see over and again between that which is often named as 'messed up', 'dysfunctional' or 'destructive' in life, and the arising of genius, deep spiritual insight or experience.
Here is the link, the site itself is worth checking out...