Eros and the Eschaton – Schizophrenia

Just for information:  Currently I am enjoying my summer. So I will not write many entries these days. However, again I want you to read a part of a speech again. I think that the whole speech is of major importance and, thus, worth sharing.

The quote is from the same Terence McKenna speech as the previous quote. I would recommend everyone to read his book Food Of The Gods.

“Well, let’s go back and talk about schizophrenia for just a second. The question is, you know, schizophrenia involves basically breaking with ordinary value systems, and how does it relate to the psychedelic state; and people who have schizophrenic relatives in their family tree, how should they relate to the psychedelic experience, and so forth, I mean I’m extrapolating, but that’s the basic thing.

Well, there are different things to be said about this. I mean, first of all, how many psychiatric residents – who are the people who come most in contact with schizophrenics, whatever that means – how many psychiatric residents have ever seen an undrugged schizophrenic? Very, very few. Because the very first thing that happens is, for the convenience of physicians and the nursing staff, some outlandish drug is brought into the picture, which then deflects this healing process from ever reaching any kind of natural conclusion. Schizophrenia is just a catch-all term for forms of mental behaviour that we don’t understand. In the 19th century, there was a term “melancholia”, which we would now call bipolar depression, so forth and so on. But all forms of sadness, unhappiness, maladaptation, so forth and so on, were poured into this label “melancholia”. 

Now, schizophrenia is a similar thing. I can remember an experience I had years ago, it was in the Tolman Library at the University of California, which is the psych library, and I was looking up some drug or something, and I just saw a book and I pulled it off the shelf, a book about schizophrenia. And it said, the typical schizophrenic lives in a world of twilight imagining, marginal to his society, incapable of holding a regular job, these people live on the fringes, content to drift in their own self-created value systems. That’s it! That’s it! Now I understand! We have no tradition of shamanism. We have no tradition of journeying into these mental worlds. We are terrified of madness. We fear it because the Western mind is a house of cards, and the people who built that house of cards know that, and they are terrified of madness. 

Tim Leary once said – or I gave him credit for saying; he later told me he never said it – but whoever said it, this was a brilliant statement; someone once said, “LSD is a psychedelic substance which occasionally causes psychotic behaviour in people who have not taken it.” – right? And I would bet you that more people have exhibited psychotic behaviour from not taking LSD, but just thinking about it, than ever exhibited it from taking it – certainly in my family. I watched my parents both go psychotic from the mere fact that LSD existed; they would never have taken it. There is a great phobia about the mind: the Western mind is very queasy when first principles are questioned. Rarer than corpses in this society are the untreated mad, because we can’t come to terms with that. 

A shaman is someone who swims in the same ocean as the schizophrenic, but the shaman has thousands and thousands of years of sanctioned technique and tradition to draw upon. In a traditional society, if you exhibited “schizophrenic” tendencies, you are immediately drawn out of the pack and put under the care and tutelage of master shamans. You are told, You are special. Your abilities are very central to the health of our society. You will cure. You will prophesy. You will guide our society in its most fundamental decisions. Contrast this with what a person exhibiting schizophrenic activity in our society is told. They’re told, You don’t fit in. You are becoming a problem, You don’t pull your own weight. You are not of equal worth to the rest of us. You are sick. You have to go to the hospital. You have to be locked up. You are on a par with prisoners and lost dogs in our society.So that treatment of schizophrenia makes it incurable. Imagine if you were slightly odd, and the solution were to take you and put you – lock you into a place where everyone was seriously mad. That would drive anyone mad! If you’ve ever been in a madhouse, you know that it’s an environment calculated to make you crazy and to keep you crazy. This would never happen in an aboriginal or traditional society.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s