Sunday, 8 June 2008

Strokes of insight and blind spots

Yesterday, I watched the webcast of Oprah Winfrey's Soul Series-interview with Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. In her Soul Series-interview with Eckhart Tolle, Oprah calls him a "prophet", and I agree to that, although it, of course, again, is a label, a concept, and in certain contexts can be applied to diminish a human being to an object - of disdain.

Unfortunately, prophets continuously throughout history have been misunderstood. In "the right belief's" favour. One might think, that this would be difficult in regard to a "message", that just exactly says, that essentially there is no right or wrong, thus neither a right or wrong belief. A "message" that says that the only truth is found nowhere else but beyond any such thing as a conceptual belief-system, if it's called "Christianity", "Buddhism", "Socialism", "Neo-liberalism",..., or, well, "biological psychiatry". While the need to label, to conceptualize, is an egoic (narcissistic) one, that does nothing but inflicts harm and suffering both on the labeller and the labelled. A need, that devalues both of them, turns them into objects (of disdain), and in the end inevitably destroys them.

Being the inevitable result of the human mind's compulsion to conceptualize, judge (morally) and label, all wars in human history confirm this. You can only disrespect others to the annihilating point, war is a manifestation of, if you don't respect yourself. You can only disrespect anyone or anything to such an annihilating point, if you don't respect yourself.

Apart from the obvious wars, that are going on, in Iraq and Afghanistan for instance, there are wars going on worldwide, that are not always recognized as such: humanity's war against nature, against the planet Earth, as well as all those against all kinds of minorities: human beings fighting human beings.

As I see it, we're frighteningly fast moving toward a situation, where everyone fights everyone, in a more or less obviously war-like situation. Or, as Eckhart Tolle puts it, never before in human history has man inflicted greater suffering on his fellow human beings.

One of the wars that are going on is the war against people who experience extreme states of mind, people who are labelled "mentally ill". And especially in this war's context, I can't but think of the quote "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". I don't doubt this war's soldiers' good intentions. I don't doubt Jill Bolte Taylor's not only good but best intentions. Unfortunately, they are the result of a profound misunderstanding of a prophet like Eckhart Tolle's "messages". Good intentions are almost always the good intentions of an Ego. The parallel to psychoanalyst Wolfgang Schmidbauer's "helper syndrome" as rooted in what with an analytic term is called "narcissism" is striking. Thus neither Eckhart Tolle fails to mention the myth of Narcissus when he talks about the human Ego.

Jill Bolte Taylor is the president of NAMI Greater Bloomington Area, an affiliate of NAMI Indiana. The website of NAMI Indiana states as "Mental Illness Facts" among other things, that "severe and persistent Mental Illnesses are brain disorders (...) [that] cannot be overcome through will power and are not related to a person's (...) upbringing nor his/her age, race, religion or economic status". Further it is stated, that "[e]arly identification and treatment accelerates recovery and protects the brain from further harm related to the course of the illness. (...) Most people with serious mental illness require medication...". All these statements are, put forward as facts, simply lies.

Jill Bolte Taylor, author of the book "My Stroke of Insight", is a neurologist, specialized in brain research in regard to "mental illness". She is also known as "the Singin' Scientist", lobbying for people, especially those labelled with "mental illnesses" and their relatives, to donate their brains post mortem to research.

Jill Bolte Taylor suffered a stroke in 1996, that affected her left brain hemisphere, thus forcing on her the experience of having no Ego. An experience that lead her to a deeper insight into the aspects of human nature, our modern, western society usually suppresses.

The interview on Soul Series gave me the impression of a highly conscious and compassionate human being. Nevertheless, it also left me somewhat disillusioned. There obviously are limits to insight, consciousness, and compassion, even for people, who not only have read "A New Earth", but also themselves have experienced what Jill Bolte Taylor calls "Nirvana". There obviously are limits, and, just as obviously, misinterpretation is possible.

It seems to me, that the blind spot is due to Dr. Taylor's brother being labelled with "schizophrenia". The same blind spot that is obvious in regard to Edwin Fuller Torrey.

If Eckhart Tolle ever had asked the very same mental health system, Jill Bolte Taylor advocates for, for help, he would undoubtedly have been given a label of "severe depression with suicidal tendencies", he would immediately have been put on an antidepressant, he maybe even would have qualified for ECT, and we would neither have "The Power of Now", "A New Earth", nor any other of his prophetic writings today.

I couldn't help it, all enlightenment disregarded, my own Ego won, and I had to share my impressions with the interviewee, just as I share them here - I still have a long way to go, trying to find a less egoic form for activism, I know that!
Here, however, is what a truly enlightened human being has to say about psychiatry:

"...Restoring mental health does not mean simply adjusting individuals to the modern world of rapid economic growth. The world is ill, and adapting to an ill environment cannot bring real mental health. Psychiatric treatment requires environmental change and psychiatrists must participate in efforts to change the environment, but that is only half the task. The other half is to help individuals be themselves, not by helping them adapt to an ill environment, but by providing them with the strength to change it. To tranquilize them is not the way. The explosion of bombs , the burning of napalm, the violent death of our neighbors and relatives, the pressure of time, noise, and pollution, the lonely crowds-these have all been created by the disruptive course of our economic growth. They are all sources of mental illness, and they must be ended." (Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist peace activist, The Path of Compassion, 1995. Quotation: Freedom Center)

Find the Soul Series-interviews for free on iTunes.

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