Episode 93

In part 4 of our mental health miniseries, we talk about psychosis in general and schizophrenia in particular. Why does Hollywood continually misrepresent schizophrenia, and what does it actually mean to experience a psychotic break? Is it always a bad thing to hear voices or see visions? Did many of our hallowed religious heroes live with schizophrenia? If so, does that change how we should think about their words? Let's talk about it! 


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produced by Zack Jackson
music by Zack Jackson and Barton Willis 



This transcript was automatically generated by www.otter.ai, and as such contains errors (especially when multiple people are talking). As the AI learns our voices, the transcripts will improve. We hope it is helpful even with the errors.



Zack Jackson  00:00

Hey there, Zack here. Just a heads up. In this episode we're going to be talking about psychosis, schizophrenia, hallucinations, and how we've encountered them in the media, in our religious traditions and in our own lives. As Kendra says in this episode, being a human is weird and complicated, and I want to acknowledge upfront that even though we are trying our best to be sensitive to all experiences of humanity, we will likely fall short. So if you'd like to head over to the down the wormhole conversations Facebook group, we'd love to hear about how you have experienced schizophrenia psychotic breaks hallucinations, or have interacted with those who have. Are there people in our scriptures who can help us to see these disorders in a new light? Let's talk about it. Well, let's talk about it in about an hour or so. You are listening to the down the wormhole podcast exploring the strange and fascinating relationship between science and religion. This week our hosts are Zack Jackson UCC pastor in Redding, Pennsylvania, and if my life were a movie, I would hire Paul rent to play me.


Ian Binns  01:08

Ian Binns Associate Professor of elementary science education at UNC Charlotte. And if anyone could play me, I'd probably pick Ed Helms,


Rachael Jackson  01:18

Rachael Jackson, Rabbi at Agoudas, Israel congregation Hendersonville, North Carolina and if I have someone play me in a movie, I'm gonna ask Sir Patrick Stewart, because he's just the best.


Kendra Holt-Moore  01:33

Kendra Holt-Moore, assistant professor of religion at Bethany college and Lindsborg Kansas, and if I had to get someone to play me in a movie, it would be Kathryn Hahn. I'm trying to remember who that is. She plays Jen Barkley in parks and rec She most recently what I saw her she's a witch Agatha. Oh, yeah, Vision Agassi's it was


Zack Jackson  02:01

also a young a young Laura Dern. I think what would be great as Kendra


Kendra Holt-Moore  02:07

Oh, yeah, people have said that to me, too. Yes. Young, large earner like Lauren's daughter something.


Adam Pryor  02:14

Prior, I work at Bethany College in Lindsborg Kansas. If someone were to play me in a movie. I think it would be Statler of Statler and Waldorf.


Zack Jackson  02:25

Having a muppet play You bet.


Rachael Jackson  02:29

That's perfect. Actually.


Kendra Holt-Moore  02:36

Oh, sorry. I don't really know who the specific Muppets are. I know who the Muppets are, but I don't know


Adam Pryor  02:43

that there is one


Kendra Holt-Moore  02:46

who heckles besides like Miss Peggy? Yeah, no.


Adam Pryor  02:49

Guys who hackles


Zack Jackson  02:51

Statler and Waldorf. Yeah,


Ian Binns  02:53

yeah, I can see that. I could definitely see that. Yeah, that's totally you, Adam.


Kendra Holt-Moore  03:00

Yeah, so today, we're continuing in our series on mental health and we are talking about psychosis today. Pardon? So, we're talking about psychosis, but we're actually talking like more specifically about schizophrenia. And, and so, psychosis, like more generally speaking, is there a lot of different ways for someone to experience a psychotic break, have a an episode of psychosis, and that can look a lot of different ways. But it it like the main, the primary characteristic of psychosis is like a major break from reality. And so it is, you know, understandably, very disturbing, and very destabilizing of the individual who experiences psychosis and psychosis. Different disorders of psychosis are are often like, not very well miss. Not very well understood. And, and so that makes them both kind of, like frustrating and also intriguing to clinicians and like to the popular imagination, there's just like something about, you know, psychotic disorders that are, you know, the way that they get represented in, in film, and in TV. They are usually portrayed to be, you know, a little a little scary, like, not scary from the inside of like the person who has experienced a psychotic break because obviously, that's frightening, but also frightening to people on the outside watching what's happening. because it's hard to understand or like, connect with someone who has a break from reality and in how do you how do you care for a person or include a person who is just seemingly in like a totally different dimension of time and space in a lot of ways, then then what you are experiencing in your more like grounded reality. So that's generally like, what psychosis is. But to talk more specifically about schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is, again, like we, we understand more about it, like we're learning more and more. But it's, there's still a lot that we don't know. For example, we don't, we don't really understand, like, what causes schizophrenia. And we can make some observations about schizophrenia. Such as, like, if you have someone in your family with schizophrenia, like if you have a parent who has schizophrenia, you have a higher risk for developing it. But that's not necessarily indicative of it. Like it's not, it's not a fact that you will have schizophrenia at some point in time. And we, we know, you know, we've observed that schizophrenia tends to happen, roughly equally, between women and men. We, you know, we know that like, kind of stereotypes of schizophrenics are that they're dangerous and violent. But, you know, we have observed that that's actually not true. Short, like, anyone can can be violent or aggressive. But that is not, that's not a general or fair characteristic of schizophrenic people. And schizophrenia, there's also different types. So like, I guess I should, you know, maybe say, like, what exactly this is, because, you know, we have, again, I think people probably have associations of, of what it is from, like media representations, but it's a brain disorder, again, not entirely sure, like what's going on in the brain, but a brain disorder that can create a lot of really disturbing symptoms, such as hallucinations, which can be visual hallucinations, or auditory, like sound hallucinations. And it can make people delusional. And so you know, believing in something very adamantly, that is just not true. So, you know, some delusions might might look something like, like, someone who's delusional might think that they are like a savior of some kind, and they have to, like, save the world. And they might think that, like, the FBI is sending the messages that are about information that only they would know, because they are destined to, like, save the universe. Like, really, you know, some of these delusions can be very grand, delusional thinking. And other symptoms could be like trouble just thinking concentrating or communicating. There are a lot of, you know, especially people who work with schizophrenics, in a clinical capacity will tell stories about, you know, speaking to someone who's schizophrenic who has symptoms that disturb communication, they might just like string a bunch of words together, but those words don't actually make any sense whatsoever. Like, there's not a comprehensible sentence there. But something is happening in in the in the brain, like the communication pathways where whatever that person may or may not want to say, it just doesn't come out. And likewise, someone who's schizophrenic, who is listening to another person talk, they may hear different words than the words that are actually coming out of that person's mouth. And so that's another again, just like disturbance, that is a break with reality that they don't have control over and is it's it just makes it very difficult to navigate, like what should otherwise be pretty mundane, normal experiences for people. Other Other symptoms are just like a General, General flat effect, or, you know, a lack of expression, a sluggishness that just, you know, is is pretty severe. And so there are like, there, as you can see, there's like this constellation of symptoms that can appear. And, you know, usually people will have like more than one of these symptoms. But the ones that are especially disturbing are typically the ones that are the hallucination or delusional thinking type of symptoms, and hallucinations, you know, whether they're visual or auditory. Those are hard, obviously, because it's, it's, it's difficult to distinguish what is real and what is not real. And so those are, especially, you know, a lot of researchers are intrigued, by the way that people who are schizophrenic sort of interpret their hallucinations. And it's just kind of this really distinct, like qualitatively different kind of symptom then the like, flat effect, which is still troubling and disturbing in its own way. But so there's just something to note there about like, these, this constellation of symptoms that schizophrenics Can, can experience collectively, like, why this is disturbing. Like, it's clear why that's disturbing the break from reality. But what we're talking about mostly today are hallucinations. And, and, you know, maybe some delusions too, but especially auditory hallucinations in the sound of hearing voices. And so to say something just about, like hearing voices, that can, that can happen in a couple of ways. So, for example, you may hear a voice, maybe one person is saying something, but in like your schizophrenic mindset, you may hear that voice sounds like it's coming from multiple people, like there's kind of a lesion of something talking at you, but maybe you're having a conversation with one person. I mentioned already that, you know, another example is hearing words that are not actually coming out of the person's mouth, and they're saying something totally different. Another, another way of hearing voices is just noises in the environment that kind of morph into what sound like voices. And so that can lead to a lot of experiences of whispering and, you know, kind of chatter in the distance that can't quite make out what the voices are. But it sounds like voices. And so I there's, you know, an example of like a car sort of washing by down the street in the sound of the car wishing by that kind of like car wash transforms into a what sounds like a voice. So voices, wherever, whatever stimuli in the environment, or like in that person's head, that's creating the voice. You know, it may or may not be clear, like, there are ways that schizophrenic people learn to manage those symptoms. And, you know, I think my understanding is that some people can identify like, certain things as being real or not real, but sometimes it's hard, especially, I would imagine, if you were like just discovering that you are schizophrenic. It, there's no, there's no complete cure for schizophrenia, you can manage symptoms with anti psychotic medication, but it's, it's, it's disturbing. So this is, this is this kind of brain disorder is, again, it, there's something that's just, it's so severe, and it's transformation of a person's everyday experience that a lot of researchers and people have this interest in this the intersection between something like schizophrenia, and a person's, like, experiences of religion and spirituality. And that's not always relevant for like particular people. But, but it is something that comes up and there is there are a lot of, you know, social scientists, especially like psychologist anthropologists, and, you know, other other clinicians who are like asking these kinds of questions about like, what, what this intersection could be, and, and to say, Oh, one more thing, also that, like schizophrenia sometimes is mistaken for like multiple personality disorder, which is also known, I think, maybe more accurate accurately now as dissociative dissociative identity disorder. So, you know, those They're also like, their own kind of like disturbing, you know, experience of the world break from reality. But that's their distinct from schizophrenia, what we're talking about. So what is the intersection between something like schizophrenia, psychosis with religious or spiritual experiences? So, there? For one, there's a lot of people who asked this really interesting question about the history of shamanism, and people in in various cultures. Just just just code, like what we would call diseases or disorders, it's important to realize that, you know, that the the way that people experience not just schizophrenia, but a number of different conditions, there, there's a cultural element in the way we like code, others and our own experiences with these disorders and diseases and schizophrenia is no different. So, in in, in Western countries, like in the United States, in particular, it is a lot more common for people to experience schizophrenia in themselves as like madness, their people are much more willing and immediate in their response to say, like, this is bad, these voices that I'm hearing, if they have auditory hallucinations, they are disturbing me, they are frightening me, they are torturing me. And there's a generally speaking, a negative experience with auditory hallucinations. And, and people also typically, you know, just the, the way that we talk about something like schizophrenia, people are more likely to use the term schizophrenia as like a category like a word that describes this collection of symptoms that we see as disordered. And they're, you know, the solution is antis, psychotic medications are like being put in a mental mental institution, and, you know, various other clinical ways of managing something like schizophrenia. And so, people in the US, when, when researchers have like interviewed people, with schizophrenia, there's this language around it, that's much there's just much more negative experiences with voices. And, and, and what people find in other countries and other like cultural settings, is, it's not that people don't ever talk about schizophrenia, or that they don't ever feel afraid of their hallucinations. But, um, there's something pretty distinct about the contexts of other other cultures from the US context in which there's more flexibility in how other cultures sort of manage something like schizophrenia. And so there's an example of a group of researchers who kind of compared three different groups of schizophrenics in, in the US, in India and in Ghana. And what they found was, the US kind of fit that characteristic of people describing a negative relationship with their hallucinations. But when they looked at the, the samples in Ghana, and in India, they found that people were much more likely to describe the voices they were hearing as providing guidance. And sometimes people would say, you know, some like in India, there were a couple of people who had hallucinations of like, a particular Hindu God, or, you know, maybe have like a family member or like a famous person they'd read about in a magazine, like different manifestations of visual and auditory hallucinations, that they instead of, you know, it may be more frightening at first, but over time, they started to almost rely on them, like these voices actually helped me understand and remind me what I should do to be a good person. And in other instances, you know, they're, like, in the, in the India in Ghana samples in particular, people might feel like a kinship with those voices, that maybe there's like family members appearing in those hallucinations that are, again giving guidance and providing a sense of I mean, I don't know if like comfort is the right word here, but there was less fear and Like revulsion at those voices, and there was a place kind of created in the mind of these people. And so, you know, they, they realize that what they're experiencing was unusual compared to others, but there was still a coating of those experiences as something that was either instructive or, or supernatural. Definitely a relationship between voices, and supernatural deities or, or demons, that's not uncommon. And you know, that, again, it's not that people in the US, like, would never code their experiences as supernatural or demonic are from God in some way. But this was, the seemed to be a little more acceptable and common in, in the samples from India and Ghana. And, and so this is just an interesting, like, comparison, and I think is relevant to this broader question that other researchers are looking into, like, is shamanism is there a connection between shamanism and something like psychotic conditions like schizophrenia, where you learn how to manage voices and, and symptoms that you're experiencing that are different from everyone else, and instead of being in a mental institution, you are now sort of elevated into a, into this particular role in a society where you can still interact and function in a community by sharing what you have that no one else has. And it's a way there's, you know, it's a, it's, it's a way of thinking about something like schizophrenia, that's, that kind of normalizes it, or like, maybe not normalizes it, but it provides a place. So that's a person doesn't need to necessarily be like, isolated or feel like they are like, totally insane. And it's just really different and interesting that this is like, this is the interesting link between something like schizophrenia, these like psychotic disorders, and, you know, religious or spiritual interpretations of those disorders to be sort of functional for a community. And so that's, that's the, that's what I, you know, just when, when introduced here, so, like, how does that how does that land for any of any of y'all, and what do you? What other thoughts do you have? Like, what do you have any experience? Do you know, anyone with schizophrenia? Like, what do you what do you think?


Rachael Jackson  22:58

Yeah, so thank you for


Kendra Holt-Moore  23:00

sorry, no,


Rachael Jackson  23:03

you're good. You're good. Oh, good. Thank you for giving us this perspective. And I really like the interdisciplinary overview. I obviously am in the culture of America. So those that I know that have schizophrenia have definitely experienced it in that aggressive and fear based place. And it was lovely to read about these places in India, I was really fond of the one from India, where they were saying that this is really, I interpreted it as protective, and guiding, very almost nurturing and parental, which is very different than people that I that I know, with schizophrenia here, that it's very fear based. And it's, it's daunting, it's not just the break from reality, that's scary, which I think would be across cultures. But it's the how they're experiencing the the auditory. I'm not gonna say just voices, but the auditory sounds right. Well, that's redundant. What they are experiencing from sound is scary. And we don't we tend to our society tends to, to shun that to shun the differences. Our society tends to think that if you if you have this break, you're broken. And that was something that that has really stuck with me and trying to figure out how to encourage people to to acknowledge that they're not broken, um, has been something that we as a as a society and culture can fix, I think, even if the disease itself you know, we can't


Zack Jackson  25:01

So, my my first experience with this, even with schizophrenia at all, came from the movie, beautiful mind about the mathematician John Nash, played by Russell Crowe, who has a roommate that he lives with that assumes that everyone knows this roommate for years until he discovers that this is not a real person. And he's in his mind, and there's this whole world, and then they discovers he's got all these conspiracy theories. And it's, it becomes this sort of thriller. And that is how I imagined schizophrenia to be that there are people out there who just imagine that there are people with them at all times, and how terrifying that was. And they kind of, there was a, I think there's a scene in there where he does hurt someone. And it's kind of like, this guy is a danger. But I more, just lived for years terrified that this was actually happening to me. And that the people that I knew, like, I would be like, is this person real? Or am I imagining them? Am I having a psychotic break? Or is this person real? Can you see this person, and it made me really paranoid. And now that I'm, I'm a bit older, and I realized that that's not actually how it works. And that's just how it works in Hollywood. And that it's more like, a lot of these voices are internal. And people kind of understand that. I, I've seen it everywhere. In in my religious world, we tend to attract people who hear voices. And I get that all the time. Now. It's like, I heard a voice from God saying this. And it's usually something about how this person is uniquely qualified to save something or do something really important or dramatic. And then that is left up to me to decide if that is the voice of God or the voice of a psychosis or both, or neither. And I feel woefully unqualified to do that. And for the most part,


Rachael Jackson  27:14

I would second I would second that you are woefully unqualified.


Zack Jackson  27:19

Thanks, Rachel.


Rachael Jackson  27:20

You're welcome. You're welcome. I think I think clergy are often the first people to to recognize that there could be something amiss, and that's our job. And then to pass it along to the people that can go Oh, no, you're just having a faith experience? Or, oh, wow, you're really having a psychotic break. Right? And that we're the first persons to acknowledge that, yes, you can hear these voices. And sometimes it's a natural faith thing. And sometimes it's a natural brain disorder thing. But just just just just reaffirming that you are willfully unqualified as am I, as our most clergy. Sorry. No offense. Yeah.


Kendra Holt-Moore  28:05

I think that's a good point, though, about an in Yeah, it makes sense that clergy are in many cases, like the the first people to encounter people in which it's hard to tell what's happening, because there's some there's the shared language of people who are experiencing hallucinations, whether they're like, specifically schizophrenic or, or something else, saying, like, God said this to me, and how to distinguish that from other people who, you know, it might be unclear if they have something going on in terms of a brain disorder, but that's also just like common parlance to talk about, like, Faith experiences, or, you know, like, there's, there's a whole book actually one of the researchers who have participated in interviews with schizophrenic people. She also wrote a book about evangelical faith and the language of like, talking to God. And so that, you know, just like the recognition that there's shared language there, and you know, typically, I think it's, it's straightforward to tell when, like, what the difference is, but not always. And I think that Rachel and Decker, you know, right, that it's clergy who have to kind of make that first call sometimes.


Zack Jackson  29:35

Well, so here's an example. There's an elder at the church, who one day showed up to a worship service, stark naked, and ran around the parking lot, yelling about how this church had become corrupt, and how the pastor was in in league with the devil and was and with that Elder board was siphoning money. And we used to run around every day, every Sunday morning, when people showed up would show up naked streak through the parking lot and yell about how this church was going to hell did it for three years. Okay, so that didn't actually happen. But it happened in Isaiah chapter 20. And when Isaiah does it in Isaiah chapter 20, it's like wow, with this prophetic image, that God told him to remove thy sackcloth, and thy shoes and to even expose the buttocks for under three years to shame the Egyptians, as he went through the towns, prophesying to the people. And that sounds holy and righteous. But if somebody did that now, we'd be like, This man has a psychotic break, and he needs to be hospitalized. And should we have hospitalized? Isaiah? Yes. Yeah.


Rachael Jackson  30:58

Yes, no, I am. I'm being totally serious. I mean, I think that the hospitalization of people that have mental disorders or challenges, we need to fix that system. But the concept that Isaiah probably had some sort of mental illness, absolutely, I think our the Hebrew Bible at least I can't really speak to the Christian bible as thoroughly, really examples of the human conditions. And Isaiah is one of those that examples, schizophrenia. I just like when we talked about depression, and we can see it and anxiety like, I believe that the Hebrew Bible absolutely gives us reference to most of the brain diseases that we are uncomfortable with to this day. So yes, I think he should have been, but somehow positively. So then,


Zack Jackson  31:57

is Isaiah hearing the voice of God, or the voice of Isaiah? And if by hospitalizing him and treating his condition? Are we then stopping prophecy?


Kendra Holt-Moore  32:13

asking those tough questions,


Zack Jackson  32:15

that's what we're here for.


Rachael Jackson  32:16

Right? I think it's who's listening? Right? I think that if a person like Isaiah, minus the modesty issues, because let's remember that they had a very different understanding of being closed or not closed than we do in our semi Puritan American culture. You know, barring that piece, if someone's listening, and it makes sense, then yeah, that that person can still be a prophet. And whether or not that is the voice of God that Isaiah is hearing, in actuality, or the presumption of Isaiah that it is the voice of God, who Isaiah is speaking to his hearing as a as a prophet. And they're the ones that are listening or not listening. And I think we can absolutely have people that are prophetic nowadays. And it's really the difference of, you know, where is it God? Or is it an understanding of God? And does that even matter? So, yeah, I, I think, yes. It's that we have gone deaf, to people that are trying to show us show us things about our society that we don't want to.


Kendra Holt-Moore  33:31

I was gonna echo something similar that you said, Rachel was like, the question of a god or as an internal voice, that, yeah, like, does that matter? For one, the person who is hearing the voice, but also does that matter for people who are listening to the person, and for some people, that will matter, and for some people that won't. And so I think, with like, the authority of the or the origin of the voice, may affect the like, interpretation of the importance of what is being said. And that just kind of, kind of depends what's happening. I think, as to whether it's, you know, whether one, it depends on the context, in the content of what is being said as to whether I, for example, would think that person needs to be institutionalized. Or, you know, if I would maybe be likely to call them something like a prophet or a guide of in like a cultural moment. I think they're, it's just like the kinds of voices people hear or claim to hear are so varied. think there are absolutely some voices that I do not want to listen to and that I do not want you to have to listen to You know? So it's like, are you telling me to like, go jump off a bridge? Or are you telling me that like, society is corrupt? Because those are both examples of things that people can hear when they're hearing voices and claiming that it's coming from God or, you know, the devil or whatever. But, you know, it's, it has the interpretation of what to do with that information is contingent upon the community, cultural norms, a bunch of things. And so it makes it very tricky to kind of, I think, generalized about like, how to respond to those voices from the outside. And also like recognizing, I watched a, an interview one time with a person who's schizophrenic, and the interviewer was asking her questions, and started asking her questions about, like, the hallucinations, and she had visual hallucinations. And so the interviewer started to say, like, do you see the hallucinations right now? And where are they in the room? And she said, I'm actually not going to answer those questions, because I don't like to tell people where the hallucinations are in the room. Because when real people start interacting with my hallucinations, it makes it difficult for me to tell what is real and not real. Found. And so I thought that was really, really interesting to just like from, from that, like, another perspective of how to deal with what is happening.


Ian Binns  36:42

Yeah, so, you know, to echo what Zack said, the beginning, one of my first experiences with schizophrenia was the movie, A Beautiful Mind. And, you know, I'd loved that movie. And I, as we were kindred, as you're talking, I'd looked it up and was, I did not realize that when the movie came out that it was actually celebrated by some in the mental health community that had a somewhat accurate portrayal of schizophrenia, not that they didn't take liberties, but that it actually did somewhat of a decent job. But I also remember when that movie came out, it was a time when I was struggling with medication for my depression. And when I saw that movie, and saw that the, you know, John Nash, according to the movie, was able to overcome some of his, you know, issues with schizophrenia, by sheer will, that I remember thinking to myself, Well, if that's possible, why couldn't I and so I remember actually having those conversations with my counselor at the time, and she was saying that, even though the movie did a somewhat decent job, that there was a lot of pushback on that part of the film. And that's what the thing I read too, was that that's not accurate at all. Like it, that's not how it works. And so, so that was one thing. But the other thing too, when we're talking about voices, it just kept making me think about, like, who is it that determines that whatever voice someone's listening to is, right or wrong, right? Like, do you know what I mean? Like, how is it that that's determined that okay, this, this person clearly has a mental health disease, they need to be hospitalized versus not? So because if you know, there are a lot of people who say that I, that they speak to God. Right, but they're not coming back. Right, but then also to if they say that they believe this, that God is speaking to them. Is that an example of schizophrenia or not?


Rachael Jackson  38:50

So, if I may jump in here. I'm one of the I'm going to give a quick anecdote. There's a person that I knew that was taking a psychological test. And part of the psychological test was on a on a form, like on an actual piece of paper, this was before before computers, so on an actual piece of paper. And this person was smart enough to fool the test, and gave all of the answers to indicate that this person had a psychotic schizophrenia. And then the people that were evaluating this test, looked at it and went, Well, it's true. You showed us this, your paper is pristine. There were no erasers there were no, it didn't get torn up. The paper itself was perfectly fine. So this person was able to trick the system. But the challenge is it's not just a checkbox. So when we're talking about people that have hallucinations visual or auditory? I see things I can imagine something or someone sitting right here in my office, I can see them in my mind's eye right here. Right, I can vision. Am I hallucinating that am I hearing that one of the things that I think is challenging that we forget, his people that have not had this break in reality is in conversation with a person that is either currently going through or has had or is off medication, or whatever the situation might be. The flow of conversation is not the way that we understand it. So when I read Isaiah, or I read some of these other people that go, Hmm, there's something amiss here, they're still understandable of people that I have interacted with which at this point, you know, given that I'm a small town clergy, you know, I were numbering a couple of dozen people that I've I've interacted with that have this particular diagnosis, you cannot follow their thoughts. It is a thought here a thought there it is all over the board. And they think that they are making perfect sense. And that's the break, where there's a major disconnect, not just in the delusions of grandeur, like I, one of the articles that will link in, in today's show notes, has this idea of John hood, I believe his last name was who's who's talking about this, and then he thinks that he's a shaman. And he then he thinks that he's going to that he's married to two African princesses, and he's going to go live with them. And it's one sentence to another sentence. And the listener has no ability to follow these trains of thought. And we forget that. So A Beautiful Mind doesn't necessarily example that the other movie the soloist about I think his name was Nathaniel Ayers, a white ers, that has a little bit better understanding of the challenges of from the the person who is who's has this illness, about them what they really go through. So I just want to add that, but yes, we hear God and if someone says, oh, you know, God talked to me, but God made perfect sense to the listener. And they're saying, here's what God told me to do. And how was, you know, have a great day. And I hope you have, and it's cohesive. I think these are clues. So


Kendra Holt-Moore  42:43

I just want to follow up on what Rachel said also, that just real quick that, like hallucinations, it that like having a hallucination is not an automatic indicator that like you're schizophrenic, that some of the other like conditions in which you might have hallucinations, or things like Parkinson's disease, which I didn't realize, like hallucinations were part of that until recently, brain tumors, you know, sometimes like Alzheimer's, like there are different, like epilepsy stuff, stuff, stuff happens in the brain. And so there's other other like, you know, we talked in the beginning about the constellation of symptoms. And so that's just like, something to keep in mind too.


Adam Pryor  43:26

But I was gonna say, it seems like that idea of an integrated epistemic frame is really important, right? So like, if the pieces are integrated into a singular or cohesive worldview, then you have one sort of set of things. It's this moment where they no longer can be held together, but they have to be attended to simultaneously that that's this, like this break that occurs. So I can talk to God, but if it but if it integrates with the way in which that I experienced the world, you know, totally good.


Zack Jackson  44:16

So then religion offers that sort of scaffolding for these sorts of experiences, then on break pretty regularly. I'm thinking of like Joan of Arc, if she were in a different sort of situation. Would her her visions her voices have said different things if she were in South India instead of in France? Or is God speaking directly to Joan of Arc? And we are trying to diagnose the work of the Holy Spirit and trying to medicate away modern day prophecy and the presence of a living and terrifying and powerful God.


Adam Pryor  44:59

Like that Academy at all.


Zack Jackson  45:01

I know you don't you don't love dichotomies at all.


Adam Pryor  45:07

It feels like if I asked this feels like a full trichotomy,


Zack Jackson  45:10

this is. So this is the the tension that goes on inside of my head. Because I was, in my developmental years, I was told that, that a lot of these anti psychotic medications are there to suppress actual experiences with the supernatural, because there are some people in the world who are more sensitive to the presence of the supernatural, both good and evil. And the anti psychotics then suppress those natural abilities. Think like the first half of Captain Marvel, right? That that kind of limiting factor because we can't handle the spiritual world and the modern, modern world, because we have to be able to explain it, and domesticate it, and understand it in order to, for it to exist. And so that I still have that in there. And and now I think I'm thinking more about like, positive mental health, and how would you like to live? And we're understanding more about how the brain works. And we don't quite understand how this works. And I want to just have space open for that as a possibility. But I don't quite know what to do with it.


Adam Pryor  46:30

Don't don't want that space open. Oh, but


Zack Jackson  46:33

Adam, so many of our religious traditions are based on Revelation are based on divine revelations, in stories and in histories that have been passed down to us. If those divine revelations happened today, we would label them as psychotic breaks. I mean, if you just started talking to a bush, don't you think that we would say you're having a psychotic break?


Adam Pryor  46:57

No, they'd say, I'm walking around campus, but


Ian Binns  46:59

like, fight moment


Adam Pryor  47:03

point out, right. It's not actually the scientific side of this that bothers me. Right? It's actually the theological side where I want to go that bad theology, it is a bad understanding of the supernatural.


Zack Jackson  47:16

Okay, hit me with it.


Ian Binns  47:18

So yeah, you got to unravel that one.


Adam Pryor  47:20

I would argue that all revelation is contextual, insofar as it is a mode of communication. So it is, of course, going to change depending on where and when and how that revelation occurs, because the supernatural isn't something separate from the natural, as if it is in other realm that has its own structure of things from which it originates. It is something layered over the natural, you know, what super natural actually means on top of the natural. So it's just a deficient theological understanding as far as I'm concerned.


Zack Jackson  48:00

So there's,


Kendra Holt-Moore  48:02

it's I think that like Adams talking about a naturalist interpretation of Revelation, and Zach is talking about a supernatural right, but in


Adam Pryor  48:10

his supernatural, this version is bad. It's a bad understanding of supernatural.


Kendra Holt-Moore  48:15

Oh, I mean, I, I'm with Adam here, but just to like, describe what the different.


Zack Jackson  48:22

So there's two different types of revelation that we often talk about natural revelation, special revelation, natural revelation being the things that you can deduce on your own from the laws of the universe, in your experience of being a human on this planet. special revelation are those times that God speaks to a person and tells them a specific thing, right? Like, go set my set my people free, like that's, that's a special revelation. Jesus coming and and saying, Hey, God told me this thing. And I want you to know it. That's special revelation. And I'm talking about the special revelation, not the natural. Yeah, I'm still


Adam Pryor  49:03

on board. But special education is still contextually located. Absolutely, period. So it's gonna change no matter where it is that it's spoken to. It's only if you treat special revelation as though the supernatural othering world from which it comes, is so overwhelming, that it completely mutes the expectation of the receptive hearer, in such a way that that context no longer matters, that it creates a break with the actual place in which it is received and I want to go, that's not communication anymore. That's not even revelation anymore. Right, insofar as revealing is supposed to be a form of communicating. So, to my mind, like there's no sort of like articulation from a theological tradition that can defend that notion of special revelation on its own terms.


Zack Jackson  49:59

So, Paul, On his donkey horse, I don't remember his going to go do some some good old fashioned persecuting, and gets a blinding light falls off his horse, or donkey or whatever it was, and sees a vision of Jesus standing before him that says,


Adam Pryor  50:16

Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? That's what Paul told us. Right? But actually, that's his failure that all he saw was a blinding light. There's no God, and he's not actually an apostle. So shouldn't we just throw stuff out? I mean,


Zack Jackson  50:32

should we ever go in there today, Adam? I'm just talking about Paul, in Paul's words, Paul, in Paul's words,


Kendra Holt-Moore  50:39

great episode, I'm so glad that you had


Zack Jackson  50:41

a vision, he had a light, he saw light, he fell off his his quadruped head and hit his head. And then he couldn't see for a while until he was healed by this guy, this fella. And then he could see again, and he had this special revelation that feels a lot like he had a seizure. It fits a lot of the categories of that. And so when you explain it like that, like naturally, then you might just say, Wow, he had this break, he had this, this seizure, he maybe had some epileptic stroke. And he then attributed it to, I must have been doing something wrong when it happened, because God was punishing me. And then after the fact, put in his theology, and that's what's happening.


Adam Pryor  51:30

Kinder, you raising your hand?


Kendra Holt-Moore  51:33

Yes. I just wanted to jump in and say, Zack, you you've said a couple times, like, what I think like referring to the, what Adam called the dichotomy here between like, is a revelation or psychotic break. I don't think that calling like, I don't think that rejecting revelation leads immediately to describing something like the examples that you're giving as psychotic breaks, I think, like another way of, of naming that without going straight to like, psychotic mental disorder, would be to say, like, I think the way I would describe that, coming from, like, a more like social science II type framework would, would be to say, there's selective attention. Like, whenever you experience different kinds of, like auditory visual stimuli, especially in cases where there's like a religious or spiritual experience going on, there's selective attention happening where people, you know, the selective attention you give to light to sound to images, it affects the way that you code and remember those experiences, which sometimes are things like, you know, prophetic visions, or, like, whatever it is, it's not. And I think that this is, like, I think this is getting at some of like, what your concern is, is that it like, and I understand the concern also being about like reductionism, I think of, of like, spiritual and religious experiences. But I think that selective attention to our just daily experiences is just something that everyone does. But especially in, you know, these cases where it's like, extraordinary circumstances or experiences of certain kinds of stimuli. Our like, we each have selective attention that is informed by cultural, you know, biases and cognitive biases, you know, the way that we understand kinship, family, friends, spirits, minds, all of those, you know, cultural pieces affect the way that we attend to our experiences and, and that's not necessarily good or bad. It's just a fact of like being human and so that that's like a third option I want to throw in there as like, maybe revelation, maybe psychotic break, maybe selective attention, and all of those things, all three of those options can have meaning. And so I think, yeah, like, meaning is not mutually exclusive to any of these. Yeah,


Zack Jackson  54:35

yeah. In the, in the fear of reductionism, I think is where the, my soul wants to push back. Because if I am going to accept that an angel appeared to marry and told her something very specific, but then immediately dismiss that an angel showed up to John Smith in my congregation because of all he says a lot of training things that I need to second either second guess how I'm treating him today? Or how I am Reading my own religious tradition? And I think I need to be honest with that. I can't have it both ways.


Adam Pryor  55:13

Yeah, this this is where I think reductionism becomes a boogeyman, though. Like, it doesn't have to do the things that in some theological and religious circles people say it will do.


Kendra Holt-Moore  55:27

I mean, that's what I'm, I'm on board with that I like, reductionism is is the name of the Boogeyman. But the boogeyman is not really looking man


Adam Pryor  55:38

is just a nation sack.


Zack Jackson  55:40

Oh, man, you academics trying to trying to dismantle the argument instead of instead of coming straight at it?


Ian Binns  55:52

I'm just enjoying listening. So no, I really wish I had popcorn in this conversation.


Kendra Holt-Moore  55:59

No, but like reductionism. It is, I think, the primary concern that people have when when we talk about this, like religion and science intersection, and people who don't, who aren't coming at these conversations out of an academic context, like, like, it makes sense to me why that's a concern. But I like Adam, I I don't think that that. I think that the fear that people have about reductionism, my experience of that was only like an initial fear. And then, like, over time, a realization for me that, like, I just, I still Yes, I've like changed over time, in some significant ways. But I still think that there's a lot of meaning in experiences. And just because we like understand the way that the brain works, or, you know, like, the way the body works, I don't think that that means we can't also have this like layer of experience in human life, that is profound. And not just meaningful, but also really profound and spiritual. And, you know, all the other ways that we talk about those kinds of experiences. It's just also true that it probably like the way that I interpret that situation, that experience is going to be different than, you know, the way someone else interprets it in their own framework. But I'm comfortable with that. And I realized that that just inherently will make some people uncomfortable, the difference in our like, understanding of, I guess, like the ontological nature of those experiences. So yeah, I don't know.


Zack Jackson  57:50

Yeah, I think there's a, I'm there with you. I'm there with you, intellectually, I either I don't disagree with anything, I'll say that. I think my where I'm coming from as a kind of practical place in which I am on the regular in contact with people who have visions, and who have experiences and who are asking me to help interpret the Word of God that has come to them in a vision or in a moment of rapture, or in this data, the other. And I think, Paul says that we should discern every spirit that comes. And, you know, it's not so easy to tell if this is the spirit of light or of darkness. But that every vision, whether it comes from while you're Reading some textbook, or having some ecstatic moment of otherness, and experience, that all of those visions need to be tested against what your community holds as true, and what is good for human flourishing. And so I'm, I feel the fear of people, when, when I suggest I'm having this experience, actually right now, not like in this moment, I'm not having an experience. I'm, I'm with somebody now, who is having some a lot of these kinds of experiences. And she is extremely frustrated at every other pastor that she's talked to, because they all say, Wow, it sounds like you're having some mental distress. Have you seen a therapist? Are you on your medication, instead of meeting her in that space in that common parlance of like, Yeah, okay. I might personally think that she is having a psychotic break, but I need to communicate with her in this realm of of the spirits, as both as a common language so that we can actually get somewhere productive and also as a way of kind of intellectual honesty that I don't entirely understand the workings of the supernatural and the natural and ease I don't understand how magnets work. So I don't I don't know, maybe you are experiencing something that I'm I don't know. So I try to stay intellectually, spiritually humble in those situations. I mean, I do understand intellectually how magnets work, but I don't know how they work. Kendra, do you have any final thoughts first, as we wrap up?


Kendra Holt-Moore  1:00:26

Well, I just wanted to say in the sharing of intellectual honesty, I, I just I want to say that, like, my academic explanation of like, someone saying, God told them to do whatever it is, like I can talk about, like, selective attention and all of that. But if I'm talking about like, oh, energy healing, yeah, that I sure, um, oh, no selective attention. That's just that's just real. I like it. That's not to say that. Like, it's a different category of experience. Of course, like, you know, that. I don't even know that some people would feel comfortable, like comparing those two things. But just to say that it's not. People are complicated and have different kinds of experiences that they understand in different ways. And it's not that people who I don't I don't think it's fair to say that people who, who use academic jargon and and do maybe, like lean on, like reductionistic ways of thinking, which I actually I do not group, me and Adam into that category. Maybe y'all group us into that category. But I think that those people always have something that they don't talk about that's like personal and that is, it is like the bottom level foundation of like, their what, what is real for them? And it's just also like a SEP, like a separation issue of like, the academic and the personal when you're in like different settings. And I imagine that feels really different when you're like a clergy person. So yeah, people are weird, you know, people are weird. That's my final word.


Rachael Jackson  1:02:17

People are weird. People are weird. That's today's title. Oh, but Adam, Adam has


Kendra Holt-Moore  1:02:23

a big,


Zack Jackson  1:02:24

yeah, tagline


Adam Pryor  1:02:26

got a bit. I'm super excited about it, share it with,


Zack Jackson  1:02:29

you have a jingle.


Adam Pryor  1:02:30

We're working on that. So until then, I've decided to title my bit under the apple tree. In deference to the apocryphal phrase from one of the persons of my tradition, Martin Luther, who was said to have said, Even if I knew that tomorrow, the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. I mean, in all likelihood, he didn't actually say this, the earliest you can trace it back as about 1944. It's by a phrase from the Confessing Church, trying to ensure that it continued to do things in resistance to Nazi dictatorship. But you know, it feels better when it comes from the person who's ostensibly the founder of your tradition. And this gets interpreted a lot of ways. But generally, what you know, the sentiment was, was that even if things look like they're going to go terribly, if the world might end, you move one step at a time, so I thought, what better way to end podcasts than to rehearse the ways the world might end? So for today,


Ian Binns  1:03:32

tapping into your superpower.


Adam Pryor  1:03:38

I decided, well, it's one let's be clear, there are a whole lot of people writing about the ways this would occur. So I had a lot to choose from, but I decided I would go with supervolcanoes today. And the idea is that, you know, because we don't actually live on a nice, stable planet. In fact, we live on, like, rafts of rock floating over molten lava all of the time. At various points in the history of the planet. Those ruptures occur such that molten rock flows all over the surface of the planet, and four of the largest last 11 extinction events are all tied to when volcanoes erupt at the same time. Usually, it eliminates somewhere between 95 and 98% of species on the planet. Wow, on average, that happens every you know, 17 to 30,000 years, and it's been over 36,000 years since the last one. So we're overdue. overdue. So that should be occurring anytime now. And essentially what will happen is there will be so much carbon dioxide spewed into the atmosphere that it'll create a runaway greenhouse effect. And you can expect that all Plants will die, including plankton in the waters. And that spells real trouble for the rest of us. So, if you see volcanoes going off in chain sequences around the world, plant your apple tree,


Kendra Holt-Moore  1:05:19

don't bother running.


Zack Jackson  1:05:21

Don't bother planting an apple tree


Adam Pryor  1:05:22

know, the apple tree anyway, it's gonna die. It doesn't matter. You keep doing the thing, plant the apple tree,


Zack Jackson  1:05:30

throw the starfish back in the water. That's right,


Adam Pryor  1:05:33

it won't make a difference.


Ian Binns  1:05:37

So just carry on the way you're, you're going back.


Zack Jackson  1:05:40

Who cares about recycling your wind? Where are the super volcanoes?


Adam Pryor  1:05:43

So this is the interesting thing. They're actually like chained together, right? You can find these various volcanoes at major junction points between tectonic plates. There are 19 tectonic tectonic plates that we sort of move around on. So they shift a little bit, right. But we're familiar with these areas like so like the ring of fire in the Pacific, Pacific chains of islands. And if you want like an example of like where this has occurred, and history, India, like the entire subcontinent of Asia is just one large lava flow in terms of how it was produced, so that's the scale and size of which we're talking. All of these volcanoes erupting simultaneously. But yes, Yellowstone is a potential one. Although people don't think that that's actually there's some debated scientific evidence over whether or not it would be overdue for erupting so date. Yeah,


Rachael Jackson  1:06:42

I don't like when Adam goes.


Kendra Holt-Moore  1:06:47

The earth is weird. People are weird. Everything is


Zack Jackson  1:06:52

awesome. And at the end of the day, the horseshoe crab and the Nautilus will keep going.


Adam Pryor  1:06:58

I'm just saying like, I feel like Kendra and I can really lean into the jingle bit here. It's gonna be gonna be good.


Rachael Jackson  1:07:06

Yeah. Stay tuned for that.


Ian Binns  1:07:10


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