The other day an online friend asked if I believed in God. I said I believed in a Higher Power or order to things but not really in a god. Still my belief is vague and for the last six months I have been praying very infrequently. Part of it is that I stopped going to Al-Anon meetings last fall. I also stopped reading the daily readers. For a while there I was feeling quite detached from humanity. So when my friend, who also has experience going to Al-Anon, asked if I believed in God, it set off a reaction in me. I wondered if I should return to a spiritual practice again. So I got a book down from the bookshelf called -- God In All Worlds: An Anthology of Contemporary Spiritual Writing--edited by Lucinda Vardey. It’s the book I turned to before when I felt conflicted over my faith or lack of it, the book that led me to Krishnamurti and to Buddhism.
I held the book in my hands for a while and meditated. Then I opened the book to a random spot seeking spiritual guidance and this is what I turned to: “If evil is an illness, it should then become an object for research like any other mental illness, be it schizophrenia or neurasthenia. It is the central proposition of this book that the phenomenon of evil can and should be subjected to scientific scrutiny. We can and should move from our present state of ignorance and helplessness toward a true psychology of evil.”(p. 308) This excerpt was taken from a book called-- People of the Lie by M. Scott Peck. A book I own. But what are the chances of opening an 875 page book randomly to a page with the word schizophrenia on it by a person with schizophrenia? Not only that, but the topic of evil as illness has been a topic that I’ve focused on throughout my illness, but only less so in recent years.
When I was delusional and paranoid, I believed that I was telepathically connected to a rock star who was also a serial killer. I was supposed to try and heal him through patience, kindness and understanding. I was supposed to try to convince him that he wasn’t evil, but that he was very ill and needed help. But where can a serial killer go for help in our society? In our society, serial killers are deemed “evil” and beyond help and are put to death. If they are found that is.
Jesus hung out with criminals and prostitutes. He hung out with people who had troubles, who needed help. I really didn’t want to be Jesus, but my illness cast me for a Jesus role. It was very painful and scary to think that I was connected to a serial killer who both hated and loved me, but from my perspective I had no choice but to try to be a good person in a very difficult circumstance.
The serial killer delusion lasted for close to 3 years till my final psychotic break in December of 2001, then I began taking the anti-psychotic medicines and both the delusion and paranoia faded but the delusion had left its mark on me. The previous years had been so intense and in a lot of ways traumatic, that I moved away from my delusion with relief and have only rarely revisited all the books I bought during that time on the nature of human evil, including M. Scott Peck’s book--The People of the Lie. So why, when seeking a spiritual practice, am I led back to the concept of evil as mental illness? And what does the concept of God have to do with evil?
I believe I was most definitely guided by a Higher Power through my illness and I am still being guided through it. Compassion has been a key value in all of my most trying experiences both real and delusional. When I get lost, I return to compassion for myself, for others and for the mysterious voices in my mind. I continue to believe that though people do evil things, that they are not essentially evil. Perhaps the message in the random selection of the quotation is about returning to the study of the nature of evil and how to treat it, perhaps even cure it in individuals. Maybe now I am at the point in my life where I can tackle tough problems without falling into a deeper psychosis. Maybe, in a small way, I can help.
It’s important that I stay grounded by having some kind of spiritual practice. I will return to the Al-Anon daily readers because there is a lot of wisdom in them about cultivating a good attitude and deepening one’s connection to a Higher Power through meditation. My belief, though vague, is still viable. I will continue to search.