Inspiration: In Defense of the Gospel, Galations 1:10-2:9

Dear Inspirations Seekers,

After his introduction, Paul elaborates on the themes of revelation from God and then his acceptance by the church members. “I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12).   Let me turn my skeptical eye toward this concept.  

Over my 20+ years of providing therapy to patients in hospitals, I have had a chance to meet lots of people who claim to experience revelations from God.  Now, most of the patients are in the hospital because of life-crises such as relationship problems, financial crises, grieving, and other disappointing-distressing events. Most of these folks benefit from some neuro-chemistry adjustments to moderate their emotional responses and impulsive behavior, and some practical suggestions on managing their situations.  The patients whom I enjoyed interacting more with were those who experience life differently.  (As before, any time I write about patients, to assure their confidentiality, I do not provide identifying information, and my objective to use these experiences respectfully that we may learn from them).

Two Jesuses and The Devil.  One conceptualization of psychosis is identification to a level of belief that one is the role-model, rather than just following the example.  Hence, in our culture, some people who have grown up with stories about Jesus believe that they are Jesus.  Now, if you are the only Jesus about, this can be a either edifying as you bask in the belief that you are devine and have many powers other do not; or terrifying, as you are looking for your Judas and Pontius Pilate.  On one occasion, we had two Jesuses on the unit, and another time we had a Jesus and the Devil on the unit at the same time.  This creates an extra dilemma for that person’s delusions because someone else is challenging their position.  If I and another person both claim to be Jesus, logic says someone is wrong.  If I claim to be Jesus and this person claims to be the Devil, then we have to do something about it.  No good resolution to this situation, because they either had to become more entrenched in their beliefs, or accept their human limitations without their beliefs in their divinity.

The Shaman.  When initiating my evaluation process, I like to sit down and talk with the person.  Some of this is practical data gathering: living situation, relationships, home- work- school- activities, interests, etc.  I do not inquire about the problem until I have a sense of what the person’s life is like before the problem brought them to the hospital: Humanity before pathology.  Before approaching one patient, I was warned by the staff to be careful because he could respond unexpectedly in his manic state.  As I walked up, with my clip board in hand, he ripped it out of my hands and threw it to the ground.  Two staff quickly positioned themselves in intervene.  My reaction was to stand still, look at the clip board, then at him and say, “Guess I don’t need that, huh?”  He challenged, “Why do you have to write stuff down?”,  “To be accurate.  But, I can do without it.”  He smiled, invited to sit with him and talk.

He claimed to be a Native American and shaman.  I have learned that listening to someone describe beliefs and routines that are not part of my lifestyle makes more of a connection with the person than telling them how to conform to our society’s norms.  So, we talked about his shaman practices, where he performed his rituals, and how these fit into other practical activities, such as paying the bills and getting along with the neighbors.  By the end of the conversation, he was willing to tell me that he has had manic episodes, but this is different from his sense of being connected with the devine.  He acknowledged that right now he was having difficulty accessing his shaman powers because his thoughts were racing.  However, he asked if he could try a healing on me.

You can imagine that the two staff watching and listening for the past half hour were a little nervous when I agreed with his request with the understanding that he could have healing powers that I could not understand unless I allowed him to demonstrate, and he agreed that I could having healing powers if he trusted my judgment and sincerity.  For the next fifteen minutes, he touched my scalp, shoulder, and back, asked me to stand in different positions, made chanting sounds and proclamations about what he gleaned from my body energy.  He was correct on every count, even though he had not asked me any of the investigative questions I had asked him.  He gave me a blessing, instructed me on what to do over the next couple of days (this was a Friday).  We shook hands, and he gave me my clip board back.

Sixth-Sense.  You can image that after 20 years of introducing myself to patients, I have develops a few stock phrases that present the information quickly.  In hospitals, you have little time these days to spend with people before making your assessments, filling out the documentation, and moving on to the next intervention.  One day, I approached a young man, in his room because he refused to come out, gave my spiel to which he replied, “That sounded rehearsed.”  I smiled, acknowledge his accurate accusation, with the explanation of why this occurs.  We then proceeded to talk.

Most people do not question, let alone challenge the standard operating practices of doctors, nurses, and therapists.  They comply, take their medications, attend groups, and get discharged.  I suspect that they leave with little more self-awareness than they came with.  This young man was all about self-awareness.  That was his problem, because he wanted to understand what these visions and insights where that he was experiencing.  His family just wanted him to return to college, get his degree, get married, and follow the usual customs of our society.  He saw no value in pursuing these achievements without knowing why he had experiences that other did not.

I provided him with a neurological explanation of hallucinations and beliefs.  He posed a questions that no one else had.  “Okay, if all of this is occurring in my brain, just a other sensations, like sight and sound, of things around me, how do we know that I am not perceiving things that others just ignore or are unwilling to acknowledge?  Might there be energy forces that are beyond what we have evolved to perceive?  Dogs can hear sounds that we cannot hear, but we do not say those vibration level do not occur.  We just say we do not have the ability to hear them.”   We continued our dialogue over the course of the next few days before he was discharged.  He was not distressed by experiencing visions and voices that I could not hear.  He wanted to know how to live with these.  When he could master this understanding and control, then college and other practicalities would make sense to him.

God… revealed his Son…  So what was happening when Saul rode up to Damascus, he saw a light which none of his retinue saw, fell to the ground, and heard a voice “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”.  Was he just another disturbed soul needing a little anti-psychotic medications and counseling on having tolerance toward people who had different religious practices than he?  Was he projecting his guilt about treating Christians poorly into a psychotic break?  I think that he would have grabbed my clip board, thrown it to the ground, had a thought provoking conversation, and performed a healing.

I do not claim to understand the divine nor revelations therefrom.  I do resist those who make such claims for obvious self-advancement, whether that is to boost their egos or treasuries.  I believe that we can learn more from putting away our clip boards and stock answers, and listening to the wind in the trees, the experiences of those who perceive life differently, and to watch the wonder of coincidences that we cannot explain.

Until next time, Inspirations Seekers

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About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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5 Responses to Inspiration: In Defense of the Gospel, Galations 1:10-2:9

  1. The Vicar says:

    I think skepticism is warranted when claims are made of divine revelation. I’ve fortune to speak with people that believe they are Mary Magdalene (the one from the Da Vinci Code) and that Jesus was their lover, and undercover rulers of foreign states. I been told by a church that they can no longer partner with us in serving the community because we work with organizations that support gay people with AIDS. Apparently there was a concern that the financial backers of the pastor’s radio ministry might become offended by this caring response to suffering. While this posturing was going on in the name of “right”, this same pastor was having a “moral failure” with a mistress. It’s not hard to be skeptical given mankind’s history.

    I’m sure this is one of the challenges that Paul faced. Others were claiming authority based on status or class. Paul notes that the gospel came to him from Christ. While he had witness to something happening on the road to Damascus, and the corresponding healing in Damascus, it seems that what occurred outside in the time between this event and Paul’s public ministry were important. The gospel message shared by Paul and the apostles was consistent even though there had been no contact between the parties. Paul points not to his understanding of the law, but rather to the transformation in his life because of Christ living in him. It wasn’t by his education or his efforts that this change occurred, but rather by God’s grace. Paul’s ministry wasn’t about proclaiming Paul, it was about proclaiming Christ, and it certainly wasn’t for gain. All but one of the apostles reportedly died for their belief in Jesus as the Son of God, at a time when Caesar was believed to be God.

    It’s good counsel to be still in the presence of God (coincidences).

  2. Barneysday says:

    Very interesting piece. I admit to being “God Challenged” but I do believe in a higher power, which for lack of definition, I refer to as the universe. But thats a discussion for another time. I like your approach of letting the clipboard lie where it is, and talk from your patients perspective, particularly the reading. I know society doesn’t accept readings, but I have had a few that were so right on, even 20 or 30 years later, that I cannot dismiss them with a wave of my hand or putting them into a hamper and calling it hallucinations. I don’t buy into the argument that we only use 10% of our brains, and are ignoring the rest. The rest is keeping us alive. But I accept the possibility that in some people, some of that capacity is used for perceptions.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      The “10% of you brain” idea came out of the 1970’s. Subsequent neurological investigations have demonstrated that this is not accurate. We use most of brains most of the time… Then again, listening to some folks, I think that <10% is being utilized at most. 🙂

    • hermitsdoor says:

      When I arrived home, after sunset with nearly a new moon, I went out to feed the goats. The Milky Way, our Galaxy, spread it’s self across the dome of our sky. Magnificent, whatever that “universe” may be.

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