Saints and Madmen: How Pioneering Psychiatrists Are Creating a New Science of the Soul

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9780805059014: Saints and Madmen: How Pioneering Psychiatrists Are Creating a New Science of the Soul
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Psychiatry, once famously opposed to religion, has done an about-face. Like the legendary explorers of a century ago, some psychiatrists have set off into what they see as the last frontier: the spiritual self. In this moving and impeccably researched narrative, Russell Shorto tells remarkable stories of people suffering from what once were deemed spiritual afflictions, then came to be seen as purely medical disorders, and now are being treated as both.

In the process, Shorto brings to bear issues from the cutting edge of consciousness studies. He explores the shared territory of psychosis and mysticism; the changing meaning of "self," "soul," "mind," and "brain"; the theory that psychotropic drugs have a spiritual dimension; the meaning of religious terrorism; and the possibility that addiction and depression are spiritual conditions.

In weaving his case studies into a single story, Shorto delivers a concise update on the science of the mind and the newest efforts to probe the deepest meaning of human existence.

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Many people who experience psychotic episodes have extreme spiritual encounters: for one person, it may be a sense of a tree's spirit speaking its truth aloud; for others, it could be the sensation of energy beaming from their bodies and communicating with dolphins on a far-off coast. Modern psychiatry usually categorizes these visions as evidence of psychosis, to be treated with antipsychotic medication. But what if these visions were actually extensions of legitimate spiritual encounters or glimpses into the deeper dimensions of the soul?

Author Russell Shorto (Gospel Truth) dares to ask these questions. He even offers evidence of a new movement in psychiatry, in which established doctors are assuming a more holistic approach to psychotic episodes and taking the patient's soul into account. This is not a cavalier dismissal of all that can be gained from appropriate diagnoses of (and medications for) mental illness; rather, it is an impressively researched argument for opening up to the idea of spiritual visions. Citing extensive research and numerous case studies, Shorto helps readers consider the possibility that grandiose spiritual visions aren't necessarily symptoms of mental illness. --Gail Hudson

About the Author:

Russell Shorto is the author of Gospel Truth: The New Image of Jesus Emerging from Science and History. He has written for GQ, The New Yorker, The Miami Herald, Travel & Leisure, and The New York Times Magazine. He lives in Putnam Valley, New York, with his wife and their two daughters.

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9780805059021: Saints and Madmen: Psychiatry Opens Its Doors to Religion

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ISBN 10: 0805059024 ISBN 13: 9780805059021
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co., 1999
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