Similarly the Ayurvedic tradition of India emphasized rest and relaxation and nutritional well-being, along with various mentally stimulating exercises. Ayurvedic resorts are still popular in the East. Buddhism is also viewed as an avenue out of depression -- a mode to enlightenment. Nonetheless, as James C.-Y. Chou (2005) states, "The concept of psychological depression in Eastern cultures is not as well accepted as it is in Western cultures. In fact, the whole idea of illness in Eastern cultures is based on physical illness…if they have a psychological illness, then they are perceived as being a persistently mentally ill patient as you would see in a state hospital…it's stigmatized."
Perhaps more than any ancient civilization, the Greeks "took a great interest in the human psyche and especially in madness. Plato who lived in the 5th and 4th centuries BC speaks about two kinds of madness, one with a divine origin and another with a physical origin" (Kyzirids, p. 43). Kyziridis gives a detailed analysis of the Platonic view of mental disorders:
In the Dialogues Plato wrote that '…to think about curing the head alone, and not the rest of the body also, is the height of folly…. And therefore if the head and body are to be well, you must begin by curing the soul.' He advanced the idea of unconscious and illogical mental processes, suggesting that all people had a capacity for irrational thinking. He also speculated that '…when the rest of the soul -- which is rational, mild and its governing -- is asleep, and when that part which is savage and rude, being satisfied with food and drink, frisks about, drives away sleep, and seeks to go and accomplish its practice…that in every one resides a certain species of desires that are terrible, savage, and irregular, even in some that we deem ever so moderate…' (p. 43).
The Greek worldview was a rational interpretation of what Christian mythology would later describe as humankind's fallen nature -- a result of an original offense against God -- a note of discordance written into the melody of the world.
Christian mythology, of course, was based to an extent on that of Israel, and as Kyziridis observes, "the platonic ideas of a connection between madness and prophecy recur in the ancient Israel" (p. 43). This madness is often observed in the Jewish prophets -- odd characters whose behavior often went against the grain. Likewise, "the same conceptions later appear in the Koran in the Islamic countries, [but] even if the Muslim nursing ward sometimes used brutal procedures the Orthodox Islam did not give as much support to exorcism as Christianity did" (p. 43). The Muslim world did, however, believe that it was possible for a supernatural entity to be the root cause of mental disturbance. The Indian practice of yoga likewise intimated a connection between the spiritual and the physical: "aspects of yoga -- including mindfulness promotion and exercise…[were] plausible biological, psychological, and behavioral mechanisms by which yoga (impacted) depression" (Uebelacker, 2010). But yoga was also derived from a belief in serpent power, the foundation of Hatha yoga -- and the alignment of mind, body, and soul with the serpent.
But as the ancient Greeks were the first to establish a rational and philosophical inquiry into the nature of man, we look first to them, as the founders of Western civilization, for clues as to the manner in which the ancients treated disorders of the mind.
While Hippocrates, a partial contemporary of Plato, believed mental disorder to be caused by the brain alone (or by various humors of the blood) -- not by the gods -- "there were a lot of other persons, for instance priests, who tried to cure the ill with an arsenal of different therapies, such as medical herbs, gymnastics, magic and exorcism. In the holy temples academic treatments were mixed with religious rites" (Kyziridis, p. 43). Yet, from Hippocrates came a tradition of medical analysis that led physicians to be concerned primarily with the physical rather than the spiritual. Not until the age of Christianity, did "the belief that demons lie behind mental diseases (become) more influential" (Kyziridis, p. 44).
Matthew, Mark and Luke depict a scene in Scripture in which Jesus cures a madman set outside the city by its populace. By casting out his demons and driving them into a herd of swine, Jesus delivers the madman from his condition. Such an example...
Even still today, exorcism is practiced, though at a much lower rate. The scholarly view of exorcism is divided, although Malachi Martin (1992) makes an excellent case for the reality of supernatural possession, even as he asserts that "the most important reminder to our churchmen is also the simplest and the most direct. A reminder of the admonition of Christ himself to his Apostles as they were beset in their little boat by the fury of a storm on Lake Gennesaret: 'How is it that you have no faith?'" (p. xxiv-v).
The middle ages, in fact, were defined by the Church -- and in the age of faith there was no lack of those holy fools, as they would be termed by the Russians, nor of the possessed, as they would be termed by the Church. All the same, mental disturbances were not necessarily indicative of possession. The Church did adopt a rational view of human nature and illness that was far from superstitious as is popularly believed. Daniel Smith (2007), for example, cites the story of Teresa of Avila, a nun and mystic of the sixteenth century. Known for "her spiritual purity," she endeavored to clear spiritual obstructions between God and man. However, "sensory visitations from God" gave her cause for concern, "for she had to be certain that they were in fact divine and not the result of, for example, melancholy or a hyperactive imagination. For in these latter instances a person could not be considered a visionary at all. Instead, she had to be considered 'como enferma': 'as if sick'" (p. 64).
As Smith attempts to show, some symptoms classified as signs of mental disorder today, may, in a Christian worldview, have actually been part of a mystical relationship with God -- but, as Teresa, a popular mystic, points out, it was a case by case basis that needed to be judged individually and rationally: in other words, not everyone who claimed to be a visionary was in fact one. Nonetheless, "in the medieval era many mentally ill persons were congregated near churches where they found shelter and protection by monks and priests" (Kyziridis, p. 44). By the 16th century, Church tactics were being abandoned -- one consequence of the humanism of the European Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation. The age of Enlightenment that followed attempted to rationalize this divorce from the custom of centuries. This rationalization saw the beginning of psychiatric hospitals in Europe. With these hospitals came attendants and medical supervisors and the birth of psychiatry. But…it was widely believed in the asylums that the way to cure someone was to shock them. Early shock methods included pinning patients down and pouring cold water on their faces until they were nearly drowned, or strapping patients to chairs so that they lost sensation and became calm (Kyziridis, p. 44).
As awful as this sounds, it was hardly much different from the electroshock therapy of the 20th century. Three centuries of Enlightenment ideology had produced no better solution to mental disorder: now more and more researchers are regrouping to turn back the clock and take another look at the wisdom of the ancients.
What was this wisdom? Dan Blazer (2007) attempts to provide the answer with a cross-cultural study of depression and spirituality:
No discussion of depression and spirituality can be complete without a discussion of depression and culture, for culture and religion/spirituality are so intertwined. The negotiation between religion and culture ranges from ongoing discussions by mainline Christian theologians This is a list of notable Christian theologians. They are listed by century. If a particular theologian crosses over two centuries, they may be listed in the latter century or in the century with which they are best identified.
.Click the link for more information. about the proper stance of religion within culture (1) to commentaries on the dramatic revolts against culture by fundamentalist groups in virtually every religion around the globe. (2) Perhaps of greatest importance for any discussion of depression and spirituality is a discussion of those cultural forces that augment, shape, and perpetuate depression. In many cases, a culturally shaped depression may be manifested as a spiritual crisis or as a challenge.
Ghana, for example, was a place where Margaret Field's ethnographic survey yielded evidence of a cultural link between the depression that accompanied women who "had completed their childbearing years" and belief in…
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