Seth Farber's book, The Spiritual Gift of Madness: The Failure of Psychiatry and the Rise of the Mad Pride Movement, is a very powerful and important book to read, and incidentally is the first book I have been acknowledged in. This was because I've had many email conversations with Seth Farber, which continue,, including on Facebook, and we have shared ideas, and argued over ideas too.
I have talked with him about my long interest in psychedelics and how I see their deep connection to the whole story of the mental illness myth, and hoped he may include this crucially important issue in his book, but he said the subject he was exploring was already controversial enough without inviting more controversy. He does however mention R.D.Laing, who understood psychedelics to be psychotherapeutically healing, and also briefly writes about the psychedelic counterculture of the 1960s.
I am very much respectful of Seth Farber's passion regarding his in-depth critique of the mental health movement, and his writing about such radical characters as R.D.Laing etc, and love how he brings it all together for people to be encouraged to see through the myth of mental illness, as well as his direct style, but as to his ideas of spirituality and its meaning for madness and the world problems, we radically differ, and it is that difference I will want explore in this post.
The Biopsychiatric Model
The books essential power, for me, is how Farber reviews the modern roots of the fascistic biopsychiatric /big phama model. This model came into its own in the 1980s coinciding with the rise of neoliberalism. [Unraveling the Biopsychiatric Knot: the Future History of the Radical Mental Health Movement]
In Farber's former career as a family psychotherapist, where family therapy in the 1960s and 1970s included all family members exploring their own roles as potentially contributing to an oppressive climate which could cause someone 'sensitive' distress, this understanding deteriorated and was replaced with a biopsychiatric implication for them to scapegoat the 'mentally ill' member, and making sure they took their medication.
The 1970s is the same decade where there existed sanctuaries , such as I-Ward, Soteria House, and Diabasis, (founded by John Weir Perry ), provided for people going through extreme states of experience, diagnosed by the psychiatric establishment as "psychosis" and "schizophrenia" , and "manic-depression/bipolar" and combinations.
Sanctuary was where they could find an alternative place of caring and support and love, very unlike the usual psychiatric rigmarole of being locked up, having all their human rights removed, not listened to, disrespected, and drugged, which suppressed emotions and visionary experiences, and therefore the potential to go through powerful natural healing processes .
Even though all of these amazing places of sanctuary were successful in helping people come through extreme states of experience with no medical treatment, or at the most a minimum of drugs, the State and its social-controlling biospsychiatric/big pharma industry monolith had their fundings cut which closed them down!
The Mindfreedom Hunger Strike
Farber devotes a chapter to the - vitally important-to-know-about!!! - exposé by psychiatric survivors from Mindfreedom, who went on a hungerstrike to directly challenge the psychiatric establishment (APA)'s biopsychiatric model, aand for them to provide actual medical evidence which proves 'mental illness' is caused by biochemical disease.
Helping them to analyze APA's evidence were a panel of doctors who are also well-informed critics of the biopsychiatric model. It turns out however that the APA had no medical evidence to prove their case, but only words/language as a device to hide this fact.
When the APA were further challenged on this lack of evidence, they ceased any further conversation and instead put out a press release promoting more propaganda and pseudo medical science to support their biopsychiatric model.
Being Creatively Maladjusted and proud to be mad
In his book, Farber interviews several people all who were diagnosed with various 'mental illnesses', such as 'psychosis', ''schizophrenia', 'bipolar' and combinations, diagnosed by psychiatrists who informed them with great authority that they had real biochemical diseases that would need lifelong medication, and yet they all--bar one (who for reason Seth critiques, still sways in the favour of drugs, yet however has very radical views about the biopsychiatric model) - see through the myth and now are drug free and feeling good, and "creatively maladjusted". This descriptor for what it means to embrace madness is used a lot in Farber's book, and means that our not being able to sope in an insane world for whatever reason is not biochemical illness. It is as much mental illness as it was for those in the old Soviet Union diagnosed as such because they would not accept the Communist State
The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority. [Martin Luther King]
The condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one's mind, is the condition of the normal man. Society highly values its normal man. It educates children to lose themselves and become absurd, and thus to be normal. Normal man has killed perhaps 100, 000, 000 of their fellow normal men in the last 50 years. [The Politics of Experience (1967)]
To be creatively maladjusted is to be proud to be mad. Madness meaning nonconformity to a world that grows more and more insane. To see or mention this insanity is 'dangerous', because this oppressive fascism --which some people (the 'normal ones') may not even be aware of--demands you be content with it, accept it as the "real world", and not question its authority. If you do you just may get militarized police on your case, beating, tasering, microwaving, spraying you, and/or be diagnosed mentally ill; having a biochemical illness which needs the System's chemicals to restore a "chemical imbalance". Their myth of mental illness lets them off! That is the point. It is a blatant social controlling strategy, but believed by many because it has become , with so much authority, massively entrenched in our culture, and even all over the globe now, and spreads like a cancer. It is even targeting more and more children, infants and babies. Better not cry to much as a baby otherwise the shrinks may call you "bipolar" and drug you! But first the loving parents have to be convinced this is true.
I did cry a lot as a baby, my mum tells me, so in such an insane time, I could have been in danger of such ignorance, and drugged with toxic chemicals before I could walk or talk.
"It was Laing , more than any other figure, whose writings provided a basis for the mad to affirm their madness and assert it as a spiritual gift and to question the sanity of normal society", and Seth sees Laing's book, The Politics of Experience as "a basis for Mad Pride".Being proud to be mad, is understanding that your sadness, shyness, and fear, and visions, and energy, and other emotions, and uniqueness, etc, are not biochemical illnesses, but are our unique natures. In regards to distress, human nature in response to problems of living. And in extreme states called--by this biopsychiatric model--"psychosis", "schizophrenia", "bi-polar" and so on---that these are states which are natural , in continuum with usual states of consciousness, and if supported within a community of empathy, love, understanding, care and support, encourages extraordinarily beneficial healing.
These deep experiences also help us see through the insanity of what is happening in our community, and the world ,which is vital for one and all, because there is a need for people to wake up and see what is actually/directly happening! Most 'normal' people who are so-called 'adjusted' to society are blitzed with all forms of propaganda, and other psychological techniques from patriarchal mythology, and occultist sorcery, which is intended to make them not see and feel directly what is going on. That is the point of it, and what it is used for.
When these extreme states of experience are feared, suppressed, and seen as chronic illness, and making people, so deemed defective, addicted lifelong chronic patients of toxic, debilitating, and suppressant drugs , the only people who benefit are the ones making financial profit from this soul-destroying, community-destroying and ecological-destroying evil, the shrinks and especially the pharmaceutical industry who are in service to the corporate State.
Seeing Deeper and rounder
Part of a comment I read and liked:
..."the Earth is clearly, obviously, flat. Except it isn't. To understand the Earth is round, you have to take wider view. The same is true of human culture."
The imposition of 'history' as told by the control-freaks keeps our minds in a linear mode. 'Progress' is the be all and end all as ecosystems which are part of real organic cyclic time are destroyed. A wider view is a deeper view. Psychedelic experience gives this view, and you are suddenly not on the mechanical conveyor belt of linear time any more, but directly aware of the eternal which is spiral, recycling.
This is why understanding how the psychedelics story is so intimately connected with the mental illness myth story is an important part of the puzzle into seeing how the control-freaks create a war on consciousness.
War on psychedelics and consciousness
Both the UN prohibition against psychedelics, even for therapeutic use, and the rise of the biopsychiatric/big pharma model, came about in approximately the same era, the 1970s and '80s.
Before those eras , in the 1950s and early '60s, psychedelics, especially LSD, were being seen as a tool to understand "schizophrenia", and were termed, by the shrinks, psychotomimetic.
It is very important to be aware then, that the psychiatrists who were thinking psychedelics/"psychotomimetics" could help them learn about 'schizophrenia' already presumed that 'schizophrenia' was a biochemical illness!
The new State religion, the Biopsychiatric/Big Pharma Model, would use this un-proven, and later abandoned, psychiatric theory of psychedelic experience mimicking 'psychosis', to push their fear-based propaganda into the public imagination, that taking psychedelics would make you go crazy! This acted as further propaganda as gatekeeper to stop people exploring psychedelics (and also those who were exploring psychedelics from understanding their sacred and healing potential) and consciousnessm and having the potential inspiration to see the insanity of the oppressive culture!
When we do the research, and find out for ourselves that there is no medical science whatsoever to support the theory that various psychological distress (which of course can include psychosomatic distress. For example. blushing is psychosomatic but not a biochemical illness) , and extreme states, are caused by biochemical disease, then we can get a deeper understanding of the relationship between naturally occurring extreme states of consciousness, considered to be 'mental illness', and psychedelic experience, and also get a deeper understanding why the culture wants both fields of experience--and knowledge of-- suppressed, and feared.
Put simply, the insane culture-enforcers do not want us being aware of its insanity, and how it exploits us, and how its oppression causes dis-ease with its fascistic myths and demands, internally and externally. So it is far easier for the State to blame its victims--us-- for being "ill" when rather for quite natural reasons we are unhappy and distressed in varying degrees, and also may see things differently, and want to shout out about what is wrong with this extremely brutal unloving model of 'reality' forced upon us.
In the book, The Spiritual Gift of Madness, Farber calls madness, which can involve mythical visions, and symbolic experience death and rebirth, a "Messianic" force in mad people which ,if understood, supported and allowed can help to dramatically change our world.
His ultimate messiah was Sri Aurobindo who believed that a time will come when a "super divine spirit" will descend and spiritually change the world, including humans, all species, and the 'laws' of nature, from 'bad habitual ways', and will conquer death (also seen as a bad habit), and we shall be made 'immortal'; and Farber relates how Sri Aurobindo's 'prophesy' is cognate with the Christian belief that this will also come to pass when the so-called Second Coming finally arrives.
For me, what Farber believes, influenced by Sri Aurobindo, is also insane thinking, which makes no logical, or natural sense, whatsoever, and I really feel its utter absurdity can undermine all of his great in-depth critique of the mental illness myth!
This is a similar problem I have met before in a different context which I have expored in past blogs. For example, discovering that some of the greatest critics of the mental illness movement would at the same time accept the Scientology cult as their ally, this also disturbed me, and I was sick of being accused of being a Scientologist when I had discussions criticizing biopsychiatry. I was therefore very relieved to contact and speak with Robert Whitaker, author of many great books exposing the mental illness myth, and found he also felt like me, and was very encouraging. Robert Whitaker provides an excellent informative and inspiring website called Mad In America.
If we are going to question the the mental illness myth, this must definitely not stop us questioning other myths that don't make sense, for whatever reason, also. Question everything you feel a need to question. Questioning itself is a dynamic which authoritarianism seldom likes because it tends toward static belief systems of a dualistic nature.
A debate with Seth Farber
In my recent debate with Seth Farber about this great difference between our 'spiritual' views on his Facebook page , which originally began me linking him to a recent interview Charles Shaw gave titled, A Revolution in Consciousness, Farber continues to promote his idealistic vision, also using Rupert Sheldrake's theories of 'morphic resonance', and of how nature's laws are "habits", to argue this means they can potentially change and help bring planet Earth and us 'immortality':
So now we must feel guilty dying, not only living? JUST what we need, more guilt!
"If you are dying – you are unconsciously contributing to the death of everyone around you. You are triggering something called ‘Morphic resonance’ which is a term coined by Rupert Sheldrake in his 1981 book – A New Science of Life." [Seth Farber quote from above mentioned FB page)
All I can say to that is it is a good thing nature has the 'habit' of putting the anus in the right place for all species! I won't say anymore.
His views regarding this are typically patriarchal and New Age. When you survey all the patriarchal myths you see they all, one way or another, blame Mother Nature. The patriarchal 'vision' and thinking always associates nature with the 'feminine' and assumes itself superiority as the 'masculine spirit or consciousness':
Dualism in solar-patriarchal thinking
In mythology one of the roots of this patriarchal hatred and fear of Nature is recorded in the epic Babylonian mythic epic, the Enuma Elish. In this story, the hero warrior-god, Marduk, attacks and murders the Great Serpent Goddess of Chaos, Tiamat, and from her corpse fashions his City State which for his ego means the whole world and universe. However, because "Chaos" cannot really be killed "he" must continually kill 'her', all that his ego fears as 'other':
When Keller discusses the implications of the Enuma Elish for women, selfhood, and the body, she claims that this text expresses a phobia of the mother that is turned into matricidal aggression. This ultimately results in the almost universal association of destruction preceding creation.58 Referring to Paul Ricoeur, Keller notes that through the Enuma Elish a cycle of myths that require the continual vanquishing of the enemy is born.59 This is a theology of war in which the primordial enemy is a woman and her destruction does not accidentally coincide with the onset of patriarchy.60 This suggests to Keller that the destruction of Tiamat represents the destruction of respect for women and the body as well as the usurpation of a tradition based in immanence by one which upholds transcendence as a model for divinity. Hence, every self that has emerged through the paradigm we are criticizing "posits the Other as an object, an opponent, in order to become itself; the transformation of women and other aliens into monsters illustrates all too well this process of oppositional transcendence. [Chapter 3: The Feminist Critique of the Separated Self , quoting Catherine Keller's ideas]
In Old Iranian mythology, Zoroastrianism, there is the belief in the duality between 'good' and 'evil', and
that if one 'purifies' themselves they belong to the good , Ahura Mazda (Illuminating Wisdom). They believe there will come a time when all evil, represented by Angra Mainyu (Destructive Spirit), will be destroyed and the physical body, and nature, and all nature will become "pure" again, an event called Frashokereti.
The Mystery schools, of which the first includes the Orphic Mysteries, and later Gnosticism, etc, believed the physical body was a trap of the "divine spirit" which sought escape from the body and nature, and desired a return to its 'spiritual home' beyond the seven planets which, in various Gnostic belief, were gatekeepered by evil supernatural 'jail warden' entities known as the Archons.
So, for the Solar Mysteries (which favoured light over darkness), "purification" either completed in this life, or if needed via many lifetimes, would eventually get you the reward of release from the physical body, and/or of being born from mother's womb, and thus from Mother Nature.
Plato was influenced by his initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries, ""the ultimate design of the Mysteries … was to lead us back to the principles from which we descended, … a perfect enjoyment of intellectual [spiritual] good." and hence we get the inevitable dualism in his philosophy known as platonic dualism.
Plato viewed nature as inferior to his intellectually-realized 'Realm of Forms' or Ideas, because of the nature of change experienced in the former, as opposed to the image he had of the unchanging (static) nature he assumed of his abstracted thinking.
In the monotheistic Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam these all were influenced by earlier patriarchal mythologies and solar-esoteric Mystery cults. In the western world's mythology of Christianity, as Farber also relates, there is a belief that nature is 'fallen', and it was mythical character, Eve, who brought death into 'God's' immortal Garden of Eden; and in the same mythology (which is insisted to be an historic religion) there is the promise of a 'Second Coming' following which, dead bodies will be resurrected, and they and all of nature shall be made spiritually pure and immortal.
In the ancient Greek Polytheistic Olympian mythology, it denounces more ancient gods who had animal and plant attributes which were deeply connected with mind-altering vegetation, and reified pumped-up superhuman 'immortal' gods on Mount Olympus, distant and aloof from us mere 'mortals'.
In other words, in typical patriarchal conceptual myth-making fashion (as social control) they dissect and divide what in reality are dynamic wholes such as both 'mortality' and 'immortality' being spiral reality of being. The renewing of life through death. Patriarchal mindSETS will/can not accept this because they have divided themselves from nature, and feeling, via their thinking which includes psychologically analyzing/dissecting concepts into opposing lists and considering one list superior over the other list, and mis-taking this conceptual operation for reality.
The patriarchal version of 'immortality' is the absurd belief of actually living in one form for ever and ever and ever...etc. Stasis. And that idea, sadly, is what I see Seth Farber doing with his belief in a future time when we--including all nature-- are to be 'made immortal'.
It is an ironic and absurd idea with no comprehension that death is of a dynamic with lifeanddeath, like a multidimensional warp and woof , or two serpents twining round each other in an eternal dance where you couldn't possibly have one without the other.
If I say some thing has a 'front' and a 'back', they are abstract terms which explain a dynamic which has a front and back, or back and front depending on your interpretation. But directly experienced it is not a separate 'front' and 'back' which could be independent of each other but a whole event which we then can conceptually claim has a 'front' and a 'back, but they're just terms we use to describe a whole event.
Just the motion of my arm involves the 'death' of the motion which is the movement. All the cells in my body are dying all the time cyclically as new ones form, and of course there being cycles within cycles, eventually my body dies and new bodies arrive as I die. Flowers, plants, trees, organisms in the soil partly thriving on death and decay. Ecosystems within ecosystems. Spirals within spirals. In Seth Farber's 'purified' world we wouldnot see any dead leaf which in death can be as as beautiful as in life! In Farber's 'immortal' world would we have the death of leaves?
...Fungi are the decomposers of our planet. Without their role in death and decay there would be no life. Psilocybin, like all fungus, plays this role as well. By guiding us into the emotive-psychosynthesis of emotional repression, it decomposes the shadow and unlocks nutrients contained within it to feed the soil of psychospiritual growth. They take us on a journey through and beyond the death and decay of repression, into the fertile grounds of budding maturity, courage, and confidence..." [Decomposing The Shadow: Lessons From The Psilocybin Mushroom , by James W Jesso]
What about the secular world? The world where many atheists believe "when your dead your dead", and the scientific belief that eventually the sun will burn itself out, as stars do, and that will be the end of all life? But of course this is really revealing that the cycles of life and death are shared throughout the universe!
There is the belief that technology will be the 'messiah' or saviour, and this secular idealism (though also covertly including the occult) is called Transhumanism or H+, for short, . This myth shares the same criteria as the other patriarchal myths but the motifs are often more unconscious. There is still the same desire to conquer disease, and death, and totally control nature and the universe, because they see evolution as too slow and it is their 'superior' role to 'upgrade' 'Her'.
For Seth Farber madness involves the messianic prophecy of this idealism, and as it must be very clear now, we completely disagree about this, so what then does madness mean to me?
Sacred mushroom god of divine madness, Dionysos
We definitely agree that madness is not biochemical illness, because there does not exist any scientific medical tests to prove this. So what is madness then?
When someone is extremely sad, very anxious, fearful, having tremendous energy followed by utter deflation, having mythical visions, hearing voices---what is all this behaviour and feeling meaning?
I would first answer with the question, what does so-called 'normality' mean?
LOOK at actually what is going on in this world which we are told by authority is supposed to be 'normal'! However, when a person directly looks at it without the usual intellectual distance, the world can be profoundly disturbing. When you see little children and innocent adults as victims of the never-ending wars, and little ones who have suffered horrific DNA damage due to the weapons and chemicals being used by the warmongers and their soldiers, and the terrible poverty a great proportion of the population of Earth are having to 'live' in, and what is happening to other species, and the natural world, it is all extremely upsetting.
So the troubles in the world do affect us in deep ways even though some people try and keep this distance, but then the emotions and feelings go unconscious. I would dare anyone to take a psychedelic and experience looking at a child so affected by war, and resulting DNA damage caused by the weapons, and fall-out of war. It is hard enough observing this ordinarily (I cannot look directly at this for longger than few seconds!). Psychedelics often dissolve the intellectual distance many people have been 'educated' in to distance their feelings from reality, but when seen with naked eyes and heart and suddenly you are that poor being who is actual experiencing that horror now, it is a different story.
“What both Freud and Jung called “the unconscious” is simply what we, in our historically conditioned estrangement, are unconscious of. It is not necessarily or essentially unconscious.I am not merely spinning senseless paradoxes when I say that we, the sane ones are out of our minds. The mind is what the ego is unconscious of. We are unconscious of our minds.Our minds are not unconscious. Our minds are conscious of us. Ask yourself who and what it is that dreams our dreams. Our unconscious minds? The Dreamer who dreams our dreams knows far more of us than we know of it." [The Psychedelic Review, R.D.Laing]
There is deep worry and trauma about what is happening to planet Earth. Earth is our home, and we are born into it /out of it. We are nature, We depend on air to breathe, warmth, light and darkness, and water to drink, and food and so on. So if our very home and being, and those who we love, are threatened by all the insanity around threatening the very fabric of life so are we! And this worry will affect our psyche even though for some on an un-conscious level. For the creatively maladjusted we feel it deeply.
Together with those deeply serious problems there are the personal problems--personal relationships, money, destructive habits to try and escape what we feel, and so on. Worrying about our loved ones, loss, abuse, and problems if living. Problems of even having problems and sharing about them for fear of being judged to be 'mentally ill', and what can happen to us socially, and physically, when we admit we cannot cope, or are experiencing things not acceptable, and feared, by this culture, . These are real problems, and yet the culture looks at us as being biochemical robots, and thus there is no real feeling, no love. We are abused and so many of us abuse others because that is all we know.
Even the so-called choices we have to get help from 'psych-iatry and psycho-logy, both terms respectively meaning etymologically, "a healing of the soul," and "study of the soul", is from these 'healers' who do not even believe in soul, in feeling. They rather conform to the biopsychiatric mechanistic model which sees us as a skin-bags of chemicals, and electrical interactions, manifesting 'behaviour', that can 'breakdown' and need their drugs/chemicals to 'treat' it and 'restore its chemical balance' and bring it back to 'normal' again, and/or maintain it chemically so it can fit into and 'cope' in this insane world they themselves are con-forming to.
In his book, Farber will rightly encourage that we must question the mental illness myth, which he most certainly does do in depth, yet he has a blindspot for other patriarchal myths which I see as totally interrelated with the myth of mental illness, and are important to know about to understand its origins, meaning, and the mindsets pushing it. To understand the mental illness myth we have to understand patriarchal thinking past and present in all its guises.
Farber's belief that nature is 'imperfect'/caught in bad habits' and in need of being put right by some descending 'super-spirit' is linear, and lapsarian,. having the presupposition that nature is 'fallen', both human nature but also other species, and nature itself, and therefore there is proffered the promise of some idealistic future to put-it-right.
NOW we are 'imperfect' until we are made 'perfect' and live happily ever after. So in other words, first create a 'problem' and then offer the 'solution', and put the solution in some future date or times. Isn't that what '2012' was all about? Another new age 'hope'.
So what then?
If, as I am saying all that idealism is false promise, and yet the fact is that there is a vast oppression over all of us, including all other species and planet Earth by insane groups in control, how are we to understand all this, and what can happen to resolve such insanity. And what part does madness play in this?
As stated, I see the premise of Seth Farber's idealism to be lapsarian which means it is depending on nature, and human nature, and animals nature to be flawed to start off with, and needing some 'outer' supernatural event to change it to a more purified version. Why is this idea different in essence from the biopsychiatric model which from its own materialistic perspective sees those of us who do not do what it demands for the good of the State as biochemically flawed? Is there not a correlation between these supposed different worldviews? One sees us flawed materialistically and psychologically, and the other spiritually and physically. But what if we understand that nature and the body and our natures are sacred? But if nature is sacred how come the oppression?
THINKING!!! 'Thinking' when it becomes divided from heart, and soul, empathy, feeling.
Didn't one of this soul-dead civilization's 'heroic-thinkers', Rene Descartes, think 'I think therefore I am'? And from that thinking he caused animals he came into contact with excruciating pain and abuse , because his thinking saw them as robots! So, I am seeing it that it is not so much bad habits of the natural world, including the body and senses which is at fault and needing radical change, but rather bad habits of thinking when such thinking creates divisive dualistic ideas and acts on them causing misery, abuse, and destruction.