Theorising disruption at the intersection of madness, mental disorder and acute religious experiences: a mad studies approach
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date29/07/2021
This thesis is derived from my own experience that: When I am sane, I am an atheist, but when I am Mad, I am driven by the Hand of God. From this paradoxical position I hypothesise a non-binary Intersection of Madness, Mental Disorder and Acute Religious Experiences. To establish and develop this Intersection I explore the way Madness, Mental Disorder and Acute Religious Experiences have been constructed and how they do and do not construct their referent realities. I explore the interrelation of these ideas showing how these have been addressed, but also remain undertheorised in the Academic disciplines of Psychiatry and Religious Studies. This thesis draws on my experiences but also an extensive bibliography of over six hundred texts split evenly between the sciences and the humanities. I introduce three innovations: 1.) Mad Studies: This approach privileges the voices of those who have experience of Madness. By applying this approach to both Psychiatry and Religious Studies for the first time, traditional models of understanding can be redescribed. 2.) Acute Religious Experiences: I conceptualise these as a distinct category which is competent to address species wide behaviours, in the same way that the categories of ritual or worship are not limited by particular instances. I propose that Acute Religious Experiences as a category is competent to address the full diversity of instances of extreme experiences articulated by humans in ‘religious’ terms. 3.) Disruption: DSM-5 (APA 2013), the dominant psychiatric text, introduces Disruption as a new approach to cultural relativism. I theorise Disruption as a placeholder for the Intersection of Madness, Mental Illness and Acute Religious Experiences. The work of Part II is to develop and establish my theoretical approach. I draw on historical understandings only insofar as they provide context and expose the antecedents on which contemporary understandings of these terms have been constructed. The concern of this thesis is always with the existential states of Disruption and developing my argument that understanding these at the Intersection of Madness, Mental Disorder and Acute Religious Experiences provides new insight and understanding. Part III sets out three very different applications, based on the previous work of theory development: 1.) A critique of contemporary psychiatric research into Religion from a Mad Studies point of view. 2.) An Autoethnographic account of one of my own experiences of Disruption in South India in 1985 and 3.) A radical re-description of the life of the Historical Jesus which becomes possible as a result of my Mad Studies point of view. As the result of the work of this thesis I am able to demonstrate that the non-binary Intersection of Madness, Mental Illness and Acute Religious Experiences provides immediate advantages and also new directions for the Academic disciplines of Psychiatry and Religious Studies and these are set out in my conclusions.