Soul in Exile: Schizophrenia, Jung & a Psychiatric Evaluation of Psychiatry

by Maureen B. Roberts, PhD

The healing of schizophrenia as 'soul in crisis' cannot be bottled into pills, or bestowed by applying information acquired through a university medical degree. As the great physician of the soul C. G. Jung demonstrated in his own psychiatric practice, it is an art requiring empathy, patience, a shrewd yet sympathetic understanding of human nature and, above all, heart.

Add to such desirable qualities gut intuition, healthy instincts, respect for nature, an intimate, working knowledge of the dynamics, rhythms of the psyche, a sense of humour, plus a humble willingness to renounce rigid theories, preconceived ideas, control and authority and you have what I call 'soul-centred psychiatry,' in many ways the antithesis of what Medicare funds in Australia: the biologic, or drug-based psychiatry which, for most of us, is the only brand of psychiatry we have encountered, or are otherwise aware of.

As a result of biologic psychiatry's failure to heal soul through understanding, midwifing and validating schizophrenic crises, all too often sufferers elude the net of community 'care' - the latter, alas, often a euphemism for human rights abuse in the guise of forced treatment - leaving in their wake a trail of chaos and tragedy. Why do they nonetheless refuse medication? Why are we failing to meet the needs of this alarmingly large percentage (at least 1%) of the population?

In an attempt to answer this question, I wish to make clear at the outset that this is not a book which offers cheap and easy solutions, or rigid, foolproof methods based on convenient stereotyping and clinical labelling. Likewise, this book does not overly concern itself with the pros and cons of antipsychotic medications, again primarily because my conviction is that broader and deeper cultural concerns first need to be addressed before the issue of medication can be re-examined in a new light which takes into account the psychospiritual dimensions of schizophrenia, in particular the creative and destructive ambivalence of the powerful energies at work in schizophrenic experiences.

Psychiatric Persecution

Before turning to these vital concerns, as a soul-centred psychiatric therapist who shares many of Jung's views, values and concerns, I stress that I am, above all else, appalled by the suffering, persecution and despair of schizophrenia sufferers doped up, or forcefully injected with unwanted, damaging drugs and left to wander the streets, cope alone, endure electroconvulsive shock 'therapy', contemplate suicide, or shuffle along antiseptic corridors. I am disturbed, as well, by the many tales told to me by relatives who have been patronized, dismissed, or laughed at by mental health professionals, when they have shared concerns that their schizophrenic child's spiritual experiences, crises, values and needs were not being validated, addressed, or taken seriously.

Other wounded and fragile folk tell me heart-rending tales of being short-changed with dismissive and abrupt consultations, near-instant diagnoses and hastily offered prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs. Almost none are told about natural healing alternatives, or about the well-documented toxic side-effects of psychiatric drugs. Most are not told that these 'medications' will never heal them; instead, they are often advised that they may have to stay on these brain-disabling drugs for the rest of their lives. Little wonder that so many sufferers end up feeling hopeless, sick, trapped, betrayed, disempowered and suicidal.

Still others have shared tales of their schizophrenic friends or children running away to forests to escape forced treatment at the hands of psychiatrists who, disputing the overwhelming reality of their patient's inner life, refuse to pay serious heed to the often mythic, symbolic, initiatory, ritualistic and religious content of schizophrenia as a psychospiritual crisis - and as a valid mode of perception and consciousness.

Jung & Schizophrenia

Eighty-odd years ago, Jung voiced his deep concern that the powerful, often vivid, chaotic and disturbing psychology of schizophrenia, which he had so painstakingly chartered and honoured throughout the many years he treated and healed schizophrenia sufferers, had not been given the respect and serious attention it deserved.  He likewise lamented the appalling lack of knowledge of the psychology of schizophrenia among those of his own profession, a situation which has changed precious little today.

Sadly, however, Jung's vast body of invaluable work has fallen for the most on hostile ground and deaf ears, ironically in psychiatric circles, largely because Jung's respect for 'the reality of the psyche' and its religious, mythic and spiritual needs, dimensions and instincts poses a threat to the materialist bias that underscores drug-based, or biologic psychiatry, but also because his personally demanding and soul-centred approach to psychiatry is radically at odds with the detached 'illusion of expertise' on which biologic psychiatry's mask of authority, presumed sanity, and stagnant wasteland of 'brain chemistry' dogma are shakily grounded.

In place of dry textbook knowledge learned by rote, Jung gives precedence to living primary experience, hence his assertion that we understand nothing psychologically unless we've experienced it. In this sense, the people who know most about schizophrenia are the sufferers themselves, followed closely by those who have 'been there' and have pulled themselves out of a psychosis and so 'know the road'. Such folk, as invaluable 'wounded healers', can therefore often guide others groping along similar roads, or pull people out of the quagmires and tricky labyrinths of psychosis.

Equal Therapeutic Dialogue

In place of the practitioner's mask of fatherly authority, Jung puts the mutual vulnerability, openness, imaginal richness, honesty and trust of the therapeutic dialogue, in which patient and therapist confront one another on equal terms and through which both stand to learn and grow. In place of forced treatment, hasty consultations and toxic psychiatric drugs, Jung puts a trust in nature, unconscious wisdom and the healing which, residing in the 'patient patient', is catalysed and midwifed by the caring therapist. No wonder he poses a threat to those who esteem power, professional detachment, diplomas, diagnostic manuals and drug company profits over the empowerment, equality, freedom, healing and dignity of the patient.

Needless to say, there are other closely related and equally grave moral issues at stake here. For instance, imagine, if you will, that a reputable medical practitioner had come forward with evidence of a safe, natural cure for cancer, but that the medical establishment had ignored the evidence and, worse still, had kept the findings from cancer sufferers for fear of losing income and power through their monopoly over the provision of existing anti-cancer 'treatments', which do not heal. By the same token, Jung - and others who have followed in his wake - cured his schizophrenic patients with psychotherapy alone. The tragedy of the 'mental health crisis' is not only, then, that so many already fragile and wounded people have been damaged and driven to suicide; what is equally tragic is that all along, there have existed natural, re-empowering, healing alternatives to psychiatric drugs; alternatives which biologic psychiatry, the Government, Schizophrenia Fellowships and drug companies have in a morally disgraceful way ignored, or deliberately kept from sufferers and the public.

Soul-centred Psychiatry

Elaborating on and further developing Jung's pioneering work, I therefore offer a similarly soul-centred psychiatric perspective from which to view, engage with and respond to both schizophrenia and the materialist psychiatry which has failed miserably in its attempts to meet the deeper needs of soul which schizophrenia sufferers cry out for. Indeed, as will hopefully become clear, one way of looking at schizophrenia is to see it as soul's attempt to draw attention to needs which it is starved of within our predominantly materialist, rational, extraverted and ordered culture.

Accordingly, my focus on 'soul' in no way negates the importance of physical factors, but is rather a much-needed compensation for, or counterbalance to our culture's overemphasis of the material and corresponding undervaluation of its opposite, spirit. As Jung made clear, it is impossible, without resorting to circular reasoning, to prove an exclusively physical or psychological origin for schizophrenia in the first place, so again, I shall be steering clear of 'proof', partly because it is an unavoidable psychological axiom that there is no such thing as objective proof in the field of psychiatry, which is riddled with subjectivity, in the first place.

In this respect, the inadequacies, illusion of objectivity and prejudices of materialist, or biologic psychiatry arise, as Jung suggested, from its homage to an obsolete, late nineteenth century materialist dogma which presumes that all 'mental illness' is caused by faulty brain chemistry or structure, hence that it can be remedied with the often forced administration of band-aiding chemicals. The obvious and crucial point to be made here is that when anyone, including a psychiatrist, claims that a materialistic explanation of mental illness is 'scientific', or 'medical', thereby implying that any other paradigm or perspective is not, this is, quite simply, a delusion, or outright lie. To put it plainly, materialism is not equivalent to science, or medicine per se; it is, rather, and as Jung (himself a scientist and doctor) made clear, a metaphysical prejudice.

Biologism vs Wholism

The nineteenth century French psychiatrists Esquirol and Bayle prepared the way for the biologic dogma which still underpins every psychiatry textbook today:"Mental illnesses are physical diseases of the brain." Esquirol discovered that shrinkage of brain tissue accompanied the paralysis of the insane; Gall around the same time discovered lesions in the lower left frontal convolution appeared in cases of the loss of speech. Wernicke later located the centre of speech in the left temporal lobe. The Viennese psychiatrist Meynert discovered that alteration of the blood supply to some cortical areas played a key role in the origin of psychosis. The quest to find an origin in faulty brain structure for every mental illness was hence underway, and continues with no lack of quasi-religious fervour today. In other words, what has happened here from a soul-centred perspective is an enantiodromia, or spontaneous reversion of one extreme to its denied opposite, which occurs when one pole of any dynamic duality is pushed to its extreme for long enough. For many hundreds of years the 'spiritual' explanation prevailed, until its shadow side, or opposite, materialism, was finally triggered and from then on preached with no less dogmatic zeal and blinker-visioned one-sidedness.

Jung, after his later work on synchronicity, or the acausal and wholistic mirroring of mind and matter, would of course have argued that to reduce psychosis to a physical explanation is to assume the physical causation of psychic events; that is to assume, firstly, that the physical is primary and the psychic derived, or secondary; secondly that causality is the only valid explanatory framework in which to explore such matters. But from the equally valid perspective of synchronicity, every physical event has a psychic component, every psychic one a physical 'mirror', since the two extremes form the poles of a wholistic continuum, whose underlying ground is a (hypothetical) unitary matrix of being.

Opposed to the wholism of synchronicity is the radical dualism of matter and spirit, through which one pole or the other inevitably becomes privileged. As the reverse of materialism, the view that mental illness was the work of evil spirits prevailed until the end of the nineteenth century, such that the patient was considered to be possessed and treatment included exorcism by a priest. A more ancient view was that every sickness was the revenge of an offended and angry deity, a perspective which has returned in a new guise and on a new wholistic level of awareness with the emphasis in 'archetypal psychology' circles on what I call 'mythic contextualization'. The latter, as a perspective which endows suffering with meaning and direction, involves placing the wound in the context of whatever universally human themes, or mythological patterns of response to pain have been constellated through and reside in the wound. More will be said about myth as a dramatization of wounding and healing later on.

Returning to the dogmatic, or metaphysically biased underpinning of biologic psychiatry, I hope it will become clearer as this discussion unfolds that everything we say, believe, devalue, negate, feel, hate and fear is ultimately psychic, that is, riddled with unspoken assumptions, cultural bias, unconscious influences, unresolved conflicts and quirks of personality. There can consequently be no reliable psychiatric critique of psychiatry and schizophrenia without such hidden agendas being brought to light.

Psychiatry's Spiritual Shadow

From a soul-centred medical perspective, there is, for starters, a pressing need to tackle the dubious notions of sanity and madness that fuel the fiction of (sick) schizophrenia sufferer versus (sane, or healthy) psychiatrist, and in doing so empower and immune from criticism, or psychiatric evaluation the latter camp at the expense of the former. From the equally valid schizophrenic perspective - and bearing in mind that schizophrenia sufferers are often brilliant, insightful and shrewd folk - it is the psychiatrist who may be ill, abnormal, ignorant and in need of help.

In a nutshell, biologic psychiatry has betrayed us by failing to honour soul and address its vast kaleidoscope of needs. A psychiatry which hides behind its mask of fatherly authority, which speaks with a dull textbook drone and whose only mode of articulation is a dusty list of sanitized terms neatly arranged in a Diagnostic Manual, has nothing to say to soul. Soul speaks the vibrant tongue of myth, poetry and imagination, not the sterile jargon of  brain chemistry' dogma.  A soul-centred psychiatric evaluation of psychiatry accordingly unmasks ways in which biologic psychiatry projects its denied spiritual opposite, or hated 'shadow' side, onto patients - usually with disastrous consequences. As such, biologic psychiatry is not only unwilling to acknowledge the existence of the various kinds of spiritual crises that are wrongly labelled as 'mental illness', but - even more harmfully and threateningly for the patient - is also unable to distinguish such crises from much rarer instances of dangerous insanity.

The dire result is that people manifesting 'spirit' through non-violent psychoses and acute personal crises are often feared and, through the psychological equivalent of a witch-hunt, hounded, exorcised (through drugs), or imprisoned (incarcerated in hospitals), all under the euphemistic guise of 'treatment', hence all the more agonizing to the suffering individual. In other words, what was once persecution, patronizing and bigotry rationalized openly in the name of religious orthodoxy, is now in principle the same fear and intolerance donning the equally dogmatic 'wolf in sheep's clothing' guise of medical 'care'. The outcome is that many sufferers become victims of cultural scapegoating, in the same way that medieval women accused of being witches became the scapegoats of patriarchal Christianity's rejection of the natural, irrational, polytheistic and feminine facets of life. (As a mode of consciousness, schizophrenia, as we shall later explore in depth, celebrates the natural, feminine, irrational and polytheistic energies of soul).

Schizophrenia vs Soulless Psychiatry

All in all, only a psychiatry that has deep respect for the psyche, its need and impulse to embrace and explore the realms of myth, dream and visionary reality, with all their danger, wonder, power and unpredictability, will have anything of value to offer or interest the schizophrenia sufferer. As the alter ago, or shadow side of spiritual schizophrenia, biologic psychiatry's lack of vision and imagination is at odds with schizophrenia's wealth in these arenas; its obsession with order conflicts with the divine chaos, or 'dis-order' that upset neatly-stacked psychiatric applecarts; its clinical rationality wars with schizophrenia's irrational scattering, multiple focus and sense of dismemberment; its impersonal detachment alienates schizophrenia's intensely personal and empathic involvement with the world and the unconscious, against which the sufferer's self-protective dam of unique personal identity has collapsed; its toxic medications, spawned by the delusion that nature can be controlled, combat the schizophrenic person's deep need to commune with nature. Through schizophrenia, in other words, pathologizing, scattered, introverted and empathic soul defies the presumed health of soulless psychiatry.

For the sad truth is that psychiatry is spiritually bankrupt. No longer is its concern with the 'cure of souls', but rather with the scapegoating of its own sickness through the projection of its own neurotic split (conscious materialism vs an unconscious religious instinct), euphemistically disguised as 'treatment', onto the patient. Its chief and largely unconscious concern is thus not with healing, but with the justification of its materialistic dogma, which is achieved via clever circular reasoning. This pseudo-medical game is played out along the following lines, to draw on a familiar patient-practitioner situation: a psychotic patient who is posing no threat to others claims to be experiencing visions of angels, therefore the patient must be delusional, since there's no such thing as angels. In other words, an experience which from an equally valid (spiritual) angle could be described as a spiritual emergency, awakening, or initiation, is conveniently labelled as delusional, or imaginary in order to justify psychiatric materialistic dogma. (Note how from the equally valid spiritual perspective, it is therefore materialistic psychiatry which is delusional).

Soul Loss vs Soulful Sickness

We can further explore this inversion of perspective by means of asking and answering some simple questions in the context of soul-centred psychiatry. Once the penny drops here and we lift the curtain on the drama being played out behind the presumptuous opposition of 'sane psychiatrist' versus 'mad' schizophrenic', we are then free to re-evaluate the entire situation from a soulful perspective.

Is the schizophrenia sufferer sick? Answer: Yes and no (since everything about schizophrenia is ambivalent, or paradoxical). In what way? The sufferer's conscious personality, or sense of distinctive self is overwhelmed by powerful forces from the collective unconscious, which invade, or swamp consciousness and make it hard for the schizophrenic person to distinguish inner from outer reality, or to distance themselves from the unconscious.

Is biologic psychiatry sick? Answer: Yes. In what way? It is suffering from loss of soul, a neurotic split, repression, denial, delusions, phobia and paranoia toward whatever touches on the sacred, mythic and spiritual, or irrational, unconscious, introverted and disordered. (Note how many 'mental illnesses' are labelled as 'disorders'.)

At this point, I refer the reader to a brief and preliminary overview of schizophrenia from my own soul-centred perspective and with additional reference to Jung. Go to: "Schizophrenia: Your Questions Answered".


Text extracted from
Divine Madness: Schizophrenia, Cultural Healing &
Psychiatry's Loss of Soul, c. 2001 Darknight Publications by Maureen B.
Roberts. Not to be reproduced whole or in part without the author's
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