“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.” Acts 9:3-5, excerpt from The Holy Bible, NIV edition.
Religious stories are full of people hearing “voices” from the unknown and interacting with spiritual beings. We marvel at these stories, wondering what it would be like to receive prophetic messages, wondering why it suddenly stopped happening. Or did it? There is a place between dreaming and consciousness when some of us hear, well, “voices.” Perhaps distinct words and phrases, perhaps mumblings. Be honest with yourself; how many times have you heard people talking or someone calling your name when no one else was physically present?
Ron Coleman brings up this point in his effort to normalize the experience of hearing voices. Auditory hallucinations, if you want to get technical. Ron should know. He has heard seven voices since his early 20’s and has come to live at peace with them. Too many individuals, says Ron, are wrongly diagnosed with Schizophrenia because they hear voices. If you heard mostly negative voices all day, every day, at some point your reaction to them would look similar to the diagnostic criteria for Schizophrenia.
Our society today doesn’t seem to tolerate people who converse with themselves out loud very well. That alone seems indicative of some serious mental disorder that we should avoid. Yet, most of us probably speak to ourselves, or speak to a higher power, or speak to something out there. We may even hear whispers from the “other” dimension. If Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus happened today, how do you think you would react to it? Awe, Disbelief, Fear? Realistically, he would be slapped with a diagnosis of paranoia and sent for mental health treatment. But…treatment for what?
Perhaps the spiritual experience is becoming so forgotten and foreign that it seems abnormal. I sometimes wonder how far the pendulum can swing before we lose our sense of mystery and possibility. It’s almost as if Reality and Spirituality are on opposite sides of a continuum that continues to be stretched like a long piece of taffy. Yet, beyond our perceptions and judgments, do the voices we secretly hear make us delusional, or do they just make us human?
*Want to learn more about Ron Coleman? Find his blog here.
The Spirit of Therapy
Where psychotherapy interacts with our mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and relational wellbeing.