Eco-Doom or Redemption: The Mad Movement and the Sixties' Counter-Culture Project


My recently published book The Spiritual Gift of Madness: The Failure of Psychiatry and the Rise of the Mad Pride Movement is based upon an unusual proposition, which is at the heart of the conviction that inspires the book: Many of those persons who have been labeled "mentally ill" by the psychiatric system — whom I prefer to call mad persons — have had spiritual experiences or visions, often messianic, and thus they have an important contribution to make to the  redemption of humanity, to the redemption of  the earth. Or to put it in other words, many of them could be the prophets or midwives of the new age, the messianic age.  I cannot help but recall the often repeated words of the first mad person I ever met (this was during my college years, decades ago): "I am the mother of the new messianic age."

Messianism originated in the Western world with Judaism. Martin Buber, generally considered the greatest Jewish philosopher of the 20th century, believed messianism was Judaism's "most profoundly original idea" (Lowy 47-70) The "coming of the Messiah," understood literally by Jewish people for centuries, was for Buber, a non-observant but pious Jew and a socialist, a metaphor for the advent of messianic age,  to be brought about by God and man. As Buber saw it messianism was Judaism's  gift to humanity  

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessey, a Christian philosopher (a Jewish convert) and contemporary of Buber's, described the emergence of the messianic sensibility, "Unlike other tribal or imperial people the Jews broke with the narrative that life and death, peace and war were inevitable cycles. Instead of merely longing for a lost golden age, they staked their entire existence on a future reign of righteousness and peace" (Cristuado 247). The historian of religion Mircea Eliade has noted that human beings from the beginning of history have been haunted by the mythical remembrance of a pre-historical happiness, a golden age — thus we harbor an abiding nostalgia for paradise.  Judaism was the first religion to convert this nostalgia into the belief that this mythical paradise will be realized in history as the Kingdom of God on earth.  History is the realm of redemption.

According to messianic thinkers, both Jewish and Christian, our state of conflict with the world, our mortality and suffering is not a permanent human condition but is a result of our historical estrangement from God. The Kingdom of God, the reunion of God and humanity, is the remedy: "For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).  Buber emphasized that this was not a matter of gradual progress  but something "sudden and immense" (Lowy 52). In Isaiah God says, "I create new heavens and a new earth." The long awaited age of peace and happiness is called the "day without evening" in Eastern Christianity, thus connoting a state of immortality. Even in the Indian Vedas we find evidence of the messianic longing in the symbol of a new beginning also connoting immortality, "the eternal dawn." The messianic age is universally described as the union of heaven and earth.

More than any other religious Jewish thinker, Buber placed the active participation of human beings — as God's partners — at the heart of messianism. "God has no wish for any other means of perfecting his creation than by our help. He will not reveal his Kingdom until we have laid its foundations" (Farber 90). In  the early 1920s Buber stated, "We are living in an unsaved world, and we are waiting for redemption in which we have been called upon to participate in a most unfathomable way" (Lowy 53). Buber regarded Jesus as a great Jewish prophet but not the messiah — because we have not been saved.  Christians think Jesus will come again to usher in the Kingdom of God, and esoteric Christians like Carl Jung (Pinchbeck 2007) think those in whom the Christ consciousness is born will complete Jesus' work. In any case although Buber's interpretation of Christianity is questionable, some of his comments still ring true — we are living in an unsaved world, and we are still longing for redemption.

In 1926 Buber wrote that the Jewish people were "the human community" that is the carrier of "the messianic expectation . . . this belief in the still-to-be-accomplished . . . world redemption" (Lowy 53). But today it is not the Jews who hold this expectation. Sadly Jews betrayed their claim to be the messianic people when they substituted the tribalist project of the creation of the Jewish state of Israel for the universal reign of peace and justice (Farber, 2005). 

Today it is the mad who are the carriers of the messianic expectation. Not all of them, probably not most of them, but some of them, many of them.  I believe that those among the mad who embrace their madness and proudly affirm it, those who cherish their messianic visions and mystical experiences, will be the leaders of the messianic transformation of which humanity has dreamed for centuries. This is why I am advocating a new "third wing," a messianic wing of the Mad Pride movement.

When Faith Rhyne, a diagnosed "psychotic," found herself communing with God three years ago she was so overwhelmed by awe and amazement that she wrote a letter to a priest in a church in Rome she found on the Internet, St. Paul's Outside-The-Walls. "Today, the trees leading into this town were lit in gold and I saw all of God's kingdom held in their branches and I am sad that nobody will see these things." Faith's  epiphany engendered the impetus for her to take her message to the world — she was sad others were not aware of — would not see — the holiness of the world.  

But her sadness disappeared as she  continued to write, "A great dam broke within me and the words came tumbling into my head and my hands shook and my heart expanded. I came back to life." But no one answered her letter. She wrote again and again. She wondered, "Am I not using the right words, am I not telling it like it ought to be told? I tell it as I am inspired to tell it. How much evidence does the world need? I wrote the truth and I explained why it is true and, I'm sorry, but the fact is that I likely had one of the most holy experiences of the modern times and nobody cares. The churches don't think I'm an appropriate messenger and, I'll tell you, that is proof that they fail in their understanding and respect of God and how it works."

Faith was not an elitist, not a "narcissist" as the psychiatrists say. She did not think she was better than others. Nor did she  have an "inadequate" sense of self, as the psychoanalysts would say. The psychiatrists do not understand the prophetic calling — thus they interpret it as narcissism. Faith was thinking along the lines of St Paul: "The wisdom of the world is foolishness in God's sight" (I Corinthians 3;18) And "God chose the  foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong" (I Corin 1:26-8). She wrote, "God as I experienced it is not the Anglocentric God of old books. God has a sense of humor and is a brilliant surrealist."
Faith's mystical state of communion with God did not lead her to retreat to the cloisters.

She wanted to give witness. She felt it was her mission. It is her mission. "I stood on the top of a hill and I held my fist to the sky as the dark clouds rolled in, dense and writhing. ‘Thy will be done,' I spoke with my voice deep and caught in the force of my conviction. I wrote the Arabic word for peace in the dirt with a stick, facing east. I let the rain fall." And so the hard rain fell purifying the earth as Faith accepted her calling.

Had Faith gone to see the local psychiatrist and told him that God spoke to her, he/she would have placed her back in the loony bin. The psychiatrists are the Priesthood of a materialistic society. As psychiatric heretic Thomas Szasz said, "If you talk to God, you're praying. If God talks to you, you're a schizophrenic." The prophet is viewed as "psychotic," as was Jesus. Faith knew that. Like all prospective prophets she felt called. She wrote, "I knew that I had been chosen for something and I knew what I had been chosen for and God affirmed all that was bright in my heart and made it solidly golden." Had she told that to a psychiatrist he would pushed her to take psychotropic drugs to help her adjust to a reality in which the trees do not hold the kingdom of God in their branches, a world in which our leaders keep making bigger and better bombs. Like Faith many of the mad have had messianic visions, they are carriers of the messianic expectation.  

In  the beginning of American republic, Christianity was the carrier of messianic expectations. Living in the 20th century many young counter-cultural rebels do not realize how radical Christianity once was as a popular counter-cultural movement. I discussed this in my book on Mad Pride. American Christianity rebelled against its Calvinist roots after the Revolution — it rejected the idea of original sin and predestination; it embraced the concept of the perfectibility of humanity. Christianity during the Second Great Awakening in the early 19th century was a counter-cultural and progressive force.  It combined immediacy of spiritual experience, a politically "progressive" (e.g., abolitionist) orientation with a strong messianic vision. But  the Civil War delivered a traumatic blow from which Christianity never recovered. Although William McLoughlin describes the Social Gospel movement as Great Awakening this is misleading: Although the Social Gospel was intellectually vital it was never a mass movement. After the 2nd Great Awakening it took until the 1960s before there was a comparable fusion of progressive political activism and a spiritual/cultural resurgence.

Although America was thoroughly secularized by mid-20th century, and religion  had lost its messianic surge, the nostalgia for paradise sprouted up anew and blossomed in the collective imagination of the sixties' counter-culture. Messianic motifs and tropes  along with death-rebirth imagery laced the songs and works of popular culture (Dylan, the Beatles) and although the New Left was allergic to overt spirituality, it embraced the most covertly messianic  schools in the neo-Marxist tradition — from Marcuse to Adorno to Walter Benjamin. The spiritual yearning for paradise broke out of the iron cage of secularism.  Allen Ginsberg, Ram Das and others hoped to fuse Eastern spirituality with progressive politics but the project was not successfully completed — by the 1980s the new age movement had largely devolved into  a variety of commercially packaged short- cuts to enlightenment and a New Age therapeutic culture catering to the growing caste of liberal Yuppies.

Sri Aurobindo was the first great Eastern mystic to blend mysticism with messianism. Aurobindo and Mira Richard — "the Mother"– were themselves a mature manifestation of the same trend as the 1960s counter-culture.  It was no surprise that in the 1960s the Mother (then in her 80s) hailed the counter-culture as a spiritual breakthrough. Aurobindo who lived from 1872 to 1950  presaged the 1960s counter-culture: he fused the mystical and the messianic and his work provides the strongest refutation to all those who denigrate the  messianic Imaginary. From Aurobindo's perspective the messianic perspective completes the mystical experience — the mystical experience is a portent of the messianic future.

The only other option is to reduce mysticism either to a consolation ("the opium of the people"), or to construe it as a Gnostic-type revelation revealing the lack of goodness of worldly existence. This is in fact the position of the Therevadan Buddhist — once one is freed from ignorance and karma one will choose to forgo incarnations and to merge with non-being. 

Aurobindo  revered the Hindu scriptures but he disagreed with the philosophers' interpretations. He eviscerated for example the interpretations of Sankara, India's most venerated philosopher, who claimed the world was an illusion and that only the Godhead (Brahman) was real. Aurobindo argued that it was this philosophical tendency that fostered and reflected the world-contempt and torpor of the East. The West on the other hand went to the other extreme in its embrace of materialism and its claim that mysticism was illusory. Aurobindo's acceptance of worldly existence was compatible with his devotion to changing the world. He had spent years as a revolutionary nationalist — he was as well known in India as Gandhi. When he first returned to India after his education in Britain, he made it known that he was not interested in a mysticism that entailed renunciation  of the world.  

His love of the world was reflected also in his full acceptance of the Feminine which found expression in his love for his spiritual partner, Mira Richard, known as the Mother — they were a dual-power of God. "The Mother and I are one in two bodies." His life story assumed the mythic dimension of a man on the hinge of the messianic age — so his profound Avataric witness and astute teleological perspective ought to have provided a basis for a spiritually informed political activism, but few people familiarized themselves with his work. (Ken Wilber often cited him.) Aurobindo's messianism was based on his teleological concept of spiritual evolution, "The animal is a living laboratory in which nature has, it is said, worked out man.  Man himself may be a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious cooperation she wills to work out the Superman, the God. Or shall we not say, rather, to manifest God. For if evolution is the progressive manifestation by nature of that which slept or worked in her . . . it is also the overt realization of that which he secretly is" (Banerji).

In the last ten years there has been an effort to recover the zeitgeist of the ‘60s thanks in part to the initiative of Daniel Pinchbeck who, inspired by other counter-cultural figures — including Terrence McKenna, the late visionary Jose Arguelles, social critic William Irwin Thompson, and a variety of neo-shamanic and new age theorists — partnered with a few kindred spirits in order to launch what became Evolver and Reality Sandwich. As a freelance journalists and cultural historian who wrote successful autobiographical books on psychedelics and neo-shamanism, it would not have been surprising had Pinchbeck become a cynic or an uninvolved bystander. Fortunately he did not — although he was egregiously accused of spiritual elitism. The singular effort of Evolver to avoid the sterility of progressive political activism and the narcissism of the post-60s new age cult of individualistic spirituality is the most promising development on the cultural horizon.

Pinchbeck believes our task is to prepare for "the second stage of the initiatory journey for the psyche that was begun in the 1960s" (338). Like Aurobindo Pinchbeck posits an evolutionary teleology: Despite the imminent chaos humanity is undergoing a "a natural process accompanying an evolutionary advance in human consciousness" (330). Like Aurobindo and Buber, Pinchbeck does not counsel either despair or complacency but a redemptive praxis. Like Aurobindo Pinchbeck realized that those who are aware have a great responsibility since "a desirable outcome can be realized if an elite vanguard overcomes all obstacles and prior conditioning to attain an intensified awareness of the situation, and then works efficiently and collaboratively to propagate this new paradigm across the earth" (331).

I agree with this project of preparing for the second stage, the completion, of the initiatory journey of the 1960s. I want to place it within the larger context of the quest to realize the messianic-redemptive aspirations of humanity. And I want to stress that an integral part of this project involves recognizing and affirming the untapped spiritual potencies of the mad — those the psychiatric priesthood deems "mentally ill." It was not Laing nor Foucault who were the first to sense the ardor of the mad's yearning for the reunion with God, for the coming of the messianic age. It was the legendary spokesman and inventor (as Ferlinghetti described it) of the construct of the Beats, Allen Ginsberg, who wrote what was in effect the first great modern Mad Pride manifesto, "Howl." The poem begins: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…" but it is not madness that destroys them but secular society which has no room for their intense spirituality. The poem ends with an initiatory death and spiritual resurrection of the mad.

The Mad Pride movement is itself a new incarnation of the mental patients' liberation movement. The first mad pride organization was Mad Pride founded in 1999 in England. The mental patients' liberation movement in America was founded in 1970, nine years after the publication of psychiatrist's Thomas Szasz's seminal book The Myth of Mental Illness — the movement gradually grew larger and larger. In the 1990s the name was changed to the "psychiatric survivors'" movement. The largest psychiatric survivors' organization today is Mind Freedom International (www.mindfreedom.org), founded by former mental patient and Harvard graduate David Oaks; it has hundreds of active members and a subscription email list of over 10,000.

Szasz debunked the psychiatric metanarrative. Mental illness, he argued, is a misleading and degrading metaphor. The mind as an immaterial entity could not be diseased. He contended that labeling people "mentally ill" and forcing treatment on them is not a medical procedure but an act of psychiatric violence directed against those who deviate from dominant social norms. Mental patients are like  "normal" people — they suffer from "problems of living," not from imaginary diseases of the mind. Without Szasz there would have been no movement. Szasz's ideas enabled mental patients to understand themselves in a new way. Instead of victims of mental illness they began to see themselves as victims and survivors of psychiatric oppression and as members of the anti-psychiatric Resistance. And thus they were transformed — from chronically disabled schizophrenics to heroic activists against psychiatric oppression.

In 1967 The Politics of Experience was published. It exploded in the fortresses of the establishment like a spiritual Molotov cocktail, making its author, British psychiatrist R. D. Laing, an overnight celebrity and an icon of the 1960's  counter-culture.  Szasz had  argued mental patients were like normal people and should be granted the same rights. But Laing argued that schizophrenics were not like normal people — they were superior, wiser, more aware. Laing presented a mad pride perspective years before the first Mad Pride organizations were formed. 

Normal society was insane, Laing argued. The nuclear arms race between US and the Soviet Union epitomized its insanity. Each county was continually threatening to blow the other to smithereens. Laing hailed schizophrenics as spiritual pioneers unrecognized in a secular society. In The Politics of Experience Laing wrote, "If the human race survives, future men will look back on our enlightened epoch as a veritable Age of Darkness… The laugh's on us. They will see that what we call ‘schizophrenia' was one of the forms in which, often through quite ordinary people, the light began to break in the cracks in our all-too-closed minds."   

This was radical stuff. Remember that mental health professionals with very few exceptions believed that schizophrenia was a tragic illness from which recovery was impossible. And when Laing came along and said that normal people were insane and that schizophrenic episodes were like shamanic initiations, LSD trips and mystical experiences, he provoked a tidal wave of controversy. Laing did not deny that schizophrenia could be frightening and painful but he insisted that if therapists gave support and guidance to those undergoing "psychotic" trips the experience would be enriching and the patients would emerge from the experience as wiser if not enlightened beings.

Laing construed spirituality in individualist terms: the individual's ascension to a higher state of being. He tended to overlook the social aspects of spiritual transformation. Thus Laing contended that psychosis was a potential spiritual breakthrough for the individual, her ascension to a higher state. But there are two sentences in The Politics of Experience in which Laing went further and described the socially redemptive potential of madness. He wrote. "The well-adjusted bomber pilot may be a greater threat to species survival than the hospitalized schizophrenic deluded that the Bomb is inside him. Our society may itself have become biologically dysfunctional, and some forms of schizophrenic alienation from the alienation of our society may have a sociobiological function that we have not recognized."

Laing has turned the tables on normal people. Sure the psychotic episode could be a rocky experience but the real problem was the insane destructiveness of normal society. We are living in an insane world, a world in which  the technological prowess of a spiritually backwards species imperils its very survival. Laing advanced the radical proposition that madness is nature's attempt to save humanity from  the violence of the normal world. (Note the irony of the implication that the biology of normal people was somehow defective as opposed to the psychiatric dogma that schizophrenia was a genetic, i.e., biological, defect.)

And so Laing realizes that madness has redemptive power, may be the key to our salvation. How? In the first place the mad person is keenly aware of the danger we face. She is the canary in the coal mine. But what next? Laing left his argument unfinished. And unfortunately he dropped it altogether by the end of the sixties. In my book I complete Laing's argument: The mad should consciously assume the task of redemption. They are the bearer of the messianic expectation — this ancient expectation that originated within Judaism. Neither the Jews nor the Christians have taken up the messianic task. Nor has the proletariat, as Marx had hoped. It is up to the mad — some of the mad — to impart the messianic expectation to society. And this is why at the risk of being mocked by the few cynics in the mad movement I am advocating the creation of a messianic wing of the Mad Pride movement.

When the mad pride movement emerged in the US in 2004 — with the foundation of the Icarus Project — those messianic expectations were affirmed. Madness is "a dangerous gift to be cultivated and taken care of . . . not a  disease or disorder to be cured or eliminated" wrote Sascha DuBrul and Ashley Jacks McNamara, the two cofounders of The Icarus Project, the first Mad Pride organization in the US. There was no conflict between TIP and Mind Freedom. TIP like Mind Freedom opposes involuntary psychiatric treatment, and wants to help provide self-help associations. They complemented each other. Although the founders of TIP had not read Laing they attributed redemptive power to madness as Laing did. They said that madness could inspire transformation in a damaged world. Like Laing they stopped short of positing a messianic transformation.

But Sascha took that step in 2008 in his blog at TIP: "I have faith in the power of the mad ones because they're the only ones that are crazy enough to think they can change the world and have the outlandish visions and drive to be able to do it" (March 31, 2008) (Farber 220-1). And "The recent collective victories of The Icarus Project have given me a whole lot more faith in the power of big dreams and the power of the ‘mad ones' to shape the material realm and the public dialog around us." But then Sascha had an unexpected breakdown in 2009. After this he had changed his mind — he attributed his crisis to his own egotism and messianic fantasies which led to conflicts with his friends.  Today Sascha remains a dedicated activist but he has sadly repudiated his messianic aspirations, his big dreams.

Now he refers to the messianic perspective we once shared as "mad ego-filled grandiosity." Thus he disparages the high idealist vision with the psychiatric term "grandiosity.

Dismissing the carriers of the messianic as egotists is to throw away the baby with the bathwater. And it's not true. Faith, for example, is not an egotist — although like many of the mad her epiphany gave her an initial ebullience ("mania" in psychiatric terms) which could be confused with egotism. Sascha also points to examples of madness which entail great suffering — this is undeniable. TIP has done great work to foster alternative support groups to help people get through their spiritual crises without getting caught in the psychiatric net. In my recent book we debated this. I agreed that Mad Pride should provide alternative healing environments but this does not obviate the importance of TIP's original vision.

But there may be another problem. We live in postmodern age marked by the valorization of difference and diversity and a rejection of "the tyranny of wholes" in favor of pluralism or relativism. Richard Tarnas brilliantly captures the spirit of the postmodernist vantage point: "Grand theories and universal overviews cannot be sustained without producing empirical falsification and intellectual authoritarianism… Respect for contingency and discontinuity limits knowledge to the local and specific. Any alleged comprehensive, coherent outlook is at best no more than a temporary useful fiction masking chaos, at worst an oppressive fiction masking relationships of …domination and subordination" (Tarnas 41). 

The distrust of any kind of unifying narrative — and  thus of the messianic vision — is a product of the postmodern era. Since the mad are a marginal group, sensitive understandably to the threat of domination due to their experiences at the hands of Psychiatry, and inclined to celebrate diversity, the postmodern perspective as defined above (by Tarnas) has its appeal to Mad Pride activists. This may be one reason why I find hostility toward the messianic perspective.

There are others in TIP who are  seem to be offended by the fact that I  — a renegade psychologist who is not officially mad — would deign to criticize the views of TIP leaders. Thus a few members of TIP who read my last article in Reality Sandwich, unaware (or not) of my decades of collaboration with the mental patients' liberation movement, denounced me as an opportunist ("Dude just wants to sell a book"), an outsider who wants to exploit "their" movement for financial gain. I welcome a debate but l do not think ad hominem criticisms of me are productive. (As if one makes money writing about Mad Pride!)

The mad activists forget that from the beginning there has been a mutually productive relationship between the mad and psychiatric heretics like Laing and Szasz. I know from my public speaking since 1990 that there are many former mental patients who do feel called upon by God, who do want to save humanity and they appreciate my recognition of their mad gifts, and my messianic perspective. Like me they believe that the mad have the power to build a movement not just for the liberation of other victims of Psychiatry but for the salvation of humanity.

My differences with Sascha  do not mean I am unaware of TIP's accomplishments. The patients' liberation movement in its various guises has enabled thousands of psychiatric survivors to liberate themselves from psychiatric torture and slavery, e.g., involuntary administration of toxic psychotropic drugs. It is a stepping stone to freedom. Both Mind Freedom (www.MindFreedom.org) and TIP (www.theicarusproject.net) are redemptive — even if they repudiate an explicitly redemptive perspective — because they enable many of the mad to recover their power.

But that is not sufficient — not now when the survival of humanity is at stake. We must be aware that those of us who are alive now will be the ones who will determine whether humanity will outlast the 21st century. I think all political and social activism should be based now on the awareness that this may be humanity's last chance — only thus will we make the kind of efforts necessary to change the world. We must face the catastrophic as well as the messianic — both of these realities have been banished from awareness.

Too many people are not facing the urgency of the situation. Even Occupy Wall St, a very important movement, ignored the imminence of the ecological threat — of  the extinction of humanity. They asked astute questions, but they failed to see that the issue of student debt was less important than ecocide of the earth. Our leading climate scientists are saying humanity will not survive until the next century unless we stop burning fossil fuels now — or yesterday. Bill McKibben has shown that the corporations are already preparing to burn more fossil fuels than the planet can absorb without becoming hell on earth or worse  ("The Climate Deal Sham", Counterpunch Dec 21-3, 2012). And our political leaders are only making the matter worse. Thus year after year there is a UN global warming conference in which over a 100 countries pleaded with President Obama to negotiate an international treaty to keep American corporations from going over the collective suicide limit of carbon emissions.

President Obama has refused to agree to any reduction of carbon emissions before 2020, which is much too late. Noam Chomksy wrote, "Practically every country in the world is taking at least halting steps to do something about [global warming].The United States is taking steps backward" (Farber 2012 387). Chris Hedges wrote "We face a terrible political truth. Those who hold power will not act with the urgency required to protect human life and the ecosystem."

But ironically this may be the only kind of situation in which the transition to the messianic age could possibly be made. Perhaps any other set of circumstances would lead to an accommodation on our part — those of us who are aware, including the mad — that would indefinitely postpone, and therefore prevent, the advent of the messianic age. Daniel Pinchbeck said: "I believe that modern humanity is unconsciously bringing about a self-willed cataclysm to force its own transformation. How else do we explain how it is possible to ignore the overwhelming data on climate change, the risk posed by genetically modified organisms, or the obvious danger of nuclear plants, and so on?" ("Planetary Initiation," Reality Sandwich).  

Thus the apocalyptic situation may be necessary to force humanity to overcome our spiritual inertia and make the leap to a higher stage of our development. (This does not mean that a greater share of the blame for the persistence of the environmental crisis does not lie with the dominant elites — those of us more interested in love and poetry than money and power have harder odds to overcome.) Unfortunately it's like playing Russian Roulette.

But let's face it — this might be the only way. Otherwise in the name of realism we continually compromise. Unless we believe that we can realize the Kingdom of God on earth, we will take the "realistic" path and compromise. For example, during my Christian phase in the 1990s (I joined the Eastern Orthodox Church in 1994), I noticed that even those  Christians who believed as I did that salvation depended upon humanity's utmost ethical and spiritual efforts to create the conditions for the realization of the Kingdom of God on earth acted as if it existed on the far fringes of history, so many millions of millennia away as to exist in a realm of unreality that we might as well ignore. But if we ignore it we cannot make it a reality, manifest it — since its realization depends upon us.  

I argued in books in the late 1990s that the Church would have more messianic power if they stopped deferring to psychiatrists, and set up asylums for the mad. Then they could work with the mad to spread the messianic message. But I was ignored. This is why the time is always "not yet" as Pinchbeck points out (2007B 220).  What is to stop this kind of deferment from going on eternally?  Eternal deferment would mean we could never get to the next phase of our evolution. And this is exactly what most Christians think — it is something that will happen some day trillions of years away. It may be divine grace that has brought us to this unnerving bifurcation point.

Paul Levy was told by the shrinks he was chronically incurably psychotic. His story is in my book. Today Paul is an author and leading spokesperson for messianic change. Although Levy was never involved in the Mad Pride movement, he is sympathetic to my conviction that the mad may play a leading role in saving the earth. Paul wrote of our responsibility, "Each of us is being asked to incarnate the truth of our being in a particularly unique way. If we refuse this calling, we give away our power and split off, abandon and dis-own a part of ourselves" (Levy 2006 166).

Paul's description of reality as a collective dream means that we are the only obstacle to the realization of our aspirations for happiness, "When we consciously put our sacred power of dreaming together, we generate a power that can change the dream we are having and literally change the world" (2006 172). We must do this, but some of us must start. Some of us have been given the gift of experiencing God's love, and of knowing God wishes for our collective salvation. As Sri Aurobindo wrote, "All great changes find their first clear and effective power and their direct shaping force in the mind and spirit of the individual or a limited number of individuals" (Farber 372). Some of the mad are among this limited number.  They realize that we can only avoid or minimize the looming catastrophe by taking the next step on our evolutionary path. For many of the mad this means accepting their calling to act redemptively, to become carriers of the messianic expectation to impart that expectation to others. As the Mother said, "Blessed are those who take a leap into the future."

Notes

Debashish Banerji, "Living Laboratories of the Life Divine," (http://saraswati.sawiki.org/sciy/www.sciy.org/blog/_archives/2008/11/23/3991905.html
Accessed, Dec. 2012).

Wayne Cristaudo and Wendy Baker (eds), Messianism, Apocalypse and Redemption (ATF Press, 2006).

Seth Farber, The Spiritual Gift of Madness: The Failure of Psychiatry and the Rise of the Mad Pride Movement (Inner Traditions, 2012).

Seth Farber, Radicals, Rabbis, and Peacemakers: Conversations with Jewish Critics of Israel (Common Courage, 2005).?

Seth Farber, Madness, Heresy and the Rumor of Angels: The Revolt against the Mental Health System (Open Court, 1993).

Seth Farber, Unholy Madness (InterVarsity Press, 1999)

R D Laing, The Politics of Experience (Pantheon, 1967).?

Paul Levy, The Madness of George W. Bush (AuthorHouse, 2006).?

Paul Levy, The Dispelling of Wetiko (North Atlantic, 2013).

Michael Lowy, Redemption and Utopia: Jewish Libertarian Thought in Central Europe (Stanford University Press, 1992).

Adam Parsons, "The Climate Deal Sham,"  Counterpunch Dec 21-3, 2012.

Daniel Pinchbeck et al, The Mystery of 2012 (Sounds True, 2007).

Daniel Pinchbeck, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl (Jeremy Tarcher, 2007B)?

Thomas Szasz, The Myth of Mental lllness (Harper and Row, 1961).?

Thomas Szasz, The Manufacture of Madness (Dell, 1970).

 

Image by Calumwi, courtesy of Creative Commons license. 

Richard Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind.  (Ballantine Books, 1991).?Robert Whitaker, Anatomy of an Epidemic (Crown Pubishers, 2010).

Bill McKibben "The Climate Deal Sham," Counterpunch Dec 21-3, 2012.