A Lapse of Reason — or a Revelation?
When somebody claims to have a revelation or a divine message, how can we be sure that it isn’t just a psychotic episode?
In 1989, when I was 21, I moved from London to Portugal. I had decided to leave the rat race and make a new life, a new start. An adventure!
I can’t remember the exact time when the sky opened, (not literally) but it was scary. All the negativity that had been bombarding me seemed to turn to around, and in place of negative thoughts, came positive ones. Where the corners of my mind had previously been dark, they now lit up. I had gone from one extreme to the other.
Was I manic? Was I having a psychotic episode?
I had been living in Portugal for just over a year, the novelty had worn off and my Portuguese boyfriend seemed to have grown tired of me, in fact, I don’t think he had even been understanding me most of the time. My Portuguese was pretty limited at the time. (I was studying every day from a ‘Teach Yourself’ book though!)
We had moved in together far too soon and it didn’t help that we were also quite isolated in the countryside. I had no transport of my own and often found myself alone contemplating life in the searing heat with only the TV to keep me company.
How had I got here?
Of course I knew it was all my choice and knowing that didn’t make it any easier. I started to think back to my childhood, those careless days of yesterday. I began to think that I could have made the effort to be a better kid, I could have been happier and more helpful around the home, and complained less. Could have, would have, should have…
I was a very dark kid. My sister used to jokingly say that I was a manic depressive from the age of 4. My mother recently informed me, that as a child, I hardly ever smiled. It seems to be true, as when I look at old photos of myself ‘trying’ to smile I just look like I ate something that didn’t agree with me. To me, being a kid always looked easier for the other kids. I had a hard time with it.
I was getting those dark thoughts again. The same existentialist thoughts I got as a child — I am not surprised other kids didn’t want to play with me. :)
I decided that I didn’t want to live in this cruel world and wanted to end my life; not by taking tablets or anything as dramatic as that. No. I thought that maybe I could do it by force of will alone and that I could just will myself to die.
So I tried.
At that time I wasn’t much fun to be around. I didn’t speak much. I still went out with friends, but I wasn’t interested in any conversations. They all seemed meaningless. I was stuck in a loop of ‘whys’ and ‘what is the points’. Nothing interested me. We would chill and smoke weed and I would find my mind wondering deeper into the abyss. I ended up so deep in there that down looked like up to me.
Then, one day, I was rummaging through my mum’s old caravan, that was on our land, and I found a tiny Gideon’s Bible. It was mine from school and it had come all this way! I was kind of skeptical at first but curiosity got the better of me and I thought I would give it a go.
I started with the evangelists.
I have to say, it wasn’t what I expected. I am not sure what I expected really. Hell fire and brimstone? Some of the things that Jesus was supposed to have said, I had never even heard before.
“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”
I quickly found out that the churches don’t tell you anything about the content of the Bible, it seemed to be pure psychology to me. Cause and effect! Take responsibility for your life or perish. It is not God that punishes us, we do a pretty good job of that on our own! The church wants to control people not free them, so they have to ensnare them and put fear into them so they go to church and more importantly, so that they hand over their hard earned cash. All in good faith, of course.
The sermon on the mount is quite powerful, see Matthew 5–7.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
This is a direct dig at organised religion. Jesus would very subtly criticise those in power, but they couldn’t do anything because of the crowds that followed him. Heaven — what is The Kingdom of Heaven? I never read any passages stating that when a person dies they go to heaven. I did see a lot about the Kingdom of Heaven though. A place in the future (and the present) that will appear, yet not be visible. (Am I being clear here?) Could this be that when people adopt a certain manner of being which is in accordance with good living — it is possible that the kingdom of heaven might just be with us?
Jesus spoke also of the Resurrection. Ask your local priest, what the point of resurrection is, if people go to heaven and hell?
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”
Jesus spoke his mind, a lot, he was a bit of a rebel. The above quote was from the Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees. Worth a read.
After getting through the evangelists I wanted to go back to Genesis and see where it all started. Amazingly enough I picked up a Jehovah Witness’s Bible from a garage sale for 100 escudos — about 0.50c. This was in Portuguese. My language skills, after watching the Wheel of Fortune on the TV in Portuguese and studying every day, had improved greatly.
The fact that Adam was obedient and named all the animals without protest was a good start. But after eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge and then blaming God for giving him the woman that ‘made him eat it’, it seemed that things had started to fail. Or had they? Should we overprotect our children or do they need to see the big bad world for themselves? It was bound to happen. (interesting word ‘bound’)
In Isaiah 46:10 it says
“I make known the end from the beginning”
Something to think about. In fact, in that very chapter in Genesis 3 it mentions the coming of Jesus.
“and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel “
The first part of that promise has already taken place, according to Bible scholars, the bruising of the heel was the Crucifixion, the head bruising scenario is yet to come. See Revelation. Jesus was the second Adam. A promise that we didn’t have to beat ourselves up for our transgression if we were willing to change. Through the first Adam came disobedience, through the second, hope. I read all the way through to the last book of the Bible. It took a while.
Revelation is the last book of the Bible, it is my favourite. It is less straight forward and more symbolic. In revelation it mentions the ‘second death’. I have never heard the Catholic Church talk about that either. Not even this new funky pope — who has recently lost his popularity, so he might not be around much longer...neither might the Church come to think of it.
It was interesting to see how all the books, all 66 of them, seem to run along a similar theme and contain certain information in one book that is relevant to another. It all ties up.
Many people don’t get why there was an ‘Old Testament’ and a ‘New Testament’. If we think of them as treaties, it makes more sense. The Old Testament was the old covenant with the Jews. This treaty was then ‘amended’ and extended to the Gentiles. Only fair really. Imagine if the Treaty of Rome was still in place in Europe. It was only really relevant to a few EU members, when others joined they were obliged to ‘amend’ it, giving it a new name each time new members joined.
So what had I learned? I had learned that this life is not what people tell us. It is not just about getting a good education, a good job and then a big pension so that you can live out your latter years in comfort; although, that is helpful, don’t get me wrong.
But there seems to be more to life than the eyes can see. We need to make ourselves useful. If we feel we have a purpose it makes life bearable. We can start by consciously trying to make the world a better place, starting with ourselves.
Is The kingdom of God a place in the future, where people live on the planet in peace ?(not in heaven) Eden Revisited?
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
A return to innocence. How we return there, depends on us.
Throughout my readings, my head was full of all this new information and I felt quit euphoric. Was I manic? Was I having a psychotic episode? Well I did consider that until one day I burnt some old wood and newspapers on the land. The next day I was walking around and I found a piece of newspaper that hadn’t burnt. When I turned it over, it had written on it ‘Deus’. Meaning ‘God’ in Portuguese. I thought that a little odd until I found another one with the word “alma” written on it. Soul. Then I thought it was just plain weird! Was it just a coincidence that I was having doubts and then I found two pieces of newspaper at some distance from each other with these words on them?
Then the third sign came. a few days later, when I got an 8 page letter from my atheist brother that I hadn’t heard from in about 3 years, telling me that he had been researching a lot about the bible and had come to the conclusion that God exists. This was my devout atheist brother we were talking about. It made me think that maybe, just maybe, I was onto something.