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Experience - Christian Filter - Narrative - Meaning


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I share this account because it seems apropos our discussions on real/literal/truth/Christian naturalism, etc. I feel grounded in this sharing. By posting in personal stories section I am not seeking any special consideration or protection. I just didn't know where else.

 

facts

 

In April, 1987, Diane and I adopted a cute 18 month old girl with Down Syndrome. In October, 2006, she died.

 

experience/Christian filter

 

"God asked us," I would say if asked why. To elaborate I would tell of Jesus's visitation in the fall of 1986. He told me to say yes and he said that he would take care of the problems. Diane had her own sense of Divine call. Someone showed us picture of a cute little girl. We said maybe God is calling. A couple fleece (a la Gideon), and on Good Friday, 1987, she was with us.

 

deconstruction/more facts

 

In 2003 I was belatedly diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder. In 2009 I read that an experienced New York emergency doctor, bipolar herself, could tell the difference between the transcendant-at-one-with-the-universe experiences of a person on a drug high and a bipolar person in mania because the bipolar person would insist on sharing a message from God.

 

So the science, along with my own accounts of 6 other hypomanic religious experiences, seems to suggest that the pivot point in our narrative was, medically speaking, a hypomanic hallucination.

 

None of the above is false. Does the meaning of our narrative survive deconstruction? What is location of the meaning?

 

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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Dutch,

 

I feel very unqualified to answer, but it’s so sad about your daughter, must have been devastating for you and your wife.

Sounds like you’re having doubts about your spiritual experience of God encouraging you to adopt her in the first place? or the assurance that she’d live longer than most Down’s syndrome children? maybe you don’t want to elaborate, but even if your visions were partly the influence of being bipolar, you wouldn’t have chosen to miss the years you had with her. I guess that’s how I’d try to view it, focus on the good part. It’s hard enough to deal with bereavement without adding self doubt. I think it’s all right to get angry at God, can be a necessary step. Sometimes mysteries remain unclarified, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have trust and peace of mind. Hope you feel better about it in time.

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Dutch,

 

I'm not sure i understand your question as written in your last sentences. Perhaps you could elaborate. As far as the science explanations, it seems science will always explain things that concur with Newtonian principles of thought which to me on these matters offer only words and in my experience are no more real than your own subjective experiences. Perhaps what you choose to believe is for only you to decide where to place your trust.

 

Joseph

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rivanna, joseph, I appreciate your responses and apologize for not providing full context. This will be short because i am on my half-smart phone. I am not now in that moment of doubt. I have processed through that during my time here. My current view is that the meaning lies in the narrative and even deconstruction doesn't take that away. The meaning exists in the telling of the story. As I say often there is no meaning prior to an experience. Meaning is made by walking & talking. end of part 1.

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part 2 (512 char limit) Deconstruction does not IMO eviserate the meaning from the narrative. What I feel is that the presence of "supernatural" elements does not invalidate the narrative. Not all stories are equal; some belong in the canon of one's life some don't. But like the stories in the Bible the ability to deconstruct a story does not dislocate the meaning of the narrative. I think that stories can lose their power and will then fall out of the canon. I choose to keep this story. end pt 2

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pt 3. As I prepared for a SS class on Ilia Delio I finally got this body experience as a way of knowing. She talks about praying with other nuns 7 da/wk 365/yr and working in the garden. This body way of knowing is likened to a child's sense of wonder, a primitive way of knowing that is, in some ways, inaccessible by intellect and language. In a sense my narrative exists on that level. Lived. Experienced. As I came to understand the integrated way that Ilia was talking about a science way of ... end p3

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p4. science way of knowing and a body way of knowing something rose up in me said how sick and tired of labels I am now. atheist.theist.deist.nontheist.magical.literal.natural.superempirical. IMO today in light of these science and body ways of knowing the labels are ephemeral and not useful in describing experience or observation. I thought by laying out the narrative & deconstruction and seeing that neither contradicts the other would be useful. Take Care Dutch (could also be hypomania ; )

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I share this account because it seems apropos our discussions on real/literal/truth/Christian naturalism, etc. I feel grounded in this sharing. By posting in personal stories section I am not seeking any special consideration or protection. I just didn't know where else.

 

facts

 

In April, 1987, Diane and I adopted a cute 18 month old girl with Down Syndrome. In October, 2006, she died.

 

experience/Christian filter

 

"God asked us," I would say if asked why. To elaborate I would tell of Jesus's visitation in the fall of 1986. He told me to say yes and he said that he would take care of the problems. Diane had her own sense of Divine call. Someone showed us picture of a cute little girl. We said maybe God is calling. A couple fleece (a la Gideon), and on Good Friday, 1987, she was with us.

 

deconstruction/more facts

 

In 2003 I was belatedly diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder. In 2009 I read that an experienced New York emergency doctor, bipolar herself, could tell the difference between the transcendant-at-one-with-the-universe experiences of a person on a drug high and a bipolar person in mania because the bipolar person would insist on sharing a message from God.

 

So the science, along with my own accounts of 6 other hypomanic religious experiences, seems to suggest that the pivot point in our narrative was, medically speaking, a hypomanic hallucination.

 

None of the above is false. Does the meaning of our narrative survive deconstruction? What is location of the meaning?

 

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

 

If you are saying that a bipolar disorder causes a false religious experience, that is one thing. If, on the other hand, the experience merely occurs in the presence of a manic state (A is not caused by B, but is more probable in the presence of C), then your narrative survives deconstruction. Your narrative is that of loving, caring person seeking to share your joy and sorrow as G_d must also?

 

The location of the meaning is in you, in your joy and sorrow, and in your goodness.

 

Peace

 

Myron

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If you are saying that a bipolar disorder causes a false religious experience, that is one thing. If, on the other hand, the experience merely occurs in the presence of a manic state (A is not caused by B, but is more probable in the presence of C),

Myron, thank you this nuance.

 

Dutch

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We do try to examine Spiritual experiences and I feel that is good because it brings our intellect along for the ride, but I don't think the intellect can comprehend our soul because the soul is beyond it. I respect all spiritual experience and may we learn from it and move on. I went to a seminar from the Esalan Institute and remember they spoke about the Shamans of old and how they were respected. They were not understood, but held in high esteem. They went on to say that in modern times these same individuals are classed as having a problem. Is this their problem or societies? I managed and counseled at a half way house for mentally disturbed so they paid for the conference. We lived with the residents who came to us from the mental hospital and we had a psychiatrist visit the staff once a month to see if there was any transference. The first time I told him I saw no difference between the residences and myself. He said that the residence go beyond the mind, but sometimes can't find their way back. He said I probably can find my way back to the center.

 

If from our center there is infinity expanding in every direction then we all are the centers of the Cosmos.

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Myron,

If you are saying that a bipolar disorder causes a false religious experience, that is one thing. If, on the other hand, the experience merely occurs in the presence of a manic state (A is not caused by B, but is more probable in the presence of C)

I deeply appreciate your words. I once had such an observation but did not hang on to it. To return to the other accounts and locate the deeper meaning within the gushing of words. To some extent my earlier statements in this thread were an exercise of will to claim, in the face of other explanations, significance and meaning. Your words returned to a more complex and holistic way to hold the narratives.

 

Because my place from which to review my life changes I think that the meaning lies in the narrative as I experienced it then. When I tell the story as I experienced it then the meaning which was life changing is obvious to me and any hearer.

 

Once again, thank you so much for your response.

 

 

soma

 

but I don't think the intellect can comprehend our soul because the soul is beyond it.

what I came to appreciate about Ilia Delio was that she anchored thought and reflection deep and foundationally in the experiences of prayer, gardening, and wonder. The soul is indeed beyond, or below, or centered within our intellect and all other experiences.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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  • 2 weeks later...

We can beautifully knit a narrative from the abundance of experiences that inform our lives. In this sense a story need not be confined propositionally to either true or false, but as giving expression to the multitudinous and intimate connections that underlay one’s worldview and that spring from the soul. In my view, meaning is connection, and on the level of the linguistic, connection is expressed by words, by percepts and aspects that rise and fall like the tides of the ocean of reality. The soul can be called the seat of meaning, and need not fall into the logic of apprehending an externalized and reified reality “out there,” nor conform to a model of sign vs. signified. Perhaps God can be intimated just the same as the "soul", the true, authentic Subject and source of our meaning(s), yet not as something externalized and separate from it.

 

Thanks for sharing some of your story Dutch.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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  • 2 weeks later...

Dutch, that NY experienced emergency room doctor doesn't knowwhat she's talking about. Being an ER doctor doesn't qualify one as a Psychiatrist or Psychologist. Neither does being bi-polar herself qualify her in those areas. Would you accept that someone with a brain tumor is qualified in any was as a Neurosurgeon?

 

I've a BS in psychology. Studied Abnormal Psych, including conditions such as bi-polar. Was born into a family with a signficant history of the presence of bi-polar. Have lived in muliple family relationships with those affected by bi-polar.

 

A diagnosis of bi-polar implies nothing about a person other than he or she has been diagnosed as bi-polar. The range of severity of the effects of bi-polar, and how bi-polar impacts any particualr individual's personality or ability to function normally in life is extemely deepand wide. Some people experiencing bo-polar mania talk about God. Some talk about space aliens. Some people on drug highs talk about God. Some people on bi-polar mania or drug highs talk about neither. Most people affected by bi-polar are fully functional in life, a very small percentage ever experience a psychotic episode, most are not hostile or angry or prone to temper tantrums or mistreating or hurting others.

 

Bi-polar mania itself varies widely from fully functional super-efficient and superstar overachiever, to utterly dysfunctional psychosis. Many famous accomplished people have beenand are affected by bi-polar. Likely among them, examples such as Merriweather Lewis and Abraham Lincoln.

 

I was diagnosed bi-polar 32 years ago. My full sister, my half sister, and one of my two half brothers were also diagnosed bi-polar. Of my four children, three are bi-polar, the fourth is diagnosed dysthymic disorder. One of my bi-polar children, and the dysthymic, as well as myself, are also diagnosed ADHD. At least one of my three grandchildren is bi-polar. We are an amazing family!

 

Jenell

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As for why God would choose you as her family, consider... Just becasue her life wouldbe short, didn't mean she didn't need and deserve the best parents a child could have any less than one that would live long. We never know how long any of our children will live. My youngest daughter's first child, a healthy boy, concieved only after 6 years in their marriage of trying, when they were about ready to consult a fertility specialist, died at 5 weeks old suddenly and without warning, in an accident. Why would God choose you, or my daughter and son-in-law, to parent a child that would be here only a little while? Maybe He chose those with the strength and faith to bear it.

 

Jenell

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You have had a lot of experience with bipolar. When I think about having an earlier diagnosis I remember that then it would be a different journey with different stories to tell.

 

Thank you for your caring response.

 

Dutch

 

NY experienced emergency room doctor

Jenell, she is one us. She wrote the book, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness. Kay Redfield Jamison. Her story is much like ours.

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Being one of us doesn't make her infallable any more than the rest of us. From all perspectives, personal experiences, study of the disorder, and observation of a number of taped interviews with bi-polar patients riding high in psychotic manic break, I must still disaggree, respectfully, with her observation about the "distinguishing difference" cited. I've seen too many that didn't fit that pattern. It is also well established regarding those on a drug induced high, there are those that actually use mind altering and psychoactive drugs in attempt to reach spiritual insights and God consciousness. I guess one of those points on which there must be agreement to disargree.

 

Jenell

:)

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I guess what I'm trying to say to you,Dutch, is do not let the presence of bi-polar, or any other mental condition, cause you to discredit, or allow others to discredit, your genuine spiritual experiences.

 

Right in step with so many other paradgims we discuss here, that of psychology is finally beginning to breakfree of the focus on pathology and dysfunction, and the psychiatric medical model. These are movements with the field toward positive psychology, what facilitate positive outcome, vsfocus on what's wrong.

 

Is is also being recognized that the old models have failed to discern between what are manifestations of mental illness and what are valid, healthy, and positive spiritual and religious experience. A good search term inthat direction would be "Spiritual Emergency" and "Spiritual Emergency crisis." There are now readily available some good checklists for screening the difference between what a person might be experiencing as a manifestation of mental illness vs a spiritual experience or spiritual emergency crisis. Major key points are function/dysfunction and positive/negative impact and outcome.

 

Living with a mood disorder or brain disorder can be much like living with any oither condtion,such as diabetes....you sometimes have to work a little harder at a normal, healthy balanced life than were it not there, but one can learn to monitor and manage it.

 

Jenell

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  • 1 month later...

I realize my response is rather belated (I've only just read the posts), but I think I've something to add (maybe!)

 

Several years ago I was put on anti-siezure medication to stop atypical migraines. Since then, my experiences in prayer have changed. At first, I missed what was, then I realized that what I was experiencing had less to do with my spirituality than with an articificial experience due to physiological changes. Now, I think, what I experience is more "real". I had to learn to stop looking for the "high" I was getting just prior to a migraine episode. Like I said, it was difficult at first. I thought I had lost my faith or forgotten how to prayer or something. I do have to work a little harder now, to achieve that active awareness of the Divine Presence!

 

At some point, I had to stop looking for scientific explanations for everything (which I used to do regularly). I do not discount scientifc discoveries; in fact, I find the more I know the more it fills me with awe. However, I let myself simply wonder at the mystery and remind myself that science does not have the market on truth. :P

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Thanks for sharing that Yvonne. I've come to think of emotion as the 'stuff' of reality. In this perspective, our whole world can be seen as a complex whirl of emotion, an "ocean of feeling". If we see our world as constructed from the ground up in this way, then it follows that we really don't need to look for externalized conditions to define the meaning of our experiences, we can take each mental state, just as it is - whether peaceful or disturbed - as articulating the truth of our self, the unfolding life of the Divine.

 

Peace,

Mike

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