Hearing Voices: Spirituality, Mysticism and Mental Health is now available to view on YouTube

Public talk by John Watkins and Nathan Grixti

Presented in partnership with Cheltenham-Mentone Uniting Church, Uniting Care Prahan Mission and Voices Vic is now available to view on YouTube!

Nathan Grixti and John Watkins – Hearing Voices: Spirituality, Mysticism and Mental Health

Presented by Nathan Grixti and John Watkins, in partnership with Voices Vic, UnitingCare Prahran Mission, and the Cheltenham-Mentone Uniting Church, during Mental Health Week 2015.

People who experience voices, visions and other forms of unusual sensory experience have often been viewed by communities throughout human history from a range of perspectives, from being in touch with the divine and held in high regard, to being labelled as being ‘unwell’, or even vilified and subjected to forms of structural and physical violence. While many cultures around the world have often viewed an ability to ‘hear voices’ as being connected to the realms of spirituality, religion and mysticism, in our own Western culture people who hear voices are often diagnosed according to paradigms which classify voice hearing as symptomatic of mental illness. Increasingly, more and more voice hearers in the community are calling out for their views, values and beliefs to be respected in mental health settings which often hold power over those deemed as ‘unwell’, and according to international human rights and spiritual frameworks.

In order to facilitate a dialogue about the relationship between mysticism and madness, do we need to start thinking about serious exploration of what constitutes legitimate spiritual experience in contrast to psychiatric diagnoses, or is the distinction purely one of culturally contextual, relative perspective? How do we discern between the experiential qualities which are consistent with conceptual frameworks that support spiritual emergence and initiation crises, voices which may be linked to trauma, and bio-medical models of psychosis? And how then can we respond in a way which doesn’t potentially cause greater harm?

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