Out of the Depths: An Autobiographical Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience, by Anton T. Boisen

Our Ordained Chaplains Scripture verse for today is Galatians 5:13-14 which reads, “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Our Ordained Chaplains quote for today is from Fred Craddock who said, “Seriousness of purpose does not require heaviness of manner. In other words, it doesn’t mean you have to look like a sad dork. Remaining light on your feet does not contradict, but honors the importance of your work. And being pleasant, cheerful, and full of good humor will serve as a sure sign of God’s grace.”

In this podcast, we are going to discuss the book “Out of the Depths: An Autobiographical Study Of Mental Disorder And Religious Experience” by Anton T. Boisen.

He writes in the foreword to the book:

This is my own case record. I offer it as a case of valid religious experience which was at the same time madness of the most profound and unmistakable variety. In this record I have brought together such material as may throw light upon the origin, meaning, and outcome of that experience. This I have done not from any love of dwelling upon matters which are often painful and delicately personal, and certainly not from any desire to display them to others. I have written it because now for forty years I have been making it my business to inquire into the problems here involved, and my own case is the one I know best. It may indeed constitute a biasing factor which needs to be discounted, but it affords also the firsthand evidence which is the basis of any authority I may claim as an explorer in this field. It gives support to my central thesis that certain forms of mental disorder and certain forms of religious experience are closely interrelated. Mental disorder is, I hold, the price humanity has to pay for having the power of choice and the capacity for growth, and some of its forms, it is a manifestation of healing power analogous to fever or inflammation in the body.

That this record centers in a love story is explained by the fact that I could not offer an adequate interpretation of the experiences under consideration without taking into account the part played by the beloved friend to whose memory my Exploration of the Inner World is dedicated. In many ways that story is a tragedy. She died too soon and we cannot have the benefit of the light she might have thrown upon this record. But she did agree that this story, which is hers as well as mine, should be shared with others. I offer it with the deepening conviction that it gives evidence of the guiding hand of an Intelligence beyond our own.