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Steve's Story

Steve's Story: Scientists of the Mind Revisited

Rescued from HellExcerpt from Rescued from Hell: Reflections

One of the arguments for the existence of God, oddly enough, is the reality of evil. Not garden variety evil such as our selfish ways and foolish thinking—these we all readily accept as commonplace and comprehensible. Rather it is the unsettling outbreaks of raw, inexplicable evil, whether it is sadistic torture applied to innocent victims or the inward unrelenting, torture of psychotic breakdowns such as I experienced. Why would we do that to each other or ourselves? You can’t take rational people, self-interest (enlightened or otherwise), a strictly materialistic universe, and explain the proliferation of raw evil that fills columns within our newspapers and minds within our mental wards. As we say in Georgia, “You can’t get there from here!”

Here is common sense reality: an exquisitely beautiful planet with most new children arriving in nearly pristine, cuddly condition. Look no further. Here is where the sensible view, one held by the vast majority of mankind regardless of time or place, sees that there is surely a great, good Creator. We may not know Him, but we know He is good and He left a moral order for us to follow. Conscience is our guide. Admittedly, this sensible view has a hard time explaining real evil—how did that enter the picture? Did the Creator mess up? Is there something wrong with God? Did we do it? Despite these questions, the obvious and sensible explanation to all of the beauty and order that surrounds and sustains us is that there is a Creator.

If you don’t take the sensible view you would have to successfully explain away the existence of conscience—God’s homing beacon—and then silence your own. That done, you would still have to believe against unthinkable mathematical probabilities that all of nature and the universe came about on its own. If you can take that leap of faith, you’re ready to create a world view that eliminates God, but you still can’t get there. Not when there includes the unspeakable horrors of unbridled evil. It takes one heck of a theory to encompass all the evil inflicted by humanity and upon humanity without calling in the devil from off stage to rescue the plot line, like the Deus ex Machina device of ancient literature. In a strictly material world how do you get in-human and un-human from merely human? How can man explain man? It can’t be done. Yet this is the great philosophical project of the scientists of the mind.

I think my story, for those who give it credence, would shatter the vain attempt to understand psychology without any reference to spiritual realities. How do you dredge up from the depths of the human psyche an ability and power to confine yourself in a fully realized version of hell and then hold that delusion in place for ten years with unbroken precision? I didn’t even have the ability to clap in time with music for more than halfway through a song, much less hold two thoughts in place for a day. How do you explain the stunning, utterly transcendent encounters with not one but two divine beings, who were radically different from each other, and which produced in me each time a radically transformed manner of living, thinking, imagining and desiring?

This was not merely inward experience and imagining—everyone who knew me saw the lifestyle changes that took place following each encounter. These two changes came naturally, spontaneously and with lasting effect. I didn’t have to say, “Hey, I’m a hippie pantheist,” or, “Do you know I’m a Christian now?” The changes were obvious at every level, and yet I was never in any conscious way trying to produce them. None of these changes were forced; they were the logical, inevitable and immediate outcomes of the all-encompassing encounters I had with these two supernatural beings and of the world view transformations those encounters initiated.

Perhaps you are willing to believe that I encountered supernatural beings. I certainly met one gentleman who was not. This chance meeting took place within the first year of my liberation from hell and conversion to Christianity. I was still working at Timberworks at the time, when a very distinguished man entered my shop to talk about possible woodwork. I steered the conversation towards spiritual things and salted in just a tiny bit of my testimony to see if he would take the bait. Did he ever! It turned out he was a psychiatrist, working on a book about schizophrenia! Really? That was my diagnosis—paranoid schizophrenia—when I was at Duke’s Meyer Ward. Naturally, he knew the place with professional respect.

He began very excitedly explaining his theories about schizophrenia to me. I asked if he had a clinical interest in hearing what it was like on the inside from someone who was now completely free of the delusion. He didn’t want his theory-explaining entirely set aside, but politely agreed to listen. I quickly launched into the madness, then I brought it around to the vision of Jesus on the throne of grace, and finally to having seven demons cast out of me by my friend Eddy. I got more excited as I talked—here was someone from the psychiatric community who was actually trying to understand and help people like I had once been. Surely, this was a divine appointment!

I saw this as a chance for me to seed into his benevolent work, some actual hard facts that might help them—the people still in torment. I held a key to the mystery—the inside story of one person’s experience and recovery from a terribly baffling mental illness. I could tell him what works and what doesn’t work, as applied to schizophrenia. He wanted none of it and began to shut down. He had obviously heard enough and didn’t want more. Nothing I was telling him fit into his nice theories, and his book was already well underway. He told me that the doctors at Duke had obviously diagnosed me incorrectly; otherwise I couldn’t be this sane. But I don’t think he thought I was sane, not after mentioning the demons coming out of me! He said he was sorry they had put a wrong label on me and was gone. I never found out why he had stopped by Timberworks in the first place.

This leaves me wondering how people who don’t believe in the existence of demons can help others get free of them. I’m going to make a sweeping statement: Behind all sickness, behind all disease, behind all mental disorders, behind all addictions, behind all character defects are structures of demonic oppression. Demons are real! St. Paul warns us that “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood [these are not merely human issues], but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). That’s heaven’s perspective on our problem.

Along with the above consideration, I’m prepared to make another statement just as sweeping: Inside all sickness, inside all disease, inside all mental disorders, inside all addictions, inside all character defects are people who desperately want God to find them and free them. The God void is real. It has been observed that “the young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.”[1] So is the man looking for a way out of the asylum. God, the One who should know, says that He put eternity into every heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Every last one of us, no matter what our proud boasting may be, knows deep inside that the God connection is broken and that it needs to be fixed. The simple truth is that we were created for God, and as Augustine famously observed, our hearts are going to stay restless until they find their rightful home in Him.

I have no doubt that the scientists of the mind are humane and well-intentioned. Those that I have met with few exceptions, most notably “The Rock,” have been men and women of obvious compassion, subtle and well-trained understanding and ingenious insight. They have chosen to labor in a very difficult field that most ordinary people shy away from: the emotionally and mentally broken. Even so, I believe that they are unwittingly laboring against an insurmountable handicap. They would seek to make people whole without bringing them to God.

On the human level, they have yet to develop a unified theory of personhood or personality. The general public seemed to have had great interest in the beginning when the “new science” produced its early masters. Freud, Jung and Adler were practically household names. Perhaps it seemed then that the psychiatrist would subsume the role of priest as healer and psychiatry that of Christianity. A new world was dawning. All was about to be explained. Where religion had failed in the attempt, man would explain man to man. That was one hundred years ago. The world at large is no longer looking in this direction for either revelation or for guidance. Now they are mostly looking for pills. Pills are helpful, but they cannot make people whole. For that their Maker is required.

The real handicap is at the spiritual level. It takes two main forms. The first is the difficulty of mending people whose main problem is that they do not have the relationship with God that they need and that God desires them to have. This has been lost; it is crying out to be restored, especially among those who most resist acknowledging their need of it. Every one of us has been created to live entirely surrendered to God in full awareness of His love and in full submission to His will. Nothing less than this constitutes a reasonable cure. To clear the way for this, the healing agent needs to have spiritual eyes to see both the demonic obstructions and the divine initiatives. Those who would heal our souls are largely blind on both counts.

This blindness would be trouble enough, but there is a larger difficulty to explain, if you are willing to go further with me into a Christian perspective. God, who is the true Healer, surely works through every means available to Him. This we call grace and I have no doubt that it is at work even for the benefit of those psychiatrists and patients who reject the Grace Giver. However, here’s the rub: God may not be nearly as interested in giving short-term success to psychiatrists or to their patients as He is in bringing both of them to His salvation through a true knowledge of Himself. The stakes are too high. Every baleful condition I mentioned earlier—illness, disease, mental disorder, addictions, character defects—from a Christian point of view, may be His sovereign means for bringing to His salvation a soul who is running from Him. The healer is meant to recognize this work of God and cooperate with it.

I am an obvious case in point. At a crucial period the mental wards kept me from taking my life and I am very appreciative of that saving work. Maintenance has real value. However, nothing psychiatry attempted ever mended me and ten years of anguish followed for the salient reason that God was intent on revealing Himself to me and I had foolishly shut and barred the door. This was the biggest fact about me in terms of where it had all gone wrong in my life, but I never thought to mention it in counseling—no one ever asked. God was literally using hell on earth as a means of returning me to Himself, but the cure required me believing in Him. Was there anything in a psychiatric textbook that could have guessed at the secret purpose of God, working through my delusion? Please don’t misunderstand. I certainly don’t believe that I was being crushed by God. He loves me and never wanted me to fall so far from grace. These were my own foolish choices, but He was using the painful consequence of my sins, the delusion of hell, in a redemptive way for which I am now incredibly grateful.

Have we not heard that God opposes the proud? He opposed me in my pride-filled attempt to become whole without Him. He opposed the pride of a profession which tried to help me become whole without leading me to the One who alone could heal me. He has to oppose us. If He didn’t I would have been lost to Him and to myself forever. Since God loves everyone equally, let’s extend this logically. The great obstacle psychiatry faces is the foolishness of seeking to bring wholeness to humanity while leaving God out; the great Resister of the longed-for success may be at times the very God it excludes. For our own sake God has to resist our foolish efforts to shut Him out of our lives. 

[1]  Bruce Marshall, The World, the Flesh and Father Smith (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1945), p. 108. Often mistakenly attributed to G. K. Chesterton.

 

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