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Psychosis and Paroxysmal Visions in the Lives of the Founders of World Religions
Philip T. Nicholson, J.D., M.S.P.H.
The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 2014;26:E13-E14. doi:10.1176/appi.neuropsych.12120412
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Copyright © 2014 by the American Psychiatric Association

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To the Editor: In a recent article, “The Role of Psychotic Disorders in Religious History Considered,” Murray, Cunningham, and Price1 propose the provocative hypothesis that Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Paul suffered primary or mood disorder-associated psychotic symptoms and that these experiences inspired the beliefs and actions that eventually led to the formation of new religions. Without discounting that hypothesis, I suggest that their analysis would be strengthened, first, by enlarging the sample of religious innovators to include the founders of all of the world’s major religions, and, second, by taking into account, as a primary etiological factor, a specific type of paroxysmal vision described as a “white light,” or, alternatively, as light that appears sun-like, fire-like, or lightning-like. Figure 1 lists descriptions of white-light visions by founders of the world’s major religions.

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FIGURE 1. Light-Visions of the Founders of World Religions
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References

Murray  ED;  Cunningham  MG;  Price  BH:  The role of psychotic disorders in religious history considered.  J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci 2012; 24:410–426
[CrossRef] | [PubMed]
 
Hughes  JR:  The idiosyncratic aspects of the epilepsy of Fyodor Dostoevsky.  Epilepsy Behav 2005; 7:531–538
[CrossRef] | [PubMed]
 
Nicholson  PT:  Meditation & Light Visions: A Neurological Analysis. CreateSpace;   An Online Division of Amazon Books, 2010
 
Steriade  M;  Contreras  D:  Spike-wave complexes and fast components of cortically-generated seizures, I: role of neocortex and thalamus.  J Neurophysiol 1998; 80:1439–1455
[PubMed]
 
Nicholson  PT:  The Soma Code, Part III: visions, myths, and drugs.  The Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies 2002; 8:70–92
 
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