Dear Javed Chaudry,

Let me make one last attempt to clarify my position. I wanted to share with all of you that the words…’spirituality’….’mysticism’….’mystics’

had been used in three different ways in three different traditions.

The discussion reminded me of the use of word “DEPRESSION” in three different contexts

1.     Some use the word DEPRESSION for sadness that only stays for a few hours or a few days and does not need any professional help

2.     Some use the word DEPRESSION for that unhappiness that lasts for months or years because the person is in an unhappy marriage or job situation. Such DEPRESSION needs professional help and is treated with psychotherapy.

3.     Some use the word DEPRESSION for that mental illness that is hereditary and needs to be treated with anti-depressants. Some call it part of Manic Depressive Illness.

I am using this example to highlight that the same word or term can be used to describe three different things but as we explain it we realize we mean different things by the same word.

I was trying to share that the terms SPIRITUAL or MYSTIC is used in three different ways by three different traditions

One group is known as Theistic as they believe in a CREATOR outside universe and call it GOD and try to unite with that GOD and describe that experience as SPIRITUAL

Second group is known as Monistic as they believe ALL THAT EXISTS is GOD and try to be aware to be part of that reality and call that as SPIRITUAL

Third group is known as Secular. They feel they can get in touch with their HIGHER or DEEPER SELF  and be SPIRITUAL with out believing in GOD or PROPHETS or SCRIPTURES.

As a student of Human Psychology I have been studying those psychologists, psychotherapists and neurologists who are studying HUMAN EXPERIENCES that people call ‘SPIRITUAL’.

Dr. Robert Buckman in his book CAN WE BE GOOD WITHOUT GOD has given an overview of all the research by those neurologists who have witnessed in their laboratories how stimulating the RIGHT BRAIN especially the RIGHT TEMPORAL LOBES induced experiences that people call ‘SPIRITUAL. Such experiences can be induced in human beings whether they believe in GOD or not.

Dear Javed Chaudry,

I have no problem you or any other friends believing in GOD. All I am trying to say that we can study human behaviour and experiences as part of Science, Biology, Neurology and Psychology without delving into Theology.

When we stimulate the RIGHT TEMPORAL LOBES of human beings they have certain experiences. Those experiences are HUMAN EXPERIENCES. Their interpretations are PERSONAL. The RELIGIOUS people associate it with GOD and ANGELS while secular people or atheists do not. We all give our personal meanings to our experiences.

I hope I am clarifying my position that we all have similar experiences in life but we give different interpretations and meanings to those experiences. Some give them a RELIGIOUS meaning and some give it a SECULAR meaning. You have a RELIGIOUS ORIENTATION and I have a SECULAR ORIENTATION.

Even now, if I have not able to clarify my position then I apologize.

All the best, Sohail


Dear Javed, After I finished writing to you I had an urge to write more and be as open and honest as possible. For some people these discussions may be philosophical but for me they are very personal. It is because I have seen a lot of people suffer emotionally and I tried my best to help them get better. For some people differences between a poet, a philosopher and a psychotic might be academic but for a psychiatrist they are very crucial.

As a psychiatrist I have seen and treated many people who suffered from Temporal Lobe Epilepsy and Schizophrenia who were pre-occupied with religiosity. So for me there is a Professional and Psychiatric dimension to the whole discussion. For those people who never faced such situations in their family lives may not appreciate this aspect of religiosity and human spirituality.

When I was in Peshawar I met a man in a psychiatric clinic who was having religious hallucinations as he was hearing voices who was telling him that he was Abraham and he should take his son and sacrifice him. We had to admit him and treat him for his psychosis and mental breakdown to protect his son.. Psychiatrist said he was suffering from Nervous Breakdown while the patient believed he was having a ‘Spiritual Breakthrough’.

I have seen many men and women who suffer from hallucinations and delusions of religious and spiritual nature and Mental Hospitals all over the world have many of them.

If you read biographies of many poets, philosophers and prophets you will find them having very unusual and extra-ordinary experiences. Those experiences are a mystery for professionals as well as lay people. Being a psychiatrist it is one of the most fascinating dilemma to face when a person says

“I heard God’s voice and He told me that I am a Prophet?”

Let me give you two examples of 20th century that I have studied. I have read life stories of Guru Rajneesh as well J Krishnamurti. Rajneesh believed he was Bhagwan while Krishmnamurti’s followers believed he was the re-incarnation of Buddha.

When those people shared those experiences as young men some felt they needed psychiatric treatment while others felt they were their Spiritual Guides. For some those experiences were ‘psychotic’ while for others they were ‘spiritual’ and part of Kundalini experience.

I believe it is an interesting question for families and communities to decide how to deal with those people.

In our present discussion I would love to read Khalifa Rashad’s biography.  I would ask Feroz Karmally and Rafi Aamer to lend it to me so that I have my own opinion whether

Was he a Prophet?

Was he a genius?

Was he is Philosopher?

Was he a madman and delusional?

The question is

On what basis we decide that?

(I am sure Feroz Karmally’s and your criteria would be different than Rafi Aamir’s and Rashid Mughal’s)

If Khalifa lived in Toronto and was a member of Family of the Heart how would we deal with him?

Those are my pre-occupations as I deal with families every day for whom these experiences are a painful reality and not an academic discussion.

Those of us who saw the Canadian Movie….Jesus of Montreal…very brilliantly showed how Jesus would have been treated if he was born today in Canada.

For some people those discussions are academic but for me they relate to real problems of real people, people who suffer because they have unusual experiences and we are still struggling as families and communities to deal with people who have extra-ordinary experiences irrespective of whether they are called ‘creative’ ‘spiritual’ or ‘psychotic’?

All the Best.


Oct 4th, 2005


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