Scholars have noted that epileptics often have a heightened religiosity. The ancient Greeks described epilepsy as a “divine disease, a visitation from the gods”.
The scientific study of epilepsy-related religious experiences has been marked by differences of opinions and facts. Scientific study is complicated in that religious experiences could occur during a seizure (ictal), after a seizure (postictal), or between seizures (chronic interictal and acute interictal).
Epilepsy-related experiences could include hallucinations, depersonalization, derealization, dreamy states, out-of-body experience, ecstasy, and insight into life’s unity/harmony. These experiences are particularly likely to engender religious interpretation and are also the same kind of experiences that people have in the manic episodes of a kundalini crisis.
The following 3 quotes in red font are from an article at Science Direct entitled “Spirituality and Religion in Epilepsy” by Orrin Devinsky and George Lai. The article is available at https://www.epilepsybehavior.com/article/S1525-5050(07)00436-2/fulltext
“Diﬀerentiating genius from pathology may be most diﬃcult regarding religious ideation and experience. Who is touched by madness, who by spirits, and who by both?”
“Similarly we can diagnose a psychotic disorder if there are nonreligious delusional ideas and characteristic hallucinations and negative symptoms. But how can we distinguish the physiology or validity of a religious experience in someone with epilepsy or psychosis from that of a religious sage? We can’t.”
“The nature of religious experiences lays open the question as to how many other religious ﬁgures could have had epilepsy. For example, Moses’ experience was one in which he saw a burning bush unconsumed by the ﬁre and heard God’s voice. A medical explanation might attribute his experience to a temporal lobe ecstatic seizure with visual and auditory hallucinations.”
The following 3 quotes in blue font are from the Neural Substrates of Religious Experience by Jeffrey L. Saver, M.D. and John Rabin, M.D. The PDF is available at http://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.1176/jnp.9.3.498
“Patients who have culturally acquired explanatory systems of a religious character naturally tend to interpret any ictal experience as possessing religious significance. Studies have demonstrated that experiences that are personal, important, negative, and medical, like most seizures, are particularly likely to be interpreted in a religious framework.“
“Deep similarities are readily apparent between these intellectual auras and alterations in the experience of reality that are a common feature of intense, nonepileptic religious experience.”
Only a small percentage of epileptics (in the neighborhood of 4%) have epilepsy-related religious experience. However, some scholars have postulated that these relatively-rare religious experiences throughout history have had major impacts on the world.
“A substantial number of founders of major religions, prophets, and leading religious figures have been documented as having or suggested to have epilepsy (Table 1).”
Here is the list from the article’s Table 1: Saint Paul, Father of Catholic Church; Margery Kempe, 14th century Christian mystic; Joan of Arc, French saint; St. Catherine of Genoa, Christian mystic; St. Teresa of Avila, Catholic saint; St. Catherine dei Ricci, Catholic saint; Emanuel Swedenborg, founder of New Jerusalem Church; Ann Lee, founder of the Shaker movement; founder of Mormonism; Fyodor Mikhailovitch Dostoievsky, Russian novelist; Hieronymous Jaegen, German mystic; Dr. Z (Arthur Thomas Myers), prominent in Society for Psychical Research; Vincent Van Gogh, hyper-religious artist; St. Therese of Lisieux, Catholic saint; and the prophet that can’t be disparaged by anyone without danger of retribution.
Here is a case report of “Hyperreligiosity in a Patient with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy” that is available at https://www.hindawi.com/journals/crinm/2015/235856/
On examination, he was uncooperative. He was constantly making religious remarks, saying “God is with me and I do not need doctors or medications.” He would interpret every question asked to him as questioning his faith and at times attempted to convert doctors and staff to Islam. He believed everyone around him was preventing him from obtaining salvation. His family stated that he had a generalized tonic-clonic seizure two days prior to being hospitalized and after the generalized seizure he started having increasing religious thoughts. The wife called an ambulance because she was frightened by his excessive religious speech.
There are physiological correlates to all religious experiences and peak experiences. I propose that a kundalini crisis and epilepsy-related religious experience have some of the same physiological parameters.
Just as Guru Maniacs have impacted many people, it is postulated that some epileptics with religious fervor have had major impacts on the world. If a charismatic person has mania or religious fervor, LOOK OUT WORLD!!!
A kundalini crisis brings danger to life. The benefits in a kundalini crisis of increased energy and confidence do not out-weigh the harm of delusions, emotionality, and poor decision-making. The similarities of a kundalini crisis and epilepsy-related religious experience are scary.