‘God put a thought into my mind: the charismatic Christian experience of receiving communications from God‘: Simon Dein & Christopher CH Cook, Mental Health, Religion & Culture, Volume 18, Issue 2, 2015
Abstract: “The agentive aspects of communicative religious experiences remain somewhat neglected in the social sciences literature. There is a need for phenomenological descriptions of these experiences and the ways in which they differ from culturally defined psychopathological states. In this semi-structured interview study, eight congregants attending an evangelical church in London were asked to describe their experiences of God communicating with them.
Communications from God were related to current events rather than to the prediction of future events. These communications were received as thoughts and do not generally reveal metaphysical insights, but rather they relate to the mundane world. They provided direction, consolation and empowerment in the lives of those receiving them. Individuals recounted that on occasion God sometimes speaks audibly, or accompanied by supernatural phenomena, but in the vast majority of cases, the way God speaks is through thoughts or impressions. In all instances, agency is maintained, individuals can choose to obey the thoughts/voices or not. The findings are discussed in relation to externalisation of agency and the phenomenon of thought insertion in schizophrenia.”
Introduction: “The sheep follow him because they know his voice. John 10:4b NRSV
As the controversial psychiatrist Szasz (1979, p. 101) quipped: “If you talk to God, you are praying; If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia. If the dead talk to you, you are a spiritualist; If you talk to the dead, you are a schizophrenic”. While mental health professionals have a long tradition of pathologising religious experience (Johnson & Friedman, 2008), it appears that things are slowly changing. The recent DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) states:
Like the early DSM –IV-TR , DSM-5 includes a V Code, 62.89, religious or spiritual problem. However, it also provides an expanded understanding of culture and the impact of culture in diagnosis.