Re: Mental Disturbance and Creative Achievement

Dr. Ernest N. Prabhakar (ernest@pundit)
Thu, 4 Sep 97 14:32:31 -0700

[Forgot to FoRk this the first time. For the record, Rohit agrees
with me, he was just being abbreviated].

Begin forwarded message:

To: Rohit Khare <>
Subject: Re: Mental Disturbance and Creative Achievement

You wrote:
> Thanks. You know that I agree with you, of course: I'm looking for
> Adam...

Yeah, I just wanted to get those bits on the record.

> On the other hand, you're replying to a chemical void with moral
> reasoning. The illnesses are real, too.

Whoa, slow down. First of all - as I've said elsewhere many times -
I don't believe those two problems exist on the same level. Mental
illness is a real disease, and may require treatment in many forms,
but that larger problems are moral. There are many non-spiritual
actions we can take to improve our mental health up to a point, but
beyond that I argue we need to explore the spiritual dimension to find
true wholeness.

Secondly, your sentence equates mental illness with chemical
deficiency, which is at best a gross oversimplification: 1) not all
diseases have chemical component; 2) not all diseases which are
correlated with chemistry (or even cured with chemistry) necessarily
have a chemical cause; 3) even chemically based diseases have an
ultimate spiritual component.

To illustrate my last point, let's look at alcoholism, a disease with
a clear genetic predisposition and plausabile biochemical pathway.
Okay, based on chemistry, I don't *blame* a guy for a being an
alcoholic. We all avoid reality, he is just unlucky enough that his
personal style tends towards something more addictive and damaging
than others. However, I still hold him responsible. Whatever his
biochemistry does later, *he* is still responsible for the first
drink, AND for whether or not he gets help when his addiction starts
impacting his family and career. As are we all.

Even chemical problems require spiritual cures. Otherwise you get
Freud's early problem, where you solve someone's symptom but not the
underlying psychological trauma. If we found a magic drug that made
people intolerant of alcohol and 'cured' alcholism, it might speed up
the healing process, but it wouldn't by itself reduce the number of
alcoholics. As Rohit himself said, it begins with a personal
decision to be healed, and a belief that healing is possible.

If you don't believe me, as the million or so people who've gone through AA.

> Misery, as I admittedly
> editorialized, need not be. But the diseases he's analyzing are
> matters of fact. His 8-point diagnostic of greatness is a fair
> inference from the facts, too.

I will concede those facts. However, those 8-points do not require
mental illness, nor are they incompatible with joy (though they are
incompatible with the sort of mindless bliss the modern world equates
with happiness).

The more interesting - and relevant question - is that if a given
person undergoes a transition from misery to joy, can they retain
their creative potential? And will it be denominated the same? Was
Pascal's Pensees a better or worse use of his capacity than his
scientific studies?

-- Ernie P.

P.S. Okay, that was probably an overreaction, and Rohit probably
didn't mean to imply all those things I was attacking. I just have a
hot-button for people who use proximate causes to evade ultimate
responsibility, and he pushed it.