Friday, February 19, 2010

Epilepsy. The Grand Mal. The Petit Mal. Religious Founders, Writers, and Others

 Epilepsy in Visionaries, Leaders, the Creative

Unsung is the role of epilepsy in visions that religious followers use as anchors for belief. For those of faith, grounded in that epilepsy idea is a challenge.  For those of faith, the challenge is: what is the source of visions, the proximate cause, the without which nothing.  Without a condition, would the visions have occurred;  or was the disease somehow a vehicle for a deity.  Or is it all spiritual, unconnected to the physical. Who is to know.  Ancient India, Babylon, all grappled with the meaning of the losses of consciousness, was it a spiritual matter, or physical - as Hippocrates believed; what the fallen person "saw", the "moonstruck", the "lunatic", the "sacred disease", see ://www.allcountries.org/health/epilepsy_historical_overview.html/

Sites geared to the occurrences of epilepsy in history are a treasure of lists: for many, the epileptic condition is theorized from behavioral observations of others at the time, or from the person.
  • Dante, Moliere, Sir Walter Scott, Byron, Poe, Shelley, Tennyson, Dickens, Lewis Carroll, Tolstoy, Flaubert, more at ://www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy/famous_writers
 We know of other visions in other cultures, from gases at Delphi to you-name-it in indigenous cultures, Native Americans. Those are from herbs, substances.  We are discussing here the role of a chemical or (to those voting for inspiration) inspiration.
  • Julius Caesar, Pope Pius IX,  Czar Peter the Great, see ://www.allcountries.org/health/epilepsy_historical_overview.html/
  • Harriet Tubman, who rescued slaves, see http://www.disabilityhistory.org/people.html (her condition a result apparently of a blow to the head as a child by an overseer)
Epilepsy, the unsung.  Move to roots of ancient and modern religions:
  • Ezekiel, Prophet of Old Testament fame.   Epilepsy?  This site says that Ezekiel displays epileptic symptoms, see  ://www.newscientist.com/article/dn1565-old-testament-prophet-showed-epileptic-symptoms.html/  Hear about him seeing the wheel at ://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSoCFAdByOI/ (the Vintage High School Chamber Singers)
  • Vet Paul the Apostle, Epilepsy as "St. Paul's Disease" at ://www.epilepsiemuseum.de/alt/paulusen.html/  The BBC agreed, see ://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1427916/St-Paul-converted-by-epileptic-fit-suggests-BBC.html/.  Does our religious community admit the possibility of new facts, or once faith takes hold, is it a death-grip.  Who decides.  Other groups have their own theories, see ://relijournal.com/christianity/was-the-apostle-paul-gay/; but the point is:  in any religion, how do we know inspiration from pathology, or cultural bias. 
No answers yet here.
  • Vet Mohammed, PBUH (peace be unto him, here as a sign of respect) - this is not a discussion of the merits of inspiration, just a possible role of epilepsy, as with any person with epilepsy making writings or reporting for others to record, see ://www.faithfreedom.org/Articles/sina41204.htm; countered by ://www.sullivan-county.com/x/mecca.htm/;  see also ://www.bangladesh.com/forums/religion/7535-mohammad-suffering-epilepsy.html/   The condition, as with many others in history, must be theorized from accounts of behavior at the time, or illustrations in other ways, see ://www.hermetic.com/sabazius/mohammed.htm/.  Asking the question, as is asked of anyone. And even those with conditions - a different matter from the bona fides of inspiration.  A condition does not negate an inspiration, of course. We are looking for Arab culture-oriented sites addressing what they have found, as the question is not a new one.
  • As to anyone theorized as having epilepsy, do your own search and vetting: as to Mohammed, we used the simple proposition, Mohammed, epilepsy, and similar wordings. Where to get at untainted sources, the earliest, most reliable, before dogma took over as it does in any religion as it institutionalizes. There are many Qur'anic manuscripts, see ://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Text/Mss/hijazi.html/, but it will be up to others to explore and see changes and differences in what is said.  A discussion of 1st Century HJ is at section 4.  Scroll down.  As in any collection of religious works, there are changes and additions, and deletions, apparently.  For proto-Koran work, if it is so that it was Arabic language in Syriac script, see Was the Koran Originally Written in Garshuni, at a subheading of that section 4.  When was the Koran codified: the differences, as to the founder and/or Christian and Jewish origin/influences at the time, may cast light on what was ultimately included, and what was rejected as undesirable as the theology coalesced. 
Others - the idea is not new: See ://www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy/famous_religious/
  • They add Joan of Arc, see France Road Ways, Joan of Arc.  Epilepsy has long been connected with genius in some form. See http://www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy/famous/
  • St. Valentine - patron saint of epileptic persons, see ://www.allcountries.org/health/epilepsy_historical_overview.html/   His was the falling sickness, don't fall down in German being something like "fall net hin", or Valentin, see ://www.epilepsiemuseum.net/alt/body_therapieen.html
Epilepsy in leaders, religious leaders, political leaders.  Can we consider new information, or is a countering dogma taboo.

Epilepsy in art - see ://www.epilepsiemuseum.net/alt/body_arsen.html/  This site takes you through room after "room" of topics related to the history and treatment and occurrence of epilepsy. Find more patron saints, depictions of people being cured, or afflicted. See overall www.epilepsymuseum.net/

More in literature, and other areas - at ://www.desitin.no/index.php/artgallery/detail/1296/

Treatments:  find a history of approaches from the ancient world, through the middle ages and renaissance, at ://www.epilepsiemuseum.net/alt/body_therapieen.html

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