The account gives a clear description of the onset, course and resolution of two psychotic crises, with many bizarre features, successfully treated in hospital with medication. Spirit release therapists will find special interest in the description of spirit possession and its sudden, spontaneous and surprisingly picturesque ending. That the spirits didn't actually say, "It is the medication that is causing us to leave," must be considered an oversight on their part.
Hilary's first illness
One night, in 1998, after attending a charismatic Christian service in which I was 'slain by the Spirit', I felt my tongue being moved, first in large movements then in smaller ones like gentle caressing. The next day I found my jaws and tongue moved in an incomprehensible speech I took to be glossolalia or 'speaking in tongues' which is said by Christians to be a gift of the Holy Spirit. However, I found the speech turning into English and I soon found myself being spoken through as if I was a medium, except I was not in a trance, by someone who said he was called Alalal. He came from the Institute of Joseph of Arimathea, and told me that he was a spirit guide who was going to train me as a healer and that we were going to heal my sister who had cancer.
After a while, Alalal told me that he and the Institute of Arimathea were in error and that through communicating with me they were being saved and moving to a higher part of the etherial realms. Some other spirits took over and told me I was to save lost spirits. One day I was told to go somewhere where there was water to exorcise a spirit. I drove to a nearby pond. The spirit guide told me to get into the water and perform a fictitious ritual to encourage the spirit to come out. He apparently did but then jumped back into me. I decided to go to see a missionary I knew. She started quoting the Bible to me in an effort to exorcise the spirit but he started swearing and telling me he loved me and refused to leave me.
Later the same day, I started to get a different sort of message. I was told I was a spy. The voices sent more bizarre messages till finally one voice said he was a charismatic Christian pilot flying overhead and that I should go to hospital. A doctor was called and I was taken to A&E. There the spirits told me we were making a film to prove that Jesus was alive. I was told I was attached by wires to the aeroplane and had to be wound down back to earth. I began to move round in circles to facilitate this and was apparently sedated by hospital staff and later transferred to mental hospital.
I continued to be spoken through for a further three weeks while I was in the mental hospital. I asked a nurse to listen to the voices but it must have sounded like me speaking. He just went off and got me put on sulpiride. A spirit called Peleleia took over. He used to tell me to let him take over my breathing, he told me to lie on the bed while he apparently operated on me to prepare me to become a healer. We also did automatic writing, only the writing came out as my own. One day he said he wanted to take over my body. I sat on the side of a bed and felt my limbs being moved very slowly till I was in an upright position. Then I took one or two mechanical steps. It felt as if I was an automaton. Finally some spirits arrived who introduced themselves as spirit doctors. They told me they were going to release the spirits from me. While releasing me from the spirits they told me I would have to release them, as they too were possessing me, to be completely free. They told me to let them jump off my tongue into a cup of water. The very last spirit to go was the one who had refused to leave when the missionary had quoted the Bible to me. He told me again he loved me and said goodbye. After he had gone all the voices ceased. It felt strange for a while as they had been speaking through me for five weeks. When I got used to it I felt quite normal in myself and left hospital a week later. But I never forgot the experience and to this day five years later I feel like Coleridge's ancient mariner obsessed with a strange tale to tell.
Hilary's second illness
Two years after my first experience I had become agitated and sleepless after being told I had bipolar affective disorder. One day I was in the bank when I had the feeling that everyone in the bank was moving around especially for me. I knew that that was not how it was meant to be and asked my husband to take me home. Soon after, I woke one morning to hear voices telling me it was the end of the world but I needn't worry because I would be told what to do. The voices told me to lie back and allow myself to be moved. If I did exactly as they told me I would save the world.
It then transpired that the red button was about to be pressed that would release all the American arsenal of atomic bombs. I heard people from NASA talking and one person in particular was expressing reservations that the fate of the world should be left to me, but the original voices said I had been trained. All the world's press were waiting with bated breath. I was moved very slowly and allowed the tiny movements to take place. I heard the voices of the press talking about the fact that the end of the world was taking place in a stable just like the one in Bethlehem and that my husband and I lying in bed were the second Mary and Joseph. I'm not sure how, but all the people waiting began to realise that as this scene was being acted out everyone was receiving the reward or punishment that they exactly deserved. Everything was in perfect order. People gradually began to realise that the end of the world was not going to be some spectacular event they had expected. I kept allowing the slightest movement to be made through my body. Gradually the movements became so small that it became apparent that my will coincided with their will and that the movements were mine. The end of the world had been averted. I turned and looked at my husband, sure that he knew what had happened. He did not. He looked at me as if I was mad.
Following this I retained a sense of euphoria while he called a doctor who I proceeded to insult and call Po-face after one of the spirits I had met last time. I agreed to go to hospital, retaining this sense of perfection all the way in the car. The traffic signs all looked like messages from God and I had the feeling that the signs were telling me that I was living in a perfect and meaningful world. I don't remember exactly what happened when I arrived because someone I met later said I had been shouting and my records said I had been trying to hug the psychiatrist, however I remember things that happened later. In my room I continued to hear voices, this time telling me I was being taken through the heavenly realms layer by layer. As we arrived at each layer other voices who had expressed doubt about me would be sent down the layers. It was like going through the floors of a lift. Eventually I was told we were arriving on earth and I concluded that earth was Hell. It came into my head that the disciples in the Bible at Pentecost had been talking about hell. I began to shout at the top of my voice about this till I finally screamed 'How dare you call this place Hell's Den' (The hospital was actually called Hellesdon). I was surprised that no-one came to see what I was doing!
My elated state went on for several days while I received information that speaking in tongues was a special code used by vicars. I started playing word games with God and He told me I was the second coming of Jesus and that Tony Blair and the Millenium Dome had something to do with it. I was also told that I had the perfect disguise as a mad woman for releasing spirits and that I was attached back to back with a Muslim and that between us we would save spirits either in this world or on the other side. Finally God told me he was making me into a perfect human being and that he was making a tape of my life. I realised that my life was the actual tape.
Eventually I came back to myself but have been put on Sodium Valproate, a small dose of sulpiride and antidepressants. I have been taking them for four years and the psychiatrist thinks that if I stop taking them I will become 'ill' again.
Before commenting further it seems right to attempt some definitions.
Psychosis is the contemporary medical term for madness or insanity. While most authorities agree that it involves impaired contact with consensual reality, definitions are often circular, and imprecise.
Here is the definition of psychosis that appears on the Government's own web site:
"Psychosis describes severe mental illness that involves an individual being unable to distinguish between what is real and what is imaginary.
"Symptoms include hallucinations (seeing, smelling or feeling things that do not exist), delusions (bizarre, false beliefs) or hearing voices (when no one is talking). Also severe thought disturbances and grossly abnormal behaviour.
"Psychosis occurs when there is an underlying mental health illness (the latest politically correct term, it seems. - A.S.), such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
"It is also possible to experience a psychotic episode when taking drugs such as amphetamines (speed), ecstasy, cannabis, LSD, glue/inhalant sniffing or withdrawing from prolonged use of alcohol or sedatives."
Away from the website, a more succinct definition, which limits description to the essential features, might be:
Psychosis is a mental disability, not primarily the result of intellectual deficit, in which, without himself being aware of the contrast, an individual sees his relation to the environment and to society, in a way radically different to that commonly held.
A description of spirit attachment, from the Spirit Release Foundation brochure, follows:
"A minority of those who die fail to make the transition successfully. They become what is known as earthbound, because they remain mentally attached to the earth plane and so cannot progress. Reasons for this include a traumatic death, concern over some unfinished business or anxiety for a loved one on Earth.
Such earthbound spirits are rarely malicious: mostly they are lost and confused. This may manifest in a variety of ways. They may attach to a house or locale with which they were associated in life, so that the house or locale becomes haunted. Such spirits may also be responsible for poltergeist activity, which is their way of drawing attention to their plight.
In some cases an earthbound spirit may attach to a living person. Some of the more common symptoms can be: lack of energy, memory disturbance, behavioural change, mood change, addictive behaviour, relationship problems and hearing disturbing voices. There may be bodily pain and other physical symptoms. The degree of attachment also varies. Some individuals are scarcely affected, while in rare cases the individual's body and mind have been taken over completely."
It needs to be added that incarnate spirits may attach in a similar manner to discarnate spirits and that not all attached spirits are of human origin. A.S.
Having defined our terms, we can now discuss Hilary's account from the viewpoint of conventional psychiatric practice.
Hilary has painted a vivid picture. Recovered patients commonly have only a hazy recollection of their illness or they may prefer not to recall it, as being too disturbing to think about, but here is a clear account, given with what psychiatrists would call good insight. Reading it, we are prompted to ask what, in experiential and psychological terms, was actually happening? And what caused it? Psychiatry, with its focus upon diagnostic categories, risk assessment and medication, has little time for such questions. If it could accept the relevance of the spiritual dimension, a broad new way would open up, away from the blind alley of control. At last there are signs that this may actually be happening. The Spirituality Group of the Royal College of Psychiatrists www/rcpsych.ac.uk/college/sig/spirit is flourishing and last year gave a whole day to the discussion of spirit release therapy.
In the new climate that is developing, perhaps we can turn away from the dichotomous thinking indicated by our title - Spirit Attachment or Psychosis? In the above case, the likely answer must surely be, "Both." The time may soon come when psychiatrists will take a fresh interest in the spiritual features of psychotic states. I believe that studying accounts such as Hilary's will, little by little, bring us closer to an understanding of the factors underlying the puzzling phenomenon of psychosis.
Looking back to the months before my breakdown, I can see events that may have had an important influence on its timing and content.
My attendance at the charismatic Christian service in May 1998 was preceded by my mother's death in February and the news, in March, that my sister had a recurrence of cancer. I began praying during that month. I read the book 'When the 'Spirit comes' by Colin Urquart and also 'Healing the Family Tree' by Kenneth McAll (In this connection, it may be relevant that my older sister killed herself). On 21st April I re-dedicated myself to God and gave Him my books in a symbolic gesture. I felt a great spiritual release and believed I had received the Holy Spirit. On the 2nd May I went to the charismatic service and fell down. I don't have the date for when I met Alalal but all through that month the spirits were communicating with/through me. I went to hospital on the 23rd June1998.
I'm telling you all this because I believe there was quite a lot of activity from the other side at that time which I don't understand as I am not psychic. Having read in Annabel Chaplin's book about suicides I'm not sure if my older sister, who was a dentist and atheist is where she should be after all these years, though my mother may have helped. I have taken communion on Karen's behalf and also on behalf of a relative by marriage who is currently in mental hospital after self-harming.
I too can only quote what I have read and the Bible is a source of my reading. 'For we wrestle, not against flesh and blood but against.......spiritual wickedness in high places.' (Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus)
I feel very fortunate in having had a 'second opinion' about my psychosis from a psychiatrist who, though not a Christian, shares my belief in the afterlife. From the outset I was very unhappy with the reductionist neurotransmitter theory of psychosis. What I experienced was real. Dr Sanderson has helped me particularly in listening to the content of my psychosis and taking my experience seriously. I no longer feel like the ancient mariner bent on telling and retelling my story. I feel I am moving on. I am reading more about spirit release and gaining a broader view than I had of life after death. I am now working with the chaplaincy at Hellesdon hospital and will be doing some research into the benefits of mental health service users having their spiritual concerns taken seriously. I hope one day a path will open up for me to be involved in spirit release.
Hilary Pegg July 2004