DIAGNOSIS OF MENTAL ILLNESS FOR NEW

AGE RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL BELIEFS
©2002

Dr Romesh Senewiratne (MD)

In 1995, the World Health Organization sponsored an Australian university (the
University of New South Wales) to compile and publish The Management of
Mental Disorders, Volume 2: Handbook for the Schizophrenic Disorders. It was
distributed to selected doctors, free of charge, by the Belgian drug company
Janssen-Cilag. This drug company markets Haldol injections, tablets and syrup
(haloperidol) in Australia, and in the book, haloperidol is recommended as a
treatment for schizophrenia and other “psychotic disorders”. In the same manual,
on page 12, a list is given of questions that should be asked by health care
workers to diagnose “unusual thought content”, which in turn was to be regarded
as indicative of “schizophrenia”

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X-rays or radio waves affecting you?” 6. “Are thoughts put into your head that are not your own?” 7. “Do you have a special relationship with God?” 5. that “if the individual reports any odd ideas/delusions” the following questions should be asked: 1. taken from the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS).The list of questions for diagnosis of ‘’unusual thought content”. “Have you been receiving any special messages from people or from the way things are arranged around you?” 2. “Have you felt that you were under the control of another person or force?” It adds. “Have you told anyone about these experiences? How do you explain the things that have been happening (specify)?” . “Can anyone read your mind?” 4. which is being promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO) is as follows: 1. “How often do you think about (use individual’s description)?” 2. “Is anything like electricity. “Have you seen any references to yourself on TV or in the newspapers?” 3.

New Age adherents frequently visited “natural therapists” and “herbalists” for their medical needs. including several organised systems of belief that could best be described as “religions”. in Australian cities. the “New Age religion” as a whole. or from angels. psychologists and social workers to diagnose madness on the basis of whether people have particular religious. “animism” and “spiritism”. Many “New Agers” extolled the virtues of crystals. “New Agers” tended to believe in telepathy. it instructs health care workers. In other words. They . had a more unified system of beliefs than that of the Christian Churches. UFOs or unrealistic beliefs in one’s own abilities” The manual instructs that the rating of the “severity” of the “delusion” should be based on the level of conviction with which the belief is held (rather than how untrue the belief is). “psychic powers”. They tended to believe in reincarnation and the benefits of vegetarianism. often ascribing them near magical powers or frankly magical powers. sometimes from “ascended masters”. nurses. laws and covenants as well as Australian state mental health laws. spirits.Above the questions is a list of the kinds of beliefs that should be regarded as odd/deluded/bizarre ideas requiring an increase in antipsychotic medication (of which haloperidol is one of the most commonly prescribed): “Unusual beliefs in psychic powers. and maintained a suspicion towards the “establishment” including the government and medical doctors. scientific and political beliefs. sometimes from God. In the 1990s there was a sudden explosion of what were called “New Age” beliefs. including doctors. In fact. and sometimes from extraterrestrials and “metaterrestrials” (beings from “other dimensions”). Some “New Age” writers also claimed to have expertise at “channelling”. despite this being against several United Nations treaties.

How to develop your ESP 5. Practical Visualisation . however in the list of Harper-Collins’ “Aquarian Series”. and had their own distinctive culture in Australian cities. An Introduction to Graphology 2. published in the 1990s by the Murdoch publishing empire: 1. “meditation”. Meditation: the Inner Way 10. A plethora of magazines and popular books exhorted the benefit of “spirit guides” and “affirmations”. Dowsing 4. The New Age religion can best be summarised. chanting and the possibility “astral travel”. Levitation 8. the New Age religion was extremely complex and constantly being redefined and added to in a way that other older religions have not experienced in recent times. Incense and Candle Burning 6. Invisibility 7. The Power of Chi 9.were an important part of the youth movement in the 1990s. Colour Therapy 3. In terms of religious beliefs.

as well as The Manual of Mental Disorders.11. Vol2: Handbook for the Schizophrenic Disorders. Understanding Tarot If these books were read and believed. Understanding Astral Projection 12. Understanding Astrology 13. . Understanding Reincarnation 21. Understanding Numerology 19. Understanding the Chakras 15. Understanding Dreams 17. they would produce a complex belief system that would satisfy the most careful and rigorous psychiatric evaluation as indicative of “schizophrenia”. Understanding Runes 22. according to widely accepted textbooks. Understanding Crystals 16. Understanding the I Ching 18. Understanding Palmistry 20. Understanding Auras 14.

crafted into a “religion”. bordering on evil. Belief in reincarnation is. This is fully in line with the official doctrines of the Catholic Church. palm-reading and attempts at communication with the dead to be dangerous. . that reading these New Age books could release “elementals”. in particular – Hinduism and Buddhism. “mysticism”.The ideas and philosophies espoused in the Harper-Collins “Aquarian Series” of New Age paperbacks did not appear in a religious and philosophical vacuum. derived from “occult” beliefs. Parents who find their children experimenting with Tarot cards may well consult a priest before turning to a psychiatrist. warned his flock. “Oija Board” and other “occult arts” as being the work of the Devil. not long ago. “spiritism” and two eastern religions. evil forces that required secret exorcisms by Catholic priests to get rid of them. nor were most the original ideas of Rupert Murdoch’s publishing empire. He warned about the Tarot. as is communication with “spirit guides” with the possible exception of “angels”. the Archbishop of Melbourne. In fact. Belief in reincarnation is common to the Buddhist and Hindu religions but is contrary to Christian teaching that after death one “ascends to Heaven or descends to Hell”. They are a collection of ideas. a seriously heretical idea according to Christian orthodoxy. Bishop George Pell. They are also a series of beliefs actively proscribed by both the Anglican and Catholic Churches. by this token. The Protestant Church also takes a dim view of New Age religions and regards the tarot cards.

whether by mouth or whether by “depot injection”. or “extremely severe” is to be rated if “full delusion is present with almost total preoccupation OR most areas of functioning disrupted by delusional thinking”. that people with these “diagnoses” are notorious for not regarding themselves as being mentally ill. What does this mean for transcultural psychiatry in Australia and around the world? Haloperidol is marketed by the drug company Janssen-Cilag (then a Belgian company. in a circular argument. and will help them “get better” or “stay well”. This is frankly untrue – Haldol is a crippling chemical restraint that causes permanent brain damage when repeatedly consumed. health care workers are encouraged to rate the “delusions” according to severity on a scale from 1 to 7. “Severe delusions” are regarded as more than adequate reasons for involuntary commitment to public hospital psychiatric units and forced injection with Haldol or another dopamine-blocking drug if the person refuses to take the drug voluntarily. It is also taught. in Australia. is itself is regarded as a “typical sign of psychosis”. Grade 7. The result of this form of permanent brain damage by dopamine blockers has a name – ‘Tardive Dyskinesia’. now a part of the American giant Johnson and Johnson) as an “antipsychotic medication”. Doctors and nurses in Australia dutifully explain to their reluctant “patients” that Haldol injections are good for their mental health. This is widely accepted as appropriate treatment for the treatment of “relapses” of schizophrenia. Tardive dyskinesia is one of the most stigmatising and embarrassing forms of movement disorder and does not occur naturally or as the result of anything . some of the questions of which were given at the beginning of this article. This is termed “lack of insight”. which.In the World Health Organisation-promoted “Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale” (BPRS). let alone being in need of drug treatment. and also for treatment of “mania” and even for “first episode psychosis”.

as a direct physiological response to the drug. due to the biochemical links between dopamine and the skin pigment melanin. feeling a constant urge to pace. unable. for decades. If provided only with a locked room. A person with tardive dyskinesia is unable to run without falling. facial grimaces. where there is an inordinate focus . muscular rigidity and psychological depression. tremor. Parkinsonism refers to dopamine-blocker related reproduction of the symptoms of “Parkinson’s Disease”. Akathesia. to sit still for any period of time. Sufferers are plagued with repeated tongue protrusion. These symptoms are caused by all dopamine-blocking drugs in a dose-related fashion. family and friends and even by victims themselves. another common “side effect” of dopamine-blocking drugs is also liable to be seen as evidence of mental illness. Long before they develop tardive dyskinesia most people who are injected with or swallow haloperidol experience other movement disorders – notably “Parkinsonism” and “akathesia”.other than dopamine-blocking drugs. The combination of producing akathesia and then confining patients is commonly practiced in Australian psychiatric hospitals. Large doses are more likely to cause severe Parkinsonism although there are differences in individual and racial susceptibility to this effect. Frequently. involuntary movements is regarded as evidence of madness by members of the community. weird movements of their arms and hands. It has been reliably reported that dark-skinned people are more susceptible to movement disorder with dopamine-blocking drugs. When suffering from akathesia one is unable to keep still. a degenerative brain disease characterised by difficulty initiating movement. the victim paces up and down. to cause tardive dyskinesia. puffing of cheeks. and abnormal walking gaits. who are rarely forewarned about the fact that these “medications” have been known. this iatrogenic collection of strange.

inappropriate affect and auditory hallucinations. application of the label varies considerably between nations. The symptomatology. and has changed considerably over time. rather than Greek roots. Auditory hallucinations in which the voices speak one’s thoughts aloud 2. the “phenomenology” used in diagnosing “schizophrenia” was not new.by staff on preventing people from escaping treatment and forcing them to take “tranquillisers”. who had worked on the development of “personality disorder” labels in the 1920s and 30s. Bleuler taught that schizophrenia/dementia praecox is characterised by the “four A’s”: ambivalence. When the term was coined in the early 20th Century (by the Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler in 1908) he constructed the word from the Greek “schizo” and “phren” meaning “split mind”. prior to and during the Nazi holocaust. however. “mood stabilisers” and other drugs. produced what he called the “First Rank Symptoms of Schizophrenia”. loosening of associations. and meaning early-onset dementia). In the 1950s the German psychiatry professor Kurt Schneider. Auditory hallucinations with two voices arguing 3. however – it was adopted from Emil Kraepelin’s criteria for the diagnosis of what the German Father of Psychiatry called “dementia praecox” (derived from Latin. each of which Schneider claimed was “pathognomonic” (definitely indicative. The term “schizophrenia” is used by doctors and other health care workers around the world. or as psychiatrists call it. in themselves) of “schizophrenia”: 1. The fact that so many want to escape is a reflection of how cruel the medical treatment given to those deemed mad in Australia is. Auditory hallucinations with the voices commenting on one’s actions . There were 11 criteria.

and by the media generally. is designed to do. It is easy to see how commonly manipulation of people’s thoughts and actions occurs through television and radio programming. Delusions of perception. Insertion of thoughts into one’s mind by others 6. Feeling that one’s actions are under the control of others. Believing one’s thoughts are being broadcast to others. The latter is even more outrageous when one considers the range of involuntary movement disorders that are caused by the drugs routinely used in . as by radio or television 7. Insertion by others of irresistible impulses into one’s mind 9. Withdrawal of thoughts from one’s mind 5. Insertion by others of feelings into one’s mind 8.4. like an automaton 10. These are both common New Age beliefs. yet Schneider proclaimed that “insertion by others of irresistible impulses into one’s mind” is indicative of incurable mental illness along with “feelings that one’s actions are under the control of others. as by radio or television”. and programming. like an automaton”. Implanting ideas to buy products people don’t at first believe they need is a principal motive of all advertising. “Insertion of thoughts into one’s mind by others” is surely what television advertising. more generally. as when one is certain that a normal remark has a secret meaning for oneself Belief in telepathy and belief in prayer can easily be described as “believing one’s thoughts are being broadcast to others.

the political and economic factors involved in stifling warnings about the danger of man-made radiation are worth considering. female or androgynous entity that exists within plants and animals and within the natural world. it recommends that health care workers increase the dopamine-blocking drug dose if people express a conviction that “electricity. Some believe that God is a male. There is conclusive evidence that microwave radiation damages the eyes. and rather diverse ideas. “mania” and other supposedly “psychotic disorders”. causing cataracts. It is obvious that the electricity and radiation industries do not want people to worry about using electricity and radiation. Some believe that God communicates with them through “angels”. about “God” and “gods”. There is also considerable evidence that living under high-voltage power lines increases the risk of brain tumours and possible blood cancers (such as leukaemia) and emerging evidence has suggested a risk of brain tumours from mobile phone radiation. X-Rays or radio waves” affect them. These range from ideas that God is an invisible spirit being to belief that God is an inner force. it causes cancer (especially blood cancers). The “New Age Religion” espouses many ideas. ideas commonly held by Christians. and the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale. Returning to the World Health Organization’s more recent publication. Public knowledge of such scientific and medical information could result in legal action for compensation by the public against the radiation.the treatment of “schizophrenia”. telecommunication and power industries. despite any risks posed to the public of cancers and other health problems. and that television-watching increases violence in communities. specifically. and that. Apart from the fact that they do. an idea derived from Hinduism and Paganism. They want to sell more electricity and radiation. see . Others believe that there are many gods. whose voices they claim to hear. Yet it was known a hundred years ago that man-radiation is dangerous.

Belief in telepathy can also cause two other “first rank symptoms”: “insertion by others of feelings into one’s mind” and “feeling that one’s actions are under the control of others”.or be otherwise influenced by. It is also a blatant example of religious discrimination and labels of madness being applied on the basis of religious beliefs and opinions. It is especially commonly accepted as a “scientific fact” by most New Agers. can be misused in other ways. this is a situation where the interviewer’s own religious views are pitted against those they will surely label as “deluded” if they disagree with them. The latter. . Claims that belief in telepathy is indicative of “schizophrenia” date back to the 1950s and before. that the World Health Organization and the University of New South Wales should suggest that people be diagnosed as suffering from “schizophrenia” if they believe themselves to have a “special relationship with God”. when Schneider listed as “first rank symptoms” of schizophrenia belief in “insertion by others of feelings into one’s mind” and “believing one’s thoughts are being broadcast to others”. as do many Christians of all denominations. it is a widely held belief around the world. young people who suddenly convert to Hinduism or Buddhism in Australia are liable for a diagnosis of “schizophrenia” on the basis of widely accepted religious. In a similar vein. then. It seems extraordinary. too. Many aspire to having a “special relationship with God”. The question “can anyone read your mind?” is an unequivocal attempt to label belief in telepathy and “ESP” as indicative of mental illness. Regardless of whether telepathy really exists. scientific and philosophical ideas found in the religious texts and teachings of these ancient religions. including in Australia. At best.

“odd”. banking corporations. oil companies or drug companies. “held without adequate evidence” or “ridiculous”. Romesh Senewiratne (MBBS. “unlikely”. under the control of a range of forces. the World Health Organization. The UN also controls the World Bank and International Monetary Fund along with a range of other organisations.02 Addendum: The World Health Organization (WHO) is the public health branch of the United Nations Organization. or covertly. If judged to be so. It is left to the health care worker to decide whether the “feeling that one’s actions are under the control of others” is “bizarre”. . media. UNESCO and the UNHCR. Haldol.9. 1983) 20. ranging from “demonic possession” to belief that one is subtly. including UNICEF. body politic. Janssen-Cilag and the University of New South Wales recommend a diagnosis of “schizophrenia” and drug treatment with Janssen-Cilag’s injectable chemical restraint. including the New World Order. Qld.“Feeling that one’s actions are under the control of others” obviously means different things to different people.

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