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I know a little something about hearing voices. My first book, “Muses, Madmen, and Prophets,” was about auditory hallucinations — specifically, about how the experience transformed, over the course of centuries, from something that had spiritual and religious connotations to something that suggested madness and nothing more.
During the time of Moses, the Hebrew prophets, Jesus, St. Augustine, St. Teresa, right on up to the Enlightenment, hearing voices meant that you could, conceivably, be receiving messages from a divine source. People still might spit on you, humiliate you, exile you, or burn you at the stake. But there was a chance that they wouldn’t, and that you would be honored for your abilities. Then, sometime around the early 19th century, the medical establishment grabbed hold of hallucinations and hearing voices entered the realm of pathology. This was a shame not because people who hear voices are never mentally ill but because not everyone who hears voices is mentally ill. It’s the syllogism — if you hear voices, then you are psychotic — that’s incorrect and unfair. Many more people hear voices than need psychiatric help.
I mention all this because when I started to hear voices, a couple of weeks ago, I should have realized at once that I wasn’t going crazy.