From the Visions of Saint Teresa of Jesus to the Voices of Schizophrenia

Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 15 (3):239-250 (2008)
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Abstract

The life of Saint Teresa of Jesus, the most famous mystic of sixteenth-century Spain, was characterized by recurrent visions and states of ecstasy. In this paper, we examine social components related to Teresa’s personal crises and the historical conditions of her times, factors that must be taken into account to understand these unusual forms of experience and behavior. Many of these factors (e.g., increasing individualism and reflexivity) are precursors of the condition of modern times. Indeed, certain parallels can be observed between Saint Teresa and certain present-day psychopathological disorders. The analogy should not, however, be carried too far. Religion played a particularly crucial role in Teresa’s cultural context; as a result, it would be misleading to view her mystical experiences as resulting from a mental disorder.

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