My cousin Djibril was a seemingly average, French African 23,year old male living in Paris. He was deeply religious, but was otherwise normal. He loved soccer and had many aspirations for the future, until one day he awoke in a totally different state of mind. From that moment on he became withdrawn, he started having nightmares, angry outbursts, and became extremely antisocial. This became a cause for concern. The family began to worry and sought out a variety of different treatments. This went on for about 2 years. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was committed for a short time, where he was given a drug cocktail to control the disease. His mother (my aunt) took on the fight and was fully committed to healing her son. What most piqued my interest was how no one ever said, ‘your cousin’s a schizophrenic’, whenever a family member discussed Djbril’s condition. I don’t think they took much of that into consideration. I was told that my cousin had “a djinn problem”. The djinn are acknowledged in Islam and are believed to be an entity of beings created from fire that are invisible to human beings. They reside in an alternate realm where they can see us but we can’t see them. There are good ones, neutral, ones and evil ones. They Quran however doesn’t go into a great amount of depth or detail pertaining to the djinn.
Djbril’s best friend decided to intervene one day and told his mother, who happens to be a practicing shaman in Paris. The shaman began treating Djbril. On the first visit, after examining Djbril, she told the family that Djbril was being tormented by two evil spirits and that she would help get rid of them. We were told the situation was very critical and she took him in for two weeks for the treatment. During those two weeks she gave him a special tea to drink 3 times a day, a brew in which to bathe, and incense that he had to burn around him and inhale. She said her mission was to find out exactly why each spirit was tormenting him and appease both so they would leave Djbril alone. She stressed how imperative it was that a shaman know how to treat these spirits to avoid disastrous results. Within those two weeks she communicated with the spirits through her dream state. The treatment culminated with the performance of an exorcism on him. She sent Djbril off with dry leaves that he had to brew twice a day, incense that he had to burn, and a bottle of a tonic she had brewed for him to use every day. My cousin recovered — completely. He told me the story himself, and was always very serious about taking his treatments exactly the way she prescribed. He made it a point never to miss burning the incense or doing anything else he was told to do. He even told me about one encounter in which he fell asleep without using the brew and he was abruptly awakened by something urging him to go use it. I was completely astonished, to say the least, when hearing all of this. The most fascinating part was hearing about what he experienced while in the schizophrenic state: voices commanding him to do dangerous things, beings floating around, and his notion of time being wiped out. I later met the shaman and visited her. There were a few other people from other parts of Europe that came for her treatment, all of them tormented in different ways. She placed a mattress in her living room for them to sleep on and they weren’t allowed to leave until the two weeks were up, for fear they wouldn’t follow through properly with the plan she designed.
This prompted a slew of questions in my mind. What would have happened to my cousin if he stayed at the mental hospital, took the prescribed drugs, and his best friend never brought him over to his mother? Where would Djbril be now? Could this form of treatment help save a lot of people with Djbril’s diagnosis of schizophrenia? Are these spirits a manifestation of trauma? These were just a fraction of things I began to ask myself. What stood out to me the most were the two distinctly opposed ways that Djbril’s condition was being interpreted. The polarity within how symptoms were being translated on each side. I knew the scientific explanation couldn’t have been wrong, but how could the shaman be wrong given the results that we saw? Is everything needed to treat any possible condition available in nature and we just don’t know enough about it? What if these two forms of thought merged and patients treated by both concurrently?
However, I got a swift reality check when I began to realize how primitive and irrational most people might perceive this idea, unless they were familiar with Islamic culture and the concept of the djinn. It would either frighten them completely or they would insist that it was not possible. One of my friends told me about a family friend of his whose daughter was suffering from schizophrenia and how much the family was suffering. I told him about Djbril’s experience and suggested that maybe they reached a point where they should try something else. He brushed it off by responding “Yeah, but these are wealthy, respected people, they don’t have time for that”. I was somewhat offended, before I realized that this was the problem with society. We look down on things we don’t know or understand, when it may actually be useful or our last chance for a positive outcome.
The point I’m trying to make isn’t that everyone who has a loved one suffering from mental illness should necessarily go seek out a shaman. The idea of containing a spirit through the consumption of brews and burning incense for the rest of your life may not be to your liking. At the same time, the thought of having to control a mental illness by taking a myriad of prescription drugs, whose side effects may be as bad as the disorder itself, may be just as distasteful. I do believe, however, that what we define as mental illness is just as much a spiritual problem. I don’t, however, believe that a shaman is the only way to treat a spiritual problem. I realize that all of this may lead to many different theories, but if I help begin a dialogue ... then good!
These two sides are fundamentally based on two extremely different perceptions of life. The medical doctor in the mental hospital wouldn’t be able to fathom the shaman’s diagnosis anymore than the shaman would be able to fathom the doctor’s. They may not have a way around the dilemma, given that both are firm believers that their way is the correct way to treat the problem; but there may be a way around it for us.
I believe if we concentrated more on how each side corresponded with the other, rather than trying disproving both sides, we would find a magical medium. This is the challenging part. It requires us to actually use our consciousness and stretch our minds. It’s easy to pick a side and argue its merit because you can find evidence — cases that support an idea because of documented successes. It’s easy when someone else has done all the work.
But what if you are like me — you’ve been exposed to a variety of cultural value systems, and can find the truth in both? This is the starting point for expanding your consciousness. Instead of just being perplexed and stopping there you can try to search for how each corresponds to the other. That’s how we begin to evolve, and is the direction in which we should head. The firststep: Have an open mind. The second step: understand both sides. The third step: Figure out how both sides can come together to create a magic medium. Without an open mind, you’re not even in the game. I think that’s the direction we are taking as we evolve. I think the key to expanding our consciousness has to do with finding the corresponding balance — the yin and yang of opposing ideals.
I had a friend that had a “spiritual problem”. She had a sex addiction, was a pathological liar, had strange dreams, and altogether horrible luck. One day she made a decision to strengthen her faith, distance herself from distraction, focus on God, and seek help from her church to turn her life around. I thought all this was great. I went with her to one of her church meetings and the reverend prayed over her. She reacted violently, but he continued to pray over her, until she subsided — ten minutes, all in all. When he ended the prayer she started to cry. Then I noticed something unsettling. After the prayer ended and the crying began, my friend began relating her emotions about her problems and how they were affecting her and her family. The minister didn’t really respond. He didn’t seem to want to hear all of that. He simply continued to preach at her, not to her, and told her to stay strong and remain in her faith. This was all great advice but it felt cold — detached-in a way. I firmly believe that, when she let go of her emotions and started confessing her problems, she in was on the brink of a breakthrough and she needed someone to minister to her spirit — a trained counselor or psychologist to help her talk through her situation and find a resolution; an individual who would listen to her painful stories and emotions, and help her to heal and understand herself better. Not just a friend or family member that would console her and tell her to stop crying, but someone with a fucking degree in how to handle matters like these.
Later, I suggested that she see a psychologist and she assured me that her mental state wasn’t the issue, and that psychologists didn’t understand spiritual problems. She insisted that hers was a spiritual problem, that demons were the cause of her life’s problems. I believe she may very well have been suffering from both spiritual and psychological demons; and that both contributed to, and corresponded with, her self destructive behavior. I believe that her magical medium may be found by continuing the practice of her faith, because it helped her greatly, and by seeking the help of a psychologist or psychiatrist. Her faith provided her with hope, which is essential, but I don’t believe she will ever be truly healed unless she speaks with someone who knows how to access certain parts of her mind and memories. I believe she needs someone who will listen without an opinion, and get her to open up until she achieves specific breakthroughs. What if your bad luck was linked to trauma as much as it was linked to being oppressed spiritually? Instead of blaming demons for everything, how about trying to understand the effects that life has had on you, as well? A great many people with mental illnesses and spiritual issues have suffered traumas. I read that demons attach themselves to trauma and resentment — two peas in a pod.
Perfect Universe, synchronicity
I don’t believe that there are many wrongs. I believe that synchronicity plays a greater part in the universe than we even know. I believe that the universe is perfect in its design; and that we should seek to understand as much of what we don’t know as we possibly can, so we can understand how everything actually works. Ultimately, truth will always be defined by what can be proven. It’s very hard to argue against something that has shown consistently proven results.
Millennial Memo: Millennial’s are believed to be vastly more self-aware than previous generations. Millennials, surprisingly enough, are breaking through the stigma of mental illness and seeking treatment. It may have something to do with the disproportionate levels of stress that millennial’s face, a growing interest and acceptance of science and medicine than previous generations, or all the work that has been done to destigmatize mental illness. These may all be natural results in the wake of tragedies such as the suicide of Robin Williams, whom most millennial’s grew up watching as kids or young adults.