Spirituality and the care of madness: Historical considerations


Book Section

© Cambridge University Press 2009. SUMMARY Spiritual and religious issues are sometimes neglected or misrepresented in histories of psychiatry. This chapter outlines a historical approach to understanding how spiritual and religious ideas are expressed in medical and religious writings dealing with madness. Sacred writings, inscriptions, ancient architecture, commentaries, pastoral letters, medical texts, and religious and spiritual publications all reflect a range of ideas about the role of spirituality and the supernatural in the etiology and treatment of mental disorders. Beginning with ancient pagan and Jewish writings, and continuing with the writings of the early church fathers, medieval physicians and Puritan divines, the chapter describes ways in which spirituality influenced the care of emotionally distressed patients. The chapter discusses the ways in which both naturalistic and supernaturalistic views of madness are reflected in practice in the roots of modern medicine in the eighteenth century and how psychiatrists and others dealt with religious issues during the more secular nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The chapter argues against the position that there has been steady progression from a supernatural to a naturalistic understanding of madness and shows how religious and spiritual ideas continue to affect the psychiatric approach to mental disorders. INTRODUCTION The history of psychiatry has often been written as though the emergence of psychiatry involved a transition from superstition to reason, from religion to science, and that only in the modern era have we come to understand that madness is not the result of the influence of spirits, demons, and curses.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Thielman, SB

Published Date

  • January 1, 2009

Book Title

  • Religion and Spirituality in Psychiatry

Start / End Page

  • 6 - 18

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9780521889520

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1017/CBO9780511576843.002

Citation Source

  • Scopus