The psychologist who suffered a disorder that made him write a 'bible' in a week

David Lukoff He took an acid for the first time in his life. I was in San Francisco, a countercultural epicenter. He had come there hitchhiking after leaving, at twenty-three, his doctoral studies at Harvard. It was 1971.

Four days later, upon waking, he looked in the mirror and found that his right hand was in the classical position of mudra Buddhism. Just then he felt that it was the reincarnation of Buddha. And also that of Jesus. What was going on in his head?

Writing the bible

David was suffering from an undiagnosed disorder. And this prompted him to carry out a mission: write a new sacred book. For a week he worked tirelessly to conceive it, in a state of outburst, as he explains Jules Evans in his book The art of losing control:

At the end of his forty-seven-page revelation, he commissioned several copies and began to distribute them from a corner of Berkeley. Over the next two months, his messianic certainty began to decline. He was still certain that he had written the work of a genius, but as he read more and realized the poor originality of many of his ideas, his safety also began to falter.

That sacred book was a hodgepodge of ideas borrowed by Buddha, Locke, Hobbes, Jung and even Bob Dylan. But given his academic background, David wanted to know what had gone wrong in his head to embark on that strange adventure.

New diagnosis

Until that time the disorder that most resembled what he had suffered is called "spiritual emergency", introduced by transpersonal psychologists Stanislav Y Christina Grof in 1978. David, however, wanted to go further. And, after pursuing a doctorate in psychology and treating various psychotic patients also convinced of being God or the Messiah, in 1989 he managed to include a new diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), volume IV. The name of this new diagnosis was "religious or spiritual problem":

In this way, transient spiritual psychosis, like the one he had experienced, was differentiated from the classic diagnosis of schizophrenia. A religious or spiritual problem was temporary, not a biological disorder of the brain, but it could involve traits of psychosis such as an excessive growth of the ego, hypertrophied sense detection and behavioral disorders. It could also present positive aspects, such as greater sensitivity for meaning and motivation.

It is estimated that in Spain 19.5% of the population has had some type of mental disorder. Therefore, it is disturbing to think about the number of beliefs that have been born of sick minds, as explained by the neurologist David Eagleman in a book of Michio Kaku titled The future of our mind:

It seems that a good part of the prophets, martyrs and leaders of history suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy. Think of Joan of Arc, a sixteen-year-old girl who changed the course of the Hundred Years War because she believed (and convinced French soldiers) that she heard voices of the archangel Saint Michael, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Saint Margaret and Saint Gabriel.