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Many spiritual teachings ask the followers to develop detachment towards worldly objects and events. Certain meditation techniques ask the followers to be a mere spectator to one's thoughts and get emotionally detached. Few spiritual people report having spiritual experiences like out-of-body or having seen a deity in their dreams or in daylight.

There has been a case where a devote person in my neighborhood started seeing god everywhere and lost his sense of surroundings, and was ultimately subjected to electric shock treatment by his relatives.

My question is, how do a follower of spiritual practice differentiate between a spiritual experience and a mental or neurotic disorder like 'dissociative disorder'?

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  • If these experiences are not a result of regular practice and the guidance of a guru, it is likely that they are, in the best case, a single +ve result of practices done in previous lives and in the worst case, mental aberrations. All thought, memory, feeling etc. are quantum (physics) phenomena and spiritual experiences are but one end of the spectrum and delusions the other. According to my elders, a few ways to distinguish our experiences are the following:- 1/3 – user1195 Nov 30 '15 at 11:02
  • i. Write down your experiences in a note book. After more months/a couple of years of practice, review your experiences. Your own spiritual advancement will tell you whether the previous experiences were indeed spiritual progress or mere tricks our mind is playing on us. ii. Compare said experiences with those of advanced masters in your spiritual line. If they are somewhat similar or at least along similar strata, then believe them as +ve. All this is assuming that the person is a practitioner and has elders to guide them. 2/3 – user1195 Nov 30 '15 at 11:05
  • Also remember that such loss of ego and sudden loss of a sense of surroundings, sense of spiritual upliftment etc. are experienced by people who do acid etc. and are temporary and destructive in the long run. Incorrect practices can also lead to mental disorders. Did this neighbor of yours get tested for brain disorders (physiological and not merely psychological) and for drug abuse? – user1195 Nov 30 '15 at 11:08
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    Indeed this is a good question. There is no real way to differentiate. From the outside they may both be appear to be same. I have heard the story of several saints, who, when they were attaining God Consciousness, behaved in ways that in today's world could well be thought of as mental conditions, and were even treated as so. However in case of saints, they have a MISSION and so no matter what the others try the Experience will PERSIST and will LEAD to their realization of the TRANSCENDENTAL SELF. All the best. – Sai Nov 30 '15 at 15:17
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    @Sai By the way, I highly recommend reading Scott Alexander's blog. He makes really insightful posts on a variety of subjects, e.g. slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/30/… – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 1 '15 at 16:31
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Modern Scientific studies of the Human Brain and Nervous System ,cybernetics,show that it is not possible to distinguish between these three states of consciousness -i.e. Spiritual Experience ,Insanity and Day Dreaming of a drunkard.
Consider a situation ,where Doctors administer Chloroform to a patient , before surgery . This makes the patient Unconscious. The Doctors perform the surgery , the patient does not react . But after sometime the patient regains consciousness and might experience some pain ,associated with surgery.
Sometimes, the human brain generates its own chloroform .This makes the individual unconscious to his surroundings . This happens during deep sleep or coma.
When less powerful chemicals of his type are produced in the brain ,the individual is asleep ,but continues to live in a dream world.When still less poweful chemicals of this type are produced, the individual is in a semi-sleep state , but is living in a dream world. This is what happens , when one is in a movie theater and watching some interesting movie.
A drunkard , moving aimlessly unconscious of the surrounding and living in a dream world of his own making,is in a similar situation.Alcohol serves as a substitute of diluted chloroform.
...
If the human brain generates, internally, these type of chemicals,the individual may behave like a drunkard...If he is too spiritual he might see Gods and Goddesses and might be interacting with them...A Scientist or a Mathematician ,might be seeing strange equations,graphs and shapes.
If these visions , have a bearing on reality ,then we call these people as leaders in their fields of specialization...Otherwise, they are called insane.
....
Ramakrishna, was considered a mad Brahmin, during his life time.But Narendra Nath , later Swami Vivekananda,realised him to be a Prophet and preached his ideas to the World and established the Ramakrishna Mission , to translate the preachings of Ramakrishna ,to action.
...
Mathematician Prof.Cantor, was called insane during his life time and died in a mental asylum ...His works ,however,were recognised many years after his death.
...
Modern art, seems to me , the works of mentally deranged people...But to some other artists, they might be great creative works

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    It would be great if you could cite few references – gaj Dec 3 '15 at 8:45
  • Karl Jung , the Psychiatrist , has made a study of these problems.Some other references , I will give you later. If I can find these in the internet ,I will give you the links. – b.sahu Dec 5 '15 at 18:44
  • I agree with most of your answer except for the last part regarding the modern art. I think it has more to do with brain's natural tendency to find meaning in meaningless. – gaj Dec 6 '15 at 5:18
  • Story of Hanuman possessing Superhuman powers ,is Absurd, but is accepted...Death is a reality , but we tend to ignore it Our struggles for survival ends in failure (Death) . So failures are integral facts of life .We do not accept this and blame others for our failures. – b.sahu Dec 7 '15 at 15:29
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It may or not have been a neurotic disorder or an actual spiritual experience. Unfortunately, a spiritual experience that is not based on spiritual disciplines can sometimes leave the person literally mad.

Swami Vivekananda says (Complete Works, V2, p 390, available here under the heading Practical Vedanta and Other Lectures, sub-heading The Ideal of a Universal Religion (http://cwsv.belurmath.org/volume_2/vol_2_frame.htm) -

Therefore, there must be some other instrument to take us beyond, and that instrument is called inspiration. So instinct, reason, and inspiration are the three instruments of knowledge. Instinct belongs to animals, reason to man, and inspiration to God-men. But in all human beings are to be found, in a more or less developed condition, the germs of all these three instruments of knowledge. To have these mental instruments evolved, the germs must be there. And this must also be remembered that one instrument is a development of the other, and therefore does not contradict it. It is reason that develops into inspiration, and therefore inspiration does not contradict reason, but fulfils it. Things which reason cannot get at are brought to light by inspiration; and they do not contradict reason. The old man does not contradict the child, but fulfils the child. Therefore you must always bear in mind that the great danger lies in mistaking the lower form of instrument to be the higher. Many times instinct is presented before the world as inspiration, and then come all the spurious claims for the gift of prophecy. A fool or a semi-lunatic thinks that the confusion going on in his brain is inspiration, and he wants men to follow him. The most contradictory irrational nonsense that has been preached in the world is simply the instinctive jargon of confused lunatic brains trying to pass for the language of inspiration.

The first test of true teaching must be, that the teaching should not contradict reason. And you may see that such is the basis of all these Yogas.

And in V4 (http://cwsv.belurmath.org/volume_4/vol_4_frame.htm), heading Lectures and Discourses, sub-heading Concentration, he says:

Universal methods have been organised according to different philosophers. Some say the state we want to attain is superconsciousness of the mind — going beyond the limitations the body has made for us. The value of ethics to the Yogi lies in that it makes the mind pure. The purer the mind, the easier it is to control it. The mind takes every thought that rises and works it out. The grosser the mind, the more difficult [it is] to control [it]. The immoral man will never be able to concentrate his mind to study psychology. He may get a little control as he begins, get a little power of hearing. ... and even those powers will go from him. The difficulty is that if you study closely, you see how [the] extraordinary power arrived at was not attained by regular scientific training. The men who, by the power of magic, control serpents will be killed by serpents. ... The man who attains any extraordinary powers will in the long run succumb to those powers. There are millions [who] receive power through all sorts of ways in India. The vast majority of them die raving lunatics. Quite a number commit suicide, the mind [being] unbalanced.

The study must be put on the safe side: scientific, slow, peaceful. The first requisite is to be moral. Such a man wants the gods to come down, and they will come down and manifest themselves to him. That is our psychology and philosophy in essence, [to be] perfectly moral. Just think what that means! No injury, perfect purity, perfect austerity! These are absolutely necessary. Just think, if a man can attain all these in perfection! What more do you want? If he is free from all enmity towards any being, ... all animals will give up their enmity [in his presence]. The Yogis lay down very strict laws... so that one cannot pass off for a charitable man without; being charitable. ...

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  • Honestly speaking, this didn't make any sense to me. – gaj Dec 1 '15 at 11:26
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    @gaj, as I read it in the first part of the above answer, The first test of true teaching must be, that the teaching should not contradict reason. – Say No To Censorship Dec 2 '15 at 0:11
  • How does this answer my question? – gaj Dec 3 '15 at 6:42
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    @gaj Is the man moral, does he have a pure mind? Does he do spiritual practices regularly on a daily basis? Do his visions conform to reason? – Swami Vishwananda Dec 3 '15 at 11:06
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    After getting spiritual experience he will get to a state where no longer he belongs to the body and vise versa. And they can give the same kind of experience to others who has strict religious habits. And if you listen to their speeches they are full of knowledge not even a learned man can express ideas like that but they do accept. Even greatest miseries cannot disturb them like cancers to Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Ramana Maharshi. I think you can compare this with people with hallucinations. – SrikanthMyakam Dec 21 '15 at 7:11
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To answer to meditative states: normality vs illness of mind, I would answer with my small essay which follows.

"How spirituality do change the human mind"

Sources for this answer:

Bhagavad Geeta [Here taken as Inspirational Source and Comparison for Discussion of this Answer].

References not cited but integrants of the basics of my answer: Sri Swami Sivananda Yog books

Sri Swami Vivekananda Yog books and books about his relation with God

Stephen Hawkings books about Cosmo

The Schröedinger Experiment of Copenhagen [particle waves], here not cited

Einstein and Enrico Fermi works over the Atom, here not cited,

Rig Vedas

Books about Neurology [how EEG works and what are the Neurons and how they works]

Articles of Yog and Neurology [how Pranayama do change the brain waves].

Shaiva Siddhanta

Spandakarikas

Kashmirian Shaivism

This Bibliography is to justify the experience on books that I have, other than the personal one.

Deluded the human mind constantly is, whenever they realize this or not. The same Dharma Shastras and Bhagavad Geeta especially, do point out the realization of meditative states through the connection with God. In BG it is the following of Krishna aavatar of Vishnu, to help Arjuna to overcome and win two types of battles. The outer battle is only a metaphoric into material actions, set of happenings, which reflects the aatma condition of all the human beings.

If we take the entire book of Bhagavad Geeta, we encounter numerous examples of how Arjuna is transforning himself, through his various questions to Krishna.

In the process of his Spiritual Advancement and Progresses, also Arjuna meet Krishna. Not only he can hear His voice, he can see Him and His Transfigurations. It means that Arjuna not only is able to see Krishna inside everything [see Shaiva Siddhanta and Kashmirian Shaivism in order to have a crossed linked referencial comparison to what it is to see God] because Shaivism teaches that Shiva is in everything and everyone. Also SpandaKarikas, the "vibrations" of Shiva and other books like that, do explain how some people "feel" almost physically or mentally or by aatma sensations, the manifestation of Shiva ParamIshwara.

Arjuna see the very Tattvas of Krishna. He can see Him embodied several kinds of bodies. The way in which God do manifests for Arjuna is so surprisingly for him that he feels any feelings, initially.

The same Krishna states that few human beings can bear all the emotional pattern and impacts, in order to really see God as a Entity Manifested [Sukshma Swaroopa].

So the seeing God do requires at least that social conventions accorded to the living era are overcome.

Seeing a God or the God it means first of all accepting the existence of the supernatural that is nothing but the Not Visible to become for us visible, making our mind ready to accept it.

There are many invisible things around us such as atoms or particles. Normally are waves but we see them as particles.

Many invisible things are simply the Cosmologic substance, so also taken as existing by Science of the East and the West.

Until here we can peacefully agree.

So that see God may signify see the Sattva Guna predominance that is dear to a state of bliss, like when the Kundalini is going on over the body, overcoming in the streaming all the Nadis blockages and purifying those by they being closed.

So Pineal Gland is constantly reopened.

All of this seem a normal process if described like that but the physical body obviously do receive impacts, if it was used to live alone in a dull dumb environment of a modern era society like ours of nowadays.

It is not mentioned in Mahabharata chapters, Bhagavad Geeta included, how Arjuna feels, given that he is not a yogini and this is not the typical dialogue of a sage or a Rishi in the regards of the Gods.

The Yuga of Ramayana and later on Mahabharata was still a time in which communicate with the Gods was considered normal.

Not only that, but also meeting with other celestial bodies was very much considered as normal.

Time after time the humans came to Devolve, to Downgrade, hence nowadays they are only able to consider themselves brilliants and intelligents because they can manipulate an illusory part of the prakrti and in a very delusional and ephimeral way.

Coming back to who Arjuna is:

It is evidence that the path of Arjuna make him starts as a with moral individual [this pre-requisite is very much necessary in order to approach to Yog disciplines as like to Sanatan Dharma. Whenever an individual present too much skepticism towards the immaterial, uncountable world, whenever individuals are attached strongly to: money, career, commodities, luxuries, sexual life, eating like a King, drug addiction with heavy substances, alchool in large amount and so on and so forth, the humans in these conditions, actually are the "deviated" ones].

Arjuna coming from the simplicity of being a Warrior, should theoretically only care about: technical strategy, military organization or order to follows or to impart, success or failure on the basis of how many humans he will kill or not, etc.

Why he is struggling inside so much then as to start to speak with Krishna Ishwara?

Because he is a ethic and moral man.

Why this happens to him?

The need of a human can never be only material as per the jivaatma constitution of him. Arjuna felt this urgent need, because his jiva was very much mature to go to the path of Renunciation.

Bhagavad Geeta is very clear about Performing Actions with Detachement. It means to focus on Morality and Ethics for the Urgent Duties but not to indulge in a life-style made of materialism.

There must be a Balance into that.

Austerities of the most strict Yogini are performed because They lost completely the interest for Maya.

Yet Krishna does not say that one must go into that states and forget the life around them.

But surely the life-style will change.

Not because a GuRu tells so, but because the sensitivity of the Consciousness will be triggered.

And so the Second Body will need to be Feeded.

And Meditation and Moral and Ethic ways will become the new Feedings.

Why so?

The bodies are 3, according to the eldest Science of Sanatana Dharma.

Well, once you give food, pleasure and commodity to the phisycal body, only the most dumb dull type of person can really think "oh now I am cool with that".

Certainly and very honestly, in the depth of the human mind ideas and thoughts, there is that moment of " emptyness".

Several people in the West also are considered "Depressed" psychologically by the science men of the West, because they open their heart and consider themselves "down, sad or empty".

The science of the West give them fantastic speeches about the Non-Sense and the Psychologists must take care themselves never to mention the spirituality, else they will be taken as crazy.

The Modern society goes against the Spirituality.

Such is the reality of last 2.000 years going progressively into the negation of the causal body and the astral body.

Thanks to this tragic process, promoted by Kali Yuga, the beings now are literally using one really thin portion of their own brain.

Could the humans all go into Vayu Siddhi and win the gravity before?

There was a time, before, lost in the Rig Vedas and oral teachings memories, in which: yes, mostly humans were capable of that.

Unlocking that potential now, do requires more effort because it is too much strong the Devolution and Deterioration process of the jivas throughout Centuries of Wars, in which the maximum teachings received are to take " control" the subjective matter around us.

What a delusional idea.

Instead of taking back the process of Liberation, the humans became selfishly lazy fragile and dependent to objects.

In such a world, visions derived from Tapas, as like, and why not, encounter and meeting, not just with imaginary or manifested forms of Gods but also flesh and bones particular gifted humans, aliens or other creatures, it is considered unacceptable by the Science of The Ignorance.

The same 3 dimensional Scientists of the Delusional Plan of Existence [the Maya] are amazed and puzzled by their incapacity to analyze certain phenomena.

Do you remember that Stephen Hawkings many years ago before he died, discovered "unconventional" "behaviours" of the photons related to the black holes so called discovered into Universe this one?

It is incredible only when we think that someone, dued his or her power [institutions, govs and so on] decides that they can define the Cosmo, decide how particles should move, expecting bosons and photons to "obey" to them....

Yet, this is the world in which we are living: a world in which all the people who have more developed jivas are suffering, either inner side or for other causes, because The Others = The "Normal" Ones, that is: The Doctor, The Engineer, The Scientist, etc are Deciding that Nature and Cosmo [and so humans, plants, animals, rocks] must obey to them.

And when they fail by doing this, they kill, they menace, they make people to their "care" places, in order to de-powerize the jiva of people.

Because the dullest and the dumbest you are, the happier these manipulators are.

Sad truths, considerations coming by experience, Bhagavad Geeta reading and analysis, Sri Swami Sivananda and Vivekananda readings and also SadhGuRu ones.

Last conclusive lines.

"And they can master the scriptures even if they never have read them before. Such way these blissful states of samadhi gives to the practicioner a kind of gift for everything spiritual. Only when distracted if the mind is not steady, it will clash again against the Maya miserable condition of the other non-involved into sadhana, humans. If the practicioner is not able to keep his dharana, also in vipassana ways, then they will be considered "crazy" by the non involved into sadhana people and folks".

Conclusion like summary:

Wether that "vision" was imaginary or real, define reality at first. If this does not make you feel bad, then keep it to yourself, do share only with few, because too many are envious, others are dull dumb but easy to be scared. Their scares are Neuronal Waves substances. Every emotion produces this.

There is EEG to prove the same that Yogini already do knew millenniums of years ago. That emotions play a role into neurological response. That is normal for everybody of us.

Direct Answer to the Question:

Seeing God in Everything is not bad, unless is not a evil god.

Of course if your friend was happy to see God everywhere. Maybe he forgot to do his homeworks. Is this enough a reason to ruin his brain with an electro-schock?

If he tried to murder or harm someone, then he did not see any God but he was becoming crazy like Constantine the Emperor maybe.

Jokingly a part, meditative states are to be conduced in the practices, compatibly with a big choice to operate: being less and less involved with daily life duties.

It is obvious the reason why. I explained before on the above that the majority of the daily life people are living into Delusion of Maya. So for them material things are too much importants to accept to Renounce to these.

The Fear of other is what makes you cultivate Fear and change abruptly....

The realized Jivas bear the big Responsibility to handle with care the "about to waking up" people. They must definitely avoid to talk their inner or outer experiences with the Dull Dumb ones mentioned above.

Your experience will scare the dumb dull ones and they will see only a thiny reflection of a subconcious stream of that ancenstral and very remote "I know that this is possible".

But in the name of Habits, Fame, Money, Normality which is the cover to their Fears. Because they are Afraid. They will over react on you.

If the Yog practicioner has a relaxed, distended and harmonious mind, and if he sees gods, demons, angels, aliens, if he exits out from the body, fly or jump like a frog, these are Siddhis.

Western Science can Not explain Siddhis and more than that, it can never accept those.

Western Science Loves Gravity.

Nobody really accepts that Micro and Macro Cosmos can not completely be measured.

The tendency is to dominate and be tyrants of these both.

Who is normal now then: the dumb dull who easily kill and over react by hurting others, kill or make more pollution and harm by " experimenting" their "cares", or a yogini who simply had spiritual meetings?

Of course the idea of seeing God was normal in Rig Vedic times, not in the times in which the Bank is the God....

So that if Reality is a big Dream, those dreams inside Reality, maybe, are connections to other Worlds.

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One can differentiate between the two by the person's behavior.

..we know it by its fruits. An idiot, when he goes to sleep, comes out of sleep an idiot or even worse. But another man goes into the state of meditation, and when he comes out he is a philosopher, a sage, a great man. That shows the difference between these two states.

The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 5, Questions and Answers, A Discussion.

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