On March 23rd London will host a unique conference on the neuroscience, psychiatry and interpretation of revelatory visionary experiences.
Mental health professionals frequently encounter people who report experiences of God or supernatural beings speaking or acting through them to reveal important truths. In some cases it is difficult to know to what extent such experiences are best explained as ‘illness’, or represent experiences which are accepted and valued within a person’s religious or cultural context. Indeed, revelatory experiences form a key part of the formation and development of major world religions through figures such as prophets, visionaries, and yogins, as well as in the religious practice of shamans and others in traditional smaller scale societies. Why are revelatory experiences and related altered states of consciousness so common across cultures and history? What neural and other processes cause them? When should they be thought of as due to mental illness, as opposed to culturally accepted religious experience? And what value should or can be placed upon them? In this one day conference leading scholars from neuroscience, psychiatry, theology and religious studies, history and anthropology gather to present recent findings, and debate with each other and the audience about these fundamental aspects of human experience.
Who should attend: This one day interdisciplinary conference will be useful to academic psychologists, neuroscientists and humanities scholars interested in understanding the possibilities for interdisciplinary understanding of complex human behavior; as well as psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, nurses and any professionals whose work requires them to make sense of the relations between culture, religion, and mental health.
Dr Quinton Deeley, Senior Lecturer, Institute of Psychiatry Kings College London, and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist, SLAM
Professor Stephen Pattison, Professor of Religion, Ethics, and Practice at the University of Birmingham
Dr Mitul Mehta, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Neuroimaging Sciences, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London
Dr Eamonn Walsh, Post doctoral Researcher, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London
Professor Chris Rowland, Dean Ireland Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture from Oxford
Professor Roland Littlewood, Professor of Anthropology and Psychiatry at University College London
Professor David Oakley, University College London
The Very Rev Dr Jane Shaw, Dean of Grace Cathedral San Fransisco
Dr Piers Vitebsky, Head of Anthropology and Russian Arctic Studies, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge
Professor Geoffrey Samuel, Religious Studies, University of Cardiff