Christianity and Mental Illness

Dear Anon,

Thank you for replying to  my Comments at Amy Simpson’s interesting blog article “Evangelicals, You’re Wrong about Mental Illness” at <>. You have questioned my ability to learn neurology, my expertise in comparison with other researchers in this area, the unique nature of my discoveries, and my use of the term “published” in reference to Northern Light Books.

I cannot reproduce my scholarship in a blog post but I will respond to your principal criticisms. The late Dr. Alfred Tomatis (he died in 2000) was a famed otolaryngologist decorated by the French government not only for his contribution to the war effort but for his advances in the science of hearing. His colleague, Dr. Guy Bérard, who left their collaboration, also was an otolaryngologist. He is in his late 90s if he is still alive. Those men recognized that the treatments they were using need not be restricted to people with their expertise; they taught others to assess the audition of patients and to administer their versions of the Tomatis Method. One does not need medical training to apply a music therapy. One needs only a music modality and familiarity with the symptoms of a “mental” illness or learning problem to observe changes in those symptoms towards the range of normal behavior. If your child is autistic and healed by a music therapy, you may not be able to explain how that happened but you have no doubt of the success of the therapy. Millions of people are self-treating their ears by listening to music of all kinds with headphones. Some, no doubt, are enhancing their hearing; others are causing serious damage. No controls are in place for this activity or for gathering data. Other commercial music therapies are available but they lack an understanding of the role of the ears in behavior and tend to focus on changes in “brain waves,” which is dangerously insufficient for the offerings some of them make to the general public.

I have always been fascinated by human behavior. I was raised on science as well as other kinds of learning. My dad was a research scientist and the engineer who designed the first atomic energy plant in Canada during WW II; he advised the Canadian government on atomic energy during the American development of the atomic bomb. Tragically, the bomb was not retained simply as a deterrent as he was led to believe it would be. I have deep reservations about the unquestioning “embrace” of scientific investigation, including my own. I was raised in mainly Protestant Christianity and have been intimately tied to other churches; you might describe me now as an evangelical, charismatic Anglican, although no such congregation exists where I live. My academic background is English language and literature with what Americans call a “minor” in the social sciences and philosophy.  For financial reasons, after the first three years most of my university studying has been accomplished while employed. My professional work in book publishing began in 1966 as an editor, then senior editor; and in educational research in 1970, when I was responsible for the preparatory research, design, and oversight of research studies. I completed the course work for an MA in 1974, but left my thesis to marry Dr. Richard Tallman. I maintained my intense interest in how the brain produces art in language and imagery and how spirituality is related to art. As my husband is a folklorist my elitist knowledge of art was tempered through the work we did together on folk art forms in Arkansas and Kentucky.

If medical students can learn neurology, why not an intelligent woman of retirement age? I am trained in scholarship, in research methodologies, in logic, in the observation of behavior, and in the precise use of language. As I learned, I realized I could not have solved the problems set in my thesis topic without the knowledge of ear-driven brain function and neurology I was gaining 34 years later. I had already made my ground-breaking observations about the role of the ear in both normal and abnormal behavior from watching our son heal from very severe schizophrenia before I read texts in neurology. I had already formulated a theory of ear-driven brain function before reading Tomatis, although I knew a little about him through a book written by his protege Paul Madaule, who founded several Tomatis Method listening centers. However, I corrected my manuscript’s neurological descriptions in line with Tomatis’s very important refinements on standard texts. By then, I also realized I had corrected and expanded on his unscientific theories about mental illness that he learned from psychiatrists and that brought him much grief, as he explains at length in his autobiography. He did not understand the dominance of the left-hemisphere in the integration of cerebral processes or he would have said so. The research of the noted American neurologist V.S. Ramachandran about the differences between the propensities of the two halves of the brain helped me to realized Daniel was becoming “more left-brained” during recovery; Tomatis and Bérard did not have access to those advances in neurology at the time they wrote or they would have couched their explanations of behavior in those terms. Hardly anyone ever has watched an adult schizophrenic fully recover and no one before me has documented that recovery under a specific, right-ear treatment of music stimulation (at least, not that I know of). (Georgiana Stehli’s autism/infantile schizophrenia was healed by Bérard when she was 11). As I mentioned, Dr. Norman Doidge remarked at a dinner speech last June at the University of Toronto that he has seen autism respond to the Tomatis Method. Doidge made it clear earlier in his speech that he also has had no understanding of left-cerebral dominance in the integrative processes of the brain.

During that healing process of right-ear stimulation Dan passed through most of the types of mental illness commonly known, proving that the ear controls behavior on a spectrum defined by the frequencies of sound the right ear can process effectively to the left-brain. The right ear functions like a “microchip” for the “control panel” of the left brain. My need as a writer was to learn the language of the specialists so I could explain in their terminology what I had observed. I am not an expert in neurology; I know enough to describe the role of the ear in behavior.

Dr. Tallman and I have edited university texts in our editorial services company since 1979, serving major Canadian publishers. We are well aware of the standards of science, academe, and of the industry. Dick and I recognized the importance of my discoveries, also well aware of the failure of the church to heal severe mental illness, the failure of psychiatry to cure mental illness, and of the exacerbation of mental illness from pharmaceuticals used to “control” mental illness. (If you like, because I am a follower of Jesus, you can say the healing of mental illness has come from the Church.) My decades of reading in the behavioral sciences; of counselling on the job, in churches, and privately; and my independent research before I read Tomatis and Bérard told me my discoveries were desperately needed as quickly as we could disseminate that learning. We felt led to form our own publishing company, which is a form of “self-publishing” unless you have spent a lifetime in the industry; we consider manuscripts from other writers.

At the 3rd conference of the International Association of Music and Medicine, I spoke to a medical specialist for perhaps 5 minutes about the flaws  in his research design and what I had learned about the role of the ear in behavior from curing our son. He stopped me, “Wait, wait. You know far more than I do about the ears.” Five minutes. I have taught sessions that ran for five hours. In fact, I was in a position to critique the work of all of the specialists at that conference whose sessions I was able to attend. I met only one neurologist, a European, who knew what I was talking about when I remarked that the vagus nerve network is linked to the ear by a nerve fiber that rests on the stapedius muscle of the middle ear (Tomatis). That connection between the ear and the body “from top to bottom” has tremendous significance for the way  the ear controls other body systems. I cannot reproduce the details of my paradigm here. I will say that it would be difficult to overestimate the importance of my discoveries to every discipline in the humanities including religion and, of course, the Christian religions.  Yes, my novel paradigm is “citizen science”; but it is science conducted on a wide basis of knowledge of human behavior. The science has been professionally reported with appropriate supporting research. It is scrupulously honest. It cannot be “peer reviewed” not only because I am not in academe but because I am about ten years in advance of any research I know of being conducted in a university. In fact, if I had remained in academe, I would have been prevented by the limitations in institutions from extensively studying someone such as our schizophrenic son. I ascribe my choices and the events in my life to the guidance of God, or as I would say, to the leading of the Holy Spirit. I also have a notion of what those phrases mean in neurological terms.

Several threads in the Comments refer to depression, psychosis, bipolarity, and epilepsy. Bérard had a spectacular track record for suicidal depression: he cured 100% of his 233 patients who came for treatment (he lost 2 who were examined but did not come for treatment). He identified the audiogram profile for depression, which for suicidal depression shows “peaks” or elevations of perception (hyperacusis) of frequencies at 2 and 8 kiloHertz, usually in the left ear. My paradigm helps to explain why the left ear is the usual source of depression — it carries the primary input of sound energy to the right, emotional brain while the right ear channels the primary input of sound energy to the left, rational brain. Psychosis is the principal symptom of schizophrenia and I describe in my publications how ear dysfunction produces the symptoms of psychosis. Bipolarity is an ear dysfunction about “halfway” between schizophrenia and dyslexia and is easier to cure, judging from my albeit limited clinical knowledge. The most severe form of epilepsy (static epilepticus) has been treated successfully with ear stimulation as reported by Dr. Jeff Bradstreet in the Foreword to Annabel Stehli’s Sound of Falling Snow.

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