Ch1 L42: Beliefs – part XVI (The right time)

  1. In several posts, we explored the magic era [1] in which people believe [2] that their actions can affect natural courses, both in beneficial and harmful ways [3]. We saw that to protect themselves, they’d sacrificed [4] a member of their society/family believing that it would safeguard the rest. They had to come to an agreement with nature or the agent of Death and it was their best solution. The belief that the rest would be to some extent safe would grant them a less stressful life. [5]
  2. Who could be the mediator between them and nature? Someone who had the power to talk to nature. Throughout history, there have been some people who could hear voices or see shapes whose source was unknown. So, they thought that those must be the messages from nature or an unseen world.
  3. These days, thanks to the scientific discoveries, we call it a mental disorder, categorized mainly by schizophrenia [6] or epilepsy [7]. Both of them biologically share the same abnormal development of the brain and nervous system and their similar symptoms are auditory hallucinations, unusual feelings or sensations and dreamlike alterations in consciousness [8].
  4. Neuroscience has to some extent explained how someone could experience hearing voices or the presence of another being. Todd Murphy, a brain scientist, in a lecture said that people can have visitor experiences when the connections between the right and left hemisphere isn’t coherent enough or there’s weak or no communication between them. Since there’s not a strong connection between the hemispheres, one is perceived as a separate being outside our body. What you feel is your subordinate sense of self, emerging into your dominant sense of self; so you’d feel two beings at once. Perceiving another being can be escalated to the physical level. In this case, you might even turn your head to see if there’s someone next to or behind you, while there’s no one. [9]
  5. However, in ancient times, people just called them crazy. Professor Sapolsky [10], in a lecture about the biological underpinnings of religiosity [11] tells that in the mind of the primitive people, there are two types of crazy people: good and bad. If you’re crazy in the right time and context, people will buy your claim and you’ll have followers. Then he humorously added and people wouldn’t go to work on your birthday.
  1. One of the best examples of the right time and context is Jean d’Arc (Joan of Arc). A 13-year-old illiterate girl who claimed to have had the vision of three angels telling her to drive out the English and bring the Dauphin to Reims for his coronation was given an army to lead [12].
  2. There are two major reasons that Jean d’Arc could convince them that she’s their savior. First of all, Charles VII [13], the king, was very young (26 years old) and desperately looking for a solution to stop the defeat. The second reason was her virginity: not only it was a symbol of devotion to God, but also at that time there was a public belief that only a virgin could save the country, so people were waiting for the virgin savior. That’s why after testing her virginity and as an act of desperation, they put their faith in her [14].
  3. If Jean d’Arc appeared today, she’d be diagnosed to have schizophrenia or epilepsy, instead of giving her an army. In fact, “two Italian neurologists, Guiseppe d’Orsi and Paola Tinuper, in a letter to the journal Epilepsy and Behavior , say Joan may have had a condition called “idiopathic partial epilepsy with auditory features.”[15]
  4. Professor Sapolsky said that the primitive people wouldn’t tolerate severe mental disorders, so those he heard the voices must’ve been schizotypal [16], a mild version of schizophrenia or half-crazy; thus more credible. The signs of schizotypal characters are losing association, social withdraw and metamagical thinking. These days people who believe in UFO, comic books, and the concrete interpretation of the religious events (such as God created the universe literally in 6 days) share the same trait [17].
  5. We’ll continue the discussion in the next post.


[1] It started from the 30th post [Link]. Then we discussed sacrifice as one of the major rituals which initiated in the magic era.

[2] As the title shows, we’re still studying the belief system which started from the 25th post. Link

[3] We discussed in the 36th post [link] that the positive and negative magic have been respectively called charm and taboo by Sir James Frazer.

[4] We studied sacrifice in several posts, starting from the 33rd post. Link

[5] In the 3rd post [Link], we studied fear and its dominant role in our decisions. Fear works like an alarm and we react to our fears, dealing with its cause till it turns off. So, lowering the stress level is an achievement.

[6] Link to the wiki page about schizophrenia

[7] Link to the wiki page about epilepsy

[8] Link

[9] Link

[10] Link

[11] Link to professor Sapolsky’s lecture

[12] Link

[13] Link

[14] Link

[15] Link

[16] Link

[17] Again Link to professor Sapolsky’s lecture

The featured picture is taken from the following website:



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