Voices in the head


Many people hear voices in their heads, but some of those voices are "benevolent," leading their hosts to think of themselves as psychics and mediums. I learned this from my latest issue of The Atlantic, which is without a doubt the second-finest magazine in the country. This little news item illustrates how alien a creature we make man when we remove his spirit.

There's been no actual removal of the spirit of walking, talking man, of course; this operation was long ago performed on his cousin, that strange, shadowy man-creature who populates the journals of science and economics. It's the de-spirited man who goes to war because of economic pressures, or provides for a family because his genes cry out for dispersion. He is a creature driven by material and physical causes, and not out of any deep existential longing to know his Creator. This is quite convenient to the scientist, as it turns out, because while he is well equipped to study the material and physical, he hasn't the first clue how to assay the spiritual.

But let's set aside real man's de-spirited cousin for a moment and consider this business of voices in the head. When a real man claims to hear voices in his head, there are three basic possibilities: The man is lying, his brain is talking to itself, or some other being is doing the babbling. When the modern de-spirited man claims to hear voices, however, it must be a problem in the brain's wiring. This again is convenient for the scientist because there are pills and shock therapy for wiring. There is no pill for actual disembodied voices, except the sort that place the victim in a catatonic stupor.

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And voices aren't always problematic, as it turns out, because sometimes they are "benevolent." By erasing man's spiritual quality-indeed, the spirit world altogether-we have ruled out the possibility that the voice actually belongs to another being, and that this being-whether he uses soothing tones or not-doesn't have the man's best interests at heart. So long as he doesn't make his victim feel bad, reasons the scientist, who are we to say that he ought not be there?

That's a pertinent question when you think about it, but we have already gone too far afield from the domain of science, because spirits can't be touched or measured, and hence can't exist. Therefore the voice you might be hearing isn't really there at all. And really, is he all that bad? Here, take this pill. Or start your own Tarot Card shop. And if neither of these avenues helps you, well, we're terribly sorry. We're only scientists, after all.


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