Chapter 1: Origin and procesual progress of hyperic hypothesis

APRIL 24th, 2013

Before dealing with any other memory or biographical fact I found essential to explain how the concept of hyperia came out. As you know, this hypothesis states that humans have a brain function that allows them to live automatic experiences with extraordinary intensity and quality. This function has been overlooked up to the present and its manifestations have been included in epilepsy or mental illnesses.

Where does such a daring and novel theory come from? Could it be just a short-lived theory fruit of the untimely imagination of a speculative author?

Maybe or maybe not... I can only say that everything happened almost unexpectedly with a simple start: the combined interest of the author for psychiatry and Saint John of the Cross prose. By the way, this Carmelite mystic of the Spanish Golden Age shares a common trait with many other great geniuses of the universal literature: everyone knows them and talks about them but hardly anyone has ever read their prose.

I raise this point for a reason: any psychiatrist who has read, maybe not the complete works of Saint John of the Cross, Spanish mystic of the 16th century, but only the first 15 pages of the second book of “The Dark Night”, will come to the same conclusion as I did. The author is describing melancholic depression with psychotic features with such accuracy that the reader is tempted to believe that he is telling his own experience.

Besides, John explains also the opposite phases of mania. This alternation of expansive phases and inhibition phases that was called in the past manic-depressive psychosis today is named as bipolar disorder. Well, any specialist that takes the trouble of reading Saint John will be convinced that the Carmelite friar knew, almost certainly from his own experiences, the real and true endogenous bipolar disorder, that is, the manic-depressive psychosis.

What is more, he predates the scientific community by four centuries, being the first user of the term bipolarity to refer to this clinical feature: “since the purgative process allows interpolations of relief wherein, by the dispensation of God, this dark contemplation ceases to assail the soul in the form and manner of purgation, and assails it after an illuminative and a loving manner.”

I wish to highlight the word interpolations to stress something I had previously pointed out; our mystic predated by four hundred years the American Psychiatric Association, and chose the term polarity to refer to the alternation of depressive and manic phases.

Second part (25-04-2013)

The heart of the concept of hyperia is that Saint John of the Cross never gives a pathological value to these painful and/or joyous experiences. He takes them as tests sent by God; as something he has to experience passively to purify his soul.

From then on, the rest came easily; these same experiences appear in writings by all mystics from all times and cultures. And they not only describe experiences of joy and sorrow but also other extraordinary situation that appear in their mind automatically and passively: depersonalization crises, suicidal or blasphemy impulses, visions (visual hallucinations) and hearings (auditory hallucinations), stunning intuitions of having achieved an indelible knowledge (primary delusions), and much more. They all take this mental manifestations as supernatural messages but never pathological.

This broad range of experiences, from a medical point of view, can only be explained as psychic manifestations of partial epileptic seizures.

Epilepsy in-depth study shows that these psychic automatisms appear not only in the mystics’ writings but also in the writings by artists, authors and philosophers that made history as the great geniuses of humankind: Plato, Paul of Tarsus, Augustine of Hippo, Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Ávila, Marcel Proust, Herman Hesse, and others.

How can we consider them pathological, being epileptic or psychiatric, if they form the basis for such great creations? Why not interpreting them as normal brain functions? Don’t we all experience some of these automatisms, as dejà vuor orgasms? Wouldn’t it be logical to think that we all have certain hyperic ability, even if this feature is more developed among some population groups as mystics, insane people or brilliant creators?

The advantage of this approach in the face of the usual psychiatry is obvious: it’s a very different thing to tell a kid or teenager “you have a mental or epileptic disorder” than “you have a great hyperic ability” as highlighting their good memory or their mathematical or musical ability.