It was great visiting with you and Patti by telephone yesterday. Fifty years can produce a lot of stuff upon which to katsup. And that katsup added some spice to my life. So thanks for the trip down memory lane.
Now for my comments on the India syndrome article. Please bear in mind that I am commenting only on a) the author’s use of inclusive rather than exclusive logic to imply a possible connection between the practice of undefined meditation and possible “side effects” and b) the use of the medical term “syndrome”. I am not commenting on your interesting experiences or excellent writing.
In my opinion Mr. Carney wrote an interesting article replete with fascinating possibilities but unfortunately there is no way to substantiate any of them. I think the author’s disregard for the deductive logic of diagnosis is largely responsible for leaving this reader in logical limbo. There is, after all, no place in the diagnostic domain where deductive logic is less regarded than the realms of psychiatry and its syndromes.
The practice of diagnosis (in medical domains other than psychiatry) is exclusive rather than inclusive because diagnosis is really an experiment whose purpose is to rule out competing hypotheses. That is why a referring doctor asks a consultant to rule out Attention Deficit Disorder or some other possible diagnosis. She does not ask the consultant to rule it in.
You have probably noticed that the Psychiatric Diagnostic and Statistical Manual contains no diseases, only disorders such as attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder and psychotic disorders. This is because a disease is a pathological entity with a specific set of symptoms and a known cause. A disorder, on the other hand is a pathological entity or which may share its symptoms or syndromes with other entities and whose cause is not known.
Therefore, if we are presented with a behavioral or emotional disorder to diagnose, we must first eliminate all other explanations for it before we can confidently make a psychiatric diagnosis.
For example, young Mr. Spollen’s disappearance might be related in some way to his meditation but it might also be related to a pre-existing emotional disturbance, or a desire to disappear into a new life, or to amnesia related to drugs, a head trauma or stroke, to foul play or to the onset of psychosis. We would have to eliminate all of these alternative explanations before we could confidently infer that his disappearance was related to his meditation.
Similarly, a young woman meditating for days and ignoring all signs of the world around her and attending only to her own breathing could also be subject to sleep deprivation, self hypnosis, depression or psychosis. I have seen studies of solitary confinement that concluded that such sensory deprivation sometimes leads to psychosis within 24 hours in “normal”, healthy people. She could also have been predisposed to these states long before she entered the ashram. So her suicide might also be related to some combination of a pre-existing condition, prolonged stress-posture, or hypnosis/sensory deprivation as well as to meditation per se.
So it seems to me that definition, measurement and sampling will be needed to unravel this puzzle and attribute these syndromes to generic meditation. However it was an interesting and entertaining article and it was fun to think about these mysteries unfolding on the banks of the Ganges.
Thanks for the link.
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Thank you Ed for your comment and for your interest. Cap