Welcome to the Ordained Chaplains podcast. My name is Daniel Whyte III. I am the president of Gospel Light Society University. We are going through the book “Out of the Depths: An Autobiographical Study Of Mental Disorder And Religious Experience” by one of the pioneers of chaplaincy, Dr. Anton T. Boisen. This is episode #87.
Our Scripture Verse for today is Psalm 42:5-6 which reads, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.”
Our Ordained Chaplains quote for today is from Jonathan Harnisch. He said, “The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down-what business have you to be disquieted?’ You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’ -instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.’”
In this podcast, we will continue discussing the book “Out of the Depths” by Anton T. Boisen. We continue today with “Chapter 4: A Little-Known Country” (Part 36):
Negotiations with Dr. Worcester were somewhat delayed because of his absence from Boston, but on his return he responded at once. There was then some difficulty in the matter of securing
the needed information. This is indicated in the following letter.
WESTBORO STATE HOSPITAL
5 November 1921
Dr. Elwood Worcester
Replying to your letter on November 2nd with attached letter from Mrs. Boisen, I wish to say that if you care to visit our patient, Anton T. Boisen at this hospital, I would be very glad to have you do so; or if you will designate a day and an hour when Mr. Boisen may call upon you in Boston, I will arrange to have him do so, provided of course that his mental condition remains as good as at the present time.
I might state that his case is one which is characterized by periods of acute excitement during which he is quite violent and attempts self-injury.
In accordance with the law, our records are not open for inspection.
Very truly yours,
W. E. LANG, Supt.
To supply Dr. Worcester with the information he wanted Fred Eastman forwarded to Norman Nash the letters I had written him. To these, Nash added my letters to him and turned them over to Dr. Worcester. My interviews with Dr. Worcester began, if I remember aright, early in November, 1921, and continued until May or June of the following year. I found them very
helpful. We maintained communications until his death.
At the close of our conferences Dr. Worcester turned all these letters over to me, saying that I might sometime want to make use of them. The two following letters I wrote to Dr. Worcester
during this period.
WESTBORO STATE HOSPITAL
20 November 1921
Dr. Elwood Worcester
DEAR DR. WORCESTER:
In the interview of last Monday the following ground was covered, If I remember correctly:
1 . The precise nature of the original trouble.
2. The character of the first abnormal condition.
3. Some facts regarding the love affair around which the whole thing centers.
4. Your advice that I take up some outdoor work.
I hope that the following facts have been established:
1. The original trouble was primarily a mental one. There was no habit of masturbation and no perversions, as I understand those terms. There was difficulty in controlling the wayward sex interests.
2. The first abnormal condition, while containing many morbid elements, was a clear-cut conversion experience, with effects which were wholly beneficial.
3. The love affair was not rooted in friendly association but rather in inner struggle and in what might be called quite accurately the need of salvation. The motive power has been the deep feeling that this was for me the right course, the only one I could follow and be true to my best self.
4. The danger that I may underestimate the gravity of these abnormal conditions and the necessity of avoiding future recurrences. This danger I recognize. The horror of the recent catastrophe is with me still. It has been terrible beyond the power of words to express. And yet
I do not regard these experiences as “break-downs.” If I am right in believing that through them difficult problems have been solved for me and solved right, and if through them help and strength have come to me, am I not justified in such a view?
As I have tried to understand my own case and as I have studied the problems of others in this hospital, I have come to the conclusion that there are many patients whose problems are little different from those of many who go to hear Billy Sunday and “hit the saw-dust trail.” They have no physical trouble. They are just sick of soul. Now to the physicians here anything in the nature of automatisms, any “Voices,” any visions, even a belief in providence or divine guidance is per se evidence of insanity and justifies commitment. Just last Christmas I was denied permission to visit a friend on the ground that I still believed that in the experience through which I had passed there might be the working out of a divine plan. And yet, as I understand it, some such faith has always been fundamental in the Christian philosophy of life. I think there can be little question that such men as Saul of Tarsus and George Fox would fare badly before a present-day psychiatric staff. Certainly they exhibited phenomena of abnormality. But with them the abnormality was a source of power and strength. I am therefore hoping for the day when cases of mental trouble which are not primarily organic in origin will be recognized and treated as spiritual problems and that the church will develop physicians of soul of a type whose work will be based upon sound and systematic study of spiritual pathology.
It is such a study that I desire to undertake and my desire to take work at some theological school is for the purpose of preparing for such a task.
In this purpose I am guided by my belief in the importance of this task, also by the faith that I can really make some contribution to it. It was the faith that my chief contribution should lie in the experience through which I had passed which led me a year ago last spring to refuse a tempting position with the Congregational Social Service Commission. I cannot see that the catastrophe of last fall should now destroy that faith. On the contrary, it seems to me to have widened the problem and to have thrown new light upon my particular experience.
In our next podcast, we will continue with Part 37 of Chapter 4, “A Little Known Country”.
Now, if you have come across this podcast, and do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, allow me to show you how.
First, accept the fact that you are a sinner, and that you have broken God’s law. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”
Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Also, the Bible states in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Now this is bad news, but here’s the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live eternally with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will.
Romans 10:9-13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Until next time, my friend, God bless!