Pills for the Soul? Forward by
Prof. James M. Houston, D. Phil
Our Western world, as it moves from complacency with rationalistic modernism, to disenchantment as expressed by “postmodernism”, is facing deep and radical changes. This then is a time for fresh challenges, not for further conformity to past assumptions, especially those which have strong vested interests.
In this courageous book, Dieter Mulitze takes on the challenge of how the science of psychiatry has treated the personal mystery of the nature of human suffering. As his sub-title indicates, it is a great reduction indeed, to move "from healing souls to fixing brains". It is a profound reductionism to view the nature of the human being as merely anthropologically, if in fact there is omitted all reference to the human mystery of being created "in the image and likeness of God".
As a Christian, the author accepts wholeheartedly that theology has a central place in any discussion about the human condition. Whereas our secular culture would omit all discourse about the relation of God and humankind. The field of psychiatry is peculiarly vulnerable to reductionism, in order to give it the respectability of being a "science", rather than of being caught in the tension between religious mystery and scientific materialism. It reminds us of the choice made by Sigmund Freud, that by his focus upon the sexual dimension, he could maintain at least the appearance of being “scientific”, rather than caught up in the subjectivity of the relational self.
The scorn with which hard scientists today view psychotherapy as “science” may extend tomorrow to much of what psychiatry still claims to be a science also. Dieter's extensive reading on such issues as biochemical imbalances of the brain, psychiatric labels, the nature of drug testing by pharmaceutical companies, all indicate a growing professional crisis of credibility. His many references to the history of psychiatry likewise reflect adversely upon the pedigree of this “science”.
Trained in the discipline of genetics, Dieter speaks from outside the profession, and yet with the scientific rigor and logic of “hard” science, to question many assumptions of the psychiatric profession. So he does not write as peeved insider, frustrated with his own career. Rather he writes objectively, as he questions conflicts of interest, patient and profitability, or indeed the patient's human dignity versus the inbuilt professional self-interests. It is the kind of disclosure that will open the way for the self-interests of other professions to be scrutinized, as societal assumptions become more questioned in a postmodernist environment. For psycho-analysis is no longer the tool monopolized by therapy, but the instrument of increasing skepticism within our society.
However, Dieter does not write as a skeptic, but as a Christian believer. He practices what he preaches in the compassionate care and cure of souls. His ministry is dedicated to "healing prayer", to demonstrate the power God's Spirit in Jesus' name, to give release of the emotional captive, and to give relational healing to profoundly wounded persons. So the individual stories of people he loves with the compassion of Christ are a moving testimony to the power of prayer on their behalf. This perhaps is the unique character of this book. Other scholars have, and are critiquing, the crisis of credibility of the “science” of psychiatry. For there has been a growing chorus of dissent since the 1970's, from both Christian and secular sources.
But Dieter has the moral courage to affirm against the compromise of many Christians, that the presence of Jesus Christ in the lives of many sufferers is more efficacious than the impersonal drug treatment many have endured. This is a bold challenge, like that of David's encounter against Goliath, which many will dismiss out of hand without opening this book. But I urge you to read with an open mind, as I have done, to read and decide for yourself, whether there is the ring of truth about the testimonies of these sufferers.
G.K. Chesterton observed that if the world is crazily upside down, then the only way of seeing it properly is to stand permanently upside down. Dieter does something of this, to help us be freed of professional brain-washing. The stakes played are high indeed, no less than the future of the human race. Shall human dignity remain protected by the mystery of God's love for us, or shall we sell our religious birthright for so-called “secular scientific progress”?
Prof. James M. Houston, D.Phil is the Founding Principal of Regent College and Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, BC, Canada