The other day I got to thinking about religious fanatics. First off, I'll admit I have issues with organized religion. My first 9 years of school were spent at a parochial school. By the time I finished there, I was sick of having their version of conservative christianity shoved on me.
In 8th grade we had a history sub for a few classes. She was a very animated and interesting teacher. I remember her giving all sorts of gory details about a Civil War battle. The whole class was enthralled. I think it was the only time I enjoyed U.S. History. Then she somehow mentioned that she could speak in voices. After some egging on by the class, she did. It was freaky. She spouted out some weird stuff, and when we asked her about it, she said she had no idea of what she said. So, was she visited by the holy ghost and given the ability to speak in some strange language. Or was she a kook?
A few years ago I started taking T'ai Chi lessons again. I absolutely loved it. I had taken a semester's worth in college and again in grad school, but those times I either moved away or the instructor left. This was at a bona fide kung fu school that's been around for a while and isn't going anywhere anytime soon. I took lessons for about a year and a half and got to the point where I know the form set fairly well (far from perfectly, though!) and was even starting on the sword set which is complicated and beautiful. But the instructor is a devout born again and would often use our class time to preach to us. At first we just had regular classes and I knew he taught a bible study class once a week. NO big deal. Then the preaching became an occasional thing. Then it became frequent. I didn't mind the occasional stuff and he knows a lot of history, which I found interesting since I know virtually nothing about world history from the biblical times. Then he told us that God would speak directly to him and he would write the info down into crazy-assed books. I read one and it was some strange shit. Then he started spouting out homophobic and racist crap. That's when I had my fill and quit class.
But the whole God speaking to him thing really interested me. Does God really talk to him? Who knows. He said he would get sort of a buzzing magnetic feeling and then God's words would just pour into his head. Sometimes for hours, sometimes for days. It sounded a lot like mania to me. And having a manic-depressive parent made that all the more interesting. Manic-depressives can have auditory or visual hallucinations during episodes. But this guy never seemed to get depressed and he wasn't constantly manic-y either. Maybe he's some sort of rapid-cycling unipolar manic.
It's interesting, though how something that to one person seems divine seems just plain crazy to another.