Spiritual science more than any other science is in a position to say something about so-called spiritual or mental illness. The name is actually misleading; one cannot speak of the spirit being ill. Furthermore, there is widespread confusion among lay people as well as professionals, mainly because of the way such illnesses are presented in popular literature. The descriptions are thought of as the reality. Megalomania, persecution-mania, religious-mania are spoken of, but these terms only point to symptoms.
No one can become insane by being occupied with religious ideas. Yet the most curious statements are put forward, for example that the discord between old and modern world conceptions was the cause of Friedrich Hölderlin’s [Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843) was among the greatest of German lyric poets. His images were usually derived from classical Greek themes.] illness. The illness from which he suffered would still have overtaken Hölderin even if he had not been a poet; though in that case he would have expressed himself differently.
When a deeply religious person becomes mentally ill, his religious ideas become distorted. Had he been steeped in materialistic ideas, then they would have become distorted. The cause of mental illness is deeply rooted in human nature where it must be sought.
Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 55 – Supersensible Knowledge – Lecture VIII: Insanity in the Light of Spiritual Science – Berlin, 31st January 1907
Translated by Rita Stebbing