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Jerusalem Syndrome

August 13th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I recently learned about something called “Jerusalem Syndrome” which I thought was excellently fascinating:

The Jerusalem syndrome is a group of mental phenomena involving the presence of either religiously themed obsessive ideas, delusions or other psychosis-like experiences that are triggered by a visit to the city of Jerusalem. It is not endemic to one single religion or denomination but has affected Jews, Christians and Muslims of many different backgrounds.

The best known, although not the most prevalent, manifestation of the Jerusalem syndrome is the phenomenon whereby a person who seems previously balanced and devoid of any signs of psychopathology becomes psychotic after arriving in Jerusalem. The psychosis is characterised by an intense religious theme and typically resolves to full recovery after a few weeks or after being removed from the area.

So perfectly normal, mentally healthy people go to visit Jerusalem and the next thing you know they’re wandering around the desert claiming to be the Messiah. How awesome is that?

It has to make you wonder—what if this isn’t just a bizarre side-effect of a strong Judeo-Christian-Islamic upbringing brought out when one visits a place they’ve read about and revered since childhood? What if this has nothing to do with a religious background but with the physical location of Jerusalem itself—if there’s something about the geography or the climate of the Middle East that makes people believe they’re the Messiah?

Well then you’d have to speculate that Jesus himself was merely a victim of Jerusalem Syndrome, that he was only deluded into believing himself the Messiah and happened to live during a time period when his fellow Jews were not only superstitious enough to believe him but so frustrated with Roman rule that they genuinely wanted to.

Could it be that Horus and the rest of the so-called “16 Saviors” were merely victims of some kind of psychological disorder that makes one believe that they’re the son of God, born of a virgin, and on a mission to save mankind?

Well, I believe that Jesus and the rest of the not-so-fortunate saviors (those who weren’t lucky enough to have their biographies later adopted by a Roman Emperor and thus become the central figure of one the world’s most enduring religions) probably were in fact suffering from some form of dementia. Just like those who come down with Jerusalem Syndrome, they were raised with stories of God and messianic prophecies, and something triggered a part of their brain that made them believe these stories were about them.

On the other hand, maybe they were all suffering from dementia except Jesus, and he really was born of a virgin and resurrected after death. Funny how God’s plan to redeem humanity borrowed so much from earlier myths…

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