A Little-Known Country, Part 33 (Ordained Chaplains: Out of the Depths #84)

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 #84.

Our Scripture Verse for today is 1 Peter 5:10 which reads, “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

Our Ordained Chaplains quote for today is from William Samuel Johnson. He said, “He knows not his own strength who hath not met adversity.”

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 33):

How do I account for the recurrence of last Spring? …One factor was certainly the fear of this place and of others like it. While the dominating ideas were still much the same, the ideas most prominent in this last disturbance had to do with the imprisonment and the way of escape from it. There was the terrifying thought growing out of that experience that God himself was helpless in the hands of the doctors and that I must somehow or other help to set him free. It may also be noted that last fall when I came back to normal, it was largely the result of a severe beating which left me weak and helpless and unable to continue the struggle. In this disturbance on the other hand I fought my way through to some sort of solution. It was no accident that ten days after leaving the disturbed ward, I found the work in which I am now engaged. It was in line with the solution I had arrived at in Codman Upper.

I feel therefore that I am not ready to be junked yet.

But granting the danger of a recurrence, what should be done about it?

The answer will depend in the first place upon the character of the disturbance and the possible harm I might do to others. If I am a menace to society, I must of course be kept where I can do no harm. Thus far I find no evidence that there was even in the wildest delirium the slightest danger to any one else. I can remember most everything, and if given a chance I could give a very different interpretation to the words which were taken as indications of danger. In my own consciousness it was the best part of myself which was dominant throughout those disturbed periods and from the moral standpoint I was never more nearly right than at the very moment I was taken to the hospital. It was in some ways the highest point I had reached. That has been and is still my feeling. In saying this I am not forgetful of the shocking character of my ideas. I am thinking rather of my dominant concern with the grim problem of existence and survival, not of myself but rather of others. There was throughout no sexual excitation. And the ideas were fluid. There was in other words no Mr. Hyde personality, but rather a better self, blind and chained and struggling for release.

I recognize what you have in mind in speaking of the danger of a recurrence coming in the midst of an important piece of work. Last August you gave me a small job working up some statistics for your two books. Before that task was completed I went haywire, and the study was not completed in time to be of use to you. In general, however, the periods of abnormality have come in connection with some important transition or turning-point. They have not come while I was at work but in the “in-between times.” And more than once I pulled myself together when in such a condition and have assumed responsible work and carried it through with some degree of success.

I appreciate your offer to help in any way you can. I do not, however, think it will be necessary for you to act as custodian. I am hoping now that I may be able to take some work in the Harvard Divinity School and in the affiliated institutions which will help me to clear up the problems which this experience has brought to the fore and to prepare myself for a new task.

Perce was here the other day and brought with him some good advice which he had hatched out coming down on the train. He urged me to take up concrete work of some sort. Such a course, he thought, would be the best means of helping me to regain and preserve my sanity. I replied to Perce that sanity in itself is not an end in life. The end of life is to solve important problems and to contribute in some way to human welfare, and if there is even a chance that such an end could best be accomplished by going through Hell for a while, no man worthy of the name would hesitate for an instant.

I often think of a little incident which occurred when I was in Washington. One of the old Forest School men had just returned from two years in the North Woods and a lot of his old class-mates were gathered around him while he dished out yarns about his experiences in the wilds. Finally one of the men asked, “Say, Bill, have you ever been lost?” Bill straightened up, glared at him, and replied with some heat: “Lost! Of course I’ve been. It’s only the dubs who never go five miles from camp who don’t get lost sometimes.”

I agree with Bill. The kind of sanity which has to be preserved by sticking close to camp and washing dishes for the rest of my life is not worth preserving. I could never be happy or contented in such a course, especially when I feel that the particular territory in which I lost my way is of greatest interest and importance. I want to explore and map that territory.

There is one principle which seems to me very important. You are in doubt about a certain course. The facts are not known and cannot be known. In such a case the decision should be in favor of the course which promises the greatest returns, even though you cannot be sure you will succeed. I refer, of course, to the principle stated by Professor James in his Will to Believe. Of course I cannot be absolutely sure that there will not be a recurrence of trouble, but the possibility of such a recurrence should not in my judgment deter me from the course which promises the greatest opportunity for service.

In our next podcast, we will continue with Part 34 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!