Has a major branch of history been determined by one man's bout with epilepsy? I think so!

Epilepsy Toronto has, on its web page, a list of famous people who have had epilepsy. The idea of the list is that epilepsy doesn't need to stand in the way of achievement. On that list - along with such luminaries as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Joan of Arc, Napoleon and Newton - was Muhammad. Well, you guessed it . . . the incendiary email this organization received from indignant Muslims, prompted them to quickly remove Muhammad from its on-line list. By now, we all know that nothing gets results like Muslim threats.

This article reminded me of the connection between epilepsy and the "God Module". If you're not familiar with the God Module or "God Spot", here's a quick summary . . . It was discovered when scientists explored the association between epilepsy and intense spiritual experiences. It seems that some forms of epilepsy create electrical storms in the brain that stimulates an adjacent area (now identified as the God Module). Many of these epileptics are hyper-religious.

Anyway, I did a Google search for "Muhammad and epilepsy" and hit pay-dirt. There appears to be a strong correlation between the symptoms of epilepsy and the witness descriptions of Muhammad's condition while in his "trances". Epilepsy (the "sacred disease", also known as the "falling sickness") is what the ancients thought were demon possessions. Muhammad was known to have had epileptic symptoms from at least the age of 5. His guardians were (allegedly) afraid he was demon possessed and pawned him off on other relatives.

Epilepsy would explain Muhammad's visions and preoccupation with spirituality and his solitary retreats to the mountains for contemplative meditation. Many epileptics describe the spiritual sensations surrounding seizures as so exquisite that they actually look forward to these fits. Fyodor Dostoevsky claimed that he would not trade 10 years of life for a single epilepsy-induced spiritual experience.

Ignorant and superstitious people, especially in Muhammad's day, were easily impressed by these seizures. They seemed real, because they were. However, they weren't demon possessions or contact with God; they were epileptic fits. These fits are reported to have scared Muhammad until his wife (the first, ever, Muslim) convinced him that they were divine communiqués. That's right . . . Muhammad's wife was the first Muslim - Muhammad was the second to believe.

There is only anecdotal evidence that Muhammad was an epileptic. It's just a theory. But, due to the preponderance of evidence, many historians and researchers believe it. The first to suggest it was the Greek monk, Theophanes. Theophanes (752-817) wrote, in his "Chronography", that Muhammad suffered from epilepsy. In 1869, Sir William Muir, made the same connection in his book, "The Life of Mahomet". More recently, Clifford Pickover writes:
Dostoevsky, another famous epileptic whose works are filled with ecstatic visions of universal love (and terrible nightmares of uncanny fear and radical evil), thought it was obvious that Mohammad's visions of God were triggered by epilepsy. "Mohammad assures us in this Koran that he had seen Paradise," Dostoevsky notes. "He did not lie. He had indeed been in Paradise - during an attack of epilepsy, from which he suffered, as I do."
I guess it takes one to know one.

Views: 1146

Tags: Dostoevsky, Muhammad, Muir, Pickover, Theophanes, epilepsy

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Comment by Atheist Exile on April 1, 2009 at 9:37am
Hi Rosemary,

Yes I posted both.
Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on March 31, 2009 at 11:52am
This discussion seems to have been cross-posted at:

http://atheistnexus.org/group/originsuniverselifehumankindanddarwin/forum/topics/epilepsy-the-origin-of-islam

Look there for more comments.
Comment by Atheist Exile on March 31, 2009 at 9:56am
Hi Clarence,

The possibility that Muhammad had epilepsy is not my hypothesis. I simply associated that hypothesis with the God module (and I'm sure I wasn't the first to do that, either).

Sock puppet, huh? I like it. Talk to the hand!
Comment by Atheist Exile on March 31, 2009 at 3:35am
Hi Rosemary,

The diagnosis for St. Paul that I hear the most is migraine headaches. However, I've also heard it asserted that Paul had temporal lobe epilepsy.

If everybody has a (latent) God module (and I'm not saying they do), then epilepsy would certainly increase the odds that you'll be obsessed with spirituality and religion. This, in turn, would increase the odds that epilepsy explains why some superstitious men believed they communed with God.

Also, "casting out demons" would be just a matter of gesticulating appropriately while waiting for the epileptic's seizure to pass. With any luck, this would happen in a crowd where many witnesses could watch.
Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on March 30, 2009 at 6:48pm
The eventual church was lucky that Jesus wasn't alive to "cast out the devils" :-)
Comment by Clarence Dember on March 30, 2009 at 4:15pm
Great hypothosis. Thanks for this information! The human condition must be the cause of everything we experience. The sock puppet idea of any god came from people. People did not come from the sock puppet idea of a god!
Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on March 30, 2009 at 3:43pm
It is probable that the root of Christianity is based on epilepsy as well. The cult of Jesus of Nazareth looked as it if would have died out, but for Saul/Paul of Tarsus seeing a "vision" and hearing a voice on the road to Damascus. That's probably focal TLE.

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