1st Edition

The Mystic Mind The Psychology of Medieval Mystics and Ascetics

By Jerome Kroll, Bernard Bachrach Copyright 2005
    288 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    288 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    A fascinating collaboration between a medieval historian and a professor of psychiatry, this enthralling book applies modern biological and psychological research findings to the lives of medieval mystics and ascetics.

    Drawing upon a database of over 1,400 medieval holy persons and in-depth studies of individual saints, this illuminating study examines the relationship between medieval mystical experiences, the religious practices of mortification; laceration of the flesh, sleep deprivation and extreme starvation, and how these actions  produced altered states of consciousness and brain function in the heroic ascetics.

    Examining and disputing much contemporary writing about the political and gender motivations in the medieval quest for a closeness with God, this is essential reading for anyone with an interest in medieval religion or the effects of self-injurious behaviour on the mind.

    Preface. Acknowledgments. Part I Psychology and Biology 1. Introduction 2. Heroic Asceticism and Self-Injurious Behavior 3. Mysticism and Altered States of Consciousness 4. Pain and Laceration of the Flesh 5. Sleep Deprivation 6. Fasting and Starvation Part II History. 7. Historical Methods: Selecting a Data Base 8. Pathways to Holiness 9. Radegund 10. Beatrice of Nazareth 11. Beatrice of Ornacieux 12. Henry Suso 13. Mental Illness, Hysteria, and Mysticism 14. Appendix: Statistical Analyses 15. Conclusion Notes. Bibliography.


     Jerome Kroll is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He is the author of The Challenge of the Borderline Patient (1988) and co-author, with Sir Martin Roth, of The Reality of Mental Illness (1986).  Bernard Bachrach is Professor of History at the University of Minnesota. He has written or edited fifteen books and over one hundred articles on medieval history, including several studies on medieval mental illness in collaboration with Jerome Kroll.

    'A concise and effective re-assertion of the central premise that self-injurious behaviour helps bring about altered states of consciousness...[This book] does succeed in giving the reader new questions both about medieval mystics and holy people and about the methodologies used to examine them.' – Bulletin of International Medieval Research