Depression & Faith: How to Escape from a Prison of the Mind

Prison of the Mind

A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. [Albert Einstein].

The prisons that we build around our souls are most difficult to escape.  The walls we create extend into every aspect of our secular existence so that freedom cannot even be imagined, much less attained.

Many people who are actually imprisoned or in chains remain free in their conscience and so do not feel their imprisonment. Many others, however, do not taste the true meaning of freedom although they inhabit the grand spaces of palaces and gardens. True freedom is civilized freedom. It wears the diamond chain of religion and morals, and the golden collar of sound thinking. [Fethullah Gülen]

No inside and outside to this institution – it is everywhere we are, in our home, in our job, in our play, even in our sleep. The guards are our family, our friends, our business associates, strangers and onlookers – all eager to impose restraints to assure that we remain confined.

     What had begun that summer as an off-and-on malaise and a vague, spooky restlessness had gained gradual momentum until my nights were without sleep and my days were pervaded by a gray drizzle of unrelenting horror. This horror is virtually indescribable since it bears no relation to normal experience.
     In depression, a kind of biochemical meltdown, it is the brain as well as the mind that becomes ill — as ill as any other besieged organ. The sick brain plays evil tricks on its inhabiting spirit. Slowly overwhelmed by the struggle, the intellect blurs into stupidity. All capacity for pleasure disappears. The smallest commonplace of domestic life, so amiable to the healthy mind, lacerates like a blade. [William Styron].

Where in the World is Light?

There are no time limits to our self-imposed sentences. When did we enter this mental prison? Can our thoughts remember a time when we were not prisoners of our own darkness? Where in the world is light?

Be not like those who forgot God, therefore He made them forget their own souls! [Quran 59:19].

When we left the Reality of God, we became prisoners of our illusions, our desires and our pride. The world we created now encases us, veiling us from our Creator, and transforming our thoughts into bars, chains, and shackles.

Everywhere we turn, everything we do, is done without purpose, without direction, because it is done without the intent to serve the Creator. Our striving, our efforts and struggles remain meaningless because they contain nothing Divine.

The most miserable prison in the world is the prison we make for ourselves when we refuse to show mercy. Our thoughts become shackled, our emotions are chained, the will is almost paralyzed. But when we show mercy, all of these bonds are broken, and we enter into a joyful liberty that frees us to share God’s love with others. [Warren W. Wiersbe, Live Like a King,  p. 113].

A Mind behind Bars 

Cruel and unusual punishment is that to which we have condemned our own soul. Our ignorance should exculpate us, were it not for Divine warnings from messengers and saints — and our own conscience. Our insanity should reduce our sentence were it not for our premeditated intent.

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. [Romans 8:7].

We ourselves constructed these walls from lusts, produced by our ego, and molded with selfish arrogance. Our entire reality, devoid of Almighty God, is but our own fabrication, conceived when we willfully denied the authority of our Creator, disobeyed His commands and sought to satisfy our desires through our own will.

And how shall I ever have happiness If, in a net of attachment within my mind, There dwell the guardians of the prison of cyclic existence, These (disturbing conceptions) that become my butchers and tormentors in hell? [Shantideva, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, 4:35].

Spiritual Asylum

Is there a way out? Is there a door to this prison? Can we find refuge in another world?

As it was conceived, so can it be destroyed. If absence of God created this prison, then the Presence of God can dissolve it. If forgetting God produced the illusions which bind us, then remembering God can free us to return to the True Reality.

If our depraved thoughts transformed our actions into shackles, then repentance holds the key to our release. Our sincere contrition and regret commit us to personal change.  We must ask for mercy and forgiveness from the One who holds our destiny.

Sometimes you are in a cave, and no human action is able to get you out. There is something you can’t fix, can’t heal, or can’t escape, and all you can do it trust God. Finding ultimate refuge in God means you become so immersed in his presence, so convinced of his goodness, so devoted to his lordship that you find even the cave is a perfectly safe place to be because he is there with you. [John Ortberg, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat]

Divine Pardon

Divine amnesty is retroactive. It pardons spiritual guilt and releases us from remorse. It provided an inviolable shelter that protects us from our thoughts.

We open the door to freedom by walking in God’s path. No pride, greed, or selfishness accompanies us. God leads us out of the darkness of our mind and into the light of His mercy.

When all is said and done, we are in the end absolutely dependent on the universe; and into sacrifices and surrenders of some sort … Now in those states of mind which fall short of religion, the surrender is submitted to as an imposition of necessity, and the sacrifice is undergone at the very best without complaint. In the religious life, on the contrary, surrender and sacrifice are positively espoused … Religion thus makes easy and felicitous what in any case is necessary; and if it be the only agency that can accomplish this result, its vital importance as a human faculty stands vindicated beyond dispute. It becomes an essential organ of our life, performing a function which no other portion of our nature can so successfully fulfill. [William James, Lecture II, “Circumscription of the Topic”]

Eternal Immunity

The Divine Reality offers total immunity, providing complete protection from past and future prosecution. With a purified mind, we walk out of our mental prison into inner peace, with our hearts focused on the sacred.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. [Isaiah 26:3].

Our desire now is only to do His will, to serve Him and hope for His acceptance. His light guides us through our blindness. Though we may hesitate, stumble and fall, His mercy always supports us.

If you wish for light, prepare yourself
to receive it; if you wish to be far from God,
nourish your egoism and drive yourself away.
If you wish to find a way out of this ruined prison,
don’t turn your head away from the Beloved,
but bow in worship and draw near [Quran 96:19].

[Rumi, Mathnawi].

Our thoughts are now filled with His Presence. Our words praise and glorify Him. Our actions are formed to please Him. This is the freedom we sought, in bondage to the Lord of all the worlds. May God accept our service. May He count us among His slaves.

 A DIVINE WRIT [is this – a revelation] which We have bestowed upon thee from on high in order that thou might bring forth all mankind, by their Sustainer’s leave, out of the depths of darkness into the light: onto the way that leads to the Almighty, the One to whom all praise is due. [Quran 14:1].


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