Are people who suffer from bipolar disorder really just spiritually awakened? Is enlightenment in the modern world being diagnosed as a mental illness?
People are coming to a fascinating conclusion: bipolar mania is actually spiritual enlightenment or awakening. How do I know this? I suppose if you fish around the internet you’ll find this theory threaded around the various places where seekers are congregating. I haven’t looked, to be honest, because I didn’t find this topic, it found me. Looking at the search statistics for ModernAwakenings.com, I have been surprised to find that search terms are trending high that indicate people are making a connection between bipolar disorder, specifically the manic phase, and enlightenment. Their search leads them to this website.
Sorry, I’m not going to be corroborating that theory for you. Not even close. As someone who has been through and continues to “go through” the enlightenment process, and someone who has also been intimately involved with people who are bipolar, and as a person who witnessed one person diagnosed with bipolar claim to be enlightened during a severe manic phase (that led, incidentally, to profound psychosis and ultimately, death)…I do not see that there is any link between bipolar disorder and enlightenment.
There are a lot of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder who believe they are special. That having this mental signature makes them more creative, more intelligent, and so on. I’ve known people diagnosed with bipolar disorder who fit that description, and I’ve known others who were quite the opposite. So “being” bipolar is not an indication of any special talent. And being hypo-manic or fully manic is certainly not an indication of spiritual awakening.
So why are people confusing the two? I can see why they might seem superficially similar. There is this sweet spot in the mania spectrum, what might be thought of as the top end of hypo-manic, where people can experience all kinds of intense states of mind, such as euphoria. They also run a lot of energy, become insanely charismatic and sometimes can experience a kind of one-pointedness of mind that they mistake for complete clarity or ultimate revelation. They can even produce phenomena around them that seem paranormal.
This appears very similar on the surface to bliss states of spiritual awakening, the demonstration of siddhi powers, kundalini activation, third eye activation, resting in Clear Light, and so forth. It’s not.
That’s not to say that people with bipolar disorder can’t awaken spiritually. In fact, there is something about their unique and challenging energy signature that gives them an extra push to revealing their true nature. To effectively manage their condition, they need to vigilantly watch their thoughts, examine their thoughts, and challenge the reality of their thoughts and the emotions that follow. It’s imperative. Because the manic phase brings paranoid thoughts, which are not real. It brings thoughts of promiscuous sex, which is not really what you want. It brings thoughts of invincibility, of maxing out your credit card on stuff you don’t even need, of gambling, of joining/starting a cult, of all kinds of things that are not real, not you. The depressive phase brings all kinds of thoughts that are also not real. Thoughts of self harm, worthlessness, unbearable pain. They are not real, and they are not you.
People who are not diagnosed as bipolar are effectively doing the same thing. They spend their lives in a thought world, a world that is not real, but their thoughts are more middle of the road so they don’t set off the big alarm bells, they don’t cause them to stop and say, “Who am I? Are these thoughts real? Do they come from me? Who is thinking the thoughts?” They are still sleepwalking, but it’s okay because their dream is just not that intense. They can afford to be lazy, but people living with bipolar disorder can’t. Being lazy means you might miss the small window when you have the ability to stop the momentum. It’s actually a very short choice point, but those that master this can thrive. But it’s absolutely a martial art.
So, while being bipolar doesn’t grant you some special status in terms of sudden enlightenment, it absolutely puts your feet to the coals. You get a special invitation in neon, with dancing girls and fireworks: You are cordially invited to watch your mind, and in doing so, discover who you really are. You are not blessed with this disorder, but neither are you cursed. You are invited.