Home > film, philosophy > Through a glass darkly

Through a glass darkly

Schizophrenia asks the question – what is real? Do you live in your head, or is there a reality outside it?

When a schizophrenic knows she has the disease, and she chooses the alternate reality, how different is she from one who takes diksha? All of us choose a reality, by viewing the world through our mental model, why then are ‘they’ abnormal?

Trust, distrust. Anger. Jealousy. Hate. Hope, despair. Love.

I have just seen beauty. Salut, Ingmar Bergman.

  1. uhhu-uhhu
    June 8, 2009 at 12:21 am

    nice. But how does schizophrenia relate to diksha (diksha being the renunciation of wordly pleasures voluntarily in pursuit of greater soul-ly pleasures)?

    • June 8, 2009 at 12:30 am

      I was referring to the “choice” she made in sacrificing her real world and choosing to live in her alternate world. According to the movie, she knows she is schizophrenic, and she chooses to go to a mental hospital and live in her artificial world all the time, rather than floating between two worlds.

      Similarly, someone who takes Diksha chooses to get out of their “real” world and go live a different life in search of something.

  2. madhuri
    June 8, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Have not seen the movie. But as far as i know, they do not have a choice in the matter. My uncle was schizophrenic, was aware of it, medicated, and spent a whole lot of time in a mental institution. The world in their mind is the only world that exists for them. Perception of real world is filtered. Whether in a mental institution or home, they still live in their own world.

  3. June 8, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Which movie? It is called “Schizophrenia”?

    She is different from the one who chooses diksha. The argument being that the tool that she uses to make the decision is broken.
    The monk who has chosen diskha, is still functional in the “real world”. Has monkly duties, has to feed him/herself, perform monastic chores, follow the societal rules in the congregation, basically follow the new ethical norms he/she has embraced. If instead the monk is a loner, he/she has to be functional enough to be safe and functional in the “real world” that he is a loner in. Also, it can be safely said that the monk is not a danger to him/herself in general, or to others.

  4. June 8, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    “has to be functional enough to be safe and self-reliant”
    instead of
    “has to be functional enough to be safe and functional”

  5. madhuri
    June 8, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    unawoken, well explained.

  6. June 8, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Thanks unawoken. I see the difference.

    The movie is “Through a glass darkly” directed by Ingmar Bergman.

    In the specific case of the movie, it was not apparent that the protagonists decision making apparatus is broken.

  7. June 11, 2009 at 6:52 am

    My father’s a psychiatrist, and he’s spent all his professional life wrestling with philossophical questions relating to this disease as well, but he maintains that what works in the real world is a ‘version’ of reality that allows a person to survive by correctly interpreting all the stimuli available to him/her.

    What instead happens to schizophrenics is that they cant really interpret this reality correctly or safely enuff for them to, well, as unawaken says, ‘function’.

    Our versions of reality allow us to do that, yes, but nevertheless a very interesting question.

    I have only seen two of Ingmar Bergman’s movies, those being ‘Persona’ and ‘The Seventh Seal’ and maybe u’ll find more questions to ask in there, too!

    Nikhil told me I might find this interesting and I did. I’m following this, now. 🙂 and i’ll try and get my hands on this movie.


    • June 11, 2009 at 11:05 am

      Welcome to the blog Karishma and thanks for your comment.

      Another movie that deals beautifully with this sibject is “Ratra Aarambh” with Dileep Prabhavalkar.

    • June 11, 2009 at 1:12 pm

      Also, I wonder, what if we created the fake world around them (virtual worlds for example). Does that make schizophrenics feel better? Could it be a form of therapy?

      Can they be “born again” or as unawoken says have their decision making systems been fubar’ed?

  8. Nikhil Thatte
    June 11, 2009 at 7:33 am

    This is a great topic you’ve broached Dada.
    @ Unawoken’s reply – Cool answer. But! The entire ‘reality’ that us normals see is itself a construct of our mid-size animal brains. The reality looks very different to a frog or a bacterium. Thus, there is no reality which can be taken as a benchmark against which various versions can be compared. – > Schizophrenia is a purely social concept. There is no schizophrenia in asocial beings. A ‘norm’ is there only because a majority of us see the reality in one way.

    • June 11, 2009 at 1:15 pm

      see reply to unawokens comment.

  9. June 11, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Hi Nikhil,
    If you don’t mind me responding to you here:

    Regarding this: “Thus, there is no reality which can be taken as a benchmark against which various versions can be compared. – > Schizophrenia is a purely social concept. There is no schizophrenia in asocial beings. A ‘norm’ is there only because a majority of us see the reality in one way.”

    You are right of course, but there is more to it.
    In asocial beings, there is no schizophrenia, but there are no social constructs by which they contribute/take-from a “society” either. Disease/disability classifications become relevant when we enjoy some rights and privileges that come from social establishments. We take care of our sick as a society, and we expect the healthy to contribute to the society in return for their rights and privileges. A being that cannot fend for itself in an asocial set up will just not be able to live in the “real” world.

    • June 11, 2009 at 1:14 pm

      unawoken, Nikhil: use the “reply” below the comment to make threads of conversation! it is easier to track.

      “A being that cannot fend for itself in an asocial set up will just not be able to live in the “real” world.”

      Is this not a form of natural selection, hence desirable? By extension aren’t “welfare” societies undesirable 🙂

      • June 11, 2009 at 1:30 pm

        “Is this not a form of natural selection, ”


        ” hence desirable”

        NO! Natural selection is a dumb, “point”less process. It has given us wonderful gifts, but it has also given us war, pestilence, hatred, injustice, cutthroat competition.
        “Unwittingly” it has allowed game-theoretics that allow cooperation to come to be. Natural selection is not the “best” we got. Fortunately, we can do better.

        {Of course, another (very minority) view of saying this is that, we are also part of the grand scheme of natural selection, so our constructs also count as ‘natural selection processes’)

    • Nikhil Thatte
      June 12, 2009 at 3:36 am

      “Disease/disability classifications become relevant when we enjoy some rights and privileges that come from social establishments.” – From a purely academic perspective, relevance is not related to whether someone can do something about the sick or not. If a full grown male tiger (hence solitary) develops an altered view of his reality (from that reality which a majority of other tigers are perceiving), would he be a schizophrenic tiger?
      And just getting Dada’s point of natural selection in – Maybe that’s why we don’t see schizophrenia in tigers, et al. All the spoilt/different apples died away with no one to look after them!

      • June 12, 2009 at 10:21 am

        Firstly, what are classified as diseases, especially psychological illnesses are to quite a large extent determined by the norm and the culture within which it occurs. This is actually in support of your earlier point regarding its being social terminology.
        Secondly, when it comes to something like “schizophrenia”: for something to be dysfunction, the function should be there in the first place. “Schizophrenia” is when the mental model of reality goes out of whack with reality. For this, you need a mental model, or a mind. Also, the condition is diagnosed based on the patients descriptions of what he/she is going through. So a the tiger “having schizophrenia” may be addressed at two levels: One, the tiger doesn’t have a mind that represents objects, object-relationships, motivations and agencies. In other words, it doesn’t have a “psychology” to speak of. Second, it is a problem of diagnosis. How would we determine the tiger has “schizophrenia” even when indeed it has a particular variety of “a sick mind”? It cannot communicate any model of reality to us.
        (Simply put, it doesn’t possess that which we are saying is “broken” in this case)
        Yes, a tiger which cannot fend for itself because of its missteps in reading reality will not survive. So wouldn’t a human, until we interfere as a society and consider that human a person we should treat and take care of.

  10. June 12, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    BTW, check out this interesting article that touches upon some of the issues.


  11. June 23, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    By definition, schizophrenics don’t have an insight, that is, they don’t know that there’s some other ‘reality’. So, they don’t actually ‘choose’ a reality. That’s the only one available to them.

    Though, I thoroughly agree that it’s our brain that synthesizer ‘reality’ for us from the various sensations. And what makes us confident of them to be truths (in a materialistic sense) are the sharing of same truths by majority (that’s why truth is also somewhat statistical 😉 ), and by our accurately being able to predict the consequences of what we accept as truths (scientific experiments for instance). Of course, even the reached-by-consensus-truth and vindicated-by-experimentation-truth could both be illusory. But in philosophy as well as in science, that much corroboration is taken as ‘practically’ acceptable.



  12. June 23, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    BTW, coincidentally, I’ve dealt with this topic, too on another post of mine–‘Futuristic!’. Cheers!

  13. June 23, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    What you’re discussing here comes under the purview of ‘epistemology’–a branch of philosophy. There’s an excellent article on that by the same name on Encyclopaedia Britannica. If you can’t lay your hands on it, there’s always good old (err new) Wikipedia.

  14. June 23, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Also what enhances our trust in truth is how one truth leads to another, yet another, and then ultimately, to a truth we’d have never recognized to be caused by the original event had we not known the cause and effect relations between all the intervening events.

    Like, the moment you press a particular button of your remote and your TV gets switched on, one could argue that both the events could actually occur just in the brain, and what you experienced (pressing the remote’s button and seeing a particular serial for half an hour) could’ve not actually happened in the real world!

    But, then if I’d have never known about the relation between remote’s button and TV’s showing a particular channel, but yet, if I’d have been told about all the intervening connecting events, like how remote sends infrared/radio waves to the tv, those waves are sensed by a certain antenna/receptor, which activates circuitry in the tv and electrons are bombarded on a fluorescent screen, that a satellite had sent some signals to multiple TV sets all over the world, that television program was shot and captured in someone’s camera, that a satellite was succesfully launched into the desired orbit, and so on.

    Now when, these individual events occur in ISOLATION, they could be illusory, but when a ‘net of interconnected events occurs in a predictable manner and is experienced by wide cross section of people in an identical fashion, we become confident, that it was not just our mind playing the tricks. Imagine, in above one single example so many events are getting verified only because of one simple pair of events connected by a complex chain of cause-and-effect events.

    If a schizophrenic believes that TV will start showing his favorite serial by slapping the neighbor, that won’t happen!

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