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As a psychiatrist who has also studied so-called "mystical" experiences among the Jewish Sages [see: The Ethics of the Jewish Mystics], I am very much open to Dr. Saville-Smith's proposed category of "Acute Religious Experiences." There is clearly an important distinction to be made between religio-mystical experiences in otherwise fully-functioning, rational persons (yes, I know these terms cry out for explication); and, for example, persons afflicted by schizophrenia--an often devastating and incapacitating disease.

In my view, the proposed category of "Acute Religious Experiences" (ARE) can be accommodated reasonably well in the DSM-5's section on "Other Conditions that may be a focus of clinical attention" (p. 715 of the DSM-5). Importantly, these are not mental disorders. They include such conditions as, e.g., "parent-child relational problem" or "uncomplicated bereavement." I see no reason why Dr. Saville-Smith's proposed category could not be included in this section, though I suspect ARE would not be seen frequently in a typical psychiatric practice. But conceptually, there should be no barrier to its inclusion as a non-pathological entity, worthy of clinical attention and differential diagnosis.

Ronald W. Pies, MD

Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry

Author, The Ethics of the Jewish Mystics

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