Moses and the burning bush

Daniel Smith’s father started hearing voices at age 13, and heard them for the rest of his life. The condition was a source of shame; he only admitted it to his children when they reached adolescence, and then only because the condition can be hereditary, and if they had inherited it, he didn’t want them to suffer in silence as he had.

Smith doesn’t hear voices, but after his father’s death he began to wonder what the experience might be like. That led him to an exploration of the physiology and psychology of auditory hallucination, as well as its role in religion, spirituality, and creative expression. His book, Muses, Madmen and Prophets: Hearing Voices and the Borders of Sanity, is the fruit of that research.

Smith speaks with Nextbook about Jewish responses to the phenomenon, from Moses to Joseph Caro, and about his own not entirely successful attempts at attuning himself to the voices that, he hoped, might be loitering in his head.