Philosophical Papers and Review

  • Abbreviation: Philos. Papers Rev
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-663X
  • DOI: 10.5897/PPR
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 44

Full Length Research Paper

Does submission to a deity relieve depression? Illustrations from the book of Job and the Bhagavad Gita

J. S. Price1* and R. Gardner, Jr2
1Consultant Psychiatrist, Sussex NHS Partnership Trust, Brighton General Hospital, Elm Grove, Brighton BN2 3EW, UK. 2Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin Medical School Madison WI, USA.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 17 June 2009
  •  Published: 31 July 2009


Two ancient texts feature a hero who does not submit completely to his deity. One, Arjuna, depicted in the Bhagavad Gita, decided not to fight in defiance of his mentor and deity Krishna. The other, Job of the Old Testament, complained bitterly that his god treated him unfairly. Both suffer affective disturbance. Arjuna, dejected, displays a panic attack, Job shows severe depression. After each interacts with his god and actually sees the divine form, each submits totally and then experiences symptom relief. These old texts support the claim of some contemporary religious congregations that submission to their respective gods relieves depression and anxiety to bring peace and joy. We pursue two implications: (1) Might psychotherapy learn from this and explore secular equivalents of submission to supernatural being(s)? (2) By what mechanism does submission to a god relieve depression? We call on longstanding evolutionary theories to which we have contributed about the relation of submission to depression. From this we tentatively conclude that whereas belief in a god may alleviate existential anxiety about the meaning of life and what happens after death, submission to such a supernatural figure is required for the relief of depressed mood.


Key words: Arjuna, Book of Job, Bhagavad Gita, depression, dejection, triune brain, submission, incomplete submission, deities.