An article in the paper the other day reminded me once again of the problems we face in understanding our own inner motivations, as well as those of our fellow man. The article covered the conviction of a confessed killer in North Carolina, (1) who had gained notoriety by taunting the jury to give him the death penalty, in the same spirit as Gary Gilmore. However, this individual claimed to be in direct communication with a voice he said called itself God.
A psychiatric evaluation of the man had been pending. He had no history of attempts at suicide, yet he had killed himself in his cell, leaving a lengthy note for the authorities. He said that he had talked to God, and that God had decided that it would be best for him to kill himself, which he did with utter conviction and no further explanation.
"A real nut," I thought. Yet having casually followed the last events of his life over the past few weeks, I could not help but be left with the impression of a deeply tormented man, compelled to the point of murder, and unable to share the secrets of his mental arena with anyone.
His macabre case, lost in the back pages of newsprint, also left some nagging questions pertinent to the field of psychology, if not to us all. What really caused this man to commit murder? And what was the nature of this voice, speaking only to him as God, that carried the authority for his suicide? I've done some digging into these questions, and that which follows is the substance of my findings.
When we pause and look at similar cases of strange and bizarre behavior recorded down through history and found in works by authors such as Wilhelm Stekel (2) and Richard Krafft-Ebing (3), one thing becomes apparent: Man has been puzzled for a long time by the extreme behavior he witnesses in his fellow men, and has tried to grasp the motives behind such actions.
Thus, the confessed killer was not the only person who heard voices directing him, from God or the devil. Recently we've heard of the capture of David Berkowitz, the "Son of Sam" [Wikipedia] in New York, a man driven to uncontrollable murder by the promptings of a voice he heard. And the battle continues today between the psychiatrists to determine his motives and sanity.
There are many people who believe that they hear voices and do not find eventual residence in institutions. They realize that they are having experiences that others do not share, and learn to keep quiet.
I recall the experience that I had several years ago with a high school chum, Joe D., who had taken lessons from a woman he described as a teacher of white magic and automatic handwriting. Being naive and skeptical at the time, I paid little attention to Joe and we grew apart. One day upon paying him a visit at his apartment, he motioned me over to a corner of the room after some time and said, "Alan, don't you hear them? They're always talking about me; they just won't leave me alone." I had heard nothing, and was baffled by Joe's behavior and his description of tormenting voices. Nothing further was ever said about them, and it would be years before I would come across this unusual phenomenon again.
To the layman who has never lived through a period of mental derangement, the whole question of voice-hearing is usually of little interest, other than as a passing curiosity in the rare and sensational cases that reach the public eye. For most of us, this is the only realm that we pass through. Psychology, however, has had an obligation to fulfill, and as such has devised many theories and therapies to explain the hearing of voices.
Behavioral psychology tends to view the hearing of voices as hallucinations that a person creates himself, as a sort of psychological game or role-playing. Hallucinations might be maintained for the stimulation and attention they provide the host. Thus, the behavioral model supports the belief that the mentally ill do not really hear voices but exhibit such deviant behavior because they cannot function smoothly as "normal" within society. Their condition is simply due to their being reinforced negatively by others for their behavior.
A mentalistic view is not necessary, for the behavioral approach denies that something is happening and says that a cure for such behavior is to change that person's contingencies of social reinforcement. This theory is somewhat contradictory in that it denies the mind and yet pins the blame for hallucinations on the individual who is being irresponsible by playing a deviant game.
Analytical psychology, on the other hand, admits to a mind, and has spent a great deal of time trying to define it, and the things that afflict it. An entire diagnostic system (DSM-2) [Wikipedia] of cataloguing the many symptoms of mental disorder has been developed by the American Psychological Association to help in diagnosis, labeling and treatment. Yet no classification has ever been satisfactory. They are only the ordering of observed symptoms which often change, and rarely tell you anything about the person's subjective point of view.
The many shades of schizophrenia, for example, may or may not include the symptom of voice-hearing. Most patients do not follow any single or well-defined course of abnormal events and, as Eysenck reports, are able to cure themselves, with total unpredictability, at about the same rate as most popular therapies. (4)
What exactly is considered voice-hearing? G. Reed gives us a description in The Psychology of Anomalous Experience as follows:
"The voices range from primitive noises, such as bangs and whistles, to organized, meaningful sounds such as speech and music. Most common are voices uttering short but comprehensible phrases. The voices may be identifiable in terms of age and sex, whether or not they are of the same nationality as the subject and whether or not their owners are known to them." (5)
This description, though concise, fails to communicate the terror, anguish and confusion that a person may feel when unknown voices are first heard, as in the account by M. Sechehaye in Autobiography of a Schizophrenic Girl:
"He [the voice and apparition] took up his position at the further end near the closet on the right. Mocking voices sneered at me: 'Ah, ah, wretched creature, eat, eat, only eat, do eat!' They kept urging me to eat, knowing it was forbidden and that I would be severely punished by them if I acceded to their prompting." (6)
Such accounts appear confusing and irrational, and indicate that the sufferer has difficulty in conveying to the onlooker the nature of what is happening to him. It is no wonder, then, that the most common interpretative explanation of voice-hearing would support the view of the objective observer.
The "dissociation of consciousness" theory would apply to the Son of Sam as well as to Sybil or the child in The Exorcist. (7) Simply put, it proposes that since we are not party to the voices that an individual hears and takes for real, then the voices must be a delusion, and part of his own mind. Thus, those afflicted are in fact undergoing a dissociation or split of their normal stream of consciousness into autonomous factions or selves that pursue their own development over which the original self has little influence.
Such a dissociation is considered to be a "safety valve," and as Bernard Hart explains it in The Psychology of Insanity: "... dissociation would then always indicate the presence of a mental conflict, and would acquire significance of a defensive reaction adopted by the mind, when confronted with two incompatible systems of ideas." (8) However, as we shall see, the dissociation theory can hold little validity in light of the facts of most cases. An example of personal experience at this point will illustrate more clearly.
I had the opportunity to meet Ray G., a 22 year old man, in the fall of 1976 and subsequently worked with him on a daily basis for eight months. He was serving a sentence for a larceny conviction, but had been transferred to the maximum security psychiatric ward where I worked as a psychologist, due to sexual misconduct and felonious assault against another inmate.
Ray had pleaded insanity to the charges, and upon arrival attempted suicide. Upon his recovery I met a man whose looks betrayed a sense of acute fear and anxiety; he gave the impression of a man paralyzed with terror and surrounded by hopelessness and despair.
As Ray related to me over the weeks the nature of his condition, I found one strong thread emerging. Ray was continually hearing voices speaking to him. He had numerous blackout spells, painful headaches and ulcers which he attributed to the effects of the voices, for he said that they could seize parts of his body for their own uses and control them against his will. On describing the nature of these voices, Ray noted that he had been unable to sleep at night for years, as the voices dominated his evenings with terror. He had heard the voice of his mother calling to him at night when no one was there. Sometimes, apparitions appeared before him, with ugly faces that would berate him incessantly.
When I questioned the voices directly the only reply that I received, through Ray, was that they told him he should kill me, and shouted inside of his head not to listen to anything I said. The singular message that the voices carried was a repeated imperative to Ray to kill himself. If this were not enough, Ray possessed a violent temper and homosexual aggressiveness that only manifested after a blackout spell, and of which Ray had no memory.
He was not forewarned of their advent but would suddenly get painful headaches at the top of his head, followed by a ringing in his ears and dizziness, culminating in shakes, tremors, and finally a blackout spell. A new personality would emerge, entirely different from Ray, who would seek violent sexual expression.
Prior to my last visit with Ray he unsuccessfully attempted suicide again, at the prompting of the voices. Brain scans and EEG's showed no evidence of brain deterioration or epileptic dysfunction. And to the psychiatric staff he remained unamenable to therapy, and a mystery until his death by suicide some months ago. In the battle for his life, the voices had apparently won.
Yet I could not help feeling that Ray had been telling me something important about the voices that I had previously overlooked. The facts of his subjective experiences were similar to other cases. For one, why had he killed himself when he had told me many times that he did not want to die and was afraid of what the voices might make him do?
The dissociation theory would say that the voices urging Ray to suicide were, in fact, only an aspect of Ray's own mind, working as a defense mechanism and ultimately as a benefit to his survival. Yet the outcome for Ray had been death, and it was the secondary emerging aspect of him, against his own wishes, that had bid for and succeeded in the destruction - not survival - of the entire being, theoretically destroying itself too. The evidence contradicts the theory.
Second, Ray strongly believed the voices to be real but not a part of him, as he could clearly distinguish between his own thoughts and those of the voices. In fact, he said that the inner voices compelled their thoughts to turn in certain directions and to dwell on certain topics, thus interfering with his own.
This was a key point because the dissociation theory assumes that the new voices or selves originate from a singular mind or intelligence, that is, the one observable. Yet not only could Ray distinguish his thoughts from those of the voices, but the voices communicated to him in an intelligent manner by revealing motives, will, authority and information from a source or memory which Ray had no prior exposure to.
Thus it would seem that Ray, as a consistent mental intelligence, struggled against another that was alien and strategically more powerful. Furthermore, Ray was aware at times of the onset of voices and could pinpoint their arrival in his mind, as if they were invading him from the outside. He said that they had first come after he was raped in a boys' reformatory some years before.
I found a similar testimony of invasion in the case of the Maid of Orlach, as documented in the works of Justinus Kerner in 1834: [demonology.enacademic.com]
"Then she sees him [the apparition] approach, always from the left side, feels as if it were a cold hand which seized the back of her neck, and in this way he enters her. She then loses the sense of her own individuality; properly called." (9)
These facts, combined with the clue that I could find no research that would indicate that a person can consciously produce or simulate such bizarre and complex hallucinations experimentally, suggests to me the possibility that voices like those heard by Ray do not arise from a person's self-initiated thoughts, but in a field that encompasses the individual mind.
Jonathan Lang [writing under a pseudonym], an independent researcher of voice-hearing, reached a similar conclusion:
"...[T]he complexity of the patterns of hallucinations suggests the existence of some form of organizing factor. This factor must at least operate as a physico-chemical agent - say some form of energy system. Difficulties in locating and isolating such a factor within the human organism suggest the possibility of the entrance of an external agent. The question is raised as to whether the theory of spontaneous generation of psychopathological phenomena may not be retarding the clarification of the actuality behind hallucinations. The possibility that hallucinations may be produced by the intrusion of some psychic infective agent is one that requires attention." (10)
If psychoanalytic theory is inadequate, then what is the true nature of the voices?
I have found that occultists, for centuries, have believed in the theory of spirit possession to explain people hearing interior voices other than their own. Christ and his disciples in their time are said to have exorcized or expelled hundreds of demons from the possessed. The theory of possession is age-old and has been periodically reaffirmed by the intuitions and lifetime research of men such as Paracelsus, Swedenborg and Percival, who used the method of studying the mind directly, rather than objectively in a laboratory.
They believed that the mind exists within a psychic field that our senses cannot know, and that we dwell in a collective mental dimension inhabited by other intelligences or thought-forms that are not visible, just as certain wavelengths of color, like infrared, are imperceptible. They called these creatures entities, elementals, familiars, incubi, succubi and dispossessed spirits of the dead, and each is believed capable of inhabiting and controlling a human host by invasion of the delicate nervous system, thus flowing into a man's feelings and the matrix of his mind much like a parasite traveling the circulatory system of the body. (11)
A very good description of a possession is provided by Gerber in his investigation of the Maid of Orlach:
"But the transformation of personality is absolutely marvelous. It is very difficult to give a name to this state; the girl loses consciousness, her ego disappears, or rather withdraws to make way for a fresh one. Another mind has now taken possession of this organism, of these sensory organs, of these nerves and muscles, speaks with the throat, thinks with these cerebral nerves, and that in so powerful a manner that the half of the organism is, as it were, paralyzed. It is exactly as if a stronger man drove the owner from his house and looked out of the window at ease, making himself at home. For no loss of consciousness intervenes, a conscious ego uninterruptedly inhabits the body. The mind which is now in this girl knows perfectly well, even better than before, what is going on around it; but it is another occupant who dwells in the house." (12)
It is no wonder then that psychologists have never been able to pinpoint the origin and cause of voice-hearing or any psychosis, but choose to call it spontaneous generation, or a phenomenon of sudden beginning. This is what one would see if using the objective scientific method of measuring events with the human eye. Psychologists have erroneously discounted voices as separate entities invading another's mind because the scientific method is only one limited mode of investigation, and exploring the mind demands an approach utilizing more acute sensitivities.
At this point we need to stop and ask if this theory of entities appeals to common sense. Is such a theory plausible? Possession would suggest that we can be affected by unseen external forces. Let's take a look at the mind directly, to see if we possibly are susceptible to influences that we are unaware of.
Images and Impulses
Consider, for instance, our motivations. What happens to us when we decide to do something? We can easily see that when we first want or need something then a picture of the object of our desire appears before the mind's eye. If I am reading a book and suddenly get hungry, I'll get an image in my mind of a peanut butter sandwich. This impression seems to arise within my mind, and I then go about finding the ways and means to fulfill this need. I say to myself that I'm hungry so I'll go to the kitchen to make my sandwich.
Yet the curious thing is that if we observe carefully the functioning of the mind at such moments, we can see that I only verbalized my need and intention to act after the initial impression was received upon my mind in the form of an image; I reacted to these. And by this simple observation we can find that all our reasoning for doing things is subject to initial thoughts and images within our minds, including even our most complex or obscure thinking.
This curious aspect of the mind demonstrates something clearly: We cannot really say that we exert complete control over our minds or thoughts, if we are always reacting to initial impressions entering the mind. Do we cause, in a logical manner, these original thoughts and visions to occur in our minds that we can then consider and act upon, or do they arise spontaneously?
Common sense would point out that if I am acting as observer of my mental processes then I could not be creating the percepts too. We notice that we observe and respond to our thoughts as they arise, and strike upon our consciousness.
What I have proposed is evident to us all, if we just test our ability to stop and start our thinking. Rather than directly controlling our thoughts we are impressed by them automatically, much like radios receiving signals. Then we realize and react. If I pinch you without your expectation, you will jump with a start and then react. The pinch has happened before your reaction, and you move irrespective of either the previous thoughts in your mind or your will power. When this happens you realize or think about what has happened and give me your opinions about the pinch. You did not cause the pinch.
Thus, much of our thinking is forced upon us by the environment. Hypnotists have known this simple fact for some time, and are able to create visions or illusions upon the minds of suggestible subjects so that they believe that the chair on which they sit is very hot, or that a fly is resting on their nose. The suggestion is so strong that they are compelled to react to situations which do not exist outside of their own minds.
All of this can only mean that if we do not entirely control the thoughts arising in our minds, then the environment holds a far greater mental influence upon us than we imagine. What causes thoughts? Psychologists would say that my need for a sandwich is merely a result of hunger, and that hunger is instinct, or the way of the flesh. Then what is instinct? How would a body made of singular cells possess the capability to convey to the mind its message of desire?
We are left with the possibility that things act upon us from the external, mental and physical, environment. How else would people who appear to possess rational faculties suddenly experience, a change of mood that would compel them to join the army in a moment of glory; marry or rape in a moment of passion, or kill in the moment of anger? In this light, the theory of possession or influence from an external mental dimension becomes plausible.
We notice something else intriguing about the mind. Not only do we have mental associations for hunger that arise spontaneously in patterns upon the mind, but for other desires as well. If we look carefully at ourselves over any period of time, we can see that the sexual impulse holds great influence over us. We do not need to be ingenious to recognize its powerful impact upon thoughts and actions that can cause catalytic changes in the moods and character of the personality.
How many times have we found, in the middle of some daily activity, that the sexual impulse will flood out feelings and change our mood? Our previous thoughts become obscure and sexual thoughts dominate in a manner that leads to arousal and new activities diametrically opposed to those of the last moment. And we tell ourselves that we changed our minds as we travel to visit a mate unexpectedly.
This ability to change the mind dramatically is what baffles us most about sex. Every alcoholic goes through a similar interior change in his struggle with booze. The effect upon him, depending upon his degree of drunkenness, results in a difference like night and day; sex can have the same Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde effect upon our personalities. We like to think that we cause or possess our sexual desires but the results often tell us that they possess us.
Nearly everyone will admit some difficulty in this area such as in controlling persistent irritating reverie, fluctuating moods or excessive practices. From a common sense standpoint, if we were able to control and cause willfully our sexual lines of thinking, as psychologists would have us believe, then why would we tie up all the time and energy that we do in a pursuit that results in a moment's pleasure?
The fact is that we do not control the sexual impulse and we cannot take the credit for all of the conflict and suffering that result from our actions inspired by sexual states of mind. Would hundreds of rapists have lost their heads in a moment of lust when they knew they would pay with their lives?
If we observe the effect of sex on our minds we realize that it is one of the most dynamic forces acting upon us. Because of its ability to drastically change us internally, we must admit that sex, of all the desires that move the mind, is the one that we control the least. Sex is an irresistible suggestion, and when we probe for its source we must consider an external influence. The precise seasonal clocks and mating timetables in other animals would suggest that the reproductive urge is universal to all life as a force of nature. We are acted upon by it, or else it is extreme coincidence that 99.99 per cent of all humanity chooses child-rearing as an occupation or life's work.
Sex and Possession
An interesting correlation of sex to possession now arises. For we can find in studies of the criminally insane, such as Psychopathia Sexualis by Krafft-Ebing, that people with the most bizarre criminal behavior are also those who have the most aberrant sexual perversions and, coincidentally, admit to the least control over their own states of mind.
In nearly all such cases I have found one outstanding symptom that emerges: When questioned as to their motivations for either their uncontrollable acts or sexual perversions, many pointed to the voices they heard or to the irresistible obsessions that came from nowhere. In the case of the Son of Sam, Berkowitz admitted that he killed on the commands of a spirit within him and a neighbor's dog named Sam. In testimony he openly told police that the spirit Sam was actually a six thousand year old man who spoke to him through a dog and who was living in his own mind. "Sam's a thirsty lad and he won't let me stop killing until he gets his fill of blood."
Due to a court order, little information concerning Berkowitz's sexual habits has emerged, though lawyers have said publicly that Berkowitz, "told us what he did, everything about the murders. It is fascinating. He is lucid and rational in his reasons, but they would seem irrational to us. There is a lot of sex in it." (13)
In the case of Peter Kurten, [Wikipedia] the "Dusseldorf Ripper," a 1931 trial for mass murder and sexual assault revealed him as driven by uncontrollable sexual rage. In the words of Donald Rumbelow, Kurten, "in the past fifteen months had carried out a series of sex murders and attacks which are almost without parallel in the annals of crime. He was a pyromaniac, a fetishist, a masochist, a sadist and a sex killer. (14) When questioned as to his motives he said that he was compelled to murder for sexual relief. Psychiatric evaluations indicated that he suffered from the hearing of voices that directed him.
Such cases are exceptional only because they are sensational to the public. They cannot be discounted on the ground that such individuals are simply fringe lunatics and thus have nothing to offer us. In fact, I believe the opposite to be the case. Psychology has never been able to explain adequately why such people as these cannot control their wild impulses that distort their personalities and combine bizarre actions with unbridled sexual perversion.
I have found that these cases reveal a valuable fact that psychologists refuse to consider. Objective psychology must have objective motives that are rational by their conceptual standards of what constitutes objective reality, or sanity. And when one person's motives appear irrational or without a direct cause and effect, he is considered insane. Psychologists use this label to mean that they do not know, but cannot admit so. I do not mean by this to denote madness as a virtue, but an obvious fact has been overlooked.
In all of the cases that I have studied, from the Son of Sam to the Boston Strangler, each was found to have bizarre sexual fetishes. And each, including Ray and many people like him that I have worked with, pointed directly to the cause of their fetishes and compulsive bizarre behavior. They pointed to an intrusion of voices upon them that forced them to do what they do. Many can pinpoint a past experience of traumatic sexual nature as the catalyst for the onset of madness.
Because of their subjective point of view they are in a position to tell us what they think is the source of their problem. They appear insane or irrational because we see only their apparent objective inconsistencies from our consistent point of view. We miss an appreciation of their true mental perspective.
The Son of Sam expressed no personal guilt for his actions which he nevertheless admitted committing. His rationale was that he was a helpless victim of a more powerful intelligence, an entity named Sam, which Berkowitz said lived within his mind and yet was definitely not of him. He said, without apparent intention to deceive, that, "I was doing it for Sam. Sam can do anything. I was driven to do it for Sam. Sam, not me, loves young blood" (15)
I believe the link between voice-hearing, madness and possession to be sexual. We find that occultists knew this to be true long before psychology denounced their findings as superstitious.
Paracelsus believed that perverted sexual practices both attracted and were the cause of possession, and that entities could render a victim insane through the traumatic opening of the mind by way of its susceptible weakness - the sexual door. He noted that, "a healthy mind is like a castle, that cannot be invaded without the will of the master, but if they [entities] are allowed to enter, they excite the passions of men and women, and create cravings in them injurious to the mind." (16)
His simple cures were most profound. Paracelsus felt that neither exorcism nor holy water would help. Only abstinence from mental reverie and physical sexual release combined with prayer could free the mind from its alien inhabitants. He advocated morality and felt it to be an essential natural protective mechanism from intruding thoughts that could eventually lead to possession.
It is said that the possession of the nuns at Loudun, France in the seventeenth century began with uncontrolled sexual hysteria that spread like an epidemic. Interestingly enough, many of the priests sent to Loudun to perform exorcism rites became equally possessed, as documented in the letters of the priest, Surin, concerning his condition after visiting Loudun.
Oesterreich, in Possession and Exorcism, discusses this unusual phenomenon without offering any insight. In light of the works and investigations of Paracelsus, we can only wonder if the priests themselves had sexual habits, perhaps resulting from years of sublimated fetishism, that allowed them to be so easily overwhelmed with cruel vengeance. Surin, in his autobiographical account, does not reveal the source of his compelling madness from which he suffered greatly and with which he died.
But why do people become possessed by entities through the opening of the sexual door? What is it about sex that is so important? Oesterreich points out that he considers the outcome of true possession to be "the complete disappearance of consciousness of the original personality in the possessed person."
In the cases that I have studied this fact seems to be borne out. The outcome is irreversible and few people survive their possession and return to their former sanity. For most, such as Ray, their former sanity, wholeness of mind and will to live are robbed. And as their mental vitality diminishes, the degree of possession and sexual degeneracy proportionally increases.
The hint that we get from this is that somehow the energy generated from our sexual impulse is related to our overall vitality. Freud proposed the idea of libido in his psychoanalytic theory to mean that we possess a sexual energy related to our psychic energy, acting as a creative force and affecting our vitality. Thus we can see that increasing sexual perversion could have the effect of fragmenting the mentality of a person, opening him to possession from outside entities that would invade for the purpose of tapping the libido, sexual energy or vitality in much the same way that a mosquito would steal his blood.
Is the fountainhead of our life's energy, our creative force, a commodity for consumption on a market that we do not fully appreciate? Although direct proof may be impossible, I think that an answer may be evident in the subtle patterns of nature.
We can observe the fruits of our sexual impulse. We reproduce and fulfill a biological destiny in a process similar to all forms of life. Yet when we study the sexual patterns of animals other than man we find something unusual. All undomesticated animals mate and reproduce according to seasonal calendars which are dependent upon the estrus cycle or fertility of the female. Mating occurs only at these times.
Man is the only animal with a sexual frequency disproportionate to the requirements of reproduction. Animals with the same gestation period as man mate only prior to pregnancy during the estrus cycle of the female and may never mate again until after the female has given birth and come again into estrus or fertility.
With man, sexual frequency is not dependent upon the requirements of reproduction and mating is continuous, and may be daily for a greater part of life. Why is this so? Our sexual habits appear excessive and wasteful in relation to the rest of the animal kingdom. Was sex then given to us alone for our pleasure, or is there another more subtle meaning behind it?
We notice when observing the relationship between predator and prey in nature that all life forms take their place in a hierarchy where worms eat microbes, birds eat worms and cats eat birds. The hierarchy begins with primitive life forms and ends at the top with man, the supreme predator that eats all other life forms.
And as predator we take the vitality of the flesh of our prey for our consumption and in turn generate a vitality of our own, perhaps the most subtle on the face of the earth, which is dissipated through our various activities including a sexual frequency far greater than any other animal. The laws of energy suggest that our energy is flowing somewhere.
Missing from this apparent scheme of predator and prey is a visible predator of man to prey upon our vitality. In the absence of one seen we can only conclude that we are host to invisible parasites or entities that affect us from a more subtle dimension for our more subtle energy.
Despite the apparent impossibility of objectively proving that possessing entities exist, the overwhelming subjective evidence of human testimony, combined with my intuitive inferences, have convinced me that what we can observe as madness, voice-hearing or schizophrenia can be caused by such psychic parasites.
In almost every historical culture we can find references to demons and possession, as man has passed on his warnings and safeguards from generation to generation. By determinedly refusing to consider the idea of possession as anything but superstition, psychology may have precluded the possibility of developing a complete theory of the forms of mental illness. As William James so aptly put it:
"[T]he refusal of modern 'enlightenment' to treat 'possession' as a hypothesis to be spoken of as even possible, in spite of the massive human tradition based on concrete experience in its favor, has always seemed to me a curious example of the power of fashion in things scientific. That the demon theory will have its innings again is to my mind absolutely certain." (17)
My criticism of modern psychology has not been solely because of its scientific skepticism concerning the value of subjective experience and intuitive evaluation. Psychology has had an obligation to fulfill in the protection of our sanity and, for its performance in this role, an indictment is definitely in order.
It may be more than peculiar that today, as attitudes towards sex have become liberal and uninhibited and the tolerance by psychology for wide varieties of sexual practices has increased, so has the rate of mental illness grown at an alarming rate. (18) This is not just the function of a growing population unless that population and the authorities within it are encouraging madness.
Psychology, in its quest to be scientific and objective, has applied the same yardsticks to sanity, and decided by legislation what it should be. A few years ago, homosexuality was voted out as a mental illness by a referendum majority of the American Psychological Association, and the diagnostic manuals changed, to suit the increasing public popularity.
Thus, modern psychology believes that our sanity can be simply voted upon, regardless of the actual impact that certain detrimental experiences may have upon the mind. Masturbation, homosexuality, lesbianism and sodomy are no longer considered to be the manifestations of a diseased mind, but experiences to embrace and integrate into ourselves.
By disposing of morality as "old-fashioned restraints," now extinct in a modern society with sophisticated sexual itches to scratch, psychology has developed a philosophy that advocates dissipation and debauchery, thus endangering all who follow the therapeutic approaches that advise the opening of the sexual door for the sake of experience. Through such irresponsibility (or ignorance) psychology can only encourage a courtship with possession and the creation of madness, rather than its prevention.
Incidences of voice-hearing, murder, madness, sexual perversion and schizophrenia are undeniably linked. The evidence from case histories bears this out. These afflictions to the personality all seem utterly irrational when viewed from the majority's perspective of agreed upon sanity. Objective attempts by psychology to study these irrational states have failed because researchers and therapists have refused to grant credence to the victims' descriptions of phenomena such as voice-hearing and apparitions.
Treatments such as insulin, shock and chemotherapy treat only physiological symptoms and may provide some temporary relief, but can in no way be considered as cures. The possession explanation for voice-hearing may be too obvious for the modern mind used to abstract formulations. It is, after all, based upon the direct testimony of those humans who have suffered from this strange ailment.
(Use the Back button to return to the footnote link in the text.)
- Wheeling Intelligencer, UPI, November 8, 1977, p. 2. For a copy of the AP version of the article see Here
- Wilhelm Stekel, Sexual Aberrations (New York, 1930).
- Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Psychopathia Sexualis (New York, 1965).
- L. Ulmann and L. Krasner, A Psychological Approach to Abnormal Behavior (Englewood, New Jersey, 1969), p. 44.
- G. Reed, Psychology of Anomalous Experience.
- M. Sechehaye, Autobiography of a Schizophrenic Girl (New York, 1970), p. 67.
- Sybil was a girl who had more than a dozen personalities. The child depicted in the novel and movie, The Exorcist, was possessed by a demon that was eventually exorcized by priests.
- B. Hart, The Psychology of Insanity (Cambridge, 1962), p. 69.
- Traugott K. Oesterreich, Possession and Exorcism (New York, 1974), citing J. Kerner, Geschichten Besessener Nearer Ziet (Stuttgart, 1834).
- J. Lang, "The other side of hallucinations, Part II, Interpretation" American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 96, 1939, p. 429.
- F. Hartmann, Paracelsus, Life and Prophecies (New York, 1973), pp. 85-102.
- Oesterreich, pp. 28-29.
- Wheeling News-Register, AP, "Psychiatrists begin trying to enter the tangled mind of the Son of Sam," August 13, 1977.
- D. Rumbelow, The Complete Jack the Ripper (New York, 1975), p. 246.
- New York Post, "Killing was my job says accused," by P. Sullivan, August 12, 1977, p. 4.
- Hartmann, p. 93.
- Quoted opposite title page in Oesterreich.
- J. Herbert Fill, M.D., "An epidemic of madness," Human Behavior, March, 1974.