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Psychosis: Experimental & Real

By Joe K. Adams

I shall attempt to present a theory of psychosis centered around the topics of cognitive structure, emotion, role, cultural norms, and communication, and to relate my theory to the cultural revolution through which we are now passing, with comparative references to past revolutions.

The contribution of the psychedelic drugs in understanding both 'psychotic' and 'normal' behavior will be described according to this author’s convictions, which have much in common with those focused on transcendental experiences, but also with those which have placed drug experiences and behavior in the 'model psychosis' context.

The presentation is necessarily sketchy, because psychosis involves many problems interlocked in such a way that, in any reasonably adequate theory, they must be solved simultaneously rather than piecemeal. Many readers have doubtless been thinking along similar lines and will have little difficulty in filling in most of the gaps.

It is assumed that the reader is familiar with the idea that the processes of socialization result in the individual’s perception of some objects and events as they in fact are, and of some objects and events as they in fact are not.[2]

No animal can survive without some validity in his perceptions, but no animal has only valid perceptions; man is no exception to either of these assertions, but, unlike other animals, his culture (e.g., northern USA), sub-culture (e.g. proper Presbyterian, midwestern large city), and immediate groups-of-reference (e.g., her nuclear family, family of origin, clubs, professional affiliations) determine to a considerable extent not only what cognition will occur, put also the degree of validity of a given class of cognition.

As we move from basic cognitive processes such as figure-ground formation and color perception to more complex organization of the cognitive field, and to perceiving objects as members of a class and as thus possessing certain properties attributed by the 'perceiver' to members of that class, cultural determinants usually play a greater and greater role, and differences between groups become concomitantly greater.

Within groups, the situation is more complex. Group norms tend to minimize some differences and to maximize others, depending upon the specific group. The generalization can be made, however, that within every group each individual is deceived into living in a world which is only partly real when, of all animals, he has the greatest potentiality of living in the real world, and of modifying the real world in ways which are to his advantage.

The thesis that the individual perceives only part of the reality available to her is hardly an original creation of the present author. It has been expressed throughout the centuries in various forms, some much more adequate than the brief statement above.

For example, the ancient and recurring statements that people are asleep or blind, or that they are 'actors' without realizing that they are acting, are expressions of more or less the same thesis, as are numerous more recent expositions by philosophers, ethnologists, psychologists, sociologists, general semanticists, novelists, psychiatrists, etc.

Alan Watts (1961) prefers to say that the individual is “hypnotized" by the culture. Erich Fromm (1941) has also used the analogy with hypnosis in describing the individual’s empty role-taking and alienation from parts of himself and from others[3].

Alfred Korzybski (1948), Eric Hoffer (1951), and Ernest Schachtel (1947) have written about similar processes, although with different words and emphases.

In grouping together such a wide variety of formulations, I do not mean to deny important differences between them, nor to argue that the general thesis is correct simply because many learned people have held it. Instead I wish to emphasize that it is continually rediscovered and expressed in ways that sometimes obscure the underlying similarities.

It is probably our false pride, and our status striving, as well as the impossibility of reading everything, which often prevents our seeing and acknowledging that others have been trying to express that which we believe (sometimes correctly) we can formulate more clearly and succinctly.

My own preference for a formulation, in terms of deception, stems from the fact that in child-rearing practices, as in adult interactions, there are many concrete-examples of intentional deception and withholding-of-information which can be cited and corrected by telling the individuals concerned, in language they can understand, what one believes to be the truth.

Comparisons with hypnosis and sleep, while valid, are both harder to exemplify and also less clear in terms of their implications. This is not to say that they are less important theoretically, or that they are not needed in a more complete account of socialization processes and remedies.

It is largely by means of language, and definition of role, that groups cast a veil of illusions over the individual.

Language, especially, is a convenient vehicle for achieving some uniformity in illusions, as well as in valid perceptions, from one individual to another, in an especially deceptive and insidious manner (Schachtel, 1947; Adams, 1958). Definition of role is, however, at least a close second. Roles not only prescribe the 'moves' which an individual is entitled to make in relationships with others; they also penetrate the interior of the individual and prescribe his perceptions, thoughts, and feelings (Goffman, 1959; Sarbin, 1954). Role behavior is an expression of cognitive-structure and vice versa.

If one examines any given processes of communication which are prescribed by roles and limited by language, one may become aware of something which is 'not supposed' to be seen within the culture—namely: That the processes under examination perpetuate the delusions and illusions of the members of the culture. For example, the restrictions on communication in judicial processes tend to prevent the participants, including the defendant, from seeing that what is called 'justice' is sometimes a hypocritical and tragic farce. On the other hand, a lawyer or a judge may, during the course of his career, gradually 'wake up,' and may continue to 'play the game,' and/or work toward judicial and legal reforms (Bazelon, 1960 ; Ploscowe, 1951).

Restrictions on communication very often serve the function of preserving false beliefs. This function is frequently not recognized even by those who impose the restrictions. The 'excommunication' of an individual, for example, whether from a religious community, a professional group, or 'society' in general, can permit false beliefs about the individual to be perpetuated.

When comments about an individual are made in her absence, she has no chance to correct whatever false beliefs are expressed, or to contribute information which is lacking. These false beliefs and incomplete information about excommunicated individuals play an extremely important part in the social life of the community.

The principle is partly recognized by those who refuse to form their beliefs about an individual on the basis of gossip and insist upon informing themselves first-hand. However, the more general conservative function of exclusion is rarely perceived (Lemert, 1962).

It has been recognized for many years that 'psychotic episodes' can be precipitated by insights into oneself. It was for this reason, in fact, that Freudians tended to avoid taking "pre-psychotics" into treatment, whereas Jung took the unpopular and 'mystical' position that such episodes, preferably confined to the interviewing room, are the most effective, though admittedly hazardous, road to individuation.

Today, The Castalia Foundation takes the side of Jung in this debate. What is commonly misdiagnosed as 'psychosis' is often a sign that difficult traumatic material is rising from the subconscious and superimposing itself on the immediate 'reality' of the 'psychotic'. In other words, the person labelled as 'psychotic' is, in fact, undergoing an unplanned, self-facilitated, powerful psychedelic experience.

This perspective is severely at odds with popular 'medical' opinion. We invite the reader to consider whether many, or perhaps even most doctors suffer from delusions on account of their conditioning experiences at 'medical' school. This has led many of them on a fool's errand: To determine physiological, biochemical causes for what is often, in fact, a psychological, or 'spiritual' illness.

The precipitation of psychotic episodes by insights into the outside world has been less well recognized, at least within the mental health professions. To acknowledge such a possibility is to acknowledge that the culture permits, teaches, or trains the individual to be blind or deluded; thus it locates pathology outside as well as inside the individual (and in his relation to the outside) and in particular it locates pathology in the most powerful institutions and authorities of the culture.

Whereas the location of pathology within the individual is in accordance with the Western cultural tradition that the individual is 'ignorant,' 'bad,' 'sinful,' 'deprived,' or 'depraved.' Except for the saving grace of outside forces, the location of pathology in the dominant institutions of the culture is hardly in accordance with the tradition of any culture.

On the other hand, Western civilization, unlike some 'primitive' societies, has contained and nourished also a tradition of critical examination of the world as well as of oneself, a tradition inevitably in conflict with institutions or cultural patterns which blind the individual. This duality is particularly obvious in North American culture, which from the days of the first Puritan settlers contained a strong trend toward critical self-examination—with surprising psychological sophistication—as well as strong conservative forces, without which no culture can survive (Smith, 1954).

The Castalia Foundation advises the modern reader to consider if this assessment of 'primative' societies is fair. The use of psychedelic sacraments in some allegedly 'primitive' societies set them psychospiritually well in advance of North American, or 'western', society. For example, the Shipibo tribe of Peru, use ayahuasca for cultural analysis and personal insight.

It is not difficult to see how insights, whether into oneself of the outside world, can precipitate 'psychotic' episodes, and why from that point onward the individual is likely to find it difficult to articulate with the culture.

There are at least two ways in which an 'insight' can trigger a neurological 'jam session': Firstly, by arousing an intense emotion and thus altering the chemical composition of the blood and consequently the functioning of the brain. Secondly, by a sudden collapse of boundaries between two or more cognitive structures, previously kept separated from each other, within that particular individual’s total set of cognitive structures.

Cognitive structures are presumably related in some manner to the structure of neurological processes (Kohler, 1938; Hebb, 1949; Miller, Pribram, and Galanter, 1960). A sudden change in the former is therefore presumably accompanied by a sudden change in the latter.

These two mechanisms are not mutually exclusive, and perhaps in most episodes they work hand-in-hand. The most important insights are probably those in which two, or more, cognitive systems, each available to consciousness, are brought into relation. The defense mechanism which breaks down is compartmentalization, which has been relatively neglected in the literature, possibly because it is a defense par excellence of most people called 'experts.' 'scholars,' 'intellectuals,' 'technicians,' or 'scientists.'

Theorists are usually very particular, for example, about what is 'relevant' to their 'discipline' or 'specialty,' what they are or are not supposed or required to know or to do in their roles, exactly how an idea should be worded and the great superiority of one wording over another, etc.

From the fields of logic and mathematics, many clear examples can be drawn of valid isolation of cognitive systems and of apparently slight changes in wording which do in fact produce enormous differences in implications or in efficiency. There are also some examples of invalid compartmentalization and of quibbling over symbols which obscures the similarity of underlying conceptual structures.

The evidence for the breakdown of compartmentalization in psychotic episodes is both phenomenological and behavioral. Phenomenologically, things seem to 'run together' in ways that may be alternately bewildering, amazing, inspiring, amusing, bizarre, uncanny, or terrifying.

Speech during such episodes is what would be expected when de-compartmentalization occurs. What the individual says does not 'make sense' in a conventional way. She does not stick to the point and instead drags-in matters which appear to observers to be completely irrelevant. In other words, a massive de-differentiation of cognitive systems and linguistic habits occurs. This may be as bewildering to the individual as to those with whom he may attempt to communicate.

For any given individual the massive cognitive de-differentiations called 'psychotic episodes' result in more valid perceptions and beliefs in certain respects—the individual has now seen through some of his delusions and illusions, idiosyncratic and or culturally taught. However, they may result in new delusions and illusions and in even less accurate perceptions and beliefs in some respects than before.

The Castalia Foundation invites the modern reader to consider who, or what, would act as a barometer for the validity of the new-found beliefs of the alleged 'psychotic'. Imagine that a person undergoing alleged 'psychosis' experienced genuine-insights and realizations. These insights would obviously remain outside the grasp of her culture. To the bystander, these insight may sound like delusions and illusions. This would be the inevitable perspective of those still trapped in the 'fish-bowl' of the mainstream culture. In other words: A mad society views its insightful citizens as crazy.

Cognitive processes such as memory, attention span, control over impulsivity, and especially judgment are often impaired for much longer periods than the acute episodes themselves, and euphoric or dysphoric emotions may continue, often appearing 'inappropriate' to others and sometimes to the person himself. The way in which the individual is classified according to the official psychiatric nomenclature depends upon the stage and circumstances during which he is examined, as well as who examines him.

Each individual has lived in a somewhat different phenomenal world and has belonged to a different set of groups-of-reference from every other individual. Each individual is also subjected to a different environment and sequence of external events during his episodes. The individual differences, and communication difficulties, among those who have experienced psychotic episodes tend to be much greater than among those who have not. The insights and ideas developed by those who have experienced psychosis often cannot be expressed within the vocabulary of the individual. Indeed, the language of the culture itself tends to militate against, or rule out, the existence or awareness of these insights.

The kindness which a long-term 'patient' may show toward a new one in a 'mental hospital' is usually accompanied not by an understanding of that individual but simply by the realization that his phenomenal world, whatever it was, has collapsed, as did the long-term patient’s world at some time in the past.

A general principle of social psychology is that members of groups are usually less open in their communications to outsiders than to other members of their own groups. In other words, when talking with those ouside their 'group', they tend to give less full and accurate information, and often voice their convictions or doubts less freely. The importance of this principle for the field of so-called ‘mental-illness’ can hardly be overemphasized, because the labeling of an individual as ‘mentally ill,’ ‘emotionally disturbed,’ ‘psychotic,’ ‘schizophrenic,’ or ‘paranoid,’ immediately moves the individual either entirely outside the group, or at least toward the periphery.

Whereas the designated 'patient' often needs fuller and more accurate information than before, the information he receives is usually both less complete and less accurate. At the time when he is suffering most from feelings of alienation, he is likely to be treated in such a way as to increase his alienation. This alienation is especially likely as he may behave in a way that is especially unattractive or repellent to others. Any demand for additional information is easily construed as 'paranoid' by those who see no reason for his lack of trust, and who are thus blind without realizing it (Goffman, 1961).

When people lie or withhold relevant information they usually, if not always, do so imperfectly. In other words, they emit incongruent messages. These incongruent messages often place the receiver into a ‘double bind’ (Bateson, et al., 1956). Lying and withholding of relevant information are perhaps the major causes of ‘mental illness,’ as well as the major ways in which such 'illnesses' are perpetuated.

The Castalia Foundation highly recommends that modern-readers explore the work of R.D.Laing. His writings provide extensive evidence that many people labeled as 'psychotic' are, in fact, reacting entirely rationally to deceptions and provocations in their immediate environment. The problem, typically, is that those observing the 'patient' do not see her in her 'natural' environment (for example, her family life). Therefore the observer witnesses only the symptoms of abuse elsewhere in the patient's life. These symptoms (paranoia, delusions etc) are then misdiagnosed as originating in the 'malfunctioning' physiology of the individual. Their true origin is, of course, in the environment of home-life to which she has been subjected.

Jung emphasized long ago that the road to individuation is narrow as a razor’s edge, fraught with peril, and that only a few fail to lose their way. As an individual begins to see things as they are, in a way he has not done before—to see clearly not only his own blind and seamy past but also the stupidity, irrationality, cruelty, and blindness of his own culture and groups-of-reference, he must have great tolerance for pain, including feelings of alienation and uncanny emotions. Unless he has advantages such as knowledge; power; status (albeit this is a two-edged sword); devoted friends and relatives; and financial independence, the burden is likely to be beyond the endurance of any human being. The restriction of the ‘sacred’ mushrooms to high-caste individuals, found in some societies, makes considerable sense in this respect.

The solution found in Zen Buddhism and formulated clearly by Alan Watts is to become a ‘joker'. In other words, to become one who has seen through the arbitrariness or absurdity of social ‘games’ but is able to ‘play’ them anyway. This is helpful but not sufficient. This is because, as Watts would presumably agree, some social ‘games’ must not be played but broken up. This is if we are to avoid a complete Hell on Earth.

For example, the 'game' of 'blame the Jews,' was 'played' in Nazi Germany and in many previous and subsequent times and places, For example, in Western Europe during the 14th century, when the Black Death was blamed on the Jews. These games must be broken up. That said, to be a ‘joker’ might, under some conditions, be necessary as a device enabling one to operate underground in a different way. In other words, to act decently.

Some patients who refuse to leave mental hospitals are no longer interested in the ‘games’ which people on the outside insist upon ‘playing,’ among these games are:

  • “Blame it on the ex-patients,”
  • “Be kind to ex-patients but be careful about about trusting them or telling them the truth,”
  • “One step forward, one step back,”
  • “Your private life is my business,”
  • “Last things first, first things last," “
  • “If you don’t believe it, pretend you do anyway,”
  • “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing,”
  • “Be both prudish and pornographic,”
  • “Be both mechanistic and mystical,”
  • “Sentence first, trial afterward,”
  • “Be both a coward and a gentleman,” etc [5]
  • Some patients also have a partly justifiable punitive attitude toward society. This could be expressed as, "Since you say I’m crazy, you can pay my room and board, indefinitely.”

    All the psychedelic or “mind-manifesting” drugs attack the defense of compartmentalization and thus make it possible for an individual to see through some of the absurdities, including status systems, of his own behavior, and of his own culture and groups-of-reference.

    This, I believe, is the most important basis for attempts to ban or restrict the uses of these drugs, even more than the fact that, unlike alcohol, they make possible great pleasure without subsequent punishment, contrary to the long-standing ‘moral’ dicta of Western civilization. The distinction, however, between ‘transcendental experiences’ and ‘experimental psychoses’ is, in my opinion, extremely unfortunate, and has resulted in a failure to recognize the great contribution that can be made by these drugs to an understanding of what we have been calling “psychosis.”

    Several years ago, I heard Harold Abramson remark that every time someone takes a large dose of LSD-25 he undergoes an experimental psychosis. At that time I thought Dr. Abramson, who had worked extensively with this drug for several years, old-fashioned, and privately congratulated myself on being more informed and up-to-date, or even ahead-of-my-time. Now I am in complete agreement with his statement. Granted that the term ‘experimental psychosis’ can give a very misleading impression about drug experiences, and that an ‘experimental psychosis’ and a ‘real psychosis’ are usually very different in some very important respects.

    The fact that an experience is extravagantly satisfying, in terms of emotions, sensations, and fantasy, complete with technicolor and sound-track, creatively and productively loaded with valid insights, does not justify our not labeling it “psychotic.” Unless we are to drop the word altogether. To avoid using the word psychotic,’ reserving the latter only for the frightened, suspicious, obviously deluded, depressed, constricted, or empty experiences, is to overlook what mental health experts (with the exception of Jung and a few other voices crying in the wilderness) have traditionally minimized, i.e., the constructive aspects of ‘psychosis.’

    That ‘psychotic’ experiences can be emotionally gratifying is grudgingly recognized in many descriptions of patients. Seldom does one find even a grudging recognition of the possible beneficial effects of these emotional orgies. The views of religious mysticism which have been held by most psychologists and psychiatrists make this one-sidedness particularly obvious. There is virtually no recognition of the possible value of dysphoric emotions. When it comes to cognition, there is again very little recognition of the constructive or creative aspects of psychosis. This despite the repeated lesson from history that people who put forth truly new ideas—or old ideas which are unpopular or unfashionable—have often if not usually been said to be 'insane.'(8).

    In fact, labeling the innovator as 'insane’ has been a standard method of fighting genuinely new ideas, as opposed to old ideas whose deceptive re-wordings are eagerly accepted as the latest fashion. It was the irrationality of this kind of opposition to new ideas which led William James to remark that one of the least important objections that can be made to any theory is that the man who invented it was insane.

    James’s remark can be generalized: One of the least important objections that can be made to any statement whatsoever is that the man who made it is ‘psychotic’ or ‘mentally ill’ or ‘emotionally disturbed.’ By "least important objection" we are concerned with the validity of the statement and not with the question of giving the individual power over others, setting him up as a model for others to attempt to emulate, or encouraging the wholesale acceptance of everything he has said, or will say in the future.

    Hell is at least as instructive as Heaven. Out of the Hell called ‘experimental psychosis’ can come changes in the individual which are just as valuable or even more so than those arising from ‘transcendental experiences.’ The tendency to give the patient or subject as gratifying and ‘wonderful’ an experience as possible, to protect him from later trouble, and to assert that those who have ‘bad experiences’ or later conflict have not taken the drug in a proper context, or with the proper preparation, is a form of conservatism.

    It is kind to help people to grow, change, or regress (in the service of the ego, of course) gradually and relatively painlessly. It should not be assumed, however, that gradual and painless change is always possible, or even necessarily desirable. In a world as irrational as ours, to be fully human one must be capable of taking great and sudden pain.

    Although raptures about transcendental experiences often focus primarily on the visual splendors and lofty insights into the meaning of existence and the universe, and the increase in aesthetic sensitivity, the real source of enthusiasm is much more likely to be the strong feelings and bodily sensations which are aroused, often for the first time in many years or since the individual was very young.

    The ban on emotional expression, especially in Anglo-Saxon cultures and especially among men, makes the enthusiasm and wonder arising from drug-induced states readily understandable. This is because without emotional expression the emotions themselves wither away [9]. To attribute one’s enthusiasm to feelings and sensations is less congruent with these cultures than to praise the 'higher level' processes. The same has been true in religious mysticism, although it has been pointed out many times that the bodily sensations in religious mysticism have become painfully obvious on occasion. For example, when saints have 'gone wild' and shouted that they desired the body of Jesus.[10]

    In revivalism, emotional gratification is apparently the most important source of enthusiasm, although to the individual who has been saved the cognitive insights are believed to be the primary source (Sargant, 1957). Some individuals who have been ‘saved’ have frequently felt good for months and have been able to live comfortably without searching for feeling through ‘sin’, only to ‘fall from grace’ eventually. Similarly, following gratifying emotional-orgies during psychedelic-healing sessions, many subjects have been able to live for a time in their usual routine manner without boredom, eventually to crave another gratifying orgy, which may be conceptualized primarily as an opportunity to rise to a 'higher' level of existence or knowledge. The same can be said of many individuals who have experienced intense emotions during 'depth' psychotherapy.

    The search for meaning in life is usually, in large part, a search for feeling. Unless the individual becomes aware of the nature of his search, he may spend his life in a never-ending pursuit of cognitive 'insights' or 'understandings.' This is akin to those scholars and scientists who keep searching for a 'discovery' when their greatest needs would be met by standing up openly for what they already know or believe, thus exposing themselves to the danger and excitement of external conflict.

    All paths to individuation, whether through ‘psychosis;’ drug states; psychotherapy; Zen Buddhism; general semantics; philosophy; solitary confinement; Catholicism; Calvinism; thinking and reading on one’s own; are effective only if the individual can accept the chaff with the wheat. They are effective only if he can look squarely at the horrors of the world as well as its joys and beauty. If he can tolerate a variety of emotions (and thus supply his body with a variety of drugs), and can summon up the courage to act in accordance with his moral principles as well as his more obvious needs, and thus have some self-respect.

    In a society as hypocritical as ours is today, the most socially unacceptable and dangerous acts are those which are most in accordance with the private moral convictions of the individual. This is true not only for ‘intellectuals’ and ‘worldly’ people, but for ‘peasants’ and ‘small-minded’ people as well, because there are powerful individuals and groups on most sides of most fences, and because there is widespread cynicism about ‘fighting City Hall’ and about standing up openly for one’s private knowledge and convictions.

    Western civilization has gone through a number of cycles or spirals which can be described as:

  • The setting up of rules or 'games';
  • The development of hypocrisy. For example, a discrepancy between the way things are (and are privately known to be) especially by those having access to large amounts of accurate information—and the way they are publicly acknowledged to be
  • The reduction of some forms of hypocrisy and the setting up of “new” rules.
  • All three phases are present at any one time, with one or another phase dominant with respect to a given set of rules. Hypocrisy develops when official rules make satisfaction in living difficult or impossible. For example: Excessive official restrictions on emotional-expression; sexual conduct; open conflict, or the excessive definition of role, etc.

    In eliminating or reducing hypocrisy, a standardization or normalization of the population has in past times occurred, and such normalizations have been extremely cruel and unjust. Typically, certain individuals and groups have served as totem animals, taking on the projected collective guilt of the tribe, arising from hypocrisy, among other sources.[12] The 'new' rules have tended to be the old rules in disguised form, or modified versions which have been even worse; some forms of hypocrisy are retained and new forms are created.

    To a limited degree, one must agree with the prophets of doom (Spengler, Toynbee, Sorokin) that Western Civilization has been rolling downhill (Geyl, 1958). The normalization may occur under various headings: In southern France (Languedoc) in the 13th and 14th centuries, and in many other areas during the same and succeeding centuries; under the heading of eliminating heresy in Calvin's Geneva during the 16th century; under the heading of turning the citizens into sincere and honest 'Christians'; throughout Western Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, under the heading of eliminating “witchcraft”; and in 20th century Russia and Germany, under the heading of developing good 'Communists' and 'Nazis,' respectively. Each of these headings concealed certain normalizations which would have been impossible or more difficult to carry out if seen clearly for what they were.

    Secrecy has been of obvious advantage in normalizations. A second weapon is a principle made explicit by the inquisitors, by Calvin, and by the Communists and Nazis, which can be stated as follows: a person who is off the norm in one respect is likely to be off the norm in another respect. For example, a person who dressed oddly was suspect as a heretic.

    One of the most cruel of the inquisitors, Robert le Bugre, a reformed Patarin (Cathar), claimed to be able to detect a heretic by the manner in which he moved.[13] Although ordinary citizens could help in rooting out heresy by informing anonymously on anyone who seemed 'off the norm,' only an ideologist (inquisitor) could determine whether the individual was actually a heretic.

    Since statistical studies were even worse than they are today, the 'norms' themselves could be located conveniently in the fantasies of the ideologists. The 'norms' could also be decreed by them to a considerable extent, as they gained power. Thus, the ideologists were able, in all these times and places, to 'normalize' the population along whatever lines they desired or thought necessary.

    Languedoc had a culture distinctly different from that of northern Europe, and was in general more advanced. Under the heading of eliminating 'heresy' it was transformed in the direction of northern-France and the southerners, including devout Catholics, had to be 'normalized.' [14]

    The elimination of 'witchcraft,' from the latter part of the 15th to the early part of the 18th century, was, among other things, the virtual liquidation of the remnants of a religion many centuries older than Christianity.[15]

    Calvin, who had been called the 'accusative case' by his more aristocratic and perhaps more ruthless and dishonest schoolmates, transformed the image of man a step downward from that of the Catholic theologians, from 'deprived' to 'depraved,' and liquidated or drove away the old aristocratic families of Geneva, many of whom belonged to the political party known as 'Libertines.' It is worth noting that, although Calvin never set foot in the New World, he has been probably as important to the development of the USA. as any other man of modern times.[16].

    The early communist ideologists planned freedom in personal life and the 'withering away of the state.' But, as class warfare progressed, it was discovered that sex ‘immorality’ was incompatible with being a good communist, and that the State was helpful in keeping the masses in their proper places (Reich, 1962).

    During the Nazi revolution, the Prussian military leaders, the old aristocracy, had to become even more cold and cruel than they had been before and to revise their standards of honor in the direction of those of a middle-class individual much more cynically contemptuous of average human beings than they were.

    During and immediately following a normalization, no one is allowed to be himself, as no one fits the 'ideal' which is officially held and enforced. Alienation from parts of oneself is produced, with resulting fear and hatred which are then displaced toward those who are discernibly 'different.' In other words: outsiders, who are made into scapegoats. The great cruelty during normalization can be at least partly explained on the basis of this kind of process.

    The drastic ideological changes and shifts of power which occur during normalization increase the frequency of psychotic episodes, and other disturbances. Mental illness is thus mixed in with religious, class, ideological, racial, and ethnic warfare.

    The thesis that many of the 'witches’ were ‘mentally ill’ is not incompatible with the thesis that many were followers of the Old Religion, or that many were members of the old landed gentry. These groups sometimes cling to old religions, especially out in the provinces. There was also the case made that many were 'poor' and 'ignorant'. Consider the widespread existence of practices such as forcing children to watch as their grandmothers or mothers were burned alive (Lea, 1938). This was done by German Lutherians. It would seem strange if ‘mental illness’ were not prevalent during that period. These children probably saw, without being able to formulate their perception clearly, that they were in the hands of destructive giant robots unaware of their irrational cruelty. Many of the children being labelled schizophrenic today may have had similar perceptions.

    Both hypocrisy, and the reduction of hypocrisy, tend to increase the incidence of mental and emotional disturbances. During both phases behavior tends to be formal, secretive, and robot-like. People feel alienated and distrustful. Information 'leaks out' or is deliberately provided. The people who are most likely to be precipitated into psychotic episodes (by sudden insights) are those from whom certain facts have been carefully concealed. Many people are 'scared stiff' and thus are even more robot-like, suspicious, and cautious.

    The “schizophrenic' perception of individuals as mechanical puppets is probably a valid perception; the 'schizophrenic' sees the robotization that Fromm (1941) and others have described. This perception can also be attained by means of the psychedelic medicines.

    The greatly increased exposure to facts and ideas, through mass communication; media; travel in foreign countries, etc., can greatly increase the frequency of psychotic episodes. It is interesting, for example, that an 'uneducated' person in a small town can purchase a paperback in a shop which can reveal to him that some of the peculiar ideas which for years he has taken as a sign of his secret insanity or depravity have been written about by Plato, Whitehead, Russell, Freud, Fromm, Carnap, etc.[17].

    Hypocrisy is an unstable social condition, as everyone has to operate in a fog. The reduction of hypocrisy can, in theory, be brought about by openly allowing people to be different and human, without a normalization. If the USA avoids a normalization, it will be the first accomplishment of this kind in the history of Western civilization; nevertheless, there is reason for hope.

    Normalization requires the consolidation of power, and it is much more difficult to consolidate power in the USA than in any of the previous time and place. The reasons for this are several: There are two major cultures (with many influential sub-cultures); two major political parties; several large communication media; many powerful individuals and groups; and there are many checks and balances on an over-concentration of power within government.

    The Castalia Foundation invites the modern reader to consider what has taken place in the USA since 1964, and whether these changes to the sociopolitical landscape, and the consolidation of power, have caused disaster.

    Furthermore, women, who find it more difficult to be deliberately cruel than do men, have much more power. Nevertheless, there is danger, as indicated by the following signs of the times: the tendency for activities to go underground so that it is difficult to obtain information which one believes that he has a right to know; [18] the ridicule of old women (most of whom have done the best they could with what they have known); the emphasis on the public importance of one’s private life; the attacks on fraternal organizations; the attacks on the old religion of Christianity; and the formation of new secret societies.(19)

    The Castalia Foundation advises the modern reader that the "formation of new secret societies" is the critical phrase here. For more insight into this problem, you might enjoy reading our book, Anti Ultra which is available to read, for free, here >> .

    There are those who wish to normalize the USA under the heading of having only ‘good Americans’. There are others who wish to normalize under the heading of eliminating or preventing 'mental illness' (Szasz, 1961; Gross, 1962). An example of the first is an item which appeared in the New York Times Western Edition on Nov. 1, 1962, headed 'Ideological split fills Amarillo with bitterness and suspicion.' Among its other activities, the John Birch Society had attempted to purge schools and libraries of 'communist' reading matter.

    Several books, however, were removed for alleged ‘obscenities’; among these were four Pulitzer Prize novels and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, a satire on collectivist society. Thus, under the self-deceptive heading of ‘eliminating Communism’ comes a ‘clean-up'. Even though the Russians are apparently much ‘cleaner’ than Americans and have objected to the ‘immoral’ behavior of Americans visiting their country.

    All the previous normalizations have included ‘clean-ups’. That is why Europe is so clean. ‘Sex perversion,’ for example, was ‘cleaned up’ in Germany by the inquisitors and later by the Nazis; these ‘clean-ups’ account for the current absence of ‘sex perversion’ in that country, just as the ‘clean-up’ of prostitution in San Francisco in the 1930’s accounts for the current absence of prostitution in that fair city.

    What has been virtually eliminated in ‘clean-ups’ has not been ‘unclean’ acts, which have if anything increased as exclusive pursuits, but love and friendship, which cowards envy and take satisfaction in destroying, reducing everyone else to their own empty and lonely condition. Any 'lower' animal which could be taught to revile or be alienated from parts of its own body, and the bodies of other members of its own species, could easily be seen to be ‘mean and crazy.’

    There is little data on this point, but an experiment by Birch (1956) is relevant. In this experiment, hoods were placed around the necks of pregnant rats so that they were prevented from the usual self-licking of the anogenital region, which is increased during pregnancy. When their young were born, these mother rats, with hoods removed, ate most of their pups and failed to nourish the rest adequately. None survived.

    The most ‘mean and crazy’ humans, however, have not been female. The possibility that normalization could occur under the heading of 'eliminating mental illness' is illustrated by a remark made by a leading psychoanalyst, Dr. Bernard Diamond in addressing the Santa Clara County Mental Health Association, “A person who is off the norm in one respect is likely to be off in another respect.” This is the principle referred to earlier, made explicit by the inquisitors and later by Nazis and communists.

    Dr Diamond himself is a relatively outspoken defender of the rights of individuals to live their private lives in the manner they choose rather than the manner he would choose for them. His statement, however, could easily be used in the service of tyranny by 'experts' or others more power-hungry. Szasz (1961) has made a brief comparison between Institutional psychiatrists and inquisitors, but even better analogies can be drawn between some psychotherapists in clinics and in private practice, and inquisitors.

    Members of the public, for example, teachers and physicians, are encouraged to watch for "subtle signs of mental illness" (signs of heresy, signs of witchcraft) and to refer or report such individuals to the proper authorities for help, and outpatient treatment is now offered on an involuntary, as well as a voluntary, basis.

    Psychiatrists may be able to achieve much more power than they have at present. If they do not align themselves on the side of the rights of individuals, they will become even more hated and feared than were the inquisitors. This remark should not be construed as an endorsement of “rights”, such as walking down the street shouting insults or making scary faces, physical assault, vandalism, urinating on a busy street in broad daylight, etc. If we are to preserve our freedoms, however, involuntary confinement resulting from such acts should be for a stated maximum length of time, not an indefinite stretch the termination of which is to be decided by an ideologist.

    During cultural revolutions, the dominant ideologists provide the rationalization for normalization. Psychology (broadly defined) is now, as before, a focal point of ideological controversy. Modern psychodynamic theories (and some learning theories and theories of interpersonal relations) share with medieval theology (the psychology of that era) the following characteristics:

  • Complexity
  • Formulation in learned language unknown to the vast majority of people.
  • The appearance of objectivity, at the same time allowing sufficient concealed and self-deceptive subjectivity to be used in the service of the ideologists.
  • The principle of reversal, so that someone or something can be shown by the ideologist to be "in reality” just the opposite from what he or it appears to be to the unlearned observer.
  • An emphasis on sex and other puzzling and troublesome aspects of human or extra-human relationships such as status, power, or control. These are highly desirable characteristics for an ideology which can be used to divide, conquer, and establish tyranny.

    Concepts which would interfere with normalization and with those forms of hypocrisy which are retained or created tend to become extinct or to be considered inadequate, irrational, or old-fashioned. Among these concepts are courage, honor, decency, integrity, loyalty, truth, friendship, honesty, love, kindness, fun, and fair-play.[20] These concepts have been largely ignored in the psychology of our time, as the reader can check for himself by examining the subject index of Psychological Abstracts, which covers many 'disciplines' in addition to psychology and includes foreign as well as domestic references. For example, during the 36 years of its publication, the index lists nine references under “courage,” the latest being in 1948. (21)

    Ideologies preserve certain attitudes and ideas within the culture and eliminate others. Old ideas and attitudes are reworded and claimed to be new discoveries by the ideologists, especially those who are ignorant of history and of the sociology of knowledge.

    The dominant ideology of the USA has been Calvinism, and some psychological theories and methodologies (as well as some varieties of 'common sense') are more-or-less disguised forms of Calvinism (Fromm, 1941). Calvinism had several facets, including a mean and crazy aspect exemplified by the beheading of a child in Calvin’s Geneva for striking one of his parents, thus upholding 'parental authority.' This mean and crazy aspect of Calvinism was carried to the USA in many ways. For example, in the old Connecticut “blue laws” gave fathers the legal right to kill disobedient sons (Dollard & Miller, 1950). Calvin outlawed most types of pleasure, even in the privacy of one’s own home, and this aspect of Calvinism was also imported (Smith, 1954)[22]

    Individuals who oppose powerful social institutions are sometimes labeled 'insane.' An instructive example is Thomas of Apulia, who in the 14th century, when Western Europe resembled an old-fashioned asylum, preached that what was needed was more love and less theology and Church ritual.

    Thomas preached that the reign of the Holy Ghost had supplanted that of the Father and Son, and that he was the envoy of the Holy Ghost sent to reform the world.

    The learned theologians of the University of Paris burned his book, and he was pronounced insane by medical alienists, and committed to life imprisonment. This was probably used as a means of discrediting his work (crowds had been listening to him) more than as a 'humane' alternative to the state. Yet men like Thomas have been relatively sane, whereas homo normalis as Wilhelm Reich (1949) called him, has often been mean and crazy, and this has been especially true of his cynical leaders.

    One method of reducing hypocrisy and at the same time preventing normalization is to defend the right to be ‘crazy’ in the sense of:

  • Seeking and loving the truth[23]
  • Loving people instead of hating them[24]
  • Openly respecting the rights of others to be different from oneself and one’s own friends or colleagues
  • Living primarily in accordance with values other than status, power, security, or material possessions
  • Openly challenging powerful authorities and institutions.
  • Being a socially unacceptable truth-teller instead of a socially acceptable liar.
  • A theory of psychosis as a sudden and drastic change in cognitive structure has been presented. The ways in which socialization, including deception, creates cognitive structures which change rapidly upon exposure to new information have been described.

    The psychedelic drugs attack compartmentalization and thus produce insights into some of the absurdities within the individual and also within the social structure in which he is embedded. The constructive aspects of psychosis, 'experimental' or 'real', have been greatly neglected in the literature. Psychology is a focal point in ideological conflict, as it has been in past cultural revolutions. Normalization, for example, the reduction or elimination of certain individual differences and human qualities, has accompanied the reduction of hypocrisy in previous cultural revolutions, but there are reasons to believe that hypocrisy can be reduced in the USA without such normalization. Suggestions are made for the accomplishment of this objective.


    [1] The ideas expressed herein are in large part the result of the observations and experiences of the author during the two years of his tenure as USPHS Fellow, 1958-1960, and as a staff member of NIMH Project MY-2621, located at the Mental Research Institute, Palo Alto Medical Research Foundation, Charles Savage and and Jerome Oremland. Research Associates. Grateful acknowledgement is made to Thomas Gonda, Department of Psychiatry, Stanford University, who sponsored my fellowship application, and to Leo Hollister, Richard Hamister and John Sears, who cooperated in the biweekly administration of LSD-25 to two hospitalized patients over a period of many months at the VA Hospital, Palo Alto. The views expressed herein are emphatically the sole responsibility of the author, who experienced a psychotic reaction lasting several months following a 200 ug LSD-25 session, with- out hospitalization, and one year later managed to experience a spectacular psychotic episode without benefit of drugs, resulting in one month’s hospitalization. The statements herein are by no means free of the biases or values of the author; for example, I do not like to see people kept deceived or locked up for years in order to help preserve respectability, the sex mores, nor status systems. I have no complaints whatsoever concerning my own treatment, and I consider myself extremely fortunate indeed.

    [2] The epistemological position of the author is similar to and perhaps identical with that taken by the founders of Gestalt psychology long ago and recently discovered by many others. See, for example, Koffka, 1935, and Kohler, 1938.

    [3] A beautiful and moving literary expression of the idea that people are only half-awake is found in Thornton Wilder’s play, Our Town. Al Hubbard, one of the pioneer workers with LSD-25, expressed this idea very well by the informal remark, “Most people are walking in their sleep; turn them around, start them in the opposite direction, and they wouldn’t even know the difference.”

    [4] This statement assumes that group membership is defined in other ways; in other words, the statement is intended as an empirical assertion, not as a tautology. Important exceptions sometimes occur when anonymity is guaranteed, when the recipient of information is sworn to secrecy, etc. The free exchange of “confidential” information about designated “patients” between “experts” whose group membership is defined in terms of being “expert,” accounts for the feeling of alienation which some “experts” have toward their “patients,” to whom these “experts” never say anything which they believe would not be “good” for the “patient.” Such “experts” are very similar to many other politicians.

    [5] “No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first — verdict afterwards.’
    "Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. ‘The idea of having the sentence first'
    “‘Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple...” (quoted by Jourdain (1918, p. 96) from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

    [6] Unfortunately these drugs have sometimes resulted in new status systems which compete in absurdity with any others in existence, including those in psychoanalytic circles.

    [7] It is especially important that the subject understand that the drug is responsible for his craziness or his loftiness and that his craziness or his loftiness will be only temporary. When drugs are given without the subject’s knowledge, as, e.g., certain criminals have been reported to have done in India with a mixture of marijuana and datura, the “experimental psychosis” can become very real indeed. See Osmond and Hoffer (1958).

    [8] Sir Isaac Newton is an example of someone who became “psychotic” after putting forth a new idea, experimentally demonstrable, and seeing how his learned colleagues in the Royal Academy reacted. He did not publish again for about 20 years, meanwhile writing “metaphysics” (which is kept locked up, a source of embarrassment to physicists).

    [9] Smith (1954) tells of the history of what the early Puritans called the heresy of Antinomianism, of giving way to subjective conviction, emotion, and impulsivity. Southerners were considered generally tainted with this terrible heresy. It survives as a form of “mental illness” or a “sign” of mental illness, especially according to northern experts.

    [10] It has usually not been noted that such a desire may be very rational in a world in which men consider some parts of their bodies “dirty” and look upon virginity as the “highest” state of womanhood.

    [11] Much of what is called “epistemology” and “methodology” is a complex and deceptive rationalization of cowardice. This has been particularly obvious in the field of philosophy, in which the convenient though double-edged idea developed very early that one cannot know or communicate anything — “Nothing is; or, if anything is, it cannot be known; or, if anything is and can be known, it cannot be communicated,” (Gorgias, ca. 500 B C.). The principle is also readily discernible in psychology, history, and the social sciences. One form of this principle was called the “good taste psychosis” by Harry Elmer Barnes, who added that the good taste psychosis among respectable historians was the greatest enemy of truth in his field.

    [12] Among these have been especially the following: women, children, old people, followers of old religions, the old aristocracy, people in the “provinces," uneducated people, especially of the the “lower classes,’ Jews, Gypsies and people who are “odd,” who don’t “fit in.” Most of these totem animals cannot easily fight back; that explains their selection as totem animals. Remnants of the old aristocracy who have managed to retain some power are discredited on the basis of their “bad” sex lives, or allegations thereof.

    [13] The English word “bugger,” and similar vernacular expressions in French and Italian, stem from the word “Bugres,’ by which the Cathari were designated because of their Bulgarian origin. The full significance of this derrivation is not known to the present author, but Robert’s cruelty illustrates how dangerous it can be to reform someone. He was finally locked up himself.

    [14] Current attempts to describe southern-USA-character structure in pathological terms can be partly understood in terms of the general phenomenon of acculturating conquered territory. This is not to say that these attempts are invalid, but that northern character structure is also pathological, though in a different way. The northern treatment of Negroes, for example, is at least as irrational as the southern treatment, though in a way which differs behaviorally and psychodynamically. There has never been a culture that has not created pathological character structures, i.e., all “national character structures” are pathological in some ways and to some extent.

    [15] Christianity as actually practiced was by no means always clearly distinct from the Cult of the Horned God, just as in contemporary Latin America Christianity is not always distinct from the indigenous Indian religions.

    [16] One of the author's grandiose delusions during his real psychosis was that he was a reincarnation of John Calvin, among other historical figures. My conviction that it would be salutary to lock everyone in solitary confinement at least once during his lifetime shows that this delusion, like most, has at least a grain of truth. I was also tortured by the delusion that I was an actual descendent of that mean hypocrite, John Knox, the founder of Scottish Presbyterianism.

    [17] Many philosophers, e.g., Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Wittgenstein, have gone "insane.” It seems probable that they saw through the absurdities of their own cultures, ie., they ate of the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge (cf. May, 1961).

    [18] Several writers, e.g., Hanson Baldwin, have recently written of the prevalence of the mentality that values secrecy even when it is clearly unnecessary.

    [19] The secret patriotic societies of the 1840’s and 1850’s, members of which were called "Know Nothings,” by outsiders are interesting antecedents of such societies at the present time.

    [20] A reputable psychologist has been unable to find a publisher for a manuscript on love behaviour, containing empirical data of a non-obscene variety. One publisher informed him that the topic was not of sufficient interest. When a professor of psychology at one of our leading. universities announced that a graduate student was planning a dissertation on the subject of friendship, another member of the department exclaimed in surprise “Friendship!—What kind of damned topic is that?” The Association for Humanistic Psychology has been formed to attempt to encourage interest and research in these and related concepts.

    [21] John F. Kennedy (1956) and Sir Compton Mackenzie (1962) have written interesting books on the subject of moral courage, but their works are not abstracted, as they are not members of our learned groups.

    [22] For example, whereas the State of California has outlawed drunkenness only in public places, the City of San Jose has an ordinance against being drunk anywhere within the city limits, including one’s own home. It is true that no attempt is made to enforce this ordinance, but neither is it repealed as absurd. The State statute is used discriminately: “respectable” citizens found drunk in public places are either left alone or escorted discreetly to their homes, whereas “lower” class people are often thrown into the “drunk” tank or taken involuntarily to a mental hospital, etc. This is an example, though not one of the worst, of hypocrisy as defined earlier.

    [23] Translated into what is sometimes considered “scientific” psychodynamic theory, this means that someone has repressed his desire to sleep with the null class. The idea that the concept of truth is dispensable is an old idea, “discovered” by various scientists and philosophers of this century. La Barre (1954) gives one form of this idea, stating that truth in mathematics is relative to what is called “mathematics” within the culture. This is similar to the view of mathematics presented to psychologists by S. S. Stevens (1951), with a different formulation. It is correct for parts of mathematics but not for other parts, especially the oldest parts such as the theory of numbers (Myhill, 1952, 1960).

    One of the most deflating papers ever written is that by Ness (1938). In this paper Ness demonstrated that people, selected more-or-less haphazardly off the street, expressed all the concepts of truth to be found among the writings of philosophers. One can imagine how this discovery endeared him to his learned colleagues. On loving psychology, see Bugental (1962).

    [24] Although I do not love everybody, I try not to hate anyone. Sometimes, however, I apparently do not try hard enough; I would be delighted to read in the newspaper that certain “experts” had been eaten by crows, and that some of the oversized cowards in high public and private office had fallen overboard on one of their many voyages, been caught in nets, sliced up and boiled down for whale oil. In baboon societies the larger and stronger males remain on the outskirts, as the colony moves along the ground, and thus are the first to encounter danger. This demonstrates that large baboons tend to have more courage and noblesse oblige than many large men. There are, nevertheless, some large men of the right type — these are the ones who are not afraid of someone who shows that he is not afraid of them. Mr. Crawnford Greenwalt is an example of a man in a high position who could do a great deal more for this country than criticize the psychological testing industry (Gross, 1962). Like Gross, he fails to see, or at least to say, that this horrendous industry is carrying out the directives of more powerful agents and of impersonal social forces.

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    This article originally appeared in Psychedelic Review, Issue Number 2, 1963. It was lovingly transcribed by volunteers at The Castalia Foundation in Millbrook, USA.

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