PSYCHOSIS: "Experimental" and Real
Joe K. Adams1
Psychedelic Review No. 2
Now is there something wrong with this entire circus.
Consistency, thou art a jewel.
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 ale 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 they must be solved simultaneously
rather than piecemeal, in any reasonably adequate theory. Many
readers, however, 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. No
animal can survive without some validity in his perceptions, but
no animal has only valid perceptions; man is no exemption to either
of these assertions, but, unlike other animals, his culture (e.g.,
northern U.S.A.), sub-culture (e.g., proper Presbyterian, midwestern
large city), and immediate groups-of-reference (e.g., his nuclear
family, family of origin, clubs, professional affiliations) determine
to a considerable extent not only what cognitions will occur,
but also the degree of validity of a given class of cognitions.
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 perception of 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, as 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 him 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.
Alfred Korzybski (1948), Eric Hoffer (1951), and Ernest Schachtel
(1947) have written about similar processes, though with different
words and emphases.
In thus 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, but 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 prevent 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,
many concrete examples of intentional deception and of withholding
of information which results in unintentional deception 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 thereof.
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, 1953). 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 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 culturenamely, 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;
Restrictions on communication very often serve the function of
preserving false beliefs, and 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 his
absence, for example, he 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. This 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 firsthand, but
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
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 northern
U.S.A. culture, which from the days of the first Puritan settlers
contained a strong trend toward critical self-examination
with surprising psychological sophisticationas well as strong
conservative forces, without which no culture can survive (Smith,
It is not difficult to see how insights, whether into oneself
or 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": (1) by arousing an intense emotion and
thus altering the chemical composition of the blood and consequently
the functioning of the brain, and (2) 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, and also
some examples of invalid compartmentalization and of quibbling
over symbols which obscures the similarity of underlying conceptual
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, terrifying,
etc. Speech during such episodes is what would be expected when
decompartmentalization occurs. What the individual says does not
"make sense" in a conventional way; he does not stick
to the point and instead drags in matters which appear to observers
to be completely irrelevant. In other words, a massive dedifferentiation
of cognitive systems and linguistic habits occurs, which may be
as bewildering to the individual as to those with whom he may
attempt to communicate.
For any given individual the massive cognitive dedifferentiations
called "psychotic episodes" result in more valid perceptions
and beliefs in certain respectsthe individual has now seen
through some of his delusions and illusions, idiosyncratic and/or
culturally taught, but they usually result in new delusions and
illusions and in even less accurate perceptions and beliefs in
some respects than before. 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, etc.
As 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, and is 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, especially as the insights and ideas developed
are often among those which cannot be expressed within the vocabulary
of the individual or, even worse, among those which the language
of the culture tends to militate against or rule out of existence
or awareness. The kindness which a long-term patient may show
toward a new one in a mental hospital is perhaps 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, i.e., tend to give less
full and accurate information, to voice their convictions or doubts
less freely, etc. 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,"
"paranoid," etc., 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, especially 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.
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 beforeto 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 not only 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 of becoming a "joker," i.e., one who has
seen through the arbitrariness or absurdity of social "games"
but is able to "play" them anyway, is helpful but not
sufficient, because, as Watts would presumably agree, some
social "games" must not be played but broken up,
if we are to avoid a complete Hell on Earth. For example, the
"game" of "blame the Jews," "played"
in Nazi Germany and in many previous and subsequent times and
places, e.g., in Western Europe during the 14th century, when
the Black Death was blamed on the Jews, must be broken up, although
to be a "joker" might under some conditions be necessary
as a device enabling one to operate underground in a different
way, i.e., 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"
being those of "blame it on the ex-patients," "be
kind to ex-patients but be careful 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. Some
patients also have a partly justifiable punitive attitude toward
society"since you say I'm crazy, you can pay my room and
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
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 the author 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 expertswith
the exception of Jung and a few other voices crying in the wildernesshave
traditionally minimized, i.e., the constructive aspects
of "psychosis." That "psychotic" experiences
can be emotionally gratifying is grudgingly recognized in many
descriptions of patients, but 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, despite the repeated lesson
from history that people who put forth truly new ideasor old
ideas which are unpopular or unfashionablehave often if not
usually been said to be "insane," and that there has
often been some truth in such accusations.
In fact, labeling the innovator as "insane"
has been a standard method of fighting genuinely new ideas, as
opposed to old ideas whose deceptive rewordings 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 understand that 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, and 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; the preceding word is not intended, however, to
assign this attitude to the lowest regions of Hell. It is kind
to help people to grow, change, or regress (in the service of
the ego, of course) gradually and relatively painlessly, but it
should not be assumed 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,
because without emotional expression the emotions themselves wither
away. 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,
e.g., when saints have "gone wild" and shouted that
they desired the body of Jesus. In
revivalism, also, 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
drug 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, etc. 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,"
like 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, etc., are effective only if the individual can accept
the chaff with the wheat, only if he can look squarely at the
horrors of the world as well as its joys and beauty, 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 (1) the setting up of rules or "games";
(2) the development of hypocrisy, i.e., a discrepancy between
the way things areand 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; and (3) 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 impossibleas, e.g., excessive official restrictions
on emotional expression, sexual conduct, open conflict, 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,
as certain individuals and groups have served as totem animals,
taking on the projected collective guilt of the tribe, arising
from hypocrisy, among other sources.
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. 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,
and 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
Francethe southerners, including devout Catholics, had to be
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.
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 U. S.
A. as any other man of modern times.)
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; thus, alienation from parts of oneself is produced
with resulting fear and hatred which are then displaced toward
those who are discernibly "different," i.e., outsiders,
who are made into scapegoats. The great cruelty during normalization
can be at least partly explained on the basis of this kind of
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, who sometimes cling to old religions, especially out in
the provinces, or that many were poor and ignorant. When one considers
the widespread existence of practices such as forcing children
to watch as their grandmothers or mothers were burned alive (Lea,
1939)this was done by German Lutheransit 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 labeled "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, and 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, in other words, women, especially old women. When
normalization starts, 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
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, according to the
present theory. It is interesting, for example, that an "uneducated"
person in a small town can purchase a paperback in a five-and-ten
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,
Hypocrisy is an unstable social condition, as everyone has to
operate in a fog, but the reduction of hypocrisy can in theory
be brought about by openly allowing people to be different and
human, without a normalization. If our country 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 U.S.A. than in any
of the previous times and places, for the following reasons: 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.
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; 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.
There are those who wish to normalize this country under the heading
of having only "good Americans"; others 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 are
few data on this point; 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 Nazi 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, e.g., 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,
but 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: (1) complexity;
(2) formulation in learned language unknown to the vast majority
of people; (3) the appearance of objectivity, at the same time
allowing sufficient concealed and self-deceptive subjectivity
to be used in the service of the ideologists; (4) 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; and (5)
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.
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.
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 U. S. A. 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 U.S.A. in many ways, e.g.,
in the old Connecticut "blue laws" which 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
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, 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 probably as a means of discrediting his work
(crowds had been listening to him) more than as a "humane"
alternative to the stake. 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 (1) seeking and loving the truth;
(2) loving people instead of hating them;
(3) openly respecting the rights of others
to be different from oneself and one's own friends or colleagues;
(4) living primarily in accordance with values other than status,
power, security, or material possessions; (5) openly challenging
powerful authorities and institutions; and (6) 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, i.e., 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 U. S. A. 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, l95S19oO,
and as a staff member of NIMH Project MY-2621, located at the
Mental Research Institute, Palo Alto Medical Research Foundation,
Don D. Jackson, Principal Investigator, James Terrill, Staff Psychologist,
Charles Savage and Jerome Oremland, Research Associates. Grateful
acknowledgment 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 biweeklv 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 mcg LSD-25 session, without 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, or status systems. I have no complaints
whatsoever concerning my own treatment, and I consider myself
extremely fortunate indeed. (back)
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. (back)
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." (back)
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. (back)
5. " 'No, no!' said the Queen. 'Sentence
firstverdict 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. 964 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
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). (back)
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. (back)
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. (back)
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. (back)
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 "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. (back)
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
derivation 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. (back)
14. Current attempts to describe southern
U. S. A. 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. (back)
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. (back)
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. (back)
17. Many philosophers, e.g. Nietzsche, Schopenhauer,
Wittgenstein, have gone "insane." It seems probable
that they saw through the absurdities of their own cultures, i.e.,
they ate of the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge (cf.
May, 1961). (back)
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. (back)
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. (back)
20. A reputable psychologist has been unable
to find a publisher for a manuscript on love behavior, 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. (back)
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 i5 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,
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). (back)
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 typethese are
the ones who are not afraid of someone who shows that he is not
afraid of them. Mr. Crawford 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. (back)
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