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"Man, Myth and Magic
Media Review : Books, Nonfiction"

By Phoenix& ^Thane, ^Raven, ^Max , 9.02
Included in "Local Libraries," nonfiction book review by Phoenix&, 9.02.


Man, Myth and Magic

A second source book, Man, Myth & Magic, offers a two page spread on Multiple Personality. It starts by summarizing older cases of demonic possession, starting with the case of ‘Mary’ who had demonic personalities that spoke through her mouth and gave the names of Beelzebub and Judas. They detested one of the exorcists badly enough to visit his home while Mary was confined, and generally spook the place - making sinister noises and rappings in the house. They also plagued him by sending a dark cloud to fog his vision and almost send him off a bridge one day when he was driving. Upon returning to the convent, one of the voices confessed that ‘Our aim was to get you.’ The exorcists apparently succeeded after some time, but the trouble recurred, leading to further exorcism some years later.

The book suggests that the idea of demonic possession has faded over time, though there is still considerable call to banish evil spirits from people and places. Alternative approaches have suggested that ‘possessors’ are actually aspects of the patient’s own mind, ‘or even full-blown multiple personalities.’ Stating that before the 1960’s multiplicity was rare, it continues that since then there has been something of a boom, with the diagnosis of thousands of cases. It defines Multiple Personality Disorder as follows:

‘..A condition in which two or more distinct personalities, or personality states, coexist within one patient, each with it’s own characteristic pattern of behavior, set of attitudes, and way of perceiving the world.’

Calling the effects of this condition ‘bizarre’, it describes the effect as ‘two or more people living in the same body’. The article up until this point seems entirely bunk, suggesting that possession has something to do with multiplicity - or may indeed be the cause of it. Early thoughts on multiplicity did indeed call the condition ‘demonic possession’, but this theory can be easily dismissed through anecdotal evidence via the Internet and personal correspondence from the multiple systems who are perfectly happy, healthy, and have religious members, not to mention members that have no problem with religion. The definition provided is also a little incomplete, but as the book is not solely on the topic, it’s forgivable. The next paragraph, however, seemed to contain a lot of truth, so I will sum it up below:

‘The disorder is more common in women than in men, and there is some evidence of it tending to run in families. It is generally regarded as a defense mechanism developed by the patient in reaction to severe fear or anxiety. .Different personalities are not always aware of each other. [They] may view the others with dislike, suspicion or contempt. One or more of the personalities often shows symptoms of psychological disturbance, anxiety, wildly varying moods, sometimes intense anger and hostility.’

True, a lot of the multiples encountered are indeed bodily female. As for running in families, most children will develop a mindset similar to their parental figures. As discussed above, multiplicity may be nothing more than an adoption of a different, but ‘normal’ state of mind. Many children think and act like their parents do, indeed, as very young children and toddlers it is entirely developmental for the children to mimic their parents exactly - in fact, that’s how they learn. So it's reasonable to think of multiplicity as familial in the behavioral sense, if not genetic.

The phrasing of the next part is attractive, even if what it says is not. ‘generally regarded’ doesn’t mean ‘always is’. Multiplicity may indeed be developed as a defense mechanism, or may occur apparently as a natural state. If it ‘runs in families’, then it may be discussed that there is no history of abuse in some cases. . However, it must also be considered that abuse tends to run in families as well - it’s a learned behavior.

Discussing parts of a multiple system and saying ‘often’ is never a good course. As with all groups of people, multiple systems are different and each one varies in how they work, who is in it, and how they think of each other. Some systems aren’t aware of each other, and learning you have more than one person inside your body can be a troubling experience. Distrust is natural when people first meet each other, but trust forms naturally as people get to know each other better. Lastly, there are many groups, discovered through anecdotal experience, who lack members with ‘psychological disturbance’ or ‘intense anger and hostility’. This ‘often’ is an unfortunate miscalculation - a result of the wrong type of publicity. The article goes on:

‘...Pierre Janet described a patient aware of the alternative personality in him, which he believed to be demonic. ‘He murmured blasphemies in a deep and solemn voice: "Cursed be God," said he, "cursed the Trinity, cursed the Virgin." then in a higher voice and with eyes full Of tears: "It’s not my fault if my mouth says these horrible things, it is not I! it is not I! I press My lips together so that the words may not come through, may not break forth but it is useless; The devil says these words inside me, I feel plainly that he says them and forces my tongue to speak in spite of me.’

Going directly back to demonic possession - which was probably a wonderful case in those days. This doesn’t sound like any sort of multiplicity - but rather possession, which is arguably a real thing. Real or not, Posession is not multiplicity. This example is out of place, and almost insulting. Janet had other patients, including a man who claimed that girls he saw on the street would take over his mind and body. This patient spent every day in his room eyeing himself in a mirror, and acting girlish - swinging his hips and batting his eyelashes. The man claimed he couldn’t help it.

‘I disappear, I lose my ego, my real existence; it is as if I no longer existed, as if they had taken my place... I feel such self-disgust that I even beat myself: I have put up genuine struggles against this other ego, but it is all in vain’

For these patients, Janet put into use the term ‘disassociation’, meaning groups of ideas which split off from the patient’s ordinary consciousness and enjoy a parallel life of their own, in some cases eventually creating a secondary personality. Again cases like the above sound nothing like ‘common’ healthy multiples. Indeed, being taken over by people passing on the street is almost unheard of.

The passage moves on from Janet’s studies to a paragraph on the confusion of multiplicity and schizophrenia - mentioning that many were mistakenly diagnosed as schizophrenics as they ‘share some symptoms with schizophrenia.’ These symptoms include the feelings that their ‘thoughts are being influenced’ and ‘auditory hallucinations’, which the passage touts as ‘possibly the different personalities talking and contending for mastery inside the patient’s head.’ Note - patient. Not person, but rather obviously someone in treatment or a psycho ward. Indeed multiplicity had been mistaken for schizophrenia, but many multiples - especially the healthy ones suffer no ‘thoughts of being influenced’, and don’t consider speaking to each other to be ‘auditory hallucinations’ any more than anyone else reminding themselves of a grocery list inside their own head. However, multiples who are unaware of the others in their system may well be unsettled by the other people's thoughts ocasionally being heard.

Next, the article moves on to discuss ‘The Three Faces of Eve’, which is recurring from the previous article. Obviously the book must have some influence, but it’s unfortunate that the publicity got so big when even 'Eve’ herself (Chris Sizemore) has written a second, and now a third, book to discredit this and give a /real/ insight into her story. The article discusses the story of Eve, explaining about as much as the previous one, and tacking a happy ending on in the last paragraph:

‘...About six months after this the manifestations of multiple personality ended and the three women apparently melded back into one. The headaches and fainting spells were no more and in the end the patient married again, happily.’

Isn’t it amazing what a little therapy can do for your life? Never mind that the article assumes also that the three women were ‘one’ to begin with - mentioning that they must have melded ‘back’ into one, instead of just into one. No mention is made of Sizemore’s book. Obviously Man, Myth & Magic thought that Thigpen and Cleckley knew exactly what they were talking about, being therapists and having no firsthand experience.

In a section entitled ‘On the Map’, the article wraps it’s self up, mentioning that Eve’s case created a ‘sensation and put multiple personality on the map.’ Thigpen and Cleckley were called and written to by thousands of people wanting to be diagnosed as multiple - some using different voices during calls and handwriting in their letters. Misguided souls went from therapist to therapist to get the diagnosis - until they found one who would give it to them. Apparently Eve’s three people weren’t enough for most - by the 1990’s the average for patients was eight. In one of the increasing pleas of Multiplicity as defense in cases of murder or rape, a Wisconsin witness was sworn in three times, ‘once for each of three different personalities.’ Apparently her 40 others weren’t required. Also, in this case, the multiple was the /victim/ of the rape. Most of these cases cropped up in North America. Britain rarely has diagnosed multiples. The next part of the article is particularly offensive:

‘Multiple personality is regarded as a particularly extreme development in disturbed patients of the commonplace situation with which all of us are familiar, in which we behave in ways that are puzzlingly inconsistent, or do things which are ‘unlike ourselves’, or forget things we would rather not remember.’

So obviously multiples can be understood by therapists, because they do things that are sometimes ‘puzzlingly inconsistent’. Not to mention the use of ‘extreme’, ‘disturbed’, and ‘patient’ in the same generalized sentence - which indicates that all multiples must be extremely disturbed patients. This is all untrue, as many multiples are living perfectly functional lives without so much as seeing a doctor or therapist at all - never mind considering themselves ‘patients’.

The article sums it’s self up by claming that multiplicity may provide a way to escape responsibility or explain aspects of people that they dislike. It may count for an explanation of ‘demonic possession’, the experiences of oracles and mediums, and spirit guides. It offers that the ‘spiritual beings’ or ‘entities from beyond the veil of death’ would be facets of the priestess or medium’s personality - ‘parts of herself with which she is not in touch in her ordinary, everyday frame of mind.’ It cleans up with the following cryptic message:

‘It is interesting that mediums, oracles and the victims in possession cases often seem to have demonstrated psychic abilities beyond the ‘normal’ person’s reach. Are these powers of their own minds, which have somehow become ‘dissociated’ or separated off from their everyday consciousness?’

The book does not take into account that mediums, oracles, and ‘victims of possession’ may or may not be entirely faking it. Also that they may not be cases of multiplicity, if they are indeed real. In fact, most cases of multiplicity demonstrate no ‘psychic abilities beyond the ‘normal person’s reach’. It’s hard to understand why on earth these ‘powers’ would ‘dissociate’ off onto other people in a medium or oracle’s mind. Indeed, why not be linked to the ‘main’ person, where they would be more useful? Even if the ‘powers’ did, how then, would a ‘personality’ form around just a simple power? Multiples often are touted as having vast intellect or some sort of psychic powers, when in fact they only rarely have intelligence that’s any greater than common, or slightly above-average.

This is not to say they’re stupid - and there will be people in the system that are smarter than others, as there are people in any group who are smarter than others. ‘Powers’ are usually out of the question - very few multiples even will consider trying to bend a spoon or explode a toaster. There’s no point in it, and simply having more than one person in your body doesn’t make it any more possible. A group of 70 people can no more stare at a toaster and make it explode than a multiple system of 70. This is just common sense.

The article has it’s serious faults, but some bits of it are good enough to use as a starting point, if perhaps most of it is taken with a shaker of salt.



  • Man, Myth & Magic, Encyclopedia, ©1995 Marshal Cavendish Corp.
  • You can write to Pavilion at pavilion@ karitas . net. Back to the library
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