Pt. I: Edgar Rice Burroughs And The Accreted Personality

March 6, 2012

Edgar Rice Burroughs


The Accreted Personality

Part I


R.E. Prindle

Dr. Pinel Unchaining The Inmates


The post-French Revolution period begins the rapid development of the Aryan mind. The Enlightenment laid the foundation of that development. Shortly after mid-nineteenth century the French astronomer, Camille Flammarion, was able to announce that Astronomy and Psychology would be the key disciplines of the future. The break with the religious consciousness of the past ten thousand years or so would be fraught with immense dangers, dangers which we are still combating.

The social ideology of the present asserts that all people are of the same stage of mental development. This is, of course, absolute nonsense. There are still hundreds of millions if not a billion or two who still maintain a stone age view of the world. Nor are all of them in other parts of the world, a vast number are here in the Americas and Europe. In addition there are billions still enmeshed in a religious consciousness while only perhaps a hundred million or two have actually evolved into the scientific consciousness. Hence we have the terrifically repressive  attempted subversion of science by the Semitic religions.

So, it should be clear at first glance that not all people are equally developed or endowed nor are all cultures of the same value.

The French scientist and neo-romantic novelist Camille Flammarion noted mid-nineteenth century that the two most important intellectual disciplines for the future would be Astronomy and Psychology. I think that has proven true.

A major discovery of the century was the notion of the split or multiple personality. A term currently in use is Dissociation. Neither is accurate. I advance the term Accretive Personality. That is one’s personality is made up of many personality variations as a result of growth and experience. In periods of stress it is quite easy to escape oppressive reality by slipping into what is essentially an alternate reality or a parallel personality, if you will.

The Salpetriere

This was not a new phenomenon, merely the shock of recognition. In Greek mythology, for instance, when the stress of the mid life crisis hit, the hero went through a period of madness, that is to say he adopted a parallel personality until he was able to reorganize his mental attitude to new realities.

In Europe, under the stress of an insane quasi-Semitic religion in which Satan took a prominent role, it was common for the stressed to become ‘possessed’ by demons or, in other words, to split the personality. That is the person showed a parallel personality. The transition point to the beginning of secular understanding came when Dr. Anton Mesmer matched his secular method of exorcism against the ecclesiastical method of exorcism and won. So one might say that modern psychology derived from the problem of the dual personality- the Jekyll and Hyde effect. However dual or multiple personality was not recognized as such until announced in Jean-Martin Charcot’s clinic at the Salpetriere hospital in Paris in the mid-eighties.

Charcot studied hysterics. Hysterics are dealing with a lot of stress, hence escape through an alternate personality would be an easy choice. Charcot and the Salpetriere aren’t exactly household words so let’s take a moment to explain the situation in which modern psychology was born.

It is also necessary to bear in mind changes in scale. What is good for one stage of growth is not good for another. As the scale of things progresses from tiny to small to medium to large to huge to gigantic new forms have to be adopted to suit the new circumstances. These transition points are difficult to adjust to but once adjusted to are considered so normal that those who resisted the old change are equally resistant to adapt to the next level. Of course the young of each scale is born into it and has no adaptation to make although they will at the next change of scale.

Thus the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era masked to a very large degree a major change of scale so that after Waterloo a seemingly complete break with the past had taken place. It was a new world in the morning. So in the years leading up to the Great War another change of scale had taken place that masked the new world that popped into place in the twenties. I picked up the concept from that astute observer, H.G. Wells, who noted the emerging change in scale at the turn of the century. That great ship, the Titanic, that went down in ‘12 may be considered as representative of that change.

Thus with the change of consciousness that actually took place in 1795 the new consciousness became clear after Waterloo. Gone was the religious notion of ‘possession by evil spirits’ to be replaced soon by the concept of multiple personality. Thus whereas in the past the insane had been treated as raving beasts, chained to walls and whatever a Dr. Pinel at Paris’ Salpetriere began a more humane treatment with an attempt to understand the causes of insanity. The approach was parodied amusingly by Edgar Allen Poe in his story The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether in which the inmates revolted and took over the asylum.

The Salpetriere was a large compound of several acres with thousands of residents, mainly women from whom the subjects who became the hysterics that the great Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot began to study as a neurologist, as the early psychiatrists were known. The field of Psychology is divided in two. On the one side psychiatrists who must be MDs and who believe mental ailments are biologically derived and hence to be treated medically with drugs or, one shudders to think of it, operations like pre-frontal lobotomy or electric or insulin shock ‘therapy.’ Psychologists, who are PhDs with little or no medical training treat neuroses and psychoses as malfunctions of reason caused by experiential traumas.

Charcot as an MD originally sought biological causes for the hysteria he studied although he was coming around to a psychological viewpoint just before he died in 1893. Thus from being chained before Dr. Pinel released them these women, hysterics, while being confined to the Salpetriere were given freedom of movement within the hospital with its flowers and walkways making for a much more pleasant environment for them and one unobtainable to them on the outside.

Now, the great Dr. Anton Mesmer introduced hypnotism to Europe as a discipline in the years just before the Revolution. Naturally something so new and seemingly revelatory did not find immediate acceptance, indeed, it was treated as nonsense. Nevertheless people of learning, doctors, persisted in experimenting with it. Thus, when Charcot came to be the director of the Salpetriere, to the dismay of his profession he introduced the practice in his treatment of his hysterics and thus legitimized its use. Hypnosis, too, was new and little understood.

Pierre Janet

The essence of hypnosis is suggestion and Charcot did not understand suggestion. The rival hypnosis school led by Auguste Liebeault and Hippolyte Bernstein at Nancy to the East of Paris was aware of the effect of suggestion but not necessarily the nature of what it was. Actually suggestion is whatever enters the mind and is accepted. If one wakes to a beautiful sunny morning it is suggested to oneself that the day will be a good day. Acting on that suggestion, post-hypnotic one might say, one will try to make the day a great one to hang onto that feeling. The mind is naturally open to suggestion as it must be; in an active mind one can discriminate to some extent as to what suggestions will be accepted and which rejected. Under hypnosis in which the mind has been put into a passive state the ability to discriminate and reject has been greatly reduced so that a hypnotist can plant a suggestion that then becomes what Charcot’s associate, Pierre Janet, called an idee fixe, or in other words, a fixation that will remain in your mind until executed. This notion may be imparted by a human agent, books, movies, radio or any medium that is capable of influencing the mind. One must be aware of this. It isn’t necessary to have a hypnotist standing in front of you saying ‘look into my eyes.’

As I say, Charcot was convinced that hysteria was biological, that is to say caused by a lesion to the brain, so that while he hypnotized his female subjects at the Salpetriere he wasn’t aware of the nature of suggestion.

Marie Corelli

Now, the eighteen seventies and eighties were terrifically exciting at all levels. They did things differently then. As has been said: The past is another country; they do things differently there. The past is never to be judged by current standards although the latter are useful for comparison. Thus when Lister suggested that antiseptics ought to be used in the operating room his suggestion was stoutly resisted although true and nearly universally accepted today. On the other hand Evolution although true is more stoutly resisted today in a religious reaction than it was in the last quarter of the nineteenth century so don’t feel all that superior.

While Charcot was arguing with himself as to whether hysteria was biological or mental, in the mid-eighties two of his associates easily grasped that hysteria was a mental problem. These two were Sigmund Freud and Pierre Janet.

Freud at that time, 1886, was making the transition to psychology from medicine. He was an MD. Charcot was not alone in dealing with mental matters. The understanding of dreams for instance was developing rapidly. When Freud published his Interpretation Of Dreams in 1900 he cited dozens of competent researchers dating as far back as the 1860s. In 1886 alone two novels dealing with the subconscious and split personality were published, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde and Marie Corelli’s Wormwood. Corelli cites Charcot as an influence so she very likely had attended his semi-public presentations of hysterics under hypnosis at his hospital.

Sigmund Freud

Going back further, Freud, a German Jew, was undoubtedly familiar with the psychological work of the German romantics. At any rate he spent about four months at the Salpetriere studying Charcot’s work and methods. It is likely that the foundation of his psychoanalysis was laid there. While Charcot was struggling to determine whether hysteria was biological or mental, Freud, himself a neurologist, was able to perceive that, as he later put it, hysterics were suffering from reminiscences. In other words they fixated on past experiences which dominated their minds and behavior.

Pierre Janet, Charcot’s student and associate, came to the same conclusion probably at the same time. He expressed the problem more accurately when he determined that hysterics suffered from one or more idee fixes, that is a fixed idea or, in other words, a fixation centered around a specific past event or events.

Indeed, all the women at the Salpetriere had been battered and brutalized by life with no means of self-assertion or resistance. Unable to express their own will they retreated into ineffective hysterics finally ending up as semi-insane in Charcot’s hospital.

Now, split or multiple personality. No one, especially these women, have the personality they are born with. Over the course of our lives circumstances require us to respond in different ways, sometimes a personality is overwhelmed with a consequent personality adaptation or change and in extreme cases, insanity.

All very well, but what happens to the original and/or various personalities that were submerged. It is impossible for them to vanish from the mind so they must live on submerged by a more powerful personality impulse. Depending on the individual then, everybody must have at least one alternate personality. Stevenson and Corelli were demonstrating this in their novels.

The good Dr. Jekyll had had a wild streak in his youth that he forcefully repressed to become the totally respectable man of medicine. But, he longed for his rough and rowdy days so in Stevenson’s story he invents a potion, I’m sure whisky would have been just as effective, that allows him to free his original personality. In the course of his experiment the earlier personality suppresses the later one assuming control of Jekyll’s mind. Much the same thing happens in Corelli’s novel. Thus we have personality accretion.

Charcot’s hysterics, because of the side show atmosphere the Good Doctor created, became world famous, a sort of show people. Charcot even took them on the road for demonstrations and, heaven forbid, loaned them to other doctors for experimentation.

It was during one such loan in 1888 that Jules Janet, Pierre’s brother, made a startling discovery. He was experimenting on Blanche Wittman, the Queen of Hysterics, when having hypnotized her into what Charcot called the first state, instead of progressing to the second state, he decided to put her into a deeper trance. At that point Blanche was able to dissociate her personality from her normal state to what I assume was her original personality. She turned into a happy effervescent bubbly girl. In other words she had stripped every accreted personality adjustment to return to the period before society violated her womanhood.

One might ask where this personality came from? It is not necessary to assume either the supernatural or the paranormal. The personality did not come from outside her but was merely an early personality that had been submerged and denied existence by repeated abuse. If Jules Janet had pressed on he might have found three, four or more variations of Blanche Wittman. Indeed, when Charcot died in 1893 Blanche ceased having hysterical attacks and became quite normal assuming yet another personality although it was not recognized as such. She then took responsible employment at the hospital until she died under tragic circumstances.

Thus during one’s life one assumes many variations as one’s personal circumstances dictate. And one expresses them in many different ways. As an example of personality accretion I am going to use the history of the American fantasy and science fiction writer, Edgar Rice Burroughs. He has especial value as his biography is well developed and he has talked voluminously about his mental states through his large body of fiction which is all autobiographical in nature.

Dr. Jean Martin Charcot Demonstrating Hypnosis And Hysteria

Part II follows.

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