Mind control in days of yore

Robyn Starkey rohina at shaw.ca
Sun May 18 17:09:29 EDT 2003

At 07:39 PM 16/05/2003 +0100, you wrote:

>A bit of an OT request this, but maybe the collective wisdom of the group
>can save me from a shocking error? I'm currently writing an essay about
>enchantment and hypnotism in children's books, and I'm awfully tempted to
>makes a categoric statement to the effect that complete mind control of the
>'Yes master I will obey' variety didn't make an appearance in literature
>until well after
>Mesmer - that basically it's a 19th century-till-now thing.

I think your date's right, but your source is partly wrong. I suspect you 
could say it didn't happen until after Freud. Until you have a sense of 
"mind" as a thing that processes thought in a particular way, you can't 
really conceptualise someone taking over of your mind. It takes the 
scientific rationalism of modernism to make mind control a worry.

>Of course, enchantment existed, and in many forms. It involved physical
>effects (Circe) or physical abilities (as when Prospero uses the power of
>suggestion to make Ferdinand go all weak and wobbly) or physical perceptions
>(e.g. fairy glamour) or the affections (love potions, etc) or memory, or
>sleep - but I
>can't think of a single example that involves the absolute dominion of one
>will over another. Can you?

I'd be very very very careful about equating these early examples. Because 
if you look at them, I doubt you will find it described as mind control, or 
indeed anything to do with mind at all. The body part referred to in these 
cases (and the ones someone else mentioned of possession by God) is 
"spirit" not "mind". There's a lot of research and writing on madness in 
Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, but if you look at the way it is 
conceptualised, it is not at all the same as the idea of mind control.

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