Mind control in days of yore

Charles Butler hannibal at thegates.fsbusiness.co.uk
Mon May 19 11:43:54 EDT 2003

> 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,
> 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.

You're quite right about the language used. Even in my mid-century example
from Hawthorne the language is of one spirit invading another rather than of
minds. On the other
hand, one of the things that has struck me looking at modern instances of
this phenomenon (whatever we call it) is the number of different genres in
which it appears - spy thrillers, fantasy, horror, SF, whatever - and how
many motifs remain the same across that spectrum, even though it may be
named and explained in different ways in each.

In the Renaissance the metaphors used to explain and understand it may owe
more to Robert Burton than to Sigmund Freud but perhaps the thing being
described might still be pretty similar? I don't say 'identical', because
the way such things are conceptualized will affect the way they can be
imagined and put into literature, I admit.


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