Mind control in days of yore

Robyn Starkey rohina at shaw.ca
Mon May 19 13:58:33 EDT 2003

>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.

I think there is an issue about whether or not it is the same thing. If you 
don't have a concept of "mind" and a firm sense of individual identity 
which is controlled by said mind, how can you be threatened by having it 
taken over? In a sense, a lot of Christian mysticism argues that having 
your spirit taken over is a good and desirable thing. I think there is also 
a distinction between being made to forget, and being made to act as a 
puppet by someone taking over your mind. My point is that I would be 
extremely cautious about suggesting that the earlier analogues are similar, 
because people's idea of mind and individuality are very different. Some 
scholars argue quite strenuously against there being a concept of the self 
before a certain date. I don't quite agree with this, but I do have a 
strenuous objection to the way that modern people tend to overwrite earlier 
sensibilities by saying, "well, we think this way, so even if they didn't 
use the same words, it must still have been pretty similar". I don't think 
there is any evidence at all to support this kind of an attitude. Much 
better to go with the original contention that "mind-control" is a concept 
which developed in the late-nineteenth century.

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