The Charlotte News



A New Confusion:


--The Betrayed Science, By W. J. Cash

Site ed.note: With the exception that the practice is now licensed beyond a standard medical license, (but still nevertheless includes the unlicensed and barely licensed charlatans claiming its expertise now on television instead of radio, the generic class equivalent of which existed in Cash's day as well), the general state of pschoanalysis would appear in large part to have changed little since Cash laid down this indictment of it in early 1937. While such is not to suggest that certain types of severe mental illness are not well-treated today with anti-depressants and other psychotropic drugs of one sort or another, no doubt the form of treatment is being vastly overused as a panacea in our society to treat every minor, and quite normal and ordinary, form of depression and anxiety--which, in mild forms and for short periods, after all, are as necessary a part of good mental health, serving as psychological warning systems to alter behavior, as being happy and calm a good part of the time. Cash suggests softly rather a better understanding of the workings of the human mind gleaned through the reading of the best writers on pschoanalytic process, Freud (with discerning reservation), Adler, Menninger (whom Cash would meet in March, 1941 and think a "capital fellow"), Stekel, and John J.B. Morgan.

And few, if any, have come along since to elaborate to any great meritorious extent beyond their basically sound principles, notwithstanding the psychiatric pop-idol-of-the-month best seller "cute-phrase" nonsense we have endured for decades.

And before one might be tempted to suggest that such study did not serve Cash very well because of the supposed nature of his death, it is advised to hold first until all of the following have been examined and considered at this site: "Caso de Homicidio or Felo de Se: The Death of W.J. Cash", "A Biographical Detective Story", by Joseph L. Morrison, and "The Suicide of W.J. Cash" by Mary Cash Maury. (And for more on the topic see: W.J. Cash: Southern Prophet, by Joseph L.Morrison, 1967, Knopf; and W.J. Cash: A Life, chap. 9, "Rendezvous with Fate", by Bruce Clayton, 1991, L.S.U. Press.)


THE history of almost every great advance which has been made in the sciences is the history of the sudden projection of a grand intuition (or guess if you will have it so) essentially sound at the core, the prompt springing up around it of a vast host of subsidiary guesses, few of them sound in themselves and many of them amounting to downright quackery, and a long, slow process of pruning away these after-accretions and replacing them with sound and proved facts.

He Proves Darwin False

Thus, there is a man who has been popping in and out of the letter columns of the Charlotte newspapers for the last ten years with the news that the Darwinian theory of evolution has been proved false by scientists themselves, and is as dead as the celebrated dodo. Nothing could be farther from the truth. So far as the basic proposition of Darwin and his forerunners are concerned, it is every day becoming more and more firmly established. And there is no such thing as a competent biologist left in the world who does not accept it as at least as valid as the Copernican theory. What has been proved false--what was proved false so long ago as Hugo de Vries and August Weismann--is, principally, Darwin's notion of the mechanism of mutation (the so-called Theory of Natural Selection); and incidentally, the great mass of "monkey hokum" which followed on the publication of the "Origin of Species," and to which even Darwin himself was not always wholly immune. But the facts of mutation and of man's phylogenetic relation to the great apes--there is an overwhelming accumulation of evidence for these, and almost none against them.

But the most striking instance of the kind of confusion I am talking about is afforded by the current cast of psychiatry. This last science, indeed, is in imminent danger of being completely discredited in the public mind, because of the quite unparalleled load of cad guesses, extravagant nonsense, and appalling quackery it has had to bear.

Ghostly Immemorial

To begin with, it has to labor under the weight of the immemorial taboos attached to the ghostly realm of the mind. And from the first, it has been unfortunate. Even in the early days of Charcot, it somehow got itself associated in popular thought with the preposterous animal magnetism of Mesner. And with the appearance of Dr. Freud, its great prophet, the fun really began.

This Dr. Freud, make no mistake about it, is a genius of the first rank. His opening up of the realm of the unconscious mind is a feat comparable to that of Copernicus, to that of Newton, to that of Darwin--perhaps even greater than any of them. For it has not only revolutionized all systems of psychology, it has also revolutionized all our thinking, and forever.

But unfortunately, like geniuses in general, he is an over-imaginative fellow and, also like geniuses in general, he has little power of discrimination as among his ideas. (Rather, inclined to be partial to precisely the most dubious of his brain-children.) And in consequence, he has filled the world with books which, in elaborating the comparatively simple principles laid down in his "Introduction to Psycho-Analysis," have carried the role of sex in the unconscious to preposterous links, and propagated an elaborate symbolism and a complicated method which all too plainly exceed good sense.

Pupils And Bad Guesses

Nor have his great pupils, Jung and Adler and Stekel, been far behind him in the process. And in the hands of some of his lesser adherents, as Geza Roheim, the heaping of bad guess upon bad guess passed into positive insanity.

To complicate the matter, there has been no standard to be met by the practicing psychiatrist. Any medical doctor could set up for an expert in the field. And, indeed, men without medical education or, indeed, any noticeable education of any kind, could and by thousands did, hang out their shingles as "psycho-analysts" and proceed to practice in the field.

The result everybody knows. We have the spectacle of so-called experts continually handing down directly opposed opinions (for a fee) in every celebrated criminal trial in the country--with the natural result that a great many people are coming to hold psychiatry in contempt as an impudent fraud. And, as if that were not enough, we have insolent quacks braying out of radios and getting themselves accepted by people who know no better as authorities. In nearly every town, we have "Pscyho-analysts" who make a business of preying on neurotic women with sexy dirt. And in short, the thing is everywhere rapidly acquiring a name that is much less than respectable.

Suggested Reading

It is an infernal shame. For the really competent practitioners of the thing, as those at the Johns Hopkins for instance, are rapidly stripping it of all its gaudy excrescences and turning it into an immensely effective instrument for mental health.

If the reader wants a good popular account of what it is like at its best, let him take himself to the famous "The Human Mind," by Karl Menninger; or to the less well-known but excellent "Psychology of Abnormal People," by John J. B. Morgan. And if he is interested in finding out exactly what the fathers of psycho-analysis argue (and most people seem to know only at second-hand), then, in addition to Freud's "Introduction to Psycho-Analysis," let them look into Alfred Adler's "The Neurotic Constitution" and Stekel's "Conditions of Nervous Anxiety."

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