I'm putting tinfoil up on the windows
Lying down in the dark to dream
I don't want to see their faces
I don't want to hear them scream - Warren Zevon
Symptomatic of Capgras Syndrome is the delusion of doubles: that those closest to you, or your familiar objects, have been replaced by impostors and replicas. Tony Rosato, a Toronto comic actor who put in time on SCTV and Saturday Night Live, served two years in prison for criminally harassing his wife on account of it. (Last month he was remanded to a psychiatric hospital after a conditional discharge.)
In his testimony, Rosato repeated his worries for his family, and his contention that his wife Leah had been replaced by twins or triplets and that their baby was a changeling. The judge, in ruling Rosato to be in need of psychiatric care, cited Leah's alarm at Tony's claims that her family was connected to a paedophile ring, and his fear of entities he called "astral attackers."
In Taboo: Sex, Religon and Magick, psychotherapist Christopher Hyatt tells of a patient he treated in the 1970s. One day she came to him with a troubling dream of being carried into a church by a priest and raped upon the altar. Within a week she had suffered a "complete psychotic break" and was hospitalized. Hyatt, noting that her father was a deacon in a nearby church, diagnosed that "the breaking of the taboo (even in a dream) so overpowered my patient that her mind literally broke down."
Could be. Probably. She was Hyatt's patient, and to me she's just an anecdote in Hyatt's book. But as I read it, I thought something that should have been considered, if only to rule it out, was that the dream was the manifestation of a suppressed memory of abuse, whether sexual or merely assuming a sexual expression, and his patient's psychotic break was the result of the dissociative effort of denial.
More evidently, Rosato is an ill man. But his strong delusion doesn't necessarily render crazy each of his unhealthy obsessions. There are, evidently, paedophile rings, and many individuals considered wise and well have themselves described astral attacks. Rosato isn't sick for mentioning them, but applied to his circumstance he is almost certainly wrong.
All of which makes me wonder about our own sick circumstance.
In October, 1963, a US Army private first class named Eugene Dinkin, working in Metz, France as a crypto operator with top secret clearance, picked up indications that "a conspiracy was in the making by the 'military' of the United States, perhaps combined with an 'ultra-right economic group." (The quote is from a declassified FBI report of April 3, 1964.) One of his duties as a code breaker was to decipher traffic that originated with the OAS, though he contended he first became alerted to a conspiracy by a study of subliminal "psychological sets" in Stars and Stripes and certain Hearst papers which, writes Lisa Pease, he believed "were deliberately maneuvered to set up a subconscious belief on the part of one reading these papers to the effect that President John F. Kennedy was 'soft on communism.'" He became convinced an attempt would be made on the president's life in Texas in late November, and that it would be pinned on the Left.
Alarmed, Dinkin wrote Robert Kennedy and then, realizing the warning had little chance of reaching the Attorney General, abruptly left his unit, going AWOL to try to contact ambassadors in nearby Luxembourg. On Nov 6 he showed up at the UN press office in Geneva. He couldn't find an American correspondent and so told his story to the editor of the Geneva Diplomat. On Nov 13 he was "hospitalized" by the US army in a closed psych ward and kept in virtual isolation until the assassination. On the evening of Nov 23 he was interviewed by a Secret Service agent who said that since Dinkin was in a psych ward he would be giving the government "absolutely no information."
He was transferred to Walter Reed in December and, in his words, "began receiving 'therapy' to help me understand that my warning of the assassination had been 'coincidental.'" He was told if he didn't improve he would be electro-shocked. Naturally, he feigned cooperation, "improved" and was released. His story, because it's told by a sick man, goes unmentioned by the Warren Commission.
In Illness as Metaphor Susan Sontag writes that "the most truthful way of regarding illness - and the healthiest way of being ill - is one most purified of, most resistant to, metaphoric thinking." But then ani difranco says we're 90% metaphor, which is a nicer thought than biology's animated sacks of blood and water, so perhaps it's alright after all. Though that still doesn't make us alright.
Capgras remains a rare condition in the material world usually precipitated by head trauma, but in the deep world it's a pandemic afflicting us metaphors. Many of us now know we're in a strange place that only resembles our home, and those who don't may no longer recognize us. (I know I've lost friends because of this; because they couldn't fathom where I was going or didn't want to come along. It makes me wish sometimes that when I told my wife, "You know, I've been thinking of starting a blog," that she'd replied, "You know, I don't think that's such a good idea.")
The canyon that's being carved in the West between underclass and overclass, and into which the middle class is being made to tumble, reifies the syndrome of the unrecognizable familiar. We have rulers who look like us, and appear to talk to us about what we're told are our concerns and values, yet whose experience and environment and whose own values are so alien to our own that they may as well be aliens themselves. In turn neither do they recognize themselves in us, and only grudgingly and for their own ends use the power of state with egalitarian beneficence. You could call them reptiles, but just as truthfully you can call them Morlocks. And if you do then you must know what they eat.
Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry says that "humanity may split into two sub-species in 100,000 years' time as predicted by HG Wells." He expects the emergence of "a genetic upper class and a dim-witted underclass":
The descendants of the genetic upper class would be tall, slim, healthy, attractive, intelligent, and creative and a far cry from the "underclass" humans who would have evolved into dim-witted, ugly, squat goblin-like creatures.
But in the nearer future, humans will evolve in 1,000 years into giants between 6ft and 7ft tall, he predicts, while life-spans will have extended to 120 years, Dr Curry claims. Physical appearance, driven by indicators of health, youth and fertility, will improve, he says, while men will exhibit symmetrical facial features, look athletic, and have squarer jaws, deeper voices and bigger penises.
Clearly Dr Curry has an acute case of Capgras-by-proxy. The onward-and-upward progress ideal upon which he mounts his projection bears only tangential resemblance to the future that is already squatting on our present. Decades before the worst-case scenarios it appears we've already entered a greenhouse gas feedback loop, while according to a study released this week by the Energy Watch Group world oil production peaked in 2006, and extreme near-term shortages can be expected to herald war and social breakdown.
Like Curry, HG Wells had it backwards, too. In our world, for whatever foreseeable future remains of it, it's the Molocks with their appetites and devil machines who are equipped to thrive. The ruling class won't be living a soft and pasty fantasy life for 100,000 years. They'll show, unambiguously, their goblin face.
Yet it's hard to argue with Curry's expectation of a "dim-witted underclass." Since there is a correlation between higher education and liberal and progressive values, a "dimming-down" has been long in the works by those who hold neither, but hold much else.
Mark Morford writes today of the horror in the heart of an Oakland high school teacher nearing retirement, who "says he is very seriously considering moving out of the country so as to escape what he sees will be the surefire collapse of functioning American society in the next handful of years due to the absolutely irrefutable destruction, the shocking — and nearly hopeless — dumb-ification of the American brain":
[He] simply observes his students, year to year, noting all the obvious evidence of teens' decreasing abilities when confronted with even the most basic intellectual tasks, from understanding simple history to working through moderately complex ideas to even (in a couple recent examples that particularly distressed him) being able to define the words "agriculture," or even "democracy." Not a single student could do it.
It gets worse. My friend cites the fact that, of the 6,000 high school students he estimates he's taught over the span of his career, only a small fraction now make it to his grade with a functioning understanding of written English. They do not know how to form a sentence. They cannot write an intelligible paragraph. Recently, after giving an assignment that required drawing lines, he realized that not a single student actually knew how to use a ruler.
Morford adds that their discussion then turns to "the bigger picture, the ugly and unavoidable truism about the lack of need among the government and the power elite in this nation to create a truly effective educational system, one that actually generates intelligent, thoughtful, articulate citizens." Perhaps the lack of need is, from the perspective of Morlocks, a need for lack among its overstocked herd of the tazed and confused.
In Nightside of Eden Kenneth Grant, Outer Head of the Typhonian OTO and founder of the Cult of Lam, writes that "the Mysteries, the true Gnosis, are of a predominantly psycho-sexual nature." If so, and if this is a time of mystery and revelation, perhaps we should expect more manifestations of psycho-sexual disturbance, both by way of illness and metaphor. And perhaps that's what we're seeing sometimes, when we can bear to look.