Which one of you is Jesus?

State Hospital from a distance

Writer Jenny Diski: “…In 1964, having spent some time myself in a psychiatric hospital, I read The Three Christs, and soon after came on Laing’s early books, which confirmed what I had seen in it. It has made me very wary of reading ‘case histories’, written about the disturbed by those who believe themselves to know better. It also seemed to me, aged 16, that The Three Christs of Ypsilanti contained everything there was to know about the world. That’s not the case of course, but if resources were short, I’d still be inclined to salvage this book as a way of explaining the terror of the human condition, and the astonishing fact that people battle for their rights and dignity in the face of that terror, in order to establish their place in the world, whatever they decide it has to be.” (via London Review of Books, September 2011).

The book to which she refers, The Three Christs of Ypsilanti, is by my uncle, the late psychologist Milton Rokeach. This brilliant and poignant study in the 1950s, an attempt  at a god-like manipulation of three deluded long-term denizens of a psychiatric hospital,  is well-described in Diski’s article and well worth your while if you are interested in the nature of belief and the boundaries of delusions.