Crazy Woman in the Cellar
Do things you know “for sure” ever turn out to be unverifiable?
Did you ever share what you thought was sourced and vetted information, which turned out to be unverifiable? This happened to me when I thought I was quoting Joseph Campbell:
Most psychology tries to adapt the person to the misconceptions of the community. Real religion tries to rid the person of misconceptions.
That is the gist of it, but when challenged for the source of it, I couldn’t find it in Campbell’s work. I thought maybe it was from somebody other than Campbell, but no variation on it as a search term brought up the source.
Still, I know I saw it somewhere.
I also recall reading, many years ago, that in colonial America there were a lot of women locked in cellars because they were deemed mad. When I began to look for evidence of this years later, I couldn’t find it. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t true, it just means that it doesn’t come up in a search of colonial America and mad women in the cellars. But today something did come up.
The Madwoman in the Cellar
I found an account of Patrick Henry’s wife who went mad and was locked in the cellar, sometimes in a straitjacket so she wouldn’t harm herself. The isolation must have been maddening in itself.
There was an asylum in the colony of Virginia, Eastern State Hospital, the first public asylum in the United States. In these early days the idea was to hold the insane against their will and keep them out of sight. So it was common to take care of your own mad family members.
But the question lingers, why women?
Maybe there were as many men considered mad, but it appears women bore the brunt of the “illness” of being unreasonable. It was the age of Enlightenment, when reason was being applied to everything. In other words, people were trying to be rational, which is a decidedly left hemisphere process, and thus, a masculine outlook. I suspect that, as usual, it was a matter of something’s being so obviously right and good, there was an assumption that it couldn’t be overdone. How you overdo reason?
You can overdo anything, as every virtue has an attendant vice which is the virtue carried too far. For example, generosity becomes profligate and correctness becomes prudery.
Hysteria wasn’t to be diagnosed until 1880, by Jean Martin Charcot, at Pitié-Salpêtrière in Paris. And what is hysteria? It is defined as ungovernable emotional excess. Interesting that as the mind became more and more governed by rationality, there was a counter effect in the feminine, of chaos.
Reason below the solar plexus is a foreign occupation of sovereign territory.
To the writer’s mind, libertarian Patrick Henry’s having a wife gone mad and locked in the cellar has a symmetry which suggests a secret cause.
“Pity is the feeling which arrests the mind in the presence of whatsoever is grave and constant in human sufferings and unites it with the human sufferer. Terror is the feeling which arrests the mind in the presence of whatsoever is grave and constant in human sufferings and unites it with the secret cause.” (James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man)
The quote I thought was from Campbell, but evidently is not, I will hold in trust until somebody shows up with its credentials. I will now try to recall it more exactly, as it registered in my memory:
Most psychology, as it is called, attempts to adapt a person to the misconceptions of the community. Real religion attempts to rid the person of misconceptions.