a timeline in the history of madness, your opinions?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : History & Theory of Psychology : One Thread

Hi Everyone,

I'm hoping for some feedback on a timeline in the history of madness I have online, as it seems to be getting (weirdly) a lot of attention, and I'm concerned that it might not be accurate.

If anyone has the time or inclination to have a glance and let me know of any glaring errors or omissions, I'd appreciate that very much; it was a sort of project of mine in the undergraduate days (before computers) =:O that I resurrected and added to a bit for the site.

the url is: http://laingsociety.org/cetera/timeline.htm

thanks so much,

Margreta Carr

-- Margreta Carr (m.carr@decaelo.com), April 02, 2004


I don't want to be discouraging, but I think you should be much more critical about your sources -- just because someone wrote it doesn't make it so. In any case, you should explicitly list all your sources.

I can't possibly comment on your whole chronology, but I note just from among the first few entries:

Menes is widely thought by Egyptologists to have been a mythical figure, and so probably didn't write anything. I can find no reliable reference to the text you cite, "Secret Book of the Heart." Does an authenticated copy still exist, or is it only mentioned in later works?

What Hippocrates, the man, believed is hard for us to say because the writings actually by him are interspersed with books by other later "Hippocratics." Indeed, many works in the "Hippocratic Corpus" (as it is known) directly contradict each other. In any case, it was widely believed in the ancient world that he held a "three-organ" position with respect to the psyche (brain, heart, liver), not a brain-only position.

Aristotle is equivocal with respect to the location of the psyche. He does mention anger being caused by a boiling of the blood around the heart, and Hellenistic followers of his did hold this view and attribute it to him, but his major work on the psyche (now commonly known under the Latin title "De Anima") argues that the psyche has no one location but emerges from the operation and organization of the living body.

Depending on this very old, unreliable text about Theophrastus is unfortunate. Just for instance, according to modern scholarship, Theophrastus' dates are c. 371- c. 286 (Edwards' _Encyclopedia of Philosophy_ (1967)), making him about 85 at death, not 99. Also, calling the document "the original DSM" is a troubling anachronism.

From what source does your attribution to "Asclepiades" come?

I assume you mean Celsus (note the spelling) the first century physician, not Celcus, the Roman Proconsul of Ephesus, yes? (Nor the 2nd-century Platonist philosopher, Celsus, who debated with Origen.) Could you cite the passage in _De Medicina_ (N.B. many of the massage pages that cite this work misspell the title) in which he recommends these kinds of treatments?

Galen, like Hippocrates, held a three-organ position with respect to the psyche. This is, in fact,the main thrust of his work, _On the Doctirnes of Plato and Hippocrates_

Several others placed specific mental functions in the various ventricles prior to Avicenna. See my article on the topic in a recent issue of the _Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences_.

The proportion of deaths you report with respect to plague of the (mainly) 1350s is on the high side. Many scholars peg the numbers quite a bit lower than this.

That's just a few of my quibbles. As above, I think it is extremely important that you report your sources.

-- Christopher Green (christo@yorku.ca), April 03, 2004.

Hello Christopher,

Thank you very much for taking the time to review the Timeline and provide your view. I've only noted a couple of points here which might be noteworthy for your list readers.

The Secret Book of the Heart is noted in Christopher Hobbs, History of Western Herbalism. Hobbs, L.Ac., A.H.G., is a fourth-generation herbalist, lectures at Yale and Harvard, founded a library in 1968 which has grown to 3500 books on the subject (maybe he has a copy of the Secret Book). He cited as his source, Sigerist, H.E. 1951. A History of Medicine, 2 vols. New York: Oxford University Press (vol 1, p. 108).

Perhaps you found sources who seek to 'mythologise' Menes by association, since there is some commentary about associating Menes with Hermes Trismesgistos, and the Corpus Hermeticum being something rather occult, better to just say they were all some sort of Egyptian mythology? I've often read arguments calling into question that Hermes himself ever lived; apparently the extant details of his death in Rome don't seem to dispell that doubt.

I'm honestly very surprised to read your reference to Egyptologists "widely" questioning the actual existence of Menes since I have never come across a commentary that questioned the existence of Menes who was the ruler of the first Dynasty, so thoroughly referenced as having unified Upper and Lower Egypt. Certainly there's debate over the years of his rule, set by Bunsen at B.C. 3643, by Lepsius at B.C. 3892, and by Poole at B.C. 2717 which has led to speculation that the consideration that the whole process probably required more than one very strong ruler - in addition to Menes - but with high consensus the unification occurred around 3100, it's difficult to not think some try to argue outside of this to stir things up in scholarly circles. Something to publish, as it were.

I would have appreciated reference to one or two Egyptologists who claim Menes did not exist, since I was unable to locate such on the Internet.

Regarding Theophrastus, I have no disagreement with you regarding the inferiority of the text, which is noted on the index page of the site hosting it, i.e.,

"...a complete translation of Theophrastus' The Characters, which, admittedly mediocre in this millennium, was probably hot property when first published in 1628."

As you would appreciate from the process of placing online an archive of published work, the advantage of this translation is its expired copyright. There is no other complete text of the Characters on the Internet, and both Bob Sharples and Dory Scaltsas were delighted with it and glad they had something to refer their students to, until some time that The Characters can be included in Project Theophrastus online archive. As of 1999, there were approximately 139 published versions of The Characters (not exclusively in English), I happened to find one sitting on the table in the University of Edinburgh Phil Dept. library, and it was love at first sight. Not by any means the lovely Loeb deluxe-edition, with two extra 'characters' even, but illustrating quite vividly how qualities that were once considered ignoble are now considered admirable.

Regarding having lived to be 99, (as Theophrastus claims in his dedication to Polycles), I'm prepared to take his word for it.

It would have been a pleasure to pursue all of the points you mentioned and believe it would have made enjoyable reading for your list, but I found the tone of your letter so mean-spirited, (your opening disclaimer notwithstanding), and your claim to "widely held" beliefs about Menes so inaccurate that it does not appear that your interests are kindred to mine, so I will not offend your list with my communications further, Christopher.


Margreta Carr

"There is light and life and joy and freshness yet." http://laingsociety.org

-- Margreta Carr (m.carr@decaelo.com), April 03, 2004.

I am sorry if you found my reply "mean-spirited." I intended it only to be factual.

As for Menes, I would first direct you to the entry in Michael Rice's _Who's Who in Ancient Egypt_ (Routledge, 1999). For more detailed discussions, see Rice's _Egypt's Making_ (Routledge, 1990) and Nicolas Grimal's _A History of Ancient Egypt_ (Blackwell, 1992). It is true that Menes appeared in Manetho's classic list of the Pharaohs (c. 280 bc), but research over the past two centuries (i.e., since the heiroglyphic language was deciphered) has revised many of Manetho's claims. I may have slightly oversimplified by baldly calling Menes a "myth." The problem is that we know almost nothing about him other than the story (which seems to have originated in a much later period in Egypt's long history) that Menes unified the two kingdoms upper and lower Egypt. Some have attmpeted to identify him with Narmer (about whom only slightly more is known), and/or with the the "Scorpion King" (about whom equally little is known). Many egyptologists have come to believe that Menes was simply a name given by later Egyptians to whatever unknown (to them as well) person or process gave rise to the original unification of the country.

A connection with the _Corpus Hermeticum_ doesn't help much here, I'm afraid. Those texts (along with the _Asclepius_) are now generally believed to have been first written in the first century or second century AD. I refer you to the introduction to Brian P. Copenhaver's _Hermetica_ for an extended discussion of the evidence for that conclusion.

-- Christopher Green (cgreen@chass.utornoto.ca), April 03, 2004.

Just becaue the topic intersts me, I decided to go track down the sources given for "Menes" and the "Secret Book of the Heart." Manetho himself says little more about "Menes" than is given in Christopher Hobbs herbalism website. (He is also said to have come from "This," ruled for 62 years, and to have been killed by a hippopotamus, possibly a hippo god). There are a couple mentions of the same individual, under the name of "Min" in Herodotus' _Histories_. Little more information, however, except that he built dam that cleared the area around Memphis and built a temple to "Hephaestus" (the Greek routinely attmpted to asismlate others' systems of gods to their own).

As for the Sigerist passage Hobbs cites, he says only that "Egyptian and Greek traditions agree that Menes, the founder of the 1st Dynasty, united Upper and Lower Egypt" (p. 226). The book is now over 50 years old and so, understandably, he cites some quite old, then-"standard" Egyptological works. There has been much learned about ancient Egypt since the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. There is no mention of a _Secret Book of the Heart._ (Actually, if you look closley at Hobbs' passage, he mentions the book just *after* the citation.) However, in another passage of Sigerist (p. 299), not cited by Hobbs, there is a mention of a _Book on the Vessels of the Heart_, but in a paragraph that begins with the warning that we have no papyri or medical inscriptions from the Old Kingdom, only later documents claiming to have originated from that period. As Sigerist writes, "we need not necessarily believe the stories that serve as introductions to some of the books preserved and tend to link them up with the gods and with the eraly rulers."

In any case, this book not attributed to Menes. One tradition says it was found under a statue of Anubis and brought to "Usephais" or "Usaphais," a pharaoh from near the end of the 1st Dynasty (a.k.a. Den, Udimu, and Khasty, according to Grimal).

-- Christopher Green (cgreen@chass.utoronto.ca), April 03, 2004.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ