Frederick C. Crews is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Follies of the Wise: Dissenting Essays.

Physician, Heal Thyself: Part II

Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Fliess, early 1890s
In the first part of this essay, a review of books by Gerald Imber and Howard Markel, we saw that William Halsted and Sigmund Freud, though superficially alike in their concern for medical applications of cocaine, were attracted to the drug for different reasons.1 Halsted had one goal in …

Physician, Heal Thyself: Part I

Sigmund Freud and Martha Bernays during their engagement, Wandsbeck, near Hamburg, 1885
Among American surgeons, William Stewart Halsted (1852–1922) was never the most dexterous or brilliant. Indeed, he wasn’t even minimally reliable during the second half of his forty-two-year surgical career. Offering spurious excuses, he absented himself for long periods from his duties at the Johns Hopkins University Hospital. When on hand, …

Talking Back to Prozac

During the summer of 2002, The Oprah Winfrey Show was graced by a visit from Ricky Williams, the Heisman Trophy holder and running back extraordinaire of the Miami Dolphins. Williams was there to confess that he suffered from painful and chronic shyness. Oprah and her audience were, of course, sympathetic.

Melville the Great

It ought to be relatively easy by now to get a clear general view of Herman Melville, whose reputation has long been unsurpassed among American writers. Although he left relatively few documentary traces and went unnoticed through the last three quarters of a literary career that began in the 1840s …

Kafka Up Close

When Franz Kafka died of tuberculosis in 1924 at age forty-one, he enjoyed a modest and largely local reputation. With the exception of a few renderings from German into Czech by his sometime lover Milena Jesenská, for example, not one of his works had been translated into any language. Things …

Out, Damned Blot!

“It’s a Rorschach.” That bit of everyday speech, referring to any equivocal stimulus that elicits self-betraying interpretations on all sides, is one sign among many that, in the popular mind at least, the vaunted inkblot challenge has no rival as psychology’s master test. In actuality, the Rorschach is now administered …

The Trauma Trap

Every now and then a book appears that can be instantly recognized as essential for its field—a work that must become standard reading if that field is to be purged of needless confusion and fortified against future errors of the same general kind. Such a book is Remembering Trauma, by …

Zen & the Art of Success

Michael Downing’s dramatic and thoughtful book begins with, and then encircles in widening orbits, a conference held in March 1983 at Zenshinji, or Zen Mind Temple, better known to the world as Tassajara. Tucked narrowly into a canyon of the forbidding Santa Lucia Mountains ten miles east of Big Sur …

Saving Us from Darwin, Part II

In a recent essay in these pages I argued that “intelligent design”—the theory that cells, organs, and organisms betray unmistakable signs of having been fashioned by a divine hand—bears only a parodic relationship to a research-based scientific movement.[^1] In a world where empirical issues were settled on strictly empirical grounds, …

Saving Us from Darwin

It is no secret that science and religion, once allied in homage to divinely crafted harmonies, have long been growing apart. As the scientific worldview has become more authoritative and self-sufficient, it has loosed a cascade of appalling fears: that the human soul, insofar as it can be said to …

The Mindsnatchers

According to a Time/CNN poll published a year ago, 64 percent of Americans now believe that creatures from elsewhere in the universe have recently been in personal touch with human beings.[^1] One such mortal, Whitley Strieber, writes that he has “received nearly a quarter of a million letters claiming contact” …

The Consolation of Theosophy II

With the publication in 1995 of Peter Washington’s admirable study Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon,[^1] readers now at last have access to a judicious as well as an entertaining account of Theosophy, a late-nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century movement that conjoined religious syncretism to esotericism on the one hand and liberal idealism on the other.

The Consolation of Theosophy

During my several decades of teaching literature at Berkeley, one of my favorite offerings proved to be a large introductory lecture course on modern British and American authors. Ialways found it a pleasure to lead wary but game lower-division students at least partway into the rarefied, highly wrought worlds of …

The Revenge of the Repressed: Part II

Throughout the American 1980s and beyond, the interrogation of small children for their memories of recent sexual abuse played a role in many a criminal case against accused molesters who had not, in fact, done anything wrong. The social and financial costs have been enormous. To take only the most …

The Revenge of the Repressed

Throughout the past decade or so, a shock wave has been sweeping across North American psychotherapy, and in the process causing major repercussions within our families, courts, and hospitals. A single diagnosis for miscellaneous complaints—that of unconsciously repressed sexual abuse in childhood—has grown in this brief span from virtual nonexistence …