Dalrymple discusses Try to Remember by Paul R. McHugh, M.D. in today’s Wall Street Journal.
Our lives are more deeply affected by science and technology than ever before, but that does not mean that we are more rational than our forefathers in our everyday conduct. Superstition springs eternal in the human mind, or gut, and the fact that Charles Mackay’s great book, “Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,” published in 1843, should be so pertinent to our current economic situation proves it.
One of the most extraordinary outbreaks of popular delusion in recent years was that which attached to the possibility of “recovered memory” of sexual and satanic childhood abuse, and to an illness it supposedly caused, Multiple Personality Disorder. No medieval peasant praying to a household god for the recovery of his pig could have been more credulous than scores of psychiatrists, hosts of therapists and thousands of willing victims. The whole episode would have been funny had it not been so tragic.