Thursday, October 21, 2010

Alienists, Neurologists, and Heavenly Bridegrooms



While writing the last post on Dr. Charles Hamilton Hughes, it became apparent that his journal published some very unusual articles. As would be expected of late 19th-early 20th century psychiatry, the Alienist and Neurologist contained some material that is highly offensive by today's standards:
The Asexualization of the Unfit

Prevention of Growth and Extension of Care of our Feeble-Minded Population

Insanity in the Colored Race in the United States

Sexual Inversion among Primitive Races
...you get the idea. So it was surprising to find a lengthy editorial that expressed relatively progressive ideas about mental illness:
The presence of insane persons in penal institutions is extremely detrimental to discipline for they cannot be punished as a normal prisoner should be, because of their defective sense of responsibility, and advantages are taken of this humanitarian leniency by the more intelligent prisoner to commit offences against the rules. No less than seventy-five per cent of the men who appear before the disciplinary officer of the Indiana State Prison are mentally defective.

What have been the reasons that this outrage has been permitted to exist as a blot upon the escutcheon of our social justice? Why have we stigmatised mentally sick individuals as criminals? The answer is to be found in our ignorance of the psychology of crime...

—Paul E. Bowers, M. S., M. D., Medical Superintendent, Indiana Hospital for Insane Criminals, Michigan City, Indiana.
But beyond the good, the bad and the ugly, the strangest article has to be Heavenly Bridegrooms, which is the text of an unpublished book written by Ida Craddock, who has been called a "Sexual Mystic and Martyr for Freedom".



Despite her many accomplishments, however, she appears to have held the delusional belief that she had an angel for a lover:
It has been my high privilege to have some practical experience as the earthly wife of an angel from the unseen world. In the interests of psychical research, I have tried to explore this pathway of communication with the spiritual universe, and, so far as lay in my power, to make a sort of rough guidebook of the route.
Craddock's manuscript was obtained by free speech lawyer Theodore Schroeder a number of years after her death. Alienist and Neurologist (Volume XVI, 1895) published the treatise in its entirety, along with this introduction by Schroeder (who managed to put himself as first author):

HEAVENLY BRIDEGROOMS
By Theodore Schroeder
AND Ida C.
Explanatory Note.—In the course of my studies on the erotogenesis of religion I became interested in the life work and mental characteristics of one Ida C, a woman who committed suicide in her forty-fifth year. I first heard of her after her death, but it seemed to me that a psychologic study of her would yield rich materials as a contribution to the psychology of religion. Consequently, I bestirred myself to secure information, both biographical and auto-biographical. Among the materials gathered was her life long correspondence with friends, a number of published essays written by her, some scraps of manuscripts, and two completed but unpublished book manuscripts. This material will later constitute the subject of my analysis. Ida C was for a number of years a college teacher and for a long time associated with various kinds of free-thinking heretics. She was never married. In due time she became the victim of erotic hallucinations to which she gave a "spiritual" interpretation. Later, when her conduct brought her to the verge of incarceration in a jail or in an asylum, she endeavored frankly to meet the issue of her own insanity. The resultant investigation to her mind seemed a complete vindication, not only of her sanity, but also, of the objective reality and spirituality of her erotic experiences. This vindication she reduced to writing. The manuscript is now in my possession. It seems to me under the circumstances of this case and the future studies which I am going to make, partly from other papers of the same author, that this is too valuable a document to be mutilated by editing...
Craddock's other writings included Right Marital Living [somewhat NSFW], which strongly endorsed sex for pleasure and not just procreative purposes. This publication was considered obscene and pornographic by her nemesis Anthony Comstock, censorial Postal Inspector and Victorian prude. According to Wikipedia:
Mass distribution of Right Marital Living through the U.S. Mail after its publication as a featured article in the medical journal The Chicago Clinic1 led to an 1899 Chicago Federal indictment of Craddock. She pled guilty and received a suspended sentence. A subsequent 1902 New York Federal trial on charges of sending The Wedding Night through the mail during a sting operation ended with her conviction. She refused to plead insanity as a condition to avoid prison time and was sentenced to three months in prison... Upon her release, Comstock immediately re-arrested her for violations of the federal Comstock law and on October 10 she was tried and convicted; the judge declaring that The Wedding Night, was so “obscene, lewd, lascivious, dirty” that the jury should not be allowed to see it during the trial. At age forty-five, she saw her five year sentence as a life term and so committed suicide, by slashing her wrists and inhaling natural gas from the oven in her apartment, on October 16, 1902 the day before reporting to Federal prison.
Craddock was an independent, educated feminist, a prolific writer with visionary views on human sexuality and religious visions of sexual union.2 Sexual Outlaw, Erotic Mystic: The Essential Ida Craddock will be published in paperback on December 1, 2010. Here's what contemporary sexologists have to say in their amazon.com reviews:
"Sexual Outlaw, Erotic Mystic is an excellent book about fascinating topics! A great addition to any respectable sex library." -Annie Sprinkle Ph.D., Sex Worker turned author and Ecosexual Sexecologist

"While many of her ideas would be laughable by the standards of sexologists today, they were visionary in the late 1800's. Simply by being willing to discuss sexuality at all and espousing its enjoyment as a right for women as well as men, Ida Craddock was a pioneer and deserves to be known. Vere Chappell's Sexual Outlaw, Erotic Mystic: The Essential Ida Craddock informs us thoroughly on the life and work of this remarkable woman." -Isadora Alman MFT, Ask Isadora columnist

Footnotes

1 This appears to be a different version of the article.

2 Hypergraphia, obsession with religious and sexual themes, delusions, ...

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