The Book of Ruth

Morton Schatzman. The Story of Ruth. Duckworth, 1980.

This study, by an American psychiatrist working in Britain, is one of the most important studies of hallucinations, haunting, and 'possession' that has been published in a long time. 'Ruth' is a woman haunted by the apparition of her father, who had sexually abused her at the age of ten. He was still alive, in America, at the time of the 'haunting'. This fact, and Schatzman being an extremely open-minded psychiatrist, probably saved 'Ruth' from the exorcists and spiritualists on the one hand, and the mental hospital on the other.

Inspired by the dream-mastery techniques of Senoi, Schatzman's treatment was first to persuade "Ruth" (I shall drop the quotes from henceforth) that she was not mad, then to get her to gain control over the apparition and change her perception of the situation, from an affliction to a gift. He was able to get her to produce apparitions at will. During some of these experiments it was determined that the apparition acted upon Ruth's perceptions as if it was physically there. If it walked in front of a flashing light the electrical impulses of the brain (the 'visually evoked response') caused by the light, was cut off, as if a physical object had blocked the light. In another experiment, in which auditory responses were measured, she was asked to hallucinate her daughter removing a pair of headphones she (Ruth) was wearing. When she did so these responses also cut out, although the headphones were still emitting a series of clicks which created the response in the first place. Further experiments showed that the light and sound were still registering on the retina and eardrum, but were not being transmitted to the brain.

The apparitions could affect sight, sound and smell simultaneously and they possessed 'metachoric' features they seemed to affect the 'normal' environment, they could open and shut doors, lift up items, switch off lights, cast shadows and be seen in mirrors. But within this hallucinated environment, Ruth was unable to read by a hallucinated light.

There were hints of a weak 'collective' nature to some of the apparitions. Once a dog became restless as she tried to produce an apparition, and on a visit to America her father saw the apparition of her husband that she had 'created' in the car. Her husband saw an apparitional double of himself that she had conjured up.

It is tempting to speculate that if Ruth had been motivated to 'prmve' that the apparitions were really 'objective', instead of being motivated to prove their subjectivity, the resulting apparitions might have been even more 'collective'. Apparitions were not the only paranormal effect, for as part of her therapy Ruth became 'possessed' by her father in a sort of mediumistic trance, during which her 'father' communicated to Schatzman about his assault.

Reading this book one begins to understand the emotional power of ghosts; dead things which won't lie down and let the living get on with their lives, and to appreciate the significance of the traditional belief that one could end a ghost's power over you if you had the courage to speak to it.

This book is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand 'repeater' cases. It emphasises the importance of not regarding bizarre hallucinatory experiences as either proof of the supernatural or a symptom of madness, and it helps one understand the whole argument for the apparitional nature of the UFO experience. - Peter Rogerson. From Magonia 8, 1982.

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