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Le Défi magique, volume 2

 | 
Massimo Introvigne
, 
Jean-Baptiste Martin

La question du satanisme aujourd'hui

The demonization of psychopathology

Sherrill Mulhern

Résumé

Depuis les années 1970, un renouvellement de la croyance populaire en l’existence d’un réseau international de sectes sataniques a déclenché une série de paniques aux Etats-Unis. La rumeur satanique est actuellement soutenue par des récits que nous tenons des victimes présumées des rituels meurtriers et orgastiques perpétrés par des sectes sanguinaires et anthropophages. Selon les « survivantes », ces rituels comportent des viols collectifs et des tortures surtout infligées à des toutes jeunes filles dans le but de glorifier Satan, d’avoir des bébés pour les sacrifices, et de « programmer » les participants de manière à ce qu’ils se mettent sans contestation au service de Satan. La crédibilité des comptes rendus est attestée par les psychiatres et psychothérapeutes, en particulier ceux qui pratiquent l’hypnose, qui affirment avoir mis au jour les « souvenirs » diaboliques de leurs patients, adultes et enfants, pendant leurs thérapies. Nous évoquerons clans cet exposé : 1) la manière dont les « dites » survivantes en viennent à « vivifier et remémorer » leurs souvenirs inconscients de rituels sataniques ; 2) comment les thérapeutes en viennent à penser qu’ils exhument des souvenirs d’événements vécus ; et 3) comment les thérapeutes « convertis » et leurs patients ont propagé la rumeur satanique pendant les dix dernières années.

Texte intégral

1. Introduction

1All cultures recognize that the sensation of losing oneself, of being controlled or taken over by an alien entity is a very real affliction. Until the rise of the Christian era, the preferred method of relieving the distress of those who suffered from this experience was to allow the intruders into the interactive world of human affairs. Gods, ghosts, spirit guides and demons were dealt with directly as volitional beings. Once they had been embodied in their long-suffering hosts, they were socialized according to agreed upon human rules which, among other things, defined their goings and comings and limited their potentially anti-social behavior (Mulhern, 1991).

2Although the facticity of spirits remained a basic tenet of the Judeo-Christian world view, attempting to manipulate their super-human powers was strictly forbidden. According to the dualistic vision of good and evil which emerged during the historical period of Apocalyptic Judaism, spirits which can be manipulated are necessarily evil spirits; God and the angels can only be supplicated (Russell, 1980). As monotheistic Christianity spread across the Mediterranean basin and upwards into northern Europe, the lives of those who suffered from what had traditionally been described as soul loss and/or spirit possession were gradually transformed into a living hell.

3The social construction of diabolical possession extended over a period of several hundred years. During that time, successive waves of self-appointed witch-hunters and officially sanctioned inquisitors attempted to eradicate all forms of social interaction with embodied spirits (Cohen, 1975). Paradoxically, the excessive violence of their methods noticeably exacerbated a series of possession epidemics.

4Throughout the witch-craze, there were skeptics who questioned the accuracy of the confessions of those accused of consorting with the devil. They underscored the striking similarities which existed between the techniques employed to extort confessions and the allegedly nefarious practices of those who had been indicted (Weyer, 1583). Unfortunately, although some had a significant following, by and large their calls for restraint were ignored. Historian Jeffrey Burton Russell has contended that their efforts were ineffectual, largely because they were arguing within the same Christian framework as the witch-hunters. The learned men, who dismissed many of the confessions of accused witches as distorted fantasies, still believed in the reality of the devil and his demons. Before the witch-hunt collapsed at the end of the 17th century, hundreds of thousands of individuals would be tortured and burned at the stake

5In the end, the pins and fires of the inquisitors were not so much defeated as they were rendered irrelevant by the emergence of the scientific perspective at the end of the 17th century. In a world which could be explained by ordered, mechanical laws, belief in the power of pacts with the devil was dismissed as superstition (Russell, 1980). The theoretical framework of what would become the psychopathological understanding of demon possession had actually been laid out in the 16th century by Dr. Johann Weyer. His monumental critical analysis of the spreading witch-craze of that period, De Praestigiis Daemonum, argued that intrinsic to the phenomenon of witchcraft is a disturbance of the imagination. It is this faculty, which he situated at the interface between bodily senses and mental functions, which blends together both external and internal images, sensations and impressions. Moreover, the imagination is capable of creating images without external stimulation which are incorporated into the complex picture which it presents to the mind (Weyer, 1583)·

2. The psychopathology of demon possession

6The scientific intelligentsia of the 17th century, particularly in France, agreed with Weyer’s conclusion that persons who admitted having had sexual relations with the devil during bloody Sabbath rituals were undoubtedly deluded, haunted by figments of their imaginations. As a result, would-be witches were entrusted to medical practitioners, such as Phillippe Pinel (1745-1826) and his successor Jean Etienne-Dominique Esquirol (1772-1849) who diagnosed them as demonopaths, imbeciles or hysterics and confined them to institutions for treatment (Esquirol, 1838; Swales, 1982).

7During most of the 18th and the early 19th centuries, clinical psychiatry and demons were not on speaking terms. Although many patients continued to present themselves as possessed, doctors sought to understand them within a secular frame of reference (Ellenburger, 1970). The confusing array of symptoms exhibited by the mentally ill, particularly those who had been diagnosed as hysterics, were associated with characteristic memory problems and altered states of consciousness (Ribot, 1881). Doctors probed patients’ brains for clues to the causes of their amnesias. Concomitantly, their case histories were reviewed as clinicians sought to isolate the specific contexts in which mental illness emerged.

8Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the efforts of psychiatry came to a climax in France. Jean Martin Charcot and his disciples proposed a clinical description of hysteria, using hypnosis to evoke and control patients’ symptoms. In addition, Charcot thoroughly documented the analogy which existed between the somatic symptoms of hysterics and those which historically had been attributed to witchcraft and demon possession. Moreover, he ascertained that these altered states of consciousness could be duplicated experimentally when patients entered hypnotic trance.

9Initially, Charcot described hysteria as a physiological disorder. However, by 1885, he had shifted his opinion. Although the general consensus remained that these patients suffered from an organic nervous weakness, Charcot began recognizing that the origin of patients’ extraordinary physiological and psychological manifestations was purely psychological. When hysterics experienced traumatic events, they failed to represent them in unified memory. Instead, they split off these memories and stored them outside of conscious awareness. However, when hysterics entered hypnotic trance, the hidden memories could be reawakened; a procedure which invariably alleviated many of their tenacious somatic symptoms. In some cases, hypnotized patients changed their behaviors, expressions and affects so dramatically that they appeared to have two or more personalities.

10At the end of the 19th century, Charcot’s discoveries made a lasting impression on Sigmund Freud, who had come to Paris to further his medical training. Initially, Freud was enthusiastic about hypnosis which he viewed as an effective tool for probing patients’ memories for details of their traumatic past. He believed that he had made a significant discovery when he observed that all of his patients eventually recovered memories of being subjected to sexual aggressions during infancy (Freud, 1895). However, shortly after he published his Etiology of Hysteria in 1895, he became deeply dissatisfied with hypnotic techniques. He found that he could not successfully close off therapy; patients either left treatment or remained symptomatic. Moreover, as he continued to delve into their unconscious memories, patients’ stories of their early traumas became increasingly improbable. He found it difficult to believe not only in the ubiquitousness of incest but also in the stories of ritualized sexual torture which patients like Ema Eckstein had begun «remembering” (Freud, 1950).

11Freud’s rejection of hypnosis and of his seduction theory of hysteria marked the beginning of modern psychiatry. Although, he never denied that some patients were indeed the victims of childhood trauma, he recognized that the exact nature of that trauma could not be determined with therapeutic techniques. The unconscious is inexhaustible. It contains not only memories of trauma but also of frustrated, repressed desires. Once these images have been evoked through hypnosis and cathected it is impossible to determine their historical veracity. They emerge in consciousness, where they take on form, substance and affect, only to recede once again into the incessantly creative realm from which they came.

3. The children of Eve

12By the middle of the 20th century, as interest in clinical hypnosis declined, hysterics and their alter personalities who had so fascinated the early theoreticians of the unconscious all but disappeared from the therapeutic milieu. In 1954, when two relatively unknown hypno-therapists published «A Case of Multiple Personality» in The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, the case was considered so unique that it was dramatized in an academy-award-winning film: The Three Faces of Eve (Thigpen & Cleckley, 1954). Although both the original clinical report and the melodramatic film presented a naive, misleading picture of the disorder, they nevertheless sanctioned the embodiment of alternative personalities as an acceptable form of symptom presentation.

13Shortly after the film’s release in 1957, «Eve’s» original therapists reported receiving dozens of calls from female patients declaring that they were suffering from the same condition. (They also reported receiving a number of letters from American occultists urging them to consider a spiritualist understanding of the nature of Eve’s alters!). Although Thigpen and Cleckley dismissed this first cohort as simulators, over the next two decades,-other therapists from across the United States reported stumbling across cases of multiple personality (Kenney, 1986). The clinical picture of multiple personality disorder became clearer as therapists treating MPD began exchanging information, particularly data obtained from large patient cohorts (Allison, 1977; Bliss, 1980; Kluft, 1984).

14In 1977, Dr. Ralph Allison, drawing from a 30-patient sample, hypothesized that MPD is «due to a combination of factors, including inborn inability to learn from errors, unwillingness to make moral choices, being highly sensitive to others’ emotions and living in a polarized family». It is important to note that his proposed etiology of MPD was considerably more circumspect than that which had made headlines in 1973 when the sensational case of the patient called Sybil was brought to the attention of both medical professionals and the general public in a popular book written by feminist journalist Flora Rheta Schreiber (Schreiber, 1973).

15The narrative summarized nearly two decades of intensive psychotherapy, which included both hypno-analysis and barbiturates, during which the patient’s 16 personalities, with the help of her doctor, Cornelia Wilbur, had pieced together the story of a childhood shattered by sadistic physical and sexual tortures (Kenney, 1986). Although medical journals refused to publish Dr. Wilbur’s clinical report, Schreiber’s graphic-descriptions of amnesias, fugue episodes, child abuse and conflicts among alters were made to order for Hollywood. Ironically, the movie Sybil featured the same actress who had incarnated Eve twenty years earlier. This time, however, she played the role of Dr. Wilbur, the psychiatrist. In all probability the media glorification of Sybil was decisive in establishing the case as a template against which all other MPD patients were and are still compared and understood (Putnam, 1989).

16Throughout the 1970s Cornelia Wilbur, in collaboration with Dr. Arnold Ludwig and other associates in the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Kentucky had published an influential series of MPD case reports and papers on dissociation (Ludwig et al., 1972; Ludwig, 1966). Although Ludwig maintained that the dissociative process which characterizes MPD can be triggered by a variety of social and environmental circumstances including the intentional brainwashing reported by war veterans and the religious rites of new religious cults, the majority of patients treated by Wilbur appear to have been victims of child abuse. Many of these patients reported coming from strict, often puritanical, intensely religious fundamentalist family backgrounds (Higdon, 1986). After therapy, some exhibited alter personalities who recalled not only having been subjected to severe corporal punishment but also having survived repeated sado-masochistic sexual abuse, gang rape, entombment, mutilation and occasionally having witnessed infanticide (Wilbur, 1984).

17In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association, which had been ardently lobbied by a small but growing group of clinicians and their patients, reintroduced the diagnosis multiple personality disorder (MPD), simultaneously eliminating the diagnosis of hysteria in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM III, 1980). Although MPD was still described as rare, it had been declared «real». In other words, clinicians could no longer simply refuse to diagnose the disorder because they «did not believe in it» without risking a medical malpractice suit. Moreover, patients who received the diagnosis could apply to their insurance companies for reimbursement for the years of intensive psychotherapy which experts in MPD insisted were necessary to ensure their cure.

18The rehabilitation of the MPD diagnosis triggered a flurry of American television documentaries during which journalists constantly reminded viewers, who might be tempted to laugh at the sight of adults abruptly changing into whining children, that these patients had been forced to develop their numerous alter personalities in order to escape from the horrors of repeated, brutal torture during their childhoods. Although the correlation between the quantity and the quality of abuse and the development of MPD had never been proven scientifically, it was the media’s dramatization of patients’ memories of sadistic torture which made their extraordinary behavior appear plausible. Between 1980 and 1990, the number of cases of multiple personality disorder (MPD) diagnosed in the United States grew from a handful to over thirty thousand. Proponents of MPD maintain that it is still vastly under-diagnosed and that at least one percent of the population of North America (+/-3,000,000 people) probably suffers from the disorder (Ross, 1989).

19In addition to the impact of the media glamorization of alter personalities, two social factors stand out as essential to any understanding of the current epidemic of MPD, which is unprecedented in the history of psychiatry: (1) the rehabilitation of hypnosis as an effective psychotherapeutic technique for the recovery of pernicious traumatic memories and (2) broad societal acknowledgment of the reality of rampant physical and sexual abuse of children which has been endorsed by a coalition of law enforcement, mental health professionals, social workers and the powerful American feminist movement (Mulhern, 1991c).

4. Hypnosis and the memories of trauma

20Acceptance of clinical hypnosis among American psychotherapists can be traced to the aftermath of the two world wars. The successes of military psychiatrists, who had resorted to hypnotic and/or drug induced abreaction when traditional psychoanalysis failed to eliminate the debilitating psychological sequela of battlefield trauma, bolstered clinicians’ confidence in the legitimacy of hypnosis as a therapeutic technique (Putnam, 1989). Beginning in the 1950s, more than five million dollars in U.S Government funding was made available to encourage research into hypnotic phenomena. Experimental studies of normal subjects established that (1) hypnotizability is not shared equally by all members of the general population; (2) that in response to external and auto-hypnotic suggestions, high hypnotizables can exhibit both extraordinary physiological transformations such as stigmata and compelling psychological transformations such as alter personalities; and (3) that the phenomena of hypnotic hypermnesia (the apparent enhancement of a subject’s memory when in hypnoid states), is essentially an unreliable, albeit compelling illusion (Laurence & Perry, 1988; Pettinati, 1988).

21Although recovering memories through hypnosis does not ensure historical accuracy, hypnotized subjects experience all of the memories which they recall as if they were equally real. It is this subjective experience of authenticity which significantly increases the assurance and persuasiveness with which subjects relate their recovered memories when they return to the normal conscious state (Bowers & Hilgard, 1988; Erdelyi, 1988; Evans, 1988; Frankel, 1988; Hollender, 1988; Orne et al., 1988; Perry et al., 1988).

22These troubling findings persuaded American legislators to restrict hypnosis in forensic settings; however, clinicians continued to emphasize the tremendous therapeutic benefit that could be gained from using hypnosis and narcosynthesis to allow traumatized patients to reconnect with lost memories and emotions. They asserted that-because it is both relaxing and likely to help dissociate emotion from cognition, hypnosis may minimize the psychic pain that normally accompanies the remembering of traumatic, forgotten events». Clinicians familiar with the problems posed by confabulation and suggestion maintained that «all the factors which contribute unintentionally to memory distortion in hypnosis... may be centrally important in the clinical setting and contribute in a major way to the healing process» (Pettinati, 1988). In 1980, Loftus and Loftus conducted a survey to determine people’s beliefs of how memory works. 46% of the study population of 169 individuals had received formal graduate training in psychology. It was found that 84% of the psychologists agreed that hypnosis is effective for memory enhancement.

5. From the battered child to the Freudian coverup

23During the decade of relative peace which followed the Korean War, the theater of psychological trauma moved from the battlefield to the living room of the American home. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, medical doctors in the United States had been documenting the fact that many infants brought into hospital emergency rooms for treatment of allegedly accidental physical trauma were actually the victims of physical aggression perpetrated by their own parents or guardians. In 1962, Kempe, Silverman and Steele published «The Battered Child Syndrome,» a landmark study which clearly demonstrated the reality of family violence which society had heretofore preferred to ignore (Kempe et al., 1962).

24The enormity of the problem of child abuse was underscored by the active American feminist movement. Beginning in the mid 1970s women had organized self-help groups and shelters for rape victims and battered wives. Almost as soon as they were created, these organizations were overwhelmed. As the numbers of victims grew to epidemic proportions, the ages of those seeking assistance fell. It became clear that even very young children were victims not only of physical abuse and neglect but also of violent sexual assault.

25Feminist «consciousness raising» sessions were established to provide a forum in which women could reveal the details of their childhood victimization and be taken seriously. However, as the veil lifted on society’s dirty secret, a second group of «victims» gradually emerged. Women, who had experienced persistent psychological and somatic symptoms but who had initially entered feminist groups with no conscious memory of ever having experienced sexual abuse, suddenly began suffering from intrusive images of physical and sexual violence that they had apparently forgotten. Increasingly, they interpreted their sufferings as the psychophysiological sequela of child abuse and turned to psychotherapy for relief.

26In the United States during the 1970s, the fundamental Freudian theorem that most psychopathology is the result of intrapsychic conflict between unacknowledged instinctual drives and the demands of external reality came under increasing critical scrutiny (Masson, 1984). Given the epidemic of reported child abuse, many clinicians concluded that Freud’s initial intuitions concerning the link between unconscious memories of experienced overwhelming sexual assault during infancy and the development of psychiatric disorders during adulthood were indeed correct. Even though the mobility of adults in contemporary society precluded rigorous investigation and corroboration of individual childhood histories, more and more clinicians focused psychotherapy on the recovery and abreaction of dissociated traumatic memories.

6. Life with the people within

27In 1984, the First International Conference on Multiple Personality/Dissociative States was organized in Chicago. During the first plenary address, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, drawing from her long experience with adult patients, delivered a dramatic summary of the sadistic tortures which her patients’ alter personalities had revealed during treatment (Wilbur, 1984). For reluctant, classically trained clinicians, the appalling clinical anecdotes effectively legitimated the unorthodox hypnotic techniques of «calling out» and interacting with alter personalities.

28Alters were described as the surviving witnesses of extreme suffering; consequently they deserved therapists’ respect (Braun & Sachs, 1985; Goodwin, 1985; Kluft, 1984, 1985; Stern, 1984; Wilbur, 1985). When they presented themselves in treatment, therapists were expected to address them as discrete, volitional entities with feelings, desires and memories. Clinicians were encouraged to listen courteously to alters’ autobiographies and to explicitly recognize their ability to take effective action in the world (Braun, 1989b, 1980; Kluft, 1984). For example: when a patient exhibited hostile alters, therapists were advised to «contract» with these entities so that the latter would refrain from internal and external violence; in order to reduce internal quarreling between alters, schedules should be set up so that all of the personalities could «have time in the body»; toys and games should be provided for child personalities and arrangements should be made for adult alters to take care of them if they became frightened, etc (Bowers & Hamrick, 1984; Braun & Sachs, 1984).

29To this day, most clinicians treating MPD feel that this inter-subjective recognition of alter personalities (which essentially transforms the therapeutic milieu into a micro-possession cult) is warranted because it finally acknowledges the way in which long suffering multiples subjectively experience their lives. Given the impossibility of objectively confirming subjective experiences, it is difficult to determine the relative merits of this belief. It is, however, possible to analyze the real changes which occur in the daily lives of family and friends, once an individual comes to accept the suggestion (diagnosis) that he or she has multiple personalities.

30Current psychiatric theory describes MPD as a covert syndrome; over 80% of cases can only be recognized by the skilled clinician (Kluft, 1991). In other words, even though acquaintances of an undiagnosed multiple may consider him or her to be moody, absent-minded, or even a chronic liar, they actively acknowledge only one social identity. However, after a mental health authority informs them that the person they knew is actually several «totally different people» living inside one body, relatives and friends of multiples may have to adjust their lives to the kaleidoscope of identities (Wilbur, 1982).

31For example, in some cases, husbands and lovers of multiples report having to adapt their sexual behavior to whomever happens to show up in bed; passengers in cars driven by multiples worry about what would happen if a non-driving alter suddenly popped out in the body in the middle of rush hour traffic; children of multiples learn that one of their first chores when they return from school is to find out just who «is out» in mom. Given that an American multiple can have over 100 personalities, a good bit of daily life can be spent just saying hello and goodbye to the people inside!

7. The demonization of psychopathology

32According to the theory of MPD, the strain of accommodating to the idiosyncracies of large numbers of personalities was expected to last only until the clinician had found and treated all of the alters. At that time, they could be reunited, or fused into a single personality and the patient would be cured. During the early 1980s, this initial optimism faded when it became apparent that, although some patients did seem to stabilize, many ostensibly fused multiples returned to therapy inhabited by a whole new generation of alter personalities.

33One of the ways in which theoreticians of MPD warded off accusations of iatrogenesis was by explaining that the newly emerged alters had simply been passed over during the first phase of treatment because they had been hidden behind very dense amnestic barriers caused by particularly brutal childhood victimization (Ray, 1990). Throughout the 1980s as chronic patients produced generation after generation of alter personalities, the already grim memories recovered by these extraordinary entities became increasingly improbable. By 1986, nearly 25% of all patients diagnosed with MPD were alleging that their care-givers were not only child abusers but were in fact organized Satanists who had subjected them to horrifying blood rituals, orgies, rapes, abortions and cannibalism (Braun, 1987).

34It is essential to keep in mind that patients were recovering these chilling memories at a time when the American popular media was full of stories of Satanism. Since the 1970s, spreading popular belief in the existence of Satanic blood cults has triggered an phenomenal number of moral panics in the United States (Balch, 1989; Carlson et al., 1989; Hicks, 1990; Lyons, 1970; Rivera, 1988; Victor, 1989). Although an extensive analysis of these panics is beyond the scope of this paper, I must point out that when rumors of a Satanic cult surface in an American community, they are taken very seriously. Children are pulled out of schools and beleaguered law enforcement agencies organize frantic searches for the evil culprits.

35In this context, the possibility that patients’ Satanic memories might not be accounts of personal experience but rather reflections of ambient social anxieties should have been obvious to therapists treating highly hypnotizable individuals. Unfortunately, just the opposite occurred. A surprising number of well-known clinicians, including a large cohort which represented the Christian therapy movement, accepted media reports of Satanism as corroborative evidence that their patients were disclosing real experiences (Braun, 1989c, 1988; Greaves, 1989; Padzer, 1980; Sexton, 1989; Summit, 1987; Young, 1988). Satanism and Satanic cults became a frequent subject of conversation among clinicians and their patients meeting at local and national medical conferences which focused on both multiple personality disorder and child abuse. Believers organized small, informal caucuses where they could share their fears about the Satanic threat.

36Acceptance of the Satanic material precipitated a fundamental shift in the prevailing understanding of MPD. Multiple personality was no longer simply the consequence of child sexual abuse, it was the explicit goal of intentional, diabolical cult «programming» (Braun, 1989a). The Satanic etiology of MPD was illustrated in a 1987 case study in which the authors described a patient whom they alleged had been ritually «programmed» to carry on her family’s ritual cult tradition. Among her programmed alter personalities were a group of highly loyal cult-ritual parts. The patient was described as being purposefully trained to avoid detection of her ritual parts by way of (1) layers upon layers of other parts, (2) by a «part creator» who had been taught how to «recycle» parts, (3) by a «trail-blocker» who had been assigned the role of preventing the development of trust between the myriad of parts and «outsiders» and finally (4) by an intricate mechanism for self-destruction (Worrall & Stockman, 1987).

37The introduction of the concepts of intentional brainwashing, mind control and programming had an enormous impact on the way that believing clinicians viewed their patients. Many concluded that their adult patients were in fact Satanic Manchurian Candidates (or brainwashed Satanic robots) waiting to be triggered by cult leaders lurking just beyond the therapist’s door (Hammond, 1989; Beere, 1989). This fear was reinforced when patients began producing «Satanic alters» who reported returning regularly to The Cult to participate in ongoing rituals when they were not in therapy (Young 1988, 1989).

38During the early 1980s, patients’ allegations of ritual torture, animal and human sacrifices and cannibalism were taken very seriously by law enforcement agencies (Lanning, 1989). Exhaustive criminal investigations were repeatedly organized; however, no corroborative material evidence was ever recovered. The total absence of any substantiating evidence for charges which included mass meetings, robes, knives, caged reptiles, bonfires, forced delivery of babies, portable crematoriums, etc. caused many reputable criminal investigators and social scientists to question the facticity of patients accounts (Ganaway, 1989; Lanning, 1989, 1992; Mulhern, 1988, 1991).

39Predictably, the doubts expressed by skeptical experts did little to dissuade believing clinicians. The latter retorted that the growing numbers of patients in therapy «reporting» allegedly similar abuse and the florid abreactions of these patients constituted «therapeutic proof» of the reality of Satanic cults (Braun et ah, 1989; Young et al, 1991). Therapists responded with outrage when law enforcement dared to remind them that the ritual activities which had been described by their patients would necessarily have generated some material evidence (Sexton, 1989). Unlike incest, which may be very hard to prove because often the only evidence available is the word of a small child against that of an adult, gang rape, mutilation, murder and cannibalism are singularly messy proselytizing techniques (Lanning, 1992).

40The more skeptics attempted to reason with «cultified» clinicians and their patients, the worse the situation became. Believers simply attributed the lack of material evidence to the extraordinary sophistication of the Satanic Cult’s brainwashing techniques and their highly organized methods of disposing of incriminating evidence. For them, paradoxically, the absence of material evidence constituted conclusive proof. Law enforcement was dismissed as either incompetent or as having been infiltrated by the evil perpetrators; social scientists who dared to doubt were accused of being underground Satanists.

41Starting in the mid-1980s, as the gap between believers and skeptics deepened, convinced therapists began to actively lobby their professional colleagues. They organized a plethora of formally accredited medical seminars, ostensibly to train other professionals in the diagnosis and treatment of Satanic ritual abuse. However, a critical review of both the form and content of a large sample of these courses revealed that the validity of all of the diagnostic and treatment techniques being taught presupposed that patients were and continued to be the victims of real conspiratorial blood cults. In fact, the majority of each session was spent attempting to persuade the audience of the reality of the Satanic cult threat (Mulhern, 1990).

42Trainees were given lists of Satanic indicators, which included pictures of Satanic hand symbols, graffiti and ceremonial objects, descriptions of ritual orgies and calendars of Satanic holidays which had been compiled by clinicians working in private clinics or in «cultified» hospital units (Braun, 1988, 1989c; Gould, 1988; Graham-Costain, 1990; Kaye & Kline, 1987; Vickery et al., 1989; Young, 1989). Skeptics were warned that even seemingly innocuous gifts like sea shells or flowers were potentially preprogrammed triggers for suicide or self-mutilation. Experts representing well known psychiatric institutions which took the Satanic threat seriously reported that in spite of elaborate security measures, their patients were continually being re-contacted by cult undercover agents who conspired to thwart the progress of therapy (Braun et al., 1989; Braun & Sachs, 1988 Young, 1989).

43As the Satanic panic intensified among psychotherapists and their patients, cultified multiples began appearing on television and radio talk shows (Raphael 1989; Rivera, 1988; Winfrey, 1986, 1988). Audience ratings soared when tearful Satanic survivors told of skinning their own infants alive for THE CULT which they claimed had infiltrated every echelon of American society. Most social researchers simply ignored the mass media’s Satanic blitz until patients were joined by their knowledgeable therapists (Richardson et al. 1991). When credible doctors with impressive academic degrees began publicly chiding the judicial system for its insistence that patients’ memories of grisly, ritual tortures had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt before those identified as perpetrators could be condemned in criminal court, the potential effect of the Satanic sideshow suddenly became clear (Braun et al, 1989; Lloyd, 1991)· By the end of the 1980s, if the media reports were to be believed, a significant proportion of the American public seemed prepared to accept that the legal system should be modified so that «recovered memories», exhumed from the depths of the unconscious mind after years of intensive psychotherapy could be entered as evidence in both civil and criminal litigation (Braun et al., 1989; Larson, 1991). The fact that the accuracy of these «memories» was being vigorously championed by upstanding mental health professionals was apparently sufficient to overrule skeptics’ objections that purported «eye witness» testimony provided by persons who suffered from severe memory disorders should be regarded with the greatest circumspection. Few noticed the uncanny resemblance between 20th century «therapeutic evidence for Satanic ritual abuse» and the «spectral evidence for witchcraft» which had been used to condemn nineteen persons to the gallows and over a hundred more to prison in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. In the United States, nearly three hundred years after the last fires of the Inquisition had faded into some of the most sinister chapters of history books, the trials based on «therapeutic spectral evidence» began again. Today, the accused are day care workers, divorced fathers caught up in custody hearings and the aging parents of middle aged women whose alter personalities have «remembered» and relived, with the help of their therapists, their participation in the infamous witches’ Sabbath. As western civilization totters on the brink of the third millennium, the secular priests of psychiatry have finally succeeded in raising the demons of our cultural past (Cohen, 1975). If we continue to follow their bewitching call, one can only wonder what new hell awaits us.

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