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Goldstein, R. (1992). Inclined Toward The Marvelous Romantic Uses of Clinical Phenomena in The Work of Frederic W. H. Myers. Psychoanal. Rev., 79(4):577-589.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Review, 79(4):577-589

Inclined Toward The Marvelous Romantic Uses of Clinical Phenomena in The Work of Frederic W. H. Myers

Robert Goldstein

Bodily eyes

Were utterly forgotten, and what I saw

Appeared like something in myself, a dream

A prospect in the mind.

—Wordsworth

The Victorian psychologist Frederic W. H. Myers is best remembered for his investigations of psychical phenomena —telepathy, motor automatism, trance states —as catalogued in his major work Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death (1904). Myers's spiritualist inquiries have been the subject of a number of historical studies (Turner, 1974; Williams, 1985) that see him as emblematic of a class of agnostic British intellectuals who, despite their commitment to Darwinism, opposed a materialist approach to the mind. Myers and his colleagues at the Society for Psychical Research sought to prove the existence of a subliminal stratum of the mind that, having no physiological correlate, could survive bodily death. They evolved, in effect, a secular version of the immortal soul from Platonic and Romantic sources and attempted through empirical study of psychical phenomena to define its relation to the brain and conscious mentation: If spiritualism allowed for a redirection of religious sentiment outside a theistic context, then science provided the only means of exploring such phenomena in a post-Darwinian culture.

Myers' work, then, is often viewed to be chiefly of sociologic interest, dramatizing the tensions between scientific materialism and vestigial religious concerns. But Myers's forays into spiritualism led him into the clinical literature on hypnosis, hysteria, and multiple personality which was amassing at the time.

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