Masters of the Mind: Exploring the Story of Mental Illness from Ancient Times to the New Millennium


The compelling story of the quest to understand the human mind - and its diseases

This engaging presentation of our evolving understanding of the human mind and the meaning of mental illness asks the questions that have fascinated philosophers, researchers, clinicians, and ordinary persons for millennia: What causes human behavior? What processes underlie personal functioning and psychopathology, and what methods work best to alleviate disorders of the mind? Written by Theodore ...

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The compelling story of the quest to understand the human mind - and its diseases

This engaging presentation of our evolving understanding of the human mind and the meaning of mental illness asks the questions that have fascinated philosophers, researchers, clinicians, and ordinary persons for millennia: What causes human behavior? What processes underlie personal functioning and psychopathology, and what methods work best to alleviate disorders of the mind? Written by Theodore Millon, a leading researcher in personality theory and psychopathology, it features dozens of illuminating profiles of famous clinicians and philosophers.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
A magnificent work from an author who is, himself, a master of themind. — Raymond D. Fowler, Ph.D. (Past President and formerCEO of the American Psychological Association)

Sweeping in scope and truly impressive in its scholarship,Millon’s text traces historical developments and identifiesthe thinkers and scientists who from antiquity to the present timehave shaped contemporary understanding of how the mind works. Thiscaptivating and informative volume will be appreciated and valuedby all readers interested in the history of ideas. —Irving B.Weiner, Ph.D. (University of South Florida)

Wide ranging, cohesive and imminently readable, TheodoreMillon’s Masters of the Mind is a tour de force from one ofthe world’s leading psychologists....a major touchstone forall those interested in these fascinating stories of mentaldisorders and the search for systems to understand and treat[them]. —Jeffrey J. Magnavita, Ph.D. (Connecticut Center forShort-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy)

A fascinating, informative, comprehensive, broad-minded,brilliant and perceptive tour of the universe of views of mentalfunction and dysfunction, this book helps the reader understandcontributions from nearly every conceivably relevant disciplinethroughout history. Himself, a long time advocate and practitionerof creative and integrative theory supported by data (as well asmeasurement techniques designed to generate such data), Millonprovides enlightening commentary at the end of each chapter as wellas in an epilogue at the end of the book. After reviewing abreathtaking array of perspectives, he offers a simple but profoundsuggestion for how to put it together. "Intrinsic unity cannot beinvented.. by arbitrary efforts to synthesize disparate anddisjunctive theoretical schemas... The natural sythesis.. inhereswithin patients themselves." In this wisdom, he urges all of us -clinicians, theorists and researchers alike – to stay closeto the data offered ! by real persons- whole human beings seen inthe broad array of contexts marked by Millon in this amazing andwonderful book I shall ask that all of my trainees read and re-readit, whether they are still in professional schools, or returningfor continuing education. — Lorna Smith Benjamin,Ph.D.(University of Utah)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471469858
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 7/23/2004
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 672
  • Sales rank: 1,149,287
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Theodore Millon, PhD, DSc, Professor Emeritus of Harvard Medical School and the University of Miami, is currently Dean and Scientific Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Personology and Psychopathology in Coral Gables, Florida. Developer of several influential diagnostic instruments, he is author of numerous other Wiley books, including the forthcoming Personality Disorders in Modern Life, Second Edition.

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Table of Contents



1. Demythologizing the Ancients’ Spirits.

2. Resuscitating and Fashioning Scientific Thinking.


3. Creating and Reforming the Custodial Asylum.

4. Rekindling Sensibilities and Releasing Potentials.


5. Identifying, Describing, and Classifying PsychiatricDisorders.

6. Exploring and Altering the Convoluted Brain.


7. Exposing and Decoding the Unconscious.

8. Innovating the Intricacies of Intrapsychic Thought.


9. Untangling Learning and Remedying Behavior.

10. Scrutinizing Introspections and Rebuilding Cognitions.


11. Unveiling the Social and Anthropological World.

12. Exploring and Enhancing Interpersonal Relationships.


13. Enlisting Evolution to Elucidate Human Adaptations.

14. Systematically Measuring and Integrating the Mind.


About the Author.



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First Chapter

Masters of the Mind

Exploring the Story of Mental Illness from Ancient Times to the New Millennium
By Theodore Millon

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-471-46985-8

Chapter One

Demythologizing the Ancients' Spirits

Current theories and known facts about personality and behavior are the product of a long and continuing history of human curiosity and achievement (Millon, 1969). Although dependence on the past is always appropriate, progress also occurs because dissatisfaction with the "truths" of yesterday stimulates our search for better answers today. Such perspectives on the historical development of our current thinking enable us to decide which achievements are worthy of acceptance and which require further investigation.

This and subsequent chapters look back over the long history of the mind and mental science studies, exposing patterns of progress and regress and brilliant leaps that have alternated with foolish pursuits and blind stumbling. Significant discoveries often were made by capitalizing on accidental observations; at other times, progress required the clearing away of deeply entrenched, erroneous beliefs. Despite these erratic pathways to knowledge, philosophers, physicians, and scientists have returned time and again to certain central themes. What are the causes of human behavior? How can we best classify the varieties of psychic pathology? Do just a few basic elements or processes underlie all forms of personal functioning andpathological behavior? What are the best treatment methods for alleviating disorders of the mind?

It is to answer such questions that we have written this book. We must begin at the beginning, however, with ideas that characterized the ancients, those who lived and wrote in the first millennium, B.C. Here we first encounter the sacred notion of primitive societies, which slowly gave way to the early sophisticated and naturalistic thoughts of philosophers and physicians in the Orient, Greece, Rome, and the Middle East.

The Philosophical Story: I

Before undertaking a systematic analysis of the diverse traditions of study and treatment of mental disorders, we must probe their historical origins and evolution. Efforts to understand and resolve problems of the mind can be traced through many centuries in which solutions have taken unanticipated turns. They have become enmeshed in obscure beliefs and entangled alliances that unfolded without the care and watchful eye of scientific methods. We remain today, a relatively young science; however, many techniques and theories of our time have long histories that connect current thinking to preexisting beliefs and systems of thought. Many of these connections are intertwined in chance associations, primitive customs, and quasi-tribal quests. The path to the present is anything but a simple and straight line; it has come to its current state through values and customs of which we may be only partly aware. Many are the product of historical accidents and erroneous beliefs that occurred centuries ago when mysticism and charlatanism flourished.

The movements and traditions of today are not tight systems of thought in the strict sense of scientific theories; they certainly are neither closed nor completed constructions of ideas that have been worked out in their final detail. They are instead products of obscure lines of historical development, often subject to the confusions and misunderstandings of our remote past when disaffection with complexities typified life. Nevertheless, interest in ourselves, in our foibles as well as our achievements, has always been central to humans' curiosity. The origins of interest in the workings of the mind were connected in their earliest form to studies of astronomy and spiritual unknowns. Even before any record of human thought had been drafted in written form, people asked fundamental questions such as why we behave, think, act, and feel as we do. Although primitive in their ideas, ancient people were always open to the tragic sources in their lives. Earliest answers, however, were invariably associated with metaphysical spirits and magical spells. Only slowly did people formulate more sophisticated and scientific ideas.

It was not until the sixth century B.C. that humans attributed their actions, thoughts, and feelings to natural forces, that is, to sources within themselves. Philosophers and scientists began to speculate intelligently about a wide range of psychological processes, and many of their ideas turned out to be remarkably farsighted. Much of this early imaginative and empirical work was forgotten through the centuries, slowly stumbled on, and rediscovered time and again through careful or serendipitous efforts. In the seventeenth century, John Locke described a clinical procedure for overcoming unusual fears; the procedure he set forth is similar to the systematic desensitization method developed this past century by Joseph Wolpe. Similarly, Gustav Fechner, founder of psychophysics in the mid-nineteenth century, recognized that the human brain was divided into two parallel hemispheres that were linked by a thin band of connecting fibers, what we now term the corpus collosum. According to his speculations, if the brain was subdivided, it would create two independent realms of consciousness, a speculation confirmed and elaborated in the latter part of this past century by Roger Sperry, in what has been referred to as split-brain research.

The earliest conceptions of the mind and its disorders started with a sequence of three prescientific paradigms that may broadly be considered sacred: the animistic, the mythological, and the demonological. These prehistoric phases of history slowly came to an end with the emergence of philosophically sophisticated and medically logical approaches. Certain beliefs dominated every historical period ultimately winning out over previously existing conceptions while retaining elements of the old.

As the study of mental science progressed, different and frequently insular traditions evolved to answer questions posed by earlier philosophers, physicians, and psychologists. Separate disciplines with specialized training procedures developed. Today, divergent professional groups are involved in the study of the mind (e.g., the neuroscientifically oriented psychiatrist with a clear-eyed focus on biological and physiological processes; the psychoanalytic psychiatrist with an austere, yet sensitive attention to unconscious or intrapsychic processes; the personological psychologist with the tools and techniques for appraising, measuring, and integrating the mind; and the academic psychologist with a penchant for empirically investigating the basic processes of behavior and cognition). Each has studied the complex questions generated by mental disorders with a different focus and emphasis. Yet the central issues remain the same. By tracing the history of each of these and other conceptual traditions, we can learn how different modes of thought today have their roots in chance events, cultural ideologies, and accidental discoveries, as well as in brilliant and creative innovations.

It seems likely that future developments in the field will reflect recent efforts to encompass and integrate biological, psychological, and sociocultural approaches. No longer will any single and restricted point of view be prominent; each approach will enrich all others as one component of a synergistic whole. Integrating the disparate parts of a clinical science-theory, nosology, diagnosis, and treatment-is the latest phase in the great chain of history that exhibits an evolution in mental science professions from ancient times to the new millennium. Intervening developments, whether successful or unsuccessful, were genuine efforts to answer humankind's ceaseless efforts to understand more fully who we are and why we behave the way in that we do. The complexity of human functioning makes the desire to know who we are an unending challenge. New concepts come to the fore each decade, and questions about established principles are constantly raised. Perhaps in this century, we will bridge the varied aspects of our poignant, yet scientific understanding of mental diagnosis and therapy, as well as bring the diverse traditions of the past together to form a single, overarching synthesis.

Unfolding of Key Ideas

Primitive man and ancient civilizations alike viewed the unusual and strange within a magical and mythological frame of reference. They attributed behavior that they could not understand to animistic spirits. Although both good and evil spirits were conjectured, the bizarre and often frightening behavior of the mentally disordered led to a prevailing belief that demon spirits must inhabit them. The possession of evil spirits was viewed as a punishment for failing to obey the teachings of the gods and priests. Fears that demons might spread to afflict others often led to cruel and barbaric tortures. These primitive therapies of shock, starvation, and surgery have parallels in recent history, although the ancients based them on the more grossly naive conception of demonology.

If, by chance, the disordered behavior was viewed to signify mystical powers (as was epilepsy among the early Greeks), patients were thought to be possessed by sacred spirits with which the gods had honored them. This favorable view of mental affliction, although still based on a demonic mythology, evolved into a more uniformly sympathetic approach to the ill. Egyptians and Greeks erected temples in which physician priests augmented prayers and incantations with kindness, advice, recreation, and herbs. In the haven of the Egyptian hospice, priests interpreted dreams and suggested solutions both to earthly and heavenly problems. The Grecian Asclepiad temples of the sixth century B.C., were located in remote regions away from family, trade, war, and stress. Here the sick were comforted, fed well, bathed and massaged, given calmative drugs, and surrounded by harmonious music. Despite these promising interludes, the notion of demon possession persisted and those unable to benefit from humane treatment were cast among the evil to be flogged and chained.

Psychological treatment was first recorded in the temple practices of early Greeks and Egyptians in the eighth century B.C. During the fifth century B.C., Hippocrates suggested that exercise and physical tranquillity should supplant the more prevalent practices of exorcism and punishment. Asclepiades, a Roman in the first century B.C., devised measures to relax patients and openly condemned harsh therapeutic methods such as bloodletting and mechanical restraints. The influential practitioner Soranus (A.D. 120) suggested methods to exercise the mind by having patients enlist memorable images and participate in discussions with philosophers who could aid them in banishing their fears and sorrows. Although doubting the value of love and sympathy as therapeutic vehicles, Soranus denounced the common practices of keeping patients in fetters and darkness and depleting their strength by bleeding and fasting. The philosophical discussions espoused by Soranus may be viewed as a forerunner of many contemporary psychological therapies.

Humane approaches to the treatment of the mentally ill were largely abandoned during medieval and postmedieval times when witchcraft and other cruel and regressive acts were employed as therapy. In the early years of the Renaissance, medical scientists were preoccupied with the study of the body and its workings and paid little attention to matters of the mind or the care of the mentally ill. Institutions for the insane were prevalent throughout Europe, but they served to incarcerate and isolate the deranged, not to provide medical or humane care.

Primitive Sacred Notions

What has been called the sacred approach in primitive times may be differentiated into three models, according to Roccatagliata (1973): animistic, mythological, demonological. These divergent paradigms shared one point of view, that mental processes and disorders were the expression of transcendent magical action caused by external forces. The animistic model was based on prelogical and emotional reasoning derived from the deep connection between primitive beings and the mysterious forces of nature. From this viewpoint, events happen because the world is peopled by animated entities driven by obscure and ineffable forces that act on one's mind and soul. The second phase, characterized by mythological beliefs, transformed the animistic conception so that indistinct and indefinable forces were materialized into myths. Every fact of life was imbued with the powers of a particular entity, and every symptom of disorder was caused by a deity that could, if appropriately implored, benevolently cure it. In the third, or demonological phase, the transcendent mythological deities were placed into a formal theological system such as the Judeo-Christian. In this latter model, two competing forces struggled for superiority. One was creative and positive, represented by a good father or God; the other was destructive and negative, represented by the willful negation of good in the form of demonic forces of evil. These three conceptions followed each other historically, but they overlapped with elements of one appearing in the others at times.

It was about 100,000 years ago when Paleolithic man wandered the earth during an early glacial period. Even then, humans tried to explore treatments for those who suffered psychic pain or behaved peculiarly (e.g., the surgery known as trephining, boring a hole through the skull to clean out bone fragments or to relieve head pressure, dates back to the Stone Age). Sundry amulets were employed to drive away demons that purportedly possessed the mentally distressed (e.g., the vertebrae of snakes and the teeth of animals have been found in pouches carried by medicine men).

Magic and supernatural concepts helped early humans make sense out of the many unfathomable and unpredictable aspects of prehistoric life. Weighted with life's painful realities and burdensome responsibilities, these beliefs gave order and pseudologic to fears of the unknown, a repository of unfalsifiable assumptions in which the supernatural filled in answers for what they could not understand. Ultimately, supernaturalism became the dominant worldview for objectifying and comprehending the mysterious experiences of life. Priests and wizards became powerful by capitalizing on the fears and peculiarities of the populace to undo spells, "heal" the physically ill, and "purify" the mentally distressed. To them, the eccentric or irrational were assuredly touched by spirits who possessed superhuman powers to induce psychic pathology. Almost all groups permitted healing to fall into the hands of priests and magicians, a situation that exists today in some societies.


Excerpted from Masters of the Mind by Theodore Millon Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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