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Related Topics
Anger, Madness, and the DaimonicReview - Anger, Madness, and the Daimonic
The Psychological Genesis of Violence, Evil, and Creativity
by Stephen A. Diamond
SUNY Press, 1996
Review by Neal Gardner
Jun 30th 1999 (Volume 3, Issue 26)

"A special characteristic of the daimonic model is that it considers both creativity on one side, and anger and rage on the other side, as coming from the same source. That is, constructiveness and destructiveness have the same source in human personality. The source is simply human potential," (author’s italics) from the foreword by Rollo May (xxi). Originally begun as a doctoral dissertation in 1981, this book eventually grew into three hundred pages. It is one of the volumes in the SUNY Philosophy of Psychology series, edited by Michael Washburn. Author Stephen A. Diamond is a clinical psychologist, professor, and forensic specialist. He is an admirer and student of the late Rollo May. May is credited with introducing European existentialism/psychotherapy to the U.S.

I am assuming this text is not aimed at the average mental health consumer but at practicing psychotherapists and students of the human psyche. With that in mind, it is a most fascinating exploration of the history of evil, the demonic/daimonic, misogyny, anger, psychological theory of the unconscious, and creativity/genius. It gives rise to thought, to coin a phrase.

Diamond begins with "The Angry American," and portrays rage and violence as epidemic. He then explores intergender hostility, rage, and violence and continues with the historical beginnings of evil, the demonic, and the devil. Drawing on such authors as: Beck, Ellis, Freud, Frankl, Fromm, Horney, Jamison, Janov, Jung, May, Nietzsche, Peck, Plato, Rank, and others, Diamond explores the myths and models of the unconscious and psychotherapy. He also raises the question whether cases of possession are genuine or not. Amusingly, one heading is titled, "Neurosis and Romance as Possession." The remainder of the book explores anger, rage, and the daimonic as they relate to psychotherapy and Diamond also questions the double-sided coin of genius.

The central concept of this book is the daimonic, which can be described as any natural function with the power to control the emotions. Sex, anger, rage, the search for power, creativity are such precipitators. It is only when such affects assert and perpetuate themselves that they become evil. One of the Greek concepts was that the daimonic is a union of good and evil that is responsible for the creativity of the poet, artist, musician, writer, etc. Existential depth psychology aims to transform this force by avoiding its repression and suppression. "The task of the therapist is to conjure up the devils rather than put them to sleep, "-- Rollo May (p. 181).

Diamond is critical of the current (1996) state of psychotherapy and compares a conference on psychotherapy to a virtual "Tower of Babel," due to the variety of paradigms, models, and dogmatic theories each school attempts to put forth. Diamond proposes depth psychology as

". . . to include the various forms of psychotherapy that deal directly with the daimonic, and encourage its constructive integration into consciousness" (p.183). Diamond says the Freudians, Jungians, and others are a dying breed due to the popularity of pharmacotherapy. He argues against the quick fix style of psychotherapy, which treats the symptoms but not the causes and feels most therapists are fearful of breaking through a patient’s denial and arousing the daimonic. His point is that most therapists perceive the daimonic as evil and feel safer not dealing with it.

Again, I think that this book is not aimed at the average mental health consumer. Nevertheless, I think that the author is out of touch with current thinking on mental illness. His recommendations for weekly psychotherapy sessions aimed at awakening the hidden powers of the daimonic are unrealistic. How many of us can afford such costly sessions? Maybe that is the point; we want everything at once and are not willing to pay the price in time and money to get meaningful results. Nevertheless, to discount some very valid scientific research on the biochemical cause of mental illness and pharmacological treatments seems rash. In the real world of depression, anxiety, panic, mania, etc., the treatment of symptoms by medical means has been a lifesaver for many patients, enabling them to go on with their lives without the crippling effect of such disorders.

I was amazed to read the same old alarm sounded about Prozac usage (p. 163). Diamond quotes Peter Kramer’s book, Listening to Prozac and also comments about patients becoming more angry, assaultive, etc. The "Prozac defense" is more the domain of plaintiffs’ lawyers than psychotherapists.

It also seems that Eastern philosophies are relatively discounted here. I feel there is a glaring error (to me) regarding the Hindu concept of Maya. "To merrily dismiss evil as merely a mental illusion (or ‘Maya’ as Buddhists term it) is to cowardly duck the difficult task and fateful human accountability for consciously coming to know good and evil" (p. 58). First, "Maya" is a concept of the Hindu religion, not Buddhism; and to claim that Buddhism does not recognize evil is absurd. Buddha’s whole path revolved around avoiding evil acts. In the note to this chapter (note 12, p. 321), Diamond mentions Alan Watts as a popular interpreter of Asian religions. Watts has written some excellent books on Zen, but I would not call him an interpreter of Asian religions. To his credit, Diamond does mention Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty’s book The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology in the note. Maybe I am nitpicking (I am), but to publish a book in a series called "the Philosophy of Psychology" and to ignore or misstate fundamental principles of Hinduism and Buddhism awakens the daimonic in me. The kernel truths of Hinduism and Buddhism probably do more to explain the mind and human behavior than a cartload of theoreticians.

Still, it is a scholarly work, full of history, knowledge, and theory on the psyche. It is exquisitely illustrated with twenty-seven unique portraits. If Diamond’s purpose was to make the reader question his or her own deeply held concepts, he has succeeded.

Neal Gardner has an associate degree in medical secretarial technology, and one in health services management. He is also a musician and a consumer of mental health services.




The author of Anger, Madness, and the Daimonic, Stephen Diamond, sent this response on Mon, 30 Aug 1999:

I have now had time to read through your reviewer's take on my book, and
appreciate his thoughtful and intelligent critique. Mr. Gardner's
assertion that "maya" is a Hindu concept (from the Vedas) is quite
correct. However, I believe that some Buddhists (especially Indian
Buddhists) also use this same terminology. At all events, my point here
was simply that this doctrine can be misused (perhaps by Westerners
especially) to deny the reality of evil. 

Insofar as my being "out of touch" with the reality of what is happening
these days in the mental health field, I can only remind the reviewer
that I have been treating patients for more than twenty years, teach
psychopathology, and am very well acquainted with the current
biologically tinged trends in etiology and treatment. It's just that I
disagree with them! And Mr. Gardner is right that part of this
alarmingly regressive trend has been an insidious devaluation of
psychotherapy by mental health professionals, insurance companies, as
well as consumers, and an unwillingness to pay for it unless covered by
insurance. I might also mention that I do not deny the therapeutic value
of psychiatric medication such as antidepressants and antipsychotics,
lithium, etc. in symptom management. (Indeed, many of my patients take
some sort of psychotropic medication as a useful and at times necessary
adjunct to their psychotherapy.) What I do point out are the limitations
of this biochemical treatment, as well as its potentially iatrogenic
tendencies, especially when relied upon as the primary or sole treatment
modality. (Quite a few of the perpetrators responsible for the recent
rash of violent incidents reportedly were being treated
psychopharmacologically prior to their homicidal outbursts.)

 Finally, I am very glad to hear that the reviewer (who is himself not a
trained mental health professional but an obviously sophisticated
layperson) had some direct experience of the daimonic during his reading
of my book, and that he found it both comprehensible and challenging to
his own system of beliefs--both of which were very much the desired
effects.

So thank you for taking the time to consider my book and publishing Mr.
Gardner's review as well as my response.

STEPHEN A. DIAMOND, PH.D.
Licensed Clinical/Forensic Psychologist; Adjunct Professor, John F. Kennedy University Graduate School of Professional Psychology and Ignatius University; Assistant Clinical Professor, Pacific Graduate School of Psychology.

Metapsychology is always happy to publish brief responses by book authors to our reviews.


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