Joe's Reviews > The Three Christs of Ypsilanti: A Psychological Study

The Three Christs of Ypsilanti by Milton Rokeach
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's review
Jul 08, 2011

did not like it
Read in July, 2011

People in a mental institution, suffering from the delusion that they are someone famous and great -- perhaps, even God. It's gotten to the point of being a cliche. But what if three people, all of whom believed that they were Jesus Christ, were placed together? Fighting? Accusations? Perhaps the contradiction would force one or all of them to reconsider their beliefs?

This book gives an account of just such an experiment, performed in 1959 in Michigan. At first, the idea seems interesting. Unfortunately, the book itself is much less interesting, and worse yet, it's somewhat disturbing.

You'd think that the story would be compelling. Actually, it doesn't really work as a narrative. The patients meet; they describe their beliefs, sometimes with mild conflict and sometimes without. At some points, one of the patients seems to be getting better -- and then, shortly thereafter, they revert.

After a while, once I began to lose interest in the story itself, I realized that the whole setup seemed wrong. Instead of real treatment, it almost seemed like the author was toying with the patients. I know that this book is only a short description of everything that happened, but it comes across as heartless -- or, at least, clueless. At one point, the doctor sends a patient fake letters from his parents. Even if that somehow resulted in some short-term benefit -- it didn't -- how could it possibly be ethical?

In the end, this book is disappointing and largely unpleasant.

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