The Three Christs of Ypsilanti

The Three Christs of Ypsilanti


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On July 1, 1959, at Ypsilanti State Hospital in Michigan, the social psychologist Milton Rokeach brought together three paranoid schizophrenics: Clyde Benson, an elderly farmer and alcoholic; Joseph Cassel, a failed writer who was institutionalized after increasingly violent behavior toward his family; and Leon Gabor, a college dropout and veteran of World War II.

The men had one thing in common: each believed himself to be Jesus Christ. Their extraordinary meeting and the two years they spent in one another’s company serves as the basis for an investigation into the nature of human identity, belief, and delusion that is poignant, amusing, and at times disturbing. Displaying the sympathy and subtlety of a gifted novelist, Rokeach draws us into the lives of three troubled and profoundly different men who find themselves “confronted with the ultimate contradiction conceivable for human beings: more than one person claiming the same identity.”


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590173848
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 04/19/2011
Series: NYRB Classics Series
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 511,278
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Milton Rokeach (1918–1988) was born in Hrubieszów, Poland, and at the age of seven moved with his family to Brooklyn. He received his BA from Brooklyn College in 1941. In the same year he began in the fledgling social psychology program at the University of California at Berkeley, but his studies were interrupted by a stint in the U.S. Army Air Forces Aviation Psychology Program. He returned to Berkeley in 1946 and received his PhD in 1947. Rokeach became a professor of psychology at Michigan State University and subsequently taught at the University of Western Ontario, Washington State University, and the University of Southern California. His famous psychological study The Three Christs of Ypsilanti (1964) has been made into a screenplay, a stage play, and two operas. His other major books are The Open and Closed Mind (1960), Beliefs, Attitudes, and Values (1968), and The Nature of Human Values (1973). Rokeach received the Kurt Lewin Memorial Award from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues in 1984 and the Harold Lasswell Award from the International Society of Political Psychology in 1988.

Rick Moody was born in New York City in 1961. He is the author of five novels, three collections of stories, and a memoir, The Black Veil. His work has been widely anthologized. He has taught at Bennington College, SUNY Purchase, New York University, and the New School for Social Research. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Table of Contents

Introduction vii

Preface xvii

Prologue The Encounter 3

Part 1

Chapter I The Problem of Identity 19

Chapter II Who They Were 37

Chapter III "That's Your Belief, Sir" 50

Chapter IV Through the Looking Glass 75

Chapter V Days and Nights at Ypsilanti 93

Chapter VI The Rotating Chairmanship 109

Chapter VII Exit Dr.Rex 123

Chapter VIII R.I.D. 133

Chapter IX Protecting the Stronghold 155

Chapter X The Flora and Fauna Commission 173

Part 2

Chapter XI The Problem of Authority 189

Chapter XII Enter Madame Dung 200

Chapter XIII Madame God Makes a Few Suggestions 211

Chapter XIV A Research Assistant Becomes God 231

Chapter XV The Lonely Duel 241

Chapter XVI Dad Makes a Few Suggestions 259

Chapter XVII The Loyalty Test 287

Chapter XVIII Reports to Nobody 300

Part 3

Chapter XIX The Striving for Goodness and for Greatness 309

Epilogue 333

Afterword 335

Index 339

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Three Christs of Ypsilanti 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
danconsiglio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is a well-known fact that I love the hell out of books by and about people who are bat-poop crazy. Rokeach's account of his 1959-1961 social-psychology research using three paranoid schizophrenics all with Messianic delusions stands out, though. Much of the text is copy of letters written by the patients to people who don't actually exist, and the rest is Rokeach's commentary that, towards the end of the book, begins to have serious second thoughts about the ethics and validity of what he is doing with these three men. Throughout he does an amazing job of keeping his subjects human and not caricatures of mental illness presented only for our entertainment. On the occasions when I laughed, it was at the humor and insight that the men showed, and not at their unfortunate situations. Nice morally heavy stuff that includes serious discussion of how Madam Yeti Woman may actually be a hermaphroditic Great God Morpho married to a man named Doktor Dung. Wonderful stuff!
humdog on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
this is the story of three men who thought they were Christ. a psychiatrist put them in a room together and let them work out their identity. who is REALLY Christ? that was the question. a masterpiece.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago