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Technophobic Delusions in Schizophrenia -The Intrusion of Schizoid Thought into the Consensus Reality

Posted in Uncategorized by ce399 on 21/06/2010

Out of control one

Technophobic Delusions in Schizophrenia -The Intrusion of Schizoid Thought into the Consensus Reality
Thoughts on the Influencing Machine
By David Drexler

Copyright 2005 by David Drexler

Out of Control One

This is a work of fact. Any resemblance to persons or systems, living or dead, is intended as a libelous denunciation of their lamprey-like, sub-bethonic, scum sucking, degenerate nature.

He conversed a great deal on electricity, said that it was the moving power of the earth, that people might be made mad by it, but that he could not be played on by it, as he was in the secret. He said that he could prove from the scriptures, that people could be made mad by electricity, that they could converse by means of it at any distance, and that, by it he had heard voices from heaven. –
A case of Oinomania   American Journal of insanity, July 1851

A belief that technology is being employed for coercive purposes has long been noted as an interesting characteristic of the delusions of the insane. Classical descriptions of schizophrenia include mention of the belief that “the most devilish, modern, technical apparatus ever invented has been put up and is used to speak from a distance, to project pictures, to electrocute” (Bleuler 114), or a fixation on “maleficant machines, rays, electrical zaps, and engines” (Glass 52).  Such harassments are usually perpetrated by “gangs”, mobs, or other ill-defined operatives. Frequently, these electronightmares are connected with “a delusional system…around the idea that the patient is persecuted because of his ideology, philosophy, or religion” (Glass 36). The first clear and reliable description of schizophrenia was given by John Haslam, curator of London’s Bedlam Hospital, in 1809 (Seller in Howells 52) in his Observations on Madness and Melancholy. Haslam, a sort of 19th century Oliver Sacks, has also given us the most complete and fascinating account of the malevolent “influencing machine” in his 1810 Illustrations of Madness, long a hard to find underground psychology classic. This is the notorious “Air-Loom,” operated by a gang of vicious underworld “pneumatic chemists”. It seems that schizophrenics latched onto ideas of mechanics and electromagnetics very early, as perfect vehicles for their delusions of persecution and harassment. Similarly, the scientific discovery of microbes played well into the fixations on pollution, poisoning, and excessive washing that had already long been features of deranged thought. A central study of the influencing machine in schizophrenia mentions that “patients endeavor to discover the construction of the apparatus by means of their technical knowledge, and it appears that with the progressive popularization of the sciences, all the forces known to technology are utilized to explain the functioning of the apparatus” (Tausk 33).

Floater    Throughout the 19th century, schizophrenics continued to incorporate advances in electromagnetic technology into their delusions. Developments such as radio, X-rays and radioactivity proved fertile ground for paranoid phantasy. Today, an internet search for “electronic harassment” will unleash a vast deluge of verbiage relating to contemporary experiences of the phenomenon. One can read day-by-day accounts of electronic attacks, and there even appears to be one company devoted to the production of very expensive and mysteriously undescribed “custom devices” to defend the victims, presumably if the traditional tin-foil hat fails to be effective.

More frighteningly, there appears to be some evidence that semi-secret government organizations have at least investigated the possibilities of electromagnetic attack. The microwaving of the US embassy in Moscow, and of nuclear protesters in the USA, are frequently cited examples. Investigation of this shadowy world, where lunatic paranoia merges into documented reality, suggests some fascinating possibilities. There is an apparent convergence between schizophrenic delusion and consensus reality, an intrusion of the schizophrenic worldview into the realms of technology and government control. In advanced industrialized society, the nightmares of the insane have begun to manifest in such phenomena as electronic wiretapping, nuclear radiation, industrial pollution, beam weaponry, and satellite spying.

I suggest that there is a parallel development between technology and mental illness, which began with Descartes’ 17th century conception of the universe, and all beings in it, as clockwork mechanisms. A belief that one is “dead” or is a remote-controlled mechanism, is commonly reported in schizophrenics (Arnold 139). There is observable a certain mania for vivisection, or the experimental cutting up of animals, among scientists and doctors, which is analogous to the childhood murder of cats and small animals so often noted among those who later become psychopaths or mass murderers. The incredible explosion of the formerly obscure and undescribed illness termed autism, may also be part of this process. The autistic are often said to “react to people as objects”, be rational, hyper-scientific, and unable to deal with human relationships (Paluszny 21). In an interesting example of feedback, or the circular influences between mental states and external reality, the autism “epidemic” may be caused by environmental factors consequent on the prevalence of technology itself (Kirby). Technology, a mindless, viral force, may be actively breeding humans especially adapted minister to, reproduce and exalt it.

The schizophrenic phantasy of the “influencing machine” should be considered a parallel to the influence of technology, and the Cartesian mechanist world view, on consciousness. In tracing the congruent histories of technology and schizophrenia, we can observe a curious interplay between them, in which delusions appear among the insane before manifesting in, or intruding into, the consensus reality. The current state of the industrialized world, with its ubiquitous wireless devices, televisions, CTV surveillance, microchip tracking etc…, could well be seen as a flourishing garden of schizoid delusions erupted into reality. Indeed, when cell phones first became common, many commentators wryly noted that someone using such a device was frequently indistinguishable from a lunatic. Seen in this context, that observation is extremely meaningful.
The history of technological progress is well known, but its parallels in mental illness are largely hidden and unrecognized. It is the purpose of this study to throw this connection into light, and to ultimately reveal and expose technology itself as an active, autonomous force, which has parasitized human beings for its own ends. Those familiar with the operations of DNA and genes should have no difficulties in recognizing yet another extremely cunning, inventive, persistent and autonomous force which is yet wholly unconscious, unliving, “dead,” and requires other beings, or “survival machines” to manifest itself in the world.

Before tracing these contemporary manifestations further, it will be illuminating to lay out a brief history of mental disease, and how it relates to technological and electronic developments, from the obscurities of antiquity, through the galvanic and voltaic pursuits of the 19th century, to the writings of Ken Kesey and Philip K. Dick, and the explosive profusion of techno-paranoia that now flourishes on the net.


What forms did madness take in pre-industrial times? Information on this subject is largely and perhapsLightbulb tellingly absent. There are scarcely any case histories before Haslam in the early 19th century (Sedler in Howells 52), and the bits of information we have suggest only an indefinite raving. This has led some to believe that schizophrenia is largely a disease of civilization, and that it did not even exist until relatively modern times, being entirely dependent on, and resulting from, industrial civilization itself. There is indeed conclusive evidence from large, repeated studies that the incidence of schizophrenia is linked to being born and raised in urban areas, with rates diminishing with distance from the city center (Boydell 50). Yet there clearly were mad people in classical and medieval times as well. The absence of early case histories is probably attributable less to a lack of incidence, than to the regrettable custom of ancient authors to discourse at vast and overwhelming length on humors, biles, effluvia, elemental forces, phlogisthonics and their whole agglomeration of useless, unsupported, empty, pompous and bombastic theorizing, without stooping to the lowly expedient of providing any evidence at all. We must wait for the advent of the scientific method for more detailed accounts, unobscured by theories, which almost inevitably appear vain and risible to persons of later eras.

The only suggestive evidence I could find from classical times is the observation of Hippocrates (460-377 BC) that mad people “take an interest in subjects of which they are obviously ignorant, often in things which only interest scholars” (Roccatagliata in Howells 9). So, there is at least some evidence that lunatics have been attracted to scholarly, and thus scientific thinking for over 2000 years. Horace mentions an otherwise normal fellow who believed himself to hear tragedies in empty theaters (Horace, Epist. Lib ii v.128ff). Evidence of lunatics in medieval times is abundant but indefinite (Howells 29). It is only right as the industrial revolution got underway in the early 19th century that we are presented with a flood of evidence detailing a condition we can clearly recognize as schizophrenia.

To what degree this is the result of changes in medical thought and practice, or a consequence of industrialization itself, is an interesting question which at this point can probably never be resolved. Aside from Haslam’s clear description of schizophrenia in 1810, we also have the English physician Thomas Arnold’s Observations on the Nature, Kind, Causes and Prevention of Insanity, issued in 1806. Here we learn of symptoms and delusions recognizable in more recent and contemporary schizophrenic thought, such as patients feeling “dead”, being “deprived of their proper nature as human beings”, having no soul, believing their food is poisoned, raving, “a gloomy silence and reserve”, hearing voices, and “thinking one is a king, prince, hero, orator, tragedian, or a man endowed with wonderful science and extraordinary learning” (Arnold 113 ff). An erudite English quasi-lunatic is described, who would “compare himself to DEMOCRITUS, who for his admirable discoveries in anatomy was reckoned distracted by his fellow citizens, till HIPPOCRATES cured them of their mistake” (Arnold 115-6). The idea that one is possessed of advanced scientific or technological knowledge that is unknown to the present is common to lunatics and scientists.
Hampster escape    Many of these same themes from the early 1800s were noted by the first theorists of schizophrenia  like Kraepelin, in the early 1900s, and  Bleuler in the 1950s. Bleuler mentions patients who feel “dead”, who believe that their internal organs are decayed, or that their food has been poisoned (Bleuler 96). The belief that one is dead, that ones food is poisoned, and that one is pursued and harassed by a gang or mob of vague, underworld characters, are all typical symptoms of schizophrenic delusion. Although individual patients would not realize it, we can see how all these symptoms parallel the development of industrial technology and centralized state control. Feeling “dead” or totally alienated from ones surroundings sounds like Cartesian rationalism gone just a little too far. The idea of being poisoned or contaminated would certainly not be far fetched in heavily industrialized nations in the 19th century, when no emissions controls existed, and massive, extremely toxic pollution was rampant. The belief that one is being poisoned by one’s environment manifests in the contemporary epidemic of allergies and toxic shock syndrome, which are unheard of outside the West. The amount of toxic pesticides and herbicides in industrially produced foods is well known. Here we can perceive the schizophrenic world invading the consensus reality.

Furthermore, the classic schizophrenic delusion of being harassed, pursued, and observed by vaguely defined gangsters, mobsters or some sort of secret agency parallels the development of secret intelligence forces in the political reality of Industrialized nations. Independent spies have perhaps always been a feature of monarchies and governments, but it was only in the 19th century that extensive, hierarchically organized secret police organizations came into existence. The world of high ranking courtiers, or top government officials offers an intriguing parallel to the schizophrenic worldview. Here everyone must be on guard for treasonous seditions, deep cover spies and advanced electronic gadgetry, and it is essential to perceive the hidden, implied meanings behind mundane aspects of behavior. A secret agent is like a schizophrenic immersed in his own world of dissemblance, distrust, spying, and exotic secret weaponry, be it nuclear arms, or space based laser arrays. Indeed, schizophrenics often believe that they themselves are very important figures, such as monarchs, politicians, etc… This delusion of one’s own importance is perhaps the clearest connecting linkage between the “leaders” of large scale, hierarchical, industrial political systems, and the mentally ill. The dreadlocked, shopping cart pushing lunatic, ranting about electronic harassment, gangs of spies, and his own central importance in world affairs, arises ultimately from the same causes that produce the secretive top government official, wary of bugs and infiltration, and convinced that he is among the central, moving powers in the world. Both of these realities largely result from an alienated, mechanistic worldview reflecting the dominance of technology. These are realities based on coercion, violence, inflicted death and domination. Paranoia rules the minds of courtiers and lunatics. The current state of the industrialized world, characterized by incessant war, informants, spying, pollution and toxicity, is the full emergence of hubristic paranoid lunacy into mainstream reality.

It may even be feasible to trace the beginnings of this alienated worldview back to the emergence of civilization, which is based on the domination and control of plants and animals, and to early theologies that stressed man’s separateness from the rest of “creation”. But we need not drift off into such vast speculations. An examination of more recent history abounds in examples of the congruency of schizophrenic thought and technology. It was only in the 19th century that some real understanding of electricity was gained, and that electrical era was to prove especially fertile for the schizophrenic imagination.

Mesmeric Revelations and the Air Loom

At the end of the 18th century, and for decades at the beginning of the 19th, the idea of mesmerism (hypnosis) was commonly confused with and connected to the latest advances in the sciences of electricity and magnetism. The mesmeric effects were believed to occur by means of something called “animal magnetism,” which the operator conveyed across space to his subjects. This was popularly conceived as a sort of invisible ray, wave or occult emanation. Engravings show wavy lines emanating from the mesmerist’s hands, and intersecting with the lower anatomies of his female subjects. Electricity was thought of as a fluid, the “electrical fluid,” which raised the possibility that it was related to the various fluids or animating spirits of the human body.
It was in this intellectual atmosphere that the earliest case of the schizophrenic influencing machine was recorded, the famed Air Loom of Bedlam inmate James Tilly Matthews. The account appears in Haslam’s 1810 Observations of Madness. This is also probably the most fully realized and lavishly documented case, and thus deserves special attention. Matthews was a highly intelligent man, trained in various arts. Significantly, he was also deeply involved in secret negotiations that preceded the French revolution. It was from this environment of spying and mesmeric intrigues that the Air Loom phantasy developed. Haslam wrote this book to prove that his patient Matthews was indeed insane, as there was continual litigious disputation over the matter. Despite this motive, Haslam should really be given immense credit for publishing the first detailed case history of a schizophrenic person. Prior to this time, there are no real records of anyone actually listening to what a madman had to say. The tone is one of deliciously ironical gravity. The account shows a sort of Joycean relishment in the obscene foulness and minute intricacies with which the delusion was described and developed. In many of these elements, we can trace themes and details that appear repeatedly in the delusions of later schizophrenics.

The idea of the vaguely defined gang of harassing, lowlife persons is an almost inevitable adjunct of schizoid technophobic delusions, and appears here for the first time, and in unusual detail. In Matthew’s case, the gang consisted of seven vile personages, each fully described, though “of their general habits little is known” (Haslam 20). Appearing on the street, they would be taken for “pickpockets or private distillers” (20). At home, “they lie together in promiscuous intercourse and filthy community” (21).  “Mr. Matthews insists that in some apartment near London wall, there is a gang of villains profoundly skilled in Pneumatic Chemistry who assail him by means of an Air Loom” (19). The Air Loom itself, described and illustrated in a “curious plate” is a sort of prototype of the directed-beam electromagnetic weaponry that appears again and again in the literature. The curious plate, with its beam of assailing radiation, is a clear example of a technology that showed up in schizophrenic delusion long before manifesting in reality. The Air Loom is described as operating by means of magnetic and mesmeric influences, which were at the time considered part of a single electrochemical hypnotic phenomenon. It is fueled by a list of substances or “preparations” that deserves to be transcribed in its glorious totality-

Preparations which are employed in the Air Loom by these Pneumatic Chemists for the purpose of Assailment

Seminal fluid, male and female-Effluvia of copper-ditto of Sulpher- the vapors of vitriol and aqua fortis- ditto of nightshade and hellebore-  effluvia of dogs-stinking human breath- putrid effluvia- ditto of mortification and of the plague- stench of the sesspool- gaz from the anus of the horse- human gaz- gaz of the horses greasy heels-Egyptian snuff, (this is a dusty vapor, extremely nauseous, but its composition has not  hitherto been ascertained)- vapor and effluvia of arsenic-poison of toad-otto of roses and carnation.(28)

This fixation on seminal fluids, poisons, effluvia, metals and involuntary bodily functions appears repeatedly, but seldom in such livid detail, in later accounts of schizoid misery. The effects of the Air Loom are described with a similar primal gusto-“Fluid locking, Cutting soul from sense, Stone making, Thigh talking, Bomb bursting, Kiting, Lobster cracking, Stomach skinning, Apoplexy working with the Nutmeg grater, Lengthening of the brain, Thought making, Laugh making, Pushing up of the quicksilver, Bladder filling, Gaz-plucking, Spark-exploding, Eye screwing, etc, etc…(30). The natures of these assailments are individually described.

Air Loom

This is John Haslam’s curious plate depicting the Airloom. Note barrels of effluvia and pneumatic chemist.

The account also contains the earliest description of a “Manchurian Candidate” type scenario. Matthews explained that his assailants also influenced a certain Hadfield and “by means of magnetic impregnations… compelled him to fire the Pistol at his Majesty in the theater” (22). The whole confused mass of secret agents, mobs, spies, gangs, political conspiracies, toxic effluvia, hypnotism, machines, occult influences and paranoia represents a summation of themes that appear repeatedly in both schizophrenic thought and the realities of fascist and totalitarian governments. Throughout the 19th century, the growing intrusion of electromechanical devices was only to increase this toxic brew.

The Nineteenth Century

Looking through publications from the 1800s, one can see that a thriving trade was carried on in things like electric invigorators, vibrators, magnetic collars, belts and rings, electrified suppositories and the like. Later, intentional ingestion of radioactive substances proved a popular diversion (de la Pena 7). Some obscure remnants of this trade in medico-electric and magnetic devices are still being quietly pursued to this day. This was also an era when spiritualism, table turning and séances became increasingly popular. Itinerant mesmerists wandered the rural areas, hypnotizing audiences with mysterious influences (de la Pena 4). Those who scoffed at electrical technologies were consistently proved wrong, as successive inventions erupted to great success, such as telegraphs, phonographs, electrical lights and so on. Few dared to question the amazing powers of electricity. According to one investigator, “by the late 19th century, it was possible to believe that external energies could alter the physical body” (de la Pena 4). The delusions of James Tilly Matthews, ensconced in Bedlam asylum, had become common knowledge decades later. By the 1870s, US congressmen were voluntarily electrocuting themselves in the “engine room” of the capitol building, seeking re-invigoration (de la Pena 89). Electricity and its powers were common subjects of discussion on the streets, and of unbounded ranting in the madhouses. In 1851, one American lunatic opined “that a whole workhouse might be mad by electricity… and that people could converse by means of it at any distance, and that, by it, he had heard voices from heaven (American Journal of Insanity, July 1851). The idea that “a whole workhouse might be mad by electricity” is extremely suggestive. I think I have encountered a few such workhouses myself.

In general, the schizophrenic hearing of voices in the head was a precursor and parallel development to the invention of telephones, radio, microphones and speakers. Photographs of American cities in the late 1800s often show huge tangled masses of wires stretching everywhere. Electrical machines were invading all aspects of the visual and mental environments. Words formerly used in technical applications were applied to human bodies and relations (a twist in ones transmission, etc…(de la Pena 23-4)).  This was a time when the popular imagination seethed with occult electromagnetic phantasy. Ideas of rays, radiations, influences, fields and ethers pervaded thought and discourse. The actual technology lagged behind, but by the 20th century, all these dim visions had fully emerged into the consensus reality, as radio, X-rays, atomic radiation, radar and eventually television, that most effective and enslaving of all influencing machines.

The idea of the body as a machine, first promoted by Descartes in the 17th century, came to produce some interesting developments in the 19th. People began to strap themselves into machines in efforts to obtain good health. Aside from the electrical belts, trusses, rings and suppositories already mentioned, a growing mania for exercise equipment began to take hold. These devices were often employed as a cure for “neurasthenia,” a vaguely defined illness which, like chlorosis or ptomaine poisoning, has long since been superseded by more popular and equally vague complaints (de la Pena 25). The first exercise machines were heavy, crude devices, which perhaps recalled to contemporary minds the Jesuitical devices of the Inquisition like the rack, the wheel, and the thumbscrews. These machines were part of an effort to make the human body itself more hard, resilient and machine-like. Our bodies’ natural tendencies to frailty, sensitivity, and softness were to be rigorously counteracted by entering mechanical devices and flailing away therein.

Rigidity, uprightness, and hard, armored tightness were also promoted by the legion corsets, trusses, stays etc… which fill the pages of all advertising publications throughout the entire 19th century. This was a time when it was considered indecent for women to appear in public without what would now be considered hard-core sadomasochistic bondage gear. This whole emphasis on inflexibility, rigidity, muscular strength and reliability were all parallel developments to the intrusion of machines into all aspects of public and inner life.
It is in this context that the delusions of Daniel Paul Schreber, one of the most celebrated and studied lunatics of the 19th century, become extremely interesting and suggestive. Schreber was a prominent German judge in the late 1800s who came from an illustrious family (Niederland). The fact that he was a highly intelligent and cultured man gave his phantasies a depth and richness seldom seen among the insane. He wrote a wonderful book of Memoirs, finally published in 1911, detailing the history and nature of his mental illness. This book was read by Freud, who was to use Schreber to bolster his own theories in his “Psychoanalytic notes upon an autobiographical case of Paranoia (Dementia Paranoides)”published shortly after the memoirs appeared. Schreber was clearly schizophrenic, reporting classic delusions like hearing voices, imagining putrefaction of the gut, feeling dead and rotten, and developing one of the most rampant and florid cases of total paranoia ever documented. The Memoirs detail a series of delusional racking tortures which he termed “miracles.”
“The most abominable of all miracles was the head-being-tied-together machine (die Kopfzusammenschnurugsmaschine)…which compressed my head as though in a vice by turning a kind of screw, causing my head to assume an elongated, almost pear-shaped form. It had an extremely threatening effect, accompanied by severe pain. The screws were loosened temporarily but only very gradually, so that the compressed state was usually continued for some time (in Neiderland 76).”

Geradehalter    What is of particular interest here is Schreber’s unusual childhood. His father, Daniel Gottlieb Schreber, was an early and fervent promoter of exercise machines, fresh air walks, cold water immersions, rigid posture, orthopedics and the like. He composed something like 20 books on these subjects and was considered “a giant among his contemporaries” (Niederland 77). His father was an important promoter of the sort of proto-fascist Teutonic fixation on fresh air, immersion in frigid, Hyperborean waters, health, exercise etc… that was to be very important in the early history of the Nazi movement in the following century. He strapped his offspring into numerous iron contraptions of his own devising. “In order to ensure a proper growth of the skull, he constructed a helmet-like device” (Niederland 77). This was of course later to appear in his son’s delusions as die Kopfzusammenschnurugsmaschine. The father’s much celebrated books advocate, in oft repeated passages, “use of a maximum of coercion and pressure during the earliest stages of a child’s life,” and that “an absolutely rigid posture be maintained at all times, even in bed” (51). For this latter purpose, he devised a sort of rack, “made from iron throughout” to ensure total rigidity in sleeping children. He advised detailed rules for every action during every minute of a child’s life, and wrote that “passions and softness” are to be met with “direktes Niederkampfen” or crushing opposition (56). The life of this eminent figure was regrettably terminated when a heavy iron ladder fell on his head “in the course of his regular gymnastic exercises” (58). While Daniel Gottlieb Schreber may appear to be a sort of parody of Teutonic sadism, his writings were immensely popular and influential in his own period, and wholly in keeping with the general current of thought. His Pangymnastikon was translated into English and published in Boston in 1863 as The New Gymnastics for Men, Women and Children. In this whole subject, we may clearly trace the relations between schizophrenia, human-machine interactions, and fascism.

As machines and electrical devices intruded into the popular consciousness, they produced and promoted an ideal of the body as a rigid, hard, well-exercised machine, and the mind as something allied to magnetism and electricity, subject to influence by currents, waves and occult emanations acting at a distance. The result of all this was the emergence in the 20th century of, on the one hand, electrical machines that conveyed thought and language, and on the other, mass fascism and total state control. There had always been tyrants, and human propensities for evil, but it was only with the introduction of technology and the machine virus that these forces were able to gain absolute control over all aspects of human thought and behavior, by means of machine guns, flying bombs, gas chambers, secret police, barbed wire, listening devices, tanks, poison gas, mines, atomic weapons, surveillance cameras, flame throwers, grenades, wiretaps, cattle prods, intercontinental ballistic missiles, infrared vision, napalm, television, phosphorus bombs, torpedoes, etc, etc… By means of these improvements, the fascist and totalitarian states that emerged in the 20th century embodied the total intrusion of the techno-schizoid nightmare into full reality.

As a sort of culmination of these developments, an unusual medical practice appeared in Mussolini’s fascist Italy in the late 1930s. Electroconvulsive “therapy”, or ECT, grew out of earlier methods of treating mental illness by inducing “shock”, like immersion in freezing water and chemically induced comas. These are all variants of the one, single therapy that was and is practiced on lunatics, namely, beating them until they shut up. Whether this is carried out with rods and iron chains, or powerful pharmaceuticals, is really only a matter of degree of refinement. Carletti, the inventor of ECT, first experimented on animals, by attaching electrodes to the mouths and anuses of dogs. Half died (Kalinowsky in Abrams 2). Presumably, the others were able to continue in their loyal efforts assisting Carletti in his investigations, despite charred anuses.

The first human subject of ECT was considered cured when he returned to work after a long series of induced convulsions. The therapy soon became popular among those charged with treating, or maintaining, the mentally ill. American psychiatrists were especially enthusiastic. Until the 1950s, ECT was conducted without anesthesia, resulting in frequent fractures of the vertebrae, and breakage of other bones such as the femur and pelvis (Kalinowsky in Abrams 2). Aside from these salutary benefits, early research concluded that ECT could produce massive memory loss and severe and permanent brain damage (Breggin 36-8). These reports were suppressed, and the treatment continued, and continues. One patient, admitted for depression, described the horrors experienced while waiting in line for a session of ECT: “…and then those who got the shock ahead of me, I’d hear them on their cots choking and gurgling like water going through their nose and mouth and gasping and other horrible sounds” (Breggin 35). These accounts of ECT bear a curious resemblance to the “lobster cracking” and other torments experienced by Matthews, when at the mercy of the nefarious Air Loom gang.

Although ECT can be seen as a logical development of the historical torments dealt out to those deviating from the consensus reality, it is especially interesting in that it involves a massive application of the “electrical fluid” which features so prominently in the delusions of the insane. There is even some evidence that exposure to electrical shock can produce a liability to hallucinations and episodes of deviant perception in later life. The affinity of UFOs for high voltage power lines in well known. Some investigators have advanced the theory that many supposedly paranormal events are actually hallucinations induced by exposure to electromagnetic fields. One schizophrenic reported being struck by lightning as a child. “…a lightning bolt between Monterey and Nuevo Laredo struck me and our car, some few inches on the highway” (Moroz 49).

Contemporary Manifestations of the Influencing Machine

Aura    Only a few years ago, those carrying out research on the influencing machine in schizophrenia would have been limited to poring through illimitable dusty volumes in university libraries, diligently seeking out a few scraps of information from the scattered case histories in the mass of technical and theoretical verbiage that fills almost all books on psychiatric subjects. But the introduction and pervasion of the internet has at a stroke provided us with an almost unimaginable profusion of exactly the sort of first person delusional narratives we might search scholarly books for in vain. There is so much material here, and it is so transient, that I’ll not provide detailed footnotes with web addresses. A search for “electronic harassment” will provide ample fodder for those so inclined. There is even a fairly extensive “gang-stalking community” on the net. It is fascinating to see the same precise and obscure delusions mentioned in the traditional literature on the subject multiplied and reflected many times in a luxurious abundance of paranoid phantasy on the net.

A brief search turned up victims of “electromagnetic torture” suffering from many Air Loom type effects. One victim complains that the machines “can inject air from inside the upper lip when the lips are firmly closed…resulting in a loud noise like flatulence.” Another victim describes symptoms almost identical to those mentioned in Tausk’s 1919 paper on the Influencing Machine in Schizophrenia. She explains “I’m literally connected by remote control to a very high-tech but basic voodoo doll of some sort.” The main subject of Tausk’s study had the same delusion, although unembellished with information on “EMF/ microwave gadgetry that someone managed to get their hands on, and teach many others how to use.”

Particularly striking are the many accounts of persecution by “gangs,” mobs, underworld characters etc…, which seem to be an inevitable feature of machine paranoias. In fascist and totalitarian forms of mass schizophrenia, these have their unique correlates. For the Nazis, jews and gypsies, for Stalinists, spies, and for contemporary American republicrat fascists, dark, vaguely defined and shadowy “terrorists.” In previous periods of incipient American fascism, these enemies took the form of lurking anarchists from Southern Europe, and communist spies from Russia. Saco, Vanzetti, and the Rosenbergs were all treated to complimentary electrotherapy in a gruesome protrusion of schizoid reality into daily life. In various nations today, crypto-fascist political movements typically rail against immigrants in classical schizoid fashion. Racism, and in particular anti-Semitism, are almost inevitable topics in fringe and paranoid discourse.

One recent account on the net details harassment by Mexican gangsters, as well as by satellite based beam weaponry and microwave attack. In these sorts of cases, we run into some deep and fascinating difficulties in disentangling paranoid delusion from political reality. The fact is, that technological advancement and government control have reached such a state of dominant perfection and pervasiveness that paranoid schizophrenics now have ample hard, documented evidence to back up their claims. Most contemporary accounts of the influencing machine now include links to real technological developments in projected sound, microwave attack, and actual evidence of interference, infiltration and spying by govern-mental agencies such as the FBI and CIA. What has happened is that the schizoid, paranoid realities of governments, engineers, and corporate powers have grown to such a degree that they interweave seamlessly with the schizoid, paranoid realities of many private citizens.

A corollary development is the introduction into psychiatric discourse of the concept of “borderline personality” and paranoid disorders. This is an effort to bring many fairly sane, but essentially deluded persons within the power and compass of medical diagnosis.  While the full-blown, wholly irrational and disorganized schizophrenic is quickly recognizable by “word salad” speech, manifestly absurd beliefs, and inaccessibility to reason, there also exists a wide range of persons not clinically insane, who nevertheless manifest in a lesser degree, many characteristics of the extreme lunatic. Recent works from the past few years attempt to classify these persons into various “borderline” states (Kantor 34 ff). One text from 2004 includes schizoid, sub clinical behaviors like “grandiosity, illogic, withdrawal, tendency to collect injustices, feuding, and litigious delusions” (Kantor). These all are, and always have been, well within the normal, accepted, and fully explored range of human folly and stupidity. Activists and vegetarians are included in this silly author’s attempt to medicalize the whole spectrum of human behaviors which do not conform to his ideal of total and abject submission to consensus reality.

Persons deeply sunk in schizophrenia are generally too far gone to develop their ideas into fully realized and documented forms. Their word salads, while often novel and suggestive, are too confused to be interpreted, and too transient to be developed. Those suffering from influencing machinery seem often to belong to a different category of intelligent and high functioning schizophrenics, able to develop a complete and internally coherent delusion that ingeniously incorporates aspects of modern political and technical reality. Such certainly was Matthews. Some might include the celebrated American Sci-fi author Philip K Dick in this category. His later works dealt with, and he apparently experienced, a “reality generator” operating from an artificial satellite in space. His accounts involve pink laser beams projecting holograms and conveying information. He called this VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System). Those familiar with PK Dick’s works will recognize many themes involving schizophrenia and the influence of machines. Those unfamiliar with them need to get reading.

Another prominent public figure whose writings dealt with themes of machine control and paranoia was the inimitable Francis E Dec esquire. This man was capable of producing the sort of prose that the standard human neurological apparatus is hopelessly unable to replicate, and at which it can only reel in staggered, awestruck amazement. A few sentences from one of Dec’s stream of consciousness rants basically just blow the collected works of Joyce out of the water. Phrases like “Frankenstein earphone radio control, Frankenstein eyesight TV, Communist computer god parroting puppet gangster slaves, Lifelong constant threshold brainwash radio” have a condensed forcefulness which adheres in the mind like Shakespearian wit. At the risk of rendering this essay a mere vestigial appendage to a work of far greater perspicuity, power, and relevance, I have decided to attach a selection from the oeuvre of Francis E Dec esquire as an appendix.

boiler explosion    Psychiatrist James Glass documents a recent patient who not only “believed that she was being observed all the time by way of TV sets, radios, and other types of listening and spy devices,” but “refused to believe that machines were inanimate and incapable of thought or sexual desire” (Glass 73-4). She was of the opinion that “all machines want to have sex with me” (Glass 75). “Her conception of how machines work, and of the machine-like nature of human responses and feelings, animated all aspects of her life” (Glass 74). Writing of the general influence of machines on schizophrenic thought, Glass notes that “when technology appears in delusional imagery, it provokes torment and fear. ‘I am being electrocuted,’ ‘My brain is being burned with X-rays.’ …Technical functions and activities become persecuting instruments” (Glass 52-3).
Surveying the whole progression of this parasitic electromechanical delusion, from Matthew’s time to the present, unveils and mirrors the insidious effects of technology and mechanistic thinking on political and social reality. Certain modern manifestations deserve special attention.

The “television” device is basically a classical schizophrenic influencing machine that has totally infested almost every aspect of the consensus reality. The projection of sound and vision directly into the brains of couch bound, apparently mesmerized subjects, by means of cunning manipulations of electromagnetic energies, is so similar to the ubiquitous schizoid delusion of the influencing machine as to be almost laughable. The total pervasiveness of the television, and its apparently banal content, disguise its essentially alien, schizoid nature. Televisions are the Air Looms by which the machine virus enforces obedience, spurs consumption, and blocks out competing realities.

While inventions such as telegraphy, radio, and telephone also clearly represent schizoid intrusions from the machine virus, the introduction of the cell, or mobile phone, has taken the development to a new and unmistakable level. We’ve already noted the difficulties distinguishing cell phone users from schizophrenics, as they walk around, waving their arms, and apparently contending with voices in their heads. Another schizoid feature of cell phone users is the palpable and immediate drop in their awareness that occurs as soon as their cell rings. People become paralyzed while blocking doorways, or clog up narrow corridors as their awareness is visibly siphoned off. The effect is particularly notable in cell phone users driving cars. Riding my bike through American cities, I frequently note sudden, random manifestations of incompetence in the behavior of the mechanical pods that surround me. Peering inside, I inevitably see the driver talking into a mobile phone. The effect of lost awareness, or not being “all there” is typical of schizophrenia. In the intrusion of these technologies into daily life, we can observe the unmistakable, though unconscious efforts of the schizoid machine to engineer a population of mesmerized drones, wholly devoted to fostering the virus that parasitizes them. They are like dazed, shambling, suppurated forms, loaded down heavy with bloated, glutted parasites, of whose true nature they are wholly unaware, and which they indeed consider as desirable and modish appurtenances.

To gain an understanding of the real forces at work behind the stunning, horrific developments of recent centuries, requires that we look outside the mundane, accepted realities of normal persons, to the visionary delusions of great inventers and dictators like Tesla, Stalin, Edison, Hitler, and his devotee Henry Ford. These are the intellects that most clearly manifest the emergent forces that have latched onto and invaded our collective social conscious. The paranoid conspiracy theories which abound in our world seem absurd, yet strangely relevant. This is because most contemporary conspiracy theories are incisively accurate except for one thing. They vainly seek agency in gangs, cabals, secret government organizations, black projects, or the vile plottings of high ranking officials, CEOs and vice presidents, when in reality, the perpetrator of these wicked developments is not a group, or even a human being, but a mindless viral force, arising out of the interactions of persons who have surrendered their autonomy, their energy, and their genius to the mechanisms and technologies that their ancestors created.

We have a new type of rule now. Not one man rule, or rule of aristocracy or plutocracy, but of small groups elevated to positions of absolute power by random pressures, and subject to political and economic factors that leave little room for decision. They are representative of abstract forces that have gained control through surrender of self. …The rulers of this most insecure of all worlds are rulers by accident, inept, frightened pilots at the controls of a vast machine they cannot understand, calling experts to tell them what buttons to push.
–WS Burroughs Interzone-Lees Journals p. 71

Lo, man has become the tool of his tools. –Henry David Thoreau

Things are in the saddle and ride man. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

bioforms    Those who have any difficulty in believing that technology itself is an active, controlling force in human affairs, not being used by people so much as enslaving and parasitizing us for its own mindless, viral, destructive, cancerous purposes of endless reproduction, might be instructed by a perusal of Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene. This popular book clearly demonstrates how very simple, apparently “dead” material, mere alignments of repeatable molecules in the genetic code, can give rise to amazing developments in the interaction of living organisms. The crux of the matter is, that the idea of life itself is false, and bears no true relation to the actual situation in our universe. Life is notoriously impossible to define, because it does not exist. Just because we have a word in our language does not mean that it represents an existent reality in the universe. There is no alive, there is no dead. The animist of the Amazon, and Descartes at his parlor fireside, have two partial views of the same reality. Everything is both alive and dead, mechanical and spiritual at once. Those who would deny agency to technology, claiming it is not “alive,” forget that all organisms are but super-complex arrangements of molecules and atoms, extrusions into macroscopic reality of the life force expressing through energy/matter at the atomic level.

Another approach to the idea of technology as a living or viral force might be sought in the perennially irresolvable issue of the nature of consciousness. How is it that you, a pile of meat, are able to have conscious experience and awareness of the world? How does awareness or feelings (qualia) arise from matter? This is another case of a convenient but false distinction in our language producing an unsolvable philosophic problem. The simplest way to clear up the whole matter at once is to recognize that consciousness in inherent in matter. This was probably common knowledge throughout most of human history, and survives in contemporary belief systems termed “animist”. Excellent and rigorous work on this subject has been done by University of Glasgow chemist A.G. Cairns-Smith. Two of his books are recommended: Evolving the Mind (1996) and Secrets of the Mind (1999). Many naturalists and thinkers have speculated on a sort of rudimentary consciousness pervading all matter. The growing forms of crystals and ice have always proved suggestive to pansophists and the alchemically inclined. The “rationalist” delusion that matter is dead serves to blind us to the rampant viral parasitism of technological systems.

Technology, like all other arrangements of matter/energy, has a sort of living essence which seeks to grow and reproduce itself. What is important is for us to recognize that technology is not “just a tool”. Far from it. Technology is more properly thought of as a rudimentary but powerful life form that we have created. It has no conscious, centralized mind, or single source of agency, but it nevertheless seeks to grow and reproduce like any other organism. Because of its viral nature, it must rely on parasitical relations to produce copies of itself. It may be compared to common “invasive species” or “weeds” such as purple loosestrife, Himalayan blackberry, Marine toads, humans, bindweed etc…There is no cabal of underworld figures promoting the growth of crabgrass, nor is there such installing CCTV cameras everywhere. Both are examples of organized, living systems seeking to expand and dominate their environment. The difference is that technology requires a host species.

Should we embrace technology as a new life form on our planet, or seek to violently extirpate it as a parasitic,technocave viral, cancerous growth that enslaves and controls us, preying with mindless avidity on our energies? I incline to the latter view. Currently, our society seems to be totally unaware of the living, autonomous nature of the machine virus, although hints abound in certain parts of popular culture. This life form, technology, is about at the level of a virus. It can reproduce only with the aid of much more complex organisms (industrialized, domesticated humans), and the process of its reproduction is extremely toxic to its host. Cancer, extremely rare in the preindustrial world, now strikes nearly everyone, should they live long enough. Pollution, schizophrenia, autism, monstrous deformities, appalling environmental pollution, destruction and degradation, the mass extinction of species, and tragic impoverishment, are all symptoms of total infestation by the machine virus. It has caused us to reproduce far beyond our natural limits, spamming the environment with redundant copies, while attendant wars and atrocities inevitably ensue. Furthermore, almost all our waking hours are devoted to ministering to and fostering it. The entire urban environment has become a macrocosmic reflection of a circuit board or a cancerous growth. Monoculture and an autistic intolerance for novelty are characteristic of the fascist, impoverished, schizophrenic, star-trek machine reality. People travel around in huge exoskeletal, insectoidal armored pods, filled with explosive supercarcinogens extracted from deep underground. Children and newborns sprout horrific, squamous, festering growths, gnarled masses of confused tissue, teeth and boneless hairballs. They sit staring at clothes tossing in the dryer, memorizing phonebooks. The sad and paltry improvements that technology affords us are but the poisoned bait it uses to extend its mindless tentacles into every aspect of our mental and physical reality.  These swiftly discarded baubles, and their voluminous packaging, are soon reduced to mountainous undifferentiated piles of useless trash which surround us like the gruesome, putrescent remains of a zombie feast.

Anything created exerts a compulsive and fascinating influence on its creator. Through a sort of feedback, technology exercises a vampiric effect, whereby its creators are enthralled into its service. Technical metaphors invade current speech, and the whole of society is engineered to encourage the total technodomination of leisure and wildness. Walking at night, one sees hard-bodied, skinny persons treading away, strapped into exercise machines in the brightly illuminated interiors of suburban gyms, their transport pods parked outside. The stars and galaxies, once visible from the dark hearts of great cities, are no longer to be seen. The effective removal of the stars from human visual experience is perhaps the cruelest and subtlest trick of the machine virus. Black exhaust spews everywhere, illuminated by lamps of metal halides and mercuric vapors. An incessant, inescapable vibration pervades everything, emanating from florescent lights, computers, leaf blowers, jet skis, refrigerators, ventilation systems, lawn mowers, industrial vacuum cleaners, traffic and manifold devices. Listen. Can you hear it now?

Those who argue that technology is merely an inert, neutral thing, to be used as we see fit, could not be more sadly, pathetically and totally deluded. The toll of homage that machines exert is paid in the form of the energy and the attention that we exert while ministering to their needs, or when being supposedly “entertained”. Machines are energy vampires. Almost all of the work we perform goes to support the machines and technologies that render the work necessary in the first place.

Taking all of this into consideration, what I thus advocate is not so much a random, destructive rampage against all technological devices, as the dawning of a clear understanding of what they really are. Consider that parasitism is a universal, ubiquitous phenomenon in Biology, arising in diverse profusion everywhere systems interact. With this in mind, perhaps try taking a machine apart. Explore its innards and see how lifelike it is. Play with it. Make art from wreckage.

How much of your time is spent with machines? How often, and in what contexts, do you ever set foot on a surface which has not been constructed or extruded by a mechanical device?

As a human being, you are heir to an innate joy in freedom and wildness deriving from spiritual exaltation and vast potentials of awareness. Technology and its gangs of thuggish minions, -enslaved, cubical bound drones, administrators, mobsters, functionaries, teachers, doctors, police and politicians are all operating against that inheritance in you. The most effective way to fight them is not to mail them explosives, but to simply refuse to enter their reality. By removing your thought and personal energy, the real nature of which is immense and unknowable, you inflict more damage on the machine virus than boxes of bullets, or the cunningest of bombs.



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