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Battle for the mind : Dr. William Sargant in conversation with Dr. Ernesto Spinelli.

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About this work


Absorbing two part documentary feature on the life, work and ideas of the late Dr. William Sargant (1907-1987), formerly of the Maudsley and St Thomas' Hospitals and lifelong advocate of a radical "physicalist" approach not only to the interpretation and treatment of mental illness, but also of a whole variety of other abnormal mental and behavioural states, such as religous trance and possession, not normally regarded as falling within the psychiatrists territory. Of the highest interest not only for historians of nineteenth and twentieth century psychology and psychiatry, but also for anyone interested in cultural anthropology or the psychological study of religous - and irreligous - beliefs and practices. "Part 1: The Mind Possessed"With the aid of lavish excerpts from his own unique ethno-cinematographic archive (now in the posesssion of the Museum of Mankind), Sargant recalls his apprenticeship in British psychiatry in the 1930's and 1940's, vigorously defends his controversial treatment of war neuroses by "abreactive drug therapy", and shows how, in his view, Pavlov's theories of conditioned reflexes provide a single, complete "explanation" for the phenomena of religous ecstacy, demonic possession, trance and hysteria, regardless of their historical or cultural context. "Part 2: The Unquiet Mind" Sargant explains why his unorthodox methods and "difficult" personality soon made him persona non grata for both the "establishment" and "progressive" camps in post-war British psychiatry. He takes issue with what he sees as modern psychiatry's excessively psychological and pseudo- humanistic orienations, and further justifies his own decided preference for physcial methods of treatment and psycho-surgery.


[Place of publication not identified] : Channel 4, 1987.

Physical description

1 videocassette (VHS) (2X52 min.) : sound, color, PAL.

Creator/production credits

Illuminations Ltd.

Copyright note

Channel 4 TV



  • English

Where to find it

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