“We know”, says Dr. Elam, “that certain pathological conditions have a tendency to become epidemic, influenced by causes not yet investigated….We see how strong is the tendency of opinion once promulgated to run into an epidemic form – no opinion, no delusion, is too absurd to assume this collective character.
We observe, also, how remarkably the same ideas reproduce themselves and reappear in successive ages;…no crime is too horrible to become popular, homicide, infanticide, suicide, poisoning, or any other diabolical human conception.
…In epidemics, the cause of the rapid spread at that particular period remains a mystery!”
These few lines contain an undeniable psychological fact, sketched with a masterly pen, and at the same time a half-confession of utter ignorance – “Causes not yet investigated.” Why not be honest and add at once, “impossible to investigate with present scientific methods”?
Noticing an epidemic of incendiarism, Dr. Elam quotes from the Annales d’Hygiene Publique the following cases: “A girl about seventeen years of age was arrested on suspicion…she confessed that twice she had set fire to dwellings by instinct, by irresistible necessity…a boy about eighteen committed many acts of this nature. He was not moved by any passion, but the bursting-out of the flames excited a profoundly pleasing emotion.”
Who but has noticed in the columns of the daily press similar incidents? They meet the eye constantly. In cases of murder, of every description, and of other crimes of a diabolical character, the act is attributed, in nine cases out of ten, by the offenders themselves, to irresistible obsessions.
“Something whispered constantly in my ear….Somebody was incessantly pushing and leading me on.” Such are the too-frequent confessions of the criminals. Physicians attribute them to hallucinations of disordered brains, and call the homicidal impulse temporary lunacy.
But is lunacy itself well understood by any psychologist? Has its cause ever been brought under a hypothesis capable of withstanding the challenge of an uncompromising investigator? Let the controversial works of our contemporary alienist answer for themselves.”
H. P. Blavatsky