by Paul and Phillip Collins ©, May 27th, 2005
In 1486, the dominant ecclesiastical authority published The Malleus Maleficarum (translated: The Witch Hammer). Written by two Dominican Priests, this infamous text claimed to be an authoritative guidebook that could be used to identify practitioners of witchcraft. However, the book had more to do with snuffing out the Church’s competition than it did with recognizing witches. At the time, herbal healers had more success curing people with alternative methods than did the priests with highly stylized rituals. Under the pretext of delivering the world from evil, innovation and eccentricity were criminalized. The Malleus Maleficarum played no small role in the process.
Likewise, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) has served a similar function in the marginalizing and, on occasion, incarceration of potential innovators. Now printed in four editions, the DSM is “the billing bible for mental disorders which commingles neurological diseases with psychiatric diagnoses” (O Meara, no pagination). While The Malleus Maleficarum stigmatized certain modes of thought and behavior as “witchcraft,” the DSM stigmatizes them as “disorders.” In an interview with OMNI magazine, R.D. Laing expands on the role of the DSM in marginalizing divergent paradigms: