[xiv PERCEVAL'S NARRATIVE -Bateson Intro, 1961]
At this point a digression is necessary. Every recovered schizophrenic presents the problem how and why did recovery occur? And this problem is seen as especially urgent when the recovery is achieved with a minimum of medical interference. What is called "spontaneous remission" is regarded as a mystery.
Perceval's narrative and some of the other autobiographical accounts of schizophrenics* propose a rather different view of the psychotic process. It would appear that once precipitated into psychosis the patient has a course to run. He is, as it were, embarked upon a voyage of discovery which is only completed by his return to the normal world, to which he comes back with insights different from those of the inhabitants who never embarked on such a-voyage. Once begun, a schizophrenic episodewould appear to have as definite a course as an initiation ceremony a death and rebirth into which the novice may have been precipitated by his family life or by adventitious circumstance, but which in its course is largely steered by endogenous process.
In terms of this picture, spontaneous remission is no problem. This is only the final and natural outcome of the total process. What needs to beexplained is the failure of many who embark upon this voyage to return from it. Do these encounter circumstances either in family life or in institutional care so grossly maladaptive that even the richest and best organized hallucinatory experience cannot save them?
Let us consider what sort of man Perceval was and to what extent he is justified in claiming that he had completely recovered when he was writing the first book in Paris in 1835 and the chapters about his
recovery in the second book. How sane is the anger of a man who must repetitiously justify his anger? How sane is a man whose final word to the world is the statement that he still intends to sue his mother for complicity with the Doctors Fox? How sane is a man who must assert hisintention to escape from a lunatic asylum before he makes the actual attempt? How sane is a man who says: "I found that no patient could escape from his confinement in a truly sound state of mind, without lying against his conscience, or admitting the doctrine, that deception and du plicity are consistent with a sound conscience" [p. 125].
* Barbara O'Brien, Operators and Things (Arlington Books, 1958).
http://archive.org/stream/percevalsnarrati007726mbp/percevalsnarrati007726mbp_djvu.txt [full text of Gregory Bateson's 1961 book]
[AS IT WAS SUNG: SET YOUR CONTROLS FOR THE HEART OF THE SUN]