In the summer of 1959, Milton Rokeach, a social psychologist at Ypsilanti State Hospital in Michigan, brought together three patients: Clyde Benson, Joseph Cassel, and Leon Gabor, each of whom believed himself to be Jesus Christ. Rokeach hoped that spending time with others claiming the same identity would shake each man of his delusion, or, as he put it, “my main purpose in bringing them together was to explore the processes by which their delusional systems of belief and their behavior might change if they were confronted with the ultimate contradiction conceivable for human beings: more than one person claiming the same identity.” Rokeach observed them for two years, examining the nature of identity. It didn’t seem to help his patients, but it certainly affected them. Originally published in 1964, The Three Christs of Ypsilanti is a fascinating, sad, and disturbing psychological case study that most likely could not be repeated today.
NYRB Classics published their edition of The Three Christs of Ypsilanti in April of 2011, and it is the book we will be discussing in Episode 3 of The Mookse and the Gripes Podcast.
In Episode 4 we will be discussing Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s Memories of the Future.
Show Notes (1:10:08)
- Brief Milton Rokeach Bio: 2:29
- Spoiler-Free, General Discussion: 4:50
- Spoiler/Specifics Discussion: 31:25
- Jenny Diski: “Which one of you is Jesus?”, review of The Three Christs of Ypsilanti in The London Review of Books, October 20, 2011
- NYRB Classics publicity page
- Mookse and Gripes Review of The Three Christs of Ypsilanti
- The Three Christs of Ypsilanti on The Mookse and Gripes Forum
- Co-Host Trevor Berrett
- Co-Host Brian Berrett
- Introduction Music — “Where We Fall We’ll Lie” by Jeff Zentner, from his album The Dying Days of Summer (used with permission)
- Outro Music — “If This Is to Be Goodbye” by Jeff Zentner, from his album The Dying Days of Summer (used with permission)