Book Review - Beyond All Reason, Morag Coate, 1964, J. B. Lippincott Company, N.Y.

Reviewed by John A. Speyrer

Ever since attending a Grof holotropic breathwork workshop two years ago, I have become interested in learning about the interfaces of psychotic episodes, mysticism and regressive feelings. I consider Morag Coate's Beyond All Reason to be another interesting study of such first person experiences. Her work shows how feeling ones deep early pain can be healing.

With an introduction by British psychiatrist, R. D. Laing, the book concerns the author's descent into five episodes of psychosis. Its first part describes the deeply delusional and hallucinatory happenings as the author remembers them . The second part contains her analysis of the experiences, with chapters on the concept of God, religion and life, the doctor's role, and patient life in mental hospitals. In this review, I have chosen to only include portions which relate to some of her regressions and subsequent insights.

It is unfortunate that so much of her book is merely a description of her active hallucinations and so little about her uncovered feelings of the traumas of her life which partially formed the building blocks of her schizophrenia. Experiencing the active psychosis was healing, since she wrote that shortly after her discharge from the mental hospital for the fifth time, she viewed a movie entitled "David and Lisa," which dealt with two severely mentally disturbed teenagers. The movie portrayed the two adolescents in a very sympathetic manner. After leaving the theater this touching acceptance triggered in her an understanding which allowed her to realize ". . .with sudden insight the relevance of minor neurotic symptoms," and made her remember ". . . the terrors of infancy which had been revived for me in my last time in hospital." She ". . . began to reach down towards the roots of a forgotten fear of absolute destruction and annihilation. . ." Birth trauma?

She had felt that she had lost her mother's love. But here the author writes: "The curious experiences which I went through at that stage would take too long to recount in detail here."

Undoubtedly, this recounting would have comprised the most interesting part of her experiences, so it is unfortunate that she chose not to write about these "curious experiences." Why such reluctance as she wrote of many personal and even embarrassing anecdotes? Perhaps, she felt that her readers would find her regressive re-livings to be more unbelievable than her description of her delusions and hallucinations! She does say, however, that ". . . (o)nce that phase was over, I could return to the interests and joys of normal adult life. . . I had been made whole."

The author writes that it is "assumed that little children only have little feelings," but that in actuality, the reverse is true. Even if these feeling are defended against and driven underground they can still be reached. She emphasizes that the feelings do not begin at birth, but go back to the womb and before. Birth is only a new phase of life.

"The unconscious of the analysts is for the most part the consciousness of infancy and early years which later life has overlaid and sometimes deliberately concealed. But a deeper consciousness, the preconscious memory of the flesh laid down in embryonic life, may well have more in it that we get to know."

Morag Coate writes that the life of the sperm and ovum is the real beginning of our personhood. She believes that the embryonic phases of our lives includes the evolutionary development of our ancestors going back to hundreds of millions of years. The cosmic transpersonal experiences of her psychosis, she insightfully believes, were often related to experiences of childhood expressed in symbolic fashion.

In the chapter entitled, Deliriums, Delusions, and Dreams, she recounts that as a child, a common dream ". . . (w)as of crawling into a tunnel in the earth and of finding that I was stuck and could not get through." She speculates that this dream ". . . was a reactivation under stress of the infantile terrors of the birth experience." Other early dreams were being on the verge of falling or of being dropped. She feels that this "relates to the fear of falling or being dropped that is experienced for the first time immediately after birth."

But, after she had recuperated from her ". . . first mental illness the dream changed. There was still a moment of fear . . . but the terror was gone and I never reached the point of falling. I was no longer alone and helpless."

She has good things to say about feelings and laments that tears are not allowed in mental hospitals. "There seems to be no understanding," she writes, "of the fact that the patients who are unbearably tense or most deeply depressed may be suffering both mentally and physically from the fact that they cannot cry."

For other articles on this subject, see on this website, The Psychology of Mysticism