The three christs were three institutionalised schizophrenics.
THE THREE CHRISTS met for the first time in a small room off the large ward where they live. The date was July 1, 1959. All three had been transferred to Ward D-23 of Ypsilanti State Hospital a few days before and had been assigned to adjacent beds, a shared table in the dining hall, and similar jobs in the laundry room.
Initially, 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. Subsequently, a second purpose emerged: an exploration of the processes by which systems of belief and behavior might be changed through messages purporting to come from significant authorities who existed only in the imaginations of the delusional Christs.
… while I had failed to cure the three Christs of their delusions, they had succeeded in curing me of mine—of my God-like delusion that I could change them by omnipotently and omnisciently arranging and rearranging their daily lives within the framework of a “total institution.” I had terminated the project some two years after the initial confrontation when I came to realize—dimly at the time but increasingly more clearly as the years passed—that I really had no right … to play God and interfere around-the-clock with their daily lives. Also, I became increasingly uncomfortable about the ethics of such a confrontation.
Nope, those aren’t spoilers, they’re quotes from the prologue. If you want a good summary of the book, here’s one. Basically, although the author’s redemption is right there in his own admission that the experiment was unethical, it’s still a tragedy. It was a two year mindfuck in the name of psychotherapy. Putting three christs in a room together could have been a good idea, but creating complex illusions to counteract their existing delusions wasn’t. It was cruel.
Reviewers seem to grasp the stupidity and arrogance of the psychiatric professional’s god complex, but they’re missing one other vital point. Just because someone is seriously mentally ill, you shouldn’t assume they’re unintelligent. Simple, yet that’s actually an assumption that perpetrates in these supposedly enlightened times, regardless of how many disturbed creative geniuses anyone lists on the internet.
It’s a book for rubberneckers, I guess.
The hospital was closed in 1991, I couldn’t find out anything about any of the christs.