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The two embrace, and Barnes cries deeply with great relief. Barnes presents herself as having been a naughty child relieved to be reconciled with her father. Her images are sexually evocative. We are told of weeping and loving embraces, and it is as though Berke has penetrated Barnes, taking her virginity and causing blood to flow. The play offers the possibility of foregrounding a parent-child, and sexualized, element in the therapeutic relationship that is already present in Two Accounts.

Similarly those who had been trained as patients found it difficult not to relate to others as patient. Kingsley Hall was not an ordinary mental hospital but a countercultural venture. Archival sources record a remarkable fluidity with which residents moved between the roles of professional, resident and intellectual. While not evident to visitors and flatly denied by sympathetic Kingsley Hall commentators e. Schatzman ; Gordon , , this becomes evident to Berke, to whom it recurs in a moment of ironic reflection that undermines the image of the Hall as a utopian experiment.

The values and practices of the medical world beyond the Hall could not be entirely kept outside. But she begins painting and writing and is able to start interacting with other residents—thus finding ways through words and images of symbolizing her experience.

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Barnes eventually becomes one of the former patients aiming at facilitating madness to whom Laing refers in The Politics of Experience. More than that, she becomes an evangelist of madness, wanting her brother to undergo an experience similar to her own. She becomes the explicit spokesperson for what is strongly implied but never clearly said in Politics : Go mad; it will do you the world of good, refreshing your spirit and returning you to your true self.

It is Berke who suggests that Barnes paint. Her first paintings, done on wallpaper, are accompanied by brief stories or little anti-psychiatric fairy tales. In The Mermaid Story , for instance, a mermaid stranded on dry land, literally out of her element, finds a way back into the sea; in The Wind and the Flowers, flowers are uprooted by wind to an uncongenial environment, but their seeds are carried to a place where they can flourish.

The Egg and the Sea is almost the mirror image of The Mermaid Story : a woman finds herself ill-equipped for life in the sea and eventually finds her way on to land where she can live at ease. These are all stories about moving—journeying—from one environment into another where organisms might flourish. It is important to note that while writing is clearly therapeutic for Barnes, she is not involved in anything like a program of writing therapy.

There was no formal program of therapy at all in Kingsley Hall. Of more importance to Barnes than her writing, and of more interest to others, were her paintings. The Harcourt Brace edition, reprinted by The Other Press in , gives far more prominence to artwork than other editions. Black and white images show Barnes finding ways of representing her rage through art. Two pictures, for instance, show her with her mother: a small and vulnerable presence towered over by a persecutory maternal presence.

Such images foreground the importance of symbolization beyond narrative, something that, as Angela Woods has pointed out, the field of medical humanities has tended to under-appreciate in its emphasis on storytelling. She soon focused exclusively on hand painting in often-large artworks of swirling lines and bright colors, with almost exclusively religious themes. She is recognized as a fellow artist by Felix Topolski and Harry Trevor and by Jesse Watkins, the sculptor who had undergone Laing's ideal voyage of self-exploration.


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In the run-up to her Camden Arts Centre exhibition in North London, she became a counter-cultural celebrity of interest to the mainstream media. Barnes, however, writes nothing about this event besides mentioning her little exhibition. As David Edgar points out in his introduction to Two Accounts , the Dialectics conference clearly related anti-psychiatry to wider political critique; but the concern with politics in Two Accounts is rather with the micro-politics of the household i-xviii.

The world beyond the Hall rather fades from view. Kingsley Hall in Bow, East London, had been established by two philanthropic sisters early in the twentieth century, and they ran community services from there. Inscribing the anti-psychiatric community in the history of resistance and radical struggle, Berke mentions that Gandhi stayed in the building in when attempting to negotiate Indian independence.

However, the Hall had largely fallen into disuse by the s and was offered at a nominal rent to the Philadelphia Association, the mental health charity set up by Laing and others in The place was spacious: a large meeting room, rooms that served as bedrooms, a games room, a dining room, and a kitchen, a roof garden and a self-contained flat on the roof Barnes and Berke , Having considered other places, Laing settled on Kingsley Hall as a place for a radical community. The utopian vision of Laing is again undermined by Two Accounts.

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Barnes herself is the cause of much consternation within Kingsley Hall. Everyday values were not subject simply to carnivalesque inversion. Her taking up painting rather than smearing her feces on walls solved a smelly and disturbing problem for residents that might otherwise have led eventually to her expulsion from the Hall. Barnes became very ill while in the Hall: a uterine hemorrhage required hospital treatment.

What caused the greatest problem for Mary is what led to her acclaim outside the house: her paintings. Others thought she was trying to take over the household by putting up her work everywhere, and she was told to remove her paintings. In , she tells us, she was given notice to leave the community several times because of non-payment , , , , How do the bills get paid? Who is in charge? How far can one person be allowed to pursue their course if it troubles others? Archival sources also present this outlook. Rather, after periods of hospitalization and poor mental health, the implication is that Kingsley Hall was her last chance.

Not everyone, it seems, was in the same utopian s boat. At the same time, however, Barnes is more than simply an object of research, and more, even, than a focus of research about whom Berke and others at the Hall care about deeply. In writing her account of her life at Kingsley Hall, she takes up a position as a researcher in an important experiment. Laing implies the inadequacy of the therapeutic community, but Berke is explicit on this point. The implication is that such an injustice could never occur at Kingsley Hall. Significantly, however, neither Berke nor Barnes discuss the event that the US author, former Kingsley Hall resident and the initial chair of the Philadelphia Association, Clancy Sigal, has given in his fictionalized account of his own experience, Zone of the Interior , and has discussed directly elsewhere By his own account, Sigal had a mental breakdown and breakthrough in Kingsley Hall, but part of this involved the decision to leave the community.

After doing so, he was visited and physically held down by Laing, Berke and others who thought Sigal suicidal. They injected him with a tranquilizer and returned him to the Hall. Writing in , Berke admitted that he and Laing had treated Sigal appallingly. What must have been a major event in the life of the community, and one that could be understood as giving the lie to visions of anti-psychiatric harmony, is given no place in the text of Two Accounts. Her therapy, though, becomes increasingly conventional, more congruent with psychodynamic tradition. While she is initially cared for by Berke, who spends whole days with her at Kingsley Hall, their relationship changes.

Such internalization was seen as crucial by the psychoanalysts D. She mentions a correspondence with Anna Freud that she had hoped would lead to therapy, but Anna wrote saying that Barnes would be unsuitable for analysis. For Berke, psychoanalysis is very important, and here he differs not only from Barnes but also from Laing in The Politics of Experience and his writing on the Hall.

Just as Berke differs from Laing in respect of psychoanalysis, so he does in relation to mysticism. This is a fundamental difference in views and something we might expect him to discuss further, but he does not. My emphasizing the mortifications of the flesh does not detract from the realization of the soul. Three brief sentences: an acknowledgement of differences that borders on a glossing over of them. Yet, we must note, the incongruity in views, foregrounded by the dual narrative form, does not simply detract from the coherence of the text or undermine its argument—the value of withdrawal into madness.

Barnes was very much a Catholic, and when we think of countercultural religion, it is likely that we will think first of Protestant new religious movements, such as the Jesus People. Of course, Catholics, and sometimes prominent ones, such as Thomas Merton and Daniel Berrigan, participated in or lent support to civil rights and anti-war activity in the s, and in this respect we might speak of countercultural Catholicism. There is one Catholic movement, The Catholic Workers, founded in the US in the s and practising a kind of Christian anarchism, that can be compared in some respects to Kingsley Hall.

There is no evidence, though, of Barnes or anyone at the Hall having had any contact with the Catholic Workers. It is best to think of Barnes as practising a unique version of countercultural Catholicism. Like many mystics, she underwent great privations such largely eschewing food for extended periods that could be understood as a means of purifying the soul.

Her Christianity is crucial to her recovery. She does, we are told, find satisfying ways of living. Two Accounts fits well with what the medical sociologist Arthur Frank calls, in his typology of illness narratives, a quest narrative. The quest narrative has strong Christian connotations Woods , Barnes, who writes a story very much as a Christian—and hers is a story of great pain, redemption and rebirth—brings out the Christian associations of the quest-based illness narrative.

Such was not the case, though, for others at the Hall. But not every one enjoyed such support. Berke left the Philadelphia Association in and with Morton Schatzman set up his own psychotherapeutic organization, the Arbours Association. He and his colleagues founded a Crisis Centre in Crouch End, North London, and a household nearby for less severely disturbed people.

We can see, too, a movement away from the optimistic s view that appropriate structures will arise organically and so need not be set out in clear frameworks. She is explicit in stating that she was divided between Berke the Arbours Association and Laing the Philadelphia Association. She is now, though, able to find the right words: previously unbearable affect is rendered manageable through symbolization.

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As the s progressed, Laing and Barnes became increasingly interested in the trauma of birth, in perinatal psychology and in the practice of rebirthing introduced to the UK by the US therapist Elizabeth Feher. I do think there are similarities between the therapeutic household and some religious practices… I certainly fasted, I had solitude, and I knew physical pain in the body without psychical sickness.


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All these things various religions have been very aware of in their conscious desire for wholeness and holiness for centuries , , 79, Returning to the words of Barnes and Berke reveals both divisions and affinities between the two of them, and affinities and differences between each of them and Laing. Differences are highly significant, particularly the ways in which Barnes, in and through the dual narrative form, is able to differ from others. Far more than an exemplary patient, victim or dupe, her particular vision is discernible.

But we ought not to overlook what Barnes, Berke and Laing have in common. Implicit in the writing of both is the belief that, in the right circumstances, and for at least some people, it is possible to strip away the excrescences of socialization in order to get in touch with a core self that can form the basis of eventually rearticulated and differently integrated selfhood. This view of the self, understood in terms of surface and depth, might not be nearly as compelling today as it was then, but it is a view that both Barnes and Berke share with Laing.

Kingsley Hall was an experiment of a previous age, of course. As Torn points out, twenty-first century readers might well be shocked at the relative lack of therapeutic boundaries and the lack of regulation in the household. Yet renewed attention to the Hall testifies to continuing interest in the household Fowler ; Harris ; McGeachan The Hall was the first Philadelphia Association household, and there are two in London today.

L , which sympathizes with the radical intent of the Barnes-Berke era Hall, holds discussions about mental health in the Hall. The Kingsley Hall experiment may not provide a straightforward alternative to biomedical conceptions of mental illness and its treatment, but analysis of Two Accounts might, I suggest, provide useful starting points for those interested in social psychiatry today, as well as to practitioners and scholars interested in mental health, spirituality, and metaphors of therapeutic progress. The reading of the text offered here will, I hope, inform further re-evaluation of Laing and his circle, and provide a useful reference point for readings of as yet unconsidered accounts of life at Kingsley Hall in the R.

Laing archive at the University of Glasgow. I would like to thank the R. Laing estate for permission to refer to material in the R. Laing Collection, University of Glasgow, and the staff at Special Collections, University of Glasgow, for their aid in locating material. This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by the author. Archival resources referred to in this article are all to be found in the R. For these resources, I shall give just the appropriate call number in parentheses.

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While I was not brought to the household by Two Accounts , it was common for visitors and prospective residents to come to the household expecting to find, or wanting to have, a Barnes-style re-birth experience. The s having long gone, such people were disappointed on both counts. Skip to main content Skip to sections. Advertisement Hide. Download PDF. Journal of Medical Humanities pp 1—22 Cite as. Open Access. First Online: 02 June Barnes understands her experience very much in spiritual terms. And then she elevates her subject matter by moving into poetry: alternating lines of accentual, non-syllabic verse four stressed syllables a line, followed by five, then four, then five stressed syllables : The Devil fades, Christ is at peace.

The picture seems to look at me. Did I do it? Yes, it was a movement of me, from me. Awe, of God, of myself. For both, moving from alienation towards authenticity is to move from fragmentation towards wholeness, and wholeness equals holiness. Therapy and religion are thoroughly inter-implicated.

Barnes looks forward, in the end, to moving beyond illusory egoic consciousness into a state of all-encompassing heavenly union. Barnes is not a cosmonaut of the vast unknown psychic interior, an inner spacewoman; nor, I would add, is she on a mission of ideological rebellion to open up new ground beyond the civilizations of East and West. In this task she is not merely sustained by her faith. Her faith deepens and renews her commitment to therapy, just as therapy renews and deepens her faith. Kingsley Hall, it is implied, provides a means for her to divest herself of the alienating effects of socialization and to key into her core self, which in turn is connected to God.

Regression for Laing, and Barnes, is a form of religious practice, but the spiritual potential of regression goes beyond Christianity to embrace religion more generally for both Laing and the devout Catholic Barnes. The mad person, given the right environment, might express the awareness common to various religions. We are offered a countercultural version of perrenialism. Acknowledgements I would like to thank the R.

Compliance with ethical standards Conflict of interest The author received a research grant Research Resources Bursary from the Wellcome Trust grant no. Ethical approval This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by the author. Adame, Alexandra L. CrossRef Google Scholar. American Psychiatric Association. Balint, Michael. London: Tavistock Publications. Google Scholar. London: BBC.

Barnes, Mary, and Joseph Berke. London: Free Associations. New York: Other press. Barnes, Mary, and Anne Scott. Berke, Joseph. London: Peter Owen. Berke, Joseph, C. Masoliver, and T. London: Process Books. Burston, Daniel. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. Caminero-Santangelo, Marta. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. Campbell, Joseph. Myths We Live By. New York: Viking. Chapman, Adrian. Accessed January 5, Laing's The Bird of Paradise.

Cooper, David. Psychiatry and Anti-Psychiatry. The Death of the Family. London: Allen Lane. Cooper, Robin, and Steven Gans, J. Heaton, Haya Oakley, Paul Zeal. Crossley, N. Davies, James. Cracked: Why Psychiatry is doing more Harm than Good. London: Pegasus. Double, D. C ritical Psychiatry: The Limits of Madness. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave. Unholy Baptism is now a recording only project. Contact Unholy Baptism. Streaming and Download help. If you like Unholy Baptism, you may also like:.

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