Freak or Katharma

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Originally published in Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books, 1979, Vol 24(2), 108–109. Reviews the book, Freaks: Myths and Images of the Secret Self by Leslie Fiedler (1978). This book is another in the list of self-help books, although not as yet a best-seller Fiedler introduces the classic sideshow freaks with chapters on dwarfs, giants, “strongs and fats,” “beauty and the beasts,” the wild men, feral children, hermaphrodites, and Siamese twins. Ancient and contemporary myths, images, and icons are proposed as both projections and precursors of humankind's universal doubts and fears of being freakish. This theme is especially strong in the early chapters. In Part 2 of the text, the author relies heavily upon recent history to support his analysis of modern cultural trends. However, logic dictates that a psychological-cultural analysis involving myths, icons, images, and archetypes should review their ancient and classic origins. This book is not, as the author would like the reader to believe, a search for ancient archetypes and images, but rather for a social form of psychohistory. The degree of acceptance accorded to the unique individual, the Katharma, may be a measure of our maturity as a civilization. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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