CHAPTER X
EPILEPSY

Epilepsy is the most protean, variable, and uncertain of all maladies. -- SPRATLING

It will be recalled that Lombroso in the later years of his professional work described all natural criminals as epileptoid in nature; that is as epileptics fundamentally. This can now be categorically denied. But epilepsy, notwithstanding, and the epileptic personality have no small place in the literature of criminology, and in other literature too that is descriptive of eccentric behavior.

This type of personality does not fit under the rubric of dissociation phenomena so nicely as do the paranoiac and the victim of dementia praecox, but there are superficial similarities at least, and one explanatory hypothesis definitely links the epileptic with the dissociated personality.

These cases are marked by great inconsistencies of conduct, ecstasies and inspirations. According to many accounts they occupy a prominent place in the history of civilization as leaders, reformers, and literary men. Mohammed has been described as an epileptic.1 He is said to have been a victim of seizures in which he fell upon the ground and frothed at the mouth while, as we have pointed out in another chapter, he heard the stones and the trees speaking to him. Joan of Arc, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon Bonaparte are said, by the same authority, to have been of the same nature. But we may assume without question that they were leaders in their own fields in spite of their epileptic nature and not because of it. Dostoyevski is represented as an outstanding case also and his writings are crowded with descriptions of epileptic behavior. He writes in The Demons:2

There are moments -- and it is only a matter of five or six seconds -- when you suddenly feel the presence of the eternal harmony. This phenomenon is neither terrestrial nor celestial, but it is an indescribable something, which

____________________
1
See Ireland: The Blot on the Brain. New York, 1886.
2
From Schoen: Human Nature. New York, 1930, 435 f.

-178-

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