World War I
By daylight each mind was a sort of aquarium for the psychopath to study. In the daytime, sitting in a sunny room, a man could discuss his psychoneurotic symptoms with his doctor, who could diagnose phobias and conflicts and formulate them in scientific terminology. Significant dreams could be noted down, and Rivers could try to remove repressions. But by night each man was back in his doomed sector of a horrorstricken Front Line, where the panic and stampede of some ghastly experience was reenacted among the livid faces of the dead. No doctor could save him then, when he became the lonely victim of his dream disasters and delusions.
(Siegfried Sassoon, Sherston's Progress)
THE “RIVERS” who is mentioned in this passage is W.H.R. Rivers, a temporary captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) serving as a psychiatrist at the Craiglockhart Military Hospital, near Edinburgh. Over the preceding two decades, Rivers had established an international reputation as an ethnographer and a pioneer researcher on nerve regeneration. It is Rivers the anthropologist who is best remembered today—Rivers the member of the Cambridge Expedition to the Torres Straits (1898), the originator of the “genealogical method” of investigating kin relations and terminologies (1900), and the author of a classic ethnography of South Asia, The Todas (1906). 1
In November 1915, Rivers traveled to London to deliver the FitzPatrick Lectures to the Royal College of Physicians; his subject was “Medicine, Magic, and Religion.” He had two messages to convey in these lectures. The first was that in every society, even the most primitive, people possess beliefs and practices that are identifiably “medical.” That is, they possess beliefs and practices that allow them to control, or to believe that they