Article — From the January 1955 issue
- Current Issue
SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
Article — From the January 1955 issue
On the pretext of discovering how he did all the remarkable things he reported and just why it was he, Kirk Allen, to whom these special gifts were given, I strove to enlist his active participation in treatment. This meant, of course, that at least for the time being I “accepted” the validity of his experiences, and the “truth” of the material in the records. When Kirk appreciated that we had achieved a common ground where we could work together on a problem that intrigued him, he dropped his defenses and fell to the mutual task with enthusiasm.
For many months we progressed swiftly toward the goal we had set ourselves: to find out what had happened to Kirk to render him “sensitive” to the extraordinary experiences he reported. Our emphasis was on his actual biography, on the formative events, relationships, and associations of his childhood and adolescence. Nevertheless, so that he should know that no detail was being overlooked, I consented to–as a matter of fact, urged him toward–the exploration of additional means of discovering the source or sources of his “sensitivity.”
Accordingly, from time to time Kirk submitted to various examinations I arranged for him. Under an assumed name he put himself through the Diagnostic Clinic at the Johns Hopkins Hospital; received a thoroughgoing neurological examination including electroencephalogram, air injection engrams, and X-ray studies of his cranium from an outstanding neurologist of my acquaintance; was surveyed thoroughly by an endocrinologist; and even studied in meticulous detail by a physical anthropologist. The outcome of all these elaborate tests was nil: in every respect save the psychological Kirk was distressingly average.
By the end of the first months of Kirk’s treatment I was in a position to formulate, at least to my own satisfaction, the underlying psychic factors in his psychosis. Quite likely the incident that was to prove traumatic for him and determine, to a great extent, his future pattern, occurred when his family so abruptly severed his almost symbiotic relationship with the Polynesian nurse, Myna. Until then all his needs, biological and emotional, had been gratified. After the separation he was not only denied access to what had become the fountainhead of his security, but also lost the pivotal point of his contact with the universe. He could not even communicate with others, or employ any of his former techniques of behavior to obtain what he–like any child–required for normal development. His infant mind, threatened with permanent engulfment, strained to master it by the only means available at that stage: fantasy.
The first world Kirk built for himself was constructed at an age when most children are consolidating the gains of infancy and passing into a childhood in which the chief mental operation is the testing of reality. This was a phase through which Kirk never went; and it left him with a stunted capacity to distinguish between the real world and his own fantasies.
What followed generated the elements responsible for the two most intriguing and characteristic qualities of his fantasying: the qualities of time and distance.
Myna’s return to Kirk and the removal of the Commodore’s family to the mandated island coincided, and were followed in relatively swift succession by Kirk’s mother’s virtual retirement and Myna’s death.
More from Robert Mitchell Lindner: