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Arthur J. Deikman (born 1929) is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology[1] and Human Givens.[2] He is also a contributor to The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

Life and work

Born in New York as the son of a businessman and raised in Long Island, Deikman studied physics at Harvard University.[2] He then moved to mathematics, and then to pre-med classes.[2] He traces his choice of psychiatry to an encounter with a doctor who gave him a physical exam prior to his entry to Harvard Medical School: "When I told him I liked Rilke and Yeats, he told me I was going to be a psychiatrist. It gave me the most freedom. I could get research grants because anything could be considered part of the mind."[2] On a two-month summer vacation which he spent camping alone in the Adirondacks, another experience occurred that was to determine the direction his life took: "I sat on a rock by a lake and tried to get closer to what I felt in music and poetry. After two weeks of that, colors became brighter. Something emanated from the sky and trees. I knew other people weren't experiencing it. This seemed very important."[2]

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Intrigued by this altered awareness, Deikman became a pioneering investigator of mystical states in the 1950s and in the following decade created a humane form of psychotherapeutic treatment for patients suffering from psychosis.[2] He also became a student of zen meditation under Suzuki Roshi, of Sufism under Idries Shah, and explored the Human Potential Movement with Esalen leaders George Leonard and Michael Murphy.[2]

In the early 1970’s, Deikman famously identified the syndrome of "mystical psychosis" to characterize first-person accounts of psychotic experiences that are strikingly similar to reports of mystical experiences. According to Deikman, psychotic experience need not be considered pathological, especially if consideration is given to the values and beliefs of the individual concerned. Deikman thought the mystical experience was brought about through a "deautomatization" or undoing of habitual psychological structures that organize, limit, select, and interpret perceptual stimuli, possible causes of such deautomatization including exposure to severe stress, substance abuse or withdrawal, and mood disorders.[3]

Deikman took part in a one-year research seminar on new religious movements in order to gain a better understanding of the attraction these movements had exercised on many Americans in the 1960s and 1970s.[2] In 1990, he wrote The Wrong Way Home: Uncovering the Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society, which is used as part of the curriculum for the course "Cults and New Religious Movements" at St. Francis Xavier University.[4] It is a cited reference for the article "Self-Sealing Doctrines, the Misuse of Power, and Recovered Memory", by psychologist Linda Riebel.[5] It is a cited reference in the Encyclopedia of Psychology, and is quoted in the article on cults, where the article asserts that: "Certain types of political groups and terrorist organizations are still other examples of 'cults' that defy the common definition of the term."[6] Deikman observed that "behavior similar to that which takes place in extreme cults takes place in all of us," and suggested that "the longing for parents persists into adulthood and results in cult behavior that pervades normal society."[6]


Published works



See also


  1. JHP website, Sage Publications, Arthur Deikman, Affiliations: School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Futcher, Jane (2006-02-26). Demystifying cults: Psychiatrist analyzes why people join groups, Marin Independent Journal
  3. Deikman, A. J. (1971). Bimodal Consciousness. Archives of General Psychiatry, 25, 481–489..
  4. "Cults and New Religious Movements", Dr. Annette J. Ahern, St. Francis Xavier University, RELS 225/SOCI 226, Section 11.
  5. "Self-Sealing Doctrines, the Misuse of Power, and Recovered Memory", Linda Riebel, Transactional Analysis Journal, vol. 26, no. 1, January 1996, pp. 40-45.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Cults, Encyclopedia of Psychology.

External links

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