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Recovered Memories Cross the Oceans

Psychic Vibrations

Robert Sheaffer

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 19.4, July / August 1995

The American practice of “recovering memories” of all manner of unspeakable abuse has leaped the Atlantic, and the Pacific as well. In Britain a new group called Accuracy About Abuse has been formed to promote belief in “recovered memories.” Its founder is Marjorie Orr, a Jungian psychiatrist and professional astrologer who writes horoscopes for the Daily Express and Woman’s journal.

Replying to skeptical members of the False Memory Syndrome Society [sic] over the Internet, Orr explained how “serious astrology is a reef which the high and mighty of the scientific establishment have come to grief on before. . . . I would not volunteer it but since you raise the question-a personal birth chart will certainly show up clearly and in some detail the psychological dysfunctions which would indicate that someone was likely to abuse or had been abused.” If this is correct, then a lawyer might successfully argue: “My client cannot be held accountable for these acts, since his moon is in Leo, in conjunction with Neptune.” Orr also noted: “As Liz Greene, the British psychological astrologer, also an analyst, remarked - the astrology is like the road map. The therapy is the hard work of walking that road.”

Yet another group probing deeply into the British psyche calls itself Primary Cause Analysis. According to an article last year in London’s Sunday Times, this group, which “has been secretly training hypnotherapists in Britain,” claims that virtually everyone has been sexually abused as a child. According to Primary Cause Analysis, there are 39 kinds of child sexual abuse that were performed openly as rituals until 2800 B.C., when society - presumably every society at once - banned them. Practically all of the problems that cause people to seek therapy are the result of repressed memories of abuse at the hands of mothers and fathers, as are many other conditions, including acne, alcoholism, asthma, autism, backache, conjunctivitis, diabetes, halitosis, hay fever, and myopia, to name a few. The group’s founder, the late James Bennett of New Zealand, taught that 98 percent of infant crib deaths were the result of sexual abuse. Therapists who are trained in Primary Cause Analysis are required to sign a statement promising to keep secret the group’s teachings about sexual abuse.

Back in North America, the Ontario provincial government contributed $15,000 to a “Surviving Ritual Abuse” conference held last January in Thunder Bay. Organized by a “survivors” group called Stone Angels, the conference revealed to the world how the epidemic of satanic molestations is, in fact, being orchestrated by the Masons. Stephen Kent, of the Department of Sociology at the University of Alberta, told CBQ-Radio that, according to some of the accounts, the abuse seems “to have taken place in buildings which sound like they were lodges. Moreover, a lot of these accounts involve group abuse, and some people have very strong suspicions that the network in which their, in most cases, fathers allegedly moved were Masonic networks. So a lot of people believe that other alleged abusers were also Freemasons.” He hastened to explain, however: “I’m sure that ordinary Masons would be appalled to hear the kind of stories that I have heard. In no way, even in a worst-case scenario in which some of these accounts would be more or less true, in no way would I suspect that the mainstream Masonic organization would in any way be involved in these things.”

Peter Toohey, a Thunder Bay Mason and former police officer, was furious at being excluded from a taxpayer-funded conference that purported to discuss “Masonic ritual torture.” He has protested to local elected officials and says he is considering legal action for slander against the group, stating that the Masonic order contributes more than $545 million dollars a year to charitable organizations.

In Chicago, Kimball Ladien, a psychiatrist who once sat on the Illinois State Task Force on Ritualistic Abuse, ran for mayor in the Republican primary as the “Anti-Cult Candidate.” According to a story in the February 17 Chicago Reader, Ladien helped draft recently passed anti-ritual-abuse legislation that makes it a felony to place “a living child into a coffin or open grave containing a human corpse or remains.

Ladien and several of his colleagues at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center arc being sued by a woman whose story is told, under the pseudonym Anne Stone, in the book Making Monsters, by Richard Ofshe and Ethan Watters. She alleges that she was persuaded by therapists at that institution that she had been “the High Priestess of an international Satanic order,” in which her family had participated for 400 years. Her complaint against Ladien alleges that his “hypnotic sessions” helped persuade her that “she had over 300 alternate personalities as a result of extended and repeated sexual and other traumatic abuse as a child, including the participation in ritual murders, cannibalism, satan worship, and torture by members of her family.”

Ladien regrets the suit. “I feel somewhat betrayed,” he said. “I spent a lot of personal time with [Arine] and the family doing my utmost to help them.” It would seem, however, that the family does not view its ordeal involving extended psychiatric hospitalization arid accusations of ritual cannibalism and torture as being “helpful.” As if this were not bad enough, the anti-cult candidate was handily defeated in the primary election by Ray Wardingley, formerly known professionally as Sparky the Clown.

A correspondent in Sri Lanka sent us copies of the “Marriage Proposals” pages from the Sunday Observer, the major English-language newspaper there. In that country, where marriages typically are arranged by families with strict attention paid to education, caste, and dowry; it appears that perhaps the most important factor of all is one’s natal horoscope:

Durawe [caste] Buddhist parents seek professionally qualified partner late 30s for Accountant daughter owning car Colombo residential property other assets caste immaterial. Horoscope required.

Buddhist parents seek a pretty partner for their son 34 years 5’6” height, an Executive in an airline. Horoscope essential.

Brother seeks a suitable partner for a Canadian citizen Tamil Hindu sister 31 fair, pretty; 5’1” B.Sc. holding a good position in Canada. Caste creed and religion immaterial. Full details and horoscope please.

Govi Buddhist parents seek English educated businessman/professional of good background 36-46 years for their attractive educated daughter (36) 5’4” holding prestigious academic position receiving substantial salary possessing fixed deposits, jewelry etc. worth over seven lakhs. Caste immaterial if horoscope background exceptionally compatible.

Respectable Kandyan Govi Buddhist parents invite proposal for pretty bride of similar status for son Executive in a prestigious firm fair slim 5’4”, 28, Saturn 8th house.

Meanwhile, here in North America we choose marriage partners on the basis of something at least as elusive as astrology: “love.” It is not always clear which approach is the more irrational.

Robert Sheaffer

Robert Sheaffer's "Psychic Vibrations" column has appeared in the Skeptical Inquirer for the past thirty years. He is also author of UFO Sightings: The Evidence (Prometheus 1998). He blogs at