The Group-Fantasy Origins of AIDS

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"The Group-Fantasy Origins of AIDS" (text) is a seminal paper written by the psychiatrist Casper Schmidt. It was originally published in the summer 1984 issue of The Journal of Psychohistory. It is now considered to be a fundamental document in understanding the psychosocial aspects of the AIDS phenomenon.

The paper hypothesises that AIDS is an example of epidemic hysteria. It draws upon a wide variety of historical and cultural observations, concluding that AIDS "is a wished-for solution to pre-existing conflicts" arising in the group psychology of the United States (and by extension, the Western world) since World War II. The group psychology of shame (bone-pointing) is described as an essential aspect of the sacrificial group-fantasy rituals of AIDS.

Epidemic hysteria

Schmidt's central hypothesis is that "AIDS is a typical example of epidemic hysteria". This claim is elaborated by the following subsidiary claims:

  • The epidemic has at its core an unconscious group delusion of scapegoating similar to that found for leprosy during the Middle Ages and early Renaissance.
  • The epidemic is marked by a group delusion "epidemic fantasy complex" of "poison sperm, poison blood and dangerous promiscuity".
  • The most important distal causes were related to drastic changes in the cultural ethos of the West (e.g. development of nuclear weapons, birth control, recreational sex and drug use, women's rights, gay rights, etc.), and the proximal cause was a vast, society-wide conservative swing in the late-1970s.
  • There is a sacrificial witch hunt between the Moral Majority and drug addicts and homosexuals, each acting out group-sanctioned and group-delegated roles.
  • The core sign of AIDS, the reclusion of cell-mediated immunity, is one of the typical vegetative signs of a severe depression triggered by shame.
  • The epidemic represents an equivalent of war in the group's unconscious fantasies.
  • Most of the members of the group are in a trance state.
  • The epidemic will restore to endemic levels when the group has "had enough".