Illusion and Reality, Christopher Caudwell 1937
Poetry is written by a poet. The contradiction which generates it is a special case of the contradiction that drives on society and is fought out in the real life and real consciousness of men – the contradiction between man’s desires and Nature’s necessity. Poetry springs from the contradiction between the instincts and experience of the poet. This tension drives him to build the world of illusory phantasy which yet has a definite and functional relation to the real world of which it is the blossom
The twentieth century has learned a good deal about the general nature of phantasy. Among its important discoveries are those of psycho-therapy, using the pioneer methods of Charcot, Janet, Morton Prince and, above all, Freud. Freud’s founded many rival schools, of which the best known are those of Jung (analytical psychology) and Adler (individual psychology).
Probably in no other field has the essential weakness of modern science been more clearly shown than in the subsequent development of the important data gained by Freud in his early researches. This weakness is the lack of any synthetic world-view in which to fit the empirical discoveries made. The researches of a brilliant investigator such as Freud increase instead of clarifying the hopeless confusion of modern ideology.
The scientist is left with two alternatives. On the one hand, he regards his discoveries as limited to his own particular sphere and adopts towards reality as a whole a complete eclecticism, which leads inevitably to a view of reality as unknowable and to a conception of science as a mere collection of convenient summaries of empirical discoveries not necessarily capable of coherence or synthesis. Or, on the other hand, the scientist who has made some important discoveries may, in default of a world-view common to science as a whole, erect a complete ideology on the limited basis of the particular discoveries he has made. Naturally such an ideology will be a travesty of reality and will fail to account for most of the important features of reality and of the human mind. The things unaccounted for by its explanation are forcibly reduced to the level of the other few facts by the crude “nothing but” method.
If, however, this happens to be repugnant to the scientist, as will be the case if he is a scientist of some breadth of culture then mystical explanations will be given for the other phenomena inexplicable by his limited world-view. A large portion of reality will be conveniently removed to the sphere of religion, as among the vitalists, holists, entelechists and spiritualists generally.
Freud is representative of empiricism with its reductive method, while Jung tends towards a more eclectic and mystical point of view.
Freud finds sexuality – using a somewhat broad definition of sexuality – present in all human ideology, but most clearly seen in the products of neurotic conflicts. This sublimated sexuality takes a number of forms: artistic, religious and philosophical. It is in fact the generating force of all human activity. “But then,” the objector urges, “sexuality is something else besides sexuality, which by definition is a certain instinct directed to the accomplishment of the sexual act?” “No,” Freud answers, “sexuality is unable to take this simple form, because it comes into conflict with the stern prohibitions of the super-ego and the ego in the psyche. The wealth of ideology is produced in its attempt to sublimate the conflict. This ideology includes religion, morals, art, philosophy, neuroses and dreams.”
Freud takes the arbitrary, ego-instinct duel further by his concept of the Pleasure and Reality Principles. The pleasure principle represents the instinctive desires of the sexual part of the psyche. The ego is associated with the reality principle. Here we have nothing but a special version of the familiar biological opposition – the instinctive organism and its adaptation to the environment.
Freud’s pleasure principle (which as he himself admits, must include hunger and other instincts beside the sexual) is the appetitive striving of life, and the reality principle is that conditioning or adaptation of its appetites produced by the environment. This adaptative instinct, seen in action, appears to the cat stalking the mouse, the otter fishing, the deer on watch and fleeing. But no hard-and-fast line can be drawn between the two. In seeking a mate, in seeking food or in evading danger, a pleasure principle is being followed, but the animal cannot ignore external reality; indeed it is only by the help of its adaptations to reality that it gratifies its appetitive instincts. Why then do the two not come into conflict in animals and so create a neuroses and an ideology? Why is the conscious ego in man associated with the reality principle and not with the more “egoistic” appetitive instincts of sex, hunger or self-preservation?
Freud is, in fact, only rediscovering in his new but limited sphere, categories as old as any known to human thought, and then applying them, with the nomenclature and special twist they receive in his domain, back to the whole sphere of human thought. It is the old contradiction between subject and object, between man and Nature, between instinct and environment, between free will and necessity, between life and matter, which appears in Freud’s psychology in three different dresses: (a) as the pleasure principle and the reality principle, (b) as the life instinct and the death instinct, (c) as the ego (together with its emanations the id and the super-ego) and the libido.
Now we have already remarked about this subject-object dualism (which has been the constant ground of our study so far) that men have tended to separate them as mutually exclusive opposites and to give only one the status of reality. Thus all reality is reduced to those phenomena which do not contain any part of the other: since these two opposites are not exclusive but mutually interpenetrate, such a reduction eventually reduces the world to precisely nothing but a meaningless name.
Since he is a psychologist and not a philosopher, Freud does not treat of all reality but only of mentation, conscious and unconscious, considered objectively. Yet here, exactly as in the field of knowledge as a whole, the same interpenetration of environment and instinct takes place, and it is never possible to separate any mentation as specifically instinctive and in no way conditioned by the environment. The attempt to do so, to discard as “additional” or “sublimated” all mentation which bears the stamp of the environment, involves excluding layer after layer of consciousness as secondary and unreal until one reaches as the only true psychic reality something vague and formless, a mere name – libido.
Yet this discovery was in fact given from the start in Freud’s bourgeois approach to psychology. The bourgeois philosopher is unable to rise above the standpoint of the individual in civil society. All social activity is the product of the free will and dynamic urge of the individual as it emerges immediately in its own consciousness grappling direct with Nature. Since its instinctive centre is the source of its freedom, any restrictions placed on it by social relations cripple and distort its range of action.
This conception is, of course, appropriate to a class the conditions of whose existence are that he is free to produce exactly what seems best to him in view of the market, the market itself being but a kind of extension of Nature or the environment. To such a class, the initial condition of whose development was that it abolished all feudal relations, freedom necessarily seems to inhere in the individual by divine right, and freedom appears as the ignorance of the necessity of those social relations which influence the individual’s desires.
Such a conception leads to a wholly false view of society and freedom, and in psychology, therefore, to a misinterpretation of the social contents of the psyche and of the way in which the instincts become free. It reflects the view of a class whose own developing freedom rests on its alienation from active struggle with the environment, and in whose ideology therefore there is already a cleavage between subject and object. Instead of seeing that subject and object are separated actively by their mutual struggle, such a view supposes that they are already separated contemplatively by their mutually exclusive nature. Such a misunderstanding can only lead to an interpretation of the world in terms of either subjectivism or mechanism, and Freud, although he regards himself as a materialist, chooses the subject. Libido, the source of free action, creates the psychic environment which cripples it. Freud’s idealistic presumption is the simple presumption of Rousseau’s “natural man,” who is born free and is everywhere in chains.
But we have already seen that the instincts, unadapted by society, are blind and therefore unfree. The brute is not free; the ant is the slave of its innate responses. Man’s freedom is obtained by association, which makes it possible for him to acquire mastery over Nature through becoming actively conscious of its necessity and his own. This association of itself necessarily imposes certain restrictions, conventions and obligations, such as those of good behaviour, language and mutual aid. But all these things are not fetters on the free instincts (libido); they are the instruments by which instinctive man realises his freedom. The view of reality which is science, the canons of feeling which are art and ethics, are imposed on the instincts from without; none the less they are not fetters, distortions, inhibitions or sublimations. They are the means by which instinct realises its freedom because they give it understanding of Nature’s necessity and its own and therefore are – since Nature will not yield to a mere wish – the only means by which the will can actively realise itself. And man’s consciousness, with its ego, its sublimations, its distortions, and its vivid rich complexity, is nothing but the adaptation produced in man’s psychic genotype by the conditions of working in association with other men towards the realisation of freedom. Consciousness, in the broadest sense (including therefore the subconscious, which is also the product of modified instinct), is a social product. It is not merely that consciousness has a social component. The construction of consciousness is the socialising of the psyche.
Of course individuals vary, and this individuality is reflected in their consciousnesses, just as the difference in a man’s anatomy is reflected in his clothes. Yet clothes are clothes and not flesh and blood, and these social adaptations of the human psyche are the very means by which individual differences are realised and accentuated. Also human experiences differ, and since consciousnesses are determined by experience, individual consciousnesses will differ, but this is only to say that society itself by division of labour has so differentiated itself as to give rise to the possibility of widely different individual adventures in the world of geography or of feeling; this difference contrasts with the simple sameness of lives among the members of a herd and once again shows that the development of society is the means by which differences are realised and personality attains its full worth.
Since consciousnesses are determined by the social complex made necessary by a given historical development of the productive forces, and it is not, as Freud assumes, that society is determined instantly by the make-up of the psyche, the historical production of ideology, phantasy, dream and the like must depend on an historical change in the structure of men’s social complex. It must be plain that this is so, for if the innate qualities of the psyche determined the social complex and also the consciousness and ideological productions of its members, how could these vary so much from age to age and culture to culture, when man’s genetic make-up barely varies at all in historical times?
It can be shown that the material productive forces of society, and the relations between men made necessary by these, vary and develop historically according to deterministic laws of a quality peculiar to the sphere of society, and since this development is fought out in the consciousnesses of the men who engage in these relations, it is possible to explain scientifically the ceaseless change of ideology and individual consciousness in spite of an invariant psychic genotype. To cut away all these material causes, as Freud does, is to cut away the only means of understanding scientifically the cause of historical changes in ideology.
It also robs his therapy of any but a local and particular value. Since the distortions and variations of consciousness, including all neurotic conflicts, are generated, not by material conditions of living but by the psyche torturing itself, by the ego separating itself and issuing stern demands to the libido, man can only be cured by becoming conscious of the cause of his conflict which, since it is all in the psyche, can by the same effort of will be removed. Hence Freud’s therapeutic theory is solipsist and religious.
Empiricist as he is, he does not of course carry this out consistently. He admits material causes for neurotic conflicts, such as family upbringing, psychic traumata derived from experience, unhappy surroundings and puritan education. But he does not fully see that if this kind of explanation is to be carried out in any scientific spirit of thorough-going determinism, it at once shifts the responsibility for the organisation of consciousness on to the material basis of society. He does not fully see that if the super-ego is a reflection of the parent, then – since the parent’s behaviour to the child, and his status in regard to it, are reflections of the economic development of the era  – the formation of the super-ego, which is the key to most neurotic conflicts, is determined by sociological laws. To admit this fully would make psycho-therapy – once the connections between the psyche and the environment were understood – a matter of understanding how to modify the social environment itself. Of course with a rich neurotic the environment can modified more easily, and since Freud’s patients are mainly of this type, it suffices to state the problem of the environmental causation of neuroses in the partial vague way he does. But applied to society as a whole, any such therapy is – literally – revolutionary.
For although society is the instrument of man’s freedom, it no means follows that it is a perfect instrument. On the contrary its imperfections are what produce the constant development of society. The very nature of class society necessarily involves that the productive forces – on whose power men’s freedom is based – tend in varying degrees to become stifled and crippled by the social relations which made possible their initial development. Class society itself is only a result of the division of labour which raised social productivity to new levels. At such periods it certainly seems as if man’s social relations are crippling his possibilities of freedom. At such times he groans and travails and cries out because the forms and restraints – the morals, religions and all the conscious formulations of society – are crippling his “free” instincts. The very neuroses which Freud investigates, and which are so characteristically modern, are products of this travail – the labour pangs of a new society.
Freud is always faced by the dilemma of deducing the changing phenomena of consciousness and mentation from unchanging instincts and an unchanging biological environment. This can only be done, as we have shown, by the introduction of a variable, the relations made necessary by economic production: but Freud ignores this. Hence he is driven to deduce historical change from the make-up of the individual psyche, and he therefore Imagines to be a permanent part of the psyche what are merely reflections of a special social environment.
Jung is well aware of the contradictions in psychology. He regards them, however, as mechanical and mutually exclusive opposites – such opposites as “introversion” and “extraversion,” or “energic quantitative finality” and “materialistic qualitative causality.” He is never able to resolve the contradictions he raises, because he never passes from the contradictions of psychology to the sphere immediately beneath psychology, that of society itself. Instead he passes in the opposite direction, from psychology to the epistemology evolved by psyches, and gets lost in the old familiar metaphysical difficulties of subject and object. Thus by a more philosophical and less empirical path, Jung arrives at the same dilemma as Freud. Since the neurotic conflict is due to the conflict between life and reality, which religion in its various forms has been evolved to sublimate, how is the patient to be cured? Freud recommended telling the patient that the medicine was only water from the tap, in the belief that the shock would cure him. (Cure by abreaction.) Jung recommends that the patient should be allowed to believe in the water, should in fact be encouraged to spin his own fancies about it. (Cure by synthesis.) Jung justifies himself in this betrayal of science by the belief that back of all mythology are primeval structures inherent in the mind (the archetypes) which interact with the patient’s ideology and so generate myths. These, although they are not truly true, are yet psychologically true. (Birth of the Hero.) Thus Jung also chooses the subject and a fundamentally idealistic approach. Their therapy is a therapy of will-power and mystic wind-control. In neither do the material, i.e. the environmental causes of mental disease figure candidly and openly, but only in the limited form of erotic transference to the analyst. The analyst tries to fill the rôle of society and necessarily fills it meanly and in a limited way. Neither see that the problem is of its nature one which cannot be solved only in the sphere of consciousness divorced from action.
Nor do Freud or Jung see that, in so far as religion is brought in by man to plaster up a decaying culture, man will have no difficulty in giving birth to new mythologies without the need of archetypes or the psycho-analyst’s midwifery. Dying bourgeois culture has in fact evolved the vigorous religion of fascism, complete with mythology and choregus as seen in Germany and Italy. The neurotic conflict is a real thing and Jung and Freud are right when they see the germs of it in all civilised beings. But they are wrong in supposing to be a pathological product of civilisation which would be removed if only we could do away with civilisation. The conflict between man’s instincts and environmental reality is precisely what life is, and all the products of society – hats, art, science, houses, sport, ethics and political organisation – are adaptations evolved to moderate and cure that conflict. Since the successful issue of this conflict is freedom, it is nonsense to talk of these adaptations as crippling freedom qua adaptations. They only cripple freedom to the degree in which they grow obsolete and begin to stifle the developing freedom they have already generated. This crippling is not a sign that adaptations must be done away with but that fresh adaptations are needed. It is therefore pointless to ask oneself, as Freud does, whether civilisation is worth the price one pays for it in the frustration and crippling of the instincts, for it was precisely to moderate and lessen the frustration and crippling of the instincts by the environment that civilisation was evolved.
Hence psycho-analysts play a petty part during the breakdown of modern civilisation in war, unemployment, universal degradation, hatred and despair. Plainly there is a world-wide conflict between the instincts and the environment and all the tremendous and elaborate superstructure of society – religion, art, laws, science, states, patriotism, ethics, political aims and aspirations, liberty, comfort, peace, life itself – all these things tremble and collapse in ruins; yet it was just this splendid edifice that man constructed to sublimate, in Freudian nomenclature, to resolve, in ours, the contradiction between his environment and his instincts. This immense decaying superstructure fills with awe the mind even of the revolutionary who sees the cause of its collapse and the still more complex structure which will supersede it; but as a substitute for it the psycho-analysts solemnly offer the meagre constructs of Freudian philosophy or Jungian mythology, tattered scraps expected to heal the conflict which a whole Europe of human achievement cannot resolve.
On the surface Adler’s approach seems more realistic. In his theory of the struggle for existence and the consequent development of an inferiority complex and a compensatory ability, he realised the way in which bourgeois competition strangles in its final stages all the best in man’s individuality and ability. He recognised the environment.
Let us take a quotation from Adler:
In a civilisation where one man is the enemy of the other – for this is what our whole industrial system means – demoralisation is ineradicable, for demoralisation and crime are the by-products of the struggle for existence as known to our industrialised civilisation.
So far, so good. Here we have an analysis of the general effect of capitalism on the individual. What is his remedy?
To limit and do away with this demoralisation, a chair of curative pedagogy should be established.
We see, then, that psycho-analysts are idealist in their approach to the practical problems of living, and in no way take up an attitude different from that of the great class-religions. For if man’s subjective feelings of misery, unease and unhappiness, are not due to outer material causes but to Sin (as the religions put it) or Complexes (as the analyst puts it), then man’s misery, unhappiness and unease can be cured by casting out sin, by self-control, by salvation, by abreaction – whatever name one gives to a pure exercise of will unaccompanied by organised effective action. Indeed, many of the class-religions have gone further in that they have developed organisations for clearing up certain sectors of misery by material action – societies to care for the sick, for example.
If the root causes of broad areas of human misery are due to the surroundings in which the Psyche develops, and the obstacles, possibilities, adaptations and attractions offered by the social relations of that environment, then they can only be eliminated by a material change, which will make possible a change of heart. This view is opposed both to that of religion and of psycho-analysis.
Aside altogether from the question of revolution, if the strife between man’s instincts and environment can be cured by “education,” by a mental self-change, why has man troubled to evolve factories, clothes, houses, cooking, language, art, religion, science and political organisations? These are all products of the struggle between the instincts and environment and are all unnecessary if Freud and the religious teachers are right, since man’s conflict could be resolved merely by his becoming conscious of its causes.
Of course, faced with such an obvious instance as the hunger instinct, Freud could not maintain that its conflict with reality could be pacified by any means other than the material therapy of food. But the logical basis of his theory is certainly idealist or “yogi,” and it is this which makes Freudians treat art, one of the instruments of men’s freedom, as something childish and escapist in tendency. They do not see that the human conflict between man and Nature (of which the neurotic conflict is only a special form) drives men to free association, and that art is a necessity of this association, the means whereby it remains free, and because it is free reaches heights and depths inaccessible to a coerced association.
The whole of psycho-analytical writing flounders in the marsh of bourgeois epistemology, where subject and object appear as mutually exclusive opposites under a hundred will-o-the-wisp disguises and where the problems of mind are insoluble precisely because in the society which generates this discussion “mind” has moved away from “matter” – subject and object have ceased to interpenetrate actively and so establish in practice their theoretical identity of opposites.
What is consciousness? Unconsciousness? Instinct? Reality? Mind? Illusion? Understanding of these concepts is evidently vital for a psychology – and it is not surprising that Freudism, with its naive Rousseauistic idealism, cannot achieve a satisfactory psychology.
The individual is born with certain instincts, evidenced in action (response to stimulus) and changed in that action (conditioned response), That conditioning includes consciousness: memory, images, thoughts, percepts and recognitions are the conditioning of instincts.
But not all conditioning of instincts is consciousness. It is important to understand that there is nothing mysterious in unconscious mentation. The repetition which is subtly different, the circling rhythm which is a spiral, the reaction which is changed because of what has gone before, is not peculiar to mind or life, but is a general characteristic of the process of reality. The like, Space, is generated by the ingression of the unlike, Time. Only when this process evidences itself in the sphere of life do we call it psychic; but then we have no reason to call it conscious, any more than the purposeful activities of the autonomous nervous system are conscious. The thing to be explained and accounted for as an intruder is not unconsciousness but consciousness. Only our immediate experience of it can give us grounds for accepting it.
As soon as a mentation becomes conscious, it makes a qualitative leap and enters the sphere of free will. Conscious mentations are different in quality from unconscious precisely because they are conscious. Consciousness is a real material quality and not an epiphenomenon; it is the quality of freedom in mentation.
The behaviourists argue that we have no right to deduce consciousness in others, and that their actions can all be explained deterministically by the sufficient stimulus. Their argument as to the non-existence of mind is sound as long as it remains in the sphere of theory, just as is the subjective idealist’s argument as to the non-existence of matter. It is disproved in practice. Aware ourselves of a qualitative difference in actions when they are associated with conscious thoughts, we find, in our active intercourse with others, that their actions show similar differences. In so far as we depend on their consciousness in our transactions with them, and these transactions are successful, we prove the reality of their consciousness.
This in itself gives us the clue to what consciousness is. Consciousness is the product of association: not of herd association which is mediated by instincts, but of association for economic production which is mediated precisely by consciousness – by specific adaptations of the psychic instincts. We can never prove consciousness in terms of the theory of the common perceptual world because it is entirely that world. In the same way we can never prove not-consciousness (matter) because it is entirely not that world.
Objects detach themselves as objects from the flux of perception in so far as they become objects for social men. The sun, a mere unrecognised source of phototropism for animals, becomes a socially recognised object for man, ripener of harvest, measure of the working day, clock and compass of the hunter. The field of perception is organised into figure and ground only in so far as figures have a significance for the conjoint action of men. Instinctual appetite is the basis of his organisation, but it is lifted to a higher plane, it becomes conscious, as soon as it is an organisation for society.
This is equally true of our affective world. This flowing penumbra of instinctive music only acquires a pattern, only becomes conscious, to the extent that social life itself organises feelings, sentiments, passions, enduring trends, aims and aspirations which draw their stability from the relations of associated men.
In the fashioning of consciousness the great instrument is language. It is language which makes us consciously see the sun, the stars, the rain and the sea – objects which merely elicit responses from animals. It is this which makes us capable of appreciating truth and beauty: for truth is a relation between a perception of reality and the common perceptual world, and beauty is a relation between a feeling-tone of reality and the common ego.
Thus we see that what makes the difference between the unconscious brute that a man would be if reared like Mowgli by a wolfish foster-mother, and the conscious human he in fact becomes in society, is the active relation between his personal experience of reality and the common perceptual world and common affective ego. Science and art expand and develop this world and this ego. They are not contained in them; they are secreted in the whole complex of a working society. Science and art may for various reasons in some respect oppose or deny the perceptual reality and affective attitude given in concrete social experience. In such a case science or art seems to conflict with a man’s consciousness.
The common world and the common ego are generated by the active struggle of associated men with Nature, as a living historical development; and the consciousness of an individual is formed in organic connection with this struggle. Once again we repeat that the common perceptual world and the common ego do not stamp a standardised pattern on the genotype: like the society of which they are products and reflections they are the means whereby the genotype realises its individual differences in the psychic sphere.
It is for this reason that consciousness and conscience have so close a connection: for the conscience – the imprinted summary of the ethical laws of society – is a special integration of the individual consciousness, just as truth, beauty and reality are other integrations, playing similar social rôles.
This is not to say that there cannot be a conflict of conscience, divided aims and the like. On the one hand man’s struggle with Nature is never absolutely victorious, and just as “accidents,” like an earthquake or an attack of malaria, may reveal the relativity of any victory, so in the psychological sphere madness, murder, neuroses or melancholy reveal that man’s adaptations do not extend to the full conquest either of himself or Nature. Man is not yet completely free. The consciousness is not completely integrated – different layers may have different trends.
In addition man’s struggle with Nature is complicated by contradictions generated in the very instrument of his freedom, society. This gives rise to local stresses and strains, giant upheavals, revolutions, or the ruin and decline of whole societies. This is necessarily reflected in man’s consciousness – moral problems; feelings of sin, worthlessness and despair; widespread death thoughts; vast spiritual needs; loss of faith – these emotional pangs are part of the travail of society.
In a primitive society where man is as yet undifferentiated, conscience and consciousness are similarly simple, direct and homogeneous, and for this very reason lacking in depth and vividness. Primitive communities seem to have “collective representations” and a participation mystique. When this consciousness is attacked, there is no complexity or balancing of forces to soften the blow; the collapse is complete. The primitive who is once convinced that he has sinned or is bewitched will promptly die – a fact well-attested by field anthropologists. The shallowness of his consciousness is revealed in the simplicity of his dissociation, the ease with which his psyche can be precipitated into hysteria, his high degree of suggestibility and the “all-or-none” nature of his emotional reactions – all symptoms pointing to a mentation more unconscious and instinctive than that of “civilised” differentiated man.
We are born not merely primitives but brutes. Our instincts are not adapted genetically but by the social environment. We have already pointed out that this is the whole meaning of consciousness. Because our instinctive adaptations are acquired, our mentation presents different levels of unconsciousness and is more or less instinctive. It has an outer layer of civilisation, below it a more primitive layer, and still lower a merely animal core. This has long been generally known; but it was the achievement of psycho-analysts, while in general misunderstanding the social basis of consciousness, to understand the importance of unconscious mentation and to devise a technique for probing it.
Because the interpenetration of subject and object is complete, because life and experience is always the struggle of the instincts with the environment, all mentation necessarily has in it a component of outer reality and an instinctual component. This is not peculiar consciousness but is a feature of all living responses. The fact that even the autonomous nervous system responds to and may be conditioned by environmental influences reveals that it too has a “reality” component in its mentation. Hence the whole field of neural activity is interpenetrated both with environmental or acquired effects and innate or instinctive effects. Previous psychology was chiefly concerned with acquired effects – the “real things” in the conscious field: even the sentiments, feelings and instincts of earlier psychology were regarded objectively and figured as real things. Psycho-analysis therefore found a whole new field to conquer – the exploration of the instinctive or innate elements in mentation considered not objectively but in action, i.e. in their own terms. Unfortunately they went to the other extreme and rejected all the objective components, with the result that life reduced itself to a blind dynamic libido. This libido seemed something preformed which wandered into the world like a Christian soul incarnate, instead of arising from a process in reality itself.
When we divide man into instinct and environment, we must remember that man’s instinct itself is the product of environmental adaptation (natural selection) but that this is inborn biological adaptation, whereas man’s conscious adaptation is to the social environment and is therefore acquired cultural adaptation. Conflicts may arise between these two layers of adaptations – the biological or instinctive, the cultural or conscious. In normal life each has its own sphere. Purely biological adaptations attend to man’s digestion, purely cultural adaptations to man’s design of a house; but in so far as they overlap a mutual distortion may arise. Man’s digestion may be upset by an ugly house; his design of a house may be done for money – i.e. to feed himself. Cooking becomes an art. Art a bread-and-butter activity. It is this distortion and overlapping which psycho-analysis has studied. Since the biological instincts are closely connected with the generation of emotion and the feeling-tone in consciousness (the exact connection has not yet been satisfactorily established), the study by psychoanalysis of the distortion of the consciousness (including the volition) by the instincts has been largely a study of the influence of emotional associations and complexes on men’s thoughts and actions. And since we have already discussed the organisation of the affective elements of consciousness into a common ego by art, it is plain that the discoveries of psycho-analysis must be an important aid in the understanding of art.
No satisfactory classification of mentation has yet been proposed. We are concerned with the flow of images (not necessarily visual) to which I give the name phantasy, to distinguish them from clear perception or memory. We will use the following classification of these: (a) Dream; (b) Day-Dream or Reverie; (c) Free Association; (d) Directed Thinking; (e) Directed Feeling.
Until the psycho-analysts, no psychologist seriously studied the dream. Thanks to Freud, we now see the absurdity of that omission. Because of its primitive character and strange features, the dream throws light on the nature of phantasy and the rôle of thought.
The dream has certain characteristics which distinguish it from other kinds of thought. By far the most important is the fact that in it thoughts – the memory-images of percepts condensed, displaced and modified – take the place of the real environment. This is the specific feature of dream. In all other forms of phantasy the thinker is still vaguely conscious of his environment and does not site himself in the products of his fancy; he does not give them the status of immediate surroundings. The dreamer does. Hence they acquire a vividness and rounded actuality such as always belongs to the immediate environment when it is the object of attention.
This “materialising” of thoughts is the result of introversion, of a withdrawing of sensory attention from the environment. This introversion is what constitutes sleep. Sufferers from anaesthesia of the skin have only to dose their eyes – providing the room is quiet – to fall into slumber. All the aids to sleep— darkness, quiet, mental blankness – are devices for reducing external sensory stimuli.
The materiality and vividness of dream-thoughts are thus only relative. If one recalls dream faces, forms, words and scenes, they are all vague, blurred, colourless, full of holes, indefinite and incomplete. But because no external sensory reality existed to quarrel with them, they assumed the status and vividness of the environment. It is this concentration of attention which gives the dream material its reality and vividness and not its own internal coherence. On the contrary, the material of dream is confused and patchy.
Jung investigated ordinary “free association” – waking associations of one image to another formed by the mind freely, without conscious attention to reality. Dream is an elaborate form of continuous free association, in which the free flow of phantasy acquires the material reality of an environment. Freud laid bare the mechanism of this more elaborate free association of dream.
Surréalisme bases its technique on this free association. It hopes thus to realise a spontaneous artistic production. Here it only displays the classic bourgeois illusion that freedom is the ignorance of necessity. Freud’s and Jung’s experiments have clearly proved that so far from dream or free association really being free, they are subject to the iron determinism of unconscious necessity. Distortions of instinctive drives called complexes inexorably force phantasy to follow a mean and narrow groove.
MacCurdy’s researches on the productions of maniacs revealed the same iron law hidden beneath apparent spontaneity. The seemingly effortless and bewilderingly profuse flow of manic raving proved, on the careful analysis of stenographic reports over a long period, to be in fact all determined by some wish of an infantile simplicity. Once the unconscious law was revealed, the raving was seen to be simply a few thoughts which oscillated within the bounds of the crudest symbols.
What is the function of dream? Freud and Rivers agree that it is physiologically “the guardian of sleep.” Stimuli that might rouse the sleeper to action – that is, wake him – are switched into non-motor channels unless they become imperative. Such stimuli include not merely external stimuli, such as bells whose sound is woven into the dream, but also internal stimuli – pains, hunger, sexual wishes, all the nascent stirrings of instinctive desire which make even a dog execute running movements in his sleep.
Freud also saw that this explanation by no means ended the matter. Granted that dreams enable one to sleep on in spite of disturbing stimuli, why do they take the particular form they do? Freud showed that they must take the form of a phantastic response to the external stimuli. It is a pity he gave this general quality of dreams the particular description of “wish-fulfilment,” as it has misled his followers and has tended to separate psycho-analysis from other fields of psychology, such as behaviourism and gestalt psychology.
Suppose a sleeper has been called. The knock penetrates his dream; the active response to this would normally take the form of his getting up. His phantastic response therefore takes the form of dreaming that he gets up – an experience most of us have had. In the same way, if a sleeper is disturbed by hunger pangs, his waking response would be to feed, and therefore starving explorers dream perpetually of food.
Of course this is “wish-fulfilment,” inasmuch as in phantasy one fulfils one’s wish to get up or to feed. But wish-fulfilment is misleading as a general description, because “wish” is a term usually used of a consciously formulated aim, and its use here hides the close kinship of the phantastic response of dream to the active response of waking life. All the countless stimuli that move us in daily life to action – a command, an incentive, something seen, curiosity, a memorandum, a letter, a burning sexual desire – may be called wishes, since plainly we would perform no action unless we had some instinctive dynamism inside us to make us do so. But to use the term “wish-fulfilment” of such actions, or of their phantastic equivalent in dream, gives them a queer and freakish appearance and leads Freud into difficulties to explain “unpleasant” dreams and “unsatisfying,” dreams. It is a reflection of his idealist subjective approach to the subject-object relations of concrete life.
Dreams are conscious. Now we have already seen that the data of consciousness are socially given, that man by language, education and social contacts finds his instinctive responses conditioned by the common world and the common ego and given the status of consciousness. Therefore society is still with man in dream. Even in dream the social ego phantastically fulfils man’s desires in the social world.
In the social world man may get up or eat in immediate response to the appropriate stimuli. But the conditions of association demand that an instinctive desire to strike a certain man or kiss a certain woman be not gratified. In the social world therefore such illegal desire can meet with one of two alternative fates, to which Freud has given the names of “repression” and “sublimation.”
If we “repress” the desire, we dismiss it from the conscious field by an effort of will. Now we already saw that consciousness corresponded to the “socialisation” or adaptation to civilisation of instinctive responses. Consequently a desire that has a conscious dress already has its barbaric nudity clothed; it is already half-civilised. If such a desire is so strong that it is not dismissed by other interests (i.e. other instinctive drives) but requires to be forcibly repressed into the unconscious by an act of will, then it is plain that this very repression strips the wish of its veneer of education and makes it barbaric and savage. Hence the evils of repression, which Freud’s school has pointed out, are due to the very act which strips them of their social adaptation and makes them savage prisoners. From this barbarising of conscious wishes springs the terrible ferocity of the saint, the bitterness of the puritan and the unspeakable cruelties of a Holy Inquisition.
In sublimation the instincts are given a social adaptation which permits them to satisfy themselves in consciousness. To write a “strong” letter, to indulge in violent sport or economic competition, are ways in which society permits us to give our instinctive wish a conscious dress. To wrestle with nature, to give our hate a creative material outlet, are still higher forms of sublimation. To dance, to write love poetry, to pay the woman we love the compliments of service or speech are the ways in which we civilise our sex. Thus these instincts, whose blind strength might make us their blind slaves, acknowledge us as their masters and increase our spontaneity, because they are given a conscious and therefore social adaptation. Here too freedom is seen to be the consciousness of necessity.
But the range of possibility of sublimation, the width of consciousness and therefore of spontaneity, is not settled in the ideal world. It is part of the social product and like all the freedom of society is generated by labour. In the past the majority of consciousness and therefore the greatest range of sublimation has gone to the class which has appropriated the major share of the social product; and for the other class, the sublimation of its socially-thwarted desires for leisure and food have taken the crude form of religion and the phantastic structure of a dream paradise.
The “I” of dream is still the socialised “I,” the instinctive, unconscious, genotypical ego modified by contact with the common ego. The world of dream is still the world of instinctive response to environment modified by the common perceptual world. It is for this reason that as in real life so in dream the hunger and getting-up urges are gratified by direct phantasy – we dream of eating or dressing – whereas instincts to kill or rape other human beings are sublimated or, as Freud puts it, “distorted by the censor.” Of course as instincts they are neither to kill nor to rape – since killing and raping are social conceptions, unknown to the unconscious instincts of sex and self-preservation. However, these words must be used in discussing the unconscious in the terms of the conscious.
The idea of a separate endo-psychic censor is obviously an abstraction. In fact this censor and the distortion “he” produces are not the work of a special department of the psyche but are given in the nature of consciousness itself. Any neural “engram” whose activity forms a part of a dream consciousness must necessarily respect certain social laws, because that very consciousness is like a suit of clothes and a shave – a sign that it has been civilised.
Why in that case do we in dream permit ourselves to do things we should be ashamed to do in real life? Two factors combine to produce this moral looseness of dream. It has already been remarked that the genotype is born not merely a savage but a brute, and hence the development of consciousness is a shaping of the outside, a carving of the intact trunk. Consciousness begins as self-consciousness, as a detachment of the self from the environment, but this alone does not secure consciousness; it is in a sense opposed to it and merely instinctive. It is only when self-consciousness returns on the environment and by experience impresses the environment on itself that it becomes conscious of reality, of “otherness.” This is a social process. The baby grows conscious by becoming interested in its surroundings and learning about them by active experience. Because it does so by means of language and social activity, its experience of reality is an experience of the rich complex reality of the common perceptual world. In the introversion of sleep the environment sinks away and with it therefore vanishes much of the social world of reality. We tend to return to the introversion of childhood and the dawning self-consciousness of infancy, in which the “I” is everything and external reality as yet a vague chaos. This explains not merely the archaic and infantile character of dreams, but also the extent to which their analysis reveals the influence of infantile experience. When we sleep the face grows childish. For the same reason in dream the Mother, the return to the womb, incest, and all the other familiar infantile Freudian motives play an important part. The “I” of dream, though so important, is a petty ego, for social life is the means of its realisation. The “I” of dream is like the world of dream, only partly socialised. Thus dream is doubly detached from reality – external and internal. It is not completely severed on either side but it is loosened.
It would be wrong to deduce from dream to life without allowing for the difference. This difference is the more active rôle in life of the environment which in its consciously perceived form is a social construct. We are born a genotype – merely instinctive. We become self-conscious and, by interaction with the environment, receive an adaptation of the instincts which determines our infantile consciousness and our infantile hopes, aspirations and aims. Our growth to manhood is accompanied by an enrichment of consciousness – that is, by a still more far-reaching adaptation of our childish desires to the environment. Our adult consciousness is not determined by our infantile, any more than our infantile consciousness is determined by our instinctive genotype. There is a difference which consists in the difference in experience, and this experience rests on a deeper penetration of the environment as a result of living in society. We have lived and therefore are altered. Freudism, by taking the dream at its own valuation, constantly dismisses the adaptations of consciousness as fetters or inhibitions on the instincts, without seeing the vital fact that these adaptations are generated by the struggle of the instincts with the environment. Robbed of these adaptations the instincts would be so much the less free. To strip the tortoise or the crab of its shell would not free it but would expose it to the necessity of the environment. This does not of course exclude the possibility of these adaptations becoming relatively cramping – relative to the freedom of other adaptations already made possible by a change in the material conditions. For example, the horny integument of the cactus secures its free development in desert regions, but if it should grow moist, this integument would cramp its development and the skin would either be discarded or the cactus would be crowded out by more thin-fleshed plants. This applies still more powerfully to man whose social organisation secures a continuous and rapid change in his productive forces.
Thus the loose character of the dream is partly explained by its infantilism. Our social conditioning is closely associated with the environment, for reasons already explained. Any weakening in environmental strength tends to lessen our adaptation. We all know how we act differently away from the home circle, or with friends, or in a foreign country. We know that the instinctive outburst of rage or the non-social behaviour of drunkenness are accompanied by a weakening of the reality of the environment; “we forgot where we were.” In sleep introversion robs the environment of absolute reality; hence a corresponding loosening of social coherence, which, however, cannot vanish as long as the dream remains conscious; yet conscious it must be to have value, for the instincts, owing to their long conditioning, cannot act except upon socially accepted reality, and all such reality is conscious.
Because of its archaic and instinctive nature, the reality which makes up the conscious material of dream is crude and limited as compared with the reality of waking consciousness. This applies not merely to the external reality which figures in a dream as “dream thoughts,” but to internal reality, the “I” which experiences them. It is a mean, petty and selfish “I.” We are not conscious of any nobility or heroic quality in this “I”; on the contrary, it never does anything we can really be proud of. Even its achievements are gained too easily. After waking from dream we are only too glad we are not “really like that.” And in fact we are not, for it is the process of association which makes men noble and heroic which gives their character more beauty and worth. Hence the “I” of dream, stripped of so much of its social adaptation, is stripped of its largeness and human value.
Yet we see phantasy even in the form of dream reaching out towards an ameliorative rôle. In dream the ego experiments in action upon reality, but it is now a plastic reality without the stiffness of material things. In the space of a night it is possible to combine and recombine, free from the immediate tension of a direct contact with reality and the limitations of manipulating real stuff.
It is possible to experiment with new forms of reality more appropriate to our instincts and to experience in a provisional way what these forms would feel like and how our instincts would react to their achievement. Thus the illusion of dream has this biological value, that by experimenting ideally with possible realities and attitudes towards them it paves the way for such changes in reality. Dream prepares the way for action; man must first dream the possible before he can do it. It is true that the realisation of our dream is never the same as the dream; it looks different and it feels different. Yet it also has something in common with our desire, and its realisation was only possible because dream went before and lured us on, as the harvest festival made possible the harvest. Of course dream is too archaic and too phantastically isolated from social reality to be of much value in the concrete living of civilised man.
The “remedy” for the illusory character of dream is not to abolish dream but to so enlarge and extend it that it becomes increasingly dose to the realisation it is made to anticipate; to fill it more full of life and reality and vivid content. Once again freedom is extended by an extension of the consciousness of necessity. This programme calls for the socialisation of dream.
Imagine, therefore, the first sub-man leading his almost solitary life of the instincts in his nearly private world of reality, dreaming like the dog of the simplest actions that answer his desires, and faced by reality with the need for making that dream more real, more full of content, more useful.
His solution we have already recorded when we dealt with the birth of poetry. Man made a tremendous stride forward when he injected the dream into waking life, which forced it to answer the categories of waking reality.
But it was essential that he should do this without losing the very quality that made dream useful, its plasticity. Now if consciousness is faced with the demand of completely coinciding with external reality, it then becomes indistinguishable from perception – perception of things round-me-now, perception of feelings inside-me-now.
Hence the joints of this waking consciousness had to be somehow loosened. Imagine the “I” located at a point in the solid crystal of space-time. So far as the “I” is conscious of its relations with space-time, they are simply a perceptual glowing network running from the “I” out into infinity.
Two ways of “loosening” are possible:
(i) One involves a separation of the subject from the object. This in itself gives rise to the possibility of two further subdivisions-
(a) It is possible to concentrate on the reality of feeling-tone, and dissolve the crystal of external reality. This does not mean that external reality disappears; it means that external reality is manipulated not primarily according to its own laws but according to instinctive and subjective laws. Hence the plasticity of dream is retained, but the waking reality of subjective consciousness is injected into dream to enrich it. This gives us the field of the illusory Mock World (but real common ego), the world of art.
(b) Or it is possible to concentrate on the reality of the object and dissolve the nucleus of internal reality. This does not mean that the “I,” the observer, disappears; it means that the “I” is manipulated not according to its own desires but according to the necessity of external reality. Once again the plasticity of dream is retained, but the reality of the waking environment is brought into the world of dream to stiffen it. This gives us the real perceptual world of the impersonal, omnipresent, unemotional Mock Ego, the world of science.
(ii) It is possible, besides separating subject from object, to separate space from time, like from unlike, and quantity from quality. This does not mean that space or time disappears, but that one or the other is the manifold in which distortion takes place.
Spatial organisation gives us the classificatory sciences and poetry.
(b) Temporal Organisation gives us the evolutionary sciences and the story.
The classificatory sciences, of which mathematics is the queen and physics an important sphere, deal with space-like orderings which are independent of time. Time enters only as a homogeneous oscillation in which no new qualities emerge except that of entropy. This is the field of timeless order, of quantity, of mechanical materialism.
The evolutionary sciences, which develop later, are historical in their approach. They deal with reality as a process, as the emergence of new qualities. Sociology, biology, geology, psychology, astronomy and physiology are all sciences which are interested in time, which roam about through time and therefore abstract by telescoping, condensing and generalising time, just as the classificatory sciences telescope, condense and generalise space. Obviously these fields penetrate. Only mathematics is purely classificatory and dialectics purely evolutionary. The rise of the evolutionary sciences from 1750 to 1850 was what altered the mechanical materialism of Condillac, d'Holbach and Diderot to the dialectical materialism of Marx and Engels and made it capable of including all the active side of the subject-object relation developed by idealism.
The same division in the field of art gives rise to a similar distinction. In literary art the novel is evolutionary and the poem is classificatory. As this distinction is of fundamental importance, it must be considered in detail later.
Obviously the brute-man did not evolve these externalisations of dream, as we have done, by taking thought. They were generated by his struggle with Nature, by the need for association in that struggle, and by the development of vocal and visual symbols which that association made necessary. The real world discovered with the aid of the mock ego, and the real ego explored by means of the mock world are the conscious world and the conscious ego and, therefore, the social world and the social ego.
In the dance and the chant man retires into a half-sleep by dismissing the world of immediate reality. This enables him to play fast and loose with the world of external reality, to build and unbuild it. But not arbitrarily and lawlessly – there would be no point or object in such an occupation. He builds it according to the laws of the social ego, and he does this because in the dance and the chant, while withdrawing from the world of external reality, he maintains in touch with the subjective world of his fellows by moving his body in rhythm, by repeating the same words in unison, by weaving between them an emotional network of common feelings evoked by socially common objects, such as notes of music, animals mimicked in the dance, words denoting socially recognised entities or experiences. Thus the items of the common perceptual world are selected, organised, blended and reorientated round the social ego, the “god” of early Greek ritual who descended into his worshippers and who was nothing but the symbol of the heightened common ego formed by the dance.
Of course, as society develops, poetry detaches itself from the common festival. Civilised man more easily secures physiological introversion – the rhythm of poetry is sufficient to achieve it – and the collective subjective significance of words keeps him in touch with his fellows without the need for that collective festival which has been out-moded by the division of labour, a division reflected in the wider range and greater content of language itself.
Such art is timeless, for man himself is still timeless , still lives entirely in the Now from age to age, with only a fabulous past and future. This ideal timelessness reflects the fact that man’s division of labour itself has not extended into time, that he lives from hand to mouth, that he does not, like modern man, inherit all the capital, the congealed labour, the technique and cultural achievements of changing generations of men. He has only the barest social relations with the dead and the unborn. A few tools, a limited technique and an unwritten language he has certainly, and this commonness with the past is reflected in a few time-myths – about heroes and a golden age and a Prometheus or Moses, bringers of knowledge to barbarous men. But, in general, the timelessness of poetry matches his own childish simplicity which thinks, like Traherne, that the wheat was golden and immortal, corn that had never been sown or reaped.
But as history develops, man’s interplay with his changeful past is reflected in towns and temples and states and irrigation and finally in stories – in images of men’s changing lives organised in time. So a new art emerges which reaches its height – the novel and film – exactly in that era from 1750 onwards when the evolutionary sciences rise to notice. All this new insight is in turn a product of the terrific historic changes in Nature made possible by industrialisation.
In the story, man is young and grows old, and we are interested in watching how in this process of maturing his external world and his own heart change. This distortion, organisation, condensation and selection of the subjective contents of the psyche and its real environment in relation to a temporal life-line distinguish the story from the poem.
This in turn reveals the greater sophistication of the novel. In the undifferentiated tribe it is easily and always possible for all men to be in one mind in one time in one place, and for a universal and timeless ego to emerge from this congress, speaking for all with one voice. But the more differentiated life of modern society is contrapuntal; men’s lives blend and overlap and interweave in a complicated tapestry, and the moments rarely arrive when all their minds and emotions are gathered together in one public universal “I.” Hence the hero of the novel is not like the “hero” of poetry, a universal “I,” but a real concrete individual.
How is the “collectiveness” of the novel assured? It inheres in the real environment that always figures in the novel – the realism of the actions, of the other characters, and the events considered as one social plexus. Thus external reality, dismissed by introversion from the immediate attention of the reader, returns in another guise – not as reality-now, not as the room in which “I” am sitting reading, but as the external reality which has been or may be; and this is only possible precisely because the novel is plastic in the time dimension. Hence the immediate reality of the reader is pushed out or blanked off by the verisimilitude of the mock world of the novel, which is therefore mach more realistic and factual than the shimmering, dream-like mock world of poetry.
In this the novel resembles the day-dream. As compared with the ordinary dream the day-dream has more reality, it remains in the field of the possible, it does not contain the extravagances or abrupt transitions of the dream. It is more orderly and less primitive, and this is necessary because in the day-dream we are awake and therefore the phantasy has to have this material coherence, this stiffening of objects ranged in a real order so as to screen out the everyday environment and draw the mind to it. This quantity of “matter” in the day-dream and the novel makes necessary their temporal organisation, because without such an organisation the narrative would become overloaded and confused and would finally bulk out to coincide with the slow unwieldy movement of perceptual reality itself – at which point it would lose all value, or possibility of affective organisation. Dream by its sensory introversion, and poetry by its rhythm and concentration, escape the need for so great a stiffening of reality and so marked an “organisation” in time. Theirs is an organisation in space.
The day-dream is characteristically a more “civilised” form of phantasy. It is the expression of man as an individual plastic in reality, just as the dream is the expression of reality plastic in the man. One expresses man’s power over Nature derived from altering himself: the other man’s power over himself by altering Nature. In the day-dream, man experiments with adapting himself to reality; in the dream, with adapting reality to himself; both these characteristics are carried over into their respective arts.
Science in its dichotomy reveals the same parentage. In the classificatory sciences man does not introvert himself from present reality by interposing thoughts of another precedent or subsequent reality, but by spreading over present reality categories derived from himself. This is precisely what the field of order or quantity really is. Just as man derives from rhythm certain instinctive commonnesses, so he derives from perception certain perceptual commonnesses. Three cows, three sticks, three apples, when bare of subjective aspects (the cow appearing as one thing to one man, the apple as differently valued to another), yet have a perceptual commonness among men which is “threeness,” number, quantity. All these qualityless categories of classification, by robbing the present of its peculiarities, enable man to “abstract,” to blend, select and combine all reality in a timeless way. By purging from the common ego all those qualities which are peculiar to one man in one place, it becomes possible to give man a phantastic and flexible grasp of the whole field of reality. The process robs reality of the time in it – the emergence of new qualities.
It is for that reason that in man’s daily life, counting, the herdsman’s science (India), and geometry, the agriculturist’s science (Egypt), emerge before the more qualitied historical sciences. In a more primitive community men have much the same experiences in common from day to day, and it is easy for them, meeting together in a group, to make of their experience a bundle of world-perspectives from one point of spare-time, a bundle bare of quality, of feeling-tone – which is just what mathematics is. It is easy for them to “abstract” themselves from those surrounding by abstracting from the surroundings all feeling-tone and therefore all quality. Because they perform tasks in common it is easy for them to abstract the commormess in all tasks – the quantitive element in them, the number of cattle tended, of acres planted.
Thus dream becomes mathematics when, for the introversion of sleep shutting out all sensory stimuli from the environment, is substituted the introversion of mathematics, which shuts out all sensory qualities and so is able to extend its grasp beyond present reality to all reality. In sleep the rhythm of breathing and the flow of blood draw the perceptual world into the ego; in mathematics the rhythm of breathing and the flow of blood push the ego into the perceptual world.
It is only later, when civilisation becomes contrapuntal, and men’s labours, aspirations and aims cross and interweave, that the evolutionary sciences arise. Here introversion from present reality is secured, not by abstracting all quality from consciousness but by substituting an ego whose appreciation of quality is limited, distorted and organised in time. This mock ego is not like that of mathematics, the ego gazing everywhere and nowhere seeing quality, but the ego gazing everywhere yet seeing only one particular type of quality, the qualities that demarcate the particular sphere of science in question. Hence, with the rise of the evolutionary sciences, science necessarily splits up into different spheres each with their own distinct qualities – the spheres of chemistry, biology, psychology, sociology, etc. These spheres do not contradict each other; they are selections from the one universal movement of qualities which is reality, but which without this division of labour would be beyond man’s grasp.
The spheres are not arbitrarily selected, they are determined by the nature of reality and of man’s active relation to it, and mark his successive concern with dead nature, with himself as body, with his own mind and with the society that is the matrix of their mutual relations. Because of the fullness of quality even in any one sphere, it is still necessary to organise and condense them in time, just as man organises in retrospect his own experience – by a condensation, blending and fusing of the qualities that emerge in this sphere in the process of reality.
Just as the hero of the novel is an individual surrounded by those very events and persons which will actively call forth the subjective reactions for which the novel is written, so the hero of an evolutionary science is a particular sphere of quality observed by just that mock ego or one-sensed man whose peculiarities of sight will call forth the relations which the science is evolved to organise and study.
This development of art and science is not the merely contemplative discovery of static realities, it is part of men’s active relation with Nature. The phantasy of art, by the constant changes in organisation which it produces in man’s ego, makes man conscious of the necessity of his instincts and therefore free. This is not an absolute freedom but relative to the means of change – the complex, rich, social ego against which man presses his own blind ego in the embrace of art. This social ego is in turn built up not of ideal stuff but of the real concrete emotions and aspirations that a man experiences from living in a real, concrete society.
This is revealed, for example, in the nature of the material of literary art – words; the very words that are tools to man in his associated operations, however ordinary; the language of court, camp and kitchen.
Science and art are the frontiers of phantasy. They embody the most abstract, the most general, the most essential laws of concrete feeling and perception. They are “pure” and for that reason they have separated out from each other. They are concerned with the new, with just those general items of social experience which negate the already existing common ego and common perceptual world, and therefore demand the extension of both ego and world (new art works, new hypotheses) to include them. This is the way practice unites with theory, because men’s practical experience contradicts the already given consciousness of men and demands its modification. To those who think mechanically it seems as if science and art are not interpenetrated with living experience but are opposed to it, because they are the fruit of its contradiction.
Science and art are artificially separated from life when they are visualised as ideological spheres. As practice, as felt and known experience, they are at every step derived from the struggle of man with Nature.
The world of phantasy which arises as the “guardian” of slumber because in it man rests from the active struggle with Nature, and in accordance with his desires rearranges in his body the traces of his struggle, taking the symbol for the fact – this world, by being introjected into the social world of waking reality, is forced to split and on the one hand increasingly to reflect the necessity of external reality, on the other hand to take the imprints of men’s hearts. Thus men are affected by each other’s emotional experiences and experiences of reality. Men make each other what they are.
The artist and the scientist participate in that manufacture. They are men who acquire a special experience of life – affective with the artist, perceptual with the scientist – which negates the common ego or the common social world, and therefore requires a refashioning of these worlds to include the new experience. Just as the producer of material goods for society brings them to the common market, so the artist or scientist brings his special experience to the ideological market in a fashioned form.
The order that products should have the stamp of social products, of commodities, they must have been endowed with shape which gives them a social use-value. They must have been fashioned by labour to be denizens of the world of social utility. In the same way the artist or the scientist must give his experience a social significance; it must be included in the ideological world of society. It is precisely this fashioning which constitutes the labour of art or science, and which entitles the artist or the scientist to regard himself as a producer.
Jung contrasted phantasy, or free association, with “directed thinking” – thinking which is forced to follow a “rational” path, a path conforming with our conscious knowledge of reality. This conscious knowledge, as we have already seen, is derived from the common perceptual world. Hence directed thinking is scientific thinking; by directed thinking we fashion our experience of external reality into a social product.
To Jung’s conception of directed thinking we wish to add that of “directed feeling.” This is what we do whenever we direct our feelings along lines intended to conform with what we think right, with our “true” self, with the valid or the beautiful, with what we feel is the better part of us, with the ideal each has in his breast. Just as directed thinking is controlled by the reason and acknowledges the social criterion of truth, so directed feeling is controlled by the heart and acknowledges the social criterion of beauty or goodness.
It is the crime of class religion to have separated goodness from beauty and the conscience from the heart. Religion arises as mythology, as early poetry in which science and art are still mingled, for collective phantasy is still no more than collective dream. Man has not fully separated himself from the environment, is not yet conscious of the contradiction between the ego and the environment, and, because he is not conscious, is the slave of that contradiction, blindly tossed hither and thither by his feelings and events. But when science and art separate out, religion no longer plays a useful rôle. It attempts to combine both; therefore it distorts the truth of science and fetters the plasticity of art.
We saw that in the realm of science phantasy gained penetrative power, gained the ability to reflect more accurately the environment, because it replaced the real concrete ego with a mock ego or scaffolding whose flexibility enabled the mould of phantasy to adhere closely to the environment. But religion still mixes the subjective with the objective. It announces as truths what man hopes to be true. Its views of reality are distorted by man’s affective drives. It takes poetic illusions, valued and considered true for their subjective content, and demands that men give them the status of statements symbolic of external reality. But since man’s practical experience proves or disproves the truth of scientific hypotheses, religion can only protect its illusions from exposure by making them symbolical of another world than the material world – the kingdom of heaven, the “next world.” Obviously this is a degeneration from primitive religion which stated its tenets scientifically, referring them to the visible material world, as in the performance of miracles, the moving of material mountains and so forth, and whose errors therefore, being accessible to practice, could by their self-exposure give rise to science.
But class religion, by carefully protecting its symbolical statements from material test, confines them to a kingdom of heaven which is either invisibly present behind the real world, or in more sophisticated forms is simply “in men’s hearts,” i.e. ia after all subjective. In that case religion’s truths are simply symbolical of feeling-tone, and religion thus reduces itself to art, with this difference, that the very method of its generation, gives it a dogmatic and amateurish stiffness which is opposed to the flexibility and technical richness of conscious art – conscious of its rôle, of its materials, of its problems, of its technique and of its traditions.
Thus like all survivals which have had their functions taken over by other organs, modern religion exhibits the stigmata of degeneracy. And as we have previously shown, its whole theological structure betrays the reasons that have kept it alive, the same reasons that have kept alive the monarchy, the aristocracy, feudal privilege and similar non-functional relics – the special conditions and ossifications of a class society protecting obsolete privileges.
The confusion of religion – a confusion between subject and object – reflects a society which has itself become confused by a divorce between the active relation of subject and object which alone procures the separation of each by a mutually reflexive movement. In a society where consciousness (the subject) has become separated from the environment (the object) because the thinking class has become separated from the working class, there is not possible that constant correction of men’s ideological image of reality by practice which secures the health and movement of science. Science, which adheres closely to reality by active experiment in its particular spheres, cannot be integrated into the universal “philosophy” of a class, but decomposes into a chaos of highly specialised, mutually contradictory sciences whose separation impoverishes thought. Even a scientist has as a rule an unscientific world-view. It is therefore possible for a subjectively distorted picture of reality to arise and be, because of this cleavage, immune from correction by action. The slaves may know blindly they are not free and God is not good – but how are their masters to share their experiences? And in the same way the growth of another world, not this material world but painted in glowing affective colours, is generated by the misery of the material world endured by the suffering class, for which they are compensated by future delights. Hence arises the inverted world of religion, inverted because the world of society is inverted. These two factors combine to maintain religion at a time when the development of science and art have replaced it by keener tools – by the conscious illusion of art, by the impersonal truth of science, and the richer concrete living these two make possible.
Thus phantasy develops as the inseparable accompaniment of action, which creates it and which it in turn anticipates and calls into being in a richer form. And practice, enriched, corrects phantasy’s anticipation and makes possible a new level of achievement. Thus phantasy adapts man in two ways – his instincts to the ego of society, and his perception to the perception of society. This adaptation ennobles and heightens and makes free the dumb brute of the genotype, because the ego of society and the perception of society is infinitely more penetrating and rich and complex than that of the unaided individual, just as man in association is more powerful against Nature than solitary man.
All thought, all feeling, reflects in some measure the categories of science or art. Science and art are generated in our daily existence. Scientific systems and art works are merely the highest forms of organisation, the essence of this daily concrete life.
Science and art become practical, they enter into concrete real life, directly we knock away the mock world from any artistic construction and substitute a real world, or knock away the mock world from an artistic construction and substitute a real world, or knock awa the mock impersonal ego from any scientific construction and substitute a real human being. In the first case we give a “unattached'” human desire a real materialisation; in the second we give a part of reality the shape of an answer to human desire. Thus, in entering into real concrete life, artist and scientific constructions become, as it were, blended or “impure,” special instead of general, concrete instead of abstract, and the language we use to make this possible belongs to the realm of persuasion – the ordinary language of daily life removed from the pure and “impractical” worlds of science and art. We must not regret this forced descent. Science and art were made for man, not man for science and art. But there is more to it than that. Science and art were made from man, not man from science and art. This issuing of science and art into real “impure” life-experience is what corrects, refines and develops them, so that they return to their heavens wiser, richer, still more abstract and pure as a result of their incarnation in life. And though so ethereal now, science and art in their infancy were as concrete as concrete living.
This phantasy, generated by association for economic production, is communicated by material symbols – gestures, sounds, drawings, touches. Because of the nature of man’s senses, sound which no longer made all men concerned at the same time with the environment, again restored advantages to sight and the sounds became visual symbols – writing. Language developed as the favoured tool for the communication of phantasy, superior to diagrams or “picture writing.” Ignorance of this concrete function of language and concentration on its anal aspects make many philosophers approach language in a strangely patronising way.
They find it “imperfect,” deviating from the ideal language, and illogical – rather as a biologist might study species and reproach them for their departure from some ideal animal. Such philosophers think consciousness is contemplation – a limpid image of reality. In the same way they think language exists to be a passive photograph of the universe. Wittgenstein’s Tractacus Logico-Philosophicus is entirely based on this assumption. This is the error of philistines who imagine that a painting must be exactly like the scene it portrays. They do not see that it is a silly task to make an exact copy of something we already have, and that the reaction of language and thought to reality is not a passive reflection but an active and tendencious reaction, and that it is this activity and tendenciousness which enables a mere reaction to become conscious and know. The mirror reflects accurately: it does not know. Each particle of the Universe reflects the rest of the Universe, but knowledge is only given to human beings as a result of an active and social relation to the rest of reality. Knowledge is an economic product.
Russell phrases the Wittgenstein conception thus: “The essential business of a language is to assert or deny facts.” But this is not a business at all. Facts assert or deny themselves: that is, they either exist or do not. A man sees them in external reality or does not. He remains dumb. The business of language, as an extension of life, is to decide what facts are worth asserting or denying: what facts exist for men and what do not. It is the business of language to be the best possible tool for siting facts in an ordered world-view, which can select or condense or classify them hierarchically; and into such a worldview the subject must enter. Society must appear twice, as ego and world, and in both cases dragging its material history after it. Russell’s view of language is like that of the gushing lady who said to Carlyle, “I accept the Universe.” But man does not accept the Universe, for the Universe does not accept him. He must change it under penalty of extinction. And he can only change it in association; therefore language reflects the relations of men as feeling men and perceiving men in association for economic production.
This historical function of language explains why existing languages are so far from the “perfect” language postulated by Wittgenstein. Such a perfect language would be perfectly useless. It would be a picture of the world, standing in the same relation to external reality as a mirror-image to the thing mirrored. But then it would be an inferior thing to the thing imaged, and would be a useless construct. It would have no hidden power over the world or the subject. It is precisely because language expresses feeling, is a judging as well as a picturing of parts of reality, that it is valuable. Language expresses not merely what reality is (what reality is stares man in the face) it expresses also what can be done with reality – its inner hidden laws, and what man wants to do with it – his own unconscious necessities. Language is a tool to express what reality is in relation to man – not abstract man but concrete human beings.
Is it not plain that the error of the philosophers regarding language springs from the same source as religion – the cleavage of the subject from the object in a class society? Then thought comes to seem merely contemplation and is cut off from the very activity which creates, develops and corrects it. Language, and the phantasy which has generated it, and the conscious psyche which is their offspring, and the man whose struggle with Nature in association has created all three, are bound together with a relation which Marx was the first to express in those hastily-scribbled eleven Theses on Feuerbach that marked the beginning of a new era in human thought: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it”
1. See Engels’ Origin of the Family.
2. This plasticity and recombination of psychical elements possible in the introversion of sleep is perhaps a reflection of a similar physiological process in all the higher cells of the body and therefore the biological “reason” for sleep. In sleep the conditioning of the whole body may undergo a liquidation and digestion such as takes place with consciousness in dream.