Illusion and Reality, Christopher Caudwell 1937



In an earlier chapter we stated that modern poetry was composed of words, was non-symbolical, irrational, concrete, characterised by condensed affect, and rhythmical. Investigating dream we found that as compared with other forms of phantasy it also was non-symbolical, and irrational. Poetry is composed of words; dream is composed of memory-images. Dream-images do not follow rational laws drawn from external reality, but, as psycho-analysis shows, the flow of images is explained by affective laws.

Dream is neither directed thinking nor directed feeling, but free – that is non-social – association. Hence the associations of dream are personal and can only be understood by reference to the dreamer’s personal life. The secret law of dream’s structure is the “dream-work.”

Poetic irrationality bears this resemblance to dream, that its flow of images is explained by affective laws; but it is not “free” association as in dream. Poetic feeling is directed feeling – feeling controlled by the social ego. Poetic associations are social.

As the dreamer lives entirely in the images of his dream, without reference to another reality, so the reader of poetry lives in the words of the poetry, without reference to the external world. The poet’s world is his world. As he reads the poem he feels the emotions of the poet. Just as the pythoness or bacchante speaks for the god in the first person, so the reader under the influence of poetic illusion feels for the poet in the first person.

The images of dream, like the ideas of poetry, are concrete. In each dream, and in each poem, the memory-image and the word play a different part, and therefore have different meanings. Dreams and poems are inconsistent among themselves. Each dream and each poem is a world of its own.

Poetry is rhythmical. Rhythm secures the heightening of physiological consciousness so as to shut out sensory perception of the environment. In the rhythm of dance, music or song we become self-conscious instead of conscious. The rhythm of heart-beat and breathing and physiological periodicity negates the physical rhythm of the environment. In this sense sleep too is rhythmical. The dreamer retires into the citadel of the body and closes the doors.

Why is “physiological” introversion more necessary in poetry than in story, so that the poet accepts the difficulties of metre and rhyme? The answer is that introversion must be stronger in poetry. By introversion is not meant merely a turning-away from immediate environment – that could be secured by sitting in a quiet study, without disturbance. Such introversion is equally desirable for all kinds of thought, for scientific thinking and novel-reading as well as poetry, and it is not secured by the order of the words but by an effort of concentration. Some people can “concentrate” on a difficult scientific book or a book of poetry in conditions where others cannot. This kind of introversion does not therefore depend upon the order of the words. No one has suggested facilitating scientific writing by making it metrical.

But there is another aspect of introversion. In introversion for scientific phantasy it is true that we turn away from immediate environment, yet none the less we turn towards those parts of external reality of which the words are symbols. Ordinarily we see, hovering behind language, the world of external reality it describes. But in poetry the thoughts are to be directed on to the feeling-tone of the words themselves. Attention must sink below the pieces of external reality symbolised by the poetry, down into the emotional underworld adhering to those pieces. In poetry we must penetrate behind the dome of many-coloured glass into the white radiance of the self. Hence the need for a physiological introversion, which is a turning-away not from the immediate environment of the reader but from the environment (or external reality) depicted in the poem. Hence poetry in its use of language continually distorts and denies the structure of reality to exalt the structure of the self. By means of rhyme, assonance or alliteration it couples together words which have no rational connection, that is, no nexus through the world of external reality. It breaks the words up into lines of arbitrary length, cutting across their logical construction. It breaks down their associations, derived from the world of external reality, by means of inversion and every variety of artificial stressing and counterpoint.

Thus the world of external reality recedes, and the world of instinct, the affective emotional linkage behind the words, rises to the view and becomes the world of reality. The subject emerges from the object: the social ego from the social world. Wordsworth said correctly: “The tendency of metre is to divest language, in a certain degree, of its reality, and thus to throw a sort of half-consciousness of unsubstantial existence over the whole composition.” In the same way Coleridge reached out after a like conception to ours: “Metre is simply a stimulant of attention” – not of any attention but a special kind of attention – attention to the affective associations of the words themselves.

We have here a distinction between poetry and the novel which it is vital to grasp. In the novel too the subjective elements are valued for themselves and rise to view, but in a different way. The novel blots out external reality by substituting a more or less consistent mock reality which has sufficient “stuff” to stand between reader and reality. This means that in the novel the emotional associations attach not to the words but to the moving current of mock reality symbolised by the words. That is why rhythm, “preciousness,” and style are alien to the novel; why the novel translates so well; why novels are not composed of words. They are composed of scenes, actions, stuff, people, just as plays are. A “jewelled” style is a disadvantage to the novel because it distracts the eye from the things and people to the words – not as words, as black outlines, but as symbols to which a variety of feeling-tone is directly attached. For example when someone exclaims “Brute!” we do not think of animals and then of brutish qualities, but have a powerful subjective reaction suggesting cruelty and clumsiness. This is a poetic reaction to a word; the other is a story reaction.

Because words are few they are what Freud called “over-determined.” One word has many affective associations because it has many “meanings” (e.g. the word “brute” can mean a foolish person, a cruel person, the order of animals, etc). In novel-writing the words are arranged so that all other pieces of reality are excluded except the piece required, and the emotional association is to the resulting structure. Poetic writing is concerned with making the emotional associations either exclude or reinforce each other, without a prior reference to a coherent piece of reality, e.g. in novel-writing, in the phrase “the Indian Ocean” the word “ocean” has been restricted to specific geographical ocean, which then has emotional associations for the reader. In poetry “the Indian sea” has a different meaning, for the emotional associations are, not to a particular sea but to the word “Indian” and the word “sea,” which affect each other and blend to produce a glowing cloudy “feeling” quite different from the novel-writer’s phrase.

Of course there may be stretches of poetic writing in a novel (for example in Proust, Malraux, Lawrence and Melville) or of novel-writing in poetry (the purely explanatory patches in Shakespeare’s plays), but this does not affect the general characteristics. The difference is so marked that it explains the strange insensitivity to poetry displayed by so many great novelists, and a similar fondness for bad novels on the part of so many great poets. This difference between the technique of poetry and the novel determines the difference between the spheres of the two arts.


What is the basis of literary art? What is the inner contradiction which produces its onward movement? Evidently it can only be a special form of the contradiction which produces the whole movement of society, the contradiction between the instincts and the environment, the endless struggle between man and Nature which is life.

I, the artist, have a certain consciousness, moulded by my social world. As artist I am concerned with my artistic consciousness, represented by the direct and indirect effect on me of all the art I have felt, and all the emotional organisation which has produced in me a conscious subject. This consciousness is contradicted by my experience – that is, I have a new personal experience, something not given in the social world of poetry. Therefore I desire what is called self-expression but is really self-socialisation, the casting of my private experience in such a form that it will be incorporated in the social world of art and appear as an art-work. The art-work represents the negation of the negation – the synthesis between the existing world of art (existing consciousness or theory) and my experience (life or practice).

Therefore at the finish the world of art will be changed by the incursion of my art-work. That is the revolutionary aspect of my rôle as artist. But also my consciousness will be changed because I have, through the medium of the art world, forced my life experience, new, dumb and unformulated, to become conscious, to enter my conscious sphere. That is the adaptative aspect of my rôle as artist. In the same way with the appreciator of art, his consciousness will be revolutionised by the incursion into it of a new art-work; but his appreciation of it will only be possible to the extent that he has had some similar experience in life. The former process will be revolutionary; the latter adaptative.

Rather than use the word revolutionary, however, it would be better to use the word evolutionary, restricting the other to cases where the new content of experience is so opposed to the existing consciousness that it requires a wholesale change, a complete revision of existing categories (conventions, traditions, artistic standards) for its inclusion, a revision which is only possible because concrete life itself has undergone a similar change in the period. The Elizabethan age was one of such periods. We are at the beginning of another such now.

It is plain that it is the emotional consciousness – that consciousness which springs directly from the instincts – with which the artist is concerned. Yet exactly the same relation holds between the scientist and his hypothesis (equivalent of the art-work) and the rational consciousness, that consciousness which springs directly from the perception.

Since the mediating factor in art processes is the social ego in its relation to the experience of individuals, it is plain that the integration performed by the art-work can only be achieved on condition that the item of private experience which is integrated (a) is important, concerned with deep emotional drives, with the unchanging instincts which, because they remain the same beneath the changing adaptations of culture, not as the skeleton, the main organising force in the social ego which ages of art have built up; (b) is general, is not a contradictory item of experience peculiar to the artist or one or two men, but is encountered in a dumb unconscious way in the experiences of most men – otherwise how could the art-work be meaningful to them, how could it integrate and give expression to their hitherto anarchic experience as it gave expression to the artist’s?

Condition (a) secures that great art – art which performs a wide and deep feat of integration – has something universal, something timeless and enduring from age to age. This timelessness we now see to be the timelessness of the instincts, the unchanging secret face of the genotype which persists beneath all the rich superstructure of civilisation. Condition (b) explains why contemporary art has a special and striking meaning for us, why we find in even minor contemporary poets something vital and immediate not to be found in Homer, Dante or Shakespeare. They live in the same world and meet the same bodiless forces whose power they experience.

This also explains why it is correct to have a materialist approach to art, to look in the art-works of any age for a reflection of the social relations of that age. For the experience of men in general is determined in general by the social relations of that age, or to be more accurate, the social relations of that age are simply man’s individual experiences averaged out, just as a species is a group of animals’ physical peculiarities averaged out. Since art lives in the social world, and can only be of value in integrating experiences general to men, it is plain that the art of any age can only express the general experiences of men in that age. So far from the artist’s being a lone wolf, he is the normal man of that age – in so far as he is an artist. Of course normality in consciousness is as rare as normality in vision, and, unlike the latter, it is not a fixed physical standard but one which varies from year to year. Moreover his normality is, so to speak, the norm of abnormal experiences. It is the norm of the queerness and newness and accident in contemporary men’s lives: all the incursions of the unexpected which shake their inherited consciousness. Hence the apparent abnormality of the artist.

This, finally, explains why in a class society art is class art For a class, in the Marxian sense, is simply a group of men whose life-experiences are substantially similar, that is, with less internal differences on the average than they have external differences from the life-experiences of men in other classes. This difference of course has an economic basis, a material cause arising from the inevitable conditions of economic production. Therefore the artist will necessarily integrate the new experience and voice the consciousness of that group whose experience in general resembles his own – his own class. This will be the class which practises art – the class at whose pole gathers the freedom and consciousness of society, in all ages the ruling class.

This is the most general movement of literary art, reflecting the most general law of society. Because of the different techniques of poetry and the novel – already explained – this movement is expressed in different ways in poetry and in the novel.

Poetry concentrates on the immediate affective associations of the word, instead of going first to the object or entity symbolised by the word and then drawing the affective association from that. Since words are fewer than the objects they symbolise, the affects of poetry are correspondingly condensed, but poetry itself is correspondingly cloudy and ambiguous. This ambiguity, which Empson takes to be the essence of poetry, is in fact a by-product. Now this concentration upon the affective tones of words, instead of going first to the symbolised reality and then to the feeling-tone of that reality, is – because of the nature of language – a concentration on the more dumb and instinctive part of man’s consciousness. It is an approach to the more instinctively common part of man’s consciousness. It is an approach to the secret unchanging core of the genotype in adapted man. Hence the importance of physiological introversion in poetry.

This genotype is undifferentiated because it is relatively unchanging. Hence the timelessness of poetry as compared to the importance of time sequence in the novel. Poetry speaks timelessly for one common “I” round which all experience is orientated. In poetry all the emotional experiences of men are arranged round the instincts, round the “I.” Poetry is a bundle of instinctive perspectives of reality taken from one spot. Precisely because it is cloudy and ambiguous, its view is far-reaching; its horizon seems to open and expand and stretch our to dim infinity. Because it is instinctive, it is enduring. In it the instincts give one loud cry, a cry which expresses what is common in the general relation of every man to contemporary life as a whole.

But the novel goes out first to reality to draw its subjective associations from it. Hence we do not seem to feel the novel “in us,” we do not identify our feelings with the feeling-tones of the novel. We stand inside the mock world of the novel and survey it; at the most we identify ourselves with the hero and look round with him at the “otherness” of his environment. The novel does not express the general tension between the instincts and the surroundings, but the changes of tension which take place as a result of change in the surroundings (life-experience). This incursion of the time element (reality as a process) so necessary in a differentiated society where men’s time-experiences differ markedly among themselves, means that the novel must particularise and have characters whose actions and feelings are surveyed from without. Poetry is internal – a bundle of “I” perspectives of the world taken from one point, the poet. The story is external – a bundle of perspectives of one “I” (the character) taken from different parts of the world.

Obviously the novel can only evolve in a society where men’s experiences do differ so markedly among themselves as to make this objective approach necessary, and this difference of experience is itself the result of rapid change in society, of an increased differentiation of functions, of an increased realisation of life as process, as dialectic. Poetry is the product of a tribe, where life flows on without much change between youth and age; the novel belongs to a restless age where things are always happening to people and people therefore are always altering.


Yet all art is subjective. All art is emotional and therefore concerned with the instincts whose adaptation to social life produces emotional consciousness. Hence art cannot escape its close relation with the genotype whose secret desires link in one endless series all human culture.

Now this genotype can be considered from two aspects; the timeless and the timeful, the changeless and changeful, the general and the particular.

(a) Timeless, changeless, general in that on the whole the genotype is substantially constant in all societies and all men. There is a substratum of likeness. Man does not change from Athenian to Ancient Briton and then to Londoner by innate differences stamped in by natural selection, but by acquired changes derived from social evolution. Poetry expresses this constant instinctive factor.

(b) Yet beneath this likeness the genotypes, because they are bundles of genes, reveal individual differences. These genes are perpetually shuffled to reveal new personalities. Because men differ in this way among themselves they cannot be satisfied with the simple tribal life of collective civilisation. They demand “luxuries,” freedom, special products which cannot be satisfied within the ambit of such a primitive economy. This leads to an economic differentiation of society which, as we have already explained, is not the means of suppressing individuality but of realising it. Hence these individual genetic differences produce change in time and also the realisation of characters, of man’s social “norm.” Thus the very technique of the novel makes it interested in the way characters strive to realise in existing society their individual differences.

Poetry expresses the freedom which inheres in man’s general timeless unity in society; it is interested in society as the sum and guardian of common instinctive tendencies; it speaks of death, love, hope, sorrow and despair as all men experience them. The novel is the expression of that freedom which men seek, not in their unity in society but in their differences, of their search for freedom in the pores of society, and therefore of their repulsions from, clashes with and concrete motions against other individuals different from themselves.

The novel was bound to develop therefore under capitalism, whose increase in the productive forces brought about by the division of labour not only vastly increased the differentiation of society but also, by continually revolutionising its own basis, produced an endless flux and change in life. Equally, as capitalism decayed, the novel was bound to voice the experience of men that economic differentiation had changed from a means of freedom to a rubber-stamp crushing individuality (the ossification of classes), and that the productive forces, by being held back from developing further, had choked the free movement of life (the general economic crisis). Necessarily therefore in such a period the decay of the novel occurs together with a general revolutionary turmoil.

Thus we see in the technical differences of poetry and the novel the difference between changelessness and change, pace and time, and it is clear that these are not mutually exclusive opposites but are opposites which interpenetrate, and as they fly apart, continually generate an enrichening reality.

This was the same kind of difference as that between the evolutionary and classificatory sciences. And just as the technique of poetry demands an immediate concentration on the word, so the classificatory sciences, such as geometry and mathematics, demand an immediate concentration on the symbol. The novel demands that we pass from the symbol to reality, and only then to the affective organisation; biology demands that we go first to the concrete objects, and only then to their rational organisation. Poetry passes straight from the word to the affective organisation, careless of the reality whose relation it accepts as already given in the word. Mathematics passes straight from the symbol to the perceptual organisation, careless of the concrete object, whose important qualities (to it) are already accepted as crystallised in the symbol. Hence the vital importance of precise speech – of the absolutely correct word or correct symbol – both to poet and mathematician, contrasted with the looser speech permitted to the biologist or novelist.

We have seen that music is an extreme kind of poetry, that just as mathematics escapes almost altogether from the subjective qualities of matter, so music (unlike poetry) escapes almost altogether from the objective references of sounds. Therefore the musician is even preciser in his language than the poet, and the affective laws of music’s symbols are as careful and minute as are the perceptual laws of mathematical symbols.

We can now understand more clearly why poetry resembles dream in its technique. The characteristic of dreams is that the dreamer always plays the leading part in it. He is always present in it, sometimes (as analysis shows) in many disguises. The same egocentricity is characteristic of poetry. Quite naively the poet records directly all his impressions, experiences, thoughts, images. Hence the apparent egoism of poetry, for everything is seen and experienced directly. Poetry is a relationship of memory-images mediated by only two words “I” and “like.”

But this is not the egoism of dream; it is a social egoism. The particular emotional organisation of the poet is condensed into words, and the words are read, and the psyche of the reader experiences the same emotional reorganisation. The reader puts himself, for the duration of the poem, in the place of the poet, and sees with his eyes. He is the poet.

In a poem by Shelley, we are Shelley. As we read Shakespeare, we see with his profound shimmering vision. Hence the unexpected individuality of the poet. Though it is the common human creature, the genotype, and not the “character” who looks out in poetry on the common contemporary scene, he looks at it through the eyes of one man, through the windows of the poet’s psyche.

How is this done? That is the peculiar secret of poetic technique. Just as poetry can be equated with dream, poetic technique is similar to dream technique. The nature of dream technique has been explored by analysts under the general name of “the dream-work.”

A dream consists of two layers. Obvious is the manifest content. We are walking by the seaside, a ship comes alongside, we step on it, we land in France, certain adventures befall us, and so on. This is the manifest content of the dream as we tell it at breakfast next morning to our bored family, who cannot understand our interest in it. But our interest in it was due to the fact that the illusion was perfect. White they lasted, these things really seemed to be happening to us. And this vividness must spring from some affective cause. But we felt little real emotion in the dream, however surprising the adventures that befall us. If we felt emotion, it was out of all real proportion to our adventures. Surprising things happened and we were not surprised. Trifling things happened and we were appalled. The affects were displaced in relation to reality. If we are asked to give our associations to these various component images just as they spring to our mind, a whole undergrowth of displaced affective life is revealed. Each symbol is associated with memories in our life, not by association of ideas but by affective associations.

The characteristic of “dream-work” is that every dream-symbol is over-determined and has a multitude of different emotional significances. This we also saw was the characteristic of poetic words, and springs from the same cause, that dream-symbols are valued directly for their affective content and not as symbols of a consistent mock world in which we first orientate ourselves. Hence the inconsequence of dream matches the “illogical” rhythm and assonance of poetry.

The organisation of the psyche is such that in sleep all the conscious wishes, hopes, fears and loves of the instinctive are replaced by apparently arbitrary memory-images, but which really are associated by the affective ties of simple unconscious wishes. They are organised by the appetitive activity of the instinctive and therefore unsleeping part of the psyche which, because it is archaic phylogenetically, is unmodified and therefore anti-social, or rather non-social. This affective substratum does not normally appear in dream. It is “repressed.” Only the arbitrary symbols, apparently unconnected, appear in the consciousness. But this affective basis is the “reasoning” of the dream, and directs its course. It is the latent content. But the affects also have a “reason” for their relation to the memory-images of the dream. Thus there is a double distortion – a distortion of reality and of emotion – a double shift of subject and object.

Why cannot we achieve in sleep complete unconsciousness to any stimuli? For the simple reason that sleep is not death or complete unconsciousness but something in which part of our attention is still awake. In sleep attention, though turned from the outside world, is not completely asleep, otherwise external stimuli would never wake us at all. The attention of a sleeper can be attracted by a sufficiently loud noise. Obviously it is dangerous for animals to sleep too profoundly. All stimuli below the threshold, e.g. gentle outside noises, sunlight falling on the face, pressure on the limbs, internal digestive disturbances, are switched, not into their proper neurone paths, but into other paths dictated by the “sets” of the unconscious instincts.

The reality of an unconscious wish can be tested in practice. If a sleeper resolves before sleeping to hold a certain object in his hand, he will still be clutching it when he wakes, showing that throughout his sleep some unsleeping neurones continued to will unconsciously, and to send a continual stream of continuous impulses down the efferent nerves to the fingers to maintain a muscular tetany. If the affects were to be wakened by such stimuli, sleep would end. Therefore the instinctive paths from the associative unconscious neurones to the affective patterns are in some way side-tracked and the stimuli are switched instead into the patterns associated at one remove, i.e. the memory-images. These are connected with these side tracked affective patterns by association, but are not themselves soaked with affects. These memory-images appear in the dream and thus give the flicker of attention something to focus on, which otherwise would be focused on the stimuli and so would wake the sleeper. It is no accident that sleep appears only in higher animals – those whose life is full of acquired adaptations which therefore require “working out” physiologically in sleep. Insects, with their elaborate innate adaptations, do not sleep. Or when they do “sleep,” as in the chrysalis, it is a final and far more thoroughgoing adaptation, in which every cell in the body is re-orientated.

The emotional organisation of the memory-images – their latent content – is therefore given by the process of their generation. If a certain threshold value is exceeded by the stimuli or anything goes wrong with the switching, too powerful affects are released; the sleeper, becoming more conscious, at once wakes. The lack of affective reality accounts for the ease with which dreams are forgotten, whereas nightmares, which the sleeper wakes or almost wakes owing to the powerful affects, are generally clearly remembered. We wake because the affects were on the point of becoming realised and therefore of leading to action.

Dreams, then, contain a manifest and a latent content. The manifest content is imagic phantasy, the latent content is affective reality. Both have a double connection with a phantastic affectivity manifest in dream and an imagic reality connected with the latent content. Psycho-analysts have not made his distinction because the analysis of dreams is done verbally. They have not seen that in translating images and affects into language there is an epistemological leak. In language images and affects live simultaneously and cannot be separated: both are social and conscious. Ignoring this, the psycho-analyst meets a contradiction: in probing the latent content of dreams he can never be given by the dreamer a bundle of “unconscious” affects as associations, for the dreamer can only communicate by language, and in language affect is always attached to an image, to a symbol of external reality, and is itself a conscious feeling-tone. Therefore the analyst gets as the latent content of the dream-images – still more images with conscious affects attached. For this reason, not only does the psycho-analyst tend to equate unconscious affects with their social translations, but he overlooks the gap between dream, in which the affective organisation is unconscious and therefore personal, and art, in which the affective organisation is conscious and therefore social. It is the difference between free association and directed feeling.


This leads to surréaliste technique with its undirected feeling and personal affective organisation, where freedom, in true bourgeois style, is the unconsciousness of necessity, i.e. ignorance of the affective organisation which determines the flow of imagery and is conscious in good poetry. Hence the cerebral and visual character of surréaliste art. This bourgeois freedom was already contained in the philosophy of symbolism, from which surréalisme derives. Remy de Gourmont, the philosopher of symbolism, correctly said: “Above all it is a theory of liberty; it implies absolute freedom of thought and form: it is the free and individual development of the aesthetic personality.” And Rimbaud, greatest of the symbolist poets, said: “I have come to hold sacred the disorder of my mind.”

Poetry, like dream, contains manifest and latent contents. The manifest content can be roughly arrived at by paraphrasing the poem. It is the imagery or the “ideas.” In a paraphrase the latent content, i.e. the emotional content, has almost entirely vanished. It was contained, then, not in the external reality symbolised by the words (for this has been preserved) but in the words themselves. The manifest content is the poetry interpreted “rationally.” It is the external reality in the poem. It can be expressed in other ways and other languages. But the latent content of poetry is in that particular form of wording, and in no other.

How is the latent content contained in the original word and not contained in the sense of the words – i.e. in the portions of external reality which the words symbolise? The emotions are not associated affectively with the portion of external reality symbolised by the manifest content, for another language can be made to symbolise the same portion of external reality, and still it is not the poem. How then did the original words contain the emotional content “in themselves” and not in the things they symbolised? Dream analysis gives us the answer, by affective association of ideas. In any association of ideas two images are tied to each other by something different, like sticks by a cord. In poetry they are tied by affects.

If a word is abstracted from its surroundings and concentrated on in the same way as an analyst asked his patient to concentrate on any particular image of a dream, a number of associations will rise vaguely to the mind. In a simple word like “spring” there are hundreds of them; of greenness, of youth, of fountains, of jumping; every word drags behind it a vast bag and baggage of emotional associations, picked up in the thousands of different circumstances in which the word was used. It is these associations that provided the latent content of affect which is the poem. Not the ideas of “greenness,” “youth,” but the affective cord linking the ideas of “greenness” and “youth” to the word “spring,” constitutes the raw material of poetry.

Of course the thing “spring” (the season) denoted by the word “spring” also has many affective associations. These are tried by the novel. Poetry is concerned with the more general, subtle and instinctive affects which are immediately associated with the word “spring” and therefore include such almost running associations as those connected with spring (a fountain) and spring (to jump). Hence the tendency of poetry to play with words, to pun openly or secretly, to delight in the texture of words. This is part of the technique of poetry which treats words anti-grammatically to realise their immediate and even contradictory affective tones. The novel uses words grammatically so as sharply to exclude all meanings and therefore all affective tones, except one clear piece of reality, and then derives the emotional content from this piece of reality and its active relation with the other pieces of reality in the story as part of a perceptual life-experience.

When we read a line of poetry these other ideas to which the affects are associated do not rise to the mind. We get the leaping and gushiness of “spring” in poetry’s use of it as a word for the idea “season,” but we do not get the fountain or the jump except in an open poetic pun. They remain unconscious. Poetry is a kind of inverted dream. Whereas in dream the real affects are partly suppressed and the blended images rise into the conscious, in poetry the associated images are partly suppressed and it is the blended affects that are present in the consciousness, in the form of affective organisation.

Why is there a manifest content at all? Why are not all images suppressed? Why is not great poetry like the poetry of the extreme symbolists, a mere collection of words, meaning nothing, but words themselves full of affective association? Why should poetry state, explain, narrate, obey grammar, have syntax, be capable of paraphrase, since if paraphrased it loses its affective value?

The answer is, because poetry is an adaptation to external reality. It is an emotional attitude towards the world. It is made of language and language was created to signify otherness, to indicate portions of objective reality shared socially. It lives in the same language as scientific thought. The manifest content represents a statement of external reality. The manifest content is symbolic of a certain piece of external reality— be it scene, problem, thought, event. And the emotional content is attached to this statement of reality, not in actual experience but in the poem. The emotional content sweats out of the piece of external reality. In life this piece of external reality is devoid of emotional tone, but described in those particular words, and no others, it suddenly and magically shimmers with affective colouring. That affective colouring represents emotional organisation similar to that which the poet himself felt when faced (in phantasy or actuality) with that piece of external reality. When the poet says,

Sleep, that knots up the ravelled sleave of care,

he is making a manifest statement. The paraphrase

Slumber, that unties worry, which is like a piece of tangled knitting,

carries over most of the manifest content, but the affective tones which lurked in the associations of the words used have vanished. It is like a conjuring trick. The poet holds up a piece of the world and we see it glowing with a strange emotional fire. If we analyse it “rationally,” we find no fire. Yet none the less, for ever afterwards, that piece of reality still keeps an afterglow about it, is still fragrant with emotional life. So poetry enriches external reality for us.

The affective associations used by poetry are of many forms. Sometimes they are sound associations, and then we call the line “musical” – not that the language is specially harmonious; to a foreigner it would probably have no particular verbal melody

Thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks
In Vallambrosa

is not musical to someone who knows no English. But to an English ear the emotive associations wakened are aroused through the sound rather than sense linkages, and hence we call the line musical. So, too, with Verlaine’s line, musical only to ears attuned to the emotive associations of French nasals:

Et O – ces voix d'enfants chantant dans la coupole,

or the old fairy-tale, “La Belle aux bois dormant.”

It is impossible to have affects in poetry without their adherence to symbols of external reality, for poetry’s affects (in far as they are poetic) are social, and it is impossible for different subjects to be linked except by a common object (by “matter”). The logical conclusion of symbolism is not poetry but music. And here it may be objected – music consists of sounds which refer to no external reality and yet music is an art and has a social content. Exactly – because in music the symbols have ceased to “refer” to external reality and have become portions of external reality themselves and, in doing so, have necessarily generated a formal structure (the scale, “rules” of harmony, etc;) which gives them the rigidity and social status of external reality. The notes of music themselves are the manifest content of music, and they therefore obey not grammatical (subjective) but pseudo-mathematical (objective) laws: of course they are necessarily distorted or organised within the compass of those rules. In the same way architecture becomes external reality and is distorted or organised within the compass of the rules of use-function.

The technique of the poet consists in this, that not all the affects associated with any particular words rise up into the consciousness, but only those that are required. This is done by the arrangement of the words in such a way that their clusters of associations, impinging on each other heighten some affective associations and inhibit the others, and so form an organised mass of emotion. The affective colouring of one word takes reflected shadow and light from the colours of the other words. It does this partly through their contiguity, particularly in synthetic languages (Latin and Greek), and partly through their grammatical connection, particularly in analytic languages (English, Chinese); but chiefly through the “meaning” as a whole. The manifest content, the literal meaning, the paraphrasable sense, is a kind of bridge, or electrical conductor, which puts all the affective currents of each word into contact. It is like a switchboard; some of the affective associations fade away directly they enter it, others run down into other words and alter their colour; others blend together and heighten a particular word. The whole forms the specific fused glow which is that poem’s affective organisation or emotional attitude to its meaning. Hence the same word has a different affective coloration in one poem from what it has in another, and it is for this reason that a poem is concrete. It is affectively concrete; each word has a special affective significance in that poem different from what it has in another. In this way the emotional content does not float about fluidly in the mind; it is firmly attached, by a hundred interweaving strands, to the manifest content – a piece of external reality. A poem’s content is not just emotion, it is organised emotion, an organised emotional attitude to a piece of external reality. Hence its value – and difficulty – as compared with other emotions, however strong, but unorganised – a sudden inexplicable fit of sorrow, a gust of blind rage, a blank despair. Such emotions are unaesthetic because unorganised. They are unorganised socially because they are not organised in relation to a socially accepted external reality. They are unconscious of outer necessity. The emotions of poetry are part of the manifest content. They seem to be in the external reality as it appears in the poem. We do not appear to take up an emotional attitude to a piece of reality; it is there, given in the reality: that is the way of emotional cognition, In poetic cognition, objects are presented already stamped with feeling-judgments. |Hence the adaptive value of poetry. It is like a real emotional experience.

It is plain that poetry may be judged in different ways; either by the importance of the manifest content, or by the vividness of the affective colouring. To a poet who brings a new portion of external reality into the ambit of poetry, we feel more gratitude than to one who brings the old stale manifest contents. But the first poet may be poor in the affective colour with which he soaks his piece of reality. It may be the old stale colouring, whereas our other poet, in spite of his conventional piece of reality, may achieve a new affective tone. Old poets, we shall judge almost entirely by their affective tone; their manifest contents have long belonged to our world of thought. Hence the apparent triteness of old poetry which yet is a great triteness. From new poets we demand new manifest contents and new affective colouring, for it is their function to give us new emotional attitudes to a new social environment. A poet who provides both to a high degree will be a good poet. A poet who brings into his net a vast amount of new reality to which he attaches a wide-ranging affective colouring we shall call a great poet, giving Shakespeare as an instance. Hence great poems are always long poems, just because of the quantity of reality they muss include as manifest content. But the manifest content, whatever it is, is not the purpose of the poem. The purpose is the specific emotional organisation directed towards the manifest content and provided by the released affects. The affects are not “latent,” as in dream; it is associated ideas which are suppressed to form the latent content. Just as the key to dream is a series of instinctive attitudes which provide the mechanism of dream-work, so the key to poetry is a cluster of suppressed pieces of external reality – a vague unconscious world of life-experience.

Poetry colours the world of reality with affective tones. These affective colours are not “pretty-pretty,” for it is still the real world of necessity, and great poetry will not disguise the nakedness of outer necessity, only cause it to shine with the glow of interest. Poetry soaks external reality – nature and society – with emotional significance. This significance, because it gives the organism an appetitive interest in external reality, enables the organism to deal with it more resolutely, whether in the world of reality or of phantasy. The primitive who would lose interest in the exhausting labour necessary to plough an arid abstract collection of soil, will find heart when the earth is charged with the affective colouring of “Mother Nature” for now, by the magic of poetry, it glows with the appetitive tints of sexuality or filial love. These affective colours are not unreal because they are not scientific, for they are the colouring of the genotype’s own instincts, and these instincts are as real as the earth is real. The significant expression projected by poetry on to the face of external reality is simply this, a prophecy of the endless attempt of the genotype to mould necessity to its own likeness, which it obtains a continually increasing success. “Matter, surrounded by a sensuous poetic glamour, seems to attract man’s whole entity by winning smiles.” So said Marx and Engels of materialism before it became one-sided mechanical materialism, when it was still bathed in the artistic splendour of the Renaissance. That sensuous glamour is given by poetry; and materialism became one-sided when, afraid of feeling the self, it became aridly scientific and matter vanishes in a logical but empty wave-system. Poetry restores life and value to matter, and puts back the genotype into the world from which it was banished.


Although we equated dream to poetry, we saw that there were essential differences. Poetry is creative; dream is not. Poetry is creative because it is directed feeling. In dream the associations are “free” – reality’s images are manipulated according to the genotype’s desires, just as iron filings over a magnet “freely” arrange themselves along the lines of force. In poetry, however, feeling is fashioned into a social form by being made to live in the common world of perceptual reality. Poetry externalises emotion. The self is expressed – forcibly squeezed out. Emotion is minted – made current coin. Feelings are given social value. Work is done. Dream-work is precisely not labour, poetic dreamwork is; because one produces social commodities, the other does not.

It is for this reason that poetry’s technique differs from that of dream. Below the surface of the dream lie the unconscious instinctive wishes. Instinct is blind, it cannot alter itself as long as it is unconscious and incapable of self-conditioning, for it has no will but only automatic responses to stimuli. These instinctive wish-patterns dictate the dance of images in the brain, which are associated with the wish-patterns by indirect affective ties. But the ties themselves are suppressed in dream, for everything that wakes the affects to action must be avoided if the dreamer is to sleep on. The vast field of affect-laden images is “out of bounds.” “Let sleeping affects lie” is the motto of dream-wishes. They are suppressed by being phantastically gratified as easily as one makes a thoughtless habitual movement.

In poetic illusion the process is inverted. Dreams ascend from the unconscious upwards and are therefore blind and uncreative. Poems descend from the consciousness downwards and are therefore aware and creative. Dream fearfully avoids the dynamic region of the emotions, so as not to wake the sleeper to action; poetry explores it courageously, so as to change the inner world.

The memory-images of dream blindly follow the wire-pulling of the instincts. But the words of poetry follow a purposeful path. Their mission is, first to stir up the affects and then to reorganise them. The only result of dream is a temporary and arbitrary pattern of images drawn from reality and changed at the behest of the instincts. “The world is not thus but thus,” say the instincts, and remould it in their dream, but sometimes the instincts are so modified that they quarrel with themselves, and the contradictions of the dream explode in affects that wake us.

Poetry, however, takes its words and arranges them in such a way that the affects are roused and forced to take up a new organisation towards reality, a new emotional attitude. Dream moulds reality to the instincts, and is therefore of little use except to guard the dreamer from external reality and so keep him sleeping. Poetry moulds the instincts to reality, and is therefore useful, for it does not protect the reader from reality but puts him in good heart to grapple with it. Poetry is inverted dream – inverted in direction, in aim, and therefore in technique. Poetry flows from reality down to the instincts stopping only on the last outpost of perception where it encounters the instincts face to face. Dream flows from the instincts to the boundary of reality, at the limit of attention, and stops there, short of actual achievement, because it stops short of action.

We need not be surprised, therefore, that poetry is public and dream private, for consciousness is a social construction. The conscious psychic contents which the ego holds together are socially given contents. True, they cohere because the body which contains them is materially one object, but the materials that cohere – morals, knowledge, culture, aspirations, duties – . are all socially given. Unsocial man is brute, unconscious, instinctive, and therefore without will. An instinctive unconscious organism has no will, but only an automatic reflex, responsive to internal or external stimuli. It has no freedom, for freedom requires a will. The essence of willing is that consciousness is aware of those reasons that make its choice inevitable, and it is just that inevitability which is will. The fulfilled will is the conscious dialectic of the psyche in which the strife between the instincts of the body and the necessity of outer nature is resolved by a conscious action which contains both feeling and perception. This conscious microcosm is creative because it can act voluntarily, for ultimately conscious action and creation are the same. Creation, as opposed to accidental appearance, is the will moulding instead of blind necessity evolving. Accident carves the rocks into strange unpremeditated shapes, but the will hews the stone into a desired sculpture. Both are aspects of necessity.

The poet, then, must be a man sensitive above all to the associations and affective tones of words – not the personal but the collective tones. How is he to differentiate between personal and collective tones? He cannot consciously, and no poet can avoid the danger of writing verse which is meaningful to himself but meaningless to other people. All he can do is to live his affective life socially; to live with words. For indeed he can only live with words socially. He will meet them in books, in literature, in scientific papers, in journals, in speech, but always they will be met in public. Thus if he lives with words instead of memory-images, he will master the technique of poetry, for poetry is written with words.

The poet’s mastery of word associations gives him his tools for his creative task. His task is this. An emotional reorganisation must be made public, must be expressed by words in a collectively accessible form. Let us give our phrase – emotional reorganisation – a more current psychological form. Psycho-therapy has evolved the conception of the autonomous complex. A complex is a constellation of contents in the psyche which gather to themselves psychic energy. They become organised and full of dynamic power; they occupy a large part of the psychic. The psyche has many small complexes, but they only become complexes in the therapeutic sense when they are repelled by the chiefly conscious contents of the psyche (repression) and are unknown to the “ego,” that is, to the consciously thinking and feeling portion of the psyche. They become dangerous when they develop a “will of their own,” influence the actions of the psyche unknown to the consciousness, and give rise to neurotic conflicts, doubts and strange anxieties. The man seems torn in half. He has two motives and two wills. Similar symptoms are seen in Pavlov’s dogs when they have been conditioned to make two different responses to, say, a square and a circle. If an object midway between these shapes is presented to them, they exhibit a canine caricature of the neurotic’s hesitation. An emotional reorganisation is the resolution in some degree of an autonomous complex by making it socially conscious.


Psycho-therapy draws its conceptions from pathology. It is impossible fully to understand the relation of illusion to reality in man’s mind and life without understanding the relation of insanity to the healthy functioning of thought.

In dream, as we already saw, the stimulus to action is phantastically gratified in a stream of affectively-toned images in which both affect and image are distorted in their relation to reality. This distortion is permissible precisely because the dream by definition cannot issue in action, since its purpose is to protect the living body from active relation with its environment.

Man makes a step forward when he injects the dream into waking life. But this very injection narrows the scope of the biologically permissible in phantasy. Because phantasy now issues in action it must be geared in some way to present reality, for present reality determines action.

But it cannot be geared to present reality on both sides, subjective and objective, for to do so simply equates phantasy with perception, with man’s immediate vision of external reality and his attitude towards that reality.

It is therefore distorted in space to produce the mystic illusion, centring round the spell and the rite, which seems to drag all reality into the circle of the tribe by the power of magic and the word. It is distorted in time to produce the myth, or story. These two forms of phantasy, myth and magic, or theology and mysticism, correspond to the evolutionary and classificatory aspects of man’s plastic relation to reality, but they are still impure – subjective is mixed with objective, science with art. They are still religion. To make the subjective more pure and internal, and the objective more precise and external, they must be separated out by the dissolution and manipulation of the “other” side.

Hence waking phantasy is distorted on one side. Art distorts phantasy on the side of external reality by the device of the mock world; science distorts it on the side of subjective reality by the device of the mock ego. Yet this distortion is not distortion for the sake of distortion on the distorted side; it is distortion for the sake of greater accuracy on the “other” side. Now that other side can only reach out to a greater precision beyond that of present reality by association with the consciousnesses of other men – by passing from the semi-consciousness of brute phantasy to the consciousness of a man.

Therefore the undistorted side of art – the subjective side is developed by interaction with a social subjectiveness or social ego, and the undistorted side of science, the objective side, is developed by interaction with a social objectiveness or social world.

Science and art are merely abstract and generalised forms of the scientific and artistic elements in individual phantasies. Individual phantasies are, however, subject to disturbance. Men go insane. Study of these disturbances should throw light on the nature of phantasy.

Madmen are men whose theory has got out of gear with reality as evidenced by their practice – their action. This reality can only be a social reality because this is the only reality known to society. Madmen are men whose theory of reality differs markedly from that of society. They are socially maladapted. In them there is a conflict – a conflict between their social experience – their life in society – and their phantastic theory of life.

Psychiatry now tends to recognise two main divisions of insanity: (a) the manic-depressive or cyclothymic disturbances, and (b) the schizophrenic, catatonic or dementia praecox disturbances. The two groups are by Kretschmer closely associated with two types of body constitution, the pyknic (stout and fleshy) and the asthenic (thin and spare). Apart from insanity or the psychoses, there are disturbances of mental functioning – the psycho-neuroses. There is a general tendency to find a close association between hysteric neuroses and cyclothymic insanity, and between psychasthenic neuroses and schizophrenic insanity.

Jung’s division of psychological types into extraverted and introverted is also based on the assumption that extraverted types, when mentally disturbed, tend to hysteric and manic-depressive states, while introverted types are more likely to suffer from the psychasthenic neuroses and schizophrenia. The former group is generally regarded as easier to cure than the latter.

Now we saw that dream is the vehicle of a tension which is lived wholly in the phantastic plane by a double distortion of subject (affective tones) and object (memory images). Madmen solve their conflicts by detaching their theory from social reality and making it personal. They are awake and cannot solve their problems by this double dream-like shift. Their phantasy will be geared at one end to social reality.

It is our contention that the extraverted, cyclothymic hysteric type is geared to reality externally. This is in fact clinically correct. Even the manic-depressive can “orient” himself correctly, find his way about, and generally notice what is going on.

MacCurdy points out that he reacts to real stimuli, but in an exaggerated way. For example, he hears whispering below and imagines it to be a conversation regarding his assassination. He then betrays all the fear appropriate to an attempt at assassination.

In adjusting himself to reality he has desocialised his ego. As a result it becomes unconscious and correspondingly violent and barbaric. It oscillates uncontrollably and explodes with the slightest provocation on the all-or-none basis. To observers, therefore, the manic-depressive seems a man of wild passions who has forgotten external reality. But to himself he does not seem like that, for his ego has become unconscious and primitive and has therefore retired from his conscious field. Of course this throws out of gear the external reality in his conscious field, so that it is always being distorted by unconscious forces. If he hears the word “lobster,” he promptly assumes he is to be boiled alive. Because his ego has become unconscious and desocialised, he is its slave.

The schizophrenic, however, exhibits an emotional consistency and integration like the manic-depressive’s orientation towards external reality. The classical clinical sign of schizophrenia, according to MacCurdy, is when the patient does not show an affective reaction proportioned to the stimulus. For example, he declares that he hears people whispering that they will assassinate him, but he shows no fear. Eventually he shows a complete lack of orientation, is unable even to feed himself, and finally passes into a private world of reality. As an introvert, attaching most value to the subject, he has resolved his conflict by desocialising external reality, so that he lives in a dream world – a personal world. This dream world reflects his conscious ego, which, however, because the dream world is an unchecked reflection of its movement, does not seem very evident to the observer. The observer, being a part of negated outer reality, is out of touch with the schizophrenic’s ego. The schizophrenic’s conscious ego is not roused to passion or emotion because the dream world does not annoy it but “conforms” to it. Hence the conscience and strong social content of the schizophrenic’s mental world, which does not of course affect his conduct, for (as in paranoia) the outer world is always “in the wrong.” It justifies his desires by altering itself to conform with them. This is why Freud calls the paranoiac narcissistic, and this explains his incurability and untouchability.

Now we regard the phantastic device of art as similar in its general mechanism to the introverted distortion of schizophrenia and psychasthenic neurosis, and the phantastic device of science as similar in its general mechanism to the extraverted distortion of cyclothymia and hysteria.

Does this mean that we regard science and art as in any sense pathological and illusory? No, for although there is a similar psychological mechanism at work, art is no more neurosis than thought is dream. And the difference consists precisely in this, that science and art have a social content. The reality around which the extraverted hysteric or cyclothymic distorts his theory is private reality, a reality that contradicts the whole of the social theory of reality in his consciousness. This contradiction, instead of leading (as in science) to a synthesis of his private experience with the social theory of reality (demanding a change of both), leads to conduct which denies the social theory of reality. The desocialisation of the cyclothymic’s ego leads to an uprush of the instincts from the unconscious which distorts his relation to external reality and therefore his whole action. The desocialisation of the schizophrenic’s conception of external reality leads to a slavery of perception to the ego which removes the “brake” from it so that its world becomes dream-like and unreal.

Thus the psychological mechanism of science, because its reality is public and true, produces in the sphere of theory an ego which is the very opposite of that of the cyclothymic extravert – an ego which is drained of affect and quality, which is neutral, passive and serenely conscious of necessity. Of course this very reality, because it is without the dynamism and appetite of the instincts, requires the emotional reality of art for its completion. It is true, therefore, that a world which tried to live by science alone would deny its theory in practice and show the nervestorms of a cyclothymic, not because science is cyclothymic, but because it is only one part of concrete living.

The reality around which the psychasthenic neurotic or schizophrenic distorts the outside world is a private ego, his own private desires and appetites. Around this he “arranges” a whole mock world (the compulsive actions, obsessions or phobias of the neurotic, or the complete screen of fancy of the schizophrenic). But the psychological mechanism of art, because its ego is public and noble, produces in the sphere of theory a world which is beautiful and strong. This world, because it is drained of necessity, requires the mechanism of science for realisation. A world which lived by art alone would deny its theory in practice and live in a beautiful world of dream, while all its actions would produce only misery and ugliness.


Let us examine the difference between the two forms of extraverted mental disturbance. The hysteric does not deny the world of external reality (taking external in the sense of “external to the body” He accepts this. The reality he distorts and desocialises is that of his body regarded subjectively. It is as if he does not dare to challenge social reality in that portion of it where society is most firmly entrenched, and he therefore selects his body as something in which he has a special proprietorial interest, and distorts that. Hence the famous hysteric-illnesses (hysteric dumbness, paralysis, blindness, hyper-aesthesia and anaesthesia) which are socially unreal in the sense that they are only functional and non-organic, and yet are real to the hysteric because he is, by definition, unconscious of their real cause.

Classic examples of the solution of a conflict between the instincts and the environment by hysteric means are the hysteric soldier, whose fear of death takes the form of an hysteric paralysis, and the hysteric woman, whose unsatisfied love or fear of domination takes the form of an hysteric illness. Hence the term “organ-language” for hysteric symptoms.

But if the conflict is unresolvable by this means, then the extravert’s ego, forced into unconsciousness, challenges the whole domain of social reality, including that outside his body, He becomes mad in relation to his environment. Forces from he knows not where, irrupt into his environment and completely distort it. His ego, forced into the darkness of his soul, grimaces back at him from the environment, though he does not recognise it there.

The psychasthenic neurotic, however, is a man who challenges at first the social reality. Therefore, just as the conflict of the extravert is a conflict with an external reality (i.e. a perceived external reality) which is too hard for his unconscious ego, the conflict of the introvert is a conflict with a felt ego (conscious or morality) which is too hard for his unconscious environment. Hence the psychasthenic symptoms of lack of interest in external reality, in life – an inability to face up to its problems or to do anything about them. He invents such external realities as inimical men (paranoia) or objects (phobias) or processes (compulsions) in order to justify his desires. The psychasthenic neurotic does not deny the existence of the ego as a social individual, as an ego in touch with other egos, but claims to be excepted from the usual rules owing to its difficult environmental circumstances. Hence the endless martyrisation and introspection of the psychasthenic neurotic which makes such remunerative and almost incurable customers of the psycho-analyst. Because of his “special difficulties,” this type of neurotic is always trying to create a specially “easy” world. He solves his conflict by “blaming” the emotion caused by it on to other details of environmental reality. The emotion generated by some sexual crisis, for example, is attached to some trifling object. The emotion generated by a soldier’s being buried in a trench, or his fear of this, is in neurosis displaced to all dark objects or shut-in places.

Thus just as the hysteric does not deny external reality but adjusts it in the domain of his body considered as an object suffering from physical disease, so the psychasthenic neurotic does not deny his responsibilities as a social ego but adjusts them in his environment, which he distorts by elaboratc, rationalisations and. inventions. The slightest detail is seized on and twisted. The hysteric speaks an organ-language; the neurotic a feeling-language. One asks society to believe nothing he does not see (and manufactures the proof); the other nothing he does not feel (and manufactures the cause). Thus just as the hysteric is unconscious of the real cause of his paralysis, the neurotic is unconscious of the cause of his “difficult” circumstances. He avoids fear by avoiding closed places; he does not realise that what he is really avoiding by his claustrophobia is going to the trenches.

But if the conflict is insoluble by this means then the neurotic denies social reality completely and becomes unconscious of his self. This is schizophrenia.. He still remains conscious of external reality. An example is the Korsakoff syndrome. The patient knows everything external that happens to him, but does not know it is happening as to him. He lacks what Claparède called “moïeté.” To take an example given by MacCurdy: a patient was pricked by her physician with a pin concealed in his hand. Next time he went to touch her she shrank away. Asked why, she replied hazily: “Hands sometimes have pins in them.” She could not be persuaded that she, as an ego, had been pricked, but merely that a pricking had happened in her field of perceptual consciousness. When occupied with phantasy this type is simply a receptacle for phantastic panoramas, whereas the cyclothymic is a phantastic Napoleon, a hero, an enormous “I.”

Now we have already compared the mechanism of extraversion with that of science. We will go further and compare the mechanism of hysteria with the classificatory sciences and of cyclothymia with the evolutionary sciences.

The hysteric distorts his body to provide a reality consonant with a wished reality. In the same way the mathematician “imagines” an ego ordering, classifying, operating everywhere in external reality. But precisely because with the mathematician this external reality is social, real and therefore conscious, the ego which thus operates is unconscious, abstract, drained of any distorting or qualifying subjectivity.

The cyclothymic loses grip even on his ego to achieve an adjustment in accordance with his “difficulties.” As a result his delusion looks out at him everywhere in his perceptual field. In the same way the biologist or sociologist imagines an ego passively observing, noting, feeling everywhere in the sphere of reality chosen. But because with the scientist this external reality is social, real and conscious, the ego which thus observes is bare of subjective or personal bias – is the all-observing neutral eye of concrete society which yet spreads the quality it is interested in everywhere.

In the same way, since we have compared the mechanism of introversion with that of art, we will go further, and compare that of psychasthenic neurosis with poetry and that of schizophrcnia with the novel. The neurotic substitutes for the social environment a special personal environment which “accounts for” his subjective difficulties. He makes an unreal environment consistent with his desires. The poet, however, substitutes for the affects and “I” of his experience a still more real and social “I”; he forces his “I” completely to enter the social ego, and produces, but for the opposite reason, a mock “adjusted” external world. Hence all poetry, as we have seen, turns on the social “I.”

The catatonic, however, does not even make his world a real world of exceptionally difficult circumstances. The real world vanishes from society altogether; and the catatonic’s world becomes coincident with a world of “I-organised” environmental contents, an ego-created bundle of remembered percepts. The novelist, however, makes his “I” coincide not merely with a generalised human “I” (which is the way the poet lifts his “I” from an “I” in specially difficult circumstances) an “I” in all human circumstances) but with the concrete “I"s developed by the individuation of society. Hence the novel is not seen with all its contents oriented round one “I,” as in poetry, but it becomes an objective world, a world apparently like a selection of society surveyed from without, just as the catatonic’s “I” is extended to become a world of apparently objective percepts.

Why is the hysteric and the cyclothymic (according to the experience of anthropologists) far more common in primitive societies? Because, in their primitive undifferentiated state, the environment or objective reality is far more likely to be the cause of acute mental tension and require the “healing” phantasy than is the ego or subjective reality. Primitives are held firmly to the demands of the simple social environment. Conscience is clear and imperative. The development of ideology, and the cleavage of conscience due to the rise of class antagonisms, produces the torn egos and suppressed selves of modern society. Psychasthenic neurosis is a characteristic bourgeois disease. In the war, hysteria was, according to Rivers, commonest in the ranks; psychasthenic neurosis more usual among the officers. It is the disease of a class thrown by the cleavage of society away from external reality on to the consciousness, just as hysteria is the disease of a class thrown away from consciousness on to external reality. It required the development of a class society to develop consciousness by its separation, but it requires the reappearance of a classless society to synthesise what has now grown pathologically far apart – thinking and being, theory and practice. Schizophrenia is the disease of philosophy and idealism.

Thus, although there is a correspondence between artistic and schizophrenic solutions, and between scientific and cyclothymic mechanisms, because there is a resolution of social conflict by similar roads, the goal is in fact the opposite. As compared with existing normality, the mad road leads to greater illusion unconsciousness and privacy, the scientific or artistic road to greater reality, consciousness and publicity, Hence in catatonia the affects are repressed and in art they abundantly conscious; in cyclothymia the ego is “wild”; in science it is conscious of necessity.

For what it amounted to was this. Faced with a conflict between social consciousness and real life experience, the mentally-deranged chose to solve it by eliminating what was conflicting in consciousness, by making consciousness less true and social, and more private and illusory; whereas the scientist or artist chose to solve it by the opposite route, by dragging the new in experience up into social consciousness, by making consciousness more true and social, less private and illusory. They meet a similar obstacle but go in opposite directions. Science and art are “divine madness” in this sense, that a contradiction in experience drives the madman to private error and drives scientist and artist to public truth. They are more sane than the “sane,” who because they experience no conflict or contradiction in their lives, are not faced with the possibility of resolving it creatively. The only difference between artist and scientist is that one is interested in the subjective and the other in the objective component of consciousness and life. The only difference between poet and mathematician on the one hand, and the novelist and evolutionary scientist on the other, is that one is interested in generalisation, in integration, in a human essence and an abstract reality, and the other in specialisation, in differentiation, in human individuality and concrete reality.

Although the artist and the scientist in the problems they resolve go the opposite road to madness it does not follow that they are wholly sane. For they can only resolve those problems, which are socially real problems and have a general meaning for society as a whole. The artist has subjective problems, the scientist objective problems, which are not susceptible of a social solution, just as with other men. And of course the artist faced with objective problems is like the scientist faced with subjective problems, both are at least as helpless as ordinary men. This is only to say that science and art, because they are social reality in abstraction, in the most generalised and essential form, cannot exactly coincide with concrete living which generates them, but can only continually enrich and develop it.

Psycho-analysis, and psychology generally, is unable to make any clear distinction between the psychology of pathology and genius, and between the process of mental creation and mental delusion because it is unable to show any causal distinction between conscious and unconscious phantasy. The difference is social difference, but psychology, being bourgeois psychology, cannot rise beyond the conception of an “individual in civil society”; it cannot separate and distinguish the biological environment from the social environment, and consciousness is product of the social environment. We have already discussed the difficulties to which this gives rise in the Freudian philosophy.

The very cleavage of phantasy types due to the fact that in dream, when the inactive body is released from concrete living, distortion from reality can take place on two planes – internal and external. This is not possible when dream is injected into waking life; hence the special types of madness.

At the same time, once madness has set in, the theoretical possibility arises of a return to sleep of a deeper character, in which adjustment takes place on a double plane once but in a more penetrating way. In fact MacCurdy and Hoch’s work on benign stupors has revealed the clinical importance of a special prolonged, deep form of sleep (stupor) as a prognosis of approaching cure in psychoses. Evidently, then, sleep and dream play an important part in the solution of private conflicts which arise during the day and are “solved” privately at night. Hence, too, no doubt the significance of the sleeplessness which is so well recognised as a symptom of approaching madness, and hence, too, the curative importance of bromides and sleep-inducing drugs.


Our demarcation of “psychological types” necessarily calls to mind Jung’s classic work on the same subject. How far does our division correspond with his?

Jung’s earliest division was into extraverted and introverted types. On the whole our division corresponds with his – extraversion involves valuation of externality, of perception, of the object, whether in action or consciousness; and introversion is valuation of internality, of feeling, of the subject, either in consciousness or action.

Of course this does not mean that the introvert is essentially sympathetic; on the contrary it is his feeling, not that of others, which he values. It is the extravert who is sympathetic, but with the weakness of a shallow feeling.

Jung found this division insufficient and therefore he distinguished four functions, irrespective of valuation of the object or the subject. Of these functions two are rational – feeling and thinking, and two are irrational – sensing and intuiting. A type has one main function and an auxiliary function which must be of a different character, e.g. a rational function can only be assisted by an irrational function, and vice versa. All four functions exist in all psyches, and therefore individuation – the development of one function at the expense of the other – means that the functions not used sink into the unconscious. Thus a thinker feeling sinks into the unconscious and becomes correspondingly barbaric and crude. Here it exerts a compensatory influence, and may eventually gain in power until, at first sporadically and then completely, it becomes the main function, and there is an enantiodromia, a kind of conversion or complete reversal of personality, as when the cold, Christian-hating Saul becomes the ardent apostle Paul, or when the dry mathematical person becomes a raving maniac.

Now Jung’s rich experience and subtle mind gives this classification great value and importance. It is confused. However, owing to Jung’s epistemological confusion as to the meaning of consciousness. I regard Jung’s cleavage between feeling and thinking as that between theory and practice. The thinking extravert is the theoretical extravert, the man of thought; the feeling extravert is the practical extravert, the man of action. The feeling introvert, however, is the theoretical introvert, and the thinking introvert is the practical introvert. Of course both the theory and practice of introvert and extravert is conditioned by their different valuations of object subject – hence the apparent reversal, of the functions in theory and practice; and hence Jung’s initial mistake, afterwards corrected, in believing introversion and extraversion to be all-sufficient for the determination of psychological types. Our analysis of the two-sidedness of phantasy (which is matched by a similar two-sidedness of practice) explains how this reversal of functions occurs.

What are we to make of “sensing” and “intuiting"? According to Jung, “sensing” is appreciation of external phenomena by an act of unconscious apprehension, and “intuition” is appreciation of internal phenomena. by an act of conscious apprehension.

It seems to me that Jung has got himself into an epistemological confusion here. His types are real, but their mechanism is wrongly grasped. Sensing is not just irrational feeling, but the relation between them is the same as between poetry and the novel. Sensing is conscious but poetic, it is generalised feeling; this-sidedness reduced to the common instinctive ego. Feeling is conscious but concrete; it is individualised sensing, sensing given the status of particular differentiated egos. Sensing is thus more primitive than feeling. In the same way intuiting is not irrational thinking, but the relation between them is the same as between mathematics and biology. Intuiting is conscious but mathematical; it is generalised thinking, other-sidedness reduced to the abstract commonness of quantity. Thinking is conscious but concrete; it is particularised intuiting, intuiting given the content of spheres of quality. Intuiting is thus more primitive than feeling.

It has already been explained why poetry and mathematics emerged in the history of our race before the story and the evolutionary sciences. In the same way sensing and intuiting are the earliest forms of thought – the reasoning of the leaders, prophets, poets and lawgivers of primitive society.

Thus in general we agree with the importance of Jung’s distinction between extraversion in which the object is valued, and introversion in which the subject is valued. We also agree with his warning that any one type may be introverted in relation to some spheres of activity and extraverted in relation to others, and that this may change in the course of his life. Hence a type has a fluidity and individuality even in his attitude to life. To take Spearman’s conception of two factors in intelligence – g, a general fund applicable to all fields, and s, a special capacity, limited to one field – not only may g vary in its “attitude” as well as its quantity, but the various s-factors too may vary in attitude and quantity.

Our analysis differs from Jung in three respects:

(1) He does not allow for the difference between a theoretical and a practical approach to life, and the existence of some fields in which a man is theoretical, others in which he is practical, and others where he shows a balanced unity. The more a man is purely theoretical in some fields, the more he is likely to be purely practical in others, and because of their divorce, both theory and practice will show a special crude primitiveness which may make them seem of different quality from what are when they appear as an active whole. The thinking and intuiting extraverts and the feeling and sensing introverts are men predominantly theoretical precisely because their living behaviour exhibits a valuation of the object which is contrary to their phantastic valuation, and in the same way the feeling and sensing extraverts and the thinking and intuiting intraverts have a predominantly practical approach to life.

(2) He regards sensing and intuiting as in some way unconscious forms of feeling and thinking, although he uses the word irrational. But the “intuition” on which mathematical reasoning is based cannot be regarded as irrational. Of course the word “intuition” begs the question, and it is not suggested that the view of mathematics represented by Poincaré’s school was right and Peano and Russell’s logistic theory wrong. Intuition is not used in a Platonic sense. It is simply applied to the abstract generalising approach characteristic of logic and a more primitive society, and so far from being irrational it is rational in that it leads (as in Platonism, scholasticism and Buddhist philosophy) to a glorification of the reason as against practice.

(3) Jung has no adequate definition of consciousness and unconsciousness except a reduction of “psychic energy” which makes the unconscious contents sink below the threshold. For this crude and unhelpful theory we have substituted the conception of the desocialisation of conscious contents, either ego-attached or environment-attached, due to the tension of concrete living, which causes them to become unconscious and correspondingly archaic and infantile.

If real external reality conflicts with my consciousness in life, I can actively and really change it. If I starve, I can get food; am too cold, I can put on clothes. Scientific phantasy is born from this kind of active change or practice, and though it is introversion, it is extraverted introversion – introversion with a view to changing outer reality. This change is its value, purpose and mode of generation. The experience in life which contradicts existing scientific consciousness and demands its change is always an experience in changing objective reality. Science develops as an abstract system of knowing Nature by its guidance of man’s attempts to change Nature.

But if my social ego conflicts with my consciousness in life, I can actively and really change myself. I can want different things – satisfy my instincts in other ways open to me in existing life – by art-works for example. I then have an interest in objects which is introverted – it is extraversion with a view to changing my own ego. This change of the ego is the value, purpose and mode of generation of art-works. The experience in life which contradicts any existing ego and demands its change is always an experience encountered in satisfying my wants, that is, in changing myself. Art develops as a concrete group of objects, a mock world, whereby man changes himself and in doing so comes to know himself. The method of art is the method of science turned inside out. One knows to do; the other does to feel. One changes himself in order to change outer reality; the other changes outer reality in order to change himself. Both are necessary to each other, for the limits of outer and inner change are both set by necessity. Operating with existing consciousness, men change reality to new forms. Operating with existing forms, men change consciousness. The first is science in creative practice, the second art in creative practice. Reverse the rôles and we have science in creative theory, and art in creative theory.

Without this understanding of the relation of theory to practice, Jung moves without realising it from one definition of introversion to another.

Thinking and intuiting in introversion, i.e. in theory, are practical functions – functions orienting thought round the outer world. In practice, in extraversion, they are world-changing actions, actions changing perceptual reality. Feeling and sensing in introversion, in theory, are theoretical functions – functions orienting thought round the ego. In practice, in extraversion, they are self-changing, i.e. self-satisfying or self-expressing actions, actions satisfying the ego. This complex relation is precisely what makes the complexity of types, for no man lives in the same way, no one has precisely the same relation between phantasy and action. Hence Jung’s thinking and intuiting extraverts are men of “theory,” scientific men, just as his thinking and intuiting introverts are men of action, mysteriously practical men. His extraverted sensing and feeling men are practical men, appetitive or sensual, and his feeling and sensing introverts are theoretical men, mystics, prophets or poets.

Jung’s confusion regarding the “compensatory” rôle of the unconscious springs from the same source. To say a function becomes unconscious is to say that it becomes desocialised. Jung’s functions “sinking into the unconscious” through repression or repulsion by the conscious contents are nothing but man finding parts of the social ego or social reality in himself at war with each other. His consciousness of himself realised in his life experience conflicts with his consciousness of the outer world. We have already seen that he can adjust himself in. phantasy in two ways – by orienting the consciousness of the outer world round his ego, or by orienting the ego round the outer world.

If the outer world is major to him (the thinking intuiting extravert) he will desocialise and adjust his ego round external realities so that it becomes subjectively distorted; so that his whole impression and valuation of it is false. In other words the feeling side or the sensing side will become an unconscious and archaic function; it will become desocialised and hence full of instinct. As it emerges in objective action, the ego will to us seem inflated and full of feeling. But precisely because it emerges in action in this wild instinctive way, the subjective content of the ego will be slight. The maniac does not feel profoundly; but he acts like a man in an overpowering passion, because he lacks that consciousness of self which moderates, complicates and subtilises man’s response to reality. He makes an “all or nothing” response. Jung’s compensatory unconscious is really the extravert’s adjustment of life to reality in phantasy by a desocialisation of the ego and an unconsciousness of subjective feeling, matched in action by a more passionate behaviour, a folie de grandeur or wild inflation of the ego.

The correct response of this type is scientific – changing the environment and injecting a greater measure of environmental reality into consciousness as a result. The first route is the route of illusion, of madness, of an unsocial and unconscious ego leading to a false conscious perception of the environment and therefore a destructive behaviour; the second is the route of science, of reality, of a manipulation of the ego to produce a truer conscious perception of the environment and therefore a more useful behaviour. A movement of extraversion and introversion is involved in both cases.

But here the maxim “Physician, heal thyself” does not apply. The scientist’s contribution to society as a result of his special tension is a deeper consciousness of environmental reality, and what he requires from it to heal his own one-sidedness is just what he cannot give but the artist can – subjective consciousness and inner reality.

In the same way with the feeling or sensing introvert, a conflict between consciousness and reality necessarily takes the form of a distortion of conscious perception owing to the overvaluing of the ego. This leads to the psychasthenic neurotic having a greater consciousness of emotion and a fictitious independence of his environment, which, because of the denial of the objective term, leads to a slavery to his environment in the form of “difficult circumstances.” Nature, not his ego, becomes primitive and uncontrollable because it becomes unconscious.

This type of introvert is driven to artistic production – to change himself not by lowering his consciousness of outer reality but by injecting his ego’s experience into the social consciousness. But this creative task in relation to society may lead to a one-sidedness of personality which can only be corrected by the healing consciousness of outer reality drawn from science.

The maladapted introvert attempts to free himself from his conflict with “nature” by cutting himself off from the object; but his unconsciousness of the object makes him its blind slave. The maladapted extrovert attempts to cut himself off from the subject; but his unconsciousness of himself makes him the blind slave of his own instincts. Thus they prove in their own persons that freedom is the consciousness of necessity. In theory they deny the ego or the world, only to prove it in a wild barbaric way in practice – and this cleavage in them between theory and practice is precisely wherein their madness consists. Thus art points the road to the hysteric’s cure; science to the neurotics. Science and art in relation to the consciousness are therapeutic – science for the introvert, art for the extravert. In relation to practical life they are reality-changing, science changing the world and art changing men.

Apart from these weaknesses, Jung’s study is a profound encyclopaedia of the human psyche as a part of reality, a study of how man realises or fails to realise his freedom in concrete living. It represents the deepest study of the psyche possible to world-view which has not risen above the conception of an individual living in civil society.

Science and art are the most abstract and generalised forms of a way of phantastic adaptation via society which cannot be separated from the reality of action, both of which are generated in the act of changing nature and so oneself, that is, in the act of living. Science and art are nothing if they do not give to each of us an immediate guide to our personal lives in all their aspects – both a morality and an understanding, an impulsion and an instrument which is not merely general but guides each of us in every one of our concrete relations, which is a compass to every act whereby we change nature and ourselves. Our life is lived wrongly if this theory, which guides and impels our every act, does not suck from every act new theory and grow as a developing thing. Human activity is activity through objects. To separate science and art from “practical, critical-revolutionary activity” is to separate them from life. And this is what modern civilisation increasingly tends to do.

Modern culture has known well enough how to tear itself apart. It strove at first in its rise to cut itself off from the subject, to throw itself completely into the object. Hence the wild cyclothymic energy of the Elizabethan era of bourgeoisdom. Now it has passed to the other pole, from hysteria to psychasthenia, and, attempting to cut itself off from the object which it can no longer control, becomes the blind slave of necessity. This is the oscillation from mechanical material to idealism and thence to the helpless eclecticism of positivism, which, by attempting to cut itself off from both subject and object and so dominate them both, is the slave of both, a helpless victim of mere appearance.

Positivism leads to surréalisme in poetry. The dream-work of poetry is abandoned, and men float into air, cut loose both from subject and object – unconscious of both, and therefore the blind slave of both. “Free” association is compulsive dream. Poetry ceases to contain a dream-work; it becomes dream; the poet passes into a benign stupor. Benign, for Aragon has told us that the poet cannot rest on this position or return to an earlier one, but can only recover by winning into a world where subject and object again become social and therefore conscious, and the poet’s relation to life again becomes free, revolutionary and laborious.