SUBJECTIVE MEMORY

It is thought that the facts related in the preceding chapter
are sufficient to demonstrate the substantial correctness of the
proposition that the memory of the subjective mind is practically
perfect. Before leaving this branch of the subject, however, and
proceeding to detail other peculiarities which distinguish the two
minds, it is deemed proper to offer a few practical illustrations
of the principles involved, drawn from common observation, and
incidentally to apply those principles to the solution of various
problems of every-day experience. It will be remembered that thus far
we have confined our observations to the operations of the subjective
mind when the subject is in a diseased or in a deeply hypnotic
condition, with the objective senses in complete abeyance. This has
been done for the purpose of more clearly illustrating the fundamental
propositions. The phenomena of purely subjective mental action, are,
however, of little practical importance to mankind when compared with
the action of the subjective mind modified by the co-ordinate power of
the objective intelligence.

It is not to be supposed that an All-wise Providence has placed
within the human frame a separate entity, endowed with such wonderful
powers as we have seen that it possesses, and hedged about by the
limitations with which we know it to be environed, without so ordaining
its relations with man’s objective intelligence as to render it of
practical value to the human race in its struggle with its physical
environment. It might at first glance seem incongruous to suppose that
the subjective mind could be at once the storehouse of memory and
the source of inspiration, limited as to its methods and powers of
reasoning, and at the same time subject to the imperial control of the
objective mind. A moment’s reflection, however, will show that in the
very nature of things it must necessarily be true. “A house divided
against itself cannot stand.” There must be a controlling power in
every well-regulated household, municipality, nation, or organism.
There is a positive and a negative force in the greatest physical power
known to mankind. There is a male and a female element in every race
and order of created organisms; and those philosophers who hold that
there appertain to every man a male and a female element have dimly
recognized the duality of man’s mental organization.

Why it is that the objective mind has been invested with the
controlling influence, limited as are its resources and feeble as are
its powers, is a question upon which it would be idle to speculate.
It profits us only to know the fact and to study its practical
significance, without wasting our energies in seeking to know the
ultimate cause. We may rest assured that in this, as in all other laws
of Nature, we shall find infinite wisdom.

If any one doubts the wisdom of investing the objective mind with
the controlling power in the dual organization, let him visit a
madhouse. There he will see all shades and degrees of subjective
control. There he will see men whose objective minds have completely
abdicated the throne, and whose subjective minds are in pursuit of one
idea,–controlled by one dominant impression, which subordinates all
others. These are the monomaniacs,–the victims of false suggestions.
These suggestions may be given from without, in a thousand different
ways which will be readily recognized by the student of insanity, or
by auto-suggestion. Long and intense concentration of mind upon one
subject, and inordinate egotism, will be readily recognized as striking
illustrations of the power of auto-suggestion as a factor in monomania.
The maniac is one whose objective mind is disorganized by disease
of its organ, the brain; the result being distortion of objective
impressions, and consequent false suggestions to the subjective mind.

Those who study the subject from this standpoint will find an easy
solution to many an obscure problem. The subject is here adverted to
merely to show the consequences arising from allowing the subjective
mind to usurp complete control of the mental organization. It will
be readily seen that human society, outside of lunatic asylums,
constantly furnishes numerous examples of abnormal subjective control.
So generally is this fact recognized that it has passed into a proverb
that “every man is insane on some subject.”

The question arises, What part does the subjective mind play in
the normal operation of the human intellect? This question may be
answered in a general way by saying that the most perfect exhibition
of intellectual power is the result of the synchronous action of the
objective and subjective minds. When this is seen in its perfection
the world names it _genius_. In this condition the individual has the
benefit of all the reasoning powers of the objective mind, combined
with the perfect memory of the subjective mind and its marvellous power
of syllogistic arrangement of its resources. In short, all the elements
of intellectual power are then in a state of intense and harmonious
activity. This condition may be perfectly normal, though it is rarely
seen in its perfection. Probably the most striking examples which
history affords were Napoleon Bonaparte and Shakspeare. The intelligent
student of the history of their lives and work will not fail to recall
a thousand incidents which illustrate the truth of this proposition.
True genius is undoubtedly the result of the synchronous action of the
two minds, neither unduly predominating or usurping the powers and
functions of the other. When the subjective is allowed to dominate, the
resultant acts of the individual are denominated “the eccentricities of
genius.” When the subjective usurps complete control, the individual
goes insane.

There are certain classes of persons whose intellectual labors are
characterized by subjective activity in a very marked degree. Poets
and artists are the most conspicuous examples. So marked is the
peculiarity of the poetic mind in this respect that it has become
almost proverbial. Lord Macaulay, in his Essay on Milton, uses language
which shows that he clearly recognized the subjective element in all
true poetry. He says:–

“Perhaps no man can be a poet, or can even enjoy poetry, without
a certain unsoundness of mind,–if anything which gives so much
pleasure ought to be called unsoundness. By poetry we mean not, of
course, all writing in verse, nor even all good writing in verse.
Our definition excludes many metrical compositions which on other
grounds deserve the highest praise. By poetry we mean the art of
employing words in such a manner as to produce an illusion on the
imagination; the art of doing by means of words what the painter
does by means of colors. Thus the greatest of poets has described
it, in lines universally admired for the vigor and felicity of
their diction, and still more valuable on account of the just
notion which they convey of the art in which he excelled.

“‘As imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.’

“These are the fruits of the ‘fine frenzy’ which he ascribes to
the poet,–a fine frenzy doubtless, but still a frenzy. Truth,
indeed, is essential to poetry, but it is the truth of madness. The
reasonings are just, but the premises are false. After the first
suppositions have been made, everything ought to be consistent; but
those first suppositions require a degree of credulity which almost
amounts to a partial and temporary derangement of the intellect.
Hence, of all people, children are the most imaginative. They
abandon themselves without reserve to every illusion. Every image
which is strongly presented to their mental eye produces on them
the effect of reality. No man, whatever his sensibility may be, is
ever affected by Hamlet or Lear as a little girl is affected by the
story of poor Red-Riding-Hood. She knows that it is all false, that
wolves cannot speak, that there are no wolves in England. Yet in
spite of her knowledge she believes; she weeps; she trembles; she
dares not go into a dark room, lest she should feel the teeth of
the monster at her throat. Such is the despotism of the imagination
over uncivilized minds.”

In other words, such is the despotism of suggestion over the subjective
mind. No truer statement of the methods of subjective mental action
could be written. “The reasonings are just, but the premises are
false,” says Macaulay. True, the deductive reasonings of the subjective
mind are always just, logical, syllogistically perfect, and are equally
so whether the premises are false or true.

Macaulay’s remark concerning children is eminently philosophical and
true to nature. Children are almost purely subjective; and no one
needs to be told how completely a suggestion, true or false, will take
control of their minds. This is seen in perfection when children are
playing games in which one of them is supposed to be a wild beast. The
others will flee in affected terror from the beast; but the affectation
often becomes a real emotion, and tears, and sometimes convulsions,
result from their fright.

The remark elsewhere made regarding the eccentricities of genius
applies in a marked degree to poets. It is probable that in all the
greater poets the subjective mind often predominates. Certainly the
subjective element is dominant in their works. The career of Lord Byron
is at once a splendid illustration of the marvellous powers and the
inexhaustible resources of the subjective mind in a man of learning and
cultivation, and a sad commentary on the folly and danger of allowing
the subjective mind to usurp control of the dual mental organization.

Many of the poems of Coleridge furnish striking examples of the
dominance of the subjective in poetry. His readers will readily recall
the celebrated fragment entitled “Kubla Khan; or, a Vision in a Dream,”
beginning as follows:–

“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree,–
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.”

It is unfortunately true that the subjective condition in his case was
often brought about by artificial means; and it is expressly stated in
a prefatory note to “Kubla Khan” that this fragment was written while
under the influence of an anodyne. As an illustration of the principle
under consideration it is, however, none the less valuable; while the
career of the gifted but unfortunate poet should serve as a warning
against the practices in which he indulged.

Macaulay further remarks:–

“In an enlightened age there will be much intelligence, much
science, much philosophy, abundance of just classification and
subtle analysis, abundance of wit and eloquence, abundance of
verses,–and even of good ones,–but little poetry. Men will judge
and compare; but they will not create.”[7]

In other words, this is an age of purely objective cultivation. All our
powers of inductive reasoning are strained to their highest tension in
an effort to penetrate the secrets of physical Nature, and to harness
her dynamic forces. Meantime, the normal exercise of that co-ordinate
power in our mental structure is fast falling into desuetude, and its
manifestations, not being understood, are relegated to the domain of
superstition.

Socrates, in his Apology to the Athenians, seems to have entertained
opinions in regard to poets similar to those of Lord Macaulay. In his
search for wiser men than himself he went first to the politicians.
Failing there, he went to the poets, with the following result:–

“Taking up, therefore, some of their poems, which appeared to me
most elaborately finished, I questioned them as to their meaning,
that at the same time I might learn something from them. I am
ashamed, O Athenians, to tell you the truth; however, it must be
told. For, in a word, almost all who were present could have given
a better account of them than those by whom they had been composed.
I soon discovered this, therefore, with regard to the poets, that
they do not effect their object by wisdom, but by a certain natural
inspiration, and under the influence of enthusiasm, like prophets
and seers; for these also say many fine things, but they understand
nothing that they say.”

Words could not express more clearly the recognition of the subjective
element in poetic composition; and it exactly accords with Macaulay’s
idea regarding the poets and the poetry of the ancient days.

The subjective mind once recognized as a factor in the mental powers
of the poet, it follows that its resources are all at his command.
Its perfect memory, its instant command of all the acquired knowledge
of the individual, however superficially attained or imperfectly
remembered, objectively, is a source of stupendous power. But, like
all other gifts of nature, it is liable at times to be a source of
inconvenience; for it sometimes happens that in ordinary composition a
person will unconsciously reproduce, _verbatim_, some long-forgotten
expressions, perhaps a whole stanza, or even an entire poem. It may,
perchance, be of his own composition; but it is just as likely to be
something that he has read years before and forgotten, objectively, as
soon as read. In this way many persons have subjected themselves to the
charge of plagiarism, when they were totally unconscious of guilt.
Many of the great poets have been accused of minor plagiarisms, and
much inconsiderate criticism has been the result. Oliver Wendell Holmes
mentions unconscious reproduction as one of the besetting annoyances
of a poet’s experience. “It is impossible to tell,” he says, “in many
cases, whether a comparison which suddenly suggests itself is a new
conception or a recollection. I told you the other day that I never
wrote a line of verse that seemed to me comparatively good, but it
appeared old at once, and often as if it had been borrowed.”[8]

A certain class of trance-speaking mediums, so called, are often called
upon to improvise poems, the subject being suggested by some one in the
audience. Often a very creditable performance is the result; but it
more frequently happens that they reproduce something that they have
read.




Sometimes whole poems are thus reproduced by persons in an apparently
normal condition. This accounts for the frequent disputes concerning
the authorship of popular verses. Instances of this kind are fresh
in the minds of most readers, as, for example, a recent controversy
between two well-known writers relative to the authorship of the poem
beginning, “Laugh, and the world laughs with you.” The circumstances
of such coincidences often preclude the possibility of either claimant
deliberately plagiarizing the work, or telling a falsehood concerning
its authorship. Yet nothing is more certain than that one of them is
not its author. Possibly neither is entitled to that credit. When, in
the nature of things, it is impossible for either to prove the fact
of authorship, and when the evidence on both sides is about equally
balanced, we may never know the exact truth; but as the theory of
unconscious subjective reproduction is consistent with the literary
honesty of both, it may well be accepted as the true one, aside from
the inherent probability of its correctness.

The solution of the great question as to the authorship of Shakspeare’s
works may be found in this hypothesis. The advocates of the Baconian
theory tell us that Shakspeare was an unlearned man. This is true
so far as high scholastic attainments are concerned; but it is also
known that he was a man of extensive reading, and was the companion of
many of the great men of his time, among whom were Bacon, Ben Jonson,
Drayton, Beaumont, Fletcher, and others. It is in evidence that the
Mermaid Tavern was the scene of many an encounter of wit and learning
between these worthies. In this way he was brought into constant
contact with the brightest minds of the Elizabethan age. He was not
only familiar with their works, but he had also the benefit of their
conversation,–which familiarized him with their thoughts and modes
of expression,–and of close personal relations with them in their
convivial moods, when wit and eloquence, learning and philosophy,
flowed as freely as their wine.

The internal evidence of his works shows that Shakspeare’s mind,
compared with that of any other poet whose writings are known, was
the most harmoniously developed. In other words, his objective and
subjective faculties were exquisitely balanced. When this fact is
considered in the light of what has been said of the marvellous
powers of subjective memory, and in connection with his intellectual
environment, the source of his power and inspiration becomes apparent.
In his moments of inspiration–and he seems always to have been
inspired when writing–he had the benefit of a perfect memory and a
logical comprehension of all that had been imparted by the brightest
minds of the most marvellous literary and philosophical age in the
history of mankind. Is it any wonder that he was able to strike a
responsive chord in every human breast, to run the gamut of every human
emotion, to portray every shade of human character, and to embellish
his work with all the wit and learning of his day and generation?

Artists constitute another class in whom the subjective faculties
are largely cultivated, and are often predominant. Indeed, no man
can become a true artist whose subjective mind is not cultivated to
a high degree of activity. One may become a good draughtsman, or
learn to delineate a figure with accuracy, or to draw a landscape
with photographic fidelity to objective nature, and in faultless
perspective, by the cultivation of the objective faculties alone;
but his work will lack that subtle something, that name-less charm,
which causes a canvas to glow with beauty, and each particular figure
to become instinct with life and action. No artist can successfully
compose a picture who cannot see “in his mind’s eye” the perfected
picture before he touches his pencil to canvas; and just in proportion
to his cultivation of the subjective faculties will he be able thus
to see his picture. Of course these remarks will be understood to
presuppose an objective art education. No man, by the mere cultivation
or exercise of his subjective faculties, can become a great artist, any
more than an ignoramus, by going into a hypnotic trance, can speak the
language of a Webster. All statements to the contrary are merely the
exaggerations of inaccurate observers. Genius in art, as in everything
else, is the result of the harmonious cultivation and synchronous
action of both characteristics of the dual mind.

In art, as in poetry, the undue predominance of the subjective mind
is apt to work disastrously. No better illustration of this is now
recalled than is furnished by the works of Fuseli or of Blake:–

“Look,” says Dendy,[9] “on those splendid illustrations of the
Gothic poets by the eccentric, the half-mad Fuseli. Look on the
wild pencillings of Blake, another poet-painter, and you will be
assured that they were ghost-seers. An intimate friend of Blake has
told me the strangest tales of his visions. In one of his reveries
he witnessed the whole ceremony of a fairy’s funeral, which he
peopled with mourners and mutes, and described with high poetic
beauty. He was engaged, in one of these moods, in painting King
Edward I., who was sitting to him for his picture. While they were
conversing, Wallace suddenly presented himself on the field, and
by this uncourteous intrusion marred the studies of the painter for
that day…. Blake was a visionary,” continues our author, “and
thought his fancies real; he was mad.”

The writer once knew an artist who had the power to enter the
subjective condition at will; and in this state he could cause his
visions to be projected upon the canvas before him. He declared that
his mental pictures thus formed were perfect in detail and color, and
all that he had to do to fix them was to paint the corresponding colors
over the subjective picture. He, too, thought his fancies real; he
believed that spirits projected the pictures upon the canvas.

The foregoing cases represent a class of artists whose subjective
faculties are uncontrolled by the objective mind,–an abnormal
condition, which, if it found expression in words instead of pigments,
would stamp the subject as a candidate for the lunatic asylum.

Fortunately, most artists have their fancies more under control; or,
more properly speaking, they are aware that their visions are evoked
by their own volition. This power varies with different individuals,
but all true artists possess it in a greater or less degree. An
extraordinary manifestation of this power is reported by Combe. The
artist was noted for the rapidity of his work, and was extremely
popular on account of the fidelity of his portraits, and especially
because he never required more than one sitting of his patron. His
method, as divulged by himself, was as follows:–

“When a sitter came, I looked attentively on him for half an hour,
sketching from time to time on the canvas. I did not require a
longer sitting. I removed the canvas and passed to another person.
When I wished to continue the first portrait, I recalled the man
to my mind. I placed him on the chair, where I perceived him as
distinctly as though really there, and, I may add, in form and
color more decidedly brilliant. I looked from time to time at the
imaginary figure, and went on painting, occasionally stopping to
examine the picture exactly as though the original were before me;
whenever I looked towards the chair I saw the man.”

In this way he was enabled to paint over three hundred portraits in one
year.

It is seldom that subjective power is manifested in this particular
manner. It may be added, however, that, given an artist for a subject,
the same phenomena can be reproduced at will by the ordinary processes
of hypnotism. The most common manifestations of the power are not so
easily recognized or distinguished from ordinary mental activity; but
every artist will bear witness that there are times when he works
with extraordinary ease and rapidity, when the work almost seems to
do itself, when there seems to be a force outside of himself which
impels him on, when, to use the common expression to define the mental
condition, he feels that he is “inspired.” It is then that the artist
does his best work. It is under these mental conditions that his work
is characterized by that subtle, indefinite charm vaguely expressed by
the word “feeling.”

Another class of persons who possess the faculty of evoking at will the
powers of the subjective mind are the great orators, such as Patrick
Henry, Charles Phillips the Irish orator, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster,
and many others, to say nothing of that numerous class of purely
subjective orators known to spiritists as trance, or inspirational,
speakers. The student of the life of Patrick Henry will not fail to
see that his whole history is an illustration of the pertinency of
these remarks. It is related of Clay that on one occasion he was
unexpectedly called upon to answer an opponent who had addressed the
Senate on a question in which Clay was deeply interested. The latter
felt too unwell to reply at length. It seemed imperative, however,
that he should say something; and he exacted a promise from a friend,
who sat behind him, that he would stop him at the end of ten minutes.
Accordingly, at the expiration of the prescribed time the friend
gently pulled the skirts of Mr. Clay’s coat. No attention was paid
to the hint, and after a brief time it was repeated a little more
emphatically. Still Clay paid no attention, and it was again repeated.
Then a pin was brought into requisition; but Clay was by that time
thoroughly aroused, and was pouring forth a torrent of eloquence.
The pin was inserted deeper and deeper into the orator’s leg without
eliciting any response, until his friend gave it up in despair. Finally
Mr. Clay happened to glance at the clock, and saw that he had been
speaking two hours; whereupon he fell back into his friend’s arms,
completely overcome by exhaustion, upbraiding his friend severely for
not stopping him at the time prescribed.

The fact that Mr. Clay, on that occasion, made one of the ablest
speeches of his life, two hours in length, at a time when he felt
almost too ill to rise to his feet, and that his body at the time was
in a condition of perfect anesthesia, is a splendid illustration of the
synchronous action of the two minds, and also of the perfect control
exercised by the subjective mind over the functions and sensations of
the body.

There is, perhaps, no better description on record of the sensations
of a speaker, when the synchronous action of the two minds is
perfect, than that given by Daniel Webster. A friend had asked him
how it happened that he was able, without preparation, to make such a
magnificent effort when he replied to Hayne. The reply was (quoting
from memory) substantially as follows: “In the first place, I have made
the Constitution of the United States the study of my life; and on
that occasion it seemed to me that all that I had ever heard or read
on the subject under discussion was passing like a panorama before me,
arranged in perfectly logical order and sequence, and that all I had to
do was to cull a thunderbolt and hurl it at him.”

Two important conclusions are deducible from the premises here
laid down. The first is that it is essential to the highest mental
development that the objective and subjective faculties be cultivated
harmoniously, if the latter are cultivated at all.

The second conclusion is of the most transcendent interest and
importance. It is that the subjective mind should never be allowed to
usurp control of the dual mental organization. Important as are its
functions and transcendent as are its powers, it is hedged about with
such limitations that it must be subjected to the imperial control of
the objective mind, which alone is endowed with the power to reason by
all methods.

To sum up in a few words: To believe in the reality of subjective
visions is to give the subjective mind control of the dual mental
organization; and to give the subjective mind such control is for
Reason to abdicate her throne. The suggestions of the subjective mind
then become the controlling power. The result, in its mildest form of
manifestation, is a mind filled with the grossest superstitions,–a
mind which, like the untutored mind of the savage, “sees God in clouds,
and hears him in the wind.” Its ultimate form of manifestation is
insanity.