The Configurations of Personality

The classification of personalities by psychological types on the basis of extravert and introvert tendencies has a certain value. I have great respect for the work of Kretschemer, for example, and the identification of manic-depressive states with the pyknic type and the schizophrenias with the asthenic type of physique, this being the application in the field of psycho-pathology of the extravert-introvert concept of Jung, without the theories of Jung. It is plain, however, that persons are usually extravert at one moment and introvert at another, and the same person may be disposed in one direction at one age level and stage of maturation and in the other direction at another, and we further have no data as to the rôle played by conditioning factors, which is certainly a very great one.

At any rate, instead of taking this line of approach, I am assuming, at least for the initial standpoint for the study of the formation of the personality, that there are certain satisfactions, objects of desire, which

( 144) men always and everywhere want and seek to secure, and we may speak of these satisfactions as values. These values will he found also to fall into classes or fields, corresponding partly with instinctive or unlearned action tendencies and partly with learned or conditioned tendencies. We may speak of the action tendencies as attitudes and of the values as stimuli.

From this standpoint a personality would be regarded as an organization of attitudes, and personalities would be distinguished among themselves by their greater or less tendency to seek their satisfactions, play their rôles, in this or that field of the values. But we have to make the same remark here as with reference to extravert and introvert types — a few will be found characterized by a preponderance of this or that attitude and value, while the many will represent a mingling of all of them. Moreover, it will appear that in connection with stages of physical and mental and emotional maturation the personality will be weighted differently with the different attitudes and values, and questions will always arise with reference to constitutional traits as against habit formation.

Viewed, then, as a configuration, a personality would be a background of attitudes and values common to everybody, upon which certain attitudes and values, or constellations of attitudes and values, assume a prominent or perhaps a dominant position.

What these fields of the values are I will not elaborate here because I have done this elsewhere and

( 145) more than once, but I will state my formulation of the matter in outline as point of departure.

There is, first, the field of new experience — the desire for heightened states of stimulation, physiological expansion, change, adventure, thrill, shock. Drink and drugs are an expression of it, and interest in "sensations," reports of scandal, crime and disaster in the press, and these accounts are the artistic aspect of the drink habit. Games and play are more organized expressions. Hunting and scientific pursuits contain the pattern, and it is interesting that language has applied the name " pursuit " in both connections. They are the same interest in different fields of application. Köhler's ape, within his powers, was as scientific as Millikan in his research into the electron. He divorced his interest from practical utility. After the invention of joining the two sticks he went on with his manipulations, not pausing to eat the bananas he had collected, but pulling in useless objects. My interpretation is that in defeating others in games, or being defeated, in witnessing the knockout of the prize ring or the stage tragedy, in reading of the ruin of others, we are witnessing and participating in situations of fight, flight, pursuit, adventures of life and death. The manipulatory interest is preparatory, having the relation of the trap or the arrow to the killing. Dice throwing and drink get the effect without the activity.

The second field of the values is derived from one of the original forms of response which Watson

( 146) found in the new-born and which he called " love." It represents the desire for intimate relationships and contacts. It is seen in the relation of mother and child, it blossoms and proliferates in the adolescent period, expresses itself in various types of love — romantic love, adventurous love, domestic love, divine love, love of humanity. It represents the seeking and giving of affection and appreciation, whether between the sexes, in friendships, in gangs, kinship groups or intimate circles. It has its pathological expressions in homosexuality, suicide pacts, and " flight into disease," or resort to illness or disability, as in hysteria, in order to secure sympathy. We may call this interest the desire for response.

A third class of values is the object of what may be called the desire for recognition. It has to do with standing, reputation, status in the world, the appreciation of the public, not of the intimate group. It is connected with the individual's conception of his rôle, and of the public's conception of this rôle. Vanity is an aspect of it, and ambition, and fame and infamy. The actor- who stops the show gets a full measure of it, and those who seek " careers " are motivated by it. Families seek to maintain status by solidarity and individuals disregard families to seek it alone — " Down to Gehenna or up to the throne."

It will appear, however, that when different claimants for recognition manifest apparently identical behavior they may be, from the constitutional stand-point, quite different personalities. The dominant,

( 147) masterful, managerial, oppressive or sadistic person may have, let us assume, a glandular drive, derived apparently from the instinct of anger, while the most persistent and painful claims for recognition may come from those who are striving to compensate for feelings of inferiority, inadequacy or social neglect, and this is close to fear.

Finally, security as attitude and value is opposed to new experience, or regulative of it. It represents work as against play, utility as against pleasure, saving as against spending. The spendthrift and the miser represent the two extremes. The older generations work upon the young and the group upon the individual to suppress certain forms of new experience in favor of settled ways of life. Marriage, family responsibilities, economic aims notoriously revolutionize the personality configuration of the heedless youth.

But assuming that these attitudes and values are represented in every person in some proportions and that the type of personality depends on the character of their organization among themselves, we still have only a description, a possible classification or schedule, while we are here interested in the selection and arrangement of preferences as represented in a concrete personality. This must be understood, if at all, in connection with the experience of the individual, the kind of materials he has in consciousness, and the organization of these materials into his unique habit system and stimulus system will have to be related

( 148) also to the habit systems and stimulus system of the groups with which he has more or less intimacy.

With reference to the unconscious in this connection, it is not my intention to speak of this psychologically but sociologically. And from the standpoint of the problems with which I have to deal, I seem to meet with not one but several manifestations of the unconscious. For my purpose here also, the conscious and the unconscious represent simply more and less awareness of what is going on.


There is a phase of habit formation and the unconscious which could be compared rather extensively with Professor Child's data on the structuralization of the organism by the operation of the stimuli of the environment.

An observer in California, for example, visited a family of fruit-pickers and noticed a boy of twelve tossing in his sleep and picking here at the coverlet and in the air. The mother explained that he was going through the movement of picking prunes. This reminds us of the Venus fly-trap which does not close its leaves with one or two strokes of the hand but with three it does. The repetition of the activity had tended to structuralize the organism of the boy.[1] Professor Whitman reports that " if a bird of one species is hatched and reared by a wholly different species,

( 149) it is very apt when fully grown to prefer to mate with the species under which it has been reared. For example, a male passenger pigeon that was reared with ring-doves and had remained with that species was ever ready, when fully grown, to mate with any ring-dove, but could never be induced to mate with one of his own species. I kept him away from ring-doves a whole season, in order to see what could be accomplished in the way of getting him mated finally with his own species, but he would never make any advances to the females, and whenever a ring-dove was seen or heard in the yard he was at once attentive."[2]

Something of this kind appears in connection with the attempts of Stefansson to break the dogs of his arctic teams of their food habits. He found that his dogs would not eat anything they were not accustomed to eating. Dogs brought up on a diet of seal, caribou meat and fish were taken to a region where nothing was obtainable except geese and " for several days all the dogs in the team refused to eat, and one dog persisted for more than a week before eating at all, although he had to work part of the time." On another occasion Stefansson's party happened to kill a wolf, and as the dogs of this team had never tasted wolf meat, he took occasion to break the dogs of this food prejudice, thinking he might later be in a situation where only wolf meat was available. " We did

( 150) not," he says, " know exactly the ages of our dogs, but could judge them roughly by the teeth. One of the dogs was persumably two or three years older than any other member of the team. There were six dogs altogether. We offered them the meat for three or four days before any of them ate any of it. Then they began to eat it . . . in the order of their age, the youngest being the first to give in. The oldest dog went for two weeks without swallowing any of the wolf meat, although he occasionally took a piece of it in his mouth and dropped it again." This particular dog never gave in. He became skin and bones and it was necessary to feed him with caribou meat to save his life. On the other hand, Stefansson mentions that dogs accustomed to foraging about ships on the coast had no food prejudices whatever. The same writer had a similar experience with a tribe of Eskimo in Coronation Gulf who had never eaten a berry known as the " salmon berry," and appreciated by all other tribes whom he had met. The children tried this food readily, the men without much resistance, but the women not at all.[3] In the same connection it is notorious that the European peasant will not readily taste food to which he is not accustomed. " Was der Bauer nicht kennt, isst er nicht."

Up to this point we have a determination of preferences and the assumption of rôles, so to speak, without awareness, without conscious choice,

(151) without reference to persons, an environmental imposition, dependent on the consistent repetition of stimulus.

On the other hand, we have in much the same situations the possibility of quite the contrary. The dogs who foraged about ships became cosmopolitan in taste, the gourmet, as over against the peasant, makes the selection of foods a leading rôle. The repetition of stimulus leads also to aversion. Pairs of men get on each other's nerves. Madame de Maintenon said: " I have always observed that our great aversions have their birth in the repetition of trivialities." There are situations where married people grow alikeand the more frequent ones where they acquire quick aversions. Recently an old woman said, " What can I do now? " when she lost her husband after seventy-seven years.

The repetition of stimulus hampers movements and limits new experience on the one hand and gives heightened stimulation on the other. This is seen in those situations called ambivalent and represented in the relation. of mother and child. Bleuler reports of one of his patients who had poisoned her child that she was later in great despair, but he noticed that during her moaning and crying she smiled quite perceptibly. And in one of his sketches Anatole France represents a little boy who when his mother came to kiss him good-night put his arm around her neck and gave her a hug, but wished that he could strangle her. I have been told of a boy who could weep over the

(152) song, " Where is my wandering boy tonight? " and then go home and beat up his mother.

This region I am in the habit of calling the " visceral unconscious." I give one more example involving a conflict between this unconscious and the region of the conscious. A white woman loves poetry, reads the poems of Dunbar and seeks an occasion to meet him. She knows he is black, but she is conditioned by such phrases as " equality," " fraternity," and pre-pared to be very cordial to a black poet. During the interview she holds up very well, but afterwards, on her return home, she is nauseated.[4]


This is the region of the formation of aversions and preferences and evidently furnishes some of the basic factors in the structuralizaton of persons and societies. There is another region of the unconscious which may be described as the " lapsed conscious." It occupies a large and useful place in every life but simple and primitive societies are more heavily weighted with it. There the action systems tend to become stable, universal and invariable. There is harmony between the habit system and the stimulus system. This statement is an oversimplification, but it holds in principle. Dr. Krauss, the folklorist, stated to me in Vienna that he had seen a Serbian boy take his breakfast from his mother's breast on the doorstep before driving geese to pasture, and this may be taken as a symbol of the

( 153) primitive early and complete induction of the individual member into the habit system of a group.

In this situation, the verbalization of behavior, the voices of the living and the voices of the dead, the laws and the prophets, result in a body of collective habit — the " collective representations " of Durkheim and Lévy-Bruhl and the " collective unconscious " of Jung. But for the individual it is a " lapsed consciousness," structuralized, shall we say, in the habit system, but not structuralized in the sense of organically inheritable, merely as a body of habit traditionally perpetuated.

What we call individuation means that the habit system of the group is not changing as fast as the stimulus system of the individual. The nature of the change of a stimulus system may be seen by comparing the varieties of new experience presented to the young today in connection with commercialized pleasure, newspaper stories, going into the city to work, etc., with the attitudes and values, the norms of the older generations. These norms were once formed by words and gestures, often by bitter processes of consciousness, and then lapsed into habit, into the unconscious. Habit is a definition of a situation. And new stimuli, rival stimuli suggest new definitions of situations. Consciousness seems to appear in just this connection.

In our present society, where the evolution of the stimuli systems is more rapid than the evolution of the habit systems, I have noticed from the reading of

( 154) cases a number of types of the behavior reactions to the habit system, and I will mention three of these. In one the behavior corresponds to the habit system, in another the habit system is largely ignored, which amounts to anti-social behavior, and in the third a new organization of the personality is effected by the repudiation of the old habit system and the personal selection of stimuli.

In Philadelphia (a case recorded by the White-Williams Foundation) there are two girls, the father dead or removed, the mother very poor. They were given a dime at school to buy milk, but they returned a nickel, explaining that one of them did not drink her milk. Attractive enough, they were followed in the street, but never picked up. The extensive record shows all the features which we usually think of as producing delinquency, but no delinquency.

On the other hand, in Chicago there is a very admirably kept record, in the Institute for Juvenile Research, of a girl who for about nine years has been doing almost everything that is good and bad, but nothing vicious. I call her the " polymorphous normal " girl, with apologies to Freud. She gets up in the night to give the younger children a drink, scrubs the floors and cleans the house. She runs away, steals from home, kicks up a pile of refuse in the street, cries, and tells a pedestrian that she has lost a bill and her mother will punish her. She gets the money, buys sweets, goes to the movies, but always shares with the children of the neighborhood. Beaten, she stays out

( 155) all night, and sleeps under the steps. She has been sent here and there, I am told, on vacations and into homes as many as twenty-seven times. She follows all pleasing stimuli.

A Boston girl (one of Dr. Healy's cases) was brought to the court by her mother who complained that there "must be something wrong with her head." She detested her father who was petulant, unclean, locked up the music box when he was not at home, read the Polish paper aloud evenings and would have no comments. Now it appeared that the girl, when she was about eight, had lied about her age in order to get a library card. She read a great many fairy tales and day-dreamed a good deal, imagining she was a princess. At about twelve she became interested in love stories, and read them so much she became sick of them and went over to mystery stories. Later she left home, went into a publishing house, sent part of her wages home, associated with a nice set of girls, and joined them in dramatic performances, dances and debates. She had no sex experiences, but married well. After leaving home she went up, and the family went down. A visitor reported: “The house itself was dirty, the floors strewn with papers and bits of cloth, the bathroom so neglected it seemed impossible to use, and the beds were covered with dirty linen. The mother said that since Stasia had left no one had cared whether the place was orderly or not." The reading was the critical experience through which she had selected the behavior patterns not in

( 156) the family system. But what had put her up to the reading?

It is precisely because children, with about the same family situations, organize their interests in so diverse ways that students of the child are making their records as minute and complete as possible. Sometimes a critical experience, as in the case of Stasia, comes to the front and dominates the configuration.

The degrees of intimacy and distance in connection with various types of relationship to groups, and the effect of this on personality patterns is something I cannot dwell on. It would be best illustrated by cases. But I will single out one example to illustrate what I mean. It has to do with what I regard as a gross exaggeration of intimacy in modern family life. The modern small family of three or four or more is something that has never before existed, as a general thing. Formerly the family was a kinship group of forty, sixty, a hundred or more persons. When Dr. Znaniecki was translating Polish materials he found it impossible to use the term " family " as we use it. He called the kinship group the "family," and our conception of family he called the " marriage-group." That meant that formerly the parents and children were themselves incorporated in a larger regulating group. Now (without pausing to describe how this has come about) with the dissolution of the large group the small family has become introverted, turned upon itself, and has taken a pathological trend

( 157) in the direction of demanding and conferring response. Love in the family is the only pleasure seeking to which no limits are set by the moral code, short of incest. I will point out one of the effects of this situation on the configuration of personalities.

Both mother love and child love are built originally on a rather slender instinctive basis. I was reading in a paper by Dr. L. Pierce Clark that the new-born child does not grasp the mother's breast because he is hungry but in the last struggle not to be re-moved from the womb he holds on with his teeth, so to speak — that the milk is not appreciated as nourishment but as a libido stream. Now this is pure mythology, autistic thinking. Probably the first attitude of the child toward the mother, the tendency to grasp the breast, is not different from the attitude of the newly hatched chick toward the grain of wheat — it is something in each case to peck at and secure, a nutritive value. The new-born child does not prefer his mother's face or footstep. Experiments show that the tearing of a piece of paper is a greater stimulus than the mother's voice. But if the mother feeds and warms and cuddles him he will within a few weeks recognize her, prefer her, select out her voice and footstep. He is conditioned to her. This intimacy is then cultivated by language and gestures and more love response provoked. At any rate, these intimacies become most dangerous for the personality configuration of the child. You know what happens —the spoiled child, tantrums, negativism, exactions going

( 158) so far that in one case the child would sleep only on the body of his mother in a certain position. And the intimacy, the exactions and the response of so intimate and perverse a relation cannot be carried over into the world at large where the man has to play his rôle and seek his recognition.

Response and recognition are the same thing in different fields of application. They both seek appreciation. But response operates in relations of intimacy and where you are permitted to have, in the main, what you want when young. The family, and friendship groups and marriage and the gang all represent response. The gang is an organization which will help you get what you want. There has been discussion as to what is the Sicilian mafia. Mafia, as I understand it, means that if Paolo wants to kill a man he goes to a café and sits in plain view all evening and his friend Luigi kills the man. The public, on the other hand, is an enmity group. Not even a profession, as Professor Park has pointed out to me, is an intimate group. It wishes you to honor the profession but does not wish you honored. The public makes heroes but it is even more pleased to unmake them. Corbett relates that when he entered the ring at New Orleans to fight Sullivan he realized that everybody wanted to see him killed. When he drew blood from Sullivan he realized that everybody wanted to see Sullivan killed. The cries of " Kill him " when a fighter is groggy are one of the most appalling expressions of mass psychology. To overcome the public, force recognition is

(159) very sweet to some. The actor has a full measure when he " stops the show."

In this general situation I have seen, and no doubt you have seen, young persons, and old, who bring to everybody an urgent expectation of that pattern of response from the public which they got from an indulgent mother. The feeling of inadequacy arising in the transition from the intimacy situation to the enmity situation, the inability to get the reaction to which they have been conditioned, the consequent feeling of inferiority, play a large rôle in the psycho-neuroses. The regressions of psychopathology seem, from the cases, to some extent a resignation of recognition and a retreat to response.


We may now turn to that manifestation of the unconscious which I take to be one of the main interests of this meeting — the synthetizing force, force créatrice, which participates in, or perhaps we may say, does the work of the creative imagination. For the sake of completeness we may call this the " cortical unconscious," though it is in fact cortical + visceral + lapsed. And, of course, I can only describe what it does, not determine what it is. The region of phantasy, of the elaboration of the materials of memory, psychic intimacy with self, detachment from per-sons and groups and time and place, give the most favorable situation for the development of unique

(160) personalities and products. And in this respect the day-dreamer, the lunatic, the mathematician and the creative artist are alike. The social values are different but the process is the same. Gauss, the mathematician, expressed this when he answered an inquiry as to how he was getting along on a problem. " I have long had my results," he said, " but I do not yet know the steps by which I shall reach them." Helmholtz said his best ideas came to him after breakfast, on fine mornings, walking up a hill.[5] Bleuler was, I believe, the first to point out that the schizophrene is far from being in a stupor. He is so absorbed in his own reflections that he will bite you if you interrupt him. Any one who can dream profusely seems to me talented. What I most admire in William McDougall is that he went to Zürich and dreamed some dreams for Jung. Not the least of the expressions of the genius of Freud is his volume on Leonardo da Vinci, if we regard this as a piece of artistic phantasying.

If we attempt to analyze this process, to see what is its mechanism, we may note, first, that the material for elaboration may be furnished by an incident, a critical experience. In the dream the initiation of the theme may be some intra-organic stimulation, some posture on the bed. The neck twisted on the pillow may initiate a dream of strangulation by a burglar and the elaboration may result in a drama of money,

( 161) women, life and death. A physiologist has recently produced elaborate dreams by changing the tension of the skin through the application of adhesive tape.[6] Or the experience may be social. Bakst, the scenic artist, declared that his style was determined by an experience at the opera when he was four years of age. Patti, the prima donna in La Sonnambula, according to the exigencies of the drama, drank poison and fell dead. The child made an outcry, and after the performance was taken to the dressing-room of the singer to be reassured. She took him on her lap and with her make-up material drew red and black lines on his cheeks and over his eyes. At home the nurse planned to wash his face, but he would have none of it. He slept in the make-up, and psychologically it was never washed out. Oliver Caswell, deaf, dumb and blind, was under the care of Dr. Howe, who developed Laura Bridgman. Oliver was a murderous little beast. In his fights with boys he drew his finger across his throat, making horrible sounds. It developed that before he lost his senses, at the age of three, he had witnessed the slaughter of a hog. Circumstances then shut him off from experience, and he had evidently greatly elaborated this simple theme. Miss Mateer has some materials illustrating the early fixation on materials. A child of three and a half centered all his energies for months on the fear that the world's supply of paper would give out

( 162) before he grew up, and another of five spent his time in such chants as,

Life is a dark hole,
Life is a dark hole,

where we seem to have a tendency toward schizophrenic autism.[7]

Bleuler, illustrating the imaginings of his schizophrenic patients, gives the case of an escaped inmate, who enters an inn, goes to bed and announces that he is waiting for the queen of Holland, who wants to marry him. Commenting on the case Bleuler points out that the man's life is not disturbed in other respects. He works and behaves regularly, but here he is living a fairy tale, not reading a fairy tale, not telling a fairy tale, but living one.[8] This particular re-treat from reality gives opportunity to play any rôle you wish with none of the checks encountered either in the intimate group or in the enmity group. You can have response, recognition, new experience in whatever proportion you want, with security. Bleuler claims that his patients always choose a rôle endowing them with the qualities in which they are most hopelessly lacking.

The difference between the schizophrene or the day-dreamer and the artist is that the artist selects his materials and elaborates them with regard to social

( 163) patterns and social values. We are not concerned here with what the values are, or what is the importance of art, merely with the process of the artist. The artist seeks materials appropriate for elaboration. He may have them in his own experience, he may go out to get new experience, atmosphere, or he may explore the experiences of others in this connection. I will first give an example showing the elaboration of a trivial incident by a commonplace man, and then the elaboration of a situation by an artist.

In the first case the incident furnishing the initial material for elaborations was this: The author of the phantasy, an American soldier in a French town, in company with a woman at night, stepped into a hall-way to avoid a patrol. On his return to America he wrote down this phantasy, to which he gave the title, The Apple of Hell:

Wet streets is the first impression I have, wet streets glistening in the reflection of a solitary gaslight. And silence. I turned down a dark narrow street, the grey light of a rainy dawn just faintly showing the outline of French window, balcony, and terrace, while the silent walls echoed to the tapping cadence of my walking. My shoulders occasionally brushed the wall to my left, in my efforts to keep on the narrow sidewalk; the moist smell of fog filled my nostrils. The absolute quietness was depressing, I seemed to be the only person alive, the shut windows, the tightly closed doors, the long vistas of empty streets, the dismal cold grey half-light weighed and pressed upon my spirits and sorrow, blind hopeless sorrow, seemed to worm its way into my receptive

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being. What the cause for any unhappiness could he I could not fathom, it only seemed that the very universe seemed to be on the verge of some big overwhelming grief. I walked on through deserted streets.

And as I walked with my head bowed down, and the hard pavement echoing my footsteps, it seemed to me as if there were someone with me, I sensed the nearness of another personality, and turned my head. He was walking beside me — a white-faced soldier with large dark eyes, delicate features, — like a woman. As I looked into his face he smiled — a sweet, sad smile, as if he knew my trouble and understood, and came to help me. He said nothing, and neither did I, we trudged on in silence, bound together, it seemed, by a common bond of suffering. Through winding streets ever empty and deserted, alone in the city; but still mine were the only footsteps, he seemed to make no sound, sometimes it seemed as if he were not there, until I would turn my head and he would gravely smile again. And to me it did not seem unusual for him to be there.

Turning a corner, far down the street we saw a tall white Gothic church; when we came up to it we saw the door was open. And as I gazed on the half-open door an in-describable sensation seized me, one of fearful longing to go in — for it seemed as if the church held the secret that I longed to know, that here in this place was something I had been seeking all my life. As I hesitated the soldier went in; I followed. As I passed up the stone steps and through the arched doorways they swung behind me and softly snapped shut. We were in the church.

Enveloped in darkness, I could not see at first. Then gradually becoming accustomed to the half-light, I could see the long narrow center aisle, straight down toward the high altar, and through the tall windows at the other end

( 165)

a faint light like blue moonlight falling on the upturned faces of the multitude. There was a sea of faces all around. As I looked the church seemed to expand, there was pew upon pew of men and women, and this immense audience, this ghastly congregation, was quiet as death. No sound permeated that deathly silence, but over all was heard their breathing, they were breathing in unison, and the dreadful rise and fall of their combined respirations seemed like the breath of Hell beating upon my face, making a distinct noise, like a mighty monster.

Down the center aisle there were two seats empty, only two; it seemed as if they were awaiting us, and the figure with me moved forward, I following. As we turned in to our seats every eye in that immense hall was turned upon us, there were looks of hatred cast at us by our neighbors. I turned to look at those next to me. There was a woman with a hard evil face, further down a perspiring mean-looking thief, sitting in back of me a negro, with murder written across his countenance. In a single swift glance I saw that the abandoned people of the earth were there, those of bad hearts and evil ways. I turned to look at my companion, and he too was changed; his face had become a reflection of those around him. As I glanced at him his lips drew back into a snarl, his teeth showed, there seemed to be blood on his lips, and he cursed me, sneering in a frightful way, gloating that he had enticed me into coming there with him.

Like a wind the rise and fall of the breathing continued as an undercurrent. There was a slight rustle as if something expected were about to happen. Then in the silence I heard a very faint voice like a little child speaking. Shrill and high it rose in intensity until it dominated the assembly, it was as if this combined evil soul had given voice and was speaking words of horror and striking terror to my human

( 166)

heart. I knew now that those around me were not of this world. Solitary, alone, I rose to my feet to see who spoke. From the front of the church the voice came quivering, now low and soft, but penetrating the inmost recesses of my soul with fear. No one was in the pulpit, but following the line of the center aisle up to the pulpit, — directly in front on the center of the floor, alone in its smallness, but strong in its implication of concentrated evil, was an apple. From it the voice came, and as I looked again my frantic eyes saw it had a face, a small face with brilliant eyes, and a mouth that opened and closed as I watched, — a little miniature of Satan himself. Then horror, dreadful horror, mind-shaking elemental fear, seized me; I shrieked aloud in disgust, the thousands of people, the breathing, the darkness of forsaken love, hope, there was no God, no Heaven, no goodness, only this Apple, this little thing all alone, opening and closing its hideous mouth, an .Apple speaking, an Apple — to whom these people bowed their heads and bent their knees, for as I looked they were all kneeling, and I alone was standing.

Then over me descended a mantle of reason and I thought. For a moment, a brief moment, I thought as we do in this world, and I saw relief. The thing was an apple, a common, ordinary apple. What did one do with apples? Why — blessed thought — one ate them. Secure in the knowledge of this wonderful fact, I stretched forth my hand, my fingers clutched the apple and in another moment my teeth were tearing it apart; I was chewing it, I was eating it. The church seemed gone — I was alone again just eating an apple. Finished, I threw the core on the floor.

It lay there for a long time, a very long time. An icy wind blew into my heart, depression returned as I looked at the core of the apple lying on the floor. A thought came to me, — how like a worm it looked. Yes, it did look like —

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God, it was a worm! Crawling already? Yes! Was this thing going to start again? No; I had stopped it before; I'd stop it again. I'd eat that core — no, worm — but I couldn't eat a worm; I'd have to step on it. I reached forward with my foot, the worm moved away; I tried again, it moved faster. Panic seized me, I ran after it. It slithered along the floor, slipping and sliding away from me. It filled me with loathing. And now my agony recommenced. I thought it might become a butterfly, and as I thought the thing did become a butterfly. Eyes and legs and little black, bespectacled wings grew on the caterpillar's body, they grew and grew, the thing became a moth, larger and larger, like an eagle, like a heavy bat; those wings began to beat the air. Horror upon horror — my reason was gone — the immense creature rose before me past my face, beating against my eyes. The silky, hairy touch of moths' wings against my mouth and eyes rose higher and higher. I fought it; it beat me to the ground and rose again. Light, bright light, streamed down on us, and ever the wings grew till they cast a shadow on the world. The whole expanse of heaven was covered by the wings of the creature. I lay frozen with terror on the ground. The wings shut out the light and darkness enveloped all once more.[9]

This, as you see, has the elaboration of literature. We do not understand it completely but we do not understand completely the Christabel of Coleridge, the little green snake and the dark castle and the dark woman, and the light woman whose " gentle limbs she did undress and lay down in her loveliness." That we do not understand is part of the charm. But if we

( 168) assume here a homosexual attachment, a disapproving congregation of mankind, assembled in a moral sanctuary, sin and the apple of Eden, we can understand this more completely than Christabel. The elaboration of the imagery is precisely the same that goes on in the word association tests of the schools and clinics. You give the subject a word and he names the first word that comes into his head. Here, starting with the feeling of sin and temptation, we have the apple of Eden, the apple of hell, worm-eaten apple, worm, larva, caterpillar, butterfly, moth, bird, eagle, bat, enormous bat — simply an enlargement until the shadow covers the world.

Let us, however, then return to Coleridge as creative artist, as it happens the man whose poetry is supposed to be the product of opium dreams, and ex-amine the sources of his materials for elaboration and their relation to the " unconscious," the " force créatrice." Fortunately we are able to do this with rather astonishing completeness because eight days ago there fell from the press a volume of 639 pages called The Road to Xanadu, by Professor Lowes of Harvard, on precisely this point, and the details which I shall mention are taken from this remarkable study. I assume that not many of you have as yet seen the volume.

Probably we should all agree that The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Kubla Khan and Christabel are representative of what we have in mind when we speak of " works of the imagination." They are

( 169) weird, phantasmagorical, apparently unrelated to a background of concrete personal experience. But let us see what is going on in the mind of Coleridge, limiting ourselves to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Coleridge began this poem on a walking trip with Wordsworth and Wordsworth's sister Dorothy. They agreed to write a poem together and sell it for five pounds, to pay the expenses of the trip, but Words-worth relates that he soon withdrew, since the development of the theme was not in the line of his talents. At this time, and until he finished the poem, Cole-ridge had never been down to the sea in ships. He had not even crossed the Channel. But he was a voracious reader. He said himself that he had read every-thing. He was looking for materials. Especially he steeped himself in the narratives of the old voyagers and explorers, and the accounts of the Jesuit missionaries represented now in the collection called Jesuit Relations, edited by Professor Thwaites in seventy-three volumes. And we must note at this point several items. Coleridge had planned a great work, a Hymn to the Elements, starting with Thales, probably, and what he had to say about water. He was also nursing the idea of an epic on the Wandering Jew theme. Incidentally we see the Wandering Jew transformed into a sea-faring Wandering Jew in the person of the Ancient Mariner, but this was not the original plan. Further, Coleridge kept a note-book, now preserved

( 170) in the British Museum, in which he jotted down passages and phrases for future use and elaboration. Moreover, he read all the books mentioned in the text or the notes of any book he had been reading. This enabled Professor Lowes to track him. For example, Coleridge read Priestly's Optics, or more exactly, his History and Present State of Discoveries Relating to Vision, Light and Colours, containing a chapter on " Light from Putrescent Sub-stances," and an account of fishes which " in swimming left so luminous a track behind them that both their size and species might be distinguished by it." We are here already on the track of the origin of the water-snakes in the Ancient Mariner which " moved in tracks of shining white." But pass that over for a moment. Priestly appended a foot-note to a certain passage referring to the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (Abridged), Volume V., page 213. Coleridge read in this volume a letter from Father Bourzes, containing a passage about " artificial light in the water," but he read further, and an-other passage, something not in Father Bourzes, caught his eye, namely: " He says, there is a tradition among them that in November, 1668, a star appeared below the body of the moon within the horns of it." Looking for the source of this information we find it in a letter dated Boston, November 24, 1712, communicated to Mr. Waller of the Royal Society, and signed, " Cotton Mather." So the lines of the Ancient Mariner:

( 171)

Till clomb above the eastern bar
The horned moon, with one bright star
Within the nether tip,

lead back to Beacon Hill.[10]

This will show how Coleridge worked and how Professor Lowes worked. And I cannot refrain from calling your attention to the fact that Coleridge is evidently having one grand rigadoon of new experience, of the pursuit pattern. He is like a hunter tracking game. But let us examine in more detail how the conscious and unconscious mind worked in the creation of a poem.

Coleridge's memory was egregious, and in The Friend he speaks of what he calls the " hooks-and-eyes of memory." When, for example, the reading of a picturesque passage from one of the old voyagers has left in his mind a constellation of concrete images on a background, and the reading of another old voyager presents another set of images, he hooks some of the newer images into the older background, and gradually also transforms the background. Without, then, following the critical procedure by which Professor Lowes establishes the fact that he did read first one author and then another, let us take some lines from the Ancient Mariner and note how this trans-formation and fusion go on:

Beyond the shadow of the ship,
I watched the water-snakes;


They moved in tracks of shining white,
And when they reared, the elfish light
Fell off in hoary flakes.

Within the shadow of the ship
I watched their rich attire;
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,
They coiled and swam; and every track
Was a flash of golden fire.

In his letter Father Bourzes had written: " In my voyage to the Indies ... we often observed a great light in the wake of the ship....The wake then seemed like a river of milk....Particularly, on the 12th of June, the wake of the vessel was full of large vortices of light [which] appeared and disappeared again like flashes of lightning. Not only the wake of a ship produces this light, but fishes also in swimming leave behind 'em a luminous track....I have some-times seen a great many fishes playing in the sea, which have made a kind of artificial fire in the water that was very pleasant to look on."

Coleridge took this picturesque passage as material and background but changed the imagery somewhat. He introduces water-snakes instead of fishes, and they are not merely luminous; they have vivid hues — blue, glossy green and velvet black. Following Coleridge's reading further, we find the vivid hues in the voyages of Captain Cook: " Some small sea animals ... that had a white or shining appearance ... put in a glass cup with some salt water ... emitted

( 173) the brightest colors of the most precious gems.... They assumed various tints of blue ... which were frequently mixed with ruby or opaline redness; and glowed with a strength sufficient to illuminate the vessel and water....But by candle light the color was chiefly a beautiful, pale green, tinged with a burnished gloss; and in the dark it had the appearance of glowing fire." Here we have all the color used by Coleridge except " velvet black ":

Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,
They coiled and swam; and every track
Was a flash of golden fire.

Reading further in Bartram's Travels, familiar to Coleridge, " The whole fish," he says, " is of a pale gold (or burnished brass) color ... the scales are powdered with red, russet, blue and green specks [while at the gills is] a little spatula, encircled with silver, and velvet black." The " powdered " color might well fall off in " flakes," and Professor Lowes thinks the word " hoary " was lifted from Falconer's Shipwreck.

But what about the water-snakes, and the "coiled" movement? Purchas his Pilgrimages was one of Coleridge's " midnight darlings," and there we read in a record of Sir Richard Hawkins, becalmed in the Azores, of a sea, " replenished with several sorts of jellies and forms of serpents, adders and snakes, green, yellow, black, white, and some parti-colored,

( 174) whereof many had life, being a yard and a half or two yards long. And they could hardly draw a bucket of water clear of some corruption withal." And in Dampier's Voyages and Adventures, quoted and ad-mired by Coleridge, we read: "This day we saw two water-snakes....The snake swam away ... very fast, keeping his head above water." In The History of the Bucaniers in America (and it is not established that Coleridge had read this) the water-snakes, like Coleridge's, are many colored: "As we sailed we saw .. water-snakes of divers colors." That is to say, first snakes, the water-snakes, and finally colored water-snakes. There was also another volume, Norwegian and Latin in parallel columns, Leemius, De Lapponnibus (how much Coleridge had used this you can see in Professor Lowes' volume) in which a serpens marinus (sea-serpent or water-snake? ) is de-scribed: " In dog-days, when the sea lies unruffled by the winds, the sea-serpent is wont to emerge, arched into all sorts of coils (in varias spiras sinuatus), of which some project from the water, while the rest are hidden under it." [11]

We have had a picture of water so full of life, of slime and corruption that " they could scarce draw a bucket of water clear of [it] withal," and with snakes gyrating on its surface, that we should not be surprised to see some of the creatures of these " pestful calms " climb upon the water and walk. And so they do:

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The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.

The Mariner himself speaks elsewhere of " a million, million slimy things," and in Marten's Voyage into Spitzbergen and Greenland, a book which Coleridge had read, we have a description of these " million, million slimy things." A whole chapter is de-voted to the varieties of the " Slime-fish." Of the Snail Slime Fish he says: " It is very remarkable that out of the utmost part of him come two stalks, like unto the beam of a pair of scales....With these stalks he moves himself up and down....The sea-men take these small fish for spiders....They swim in great numbers in the sea, as numerous as the dust in the sun." And of the star-fish, in another chapter: " Where the legs come out of the body they spread themselves double into twigs, and ... are ... like unto the feet of a spider. When they swim in the water they hold their legs together, and so they row along." These were arctic creatures, in fact, but Coleridge, with his imagination, simply swept them down into the tropics. " And from that amazing carnival of miniature monsters," says Professor Lowes .. . " with an artistic restraint, which must none the less have cast a longing look behind [he] seized upon the one touch which for sheer uncanny realism is unsurpassed: " Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs upon the slimy sea."


And if you take Kubla Khan, which was based directly on an opium dream, you find the same thing. Word for word the images are taken from the old writers. In Purchas his Pilgrimages we read: " In Xamdu did Cublai Cann build a stately palace . . . ," and in the poem:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree....

Coleridge, in fact, fell asleep over Purchas and dreamed his dream. These facts are not to be taken in disparagement of either the poem or the unconscious. They show that the poem was not something created by the unconscious out of nothing. The man worked and the unconscious worked also. As to the nature of the creative process involved and the operation of the unconscious, Coleridge himself has this to say: " In that shadowy half-being, that state of nascent existence in the twilight of imagination and just on the vestibule of consciousness [there is] a confluence of our recollections [through which] we establish a center, as it were, a sort of nucleus in [this] reservoir of the soul." [12]

It will be interesting to compare this with what Henri Poincaré says of the unconscious in his attempt to show " what happens in the very soul of a mathematician," and I will then leave Professor Lowes' fascinating volume to you. " This unconscious work,"says Poincaré, " is not possible, or in any case not

(177) fruitful, unless it is first preceded and then followed by a period of conscious work. . . . All that we can hope from these inspirations which are the fruits of unconscious work, is to obtain points of departure for [our] calculations. As for the calculations themselves, they must be made in the second period of conscious work which follows the inspiration.... They demand discipline, attention, will, and consequently consciousness. In the subliminal ego, on the contrary, there reigns what I would call liberty, if one could give this name to the mere absence of discipline and to disorder born of chance. Only, this very disorder permits of unexpected couplings."[13]

Thus in the most formal procedures, as in mathematics, and in the most inspirational, as in art, the creative process is partly elaborated by the unconscious and then completed and given some systematization by the conscious. It would be a great psycho-logical undertaking to work out this relation of the unconscious and of the creative imagination to the social backgrounds and psychic configurations of different historical periods, with their emphasis on the different fields of values.


  1. Arthur Gleason, " Little Gypsies of the Fruit," Hearst's International, Feb., 1924.
  2. W. S. Hunter, "Modification of Instinct," Psychological Review, 27: 259.
  3. V. Stefansson, " Food Tastes and Food Prejudices of Men and Dogs," Scientific Monthly, 11 : 540-543.
  4. Communicated to me by Professor R. E. Park.
  5. P. G. Nutting, "Factors in Achievement," Scientific Monthly, 7: 333.
  6. A. J. Cubberley, "Bodily Tension Effects upon the Normal Dream," British Journal of Psychology, January, 1923, 243-265.
  7. Florence Matter, The Unstable Child, 50.
  8. E. Bleuler, " Autistic Thinking," American Journal of Insanity, 69: 873-878.
  9. C. Dreher, "Varia," Psychoanalytic Review, 8: 211-214.
  10. J. L. Lowes, The Road to Xanadu, 38-41.
  11. Lowes, op. cit., 42-52.
  12. Lowes, op. cit., 55-60.
  13. Henri Poincaré, Science and Method, quoted by Lowes, op. cit., 62.

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