Social Attitudes

Language, Thought and Social Reality

Kimball Young
Professor of Social Psychology, University of Wisconsin

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"If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences."


THE whole correlation of thought, language, and behavior depends on intercommunication. In fact, communication is basic to social life. Interstimulation and response take place largely in language terms. We are, from birth to death, and even at most funerals, literally bathed in a sea of words. Ordinarily we are so unconscious of the place of language in social participation that we overlook its significance in interpreting behavior. Language is at once the modus operandi of social interaction and the carrier of the meanings and values through which our attitudes and habits express themselves.

Men have always been influenced by language simply because it is the most common, although substitutive, means of interaction. Hence the social psychologist must take cognizance of the fact, not in terms of metaphysical entities, but rather in terms of the manner in which conduct is modified by verbal expressions employed in social interaction. In order to introduce ourselves to the subject of language and social reality, it will be necessary to sketch in bold outlines certain aspects of human behavior.


There are two levels of behavior, that which is consummatory or final and that which is anticipatory or preparatory to the final activity. All behavior runs in cycles which are started

( 101) off by physiological tensions or demands which find release through glandular-motor responses in the final overt behavior. At the lowest level behavior is largely vegetative, but with learning it becomes increasingly modified in the direction both of the types of stimuli and the types of response which bring about the completion of the cyclic activity and lead to satisfaction.

The significance of the capacity for anticipatory behavior is the preparation of the organism for a more adequate adaptation to the environment when the final, consummatory response does occur. It is, for the organism, a method of devising more satisfactory ways of relieving the fundamental demands. If one meets an obstacle in the first impulsive, direct attack upon one's environment, one's responses are blocked. One is thrown upon the necessity of bearing with an unsatisfied wish or an unrelieved tension (the same thing) or of finding some means to circumvent the stoppage in order to arrive at the desired goal. It is, then, the function of the anticipatory phase of behavior, which takes place in organic changes and incipient movements within the organism, to look to a more adequate final adjustment. This anticipatory, incomplete aspect of behavior is the field of consciousness. Within it we find those processes called in the older psychology, perception, memory, and associative thinking.

The field of partial, incomplete or preparatory response very soon becomes largely verbal in character. It is obvious at once that language is the most convenient substitute for certain cruder and more complete overt bodily responses to objects and persons in the environment. Language is, by nature, a covert, internal and less complete response. When a child grasps a sweetmeat and places it in his mouth, his entire organism is more or less integrated in the activity. But his control of sweetmeats is decidedly limited by how much he can reach and consume or otherwise dispose of in reference to himself. On the other hand, if the child, not having a stick of candy at hand, calls out the word "candy," the another, maid, or other person may give him the desired object. In this manner, the substitute response, saying the word "candy," has come not only to stand for the object, but has given him power to control his social environment if others satisfy his verbal demands.

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This simple example indicates at the perceptual-motor level of behavior, both the advantage and the limitations of language reactions. So long as the expression "candy" is concerned with securing this object for the total response sooner or later, it is a very valuable tool, a splendid instrument for prying one's environment loose, through others, and turning it to one's own use.

The important point for us to remember is that speech reactions are fundamentally substitutive reactions, symbolic in nature. They stand for, or in place of, responses of more complete bodily sort. They serve the widest range of activity. Often it may be difficult to see how language has any relation whatsoever to overt, physical, muscular-glandular action. Yet in the final test of language reactions, it must always be borne in mind that they come down to some sort of bodily reaction which is of wider reach than the language response itself. Even poetry, so remote from ordinary behavior, may lead to tears, to joyous activity, or to heroism. And the most abstract logical writing of the mathematician or scientist has for its final test its relation to physical or social movement in time and space.

There has been much dispute as to the relation of thought to language and this is not the place to enter into that controversy. The evidence seems clear that thought lies in the field of anticipatory behavior. It is not some ghost-like process, but is definitely related to final, consummatory reactions. And with the acquirement of speech for the naming of objects, persons, relations, and for combining these in novel forms, the field of anticipatory reaction is enormously extended in time and space. We may now talk to ourselves, as we do to others, about the past, present or future, without the restrictions of present perceptible matter. The anticipatory field is definitely conditioned by our social intercourse. Mind, which is but another name for the anticipatory field, emerges out of the reflection of social communication back into the organism itself. As Dewey puts it in his Experience and Nature, "If we had not talked with others and they with us, we should never talk to and with ourselves"; that is, we should not be able to form judgments, make deliberations, or form concepts.

When language becomes covert and internal it becomes the

(103) field of anticipatory activity, but it rests always for its social meaning upon the experience gained through consummatory reactions involving overt speech and general muscular-glandular adjustments as they touch both material objects and persons. It is not maintained here that speech is purely anticipatory. It takes on the character of both overt and covert behavior. In fact, it is because it involves both the anticipatory and the consummatory field that it is so highly significant for social meaning and social behavior.[1]


Preparatory, indirect anticipatory reactions take two forms. One of these is objective and more or less logically correlated with the world of material and social events and relations. The other is more subjective and more or less dominated by what Stransky calls "the logic of feeling." Let us describe each form in some detail.

(a) Directed, Objective Anticipatory Behavior. The objective form of associative thinking or anticipatory response is typified in the mastery, through active imagination, of lines of behavior which work out in adjustment to, or modification of, the external world or which concern knowledge of this correlation of physical events with themselves. This type of preparatory activity is oriented to some phase of external reality, material or social, growing out of ordinary or scientific experience. At its simplest level this sort of thinking is found in the common sense techniques of the agriculturalist, of the primitive tool maker, and in the whole gamut of technical folkways which have come down from the past. Plans to prepare the soil, to plant the proper crops and other matters are made by the farmer in order to insure good harvests. The recognition of the play of physical forces in everyday life is a phase of this sort of thought. A child learns to avoid the fire. A person associates storm clouds with preparation for the oncoming storm. The highest level of such associative preparatory ac-

(204) -tivity is found in science and engineering. The associations are objective, open to verification by others, and capable of statistical or experimental check-up. In the highest form the mental processes are carefully controlled by laboratory method and mathematical logic. The operation of forces in the physical world are stated in impersonal terms. Here the association lies between cause and effect in motion through time and space. The associations remain anchored to actual, concrete, hard experience with the world of material and social objects. These forces are thought to operate independently of men's wishes. As Karl Pearson remarks, "Disciplined imagination has been at the bottom of all great scientific discoveries." And such disciplined imagination means an appreciation of the whole range of facts uncovered through observation and experimentation. When these associations are carried into the realm of hypothesis or law, they must be verified in a carefully controlled manner in order to make certain that the imagination which lies at the basis of the hypothesis or law has not played the person false and failed to put his statement "into real agreement with the whole group of phenomena which it resumes."

Objective thinking, of course, is not confined to the field of material world. It is also evident with the rise of psychology and the social sciences in the field of social behavior as well. One comes to prepare for certain kinds of responses on the part of others in terms of previous experience and knowledge of behavior. Thus the successful advertiser knows that a picture showing healthy youngsters enjoying the X breakfast food is a better advertisement of the hygienically prepared and sealed foodstuff than would be a picture showing cockroaches or ants crawling over the carefully sealed package of the same brand, no matter how true it may be that no insects may reach the food in the carton. The advertiser, in other words, knows the place of feelings, emotions, and prejudiced attitudes in the determination of human conduct. He knows that positive, pleasantly toned reactions are dominant as buying stimuli over negative, unpleasant ones. Likewise, the successful leader knows how to handle his followers and his anticipatory reactions modify his conduct because of this knowledge. As we shall see, however, objectivity about social behavior must itself take into

(205) account the persistence of subjective, autistic associations.

(b) Subjective, Fantastic, Autistic, Anticipatory Response. The opposite type of anticipatory reaction, however, is found in the free-flowing imaginative associations of the more subjective sort. These associations grow out of the mere contiguity of terms, of events, or of persons in time or space which have no generic cause and effect relationship. The child denied all the sweetmeats he wishes dreams of filling his stomach secretly or by the fiat of some fairy. In actuality some author ity, some stronger, more dominant person may block one's fulfillment of such demands or wishes. In subjective, emotionally controlled day or night dreams these wishes were satisfied. This type of associative thinking is called autistic, dereistic,[2] or fantastic. It is seen in the magical incantations of the primitive, in the day dreams of the child, or in the romantic fantasies of the adult, and in the whole range of associative thinking untrammeled and undisciplined by the logic of material or social events. In autistic associations there is a confusion of word, image, or symbol with the deed.


In both objective and subjective associations, language plays the most significant rôle. As the power of communication grows, language expands in its control over physical and social reality. But its importance is not confined to consummatory behavior alone. Language enlarges the scope of both overt, consummatory and of covert, anticipatory activity. The two are concomitant. Language, moreover, enters into both the objective and the subjective types of anticipation. This field of covert activity is the field of meaning and language. It grows up with human interaction, because without communication, meaning does not exist. As Dewey says

Language is a natural function of human association; and its consequences react upon events, physical and human, giving them meaning or significance. Events that are objects or significant exist in a context where they acquire new ways of operation and new properties . . . . Meaning is not indeed a psychic existence;


 it is primarily a property of behavior, and secondarily a property of objects.[3]

Meaning is based on communication and consensus. What others accept in reference to behavior becomes significant in determining meaning and value. Language as the "significant symbol," as Mead calls it, exists only when it carries over its signification from one person to another. No matter how irrational such a symbol may seem to those outside the particular social frame of reference, if accepted by one's own fellows as significant, as standing for activity or relation, it becomes capable of modifying and influencing consummatory behavior. If the communication of an association formed in one's anticipatory field is accepted by another, and if the latter acts upon it in a manner satisfactory to the speaker, in other words if he accepts the anticipatory value as real or actual, it becomes thereby meaningful for both. And if it be accepted by a whole group of persons and acted upon (and if accepted it will be acted upon), it becomes thenceforth a meaning or value and a determinant of conduct for the whole group. Since language is the most important form of communication, its symbols become basic to meaning. Therefore, if language takes the autistic, fantastic form and comes to be accepted, it will take on significance for social behavior. It is not to be imagined that, on the one hand, we have abnormal, psychopathic sorts of thinking and language and, on the other, distinctly logical, objective types. Rather the whole gamut of our thinking lies along a scale ranging from the extremes of fantasy associations seen in the schizophrenic personality to the other extreme seen in the fields of exact science and mathematical logic. The former is surcharged with emotion, with personal, egocentric wishes fulfilled by associative thought pleasing to the individual. It is subjective and often meaningless, because uncommunicable to others. The other form is cold, deliberate, impersonal, non-egocentric and supposedly detached from personal wishes of any kind. As a matter of fact, most of us, children and adults, primitive and modern, live at all times in varied stages of anticipatory responses ranging from one extreme to the other. The very make-up of social reality is

( 207) woven out of the content of both objective and dereistic associations. For the person the fantastic association may be as significant or more so than the objective one. The contrast, then, of autistic and objective thinking rests fundamentally upon the social acceptance o f the conditioning stimuli and responses and not upon the mechanisms o f association themselves. It is the manner in which these stimuli are integrated together in reference to themselves and to consummatory, socially meaningful behavior which determines the differences between the two sorts of thought.

The range from autistic to highly objective thinking is more or less continuous. Certainly dereistic thought enters into the determination of our behavior and thus into the nature of social reality. To illustrate the various levels or points along this scale from autistic to objective associations from which people make up their anticipatory responses let us run through a series of concrete instances. In all these we shall be concerned with the interrelation of consensus of belief with communication in the determination of how autistic as well as objective content becomes socially meaningful. Overt action depends upon these covert beginnings as they are communicated to others. When others take the communication as meaningful, it becomes at once a part of social reality and may influence overt conduct quite as thoroughly as any communicated associations based on material reality. Thus the schizophrenic patient in the hospital may construct for himself a world of fancy so pleasant to himself, so satisfying that he needs no one else to help him. Yet whole groups of normal people have areas in their thinking and acting which are predominantly only different in degree from this extreme.


(a) At the schizophrenic level. One of the commonest types of autistic association and one which exposes the confusion of language with our social reality is seen in the following word plays of a dementia praecox patient

Ho-spit-al . . . . Ho means Hello, spit-al, because all here spit the devil out of them, the spit means just to throw it off.

(208) Here we have an association of names with new meanings significant only for the patient. The following example is the sort of thing seen not only in the schizoid personality but among children who confuse the word with the reality

William . . . . Will-I-Am. Every person bearing this name contains a portion of the "direct will of God."

Buonaparte, i.e., born apart. (Patient identified himself in part with this personage. )[4]

Here we have an association of words based on sounds not generally accepted meanings. The transposition of letters is overlooked in the confusion of the sound and the double meaning.

The association of similar sounds in different words is one of the simplest cases of fantasy thinking. Many people object to proper names because they suggest unpleasant ideas or practices. We know a child who inquired if a man named "Strong" was strong physically. Another child did not like a man named "Stohl" because of the sound association with stealing.

We shall see below that this sort of sound-sense association is common in puns, non-sense rhymes, in popular songs, and in certain contemporary poetry.

The following from a hebephrenic case illustrates a type of stereotyped dereistic expression that reminds one of the braggadocio of the small bully.

The patient was asked, "What is your full name?" To this he replied: "Rebel, amber, emerald, American, Golden King, ruler of the world, U. S. A., Uncle Sam, Maurice Farrington." When asked what he meant by "rebel and amber," he answered that it meant "higher than God." "I'm the fourth God himself!" The other three Gods are first God, then Jesus Christ, then Daniel Farrington [his father] and then myself. "I'm also Ku Klux Klan leader. One night they appointed me. I paid my fee of $100,000."

We recognize this sort of language form and content in the more extreme case. We have no difficulty in detecting the extent to which words and their associations have been perverted in these individuals in their feeble attempts to reconstruct their

(109) reality in their own introverted, egoistic, and self-satisfying patterns. And yet, as we shall see, this is not markedly different in character from some of the ritualistic, magical thinking which pervades everyday life. Maurice Farrington, a lad of twenty-two years, has built around himself an entire delusional system that occupies his time and imagination to the exclusion of ordinary social relationships. He has lost contact, that is communication, with the outside world and is consuming himself with a monotonous round of autisms. It is only in this sense that we speak of such cases as pathological, meaning thereby such a degree of divergence from the average socialized personality as to need medical attention and protection. We cannot today sharply distinguish between the pathological and the normal. It is only a matter of degree. It is communicability and consensus of opinion and behavior that mark us off from the patients we lock up in mental hospitals. To the patients their conception of social reality, their range of meanings in other words, is different from our own, but their behavior mechanisms are not different except in the types of objects or internal content to which they respond.

The following case illustrates very well the sort of pathological behavior which if only slightly less violent might pass unnoticed in our society, or if only slightly less divergent at an earlier period might have been accepted as socially highly significant. The schizophrenic associations of Queen Anna as she dubs herself might have furnished the basis for a novel religious sect. Others not markedly different in mental associations have done so. The patient developed in adolescence an intense interest in religion. The growth of her delusional system has been gradual. She was well educated and for years taught school and mingled in social life without causing undue difficulties. She began to manifest "pathological" symptoms in her preachings and exhortations which annoyed her New England neighborhood. Today at seventy years of age, she has for more than a generation had a relatively fixed pattern which takes the form of declarations that she, "This `'White Law Queen, became Heaven's Eternal Bridal Queen Incarnate, in 1856, for White Law Revolution, for Church Supremacy Revolution." She is to bring the final triumph of the church

(110) of Christ on earth. Frequently her exposition takes the form of doggerel, of which the following are sample stanzas:

Soon will all nations,
Vast congregations,
Right here convene
To crown the Queen.

It has been the plan of ages
To bring forth this Queen of Sages
To recite Supreme judgment pages.

In eighteen hundred fifty-six
Heaven's Bridal Queen Executrix

To earth came down 
For great renown,

To triumph over politics
While dwelling among lunatics.

Soon will Church steeples
And earth's vast peoples

Wave the White Law
Ensign Of this Queen Divine.

This is the Queen of Exposition.
She's always in the right position.
This is the Queen of Golden Diction,
Whose acute pen oft kindles friction.

Following a long series of these stanzas, she breaks out into prose expositions full of all sorts of autistic associations. One may note the stereotyped, fantastic formulae

4 is Our Almighty Supremacy Seal Number, and signifies the Almighty Wedded Supremacy of God the Holy Trinity and Their Almighty Bridal Queen, the Church Queen.

Royal 4 was set upon Our Declaration of American Independence. This land was predestined to become the native land of the Church Queen, Goddess Anna.

We decreed to set Our Almighty Seal Number 4, upon the independence of the Church Queen's native land, July 4, 1776.

We also decreed to set our Almighty Supremacy Number Seal Royal Four, upon the Government of the Church Queen's native land, as follows:

We decreed that United States Presidents should be elected to serve for four years, only, at each election. We also decreed that Presidents of the Church Queen's native land should be inducted into office on the fourth day of March, that month being revered by angel hosts as the Immaculate Conception Month of King Jesus and Queen Anna, nine months before nativity.

We have now made it clear to you what these Royal 4s signify -Our Almighty Wedded Four Majesties. In due season, not too soon or too late, We placed Our Almighty Seal Number-4, upon Our Woman's Suffrage Triumph. June 4th, 1919, and the "Glorious Fourth," on that date We, the Almighty Supremacy Chiefs, caused fifty-six United States Senators to vote for Woman's Suffrage, for 56 [form for 1856] is the Church Queen's Royal Nativity Great Seal, and We took that fitting way to give it prominence in that Grand Triumph for Woman.[5]

There usually follows a mass of other materials showing her association of four with herself and her delusional system.[6] Under the domination of this deep-rooted set or Aufgabe, she has built up an enormous dereistic fabric about life and its meaning. They are outside the pale of meaning for us because they are outside the range of communication and consensus.

(b) Magical-religious Level. While Queen Anna is a ward of the Commonwealth, her material is not essentially different, except in group consensus, from many features of thoroughly accepted magical and religious beliefs and practices. Not only are certain gestures and bodily movements essential to the magical ceremonial, but as Marett indicates, the spell itself is of tremendous significance. One must get the words just right or the whole magical performance loses its power. Every magical formula is connected with the proper sequence of words. Often the meanings of these words are unrecognized by their users. The important matter is not the meaning but the right word. Rink remarks that among the Eskimo the "serrat" or song has power in itself regardless of any knowledge of its meaning. The Russian zagavor or spell depends upon the correct usage of

(112) its words only. Spencer and Gillen state that for the Northern Tribes of Australia the meaning of the magical words used were not known to the natives themselves. The use of mantrams or word formulae was common in Hindoo mythology. The Hindoo ascetic who says the name of Ram, Rhadka, or Krishna 100,000 times in a month can get anything he wishes.

The story is told that Siva taught a little bastard child a mantram of five letters. The family did not invite the boy to a wedding feast. He said the mantram through a crack in the door and immediately the feast turned into frogs. The family made haste to invite the boy in and he repeated the mantram backwards and the food reappeared.[7]

One Jewish legend of Jesus explained his miracles on the ground that Jesus discovered the secret or true name of Jehovah and used it in his magic.

The power of words has been well recognized by every student of primitive and modern cultures. In all early cultures the name is thought to be a definite part of the person or thing to which it is attached. According to the Babylonians that "which had no name did not exist, and its existence commenced only when it received its name." [8] Among many primitive peoples the name is considered the most essential part of the person. The real name is not to be exposed to strangers who may use it against you in a magical manner. Jones says that among the Ojibway Indians children are warned not to utter their own names or they will cease to grow.

Baptismal or other purifactory rites are frequently accompanied by giving the individual not only another view on life but a new name.

Clodd cites a case of a Jamaica. Negro, Quamina, who had contracted a debt. Before the debt was repaid he became converted to Christianity, was baptized and received a new name, Timothy. When his creditor asked him for payment, the Negro appeared surprised. The money had been lent to Quamina, who was now dead. He, Timothy, was a new man and could not be expected to pay the dead man's debts.[9]


The power of words is neatly illustrated in the ancient Roman practice where the first names on those called in the military levies were the individuals named "Victor," "Felix," "Faustus," etc.

The whole doctrine of the logos so prominent in early philosophy and later in Christian theology illustrates the confusion of word with person, deed, or thing. Heraclitus thought that all transient things had their eternal or unchanging counterparts, their "names" or "logoi." These things had come into being through the power of the creative word. All things came into existence by the utterance of their names by the Creator.

That creative utterance, breath, or spirit, was known to the earlier Sumerian priests as "mummu" and in later Babylonian theology as the god Nebo, called by the Greeks, Hermes. The latter had himself been identified as far back as the sixth century B.C. by Theagenes of Rhegium with the Logos. The Egyptians similarly regarded the name of a person as the essence of his soul, and all things whatsoever had also their "true name" which was the essence of their being. The Creator brought the world into being by uttering his name. "There was a time," declares an ancient papyrus, "when no one and nothing existed except himself. A desire came over him to create the world, and he carried it into effect by making his mouth utter his own name as a word of power; and straightway the world and all therein came into being." In later versions the creative utterance, or Word, is a separate person, the god Thoth, "the god who creates by his voice" whom also the Greeks identified with Hermes, and who had interpreted in words the will of the deity.[10]

Similar notions appear both in Persian and early Hindoo writings. The creative word in Vedic and Brahmanical mythology is the goddess Vak. The word "Vak" means "speech." She is the most active principle of Brahma and proceeds from him and fills and creates everything. "The world originates from the Word."

In later Platonic and especially in Neoplatonic thought and in subsequent Christian formulations this dogma is carried into mystical philosophic form. For Plato the "logos" or name of

(114) a thing is not a mere label or symbol but the true reality. It has independent existence. The material object is but â shadow projected forward by the true reality behind it. In the course of generalization we finally reach the highest, the most abstract concepts, the Good, the Beautiful, the Just. And with Plotinus "logoi" become "spiritual forces," the world is the Idea of God; the Logos is His Creative Word. "In the beginning was the Word" expresses the notion in our own New Testament form.

The doctrine of the logos, beginning with a magical confusion of name and thing gets, in time, then, raised to the position of a fundamental tenant in a great cultural system. Generations of people have accepted this dereistic formula as sound without any question. Moreover, we can see around us today how other autistic formulations arise, circulate, and come in time to be accepted by many people.

The following excerpt from a pamphlet series, "The Kingdom of Heaven Advocate" illustrates nicely how dereistic formulations get into use in attacking certain features of contemporary life. The author's purpose is to show American domination by money. He does it as follows:



One of the favorite occupations of certain groups of theological-magically minded people who believe the Bible to be the clue to the whole of human history is to attempt to explain historical events and facts by reference to alleged sacred prophecies. Some time ago a tract came to the writer's desk which purported to demonstrate that the papal system of the Roman Catholic Church is the beast referred to in the Book of Revelation. The article first quotes Revelation I3: 18 as follows

"Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man and his number is Six Hundred Three Score and Six." The words "Vicar of the Son of God" which are inscribed on the crown of the Roman Pope are in Latin "VICARIVS FILII DEL" Recall that in the Roman numeral system I equals I ; V equals 5 ; L, So; C, loo; D, 500. Thus, in VICARIVS FILII DEI we find the following number combinations

6 "I's"    6

"V's" ..................................


I "L" ...................................


I"C" ...................................


I"D" ...................................


Total   ..................................  666

The total 666 gives the number of the beast spoken of in the passage cited. This is believed to be absolute proof that the pope represents the beast mentioned by St. John. This illustrates well the relation of symbolism to autistic thinking. Furthermore, it shows how groups of persons conceive the reality of other groups with whom they come into contact.[11]

If this sort of thing were produced by a child in play we might consider it amusing; if produced by a dementia praecox patient we would put it down as pathological. Yet when thousands of people believe and act upon this sort of verbal interpretation of chance passages in ancient writings torn out of

(116) context, and certainly at best obscure, the whole matter of the relation of dereistic verbalism to social reality takes on another hue. To the materialistically minded such concepts are nonsense, to the "faithful" they mean everything. To the hardheaded man of science the revelations of Joseph Smith, like the visions of John Bunyan, are the products of diseased minds. To the student of social psychology these phenomena are significant because they represent not only how one man conceives his world, but how thousands of others are led by training and exposure to culture patterns built on such concepts. Men operate in a universe laid down by meanings. And behavior is determined by the definitions of situations resting on these meanings.

The Tharauds in their interesting novel, The Shadow of the Cross, illustrate how the Jewish boy comes to regard magically his mastery of Hebrew

What Christian can understand the deep significance that there is for a Jew in the process of learning to read [Hebrew] ? . . . It means learning the sacred language in which the Master of the world gave the law to Moses, a language of which each syllable was actually formed by the breath of God, a language of which the slightest sound has the power to shake the foundations of the earth. Learning to read is to pray.

So, too, the Jewish boy in this community is taught a belief in the actual power of words and symbolic numbers:

He learned that mysterious numbers rule the destinies of men; that the number three brings happiness and the number nine misfortune, as is proved by all Jewish catastrophes, which happen invariably on the ninth of the month; that figure seven is neutral, sometimes good and sometimes bad, and that the lot of mortals changes every seventh year . . . .

The fear of numbers, of course, hangs over thousands who decline to sit down thirteen to a dinner table or to light three cigarettes on the same match. Gamblers are notorious for their superstitions regarding lucky and unlucky numbers.

How this magical power in words and prayer is still a factor in the lives of people is witnessed in an advertising card circulated recently by the publishers of the Unity Daily World who state


You are invited to join with two or three hundred thousand Unity students each day in studying, practicing, and applying certain principles of Truth. Wonderful power is generated when two or three hundred thousand persons are gathered together in a vast spiritual cathedral of prayer with the Spirit of Christ in their midst. Will you join us?

The manner in which this magical use of words is carried into wider reaches of social behavior today is seen in the secret language of fraternal orders, their phrases and numerals which carry emotional associations and in which the sense of power in the symbols is very evident.

In similar fashion the high-sounding titles of officers and functions in lodges and other secret societies give clear evidence of this primitive association of word and thing which continues to pervade our social life and to delimit the social reality about us. The following sections from a letter from the former head of the Ku Klux Klan to his followers announcing the appointment of Mary Elizabeth Taylor as his "Grand Chief of Staff" shows very clearly the place of hightoned words plus the play of mystery and solemnity which accompanied the heyday of the Klan

To all Genii, Grand Dragons and Hydras of Realms, Grand Goblins and Kleagles of Domains, Grand Titans and Furies of Provinces, Giants, Exalted Cyclops and Terrors of Klantons, and to all Citizens of the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan-in the name of our valiant, venerated dead, I affectionately greet you . . . .

[Then follows the message.]

Done in the Aulic of his Majesty, Imperial Wizard, Emperor in the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, in the Imperial City of Atlanta, Commonwealth of Georgia, United States of America, on this the ninth day of the year of our Lord, 1921, and on the Dreadful Day of the Weeping Week of the Mournful Month of the Year of the Klan LV.

Duly signed and sealed by his Majesty,


    Imperial Wizard. [12]

(118) Note the associations brought out in this Ku Klux Klan message. Genii and all the infantile wishes seen in the Arabian Nights stories. Grand Dragons, Grand Goblins, Hydras, Furies, Exalted Cyclops, and the fairy stories of all the ages! Consider the mystic aristocratic and superiority concepts in such terms as "Majesty," "Imperial Wizard," and "Invisible Empire." It must be very impressive to be the member of an empire of power but at the same time "invisible." What self-satisfying words and associations for thousands of men of ordinary humdrum life, for men living in a mechanical age, in a period of predictability of things, proud of material civilization with its comforts and conveniences-bathtubs, electric ranges, electric refrigeration, automobiles, airplanes, and radio. Here is a world of freedom, of romantic behavior, of adventure.

(e) Literary Production and Dereistic Thought. There is no doubt that many types of literature reveal the operation of fantasy associations. While perhaps all literature has something of the free-flowing association of autistic symbolism in it, in metaphor and analogy, there is certain material which definitely indicates its origin in dereism. The point here is precisely that raised above in reference to religion and magic. If the material has no meaning to other persons when communicated, if there is no consensus as to its emotional or other significance, then we dub it pathological, but if it carries meaning-value to the others, it must be considered within the limits of discourse and hence a part of the reality which grows up with social participation.

The matter is nicely illustrated by the development of punning. Plays on word sounds are a frequent device in wit and occur in all literature. Lewis Carroll, whom we know best as the author of Alice in Wonderland, was a master at punning. He used his mathematical terminology in a most effective manner in his discussions of other questions. For example, in a pamphlet which he wrote and circulated concerning the election contest between Mr. Gathorne Hardv and Mr. William E. Gladstone for the representative of Oxford University in Parliament he wrote out a series of political definitions, axioms, and postulates which are still applicable in this field



Plain Superficiality is the character of a speech, in which any two points being taken, the speaker is found to lie wholly with regard to those two points.

Plain Anger is the inclination of two voters to one another, who meet together, but whose views are not in the same direction.


1. Men who go halves in the same (quart) are (generally) equal to one another.


a. Let it be granted that a speaker may digress from any one point to any other point.

ii. That a controversy may be raised about any question, and at any distance from that question.

Here the play on words intrigues us because of the double meaning brought into the associations. Unless one knew both geometry and politics, such associations might appear quite pathological because they would be meaningless.

It has been said that the metaphor originated as a device to escape the magical power of naming objects, situations, and persons directly. In place of this people used circumlocution. The matter is also nicely illustrated in the literary and commonplace euphemism. In our own language the word "whore" carries with it considerable emotional-feeling tone, but the word "prostitute" introduced into English from French appears in English in both scientific and literary writings without causing any undue emotional disturbance. There is not the strong cultural heritage attached to the latter term. In fact, we employ the verb "to prostitute" in a metaphorical sense in a wide area of usage. The whole development of various kinds of combinations of words in symbolism represents this matter. Any two things associated together by conditioning may become symbols one of the other and since we attach words to these things, the words come to stand for one another, Relations of part-whole, genus-species, cause-effect, associations of similarity and contiguity all furnish the basis for symbolic associations. For example, in the metonymy we have the substitution of an attribute for a thing or person, such

( 120) as "Crown" for "king." In the synecdoche, we have a part for a whole, etc., as "a fleet of ten sail" for "ten ships," etc. Because of these easy symbolisms, one may be carried in literature quite beyond the original practical sense to entirely other considerations. For example, the various plays on words which have been developed into acrostics or word golf where one changes certain letters in words to secure other words.

The rise of neologisms is evidence of the play of emotional associations of sounds and sense. Modern slang and song are filled with these. We have such terms as "iskimmish," "kisky," "itiest," taken from Clara Bow, the "It" girl, "transmogrified," "miggled" and the whole tribe of "itchy-kitchy-koo" isms, so popular in our jazz age. To return to Lewis Carroll as a supreme exponent of the literary play on dereistic associations, one may recall the poem "Jabberwocky" the first stanza of which runs

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Similarly children's delight in pig-latin is another case of conversational language which is unintelligible to the uninitiated but which serves for discourse and social interaction for those "in the know." Likewise all sorts of secret message schemes operate on much the same principle. Once the key words are known the apparent confusion of meaning disappears. Paul B. Thomas in his Secret Messages has shown amazing possibilities of this sort of associative symbolism which to the uninformed looks confused enough. To take only a few samples of how the proverb, "Birds of a feather flock together" may be altered

(I) Enciphered by dividing the words into uniform lettergroups:


(2) Enciphered by writing each word backwards


(3) Enciphered by reversing the first and last letters in each word


(121) Here again meaning rests on consensus and common discourse. When others are converted to such techniques of communication the thought is transmissible, when others remain uninformed, the stuff is without social significance, that is, without social meaning.

This whole matter in literature is nicely illustrated by the development of modernistic poetry as it is also illustrated in the pictorial and plastic arts by modernistic painting and sculpture. In both these fields the defense is that the authors and artists wish to escape from the concrete, perceptual field into the abstract and conceptual. Free verse is free associationism, and as Max Eastman says from free verse it is a short step to free punctuation, free typography and soon. The following sample from E. E. Cummings illustrates the point:

Among these

red pieces of

 day(against which and quite silently hills made of blueandgreen paper

scorchblend ingthem -selves-U pcurv E, into anguish (clim b) ing s-p-i-r-a1 and,disappear)

Satanic and blasé a black goat lookingly wanders

There is nothing left of the world but into this noth ing il treno per Roma si-gnori ? jerk ilyr, ushes [13]

The meaning of this, that is, its communicability and its capacity to arouse images and attitudes in others, is consider-

(122) -ably restricted by the cultural-pattern level of the person brought up in the older traditions of poetry. The modernists defend the whole trend as an escape from old formalization, by the desire to get back to the "elemental," by the desire to convey "actuality," "atmosphere," pure feeling, to employ "subtly disguised rhymes," "to make words express a vision which those words have never expressed before," and which by tradition they have resisted expressing.

The prose writers like Gertrude Stein and James Joyce have gone into other aspects of word play. Take the following sample from Miss Stein:

They did then learn many ways to be gay and they were then being gay being quite regular in being gay, being gay and they were learning little things, little things in ways of being gay, they were very regular then, they were learning very many little things in ways of being gay they were being gay and using these little things they were learning to have to be gay with regularly gay with them and they were gay the same amount they had been gay . . . .

They were regular in being gay, they learned little things that are things in being gay they learned many little things that are things in being gay, they were gay every day, they were regular, they were gay, they were gay the same length of time every day, they were gay, they were quite regularly gay . . . .

This repetition of what seem nonsensical simplicities and meaningless learnings, have for the initiated, so they say, a strength and use that we ordinary persons do not have. Miss Sitwell says in her Poetry and Criticism that Miss Stein is "bringing back life to our language by what appears at first to be an anarchic process. First she breaks down the predestined groups of words, their sleepy family habits; then she rebrightens them, examines their texture, and builds them into new and vital shapes." [14]

Some of the new writers are not only removing traditional content from their words, but are further confusing the usual reader by employing obscure words from unknown languages, or allusions to strange books, to experiences limited to one's circles of intimates, or to one's day-dreams. This all makes

( 123) communicability difficult if not impossible and throws this literature definitely into the same realm as Queen Anna and the schizophrenics except for those who are in the sacred cult. One further illustration, this one from James Joyce, will serve to show the development of free fantasies in the field of literary art:

For if the lingo gasped between kicksheets were to be preached from the mouths of wickerchurchwardens and metaphysicians in the row and advokaatoes, allvoyous, demi-voyelles, languoaths, lesbiels, dentelles, gutterhowls and furtz, where would their practice be or where the human race itself were the Pythagorean sesquipedalia of the panepistemion, grunted and gromwelled, ichabod, habakuk, opanoff, uggamyg, hapaxle, gomenon, ppppfff, over country stiles, behind slated dwellinghouses, down blind lanes, or, when all fruit fails, under some sacking left on a coarse cart? [15]

One could match this sort of thing with the writings of schizophrenic patients. For example:

Epaminondas was one who was powerful especially on land and sea. He was the leader of great fleet manceuvers and open seabattles against Pelopida, but had been struck on the head, during the second Punic War, because of the wreck of an armored frigate. He wandered with ships from Athens to Hain Mamre, took Caledonian grapes and pomegranates and overcame Bedouins. He besieged the Acropolis with gun-boats, and caused the Persian crew to be burnt as living torches. The subsequent pope Gregory VII -eh-Nero followed his example and because of him all Athenians, all Roman-Germanic-Celtic races, towards whom the priests were not favorably disposed, were burned at the hands of the Druids as an offering to the Sun-god Baal on Corpus-Christi Day. This is the period of the Stone Age. Spear-points of Bronze. (Stenographically recorded.) [16]

One might legitimately ask if this has not as much or more sense than the writings of Joyce and others who inject materials from the whole range of their reading and experience without any connections being made apparent to the reader or hearer. It is not the purpose, however, to show that the

( 124) modernists in literature are pathological, but to raise again the issue of social reality as based on social interaction and communication. The lowest common denominator of communication is that of direct action and emotion. Certainly there is communication in some of the rhythm of Gertrude Stein's monotonous repetitious sentences, and so far there is at least emotional meaning. There may be communication of pure form in poetry or painting, but the area of meaning is restricted to those who possess similar ideational and emotional valuations.

Of course, if the schizoid associations of Ezekiel, Daniel and John the Apostle can furnish the basis for the religious life and philosophy of history of thousands of adventistic sectarians, one may legitimately raise the question as to why cannot the modernistic poetry come to be accepted into the literary culture of our time quite as fully as the perceptual, sensual poetry of an earlier age. It is not again, I repeat, the fantastic, dereistic associations which make one production pathological and another sane and meaningful, but the degree of communication and acceptance by common consensus. If the new poets can change our patterns of aesthetics, then we shall in time come to accept what seem to Max Eastman to be idiocies as sound and significant materials. The older poetry may pass into the discard of antiquities of a previous but unsophisticated age.

(d) Politico-Economic Level. Fantastical thinking is not confined to magical processes, to lodge organizations, or modernistic verse but extends into other dimensions of daily life. This is best illustrated in the rise of myths and legends about social life, and in hundreds of terms which carry with them emotional significance but no specific meaning.

In political campaigns, in drives for philanthropic purposes, in advertising, in employee-employer disputes, and in other social situations phrases and words are used which arouse emotional associations but no intelligent responses. Their very vagueness is important to the social reality which they express. We like blanket terms such as "Bolshevik." "Radical," "Pacifist," "Butter and Egg Man," "Babbitt," "Flapper," and the like because they do not demand careful definition. Sometimes more evident dereistic word associations are used as in the

( 125) political cartoon of 1928 showing a billboard poster containing this

Al(cohol) Smith

Hoover - H20

The play of vague but powerfully emotionalized words of largely abstract character is found in much religious and political speaking and writing where the object is to arouse faith in the hearers or readers. As Joseph Conrad somewhere remarks, "He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense . . . . Give me the right word and the right accent, and I will move the world." Careful students of behavior have long recognized this fact. Edmund Burke remarked:

Whatsoever power such words as virtue, honor, persuasion, docility may have on the passions, they do not derive it from any representation in the mind of the things for which they stand. Nobody, I believe, immediately on hearing the sound virtue, liberty, or honor, conceives any precise notions of the particular modes of action and thinking for which these words are substituted . . . .[17]

Political speakers appeal to their listeners in vague but emotionalized terms. The following selection is typical of thousands of public speeches which echo through our auditoriums and banquet halls whenever men gather to celebrate victories, to praise the living or the dead heroes, and to revive the glories of the past of one's group, be it religious, economic, political or otherwise:

Sons of America keep unsullied the sacred shrine of peace, through whose portals will yet pass arm in arm the crowned head and the humble peasant in silent worship of God.

Out of the ruins and suffering of the present conflict will arise a temple of justice whose dome will be the blue vault of heaven; its illuminants, the eternal stars; its pillars, the everlasting hills; its ornaments, the woods and bountiful fields: its music, the rippling rills, the songs of birds, the laughter of happy childhood; its diapason, the roar of mills and the hum of industry; its votaries,


the peoples of the earth; its creed, on which hangs all the law and the prophets, "Love thy Neighbor as thyself." Above its altars in ineffaceable color will live eternally the vision of its artificer . . . .

Therefore, my fellow countrymen, not I, but his deeds and achievements; not I, but the spirit and purpose of America; not I, but the prayers of just men; not I, but civilization itself, nominates to succeed himself to the presidency of the United States, to the presidency of 100,000,000 free people, bound in impregnable union, the scholar, the statesman, the financier, the emancipator, the pacificator, the moral leader of democracy, Woodrow Wilson.[18]

Who can doubt but that this speech was effective, although of its specific ideas and its promises of good things, as Bishop Berkeley remarked in regard to such word usages, "we have not an idea of what it is"? This political jargon is not very different in quality from that of the new poets and writers mentioned above, nor, in turn, from the hodge-podge of high-sounding phrases of the Ku Klux Klan or the schizoid patient. The difference, again, is one of acceptance and, belief, not in any inherently exact nature of the communication.

Similarly the alliterative and rhythmic qualities of many slogans and shibboleths constitute their principal appeal to the masses of mankind. Such a catch phrase as "fifty-four forty or fight" almost precipitated an international war. We have such sayings as "Cape to Cairo" which intrigues the Englishman to identify himself with British imperialism. "The golden rule against the rule of gold" appeals to the liberal religious-minded political adherents in their beliefs about the power of unrestrained capitalism, while the capitalists love such a sentence as "Less government in business and more business in government" which has a paradoxical meaning of importance. Hortatory phrases also catch the emotionalized imagination and seem to present possibilities to the down-and-outers, for example, "Restore the land to the landless," or to encourage prejudices and superiority feelings in the phrase "America for the Americans." Sumner recognized the power of words, phrases, acid epithets when he wrote:

( 127)

Watchwords, catchwords, phrases and epithets are the modern instrumentalities [of suggestion] . . . . They are familiar, unquestioned, popular, and they are always current above their value. They always reveal the invincible tendency of the masses to mythologize. They are personified and a super-human energy is attributed to them. "Democracy" is not treated as a parallel word to aristocracy, theocracy, autocracy, etc., but as a Power from some outside origin, which brings into human affairs an inspiration and energy of its own. The "People" is not the population, but a creation of mythology, to which inherent faculties and capacities are ascribed beyond what can be verified within experience. "Wall Street" takes the place which used to be assigned to the devil . . . . A watchword sums up one policy, doctrine, view, or phase of a subject . . . . Catchwords are acutely adapted to stimulate desires.[19]

Present-day word fetishes are "Education for the Masses," "Social Service," "Bolshevism," "Progress," and the like, some good and some evil in their meaning for the hordes of individuals who use them.

In the field of social, political, and economic writing the use of vague, emotionalized terms and metaphors soon degenerates into the easy practice of calling one thing by another and imagining thereby that one has explained the ever-present puzzles of cause and effect. Henry Adams once remarked that the Law of Natural Selection in biology was an explanation which somehow did not explain. Stuart Chase makes a biting comment on contemporary word worship

Thus it is easier to say "the public" than to give a census enumeration beginning with Mr. Aaron. But when we go further and come to use the word "public" in a trilogy with the words "capital" and "labor"-as is the habit with all our best minds today-it is to drain it of all sense and meaning. Consider the mutilations of such short-hand words as "democracy," "liberty," "morality," "free speech," "individualism," "human nature," "spiritual," "the AngloSaxon race," "the consumer," "metaphysical," "Wall Street." Carefully circumscribed these words often have a function, but hurled about as is their wont in the human sciences, they tent t(? reduce any honest truth-seeker to insanity.[20]


Another apparent field where fantasy association comes into operation is found in the use of analogies and metaphors from one field to another. Hobson has made a searching analysis of this problem in his Free-Thought in the Social Sciences. In the days of strong religious-theological culture patterns people conceived the State, for example, as of divine origin. Later it was likened to a ship and sailing. Still later it was affected by organic and mechanistic concepts.

In short, the whole social science field is under the spell of quasi-autistic terminology and analogies drawn from natural sciences. On the margin of the social sciences, of course, in the various socialistic-utopian schemata for social salvation this sort of thing is rampant.

(e) Quasi-scientific and Philosophic Level. While we ordinarily consider science and philosophy to be free from the emotionalism of fantasy thinking, we find that even within the sacred portals of exact logic and experimentally founded theory that men fall into the substitution of high-sounding words for the more verifiable realities. As William James once remarked

If words do belong to the same vocabulary and if the grammatical structure is correct, sentences with absolutely no meaning may be uttered in good faith and pass unchallenged.[21]

One may find plenty of evidence of this same sort of thing in quasi-philosophic writing. The following excerpt, quoted by James, illustrates the point. It is taken from a book entitled Substantialism or Philosophy of Knowledge published in 1878

The flow of the efferent fluids of all these vessels from their outlets at the terminal loop of each culminate link on the surface of the nuclear organism is continuous as their respective atmospheric fruitage up to the altitudinal limit of their expansibility, whence, when atmosphered by like coalescing essences from higher altitudes-those sensibly expressed as the essential qualities of external forms-they descend and become assimilated by the afferents of the nuclear organism.[22]

There are 784 pages of this kind of material. Although this is an extreme case anyone who will take the trouble to examine

(129) the mass of books which pass current in society purporting to discuss Oriental thought, problems of psychic existence, auras, and the like will have no trouble finding plenty of examples.

It is generally believed that the field of natural science and mathematical logic is farthest removed from dereistic associations. Of course, every mathematician knows that people are always proposing to square the circle, or perform other vagaries. But genuine science and logic are stripped of emotional, personal, and fantastic associations to an amazing degree. The symbols of mathematics are universal and objective to all who know how to employ them. The sign for integration means the same for all scholars familiar with the calculus and the formula for the rate of falling bodies is applicable everywhere within the framework of the Newtonian physics.

Yet even in the sciences the persons using the terminology slip into personalistic terms. A good deal of the material on insect and lower animal life is shot through and through with anthropomorphism and sociological analogy, itself a nice reversal of the ordinary rôle where the social scientist likes to ape the natural scientist. So too, occasionally the statistician who announces a formula may be personally so bound up with his techniques that he neglects the limitations of his logical premises and may attempt to apply his formula to data where it does not fit. The most common offenders of this sort of thing have been those who applied statistical techniques to very inexact data with the hope to bring simplicity and straightforwardness out of material terrifically complex and variable. In truth, the fascination of numbers has sometimes been the source of confusion rather than of light.

The check in science, however, rests in the verification by other men under the duplication of exact conditions of experimentation. Hence the final arbiter of objective reality is the impersonal, non-emotional correlation of phases of reality expressed in symbols universally agreed upon. Yet men attain to the level of scientific objectivity only in specialized fields. Most of the world's scholars outside their own fields are as full of dereistic and emotional associations as oilier people are. Only the occasional genius can maintain an objectivity in regard to the reaches of life outside his narrow specialty. It is doubtful if any man can obtain objectivity about the whole

(130) range of natural and social science, and still more doubtful if his daily personal conduct could be controlled by purely scientific conceptions. Man apparently can be objective at best only about a very small area of life. Otherwise he is controlled by a type of anticipatory associations of phenomena and a range of conduct which lies between objectivity, at the one extreme, and the subjectivity of complete fantasy, at the other. There have been plenty of notable scientists who have been distinct mystics about life. There are well-known chemists who are also ardent Christian Scientists. There are excellent biologists who believe thoroughly the myths of great men of their country or even in the Nordic nonsense. The field of physics has furnished an undue share of the dabblers in psychic research playing as is their wont with persons who are the proper objects of study by the psychiatrist or psychologist.

Scientific objectivity represents, in fact, a very specialized and selected manner of viewing reality and does not encompass large areas of daily life. The practical applications of science have so greatly modified our material civilization that present-day man is considered much more objective than primitive man. Still when one observes the mystical attitudes of the ordinary man regarding material progress and especially when one witnesses the downright primitive worship of the technology and science which produce material changes, one wonders if we have not for the masses of mankind simply substituted one kind of magic for another. Giddings in his little volume, Mighty Medicine, has recently portrayed certain aspects of this magical worship of the fetish of education and of other current practices.

Whether in the field of social conduct-the object of study of the social sciences-we can accomplish alterations in reaction analogous to the alterations made in the material world, that is, on a scientific basis, remains to be seen. In the meantime it is imperative that we recognize the wide extent of fantastic, dereistic thinking and acting in social interaction. To shut our eyes to this fact is itself a confession of failure to view social reality in all its ramifications. As we noted above the exact sciences phrase their conceptions, hypotheses, and laws in verbal terms. At all times these verbalisms must be kept subservient to the experimental frame of reference.

(131) When the scientist becomes an absolutist, a dogmatist, he has already slipped into the frame of mind where the worship of words or verbal theories obscures further advances. As T. Swann Harding puts it:

We do find workers in science who believe so firmly and dogmatically in scientific hypotheses and theories that they are not to be distinguished from the religious in their devotions.

At this level we find Lord Kelvin rudely refusing to have explained to him theories inimical to his conclusions, Sir Oliver Lodge satirizing modern relativity sneeringly rather than examining it scientifically. Here we find exponents of the theory that mathematics and physical science are absolute in their exactitude, whereas our conception of mathematical values is definitely limited by the delicacy of our instruments of measurement . . . .

The mistake comes when an hypothesis is regarded as an axiomatic Whole Truth. "Scientists often get too wedded to a theory and regard it as sacred reality . . . . Then a new fact not easily explained thereby injects temporary confusion into science." Thus aspects of motion demanded by the new physics upset the old belief in absolute space and time, and the discovery of the discontinuous character of light emission is devastating for the undulatory theory of light.[23]

The scientist who becomes enthralled in his verbal concepts, therefore, is not unlike the rest of us who are emotionalized by our own words. Granted once that a concept is applicable to a certain situation, that is, associated or correlated with a series of events in nature, material or social, it is easy to go on to apply these concepts to other situations. In exact science this is called prediction or explanation. When we get away from carefully circumscribed situations, scientists and laity alike tend to talk glibly in scientific jargon. They find a substitution of sacred, but exact-sounding words, for precise understanding. Thus, "relativity," "proton," "quanta," "colloids" are applied to physical or chemical data. "Genes," "gradients," and "vitamins" are the proper talk in biological circles. "Inferiority

( 132) complexes," "libido," "I. Q.'s" or "Gestalten" pass current in psychological fields by people who mistake veneration of language for genuine understanding.


The words, phrases, and sentences which we employ in our social discourse reflect our cultural framework. It is evident that our social reality is, in part at least, dominated by dereistic, fantastic thinking. When we say this, however, it is necessary for us to recognize that the matter of normality or pathology of language and behavior must at all times be regarded within the limits of the cultural norms. Just as in certain societies neurotic behavior comes to be considered highly significant for the whole life of the people, religious and otherwise, so too, the language content, which is the anticipatory, subjective counterpart of overt behavior, is also only to be understood in terms of the socially acceptable beliefs or consensus. How we conceive the world around us is not for each to determine on the basis of some supernatural capacity to make his own world. These concepts are handed down to us by others who got them, for the most part, in turn, from others before them. It is evident that in the material world our concepts have changed rather rapidly. In the world of social behavior alterations have come slowly if at all. There is no doubt, however, that how we conceive the material and social universe is determined by the technological concepts which applied science has brought us. In the field of the non-moral folkways the terminology is indicative always of the proper conduct in social interaction. The very vocabulary of polite society becomes the hallmark of acceptance or non-acceptance, just as in the field of science, sports, or other activity areas the outsider, the novice, and the initiated are all distinguished by their verbal conceptions about the particular matter at hand. In like manner in the moral codes or mores, language carries the social definitions of situations. Such words as "scab," "bitch," "Wop," "theist," etc,, define persons in regard to situations. Likewise the whole field of social status is handled in verbal terminology and in all this dereistic as well as objective associations may play a rôle.


In short, language furnishes us an amazingly valuable insight into the whole realm of social behavior and of culture. It is the medium of discourse, it lies between individual anticipatory responses and overt activity, and it furnishes, on the whole, the easiest entry into the understanding of the whole conception of the world of men. Not only the content, but perhaps the very forms of thought are couched in language terms. These are determined by our cultural milieu. The scientific, objective manner of viewing the world can only be understood in terms of the cultural history of the Occident. In like manner the religious conceptions of good and evil, of the nature of mind, body, and soul are understandable only with regard to our Egyptian, Babylonian, Hebraic, Persian, Grecian, and early Christian backgrounds. To other peoples our concepts may not seem actual or sensible, nor theirs to us.

The man who knows primitive peoples is struck by the power of magical forms of thinking on the entire culture of a people. So, also, an Oriental mystic is amazed at the effects of science and materialistic, mechanistic concepts upon the thinking and acting of Western peoples. Kinglake makes the following observation of the effect of magical thinking upon the Occidental who comes into a differently organized psychological environment:

In the East you might as well dispute the efficacy of grass or grain as of magic. There is no controversy over the matter. The effect of this, the unanimous belief of an ignorant people, upon the mind of a stranger is extremely curious and well worth noticing. The man coming freshly from Europe is at first proof against the nonsense with which he is assailed, but often it happens that after a little while the social atmosphere in which he lives will begin to infect him, and if he has been unaccustomed to the cunning of fence by which Reason prepares the means of guarding herself against Fallacy, he will yield himself at last to the faith of those around him, and this he will do by sympathy, it would seem, rather than Conviction. 1 have been much interested in observing that the mere "practical man," however skillful and shrewd in his own way, has not the kind of power that will enable him to resist the gradual impressions made upon his mind by the


common opinion of those whom he sees and hears from day to day. [24]

One reason the "practical man" of whom Kinglake writes is so intrigued by the Oriental magic is that he is not trained to carry his "practical" behavior over into a field for which he is not prepared. The assumption of Levy-Bruhl that primitive people possess a "pre-logical" mind in sharp contrast to the "logical" mind of modern man is to misunderstand at the outset the nature of culture and its effects upon individual beliefs and behavior. Magical, fantastic, dereistic thinking and acting are not a question of time or space, but of cultural framework and acceptance of certain interpretations of the material and social world around one's group. The educated man or woman of today is superior to the primitive man, either of Africa, the Orient or our own Western world simply in that he has stripped himself of the cruder emotionalized associations still rampant in his fellows. As a matter of fact our own society may be said to be shot through and through with another kind of mysticism and magic-that of materialism and progress. To others our beliefs and practices may seem quite absurd. The whole point of the matter is that language and the forms of thought furnish or constitute the atmosphere of social behavior. Ordinarily we are no more aware of this atmosphere than we are of the air we breathe. We take our material and social universe for granted until we are introduced into concepts which upset it. In brief, the content and meaning of language give a clue to the behavior of men in groups which no acquaintance with the mere mechanics of stimulus, integration, and response would ever afford.


Bleuler, Eugen, Textbook of Psychiatry. (Translated by A. A. Brill.) New York, 1924.

Briffault, Robert, The Mothers, Vol. I, Chap. I, New York, 1927.

Burrow T., "Our Mass Neurosis," Psychological Bulletin, 1926, Vol. XXIII, pp. 305-12.

Chase, Stuart; "Junk," The Nation, 1923, Vol. CXVI, p. 747.

Clodd, Edward, Magic in Names and in Other Things, New York, 1920.

( 135)

DeLaguna, Grace A., Speech, Its Function and Development, New Haven, 1927.

Dewey, John, Experience and Nature, Chap. V, Chicago, 1925.

Downey, June E., Creative Imagination, New York, 1929.

Eastman, Max, "The Cult of Unintelligibility," Harpers, 1929, Vol. CLVIII, pp. 632-39.

Giddings, F. H., Mighty Medicine, New York, 1929.

Harding, T. Swann, "The Whole Truth," Saturday Review o f Literature, January 5, 1929.

Hobson, John A., Free-Thought in the Social Sciences, Chap. II, New York, 1926.

Lewis, N. D. C., "The Practical Value of Graphic Art in Personality Studies," Psychoanalytic Review, 1925, Vol. XII, pp. 316-22.

Mead, G. H., "The Behavioristic Account of the Significant Symbol," Journal of Philosophy, 1922, Vol. XIX, pp. 159-63.

Ogden, C. K., and Richards, I. A., The Meaning of Meaning, Chaps. I, II, and Supplement I by B. Malinowski, pp. 296-336, New York, 1927.

Pfister, Oskar, Expressionism in Art; Its Psychological and Biological Basis. (Translation by Barbara Low and M. A. Mügge.) New York, 1923.

Prinzhorn, H., Bilderei der Geiteskranken, Berlin, 1923.

Quiller-Couch, Arthur, On the Art of Writing, Chap. V, New York, 1916.

Richards, I. A., Principles of Literary Criticism, Chap. XXXIV, New York, 1924.

Silberer, H., Problems of Mysticism and Its Symbolism, New York, 1917.

Sitwell, Edith, Poetry and Criticism, New York, 1926.

Storch, A., The Primitive Archaic Forms of Inner Experiences and Thought in Schizophrenia, New York, Nervous and Mental Diseases Monograph, No. 36, 1924.

Sullivan, Harry Stack, "Peculiarity of Thought in Schizophrenia," American Journal of Psychiatry, 1925, Vol. V, pp. 21-86.

Sumner, W. G., The Folkways, Boston, 19o6.

Weiss, Albert Paul, A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior, Chap. XIII, Columbus, O., 1924.

Wells, F. L., Mental Adjustments, Chaps. I-III, New York, 1917.

Young, K., Source Book for Social Psychology, Chap. XVI, New York, 1927.

———, (Symposium), Schizophrenia (Dementia Praecox), Chaps. XX, XXI, Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Diseases, Vol. V, New York, 1928.


  1. Cf. John Dewey Experience and Nature, 1925, P. 183, where he says, "Discourse itself is both instrumental and consummatory," and G. H. Mead, "The Behavioristic Account of the Significant Symbol," Journal of Philosophy, 1922, Vol. XIX, Pp. 159-63; reprinted in my Source Book for Social Psychology, 1927, pp. 341-56.
  2. From de and reor, away from reality.
  3. John Dewey, Experience and Nature, 1925, pp. 173, 179.
  4. Cited by F. L. Wells, Mental Adjustments, 1917, p. 63.
  5. Patient claims she was born in 1856 and thus associated the number with the year of her nativity.
  6. Perhaps we have in such cases as this some clue to the source of magical numbers in various cultures. If three, or four, or seven was some significant number for a person like Queen Anna, she might project her word system on a group of persons who, accepting it, would weave the numbers into the culture pattern and pass them down through the ages.
  7. Edward Clodd, Magic in Names and Other Things, 1920, p. 169.
  8. Quoted by R. Briffault, The Mothers, 1927, Vol. I, p. 4.
  9. Cf. Clodd, op. cit., pp. 50-51.
  10. Briffault, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 4-5.
  11. Cf. H. D. Lasswell, Propaganda Technique in the World War, 1927, p. 90, for an example of how this identical passage in the Apocalypse was seriously used during the World War by French writers to prove to the Allies that the German Kaiser was the beast. This is performed by still another numerical dodge.
  12. Quoted by L. Percy, "The Modern Ku Klux Klan," Atlantic Monthly, 1922, VOL CXXX, p. 125.
  13. Cited by M. Eastman, "The Cult of Unintelligibility;" Harpers, 1929, Vol. CLVIII, p. 633.
  14. Quoted by M. Eastman, op. cit., p. 634.
  15. Quoted by M. Eastman, op. cit., p. 635.
  16. Eugen Bleuler, Textbook of Psychiatry. (Trans. by A. A. Brill), p. 78, copyright 1924. The Macmillan Company. Reprinted by permission.
  17. Edmund Burke, Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, Burke's Works, Vol. I, pp. 303-04.
  18. Speech of Mr. John Wescott at the Democratic National Convention in 1916. Quoted by W. Brooke Graves, Readings in Public Opinion, 1928, pp. 527-28.
  19. William G. Sumner, The Folkways, 1906, pp. 176, 177, 178.
  20. S. Chase, "Junk," Nation, 1923, VOL CXVI, p. 747.
  21. From Principles of Psychology, 1890, Vol. I, p. 263.
  22. Quoted by James, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 263.
  23. T. Swann Harding, "The Whole Truth," Saturday Review of Literature, January 5, 1929. The conflict of the corpuscular with the undulatory analysis rests upon the character, first of the logical premises, couched in verbal terms, and second, upon the nature of the instruments used in the experimental analysis of the data. This illustrates very well the logical limitations to scientific absolutism.
  24. From A. W. Kinglake, Eöthen, or Traces of Travel, 1849, pp. 82-83.

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