'Madness and Modernism: Insanity in the Light of Modern Art, Literature, and Thought' by Louis Sass (1992)

A selection from Louis Sass's Madness and Modernism: Insanity in the Light of Modern Art, Literature, and Thought (1992).
Giorgio de Chirico, The Seer, 1915

[Work in Progress]

Prologue: The Sleep of Reason

The madman is a protean figure in the Western imagination... . He has been thought of as a wildman and a beast, as a child and a simpleton, as a waking dreamer, as a prophet in the grip of demonic forces. He is associated with insight and vitality but also with blindness, disease, and death; and so he evokes awe as well as contempt... .

Madness is irrationality, a condition involving decline or even disappearance of the role of rational factors in the organization of human conduct... : this is the core idea that, in various forms but with few true exceptions, has echoed down through the ages ['persisted through nearly the entire history of Western thought'].

...Plato... imagined insanity as the condition in which the rational soul abdicates its role as charioteer or pilot of the self, failing to exercise harmonizing dominion over the "appetitive soul"... .

Many writers and theorists have understood this condition of unreason in almost entirely negative terms: as an intrinsic decline or collapse of the rational faculties, a deprivation of thought that, at the limit, amounts to an emptying out or a dying of the human essence-- the mind reduced to its zero degree. [...] ...Philo Judaeus of Alexandria... asked why we should "not call madness death, seeing that by it mind dies, the noblest part of us?"
Sometimes... not the weakness of reason per se but the power of its opposing forces receives the primary emphasis. For the philosopher Thomas Hobbes... madness was a matter of "too much appearing passion," while Francois Boissier de Sauvages, a French alienist of the eighteenth century, described this "worst of all maladies" as a "distraction of our mind" resulting from "our blind surrender to our desires, our incapacity to control or to moderate our passions." This view has ancient roots... in The Republic, Plato speaks of madness as a "drunken, lustful, passionate" frenzy, a giving in to one's "lawless wild-beast nature."
We find insanity being conceived of in much the same terms in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.... as "primitive and archaic drives returning from the depths of the unconscious in a dramatic manner." The traditional models and metaphors persist after 1800, but filtered through the more sophisticated evolutionist/developmental and mechanistic perspectives that have continued to dominate psychology and psychiatry up to the present day... .
Here, then, are the poles around which images of madness have revolved for so many centuries: on the one hand, notions of emptiness, of defect and decrepitude, of blindness, even of death itself; on the other, ideas of plenitude, energy, and irrepressible vitality-- a surfeit of passion or fury bursting through all boundaries of reason or constraint.

The faith in reason that underlies this conception of insanity is central to Western thought, as basic to Plato and Aristotle as to Descartes and Kant, but it has not gone entirely uncriticized, especially in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Various writers in the romantic, Nietzschean, surrealist, and poststructuralist traditions have pointed out dangers in this enshrining of reason, such as how it can splinter the unity and authenticity of the human being, stifling imagination and physical vitality while bringing on the paralysis of overdeliberation and self-consciousness.
The notion that too much consciousness might be a thoroughgoing illness (as Dostoevsky's narrator puts it in Notes from the Underground) has been, then, a common enough idea in the last two centuries, yet it has had little impact on the understanding of the psychoses: the truly insane, it is nearly always assumed, are those who have failed to attain, or else have lapsed or retreated from, the higher levels of mental life. Nearly always insanity involves a shift from human to animal, from culture to nature, from thought to emotion, from maturity to the infantile and the archaic. If we harbor insanity, it is always in the depths of our souls, in the those primitive strata where the human being becomes beast and the human essence dissolves in the universal well of desire.
Another possibility suggests itself: What if madness were to involve not an escape from but an exacerbation of that thoroughgoing illness Dostoevsky imagined? What if madness, in at least some of its forms, were to derive from a heightening rather than a dimming of conscious awareness, and an alienation not from reason but from the emotions, instincts, and the body? This, in essence, is the basic thesis of this book. Though such a view is not entirely unknown... it has seldom been developed in much clinical detail, and has certainly not been taken seriously in clinical psychology and psychiatry; in recent years, in fact, such conceptions have been almost entirely submerged by the more traditional notions of medical-model psychiatry, psychoanalysis, and the literary or antipsychiatric avant-garde.

The traditional vision is evoked in various works by Francisco Goya, such as the etching "The Sleep of Reason Breeds Monsters" and the painting known as "The Madhouse at Saragossa"... a painting of inmates in an asylum, done in an extreme chiaroscuro, so dark that we can hardly make out all the figures in its dungeonlike space.

This is a familiar enought vision, and certainly a compelling one... . [But] close attention to what many schizophrenics actually say or write may well lead, in fact, to quite a different, rather stranger impression: of a noonday rather than a midnight world, a world marked less by the mysteries of hidden depths than by the uncanniness of immense spaces and the enigmas of gleaming surfaces and brilliant light, where... silence and solitude is not broken by bestial cries so much as by the incessant murmur of inner witnesses. Often enough schizophrenics feel not farther from but closer to truth and illumination.

No less a mind than Karl Jaspers believed... that any attempt at unriddling the enigmas of schizophrenic consciousness was doomed to failure, and that we ought simply to acknowledge a fundamental unknowability... . But there would be certain dangers in adopting this attitude of interpretive nihilism, for it risks doing a double disservice: first, to the patient, who would thereby be banished from the community of human understanding; and second, to the rest of us, who would be deprived of all access to what may be an important limit-case of the human condition.

I would argue that schizophrenia does in fact involve a sort of death-in-life, though not of the kind so often imagined: for what dies in these cases is not the rational so much as the appetitive soul, not the mental so much as the physical and emotional aspects of one's being; this results in detachment from the natural rhythms of the body and entrapment in a sort of morbid wakefulness or hyperawareness. Schizophrenic individuals often describe themselves as feeling dead yet hyperalert-- a sort of corpse with insomnia.

The interpretive strategy of this book is to view the poorly understood schizophrenic-type illnesses in the light of the sensibility and structures of consciousness found in the most advanced art and literature of the twentieth century, the epoch of modernism... . Modernist art has been said to manifest certain off-putting characteristics that are reminiscent of schizophrenia: a quality of being hard to understand or feel one's way into-- what one critic calls Uneinfuhlbahrkeit [Hans Sedlmayr, Art is Crisis: The Lost Center (1958)].

I do not seek causal explanation but what Wittgenstein calls "the understanding which consists in seeing connections," the kind of explanation that uses analogy to change the aspect under which given phenomena are seen... . I certainly do not wish to glorify schizophrenic forms of madness-- to argue, for example, that they are especially conducive to artistic creativity, or to deny that they are profoundly dysfunctional and in some sense constitute a disease. Nor am I claiming there is an etiological connection between madness and modernism-- for example, that modern culture or the modern social order actually causes schizophrenic forms of psychosis. [...] This book, however, is concerned with the issue of affinities rather than influences. In the epilogue I do take up the fascinating but difficult question of possible causal relationships among modernism, modernity, and madness... .
My main goal is imply to reinterpret schizophrenia and certain closely related forms of pathology... ; to show, using the affinities with modernism, that much of what has been passed off as primitive or deteriorated is far more complex and interesting-- and self-aware-- than is usually acknowledged. I would like to think that this investigation is in the spirit of Wittgenstein, a spirit captured in the words of a former student who, some forty years later, described Wittgenstein's message in the following way: "first, to keep in mind that things are as they are; and secondly, to seek illuminating comparisons to get an understanding of how they are."

A careful comparison with modernism suggests that schizophrenic experience may have less in common with the spirit of Dionysus than with what Nietzsche, in The Birth of Tragedy, associates with the god Apollo and the philosopher Socrates: it may be characterized less by fusion, spontaneity, and the liberation of desire than by separation, restraint, and an exaggerated cerebralism and propensity for introspection. In the course of this analysis of schizophrenia-- so often imagined as being antithetical to the modern malaise, even as offering a potential escape from its dilemmas of hyperconsciousness and self-control-- may, in fact, be an extreme manifestation of what is in essence a very similar condition.

For the sake of convenience and clarity, I will be adopting something like an ideal-type approach... . As Max Weber, who first described the notion of the ideal type, noted, such an approach [accentuates] features that are "typical" of the phenomena at issue but [does] not [apply] equally well-- or in the same way-- to all instances of the type.
At the same time, it should be clear that the thesis I am proposing is by means a modest one. I think it applies to a great many schizophrenic patients, perhaps even the majority of "true" schizophrenics, and to many of those classic symptoms of the disease that have traditionally been seen as defining characteristics or core features. I would argue, in fact, that hyperreflexivity is a kind of master theme, able to subsume many specific aspects of schizophrenic consciousness and to organize our overall picture of the syndrome.

...I think this comparison [between schizophrenia and modernism] can help illuminate, if not the modern condition in general, at least certain of its more disturbing potentialities-- as these are refracted through the most exaggerated or pathological of examples.


Chapter 1: Introduction

The fact of the psychoses is a puzzle to us. They are the unsolved problem of human life as such. The fact that they exist is the concern of everyone. That they are there and that the world and human life is such as to make them possible and inevitable not only gives us pause but makes us shudder. Karl Jaspers, General Psychopathology

Schizophrenia is, at the same time, the most severe and the most enigmatic of mental disorders. Though not conceptualized as a diagnostic category until the 1890s, surprisingly late in the long history of theorizing about the abnormal mind, this illness or set of illnesses quickly became psychiatry's central preoccupation... . The history of modern psychiatry is, in fact, practically synonymous with the history of schizophrenia, the quintessential form of madness in our time [authors note: See I. Macalphine and R. A. Hunter, "Translator's introduction," in D. P. Schreber, Memoirs of My Nervous Illness].


Like death and ecstasy..., schizophrenia has often seemed a limit-case or farthest borderland of human existence, something suggesting an almost unimaginable aberration: the annihilation of consciousness itself.
...some psychiatrists and psychologists have argued that the condition is totally incomprehensible, closed to the very possibility of human empathy. But others disagree, and, as we shall see, they have most commonly likened schizophrenia's characteristic modes of consciousness to those of people who have lost, or never attained, the higher and more socialized faculties of the mind-- including patients with diffuse brain damage..., infants or very young children, or else some imagined instance of an utterly unsocialized being, such as the mythical (and sometimes glorified) figure of the Wildman.
Given the prevalence of these traditional models-- Wildman, child, or broken brain-- it may be surprising to discover that, in many crucial respects, schizophrenia bears a remarkable resemblance to much of the most sophisticated art, literature, and thought of the twentieth century, the epoch of "modernism."


Traditional Twentieth-Century Views of Schizophrenia

The Doctrine of the Abyss and the Broken Brain

Oddly enough, schizophrenia's ineffable yet distinctive aura of strangeness has sometimes been made the basis of a crucial diagnostic criterion-- thus raising our very bafflement to the status of an essential ordering principle.


The Original Infantile Story

We are victims of a subjective illusion... . In the normal course of things, customs varying greatly from our own always seem puerile.
Claude Levi-Strauss, The Archaic Illusion.

Bleuler, a man who cined the term schizophrenia and spent most of his life living with and treating schiophrenics, once remarked that when all was said and done, they remained as strange to him as the birds in his garden.

Not only in psychoanalysis but also in other schools of psychological thought... the strategy of explanation often assumes something like a modern and developmental version of the Great Chain of Being: the idea, prominent in Western thought through the Renaissance, of a single hierarchy of being with ascending degrees of perfection, rising "from the dark, heavy and imperfect earth to the higher perfection of the stars and heavenly spheres," [ ] from the domain of ignorance and the body to the bracing heights of rational self-awareness. All these schools accept some version of the grand and optimistic Western narrative of progress toward higher levels of consciousness and self-consciousness, and all presuppose a single, unilinear dimension along which all psychological phenomena can be located. At the very top are the reality-adapted, pragmatic, quasi-scientific modes of consciousness presumably obtained by normal socialized adults in modern culture. And, by what seems an inexorable logic, any deviation from this condition is assumed to correspond to an earlier and lower developmental stage.

This view has often led to the rather condescending assumption that schizophrenics need to be brought up or socialized, and that a therapist should play the role of a benign and wise parent who gives the patient a second chance to be nurtured toward maturity.

The Wildman: Hero of Desire

In The Politics of Experience [and the Bird of Paradise], R. D. Laing describes madness as a release from constraint and a return to "primal man" that may even have the power to heal "our own appalling state of alienation called normality." In works like Andre Breton's "Surrealist Manifesto" of 1924 as well as in more recent books such as... Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, the schizophrenic is celebrated as a "true hero of desire," a Wildman figure who "is closest to the beating heart of reality" and "the vital biology of the body"; and he is sometimes sen as an "emblem of creative insurrection against rationalist repression linked to social power." Here the prevailing image has been the "Dionysian madness" described in Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy, where ecstatic surrender of self-control obliterates all doubt and hesitation, making way for the raptures of unrestrained instinct and "primordial unity." Since such a condition is generally assumed to be more characteristic of early stages of development or evolution, there is a certain affinity between the Dionysian and primitivity models. The avant-gardists and antipsychiatrists have emphasized the positive sided-- excesses of passion, vitality, and imagination-- yet they, no less than the traditional analysts, assume that the schizophrenic lacks the self-control, awareness of social convention, and reflexivity of "civilized" consciousness.


A Bizarre Tradition and a Tradition of the Bizarre

Virginia Woolf's famous statement, "In or about December 1910 human nature changed," is not, of course, to be taken literally; but it does capture a widespread sense that some profoundly new developments were occuring shortly after the turn of the century... . C. S. Lewis... spoke for many when he wrote that no "previous age produced work which was, in its own time, as shatteringly and bewilderingly new as that of the Cubists, the Dadaists, the Surrealists, and Picasso has been in ours." Along with such critics as George Steiner and Roland Barthes, he saw the decades preceding World War I as marking the greatest rupture in the entire history of Western art and culture; indeed, he considered modern poetry "not only a greater novelty than any other 'new poetry' but new in a new way, almost in a new dimension."

Herbert Read saw the modernist revolution as unique in kind precisely because it did not establish a new order; rather, he said, it is "a break-up, a devolution, some would say a dissolution. Its character is catastrophe."

Avant-Gardism, the Adversarial Stance

The first characteristic of modernism is the one most obviously associated with the heterogeneity just described, and this is its negativism and antitraditionalism: its defiance of authority and convention, its antagonism or indifference to the expectations of its audience... . Though precursors can certainly be found, notably in romanticism, it is in the twentieth century that these tendencies seem to have moved from an epidemic to an endemic state... .

Modernism : Hyperreflexivity and Alienation

Chapter 2: The Truth-Taking Stare

The Stimmung in Schizophrenia


[Gap, p. 47]

For me, madness was definitely not a condition of illness; I did not believe that I was ill. It was rather a country, opposed to Reality, where reigned an implacable light, blinding, leaving no place for shadow; an immense space without boundary, limitless, flat; a mineral, lunar country, 'cold as the wastes of the North Pole. In this stretching emptiness, all is unchangeable, immobile, congealed, crystallized. Objects are stage trappings, placed here and there, geometric cubes without meaning.
People turn weirdly about, they make gestures, movements without sense; they are phantoms whirling on an infinite plain, crushed by the pitiless electric light. And I-- I am lost in it, isolated, cold, stripped, purposeless under the light. A wall of grass separates me from everybody and everything... . This was it; this was madness, the Enlightenment was the perception of Unreality. Madness was finding oneself permanently in an all-embracing Unreality. I called it the "Land of Light" because of the brilliant illumination, dazzling, astral, cold, and the state of extreme tension in which everything was, including myself.

...the experiential mutation Renee experienced did not involve gross perceptual errors or confusion about the real identity of people or objects, but something more subtle and pervasive:

During the visit [at the psychiatric hospital] I tried to establish contact with [my friend], to feel that she was actually there, alive and sensitive. But it was futile. Though I certainly recognized her, she became part of the unreal world. I knew her name and everything about her, yet she appeared strange, unreal, like a statue. I saw her eyes, her nose, her lips moving, heard her voice and understood what she said perfectly, yet I was in the presence of a stranger.

In other descriptions of so-called Unreality, REnee places less emphasis on the feeling of illuminated emptiness, strangeness, or devitalization andm ore on some flimsy, false, or doubled quality inherent in things. At ehse moments, objects could take on the look of "stage accessories" or "pasteboard scenery," and people seemed mere "puppets," "mannikins," or "automatons," or else somehow "in disguise." Patients will sometimes express Unreality by stating that everything seems distant, or as if behind plate glass.

Mere Being

...such experiences can be akin either to the exalting feeling of wonder, mystery, and terror inherent in what Heidegger considers to be the basic question of metaphysics-- Why is there something rather than nothing?-- or else to the vertigo, nausea, or sense of utter arbitrariness that made Roquentin, hero of Sartre's philosophical novel Nausea, reel before the brute fact of existence itself [editors note: in the form of a root of a tree in a park]. To Renee, things looked

smooth as metal, so cut off, so detached from each other, so illujinated and tense that they filled me with terror. When, for example, I looked at a chair or a jug, I thought not of their use or function-- a jug not as something to hold water and milk, a chair not as something to sit in-- but as having lost their names, their functions and meanings; they became "things" and began to take on life, to exist."
Their existence accounted for my great fear. In the unreal scene, in the murky quiet of my perception, suddenly "the thing" sprang up. The stone jar, decorated with blue flowers, was there facing me, defying me with its presence, with its existence. To conquer my fear I looked away. My eyes met a chair, then a table; they were alive, too asserting their presence. I attempted to escape their hold by calling out their names. I said, "chair, jug, table, it is a chair." But the word echoed hollowly, deprived of all meaning; it had left the object, was divorced from it, so much so that on one hand it was a living, mocking thing, on the other, a name, robbed of sense, an envelope emptied of content. Nor was I able to bring the two together, but stood rooted there before them, filled with fear and impotence. [Editors note: see also quotes from Renee's book reproduced in Foucault's 'Mental Illness and Psychology', in the section on 'Mental Illness and Existence.']



Chapter 3: The Separated Self

Charles Baudelaire: A New Aesthetics of Disdain

Interiorizing Trends

Parallels with Modern Culture: Uncoupling

Role Distance

The "Famous Empty Smile"

Chapter 4: Cognitive Slippage

Relativism and Perspectivism: "Vertigo of the Modern."

Chapter 7: Loss of Self

Coming Apart: modern Culture and the Self

William James: Searching for the Self

Self-Disorders in Schizophrenia

The Influencing Machine

"Dispossession" and "Furtive Abductions"

Chapter 8: Memoirs of a Nervous Illness

Schreber's Delusional Cosmos


"Rays" and "God"An Allegory of Innerness

Body and Soul

Epilogue: Schizophrenia and Modern Culture

The Prevalence of Schizophrenia

The Cross-Culture Dimension

The Historical Dimension

Etiological Hypotheses

'The Meaning of Psychology for Modern Man' by Carl Jung (1931)

A selection from a lecture by Carl Jung in Calogne in 1931 titled The Meaning of Psychology for Modern Man.

...the collective unconscious [is] the sea upon which the ego rides like a ship. [...] Just as the sea stretches its broad tongues between the continents and laps them round like islands, so our original unconscious presses round our individual consciousness. In the catastrophe of mental disease the storm-tide of the sea surges over the island and swallows it back into the depths. In neurotic disturbances there is at least a bursting of dikes, and the fruitful lowlands are laid waste by flood. Neurotics are all shore-dwellers-- they are the most exposed to the dangers of the sea. So-called normal people live inland, on higher, drier ground, near placid lakes and streams. No flood however high reaches them, and the circumambient sea is so far away that they even deny its existence. Indeed, a person can be so identified with his ego that he loses the common bond of humanity and cuts himself off from all others.

But even the inland dwellers, the inhabitants of the normal world who forgot the sea, do not live on firm ground. The soil is so friable that at any moment the sea can rush in through continental fissures and maroon them.

We can hardly deny that ours is a time of dissociation and sickness. [...] The word "crisis," so often heard, is a medical expression which always tells us that the sickness has reached a dangerous climax.

It is difficult to estimate the sickness of the age in which we live. But if we glance back at the clinical history of mankind, we shall find earlier bouts of sickness which are easier to survey. One of the worst attacks was the malaise that spread through the Roman world in the first centuries after Christ. [...] If we reduced humanity as it then was to a single individual, we would see before us a highly differentiated personality who, after mastering his environment with sublime self-assurance, split himself up in the pursuit of his separate occupations and interests, forgetting his own origins and traditions, and even losing all memory of his former self, so that he seemed to be now one thing and now another, and thus fell into a hopeless conflict with himself. In the end the conflict led to such a state of enfeeblement that the world he had conquered broke in like a devastating flood and completed the process of destruction.

A time of dissociation such as prevailed during the Roman Empire is simultaneously an age of rebirth. Not without reason do we date our era from the age of Augustus, for that epoch saw the birth of the symbolical figure of Christ, who was invoked by the early Christians as the Fish, that Ruler of the Aeon of Pisces which had just begun. He became the ruling spirit of the next two thousand years. Like the teacher of wisdom in Babylonian legend, Oannes, he rose up from the sea, from the primeval darkness, and brought a world-period to an end.

Our distance in time puts us in the favourable position of being able to see these historical events quite clearly. Had we lived in those days we would probably have been among the many who overlooked them. The Gospel, the joyful tidings, were known only to the humble few; on the surface everything was politics, economic questions, and sport. Religion and philosophy tried to assimilate the spiritual riches that poured into the Roman world from the newly conquered East. Few noticed the grain of mustard-seed that was destined to grow into a great tree.
In classical Chinese philosophy there are two contrary principles, the bright yang and the dark yin.
Of these it is said that always when one principle reaches the height of its power, the counter-principle is stirring within it like a germ. This is another, particularly graphic formulation of the psychological law of compensation by an inner opposite. Whenever a civilization reaches its highest point, sooner or later a period of decay sets in. But the apparently meaningless and hopeless collapse into a disorder without aim or purpose, which fills the onlooker with disgust and despair, nevertheless contains within its darkness the germ of a new light.
But let us go back for a moment to our earlier attempt to construct a single individual from the period of classical decay. [...] Let us suppose that this man came to me for a consultation. I would make the following diagnosis: “You are suffering from overstrain as a result of your numerous activities and boundless extraversion. In the profusion and complexity of your business, personal, and human obligations you have lost your head. You are a kind of Ivar Kreuger, who is a typical representative of the modern European spirit. You must realize, my dear Sir, that you are rapidly going to the dogs.”

Our patient is an intelligence man. He has tried all the patent medicines, both good and bad, every kind of diet, and all the bits of advice given him by all the clever people.

We must direct our patient's attention to the place where the germ of unity is growing within him, the place of creative birth, which is the deepest cause of all the rifts and schisms on the surface. A civilization does not decay, it regenerates. In the early centuries of our era a man of discernment could have cried out with unshakable certainty amid the political intrigue and wild speculation of the Caesar-worshipping, circus-besotted Roman world: "The germ of the coming era has even now been born in the darkness, behind all this aimless confusion; the seed of the Tree that will overshadow the nations of the North to Sicily, and unite them in one belief, one culture, and one language."

That is the psychological law. My patient, in all probability, will not believe a word of it. At the very least he will want to have experienced these things for himself. And here our difficulties begin, for the compensation always makes its appearance just where one would least expect it, and where, objectively considered, it seems least plausible. Let us now suppose that our patient is not the pale abstraction of a long-dead civilization, but a flesh-and-blood man of our own day, who has the misfortune to be a typical representative of our modern European culture. We shall then find that our compensation theory means nothing to him. He suffers most of all from the disease of knowing everything better; there is nothing that he cannot classify and put in the correct pigeonhole. As to his psyche, it is essentially his own invention, his own will, and it obeys his reason exclusively; and if it should happen that it does not do so , if he should nevertheless have psychic symptoms, such as anxiety-states, obsessional ideas, and so on, then it is a clinically identifiable disease with a thoroughly plausible, scientific name. Of the psyche as an original experience which cannot be reduced to anything else he has no knowledge at all and does not know what I am talking about, but he thinks he has understood it perfectly and even writes articles and books in which he bemoans the evils of "psychologism."

This kind of mentality, barricading itself behind a thick wall of books, newspapers, opinions, social institutions, and professional prejudices, cannot be argued with. Nothing can break through its defenses, least of all that little germ of the new which would make him at one with the world and himself. [...] Where, then, must we lead our patient in order to give him at least a glimmer of an inkling of something different, something that would counterbalance the everyday world he knows only too well? We must guide him, by devious ways at first, to a dark, ridiculously insignificant, quite unimportant corner of his psyche.... . That corner of the psyche is the dream, which is 'nothing but' a fleeting, grotesque phantom of the night, and the path is the understanding of dreams.

With Faustian indignation my patient will cry out...

This witch’s quackery disgusts my soul!
Is this your promise then, that I be healed
By crooked counsel in this crazy hole,
In truth by some decrepit dame revealed?
. . . .
Cannot you brew an ichor of your own?

To which I shall reply: “Haven’t you tried one remedy after another? Haven’t you seen for your self that all your efforts have only led you round in a circle, back to the confusion of your present life? So where will you get that other point of view from, if it cannot be found anywhere in your world? ”
Here Mephistopheles murmurs approvingly, "That's where the witch comes in," thus giving his own devilish twist to Nature's secret and perverting the truth that the dream is an inner vision, "mysterious still in open light of day." The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul, opening into that cosmic night which was psyche long before there was any ego-consciousness, and which will remain psyche no matter how far our ego-consciousness extends. For all ego-consciousness is isolated; because it separates and discriminates, it knows only particulars, and it sees only those that can be related to the ego. Its essence is limitation, even though it reaches to the fartherest nebulae among the stars. All consciousness separates; but in dreams we put on the likeness of that more universal, truer, more eternal man dwelling in the darkness of primordial night. There he is still the whole, and the whole is in him, indistinguishable from nature and bare of all egohood.

It is from these all-uniting depths that the dream arises, be it never so childish, grotesque, and immoral. So flowerlike is it in its candor and veracity that it makes us blush for the deceitfulness of our lives. No wonder that in all the ancient civilizations an impressive dream was accounted a message from the gods! It remained for the rationalism of our age to explain the dream as the remnants left over from the day, as the crumbs that fell into the twilit world from the richly laden table of our consciousness. These dark depths are then nothing but an empty sack, containing no more than what falls into it from above. [...] It would be far truer to say that our consciousness is that sack, which has nothing in it except what chances to fall into it. We never appreciate how depedent we are on lucky-ideas-- until we find to our distress that they will not come. A dream is... a lucky idea that comes to us from the dark, all-unifying world of the psyche. What would be more natural, when we have lost ourselves amid the endless particulars and isolated details oft he world's surface, than to knock at the door of dreams and inquire of them the bearings which would bring us closer to the basic facts of human existence.
Here we encounter the obstinate prejudice that dreams are so much froth, they are not real, they lie, they are mere wish-fulfillments. All this is but an excuse not to take dreams seriously, for that would be uncomfortable. Our intellectual hybris of consciousness loves isolation despite all its inconveniences, and for this reason people will do anything rather than admit that dreams are real and speak the truth. There are some saints who had very rude dreams. Where would their saintliness be, the very thing that exalts them above the vulgar rabble, if the obscenity of a dream were a real truth? But it is just the most squalid dreams that emphasize our blood-kinship with the rest of mankind, and most effectively damp down the arrogance born of an atrophy of the instincts. Even if the whole world were to fall to pieces, the unity of the psyche would never be shattered. And the wider and more numerous the fissures on the surface, the more this unity is strengthened in the depths.
I admit that I fully understand the disappointment of my patient and of my public when I point to dreams as a source of information in the spiritual confusion of our modern world. Nothing is more natural than that such a paradoxical gesture should strike one as completely absurd. What can a dream do, this utterly subjective and nugatory thing, in a world brimful of overpowering realities? Realities must be countered with other, equally palpable realities, and not with dreams, which merely disturb our sleep or put us in a bad mood the next day. You cannot build a house with dreams, or pay taxes, or win battles, or overcome the world crisis. Therefore my patient, like all other sensible people, will want me to tell him what can be done in this insufferable situation, and with appropriate, common-sense methods. The only snag is that all the methods that seems appropriate have already been tried out with no success whatever... .

My patient, and perhaps our whole age, is in this situation. Anxiously he asks me, "What can I do?" And I must answer, "I don't know either."

So when I counsel my patient to pay attention to his dreams, I mean: "Turn back to the most subjective part of yourself, to the source of your being.... . Your dreams are an expression of your inner life, and they can show you through what false attitude you have landed yourself in this blind alley."
Dreams are impartial, spontaneous products of the unconscious psyche, outside the control of the will. They are pure nature; they show us the unvarnished, natural truth, and are therefore fitted, as nothing else is, to give us back an attitude that accords with our basic human nature when our consciousness has strayed too far from its foundations and run into an impasse.
To concern ourselves with dreams is a way of reflecting on ourselves-- a way of self-reflection. It is not our ego-consciousness reflecting on itself; rather, it turns its attention to the objective actuality of the dreams as a communication or message from the unconscious, unitary soul of humanity. It reflects not on the ego but on the self; it recollects that strange self, alien to the ego, which was ours from the beginning, the trunk from which the ego grew. It is alien to us because we have estranged ourselves from it through the... conscious mind.

Dream-interpretation... was... among the black arts persecuted by the Church. even though we of the twentieth century are rather more broad minded in this respect, so much historical prejudice still attaches to the whole idea of dream-interpreation that we do not take kindly to it. Is there, one may ask, any reliable method  of dream-interpretation? [...] I admit that I share these misgivings to the full, and I am convinced that there is in fact no asbolutely reliable method of interpration.

One would do well, therefore, to treat every dream as though it were a totally unknown object. Look at it from all sides, take it in your hand, carry it about with you, let your imagination play round it, and talk about it with other people. [...] Treated in this way, the dream suggests all manner of ideas and associations... .

If... we bear in mind that the unconscious contains everything that is lacking to consciousness, that the unconscious therefore has a compensatory tendency, then we can begin to draw conclusions... .

As individuals we are not completely unique, but are like other men. Hence a dream with a collective meaning is valid in the first place for the dreamer, but it expresses at the same time the fact that his momentary problem is also the problem of other people. This is often of great practical importance, for there are countless people who are inwardly cut off from humanity and oppressed by the thought that nobody else has their problems. Or else they are those all-too-modest souls who, feeling themselves nonentities, have kept their claim to social recognition on too low a level. Moreover, every individual problem is somehow connected with the problem of the age, so that practically every subjective difficulty has to be viewed from the standpoint of the human situation as a whole. But this is permissible only when the dream really is a mythological one and makes use of collective symbols.

[Cont here]

'The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Class Employed in the Cotton Manufacture in Manchester' by James Kay-Shuttleworth (1932)

A selection from The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Class Employed in the Cotton Manufacture in Manchester by James Kay Shuttleworth, 1832.

James Kay-Shuttleworth was a physician and economist and founder of the Manchester Statistical Society, "the first organisation in Britain to study social problems systematically and to collect statistics for social purposes. In 1834 it was the first organisation to carry out a house-to-house social survey" (quoted from their website). He was a champion of the Poor Law Bill of 1834 and became a Poor Law Commissioner. He is also credited with helping to lay down the foundations for the national system-- publicly funded-- of elementary school instruction in England.

Self-knowledge, inculcated by the maxim of the ancient philosopher, is a precept not less appropriate to societies than to individuals. The physical and moral evils by which we are personally surrounded, may be more easily avoided when we are distinctly conscious of their existence; and the virtue and health of society may be preserved, with less difficulty, when we are acquainted with the sources of its errors and diseases.
The sensorium of the animal structure, to which converge the sensibilities of each organ, is endowed with a consciousness of every change in the sensations to which each member is liable; and few diseases are so subtle as to escape its delicate perceptive power. Pain thus reveals to us the existence of evils, which, unless arrested in their progress, might insidiously invade the sources of vital action.
Society were well preserved, did a similar faculty preside, with an equal sensibility, over its constitution; making every order immediately conscious of the evils affecting any portion of the general mass, and thus rendering their removal equally necessary for the immediate ease, as it is for the ultimate welfare of the whole social system. The mutual dependence of the individual members of society and of its various orders, for the supply of their necessities and the gratification of their desires, is acknowledged, and it imperfectly compensates for the want of a faculty, resembling that pervading consciousness which presides over the animal economy. But a knowledge of the moral and physical evils oppressing one order of the community, is by these means slowly communicated to those which are remote; and general efforts are seldom made for the relief of partial ills, until they threaten to convulse the whole social constitution.
Some governments have attempted to obtain, by specific measures, that knowledge for the acquisition of which there is no natural faculty.


'The City in History' by Lewis Mumford (1961)


A selection from Mumford's The City in History published in 1961.

“This metropolitan world, then, is a world where flesh and blood is less real than paper and ink and celluloid. It is a world where the great masses of people, unable to have direct contact with more satisfying means of living, take life vicariously, as readers, spectators, passive observers: a world where people watch shadow-heroes and heroines in order to forget their own clumsiness or coldness in love, where they behold brutal men crushing out life in a strike riot, a wrestling ring or a military assault, while they lack the nerve even to resist the petty tyranny of their immediate boss: where they hysterically cheer the flag of their political state, and in their neighborhood, their trades union, their church, fail to perform the most elementary duties of citizenship.
Living thus, year in and year out, at second hand, remote from the nature that is outside them and no less remote from the nature within, handicapped as lovers and as parents by the routine of the metropolis and by the constant specter of insecurity and death that hovers over its bold towers and shadowed streets - living thus the mass of inhabitants remain in a state bordering on the pathological. They become victims of phantasms, fears, obsessions, which bind them to... patterns of behavior.”
Lewis Mumford, The Culture of Cities.

He refers to the inhabitants of early cities as “a permanently captive farm population” and describes the walled city as the locus of the "paranoid psychic structure of power".

 "Failing to divide its social chromosomes and split up into new cells, each bearing some portion of the original inheritance, the city continues to grow inorganically, indeed cancerously, by a continuous breaking down of old tissues, and an overgrowth of formless new tissue. Here the city has absorbed villages and little towns, reducing them to place names, like Manhattanville and Harlem in New York; there it has, more happily, left the organs of local government and the vestiges of an independent life, even assisted their revival, as in Chelsea and Kensington in London; but it has nevertheless enveloped those areas in its physical organization and built up the open land that once served to ensure their identity and integrity. "

"In the mass movement into the suburban areas a new kind of community was produced, which caricatured both the historic city and the archetypal suburban refuge: a multitude of uniform, unidentifiable houses, lined up inflexibly, at uniform distances, on uniform roads, in a treeless communal waste, inhabited by people of the same class, the same income, the same age group, witnessing the same television performances, eating the same tasteless prefabricated foods, from the same freezers, conforming in every outward and inward respect to a common mold, manufactured in the central metropolis. Thus the ultimate effect of the suburban escape in our time is, ironically, a low-grade uniform environment from which escape is impossible.”

'Technics and Civilization' by Lewis Mumford (1934)

A selection from Lewis Mumford's Technics and Civilization, 1934.


During the last thousand years the material basis and the cultural forms of Western Civilization have been profoundly modified by the development of the machine.

While people often call our period the "Machine Age," very few have... any clear notion as to its origins. Popular historians usually date the great transformation in modern industry from Watt's supposed invention of the steam engine; and in the conventional economics textbook the application of automatic machinery to spinning and weaving is often treated as an equally critical turning point. But the fact is that in Western Europe the machine had been developing steadily for at least seven centuries before the dramatic changes that accompanied the "industrial revolution" took place. Men had become mechanical before they perfected complicated machines to express their new bent and interest; and the will-to-order had appeared once more in the monastery and the army and the counting-house before it finally manifested itself in the factory.

To understand the dominating role played by technics in modern civilization, one must explore in detail the preliminary period of... preparation. ...mechanization and regimentation are not new phenomena  in history: what is new is the fact that these functions have been projected and embodied in organized forms which dominate every aspect of our existence.

Chapter I. Cultural Preparation

2. The Monastery and the Clock.

Where did the machine first take form in modern civilization? There was plainly more than one point of origin. Our mechanical civilization represents the convergence of numerous habits, ideas, and modes of living, as well as technical instruments...  . [...] The application of quantitative methods of thought to the study of nature had its first manifestation in the regular measurement of time; and the new mechanical conception of time arose in part out of the routine of the monastery. Alfred Whitehead has emphasized the importance of the scholastic belief in a universe ordered by God as one of the foundations of modern physics: but behind that belief was the presence of order in the institutions of the Church itself.

It was... in the monasteries of the West that the desire for order... first manifested itself after the long uncertainty and bloody confusion that attended the breakdown of the Roman Empire. Within the walls of the monastary was sanctuary: under the rule of the order surprise and doubt and caprice and irregularity were put at bay. Opposed to the erratic fluctuations and pulsations of the worldly life was the iron discipline of the rule.

According to a now discredited legend, the first modern mechanical clock, worked by falling weights, was invented by the monk named Gerbert who afterwards became Pope Sylvester II near the close of the tenth century. [...] But the legend, as so often happens, is accurate in its implications if not in its fact. The monastery was the seat of a regular life, and an instrument for striking the hours at intervals or for reminding the bell-ringer that it was time to strike the bells, was an almost inevitable product of this life. If the mechanical clock did not appear until the cities of the thirteenth century demanded an orderly routine, the habit of order itself and the earnest regulation of time-sequences had become almost second nature in the monastery. Coulton agrees with Sombart in looking upon the Benedictines, the great working order, as perhaps the original founders of modern capitalism.... . ...one is not straining the facts when one suggests that the monasteries-- at one time there were 40,000 under the Benedictine rule-- helped to give human enterprize the regular collective beat and rhythm of the machine... .

...by the thirteenth century there are definite records of mechanical clocks, and by 1370 a well-designed "modern" clock had been built by Heinrich von Wyck at Paris.
Meanwhile, bell towers had come into existence, and the new clocks, if they did not have, till the fourteenth century, a dial and a hand that translated the movement of time into a movement through space, at all events struck the hours. [...] The bells of the clock tower almost defined urban existence... [Editors note: i.e., see Huizinga's The Autumn of the Middle Ages].

The clock, not the steam-engine, is the key-machine of the modern industrial age. For every phase of its development the clock is both the outstanding fact and the typical symbol of the machine: even today no other machine is so ubiquitous [Editors note: see Spengler on the clock as the 'prime symbol' of Faustian technics in his Decline of the West].

In its relationship to determinable quantities... , to standardization, to automatic action, and finally to its own special product, accurate timing, the clock has been the foremost machine in modern technics:... it marks a perfection toward which other machines aspire. The clock... served as a model for many other kinds of mechanical works... . [Editors note: Pascal built the first calculator, and thus the first computer, out of gothic clockwork mechanisms]

The clock... is a piece of power-machinary whose "product" is seconds and minutes: by its essential nature it dissociated time from human events and helped create the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences: the special world of science. [...] In terms of the human organism itself, mechanical time is... foreign: while human life has regularities of its own, the beat of the pulse, the breathing of the lungs, these change from hour to hour with  mood and action, and in the longer span of days, time is measured not by the calendar but by the events that occupy it. The shepherd measures from the time the ewes lambed; the farmer measures back to the day of sowing or forward to the harvest: if growth has its own duration and regularities, behind it are not simply matter and motion but the facts of development: in short, history. And while mechanical time is strung out in a succession of mathematically isolated instants, organic time-- what Bergson calls duration [Editors note: and others have called 'lived-time']--is cumulative in its effects.

Around 1345, according to Thorndike, the division of hours into sixty minutes and of minutes into sixty seconds became common: it was this abstract framework of divided time that became more and more the point of reference... , and in the effort to arrive at accuracy in this department, the astronomical exploration of the sky focused attention further upon the regular, implacable movements of the heavenly bodies through space. Early in the sixteenth century a young Nuremberg mechanic, Peter Henlein, is supposed to have created "many-wheeled watches out of small bits of iron" and by the end of the century the small domestic clock had been introduced in England and Holland. [...] To become "as regular as clock-work" was the bourgeois ideal, and to own a watch was for long a definite symbol of success.

Now, the orderly punctual life that first took shape in the monasteries is not native to mankind, although by now Western peoples are so thoroughly regimented by the clock that it is "second nature" and they look upon its observance as a fact of nature. Many Eastern civilizations have flourished on a loose basis in time: the Hindus have in fact been so indifferent to time that they lack even an authentic chronology of the years. Only yesterday, in the midst of the industrializations of Soviet Russia, did a society come into existence to further the carrying of watches there and to propagandize the benefits of punctuality. The popularization of time-keeping, which followed the production of the cheap standardized watch, first in Geneva, then in America around the middle of the last century, was essential to a well-articulated system of transportation and production.
To keep time was once a peculiar attribute of music... . But the effect of the mechanical clock is pervasive and strict: it presides over the day from the hour of rising to the hour of rest. [...] When one thinks of time, not as a sequence of experiences, but as a collection of hours, minutes, and seconds, the habits of adding time and saving time come into existence. Time took on the character of an enclosed space: it could be divided, it could be filled up, it could even be expanded by the invention of labor-saving instruments.
Abstract time became the new medium of existence. Organic functions themselves were regulated by it: one ate, not upon feeling hungry, but when prompted by the clock: one slept, not when one was tired, but when the clock sanctioned it. A generalized time-consciousness accompanied the wider use of clocks: dissociating time from organic sequences... . [...] In the seventeenth century journalism and periodic literature made their appearance: even in dress, following the lead of Venice as fashion-center, people altered styles every year rather than every generation.
The gain in mechanical effeciency through co-ordination and through the closer articulation of the day's events cannot be over-estimated: while this increase cannot be measured in mere horse-power, one has only to imagine its absence today to foresee the speedy disruption and eventual collapse of our entire society.

3. Space, Distance, Movement

Dagobert Frey... has made a penetrating study of the difference in spatial conceptions between the early Middle Ages and the Renascence: he has re-enforced by a wealth of specific detail, the generalization that no two cultures live conceptually in the same kind of time and space. [...] Long before Kant announced that time and space were categories of the mind, long before the mathematicians discovered that there were conceivable and rational forms of space other than the form described by Euclid, mankind at large had acted on this premise. Like the Englishman in France who thought that bread was the right name for Ie pain each culture believes that every other kind of space and time is an approximation to or a perversion of the real space and time in which it lives.
During the Middle Ages spatial relations tended to be organized as symbols and values. [...] Without constant symbolic reference to the fables and myths of Christianity the rationale of medieval space would collapse.

In medieval cartography the water and the land masses of the earth,
even when approximately known, may be represented in an arbitrary figure like a tree, with no regard for the actual relations as experienced by a traveller, and with no interest in anything except the allegorical correspondence.
One further characteristic of medieval space must be noted: space and time form two relatively independent systems. First: the medieval artist introduced other times within his own spatial world, as when he projected the events of Christ's life within a contemporary Italian city, without the slightest feeling that the passage of time has made a difference, just as in Chaucer the classical legend of Troilus and Cressida is related as if it were a contemporary story. When a medieval chronicler mentions the King, as the author of The Wandering Scholars remarks, it is sometimes a little difficult to find out whether he is talking about Caesar or Alexander the Great or his own monarch: each is equally near to him. Indeed, the word anachronism is meaningless when applied to medieval art: it is only when one related events to a co-ordinated frame of time and space that being out of time or being untrue to time became disconcerting. Similarly, in Botticelli's The Three Miracles of St. Zenobius, three different times are presented upon a single stage [Editors note: se
e Modernity and the Planes of Historicity by Reinhart Koselleck (1981). A selection can be found here ].

Between the fourteenth and the seventeenth century a revolutionary change in the conception of space took place in Western Europe.

The new interest in perspective brought depth into the picture and distance into the mind. In the older pictures, one's eye jumped from one part to another, picking up symbolic crumbs... : in the new pictures, one's eye followed the lines of linear perspective along streets, buildings, tessellated pavements.... .

Within this new ideal network of space and time all events now took place... .

What the painters demonstrated in their application of perspective, the cartographers established in the same century in their new maps. The Hereford Map of 1314 might have been done by a child: it was practically worthless for navigation. that of Ucello's contemporary, Andrea Banco, 1436, was conceived on rational lines and represented a gain in conception as well as in practical accuracy. By laying down the invisible lines of latitude and longitude, the cartographers paved the way for later explorers, like Columbus... . [...] Both Eden and Heaven were outside the new space... .

Presently, on the basis laid down by the painter and the cartographer, an interest in space as such, in movement as such, in locomotion as such, arose.

The categories of time and space, once practically dissociated, had become united: and the abstractions of measured time and measured space undermined the earlier conceptions of infinity and eternity, since measurement must begin with an arbitrary here and now even if space and time be empty. ...the conquest of space and time had begun.

The signs of this conquest are many: they cam forth in rapid succession. In military arts the cross-bow and the ballista were revived and extended, and on their heels cam more powerful weapons for annihilating distance-- the cannon and later the musket. Leonardo conceived n airplane and built one. Fantastic projects for flight were canvassed.

The new attitude toward time and space infected the workshop and the counting house, the army and the city. The tempo became faster: the magnitudes became greater: conceptually, modern culture launched itself into space and gave itself over to movement. What Max Weber called the "romanticism of numbers" grew naturally out of this interest. In time-keeping, in trading, in fighting men counted numbers; and finally, as the habit grew, only numbers counted.

4.The Influence of Capitalism

The romanticism of numbers had still another aspect... . This was the rise of capitalism, and the change from a barter economy... to a money economy with an international credit structure and a constant reference to the abstract symbols of wealth: gold, drafts, bills of exchange, eventually merely numbers.
From the standpoint of technique, this structure had its origin in the towns of Northern Italy, particularly Florence and Venice, in the fourteenth century; two hundred years later there was in existence in Antwerp an international bourse [stock market], devoted to aiding speculation in shipments from foreign ports and in money itself. By the middle of the sixteenth century book-keeping by double entry, bills of exchange, letters of credit, and speculation in "futures" were all developed in essentially their modern form [Editors note: 'commodity futures contract']

The development of capitalism brought the new habits of abstraction and calculation into the lives of city people: only the country folk, still existing on their more primitive local basis, were partly immune. Capitalism turned people from tangibles to intangibles: its symbol, as Sombart observes, is the account book: "its life-value lies in its profit and loss account." The "economy of acquisition," which had hitherto been practiced by rare and fabulous creatures like Midas and Croesus, became once more the everyday mode: it tended to replace the direct "economy of needs" and to substitute money-values for life-values.

...to make quantity not alone an indication of value but the criterion of value-- that was the contribution of capitalism to the mechanical world-picture. So the abstractions of capitalism prceded by the abstractions of modern science and re-enforced at every point its typical lessons and its typical methods of procedure.

But it was not merely in the promotion of abstract habits of thought and pragmatic interests and quantitative estimations that capitalism prepared the way for modern technics. From the beginning machines and factory production... made direct demands for capital far above the small advances necessary to provide the old-style handicraft worker with tools or keep him alive. [...] While the feudal families, with their command over the land, often had a monopoly over such natural resources as were found in the earth, and often retained an interest in glass-making, coalmining, and iron-works right down to modern times, the new mechanical inventions lent themselves to exploitation by the merchant classes. The incentive to mechanization lay in the greater profits that could be extracted through the multiplied power and efficiency of the machine.
Thus, although capitalism and technics must be clearlyl distinguished at every stage, one conditioned the other and reacted upon it.

Whether machines would have been invented so rapidly and pushed so zealously without the extra incentive of commercial profit is extremely doubtful. [...] Capitalism utilized the machine... to increase private profit: mechanical instruments were used for the aggrandizement of the ruling classes. It was because of capitalism that the handicraft industries in both Europe and other parts of the world were recklessly destroyed by machine products, even when the latter were inferior to the thing they replaced: for the prestige of improvement and success and power was with the machine.

By supporting the machine, capitalism quickened its pace, and gave a special incentive to preoccupation with mechanical improvements... . [...] ...the style of the machine has up to the present been powerfully influenced by capitalism.

see p. 23

5. From Fable to Fact

Meanwhile, with the transformation of the concepts of time and space went a change in the direction of interest from the heavenly world to the natural one. Around the twelfth century the supernatural world, in which the European mind had been enveloped as in a cloud from the decay of the classical schools of thought onward, began to lift... .

Every culture lives within its dream. That of Christianity was one in which a fabulous heavenly world, filled with gods, saints, devils, demons, angels, archangels, cherubim and seraphim and dominions and powers, shot its fantastically magnified shapes and images across the actual life of earthborn man. This dream pervades the life of a culture as the fantasies of night dominate the mind of a sleeper: it is reality--while the sleep lasts. But, like the sleeper, a culture lives within an objective world that goes on through its sleeping or waking, and sometimes breaks into the dream, like a noise, to modify it or to make further sleep impossible.
By a slow natural process, the world of nature broke in upon the medieval dream of hell and paradise and eternity... .

"In the Middle Ages," as Emile Male said, "the idea of a thing which a man formed for himself was always more real than the actual thing itself, and we see why these mystical centuries had no conception of what men now call science. The study of things for their own sake held no meaning for the thoughtful man... . The task for the student of nature was to discern the eternal truth that God would have each thing express."

During the Middle Ages the external world had had no conceptual hold upon the mind. Natural facts were insignificant compared with the divine order and intention which Christ and his Church had revealed.... . ...whatever significance the items of daily life had was as stage accessories and costumes and rehearsals for the drama of Man's pilgrimage through eternity.

The herbals and treatises on natural history that came out during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, though they still mingled fable and conjecture with fact, were resolute steps toward the delineation of nature.... .

The discovery of nature as a whole was the most important part of that era of discovery which began for the Western World with the Crusades and the travels of Marco Polo and the southward ventures of the Portuguese. Nature existed to be explored, to be invaded, to be conquered, and finally, to be understood. Dissolving, the medieval dream disclosed the world of nature, as a lifting mist opens to view the rocks and trees and herds on a hillside, whose existence had been heralded only by the occasional tinkling of bells or the lowing of a cow.

6. The Obstacle of Animism

7. The Road Through Magic

8. Social Regimentation

9. The Mechanical Universe

10. The Duty to Invent

11. Practical Anticipations

Chapter II. Agents of Mechanization

2. De Re Metallica

Until the fifteenth century A.D., mining had perhaps made less technical progress than any other art... .

...the art is pursued within the bowels of the earth.

Metals... exist as compounds in ores; and the ores themselves are often inaccessible, hard to find, and difficult to bring to the surface... . The extraction of metals,... requires high temperatures over considerable periods. Even after the metals are extracted they are hard to work: the easiest is one of the most precious, gold, while the hardest is the most useful, iron. [...] In short: the ores and metals are recalcitrant materials: they evade discovery and they resist treatment. only by being softened do the metals respond: where there is metal there must be fire.
Mining and refining and smithing invoke... the ruthlessness of modern warfare: they place a premium on brute force.

The mine... is the first completely inorganic environment to be created and lived in by man: far more inorganic than the giant city that Spengler has used as a symbol of the last stages of mechanical desiccation. [...] Within the subterranean rock, there is no life... . The face of nature above the ground is good to look upon, and the warmth of the sun stirs the blood of the hunter on the track of game or the peasant in the field. Except for the crystalline formations, the face of the mine is shapeless... . In hacking and digging the contents of the earth, the miner has no eye for the forms of things: what he sees is sheer matter, and until he gets to his vein it is only an obstacle which he breaks through stubbornly and sends up to the surface. If the miner sees shapes on the walls of his cavern, as the candle flickers, they are only the monstrous distortions of his pick or his arm... . Day has been abolished and the rhythm of nature broken: continuous day and night production first came into existence here. The miner must work by artificial light even though the sun be shining outside; still further down in the seams, he must work by artificial ventilation, too: a triumph of the "manufactured environment."

The mine is nothing less in fact than the concrete model of the conceptual world which was built up by the physicist of the seventeenth century.
There is a passage in Francis Bacon that makes one believe that the alchemists had perhaps a glimpse of this fact. He says: "If then it be true that Democritus said, That the truth of nature lieth hid in certain deep mines and caves, and if it be true likewise that the alchemists do so much inculcate, that Vulcan is a second nature, and imitateth that dexterously and compendiously, which nature worketh by ambages and length of time, it were good to divide natural philosophy into the mine and the furnace: and to make two professions or occupations of natural philosophers, some to be pioneers and some smiths; some to dig, and some to refine and hammer."

The practices of the mine do not remain below the ground: they affect the miner himself, and they alter the surface of the earth.
Whatever could be said in defense of the art was said with great pith and good sense by Dr. Georg Bauer (Agricola), the German physician and scientist who wrote various compendious treatises on
geology and mining at the beginning of the sixteenth century. ...his book De Re Metallica remains to this day a classic text, like Vitruvius on Architecture.
First as to the miner himself: "The critics," says Dr. Bauer, "say further that mining is a perilous occupation to pursue because the miners are sometimes killed by the pestilential air which they breathe; sometimes their lungs rot away; sometimes the men perish by being crushed in masses of rock; sometimes falling from ladders into the shafts, they break their arms, legs, or necks... ."

Let Dr. Bauer again be our witness. "Besides this the strongest argument of the detractors is that the fields are devastated by mining operations, for which reason formerly Italians were warned by law that on one should dig the earth for metals and so injure their very fertile fields, their vineyards, and their olive groves.


Chapter III. The Eotechnic Phase

2. The Technological Complex

3. New Sources of Power

4. Trunk, Plank, and Spar

5. Through a Glass, Brightly

Far more significant for civilization and culture than progress in the metallurgical arts up to the eighteenth century was the great advance in glass-making.
Glass itself was a very ancient discovery... . ...openings for glass windows were found in the excavation of Pompeian houses. In the early Middle Ages, glass furnaces began to come back, first in the wooded districts near the monastaries, then near the cities: glass was used for holding liquids and for making the windows of public buildings. ...by the twelfth century glass of intense color was made, and the use of these glasses in the windows of the new churches, admitting light, modifying it, transforming it, gave them a sombre brilliance that the most ornate carving and gold of the baroque churches only feebly rival.
By the thirteenth century the famous glass works at Marano, near Venice, had been founded... . ...by 1373 there was a guild of glassmakers in Nurnberg... .

The development of glass changed the aspect of indoor life, particularly in regions with long winters and cloudy days. [...] ...high cost restricted glass to public buildings, but step by step it made its way into the private dwelling: Aeneas Sylvius de Piccolomini found in 1448 that half the houses in Wien had glass windows, and toward the end of the sixteenth century glass assumed in the design and construction of the dwelling house a place it had never had in any previous architecture. A parallel development went on in agriculture. [...] Hothouses, which used lapis specularis, a species of mica, instead of glass, were used by the Emperor Tiberius: but the glass hothouse was probably an eotechnic invention. It lengthened the growing period of Northern Europe, increased, so to say, the climatic range of a region... .

To have light in the dwelling house or the hothouse without being subject to cold or rain or snow, was the great contribution to the regularity of domestic living... . This substitution of the window for the wooden shutter... was not fairly complete until the end of the seventeenth century... . As early as 1300 pure colorless glass was made in Maurano... . In losing color and ceasing to serve as picture-- the function it had occupied in medieval church decoration-- and in letting in, instead, the forms and colors of the outside world, glass served also as a symbol of the double process of naturalism and abstraction which had begun to characterize the thought of Europe. More than that: it furthered this process. Glass helped put the world in a frame:... it focussed attention on a sharply defined field-- namely, that which was bounded by the frame.

Cont. p. 126

6. Glass and the Ego

Chapter VI. Compensations and Reversions

1. Summary of Social Reactions

Each of the three phases of machine civilization has left its deposits in society. [...] It is the sum total of these phases, confused, jumbled, contradictory, cancelling out as well as adding to their forces that constitutes our present mechanical civilization.

Despite the long period of cultural preparation, the machine encountered inertia and resistance: in general, the Catholic countries were slower to accept it than were the Protestant countries... . Modes of life essentially hostile to the machine have remained in existence... . [...] Many social adjustments have resulted from the machine which were far from the minds of the original philosophers of industrialism.

Any just appreciation of the machine's contribution to civilization must reckon with these resistances and compensations.

2. The Mechanical Routine

The first characteristic of modern machine civilization is its temporal regularity. From the moment of waking, the rhythm of the day is punctuated by the clock. Irrespective of strain or fatigue, despite reluctance and apathy... . [...] ...the time-clock enters... to regulate the entrance and exit of the worker, while an irregular worker-- tempted by the trout in spring streams or ducks on salt meadows-- finds that these impulses are as unfavorably treated as habitual drunkeness.

...the existence of a machine civilization, completely timed and scheduled and regulated, does not necessarily guarantee maximum efficiency in any sense. [...] ...to make [such regularity] arbitrarily rule over human functions is to reduce existence itself to mere time-serving and to spread the shades of the prison-house over too large an area of human conduct. The regularity that produces apathy and atrophy-- that acedia which was the bane of monastic existence, as it is likewise of the army [Editors note: see Jung on acedia]-- is as wasteful as the irregularity that produces disorder and confusion.

...a population trained to keep to a mechanical time routine at whatever sacrifice to health, convenience, and organic felicity may well suffer from the strain of that discipline and find life impossible without the most strenuous compensations.

In The Instinct of Workmanship Veblen has indeed wondered whether the typewriter, the telephone, and the automobile, though creditable technological achievements "have not wasted more effort and substance than they have saved," whether they are to be credited with an appreciable economic loss, because they have increased the pace and the volume of correspondence and communication and travel out of all proportion to the real need. And Mr. Bertrand Russell has noted that each improvement in locomotion has increased the area over which people are compelled to move... .

One further effect of our closer time co-ordination and our instantaneous communication must be noted here: broken time and broken attention. The difficulties of transport and communication before 1850 automatically acted as a selective screen, which permitted no more stimuli to reach a person than he could handle: a certain urgency was necessary before one received a call from a long distance or was compelled to make a journey oneself: this condition of slow physical locomotion kept intercourse down to a human scale, and under definite control. Nowadays this screen has vanished: the remote is as close as the near: the ephemeral is as emphatic as the durable. While the tempo of the day has been quickened by instantaneous communication the rhythm of the day has been broken: the radio, the telephone, the daily newspaper clamor for attention, and amid the host of stimuli to which people are subjected, it becomes more and more difficult to absorb and cope with anyone part of the environment, to say nothing of dealing with it as a whole. The common man is as subject to these interruptions as the scholar or the man of affairs... . [...] With the successive demands of the outside world so frequent and so imperative, without any respect to their real importance, the inner world becomes progressively meager and formless: instead of active selection there is passive absorption ending in the state happily described by Victor Branford as "addled subjectivity."

[Editors note: Mumford on 'addled subjectivity':

"...an objective order that attempts to exclude subjective elements as unreal or irrelevant inevitably ends, as ours has in fact done, by leaving the field open to an addled subjectivity..."

Also, from Branfords
Living Religions, a Plea for the Larger Modernism:

"The creative powers of the subjective life grow stale and sterile. This mental malady of over-abstraction from the world we may call Addled Subjectivity. It is a kind of moral leprosy, to which poet, artist, priest, prophet, philosopher, and sage are all exceedingly prone"]

3: Purposeless Materialism: Superfluous Power

We have with considerable cleverness devised mechanical apparatus to counteract the effect of lengthening time and space distances, to increase the amount of power available for performing unnecessary work, and to increase the waste of time attendant upon irrelevant and superficial intercourse. But our success in doing these things has blinded us to the fact that such devices are not by themselves marks of efficiency or of intelligent social effort. Canning and refrigeration as a means of distributing a limited food supply over the year, or of making it available in areas distant from the place originally grown, represent a real gain. The use of canned goods, on the other hand, in country districts when fresh fruits and vegetables are available comes to a vital and social loss. The very fact that mechanization lends itself to large-scale industrial and financial organization, and marches in step with the whole distributing mechanism of capitalist society frequently gives an advantage to such indirect and ultimately more inefficient methods.

...while the uniformity of performance in human beings, pushed beyond a certain point, deadens initiative and lowers the whole tone of the organism, uniformity of performance in machines and standardization of the product works in the opposite direction.

4: Co-operation versus Slavery

The regularization of time, the increase in mechanical power, the multiplication of goods, the contraction of time and space, the standardization of performance and product, the transfer of skill to automata, and the increase of collective interdependence-- these... are the chief characteristics of our machine civilization. They are the basis of the particular forms of life and modes of expression that distinguish Western Civilization... from the various earlier civilizations that preceded it.

5: Direct Attack on the Machine

The conquest of Western Civilization by the machine was not accomplished without stubborn resistance on the part of institutions and habits and impulses which did not lend themselves to mechanical organization. From the very beginning the machine provoked compensatory or hostile reactions. In the world of ideas, romanticism and utilitarianism go side by side.... . The direct reaction of the machine was to make people materialistic and rational: its indirect action was often to make them hyper-emotional and irrational. The tendency to ignore the second set of reactions because they did not logically coincide with the claims of the machine has unfortunately been common in many critics of the new industrial order: even Veblen was not free from it.

Seeking only the persistence of old ways, the enemies of the machine were fighting a rear-guard retreat, and they were on the side of the dead even when they espoused the organic against the mechanical.

6: Romantic and Utilitarian

The broadest general split in ideas occasioned by the machine was that between the Romantic and the Utilitarian. Carried along by the industrial and commercial ideals of his age, the utilitarian was at one with its purposes.

What most obviously prevented a clean victory of capitalistic and mechanical ideals was the tissue of ancient institutions and habits of thought: friendly affection and comradeship might be as powerful a motive in life as profit making: or that present animal health might be more precious than future material acquisitions-- in short, that the whole man might be worth preserving at the expense of the utmost success and power of the Economic Man. Indeed, some of the sharpest criticism of the new mechanical creed came from the tory aristocrats in England, France, and in the Southern States of the United States.
Romanticism in all its manifestations... was an attempt to restore the essential activities of human life to a central place in the new scheme, instead of accepting the machine as a center, and holding all its values to be final and absolute.

Vital organs of life, which have been amputated through historic accident, must be restored at least in fantasy, as preliminary to their actual rebuilding a fact: a psychosis is sometimes the only possible alternative to complete disruption and death. [...] The romantic movement was retrospective, walled-in, sentimental: in a word, regressive. ...it was a movement of escape.

The romantic reaction took many forms:.... the cult of history and nationalism, the cult of nature, and the cult of the primitive.

7: The Cult of the Past

The cult of the past did not immediately develop in response to the machine; it was, in Italy, an attempt to resume the ideas and forms of classical civilization.... .

By the eigteenth century the Renascence culture itself was sterilized, pedanticized, formalized... .

Thanks to the dominance of the machine... a layer of this civilization began to spread like a film of oil over the planet at large: machine textiles supplanated hand-woven ones,... and even in distant Polynesia bodies of the natives, while syphilis and rum, introduced at the same time as the Bible, added a special physical horror to their degradation. Wherever this film of oil spread, the living fish were poisoned and their bloated bodies rose to the surface of the water, adding their own decay to the stench of the oil itself. The new mechanical civilization respected neither place nor past. In the reaction that it provoked place and past were the two aspects of existence that were over-stressed.
This reaction appeared definitely in the eighteenth century, just at the moment that the paleotechnic revolution was getting under way. It began as an attempt to take up the old threads of life at the point where the Renascence had dropped them: it was thus a return to the Middle Ages and a re-reading of their significance... . ...poets and architects and critics disclosed once more the wealth and interest of the old local life in Europe: they showed how much engineering had lost by deserting gothic forms for the simpler post and lintel construction of classical architecture, and how much literature had forfeited by its extravagant interest in classical forms and its snobbish parade of classical allusions, while the most poignant emotions were embodied in the local ballads that still lingered on in the countryside.
By this "gothic" revival a slight check was placed upon the centralizing, exploitative, and de-regionalizing process of the machine civilization. Local folk lore and local fairy tales were collected by scholars like the Brothers Grim...; local monuments of archaeology were preserved.... . Local legends were collected... . Most potent of all, local languages and dialects were pounced upon, in the very act of dying, and restored to life by turning them to literary uses.

The revival of place interests and language interests, focused in the new appreciation of regional history, is one of the definite characteristics of nineteenth century culture. Because it was in direct conflict with the cosmopolitan free-trade imperialism of the leading economic thought of the period... this new regionalism was never carefully appraised or sufficiently appreciated in the early days of its existence.

Cont. 292


12: Towards a Dynamic Equilibrium

'The Uncanny' by Sigmund Freud (1919)

A selection from Freud's essay The Uncanny, 1919.


...the “uncanny” is that class of the terrifying which leads back to something long known to us, once very familiar. How this is possible, in what circumstances the familiar can become uncanny and frightening, I shall show in what follows.

The German word unheimlich [Throughout this paper “uncanny” is used as the English translation of “unheimlich,” literally “unhomely” —Trans.] is obviously the opposite of heimlich, heimisch, meaning “familiar,” “native,” “belonging to the home”; and we are tempted to conclude that what is “uncanny” is frightening precisely because it is not known and familiar. Naturally not everything which is new and unfamiliar is frightening, however; the relation cannot be inverted. We can only say that what is novel can easily become frightening and uncanny; some new things are frightening but not by any means all. Something has to be added to what is novel and unfamiliar to make it uncanny. On the whole, Jentsch did not get beyond this relation of the uncanny to the novel and unfamiliar. He ascribes the essential factor in the production of the feeling of uncanniness to intellectual uncertainty; so that the uncanny would always be that in which one does not know where one is, as it were. The better orientated in his environment a person is, the less readily will he get the impression of something uncanny in regard to the objects and events in it. It is not difficult to see that this definition is incomplete, and we will therefore try to proceed beyond the equation of unheimlich with unfamiliar.

In Daniel Sanders’ W├Ârterbuch der deutschen Sprache (1860), the following remarks [abstracted in translation] are found upon the word heimlich...

Heimlich, adj.:

I. Also heimelich, heinielig, belonging to the house, not strange, familiar, tame, intimate, comfortable, homely, etc.

II. Concealed, kept from sight, so that others do not get to know about it, withheld from others, cf. Geheim [secret]; so also Heimlichkeit for Geheimnis [secret]. To do something heimlich, i.e. behind someone’s back; to steal away heimlich; heimlich meetings and appointments; to look on with heimlich pleasure at someone’s discomfiture; to sigh or weep heimlich; to behave heimlich, as though there was something to conceal; heimlich love, love-affair, sin; heimlich places (which good manners oblige us to conceal). [...]
“‘Unheimlich’ is the name for everything that ought to have remained . . . hidden and secret and has become visible,” Schelling. “To veil the divine, to surround it with a certain Unheimlichkeit.”—Unheimlich is not often used as opposite to meaning II.

...among its different shades of meaning the word heimlich exhibits one which is identical with its opposite, unheimlich. What is heimlich thus comes to be unheimlich. [...] In general we are reminded that the word heimlich is not unambiguous, but belongs to two sets of ideas, which, without being contradictory, are yet very different: on the one hand it means what is familiar and agreeable, and on the other, what is concealed and kept out of sight [editors note: i.e., in the sense of being kept within the confines of the home, and not exposed to public view. Unheimlich is customarily used, we are told, as the contrary only of the first signification of heimlich, and not of the second.
 Sanders tells us nothing concerning a possible genetic connection between these two sorts of meanings. On the other hand, we notice that Schelling says something which throws quite a new light on the concept of the Unheimlich, for which we were certainly not prepared. According to him, everything is unheimlich that ought to have remained secret and hidden [i.e., in the home] but has come to light.
Thus heimlich is a word the meaning of which develops in the direction of ambivalence, until it finally coincides with its opposite, unheimlich. Unheimlich is in some way or other a sub-species of heimlich. Let us bear this discovery in mind, though we cannot yet rightly understand it, alongside of Schelling’s definition of the Unheimlich. If we go on to examine individual instances of uncanniness, these hints will become intelligible to us.


The theme of the ‘double’ has been very thoroughly treated by Otto Rank (1914). He has gone into the connections which the ‘double’ has with reflections in mirrors, with shadows, with guardian spirits, with the belief in the soul and with the fear of death; but he also lets in a flood of light on the surprising evolution of the idea. For the ‘double’ was originally an insurance against the destruction of the ego, an ‘energetic denial of the power of death,’ as Rank says; and probably the ‘immortal’ soul was the first ‘double’ of the body. This invention of doubling as a preservation against extinction has its counterpart in the language of dreams, which is fond of representing castration by a doubling or multiplication of a genital symbol. The same desire led the Ancient Egyptians to develop the art of making images of the dead in lasting materials. Such ideas, however, have sprung from the soil of unbounded self-love, from the primary narcissism which dominates the mind of the child and of primitive man. But when this stage has been surmounted, the ‘double’ reverses its aspect. From having been an assurance of immortality, it becomes the uncanny harbinger of death.

The idea of the ‘double’ does not necessarily disappear with the passing of primary narcissism, for it can receive fresh meaning from the later stages of the ego’s development. A special agency is slowly formed there, which is able to stand over against the rest of the ego, which has the function of observing and criticizing the self and of exercising a censorship within the mind, and which we become aware of as our ‘conscience.’ In the pathological case of delusions of being watched, this mental agency becomes isolated, dissociated from the ego, and discernible to the physician’s eye. The fact that an agency of this kind exists, which is able to treat the rest of the ego like an object — the fact, that is, that man is capable of self-observation — renders it possible to invest the old idea of a ‘double’ with a new meaning and to ascribe a number of things to it — above all, those things which seem to self-criticism to belong to the old surmounted narcissism of earliest times.

But it is not only this latter material, offensive as it is to the criticism of the ego, which may be incorporated in the idea of a double. There are also all the unfulfilled but possible futures to which we still like to cling in phantasy, all the strivings of the ego which adverse external circumstances have crushed, and all our suppressed acts of volition which nourish in us the illusion of Free Will. [Cf. Freud, 1901b, Chapter XII (B).]

But after having thus considered the manifest motivation of the figure of a ‘double,’ we have to admit that none of this helps us to understand the extraordinarily strong feeling of something uncanny that pervades the conception; and our knowledge of pathological mental processes enables us to add that nothing in this more superficial material could account for the urge towards defence which has caused the ego to project that material outward as something foreign to itself. When all is said and done, the quality of uncanniness can only come from the fact of the ‘double’ being a creation dating back to a very early mental stage, long since surmounted — a stage, incidentally, at which it wore a more friendly aspect. The ‘double’ has become a thing of terror, just as, after the collapse of their religion, the gods turned into demons.