Home Boris Menu Next
THE SOURCE AND AIM OF HUMAN PROGRESS
(A STUDY IN SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY AND SOCIAL PATHOLOGY)
Boris Sidis, Ph.D., M.D.
Boston: Badger, 1919
To My Dear Friends
ABOUT twenty-five years ago I published in my Psychology of Suggestion a series of experiments on Normal and Abnormal Suggestibility carried on at various laboratories including my own laboratory. I developed the psycho-physiological theory of the subconscious, traced the causation and nature of subconscious activities, and worked out the laws of normal and abnormal suggestibility. The following pertains to our present subject:
The nervous centers of man's nervous system, if classified as to function, may be divided into inferior and superior. The inferior centers are characterized by reflex and automatic activities. A stimulus excites the peripheral nerve-endings of some sense-organ. At once a nerve-current is set up in the afferent nerves. The current in its turn stimulates a plexus of central ganglia, the nerve energy of which is set free, and is propagated along the efferent nerves towards muscles and glands,—secretions, muscular contractions and relaxations are the result; biologically regarded, various reactions and adjustments follow.
Ingoing and outgoing nerve currents with their various end reactions may be modified by the nerve centers. Nerve currents' may be intensified, decreased in energy, or even entirely inhibited by central ganglia or by their mutual interaction and interferences. Sherrington and other physiologists have by a number of experiments formulated some of the important principles of such physiological activities. A law of inhibition or interference early formulated by Ziehen may suffice: " If an excitation of a definite intensity (m) take place in one cortical element (b), and another excitation of a different intensity take place at the same time in another cortical element (t) which is connected by a path of conduction with element (b), the two intensities of excitation may modify each other."
Although such modifications frequently occur, it nevertheless remains true that the inferior nerve-centers are of a reflex nature. No sooner is the nerve-energy of a lower center set free than at once it tends to discharge itself into action. Thus every sensation, perception, feeling, emotion, thought, or belief, if left uncontrolled, tends to be translated into some appropriate movement, action, or reaction. The physiological process of setting free the nerve energy in a central ganglion, or in a system of central ganglia, is accompanied by activity in the simpler, but more organized, more integrated nerve centers, and by the lower psychic functions of simple sentience, sensibility; and in the more complex, but less integrated, less organized centers; by the higher psychic functions of consciousness, such as sensations, precepts, images, ideas, and emotions.
Turning now to the superior or the highest nerve-centers, we find that they are characterized by the highest mental functions, thought and reasoning, choice and will. A number of impressions, sensations and precepts reach those thought and will-centers; then a critical, a sifting, a selecting, a controlling or inhibitory process begins. Some of the mental states are modified and are permitted to develop within certain limits, others are given full play, while still others, and possibly the majority of them, are rejected and inhibited, not taking effect in reactions and adjustments to the environment.
The inhibited states belong to the great number of possible states with their reactions out of which selection is made by the critical thought and will-centers. These mental states, images, ideas, and feelings with their end-reactions, out of which selection is made, Galton aptly terms "the antechamber of consciousness." They are on the margin of consciousness, and are partly of a conscious and partly of a subconscious character. To quote from Galton: "Although the brain is able to do fair work fluently in an automatic way, and though it will of its own accord, strike out sudden and happy ideas, it is questionable if it is capable of working thoroughly and profoundly without past or present effort. The character of this effort seems to me chiefly to lie in bringing the contents of the antechamber more nearly within the ken of consciousness, which then takes comprehensive note of all its contents, and compels the logical faculty to test t[?] seriatim before selecting the fittest. for a summons to the pres[?] of the chamber. The thronging of the antechamber is, I am convinced, beyond my control."
Mental activity in its rational or integrative aspects whether logical, moral, or aesthetic, is essentially selective in character. The logical process draws definite conclusions from given premises; the moral man or the ethical thinker regards definite relations in behavior response to definite relations in the environment as right or wrong;while the artist or the one who enjoys artistic work appreciates definite relations and combinations as the artistic and the beautiful. Even ordinary life where the process of selection is not so rigid as in the arts, sciences, and philosophy, still the process of attention for the maintenance of rationality is a severe judge in the rejection of unfit streams of thoughts and ideas that may present themselves in the antechamber of consciousness, as Galton terms the state of the mind. In a train of ideas, few ideas of the total mass that offer themselves are accepted, or utilized by the guiding, controlling consciousness to acted upon in the life adjustments of the organism. This holds true not only of the material needs, but more especially of the spiritual interests of man. The higher the level of mental activity, the more finite, the more precise, the more rigid the selective process becomes. The stream of consciousness, as it rushes along, selects, synthesizes or, physiologically speaking, integrates those trains of ideas which help most effectually to reach the destination, or, in other words, are especially fit for the purpose in hand.
This selective will-activity of the highest nerve-systems, given in the will-effort of selection, forms the very nucleus of man's rational life.These superior selective "choice and will centers," localized by Ferrier, Wundt, Bianchi and others, in the frontal lobes, and by others in the upper layers of the cortex, on account of their selective and inhibitory functions, may be characterized as selective and inhibitory centers par excellence.
Man's nerve organization may thus be classified into two main systems: I. the inferior, including the reflex, the instinctive, the automatic centres; and II. the superior, the controlling, selective, and inhibitory brain-centres of the cortex. Parallel to the double systems of nerve-centres, we also have a double mental activity, or double-consciousness as it is sometimes called, the inferior, the organic, the instinctive, the automatic, the reflex consciousness, or briefly termed the subconciousness; and the superior, the choosing, the willing; the critical, the will-consciousness. This controlling will-consciousness may also be characterized as the guardian-consciousness of the species and of the individual.
From an evolutionary, or teleological standpoint, we can well realize the biological function or importance of this guardian-consciousness. The external world bombards the living organisminnumerable stimuli. From all sides thousands of impressions come crowding upon the senses of the individual. Each impression with appropriate receptors has its corresponding system of reactions which if not modified or counteracted, may end in some harmful or fatal result. It is not of advantage to the organism of a highly complex organization to respond with reactions to all impressions coming from the external environment. Hence, that organism will succeed best in the struggle for existence that possesses some selective, critical inhibitory "choice and will" centres. The more organized and the more sensitive and delicate those centres are, the better will the organism succeed in its life existence. The guardian consciousness wards off, as far as it is possible, the harmful blows given by the stimuli of the external environment. In man, this same guardian consciousness keeps on constructing, by a series of elimination and selection, a new environment, individual and social, which leads to an ever higher and more perfect development and realization of the inner powers of individuality and personality.
Under normal conditions man's superior and inferior centres with their corresponding upper, critical, controlling consciousness together with the inferior automatic, reflex centres and their concomitant subconscious consciousness keep on functioning in full harmony. The upper and lower consciousness form one organic unity, one conscious active personality. Under certain abnormal conditions, however, the two systems of nerve-centres with their corresponding mental activities may become dissociated. The superior nerve-centers with their critical, controlling consciousness may become inhibited, split off from the rest of the nervous system. The reflex, automatic, instinctive, subconscious centres with their mental functions are laid bare, thus becoming directly accessible to the stimuli of the outside world; they fall a prey to the influences of external surrounding influences termed suggestions. The critical, controlling, guardian consciousness, being cut off and absent, the reduced individuality lacks the rational guidance and orientation, given by the upper control- and will-centres, becomes the helpless plaything of all sorts of suggestions, sinking into the trance states of the subconscious. It is the subconscious that forms the highway of suggestions, suggestibility being its essential characteristic. The subconscious rises to the face of consciousness, so to say, whenever there is a weakening, paralysis, or inhibition of the upper, controlling will and choice-centre, or in other words, whenever there is a disaggregation of the superior from the inferior nerve-centers, followed by an increase of ideosensory, ideo-motor, sensori-secretory, reflex excitability; and ideationally, or rationally by an abnormal intensity and extensity of suggestibility. In order to bring to the fore subconscious activities with their reflex, automatic psycho-motor reactions by removal of the upper consciousness I have found requisite, in my investigations, the following conditions:
Normal Suggestibility,—Suggestibility in the Normal, Waking State:
(I) Fixation of the Attention.
(2) Distraction of the Attention.
(4) Limitation of Voluntary Activity.
(5) Limitation of the Field of Consciousness.
(7) Immediate Execution of the Suggestion.(6) Inhibition.
Abnormal Suggestibility,—Suggestibility in Hypnotic and Trance States:
(1) Fixation of the Attention.
(3) Limitation of Voluntary Activity.
(4) Limitation of the Field
The nature of abnormal suggestibility, the result of my investigations given in the same volume, is a disaggregation of consciousness, a cleavage of the mind, a cleft that may become ever deeper and wider, ending in a total disjunction of the waking, guiding, controlling guar in-consciousness from the automatic, reflex, subconscious consciousness. . . . Normal suggestibility is of like nature,—it is a cleft the mind; only here the cleft is not so deep, not so lasting as in hypnosis or in the other subconscious trance states; the split is here but momentary; the mental cleavage, or the psycho-physiological disaggregation of the superior from the inferior centres with their concomitant psychic activities is evanescent, fleeting, often disappearing at the moment of its appearance.
In the same work the following laws of suggestibility were formed by me:
(I) Normal suggestibility varies as indirect suggestion and inversely as direct suggestion. (II) Abnormal suggestibility varies as direct suggestion and inversely as indirect suggestion.
A comparison of the conditions of normal and abnormal suggestibility is valuable, since it reveals the nature of suggestibility, and discloses its fundamental law. An examination of the two sets of conditions shows that in abnormal suggestibility two conditions, distraction of attention and immediate execution are absent, otherwise the conditions are the same. This sameness of conditions clearly indicates the fact that both normal and abnormal suggestibility flow from some one common source, that they are of like nature, and due to similar causes. Now a previous study led us to the conclusion that the nature of abnormal suggestibility is a disaggregation of consciousness, a split produced in the mind, a crack that may become wider and deeper, ending in a total disjunction of the waking, guiding, controlling consciousness from the reflex consciousness. Normal suggestibility is of like nature, it is a cleft in the mind; only here the cleft is not so deep, not so lasting as it is in hypnosis, or in the state of abnormal suggestibility. The split is here but momentary, disappearing almost at the very moment of its appearance.
This fleeting, evanescent character of the split explains why suggestion in the normal state, why normal suggestibility requires immediate execution as one of its indispensable conditions. We must take the opportunity of the momentary ebb of the controlling consciousness and hastily plant our suggestion in the soil of reflex consciousness. We must watch for this favorable moment, not let it slip by, otherwise the suggestion is a failure. Furthermore, we must be careful to keep in abeyance, for the moment, the ever-active waves of the controlling consciousness. We must find for them work in some other direction; we must divert, we must distract them. That is why normal suggestibility requires the additional conditions of distraction and of immediate execution. For in the waking state the waking, controlling consciousness is always on its guard, and, when enticed away, leaves its ground only for a moment. In normal suggestibility the psychic split is but faint; the lesion, effected in the b[...?]consciousness, is superficial, transitory, fleeting. In abnormal suggestibility, on the contrary, the split is deep and lasting,—it is a severe gash. In both cases, however, we have a removal, a dissociation of waking from the subwaking, reflex consciousness, suggestion becoming effected only through the latter. For suggestibility is the attribute of the subwaking, reflex consciousness.
A comparison of the two laws discloses the same relation. The two laws are the reverse of each other, thus clearly indicating the presence of a controlling inhibiting conscious element in one case, and its absence in the other. In the normal state we must guard against the inhibitory, waking consciousness, and we have to make our suggestion as indirect as possible. In the abnormal state, on the contrary, no circumspection is needed; the controlling, inhibitory waking consciousness is more or less absent, the subwaking, reflex consciousness is exposed to external stimuli, and our suggestions are therefore )the more effective, the more direct we make them. Suggestibility is a function of disaggregation of consciousness, a disaggregation in which the subwaking, reflex consciousness enters into direct communication with the external world, The general law of suggestibility is:
Suggestibility varies as the amount of disaggregation, and inversely as the unification of consciousness.
"The problem that interested me most was to come into close contact with the subwaking self. What is its fundamental nature? What are the main traits of its character? Since in hypnosis the subwaking self is freed from its chains, is untrammeled by the shackles of the upper, controlling self, since in hypnosis the underground self more or less exposed to our view, it is plain that experimentation in the hypnotic self will introduce us into the secret life of the subwaking self; for as we pointed out the two are identical. I have made all kinds of experiments, bringing subjects into catalepsy, somnambulism, [?]iving illusions, hallucinations, post-hypnotic suggestions, etc. As a result of my work one central truth stands out clear, and that is the extraordinary plasticity of the subwaking self.
"If you can only in some way or other succeed in separating the primary controlling consciousness from the lower one, the waking from the subwaking self, so that they should no longer keep company, you can do anything you please with the subwaking self. You can make its legs, its hands, any limb you like, perfectly rigid; you can make it eat pepper for sugar; you can make it drink water for wine; feel cold or warm; hear delightful stories in the absence of all sound; feel pain or pleasure; see oranges where there is nothing; you can make it eat them and enjoy their taste. In short, you can do with the subwaking self anything you like. The subwaking consciousness is in your power, like clay in the hands of a potter. The nature of its plasticity is revealed by its [....] suggestibility.
"I wanted to get an insight into the very nature of the subwaking self; I wished to make a personal acquaintance with it. 'What is its personal character?' I asked. How surprised I was when, after a close interrogation, the answer came to me that there can possibly be no personal acquaintance with it,—for the subwaking self lacks personality."
Under certain conditions a cleavage may occur between the two selves, and then the subwaking self may rapidly grow, develop, and attain (apparently) the plane of self-consciousness, get crystallized into a person, and give itself a name, imaginary, or borrowed from history. (This accounts for the spiritualistic phenomena of personality, guides, controls, and communications by dead personalities, or spirits coming from another world, such as have been observed in the Case of Mrs. Piper and other mediums of like type; it accounts for all the phenomena of multiple personality, simulating the dead or the living, or formed anew out of the matrix of the subconsciousness. All such personality metamorphoses can be easily developed, under favorable conditions, in any psycho-pathological laboratory). The newly crystallized personality is, as a rule, extremely unstable, ephemeral, shadowy in its outlines (spirit-like, ghostlike), tends to become amorphous, being formed again and again under the influence of favorable conditions and suggestions, rising to the surface of consciousness, then sinking into the subconsciousness, and disappearing, only to give rise to new personality metamorphoses, bursting like so many bubbles on the surface of the upper stream of consciousness.
A few quotations from my work on the subject of the subconscious may help to elucidate the main traits of the lower secondary self with its extreme suggestibility and automatic, reflex consciousness:
"The subwaking self is extremely credulous; it lacks all sense of the true and the rational. 'Two and two make five.' 'Yes.' Anything is accepted, if sufficiently emphasized by the hypnotizer. The suggestibility and imitativeness of the subwaking self were discussed by me at great length. What I should like to point out here is the extreme servility and cowardliness of that self. Show hesitation, and it will show fight; command authoritatively, and it will obey slavishly.
"The subwaking self is devoid of all morality. It will steal without the least scruple; it will poison; it will stab; it will assassinate its best friends without the least scruple. When completely cut off from the waking person, it is precluded from conscience."
This explains the many atrocities committed by the Assyian, Macedonian, Roman or German soldier who by a long course of military training had fallen into the degraded and wretched state of the irresponsible, slavish, sub-conscious self.
"The subwaking self dresses to fashion, gossips in company, runs riot in business-panics, revels in the crowd, storms in the mob, parades on the streets, drills in the camp, and prays in revival meetings. Its senses are acute, but its sense is nil. Association by contiguity, theautomatic, reflex mental mechanism of the brute, is the only one it possesses.
"The subwaking self lacks all personality and individuality; it is absolutely servile. It has no moral law, no law at all. To be a law unto one-self, the chief and essential characteristic of personality, is the very trait the subwaking self so glaringly lacks.
"The subwaking self has no will; it is blown hither and thither by all sorts of incoming suggestions. It is essentially a brutal self.
"The primary self alone possesses true personality, will, and self-control. The primary self alone is a law unto itself,—a personality having the power of investigating its own nature, of discovering faults, creating ideals, striving after them, struggling for them, and byefforts of will attaining to higher and higher stages of personality."
Suggestibility is a fundamental attribute of man's nature. We should, therefore, expect that man in his social capacity would manifest this general property; and such do we actually find to be the case. What is required is the bringing about of a disaggregation in the social consciousness. Such a disaggregation may either be fleeting, unstable, the type is that of normal suggestibility; or the disaggregation may become stable, the type is that of abnormal suggestibility. The one is the suggestibility of the crowd, the latter that of the mob. In the mob direct suggestion is effective, in the crowd indirect suggestion. The deft stump orator, the politician, the preacher, fixes the attention of the crowd on himself, while interesting the hearers in his "subject." The orator, the preacher, or the demagogue, the politician, distracts the attention of the crowd by his stories, frequently giving his suggestion in some indirect and striking way, winding tp the long yarn by a climax, requiring immediate execution of the suggestion.
The condition of limitation of voluntary movements is of paramount importance in suggestibility in general, since it brings about a narrowing down of the field of consciousness which of all other conditions is most favorable to dissociation. The condition of limitation of voluntary movements is one of the prime conditions that helps to bring about a deep, a more or less lasting dissociation in the consciousness of the crowd,—the crowd passes into the mob-state. A large gathering, on account of the cramping of voluntary movements, easily falls into a state of abnormal suggestibility. Large assemblies carry within themselves the germs of the possible mob. The crowd contains within itself all the elements and conditions favourable to a disaggregation of consciousness. What is required is that an interesting object, or that some sudden, violent impression should strongly fix the attention of the crowd, and plunge it into that state in which the waking personality is shorn of its dignity and power, and the naked, subwaking self remains alone to face the external environment.
Besides limitation of the voluntary movements and contraction of the field of consciousness, there are also present in the crowd, the matrix of the mob, the conditions of monotony and inhibition. When the preacher, the politician, the stump orator, the ringleader, the hero, gains the ear of the crowd, an ominous silence sets in, a silence frequently characterized as "awful." The crowd is in a state of over strained expectation; with suspended breath it watches the hero or the interesting, all absorbing object. Disturbing impressions are excluded, put down, or driven away by force. All interfering influence and ideas are inhibited. The crowd is entranced, and rapidly merge into the mob-state.
The suggestion given to the entranced crowd by the "master" or hero spreads like wild fire. The suggestion reverberates from individual to individual, gathers strength, becomes overwhelming, drivingcrowd into a fury of activity, into a frenzy of excitement. As the suggestions are taken up by the mob and executed, the wave of excitement rises higher and higher. Each fulfilled suggestion increases the emotion of the mob in volume and intensity. Each new attack is followed by a more violent paroxysm of furious, demoniac frenzy. The mob is like an avalanche, the more it rolls, the more menacing and dangerous it grows. The suggestion given by the hero, by the ringleader, by the master of the moment, who simply gives expression to the subconscious passions of the mob, is taken up by the crowd, and is reflected and reverberated from man to man, until every soul is dizzied, and every person is stunned. In the entranced crowd, in the mob, every one influences and is influenced in his turn; every one suggests and is suggested to; until the surging billow of excitement and mob-energy swells and rises, reaching a formidable height.
Let the crowd, the mass or the mob, be indicated by m and its energy by E, the energy of another mass m1 be E1. On account of the interaction of the masses the result will be m multiplied by m1 or mm1 and their energies EE1; the energies of masses m, m1, m2, give rnm1m2 or EE1E2. If the masses are equal, the energies are respectively E, E2, E3, and so on. While the masses grow by equal increments of m, the energies increase by the factor E. The masses are respectively: m, 2m, 3m, 4m, 5m, and so on, the corresponding energies are: E1, E2, E3, E4, E5. Mob-energy rises as the powers of the mass. We may say then that while the masses increase in arithmetical progression, the energies of the masses increase in a geometrical progression.* In other words, the masses grow as the logarithms of their energies. In short, if M is the mass of the mob, then M = Log E.*
If m is 10 and E is 10, then a mass of 2m gives an energy of10 2, a mass of 3m yields an energy of 10 3, a mass of 4m gives an energy of 10 4, or 10,000, a mass of 5m gives an energy of 10 5 or 100,000. While the mass increases in an arithmetical progression of 10, the mass energy grows in a geometrical progression of 10. Briefly stated, the mass grows as the logarithm of mass-energy.
A knowledge of the subconscious and of the laws of suggestibility are of vital consequence in Social Psychology in general and in Social Pathology in particular. As the great Sociologist, Tarde, points out:"To understand thoroughly the essential social fact, as I perceive it, knowledge of the infinitely subtle facts of mind is necessary,—the roots of what seems to be even the simplest and most superficial kind of sociology strike far down into the depths of the most inward and hidden parts of Psychology and Phy[siology?]."
In surveying human life in its organized capacity, from the lowest to the highest forms of social organizations in the great wealth of their manifestation, economic, tribal, totemic, sex and family relationship, marriage, art, morals, religion, magic, beliefs, practices, rites, taboos, and other social phenomena, the student of Social Psychology cannot help being impressed with the important rôleplayed by the instinctive, automatic, reflex consciousness, or the subconscious with its normal and abnormal suggestibility in the protean forms and activities taken by the metamorphic and anamorphic social spirit of aggregate humanity. If there is truth in Aristotle's dictum that man is a social or rather a gregarious animal, or in that of Tarde's and others that man is an imitative animal, there a deeper truth in the more fundamental view, which really includes all others, that man is by nature, or by his subconscious nature, a suggestible animal.
Man's subconsciousness, with its conditions and laws of normal and abnormal suggestibility, works on a large scale in the social evolution of the human race. In the course of human development and the incessant building of new social structures with their corresponding functions we find the activities of the upper controlling, regulating, ordering, critical consciousness, rationalizing the formative activities of the subconscious with its characteristic reflex, instinctive, automatic, suggestible consciousness. The rational progress of human societies depends on the interaction and synthesis of the upper and lower consciousness. When, however, the upper critical consciousness is kept in abeyance, or is dissociated from the lower self, society becomes subject to all forms of social diseases, mental epidemics, mob-actions, riots, horde-attacks, blind slaughters, massacres, pogroms, revolts, mass upheavals, mass movements on a great scale, such as are manifested in migrations of tribes and nations, or in local, national, and world-wars. The very weakening of the controlling social consciousness causes the social mind to become predisposed to overaction of the social subconsciousness with its abnormal suggestibility and consequent social, psychic diseases and mental epidemics of all sorts and description. For a clear understanding of Social Psychology and Social Pathology one should keep in mind the following laws formulated in my "Psychology of Suggestion":
(I) Social subconsciousness is the vehicle of suggestibility and more specially of abnormal suggestibility.
(II) Suggestibility varies as the amount of disaggregation of social consciousness and inversely as the unification or synthesis of social consciousness.
(III) Social, impulsive, reflex action is in inverse relation to the synthesis of the upper consciousness and the reflex subconscious.
(IV) While the social aggregate grows in an arithmetical progression, the emotional excitement of the aggregate grows in a geometrical progression; or the emotional energy rises as the powers of the mass, the mass varying as the logarithm of its energy.
(V) The greater the uniformity of the constituent units of social mass, the greater the mass-energy, and the more powerfulthe effects of social suggestibility. In other words, social suggestibility is directly proportional to the uniformity of the social aggregate.
(VI) Individuality is in inverse relation to the social mass.
(VII) The conditions of normal and abnormal suggestibility, such as Fixation of the Attention, Limitation of Activity, Suppression of Variations, Monotony, Contraction of the Field of Social and Individual Consciousness, and inhibition of non-conforming ideas, ideals, and beliefs, leading to a weakening and paralysis of the critical consciousness, tend to the laying bare of the suggestible subconscious with its consequent deleterious effects. The main principles of social psychology, outlined in my "Psychology of Suggestion" were adopted by Prof. Ross in his "Social Psychology":
"In the normal state" Professor Ross writes suggestion should be as indirect as possible in order to catch the inhibitory, waking self 'off its guard.' In the abnormal state no circumspection is needed; the controlling, inhibitory, waking consciousness is more or less dormant, the subwaking reflex consciousness is exposed, and our suggestions are more effective the more direct they are." Ross then quotes our general law of suggestibility formulated in The Psychology of Suggestion; "Suggestion (suggestibility) varies as the amount of disaggregation and inversely as the unification of consciousness."
"The primary self is the self with personality and will. . . .It alone embodies the results of reflection, and it alone holds life true to a personal ideal. It is the captain of the ship. . . . If now this primary self is overthrown or put to sleep, the subwaking self becomes the master of the ship. This (subconscious) self has little reason, will, or conscience. . . . It is imitative, servile, credulous, swung hither and thither by all sorts of incoming suggestions. The life it prompts cannot be stable, self consistent, integrated. It is low on the scale of personality, and a situation that commits to its hands the helm of the individual life is fraught with disaster." From this standpoint Ross discusses social suggestibility, the crowd, and the mob mind, worked out in my work on the psychology and pathology of the individual and society.
Ross further realizes the import in the domain of social psychology of the factors and conditions of normal and abnormal suggestibilityas developed in my "Psychology of Suggestion." Thus he writes: "Sidis goes further in declaring 'If anything gives us a strong rise of our individuality, it is surely our voluntary movements. We may say that the individual self grows and expands with the increase of variety and intensity of its voluntary activity; and conversely, the life of the individual self sinks, shrinks with the decrease of variety and intensity of voluntary movements.' Here, perhaps, is the reason why individuality is so wilted in a dense throng." . . . "A crowd self will not arise unless there is an orientation (fixation) of attention, expectancy, narrowing of the field of consciousness that excludes disturbing impressions."
"With the growing fascination of the mass for the individual, his consciousness contracts to the pin point of the immediate moment, and the volume of suggestion needed to start on its conquering career becomes less and less. He becomes automatic, in a way unconscious. The end is a tranced impressionable condition akin to hypnosis. . . .The crowd self is ephemeral. . . .The crowd is unstable. . . . The crowd self is credulous . . . Rational analysis andtest are out of the question. The faculties which we doubt with are asleep . . . The crowd self is irrational . . . His (man in the crowd) actions are near to reflexes . . . The crowd self show simplicity . . . Finally, the crowd self is immoral. . . ."
Similarly Professor Giddings of Columbia University refers to these laws and their corollaries in his Sociology: "There are three of these laws" Professor Giddings writes in his work "that may be regarded as demonstrated: "Impulsive, social action is commenced by those social elements that are least self-controlled."
"The Law of Restraint of impulsive social action is: Impulsive social action varies with the habit of attaining ends by indirect, or complex means." In other words, impulsive social action varies with the attainment of ends by rational means, free from impulsive, emotional excitement, characteristic of the reflex, automatic consciousness or subconsciousness.
"The Law of extent and intensity of social action is: Impulsive social action tends to extend and to intensify in geometrical progression." This is my Law of Logarithmic relation of social mass and it energy.
I may add another important factor in Social Psychology, a factor revealed by my researches in the pathology of the human mind.
The disaggregation of social consciousness predisposes to the arousal of one of the most fundamental of impulses and instincts,—the impulse of self-preservation with its accompanying fear instinct. The subconscious is specially affected by self and fear suggestions, direct and indirect, which tend to awaken and stimulate the uncontrollable, slumbering impulse of self-preservation and fear which are ever ready to awaken and burst the bonds in which they are kept in the subconscious regions by the controlling, rational, personal consciousness. Once self-preservation and fear are aroused they magnify and intensify the pathogenic state of subconscious social activities.
"Intimidation" says Tarde "plays an immense part in society under the name of 'respect.' Every one will acknowledge this, and although the part is sometimes misinterpreted, it is never in the least exaggerated. Respect is neither unmixed fear nor unmixed love, nor is it merely the combination of the two, it is a fear which is beloved by him who entertains it." All taboos, covering the vast field of human life, religion, magic, family, marriage relationships, articles of diet, details of modes of living, rules of behavior, involving the minutiae of life of primitive societies, savage, barbarian and civilized, all the codes of law, religious, ceremonial, legal, political, all customs and rites and beliefs which control the human race in the course of its evolution, take their origin in self and fear. According to anthropological research all human institutions with all their taboos are based on fears of perils, often of an extremely superstitious nature, perils of soul and body, fears of impending evil of the supernatural before which gregarious man quails in terror of his life. The impulse of self-preservation and the fear-instinct are at the basis of social organized life activities. The taboos, the laws, the rules of gen[s]es, tribes, and nations, from the lowest to the highest, are upheld by a vague terror and sacred awe which society impresses on man by threats of ill-luck, fearful evil, and terrible punishments befalling sinners and transgressors of the tabooed, of the holy and the forbidden, charged with a mysterious, highly contagious, and virulently infective life-consuming energy. As the English anthropologist, Frazer, puts it: "Men are undoubtedly more influenced by what they fear than by what they love." The Bible lays special stress on the fear of God as the font of wisdom. The Biblical love is saturated with fear of the supernatural. Lack of obedience to commandments, in modern religions lack of faith, is threatened with fearful tortures and eternal damnation in hell. Throughout the course of human evolution, through the institutions of gentile savagery and barbarism to political class-civilization, social organization was taboo-intimidation based on self-preservation and fear. Organized society inspires its individual units with abject terror of the least trespass of custom, rule, rite and taboo. "Brute force" as the English anthropologist well puts it "lurks behind custom in the form of what Bagehot has called 'persecuting tendency.' " Society enmeshes the individual in a close and strongly woven network of taboos, customs, commandments, and traditions, all maintained by force and fear.
Fear of the outraged sense of the community inhibits even the very thought of breach of a taboo or violation of custom. The taboo is based on some subconscious fear of some unknown force, or some vague apprehension of a spirit power avenging the awful transgression. The taboo is essentially the fear of the unseen, of the unknown. "A taboo is anything that one must not do lest ill-luck befall. And ill-luck is catching, like an infectious disease. Hence, if some one has committed an act that is not merely a crime, but a sin, it is every one’s concern to wipe out that sin, which is usually done by wiping out the sinner. Mobbish feeling always inclines to violence." This fear of communal anger, manifested at the breaking of some taboo, and resting on social self-preservation and mystic fear of the unknown and the unseen, is at the basis of all social institutions. Self-preservation and fear are at the heart of gregarious man the two: interpenetrate every fibre of his subconscious being.
Plato with his deep insight into the nature of man and society finds fear of such vital importance that he makes the knowledge of what to fear and what not to fear as fundamental in the education of the citizen. Self preservation with its companion the fear instinct dwell in the subconscious depths of gregarious man, and once aroused from slumber and started on their mad career cannot be arrested, they both become uncontrollable, giving rise to social plagues, mental crazes, epidemics and panics highly contagious and virulent in character. This was well brought out in the skillfully conducted campaigns by the various governments in appealing to the masses with their characteristic suggestible subconsciousness, stirring to the very depths the reflex consciousness of gregarious man by all sorts of direct and indirect suggestions of fear of attacks and patriotic reactions of self-defence against such attacks until the evil genie of self-preservation and fear became loose, resulting in a sweeping conflagration of a war of nations with all the horror of diseases, mutilation, and extermination of millions of human lives, over seventeen and a half millions, according to latest accounts, having perished in this world-massacre of the human race.
Of all the mental epidemics that befall aggregate humanity and its subconscious activities, the worst are the mob feelings of the militaristic type The subconscious activities are not rationalized and humanized, they are in fact more brutalized than ever, inasmuch as under the aegis of military law and under the tacit understanding that necessity knows no law, there is no pity and no mercy in war. The worst of crimes are committed for the benefit of the army and the militant nation. The individual in he army becomes used to holding human life in contempt, in fact the greater the slaughter, the greater is his merit; and the more medals, ribbons, and honors of hero-worship are showered on him, the more he becomes, after a time, indifferent to all sorts of himan suffering and loss of human life. We find this difference in the warlike Assyrians who enjoyed the impaling and flaying alive of their prisoners, and in the case of the military Spartans in the treatment of their unfortunate Helots, more specially in the imperial warlike world-conquerors, the Romans, in their love of the brutalities of gladiatorial combats and the popular delightin the shedding if blood on the arena. Thus Lecky in describing Roman society, says: "The gladiatorial games form indeed one feature which to a modern mind is almost inconceivable in its atrocity. That not only men, but women, in an advanced period of civilization,—men and women who not only professed, but very frequently acted upon a high code of morals, should have the carnage of men as their habitual amusement, that all this should have continued for centuries with. scarcely a protest, is one of the most startling facts in moral history. It is, however, perfectly normal, while it opens fields of ethical inquiry of a very deep, though painful character." The great Roman phrase-monger and moralizer Cicero, glorifies gladiatorial games. "When guilty men" proclaims Cicero "are compelled to fight, no better discipline against suffering and death can be presented to the eye." It is instructive for us to learn as well as to ponder on the fact that "the very men who looked down with delight, when the sand of the arena reddened with human blood, made the arena ring with applause when Terence in his famous line: ‘Homo sum, Nihil humani alienum puto’ proclaimed the brotherhood of man." If any protests against those edifying gladiatorial games and ancient forms of movie shows of the arena appeared at all, they came not from the intellectual and ideological classes, but from the despised Jews and from those pariahs of the ancient world, the unwarlike, peace-loving, humble, early Christians who lived by the apparently absurd rule of Christianity: "Love your enemies and return good for evil." There is, however, one feeble protest on record, but it is not from imperial Rome,—it is from the mother of human progress and humanistic civilization, from ancient Athens. "When an attempt was made to introduce the games into Athens, the philosopher Demonax appealed successfully to the better feelings of the people by exclaiming: 'You must first overthrow the altar of pity!' "
Of the many mental epidemics that occurred in the middle ages, the Crusades, on account of their duration, intensity, and extent, are of interest to the student of Social Psychology and Social Pathology.
The crusades agitated Europe for a couple of centuries with a loss of more than seven million men. Peter the Hermit and Pope Urban II were the heroes who first broke the ice, and directed the popular current to the conquest of the Holy Land. The fiery appeals of the emaciated, dwarfish hermit carried everything before them. The frenzy which had unsettled the mind of the hermit was by him communicated to his hearers who, sinking into a trance, fell easy victims to the fearful visions of a disordered mind.
Meantime Pope Urban II convoked two councils, one after another. At the second council that of Clermont, the pope addressed a multitude of thousands of people. His speech was at first listened to in solemn silence. Gradually, however, as the multitude became more and more subject to the action of the suggestion, and began to sink into the subconscious state of social trance as is usual under such conditions, sobs broke out. "Listen to nothing" he exclaimed "but the groans of Jerusalem I . . And remember that the Lord has said 'He that will not take up his cross and follow me is unworthy of me.' You are the soldiers of the cross; wear then on your breast or on your shoulders the blood-red sign of Him who died for the salvation of your soul!" The suggestion took effect, it was irresistible. Leaving the fields and towns, agricultural serfs and petty traders displayed intense eagerness to reach the Holy City. Marching in parades and processions with high floating banners, flags, and sacred images at the sound of drums and praying monks hysterical multitudes called for preparedness in the cause of the holiest of wars,—the war of Christ against the infidel. Nations sank in a state of social somnambulism, obsessed by hatred in the name of Jove, and by war in the name of peace.
The silly, crazed, maniacal subconscious, in spite of its impulsive; and reflex character, often simulates the reflective self by using meaningless, pompous phrases of an idealistic nature. The chattering, irrational brute of the subconscious clothes itself in the tattered garments of rationality and idealism. Few are clear-sighted enough to discern the cloven hoof from under the mantle of the active subconscious, freed from all control of the rational self. Those few who by some luck happen to escape the madness of social hypnotization are afraid to give expression to their thoughts, because they are terrorized by the inquisitorial intolerance of crazed mobs and frenzied nations. Everyone spies and is spied upon in turn; everyone denounces and is denounced in turn for disloyalty to the cause of "humanity" and treason to the sacred flag. The few are forced into silence and submission by threats of violence and torture. If anyone dares to say anything rational, or if he has the courage to set himself in opposition to the maddened current of popular opinion, he is mobbed by pious crowds and is persecuted by inquisitorial courts of justice. Such was the terrible state of the mediaeval crusade-mania. Such in fact is the state of every crusade-mania which seizes on the minds of nations in the long history of national mental epidemics. If any rational person during the crusade epidemic dared to speak a word of warning, the only answer of the hypnotized, entranced crusaders was the suggestion given by the pope: "He who will not follow Me is unworthy of Me." Such conscientious objectors, "sinners undeserving of Me," were usually wiped out by sword and fire.
If we ridicule the mediaeval crusade mania, let us compare it with what took place in our own times, in the first quarter of the twentieth century. At the outbreak of the war for the alleged defense of the Fatherland the excitement of militaristic mania in the central empires of Europe reached a formidable height. There were parades, processions, the carrying high of banners and flags, the preaching of hatred and singing of "Hass" and the patriotic national hymn—"Deutchland ueber Alles"; there were Leagues of Defense and Leagues of Security, and all sorts of societies for fighting the war to a finish and for winning the war. The plague did not spare scientists, philosophers, and theologians; such men as Wundt, Haeckel, and Harnack were affected alike with the lowliest chimney-sweeps and craziest asylum inmates,—all cursed and threatened perfidious England and the treacherous allies, all were obsessed by the fervor of national defense of the imperilled Fatherland. The patriotic crusade of the Fatherland-defense did not spare anyone; the young and the old, the learned and the ignorant. the conservatives and the radicals, the capitalists, the workman, and the international socialists were all alike affected bythis terrible mental epidemic. If anyone happened by chance to escape the plague and give a word of warning he was promptly accused o disloyalty, interned, imprisoned, immured in a cell for years of torture It seemed as if the insane asylums had opened wide their gates and let loose their populations to hold frenzied meetings, and parade the streets in processions of wild excitement with banner, flag, and drum for the salvation of the country. Thus a German medical eye-witness of all those militaristic orgies expressed himself in private: "The streets are now full of the unbalanced and the insane; this is their hour. . . . The war will afford a free arena for every instinct and every form of insanity."
Many of those parades and processions were at first staged and controlled by the ever present hands of the central government and the ruling classes. Then the highly virulent mental germs skillfully inoculated took a hold in the subconscious mind of European humanity; the disease developed rapidly, spread like wild fire, and raged unabated throughout the width and length of the central empires. This virulent epidemic soon spread to neighboring nations, and like its deadly associate, the influenza, reached the farthest corner of the1 habitable globe. In some nations there was a lull of 'neutrality,' the incubating period, followed by an ever rising temperature of popular' excitement, breaking out in series of 'preparedness parades' occurring all over the country from imperial New York, the stockyards of Chicago, the mines and vineyards of California to towns, villages, and hamlets. At first social hypnotization was staged by organizers, leaders, and hypnotizers in the form of parades and processions with banners and flags, to the sound of drums and orations reverberated and magnified by the boom and thunder of the press. The hypnotization took effect, and the demon of the demons began to stir in the depths of the subconscious social self.
Repetition and impressive, persistent suggestion finally brought about a lodgement of the virus in almost every individual of the social aggregate. Neither the learned nor the ignorant could escape the pressure of social suggestion. The way they tumbled one after another or rather one over another as victims to the fatal influence should have been a study of the utmost interest to the student of Social Psychology. Lay, literary and scientific periodicals were full of war literature. Versifiers sang of "the blood-red glory cross of war" while soldiers and sailors made love not only in halls and on the streets, but also in all the best sellers and novelettes. All the posters, all thepictures of every journal in the land were full of war, magazines teeming with photographs of soldiers and sailors and the valorous deeds of the heroes at the front. Who could resist the pressure of insistent war suggestion repeated day after day and month after month? There no let up on Sundays and holidays. The pulpit thundered war, congregations sang battle hymns.
Then came the great "saving" mania. Everything and everybody had to be saved. Circulars were distributed about saving and the war. One went to sleep with war pictures and illustrated circulars of a militaristic character, and woke up with visions of war illustrations. Everything had to be saved. Save Belgium, save the country, pave Democracy, save your food, from potato peelings to the garbage can. The suggestion was irresistible, and the weak human spirit yielded and fell into a deep social trance from which the awakening could not but be one of disillusion. Meanwhile, the war literature, experiences of all kinds of colonels and generals and correspondents grew to enormous proportions. The dust raised by all that waste product which the country could have easily 'saved' blinded the eye and choked the breath. Everybody, young and old, fell to greedily reading the latest book on the war. Everybody was full of war, from the leader in society to the waiter in the club, from the leader in the paper to the wrapper round the grocery man's soap-box. Why wonder that when the air was full of the germs that the war malady spread like wild fire?
The populace became obsessed with a fury of war insanity, withcraze of Victory-mania. Security leagues, unions, associations, clubs promote and advance something or other of a patriotic character to help winning the war were formed all over the country. The enthusiasm of national excitement went far beyond the bounds desired by the government, such as the activities of The National Security League which denounced members of Congress for not being red-blooded Americans, or for not showing one hundred per cent of Americanism, so that Congress in self-defense had to investigate and possibly suppress the activities of over zealous leagues. Leagues of all kinds of is description grew up rapidly and luxuriantly like mushrooms after a rain. Everyone attempted to outshine his neighbor, every one had to outdo his friend in doing his bit to help win the war. Posts, poles, trees, walls, and windows were plastered and placarded with leaflets, decals, and signs for tyhe defense of the nation and the glory of the country. Whoever happened to be skeptical, or not enthusiastic enough, was accused of being 'pro-German' and a spy, with consequences natural to such accusations. Every one tried to out-bawl his neighbor with declarations of loyalty, often of a spurious character.
The trance became deepened, the subconscious emotions of fear anger, and aggression became more and more intensified, fanned as they were by the hot breath of propaganda and the bellows of the press, until the mass of the nation fairly quivered with the feverof enthusiasm and maniacal excitement, an overwhelming mass excitement which no individual could withstand. "Make the world safe for Democracy," "He who does not stand behind Me is disloyal and unworthy of Me" were slogans impressed on the subconscious mind of the public with all the suggestive force of law, press, bema, rostrum, pulpit, and movie, all waving on high old glory, calling crusadei to the battlefield of Democracy in honor of "Courage, Cooties, and Heroes," and for the glory of "the blood-red cross of war." Secretary Lansing has well summed up the general mental state in his appeal: "Let us, as loyal citizens of the Republic, serve in this mighty crusade against Prussianism." For such a mental state can only be paralleled by the crusade mania of the Middle Ages, the mania which cost Europe millions of men, killed and crippled, devastations of populations and countries, followed by the no less terrible epidemic of the Black Plague which ravaged Europe and Asia from end to end, with the destruction of half the human race.
The bestialization produced by war and militant patriotism came openly to the front with all the horrors of savagery, rapine, deportation, atrocities, and the inhuman slaughter of millions of human beings for the glory of the Fatherland and Kultur and for "the making of the world fit for Democracy." Groups of scientists vied with each other in their supply of infernal machines and chemical poisons forwholesale slaughter of mankind. Poisons and poison-gases, more deadly than ever employed by savage man, poisons which even savages and barbarians scorned to use, were utilized triumphantly and jubilantly by Kultur and culture in their mad strife for supremacy. Man could not have fallen to a lower level of vice and depravity. To Aristotelian dictum was well justified in this strife of nations, in this ignoble world war: "A vicious man can do ten thousand times as much harm as a beast." The chivalrous motto of Alexander of Macedon "[in Greek],"was scorned by the generals of civilized nations. Atrocities of the most vicious kind were justified by the watchwords: "This is war!" "Might is Right." "Necessity knows no law." In this world-war nations fell to the lowest level of savagery. The frenzied, suggestible, gregarious, subconscious self, freed from all rational restraints, celebrated its delirious orgies, its corybantic bacchanalia, held its mad salto mortale over the grave of crucified humanity.
* This law, first formulated in "The Psychology of Suggestion," is termed by Professor Giddings in his "Sociology" as "The Law of Extent and Intensity of Social Action." Giddings phrases the Law as follows: "The Law of Extent and Intensity of Social Action is: Impulsive social action tends to extend and intensify in geometrical progression."