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Boris Sidis, Ph.D., M.D.

© 1922


        In this volume I give a brief, popular account of some of my work in Psychopathology, or Abnormal Psychology for the last quarter of a century. I do not refer to my work on psychopathic reflexes, moment-consciousness, moment-thresholds, multiple personality and other subjects. The reader will find all these subjects in my other works. In this volume I make an attempt to simplify matters. I lay stress on the main factors and principles of that part of Abnormal Psychology that deals with the subject of nervous ills.

        It is to be regretted that some physicians, and among them many neurologists of excellent standing, hesitate to accept the work accomplished in the domain of Psychopathology, confusing the latter with what parades at present under the name of psychoanalysis. Thus a well known physician writes to me:

        "I think that the majority of men in general work (medical) do not separate Psychopathology from Psychoanalysis. Freud's theories and the whole trend of psychoanalysis have been so turned into channels of distorted and perverted sexual life that it has blinded people to the fact that there are many dominant phases in mental life which are not sexual. The ordinary, healthy minded, and vigorous practitioner sees a lot of motives in life that are not sexual, and where everything is twisted and turned to one side, to one 'complex,' he becomes indignant and disgusted, and condemns the whole broad subject of Psychopathology." I think that the physician is right in his attitude.

        As a matter of fact psychoanalysis, by which Freud and his adherents have baptized their sexual. theories and metaphysical wish-speculations, should be regarded as savage and barbaric. Psychoanalysis is a sort of Astrology, full of superstitious symbolizations, dream vagaries, and idle interpretations, foisted on the credulous, on those obsessed by sexual inclinations, and on those suffering from sexual perversions. It is idle and credulous to search in adults for "unconscious" memories of babies a few months old. Many take up psychoanalysis as a sort of mental masturbation which in the long run is sure to play havoc with their nerve and mind.

        Psychoanalysis excites the curiosity of the vulgar just as for thousands of years Astrology held the interest of semi-civilized nations to the detriment of the science of Astronomy. Psychoanalysis belongs to the class of dangerous superstitions, harmful to health, both social and individual. Psychoanalysis, like Palmistry or Oneiroscopy, that is, "interpretation of dreams," imposes on the uncritical sense of the credulous public. Freudian psychoanalysis should be openly declared as a fraud. Lecky points out that superstitions are not destroyed by discussion. To start a discussion in an earnest way a common ground is required. What common ground is there between science and superstition? Superstition should be left alone to die of inanition. There is no common ground between psychoanalysis and psychopathology. That is why it is just as impossible to argue with a psychoanalyst as with a Mormon or a Mohammedan. Anyone who does not accept the dogmas and superstitions of psychoanalysis is accused of "resistance of hidden complexes," just as pious believers accuse sceptics of evil thoughts.

        A famous professor of a well known eastern college asked me to continue my "good work" against psychoanalysis. But criticism of psychoanalysis is a thankless task. It is futile to discuss psychological and medical matters with psychoanalysts. For psychoanalysts care for nothing else but the fulfillment of sexual wishes. It is useless to argue with psychoanalysts, who as a rule possess no more critical sense than Mormon saints. Psychoanalysis is a sort of Mormonism. In the far West psychoanalysis is preached from the pulpits in churches. Psychoanalysis is a sex religion. One should combat it with ridicule and scorn. Psychoanalysis needs a Voltaire, a Molière, or a Swift.

        The so-called present civilized humanity, and especially our populace, lives in an age of vulgarity. Success per se is the sole aim in life. Books by the thousands tell how to achieve "success," how to fool the nerves, or how to deceive the mind. "Efficiency" and "success" fill home and school with all sorts of lucubrations and advertisements. Mental tests are supposed to help to success. Business success is the slogan. And success is only to the mediocre and the vulgar. Mediocrity writes for mediocrity, and is applauded by mobs of mediocrity. To teach the truth is a great privilege, but to deceive the ignorant and to debauch the young and inexperienced is a serious offence.

        When science, literature, and art sink to the movie stage, why wonder at their triviality? When Government experts take seriously Freudian "Sublimation," why blame the credulity of the layman? When the Bureau of Education spreads far and wide pamphlets on mental tests, why wonder at the gullibility of the populace?

        The tendency towards the rule of mediocrity in the twentieth century was observed by Tolstoy:

        "About twenty years ago Matthew Arnold wrote a beautiful article on the purpose of criticism. According to his opinion, it is the purpose of criticism to find what is most important and good in any book whatever, wherever, and whenever written, and to direct the reader's attention to what is and good in them

        "Such a criticism seems to me indispensable in our time of newspapers, periodicals, books, and advertisements. Such a criticism is requisite for the future of the cultured world.

        "Printing has for some time served as the chief instrument for the diffusion of ignorance among the well-to-do (the middle classes, especially the so-called new women).

        "Books, periodicals, especially the newspapers, have in our time become great financial undertakings for the success of which the largest possible number of purchasers is needed. The interests and tastes, however, of the largest possible number of purchasers are always low and vulgar. For the success of the press it is necessary that the productions should respond to the demands of the great majority of the purchasers, that is, that they should touch upon the low interests and correspond to the vulgar tastes. The press fully satisfies these demands, which it is quite able to do, since among the number of workers for the press there are many more people with the same low interests and vulgar tastes as the public than men with high interests and refined taste.

        "The worst thing about it is that the reading of poor works corrupts the understanding and taste. Good works can no longer be appreciated.

        "In proportion as newspapers, periodicals, and books become more and more disseminated, the value of what is printed falls lower and lower, and the class of the so-called cultured public sinks more and more into a most hopeless, self-contented, incorrigible ignorance. . . .

        "A striking example is that of the English prose writers. From the great Dickens we descend at first to George Eliot, then to Thackeray, to Trollope; and then begins the indifferent manufacture of a Rider Haggard, Kipling, Hall Caine, and so forth.

        "Still more striking is this fall noticed in American literature. After the great galaxy, Emerson, Thoreau, Lowell, Whittier, and others, everything breaks off suddenly, and there appear beautiful editions with beautiful illustrations and with beautiful stories and novels which are impossible to read on account of absence of all meaning.

        "The ignorance of the cultured crowd of our times has reached such a pass that great thinkers and writers of former times no longer satisfy the highly refined demands of new men (and new women).

        "The last word of philosophy is the immoral, coarse, inflated, disconnected babbling of Nietzsche. Senseless, artificial conglomeration of words of decadent poems is regarded as poetry of the highest rank. The theatres give dramas, the meaning of which is not known to anyone, not even to the author."

        What would Tolstoy have said had he witnessed the full blown art of our movies?

        What the movies and literature accomplish in the world of art and letters, that is what psychoanalysis and mental tests achieve in normal and abnormal psychology.

        The mediocrity of the modern man is akin to the vulgarity of the ancient freedman, so well described by Petronius in his type of Trimalchio. Both, the greedy freedman and the "efficient" freeman, have the same deleterious influence on the course of civilization.

        Our age is not the age of Democracy, but of Mediocrity. It is in such an age that sensationalism, movies, and psychoanalysis are apt to flourish like green bay trees.

        The reader will find that I often turn to Social Psychology. This is requisite. As I carry on my work on nervous ills I become more and more convinced that a knowledge of Social Psychology is essential to a clear comprehension of nervous ills.

        The number of cases given in the volume will, I am sure, be of great help to the reader. For the concrete cases, carefully studied by me, bring out distinctly the mechanism, the factors, and the main principles of nervous ills.

        I address this volume to the reader who wishes to learn the truth, not to those who are in search for ever new amusements, or for the "best seller" of the year. I hope that this work will prove of value to the thoughtful physician and of interest to the cultured layman.

        I further hope that my reader will not be offended by my statements about superstitions. I address myself to the liberal-minded reader who does not care to follow the herd.


Maplewood Farms,

Portsmouth, New Hampshire.


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