George W 1856-1940 Jacoby.

Suggestion and psychotherapy online

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fluctuate in conformity with the first one, by simple
transfer of the movement through the air, without
any contact existing.

" In Paris we speak into a telephone transmitter.
The electric connection causes equal vibration of
a similar plate in Marseilles. It is no substance
which is transmitted, but only a wave. A star
billions of kilometres distant in the infinity of the
heavens is not visible to us on earth. But if I
place a photographic plate behind a lens, the ray of
light from the star will influence the impression-
able substance and leave a picture on it. Is not
this fact more astonishing than the passing of a
brain wave over a few kilometers to transfer itself
harmoniously upon another brain? Through the
* emptiness' of space a solar upheaval produces on
our earth at a distance of one hundred and forty-
nine millions of kilometers a northern light or a
magnetic disturbance.

"Every living being is a dynamic centre, and
every thought a dynamic action. There exists no



PECULIARITIES OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 79

thought without a corresponding vibration of the
brain. Is it strange, therefore, that this vibration
should be transmitted in the same manner as in a
telephone, or in a photophone, which transmits
words by means of light, or as in wireless teleg-
raphy?'*

Needless to say, we limit ourselves to a mere
reproduction of Flammarion*s attempt at an ex-
planation, without endorsing or adopting it; for
even the comparison of telepathy and wireless teleg-
raphy, in which a receiving apparatus properly at-
tuned for the reception of electric ether waves of
only the same intensity is capable of receiving de-
spatches, shows the conditions are so disparate that
they cannot be regarded in any way as satisfac-
tory evidence that telepathy is possible. Moreover,
no degree of **wonderfulness" can be a measure of
credibility for science, which insists on positive in-
dications.

William James, referring to experiments con-
ducted "by a few more careful observers since
1880," says those experiments, taken in the ag-
gregate, make it unreasonable to doubt any longer
that occasionally a telepathic relation may exist
between one mind and another. He adds that.



80 SUGGESTION

strange as it may appear, there seems evidence,
small in amount but good in quality, that a per-
son, by exerting his will, may cause himself to
appear present to another at a distance. Not-
withstanding James, we repeat that any serious
discussion of telepathy or of other mysterious
manifestations of mental activity is impossible un-
til the facts have been established beyond doubt.
The literature on this subject still appears to be
too chimerical for acceptance as the basis of any
explanation which would satisfy the logic of cause
and effect or which in the light of subsequent re-
search would not prove absurd.

Among the peculiarities of mental activity must
also be classed that enhancement of the psychic,
more particularly of the intellectual, faculties into
superiority over the average endowment, which
constitutes the essence of genius.

Genius differs from talent in its capability of
finding what is new. Talent is great only in so
far as it imitates and modifies existing models; it
lacks productive force. Genius, on the other hand,
travels its own roads; it manifests itself not in re-
production but in the generation and the develop-
ment of new thoughts. While in exceptional cases



PECULIARITIES OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 81

genius may cover equably all the intellectual facul-
ties, in the vast majority of instances it is one-sided.
There are geniuses in mathematics, in language, in
music, or in other fields, but rarely is there one in
whom are combined manifold productive abilities.

The traits of genius usually develop at the ex-
pense of other capabilities, so that the productive
capacity in one direction towers far above the
average, while the capability in other respects re-
mains far behind the ordinary. The plus on the
one hand is offset by a minus on the other. This
disproportion frequently is so marked that it borders
on the pathological and leads us to suspect a relation-
ship between genius and insanity. At any rate, ge-
niuses of entirely normal mind— that is, those having
extraordinary capability in one field without any
corresponding defect in another— are exceptional.

That this should be so is quite comprehensible
if we but consider that brain energy cannot ex-
pend itself entirely on one function without caus-
ing a stunting of the activities of the remaining
ones. Genius always is innate — frequently a heri-
tage from far-distant ancestors. It is not always
transmitted to direct descendants. For generations
it may remain latent, and then manifest itself un-



82 SUGGESTION

expectedly, often doing so under completely unpro-
pitious external conditions. While the conditions of
heredity in this regard are still understood in only
a limited degree, we do know from experience that
genius enforces itself with the strength of nature's
elements. There is no exaggeration in the state-
ment that if Raphael had been born without hands
he would nevertheless have become a great painter.
In Beethoven's case we know that some of his
most marvellous tone elaborations were produced
when he was almost totally deaf. Many more
examples might be given to show that genius will
attain its predestined height in spite of adverse
external conditions.

In the genius the sensory impressions and the
memory pictures are crowded with coercive force
into a definite course, the powers of attention and
apperception concentrated to such an extent on
a certain object that the existence of the remain-
ing world is practically ignored. This accounts
for the extraordinary abstractedness, or absent-
mindedness, which has so often made great scien-
tists and artists objects of ridicule.

The new idea which absorbs the individual's
entire interest has its life history like the human



PECULIARITIES OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 83

being who has conceived it. Like him it is a new
creation, like him it has originated from an in-
significant germ, has taken form, has developed,
and has been brought forth. No human brain,
not even that of the greatest inventive genius, can
continuously bring forth new ideas. Genius can-
not be acquired; it must be innate. Where the
disposition for genius is lacking, it cannot be cre-
ated through indefatigable endeavor. Still, no
genius can assert itself without persistent work.
Genius does not produce without effort. "In-
spirations" do not appear as finished manifesta-
tions. In order not to go astray during acts of
thought association, genius requires assiduity, per-
sistence, and material concentration of the will.
The psychic process of the genius differs not in
kind, but only in degree from that of other persons.
Like the manifestations of ordinary mental ac-
tion, the manifestations of genius are dependent
on the acquisition of a train of ideas in consequence
of sensory stimulations. Genius unattended by ex-
tensive knowledge may be compared to a skilled
workman who for want of proper material or tools
is unable to carry out his ideas. That which gives
to genius its predominance is the facility with



84 SUGGESTION

which, in consequence of its perspicacity and ex-
traordinarily delicate powers of combination, it is
able to recognize the orderly connection of com-
plicated conditions and almost intuitively to grasp
their significance.

Sleep also is one of the peculiarities of mental
activity in which the psychic processes normally
experience an alteration. When external stimuli
are excluded and the cells of the cortex become
fatigued, association comes to a pause and there
ensues a condition of unconsciousness which we
designate as sleep and which differs essentially
from unconsciousness due to fainting or an ex-
travasation of blood into the brain.

During sleep a more or less complete arrest of
all psychic processes occurs. Dreams are the only
exception to that rule. The most important func-
tion of sleep, that of giving the nerve elements
which have become worn during the waking state
a chance to recuperate through brain rest, is fre-
quently hampered by the concomitant of sleep, the
dream. Active and restless dreams interfere with
the recuperative effect of sleep.

Dreams, according to Wundt, are fantasy pict-
ures, hallucinations, which at times seem to pos-



PECULIARITIES OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 85

sess all the reality of sensation and consequently
are taken as real sensations by the dreaming per-
son. Dreams are memory pictures of recent and
remote happenings which, in a lawless play of as-
sociation of ideas, become indiscriminately inter-
mingled. They have a superficial resemblance to
normal activity in so far as they connect the mem-
ory pictures into new and unusual relationships.
But they differ from normal activity because the
control of the governing ego is wanting, the con-
nection of the memory pictures in dreams being
planless.

Dreams are especially frequent at the time of
falling asleep and shortly before awakening. The
conscious life of the day does not, of course, cease
at once, nor does it begin suddenly. In the con-
dition of half-consciousness which intervenes, the
action of external stimuli on the power of per-
ception is not shut out entirely, and dream percep-
tions arise out of the incompletely perceived sen-
sory impressions. Just as perceptions attach them-
selves during waking consciousness to any external
or internal excitation, so do the pictures of a dream
accompany excitations.

It is generally recognized that any interference



86 SUGGESTION

with the power of breathing produces a sensation
of oppression in sleep, a nightmare. Folk-lore
attributes nightmares to an incubus or evil spirit
which oppresses people during sleep. The Ger-
manic peoples speak of them as "Alp Druecken/'
and laid the cause to ghost-like beings, "Alpine
mannikins," who seated themselves on the breasts
of sleeping persons. A superstition among the
Chaldees brought forth tales of demons whose
nightly practice it was to wrestle with human
beings.

Easy, unobstructed respiratory action, on the
other hand, undoubtedly produces in dreams the
idea of flying. The feeling of a long and abrupt
fall is the result of sudden relaxation of the mus-
cles of the legs. It arises, for instance, when the
legs, after being flexed and drawn up, are sud-
denly extended.

Dreams run their course with wonderful rapid-
ity, long periods of time seeming to be traversed
in a moment. That is explained by the fact that
dream pictures are almost exclusively visual pict-
ures, which unfold themselves before our eyes like
scenic paintings. In a few seconds a dozen pict-
ures may alternate in our dream consciousness,



PECULIARITIES OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 87

and this suffices to produce a long dream. Hence
it is known that the same external stimulus often
causes the dream, as well as the awakening.
Dressier cites a very instructive example of this
kind, as told by Mouchart.

" I was sick," narrates Mouchart, " and was lying
in bed. My mother sat next to me. I dreamt of
the Revolution. I was present at the bloody scenes
of murder, was summoned before the revolutionary
tribunal, and saw Robespierre, Marat, Danton, and
all the others who had made a name for themselves
in that dreadful time. I argued with them, and
finally, after a series of occurrences which I cannot
clearly recollect, I was condemned to death. In
the presence of an enormous crowd of people I was
placed upon the cart and led to the place of exe-
cution, mounted the scaffold, and was tied to the
board by the executioner. The axe fell and I felt
my head being separated from my body. With
this I awoke, in the most dreadful fear, and dis-
covered that a bar of the four-post bedstead had
become loosened and had struck me in the back
of the neck like a guillotine. My mother assured
me that this occurred in the moment I awakened."
Evidently, therefore, the sensation of a momen-



S8 SUGGESTION

tary stimulus was sufficient to produce this long
dream which could only have lasted through the
few seconds required for the process of awaken-
ing.

By dream analysis — that is, by tracing the asso-
ciation of ideas which attach themselves to the sin-
gle, detached, incongruous elements of the dream —
Freud has been able to fix upon a number of impor-
tant facts. He differentiates:

(1) Dreams which are fraught with meaning
and at the same time comprehensible, which, with-
out effort can be assigned to a place in our mental
life.

(2) Dreams which are connected among them-
selves and have a distinct meaning, but appear
strange because we do not know where to classify
this meaning in our mental life.

(3) Dreams which are unconnected, confused,
senseless.

In the first category belong the dreams of chil-
dren, which fulfil all the wishes that have arisen
during the day and gone unsatisfied. Such dreams
occur also in adults. Nocturnal thirst, for in-
stance, makes a person dream of drinking. Dur-
ing the night preceding a journey a person not



PECULIARITIES OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 89

infrequently dreams of having arrived at the des-
tination.

The dream pictures of the second class probably
are composite, made up of different things seen or
experienced.

The majority of dreams belong to the third
class. In a dream the memory pictures are trans-
formed into an actuality and become mingled to-
gether or condensed, the significance of any single
idea being displaced. ^Yhe^e such displacement
is lacking, the dream is simple and comprehen-
sible, but where everything material is replaced
by something unessential, the dream is dark and
confusing. If such dream displacements are rec-
tified by means of analysis, we see that every
dream is attached to vivid memory pictures or to
impressions recently received.

Dreams never concern themselves with those
things which do not enter our thoughts during
the waking state. It does happen, however, that
long-forgotten ideas, perhaps because of some
stimulus, crop up in a dream out of the subcon-
scious. This may appropriately be compared to
the apparent disappearance of starlight while the
sun is in the skies. The stars also shine in the



90 SUGGESTION

day, but their light remains unperceived because
it is lost in the much stronger light of the sun.
Once the sun has set, the innumerable lights of
the stars appear, now no longer obscured by the
dazzling brilliance from the larger source. Thus
also in a dream do darker perceptions and memory
pictures arise which during the waking state are
submerged by deeper and stronger subjects of in-
terest.

Until most recent times certain philosophers have
assumed the basis of dream life to be a special
condition of the mind, which they have designated
as an exaltation to a higher plane. Schubert, for
example, regards the dream as a liberation of the
mind from the thraldom of external nature, a dis-
engagement of the mind from the shackles of sen-
suality. Others have gone still further and have
attributed to dreams a significance of prophecy,-
regarding them as being propitious or inimical
demonstrations of higher powers.

Considering the interest which dream life has
aroused in all peoples from time immemorial, such
aberrations and fantastic conceptions are quite
comprehensible if one but remembers that specu-
lative conjecture, untrammelled by any laws of



PECULIARITIES OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 91

actuality or by any consideration for facts of ex-
perience, has no limitations. Unprejudicial obser-
vation, however, has demonstrated, as must have
become evident from the preceding discussion, that
in sleep as little as in the manifestations of mental
activity during the waking state can anything of a
mystical or mysterious nature be discerned.

Sleep is nothing more than a diminished state
of waking life. The mental processes which run
their course during sleep are mostly after-tones of
waking life, or special products of consciousness,
the evolution of which has been aided by the sup-
pression of external stimuli and purposeful trains
of thought. The waking consciousness refers its
entire perceptional contents, all its feelings, en-
deavors, etc., to itself, to its ego, which, so to
speak, occupies the central throne and directs the
whole. During sleep this conscious, voluntary su-
pervision is absent, and dreams therefore evolve
themselves in accordance with their own laws,
wherein varied bodily states, like indigestion, op-
pression of the heart, obstacles to free respiration,
exaggerated irritability of the nervous system, etc.,
do not remain without influence.

Peculiarly enough, dreams generally are forgot-



92 SUGGESTION

ten with great rapidity. Therefore it is doubtful
whether a perfectly dreamless sleep is possible, one
in which consciousness is entirely obliterated and
only the automatic movements, heart action, respi-
ratory movements, etc., are carried out. Another
characteristic of dream life is the almost complete
absence of active movements. Only in very vivid
dreams are such movements made. Talking and
singing during sleep are more frequent. Of sleep-
walkers we have already spoken.

The peculiarities of the child mind, the male
mind, and the female mind remain to be considered
briefly. After experimental and clinical investi-
gations had succeeded in assigning the functional
seat of the perceptions which make up or influ-
ence our mental activity to more or less circum-
scribed portions of the brain, the embryological
investigations of Flechsig aided much in the more
accurate determination of those centres. These
investigations of Flechsig explain how it is that
the new-born infant, although it reacts to certain
stimuli in a certain manner, executes muscular
movements, responds to feelings of displeasure by
screaming, etc., nevertheless lacks any power of
associating ideas or of consciously joining sensory



PECULIARITIES OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 93

impressions and possesses not the least feeling of
self — in a word, why the child has no appercep-
tional capability.

We can obsen-e in the infant how the faculties
of conscious seeing and hearing develop, how from
the most insignificant beginnings that activity of
the mind arises which essentially differentiates the
human being from the animal. The new-bom
child makes no movements, or scarcely any, which
can be called voluntary. The only movements
which occur are reflex or automatic. Under a
bright light the pupil contracts; painful irritations
of the skin, even during the first week of life,
regularly incite reaction movements. Sucking is
a purely reflex action. Only after several weeks
from birth does the child perform movements of
psychic origin.

From the moment of birth numerous sensations
stream through the sense organs and leave their
impress on the brain in the form of memory pict-
ures. Through the association tracts, the excita-
tions reach the motor nerves. At first the result-
ing movements are irregular and purposeless.
Only toward the end of the fifth month does the
child grasp with any certainty at objects which it



94 SUGGESTION

sees, and only from the sixth to the seventh month
is the grasping of objects effected by means of
the shortest route.

The selection of appropriate movements is ac-
quired essentially by practice, and in quite the
same manner as the adult acquires a new move-
ment. Through frequent repetition the move-
ments become more certain and are carried out in
their correct sequence and with appropriate force;
they become "co-ordinated.'* The extraordinary
rapidity with which the child learns to carry out
co-ordinated movements is explicable only by the
inherited favorable disposition of its association
mechanism.

Through practice co-ordination can be almost
endlessly increased. According to Du Bois-Rey-
mond, the value of gymnastics as taught in the
German schools rests above all in the training of
the co-ordination of movements for the mainte-
nance of equilibrium and for alteration of posture.
"The youthful body exercised according to the
German manner," he says, "has the unusual ad-
vantage that, like the well-trained mathematician
who has a method for every problem, it is pro-
vided with widely varied movements for all post-



PECULIARITIES OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 95

ures of the body." How highly co-ordination may
be trained is well shown by the virtuoso on the
piano or violin and by prestidigitators.

Of especial interest is the manner in which the
child learns to talk. According to Zander, talking
is always preceded by comprehension of speech.
Most children are able in the second half of the
first year to understand simple words, for they
turn their heads and stretch out their hands toward
objects mentioned to them. The formation of words
follows very gradually. The infant not only ex-
ecutes movements with arms and legs, but also
makes use of the muscles of the larynx, the tongue,
the palate, and the lips, and the resulting tones and
noises apparently afford the child much enjoyment.
In that way all vowels and consonants ultimately
are produced, and later, by imitation, the child
forms words. It accomplishes that, however, only
after many futile attempts, just as it has to learn to
regulate the movements of prehension. Having
once learned to designate certain things by certain
words, the child at first uses any single word to
refer not only to a thing or object, but also to ex-
press a wish or a mood which grown-ups would indi-
cate by means of a sentence. The word "chair,"



96 SUGGESTION

for instance, is used by the child to intimate, "My
chair is broken," " My chair is not here," " I should
like to be lifted into my chair," or other things.

About the beginning of the second year words
become associatively joined with the percepts of
objects. In the third year a normal child can
differentiate almost one thousand objects accord-
ing to their special characteristics, and can express
such variations by the words at its command.
Conscious perceptional life and the power of apper-
ception, therefore, are already well developed at
that age. But the mutilation and the distortion
of words which are so characteristic of the child's
speech and are due to lack of practice in the use
of co-ordinated movements of the lips, the tongue,
the palate, and the larynx necessary for the forma-
tion of speech, cease only toward the end of the
fifth year.

The child is not free; it is a coerced being
whose actions are not governed by motives, but
are dependent on all possible contingencies until
practice and habit force the actions into a certain
direction and give the child a certain impress, its
character. All education and character formation
are based on a firm belief in the dirigibility of the



PECULIARITIES OF MENTAL ACTIVITY 97

will by means of the development of the under-
standing and a refinement of the feelings which,
acting as inhibitory factors, oppose and enable the
maturing being to resist unbalanced and unstable
impulses. Nature is not character, otherwise merit
could not be rewarded nor crime punished. Char-
acter constitutes what training has made of con-
genital proclivities, in a good as well as in a bad
sense. Upon that our responsibility depends.

Consideration of the individual peculiarities of
the male mind and the female mind shows they
are the result of the arrangement of nature, which
assigns different functions to each sex.

Nature is inexhaustible in the construction of
new forms. As a matter of fact there do not exist
two living beings entirely alike. "With the higher
development of the organisms the differentiation
becomes more and more evident. Nature requires
for the fulfilment of its multitudinous functions all
possible varieties, which mutually stimulate and
corc^lete one another. Especially does that most
important oflSce of nature, propagation of the
species, require a differentiation of the organs into
male and female.

In the human being, the different functions de-



98 SUGGESTION

volving on man and woman are the immediate
cause of the marked variations in the build of the
body. Those variations are noticeable not only in
the primary sexual characteristics, the organs which
serve directly for the propagation of the species, but
also in the proportions of the body, the skeleton,
the muscular system, etc. These bodily differences
correspond to very marked peculiarities in the men-
tal action of man and woman, which, as we shall


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Online LibraryGeorge W 1856-1940 JacobySuggestion and psychotherapy → online text (page 5 of 18)