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physical and the psychological causal series fail. Psychology is on
secure ground only when it confines itself to the clear and certain
phenomena and laws of consciousness. But starting from this
standpoint, it discovers the unconscious, and sees to its astonish-
ment that psychological laws prevail beyond the province of
conscious life. In what follows we shall adduce some examples
to make this clear.'

2. Reference has repeatedly been made to memory as the typical
phenomenon of consciousness. But mt;mory presupposes change
in the elements of consciousness. Now what becomes of the ideas
that have disappeared, in the interval before their recall ? In
daily conversation the memory appears as a storehouse or treasure-
chamber, where ideas are saved up for future use. It is only
figuratively ^that actual existence can be in this way attributed
to the ideas which have disappeared from consciousness. But the
remarkable fact is, that it seems as if, nevertheless, they played a
part in the actual activity of consciousness. If we want to recall
something that is in our memory, and cannot come upon it, it is a
well-known resource to leave off the search for it, and to think of
quite different things ; then the idea wanted may suddenly emerge.
Here we give up the conscious search, and allow instead an
absolutely unconscious process to begin. The case is similar
when we have collected materials for some work, as e.g. the treat-
ment of a scientific question. We are then often so overwhelmed
by details, as to be unable to arrange and combine the matter. Here
again occupation with quite different matters may be a good resource.
In the midst of the new activity, the proper mode of treating the
question may suddenly, as of its own accord, present itself to
consciousness. Unconscious action has effected what conscious,
direct, and strenuous work might never perhaps have succeeded in.
Of course such results are never obtained in sleep ; strenuous work
is presupposed, the unconscious operation crowns the labour.

Some psychologists explain phenomena of this kind quite simply,

1 In Carpenter, Mental Physiology, p. 515 seq., there are a great number of examples.
Some of those quoted in what follows above, are taken from this collection. Benecke
in the first chapter of his Psycholcgisdien Skizzen (Gottingen, 1827), has inquired
with great acuteness into the relation between the conscious and the unconscions.


by the greater freshness of the brain and mind, when a thing has
been " slept upon." But this explanation can apply only to cases in
which the question is directly taken up again after the break, not to
those in which the abandoned subject suddenly, in the midst of
occupation with other matters, presents itself to thought in a
perfectly clear light. Here the subject has in the interval undergone
further treatment, but this treatment has taken place below the
threshold of consciousness ; it has been carried on in us, not by
us. And yet this unconscious working bears the impress of the
same principles and laws that control conscious working.

3. What is true in this way of many of our thoughts, is true
also — as has been proved by the physiology of the senses — of our
apparently simple and immediate sensations and percepts. We
make for ourselves a continuous visual image, although in the
retina there is a point (the blind spot) which receives no excitation.
Many of our sensations of colour which we regard as immediate,
are determined by the effect of contrast with other colours. The
conception of space, which discloses itself to us at one stroke, has
arisen by the combination of diverse impressions. Our two eyes
have not the same range of vision, and yet we imagine that with
both eyes we survey the binocular range of vision immediately.
We judge the direction of the line of sight (according to Helmholtz)
by the effort of will with which we try to alter the position of the
eyes. But of all these combinations we are not conscious, and
when it is said that our sensuous percepts are results of
"unconscious inferences," it must be carefully noted that this
expression is permissible only because we have no means of
denoting these processes, known to us only by their results, except
by expressions derived by analogy from the higher conscious life.^
We employ here a sort of inverted anthropomorphism.

4. Not only may conscious results come from unconscious
working up, but there may also be unconscious intermediate links
in the midst of conscious work. Supposing the idea a\o be linked
with the idea b, and b again with <r, then a will finally produce c
directly, without the intervention of b. A proposition, which we
have learned to understand by way of proof, remains in our
consciousness after we have forgotten the proof. All education

1 Helmlioltz, Physiologhche Optik, p. 811. Afterwards Helmholtz avoided the use of
this expression on account of the misuse made of it by Schopenhauer and Hartmann. But
he still adheres to the position that we have here to do with an elementary process, which
lies at the bottom of all thought properly so-called. "Die Tliatsoilien in d(r Wahr-
nehmun^" (The Facts of Perception) (Berlin, 1873), p. 27 seq.


rests on the possibility of the intermediate links thus sinking below
"the threshold." The authority of the educator is at first indis-
pensable, but gradually falls into the background. The inter-
mediate links are often so numerous, that they cannot be recovered
at all, or only with great difficulty. Many psychological paradoxes
and sudden suggestions have their explanation in this unconscious
determining of conscious ideas.

5. Everything that we call instinct, tact, self-acquired or innate
disposition operates in this way. Habits and tendencies which we
have acquired or yielded to, or which are bequeathed to us from
earlier generations, endure long after the causes of them have passed
away. The ideas, feelings and actions, to which these tendencies
lead, do not receive a complete explanation in the conscious life
itself There are always intermediate links which are passed over,
and can be discovered only by physiological and sociological
research. The conscious motives have passed away, but their effects
remain. Instinct therefore has been defined as an acting for ends
of which we are not conscious. Conscious effort is partially
determined by unconscious motives, and leaves behind it un-
conscious effects. In the individual as in nations, sudden
revolutions avail but little ; below the surface tendencies persist,
which it takes time to overcome. Thus it was necessary for
the Israelites to wander forty years in the wilderness. Herodotus
relates (iv. 3, 4) how the slaves of the Scythians, while their
masters were away on distant expeditions, had married their
women and secured supremacy. When the masters returned, they
could not by force of arms subdue the young generation that had
sprung from these marriages, but obtained their submission so soon
as they cracked the whips which ordinarily served for the punish-
ment of slaves. This narrative may serve at any rate as a poetical
representation of the force of inherited habit. — In the lives of
eminent and leading men, we often see how they have to struggle to
overcome what the impressions of youth and habit have implanted.

Every mental revolution disturbs at first only that which stirs in
clear consciousness ; the unconscious undercurrents may long
pursue their course, without being reached by the movement of the
surface.' The reaction after a revolution often discloses how little

1 In H. Rrochner's treatise, 0»i C^th'i'i-llm^sg-ntrg^fni Filosoflen^ Ilistorie ("On the
Course of Development in the History of Philosophy"). (Copenh.igen, 1869), will be
found many interesting indications of the way in which ideas may unconsciously influence
their advocates ; even their opponents, in the age which has produced them. See also his
paper in Nyt dansk Maanedsskrift (New Danish Monthly, 1871), on the relation
between the conscious and the unconscious.


real hold the movement has obtained. What has been consciously
attained has not taken real root until it operates unconsciously
or, as we say, has become part of the flesh and blood. Conscious
work acts as pioneer ; but it is also important that the unconscious
machinery should be set in motion.— Conversely, we may prac-
tise something quite mechanically, which afterwards gradually
gains control over consciousness. Forced conversion may lead to
zealous faith, if not in the same generation, yet in later generations.
Compulsion works against that of which there is clear conscious-
ness ; so that compulsory conversion succeeds only where no such
consciousness is as yet developed. But mechanical exercise may
gradually weaken consciousness. We are, according to Pascal's
expression, automata as well as spirits, wherefore Pascal counsels
us to begin with taking holy water and observing ceremonies ;
the rest will come of itself. This is his notorious principle :
Ilfaut s'abetir.

6. An unconscious activity may be carried on simultaneously
with a conscious. The spinner turns the wheel and draws out
the thread, while all her thoughts are far away. A reader may
be wholly absorbed in the contents of the book or even in other
thoughts, while he sees the letters and pronounces the words
corresponding to them. In these instances the subordinate action
at any rate approximates to the unconscious, and there can be
little question that the boundary-line may be crossed. And yet
that which has thus taken place unconsciously, may afterwards
assert itself in consciousness. Fechner relates {Elemente der
Psychophysik, ii. p. 432), that one morning in bed he was surprised
by having a white image of the stove-pipe, when he closed his
eyes. As he lay with his eyes open and speculated, he had seen
before him, without being conscious of it, a black stove-pipe with
a white wall as background, and what now made its appearance
was the negative after-image of this.* The physical excitation
had thus been of such a nature, that the visual sensation iniglit
have arisen ; but the attention being otherwise engaged, what
appeared to consciousness was not the sensation itself, but only
the more impressive after-image. In like manner, when we listen
in a state of abstraction to some one speaking to us, we may not
until long afterwards become conscious of what he has said.
It is only by the express direction of attention that the im-
pressions unconsciously received are here raised above " the

1 I have myself had an exactly similar experience.


threshold." That we are able to remember something is therefore
no decisive proof that we consciously apprehended it at the time
of its occurrence. By connection with that which has been
consciously apprehended, even an unconscious impression may
be called to memory.^

7. Unconscious impressions play an especially large part in
the development of the feelings. Feeling is determined not
only by clear and distinct sensations and ideas, but also by
imperceptible influences, the sum of which only takes effect in
consciousness. Hence the mystical and inexplicable character
of so many feelings ; especially when first excited are they in-
comprehensible even to the individual himself, since he does not
know their definite causes. The vital feeling results from the
effect of the organic functions on the brain ; but the single im-
pressions do not here stand out clearly, but combine to produce an
obscure and changing background of well-being or discomfort.
The feeling of love has, especially in its first dawning, a mystical
character due to the arousing of uncomprehended organic instincts,
and to the influence of these on the vital feeling and on the
imagination. There is something of the sort even in other feelings,
since we are never fully conscious of the influence of our experiences
and the conditions of life on our state of feeling, until the feeling
acquires a distinctly marked character or even perhaps breaks
forth in actions. Such influences are like the air we breathe
without thinking of it. They occasion within us a quiet growth
which is often the most important and decisive factor in the
mental Hfe. This points us back to the general condition of
conscious life and of nerve-process, that only a more or less
sudden change arouses either to activity. A slowly increasing
application of heat or of electricity may cause the death of a frog,
without its ever stirring from the spot.

In the history of individuals and of the race, inner connection
is preserved by means of this unconscious growth, which
determines a great part of the content and of the energy of con-
scious life. It is only when attention is confined to the distinctly
marked states of consciousness, that there appear to be sharp

1 Koch, yom Bezvusstsein in Zusidnden sogennanter Bewusitiosigkeit (" Of Con-
sciousness in States of so-called Unconsciousness "), (Stuttgart, 1877, p. 19) : " There may
be remembrance even of what was absolutely unconscious, as when, e.g. of a series of
events, which did not come into consciousness, the last member joins on to a conscious
state, and from it the whole series is raised by reproduction into consciousness ; or when,
in some later consci()us state, the brain is disposed somewhat as it was in an unconscious
state, and the correlated processes are then reproduced as conscious, as uieiiujrj'."


lines of demarcation and sudden revolutions ; far below, infinitely
ramified connections are discovered. So the coral-zoophytes build
always below the surface of the sea, and what they build is not
discovered until it rises above the sea-level.

Leibniz was the first to call attention to the significance of the
infinitesimal elements in psychology (as also in mathematics and
physics). He brought this view into connection, moreover, with
the law of continuity so energetically maintained by him. By
means of unconscious impressions (which he called petites per-
ceptions) he explained the connection of the single individual with
the universe, a relation which is much closer than the individual
is himself clearly conscious of ; and he also employs them to ex-
plain the way in which the past determines, and is continued in,
the future.^

8. In the state of dream we have an intermediate stage between
the purely unconscious and the conscious state. The analogy ex-
hibited between the dream-consciousness and the waking con-
sciousness, may so far throw light on the relation between the
conscious and the unconscious.

Sleeping and waking are usually contrasted as strict opposites.
But just as in the waking state there are innumerable degrees of
energy, clearness and connection of consciousness, so there are
many shades of transition from waking to sleep, and conversely ;
and there are also different degrees of sleep. Thus the following
descending stages in the scale of psychical energy have been dis-
tinguished : (i) Dreaming in a half-dozing state ; (2) the light
morning sleep with vivid dreams ; (3) deep sleep with obscure,
fluctuating dream-images ; (4) the deepest sleep without dreams (?) ;
and (5) a yet lower degree experienced in illness, the state of
lethargy or fever-sleep.- The deepest sleep is that which we have
immediately after falling asleep. The question whether we always
have dreams, receives different answers. Those who believe
this to be the case, appeal partly to metaphysical arguments—
that the mind cannot from its nature refrain from activity ; partly
to physiological — that movements must go on continuously in the
brain, and that impressions must be continuously received. It
is at any rate clear, that dreaming is a step closer to waking life
than dreamless sleep, if there be such a thing.^

1 Optra Pkilosophica, Ed. ICrdmann, p. 197.

* P. Hedenius, " Om DrOmen" (Vetenskap for alia), Bd III. pp. 609-611 (Stockholm

^ {Cf. '^\My {Illusions, pp. 132-134.) (Tr.)J

hi] the conscious and the unconscious 79

The connection of the dream-consciousness with the v.aking
consciousness is shown, in the first place, by the fact that the
dream-consciousness is frequently occupied with that which is the
object of waking interest. Difficulties and annoyances, which were
insuperable in a waking state, are overcome or thought to be over-
come in dreams, while on the other hand familiar and simple
situations present inconceivable and insuperable difficulties. In
the next place, the elements of which the world of dreams is com-
posed are for the most part derived from the experiences of waking
life, though these are brought into new, often fantastic, com-
binations. During sleep, however, impressions are continuously
received not only from within the organism (from the respiratory
and digestive organs), but also from without (impressions of touch,
sound, light, etc.). The connection with the external world is thus
not entirely broken. Now, these impressions are interwoven with
the after-effects of waking life, into a new world of images. But the
formation of this new world takes place under conditions which
ditter from those of the waking state. There is lacking that firm
concentration of attention and the universal control, which waking
life calls out or imposes. Individual impressions, especially the
organic sensations, obtain in consequence a power which thrusts
unity and continuity aside. A free and bold interpretation of
each individual impression is the result. Dreams acquire what
has been appropriately called a mythological character. If the
breathing is unusually easy and free, we think we are flying ;
if it is difficult, we are oppressed with nightmare. If the sleeper
becomes cold through losing the bedclothes, he finds himself
on a journey to the north pole or promenading the streets naked.
A man who had a hot-water bottle at his feet dreamt he was
walking on the crater of Mount Etna. Often a most complicated
event is constructed to explain some quite simple impression, as
when the falling of a curtain and the appearance of light in the
room calls up a dream of the day of judgment depicted with a host
of details'

In the waking state also we explain individual impressions
according to their relation to our other experiences. The
'dream-consciousness follows the same method, often with great
ingenuity and great perseverance, and with a certain artistic
capacity ; but it cannot as a rule keep individual impressions under
control ; each several impression sets up its special current of

1 \Cf. Sully (///«x/^«i, pp. I35>55-) (Tr.)]


thought, which then takes possession of the entire conscious-
ness, until it is dislodged by the next impression. There is not
sufficient power of resistance against the individual elements.
Hence the shifting and disorderly nature of dreams, resembling
insanity, which is also a state of disorganization. It is possible
even that many dream-images arise without being determined by
sensuous impressions, quite automatically ; but even to this there
is something corresponding in waking states, namely in hallucina-
tions and sudden suggestions.'^

The dream-state shows us, then, psychological laws in operation,
but below the threshold of consciousness proper. It is a station on
the road from unconscious to conscious life.

9. In the act of awaking there are sometimes circumstances
which may throw light on the relation between the conscious and
the unconscious. When we are awaked, it is not always the
physical strength of the stimulus which determines the event, but
its relation to the weal and woe of the individual, to his waking
interests, what Burdach^ has called the psychical relation of
the stimulus. An indifferent word softly spoken does not rouse
from sleep ; but a mother will wake at her child's slightest move-
ment. A very avaricious man was awakened by a coin being
placed in his hand. A naval officer who slept in spite of a great
tumult, awoke at the whispering of the word " signal." To con-
clude from such cases with Burdach, that the mind during sleep
distinguishes sensuous percepts, is not admissible ; on the con-
trary, they point to the view that an individual impression attains
to consciousness only by connection with other experiences. It
sets free a whole series of effects in the brain, and therewith
consciousness is given. The act of awaking, which is transition
from an at least relatively unconscious to a conscious state, is
brought about by the individual impression obtaining, by com-
bination with other impressions, the background it requires, in
order to become conscious. It accords with this, that consciousness
is apparently connected with very complex nerve-organs, in which
many currents may meet together.

This circumstance may perhaps throw some light on a psycho-
logical paradox already mentioned — that a perfectly simple and
unattached sensation cannot be conscious, and on the associated
difficulty of representing the beginning of consciousness. This

1 [C/ Sully (///7<5/<;«^, pp. i56-i§3) (Tr.)] , , ,„

- Physiologie„^u., p. 460. Carpenter also cites a number of examples (Jj 479-480).


beginning might be thought of as having for its condition, that a
single impression should at once call up several conscious elements.
Just as it seems that what has taken place unconsciously can be
remembered, so an impression might be able to arouse conscious-
ness, by simultaneously freeing both fore-ground and back-ground.
But this does not imply that the origin of consciousness can be
thought of as a single, momentary act.

lo. Notwithstanding the intimate connection and close inter-
action between the conscious and the unconscious, the latter re-
mains for us a negative conception. The unconscious processes
are cerebral processes just as much as the conscious, but whether,
like these, they are of several kinds, we do not know. Instead of
speaking of unconscious thought or unconscious feeling, it would
be safer— if we wish to avoid all hypotheses — to speak with
Carpenter and John Stuart Mill of unconscious cerebration,
were not this expression unsuitable, as suggesting, in the first
place, the mistaken notion that there may be consciousness of
cerebration, properly so called, and because, in the second
place, it might appear to affirm that there is nothing at all in
unconscious activity related to what we know in ourselves as
conscious states. Just the impossibility of drawing a sharp
line of demarcation between the conscious and the unconscious,
together with the thoroughgoing analogy between their mode of
action and their results, might perhaps Justify an hypothesis
upholding the law of continuity in the world of ideas, even as
in the material world everything seems obedient to it. To all the
different material phenomena of movement there would then corre-
spond different degrees and forms of what in us appears as thought
and feeling. As the organic world is built up of elements and
by means of activities which make their appearance, though more
scattered and without unity and harmony, in inorganic nature also,
so in the sensations, feelings, and thoughts of conscious beings we
should have higher forms of development of a something that, in
a lower degree and in a lower form, exists in the lower stages of
nature. We should escape from the paradox that conscious life
begins without any previous preparation. Leibniz drew this very
conclusion from the law of continuity : " Rien ne saurait naitrc
tout dun coup, la penst5e non plus que le mouvement." ' He
instituted an analogy between the relation of kinetic energy to
tension and the relation of the conscious to the unconscious. As

1 Op. phil. Ed. Erdmann, p. 226. C/., even earlier, Spinoza, Eth. ii., 13, Schol.



tension (potential energ}') is living force in equilibrium, so might
unconsciousness be consciousness at rest or neutralized. This
would agree very well with the fact that change or destruction of
equilibrium is so essential a condition of consciousness. As in
the external world there is no such thing as absolute rest, so — it
might then be said — there is no absolute unconsciousness. Un-
consciousness would then not be a negation of consciousness, but
would be a lower degree of it, the continuation backwards of the

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