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Title: Conscience & Fanaticism; - An Essay on Moral Values
Author: Pitt-Rivers, George
Language: English
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An Essay on Moral Values



"_Æquam memento servare mentem_"

[Illustration: 1919]

London: William Heinemann

London: William Heinemann, 1919


In presenting this little volume to the public I am fully conscious of
my presumption in introducing my personal views in a region where many
hundreds of better qualified writers have devoted their best efforts.
Since, however, no apology can justify a profitless task, if such it be,
or add to its utility, if indeed it possesses any, I will not attempt to
make one.

If I have contributed in ever so slight a degree towards an
understanding of the mental state or attitude we call fanaticism, for
the purpose of guarding against the catastrophes it begets, I shall have
achieved my purpose. It is unfortunately inevitable that a discussion
which involves current opinions and beliefs must necessarily encounter
strong prejudices and opposition, but it is less on this account that
this little work is likely to fail than for the reason to which Hume
attributed the failure which attended the publication of his "Treatise
of Human Nature," which he described as his guilt "of a very usual
indiscretion, in going to the press too early." A circumstance which
prevented that "unfortunate literary attempt from reaching such
distinction as even to excite a murmur among the zealots."[1]

Needless to say, I have relied for my interpretation of human notions
and ideas, and the conduct which results from them, very largely upon
the works of past and contemporary writers; and my indebtedness to those
with whom I differ no less than those with whom I agree is but very
inadequately acknowledged in my references to the works of some of them.

The earlier portions of the essay are devoted chiefly to an examination
of moral ideas, the latter portions more exclusively to the facts of
nature and of mind from which they derive their meaning. Throughout I
have attempted to keep the argument as free as possible from the thin
air of philosophical and scholastic dialectic, and as far as possible in
terms of common usage and thought. With this end in view, and for the
sake of brevity, the authors to whose works I have referred most
frequently have been selected either because they are better known or
because their opinions are more widely held than in the case of others.
But in any case no claim to exhaustive or even adequate treatment can be
made for so slight a review of so vast a subject.

The first problem which I have attempted to deal with is one which
confronts all moralists. It consists in the difficulty of deriving
ethical notions from notions which are not ethical, or of deducing the
moral law from the facts of experience and of nature. The attempt to
escape from this difficulty often takes the form of adopting a theory
by which the whole world is divided into two unrelated worlds, a world
of values and a physical world of mechanical sequences. In order to
bring these two independent and self-consistent systems within the same
reality and to weld them together, God is postulated. God is necessary,
it is argued, to prove the objectivity of morality. That is to say, that
since moral values are eternally valid, independently of man's capacity
to be conscious of them, they can only have existence in the one eternal

The purpose of this essay is to offer a different solution. As this
question of the status of moral values is of great importance to the
moral argument, a preliminary examination of the ground may be helpful.

The predication of value to an object which elicits moral approbation is
not, as most Theistic writers stubbornly maintain, an implicit
acknowledgment of the objectivity of the goodness predicated, it is
merely the act of appreciating the subject or valuer's attitude in
relation to the object (the relationship may be purely hypothetical),
but it may, and usually does, invite a similar attitude on the part of
any number of subjects.[3] The relation of subject to object--this also
applies to all relations--may belong to objective reality, but not the
moral worth we ascribe to the object as a result of that relationship.
This distinction is important and involves, necessarily, a
discrimination (not always made) between the treatment of knowledge and
of value. Hume, by denying the objective character of the relations and
connexions of nature equally with moral judgment, in his interpretation
of individual experience, treated moral judgment and knowledge of
natural science in an identical manner. In the following discussion
truth, to which I have denied relativity, is accorded a position
altogether distinct from value. Appreciation of truth and interest in
knowing is treated as a value, but not truth itself to which
subjectivity is denied. The method I have adopted of treating this
fundamental point may perhaps be made clearer by a simple illustration.
Let us take any particular moral judgment, for example, "A [a conscious
individual] is good." The assertion implies that A is the habitual doer
of desirable actions, or is benevolently disposed towards the valuer,
Society at large, or God, according to the valuer's idea of goodness. In
any case A's conduct or his attitude must have evoked approbation by
reason of its effect (emotional or material) upon the valuer or those
with whom he is in sympathy. The valuer might attempt to refute this
definition by maintaining that A's habitual conduct does him the
greatest injury, but that his predication of good in respect of A is
the assertion of an objective fact. In spite of such an objection, I
would reply that the moral judgment may indeed be intended to imply
certain definite objective qualities or properties _because_ the valuer
considers these desirable, and chooses arbitrarily to define "good" as
containing those definite properties, or because in the community to
which he addresses himself they are customarily so defined. The
veracity, however, of the moral judgment, considered as a statement of
fact, can only be tested after an agreement has been reached as to the
content of the symbol "good." It has then been given a meaning which
alone it does not possess. The validity of moral judgment, when it is
not merely the expression of individual attitude, will therefore always
depend upon the criterion of conduct previously adopted. In this way it
is held that a moral judgment differs from a statement of fact, which is
valid irrespective of the existence of any mind capable of apprehending
that fact.

In the last two chapters, where an examination of psychological
processes has been necessary, I have experienced no slight difficulty in
finding appropriate terms by which to distinguish certain conceptions
which are in some respects new. An inapt terminology and the misuse of
terms is so grave a fault, and so habitually results in errors,
obscurity, and confusion, that it may not be superfluous to call
attention to the terms that are more liable to misinterpretation and in
many ways least satisfactory. For this purpose it will be necessary to
give the briefest possible account of the use to which they are put,
while their more precise definition will be left to the chapters in
which they occur.

The psychic life and the mental activity of human beings is conditioned
by three factors. The first, heredity, denotes the accumulation of
experiences and consequent structural modifications acquired by the race
during the process of its adjustment to its environment; the
manifestation of the result of this experience in behaviour is called
instinct. The second is the result of the habits and acquirements of the
individual from the moment of conception to the end of his existence:
this, together with the first, produces what we call character. The
third, those external influences operating upon the individual, we refer
to as environment.

If we would reflect upon the mental life of humanity we must consider
the individual mind in relation to the world of mankind. In considering
the individual mind I have adopted the terms _objective mind_ and
_subjective mind_ to denote two aspects of mind. The words "objective"
and "subjective" in conjunction with mind are used in a special sense
which has to be defined. The world of men has been considered as the
psychic environment of the individual mind, and I have introduced a term
to denote the power of aggregations of human thoughts and impulses. It
has been viewed as an aspect of the universal process underlying the
conative disposition and will-to-power of all living beings, and on
account of the mode of its operation it has been termed "cosmic
suggestion." The term is not intended to imply that the psychic forces
of the human mind can be "given off" and have separate existence, like
the "odylic fluid" of the early Mesmerists. The power is that of
collective minds; suggestion an effect of its activity, not a derived
essence. It must be understood that these three terms are provisional,
and will be discarded if, in the course of time, better ones suggest

Finally, I would crave the indulgence of my readers to say a few words
about the philosophy of egoism. There is a view of egoism--the principle
of self-interest--as distinguished from altruism, which is seen in
opposition to asceticism and mysticism, a view which prompted Lecky when
he wrote: "Taking human nature with all its defects, the influence of an
enlightened self-interest first of all upon the actions and afterwards
upon the character of mankind, is shown to be sufficient to construct
the whole edifice of civilization; and if that principle were withdrawn,
all would crumble in the dust.... When, therefore, the ascetic,
proclaiming the utter depravity of mankind, seeks to extirpate his most
natural passions, to crush the expansion of his faculties, to destroy
the versatility of his tastes, and to arrest the flow and impulse of his
nature, he is striking at the very force and energy of civilization."
How infinitely preferable is the spirit of enlightened egoism to the
blind altruism of the fanatic! The egoism that enhances rather than dims
the love of others. It is only through the realization of community of
interests and aims that like thought will result in like conduct. It is
a recognition of this principle of systematic integration of interests
and their concomitant obligations, starting from egoism, in the sense of
a realization of the relation of self to environment, and then through
successive stages of widening appreciation of the full contents of
environment to the identification of the self with the community, which
alone leads to State or National morality, and will lead, ultimately it
may be hoped, to the morality of a community of all nations--that is, a
world morality. It is for this reason that we say that the end and aim
of a true ethical system is to find the interests of mankind in the
interests of the individual.

And now, as we stand on the threshold of a new era--a new world in
search of its soul--what better precept can we have than the simple
words of the great thinker who, three hundred years ago, also stood on
the threshold of a new world of thought?

"Il suffit de bien juger pour bien faire, et de juger le mieux qu'on
puisse, pour faire aussi tout son mieux, c'est-à-dire, pour acquérir
toutes les vertus, et ensemble tous les autres biens, qu'on puisse
acquérir; et lorsqu'on est certain que cela est, on ne saurait manquer
d'être content."--Descartes, "Discours de la Méthode."

G. P. R.

_January 1, 1919_


[1] Hume's "Autobiography."

[2] This is the position of the Idealistic schools and is adopted in
Professor Sorley's recently published Gifford Lectures, "Moral Values
and the Idea of God."

[3] This relationship may be expressed in psychological terms. Dr.
McDougall expresses it thus: "Objects have value for us in proportion as
they excite our conative tendencies; our consciousness of their value,
positive or negative, is our consciousness of the strength of the
conation they awake in us."--"Body and Mind," p. 329.


CHAP.                                                    PAGE
  I. INTRODUCTION                                           1

     The importance ascribed to the word "conscience"
     by public opinion: by the State: by the Church:
     need for examination of its credentials

 II. THE VALIDITY OF MORAL JUDGMENTS                        7

     Theism and Determinism: the Intuitive schools:
     the Rationalistic schools: recognition of Good:
     the facts stated: the Utilitarian standard demanded

III. THE MEANING OF MORAL OBLIGATION                       20

     The argument against Utilitarianism: Mill's defence
     of Utilitarianism: a variation of Mill's position:
     the principle of proximity: the meaning of Truth:
     duty: an illustration from history: Robert E. Lee

 IV. RELIGION AND MORALITY                                 32

     Probing the essentials: the need for a moral code:
     its artificial character: the deeper morality:
     Morality and Religion: religious and political
     fanaticism: moral values and psychic force:
     Monism and Duality: a reconciliation of systems:
     conservation of the soul: education and the formation
     of opinion.


     The power of ideas: origin of the World War:
     psychodynamics and the law of suggestion: Haeckel
     on emotion: Dr. Samuel Johnson on the progress of
     an agitator: consciousness: Hudson's hypothesis:
     the two aspects of mind: Theology on the origin
     of Good and Evil: self-knowledge: Socrates and
     Joan of Arc: the phenomena of madness: men of
     genius: evolution and organic memory: telepathy:
     the power of suggestion: psychotherapeutics:
     faith-healers: Christian Science: memory:
     Coleridge's case: William James: Bernard Shaw
     on Art.

 VI. VALUER AND VALUATION                                  73

     Factors determining valuation and arrangement of
     the discussion.

     (1) INSTINCT AND HEREDITY                             73

     Prof. Ward on heredity: Haeckel on instincts:
     McDougall on instincts: imitation and morality:
     demagogues and fanatics: geniuses and politicians:
     maternal impressions: heredity versus environment:
     conscience as an emotional and instinctive
     organ, and conscience as a thinking and intellectual
     organ: the force of cosmic suggestion on morality:

     (2) THE FACTOR OF EMOTION                             86

     Emotion defined: its manifestations: its control:
     Ward on emotion: James on emotion: the æsthetic
     emotions: Racine and the element of mystery in
     Art: William Hazlitt on the worship of names:
     emotional sensibility: æsthetic appreciation.

     (3) JUDGMENT OF ENDS                                  96

     The intellectual and critical processes: realization
     of ends: recognition of Good: the norm of valuation.

     (4) COSMIC SUGGESTION                                 99

     Public opinion: emotional suggestions: individual
     suggestibility: gregarious attraction: ecstatic
     oratory: Rasputin: Mark Antony: propaganda:
     the Press: Mr. Hilaire Belloc's views: the influence
     of literature: the worship of symbols: Bergson's
     definition of metaphysics: the necessary task of
     religion: progress or decline: the highest form of




In all ages conscience has been the theme of priest, politician,
philanthropist and obstructionist. So often used and so seldom analysed,
beyond a bare assertion of its function, it is curious to reflect on the
strange medley of uses to which this word is put.

Conscience is at once the standard and the refuge of orthodox and
fanatic, patriot and anarchist--according as they are described by
admirer or detractor--but, let us believe with Lecky,[4] least often of
the genuine hypocrite.

Never was a nation so beset with "conscientious" men and women as
England is to-day; some helping, some hindering, some having little
effect on the national welfare. Some flaunt the badge obtrusively, they
label themselves "conscientious objectors to military service,"
"conscientious objectors to vaccination," "conscientious teetotallers";
in some cases anti-vivisectionists,[5] social reformers and (formerly)
suffragettes proclaim their exertions endured for "conscience' sake";
so, for the most part, do missionaries and religious functionaries,
and, in fact, all and any who engage in propaganda or obstruction,
"because," they say, "something higher than reason prompts our
motives--'conscience'."[6] Others refer to conscience shyly as of
something too sacred to be spoken of publicly, and again others only in
moments of intense earnestness--or alcoholic remorse.

A conscience, in fact, is an invaluable asset; where it does not gain
approbation, it at least gains some measure of respect.

Most people, then, admit the existence and the reality of what we
popularly call "conscience," and although fewer people are agreed as to
its origin and nature, it is, nevertheless, accorded a high place of
importance and almost universal recognition as an arbiter in the affairs
of men.

So undisputed is this claim to inviolability of conscience in
twentieth-century England that the State, in framing her laws, modifies
their application by the interspersion of _caveats_ in the form of
"conscience clauses."

The principle on which the conscience proviso is allowed to negative the
universal applicability of the State's demand for service or compliance
with her rules appears, however, to be somewhat arbitrary and uncertain,
and can hardly be said to be devised solely in deference to any possible
religious sanction, since, although a man's conscience is allowed to
exempt him from vaccinating his children, the plea of religious
sanction, in the case of a man professing the polygamous doctrine of
Brigham Young,[7] would not exempt him from amenability to the law
concerning bigamy; or, again, the conscience of a Quaker or of a
Christadelphian[8] is recognized as a stronger qualification for
exemption from combatant service than the equally recalcitrant
consciences of, e.g. an Atheist or a Member of the Church of England.
Yet the standardization of "privileged" denominational consciences is
strongly disavowed! In spite, however, of a certain illogical
inconsistency in practice, it is virtually conceded as a right that a
man should justify any conduct by the plea of "conscience," even, in
many cases, when it militates directly against the good of the State.

Even more than the State and public opinion does the Protestant Church
insist upon the authority and inviolability of "conscience." Driven,
step by step, from the time of the Reformation, by the encroachments of
science and the progress of Rationalism, from her defence of the
infallibility of Doctrine and Scripture, the Protestant Church has
sought to render her position impregnable by increased insistence upon
the inviolability and sanctity of revelation and conscience. Lecky,
speaking of the trend of "Protestant Rationalism," says: "Its central
conception is the elevation of conscience into a position of supreme
authority as the religious organ, a verifying faculty discriminating
between truth and error."[9]

The most recent stalwarts of the Church of England are equally insistent
upon this point, thus the Rev. G. L. Richardson writes: "We shall appeal
to and invigorate the conscience in proportion as we rely upon the Holy
Spirit as the one source of spiritual power.... 'The fellowship of the
Holy Ghost' and His grace through the Church is the master word of the
twentieth century."[10] This passage well illustrates the supreme
importance, with regard to her position, which the Church attaches to
the appeal to conscience at the present day. In another passage the same
author says, "the authority of conscience is ... paramount for the
individual." Dr. J. N. Figgis in his "Churches in the Modern State" says
that any doctrine which would "destroy the springs of spiritual life in
the individual conscience would be disastrous to civic as well as to
religious life."

Having raised the individual conscience to a pinnacle of ethical
omniscience, the ecclesiastic next proceeds to bring it into line with,
or rather into synchronous subordination to, the aggregate "Church
Conscience." "The Church is a Divine society, her members will feel an
obligation to be loyal to her discipline.... The conscience of her
members will respond with approval or shame when they keep, or neglect
to keep, her standards." From this the resulting "code and sentiment" is
the "Church Conscience."[11]

Mr. G. K. Chesterton throws further light on this interrelationship.
"The 'Church Conscience' is rather to be conceived as a fortress to
which the individual may return for shelter and strength when the
attacks of temptation threaten to overwhelm him. At such times it is
well to feel that we are not dependent on the 'inner light' of
conscience alone, but that we can throw ourselves on a social force
mightier than our own, and behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a
Divine company and a Divine Captain."[12]

Whilst Church and State are in agreement regarding its importance and
sanctity, the same unanimity is not exhibited in dealing with the origin
and character of conscience. Equally divided in this respect are the
philosophers and psychologists.

Priests are fond of telling us that conscience is "the voice of God
within us." To some men it appears strange that the voice of the same
God should frequently induce men to oppose each other with such
particular bitterness. This objection is sometimes met by the
explanation that although it is the voice of God speaking through the
medium of our souls, we fail to recognize or interpret rightly its
significance. This explanation, again, is not altogether satisfactory,
since, if that were the case, the voice of God must be so uncertain a
guide it were better not to rely on it.

When we look back through the pages of History and consider the actions
of men and the motives to which they ascribe them, and see what an orgy
of blood, of persecutions, of burnings, of torturings, of blind passions
and religious frenzy, of diabolical imaginings and monstrous eschatology
has been conceived at the instigation of conscience and religion, and
prescribed in the name of God, we are inclined to inquire more deeply
into the meaning and credentials of this watchword of all ages.


[4] "Hypocrites, who from interested motives profess opinions which they
do not really believe, are probably rarer than is usually
supposed."--"Rise and Influence of Rationalism in Europe."

[5] A few years ago the Animal Defence and Anti-Vivisection Society
distributed pamphlets from their headquarters in Piccadilly, beginning
"Do not ask of your doctor his opinion on this matter, ask your
_conscience_," etc.

[6] This distinction is commonly made between conscience and the
intellectual faculty of reason; thus, when a man says, "My conscience
tells me," he usually means, "No _reason_ will deter me."

[7] Mormon leader and preacher, died in 1877, leaving seventeen wives.

[8] The establishment of _bona fide_ membership of either of the
above-mentioned religious societies (_inter alia_) by a "conscientious
objector" was recognized by Military Service Tribunals (acting under
official instructions) as sufficient cause for a verdict of exemption.

[9] "Rationalism in Europe," 1913 edition, p. 167.

[10] "Conscience, its Origin and Authority" (1915).

[11] "Conscience, its Origin and Authority," p. 150.

[12] "Orthodoxy," p. 137, quoted by G. L. Richardson.



Any investigation of the phenomenon of moral conduct, and of its
interpretation, brings us face to face with two sets of conflicting
theories. These may, for convenience, be roughly divided into the two
principal schools of thought which have been termed respectively the
"Moral Sense" or "Intuitive" schools and the "Rationalistic schools of
ethics." Certain writers in their search for the springs of moral
conduct have attempted to place the issue between Naturalism or
Determinism (by no means synonymous or necessarily connected) on the one
side, and Theism on the other[13]; and, in their eagerness to discredit
the former to the advantage of the latter, imagine they demolish
Determinism (at any rate in the ethical sphere) by "pushing it to its
logical conclusion" and by showing that it "has connected completely and
indissolubly, as far as observation can carry us, mind with matter; it
has established a functional relation to exist between every fact of
thinking, willing or feeling, on the one side, and some molecular
change in the body on the other side, and man, with all his ways and
works, is simply a part of nature, and can, by no device of thought, be
detached from or set above it."[14]

What, after all, is involved in the acceptance of such a conclusion?
What is there to fear? To concede this, it is thought, would mean to
relegate man to the position of a mere "automaton," freed from
"accountability to God, responsibility to man, and the fears of

So far from ridding man of responsibility, the clear recognition by him
of the true nature of his environment and antecedents, the laws by which
they influence him, and his inherent capacity of resistance--in other
words, the two processes observable in the world, action contrary to,
and action along, the line of least resistance[15]--does, on the
contrary, greatly increase his responsibility of action and his power to
know himself.

Is not mind and matter subject to the same law? Do they not react to the
same God? What matter, then, if we adopt the formula of Pampsychism and
assert that "all individual things are animated albeit in divers
degrees"? or endorse the conclusion of Professor James Ward, who "finds
no ground for separating organic life from psychical life"? and
continues: "All life is experience. We cannot therefore assume that
experience has no part in the building up of the organism, and only
begins when viable organism is already there."[16]

The belief that there can be no life without mind does not necessarily
imply that there can be no mind without body. As John Stuart Mill
pointed out, Determinism does not imply Materialism, a man may be a
spiritual being but yet subject to the law of causation. Neither does it
deny the dynamic character of will, but allows that not only our conduct
but our character is in part amenable to our will. The causality
involved in human actions would, however, enable any one who knew
perfectly our character and our circumstances to predict our actions.

Such considerations, however, although contributory, do not, of
themselves, decide the question with which we are here concerned,
namely, What is the real meaning and what the authority of "conscience,"
or of that mental act which takes place in our minds when we call
certain conduct "right" and certain conduct "wrong"?

Apart from the question of the ultimate sanction of moral conduct, there
have always been two explanations of the mental act variously known as
"ethical judgment," "moral faculty," "moral sense" or conscience. On the
one side there have been those who considered that moral judgment was an
emotion, an intuition, or instinctive recognition of right or wrong,
which implied no rational or intellectual process beyond that which is
involved in registering or perceiving the fact. And on the other side
there have been those who treat moral approbation as essentially an act
of judgment--the result of the reasoning and intellectual function of
the mind.

The earliest exponents of a morality that in no way depended upon the
work of Reason were the ancient Epicureans and Cyrenaics; since for them
good was pleasure and evil was pain, the sources and tests of all
ethical truth were necessarily, in consequence, the feelings and

In the eighteenth century there arose a school, associated with the
names of the third Lord Shaftesbury and Francis Hutcheson, the Scotch
philosopher, which became known as the "moral sense" school, widely
different from the old hedonistic philosophers, since they were the
first to assert the existence of a distinctively ethical, as opposed to
a merely pleasurable, feeling.

The philosophers of the "moral sense" school attempted to prove that
there existed a distinct moral "faculty" which differed from all other
perceptions or ideas, in that it was a separate medium by which men
could recognize ethical truth, which was rather a matter of the heart
than of the head.

As a result of the attacks of the various rationalist schools this idea
of a "moral faculty" has been for the most part abandoned by those who
approach ethics from the Religious or Theistic standpoint, for they are
far more concerned to establish the "Divine authority" and sacrosanct
character of conscience than influenced by psychological or metaphysical
distinctions. For the most part such writers are content to assume that
"conscience" is the knowledge of one's own soul with regard to questions
of right and wrong, but insist on that element of Divine Guidance which
alone, they think, can give it the necessary authority and sanctity.

The Rev. G. H. Richardson[17] defines conscience as "the whole
personality acting ethically; or, more precisely, conscience is the
reaction, pleasurable or painful, of the whole personality in response
to a human or Divine standard."

It is neither wholly emotional nor wholly rational, but "is sensitive to
motives of which the pure reason would take no account; it is more akin
to instinct than intelligence." Yet "without reason, conscience would be
blind impulse, though it might feel the consciousness of

Clearly, then, conscience can derive little validity from intelligence;
the concession to the Rationalists does not amount to much; it might
almost get on without reason altogether. It is the Divine authority of
conscience which, for the Theistic writer, is the factor of prime

"As we are bound to trust reason in the intellectual sphere, so we are
bound to trust conscience in the moral sphere. To deny the authority of
the one or the other is to distrust the Power in whom physical and
moral law have their source. The authority of conscience is thus
paramount for the individual; it will be better for me to do what is
objectively wrong, but what I conscientiously believe to be right, than
do what is in fact right, but what my conscience disapproves."[19]

Here the writer appears to abandon his Rationalistic friends altogether;
the fanatic is given free rein, his ravings are sacred.

Dr. H. Rashdall, who by many is considered representative of
rationalistic ethics, insists on the "objectivity of moral judgment.
Feelings or emotions possess no objectivity; and 'without objectivity,'
in the words of Eduard von Hartmann, 'ethic has no meaning'."[20]

The all-important task for the Theistic writer is to establish the
factor of Divine impulse. "Therefore we say that conscience is a
fundamental form of man's personal consciousness of eternity; that
ineffaceable certainty that the relation of Duty, with Responsibility
and Judgment, is not a relation which stands and falls with our
relations to the world and to men, but in its essence is a relation to
the holy and Almighty God.... Additional force seems to be given to this
way of regarding the Authority of conscience if we consider that its
activity is set in motion by an impulse from the Divine

Bishop Butler refers to conscience as the "voice of God," and as
"supreme among human faculties"; and this is endorsed by Richardson, who
finds that Theism is essential to any doctrine of conscience, because
the alternative is "destructive of its authority."

Let us now summarize the Theistic conscience, variously described in
different passages, in the author's own words: "Its activity is set in
motion by an impulse from the Divine Personality, and does not originate
in the individual nor the world," yet it "reacts to public opinion," is
"often unreasonable and inconsistent," is "subject to evolutionary
growth" and is "not infallible," is "capable of _infinite_ variety of
interpretation" and "reacts to a human standard," which, however,
"trails some clouds of glory from its Divine original"; and in
conclusion, "If we regard conscience not as a phosphorescent gleam
playing upon the surface of consciousness, but as a vital impulse,
partly rational, partly instinctive, welling up from the depths of
Personality, we shall not run the risk of denying its authority."[22] It
would be well, however, not to underestimate the risk, although it
undoubtedly caters for a great variety of tastes.

Allied to the Emotional school for the purpose of proving conscience are
those Rationalists, of whom we have taken Dr. Rashdall as an example,
who have for an object the establishment of the "objective" validity of
moral judgment. The real contention becomes clearer; the chief point at
issue is the question of authority.

We see, then, that there are two points to be decided: (1) the ultimate
validity, with which is connected the question of the Divine Authority,
of moral judgments; and (2) the mode of recognition, with which is
connected the cause or propellent which induces moral action.

Rashdall summarily dismisses the dual character of the problem in a
phrase. "The question at issue between Rationalists and Emotionalists is
not what impels me to do a virtuous act, but how I know it to be
virtuous."[23] The connexion between motive and judgment is too closely
related to be thus calmly ignored. It is agreed that the motive does not
affect the intrinsic character or "rightness" of an action, but at the
same time it most certainly does affect a man's _estimation_ of his
action; and this, in order to arrive at the value of moral judgments, is
most obviously relevant.

For Dr. Rashdall the distinction between how I know my action to be
right or virtuous, and how it is virtuous, does not exist. Both imply
recognition or statement of indisputable fact; for him there can be no
ultimate doubt as to the character of moral "good," which can in no way
be a matter of opinion, for good is _sui generis_: it is good and
nothing else; happiness may be good, honesty may be good, but good is
good for no other reason than because such an abstraction is supposed
to exist as a transcendental fact. "Therefore good can be recognized
just as any axiomatic truth can be recognized; as, for instance, the
fact that 2 + 2 = 4, or two straight lines cannot enclose a space." How
is it then that people even of the highest intelligence do not
invariably agree about what _is_ good or morally right?

There are no two opinions about whether 2 + 2 does, or does not, equal
4, yet there is no such general agreement about what is right. If asked
why a thing is right or good most people would reply either by giving a
reason to show that it is _desirable_ or else by quoting the authority
of some one else's _ipse dixit_ (in which case it is inferred that the
authority quoted had some reason for supposing it desirable). The reason
that 2 + 2 = 4 is, on the other hand, that there can be _no_ possible
alternative. Yet is it true to say that there can be no possible
alternative to what the consensus of opinion in any one country
considers morally right? Some things that are considered immoral in
England are considered moral in Japan, and _vice versa_.

Dr. Rashdall, however, conceives of but two alternatives in estimating
moral values, the first of which he dismisses, because on this view "our
moral judgments could possess no objective validity." He says: "... I
examined the question whether our moral judgments are in ultimate
analysis merely statements asserting the existence of a particular kind
of feeling in particular minds, or whether they are intellectual
judgments of universal validity--judgments, of course, of a very
peculiar and distinctive kind, but just as much intellectual and
universal judgments about the nature of Reality as the judgments 2 + 2 =
4, or 'this is a good inference and that is a bad one'."[24]

It is difficult to know whether this arbitrary elimination of the
subjective element from ethical judgments, and the attempt to translate
moral values into terms of mathematical formulæ, is intended to denote
the infusion of a mystic factor into the "exact sciences," or an attempt
to reduce metaphysics and morality to rule of thumb! The following
thesis, however, which will be elaborated in the course of this
discussion, is based on a synchronous realization of rational principles
and psychological processes.

Thus, what an individual conceives to be morally right and good, when he
is conscious of having acted so according to his own standard, may be

(1) Wholly irrational, illogical, anti-social and undesirable (from
every point of view except his own), even though arrived at solely by an
intellectual and reasoning process; or

(2) An entirely instinctive, blindly impulsive or emotional action,
afterwards endorsed by the intellect (i.e. subsequently rationalized);

(3) The result of thoughtful deliberation, carefully and logically
designed to bring about certain preconceived "moral" ends such as
social happiness, justice, fulfilment of duty; all of which are
artificial and conventional standards, and good _only_ because they are
_desirable_, not because they are universally valid--irrespective of
time, locality and circumstances; or

(4) Any combination of these three.

The foregoing applies as much to the aggregate moral consciousness of a
community in different stages of civilization, or in varying states of
emotional abnormality, as to the individual conscience.

It can also be shown that the "communal conscience" reacts upon the
"individual conscience" in inverse ratio to the latter's emotional or
intellectual capacity for resistance; and that the "communal conscience"
(identified at a later stage of this inquiry with "Cosmic Suggestion")
is the integral product of the numerical and dynamic strength of the
convictions of the members of the community, and operates upon the
"individual conscience," either consciously or subconsciously, in the
same way that "Suggestion," according to the law discovered by Liébeault
and employed by the Nancy School, operates in hypnotic phenomena.

It will then (if this view can be established) be shown that the factors
of conscience are: (1) emotional, (2) intellectual, (3) internal
(including hereditary and organic elements), and (4) external
(environment--material and psychic); and that its validity, in ultimate
analysis, can but rest on codes, which may be not only Conventional and
Artificial, but also Rational or Intellectual, Social and Utilitarian;
and in any case variable, in the same way that the soundest and most
logical policies must, to a certain extent, be variable, or capable of
adjustment as circumstances change; the only elements which should be
constant and invariable in any policy (which is not a misnomer) being
logic and truth. So it is with rules of conduct.

As regards the purely internal sanction of our actions and thoughts,
that is to say, our relationship with Ultimate Reality, which is God or
the Law of Existence, there is only one conception of the latter which
seems to comprehend the infinite with the finite, and that is Force,
because it is the continuity of Existence, or after the manner of
Leibnitz: "Substance, the ultimate reality, can only be conceived as
force." Any moral law which may be said to be fundamental in itself and
independent of circumstances will be in relation to force. But such
"laws" will also be independent of the moral imperatives and written
codes, for they are independent of volition--of the will to obey them.
Can a man be possessed of love, greatness, nobility, courage, honour, at
a word of command? Therefore if it can be truly said that "love is the
greatest thing in the world," it is because it is the most powerful
force. Hate is disruptive, disintegrating and annihilating; love is
integrating and strengthening.

But there is yet one "good," one fundamental imperative which needs no
proof, and that is Truth--ultimate truth, because it is the statement of
what Is; without which logic, or, indeed, intelligible language, would
be impossible. But truth is not opinion, or assertion, or hope, or
faith, or in the words of Huxley "those idols built up of books and
traditions and fine-spun ecclesiastical cobwebs." Truth and all its
derivatives--honesty, integrity, truthfulness and sincerity--have an
intrinsic value of their own, for their negation implies the negation of
the principles of Existence.

But men require more than this, they require a "moral code" or standard
to give coherence to their relationships; this code, then, is that which
is desired, or imposed, and this want is most efficiently supplied by
the principle of "Utility."


[13] See "Conscience, its Origin and Authority," p. 25.

[14] W. H. Mallock, quoted by Richardson.

[15] Professor James Ward uses the terms "anabolic" and "catabolic"
processes in this connexion, also in a sense analogous to the
distinction between doing and suffering.

[16] J. Ward, "Heredity and Memory," 1913.

[17] "Conscience, its Origin and Authority," p. 69.

[18] _Ibid._, pp. 67 and 68.

[19] "Conscience, its Origin and Authority," p. 96.

[20] Hastings Rashdall: "Is Conscience an Emotion?"

[21] "Conscience, its Origin and Authority," p. 99.

[22] "Conscience, its Origin and Authority," pp. 99, 95, 96, 70, 72 and

[23] "Is Conscience an Emotion?" p. 113.

[24] "Is Conscience an Emotion?" p. 52.



The author of "Conscience, its Origin and Authority," attempts, after
the manner of priests, to demolish the Utilitarian principle of morality
by stating that the Utilitarian must, to be logical, justify any means
if the end is desirable. As though the Utilitarian and not the Theist
was for ever trying to show that the intrinsic character or value of an
action depended upon the motive (which must be distinguished from the
_intention_; a man who saved another from drowning in order to put him
to death afterwards would be influenced by an intention to murder, but
the motives were: first, desire to rescue, and, for the subsequent
action, desire to kill). Mr. Richardson writes: "The Good and the Right
possess their authority to the Utilitarian because they tend to the
greatest possible happiness of the greatest number of sentient beings."
Now suppose a case which I do not think actually happened, but which may
easily be conceived as happening. Suppose that Cecil Rhodes deliberately
caused the South African War, as many people believed at the time. This
would be characterized (and was, in fact, characterized) as an immoral
act of unscrupulous aggression. But he might defend his action thus:
"Granted that so many thousands of soldiers and citizens will be slain,
and the land cleared of its inhabitants. In a few years the land so
cleared will produce increased harvests of gold and grain. More food
will mean an increase of human productiveness and an increase of
population; thriving townships and farmsteads will support a people more
numerous and richer in the comforts which make life desirable than could
have existed without my action. Therefore on the Utilitarian hypothesis
my action was right and good, and deserved, not reprobation, but

Not only is this position not admitted by Utilitarians, but John Stuart
Mill long ago pointed out that such a hypothesis "is to mistake the very
meaning of a standard of morals, and to confound the rule of action with
the _motive_ of it. It is the business of Ethics to tell us what are our
duties, or by what test we may know them; but no system of ethics
requires that the sole motive of all we do shall be a feeling of
duty.... The great majority of good actions are intended, not for the
benefit of the world, but for that of individuals, of which the good of
the world is made up; and the thoughts of the most virtuous man need not
on these occasions travel beyond the particular persons concerned,
except so far as is necessary to assure himself that in benefiting them
he is not violating the rights--that is, the legitimate and authorized
expectations--of any one else."[25]

This is sufficient refutation of such objections to Utilitarianism as
the one brought forward by Richardson, and clearly founded on a

Mill, in what is still the best defence of this system, continues:
"Utilitarians ... are ... of opinion that in the long run the best proof
of a good character is good actions; and resolutely refuse to consider
any mental disposition as good, of which the predominant tendency is to
produce bad conduct."[26]

"The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the
Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion
as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the
reverse of happiness."[27]

The Theistic writer says "the essence of morality is sacrifice."[28]

The utilitarian morality does recognize in human beings the power of
sacrificing their own greatest good for the good of others. It only
refuses to admit that sacrifice is itself a good. A sacrifice that does
not increase, or tend to increase, the sum total of happiness, it
considers as wasted.

As regards "conscience": the Utilitarian, when he attempts an analysis,
realizes that "in that complex phenomenon as it actually exists, the
simple fact is in general all encrusted over with collateral
associations derived from sympathy, from love, and still more from fear;
from all forms of religious feeling; from recollections of childhood and
of all our past life; from self-esteem, desire of the esteem of others,
and occasionally even self-abasement."[29]

For the priest "ethics cannot be built securely upon anything less than
religious sanctions, and it is for the sake of conscience that ethics
have a practical value."[30]

Can an honest and unbiased thinker doubt that the first is the truer

Let us now return to a further statement of the position of
Utilitarianism as dealt with by J. S. Mill. From Professor Sidgwick and
those Utilitarians who attempt to claim for the atheistic moralist a
conscience of mathematical accuracy we are unlikely to derive much

"According to the Greatest Happiness Principle, the ultimate end, with
reference to, and for the sake of which, all other things are desirable
(whether we are considering our own good or that of other people), is an
existence exempt as far as possible from pain and as rich as possible in
enjoyments, both in point of quantity and quality; the test of quality,
and the rule for measuring it against quantity, being the preference
felt by those who, in their opportunities of experience, to which must
be added their habits of self-consciousness and self-observation, are
best furnished with the means of comparison."[31]

This, according to Utilitarians, is also the standard of morality.

In conformance with this principle of moral obligation, we choose the
greater before the lesser good. Between General Morality and the
obligation of Duty, with which he associates justice, Mill draws what
appears to be a somewhat unnecessarily hard line of distinction,
insomuch as the difference may be seen to consist more of degree than of
kind. Other ethical writers make the same distinction when they divide
moral duties into the two classes of perfect and imperfect obligation,
"the latter being those in which, though the act is obligatory, the
particular occasions of performing it are left to our choice, as in the
case of charity or beneficence."

If, in assessing the "amount" of good, we take into consideration,
besides the categories of quantity and quality, a third category of
"proximity," it would, I think, prove a useful qualification by enabling
the Utilitarian Good to embrace all moral obligation, including legal
Duty, which is considered by Mill apart from general morality. By
"proximity" it is intended to imply that the nearer good is more binding
than the further good, which may in some measure counteract the value of
"quantity and quality" where these are involved, and when a decision
between conflicting moral obligations has to be made.

Though this additional category of Good may not altogether abolish the
distinction which Mill makes between general morality and justice or
duty which may be obligatory by law, it appears to amplify and extend
the scope of the principle of Utility.

"Duty," in the words of J. S. Mill, "is a thing which may be exacted
from a person as one exacts a debt. Unless we think that it might be
exacted from him we do not call it his duty."

From this it might be assumed that there could never be any doubt about
what is a person's duty, since when any one owes another or the
community a debt, he is clearly conscious of it, even to the amount. In
the case of right conduct which implies Duty, this, however, is not
always so clearly recognized, especially when Duty implies Allegiance or

In this connexion we may say that the good we do for our own country is
a nearer good than the good we do for an alien country, therefore if
doing the good involves a choice we should choose our own country; for
the debt we owe to our own country is greater than the debt we owe to
humanity at large. Equally the good we owe to our own family is nearer
than, and therefore comes before, the good we owe to society. To this
most people will accede, and, in fact, the realization of this is at the
base of all sense of Responsibility; thus every man, in whatsoever
capacity he is acting, whether as statesman, county councillor, soldier
or head of a family, should put the considerations of the body he
represents or belongs to before all others; and finally he owes it to
himself--or God[32]--to be true to himself, even before he can be true
to another, in the sense that keeping faith with a friend will not
excuse a man acting dishonestly or untruthfully towards himself. And
this for the reason that Truth is independent of Utilitarian valuation,
since Truth alone is an _a priori_ and self-evident "good"; by its very
meaning it is a statement of "what is," temporally as well as
ultimately; as such it must be a statement of indisputable fact, not
opinion or faith which rests on assertion. Since more things are capable
of being proved untrue than ultimately true, it follows that as a
criterion of conduct its value is chiefly negative. It can thus be shown
that lying, deception, breach of contract are wrong _per se_, for truth
is the basic principle upon which all others depend, and the necessary
postulate of the idea of God, whilst the value of our positive acts must
for the most part depend upon some such standard as the Greatest
Happiness or Utility principle.

As an illustration of the "nearer is the greater good" principle may be
cited the line taken up by Disraeli when the controversy over the opium
trade between India and China first came to the fore. Disraeli firmly
refused to ruin our export trade in opium for any quixotic
considerations involving the moral effect upon the Chinaman, whilst it
in no way implied a breach of faith with him.

Less clear is the question of precedence when two primary obligations
are conflicting; primary obligations are here intended to mean those
obligatory duties which may rightly be exacted from a person by reason
of his indebtedness to the corporate body to which he belongs, or which
he represents, and which is entitled to a preference in the good he

For instance, it may sometimes be said that a man's duty to his country
as a soldier conflicts with his duty to his family as its sole support;
both are primary obligations; as long, then, as allegiance to one does
not involve a betrayal of the other, which could only be if their
interests were fundamentally opposed and directed against each other,
both obligations must be equally acknowledged, and a _via media_
discovered to satisfy the claims of both to an equal extent.

Should, however, this confliction of interests be so direct and
antagonistic as necessarily to involve an overt repudiation of the
claims of one or the other, as in the hypothetical case of a soldier
being ordered to execute the members of his own family, his conduct,
supposing him to be actuated by a desire to act solely in conformance
with ethical considerations, would be determined by his judgment as to
which course would promote the greater good or Utility, having regard to
the categories: quantity, quality and proximity; the "nearer" in this
case undoubtedly being his family, though this fact alone would not
necessarily outweigh the other values of quantity and quality. In
certain Eastern countries it would possibly appeal to a man's sense of
appropriateness to be the agent by which the crime or dishonour of his
relative would be expiated.

A man is often heard to claim that his moral duty towards himself, in
other words "his conscience," absolves him from the fulfilment of
another primary duty or obligation. As I have attempted to show, the
only real or _a priori_ duty which a man can prove he owes to himself,
and therefore has a right to place before any other clear duty derived
from the fact of his membership of any community or corporate body, is
his obligation not to violate Truth, which is a statement of reality,
_not of opinion_. Thus no other duty can rightly oblige a man to perjure

If this maxim is accepted, it will be seen that a deadlock of this sort
between a man's duty to his country as a citizen and his duty to himself
or his "conscience," could rarely occur in a civilized or rational
community. Against this a man might argue that he had solemnly vowed not
to shed human blood, either as a soldier or otherwise, and that he is
right to resist any attempt to conscript him for the army, since he
would thereby be required to perjure himself. The answer is simple, for
the man clearly violated his duty to his country in the first place by
vowing he would deprive his country of his services should they be
required, a right which no country has ever forsworn and which is
considered the natural return due for free citizenship and state
protection; these conditions are presumed to be accepted with the
benefits of citizenship and protection of person and property; his first
violation of duty towards his country will therefore not absolve him of
a second.

Neither can it be shown according to this principle that a man is
entitled to take an oath of this nature, regardless of potential
conflicting obligations, on the score that such an oath is merely in
conformance with the postulates of Truth, since the question of the
Rightness or Wrongness of shedding blood under all circumstances is not
susceptible of ultimate proof, but must remain finally on the authority
of an _ipse dixit_, or of Utility.

Thus far we have examined to some extent the purely ethical basis on
which the idea of priority of duty, as evinced by conscience or reason,
rests: the sanction of conscience which rests on religious authority is
dealt with elsewhere.

To further illustrate the "nearer good" principle with which we have
been dealing, it may be profitable to refer to a passage from an account
of the life of General Robert E. Lee, Commander-in-Chief of the
Confederate troops during the American Civil War, a devoutly religious
man, and a lifelong member of the Protestant Episcopal Church.[33]

"Colonel Lee was in command of the department of Texas in 1860, but was
recalled to Washington early in 1861, when the 'irrepressible conflict'
between the free and the slave states seemed imminent. When Lee reached
the capital in March 1861, seven states had passed ordinances of
secession from the Union, and had formed the Southern Confederacy.
Virginia seceded from the Union on April 17, and Colonel Lee, believing
that his supreme political allegiance was due to his state rather than
to the Union, felt compelled to send his resignation to General Scott,
which he did on April 20. The bitter struggle between his personal
preferences and his high sense of duty is shown in the words of his wife
written to a friend at the time: 'My husband has wept tears of blood
over this terrible war; but he must as a man and a Virginian share the
destiny of his state, which has solemnly pronounced for independence.'"

Lee's action in choosing the "nearer" duty to his own state in
preference to the duty he owed to the Union as a soldier and a citizen,
even against his personal preferences and, as far as one can discern
them, his religious opinions, affords a striking example of the
principle I have been attempting to illustrate.

Whether his decision was arrived at spontaneously and impulsively, or as
the result of deliberation, is immaterial as affecting the "rightness"
of his action. Equally immaterial is the possibility that he might have
arrived at an opposite conclusion whilst still employing the same
principles, by judging that the categories of "quantity" and "quality"
outweighed that of "proximity." Whenever clear duties are mutually
annihilating, which fortunately is very rarely the case, the problem
will always have to be solved, if it is solved with scrupulous honesty,
by a careful balance of values, whilst the result at best cannot be

What stands out, however, in this case, is the triumph of clearly
recognized duty founded on "nearer" indebtedness, and so of
responsibility, over lesser indebtedness, even though the latter was
reinforced by personal predilection and religious sentiment.


[25] "Utilitarianism," 15th edition, p. 27.

[26] _Ibid._, p. 30.

[27] _Ibid._, p. 9.

[28] Richardson's "Conscience," p. 151.

[29] "Utilitarianism," p. 42.

[30] Richardson's "Conscience," p. 211.

[31] J. S. Mill, "Utilitarianism."

[32] The idea of God personified is often used as standing for a symbol
or norm of ideal conduct, bearing an affinity to the ideal self or ego.
The theory of conduct maintained here is therefore equally applicable to
Theist or Atheist.

[33] N. B. Webster in "Chambers's Encyclopædia."



As long as morality is regarded as a Divinely implanted principle,
subject to no laws beyond the caprice and changing mood of a personal
Deity, the essentials which underlie our conduct are lost sight of.
Morality, that is to say those moral codes which are observed and
recognized, consists of the imposition of values; but the meaning and
the virtue of those values lie in the policy which will produce desired
results. Moral values are subject to constant revision as world
influences affect our outlook. Our endeavour should always be to probe
the essentials. As long as morality is thought to depend on "Revelation"
and religious superstition, the essentials are lost sight of. The
connexion between Religion and Morality is arbitrary, and since
Religions owe their power to the fear of the Unknown, and the virtue of
Morality depends upon the necessity of conforming to that mode of
conduct which will produce known results, Religions tend to mask the
essentials in Morality and make it unreal.

Morality is held to include two distinct principles; moral obligation,
or conduct towards others, and conduct towards, or the debt we owe,
ourselves. We are here concerned chiefly with the first; the
second--those rules of conduct which concern only ourselves, are bound
up with the purpose of existence, with the ultimate end. Moral
obligation has arisen out of the necessity for co-ordination and system
in our mutual relationships. Without a moral code, social life would
become chaotic and impossible, comparable only to the state of Russia
under mob rule in the year of grace 1918--a state immeasurably more
degraded than that of Britain in the era B.C.; the early Briton like the
modern Kafir, at any rate, gave vent to his predatory and murderous
instincts, for the most part, outside his own little tribe. The
imposition of some recognized rules of conduct, safeguarding the
security of life and property, is as necessary to the community as the
existence of a coinage for the negotiation of commercial bargains; in
fact it is more so. The two are analogous: the moral code must give
effect to that first and universal principle of ethics expressed thus,
"Do unto others as you would they should do unto you," which is only
another way of saying, "You may expect others to treat you as you intend
to treat them in similar circumstances." Hence the standardization of
rules of conduct becomes a principle of Utility. Altruism has nothing
whatsoever to do with it. Even indignation at the spectacle of acute
suffering needlessly inflicted on animals, where considerations of
reciprocal treatment on the part of the animal do not apply, is
correctly based on the offence such a "discordance" causes to the
æsthetic sensibility of the cultivated, or the induced sympathetic
discomfort of the many. In many natures the pain-suggesting spectacle,
or even the mere thought of it, spontaneously evokes anger, which seeks
satisfaction in the punishment of the author of its occurrence. The only
rational or intellectual process involved in the resulting "moral
judgment" is, as a rule, confined to a realization of the
pain-suggesting idea, and the direction of vengeful impulses against the
offender, while the consequences or ends of conduct in no way determine
the judgment. The particular idiocy of the anti-vivisection agitation is
obvious. We are here, of course, purposely considering, _not_ actual and
arbitrary morality, but the essentials upon which all moralities are
based. We shall deal more fully as we proceed with those psychic and
emotional factors which do, in fact, colour and distort all moral
values. To return to our analogy--we may say then, that a conventional
moral rule stands for the credit of national morality, much as a
five-pound note stands for the credit of national wealth.

However wise a code of morality may be, it is necessarily artificial. It
has grown up to suit the peculiar circumstances and demands of race,
climate and time. The basic reason for its existence is too often
encrusted and disguised by fears, superstitions and illusions,
perpetual creatures of the human mind; the essentials are often lost
sight of or forgotten, and Truth is parodied as the principle that gave
birth to the ecclesiastical chimera which forms the edifice of modern
cults. Is it surprising, then, that morality is garbed in the changing
coat of a chameleon? That what is held moral to-day is immoral
to-morrow, and that what is held immoral here is moral elsewhere?

The second and deeper morality concerns ourselves only. It demands an
answer to the eternal question: What is the Ultimate Good? One great
imperative stands out pre-eminent: we must be true to ourselves. He who
would seek the truth must himself be true. Without truth there is no
creation, no progress. But before we can be true to ourselves, we must
know ourselves; that is the problem we are considering--knowledge of the

Some men are content to supply synonyms for the Ideal--for Perfection,
the goal of endeavour--imagining they are thereby showing the way.
Others realize the first task must be to cleanse the way of the
inadequacies and perversions which masquerade as the whole Truth, as the
"word of God."

The Ultimate Good cannot be translated into the petty codes of human
convenience, neither can it be deduced from the wanton phantoms of man's
wild fancy, called religion, which, by attempting to expound everything,
explains nothing.

What is religion? Is it the search for truth? Is it not an attempt to
clothe our conception of the Infinite in terms finite?--the result being
grotesque, bearing no relation to existence, a lawless chimera, born of
man's dread of the unknown, an amorphous fantasy fashioned out of the
distorted visions of man's hopes and fears, modelled, amended and shaped
in course of time in accordance with the postulate of man's nature--man
the religious animal!

Science cannot give us the whole truth and admits it! "Absolute
beginnings or origins are beyond the pale of science."[34] But religion
professes to know and is disproved at every step. It is when Religion
refuses to learn that she is harmful; because her values are false and
her thought retrospective that she is inadequate. It is not because the
religions of the past and their legacies to-day cannot prove the
Transcendent that they should be discarded, but because they attempt to
prove it and turn the world into chaos in so doing. It is not only
because, in the words of Huxley, "everywhere priests have broken the
spirit of wisdom and tried to stop human progress by quotations from
their Bibles or books of their Saints," that the old religion is
outgrown, but because it is daily growing more and more impotent.

Whether for good or evil the influence of religion on the conduct of men
daily grows less. Religious fanaticism is gradually giving place to
secular and political fanaticism, whose votaries shriek in the name of
Democracy, Socialism or other watchword of Utopia, ever attempting to
impose new moral values bearing as little correspondence to reality as
the old values. Neither can recent attempts to express the old religion
in terms of modern thought revive that which is perishing of inanition.
Huxley wrote thus of the attempt: "If the religion of the present
differs from that of the past, it is because the theology of the present
has become more scientific than that of the past, not because it has
renounced idols of wood and idols of stone, but begins to see the
necessity of breaking in pieces the idols built up of _books_ and
traditions, and fine-spun ecclesiastical cobwebs, and of cherishing the
noblest and most human of man's emotions by worship, 'for the most part
of the Silent Sort,' at the altar of the _unknown and unknowable_...."

We have no desire to follow in the wake of an unprovoked attack on the
churches, our concern is the defence of a rational, against the
imposition of an irrational, code of morality.

But ethical systems are still built upon the fantastical dogmas of
religious or political visionaries. "Ethics," say the former, "cannot be
built securely upon anything less than the Religious Sanctions." The
rules which govern the practical conduct of life must conform to "divine
laws" which in their interpretation have passed through a metamorphosis
as varied and dissimilar as the habits and customs which distinguish
the twentieth century from the second! Was it a sign of the security and
infallibility of ethics founded on religious beliefs that Christian
England as late as the beginning of the Eighteenth Century[35]
sanctioned the execution and torture of harmless old women for the
imaginary crime of witchcraft? It must be remembered that the moral code
of the period, enforced by the laws of the land, reflected contemporary
religious thought. Lecky, referring to the causes upon which witchcraft
depended, says:[36] "It resulted, not from accidental circumstances,
individual eccentricities, or even scientific ignorance, but from a
general predisposition to see Satanic agency in life. It grew from, and
it reflected, the prevailing modes of religious thought; and it declined
only when those modes were weakened or destroyed." 5.

The fact is, as most impartial students of psychology admit, that both
religious and political ethics owe far more of their character to the
"emotional cravings" combined with the interested propaganda current in
the age, than to any real value they may possess from a utilitarian or,
assuming the Divinity to be rational, from a Divine point of view. Ibsen
has truly said that moral values are dependent on power-conditions;
morals, politics and law are to a great extent shaped and propelled by
might-conditions, by the fancied needs and interests of dominant
classes; but the greatest factor in power-condition is psychic; the
greatest world-propellant, the _ultima vires_, is more mind than muscle;
it is this great world force which I have spoken of as Cosmic
Suggestion.[37] Too little may yet be known of this force to trace its
means of transmission, but the reality of its existence can no longer be
doubted. It has been described in the following way: there exists an
effluence or force generated by, or resulting from, the molecular
activity of each individual brain. These forces are constantly
influencing the souls of men, encountering, overcoming, and repelling
opposition, and reacting upon the conscious intelligence of the authors
of their generation; or they may unite themselves into groups and
operate collectively, forming a psychic stream of power.[38]

The fact of this power must be received into the monistic system as part
of the one great law. A purely materialistic monism cannot contain it.
Though we postulate a single law with a dual aspect or duality within
unity, whatever hypothesis we assume will be of less importance than the
discovery and co-ordination of the invariable laws of its operation. We
accept the principle of "monism" not, I fancy, because we are compelled
to do so by the logic of Haeckel, the great exponent of modern monism,
or of his fellow-scientists, but because we are driven to do so without
their help. The principle of oneness and unity, alone, is capable of
satisfying our intellect, our sense of order and logic. There cannot be
conflicting truths; there cannot exist true systems which disprove each
other; all knowledge is complementary; there cannot be true objective
facts and equally true subjective ideals which contradict them;
otherwise the world is chaos and there is no reality. But if we know
anything we know that matter is real and thought is real, and the law of
their inter-relationship is within the same reality. No commonplace of
science is more widely known or more firmly established than the law of
the conservation of energy or of the persistence of force and of matter,
which Haeckel calls the law of substance. Can we be content to believe
that no force exists that is not susceptible to physical analysis? Or
does the first step towards the elucidation of the ultimate and unsolved
riddle of existence, that is, the real character of substance or the
cosmos, lie (as we believe) in the direction of reconciling the
metaphysical with the monistic system?

We seek no escape from the underlying principle of one universal law
which determines all matter, life and energy; but our monism must
comprise the psychic factor. For us this cannot be stated in
physiological terms. Force cannot be regarded as a pure attribute of
matter. Recent advances in psychological research appear to endorse this
view. It is, in any case, less important to insist upon one particular
hypothesis, when much, at the present stage of knowledge, is insoluble,
than to appreciate by observation and introspection the laws that appear
to evolve from it.

Haeckel cannot conceive mind apart from matter or, conversely,
protoplasm without mind (for him they develop concurrently); yet why
should the fact that both are subject to the same cosmic law invalidate
the idea of the persistency of an immaterial force, which may even under
certain conditions, or metamorphoses, break the partnership with matter;
provided that the unit of psychic force is in itself immaterial?[39]
This psychic unit Haeckel terms _psychoplasm_, that is, the
materialistic basis of mind in protoplasm. The laws of psychic
phenomena, however, only appear intelligible when we concede that the
_psychoplasm_ possesses an immaterial aspect which, at a certain stage
of development, may persist as "force," even after the disintegration of
matter into its chemical components. On the other hand, it may, below a
certain stage of development or intensity, lose cohesion and dissipate;
organic matter, however, is never without it. The wonderful discoveries
of recent psychological research, especially in the department of
hypnotism, in the facts of memory and above all in the evidence lately
forthcoming of the existence of telepathy, should encourage us to adopt
a hypothesis which, to the materialistic philosopher, appears
chimerical.[40] A final decision of the ultimate problem remains at
present unattainable, its discussion is therefore of necessity
speculative in character. But the need for recognizing the existence of
a psychic factor, whose phenomena cannot be reconciled on a
materialistic basis, makes its inclusion in the cosmic system
imperative. This need is the greater in view of the tendency amongst an
ever-increasing class to relegate all psychic phenomena to the chaotic
realms of emotional thought, resulting in the propagation of the wildest
fanaticism under such titles as Spiritualism, Christian Science or

There are two modes of thought and they lead in opposite directions:
emotional assumption and analytical investigation; the two systems are
illustrated by the world phenomenon of religious beliefs arising from a
common source, and in their development splitting up, breaking away and
variating, whilst all scientific knowledge unifies and becomes
reconciled during its progress, all laws eventually resolving themselves
into one. It is often said, and it is well to remember, that no system
of human belief is without some fact to sustain it. But when the great
variety of antagonistic beliefs that have sprung from different
conceptions of the same facts are taken into account, one must realize,
as too few educationalists do, that the value of human opinions and
beliefs depends far more on habits of mind and methods of assimilation
than on the ultimate facts on which they are based, or the conviction
with which they are held.

There are many people so ignorant of human nature and psychological fact
that they imagine the truth of a statement may be demonstrated by the
credulity with which it has been received, forgetting that faith fills
the void of ignorance where scepticism is reserved for new ideas.

So long as education comprises the inculcation of beliefs founded on
emotional assumption (it should be clear to any one who thinks on the
subject that few beliefs outside the analytical and exact sciences are
logically reasoned out from fundamental principles) and the facile
repetition of archaisms is appraised as intellectual thought; in short,
so long as our methods are retrospective rather than critical, emotion
and fanaticism will triumph over reason.


[34] Professor J. Ward.

[35] The last execution for witchcraft is believed to have taken place
in Scotland in 1722. See Lecky's "Rationalism," 15th edition, p. 13

[36] _Op. cit._, p. 82.

[37] See definition in Preface.

[38] This description with a slight variation is taken from "Ibsen's

[39] It may be objected that the idea of the conservation of the psyche
is only intelligible on the assumption of a pre-somatic, as well as a
post-somatic existence, or that it necessarily involves some form of
transmigration. In place of any theory of the soul's preformation, I
would prefer to view the origin of the soul as bearing relation to the
epigenesis of the organic germ, bearing in mind that the organism is but
the medium of the soul's activity and avoiding all dogmatism on the
question of its ultimate destination. We should, however, remember, as
Professor Ward points out, before we apply the formulæ of physical
science to the realm of spiritual ends, of this fundamental difference:
"Individuality is inseparable from mind and altogether foreign to
matter, which loses nothing by disintegration and gains nothing by
integration." ("Realm of Ends," p. 279.)

[40] See McDougall's "Body and Mind," 2nd edition, p. 349.



It has long been recognized that ideas rule the world, and that Power is
the translation of ideas into material force, but the real nature of
world forces and the elementary laws of their operation have been
obscured by superstition and prejudice, and little attempt has been made
to recognize their true significance.

The great world war has indeed emphasized the immense power of ideas. We
hear much of propaganda and ideals. In medicine we hear more of
"psychotherapy," or the treatment of disease by persuasive and hypnotic
methods. We are aware, too, that our merchants have long known the
practical and tangible value of advertisement, that is, the insistent
repetition of a coloured statement until it is believed to be true, and
that our priests, teachers and politicians have for centuries relied on
this method alone. But for the most part these people have little real
knowledge or understanding of the power they are using, and of which
they are themselves the mere puppets. A supreme illustration is the real
impotence of the various belligerent governments to direct or cope with
the immeasurable psychic forces now pursuing their cataclysmic course,
and their inability to foretell the direction in which they are leading
a bewildered world. Nowhere is this more graphically apparent than in
Russia, whose kaleidoscopic upheavals have baffled all prophets.

I do not suggest that the causal origin of the European War is purely
psychic in character, it may with greater certainty be found years
before its disastrous developments, in the steadily increasing pressure
of population, assisted by the gradual elimination of the natural
checks[41] among the indigent and unfit[42] and the proportionate
increase in the burdens of the fit, due chiefly to the growth of
democratic ideas and trend of religious influences; this pressure found
expression in policies of expansion among the more prolific nations, and
in the case of Germany, where relief could not adequately be found in
colonization, as a natural consequence engendered assiduous military and
bellicose propaganda, which was bound eventually to culminate in a world

In order to facilitate a brief analysis of mob-psychology and public
opinion, and to examine their rightful place in the science of
psychodynamics and their relation to the hypnotic "law of suggestion,"
I have introduced the term Cosmic Suggestion. There are few thinkers who
would attempt to deny that the same factors, processes and influences
are observable in the formation of all classes of opinion, whether they
are called religious, moral, political or artistic. It is,
unfortunately, equally evident that reason, except in the case of
scientific opinion, usually plays the smaller and emotion and desire the
greater part in their formation. We say that this is unfortunate because
emotion never brings us nearer the truth. Poets and ecstatic visionaries
have sung the praises of emotion because to them emotion alone was real
and the normal medium of truth. On the other hand the investigator is
bound to arrive at a different conclusion. "Emotion" has nothing
whatever to do with the attainment of truth. That which we prize under
the name of "emotion" is an elaborate activity of the brain, which
consists of feelings of like and dislike, motions of assent and dissent,
impulses of desire and aversion. It may be influenced by the most
diverse activities of the organism, by the cravings of the senses and
the muscles, the stomach, the sexual organs, etc. The interests of truth
are far from promoted by these conditions and vacillations of emotion;
on the contrary, such circumstances often disturb that reason which
alone is adapted to the pursuit of truth, and frequently mar its
perceptive power. "No cosmic problem is solved, or even advanced, by
the cerebral function we call emotion."[43]

From the earliest times shrewd observers have commented on the ease with
which the passions of men are inflamed and united, often by the least
worthy of objects. Dr. Samuel Johnson, describing the progress of an
agitator bidding for adherence, tersely remarks, "ale and clamour unite
their powers, the crowd, condensed and heated, begins to ferment with
the leaven of sedition."[44]

Before proceeding further, it may be well to make a brief examination of
the hypothesis most in accord with the results of recent psychological
research and ascertainable fact.

It has gradually come to be recognized in scientific circles that recent
advances in psychology have made it impossible to pursue that science
any longer entirely on a physiological, anatomical and histological
basis. It is now also hardly likely to be disputed that not only is
consciousness not the sum total of man's psychic activities but that the
greater part of them are subconscious or unconscious. Thus, according to
Professor James Ward, "our threshold of consciousness must be compared
to the surface of a lake, and subconsciousness to the depths beneath it,
and all the current terminology of presentations rising and sinking
implies this or some similar figure."

Another writer in a recent publication makes use of an analogous
illustration by describing human personality as an iceberg, the great
bulk of which is always invisible and submerged.[45]

The matter is further complicated by the fact that within the domain of
the subconscious there exists a vitality which cannot be traced to a
cerebral or somatic source. Stated in broad terms it may be said that
mind, or the sum total of Personality, must be viewed in two
interactionary aspects: the primary consciousness and secondary
consciousness, or the conscious and the subconscious or subliminal or
(in a special sense) subjective, according to the various terms used by
different writers to express the same thing.

For the purpose of greater lucidity, it has usually been found that this
dual aspect of mind can be best expressed by treating the whole mental
organization as consisting of two minds, each endowed with separate and
distinct attributes and powers; each capable, under certain conditions,
of independent action. It may be that a truer idea would be conveyed if
the mind-whole was described as possessing certain attributes and powers
under some conditions, and certain other attributes and powers under
other conditions. As my object, here, is to enter no further into
psychological questions than is necessary for the elucidation of those
ethical considerations which are dependent upon them, I shall give a
short account of those theories which, in the light of present
knowledge, appear best founded and afford most assistance in connexion
with the subject of morality.

Thomas J. Hudson, whose hypothesis I shall make use of to illustrate my
meaning, assumed for practical purposes that man has two minds. In
making use to some extent of Hudson's theory, I do so not because it is
necessarily correct, for his hypothesis was, admittedly, to a certain
extent provisional; but because it was the first practical working
hypothesis on which all psychic and hypnotic phenomena could be based,
and because it has largely been used as a basis for subsequent

In 1892, Hudson, in his "Law of Psychic Phenomena," said: "In more
recent years the doctrine of duality of mind is beginning to be more
clearly defined, and it may now be said to constitute a cardinal
principle in the philosophy of many of the ablest exponents of the new
psychology." To-day when psychotherapeutics have claimed the attention
of students of pathology, and when at last the medical profession has
almost throughout enlisted the co-operation and help of hypnotism, there
are far fewer people who would deny the existence of that substratum of
consciousness, distinct from the manifestation of the normal waking
mind, which is so profitably studied in the phenomena of somnambulism,
hypnotism and lunacy.

The briefest statement of the salient features of Hudson's hypothesis
will suffice to enable me to suggest the irresistible conclusion that
the prime factor in the formation of all opinion, collective and
individual, the chief determinant of conduct, and the greatest motive
force in the world, is analogous and co-relative to hypnotic suggestion.

Hudson was the first to attempt a clear definition of the rôle and
nature of the two elements which constitute the dual mind. For the sake
of greater clearness he speaks of these two aspects of mind as though
they were two minds, possessing distinctive characteristics and a line
of demarcation between the two, clearly defined. To continue in his own
words: "Their functions are essentially unlike; each is endowed with
separate and distinct attributes and powers; and each is capable, under
certain conditions and limitations, of independent action." The author
then distinguishes the two by designating the one _objective_ and the
other _subjective_. It is unfortunate that he makes use of a
nomenclature in which these terms are slightly perverted from their
legitimate meaning, or perhaps, as he expresses it, modified and
extended, but since he prefers to use them rather than attempt to coin
new ones, it will be necessary to employ them with reference to his law;
in every case in which these designations are employed in conjunction
with the word mind, or printed in italics, they will be used in this

They are defined thus: "The objective mind takes cognizance of the
objective world. Its media of observation are the five physical senses.
It is the outgrowth of man's physical necessities.... Its highest
function is that of reasoning."[46] In other words, the objective mind
functionates from the brain and is susceptible of anatomical
localization, whilst "the subjective mind takes cognizance of its
environment by means independent of the physical senses. It perceives by
intuition.... It performs its highest functions when the _objective_
senses are in obeyance. In a word, it is that intelligence which makes
itself manifest in a hypnotic subject when he is in a state of

Whether we call it soul or subjective mind matters not; what matters is
the fact that in all psychic phenomena there is sufficient evidence to
show that the two aspects of mind interact according to certain
observable principles. The main principle affecting man's mental
organization on which Hudson builds his hypothesis is the Law of
Suggestion, first discovered by Liébeault, the founder of the Nancy
School of hypnotism, during his researches in 1866. It is this: that
hypnotic subjects are constantly amenable to the power of suggestion.
This proposition may be said to have been demonstrated as true beyond
all possibility of doubt.

Starting with this discovery, Hudson, after defining the dual character
of mind, introduces two propositions, namely: that the subjective mind
is constantly amenable to control by suggestion, and that the subjective
mind is incapable of inductive reasoning. Man in hypnotic state has
invariably given sufficient evidence to show that the subjective mind
accepts, without hesitation or doubt, every statement that is made to

With regard to this Law of Suggestion it is well to remember that, while
the subjective mind is invariably and constantly swayed by suggestion,
and is capable of offering no resistance except that which has been
communicated to it by the objective mind, or which is inherent in its
nature, the objective mind, on the other hand, is perpetually assailed
by extrinsic suggestion, its capacity for resistance being in proportion
to the dominant quality and development of the mind-whole.

The objective mind, it will therefore be seen, is potentially selective,
that is to say, the measure of its quality is its capacity to select at
will intellectual nourishment from the whole range of humanity and
nature, free from the oppression of its psychic environment. The rare
combination of this intellectual fastidiousness with a super-sensibility
is the mark of true genius.

Every one is conscious that at times we become aware of impulses,
inclinations and concepts which seem to form no part of our thinking or
waking minds; they seem to come from the depths of our souls in
response to some vital need of our existence. When the tendency appears
to be hereditary we call these promptings instincts[48] and consider it
right to suppress them or hold them in check. We do not resign ourselves
wholesale to unbridled licentiousness or anger because the reproductive
instinct and pugnacity are inherent in our nature; on the contrary, we
realize that our best interests lie in self-control. If, on the other
hand, the impulse is less easily accounted for, if, maybe, the message
of our souls runs counter to our normal instincts, our interests or
reason, we are apt to assume that the impulse emanates from outside our
nature and must have, many of us think, a supernatural or Divine origin.

It may be said then that most people distinguish "good" and "bad"
impulses, or impulses which must be inhibited and impulses which should
be followed at all costs.

Theology, as taught in the Sunday School, treats the subject somewhat
after this fashion: "All mortals are assailed by the powers of Good and
Evil; the vehicle of the Divine Will is 'Conscience,' the voice of
conscience is the voice of God within us. Beware of the World, the Flesh
and the Devil; the Devil calls to his victims in the guise of the
flesh." This idea is exploited for all it is worth in conjunction with
the doctrine of original sin: the stock device of priestcraft to enhance
the value of its own ministrations and sacraments. The spiritual teacher
will usually "bring the lesson home" by a vivid description of the
habits and idiosyncrasies of a Mephistophelian Devil with a particular
liability to appropriate the "laws of our lower nature" for the sole
purpose of baulking his equally anthropomorphic antagonist, the God of
Jews and Christians, whose voice may be recognized in the pangs of
remorse and self-debasement. A child subjected to this form of
instruction during the most impressionable period of its existence is
usually left for the remainder of its life with a vague distrust of
nature, a proportionate reverence for the _super_-natural, and an
impression that asceticism is the highest attainable virtue, together
with a totally false appreciation of mental phenomena and the real value
of self-control.

Every man should learn to know himself and seek the origin of his
impulses. History is full of examples of men and women who believed
themselves attended by guardian angels or familiar spirits who prompted
their actions and gave them advice; Socrates was constantly attended by
his _daimones_, and Joan of Arc used to hear "spirit voices." These and
similar cases were evidence of the predominance of the subjective over
the objective mind. In a normally balanced mind the _objective_ is in
control; in the reverse process the objective mind is dormant and the
subjective dominates the throne of reason. This is the case in dreams,
trance, hypnosis and cerebral diseases. It is also the case, in greater
or lesser degree, whenever the brain is stunned or is said to be
"unbalanced" as the result of great emotional excitement or shock. It is
then that impulse and instinct take the place of, or inhibit, rational
thought. Impulses emanate from the subjective mind, and may result from
the inherent nature and real character of the individual; or they may
reflect the autosuggestions of the individual, or his bodily desires
(this may be termed reflex-suggestion), or the suggestions of others;
or, again, the latter, acting upon the subjective mind, may awaken
related tendencies or inclinations and result in new complex impulses.
Extreme cases of subjective control result in madness; the false
premises conveyed by the disordered cerebral organs must result in
deductions by the subjective mind of equal abnormality. Control by the
subjective mind nearly always produces in the subject either a feeling
of dual personality, in which two egos are realized, each distinct from
the other--the old _me_ and the new _me_--or else the subjective mind is
identified with a totally distinct, extrinsic and usually superior
individual; delusions of dual personality or demoniacal control are
among the first recognized symptoms of Cerebral disease. The greatest
and maddest fanatics in history have usually attributed their powers to
spirit control. Poets and artists have sometimes confessed that their
most brilliant work was produced under conditions akin to trance; in
some cases--Coleridge and Edgar Allan Poe are well-known examples--the
state was artificially induced. Many have felt as though they were
possessed by a mightier spirit than their own, which dictated while they
merely obeyed.

Professor William James, after describing delusions of dual, alternating
and superimposed personality, which are common symptoms of insanity,
continues: "The literature of insanity is filled with narratives of such
illusions as these.... One patient has another self that repeats all his
thoughts for him. Others, among whom are some of the first characters in
history, have familiar demons who speak with them, and are replied to.
In another, some one 'makes' his thoughts for him. Another has two
bodies, lying in different beds. Or the cries of the patient himself are
assigned to another person with whom the patient expresses

If Macaulay is right in the following passage, "subjective control"
would appear to be the essential condition for the production of poetry:
"Perhaps no man can be a poet, or can even enjoy poetry, without a
certain unsoundness of mind--if anything which gives so much pleasure
ought to be called unsoundness.... Truth, indeed, is essential to
poetry, but it is the truth of madness. The reasonings are just, but
the premises are false."[50]

Another often quoted passage, from Cæsar Lombroso's "Man of Genius,"
bears out the same thing: "Many men of genius who have studied
themselves, and who have spoken of their inspiration, have described it
as a sweet and seductive fever, during which their thought had become
rapidly and involuntarily fruitful, and has burst forth like the flame
of a lighted torch." "Kuh's most beautiful poems," wrote Bauer, "were
dictated in a state between sanity and reason; at the moment when his
sublime thoughts came to him he was incapable of simple reasoning."

Not the least remarkable of the powers of the subjective mind is its
apparently absolute memory; not only are those experiences of which we
have _objective_ cognizance indelibly recorded, but innumerable
occurrences in our environment, which pass unnoticed or of which we are
even consciously unaware, seem to be registered by the subjective mind.
Although it cannot be included in the term memory, implying conscious
memory, we have good reason for believing that in common with all living
organisms the subjective mind of men records not only the result of its
own experience, but also is impregnated by those experiences of its
ancestors which have been transformed into habits and have become
innate, and that by this means only progress and evolution are capable
of explanation. This unconscious register of ancestral experience, about
which we shall have more to say in another chapter, is here adduced as
being an additional factor which must have considerable bearing on the
nature of _subjective_ impulses. The theories of unconscious and of
"organic" memories[51] throw a great deal of light on the transmission
of hereditary characters and of instincts. The very fact of the
appearance of hereditary characteristics in, for example, young ducks
hatched out by a hen, who persist in showing their ancestry by making
for the first pond they see in spite of the astonished remonstrances of
their foster-mother, points to race memory as the only solution.

Telepathy is again another factor in connexion with the subjective mind
which must be taken into account. It has been described as the normal
means of communication between subjective minds _en rapport_; the
possibilities of its influence cannot be ignored. Is it surprising, when
we realize the range, scope and complexity of the subconscious
intelligence within ourselves, that its emanations are sometimes
mistaken for messages from another world?

This brief reference to some of the more noticeable influences which
affect the inherent character of the subjective mind may help to
indicate the importance of the Law of Suggestion with regard to the
theory of conscience (literally self-knowledge--but in practice more
often lack of self-knowledge). This law can be most profitably studied
in the phenomena of hypnotism, for the reason that "the objective mind,
or let us say man in his normal condition, is not controllable, against
reason, positive knowledge, or the evidence of his senses, by the
suggestions of another." (We have discussed his _potential_ capacity for
resistance.) "The subjective mind, or man in the hypnotic state," on the
other hand, "is unqualifiedly and constantly amenable to the power of
suggestion."[52] In this condition the subjective mind accepts
unhesitatingly every statement that is made to it, no matter how absurd
or incongruous or contrary to the objective experience of the
individual. If the subject is told that he is a dog, he will instantly
accept the suggestion, and to the limit of physical possibility act the
part suggested. If he is told he is Napoleon, he will again act the part
with wonderful fidelity to life. The suggestion of pursuing devils will
send him into a lively terror. He will become intoxicated by drinking a
glass of water under the impression that it is brandy. If told he is
suffering from a high fever, his pulse will become rapid, his face
flushed and his temperature will rise. "In short, he can be made to
see, smell, hear, or feel anything in obedience to suggestion." These
are fundamental facts known not only to students of hypnotism but also
very extensively to the general public.

Equal and complementary to the Law of Suggestion is the Law of
Autosuggestion. Having accepted for purposes of clarity Hudson's view of
the independent powers and functions of the two aspects of mind, it
naturally follows that the subjective mind of an individual is as
amenable to the control of his own objective mind as to the objective
mind of another; in fact we have sufficient reason to know that it is
more so. For instance, it is well known that a normal person cannot be
hypnotized against his will, for the contrary autosuggestion of the
subject negatives the suggestion of the operator. Even after a subject
has consented to be hypnotized the settled habits of his life are
sufficiently strong autosuggestions to defend him against the violation
of his most tenacious principles. If, for instance, a hypnotic subject
is conscientiously opposed to the use of alcohol, he cannot be persuaded
to drink water under the impression that it is whisky. This fact is of
the greatest importance in relation to criminology.

In this connexion the following passage from Moll's "Hypnotism" is of
interest: "The more an action is repulsive to the disposition [of an
individual], the stronger is his resistance. Habit and education play a
large part here; it is generally very difficult to suggest anything
opposed to the confirmed habits of the subject.

"For instance, suggestions are made with success to a devout Catholic,
but directly the suggestion conflicts with his creed it will not be
accepted. The surroundings play a part also. A subject will frequently
decline a suggestion that will make him appear ridiculous. A woman whom
I easily put into cateleptic postures, and who made suggested movements,
could not be persuaded to put out her tongue at the spectators.

"It is interesting to observe the way in which resistance is expressed,
both in hypnotic and post-hypnotic suggestion. I, myself, have observed
the interesting phenomenon that subjects have asked to be awakened when
a suggestion displeased them."[53]

It is a fundamental law of hypnotism that it cannot be used as an agent
for the commission of a crime, that is, unless the subject is criminally
disposed. It is obvious that the same rule applies to sexual crimes;
Hudson lays it down as an unassailable fact that no virtuous woman ever
was, or ever can be, successfully assaulted while in a hypnotic

It will now be realized that autosuggestion embraces not only the
assertions of the objective mind of an individual, addressed to his own
subjective mind, but also his habits of thought and the settled
principles and convictions of his whole life. The more intense these
principles and convictions are, the stronger the autosuggestion will
be, and relatively harder to be overcome by the contrary suggestions of
another. It is a law of universal applicability that the strongest
suggestion must prevail.

So far we have alluded only to suggestion applied during hypnosis; it
should be remembered, however, that it is now a settled principle of
psychotherapeutics that suggestion also operates, and from a therapeutic
point of view is sometimes more efficacious, in the normal waking or
sleeping condition; though in the latter case, without complete
amenability, the results are seldom so striking. The condition in normal
waking life which produces phenomena most closely resembling those of
hypnosis is that of strong emotional excitement. We find, also, that in
normal life suggestions of the greatest potency and having the most
far-reaching effects are conveyed by means of emotional states. Although
a close resemblance exists between the result of suggestion in hypnosis
and the result of suggestion in normal and emotion states, similarity of
result does not, as Dr. Bramwell points out in this connexion,
necessarily imply identity of cause. In fact there are some important
differences between the two conditions which produce the phenomena, as
well as some distinctions between the phenomena themselves: whereas
fear, hope, faith, religious excitement and kindred emotions are almost
invariably present in cases which are cited as analogous to hypnotic
ones, some of these, such as fear and other violent emotions,
effectually preclude the production of hypnosis, and further, subjects
who are most amenable to emotional suggestions are often those whom it
is most difficult to hypnotize.[54]

The principle of psychotherapeutics depends, as is well known, upon the
close dependence of the organs and normal bodily functions upon the
behests of the mind. Hudson expresses this in the form of a proposition,
namely: "The subjective mind has absolute control of the functions,
conditions and sensations of the body." Although this statement contains
a very important principle we should not allow it to obscure the fact of
the reverse process. As James, Bain and others have shown, antecedent
bodily conditions often react directly upon the mind. The general truth,
however, of the proposition may be readily perceived when we remember
that perfect anæsthesia can be produced at the will of the operator by
suggestion. The effect of mental stimuli upon functional conditions is
also commonly observed under normal conditions in such phenomena as
blushing, turning pale, the quickening of the pulse, fainting, etc., all
of which should be sufficient to convince any one who gives the subject
a moment's consideration of the very direct and instant way the mind
affects the body.

Several typical examples of the influence of autosuggestion, or
imagination, over intestinal action during sleep are quoted by Bernheim
from the "Bibliothèque choisie de Médecine." They consist for the most
part of recorded cases where, for instance, the subjects, having
registered an intention to use a purgative the following day, have
dreamt during the night with particular vividness that the dose had
already been taken, with the result that, influenced by the imaginary
aperient, they had awakened to yield to nature's demands, with the same
result as if the dose had already been taken.

It may not be out of place to refer to another example from my personal
experience of the potency of suggestion in affecting functional
disturbances during sleep. During my first week at a public school, the
dampness of the new climate brought on a bad attack of bronchial asthma,
which I had not been troubled with for some time previously. The first
bad attack occurred at night, when some noise had caused me to wake up.
When I had recovered sufficiently to look at the time, I noticed it was
2 a.m. and at the same time heard the school clock faintly striking that
hour. Fearing and half expecting another attack the next night; I asked
that asthma powder and the usual remedies might be made available in
case they were needed. That night, as I had feared, and for the next ten
nights in succession, I woke struggling for breath, precisely on the
first stroke of the school clock striking two, and experienced the worst
attacks I ever had. They were undoubtedly induced at that exact time by
the autosuggestion which connected the symptom with the hour and by the
conviction or fear, after the first experience, that the attack would
recur at the same hour.

As we have already shown, one of the chief factors in autosuggestion is
faith. This is, in fact, a fundamental principle recognized by all
Faith-healers from Jesus of Nazareth onwards.

The cases during the present war where nervous aphonia and paralysis,
popularly diagnosed with co-related cases of neurasthenia under the
comprehensive title "Shell Shock," have completely yielded to simple
suggestion by affirmation on the part of the physician and confidence on
the part of the patient, must number hundreds of recorded cases.
Excellent results are often obtained in cases of aphonia and paralysis
by the suggestive influence of electricity applied to the vocal cords
and the nerve centres. Bernheim[55] records several cures of this
description. Smith and Pear[56] quote a striking but somewhat erratic
case in which suggestion was conveyed purely by the faradic current. The
case is recorded by Bläsig[57] of a sailor on the German battle cruiser
_Derfflinger_. "A seaman from the _Derfflinger_ was brought into a naval
hospital with loss of voice on December 22, 1914, and could only speak
in a whisper. He stated that his voice had always been clear and well
under control. At the beginning of December he had a slight cold, which
he attributed to sentry duty on deck in very stormy and wet weather.
While in the ammunition chamber of the big guns, he was greatly upset
during the firing and suddenly lost his voice. After fourteen days he
recovered his speech. On February 12, 1915, he returned to hospital with
complete loss of voice, immediately after the naval engagement in the
North Sea. On February 15 he was treated with electricity, directly
applied to the vocal cords, and on March 20 he was discharged with
complete recovery of his speech. But on returning to duty, as soon as he
went on board his ship, his voice was suddenly lost for the third time
and he remained aphonic."

More spectacular, but not more wonderful than the cures of the
professional psychiatrist, are some of the so-called miracles that fill
the pages of religious history; and they are less easy to explain,
according to the invariable laws of suggestion, only in proportion to
their lack of authenticity. There is no reason for doubting that
thousands of remarkable and absolutely authenticated cures have taken
place at the healing waters of Lourdes, or that many of the recorded
cases of the cure of epileptics, blind, deaf and dumb and sick at the
hands of Saints and others are substantially true. Many of these stories
are, of course, embellished and exaggerated, while others are wholly
fictitious, but the majority are based upon more than a foundation of
fact. The one essential in all these cases is faith in healer and
patient. The truth of the hypothesis upon which that faith is founded
has not the slightest effect on the efficacy of the cure. Hudson quotes
the following passage from Bernheim: "Among all the moral causes which,
appealing to the imagination, set the cerebral mechanism of possible
causes at work, none is so efficacious as religious faith. Numbers of
authentic cures have certainly been due to it." On this fact are based
the numerous theories propounded by the different sects and schools of
faith- and prayer-healers that exist to-day.

The conclusion is irresistible and obvious to any one not blinded by
religious prejudice that whether the object of faith is real or false
the result attained will be the same in either case. Faith will produce
"miracles" irrespective of the premises on which it is founded. This
accounts for the quite considerable success (apart from financial
considerations) attained by "Christian Scientists" in spite of the
self-evident absurdity of their tenets, and the fact that they are
without the remotest conception of the real principles which underlie
their so-called "science."

One of the most important and striking facts discovered by students of
hypnotism is the complete recollection by the subject in the hypnotic
condition of all he may have learned or forgotten in the normal state,
and, in fact, of all he may consciously or unconsciously have
experienced, and this recollection can be induced at the will of the
operator. The subjective mind is said to have a perfect memory, that is
to say, it is capable of registering with unfailing accuracy every
experience of the individual; for this reason hypnotic subjects have a
range and wealth of knowledge quite beyond their waking abilities. It is
self-evident that any forgotten fact that is recalled by an effort or at
random, when an associationist explanation would be wholly inadequate,
must have lain stored all the while below the level of consciousness.

As the factors of memory and heredity together have an important bearing
on the growth of moral ideas, we may deal with the subject a little more
fully. According to James, "The Stream of Thought flows on: but most of
its segments fall into the bottomless abyss of oblivion."[58] "Retention
means _liability_ [the italics are the author's] to recall, and it means
nothing more than such liability. The only proof of there being
retention is that recall actually takes place."[59] His position is
slightly modified some pages later, where he says, after recording a few
cases of hypnotic memory: "All these pathological facts are showing us
that the sphere of possible recollection may be wider than we think, and
that in certain matters apparently oblivion is no proof against possible
recall under other conditions." But adds: "They give no countenance,
however, to the extravagant opinion that nothing we experience can be
absolutely forgotten."[60] The only reason he gives, however, for
discountenancing this possibility is that he cannot find sufficient
explanation for it. On the other hand, we believe that there is now
ample evidence to show that all experience is retained in some portion
of the psychic whole, and that although it may not have been consciously
realized at all, it will still have been subconsciously registered. One
of the cases most often quoted in illustration of this appears in
Coleridge's "Biographia Literaria"[61] and is here repeated since it is
given by James and also at greater length by Hudson.[62] According to
the author it occurred a year or two before his arrival at Göttingen.

"In a Roman Catholic town in Germany, a young woman, who could neither
read nor write, was seized with a fever, and was said by the priests to
be possessed of a devil, because she was heard talking Latin, Greek and
Hebrew. Whole sheets of her ravings were written out and found to
consist of sentences intelligible in themselves but having slight
connexion with each other. Of her Hebrew sayings, only a few could be
traced to the Bible and most seemed to be in the Rabbinical dialect.
Many eminent physiologists and psychologists visited the town and
cross-examined the case on the spot. All trick was out of the question;
the woman was a simple creature: there was no doubt as to the fever. It
was long before any explanation, save that of demoniacal possession,
could be obtained. At last the mystery was unveiled by a physician, who
determined to trace back the girl's history, and who, after much
trouble, discovered that at the age of nine she had been charitably
taken by an old Protestant pastor, a great Hebrew scholar, in whose
house she lived till his death. On further inquiry, it appeared to have
been the old man's custom for years to walk up and down a passage of his
house into which the kitchen opened, and to read to himself with a loud
voice out of his books. The books were ransacked, and among them were
found several Greek and Latin Fathers, together with a collection of
Rabbinical writings. In these works so many of the passages taken down
at the young woman's bedside were identical that there could be no
reasonable doubt as to their source."

James, who considered that phenomenal memories were accounted for by the
exceptional persistence or permanence of the "paths" of thought, a
purely physiological property of the brain-tissue of the individual,
quotes a case within his own experience which, if we accept Hudson's
theory, affords a typical illustration of the facility possessed by some
men of drawing upon the knowledge of their own subjective minds.

"What these cases show is that the mere organic retentiveness of a man
need bear no definite relation to his other mental powers. Men of the
highest general powers will often forget nothing, however insignificant.
One of the most generally accomplished men I know has a memory of this
sort. He never keeps written note of anything, yet is never at a loss
for a fact which he has once heard. As an instance of his desultory
memory, he was introduced to a certain colonel at a club. The
conversation fell upon the signs of age in man. The colonel challenged
him to estimate his age. He looked at him, and gave the exact day of his
birth, to the wonder of all. But the secret of this accuracy was that,
having picked up some days previously an army register, he had idly
turned over its list of names with the dates of birth, graduation,
promotion, etc., attached, and when the colonel's name was mentioned to
him at the club, these figures, on which he had not bestowed a moment's
thought, involuntarily surged up in his mind."

It is hoped that the foregoing has made it clear that a distinction
exists between the normal or _objective_ memory, or recollection, which
is capable of cerebral localization, and the _subjective_ memory, which
appears to be absolute and without anatomical basis. The very fact that
the normal memory is most efficient when the brain is healthy, and the
remarkable powers of the _subjective_ memory are seen to the best
advantage when the brain is diseased or dormant, serves to emphasize the
distinction. This, too, explains the otherwise unaccountable fact that
quite abnormal memories are sometimes possessed by imbeciles equally
with men of genius, especially that type of ecstatic mind often mistaken
for genius by the world. Mr. Bernard Shaw, laying great emphasis on the
distinction, proclaims the domination of will, not reason, as the mark
of genius in art.[63] But the distinction is superfluous and misleading:
it is just that type of "genius" (?), fruitful when the _will_ is
anæsthetized and the range and wealth of the subjective mind given free
play, whose works degenerate into decadent mysticism; it is when
_reason_ ceases to direct the course of genius that the _subjective_
stratum dominates the throne; and the mind, fed and nourished by the
deep-seated lusts of the body, grows mad with the exuberance of its own
descriptive powers.


[41] The principal checks to population enumerated by Malthus were
normally: vice, misery and celibacy or moral restraint, and such
occasional resorts of nature to repress a too redundant population (an
evil aggravated considerably in countries where population is forced to
the limits of its means of subsistence by poor-laws and grants in aid of
families), as wars and famine.

[42] The "unfit" denotes the diseased, criminals, paupers and lunatics.
See "The Fertility of the Unfit," by W. A. Chapple, for an able
exposition of the economic causes underlying the alarming increase in
the unfit population.

[43] E. Haeckel, "Riddle of the Universe."

[44] "The False Alarm," a pamphlet on the Middlesex election of 1770.

[45] "The Purpose of Education" (1915), by St. George Lane Fox-Pitt.

[46] "Psychic Phenomena," by I. J. Hudson, p. 29.

[47] _Ibid._

[48] Instinct in its more technical use denotes any inherited tendency
to perform a specific action in a specific way when the appropriate
situation occurs. In this use instinct should be discriminated from
impulse, which may be (1) the sensation or feeling which prompts an
instinctive action, (2) a similar prompting to an action which is not
instinctive in the narrower sense, or which is characteristic of an
individual only and not of a group.--Webster's Dictionary.

[49] "Principles of Psychology," vol. i, p. 377.

[50] _Ex_ "Essay on Milton."

[51] The theory was developed by Professor R. Semon of Munich, in 1908,
who used the word "engrams" for "organic memories"; quoted by Professor
J. Ward in a lecture on the _mnemic theory_, entitled "Heredity and
Memory," delivered at Cambridge in 1912 and subsequently published.
Professor Ward considers that greater emphasis should be laid upon the
psychic than upon the physical impressions recorded by the "mind-stuff."

[52] Hudson's "Psychic Phenomena," p. 30.

[53] _Op. cit._, p. 129.

[54] _Vide_ Bramwell's "Hypnotism," 3rd edition, p. 334.

[55] "Suggestive Therapeutics."

[56] _Op. cit._, p. 44.

[57] _Münchener Medizinische Wochenschrift_, June 15, 1915.

[58] "Principles of Psychology," p. 643.

[59] _Ibid._, vol. i, p. 654.

[60] "Principles of Psychology," vol. i, p. 682.

[61] Ed. 1847, vol. i, p. 117; also quoted in Carpenter's "Mental
Physiology," chap, x, in illustration of his theory of "unconscious

[62] Hudson's "Psychic Phenomena," p. 44, and James's "Principles of
Psychology," vol. i, p. 681.

[63] "The Sanity of Art," by George Bernard Shaw.



Value implies a valuer; however universal or established a value may be,
the term is meaningless unless it bears relation to people who value. No
definition of value is possible, or at any rate satisfactory, that does
not imply the judgment, choice, or assertion of a valuer in the act of
valuing. The universality of a value does not make it objective or
independent of valuers, but merely widens the applicability of that
value with regard to any imaginable valuer. If this can be admitted, it
follows that value cannot be made independent of the factors that
determine or have determined the mental attitude of the valuer. For this
reason I will attempt to give an account of some of the factors which
bear directly upon man, the valuer, and less directly upon values in
general and moral values in particular. The discussion will be under
four headings: (1) Instinct and Heredity; (2) Emotion; (3) Judgment of
Ends; (4) Environment and Cosmic Suggestion.


We have already alluded to the part played by instinct in determining
the initial character of the ego. Instincts are here distinguished from
the emotions to which they give rise. Without unduly stretching the
meaning of the word "suggestion," in the sense of a prompting to action
not specifically in hypnotism, instinct may perhaps be looked upon as
the innate suggestion of heredity. The two primary factors held to be
fundamental in shaping and influencing the character of the individual
are environment and heredity. The question of the predominance of the
one influence or the other is the subject of keen controversy, and
coincides with the contingent problem of the relative importance of
inherent and acquired characters.

It is now becoming increasingly evident that the problem of heredity is
nearer a solution if viewed rather from the psychical than from the
purely biological or material aspect. So we seek the solution of the
secret in psychology. The vital factor in organism is psychic from
protozoan to man, whether we identify it with "psychoplasm," soul, ego,
or "subjective mind."

Those who put forward memory as the basis of heredity show that
evolution implies the retention by organisms of their experiences in
accommodating themselves to their gradually changing environment.
Constant and reiterated striving in certain directions in this process
of accommodation, until actions become automatic--free of
effort--produces habit. In the words of Professor Ward: "This law of
habit we may reasonably regard as exemplified in the life of every
individual in the long line of genealogical ascent that connects us
with our humblest ancestors, in so far as every permanent advance in the
scale of life implies a basis of habit embodied in a structure which has
been perfected by practice."[64] Laborious observations have been
recorded of minute unicellular creatures to show that they "succeed as
we do, only by way of trial and error." Thus we are led to the
conclusion that the acquisition of habits by the individual during his
efforts to adapt himself to his environment, and transmitted down a long
line of genealogical descent, is the method of heredity; and further,
that man, in common with other animals, inherits all these racial and
individual acquirements from his parents. Instinct, we have said, may be
termed the "Suggestion of Heredity," which again is "race memory," or
the evolutionary product of habits acquired during the process of man's
adaptability to his environment. This, then, is the primary and
fundamental determinant of the character and quality of personality. It
is the quality which is inherent in a man from the moment he begins his
individual existence, that is, from the moment the sexual cells of both
parents coalesce in the process of conception and form a new stem-cell.
Haeckel divides the instincts into two chief classes: the primary, which
can be traced to the commencement of organic life--the common lower
impulses inherent in the psychoplasm. The chief are impulses to
self-preservation (by defence and maintenance) and the preservation of
the species (by generation and the care of the young). These two, hunger
and reproduction, are universally recognized as fundamental. The
secondary were due to intelligent adaption; translated into habit, they
gradually become automatic and "innate" in subsequent generations. The
earlier these habits are acquired and ingrained in the life history of
the race, the more invariable and immutable will be their transmission;
the habits of a few generations are easily modified or effaced by
conflicting tendencies or conditions. The life history of every new
individual, in its initial stages, is a (more or less complete[65])
recapitulation of the life history of the race. The _earlier_ ancestral
acquisitions have been transformed into habit and have become
secondarily automatic, the less are they liable to variation, and the
more inexorable and unfailing will be their transmission. Thus Darwin
showed the greater immutability of generic characters over later
acquired specific characters. This applies to psychic as well as to
physical characters. In the same way the earlier, during the course of
his life, a man assimilates a strong suggestion, the greater will be its
effect and the longer its influence will last.

Let us now consider instinct in relation to moral conceptions. Dr.
McDougall gives prominence in his "Social Psychology" to the following
instincts, which, together with the emotional excitements which
accompany them, play the foremost part in the evolution of moral ideas:
(1) The reproductive, parental and erotic instincts, responsible for the
earliest form of social feeling; (2) the instinct of pugnacity, with
which are connected the emotions of resentment and revenge, which give
rise, when complicated with other instincts, to indignation at
anti-social conduct; (3) the gregarious instinct, which inclines animals
to gather together in aggregations of their own species--this impulse
has an important bearing upon the sympathetic emotions and is at the
root of tribal loyalty; (4) the instincts of acquisition and
construction, which have been developed with the idea of property, and
the moral judgments connected therewith; (5) the instincts of
self-abasement (or subjection) and of self-assertion (or self-display),
with which are connected the emotions of "depression" and "elation"--the
former instinct gives rise to feelings of respect towards superiors,
divine or human, and the latter is the basis of self-respect.[66]

Other writers lay greater emphasis on a distinct instinct of Imitation.
It is undoubted that imitation, both when it is spontaneous and when it
is deliberate--the distinction between the two forms should be carefully
observed--plays a great part in the formation of moral judgments.
Theological and ethical writers are fond of saying that the sense of
moral obligation arises from the consciousness of approval, and
consequent imitation, of an ideal or a standard which is submitted to
our judgment; this implies deliberate imitation. The imitative tendency
(purely spontaneous) is strongly marked in every child in its first
efforts at vocalization, which are pure "Echolalia," i.e. incessant
repetition of the sounds it hears; in fact, imitation marks every step
of a child's growing consciousness. Practically all phenomena, however,
attributed to the imitative instinct is in reality a manifestation of
response to extrinsic suggestion. James speaks of "the imitative
tendency which shows itself in large masses of men, and produces panics,
and orgies and frenzies of violence, and which only the rarest
individuals can actively withstand.... Certain mesmerized subjects must
automatically imitate whatever motion their operator makes before their

To ascribe this tendency to a special instinct would be to disclose a
faulty appreciation of mob psychology and the Laws of Suggestion. These
panics, orgies and frenzies of violence, and similar vindictive or
enthusiastic mob tendencies, are simply the natural response to mass or
cosmic suggestion, as we shall see later.

The final and precipitate cause of these outbreaks is frequently the
personal magnetism, or more correctly the suggestion, of one man. The
qualities necessary for the exercise of this power--the secret of
successful demagogy--are not, as might be supposed, the possession of a
dominant will and a constructive, purposive or tenacious intellect. It
may be, indeed, that a great man of action, a Napoleon or Cæsar, arises,
and by these sterling qualities dominates the masses and their attendant
sycophants and demagogues; but more usually the essentials are a gift
for facile and frenzied oratory and the power of evoking emotional
presentations, qualities possessed, _par excellence_, by madmen and
fanatics, the Kerenskys, Lenins and visionaries of all times. Their
powers are the more irresistible, it is true, if combined with a shrewd
knowledge of correct methods of propaganda and lavish adulation, for the
obvious reason that, as we have seen, the strongest suggestion is the
one that is most acceptable to the subject and most in accord with his
predilections. Nothing would be truer than to say that only the rarest
individuals can actively withstand the onslaught of cosmic suggestion.
It is significant that the greatest human type, the true genius, who
appears most often in the great philosopher, less often in the great
artist, and who possesses a superabundance of dominant will-power and
constructiveness, is far less powerful than the great conqueror or
politician; for he commands intellect rather than emotion, and the world
is governed by emotion.

It is not sufficiently realized that many so-called geniuses,
imaginative, histrionic and poetical, can never deserve the highest
place, for they are the sounding-boards of the world; their superlative
quality is receptivity; they are instruments, not players; they voice
the great masses, and they share with publicists and politicians a
desire to be incriminated in the movement of their surroundings.
Wieninger, in his "Sex and Character," emphasizes the dependence of
publicists and tribunes of the people upon the masses they would lead.
The politician, like the prostitute, has to court the populace; she is a
woman of the streets--he is a man of the streets. For this reason he
denies to the great politician and the man of action the quality of true
greatness. "The man of action shares with the epileptic the desire to be
in criminal relation to everything around him, to make them appanages of
his petty self. The great man feels himself defined and separate from
the world, a nomad amongst nomads, and as a true microcosm he feels the
world already within him."

The really great men, the Kants, the Descartes, Leibnizs or Spencers,
and the greatest artists are wholly creative, purposive, dynamic; they
owe no allegiance to the masses, for they are greater than the masses;
they realize all without reflecting all; they seek nourishment where
they will, and they spew out what they will; this perfect freedom is
necessary for the attainment of truth. Truthfulness is a necessary
attribute of genius, but not of statecraft or government, or of
poetical effusions of the imagination.

While we are dealing with the subject of instincts it may not seem out
of place to refer to the widely held belief that maternal impressions
during pregnancy have a direct influence on the temperament of the
child, and are often responsible for inducing definite tendencies of
aversion and attraction and even physical resemblances. Although such
acquired tendencies, admitting their existence, cannot strictly be
classed with the instincts or tendencies inherited from former
generations, since they are acquired after the inception of, and by, the
new individual; yet they have a resemblance in that they are both
pre-natal acquirements, and are manifested in the same way. Writers on
heredity and biology are apt to dismiss the subject as unworthy of
serious consideration, and to account for any instances of the sort
attributed to this cause as based on pure coincidence. It is, however,
significant that the great majority of mothers who have given the matter
any thought are, as a rule, firmly convinced of the reality of pre-natal
influences. When the principles of suggestion are applied to the case,
it will be seen that the conditions of pre-natal existence are
favourable for the reception by an unborn child of strong telepathic
suggestions from its mother. The embryo mind is entirely receptive; any
violent psychic disturbance in the mother must react upon the child.
Most people know of some instance which points to the "impression"
theory, and which it would be impossible to account for in any other

There appear to be no reasonable grounds for denying that maternal
impressions may sometimes be held accountable for temperamental
tendencies, not easily attributable to heredity, although it would, of
course, be absurd to attempt to account for all abnormalities in the
same way. The naturally greater receptivity and suggestibility of women,
shown by their quick response to emotional suggestion, their
credulousness, and the fact that women are the best mediums,[68] becomes
very much more marked during pregnancy. At such times some women,
normally distinguished by their vigour and initiative, become
conspicuously impressionable; they become, in fact, ready "conductors"
of suggestion. It follows that the influences that bear strongest upon
them also bear upon the child.

Greater importance should not be attached to the psychic environment of
a child than to its inherent hereditary qualities, which irrevocably
determine its native tendencies and the limits of its ultimate
possibilities. Environment may modify or enhance a child's inherent
characteristics in an infinite variety of ways, but cannot nullify them
or transcend by one iota the limit of its potential development.

In a previous chapter we discussed the view of those who regard moral
judgment as an emotion or intuition of the "good" and the "right," and
who find justification for our rules of conduct by referring them to the
Divine Will, which is supposed to inspire them by means of the "moral
organ" or conscience. We believe that a correct appreciation of
psychology makes it abundantly clear that although there are many
impulsive, instinctive and emotional factors totally unconnected with
any rational or intellectual process which do, indeed, affect our moral
judgments and give rise to ethical conventions, these factors can give
no _validity_ to moral codes; and that, stripped of the sentiments and
emotions with which they are obscured, moral systems must be judged by
principles of utility, while they are enforceable according to the
universality with which they are desired. It is, moreover, equally
absurd to look upon moral values as ultimate and irreducible categories
of good and evil, irrevocably codified by an omniscient Deity for the
conduct of humanity for all time, and supposedly accessible to the
intelligence of all who consult their conscience. This latter position,
which is maintained by Theistic "Rationalists," leads to precisely the
same "conclusion" as the arguments of the "Intuitionalists," the only
difference between them being that the conscience of the "Rationalists"
is a thinking and intellectual organ, while the conscience of the
Intuitionalists is an emotional and instinctive organ. But this amicable
convergence is not accidental but a _sine qua non_, since in either case
the object aimed at is identically the same, that object being the
establishment of conscience, dependent on morality, on a pinnacle of
ethical omniscience and infallibility, where its authority shall be
unquestionable and absolute. They may well be left to their quarrel,
which in reality amounts to little more than verbal quibbling.

Instinct, as we have seen, must inevitably play a very large part in the
evolution of public morality and the moral impulse of every individual.
Careful statistics have shown that criminal tendencies make their
appearance with unfailing persistency in selected degenerate families.
The genealogical record of one family may show a murderer in every
generation; pauperism, prostitution and drunkenness are characteristics
of another, and so on. Heredity will primarily determine a man's
inherent characteristics--his instincts, temperament, disposition and,
_eo facto_, his "conscience." Other factors, above all his immediate
psychic environment, may, indeed, modify these tendencies for better or
worse, but under the most favourable conditions Cosmic Suggestion, in
its aspect of "public conscience," can never altogether supplant strong
inherent tendencies. Those who believe in the conscience myth sometimes
object that the voice of conscience always calls in the right direction,
but that a man may, throughout a long life of crime, stifle and inhibit
that "still small voice," yet in the end (perhaps when faced with the
extreme penalty of the law) the wretched sinner will exhibit the
symptoms of the most genuine and heartfelt remorse and express the
greatest horror of his evil deeds. This type of explanation shows a
total failure to interpret psychological processes. It may, indeed, be a
common occurrence for a condemned criminal, brought suddenly face to
face with the prospect of plenary punishment, to experience real sorrow
and shame at his conduct. The emotion will probably be perfectly
genuine. The prisoner, with little hope of enjoying the fruits of his
felony and removed from the direct counter-influence of a criminal
environment, will be in the best possible frame of mind to respond to
the right cosmic suggestion--universal horror and detestation
of his deed. Such a suggestion, reacting upon the instinct of
self-preservation, will readily kindle emotions of remorse, self-horror
and sorrow. Penitence need have nothing to do with any true ethical
appreciation of the action of which it is supposed to be the object.
Many cases have been recorded of miserable old women accused of
witchcraft, who, learning for the first time at their trial of the
crimes they were supposed to have committed, have become convinced of
their guilt, and suffering the keenest pangs of remorse have died with
penitence and resignation.

Fear is the chief element of remorse: fear of our fellow-men, vague
fears for the future, or in the most literal sense the fear of Divine
retribution or God. Racine dramatizes this emotion in the famous
confession of Athalie: filled with dread at the words of warning uttered
by the ghost of her mother Jezebel, she recalls her vision:

       Tremble, m'a-t-elle dit,
     fille digne de moi;
       Le cruel Dieu des Juifs
     l'emporte aussi sur toi.
       Je te plains de tomber
     dans ses mains redoutables,
       Ma fille.


Unfortunately for the attainment of truth, nothing has a greater
influence on the formation of human opinion and character, and is
therefore more inextricably bound up with all questions of politics,
religion, morality and art, than the complex mental state we call
emotion. Nothing affects the well-being, health and happiness of mankind
more directly.

Emotion may perhaps be defined as a continuity of complex presentations
manifested in organic sensation. In a sense, emotion is feeling, which
is the wider term; it is an effect, which therefore cannot exist
without its cause, though the same cause under different circumstances
may produce many varied emotions, both in quality and degree.

The visible manifestation of emotional disturbance need bear no relation
to its intensity. People of the greatest nervous sensibility, in whom
emotional excitements are most deeply and acutely felt, often keep their
emotions best under control. They are not, of course, able to inhibit
the involuntary or visceral processes which are affected by emotion:
heart, pulse, salivary glands and respiratory system may indeed tell the
tale; but the will may prevent the contagion spreading further: the
intellect may remain calm, thought and action slow and deliberate,
demeanour outwardly cool and collected.[69] The lower the level of
will-power and intellectual development, the more closely dependent will
all cerebral processes be upon emotional states and reactions; at the
same time, the emotions become cruder, less complex and subtle and even
less deeply felt. Children and savages are almost entirely emotional, in
the sense that they think emotionally and have no power of intellectual

Professor Ward describes the effect of emotion on thought very clearly
as follows: "Emotional excitement--and at the outset the natural man
does not think much in cold blood--quickens the flow of ideas....
Familiar associations hurry attention away from the proper topic, and
thought becomes not only discursive but wandering; in place of concepts
of fixed and crystalline completeness, such as logic describes, we may
find a congeries of ideas but imperfectly compacted into one generic
idea, subject to continual transformation, and implicating much that is
irrelevant and confusing."[70]

There are few people indeed whose views on religion, politics, art, and
the rights and relations of the sexes are not chiefly emotional values.
We may think that our convictions are based on logical reasonings, but
the force of childish impressions and associations, and the unresisted
bias of passions and interests, are the processes by which they have
been cultivated, and rational thought has been devoted to the task of
finding reasons for the convictions that are ready made.

Emotion, as we have said, is a continuity of complex presentations whose
elements are manifold; it is a state of feeling subject to constant
modification and expansion while experience develops. First among the
causal factors which influence emotion are the instincts, others may be
intellectual concepts, many more come from the substrata of
consciousness, and of these many are strictly physiological in
character; for instance, there may be disturbances of the genital,
vasomotor or digestive systems, cerebellar disturbances or latent
molecular or biochemical nervous conditions, during which the mind
responds to stimuli ignored under other or healthier circumstances; but
over all it is the inherent disposition of the immaterial psychic or
subjective mind which gives the whole its tone and tendency. We must,
indeed, admit with James that "a disembodied human emotion is a sheer

With the psycho-physical problem as to whether sensory excitation is
antecedent to emotional expression, or emotion gives rise to bodily
expression, we are not here directly concerned. Since emotion is a
continuous condition of experience, it may reasonably be supposed that
organic disturbance is both a contributory cause and the reactionary
result of emotion.[71] Most people admit that "each emotion is a
resultant of a sum of elements," and that some of those elements are
functional and organic, without admitting the contention of Professor
James and those who insist with him that emotion is but a sum of
organic sensations.[72]

Emotional disturbances lead directly to the overthrow of the mental
balance, which divides the normal man from the madman and the
neurasthenic. Modern psychiatrists lay stress on the emotional character
of the latter affection. The underlying features of "functional
neurosis" reveal themselves in symptoms denoting the clash of emotional
elements within, together with a corresponding lack of adaptability to
outer environment, and are characterized by instability and exaggeration
of emotion rather than impaired intellect.[73]

The cultivation of the æsthetic, pleasurable and benevolent emotions on
the one hand, and the elimination of violent emotional excitements or
discordant and morbid emotions on the other, are conditions as essential
for the physical health as for the happiness of the individual.
Emotional sensibility is a condition necessary for the full appreciation
and enjoyment of art, and of all that is pleasurable and beautiful, but
when emotion is allowed to colour reason, the mind is closed to truth,
knowledge and logic.

Art gratifies the emotions as truth should gratify the intellect. It is
not always fully realized how large a part emotional elements, which may
embrace every form of sensory and erotic excitation, as well as the
whole tone of the subjective mind, play in the most intellectual
criticism of an artistic achievement. Of these elements some may be
irrelevant as well as irrational, and by no means realized by the critic
at the time of writing his appreciation. Elliot Smith and Pear
illustrate this point in a way few people would want to dispute. "Let us
suppose that a musical critic, after hearing a new symphony by an
unconventional composer, immediately writes a lengthy appreciation of
the performance. It is clear that nobody would expect him to be able to
give off-hand an account of his reasons for every sentence of the
criticism. But it is obvious that a single phrase in this account may be
but the apex of a whole pyramid of memories emanating from the critic's
technical training, his attitude towards the new departure, experiences
highly coloured with emotion which a few notes of music may have evoked,
and his mental condition at the time he heard the performance. Nobody
denies that these may have shaped or even determined his criticism. But
who believes either that they were all conscious at the time of writing
the article, or that he could resuscitate them without much time and
trouble and perhaps the help of a cross-examiner?"

In addition to the causal, largely emotional, elements might be added a
prime determinant in artistic appreciation, namely, cosmic suggestion.
In the case of a leading critic, overwhelmingly self-confident and
secure of his position, the mere knowledge of the consensus of informed
and uninformed opinion being favourable or otherwise might conceivably
arouse an equally illogical desire to be esoteric and different at all
costs. An antagonistic autosuggestion of this sort unconsciously
underlying a critic's attitude would more than negative any body of
opinion in one direction.[74] But if such artificial and diverse
influences can affect the most highly trained and most honest critic,
how much more will they affect the credulous and untrained? Far greater
will be the power of authoritative opinion in influencing those whose
emotional sensibility is blunt and untrained, who gape in unresponsive
perplexity at some artist's canvas, waiting to have the emotions they do
not feel suggested to them, and who, when given the lead, infuse by the
power of association into the meaningless daub or the subtlest motif
alike the same spirit of satisfaction they derive from the garish
crudities which alone, unaided, find a responsive echo in their breasts.
It is well known that the less tutored the intellect the more real, as a
rule, are the creatures of the imagination. Children and savages have a
wonderful faculty for believing in the reality of their illusions. Does
not this account for the fact that the less clearly a thing is
understood the greater is the power of the imagination in supplying a
meaning. A certain dimness and mystery or quality of incomprehensibility
invariably adds to the respect and awe paid to works of art and their
creators, officially labelled as "great." Sometimes mere age or distance
produces the requisite dimness. Racine considered this atmosphere of
distance a necessary device of stagecraft for the proper presentation of
a hero. "On peut dire que le respect que l'on a pour les héros augmente
à mesure qu'ils s'éloignent de nous."[75] In the same way the intensity
of horror bestowed upon the arch-villain of the piece is increased in
proportion to the distance away from which he is regarded; in other
words, the less you know about him. But this does not hold good for the
heroes of the histrionic stage more truly than for the heroes and
arch-villains of the wider stage of the world. The principle can be
applied equally to the heroes of art, religion, politics or war. It is
not, of course, the dimness or distance _per se_ which magnifies the
object of appreciation; unaided that would merely have the opposite
effect. The factor of dimness, by placing the object further from the
grasp of _reason_, enables the playwright, politician, or critic, as the
case may be, to play with greater ease and certainty upon the emotions
of his audience, and by force of suggestion to endue his puppet more
completely with the symbolic quality he wishes to present. In spite of
Medici prints, oleographic processes and the extension of culture which
renders any one liable to receive choice samples of the Italian Masters
free with a packet of cigarettes, what William Hazlitt said with
reference to Michael Angelo is still literally true. "We know," he
writes, "nothing of him but his name. It is an abstraction of fame and
greatness. Our admiration of him supports itself, and our idea of his
superiority seems self-evident, because it is attached to his name

Convention is a very real and wellnigh irresistible power. Not a few of
our most cherished valuations--artistic, religious, political and
social--are conventional fetishes which have been slowly evolved in the
course of a great number of years as the result of determining factors,
for the most part accidental and forgotten, and probably called into
existence for totally different and unconnected reasons. Yet the
appropriate emotional reaction, evoked by the association of an object
with such a conventional valuation or sentiment, may be just as keenly
and genuinely felt as though it resulted from the awakening of some
instinctive or innate law of our nature. Impressionability is not a
quality to be despised, but on the contrary to be carefully guarded from
contamination. It is by means of emotion that all pleasure and pain, all
aversion and attraction, and all sense of the æsthetic is recorded by
the senses. Emotional sensibility may be compared to an instrument that
may be so finely made that it is capable of registering the most
delicate and exact vibrations so that any harsh sound will injure it,
while, on the other hand, it may be made of a texture so coarse that it
will respond instantly and indiscriminately to any loud and crude noise.
This instrument has an inherent quality of excellence with a
potentiality of exactness that may be developed in a great variety of

The many factors which play a part in æsthetic appreciation have been
abundantly explored by psychological writers.[76] They have traced the
great variety of ways in which art can be the means of evoking
sympathetic emotions by connecting its subject with the inexhaustible
interest in personality. They have cited the part played in inducing
pleasurable sensations in music by the association of range, depth of
tone and pitch with the expression of human passions; and in pictorial
art, the appeal to muscular sensibility by suggested associations with
movement and form, or the effect of straight lines and rounded forms in
inducing sensations of vigour and repose. More obvious are the appeals
to the sexual instincts. There are also associations that give beauty to
colours, pleasurableness to those tints that suggest youth, health,
vigour and feminine charm.

It is easy to understand the agreeableness of symbols of strength and
solidity; the restfulness of economy in presentation, the pleasing
effect of contrast and symmetry, variety and unity, of balance and the
laws of proportion and musical ratios, or of harmony and regularity. The
laws of relativity or comparison and of familiarity and strangeness are
factors which play a part in all appreciation. Finally, there is a more
exclusively intellectual pleasure in the process of analytical valuation
of artistic production.

We cannot acquire truth by means of the emotions, which can but be the
means of informing us of our personal relation towards our environment.
They may reveal us to ourselves, or may register the reflection of our
environment within us; but the consequences of emotion cannot be
regarded as ephemeral, for all emotional excitation must have a
permanent residual effect upon the tone of the subjective mind.


Without attempting to catalogue or enumerate the various intellectual
and mental processes, consigning them to interminable classes and
subdivisions of volitional, cognitive, affective and cogitative states
or acts, labelled like so many distinct specimens in a collector's
museum, it may yet be possible to detach certain features involved in
the process of moral judgment which are distinguishable from the
essentially instinctive, emotional and suggested elements we have been
considering. The danger involved in reducing psychological processes to
their constituent elements and treating of each element as though it
were static and dissociated, is that it is apt to obscure a true
appreciation of the actual manifestations of personality which result
from complex and interactionary elements in continuous motion, forming
one integral whole in constant process of influencing and being
influenced by its environment. The whole is always more and something
different from the sum of its parts. The factors here specially referred
to which may determine in greater or lesser degree the nature and
direction of moral valuation are deliberative, critical and analytic.
These are essentially the intellectual and _objective_[77] processes
exercised to the best advantage when freed to the greatest possible
extent from instinctive and emotional complications. Judgments formed
under such conditions involve the realization of the ends and effects of
conduct, and an assignment of "desirableness" to those ends. It is clear
that an intellectual judgment of this nature, assigning value to the
ends of conduct, must take into account those inherent characteristics
and instincts which underlie all motives and interests. Thus, we
recognize the fact of the instinct of self-preservation, and are right
in assigning the qualification "good" to life as denoting its
desirableness; similarly the instinct of acquisition is general and
fundamental in the human species,[78] we accordingly assign the
qualification "good" to property and wealth, and to its destruction,
"evil"; the abstract value of the end of this instinct is intensified
and held in greater respect the more it is realized to have been the
means by which the surplus energy of mankind has been utilized to
accumulate the capital essential to the development of civilization. The
desirableness of both life and wealth is also considerably increased or
modified by collateral associations, by the pleasures they enable us to

There is in all judgment of the morality of an action a perception of
the end or consequence of that action. The clearness or dimness of the
perception will depend upon the habits of thought and the organization
of motives--or lack of it--which result from the native tendencies and
development of the subjective mind. The norm of valuation which we apply
to moral conduct is conditioned by many conscious and unconscious
factors which determine our idea of "desirableness," and the standard
will approximate to the conventional and common standard of the
community in so far as we are influenced by our environment--or in
proportion to our amenability to cosmic suggestion. It is on account of
the obvious desire for pleasure and for avoidance of pain that
Utilitarians are justified in making use of that general fact as a
standard of utility. This in no way implies that the motives of all
conduct are efforts to obtain pleasurable sensation or to avoid pain.
The mistake of this discredited doctrine of psychological hedonism lay
in confusing the motive or impulse to action with the valuation of
conduct. It is an unfortunate but undeniable fact that conduct is least
often determined by valuation. Realization or anticipation of the end of
action is not the necessary stimulus of action, neither does it conform
to volition or striving; but realization of consequences frequently
inhibits the fulfilment of volition. Both conduct and volition are
determined by the relation of subject to object, and by the constitution
of the ego, conditioned, as it is, by the innumerable factors of
heredity and environment.


Public opinion is often spoken of as something mysterious and powerful,
to be recognized and submitted to, but not to be explained. Napoleon is
credited with having said: "Public opinion is a power invisible,
mysterious, and irresistible." Some writers, failing to appreciate the
true significance and nature of this dynamic factor in the formation of
public sentiment, are content to fall back on the convenient subterfuge
of Divine agency as full and sufficient explanation. Thus they speak of
a "common consciousness" which is the arbiter of the morals and faiths
of men, a consciousness which is subject to evolutionary progress, and
yet owes its existence to Divine revelation.

However inadequately, the attempt has nevertheless been made in these
pages to present a wider and, at the same time, a more precise
definition of those psychic and vital forces, included in the term
environment, which play so great a part in the formation and growth of
human beliefs, opinions and sentiments, in binding together nations,
communities and groups, and no less a part in setting them against one
another. For lack of a better, the designation "cosmic suggestion" has
been used as a generic term to describe the force resulting from the
accumulative suggestions or impulsions of aggregations of individual
agents, between whom and the subjects or recipients a state of _rapport_
is more or less established. It is an aspect, or perhaps more accurately
a product, of the vital energy of the cosmos. In a community or a mass
of men moved by common emotions and ideas, each individual plays the
double rôle of operator and affected object or recipient.

The communication of a proposition by suggestion is distinguished from,
though often accompanied by, other means by which ideas are communicated
through the senses, involving rational processes which produce
conviction. Emotional suggestions are either rejected or accepted
unquestioningly in the absence of any logical reason. The supreme
importance and general applicability in normal waking life of this wider
aspect of hypnotic suggestion is seldom adequately appreciated by
students of social development. That the faiths and convictions of men
do not depend upon their appeal to "man's reasoning faculties" is,
however, usually admitted. Lecky frequently dwells on this fact, as in
the following passage: "In most men the love of truth is so languid, and
their reluctance to encounter mental prejudices is so great, that they
yield their judgments without an effort to the current, withdraw their
minds from all opinions or arguments opposed to their own, and thus
speedily convince themselves of the truth of what they wish to believe."

Dr. McDougall recognizes, as do most modern psychologists, the great
social importance of this "current" of which Lecky speaks; he terms it
mass-suggestion. "Children," he says, "largely in virtue of their
suggestibility, rapidly absorb the knowledge, beliefs, and especially
the sentiments of their social environment. But most adults also remain
suggestible, especially towards mass-suggestion, and towards the
propositions which they know to be supported by the whole weight of
society, or by long tradition."[79] This also he calls prestige
suggestion. Individual suggestibility, he considers, is conditioned by
native disposition and character, and dependent upon the relative
strengths of the two instincts of self-assertion and subjection. He does
not, however, appear to assign to this factor of suggestion any
conspicuous part in the excitation of such emotions as, for instance,
anger, moral indignation, shame and remorse. But the simultaneous
excitation of the same emotion in crowds is attributed to the action of
the gregarious instinct which is accountable for the sympathetic
induction of emotion. The explanation given of the fact that the
instinctive behaviour of one animal directly excites similar behaviour
on the part of his fellows, consists in the assumption that among
gregarious animals each of the principal instincts has a special
perceptual inlet that is adapted to receive the sense-impressions made
by the expressions of the same instinct in other animals of the same
species: thus, for example, the fear instinct, _inter alia_, has a
special perceptual inlet that renders it excitable by the sound of the
cry of fear; the instinct of pugnacity is similarly excited through a
perceptual inlet by the sound of the roar of anger, and so on. Whatever
the value of this assumption it is clear that the emotional excitement
of an aggregation of individuals reacts with cumulative intensity upon
each member of it. It is sufficient, however, to say that there exists
in the human species a fundamental impulse of gregarious attraction,
analogous in the physical world to the law of gravitation, which tends
to produce aggregations of men and to intensify their suggestibility in
relation to sheer weight of numbers and proximity. If we accept the view
that the subjective mind is liable to be directly influenced by other
subjective minds with which it is _en rapport_, the hypothesis of
special perceptual inlets, designed for each instinct to receive only
the corresponding sense-impressions derived from the efferent action of
the same instinct in other individuals, becomes of secondary importance.
Any cause which simultaneously provokes emotional excitement in a large
body of people tends to bring them into _rapport_, thence onwards a
community of feeling has been established, like elements coalesce,
foreign elements are dissipated or repulsed, the mass will think, feel
and act as a collective whole, the impulse or emotion of one will
re-echo in all, as when a certain note is struck all the chords in the
instrument which are attuned to it are set vibrating. A skilful orator
who can once succeed in evoking strong emotional response in his
audience is in the most favourable position for transmitting any
proposition by suggestion; any assertion is then likely to be received
unquestioningly and with the strength of conviction, any suggestion to
be resolved into action.

An orator of the ecstatic and fanatical type will endeavour, by working
himself into a frenzy of excitement, to throw himself into the
_subjective_ state, for thus he is in closest _rapport_ with his
environment. This is the secret of the power of demagogues and of other
worthless and otherwise insignificant individuals. It is said to have
been the method of one of the most extraordinary characters of modern
times--Rasputin, or Grigori Yefimovitsch, a gross, illiterate, debauched
and fanatical Siberian monk, who, up to the time of his murder in
December 1916, had the reputation of being the most powerful man in
Russia. According to the few reliable accounts of him that are
obtainable, the influence of this man's personality and the
religio-erotic frenzies which characterized his ministrations were such
that women of the highest culture and refinement would prostitute
themselves, body and soul, in obedience to his suggestion, ministers and
high state officials habitually sought his favours, and among the masses
he was a constant object of idolatry.

Does any one suppose that if Mark Antony could have circulated his
famous speech on the death of Cæsar in pamphlet form, or could have
published his appeal in a leading daily, he would have chosen that
method? Or if he had done so that he would have attained as striking a
result as by the fire of his oratory? This brings us to a consideration
of the difference between written propaganda and that which is spoken or
acted and accompanied by emotional suggestion.

The mere written or printed proposition is assimilated by
autosuggestion; its aim is to awaken what is already in the reader's
mind, whether of fear or courage, love or hate, admiration or contempt,
to make articulate what before was vague and undefined, to associate
these qualities in the reader to certain objects or symbols, in this way
gradually building up sentiments and ideals. But cosmic suggestion or
psychic environment is a vital influence, capable of overcoming
resistance and of kindling human passions and emotions. It is often
asserted that the Press accurately voices public opinion; this, however,
as all pressmen know, is not true. The Press to a certain extent
approximates certain sections of public opinion, or more accurately
adapts itself to it, but all it can truthfully be said to represent is
the newspaper proprietors, and in a lesser degree the host of hired
scribblers whom they employ. At the same time it would be foolish to
minimize the enormous and ever-increasing power it wields--a power that
increases _pari passu_ with the growing power of the masses and
corresponding decrease in responsibility and intelligence of their
chosen rulers. The Press, no longer confining itself to its legitimate
rôle of conveying news, tends more and more to present the appearance of
organized concerns for the dissemination of lies and counter-lies, and
the propagation of hate, envy and humbug, each organ shouting its
particular claptrap and catchwords with the frenzied persistence of
bucket-shop touts. Mr. Hilaire Belloc draws a subtle distinction between
what he calls the "Capitalist Press," or those organs run for mere
profit, and a "Free Press," or organs produced for the sole motive of
influencing public opinion, i.e. for propaganda.[80] The former is
vicious and untruthful, the latter is virtuous and bears witness to the
truth. Having once consigned all the existing press organs to their
respective categories as "Capitalist" or "Free" by this simple test of
motive, the vice of the one and the virtue of the other are at once
apparent: anything meriting the label "Capitalist" is naturally bad and
depraved, while sufficient guarantee of the integrity and virtue of the
"Free" Press may be found in the fact that Mr. Belloc himself writes for
the "Free" Press, and testifies to the fact that it does not pay. While
so arbitrary a distinction must necessarily appear captious and
fanciful, and absurd when applied as a test of veracity, we may yet
perhaps roughly distinguish between those organs which are designed
primarily to sell at a maximum profit and those which are sold primarily
to propagate a "cause," even at a loss. At the risk of appearing
cynical, we might say that the chief difference between the two lies in
the fact that the former is designed to pander to the foibles of its
readers, and the latter is the expression of the fanaticism of its
writers. As a matter of fact, such a hard and fast distinction can
seldom be made between the two, since both motives are usually operative
in the same enterprise, though in varying proportions. But surely it is
absurd to claim for either an inherent predisposition to speak the
truth. The failure of the "Free Press"--the carping rags that imagine
themselves independent--would appear to lie in the very fact of their
eagerness to convert. The natural resentment of the man who discerns an
attempt to convert him was well expressed in a witty speech in the House
of Commons during a debate on the relations between Press and
Government. What had always attracted him most about Lord Northcliffe,
said the Hon. Member for Stockport, was that he had never pretended to
be a philanthropist. He was not one of those pestilent people who
pretended to run newspapers in order that they might leave the world a
little better than they found it.[81]

Tradition and the building up of sentiments and ideals, together with
the symbols by which they are known and familiarized, are very largely,
if not exclusively, the work of the written word. But Literature and the
Press are themselves governed by their past history, and by traditions
and conventions that have been gradually built up from a few fundamental
ideas, however diversified they may eventually have become; and these
ideas, in their turn, owe their origin to the passions and sentiments of
the race as a whole. Even the work of genius has its roots in the ideas
of the past. "Are we sure," asks a French author, "that the ideas which
flow from great men of genius are exclusively their own work? No doubt
they always spring from the wealth of individual souls, but the myriads
of grains of dust which form the alluvion where those ideas have
generated are surely formed by the soul of the nation?"[82]

We have seen that it is a fundamental principle that the strongest
suggestion must prevail; mass tells against single individuals,
overwhelming quantity against quality, when the strength of either is
measured against the resistance to be overcome. Cosmic suggestion is
conditioned by various circumstances which affect its influence. It is a
commonplace to say that like attracts like; this fact is but another
attribute of gregarious attraction and tends towards establishing the
homogeneity of aggregations, and slightly modifies the attraction of
mere numbers. It results in a diversity of centres of attraction; but
these centres of attraction are apt to converge and coalesce if for any
reason they are simultaneously affected by related or identical
sentiments. Frequency and persistency, as is well known, also modify the
force of mere numbers. The loudest and most frequently repeated
affirmations carry the most weight. In this way small bands of fanatics,
by dint of reiteration, have had their catchwords and shibboleths
accepted unquestioningly.

So far from weakening the respect and awe with which mere symbols are
regarded, their very obscurity and lack of meaning will ensure their
position and inviolability. The vogue for mysticism in poetry, art, and
religion reflects this love of symbolism. Men, from the very indolence
of their minds, love to set up symbols and to worship them, without
verifying the truths they are supposed to represent, for symbols are
easily acquired and easily perceived, and dispense with the arduous
necessity of probing reality and the mental discipline without which
truth cannot be reached.

The power of words and symbols is entirely independent of their real
meaning. As we have already shown, the most meaningless and the most
obscure phrases are, as a rule, for that very reason the most potent.
Such terms as liberty, equality, democracy, socialism, etc., whose
meanings are so vague that whole libraries do not exhaust their possible
interpretations, are solemnly uttered as though they were magic spells,
at the very sound of which all problems disappear. Symbolism and
mysticism form the fanatic's charter of licence. They revel in the dim
obscurity which intensifies the false brightness of their symbols. They
welcome the emotional domination of their minds that they may abandon
themselves to passions and feelings, and by developing their
_subjective_[83] powers, infect the masses with their madness. A true
metaphysics, it is well to remember, is the very antithesis of
mysticism, for it aims at the elimination of symbols; its method is to
co-ordinate and synthesize, and by means of the systematization of
materia to penetrate through and beyond, towards a realization of
direction and of value; it tests the highest powers of the intellect.

Bergson defines metaphysics as the science which claims to dispense with
symbols. A symbol, at best, can only stand for an aspect of the truth, a
mere sign-post pointing somewhere in its direction. Symbols have no part
in intuition, yet linguistic symbols are necessary for conveying
thoughts and ideals to others. The generality of men, however, can only
think in symbols, and can only be influenced by them; lies and illusions
are propagated and perpetrated in the form of images, yet images perform
necessary service in establishing goals of endeavour for securing
co-ordination and moral direction. Symbololatry is a common trait of
humanity, and few men analyse the symbols they worship; for this reason
it is necessary that the ideals and symbols of "the good" should be
forged by the few and the wise, not by the force of the greatest number,
that is, they must come from above, not from below. Thus we see that in
past history religion has performed a necessary function, and that in
spite of the gross unreality of its symbols it constituted the only
instrument of consolidation at the disposal of primitive man. Without
this force, born of man's fear of the unknown, his ignorance and false
appreciation of causality, together with a vague realization of his
dependence on his fellows, the imposition of rough and arbitrary values,
which first constituted moral conduct, would have been impossible. For
this reason any advancement and progress in the direction of
civilization would have been impossible without religion. The
conservative spirit of religion is seen to have been the means of
securing the consolidation and stability of society which was necessary
for the well-being and strength of every community; without this it
could not have survived. As long as men are dazzled by symbols and
governed by emotions, and there is at present no sign of change in this
respect, a strong hierarchy capable of evoking respect for its values
alone can save a state from disintegration, anarchy and social decay;
but only if that hierarchy is composed of the highest, noblest and most
enlightened in the race can those values be the best possible, and can
they continue to improve _pari passu_ with advancing civilization. The
alternative, the increasing despotism of the many, articulating through
the voice of demagogues, resulting in the gradual extermination of the
few and the highest, and in the imposition of values growing ever more
false, points the way to decadence and barbarism. Evolution implies
decline no less than advancement, and the "survival of the fittest" in
the former case means the survival of the lowest and the most degraded.

A child's moral conduct, like primitive man's, is at first absolutely
dependent upon his environment, but with the development of
self-consciousness and with the growth of an ideal of self, his values
and his conduct become progressively freer from his present environment,
and in a greater degree determined by the direction of past habits and
the force of early impressions.[84] "There is hardly anything," said
Mill, "so absurd or so mischievous that it may not by the use of
external sanctions and the force of early impressions be made to act on
the human mind with all the authority of conscience."

The attainment of character through the development of an ideal of self
and the systematization of habits and motives is a slow and gradual
process, and only rarely is complete independence of judgment attained,
which alone renders the highest form of moral conduct possible, when all
conduct is determined by will with regard to the realization of ends.


[64] "Heredity and Memory," p. 15.

[65] Processes known technically as palingenesis and cenogenesis, the
former term denoting the more complete epitomized development.

[66] Dean Rashdall, who thus summarizes his position, is candid enough
to admit the strength of McDougall's psychological analysis, which,
however, he fails to see undermines his own position.

[67] "Principles of Psychology," vol. ii, p. 408.

[68] Many authorities deny that women are more easily hypnotized than
men. It should, however, be remembered that emotional suggestibility
does not correspond with susceptibility to hypnotic influence. The
neurotic, weak-brained and hysterical, who are usually most susceptible
to emotional suggestions in normal life, are invariably the most
difficult to hypnotize, and on the other hand, as Dr. Bramwell points
out, "Subjects who readily respond to suggestions when hypnotized are
frequently the very ones who have for years resisted suggestion in the
waking condition, even when this has been associated with emotional
states." It is not, therefore, in hypnotic phenomena that evidence of
the greater suggestibility of women is found.

[69] Cf. the following passage by Elliot Smith and Pear: "It must be
understood that this suppression of the external manifestations of an
emotion such as fear is but a partial dominance of the bodily
concomitants of that emotion. The only changes which can usually be
controlled by the will are those of the voluntary or skeletal muscular
system, not those of the involuntary or visceral mechanism.... Men may
feel intense emotions, obviously not of fear alone, for a long time
without displaying any signs of them. But suppression of emotion is a
very exhausting process. As Bacon says: 'We know diseases of stoppings
and suffocations are the most dangerous in the body: and it is not
otherwise in the mind.'"

[70] Article on Psychology, _Encyclopædia Britannica_, 10th edition.

[71] For example, ereutophobia (fear of blushing) and tremophobia (fear
of tremor) are abnormal psychoneurotic conditions which illustrate the
reaction and interaction between psychical state and physical
manifestation. Blushing and spontaneous tremor are reflex manifestations
of the emotional condition, which in these cases increase in proportion
to the fear of blushing or of tremor respectively. The physical
phenomenon produces the obsession which, in its turn, increases the
somatic reaction; the exaggeration of the latter again reacts on the
mental disorder. Such psycho-physical reactions operate in varying
degree in all states of emotional excitement. (Roussy and Lhermitte.)

[72] "Principles of Psychology," vol. ii, chap. xxv.

[73] "Conflict" and "repression" are the terms in current usage by
psychiatrists of the Freudian school to explain the mechanism of
psychoneurotic disturbance.

[74] It should be noted that this is an inverted form of cosmic
suggestion which exerts a considerable influence over certain
dispositions; very often this bias is confined to one or two subjects
only in which an individual is particularly interested, and in connexion
with which a permanently repellent autosuggestion is developed. Some
writers have spoken of this as _contra-suggestion_. On these subjects
any suggestion conveyed by word or sign provokes an immediate and
unthinking contradiction or an unreasoning hostile attitude or tendency.

[75] Préface à "Bajazet."

[76] The æsthetic emotions are dealt with at length by Dr. Bain in "The
Emotions and the Will," chap. xiv.

[77] I.e. processes of the conscious or objective mind.

[78] There are a few notable exceptions where this instinct appears to
be deficient among primitive and nomadic tribes. McDougall instances the
Punaris of Borneo.

[79] "Social Psychology," p. 100.

[80] "The Free Press," 1918.

[81] Mr. Hughes, March 11, 1918.

[82] Gustave Le Bon.

[83] I.e. powers of the subjective mind.

[84] Thus Mr. Jevons says: "The consciousness of the child reproduces
the consciousness of the community to which he belongs."--"The Idea of
God in Early Religions."


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