The human mind is characterized by two antagonistic forces struggling for supremacy. This is
the conflict between the intellectual components and the instinctive drives, each apparently
attempting to achieve dominancy. In some situations the instinctive forces gain control in a way
to encourage those individuals involved to gather in groups, masses and mobs. Here the “herd
instinct” becomes supreme with the inclination to organize and to follow and obey a leader. In
such situations either much good or irreparable harm to society may result, according to the
issues involved.


Psychology is the discipline that has the most direct bearing on our daily activities. Its
phenomena are ever present in our feeling, thinking and dreaming. However, the ways in which
it works and its actual significance are mysterious to the average person, and the language of the
learned in this field is mere jargon to the uninitiated. It is unfortunate that it is not better
understood by all, and particularly by those whose duty is to make decisions that may threaten
the security of mankind.

Many writers have attempted to inform the public on matters of psychology and
psychopathology without having the proper training and experience, the result being a flood of
books on the market having little value and too often presenting untrue and harmful
pronouncements. The human mind is a very complex system of actions and reactions requiring
years of persistent study to acquire even a working knowledge of its intricate patterns of
expression and function.

The average reader is not able, nor can he be expected to be able, to differentiate between the
real specialist and the would be authority in psychological science. There is a great deal of
psychological knowledge that has accrued without yet having gained its possible applications in
society where it would enrich the lives of the people.


The problems of mass psychology are complex and do not lend themselves to an early, rapid solution. Some may never be solved, but it
is our task to make careful studies and to disseminate whatever knowledge that has been gained
about the psychological peculiarities of so called “mass mentality”. Dangers in social life cannot
be avoided without some idea of their nature. People should be informed about these dangers
and taught to understand that individuals possess inborn tendencies driving them into actions that
their logical powers of thought have difficulty in preventing.


This is the duty of our psychopathologists who in the past have devoted the greater portion of
their time to working with individuals. Therapeutic work with individuals is important, but the
person is only a unit in a huge social organism or mass of human beings influenced and moulded
by its form and laws. Most of our mental reactions and adjustments are related to other persons
in the mass.

Mass psychology should be brought into the foreground for much needed research with special
institutes for the study of its unique problems, where all aspects could be analyzed and data
accumulated for the direction of practical applications.


In this monograph Dr. Meerloo, an experienced psychiatrist, has presented a large area of
psychological and psychopathological import. He has discussed, psychodynamically, the
thinking process in all of its various normal and pathological ramifications and special
significant functions. The different types of delusion formation, the problems of the masses,
mass thinking, and the characteristics of collective action in its many expressions are treated in a
most informative and interesting account. His concepts are clearly stated and they bring together
a wide variety of facts, theories and constructive ideas that should prove to be thought
provoking, and a stimulation to additional investigation.

Nolan D. C. Lewis, M.D.



These essays are the reactions of a psychiatrist to fettered thinking. The first draft was written
during the dark days of Nazi occupation in Holland, when the iron blows of official “thought
control” smashed down on all free cultural discussion. In such an atmosphere, imagine the
cathartic value of setting down one’s own aggressive reaction on paper, of clarifying-for oneself,
at least-why man must resist attacks on mental freedom and civilization or perish.
These days of conquest saw the people of Western Europe turning more and more to American
thought, to the pragmatic philosophy of that huge, free land. Long before the two world wars
Europe had been overwhelmed by German romantic idealism. With high-flown words and
theories that captivated a willing world, Germany went far toward conquering European thought
long before its armies annexed its material wealth.
The first essay attempts to show the change in attitude that arose from our need to stem the
German impact on our thinking. It started as a series of lectures in occupied territory and
developed into an essay on man’s fearful groping with the mind in the midst of his expanding
knowledge of the universe. The two shorter essays present some practical implications of our
deluded attitudes.
Most of these reflections were gathered without benefit of scientific contact, without access to
any literature, without the possibility of research or discussion. Yet the very fact that they were
born of mental exile may help them to portray more convincingly the spirit of stubborn
resistance that filled our hearts in those days.
Are we not becoming increasingly aware of the tremendous influence that opposition exerts in
shaping man’s mental processes and character?
New York, 1949



Part One Delusion and Mass-Delusion





The Tragedy of Thinking.
Thought and Delusion.
Affective Delusions.
Thinking as Contact with Reality.
Limitations of the Psychologist.
Our Thought is Capricious
Logical Tricks as justification for Our Wishes.
Ogling Reality, the Only Common Concept.
The Evidences.
Circular Reasoning.
Psychology and Logic.
Thinking as a Foetal Luxury.
Thinking as a Social Function
Adjustment by Retarded Reflection.
Thinking as a Function.
Thinking as an Ambivalent Function.
Thinking and Feeling.
Thinking and Intellect.
Previous Theory of Delusions.
Delusion as Substitute.
Thinking that Withdraws from Reality.
The Development of Thinking.
Archaic or Primitive Thinking.
Identifying or Magic Thinking.
Participating Thinking.
Participation Through Isolation of Culture.
Mythical Thinking.
Identification in Thinking.
False Figurative Language.
The Dictatorship of Imagery.
Wishful Thinking.
Totalitarian Thinking.
Traditional Thinking
Thought and Language.
The Language of the Child.
Word and Intonation.
The Power of Talk.
Causal and Final Thinking.
Laws of Thinking
Western and Eastern Thinking.
Types of Consciousness.
Male and Female Thinking.
Anatomical Thinking.
Biological Roots of Thinking.
Shallow Modes of Thought.
Labeling Thinking.
Juridical Thinking
Normal Delusions.
Seductive Stupidity.
Superfluous Thinking.
Obsessional Thinking.
The Autonomy of Ideas.
The Delusion of Certainty.
Proverbial and Patterned Thinking.
The Subject Thinks.
The Unconscious as Creator of Our Thinking.
Fashionable Thinking.
Nominative Thinking.
Fixed Thought Values.
The Readiness for Truth.
Knowledge-A Dangerous Game.
Synthetic and Analytic Thinking.
Autistic Thinking
Delusion and the Subjective Feeling of Power.
Delusion and the Subjective Feeling of Certainty.
The Incomprehensibility of the Delusion. . . . . •
Thinking-The Overstepping of Limits.
Dimensional Thinking.
The Conceit of Thinking.
Over-strained Thinking.
The Delusion of Justification.
The Treason of Our Thoughts.
The Mania for Objectivity.
Delusion and Resentment.
Pathological Delusion.
Thinking Needs Harmony
The Problem of the Mass.
The Molding of the Masses.
Mass Thinking.
The Craving for Catchwords.
The Equalization of the Masses.
Traditional Mass-Thinking.
Conformism and Submissiveness in the Masses.
The Paradox of Censorship on Public Opinion.
Suggestive Weapons.
Independence of Public Opinion.
Pseudo- and Real Public Opinion.
The Formation of Public Opinion.
Individual and Mass-Thinking.
The Effect of Suggestion.
Identification and Psychological Feeling.
Participating Feeling.
The Social Value of Suggestibility.
Lability of Mass-Opinion
The Effect of Fear and Terror.
Induction Psychosis and Mental Epidemic.
Contagious Mass-Delusion.
Short-Cuts and Mass-Delusion.
Historical Delusions.
Mass-Delusion and Rite.
Chorea Major, St. Vitus Dance. Modern Chorea.
Mass Ecstasy.
The Suicidal Thinking of the Mass.
Delusion of Metamorphosis and the Delusion of Witches.
The Delusion of the Ritual Murder.
Collective Conceit.
The Readiness for Collective Delusion.
Collective Symbols.
The Power of the Masses.
The Urge for Equality in the Mass
The Dictatorship of the Printed Word.
Suggestive Association.
The Spread of Hypnotism.
Hypnotizing Noises.
The War of Nerves.
Collective Paralysis.
Restitution of Free Opinion
The Sense of Mass-Delusion.
The Stability of the Mass.
Part Two
Mass-Suicide and Atomic Fear
Latent Suicidal Thoughts of the Masses.
Atomic Fear.
The Urge for Catastrophe
Part Three
Some Mental Aspects of the Human Animal (Remaining Young, Walking Erect and Playing
A Picture of the Human Animal.
Man Walks Erect.
Man Is An Escapist.
Man Has Instruments.
Man Lives Opposite Things.
The Tyranny of Instincts.
Man Grasps the Opportunity For Speech.
An Eager Learning Animal.
Only Man Is Surprised.
Prejudice-The Enemy of Learning.
Man, The Eternal Baby.
The Dreamer-Fighter.
Homo Ludens-The Playing Man.
The Quest for Safety.
The Sclerotized Student.








Delusion and Mass-Delusion – An Essay on the Capricious Thinking in Man and Collectivity To be a part of human tragedy, To know all things so very well, But still to act against all intellect.










Can we be made to understand what an exciting adventure thinking is? Can we be made to
understand at the same time that there is often more wisdom in silence than in endless talk?
We live in the midst of a curious and continuous clash of opinions. Opinions and catchwords do
not arise sui generis. We are constantly swayed and subjected to the convincing thinking of
others. We are confronted with persuasive editorials. It is almost impossible to evade the
suggestive pressures of the world around us.
In this essay I have briefly attempted to place myself outside the tumult of hastening,
deliberating and fighting mankind, attempted to answer how men came to accept their fictions,
their chaotic notions and ideas.
The Tragedy of Thinking
The realization that our own open mind and brain are not entirely our own is a tragic one. We
come to realize that the weighty thoughts with which we attempt to clarify the problems of our
time are partially the products of the thinking of others and partially emerge from the
unconscious patterns of our own mind. We think and try to become conscious of the world
around us but we are not independent in our reasonable existence.
The new psychology has given us many examples of primary instincts and urges which act upon
our thinking. There is a close link between thoughts and emotions. A well-known philosopher,
spokesman for a sharp-witted idealistic system, once confessed that during the writing of his best
theories, he experienced several curious bodily sensations together with accelerated intestinal
activity. It was as if his best logic were expelled physically as well as mentally. He functioned
best when suffering from a headache.
Man involves his entire body in thinking and involves it in a distinct, personalized way. Some
become quiet, silenced and meditative, others nervous, excitable.
This essay is an attempt, from the clinical standpoint, to account for the various influences that
rule our thoughts. Delusion and mass delusion, suggestion and mass suggestion have to be
accounted for if they are to be corrected.

Thought and Delusion

Our first concern is the problem of delusion. The clinical psychology of the nineteenth century
attempted to explain delusion as the result of a pathologically changed process of thinking. It
defined delusion as an incorrigible error, as an incomprehensible obstinacy of the psyche. The
intrapsychic process of delusion, since it was not understood, was written off as inexplicable.
Examples of the curious thought pictures of the mentally diseased were cited, which were
impervious to outside influence. These patients tried to prove one delusion with another, even
more improbable one, and out of the primary error erected an entire delusional system.
The analysis of this delusionary growth process revealed threads of comprehensible thought
with, however, a bizarre and incomprehensible superstructure. Many adequately functioning
people who show too much concern with themselves often conclude that the treatment accorded
them does not do them justice. This common correctible aberration we refer to as “conceit” and
“self-centered behavior”. Incomprehensible in the delusion, however, was its fixed, incorrigible
nature. The delusion seemed to persevere as an impenetrable mental armor. Many psychologists
considered this well protected and armored insulation of the delusion the specific pathological
process. They defined the delusion as a specific change in the thinking process, in which
selfcentered evaluations turned into rigid delusions as a result of pathological processes of the
brain. In most cases, however, it was impossible to point to the intracerebral deviation.

Affective Delusions

Beyond these pathological thinking processes there is also the formation of delusions due to the
impact of emotions, namely, the affective delusions. When the intensity of certain emotions
reaches abnormal proportions the thinking processes change. This form of delusion is a more
comprehensible one. It is plausible, for instance, that a person under the impact of tremendous
fear might think he is persecuted, or that a person in extreme pain and sorrow might consider
these punishment for his sins. But even here our understanding is not complete. The reasons for
the persistence of fears and suspicions, their incorrigibility and immutability, seem inexplicable.
It is as if a strange growth had invaded the thinking processes and distorted them. Thinking is a
vivid, moving, dynamic process, changing and adapting in contact with reality And it is precisely
these aspects, this alertness and dynamism, which cease in the delusionary process.

Thinking as Contact with Reality

The animal lives and moves in a passive world. The human being lives and moves in an active
world. His senses transmit a passive picture of reality, but from these fragments he structures his
own picture of the reality situation. Active and passive reality are interacting, related to each
other. Without this interaction man is lost. This creates the constant need for accounting for both
realities, for continually gathering new experiences. This constant process of orientation,
confrontation and constant contact with reality is evidenced in the erect posture of man. Unlike
the animal, man walks erect and faces reality. It is only tinder these conditions that the
continuous interrelationship between the inspecting subject and the object can be maintained.
This relationship is the basis for our relative and temporary knowledge.
Thinking is that process which enables us to come to terms with reality. Through trial and error
the subject gradually comes closer to the object and both subject and object undergo change as a
result of this interrelationship. This dialectic process of interrelated development of man and
world shapes the remaining elements of human culture and civilization.

Limitations of the Psychologist

In judging delusions and mass-delusions the psychologist studies the biological phenomenon of
human thought, which, at the same time is his own instrument of research. Only one’s own
thinking can evaluate that of others. It is an unfortunate limitation of the method that one’s own
thinking might reasonably form the nucleus for further study. The necessary circularity of the
operation in the study of delusions, therefore, poses a paradox which in its essence excludes the
subjectmatter from philosophy and formal logic.
But having faced this, it is not proposed that the subject be dropped here. It has been shown most
convincingly that delusion and mass delusion do exist, that they are dangerous and persuasive.
The psychological approach, however imperfect, is urgent. Straight human thinking is in danger
and will remain in danger until the nature of delusion and mass-delusion is understood.
Philosophy, logic and the science of critical knowledge have investigated man’s thoughts since
the time of the ancient Greeks. They provide us with a wealth of subject matter, rules and
methods which will be valuable in our psychological approach. However, we do not propose
only to judge specific thoughts or rules by which “good” thoughts may be told from “bad”, but
rather to study the process of thinking as such. The subject matter of the psychology of thinking,
unlike the science of philosophy, is the science of stupidity, of delusion and illusion, of the
capriciousness of thought.

Our Thought is Capricious

During the past few years we have witnessed ages of science and critical thinking melt like snow
in the sun as a result of mass feelings. The process was the same as the formation of affective
delusions. The sense of reality dwindled before mass feeling and delusion.
Politically inspired fictions penetrate science and philosophy. Systems of thought provide masks
and justifications for brute drives and lust for power. We vaguely sense that desire and instinct
are masked behind “logic”. Mental tricks are easily substituted for “logic” and out of the
multifarious logical possibilities we tend to choose those most compatible with our own desires.
How can we be taught to distrust this self-satisfying pseudo-philosophy? How deep is the
relation between thinking and lying? We like to impress ourselves with words and thoughts and
then to hide behind those very words. The animal is always true in his affections, the human
being, however, selects some parts of reality while others, ignored or denied, fade into obscurity.
We are forever expressing, hiding, demonstrating, charging, exaggerating and selecting. Much
so-called “healthy” thinking hides hypocritical demonstration. And what is referred to as
independent thinking is an unconscious transference and reproduction of the ideas of others.
Small wonder that we have grown suspicious of “logic”, especially when people emphasize their
clear and logical thinking.


The old logic, the science which first sought to provide us with immutable laws for sound
deductive reasoning, was grounded in the conviction that the thought processes were identical in
all persons. Even the “possible” fallacies were tabulated and defined. A list of “thoushalt-nots”
was compiled and as long as truth was dumped into one end of a syllogism truth would
unfailingly emerge. Socrates is mortal. Thus it was hoped that through discussion differences
could be resolved.
In actuality the surface is only scratched. Clear thinking for any sustained period (five minutes,
for instance) is rare indeed. But for two persons to hold a clear, dispassionate and mutually
comprehensible discussion, which terminates in absolute agreement, is virtually unknown
outside the field of mathematics. (And the only reason for the exemption of mathematics is its
highly hypothetical nature. It is a question of if f I have four apples and if f you have four apples
then between us we have eight.)
The main single reason that the old logic is of little use in resolving differences of opinion is that
there is no sound method of lighting on a mutually agreeable major premise. Aristotle and the
logicians of his time were convinced that “all men are mortal” was an immutable truth, whereas
we of the modern world recognize that all the data is not yet in. This is not to be construed as a
bland dismissal of modern logic, which is even more hypothetical than arithmetic. It simply
means that from a hypothetical premise one can draw only a hypothetical conclusion, and human
thinking is rarely carried out on that level. The present world is a chaos of conflicting beliefs, not
of conflicting hypotheses. It is not a mere question of “all men are mortal” but whether “this is
better than that” or “that is strategically unsound” or “he is an evil man”. A living logic sufficient
for the purposes of psychology must be equipped to deal with moral and qualitative judgments.
Not only are ideas subjective but so are the words that express them. The word “evil” alone has a
separate connotation for each person who sees, hears or speaks it.
Fortunately, there tends to be general agreement in practice on the meaning of some of our more
common words. Webster-or rather the brothers Merriam-define the word “chair” as “a seat,
usually movable, for one person. It usually has four legs and a back, and may have arms.” Quite
involved arguments may be constructed around this definition. Everything seems to be optional
except that it shall hold only one person. Is an upended box a chair? We may argue
(teleologically) that it is not, because it was not constructed for that purpose, but then neither are
those cut-down and upholstered beer-barrels one falls into! Or we may argue (functionally) that
anything becomes a chair when it is used as such. This of course immediately involves small
tables, foot-stools, radiators and so on. But happily, one may yet use the word chair witch
presupposes certain basic ideas or evidences on which unprovable ideas may be built (as in
mathematics, complex conclusions). Thus, thinking, with the human being as the engineer,
becomes an intelligent construction. Everyone utilizes these unconscious thought constructions
of which analogies and syllogisms are a part.
Conversations and discussions are understandable as long as they stem from similar premises.
The technique of reasoning, however, results in constant error and chaos. Wrong analogies are
constantly drawn.

Circular Reasoning


Man’s present forms of aggressive argumentation and verbal seduction approach the comical.
Not only do we pretend not to be aggressive, we go so far as to assert that our aggression is
nothing but a higher expression of civilization. It was precisely this argument that the oppressor
of our country (Holland) used against us. While our country was plundered and our freedom
destroyed, the Nazis asserted that we were being ushered into the European heaven. Most
arguments accomplish little beyond stating their own falseness. One supposes what one has to
prove, and reasoning moves in a circle. It is like the story of the accused dishonest borrower,
who attempted to prove before the court, first, that he had never borrowed anything, second, that
he had received it in bad shape, and finally, that he had returned it long ago and did not owe a

The premise includes what one wishes to prove (petitio principii). In the same way, the
tyrannical aggressor argued that bombardment of an open, peaceful, neutral town like Rotterdam
was an emergency measure perpetrated for the benefit of the people oppressed by democracy.
Constant repetition imbues this argumentative sophistry with more and more suggestive power.
The vicious circle is only too well-known. As far back as Greek antiquity, a clear distinction was
drawn between everyday reasoning permeated with incorrect syllogisms and analogies and a
pure thinking which is conscious of itself and aware of its limitations. The latter produces
philosophical derivatives of a qualitatively superior order. The clear statement of a problem
encourages this advanced treatment.

Psychology and Logic


The psychologist is required to familiarize himself with both types of thinking. He approaches
the process of thinking differently than the
philosopher, for he finds that overemphasis on logic weakens man’s links to reality. Life is not
clearly logical and simply determined, for such logic prevails only in the rule-ridden world of the
insect. The psychologist cannot subscribe to the superstition of logical thought. Ideas spring forth
illogically. Idle play, sleep and other partially-aware states are fertile soil in which ideas
germinate. The determination to think logically is not sufficient for production of thought; the
mind requires the motoric power of passion to produce. Man opposes logic when he cannot profit
from it, hence a scrupulous application of laws of logic is no adequate guide for the solution of
life’s problems. Logic only assists in the avoidance of major errors. Kant defined comprehension
as the solution of a problem to that extent to which it is adequate for our purposes. The logic of
the moron is brought forth as unconsciously as the clear systematic thinking of Hegelian
The psychologist allows riddles to exist. He opposes the fiction that phenomena demand an
immediate explanation. All logical reasoning was produced as much by impressions and
suggestions as logical rules. Logic presupposes a world made tangible by hand and idea, a world
in need of coordination and selection. Logic can only prevail in a stable world. Life, however, is
forever bypassing logic.
Psychology studies the inner and outer conditions which determine thinking. Philosophy
concerns itself with the laws of thinking apart from those conditions. Psychology plays a role in
those areas where thoughts are still rigidly rooted in the conditions that are responsible for their
growth. The psychologist looks upon thinking as a biological luxury largely limited to the human
species. Thinking is a curious biological function, an inhibition of vital functions accompanied
by a curious self-accounting consciousness. The anatomist Bolk (4) ascribed those peculiar
inhibitions and retardations of functioning and the special structure of the brain to the erect
posture of man, his long youth and his never-ceasing play. Because man remained a foetus and
his physical defenses did not develop and differentiate, as for instance in the ape, his forebrain
had the opportunity to develop as a useful instrument of consciousness. Foetalization and
retardation provide the opportunity for thinking.

Thinking as a Foetal Luxury


Man, homo sapiens, does not throw himself impulsively upon his prey, but has the capacity for
restraint which is a function of his reflective organ. Many scholastic philosophers will shudder at
the follies written by this philosophic outsider. The guns and tanks and planes, however, jump
their prey and leave philosophy in rags. Today’s world bears dramatic proof of thought as a
reaction to the occurrences of the day. We get more and more “liberated” from the serene period
of isolated scientific thinking which preceded the first World War. Today we are forced, nolens
volens, to take a stand toward the events around us. It did not take Hitler long to convert many an
idealistic philosopher into a spokesman for his madness.
Thinking as a Social Function
Thinking is a social instrument. We think and speak to someone, in relation to others. Thought is
unconscious speech and communication. We must speak, even if only to the trees. Not until
recently has the intellect become so aware of its social function of thought. It had remained aloof
from wisdom and peace, power and wealth. Intelligence and technical thought were available for
the highest bidder. They were at the service of drives and instincts, negligent of their social and
harmonizing function. Thinking is a multifarious instrument with roots and stimuli in all organs,
instincts and emotions.

Thinking is an attitude of the organism as a whole. Feeling and willing, striving and acting,
cannot be differentiated from the reactive and reflective organism.
The psychologist has to try to unravel our complex split world of platonic fictitious thought and
unguided animal action.


Adjustment by Retarded Reflection


Comparative psychology teaches us that the higher mammals still live in a world of pure
sensations. Nevertheless, a primitive synthesis of sensations and new responsive actions does
function, namely the socalled conglomerate of conditioned reflexes. The reflex, however, occurs
without reflection, without the knowledge of knowing. This should immediately brake the action.
Unlike lower animals, however, the mammal is able to adjust to a new environment. The insect
is almost completely bound to its innate rigid instinctual actions. The insect remains chained to
the reflexes brought about by the stimuli of the outside world. Only the highest mammal, the
human being can synthesize the different sensations with his own observations and create the
distinction between an inner world-the subject-and an outer world-the object. The insect can
adjust only in the most limited way, that is, it can survive in a world already geared to its innate
potentialities. The mammal, by means of the conditioned reflex, has the capacity for growing and
changing adjustment. Man alone, with forethought, afterthought, self-reflection and selfobservation
at his disposal, can achieve an almost unlimited adjustment to his environment. His
mind is an organ of adjustment. More effective than innate and conditioned reflexes, it teaches
the organism to adjust itself to changed circumstances. The organism is free to select its form of
adjustment. Consciousness of its aim determines the selection of stimuli. The instinct can adjust
rapidly but is limited in scope. Thinking adjusts gradually but is unlimited.
Man is most adapted for adjustment to reality. Man, therefore, can also fear, anticipate and
tolerate more than any other organism. Thinking is the retarding and tolerating process.
Via its sensations the animal is in continuous and direct communication with the outside world.
Man, however, opposes, confronts the outside world.
Once reflection has been liberated from sensation and representation, it becomes pure and
independent thinking. Thinking must be planned and be productive; it must be regulated and
directed toward an adjustment and a real aim-thinking has to reflect something. Representations
and feelings weaken thinking and regress it to the level of animal dependency on accidental
impulses. Love makes us blind. Due to hormonal action people in love revert to magical
thinking. The adult tackling of reality is supplanted by reflex actions springing from direct
communication with a limited world.
On one hand, thinking widens the distance between man and his physical universe; on the other,
it bends him toward it and sharpens his conception of reality. Thinking observes the personal
struggle, observes the disentanglement of the biological chains and biological indispensabilities.

Thinking as a Function


Thinking is a developing function. Every thought process integrates previous and lower
processes. Thinking is the function of growing consciousness and self-enlightenment. It is the
instrument of readaptation. It is the ripening of prejudices into judgments. Man is never
completely conscious but is always progressing toward complete consciousness, that is, toward a
better adjusted approach to himself and reality. The growth of consciousness signifies the
capacity of the organism to contemplate and confront reality.
Man gradually rouses himself from somnambulistic slumber to a waking contact with reality.
Without difficulty, however, he slips back into sleepwalking and automatisms. Man can sleep
with his eyes wide open without ever taking account of himself.
A few men become seeing prophets and show us a new reality. Most people, however, remain in
a sleeping state having hardly opened their eyes. The thinking of others does not benefit us no
matter how great its stature may be. Only our own readiness to think and verify for ourselves, to
attack new problems benefits us. The ability of the thinker to put forth his thoughts demands the
courage to doubt old truths and correct threadbare thoughts.
Thinking, as stated above, is coming to grips with reality. It is the probing and searching of
reality with accepted propositions and the reshaping and reformulation of these where they no
longer serve adequately. This coming to terms with reality takes place with an aim in mind,
namely, the reshaping of reality. Interest and self-interest direct the thoughts, and thinking,
however imperfect, is motivated movement toward a goal. This reshaping of reality takes place
even under the most tragic circumstances. In concentration camps one of the first deeds was to
rebuild the reality following some simple symbolic schemes, a womb, a house, some cozy
corner; it was the only way to cope with the circumstances.
All psychological thinking implies identification with its object of study. It presupposes the
feeling of oneness with the object of research. It feels itself a part of it. Because of its failure to
grasp with care, psychology runs the risk of faulty observations. Its aims compel psychology to
take this risk.
Since the thinking process implies memory and conscience, it requires the capacity for gathering
and judging observed data. Thinking is the process of internal observation and selection of
sensations, experiences, memories, judgments and evaluations to serve the purpose of a thoughtaim.
Von Monakow (19), the well-known Swiss neuropsychiatrist, referred in his book on
hallucinations, to this judging, adopting and selecting instance as the beginning of moral
conscience. Thinking aims at the stabilization of man grappling with reality. Without loving
reality, we cannot cope with it. The original love we received from our environment made us
accept its norms and value judgments, shaped our conscience (superego) and now demands an
accounting for reality.

Thinking, then, consists of imaginative action and selection, a regulation of impressions and
sensations with an aim in view. The psychologist refers to an intentional thinking “act”, apart
from all content of thoughts.

Thinking as an Ambivalent Function


Thinking, as much as speaking, is an ambivalent function. Thinking is the effort to acquire
knowledge and is at the same time an intellectual play facilitating escape from the riddles of the
world. Thinking is both a cognitive function and an active imaginative process which shapes a
private, secluded world. It is simultaneous approach to and flight from reality, submission to
nature and worship of idols.

Thinking and Feeling

The gradually expanding consciousness liberates itself slowly from the partly conscious, partly
unconscious receptive world of feelings. Feeling is the partly conscious experiencing of
emotions. Feeling is a reaction to the outer world directed by instincts. Every such reaction has
components of pleasure and displeasure, depending on the impressions from without and drives
from within. An impression without feeling does not exist; an impression without thinking does
not exist. An impression is always partially an observation. Feeling and thinking are the
inseparable function of becoming conscious.

Nevertheless, a continual polarity between thinking and feeling exists. I use my intelligence in
certain instances and follow my feelings in others.
Thinking implies placing oneself in opposition to the world, yet acting with that world,
conceiving that world. It implies choice, selection, arrangement, placement and active motion.
Our impressions and reactions to the outside world and our relation to it are expressed in various
terms of evaluations. Certain evaluations are directly dependent on the impact of the outside
world. Scheler (17) referred to these as sense feelings, or reality feelings. Ego-feelings, or
spiritual feelings, on the other hand, are much more dependent upon evaluations of the central
selecting and judging instance, the thinking ego. Thinking becomes a function sufficient unto
itself, apart and independent from reality, while feelings always maintain some relationship with
this outside reality, however inappropriate they may be.

This latent dichotomy between feeling and thinking leads to erroneous assumptions. The human
being needs the harmony of both a thinking and a feeling reality-response. The human being
cannot permit over-evaluated affects to suffocate the intellect, or the biting intellect to kill the
warm feeling. This is the explanation the psychologist provides for the split-personality

Thinking and feeling constantly alternate. Certain neurotic persons substitute thought for feeling.
One cannot only think but must feel at the same time; man has to experience the world with all
layers of his personality. In our period of civilization our feelings about many things are even
more difficult to accept than our thoughts about them. Who, conscious of his moods, can accept
and be happy with them? Fascism has taught us how destructive the solely emotional basis of
thinking can be.

Thinking and Intellect

Consciousness grows out of observation, regulation, schematization, planning, abstraction-the
polishing and chiseling of all these component functions to a thought-picture. There is a
tendency to shape and fix such a picture instead of maintaining its mobility and vividness.
Thinking actions tend to become rigid systems in the service of narrow aims. Man has a
tendency to repeat his primary actions even when they are failures. The same phenomenon
occurred with the unhappy laboratory dogs of Pavlov. The trained functional and useful reflex
(conditioned reflex) became a useless automatism. Productive thinking is extension of the first
thought and first deed to further suppositions and possibilities.
Intellect comprises not only the analytical research quality, but the vivid ability to search for a
new aim and broaden the scope. The higher animals, too, act intelligently; that is, they adapt
speedily to a new situation. Man, however, because of his eccentric position in the world, has
special opportunities for developing his intellect. Vivid intellect, however, can regress to rigid
automatisms and so resemble the innate instinct patterns. In man every automatism and rigid
behavior pattern can revert again to a new adjustment. If this were not so, neurosis would be
inaccessible to treatment.
Beyond the analytic, selective function, intellect is the vivacity and spiritual potency of life.
Intellect becomes vulnerable when no personality is developed to fortify it. The cultural
acquisition of intellectuals is easily paralyzed by terror and fear when character falters.
Character, its potency, and the stable personality it provides for mental functioning is more
important in society than a purely analytical intellect. This we could observe among the people
who formed the resistance movement. The pure intelligentsia stayed away. In a fullgrown
personality feeling and thinking harmonize with each other.
The analytical part of the intellect, the selecting and sifting capacity, is forever hesitant. It
opposes all that is accepted. It welcomes discussion and dialectic research. It breaks the spell of
old thought concepts and paves the way for the spontaneous, creative function of the intellect.
Unintelligence implies an inability to change, a rigid adherence to the same pattern, enslavement
to habit.
Intellect can remain the sterile tool for selection and correction, the mere librarian of observed
data. It can be creative only so long as it remains active, charged by the live personality.
Out of his delusions of greatness, man overestimated the technical intellect and neglected the
instinctive, creative power that propelled it. The supertechnical surgeon, however, is helpless
without the instinctual regenerative forces. Those forces heal the wounds inflicted by his tools. In
every human being there dwells an instinctual unconscious technician operating outside the
conscious functions. This formative intelligence, which makes or breaks us, can be studied by
different methods beside the usual ones of psychoanalysis.



We still tend to evaluate all labor of the mind as intellect instead of the thinking potency behind
it. The human being comes into the world a bare, unprotected and unadapted animal, who can be
subjected to various forms of training. He may even be made an imitative, mechanical thinking
automaton. An intellectual is not necessarily a personality. On the one hand, training has created
pedants, students, servile clerks-mental engineers who fall easy prey to the economically and
mentally powerful. This form of imitative intellect is as much for sale as the labor of our hands
and the power of our muscles. On the other hand scholarly training may make independent free
thinkers of people who are forced to reorientate themselves as soon as they stand before a new
situation. The real power of thinking is not imitation.
The over-development of technique and pseudo-intellect creates the myth that special training in
a certain school or college produces more valuable personalities. The development of character
and personality is subordinate to scholastic and technical achievement; to diplomas and report
cards. The quiz can become a fatal instrument of education.
The last war taught us the danger inherent in the mass production of pseudo-intellectuals. They
failed to resist overwhelming fatal emotions and capitulated to every outside mental power.
Knowledge and philosophy were controlled by the blackjack. Many of the “intelligentsia”,
emotionally dissatisfied and disgruntled, surrendered to traitors and tyrants who ruled by
intellectually-rationalized brutality.

Previous Theory of Delusions


Analysis reveals that instinct and affect, memory and conscience, are the roots of the thinking
function. Love and hate penetrate our thinking and stimulate it to demonical activity. Gradually it
becomes stripped of affects, but it cannot survive without feeling. Thinking loses its potency and
contact when thoughts become isolated; one set point of view obscures all others. In our world
too much is thought and not enough is felt. Thinking is stripped of its instinctual basis.
Delusion is a regression or isolation of the thinking function. It is either the dominance of archaic
instinctual forms of thinking or the isolation of consciousness, the autonomy of thoughts without
feelings. Delusion seeps gradually into the thinking function. It begins with a basis of truth, but
the persistent error gradually supplants reality to such an extent that it is impervious.
Feeling must never he without thinking, thinking never without feeling. If either of these
functions gains autonomy the individual loses his consciousness of and contact with reality.
Our science of thought has as yet failed to detach itself from the Aristotelian concept of one way
of thinking. The science of physics was dominated by the same misconception until the period of
the renaissance. It is regrettable that the experimental inquiry into thought processes is such a
difficult procedure. (The Rorschach test has taught us a great deal about the relation between
thinking and feeling and psychoanalysis has clarified the role of the unconscious.) I want this
essay to be limited to the phenomenology of deluded thinking under normal circumstances.
Delusions are incorrigible ideas for which many normal men are willing to die.

Delusion as Substitute

Let us first understand that delusion is inherent in normal thinking. The delusion treated by
psychiatrists belongs to the same thinking process, but is fortified by pathological disturbances of
the psychosomatic organism. ‘

Thinking can be ruled by anarchy to such an extent that any formulation
of ideas becomes impossible. The unconscious content of our thoughts may overwhelm our
logical consciousness. The dream is the moot normal example of this phenomenon of delusion.
In all growing’processes of consciousness man reaches a limit. Beyond that limit thinking ends
and faith begins: Credo quia absurdum. Delusion is a substitute belief. It is the enforcement of
certainty instead of the acceptance of uncertainty. Delusion is the fear of uncertainty, of
hesitation and skepticism. Just as the “idee fixe” defends the human being against the small
vaccilations of life, the delusion defends us against the great leap into the obscure and unknown.
Every acceptance of limits implies an obscure and unknown. Superstition is also a substitute for
faith, it is a collective delusion, a remnant from previous magical and mythical conceptions of
life. Delusion is the fear of realistic, critical thinking, the kind of thinking which is subject to
criticism from without and the criticism from within that illuminates one’s own subjective



The hallucination is a regression to a genetically older mode of feeling and observation in which
ego and world are not yet distinct entities. This archaic orientation toward and contact with the
outside world is dependent on functional disturbances of several organsystems. Otherwise it
occurs only among children and primitive people. Since reality contact is disturbed, most of the
hallucinations are the result of a chaotic projection of memory-pictures (engrams). (13)
When man is possessed by an overwhelming emotion, he immediately may hallucinate its
possible causes. Fear produces hallucinations even more easily. The exhausted soldier on the
battlefield envisions every automobile noise as an aerial attack of the enemy. Every social
formation has its own collective illusions, hallucinations, revived images and primitive
representations. These collective conceptions are never subject to discussion but only to blind
acceptance. Every form of rite and suggestive training enforces these collective images. Many a
member of such a collective can never be freed of such an unconscious, enforced image. In the
delusion we become familiar with a similar process.

Thinking that Withdraws from Reality


Janet was one of the first to call the attention of psychology to the reality function (fonction du
reelle). He speaks of a mental tension and force in. man, the highest perfection of which is the
reality-function. When this tension diminishes certain mental characteristics disappear. The first
to weaken is the capacity for adjustment to changing reality. The immediate experience of,
insight into and enjoyment of reality is a highly differentiated and vulnerable mental activity.
Mature man, confronting reality, must have an alert adjustment.
“Carpe diem” is a vulnerable function. Most people’s enjoyment is only the memory of
experiences, the recounting of these to others. They are too exhausted to enjoy the supreme
moment. They take snapshots of their experiences and relive them through the photograph
album. “Kodakomania” is a form of mental ennui. But thinkers and dreamers, too, who withdraw
into meditation are among those who cannot bear the tensions of reality. Escape into a system, or
dogma relieves them of all tension. Their vague idealism bears an “as if” touch of reality. They
withdraw into the abstraction, the isolated reality, the extraordinary.


Eventually we may prefer learnedness to wisdom. The learned and strange holds for us a magic
fascination before which, like children, we bow. Learnedness grasps only that which has already
developed and become rigid; it can never, however, follow the continuous stream of
development. It is often a mixture of undeveloped wisdom and lust for power. The learned man
is distracted and lacks contact with living reality. His system of thinking is a facade for inner
doubt. His scientific display is often a well-regulated collection of plagiarisms.
It should now be easy to understand that conceit and partial delusion result from the loss of
continuous, alert, and lively contact with reality. The study of these problems on a deeper level
would reveal that these delusions and hallucinations, intensified, relate to the same mental
disturbances. This essay, however, is concerned with the normal, rather than the pathological

Delusionary thinking can be called the continuation of primitive thinking without the correction
by self-reflection. It is a withdrawal from reality. In all civilized thinking, however, these forms
of thinking persist.


The Development of Thinking

To understand the above statement, we have to give up the dogma of identical thinking in all
human minds. We may say that the more purified and technically trained thinking is, the more
identical it becomes. Unconsciously the different laws of logic are accepted. The more primitive
thinking is, the more confused feelings it contains and the less identical it is. It is possible,
nevertheless, to study the general development of thought. It was analytical psychology which
first called our attention to the gradually evolving relation to reality. The following stages in the
development of a sense of reality may be distinguished (7).
First is the phase of intrauterine development, preceding birth, in which there can be little more
than a feeling of satisfied omnipotence. There is no noxious outside world.
The stage of magic-hallucinatory potency follows birth. The child has the feeling of knowing and
directing all. No distinction between an inner and outer world is drawn.
This phase is succeeded by initial attempts at conquest of the outside world with magic gestures.
The child tries to command the world within his reach by pointing at it with his hands. Children
feel that ideas are tangible and plastic. By keeping their lips stiffly closed they withhold evil
thoughts. They also imbue inanimate objects with life. When they get hurt by bumping against a
table, it is the table which beats them.

Out of this gestural thinking develops an uncritical animistic thinking, in which self-qualities are
projected upon the outside world. All inanimate objects have a soul and no distinction between
dead and alive is made. This thinking has a passive nature; thoughts are experienced as
personified actions in which father, mother and siblings are the actors. Mythology is filled with
such personifications. The adult, too, creates his personified delusions.

The following stage of magic thought is more active. It is a form of primitive strategy in which
the spirits of objects are not only passively accepted but manipulated. The magic action attempts
to seduce the spirits and to command them. The inner and outer world grow apart and magic
thoughts are used to maintain contact between the two.

After the phase of imaginary omnipotence a change takes place. Unlimited power is granted not
to the ego but to the outside world. In the games of children, every toy can become a symbol of
parental power. Gradually this power and influence are incorporated and conscience is shaped by
the penetration and incorporation of social values.

In these early stages of thinking the main influences emanate from the outer world. They
overwhelm the thinking subject. His feeling of loss and helplessness is the same that we
experience when we feel ourselves part of a mass. The regressed thinking of many psychotics
reflects a similar experience; everything in the mind is experienced as an influence from outside.
Archaic thinking is an almost wordless thinking, a kind of dream thinking and sinking away unto

In totemistic thinking a symbolic displacement has already taken place. Good or bad spirits are
represented or symbolized by a totem. In this projective thinking one’s own power, misery and
cruelty is transferred and attributed to the totem. The totem, the sacred animal, for instance, is the
feared animal.

The confession to pure reality, the “adequatio cum re”, the acknowledgment of preoccupation
and prejudice of all wishing and thinking is the final phase of consciousness of reality.
Nevertheless, it accepts responsibility for its limitations.

It takes some time before an independent judging ego is shaped, free from observations and
images. The first ego is the product of observation rather than an independent entity. Primitive
thinking is primarily affective thinking. The ego judges immediately under the influence of an
observation and emotion. Only gradually this subjective form of thinking adjusts itself to reality.
In adult thinking the archaic illusion of almighty power may lead to self-overestimation and

The evolution of individual thinking is paralleled in the growth of civilization.

Archaic or Primitive Thinking

During the last few decades primitive thinking has been subjected to careful study. This is due
not only to progress in the fields of ethnology and anthropology, but also to the realization that
analogous forms of thinking could be found in children, psychotics and the unconscious of every
human mind. The idea has also developed that the difference between civilized and primitive
thinking is one of degree. Many present primitive societies are the descendants of formerly
civilized peoples.

Primitive thought is not less logical than mature thought. Sensual experiences, however, are less
adequately controlled and the reaction is a far more emotional one. The primitive confronts the
world with more affectivity. He lives in a world o£ continually existing fear toward which he is
constantly alerted. Constant tension prevails between himself and his environment. His feelings
are more explosive, his actions more instinctive. Modern man of the Atomic Age shares the same
attitudes to some extent.

The European of the Middle Ages was still a man of uncontrolled emotionality. His actions were
affect-ruled. The mourner was paralyzed 1>y sorrow for weeks; the sad man displayed his
feelings with theatrical complaints. Collective hallucinations and delusions were experienced
with greater ease (20). Collective myths, alive in all, came to the fore more easily.
Primitive thinking is not subject to argumentation and correction and is almost insensitive to
experience. If it fails to coincide with the reality situation, its errors are ascribed to mysterious
influences from without. The primitive easily resorts to pretexts and magic forces to explain his
failure. Hidden qualities take precedence over actual ones.
The primitive rejects logic. B may be equal to A or not, depending on the wishes of strange
powers. The archaic thinking is concept- and habit-bound. It is dominated by the images and
emotions of the collectivity, which easily abandons logic. Its own rules are elementary and
infinite in power.

The archaic psyche has an unlimited memory. It is comparable to our own subconscious. The
primitive man is familiar with a large quantity of images and words. His language, usually more
complex than our own, does not combine word pictures to form abstractions. What he thinks he
sees, he sees. That is why he lives in a hallucinated world. Affect and drive rule his observations.
A vague feeling, a superficial resemblance, an insignificant totem carry more meaning than
generalized concepts. Man, animal and inanimate object bear mystical relationships to each
other. The world is colored with subjective expectation and the expectations are hallucinated.
Primitive conception of life supposes a “mystic participation” existing between man, animal and
inanimate object.

When the primitive comes into contact with an ominous totem, he may die of fear. In his prelogical
form of thinking no distinction between conscious and unconscious is made. Primitives
dream aloud, so to speak. The fearful dream becomes reality; unpleasant reality is fantasied
away. In Northern Borneo, all dreams are interpreted as real. The man who dreams that his wife
is unfaithful to him has the right to disown her.

Identifying or Magic Thinking


In primitive societies a man does not live far apart from his fellows. A relationship of common
fate and mutual thought pervades primitive community life. The thoughts of one member of the
tribe, for instance, can endanger the entire community. The word as such has suggestive and
destructive power. The victor who slays an enemy is imbued with the power of the dead man.
The Dajaks in Borneo believed that the decapitation of their enemies would fortify them with the
power of the killed. One is what one possesses.
The artistic remnants of pre-historical man are interpreted as examples of magic thinking. The
pre-historic hunter inscribed his prey on a rock wall so as to gather greater power. Creative art
was a magic action performed as a symbolic conquest of future prey. Our unconscious is still
permeated with magic archaic power. The twentieth century slave is too dependent on his
technical intellect to show concern for his magic, yet a Teutonic magician restored him to a stage
of collective madness. The economic logic of our time has rejected all magic and fears the
untouchable possibilities of long forgotten worlds. It does not dare to live side by side with the
shadows of long ago.
Yet all objective knowledge preserves the magic experience of unity. Every higher form of
thinking embodies earlier forms.

Participating Thinking

There are many causes for regression to primitive thinking. Terror and persecution, slavery and
famine can reverse high civilization to more primitive modes of mentality. Recall the extinct
Negro civilizations of central Africa, the civilizations of the Mayas and Aztecs. Even more
clearcut are the many examples of primitive thinking we find in our own present-day society.
We call participating thinking (mystic participation) (12) that form of identificatory thinking that
accepts no difference between inner thought and physical occurrence. This form of thinking
assumes that inner thoughts precipitate a change in our fellow beings and even in inanimate
objects. Every thought wields influence. Our prayers are reminiscent of that type of thinking.
Thinking implies active participation in collective events. Barriers between individuals are
nonexistent, and each individual participates in the thinking of the entire world. Growing
consciousness, however, opposes reality as critical judge and observer. The public in the theater
considers itself a participant In In the dramatic action.

Participation Through Isolation of Culture

Participating thinking spreads if the community remains isolated. We shall see how this may
cause mass delusions in a modern civilization.
In a closed circle of conversation some magic participating thinking occurs.
The same type of thinking goes on within a school or university. Students preserve the thinking
of their school years. Even the scholar experiences difficulty in liberating himself from the
suggestion of his philosophical instructor.

Participating-thinking imbues life with all kinds of rites. Without these, the world would not be
what it is. We experience this clearly with the thinking of the Malayan people among whom a
general feeling of spiritual participation prevails. Everyone is invested with a soul, whether dead
or alive. Everything is imbued with good or evil forces. The man who covers his dagger with
saliva thus makes it part of himself and assures his own immunity. In Java people open doors and
chests to facilitate the birth of a child. The world is a magic helper in everything that affects the
individual. Similar concepts survive in popular medical superstition. The weak child is made to
eat horse. meat and drink oxblood. The father partakes of the medicine when his child is ill. The
newborn infant is protected from future trouble by burial of the placenta and so forth.
In the periphery of our consciousness participating thinking lives on The most acutely critical
person experiences moments of vague and relaxed meditation in which archaic forms of thinking
come to the fore together with day dreams and half-dreams in which no differentia- tion between
object and subject is made. In sleeping and dreaming the archaic world takes complete
possession of us.

Mythical Thinking

Man likes to live in myth. He converts his fatherland into a legend a beautiful fairy tale. He
speaks of the old European liberalism an( the new American democracy while he by-passes
reality with all its subtleties.
As part of a mass, as members of a crowd, our identifications and
participations come to the fore with greater ease. The meeting of a former schoolmate
immediately precipitates patterns of former studentthinking; adolescent thoughts are reactivated,
we relive the beautiful myth of our youth.

Identification in Thinking

As the native identifies with the totem in his group, so do more civilized groups identify with
their subtly concealed totems. If our home town is subjected to criticism we spring to its defense.
We identify with our school, our town, our country. At a meeting in which this topic of disguised
identification was discussed a philosopher debated rather indignantly: “My Groningen-heart is
revolted.” In his criticism he had identified with the theories of his university. We identify with
our countries, our climates, our class, with the layer of the population to which we belong and
with its way of thinking. We identify especially with our possessions. The more we possess, the
more difficult it becomes for us to renounce either the possessions as such or the theories which
justify our having them.
Certain remnants of archaic thinking permeate our daily existence. Take, for instance, “lese
majeste”. It is a rather primitive conception that damage to the name or damage to the picture
implies damage to the person himself. The magic man lives on within us.
A preconceived idea, a rooted, fixed way of thinking is often such a remnant. It is as if archaic
thinking continued to contaminate our well-adjusted system of thought.
There exists a refined form of identifying thinking. To empathize or sympathize with another is
impossible without this thought process. The serious psychologist has to utilize this process to
familiarize himself with his fellow human beings. Psychology, therefore, maintains certain
aspects of a magic science. Such thinking processes, however, are of slight value to the physical

False Figurative Language

Since our daily language so frequently resorts to allegory and figurative speech, we can assume
that man feels a tremendous need for identification. Whenever we are anxious to prove
something, we refer to an analogous case. These analogies, which play on feeling rather than
logic, are dangerous for our thinking. A political speech, for instance, can overwhelm and
narcotize by a flood of suggestive pictures and allegories. When our feelings are aroused we lose
our critical ability and insight and reactivate earlier, incorrect concepts of reality. False figurative
language dims our thinking.

The Dictatorship of Imagery

In primitive thinking as well as in our trained twentieth century mind imagery plays an almost
dictatorial role. Ask a philosopher to walk the plank over an abyss-as Pascal proposed-and he
will hesitate as much as the child who has no reason. The imagined risk defies all logic.
Images and representations exert a formative influence on our organism; they are creative
thoughts. Wrong and good images act deeply on our biological being and produce organic
reactions. The science of hypnosis teaches us these facts.
Contemporary life overwhelms the human brain with the most chaotic impressions and images.
Propaganda and advertisement, the manifold forms of distractions create such chaos of
impressions that logic can no longer find its way. Man has become hypersensitive to suggestion.
We are grateful to anyone who takes us in hand and clears our path through the chaos of our
thoughts and images.

Wishful Thinking

The subjective wish as well directs our thinking. Our daydreams and undefined wishes are
forever misinterpreting reality. There is chaos in our thinking. Sorrow and defeat and all other
emotions are continuously playing on the direction of our thoughts. Pride and bitterness revolve
our thoughts in an eternal vicious circle.

Totalitarian Thinking

Totalitarian or dictatorial thinking is a remnant of archaic times. Objective verification of ideas is
rejected since no reality beyond the dictatorial opinion exists. The deviant point of view is
considered dangerous for the weak. Free thought is experienced as a thwarting, hostile force. The
critical word, the deviating attitude, the non-conformism of one man threatens the clan. The
individual is only permitted to think with the tribe. Archaic thinking follows what we might call
an imperialistic strategy. It lulls people to sleep, it resists their consciousness and critical
confrontation, it suppresses all individual creativity. Totalitarian thinking is identifying thinking;
it takes account only of totalities and never of parts. Specific and particular forms have no value.
Only the recurrent and expected is accepted. Man remains one with his people, his land, his race.
Human evolution, however, breaks the bond between man and his world and places him in
opposition to it.

In time of war primitive attitudes come to the fore in all fighters. The individual is only part of an
organism. The army is hypersensitive to
criticism. There is no sense of humor-the army offends easily. Blood revenge and collective
punishments are again made use of. Collectivities are held responsible for the deeds of

In the highly vulnerable feeling of military honor one finds much archaic thinking. To lose face,
to be shamed, is equivalent to a beating. The aggressive word demands revenge as much as the
bullet. Restrictions placed on the topics of discussion by soldiers and enemy aliens are a further
reflection of the authoritarian attitude.

Primitive civilizations are more keenly aware of the need for respect of leaders and superiors. In
Java, for example, a respectful language, devoid of the aggressive and sharp words of everyday
speech, is used in addressing superiors. In occupied Europe a great many had to learn restraint in
their speech. Expression of individual thinking was severely punished by the magic Teuton.

Traditional Thinking

We find the archaic way of thinking in all forms of traditional thought, rooted in fixed patterns of
feeling, acting and thinking. Tradition is the continuum of mass action. School already forces
ideas into the harness of dogma. Only after intense conflict is the personality able to free itself
from this tradition.
It is one of the paradoxical tasks of teaching to form fixed patterns of thinking in the student. The
learning man must first embrace that which is handed down from the past. Beyond this, however,
he must be taught to confront and criticize what he has learned. The true school prepares its
students for free thinking-thinking that is capable of renewing and correcting itself continuously.
“La tradition, c’est la democratie des morts.”



Thought and Language


Thought and language are intimately related to each other. All memory of mankind, all tradition,
are enclosed in language. Language reveals old historical traditions. He who creates new words
opens up new territories of thought.
The word raises man above the level of the animal. It provides the
opportunity for mental contact. Gesture and mimicry are the oldest forms of communication.
Indians and Greeks made use of a sign language, and remnants of sign language are still found in
the Javanese dances. But we too use gesture and mimicry subconsciously. At times we use a
theatrical gesture to make ourselves understood, and a wink, a hidden laugh, a cough, can change
the meaning of an earnest word.
In a later phase of development sound and speech become our chief means of communication.
Timbre, velocity of expression and gesture as well, constantly change the meaning of words.
Primitive languages express sensual variations and concrete peculiarities with a tremendous
richness of distinction. They are unfamiliar with the symbolic condensations, displacement and
transference of meanings, which, for instance, the mathematical sciences use. Hence, primitive
man must resort to manifold distinctions. He cannot arrive at a general insight-his language
affords no opportunity for thinking in generalizations. He speaks in a pictorial way, as the poet,
he identifies in word and gesture with the expressed situation.
Language-the gradually expanding treasury of words-is always the expression of a special kind
of thinking. That is why language may block our attempt to attain a purer and better form of
thinking. Gradually, customary language becomes too limited for special ways of thinking. This
is why thoughts must continually strive to free themselves from the existing language and must
create new word symbols in order to express new and better thoughts. With our mother’s milk we
swallow a special -language and with that language, anchored habits of thought.

The Language of the Child


The first verbal expression of the child is usually a monosyllabic prattling, much like that of
animals, used to indicate the aim of his drives. Natural sounds are imitated. The dog is “wuf,
wuf”, the cat “meow, meow”, etc. Soon the sounds and half-words are utilized as magic strategy.
When the baby says “fair”, he means chair, give me that chair, I want to do something with that
chair. The child endows the object with life through the use of the word.
When babies converse in their broken tongue they do not ask for a logical compromise. They
talk with no thought of relating the different parts of their conversation. The same abracadabra
recurs in the language of senile patients.

The word which was originally attached to the object and considered an integral part of it, later
becomes endowed with an independent existence of its own. The child begins to grasp that the
word is a creation of human intelligence. The more keenly he senses that the word belongs to
him, the more the child is able to free himself of his inner fixation to the rest of the physical

As we have already seen, identification with and feeling for someone are the incipient processes
of reality contact. Without these “human” qualities, deeper communication between beings is
impossible. However, by naming things, the child partially frees himself of this process of
identification and acquires the notion of a real world distinct from the “I”. The monosyllabic
nominative thinking of the child is the beginning of his capacity for confronting reality.
Word and Intonation

Our word is a manifold being. Every word evokes visual images from our unconscious. We first
thought in pictures, later in words. In dreams we revert largely to the world of pictures.
The pronunciation of words as such changes their meaning. Every word has its significance but
at the same time its unconscious background. Words are expression, but also disguise. They are a
living act with peripheral scenes and hidden motives.


Sound and rhythm often have a more important function than the specific meaning of the word.
Eros especially colors ordinary words and makes them deep and significant. Would it even be
possible to write the semantics of the half-words and sounds that people in love use as a means
of conversation? The murmuring and small names between mother and baby mean words of love
indescribable in stark definitions.

There are languages which rely more than others on undefined emotional sounds. German words
often have more sound than real meaning. Appealing more to mass and sentiment than reason,
they keep the words caught in ambivalence, suspended between emotion and intellect. It was a
strange experience to hear the vocal disguise of Goebbels propaganda thrown over one during
the Nazi-occupation.



Words may become magic symbols, condensations of meanings endowed with special power.
This is seen especially in the rapt, repetitious phrases of the child. The expression of the word
signifies the attainment of power over the indicated object. Words themselves become powerful.
During the evolutionary phase of a word especially, during its period of detachment from an
object, the value of the word and its power become especially great. The words become bold
flashes of lightning with which one can banish, beat or praise. How many snobs there are, whose
loaded words tyrannized their surroundings! With a master-word, one can conquer masses.
The magical quality of the word is greater than most of, us realize. How many of us “touch
wood” when we express a certain word? We fear that the word with its magic background
attracts danger.

This superstitious influence is especially pronounced in vague, undefined words. Their contact
with the unconscious is closer and they therefore exercise more power. To move the masses one
has to make use of such vague terms whose real significance defies definition. The therapist uses
the magic influence of the word when asking the patient to express freely his feelings. The
verbalization of vague feelings is of great cathartic value.

The Power of Talk

Endless talk my conquer fear. One fears silence. Those who least understand the world in which
they live are its most talkative citizens. Propaganda tries to achieve its aim through endless
repetition and the constant dinning in of words. The masses like mythical words and the
sledgehammer blows of windy speeches. Clear expression becomes heresy. The word that
evokes the most bizarre associations becomes the most beloved. Everyone projects his own
unfulfilled wishes upon it.

The preachers of penitence in the Middle Ages were familiar with the suggestive power of
words. Their word-pictures of hell could transport whole masses into a state of religious ecstasy.
In our age the loudspeaker has assumed that task.
People are possessed with a motoric lust for talk. Many dogmas and political theories appeal to
this motoric lust-pattern. They gratify a universal need for talk which abreacts vague fears rather
than promoting a real understanding of their message.



It is difficult to free our thinking from hidden archaisms. After the first world war, many cryptoarchaisms
came again to the fore. There was a preference for the emotional and the ecstatic, the
elementary and the chaotic. In the field of art, futurism and dadaism were the fads of the day.
This rebellion against civilized refinements was rationalized with theoretical explanations of the
respect for the primitive. Jazz was existence of its own. The child begins to grasp that the word is
a creation of human intelligence. The more keenly he senses that the word belongs to him, the
more the child is able to free himself of his inner fixation to the rest of the physical world.
As we have already seen, identification with and feeling for someone are the incipient processes
of reality contact. Without these “human” qualities, deeper communication between beings is
impossible. However, by naming things, the child partially frees himself of this process of
identification and acquires the notion of a real world distinct from the “I”. The monosyllabic
nominative thinking of the child is the beginning of his capacity for confronting reality.

Word and Intonation

Our word is a manifold being. Every word evokes visual images from our unconscious. We first
thought in pictures, later in words. In dreams we revert largely to the world of pictures.
The pronunciation of words as such changes their meaning. Every word has its significance but
at the same time its unconscious background. Words are expression, but also disguise. They are a
living act with peripheral scenes and hidden motives.

Sound and rhythm often have a more important function than the specific meaning of the word.
Eros especially colors ordinary words and makes them deep and significant. Would it even be
possible to write the semantics of the half-words and sounds that people in love use as a means
of conversation? The murmuring and small names between mother and baby mean words of love
indescribable in stark definitions.
There are languages which rely more than others on undefined emotional sounds. German words
often have more sound than real meaning. Appealing more to mass and sentiment than reason,
they keep the words caught in ambivalence, suspended between emotion and intellect. It was a
strange experience to hear the vocal disguise of Goebbels propaganda thrown over one during
the Nazi-occupation.

Words may become magic symbols, condensations of meanings endowed with special power.
This is seen especially in the rapt, repetitious phrases of the child. The expression of the word
signifies the attainment of power over the indicated object. Words themselves become powerful.
During the evolutionary phase of a word especially, during its period of detachment from an
object, the value of the word and its power become especially great. The words become bold
flashes of lightning with which one can banish, beat or praise. How many snobs there are, whose
loaded words tyrannized their surroundingsl With a master-word, one can conquer masses.
The magical quality of the word is greater than most of, us realize. I low many of us “touch
wood” when we express a certain word? We fear that the word with its magic background
attracts danger.

This superstitious influence is especially pronounced in vague, undefined words. Their contact
with the unconscious is closer and they therefore exercise more power. To move the masses one
has to make use of such vague terms whose real significance defies definition. The therapist uses
the magic influence of the word when asking the patient to express freely his feelings. The
verbalization of vague feelings is of great cathartic value.
The Power of Talk
Endless talk my conquer fear. One fears silence. Those who least understand the world in which
they live are its most talkative citizens. Propaganda tries to achieve its aim through endless
repetition and the constant dinning in of words. The masses like mythical words and the
sledgehammer blows of windy speeches. Clear expression becomes heresy. The word that
evokes the most bizarre associations becomes the most beloved. Everyone projects his own
unfulfilled wishes upon it.
The preachers of penitence in the Middle Ages were familiar with the suggestive power of
words. Their word-pictures of hell could transport whole masses into a state of religious ecstasy.
In our age the loudspeaker has assumed that task.
People are possessed with a motoric lust for talk. Many dogmas and political theories appeal to
this motoric lust-pattern. They gratify a universal need for talk which abreacts vague fears rather
than promoting a real understanding of their message.
It is difficult to free our thinking from hidden archaisms. After the first world war, many cryptoarchaisms
came again to the fore. There was a preference for the emotional and the ecstatic, the
elementary and the chaotic. In the field of art, futurism and dadaism were the fads of the day.
This rebellion against civilized refinements was rationalized with theoretical explanations of the
respect for the primitive. Jazz was preferred to more traditional musical forms, expressionism
replaced naturalism.
One could also find these crypto-archaisms in the lability and suggestibility of human opinions.
Year after year new dogmas were presented to an eager audience. The extreme was defended.
Romantic attitudes toward crime and gangsterism developed and the criminal was idealized. The
intelligentsia, especially, provided fertile ground for this peculiar fluctuating thinking. They did
not know what to confess or what to believe and bent to each passing wind. In central Europe the
adoration of the people’s mentality (das Volkische) was a triumph of archaic thinking.
In retrospect, such crystal-clear dogmas and proven theories are later seen to belong to a certain
period. Even for the man of science, the more objective he considers himself, the less aware he is
of the subjective premises of his knowledge.



Causal and Final Thinking



The causally-oriented theoretician tries to reduce reality to generally valid rules. The smaller
probability becomes absorbed into a larger probability. He is not taken up with the accidental
constellation of reality, but only with the manifest causal chain. Causes and consequences were
at work in the world, even when they remained unobserved by the thinking individual. It is
impossible for us to view something outside these causal relations. We are confronted
everywhere with the outcomes of causes. Causality dissects the continuum of reality into a series
of sections. It responds to the human preference for regularity, for interrelated and dependent
facts, for continual and gradual development. It does so, even where reality does not correspond.
Final thinking, however, tries to discover the sense and significance of historical events.
Every historical event is an accidental “cross-section” of continuity. The individual conceives of
the “accidental happening”, the “unique event” (Einmaligkeit) only as a phase of historical,
purposeful reality. Indeed, creative thinking tries to free itself of archaic automatisms and aims at
planning before acting. This tendency to plan, to develop a thought-program, is projected by man
onto external affairs. For him there is no accident. Historical events are symbolic meeting-places
of the historical process and the historical cause. Reality never changes suddenly; the
foundations for these changes are laid underground and come to the fore as historical facts. From
the causal point of view, occurrences are living proof of prevailing laws. From the final point of
view, the concrete event is an incidental happening in the service of a greater aim. Both forms of
thinking aim to create eternal continuity out of the chaotic present.

Laws of Thinking

Thanks to the influence of Aristotle, philosophy is burdened with formal laws of thinking.
Aristotle’s postulate of the identity of thinking is an incorrect one. Even philosophers in their
discussions don’t think in the same way. Their education, training, social environment and other
factors combine to determine their way of thinking. Acquaintance with other systems of thought
invalidates Aristotelian logic. The Brahman philosophy, for instance, preaches that human
sorrow begins with thinking, that thinking is revolt against the Gods and bans us from the truth.
Aristotle’s principle, nevertheless, provided the thinkers of twenty centuries with a meeting
ground and formalized laws of thought. Other civilizations demonstrate that common modes of
thinking are the product of a culture.
The imperialistic European thinker, of course, considered other systems of thought as primitive
and less refined. Participating thinking, magic thinking were attributed only to natives.
Gradually, however, the realization grew that our forms of thinking were permeated with these
forms of thought. The idealistic German system, for instance, surrendered without protest to the
participating Nazi philosophy
Western and Eastern Thinking

Western thinking is restless. The Western spirit is impelled toward activity. The Eastern thinker
does not think with the same motility. He enjoys a static state, rest and contemplation. He is
more open to inner visions than to illusions of the senses based on external stimuli. Western
thinking is geared toward the broadening of its views of the world. Eastern thinking does not
search for disparate point of views. It does not define but creates inner worlds.
Western civilization makes use of confronting thinking. Its logicloving mentality places itself in
opposition to rather than in the midst of reality. It belongs essentially to an individuating
civilization. The Aristotelian logic belongs to him who, in his loneliness, touches the world with
critical antennae. This touching has an element of danger, since it may alter reality. There is
always a destructive element in restless touching and tasting of the world. Nervous, obsessional
thinking and verifying continually destroys part of its own world-picture.
Once the individualistic man conforms to the logical laws of thinking, all other forms of thinking
become illogical or primitive to him. He praises only what is adequate in terms of his own
system. Logic, however, also embraces a series of rules which are made use of as long as they
prove adequate. Who can tell what other means of gaining consciousness remain unexplored
(metaphysical, parapsychological) as a result of the dictatorship of Aristotelian thinking? The
clinician knows that the exploration of the apparently chaotic unconscious yields a treasure of
knowledge about man and universe.

European logic, however, nearly always fails in actual life. It is difficult to convince people in a
logical way; they are eager to convict and mistrust logic. They justify their actions in terms
rooted in unconscious wishes and drives. Logic remains only one means for cataloging reality.

Types of Consciousness

Psychology has tried to classify the ways of gaining consciousness of oneself and the world. The
roads toward reality are manifold. The typical separation is dependent on the means chosen
toward gaining consciousness of the world. Jung (10) and Van der Hoop (21) distinguish
intuitive types, feeling types and thinking types. Although any such classification is rather
artificial, it offers insight into the varied character structures of man, and his reasons for
choosing a particular road toward reality.

Male and Female Thinking


Let us take an example of different approaches to reality. In reality there is no pure distinction
between masculine and feminine thinking; both forms exist in everyone in varying degree.
Man is more of a specialist, concerned with specific aspects of the universe. He is one-sided, and
stronger because of this one-sidedness. Woman is more of a generalizer. Her functions demand
familiarity with many things that man treats with disdain. She must know a little of a great many
things while the man seeks to know a great deal about few. Ancient science went through a
generalizing feminine approach.

Modern science has passed through a male stage of research, namely a a specialistic stage. Until
a few decades ago only the male was permitted to study science. That is why modern science
bears the aspect d male aggressive power. Those who restrict themselves to highly specialized
knowledge have the opportunity to attain power. This power is part of the Western ideal.
Male thinking is one-sided and split thinking. Particularly pronounced in the male is the split
between thinking and feeling to the extent that he is unable to relate the two.

In the future, science must become more conscious of the new need for generalized integrated
knowledge. It will have to become more female in character. Female thinking is more realistic; it
is imbued with more sense and feeling for practical adjustment.

The woman with deep and clear intellect,’ who yearns for creative expression in science,
remains, however, burdened throughout her life with the care of her children and family. After
maturing considerably, she becomes aware that she has gathered through her multifarious
experiences wisdom not learned and abstract, but real and warm and full of life.

Anatomical Thinking

The sharp, dissecting thinking, which destroys feelings, is unaware of moral value judgments. It
makes no distinction between good and evil.
Anatomical thinking-due to its lust for pure dissection-is heartless. It is aware only of objective
morphological relations, not of human beings. It is incapable of penetrating the mysteries of
man. It lacks the capacity for identification and intuition. It cannot identify with the world into
which it probes. It cannot rid itself of the idol of mirrorlike objectivity. Complete knowing is
impossible, however, without loving.
Anatomical thinking became a means of gaining power. He who could handle it well could
subject the world and his fellow beings. This is the main reason for the worship of cold,
intellectual thinking and critical dissection.
Such thinking, however, may cause neurosis and unhappiness in its students. It creates a bulwark
of intellect against feeling and emotion. Such people no longer live, but only read and think
about life. The world is reduced to a cold and loveless existence, a formula without inner sense.

Biological Roots of Thinking

All thinking has biological roots. Thinking requires certain foods and fluids for growth, a special
diet and special physical exercise. Certain rites and rhythms alter thinking. The gastronomist
thinks in another way than the aesthete who tries to purify his thought by fasting.
We witness the arousal of self-awareness in those who are successful erotic partners and its
disappearance among those whose sexual pride was hurt. Woman nearly always places her
thinking in the service of an erotic aim. Male thinking derives more satisfaction from
maintaining a logical equilibrium.
All ideas demand a vital basis. They get lost in a vacuum without it.
Shallow Modes of Thought
Many thinkers live among big and idle thoughts and words, borrowed from books, rather than
derived from experience. Unaware of life’s reality, they think in the same way in which the child
plays with colorful soap-bubbles, watching the brilliance and color of the bubble until it bursts.
It is the infantile philosopher in us who is seduced by weighty thoughts and impressive plans.
But we use this play as training for the realities of life. We learn to select from superfluous
In practical life we are able to distinguish other forms of thinking, dependent on the special
adjustment of the individual. We distinguish dogmatic thinking, wishful thinking, labeling
thinking, juridical thinking, political thinking, modish thinking. All these speak for themselves.

Labeling Thinking

Only two forms of thinking, dangerous to everyday practice, are mentioned here. Labeling
thinking is that which attaches labels to all thinking human beings. If one once belonged to a
certain school, class, or race one’s opinions and language are forever regarded as part of this
school, class, or race. Once labeled, the label can never be lost. Forever, we have to belong to a
certain rubric. What lives behind the label doesn’t matter.

Juridical Thinking

Juridical thinking is another rigid form of interpreting life and its habits. Because men require
rules and laws for the limitation of each other’s instincts, the man of law seeks to reduce all
spontaneous life to similar rules and laws. He thinks in a codified world and views people as its
codified inhabitants. It was this form of anti-psychological thinking which ruled international
relations between the two world wars. The United Nations are still in danger of viewing peace as
a purely codified Valhallah.




Normal Delusions



Francis Bacon (2) in his Novum Organum was the first to view delusions of the spirit and errors
of thinking from a psychological standpoint. He rejected all rigid philosophical abstractions.
Because of its rigidity theory can become the wrong object of thinking rather than reality. Bacon
reproached his predecessors for living too much in theory and not enough in reality. Our
thoughts are representatives of ourselves, rather than of reality.
Theory aims at subjecting reality to its own dictatorship. Human intellect is no pure instrument
of research but is bound to influences of feeling and will; what man would like to see as true, he
believes as true. Hence, Bacon advises us to approach with suspicion all that which the spirit
accepts greedily. Fantasy is the greatest enemy of the intellect. This conceit of thought Bacon
refers to as general delusion, the “idola generis”.
He calls special delusion, “idola specus”, that type of human thought which is colored by man’s
special characteristics, by his temperament, his mood, his yearning.
Language, the unstable vehicle of thought, also leads to delusion and error. Don’t the phrases and
definitions of philosophers serve to disguise their nude irresolution? Bacon calls this delusion of
words and labels “idola theatri”. Catchword and label accomplish their greatest triumph in
establishing a mass-delusion. The famous English statesman and philosopher was referring
especially to the dogmas and theatrical parading of philosophers which only served to justify the
creations of their own imagination. They were thought-plays detached from reality and
representative only of the mind of their conceited creator. A person’s cherished dogmas reveal
his personality. The manifold systems of philosophers describe more adequately the philosophers
themselves than the world of realities, according to Bacon. Can we add anything better to this
concept of delusion and conceit? Bacon’s ideas are as valid today as they were three centuries

Seductive Stupidity

When intellect can no longer contribute to the knowledge of the world, when our spirit is no
longer potent enough to struggle with the facts of the day, we take recourse to the stupidity and
“innocence of childhood”.

We experienced this regressive behavior and escape from consciousness most pointedly during
the years of occupation and terror, and understood it as a natural defense against pain and
sorrow. But there is another more seductive way of flirting with superficiality and playing with
stupidity. There is a yearning to return to the land of morons. We are relaxed and gay when we
hear the radio voices carry us back to a realm which does not require our brain. Gradually we
become more and more infected with silliness and escapism. Why should we think? Why should
we fight to understand this world? Why not remain in comfortable stupidity?

Superfluous Thinking

Thinking often has a firmer grasp on some of us than we expect. Thoughts often remain rooted in
our mind; we are possessed with a problem and we cannot escape its answer and the consequent
presentation of newly aroused problems. We would prefer to idle away and yet a cogitating fury
lives in us. We destroy things by thinking and destroy ourselves with it in the delusion that only
thinking solves our problems. The self-temptation of superfluous thought and the restless
overestimation of our own brain makes us suspicious. This is reminiscent of the baby’s strategy.
The repetition of the same gruesome tale helps him to conquer his vague, bigger fear. Similarly
the adult tries to free himself from “the great fear of being in the world” by compulsively
torturing his own brain.

Obsessional Thinking


This form of obsessional thinking exercises a narcotic influence. Gradually unconscious drives
take possession of our thought. Thoughts arise which cannot be mastered. They are feared and
alien to us, yet we cannot rid ourselves of them. They are absurd yet they possess us. There is a
tragic relation between cogitating, ruminating and meditating. Vague thoughts may become
rooted in our mind as symbols of suppressed unconscious drives.

The Autonomy of Ideas


Every thought as such has a growth-potential. It can expand to an allembracing image that
suppresses all other ideas. He who creates ideas may become possessed by them. The idea may
become detached from him, subdue all other ideas and precipitate unwilled actions. In reality
every new thought leaves its creator and lives its own life. It may stimulate the imagination of
other people. Dostoiewski describes Raskolnikov as one who was dragged away by one pure
idea. Fascinated by an isolated thought the hero justifies the crime in the service of his lust for

It is as if in every idea some mystic archaic powers remained alive. With one simple idea, with
one catchword, one can sow poison and hate as well as blessings for many people. Think, for
instance, of the treatment by Coue, who tried to heal neurotics by the monotonous repetition of
one simple idea and image. All these phenomena can occur because thinking is a biological
function, comparable to other motor and sensory functions. Every thought is an unconscious

The Delusion of Certainty


Only the reflexive animal is instinctively certain. Man is and remains unsteady in his thinking.
His world is neither ready, nor fixed, nor limited, but must grow. From one uncertainty he must
move on to others. The nineteenth century was too much preoccupied with constant norms and
evaluations and too insensitive to the dynamics of its own system of thought.
He who firmly asserts his certainty is often surpressing his doubt and evading the vacuum of his
ignorance. Every delusion is endowed with the same inner certainty we find in primitive
thinking. It does not create problems. Delusion is a regression, a theatrical disguise of inner
impotence. This process does not refer to pathology only. It occurs in everyday thinking.
The scientists of the last century were possessed by the delusion of hasty declaration and
explanation. Many theories preceded the facts. Many scientists wrote off as understandable and
transparent that which remained secret and obscure. By atomization of the infinite they tried to
profane unsolved mysteries.

Thinking is the equalization of chaos, the reduction of single accidental occurrences to
generalized happenings. Every theoretical reduction, however, omits the secret of the unique
historical accident, the mystery of the individual event.

Man overestimates his instinctual certainties. Thinking extinguishes the certainty of innate
knowledge. Recall the story of the thousandfooted insect who was interrogated by the cunning
fox. From the day he was asked which foot he set in motion first, he could no longer walk; he
was paralyzed by the new problem. Instinctual certainties disappear as soon as they reach the
domain of reflection and thought. Feeling alone can give certainty. Thinking and reflection
create doubt. That is why art provides straighter insight into truth than philosophy.
It is the tragedy of man that thought has brought him to new uncertainties. He has partaken of the
tree of knowledge and is expelled from the paradise of instinctual life. This does not mean,
however, that his thinking is always striving toward reason and logic. Rationalism and
irrationalism, mature and archaic thinking develop side by side. Proverbial and Patterned


Most thinking processes take place outside our consciousness. It is thinking in usual patterns.
These patterns are lifted from popular wisdom, proverbs and the manifold crystallizations of
collective knowledge. The proverb, above all, is suggestive of a philosophy of acquiescence.
Collective knowledge continuously builds and stimulates our individual thinking. In all our
arguments we must fight against inadmissible generalizations. Popular psychology embraces
those generalizations.

Mass knowledge is inert.
The patterning of thought is enhanced by the industrialization and standardization of life. Our
brain is a maze of fixed patterns, slogans and cliches. It has become a bad camera for recording

Through continuous facing of reality man must conquer it gradually. In youth he learns to see
reality through special colored glasses, in special patterns. Gradually, however, he must change
those patterns and relate them to reality. It is as if through the growing process of thinking a kind
of reality organ develops in man.

The Subject Thinks

In all thought concerned with reality, the thinking and creating subject remains the greatest riddle
to himself. The self, the ego, the focal point of every world view, remains its own greatest source
of confusion. Every world picture is a subjective creation, no matter how minutely the subject
thinks he has copied the world. The most objective copy still contains a subjective view. The
graphologist will tell us that every handwriting, originally a fixed pattern of letters, is different.
Children, in copying the simplest pictures, distort them in accordance with their own character.
How varied our subjective thinking is! Some overflow with original ideas, while others remain
content with simple imitations.

The Unconscious as Creator of Our Thinking


Why do subjects think so differently? For the psychoanalyst the answer is not difficult. In every
hour with his patients, he is aware not especially of his patient’s thinking but of his confused
reactions to unconsciously formed ideas. Thinking is the constant struggle against the
preconceived patterns of our mind. The unconscious guides the willing conscious mind, which
accepts, justifies or rationalizes the deeper notions.
Men’s thoughts are propelled by the creative forces of their unconscious. Through special
technique the ego can grow aware of these unconscious motives. Our desire for clarity, our fight
to gain new insights gives us a partial conception of structural relations. The deepest levels,
however, remain hidden.

The unconscious sees with a philosophical eye. The conscious justifies the limitations of its own
understanding. What is new insight? It is a sudden release of tension. The unconscious suddenly
clarifies our mind and we can either defy or acknowledge it. The road we choose depends on the
degree of our self-knowledge.

Fashionable Thinking


There is a fashion of ideas and arguments similar to that of hats and dresses. Out of tradition one
can incorporate certain fashionable ideas. Man is possessed by more lust for imitation and
tradition than for creation of original ideas. It is as if several instincts clashed in the process of
thinking. There is a social instinct which induces imitation and identification. Simultaneously
there is an individualistic instinct which demands distinction and the formulation of a personal
vision as opposed to that of collectivity.

Some ideas have a pandemic character and work like an infectious agent the individual is unable
to resist. The idea finds such deep resonance that man is dragged away by it. Forty years ago the
word “socialist” was applied as a nickname to people. Today, socialism is an ideal for those who
not long ago spoke of it disapprovingly. In our time, “communism” is the catchword for all that
is taboo.




Scapegoating grows out of normal attitudes, normal biases and ordinary prejudices. Its most
famous example is found in the rituals of the Hebrews and is depicted in the Book of Leviticus.
On the Day of Atonement, a live goat was chosen. The high priest, attired in linen garments, laid
both hands on the goat’s head and confessed over it the iniquities of the children of Israel. The
sins of the people having thus been symbolically transferred onto the beast, it was taken out into
the wilderness and let loose. The people felt purged, and for the time being, guiltless. (1).
The tendency to revert to this primitive level of thinking has persisted. People are forever
seeking scapegoats, most often in human form, whom they can saddle with their misfortunes and
misdeeds. “Civilized people” remain primitive in their thinking.
Such events have occurred throughout history. The victims have always been small minority
groups who, because of conspicuousness and tradition, became the bearers of the burden of

Nominative Thinking


In his thinking the simple man is fixated to names. By naming things he feels that he has
explained them. Primitive languages are characterized by vast numbers of names and words with
fine nuances of meaning. The king of the Middle Ages was surrounded by innumerable pages,
lackeys, grooms, etc. Every royal function called for another servant with another name. Every
function was named. The same happens in the mind; all that remains incomprehensible acquires
names. Our modern bureaucratic system maintains this name-giving tendency when confronted
with a difficult problem. Things are better understood when they are filed.
Fixed Thought Values


In different circles of society different values are attached to thoughts. Every member of a given
society unconsciously accepts this hierarchy of thinking. He shows little appreciation for the
thought systems and logic of other circles. Just as the followers of Hegel detected the dialectic
triangle in all situations, so the hyper-orthodox Freudian is forever seeing the Master’s patterns
without looking for new ones and the Communist is eternally searching for Marxist explanations.
These fixed thought values are most pointed among our common citizens. Their thinking is
primarily formulated by professional interests. Butchers think in meat values, dairy-men in
cheese values, psychologists in mind values, and so forth.
Private interests, especially, rule the laws of thinking. The nonsensical delusion or the illogical
thought system is more often than not the justification for personal gain or material profit.
“Whose bread one eats, his word one speaks” (Dutch proverb).
The delusion clearly relates to the size of the purse or the extent of political power of its
propagator. As James indicated, “Truth is the cash value of ideas.” (g).

The Readiness for Truth


The inner resistance to real thinking is often a violent one. Many prefer to stay in the childish
dreamland of ignorance to escape the responsibility of wrong knowledge and wrong actions.
Psychotherapy has taught us how unsteady our readiness to accept truth can be. The subject
defends himself continuously against painful truths. Most people have a blind spot for truths
which relate to their own life and personality. This unwillingness to know disappears only after
the subject is trained in self-knowledge. Such awareness causes many a painful conflict. Its
avoidance, therefore, is understandable. With diabolic dialectic and ceaseless rationalizations any
truth can be disguised. Only in the depth of unhappiness, in which delusion and illusion are more
painful than reality, does the preparedness to accept the truth about oneself come about.
Personal relations toward truth vary. Some change their personal truths constantly. Imagination
and myth are often stronger than truth. Archaic images are forever regaining possession of

Knowledge-A Dangerous Game


People with too many arguments should always be approached with suspicion. Dialectic and
endless reasoning are usually used as resistance against disagreeable truths. Knowledge and
insight can be dangerous. The adept may be persecuted when he knows more than his teacher. In
scientific circles, students who try to free themselves from scientific tradition are treated with
much aggression.

Wherever doubt arises, compulsive thinking is used as a defense against hard truths. People lose
themselves in the great problems of life to avoid facing problems of their own; they become
pseudophilosophers in order to escape the activities at home.

Synthetic and Analytic Thinking

There is a cry for synthetic thinking, especially among certain psychological schools. Those who
did not dare to accept analysis as a therapy, used “synthesis” as a catchword. Analysis and
synthesis, however, can never be separated in living thinking. Wherever psychoanalysis dissects
arising thoughts, spontaneous synthesis takes place simultaneously. The surgeon dissects and
analyzes living organisms, but the “vis medicatrix naturae” synthesizes and regenerates the
Whatever human beings divide, nature brings together again. Good analysis stimulates
spontaneous regeneration. Life as such is always wiser than the human being who thinks about

Autistic Thinking

The phrase, “autistic thinking” is lifted from psychopathology (Bleuler). It was known that
thinking could serve as a means of escape into fantasy, into the inner world which was neglectful
of all outer contacts. Obstacles are fantasied away. Longings and strivings assume the aspect of
reality. The subject no longer verifies reality; he surrenders to the dream. We speak of
pathological autism where the escape into phantasy and dream life violates all contact with

Autism is due to a lack of identification. Human sympathy and feeling for somebody are
dependent on identification, so necessary for social relations. The autist abandons the instinctual
roots of his existence, the common roots with other people.
All intellect and pure thinking tends to become cold and isolated, devoid of feelings and drives.
Isolated intelligence creates hesitancy. The danger of the break-through of the isolated instinctual
impulse is greater. A healthy character requires the integration of thinking and feeling.
Primitive thinking, on the other hand, although constantly directed toward the material world, is
enslaved to that world. It is bent to the dictatorship of the sensual impulse; it does not think but
acts in shortcuts. Autistic thinking is inwardly directed thinking, thinking which lacks the
awareness of reality.


Thinking seems to move between two extremes: the archaic thinking, which is slave to the
impulse of reality and autistic thinking, which is dependent only on impulses of the subject.
Archaic thinking is introjective thinking, autistic thinking is projective thinking. In the latter, the
outer world is burdened with the fictions of the subject. Both extremes lack the agile contact with
and facing of reality.


Thinking can be overstrained. It cannot function without stimulation from the unconscious.
Without relaxation and rest it breaks down. The mind wants sleep, it has to retreat from reality to
dream life in order to regain new strength for confrontation on awakening.




Delusion and the Subjective Feeling of Power



Delusion gives the subject an inner certainty of omnipotence and strength. Normal thinking
about reality is never as secure about itself. The rigid thought is stronger than man. The deluded
man likes to suffer for his delusions. The quarrelsome, especially, never stop exciting and
moving the world in the service of their overburdened feelings of justice. He who is possessed by
delusion is forever running his head against a stone wall; the realities of logic and physical
relations are of no consequence to him as he searches for the perpetuum mobile and the square of
the circle. Scientific thought is irrelevant. The deluded goes his own way, growing within the
delusion and anxious only to live for the peculiar aberration of his thoughts.
Thinking is the constantly expanding function of accounting for and being responsible for the
subject in relation to the world. Where this process of growing consciousness stops, delusion
begins. Every fixation in growth gives rise to abnormal phenomena in thinking. Real thinking,
real adequatio cum re, requires perpetual conversion and renewal.
Delusion and the Subjective Feeling of Certainty

The more primitive man is, the younger he is, the more keenly he feels his opinions and notions.
His experiences are for him of great reality value. Characteristic of growing consciousness is its
grasp of the relativity of personal insight. It experiences doubt and hesitation, becomes familiar
with the various phases and levels of thinking, with the eternal need for correction and evolution
from old to new insight.

The delusion, however, is certain of itself. Regressive thinking knows no doubt; it does not see
the conflict between its own opinions and reality since it is incapable of a critical self-corrective

The Incomprehensibility of the Delusion


Medical theories assumed that the delusion was intangible in terms of understanding and
comprehension. Understanding is a subjective process and its degree is dependent on the
individual student. The deeper the regression, however, the less contact and communication
takes place, for Delusion speaks another language. Its archaic language is rooted in the period
when no verbal communication between human beings existed, as we experience in the
psychoanalysis of schizophrenics. A deluded man is essentially a lonely man.
Gaining insight into a delusion demands of the analyst the same temporary degree of regression
the patient has undergone. But usually the intuitive artist alone is able to turn back that far.



Thinking-The Overstepping of Limits


In daily life, thinking moves on very different levels. Most people do not like the cataloging of
reality. The road from random, disorganized thinking, to patterned thinking, to free intuitive
thinking is not a simple straight line. Man must always struggle for a new world outlook.
Thinking is a challenge and a daring feat. When we assay to leave traditional paths and step into
the obscure, reality suddenly assumes new aspects. It is impossible to grasp these with old modes
of thinking. Gaining consciousness implies the shedding of old realities through expanding
freedom and conquering new realities.
Growth from infantile to adult thinking is bound to the laws of physical power and matter which
set limits on growth possibilities. To live is to create. The creative living subject develops to a
thinking subject. The comprehension of the thinking subject includes some knowledge of his
limitations. The psychology of thinking and deluded thinking must indicate the limitations of
human thought in any given period of its evolution. It must indicate the origin and extent of these
limitations and the means for surpassing and conquering them.

Living thought must always bypass these limitations.

How much truth can man bear? How much truth about himself can he bear? Does he have the
courage to penetrate ever more deeply into reality? Can he free himself, if he so desires, from it?
Thinking must undergo a continuous process of renewal. Unless it does so, man remains only
“wise”. Being wise in the vulgar sense of the word means being prudent and neutral, means
hesitation and keeping to the middle of the road. Man, however, must step beyond this.


Dimensional Thinking


Many thought images cannot penetrate the thought world of our fellow beings. As the rainworm
lives in a world of rainworms, and a child in a world of children, so the man lives within his own
thought world. His thought organs are attuned only to a special wave length. The thought
pictures received are translated into his own language. Man cannot grasp dimensions which are
not commensurate with his own mental capacity.

Primitive ideas cannot absorb more complex ones. Advanced thinking can, however, absorb less
differentiated thinking. These differences in terms of thinking constitute the major source of
misunderstanding. Human beings live in different thought worlds.

Those who live on a higher level detect the delusions of those on a lower one, but remain
unaware of their own. Lower, less differentiated levels of thinking regard the higher ones as
exaggerated nonsense and an incomprehensible “secret cult”. Higher levels view the lower ones
as regressions, delusions or disturbances of growth. Let us not forget, however, that every higher
form of thinking, every truth, is the end process of the integration of more primitive modes of
thinking and partial truths.

The world is full of misunderstood thought. Isolated thinking can refine itself and reach new
truth; it can also, however, regress and deteriorate. In an isolated culture thinking ultimately
regresses. (See section on collective psychosis.) Thoughts need intermarriage and opposition.
He who abandons a higher culture for an isolated lower culture also reverts to primitive archaic
thinking. Many examples can be cited of natives who studied at western universities and
embraced our form of thinking, but on returning to their former tribes shed their newly
conquered fields of thought.

Nearly all of us are encased in our own world of thought and find it difficult to move beyond.
We maintain the illusion of understanding a higher world but remain hemmed in by our
traditions. However, all of a sudden we experience momentary flashes of insight and higher
clarity and then the struggle for a new way of knowledge may start.

The Conceit of Thinking



People are hard to convince of the incorrectness of their thinking. The majority are fixated to
their own thoughts to such a degree that they are unable to listen to those of others. They fear
doubt and close their ears. They approach their ideas as doting parents approach their children.
They fight for their ideas as Don Quixote did; they will follow a doctor’s prescription quite
passively but will deny the logic of his argument. Pedantic thinking is unable to correct itself. Its
conception of state, society and leader are unassailable, inspired by the infantile assumption of
the magic power of thought.


Chaotic and difficult thoughts are easily accepted if they bear a semblance of learning and
sophistication. The incomprehensible has a strong magic influence. People are very receptive to
quasi-profound ideas and abstruse demonstrations. They suspect the clear and simple. Some
people enjoy the weekly sermon only when it is obscure and incomprehensible.
Our age is ready to embrace the highest truth with the smallest brain, unaware of the
impossibility of the task. This constitutes the exalted delusion of technical man.

Over-Strained Thinking


It is dangerous to overestimate the capacity of our brain. When it attempts too much it
overstrains itself. It does not dare to confess to its ignorance and limitations. The strained thinker
not only claims to understand all that is illogical and inimical to his culture but out of his fear of
misunderstanding begins to court and love what he cannot grasp. He identifies himself with
absurdity. Many traitors and turncoats in wartime were themselves victims of this treacherous
attitude of the intellect.

The incomprehensible, the chaotic and abstruse holds a strange fascination for many.
Identification with powerful psychopaths and chaotic fanatics may result in a complete surrender
of personal insights. The most abhorrent theories are proclaimed as understood and accepted.
Vague fear, especially, causes this passive surrender. A similar process occurs in the primitive:
he always attaches more importance to the obscure than to the clearly observed. Less
differentiated thinking never can grasp more differentiated ideas. A broad abyss separates these
worlds of thinking. In the Middle Ages the more differentiated way of thinking was called heresy
and black magic and many clear thinkers finished their lives on the burning stake. Even now
there exists a tremendous suspicion in the world toward clarification of ideas.

The Delusion of Justification


Such passive acceptance of ideas gives rise to the delusion of justification. “Look,” one calls, “I
think so objectively and righteously that I
even plead against my old friends and fatherland.” Cowardly opportunism is always destructive.
It is the cause of much disloyalty and treason.

Everyone can prove with abundance of pseudo-arguments that the immoral is moral. This inner
treason begins with the vague acceptance of the small percentage of truth which shields a big lie.
Thoughts can have a narcotic effect. They can sweeten every sorrow. There are philosophies for
periods of success and periods of failure. The liberation of one’s thinking from archaic chains is a
hazardous process. The path of the spirit is narrow; the fear of a vast vacuum tempts many to
throw themselves into the abyss and to surrender to the dark drives of the unconscious.
A philosophical system can be justification and delusion. There is a tendency to escape into ivory
tower philosophy and empty theorizing out of impotence. That is why so many philosophers in
Germany became easy prey to authoritarian suggestions. Those who referred to themselves as
lovers of wisdom turned easily into philosophers of the mailed fist.


The Treason of Our Thoughts


Let us go back to the treacherous delusion of justification. What is this curious need to betray the
father and teacher? Is it only the mental reaching beyond the own being and the own period? Or
is it always mingled with hate and resentment?
In times when our soul is empty, we sell ourselves for a couple of poor ideals and we become
traitors, too. Much treason and crime arise out of shame, guilt and powerless reproach for our
own inadequacy. We heap coals of fire on our own head. Out of an inner shame of ourselves and
others we destroy what we love and honor.

There are other forms of disloyalty, however. Deep in our soul lives that other form of selfbetrayal,
the regression, the tendency to revert to more primitive opinions. Regression of
thinking and advancement of thinking are both considered betrayals of the conventional systems.
There is high treason and cowardly treason.

Real treason, however, can only be a self-betrayal. The problem is that of the potential traitor in
all men. It is the process of justification of the fundamental dissatisfaction with oneself. People
who like power politics can misuse their insight. When one’s existence becomes vulnerable, one’s
thoughts follow suit. Thought control is the new technique of suppression of the authoritarian

The danger of a huge corps of civil servants is that a highly intelligent group becomes dependent
on a salary. Their thinking is gullible and much too conscious of their dependence on
governmental power. The Mania for Objectivity

Thinking that is strained-and in times of chaos all thinking isbecomes receptive to relativism.
Spiritual values are no longer accepted and the personality is not involved fully in evaluations.
The thinkers begin to schematize. They are unaware of the tensions of life. The rigid thinker
begins to hate what he does not understand. He argues more than he acts and loses himself in
senseless dialectic. He betrays himself. Through talk he sets the wrong right.

Many people suffer from an objectivity disease. Objectivity assumes the proportion of a
compulsion neurosis. They refuse to choose between contradictory ideas. They lack the passion
for further and better thinking. Beware of those who remain objective and dispassionate. They
betray the ever-developing continuity of life. This pseudo-objectivity may also be treason. Life is
a constant choice between right and wrong, between going backward and going forward,
between the primitive and the civilized in us. Those who insist on objectivity do not dare to
chose and betray the good action that had to be chosen. In a world which suffers, to remain a
spectator is a luxury and a shirking of responsibility. “Objectivity is to expose and to lose
oneself.” (Bolland).


The last war taught us well how many a so-called objective thinker became a collaborator of the
enemy. There is a form of intellectualism which is sterile, which surrenders easily to power.
Intellectualism differs from intelligent productivity. It is imitation without creation. Our world
pays too much homage to such unproductive learnedness. Real intellect is a potential apart from
knowledge and pedantry.


Every man, for fear of becoming a consequential thinking being, is a potential traitor. He often
talks and argues for fear of expressing himself and coming into conflict with reality.
Thinking demands patience, attention and the gradual development of consciousness. The
destruction of old wisdom and productivity is not always free productivity. Not every rebellion is
a sacred revelation. Wisdom grows in the weak as well as in the strong, in silence as well as in
conversation. But silence may be treason when there is a need for the thinker to speak.

Delusion and Resentment


The greatest disappointment in thinking may be when there is lack of energy to express itself.
Ideas are too often tired. The danger then arises that the disappointment becomes dogma, that the half wisdom is seen as a final product.
The disappointed thinkers compensate for their impotence by erecting immature theories. The
uncultured myth is then launched on mankind with the help of the fist, if necessary.
Much rancor and resentment motivate thinking. It constitutes a kind of mental auto-intoxication.
When there is no energy for coming to terms with the world, the compulsive stream of thought is
directed inward and destroys the own mind. Hate and resentment grows in the mind and directs
all thinking and action.


Nietzsche in his “Genealogy der Moral” explains that this becomes the way in which the weak
and the slaves obtain the means for the moral and mental oppression of others. Resentment
denies all that is different. Resentment causes prejudice, persecution and revolutionary chaos.
Through nihilism and stupidity it masters the thoughts and exercises thought control over others.
Yet it survives with the delusion of creating a higher culture.
Resentment destroys all that is spiritual. The failures in life, those who feel ignored, revolt
against the thoughts of their time and turn hate and rancor into the highest wisdom. When the fist
of the enemy lay heavily on our occupied country many unsuccessful thinkers used the situation
for spreading their weird opinions with the help of the guiding hand of the conqueror. There was
no freedom and argument was forbidden. Idealistic catchwords disguised the thinkers’
resentment. The thinker with the fist will long be remembered in the memory of occupied


Pathological Delusion


In the nineteenth century there was a tendency among psychiatrists to explain pathological
delusions in a mechanical way as an unclear electric current, a short-circuit of the brain, or as an
intoxication of the normal stream of thoughts. Delusion and thinking, however, are integral parts
of the living organism and the function of coming to terms with reality. Every thinking process is
rooted in a primary vital process. Those who refer to the delusion as a partial reconstitution of
disturbed thinking are correct. In every living function we find regression and progression beside
each other.
The important problem in reference to delusion is why normal man is able to correct the slight
delusions of everyday life while the mentally ill are unable to do so. Delusions as such are
normal symptoms as long as they are subject to correction. The primary delusion among
psychotics is incorrigible and the same is true of the affective delusion among depressives.
This raises difficult questions in psychopathology, namely the “why” and “how” of delusions.
They may be the result of tiredness or vital debility, of intoxication, of putting out of circuit
certain nervous centers and elements, of repression of drives, of general regression, of
unbearable conflict, and so forth. This etiological approach, however, does not explain delusion
as such.


Delusion is a disturbance in reality confrontation and in the continuous alert function of
consciousness. Delusion is an isolated thought development. Delusion is an idea that is split from
the continuous process of thought-integration. That is why normal contact with reality and the
environment is disturbed. There is no longer any growth, reciprocity or dialectic development.
There is only a convulsive congealing of archaic thought processes. Thinking means living;
losing and finding oneself. The deluded is incapable of that. He regresses to archaic thinking
processes, to magic, projective and autistic thinking. The deluded has given up the struggle for a
common world picture. He is unable to participate in social thinking.
Normal thinking, too, forms illusions and delusions, but these dream pictures remain in contact
with reality. The rigid delusion has lost this integrating contact.
Because the delusion is incapable of integral and agile thinking, it gives rise to a subjective
feeling of certainty. The delusion is not subject to discussion. The delusion has lost the attempt at


Being alive means maintaining contact with reality. Delusions are not alive, for they lack the
vital doubt which raises life to a higher level of consciousness.
The delusion does not only originate from within ourselves but also comes as a suggestion from
outside, as we will see in the chapter on massdelusion.

Thinking Needs Harmony


When thinking becomes detached from man, when feelings no longer impregnate the thoughts,
then thought processes arise which take hold of man and drag him into obscure depths. When
knowledge does not go hand in hand with love it acts against man. It becomes a weapon in the
service of the beloved ego and a murderer of others.
Correction is possible through conflict and crises. A slight delusion is at times necessary to
arouse people out of apathy and inactivity.
Every delusion starts as a form of expansion. When the delusion becomes fixed, however, it is a
pathological process.

The value of thought is dependent on the personality behind it. Propaganda of a criminal with
ethical formulas is worthless. The same words can disguise different hearts. For some, they may
be a delusion; for others, the expression of a harmonious, well-integrated personality. The one
idea may hide the most destructive drive; another idea may be the expression of a personality
who stands by his words. This is the only criteria we have for evaluating delusions.





The Problem of the Mass



Following the first World War much interest was devoted to the problem of mass thinking and
public opinion. The fighting powers had taken great pains to influence the masses and involve
them in the armed struggle. Mass propaganda, press censorship and thought control became
important areas of concern.

Until then, only a select group of sociologists had devoted attention to the problem of mass
psychology (Le Bon, (11) Sighele). After Versailles this interest spread among literate peoples.
Books on the subject began to appear. The general public had experienced the ecstasy of war and
the decline of civilization and now turned to reflection. The politicos, now familiar with the
notion of mass-psychology, also began to raise certain questions.
Before 1914, one could not really speak in terms of mass opinion. People remained aloof from
world politics and most were taken by surprise when the war broke out. The preceding years of
peace had established a deep belief in the stability and essentially peaceful nature of twentiethcentury

By 1918, all this had changed. Simultaneously there arose an ardent idealism and belief in new
world peace, and a cynical view of mankind and its problems.
The realization that people’s thoughts and beliefs were significant was a sudden one after the
war. The masses had fought the war and were ready to play a role in the shaping of the future.
Even the dictatorships became concerned with the nature of public reaction. A respect developed
for mass opinion.

Mass psychology has the potentiality for becoming a dangerous science. Like mass technology,
it may be used as an instrument in the service of criminal powers. That is what happened under
the Nazi regime. Nazi psychology strove for the most effective utilization of social organization
in the service of evil and anti-social powers. Nevertheless, no government can function without
some knowledge of masspsychology.

The science of the masses was further enhanced by the closing of the
world’s frontiers. Mankind can no longer escape into uninhabited or unexplored areas. This is
why the problem of mass grouping is increasingly coming to the fore.
Catchwords such as “herd-animals” and “mob rule” only serve to obscure the problem of the
mass. Since the science of mass-psychology can so easily become a political weapon, it is
difficult to keep it free of catchwords. For this reason we speak of a dual trend in masspsychology:
on one hand, there is a positive mass-psychology concerned with the evolution and
progress of different social formations; on the other hand, there is a negative one, concerned only
with the regression and corruption of the masses. (German psychological warfare was a good
example of that perverted application of psychology).


The Molding of the Masses

Mass is derived from the latin word “massa”, “that which can be molded and kneaded.”
Improved techniques of communication make the mass more subject to influences than ever
before. People are in closer contact with world events. They cannot be shut out from the world of
politics, when kings and presidents appeal to them over the radio.
A study of mass delusions need not necessarily concern itself with specific mass-devisions and
formations. The psychologist is primarily concerned with the identificatory tendencies in every
individual, that which lives as “mass” in every individual. Man, like all animals, leads a double
existence. He is at once a unit, an individual and a part of the world that influences him. The
world of his fellow-beings assumes a major role in his existence. There is individual closeness
and collective communication. The individual grows as part of his community. The most
adamant individualist cannot withdraw from collective influences. One is mass even when one is
alone, through identification with different collective phenomena. One may identify with a leader
or with its humblest members, with its symbols or its written rules; one always becomes a virtual
part of them. One becomes part of the mass by reading a newspaper or listening to the radio, or
even by preparing a speech for a meeting. Mass means a state of collective relationship and

Mass is not only a horizontal concept-a relationship with one’s contemporaries-but also a vertical
and historical relationship with one’s ancestors and kin. We identify with parents and ancestors,
with the history and tradition of our country and race.
The collectivity has tremendous convincing power. Our arguments are unconsciously fortified by
joining a fictitious majority. We swear by the “communis opinio”. Especially during periods of emotional *tress we feel the need to be
part of a majority and to lose ourselves in its anonymity. By so doing, we compensate for
personal wants. “If we can’t do it alone, perhaps the mass will succeed.” The collectivity as such
has more elan vital.

Mass Thinking




Public opinion has always been molded in the service of special minis. A lie repeated ten times
becomes believable, and one repeated a hundred times exerts a hypnotic effect. All propaganda
utilizes this psychological experience to imbue the masses with subjective truths or lies.
Intelligent reasoning does not carry much influence with the masses. The unorganized masses
think in terms of their simplest members. Organization and training gradually raise the level of
isolated collectivities and formations. Mutual and collective training in thinking advance a group
beyond its own limitations. A mass ideal can inspire the individual to achieve beyond his own
capabilities, since the feeling of unity with others gives a sense of greater power.


Every individual is simultaneously subject to different and often opposing communal forces; the
one retards; the other advances him. Although no generalization is possible, individual creativity
occurs in the interrelationship with the collectivity. Man, however, is not entirely the product of
the mass. He is a distinct unit, reacting in a differentiated way. Through working and thinking
with other people, through a joint search for truth, genius begins to flower. This requires
organization, however. Such groups, for instance, as clerical orders or study groups, have
evolved the kind of social-thinking which refines and civilizes itself through patient training and
cooperation. Where people work and think together, a democratic atmosphere develops which
stimulates the individual, and every form of conscious organization of the mass brings about
through its affective ties a gradually maturing intellectual relationship.


The mass as a crowd, as an accidental formation, however, does not undergo a similar process.
The reaction of the mass depends on its organization, its formative ties and its cultural level.
Where there is no seeking and thinking on a communal level and mutual relationship, thoughts
regress to the stage of collective primitive thinking.


The formation of “mass man” as such results in decreased individual fear and lowering of the
mental level. A mechanization of the soul takes place. All men are partly mass, that means:
object of collective influences.

The mass binds individuals and equalizes them by exerting an
archaic authoritarian influence on their critical faculties. When the mass becomes more selfconscious,
as in a democracy, that unconscious authoritarian attitude disappears.
The uniform reactions of people toward collective symbols, similar to the common symbolism in
dream life, permits us to speak of common unconscious emotional ties between the individual
and the collectivity. With Jung, (io) we can speak of a collective unconscious and collective
thinking. Collective thinking has unlimited memory. It is easily influenced by suggestion and
lacks all critical capacity. Collective thinking wields tremendous power and influence. The
unorganized masses make the same affective adjustment as natives in the jungle. Words and
thoughts assume a magic significance. They become catchwords which evoke mass-feelings.
They are meaningless and unverified but act as emotional signals which arouse hate and



The collectivity also has its unconscious life and dreams. Every revolution, every war evokes
that collective dream. Certain collectivities forever cherish the dream of revenge or power.
Alongside their conscious display of power lives their magic-mythical state. Some collectivities
eternally stimulate and arouse memories of something great, of a hidden kingdom of dreams. It is
curious that in the mass soul as well, there exists a polarity: the conscious wish for order and
planning stands in opposition to chaotic dreams and ideals. There are people (and nations) who
lose themselves in this tragic split.

As individuals we are moved at the deepest level by the elan of the collective unconscious. The
mass as such does not create, but it provides vital energy for the creating individual. Man often
loses value when separated from the collectivity, when he lacks what he can introject and
assimilate from the group.


Mass thinking is a living reality within us. It bears more resemblance to feeling than to thinking.
Real thinking, real coping with reality takes place in isolation, but the collectivity delivers the
emotional energy to it.


When a native comes into contact with our civilization he learns to think in accordance with our
mores. When, however, he returns to his tribe, the old collective concepts again take hold of his
mind. When a German meets a German, the German myth begins to work with him; when two
Dutchmen meet each other, the consciousness of their past is revived; when two boys from
Arizona get together the spirit of the Western border becomes aroused.


The Craving for Catchwords



The constant repetition of an emotional symbol makes the masses ripe for government by
catchword. The catchword can precipitate the discharge of a specific collective explosion.
After the Germans had conquered Europe by arms, they tried to conquer its spirit by catchwords.
Their friends the traitors and turncoats knew the trick well. Whenever they had the opportunity,
they coined new catchwords to obscure the old ones. They were fighting for the most beautiful
ideals. Such phrases as “The New World” and “Fighting for a New Europe” were common ones.
“Renewal” became a particularly dangerous catchword. Whenever the fallacious implication of a
catchword was exposed, a new one was coined to justify the old ones. Aggressive catchwords
enabled the masses to express and discharge their feelings of hate, and each man could project
his private angers on the mass-invective.

The Equalization of the Masses



The mass leaves no room for particularity and individuality. The individual must learn to howl
with the wolves. Mass thinking intimidates the individual. Only a very few are able to withdraw
in critical isolation. The mass challenges this withdrawal; especially when a general feeling of
fear prevails is all non-conformist thinking forbidden. The equality of mood acts as a narcotic;
the individual is finally dragged away by the feelings of the mass. The catchword and the spirit is
assimilated. One is forced to scold with one’s fellow-members at the official scapegoats. The
excited mass demands substitute objects on which it can discharge its disappointment and fury.
These serve as cathartic agents.


Almost instinctually man is forced to cooperate with and yield to the mass. It becomes
impossible to evade mass-thinking and mass action. The first impression will determine whether
we will conform or not. The need for direct evaluation forces us to give in to conformity.

Traditional Mass-Thinking

We develop as an organic part of the collectivity. During our development a process of mental
assimilation takes place in which habits and traditions of our environment are unconsciously
absorbed. They grow within us and we cannot rid ourselves of them. Adolescence engenders a
certain intellectual opposition which evaluates old patterns of thought and action and which may
even lead to non-conformism. Nevertheless, the traditional idea, intellectually and critically
conquered, suddenly comes to the fore.
Man is bound to different social circles and formations. Sometimes those different influences
may clash in the individual. Everyone who enters a certain group or social formation assumes,
consciously or unconsciously, its rules and traditions. Against his will he assimilates the
language, the gestures, the prejudices of the group. He takes over, too, the archaic forms of
thinking, the superstitions, the taboos, the delusions of the group. Jung referred to these
unconscious assimilations as archaic engrams and innate ideas.
Conformism and Submissiveness in the Masses

Among certain groups of animals, leadership is determined by the animal’s physical prowess.
The animal who, by force or accident, wins the struggle establishes its position of leadership.
The champion assures not only his leading place in the group but also the submissiveness of the


We all submit to certain forms of supremacy and leadership. The tyrant fascinates us into
obedience. Subconsciously we follow him even if our mind revolts. In every community a
continual struggle for precedence takes place.
Especially when a mass is on the move, we must obey, as if in panic. Following and obeying
provides a comforting satisfaction. This is particularly evident among children and soldiers.
The last decades have demonstrated how the masses, under the influence of criminal propaganda,
can become criminal and primitive. Medieval witch-hunting is revived. Minorities are persecuted
and slaughtered in gas-chambers. Injustice is tolerated, accepted and even justified. Mass
delusion converts every member of the mass to a criminal. This form of mass-universality, as
imitation of the leader, still fosters shame and guilt-feeling. It is the minor “criminal vanguard”,
however, which fascinates the mass and changes its moral laws. A pseudounity is formed
through fear and fascination which must always be perpetuated with further fear and fascination.
The Paradox of Censorship on Public Opinion

When, after 1918, the science of influencing the public became more systematized, the chaotic
attempts at psychological warfare during the first world war were studied. Governments established departments of press and propaganda.
Napoleon already had recognized the importance of taking such measures when he established a
“Bureau de l’Opinion Publique”. Following his time, the interest waned.
One of the chief problems centered about the means of methodically deepening the unconscious
docility of the public and deriving the utmost profit out of this submissiveness. Propaganda and
influence always carry an authoritarian connotation. Public opinion becomes a keyboard which
may be played on ad libitum. The soundness of this psychological technique, however, still
remains an open question. Propaganda techniques utilize sentimental methods of expression
which play upon the emotional resonance of large masses. The pretense of tears makes others
cry. Every psychologist, however, is aware that these expressions disguise other feelings and
other intentions. The pretense of conformity is not equivalent to thinking in conformity.
The first propaganda attack leaves the public rather unsteady but continual suggestive pressure
brings about certain immunizing processes. The individual is able to build up his mental defense.
Gradually people retrieve their critical faculties. Popular character and previous collective
training decide the sensitivity of a population to propaganda. When the propaganda has a
flattering effect on the minds, when it provides justification without hurting the self-esteem of
the mass, then it exerts a great influence. Propaganda for war, for instance, has to discharge the
conscience of the people. Intellectual motivation in such instances is subordinate to emotional



Finally, however, a general critical attitude comes to the fore’. The alien propaganda, the nerve
war launched by the enemy, has little effect. The suggestive armor of the enemy never reaches
the people. Only under terror will it temporarily have its effect. During the first World War,
Germany paid millions to purchase the pro-German opinion of the world. Public opinion,
however, is much more independent of propaganda than one supposes it to be, as may be seen in
political contests where a free voting public rejects candidates backed by powerful and
influential forces.

Not only do controlled press and propaganda lose full contact with public opinion, but they also
achieve a paradoxical result. The greater the censorship and the more. suggestive the
dictatorship, the more the people will seek other means of verification. The broad mass is well
aware-though not always consciously-whether its information is dictated or free. Dictated
illusions are often accepted because they conform to the wishes of the mass. When, however, this conformity is absent, even truth is
interpreted as lie. During the last two years of the second World War, German propaganda artists
had to fight constantly against the catastrophic interpretation of their “victories.”
As early as 1936, unsuspected Nazis were attempting to obtain foreign uncensored newspapers.
They borrowed the papers of foreign visitors, asked their opinions, listened to radio broadcasts
from abroad. During the war, when the first ecstasy of European conquest came to an end, this
attitude became especially pronounced. The desire to be cheated diminished in the horrible
reality of bombing raids.


The danger of all propaganda is its potential power to convince all those who must deal with it
daily. The propagandists themselves are most susceptible, and believe, in the end, in their own
cheating. Real public opinion maintains its skepticism. In periods of censorship and dictated
thought rumor and whispering campaigns flourish. People become confused by their own fearful
imagination. They believe nothing and they believe all. The most improbable rumor becomes
truth. All news from official sources is interpreted by means of a secret formula. During the
German occupation,. I assisted at several sessions in which Nazi newspapers were investigated
as cryptic reports which had to be explained by special formula, giving new meaning to the

Man cannot accept thought control. He must express himself. He demands the right to free
conversation. He is like the barber of the fairytale who was compelled to whisper his deadly
secret into the ground: “King Midas has the ears of a donkey.” Criticism can never be
extinguished because criticism in one’s own soul is not extinguishable.
Suggestive Weapons


There are, however, suggestive weapons, fascinating catchwords and penetrating formulas,
which inoculate the masses so effectively that hardly anyone can escape mass-infection. Some
thoughts can be hammered in with great suggestiveness. Their effects depend on the
preparedness and vulnerability of the masses to mental infection. The need to yield to suggestion
is all-pervasive, even in the so-called democratic countries. Democracy is easily tired and lazy
and there are few who offer mental resistance. We are not trained to be individualists.
Recent historical events have taught us the results of several suggestive press campaigns. We
know how radio commentators can influence the population and arouse panic. We have
experienced how lies of fictitious invasions are used to make the people ready for war. The
catchword “holy hate” fascinates. The construction of an acceptable casus belli is not difficult.
Even “test-rumors” are made use of to gauge the mood and reaction of a population. The dictator
must forever flatter the public and test its love for him. Hitler knew how to feed the people with
dream-pictures. He erected huge palaces and monuments to fascinate and flatter the masses.
Propaganda, the technical application of suggestion, contains much magic. The constant
repetition of “I win” and the repeated inscription of that phrase convinces the primitive soul that
victory is near. The streets and walls of occupied countries were plastered with magic posters
announcing the German’s final victory. The gods are induced to bring about victory by magic
action. In this way, the archaic man of the glacial period conquered the bison, and twentieth
century man pursues the same strategy.

Independence of Public Opinion

It is a well known rule of the science of hypnosis that suggestion can never draw more out of a
man than is already in him. That is, we cannot direct the masses to war without a latent desire for

Experiences of the presidential elections in this country in 1936 and 1940 indicated that very
suggestive anti-Roosevelt press campaigns could not sway public opinion. The same resistance
to pressure operated in the 1948 election. Suggestion plus intimidation may have results. But
America is still a democratic country and no large scale mental terrorism has been utilized. What
superficially is referred to as public opinion is rarely anything but wishful thinking by the
formulators of leading editorial policies. Even the so-called “will of the people” is little more
than the successful results of propaganda techniques. Genuine public opinion is much more
difficult to test. Sample polls also cannot reflect real opinion since in reality individuals may be
temporarily spellhound by given influences, which are later dissipated.

Pseudo- and Real Public Opinion


There seems to be an apparent and a real public opinion. Even at election-time, when public
opinion is freely expressed, real opinions *Later analysis in postwar Germany indicated that not
all of these influences were effective. Suggestions from the leader-even under terror-don’t always
sway the masses. Dictated suggestions are followed, not, however, without latent opposition and

are often disguised for security reasons or out of a herd instinct. A kind of mass-sympathy easily
results in abandonment of one’s own opinion. Fear devaluates self-awareness. Who has the
courage to be the oneman opposition in a large meeting? Public opinion becomes little more than
a dictatorial suggestion burning on every tongue if there is no chance for free expression.
May we speak of a mass or people’s will? The tendency to reach a personal goal can be broken
by mass influence. There is no real mass will but there exists an inhibition of the individual will
by mass influence. There exists a mass-paralysis as we all experienced in the Low Countries
during the first months of Nazi terror. The individual can be dragged away by the mass. But the
mass can also inspire him to courageous acts far beyond his original power.
Mass-opinion polls only indicate how the individual opinions vary from day to day. The
egocentricity of the public in viewing major problems is almost incredible. A wastebasket fire in
the next office is more significant than an outbreak of war on another continent. When Japan
invaded China in 1932 and the first rumors of an impending world catastrophe circled the globe
the American press was preoccupied exclusively with the stolen Lindbergh baby. The press was
unable (or unwilling) to launch a campaign for international intervention. The public did not
want to see it. The same happened in 1939- It was as if the vast public tried to frustrate the
impending catastrophe. In July, 1939, a British poll indicated that the public of Great Britain
apparently gave little thought to war. One of its main concerns was astrology. (6).


The Formation of Public Opinion

We can look at the problem of public opinion from the point of view of the public relations
expert or the politician and ask ourselves how to imbue the public with appreciation of the
importance of a particular opinion or the wish for a special commercial article. Demagogic
formulas and catchwords bring the masses in contact with general ideas, with special names and
special attitudes. Even illogicality is a form of power. The aphorism need not be proven,
provided the formula is repeated often and brilliantly enough.
Public opinion is ready to accept, first of all, all that is emotional and touching. Criticism does
not come until later. First flatter the public and arouse its emotions. This was the strategy applied
by Hitler (8) and Mussolini. In “Mein Kampf”, Hitler speaks of the need to “imbue” the masses
with fanaticism in order to gain power over


them. That is, mass thought must be constantly kept in a fluid state, under emotional pressure. To
lead the masses, one must provide dynamic ideals. The big danger, according to Hitler, is apathy
and inertia. Frustration and fascination, glamor and success, will move the masses.
How is collective emotion formed? Psychology refers to the process of transference of feelings
to the collectivity in which the individual projects his personal feelings on the collective
emotion. Real opinion roots much deeper. In a community where terror and rumor reign,
emotions are easily transferred. Personal criticism is non-existent. Because nothing is verifiable,
affectivity increases and mass-delusions flourish.


Individual and Mass-Thinking




This essay will view mass opinion and mass thinking in another way. Here, too, we take the
individual subject as the starting point. The mass-psychologist must always and everywhere deal
with living people. These living men and their formations make history. It is a mistake to speak
of mass-thinking. The collectivity as such does not think; only the individual thinks in mutual
relationship with the influences of the collectivity. The collectivity, however, inspires
comparable thoughts in different individuals and does so to a much greater extent than the
individual is aware of. The idea which does not find root in the nourishing soil of the group will
wilt. Individual thinking needs some social echo or it dies. A thought is as much a means of
communication as the word. The need for social resonators is as great for philosophical theories
as for political fantasies. Even a meeting of philosophers has the aspect of an archaic emotional


The mass keeps thoughts alive and forces the individual to think in conformity. Even in isolation
the individual maintains contact with the mass and keeps his thoughts within the framework of
relationships with others. How I direct my thoughts, conformist or non-conformist, I am always
in relation with an imaginary social formation.

A mass meeting arouses the need for conformity and conversion. The mass has a magnetic
attraction for the individual. The meeting and the mass emotion evoke, even in the greatest
skeptic, an archaic need for identification and conformity. Our thinking is less immune to masseffect
than we are aware of. In relation to this the following question poses itself: How are
foreign opinions and ideas inoculated in the individual? How can he remain part of a collectivity
and yet maintain his private opinions? How can he relate himself to other formations alien to his
own thinking? How is mass delusion formed?


The Effect of Suggestion


The suggestibility of man is an inner attitude which is best understood through the study of its
psychological development. An animal, though imitative, is not suggestible, because it has no
consciousness of its own or of others’ instincts. The animal lives in an unconscious primitive
relationship between itself and the world. The process of gaining consciousness in man caused,
as it were, a kind of split between the subject and the world. The developing child sees itself
placed as an observing subject, an ego, confronting an outside world with which it remains in
affective contact. One of these affective relationships between the subject and the world is
identification, the need for unity. Primitive psychology, the primitive conception of and thinking
about another is simple imitation. The Malayan call it “lattah”, when as a result of fright or fear a
person begins to imitate in an unconscious and unregulated way all that the other person is doing.
The woman with “lattah” is completely subdued to her environment. She lives as a mechanical
doll, a slave of all outer movements. We note the same process of servility in some psychotic

The animistic conception of the world is full of such identifications. Inner fears and wishes are
projected onto the outside world. Material objects are virtually populated with spirits and gods.
The opposite process also takes place. Man identifies with the outside world in a passive way. He
is immobile like the rock; active like a waterfall.

Identification and Psychological Feeling In everyone a certain amount of this identifying attitude survives. This passive identification
develops into a capacity for psychological feeling with others, for empathy, a capacity for feeling
pity and compassion, sympathy and feeling of social responsibility. That is why every man
remains suggestible, bound with invisible bonds to his fellow-beings. That is why he may be
susceptible to feelings and thoughts from outside, contrary to all logic and reasoning. The
instinct of social identification lives in all human beings, and is perhaps the beginning of charity.
Complete identification with the thinking, feeling and acting of others is a psychological process
encountered everywhere. In the play of children one object serves to substitute for another, their
toys replace the objects from the mature world. The hero or leader is imitated by adolescents in
particular. The people of the Far East are masters of imitation and identification. A good
example is that of the meditating man of Tibet who for so long identified with a Yak-a largehorned
animal-that he refused to leave his house for fear of bumping his horns against the door.
We Westerners identify with the history of our country, with our civilization, with our
countryside. That is why we speak of the German, the Frenchman, the American. The more
unfamiliar a stranger is, the more closely does he become identified with the vague and
generalized knowledge of his country or race.

Participating Feeling


Through identification-also called participation-the “own” personality may be completely
neglected in the service of the prototype. Animals and devils, saints and heroes, can be so
thoroughly identified with and imitated that even their external form may be assimilated. This is
referred to as stigmatization.

Children, especially, undergo this participating thinking. They are fully possessed by the
introjected personality. They are completely subdued and untouchable by criticism. All
sympathy is easily converted into identification, and identification into submission and slavery.
Through identification the own personality becomes eliminated.
The feeling of unity with the mass stimulates a great many people. A rhythmic march can
invigorate and touch the onlooker. The feeling of participation is an overwhelming one.
Identification is at work everywhere and at all times.


Not even the most critical philosopher is exempt. At the University in Leyden, a very intelligent
student of my well-known teacher in philosophy (Bolland) continued the lectures of her master
after the latter’s death. She had not only assimilated the philosophy of her teacher, but his voice,
his attitude and gestures as well.
We all undergo identification and participation, especially if we feel enthusiastic about someone
or his thinking. The process of identification and participation weakens our critical attitude. That
is the price we pay for living in a social community.

The Social Value of Suggestibility


This infantile suggestible attitude prevails among the mass. It is as if men withdraw their critical
rational feelers. Those who aim at protecting others and becoming less vulnerable themselves by
avoiding suggestibility, disregard and overlook the social value of suggestibility. The first
principles of human love and charity are related to such participation. Through the process of
identification and equalization the individual becomes less vulnerable. In the mass, we are
dealing with people of various mental attributes. When a mass opinion, a “communis opinio” is
formulated, mutual aggression is forestalled. Every individual gradually becomes part of a
community and takes over its moral norms and valuations. The mass is comprised of passive
onlookers who await suggestive, positive leadership to which they can conform.

There is danger, however, behind identification and participation. The free development of the
individual may be jeopardized. Too much attachment to a collectivity inhibits personal growth.
Man becomes a passive and unintelligent follower. He acquires the habit of thinking behind the
pretext of anonymity. He no longer formulates individual opinions but becomes the interpreter of
the thoughts of others. He is no longer responsible for his own search of truth. The collectivity
has assumed that responsibility.
Mental terror of long duration ultimately reduces all people to this phase of anonymity and

As mentioned above, modern techniques of communication are well able to “de-individualize”
man. Modern techniques can bring about thought discipline more effectively and are also better
able to control it. Man can become a thinking slave in a powerful technological organism.
Technique means power and mass. Technique depersonalizes man, technique makes him
anonymous. The personality always experiences resistance in the mass. Individual peculiarities
are regarded with hostility.
This feeling of unison with a powerful technical will is felt by many as a liberation from
individual responsibility.


Lability of Mass-Opinion


When we speak of mass, then, the mass of people with an opinion, we must have primitive and
childish evaluations. We must reject all reasonable norms and think in terms of myth and
suggestion, lability of opinion and primitive optimism. The mass-affect is nearly always directed
against the intellectual function. The mass is suspicious of critical intelligence. It tolerates only
affective relations and rejects all critical control. Even in scientific meetings, we may be
subjected to the same psychological laws. The adept speaks; the audience listens in a magic
spell; the fathers criticize; the critical outsider is banned.


It is impossible to generalize about mass or public opinion. Our experiences are constantly
changing and constantly dependent on fear or mental terror. Every public opinion poll reveals
only the cross-section of a mood or a certain mental spell.


The mass lacks all real motives or justifications. Its only value is success. It prefers to assimilate
tentatively the opinion of the conqueror. The mass requires heroes and traitors for the projection
of its emotions. Unconsciously, these satisfy the individual’s inner desire to betray or his need for


This lability changes in character during wartime, when excesses are much more evident. Rumor
and terror wield greater influence. Out of a need for self-justification the mass is very prone to
follow threatening suggestions. As long as public opinion is paralyzed by fear and terror it
constitutes a weak defense against terror and injustice. People are forced to sacrifice their moral
A good example is the changing opinion the Germans held toward Chamberlain, England’s
Prime Minister before the war. Prior to the Munich betrayal of 1938, the public showed no
interest in him. After Munich, he was hailed as savior of the peace; in 1939, he was regarded as a
plutocratic satan. All these opinions were inoculated in the German people by the Nazi
propaganda machine.



Through mechanization of the mind-a symptom of Western civilization-the mass can live a long
time without any consciousness of its problems. Only crisis and suffering may arouse the minds.
That is why the mass is intellectually lazy and spoiled. Patriotic ceremonials, confession, the
servile press, often appease the deeper conscience and lull the people into a pseudo-peaceful
sleep. After the shock of the second World War, there is more interest in general affairs. But
every propaganda for noble aims has to fight against the peoples’ eternal wish for sleep.
The unreal optimism of the masses during the year 1939 was indicated in a number of opinion
polls. In July 1939 hardly anyone believed sincerely in war. The personal wish was the father of
general insight. The bleak representations of the European press were not accepted. The German
people reacted similarly. The armies, nevertheless, were gradually mobilized. Although writing
about social psychological subjects, I, too, tried to negate my melancholy expectations of an
impending war. I started my vacation trip in 1939 with a careless feeling of elation. Only much
later I realized, through all kinds of symptomatic actions, how much I had been prepared for war
and disaster.

The public and the individual as such always attempt to suppress bad experiences and
melancholy expectation. During the long years of German occupation, peace festivals were
repeatedly celebrated as a reaction to rumors. Even the enemy soldier was often infected with the
festive spirit of peace.

In a mood of panic, especially, every suggestion is imbued with tremendous power. The wish
and the fear determine all opinions. Our allies, the British, were forced to bomb our houses and
towns, but the population refused to believe that its homes were smashed by British bombs. They
interpreted the devastation as a cowardly revenge of the occupier.
Historical evidence of the instability of public opinion is given by the German people. Toward
the end of 1932, the Nazi minority strength was waning. From March 1933 on, under the impact
of Hitler’s reign of terror, more than go per cent of the stated public opinion seemed to support



The Effect of Fear and Terror




The psychology of observation and the analysis of witnesses before the court teach us that in
moments of emotional tension all objectivity is lost. How distorted the reports on a minor
accident can be! In a fearful state every peculiar event is interpreted as an omen, and even the
most common occurrences cannot be described accurately. Fear demoralizes the witnesses. They
act primitively and eliminate all logic and self-criticism; they are confused and do not know how
to think. They become hypersensitive to new threats of danger. If one wants to get across a
particularly aggressive point of view to a country or community, it can best be done by
suggesting that there is danger. The people must be frightened by rumors and threats of an
enemy. Vague fear paralyzes all criticism. What the press prescribes to believe is readily
accepted under the spell of fear. Suspicions toward neighboring countries increase. The vicious
circle of hate, suspicion and heightened suggestibility arises.


We live in an era of suspicion. Man is weakened by fear, fright and terror. He readily accepts any
catchwords and opinions which promise security. At the same time, the mass experiences a need
to become familiar with fears in order to master them.
Induction Psychosis and Mental Epidemic

If the above symptoms are well understood they will be found to have a broader application than
to political happenings alone. The best examples are seen in small isolated communities where a
pathological fanatic, driven by exaggerated religious zeal, fascinates his fellowcitizens and
makes them fearful. He injects them with his delusions, as, for instance, in the perpetration of a
sanctioned religious murder. Religious murders precipitated by a collective psychosis are still not
too rare. They occur in isolated villages or on small fishing boats. The threat of hell and doom by
a fanatic make it difficult for an isolated community to confront reality. The collective delusion
finds fertile ground for growth. The population of the ship or of the village follows the
psychotic’s contagious behavior, and assimilates the same delusion. Recognition of this tendency
may well explain the ancient practice-in protracted periods of ill-fortune-for the group to seek
out the individual possessed of the evil spirit and condemn him to death.



When the pathological leader is removed the pathological spell seems to disappear. Every mass
delusion, however intense, disappears once its cause is eliminated. As soon as an armistice is
signed the former hated enemy is already seen in a more normal light. War as the deluding
element is eliminated. Often the reversion takes placeall kinds of delusions of justification arise
about the behavior of the criminal enemy.
Among huge masses, especially, reason can easily turn into delusion. A mass can easily become
panicky and querulous. It is as if unconscious material exploded. Minor causes can ignite the
intuitive flame of mass delusion through what Hitler referred to as a “fanal”-a token or signal.
Collective phenomena are less sensitive to correction than individual phenomena. Because it is
widely shared by identification, collective delusion is less amendable to correction than
individual self-deceit.


Contagious Mass-Delusion



Apathy, rigidity and the feeling of paralysis are likewise contagious. After natural catastrophes
and war we experience collective mental paralysis. The process is the same as with primitive
people who, paralyzed by hunger, become more and more passive and finally surrender
completely to famine and death, even when food is not far away. They no longer make use of
active defenses. Among more civilized people as well, mental epidemics are connected with
exhaustion and famine. This partially accounts for the general depressive hangover in Western
Europe which followed the second World War (15).
Various religious sects practice fasting and systematic bodily exhaustion to induce a state of
mental sensibility and ecstasy in their followers. Ascetism furthers the formation of
hallucinations; mass ascetism paves the way for mass delusion. Hungry people are dangerous.
The hallucinations of one spread easily to others. The mass imagines more and more.
All these processes are dependent on cultural factors. When civilization becomes limited, tired
and decadent, archaic forms of thinking revive.


Diffusion and interaction between cultures prevent mass delusion. Short-Cuts and Mass-

In mass delusion all coming to terms with reality is lost. Argumentation is inverted because of
the intellectual laziness of the masses. “Because Negroes are lynched, something must be wrong
with them. Because witches are burned, their souls are sold to the devil. Because Jews are
persecuted, they must be evil.” Pity the wolf that has a bad smell! Very few will be willing to
free him of that smell.


The study of mass mental epidemics explains the changeability of the masses. Perhaps it is more
difficult to cause mass contagion among more civilized people. Yet, on a ship it is only necessary
to call “shipwreck” to cause collective hallucinations of drownings and wrecks.
As with the neurotic, the collectivity, too, has its unconscious complexes which may be
stimulated and brought to the fore. The mass is highly affective and is governed by rather simple
feelings. Only minor justifications are necessary to evoke mass explosions and mass murder.
These are brought about particularly easily when a state of fear already exists. Mass delusion
provides more emotional satisfaction than logical criticism. The collective delusion is the
common catchword, the token, on which all private longings and needs are projected


The collective symbol provides everyone with the necessary satisfaction. Paradoxically, mass
delusion, rather than being an impersonal phenomena, provides everyone with an opportunity to
abreact his private wishes and phantasies.

Historical Delusions


Mass delusion and collective psychoses were already clearly observed by the Romans and
Greeks. Think of the mystery-cults whose members assumed all kinds of ecstatic attitudes which
climaxed in epileptic convulsions. Similar orgiastic dances are still found among members of
certain tribes. The Greeks sometimes referred to these as contagious satyr-delusions. The
possessed suddenly began a dance which culminated in an epileptic fit. One possessed dancer
influenced another until the entire mass was involved in the orgiastic dance. Thus, it was
believed that the satyrs in them awoke. At the end, people fell down exhausted; some even died.
Mass-Delusion and Rite
Every rite restores men to the magic realm of infancy. As soon as a club is formed, such rites are
performed by its members. The cheer of u football club, the ritualistic gesture of a political
group, the masonic rite-all these signify the magic longing for a dream country, for returning to a
blessed state that has passed.
In the mass, where one’s anonymity is preserved, unconscious drives are much more easily
discharged. The cult and ceremonial are merely justification for this deeper process. Token forms
of similar regressions can be observed at a masked ball, for instance, where the mask and
anonymity facilitate regressive behavior.
Chorea-Major, St. Vitus Dance



The mass epidemic of dance fury during and after the first World War is still fresh in our
memory. The same phenomenon could be experienced during the second World War. The dance
is of tremendous importance as a simultaneously binding and freeing element for primitive mass
groupings. Through dancing and orgiastic behavior the masses tried to escape their primitive
fears of the gods. Plutarchus described such an epidemic among the girls of Milete. When
rumors of the Black Death (plague) reached them, they burst into furious dancing, showed all
kinds of ecstatic attitudes and finally committed suicide. The therapy for such behavior was
curious; when these girls were threatened with being dragged naked through the streets-dead or
alive-the mass-psychosis disappeared.


Toward the end of the 14th century a contagious epidemic of dance fury swept Germany and
spread to all of Europe (St. Vitus Dance – Chorea Major). It followed the Black Plague. The
victims of the epidemic broke into dancing and were unable to stop. Many cloisters were infected
with this so-called “chorea Germanicorum”. In Italy the same process was referred to as
“Tarantism” and explained as the result of a toxic bite of a spider, the tarantula. The exalted
dance cast a mysterious spell. The spectators were carried away by ecstasy. It was generally
believed that the dance had a cathartic effect. It could heal and liberate from depressive and
angry moods. Special melodies were composed to influence and soothe Tarantism. The melodies
as such caused ecstasy and exercised a hypnotic effect.



History records many similar motile mass-psychoses as reactions to fear, war and persecution. In
individual pathology the same form of abnormal defense reaction is known as “fear mania”.
Following a frightening experience the patient shows an apparently cheerful exaltation combined
with hallucinations. Toward the end of the 16th century-the period of reformation and religious
persecution-a similar mass reaction is reported for children. Following a dance, these children
assumed the delusion that they were cats, climbed trees and began to meow. Driven by mass
contagion, they identified completely with cats. The same is valid for the “werewolf” delusion,
which the Nazis tried to arouse anew in their youth movement (14).

A well-known sect given to ecstatic convulsions were the so-called “Tremblers of the Avennes”
in France during the 16th century. They were unmercifully persecuted. The same kind of motile
fury could be observed later in all kinds of religious sects-the drum-dance of the Shamans, the
sect of the jumpers in Pennsylvania. Even now many a “pardoned sinner”, when confessing in
open meeting, shows symptoms of chorea and convulsions. The emotion is too great for the mass
and among some the mass emotion precipitates an explosion.

Modern Chorea


Modern chorea has assumed another aspect. Fear still evokes restless movement among men.
Modern man tries to escape his fears in the raving frenzy of automobiles and airplanes. Men does
not dare to relax but is on a constant lookout for movement and diversion. Jazz and other
rhythms lure people to archaic depths, to become part of a chaotic mass of sound and movement.
Intoxication and ecstasy turn them into wild dancing children.
Wild auto races along the highways conducted by the Nazis in occupied territory were typical of
such an attitude. The participants seemed like children trying to escape their guilt. One officer
admitted that he performed dangerous racing feats to escape the tension of previous war-days.
He was unable to remain quiet and seemed compelled to drive around. Catapulting along the
road, playing with wheels and controls, imbued him with a feeling of power. The technical
sorcerer is again alive within us. Aviators, too, know this intoxication. Ancient chorea has
become the raving frenzy of the highways.


Rhythmical sound and motion, especially, are contagious. A rhythmical call to the crowd easily
foments mass ecstasy. “Duce, Duce, Duce!” The call repeats itself into the infinite and liberates
the mind of all reasonable inhibitions.
In collective contagion the unconscious means of communication also play an important role.
Certain emotional movements can be easily suggested to the mass. Think, for instance, of the
contagious yawning, coughing and laughing in a theater.

The Suicidal Thinking of the Mass


There is something destructive, masochistic in mass thinking. The archaic instinct wins out.
Action is preferred to judgment. It is not victory that is aimed for but the suppression of certain
feelings. Heroism is chosen as a kind of self-punishment; the daring and the bold throw
themselves into battle out of hidden feelings of guilt.
It is as if the mass simultaneously feared and loved panic and explosion. Some masses even long
masochistically-though unconsciously -for slavery. Man in fear does not like freedom. The
submissiveness of the masses is much greater than is usually supposed. National differences do,
of course, help to determine the difference in degree of masochistic mass-feeling.





Individual and collective suicide is frequent during periods of collective psychoses.* In Milete,
as already described, suicides were committed after the convulsive ecstasy of the victims. In
Russia, during the 19th century, religious sects existed with suicide as a special aim. Hidden
collective fears stimulated such suicidal behavior. The suicidal epidemic is familiar as an
adolescent symptom and is especially fre*See the second essay of this book.
quent in boarding schools, where it serves as an escape and revenge toward parents and teachers.
Following the invasion of Western Europe by the Germans a suicide epidemic appeared.
Intellectuals and aesthetes, especially, were unable to defend themselves against the contagious
delusion of world doom. When all living is dominated by fear and compulsion, then suicide may
be regarded as a final expression of free will.

During the Middle Ages suicidal tendencies and preoccupations were exceedingly common.
About the year 1000 the arrival of the Antichrist was expected everywhere with great fear. The
entire world was infected with this magic fear, which led to all forms of self-torment,
flagellantism and suicide-and simultaneous persecution of Witches and Jews.
The children’s crusade in the Middle Ages offers the best example of mass delusion. This
religious ideal provided the pretext and justification for mass orgiastic behavior, mass regression
and aggression.


The Delusion of Metamorphosis and the Delusion of Witches The delusion of being someone
else is a curious one. It stems from the phase of mental development in which ego and world are
inseparable and undifferentiated. The archaic thoughts stemming from that period are persistent
and indestructible. The feeling of mystic participation reappears and man believes himself bound
to other beings and metaphysical forces. The images of the group assume more reality than man’s
own critical confrontation of reality. This form of archaic thinking is still in evidence in our
times. I am not I. My own value is of no significance. I am part of a crowd, a race, a soil, a
school, a scientific clan. The label I wear is of greater importance than real value. I must have
papers with rubber stamps and not a soul. And when I do not wear a special label I am found to
be guilty of some unknown crime. This is what actually happens to our displaced people. This
means, psychologically, that in such spheres the ego is not liberated from its family history or


In a primitive way we find the metamorphic delusion in the fear of being transformed into an
animal, for instance. The fear of one’s own animal instinct stimulates that delusion. One does not
dare to eat meat through fear of acquiring bestial qualities. The Middle Ages saw the rise of
werewolf epidemics-the collective fear of being transformed into angry werewolves.
Once the werewolf delusion was fixed, all drives and instincts were permitted to come to the
fore. The delusion became a justification for devilish disorderliness. Hitler tried to form such
werewolf organizations to take over after his death. It is the artificial delusion which prepares for
the outbreak of bestial instincts.

Among people with strong inner tensions, especially, the fear of an outbreak of their own hidden
drives grows steadily. The cause of the fear is projected onto others, who are then accused of
being changed, cursed and possessed by a magic spell. This gave rise-and still doesto the horrible
delusion of witches. The witch is the recipient of our projections of lust and bestiality. Modern
times have substituted other invectives for “witch”.

Toward the end of the Middle Ages the burning-piles were lit everywhere to receive the witches
expiating their devilish metamorphoses. A collective delusion of persecution reigned throughout
Europe. Even the best were not exempt from the delusion. Cattle were believed to be poisoned
by witches. Citizens were cursed with a spell by the followers of the devil. Children were
slaughtered. The judges took part in the same delusion. Few could escape the mental masscontagion.
In Holland-thanks to the influence of the psychiatrist Joannis Wier-the last capital
punishment of a witch took place in 1597-two hundred years before many other countries. Where
the phenomenon of delusion becomes better known, the persecution of witches and other
“possessed” victims is stemmed.

None of these delusions are too far removed in history. Until late in the 19th century the deluded
man brought his human offering to the altar of his primitive gods. In 20th century Germany these
delusions were again revived. The burning-piles were lit again, the gas chambers set in motion,
God Moloch and other tokens of human delusion again assumed their human flesh. The Jews
became the new witches.


The Delusion of the Ritual Murder



The Romans accused the Christians of drinking the blood of slaughtered children at their ritual
suppers. Confessions were extorted under torture. In the Middle Ages the same ritual murder was
projected onto the Jews, and in Russia the ritual murder myth persisted until the Revolution of
1917. The Chinese, too, accused Christian missionaries of fabricating magic ointments out of
children’s organs. Over and over again we find that unconscious primitive habits are projected
onto scapegoats in various parts of the world. Projection of one’s own criminality takes place
everywhere, as though the accusation partly satisfied personal bloodthirsty longings. The best
example of these primitive projections are found in the Nazi publication “Der Sturmer” in which
the Nazis consistently stimulated and encouraged primitive urges.
Criminal fantasy prefers to accuse other people.


Collective Conceit

Primitive mentality enhances the feeling of personal worth and conceit. Slight delusions in
relation to others are very common in man; he is forever trying to shape reality in accordance
with his wishes.

A higher sense of reality furthers the awareness of one’s place in the universe, in the community
and in the family. The primitive tendency to make oneself more important, however, is a difficult
one to conquer. All primitive tribes have gods which are more powerful than neighboring gods.
They consider themselves chosen and preferred by their gods, and this sweet delusion makes
them love their own importance.

The collective delusion of being a chosen people is not characteristic of the Jews alone. Every
people believe in their own superiority; when they are powerful they accept it as a matter of fact,
and when they are weak they must needs proclaim it. Some psychologists refer to the collective
delusion of superiority. It seems as if this delusion enables a collectivity to be creative and to
reach a higher stage of civilization. Collective cohesion as such stimulates feelings of
superiority. A feeling of inferiority makes the collective passive and defeatist. The colored races,
as well, have their theories and delusions of superiority (more vital, more musical, more longsuffering).
All people know this delusion of superiority. Success is suggestive. Men bow to
success and make it the yardstick of their moral evaluations.
The same conceit is found among Mohammedans. The British, too, have a strong feeling of
superiority-“right or wrong, my country.” Patriotic attitudes concerning the American way of life
also express this general feeling of superiority. Let us never forget the horrible implication of the
quite naturally accepted myth of the Aryan race. Here the feeling of superiority becomes a
delusion of greatness which has already precipitated collective madness.
Scientists, too, may be infected with feelings of conceit. They may not be aware that even
science is weighted with affectivity and emotion. How many new discoveries are scoffed at in
the beginning because they run contrary to the “official” school of thought. The relation between
the will to power and science, especially, leads easily to feelings of scientific superiority. Just as
in the Middle Ages, this may result in the prohibition of free research.
Take; for instance, social research, a science so near to political in
terests and power politics. No social scientist lacks prejudice or is free of preconceived feelings
and intentions. It is easy to make social science the servant of power politics in a non-democratic

The Readiness for Collective Delusion


If a leader or a party tries to alleviate collective feelings of inferiority and if the leader is not a
sound personality, he can graft nearly every mass delusion into the group. If one eulogizes the
glory of one’s own people or race, the humiliated immediately feels himself raised. The
envisioned glory of the proletariat raises the poor to new action but also to new delusion.
It is significant to note that the Semitic group, with the most persistently maintained delusion of
greatness, became, because of its persecution, the champion of law and justice. The weak always
revolts against the strong under the banner of justice. However, the idea of justice is already a
correction of the delusion of superiority (15). The passion for justice can correct the idea of
superiority and teach the people more national and racial modesty.


Collective Symbols

When primitive mechanisms come into play and mass-thinking penetrates our thoughts our
thinking becomes impoverished. Talk and argument are substituted for thinking. Primitive mass
attitudes always have an authoritative effect. They prescribe what has to be thought, while the
fear of the spiritual and soundly intelligent gradually grows.
In times of chaos and diffusion, especially, everyone hopes for the satisfaction of his own private
instincts. The claims of the unconscious drives, which were previously placed under censorship,
are transferred to the generally accepted symbols-the State, the Army, the Leader. These must
satisfy the unconscious longings of the masses.
All are eager to accept new symbols and tokens, keys to the fulfillment of their secret wishes. A
new mass delusion is born out of the meeting of unconscious wishes. Everyone projects what he
personally longs for most.
The Germans were careful to formulate such symbols and phrases for the populations of the
occupied countries. The word “new” was used with particular effectiveness and therefore,
became immediately a suspect word. The “new epoch . . . new future . . . new blessing for
mankind” were suggested as symbols of a fulfillment of hidden childish expectations.
Propaganda for the “new” does little beyond offering old wine in new barrels. Real new thoughts
do not announce themselves as such; new ideas first grow in hiding. They reach the light through
the warmth of our burning need for truth and insight. New thoughts and new feelings cannot be

The Power of the Masses



In the midst of all kinds of fearful, magic imaginations the masses long for greatness, for
symbolic fathers, capable of furnishing security. The masses demand powerful fetishes and
powerful kings. They want to be subjects of a powerful state, which can praise and punish, hate
and revenge.
The lust for power is always a primitive fear symbol. It is the fear of another’s greatness. It
reflects the primitive alertness of the herd. Thinking man learns to understand that life as such
can be powerfuleven more powerful than death. He does not long for external power but for the
essentials of life. He has learned to relinquish power in exchange for civilization. Modern want
for power and might is still a regressive symptom of a fearful mass, frightened by the economic
struggle and by insecurity.

The Urge for Equality in the Mass


The mass demands equality of feeling in its members. Those who deviate are not accepted.
Chauvinism rejects the anti-chauvinists, and a collective evaluation of beliefs is sought.
Symbols, too, express this collectivity of feeling. The symbol works as a deceiving sedative,
which affects even the outsider. Everyone learns to run with the pack. The collective cry
awakens something in men, of which they were hitherto unaware.
It is not the idea, the original thought, which affect the mass, but the catchword, the token, the
symbol. The idea is converted into a catchword and mass delusion through constant repetition.
The catchword becomes a psychological weapon of power, as many general elections have
shown us.





The word has taken possession of the mass. It has converted the amorphous mass into a fixed
formation. Not the idea, not reality, but the formalized word, the phrase, reigns supreme. The
word “fascist”, for instance, does not suggest a human being. For one man, it is a label for an
ideal for which he must die or murder; for the other man, the quintessence of all that is detested.
The word serves to hide personalities and theories behind indices and empty names. The words
are treated as objects rather than experiences. I am often asked for my political label or my
scientific beliefs. What and who I am does not matter. People want to know the school I
attended; the books I quoted or the way I voted, never what I really think.
When the word is expressed energetically, its power is enhanced. Quantity overwhelms quality.
The word becomes loaded but loses meaning. We all make use of loaded words, of “blab” words,
with such broad meaning that they no longer convey anything. It is one of the diseases of
intellectuals that they are more concerned with words than with real concepts.
When the word loses in real content it gains in magic and acquires the mysterious ambivalence
of primitive words. Like the words in primitive languages, catchwords connote either
confirmation or denial. Ministries of propaganda-factories of opinions-are masters in the
fabrication of sweet justifying words. They can create-as Goebbels did -beautiful phrases for the
most horrible crimes. If the mass is ready to accept these, it becomes invincible and impervious
to moral opposition.


Mass-affect is often proof of a deep valuation. In mass-affect the ego and its environment are not
separated. One scolds the plutocrat because secretly one longs to imitate him. Respect and
jealously are discharged in a new catchword. In every word lives such an ambivalent root. Every
conscious expression of a word has unconsciously an opposite meaning. In this precipitation of
opposite unconscious motivations lies the deceiving power of the catchword.
This is particularly true of generalizations. Words such as “freedom” and “justice” seduce us to a
pseudo-exactitude, while unconsciously we have completely different associations. The
emotional significance in the background is often more influential than the real significance of
the word. After the rape of the Low Lands the Nazis overwhelmed us with the word “justice”; we
became sick of it.

Twenty years ago, the word “socialist” was a nickname, while today it is the catchword for an
ideal world order. “Communist and anarchist” still are, for a great many, derogatory symbols; for
others, symbols of liberty. No one is concerned with the political and economic theory behind
the word.

A good catchword can explain all that is inexplicable. Recently, the phrase “historical task and
duty” has served as justification for all manner of immoral deeds. The suggestion of historical
root finds unlimited approval, especially with the non-historically minded-and that is the vast

The Dictatorship of the Printed Word


As young children, we are already overwhelmed by the printed word. We learn to believe
unconditionally what is printed in books. The critical attitude is developed gradually, but the first
infantile impression persists. The delusion of the printed word takes possession of us. During the
occupation, the enemy flooded the occupied nations with an avalanche of printed matter. He
sought to drown the evidence of his injustice in ink.
The word wields unlimited influence in the community. Preachers, lawyers, teachers, and
politicians thrive on the word. To oppose an opinion or fight an idea one constructs a critical
phrase, a slogan, or a scapegoat word designed to reach and stir the mass. During election time in
particular, one makes acquaintance with the suggestive power of empty words. The mass
demands more than reality; it clamors for the emotionality of the word and the feelings that it
stimulates. Politicians make use of political fetishism. Recall, for instance, all the touching
catchwords and slogans of past wars. What remains of them? -“Mare nostrum”, “War of
revenge”, “War to end Wars”, “Atlantic Charter”, “Asiatic Monroe-Doctrine”, “The Four
Freedoms”, “Holy historical rights”, “The Allied Nations”, “the New Europe”, etc., etc.




The masses are rather easy to hypnotize because of the action of suggestive words, the
cooperation of common unconscious longings and the increased suggestibility of a group. If the
leader is a good hypnotist he can play with the masses. There is in the group an increased
tendency to identify with the leader which makes it even easier for him to hold people in his grip.
His word is our word, his “yes” is our “yes”. That is why there is also an increased tendency to
follow uncritically. The leader can count on increasing submissiveness of the masses, as Hitler
mentions in his book (“Eine Erhohung der Hingabebereitschaft der Masse”). Because the mass is
receptible to hypnotic influence it tolerates all kinds of excesses by the hypnotist. The easiest
technique b to work with special suggestive words, repeating them monotonously and boringly.
From time to time one has to add a few jokes. People want to laugh. The macabre, especially,
attracts the masses. Tell them horrors and let them gather together in sensational tension.
When the hypnotic effect weakens, the mass can easily act against the• leader. However, we
must be aware of the fact that we cannot stimulate in the masses what was not latent within them.
It is difficult to immunize people against mass-seduction; they sleep too much even when they
pretend to be awake. They are not clearly (onscious but think circularly, jumping from one
opinion to the other. This is why it is so much easier to hypnotize them than to give them u
critical approach. Repeat again and again your simple motto and the many half-sleeping beings
follow you passively.


Especially in times of crisis or approaching war every conversation is a repetition of a previous
one. Inspired by fear and rumor, the same theme is repeated with many variations. People make
themselves more and more suggestible and finally surrender to the feared idea.
They all act like sleepwalkers. I would like to make critical searchers out of them, people who
are awake, but they prefer sleeping, the pure vegetative life of the embryonic mind. The Nazi
conqueror wanted to inoculate us with a new philosophy, with a new conception of the world. He
knew that for all these mental sleepers he offered a better sedative, which would make them even
better followers. In Germany, only a small minority resisted. They recaptured their own mind
after a long period of hesitation and after defeat of their fatherland.
Mass hypnosis lulls people into a deeper mental sleep than ever before. Mass hypnosis can
convert the civilized being into a criminal sleepwalker.
There is no intrinsic difference between individual- and mass-hypnosis. The more the individual
feels himself part of the mass, the more easily can he be hypnotized by individual treatment.
Primitive people and primitive communities are particularly sensitive to hypnosis. Everyone
knows how select individuals-sorcerers and magicians-wield a hypnotic influence on the entire
community. A parallel situation prevails in religious sects where the leader can arouse at will a
state of mass-ecstasy in his followers.

Hypnosis as such is comparable with cataleptic trance in the individual, the archaic form of
paralysis, in which the individual builds powerful defenses against fear and other external
influences. This defense reaction-occurring outside consciousness-is a general biological defense
comparable with camouflage reactions in animals. The more primitive the organism is the more
easily the state of catalepsy is brought about. Hypnosis makes the individual more archaic in his
reactions and more sensitive to influences from without. Among Malayan people we have shown
some excesses of this fear reaction known as Lattah. The frightened person is compelled to
imitate all that other people are doing.


Suggestive Association


Mass hypnosis tries to penetrate the minds through the association of pleasant feelings with
simple slogans. This is the secret of all propaganda. A war picture displays flowers on rifles. A
cigarette brand is put across with pictures of attractive girls smoking and smiling. The enemy is
labeled with dishonorable adjectives.
The masses are caught in fixed suggestive associations. The acceptance of one such suggestive
association leads to another. Every struggle against delusion must first be directed against
authoritarian suggestions, against propaganda, against the fear of criticism.


The Spread of Hypnotism


The success of hypnosis among highly developed people is due to the imperfect separation of
ego and environment. No matter how high the civilization and individualization, the ego and the
non-ego are never completely differentiated. Only in our clearest moments of consciousness do
ego and reality stand in opposition to each other. Partial identification is forever taking place.
In everyday life all kinds of human qualities are unconsciously influenced by animate and
inanimate objects. Our minds are full of songs and melodies, of movie stars and sport heroes.
Suggestive epidemics are constantly exercising an influence. The critical ego doesn’t find its
place anymore. When the mechanism of identification is functioning effectively, man surrenders
more and more to all kinds of collective ecstasies and their seductive influences. The good
hypnotist, therefore, must himself have some archaic capacities which he transfers to whomever
he wishes to lead.
Most people are easily seduced by welcome suggestions. In states of collective fear they search
for the most acceptable suggestion.

In addition to those who are so sensitive to outside suggestion there are active individuals who
are only sensitive to suggestion from within. We can differentiate between allo-suggestive and
auto-suggestive people. Yet the latter group aims to transfer its thoughts onto others. The autosuggestive
individual first searches for a seductive dogma, an acceptable philosophical
conception of the world, before accepting other influences. The allo-suggestive individual does
not need to undergo the same initial process of justification.


Hypnotizing Noises


One can learn the technique of mass hypnosis through the study of individual hypnosis. Sudden
fright, fear and terror was the old hypnotic method utilized by dictators. The fearful fixation on a
symbol, the flag, the mass regulations, places the mass under the spell. Certain archaic noises
fascinate men and keep them enthralled-the tom-tom, jazz rhythms, the military march, the
intonation of a celebrated orator, the national anthem. These are seductive and fascinating and
deeply moving. There exist revolutionary and erotizing sounds, captivating the audience in their
spell. Rhythm has always exercised a seductive influence on the mass. It stimulates and unites,
and transfers all kinds of mass-emotions.

Sound and word are good vehicles for transference. The word, especially, can make a mass-man
out of us. The radio has enhanced the power of the word. Even when I am alone with my talking
radio I am united with the huge mass of other listeners. Modern mind-its unconscious portion in
particular-is molded by radio and advertising, by the slogans which are constantly reiterated.


Mass meetings exercise a magic influence. Music, noises, applause, speeches-all these cast a
spell over the mass.
Most people are hypnophiles, anxious to daydream and sleep through their lives. That is why
they easily fall prey to mass hypnosis. Archaic longings are aroused in them. The lengthy oration
or the boring sermon weakens the listener and makes him ripe for mass hypnosis.
The same effect is brought about through monotony-the monotony of marching and singing.
Hypnophilia arises in all those who are subject to drilling and training “en masse”. We find it
among soldiers, students, officers, and religious dogmatists. Even the fine arts are usually
enlisted in the propaganda machine.

The mental terror and hypnosis caused by fear is tremendous. A terrorizing minority is able to
keep the mass caught in suggestions which cannot withstand scientific criticism. Argumentation,
nevertheless, does not help. Delusion is an archaic, malignant growth, which continues to
flourish despite operations. It has its own destructive power.
Wartime teaches us the, paralyzing effect of fear on human opinion. Soldiers living in constant
expectancy and fear are easily infected with delusion and hallucination. We have many examples
of fire panics, in which an imagined attack touched off a real counter-attack against the black
empty space.

All of Europe was in a similar state of panic throughout the duration of the war. The fearful
masses were ready to accept any and all suggestions. A state of uncritical vulnerability to
delusion and rumor existed. The mass has still failed to recover from this inner confusion to
formulate its own opinions. (I5).

The War of Nerves


Wars of nerves or mental wars serve to weaken mass opinion through fear and fright. First the
enemy is brought into a state of latent panic. One’s own country is, meanwhile, injected with
suspicion toward the enemy. As a result, the war itself is experienced by the population as
something tangible, a delivery from fear and delusion. Fearful expectation is felt as more
frightful than the horrible reality itself. The war of nerves paralyzes the mass. This is why the
mass tolerates so many evils in the world. This paralysis of the people occurred following the
German invasion. After a period of three months, however, resistance began to materialize. Inner
defenses began to function again. The underground and the resistance movement sprang into


The war of nerves exploits the fact that man is the animal who can suffer most, who can tolerate
most, with death as the only limit. Collective Paralysis
Collective paralysis in reaction to fright and terror warrants further analysis. The pathology of
war offers the best examples. Front-line fighting penetrates the mind very deeply. No soldier can
escape it. We speak of shell-shock, anxiety neuroses or combat-fatigue in the extreme cases. In
reality, however, all who have experienced the horror of war are changed by it. In one way or
another, everyone builds a defense against the frightening experiences. (I6).
Fear and terror, before penetrating deeply into the mind, require an incubation phase before they
cause inner explosion and neurotic reactions. People are at first rather passive in battle. They can
fight like automatons before the inner rebellion begins. At that moment the shock reaction comes
suddenly to the fore. The incubation period may last from months to years. The fear penetrates
even while defenses are built. Years after the war, the battle neurosis may come to the fore.
We all know the rather emotional silence of the veteran who is reluctant to divulge his battle
experiences. In the field of literature it was only after 1927 that authors began to write about their
real war experiences as a last liberation from the horrors. Years after the armistice, extensive war
writing made its appearance.

Restitution of Free Opinion


Fear, fright and intimidation may pass through a long incubation period and have extensive aftereffects
on human thinking. The human brain is heavily burdened, and much time elapses before
the personality again finds itself.
As members of the mass, people initially accept the maddest conceptions. Unless they do so they
feel themselves banished, isolated, shut out from the love and praise of their companions. If the
terror is great enough, many a technical philosopher will hasten to conform to mass-thinking.
The mass does not tolerate outsiders who confront it with a mirror of primitive pictures. The
voice of freedom has to be strong in order to start again free independent thinking. In wartime,
the Allied radio propaganda took very good care of that.



The Sense of Mass-Delusion



Throughout history we have experienced waves of mass delusion which threatened more mature
forms of mental life. It would be incorrect to interpret these delusions as solely “pathological”.
Even disease as such has sense. Disease furthers new defenses and may cause a complete change
in the physical and mental structure. That is why the physician uses artificial disease to overcome
the fixed defenses in chronic diseases, to renew the resistance of the organism.
Much mass delusion is caused by the mental convulsions of the community. It is as if the culture
has to pass through a delusional stage in order to reach new possibilities and to shed old fixed
forms. Civilization can be destroyed by delusion, but it may also renew itself through it. That is
the revolutionary implication of all that is pathological.

In the true sense of the word there exists no isolated individual thinking. The individual himself
is mortal, but throughout his life he is the recipient of immortality in the form of cultural
concepts. Man lives in and through culture; he is both a historical and an immediate being. He
gathers his knowledge from the past and adds to it. Through the mental relationship and
communication with his fellowbeings he becomes part of a growing culture. Mass-thinking, then,
is the passing on of civilization to the individual and his simultaneous contribution to it.
A strange nostalgia and unchecked archaic drives continue to live deeply imbedded in everyone.
The man of the twentieth century worships the rough beast in himself. He values power more
than culture. The mass-man of Germany declared: “I draw my gun when I hear the word
`culture’.” At times, civilization bows to brute force.

Years later, free opinions wins out over the terrorizing opinion. No matter how complete the
terror, the paralysis is eventually broken. How quickly this is accomplished depends on the
particular character of the people. Submissiveness is more characteristic of one than of another
culture complex. Mass suggestion deals with people of completely different character structures.
One is more susceptible to hypnosis than another.



The Stability of the Mass

Alongside the labile thoughts, there exists a stable opinion, a special pattern of living which is
rooted in unconscious drives. The pseudopublic opinion becomes superimposed on the real one.
Rebellious and revolutionary ideas are the pendular movements of a stable mass.
Through intensive contact, as happens, for instance, in psychoanalysis, one learns how
differentiated the thinking of common man is. There are many common patterns, taken over from
the environment, but there are many original ideas as well. The individual leans to differentiate
between suggested and real insight, between advertised and self-conquered opinion.
The opinion of the common man is unanimously directed against terror and dictatorship but also
against the political anarchy that rules the world. Nearly everyone recognizes that human reason
and experience will have to build the new foundations of the world. Peace talks are preferred to
wordless war and battle. War, however, also brings doubts of logic and law and justice. Very
quickly, however, many reassume their old beliefs. During fright and terror the group with
deeply-rooted religious dogmas thinks more stably, as we experienced (luring the period of
occupation. Although the dogma defends against lesions from without, danger and confusion
from within are still possible. Such was the experience with puritanical religious groups. The
light for freedom in the underground aroused dogmatic doubts and initiated new inner struggles.
The forced influence on public opinion, the mass propaganda, advertising, the attacks with terror
and delusion, appear to be paradoxical weapons. Short-lived, straw-fire enthusiasm is easy to
arouse. Public opinion, however, is a weak and unstable possession. Those who are swept away
by delusion can turn very quickly against the hypnotizer. Only those who are converted in a
deeper sense go through the fire of their own freewill.


People can be temporarily educated to an apparent mass opinion. Such education will only be
effective until the rebellion against the oppression of free thought has concretized. Thinking and
stable thought patterns which are conquered after long struggle become immune to suggestive
and aggressive propaganda. However, the individual must be repeatedly mobilized and
immunized against his suggestive lability and weakness, in order to counteract receptivity to
delusion and mass-delusion. This we may call the quintessence of democratic action. The wisest
government is one which defends man and the collective against its own stupidities and
mistakes. A free man builds barriers against his mistakes. His ideal is self-control.
To free oneself from delusion means self-knowledge, knowledge not only of one’s active deeds
but also of one’s hidden motives.


Every man is mass. Delusion and archaic thinking can therefore take possession of his mind.
Human thinking is never completed. It must always reformulate its conception of reality; it must
always expand. Man must grow together with changing reality. In this evolutionary process, he
must offer resistance to the archaic remnants in his soul. He must become aware of the creative
unconscious forces which form his thought patterns.

Objectivity toward the world can only come about through a certain degree of inward objectivity.
Man is the mediator between two spheres-between the objective world and the subjective inner

When any one of these spheres acquires too firm a hold over his mind, man becomes prey to
error and delusion. He is no longer himself and his hands act apart from his real individual being.


Mass-Suicide and Atomic Fear



Is there any imminent danger of mankind exterminating itself? Is there such a thing as a hidden
desire for the doom of the world? Among ants, in the insect world, mass reactions of this type do
exist. When they are forced by great danger, ants surrender to their fate. The same insect reaction
may occur among human beings. If this burden of fear becomes too great, man passively gives
himself up to the danger feared. In war and famine, this form of apathy and massparalysis is very
well known. We have all heard about such fatalistic and suicidal reactions, occurring in the more
emotional mass-panics. Examples were reported from the front in Flanders in 1917, from
Caporetto in 1 91 8, when huge armies in chaotic panic surrendered themselves to fear and death.
And from the battlefields of World War II come numerous examples of mass-suicide. For
example, a report on the taking of Saipan’* describes a Japanese officer cutting off the heads of
his kneeling men with his Samurai sword; crowds of soldiers and civilians jumping off the cliffs
or wading into the ocean. Others were said to have blown themselves up with grenades after first
playing ring games with them. “Three women sat on the rocks leisurely and deliberately combing
their long, black hair. Finally they joined hands and walked slowly into the sea.” A hundred
sailors on the rocks at Marpi Point bowed to the Marines from the cliff-tops, spread a large
Japanese flag on the rocks, then pulled the pins from the grenades that the leader handed out.
We have a tendency to dismiss this “mass hara kiri” with the explanation that it belongs
especially to Japanese rites. Yet the same tendencies-although they are more concealed-do exist
wherever there are masses of people.

Latent Suicidal Thoughts of the Masses



In all unorganized mass-action and mass-thinking, there is something destructive, something
masochistic-a hidden drive towards defeat and doom. In general, in every sudden mass action,
primitive instincts begin to dominate; primitive aggression and destruction are preferred
*Reported by Lindsay in Tribune, London, August 1944.
over civilized judgment. The individual within the mass at war wants not only victory; he also
wants to suppress certain disagreeable feelings which his burden of civilization has created in
him. He chooses heroism and aggression not because he is aware of the higher cultural aims he
must defend, but because he wants to escape the dissatisfaction of a civilization which frustrates
him. That is why becoming a warrior holds such appeal.


It is as if the masses love and fear war at the same time. They like panic and explosion, because
these explosions fortify certain heroic and ecstatic herd-feelings which people still possess.
Man in fear does not like freedom. In men and among masses of people there exists a
submissiveness which reaches much deeper than is generally supposed. Great national
differences, of course, do exist; but the basic tendency to yield is universal in our culture. We
have seen many examples recently of how submissive and cowardly masses of people may
become in different dictatorial countries. There was nearly no rebellion in Germany against
Hitler’s criminal tyranny.


The Children’s Crusades afford the best example of mass-delusion and mass-possession. During
the Crusades, when the knights of Christendom flocked to Palestine to save the Holy Land from
the infidels, there was also a curious parallel phenomenon. Bands of ragged youngsters marched
through town after town declaring that they too were on their way to the Holy Wars. And
wherever they appeared, children, infused with their hysteria and ecstasy, ran to join them. The
story goes that they accumulated an army in this strange manner, boarded a ship-and were never
heard of again.

Here the religious ideal was mostly a pretense and a justification for mass-orgiastic behavior, for
mass-regression, and for releasing urges towards aggression and destruction. Behind all this lay
the tremendous urge for self-destruction, which arose out of unrecognized feelings of guilt. The
religious ecstasy was discharged in chaos and self-destruction.
In nineteenth century Russia there were several peculiar sects, e.g. the Skopts, whose special aim
was suicide. All forms of rebellious ideas and hidden religious fears stimulated this suicidal


Suicide is known, too, as a symptom of puberty. Epidemics of suicide have been reported, for
example, in boarding schools as a means of escape or revenge towards parents or teachers. This
theme has been dealt with in fiction. In Hatter’s Castle the little girl hangs herself to avoid
confronting her father with what she considers her own failure.
After the Germans invaded Western Europe in 1940, something like an epidemic of suicide took
place. Particularly hyper-intellectual types (not only the threatened Jews) were unable to defend themselves against the contagious delusion
of the world’s doom. When all of living is possibly only on the basis of fear and compulsion-thus
they thought suicide is our last freedom.


In cultures known to history, these suicidal epidemics crop up from time to time as abnormal
expressions. But among many primitive peoples suicide is a normal expression of an accepted
cultural pattern. In certain Polynesian groups, a standard method of punishing a person who has
wronged one, is to destroy oneself. In other societies, suicide is so common a behavior that a
tribal member who breaks a taboo may not even have to kill himself. He merely goes off by
himself and dies, as if automatically. In such cultures the suicidal tendency becomes strong when
the failure of aggression and attack fortifies feelings of guilt. Primitives believe that their failure
is caused by a magic punishing power. Fear of the unknown and mysterious punisher forces a
passive surrender to the mighty, a surrender to death.


These same feelings of guilt exist in our own society, especially during and after a war. One who
feels his own responsibility for the evil in himself, and for all the evil in the world, feels
essentially guilty. This intense feeling of guilt may explain the many unexpected cases of suicide
that were observed among Nazi soldiers after the occupation of innocent, peaceful countries. I
lived that time in occupied Holland and could describe such reactions in my war report. (16).
Among his democratic enemies, many a soldier suddenly became aware of his guilt.
Mass-suicide, however, is more than a passive surrender to fate because of a guilt reaction; it is
also a primitive, mystical means of escaping into the comfort of death, in order to find a new and
better life. To accept death destroys the evil and vindicates the righteous. A nation full of guilt
feelings, full of unsolved aggression, escapes collapse only by exploding into war…… But if the
war fails to keep up its furious pace and thus provide this outlet, the citizens are left with an
insoluble problem. They are in the same position as the neurotic whose personality is split
beyond the hope of effective action, actions related to the realities of his environment. They are
totally unstable, and they are lost in the primitive confusion in which, at the ultimate point of
pressure and degeneration, life and death become one. In neurotic exaltation the sufferer dies to
escape death.”*


The same neurotic trends and patterns exist to some degree in all *Lindsay, loc. cit.
men: projection of fear, introjection of guilt, and ensuing self-punishment. And war activates
these hidden primitive patterns which every man possesses. The same suicidal tendencies
develop even further in the post-war world: neurosis, suicide, alcoholism, morphinism, the
craving for a new war-in short, the post-war hangover.

The resulting guilt-feelings are tremendous. One explosion of the atom bomb killed one hundred
thousand people. There is an aftermath of this explosion. Even though people may not realize it,
hidden guilt feelings about mass killing on this scale are intense. For here our conscious
imagination stops. One hundred people burned in a hotel fire shocks us; but one hundred
thousand is beyond our imagination.


The paradoxical reaction to these guilt-feelings may be suicidal surrender to a new war, to death.
These mental reactions are fortified by the world in which we live-a world full of unknown
future dangers. “Does the potential enemy have atom bombs?” we ask ourselves. “Can their
rockets reach us? Are they preparing for war?”

Dangerous mass-infection of these hidden emotions is spreading. All such questions and rumors
keep our attitudes on a primitive level: Hitler’s War of Nerves brought about the same reaction. It
is the unknown danger which is weakening us–and that is why we prefer the known danger, a
new war. We cannot escape the vicious circle. “Two fighting armies form one suicidal mass.”

Atomic Fear


The mysterious secret of atomic power excites archaic feelings among men. Are people aware
how deep the thought of a future atomic war has penetrated their dreams and nightmares? Are
they also aware what paradoxical action may be the result of such an uncomprehended fear?
During the hectic days when the Germans were successfully executing their “war of nerves” I
held a post with an Allied Psychological Warfare group. In those days we mapped our strategy to
combat those attacks against the public nerve centers as carefully as our generals mapped their
battles with planes and guns. I thought then that I had seen some pretty capable psychological
attacks on the public, but none, I now feel, could outdo the postwar “atomic war of nerves” to
which we are being continuously subjected.

A picture of New York shattered by an atomic bomb, a city of toppled skyscrapers and mass
death, is one of the examples, sketched some time ago by Major-General Leslie N. Groves, who
headed the Army’s Manhattan district atomic project.
Such dire forecasts are so commonplace that they no longer make
the front pages of the newspapers. Day by day our minds are unwillingly paralyzed as the
thought of an atomic war and catastrophe in the near future become more familiar to us.
The general idea in the “atomic war of nerves” appears to be that fear of another war and fear of
the bomb’s tremendous destruction will force mankind nearer to a productive plan for peace.
Daily, therefore, we are served tasty morsels on the bomb’s technical and political implicationsand
the results if international control does “not only effectively outlaw the use of atomic bombs,
but … prevents any other nation from getting along the road to manufacture of the bomb.” And if
not? Then we have the unfailing picture of man cringing under the falling Empire State Building,
dying with the comforting thought that none of his family or friends can escape, either.
And so we find ourselves traveling along the perilous path of peace, led by mysterious fear on
the one hand, and speculation about the unknown on the other-two notoriously bad leaders of
mankind. For fear paralyzes men, and when men are afraid they hope that the thing threatening
will happen to liberate them from their tension. Sooner or later, like the criminal who gives
himself up, rather than bear the tension of fearful expectations, we will be inspired by fear and
speculation not to walk peacefully, but to cast the first bomb at those whom we fear.
I want to represent to you the example of a suicidal reaction under influence of fear. Man
surrenders to fate when he has lost all self confidence.


A soldier under treatment for an anxiety neurosis after an awful battle experience, is in a nursing
home which is hit by the blast of a flying bomb. It may be that he suffered a slight cerebral
concussion, but after a few days he feels well again. There are repeated alerts for new flying
bombs but he no longer goes to the shelter as military rules prescribe. He says he feels too
paralyzed, he just wishes to die, he does not have the power any more to escape from death.
“Why should we try to escape in this doomed world?”


Jittery citizens often write “Letters to the Editors” in various newspaper columns, insisting that
we drop a few atomic bombs on the heads of some of our dangerous former allies, and, only
recently, prominent public leaders suggested that we take care of the veto right problem in
similar manner.

However, these suggestions not only occur to our citizens because of fear, but also because there
still exists, under the shining armor of our souls, the archaic, primitive desire for war-and for
destruction as well. Men say (and believe) that the idea of atomic destruction repels them, but
inwardly they enjoy the thought of the bomb’s tremendous power. We repeatedly find this idea in
dreams, especially in dreams of patients suffering from anxiety. Didn’t our reporters express their
regret that the results of the atomic experiments on Bikini were not more tremendous and


Yes, mankind, exquisitely dressed up in his civilized clothes, hides deep in his somewhat
disillusioned soul the primitive dream-wish of greatness, a dream-wish that would enable him to
destroy all the world with one almighty gesture, like the magicians in the fairy tales, or,
translated into modern comic strip terms, like Buck Rogers who launches an electronic war with
one push of a button.


Although mankind consciously denies this eternal human dreamwish for tremendous magic
power, every psychologist knows how deeply ingrained that wish remains. I remember well a
soldier patient of mine who had announced himself a conscientious objector, yet he was inwardly
fighting with such horrifying dreams of this nature that he found himself a monster. His
objections to fighting were an attempt to escape his own destructive wishes. His neurosis was
caused by a continual horror of himself.


So the “atomic war of nerves,” which calls on fear and speculation to make us peaceful, in reality
stimulates our aggressive tendencies. And, in addition, this “war” combines with our post-war
fears produce a confused combination of emotions which, having no direction or guidance, can
easily accumulate until they may be discharged in renewed aggression.


First, picking our way along the prickly path of peace, we carry with us a vague but nonetheless
heavy burden of guilt for all the killing on the battlefield, the killing in which we partook either
directly as soldiers or indirectly as civilians. As we try to secure a foothold along that path, our
minds-also those of the civilians-are still slightly fogged with battle neurosis. We remember
how, as warriors, we were compelled to loosen our moral bonds on the battlefield and travel the
earth hating, revenging and slaughtering. The defeated enemy paid a severe price for his
foolhardiness-but we conquerors came home to celebrate. This hidden guilt reaction to war was
found as a fixed pattern in the culture of primitive tribes. The homecoming warrior cleansed
himself from his guilt as a killer by performing certain cathartic rites. In our modern society we
don’t have such a ceremonial, we are less certain of our feelings of guilt, although we find these
feelings buried in the war neurosis of veterans and civilians, in the guilt feelings that are
converted into glorifying speeches and war memorials, and in that particular neurotic behavior in
the post-war period, that cannot stop its aggressiveness. With this form of neurosis new aims of
aggression are constantly sought to get even with the old guilt, derived from the old aggression.
The peace is celebrated while unconsciously a new war is prepared.


Second, we are slightly blinded on our path by a strange, eerie light that has continued to burn
ever since it was first set off by the blast from our atomic bomb, when, in Hiroshima alone, one
hundred thousand persons died. That light constantly reminds us that we, ourselves, unleashed
for the first time the tremendous destructive power of the atomic bomb-not the vicious Huns, nor
the tricky Japs, but Americans did it. We feel that it was beyond the pale of the laws of war, even
though we want to believe, as former Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson (18) pointed out in his
article, “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb”, that “This deliberate premeditated destruction
was our least abhorrent choice.” This hidden guilt feeling is probably the reason for the
tremendous interest in John Hersey’s account on Hiroshima. An example of this fear I found in
the following dream image:


A member of a bomber crew in World War II repeatedly has the same dream. He dreamt he was
flying on a mission during which he must throw atomic bombs on his own home town because
the enemy had secured himself in the huge skyscrapers.


He saw himself flying; the sun was going down; he reached his target, dropped the bomb and
started his return trip. But on the way back there was turmoil. He saw suddenly a huge mountain
rising in front of him. Instead of trying to get away from it, he directed his bomber toward the
black mass. A crash followed and then he awoke … knowing that in his dream he had attempted
to commit suicide and that he had wanted to escape from this foolish and guilty world.
Third, we are looking fearfully into the mysterious shadows that beset our path, shadows of that
Great Unknown-the destructive possibilities of a future atomic war. Playing with these shadows
are our vague fears of our own bestial and destructive tendencies. We are confused and
befuddled when we acknowledge these aggressive and destructive tendencies, for we like to
consider ourselves peaceful, noble and constructive human beings. These are the nightmares we
not only find in neurotics but in nearly everybody who tries to become aware
of the tendencies of his own epoch. I am sure that many diplomats and representatives are teased
by the same nightmares.


Fourth, we are hearing in our ears the distant rumble of war drums as the fear grows that the
United Nations will fail to prevent a new war. And should war come, there is the disturbing
thought that future enemies will avenge themselves on us by dropping atomic bombs on our own


The confused state of mind, resulting from this combination of our post-war fears and the
“atomic war of nerves,” resembles that of the already mentioned ancient, just-as-paralyzing
period, when people waited for the world’s doom because of an undefined magic spell and
mysterious fear based on some general anxiety with which the world of those days was infected.
So strong is the suicidal tendency in us that we can easily turn our technological tools and toys
against ourselves. The atomic bomb means either a world government, or world suicide. Another
global war with atomic missiles-and our over-technical world will be doomed!
We must realize the great danger which lies in this world-wide vague fear. For this fear will
operate among us just as the strange fear of magic operates in primitive societies. Unrecognized
and uncomprehended fear paralyzes the human mind, hypnotizes it, makes it passive. In this
paralyzed stupor man conjures up the evil he fears; it leads him to surrender passively to fate.
Inwardly he is already prepared to accept death and destruction.

The great danger for the future lies in the fact that our burden of guilt and fear may undermine
our mature thinking. It is this hidden fear which motivates the newspapers to publish daily
articles on the coming catastrophe; and, in fearing, they unconsciously accept the destruction of
the future.


Let us be realistic! There is no adequate defense against the atom bomb. It creates limitless
destruction in the target area. The only counter-action is to use the same weapon; and that means
mutual suicide. One bomb only, properly placed-as in Hiroshima-is all that is required to
paralyze an entire metropolis. Only a relatively small amount of material and equipment,
smuggled somewhere into an enemy country, is needed to assemble such a bomb. And the next
atomic war will last until the last man awaits death from exposure to the deadly X-rays.
Atomic warfare is not a war of useful strategy. The greatest and the least developed country are
equally vulnerable. Technologically advanced countries are even more vulnerable. But already
the weapon is capitalizing upon the ignorance and the fear of the masses.
There is another side to this problem: the infectious example of Germany’s self-destruction. For
what one fights against infects one’s own soul. Even after this war we are still not rid of Nazi
attitudes. Under the ascetic megalomaniac, Shicklgruber, Germany committed suicide in an orgy
of brutality and criminal ecstasy. More than nine million civilians were cold-bloodedly killed in
concentration camps and behind the fronts. Too many victims were sacrificed on the altar of
madness. Not only the guilt feelings of the Germans, but the guilt feelings of the whole world
were aroused by these tremendous mass murders. And it is this widespread feeling of guilt that
arouses the hidden wish for self-destruction. The idea of death fascinated the Germans. The
stimulation of their instinctual and animal-drives prepared them to accept their own death. Their
pessimistic fatalism asked for a final upheaval before the “Goetterdaemmerung.” Nordic
mythology is deeply imbued with the idea of pessimistic surrender to fate, and this laid a fertile
groundwork among the Germans for the tendency to suicide which spread so easily among them.
They were inwardly prepared; if they failed in life, the solution lay in death. Here was more
fatalism than heroism, more passivity than activity. Even though defeat be inevitable, they must
die for Germany – “Und Deutschland soll leben, wenn wir auch sterben werden!” (Germany will
live, though we have to die!)


The suicidal tendencies of former enemies still endanger the world. In their graves they exercise
a more fatal fascination than when they were actually attacking us.
Are we to accept the challenge of technology and fight to the last being on earth? Forel wrote of
the ants: “If the two adversaries are approximately equal in strength, they exterminate each other
without any definite result.” Are we, like the insects, bound to our mechanical instincts?


We have spoken of the masses passively surrendering to their fate, of their hidden urge for
destruction. What are the manifold psychological equivalents of this death-instinct?
Self-destruction is the final expression of power. It is the last way of maintaining a feeling of
being valuable and potent. Think in this connection of all the ways in which spontaneity is
blocked in this world, of how growth and expression are hindered; think of all the threatening
and bullying and bossing, the innumerable ways in which people

*Julian Huxley, New York Times Magazine, February 10, 1946.
exploit each other and push each other around. Think of all the suicides as reactions to an
unfavorable environment, of all the prejudices, of interracial aggressions, of lynchings. Think of
all the aggressive and destructive reformisms, the riots, the street fights, the high rate of
criminality, people’s wildness, their eagerness to dominate. And remember the value we place
upon satirical humor; how familiar we are with fatalistic ways of thinking. All these are other
manifestations -psychological equivalents-of the aggressive and destructive instinct, the deathinstinct.
The more life’s vital impulses are thwarted, the more are self-destructive tendencies

In the war which has just been finished, unconscious tendencies to death were repeatedly
revealed. In the face of the imminent threat of death, the victims passively waited for the great
destruction, as though hypnotized by their fate. Many underground and resistance workers in
Nazi-occupied countries clearly surrendered to death, as it were. They became reckless in spite
of all warnings. To them the enemy had become an ambivalent father figure, and for waging war
against him they had to be destroyed by his hands. Even more incredible was the passivity of
those who had to escape because they knew that death was near. It was as if terror and death held
an attraction for them.

The Urge for Catastrophe


Man in our modern world is suffering from deep shock. He is constantly on the alert, continually
waiting for an approaching catastrophe; he even wishes the catastrophe would come so that his
fearful expectations might be ended. His existence is shattered-and philosophers may write
philosophies on “existence” as justification for their fatalism.
Again, in the Middle Ages, this kind of mood spread along with the pandemics of the epoch (the
Black Death, Plague, etc.). Fear and speculation about the unknown have always had a stirring
influence on the human mind, making people suspicious, anxious and willing to surrender to the
danger they fear. Men in general prefer the actual dangers of war to the nervous tensions of an
uncertain peace which looks like a verbose diplomatic war. In psychology we call it passive
surrender to the thing feared: in practice we saw that people enjoyed the big show at Bikini, in
spite of its threat for the future. Many people have surrendered to their nightmares and are
prepared for the new explosion because they feel too weak for a constructive solution.
The urge for catastrophe does not have to take the form of longing

for a fatal shock; it may be in the form of a deep craving for a momentous change in one’s life, a
desire to be transported to a higher and better existence. Every personal experience of death may
be the door to a revival-a catharsis and a purification. This is what happens in shock therapy-the
patient is permitted partially to die and to revive again. And this is effective with many mental


However-and this is the imminent danger-behind most expectations of catastrophe lurks the
primitive thought that the end of the world is approaching, that the world is doomed and the
apocalypse is on the way.
And man, caught by this dangerous delusion, leans passively and unwittingly towards downfall
and destruction.


Once before, around the year 1000, the masses awaited the great doom, and then mystical ecstasy
and aggressive chaos reigned in Europe. Today we are at the same point. The notion of
catastrophe leads men to self-destruction and delusion. The suicidal urge has mankind in its grip.
Even the mind is participating in killing and destruction when it condones a sneering and cynical
attitude. People are unable to behave because they sincerely admire and venerate something; they
kill their emotions and worship mechanical idols.
It is for these reasons that so great a danger lies in the fear that is connected with the current
“atomic war of nerves”; for it may work as primitive fear did in the ancient world-preparing new
explosions of aggression. Too great a fear can end in suicidal reactions in a world carried away
by the sweep of its dark emotions. Of course then we would cheer about the new fight: “We are
liberating the world . . .” we would say again, while, in reality, we would only be liberating
ourselves from the nerve-racking tensions of peace.

Such is the paradoxical result of fear: it never defends the human being against the feared event.
However, our intelligence is still able to build a positive world, not against an atomic war and
future electronic enemies, but for peace, which is always a complicated but positive construction
of the mind. Destruction is not the only thing which moves and attracts human beings: we are
still able to use our common sense to conquer fear.

The future danger lies, not so much in the atom bomb and the mysterious potentiality of a future
enemy, as in the fact that our burden of guilt and fear and nightmares may undermine our mature
thinking. It is especially this fear within us that votes for more and better armaments, that pleads
for more and better bombs until the eplosion comes. One of the most destructive ideas in the
world today is the repeated suggestion that the coming catastrophe is inevitable. This is a
negative suggestion arousing and reinforcing a primitive and magic fear, which only prepares
new forms of aggression.

The world needs positive, constructive suggestions: We have to agitate not against the use of
useful atomic power, but against the “atomic war of nerves”, against the suggested nightmares
and rumors that have, to some extent, made us blind and paralyzed mature thinking. Freedom
from Fear was one of the Four Freedoms. Freedom from primitive and atomic Fear needs to
become one of our principal aims for the mental structure of the future.
During the war years the best science of the age was utilized in combating the German “war of
nerves”. Surely, now that peace is with us, we have to use our knowledge to prevent fear and
destructive speculation about the unknown future. For undermining our reason and frightening
our souls leads us into another war.

This is the need of our times: we have to die and to be revived again. We have gone through
death, for the recent war was a tremendous dying.
Mankind’s urge for catastrophe and the suicidal tendencies of the masses, are the great
hindrances to a revival. Statesmen and psychologists must acknowledge these drives in the
character of all people and direct their attention to combating them. Otherwise the world will
continue to wait with resignation and acquiescence for what it fears and abhors but wishes at the
same time.



Some Mental Aspects of the Human Animal
(Remaining Young, Walking Erect and Playing Continually)

A Picture of the Human Animal


Only the human animal wants to draw a picture of himself and to abide by his own reflection. No
animal ever described or painted himself. Why do we want to look so much at ourself and to take
distance from our own problems? The second world war has just finished, people walk about
with long faces talking about the atomic era and the possibility of a future world war.
Melancholy philosophers speak of the end of the world and we all feel a bit perplexed by the
mechanical monstrosities which ended World War II. What will our portrait be in a couple of

Are we capable of imagining ourselves beyond this present mood? We must get to know the
strange human animal, and perhaps if we know him well we will lose our pessimistic views
fabricated by physicists and moralists full of guilt feelings. In this essay we will try to look at the
human being in a certain exhilarated state, for only in a phase of ecstasy can we get an essential
picture of man and his future. We will use as a basis some of the biological qualities of man: his
long period of youth, his special art of walking upright through the world and the implications of
his continual play.

If we wish to look at the human being in the midst of his fellowanimals, we must go back to
prehistoric times. From an animal he gradually becomes a primitive man with simple tools. Later
on he lives in a more complicated society and very slowly evolves from a primitive into a more
or less self-aware modern being. But even as an uncivilized animal, man was already different
from all other animals. What are the essentials of these differences?
We can answer immediately: His intelligence and his peculiar mental structure. You may even
prefer to speak of his highly developed consciousness or, like theologians, of his undefinable
soul, received from higher spheres. However, I am not a philosopher; I prefer to see man as a
being still belonging to the large kingdom of animals, one of the peculiar mammalia. This
accepted, we ask ourselves how he became such a special kind of animal being, capable of
perpetuating human civilization further and further through history.

Man Walks Erect

If we examine man’s material form we see many of the same anatomical features as in his fellowmammalia,
but we observe that he walks, strangely enough, on his hind legs. Man walks erect;
he differs from all other animals in the fact that he uses only two of his legs. There is a short,
four-footed, baby period when his balance is unstable, as in monkeys, but after which he
becomes the upright walking king of the animals.
What does such a simple change in posture imply? What does the change from a four-footed
animal into a two-legged human being mean to us? The mechanical result is that the tactical
mobility and manoeuverability of the body increases. Man is the only mammal able to look all
around without the need of turning and shifting his position; this is why he is able to escape
rapidly in any direction. His anatomy allows him to be constantly on the alert. In archaic times
this tremendous mobility and alert adjustment was of great help to him in his struggle with other
animals. He had acquired a more agile strategy. In those days, man had only very primitive
weapons. Especially in his struggle against the big and clumsy four-footed creatures he was the
stronger because of his alertness. But his respect for the faster reactions of lions and tigers has
continued up to the present. We find this respect in all kinds of tales and myths.

Man Is An Escapist


Some psychologists oddly assume that his two legs and man’s ability to turn about instantly
created human escapism and cowardice and the tendency to evade difficulties. Human power lies
in fleeing quickly from danger. Archaic man was constantly on the alert and remnants of his
archaic fear still live in us. How paradoxical it sounds … that man can escape (e. g., his instincts)
is typical of man. A man can be a prime ascetic; an animal, never.


Man Has Instruments


A more important result of his use of only two legs is the liberation of the forelegs from the
function of locomotion. In his free hands, man obtained two very convenient biological
instruments. Hands and fingers are the pliable tools whose adjustability has never been
duplicated by mechanical devices. Through the ingenuity of the human hand technical tools were
created as extensions of arm and hand. Opposite himself man places tools and machines, he
builds new images. With his hands free for gesturing, man becomes a creative animal.
However, it is not only the instrumental function of the hands that
Some Mental Aspects of the Human Animal log became so important. Beside the eyes, the hand
became the human being’s most important organ of sense. The liberation of the hands gave man
two hypersensitive antennae which no other vertebrate possesses. With his hands he is able to
investigate the world. This world which up to now forced on him pure visual images in a rather
passive way, can from now on be brought actively inside his own mind. Hence his world grows
bigger and richer, and a new universe of emotions enters his consciousness. Most of the other
animals are adapted to their world rather passively, though a certain form of adjustment and
modification is possible. But only the human being verifies his world and adjusts himself
actively. With touching hand he begins to conquer his world; his hand verifies the visual
impressions. Only the touching hand may replace the eye of the blind. Seeing far into the world
is touching virtually with the muscles of the eye; eye and hand are two senses predestined to
cooperate in building the proper human image of reality. As a scientific formulation expresses it,
“no observation and no perception can be registered in the brain without motor verification”,
with the result that in play and handicraft man enriches his brain still more with a continually
growing field of perception.


The world in which an animal lives has a close relation to his specific biological organization.
There is a continuous and mutual relationship between the design of the animal and his
environment. Every being lives in a very special world, corresponding directly to his form and
function. We see this best in the insect world, where the insect is limited by his innate capacities
and possibilities. Depending on his momentary function, he lives in different, unrelated worlds.
A hungry insect lives only in a world of prey. The rutting animal lives only in a mating world. It
is like the story of the three dimensional cube in a two dimensional flat world. At the moment of
intensified functioning no world outside that particular function exist. The earthworm lives in an
earthworm world, without sun and stars; the mosquito lives in a mosquito world. In one there are
only earthworm things; in the other, only mosquito things. In the same way, the human being
lives in a human world with human things. But unlike the animal, man can vary and change his
world thanks to his hands and instruments. Man does not only live in his world, but he confronts
the world at the same time; he takes opposition. Man makes his own world.

Man Lives Opposite Things


Because of man’s erect attitude, he not only lives with things, but he also lives opposite them.
Only man is observer of his own life. Only man has a notion of his own body separate from the
world. With his ands and eyes and controlling mind he confronts reality. That is why he is able to
deny his biological habits; his own body becomes an instrument whose drives he may accept or
reject. The scientist says that his biological reflexes change into psychological conditions. Only
man may see his own drives and instincts as danger. Man not only knows an externally-imposed
fear, but he knows an inner fear; his own impulses may become an estranged world with which
he has to cope. With arms and hands he reaches out not only toward an outside world in order to
conquer this piece of reality with his magic gestures (as babies do), but he also reaches out
toward an inside world; he tries to change his inner longings and satisfactions. Man lives
between an inner and outer world.

Every living relationship consists of a center-the being himself in a certain function or action-and
his environment. There exists a dual relationship. The center receives stimuli from the
environment and reacts on the environment in order to change it. For the central being there is a
“perceived world” and a “manipulated” or “cultivated world” which together form “his” world.
These two worlds are not always one and the same. An ichneumon fly, by some stimuli of her
senses, pierces through a layer of wood into the larva of a wasp she has never seen before.
Another wasp pierces with deadly certainty into the neuroganglia of a spider although she was
never taught about the anatomy of spiders. The manipulated world changes for the animal when
his biological aim changes. During copulation, his reflex behavior differs completely from his
conduct during the oral incorporation of food. As the biologist expresses it: “His functions
develop in different fields of action.” The actions of different animals, however, become more
nearly the same the closer they approach their real biological aim. The last movements during
copulation, or during the incorporation of food, or during the defense against enemies, take place
by innate reflexes without variety, just as we saw in the ichneumons. Such innate instincts direct
most of the actions and behavior of the lower animals. However, we find the same monoform
pattern of actions in the primitive reactions of men.


The Tyranny of Instincts



A nice example of instinctual fatality is seen in the behavior of procession-caterpillars. They
move through the woods in long lines, the forepart of one instinctually attracted by the tail of
another-hence the name, procession-caterpillar. If the first one is moved so that it touches the tail
of the last one, and a circle of caterpillars is formed, they are then doomed to walk in the circle.
Their instinct forces them to do so until they are liberated from this spell of reflexes. Such may
be the mechanical dictatorship of innate reflexes, of innate patterns. The insect-world has nearly
no variable adjustment. Man has the most varied forms of adjustment. He is the animal who can
suffer and tolerate more than any other animal.

We must now consider how the human world is a function of the special human organization of
innate habits and reflexes. This is an important question, especially in pathology. We can, for
instance, easily conclude that only in human beings do “perceived” and “cultivated” worlds meet.
Man has notion of only one universal world. However, we experience repeatedly the fact that in
some forms of neuroses and mental diseases those worlds again diverge. In schizophrenia, for
example, the virtual motile world of ideas no longer corresponds to the world of sensory
impressions. It is as if man regressed to the old insectual split world. We cannot speak then of a
perceived reality, but of a world of delusions and hallucinations. In man may appear a tragic split
in different worlds-tragic because the old archaic longing, a tremendous longing for biological
unity, remains.


To return to the point, we can split the perceived world of man into a far away visible world and
a much nearer touchable world. We find the same division in animals, too; but in human beings
we see that these worlds overlap each other almost entirely. The visual images have to
correspond to motoric verifications. It seems, however, that we cannot entirely comprehend our
special world through our senses of touch and our motoric verification; only when it is combined
with the touching antennae of the eye does our world achieve the connotation of unity.
There is a difference between our visible and our touched world. The visible world is a far bigger
and wider world. However, without the control of the touching hand and the virtual movements
of looking around, it tends to be too fantastic. What one cannot touch and verify remains a little
uncertain. The sun and moon and stars, the clouds and rainbow and the distant mountains
become gods or the homes of gods. Until technique becomes the lengthening piece in our
touching hand and we can grasp more and more our universe.

The same rule applies to pathological cases; the vision that escapes the virtual motor control, the
memory of the senses that cannot be verified (for example, as a result of intoxication) becomes a
hallucination, an impression cut off from reality.

Far more magic and free of reality is the world of that other human sensory organ: the world of
things heard. Here we know no direct cooperation
with other senses, unless we interpret in this way the cooperation between sound and
muscles, as we detect it in word and rhythm and dance. By means of sound and word, a
metaphysical world enters our ears. As soon as the separate worlds of the individuals try to
communicate, word and speech are born in order to bridge the abyss between the human beings.
Sounds, music and speech help to ‘ build a higher united world, the specific spiritual world of the
human being. The sounds move along a completely different dimension, not in space, but along
the line of time. Rhythm and music give man notion of time and eternity. Only man can look
experimentally into the future; an animal never does.


Man Grasps the Opportunity For Speech



But also, the development of sounds and speech and words has to do with our walking erect and
the liberation of our forepaws. The breathing animal is able to transform the expirational air into
miraculous symbols. He transmits his sound through the air to other people. That is the
beginning of animal communication. But only in human beings do the larynx and pharynx
transform the air in such manifold ways. That is because the human larynx is situated differently
from that of other mammalia; it stands perpendicular on the base of the skull and is farther away
from it. This is a necessary condition for speech, for the varied sounds and the consonants are
formed by the now bigger mouth and its motile walls. Man’s first language is a gestural language
of the eyes and cheeks. The larynx serves as an initial source of sound under the constantly
changing musical qualities that assume such manifold forms and, as an end-result, produce the
rich modulation of speech.


Speech and language come to us through the ear. The old belief: “The spirit enters the human
being through the ear,” seems to be quite true. Without our ears we are spiritually isolated. A
blind man would be isolated from the world if he did not have a sense of touch instead. Also, it is
much more difficult to find a substitute for the sense of hearing. Hence, the deaf are much more
isolated from society. There is even danger that his perceived world (from earlier days) will get
beyond control; the deaf man hallucinates sooner. In the blind we never find any lack of reality

For the touching hand, the “perceived” world and the “cultivated” world merge in a threedimensional
world. Sense and instrument are united. That is one of the reasons for the reality of
the touched world, and is also why a man can look outside and inside. Only man has
introspection; the notion of a perceived world and a world of inner drives. With the touching,
transforming, separating and assembling hands, under supervision of the eye, man builds in
space his world of things. This was made possible for him by his erect posture.


An Eager Learning Animal

Let us accept that walking upright is one of the fundamental functions of the human being. This
two-legged animal, who has become more intensely acquainted with the world and with reality
than any of his fellow animals, must, however, be able to make use of this opportunity. Certain
conditions must be fulfilled before man can learn about that world of real things. What we call
learning is the building of one’s “Own world” as a result of verified experiences and innate
habits. The human being is well developed in verifying his experiences. Without doubt he is the
most studious animal and the most eager to learn, always busy regulating and coordinating things
into his own world. This manner of conquering objects virtually and bringing them within his
own horizon is one of the first cultural deeds of man. Later, this becomes his scientific method of
research into reality. The human being is eager to learn, eager to grasp things into his own world,
eager to annex reality. Man becomes the librarian of reality.

According to John Locke the human intellect is an empty vessel which has to be filled with
experiences. It is only a potential power; nothing is acquired by the intellect, which is not gained
by experience. Man, as an intellectual being, has no innate ideas and almost no innate patterns of
action. His world is an experienced world.

One of the best examples of this is language and human communication. The organs of speech
are ready when the child is born; the possibilities are there. Nevertheless it speaks only the native
language. If one had taken the child somewhere else, it would have spoken another language and
conquered another spiritual world. Perhaps this all sounds too simple, but we have to realize that
man is the bearer of the civilization into which he is born. There is no heredity of culture, no
innate knowledge of morals and habits. There is only a greater or lesser innate power or
potentiality to grasp these things. The culture and civilization passed from one generation to
another have to be learned. This is especially what Locke, who had no notion of an archaic
insectual pattern of reactions behind the civilized ones, meant.

The newborn human being is without civilization but he has various means of grasping the
culture of his time. We must realize that man is animal and human at the same time. As an
animal he is born with innate reflexes, with innate instincts, patterns and biological tendencies.
These biological patterns of behavior can introduce many disturbances in his civilized life. When
he is not satisfied sexually or when he is starved, he does not continue to act as a civilized being;
his inborn biological patterns win over all his learned habits. Freud taught us how the innate
instinctual pattern is the deep-rooted basis of human action and that the civilized patterns are the
instincts changed as the result of education and experience. Jung adds a more mystical
explanation. He sees man as still rooted in a collective unconscious, as part of an archaic
instinctual collective being. The pattern of action which man has learned is only the upper layer;
beneath this reigns a pre-logical instinctual form of thought, feeling and action, just as they reign
in the world of insects.

Innate patterns of action are multifarious in the world of animals. What would we think of a child
being born a completely equipped toreador, acquainted with all the qualities of the bull and the
art of plunging his sword with unfailing certainty into the right spot? This is the norm for every
digger wasp. It knows how to paralyze its victims by one sting in the head ganglia, so that they
do not die and will remain fresh for future use as supper. Nobody taught them to build their
complicated breeding places. Their mother died long before they saw the light of day; their father
was a brainless insect used by their mother only for copulation. They had no school, only a
breeding hole with the paralyzed spiders as food supply where their mother’s eggs had been laid.
Beyond this the mother wasp has no further interest in her descendants.

Birds are also equipped with many “innate ideas”. All varieties of birds know how to build their
nests without architectural education. Every bird seems to be born equipped with a map. When
birds of passage begin to migrate, the youngsters often form the outposts and advance guard, so
that they cannot have learned the path of flight from their parents.

Man has almost none of this innate knowledge which he likes to call “instinct”. Even in the
satisfaction of his most archaic instincts only the final reflexes are innate. He has to learn how to
ingest his food, and only swallowing is an inborn reflex. During copulation, only the last motor
act of orgasm is reflexive; only’then is he pure action and reflex, feeling the ecstasy of an innate
action. But even this ecstatic instinctual act is lost in many impotent neurotics.
How can we explain the transition from a reflexive animal to the hesitating and delaying
“learning” human being? This new cultural process begins at that point in biological evolution
when the senses cease to serve only as receivers of stimuli, which they turn into active automatic
reflexes. When for the first time the stimulus results in the formation of a new adjustment, of a
new pattern of action, something new develops in the organism. We call these newly-formed
patterns conditioned reflexes (Pavlov). They open the way for new associations and new chains
of reflexes in the animal brain, enabling it to learn. The new reflexes form new nervous impulses
along new tracts in the brain and in the end those new associations form a more differentiated
human brain (Neurobiotactic theory of Arriens Kappers). This experienced nervous apparatus is
well formed only when the eye, hand and ear are used conjointly to build an experience, when
together they form a fresh image of reality which in turn changes the form and action of the
nervous apparatus.


Only Man Is Surprised



There is a moment during man’s evolution when a new excited astonishment appears, a feeling of
surprise at all those things which until now were accepted as normal without any reflection. This
new astonished approach to reality begins to control and to verify all the materials of experience.
This surprise spreads continually and the human being enjoys his expanding universe more and
more. All that stimulates the senses is looked at as new and as more beautiful! The astonished
caveman drew a design of a rnammouth on a rock, and “caught” him with his magic creation.
Out of fear and astonishment, man begins to create his own world outside the control of his
senses. The child begins already to project his vague impressions (hallucinations) on the world.
Hallucination and reality cover each other gradually.


Man tries to catch the world. Out of his new experiences he builds his own world. The human
being is beginning to learn and to create. Man has to learn about his own life; an animal never
can. Man, because he opposes the world, has to create his own spiritual world. Man’s learning is
a learning of mankind. Through learning man acquires a social heritage, a knowledge and
science he transmits to the next generation. A man has culture and history. He can not only learn
from his experiences-as animals can-but he can learn from history, from the experiences of early
ancestors. He even learns from the animals, but animals do not learn much from him.
It must be said that insects also pass on certain social patterns to the next generation but only
through a biological and genetic evolution. Their learning process is stereotyped and is limited
to the individual and to the given situation. Its learning dies with it. Man, alas, tends to fall back
into those stereotyped actions.
Through collective learning, man grows dependent on his fellow beings; he only is a psychosocial
being. The individual does not die; his notions and knowledge add experiences to the
group. Man not only has a biological heredity, but he also has a cultural heredity.

Prejudice-The Enemy of Learning


The greatest enemy of learning in man, is the conviction of knowing already. There is no greater
hindrance to teaching someone than his conceit about knowing already and the delusion that he
is already able to do all the things he wants to do. Prejudice is the enemy of adequate ideas, and
those acquired in early youth from environment and tradition are so dangerous because of their
tenacity and overvaluation. We may compare them to the innate reflexes and ideas of insects.
The historical pattern of action and the inborn knowledge which resides in a group or in masses
form such a tenacious prejudice. They keep the spontaneity of life bound and hinder new forms
of creation. The human being as a member of the masses is in such a way bound to his fellow
beings. Mankind is one huge plant with many roots, many sections and many joints. No social
action is possible without many members having a share in it. In the individual, awareness that a
man is a joint in such a superhuman “mass-being”, is often expressed in illogical racial feelings,
which from time to time supplant his rational thinking. When he has to explain these archaic
feelings, he appeals to a biological matrix to which he and his kind belong. Such rudiments of
collective archaic feeling still exist in every human being and are kept alive by traditionalism.
They are always ready to vibrate when certain political sounds come through the air. When these
obscure ideas move the human being they destroy all logic, and the archaic insectual animal is
reborn. The psychologist speaks soberly of regressions and the revival of archaic thinking;
seductive politicians speak of blood and soil and race and our infallible way of life.
Under the impact of such suggestions man may throw overboard all he has learned; he reverts to
the innate world of ideas of the insect in him. The human insects may govern the world.

Man, The Eternal Baby


We are now acquainted with a few of the biological conditions of becoming a man. To fulfill
these conditions, however, the human being needs still another present from nature. The
impressiveness of his modifiable brain, the use of hand, eye and tongue would all be use less if
he did not have time enough to build his world out of his experiences and verifications. Human
life seems short, but the fact that more than a quarter of its duration belongs to youth and that his
youth, strictly speaking, never disappears, gives the human being the opportunity to learn and to
experience all kinds of things. Among animals, man has the longest youth.

The Dutch anatomist Bolk (g) proved in his theory of human fetalization that the typical
peculiarities of human biological organization was its fetal aspect. This he formulated in what
sounds like a paradox: Man is an unripened and retarded monkey-fetus. As we shall see it is as
compensation for this biological fetal and helpless status, that man acquires the ability to develop
his mental capacities. Human fetus and monkey fetus are born the same, but while the monkey
fetus (and monkey baby) develop and differentiate rapidly into a mature animal, man remains a
suckling with too large a head. Comparing the biological development of man with that of
monkeys, we see that human growth is much more retarded. Man remains in an anatomical phase
which the monkey soon outgrows. This is called by Bolk the fetalization of form. Several
hormonal glands-all under apparent control of the pituitary gland-cause this retardation of
anatomical differentiation. The juvenile form of many human organs verifies Bolk’s theory of
fetalization-the shape of the jaw, the fetal eyebrows, the local growth of hair, the hairless body,
the shedding of the first teeth. This retarded development leads to a lengthening of the period
before adolescence. It is well known that in this early period the basis is laid for the later world
of ideas, images and attitudes. The experiences of childhood are necessary for the development
of adult mental life and it is extraordinarily difficult to fix anything into the human brain of
which the primary forms are not present in early childhood and prepuberty. The great wealth of
the outside world comes to us between our first and fourteenth years, when we are most open to
impressions. These years compensate us for our lack of innate ideas. The impressions of that age
still have the power of innate ideas. They sometimes have the same mechanical effect as the
training and drilling of animals. In many lives this unconscious drilling recurs unexpectedly just
as innate ideas do in animals. A peculiar urge to repeat the early infantile patterns develop in
man. In the last decades we experienced full well what governmental drilling of the mind is able
to do. Thought control returns mankind to the mechanical patterns of insectual life.
We are now touching on a very curious chapter in psychology, the formation of ideas during
infancy, school-age and the period of emotional latency. All that is established in the infantile
brain grows in this period deep into the fundamentals of future patterns of behavior. Group
behavior especially is conditioned through this process. In the post-war period we still have an
opportunity to study the causes of psychopathic behavior as a result of demoralization, fear,
tension, and paradoxical education through war habits.

Man walks erect, he is born naked and he is a fetus. He exposes all his organs, unprotected by fur
or other armament. He is very conscious of his lack of defense and his nakedness. Man is the
only animal with clothes, with shame and with the exhibitionist urge. Man became especially
vulnerable in his sex organs; the opportunity of hurting them is greater than in other animals
while his impulse to sex life is much more frequent and random. In no other animal do we
experience this frequency of sexual activity-one of the reasons, perhaps, why so many myths
have arisen dealing with man’s sexual life. Greater vulnerability and greater capacity always lead
to greater tension. Greater tension must lead to greater social suppression. The continual
limitation of his increased sexual urge must have transformed all kinds of aggressive fantasies
into action. Because of man’s early and unquenchable sexual urges, because of his continual
longing for unity, he undergoes a continual inhibition from outside. This may stimulate the most
beautiful creative fantasies but it may arouse the most cruel destructive wishes towards the
frustrating forces. Man is a homo eroticus. Erotic defense and exposure alternate. His earliest
aggressive fantasies are related to the loving action or rejection by the parents. Many later forms
of aggression and cruelty depend on those early imaginations. Frustrated sex and too much
exposed sex-both breed aggression.

The Dreamer-Fighter



Man is not a real fighter. He is a dreamer-fighter without the biological tools. However, he is
able to canalize his urges and instincts. Man can fight against his own instincts. He is the only
animal who limits from within his instinctual drives. Some domestic animals can do likewise,
when their love for man comes into conflict with their animal drives. Neurotic people can breed
neurotic dogs, with all their drives caught in the dog’s basket.
For naked undefended man, the outer fight became an inner fight. His fighting became partly a
fight against inner urges, partly against
the inhibiting forces from outside. There is always a confusion of oppositely directed struggles in


When man has overcome sexual fear and aggression, he will be able to direct his love, that
higher form of libidinous development toward the world. But when he feels defeated inwardly,
through loss of love, loss of paternal defense, loss of inner capacity, he wishes to hide himself
behind his aggressive fantasies. Or worse; he retakes the pattern of the insectual warrior, in order
to rid himself of his depression in a primitive way. He laughs and is furious and aggressive
because he is sad.
However, man is not a real fighter, or he would not have invented the perversion of destructive


Homo Ludens-The Playing Man


A long youth and an eagerness to learn are not enough to transform the human animal into a
civilized being. His youth must be relatively safe, so that he may learn by playing.
We already observe this pedagogical play in the higher animals. The larvae of the wasp must
catch its prey by innate reflex, but most of the vertebrate animals exercise and train their
reflexes. They create a secondary motility, which gives them greater variety in stalking and
conquering their prey. The infant-phase of the animal at home in the parental nest makes this
training in motor variety possible.

However, we must distinguish between playing and learning. Every higher animal experiences
and learns; he finds a new exercise in every new experience. That is why many animals can be
drilled so very well. In terms of biological aim, we may say that the motor patterns become more
and more useful. Specific training in the parental nest is directed toward the service of a specific
biological aim and satisfaction. But there is another form of movement beside that which fulfills
the biological aim. Some animals are capable of “aimless play”. Many baby animals play in the
parental nest, though prey or enemy are not present. My dog does the same. “Come, come,” I
say, and he comes head over heels, bringing me the stockings he has in his corner. No archaic
instinct leads him; it is the play of movement, of repetition and new movement, which gives him
all kinds of satisfaction. But this is only possible when he is not attacking his competitor or
eating his meal. In his play the animal is without direct biological aim, his motility is
independent of innate reflexes. Human beings have the same tendency in thousand-fold varieties.
Here, too, man’s fetal nakedness invites him to play. Man is born naked without natural claws
and weapons. He has to learn his own defenses by playing his play of strategy with artificial
tools. Man has to discharge his innate aggression, because he is a naked fetus; and he has to learn
to defend, because there is still danger in the world. In games and sports he finds a partial
solution of this human paradox of aggression.

The motile function as such has value as we learned already. It helps to form private virtual
worlds. Every movement is conducted by virtual movements, and virtual movements help to
form ideas. That is why one wishes to repeat a game; it is not the aim, but the joy of motor
function itself. The psychologists call it “Wiederholungszwang”, the compulsion to repeat. We
find it, for example, in the ornamental play of primitive peoples. Some of the roots of creative art
lie in the playful repetition of a primary simple symbolic figure. Play becomes .style, and style
becomes an idea.

Play, handed on by the parents to the next generation, is the beginning of culture: It seeks an
active motor function, seeks a joy in action quite different from the training of inborn reflex
motility, which is pure “reactive” movement.

Scientific language is too dry and barren for describing the fluent crossings, from one problem to
another, which arise in the beginning of play and civilization. Nearly all the essential problems
of culture have their roots in these primitive attempts to overcome the rules of animal life.
As soon as mere reflexive life ceases to exist, as soon as the life which reacts only to stimuli
from outside is turned toward play, with an aim of its own, a conflict arises with the outside
world. In any case the new “ludicrous” attitude can only then be developed if the biological aims
are secure. In this craving for security we find the roots of civilized fear, namely the fear of
insecurity. All freedom to play contains a vague fear of the period of non-playing when we are
again bound to our instincts. Our homesickness, our “Weltschmerz”, our tendency to preserve
eternally the secure nest of father and mother is part of the eternal oedipal tragedy. However, we
can escape our human fear and hesitations in the highest ecstasy of creation or in the most boring
game of cards!


The Quest For Safety


Civilized man is not able to hunt for his prey every day; he cannot be constantly on the alert. He
has a tendency to make life safer and safer and to eternalize the infantile situation. This is one of
the roots of fear inherent in every cultural being. Because man removes himself from his
biological aim and makes his own laws and his own rules, there is always the risk of falling back
into the old insectual attitude. Of course, it is also possible to use our play in the service of the
instincts. The choice between free play and instinctual satisfaction is an ancient tragedy. Look at
my dog. I call him and, wagging his tail, he is ready to play. But at the same time outside the
door barks his eternal enemy and competitor in sex life. He pricks up his ears. And now his
internal struggle begins-here the play and there the instinct. With a deep human sigh he goes
back to his boss-tomorrow, perhaps, he will rush outdoors and follow his innate instincts.
In the choice between instinct and play lies the idea of biological freedom, the determined
freedom of option between regression or progression. We see it in the play between cat and
mouse. At any moment the decision can move in either of two ways: the oral instinct can be
satisfied and the mouse incorporated, or the game is played and creates a new kind of
satisfaction. Next day the boss finds a dead mouse on the floor.


Human beings, too, always have the freedom of this primary and archaic choice. In his table
manners man plays the old game, up to the moment of the swallowing reflex. Have you forgotten
how you have tried to delay swallowing when some food was wonderfully tasty? But the most
beautiful game is played by the human being in the elaborate play of Eros which grew to a
thousand-fold cultural pattern of its own. And behind the erotic culture always remains the
sexual reflex. The archaic choice between cat and mouse is turned into man’s chaotic problems of
love. The culture of love, the repeated play of Eros in our society is conducted in the safe harbor
of marriage. Here again, the repetition creates a culture. Until the moment comes when the cat
eats the mouse. This is the moment when the old aggression and destruction trouble civilization
and culture. The love of Eros cannot compete with the aggression of sex.

I like this picture of the human animal, who plays continually in a safe world. This tendency
toward safety is the beginning of social life. Play is only insured when the archaic instincts can
be safely satisfied. This insurance policy is the protector of our culture.

In all play, there is a magic function-the recognition of the player himself, of his ego. First life
acted on him; now he lives actively and places himself opposite life. Man through his play
becomes aware of his errors; he is the only animal who rearranges his life again and again
according to plan, or play, or emergency. Play for him is a continual challenge; he tries, he errs,
he corrects and tries again.

Play is adventure; it is freedom. We never know in advance what
will happen. Play is anti-instinct, for instinct is limited. As I have said, there are several ways in
which play degenerates when it serves the instincts. Then it turns into routine, into destructive
technique. Sport and fair play may develop into ambitious competitiveness-decent interhuman
competition turn into destructive war with perfidious instruments. Insectual patterns-with help of
the technique-dominate the irrational aim of fair play.
The human being is able to play and to create his own civilized world out of his play, because he
has a long youth.

The Sclerotized Student



Most of us end our student days when we are less than 25 years old. Then we must develop the
film which was photographed from reality. We think over and over again about the things we
discovered up to then. We see that the brain without innate ideas has been filled in part with a
traditional and in part with a self-discovered world. The body walks erect; it has tasted new
things and has brought them into its picture of the world. For most people real play stops when
they imagine themselves to be adult. Their eyes no longer look; their hands no longer feel; their
ears no longer hear. Youth has passed, no verification occurs any longer. One still speaks of play,
but it is only imitation. Play has turned into a pastime or a sensation or a tournament with fate (as
in roulette) or a poisoned state which imitates the real ecstasy of creation or shows one’s pseudosuperiority.
The risk of growing and maturing is that we lose pure human functions, that we lose
possibilities of expression and creation. We grow rigid and get culturally atrophic.
Psychosclerosis may begin in youth. Play for the sake of play, play full of cultural tension and
cultural relaxation seems too difficult for many people. Nevertheless, only this active play keeps
the spirit high and the human being young. Only in highest regions of the arts and sciences does
one dare to play, till in old age one arrives at that free creative play of thinking and correcting
and thinking again, and the relaxed laughter, which follows when one realizes the nonsense one
has created before. In spite of dictatorship and power politics, culture is only born in these


In remodeling reality, in repeating its forms in a playful way, man learns to create his own world
outside himself. Only man possesses an ideal world, a pure image, made only inside his own
mind. He never realizes that ideal, he is always dissatisfied in his creative artistic play, but he is
sure of his projected dream world as a stronger one than reality.
We have walked rather quickly past a few biological views. The human animal has valuable
gifts: his ability to walk erect and his long youth. That is why his body became a precious
instrument, with which he comes into contact with the miracles of the world and is able to carry
that world into his own brain.

Straight and erect, man walks over the earth building his own world. He had to be trained to use
his instruments, that is why he needed time to learn. Man has a long youth, during whichprotected
by his parents-he can learn most of his cultural play.
Open to all impressions, man is permitted to see the world and to experience the miracle of
everything on earth. He is allowed to revel in all aspects of reality. Thus the human being
matures, and life matures in him.
To remain young means to remain a student. To walk erect means to search for truth. To
continue to play means to remain surprised and astonished and to revel in the developing human


Man is an inquisitive animal, a persistent student, who learns by playing.



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