Suggestion and Instinct

[This is taken from Charles G. Leland's The Mystic Will.]


It must have struck many readers that the action of a mind under hypnotic influence, be it of another or of self, involves strange questions as regards Consciousness. For it is very evident from recorded facts, that people can actually reason and act without waking consciousness, in a state of mind which resembles instinct, which is a kind of cerebration, or acting under habits and impressions supplied by memory and formed by practice, but not according to what we understand by Reason or Judgment.

All things in nature have their sleep or rest, night is the sleep of the world, death the repose of Nature or Life the solid temples, the great globe itself, dissolve to awaken again; so man hath in him, as it were, a company of workmen, some of whom labor by day, while others watch by night, during which time they, unseen, have their fantastic frolics known as dreams. The Guardian or Master of the daily hours, appears in a great measure to conform his action closely to average duties of life, in accordance with those of all other men. He picks out from the millions of images or ideas in the memory, uses and becomes familiar with a certain number, and lets the rest sleep. This master or active agent is probably himself a Master-Idea the result of the correlative action of all the others, a kind of consensus made personal, an elected Queen Bee, as I have otherwise described him or her.

But he is not the only thinker there are all over the body ganglions which act by a kind of fluid instinct, born of repetition, and when the tired master even drowses or nods, or falls into a brown study, then a marvelously curious mental action begins to show itself, for dreams at once flicker and peer and steal dimly about him. This is because the waking consciousness is beginning to shut out the world and its set of ideas.

So consistent is the system that even if Waking Reason abstract itself, not to sleep, but to think on one subject such as writing a poem or inventing a machine, certain affinities will sleep or dreams begin to show themselves. When Genius is really at work, it sweeps along, as it were, in a current, albeit it has enough reason left to also use the rudder and oars, or spread and manage a sail. The reason for the greater fullness of unusual images and associations (i. e., the action of genius) during the time when one is bent on intellectual invention is that the more the waking conscious Reason drowses or approaches to sleep, the more do many images in Memory awaken and begin to shyly open the doors of their cells and peep out.

In the dream we also proceed, or rather drift, loosely on a current, but are without oars, rudder or sail. We are hurtled against, or hurried away from the islands of Images or Ideas, that is to say, all kinds of memories, and our course is managed or impelled, or guided by tricky water-sprites, whose minds are all on mischief bent or only idle merriment. In any case they conduct us blindly and wildly from isle to isle, sometimes obeying a far cry which comes to them through the mist some echoing signal of our waking hours. So in a vision ever on we go!

That is to say that even while we dream there is an unconscious cerebration or voluntarily exerted power loosely and irregularly imitating by habit, something like the action of our waking hours, especially its brown studies and fancies in drowsy reveries or play.

It seems to me as if this sleep-master or mistress I prefer the latter who attends to our dreams may be regarded as Instinct on the loose, for like instinct she acts without conscious reasoning. She carries out, or realizes, trains of thought, or sequences with little comparison or deduction. Yet within her limits she can do great work, and when we consider, we shall find that by following mere Law she has effected a great, nay, an immense, deal, which we attribute entirely to forethought or Reason. As all this is closely allied to the action of the mind when hypnotized, it deserves further study.

Now it is a wonderful reflection that as we go back in animated nature from man to insects, we find self-conscious Intellect or Reason based on Reflection disappear, and Instinct taking its place. Yet Instinct in its marvelous results, such as ingenuity of adaptation, often far surpasses what semi-civilized man could do. Or it does the same things as man, only in an entirely different way which is not as yet understood. Only from time to time some one tells a wonderful story of a bird, a dog or a cat, and then asks, "Was not this reason?"

What it was, in a great measure, was an unconscious application of memory or experience. Bees and ants and birds often far outdo savage men in ingenuity of construction. The red Indians in their persistent use of flimsy, cheerless bark wigwams, were far behind the beaver or oriole as regards dwellings; in this respect the Indian indicated mere instinct of a low order, as all do who live in circles of mere tradition.

Now to advance what seems a paradox, it is evident that even what we regard as inspired genius comes to man in a great measure from Instinct, though as I noted before it is aided by reflection. As the young bird listens to its mother and then sings till as a grown nightingale it pours forth a rich flood of varying melody; so the poet or musician follows masters and models, and then, like them, creates, often progressing, but is never entirely spontaneous or original. When the artist thinks too little he lacks sense, when he thinks too much he loses fire. In the very highest and most strangely mysterious poetical flights of SHELLEY and KEATS, or WORDSWORTH, I find the very same Instinct which inspires the skylark and nightingale, but more or less allied to and strengthened by Thought or Consciousness. If human Will or Wisdom alone directed all our work, then every man who had mere patience might be a great original genius, and it is indeed true that Man can do inconceivably more in following and imitating genius than has ever been imagined. However, thus far the talent which enables a man to write such a passage as that of TENNYSON,

    "The tides of Music's golden sea
    Setting towards Eternity,"

results from a development of Instinct, or an intuitive perception of the Beautiful, such as Wordsworth believed existed in all things which enjoy sunshine, life, and air. The poet himself cannot explain the processes, though he may be able to analyze in detail how or why he made or found a thousand other things.

It is not only true that Genius originates in something antecedent to conscious reflection or intellect, but also that men have produced marvelous works of art almost without knowing it, while others have shown the greatest incapacity to do so after they had developed an incredible amount of knowledge. Thus Mr. WHISTLER reminded RUSKIN that when the world had its greatest artists, there were no critics.

And it is well to remember that while the Greeks in all their glory of Art and Poetry were unquestionably rational or consciously intelligent, there was not among them the thousandth part of the anxious worrying, the sentimental self-seeking and examination, or the Introversion which worms itself in and out of, and through and through, all modern work, action and thought, even as mercury in an air-pump will permeate the hardest wood. For the Greeks worked more in the spirit of Instinct; that is, more according to certain transmitted laws and ideas than we realize albeit this tradition was of a very high order. We have lost Art because we have not developed tradition, but have immensely increased consciousness, or reflection, out of proportion to art It was from India and Egypt in a positive form that Man drew the poison of sentimental Egoism which became comparative in the Middle Ages and superlative in this our time.

It is very evident that as soon as men become self-conscious of great work, or cease to work for the sake of enjoying Art, or its results, and turn all their attention to the genius or cleverness, or character or style, self, et cetera, of the artist, or of themselves, a decadence sets in, as there did after the Renaissance, when knowledge or enjoyment of Art was limited, and guided by familiarity with names and schools and "manners," or the like, far more than by real beauty in itself.

Now, out of all this which I have said on Art, strange conclusions may be drawn, the first being that even without self-conscious Thought or excess of Intellect, there can be a Sense of Enjoyment in any or every organism, also a further development of memory of that enjoyment, and finally a creation of buildings, music and song, with no reflection, in animals, and very little in Man. And when Man gets beyond working with simple Nature and begins to think chiefly about himself, his Art, as regards harmony with Nature, deteriorates.

We do not sufficiently reflect on the fact that Natura naturans, or the action of Nature (or simply following Tradition), may, as is the case of Transition Architecture, involve the creation of marvelously ingenious and beautiful works, and the great enjoyment of them by Instinct alone. It is not possible for ordinary man to even understand this now in all its fullness. He is indeed trying to do so but it is too new for his comprehension. But a time will come when he will perceive that his best work has been done unconsciously, or under influences of which he was ignorant.

Hypnotism acts entirely by suggestion, and he who paints or does other work entirely according to Tradition, also carries out what is or has been suggested to him. Men of earlier times who thus worked for thousands of years like the Egyptians in one style, were guided by the faith that it had been begun by the Creator or God.

For men cannot conceive of creation as separate from pre-determined plan or end, and all because they cannot understand that Creative innate force, potentia, must have some result, or that the simplest Law once set going awakens, acquires strength in going and develops great Laws, which, with an all-susceptible or capable material to work on, may, or must, create infinite ingenuities, so that in time there may be an organic principle with sentiency, and yet no Will, save in its exponents, or working to end or aim, but ever tending to further unfolding "a seizing and giving the fire of the living" ever onwards into Eternity, in which there may be a million times more perfect "mind" than we can now grasp.

Now, having for many years attempted at least to familiarize myself with the aspect or sound, of this problem, though I could not solve it, it seems at last to be natural enough that even matter (which so many persist in regarding as a kind of dust or something resistant to the touch, but which I regard as infinite millions of degrees more subtle), may think just as well as it may act in Instinct. It is, indeed, absurd to admit souls to idiots or savages, who have not the sense to live as comfortably as many animals, and yet deny it to the latter. When we really become familiar with the idea, it appears sensible enough. But its opponents do not become familiar with it, it irritates them, they call it Atheistic, although it is nothing of the kind, just as if we were to say that a man who bravely and nobly pursued his way in life, doing his duty because it was his duty, and giving no thought as to future reward or punishment, must needs want soul or be an Atheist.

If all men were perfectly good, they would act morally and instinctively, without consciousness of behaving well, and if we felt a high ideal of Art it would be just the same. When Art was natural men never signed their names to their work, but now the Name takes precedence of the picture.

Therefore, as we go backward into the night of things, we find, though we forget it all the time, that Instinct or the living in the Spirit of Law, had its stars or planets which shone more brilliantly than now, at least in Faith. Thus, there are two sources of Creation or Action, both based on Evolution, one being unconscious and guided by Natural Law, and the other which is conscious and grows out of the first. Hence cognito ergo sum, which well-nigh all men really understand as cogito, ergo sum Deus. Or we may say that they assume

    "Because I think, then God must think like me!"

Now to come to Hypnotic thought, or suggested mental action. I would infer that, according to what I have said, there may be two kinds of mentality, or working of the mind the one under certain conditions as effective or resultant as the other; the first being as it was in the order of time Unconscious or Instinctive; the other, conscious and self-observant.

For the man who built a Romanesque Cathedral worked by the suggestiveness of minds which went before him, or Tradition. He was truly, as it were, in a kind of slumber; indeed, all life was more or less of a waking dream in those dim, strange days. "Millions marched forth to death scarce knowing why," all because they were told to do so they felt that they must do it, and they did it. "Like turkeys led by a red rag," says CARLYLE. And the red rag and the turkey is an illustration of Hypnotism in one of the books thereon. Instinct is Hypnotism.

Now I have found that by suggesting to oneself before sleep, or inducing self by Will or Forethought to work gladly and unweariedly the next day, we do not think about self or the quality of what we do to any degree like what we would in working under ordinary conditions. Truly it is not thoroughgoing or infallible in all cases, but then it must be helped by a little wide-awake self-conscious will. But this is certainly true, that we can turn out better work when we urge our creative power to awake in the morn and act or aid, than if we do not.

    "For there are many angels at our call,
    And many blessed spirits who are bound
    To lend their aid in every strait and turn;
    And elves to fly the errands of the soul,
    And fairies all too glad to give us help,
    If we but know how to pronounce the spell
    Which calls them unto us in every need."

That spell I have shown or explained clearly enough.

And, finally, to recapitulate, Instinct in its earlier or simpler form is the following laws of Nature which are themselves formed by motive laws. In Man the living according to Tradition is instinct of a higher order, and the one or the other is merely being ruled by Suggestion. The more free Will is developed and guided by reflection, or varied tradition and experience, the less instinct and the more intellect will there be.



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