When the subjec-tive is allowed to dominate, the resultant acts of the individual are denominated "the eccentricities of genius." When the subjective usurps complete control, the individual goes insane.
There are certain classes of persons whose intellectual labors are characterized by subjective activity in a very marked degree. Poets and artists are the most conspicuous examples. So marked is the peculiarity of the poetic mind in this respect that it has become almost proverbial. Lord Macaulay, in his Essay on Milton, uses language which shows that he clearly recognized the subjective element in all true poetry. He says: -
"Perhaps no man can be a poet, or can even enjoy poetry, without a certain unsoundness of mind, - if anything which gives so much pleasure ought to be called unsoundness. By poetry we mean not, of course, all writing in verse, nor even all good writing in verse. Our definition excludes many metrical compositions which on other grounds deserve the highest praise. By poetry we mean the art of employing words in such a manner as to produce an illusion on the imagination; the art of doing by means of words what the painter does by means of colors. Thus the greatest of poets has described it, in lines universally admired for the vigor and felicity of their diction, and still more valuable on account of the just notion which they convey of the art in which he excelled.
"' As imagination bodies forth The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing A local habitation and a name.'
"These are the fruits of the ' fine frenzy' which he ascribes to the poet, - a fine frenzy doubtless, but still a frenzy. Truth, indeed, is essential to poetry, but it is the truth of madness. The reasonings are just, but the premises are false. After the first suppositions have been made, everything ought to be consistent; but those first suppositions require a degree of credulity which almost amounts to a partial and temporary derangement of the intellect. Hence, of all people, children are the most imaginative. They abandon themselves without reserve to every illusion. Every image which is strongly presented to their mental eye produces on them the effect of reality. No man, whatever his sensibility may be, is ever affected by Hamlet or Lear as a little girl is affected by the story of poor Red-Riding-Hood. She knows that it is, all false, that wolves cannot speak, that there are no wolves in England. Yet in spite of her knowledge she believes; she weeps; she trembles; she dares not go into a dark room, lest she should feel the teeth of the monster at her throat.
Such is the despotism of the imagination over uncivilized minds".
In other words, such is the despotism of suggestion over the subjective mind. No truer statement of the methods of subjective mental action could be written. "The reasonings are just, but the premises are false," says Macaulay. True, the deductive reasonings of the subjective mind are always just, logical, syllogistically perfect, and are equally so whether the premises are false or true.
Macaulay's remark concerning children is eminently philosophical and true to nature. Children are almost purely subjective; and no one needs to be told how completely a suggestion, true or false, will take control of their minds. This is seen in perfection when children are playing games in which one of them is supposed to be a wild beast. The others will flee in affected terror from the beast; but the affectation often becomes a real emotion, and tears, and sometimes convulsions, result from their fright.
The remark elsewhere made regarding the eccentricities of genius applies in a marked degree to poets. It is probable that in all the greater poets the subjective mind often predominates. Certainly the subjective element is dominant in their works. The career of Lord Byron is at once* a splendid illustration of the marvellous powers and the inexhaustible resources of the subjective mind in a man of learning and cultivation, and a sad commentary on the folly and danger of allowing the subjective mind to usurp control of the dual mental organization.
Many of the poems of Coleridge furnish striking examples of the dominance of the subjective in poetry. His readers will readily recall the celebrated fragment entitled "Kubla Khan; or, a Vision in a Dream," beginning as follows: -
"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree, -Where Alph, the sacred river, ran Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea".
It is unfortunately true that the subjective condition in his case was often brought about by artificial means; and it is expressly stated in a prefatory note to "Kubla Khan" that this fragment was written while under the influence of an anodyne. As an illustration of the principle under consideration it is, however, none the less valuable; while the career of the gifted but unfortunate poet should serve as a warning against the practices in which he indulged. Macaulay further remarks: -
"In an enlightened age there will be much intelligence, much science, much philosophy, abundance of just classification and subtle analysis, abundance of wit and eloquence, abundance of verses, - and even of good ones, - but little poetry. Men will judge and compare; but they will not create."l
In other words, this is an age of purely objective cultivation. All our powers of inductive reasoning are strained to their highest tension in an effort to penetrate the secrets of physical Nature, and to harness her dynamic forces. Meantime, the normal exercise of that co-ordinate power in our mental structure is fast falling into desuetude, and its manifestations, not being understood, are relegated to the domain of superstition.
1 Scott's poems are good illustrations. They are not ranked as first class for the sole reason that they are too objective.
Socrates, in his Apology to the Athenians, seems to have entertained opinions in regard to poets similar to those of Lord Macaulay. In his search for wiser men than himself he went first to the politicians. Failing there, he went to the poets, with the following result: -