Hidden Symbolism of
ALCHEMY and the OCCULT ARTS
(Formerly titled: Problems of Mysticism and Its Symbolism)
by Dr. Herbert Silberer
Translated by Smith Ely Jelliffe, M.D., Ph.D.
Dover Publications, Inc.
Translator's Preface Part I. The Parable. Section I. The Parable. Section II. Dream And Myth Interpretation. Part II. Analytic Part. Section I. Psychoanalytic Interpretation Of The Parable. Section II. Alchemy. Section III. The Hermetic Art. Section IV. Rosicrucianism And Freemasonry. Section V. The Problem Of Multiple Interpretation. Part III. Synthetic Part. Section I. Introversion And Regeneration. A. Introversion And Intro-Determination. B. Effects Of Introversion. C. Regeneration. Section II. The Goal Of The Work. Section III. The Royal Art. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Footnotes
This Dover edition, first published in 1971, is an unabridged and unaltered republication of the work originally published by Moffat, Yard and Company, New York, in 1917 under the title Problems of Mysticism and its Symbolism.
International Standard Book Number: 0-486-20972-5 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 74-176356
Prominent among the stones of a fireplace in my country den, one large rounded giant stands out. It was bourne by the glacial streams from a more northern resting place and is marked by a fossil of a mollusk that inhabited northern seas many million years ago. Yet in spite of the eons of time that have passed it can be compared with specimens of mollusks that live to-day. Down through the countless centuries the living stream has carved its structural habitations in much the same form. The science of Paleontology has collected this history and has attempted a reconstruction of life from its beginnings.
The same principle here illustrated is true for the thought-life of mankind. The forms in which it has been preserved however are not so evident. The structuralizations are not so definite. If they were, evolution would not have been possible for the living stream of energy which is utilized by mind-stuff cannot be confined if it would advance to more complex integrations. Hence the products of mind in evolution are more plastic—more subtle and more changing. They are to be found in the myths and the folk-lore of ancient peoples, the poetry, dramatic art, and the language of later races. From age to age however the strivings continue the same. The living vessels must continue and the products express the most fundamental strivings, in varying though related forms.
We thus arrive at a science which may be called paleo-psychology. Its fossils are the thought-forms throughout the ages, and such a science seeks to show fundamental likenesses behind the more superficial dissimilarities.
The present work is a contribution to such a science in that it shows the essential relationships of what is found in the unconscious of present day mankind to many forms of thinking of the middle ages. These same trends are present to-day in all of us though hidden behind a different set of structural terms, utilizing different mechanisms for energy expression.
The unceasing complexity of life's accumulations has created a great principle for energy expression—it is termed sublimation—and in popular parlance represents the spiritual striving of mankind towards the perfecting of a relation with the world of reality—the environment—which shall mean human happiness in its truest sense. One of the products of this sublimation tendency is called Mysticism. This work would seek to aid us to an understanding of this manifestation of human conduct as expressed in concrete or contemplated action through thought. It does so by the comparative method, and it is for this reason I have been led to present it to an English reading public.
Much of the strange and outre, as well as the commonplace, in human activity conceals energy transformations of inestimable value in the work of sublimation. The race would go mad without it. It sometimes does even with it, a sign that sublimation is still imperfect and that the race is far from being spiritually well. A comprehension of the principles here involved would further the spread of sympathy for all forms of thinking and tend to further spiritual health in such mutual comprehension of the needs of others and of the forms taken by sublimation processes.
For the actual work of translation, I wish to express my obligations to friends Wilfred Lay, and Leo Stein. Without their generous and gifted assistance I would not have been able to accomplish the task.
SMITH ELY JELLIFFE, M.D. NEW YORK, Oct. 27, 1917.
In an old book I discovered an extraordinary narrative entitled Parabola. I take it as the starting point of my observations because it affords a welcome guide. In the endeavor to understand the parable and get a psychological insight into it, we are led on to journey through these very realms of fancy, into which I should like to conduct the reader. At the end of our journey we shall have acquired, with the understanding of the first example, the knowledge of certain psychical laws.
I shall, then, without further prelude introduce the example, and purposely avoid at the outset mentioning the title of the old book so that the reader may be in a position to allow the narrative to affect him without any preconceived ideas. Explanatory interpolations in the text, which come from me, I distinguish with square brackets.
. As once I strolled in a fair forest, young and green, and contemplated the painfulness of this life, and lamented how through the dire fall of our first parents we inherited such misery and distress, I chanced, while thinking these thoughts, to depart from the usual path, and found myself, I know not how, on a narrow foot path that was rough, untrodden and impassable, and overgrown with so much underbrush and bushes that it was easy to see it was very little used. Therefore I was dismayed and would gladly have gone back, but it was not in my power to do so, since a strong wind so powerfully blew me on, that I could rather take ten steps in advance than one backward.
. Therefore I had to go on and not mind the rough walking.
. After I had advanced a good while I came finally to a lovely meadow hedged about with a round circle of fruit bearing trees, and called by the dwellers Pratum felicitatis [the meadow of felicity], I was in the midst of a company of old men with beards as gray as ice, except for one who was quite a young man with a pointed black beard. Also there was among them one whose name was well known to me, but his visage I could not yet see, who was still younger, and they debated on all kinds of subjects, particularly about a great and lofty mystery, hidden in Nature, which God kept concealed from the great world, and revealed to only a few who loved him.
. I listened long and their discourse pleased me well, only some would break forth from restraint, not touching upon the matter or work, but what touched upon the parables, similitudes and other parerga, in which they followed the poetic fancies of Aristotle, Pliny and others which the one had copied from the other. So I could contain myself no longer and mixed in my own mustard, [put in my own word], refuted such trivial things from experience, and the majority sided with me, examined me in their faculty and made it quite hot for me. However the foundation of my knowledge was so good, that I passed with all honors, whereupon they all were amazed, unanimously included and admitted me in their collegium, of which I was heartily glad.
. But they said I could not be a real colleague till I learned to know their lion, and became thoroughly acquainted with his powers and abilities. For that purpose I should use diligence so as to subdue him. I was quite confident in myself and promised them I would do my best. For their company pleased me so well that I would not have parted from them for a great deal.
. They led me to the lion and described him very carefully, but what I should undertake with him none could tell me. Some of them indeed hinted, but very darkly, so that the (Der Tausende) Thousandth one could not have understood him. But when I should first succeed in subduing him and should have assured myself against his sharp claws, and keen teeth, then they would conceal nothing from me. Now the lion was very old, ferocious and large, his yellow hair hung over his neck, he appeared quite unconquerable, so that I was almost afraid of my temerity and would gladly have turned back if my promise and also the circumstance that the elders stood about me and were waiting to see what I would do, had allowed me to give up. In great confidence I approached the lion in his den and began to caress him, but he looked at me so fiercely with his brightly shining eyes that I could hardly restrain my tears. Just then I remembered that I had learned from one of the elders, while we were going to the lion's den, that very many people had undertaken to overcome the lion and very few could accomplish it. I was unwilling to be disgraced, and I recalled several grips that I had learned with great diligence in athletics, besides which I was well versed in natural magic [magia] so I gave up the caresses and seized the lion so dextrously, artfully and subtlely, that before he was well aware of it I forced the blood out of his body, yea, even out of his heart. It was beautifully red but very choleric. I dissected him further and found, a fact which caused me much wonder, that his bones were white as snow and there was much more bone than there was blood.
. Now when my dear elders, who stood above around the den and looked at me, were aware of it, they disputed earnestly with each other, for so much I could infer from their motions but what they said I could not hear since I was deep down in the den. Yet as they came close in dispute I heard that one said, "He must bring him to life again, else he can not be our colleague." I was unwilling to undertake further difficulties, and betook myself out of the den to a great place, and came, I know not how, on a very high wall, whose height rose over 100 ells towards the clouds, but on top was not one foot wide. And there went up from the beginning, where I ascended, to the end an iron hand rail right along the center of the wall, with many leaded supports. On this wall I came, I say, and meseems there went on the right side of the railing a man several paces before me.
. But as I followed him awhile I saw another following me on the other side, yet it was doubtful whether man or woman, that called to me and said that it was better walking on his side than where I went, as I readily believed, because the railing that stood near the middle made the path so narrow that the going at such a height was very bad. Then I saw also some that wished to go on that path, fall: down below behind me, therefore I swung under the railing; holding tight with my hands and went forward on the other [left] side, till I finally came to a place on the wall which was very precipitous and dangerous to descend. Then first I repented that I had not stayed on the other [right] side and I could not go under to the other side as it was also impossible to turn round and get on the other path. So I risked it, trusted to my good feet, held myself tight and came down without harm, and as I walked a little further, looked and knew of no other danger, but also knew not what had become of wall and railing.
. After I came down, there stood in that place a beautiful rose bush, on which beautiful red and white roses were growing, the red more numerous, however, than the white. I broke off some roses from the bush and put them on my hat. But there seemed to be in the same place a wall, surrounding a great garden. In the garden were lads, and their lasses who would gladly be in the garden, but would not wander widely, or take the trouble to come to the gates. So I pitied them. I went further along the path by which I had come, still on the level, and went so fast that I soon came to some houses, where I supposed I should find the gardener's house. But I found there many people, each having his own room. They were slow. Two together they worked diligently, yet each had his own work. [The meaning may be either that working alone they were slow, but in twos they worked diligently; or two of them worked together and were diligent. Both amount to the same thing as we shall later realize.] But what they did, it seems, I had myself done before and all their work was familiar to me. Especially, thought I, see, if so many other people do so much dirty and sloppy work, that is only an appearance according to each one's conceit, but has no reason in Nature, so it may also be pardoned in you. I wished, therefore, because I knew such tricks vanished like smoke, to remain here no longer in vain and proceeded on my former way.
. After I had arrived at the gate of the garden, some on one side looked sourly at me, so that I was afraid they might hinder me in my project; but others said, "See, he will into the garden, and we have done garden service here so long, and have never gotten in; we will laugh him down if he fails." But I did not regard all that, as I knew the conditions of this garden better than they, even if I had never been in it, but went right to a gate that was tight shut so that one could neither see nor find a keyhole. I noticed, however, that a little round hole that with ordinary eyes could not be seen, was in the door, and thought immediately, that must be the way the door is opened, was ready with my specially prepared Diederich, unlocked and went in. When I was inside the door, I found several other bolted doors, which I yet opened without trouble. Here, however, was a passage way, just as if it was in a well built house, some six feet wide and twenty long, with a roof above. And though the other doors were still locked, I could easily see through them into the garden as the first door was open.
. I wandered into the garden in God's name, and found in the midst of it a small garden, that was square and six roods long, hedged in with rose thorns, and the roses bloomed beautifully. But as it was raining gently, and the sun shone in it, it caused a very lovely rainbow. When I had passed beyond the little garden and would go to the place where I was to help the maids, behold I was aware that instead of the walls a low hurdle stood there, and there went along by the rose garden the most beautiful maiden arrayed in white satin, with the most stately youth, who was in scarlet each giving arm to the other, and carrying in their hands many fragrant roses. I spoke to them and asked them how they had come over the hurdle. "This, my beloved bridegroom," said she, "has helped me over, and we are going now out of this beautiful garden into our apartment to enjoy the pleasures of love." "I am glad," said I, "that without any further trouble on my part your desires are satisfied; yet see how I have hurried, and have run so long a way in so short a time to serve you." After that I came into a great mill built inside of stones, in which were no flour bins or other things that pertained to grinding but one saw through the walls several water wheels going in water. I asked why it had equipment for grinding. An old miller answered that the mill was shut down on the other side. Just then I also saw a miller's boy go in from the sluice plank [Schutzensteg], and I followed after him. When I had come over the plank [Steg], which had the water wheels on the left, I stood still and was amazed at what I saw there. For the wheels were now higher than the plank, the water coal black, but its drops were yet white, and the sluice planks were not over three fingers wide. Still I ventured back and held onto the sticks that were over the sluice planks and so came safely and dry over the water. Then I asked the old miller how many water wheels he had. "Ten," answered he. The adventure stuck in my mind. I should have gladly known what the meaning was. But as I noticed that the miller would not leave I went away, and there was in front of the mill a lofty paved hill, on which were some of the previously mentioned elders who walked in the sun, which then shone very warm, and they had a letter from the whole faculty written to them, on which they were consulting. [In our modern mode of expression, the elders had directed a letter to the sun, and so I find the passage in an English version of the parable. This generally bungling translation is nevertheless not in the least authoritative. And although an acceptable meaning is derived from it, if one regards the sun as the just mentioned "prince," yet I believe a freer translation should be given ... the elders walked in the warm sunshine; they consulted about a letter written to them by the faculty.] I soon noticed what the contents must be, and that it concerned me. I went therefore to them and said, "Gentlemen, does it concern me?" "Yes," said they, "you must keep in marriage the woman that you have recently taken or we must notify our prince." I said, "that is no trouble as I was born at the same time as she and brought up as a child with her, and as I have taken her once I will keep her forever, and death itself shall not part us, for I have an ardent affection for her." "What have we then to complain of?" replied they. "The bride is content, and we have your will; you must copulate." "Contented," said I. "Well," said one, "the lion will then regain his life and become more powerful and mighty than before."
. Then occurred to me my previous trouble and labor and I thought to myself that for particular reasons it must not concern me but some other that is well known to me; then I saw our bridegroom and his bride go by in their previous attire, ready and prepared for copulation, which gave me great joy, for I was in great distress lest the thing might concern me.
. When, then, as mentioned, our bridegroom in his brilliant scarlet clothes with his dearest bride, whose white satin coat shot forth bright rays, came to the proper marriage age, they joined the two so quickly that I wondered not a little that this maid, that was supposed to be the mother of the bridegroom, was still so young that she appeared to be just born.
. Now I do not know what sin these two must have committed except that although they were brother and sister, they were in such wise bound by ties of love, that they could not be separated, and so, as it were, wished to be punished for incest. These two were, instead of a bride bed and magnificent marriage, condemned and shut up in an enduring and everlasting prison, which, because of their high birth and goodly state, and also so that in future they should not be guilty in secret, but all their conduct should be known to the guard placed over them and in his sight, was made quite transparent, bright and clear like a crystal, and round like a sphere of heaven, and there they were with continual tears and true contrition to atone and make reparation for their past misdeeds. [Instead of to a bride bed the two were brought to a prison, so that their actions could be watched. The prison was transparent; it was a bright crystal clear chamber, like a sphere of heaven, corresponding to the high position of the two persons.] Previously, however, all their rare clothing and finery that they had put on for ornament was taken away, so that in such a chamber they must be quite naked and merely dwell with each other. [It is not directly understood by these words that a cohabitation in modern sense (coition) is meant. According to modern language the passage must be rendered, "had to dwell near each other naked and bare." One is reminded, moreover, of the nuptial customs that are observed particularly in the marriage of persons of high birth. In any case and, in spite of my reservation, what occurs is conducive or designed to lead to the sexual union.] Besides they gave them no one that had to go into the chamber to wait on them, but after they put in all the necessities in the way of meat and drink, which were created from the afore mentioned water, the door of the chamber was fast bolted and locked, the faculty seal impressed on it and I was enjoined that I should guard them here, and spend the winter before the door; the chamber should be duly warmed so that they be neither too hot nor too cold, and they could neither come out nor escape. But should they, on account of any hope of breaking this mandate, escape, I would thereupon be justly subjected to heavy punishment. I was not pleased by the thing, my fear and solicitude made me faint hearted, for I communed with myself that it was no small thing that had befallen me, as I knew also that the college of wisdom was accustomed not to lie but to put into action what it said. Yet because I could not change it, beside which this locked chamber stood in the center of a strong tower and surrounded with strong bulwarks and high walls, in which one could with a small but continuous fire warm the whole chamber, I undertook this office, and began in God's name to warm the chamber, and protect the imprisoned pair from the cold. But what happened? As soon as they perceived the slightest warmth they embraced each other so tenderly that the like will not soon be seen, and stayed so hot that the young bridegroom's heart in his body dissolved for ardent love, also his whole body almost melted in his beloved's arms and fell apart. When she who loved him no less than he did her, saw this, she wept over him passionately and, as it were buried him with her tears so that one could not see, for her gushing tears that overflowed everything, where he went. Her weeping and sorrowing had driven her to this in a short time, and she would not for deep anguish of heart live longer, but voluntarily gave herself to death. Ah woe is me. In what pain and need and trouble was I that my two charges had quite disappeared in water, and death alone was left for me. My certain destruction stood before my eyes, and what was the greatest hardship to me, I feared the threatened shame and disgrace that would happen to me, more than the injury that would overtake me.
. As I now passed several days in such solitude and pondered over the question how I could remedy my affairs, it occurred to me how Medea had revived the dead body of Aeson, and I thought to myself, "If Medea could do such a thing, why should such a thing fail me?" I began at once to bethink me how I would do it, found however no better way than that I should persist with continual warmth until the waters disappeared, and I might see again the corpses of our lovers. As I hoped to come off without danger and with great advantage and praise I went on with my warmth that I had begun and continued it forty whole days, as I was aware that the water kept on diminishing the longer I kept it up, and the corpses that were yet as black as coal, began again to be visible. And truly this would have occurred before if the chamber had not been all too securely locked and bolted. Which I yet did not avail to open. For I noted particularly that the water that rose and hastened to the clouds, collected above in the chamber and fell down like rain, so that nothing could come of it, until our bridegroom with his dearest bride, dead and rotten, and therefore hideously stinking, lay before my eyes.
All the while the sunshine in the moist weather caused an exceedingly beautiful rainbow to be seen, in the chamber, with surprisingly beautiful colors, which overjoyed not a little my overpowering affliction. Much more was I delighted that I saw my two lovers lying before me again. But as no joy is so great but is mixed with much sadness, so I was troubled in my joy thinking that my charges lay still dead before me, and one could trace no life in them. But because I knew that their chamber was made of such pure and thick material, also so tight-locked that their soul and spirit could not get out, but was still closely guarded within, I continued with my steady warmth day and night, to perform my delegated office, quite impressed with the fact that the two would not return to their bodies, as long as the moisture continued. For in the moist state nature keeps itself the same, as I then also found in fact and in truth. For I was aware upon careful examination that from the earth at evening through the power of the sun, many vapors arose and drew themselves up just as the sun draws water. They were condensed in the night in a lovely and very fruitful dew, which very early in the morning fell and moistened the earth and washed our dead corpses, so that from day to day, the longer such bathing and washing continued, the more beautiful and whiter they became. But the fairer and whiter they became, the more they lost moisture, till finally the air being bright and beautiful, and all the mist and moist weather, having passed, the spirit and soul of the bride could hold itself no longer in the bright air, but went back into the clarified and still more transfigured body of the queen, who soon experienced it [i.e. her soul and spirit] and at once lived again. This, then, as I could easily observe, not a little pleased me, especially as I saw her arise in surpassingly costly garments whose like was never seen on earth, and with a precious crown decked with bright diamonds; and also heard her speak. "Hear ye children of men and perceive ye that are born of women, that the most high power can set up kings and can remove kings. He makes rich and poor, according to his will. He kills and makes again to live."
. See in me a true and living example of all that. I was great and became small, but now after having been humbled, I am a queen elevated over many kingdoms. I have been killed and made to live. To poor me have been trusted and given over the great treasures of the sages and the mighty.
. "Therefore power is also given me to make the poor rich, show kindness to the lowly, and bring health to the sick. But I am not yet like my well-beloved brother, the great and powerful king, who is still to be awakened from the dead. When he comes he will prove that my words are true."
. And when she said that the sun shone very bright, and the day was warmer than before, and the dog days were at hand. But because, a long time before, there were prepared for the lordly and great wedding of our new queen many costly robes, as of black velvet, ashen damask, gray silk, silver taffeta, snow white satin, even one studded with surpassingly beautiful silver pieces and with precious pearls and lordly bright-gleaming diamonds, so likewise different garments were arranged and prepared for the young king, namely of carnation, yellow Auranian colors, precious gear, and finally a red velvet garment with precious rubies and thickly incrusted with carbuncles. But the tailors that made their clothes were quite invisible, so that I also wondered as I saw one coat prepared after another and one garment after another, how these things came to pass, since I well knew that no one came into the chamber except the bridegroom with his bride. So that what I wondered at most of all was that as soon as another coat or garment was ready, the first immediately vanished before my eyes, so that I knew not whence they came or who had taken them away.
. When now this precious clothing was ready, the great and mighty king appeared in great splendor and magnificence, to which nothing might be compared. And when he found himself shut in, he begged me with friendly and very gracious words, to open the door for him and permit him to go out; it would prove of great advantage to me. Although I was strictly forbidden to open the chamber, yet the grand appearance and the winning persuasiveness of the king disconcerted me so that I cheerfully let him go. And when he went out he was so friendly and so gracious and yet so meek that he proved indeed that nothing did so grace high persons as did these virtues.
. But because he had passed the dog days in great heat, he was very thirsty, also faint and tired and directed me to dip up some of the swift running water under the mill wheels, and bring it, and when I did, he drank a large part with great eagerness, went back into his chamber, and bade me close the door fast behind him, so that no one might disturb him or wake him from sleep.
. Here he rested for a few days and called to me to open the door. Methought, however, that he was much more beautiful, more ruddy and lordly, which he then also remarked and deemed it a lordly and wholesome water, drank much of it, more than before so that I was resolved to build the chamber much larger. [Evidently because the inmate increased in size.] When now the king had drunk to his satisfaction of this precious drink, which yet the unknowing regard as nothing he became so beautiful and lordly, that in my whole life I never saw a more lordly person nor more lordly demeanor. Then he led me into his kingdom, and showed me all the treasures and riches of the world, so that I must confess, that not only had the queen announced the truth, but also had omitted to describe the greater part of it as it seemed to those that know it. For there was no end of gold and noble carbuncle there; rejuvenation and restoration of natural forces, and also recovery of lost health, and removal of all diseases were a common thing in that place. The most precious of all was that the people of that land knew their creator, feared and honored him, and asked of him wisdom and understanding, and finally after this transitory glory an everlasting blessedness. To that end help us God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.
The author of the preceding narrative calls it a parable. Its significance may have indeed appeared quite transparent to him, and he presupposes that the readers of his day knew what form of learning he masked in it. The story impresses us as rather a fairy story or a picturesque dream. If we compare parables that come nearer to our modern point of view and are easily understood on account of their simplicity, like those of Ruckert or those of the New Testament, the difference can be clearly seen. The unnamed author evidently pursues a definite aim; one does find some unity in the bizarre confusion of his ideas; but what he is aiming at and what he wishes to tell us with his images we cannot immediately conceive. The main fact for us is that the anonymous writer speaks in a language that shows decided affinity with that of dreams and myths. Therefore, however we may explain in what follows the peculiarly visionary character of the parable, we feel compelled to examine it with the help of a psychological method, which, endeavoring to get from the surface to the depths, will be able to trace analytically the formative powers of the dream life and allied phenomena, and explain their mysterious symbols.
I have still to reveal in what book and in what circumstances the parable appears. It is in the second volume of a book "Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer aus dem 16ten und 17ten Jahrhundert," published at Altona about 1785-90. Its chief contents are large plates with pictorial representations and with them a number of pages of text. According to a note on the title page, the contents are "for the first time brought to light from an old manuscript." The parable is in the second volume of a three-volume series which bears the subtitle: Ein gueldener Tractat vom philosophischen Steine. Von einem noch lebenden, doch ungenannten Philosopho, den Filiis doctrinae zur Lehre, den Fratribus Aureae Crucis aber zur Nachrichtung beschrieben. Anno, M.D.C.XXV.
If I add that this book is an hermetic treatise (alchemistic), it may furnish a general classification for it, but will hardly give any definite idea of its nature, not merely on account of the oblivion into which this kind of writing has now fallen, but also because the few ideas usually connected with it produce a distorted picture. The hermetic art, as it is treated here, the principles of which strike us to-day as fantastic, is related to several "secret" sciences and organizations, some of which have been discredited: magic, kabbala, rosicrucianism, etc. It is particularly closely connected with alchemy so that the terms "hermetic art" and "alchemy" (and even "royal art") are often used synonymously. This "art"—to call it by the name that not without some justification it applies to itself—leads us by virtue of its many ramifications into a large number of provinces, which furnish us desirable material for our research.
So I will first, purposely advancing on one line, regard the parable as a dream or a fairy tale and analyze it psychoanalytically. This treatment will, for the information of the reader, be preceded by a short exposition of psychoanalysis as a method of interpretation of dreams and fairy tales. Then I will, still seeking for the roots of the matter, introduce the doctrines that the pictorial language of the parable symbolizes. I will give consideration to the chemical viewpoint of alchemy and also the hermetic philosophy and its hieroglyphic educational methods.
Connections will be developed with religious and ethical topics, and we shall have to take into account the historical and psychological relations of hermetic thought with rosicrucianism in its various forms, and freemasonry. And when we begin, at the conclusion of the analytical section of my work, to apply to the solution of our parable and of several folk tales the insight we have gained, we shall be confronted with a problem in which we shall face two apparently contradictory interpretations, according to whether we follow the lead of psychoanalysis or of the hermetic, hieroglyphic solution. The question will then arise whether and how the contradiction occurs. How shall we bring into relation with each other and reconcile the two different interpretations which are quite different and complete in themselves?
The question arising from the several illustrations expands into a general problem, to which the synthetic part of my book is devoted. This will, among other considerations, lead us into the psychology of symbol-making where again the discoveries of psychoanalysis come to our aid. We shall not be satisfied with analysis, but endeavor to follow up certain evolutionary tendencies which, expressed in psychological symbols, developing according to natural laws, will allow us to conjecture a spiritual building up or progression that one might call an anabasis. We shall see plainly by this method of study how the original contradiction arises and how what was previously irreconcilable, turns out to be two poles of an evolutionary process. By that means, several principles of myth interpretation will be derived.
I have just spoken of an anabasis. By that we are to understand a forward movement in a moral or religious sense. The most intensive exemplar of the anabasis (whatever this may be) is mysticism. I can but grope about in the psychology of mysticism; I trust I may have more confidence at that point where I look at its symbolism from the ethical point of view.
Dream And Myth Interpretation.
[Readers versed in Freud's psychoanalysis are requested to pass over this chapter as they will find only familiar matter.]
In the narrative which we have just examined its dream-like character is quite noticeable. On what does it depend? Evidently the Parable must bear marks that are peculiar to the dream. In looking for correspondences we discover them even upon superficial examination.
Most noticeable is the complete and sudden change of place. The wanderer, as I will hereafter call the narrator of the parable, sees himself immediately transported from the place near the lion's den to the top of a wall, and does not know how he has come there. Later he comes down just as suddenly. And in still other parts of the story there occurs just as rapid changes of scene as one is accustomed to in dreams. Characteristic also is the fact that objects change or vanish; the shift of scene resembles also, as often in a dream, a complete transformation. Thus, for instance, as soon as the wanderer has left the wall, it vanishes without leaving a trace, as if it had never been. A similar change is also required in the garden scene where, instead of the previously observed enclosing-wall, a low hedge appears in a surprising manner.
Further, we are surprised by instances of knowledge without perception. Often in a dream one knows something without having experienced it in person. We simply know, without knowing how, that in such a house something definite and full of mystery has happened; or we know that this man, whom we see now for the first time, is called so and so; we are in some place for the first time but know quite surely that there must be a fountain behind that wall to which for any reason we have to go, etc. Such unmediated knowledge occurs several times in the parable. In the beginning of the narrative the wanderer, although a stranger, knows that the lovely meadow is called by its inhabitants Pratum felicitatis. He knows intuitively the name of one of the men unknown to him. In the garden scene he knows, although he has noticed only the young men, that some young women (whom on account of the nature of the place he cannot then see) are desirous of going into the garden to these young men. One might say that all this is merely a peculiarity of the representation inasmuch as the author has for convenience, or on account of lack of skill, or for brevity, left out some connecting link which would have afforded us the means of acquiring this unexplained knowledge. The likeness to the dream therefore would in that case be inadmissible. To this objection it may be replied, that the dream does exactly like the author of the parable. Our study is chiefly concerned with the product of the fancy and forces us to the observation (whatever may be the cause of it) that the parable and the dream life have certain "peculiarities of representation" in common.
In contrast to the miraculous knowledge we find in the dream a peculiar unsureness in many things, particularly in those which concern the personality of the wanderer. When the elders inform the wanderer that he must marry the woman that he has taken, he does not know clearly whether the matter at all concerns him or not; a remarkable fluctuation in his attitude takes place. We wonder whether he has taken on the role of the bridegroom or, quite the reverse, the bridegroom has taken the wanderer's. We are likewise struck by similar uncertainties, like those during the walk on top of the wall where the wanderer is followed by some one, of whom he does not know whether it is a man or a woman. Here belong also those passages of the narrative introduced by the wanderer with "as if," etc. In the search for the gardener's house he chances upon many people and "it seems" that he has himself done what these people are there doing.
Quite characteristic also are the different obstructions and other difficulties placed in the path of the wanderer. Even in the first paragraph of the narrative we hear that he is startled, would gladly turn back, but cannot because a strong wind prevents him. On top of the wall the railing makes his progress difficult; on other occasions a wall, or a door. The first experience, especially, recalls those frequent occurrences in dreams where, anxiously turning in flight or oppressed by tormenting haste, we cannot move. In connection with what is distressing and threatening, as described in the precipitous slope of the wall and the narrow plank by the mill, belong also the desperate tasks and demands—quite usual in dreams and myths—that meet the wanderer. Among such tasks or dangers I will only mention the severe examination by the elders, the struggle with the lion, the obligation to marry, and the burden of responsibility for the nuptial pair, all of which cause the wanderer so much anxiety.
Among the evident dream analogies belongs finally (without, however, completing my list of them) the peculiar logic that appears quite conventional to the wanderer or the dreamer, but seldom satisfies the reader or the careful reasoner. As examples, I mention that the dead lion will be called to life again if the wanderer marries the woman that he recently took; and that they put the two lovers that they want to punish for incest, after they have carefully removed all the clothes from their bodies, into a prison where these lovingly embrace.
So much for the external resemblances of the parable with the dream life. The deeper affinity which can be shown in its innermost structure will first appear in the psychoanalytic treatment. And now it will be advisable for me to give readers not intimately acquainted with dream psychology some information concerning modern investigations in dream life and in particular concerning psychoanalytic doctrines and discoveries. Naturally I can do this only in the briefest manner. For a more thorough study I must refer the reader to the work of Freud and his school. The most important books are mentioned in the bibliography at the end.
Modern scientific investigation of dreams, in which Freud has been a pioneer, has come to the conclusion, but in a different sense from the popular belief, that dreams have a significance. While the popular belief says that they foretell something of the future, science shows that they have a meaning that is present in the psyche and determined by the past. Dreams are then, as Freud's results show, always wish phantasies. [I give here only exposition, not criticism. My later application of psychoanalysis will show what reservations I make concerning Freud's doctrines.] In them wishes, strivings, impulses work themselves out, rising to the surface from the depths of the soul. When they come in waking life, wish phantasies are sometimes called castles in the air. In dreams we have the fulfillment of wishes that are not or cannot be fulfilled.
But the impulses that the dreams call up are principally such wishes and impulses as we cannot ourselves acknowledge and such as in a waking state we reject as soon as they attempt to announce themselves, as for instance, animal tendencies or such sexual desires as we are unwilling to admit, and also suppressed or "repressed" impulses. As a result of being repressed they have the peculiarity of being in general inaccessible to consciousness. [Freud speaks particularly of crassly egoistic actuations. The criminal element in them is emphasized by Stekel.]
One not initiated into dream analysis may object that the obvious evidence is against this theory. For the majority of dreams picture quite inoffensive processes that have nothing to do with impulses and passions which are worthy of rejection on either moral or other grounds. The objection appears at first sight to be well founded, but collapses as soon as we learn that the critical power of morality, which does not desert us by day, retains by night a part of its power; and that therefore the fugitive impulses and tendencies that seek the darkness and dare not come forth by day, dare not even at night unveil their true aspect but have to approach, as it were, in costumes, or disguised as symbols or allegories, in order to pass unchallenged. The superintending power, that I just now called the power of morality, is compared very pertinently to a censor. What our psyche produces is, so to speak, subjected to a censor before it is allowed to emerge into the light of consciousness. And if the fugitive elements want to venture forth they must be correspondingly disguised, in order to pass the censor. Freud calls this disguising or paraphrasing process the dream disfigurement. The literal is thereby displaced by the figurative, an allusion intimated through a nebulous atmosphere. Thus, in the following example, an unconscious death wish is exhibited. In the examination of a lady's dream it struck me that the motive of a dead child occurred repeatedly, generally in connection with picnics. During an analysis the lady observed that when she was a girl the children, her younger brothers and sisters, were often the obstacles when it was proposed to have a party or celebration or the like. The association Kinder (= children) Hinderniss (= obstacle) furnished the key to a solution of the stereotyped dream motive. As further indications showed, it concerned the children of a married man whom she loved. The children prevented the man separating from his wife in order to marry the lady. In waking life she would not, of course, admit a wish for the death of the embarrassing children, but in dreams the wish broke through and represented the secretly wished situation. The children are dead and nothing now stands in the way of the "party" or the celebration (wedding). The double sense of the word "party" is noticeable. (In German "eine Partie machen" means both to go on an excursion and to make a matrimonial match.) Such puns are readily made use of by dreams, in order to make the objectionable appear unobjectionable and so to get by the censor.
Psychoanalytic procedure, employed in the interpretation of dreams of any person can be called a scientifically organized confession that traces out with infinite patience even to the smallest ramifications, the spiritual inventory of what was tucked away in the mind of the person undergoing it. Psychoanalysis is used in medical practice to discover and relieve the spiritual causes of neurotic phenomena. The patient is induced to tell more and more, starting from a given point, thereby going into the most intimate details, and yet we are aware, in the network of outcropping thoughts and memories, of certain points of connection, which have dominating significance for the affective life of the person being studied. Here the path begins to be hard because it leads into the intimately personal. The secret places of the soul set up a powerful opposition to the intruder, even without the purposive action of the patient. Right there are, however, so to speak, the sore spots (pathogenic "complexes") of the psyche, towards which the research is directed. Firmly advancing in spite of the limitations, we lay bare these roots of the soul that strive to cling to the unconscious. Those are the disfigured elements just mentioned; all of the items of the spiritual inventory from which the person in question has toilsomely "worked himself out" and from which he supposes himself free. They must be silent because they stand in some contradictory relation to the character in which the person has clothed himself; and if they, the subterranean elements still try to announce themselves, he hurls them back immediately into their underworld; he allows himself to think of nothing that offends too much his attitudes, his morality and his feelings. He does not give verbal expression to the disturbers of the peace that dwell in his heart of hearts.
The mischief makers are, however, merely repressed, not dead. They are like the Titans [On this similarity rests the psychologic term "titanic," used frequently by me in what follows.] which were not crushed by the gods of Olympus, but only shut up in the depths of Tartarus. There they wait for the time when they can again arise and show their faces in daylight. The earth trembles at their attempts to free themselves. Thus the titanic forces of the soul strive powerfully upward. And as they may not live in the light of consciousness they rave in darkness. They take the main part in the procreation of dreams, produce in some cases hysterical symptoms, compulsion ideas and acts, anxiety neuroses, etc. The examination of these psychic disturbances is not without importance for our later researches.
Psychoanalysis, which has not at any time been limited to medical practice, but soon began with its torch to illumine the activity of the human spirit in all its forms (poetry, myth-making, etc.), was decried as pernicious in many quarters. [The question as to how widely psychoanalysis may be employed would at this time lead us too far, yet it will be considered in Sect. 1, of the synthetic part of this volume.] Now it is indeed true that it leads us toward all kinds of spiritual refuse. It does so, however, in the service of truth, and it would be unfortunate to deny to truth its right to justify itself. Any one determined to do so could in that case defend a theory that sexual maladies are acquired by catching a cold.
The spiritual refuse that psychoanalysis uncovers is like the manure on which our cultivated fruits thrive. The dark titanic impulses are the raw material from which in every man, the work of civilization forms an ethical character. Where there is a strong light there are deep shadows. Should we be so insincere as to deny, because of supposed danger, the shadows in our inmost selves? Do we not diminish the light by so doing? Morality, in whose name we are so scrupulous, demands above everything else, truth and sincerity. But the beginning of all truth is that we do not impose upon ourselves. "Know thyself" is written over the entrance of the Pythian sanctuary. And it is this inspiring summons of the radiant god of Delphi that psychoanalysis seeks to meet.
After this introductory notice, it will be possible properly to understand the following instructive example, which contains exquisite sexual symbolism.
Dream of Mr. T. "I dreamed I was riding on the railroad. Near me sat a delicate, effeminate young man or boy; his presence caused erotic feelings in me to a certain extent. (It appeared as if I put my arm about him.) The train came to a standstill; we had arrived at a station and got out. I went with the boy into a valley through which ran a small brook, on whose bank were strawberries. We picked a great many. After I had gathered a large number I returned to the railway and awoke."
Supplementary communication. "I think I remember that an uncomfortable feeling came over me in the boy's company. The valley branched off to the left from the railway."
From a discussion of the dream it next appeared that T., who, as far as I knew, entertained a pronounced aversion to homosexuality, had read a short time before a detailed account of a notorious trial then going on in Germany, that was concerned with real homosexual actions. [In consciousness, of course. In the suppressed depths of unconsciousness the infantile homosexual component also will surely be found.] An incident from it, probably supported by some unconscious impulse, crowded its way into the dream as an erotic wish, hence the affectionate scene in the railway train. So far the matter would be intelligible even if in an erotic day dream the image of a boy, considering the existing sexual tendency of T., had been resolutely rejected by him. How are the other processes in the dream related to it? Do they not at first sight appear unconnected or meaningless?
And yet in them are manifested the fulfillment of the wish implied in the erotic excitement in the company of the boy. The homosexual action of this wish fulfillment would have been insufferable to the dream censor; it must be intimated symbolically. And the remainder of the dream is accordingly nothing but a dextrous veiling of a procedure hostile to the censor.
Even that the train comes to a standstill is a polite paraphrase. [Paraphrase as the dreamer communicated to me, of an actual physical condition—an erection.] Similar meaning is conveyed by the word station, which reminds us of the Latin word status (from stare, to stand). The scene in the car recalls moreover the joke in a story which often used to occur to T. "A lady invited to a reception, where there were also young girls, a Hungarian [accentuated now, on account of what follows] (the typical Vienna joker), who is feared on account of his racy wit. She enjoined him at the same time, in view of the presence of the girls, not to treat them to any of his spicy jests. The Hungarian agreed and appeared at the party. To the amazement of the lady, he proposed the following riddle: ''One can enter from in front, or from behind, only one has to stand up.' Observing the despair of the lady, he, with a sly, innocent look, said, 'But well then, what is it? Simply a trolley car.' Next day the daughter of the house appeared before her schoolmates in the high school with the following:''Girls, I heard a great joke yesterday; one can go in from in front or behind, only one must be stiff.' " [A neat contribution, by the way, to the psychology of innocent girlhood.] The anecdote was related to T. by a man later known to him as a homosexual. T. had been with few Hungarians, but with these few, homosexuality had been, as it happened, a favorite subject of conversation.
In the above we find many highly suggestive elements. The most suggestive is, however, the strawberries. T. had, as appeared during the process of the analysis, a couple of days before the dream read a French story where the expression (new to him) cueillir des fraises occurred. He went to a Frenchman for the explanation of this phrase and learned that it was a delicate way of speaking of the sexual act, because lovers like to go into the woods under the pretext of picking strawberries, and thus separate themselves from the rest of the company. In whatever way the dream wish conceived its gratification, the valley (between the two hills!) through which the brook flowed furnishes a quite definite suggestion. Here also the above mentioned "from behind" probably gets a meaning.
The circumstance that the dream has, as it were, two faces, with one that it openly exposes to view, implies that a distinction must be made between the manifest and the latent material. The openly exposed face is the manifest dream content (as the wording of the dream report represents the dream); what is concealed is the latent dream thoughts. For the most part a broad tissue of dream thoughts is condensed into a dream. A part of the dream thoughts (not all) belongs regularly to the titanic elements of our psyche. The shaping of the dream out of the dream thoughts is called by Freud the dream work. Four principles direct it, Condensation, Displacement, Representability, and Secondary Elaboration.
Condensation was just now mentioned. Many dream thoughts are condensed to relatively few, but therefore all the more significant, images. Every image (person, object, etc.) is wont to be "determined" by several dream thoughts. Hence we speak of multiple determination or "Overdetermination."
Displacement shows itself in the fact that the dream (evidently in the service of distortion) pushes forward the unreal and pushes aside the real; in short, rearranges the psychic values (interest) in such a way that the dream in comparison with its latent thoughts appears as it were displaced or "elsewhere centered."
As the dream is a perceptual representation it must put into perceptually comprehensible form everything that it wants to express, even that which is most abstract. The tendency to vividly perceptual or plastic expression that is characteristic of the dream, corresponds accordingly to the Representability.
To the Secondary Elaboration we have to credit the last polishing of the dream fabric. It looks after the logical connection in the pictorial material, which is created by the displacing dream work. "This function (i.e., the secondary elaboration) proceeds after the manner which the poet maliciously ascribes to the philosopher; with its shreds and patches it stops the gaps in the structure of the dream. The result of its effort is that the dream loses its appearance of absurdity and disconnectedness and approaches the standard of a comprehensible experience. But the effort is not always crowned with complete success." (Freud, "Traumdeutung," p. 330.) The secondary elaboration can be compared also to the erection of a facade.
Of the entire dreamwork Freud says ("Traumdeutung," p. 338) comprehensively that it is "not merely more careless, more incorrect, more easily forgotten or more fragmentary than waking thought; it is something qualitatively quite different and therefore not in the least comparable with it. It does not, in fact, think, reckon, or judge, but limits itself to remodeling. It may be exhaustively described if we keep in view the conditions which its productions have to satisfy. These productions, the dream, will have first of all to avoid the censor, and for this purpose the dream work resorts to displacement of psychic intensities even to the point of changing all psychic values; thoughts must be exclusively or predominantly given in the material of visual and auditory memory images, and from this grows that demand for representability which it answers with new displacements. Greater intensities must apparently be attained here, than are at its disposal in dream thoughts at night, and this purpose is served by the extreme condensation which affects the elements of the dream thoughts. There is little regard for the logical relations of the thought material; they find finally an indirect representation in formal peculiarities of dreams. The affects of dream thoughts suffer slighter changes than their image content. They are usually repressed. Where they are retained they are detached from images and grouped according to their similarity."
Briefly to express the nature of the dream, Stekel gives in one place ("Sprache des Traumes," p. 107) this concise characterization: "The dream is a play of images in the service of the affects."
A nearly exact formula for the dream has been contributed by Freud and Rank, "On the foundation and with the help of repressed infantile sexual material, the dream regularly represents as fulfilled actual wishes and usually also erotic wishes in disguised and symbolically veiled form." (Jb.; ps. F., p. 519, and Trdtg., p. 117.) In this formula the wish fulfillment, following Freud's view, is preponderant, yet it would appear to me that it is given too exclusive a role in the (chiefly affective) background of the dream. An important point is the infantile in the dream, in which connection we must mention the Regression.
Regression is a kind of psychic retrogression that takes place in manifold ways in the dream (and related psychic events). The dream reaches back towards infantile memories and wishes. [Sometimes this is already recognizable in the manifest dream content. Usually, however, it is first disclosed by psychoanalysis. Strongly repressed, and therefore difficult of access, is this infantile sexual material. On the infantile forms of sexuality, see Freud, "Three Contributions to Sexual Theory."] It reaches back also from the complicated and completed to a more primitive function, from abstract thought to perceptual images, from practical activity to hallucinatory wish fulfillment. [The latter with especial significance in the convenience dreams. We fall asleep, for instance, when thirsty, then instead of reaching for the glass of water, we dream of the drink.] The dreamer thus approaches his own childhood, as he does likewise the childhood of the human race, by reaching back for the more primitive perceptual mode of thought. [On the second kind of regression the Zurich psychiatrist, C. G. Jung, has made extraordinary interesting revelations. His writings will further occupy our attention later.]
Nietzsche writes ("Menschliches, Allzumenschliches"), "In sleep and in dreams we pass through the entire curriculum of primitive mankind.... I mean as even to-day we think in dreams, mankind thought in waking life through many thousand years; the first cause that struck his spirit in order to explain anything that needed explanation satisfied him and passed as truth. In dreams this piece of ancient humanity works on in us, for it is the germ from which the higher reason developed and in every man still develops. The dream takes us back into remote conditions of human culture and puts in our hand the means of understanding it better. The dream thought is now so easy because, during the enormous duration of the evolution of mankind we have been so well trained in just this form of cheap, phantastic explanation by the first agreeable fancy. In that respect the dream is a means of recovery for the brain, which by day has to satisfy the strenuous demands of thought required by the higher culture." (Works, Vol. II, pp. 27 ff.)
If we remember that the explanation of nature and the philosophizing of unschooled humanity is consummated in the form of myths, we can deduce from the preceding an analogy between myth making and dreaming. This analogy is much further developed by psychoanalysis. Freud blazes a path with the following words: "The research into these concepts of folk psychology [myths, sagas, fairy stories] is at present not by any means concluded, but it is apparent everywhere from myths, for instance, that they correspond to the displaced residues of wish phantasies of entire nations, the dreams of ages of young humanity." (Samml. kl. Lehr. II, p. 205.) It will be shown later that fairy stories and myths can actually be subjected to the same psychologic interpretation as dreams, that for the most part they rest on the same psychological motives (suppressed wishes, that are common to all men) and that they show a similar structure to that of dreams.
Abraham (Traum und Mythus)(1) has gone farther in developing the parallelism of dream and myth. For him the myth is the dream of a people and a dream is the myth of the individual. He says, e.g., "The dream is (according to Freud) a piece of superseded infantile, mental life" and "the myth is a piece of superseded infantile, mental life of a people"; also, "The dream then, is the myth of the individual." Rank conceives the myths as images intermediate between collective dreams and collective poems. "For as in the individual the dream or poem is destined to draw off unconscious emotions that are repressed in the course of the evolution of civilization, so in mythical or religious phantasies a whole people liberates itself for the maintenance of its psychic soundness from those primal impulses that are refractory to culture (titanic), while at the same time it creates, as it were, a collective symptom for taking up all repressed emotion." (Inz-Mot., p. 277. Cf. also Kunstl., p. 36.)
A definite group of such repressed primal impulses is given a prominent place by psychoanalysis. I refer to the so-called OEdipus complex that plays an important role in the dream life as also in myth and apparently, also in creative poetry. The fables (sagas, dramas) of OEdipus, who slays his father and marries his mother are well known. According to the observations of psychoanalysis there is a bit of OEdipus in every one of us. [These OEdipus elements in us can—as I must observe after reading Imago, January, 1913—be called "titanic" in the narrower sense, following the lead of Lorenz. They contain the motive for the separation of the child from the parents.] The related conflicts, that in their entirety constitute the OEdipus complex (almost always unconscious, because actively repressed) arise in the disturbance of the relation to the parents which every child goes through more or less in its first (and very early) sexual emotions. "If king OEdipus can deeply affect modern mankind no less than the contemporary Greeks, the explanation can lie only in the fact that the effect of the Greek tragedy does not depend on the antithesis between fate and the human will, but in the peculiarity of the material in which this antithesis is developed. There must be a voice in our inner life which is ready to recognize the compelling power of fate in the case of OEdipus, while we reject as arbitrary the situations in the Ahnfrau or other destiny tragedies. And such an element is indeed contained in the history of king OEdipus. His fate touches us only because it might have been ours, because the oracle hung the same curse over us before our birth as over him. For us all, probably, it is ordained that we should direct our first sexual feelings towards our mothers, the first hate and wish for violence against our fathers. Our dreams convince us of that. King OEdipus, who has slain his father Laius and married his mother Jocasta, is only the wish-fulfillment of our childhood. But more fortunate than he, we have been able, unless we have become psychoneurotic, to dissociate our sexual feelings from our mothers and forget our jealousy of our fathers. From the person in whom that childish wish has been fulfilled we recoil with the entire force of the repressions, that these wishes have since that time suffered in our inner soul. While the poet in his probing brings to light the guilt of OEdipus, he calls to our attention our own inner life, in which that impulse, though repressed, is always present. The antithesis with which the chorus leaves us
See, that is OEdipus, Who solved the great riddle and was peerless in power, Whose fortune the townspeople all extolled and envied. See into what a terrible flood of mishap he has sunk.
This admonition hits us and our pride, we who have become in our own estimation, since the years of childhood, so wise and so mighty. Like OEdipus, we live in ignorance of the wishes that are so offensive to morality, which nature has forced upon us, and after their disclosure we should all like to turn away our gaze from the scenes of our childhood." (Freud, Trdtg., p. 190 f.)
Believing that I have by this time sufficiently prepared the reader who was unfamiliar with psychoanalysis for the psychoanalytic part of my investigation, I will dispense with further time-consuming explanations.
Psychoanalytic Interpretation Of The Parable.
Although we know that the parable was written by a follower of the hermetic art, and apparently for the purpose of instruction, we shall proceed, with due consideration, to pass over the hermetic content of the narrative, which will later be investigated, and regard it only as a play of free fantasy. We shall endeavor to apply to the parable knowledge gained from the psychoanalytic interpretation of dreams, and we shall find that the parable, as a creation of the imagination, shows at the very foundations the same structure as dreams. I repeat emphatically that in this research, in being guided merely by the psychoanalytic point of view, we are for the time being proceeding in a decidedly one-sided manner.
In the interpretation of the parable we cannot apply the original method of psychoanalysis. This consists in having a series of seances with the dreamer in order to evoke the free associations. The dreamer of the parable—or rather the author—has long ago departed this life. We are obliged then to give up the preparatory process and stick to the methods derived from them. There are three such methods.
The first is the comparison with typical dream images. It has been shown that in the dreams of all individuals certain phases and types continually recur, and in its symbolism have a far reaching general validity, because they are manifestly built on universal human emotions. Their imaginative expression is created according to a psychical law which remains fairly unaffected by individual differences.
The second is the parallel from folk psychology. The inner affinity of dream and myth implies that for the interpretation of individual creations of fancy, parallels can profitably be drawn from the productions of the popular imagination and vice versa.
The third is the conclusions from the peculiarities of structure of the dream (myth, fairy tale) itself. In dreams and still more significantly in the more widely cast works of the imagination creating in a dream-like manner, as e.g., in myths and fairy tales, one generally finds motives that are several times repeated in similar stories even though with variations and with different degrees of distinctness. [Let this not be misunderstood. I do not wish to revive the exploded notion that myths are merely the play of a fancy that requires occupation. My position on the interpretation of myths will be explained in Part I. of the synthetic part.] It is then possible by the comparison of individual instances of a motive, to conclude concerning its true character, inasmuch as one, as it were, completes in accordance with their original tendency the lines of increasing distinctness in the different examples, and thus—to continue the geometric metaphor—one obtains in their prolongations a point of intersection in which can be recognized the goal of the process toward which the dream strives, a goal, however, that is not found in the dream itself but only in the interpretation.
We shall employ the three methods of interpretation conjointly. After all we shall proceed exactly as psychoanalysis does in interpretation of folk-lore. For in this also there are no living authors that we can call and question. We have succeeded well enough, however, with the derived methods. The lack of an actual living person will be compensated for in a certain sense by the ever living folk spirit and the infinite series of its manifestations (folk-lore, etc.). The results of this research will help us naturally in the examination of our parable, except in so far as I must treat some of the conclusions of psychoanalysis with reserve as problematic.
Let us now turn to the parable. Let us follow the author, or as I shall call him, the wanderer, into his forest, where he meets his extraordinary adventures.
I have just used a figure, "Let us follow him into his forest." This is worthy of notice. I mean, of course, that we betake ourselves into his world of imagination and live through his dreams with him. We leave the paths of everyday life, in order to rove in the jungle of phantasy. If we remember rightly, the wanderer used the same metaphor at the beginning of his narrative. He comes upon a thicket in the woods, loses the usual path.... He, too, speaks figuratively. Have we almost unaware, in making his symbolism our own, partially drawn away the veil from his mystery? It is a fact confirmed by many observations [Cf. my works on threshold symbolism—Schwellensymbolik, Jahrb. ps. F. III, p. 621 ff., IV, p. 675 ff.] that in hypnagogic hallucinations (dreamy images before going to sleep), besides all kinds of thought material, the state of going to sleep also portrays itself in exactly the same way that in the close of a dream or hypnotic illusions on awakening, the act of awakening is pictorially presented. The symbolism of awakening brings indeed pictures of leave taking, departing, opening of a door, sinking, going free out of a dark surrounding, coming home, etc. The pictures for going to sleep are sinking, entering into a room, a garden or a dark forest.
The fairy story also used the same forest symbol. Whether on sinking into sleep I have the sensation of going into a dark forest or whether the hero of the story goes into a forest (which to be sure has still other interpretations), or whether the wanderer in the parable gets into a tangle of underbrush, all amounts to the same thing; it is always the introduction into a life of phantasy, the entrance into the theater of the dream. The wanderer, if he had not chosen for his fairy tale the first person, could have begun as follows: There was once a king whose greatest joy was in the chase. Once as he was drawn with his companions into a great forest, and was pursuing a fleet stag, he was separated from his followers, and went still further from the familiar paths, so that finally he had to admit that he had lost his way. Then he went farther and farther into the woods until he saw far off a house....
The wanderer comes through the woods to the Pratum felicitatis, the Meadow of Felicity, and there his adventures begin. Here, too, our symbolism is maintained; by sleeping or the transition to revery we get into the dream and fairy tale realm, a land to which the fulfillment of our keenest wishes beckons us. The realm of fairy tales is indeed—and the psychoanalyst can confirm this statement—a Pratum felicitatis, in spite of all dangers and accidents which we have there to undergo.
The dream play begins and the interpretation, easy till now, becomes more difficult. We shall hardly be able to proceed in strictly chronological order. The understanding of the several phases of the narrative does not follow the sequence of their events. Let us take it as it comes.
The wanderer becomes acquainted with the inhabitants of the Pratum felicitatis, who are discussing learned topics, he becomes involved in the scientific dispute, and is subjected to a severe test in order to be admitted to the company. The admission thus does not occur without trouble but rather a great obstacle is placed in the way of it. The wanderer tells us that his examiners hauled him over the coals, an allegorical metaphor, taken possibly from the ordeal by fire. In these difficulties the attaining of the end meets us in the first instance in a series of analogous events, where the wanderer sees himself hindered in his activities in a more or less painful, and often even a dangerous manner. After a phase marked by anxiety the adventure turns out uniformly well and some progress is made after the obstruction at the beginning. As a first intimation of the coming experiences we may take up the obstacles in the path in the first section of the parable, which are successfully removed, inasmuch as the wanderer soon after reaches the lovely region (Sec. 3).
The psychology of dreams has shown that obstacles in the dream correspond to conflicts of will on the part of the dreamer, which is exactly as in the morbid restraint of neurotics. Anxiety develops when a suppressed impulse wishes to gratify itself, to which impulse another will, something determined by our culture, is opposed prohibitively. Obstructed satisfaction creates anxiety instead of pleasure. Anxiety may then be called also a libido with a negative sign. Only when the impulse in question knows how to break through without the painful conflict, can it attain pleasure—which is the psychic (not indeed the biologic) tendency of every impulse emanating from the depths of the soul. The degrees of the pleasure that thus exists in the soul may be very different, even vanishingly small, a state of affairs occurring if the wish fulfilling experience has through overgrowth of symbolism lost almost all of its original form. If we follow the appearances of the obstruction motive in the parable, and find the regular happy ending already mentioned, then we can maintain it as a characteristic of the phantasy product in question, that not only in its parts but also in the movement of the entire action, it shows a tendency from anxiety towards untroubled fulfillment of wishes.
As for the examination episode, to which we have now advanced in our progressive study of the narrative, we can now take up a frequently occurring dream type; the Examination Dream. Almost every one who has to pass severe examinations, experiences even at subsequent times when the high school or university examinations are far in the past, distressing dreams filled with the anxiety that precedes an examination. Freud (Trdtg., p. 196 ff.) clearly says that this kind of dream is especially the indelible memories of the punishments which we have suffered in childhood for misdeeds and which make themselves felt again in our innermost souls at the critical periods of our studies, at the Dies irae, dies ilia of the severe examinations. After we have ceased to be pupils it is no longer as at first the parents and governesses or later the teachers that take care of our punishment. The inexorable causal nexus of life has taken over our further education, and now we dream of the preliminaries or finals; whenever we expect that the result will chastise us, because we have not done our duty, or done something incorrectly, or whenever we feel the pressure of responsibility. Stekel's experience is also to be noticed, confirmed by the practice of other psychoanalysts, that graduation dreams frequently occur if a test of sexual power is at hand. The double sense of the word matura (= ripe) (that may also mean sexual maturity) may also come to mind as the verbal connecting link for the association. In general the examination dreams may be the expression of an anxiety about not doing well or not being able to do well; in particular they are an expression of a fear of impotence. It should be noted here that not only in the former but in the latter case the fear has predominantly the force of a psychic obstruction.
For the interpretation of the examination scene also, we note the fairy tale motif so frequently appearing of a hard-won prize, i.e., any story in which a king or a potentate proposes a riddle or a task for the hero. If the hero solves or accomplishes it, he generally wins, besides other precious possessions, a woman or a princess, whom he marries. In the case of a heroine the prize is a beautiful prince. The motif of the hard-won prize matches the later appearance of obstacles in the Parable. The nature of the prize is, for the present at any rate, a matter of indifference.
A second edition of the examination scene meets us in the 6th section as the battle with the lion. The advance from the anxiety phase to the fulfillment phase appears clearly and the emotions of the wanderer are more strongly worked out. The difficulty at the beginning is indicated in the preceding conversation where no one will advise him how he is to begin with the beast, but all hold out guidance for a later time when he shall have once bound the lion. The beginning of the fight causes the wanderer much trouble. He "is amazed at his own temerity," would gladly turn back from his project, and he can "hardly restrain his tears for fear." He fortifies himself, however, develops brilliant abilities and comes off victor in the fray. A gratification derived from his own ability is unmistakable. The scene, as well as a variation of the preceding examination, adds to it some essentially new details. The displacement of the early opponents (i.e., the examining elders) by another (the lion) is not really new. It is a mere compensation, although, as we shall see later, a very instructive one. Entirely new is the result of the battle. After killing the lion the victor brings to light white bones and red blood from his body. Note the antithesis, white and red. It will occur again. If we think of saga and fairy lore parallels, the dragon fight naturally comes to mind. The victorious hero has to free a maiden who languishes in the possession of an ogre. The anatomizing of the dead lion finds numerous analogies in those myths and fairy tales in which dismemberment of the body appears. It will be dealt with fully later on.
As the next obstacle in the parable we meet the difficult advance on the wall. (Para. 7 and 8.) We have here again an obstruction to progress in the narrower sense as in Sec. 1, but with several additions. The wall, itself a type of embarrassment, reaches up to the clouds. Whoever goes up so high may fall far. The way on top is "Not a foot in width" and an iron hand rail occupies some of that space. The walking is therefore uncomfortable and dangerous. The railing running in the middle of it divides the path and so produces two paths, a right and a left. The right path is the more difficult. Who would not in this situation think of Hercules at the cross roads? The conception of right and left as right and wrong, good and bad, is familiar in mythical and religious symbolism. That the right path is the narrower [Matth. VII, 13, 14] or more full of thorns is naturally comprehensible. In dreams the right-left symbolism is typical. It has here a meaning similar to its use in religion, probably however, with the difference that it is used principally with reference to sexual excitements of such a character that the right signifies a permitted (i.e., experienced by the dreamer as permissible), the left, an illicit sexual pleasure. Accordingly it is, e.g., characteristic in the dream about strawberry picking in the preceding part of the book, that the valley, sought by the dreamer and the boy, "in order to pick strawberries there" turns off to the left from the road, not to the right. The sexual act with a boy appears even in dreams as something illicit, indecent, forbidden. In the parable the wanderer goes from right to left, gets into difficulties by doing so, but knows, as always, how to withdraw successfully.
From the wall the wanderer comes to a rose tree, from which he breaks off white and red roses. Notice the white and red. The victory over the lion has yielded him white bones and red blood, the passing through the dangers on the wall now yields him white and red roses. The similarity in the latter case is particularly marked by his putting them in his hat.
Again in the course of the next sections (9-11) there are obstacles. There a wall is set up against the wanderer. On account of that he has, in order to gain entrance for the maidens into the company in the garden, to go a long way round. Arriving at the door, he finds it locked and is afraid that the people standing about will prevent his entrance or laugh at him. But the first difficulty is barely removed, by the magic opening of the first gate, when the now familiar change from the anxiety phase to the fulfillment phase occurs. The wanderer traverses the corridor without trouble but his eyes glance ahead of him and he sees through the still closed door, as if it were glass, into the garden. What result has this success over the difficulties yielded him? Where is the usual white and red reward? We do not have to look long. In Sec. 11 it is recorded, "When I had passed beyond the little garden [in the center of the larger garden] and was going to the place where I was to help the maidens, behold, I was aware that instead of the wall, a low hurdle stood there, and there went by the rose garden, the most beautiful maiden arrayed in white satin with the most stately youth who was in scarlet, each giving arm to the other, and carrying in their hands many fragrant roses. 'This, my dearest bridegroom,' said she, 'has helped me over and we are now going out of this lovely garden into our chamber to enjoy the pleasures of love.' " Here the parallel with the fairy tale is complete, and reveals the characteristic of the prize that rewards him. The red and the white reveal themselves as man and woman, and the last aim is, as the just quoted passage clearly shows, and the further course of the narrative fully indicates, the sexual union of both. Even the rest of the fairy tale prizes are not lacking—kingdoms, riches, happiness. And if they are not dead they are still living.... The narrative has yielded a complete fulfillment of wishes; the longing for love and power has attained its end. That the wanderer does not experience the acquired happiness immediately in his own person, but that the representation of happy love is in the most illustrative manner developed in the union of two other persons, is naturally a peculiarity of the narration. It is found often enough in dreams. The ego of the dreamer is in such a case replaced by a "split-off" person, through whom the dream evokes its dramatic pageantry. It is as if the parable tried to say the hero has won his happy love through struggle; two are, however, needful for love, a man and a woman, so let us quickly create a pair. Apart from the fact that the reward must evidently fall to the hero who has won it, the identity of the wanderer with the king in the parable is abundantly demonstrated, even if somewhat paraphrased. The secret of the dramatizing craft of the narrative is most clearly exposed in the conclusion of Sec. 11, where the elders, with the letter of the faculty in their hands, reveal to the wanderer that he must marry the woman he has taken, which he furthermore cheerfully promises them to do.
So far all would be regular and we might think, on superficial examination, that the psychoanalytic solution of the parable was ended. How far from being the case! We have interpreted only the upper stratum and will see a problem show itself that invites us to press on into the deeper layers of the phantasy fabric before us.
We have noticed that in the parable much, even the most important, is communicated only by symbols and by means of allusions. Its previously ascertained latent content [corresponding to the latent dream thoughts] will in the manifest form be transcribed in different and gradually diminishing disguises. Also a displacement (dream displacement) has taken place. Now the dream or the imagination working in dreams does nothing without purpose and even though according to its nature (out of "regard for presentability") it has to favor the visual in all cases, the tendency toward the pictorial does not explain such a systematic series of disguises and such a determinate tendency as that just observed by us. The representation of the union of man and woman is strikingly paraphrased. First as blood and bones—a type of intimate vital connection; they belong to one body, just as two lovers are one and as later the bridal pair also melt into one body. Then as two kinds of roses that bloom on one bush. The wanderer breaks the rose as the boy does the wild rose maiden. And hardly is the veil of the previous disguise lifted, hardly have we learned that the wanderer has taken a woman (Sec. 11), when the affair is again hushed just as it is about to be dramatized (cf. Sec. 12), so that apparently another enjoys the pleasures of love. This consequent concealment must have a reason. Let us not forget the striking obstacles which the wanderer experiences again and again and which we have not yet thoroughly examined. The symbolism of the dream tells us that such obstacles correspond to conflicts of the will. What kind of inner resistance may it be that checks the wanderer at every step on his way to happy love? We suspect that the examinations have an ethical flavor. This appears to some extent in the right-left symbolism; then in the experience at the mill, which we have not yet studied, where the wanderer has to pass over a very narrow plank, the ethical symbolism of which will be discussed later; and in the striking feeling of responsibility which the wanderer has for the actions of the bridal pair in the crystal prison, which gives us the impression that he had a bad conscience. Altogether we cannot doubt that the dream—the parable—has endeavored, because of the censor, to disguise the sexual experiences of the wanderer. We can be quite certain that it will be said that the sexual as such will be forbidden by the censor. That is, however, not the case. The account is outspoken enough, and not the least prudish; the bridal pair embrace each other naked, penetrate each other and dissolve in love, melt in rapture and pain. Who could ask more? Therefore the sexual act itself could not have been offensive to the censor. The whole machinery of scrupulousness, concealment and deterrent objects, which stand like dreadful watchmen before the doors of forbidden rooms, cannot on the other hand be causeless. So the question arises: What is it that the dream censor in the most varied forms [lion, dangerous paths, etc.] has so sternly vetoed?
In the strawberry dream related in the preceding section, we have seen that a paraphrase of the latent dream content appears at the moment when a form of sexual intercourse, forbidden to the dreamer by the dream censor, was to be consummated. (Homosexual intercourse.) Most probably in the parable also there is some form of sexuality rejected by the censor. What may it be? Nothing indicates a homosexual desire. We shall have to look for another erotic tendency that departs from the normal. From several indications we might settle upon exhibitionism. This is, as are almost all abnormal erotic tendencies, also an element of our normal psychosexual constitution, but it is, if occurring too prominently, a perversity against which the censor directs his attacks. The incidents of the parable that indicate exhibitionism are those where the wanderer sees, through locked doors (Sec. 10) or walls (Sec. 11), objects that can be interpreted as sexual symbols. The miraculous sight corresponds to a transferred wish fulfillment. The supposition that exhibitionism is the forbidden erotic impulse element that we were looking for is, however, groundless, if we recollect that these very elements appear most openly in the parable. In Sec. 14 the wanderer has the freest opportunity to do as he likes. Still the question arises, what is the prohibited tendency? No very great constructive ability is required to deduce the answer. The wording of the parable itself furnishes the information. In Sec. 14 we read, "Now I do not know what sin these two have committed except that although they were brother and sister they were so united in love that they could not again be separated and so, as it were, required to be punished for incest." And in another passage (Sec. 13), "After our bridegroom ... with his dearest bride ... came to the age of marriage, they both copulated at once and I wondered not a little that this maiden, that yet was supposed to be the bridegroom's mother, was still so young."
The sexual propensity forbidden by the censor is incest. That it can be mentioned in the parable in spite of the censor is accounted for by the exceedingly clever and unsuspected bringing about of the suggestion. Dreams are very adroit in this respect, and the same cleverness (apparently unconscious on the part of the author) is found in the parable, which is in every way analogous to the dream. Incest can be explicitly mentioned, because it is attributed to persons that have apparently nothing to do with the wanderer. That the king in the crystal prison is none other than the wanderer himself, we indeed know, thanks to our critical analysis. The dreamer of the dream does not know it. For him the king is a different person, who is alone responsible for his actions; although in spite of the clear disguise, some feeling of responsibility still overshadows the wanderer, a peculiar feeling that has struck us before, and now is explained.
Later we shall see that from the beginning of the parable, incest symbols are in evidence. Darkly hinted at first they are later somewhat more transparent, and in the very moment when they remove the last veil and attain a significance intolerable for the censor, exactly at that psychologic moment the forbidden action is transferred to the other, apparently strange, person.
A similar process, of course, is the change of situation in the strawberry dream at the exact moment when the affair begins to seem unpleasant to the dreamer. This becoming unpleasant can be beautifully followed out in the parable. The critical transition is found exactly in one of those places where the representation appears most confused. It is in this way that the weakest points of the dream surface are usually constituted. Those are the places where the outer covering is threadbare and exposes a nakedness to the view of the analyzer.
The critical phase of the parable begins in the 11th section. The elders consult over a letter from the faculty. The wanderer notices that the contents concern him and asks, "Gentlemen, does it have to do with me?" They answer, "Yes, you must marry your woman that you have recently taken." Wanderer: "That is no trouble; for I was, so to speak, born [how subtle!] with her and brought up from childhood with her." Now the secret of the incest is almost divulged. But it is at once effectually retracted. In Sec. 12 we read, "So my previous trouble and toil fell upon me and I bethought myself that from strange causes [these strange causes are the dream censor who, ruling in the unconscious, effects the displacements that follow], it cannot concern me but another that is well known to me [in truth a well-known other]. Then I see our bridegroom with his bride in the previous attire going to that place ready and prepared for copulation and I was highly delighted with it. For I was in great anxiety lest the affair should concern me." The anxiety is quite comprehensible. It is just on account of its appearance that the displacement from the wanderer to the other person takes place. Further in Sec. 13: "Now after ... our bridegroom ... with his dearest bride ... came to the age of marriage [The aim with which the censor performs his duties and effects the dream displacement is, says Freud (Trdtg., p. 193), 'to prevent the development of anxiety or other form of painful affect'.] they both copulated ... and I wondered not a little that this maiden, that was supposed to be actually the mother of the bridegroom, was still so young...." Now when the transfer has taken place, the thought of its being the mother is hazarded; whereas formerly a mere suggestion of a sister had been offered. Section 14 explicitly mentions incest and even arranges the punishment of the guilt. In this form the matter can, of course, be contemplated without troubling the conscience or being further represented pictorially.
The sister, alternating in the narrative with the mother, is only a preliminary to the latter. As we find that the OEdipus complex [Rather an attenuation, which occurs frequently, not merely in dream psychology, but also in modern mythology.] is revived in the parable, let us bring the latter into still closer relation with the fairy tales and myths to which we have compared it. The woman sought and battled for by the hero appears, in its deeper psychological meaning, always to be the mother. The significance of the incest motive has been discovered on the one hand by the psychoanalysts (in particular Rank, who has worked over extensive material), on the other by the investigators of myths. That many modern mythologists lay most stress in this discovery upon the astral or meteorological content and do not draw the psychological conclusions is another matter that will be discussed later. But in passing it may be noted that the correspondence in the discovered material (motives) is the more remarkable as it resulted from working in the direction of quite different purposes.
It is now time to examine the details of the parable in conformity with the main theme just stated and come to a definite interpretation. Henceforward we may keep to a chronological order.
The threshold symbolism in the beginning of the parable has already been given, also the obstacles that are indicative of a psychic conflict. We might rest satisfied with that, yet a more complete interpretation is quite possible, in which particular images are shown to be overdetermined. The way is narrow, overgrown with bushes, and leads to the Pratum felicitatis. That, according to a typical dream symbolism, is also a part of the female body. The obstacles in the way we recognize as a recoil from or impediment to incest; so it is evident that a definite female body, namely that of the mother, is meant. The penetration leads to the Pratum felicitatis, to blissful enjoyment. In fairy lore the sojourn in the forest generally signifies death or the life in the underworld. Wilhelm Muller, for example, writes, "As symbols of similar significance we have the transformation into swans or other birds, into flowers, the exposure in the forest, the life in the glass mountain, in a castle, in the woods.... All imply death and life in the underworld." The underworld is, when regarded mythologically, not only the land where the dead go, but also whence the living have come; thence for the individual, and in particular for our wanderer, the uterus of the mother. It is significant that the wanderer, as he strolls along, ponders over the fall of our first parents and laments it. The fall of the parents was a sexual sin. That it was incest besides, will be considered later. The son who sees in his father his rival for his mother is sorry that the parents belong to each other. A sexual offense (incest) caused the loss of paradise. The wanderer enters the paradise, the Pratum felicitatis. [Garden of Joy, Garden of Peace, Mountain of Joy, etc., are names of paradise. Now it is particularly noteworthy that the same words can signify the beloved. (Grimm, D. Mythol., II, pp. 684 ff., Chap. XXV, 781 f.)] The path thither is not too rough for him (Sec. 2).