Category Archives: Psychology

The Earth


. . . . One night when I had tasted bitterness I went out on to the hill. Dark heather checked my feet. Below marched the suburban street lamps. Windows, their curtains drawn, were shut eyes, inwardly watching the lives of dreams. Beyond the seas’s level darkness a lighthouse pulsed. Overhead, obscurity.

I distinguished our own house, our islet in the tumultuous and bitter currents of the world. There, for a decade and a half, we two, so different in quality, had grown in and in to one another, for mutual support and nourishment, in intricate symbiosis. There daily we planned our several undertakings, and recounted the day’s oddities and vexations. There letters piled up to be answered, socks to be darned. There the children were born, those sudden new lives. There, under that roof, our own two lives, recalcitrant sometimes to one another, were all the while thankfully one, one larger, more conscious life than either alone.

All this, surely, was good. Yet there was bitterness. And bitterness not only invaded us from the world; it welled up also within our own magic circle. For horror at our futility, at our own unreality, and not only at the world’s delirium, had driven me out on to the hill.

We were always hurrying from one little urgent task to another, but the upshot was unsubstantial. Had we, perhaps, misconceived our whole existence? Were we, as it were, living from false premises? And in particular, this partnership of ours, this seemingly so well-based fulcrum for activity in the world, was it after all nothing but a little eddy of complacent and ingrown domesticity, ineffectively whirling on the surface of the great flux, having in itself no depth of being, and no significance? Had we perhaps after all deceived ourselves? Behind those rapt windows did we, like so many others, indeed live only a dream? In a sick world even the hale are sick. And we two, spinning our little life mostly by rote, seldom with clear cognizance, seldom with firm intent, were products of a sick world.

Yet this life of ours was not all sheer and barren fantasy. Was it not spun from the actual fibres of reality, which we gathered in with all the comings and goings through our door, all our traffic with the suburb and the city and with remoter cities, and with the ends of the earth? And were we not spinning together an authentic expression of our own nature? Did not our life issue daily as more or less firm threads of active living and mesh itself into the growing web, the intricate, ever-proliferating pattern of mankind?

I considered “us” with quiet interest and a kind of amused awe. How could I describe our relationship even to myself without either disparaging it or insulting it with the tawdry decoration of sentimentality? For this our delicate balance of dependence and independence, this coolly critical, shrewdly ridiculing, but loving mutual contact, was surely a microcosm of true community, was after all in its simple style an actual and living example of that high goal which the world seeks.

The whole world? The whole universe? Overheard, obscurity unveiled a star. One tremulous arrow of light, projected how many thousands of years ago, now stung my nerves with vision, and my heart with fear. For in such a universe as this what significance could there be in our fortuitous, our frail, our evanescent community?

But now irrationally I was seized with a strange worship, not, surely of the star, that mere furnace which mere distance falsely sanctified, but of something other, which the dire contrast of the star and us signified to the heart. Yet what, what could thus be signified? Intellect, peering beyond the star, discovered no Star Maker, but only darkness; no Love, no Power even, but only Nothing. And yet the heart praised.

– Olaf Stapledon [from Starmaker, 1937]

On Work


Work is something to be greatly desired, something to be praised and lauded by us all – our life-long friend, the giver of all gifts, the creator of everything we shall ever need or desire. And surely, with such thoughts in mind, our love for work will become deep and true. Then we shall gain the power to work even better – with greater capacity and talent – even with genius: for an intense love of work usually gives birth to genius.

Work for a great idea, and you arouse great ideas in your own mind. Great ideas produce great thoughts, and great thoughts produce great men. A man is exactly what he thinks himself to be. Therefore, the man who thinks great thoughts must necessarily become a great man, and the simplest way for anyone to form the habit of thinking great thoughts is to work for great ideas.

The man who shirks does not grow. The man who works poorly will remain small in mind. The man who works in the wrong concept of work will tire and wear out.

When you work simply for yourself, or for your own personal gain, your mind will seldom rise above the limitations of an undeveloped personal life. But when you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: your mind transcends limitiations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.

The majority work to make a living; some work to acquire wealth or fame, while a few work because there is something within them which demands expression. The majority dislike work. Only a few truly love it. Nearly everybody wearies of work and there is only a limited number that gain streangth from work. The average person works because he has to, so that it is the exceptional one who works because he want to. When we dream of Utopia we picture it as a place where there is less work and more pleasure, and the highest heaven is supposed to be a realm where one does nothing. With this idea of work, the multitudes are eternally longing for rest, but this longing is seldom satisfied because their whole conception of work is based on lies and falsehood.

To get something without working for it – that seems to be the acme of delight. But why is the desire to get something for nothing so strong in so many minds? For no other reason that this: we do not understand the true nature of work, and therefore dislike it. When we learn to understand work, however, and learn how to work, we shall go to our work with just as much delight as we go to our pleasure. And when we consider the real purpose of work and discover the work that builds the man [or woman], we will consider it a far greater privilege to work for everything we need or desire, than to go to a free mine and take all the gold we can carry away.

– E. B. Szekely (?)


. . . . Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man would have dreamt would have come his way.

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

– W. H. Murray


Voluntary Action vs. Compulsion



Militarily things seem pretty much the same today as 73 years ago – only not so much so. The inner laws of Nature, however, are still exactly the same.

Two thousand Allied bombers drop hundreds of tons of flaming death on German cities. The four great powers meet at Dumbarton Oaks to agree on means for maintaining peace in the world. Eight thousand Japanese exterminated on Pelieliu Island. Thousands of tons of food supplies and clothing distributed to the war indigent in Italy, France and Greece.

Those, and similar contrasting newspaper headlines, run through the mind, as wending a somewhat weary way from the great city, the peace and quiet of the wayside is gratefully received. What does it all mean? This destroying with one hand and constructing and helping with the other.

The answer to all problems can be found by a communing with Nature, as long as we do not qualify it by placing that word HUMAN before it. Nature requires a rather close observation at times. So it is that we can note that all growth, whether vegetable or animal, all evolution or change of form, seems to be controlled by two great laws. One is Voluntary Action and the other is Compulsion.

It does not seem to matter much which law is allowed to hold its sway, the results seem to be the same. However, we note that the law of Compulsion is generally accompanied by sufferings, while that of Voluntary Action always seems to be a joyous affair.

Another thing to be noted is that whenever Voluntary Action is spurned, the very effects of such spurning is what produces the manifestations of Compulsion. An entity partakes of too much food, repudiating self-control, voluntarily exercised. Such nausea is produced that COMPULSION causes abstinence, until balance is once more restored. Therefore, the Law of Compulsion is not enforced by exterior forces, but merely produced by the throwing aside of the Divine Law of Voluntary Action.

In Nature, if it be studied with the Seeing Eye, it will be found that the Mineral Kingdom is ruled by the Law of Compulsion alone. In the Vegetable Kingdom, Voluntary Action makes its appearance, but faintly. Many botanical species have appeared and disappeared on account of it, but the Vegetable Kingdom, as a whole, has wonderfully progressed, since the days of the primitive fungi and gigantic tree ferns.

In the Animal Kingdom, Voluntary Action becomes more perceptible, as locomotion, the ability to change position has entered the life picture. Pity the poor plant, over-shadowed by the growing tree: it cannot move over into the sunshine, but has to make the best of it. Partly by Voluntary Action, partly by Compulsion, many a plant has grown into a tree that has overshadowed the tree that almost snuffed it out of existence. Sometimes, it is itself snuffed out of existence. In the Human Kingdom, having locomotion, as well as self-conscious mind, the Law of Voluntary action becomes supreme, the Law of Compulsion only lurks in the shadows of man’s creation, ready with its whip-lash to drive him onward and upward, if he will not move on his own intiative.

Now read again the first paragraph, and see if you can reconcile the conflicting actions, in the light of the Law of Compulsion, acting through the man-made destruction, compelling man to do what he should have done voluntarily.

Moral: Man advances, willy-nilly. With joy in his heart, voluntarily, or under the whip-lash of the Law of Compulsion.
And that’s just simple Theosophy.

– The Wayfarer [Maj. Hubert S. Turner]

– From “Thoughts by the Wayside,” Theosophia, Nov.-Dec., 1944

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Ambition vs. Attainment


                                             – G. C. LeGros

“Oh, not the men of pomp and guile,
The crafty and the bold,
The haughty men who never smile,
And men who live for gold;
But broken men with hands that bleed
And souls by anguish rent . . . . ”

On the first page of Light on the Path we read the number one rule for disciples – “Kill out ambition.” The Adept-author explains that “Ambition is the first curse: the great tempter of the man who is rising above his fellows. It is the simplest form of looking for reward. Men of intelligence and power are led away from their higher possibilities by it continually. Yet it is a necessary teacher. Its results turn to dust and ashes in the mouth; like death and estrangement it shows the man at last that to work for self is to work for disappointment.”

Ambition may even persist in the life of the occultists “…who fancies he has removed his interest from self, but who has in reality only enlarged the limits of experience and desire, and transferred his interest to the things which concern his larger span of life.” We see this everywhere – “astral projection,” “psychic powers,” “third-eye clairvoyance,” “hypnotic control over others, ” etc.  Ambition is a hydra-headed thing.

In another book – Fragments of Life and Thought – the same Adept points out that “…not until the man has triumphed again and again in one incarnation after another, not until success has become tedious to him, and the high places of the earth all seem low and poor to him, is he beginning to be ready to go beyond it. And only so can it be killed out. “Man must go on struggling for earthly prizes until he reaches the point “…where the excelling of his fellows becomes suddenly and forever contemptible in his eyes, beneath the dignity and greatness of his soul, and then he will kill out ambition and cast it from him as a weed of earth. He will perceive that the strength which he has developed must be used, not in order to excel, but in the endeavor to attain.”

Attainment is different from Ambition because the latter fires one with a passion to out-distance all others striving for the same goal. The ambitious man is by necessity personal, jealous, envious, and ruthless – in other words, a menace to the world because he sows discord. To realize his aims he will stop at nothing save that which imperils his own preservation. And sometimes he will risk even that, like Shakespeare’s soldier “… seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon’s mouth.”

Attainment, on the other hand, is a reaching out from self to SELF, from the finite to the Infinite, from the conditioned to the Unconditioned. The man who attains finds no rivals at his side, no single prize waiting at the end of the race. He moves in Eternity, where there is room for all.

Ambition is the effort of man to add to himself some coveted fragment of Earth, hoping thereby to exalt and increase his stature before others; but Attainment is the giving of oneself to the Whole.

A good example is the poet who wins first prize in an important contest. At the reception which follows, he receives honor and praise, and for a little hour feels as a god among men. But he also looks upon the faces of other poets who had competed and lost. They regard him as a thief, a usurper of the prize they sought, and which, in their opinion, they deserve.

He also thinks of next year’s contest, and wonders if he will win again, or only receive honorable mention, or no mention at all. Instead of rejoicing in his triumph, he finds himself under a cloud of apprehension. Victory is not the splendid thing he had envisioned.

Looking back, he sees that writing the poem was Attainment; but competing and winning the prize was Ambition. In the joy of creating something beautiful, he reached out of himself into the starry spaces where the Gods of Glory sing, and where, for a moment, he was one with their song.

But winning the prize and humbling his rivals, was an earthly thing that compressed his soul, and imprisoned him in a little world made by the littleness of men, where Ambition is king, demanding its terrible price.

The poet should sing as a bird sings – not for reward, but to Attain, to reach out from self to Infinity. The poet can be taken as a symbol of all men because everyone strives to express what he is – what is in him – either to win something from the world that may be added unto himself, or to give something of himself to the world. Each man is, by nature, either a taker or a giver.

The taker, following the path of Ambition, loses with every step because he violates the Supreme Order of the Universe, which is Duty, Service, and Cooperation. The giver, following the path of Attainment, wins with every step because he acts in keeping with the Harmony of the Whole, thereby enriching himself, because he is the Universe.

Attainment is the foundation of the Ultimate Discipline of Life. “Work as those work who are ambitious.” Make the utmost of the life that is yours; but seek no personal victories which, once realized, crush those around you. Regard men not as rivals, but as fellow pilgrims walking beside you on the Eternal Highway. Help them to attain with you, to become whole with you, and all the treasures of the Universe will be yours!

(from “Messiah”)


What is Truth?


                – H. P. Blavatsky

“What is truth?” asked Pilate of one who, if the claims of the Christian Church are even approximately correct, must have known it. But he kept silent. And the truth which He did not divulge remained unrevealed, for his later followers as much as for the Roman Governor. The silence of Jesus, however, on this and other occasions, does not prevent his present followers from acting as though they had received the ultimate and absolute Truth itself, and from ignoring the fact that only such Words of Wisdom had been given them as contained a share of the truth, itself concealed in parables and dark, though beautiful, sayings. * (* Jesus says to the “twelve” – “Unto you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, all things are done in parables,” etc, Mark, iv, 11.)

This policy led gradually to dogmatism and assertion. Dogmatism in churches, dogmatism in science, dogmatism everywhere. The possible truths, hazily perceived in the world of abstractions, like those inferred from observation and experiment in the world of matter, are forced upon the profane multitudes, too busy to think for themselves, under the form of Divine revelation and Scientific authority. But the same question stands open from the days of Socrates and Pilate down to our own age of wholesale negation: is there such a thing as absolute truth in the hands of any one party or man? Reason answers, “there cannot be.” There is no room for absolute truth upon any subject whatsoever, in a world as finite and conditioned as man is himself. But there are relative truths, and we have to make the best we can of them.

In every age there have been Sages who had mastered the absolute and yet could teach but relative truths. For none yet, born of mortal woman in our race, has, or could have given out, the whole and final truth to another man, for every one of us has to find that (to him) final knowledge in himself. As no two minds can be absolutely alike, each has to receive the supreme illumination through itself, according to its capacity, and from no human light. The greatest adept living can reveal of the Universal truth only so much as the mind he is impressing it upon can assimilate, and no more. Tot homines, aquot sententiae – – is an immortal truism. The sun is one, but its beams are numberless; and the effects produced are beneficent or maleficent, according to the nature and constitution of the objects they shine upon. Polarity is universal, but the polarizer lies in our own consciousness. In proportion as our consciousness is elevated towards absolute truth, so do we men assimilate it more or less absolutely. But man’s consciousness again, is only the sunflower of the earth. Longing for the warm ray, the plant can only turn to the sun, and move round and round in following the course of the unreachable luminary: its roots keep it fast to the soil, and half its life is passed in the shadow.

Still each of us can relatively reach the Sun of Truth even on this earth, and assimilate its warmest and most direct rays, however differentiated they may become after their long journey through the physical particles in space.. To achieve this, there are two methods. On the physical plane we may use our mental polariscope; and, analyzing the properties of each ray, choose the purest. On the plane of spirituality, to reach the Sun of Truth we must work in dead earnest for the development of our higher nature. We know that by paralyzing gradually within ourselves the appetites of the lower personality, and thereby deadening the voice of the purely physiological mind – that mind which depends upon, and is inseparable from, its medium or vehicle, the organic brain – the animal man in us may make room for the spiritual; and once aroused from its latent state, the highest spiritual senses and perceptions grow in us in proportion, and develop pari passu with the “divine man.” This is what the great adepts, the Yogis in the East and the Mystics in the West, have always done and are still doing.

But we also know that with a few exceptions, no man of the world, no materialist, will ever believe in the existence of such adepts, or even in the possibility of such spiritual and psychic development. “The (ancient) fool hath said in his heart, there is no God”; the modern says, “There are no adepts on earth, they are figments of your diseased fancy.”

… It thus follows that, though “general abstract truth is the most precious of all blessings” for many of us, as it was for Rousseau, we have, meanwhile, to be satisfied with relative truths. In sober fact, we are a poor set of mortals at best, ever in dread before the face of even a relative truth, lest it should devour ourselves and our petty little preconceptions along with us. As for an absolute truth, most of us are as incapable of seeing it as of reaching the moon on a bicycle. Firstly, because absolute truth is as immovable as the mountain of Mohammed, which refused to disturb itself for the prophet, so that he had to go to it himself. And we have to follow his example if we would approach it even at a distance. Secondly, because the kingdom of absolute truth is not of this world, while we are too much of it. And thirdly, because notwithstanding that in the poet’s fancy man is

“…..the abstract
Of all perfection, which the workmanship
Of heaven hath modeled ……”

in reality he is a sorry bundle of anomalies and paradoxes, an empty windbag inflated with his own importance, with contradictory and easily influenced opinions. He is at once an arrogant and weak creature, which, though in constant dread of some authority, terrestrial or celestial, will yet –

“….like an angry ape,
Play such fantastic tricks before high Heaven
As make the angels weep.”

Now, since truth is a multifaced jewel, the facets of which it is impossible to perceive all at once; and since, again, no two men, however anxious to discern truth, can see even one of those facets alike, what can be done to help them to perceive it? As physical man, limited and trammeled from every side by illusions, cannot reach truth by the light of his terrestrial perceptions, we say – develop in you the inner knowledge. From the time when the Delphic oracle said to the enquirer “Man, know thyself,” no greater or more important truth was ever taught. Without such a perception, man will remain ever blind to even many a relative, let alone absolute, truth. Man has to know himself, i.e., acquire the inner perceptions which never deceive, before he can master any absolute truth. Absolute truth is the symbol of Eternity, and no finite mind can ever grasp the eternal, hence, no truth in its fullness can ever dawn upon it. To reach the state during which man sees and senses it, we have to paralyze the sense of the external man of clay. This is a difficult task, we may be told, and most people will, at this rate, prefer to remain satisfied with relative truths, no doubt. But to approach even terrestrial truths requires, first of all, love of truth for its own sake, for otherwise no recognition of it will follow. And who loves truth in this age for its own sake? How many of us are prepared to search for, accept, and carry it out, in the midst of a society in which anything that would achieve success has to be built on appearances, not on reality, on self-assertion, not on intrinsic value?

We are fully aware of the difficulties in the way of receiving truth. The fair heavenly maiden descends only on a (to her) congenial soil – the soil of an impartial, unprejudiced mind, illuminated by pure Spiritual Consciousness; and both are truly rare dwellers in civilized lands. In our century … when man lives at a maddening speed that leaves him barely time for reflection, he allows himself usually to be drifted down from cradle to grave, nailed to the Procrustean bed of custom and conventionality. Now conventionality – pure and simple – is a congenital LIE, as it is in every case a “simulation of feelings according to a received standard” (F.W. Robertsons definition); and where there is any simulation there cannot be any truth. How profound the remark made by Byron, that “truth is a gem that is found at a great depth; whilst on the surface of this world all things are weighed by the false scales of custom,” is best known by those who are forced to live in the stifling atmosphere of such social conventionalism, and who, even when willing and anxious to learn, dare not accept the truths they long for, for fear of the ferocious Moloch called Society.

Look around you reader; study the accounts given by world known travelers, recall the joint observations of literary thinkers, the data of science and of statistics, Draw the picture of modern society, of modem politics, of modern religion and modern life in general before your mind’s eye. Remember the ways and customs of every cultured race and nation under the sun. Observe the doings and the moral attitude of people in the civilized centres of Europe, America, and even of the far East…. everywhere where the white man has carried the “benefits” of so-called civilization. And now, having passed in review all this, pause and reflect, and then name, if you can, that blessed Eldorado, that exceptional spot on the globe, where TRUTH is the honoured guest, and LIE and SHAM the ostracized outcasts? YOU CANNOT. Nor can anyone else, unless he is prepared and determined to add his mite to the mass of falsehood that reigns supreme in every department of national and social life.

“Truth!” cried Carlyle, “truth, though the heavens crush me for following her, no falsehood, though a whole celestial Lubberland were the prize of Apostasy.” Noble words, these. But how many think and how many will dare to speak as Carlyle did, in our… day? Does not the gigantic appalling majority prefer to a man the “paradise of do-nothings,” the pays de Cocagne of heartless selfishness? It is this majority that recoils terror-stricken before the most shadowy outline of every new and unpopular truth, out of mere cowardly fear, lest Mrs. Harris should denounce, and Mrs. Grundy condemn, its converts to the torture of being rent piece-meal by her murderous tongue.

SELFISHNESS, the first-born of Ignorance, and the fruit of the teaching which asserts that for ever newly-born infant a new soul, separate and distinct from the Universal Soul, is “created” – this Selfishness is the impassable wall between the personal Self and The Truth. It is the prolific mother of all human vices, Lie being born out of the necessity for dissembling, and Hypocrisy out of the desire to mask Lie. It is the fungus growing and strengthening with age in every human heart in which it has devoured all better feelings. Selfishness kills every noble impulse in our natures, and is the one deity, fearing no faithlessness or desertion from its votaries. Hence, we see it reign supreme in the world and in so-called fashionable society. As a result, we live, and move, and have our being in this god of darkness under his trinitarian aspect of Sham, Humbug, and Falsehood, called RESPECTABILITY.

…… To sum up the idea, with regard to absolute and relative truth, we can only repeat what we said before. Outside a certain highly spiritual and elevated state of mind, during which Man is at one with the UNIVERSAL MIND – he can get nought on earth but relative truth, or truths, from whatsoever philosophy or religion. Were even the goddess who dwells at the bottom of the well to issue from her place of confinement, she could give man no more than he can assimilate. Meanwhile, every one can sit near that well – the name of which is Knowledge and gaze into its depths in the hope of seeing Truth’s fair image reflected, at least, on the dark waters. This, however, as remarked by Richter, presents a certain danger. Some truth, to be sure, may be occasionally reflected as in a mirror on the spot we gaze upon, and thus reward the patient student. But, adds the German thinker, “I have heard that some philosophers in seeking for Truth, to pay homage to her, have seen their own image in the water and adored it instead.”

(“Lucifer,” Feb., 1888)


The Mass Mind


by Ely Culbertson


…. In the notes below, I shall outline some of my concepts of the psychology of the mass mind which may prove to be of interest to those who have dealings with the masses. I will make no attempt here to present a complete picture. This tremendously complicated subject requires a book, which I hope to write someday.

Early in my youth, as a revolutionist I ran up against the blank wall of the mystery of the mass mind. I then realized that one may have the noblest and the most practical ideals [for] levers [to] move the masses; that propaganda is often more powerful than the truth. All around me I saw political charlatans and demagogues drench the people with lies and the spit of hatred and yet carry them off their feet; while my teachers floundered, although they understood the truth and were sincere. I rushed to libraries to find out about this wonderful science of influencing people. But there was very little information.

The practical application of the knowledge of the mass mind, which is based on crude trial and-error methods, has been known since earliest times. The structure of armies and churches is unconsciously based on these little-known laws; the Communists and Fascists have perfected the methods; and the American advertising industry has brought in a wealth of practical discoveries. But even today, there are no scientific definitions or acceptable theories on the anatomy of the mass mind, how it behaves, and why.

The Individual and the Crowd

It is already known that there is a certain difference between a person taken singly and the same person taken as part of a crowd. Actually, the difference is tremendous. A crowd is something very much more than the sum total of the individuals that comprise it. It is a new entity, personality, possessing its own emotional and thinking organs.

I define a crowd as consisting of five or more individuals. One of these individuals is always the leader. The moment several individuals get together to form a crowd, a number of their usual emotional reactions become atrophied, while other emotional reactions, theretofore dormant, become intensified. In a crowd, the individual loses most of his initiative; his fears and doubts are dissipated, and his reasoning faculties are narrowed down to one or two simple issues; he acquires new emotions of a religious or mystic nature; he feels a compelling sense of communal responsibility and a confidence that borders on omnipotence. Under the spell of the crowd emanations, he is capable of acts of supreme heroism or of dastardly cowardice – acts which he might not perform as an individual. Thus, a crowd is always composed of demigods who are at the same time savage beasts; of heroes who are simultaneously cruel cowards.

The basic fact from which all study of the mass mind must start, is this; every crowd possesses its own anatomy, its own brain, and its own nervous system, as distinct from the psychology of the individuals who comprise it.

This mass mind operates not only when people are gathered together in physical crowds – in auditoriums or on street corners – but continuously. Every individual is endowed, from time immemorial, with a number of instincts that make him a part of the herd and subject to reactions of the herd. He is dominated by crowd influences and crowd emotions wherever he is – whether he talks to other people, listens to the radio, or reads a newspaper in front of his own fireplace. Besides, in the course of the day most individuals are at some time or other in contact with different physical crowds, where they easily pick up the highly contagious germs of crowd emotions.

Thus, the mass mind functions even when there is not a physical crowd, except that then its emotions are not so intense and its psychological reactions do not occur so rapidly.

All the observations in this appendix, therefore, apply not only to physical crowds, but to all individuals who have social contact with the world around them.

The Structure of the Crowd or Mass Mind

If the crowd does have a mind of its own, just what is its structure, and how does it operate?

The crowd is made up of two elements: the mass and the leaders. Its structure is somewhat analogous to that of a cell, with its protoplasm and nucleus. The mass element in the crowd is nameless and passive, its essential function is to provide “nourishment” for the active principle, which is the nucleus. The crowd’s nucleus is composed of the crowd’s leaders, in whom practically the entire activity of the crowd is concentrated. And here the analogy between a cell and a crowd ceases. For a crowd is not comparable to one gigantic cell, but is actually made up of a great number of units, or crowd-cells. Each of these crowd-cells consists of five, six, or seven individuals, and each has its group leader. Thoughts and emotions are communicated from one unit or crowd cell to another through these group leaders, who act in the double capacity of transmitters and initiators of action.

The important point is that, of the individuals who make up a crowd-cell, only the leader is active; the others, so to speak, have delegated to him not only most of their authority, but a great part of their emotional and intellectual mechanisms. They leave to their leader the task of making decisions, and even the emotional function of becoming cruel or loving, heroic or cowardly. This process of delegation is, in my opinion, one of the underlying principles in the structure of the crowd. The group leader stands at the front of the stage, and his six or seven followers stand in the background, imitating his every gesture, thought, or emotion. It is the group leader who organizes a bridge game, selects a brand of cigarettes, decides that Roosevelt is a hero or a monster, throws rice and old shoes at the newlyweds, or lynches ….. He counts; his followers are but shadows in his image.

The Leaders

The group leaders in turn are organized into special leader-cells, each of which is controlled by a higher leader. Finally, there is a still higher leader-cell, composed of leaders of the leaders, and controlled by the supreme leader. At each intermediate stage the lower group of leaders transmits a large part of its authority and will to the higher leaders.

Thus, the structure of a crowd can be compared to a skyscraper built like a pyramid: its skeleton of steel is the leadership factor, its backbone and brain; the bricks that fill in this framework to complete the building make up the passive element, or the mass of the crowd. The higher “stories” of this tapering skyscraper are made up entirely of the higher leaders, where most of the power is concentrated; while the foundation is cemented and held together by the group leaders incrustated within the mass.

These leaders are always potentially present in any crowd. They spring up from the mass spontaneously. In a theater someone shouts, “Fire!” There are a few seconds of hesitation, during which the leaders crystalize. If the leaders are panicky, the crowd is panicky; if the leaders walk calmly to the nearest exit, so does the crowd. It may happen that the struggle of opposing leaders neutralizes the action of the crowd, leaving it temporarily leaderless; then there is a stampede.

This leadership structure is the characteristic organ of any crowd – its brain, its nervous and muscular systems, all in one. It is common to masses, crowds, and even herds of animals. These leaders are to be found among males and females, and in every conceivable human activity. Their presence, and not the so-called “tribal inheritance,” is the true explanation for the transmission of innumerable customs, traditions, and learned aptitudes of society.

The structure of a crowd of one hundred people is exactly the same as that of one hundred thousand; and its dynamics are the same, whether it be a crowd of Chinese, Russians, or Americans, and whether it be a crowd of delegates to the Republican convention or a lynching mob. The same laws apply to all crowds or masses of people, and most of these laws deal with the leadership factor. The essential difference, for instance, between a mob and an army does not lie in the structure, but in the difference between trained and spontaneous leadership. The army has discipline; that is, the leaders have been trained how to command, and the masses, how to obey. Thus, discipline merely intensifies the leadership principle in the structure of the mass mind.

The Mass

In a crowd, the mass never acts of its own volition, never takes any initiative, never attacks or runs. I am not attempting a paradox when I say that for all practical purposes of initiative or action, the mass does not exist!

The mass, however, does have one basic function, other than serving as “roughage”: it furnishes the raw material from which the leaders are produced.

The number and quality of the leaders, however, depends upon the mood, the climate of the mass. For want of a better word, I use the word “climate” to indicate the combination of physical, economic, and psychological conditions which influence the mass. It is this mass-climate which determines whether the mass accelerates or retards the formation and the acceptance of leaders. If the mass-climate is favorable to a movement, then the mass easily produces new leaders and the movement is accelerated. But if the climate is unfavorable, then the mass forms but few leaders, or forms leaders who are in opposition to the movement; as a result, the movement is either retarded or stopped…..

These two basic principles of leadership and mass apply not only to the psychology of crowds, but also to the structure of societies, as well as to the dynamics of social movements – be they wars, migrations, or an advertising campaign to launch a new kind of soap. In the preceding pages I have tried to explain a little of the theoretical background of the structure of the mass mind. These theories are of great practical value when applied to the technique of advertising, publicity, showmanship, and general mass appeal…..

…..There is another fallacy, caused by ignorance of the structure of the mass mind, which is costing the motion-picture industry alone many millions of dollars and which explains some of the monstrosities which they produce. It is the belief that the average intelligence of the masses is that of a twelve-year-old. Taken individually this may be true. But taken as a level at which to produce movies, it is a serious mistake, for every individual who sees a movie is part of a crowd. And the intelligence level of every crowd is that of its group leaders. If the intelligence level of the group leaders equals that of a college graduate, then the intelligence of the crowd, for all practical purposes, equals the college graduate; if, on the other hand, the intelligence level of the crowd’s group leaders is that of a twelve-year-old (which is relatively rare), then even a crowd of senators would be on the same level (and sometimes is). The important fact about any crowd is that the level of the group leaders’ intelligence is usually several notches higher that the average of the individuals which comprise the crowd. Here I am sharply at variance with Le Bon and modern students of the crowd, who believe that a crowd is per se stupid, cruel, and cowardly, and is of lower mentality than the individuals comprising it.

The group and higher leaders are the censors and sentinels of the masses. It is at them advertising and motion pictures should be aimed…..

Intellectually, it is quite possible to fool most of the people most of the time, and they are being so fooled continuously through various political doctrines and war propaganda, for instance; emotionally, however, it is much more difficult to fool the crowds. For a crowd, like a woman, follows intellectual arguments only superficially; all its attention is concentrated on feeling whether or not the speaker is sincere…..

Dictatorship and Democracy

….. A democracy – even at its worst, with the waste, stupid greed, and sloppiness we see in our country today – offers the best chances for initiative and fruitful struggle among rival groups of leaders in every walk of life. Its very instability and apparent disorganization insure the indispensable freedom for the maximum application of initiative and the correction of errors. And whatever a democracy may lose temporarily through less efficiency, it more than regains through greater initiative and freedom. The best safeguard of democracy is to be found in the education of both the masses and the leaders, so as to favor the maximum development of superior and freely competing leaders in all walks of life…..

There is also the principle of velocity in social movements; it results from the physical factor of tremendously increased facilities for communication and transportation. The masses are subject to thousands of influences from all sides, through radio, motion pictures, newspapers, books, automobiles; the mass-climate can be changed in the course of months or years, instead of generations. Group leaders are produced more quickly, and movements spread at terrific speed… The greater the velocity of social movements, the greater the instability and strife in the world. It follows that we are entering upon an era of great wars and revolutions, when classes and nations will be reshuffled, and the earth divided anew. Peace will come, perhaps several generations later, with the progress of science and the development of a system whereby the new leaders of the world will be technicians, specialists, and philosophers.

[From The Strange Lives of One Man, by Ely Culbertson, 1940.]


Manifold Man


      – by Alexander Wilder

(from “The Later Platonists and Other Writings of Alexander Wilder” at

“One newly dead, wafted on winds of space,
Felt clustering shapes he knew not and yet knew.
‘Who are ye?’ cried he, scanning face by face.
‘Your self!’ they laughed; ‘We all have once been you!'”
– Arlo Bates, in Scribner’s Magazine

It is said that the late Robert Louis Stevenson had a dream the curious incidents of which enabled him to produce the strange story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In this tale he has described one of the characters as an amiable and truly worthy gentleman, and another as being totally the reverse. It transpires that these two persons who are so represented are actually the same individual. He is manifest at times as the man of superior worth, and on other occasions as fit only to consort with the vile. A certain practice of drugging produces these transformations. The evil result, finally predominates over normal condition and the degradation becomes permanent.

A recent number of the London Lancet narrates a case of multiple personality, far more extraordinary. The individual was a girl of twelve years old. She was apparently in good health till she was attacked with influenza. The changes then became manifest. Some were complete and others partial, some were sudden and others gradual. In some cases she was totally blind, and in all of them she was partially ignorant of what she had been in other states. In some of them her acquirements, such as drawing and writing and other normal faculties, were present; in others, they seemed to be lost. When she was in the blind condition she developed the faculty of drawing, aided by touch only. This sense was then enormously increased in delicacy. Her character and behavior were widely different in some of the peculiar states, from what they were in others. There were ten of these phases, and they varied in length from a few minutes to ten weeks. They have lasted about three years.

These descriptions, it appears to me, are little else than examples of human experience in conditions more distinctly marked than is common in every-day life. Indeed we need only to take note of our own motives and impulses, to perceive that there are periods in our temper quite in analogy with those which have been described. The celebrated preacher of the Eighteenth Century, Whitfield, once observed a wretched man making his way with difficulty, disgrace in every motion and feature. “There,” he exclaimed, “there goes George Whitfield, but for the grace of God.” A physiognomist is said to have described Sokrates as addicted to low vices, drunken and sensual. The philosopher checked those who were about to protest. Such had been his disposition, but he had been restrained by philosophy. So true it is that the greatest virtue is developed above the darkest vice, as the beautiful water-lily grows from filthy mud.

Holmes suggests that perhaps there are co-tenants in this house of which we had thought we were the sole occupant. He brings to confirm this the dream or revery of a budding girl in which several of her remoter ancestors seemed in turns to blend their being with hers. This takes us a step further. The lessons of experience are slowly learned, but they bring the deeper facts to view.

Many years have passed, but I remember it well. There had been worry and vexatious disappointment in several matters to which I was attending. To intensify the trouble, a severe influenza was developed, affording no opportunity for repose. It was in May, and the Columbian Exposition was about to open at Chicago as a memorial celebration of the third centenary of the discovery of the Western Continent. I must make ready for a week of service in a World’s Congress Auxiliary and could not pass my duties over to another. The matter was successfully carried through, after which followed months of work and responsibility. When December came I was prostrated by my fifth visitation of pneumonia.

The exacerbations were severer than they had been of aforetime, and were accompanied by hallucinations that were curious from their novelty. For several days there seem to be some half dozen persons in the bed with me sharing my personality, suffering as I did, and making the pain harder to endure because each of them was adding to it a spectral contribution of his own. I had the impression very vividly that if they should be removed elsewhere, the distress which I was suffering would then become easier to bear. This anticipation, however, was not realized. After a few days they did seem to go, but there was no such amelioration. There was, perhaps, an exchange of one form of sensation for another that was equally disagreeable, and with it possibly some change of hallucination.

An individual unable to leave his bed has abundant opportunity to speculate upon what he observes. The field is large; it may be larger than when he is in normal condition. Vagary and new sensation are added to memory and imagination, and all of them are busy with their contributions. Nor is it well to be contented with any flippant explanation, such as that it was mere phantasm that had its origin from the fever. I must be permitted to doubt the power of a fever to generate alone even a phantasm. It is by no means a producing cause. It may destroy, but it cannot create. It can only display something that really exists. If we are so disposed, we may call the manifestation abnormal and even morbid, but it is none the less real, and further enquiry must be made.

The subjective nature of the manifestations requires to be examined. The fever brought them to view; but whence did they come? In some way they were projected from the thought and personality of the individual sufferer. They were not mere phantoms external to him, but actual facts and qualities issuing forth from him into an apparition of objective reality. The several sufferers that apparently participated in my pain and uneasiness were portions of myself that were, as it were, individualized. The fever which was disturbing my body had caused them to seem as separate personalities, each of which might possibly be contemplated by itself. I did not think to count them, but thought of them as six or more. Accordingly I am not able to tell, or even to suggest, what or whether any specific quality or characteristic any or each of them may have personified. Though thus seemingly apart and distinct from me, they were all in a manner myself; and with that conclusion I must be content. Each of them, I was conscious, had an intimate relationship with the others.

This sense of complexity in a personality has been noticed by different writers, and explanations have been offered, which widely vary. Oliver Wendell Holmes tells us autocratically of an unconscious action of the brain and a distinct correspondence between every process of thought or feeling and some corporeal phenomenon. Emmanuel Kant carries the idea still further, and propounds that the soul is acted upon by the nonmaterial natures of the spiritual world, and receives impressions from them. Professor Tyndall is also philosophic in his deductions. “It was found,” says he, “that the mind of man has the power of penetrating far beyond the boundaries of his full senses; that the things which are seen in the material world would depend for their action upon the things unseen; – in short, that besides the phenomena which address the senses, there are laws, principles and processes which do not address the senses at all, but which need be and can be spiritually discerned.”

These assumptions do not quite solve the matter satisfactorily, but they afford valuable help. I readily acknowledge the presence and influence of spiritual essences in my own thinking, and also that these influences may extend to illumination and seeming intuition. Everything, Goethe declares, everything flows into us, so far as we are not it ourselves. Doctor Holmes has further suggested, and in this I am ready to agree with him, that other spirits, those of ancestors in particular, and other persons who are in rapport with us, have a place of abode in our personality, and so may qualify our action, even inspiring it sometimes. I am not alone in my body, or with it, for everyone is with me whose nature, disposition or proclivity I share. This universe is an ocean of mind, and my interior essence may permeate it in every part as a drop of alcohol will diffuse itself over an immense body of water. For the body does not contain the soul, but is itself surrounded by it, as well as permeated and enlivened.

The apparent personifications were so completely in and of me that I was fully conscious that each of them felt every pain that I suffered. Each one of us is a complex personality in which an assemblage of living entities are grouped and allied together as parts of a single whole. As my body is a one, that is composed of a plurality of members – muscles, bones, membranes and nerve-structure all depending on one another in this totality, so my selfhood is constituted in an analogous manner, of qualities, characteristics, impulses, passions, tastes and other peculiarities.

We may follow the subject further, and explore into the recesses of our selfhood in order to ascertain somewhat more definitely in relation to the qualities and characteristics that make it up as an entirety. “The proper study of mankind is Man,” and the proper way to pursue this study is for each of us to endeavor to know himself. Metaphysical speculation is not a study of what is outside of our nature, but rather of that which is superior to nature – the mind or spirit by which it is animated.

I remember that even in earlier boyhood I was of a serious, thoughtful turn. I was thus led to contemplate my personality as a two-fold entity composed of the body and the living principle. Naturally I considered the body as the principal object, but early teaching assured me that there was a soul that would continue after the body had perished. I was also told that according as I was good or bad, this soul of mine would enjoy delight in heaven or suffer excruciating torment in hell after its separation from the body. All this impressed me that the soul was a something distinct from me and not that it was my actual self. That I had to learn afterward.

Yet in this period of imperfect knowing there came forth many thoughts spontaneously, that did not harmonize well with these cruder notions. I could sit and contemplate my limbs as things that were distinct from my real self. When by some accident, a leg or an arm was temporarily benumbed, I noticed that it was apparently dead, and that though I myself was alive and in full possession of my faculties, no impulse of my will could move the paralyzed organ. This showed that the selfhood was myself from which the body was essentially distinct. This self was the being that thought, reasoned, willed, and impelled to action; and however closely the corporeal structure was allied to it, yet it was nothing more than its instrument. Speaking in more explicit terms: I am soul, and this body of mine is only my shadow, my objective manifestation. It may therefore be declared without further evidence or argument, that this soul, this ego, myself, has its being substantially distinct from the body, and accordingly, that it is superior to the body, and older.

Following this exploration into the subjective nature, I perceive that in the soul there are varieties of faculty and function that can be distinguished from one another. Thus I love, desire, feel and enjoy, and also experience the reverse of these in one department of my being; but think, observe and reason, in another. Designating these two departments after the fashion of the time, we term the one, soul, and the other, the understanding or reasoning faculty. It may be remarked, however, that these are so intimately close to the corporeal structure and functions, that it is not altogether clear from what has been here set forth that both soul and mind are not participant with it, rather than coordinate. By an instinctive consciousness I associate the thinking faculties with my head, and the affectional, sensitive and appetitive qualities, with the central ganglionic region of the body. If now, I push the investigation no further, I may be ready to say that life and existence itself can be no more than an illusion of the senses, and therefore, that death, ending it all, is the only thing genuine and real. Animals seem to possess all the traits to which reference has been made, in a less or greater degree; and from this analogy I can be little more than they.

Not so. My thought is not circumscribed by their limitations. This reasoning faculty which I am able to perceive and contemplate in myself is really itself two-fold, and perhaps manifold. It certainly is a receptacle of something else than the facts that have been observed, lessons that have been learned, and the various deductions and conclusions. It is far more than a storehouse or encyclopedia of former thoughts and observations that may be classified, labeled and put away as in pigeon-holes. There is a faculty of apperception transcending all this sort of thing. This is the faculty that renders us conscious of our selfhood, of our moral and reflective nature, and of all that is in us, of us, and about us. We are by no means hurrying too fast with the argument when we summarize the description of this faculty with the apothegm attributed to Elihu in the book of Job: “Certainly, there is a spirit in mankind, and the inspiration of the Almighty maketh them intelligent.” Superior to the soul and understanding, and yet both surrounding and permeating them is this inspiration or influx, and it makes human beings intelligent because it is itself an extension and projecting of the divine Intelligence. Our minds are made luminant by the apperception which has been thus established. We have the earth at our feet, and God at our head.

The Apostle Paul defines man as being an entirety, made up of “spirit and soul and body.” Plato had already described him as triune, consisting of body, soul and the mind or superior intellect. In the Timaeus he assigns the mind, the noetic and absolutely immortal part of the soul, to a seat in the summit of the head; while the mortal part is placed in the body – the better portion above and the lower part below the diaphragm.

“With the mind (noos) I myself serve the law of God,” Paul writes, using the philosophic term. . . .

The concept of the “double,” or “astral” body, has been universally entertained. The Egyptian sages used to teach that there was a corporeal structure and an aetherial body that was like and yet distinct from the soul. After the death of the body, the soul was supposed to go directly to the gods, but the double remained on the earth and was nourished from the aetherial principle that was in the offerings of food made to it by friends. It was believed that food after this principle had been thus partaken, had no further nourishing quality. The manes of the dead, that we read of in Roman literature, was a similar personification, and its peculiar rites are described by Virgil in the fifth book of the Aeneid.

But the Egyptian diviners held that man was really a complex personality. There was the khat or body; also the ba or soul, the khu or reasoning faculty, ka or eidolon, the khakit or shade, the ren or name, the ab or heart, and the sahu or corporeal framework. Of this last, divested of the entrails, the mummies were made. All these parts were supposed to sustain an intimate vital relation to one another; and it was believed that there could be no perfect life ultimately, except these were again joined. The eidolon or double, the ka being of divine origin, survived the body, and hence was subject to innumerable vicissitudes. It needed the funeral offerings to relive hunger and sufferings. If the sahu or mummy chanced to be destroyed, this astral form would unite itself with some image or simulacrum of the deceased person. In this way phallicism was integral in the Egyptian rites; and the serpent as representing the soul and intelligence was borne aloft at festivals, and worn on the sacerdotal tiara.

These notions undoubtedly came from older peoples. Bunsen conjectured that Egypt derived her learning from the country of the Euphrates and Lamartine declared his full conviction that that country received it from India. We may expect accordingly to find there the whole dogma of component principles, in the human form. The Sankhya philosophy is accordingly thus explicit. We are told of the body, the atma or soul, the buddhi or intelligent principle, the consciousness, the understanding, the senses, the manas or passional nature, etc. The whole theory is there. We conceive of these principles as separate entities and describe them as such. Yet, to borrow the words of Pope for the purpose:

“All are but parts of one stupendous whole.”

In conclusion, I am certain that the troublesome bedfellows which have been described as causing me so much annoyance were only so many constituents of my individual self, which the excitement of fever had brought into consciousness as so many personalities. That they were not mere phantoms created by hallucination is almost demonstrated by the fact that I seemed to feel in myself that what I was suffering at the time they were suffering along with me. I suppose that they were those principles of soul that are more commonly described as qualities and sentiments. Perhaps they are capable of being brought into consciousness so as to be recognized by the external sensibility, as living beings, because they are actually endowed with life. “Every thought is a soul,” the philosophic Mejnour declares to his pupil in Bulwer’s famous novel “Zanoni.” What we denominate qualities and principles are animate realities, which may be apprehended as such; not, however, as things apart from us, but as constituent elements of our being.

(Metaphysical Magazine, Vol. 21, no. 3, July, 1907)