II, 5



THE following observation bears on my henid theory:


I made a note, half mechanically, of a page in a botanical work from which later on I was going to make an extract. Something was in my mind in henid form. What I thought, how I thought it, what was then knocking at the door of my consciousness, I could not remember a minute afterwards, in spite of the hardest effort. I take this case as a typical example of a henid.


The more deeply impressed, the more detailed a complex perception may be the more easily does it reproduce itself. Clearness of the consciousness is the preliminary condition for remembering, and the memory of the mental stimulation is proportional to the intensity of the consciousness. “I shall not forget that”; “I shall remember that all my life”; “That will never escape my memory again.” Such phrases men use when things have made a deep impression on them, of moments in which they have gained wisdom or have become richer by an important experience. As the power of being reproduced is directly proportionate to the organisation of a mental impression, it is clear that there can be no recollection of an absolute henid.


As the mental endowment of a man varies with the organisation of his accumulated experiences, the better endowed he is, the more readily will he be able to remember his whole past, everything that he has ever thought or heard, seen or done, perceived or felt, the more completely in fact he will be able to reproduce his whole life. Universal remembrance of all its experiences, therefore, is the surest, {115} most general, and most easily proved mark of a genius. If a common theory, especially popular with the philosophers of the coffee-house, be true, that productive men (because they are always covering new ground) have no memory, it is often because they are productive only from being on new ground.


The great extent and acuteness of the memory of men of genius, which I propose to lay down dogmatically as a necessary inference from my theory, without attempting to prove it further, is not incompatible with their rapid loss of the facts impressed on them in school, the tables of Greek verbs, and so forth. Their memory is of what they have experienced, not of what they have learned. Of all that was acquired for examination purposes only so much will be retained as was in harmony with the natural talent of the pupil. Thus a house-painter may have a better memory for colours than a great philosopher; the most narrow philologist may remember Greek aorists that he has learned by heart better than his teacher, who may none the less be a great poet. The uselessness of the experimental school of psychology (notwithstanding their marvellous arsenal of instruments of experimental precision) is shown by their expectation of getting results as to memory from tests with letters, unconnected words, long rows of figures. These experiments have so little bearing on the true memory of man, on the memory by which he recalls the experiences of his life, that one wonders if such psychologists have realised that such a thing as the mind exists. The customary experiments place the most different subjects under the same conditions, pay no attention to the individuality of these subjects, and treat them merely as good or bad registering apparatus. There is a parable in the fact that the two German words “bemerken” (take notice of) and “merken” (remember) come from the same root. Only what is harmonious with some inborn quality will be retained. When a man remembers a thing, it is because he was capable of taking some interest in the thing; when he forgets, it is because he was uninterested. The religious {116} man will surely and exactly remember texts, the poet verses and the mathematician equations.


This brings us in another fashion to the subject of the last chapter, and to another reason for the great memories of genius. The more significant a man is, the more different personalities he unites in himself, the more interests that are contained in him, the more wide his memory must be. All men have practically the same opportunities of perception, but the vast majority of men apprehend only an infinitesimal part of what they have perceived. The ideal genius is one in whom perception and apprehension are identical in their field. Of course no such being actually exists. On the other hand, there is no man who has apprehended nothing that he has perceived. In this way we may take it that all degrees of genius (not talent) exist; no male is quite without a trace of genius. Complete genius is an ideal; no man is absolutely without the quality, and no man possesses it completely. Apprehension or absorption, and memory or retention, vary together in their extent and their permanence. There is an uninterrupted gradation from the man whose mentality is unconnected from moment to moment, and to whom no incidents can signify anything because there is within him nothing to compare them with (such an extreme, of course, does not exist) to the fully developed minds for which everything is unforgettable, because of the firm impressions made and the sureness with which they are absorbed. The extreme genius also does not exist, because even the greatest genius is not wholly a genius at every moment of his life.


What is at once a deduction from the necessary connection between memory and genius, and a proof of the actuality of the connection, lies in the extraordinary memory for minute details shown by the man of genius. Because of the universality of his mind, everything has only one interpretation for him, an interpretation often unsuspected at the time; and so things cling obstinately in his memory and remain there inextinguishably, although he may have taken not the smallest trouble to take note of {117} them. And so one may almost take as another mark of the genius that the phrase “this is no longer true” has no meaning for him. There is nothing that is no longer true for him, probably just because he has a clearer idea than other men of the changes that come with time.


The following appears to be one of the best means for the objective examination of the endowment of a man: If after a long separation from him we resume the new intercourse with the circumstances of the last, then we shall find that the highly endowed man has forgotten nothing, that he vividly and completely takes up the subject from where it was left off with the fullest recollection of the details. How much ordinary men forget of their lives any one can prove to his astonishment and horror. It may happen that we have been for hours importantly engaged with a man a few weeks before, and we may find that he has forgotten all about it. It is true that if one recalls all the circumstances to his mind, he begins to remember, and, finally, with sufficient help, may remember almost completely. Such experience has made me think that there may be an empirical proof of the hypothesis that no absolute forgetting ever occurs; that if the right method with the individual be chosen recollection may always be induced.


It follows also that from one's own experience, from what one has thought or said, heard or read, felt or done, one can give the smallest possible to another, that the other does not already know. Consideration of the amount that a man can take in from another would seem to serve as a sort of objective measure of his genius, a measure that does not have to wait for an estimation of his actual creative efforts. I am not going to discuss the extent to which this theory opposes current views on education, but I recommend parents and teachers to pay attention to it. The extent to which a man can detect differences and resemblances must depend on his memories. This faculty will be best developed in those whose past permeates their present, all the moments of the life of whom are amalga-{118}mated. Such persons will have the greatest opportunities of detecting resemblances and so finding the material for comparisons. They will always seize hold of from the past what has the greatest resemblance to the present experience, and the two experiences will be combined in such a way that no similarities or differences will be concealed. And so they are able to maintain the past against the influence of the present. It is not without reason that from time immemorial the special merit of poetry has been considered to be its richness in beautiful comparisons and pictures, or that we turn to again and again, or await our favourite images with impatience when we read Homer or Shakespeare or Kloppstock. To-day when, for the first time for a century and a half, Germany is without great poets or painters, and when none the less it is impossible to find any one who is not an “author,” the power of clear and beautiful comparison seems to have gone. A period the nature of which can best be described in vague and dubious words, the philosophy of which has become in more than one sense the philosophy of the unconscious can contain nothing great. Consciousness is the mark of greatness, and before it the unconscious is dispersed as the sun disperses a mist. If only consciousness were to come to this age, how quickly voices that are now famous would become silent. It is only in full consciousness, in which the experience of the present assumes greater intensity by its union with all the experiences of the past, that imagination, the necessary quality for all philosophical as for all artistic effort, can find a place. It is untrue, therefore, that women have more imagination than men. The experiences on account of which men have assigned higher powers of imagination to women come entirely from the imaginative sexual life of women. The only inferences that can be drawn from this do not belong to the present section of my work.


The absence of women from the history of music must be referred to deeper causes; but it also supports my contention that women are devoid of imagination. To produce {119} music requires a great deal more imagination than the malest woman possesses, and much more than is required for other kinds of artistic or for scientific effort. There is nothing in nature, nothing in the sphere of the senses, corresponding directly with sound pictures. Music has no relation to the world of experience; there is no “music,” no chords or melodies in the natural world; these have to be evolved from the imagination of the composer. Every other art has more definite relations to empirical art. Even architecture, which has been compared with music, has definite relations to matter, although, like music, it has no anticipations in the senses. Architecture, too, is an entirely masculine occupation. The very idea of a female architect excites compassion.


The so-called stupefying effect of music on the creative or practical musician (especially instrumental music) depends on the fact that even the sense of smell is a better guide to man in the world of experience than the contents of a musical work. And it is just this complete absence of all relation to the world of sight, taste, and smell, that makes music specially unfitted to express the female nature. It also explains why this peculiarity of his art demands the highest grade of imagination from a musician, and why those to whom musical compositions “come” seem stranger to their fellow men than painters or sculptors. The so-called “imagination” of women must be very different from that of men, since there is no woman with even the same position in the history of music that Angelica Kaufmann had in art.


Where anything obviously depends on strong moulding women have not the smallest leaning towards its production, neither in philosophy nor in music, in the plastic arts nor in architecture. Where, however, a weak and vague sentimentality can be expressed with little effort, as in painting or verse- making, or in pseudo-mysticism and theosophy, women have sought and found a suitable field for their efforts. Their lack of productiveness in the former sphere is in harmony with the vagueness of the psychical life of {120} women. Music is the nearest possible approach to the organisation of a sensation. Nothing is more definite, characteristic, and impressive than a melody, nothing that will more strongly resist obliteration. One remembers much longer what is sung than what is spoken, and the arias better than the recitatives.


Let us note specially here that the usual phrases of the defenders of women do not apply to the case of women. Music is not one of the arts to which women have had access only so recently that it is too soon to expect fruits; from the remotest antiquity women have sung and played. And yet . . .


It is to be remembered that even in the case of drawing and painting women have now had opportunities for at least two centuries. Every one knows how many girls learn to draw and sketch, and it cannot be said that there has not yet been time for results were results possible. As there are so few female painters with the smallest importance in the history of art, it must be that there is something in the nature of things against it. As a matter of fact, the painting and etching of women is no more than a sort of elegant, luxurious handiwork. The sensuous, physical element of colour is more suitable for them than the intellectual work of formal line-drawing, and hence it is, that whereas women have acquired some small distinction in painting they have gained none in drawing. The power of giving form to chaos is with those in whom the most universal memory has made the widest comprehension possible; it is a quality of the masculine genius.


I regret that I must so continually use the word genius, as if that should apply only to a caste as well defined from those below as income-tax payers are from the untaxed. The word genius was very probably invented by a man who had small claims on it himself; greater men would have understood better what to be a genius really was, and probably they would have come to see that the word could be applied to most people. Goethe said that perhaps only a genius is able to understand a genius. {121}


There are probably very few people who have not at some time of their lives had some quality of genius. If they have not had such, it is probable that they have also been without great sorrow or great pain. They would have needed only to live sufficiently intently for a time for some quality to reveal itself. The poems of first love are a case in point, and certainly such love is a sufficient stimulus.


It must not be forgotten that quite ordinary men in moments of excitement, in anger at some underhanded deed, have found words with which they never would have been credited. The greater part of what is called expression in art as in language depends (if the reader will remember what I have said about the process of “clarification”) on the fact that some individual more richly endowed, clarifies, organises, and exhibits some idea almost instantaneously, an idea which to a less endowed person was still in the henid form. The course of clarification is much shortened in the mind of the second person.


If it really were the case, as popular opinion has tried to establish, that the genius were separated from ordinary men by a thick wall through which no sound could penetrate, then all understanding of the efforts of genius would be denied to ordinary men, and their works would fail to make any impression on them. All hopes of progress depend on this being untrue. And it is untrue. The difference between men of genius and the others is quantitative not qualitative, of degree not of kind.


There is, moreover, very little sense in preventing young people from giving expression to their ideas on the .pretext that they have less experience than have older persons. There are many who may live a thousand years without encountering experience of any value. It could only be in a society of persons equally gifted that such an idea could have any meaning.


Because the life of the genius is more intense even in his earliest years than that of other children, his memory can go further back. In extreme cases the memory may be complete and vivid back to the third year of life, whereas {122} in most recollection begins much later. I know some people whose earliest recollections date only from their eighth year, and there are instances of an even later beginning of the conscious life. I do not maintain that the date at which active memory begins can be taken as a measure of relative genius, that he who remembers from his second year is so much the more of a genius than he who can go back only to his fourth or fifth year. But in a general way I believe the parallel to hold good.


Even in the cases of the greatest men, some time, greater or shorter, elapsed between the date of their earliest recollection and the time from which onwards they remember everything, from the time, in fact, in which their genius was ripe. But in the case of most men there is forgetfulness of the greater part of their lives; they are conscious only that they themselves and none other have lived their lives. Out of their whole lives there only remain certain moments, and scattered recollections, which serve as sign-posts. If they are asked about any particular thing they can only tell, for instance, because in such and such a month they were so old,. or they wore such and such clothes, they lived at this place, or that their income was so much.


If one has lived with them in former years, it is only after great trouble that the past can be brought to their mind. In such cases one is surely justified in saying that such a person is ungifted, or at least in not considering him conspicuously able.


The request for an autobiography would put most men into a most painful position; they could scarcely tell if they were asked what they had done the day before. Memory with most people is quite spasmodic and purely associative. In the case of the man of genius every impression that he has received endures; he is always under the influence of his impressions; and so nearly all men of genius tend to suffer from fixed ideas. The psychical condition of men's minds may be compared with a set of bells close together, and so arranged that in the ordinary man a bell rings only when one beside it sounds, and the vibration lasts only a moment. {123} In the genius, when a bell sounds it vibrates so strongly that it sets in action the whole series, and remains in action throughout life. The latter kind of movement often gives rise to extraordinary conditions and absurd impulses, that may last for weeks together and that form the basis of the supposed kinship of genius with insanity.


For similar reasons gratitude is apparently the rarest human virtue. People are often very conscious of how much they have borrowed, but they neither can nor will try to remember the necessity in which they stood, nor the freedom which that help brought them. Even if want of memory were really the cause of ingratitude, it would not be sufficient for a man to possess a marvellous memory to have a like spirit of gratitude. A special condition is also necessary, but its description cannot be undertaken here.


From the connection between giftedness and memory which is so often mistaken and denied because it is not sought where it is to be found, from the power of self recollection, a further fact is to be deduced. The poet who feels urged to write without premeditation, without reflection, without having willingly pressed the pedal; the musician to whom the desire to compose has come, so that he must create whether he will or no, even if he feels more inclined to sleep or to rest; these, in such moments, will simply reproduce thoughts they have carried in their heads all their lives. A composer who can remember none of his songs or subjects by heart, or a poet who cannot recollect any of his poems—without having carefully learned them—such men are in no sense really great.


Before we apply these remarks to the consideration of the mental differences of the sexes, we must make yet one more distinction between different kinds of memory. The individual moments in the life of a gifted man are not remembered as disconnected points, not as different particles of time, each one separated and defined from the following one, as the numerals one, two, and so on.


The result of self-observation shows that sleep, the limitations of consciousness, the gaps in memory, even {124} special experiences, appear to be in some mysterious way one great whole; incidents do not follow each other like the tickings of a watch, but they pass along in a single unbroken stream. With ordinary men the moments which are united in a close continuity out of the original discrete multiplicity are very few, and the course of their lives resembles a little brook, whereas with the genius it is more like a mighty river into which all the little rivulets flow from afar; that is to say, the universal comprehension of genius vibrates to no experience in which all the individual moments have not been gathered up and stored.


This peculiar continuity by which a man first realises that he exists, that he is, and that he is in the world, is all comprehensive in the genius, limited to a few important moments in the mediocre, and altogether lacking in woman. When a woman looks back over her life and lives again her experiences, there is presented no continuous, unbroken stream, but only a few scattered points. And what kind of points? They are just those which accord with woman's natural instincts. Of what these interests exclusively consist the second chapter gave a preliminary idea; and those who remember the ideas in question will not be astonished at the following facts: The female is altogether with one class of recollections—those connected with the sexual impulse and reproduction. She thinks of her lovers and proposals, of her marriage day, of every child as if it were a doll; of the flowers which she received at every ball, the number, size, and price of the bouquets; of every serenade; of every verse which (as she fondly imagines) was written for her; of every phrase by which a lover has impressed her; but above all—with an exactness which is as contemptible as it is disquieting to herself—of every compliment without exception that has ever been paid her.


That is all that the real woman recalls of her life. But it is just those things which human beings never forget, and those they cannot remember that give clue to knowledge of their life and character. It belongs to a later period of the book to go more thoroughly into the reason why the {125} female has precisely the remembrances she has. Some important conclusion may be expected from reflection on the incredible memory with which women recall all the adulation and flattery, all the proofs of gallantry, which have happened to them since childhood.


Whatever may be urged against the present complete limitation of the female memory to the sphere of sexuality and conjugal life, it is to me quite evident. Various arguments about girls' schools, and so forth, I am prepared for. These difficulties will have to be cleared away later. But I must just say again that all memory, which is to be used as a means of psychological definition of the individual, can include only the memory of what has been learnt when learning means actual experience.


The explanation of the discontinuity in the psychical life of women (reference to which is introduced here, only because it is a necessary psychological factor in the problem of memory, and without reference to its spiritualistic or idealistic significance) can be reached only when the nature of continuity is studied with reference to the deepest problems of philosophy and psychology.


As proof of the fact I will at present quote nothing more than the statement of Lotze, which has so often caused astonishment, that women much more readily submit themselves to new relationships and more easily accommodate themselves to them than men, in whom the parvenu can be seen much longer, whereas one might not be able to tell the peasant from the peeress, the woman brought up in poor surroundings from the patrician's daughter. Later on I shall deal more exhaustively with this subject.


At any rate, it will now be seen why (if neither vanity, desire for gossip, nor imitation drives them to it) only the better men write down recollections of their lives, and how I perceive in this a strong evidence of the connection between memory and giftedness. It is not as if every man of genius wished to write an autobiography: the incitement to autobiography comes from special, very deep-seated psychological conditions. But on the other hand, the {126} writing of a full autobiography, if it is the outcome of a genuine desire, is always the sign of a superior man. For real faithful memory is the source of reverence. The really great would resist any temptation to give up his past in the exchange for material advantage or mental health; the greatest treasures of the world, even happiness itself, he would not take in exchange for his memories.


The desire for a draught of the waters of Lethe is the trait of mediocre or inferior natures. And however much a really great man, as Goethe says, may condemn and abhor his past failings, and although he sees others clinging fast to theirs, he will never smile at those past actions and failings of his own, or make merry over his early mode of life and thought.


The class of persons now so much in evidence, who claim to have “conquered” their pasts, have the smallest possible claim to the word “conquer.” They are those who idly relate that they formerly believed this or the other, but have now “overcome” their beliefs, whereas they are as little in earnest about the present as they were about the past. They see only the mechanism, not the soul of things, and at no stage what they believe themselves to have conquered was deep in their natures.


In contrast with these it may be noticed with what painful care great men render even the, apparently, most minute details in their own biographies: for them the past and present are equal; with others neither of the two are real.


The famous man realises how everything, even the smallest, most secondary, matters played an important part in his life, how they have helped his development, and to this fact is due his extraordinary reverence for his own memories. And such an autobiography is not written all at once, as it were, with one event treated like another, and without meditation; nor does the idea of it suddenly occur to a man; the material for such a work by a great man, so to speak, is always at hand.


His new experiences acquire a deeper significance because of his past, which is always present to him, and hence the {127}great man and only the great man, feels that he himself is in very truth a “man of destiny.” And so it comes that great men are always more “superstitious” than average men. To sum up, I may say:


A man is himself important precisely in proportion that all things seem important to him.


In the course of further investigation this dictum will be seen to have a deep significance even apart from its bearing on the universality, comprehension, and comparison exhibited by the genius.


The position of woman in these matters is not difficult to explain. A real woman never becomes conscious of a destiny, of her own destiny; she is not heroic; she fights most for her possessions, and there is nothing tragic in the struggle as her own fate is decided with the fate of her possessions.


Inasmuch as woman is without continuity, she can have no true reverence; as a fact, reverence is a purely male virtue. A man is first reverent about himself, and self-respect is the first stage in reverence for all things. But it costs a woman very little to break off with her past; if the word irony could be fittingly used here, one might say that a man does not easily regard his past with irony and superiority as women appear to do—and not only after marriage.


Later on I shall show how women are exactly the opposite of that which reverence means. I would rather be silent about the reverence of widows.


The superstition of women is psychologically absolutely different from the superstitions of famous men.


The reverent relation to one's own past, which depends on a real continuity of memory, and which is possible only by comprehension, can be shown in relation to a still wider and deeper subject.


Whether a man has a real relationship to his own past or not, involves the question as to whether he has a desire for immortality, or if the idea of death is indifferent to him.


The desire for immortality is today, as a rule, treated shamefully, and in a very different spirit. {128}


Not only is the problem treated as merely ontological, but the psychological side of it is only trifled with. It has been held that it is connected, like the doctrine of the transmigration of souls, with the feeling that we have all experienced, when, in doing something certainly for the first time, we seem to remember having gone through the same experience before. Another generally adopted view is to derive the idea of immortality from the belief in spirits, as has been done by Tylor, Spencer, Avenarius, and others, although in any other age than this age of experimental psychology it would have been dismissed a priori. I am sure that it must seem impossible to the majority of thinking men to regard a belief so important to mankind, about which there has been so much strife, as merely the last stage in a syllogism of which the first premiss is the midnight dream of a dead man. How can phenomena of that kind explain the belief in the continuity of their lives after death held so firmly by Goethe or Bach, or the desire for immortality which speaks to us in Beethoven's last sonatas? The desire for the persistence of the conscious self must spring from sources mightier than these feeble rationalistic guesses.


The deeper source of the belief depends on the relation of a man to his own past. Our consciousness and vision of the past is the strongest ground for our desire to be conscious in the future. The man who values his past, who holds his mental life in greater respect than his corporeal life, is not willing to give up his consciousness at death. And so this organic primary desire for immortality is strongest in men of genius, in the men whose pasts are richest. This connection between the desire for immortality and memory receives strong support from what is related by those who have been rescued from sudden death. Even if they had not thought it out before they relive their past in a few moments, at once and with frantic rapidity. The feeling of what is impending brings in violent contrast the intensity of the present consciousness and the idea that it may cease for ever. In reality we know very little of the mental state of {129} the dying. It takes more than an ordinary person to interpret it, and for reasons connected with what I have been saying men of genius usually avoid death-beds. But it is quite wrong to ascribe the sudden appearance of religion in go many people who are fatally ill, to a desire to make sure of their future state. It is extremely superficial to assume that the doctrine of hell can for the first time assume such an importance to the dying as to make them afraid to pass away “with a lie on their lips.”*


The important point is this: Why do men who have lived throughout a lying life feel towards the end a sudden desire for truth? And why are others so horrified, although they do not believe in punishment in the next world, when they hear of a man dying with a lie on his lips or with an unrepented action? And why have both the hardness of heart until the end and the death-bed repentance appealed so forcibly to the imagination of poets? The discussion as to the “euthanasia” of atheists, which was so popular in the eighteenth century, is more than a mere historical curiosity as F. A. Lange considered it.


I adduce these considerations not merely to suggest a possibility which is hardly more than a guess. It seems to be unthinkable that it is not the case that many more people than actual geniuses have some trace of genius. The quantitative difference in natural endowment will be most marked at the moment when the endowment becomes active. And for most men this moment is the point of death. If we were not accustomed to regard men of genius as a separate class shut off from the others like the payers of income-tax, we should find less difficulty in grafting these new ideas on the old. And just as the earliest recollections of childhood which a man has are not the result of some external event breaking through the {130} continuity of the past course of his life, but are the result of his internal development, there comes to every one a day on which his consciousness is so intensified that remembrance remains, and from that time onwards, according to his endowment, more or fewer remembrances are formed (a factor which by itself upsets the whole of modern psychology), so in different men there are many different stimulants of the consciousness of which the last is the hour of death, and from the point of view of their degree of genius men might almost be classified by the number of things that excite their consciousness. I take this opportunity of again urging the falseness of a doctrine of modern psychology (which treats men simply as better or worse pieces of registering apparatus and takes no notice of the internal, ontogenetic development of the mind); I mean the idea that in youth we retain the greatest number of impressions. We must not confuse really experienced impressions with the mere material on which to exercise memorising. Such stuff a child learns more easily simply because it is not weighted with mental impressions. A psychology which is opposed to experience in matters so fundamental must be rejected, what I am attempting at present is no more than to give the faintest indication of that ontogenetic psychology or theoretical biography which sooner or later will replace what now passes for the science of mind. Every programme represents some definite conviction; before we wish to reach a goal we have some definite conception of what the goal is to be. The name “theoretical biography” will define the new subject from philosophy and physiology, and. the biological method of treatment introduced by Darwin, Spencer, and others will be widened until it becomes a science capable of giving a rational orderly account of the whole course of the mental life from the cradle to the grave. It is to be called biography, not biology, because it is to deal with the investigation of the permanent laws that rule the mental development of an individual, whereas biology itself concerns itself with individuals themselves. {131} The new knowledge will seek general points of view and the establishment of types. Psychology must try to become theoretical biography. Existing psychology would find its place in the branches of the new science, and in this way only would Wundt's desire to establish the foundations of a science of the mind be fulfilled. It would be absurd to despair of this simply because of the uselessness of the existing science of the mind which has not yet even grasped its own object. In this way a justification for experimental psychology might yet be found, in spite of the important results of the investigations by Windelband and Rickert on the relation between natural and psychical science, or the old dichotomy between the physical and mental sciences.


The relation between the continuity of memory and the desire for immortality is borne out by the fact that woman is devoid of the desire for immortality. It is to be noted that those persons are quite wrong who have attributed the desire for immortality to the fear of death. Women are as much afraid of death as are men, but they have not the longing for immortality.


My attempted explanation of the psychological desire for immortality is as yet more an indication of the connection between the desire and memory than a deduction from a higher natural law. It will always be found that the connection actually exists; the more a man lives in his past (not, as a superficial reader might guess, in his future) the more intense will be his longing for immortality. The lack of the desire for immortality in women is to be associated with the lack in them of reverence for their own personality. It seems, however, that the absence of both reverence and desire for immortality in woman is due to a more general principal, and in the same fashion in the case of man the co-existence of a higher form of memory and the desire for immortality may be traced to some deeper root. So far, I have attempted only to show the coincidence of the two, how the deep respect for their own past and the deep desire for their own future are to be found in the same individuals. {132} It will now be my task to find the common origin of these two factors of the mind.


Let us take as a starting point what we were able to lay down as to the universality of the memory of great men. To such everything is equally real: what took place long ago and the most recent experience. Thus it happens that a single experience does not end with the moment of time in which it happened, does not disappear as this moment of time disappears, but through the memory is wrested from the grasp of time. Memory makes experience timeless; the essence is that it should transcend time. A man can only remember the past because memory is free from the control of time, because events which in nature are functions of time, in the spirit have conquered time.


But here a difficulty crops up. How can memory be a negation of time if, on the other hand, it is certain that if we had no memory we should be unconscious of time? It is certainly true that we shall always be conscious of the passing of time by our memory of the past. If the two are in so intimate a relation how can the one be the negation of the other?


The difficulty is easy to resolve. It is just because a living creature—not necessarily a human being—by being endowed with memory is not wholly absorbed by the experiences of the moment that it can, so to speak, oppose itself to time, take cognisance of it, and make it the subject of observation. Were the being wholly abandoned to the experience of the moment and not saved from it by memory then it would change with time and be a floating bubble in the stream of events; it could never be conscious of time, for consciousness implies duality. The mind must have transcended time to grasp it, it must have stood outside it in order to be able to reflect upon it. This does not apply merely to special moments of time, as, for instance, to the case that we cannot be conscious of sorrow until the sorrow is over, but it is a part of the conception of time. If we could not free ourselves from time, we could have no knowledge of time. {133}


In order to understand the condition of timelessness let us reflect on what memory rescues from time. What transcends time is only what is of interest to the individual, what has meaning for him; in fact, all that he assigns value to. We remember only the things that have some value for us even if we are unconscious of that value. It is the value that creates the timelessness. We forget everything that has no value for us even if we are unconscious of that absence of value.


What has value, then, is timeless; or, to put it the other way, a thing has the more value the less it is a function of time. In all the world value is in proportion to independence of time; only things that are timeless have a positive value. Although this is not what I take to be the deepest and fullest meaning of value, it is, at least, the first special law of the theory of values.


A hasty survey of common facts will suffice to prove this relation between value and duration. We are always inclined to pay little attention to the views of those whom we have known only a short time, and, as a rule, we think little of the hasty judgments of those who easily change their ideas. On the other hand, uncompromising fixedness gains respect, even if it assume the form of vindictiveness or obstinacy. The aere perennius of the Roman poets and the Egyptian pyramids lasting for forty centuries are favorite images. The reputation a man leaves behind him would soon be depreciated were it suspected that it would soon disappear instead of being handed down the centuries. A man dislikes to be told that he is always changing; but let it be put that he is simply showing new sides of his character and he will be proud of the permanence through the changes. He who is tired of life, for whom life has ceased to be of interest, is interesting to no one. The fear of the extinction of a name or of a family is well known.


So also statute laws and customs lose in value if their validity is expressly limited in time; and if two people are making a bargain, they will be the more ready to distrust one another if the bargain is to be only of short duration. {134} In fact, the value that we attach to things depends to a large extent on our estimate of their durability.


This law of values is the chief reason why men are interested in their death and their future. The desire for value shows itself in the efforts to free things from time, and this pressure is exerted even in the case of things which sooner or later must change, as, for instance, riches and position and everything that we call the goods of this world. Here lies the psychological motive for the making of wills and the bestowal of property. The motive is not care for relatives, because a man without relatives very often is more anxious to settle his goods, not feeling, perhaps, like the head of a family, that in any event his existence will have some kind of permanence, that traces of him will be left after his own death.


The great politician or ruler, and especially the despot, whose rule ends with his death, seeks to increase his own value by making it independent of time. He may attempt it through a code of laws or a biography like that of Julius Caesar, by some great philosophical undertaking, by the founding of museums or collections, or (and this is perhaps the favourite way) by alterations of the calendar. And he seeks to extend his power to the utmost during his life-time, to preserve it and make it stable by enduring contracts and diplomatic marriages, and most of all by attacking and removing everything that could endanger the permanence of his kingdom. And so the politician becomes conqueror.


Psychological and philosophical investigations of the theory of values have neglected the time element. Perhaps this is because they have been very much under the influence of political economy. I believe, however, that the appreciation of my principal to political economy would be of considerable value. Very slight reflection will lead one to see that in commercial affairs the time element is a most important factor in estimating value. The common definition of value, that it is in proportion to the power of the thing valued to relieve our wants, is quite incomplete without the element of time. Such things as air and water have {135} no value only in so far as they are not localised and individualised; but as soon as they have been localised and individualised, and so received form, they have received a quality that may not last, and with the idea of duration comes the idea of value. Form and timelessness, or individuation and duration, are the two factors which compose value.


Thus it can be shown that the fundamental law of the theory of value applies both to individual psychology and to social psychology. And now I can return to what is, after all, the special task of this chapter.


The first general conclusion to be made is that the desire for timelessness, a craving for value, pervades all spheres of human activity. And this desire for real value, which is deeply bound up with the desire for power, is completely absent in the woman. It is only in comparatively rare cases that old women trouble to make exact directions about the disposition of their property, a fact in obvious relation with the absence in them of the desire for immortality.


Over the dispositions of a man there is the weight of something solemn and impressive—something which makes him respected by other men.


The desire for immortality itself is merely a specific case of the general law that only timeless things have a positive value. On this is founded its connection with memory. The permanence with which experiences stay with a man is proportional to the significance which they had for him. Putting it in paradoxical form, I may say: Value is created by the past. Only that which has a positive value remains protected by memory from the jaws of time; and so it may be with the individual psychical life as a whole. If it is to have a positive value, it must not be a function of time, but must subdue time by eternal duration after physical death. This draws us incomparably nearer the innermost motive of the desire for immortality. The complete loss of significance which a rich, individual, fully-lived life would suffer if it were all to end with death, and the consequent senselessness of everything, as Goethe said, in {136} other words, to Eckermann (February 14, 1829) lead to the demand for immortality. The strongest craving for immortality is possessed by the genius, and this is explained by all the other facts which have been discussed as to his nature.


Memory only fully vanquishes time when it appears in a universal form, as in universal men.


The genius is thus the only timeless man—at least, this and nothing else is his ideal of himself; he is, as is proved by his passionate and urgent desire for immortality, just the man with the strongest demand for timelessness, with the greatest desire for value.


And now we are face to face with an almost astonishing coincidence. The timelessness of the genius will not only be manifest in relation to the single moments of his life, but also in relation to what is known as “his generation,” or, in a narrower sense, “his time.” As a matter of fact, he has no relations at all with it. The age does not create the genius it requires. The genius is not the product of his age, is not to be explained by it, and we do him no honour if we attempt to account for him by it.


Carlyle justly noted how many epochs had called for great men, how badly they had needed them, and how they still did not obtain them.


The coming of genius remains a mystery, and men reverently abandon their efforts to explain it. And as the causes of its appearance do not lie in any one age, so also the consequences are not limited by time. The achievements of genius live for ever, and time cannot change them. By his works a man of genius is granted immortality on the earth, and thus in a threefold manner he has transcended time. His universal comprehension and memory forbid the annihilation of his experiences with the passing of the {137} moment in which each occurred; his birth is independent of his age, and his work never dies.


Here is the best place to consider a question which, strangely enough, appears to have received no attention. The question is, if there be anything akin to genius in the world of animals and plants? Although it must be admitted that exceptional forms occur amongst animals and plants, these cannot be regarded as coming under our definition of genius. Talent may exist amongst them as amongst men below the standard of genius. But the special gift, what Moreau, Lombroso, and others have called the “divine spark,” we must deny to animals. This limitation is not jealousy nor the anxious guarding of a privilege, but is founded on good grounds.


Is there anything unexplained by the assumption that the first appearance of genius was in man! In the first place, it is because of this that the human race has an objective mind; in other words, that man is the only organism with a history.


The history of the human race (naturally I mean the history of its mind and not merely its wars) is readily intelligible on the theory of the appearance of genius, and of the imitation by the more monkey-like individuals of the conduct of those with genius. The chief stages, no doubt, were house- building, agriculture, and above all, speech. Every single word has been the invention of a single man, as, indeed, we still see, if we leave out of consideration the merely technical terms. How else could language have arisen? The earliest words were “onomatopoetic”; a sound similar to the exciting cause was evolved almost without the will of the speaker, in direct response to the sensuous stimulation. All the other words were originally metaphors, or comparisons, a kind of primitive poetry, for all prose has come from poetry. Many, perhaps the majority of the greatest geniuses, have remained unknown. Think of the proverbs, now almost commonplaces, such as “one good turn deserves another.” These were said for the first time by some great man. How many quotations {138} from the classics, or sayings of Christ, have passed into the common language, so that we have to think twice before we can remember who were the authors of them. Language is as little the work of the multitude as our ballads. Every form of speech owes much that is not acknowledged to individuals of another language. Because of the universality of genius, the words and phrases that he invents are useful not only to those who use the language in which he wrote them. A nation orients itself by its own geniuses, and derives from them its ideas of its own ideals, but the guiding star serves also as a light to other nations. As speech has been created by a few great men, the most extraordinary wisdom lies concealed in it, a wisdom which reveals itself to a few ardent explorers but which is usually overlooked by the stupid professional philologists.


The genius is not a critic of language, but its creator, as he is the creator of all the mental achievements which are the material of culture and which make up the objective mind, the spirit of the peoples. The “timeless” men are those who make history, for history can be made only by those who are not floating with the stream. It is only those who are unconditioned by time who have real value, and whose productions have an enduring force. And the events that become forces of culture become so only because they have an enduring value.


If we make a criterion of genius the exhibition of this threefold “timelessness” we shall have a measure by which it is easy to test all claimants. Lombroso and Türck have expanded the popular view which ascribes genius to all whose intellectual or practical achievements are much above the average. Kant and Schelling have insisted on the more exclusive doctrine that genius can be predicated only of the great creative artists. The truth probably lies between the two. I am inclined to think that only great artists and great philosophers (amongst the latter, I include, above all, the great religious teachers) have proved a claim to genius. Neither the “man of action” nor “the man of science” has any claim. {139}


Men of action, famous politicians and generals, may possess a few traits resembling genius (particularly a specially good knowledge of men and an enormous capacity for remembering people). The psychology of such traits will be dealt with later; they are confused with genius only by those whom the externals of greatness dazzle. The man of genius almost typically renounces such external greatness because of the real greatness within him. The really great man has the strongest sense of values; the distinguished general is absorbed by the desire for power. The former seeks to link power with real value; the latter desires that power itself should be valued. Great generals and great politicians, like the bird of Phoenix, are born out of fiery chaos and like it disappear again in the chaos. The great emperor or the great demagogue is the only man who lives entirely in the present; he does not dream of a more beautiful, better future; his mind does not dwell on his own past which has already passed, and so in the two ways most possible to man, he does not transcend time, but lives only in the moment. The great genius does not let his work be determined by the concrete finite conditions that surround him, whilst it is from these that the work of the statesman takes its direction and its termination. And so the great emperor is no more than a phenomenon of nature, whereas the genius is outside nature and is an incorporation of the mind. The works of men of action crumble at the death of their authors, if indeed they have not already decayed, or they survive only a brief time leaving no traces behind them except what the chronicles record as having been done and later undone. The emperor creates no works that survive time, passing into eternity; such creations come from genius. It is the genius in reality and not the other who is the creator of history, for it is only the genius who is outside and unconditioned by history. The great man has a history, the emperor is only a part of history. The great man transcends time; time creates and time destroys the emperor.


The great man of science, unless he is also a philosopher {140} (I think of such names as Newton and Gauss, Linnaeus and Darwin, Copernicus and Galileo), deserves the title of genius as little as the man of action. Men of science are not universal; they deal only with a branch or branches of knowledge. This is not due, as is sometimes said, merely to the extreme modern specialisation that makes it impossible to master everything. Even in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries there are still amongst the learned men individuals with a knowledge as many- sided as that of Aristotle or Leibnitz; the names of von Humboldt and William Wundt at once come to my mind. The absence of genius comes from something much more deeply seated in the men of science, and in science itself, from a cause which I shall explain in the eighth chapter. Probably some one may be disposed to argue that if even the most distinguished men of science have not a knowledge so universal as that of the philosopher, there are some who stand on the outermost fringes of philosophy, and to whom it is yet difficult to deny the word genius. I think of such men as Fichte, Schleiermacher, Carlyle, and Nietzsche. Which of the merely scientific has felt in himself an unconditioned comprehension of all men and of all things, or even the capacity to verify any single thing in his mind and by his mind? On the contrary, has not the whole history of the science of the last thousand years been directed against this? This is the reason why men of science are necessarily one-sided. No man of science, unless he is also a philosopher, however eminent his achievements, has that continuous unforgetting life that the genius exhibits, and this is because of his want of universality.


Finally, it is to be observed that the investigations of the scientific are always in definite relation to the knowledge of their day. The scientific man takes possession of a definite store of experimental or observed knowledge, increases or alters it more or less, and then hands it on. And much will be taken away from his achievements, much will silently disappear; his treatises may make a brave show in libraries, but they cease to be actively alive. On the other {141} hand, we can ascribe to the work of the great philosopher, as to that of the great artist, an imperishable, unchangeable presentation of the world, not disappearing with time, and which, because it was the expression of a great mind, will always find a school of men to adhere to it. There still exist disciples of Plato and Aristotle, of Spinoza and Berkeley and Bruno, but there are now none who denote themselves as followers of Galileo or Helmholtz, of Ptolemy or Copernicus. It is a misuse of terms, due to erroneous ideas, to speak of the “classics” of science or of pedagogy in the sense that we speak of the classics of philosophy and art.


The great philosopher bears the name of genius deservedly and with honour. And if it will always be the greatest pain to the philosopher that he is not an artist, so the artist envies the philosopher his tenacious and controlled strength of systematic thought, and it is not surprising that the artist has taken pleasure in depicting Prometheus and Faust, Prospera and Cyprian, Paul the Apostle and Il Penseroso. The philosopher and the artist are alternate sides of one another.


We must not be too lavish in attributing genius to those who are philosophers or we shall not escape the reproach of being merely partisans of philosophy against science. Such a partisanship is foreign to my purpose, and, I hope, to this book. It would only be absurd to discuss the claims to genius of such men as Anaxagoras, Geulinex, Baader, or Emerson. I deny genius either too such unoriginally profound writers as Angelus Silesius, Philo and Jacobi, or to original yet superficial persons such as Comte Feuerbach, Hume, Herbart, Locke, and Karneades. The history of art is equally full of preposterous valuations, whilst, on the other hand, the history of science is extremely free from false estimations. The history of science busies itself very little with the biographies of its protagonists; its object is a system of objective, collective knowledge in which the individual is swept away. The service of science demands the greatest sacrifice, for in it the individual human being renounces all claim to eternity as such.


* I venture to remind readers how often at the approach of death those who have been occupied with purely scientific matters have turned to religious problems, e.g., Newton, Gauss, Riemann, Weber.

It is often a cause for astonishment that men with quite ordinary, even vulgar, natures experience no fear of death. But it is quite explicable: it is not the fear of death which creates the desire for immortality, but the desire for immortality which causes fear of death.