The unconscious before freud

The unconscious before freud – Lancelot Law Whyte

pg 3 ” The history of ideas – human understanding is new. Until recent times in the history of this planet, say a hundred thousand years ago or less, there was no talking, no writing, and no thinking, in a human sense. Elaborate methods of communication, perhaps a human version of the dance language of the bees, must already have existed, but there was no articulated speech, no recording of experience in art or script, no stabilisation of thought in unit ideas.”

pg 12 “All human comprehension, whether it be intuitive understanding or scientific explanation, or any blend of these, rests on knowledge with two complementary aspects:

accuracy of detailed facts (precision); correct arrangement of these into comprehensive generalisations (order).”

pg 15 “Ideas are not discovered once and for all and passed on like museum objects. They are part of the life of thought and must come to life, be kept alive, and be made productive in the processes of human minds and the activities of individuals. The same ideas, or similar ones, may have to be independently rediscovered over and over again by isolated thinkers, some o whom may never communicate their thoughts, while others may have spoken but not been understood or produced any recorded response, and finally by still others who bring the idea to full life, not only in their own minds but in a professional or social community.”

pg 17 “‘nature is no party to our phraseology.’ certainly the terms”conscious,””unconscious,””subconscious,” and “preconscious” though valuable, are not entirely satisfactory. ”


pg 29 “The impatience to order has here led to disorder.”


pg 59 ” Self-conscious man thinks he thinks. this has long ben recognised to be an error, for the conscious subject who thinks he thinks is not the same as the organ which does the thinking. The conscious person is one component only, a series of transitory aspects, of the thinking person. This misinterpretation led to extraordinary achievements and strange embarrassments. To the first because it gave the individual a sense of his independence, poet, and responsibility;…”


pg 186 ” 1. the problem of life: What contrasted forms of order distinguish animate and inanimate phenomena? What is the nature of biological organisation and its relation to physical laws, either known or still to be discovered? How sharp is the foundry?

It would seem that until a general theory of (or method of approach to) order and disorder in complex systems of various kinds has been established, theoretical science cannot come to grips with the “problem of life”, since this appears to involve ordered transformations in complex systems. Current theories of protein and nucleic acid structure, etc,… provide no suggestions of how differentiated processes are coordinated spatially and temporally within living systems.

2. The general problem of “mind”: What is the structure characteristic of “mental processes”? What aspects of these enter direct awareness? How should types of awareness be classified?

It may be possible to identify, within the wider class of organic processes, a category of mental processes which can either be observed externally as physiological phenomena, or known subjectively.”Mental” may be defined as referring to those “dominant ordering processes in which traces of individual experience are ordered and tend to order thought and behaviour.” But this is ambiguous since the meaning and uniqueness of “dominance” has still to be determined.

If “finality”(the property of proceeding toward a terminus) is accepted as a characteristic of mental processes, and if mind is taken to be part of nature, then the general laws which determine the processes of the mind must themselves be finalistic.

3. The problem of man: Wherin is man unique? In what respects, if at all, does he escape the restrictive conditions of all other organisms? Are any universally valid biological principles irrelevant to man? How far do the contrasted methods of the various sciences apply to man?

Most centuries have had their own answers to these or similar questions. Certainly biology is not in a position to claim finality for any current answers. Homo may be distinguished by his use of tools, mastery of fire or size of brain; Homo sapiens perhaps by his ability to draw, to speak, to write, to read, or to think step-by-step about one thing at a time. For our own species seems to be marked by the cerebral faculty to form new communicable units of thought. But here we are still ignorant, and surprise are likely.

4. The problem of human conscious: What is the role of human “awareness” and “self awareness” and which mental processes are necessarily unconscious?

5. The problem of “reason”: Has the term “reason” a useful meaning today? If so, what is its relation to other mental faculties?

It is not easy to give this term a single, acceptable meaning. To call reason “the guiding principle of the human mind” merely conceals our ignorance as to what this principle is.”Logical reasoning” would restrict it to the highly specialised operations of deductive logic and calculation. “The ordering process of the human brain mind” might be a useful interpretation, but this process is largely unconscious.

6.the problem of disorder in the human mind: if man is an organic species, and the brain-mind a differentiated organ, why have human thought and behaviour lost the perfect coordination of structures and functions which rev ails in organisms that survive?

The easy answer is: he lost it through the original sin (or some genetic misfortune), and he will not survive.

Another is: man passed through a historical discontinuity and thus acquired freedom of choice; he has thereby moved outside the biologic; realm of organic order. Bu t this cannot be the correct answer since animals continually select between alternatives without frustrating hesitation, damaging conflict, or permanent disorder.

Another possible answer is that man’s fifty thousand years or more as a stabilised specie have not been enough; that he is a not-yet-adapted species:that he still has to complete the exploitation of his hereditary species potentialities in an adequate social tradition ordering both thought within the individual, and individuals within the race; and that a mature characteristically human organic-social order lies ahead, if he can survive the transitional lack of adaptation.

This is a dreamy hypothesis of an ultimate stationary adaption. but it has been suggested that the most rapid known evolution of a new adapted animal species has required about half a million years, certainly much more than homo sapiens has yet had. And if our species can already explore cosmic time and space with its instruments why worry if it possibly needs a mere thousand generations or so more to realise its organic potentialities, mentally and socially? For this is the only human ideal that can be universally accepted forever:…..

7. The problem of the “depths” of the human mind: What is the meaning of “depth” psychology? how far is the human psyche an autonomous part of the human system, with obscure “abysses” of its own?

The term “depth” psychology confuses the issue by combing two contrasted meanings: hidden far from direct awareness, and therefore accessible only by difficult procedure; and concerned with highly general tendencies underlying all differentiated and all conscious activities……..

8. The problem of personal coordination:In spite of the prevalence of clash, and of the still inescapable disorder in the hum a mind and tradition,scan each person at times experience in himself the harmonious cooperation of the differentiated functions and faculties? Can each person directly experience the fact and the operation of “organic coordination”?

I believe that this experience is not merely possible but frequent:in joy in living, when  self-awareness is replaced by aesthetic participation. Without this positive core life would be unbearable.”





About hannahruthkellett

I am currently doing my Masters in interior design, this blog is to reflect and inspire my progress through out my time on the course. View all posts by hannahruthkellett

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