We seldom realize how much what we call high culture owes to the mournful, productive type of person with the potent combination of melancholia and energetic initiative. In today’s terminology, we would tend to locate such character images in the region of schizoid structures. They are typical of people who, in psychoanalytic terms, are “born incomplete.” Nothing is more normal for them than being remote from any kind of normality. Their realism is manifested in their tendency to move in the shadow worlds of reverie. By indulging the inclination to encapsulate themselves in webs of moods and conjecture, they sometimes come up with world-shattering revelations.
She began to go slowly upstairs, with her hand on the bannisters, as if she had left a party, where now this friend now that had flashed back her face, her voice; had shut the door and gone out and stood alone, a single figure against the appalling night, or rather, to be accurate, against the stare of this matter-of-fact June morning; soft with the glow of rose petals for some, she knew, and felt it, as she paused by the open staircase window which let in blinds flapping, dogs barking, let in, she thought, feeling herself suddenly shrivelled, aged, breastless, the grinding, blowing, flowering of the day, out of doors, out of the window, out of her body and brain which now failed, since Lady Bruton, whose lunch parties were said to be extraordinarily amusing, had not asked her.
A first enlightenment came about when the spiritual teachers showed that humans are not so much possessed by demons as controlled by automatisms. They are not assailed by evil spirits, but by routines and inertias that force them to the ground and deform them. What impair their reason are not chance errors and occasional errors of perception – it is the eternal recurrence of the cliches that render true thought and free perception impossible.
Next to Gautama Buddha, Plato was the first epidemiologist of the spirit: he recognized everyday opinion, the doxa, the pestilence that does not kill, but does occasionally poison entire communities. Empty phrases that have sunk down into the body produce ‘characters ‘. They mould humans into living caricatures of averageness and turn them into incarnated platitudes.
Oh! who young Leila’s glance could read
And keep that portion of his creed
Which saith that woman is but dust,
A soulless toy for tyrant’s lust?