( Originally Published 1907 )
It is said there is no accounting for genius. The authorship of Shakespeare's plays has been discussed at great length, and while (to use the words of Sir Roger de Coverley) a great deal might be said on both sides," the principal argument against the Shakespeare claim is that his education, " knowing little Latin and less Greek," was too meager to make it possible. But in his time the ale-house was the resort of those great lights of the Elizabethan Era. There he might easily have absorbed the stories and learned talk of Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, and hanging around the theater would have made him familiar with the plays of the time. Indeed the free use of anything he could lay his hands on, the close following of the Holinshed Chronicles in the English historical plays, has caused him to be called a plagiarist.
But poets have been notoriously erratic and unbalanced. The artistic mood seems to be incompatible with that dignified self-control which we so much admire. The scientific thinker has no patience with it. Darwin was great enough to recognize the incongruity of the two types of mind, and said of himself, that altho quite musical in his youth, he had gradually lost the power to enjoy music. The drunken Bobbie Bums is regarded by many as our greatest English poet. Byron and Poe were certainly not well balanced. It is said that Coleridge's " Ancient Mariner " was the result of an opium dream.
There have been numerous boy calculators whose powers transcend anything attainable by the greatest mathematicians. The writer once heard an " inspirational " speaker rattle off poetry for a quarter of an hour on an impromptu subject. Upon this occasion the writer offered the subject of the " Canal-boat," thinking it not one of which the bards had frequently sung. The production may not have been of a high order, but the meter was good and it was about the canal-boat, the words recurring very frequently. The recitation began almost immediately after the subject was assigned, and lasted over ten minutes.
Now all of these facts, which demand explanation, suggest the possibility that they are manifestations of subliminal consciousness, the outpouring of material unconsciously absorbed. It is admitted that little proof is at hand, and that even as a theory it fails to cover all the abnormal manifestations.
There are other psychic phenomena, such as clairvoyance, or the power to see without the eyes, and clairaudience, or the power to hear beyond the range of the ears, which seem to be well established. Telepathy, or thought transference, is believed by many whose scientific attainments and recognized standing command respect of their opinions.
It is cheerfully admitted that these manifestations are at present abnormal. Moreover, genius and insanity are closely allied, and it is not always easy to differentiate them. The expediency of cultivating these experiences by present methods is perhaps questionable. That the imagination may take control even with a sound mind is often seen in children who want to play bear. As the play goes on, especially if some fur rugs be used, the auto-suggestion may be accepted with so little discrimination, that the child really becomes terribly scared.
History is replete with mental epidemics, crusades, and financial panics, which are thoroly irrational.
Undoubtedly it is safer to keep the conscious at the helm, to challenge all new impulses. But the problem for the future is to develop some rational method of utilizing the vast resources of the subconscious. The possibilities are infinite.