Halliday Sutherland

"A born writer, especially a born story-teller. Dr. Sutherland, who is distinguished in medicine, is an amateur in the sense that he only writes when he has nothing better to do. But when he does, it could hardly be done better." G.K. Chesterton.

My Path to Rome 4

This is the fourth and final instalment of My Path to Rome by Dr. Halliday Sutherland.

Unlike Confession the purpose of psycho-analysis is not to reveal what is present in consciousness, but to reveal thoughts that have been either suppressed from consciousness, or thoughts that are struggling to emerge from the unconscious mind. This suppression or struggle constitutes a mental conflict between three territories of mind, and these territories must be postulated in order to explain psycho-analysis. There is the conscious mind of which everyone is aware, the unconscious mind of which we are not aware, and between the two an area of resistance or censorship which seeks to prevent certain thoughts emerging from the conscious and mind into consciousness. That resistance creates a mental conflict or conflict complex which may give rise to nervous disorders, or two irregularities of conduct.The object of psycho-analysis is to breakdown this resistance in order that the nature of the struggle may be manifest to the patient.

In 1880 Sigmund Freud, working in Vienna with Breuer, an older physician, began the exploration of the unconscious mind. Freud had worked in Paris under Charcot, who had been treating hysteria and allied conditions by hypnotism. Charcot found that in hypnotic sleep thoughts that had lapsed from memory could be recalled, but it was the genius of Freud that detected the difference between a thought that had lapsed from memory, and a thought that has either been suppressed or is struggling to reach consciousness. His first case was of a girl of twenty-one who had a violent repugnance to drinking a glass of water. Under hypnotic sleep she recollected that once she had seen a pet dog drink from a glass. This disgusted her so much that she feared she would express her disgust in the presence of the owner of the dog. She suppressed her disgust, and the whole incident was forgotten until recalled in deep hypnotic sleep. Although forgotten, the repression was manifested in her repulsion from drinking out of a glass.

Freud next discovered that symptoms due to repression might be cured by revealing the repression in hypnotic sleep, but found that the symptoms were apt to recur. Breuer and Freud then began to seek for repressions by encouraging patients while fully awake to talk freely about anything that entered their minds. The patient was told that if he freely narrated his thoughts the origin of his symptoms would become parents will stop as soon as the patient made the attempt a resistance, partly conscious and partly unconscious, was encountered, especially where the thoughts were of an unpleasant or sexual nature. The object of psycho-analysis was to overcome that resistance will stop very soon the danger of transference became apparent. The patient tended to make the physician the object of his or her repression. This led Breuer to abandon the method. Freud went on, and came to the startling conclusion that’s every neurosis and adult life is due to repression’s during infancy and childhood of incestuous thoughts. On this point Jung, one of Freud’s pupils, broke away. He considered this emphasis on sexuality to be unwarranted, and that out of the unconscious an undifferentiated life energy may pour itself into limitless channels.

The area of resistance in the mind can be easily demonstrated when the free association test is timed. A series of thirty words such as donkey, clock, ice, cherry, etc, I spoken to the subject, a new series being used at each experiment. The subject is asked to reply to each word by giving the first associated idea that comes into his mind. As each word is spoken a stopwatch is started by the operator, and as soon as the reply is given the watch is stopped and the time taken to answer is noted. Into the series of simple colourless words certain keywords are inserted, and if these awaken an unpleasant mental association, this fact will be recorded by this stop-watch. The reply is delayed. During the war I used this method to discover repressed fear in pilots of aeroplanes. The keyword inserted here were words such as crash, fire, petrol, see, fog, missed. Pilots with good mental equilibrium showed no great differences in the time taken to reply to all words in the series. But those who had repressed fear in the reply to the keyword, instead of taking, say, 1.2 seconds, would come after an interval of four seconds. And even then the reply did not give the first idea that entered the mind, that represented a process of thought whereby the first idea had been repressed. The discovery of a simple repression such as fear of death is easy, but in the case of complicated repressions 250 to 1000 daily sessions, each lasting an hour, may be required. In such cases treatment is both tedious and expensive. Another point of contrast between psycho-analysis and confession is that the most serious confession need not occupy more than a few minutes. Within 10 minutes of Farm Street I confessed the sins of a lifetime — but I perspired.

The next advance made by Freud was to prove from the symbolism of dreams the existence of a mental resistance or censorship. This is now manifest in the records of thousands of dreams. In married man, who loved a girl he could not marry, was in his dreams constantly seeking her society. To this end he undertook the most prodigious feats of physical endurance, such as swimming out in a rough sea in a vain effort stop a liner in which she was travelling. He walked across a continent and scaled enormous precipices to meet her. But whenever they did meet in dreams it was only for a few minutes. Then he would lose her in a crowd, or the train on which she would start without him.

All these dream difficulties were symbols showing the sensor at work. Primitive and primordial desires welling up from the depths of unconscious mind were challenged. Even on the threshold of a dream, buy a Sentinel whose prohibition is symbolised in the obstacles of the dreamful stop in dreams the sensor has no power to stop these thoughts from entering these semi conscious mind, but has power to insist that they shall not come for naked and unashamed. But shall clothe themselves in a masquerade of symbolism. That is a stupendous mystery and it may be that the sensor is the same attribute of mind as conscience. And it may also be that in this mystery of mind there is the key to the strangest saying I have heard dash an old Spanish proverb: “Dreams themselves are only dreams.

If any convert to Rome imagines that he is entering a community of latter-day Saints, he will soon find his mistake. Throughout the Church he will find men and women like himself, many stronger than he is, and some who are weaker. Yet human weakness, whatever or wherever it be, cannot alter eternal truth. Again the converts, if he be of any consequence in public affairs, will receive a welcome that may turn his head. A convert to any religion is in a state of mental exaltation because one of the most powerful emotions in life has seized him. A great human love induces a similar state of mind. In either case sooner or later the phase of exaltation passes, and then happy are they who in the cold light of recent find themselves possessed of something that endures.

Once, when leaving a little church in Normandy, where the statues of Saints are less crude than in the churches of Brittany, a non-Catholic friend said: “I’ve just been wondering how you can reconcile your belief in all this with your knowledge of science.”

“Do you think I’m a greater scientist than Pasteur?”

“A foolish question,” he answered.

It was not a foolish question. No reconciliation between true religion and true science is necessary. Pasteur who has done more for suffering humanity than any man who ever lived, was once told by a sceptic: “You have the faith of a Breton peasant.” His answer was: “Would that I had the faith of a Breton child.” In those ten words are the simplicity and humility of genius. Only once did Pasteur, who never had more than £400 a year, appear on the platform of the Albert Hall, but when he did appear 10,000 people rose from their seats and cheered. As he walked to his place Pasteur turned to the men behind him and asked: “Has the Prince of Wales arrived?”

In this chapter I have tried to avoid special pleading, which is a double-edged tool. The fact that Pasteur is the Father of Bacteriology is no evidence whatever that the Catholic Faith is true, but it does prove that the fullest acceptance of that faith is not incompatible with the greatest achievements in science. Nor is a belief in spiritualism incompatible with great achievements in physics, but the fact that Sir Oliver Lodge is a great physicist does not prove that spiritualism is of God and not of the devil.

Science and religion are part of our knowledge of the cosmos, and all we can do is to try to distinguish in each that which is true from that which is false.

When something in science is irreconciliable with something in religion, then one or other must be false. In 1798 Malthus announced “that population, when unchecked, goes on doubling itself every twenty-five years, or increases in a geometrical ratio.” Whereas the “food supply could not possibly be made to increase faster than in an arithmetical ratio.” To Christians this law seemed incompatible with a loving God, and they were right. This law, once described by Lord Chief Justice Cockburn as “irrefragable truth,” is now an exploded myth, and since the slump of 1922 the world has been suffering from over- not under-production. Again in 1847 the introduction of chloroform into the practise of midwifery by Sir J.Y. Simpson of Edinburgh was opposed by the Protestant churches on the ground that this removed “the curse of Eve.” These churches were wrong, and the discoverer of chloroform refuted them on their own ground — on the literal interpretation of scripture. He pointed out that God did not condemn anæsthetics, since He caused Adam to fall into “a deep sleep” whilst the rib was being removed!

[At this point, Dr. Sutherland related his 1931 audience with Pope Pius XI which you can read by clicking here. He then concluded the chapter with the words below]

There is only one true answer to the question “Why am I a Catholic?”and that is “By the Grace of God.” Many converts have explained how they found the faith, but no uninspired man has ever yet stated the wherefore or the why — “The wind bloweth where it listeth.” Yet, although the wind be invisible, it is a man’s nature to record the ripples and waves on the ocean of life, to write history, even his own. So be it. And if aught I have written shall aid one navigator on perilous seas, the writing is not altogether lost.

From Chapter 18 of A Time to Keep (1934) by Dr. Halliday Sutherland.

Photograph at top of page by shutter_speed from Pexels

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This entry was posted on 1 December 2021 by in Uncategorized.

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