André Breton and FWH Meyers

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research vol 17 1903
Tribute to FWH Myers by William James
Frederick Myers’s Service to Psychology

William James, one of the grand old men of psychology, wrote this tribute following the death of Myers. Very interesting in itself as a summary of Myers’s work and also of the man himself. You get a sense of why Myers appealed to those outside of academic science and conversely why he repelled those inside.

Source of two quotes from André Breton’s Le Message Automatique:

Myers’s Problem page 17

What is the precise constitution of the Subliminal —such is the problem which deserves to figure in our Science hereafter as the problem of Myers; and willy-nilly, inquiry must follow on the path which it has opened up. But Myers has not only propounded the problem definitely, he has also invented definite methods for its solution. Posthypnotic suggestion, crystal-gazing, automatic writing and trance-speech, the willing-game, etc., are now, thanks to him, instruments of research, reagents like litmus paper or the galvanometer, for revealing what would otherwise be hidden. These are so many ways of putting the Subliminal on tap.

gothic psychology page 14
James doesn’t actually use this term, instead refering to Myers as a romantic psychologist as opposed to classical-academic:

(referring to the sunlit terrace of classical-academic psychology)

But of late years the terrace has been overrun by romantic improvers, and to pass to their work is like going from classic to Gothic architecture, where few outlines are pure and where uncouth forms lurk in the shadows. A mass of mental phenomena are now seen in the shrubbery beyond the parapet. Fantastic, ignoble, hardly human, or frankly nonhuman are some of these new candidates for psychological description. The menagerie and the madhouse, the nursery, the prison, and the hospital, have been made to deliver up their material. The world of mind is shown as something infinitely more complex than was suspected ; and whatever beauties it may still possess, it has lost at any rate the beauty of academic neatness.


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