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To poets, it is a familiar world. The ordinary mortal wanders about in its wonderful gardens as if he were blind; he lives in it without knowing it. He does not know where the real world stops and where the fantasy world begins. In the treadmill of a grey day, the invisible boundaries between these two worlds escape him.
The second world! What would our life be without it? What a vale of tears would this globe be were it not for this heaven on earth!
The reader probably guesses what I mean. All of us, the poorest and the richest, the smallest and biggest, rarely or never find contentment in our daily routine. We need a second sphere, a richer life, in which we may dream of everything that is denied us in the first sphere. Ibsen called this “The Great Life-Lie.” But is it always a lie? Did not Ibsen go too far with this characterization? Who could doubt that the lie is not one of those eternal truths that is so incorporeal that we cannot grasp it, so colorless that we cannot see it, so formless that we cannot describe it.
The child finds its second world in play. The little duties of everyday life are for it only unnecessary interruptions in its play in the second world. Here the child’s fantasy has ample room. It is a soldier, king, and robber, cook, and princess; it rides through a wide world on steaming express trains, it battles courageously with dragons and giants, it snatches the treasures of the earth from their guardian dwarfs, and even the stars in the heavens are not beyond its reach in its play. Then comes the powerful dictum called education and snatches the child out of its beloved second world and compels it to give heed to the first world and to learn things necessary to it in its actual life. The child learns of obligations and submits unwillingly to the dictates of its teachers. The first world is made up of duties. The second world knows no duties; it knows only freedom and unrestrained freedom of thought. This is the root of the subsequent great conflict between feelings and duties. In our childhood, we find duties a troublemaker who interferes with our playing; this childish hostility continues with us all through life. Our vocation, the sphere of our duties, can never wholly satisfy us. It is our first world; and even though we seem to accept it wholly, a little remnant of this hostility remains and this constitutes a part of our second world.
Primitive people find their second world in religion. From their primitive fears for the preservation of their lives, they flee to their gods, whom they love and fear, punish and reward. The same thing is true of all those simple souls whose culture has not robbed of their religious belief. To them, religion is the second world which gives them rich consolation and solace for the pains of the first world. In his book “Seelenkunde,” Benedict attributes anarchism to an absence of consolatory life-lies. He says: “Our free-thinking times have stopped up this source and it is the duty of society to create a consoling life-truth, otherwise that psychic inner life which hoards up bitter hatred will not cease.”
The more highly developed a person’s mind is, the more complicated is his second world. People often express surprise at the fact that so many physicians devote themselves passionately to music or the other fine arts. To me, it seems very simple. All-day long they see life in its most disagreeable aspects. They see the innocent sufferings, the frightful tortures which they cannot relieve. They look behind the curtain of the “happy family”; they wade through all the repellant and disgusting filthiness of this petty world, and they would have to become dull and non-partisan animals did they not have their second world. There is first of all music, which is so dear to all of us because it is an all-embracing mother which absorbs all the emotions of hatred, anger, love, envy, fear, and despair, and fuses them all into one great rhythm, into one great vibrating emotion of pleasure. On its trembling waves, the thoughts of the poor tortured human soul are borne out into the darkness of uncomprehended eternity and the eternally incomprehensible.
Then there is literature. We open a book and at once we are transported into the second world of another ego, a world which in a few minutes becomes our own. Happy poets, who have been endowed with the gift of saying what they see, of giving form to what they dream, of freeing themselves from their energies, of abreacting their secret sufferings and of making others happy by opening up to them a second world!
Then there are the thousand and one forms of play; sports and in fact everything that tears us away from our daily grind. What is the lottery ticket to the poor wage-earner but an instalment on the pleasures of the second world, or the purchased right of joyous hope?
There is devotion to clubs and fraternal associations. The henpecked husband flees wrathfully to his club where he can freely and fearlessly launch all those fine argumentative speeches which he has to suppress at home. Here he can rule, here he can play the role of the independent master. For many thousands, the club is nothing more than an opportunity to work off their energies, to get rid of unused emotions and to play that role which life in the first sphere has denied them.
And thus everyone has his second world. One who does not have it stands on the level of animals or is the happiest of the happy. By happiness, I mean the employment of one’s energies in the first sphere. There is a wide gulf between happiness and the consciousness of happiness. The consciousness of happiness is such a fugitive moment that the poorest wage slave in his second world can be happier than the truly happy who does not happen to be thinking of his happiness. Happiness is like the possession of a beautiful wife. If we are in danger of losing her.. we tremble. Before we have obtained her and in moments of jealousy, we guard her possession as fortune’s greatest gift. But in the consciousness of undisturbed possession, can we be saying to ourselves every second: I possess her, I am happy? No! no! Happiness is the greatest of all life’s lies and one who has had the least of it may be the happiest in his second world.
Rose-colored hope! Queen of all pleasurable emotions, our all-preserving, and all-animating goddess! You are the sovereign of the second world and beckon graciously the unhappy weeping mortal who in the first world sees the last traces of you disappear.
Marital happiness depends very largely upon whether the two spheres of the couple partly overlap or touch each other at a few points. In the first world, they must live together. But woe if the second world keeps them asunder! If the two spheres touch each other even only in one point and have only one feeling tangent between them, that will bring them closer together than all the cares and the iron constraint of the first world. Women know this instinctively, especially during the period of courtship. They enthuse about everything over which the lover enthuses; they love and hate with him and want to share everything with him. Beware, you married women, of destroying your husband’s second world! If after the day’s toil he soothes his tired nerves in the fateful harmonies of Beethoven, do not disturb his pious mood; enthuse with him, do not carry the petty cares and the vulgar commonplaces of life into the lofty second world. Do you understand me, or must I speak more plainly? Do not let him go alone on his excursions into the second world! A book that he reads alone, understands alone, enjoys alone, maybe more dangerous to you than the most ardent glances of a wanton rival. Art must never become the man’s second world. No! It must become the child of both the lovers if the beats of their souls are to be harmonious.
True friendship is so lofty, so exalting because it is dependent upon a congruence of the second spheres. Love is a linking of the first worlds and if it is to be permanent it must journey forth into the second world. Genuine friendship is born in the second world and affects the first world only retroactively.
The second world need not necessarily always be the better world even though to its possessor it may appear to be the more beautiful and the more desirable. Rarely enough it is the supplement to the first world, but frequently the contrast and the complement to it. Pious chaste natures may often give their coarser instincts undisturbed expression in the second world. Daydreams are frequently the expression of life in the second world. But on careful analysis, even the dreams of the night prove to be an unrestricted wallowing in the waters of the second world. Dreams are usually wish fulfillment, but in their lowest levels, we find the wishes of the second world which are only rarely altered by unconscious thought processes.
One who dreams during the day flies from the first world into the second. If he fails to find his way back again into the first world his dreams become delusions and we say that he is insane. How delicate are the transitions from sanity to insanity! Inasmuch as all of us live in a second world, all of us are insane at least a few seconds every day. What distinguishes us from the insane is the fact that we hold in our hands the Ariadne thread which leads us out of the labyrinth of thoughts back into the world of duties.
It is incredible how happy an insane person can be. Proudly the paranoid hack writer marches up and down in his pitiful cell. Clothed in rags, he is king and commands empires. His cot is a heavenly couch of eiderdown; his old dilapidated stool is a jewel-bedecked throne. The attendants and the physicians are his servants. And thus in his delusion, he is what he would like to be.
The world is only what we think it is; the “thing itself” is only a convention of the majority. A cured maniac assured me that the period of his insanity had been the happiest in his life. He saw everything through rose-colored glasses and the awful succession of wild thoughts was only a succession of intensely pleasurable emotions. Obviously, those on the other hand, who suffers from melancholia and delusions of inferiority are the unhappiest creatures. The invalid who thinks himself made of glass trembles apprehensively for his life with every step. The unhappy experiences of the first world have become so fixed in his brain that they follow him into the second world and transform even this into their own image.
Every impression in our life affects our soul as if it were made of wax and not one such impression can be lost. That we forget so many impressions is due to the fact that we have repressed them out of our consciousness. Repression is a protective device but at the same time a cause for many serious nervous disorders. A painful impression, an unpleasant experience in the first or the second world, is so altered as to be unrecognizable in consciousness. As a reaction to these serious nervous disturbances, especially hysterical alterations of the psyche, may occur,—conditions which can be cured only by tracing out the dark pathways of the repressed emotions and reintroducing them into consciousness. They are conjured out of the dark realm of the unconscious into the glaring light of day and, lo! the ghosts vanish for all time and with them all those unpleasant symptoms which have so exercised the physician’s skill.
If the psychotherapist is to fulfill his difficult task, he must acquaint himself with the patient’s second world even more thoroughly than with the first. And so, too, a judge ought never to pronounce a sentence without first having thoroughly penetrated the second world of the condemned. In that world are the roots of good and evil in human life. In his “Crime and Punishment” Dostoyevsky’s genius shows in a masterly way the relationship between the two worlds of a criminal. And so, too, Tolstoy, in his “Resurrection,” in an endeavor to enlist our sympathies on her behalf, describes the second world of a courtesan. It is her life-lie that she makes all the men in her embrace blessed. And in sooth, a spark of truth seems to slumber in this life-lie.
Physicians, judges, lawyers, and ministers ought all to have thorough training in psychology. Not psychology in the sense of that school philosophy which flourishes in theoretical phraseology and in theoretical facts remote from the green tree of life. Life can learn only from life. One who knows the secrets of the second world will not be surprised by any happenings that the day may bring forth. He will understand the weaknesses of the great and the strength of the small. He will see virtue and vice coalesce in one great stream whose murky waters will flow on into unknown regions.