Lipton’s Journal/December 1, 1954/10

From Project Mailer

I upset Herbert[1] by saying that possibly psychoanalysis is witchcraft. But it can so well be true. Scientifically, they have not even taken the second step of physics, the first being the concept of mass, or in psychoanalysis, the unconscious. But the one next step, that of measuring intensity of movement has never been approached, unlike physics. And a reason may well be that it suffers from the incapacity to see, to understand, of knowledge itself. Any scientist knows that an experiment to be truly controlled should be administered by people who not only are disinterested, but indeed do not know the purpose of the experiment. The more hypothetical, the less measurable by the objective test of nature, the more this is true. We may take it for granted that the wish to prove a theory alters a fact. But what of the facts, previous facts, which suddenly form in our mind to suggest a theory? What I’ve noticed in writing is how often my unconscious is ahead of me, creating characters who seem alien to me at the time, only for me to discover later that indeed they are part of myself. So it may be with theories. They can exist in the unconscious, prepared to answer tangible needs of one’s social life, such as prestige, personality, position, etc., and while they exist there, previous to their appearance in consciousness, they may be altering the facts one sees, forming them to give credence to the theory when it will appear. This way, the “scientist” feels conviction; he has the illusion that the facts which support his theory are independent of himself.


  1. Mailer met Herbert Aptheker (1915 – 2003), a blacklisted communist intellectual and historian of African Americans in the U.S., through mutual friends associated with Dissent, a leftist, anti-communist journal launched in 1954. Mailer served on its editorial board for over 20 years.