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Paul's Writing Style

Visitors to the Ninth Street Center who have not been exposed to serious prose often complain that Paul's writing is just too hard to understand. That there are no pictures they might have expected, but neither are there examples of the psychological mechanisms he posits, case histories, nor a single humorous aside. One of his students once broke up a discussion group by asking, "But exactly what, Paul, does a 'modality of mastery' look like?"

Naturally, the academic community found things to complain about too. One scholar found it suspicious that he could find neither footnotes nor references to the standard literature that might corroborate Paul's hypotheses. Unfortunately for this crowd, Paul, like Newton, was too original a thinker to find in the "standard literature" much more than a quicksand of entrenched delusions.

Actually, Paul's writing style, while formal, is much friendlier than most of the gobbledygook you get to read, say, in Hegel. Having read each of Paul's works several times now -- our Rosenfels Study Group has completed three or four cycles since 1985 -- I'm convinced that Paul always chose the simplest and clearest way to say anything. And there are many passages that are extremely poetic and even inspirational if you bother to find them.

Why are there are no examples or case histories in Paul's works? Because, as a scientist, Paul knew that any half-decent theory should able to handle any example or case history you throw at it. Showing that you can apply a theory to a particular scenario not only proves nothing, but invites the danger of a good theory being cheapened by inappropriate examples. (Of course some theories invite indeterminate applications. This is Popper's objection to Freud and Marx: they're not falsifiable. Paul always decried the fact that if you put six psychoanalysts in a room and ask them to interpret a dream, they always come up with six completely different stories and stick to them.)

Here are two excerpts from Paul's works to give you some idea of the range of his writing style. The first is one of the most evocative prose passages ever written in English. When Paul died I had it framed in a plaque and mounted in a prominent place at the Center.

A Paradise for the Human Spirit
The Garden of Eden in which Adam and Eve dwelt was only an illusion. Before men accumulated sexual shame and celebrative guilt they lacked that character differentiation out of which the human soul takes its being. Their world was a garden only in the sense that the jungle is a garden to its animal inhabitants. Man means something different when he speaks of a garden, or an El Dorado, or a paradise for the human spirit. Man means a world of eternal springtime in the human heart, where faith never fails and hope never falters, where men always understand more today than they did yesterday, and establish an always broadening responsibility in the world. He means a world of lasting contentment, where the contentment of today passes that of yesterday, and a world of complete happiness where today's happiness is bigger than that of the day before. He means a world of love which fears nothing that the human eye can see, and a world of power which cannot be touched by rage in the performance of any act. When he sees these things he is not dreaming, and when he reaches for them he is not play acting. He is only sounding the battle horn and raising the banner by which he lays claim to ownership of the world, acting in his own name.
-- from Psychoanalysis and Civilization, page 188


The second example of Paul's prose shows his purely scientific style, which always places descriptions of feminine dynamics in opposition to descriptions of masculine ones. This example is divided into two columns for that reason, and I have put the names of each "analog" in RED BOLDFACE CAPS to help you find them.

The Four Phases of Love and Power
The vicissitudes of love divide roughly into four phases. There is a NEUROTIC phase in which the intensity of feeling builds up without establishing outlets in love relationships. The individual is unable to apply these feelings in any way that leads to service of an ideal, and this phase brings anxiety. The next phase is the COMPULSIVE one in which action patterns develop, but without a meaningful submission to an ideal chosen by the individual. Compulsiveness is a defense against anxiety. The next phase is the SADISTIC one, in which the individual serves an ideal but cannot maintain a sense of its integrity. He is driven by a self-aggrandizing amorality in which dominance is justified by dehumanizing others. The sadistic mechanism is a defense against feelings of inferiority. The CREATIVE phase is not a defense against anything. It rests on the need for inner contentment and peace of mind. It alone has the positive goal of making a better life for the self and for others, in which both the individual and his ideal are fulfilled. . . . The development of the creative use of personal power also goes through four phases. The buildup of energies which cannot find meaningful involvement in anything produces a restless search for activity which is disorganized in nature. This is the DELINQUENT or psychopathic phase. The OBSESSIVE phase is a defense against psychopathic restlessness, and is characterized by an automatic involvement with feelings and beliefs which cut the individual off from the capacity to choose new patterns of experience. In the MASOCHISTIC phase, the individual uses helplessness as a power tool, and can now deal with a changing reality. It provides a defense against guilt and gains its psychological rewards through the sense of self-importance which intensified feeling can bring. It has strong magical components, imprisoning the mind in a dogmatic acceptance of frozen beliefs which obliterate the sense of change through time. The CREATIVE phase releases the individual from his defensive posture and substitutes the constructive exploitation of human resources, utilized in such a way that both the individual and his world are revealed to have unlimited potentialities of development.
-- from Homosexuality: The Psychology of the Creative Process, pages 84 and 85


Note that actually only three out of four of the phase name pairs in the above example are "analogs." The fourth phase is called creative for either personality type, probably because it was the simplest and clearest term Paul could find. He wasn't trying to prove anything by playing intellectual word games.

Paul claimed only to be an original thinker, and always insisted that his writing style was merely functional. His books, like Principia Mathematica, would be the source texts that others would mine when writing their popularizations and textbooks. Those who aren't aware that language, like any complex adaptive system, variegates and evolves can always have fun hunting down little deviations from "standard English" in Paul that I'm content to chalk up to the random fluctuations of regional dialect, generational drift, and the esthetics of personal preference.

He has a tendency, for example, of using pairs of analogs as if they were one term. ("Knowing and handling oneself becomes [sic] the essential tool in studying and experimenting in the human scene."-- The Nature of Civilization, page 10) He often fails to hyphenate word pairs that are commonly so joined. He likes the archaic spelling phantasy. Because they're clear enough in context I never correct these idiosyncrasies. I do correct typing and typesetting errors, however, since they interfere with comprehension, as well as incontrovertible spelling errors -- mostly because I want the search engines to find us.


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