Friday, December 26, 2014

Dream and Hallucination as symptoms

Kipling appears to be manipulating fear for the entertainment of his readers, fear of unknown forces which lie the other side of the familiar world, and fear for the human mind, which is vulnerable to invasion. 

Kipling and Dreams(by Mary Hamer)
Dream and Hallucination as symptoms

Shortly after Christmas 1876, Georgie Burne-Jones, wife of the painter, caught her eleven-year-old nephew, Ruddy, at the bottom of her London garden, striking out with a stick at a tree. When she asked what he was doing, ‘I thought it might be Grandma but I had to hit it to make sure,’ he replied.

Georgie was alarmed by what she read as the signs of disturbance and she put investigations in train. As a result, Ruddy’s mother returned from India to reclaim him with his younger sister, Trix from ‘The House of Desolation’ as he would come to call it, in Southsea. They had been living there in the care of a foster-mother, Mrs. Holloway, a woman who turned out to be an unfortunate choice. A strict Evangelical, her piety was of the kind that takes pleasure in manipulating fear.

As a man of seventy, Kipling recalled Mrs. Holloway with bitterness, in his autobiography, Something of Myself: ‘I had never heard of Hell, so I was introduced to it in all its terrors’ he wrote. I will explore the damaging impact of this encounter more deeply in due course. Yet in his maturity as an artist, he was able to extract some benefit. Over time, writing sensational stories about dreams brought to the surface his own intimate knowledge of terror and guilt. This was gold dust to him as a writer.

Dreams created for sensation

At the start of his career the teenage journalist would lie awake at night in India, pondering what would ‘take’ with the market at home. He was mainly concerned with exploiting the dramas and extremities of life in the East, with a stylish touch of cynicism. "The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows" (Civil and Military Gazette, 26 September 1884) ventriloquised the drugged tones of a Eurasian addict come down to living in an opium den. The red and black dragons on the pillow that come to life and fight, like the Joss that ‘turns all sorts of queer colours late at night and stamps his feet and rolls his eyes’, are not mysteries but opium dreams of the kind the writer had experienced himself. They are offered as crowning details in a brilliant and disturbing tapestry.
When Kipling did turn to using regular dreams, ones not fuelled by drugs, it was at first as a literary device. This allowed him to present a dialogue between the younger and older selves of the speaker. "The Dream of Duncan Parrenness" (Civil and Military Gazette, December 1884) with its pastiche of eighteenth-century idiom, is another dazzling work of virtuosity on the part of a very young man. It lays claim to an even more explicit cynicism. Parrenness is a Writer—that is, an administrator for the East India Company— in eighteenth-century Calcutta. The dream teaches him that in order to achieve his ambition to be Governor he must give up his trust in both men and women and lose ‘the tender conscience of a boy’.

That story is dramatically appealing as a piece of imaginative writing, but the insights that its dream offers, with their striving for sophistication, are merely knowing. Neither is there any touch of the inscrutable, the resonance of hidden truths which makes important dreams compelling, in the dream which is reported in "The Last of the Stories" (1888). This time Kipling does present himself directly, the young writer now sure of a readership throughout India, as the dreamer. The Devil of Discontent takes him off to a sort of literary underworld peopled from novels, where he is greeted by the characters he created, and is brought to recognise how far his skill fell short. 
The mind under stress, dream images of unwelcome knowledge 

It was in composing "The Phantom Rickshaw" for Quartette, the Christmas supplement of the Civil and Military Gazettein 1885, that Kipling first felt himself moved by the force he was to call his Daemon. When it was in charge he learned:‘do not try to think consciously. Drift, wait, and obey.’ This was also the first story to make a link between guilt and the images generated by the mind under stress. Dream and hallucination meet in the experience of Pansay, haunted by a vision of the woman he abandoned, as he last saw her, seated in a black and yellow rickshaw. 

Earlier that year Kipling had learned for himself or been reminded of what it was to hallucinate without the benefit of any drug. In March 1885 he’d been sent as special correspondent to the Rawalpindi Durbar, his first serious assignment, from which he sent back a series of brilliant reports, overtaxing himself in the process. He completed his review of the marching troops. But when at last he tried to rest, exhausted by overwork yet hyperalert from too much sensation and too little sleep, he found himself watching a relentless vision of infinite pairs of legs marching past. 

‘One of the few advantages that India has over England is a great Knowability,’ opens "The Phantom Rickshaw". It’s only on rereading that the irony comes home. Readers are not given the option of simply taking "The Phantom Rickshaw" as a straight ghost story, gripping as the writer makes it. Instead they are encouraged to speculate from the first about the sources of Pansay’s waking visions and night-dreams. The practical Dr Heatherlegh’s diagnosis of overwork is advanced only to be challenged by the author’s more alluring and sinister theory ‘that there was a crack in Pansay’s head and a little bit of the Dark World came through’. However, ‘never trust the teller, trust the tale’, as D. H. Lawrence advised. The story itself nudges us towards less vague and more challenging interpretations. Almost to the end, Pansay is made to deny his own cruelty, even to attempt justification. When his mind brings back an image of the woman he has crushed and killed by his heartless behaviour, what he knows but does not want to know is brought home. The main actor in the tale is the unwelcome knowledge that Pansay attempts to leave behind but will never be able to escape. 
In a final irony he believes that what haunts him is a spirit coming from outside himself. Today we might call those hauntings a projection, the condensed image of the guilt that Pansay would prefer not to confront. That is where the story gets its power. At this point in his career as a writer, Kipling appears to be manipulating fear for the entertainment of his readers, fear of unknown forces which lie the other side of the familiar world, and fear for the human mind, which is vulnerable to invasion. 

As a child however, at a deep level he was left in a state of confusion and shock. His parents were not believers and had given him little or no religious instruction. In Bombay his encounters with religion had taken the form of joining his Catholic ayah at prayer by a wayside cross, or of glimpsing ‘the friendly gods’ in the small Hindu temples where he went with the bearer. Under normal conditions of development a child builds up a picture of the world drawn from the evidence of its own senses. Yet all Ruddy’s previously benign experience was now trumped by the news of a God of revelation, that is one he did not discover for himself but could only know by means of others’ teaching. More shocking still, this new God was one who might wish to punish him in everlasting fire. This was no small thing. Such an attack on all he thought that he understood put him at risk, psychologically speaking. Destroying his confidence in the world, it also undermined his trust in his own senses, threatening to rob him of the power of judgment. 
The children, left without warning or explanation, only knew that they had been abandoned, ‘deserted’, as Trix would remember, many years later. Though Trix herself was gifted and she too became a writer, as a grown woman she suffered breakdowns and was never to overcome the harm she suffered as a child. Mrs. Holloway imposed a cloying intimacy on Trix, while she bullied Ruddy: his confusion and loss were compounded by her attempts to break his spirit. He portrayed this experience directly in a story, "Baa Baa, Black Sheep" ’ (1889). But it is the effects which come much later, when trauma experienced in childhood, or even in the womb, erupts into the present in the form of dreams, that he takes up and explores repeatedly as an artist. 
Dream and Truth

Before moving on to consider Kipling’s dream stories in the order they were written, I’d like to go back to that scene in the garden, which his biographer, Andrew Lycett, reports. At that time Ruddy had been subject to Mrs. Holloway, and her campaign to break his spirit in the name of godliness, for more than five years. When Ruddy hit out at his grandmother, he probably thought he was seeing a ghost: his maternal grandmother, Hannah Macdonald, had died in the previous March.

Little love had been lost between them. Strongly critical of Rudyard’s behaviour as a two-year-old, Hannah dismissed him then as ‘that self-willed rebel’. She herself was a clergyman’s wife. On a visit to Southsea when he was rising seven, according to biographer Harry Ricketts, she aligned herself with Mrs. Holloway by subjecting him to a Sunday passed in ‘reading the Scriptures and repeating hymns’.

In after years, his Aunt Georgie would often ask Rudyard why he had never spoken of his unhappiness in Southsea or of the assaults made by Mrs. Holloway. Aside from the fear of reprisals, as a child he lacked the language to frame what he was going through; his distress remained buried and unnamed. But in that fantasy of his dead grandmother, so close in association to the figure of Mrs. Holloway and her teachings, his overtaxed mind projected an image in which his fear and anger were condensed.

When he did find words, in his twenties, to tell the story of those Southsea years in ""Baa, Black Sheep", the writing released those feelings to be examined. In certain of his subsequent dream stories from then on he gradually began to include the image of a pious mother in the background. Instead of associating these figures with the cruelties he had personally experienced, however, as an artist he indicated that they were dangerous for a different reason: their teachings misled their sons, disabling them by blinding them to the real world.
Dream and Trance as a way of knowing

As a famous writer, Rudyard Kipling’s curiosity, his appetite for accurate information, was notorious. When they saw his name on a passenger list ships’ crews groaned, for they foresaw the barrage of questions they’d be encountering throughout the voyage. But he was also a man of his time, when the public was alive with an excitement about unseen forces that scarcely distinguished between mesmerism and electricity, between the telegraph and radio waves or spiritualism. Though he was chary of the latter, Kipling too was fascinated by science, and the new technologies that allowed information to be transmitted at a distance.

He also came to ask about the form of knowledge that is not picked up from ordinary observation and experience, but arrives into the mind unbidden. In Kipling’s mature stories, dream and trance are not escapes from reality but conduits for a knowledge that would otherwise remain inaccessible.
Yet who knows what powers that current or where it takes its source? The question had a special relevance for him as a writer. In "The Finest Story in the World" (1891) he wrote speculatively of ‘the half-memory falsely called imagination’. 
The weight that Kipling would lay in his stories on uncommon means of knowing and communication, their importance for him as a more convincing alternative to Christian explanations of the world, would increase over time, in parallel with his own experiences as an adult.

But his aims were more modest when he was publishing his first stories. 

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