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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/679

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Tenth Question.—"1. Have you ever been conscious of having involuntarily discovered something new—e. g., an invention, a literary or poetical creation, a mathematical solution, etc.?

"2. If yes, then has this flashed into consciousness in the form of a clear conception?"

In order to set forth logically the results of the answers received, I shall group them according to the following analysis: Does there exist in man the power to exert intellectual activity during unconsciousness in these several forms?

First. When the effort is simple by reproducing past experiences in obedience to a mandate of will.

Second. By comparing related facts and arriving at a settled judgment.

Third. When the effort is more complex by continuing old trains of thought begun in consciousness and proceeding logically, step by step, to a rational settled conclusion.

Fourth. When the effort is most complex, by commencing and continuing new trains of thought without having voluntarily undertaken or continued them, and arriving at results of original creation as inventions, literary and musical creations, etc.

First. The first division of the subject is restricted to the antechamber of consciousness; it contains the inquiry as to the possibility of working for a lost idea, fact or fancy, while consciously devoting one's whole attention to something else. This established, it must follow that during the unconscious interval which intervenes between the desire for the lost object and its occurrence in consciousness, an intellectual activity was at work similar in all respects to the conscious activity, minus the element of self-looking, at self-working. Some of the instances given in the answers, worthy of being cited as illustrations, are as follow:

1. Miss H——, of Princeton, writes: "Yesterday I tried at breakfast to recollect the name of Azimolate Khan, but could only remember that it began with 'Az.' I felt vexed for a moment only, and totally forgot it, being absorbed in an interesting subject. In about ten minutes I said aloud, 'It is Azimolate Khan!' and was scarcely conscious that I had said it, it came so suddenly to me."

2. Mr. V——, of Brooklyn, New York city, writes: "While writing a paper on a medical subject I had occasion to use the technical term for a swoon, which I could not recall. At this point, being obliged to attend a lecture, spontaneously and apparently without reason—for the two subjects had no connection—the word 'syncope' shot across my mind; immediately after, the medical paper came into my mind."

3. Mr. L——, of New York, writes: "One case I remember. I was trying to think of the name of a book and gave it up. About half an hour after I was talking of something else, when all of a sudden I