The Psychology of Superstition

By Gustav Jahoda | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Superstition and the Unconscious

If the word 'subliminal'is offensive to any of you, as smelling too much of psychical research or other aberrations, call it by any other name you please, to distinguish it from the level of full sunlit consciousness. Call this latter the A-region of personality, if you care to, and call the other the B-region. The B-region, then, is obviously the larger part of each of us, for it is the abode of everything that is latent and the reservoir of everything that passes unrecorded or unobserved. It contains, for example, such things as all our momentarily inactive memories, and it harbours the springs of all our obscurely motivated passions, impulses, likes, dislikes, and prejudices. Our intuitions, hypotheses, fancies, superstitions, persuasions, convictions, and in general all our non-rational operations, come from it.

William James The Varieties of Religious Experience

One of Freud's patients once related to him what she thought had been a prophetic dream. It was about meeting the former family doctor in front of a certain store. When she went to town the following day she did actually come across him at precisely the spot that had appeared in the dream. Freud had examined her story carefully, and it turned out that she had no recollection of the dream prior to the encounter with the physician. He therefore concluded that it was probably in the course of the meeting that she gained the conviction of having had the dream. Now one might say that here is an example of someone getting a superstitious notion because her memory had played her a trick.

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