'Fantasia of the Unconscious' by D.H. Lawrence (1922)

A selection from Fantasia of the Unconscious by D.H. Lawrence, 1922. See also Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious, 1921.

[Work in Progress]

Foreword An Answer to Some Critics

There should be an absolute taboo upon sex, to prevent all this mental indecency and dynamic impotency. For sex in the head means a mess everywhere else. And the more Freud you have, the more your head whirls with sex, and your effective centres atrophy.

Chapter I Introduction

The promised land, if it be anywhere, lies away beneath our feet. No more prancing upwards. No more uplift. No more little Excelsiors crying world-brotherhood and international love and Leagues of Nations. Idealism and materialism amount to the same thing on top of Pisgah... . 

To your tents, O Israel! Brethren, let us go down. 


Chapter II The Holy Family


There's more in you, dear reader, than meets the eye. What, don't you believe it? Do you think you're as obvious as a poached egg on a piece of toast, like the poor lunatic? Not a bit of it, dear reader. You've got a solar-plexus, and a lumbar ganglion... , and I'm going to tell everybody. Nothing brings a man home to himself like telling everybody. And I will drive you home to yourself, dear reader.

Now, your solar plexus, most gentle of readers, is where you are. It is your first and greatest and deepest centre of consciousness.

This is the great centre, where, in the womb, your life first sparkled in individuality. This is the centre that drew the gestating maternal blood-stream upon you... . This is the centre whence the navel-string broke, but where the invisible string of dynamic consciousness, like a dark electric current connecting you with the rest of life, will never break until you die and depart from corporate individuality.
They say, by the way, that doctors now perform a little operation on the born baby, so that no more navel shows. No more belly buttons, dear reader. [...] Yet, caro mio, whether it shows or not, there you once had immediate connection with the maternal blood-stream. And, because the male-nucleus which derived from the father still lies sparkling and potent within the solar plexus, therefore the great never-centre of you still has immediate knowledge of your father, a subtler but still vital connection. We call it the tie of blood. So be it. It is a tie of blood. But much more definite than we imagine. For true it is that the one bright male germ which went to your begetting was drawn from the blood of the father. And true it is that that same bright male germ lies unquenched and unquenchable at the centre of you, within the famous solar plexus.

A child isn't born by being torn from the womb. When it is born..., that is rupture enough. But even then the ties are not broken. They are only subtilized.

Impelled from the primal conscious centre in the abdomen, the child seeks the mother, seeks the breast, opens a blind mouth and gropes for the nipple. Not mentally directed and yet certainly directed. Directed from the dark pre-mind centre of the solar plexus.

Chapter IV Trees and Babies and Papas and Mamas.

I come out solemnly with a pencil and an exercise book, and take my seat in all gravity at the foot of a large fir-tree.

The trees seem so much bigger than me, so much stronger in life, prowling silent around. I seem to feel them moving and thinking and prowling, and they overwhelm me.

It is the edge of the black forest... . Huge, straight fir-trees, and big beech-trees sending rivers of roots into the ground.

Their magnificent, strong, round bodies! It almost seems I hear the slow, powerful sap drumming in their trunks. Great full-blooded trees, with strange tree-blood in them, soundless drumming.
Trees that have no hands and faces, no eyes; yet the powerful sap-scented blood roaring up the great columns. A vast individual life, and an overshadowing will- the will of a tree; something that frightens you.

It's no good looking at a tree to know it. The only thing is to sit among the roots and nestle against its strong trunk... . That's how I write all about these planes and plexuses- between the toes of a tree, forgetting myself against the great ankle of the trunk.  ...scribbling this book. My tree-book, really.
I come so well to understand tree-worship. All the old Aryans worshipped the tree. My ancestors. The tree of life.

Here am I between his toes like a pea-bug, and him noiselessly over-reaching me, and I feel his great blood-jet surging. ...he thrusts himself tremendously down to the middle earth, where dead men sink in darkness, in the damp, dense undersoil... .
Plunging himself down into the black humus, with a root's gushing zest...; and his tips in the high air... . And all the time he has no face, no thought: only a huge, savage, thoughtless soul.

A huge, plunging tremendous soul. I would like to be a tree for a while. The great lust of roots. Root-lust. And no mind at all. He towers, and I sit and feel safe. I like to feel him towering round me. I used to be afraid. I used to fear their lust, their rushing black lust. But now I like it, I worship it. ... I lose myself among the trees. I am so glad to be with them in their silent, intent passion, and their great lust.

And I can so well understand the Romans, their terror of the bristling Hercynian wood.

The true German has something of the sap of trees in his veins even now: and a sort of pristine savageness, like trees, helpless, but most powerful, under all his mentality. He is a tree-soul, and his gods are not human.

...the father, from his distance, supports, protects, nourishes his child, and it is ultimately on the remote but powerful father-love that the infant rests, in a rest which is beyond mother-love.

On the other hand, given a mother who is too generally hard or indifferent, then it rests with the father to provide the delicate sympathy and the refined discipline. Then the father must show the tender sensitiveness of the upper mode. The sad thing today is that so few mother have any deep bowels of love - or even the breast of love. What they have is the benevolent spiritual will, the will of the upper self. But the will is not love. And benevolence in a parent is a poison. It is bullying.

In our day, most dangerous is the love and benevolence ideal. It results in neurasthenia, which is largely a dislocation or collapse of the great voluntary centres, a derangement of the will. It is in us an insistence upon the one life-mode only, the spiritual mode. It is a suppression of the great lower centres, and a living sort of half-life, almost entirely and exhaustively from the upper centres. Thence, since we live terribly and exhaustively from the upper centres, there is a tendency now towards phthisis and neurasathenia of the heart. The great sympathetic centre of the breast becomes exhausted, the lungs, burnt by the over-insistence of one way of life, become diseased, the heart, strained in one mode of dilation, retaliates. The powerful lower centres are no longer fully active, particularly the great lumbar gangalion, which is the clue to our sensual passionate pride and independence, this ganglion is atrophied by suppression. And it is this ganglion which holds the spine erect. So, weak-chested, round-shouldered, we stoop hollowly forward on ourselves.

Children are more sagacious than we are.  

Chapter VI First Glimmerings of Mind


Our poor little plants of children are put into horrible forcing beds, called schools, and the young idea is there forced to shoot. It shoots, poor thing, like a potato in a warm cellar. One mass of pallid sickly ideas and ideals. And no root, no life. The ideas shoot, hard enough, in our sad offspring, but they shoot at the expense of life itself.

Our business, at the present, is to prevent at all cost the young idea from shooting. The ideal mind, the brain, has become the vampire of modern life, sucking up the blood and the life.

Let all schools be closed at once. [...] Let humanity lie fallow, for two generations at least. 

Chapter VII First Steps in Education


We can retreat upon the proud, isolate self, and remain alone like lepers, till we are cured of this ghastly white disease of self-conscious idealism.

...we went out [to war] under the banners of idealism, and now the men are home again, the virus is more active than ever, rotting their very souls.

There are wars in the future, great wars, which not machines will finally decide, but the free, indomitable life spirit.

We can't go on as we are. Poor, nerve-worn creatures, fretting our lives away and hating to die because we have never lived.

Chapter VIII Education and Sex in Man, Woman and Child


The whole of a child's development goes on from the great dynamic centres, and is basically non-mental. To introduce mental activity is to arrest the dynamic activity and stultify true dynamic development. By the age of twenty-one our young people are helpless, selfless, floundering mental entities, with nothing in front of them, because they have been starved from the roots, systematically, for twenty-one years, and fed through the head. [...] The affective centres have been exhausted from the head.

The dynamic abstraction of a child's precepts follow no mental law, and even no law which can ever be mentally propounded.

A child's sagacity is better than an adult understanding, anyhow.

Our ideal has taught us to be so loving and so submissive and so yielding in our sympathy that the mode has become automatic in many men. Now in what we will call the 'natural' mode, man has his positivity in the volitional centres, and woman in the sympathetic. In fulfilling the Christian love ideal, however, men have reversed this. Man has assumed the gentle, all-sympathetic role, and woman has become the energetic party, with the authority in her hands. The male is the sensitive, sympathetic nature, the woman the active, effective, authoritative. [...] The woman is now the initiator, man the responder. They seem to play each other's parts. 

Was man, the eternal protagonist, born of woman, from her womb of fathomless emotion? Or was woman, with her deep womb of emtion, born from the rib of active man, the first created? Man, the doer, the knower, the original in being, is he lord of life? Or is woman, the great Mother, who bore us from the womb of love, is she the supreme Goddess.

Man still remains the doer and thinker. But he is so only in the service of emotional and procreative woman. [...] All his thinking, all his activity in the world only contributes to this great moment, when he is fulfilled in the emotional passion of the woman, the birth of rebirth, as Whitman calls it.

And there is the point at which we all now stick. Life, thought, and activity, all are devoted truly to the great end of Woman, wife and mother.

His heroism is all in altruistic endurance. He worships pity and tenderness and weakness, even in himself.

Man begins to show strong signs of peculiarly... passive sex desire, the desire to be taken, which is considered characteristic of woman. [...] And certainly woman seems very male. So the hermaphrodite fallacy revives again.

They are only playing each other's roles, because the poles have swung into reversion.

Man, in the daytime, must follow his own soul's greatest impulse, and give himself to life-work and risk himself to death. It is not woman who claims the highest in man. It is a man's own religious soul that drives him on beyond woman, to his supreme activity. For his highest, man is responsible to God alone. [...] Hence Jesus, 'Woman, what have I to do with thee?'

Chapter IX The Birth of Sex


We know that in the act of coition the blood of the individual man, acutely surcharged with intense vital electricity- we know no word, so say 'electricity', by analogy- rises to a culmination, in a tremendous magnetic urge towards the blood of the female. The whol of the living blood in the two individuals forms a field of intense, polarized magnetic attraction. So, the two poles must be brought into contact. In the act of coition, the two seas of blood in the two individuals, rocking and surging towards contact, as near as possible, clash into a oneness. A great flash of interchange occurs, like an electrical spark when two currents meet or like lightening out of the densely surcharged clouds. There is a lightening flash which passes through the blood of both individuals, there is a thunder of sensation which rolls in diminishing crashes down the nerves of each- and then the tension passes.
The two individuals are seperate again. But are they as they were before? Is the air the same after a thunderstorm as before? No. The air is as it were new, fresh, tingling with newness. So is the blood of man and woman after successful coition. After a false coition, like prostitution, there is not newness but a certain disintegration.

So, the blood is changed and renewed, refreshed, almost re-created, like the atmosphere after thunder.

Chapter XIII Cosmological

....one realizes that all the wild storms of anxiety and frenzy were only so much breaking of eggs. It isn't our business to live anybody's life, or to die anybody's death, except our own. Nor to save anybody's soul, nor to put anybody in the right; nor yet in the wrong, which is more the point to-day. But to be still, and to ignore the false fine frenzy of the seething world. To turn away, now, each one into the stillness and solitude of his own soul. And there to remain in the quiet with the Holy Ghost which is to each man his own true soul.
This is the way out of the vicious circle. Not to rush round on the periphery, like a rabbit in a ring, trying to break through. But to retreat to the very center, and there to be filled with a new strange stability, polarized in unfathomable richness with the center of centers. We are so silly, trying to invent devices and machines for flying off from the surface of the earth. Instead[216] of realizing that for us the deep satisfaction lies not in escaping, but in getting into the perfect circuit of the earth's terrestrial magnetism. Not in breaking away. What is the good of trying to break away from one's own? What is the good of a tree desiring to fly like a bird in the sky, when a bird is rooted in the earth as surely as a tree is? Nay, the bird is only the topmost leaf of the tree, fluttering in the high air, but attached as close to the tree as any other leaf.
We fall into the earth. But our rising was not from the earth. We rose from the earthless quick, the unfading life.

Chapter XV The Lower Self

The moon is the mother of darkness. She is the clue to the active darkness. And we, below the waist, we have our being in darkness. Below the waist we are sightless. When, in the daytime, our life is polarized upwards, towards the open, sun-wakened eyes and the mind which sees in vision, then the powerful dynamic centers of the lower body act in subservience, in their negative polarity. And then we flow upwards, we go forth seeking the universe, in vision, speech, and thought—we go forth to see all things, to hear all things, to know all things by acquaintance and by knowledge. One flood of dynamic flow are we, upwards polarized, in our tallness and our wide-eyed spirit seeking to bring all the universe into the range of our conscious individuality, and eager always to make new worlds, out of this old world, to bud new green tips on the tree of life. ...a tree would die if it were not making new green tips upon all its vast old world of a body... [...] If it were not for this striving into new creation on the part of living individuals, the universe would go dead, gradually, gradually and fall asunder. Like a tree that ceases to put forth new green tips, and to advance out a little further.
But each new tip arises out of the apparent death of the old, the preceding one. Old leaves have got to fall, old forms must die. And if men must at certain periods fall into death in millions, why, so must the leaves fall every single autumn. And dead leaves make good mold. And so dead men. Even dead men's souls.
But this time, it seems to me, we have consciously and responsibly to carry ourselves through the winter-period, the period of death and denudation: that is, some of us have, some nation even must. For there are not now, as in the Roman times, any great reservoirs of energetic barbaric life. Goths, Gauls, Germans,[267] Slavs, Tartars. [...] This time, the leading civilization cannot die out as Greece, Rome, Persia died. It must suffer a great collapse, maybe. But it must carry through all the collapse the living clue to the next civilization.
We have to sink back into the darkness and the elemental consciousness of the blood. And from this rise again. But there is no rising until the bath of darkness and extinction is accomplished.
This is the soul now retreating, back from the outer life of day, back to the origins. And so, it stays its hour at the first great sensual stations, the solar plexus and the lumbar ganglion. But the tide ebbs on, down to the immense, almost inhuman passionate darkness of sex, the strange and moon-like intensity of the hypogastric plexus and the sacral ganglion, then deep, deeper, past the last great station of the darkest psyche, down to the earth's center. Then we sleep.
And the moon is the tide-turner. The moon is the great cosmic pole which calls us back, back out of our day-self, back through the moonlit darknesses of the sensual planes, to sleep. It is the moon that sways the blood, and sways us back into the extinction of the blood.—And as the soul retreats back into the sea of its own darkness, the mind, stage by stage, enjoys the mental consciousness that belongs to this retreat back into the sensual deeps; and then it goes extinguished. There is sleep.
And so we resolve back towards our elementals. We dissolve back, out of the upper consciousness, out of mind and sight and speech, back, down into the deep and massive, swaying consciousness of the dark, living blood. At the last hour of sex I am no more than a powerful wave of mounting blood. Which seeks to surge and join with the answering sea in the other individual. When the sea of individual blood which I am at that hour heaves and finds its pure contact with the sea of individual blood which is the woman at that hour, then each of us enters into the wholeness of our deeper infinitude, our profound fullness of being, in the ocean of our oneness and our consciousness.
This is under the spell of the moon, of sea-born Aphrodite, mother and bitter goddess. For I am carried away from my sunny day-self into this other tremendous self, where knowledge will not save me, but where I must obey as the sea obeys the tides.
This then is the duality of my day and my night being: a duality so bitter to an adolescent. For the adolescent thinks with shame and terror of his night. He would wish to have no night-self.
The tree is born of its roots and its leaves. And we of our days and our nights. Without the night-consummation we are trees without roots.
And the night-consummation takes place under the spell of the moon. It is one pure motion of meeting and oneing. But even so, it is a circuit, not a straight line. One pure motion of meeting and oneing, until the flash breaks forth, when the two are one. And this, this flashing moment of the ignition of two seas of blood, this is the moment of begetting.
Sex then is a polarization of the individual blood in man towards the individual blood in woman.
In sex we have our basic, most elemental being. Here we have our most elemental contact. It is from the hypogastric plexus and the sacral ganglion that the dark forces of manhood and womanhood sparkle.
From the powerful dynamic center the female sends out her dark summons, the intense dark vibration of sex. And according to her nature, she receives her responses from the males. The male enters the magnetic field of the female. He vibrates helplessly in response. There is established at once a dynamic circuit, more or less powerful. It would seem as if, while ever life remains free and wild and independent, the sex-circuit, while it lasts, is omnipotent.
This circuit of vital sex magnetism, at first loose and wide, gradually closes and becomes more powerful, contracts and grows more intense, until the two individuals arrive into contact. And even then the pulse and flow of attraction and recoil varies. In free wild life, each touch brings about an intense recoil, and each recoil causes an intense sympathetic attraction. So goes on the strange battle of desire, until the consummation is reached.
Sex as an end in itself is a disaster: a vice. But an ideal purpose which has no roots in the deep sea of passionate sex is a greater disaster still. And now we have only these two things: sex as a fatal goal, which is the essential theme of modern tragedy: or ideal purpose as a deadly parasite. Sex passion as a goal in itself always leads to tragedy. There must be the great purposive inspiration always present. But the automatic ideal-purpose is not even a tragedy, it is a slow humiliation and sterility.
The great thing is to keep the sexes pure. And by pure we don't mean an ideal sterile innocence and similarity between boy and girl. We mean pure maleness in a man, pure femaleness in a woman. Woman is really polarized downwards, towards the center of the earth. Her deep positivity is in the downward flow, the moon-pull. And man is polarized upwards, towards the sun and the day's activity.
For the true polarity of consciousness in woman is downwards. Her deepest consciousness is in the loins and belly. Even when perverted, it is so. The great flow of female consciousness is downwards, down to the weight of the loins and round the circuit of the feet. Pervert this, and make a false flow upwards, to the breast and head, and you get a race of "intelligent" women, delightful companions, tricky courtesans, clever prostitutes, noble idealists, devoted friends, interesting mistresses, efficient workers, brilliant managers, women as good as men at all the manly tricks: and better, because they are so very headlong once they go in for men's tricks. But then, after a while, pop it all goes. The moment woman has got man's ideals and tricks drilled into her, the moment she is competent in the manly world—there's an end of it. She's had enough. She's had more than enough. She hates the thing she has embraced. She becomes absolutely perverse, and her one end is to prostitute herself and her ideals to sex. Which is her business at the present moment.
The dark strong flow that polarizes us to the earth's center is hampered, broken. We become flimsy fungoid beings, with no roots and no hold in the earth, like mushrooms.

But fight for your life, men. Fight your wife out of her own self-conscious preoccupation with herself. [...] Drive her back into her own true mode. Rip all her nice superimposed modern-woman and wonderful-creature garb off her. Reduce her once more to a naked Eve, and send the apple flying.
Make her yield to her own real unconscious self... . Drive her forcibly back, back into her own true unconscious.