Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for July 19th, 2014

The antechambers of the mind

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Francis Galton

When I am engaged in trying to think anything out, the process of doing so appears to me to be this: the ideas that lie at any moment within my full consciousness seem to attract of their own accord the most appropriate out of a number of other ideas which are lying close at hand, but imperfectly within the range of my consciousness. There seems to be a presence-chamber in my mind where full consciousness holds court, and where two or three ideas are at the same time in audience, and an antechamber full of more or less allied ideas, which is situated just beyond the full ken of consciousness. Out of this antechamber the ideas most nearly allied to those in the presence-chamber appear to be summoned in a mechanically logical way, and to have their turn of audience.

The successful progress of thought appears to depend first, on a large attendance in the antechamber; secondly, on the presence there of no ideas except such as are strictly germane to the topic under consideration; thirdly, on the justness of the logical mechanism that issues the summons. The thronging of the antechamber is, I am convinced, altogether beyond my control; if the ideas do not appear, I cannot create them, nor compel them to come. The exclusion of alien ideas is accompanied by a sense of mental effort and volition whenever the topic under consideration is unattractive, otherwise it proceeds automatically, for if an intruding idea finds nothing to cling to, it is unable to hold its place in the antechamber, and slides back again.

Francis Galton, Human Faculty

Written by nevalalee

July 19, 2014 at 9:00 am

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