Brave New World Revisited

Page 22


In the light of what has been said about persuasion-by-association and the enhancement of emotions by subliminal suggestion, let us try to imagine what the political meeting of tomorrow will be like. The candi­date (if there is still a question of candidates), or the appointed representative of the ruling oligarchy, will make his speech for all to hear. Meanwhile the tachistoscopes, the whispering and squeaking machines, the projectors of images so dim that only the subconscious mind can respond to them, will be reinforcing what he says by systematically associating the man and his cause with positively charged words and hallowed images, and by strobonically injecting negatively charged words and odious symbols whenever he men­tions the enemies of the State or the Party. In the United States brief flashes of Abraham Lincoln and the words "government by the people" will be pro­jected upon the rostrum. In Russia the speaker will, of course, be associated with glimpses of Lenin, with the words "people's democracy," with the prophetic beard of Father Marx. Because all this is still safely in the future, we can afford to smile. Ten or twenty years from now, it will probably seem a good deal less amus­ing. For what is now merely science fiction will have become everyday political fact.
Poetzl was one of the portents which, when writing Brave New World , I somehow overlooked. There is no reference in my fable to subliminal projection. It is a mistake of omission which, if I were to rewrite the book today, I should most certainly correct.
X Hypnopaedia
In the late autumn of 1957 the Woodland Road Camp, a penal institution in Tulare County, California, be­came the scene of a curious and interesting experiment. Miniature loud-speakers were placed under the pillows of a group of prisoners who had volunteered to act as psychological guinea pigs. Each of these pillow speakers was hooked up to a phonograph in the Ward­en's office. Every hour throughout the night an inspi­rational whisper repeated a brief homily on "the princi­ples of moral living." Waking at midnight, a prisoner might hear this still small voice extolling the cardinal virtues or murmuring, on behalf of his own Better Self, "I am filled with love and compassion for all, so help me God."
After reading about the Woodland Road Camp, I turned to the second chapter of Brave New World . In that chapter the Director of Hatcheries and Condition­ing for Western Europe explains to a group of fresh­man conditioners and hatchers the workings of that state-controlled system of ethical education, known in the seventh century After Ford as hypnopaedia. The earliest attempts at sleep-teaching, the Director told his audience, had been misguided, and therefore unsuccessful. Educators had tried to give intellectual train­ing to their slumbering pupils. But intellectual activ­ity is incompatible with sleep. Hypnopaedia became successful only when it was used for moral training — in other words, for the conditioning of behavior through verbal suggestion at a time of lowered psy­chological resistance. "Wordless conditioning is crude and wholesale, cannot inculcate the more complex courses of behavior required by the State. For that there must be words, but words without reason" . . . the kind of words that require no analysis for their comprehension, but can be swallowed whole by the sleeping brain. This is true hynopaedia, "the great­est moralizing and socializing force of all time." In the Brave New World , no citizens belonging to the lower castes ever gave any trouble. Why? Because, from the moment he could speak and understand what was said to him, every lower-caste child was exposed to end­lessly repeated suggestions, night after night, during the hours of drowsiness and sleep. These suggestions were "like drops of liquid sealing wax, drops that ad­here, incrust, incorporate themselves with what they fall on, till finally the rock is all one scarlet blob. Till at last the child's mind is these suggestions and the sum of these suggestions is the child's mind. And not the child's mind only. The adult's mind too — all his life long. The mind that judges and desires and de­cides — made up of these suggestions. But these sugges­tions are our suggestions — suggestions from the State. . . ."
To date, so far as I know, hypnopaedic suggestions have been given by no state more formidable than Tulare County, and the nature of Tulare's hypnopaedic suggestions to lawbreakers is unexceptionable. If only all of us, and not only the inmates of the Woodland Road Camp, could be effectively filled, during our sleep, with love and compassion for all! No, it is not the message conveyed by the inspirational whisper that one objects to; it is the principle of sleep-teaching by governmental agencies. Is hypnopaedia the sort of instrument that officials, delegated to exercise author­ity in a democratic society, ought to be allowed to use at their discretion? In the present instance they are using it only on volunteers and with the best inten­tions. But there is no guarantee that in other cases the intentions will be good or the indoctrination on a vol­untary basis. Any law or social arrangement which makes it possible for officials to be led into temptation is bad. Any law or arrangement which preserves them from being tempted to abuse their delegated power for their own advantage, or for the benefit of the State or of some political, economic or ecclesiastical organiza­tion, is good. Hypnopaedia, if it is effective, would be a tremendously powerful instrument in the hands of any­one in a position to impose suggestions upon a captive audience. A democratic society is a society dedicated to the proposition that power is often abused and should therefore be entrusted to officials only in limited amounts and for limited periods of time. In such a society, the use of hypnopaedia by officials should be regulated by law — that is, of course, if hypnopaedia is genuinely an instrument of power. But is it in fact an instrument of power? Will it work now as well as I imagined it working in the seventh century A.F.? Let us examine the evidence.