Spring, 2020 Edition
Briefing By the Society’s President, Steve Kemme
“The Roots of Lafcadio Hearn’s, Self-Referencing Style…”
(A lecture delivered at the University of Toyama, Japan)
“The Virus and the Bell,” Gary Eith
“The Dream of Akinosuke-A Jungian Interpretation,”
By Special Guest, Neha Dhar,
An Independent Researcher from Pune, India
A Special Briefing from the President of the Lafcadio Hearn Society/USA
Lafcadio Hearn would understand the struggles our world is undergoing today in battling the novel coronavirus. During his stay on the Caribbean island of Martinique from 1887 to 1889, smallpox and typhoid epidemics broke out. For months, the entire island was under quarantine and no ships were permitted to enter or leave. In the beautiful port city, St. Pierre, where Hearn lived, smallpox and typhoid claimed the lives of up to 400 city residents each month. Many of the victims -- children and adults -- Hearn knew by name. Every day, he saw caskets containing the bodies of the epidemic victims carried out of homes as family members sobbed. Hearn himself caught the typhoid fever and almost died.
As Hearn witnessed the devastating impact an epidemic can have, we see death totals from COVID-19 climb daily. The Lafcadio Hearn Society/USA had planned to follow up last year’s successful Hearn-related live events with more this year. But in the interest of public safety, we have halted planning for live events in 2020. We’ll resume planning live programs whenever we can gather safely once again. We wish to again thank our supporters who participated in the programs last year and especially those endorsers, sponsors and hosts: Cincinnati Chapter of the Japan American Citizens League, Gifu/Cincinnati Sister City Committee and City Representative, Japan America Society of Greater Cincinnati, The Mercantile Library of Cincinnati, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County and the Cincinnati Art Museum.
Instead of a program, we are offering this free journal, spring edition, 2020, provided and produced by the Lafcadio Hearn Society/USA and the Japan Research Center of Greater Cincinnati. Feel free to share it with your family and friends, either electronically or by hard copy with your printer. We continue to invite special guests to submit articles, and we have a special guest in this edition. Please welcome Ms. Neha Dhar, all the way from India! In addition, the president of the Japan Research Center of Greater Cincinnati provided a short essay as well and I’ve included the presentation I gave at the University of Toyama a year-and-a-half ago. We are thankful to the Center for their support. Please also check the Center's website for an update on developments related to the Hearn commemorative plaque. Go to http://www.jrcgc.com
A new development includes an invitation to artists and collectors to donate or submit for a partial donation of the sale (minus expenses), artwork related to Lafcadio Hearn, and/or his era when he lived in Cincinnati (the late 19th century). The proceeds will go towards the funding of the plaque, and will assist in increasing any matching grant we may secure. Because this will be an on-going sale, additional artists will be added. It's interesting to peruse the artist's interpretations of the times, through these one-of-a-kind works. Who knows? Perhaps there's something that might interest you to purchase. (see www.jrcgc.com ).
The compassion and courage St. Pierre residents displayed during the Martinique epidemics greatly impressed Hearn.
In his 1890 book, Two Years in the French West Indies, Hearn writes: “There is never a moment’s hesitation in visiting a stricken individual: every relative, and even the most intimate friends of every relative, may be seen hurrying to the bedside. They take turns at nursing, sitting up all night, securing medical attendance and medicines, without ever a thought of the danger,-- nay, of the almost absolute certainty of contagion. If the patient have no means, all contribute: what the sister or brother has not, the uncle or the aunt, the godfather or godmother, the cousin, brother-in-law or sister-in-law, may be able to give. No one dreams of refusing money or linen or wine or anything possible to give, lend, or procure on credit.”
More than 130 years after Hearn wrote those words, similar acts of kindness occur every day as people around the world fight COVID-19. We wish everyone the best of health.
- Steve Kemme, President, Lafcadio Hearn Society/USA
The Roots of Lafcadio Hearn’s Self-Referencing Style of Journalism
By Steve Kemme
(Dedicated to Dr. Kinji Tanaka, my Cincinnati friend and Hearn mentor. Presented in Japan at the University of Toyama’s Lafcadio Hearn Symposium on Dec. 15, 2018, and later published in the symposium’s journal.)
One of the many captivating aspects of Lafcadio Hearn’s writing is its strong appeal to the senses and the emotions. His accounts of his explorations in Japan – from climbing Mount Fuji to journeying to the Oki Islands – and his observations of ordinary Japanese life are full of vivid descriptions, poetic language and enlightening commentary. But another reason they’re so enthralling is their point of view.
Hearn isn’t simply a neutral narrator recording in the third-person what he sees and hears. He himself is involved in the story, writing about what he does, says, thinks and feels. He’s a participant in the narrative. That’s partly why he’s considered a forerunner of the New Journalism of the 1960s and ’70s in the United States. His influence can be detected in writers like Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, Joan Didion, Truman Capote and many others.
Hearn began injecting himself into his stories while working for daily newspapers in Cincinnati in the 1870s – first for the Enquirer and then for the Commercial. He didn’t use the first-person “I” in his Cincinnati stories because newspaper style forbade it. Instead, he substituted “this reporter” or the first-person plural pronoun “we” for “I.” In a few humorous stories, he referred to himself by such nicknames as “the Dismal Man,” and “the Ghoul.”
Becoming a part of his stories helped him achieve three primary goals – to entertain, to shock and to educate his readers. Often, he did all three in one story. Although he sometimes portrayed himself as a mischievous rascal trying to startle and amuse, he usually had a serious purpose when he wrote his Cincinnati stories. He wanted to reform society, to reveal Cincinnati’s underbelly and force the powerful and prosperous citizens to acknowledge and learn about the needy social outcasts and the social evils being widely ignored. During his years in Cincinnati, he experimented with different literary styles and devices, including the self-referential technique. Placing himself in the story, he believed, would add personality and color to what might otherwise be a dry newspaper story. Some of his early attempts at using this technique weren’t always effective, but he kept doing it and improving it.
The first time he used self-referencing in the Cincinnati Enquirer occurred in a story about a weather station at the top of Pike’s Opera-house. This Nov. 29, 1872, story, headlined “Our Local Weather Clerk,” was written only a few weeks after he had begun free-lancing for the Enquirer. A meteorologist -- called a weather clerk in Hearn’s day – and his staff compiled weather data and transmitted it by telegraph to certain regions of the country. Referring to himself as one of the Enquirer’s “more urbane walking gentlemen,” Hearn writes facetiously that his newspaper sent him to visit and write about the weather station to make amends for ignoring it for other “more trivial” news, such as murders, scandals and politics.
About half-way through the story, Hearn switches to a question-and-answer format, with the weather clerk as the “Observer” and himself as the “Reporter.” At the end of the interview, the weather clerk chides Hearn because the Enquirer is the only English-language newspaper in Cincinnati that doesn’t publish his reports.
Hearn concludes his story with the sentence, “At this point, seeing Observer was getting a little personal our reporter made his exit unassisted.”
In this case, his self-referencing is intended to make his scientific subject matter more palatable and entertaining for readers. Indeed, he ends his story about a mundane topic with a comic twist. But he’s only partially successful. The dialogue in this story is a bit stiff and the humor forced. As a 22-year-old novice writer, Hearn was still learning the basics of his craft.
Hearn wanted to inject personality into his feature stories, to enliven them and make them more appealing. He believed he could do that by placing himself in these stories and including dialogue. He had been contributing to the Enquirer for about eight months when he wrote a feature story about the railroad’s “pay-car” trips. To distribute weekly wages to its many employees working along a certain route, a railroad paymaster would travel in a single passenger coach pulled by an engine and stop along the route wherever its employees worked. At each stop, employees would come to the car to pick up the envelopes containing their money.
Hearn arranged to accompany the pay-car on its weekly trip from Cincinnati to Richmond, Ind., and Hamilton and Dayton, Ohio, to write about the 150-mile day-long trip and the railroad employees he encountered. He opens the story with a conversation between himself, referred to as “the Enquirer man,” and B.D. Stevenson, the railroad paymaster. As in the weather station story, Hearn cast himself as a comical target of mild abuse.
The story opens with a playful dialogue between Hearn and Stevenson, who agrees to take Hearn along. “But none of your nonsense if you go along with me,” he warns Hearn. “You reporter fellows can do the right thing, if you want to, but the trouble is that you don’t very often want to. I don’t desire any of your extras, and don’t care whether you write any thing about the trip or not. You look sort of hungry, as if you didn’t have a very good boarding-house, and I thought I would like to take you out into the country a little ways and give you a square meal and a few mouthfuls of fresh air by way of relish. That’s my only motive in inviting you. But if you do write about the trip, I don’t want you to say any thing except what you actually see.” Hearn assures him he is much more honest than “the wicked reporters of the other city papers.”
Hearn resigned from the Enquirer during the summer of 1874 to work on Ye Giglampz, a satirical weekly newspaper co-founded with the artist, Henry Farny. The venture proved to be a financial disaster, and Hearn returned to the Enquirer only a few weeks after quitting. Soon after his return, his editors assigned him to go to a four-day religious revival camp on a hilltop in a wooded area just northeast of Cincinnati and write about it. As a professed agnostic who had scant respect for Christianity, Hearn was comically unsuited for this assignment. Perhaps his editors were punishing him for temporarily leaving the paper or maybe they just wanted a good laugh.
Naturally, Hearn decided not to treat the assignment in a totally serious, straight-forward manner. As the narrator of and a participant in this adventure, he assumes the role at times of a slightly naughty scamp. At the beginning of his story, which appeared at the top of the front page of the Sept. 13, 1874, Sunday Enquirer, he let his readers know he was an unlikely person to be attending a Methodist revival camp meeting. He writes that “this Enquirer reporter” went to the revival “not to pray, but to watch better people than himself pray.”
Hearn handles the first part of the story in a conventional manner. He describes the quiet, woodsy setting and dutifully reports the work being done on a Thursday afternoon by carpenters and other workers to prepare for the throng of people coming that day to this religious event. He writes about the huge Tabernacle tent seating up to 2,500, the little tents where the faithful will sleep, eating arrangements and the costs.
But as he recounts the Thursday evening prayer service, the reporter-narrator lets his readers know that the prayers and hymns didn’t completely occupy his mind. He describes a young female sitting in the front row as “a prettier and more gracefully built little woman one could not wish to find.” Modern journalism generally discourages descriptions of people’s sexual appeal, especially women’s. Although it was permitted in Hearn’s day, he surely knew his more pious readers would consider it inappropriate. Like a schoolboy who couldn’t resist saying something offensive his teacher, he includes several more observations of women’s physical attributes.
On his first night there, Hearn crept close to some of the tents to watch the shadows of the people inside. As a Peeping Tom, he breathlessly describes the interaction of two shadows in one tent: “There were two strongly-defined silhouettes there; one of an old lady with spectacles and a very long nose; the other of a very shapely little woman, swan-throated and full-bosomed, with long eyelashes and long hair. The shadow had beautiful little bare arms, nice and round; and it put them around the neck of the motherly looking shadow, and it pursed up its plump little lips. Then the thin, wrinkled lips of the motherly shadow responded; the heads of the two shadows mingled into one big, black blot on the canvas, and the reporter’s mouth began to water.” Not exactly something for the church bulletin.
Hearn notices a young woman at one of the services, “the very prettiest girl on the grounds...with glorious masses of glossy black hair brushed back from either temple and falling over the prettiest little shoulders imaginable...” Then he sees twin sisters, “blondes, dressed in white, with dovelike eyes and peachy cheeks and lips ripe for kisses; but they were accompanied by a terrible...mother, a tall, thin, gorgon-eyed woman, who looked at you so wickedly if you looked at her daughters that you immediately turned your face the other way.” He also observes that during one of the services a “charming little brunette” peeked through her fingers during prayer time at some good-looking boys. Near the end of his long story, he notes that only he and the little brunette failed to march to the preacher’s stand with the rest of the congregation to be converted. Hearn survived the religious experience and remained a staunch agnostic. Halleluiah!
A church figured in another of Hearn’s self-referencing stories, but this time his irreverent persona didn’t clash with the subject matter. One day in late May 1876, he accepted an invitation to climb to the top of the steeple of St. Peter-in-chains Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati with the aid of three steeple-jacks who were going to remove decorative wreaths from the cross atop the cathedral spire. Hearn and his city editor at the Cincinnati Commercial saw it as a great opportunity to produce a humorous story about an unusual adventure. Their instincts proved to be right. The story, published on May 26, 1876, the day after his climb, is young Hearn at his entertaining best.
Hearn portrays himself as the bumbling, frightened neophyte, totally dependent on the expertise and help of the steeple-jacks to avoid a fatal plunge to the street below. It’s a role that would have been perfect for early 20th century comic movie actors Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.
Hearn’s anxiety increased as he, Weston, Klein and steeple-jack Peter Depretz climbed the long, narrow stairs inside the cathedral to reach the tower’s clock. They crawled between the clock’s bells to a window where they had to climb out to get to the top of the steeple. As Hearn looked out the window and saw “nothing but a sheer precipice of smooth stone,” he was seized with fear. Weston gave him a drink from a whiskey flask to quell his nerves. Weston buckled a thick leather strap around Hearn’s waist, and fastened a harness strap under and over his right thigh. He tied one end of a rope to the straps and passed the other end up the ladder outside the window. That end was pulled inside a window 25 feet above and tied to a beam. Sensing Hearn was about to back down, Depretz grabbed his thigh and pulled him out through the window. Hearn had no choice but to climb the ladder. After yet more ladder-climbing, he reached the cross. Tied to the lightning rod by a rope, Hearn sat on top of the cross, rested his feet on its northern arm and enjoyed the panoramic view. With his bad eyesight, he couldn’t see distant objects in detail. But by looking through his eyeglass, he saw enough to be able to give readers a feeling for what the city looked like from his high perch.
Weston told Hearn to stand up on top of the cross. He detached the cords that tied Hearn to the lightning rod.
“His indifference to danger,” Hearn writes, “inspired the visitor with sufficient confidence to perform the feat, and extend his arms for an instant 225 feet above terra firma. Suddenly the reporter caught sight of something that caused him to clutch the lightning-rod convulsively and sit down. Weston’s braces were adorned with great brazen buckles, which bore in ghastly bas-relief the outlines of a skull and crossbones.
‘What on earth do you wear such ill-omened things for?’ we asked.
‘Oh,’ replied he, laughing and dancing on the northern arm of the cross, ‘I thought I’d get smashed up some day, and took a fancy to these suspenders, as they serve to remind me of my probable fate. You seem to believe in omens. Well, I tell you I never like to do climbing on Friday, although I know it’s all foolishness.’
“After inspecting the initials of the climbers out into the summit of the cross, we performed a descent which seemed far easier than the ascent. As we re-entered the belfry the clock boomed out six times, and the ‘Angelus’ chimed in measured strokes of deeply vibrating music from the big bell. The mists climbed higher as the sun commenced to sink in a glory of mingled gold and purple, and a long streamer of ruby light flamed over the western hills. ‘That is a lovely view,’ Weston exclaimed, ‘but I think it is not so fine as the bird’s eye view of the city by night, sparkling with ten thousand lights. You must come up on the cross some fine night with me.’
“The reporter shivered and departed.”
One of Hearn’s most outlandish stunts involved disguising himself as a woman so he could attend and write a story about a women-only lecture being given by a former Catholic nun. Edith O’Gorman, a notorious anti-Catholic speaker and author, had come to Cincinnati to talk about the shameful things she had allegedly experienced and witnessed during her brief time as a Catholic nun before her brother helped her escape from the convent. Because part of this talk would cover sex-related matters, her matinee lecture on Jan. 21, 1874, at Pike’s Hall was restricted to women only.
That didn’t deter Hearn. He donned a blond wig, a dress, ladies’ gloves and buttoned boots. After stumbling on his dress as he went up the stairs leading to the hall’s entrance, Hearn sat down in the auditorium and tried to be as unobtrusive as possible. When a woman yelled, “There’s a man!,” his heart sank. But then he realized the woman and those near her were looking at another man dressed as a woman, not him. Describing the unfortunate fellow, Hearn observes, “...from the mustache and the general look of her we knew we were safe.”
Most of Hearn’s Jan. 22, 1874, story about this lecture centers on his amusing appearance, his fear of being discovered, his feigned shock at O’Gorman’s scandalous allegations (“...oh, she made your reporter blush, and wish that he had stayed away.”) and the reactions of the other members of the audience. The story contains very little of O’Gorman’s lecture because most of it was too salacious for a family newspaper. “A trusting public expects information,” Hearn writes, “but modesty forbids.”
Although Hearn had to be somewhat restrained in writing about sex-related matters, he and his editors didn’t shy away from stories with gory details they knew would shock their readers. In “The Dance of Death,” published in the Enquirer on May 3, 1874, he’s escorted by a friend named Joe Saubohnz through a medical college’s dissecting rooms. (Considering Joe’s name is a funny homonym for “s-a-w-b-o-n-e-s,” I’m not sure if that’s his real name or if Hearn made it up for a joke.) As in his climb to the top of St. Peter-in-chain’s spire, Hearn is the comically squeamish, over-matched participant as he walks among the sliced-up corpses. Of course, he isn’t too horrified by what he sees to write about it later in graphic detail, ironically forcing his readers to visualize the same nauseating images that he accuses Joe of forcing him to look at.
He describes one male corpse as “a pile of human bones, sinews, nerves and arteries, black with encrusted blood, and smelling with a smell indescribably abominable. The bones of the trunk still held together with rotting shreds of flesh; a few scraggy atoms dangled from the freshly scraped ribs; and the spinal column was streaked at intervals with green splotches of decay, looking like a huge and disgusting centipede of some pre-Adamite age. The leg, feet and thigh bones were heaped together in a festering and stinking mass; the skull and spinal vertebrae were gone; and somebody had carelessly thrown the torn hands upon the breast of the skeleton in such a manner that the poor, bleeding fingers seemed to be joined in the mockery of piteous prayer.”
He uses dialogue to highlight the humorous contrast between his horror at what he sees with his friend Joe’s casual indifference.
“I’ve seen enough of dissecting rooms,” he tells Joe. “I feel sick.”
“Humbug,” Joe says. “Why, I eat my dinner in our dissecting room beside bodies worse than that.”
Another Hearn shock-journalism adventure involved drinking the blood of a slaughtered steer immediately after watching the animal’s throat be cut. He wrote the Sept. 5, 1875 Cincinnati Commercial story with the intention of showing how Hebrew slaughterhouses were much cleaner and more humane than Gentile slaughterhouses. In this case, he wasn’t engaged in simply shocking his readers. He was exposing the cruel practices and unsanitary conditions in most slaughterhouses. But near the end of the story, the owner of a Hebrew slaughterhouse tells Hearn that some people regularly come to Cincinnati slaughterhouses to drink the steers’ blood, which they believe is good for their health. After drinking a cup of fresh blood, Hearn proclaims it “simply delicious, sweeter than any concoction of the chemist, the confectioner, and winemaker.” Hearn’s account of his blood-drinking brings to mind Hunter S. Thompson’s 20th century stories in which he gleefully ingests all kinds of illegal drugs. But as zany as Thompson was, I don’t know that he ever drank an animal’s blood. If he did, I don’t think he wrote about it.
Hearn often employed his self-referencing technique for more serious purposes than mere shock or entertainment. He sometimes used it in stories that uncovered scams. Through dialogue, he would dramatically reveal the unscrupulous practices. Spiritualism was a frequent Hearn target. Spiritualists believed it was possible for the living to summon the spirits of the dead and communicate with them. This movement peaked in popularity in the United States from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century. Spiritualism produced countless charlatans who would charge money for conducting seances, predicting the future or providing photographs supposedly picturing ghosts.
Hearn experienced an eerie surprise when he himself became a participant in two séances at the invitation of a spiritualist friend. The medium told him at the first séance that the spirit refused to appear because Hearn was “too physically and psychically filthy.” To prepare for the second séance, Hearn underwent extensive preparations to purify himself. In his Jan. 25, 1874, Enquirer story titled “Among the Spirits,” he humorously describes these efforts. He took several baths, refrained from cursing and smoking cigars and wore a clean shirt to the séance.
The séance began after Hearn made sure the doors to the room were locked and, at the medium’s request, he nailed her dress to the floor with a tack. In the dark room, Hearn felt someone’s fingers tap his knee and a voice claiming to be the spirit of Hearn’s dead father began talking. The voice identified himself by the real name of Hearn’s father and called Hearn Patrick, the name his father had always called him and no one in Cincinnati did. In his story, Hearn admitted he couldn’t figure out how the voice knew certain details about his past life, but it didn’t shake his skepticism about seances. This story, one of Hearn’s most memorable during his Cincinnati period, owes its power to his involvement in the story and his personal way of writing it. A third-person account wouldn’t have been nearly as effective.
Grave-robbing was a big problem in Cincinnati during Hearn’s time there. Selling corpses to medical colleges was a lucrative business. Instead of a conventional expose of this practice, Hearn decided to personalize the story by accompanying the coroner to Potter’s Field to question the cemetery sexton about the issue. Hearn calls himself the Dismal Man, “whose rueful countenance was flushed with hope of hearing or seeing something more than usually horrible.” In an otherwise serious expose, he’s poking fun at his own reputation for writing about gruesome topics.
With Hearn and the coroner questioning him, the sexton admitted that he didn’t report body thefts to authorities and that he didn’t give receipts for bodies received at the cemetery. The sexton also revealed another stunning part of the scandal: he routinely buried empty coffins.
“But don’t you bury all the bodies sent here?,” the coroner asked.
“I buries all the coffins,” the sexton replied.
“Not all the bodies?
“No, because they steals ‘em afore I can bury ‘em.”
“Why, often more bodies comes here’n I can dig graves for in one day. So I have to leave ‘em lie over till the next day; and in the meantime, they steals ‘em.”
“But where do you leave them?”
“I leaves ‘em, coffins and all, right by the grave.”
“And if you find the coffin empty in the morning, what do you do?”
“Bury the box, of course. I gets a dollar and a quarter for every one I buries; and it’s just as much trouble to bury a full coffin as an empty one.”
“But why don’t you put the bodies where they can’t get them?”
“Because there isn’t any place where they can’t get ‘em unless I puts ‘em in my own house; an’ I’ll be d—ed if I’m going to have stiffs in my own house.”
A straight-forward investigative story based on interviews would have been powerful enough, but by bringing the readers along for the investigation, Hearn highlights the absurd, outrageous nature of the scandal and, as a bonus, makes the story more fun to read.
Early in his Cincinnati Enquirer career, Hearn wrote a story about a filthy, rat-infested house where a woman almost died from a miscarriage and where one of the house’s owners recruited young girls to be prostitutes. In his first two paragraphs of “A Nasty Nest,” published on July 27, 1873, Hearn declared the rationale behind his muckraking journalism:
“Cincinnati may brag of having the handsomest this and the largest that in the world, but she is mighty quiet in regard to her possession of some of the most miserable and disgusting features. Her quiet may come, however, from her ignorance, for it is much better and comforting to think that good men and women of this city who sit with folded hands, and believe themselves to be Christian, have no idea that there are such foul scabs on the city’s face as now and then become uncovered to the light of day.”
Hearn considered it his solemn journalistic duty to shine the light on these “foul scabs on the city’s face.” He often accomplished this by revealing not only the injustices suffered by society’s outcasts but also by showing the humanity of Cincinnati’s have-nots. He sometimes placed himself in these stories to make the readers feel as though they themselves were interacting with the subjects of his stories.
He did this in a story about seamstresses entitled, “Slow Starvation” and published on Feb. 15, 1874, in the Enquirer. The seamstresses performed the work for wholesale clothing houses that paid them paltry wages. They either worked alone in their own homes or in small groups in the homes of other seamstress who paid them from their wages. Hearn visited the seamstresses’ homes and interviewed them to uncover their difficult, impoverished lives. He learned that they were paid only two to three dollars for 60 to 80 hours of work each week.
By including his conversations with them in his story, he humanized them, giving a poignant emotional edge to his story. In this way, he depicted them not as abstract victims, but as individual human beings readers couldn’t help but connect and sympathize with. The seamstresses’ personalities come through in the long dialogues Hearn includes in his story.
After telling a seamstress he wants to learn about the prices she and others in her line of work are paid, she asks him, “Are ye a tailor? Ye look like wan, anyhow.”
“No, ma’am. I’m a newspaper reporter.”
“Ah! Come in an’ take a chair, an’ don’t be stayin’ out there in the could. So yer a newspaper reporter – the Lord have mercy on us! – are ye?”
“Yes, ma’am – for the ENQUIRER.”
“Better still. Divil a betther than meself could ye have come to for intilligince. Sure the times is awful Se ye want to put somethin’ in the paper about the poor girls?”
“Yes. I want to know what price are paid for sewing.”
“Ah, the divil take the prices! Shure we don’t get any prices at all now. I used to have a whole roomful of girls working for me; but since the prices has come down, I haven’t the face to offer them work for the little I could pay them. There’s the work we used to get forty cints for, we only get twinty-five for now. I only make pants, meself; but there’s other – God bless them – as can tell you what they pay for other kinds of work.”
“What do they pay for pants, madam?”
“Sixteen an’ a third cints is all we get now.”
“Sixteen and a third cents a pair!” cried the reporter in astonishment.
Hearn wrote similarly about the plight of the city’s rag-pickers, who would scour the dumps for pieces of cloth to sell to clothing merchants and other businesses. He visits a dump where he sees a woman and her two boys looking through piles of debris. Hearn again employs dialogue to reveal the plight and personality of his subjects. He begins speaking to the woman, whom he describes as possessing “a goblin-like face…A high vulture nose, great black eyes, deep-set, and glowing with a brilliancy that seemed phosphorescent, a high bold, frowning forehead, crowned with a filthy turban, long, thin bloodless lips, and a long, massive chin, all begrimed to deep blackness by the filth of the dumps.
“Do you make your living this way?” asked the reporter.
“Yes” – sullenly.
“Please excuse my questions. I’m a newspaper reporter, and would like to know something about your business. Do you make a good living this way?”
“No” – fiercely. “I am out all day, and I can’t make more’n two or three dollars a week. And then I have two boys to keep.”
“Why don’t you try something else – washing for instance? You look strong enough.”
Yes, I’ve been pretty stout, and I’m stout yet. But I cut the tendons of my right wrist all through about a year ago, and I had to give up washing. I used to do it once.”
“Can’t you get any other employment – something that will pay you better?”
“I don’t want to talk about it. You can’t do me any good anyhow, and I’m too busy to bother with you.”
“Well, where do you live? I’d like to have a talk with you some time, when you have leisure.”
“Ah!” – with a dangerous look – “I don’t want any man ‘round me. I can make my living honestly, anyhow.”
He also wrote about the hardships and culture of Cincinnati’s African-American residents. In Hearn’s time, Cincinnati had one of the largest African-American populations of any city in the United States. Bordering the slave state of Kentucky, Cincinnati was a beacon of freedom to the many runaway slaves and freed slaves who settled there before and during the Civil War.
Hearn brought his white readers into the world of the city’s African-American citizens in vivid stories in which he refers to himself by the editorial “we.” He ventured into the underground den of Jot, a black man who practiced voodoo and allowed scores of spiders to spin their webs among the sooty beams overhead. Many feared Jot because of his supposed dark mystical powers.
In another story, Hearn walks into one of the basement establishments of Henry “Ol’ Man” Pickett, a black man who owned several saloons and brothels on what was known as Sausage Row, a rough street on the levee. At this particular saloon, the bar was in the front room and the music and dancing occurred in a back room. Whites were not welcome in these places, but Pickett knew and liked Hearn. A former slave who had earned enough money when he lived in Virginia to buy his freedom, Pickett sometimes ran afoul of Cincinnati’s laws. Despite the racial stereotypes prevalent at that time, Hearn’s story, published on Feb. 21, 1875, in the Enquirer, depicts Picket as a complex human being with virtues and faults, someone who was sometimes accused of illegal activities but who also was known for his kindness, giving food and shelter to those who couldn’t pay for it. Hearn’s story is an insightful glimpse into not just Pickett, but also into a segment of Cincinnati society few whites were familiar with.
Whatever character Hearn assumed as the narrator/participant in his Cincinnati stories – the mischief-maker, the bungler, the muckraker or the sensitive observer – he used his self-referential technique to amuse, shock and enlighten. In doing so, he enlarged the worlds of his readers and laid part of the foundation for the rest of his life’s work.
The Virus and the Bell
By Gary Eith
“In the boom of the big bell there is a tone that awakens feelings so strangely far away from the 19th century part of me that the faint blind stirrings of them make me afraid… I hope to remain within hearing of that bell.”
– Kwaidan, Lafcadio Hearn
The bell is so large that it takes some time for the mechanical apparatus to swing the huge bell far enough for it to ring. The sheer weight of the bell makes it swing slowly and it sways to and fro silently, like a whisper in the wind in the tall glass enclosed tower. All of a sudden a deep, piercing bong echos and vibrates in the air. The vibrations actually lift the hair on your skin if you are close enough. The sound from the Peace Bell in Newport, KY., reverberates down the Ohio River Valley, and repetitive bongs seem like multiple bells are ringing. Like a big freight train or aircraft carrier, it takes some time to come to a stop.
Some say the vibrations travel far and wide, even “microscopically” to the other side of the globe. Yes, there are microscopic sounds. Scientists have even heard yeast cells from their cell vibrations. I wonder if perhaps the sounds of the bell can travel up the Nagara-gawa (river) to Gifu, Cincinnati’s sister city in Japan. I wish it so.
You see, having the sounds of the daily ringing of the bell travel to Gifu would be heartwarming. Stephen Rindsberg, chairman of the Cincinnati/Gifu Sister City Committee, informed me and others in the region that the former mayor of Gifu, Shigemitsu Hosoe, had recently passed away (may he rest in peace). Upon the announcement, I drifted back to that bright sunny day when I spent it with the mayor and citizens from Greater Cincinnati and Gifu, Japan. Yes, the residents of Gifu would hear the sound of our Peace Bell as an expression of consolation for their loss and a tribute to their mayor.
The sound of this bell also reminded me of the stories Hearn wrote about bells, folklore from China and Japan. “The Soul of the Great Bell,” is of a huge bell in a great tower, created in the 1400’s still to be seen in the Great Bell Temple in Beijing, China. Another was in his Kwaidan, titled “Of a Mirror and a Bell.” He wrote of bells that just may have spirits, at least in our minds and imaginations, if not in reality.
The Peace Bell, in Newport, KY is one of twenty Peace Bells around the world and commemorates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This one is the world’s largest free-swinging bell weighing 60,000 lbs., twelve feet in diameter and twelve feet high. Designed and managed in Greater Cincinnati by the Verdin Co., the bell was made in a foundry in France and shipped to Cincinnati via New Orleans in 1999. It was rung for the first time at the millennium and is rung at different times, and every day around 12 Noon.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was approved in 1948, without a negative vote by the countries represented in the United Nation’s General Assembly. This post-WW II document is generally perceived as international law recognizing the fundamental rights of dignity and worth of the human person and of equal rights of men and women around the world. The document recognizes the right to life, liberty and security, and describes values that every nation should attempt to promote and improve understanding.
I’ve attended the ceremonial ringing when delegations come from Gifu City, Japan, and my memory harkens back to that one featuring the mayor of Gifu City, the Honorable Shigemitsu Hosoe. Stephen Rindberg coordinated and emceed the program with the Gifu City local representative, Shoko Konuma. The ceremony is a commemoration of peace, friendship and community with one another. Mayor Hosoe was most gracious of his time. Members of the Greater Cincinnati community and from Gifu City enjoyed fellowship after the event. They travelled so far for the event, and that was admirable in itself.
The Bell is silent now. In my mind’s eye, I see the bell enclosed in the glass tower, and the sun gleams upon it while the bronzed, shadowed bell provides a much darker backdrop within. Remaining still and silent, it stirs memories of our friends across the seas. How are they doing with the virus that has travelled across the globe? “The faint blind stirrings of them make me afraid,” (as Hearn wrote). How are they really doing? The face of Japan is not unlike that of other proud nations, even us. We show one side to the outside, but another appears faintly so…. Reports are mixed from over there, mixed here too. The growing numbers of cases and deaths speak for themselves.
Many of us are indeed fearful for what the future brings with this virus and how life may be. Many are, and will be, afflicted. Many will know of someone, perhaps close, who have died. Many already know of the virulence, and their behaviors will forever be impacted. This mental set will last for generations, at least with those who are following it, knowledgeable of the pandemic’s power and potential. So, the question still lingers, “What will the future bring?”
The world war against a common foe, such as the coronavirus should bring the entire globe together, closer. The “Declaration” was a result of a global endeavor. Its success is dubious at best, but at least it was and is something to strive for. The pandemic screams for global cooperation, the critical need to share information, data and results of research and experimentation, of an effective vaccine and ultimately immunity. The need to share the tools to safeguard and protect first line responders, to share whatever it takes to save lives and thus the future of us all, seems evident. The virus won’t rest and it knows no boundaries. It can spread like words I think Lafcadio might use, like the dark shadow that happens each day across the globe as the sun sets.
However, what will be the lasting impact of this virus on the world? Will social distancing and other strategies, needed to thwart this menace, impact our ability to really see and understand one another? Will we be able to celebrate or commemorate with one another as we have in the past? Will we lose the few ties that bind us together as a world community? What of those ties for our country, even locally? Humanity had a difficult time before this virus hit. But these strategies, were essentially used in the Middle Ages. Now we have modern science and medicines, technologies and improved communication tools. So, it must be better.
Oktoberfest in Munich, Cincinnati’s German Sister City, has been cancelled this year. Ethnic festivals, fairs and sporting events have been cancelled. The Olympics the ultimate world-wide event, postponed. International travel has become severely limited if not eliminated, and we remember Mark Twain’s rejoinder that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness...” Is technology now the only answer, and is it a sufficient alternative? It may be the only alternative. Can this be, just a temporary situation? We yearn for connection and community.
The bell is a symbol of hope. Sounding for centuries, bells have been in houses of worship and temples. They rang and still ring in times of emergency or celebration and at times of birth, marriage and death. Stories indeed have been told about them, such as Lafcadio’s, evoking the imagination, even dreams. America’s own “Liberty Bell” was such a valued symbol that, when threatened, it had to be hidden and safeguarded from enemies. Now, the Liberty Bell is revered in its own building in Philadelphia.
The sound of our Peace Bell in Greater Cincinnati is so distinctive. You can hear it in your memory. You can even feel it. I hope our friends overseas still hear and feel it; and yes, as with Lafcadio, “I hope to remain within hearing of that bell.”
-Gary Eith is president of the Japan Research Center of Greater Cincinnati and holds a doctorate in education from Columbia University (in New York City). He is retired from a higher education career.
Hearn, Lafcadio, “Stories and Studies of Strange Things,” Kwaidan, 1904
Twain, Mark, (Samuel Clemens), The Innocents Abroad, 1869
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations, 1948
World Peace Bell, Newport KY, Wikipedia
The Dream of Akinosuke – A Jungian Interpretation
By Neha Dhar, Special Guest Author
Neha Dhar is an Independent Researcher from Pune, India. She studied Psychology for her undergraduate and graduate degrees, specializing in Organizational Psychology. Her work as a consumer psychologist trained her on different qualitative research methods including storytelling, metaphor elicitation, laddering and ethnography. Her industry experience in research and analysis motivated her to leverage her learning into academia. In the past few years, Neha has presented three of her research papers at national and international seminars and looks forward to being in a full time doctoral programme in the future. Her recent stint as a lecturer in a private university in Shillong exposed her to the rich folklore in the North-East region of India, which has now been added to her research interest areas which include- Consumer Psychology, Branding, Organization and Group Behavior, Storytelling, Narratives, Folktales, Pagan Myths and Lore, Jungian Psychology and Psychoanalysis
Edo or the Toku ga wa period of Japan was a time of oppressive rule and rigid feudal diktats. Society was divided into four distinct classes through the Mibunsei system, and the urban upper class Samurai along with the Daimyo warlords and the ruling Shogunate (Bakufu) comprised the wealthy elite. The lower classes of peasants, merchants and relegated rural samurai suffered economically and also ranked low in social standing (Murdoch, 2004). Yet, there developed a ‘commoner’s culture’ in Edo Japan, which gave rise to distinct art, storytelling and theatrics among other modes of entertainment, with its distinct style (Yonemoto, 2008). In storytelling and discourse, an emergence of a distinguishable literary genre of Kwaidanshu was seen. Its content was concerned with ‘tales of the strange and mysterious’ and was narrated in the Hyakumonogatari Kwaidankai. People from all classes attended these gatherings and it was popular belief that the oration of a hundred Kwaidans would prompt a supernatural occurrence (Hearn, 1907). Though it was a popular entertaining leisure activity, the narration of the Kwaidans also aided in a light rebuke of the rigid social and political order of the time (Reider, 2001). The central theme of this paper is to attempt to answer, if the Kwaidans served also as a powerful psychological instrument to alter individual and collective ideologies and if the orality of the Kwaidans contributed to such a change.
Kwaidans are richly infused with cultural motifs of a mysterious, gruesome and strange nature, which till date reflects in modern Japan’s cinematic experiences and also the emergence of urban legends (Galbraith, 1994). Symbols often represent covert concepts that can’t be fully comprehended. They are unconsciously and spontaneously produced in dreams and also find an expression in the form of tales spun by human psyche. Folklorist Alan Dundes (1984) pointed out that, “Folktales contain fantasy and more often than not, the fantasy is expressed through symbols.” To understand a tale and specifically its latent functions, it is imperative that the symbols woven into it are analysed. Jungian work on the psychoanalysis of the interplay of symbols occurring across varied cultural narratives and his understanding of alchemy in relation to language and its ultimate goal of individuation is noteworthy. The psychology of Kwaidans and its performance has been studied in this paper using a Jungian lens and in the cultural context of Edo Japan.
The Kwaidan being interpreted as a part of this research work is titled ‘The Dream of Akinosuke’ and has been chosen from the book, Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things by Lafcadio Hearn, who is also known by his Japanese name, Koizumi Yakumo.
2. Folktale Summary
The Dream of Akinosuke is the story of Akinosuke, a gōshi living in feudal Japan. One day, Akinosuke is sitting under a great cedar tree in his garden, drinking wine and talking with his friends, when he suddenly becomes very tired and falls asleep. And then he dreams that as he sits under the tree, a royal procession of richly dressed attendants is approaching him. The attendants inform him that the King of Tokoyo requests the goshi’s presence at his court. Akinosuke journeys along with the procession and arrives at the palace, where he is offered by the King, the princess’s hand in marriage, following which the two are wed. Few days later, the King sends Akinosuke and his wife away to an island province which he is to govern. So along with his wife, Akinosuke proceeds to the island which he rules for many years. The island is tranquil with sufficient harvest and no crime and his wife bears him seven children. However, suddenly she one day becomes ill and dies. The grief stricken Akinosuke erects a large monument in his wife's memory. And soon a message from the King arrives, stating that Akinosuke is to be sent back to where he came from, with assurances that his children will be well cared for. Akinosuke sails away from the island, and as it disappears, he is shocked to find himself still sitting under the cedar tree, with his friends around. He recounts his dream to them, hearing which one friend remarks seeing a yellow butterfly come out from Akinosuke's mouth as he slept and that the butterfly was seized by an ant and taken under the cedar tree. Curiously it reappeared from under the tree once Akinosuke woke up. The group investigates and under the cedar find a great kingdom of ants and a small stone that resembles a burial monument, further excavation of which reveals a small female ant buried underneath.
3. Interpretation of the Folktale
The folktale and Akinosuke’s dream, begin and end in his garden. A garden, Jung (2002) notes:
“…is a place where Nature is subdued, ordered, selected and enclosed. Hence it is a symbol of the consciousness as opposed to the forest, which is a symbol of the unconsciousness, in the same way as the island is opposed to the ocean.”
Within the defined boundaries of the garden grow the selective plants, flowers and trees like how selective thoughts and emotions thrive in the conscious realm of the human psyche. To trim or weed out plants which have no place in the garden and to nurture the desired ones is a conscious choice. Similar to the selective thought processes retained by the consciousness and the form in which they exist and over which the ego exercises its control. The unruly forest, like the ocean, represents the unconscious with its unknown, dark and uncharted territories and often wild and savage contents. Akinosuke’s garden then is really his conscious state of mind from which he begins his journey to the other realms and it becomes important to note here that it is under the Cedar tree, an important Japanese cultural element; that he falls asleep and his dream unfolds. An integral part of most Shinto shrines in Japan, the leaves of the Sugi (Japanese Cedar) is believed to have a certain vitality among other evergreen trees (Shirane, 2011). Trees hold a significant importance in Jungian symbolism. Jungian analyst Brian Collinson remarks:
“One of the most frequent symbols of the Self in the depth psychotherapy of Jung is the tree. It’s a fascinating and powerful symbol: the roots of the tree extend so firmly into the earth (matter), while the trunk and branches of the tree extend upward into the sky (spirit). A tree is wonderfully, totally “enough”: it is planted and grows according to the laws of its own being — as should we.”
In the Red Book, Jung brings out in his image of the Tree of Life- endowed with raw life force and vitality, the crown of the tree clearly differentiable from its roots. The conscious mind along with the unconscious, together and integrated by the vital life energy symbolizes the whole self, making the tree a strong metaphor for individuation itself. Comparing the life of an individual with the stages of a day, Jung in ‘Modern Man In Search Of A Soul’, speaks of the sun symbolizing the consciousness of man:
“…at the stroke of noon, the descent begins. And the descent means the reversal of all the ideals and values that were cherished in the morning, The sun falls into contradiction with itself. It is as though it should draw in its rays instead of emitting them. Light and warmth decline and are at last extinguished."
Jung felt "there is something sun-like within us; and to speak of the morning and spring, of the evening and the autumn of life is not, “mere sentimental jargon.” Drawing a parallel to the folktale and what the hero experiences:
“One very warm afternoon he was sitting under this tree with two of his friends, fellow-goshi, chatting and drinking wine, when he felt all of a sudden very drowsy,-- so drowsy that he begged his friends to excuse him for taking a nap in their presence. Then he lay down at the foot of the tree, and dreamed this dream.”
It is during the afternoon that the sun starts waning and shadows are cast. The noon is the zenith of the sun and of the consciousness and as the day passes, the approach to the unconscious begins with Akinosuke’s dream. It is interesting to note that he journeys South in his dream, a direction that corresponds to the Yin aspect of the personality, associated typically with the unconscious and feminine aspects of the mind.
The human psyche as postulated by Carl Jung, comprises of the Conscious and the unconscious areas. Though the concept of the existence of an unconscious realm of the mind is common to suggestions by the Freudian and Adlerian schools of Psychoanalysis, the Jungian unconscious differs significantly in its nature, content, manifestation and purpose. Duality was seen as a fact of human nature by Jung and according to him the conscious and unconscious are the primary opposing sides of the psyche. This very dichotomy helps understand the Jungian conception of the conscious mind as The Jungian Dictionary (Samuels et al., 1986) quotes him:
“By consciousness I understand the relation of psychic contents to the ego, insofar as this relation is perceived by the ego. Relations to the ego that are not perceived as such are unconscious. Consciousness is the function of activity which maintains the relation of psychic contents to the ego.”
The ability of the conscious mind to be aware of and be able to discriminate between what it is in conflict with and what it merges into becomes its defining characteristic. Compensation happens as a result of one sidedness of the conscious, as is often in the case of the immature psyche and it further becomes the impetus for the integration of unconscious elements into it. The conscious thus forms the foundation of other realms of the psyche to operate in opposition and harmony with it. Identifying the consciousness is thus a precursor to formation of the individual or the self. Symbolically then, the physical setting of the beginning of the tale (the garden), along with the time of the day (afternoon) point towards the consciousness of the human mind itself, forming the foundation of the tale and the journey towards individuation, through the symbols in the unconscious, that it unfolds.
Addressing the unconscious motivation of the mind is the most defining character of the Psychoanalytical school of Psychology. The unconscious is used to describe contents of the mind which the ego cannot access and it is a specific psychic space with its own defined character and functions. Jungian psychologists view the unconscious as being much beyond just a storehouse of repressed infantile desires, but that which also serves as a rich repository of psychological activity connected to inherited instinctual imprints of mankind. The unconscious according to Jung comprises of two parts- The personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. He comments in ‘Two Essays on Analytical Psychology’:
“We shall probably get nearest to the truth if we think of the conscious and personal psyche as resting upon the broad basis of an inherited and universal psychic disposition which is as such unconscious, and that our personal psyche bears the same relation to the collective psyche as the individual to society.”
He further emphasises the existence of the shadow side to our personality and the fact that the ego stands to shadow as light to shade. The contents of the shadow personality exist in the personal psyche, the expression of which is controlled by the collective. Often repeatedly appearing as the repressed inferior and dark side of the personality Jung (CW 11, para. 131) says:
“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that is it continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from the consciousness, it never gets corrected, and it is liable to burst forth suddenly in a moment of unawareness. At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions.”
In the folktale, the shadow of the hero figure that operates as a complex of inferiority can be glimpsed in the repeated symbols of grandeur appearing steadily through the narrative:
“Imposing and grand procession of the Damiyo…”
“Men richly apparelled, drawing a great gosho-guruma (lacquered palace-carriage) hung with bright blue silk…”
“Huge Chinese styled two-storied Romon (gateway)…”
“Noble-looking men, wearing robes of purple silk and high caps…”
“A palace whose front appeared to extend, west and east, to a distance of miles…”
“Reception-room of wonderful size and splendour…”
“Great chest of gold lacquer full of girdles of rich material and a kamuri (regal headdress)…”
In his writings Jung talks of complexes as “via regia to the unconscious”, operating as “splinter psyches” – which are a collection of cognitive images and ideas, centred around a archetypical locus and defined by a particular affect. Akinosuke in his dream is bequeathed with honour, courtesy and respect amidst the majestic splendour befitting only the stature of a kingly figure. It is this amplified version of himself that he experiences in his dream that forms the base for his conscious neurosis of inferiority which make his ego-self feel powerlessness.
It becomes at this point in the interpretation, imperative, to draw from the cultural context of the Edo period; since it is the personal unconscious we speak of and its shadows and complexes. Metaphorical mental imagery are entwined within the individual consciousness which is itself a result of psychology of the culture and its folk (Crapanzano, 1975). This particular Kwaidan is set in the Yamato province of Japan, which ceases to exist today. All provinces of Edo Japan had in place a social and political order of a very rigid feudal nature. Distinct classes existed with their designated role and function in the society and any movement- whether social or political, would be considered exceptional (Murdoch, 2004).
Social Hierarchy of Edo Period Japan
The Shogun was the head of the ruling military structure in Edo Japan. Technically only a military representative of the Emperor, but in fact the Shogun was the real ruler of all Japan. So powerful that the Emperor himself was essentially a mere prisoner under house arrest of the Shogun. Daimyos were the great feudal lords from 1185 to 1868 who remained individually independent within their domains, but were subject to the authority of the Shogun. The daimyo’s power was further diminished during the Edo period as government became more bureaucratic and the Shogun gained more control. There was also a particular class of soldier-samurai-farmers, called Goshi, who were independent landowners, for the most part, formed a kind of yeomanry (Hearn, 2015)
Vanoverbeke (2004) mentions regarding the Goshis saying,
“Until major reforms by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, military power decided landownership. After the 1588 ‘sword hunt’ by Hideyoshi, according to which all non-warriors were prohibited to wear weapons and the samurai were quartered in castles, military power became less important. The warriors who remained in the farm villages became farmers but maintined some limited priviliges to their previous social status. They were called Goshi. They had special influence in the village and usually took the office of Village head.”
“The rich farmers, or Gono, gained power in their farm villages. They became the protectors and leaders of the farm villages. Gono in remote regions increasingly opposed the traditional authority and heavy tax burdon imposed on them by the central bakufu and they gradually built the basis for a revolt. Those gono, together with the goshi, the local samurai (privileged farmers), played an important role in the Meiji Restoration.”
In context of the declining military power towards the mid of the Edo period, the social milieu of feudal Japan becomes clearer. One can infer that the Goshis were not merely privileged freeholders of land in rural Japan but in fact were a clan of relegated samurai, who though influential in their village but were under the oppression of the traditional Shogun. Their current power clearly did not compare to the social and political standing they would have possessed earlier. Relating to the folktale, Akinosuke’s complex of feeling inferior and being rendered powerless falls fit and dreaming of riches, power and high social standing are tell-tale signs of the class struggle not just within his individual psyche but also this mass repression of the Goshi’s psyche could have led to a collective psychic epidemic such as the revolt against the order.
As stated earlier in the paper, the Collective Unconscious is realm of the mind that controls the expression of shadow and complexes that are formed in the Personal Unconscious. The manifestation of which is seen in the appearance of Archetypical figures and processes. Jung (1947) stated,
“The collective unconscious consists of the sum of the instincts
and their correlates, the archetypes. Just as everybody possesses instincts, so
he also possesses a stock of archetypal images.”
The contents of the Collective Unconsciousness have never seen the light of Consciousness and it operates on account of inherited structures of the mind like universal motifs and archetypical patterns. Archetypes (Jung, 1947) are images and thoughts which have universal meanings across cultures which may show up in dreams, literature, art or religion. They are recognisable in behaviours based on universal experiences like birth, marriage, motherhood, death and separation. Also, they can be seen in relation to one’s psychic life seen as the inner figure of the hero, the warrior, the wise old man, the mother, and Anima and Animus characters. (Samuels et al., 1986).
The marriage of Akinusuke is an Archetypical structure of behaviour emerging from his Anima figure, the Princess. The anima princess operates as the hero’s own shadow feminine side, one that his ego represses and what finds an expression in his collective unconscious.
The Jungian Dictionary (Samuels et al., 1986) states that,
“The anima acts as Psychopompi or guides of soul and they become necessary links with creative possibilities and instruments of Individuation. In collective forms they have been represented by Aphrodite, Athena, Hercules, Helen of Troy. In projections they appear as friends, lovers and wives.”
The marriage with the princess is a crucial motif; it is the very reason why Akinosuke has been summoned by the king into his dream. It is interesting to note that the union with his anima leads Akinosuke to experience all the riches and power that he consciously desires too. And it is through this very union that he is able to create- the birth of his seven children, given a chance to govern his own province, where he brings in organization, law and stability. Here we see, how the integration with his anima leads not only to wish fulfilment but also balances out the inferiority complex the hero suffers from by lending him a sense of authority and power. Another archetypical process to observe is the death of the Princess. As his Anima figure ceases to exist, the hero is sent back to his own ordinary world. His departure like the death of the princess is rather sudden, but not unexpected from the Jungian lens. It reinforces the fact that, the marriage with the princess, in other words assimilating the creative anima forces into his psyche and growing from this integration, was the sole purpose of the journey to his unconscious and thus the reason for the dream.
The classic archetype of the King lends support and structure to this whole process of Akinosuke’s Psychic growth. Corroborated also by myths from cultures across the world, Jungian analyst Robert Moore paints the king archetype to be a figure of unquestionable power and authority, who brings about order where there is chaos. Also often responsible for bringing together warring sides, the king helps integrate opposing forces by his sheer power of command. The king from the folktale mirrors these qualities, with his commanding authority to summon Akinosuke from his kingdom, directing him to marry his daughter, the princess and also at an opportune time asks him to leave the kingdom and return to his world. The amalgamation of opposing forces of Akinosuke’s psyche also happens as a result of the expression of the King archetype. He is, like the Anima figure of the princess, vital to the process of Akinosuke’s progress towards Individuation itself.
According to Jungian symbolism, the ocean or sea is “the womb of creativity for the unconscious mind.” The vessel upon the sea, often signifies the ego or the body of the individual. Akinosuke’s sailing back home through the smooth sea is a symbolic rebirth of his ego psyche through the womb of his unconscious, as he wakes up and his dream comes to an end.
The concluding imagery of the ant hill under the Cedar and the motif of the butterfly is eerily beautiful as its woven into the storyline projecting forth the element of strange and supernatural that is so characteristic of Kwaidans. But the allegory intends to serve as a powerful validation and reinforces the hidden psychological function of the dream and narrative - the necessity of the conscious expansion of the hero’s self to incorporate within it what he unconsciously represses and become more whole as a result of it. To explain this, I would like to draw from not just from the Jungian Individuation process and Edo historical anecdotes but also from the writings of Lafcadio Hearn (1907). Discussing insects, he cites entomologist David Sharp:
"Observation has revealed the most remarkable phenomena in the lives of these insects. Indeed we can scarcely avoid the conclusion that they have acquired, in many respects, the art of living together in societies more perfectly than our own species has; and that they have anticipated us in the acquisition of some of the industries and arts that greatly facilitate social life."
Hearn (1907) goes on to quote biologist and anthropologist Herbert Spencer:
"The competence of the ant is not like that of man. It is devoted to the welfare of the species rather than to that of the individual, which is, as it were, sacrificed or specialized for the benefit of the community. One in which egoism and altruism are so conciliated that the one merges into the other."
Elaborating with regard to social evolution, Hearn refers to ants being advanced beyond man ethically, economically and altruistically. That the value of the individual can be only in relation to the society; the sacrifice of the individual for the sake of that society be good or evil must depend upon what the society might gain or lose through a further individualization of its members. The society in the Edo period was marked by its strict norms and customs drawing from ideas from a Chinese Confucianism. Social mobility was limited and the concentration of wealth among an elite few and discontent among low ranking samurais (goshis) and unhappy merchants and peasants gave rise to class conflict and ultimately a revolution.
The ants under the cedar can be equated to the commoners of the Edo period who though belittled by the ‘elite’, had a cultural style of their own. They had their own entertainment areas consisting of theatres, teahouses and restaurants, brothels, and street entertainers—fortune-tellers, jugglers, and story-tellers. Two prominent commoner writers who emerged during this era are- Ihara Saikaku in prose fiction and Chikamatsu Monzaemon in drama and their writings centred on themes of love and money in the lives of the commoners (Yonemoto, 2008).
The reference to the butterfly from the folktale reads:
“Perhaps it was Akinosuke's soul, the other goshi said;-- certainly I thought I saw it fly into his mouth... But, even if that butterfly was Akinosuke's soul, the fact would not explain his dream. The ants might explain it, returned the first speaker. Ants are queer beings."
Indeed according to Japanese beliefs of Chinese origin, butterflies are linked to one’s soul. The soul of a living person is believed to wander about in the form of a butterfly (Hearn, 1907). Jung said, “The German word Seele [soul] is closely related, via the Gothic form saiwalo, which means ‘quick-moving,’ ‘changeful of hue,’ ‘twinkling,’ something like a butterfly.” So, if we conclude that the butterfly in the Kwaidan is symbolic of Akinosuke’s soul, it’s interplay with the ants can be understood in terms of the remark made by one of the Goshis, “The ants might explain it (the dream)”. An ancient Chinese tale, cited by Hearn in his book, “Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things”, reads:
“Try to find some Ants, and when you find any, stoop down, and listen carefully to their talk. You will be able to understand it; and you will hear of something to your advantage... Only remember that you must not frighten or vex the Ants.”
The metaphorical Ants are the commoners of a conflicted Edo Japan who Akinosuke and his clan of relegated samurais- the goshis, must pay heed to. Listening to them would lead to an understanding of the dream. It would help the goshi encounter his shadow of inferiority and powerlessness and integrating with his Psychopomp would help infuse into him creativity, the ability to relate with the masses and stand with them for a greater altruistic cause.
4. Orality of Kwaidans and Individuation
Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai (translating to a gathering of hundred Supernatural Tales) was a storytelling tradition, in Edo Japan, which was expressed in the form of a game. It was played by lighting a hundred candles in a dark room, where each participant in the gathering would take turns narrating a Kwaidan. Post every narration of a Kwaidan a candle was doused, with the room growing darker and darker as the game advanced. It was supposed that a supernatural phenomenon would manifest with the extinguishing of the final candle, which would often result in the storytellers pausing the Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai at the ninety- ninth candle (Petty, 2011).
Petty elaborates that although originally played by the samurai class as a test of bravado, the common culture soon became enamoured with it with the game of Hyakumonogatari Kwaidan-kai. Merchants, artists, performers and even priests spread the Kwaidans as they travelled extensively across rural and urban centres. These stories were derived from recent events in local areas and some from classical Chinese texts, for which the storyteller would effectively mould the settings during the narration to appeal more to the Japanese audience. Although some Chinese motifs and vernacular would be left intact, for aesthetic appeal. Lefcardo Hearn (1907) mentions, in reference to his book, “Kwaidan: stories and studies of strange things”:
“Most Kwaidans have been taken from old Japenese books. Some have a Chinese origin like the Dream of Akinusuke. But the storyteller in every case has recoloured and reshaped his borrowings to neutralize it.”
Lafcadio Hearn observed the ‘Dream of Akinosuke’, to be of Chinese origin owing to the appearance of the ‘Chinese styled Romon’ in Akinosuke’s Dream. The popularity of the Kwaidans led to the creation of a separate discourse called Kaidanbanashi. The oration would be supplemented by the seated performer’s deliberate hand gestures, facial expressions and eye movements. Artwork depicting characters from the Kwaidan (specially of the Yūrei- vengeful female Japanese ghost figures from folktales, traditionally shown wearing all white with long flowing black hair and typically bound to specific places or objects) and the settings, would be displayed by the storyteller during the narration. The nature of the orality in the Kwaidan, including the intonation, was meant more to create the appropriate and receptive state of mind rather than impersonate realistic settings. Each segment and character dialogues would be narrated with varying voice pitches to heighten the effect of sensing of unreality and to create an emotional appeal among the participants (Petty, 2011).
Written down words acquires a kind of vitality when spoken. Orality lends language a certain immediacy and a vibrancy where in a conscious shift from ‘quiescent space’ to ‘dynamic sound’ occurs (Ong, 2013). This dynamic energy that oral language contains is brilliantly illustrated by an excerpt from the Hermetica. In it, the ancient Egyptian sage and alchemist Hermes Trismegistus, speaking of the Egyptian sacred language says:
“The very sound of an Egyptian word resonates with the thing signified by it…Our Egyptian speech is more than talk. It’s utterances are replete with power.”
According to the Vedas, the universal seed sound or ‘Beeja’, contained in powerful chants and incantations and also often ordinary speech, translates to the womb/ language of life. Ancient Sanskrit texts also refer to ‘Vak’, or the Divine Word denoting speech, voice and word infused with a creative power. Seen as consciousness, breath and vibratory energy at the same time, it is equated to the “mother of the gods”, the energy and force which creates and sustains the universe itself. One can also draw parallels with the biblical phrase, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” to better understand the ‘divine’ creative energy that speech is instilled with.
As these productive words are projected forth to the listeners, the body acts as a vibrational tool of our conscious and unconscious intent to create. Lee and Gura state that, “The body is also an instrument which controls breathing, pitch, tone, posture, gesture, and eye contact. All of which add to the understanding of the speech.” The inclusion of performance to orality, using hand gesture, posture, seating, eye expressions only amplify the gamut of the productive force of oration and its creative potential.
Neuroscience too explains the creative implications of the mind and the language that stems from it:
“The most dramatic innovation introduced with the rollout of our species is not the prowess of individual minds, but the ability to harness that power across many individuals.” Language allows us to do this in an unprecedented way — it serves as a vehicle for transferring one’s own mental states into another’s mind.”
Jason Mitchell, Harvard University
“We also connect to other minds via mirror neurons — those copycat brain cells that echo other people’s actions and emotions from within the confines of our own skulls. Mirror neurons allow us to learn from one another’s experiences and to see the world through foreign eyes — a neurological feat that seems to lie at the basis of so much of what it is to be human. Through mirror neurons, our experiences fuse into the joint pool of knowledge that we call culture.”
Christian Keysers, University of Amsterdam
Language clearly has a productive power that enables each of us to be able to manifest our thoughts and emotions into somebody else’s psyche. It involves not just the comprehension of words, concepts, and images, but also generates an actual shared affect with the other. As tales are narrated- the audience vibrates in sympathy, draws back in fear and claps their hand in happiness. It can only be surmised, how each vignette styled expressive narration of Kwaidans in the dimly lit Hyakumonogatari Kwaidan-kai room, would be an Alchemical moment in itself. In Psychology and Alchemy, Jung (1968) talks of the psychic nature of the alchemical work and the projection of psychic contents;
“It is asserted that the alchemical opus deals less with chemical experiments as such than with what is described as something resembling psychic processes expressed in pseudochemical language. It is proposed that the real root of alchemy lies not in philosophical doctrine but in the projections of the individual investigator. By this is meant that the investigator, while working on his chemical experiments, had certain psychic experiences that appeared to him as part of the actual chemical process. As this is a matter of psychological projection, and therefore unconscious, the alchemist would experience his projection as a property of matter. Thus, he was in reality experiencing his own unconscious. Psychic projection of unconscious material onto chemical substances is the key to understanding the alchemic opus”
“Man is the one to be redeemed in the Christian formulation; man as redeemer is alchemical. When the priest pronounces the consecrating words to bring about the transformation that redeems the bread and wine from their elemental imperfection, he is, in essence, an alchemist and not a Christian. Both in the Church and in alchemy, the work is that of redemption, with the alchemist participating in two roles: that of the redeemer as well as that of the redeemed.”
The storyteller and the audience both then would act as alchemists, who would either project forth or absorb into their psyche both conscious and unconscious messages of the Kwaidans, ultimately bringing about a transformation in their thought process and evoke certain emotions. As interpreted earlier in the paper, the Kwaidan appears to have a concealed psychological message and when powerfully orated in the storytelling sessions, it would gather the momentum to be projected forth and subliminally or otherwise form an imprint in the common psyche. Such a powerful alchemical social interaction would exert a decisive influence upon not merely the individual mind and but also would influence the collective consciousness of the nation. The Japanese belief around the narrations of a hundred Kwaidans in the Hyakumonogatari Kwaidan-kai leading to the manifestation of a supernatural event could be actually be a psychic event of the unconscious, brought about by the alchemical process of storytelling. Through the metaphor of alchemy, which is a symbol for Individuation as per Jung, one can see that the orality of Kwaidans coupled with other aspects to its delivery, did possess the potential to bring about an altering and growth of not just the individual soul but the collective psyche.
The Jungian analysis of ‘The Dream of Akinosuke’ lends support to the idea that the function of this particular Kwaidan was beyond just entertainment. It is infused with powerful psychological lessons and relevant messages for the audience of that time, and a transformation in terms of maturing of the individual psyche would certainly be within its scope. However, more Kwaidans would need to be understood and analysed using the Jungian theory to conclude about the exact nature of psychological transformation in terms of Individuation, whether individual or collective. It is clear that the strong oral appeal of the Kwaidans and its powerful and expressive delivery, fused with the elements of strange in the storytelling settings, were the reasons for its popularity. The belief of the manifestation of a strange occurring attached to Kwaidan narration might actually have been a metaphor for a collective ideology, perceived and experienced by all in the session, nevertheless Psychological in nature.
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The Spring, 2020 edition of the Lafcadio Hearn Journal was edited by Gary Eith. Any inquiries or suggestions and possible contributions to subsequent journals should be sent to him. His email address is: email@example.com
We are continuing to seek research on the actual date of arrival of Hearn in Cincinnati from New York. We are also seeking any research or information on the young Scandinavian lady Hearn met on his train trip to Cincinnati from New York in 1869/70. This young lady provided Hearn with sustenance during the trip, and Hearn had a youthful, shy, infatuation of her, or so he described.
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