This is part 2 of Julius Evola‘s review of the movement initiated by Emile Coué. It would be curious that Coué discovered all these techniques himself, since they are part of Hermetic and magic training. Here are some of the salient points to notice:
- A monoideism is a state of focusing the mind on a single idea as in hypnosis. Negatively, it is related to the “idee fixed” described by Valentin Tomberg, or more colorfully, and not completely inaccurately, as “possession by a gnome”. Positively, it is an aspect of deliberate concentration exercises.
- Man, as he is, i.e., the man untrained in mental or spiritual development, is not as conscious as he believes himself to be. Rather, he is a “puppet” under the domination of myriads of suggestions, most of which do not emanate from himself.
- The so-called conscious mind, i.e., the discursive intellect is a mass of contradictory ideas which very often impede our lives.
- There is a deeper “I” or self, beyond that seemingly awake I, that is the true and real source of our lives.
- That deeper self responds to suggestions arising in the conscious mind or those entering the conscious mind from outside sources.
- To “reach” that deeper self, it is necessary to somehow suppress the incessant chatter of the conscious I. That is the real goal of meditation, concentration, and other so-called magical techniques. Even “sex magick” has nothing to do with sex, beyond using it as a means to bypass the conscious mind.
- Notice, for example, how Coué’s ideas track the notion of “concentration without effort” as described by Valentin Tomberg.
- It is clear that these techniques sound simple, but are quite difficult in practice. That would account for the seeming lack of success in most cases. The state of “conviction”, faith, or the ability to “will one thing” is elusive to those who think too much.
- Based on the examples that Evola provides, perhaps the purpose of these tests for Qualifications for initiation may be clearer.
Since autosuggestion is possible in principle, Coué sees it confirmed by a thousand facts of daily life. Three fourths of our actions—as he claimed to one of his disciples—are, more or less directly, supported by autosuggestion: only that we habitually suggest to ourselves without either knowing or willing it and, in most cases, as though it were all our doing. Here Coué emphasized the opposition of logos to eros, he often loves to highlight how our conscious will and reason can do nothing against an autosuggestion, since what makes us act is always the imagination. He says,
When the will is in battle with the imagination, it is the will that, without exception, loses the game.
Not only that, but the efforts made by the will in similar cases succeed simply in reinforcing the power against which it faces. This is the law of reversed effort. Examples:
- The novice bicyclist sees a stone in the middle of the road, he imagines that he is going to run over it, he struggles to avoid it; the harder he tries, the more likely he goes right over the rock.
- A person notices he cannot fall sleep; he wants to sleep: the more he wants it, the more he does not succeed in falling sleep.
- A sufficiently large plank is placed across an abyss; if the same plank were place on the ground, a person would walk across it with the greatest nonchalance. But being placed over the abyss, he imagines he could fall; he does not then dare to traverse it: if, in spite of everything, by forcing an effort, he attempts it, in the great number of cases he is going to fall off. And so on.
These and numerous other examples show that the will can do nothing against a present suggestion. The secret of success is instead to oppose a suggestion not with an effort, but rather with another suggestion of the opposite meaning: it is necessary, i.e., to translate the will into a corresponding “imagination”. Without that, the effort succeeds only in precipitating the occurrence in the direction opposite to the one desired. Therefore Coué says:
We who are so proud of our will, we who believe we freely do what we do, we are in reality only poor puppets of which our imagination holds all the strings. We cease to be these puppets only when we have learned to guide the imagination.”
Here we can make a rather important observation about the mode of action of the two principles. In apparent contrast with what at first view would let us think of the classifications of logos and eros, we see that the mode of the first is action properly called, or effort, tension; in contrast, the mode of the second is purely mental, it is an “imagining”, a sudden and inner, effortless, self-representation. This pure “imagining” realizes, and realizes it to the very depths of the one’s being: instead action or will, purely called, is condemned to the periphery, and can do nothing in respect to the deepest stratum of the physical and emotive personality, and when it intervenes, it succeeds only in leading to battles and disagreements with almost always detrimental consequences.
The problem therefore is centered in the question of provoking consciously and intentionally that autosuggestive process which, in the background, plays such an essential part in daily life: or, in other words, of discovering the method by which one can act on the “imagination” starting from the I of awakening. Coué’s principle in this:
every idea that engages the spirit exclusively becomes “true” for the imagination; the concentration of the mind on an idea transforms this into a belief.
In technical terms: it is about creating in oneself a “monoideism”. Faith and monideism, ultimately, would be equivalent to each other. That said, the technique of couism is the following:
The principles of the will and the imagination exclude each other; in the hypnotized person the power of the subconscious is so great because a free field is left to it, while everything that is related to the will and consciousness is put aside. The ideal would therefore be the ability to enter a hypnotic state: but since the hypnotic state suppresses the conscious I by hypothesis, it is necessary to find a compromise, viz., of the intermediate stages in which the surfacing of the subconscious has the maximum, compatibly with the minimum permanence of the conscious principle.
Such are the so-called “hypnoid states”, among which Coué emphasizes that of détente or relaxation. It is a matter of realizing a complete relaxation of the conscious faculties, of excluding every mental and muscular effort or tension, just as happens immediately before falling asleep and in so-called reveries. When the mood of relaxation ends up sufficiently incited, the conscious principle that up to that point was put aside—withdrawn almost to the extreme corner of oneself—it can intervene and make the idea slip into the mind, or better put, the image of what one desires to realize. The mind must fixate on this image to the exclusion of all the rest, moreover without entering into the field of efforts, which would destroy the state of relaxation and, along with it, the state of receptivity and of suggestibility of the “imagination”. How then can one realize such concentration? Coué’s answer is:
By means of the very rapid repetition of a formulation which includes the idea in question; with the repetition, the mind is automatically and spontaneously brought to the idea, and its speed makes it such that other images are not inserted in the intervals. In particular: any counter-suggestions are not formed which would neutralize it and thereby render it ineffective. Through repetition, monoideism is formed: absorbing the whole spirit, the image strengthens itself slowly in the imagination until it becomes a dim and deep conviction; it is then employed by the power of the subconscious from which it certainly is turned into action.
If, e.g., in a hemorrhage, one succeeds in concentrating on the formula “the hemorrhage has stopped”—like a mood freed from conscious faculties—, to the point of rendering itself fully active, the related image lives in the mind—in a word: to the point of believing it, then this idea becomes a truth and a command for the subconscious that, as director of every organic function, makes the arterioles and venules contract naturally, just as would happen artificially with a tourniquet: and the hemorrhage is stopped.
This, in a few words, is Coué’s theory. In experiments, it seems to have been demonstrated as capable almost of a miracle. Limiting ourselves to the physio-pathological order, to which it particularly is oriented, not only functions but also organic paralyses, advanced stage consumption, generalized eczema, tubercular lesions, tumors, etc. have been cured, sometimes in very few sessions, by means of the autosuggestion developed from the illness itself under the guidance of Coué or his disciples.