Such is always the mechanism of the collective

Doc Preview
Pages 100+
Total views 35
Such is always the mechanism of the collective hallucinations so frequent in history—hallucinations which seem to have all the recognised characteristics of authenticity, since they are phenomena observed by thousands of persons. To combat what precedes, the mental quality of the individu- als composing a crowd must not be brought into consideration. This quality is without importance. From the moment that they
16Gustave Le Bon form part of a crowd the learned man and the ignoramus are equally incapable of observation. This thesis may seem paradoxical. To demonstrate it beyond doubt it would be necessary to investigate a great number of his- torical facts, and several volumes would be insufficient for the purpose. Still, as I do not wish to leave the reader under the impression of unproved assertions, I shall give him some examples taken at hazard from the immense number of those that might be quoted. The following fact is one of the most typical, because chosen from among collective hallucinations of which a crowd is the vic- tim, in which are to be found individuals of every kind, from the most ignorant to the most highly educated. It is related inciden- tally by Julian Felix, a naval lieutenant, in his book on "Sea Currents," and has been previously cited by theRevue Scientifique. The frigate, theBelle Poule,was cruising in the open sea for the purpose of finding the cruiserLe Berceau,from which she had been separated by a violent storm. It was broad daylight and in full sunshine. Suddenly the watch signalled a disabled vessel; the crew looked in the direction signalled, and every one, offi- cers and sailors, clearly perceived a raft covered with men towed by boats which were displaying signals of distress. Yet this was nothing more than a collective hallucination. Admiral Desfosses lowered a boat to go to the rescue of the wrecked sailors. On nearing the object sighted, the sailors and officers on board the boat saw "masses of men in motion, stretching out their hands, and heard the dull and confused noise of a great number of voices." When the object was reached those in the boat found themselves simply and solely in the presence of a few branches of trees covered with leaves that had been swept out from the neighbouring coast. Before evidence so palpable the hallucina- tion vanished. The mechanism of a collective hallucination of the kind we have explained is clearly seen at work in this example. On the one hand we have a crowd in a state of expectant attention, on the other a suggestion made by the watch signalling a disabled vessel at sea, a suggestion which, by a process of contagion, was accepted by all those present, both officers and sailors.
THE CROWD: A STUDY OF THE POPULAR MIND 1 7 It is not necessary that a crowd should be numerous for the faculty of seeing what is taking place before its eyes to be destroyed and for the real facts to be replaced by hallucinations unrelated to them. As soon as a few individuals are gathered together they constitute a crowd, and, though they should be
Course Hero Badge

Want to read all 157 pages?

Previewing 36 of 157 pages Upload your study docs or become a member.
Course Hero Badge

Want to read all 157 pages?

Previewing 36 of 157 pages Upload your study docs or become a member.
Course Hero Badge

End of preview

Want to read all 157 pages? Upload your study docs or become a member.