Fantasy has a peculiarity that distinguishes it from rumour. Fantasy is private ; people do not speak of their fantasies save under very special conditions, for there is some check in consciousness that forbids it. There are forms of insanity in which the patient lives entirely in his fantasies and in some cases he utters them aloud. Rumour, on the other hand, is public and is eagerly discussed. But the connection between fantasy and rumour is very intimate.
Rumour, either good or bad, is communal fantasy. Under what circumstances does it arise ? It is possible to regard good rumour as arising under exactly the same circumstances as optimistic fantasy.. It arises out of psychic necessity, as a compensatory product, when to the community as a whole, or as an isolated part, reality assumes a threatening aspect. For example, before the landing at Suvla Bay, rumour was vague, ill-defined, and neither good nor bad. After the landing, as the psychic necessity grew out of the material situation, it assumed a definite form. It became increasingly optimistic and called in more and more agencies that did not belong to the immediate environment. It went farther and farther afield, until it implicated the Bulgarians, Roumanians, Boers, and Japanese, all of whom, it said, were hastening to relieve the situation. Now it was impossible to estimate upon what the system responsible for the dream was engaged during this time. But if we take an analogy from the case in the last chapter we might suppose that it was compensating this over-compensated attitude in consciousness, or, in other words, that it was tending to swing to the opposite pole, the pole of pessimism. Now there must be a point in over-compensation when, unless reality modifies itself favourably, something must occur. Over-compensation cannot go on increasing indefinitely, without driving reason wholly from consciousness. If it does this, then fantasy dominates the whole conscious field and the man or the community live in fantasy and are therefore mad. This can occur in individuals, but it is less likely to occur in communities nowadays, though in medieval times it was not rare. If reason asserts itself and pricks the swelling bubble of fantasy, it breaks. And what takes its place ? What inflow are we to expect to fill up the vacuum ? If we look for an inflow from the deeper psychic levels, we must expect an inflow of those forces that were compensating the over-compensated attitude in consciousness. In other words, it will be an inflow of extreme pessimism and the fantasy-building system will now weave rumours of a sinister kind. That is exactly what happened at Suvla Bay. The same thing was seen in Mesopotamia. Before the fall of Kut rumour was buoyant. It spun the most wonderful tales up to the very last minute. Then Kut fell; and reality, and not reason, pricked the bubble. The inflow from the deeper psychic levels occurred, and rumour changed her mask. If for a further illustration we look at the rumours in England during the war we might see in the first year a stage of over-compensation in fantasy arising out of the psychic necessity of the situation. In the second year a stage of under-compensation in fantasy ensued. This was brought about by the moving up, and becoming conscious, of psychic material from the deeper levels ; and this material was compensatory to the over-compensation of the first year. Its tone was therefore pessimistic, and rumour tended to be sinister on the whole. By the third year rumour had ceased to play practically any part at all save in a few individuals. People did not now buy newspapers to feed or confirm their fantasies. A state approaching to the ideal mean was reached as regards the realities of the war. But fantasy is never idle. When one thing has been adjusted in consciousness, fantasy is already dealing with another thing.
So far we have been looking on the activities of the dream system as if they were secondary to the activities of the fantasy-building system. We have given examples of dreams that might be looked upon as products that are compensatory to the conscious fantasies. It would perhaps be better if we spoke about the fantasies in consciousness rather than the conscious fantasies, because people are not always fully aware of the fantasies with which they are preoccupied. We have regarded fantasy as a psychic product that intervenes between the individual and reality, and the dream as something which comes as a corrective to fantasy when it is excessive. But this view is only partial, for it is possible to look on the matter from another angle. It is not only possible but necessary to do this for the following reasons. When communal fantasy, in the form of rumour, spreads and keeps alive tales, like those concerning the Russians passing through England in the early part of the war, it is seeking to compensate some deficiency in the community. But what is it that recognizes this deficiency ? There must be something in the communal consciousness, and therefore in the individual consciousness, that recognizes the inherent weakness of the material situation, for how otherwise could the compensatory rumours arise ? It may be said that the people themselves recognize it fully in consciousness. If this be true, then it must follow that those persons who were most enthusiastic about the Russian rumours were the persons who were most clearly conscious of the weakness in the military situation. I do not think that this will be granted. In fact, the reverse is more true. At Suvla Bay, when the rumours of coming aid were rife, there was no conscious admission of failure. The adjustment to reality had not taken place, for as long as rumour is rampant no such adjustment can possibly have taken place. From whence] therefore, comes the recognition that lies behind the rumours that seek to mask it % Presumably from psychic levels that underlie full consciousness ; that is, from marginal or unconscious regions of the psyche..
In this connection we can consider for a moment the case of the woman whose husband has been reported missing, which we discussed in a preceding chapter. Her recognition of the fact that he is probably dead does not lie fully in consciousness. It is precisely the thing that she will not admit. The recognition is unconscious, rather than conscious ; it is marginal rather than central in her mind. But the recognition exists somewhere in the psyche, for otherwise the fantasies around the idea of his being alive would not arise. They protect her, therefore, just as much from something in herself which seeks expression, as from the situation in reality.
Thus we can conceive of fantasy as something which intervenes between what is conscious and what is seeking to become conscious. A double view of the functions of fantasy is thus gained. It interferes with, modifies, or distorts, what is coming from without, from reality, and also what is coming from within, from the unconscious. Thus we might see between what is called reality and what is called the unconscious some kind of identity.
If we wish to understand how recognition can be unconscious we must examine the most typical products of unconscious activity. We must examine the dream. At the beginning of the waró and in some cases it would seem before the waró there was a dream of a particular kind that was experienced by many people. It was concerned with the idea of war and with the idea of something old-fashioned, medieval, or even archaic. I was fortunate enough to obtain through patients, and others, several examples. At the time I was inclined to look on them as compensatory products to the enthusiasm of the war. The idea of war seemed to be belittled, as if it were something totally out of keeping with the spirit of the age. But they may be looked on as examples that illustrate the kind of unconscious recognition which we found necessary to account for the Russian rumours. The following example may be taken as typical.
" I was in some street in London, a military procession was coming along. As it passed I was astonished to see an extraordinary and fantastic crowd of soldiers. Some seemed to be mounted on elephants, some on camels, some were pike-men, some carried blunderbusses. There was a curious old cannon, and throughout the whole procession, which seemed of great length and very disorderly, there was not one modern soldier. But it was a wonderful scene, extremely vivid and full of colour."
It would be possible to see in the dream of this patient a symbolical picture in which the military unpreparedness of himself, and therefore indirectly of the country, was compared with a procession of undisciplined and medieval troops. If such an interpretation were accepted, then it would be necessary to regard this dream as coming from a region of the psyche that recognized what conscious mind did not recognize. For the patient took an extremely sanguine view of the war and thought that a few weeks would see the end of it.