Personality Profile (Excerpt from The Magus, by John Fowles)

The subject of our 1953 experiment belongs to a familiar category of semi-intellectual introversion. Although excellent for our purposes his personality pattern is without subsidiary interest. The most significant feature of his life style is negative: its lack of social content. The motives for this attitude spring from an only partly resolved Oedipal complex. The subject shows characteristic symptoms of mingled fear and resentment of authority, especially male authority and the usual accompanying basic syndrome: an ambivalent attitude towards women, in which they are seen both as desired objects and as objects which have betrayed him, and therefore merit his revenge and counterbetrayal.   Time has not allowed us to investigate the subject’s specific womb and breast separation traumas, but the compensatory mechanisms he has evolved are so frequent among so-called intellectuals that we may posit with certainty a troubled period of separation from the maternal breast, possibly due to the exigences of the military career of the subject’s father, and a very early identification of the father, or male, as separator. The subject has then never been able to accept the initial loss of oral gratification and maternal protection and this has given him his auto-erotic approach to emotional problems and life in general. The subject also conforms to the Adlerian descriptions of siblingless personality traits.  The subject has preyed sexually and emotionally on a number of young women. His method is to stress and exhibit his loneliness and unhappiness — in short, to play the little boy in search of the lost mother. He thereby arouses repressed maternal instincts in his victims which he then proceeds to exploit with the semi-incestuous ruthlessness of this type.   In the usual way the subject identifies God with the father figure, aggressively rejecting any belief in him.   He has careerwise continually placed himself in situations of isolation. His solution of his fundamental separation anxiety requires him to cast himself as the rebel and outsider. His unconscious intention in seeking this isolation is to find a justification for his preying on women and also for his withdrawal from any community orientated in directions hostile to his fundamental needs of self-gratification.   The subject’s family, caste and national background has not helped in the resolution of his problems. He comes of a military family, in which there were a large number of taboos resulting from a strongly authoritarian paternal regime. His caste in his own country, that of the professional middle class, Zwiemarm’s technobourgeoisie, is of course marked by an obsessional adherence to such regimes. In a remark to Dr. Maxwell the subject reported that “All through my adolescence I had to lead two lives.” This is a good layman’s description of environment-motivated and finally consciously induced paraschizophrenia — “madness as lubricant,” in Karen Homey’s famous phrase.   On leaving university the subject put himself in the one environment he would not be able to tolerate — that of an expensive private school, the social transmitter of all those paternalistic and authoritarian traits the subject hates. Predictably he then felt himself forced both out of the school and out of his country, and adopted the role of expatriate, though he insured himself against any valid adjustment by once again choosing an environment which was certain to provide him with the required elements of hostility. His work there is academically barely adequate and his relationship with his colleagues and students poor.

To sum up, he is behaviorally the victim of a repetition compulsion that he has failed to understand. In every environment he looks for those elements that allow him to feel isolated, that allow him to justify his withdrawal from meaningful social responsibilities and relationships and his consequent regression into the infantile state of frustrated self-gratification. At present this autistic regression takes the form mentioned above, of affaires with young women. Although previous attempts at an artistic resolution have apparently failed, we may predict that further such attempts will be made and that there will be the normal cultural life-pattern of the type: excessive respect for iconoclastic avant-garde art, contempt for tradition, paranosic sympathy with fellow rebels and nonconformers in conflict with frequent depressive and persecutory phases in personal and work relationships.

As Dr. Conchis has observed in his The Midcentury Predicament: “The rebel with no specific gift for rebellion is destined to become the drone; and even this metaphor is inexact, since the drone has at least a small chance of fecundating the queen, whereas the human rebel-drone is deprived even of that small chance and may finally see himself as totally sterile, lacking not only the brilliant life success of the queens but even the humble satisfactions of the workers in the human hive. Such a personality is reduced to mere wax, a mere receiver of impressions; and this condition is the very negation of the basic drive in him — to rebel. It is no wonder that in middle age many such failed rebels, rebels turned self-conscious drones, aware of their susceptibility to intellectual vogues, adopt a mask of cynicism that cannot hide their more or less paranoiac sense of having been betrayed by life.”


“There are two appendices, or footnotes. One comes from Professor Ciardi, and is as follows: ‘I dissent from the view that the subject is without significance outside the matter of our experiment. In my view one may anticipate in twenty years’ time a period of considerable and today almost unimaginable prosperity in the West. I repeat my assertion that the threat of a nuclear catastrophe will have a healthy effect on Western Europe and America. It will firstly stimulate economic production; it will secondly ensure that there is peace; it will thirdly provide a constant sense of real danger behind every moment of living, which was in my opinion missing before the last war and so contributed to it. Although this threat of war may do something to counteract the otherwise dominating role that the female sex must play in a peacetime society dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure, I predict that breast-fixated men like the subject will become the norm. We are entering an amoral and permissive era in which self-gratification in the form of high wages and a wide range of consumer goods obtained and obtainable against a background of apparently imminent universal doom will be available, if not to all, then to an increasingly large majority. In such an age the characteristic personality type must inevitably become auto-erotic and, clinically, auto-psychotic. Such a person will be for economic reasons isolated, as for personal ones the subject is today, from direct contact with the evils of human life, such as starvation, poverty, inadequate living conditions, and the rest. Western homo sapiens will become homo solitarius. Though I have little sympathy as a fellow human being for the subject, his predicament interests me as a social psychologist, since he has developed precisely as I would expect a man of moderate intelligence but little analytical power, and virtually no science, to develop in our age. If nothing else he proves the total inadequacy of the confused value judgments and pseudo-statements of art to equip modem man for his evolutionary role.'”   The woman laid down the paper and picked up another. “This second note comes from Dr. Maxwell, who of course has had the closest personal contact with the subject. She says: ‘In my view the subject’s selfishness and social inadequacy have been determined by his past, and any report which we communicate to him should make it clear that his personality deficiencies are due to circumstances outside his command. The subject may not understand that we are making clinical descriptions, and not, at least in my own case, with any association of moral blame. If anything our attitude should be one of pity towards a personality that has to cover its deficiencies under so many conscious and unconscious lies. We must always remember that the subject has been launched into the world with no training in self-analysis and self-orientation; and that almost all the education he has received is positively harmful to him. He was, so to speak, born short-sighted by nature and has been further blinded by his environments. It is small wonder that he cannot find his way.'”

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