E.R. Dodds: The Dublin Years (1916-1919)[1]

by Robert B. Todd

with reprints of two early articles by Dodds:
The Rediscovery of the Classics and
The Renaissance of Occultism

'His home was for many years in Dublin; he lived there all through the troubles, and heard many times in the streets of Dublin the rattle of English machine-guns. He is one of those Irishmen for whom the words `The British Empire' are charged with bitter memories.' This is how Eric Robertson Dodds (1893-1979) introduced himself in a radio broadcast to Ireland in 1941 - a talk in which he explained to his countrymen why he was supporting the current war against Hitler after having opposed, and declined to serve in, the First World War.[2]

Dodds had seen that earlier conflict as a battle between imperialistic powers, one of which in 1916 had executed fellow Irishmen after the Dublin Rising. At Oxford, where he was then in his final undergraduate year, these men were regarded as 'a parcel of justly condemned traitors', yet 'traitors' for whom he did not conceal his sympathy. He was as a result asked to leave by his college, and took his degree belatedly in 1917. From 1916 until 1919, when he went to (then) University College Reading as a lecturer, Dodds lived and worked in or near Dublin; he also frequently revisited Ireland during the turbulent early twenties.[3] In his autobiography, Missing Persons, he reflects memorably on this period of European war and Irish rebellion, but his account can be supplemented by contemporary letters and little-known publications. These sources, which will form the basis for the present paper, enlarge our knowledge of his early intellectual biography.

* * *

In December 1914, just after winning the Ireland Scholarship, Dodds told the Regius Professor of Greek, Gilbert Murray (1866-1957), that he felt 'fated to be a scholar', yet added that 'the prospect doesn't attract me very much, but I can't think of anything else to be.'[4] His reservations were undoubtedly in response to his bifurcated training at Oxford in Literae Humaniores, where a narrowly linguistic syllabus (Honour Moderations, 'Mods') was succeeded by a broader course ('Greats') in ancient history and in ancient and modern philosophy. He would eventually emerge from this process with distinction, but from the outset, and throughout his career, would question its adequacy.[5] He first gave voice to his concerns in an article, 'The Rediscovery of the Classics' (reprinted at the end of this article in Appendix 1,), which was conceived during his years in Dublin, and published in 1920.

This was a brief philippic against the prevailing ethos of classical teaching and scholarship, and continued a tradition of such polemics that in Britain went back to the 1860s.[6] It expressed views that Dodds might have held whatever his personal and historical situation, yet its pugnacious tone is that of a definable rebel who may have been tempted to stronger invective at a time when his life was marked by transition, uncertainty and exclusion. The piece begins with caricatures of two elderly dons[7] pessimistically contemplating the future of Classics, just as Greek is being abandoned as compulsory for entrance to the university.[8] One thinks that Oxford will maintain classical scholarship, even if its last vestige will be 'a Rhodes scholar from Texas'; the other thinks that in a generation Oxford will have virtually abandoned Latin as well as Greek. Dodds saw these figures as egregious survivals in a contemporary 'age of realism', men unwilling to forsake the 'mystical faith of our forefathers, for whom the educational importance of a study varied in the direct ratio of its difficulty and the inverse ratio of its practical utility'. It was time, he thought, to question 'the sovereign value of a mental gymnastic pursued solely for the gymnastic's sake' - the ethos, in other words, of Oxford 'Mods'.

Written by a young man without any experience of teaching, 'The Rediscovery of the Classics' is as optimistic as it is pugnacious. Like Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900) and Gilbert Murray, before him,[9] Dodds argues that the ancient languages should be learnt before him 'for an intelligent understanding of the literature'. This means studying literature with imaginative engagement, and a sense of the contemporary world; thus once the languages were mastered, students should pursue their interests freely. Why not allow a comparative course of study on the history of drama? Only through such 'contacts between the old and the new' could 'we hope to vitalise our understanding of the ancient world and rediscover the classics', a goal, it was implied, that could not be realised in Oxford 'Greats'.
Dodds kept his faith in such reform throughout seventeen years in provincial English universities,[10] and restated it, if to little effect, in his inaugural lecture as Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford in 1936, Humanism and Technique in Greek Studies. But in the meantime he was more successful in realising his personal ambition of following the approach of those scholars (and he was thinking especially of F. M. Cornford and Jane Harrison) whom he identified as having illuminated 'the background of ancient life' from the new sciences of 'anthropology, comparative religion, and sociology'.

* * *

This ambition he first announced in 1914 in the letter to Murray (cited in n. 4) when he proposed as a special subject for 'Greats' ('to relieve the monotony of Greek Historical Inscriptions and Aristotelian Logic', its traditional fare) 'the Gnostics or the neo-Platonists or both'. Their 'bizarre blending of philosophy and mysticism and magic' was fascinating. They could be a 'point of departure' for 'tracing the obscure undercurrent of magical tradition that flows down from the Empire into the Middle Ages'. There might also be 'interesting sidelights on morbid psychology and the aberrations of the religious consciousness'.

Today we can hear the voice of the future author of The Greeks and the Irrational and Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety, but at the time Gilbert Murray was alarmed at his prize student's unusual ambitions, and quickly responded to advise against pursuing any such esoteric special subject.[11] Dodds took this advice, although along with T. S. Eliot he read Plotinus for a term in 1915 with J. A. Stewart (1846-1933), and studied this Neoplatonist extensively during his Dublin years.[12] His contacts there with Stephen MacKenna (1872-1934), who published the first volume of his translation of Plotinus in 1917, also inspired him.[13] But, as Dodds had told Murray, Plotinus and Neoplatonism were subordinate to interests that went beyond antiquity, and in particular reflected a curiosity about the theory and practice of psychical research, and various aspects of the occult, that had begun whilst he was at school.[14]

As an undergraduate he had contacted AE (George William Russell [1867-1935]) about his Hermetic Society.[15] In 1914 in a paper on Yeats read at Oxford he discussed mysticism, and in particular the dualism of matter and spirit evident in that poet's recently published work, Responsibilities.[16] In 1916 such dualism was the theme of what is perhaps Dodds's earliest publication, 'The Awaiters of the Advent', an eschatological poetic fantasy of a dreamer meeting disembodied souls at the Ivory Gate where they yearn to rejoin the body.

The results of this early interest in psychical research, and in the occult generally, were incorporated in four articles published in the Irish Statesman in 1919[17] under the general title The Renaissance of Occultism. Three are on specific subjects - telepathy, hypnotism, and survival - and include some brief references to antiquity that foreshadow later scholarly papers. But it is the opening article (reprinted in Appendix 2,) that strikes a note that would reverberate through many of Dodds's later writings. It begins as follows: When the history of the early years of the twentieth century comes to be written, not in terms of wars and rumours of wars, international finance and the elaborate fate of empires, but as the more serious treatises of the future will for the most part be written, in terms of the prevailing postures of mind, the dominant thoughts and half-thoughts and implicit philosophies of life which by their sway over massed populations determine a cultural epoch: when such a book comes into being, there will almost certainly be found in it a chapter devoted to the Renaissance of Occultism.[18] Here Dodds sees social psychology - 'postures of the mind' affecting the masses - as the key to effective historical analysis. This kind of explanation, probably learnt initially from William McDougall (1871-1938) at Oxford, would in varying ways guide his later accounts of the evolution of ancient rationality.[19] But he was never tempted into adopting the reductive materialism that seduced others of his generation with whom he was politically sympathetic.[20] Thus he analysed the current popularity of the occult as one symptom of the mass hysteria that had arisen during the war. He also told Gilbert Murray in February 1919 that 'for the peoples' the war itself 'was an epidemic madness or reversion to primitive ways of feeling and thinking,[21] fostered and exploited by the governments and by the Press in all belligerent countries, and in itself a symptom of some radical unsoundness in the structure of European society'. But the sickness was in the mind of the society; it was not reducible to its economic structures.[22]

Dodds went on in his article to define the future chronicler of the early twentieth century as one who would have 'if not to exhibit all the complex psychological interrelations of his data, at any rate to make some attempt at tracing them, from the standpoint of his later knowledge, to their common grounds in human nature or in the nature of things.' Here is the approach that he would later employ in analysing irrationalism in classical antiquity.[23] For like his imaginary historian, he would try and 'systematise what is still for most of us an incoherent accumulation of imperfectly comprehended symptoms. Symptoms clearly of some wide-spread and deep-seated disturbance in the mind of man'.
This analysis of aberrant mass psychology in his own time paralleled the interest he had expressed to Murray in illuminating 'morbid psychology and the aberrations of the religious consciousness' in late antiquity. He even drew a parallel between the late Roman Empire and the contemporary world, in an early attempt to bring antiquity 'into vital relation with the forces that dominate our present' (to quote his credo in 'The Rediscovery of the Classics').[24] At that earlier time, he argued, 'thaumaturgy' had followed the decay of the traditional western religions, the failure of Stoic and Epicurean materialism, and the bursting of all those formal moulds which the Greek spirit had shaped for itself in life and in the arts. Then, as now, the barrier built up by centuries of organized thinking between the explored territories of the conscious reason and the sub-conscious wonder-worlds of demons, dreams, and bogies, seemed to wear thin and let through a swarm of bizarreries, quasi-miracles that provoked the curiosity of an age and vanished without satisfying it. Dodds would later refine this account, and extend the origins of the decline of rationalism back to the classical period,[25] but here in 1919 we find the central insight, to which he would repeatedly return, and with increasing intensity as Fascism developed in the inter-war years: that in classical antiquity a tradition of rationalism had come to an end.[26]

Gilbert Murray had already identified a post-classical 'failure of nerve' in his Four (later Five) Stages of Greek Religion, but Dodds was addressing this general topic on his own terms, based on a much deeper engagement with social psychology. Thus in language similar to that used in the letter to Murray (cited in n. 21), his article noted the explanation of contemporary occultism as a phenomenon driven by an unconscious force, and as 'symptomatic of pathological conditions, the nervous break-down of a civilization too highly strung.' Occultism, on this view, was pursued 'because the ever-increasing strain upon the higher and more recently developed brain-centre must be eased at all costs by some atavistic plunge into the deep waters of the a-rational, the primitive welter from which European culture emerged, too hastily it would seem.'

Dodds acknowledged this analysis as only one possible explanation, and called for further work in psychical research, but clearly he must have found it particularly attractive, if not entirely convincing. He had, after all, personally witnessed a 'reversion to primitive ways of feeling and thinking' in the war-hysteria of this period;[27] occultism was just a more specific and more revealing case of the same phenomenon. In the years around 1919 Dodds was confronting 'the deep waters of the a-rational' both in contemporary experience and contemporary theory, well before they became a central subject of his research on antiquity.

* * *

Dodds developed rapidly from his intellectual beginnings in wartime Dublin. His pacifism and outspokenness may have deprived him of a position at Oxford, but between 1919 and 1936 his provincial posts at Reading and Birmingham gave him the freedom to study non-canonical authors and non-traditional subjects, and to explore the significance of both for the wider social psychology of the ancient world. Thus he worked on Plotinus and Proclus, initiated research into irrationalism throughout antiquity with studies of Augustine and Euripides, and explored the phenomena of telepathy and clairvoyance. But if he was following a path that he had marked out as an Oxford undergraduate, his first steps along it were taken whilst he was living in Dublin at a time of European war and internal rebellion. Amidst the tragedy and 'epidemic madness' of his times he prepared there for a scholarly life whose 'dominant centre' he would in retrospect see as 'the study of human irrationality in all its manifestations'.[28] Dublin may therefore lay claim to being the intellectual birthplace of the author of The Greeks and the Irrational.

Appendix 1

The Rediscovery of the Classics (1920)

by E.R. Dodds

I listened the other day to a conversation between two elderly dons. They were discussing how long their profession would last. 'In Russia,' said one of them, 'the humanities will be extinct in twenty years; in Germany, in fifty; in these Islands, and America, thanks to Oxford, a few isolated classical scholars will probably be found a century from now. The last man left in the world with a knowledge of Greek will be a Rhodes scholar from Texas;[29] when he dies the tradition of civilisation will be broken for good.' The other speaker, with a sigh, disagreed about Oxford. Oxford, he observed, was dependent on schools for its supply, and the schools only waited the impending disappearance of compulsory Greek at entrance to remove that subject from their curricula and devote the money thus saved to the creation of new science laboratories. Already at Harrow, the most conservative school in England, only forty boys out of six hundred, or about six in each year, were taking Greek; from most of the smaller places it had completely vanished. Where the schools led the universities must follow. Another generation, and we should see the end of all serious study of Latin; for what was Latin without Greek but body without soul, form without colour, meat without drink, the afternoon without the morning? The second twilight of the Gods was at hand.

They had sunk too far into the twilight, those two elderly ghosts, to envisage any possibility of return. Doubtless they will rally to the lost cause of compulsory Greek, and die in the last ditch like scholars and gentlemen that budding botanists may still acquaint themselves under penalty with a certain number of highly irregular plurals and commit to memory the crib of a small portion of Xenophon's Anabasis. Yet I felt that there was no help in them. Not by the most impassioned advocacy of irregular plurals shall the breath of the spirit be restored to the rigid if still lovely corpse of the antique world. For we have somehow arrived at an age of realism. We are no longer sustained by the mystical faith of our forefathers, for whom the educational importance of a study varied in the direct ratio of its difficulty[30] and the inverse ratio of its practical utility. On the one hand we have dared to question the sovereign value of a mental gymnastic pursued solely for the gymnastic's sake[31]: thus, it has become quite usual to doubt the wisdom of requiring the composition in a dead language of many thousands of elegantly imitative verses from boys who have never dreamed of composing anything but an indecent limerick in their own. Again, people are beginning to wonder if the niceties of the modern English prose style may not be after all as conveniently studied in Mr. Conrad as in Cicero; if the career of Bismark has not as important a bearing on the world we live in as that of Themistocles; if the economics of a modern industrial community do not carry for the members of such a community almost as much interest and significance as the economics of the Greek Polis.

Without necessarily adjudicating on these doubts and heart-searchings, one may affirm with confidence that the doctrine of the educational sufficiency of the Classics is doomed to death, if not already dead. It was part of the grand conspiracy of humbug which arrogated the title of humanity to a single department of human knowledge, and made Greek, for the ears [347] of those who knew none, a name of awe second only to Hebrew. That conspiracy dates from the Renaissance; yet it is not with the Renaissance that the guilt of it lies. To the men of the fifteenth century the rediscovered classics were not only a true vehicle, but the only possible vehicle, of that spirit[32] which from time to time rediscovers that the True and the Beautiful are not stale words, but infinite living values. To be a classical scholar then was to be not a conservative but a revolutionary.[33] But the inspiration of the Renaissance went the way of all inspiration: it was institutionalised. Pious discipleship, which began by cherishing the letter for the sake of the spirit, ended by denying the spirit for the sake of the letter; and the subtle wind of the spirit, blowing where it listed, found itself other vehicles. After a century or two, we notice the loss. Having noticed it, it is plainly our business either to rediscover the classics or to scrap them.

It is notorious that the hardest books to rediscover are those we have lived with all our lives - the Bible, for instance. In such cases the delicate sensibilities which thrill to the impact of a new experience have been dulled by custom, and the fineness of the aesthetic palate overlaid with a thick coat of inherited sentiment and second-hand judgments. The Odes of Horace and the Psalms of David oppose to our critical appreciation the same barrier as Hamlet - they are too full of 'quotations'. If we would free ourselves from the tyranny of suggestion, neither yielding lip-service to the 'classics' in obedience to other people's formulas nor blindly flouting them to assert an illusory independence, if we would see our literary inheritance steadily and see it whole, we must simplify our vision until it is as intense and naive as the vision of a child or an early explorer or a Renaissance scholar. Such seeing is for us unattainable save by a conscious effort of intellectual honesty.[34] Greek and Latin scholarship is at present suffering through our unwillingness to make this effort. For some generations past, few of those who have lived in the intimacy of the ancient literatures have judged them as literature; fewer still have attempted to bring them into vital relation with the forces that dominate our present and restate their values in a form intelligible to the new incredulous world.[35] To the majority, 'literary' scholarship has been a by-word of contumely. So far was this unrealism carried by the nineteenth century in England, America, and above all Germany, that the scholar, divorced by a mutual contempt from the man of letters who is his natural alter ego, ceased to be in any sense a humanist and became an illiterate solver of unimportant linguistic puzzles. The typical scholar of that period, having thrown out by way of justification of his life-work a few perfunctory observations on the 'Attic grace' of Sophocles or the 'pleasing melancholy' of Vergil, inevitably proceeded to mangle with senile gusto the twenty times mangled corpse of some fancy of the poet's which a bungling copyist has exalted to the dignity of a 'crux'.

Happily, there are not wanting signs that our scholars of today are coming to care less for 'cruces' and more for literature and life. We have begun to produce translations which are not merely readable cribs, but attempts at the transposition of works of art from one language into another by a sympathetic interpretation of temperament; one may instance Professor Murray's Euripides, Professor Phillimore's Propertius, and Mr. Stephen MacKenna's Plotinus.[36] At the same time the background of ancient life begins to be illuminated for us by the relatively young sciences of archaeology, anthropology, comparative religion, and sociology. But if the classics are to be saved there must also be a drastic reform of the programme of study in our schools and universities, directed to bringing it into closer relation with living thought and living interests. The most essential changes may be stated (briefly and therefore dogmatically) under three heads:

(1) The teaching of Latin and Greek grammar and composition should be reduced to the bare minimum requisite for an intelligent understanding of the literature. The time and energy thus economised should be devoted partly to the study of English or modern languages, partly to one or more of the new sciences enumerated above.[37]

(2) Classical literature should be studied at school in bulk rather than in detail.[38] Incurably tedious authors, such as Caesar, Xenophon, most of Livy, and Cicero and Demosthenes in their political speeches, should be expelled from the school curriculum. The schoolboy's staple fare might be drawn from the following: in Latin, Cicero pro Archia, pro Caelio, and pro Cluentio, Catullus, Apuleius, the letter-writers, Tacitus, Vergil, and Lucretius; in Greek, Lucian, Herodotus, Homer, Euripides, Aristophanes, the myths of Plato, and the Anthology.

(3) Every person who by the time of entering the university could read without excessive mental contortions a fairly difficult piece of Greek or Latin should be given the opportunity of applying the powers thus gained to his or her special interest, literary, political, philosophical, or scientific: e.g., for those interested in the drama a degree course might be designed to include the comparative study of the Attic dramatists, Shakespeare, the classical French theatre, Goethe, Ibsen, and the moderns to Tchekov and Gordon Craig. For it is only by the creation of some such system of contacts between the old and the new that we can hope to vitalise our understanding of the ancient world and rediscover the classics.

Appendix 2

The Renaissance of Occultism (1919)

by E.R. Dodds

When the history of the early years of the twentieth century comes to be written, not in terms of wars and rumours of wars, international finance and the elaborate fate of empires, but as the more serious treatises of the future will for the most part be written, in terms of the prevailing postures of mind, the dominant thoughts and half-thoughts and implicit philosophies of life which by their sway over massed populations determine a cultural epoch: when such a book comes into being, there will almost certainly be found in it a chapter devoted to the Renaissance of Occultism. It will be a very long chapter. It will take account of such diverse phenomena as the revival among intellectuals of an interest in the classics of mysticism, and the recrudescence among servant girls of a penchant for shilling palmists; the growth in England of the legend of the Angel at Mons, and the endowment in America of the first University Fellowship in Psychical Research;[39] the Papal denunciation of necromancy, and the campaign of the Daily Mail against fraudulent mediums; the social vogue of certain accepted exponents of the esoteric; and the consuming passion of its occasional serious devotees. The judicious historian will have to record the mushroom apparition of twenty 'psychic' parlour games, and a dozen brand-new religions. He will not fail to note [338] in passing that in these years 'Are you mediumistic?', 'Do you automatic-write?', 'Have you been psycho-analysed?' became the commonest of tea-table openings. He will show, finally, how orthodox medical practice began to borrow the ceremonial apparatus of Oriental mystery healers, and how the Freudian school created all over the world in the name of science a new and more terribly searching discipline of the confessional.[40]

Nor will his task be ended with the cataloguing of these miscellaneous portents. It will be his function, if not to exhibit all the complex psychological interrelations of his data, at any rate to make some attempt at tracing them, from the standpoint of his later knowledge, to their common grounds in human nature or in the nature of things. If he is to establish their significance for the history of our period, he will have to systematize what is still for most of us an incoherent accumulation of imperfectly comprehended symptoms. Symptoms clearly of some widespread and deep-seated disturbance in the mind of man; but are we to say the disturbance of mortal disease; or the birth-pang of a new knowledge, a permanent enlargement perhaps of human faculty; or again, simply a phase in the eternal see-saw of our spirit between mystery and logic, the momentary swing of the pendulum from denial towards wonder, from the West towards the East, from the things which are seen towards the things which are not seen?

At present it would seem that there is something to be said for each of these three views. To take the last first, it may be urged that our Renaissance of the Occult signifies no more than a temporary direction of curiosity away from the lighted suburbs of our consciousness into the haunted darkness of the central self:[41] and that as every age is the disobedient child of its predecessor, so our thirst for mysteries, mysteries at whatever price, is but the reaction following inevitably following the unlovely cocksureness of the 'scientific' Victorian era. The upholder of this thesis will point to the parallel contemporary tendencies in philosophy and the arts: on the one hand, that 'idealistic reaction against science' associated with the names of Bergson, Eucken and Croce; on the other, the reaction of certain artists against a too mechanical and external realism leading them to attempt either a new realism of the inner consciousness (Mr. Joyce,[42] Miss Richardson and others of the younger novelists), or an evocation of that consciousness by abstract symbols (Maeterlinck, Andreyev,[43] Evreinof;[44] and recent schools of painting). 'Introversion' may be produced as the keyword to all these movements; and it may be shown that the last great revival of thaumaturgy, in the late days of the Roman Empire, had its origin in closely similar intellectual conditions, following the decay of the traditional western religions, the failure of Stoic and Epicurean materialism, and the bursting of all those formal moulds which the Greek spirit had shaped for itself in life and in the arts. Then, as now, the barrier built up by centuries of organized thinking between the explored territories of the conscious reason and the subconscious wonder-worlds of demons, dreams and bogies, seemed to wear thin and let through a swarm of bizarreries, quasi-miracles that provoked the curiosity of an age and vanished without satisfying it.

On this view it may confidently be expected that the present wave of occultism will reach its height within a comparatively short period, if it has not already done so, and will then gradually recede and be forgotten. If the 'phenomena' which it carries up with it from the underworld are in truth, by their own nature or by the defect of our channels of knowledge, incapable of systematic interpretation, then we shall very soon cease even to record them. We at all times hanker after miracles; yet there is a limit to our capacity for the unreasoned miraculous. Listen but for the space of one winter's evening to the recital of ghost-stories, false or true, or to the yet more incoherent marvels of the modern seance room: does not your rational appetite revolt in the end against the debauch of irrelevant miracle and cry out for something that connects, something it can 'bite on' and make its own by interpreting it? If the psychical researchers fail even to adumbrate for us the nature of the implied connections, it is to be feared that the gape of our present unintelligent astonishment will pass insensibly into the yawn of an equally unintelligent boredom.

But perhaps it is in just this futility and inconsequence of our data that their underlying unity is to be detected? The inmates of a madhouse have, in their countless uncharted divagations, at least this discernible character in common, that they are all alike mad. The solitary roads they travel resemble one another in a single particular - none of them lead anywhere. May not a similar blind-alley quality be the very seal and stamp of 'psychic' phenomena, their true unifying characteristic? The suggestion has its supporters both on the Right wing and on the Left. Catholic orthodoxy, ascribing the phenomena in question to the immediate agency or indirect machination of malevolent powers, finds in the baffling inconsequence of the manifestations a sure index of their diabolic origin. Certain psychologists, on the other part, for whom Satan is but a personified Unconscious, would interpret the whole evidence as symptomatic of pathological conditions, the nervous break-down of a civilization too highly strung. Some of us, on this view, take to automatism as others of us take to drink, and, as a whole, nations take to war: because the ever-increasing strain upon the higher and more recently developed brain-centres must be eased at all costs by some atavistic plunge into the deep waters of the a-rational, the primitive welter from which European culture emerged, too hastily it would seem. Thus 'mediumship', far from being the gateway to an undreamed-of future appears as a trap-door suspended above the abyss of our half-bestial past.

Until psychical research shows signs of developing into an exact science, the see-saw theory and the disease theory - the psychological and medical interpretations, we may call them respectively - are likely to be left, faute de mieux, in provisional possession of the field. They may, obviously, be complementary rather than alternative. They agree in assuming that occultism has no vitally important contribution to make to the body of scientific knowledge. They agree also in their highly speculative and abstract character, resting as they do not on detailed examination of the phenomena, but on generalization a priori and more or less imaginative analogies. As against both, the claim is advanced that by patient sifting and re-sifting and piece-meal analysis of the available facts certain hypotheses of revolutionary importance for psychology either have been or may very shortly be established. It is hoped in future articles to consider the present state of the evidence in relation to some of these hypotheses, and the prospect of an advance along the lines so far laid down.

* * *


I. By E.R. Dodds

For a detailed bibliography of Dodds' publications see my 'E.R. Dodds: a Bibliography of his Publications' Quaderni di Storia 48 (1998), 175-194

'The Awaiters of Advent,' Oxford Poetry 1916 (Oxford 1916) 14.

'The Renaissance of Occultism,' Irish Statesman I:14 (27 Sept. 1919) 337-8.

'The Renaissance of the Occult. II. The Implications of Telepathy,' Irish Statesman I:17 (18 October 1919) 406-7.

'The Renascence of the Occult. III. What is Hypnotism?' Irish Statesman I: 23 (29 November 1919) 549-51.

'The Renascence of the Occult. IV. The Evidence for Survival,' Irish Statesman I:27 (27 December 1919) 645-6.

'The Rediscovery of the Classics,' Irish Statesman II:42 (10 April 1920) 346-7.

'The Evidence for Telepathy: an historical survey,' Psychic Research Quarterly 1 (October 1920) 131-49.

'Augustine's Confessions: a study of spiritual maladjustment,' The Hibbert Journal 26 (1927-8) 459-73.

'Euripides the Irrationalist,' Classical Review 43 (1929) 97-104; repr. in (and cited from) Dodds, The Ancient Concept of Progress (Oxford 1973) ch. V (78-91).

'On the Evidence for Supernormal Occurrences in Classical Antiquity,' Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 27 (1931-2) 216-21.

Proclus: The Elements of Theology. 1st.ed. (Oxford 1933); 2nd.ed. (Oxford 1963)
Humanism and Technique in Greek Studies: an inaugural lecture (Oxford 1936); reprinted in Arion (ser. 1) 7 (1968) 5-20.

'Telepathy and Clairvoyance in Classical Antiquity,' Greek Poetry and Life: Essays presented to Gilbert Murray (Oxford 1936) 364-85.

The Greeks and the Irrational (Berkeley 1951).

Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety (Cambridge 1965).

Missing Persons: an autobiography (Oxford 1979).

II. By Others

Clark, W.G. 'General Education and Classical Studies,' Cambridge Essays 1855 (London 1855) 282-308.

MacKenna, Stephen. Plotinus: The Ethical Treatises (London 1917).

Murray, Gilbert. The Place of Greek in Education: an inaugural lecture. (Glasgow 1889).
Id. The Interpretation of Greek Literature: an inaugural lecture (Oxford 1909)
Id. Four Stages of Greek Religion (London 1912).
Id. Five Stages of Greek Religion (London 1925; 2nd. ed. 1951).

Sidgwick, Henry. 'The Theory of Classical Education,' in F.W. Farrar (ed.), Essays on a Liberal Education (London 1867); reprinted in, and cited from, Sidgwick, Miscellaneous Essays and Addresses (London 1904; repr. New York 1968) 270-319.

University of British Columbia

[1] See the bibliography at the end of this paper for full citations to any items referred to in an abbreviated form. MP will be used in the notes for Dodds's autobiography Missing Persons. Copyright material from the Dodds Papers and Gilbert Murray Papers (both held at the Bodleian Library, Oxford) is quoted by permission of the Literary Executors of the relevant estates. This paper also owes much to the critical eye of Barbara J. Todd.

[2] The (untitled) text of this broadcast (of 1941) is at Dodds Papers, Box 28/1.

[3] On Dodds's departure from Oxford see MP 44-5; on his war record, MP 38-9, and his letter to Gilbert Murray of 7 February 1919 (Murray Papers Ms. 38/168-9). MP ch. VII deals with his life in Dublin 1914-19 (he had lived there earlier from 1903-08; MP 8-10). (For the record, his Dublin addresses were 4 Winton Rd., Leeson Park, 1914-15, and 41 Wellington Rd. thereafter.) His continuing contacts with Ireland in the early twenties are evident in letters (Dublin, Trinity College, Ms. 8112, nos. 23-54) from 1919-24 to Thomas MacGreevy (1893-1967). Also, two letters to Gilbert Murray from October 1920 (Murray Papers Ms. 42/85-9) discuss protests against British atrocities in Ireland; and there is a talk ('The Question of Ireland'; Dodds Papers, Box 31/6) given to a socialist group in Reading around this time.

[4] Undated letter (but clearly of December 1914) at Murray Papers Ms. 114/27.

[5]See 'The Position of Classical Studies at Oxford,' Oxford Magazine 74 (1956) 372-4 (cf. MP 177-8), and MP 28-9, 39 and 44 on his undergraduate experience. He also criticised the Mods/Greats bifurcation in lectures (Dodds Papers Box 27/10, 12, 13) from the late nineteen-thirties, though Murray (1909) 7 had anticipated him.

[6]On this tradition see my 'Humanism and Technique: Aspects of Classics in British Higher Education 1850-1940,' forthcoming in International Journal of the Classical Tradition. Dr. C.A. Stray has drawn my attention to an Irish contribution contemporaneous with Dodds's essay: Henry Browne S.J. (Professor of Greek at University College, Dublin), Our Renaissance: Essays on the Reform and Revival of Classical Studies (London 1917). The religious colouration and plodding practicality of this book, however, place it light years away from Dodds's squib.

[7]They are almost certainly based on Dodds's conservative tutors at Oxford, R.W. Macan (1848-1941) and A.B. Poynton (1867-1944), and perhaps include elements of A.D. Godley (1856-1925), who taught him verse composition (MP 27-8). In MP Dodds never mentions that Macan and Godley were both Irishmen.

[8]This reform occurred in March 1920, a month before the article was published. Godley had strongly opposed it.

[9] Both of them may have influenced Dodds; see the notes to Appendix 1, and also my 'E.R. Dodds and Henry Sidgwick,' Notes & Queries 242:3 (n.s. 44) (September 1997) 361-2.

[10]The challenge that this could involve is evident from Louis MacNeice's account of a futile effort to revitalize teaching at Birmingham in the early thirties in his autobiography The Strings are False (London 1966) 131. [On MacNeice see Brian Arkins, Classics Ireland 2000, vol 7: 1-24. Ed.]

[11]Letter of 26 December 1914 at Dodds Papers, Box 1 (unsorted correspondence 1909-29).

[12] See MP 40; he also refers to working on Plotinus in letters to Murray from this period.

[13]See MP 62-4.

[14] MP Ch. XI is Dodds's own account of his activities in this area.

[15] For AE's cordial reply to Dodds's inquiry in 1913 about joining the Society (cf. MP 55), and his invitation to Dublin (Dodds's home was still Belfast at the time), see Letters from AE: selected and edited by Alan Denson (London etc. 1961) 85.

[16]This talk is at Dodds Papers Box 27/1.

[17] This magazine was published between June 1919 and June 1920, and is not to be confused, as it is by Dodds himself (MP 70 and 99), with the later Irish Statesman edited by AE, which did not begin publication until 1923.

[18] R. Brandon's anecdotal study, The Spiritualists: The Passion for the Occult in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (London 1983), is probably not what Dodds had in mind. On the other hand, it might have surprised him to find occultism omitted from Modris Eksteins' recent study Rites of Spring: the Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age (Toronto 1989).

[19]See MP 39. McDougall's Social Psychology was first published in 1908. For a critical discussion of Dodds's later use of social psychology see H. Lloyd-Jones, 'Psychoanalysis and the Study of the Ancient World' (1985), reprinted in Lloyd-Jones, Greek in a Cold Climate (London 1991), 187-195.

[20]Richard Seaford, 'George Thomson and Ancient Greece,' Classics Ireland 4 (1997) 121-33 has recently argued that Thomson (Dodds's successor at Birmingham in 1937) was 'never reductionist' in his Marxist-influenced methods of dealing with Greek culture. Whether or not this is true, we may note that, like Thomson, Dodds stressed the importance of understanding literature both in its social context, and in a diachronic perspective, but argued subtly against any form of social determinism. His views are to be found in unpublished lectures in the Dodds Papers (Box 27), which I hope to discuss elsewhere.

[21]Letter of 7 February 1919 (Murray Papers Ms. 39/168-9). It was not 'reversion' but an evolution from primitivism that Dodds would have encountered in works on the anthropology of religion like J.G. Frazer's Psyche's Task (London 1913) (which we know he read whilst a schoolboy; MP 19), or The Threshold of Religion (1st ed. London 1909) by R.R. Marett (1866-1943), whom Dodds heard lecture at Oxford (MP 39).

[22]In the lecture 'The Question of Ireland' (n.3 above) Dodds subordinates the economic argument for Irish independence to what he calls a 'cultural argument', based on a 'specific attitude of mind' developed through 'alliances of communal life', in other words, on the evidence of social psychology.

[23] See MP 97-8 for an account, given in more elaborate, but basically similar, terms, of his approach to the phenomena involved in psychical research.

[24] In these generalisations Dodds was probably influenced by Samuel Dill, whose Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius (London 1904) he received as a school prize; see his tribute to this work at The Ancient Concept of Progress 26.

[25] See, for example, The Greeks and the Irrational chs. VI and VII.

[26] His original plan for the Sather Lectures of 1949 was for a set of 'Studies in the Rise and Fall of Ancient Rationalism', a subject on which he was planning a book at the time of his invitation. He mentions this in a letter of 29 December 1946 to Ivan Linforth (filed at the Department of Classics, University of California at Berkeley), a copy of which Professor Donald Mastronarde kindly made available to me.

[27] At MP 38 he describes the English, in the autumn of 1914, as appearing to him to be 'seized by some sort of collective madness.'

[28] MP 180.

[29]We are probably meant to think of Mr. Ablimech V. Oover, of Trinity College, the ponderous Rhodes Scholar pilloried by Max Beerbohm in Zuleika Dobson ch. VIII.

[30]Clark 294 offers a classic statement of this position in arguing that Latin grammar meets the standard of being 'dry and distasteful', which he regards as a 'strong recommendation' for its study. He is ridiculed by Sidgwick 314-15.

[31]See Sidgwick 295 for an attack on teaching Latin and Greek 'as a species of mental gymnastics ... without reference to the permanent utlility of the knowledge conveyed.'

[32] The 'vehicle of the spirit' is a metaphor from neoplatonism. Dodds himself discussed the relevant doctrine in Appendix II of his edition of Proclus' Elements of Theology.

[33]See Murray (1889) 4-5 for the claim that classical literature made scholars of the Renaissance 'rebel against the social order in which they lived.' A similar idealization of Renaissance classical scholarship also marked Sir Richard Jebb's chapter in The Cambridge Modern History Vol. I (Cambridge 1902), 532-84.

[34] Cf. Murray (1909) 19: 'We do not understand a great poem till we have felt it through, and as far as possible recreated in ourselves the emotions which it originally carried.'

[35]See Sidgwick 291 on students needing 'something ... that has a visible connexion with the life of their age.'

[36] Murray had published several translations of Euripides by this time; J.S. Phillimore's translation of Propertius was published in 1906; for MacKenna see the Bibliography. As an undergraduate Dodds had attended Murray's class on translating (MP 29), and later instituted a similar class when he returned to Oxford in 1936; see D. Healey, The Time of My Life (London 1989) 27. Its Nachlass is at Dodds Papers Box 24b.

[37] Sidgwick 317 argued for more instruction in English and French, and in 'natural science', not the new social sciences that attracted Dodds.

[38] Dodds had himself experienced such teaching at Campbell College, Belfast. See MP 17.

[39] This was at Stanford University in 1912; see A.S. Berger, Lives and Letters in American Parapsychology (Jefferson N.C. and London 1988) 117.

[40]This opening paragraph invites comparison with Shaw's preface to Heartbreak House, where he describes the 'hypochondria' of the half-century before World War I; see p. 14 of the Penguin Books edition in The Bernard Shaw Library. Dodds was, however, probably unaware of this text, since the play was published in the same month as his article; see M. Holroyd, Bernard Shaw Vol. III: 1918-1950 (London 1991) 22.

[41]In Dodds's poem 'Hypnosis' (Thirty-Two Poems [London 1929] 43) the speaker is a man who hypnotises a woman until she is reduced 'to a spark/ A seed of self, a lantern hung in the dark/ Dream-tortured world, this day world's source and ground'. Dodds's introductory note to this collection (9-10) elaborates the idea of a residual inner self as the source of poetry.

[42] This was written before the publication in 1922 of Ulysses, which Dodds told MacGreevy (4/20/1924; TCD Ms. 8112/53) he found 'a shameless fraud on that portion of the public which adores literary and moral eccentricity for its own sake'; he says in the same letter that he admired Dubliners and 'certain pages of The Portrait of the Artist'.

[43]Dodds expressed an interest in reading more of Leonid Nikolaevich Andreev (1871-1919) in a letter to MacGreevy (11/18/1919) at TCD Ms. 8112/29.

[44] Nikolai Nikolaivich Evreinov (1879-1953), a Russian dramatist best known for The Theatre of the Soul (1912), in which different actors represent different aspects of the same personality.

COPYRIGHT: All material published in Classics Ireland is copyright. Responsibility for, and ownership of, copyright remains with the author of each article.
Classical Association of Ireland
www.classicalassociation.com : www.classicsireland.com