Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars

A Review

Thuvia, Maid Of Mars

Part III-A

What We Have Here Is Change


R.E. Prindle

     In the recent American presidential campaign in the US the winner won by promising the inevitable, Change.  A very safe promise as the history of the world is one of change.  Indeed, the life of the individual is one of unending change from the cradle to the grave.  Change is now and forever.  The question is, what response is made to the changes.

     The times of Edgar Rice Burroughs were a period of the most earth shaking and rapid of all.  At the same time most perilous, as the evolution of actual scientific knowledge in all fields was in its infancy and subject to misinterpretation.  One might say in Burroughsian imagery that a series of doors stood before mankind, entering the right door would be more beneficial than the wrong doors.

     Burroughs and others made tantative moves for the right door but others entered by the wrong door drawing most others through with them.  What looked like progress turned into a regression.  To shut up criticism the regressives began to demonize all those of different opinions.  Burroughs was among those.

      Some say he adapted poorly to the flood of change but the peole who do so are so confident in their opinions that to disagree with them is to be accused of being not only wrong but either criminal or insane.  One doesn’t take their opinions too seriously as change will certainly demonstrate their opinions as ludicrous if it hasn’t already.  Nevertheless as they are quite vocal in their condemnation of Edgar Rice Burroughs we have to consider the accuracy of their accusations as well as that of their own viewpoint.  How well do they understand the issues?

     ERB has some interesting observations on the changes occurring in the history, society and racial matters of his times as well as the concealed role of hypnotism in the transformation of that society.  The basis of hypnotism is suggestion.  As ERB say in Thuvia all is based on suggestion and counter-suggestion.  If one conciders life and learning from that angle it presents some interesting possibilites.

     What is learning?  What is suggestion?

     When the child is conceived he must of necessity have a mind with a blank slate.  Freud, Jung and many others seem to seriously believe that newborns can inherit ancestral memories even though there is no one beyond the womb who has ever recalled any.

     In fact without experience or learning that has has been introjected into the mind there is nothing for the mind to consider, hence no cogitation at all.  This mind can only begin to form with the ejection from the womb.  This occurs with a brain still in the process of formation.  The development of the brain can only be considered completed shortly after puberty.

     It seems obvious then that you can’t get out of a mind what isn’t in it.  It behooves society then to begin loading the mind of a child as soon as the child  is capable of handling education.  The education of the mind must be built step by step to provide a firm foundation for the intellectual superstructure.  Whatever is in the mind must come from or be suggested from outside the mind.  There is no internal system of knowledge.  Thus all knowledge is suggested to the child’s mind by his caretakers.  They may be good or bad, well or ill intentioned.  The brain is organized to receive suggestions or, in another word, experience.  The reactive structure may already be in place dut to experiences in the womb and the actual birthing process but the actual learning process begins the moment the newborn emerges from the womb and receives a slap on the bottom to get his lungs started.

     Thus the mind of the child is extremely malleable during the time until about puberty and shortly thereafter.  If education is neglected during this early period and shortly thereafter it is unlikely that the adult can ever make up the lack.  For instance if the basics or reading, writing and arithmetic are not loaded into the brain during this malleable period it is very rare that the skills can be acquired at a later time.

     Thus, as it was always known that the child is father to the man various doctrinaire organizations such as the Jesuits believed that if they could form the education of the child or, in another word, indoctrinte him, they could shape the future in their own image.  In Burroughs’ time the mechanisms of education were more fully understood.  Various schemes were proposed to revise educational methods many of which were just odd or crude, but the better thought to change the direction of society toward a higher ideal.

     The Communists were well are at the time that suggestion was the basis of education.  Lothrop Stoddard writing in his The Revolt Against Civilization of 1922 quotes Eden and Cedar Paul from their book Proletcult of 1921:

     “There is no such thing as “scientific” economics or sociology.  For these reasons…there should be organized and spread abroad a new kind of education, “Proletcult.”  Thus…in a fighting culture aimed at the overthrow of capitalism and at the replacement of democratic culture and bourgeois ideology by ergatocratic culture and proletarian  ideology…”  The authors warmly endorse the Soviet government’s prostitution of education and all other forms of intellectual activity to Communist propaganda, for we are told that the “new education” is inspired by the “new psychology”, which “provides the philosophical justification of Bolshevism and supplies a theoretical guide for our efforts in the field of proletarian culture…. Education is suggestion.  The recognition that suggestion is auto suggestion, and that auto suggestion is the means whereby imagination controls the subconscious self, will enable us to make a right use of the most potent force which has become available to the members of the human herd since the invention of articulate speech.

     I’m sure you can find appropriate application of the doctrine since Stoddard wrote in education, movies, TV, books and phonograph records and CDs.  While I would disagree with the Pauls’ notion of suggestion and auto suggestion the Freudian influence is quite clear.  This would be abetted by John Dewey’s notions on education that deemphasized the educational foundation while directing it more toward ideological considerations, or ‘relatively unstructured, free, student-directed progressive education.’

     God only knows what free, progressive education is but this sort of social engineering was the wrong turn being taken in this era of rapid change.

     So, loading the brain to deal with life’s exigencies is of necessity a slow process. As the brain continues to develop outside the womb there is plenty of room for malfunction.  As man is incapable of creating anything original the education of the child may be compared to the loading of a computer.  First the operating system.  Whether consciously or unconsciously since all man knows is his own brain he has replicated it in his machine.  A computer functions just like a brain, which should astound no one, as man can only devise what he already knows.

     Now, human experience dates back about a hundred thousand years.  I intentionally leave out the African development as it had nothing to do with the education of mankind.   The African contribution is nil.  Education began outside Africa.  Having painfully and laboriously accumulated the huge fund of knowledge it must be entered into the brain of the new being.  This sort of suggestion is called education.  There’s not much room for anything called ‘free’ or ‘progressive.’  Getting it ain’t going to be free, the child has to work like a mule.  This is a slow, laborious process as extensive foundations must be laid down before any superstructure can rise.  Thus years are consumed just to teach the child reading, writing and arithmetic.  With these three tools he can learn anything else.  Inexplicably this fact seems to have been lost sight of in today’s educational theories unless of course the Pauls’ dictum is being followed.

     Once the foundation has been laid, a form of suggestion and actually hypnosis, the child, now a student, must be taught how to manage and interpret what he learns at an increasingly rapid pace.  Unfortunately there will be children left behind; any other expectation is fatuous, some are just brighter than others.  Managing and interpreting comes from within the experience of the organism.  Here’s the real problem because the same data will by analyzed differently and produce different results and opinions.

     Along with learning factual matters the child must at the same time develop emotionally and psychologically.  Nasty work.  This is a difficult part.  As the child has little ability to understand and even less ability to accurately analyze it he has to reason from faulty premisses.  This ignorance of reality is what forms Freud’s notion of the unconscious or Id.  Correcting this unconscious to consciousness is the conversion of Freud’s Id to Ego.  A child misinterprets suggestions.  Some become fixated in his un- or subconscious.  The fixations are what distort consciousness from the subconscious interfering with the integration of the subconscious and the conscious.  While the child is made more conscious in his ability to understand and reject harmful suggestions these fixations like post-hypnotic suggestions control his responses.  The fixations must be exorcised which is the intended function of the psychoanalysis of Freud and Jung.

     Once again, suggestion is everything outside your mind.  Your mind cannot function without these suggestions because there will be nothing in the mind to function.  Be carefull of what you put into your mind or, at least, that you do put something of value into it.  Whether ERB realized this or not, his ideas of hypnosis and suggestion indicate he might have, he pursued a program of continuing education all his adult life.  At the time of writing Thuvia he was working through Edward Gibbons’ Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, a vast minefield of amazing and truly educational suggestion.

Part B follows.

Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars

A Review

Thuvia, Maid Of Mars


Edgar Rice Burroughs

Part I

Review by R.E. Prindle

     This very interesting sdtory was written shortly after ERB returned to Chicago from his first San Diego excursion.  It was placed between the Girl From Fariss’s, the last story written in San Diego and The Cave Man.

     The material deals almost exclusively with suggestion and hypnosis.  Although hypnosis is a recurring theme in Burroughs one is startled by his concentration on the subject and his seemingly informed ideas of  it, especially  the role of suggestion.

     One wonders why his interest surfaced at this time and where ERB learned or developed this information.  He was just back from San Diego and I’m going to suggest he picked it up from his hero, L. Frank Baum.  As Baum was such a significant influence on Edgar Rice Burroughs perhaps it may be worthwhile to attempt an assessment on Baum’s role in literature and history.  There can be no question but that the OZ series of Baum took a central place in the American psyche and a place in the European psyche.  Baum’s books have been in demand since 1900 when he began writing them to the present.  Baum put Kansas on the map.  The Wizard, Dorothy and Toto are household names.  Baum’s play from the Wizard was a box office success while MGM’s movie is certainly in the top ten of influential movies, perhaps even in a tie for first with Gone With The Wind.  Even American Negroes made their own Black version called The Wiz.  The list goes on.

     I’m going to suggest that Fritz Lang, the movie Director, was highly influenced by Baum as reflected in his important film, The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Lang was also very familiar with Burroughs.

     Baum himself was a committed Theosophist.  Introduced to the religion by his mother-in-law Baum picked up his card in 1893.  By 1913 when he met Burroughs he had been a practicing member for twenty years.  When he left Chicago he first went to Coronado across the Bay from San Diego.  Katherine Tingley had established her Theosophical organization on Point Loma near that city.  Baum must have been an important member of that congregation.  Perhaps he had a falling out with Tingley but he did remove himself to Hollywood in 1910.  In Hollywood he undoubtedly connected with the Pasadena Theosophical Society that at present is the mother organization.

     As a Theosophist Baum would have had to have been familiar with the works of Madame Helena Blavatsky.  Her great works are Isis Unveiled and The Secrect Doctrine.  Theosophy of course is on a par with the Semitic religions of Judaism and Christianity.  While Madame B is often referred to as nonsense she is in fact very learned in the ancient religious doctrines of the human mind that went to form all Middle Eastern religious expressions.  Hence while Madame B’s works are metaphysical in nature they are no less relevant to the development of the human intellect than say, St. Augustine or others of the metaphysical ilk.

     Madame B had some strong opinions on hypnotism.  Hypnotism had come to the fore of Euroamerican consciousness in the years preceding the French Revolution through the efforts of  Dr. Franz Mesmer.  Though discredited as as a charlatan he was dealing with the real thing as subsequent history shows.  He originally called hypnotism Animal Magnetism.  That was changed to Mesmerism and then to Hypnotism.  As far as possible influences on Burroughs it will be remembered that Edgar Allan Poe wrote Mesmeric Revelation in 1844 and The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar in 1845.  There are clear indications that ERB was familiar with the Valdemar story.

     Now, the essence of hypnotism is the suggestion.  Suggestion is perhaps the most important intellectual or psychological phenomenon.  Suggestion isperhaps the basis of intellect, intelligence and psychology.  C.G. Jung in his investigations of symbols was dealing with the nature of universal suggestion from nature.  Freud early learned to separate suggestion from the hypnotic trance.  Artfully used suggestion obviates the need for trancelike states.   Thus people don’t understand that and how they are hypnotized by movies and TV.

     The art of successful literature is merely to suggest scenes and situations and have the reader visualize them in his own mind.  Once accepted the suggestion becomes part of the intellect of the reader.  He may be able to reject it later but that is a separate volitional act.  The great writers realize this.  Freud understood perfectly, while Baum developed the art of the concrete image to a remarkable degree.  His works are a series of remarkable images.  If Freud had had Baum’s skill, and he wasn’t far short, he would have been even more effective than he has been.

     The prescient Fritz Lang picked up on Freud, Baum and hypnotism in his remarkable Dr. Mabuse series of movies.  The first story, Dr. Mabuse The Gambler of 1922, concerns a Freudlike megalomaniac named Dr. Mabuse.  Freud’s activities during the Great War and after would be known to the cognoscenti.  It would be foolish to think that Adolf Hitler and other Volkish leaders wouldn’t have been aware of what Freud was up to.  Mabuse is into all kinds of criminal activities to undermine society and the State, as was Freud.  He is also a master hypnotist as was Freud.  In a scene reminiscent of the scene in Thuvia where Jav says ‘You want to see them?  Then, look.’  The scene of ancient bustling Lothar then appears to Carthoris and Thuvia’s wondering hypnotized eyes.  As well as mine, certainly.  I had no trouble seeing what Burroughs wanted me to see.  So Dr. Mabuse in his role of stage hypnotizer, the man wore many hats, makes a parade appear before the wondering eyes of his audience.  It can be done.  I saw a man make Diamond Head disappear before the whole world on TV.  Pretty amazing.

     At the end of the movie Mabuse is captured and conveniently tucked away in an insane asylum.  He goes catatonic until 1930 or so when Lang made the sequel The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse.  The Dr. emerging from his catatonic state makes signs that he wants pen and paper which the head of the asylum, one Dr. Baum, provides.

     Mabuse then turns out page after endless page of instructions to destroy civilization not unlike what Herr Dr. Freud was doing from his study in Vienna.  The writing had an hypnotic effect on Dr. Baum who executes the plans of the cell bound Dr. Mabuse.

     The use of the name Baum could be a coincidence but Dr. Baum like the Wizard Of Oz is an unseen superior.  He issues orders but is otherwise an unknown to those he directs.  In issuing his orders we are led to believe that he sits behind a curtain unseen while giving his directions.  Then, just as Dorothy did, the hero dares to pull back the curtain and he finds…a phonograph player.  Unlike Dorothy who finds a tubby timid little imposter, there is no one there.  Surely this is a parody of Dorothy’s famous scene which makes the name Dr. Baum less of a coincidence.

     So it would seem that L. Frank Baum’s influence extended to Germany and an originator of film noir.  Not so unlike as Baum’s stories are much darker than they might appear at first reading.  At any rate his literary images make long remembered illusions of reality not unlike that of Dr. Baum while being of a suggestive hypnotic nature.  I can still visualize Dorothy pulling the curtain back exposing the mild mannered Big Brother sixty years after.  I can remember the image I formed.

     So, my suggestion is that L. Frank Baum was the direct inspiration for Thuvia of Mars.  As noted ERB was probably familiar with Poe’s stories of hypnotism while I am certain that he had read George Du Maurier’s Trilby concerning the hypnotist Svengali and probably also Du Maurier’s other two novels, Peter Ibbetson, and The Martian both related to unusual psychological states.  Len Carter believes that ERB read William Morris who also uses some hypnotic themes in his fantasy novels.  Lew Sweetser, ERB’s mentor in Idaho via Yale, might also have given him some information on hypnotism while ERB was still a boy.  Plus I’m sure hypnotism was a hot topic of popular discussions.

      ERB’s emphasis on suggestion as the operative means of hypnotism points to some more direct instruction.  Most think that ERB first met Baum in 1916 which means the two formed a fast friendship immediately.  I think it more likely that they met in 1913 renewing the acquanitance in 1916.  Whether Baum had read any of Burroughs’ stories in 1913 which seems would be paying pretty close atention to literary trends in pulp magazines he may have heard of Tarzan.  Probably aware of this ERB may have brought along a magazine or two to show Baum.  If Baum then read the proffered stories he certainly would have seen his influence in the Mars stories if ERB didn’t actually point them out to him hoping for the Zeusian nod of approval from the master.

     Probably flattered Baum would have encouraed the relationship.  Assuming that to be true the two men having similar interests would certainly engage in conversations on Theosophy, hypnotism, writing techniques and whatever.

     Certainly Burroughs writing style which while always colorful was a little heavy on the narrative side seems to open up to a more allusive suggestive style blossoming significantly in 1915’s Tarzan And The Jewels of Opar.

     I can’t find a more immediate source for ERB’s sudden interest in hypnotism.  But, on to the story.