THE ILLUSORY TRUTH
Copyright © 1977-2010 John O'Loughlin
PART ONE: APHORISTIC ESSAYS
1. The Philosopher as Man, Not Machine
2. Two Types of Thinker
3. Thinking Should Be Difficult
4. A Justification of Boredom
5. Ultimate Justice
6. No Escaping Evil
7. The Way it Has To Be
8. No Hope without Fear
9. Twenty Mistaken Ideas
10. Slightly Existential
11. Words as Our 'Reality'
12. Partly Our Creation
13. Truths but No Truth
14. Reality and Realities
15. Human Diversity
16. No Two Alike
17. Time Belongs to Man
18. Inevitably Unreasonable
19. Puppets of Life
20. The Negative Root
21. The Struggle for Happiness
22. Work and Play
23. No Freedom without Bondage
24. From Winter to Autumn
25. No 'Mother Nature'
26. Male and Female Pride
27. Against Folly
28. Suspended Judgement
29. Against Reincarnation
30. Superstition Universal
31. The End of the World
32. Art as Ideality
33. Great Art
34. No Health without Disease
35. Illness No Objection
36. The 'Plimsoll Line' of Sleep
37. A Wider View of Vice
38. Misused Concepts
39. Against Racial Inequality
40. The Transience of Death
41. Philosophy verses Insular Intolerance
42. Individual Wisdom
43. The Meaning and Purpose of Life
44. The Inferior Negative
45. Four Categories
46. Negatives Serve
47. Successful Failures
48. Positively Selfish
49. A Posthumous B.C.
50. Schismatic Christianity
51. Live Symbols
52. Interplanetary Equilibrium
53. Magnetic Reciprocities
54. Universe or Universes
55. Between Good and Evil
PART TWO: ESSAYISTIC APHORISMS
PART THREE: APHORISMS (MAXIMS)
PART ONE: APHORISTIC ESSAYS
THE PHILOSOPHER AS MAN, NOT MACHINE: How often should a philosopher actually allow himself to think, if he is to remain a relatively sane, active, healthy individual, and not degenerate into some kind of impersonal thinking machine? Should he go out of his way to think objectively when there is no apparent necessity for him to do so (as, for example, when he isn't officially working), to drive his thought patterns over the bounds of moderation to such an extent that he defies the urge to variety in life and is eventually consumed, like Nietzsche, by an obsession with thought, becomes saddled, as it were, with a plethora of intellectual superfluities?
Undoubtedly, a man who regards himself as a thinker must think sometimes. But an over-fastidious approach to thinking, an over-obdurate inclination to think at any cost could very soon render him anomalous, foolish, trivial, stolid, boring, and unbalanced - to name just a few things. For whether or not the most thought-obsessed people realize it, there is more to life than thinking, and a need certainly exists in people for adherence to a given physiological situation - as, for example, in refraining from thought when the need to do so is patently obvious.
If, therefore, a so-called thinker is to avoid becoming an intellectual crank, he must respect his periodically natural inclination to thoughtlessness and not endeavour, by contrast, to continue thinking when the energy or requirement to do so is no longer there. Otherwise he may subsequently degenerate, if he doesn't suffer a mental breakdown, into some kind of intellectual freak - in other words, into someone who imagines that he ought to think as much as possible, no matter what the circumstances, in order to remain a philosopher, a man of genius, a cut above the common herd. Philosophy, however, refuses to take such nonsense seriously! For the true philosopher always goes his way as a man, not as a thinking machine.
TWO TYPES OF THINKER: It is wrong to assume that a man obsessed with thought is necessarily a thinker, a philosopher, a genius. For when a man is compelled to think out of habit from fear of not thinking, of not appearing to be enough of a thinker in his own eyes, there is a reasonable chance that he is less a philosopher than a dupe of his own illusions, a slave of a mentality which assumes it necessary for a thinker to think as much as possible, regardless of the subject or context, if he is to remain a philosopher and not degenerate into an average mind. The idea of thinking, in such a head, is ultimately more important than what is actually being thought about.
For it must be admitted, from the converse standpoint, that a genuine thinker - a man, in other words, who thinks not merely for the sake of flattering his ego or filling a vacuum but, more importantly, in order to discover something new about the world he lives in and the best methods of adjusting himself to it - will always stop himself thinking beyond a certain length of time simply because experience and common sense will have taught him that that is the best course to follow if he is to remain relatively natural, sane, perceptive, lucid, and mentally resilient. As a thinker, in this context, he will know that his chief duty is towards himself, and not only for himself but inevitably for the sake of other people as well; that his intelligence should therefore be used to his advantage - as, unfortunately, is rarely the case with the other type of thinker, a type who, obsessed by the urge to think, is essentially a pathological phenomenon, scarcely a man of wisdom. For philosophy should have earnest connections, after all, with the art of living wisely.
THINKING SHOULD BE DIFFICULT: It is just as well that, for the vast majority of people, so-called objective thinking is so difficult, that even those of us who habitually regard ourselves as 'thinkers' are normally compelled to fight and sweat for our deepest thoughts. Were this not the case, were we not the hard-pressed slaves of thought, it is highly probable that thinking alone would preoccupy us, and to such an extent and with such intensity that we would be left with little time or inclination for anything else.
Indeed, those of us who make a daily commitment to putting thoughts on paper are only too aware of how difficult serious thinking really is, and consequently of how pointless it would be for us to complain against this fact or to criticize ourselves for not thinking well enough. Yet if work were always easy, if brilliant ideas invariably came to us without any difficulty, what challenge would there be in doing it? And how many of us would really care to have above-average thoughts flowing through our heads all day anyway, thoughts which never allow us to rest but, as though prompted by a psychic conveyor-belt, continue to plague our consciousness from morning till night?
If, as Bergson contended, the brain really is a limiting device, an organ which, in addition to storing verbal concepts, usually prevents us from thinking too much too easily and too continuously, then it is just as well that it actually works, that we aren't subjected to an unceasing barrage of brilliant and highly irrelevant ideas all day, but are forced to put some effort into extracting any worthwhile thoughts from it. Was this not the case, I rather doubt that I should have found either the time or the inclination to record such seemingly gratified thoughts as these!
A JUSTIFICATION OF BOREDOM: If man is protected against his thoughts by generally finding it difficult to think (by which I mean to think objectively, constructively, and continuously - in other words, above the usual plane of subjective considerations, incidental fragments, brief recollections, disconnected words, casual street-sign readings, intuitive insights, etc., and beyond the moods or situations when thinking of one kind or another comes most naturally to him), then one might justifiably contend that he is protected against too much mental and physical inertia by the intermittent prevalence of boredom, that scourge of the idle.
To most people, particularly the more intelligent ones, boredom is a distinctly disagreeable condition, an emptiness usually leading to self-contempt, which suffices to goad them into doing something absorbing, into losing and rediscovering themselves in some preoccupation, some form of activity or stimulant. Now if boredom had absolutely no place in their lives, if mere existence sufficed to content them (as appears to be the case with a majority of animals), what do you suppose would happen? Do you suppose, for instance, that they would really do anything, would, in fact, be capable of living at all? The prevalence of hunger, thirst, lust, changes in the weather, etc., would doubtless oblige them to satisfy their respective physical needs as quickly and efficiently as possible. But, having done so, what would they then have to live for afterwards?
Without boredom there would have been no civilization - no art, science, religion, politics, philosophy, music, sport, travel, evolution. In fact, without boredom there would probably have been nothing of any consequence whatsoever. For boredom is akin to an eternal whip!
ULTIMATE JUSTICE: Whenever something happens it happens for a good reason. Once a cause is committed to an effect there is no turning it back. There is no such thing as an accident which should have happened but didn't. A near-miss is a near-miss and not an accident, even if the potential of an accident existed for a time. An accident which should happen will always happen if the circumstances demand it.
Therefore whenever a person secretly or openly condemns nature for its apparent injustice, for the fact, let us say, that lightning struck a tree and killed someone sheltering beneath its branches, or that a flood swept over a town and killed people and damaged property, or that a volcano erupted and spilled molten lava down onto some nearby townsfolk - whenever, I say, a person condemns nature on these and similar accounts, understandable though his condemnation may be, he is unwittingly turning his back on justice, on the justice of a world which would seem to be saying: This cause is bound to have a specific effect; if people are in the way of it, then that is their fault. 'A' must lead to 'B' whatever the consequences or, put mathematically, 2 x 2 = 4 and not 5, 6, or 7. If you happen to be sheltering beneath the branches of a tree when lightning strikes it (and the lightning couldn't help arising), then you must suffer the consequences. If, by any chance, you sometime happen to be in the path of oncoming lava, you must now accept the fact that it wasn't necessarily destined to kill anyone but will only kill or maim people if they are rash, unfortunate, ignorant, or brave enough to dwell under a volcano's shadow. To suggest that the eruption shouldn't occur would be as unreasonable as to suggest that mutually attractive men and women shouldn't fall in love, or that 2 x 2 shouldn't equal 4, or that a poison berry shouldn't prove highly detrimental to its eater. For whenever something happens, it does so for a good reason.
An earthquake, for example, which has to occur because secretly engendered by some planetary necessity which, unbeknown to man, simultaneously safeguards and maintains the overall stability of the planet, is not by any means guaranteed to occur in close proximity to human dwellings. But if it does so, one ought to bear in mind that (1) it had to occur in consequence of a combination of subterranean planetary influences; (2) the people killed and/or injured by it will normally represent only a tiny percentage of the total human population of the globe, a percentage which will either die or suffer injury as a sacrifice, so to speak, for the overall welfare of mankind in general; (3) these same people might not have been afflicted by it had they built their dwellings elsewhere, or if technology had evolved an efficient early-warning system which could pinpoint the anticipated place of the quake and thereby give inhabitants there sufficient time to abandon their dwellings and move to the nearest safety zone.
Like molten lava, hurricanes, floods, typhoons, and lightning, the earthquake kills indiscriminately, but it only kills what is in its way. Hideous as these things usually are, a majority of us would probably prefer the occasional emergence of potentially death-engendering planetary phenomena to the wholesale destruction of the planet itself brought about by a gigantic explosion in the bowls of the earth. Large-scale explosions fostered by man are undoubtedly dreadful enough. But experience of a gigantic 'natural' explosion which ultimately tore the entire planet apart would be far worse! For where the elements rule, the elements decide.
If earthquakes, typhoons, volcanic eruptions, etc., were not necessary, they wouldn't happen. Admittedly, science can give man the advantage of anticipating them and even of directing the force of various outbreaks of natural violence into a particular area or spot, as with lightning conductors. But a civilization which got to a point of trying to prevent the emergence of such phenomena could eventually find itself paying the price of frustrating a series of comparatively minor disturbances by subsequently bringing upon itself the horrendous devastation of a major one. For sooner or later a phenomenon which has been frustrated or repressed too long will explode with a force that would have made the force of its previously unchecked explosion seem relatively harmless.
Now what applies to the external world of nature doubtless applies no less to the internal world of the psyche, where neuroses and psychoses are the price one must occasionally pay for one's sanity.
NO ESCAPING EVIL: To a certain extent every age turns a blind eye towards most of its chief evils. One of the main reasons for this is undoubtedly helplessness, but others also include indifference, laziness, societal hostility, class rivalry, moral hypocrisy, ignorance, lack of imagination, and - probably most common of all - the inborn inclination of a majority of people to take matters more or less for granted.
Knowing this to be the case, however, one should nonetheless endeavour to attribute a reasonable justification to this string of evils (whatever they happen to be and wherever they happen to flourish). For not only do they constitute a very common, perennial, and ineradicable element in the life of a nation at any given time but, more importantly, they also constitute a very worthwhile element in the protection of that nation's psychic equilibrium, since without its evil side it would have nothing good to boast of, and therefore be unable to exist. Paradoxical though it may seem, it is important to note that evils of one kind or another will always exist, no matter what the gonfalon, for the good of the people. The assertion, however, that they don't exist when it is patently obvious they do, is in itself a clear example of a particular kind of evil which is fairly constant among certain individuals and institutions in every age.
Granted, then, that an age may be justified in turning a 'blind eye' to most of its chief evils, in pretending them not to exist and quite often in not knowing of their existence, it nonetheless has to be said that under no circumstances would it be justified in categorically denying their existence, in asserting them to be a figment of the popular imagination, since such an absurd attitude would amount to a veritable refutation of all life. It would, in fact, amount to something gravely unjustifiable in a world where antitheses are ever the mean!
The fact, however, that society is relatively integrated in every age stands to reason. For no matter what the situation, no matter how bad things may appear, good and evil must always co-exist in various degrees and guises, according to whether a nation is at peace or at war, even if a number of the standards concerning the respective criteria of good and evil are constantly being changed or modified in order to meet the demands of the occasion. What man ought to know, and too often forgets (though this is probably just as well), is that nature is ultimately wiser than he, that he is the product of nature and consequently is guided and motivated by it in every age, irrespective of what the chief political, social, religious, moral, economic, agricultural, or industrial priorities may happen to be at any given time.
The endeavour to create a perfect human society is inevitably a gross self-deception. For man can never attain to a society where, presumably, everyone will be equal and all the assumed evil elements be eliminated, when the essential nature of existence demands our acceptance of and acquiescence in the continuous interplay of polar opposites: good and evil, rich and poor, truth and illusion, ruling and ruled, noble and plebeian, etc., under virtually every gonfalon throughout history. Were mankind ever destined to arrive at such a 'perfect society', it would undoubtedly constitute something distinctly imperfect, anomalous, and insufferable. In sum, one can only rob Peter to pay Paul.
THE WAY IT HAS TO BE: Every age contains its quota of horrors, exploitations, superstitions, taboos, stupidities, illusions, crimes, diseases, accidents, mistakes, etc., and the modern age is clearly no exception. Assuming the human kind are not eradicated in any future world war, it is quite conceivable that the more intelligent members of generations to come may look back in dread, amazement, and even bewilderment at many of the circumstances which a majority of people take for granted today, just as, in focusing their critical attention upon a number of the (to them) most unacceptable aspects of the Victorian Age, people today often tend to disapprove of child labour, slave labour, the imprisonment of children, compulsory naval and military service, birching, hanging, and the extreme levels of social deprivation which existed among the very poor in relation to education, housing, sanitation, health, diet, employment, and earnings.
But the more fortunate members of a future generation - one existing, say, about a hundred years from now - may well have sound reason to be shocked, surprised, bewildered, or even amused by knowledge of the fact that a majority of late-twentieth-century people lived quite complacently in an age of widespread pollution, excessive noise, traffic congestion, overcrowding, cigarette smoking, drug addiction, alcoholism, cancer, the five-day week, metropolitan loneliness, tinned food, bottled milk, capitalist/socialist antagonism, the threat of nuclear war, religious anachronisms, life-imprisonment, impersonal bureaucracy, dogs' mess on pavements, regular strikes, widespread unemployment, redundancies, football hooliganism, and spiritual deprivation.
However, whether we like it or not, that is the way it has to be. For the virtues of one age are almost invariably the vices of another, the vices of one age the virtues of another, and no age is totally perfect.
NO HOPE WITHOUT FEAR: Every life is subject to the intermittent prevalence of fear. When a man pretends exemption from fear, it should be evident that he is almost certainly deluded, ignorant, forgetful, superficial, or just a plain liar. For, in reality, no man can be exempted from fear - not, anyway, while he lives anything approximating to a normal, healthy, thought-ridden existence.
But let us take a closer look at this matter and unashamedly draw up a fairly comprehensive list of the most common fears, particularly those which regularly plague the male mind: fear of losing one's job, of having an accident, of becoming dangerously ill, of going deaf and/or blind, of being sent to gaol, of becoming impotent, of not succeeding in one's work, of going mad, of being taken for a fool, of losing one's intellectual powers, of being misunderstood, of being rebuffed by a woman to whom one is attracted, of being exploited, of being trapped in an ungainly situation, of losing someone one loves, of insomnia, of solitude, of idleness, of disgrace, of heights, of flying, of neurosis, of drugs, of arousing the hostility or contempt of one's neighbours and colleagues, of the unknown, of bullies, of thugs, of making a woman pregnant against one's wishes, of crowds, of changing one's habits too often, of certain authorities, of what people may be saying about one behind one's back, of being made to look a fool, of being late for work, of oversleeping, of too much responsibility, of violence, of incompatibility with another person, of premature ejaculation, of having one's creative work rejected, of being noticed by certain people, of nightmares, of not appearing to be brave enough, of not meeting the right sort of people, of meeting the wrong sort of people, of being completely alone in one's old age, of being struck by lightning, of being mugged or robbed, of going bald, of catching a cold, of being alone in the dark, of losing money, of missing an appointment, of telling a lie, of the police, of strangers, etc.
From this fairly generalized list of the most common male fears (though many of them will doubtless be shared by females as well), one can see just how pervasive fear really is in life. Not one of us who cannot admit to having fears about some of the things in the above list and/or to having previously overcome or outgrown certain other fears there. Not a day passes but either something in or beyond the above list troubles our worry-strained minds. But could one imagine what it would be like to live totally without fear? Not if one is sufficiently human! For, as the philosopher Hume indicated, without fear there would be no hope, and without hope there would be no life.
TWENTY MISTAKEN IDEAS: As some modern philosophers have informed us, there are always a large number of universally mistaken ideas to which many people are grudgingly apt to cling, despite their proven fallibility. Here, for the sake of exposing some of them, as well as perhaps following in the hallowed footsteps of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Bertrand Russell, I list twenty ideas which strike me as being in this category:-
1. The Universe consists of the solar system and the stars;
2. Space is finite;
3. Man is by nature purely rational;
4. Goodness can exist independently of evil;
5. Man is imperfect because he makes mistakes;
6. Man can live without illusions;
7. The proper sphere of art is truth;
8. The sun revolves around the earth;
9. Population in no way conditions human behaviour;
10. The most spiritual people are of necessity the least sensuous;
11. Violence is unnecessary;
12. Religion is unnecessary;
13. Happiness is the absence of pain;
14. The survival of death is no mere hypothesis;
15. Life is enriched by suffering;
16. There is no moral-world-order;
17. God is nature;
18. The object of progress is to minimize pain;
19. Man is immune to the influence of his external environment;
20. Solitary people are invariably lonely.
SLIGHTLY EXISTENTIAL: To acquire a contemporary understanding of what Schopenhauer meant by the world 'as our idea', or what it means to be living in a material world which is partly fashioned by man, one need only endeavour to imagine how an animal or a bird would view its immediate surroundings ... how, for instance, an ordinary grey pigeon would see such inventions as a pillar box, a telephone kiosk, a car, motorcycle, lamppost, statue, traffic light, clock tower, or notice board.
Taken from what one imagines to be a pigeon's point-of-view, one might suppose such human inventions to be of relatively little significance, to be mere 'things' without names or apparent significance upon which the pigeon can rest or about which it must move. Whether, in fact, our pigeon sees the pillar box as a large red 'thing' or not, one can be fairly confident that it possesses no equivalent symbol for 'red', that it can only see the pillar box as something describing a particular shape and hue which is different from other shapes and hues, and which may or may not attract its attention on that account.
Therefore the world evidently presents a very different face to a pigeon than what it generally does to a human being, and this difference, this conglomeration of nondescript, nameless, purposeless, and possibly colourless 'things', lends an extra dimension to what Schopenhauer meant by the proposition 'the world is my idea', a world not only dependent on the peculiar nature of human consciousness and of the relative distortion or subjectivity which that consciousness necessarily imposes upon it but, in addition, one largely fashioned by man for the benefit of men and having, on that account, no similar common reality for anything else, be it pigeon, sparrow, mouse, cat, squirrel, or dog - other, of course, than in the very basic and self-evident sense of presenting external 'things'.
WORDS AS OUR 'REALITY': In the human world there are 'tall trees', 'green leaves', 'blades of grass', and 'grey clouds', but in the animal, bird, and insect worlds there are no such descriptions. Such creatures see the world openly, nakedly, devoid of adjectives and nouns. From their point of view cats do not lie in 'the grass', birds do not perch in 'trees', and bees do not pollinate 'flowers'. What we have conveniently taken for their reality is only relevant to ourselves, since to a cat there is no such thing as 'grass', to a bird there are no such things as 'trees', and to a bee there are no such things as 'flowers'. Neither are they aware that leaves are 'green' or clouds 'grey'. In fact, they do not even know what leaves or clouds are, being so utterly accustomed to living in a world without description.
But to ask ourselves a serious question - do we really know what leaves or clouds are? Are we really in possession of ultimate truth when we point to 'green leaves' or 'grey clouds' and thereupon claim additional knowledge for ourselves? Let us confess, my readers, that these descriptions, ingenious and indispensable as they are, in no way penetrate to the essential core of things. Let us confess to mostly being unconscious poets who manipulate representative symbols without usually realizing that a 'leaf' in no way explains exactly what a leaf is, much less a 'green leaf'.
And so we, too, are basically as unaware as the animals, birds, and insects as to exactly what we are living with. We can never get to the heart of the world we have metaphorically invented, and therefore must conclude the ultimate truth of whatever confronts us in the natural world to be a refutation of our illusions rather than the illusions, or symbols, themselves.
In other words, to establish anything approximate to the ultimate truth about a leaf, one would have to admit our knowledge of leaves to be relative and, hence, misleading, an attempt to describe that which, in its natural essence, defies definitive description. In sum, there are no 'leaves'; we have conveniently invented them. And to the extent that we have named and thereby humanized such existences, we have invented the rest of nature as well.
PARTLY OUR CREATION: What a strange moment it is in one's life when one realizes that, ultimately, there is no such thing as a 'bumblebee', indeed, that there has never been such a thing except in relation to human cognition and imagination. The world we have created generally suffices us. We believe quite firmly in the existence of 'bumblebees', a type of winged insect we can easily differentiate from other such insects but which, in the world beneath man, is no closer to being a 'bumblebee' than anything else. As a named creature, it is both a truth and an illusion. As an unnamed one, a truth through and through. But we are of course unable to live without illusions; we must give names to things in order to be able to differentiate between them and, in doing so, fall into the trap of actually believing these named things to be ultimate realities - something they in no sense are or ever can be.
And so one day we realize that, together with any number of other insects, birds, animals, fish, etc., the 'bumblebee' is partly a figment of our imagination, a nameless creature which in our world acquires a fixed position but which in its own world - and doubtless in the worlds of numerous other nameless creatures - must forever remain a truthful thing-in-itself, unknowable and unnamed.
With man, however, such illusions (and I use the term in the special, if unusual sense, to which it here applies) are of the greatest significance. We need our illusions for the sake of our truths, so let us not endeavour to undermine them. For what I have just told you is, after all, a truth acquired at the expense of an illusion.
TRUTHS BUT NO TRUTH: The fundamental reason why we can never arrive at 'the truth' about the world is that there is no single truth, i.e. human truth, but an infinity of truths which, in their various manifestations, correspond to the different life-forms contemplating them.
Thus we can divide earth truths, as it were, into human, animal, reptile, bird, fish, insect, microbe, and vegetable, and then again into the 'truths' appertaining to each individual species within the overall pattern; though the 'truths' of the seven kinds of life beneath man will be correspondingly smaller and more restricted, as befits organisms with a much narrower range of knowledge. Then, of course, one must bear in mind the possibility of diverse kinds of life existing on other planets, if not in this solar system then at least in solar systems that we presume to exist both elsewhere in the Galaxy, of which our sun is only a minor star, and in the thousand million or so other galaxies currently known to man via the world's most powerful telescopes.
Hence the universe of natural truths is potentially so great, diverse, and exclusive ... as to completely defy any attempt man might make to establish a categorical criterion of 'the truth' based solely on the limited and necessarily partial perspective of human cognition. For truth, as we here understand it, is eternally relative, not absolute, and thereby confined to being a record of the human mind.
REALITY AND REALITIES: When once one has understood that there are as many worlds as separate species, one will begin to comprehend how diverse the so-called 'real world' actually is, to comprehend its diversity in terms of numerous realities, as opposed to just a single human reality compounded of specific shapes and manifestations of life.
Thus one can speak, for example, in terms of cat reality, mouse reality, pigeon reality, frog reality, shark reality, wasp reality, owl reality, etc., in addition to human reality which, in its legitimate desire for world-wide integration and strict categorization of all existing phenomena, regularly overlooks the various realities confronting other creatures in order to maintain and safeguard its own perspective.
Finally, however, one must break the realities of the different species down into the tiny fragments which correspond to each particular life, thereby arriving at individual reality, the world within a world or, more specifically, the reality within realities.
HUMAN DIVERSITY: Training people to do individual tasks is akin to turning them into different creatures, insofar as one man becomes the rough equivalent of a horse (taxi driver), another the rough equivalent of a fox (politician); one man becomes the rough equivalent of an ox (labourer), another the rough equivalent of a chameleon (actor); one man becomes the rough equivalent of a sheepdog (foreman), another the rough equivalent of a sheep (worker); one man becomes the rough equivalent of a spider (shopkeeper), another the rough equivalent of a wasp (soldier); one man becomes the rough equivalent of an ant (builder), another the rough equivalent of a squirrel (banker), and so on.
As they become more like their respective tasks, so they become less like each other, the outcome ultimately being that human society comes to resemble a very subtle, if artificial, version of the animal kingdom, wherein one type of creature preys upon another to the end of its days.
NO TWO ALIKE: Might one not be correct in contending nature to be more hard-pressed to create two beings exactly alike, exactly alike, that is, in every respect, than to create four or five billion beings all different from one another? In fact, one could conceive of eight billion, twelve billion, an infinite number of beings which nature would be in no way prepared to replicate, not even where the instances of so-called identical twins were concerned.
But how inexhaustible must be the human face and frame! No two people exactly alike, not even if you took everybody that had ever lived into account! And no two ants exactly alike, either. What - no two ants? But isn't that a patent exaggeration? Don't all ants look alike? Yes, of course they do. But only to human eyes, to eyes that are not required to see ants as individuals but only collectively 'as ants'.
As for the ants themselves, however, one might well be correct in assuming that they can differentiate between one another. And if they can, why not sparrows, pigeons, flies, bees, and wasps? What is there to suggest that these other species wouldn't be able to differentiate between themselves as well?
But, my dear reader, you know what that implies, don't you? No two living creatures exactly the same, neither at any time nor anywhere! Now that really is stretching the imagination!
TIME BELONGS TO MAN: Not only does man differ from other life forms in terms of appearance, language, and custom, but also in terms of the fact that he alone lives in a given time, whereas animals, reptiles, birds, fish, insects, etc., live in the timeless eternity of nature, and can therefore be said to exist negatively.
What, for example, can a pigeon, cat, or dog know of the minute of the hour, the hour of the day, the day of the week, the week of the month, the month of the year, the year of the century, or the century of the millennium? There is no regulative system by which other life forms could be obliged to live in strict accordance with twentieth-century procedure, for they have no criterion which could enforce any such obligation.
Indeed, the fundamental ignorance of other life forms as to the establishment of a timescale permits them a degree of naturalness unknown to man, a naturalness which exists, moreover, in direct opposition to the positivity of created time. For man, the creator of unnatural or artificial criteria, can never wholly escape his consciousness of being in a given century or of living from Sunday to Saturday in a certain month, and is thus forever obliged to live outside of natural eternity. In a sense, the only eternity known to him is that which is granted through intense preoccupation - the transient forgetfulness of the burden of time as induced by excitement, whether physical or mental, though especially the latter.
INEVITABLY UNREASONABLE: Every man will at some time or other be shamelessly unreasonable towards some other section(s) of society in order to maintain his reasonableness where it is most required, i.e. in respect of his personal welfare. Hence he will consciously or unconsciously adopt a superficially condemnatory view of particular people or types of persons simply because, as a human being subject to dualistic impulses, he has no other choice, since his metaphysical integrity demands that he so acts in order to remain true to himself.
Thus this periodic unreasonableness is, on a profounder level, a manifestation of his overall reasonableness, insofar as he respects himself as a being who must follow certain prescribed inclinations or limitations irrespective of the criticisms he may receive, in consequence of appearing unreasonable, from other differently-oriented 'reasonable' people.
PUPPETS OF LIFE: In theory, though rarely in practice, I do not condemn a man, no matter how obnoxious he may seem, for being what he is, since I cannot understand how a man with an acquired obsession - and we all acquire obsessions - can possibly be expected to act in a way contrary to the dictates of that obsession. In other words, a man who is the inevitable consequence of a combination of former influences is in no way qualified to ignore them.
Thus, with regard to the individual, I do not condemn a tyrant for being a tyrant. I may disapprove of him, but reason compels me to acknowledge tyranny, in all its manifold guises, patriarchal as well as political, petty as well as great, as a fact of (dualistic) life, one of those disagreeable facts like nightmares, earthquakes, wars, famines, and diseases, against which there seems to be no ultimate deterrent.
For whatever a man does, he does because he is basically unable to do anything else. We cannot entirely shake ourselves free from the diverse contexts and circumstances which have made us what we are. To a large extent we are all puppets of life, ingenious marionettes who dance on the strings of our respective experiences and occupations.
THE NEGATIVE ROOT: Whatever exists naturally exists negatively, which is to say in direct opposition to a positive quality which has sprung from it, viz. silence in relation to sound, space in relation to matter, eternity in relation to time, woman in relation to man, illusion in relation to truth, barbarism in relation to culture, evil in relation to good, sadness in relation to happiness, dark in relation to light, competition in relation to co-operation, immorality in relation to morality, etc., so that whatever exists positively, by contrast, exists to a certain extent unnaturally, or by dint of a degree of effort. Truth has to be struggled after, whereas illusion costs us no great effort, being everywhere the basic clay from which truth is moulded. Goodness likewise has to be struggled after, whereas evil, the primal source from which all goodness springs, proves less difficult of attainment, being everywhere the more natural state-of-affairs. And happiness, despite superficial appearances to the contrary, is not our natural condition but one to which we must daily aspire with a fresh resolve which, if successful, will temporarily free us from the gruesome clutches of that all-pervading sadness.
Yes, just as surely as the predominantly positive man springs from the predominantly negative and, hence, more natural woman, so do all the other positive entities known to us spring from a like-source of negativity, as though in defiance of the root substance or nature of things. But one must not suppose this arrangement to be in any way reprehensible! For it is only by springing from and being, as it were, enmeshed in the negative ... that man can aspire towards the positive at all. How could it be otherwise? One cannot have a positive base at the bottom of nature, life, and the universe, a base from which negativity sprang, for the simple reason that, properly considered, a negative attribute cannot spring from anywhere, but must always 'give birth' to a positive one.
Admittedly, the world is fundamentally an evil place, but if it were not so, if it wasn't rooted in negativity, there would be no aspiration towards or attainment of the good. Indeed, there would be no cause for the good. Hence the intrinsic evil of the world finds redemption in man.
THE STRUGGLE FOR HAPPINESS: If one didn't have to fight for one's happiness on a daily basis, if, by some remote chance, happiness was 'handed to one on a plate', there would be little or no free choice left in the world, little or no incentive for innately happy people to do anything, so greatly would the intrinsic happiness of human existence content and preoccupy them. It is only, however, because our natural condition is one of sadness that we are regularly goaded out of it by the desire to acquire happiness, since no man can struggle from the positive to the negative because the positive would be all-sufficing and thus unable or unwilling to instigate any such procedure.
Hence it is ever man's fate to struggle from the negative to the positive, from sadness to happiness, in accordance with his thoroughly admirable desire to escape from what is disagreeable. And yet the positive can only be sustained for a limited period of time, after which it must again make way for the negative, in order that the phoenix of happiness may subsequently rise from the ashes of sadness and thereby permit man his individual freedom. But man, as already remarked, never struggles from the positive to the negative. On the contrary, he merely subsides or relapses into it.
WORK AND PLAY: I do not believe the man who tells me that he doesn't have any play because his play blends-in with his work and thereby forces nothing but work upon him. To hear this is almost to be told that the man who says it doesn't really have any work either since, in the final analysis, one cannot have a life which is either all work and no play or all play and no work. Somehow, one has to accept that one cannot work without play or play without work, even if one chooses to pretend or imagine otherwise, since one would then have forgotten what the true feelings or nature of work and play actually were.
No, I do not go along with the man who is or, more accurately, imagines himself to be a self-styled martyr of work without really being such. If his play isn't completely separate from his work, then his work will ultimately be bad for him, whatever he happens to think of it.
In fact, work and play are so interdependent, and yet so radically different, that, unless one keeps them apart, one will never get the most out of one's work, its being understood that there is no surer way of weakening one's impulse for work than to cut down on one's play or, as some people would have it, blend the one with the other. For the good worker, the man whose work means more to him than just a wage, is ever the good player, the man who plays to the maximum of his ability for the sake of his work. But if one wishes to cut down on one's play, why not cut down on one's work or, better still, give-up working altogether.
NO FREEDOM WITHOUT BONDAGE: Freedom is merely a temporary release from bondage, by no means a permanent one. It is the negative antithesis to the positive bondage, a reprieve from that which should normally be the predominating influence in a person's life. Without bondage there can be no freedom, without freedom no bondage. Whether your particular bondage be in writing, painting, reading, lecturing, clerking, washing, printing, sweeping, typing, building, driving, or anything else, the essential thing is that you should be living as a freeman for the sake of your bondage rather than as a bondsman for the sake of your freedom. For to live as a bondsman for the sake of your freedom is to live negatively, to aspire from what may be termed the negative-positive to the positive-negative, rather than from the negative to the positive as one should normally do. After all, it isn't so much the kind of work one does ... as to how one feels about doing it that really matters. One can live just as positively by being a clerk, a typist, a shop assistant, a car mechanic, etc., as by being an artist, a manager, a teacher, or an army officer. It depends entirely on the type of person one is.
But if one is doing one thing and genuinely desires to do something else - ah! that is when one is living against the grain, living as a freeman-in-bondage rather than as a bondsman-in-freedom, and should therefore do something to alter it. For in a predominantly positive life, a life that identifies with its work and can properly express itself through that work, the freedom acquired once one's work is finished for the day is always legitimately negative. The individual concerned can afford, if needs be, to spend time chatting casually to various friends and/or acquaintances, or watching a rather frivolous film, or leisurely reading an inconsequential book, or going for a lengthy stroll, or just idling somewhere by himself without feeling even the slightest need to get down to some serious work, the kind of work he might otherwise feel that he really ought to be doing in order not to waste any valuable time. But the man who cannot 'waste' any time, after his official work is over for the day, isn't living as well as he could be. In a sense, he isn't really living at all!
FROM WINTER TO AUTUMN: If, in maintaining our established terminology, we are in accord that winter is the negative season of the year and summer, by contrast, the positive one, then I deem spring to be the negative-positive and autumn the positive-negative. Hence we find the seasons following the sequence: negative, negative-positive, positive, positive-negative, with the two divisible seasons, viz. spring and autumn, progressing to their respective consummations in summer and winter. Since the positive always arises from the negative, we find its earliest manifestation in spring, its consummation in summer, and its gradual decline in autumn; the winter, or root season, being the eternal negative from which the process of growth and decay must again proceed.
Strictly speaking, however, there are only two (not four) divisions to the year, viz. winter and summer, in accordance with the fundamental dualism underlining the activity of all life on this planet, the transitional periods, as it were, of spring and autumn being an inceptive extension of summer and winter respectively, and granting us a useful analogy with the half-light states before dawn and after sunset, which we term twilight.
NO 'MOTHER NATURE': Nature has often been referred to as 'Mother Nature', a notion which suggests a feminine or negative character when, to speak metaphorically, it is neither feminine nor masculine but a subtle combination of each. For nature's only feminine season is the winter, whereas summer is, by way of an antithesis, distinctly masculine, and autumn and spring are a reverse combination of, in the one case, a declining masculinity and an ascending femininity and, in the other case, a declining femininity and an ascending masculinity.
Thus the notion of 'Mother Nature' is only valid insofar as it represents half the truth, not the whole truth. For nature is effectively androgynous.
MALE AND FEMALE PRIDE: A beautiful woman is usually delighted by the admiring attentions of the good-looking men she happens to encounter in life. She takes much of her pride and happiness from the fact that such men find her attractive and therefore worthy of their admiration. Her face often betrays her self-satisfaction, the knowledge that she is desirable. Thus her pride is direct; it is rooted in herself and requires no external props - other, of course, than the necessary or desired means of adorning her body.
Not so, however, with a man! As a rule, he is not so proud of himself as a kind of 'thing-in-itself', but mostly in relation to what he represents, to the kind of work he does and the degree of respect or recognition (if any) he can expect from that. Take away his work and you automatically deprive him of the chief means whereby he can feel admirable to himself. His pride isn't centred, like that of an attractive woman, directly upon himself but only indirectly, through the medium of what he has achieved and continues to achieve in life. If he is to be admired, it will be as a musician, lawyer, sportsman, soldier, doctor, builder, disc jockey, politician, manager, painter, writer, etc., according to the nature of his temperament, talents, and social position.
But if he is without work, then there is very little that he can be genuinely proud of; he is not encouraged, by nature, to regard himself as admirable in himself to anything like the same extent as an attractive woman, and so he is inevitably at a distinct disadvantage to such a woman in the same predicament. For men and women are, and will remain, fundamentally different creatures.
AGAINST FOLLY: It isn't necessarily unnatural to rebel against human folly but, more usually, an indirect indication of one's own folly. For even if a man understands the inevitability and, indeed, absolute legitimacy of folly, even if he recognizes it as part of a duality which, in antithesis to wisdom, ultimately guarantees its opposite, there is no reason why he shouldn't continue to rebel against it precisely because of its periodic prevalence within himself. Hence his own folly will override his intellectual acknowledgement of its ultimate legitimacy and, consequently, enable him to continue acting 'unreasonably', or in apparent contradiction of his theoretical awareness.
However, there is of course another and perhaps more serious way of viewing the problem - namely, through the realization that a man naturally looks down on his periodic folly because, in addition to causing him inconvenience, it forms the negative antithesis to his wisdom or good sense. After all, a being who is essentially geared to the positive must consequently take rather a condescending view of the negative, and so, by rejecting folly, he really acts 'reasonably'.
Here is further proof, in explanation of the above contradiction, that the power of practice is somewhat stronger than that of theory. No matter what we know, we can only act in accordance with nature which, in human terms, is far more comprehensive than we may sometimes care to imagine.
SUSPENDED JUDGEMENT: I have never seen a ghost and have absolutely no reason to believe in the existence of a spirit world. Where, however, spirits are claimed to manifest themselves in some way, usually for the benefit of a communion of like minds gathered together at a séance, it may be assumed that those taking part in the proceedings have been conditioned to participate in a state of receptivity or expectation which, if not permitting the entry of hallucinatory material into each individual consciousness, at least permits a degree of such material to affect someone, if only the medium.
Taking this contention at face-value, it would appear that the self-discipline necessary for the attainment of the requisite atmosphere is of consummate importance in determining the extent to which one opens the door, as it were, into one's own 'spirit world' and thereupon deceives oneself as to the extent of that world's objective reality. For if one wasn't sufficiently disciplined (or deceived) to begin with, there would be very little chance of either audibly or visually fostering an hallucinatory condition that would fully satisfy the demands of the occasion.
As, however, for those comparatively eccentric types who inherit or develop a perverse hankering after such impalpable entities as spirits, and who have, to be sure, encountered these entities during the course of their individual travels - can one not simply presume them to be especially susceptible to this particular form of hallucination? After all, the human world is undeniably sympathetic to diverse manifestations of insanity, stupidity, self-deception, etc., and - if I am not equally deceived in contending this - it is fairly common knowledge that the human mind is capable of believing what it chooses or wants to believe, not necessarily what it ought to!
Of course, the debate between spiritualists and rationalists will doubtless drag on for some time to come. But, in the interests of rational investigation, I can at least posit the hypothesis that what is commonly taken for a spirit by the spiritualistic fraternity is nothing more nor less than an apparently external recognition of internally-induced phenomena, or some such similar quasi-holographic derangement.... Perhaps, in seeking confirmation of this, one would do well to consult the writings of Carl Jung for a thorough diagnosis of what the subconscious mind is capable of engendering!
AGAINST REINCARNATION: If man was wholly rational he wouldn't have evolved and, in many cases, actually believed in the theory of reincarnation. For reincarnation is patently a superstition, and one, moreover, which would seem to presuppose that, once having left the body of a dead person, a highly-developed and self-motivated 'live' soul will eventually find its way back to the world via the vagina of a mother-to-be and, in forcing its way into her womb, somehow manage to link-up with the incipient foetus there only to reappear, some nine months later, in the guise of a new-born infant! Fantastic as that is, one has then got to stomach the even more fantastic outcome of the parents of this child eventually being able to recognize it as their own, to discern within and upon its face various traits of their respective physical and spiritual characteristics, and to thereupon consider it a legitimate extension of themselves.
Now if, as we were led to suppose, the child's soul initially came from elsewhere, the basic composition of this soul must surely be different from that of the parents' souls either taken separately or in combination - in fact, so different as to create a largely incongruous human being the heredity of which the parents would have considerable difficulty in claiming responsibility for.
But, of course, all this is absolute nonsense, the sort of intellectual nonsense so adroitly exposed by Bertrand Russell, and generally promulgated with the assistance of such pompous-sounding terms as metempsychosis and reincarnation, to the lasting detriment of reason! That mankind must ever succumb to illusions of one sort or another, we know only too well. But they must be illusions that fool even the philosophical inquisitors, not ones so well-worn and obviously vulnerable to rational criticism that we have no choice but to obey our intellectual conscience and sweep them aside in the interests of new truths.
SUPERSTITION UNIVERSAL: Just as, up to a point, each man's filth smells sweetly to him alone, so, likewise, does each nation's superstitions appear feasible to it alone, the religious beliefs of certain other nations appearing little more than childish by comparison. Yet people are everywhere 'the double and equal of man', to cite Baudelaire, and thus prone to the creation or maintenance of similar religious hypotheses themselves, if for no other reason than their common humanity.
Now occasionally it happens that a religiously-inclined individual actually 'sees through' the play of illusions he had previously taken for truths, that he becomes disillusioned with the superstitions of his community and, without fully realizing that people are everywhere alike, anxious to compensate himself for this loss by adopting what he then considers to be the superior and more rational beliefs of another nation. So off he goes, with a distinctly supercilious air, to the fresh pastures of Oriental, African, or Latin American superstition, much consoled by the assumption that he has 'seen through' the superstitions of his native land and, as a reward for this, is now about to embark upon the study of a superior culture.
But to just what do you suppose all this will lead? Either he will become disillusioned with the new beliefs or, what's worse, fall a prey to them. And if the latter, then rest assured that his understanding of human nature, with its rational/irrational oscillations, will remain forever incomplete.
THE END OF THE WORLD: I have heard talk that the end of the world will occur at a certain predictable date in the near future, in fact either at the turn-of-the-century or, according to the stronger views of the more pessimistic prophets of eschatological clairvoyance and apocalyptic severity, within the next few months (though one might suppose the world to be already finished and living past itself and in spite of itself, so to speak, if one were to take the warnings or predictions of these obsessed prophets of annihilation at face-value!).
However, considering that so many discouraging predictions of this type have already outlived themselves and become thoroughly obsolete, while the world has continued to exist, to change, and even to progress, it appears only logical to conclude further developments of this ominous mania equally doomed to irrelevance, ridicule, and oblivion. Indeed, one might even hazard a fairly optimistic if not altogether comforting guess that not even a nuclear war would actually destroy the entire planet, would in fact cause it to disintegrate. But if the world could survive such a battering, then what-on-earth can all this 'end-of-the-world' speculation be about?
Leaving religious considerations to one side, I would imagine the end of the material world, as indeed the end of the solar system of which this planet is but a tiny component, to have intimate connections with the inevitable dissolution of the sun, an eventuality apparently not liable to occur for another eight-thousand million years but, nevertheless, one which, if man is to survive drastic changes of temperature in the meantime and break away from this solar system in order to establish a better life for himself elsewhere, would seem to contribute towards justifying the evolutionary thrusts behind the various space-research programmes, and thereby put a stopper into the fatuous mouths of those who foolishly imagine that a myopic attention to the affairs of the world is all that really matters.
ART AS IDEALITY: It is my firm contention that an artist is never more genuine than when he adheres to ideality and, like Blake, Dadd, Dali, Turner, Picasso, Bourne-Jones, Chagall, Burra, Van Gogh, and Kandinsky, invents a world largely of his own which contrasts with the everyday reality to which one is normally accustomed. He who paints me another world, creates unique images or, alternatively, reproduces images from myth, religion, or literature, I regard as a genuine artist. The others, the portrait painters, realists, and naturalists, I regard as craftsmen or draughtsmen, men who apply an almost scientifically literal approach to their work, who create a hybrid which, in sacrificing imagination to factual reproduction, is neither science nor art but a mediator between the two, a sort of parallel to academic philosophy, which usually has its boundaries somewhere between the realms of science and religion.
But the truly creative artist deals chiefly with the ideal, the world of the imagination. It is he who establishes an antithesis to science and temporarily frees us from the oppressiveness and overwhelming seriousness of factual truth. His greatness is guaranteed by the combination of two indispensable ingredients - imagination and technique. With only one of these he is not an artist but, at best, a dilettante or craftsman, depending on the ingredient in question. With both, however, he is the true spokesman and practitioner of a discipline which stands in an antithetical relationship to science - not, be it noted, as its enemy, but as its complement, the negative pole of a dual integrity and, consequently, a vocation dedicated to the service of creatures who are unable to live without illusions but must forever oscillate between the two poles if they are to remain balanced, or relatively sane.
Yes, in the final analysis, art is dualistically inferior to science, as illusion to truth. But science is in no way able to exist without art, not, anyway, while there is anything approximating to a civilized view of life in the world. For the two pursuits are interdependent and therefore must remain firmly committed to their respective tasks.
Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as 'scientific art' (not to be confused with science-fiction), any more than there is really such a thing as 'artistic science'. An art which deserts its rightful responsibility in imagination to serve the cause of science, i.e. by drawing inspiration directly from scientific fact, is unwittingly hindering both itself and science by being insufficiently antithetical to it. An art which draws its inspiration from the 'real' instead of the 'ideal' is fundamentally perverse. In fact, it is no longer art at all but, as mentioned above, a kind of hybrid, and very often a lost cause in a dark age.
No, if art is to do itself proper justice it must find its chief inspiration within the imagination, within that strangely disguised mythical world, surreal world, impressionistic world, expressionistic world, abstract world, fantasy world, or any other 'illusory' world which affords us an authentic contrast to everyday reality. Is it any wonder that those artists whom I listed at the beginning of this essay have all achieved due recognition as great painters? No, not if one understands exactly what a true artist is.
Now what applies to the art of painting applies no less to the 'arts' of music, literature, and sculpture, where imagination and technique are still the tools most needed for the shaping of anything artistically worthwhile. But let us leave the final word on this subject with Oscar Wilde, whose Decay of Lying remains one of the most eloquent, lucid, and pertinent dialogues ever written in defence of art: 'Art begins with abstract decoration, with purely imaginative and pleasurable work dealing with what is unreal and non-existent. This is the first stage. Then Life becomes fascinated with this new wonder, and asks to be admitted into the charmed circle. Art takes Life as part of her rough material, recreates it, and refashions it in fresh forms, is absolutely indifferent to fact, invents, imagines, dreams, and keeps between itself and reality the impenetrable barrier of beautiful style, of decorative or ideal treatment. The third stage is when Life gets the upper hand, and drives Art out into the wilderness. This is the true decadence, and it is from this that we are now suffering.'
GREAT ART: What one normally wants from art, to take a particular if arguably somewhat conservative viewpoint, is a feeling that the work in question lies far above one's own creative abilities. I mean if, as so often happens nowadays, one is left with the highly distinctive impression that, had one so desired, one could have done just as well if not better than the so-called artist oneself, then the work in question is obviously open to suspicion and probably leaves one either unmoved or, worse still, dejected.
Now when, by contrast, one contemplates a Dali, there is usually no doubt in one's mind that the scene or event it portrays is a work of genius, that skill and imagination have been combined to virtually the utmost possible extent to produce something both precious and inimitable. It is great art, despite its comparatively strange, wayward, and at times positively horrific nature, because it still manages to convince the viewer of having something extraordinarily ingenious about it which he could never hope to emulate himself. With great art one generally feels oneself to be in the presence of the divinity of man, of man become great creator through the manipulation of a technique and imagination which induces in one a feeling of amazement as to the seemingly infinite extent of man's capacity for artistic greatness.
Unfortunately, however, modern art so often falls short of artistic greatness (not to mention genuine art) because, lacking both the requisite devotion and talent for the execution of anything great, its practitioners have lost track of the essentially idealistic nature of art and allowed their productions to become perverted into something so pathetically commercial, and hence dominated by market forces, as to be anything but artistic. It isn't, by any account, a straightforward reflection of contemporary life that one desires from art; for such a reflection can be captured exceedingly well by the predominantly impersonal use of a journalistic camera. Still less is it the portrayal of a blank canvas, or of a canvas portraying, at best, a few straight or squiggly lines and cryptic blotches. On the contrary, it is the brilliance, skill, imagination, spirit, purpose - in sum, the personality which a great artist inevitably bestows upon his work that the genuine art enthusiast desires, not the distressing spectacle of exhibits which resemble the predictably banal productions of the average junior-school art class!
NO HEALTH WITHOUT DISEASE: Some people like to imagine that man will one day conquer disease and that, in accordance with the fruits of social progress, he will subsequently live in a utopia where health, justice, peace, happiness, prosperity, sanity, fraternity, beauty, truth, goodness, and love will reign supreme. Now while not wishing to deprive such people of their fond hopes for the future, it nevertheless occurs to me that they are unlikely to materialize in a life conditioned by dualistic exchanges, as is invariably the case with human life. For it would certainly seem, if precedence is anything to judge by, that health cannot prevail without sickness, justice without injustice, peace without some form of war, happiness without sadness, prosperity without poverty, sanity without insanity, etc., and that, as soon as man plugs a hole in one context, a fresh hole eventually appears elsewhere, and with greater determination than on the previous occasion, so that he is forever juggling reality into new patterns, forever creating new manifestations of the basic polar attributes.
Admittedly, there is a fair chance that man may eventually come to terms with the common cold (bearing in mind that there are a hundred or more different viruses with which to deal), influenza, cancer (which also comes in many guises), schizophrenia, and other such contemporary scourges. But no sooner will he have done so than disease will acquire other manifestations in which to maintain the polarity of health and sickness, thereby safeguarding the existence of health while simultaneously providing fresh sources of investigation for both doctors and scientists alike.
In sum, the fight against disease can in no way detract from the fundamental integrity of life. This fight is not an indication of the imperfection of life, as might at first appear, but a part of its overall integrity within the human framework, with its dualistic criteria.
ILLNESS NO OBJECTION: Suppressing common illnesses by the regular use of various drugs and medicines usually reflects an audacious attempt by man to cheat nature out of its rightful influence. For whenever a common illness is prevented from running its natural course, it invariably takes revenge upon the assailant by staging a fiercer resistance (much as a soldier will put up a stronger fight when forced into a perilous situation), thereby making one feel a lot worse. Furthermore, it should be remembered that illnesses are not anomalous occurrences which shouldn't happen but, on the contrary, very natural occurrences which, if anything, strengthen one's taste for good health, so that the unnatural and artificial suppression of them tends (except in the most serious cases) to be utopian rather than realistic, the sort of disregard for polarity and the interdependence of antitheses which, in other contexts, would lead to the unhealthy suppression or, more accurately, attempted suppression of hate for the sake of love, illusion for the sake of truth, evil for the sake of good, or sadness for the sake of happiness.
But this disregard for polarity, this attempt to eradicate an illness as quickly as possible (tied-up, as it undoubtedly is, with the materialistic requirements of a consumer society), only serves to complicate and aggravate matters - a salutary lesson which, if properly understood, could lead to the judicious suppression of meddlesome drugs or medicines and to the adoption, if not on the part of the medical profession in general then at least on the part of the general public, of a more dualistic view concerning the legitimacy of illness!
Needless to say, there is obviously something wrong, ignorant, and even cowardly about a man who, at the earliest intimation of a common cold, sore throat, headache, stomach ache, temperature, or some other such minor ailment, rushes to the doctor or chemist in search of a miracle-working cure when, in accordance with the fundamental workings of nature, it is only from the illness itself that a genuine cure can come. Indeed, one might even suppose that the easy availability of an artificial cure induces people to be less thoughtful about their health. For is it not the case that a majority of common illnesses are usually incurred as the consequence of a stupid action, and can thus be seen as a kind of punishment and warning to people to be more careful in future!
Be that as it may, one can nonetheless maintain that illnesses generally contain their own cure, are by no means superfluous occurrences, and should be left, in nine cases out of ten, to run their natural course rather than be meddled with by an impatient consumer society in the grip not only of market forces but of the market as such, and which too often shies away from the dualistic integrity of life instead of facing up to and bearing with it for its own good.
THE 'PLIMSOLL LINE' OF SLEEP: A life without sleeping, or a life where the polarity of being awake and being asleep has broken down, would also amount, if endurable for any length of time, to a life without waking, i.e. to a sort of death-in-life, or perpetual consciousness of external reality which, in its unrelenting intensity, would inevitably prove so intolerable as to drive one either to suicide or, failing that, an asylum. But a life with its natural quota of sleep is, by comparison, a fortunate life - indeed, one doesn't realize just how fortunate until one has regularly had experience of insomnia! For whether or not we realize it, sleep is the greatest medicine we possess.
Consequently there is some truth in the notion that a man who lives well also sleeps well. One might contend, in this context, that sleep becomes a kind of 'Plimsoll line' of correct living, a guideline by which one can establish an accurate criterion as to whether one is living naturally or unnaturally, agreeably or disagreeably, sensibly or foolishly. I mean if, as is sometimes the case, we are not sleeping as well as we believe we should, might it not be an indication from our subconscious mind that we are living against the grain, as it were, by either taking too much social and/or occupational responsibility upon ourselves or, conversely, not taking enough?
Hence our insomnia could be interpreted as both a warning and a punishment, a method employed by nature to stir us into taking a remedial course of action. In which case it should be evident that regular use of sleeping pills is not the remedial course of action we should take. For rather than rectifying the situation as it ought to be rectified, i.e. through action establishing a more healthy and tolerable mode of life, they usually further complicate it by imposing an artificial sleep upon us which, by interfering with the subconscious, hardly compensates us for natural sleep.
Thus we are running away from ourselves at the very moment when we ought to be facing-up to and eventually overcoming our personal difficulties, when instead of acting like a man who, because of various problems in his life, drinks himself into alcoholism (and thereby makes matters worse for himself), we should be noting the instructions which emanate from our subconscious mind and subsequently set about doing whatever we can to obey them, if for no other reason than our own good. For anything else is inherently perverse and, as such, it can only aggravate the problem, to increase rather than decrease our afflictions.
A WIDER VIEW OF VICE: For a majority of people vice is usually associated with such controversial or taboo subjects as hard-drug addiction, alcoholism, cigarette smoking, pot smoking, prostitution, masturbation, sodomy, pederasty, gambling, idleness, lechery, vandalism, hooliganism, and foul language - a list which, though by no means exhaustive, suffices to indicate the general trend of popular thinking. Now in accepting this rather narrow view of vice, it seems quite unlikely that many people will come to realize how loquacity, temperance, exuberance, lethargy, chastity, sociability, conscientiousness, athleticism, art fanaticism, political fanaticism, inquisitiveness, acquisitiveness, pomposity, presumption, superstition, piety, ambition, reclusion, or anything else which might ordinarily be regarded as a fairly innocuous if not praiseworthy inclination often degenerate, when pushed beyond a certain point of intensity or duration, into some of the most lethal vices of all!
Who, for instance, could seriously deny that religious superstition or fanaticism of one kind or another has caused more death and suffering, over the centuries, than hard-drug addiction, alcoholism, and cigarette smoking put together? Similarly, isn't the phrase 'excessive political fanaticism' likely to engender rather painful connotations when one cares to reflect upon world history, and most especially upon recent European history? And even prolonged chastity - what a terrible vice that can be for making various people more argumentative, spiteful, dissatisfied, intolerant, etc., than they would otherwise have been, if permitted a normal, healthy sex-life!
But, in saying all this, let us not kid ourselves that vice can or indeed should be completely eradicated. For, in all probability, one would first have to eradicate human life. Either that, or one would have to turn one's back on life to such an extent that it inevitably took revenge upon one by becoming absolutely hellish, an inclination, alas, which would seem to have possessed a perverse charm for considerable numbers of obdurate, would-be ascetics ever since the dawn of civilization, and one which in no way appears destined to be discarded or outgrown while man retains a semblance of his innate and altogether indispensable predilection for virtue.
MISUSED CONCEPTS: It is commonly understood that words are symbols designating concepts. Our ancestors at sometime conceived the possibility of a symbol to designate the concept 'a love of mankind' and named it 'philanthropy'. They likewise conceived of an antonym to this symbol and named it 'misanthropy', or 'a hatred of mankind'. Not content with this, they then sought to justify the existence of these symbols, these concepts, by taking a bold step further and actually applying them to various individuals, to people whom, in their conceptual presumption, they somehow regarded as eligible candidates. Now in consequence of this social indiscretion, later generations gradually became aware of the existence of 'philanthropists' and 'misanthropists' without apparently realizing that the concepts behind these symbols had absolutely no foundation in reality, that it was impossible either to love or hate mankind even for a few moments, considering that 'mankind' is merely an abstraction. Thus followed the history of an outrageous misunderstanding!
Of course, one can always love or hate the odd individual here and there, one can even come to feel similar sentiments towards a few people here and there. But to actually consider such love 'a love of mankind' or such hate 'a hatred of mankind' would be more than a gross misunderstanding: it would be the height of imbecility! For, in reality, one can no more love or hate mankind than one can love or hate the fish kind, the bird kind, the animal kind, the insect kind, the vegetable kind, or any other kind. In fact, it is virtually impossible not to conclude that one can never be a philanthropist or a misanthropist under any circumstances. For even if, in taking the terms in a much wider sense, one does good (according to one's notion of what constitutes 'the good') to one section of the community, it invariably follows that one will necessarily do bad to and fall out-of-favour with another section of it, and vice versa.
Hence I can only contend that the world has never produced a single philanthropist: neither Buddha, Christ, Mohammed, St. Christopher, St. Francis, Shakespeare, Florence Nightingale, Dickens, Marx, Whitman, Gladstone, Tolstoy, Shaftesbury, Chamberlain, nor anyone else, and never will produce one; that the world has never produced a single misanthropist: neither Machiavelli, Swift, Caligula, de Sade, Bonaparte, Baudelaire, Franco, Dostoyevsky, Stalin, Lautréamont, Crowley, Nietzsche, Hitler, Mussolini, nor anyone else, and never will produce one.
Indeed, it isn't an everyday occurrence either to love or hate anyone at all, even one's closest companions. But to actually love or hate someone of whom one has absolutely no knowledge, someone who is no more familiar to one than the paintings or posters on the walls of the millions of bedrooms throughout the world, is an utter impossibility! It is something that people are unlikely to imagine possible so long as, firstly, they acknowledge the exact implications of human limitations and, secondly, they acknowledge the exact implications of the concepts they choose to symbolize through words.
AGAINST RACIAL INEQUALITY: Can one seriously contend that an Ash is superior to a Beech, an Oak superior to a Hawthorn, a Beech superior to an Oak, an Oak superior to an Ash, a Sycamore superior to an Elm, a Pine superior to a Yew, a Fir superior to a Rosewood, a Yew superior to an Elm, a Sycamore superior to a Pine, and so on? If so, on what criterion does one base one's contention? Is it enough to base it on the relative number of trees in each species (those with fewest numbers being the most precious because rare), their respective size, leafage, colouring, seed, strength, industrial usefulness, age, etc., or would that ultimately prove somewhat presumptuous?
Admittedly where, for example, two Oaks that had developed unequally in different environments were concerned, where one had become sickly and warped because of a lack of fresh air, moisture, sunshine, space, and official protection against both man and disease, while the other had developed under the best possible conditions and consequently become healthy and strong, one would of course be justified in concluding the latter tree superior to the former. However, what one could not do so confidently would be to set up a scale of merit applicable to the most well-developed trees in each species, to assert a Teak categorically superior to a Rosewood, or an Elm categorically superior to a Hawthorn.
Similarly, in terms of the human kind (and basing one's judgement solely within the confines of each class), can one seriously contend that a Slav is superior to an Indian, a Turk superior to a Teuton, a Latin superior to an Anglo-Saxon, a Celt superior to a Mongol, an Arab superior to a Zulu, a Mongol superior to a Latin, a Teuton superior to a Turk, a Jew superior to a Pict, a Shona superior to an Apache, an Anglo-Saxon superior to a Zulu, a Bantu superior to a Kurd, an Eskimo superior to a Lapp, etc., and then, in going far beyond that, draw-up a definitive scale of racial superiority relative to the total number of races, or presumed races, currently in existence? Can one? Would one ever be in a position to do that? Hasn't almost every race produced great men, attained to outstanding achievements in art, literature, music, philosophy, architecture, medicine, religion, politics, etc., and thus contributed to both the development and decline of the many ingenious civilizations which have appeared throughout the six-thousand years of man's reign on earth?
Surely it would be a gross stupidity to maintain that an intelligent attitude to life ought to incorporate an awareness as to which races one's race (if known) is either inferior or superior to, other than in the relative sense of its being economically, industrially, militarily, philosophically, culturally, politically, spiritually, or socially either ahead of or behind certain other civilized races at any given point in time. Surely it is quite enough, under the prevailing restrictions imposed upon us by the absence of various scientific certainties, to know one's race to be different, the inheritor of particular advantages and disadvantages, and then to live in accordance with those differences, whatever the consequences, for as long as that race exists. Truly, a genuinely inferior race would have died out long ago!
THE TRANSIENCE OF DEATH: Death, as the living understand it, is not antithetical to life but to birth since, like the latter, it is a momentary phenomenon rather than something that extends over a long period of time, the way life usually does. Once a person has died, the phenomenon of death is consummated and the corpse thereupon begins to decompose, leaving, after a number of years, scarcely a trace of its remains. Now where, in consequence of this process of decomposition, there is nothing or next to nothing remaining, the word 'dead' has no real applicability. One cannot refer to a hole in the ground with nothing in it as the hole of a dead person, even if it is still officially a grave by dint of the fact that a corpse was once buried there in some kind of coffin. And so it should be fairly obvious that 'the dead' are really very transient phenomena, nothing to work-up to the status of an antithesis to the living.
Montaigne's life, for example, came to an end in 1592, his corpse doubtless quickly began to decompose, and one would, I guess, be quite justified in believing that by 1610 the former essayist had been reduced to a skeleton, to which one normally applies an 'it' rather than a 'he'. Thus, strictly speaking, one cannot say of Montaigne that 'he has been dead for over four-hundred years' (since the process of death and decay only lasts as long as there is anything approximating to a 'he' discernible), but simply that 'he died in 1592'.
Consequently, as an opposition to life conceived as a period of time during which one is conscious of existing, we have the not-life, i.e. the period before birth and after death which embraces both foetus and corpse. As an opposition to life conceived in terms of that which lives, i.e. the animate, we have the inanimate. And, finally, as an opposition to birth we have - death.
PHILOSOPHY VERSES INSULAR INTOLERANCE: One of the most useful things about the genuine philosopher in relation to both science and religion, and even to art and politics, is that, being neither partisan to the one nor to the other, he is in a fairly favourable position to establish a general perspective as to what the respective adherents of these branches of human activity are likely to think of each other and, more importantly, what they each represent. Consequently, inasmuch as his authority and vocation permit, he can at least draw attention to the danger inherent in situations whereby the partisans of the one camp become so obsessed with the furtherance of their own particular perspective that they completely fail to take account of the other camp's perspective, and duly set about either undermining it or, worse still, having the other camp done away with altogether.
Now that may seem a somewhat exaggerated not to say unlikely possibility in the context of Western pluralism, but it nevertheless remains a fact that cases of this kind of insular intolerance and misunderstanding are by no means as infrequent as may at first appear. There are, for example, eminent astronomers who, with the most extensive knowledge of astronomical developments, are of such an ignorance in astrological matters as to be of the opinion that this latter field of activity is not only infra dig, but entirely unworthy of the credence of rational minds and, consequently, of little if any account. Now, in all probability, there are eminent astrologers who, with a time-consuming dedication to astrology, are likely to maintain a similarly unappreciative opinion of astronomy, or of certain astronomical contentions, which, when one considers the limitations of their perspective, isn't altogether surprising.
This is an example, in a somewhat simplified and perhaps over-obvious way, of what I believe to be the tendency of specialists to become so enclosed by the limitations of their own particular fields of activity that they pose a danger to each other and, by extension, to those who read them. Here, I think, is where the philosopher - and the contemporary philosopher more than ever - can prove of some use in his endeavour to maintain a wider perspective and, if he cannot directly prevent the representatives of certain other causes from regularly denouncing one another as enemies of enlightenment, at least draw attention to the possibility that they themselves may not be as enlightened as they like to imagine.
As an afterthought (and in extending our discussion beyond the predominantly occult realm of astrology into that of religion-proper), it ought to be borne in mind that we live in an age of science rather than faith, a fact which makes it obligatory for a majority of us to view life from a more rational angle than was formerly the case. For where our ancestors mostly viewed life through 'religious eyes', and thereupon accused those who invented important scientific instruments or in any way furthered science of blasphemy, we, in our turn, are for the most part inclined to view life through 'scientific eyes', and to accuse those who still believe in miracles or religious mysteries of ignorance and superstition. The fact, however, that both viewpoints are equally lopsided and partial only serves to indicate that a more balanced perspective between the religious attitude (whatever its subsequent manifestation) and the scientific attitude has yet to be achieved. Presumably this will come about in some future age.
In the meantime, however, a majority of thinking people will doubtless continue to accept their inheritance as offspring of the twentieth century and, in accordance with its Zeitgeist of empirical secularity, continue to regard those who possess a vestige of true religious faith as anachronisms, without wondering whether their future secular or overly rational equivalents won't be similarly regarded by the more 'balanced' majority of a less sceptical age.
INDIVIDUAL WISDOM: Wisdom consists, amongst other things, in not understanding everything one reads, not liking everything one reads, not believing everything one reads, and not remembering everything one reads. A surfeit of wise ideas is, after all, another kind of folly, and there are many gifted men who foolishly consider themselves wise on account of the extent of their reading. What, do they not consider themselves wise enough already? Were they not born with the rudiments of wisdom, or are they now somewhat uncertain, in this age of material prosperity, as to exactly what it is?
Well, let us frankly admit that, irrespective of any aid the dictionary may give us, wisdom is not something that can be simply defined, since it takes as many forms as there are people, and what would suit one person, at any given time, could well be the ruination of another. For we all possess a wisdom peculiar to our daily circumstances and, depending on the nature of those circumstances, the kind of wisdom each one of us possesses must inevitably manifest itself as folly to someone else, to someone who, living in a different context, is not obliged to adopt identical tactics to us. There is no man who is without his quota of wisdom. Contend otherwise and you draw on your capacity for folly. Accept it, and your wisdom automatically leaps to the fore.
The wisdom of this moment may give way to the folly of the next. Whatever you understand to be wisdom here, you may be obliged to pay for with foolishness elsewhere. You don't become wiser generally, but only in certain contexts. Your given quota of wisdom remains the same whether you read all the philosophy of the nineteenth century or exclusively dedicate yourself to painting. The wisdom of the philosopher is not the same as that of the painter. Whereas the former may advise you to avoid taking various contentions of a particular philosopher too seriously and will indicate, by way of compensation, other contentions which he believes to be of consummate importance, the latter may warn you against over-using a particular colour or tone, and will draw your attention, it may be, to certain delicate harmonies of tonal composition which he feels to be of great beauty and technical significance. Their different kinds of wisdom are largely applicable to their respective occupations and, as such, they are as wise as they need be, each man having to contend with matters strictly pertinent to his own activity and to no-one else's.
Inevitably, this is the case for everybody. There is the wisdom of the monk, stockbroker, lawyer, baker, clerk, postman, teacher, cook, etc. Each of them knows what he has to do and, if he wants to survive, each one does it as well as possible, thereby being as wise as he needs to be within his particular context. Now a poet isn't necessarily wiser than a clerk; he is simply wiser in his own field. Much of what he does is only relevant to poets, and consequently much of what he says will strike a clerk as being somewhat foolish, just as much of what the latter does and says will strike him as being somewhat foolish, even though they are both doing and saying what they must.
But is a man any the less wise for becoming a clerk instead of a poet? Some poets may think so, especially if they belong to that vainglorious breed of men who always consider their own profession superior to everyone else's. However, people of a philosophic turn-of-mind will incline to think otherwise. For if a man isn't really interested in poetry, and is insufficiently gifted in poetic composition to become a professional poet, then his fundamental attitude to poetry will probably be either one of mild curiosity or, more likely, general indifference, so that any suggestion to the effect that he ought to have taken-up with poetry instead of, say, clerking will meet with little sympathy, its being inferred that not everyone was born to do the same thing!
Yet the logical implication of this is something that the self-conceit of certain illustrious poets may make them overlook - namely that men come in many shapes and sizes, in consequence of which the means to salvation for one would surely be the road to damnation of another!
No, it is not for us to presume a man less wise for becoming a clerk, lawyer, builder, or grocer instead of a poet, musician, painter, or sculptor, but to assume that whatever he does he does because he is unable, for a variety of reasons, to do anything else - in short, because it is the best thing for him. Heaven forbid that the human kind should ever progress to a point where all men can become poets, composers, artists, or writers simply because, with further development of machine technology, there will be little or no requirement for anything else! Heaven forbid that we should look upon human diversity as an objection, and subsequently endeavour to stamp everybody into exactly the same mould!
Talented youths often imagine that life is a battle for honours, a race to acquire the most prestigious places before it is too late, rather than an exercise, amongst other things, in finding out what one is especially good at and then in putting that ability or gift to the service of mankind. But youth is only a passing folly, an extra boost, as it were, to the essential nature of the emerging man. For when he finally emerges from his youthful pretensions into the more realistic perspective of adulthood, he will realize that it is only within his power to do a few things really well, and that he must do them to the best of his ability if he is to pass muster on the world's stage.
Yet as to whether his particular occupation makes him less wise than any of his differently-occupied fellows - that is something I must confess to having serious reservations about! Perhaps he is mostly drawing upon his foolishness when he does something he has no business doing, working in an incompatible context, and consequently being a neurotic nuisance to both himself and everybody else as well.
THE MEANING AND PURPOSE OF LIFE: The meaning and purpose of life cannot reside in anything which is subject to antithetical evaluation. In other words it cannot reside in happiness, truth, love, goodness, work, beauty, wisdom, knowledge, reasonableness, pleasure, virtue, etc., because of the inevitability and even necessity of sadness, illusion, hate, evil, play, ugliness, folly, ignorance, unreasonableness, pain, vice, etc., which, by their regular (negative) intrusions, effectively guarantee the intermittent prevalence of the former (positive) aspects of life, and are therefore of crucial importance in the overall scheme of things.
No, the meaning and purpose of life has to do with what Dr. Jolande Jacobi, the Hungarian psychologist and disciple of Jung, terms 'the Way of Individuation' - a development of the personality through the various stages of life, with the invariable consequence of greater knowledge of the self both in its relation to the individual and to the world generally. One doesn't foolishly strive to combat the inherent dualism of life by taking an apparently one-sided though ultimately self-deceptive stance in it. One experiences this dualism as an eternal fact which, through its comprehensiveness, inevitably redeems itself. One could sum-up by saying that the meaning of life lies in life itself, whereas the purpose of life is simply to live.
THE INFERIOR NEGATIVE: Whatever exists in a negative relationship to the positive component of a duality exists as its inferior, viz. night in relation to day, illusion in relation to truth, evil in relation to goodness, sadness in relation to happiness, pain in relation to pleasure, ugliness in relation to beauty, weakness in relation to strength, etc. The proof of this, if it isn't already self-evident, can be defined in one of two ways, depending on the nature of the duality under consideration.
The case, for example, of night in relation to day brings to our attention the fact that the night is simply a time without sunlight, a time when one half of the earth has turned away from the sun. Hence the night is quantitatively inferior to the day because it lacks something that the day possesses - namely sunlight. The case, however, of pain in relation to pleasure brings to our attention the difference of quality between a sensation which is disagreeable and one, by contrast, which is agreeable, the former being undesirable and hence inferior to the latter.
Thus it can be contended that dualities are essentially divisible into two categories: those which permit one to judge the negative component quantitatively inferior to the positive one on account of its lacking something which the latter possesses and, similarly, those which permit one to judge the negative component qualitatively inferior to the positive one on account of its undesirable feeling or sensation value. Examples in the first category include night in relation to day, silence in relation to sound, darkness in relation to light, ugliness in relation to beauty, weakness in relation to strength, evil in relation to good, illusion in relation to truth. Examples in the second category include pain in relation to pleasure, sadness in relation to happiness, fear in relation to hope, hate in relation to love, humility in relation to pride, dejection in relation to elation, anger in relation to humour. The first category implies objective phenomena, either internal or external, that we perceive but do not feel. The second category implies subjective phenomena, either internal or external, that we feel but do not perceive.
FOUR CATEGORIES: Dualities may be further subdivided, as I hinted above, into four categories, viz. those which pertain to the Internal Objective, those which pertain to the External Objective, those which pertain to the Internal Subjective, and those, finally, which pertain to the External Subjective.
Those in the category of the Internal Objective are dualities which we perceive internally but do not feel. Those in the category of the External Objective are dualities which we perceive externally but do not feel. Examples of the former include illusion/truth, sickness/health, past/future, absent/present. Examples of the latter include night/day, dark/light, girl/boy, moon/sun.
Those in the category of the Internal Subjective are dualities which we feel internally but do not perceive. Those in the category of the External Subjective are dualities which we feel externally but do not perceive. Examples of the former include fear/hope, hate/love, pain/pleasure, sadness/happiness. Examples of the latter include cold/hot, rough/smooth, liquid/solid, soft/hard.
Thus it can be seen that both the Internal Subjective and the Internal Objective signify abstract phenomena, whereas both the External Subjective and the External Objective signify concrete phenomena.
NEGATIVES SERVE: Of what use would knowledgeable men be in any given subject if there were no ignorant men in that same subject to learn from their knowledge? And of what use would ignorant men be in any given subject if they were insufficiently ignorant to be of use to its knowledgeable men?
But let us not deceive ourselves into imagining the positive component of a duality to be in the service of its negative component, i.e. that which commands ... to be in the service of that which obeys, or that which helps ... to be in the service of that which hinders, or that which hopes ... to be in the service of that which fears, or that which loves ... to be in the service of that which hates when, in reality, it is invariably the other way around.
Now as ignorance is negative in relation to knowledge, one can only conclude the ignorant men in any given subject to be in the service of its knowledgeable men. Paradoxically, it is the pupil/student who serves the teacher/tutor rather than vice versa.
SUCCESSFUL FAILURES: No man is absolutely or strictly a failure; he is only a failure intermittently. Whatever the level of life on which he happens to be living, he will experience his periodic successes together (though not simultaneously) with his periodic failures. A failure per se, if such a person could exist, would be totally without successes. But to be totally without successes would also mean to be totally without failures, since the former cannot exist without the latter, the former are a consequence of the latter and therefore dependent upon the latter for their existence.
We assume a person to be a failure when he hasn't achieved something he desired, but overlook the fact that he may have achieved something else, if only to disillusion himself with the desire in question. Now many people whom we customarily and perhaps even naively regard as successes on account, for example, of their current wealth, status, fame, etc., may often regard themselves in quite a different light - a light, I mean, in which only they can see, and which exposes, amongst other things, their frustrated ambitions.
For where it may be the ambition of one man to attain fame, a man who is already famous will have other ambitions, some of which he may realize, others of which he may not. But, irrespective of their personal circumstances, both men will experience similar feelings as regards their respective ambitions, since they will be subject to the same conditions - namely those of success and failure.
POSITIVELY SELFISH: No man can be genuinely satisfied with the overall pattern of his life as long as he leads a relatively negative existence, which is to say as long as he is insufficiently selfish during the day. For whereas after a day of comparative selfishness one's selflessness is established to a greater extent in the evening, it is one's selfishness that is established to a greater extent in the evening after a day of comparative selflessness. Hence to live in a relatively positive manner, a manner in which an intelligent person should live, one would have to adopt the former mode of existence and be comparatively selfish, i.e. industriously preoccupied in a manner suitable to one's nature and abilities, during the day, since, by contrast with the day, the evening is always negative, and a relatively positive approach then will, of necessity, be somewhat reduced both in its strength and its effect.
As is well known, the evening is generally a time of repose, of acceptance and resignation, a negative counterbalance to the positive struggles one is usually obliged to experience during the day. It is not, ideally, a time for selfishness. Only those who are compelled, against their wishes, to lead a relatively negative existence during the day would endeavour to make it so, though their selfishness will, as already remarked, lose much of its effect and intensity in the process.
A POSTHUMOUS B.C.: It seems difficult for someone accustomed to referring to pre-Christian dates in terms of B.C. to realize that such dates are only applicable to those who, like ourselves, look back from a Christian or post-Christian society, not to those who actually lived in pre-Christian times. The ancient Greeks, for example, would not have thought in terms of 350 or 300 B.C., for the simple reason that they had no idea that a man named Jesus Christ would appear in the world approximately a few centuries later (in their future) and, unbeknown to himself, subsequently become the source of the Christian calendar. Thus Socrates would not have been aware of the fact that he lived from 430-399 B.C., since it was the Greek calendar which prevailed in his time, rendering his concept of epoch considerably different from ours.
Therefore it should be apparent that reference to any date preceding the Christian era in terms of B.C. is strictly a Western invention, a scale of historical reference only relevant to those living in the A.D. centuries. However, the fact that we are constantly deceiving ourselves in this matter of affixing specified Western dates to peoples and individuals who would not have recognized them should, I feel, be in some way more generally acknowledged, especially by those who have a genuine interest in the study of earlier civilizations, so that, as offspring of a later age, they may come to a better understanding of the amount of fiction they habitually impose upon their historical 'facts'.
SCHISMATIC CHRISTIANITY: The decline of Christianity began not, as is generally believed, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but, rather, in the sixteenth century, which is to say with the formulation of the 'Augsburg Confession' by Melanchton in 1530, which officially signalled the beginnings of Protestantism and, unknowingly at the time, precipitated the downfall of Christianity. For with the rise of Protestantism came an era of inter-Christian wars, of what we may term the 'cannibalism of Christianity', when, ostensibly in the name of the same God, Protestant killed Catholic and Catholic killed Protestant, and the Christian civilization slowly bled itself to death.
Hitherto, in the various guises of Catholicism, Christianity had fought as a single unit against Mohammedanism and thus involved itself in religious wars, or wars between different world religions. But with the rapid rise of Protestantism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the chief conflict was fought not without but within the Church, which became plagued by increasingly violent schisms from then onwards.
As a single unit Christianity had become an extremely formidable force - indeed, so formidable as to be religiously totalitarian. But when divided into mutually hostile units, Christianity weakened itself in a manner which no eighteenth- or nineteenth-century rationalist ever did. In a very real sense Protestantism was a form of early rationalism, a forerunner of the Age of Enlightenment, and a force without which that age could not have come into existence. For by dividing the Church, Protestantism questioned the professed sovereignty of the established faith and thereby considerably detracted from its claim to omnipotence. As the ferocity of the subsequent inter-Christian wars testified, once the divide had been created it could never be repaired. And so the 'cannibalism of Christianity' continued to wreak havoc until such time as, with the progressive weakening and decline of the Church, there was very little spiritual flesh left to devour, and wholesale materialism accordingly became the order of the day.
LIVE SYMBOLS: Words without spirit are dead symbols, devoid of meaning. But it is only the appropriate use of spirit that gives life to the word and thereby makes it meaningful in the contexts by which we live. One can imagine the effect created on a group of listeners by someone who said 'I feel great' in an apathetic tone-of-voice - a droll effect to say the least! And, similarly, someone who said 'I feel sick' in an exuberant tone-of-voice would inevitably create a strange effect on his listeners, one they would have considerable difficulty not equating with a form of schizophrenic derangement!
Indeed, the extent to which words, as symbols of conditions and things, are dependent upon the requisite use of spirit would undoubtedly amaze a person unaccustomed to hearing the many relevant feeling-values and variations in pitch with which we customarily invest them in conversation. And it is highly doubtful that, even in the case of a highly intelligent recipient, such a person would be able to understand so much as a fraction of all the things said to him through words which had been deprived of spirit altogether, or at least to the extent of being delivered in the form of a tedious monotone.
In this respect, the written word is usually less good than the spoken one. For although the writer should have informed his writings with an appropriate use of spirit and thereby granted them a certain recognizable colouring and timbre, it remains for the reader to assimilate the written word into his own spirit, including of course the condition of his spirit at the time, and if possible instantaneously translate it into the spirit it was intended to convey - a thing that isn't always very easy to do and, to cite personal experience, something that isn't always done!
Thus, on account of this complicated process of spiritual translation, the written word is often misconstrued and the writer misunderstood. But with the spoken word, where intellect and spirit are usually in harmony and therefore can be simultaneously comprehended, there is no need for spiritual translation. So all it is necessary for the listener to do is to assimilate it and then react appropriately - a fact, it seems to me, which testifies to the eternal superiority of the spoken over the written word!
INTERPLANETARY EQUILIBRIUM: Throughout the history of civilized man people have often posed the question 'Why is there life on earth?' and endeavoured to answer it in a variety of ways, some religious, others scientific. The different viewpoints appertaining to the reasons for life on this planet, and man's relationship to whichever of the heavenly bodies he has hitherto been aware of, have ensured that, with each succeeding generation, the question is posed and answered in a different way or, at any rate, in a manner considered most suitable to the understanding of the people of the time.
At present it is the scientific viewpoint which prevails over the religious one where the interpretation of this perennial mystery is concerned, and so it is to science, in its manifold guises, that a majority of people look for a solution to those problems which have vexed the greatest minds of the past. True, unlike religion, science does not and cannot lay claim to omniscience in these matters. But with its largely empirical if not hypothetical basis, it does at least suffice to draw one's attention to possibilities which religion, grounded on a 'rock of faith', would categorically deny, and thus facilitate the way for further and more detailed inquiry. And so the question 'Why is there life on earth?', considered scientifically, demands an answer that will appeal to the contemporary mind in terms it will understand rather than in any previous or outdated terms. Admittedly, I am not a scientist. But, as a philosophical writer, I can at least draw conclusions and formulate hypotheses roughly compatible with a scientific outlook. Hence the most obvious answer to the difficult question we have posed is: 'Simply because life on earth was made possible.'
Of the major planets currently known to man in the Solar System, it is a general assumption that the earth is the only one with any form of intelligent life and, in all probability, any life at all. We no longer believe in Martians or the possibility of autonomous life on Mars, and with our growing interest in the more distant planets we are fast coming to the conclusion that life of whatever kind would be even less likely to exist on them. And so if the earth is the only life-sustaining planet, it may well puzzle some people what the other planets are for, why, in fact, they exist at all.
My own theory of this is, I think, a fairly plausible one - plausible, that is, for those who suffer from a need to justify the prevailing cosmic order-of-things in this part of the Galaxy. Whether or not the other planets exist primarily to serve the earth, it seems that their existence, willy-nilly, guarantees the life-sustaining power of the earth simply by keeping it in a position, relative to themselves, where life is made possible, but where the absence of one or more planets from the prevailing order of things would so alter its orbital distance from the sun as to render life on it utterly impossible or, at the very least, extremely improbable. Therefore we must assume that there exists an interplanetary equilibrium which renders no planet superfluous, but keeps them interdependent in the interests of a given planetary system. Life is made possible on the earth because its distance from the sun - in part established by the gravitational pull of each individual planet - gives rise to the formation of a life-sustaining atmosphere, an atmosphere which could not exist on any planet positioned either closer to or farther away from the sun. Thus life could only be made impossible on the earth by something which destroyed the prevailing interplanetary equilibrium, removing one or more of the planets and thereby necessitating the establishment of a different equilibrium - one which would so alter the earth's position vis-à-vis the sun as possibly to transform it into the rough equivalent of Venus or Mars.
Now if, in consequence of the destruction of Mercury, Venus was 'pulled in' to a much closer position to the sun, it is highly probable that the earth would also be 'pulled in' to a much closer position to it, and that Mars, which would also be drawn-in closer to the sun, might duly find itself in a position where life was made possible there in consequence of the formation, over a long period of time, of a different atmosphere from what it now possesses. Thus Mars would become the rough equivalent of the earth and, willy-nilly, the earth the rough equivalent of Venus, where the maximum surface temperature is believed to be somewhere in excess of 800°F, which is to say about 3¾ times that of boiling point. However, the difference of mass, volume, density, etc., between the various planets would undoubtedly affect their relative positions in the Solar System if such a change were to occur, so we cannot be certain that Mars would necessarily take up a position exactly corresponding to the one currently held by the earth. But an approximation there could well be, and if this approximation of Mars to the earth was such that the formation of a life-sustaining atmosphere became possible, then there would almost certainly be life-forms on Mars after a number of millennia.
But in returning from such 'far out' speculation to the Solar System as it now stands, we cannot be sure to what extent the prevailing interplanetary equilibrium is governed by the sun and to what extent it is also governed by the nearest foreign stars in the Galaxy (as indeed the Galaxy and perhaps even the Universe as a whole). It is, at any rate, unlikely that the Solar System is a self-contained and totally-isolated unit which exists independently of the rest of the Galaxy, of which the sun is but a comparatively minor star. My own theory is that the equilibrium of the Solar System is predominantly governed by the sun but not exclusively so. Likewise, if the core of this planet is molten hot and becomes progressively cooler and harder towards the surface, my own theory as to the mechanism underlining this equilibrium is that there are other planets that also possess a molten core which exists, like the earth's, in an antithetically magnetic relationship to the sun, but which is prevented from being sucked-in to it by the magnetic influences being gravitated by certain other stars in the Galaxy which to a certain extent counteract the sun's magnetic influence and thus produce the tension necessary to maintaining the orbital variations of the individual planets. Of course, I have to admit that all this is purely speculative. For as far as a comprehensive knowledge of the Galaxy and the workings thereof are concerned, we are still in our infancy, not even having acquired a comprehensive knowledge of the Solar System!
However, as to the question 'Why is there life on earth?', I think the fact of its position vis-à-vis the sun must be taken as the most credible answer, so that our attitude towards the other planets should encompass an awareness of their function as a means, effectively, to keeping a life-sustaining atmosphere in existence.
MAGNETIC RECIPROCITIES: If, to expand on the above hypothesis of interplanetary equilibrium, we assume that our planet exists in a magnetically antithetical relationship to the sun, which is literally hundreds of times bigger than the earth, then it is difficult for us not to assume the core of the former to be radically different from the core of the latter, so that the innermost parts of the respective bodies signify a kind of north/south pole antithesis which makes possible a magnetic reciprocity between them. At present we know next-to-nothing about the innermost regions of planets and stars, although it has long been a general hypothesis that the core of the former is likely to be different from the core of the latter. Planets, it is assumed, have a hard core while stars have a soft one, and, at face value, this does seem to be the most sensible theory.
However, my own theory is at present inclined to the contrary assumption - namely that planets have a comparatively soft core and stars, by contrast, a hard one, so that the external reality of both kinds of phenomena may be presumed to exist in an antithetical relationship to their internal reality. Thus the earth would seem to be burning up inside, in its innermost core, while the sun's innermost core is producing the energy and providing the material upon which the outer parts burn. The sun would therefore be burning with a positive energy, i.e. one generated from its innermost core, and the earth, by contrast, with a negative energy, or one dependent upon the materials lying closest to hand, upon which it sustains itself. Thus a magnetic reciprocity would be established between them, by dint of the nature of their respective types of energy.
Furthermore it would seem that if, by circling the sun, the earth exists in an antithetical relationship to it, then the moon, which circles the earth, must of necessity exist in a like relationship to the earth, and one, moreover, which presupposes a natural affinity with the sun. Here again my hypothesis begs to differ from the general assumption relating to the nature of the moon vis-à-vis the sun. For instead of being antithetical to the sun, I would argue that the moon is a kind of dead sun, a weak and negative sun of the night which shines with a borrowed light (from the earth), and the hard core of which forms a positive antithesis to the earth's soft one. Now just as I argue that the earth is largely prevented from being sucked-in to the sun by the competitive magnetic forces being exerted by various other stars in the Galaxy, many of which are far greater than the sun and may be presumed to be in perpetual struggle with one another for mastery over particular planets, so it is logical for me to contend that the moon is prevented from being sucked-in to the earth by the competitive magnetic forces being exerted by various other planets in the Solar System, which likewise struggle with one another for mastery over particular moons and, by attracting the earth's moon to themselves, keep it in motion around the earth.
From this hypothesis it should follow that, just as the largest stars in the Galaxy will have the most number of circling planets, so the largest planets in the Solar System will have the most number of circling moons - a contention which can, in fact, be confirmed by an investigation of the relative number of moons attaching to each of the planets. Jupiter, the largest planet, has twelve moons, three more than Saturn, which is the next largest. Then comes Uranus with its five moons, Neptune with two, the earth with one, and finally Mars with two extremely small moons, the larger of which (Phobus) is merely ten miles in diameter. Mercury and Venus, the two planets nearest to the sun, have no moons, probably because they are too close to the sun to require any, that is to say because it is far too hot for a negative sun (moon) to exist there, the overwhelming positivity of the sun preventing the possibility of any such development. Likewise Pluto, the farthest planet from the sun (though there is another planet or, at any rate, asteroid still farther from it which has only been discovered comparatively recently) has no moon, and probably because, extremes being virtually equal, it is too far away from the sun to require one, which is to say because it is too cold for a negative sun (moon) to exist there, the overwhelming negativity of that part of the Solar System again precluding the possibility of any such development. One cannot really contend that such extreme planets as these have no moons simply because they are too small. For, although a contention of that nature might pass muster with regard to Mercury, which, as the smallest planet in the Solar System, is a mere 2900 miles in equatorial diameter, it is unlikely to do so with regard to both Venus and Pluto, the former, with an equatorial diameter of 7700 miles, being a mere 227 miles smaller than the earth, and the latter, with an equatorial diameter of approximately 9000 miles, being at least 1300 miles larger than the earth. Thus it would seem that size (e.g. mass, volume, surface gravity, escape velocity) and position in relation to the sun are the two principal factors in determining the number of moons a given planet is likely to possess. Also it is worth noting that the largest planets possess the largest moons, Jupiter, for example, possessing two (Ganymede and Callisto) with a diameter of over 3000 miles, Saturn possessing one (Titan) with a diameter of over 3000 miles, Uranus three (Ariel, Titania, and Oberon) with a diameter of 1500 miles, and Neptune one (Triton) with a diameter probably in excess of 3000 miles.
Consequently, there can be little doubt that planets struggle with one another for moons and possess a number of moons in accordance with their capacity to support them. Likewise, it should follow that stars struggle with one another for planets and possess planets in accordance with their supportive capacity. Hence the largest stars should possess either the largest or the most number of planets and thus form the greatest solar systems, the greatest of all presumably being positioned midway between the innermost and outermost stars of the Galaxy, i.e. in a galactic position corresponding to the solar-system positions of the largest planets, rather than actually nearest to the governing star. For it is likely that the actual nucleus of the Galaxy, about which we know absolutely nothing, possesses a star, or ruling body, of such magnitude as to govern not merely a solar system peculiar to itself but, additionally, the courses of the 100,000 million-odd stars which revolve around it in the fulfilment of their respective 'cosmic years'.
Thus we find ourselves confronted by the possibility of a three-way system of reciprocal magnetic influence. We have the central star of the Galaxy which, whatever its actual nature, dictates the paths of individual stars; we have the stars, which dictate the paths of individual planets; and finally we have the planets, which dictate the paths of individual moons. A sun, we have assumed, forms the main positive influence in a given solar system, the planets, drawn into circulation around that sun, being comparatively negative. However, the planets 'take revenge', so to speak, upon their sun by dictating the paths that moons are to take around them in a given solar system. For we must assume that, although the planets are largely negative in relation to their moons, their negativity is nevertheless far more powerful than the weak positivity of the moons' hard core. Now just as a large magnet with a south pole will draw a smaller north-pole magnet towards itself, so the planets are able to govern the orbits of individual moons.
As an afterthought, I should like to point out the similarity of these cosmic speculations with those of Newton and, conversely, their dissimilarity from Einstein's. For, as we know, Newton based his work on the hypothesis of a magnetically-conditioned interplanetary equilibrium which gave central power to the sun in determining the orbital inclinations of the various planets in the Solar System. Einstein, by contrast, developed the theory that space is curved and that all the planets really do is to follow the natural curves mapped out for them, as it were, by the curvilinear nature of space itself. The sun, in other words, was not recognized by Einstein as the all-important magnetic force it had been to Newton. Consequently, Einstein did much to revolutionize the position of scientific speculation in this respect, causing quite a stir in the world of early twentieth-century Western science, and largely because he brought what might be described as an Eastern standpoint to a world which, traditionally, had been dominated by force and mass in a kind of open-society deference to cosmic fact.
Now this is not to say that force and mass was incorrect or a misconception of what literally took place in the Universe. But it was bound to be challenged sooner or later by a standpoint that scorned the brute facts of the matter in favour of a convenient fiction which would enable man, from that time onwards, to perceive the workings of the Universe through a mystical veil, as it were, in deference to transcendental criteria and a refusal, in consequence, to recognize brute reality.
Such an anti-imperialist and anti-autocratic concept as curved space surely has much to recommend it to the future! But intellectual honesty compels me to say that Newton was literally right and Einstein literally wrong, even though his wrongness transpires to being an expedient 'right' so far as the future is concerned, and not one that I, despite the apparent Newtonian bias of this essay, would seriously wish to undermine. Certainly, I do not share Spengler's view in this matter which, however true it may be in relation to the brute facts of the Universe, can only obstruct evolutionary progress by prolonging the kind of system and mentality which the Nazis were subsequently to bring to a head in unequivocal deference precisely to those autocratic and imperialistic tendencies which spring from an enslavement to such brute facts.
UNIVERSE OR UNIVERSES: If the moon revolves around the earth and the earth revolves around the sun and that in turn revolves around the centre of the Galaxy, then it seems feasible to contend that the centre of the Galaxy revolves around the centre of the Universe and that maybe even the centre of the Universe revolves around something greater than itself, and so on, in a process without end. The concept of multiple universes could then present itself to our comprehension as a continuous manifestation of greater and greater degrees of revolution around a central something which is always one step ahead, so to speak, of that which revolves around it.
However, the logic of this does entail a serious flaw. Why, you may wonder, doesn't something smaller than the moon revolve around the moon, and something smaller than the something which should therefore revolve around the moon revolve around it, and so on? Clearly, if there is a downwards limit as to what revolves around what, the moon having nothing revolving around it in the manner of planetary revolution around the sun, then it seems highly probable that there must also be an upwards limit which is established if not at that point where suns revolve around the centre of their particular galaxy, then almost certainly at that point where the centres of galaxies revolve around the centre of the Universe. If the Universe is still understood to imply the totality of existing galaxies, then the concept of multiple universes is still beyond our comprehension and possibly no more than a figment of the imagination.
But if multiple universes do exist, then the Western concept of a unitary universe is smashed to pieces, the totality of galaxies becoming merely a phenomenon appertaining to a tiny area of total space in which other universes - or immense galactic clusters - exist as logical entities at virtually incalculable distances from one another, and revolve in toto around a body or bodies greater than themselves.
Probably the concept of multiple universes derives, in any case, from a more evolved point-of-view which can accommodate the notion of alternative atomicities and thereby avoid being limited to just one monadic absolute such as would correspond, in theological terms, to the Father at the expense not only of the Son but of the Holy Spirit as well, and which would accordingly limit us to a force/mass autocracy in traditional subservience to a unitary cosmos.
BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL: The inorganic may be beneath good and evil but nothing organic is. It is especially in man that the concepts of good and evil attain to their greatest clarity, that what is felt to be either the one or the other is given verbal definition and understood in the context to which it pertains. Everything organic beneath man, from the higher animals to the lower forms of plant life, is also subject to varying degrees and kinds of good and evil, though their respective experiences are merely felt rather than defined as being specifically good or evil. It is only with the inorganic, with the blind forces of wind, rain, hail, snow, heat, etc., that good and evil have no meaning, and therefore cease to apply.
Hence a violent thunderstorm is no more evil in itself than a fine midsummer's day is inherently good. A violent thunderstorm may be interpreted as evil by a dog that hides under the bed or by a man who runs for shelter somewhere other than under the branches of a tree, but it is only such in relation to the organic, especially to the higher forms of organic life. And the same, of course, applies to a fine midsummer's day with a brilliantly clear sky and the sun shining down onto the bodies of holiday-makers enjoying themselves on a sandy beach. They may interpret the favourable conditions as being good, but the fact remains that such conditions are only 'good' in relation to themselves as sentient beings. For beneath the realm of the sentient, good and evil have no applicability.
The good may be defined as that which accompanies or engenders positive feelings, thereby making one conscious of being happy or hopeful. The evil, by contrast, as that which accompanies or engenders negative feelings, thereby making one conscious of being sad or fearful. A fine midsummer's day may well engender positive feelings in one's mind in consequence of its favourable conditions and thereupon be interpreted as a good, a veritable blessing. Thus anything that makes one feel either pleased with oneself or pleased with life in general comes within the realm of 'the good' by dint of the positivity it engenders. However, in the case of a thunder storm it will be found that the noise of thunder, flashes of lightning, torrents of rain, bleak clouds, etc., engender negative feelings in one's mind and are thereupon instinctively interpreted as evil. Anything that makes one's hair stand on end comes within the realm of 'the evil' by dint of the negativity it engenders, the worst experiences being those which engender the most negativity.
If one had a scale for both positive and negative feelings ranging, for example, from 1-10 in each direction, one could ascertain the extent of 'the good' or of 'the evil' being experienced by simply taking note of one's feelings at the time. We do not, of course, have an exact means of doing this, but if we remember that good and evil are inextricably bound-up with our feelings, then we can always acquire an approximate indication as to where we stand in relation to them at any given time. The greatest good will be manifested in feelings of bliss, the greatest evil in feelings of sheer agony or dejection. The degree of pleasure one experiences in any given context stands in direct proportion to the extent of 'the good', the degree of pain, by contrast, in direct proportion to the extent of 'the evil'.
It is foolish to pretend that one should live solely in 'the good', or that evil is something which should be eradicated from the world in the interests of life. On the contrary, so long as there is life, good and evil must co-exist in its interests. One cannot experience pleasure if one knows nothing of pain, one cannot live in 'the good' unless one is regularly accustomed to also living in 'the evil'. Strange as it may seem, every time one experiences evil, i.e. negative feelings, whether engendered by a nightmare, thunderstorm, quarrel, fall, rebuff, cold, stomach ache, toothache, contempt, hatred, anger, worry, derision, etc., one is unconsciously earning one's subsequent good, i.e. positive feelings, whether engendered by a kiss, beautiful dream, glass of wine, pleasant walk, favourite music, pride, complacency, love, respect, admiration, etc.
The interdependence of good and evil is indisputable and cannot be torn apart. One can, of course, deceive oneself as much as one likes. One can call one's evil experiences good and reject the theory that good and evil are inextricably bound-up with the nature of one's feelings. But even then one will be as subject to their influences as anyone else and be unable to do anything to alter them. The nightmares will continue regardless, and so, too, will the physical maladies which regularly beset one. If life was entirely evil, we could condemn it. But the fact that it is also given to good, which is ultimately dependent upon 'the evil' for its authenticity, its place in life, obliges us to accept life's overall logic for what it is, and thus resign ourselves to living it. We may condemn life under pressure of unfavourable circumstances, but we are just as likely to extol it when circumstances become favourable. That is the human condition, and that is what we have to face!
PART TWO: ESSAYISTIC APHORISMS
1. We all possess a tendency to progressively underestimate a book, whether prosodic, philosophic, or poetic, which we had previously read and enjoyed, and mainly because we have forgotten most of what delighted us about it at the time. We may, for example, have been highly enthusiastic about Hamsun's Mysteries at the time of reading it. A year or two later we recall a few shreds of memory associated with our favourite passages from the novel, and these in turn we may couple to a vague recollection that Mysteries was a great book. But largely because our minds have moved on to fresh literary pastures, the initial enthusiasm engendered by this novel has if not altogether disappeared then considerably subsided, and we quickly discover the potential for flippancy, superficiality, indifference, oversimplification, irony, exaggeration, hostility, etc., lurking dangerously beneath the fragile surface of our judgement of it. In truth, one is always obliged to outgrow a previous experience. The author of a brilliant book yesterday may well become the author of a comparatively uninspiring one today - at least, as far as the reader is concerned!
2. If as writers and thinkers you cannot clear the ground of what has gone before, you will never have room to raise your own constructions. All great writers are also destroyers. Not only do they create new works but, in the process, destroy the reputations of old ones, especially those whose reputations were ripe for destruction. But when is the reputation of an old work ripe for destruction? As soon as a writer has found a substantial hole in it, which is to say as soon as he has exposed the lie in it! Then and only then is it in the wrong and he in the right. But until they are 'found out', even the most undeserved reputations, or decrepit foundations, will remain intact.
3. As a final product, a literary translation is never more than a combination of author and translator, a creation which, strictly speaking, stems neither from the one nor the other. Hence Nietzsche's Also Sprach Zarathustra effectively becomes, when translated into English, the product of a third factor - that of the author and translator combined. Thus Nietzsche's work, translated into English by Hollingdale, effectively becomes the work of 'Nietdale', or something of the sort. For we are reading neither Nietzsche's words nor Hollingdale's thoughts.
4. I distinguish between three kinds of literary masterpiece, viz. the small, the medium, and the large. The small applies to a work of under 200 pages in length, the medium to a work of 200-399 pages, and the large to a work in excess of 400 pages. To give an example of each kind of literary masterpiece, I regard Camus' The Outsider as a small masterpiece, Hamsun's Mysteries as a medium-sized masterpiece, and Joyce's Ulysses as a large masterpiece. As might be expected, it is then logical for me to contend Ulysses to be greater than both Mysteries and The Outsider, but Mysteries to be greater than The Outsider.
5. There are always authors who refrain from drawing attention to the works of certain other authors not, as might at first appear, because they don't particularly like their works (or, for that matter, their authors), but primarily because they are acutely conscious of the striking similarities between their own work and the works of these others, or acutely conscious, it may be, of how profoundly influenced they were by them, and therefore do not wish to be regarded as mere plagiarists.
6. There are those who not only regard their collection of books as a kind of 'work of art' in itself, that is to say as a carefully-determined, pre-arranged, and almost regimentally-ordered selection of interrelated material, but, more importantly, as a kind of 'intellectual shrine' in the presence of which they often pay unconscious, and sometimes conscious, homage to the deity of their literary obsessions. One doesn't act unseemly, i.e. flippantly or disrespectfully, in the presence of one's array of choice books. On the contrary, one retains an appropriate decorum which testifies to an almost religious awe and devotion vis-à-vis the proximity of intellectual greatness, as though one's bookcase were a kind of altar to the intellect upon which the vertical columns of books repose in sanctified beatitude.
7. All Christians who genuinely believe in Heaven and Hell should be aware of the fact that the concept of Heaven is only feasible because of the antithetical concept of Hell, and that unless, in strict accordance with the intrinsic dualism of Christian theology, 'the wicked' were destined for Hell, 'the good' themselves would never be able to enter Heaven. In short, their presumed future salvation partly depends upon the damnation of 'the wicked'. They are in great need of 'the wicked' if there is to be any salvation at all.
8. Many of those rather insular people who believe in the concept of a Creator 'up above', a Creator who is Lord of the Universe, tend to overlook the fact that there is undoubtedly a great deal more to the Universe than they naively imagine, and that, in all probability, it also extends to an incalculable extent 'down below'. But let us not ignore the fact that an Englishman and an Australian would each be pointing in opposite directions if they stood in their own country and posited a Creator 'up above'. The Englishman's 'above' would be the Australian's 'below', and vice versa.
9. If one could distinguish between priests who take those aspects of the Bible literally which were better taken symbolically and, conversely, those who take symbolically that which appears literal, I feel certain that, even these days, there would be more priests in the former category than in the latter one. In other words, there would be more priests who would believe material relating, for example, to the Garden of Eden to be an historical documentation of something that actually existed and happened than ones who, taking it symbolically, regard it as an account of man's rise to consciousness and the inevitable break with an unconscious, and comparatively blissful, identification with nature which this attainment necessarily entailed, as, outgrowing the animal plane, man became fully human and was obliged to abandon nature, or the 'Garden', for the toil and struggle of the world, with its redemptive promise. Thus could the clerical wheat be divided from the clerical chaff, as one sought to distinguish the more imaginative and possibly intelligent priests from their comparatively simpleminded, fundamentalist, and Bible-punching colleagues!
10. Man is neither an angel nor a demon but a being who incorporates aspects of both the angelic and the demonic. However, to refer to him as both angel and demon would hardly be nearer the truth! For such arbitrary designations presuppose absolutes, or ideal beings, which exist independently of each other and are thus incapable of mutual reconciliation. All one can reasonably contend is that there is a 'watered-down' angel and a 'watered-down' demon in every man; a part which aspires towards the angelic and, conversely, a part which aspires towards or, rather, stems from the demonic, without ever being in a position to make man either wholly the one or the other.
11. Whether, in fact, there was only one First Cause or, alternatively, numerous First Causes ... is something about which we have no definite knowledge at this point in time. Although scientists are inclined to reason, probably in deference to a monotheistic tradition, in terms of a single First Cause, a 'Big Bang', as it is somewhat colloquially called, the probability is that there were many creative influences, though not necessarily in this galaxy (of which our solar system is but a tiny and relatively insignificant component), but throughout the universe of galaxies as a whole. After all, polytheism preceded monotheism in the evolution of religion from gods to God, and it could be that the concept of a First Cause is simply a more evolved scientific point-of-view than that of First Causes - one analogous to monotheism.
12. It should always be remembered that the use of the term 'First Cause' indicates a scientific point-of-view, the use of the term 'God' or 'Creator', by contrast, a religious one. Strictly speaking, the scientists are no more wrong to reject God than the priests to reject the First Cause. What we are dealing with here are two ways of looking at the Universe, a factual and a figurative, a scientific and a religious, and anyone who specializes in the one can hardly be partial to the other, since they tend to be as mutually exclusive as monarchs and popes.
13. When we say that the sun is in the region of 93,000,000 miles away, we indicate that at least we know in theory what an immense distance the sun is from the earth. As, however, to knowing in practice what 93,000,000 miles are, none of us will ever do so, and consequently our knowledge of this astronomical fact remains incomplete or, at best, highly partial. Modern science presents us with a considerable number of fantastic figures to swallow, many of which are considerably more fantastic than the simple example cited above. Though, for all its breathtaking achievements in this context, we are usually left little or no wiser in the long run!
14. I can state that the average human brain is composed of approximately a billion neurons, or nerve cells, but I cannot expect you to know exactly what a billion of anything actually means, still less how we arrived at this fantastic figure. You will, of course, have the impression that a tremendous number of neurons are involved in the brain's composition. But that, alas, is as much as you can gather! Our fantastic figure will remain an isolated fact, not really telling us very much about anything at all. Thus we are regularly confronted, in modern science, by what may be termed the triumph of facts and figures over meaning. Unfortunately, the greater the lacunae between these facts and figures and our practical understanding of them, the greater is the danger of our becoming the dupes and victims of abstractions which exist beyond the pale of rational comprehension. In this respect, modern science has to a significant extent annexed the premium on faith formerly held by orthodox religion.
15. To suggest that we humans live in a man's world would be as presumptuous as for ants to suggest, assuming they could speak, that they live in an ant's world, or for flies to suggest that they live in a fly's world, since there are as many different kinds of worlds as there are living species. However, it is of course fair to suggest that we live in a man's world insofar as we are human beings, just as it would be reasonable for ants or flies to suggest that they live in their own respective worlds insofar as they are different kinds of insects. But their worlds, the contexts in which they live, would not qualify them to know for a fact that the earth belonged to them, any more than our world, the context in which we live, qualifies us to know for a fact that it belongs to us. All we can really be certain of is that we live on it, and that our lives co-exist with those of the many other species who co-inhabit it. For we are dealing here with an ecological balance which affects everyone ... from the smallest of the small to the biggest of the big, and which ultimately serves to indicate the eternal interdependence of the many species who subsist on a common planet.
16. Our flight from boredom, time, pain, worry, etc., often leads us to turn simple wisdom into complex folly. We are never satisfied that we know enough, even though we usually know far more than we need to know in order to survive, as well as far more than is generally good for us, and are consequently led to undermine the intrinsic value of much of our knowledge. Beyond a certain point knowledge acquires the same treatment as material possessions: the more of it we have the less value do we attach to its individual parts and the more value, by sheer force of habit, to accumulating as much of it as possible. Knowing too much is the spiritual counterpart of possessing too much, and all extremities are equally fatal!
17. The picture one has of the world is so related to the nature of one's intelligence that the most intelligent people will never appear recognizable as such to those of lower intelligence, to those, in other words, who have no compatible criterion by which to evaluate and/or appreciate their intelligence. What one sees of a person of greater intelligence is only what one's intelligence permits one to see, not the greater intelligence itself. Hence one is always restricted to a partial and necessarily misleading perspective of people more intelligent than oneself.
18. An extremist in one context will always be moderate in another. Indeed, one wouldn't know anything about moderation at all unless one was also extreme, unless one's extreme tendencies served both as a goad and as a counterbalance to one's moderate tendencies, since, without their periodic or intermittent prevalence, there would be no moderation at all. Hence an 'extreme man' and a 'moderate man' are both essentially figments of the imagination. It is as impossible to be exclusively the one as it is to be exclusively the other.
19. What one is conscious of in oneself one generally assumes other people to be conscious of as well. A man who is conscious of the fact that he is untidily dressed, as he walks along the street, and who at the same time feels ashamed of it, is virtually compelled, on such an occasion, to assume that every time another person looks at him, particularly when that other person is smartly dressed, it is for no other reason than to secretly criticize him for being untidily dressed. Whatever one feels internally inevitably conditions one's relationship to the external world. One is for the most part inclined to project oneself into the world without in the least being aware that that is all or what one is actually doing.
20. One often feels, after having recovered from an illness, that one has 'paid one's dues' to illness for some time to-come, in consequence of which there is little or no possibility of one's immediately becoming ill again. So one can afford to be a little more reckless or a little less cautious in one's attitude to health for a while - this, at any rate, is how one generally feels at the time. Unfortunately, there always comes another time when, in being more reckless or less cautious, one pushes one's luck too far and consequently succumbs to a fresh illness through the folly of believing oneself to be almost immune to illness, of putting too much confidence in one's health. Yet one isn't necessarily wrong to do so. Perhaps one's deeper self required a fresh illness just at that time in order to correct one's mistaken perspective of the relationship between health and sickness, and thereby rejuvenate one's pleasure in health? For to be well all of the time would probably amount to a grave affliction, something in which few if any of us would be able to take much lasting pleasure, and certainly something of which few if any of us would have much lasting experience!
21. Travelling is another means of increasing one's sense of power. Ultimately, one runs the risk of only associating with people who are widely travelled, the most powerful, in this context, being those who have visited the most number of countries, especially the most distant countries. Like religion, politics, science, sport, etc., travel is just another way of dividing people. And yet, it isn't simply egocentricity or vanity which creates the divisions but, more usually, the need to associate with people who can appreciate one's experiences. Then it is that they can be properly understood and objectively evaluated. For a person with little interest in travel would fail to appreciate the nature of those experiences and thereby considerably detract from one's sense of power. It is, above all, the need to assert, foster, and witness one's power that drives one in search of 'kindred spirits'.
22. How often we find the word 'idealism' used in a context where instead of making matters better, the ideas behind it would ultimately make them worse? Is not 'idealism' one of the most misused expressions in the English language? Indeed, one has to be extremely careful here, to tread one's way with cautious feet, lest one inadvertently upsets the precarious balance of realism and idealism in favour of an idealism that would not only transpire to making matters worse than they were already, but would simultaneously poison one's sense of realism and thereby transform one into the most pernicious kind of idealist. For an idealist in this sense isn't necessarily a man without any realism. On the contrary, he is usually a man who stands reality on its head, in order that he may have the perverse pleasure of disparaging it in the name of an impossible existence. And sometimes he isn't even that; sometimes he is a man who is merely - playing with words!
23. The more one conceives with the mind, the faculty of thought, the less one can perceive with the senses. Eventually, the senses begin to atrophy and the thinker, insofar as he is permitted, either accepts the situation for what it is or, if worried by the noticeable deterioration in the condition of his sensual perception, attempts to give more attention to the senses, even to the extent of becoming a sort of sensualist. But the most likely way for a thinker to do so is, of course, to think on the value of the senses and then possibly write in praise of sensuality, establishing a subtle self-deception in the interests of thought. For a thinker is always prepared to turn his private mistakes or shortcomings into a public lesson, albeit duly disguised under the mantle of objective thought.
24. The more one utilizes one's energies and talents in one context, the less one can utilize them in another. If, as a writer, one spends a few months typing-up a work which one had previously drafted in ink, one will become a fairly good typist but a comparatively poor writer, and, in returning to one's notebook at a later date, will probably have to persevere with a certain degree of creative incompetence or impotence for a few days, while retraining one's mind to slot into the groove of creative writing again. Thus it could be contended that habit rather than talent or intelligence is the fundamental mainstay behind the literary achievements of creative writers. Without routine all is lost. The mind goes where we send it, and if we send it away from our creative tasks, then we have only ourselves to blame when it proves less than responsive to creation at a later date. We shouldn't accuse it, on returning from some other preoccupation, of being insufficiently creative when, as often happens, we hadn't conditioned it to being such!
25. To be a thinker, in the deepest sense of that term, one must have all day in which to cultivate the difficult art of thinking, all day in which to live as a philosopher. One cannot be a thinker in one's spare time, after one has done one's duty elsewhere. For one will not only have to contend with the relative negativity of the evening (assuming one works during the day), the shortage of time in which to collect and develop one's thoughts, the fact of knowing oneself to be an amateur thinker on account of one's diurnal occupation and its possibly humbling effects upon one's psychology (not to mention the humbling effects that certain fellow workers may have on it), the reduction of energy and commitment one experiences in consequence of the effects of that occupation, the possibility of neighbour or family distractions, and the temptation to relax, to indulge in reading, listening to music, watching television, holding conversation, etc., as a natural inclination, but, in addition to some or all of these factors, one will also have to contend with the virtual inevitability that one's objectively-oriented conditioning during the day, far from enhancing one's ability to think deeply, actually reduces it, so that, in spite of any good intentions one may have, one would ultimately be fighting a lost cause. In sum, one can only be a thinker professionally, not in one's spare time!
PART THREE: APHORISMS (MAXIMS)
1. Evil is the root of all goodness.
2. The truth of an obsession is the illusion of free-will.
3. Where men of similar capabilities are concerned the man just past his prime is naturally inferior to the one just approaching it.
4. Sleep is our natural drug.
5. Women teach men the true value of man just as men teach women the true value of woman.
6. Just as man represents the positive principle of life without being entirely positive, so woman represents its negative principle without being entirely negative. A creature who was entirely the one thing or the other would be unable to exist.
7. Procreation is a virtue of 'the negative', copulation a vice of 'the positive'.
8. There are many so-called philanthropists who help one section of humanity chiefly by hindering another.
9. One lies just as much by feigning emotions as by not telling the truth.
10. Nothing is more certain than death, but, then again, nothing is more uncertain than when it will come.
11. A man who shoulders more responsibility than he can reasonably carry is being just as irresponsible as one who doesn't shoulder enough.
12. Truth is never more difficult to accept than when it comes from the lips of someone we dislike.
13. Were it not for the demerits of the ugly one would never be able to appreciate the merits of the beautiful. A man who loves beauty should never be one to rid the world of ugliness!
14. One should always be a good despiser for the sake of those whom one admires.
15. Ignorance is the root of all knowledge.
16. One would only have the right to consider all men equal if one had never felt either inferior or superior to anyone.
17. Astrology is to some
extent a substitute for the Intervention of
18. Were it not for our folly it is highly doubtful that we would take as much interest in wisdom as we do.
19. If there is anything worse than the spectacle of an uneducated man who is ashamed of his ignorance, it can only be that of an educated one who is ashamed of his knowledge.
20. The human kind is no more a particularly pleasant species than it is a particularly unpleasant species. It is a combination of both.
21. Where physical love is concerned, it is mainly the man who gives and the woman who takes. But where emotional love is concerned, it is mainly the woman who gives and the man who takes.
22. There is no good and evil beyond the actions of living beings.
23. Sky is an illusion of the day, space a truth of the night.
24. One can relate to something in everyone, to everything in no-one.
25. What one says about other people usually reflects what one thinks about oneself.
26. A man who lacked a capacity for cruelty could never be genuinely kind.
27. One always overlooks the things one's memory remembers when criticizing it for something it forgot.
28. In order to compensate women for the fact that men are generally physically stronger than themselves nature has generally taken care to endow them with more spirit.
29. Truth is the object of science, illusion the subject of art.
30. We are more readily inclined to forget the wrongs we have done to others than to forget the wrongs others have done to us.
31. Our virtues are often vices in disguise.
32. A rich man with bad health is more unfortunate than a poor one whose health is good.
33. Just as we are ignorant of the extent of our knowledge, so we have no knowledge of the extent of our ignorance.
34. As a rule the head prevails over the heart in man, the heart over the head in woman.
35. A deeply emotional man is as unusual as a highly intellectual woman.
36. Just as one would soon find the daylight intolerable if it wasn't frequently interrupted by the dark, so one would soon find goodness intolerable if it wasn't frequently interrupted by evil.
37. Nature is a sovereign power that will not tolerate being dictated to by man.
38. Where emotion was high the memory is long.
39. If women possess more vivid memories than men it is primarily because they are more emotional.
40. It is as foolish to apply religious criteria to science as to apply scientific criteria to religion.
41. It is better to be rational than irrational but, all the same, one shouldn't endeavour to be too rational.
42. There is a conservative element in every 'radical', a radical element in every 'conservative'.
43. Just as atonal music is against tonality, so an atheist is against theism.
44. An atheist may be someone who disbelieves in the existence of God, but he isn't necessarily one who disbelieves in the Devil.
45. The harder one works the easier one plays.
46. If the future stands in an antithetical relationship to the past, then the present must stand in a like relationship to the absent.
47. People differ as widely in their conception of good and evil as in their conception of truth and illusion.
48. The only consolation for being a realist in practice is to become an idealist in theory.
49. There is nothing painful in life which doesn't ultimately contribute towards one's pleasure in it.
50. For all her emancipation and new-found power, woman remains - and will doubtless continue to remain - in the service of man. Every 'negative' principle exists in a like serving capacity.
51. What Christians call 'faith' is to be found to some extent in every man, though not necessarily within the context of Christianity.
52. Better to be materially poor but rich in spirit than materially rich but poor in spirit.
53. The material universe only exists because there is a spiritual universe behind it - astrology in relation to astronomy.
54. It is as inconceivable that the Universe should be entirely rational as that it should be entirely irrational. It can only be both.
55. Mind is a consequence of matter, not something that exists in an antithetical relationship to it, like a space, a vacuum, or a void. It is formed in and by the brain.
56. Never forget that the two chief functions of the mind, viz. dreaming and thinking, are interrelated, so that he who dreams well is all the better qualified to think.
57. The path of wisdom lies in naturalness. Only the jungle of artifice obscures it.
58. The perfect humanistic society is always evenly balanced between competition and co-operation.
59. No man can consider himself wise who does not accept his folly.
60. One should beware of regarding life and death as antithetical. For the only real antithesis to life is the not-life, the only real antithesis to death is - birth.
61. Were it not for the strength of our pride, it is highly doubtful that we would be able to survive life's many humiliations.
62. Shame of ignorance is a mark of ignorance, not of knowledge.
63. If there is a limitation to human knowledge it isn't something of which we should feel ashamed, any more than a bird should feel ashamed for being unable to fly above a certain height.
64. Inasmuch as it is the duty of politics to take care of the 'body' of a nation, it is the duty of religion to take care of its 'soul'.
65. Doctors and psychiatrists exist in a negative relation to politicians and priests. For whereas the former endeavour to rid the individual of his sickness, the latter endeavour to maintain the health of the community.
66. Status is usually conferred upon a man in proportion to the extent of his intelligence, upon a woman in proportion to the extent of her beauty.
67. One inevitably pays for one's abstract thought with the coinage of concrete experience.
68. To the true Christian a Satanist is less of an enemy than an atheist.
69. There is nothing a comedian is more serious about than the telling of jokes.
70. If one could reverse time one might not make all the same mistakes again, but one would certainly make a lot of new ones!
71. Were it not for his illusions, a scientist would be in no way qualified to deal with truth. Likewise, were it not for his truths, an artist would be in no way qualified to deal with illusion.
72. There are a number of grounds for believing that people of different race but similar temperament have more in common with one another than people of different temperament but similar race.
73. The ego rules by day, but the soul rules at night.
74. The 'objective man' is as much a figment of the imagination as the 'subjective man'. One can only be both.
75. A tolerable life is always found between multitude and solitude, never exclusively in either extreme.
76. There is nothing more attractive to the eyes of a natural man than the sight of a beautiful woman. But, conversely, there is nothing more unattractive to him than the sight of an ugly one.
77. Even in the most intimate of relationships, what we know about a person is usually a very limited affair compared with what is ordinarily concealed from our knowledge.
78. The act of prayer is man's most sublime form of egotism. Through it the weak individual attains to a personal relationship with 'The Almighty'.
79. Sleep is the one phenomenon that no man grows tired of.
80. One best respects the essentially feminine in women by despising woman.
81. Only a teacher can regularly ask a question to which he already knows the answer without feeling particularly eccentric.
82. There is only one certain remedy for a man who doesn't work in accordance with his desires - namely, neurosis.
83. When we cannot boast of our successes we take a perverse pride in grumbling of our failures.
84. To die for a cause is usually to give birth to an effect.
85. It is rather difficult for human beings to appreciate, but the fact nonetheless remains that cats have absolutely no desire to regard themselves as 'cats'.
86. Those who endeavour to take delight in that which doesn't deserve to be delighted in ... inevitably weaken their ability to take delight in what does.
87. There are some things which it is important to take for granted in order not to take everything for granted.
88. If it is true to say that we often forget much of what we intended to remember, it is no less true to say that we often remember much of what we intended to forget.
89. It is questionable whether any great artist has ever been ahead of his day. In matters relating to his art, most of the public have usually been behind it.
90. A truly great artist should possess the ability to arouse the aesthetic sensibility of even the most philistine temperament.
91. Those who imagine that art should mirror life inevitably cast a poor reflection upon themselves.