Copyright © 2011 John O'Loughlin
1. Millennial Projections
2. Musical Evolution
3. Concerning Black Holes
4. A Very Civilized Man
5. The Two Literatures
7. A Public Writer
8. Understanding Sex
9. Space Philosophy
10. Universal Language
11. A Private Introduction
12. Space Journal
13. The Spell
14. Concerning a Tree
15. Musical Theories
16. Two-Way Switch
Recently my trips have been getting better. I no longer panic, as I used to do, when the benevolent stimulant first takes possession of my superconscious mind. Neither do I suffer from those debilitating after-effects to anything like the same extent as before, doubtless because my brain has grown accustomed to accommodating it, and knows what to expect in advance. Nowadays I look forward to each trip with relish, eager to return to that blessed state of contemplation from which I'm temporarily ejected whenever the stimulant's effects begin to wear off, and one slides back into ordinary waking-life consciousness. I still manage to sleep quite well during the afternoon though, and can often remember some dream fragments shortly after returning to full wakefulness. Sometimes one gets a daymare - as, for example, when visions from the pre-millennial past crowd in upon one's subconscious mind, and one perceives strange autonomous shapes parading before the mind's eye. Mostly, however, one's dreams are pleasant - at any rate, relatively so! For no dreams are considered of much spiritual value these days, largely because they pertain to the subconscious as manifestations of sensual indulgence. We dream, but we don't boast of or take especial interest in our dreams. Rather, they're to be endured.
Last night's trip was particularly vivid and engrossing, so pregnant with spiritual content were the static shapes the benevolent hallucinogen revealed to me! I am really quite proud of myself, to be able to create and experience such psychic treasures! I was especially captivated by the globes of transparent jewel-like lustre which issued, unimpeded, from my freed superconscious. They kept changing colour and size, sometimes becoming more numerous, and at other times appearing to expand into one another and thereupon become unified. I liked, too, the sickle moons and strange palatial edifices which emerged, as if from nowhere, to illuminate the darkness. They were like so many sequins studded on a black velvet cushion. I have never actually seen a cushion, but I do believe I've dreamt of one. Certainly I've occasionally heard mention of sequins.
My nearest companions here all seem to be in a good frame-of-mind this evening, eager, no doubt, to leave their mundane thoughts behind them. Companion 6 to my immediate left and Companion 8 to my immediate right are both quiet and positive. They haven't yet sought recourse to the Internal Communications Network which links each of us to the Spiritual Leader of our particular commune. The Spiritual Leader seems relatively quiet himself, though he did offer a few words of encouragement to Companion 12, who apparently didn't sleep very well. More usually he is in contact with the Controllers now, though we lay supermen don't hear what passes between them. They prefer to keep us in the dark, so to think, concerning their plans and intentions for fear that we should become distracted from our own business of cultivating the superconscious as much as is superhumanly possible. Should I wish to convey something to the Spiritual Leader while he's still in conversation with the Controllers, my communication will be diverted to the nearest unoccupied Spiritual Leader in this section of the community. Since there is one Spiritual Leader to every 100 Supermen, and there are 6000 Supermen in our particular commune, I should be guaranteed thought-access to at least one of the ten nearest unoccupied Spiritual Leaders at any given time. Except, of course, when I'm tripping. But then one is usually too engrossed by the heavenly visions being vouchsafed one to be mindful of the Spiritual Leaders anyway - unless, however, one is experiencing a bad trip, when recourse to the Internal Communications Network becomes virtually imperative.... Not that the Spiritual Leaders encourage any of us to use it then. For as often as not they are tripping themselves and sometimes resent being disturbed. Nevertheless, access to a Spiritual Leader, even if not to one's own, remains technically possible at all times of the night and even at certain times of the day as well. If too many companions are seeking spiritual advice at once, however, one may have to wait some time before one can get through to a Leader. Fortunately, I don't experience bad trips all that often, as I hope to have already made clear. Nor, for that matter, does anyone else. Though that doesn't prevent a queue from forming, as it were, to obtain some spiritual guidance - especially since most of those in it have no real business being there at all, considering that they are not usually in such a bad way as they may like to imagine. Recently, however, the Spiritual Leaders have tended to turn a deaf ear, so to think, to certain supermen whom they know, from bitter experience, to be unduly alarmist. Needless to say, this has dramatically improved connections for those who really do need some spiritual advice!
It is strange our being in the dark about the Controllers. None of us has ever seen them because no Superman, whether lay or clerical, has a pair of eyes to see with. Neither do we have ears to hear with or a tongue to talk with. Our internal communications are entirely psychic, as our thoughts are channelled, through the Internal Communications Network, to the Spiritual Leaders. Thus none of us knows what a Controller actually looks like, though we are told that they are humans and walk on two legs. This gives us some idea, but by no means an exact picture. For the nearest we come to seeing human beings is, as I've already intimated, in our dreams, and then more often than not in a distressing context, less because they are particularly nasty than because the dreams are largely atavistic. However, if contact with the Controllers is impossible for us lay supermen, it is of course quite otherwise for the Spiritual Leaders, who are connected to the external environment via special artificially-constructed hearing and speaking devices - the former enabling them to understand what the Controllers are saying to them at any given time, the latter transposing their own thoughts into speech for the Controllers' benefit. This two-way External Communications Network is invaluable to the Controllers; for it enables them to keep in touch with the overall psychic position of the superhuman communes and to regulate their behaviour and attitude towards them accordingly. Provided the Spiritual Leaders don't pass on false or misleading information, we get the trips we deserve.
But we're still literally in the dark at the moment, since the next spiritual flight isn't due to start until shortly after everyone has been woken-up by the Internal Alarm System at 20.00 hrs this evening. I happened to wake up early for once - perhaps by as much as half-an-hour before take off. At one time the trips wouldn't begin until some 2-3 hours after our waking up. But now that they are becoming longer and stronger, with the sleep period becoming correspondingly shorter and weaker, the Controllers waste much less time in getting the spiritual flight under way for us. Admittedly, this may seem odd to anyone not acquainted with our situation. But it conforms to a very cogent logic - namely the need to step-up the spiritual life by degrees while the sensual life ... of sleep ... is cut back, in order to bring us closer to the next stage of evolution, which won't only be above trips but ... above sleep as well, and thus nearer to the supra-atomic absolute of transcendent spirit. My hunch is that we are drawing closer to that climatic day when the old brain will be surgically removed from each one of us and we shall no longer be a collection of superhuman individuals but ... a Superbeing, or tightly-packed cluster of new brains, whose only raison d'être will be to directly cultivate the superconscious through hypermeditation, until it attains to independence of the new brain and so becomes transcendent. Well, we're still at quite an evolutionary remove from transcendence at present. But whether we're at quite such a remove from elevation to the post-visionary consciousness of a Superbeing ... is another thing! My guess is that the Controllers will operate on us at some time during the next decade. Having cut our sleep period down to less than four hours and extended our tripping period to approximately sixteen, which is more than twice what it was when millennial life first began some eighty-odd years ago, there would seem to be little progress left for them to impose upon us in this superhuman context - a fact which would suggest that the major turning-point of the post-human millennium lies just a few years ahead. Certainly, there has been a steady increase in our tripping capacity and spiritual satisfaction during the past 15-20 years. Had someone informed me, 20 years ago, that I would be tripping sixteen hours a day seven days a week at the strength to which we've since grown accustomed, I'd have dismissed it as absolute nonsense! But times have changed, and now that hitherto improbable situation has become a reality. Possibly we shall soon be in spiritual flight for even longer, though I can't imagine us being obliged to go without sleep altogether. Somehow that would be quite impossible, given the psychological and physiological constitutions of our brains. Only when the Controllers elevate us to the superbeing stage of evolution will we or, more correctly, the ensuing Superbeing be in a position to go entirely without sleep. And then because it won't have a subconscious mind to contend with, but be completely above sensual indulgence and, by implication, the unheavenly prospect of having to endure periodic daymares!
None of us can know, at present, exactly what such a perpetually wakeful life would be like, for we are unacquainted with post-visionary consciousness. What we are acquainted with, however, is the highest form of visionary consciousness, as induced by the benevolent hallucinogen, and are generally satisfied by our experiences. We are each of us a supreme artist when we tune-in to our visionary trips and contemplate the translucent gems of psychic art which enrich our superconscious minds. Appearance has therein attained to its highest, most sublime manifestation in a quasi-essential context, and all that remains now is for it to be totally eclipsed by pure essence, with the advent of the superbeingful millennium, for us to approximate to the Absolute. I, for one, am distinctly looking forward to going up higher, much as I appreciate the spiritual flights we have grown accustomed to making on the gentle wings of the divine stimulant. For then there will be no bad trips, and consequently no mental queues forming for the Spiritual Leaders' advice. Indeed, there won't be any Spiritual Leaders either and, thus, no class distinctions. The Superbeing will know only itself, which is, after all, the condition of the Omega Absolute towards which it tends, as it hypermeditates in collectivistic freedom.
But I digress slightly! We Supermen mustn't long too ardently for that which is above us, otherwise we may grow dissatisfied with our present situation, which is by no means a bad one. The Controllers will act when they consider it propitious to do so.... In point of fact, they are acting, in some sense, at this very moment. For the Internal Alarm System has just come into service, to wake the more sensual Supermen from sleep and prepare them for the higher wakefulness to come. Were the Controllers to postpone implementing the next trip for any length of time, as used to be the case, some of those less than mindful Supermen might well relapse into sleep, and thus inhibit the subsequent efficacy of the mind-expanding stimulant. But, these days, the precipitous haste with which we are encouraged to take off on our spiritual flight precludes any such inhibition - a fact which testifies, I should imagine, to the strong desire the Controllers must have to pilot us safely to our journey's end in ever-expanding degrees of pure spirituality. Companions 64 and 97 are no longer as sluggish as before in coming awake, but they are still less than truly responsive, and thus responsible! They have only just communicated, it would seem, with the Spiritual Leader who pertains to our section of the community, to assure him of their full wakefulness. Once he knows that everyone is ready and waiting, he'll give the Controllers the all-clear. Should anyone prove recalcitrant, he will personally intervene with a brisk call to duty, which is slightly humiliating for the companions concerned! Nevertheless, it usually produces the desired effect.
Ah, now I feel a change coming over me as I grow more wakeful! The Controllers have evidently turned us on again and soon we shall be flying in the opposite psychic direction from dreams. This is when we really begin to live, to transcend our mundane selves through complete absorption in the trip, at one with our spiritual potential. I shall soon cease thinking, since thoughts are both superfluous and an impediment to visionary experience. Once properly launched on the spiritual flight, one has no time or inclination for thoughts!
Ah, already I can discern faint luminous shapes appearing before the inner eye on the impalpable screen of my superconscious mind! They never move, for that would be contrary to their omega-oriented essence. But they change colour and shape, they come and go, fuse and expand, retaining one's spiritual attention. Once fully underway, there is no possibility of one's relapsing into sleep. Nor can one crash, though one will eventually have to return to ordinary waking consciousness again as the spiritual journey draws to a close. This is precisely the consciousness, however, from which I'm now in the process of gratefully escaping. I look forward to a psychic bon voyage!
* * *
Their trip has been underway at least three hours now and I've only received one communication and that from Unit 37, who has suffered a little insomnia recently and finds, from time to time, the higher wakefulness a trifle unnerving in consequence. I advised the Controllers, a couple of days ago, to slightly reduce his dosage of LSD, in order not to overburden his superconscious. But I doubt if they took much notice, especially in view of the fact that Unit 37 has been conspicuous, on a number of previous occasions, for a tendency to react and lag behind. They probably thought his insomnia more of a ruse than a reality, and so decided to keep the spiritual pressure on him just in case he began to trail too far behind the others. Bluffing occasionally pays off, though not so much these days as when we were all comparative beginners. The Controllers are more usually sceptical than sympathetic now, because they are determined to encourage evolutionary progress along as quickly as possible, transforming us into a post-visionary life form as much for their own benefit as for ours. After all, some of them get rather bored with the status quo and are anxious, in consequences, to do away with it at the first possible opportunity. Now such an opportunity depends on two vital factors for its ultimate realization: the external and the internal realms must be aligned in developmental readiness for transformation. It is only very recently that the Controllers have mastered the requisite technology for removing the old brain from a Superman and realigning new brains in such fashion as to create a Superbeing. For several decades they laboured in vain, always falling short of their ultimate goal. Yet that wasn't simply because they lacked the requisite technology for effecting such a radical upgrading of millennial life. Indeed, they had possessed the rudiments of such a technology for years. It is just that a Superbeing can't be created until all the Supermen in any given community are brought to a uniformly high pitch of evolutionary development; until, in other words, their respective superconscious minds have been opened up and expanded to a point where post-visionary consciousness not only becomes possible for them or their successors but ... acceptable and intelligible to them as well. By itself, technology isn't enough to establish a post-visionary life form. Rather, it must synchronize with a certain degree of spiritual development in each Superman, else the ensuing operation to transform Supermen into Superbeings will fail in all but appearances. Until recently, the Controllers haven't desired or been able to fully appreciate this crucial fact - with consequences less than encouraging for both themselves and their superhuman 'guinea pigs'.
But now all that has changed and they are more keenly aware of the need to bring the Supermen's spiritual life into approximate harmony with their technological plans. Thus they are now less sympathetic towards and indulgent of spiritual slackness in the superhuman community than was formerly the case and more inclined, in consequence, to scepticism than to either compassion or leniency. This, hopefully, is only a temporary situation on their part; for, to be sure, they've already had to face one or two grave crises concerning individual Supermen, and will doubtless be obliged to recognize and come to terms with similar crises in the foreseeable future, assuming they persist with their current, rather hard-line tactics. I refer, in particular, to the case of Units 15 and 84, who each complained to me of insomnia and a correlative inability to properly integrate their LSD trips, which, in their opinion, lasted too long, under the circumstances, and were too powerful - given their comparatively-weakened psychological condition. I duly passed this information on to the relevant Controllers, adding, on their behalf, that I considered a reduction of their dosage advisable, in view of their evident lack of adequate sleep. It was noted by the Controller directly responsible to my sector of the superhuman community and, for a few nights, the LSD dosage was accordingly reduced. Units 15 and 84 - who, incidentally, weren't alone where this problem was concerned, but were simply the ones whom it affected most gravely - continued, however, to complain of insomnia and to request a further reduction in their dosage. Under previous circumstances and external regimes, such a request, duly passed via me to the Controllers, would almost certainly have been granted. But now that they had perfected the external aspect, as it were, of effecting a transformation in the level of life from superhuman to superbeingful stages, the Controllers were determined to crack down on laggards, or those whom they chose to describe as such, and summarily dismissed my request as detrimental to the overall psychic integrity of the community, which it was in their interests, they maintained, to safeguard from possible sabotage or subversion from within. The upshot of this intransigent attitude on their part was that Units 15 and 84, together with a number of other Supermen in a similar predicament, had their LSD dosages returned to the previous, from their point of view, unacceptably high level ... with, as it transpired, fatal consequences! For within a week both Supermen had suffered nervous breakdowns and had to be removed from the community - never, one suspects, to return to it. However, their more fortunate fellow-insomniacs quickly progressed to a spiritual level on a par with the generality of Supermen, bearing the psychic burden of renewed high-level trips with a pressurized though firm mind. Nevertheless, the lesson - and there have been quite a few similar cases in recent years - must have gotten through to both leaders and led alike, though not, one can only suppose, to the former as much as to the latter! I only hope that Unit 37, with his slight insomnia, will duly pull through, else he, too, may 'go the way' of his less fortunate companions. And who knows but that such victims of evolutionary pressures serve the Controllers, in due course, as the most useful 'guinea pigs' on which to experiment - assuming they can be maintained elsewhere in some kind of alternative living context?
Perhaps I have burdened myself overlong with depressing thoughts? But I can't ignore the plight or problems of my Supermen. I am partly responsible for their individual wellbeing, both spiritual and material, and when something tragic befalls any particular one of them, I feel more depressed by it than anyone else, mainly because, together with my colleagues, I get to know directly about it, whereas each lay superman remains relatively ignorant of what happens to all but a few of his companions in the immediate vicinity. This is a consequence of how the Internal Communications Network is wired - each of the 100 Supermen in my sector being able to contact me but not one another, although some tangential contact on a very localized basis remains possible, some of the time, for those in any given vicinity of the sector. If matters were arranged differently, say more expansively, it is feared that Supermen would become distracted from their spiritual duties and might even collectively succumb to rebellious thoughts or ploys in the face of evolutionary requirement. Clearly, this isn't a situation the Controllers wish to encourage, since they have enough trouble with various individual Supermen without wishing to create additional trouble for themselves vis-à-vis the collectivity. Even I am relatively ignorant of the goings-on of Supermen in sectors outside my own, since as a Spiritual Leader one is brought into psychic contact with just a handful of those from adjacent sectors, and then only in an emergency - as when a Superman from some neighbouring sector desires spiritual counsel during a difficult trip but is unable to contact his own Spiritual Leader either because the latter is already engaged or, just as often, tripping himself, and therefore unavailable. Where more distant sectors of the community are concerned, one's ignorance is total. Our interconnectivity doesn't extend all that far afield.
Admittedly, there are advantages to being a Spiritual Leader, as opposed to a lay superman, perhaps the chief of which is that one doesn't trip every night but, mercifully, every other night, so that one isn't quite so pressurized as the generality of Supermen but is comparatively free, on the non-tripping night, to meditate and thus intimate of the coming hypermeditation in the next evolutionary stage - namely that of the Superbeings. This arrangement enables one to think about various matters if thinking is what one desires or needs to do, and I have certainly taken full advantage of the opportunity this evening, mindful that the Controllers aren't particularly interested in communicating with one now, and won't be listening-in to me in consequence. Usually one does of course meditate; for that is far more spiritually rewarding. But a little thinking now and then doesn't come amiss, and in any case is often provoked by the communications one may have received from certain Supermen. After all, it is largely to be on-hand to receive such communications that one is intermittently exempted from the trip. Now although meditation is important, it plays only a secondary role, being, to put it crudely, a kind of sideline. Whether in decades to come - assuming our status as Spiritual Leaders lasts for decades - we shall still be exempted from nightly tripping in this fashion ... remains to be seen. Though it's not impossible that the Controllers will eventually bring us into line with the majority of Supermen and oblige us to abandon our mediating and meditating roles in the process, always assuming that we can be brought into line with them - a thing which, for a variety of reasons, must remain open to doubt! The only alternative would seem to be our destruction when the generality of Supermen are transformed into a superbeingful entity. However, that isn't something I should like to dwell on, even though there may be a grain of consolation in knowing - if one could know for certain - that one's brain wasn't destined to be operated on and wouldn't therefore be fated, in its ensuing new-brain guise, for subsequent evolutionary struggles and experiences, about which, in the nature of things at present, one can have only the faintest inkling.
But that is rather negative, and I have a duty to remain as positive as possible, if only for the sake of those Supermen to whom I'm personally responsible. They are now some four hours into their current trip, and I have yet to receive an additional communication to Unit 37's. At this rate, I might as well be tripping myself, though etiquette demands that one remains at the ready and, anyway, I don't particularly mind being obliged to think or meditate instead. I reckon the Controllers must be afraid that if we Spiritual Leaders trip-out as often as the generality of Supermen, we shall be unable to communicate with them as they would wish, since too much under the stimulant's hallucinogenic influence. They require middlemen, as it were, to liaise with them from the vantage-point of a kind of spiritual no-man's-land in-between the opposing sides, and wouldn't want us to become too spaced-out and, hence, at too great a psychological remove from them. We are wired into the community in such a way as not to threaten, by our less uniform spiritual performance, its overall psychic integrity. Thus we're spokesmen for the superhuman flock, but aren't directly of the flock. I fear that we shall be destroyed when the time comes for Supermen to be superseded by Superbeings. Or perhaps...? Yes, the thought now occurs to me that maybe we will be removed from our respective sectors and turned into a separate community of lay supermen, with but a relatively tiny percentage of us still being obliged to play the role of Spiritual Leader to it? Well, that may seem unduly optimistic, but one shouldn't rule that possibility completely out-of-account. The only snag is ... could we become genuine Supermen after having functioned as go-betweens for so long? And, to be perfectly honest with myself, I can't be confident that we could.... Ah, something is happening at last! "Hello, A5 receiving."
"SL5, this is Unit 13, Sector 4, thinking through. I'm beginning to grow bored with my trip and wonder whether you could obtain me a stronger dose in future. Psychic contents aren't coming across as clearly or sharply as I'd like."
"Well, just make do with what you've got, Unit 13, and I'll try my best to get your quota upgraded."
"Much obliged, SL5."
So what do you know! And not even one of my own sector! These precocious Supermen can be just as big a problem for the Controllers to handle as the laggards!
* * *
Apart from the regular beat of the large mechanical pump, which was functioning as normal in its capacity as life-sustainer for the 27th Superhuman Community of New Cork North-West, the only other sound for the past twenty minutes had come from the tall, thin, elderly comrade to Controller 16's left, who was still engaged in dusting the control panels to each of the three large computers that stood against the wall there. Not just the sound of the small mechanical duster in his bony hand, whining unobtrusively as it sucked-up whatever dust its insatiable mouth came into contact with, but the no-less unobtrusive sound of Controller 9's footsteps and body movements reached Controller 16's acute ears, where they were channelled to a mind that was becoming increasingly bored by a lack of both interesting thoughts and interesting stimuli, intellectual or otherwise, coming to it from without. Languidly, Controller 16 noted on his plastic wrist-digital that it was barely 08.00 hrs, which meant that he still had another half-hour on duty before he could retire to his living quarters and settle down to some diverting holography or computer graphics, such as few people bothered to contemplate these days but which, more out of perversity than genuine interest, he nonetheless persisted in contemplating, if only to prepare himself for a decent sleep. Later, if Comrade 98 was in the mood, he would recount his recent social escapades with Comrade 52, who had a reputation for eccentric behaviour. Comrade 98 was bound to be intrigued, providing, that is, he wasn't tripped-out like a Superman and in need of supervision - as occasionally happened when he was off duty! At present, however, Comrade 98 was sitting in front of the dashboard in one of the remoter parts of the Tripping Centre, mindful, no doubt, of his duties as Principal Controller for sectors 25-30 of the Superhuman Community in question.
At that moment the whirr of Controller 9's mechanical duster ceased and, with delicate footsteps, he returned to his customary post beside his rather bored colleague, bringing with him the now dust-gorged contraption which, with scant formality, he duly dispatched into its container at the base of the dashboard-cum-desk-cum-drawer in front of which he was now standing.
"Well, Comrade 16, how goes it at present?" he politely asked. "Looking forward to your break?"
Comrade 16 nodded his clean-shaven head and simultaneously answered the first question by informing his senior colleague that 'it', meaning life or things or duty, was still going rather quietly. There had occurred but one communication from Sector 3 of the community in the past forty minutes, which totalled, with Sectors 4 and 5 included, no more than eleven communications during the entire session - from 02.30 through to 08.00 hrs.
"Very quiet this morning," Comrade 9 agreed, as he sat down in front of his dashboard. "They were busier during part of the first session than we've been throughout the entirety of the second. Which is pretty much to form these days."
Comrade 16 nodded in tacit confirmation and remarked that Coms. 11 and 35 of the first session had noted twenty-four communications from 20.30-02.30 hrs, most of them from Superlink A2, who had to cope with an overspill from Sectors 1 and 3, as well as attend to his own. Superlink A5, on the other hand, had been relatively quiet, despite his having to stand-in for Sectors 4 and 6 when required. Only two communications from him, and that late in the first session - at 00.15 and 01.30 hrs respectively. Otherwise, merely routine communications on the hour.
"I expect Comrades 8 and 54 will receive more communications than we've had, when they come on duty for the third session at 08.30 hrs," Comrade 9 opined.
"Yes, the late-period trip can be rather more exciting from a Controller's standpoint," Comrade 16 confirmed, drawing on a combination of experience and imparted information from successive third-session comrades. "It's then that some tripping units begin to weary of or grow impatient with things appertaining to their respective psychic experiences. No two units ever share exactly the same trip, you know."
The pigtailed head of the Senior Controller bobbed in sagacious acknowledgement of that fact! "Each Superman is virtually a law unto himself," he declared, a shade wistfully. "Not that their experiences differ to any marked extent. After all, one trip is pretty much like another when you come down to the basic psychological facts of the matter. But, of course, not all brains respond to the stimulant in exactly the same way. The better-constituted ones respond to it with more alacrity, as a rule, than do the less well-constituted ones, whose superconscious is not so far evolved. Also you have to make allowances for the sleep record of any given tripping unit. A Superman whose subconscious has inflicted a daymare upon him during the afternoon will be less well-disposed towards LSD in the evening than those of his companions who dreamt pleasantly. If he recalls parts of his daymare during the trip, he may slant his attitude towards it in a negative direction, and that, as we both know, can lead to a less than satisfying experience!"
"Though if the daymare-haunted Superman gets in touch with his Spiritual Leader in good time, the latter should be able to recondition his attitude and thus return him to a calmer frame-of-mind," Comrade 16 remarked with purposeful calm. "Superlinks A2 and A5 each came through once during our session with accounts of this problem, which, fortunately, they seem to have solved."
"Just as well for us!" Comrade 9 rejoined, a wan smile on his thin lips. "Otherwise we'd have had to bring the Supermen concerned down from their trips with a local injection of counter-acid solution, before their negative attitudes began to affect those in their respective vicinities." He paused a moment, as if absorbed in deep reflection, then asked: "What about the first session? Did Comrades 11 and 35 receive similar communications?"
Comrade 16 checked through the electronic record notes of the session in question and answered affirmatively. "That's usually the worst session for this particular problem," he continued, "because the closest in time to the Supermen's sleep period. With the second and third sessions, by contrast, it's generally the insomniacs who begin to pose problems - our session providing three cases of psychic strain again. It's a wonder we don't inject more powerful sleeping draughts into them."
Comrade 9 sighed faintly while gently shaking his aged head. "We used to many years ago," he confessed, for the benefit of his junior colleague, "but these days we're afraid of the consequences of such an action on their tripping capacity. It wasn't simply that a drugged Superman would sleep longer than his companions; he'd sleep deeper as well, a thing which had a counter-productive effect on the quality of his trip, and tended to undermine the psychic integrity of those tripping units in any given sector of the community where heavily-drugged insomniacs were to be found. So gradually we cut down on sleeping draughts, until, as per current procedure, we scarcely ever apply them at all - not even in genuine cases of insomnia, such as are still encountered from time to time. The emphasis in the superhuman millennium is on upward self-transcendence, in consequence of which it would be morally wrong of us, and bad for the more spiritually-advanced tripping units, to simultaneously cater to downward self-transcendence in all but a minor and, on the whole, tangential way, such as pertains to the occasional application of weak sleeping draughts to those whose persistent insomnia might otherwise pose a subversive threat to the psychic wellbeing of the community in general." Having said which, Comrade 9 relapsed into one of his customary reflective silences, which was just as well from Comrade 16's point of view anyway. For, within less than a minute, a communication came through from Sector 5 of the community, obliging him to resort to headphones as he acknowledged its reception.
"Go ahead, A5, this is Con. 16 receiving."
"For the second time this day, I must report that a Superman has requested an increase in his dosage of LSD," the artificial voice of the superlink in question responded. "And all because he claims that his current dosage is insufficient to last as long as he would like. He's beginning to lose height in his spiritual flight and is afraid that the next few hours, before he can return to sleep, will be less than rewarding."
"Which unit is this?" Controller 16 asked, as he recorded the communication in shorthand on his computer (the voice recorder normally employed in this service being temporarily out-of-order).
"Unit 63 from my sector," A5 promptly answered.
"Very good A5. I'll look into this request and see what can be done."
The amber communication light on the dashboard in front of him duly receded and, removing his headphones, Controller 16 turned to his senior colleague and said: "Thus has another tripping unit requested a stronger fix! Apparently, the first request A5 put through on this subject concerned Unit 13 of Sector 4, and it came through to Comrade 35 at 01.30 hrs," he added, consulting the record notes of the previous session.
"There would seem to be a growing body of discontent, as it were, with current LSD dosages in certain sectors of the community," Comrade 9 observed, as he scanned other recent record notes for Sectors 1-5 on the bright visual-display screen in front of him. "At least 10% of the 500 tripping units in those sectors are dissatisfied with their current doses - as compared with 20% who take the opposite view, for one reason or another, that their trips are too protracted and powerful. Whilst in-between, some 70% who appear resigned to what they get."
Comrade 16 noted the respective percentages in his computer and opined that the only reasonable thing they could do now was to remove the precocious tripping units from the sectors in question and create a more advanced community out of those and other such units from other nearby sectors, in accordance with the newly-discovered technique for removing Supermen from any given community and transferring them elsewhere.
Comrade 9 grunted judiciously and agreed, over a brisk nod of his head, that that was probably the most viable solution these days. "Thus are 'the quick' weeded-out from 'the slow'!" he added, not without a flicker of amusement. For in his mind's eye he saw comrades at work removing a brain from 'the tree', as the support system was colloquially called, and transferring it, with the assistance of a special trolley on which a small mechanical pump and an oxygen container deputized, along with plastic tubing, for the collective sustain apparatus of its previous life-support system, to a new Tripping Centre where, hopefully, it would be reintegrated, though this time into a spiritually more advanced, and hence elitist, superhuman community. Thus did a Superman 'go up' in the post-human millennium. Although, as Comrade 9 well knew, it was also possible for such an entity to 'go down' in it, and more than a few had recently been transferred from an average community to a community of laggards, where they would thenceforth exist on the bottom rung, so to speak, of the superhuman ladder, until such time as evolutionary pressures forced them up again or even, in the paradoxical nature of things, transformed the entire laggard community into an above-average one.
These measures, however, were still relatively novel and thus in the experimental stage. Nevertheless a pattern was gradually emerging which reflected, across a wide spectrum of Tripping Centres, a disparity in spiritual development, and it now seemed not unlikely that some communities would attain to a maximum superhuman development and undergo superbeingful transformation long before others, so that Supermen and Superbeings would probably co-exist in the post-human millennium for a considerable period of time. The question was: How long would it take a Superbeing, or new-brain collectivization, to attain to transcendence? For if transcendence could be attained to within 50-100 years of the creation of a Superbeing, there might well be a number of laggard superhuman communities still in existence which could find themselves threatened with destruction by the proton-proton reactions or explosions stemming from it. And even if it took longer than a century for any given meditating unit to evolve towards complete electron freedom, and all superhuman communities had in the meantime been transformed into Superbeings, might not the first new-brain collectivizations to attain to transcendence pose a holocaustic threat to those still hypermeditating towards it? If a fierce proton-proton reaction were to occur in the wake of departed electrons, it might sweep from centre to centre, engulfing the less-evolved Superbeings in a destructive apocalypse of raging flame. Or perhaps the latter could be safely sealed off from such a possibility?
At present no-one could tell, because the superbeing millennium was still some decades away, even in its inceptive manifestations, and no Superbeing had as yet been created. In all probability, transcendence would take longer than a century to occur, and there wouldn't be too great a disparity between the time-scale appertaining to the creation of one Superbeing and another - though it now looked certain that some disparity would duly arise, if only because the Controllers would be unable to operate on all superhuman communities simultaneously, for physical as well as spiritual reasons. But, of course, the laggards were constantly being encouraged forwards, while the precocious were being restrained from becoming too precocious, so that the disparity between them was never allowed to become too great. The least advanced of all Supermen, ironically, were the Superlinks, who didn't have to trip-out as often as the others. But it was an accepted fact, if carefully guarded secret, among the Controllers ... that these Superlinks would probably have to be disposed of in due course, since they couldn't be integrated into a superbeingful entity with new brains that were less highly evolved than the generality of Supermen. And to attempt to create a laggard community of tripping units out of them would be impractical, because such a fledgling community would lag too far behind even the worst laggards of the existing communities, and probably succumb to the negative side-effects of superbeing transcendence before they were even ripe for transformation into a new-brain collectivization themselves. Thus it seemed they would be invalidated and their Controllers along with them, which wasn't a very encouraging prospect for Comrade 9, who preferred not to envisage it. Indeed, the sooner all tripping units were transformed into Superbeings, the safer it would be for the Controllers. For if they didn't delegate supervisory responsibility to their computers and robots in good time, they might well become engulfed by the hells of forsaken protons, too! Better, reasoned Comrade 9, for Controllers to die quietly and calmly in their own time. Since there wasn't much fresh human propagation going on these days (the new generation of Controllers probably being the last), it was imperative for them to upgrade the Supermen within the next 10-20 years, before humanity completely died-out and no-one remained in service to create the meditating units and set them directly on course for transcendence and, thus, definitive salvation in the heavenly Beyond.
It was with such pessimistic thoughts in mind that Comrade 9 almost jumped with fright when he heard, as out of a corner of his consciousness, a voice saying: "Well, our session has come to an end, so we'd better retire and leave the precocious tripping units to their dosage dissatisfactions for the time being."
"What, is it 08.30 hrs already?" the elderly controller responded incredulously.
"And only twelve communications to leave on record, not counting the routine ones," Comrade 16 declared. "Ah, here comes the new shift now! We'd better clear out before they detain us for questioning! It looks like Comrade 8's going to be in my seat and Comrade 54 in yours."
"They're damn clever guys," Comrade 9 remarked, as he vacated his seat. "And as good as anybody at transferring Supermen from one centre to another. We'll be leaving our duties in capable hands there!"
"Leaving our problems, would be nearer the truth!" chuckled Comrade 16, who, having acknowledged the incoming controllers from a polite distance, dutifully followed his senior colleague towards the nearest exit.
Professor Burke listened in silence to the Shostakovich symphony he was playing on his stereo before asking me, as if in need of reassurance: "Do you listen to much orchestral music yourself these days, Justin?"
"Yes," I replied, glad of an opportunity to speak again. "Although I tend to listen to as much Modern Jazz in the evenings - always using headphones instead of speakers."
Professor Burke looked puzzled. "Why is that?" he asked.
"Partly because the acoustics in my room aren't the most suitable for musical appreciation, but also because I believe that using headphones constitutes a superior way of listening to music."
The professor looked even more puzzled. "How did you reach that belief?" he wanted to know.
"By bearing in mind the distinction between appearance and essence," I straightaway replied. "The object of evolutionary progress, so far as I'm concerned, is to extend the sphere of essence at the expense of appearance, and this applies as much to the evolution of music and its appreciation as to anything else. By using headphones, music is brought closer to one's head, one even gets the impression that it's actually playing in one's head, which, though a delusion, is nevertheless conducive to the progress of musical appreciation, as essence would seem to have triumphed over appearance."
The professor's puzzlement appeared to have reached a veritable climax by now. "How d'you distinguish between them?" he demanded.
"Well, essence pertains to the spirit and is therefore an internal phenomenon, whereas appearance pertains to the senses and is accordingly external," I replied. "Music played through headphones approximates to essence by seeming to be internalized, whereas music played, by contrast, through speakers comes at one from outside the self and can therefore be equated with appearance. Now my contention is that it's better to listen to music which seems to come from inside one's head than to music which is distinct from one, and precisely because its evolution and appreciation presuppose, in advancing, greater degrees of interiorization. The apparent stems from the solar roots of the Universe, in complete contrast to that which aspires, as essence, to the future consummation of evolving life. Thus as we approximate more and more to the latter, it's logical that headphones should supersede speakers as the appropriate means through which to cultivate ends, which is to say, listen to music."
Professor Burke appeared to have grasped the gist of my brief exposition and now looked slightly less puzzled than before. I had almost convinced him, he admitted, although he made it clear to me that his personal preference for speakers was unlikely to be undermined in consequence! He was far too set in his ways for that! "And do you prefer orchestral music to Modern Jazz?" he asked, having decided to continue the conversation along similar lines.
"Frankly, it depends on the type of orchestral music or Modern Jazz in question, as well as on my mood, so I cannot claim to be entirely consistent in my musical preferences," I confessed. "But I know that I have too much culture, in a manner of speaking, to be greatly given to the prospect of only listening to Modern Jazz. Even after long confinement in the metropolis, which I know to be basically hostile to my environmental needs, I haven't become completely proletarianized or, for that matter, Afro-Americanized. Yet I couldn't resign myself to orchestral music alone, for I'm essentially too ambivalent, by nature and circumstances, to be capable of an exclusive preference. A somewhat 'Steppenwolfian' predicament, if you know anything about Harry Haller."
The professor smiled guardedly. "Not very much," he confessed. "Although I've read a little Hermann Hesse. What particularly intrigues me about what you've just said is the implication that Modern Jazz is somehow proletarian, whereas orchestral music, even when Soviet, is not. Can you justify that?"
"I think I can," was my fairly self-confident response. "The chief distinction at issue lies in whether the music is naturalistic, and therefore acoustic, or artificial, and therefore electric. Clearly, an orchestra should be described as naturalistic, whilst a typical modern-jazz group, being electric, can only be comparatively artificial. That, as I say, is the chief distinction."
"But surely Shostakovich's symphonies are proletarian even though acoustic?" Professor Burke objected.
I resolutely shook my head. "Shostakovich's symphonies are no more proletarian than the orchestral works of any other composer," I retorted. "And for the simple reason that they're comparatively naturalistic, not artificial, and thereby pertain to a bourgeois stage of evolution."
"The Soviets would surely have objected to that opinion," the professor countered in no uncertain terms.
"Maybe," I conceded. "But, there again, the leaders of Soviet Russia had little option but to pass orchestral music off as proletarian, since they lived in what purported to be a proletarian state. Yet the fact nevertheless remains that serious music which is not electric but acoustic is fundamentally naturalistic, and by implication bourgeois, whether or not it's called proletarian."
"Even with an anti-formalist, and hence programmatic, bias?" the professor queried, still evidently unconvinced.
"Even then," I assured him, "since the anti-formalist line only resulted in the bitter pill of bourgeois music being coated, as it were, in a thin layer of proletarian sugar, which usually took the form of a programmatic musical commentary on some Soviet achievement and/or a verbal dedication to it. Hence Shostakovich's October 1917 symphony, which you're now playing. A quite remarkable work by any standards, but not a genuinely proletarian one! For proletarian music, properly so-considered, is distinguishable from bourgeois music by being electric, as already remarked. I have yet, however, to mention two other important distinctions which should be borne in mind when we endeavour to ascertain the class status of any given type of music. The first is that proletarian music reflects a materialistic contraction over bourgeois music by utilizing a group or band of, usually, between three and six musicians. Compared with the two hundred or more players in a modern orchestra, this is a significant distinction which represents a degree of evolutionary progress that should not be underestimated! For the contraction of the material side of the world, in whatever context, is the antithetical corollary of the expansion of its spiritual side. In the case of the development from orchestras to groups, we are witnessing a sort of convergence from the Many to the One or, rather, the Few, with the numerous instruments and instrumental combinations of the former being superseded by the comparatively few instruments and instrumental combinations of the latter. However, while the material side contracts, the spiritual side expands through utilization, by the jazz group, of instruments which produce an artificial as opposed to a naturalistic sound, and consequently result in a more transcendent music which aspires, in a manner of speaking, towards the divine flowering of evolution, rather than stems from the diabolic natural roots of life. The spiritual also expands in a second way - namely, through the emphasis jazz musicians generally place on essence rather than appearance in the retention, through memory, of the music they're playing, instead of reliance on a printed score. This is the other important distinction between bourgeois and proletarian music. For the bourgeois musician, be he a member of an orchestra or of a chamber ensemble, is dependent on music scores, which means that he is partly tied to appearances. The proletarian musician, by contrast, memorizes his music, and so approximates it to essence, which reflects a superior development in the gradual interiorization of music, as required by evolutionary progress. There is, however, an exception where bourgeois musicians are concerned, and that is the concerto soloist, who normally memorizes his part whether he be a pianist, a violinist, an organist, a cellist, or whatever. Thus he is distinguishable from the rest of the musicians with whom he is performing not only by dint of his greater part, but also by dint of his commitment to essence rather than to appearance. The fact that he plays his concerto part on an acoustic instrument, on the other hand, keeps him tied to the naturalistic, and hence to the realm of bourgeois music."
Professor Burke gave me the impression of being grudgingly impressed by what I had just said, and ventured to inquire whether, in that case, jazz musicians who played acoustic instruments were not fundamentally bourgeois, too?
"In a sense, I suppose they generally are," I replied, following a brief reflective pause, "because the use of, say, an acoustic as opposed to an electric guitar would tie the musician in question to the naturalistic in pretty much the same way that a concerto performer was tied to it, and so preclude his producing a truly transcendent sound. In Modern Jazz, however, the emphasis is on electric guitars, as on electric keyboards, so regular use of an acoustic instrument tends to be the exception to the rule. Most jazz guitarists retain a distinct bias for the electric, which is only to be expected, considering that Jazz is essentially a proletarian music and therefore calls, appropriately, for electric instruments. And it usually transpires that the finest guitarists are the most consistently transcendental, because exclusively, or almost exclusively, electric. Those who regress to acoustic instruments simply produce an inferior sound - naturalistic as opposed to artificial."
The professor's face suddenly reflected a degree of acquired enlightenment at this point, and he briefly shook his head, as if to say: 'Well, I never!' Then he asked: "So what of those modern composers like Stockhausen, Boulez, Bedford, and Kagel, who make use of electronic means in the production of their so-called avant-garde music - are they proletarian, too?"
I could tell by his sceptical tone-of-voice that he rather doubted it, but I was fairly convinced to the contrary and answered: "It would depend on whether or not their music was exclusively electronic, since an avant-garde musician who was exclusively dedicated to atonal electronics would, in my view, amount to a proletarian composer. Yet there doesn't seem to be all that many such musicians in action in this rather transitional age. For even Stockhausen, who until his recent demise was one of the world's most radical composers, also uses traditional means, including orchestras and scores. Consequently most avant-garde composers tend to be bourgeois/proletarian rather than genuinely proletarian in their musical integrity. Some, like Stockhausen, will be more artificial than naturalistic, because more electronic and atonal than acoustic and tonal, whereas others, like Tippett, will be more naturalistic than artificial, because more acoustic and tonal than electronic and atonal."
"To the best of my knowledge Michael Tippett's music isn't electronic at all, Justin," the professor corrected.
"No, but then his orchestral music often has a degree of atonality which places it in a kind of transitional, semi-essential context, albeit one firmly rooted in the apparent. His Concerto for Orchestra is a case in point, being typically bourgeois/proletarian in its mixed tonalities and atonalities. But, fundamentally, Tippett is musically conservative and therefore he doesn't depart from dualistic or bourgeois precedent to any radical extent, scarcely at all in a majority of his works. At best, he could hold his own with a number of moderate Continental composers, like Honegger and Martinu, but he wouldn't wish to emulate composers like Stockhausen or Kagel who, in any case, appertain to a more advanced transitional, i.e. bourgeois/proletarian, civilization. Only, as a rule, from countries like Germany, Italy, and the United States does one get the most radical musical experiments, since they're in the front rank of contemporary civilization, having superseded Britain and France on the dualistic level. A majority of British composers are musically rather conservative, producing, like Walton, neo-romantic or neo-classical or some other more traditional type of bourgeois music. Of course, from a conservative point-of-view their music is often excellent, as anyone who has listened to Walton's or Berkeley's or Rubbra's more tuneful works will doubtless agree. But if it is one thing to bring a given tradition to a head, it's quite another to forge a completely new orientation, and this, as a rule, the British are reluctant to do!"
"Not surprisingly, Justin," opined Professor Burke, allowing himself the brief luxury of a passing smile, "since British civilization is rather more static and reactionary, these days, than dynamic and revolutionary."
I nodded affirmatively. "Whereas the German and American civilizations are still capable of some musical progress," was my due comment. "However, there are limits to the degree of musical progress they can evolve, limits which in part stem from the transitional nature of such civilizations and in part from the instrumental resources, some of which are rather crude, to hand. I do not anticipate a consistently full-blown transcendental approach to music before the official beginnings of post-dualistic civilization become manifest in the world."
"And presumably such an approach to music would be both electronic and atonal," the professor suggested.
"Indeed," I replied. "With a corresponding materialistic reduction of instruments to a bare minimum and total elimination of scores in the interests of greater interiorization, as required by the preponderance of essence over appearance in proletarian music - which will mostly be listened to through the medium of headphones."
"And what of Modern Jazz - how will that develop?" an ever-curious Professor Burke wanted to know.
"It will probably become increasingly atonal and electronic, thus tending to become indistinguishable from the best proletarian music or, rather, to evolve into the latter," I boldly speculated. "For Modern Jazz is fundamentally a secular rather than a religious music, a kind of musical equivalent to Socialist Realism or Modern Realism, whereas the best electronic music tends to reflect a religious bias ... commensurate with its atonality, which places it in a position equivalent to abstract or transcendental art, as developed, in the past, by painters like Mondrian and Kandinsky, but, in the present, by light or technological artists like Kepes and Peine. A paradox really, in that quite a lot of Modern Jazz is concerned, at least intermittently, with transcendent values - as mainly signified by meditation."
"Which, presumably, indicates that it's evolving towards musical transcendentalism?" the professor solemnly conjectured.
"Yes, but from a tonal rather than an atonal base, and thus in an apparent rather than an essential context," I contended. "After all, tonality in music is equivalent to representation in painting or to narration in literature, and is therefore aligned with the apparent, which is why, despite its transcendental pretensions, I described Modern Jazz as Social Realist. The bulk of it is certainly tonal, and consequently exists on a lower, i.e. popular, evolutionary level than the atonal. Eventually Modern Jazz will cease to exist, as people gravitate from the apparent to the essential in accordance with the demands of evolutionary progress on the post-dualistic level. Everything secular will be transcended in the wholly religious music of the future, just as Socialist Realism will be eclipsed by the relevant types of transcendental art, as appropriate to a full-blown post-dualistic civilization. From being concrete, or partly concrete, everything will become abstract, pursuing the path of maximum essence, even though a wholly essential art is unobtainable through apparent means. Headphones may, for instance, give one the impression that the music is taking place inside one's head, but such an impression still falls short of reality, and must inevitably remain so. Only with the ensuing post-human millennium will art become completely interiorized. But by then - possibly some 2-3 centuries hence - all forms of musical and pictorial creation will have been superseded by the synthetically-induced artificial visionary experience of the Superman. In the meantime, however, we will require music as before, since we'll still be men and thus dependent on the senses, including the sense of hearing, for our aesthetic appreciation. However, once we completely transcend the senses, as brains artificially supported and sustained, we'll also transcend the fine arts. But throughout the duration of the next and final human civilization, we can do no better than to spiritualize them to a greater extent ... using apparent means."
The professor coughed slightly and admitted, with a brief shrug of his shoulders, that I may well be right.
CONCERNING BLACK HOLES
(From a journal by the writer Jeff Stafford)
I often wonder whether those so-called Black Holes in space, to which astronomers often draw our attention these days, are really collapsed stars, as is supposed, and not Spiritual Globes tending towards ultimate unity in some transcendental Beyond. Would a collapsed star really leave a black hole behind, I ask myself? And, despite my respect for professional opinion, I remain sceptical. The Universe is undoubtedly a strange place, but is it necessarily as strange as some authoritative people would have us believe? I mean why, for instance, should Multiple Universes come to supplant the old universe, which, in any case, is probably the only one? I cannot, as yet, find a satisfactory answer to this question, since there is no clear evidence that Multiple Universes do in fact exist, even though some people now talk of them.
Yes, the thought grows on me that Black Holes could well be Spiritual Globes rather than collapsed stars. After all, there is no reason (short of ignorance) to assume that transcendent spirit, to which certain more advanced life-forms could already have given rise, is necessarily bright and shiny, like a star. If you associate God with the Clear Light of the Void, then you might think so. But, to me, God ... as a condition of supreme being ... is essence rather than appearance, and therefore not something that could be seen. In fact, God isn't a 'something' at all, and so the term 'Clear Light of the Void' seems to me inadequate for defining what would be a state of supreme being in a consummate mind.
You cannot really see a Black Hole, even through the most powerful telescope, but only a void that appears denser than the surrounding void of space. Doubtless, the Spiritual Globes tending towards one another in the transcendental Beyond would be different from space - a presence of pure spirit in each globe that might well suggest, to an inquisitive telescoped eye, a denser void than the void surrounding it. After all, there could be no greater antithesis than that between the stars, as the most primal doing, and these hypothetical Spiritual Globes, as the ultimate being - except, perhaps, the numerical antithesis between stars as multiple and, when all Spiritual Globes have finally converged together into one ultimate Spiritual Globe, the Omega Absolute as indivisible. But that would be a quantitative difference, whereas the former is qualitative, as between doing and being.
Apparently the position of these Black Holes in space is constantly changing, so that a kind of kaleidoscopic pattern appears against the void to suggest to some astronomers and scientists the possibility of Multiple Universes. Again, my old scepticism leaps to the fore and I wonder whether a collapsed star would really need to change its position in the aforementioned manner, thereby giving rise to the analogy with a kaleidoscope? But if a Black Hole was really a Spiritual Globe instead of a collapsed star, then their constant changes of position would make more sense to me, since it would be in the order of Spiritual Globes to converge towards one another in an ever-growing process of drawing towards ultimate oneness in the final Spiritual Globe of ... the Omega Absolute. Those constant changes of position in space which Black Holes are alleged to undergo would thus signify the convergence of pure spirit towards larger wholes, and would accordingly have nothing whatsoever to do with the supposition of Multiple Universes, which is more than likely an aspect of contemporary scientific subjectivity, in conformity with the quasi-mystical requirements of the age.
I wrote yesterday that a convergence of transcendent spirit towards the objective of the Omega Absolute could already be happening on the transcendental plane, and am no less convinced today that this could actually be the case. After all, there is no reason why a more advanced life-form than ourselves, elsewhere in the Universe, shouldn't already have attained to transcendence, and so have become Spiritual Globes. Such a life form would have been at the superbeing stage of evolution ... as new brains artificially supported and sustained in maximum collectivization. Every planet on which intelligent evolving life exists would sooner or later have to become populated by Superbeings, if transcendence was to be achieved. Life would have to pass through the successive stages of post-human evolution throughout the Universe ... before Spiritual Globes became possible. You cannot jump from the human level straight to the transcendental Beyond, no matter what the traditional ignorance of fools or superstitious people might suggest to the contrary! Everything must await its proper time, and every life-sustaining planet pass through a post-human millennium ... before life can gravitate to that ultimate peak.
The transcendental Beyond is above and beyond the human, superhuman, and superbeing stages of evolution. The stars don't exist in the transcendental Beyond but in space, which is timeless and void. The stars are the roots of evolution, so to speak, and thus, in comparison with the sun, even the earth is a bit transcendent - a stalk on which the flower of humanity develops and must continue to develop through successive post-human life forms, before transcendence can be attained to in the bliss of pure spirit, which may well appear like a Black Hole from Earth. For a Black Hole is certainly antithetical to a white presence, or star, and thereby suggestive of the furthest possible evolutionary remove from the stellar roots of the Universe.
Prior to me, humanity had no knowledge of Spiritual Globes, not knowing anything much about Supermen or Superbeings either. Consequently one cannot be surprised that astronomers should interpret Black Holes as collapsed stars, since they do at least know something about stars and would therefore be inclined to relate a Black Hole to them. But relating Black Holes to stars or, rather, to collapsed stars doesn’t explain why such stars should leave a black hole behind, nor why the hole so left must continue to change positions with other such holes in a seemingly never-ending kaleidoscopic pattern! The lack of a transcendental perspective doesn't help to explain what does exist, but, on the contrary, leaves certain loose-ends and absurdities unaccounted for.
What really happens when a star collapses? Does it become matter, like the moon, or does it fade into nothingness? If the former, could one see it from millions of miles away, even with the help of a giant telescope? If the latter, why should nothingness be perceptible as a dense void, or Black Hole? For me, the latter likelihood takes precedence over the former one, though I cannot rule it out as an impossibility. A star may collapse into a dense substance or it may explode into dust and eventual nothingness. Either way, we're unlikely to see it as a Black Hole. In fact, we're unlikely to see it at all!
But if a Black Hole really is a Spiritual Globe, how long will it take before evolution runs its course and reaches an eternal consummation in God, which is to say, the ultimate Spiritual Globe? We cannot of course be certain, though we can hazard a guess that it will take millions of years, bearing in mind our own relative backwardness in regard to our pre-millennial status as human beings. For there is no possibility of the Omega Absolute coming to pass until every life-sustaining planet throughout the Universe has delivered-up its quota of spirit to the transcendental Beyond, and all such quotas have converged towards one another to establish an ultimate unity - in complete contrast to the divergent nature of the numerous stars. Evolution being a journey, as it were, from the Alpha Absolutes (of the stars) to the Omega Absolute (of the supreme level of being) via life-sustaining planets such as the earth, there can be no question of God truly coming to pass in the Universe before this ultimate unity has been achieved. Only then will God be fully manifest - the quantitative and the qualitative coming together in a synthesis which transcends all opposites, the stars passing or having passed away ... to leave the void to the perfected being, whose condition is eternal bliss. Perhaps that bliss will fill the ultimate Black Hole?
A VERY CIVILIZED MAN
Michael Giles was a very civilized man for his time. In fact, much the most civilized man I had ever met! Not only was he exceptionally well-bred, and therefore highly cultured; he was exceptionally well-read and therefore highly educated as well.
When I first met him he had
a small flat in
Crouch End, the north
This opportunity only came,
he had tracked down the publisher who was destined to keep him in money
remaining years of his life. His first
publication was a novel of mainly autobiographical tendency, and, to
considerable surprise, it sold reasonably well, enabling him to fulfil
long-standing ambition. For, to tell the
truth, he loathed
But he had grown up in
I digress slightly, but only
because I wish
to emphasize the connection between Michael Giles' highly civilized
and his solitary background in north
Well, he finally got out of
city and, moving to
Let me give you some
examples. In London he had occasionally
magazines which he would briefly look through, perhaps masturbate over
alluring photograph, and then throw away, as though in disgust. In
As regards certain other
aspects of his
evolving lifestyle, I can only remark that while he could occasionally
without a jacket on during a hot summer's day in London, with his
rolled up and collar open at the neck, one could never, no matter how
weather, have seen him in anything but a jacket in Dublin, with
complementary shirt, the sleeves of which would have been firmly
and the collar of which just as firmly buttoned up.
Neither would one have encountered him in a
pair of open sandals, feet bare and ankles on display, as sometimes
Yes, there could be little doubt that Michael Giles was becoming steadily more civilized, as the years went by, and his allegiance to artificial criteria strengthened. He no longer took short strolls around the neighbourhood, as in London, but spent most of his time indoors, attending to his writings and, when a sufficient amount had been done for the day, passing the remaining time with a book, some records, a little conversation (usually over the telephone) with one or two close friends, and, as often as not, a stint of Transcendental Meditation. His meals were increasingly eaten indoors, prepared by a lady friend whose relationship with him, however, was more intellectual than carnal. That he occasionally had sex, or a kind of sex, with her ... I don't doubt. But they had been drawn together by common cultural interests that, appertaining mainly to literature and music, remained, I think, the bedrock of their relationship. He always spoke of her with great respect, regarding her as one of the most enlightened and liberated of women; although, regrettably, he refused to elaborate on this opinion. As to the fact that she cooked his meals, he would simply say that this was one of the few concessions to tradition she was prepared to make, but he was damn glad she was prepared to make it, since it delivered him from the tedious necessity of having to prepare them himself - a task he had been obliged to perform quite often in London. By way of expressing his gratitude to this lady friend, he would send her, from time to time, a bouquet of artificial flowers, which he considered more civilized than natural ones. She, I think, accepted them with pleasure, though not, I suspect, without a degree of nostalgia for more natural growths! Her apartment - a mere stone's throw from his - soon became rather crowded with these artificial bouquets, which there seemed to be no cause to throw away, since they were incapable of wilting. Michael took pride in surveying them all whenever he paid her a social visit. "This is infinitely superior to anything Huysmans ever dreamed of," he could be heard to remark, referring to the over-sophisticated author of À Rebours. And she had little option but to agree!
However, there were some aspects of Michael Giles' hypercivilized lifestyle which only a person thoroughly familiar with his writings would have appreciated or, indeed, become aware of in the course of time. I allude, for instance, to the habit he had of keeping his hands away from his face whenever in company, so that there was never a contact of skin to skin. His hands would invariably be resting on his trouser legs and/or on the arms of his easy chair, thereby ensuring a contact with artificial materials as appropriate to an anti-natural lifestyle. For such materials as were employed in both his clothes and his furniture were invariably artificial or, to be more precise, synthetic, having been invented by man. Thus his clothes were mostly of nylon or acrylic, hardly ever of cotton, and reflected his transcendental predilection, a predilection which ensured that artificial rather than natural things, or things made from natural materials, greatly preponderated. It was for this reason, too, that aluminium and plastic figured largely in the composition of his furniture, including his easy chairs, which were almost entirely of synthetic construction and dark appearance, like his clothes. Garish colours were rigorously avoided, since connoting, in his estimation, with an alpha-stemming, diabolic orientation. Only a man thoroughly familiar with his writings would have appreciated this point and thereupon come to equate his dark clothes with a more spiritual bias. Even indoors, he would keep himself buttoned-up and fully dressed. No man was every less of a nudist than he!
But although these and other aspects of his hypercivilized lifestyle continued to develop and enhance his reputation as a modern saint, a kind of latter-day Mondrian whose distaste for natural things attained to quite fanatical proportions, a subconscious opposition within him to such a lifestyle was also developing, preparing to assert itself and threaten his ascetic reputation at its very roots. At the beginning of this account I said that Michael Giles "was a very civilized man for his time", and for no small reason. For what was no longer is the case, since the pressures of such a lifestyle were, in the end, too much for him, and duly led to consequences which can only be described as contrary to the interests of his ascetic reputation! The reformation of his previously too ascetic lifestyle, which I had expected to come with his departure from London, clearly had to come sooner or later, and when it did - much later than I would have expected, in view of the severity of his long-standing depression - it came with redoubled might, precipitating him into the life of sensual indulgence for which he has since become notorious. For not only did he move out of Dublin in order to take-up permanent residence in his country retreat; he took with him a number of young women whom he personally selected from amongst a list of well-known libertines, and installed them there for purposes of sexual experimentation and sensual gratification. Beginning as a latter-day Mondrian, he became, with this volte face, a sort of latter-day Sade, forbidding himself no excesses with them in pursuance of a return to full mental health. From being hyperascetic he had become hypercarnal, and was to remain so until, due to over-indulgence no more than a week ago, he suffered a severe heart attack and died. May death grant him the peace that life never could!
THE TWO LITERATURES
Deirdre Crowe had long been interested in literature and had written quite a few short stories since first embarking on a literary career, some three years ago. But Patrick Moran had never much liked her work and wasn't afraid to tell her so, when he chanced to meet her at a literary party one summer's evening. She hadn't expected this dark-haired, handsome-looking young man to reveal his dislike of her work to her shortly after they were introduced to each other, and found it difficult to conceal her disappointment in him. Nonetheless she was curious to learn why he hadn't got a better opinion of it?
He smiled defensively at first, surveying her through half-closed eyes, then replied: "Because your work has always struck me as being too bourgeois, by which I mean traditional. God knows, short stories aren't the most ingratiating form of literature at the best of times! But when they're so carefully written, so artfully shaped, as yours tend to be, then I'm afraid any chance of my being ingratiated by them must be completely ruled out! The attention you give to appearances is, in my opinion, quite excessive."
Deirdre found this explanation no less baffling than she had found his first comment disappointing. She considered him slightly insulting. Appearances? What-on-earth did he mean by that? Swallowing her pride with the help of a mouthful of sweet wine, she put the question to him.
"Ah, I ought to have suspected!" he responded, as though to himself. And, again, he looked at her through half-closed eyes, the way Lenin must have looked at H.G. Wells from time to time during that fateful interview in the Kremlin. Or, rather, looked through him. Yes, a middle-class philistine was what one was up against here!
"Well?" she insisted, becoming a trifle impatient.
"By appearances, I primarily mean that which pertains in literature to a description of or orientation towards external phenomena, particularly when such phenomena are naturalistic, as in the case of your writings," he declared. "But I also mean, albeit to a lesser extent, that which pertains to matters grammatical and involves the author's dedication to careful phrasing, the construction of sentences which, from a pedant's standpoint, are above reproach and consequently reflect a traditional or conventional adherence to syntactic custom. Both these aspects of literary activity can be found, to an alarmingly high degree, in your short stories, which is the chief reason why I've never been able to admire them."
Deirdre was unable to prevent herself blushing at this juncture, despite the precautions she had taken to remain as cool as possible, which included an inclination to drink wine rather more quickly and copiously than was her habit. "But shouldn't literature bear witness to external phenomena, as well as be constructed along the most careful and grammatical lines?" she objected.
"Not at its highest level,"
averred, while sportingly pouring some more wine into the young lady's
empty glass. "The highest
literature concentrates much more on internal phenomena, or noumena,
and is accordingly essential rather than apparent.
It deals to a greater extent in matters
intellectual and spiritual than with their converse in the material
does so, moreover, in an appropriately essential way - namely by the
of a fairly spontaneous technique, freed from grammatical fetters,
attests to the preponderance of creative free will over grammatical
determinism. English civilization has long
been a victim
of grammatical determinism. For its
Calvinistic roots, stressing predestination and thus the necessity of
to the 'Laws of Providence', preclude the radical development of
will and ensure that culture remains, by and large, on a bourgeois
grammatical propriety. Admittedly, most
other Western countries aren't much different.
But none of them can match
There issued from Deirdre's throat an impulsive laugh which she had a job controlling, and which threatened to cause her glass-holding hand to precipitate some of its alcoholic contents over her colleague's jacket. But the jacket escaped relatively unscathed nonetheless, for she was able to bring her laughter under control before things got completely out-of-hand, so to speak. "And you evidently consider me one of them?" she at length surmised. He smiled benignly, but said nothing. So she continued: "Yet I don't care for a spontaneous or fairly spontaneous approach to my work, since it would lead to scrappy writing, and I cannot equate such writing with the highest literature."
"I didn't say the highest literature had to be scrappy or slapdash," corrected Moran, who had ceased to smile. "Simply that it should entail a greater degree of freedom from grammatical determinism than is evinced by your work. You won't get me worrying over the regular placement of prepositions, at any rate. Nor do I give undue attention to the construction of a sentence or to the shape of a phrase. I leave that kind of thing to bourgeois anachronisms, who are better qualified than me to treat appearances with more respect. To me, the most important thing, on the contrary, is what I'm saying, not the way I'm saying it! Though one cannot deny that, on the highest level, what one is saying to some extent conditions the way it's being said. For to write about spiritual or intellectual matters with a technique that gave undue importance to grammatical appearances ... would constitute a contradiction in terms, unworthy of truly advanced literature. If one writes about the inner world more than the outer one, it's only proper that one should employ a suitably essential technique, in order to avoid compromising oneself with undue attention to pedantic details. One doesn't wish to be bothered or impeded by apparent considerations ... in the form of grammatical determinism. For a truly essential content can only be sustained with the aid of a relevant technique, one which is sufficiently liberated as to make for an unprecedented degree of creative freedom. Free thought requires free expression - that's the inescapable logic of the matter!"
Deirdre Crowe politely nodded her head in apparent agreement. "You may be right, Patrick," she conceded, "but I could never write like that. Maybe I'm too old-fashioned and maybe, for all I know, the fact that I'm a woman has something to do with it. But I could never satisfy myself that I was working properly if my technique was too spontaneous. To me, literature involves struggle and is jolly hard work!"
Moran shook his large round head and sighed in a nasally ironic fashion. Fundamentally, all these bourgeois writers were the same, whatever their sex. They were using brooms while more contemporary people were using vacuum-cleaners. What is more, they elevated their dependence on brooms, and hence manual labour, to an artistic virtue! "You sound like you derive a certain masochistic pleasure from this literary struggle," he duly commented.
"I simply derive pleasure from a job well done," Deirdre admitted in a self-justificatory tone.
"Yes, but your job tends to resemble a representational canvas focusing, in minute detail, upon natural phenomena, whereas mine corresponds to a quite radical expressionist canvas focusing on the inner world," Moran asseverated. "I don't claim to be a literary abstractionist; for such a status would involve the manipulation of a technique far more radical than my own - indeed, would constitute a literature such as we haven't yet seen, in which descriptive or narrative intelligibility was reduced to a bare minimum. But even a literary expressionist or, for that matter, impressionist ... is further up the ladder of literary evolution than a naturalistic representationalist, like you. Literature may, thanks or no thanks to agents and publishers and their commercial requirements, lag behind art and music in technical progress. But that shouldn't preclude one from being as radical as possible, under the circumstances. There has been some evolutionary progress, even since James Joyce, whose Finnegans Wake bordered on literary abstraction."
Deirdre Crowe was unconvinced and looked it. She couldn't understand how a spontaneous approach to literature could possibly constitute progress, not even after what her colleague had told her about needing to use an essential technique to do adequate justice to essential expression. To her, literature was hard work and that was what it would continue to be for as long as it existed. "I can't see how you can possibly deny the value of good, honest, hard labour!" she retorted, defiantly brandishing a half-empty glass of wine in front of Moran's sober face.
"Quite easily," he responded. "One of the most important aspects of evolutionary progress in the world is to make life easier for people, to save them unnecessary struggle and labour. We have lifts to save people the inconvenience of climbing umpteen flights of stairs in tall buildings. We have buses and taxis to save them the inconvenience of having to walk, assuming it were possible, from one part of town to another. We have washing machines to save them the inconvenience of washing clothes by hand. And so on. As life progresses, so the hardships are minimized and the pleasures maximized. Now literature, believe it or not, is no exception to this general rule, since progress entails, amongst other things, that writing should become less of a struggle or hardship for the modern author than it was for his literary forebears. Instead of keeping him the slave of grammatical convention and syntactic elaboration, spontaneity of approach frees the writer (sic.) - for he is more often than not a key-punching utilizer of typewriters and/or word processors these days - from such slavery, and ensures that his vocation won't prove unduly difficult, by which I primarily mean drudge-ridden and unnecessarily complex. The higher the type of writing, the freer from literary hardship the writer will be. For he, too, must profit from the benefits of evolutionary progress in a world tending away from hardship towards greater degrees of ease and comfort. To boast of one's literary struggles is simply to affirm one's comparatively inferior status as a literary masochist - a kind of social dinosaur who probably prefers to write than to type and/or key-in, in any case."
Deirdre felt personally offended by this allusion to herself. But the mentally numbing effects of all the wine she had imbibed, during the trying course of events that evening, precluded her from adequately expressing her offence. Instead she meekly shrugged her shoulders and said: "You may be right, though maybe that's only because I'm incorrigibly masochistic." For a moment he almost felt sorry for her, so downcast did she look. But he was also amused at her expense and couldn't help revealing some of this amusement to her. Again she shrugged her shoulders, and he noticed that they were freckled. "Tell me," she resumed, "would you consider an artist who was ahead of his time superior to one who reflected it?"
Moran hadn't expected such a ponderous question and gently frowned, drawing himself a pace away from her, as though to give himself room in which to think. Finally he replied: "No, I believe an artist should reflect his time and thus remain intelligible to it. Otherwise he runs the risk of becoming completely ostracized and regarded as a crank. One should, I think, take account of what has immediately preceded one in one's particular domain of creative endeavour and then proceed to carry on from there, so that a continuity of progress is maintained. Of course, one won't necessarily get to that level overnight. But once one has got to it, then one is on the way to becoming a master and should be able to extend literary progress quite some way beyond the heights attained by one's immediate predecessors or, at any rate, by those authors whose works especially appealed to one and had some influence on one's own literary development."
"And who would they be in your case?" Deirdre asked, focusing rather larger than usual eyes on her fellow-writer.
"Principally those authors, like Henry Miller, Hermann Hesse, Aldous Huxley, and Jean-Paul Sartre, whose works generally correspond to the kind of religio-philosophical integrity sympathetic to my own bent," Moran replied. "Artists, as you know, come in various categories, so one can't be influenced by them all. One simply carries on from where certain others left off, along a path congenial to one's temperamental bias. I've gone some way beyond those artists now, including Huxley, who was the most influential on my own literary development. Even his late work is something I'm obliged to look down on from a greater height."
"And what about James Joyce - do you look down on his late work, too?" Deirdre wanted to know, almost petulantly.
"Yes, but for a different reason," Moran confessed, frowning. "Less because I've gone beyond it than because his work pertains to a category of writing that I've always spurned as being inferior to what reflects a religio-philosophical bent. Joyce wasn't an essential writer but an apparent one. He was more of a pure artist than, say, Huxley, and consequently he corresponds to the traditional category of novelist in a way which Huxley rarely if ever did. He may have taken the development of that kind of writing further than any of his contemporaries. But he remained, till the end, an artist in the traditional, i.e. apparent, sense, and therefore corresponded to a literary social realist rather than to a transcendentalist. Incidentally, one of Roland Barthe's best essays concerns a distinction between 'authors' and 'writers', which may loosely be interpreted as applying to artists and philosophers respectively. Our age, contends Barthes, is transitional between 'authors' and 'writers', being insufficiently advanced, as yet, to be content with only the latter. And I have to agree with him. The traditional type of writer, i.e. 'author', finds broad support among the semi-literate masses and various sections of the political establishment, who prefer his crude fictions to the more subtle truths of the revolutionary author, i.e. 'writer' in Barthe's sense of the word. Consequently the latter isn't generally enabled to support himself, on account of the democratic limitations of the age, and so he's also obliged, as a rule, to be an 'author'. Yet a time must come when only 'writers' will exist, and these men won't stem from Joyce, nor from his latter-day descendants, but from the religio-philosophical categories of 'author/writer' like Miller, Hesse, Huxley, Sartre, and me. It won't be necessary for the future 'writer' to also be an 'author', nor, alternatively, a professor, like Barthes, since the public will respond to his writings with sufficient enthusiasm to enable him to dedicate himself more exclusively to them. Thus, to return to the traditional dichotomy between artist and philosopher, one might say that literary evolution will culminate in the philosopher, the highest type of writer, whose work will be the most essential, and hence truth-orientated. Exactly when that future epoch will come, I don't pretend to know. But at least we're creeping towards it. Or, at any rate, some of us are!"
Deirdre Crowe blushed in self-deprecatory acknowledgement of the fact that she wasn't among the 'some' to which Moran was evidently alluding, and vaguely agreed with a concessionary grunt. "Yet, presumably, one shouldn't jump the gun, as it were, but take the progress of higher literature in its rightful stride?" she remarked.
"Correct," he agreed, smiling. "Even if one can anticipate what the highest stage of literary development will be, as I believe I for one can. For to jump the gun, as you crudely put it, would be to sever connections with the age and place one's work way beyond public reach. Unfortunately that wouldn't guarantee one an income, even if, by any chance, one could find a publisher for one's precociously futuristic work. No, if we're to end with a multilingual abstraction in collectivistic terms, we must first of all pass through the intermediate stages, including the impressionist/expressionist stage at which the bulk of my work is currently to be found, in conformity with the continuity of literary progress. Even my work, with its fairly spontaneous impressionistic technique placed at the service of an essential content, is too radical for most people, a majority of whom are perfectly content to wade through the illusory fictions of the latest adventure story, thriller, or romance ... in thrall to a sort of literary philistinism. However, that is only to be expected. For while the higher writer may be of his time in relation to his professional forebears and contemporaries, he will always be a little ahead of the general public. If this were not so, he wouldn't be producing genuine literature."
"But presumably only what I produce, is that it?" Deirdre objected.
Moran was about to say 'Yes' when he decided it would be more tactful simply to pour some more wine into her glass, since it had once again become empty. She might not be the best of writers, but she didn't have a bad figure, all things considered, and he was beginning to wonder whether a night spent in bed with her wouldn't prove more fruitful than an evening spent discussing literature, freckles or no freckles? If he couldn't teach her to improve her literary style, he might at least be able to learn a thing or two from her body which could be used to metaphysical advantage in some future projects. Yes, indeed he might!
I have no more intentions of writing a short story than André Breton would of reading one. I don't write short stories, monsieur, but short prose, which is to say, a kind of literary philosophy. Yes, I'm probably the inventor, as it were, of this genre, though I don't ordinarily boast of the fact! What fusion music is to the modern composer of electric music, literary philosophy or, alternatively, philosophical literature is to me. You might say that I'm an 'author' and a 'writer' combined, speaking in Barthian terms, and that I vary the degree the one preponderates over the other from work to work, depending on the context and in the interests of literary variety.
Yes, quite so, signor! Each short-prose piece is distinct from the others and could well be compared, as you suggest, with each of the separate tracks on a modern jazz or fusion album. For a collection of short prose is essentially akin to such an album because all of its contents are distinct, complete in themselves, and constructed along individual lines, just as each track of a jazz album is composed in a different fashion, with a specific tempo, texture, form, atmosphere, pitch, and so on. A novel, on the other hand, being an integral whole, is akin to a symphony. For each chapter relates to the others, just as each movement in a symphony relates to the others in an overall symphonic integrity. Yes, precisely! But the days of the symphony are numbered, and so, too, are the days of the novel. The future will belong to philosophical literature, which may include something akin to a novel or, rather, novella in its overall framework, but will never be subordinate to it. The production of separate novels will be superseded by collectivized formats, with or without short prose. No-one will ever think of writing a short story, at any rate, since such a thing would be thoroughly anachronistic - as, indeed, it appears to be to the more advanced literary minds of today! But short prose, however, is much more respectable, being the modern equivalent, if you like, of a short story.
Ah, you've read my poetry, monsieur! I'm glad you liked it. Not everyone does, least of all those who respect the poetic tradition. To them, on the contrary, Brian Flynn suggests anarchy and a total absence of craft. But, permit me to say, they're really quite mistaken. For Flynn knows what he's doing all right, of that you can rest assured! Oui, absolument. And my poetry is still developing; it hasn't yet reached a climax, by any means! With each fresh batch of poems I become increasingly conscious of what needs to be done to improve the quality of my verse. I don't tamper with the poems just written but reserve improvements for the next batch, perhaps three or four months later. In this way I continue to progress, to progress, it could be said, towards the ultimate poetry. For such poetry would be a poetry in which appearance had been reduced to a minimum and essence, by contrast, expanded to a maximum!
No, I don't say, signor, that the individual poem would have to be very short. For that would preclude the maximization of essence. Simply that it would have to be free from enslavement to those traditional ingredients of the poetic craft which kow-tow to appearance. Ingredients like rhyme, metre, assonance, alliteration, stanza divisions, punctuation, and so on. The higher poetry says the highest and most important things, which of course pertain to the spiritual life, but it says them in a way which avoids drawing undue attention to the technical side of poetry, and largely because that side has been reduced to the minimum verbal level necessary to conveying one's thoughts.
Bien sur, monsieur! No stanza divisions, since they would appeal to the eye as apparent distractions. No rhymes, for they likewise distract from essence. No sequential repetition or staging of phrases, since any kind of word pattern repeated two or more times suggests a concession to appearances. No regular metre, since that is ever a distraction from the content of a poem. No punctuation, for commas, full-stops, semi-colons, colons, etc., appeal to the eye more than to the intellect.
Yes, you're in the picture now, so I needn't continue. Danke shön. An intelligent young lady like you, Fraulein Hochmeister, will always be in tune with the Zeitgeist. You understand my intentions well enough to be a poet yourself - as do you Monsieur Paume, mon vieux ami. Yes, though I wager that Signor Cranetto is not so ill-equipped to comprehend the logic of my poetic endeavour as he so modestly pretends! Ah, no, you're no philistine, signor, but an accomplished pittore whose most sought-after works make very few concessions to appearances.... But I digress! You asked me, fraulein, whether one should jump the gun, as it were, and proceed to the highest, most essential poetry in order to be ahead of one's fellows. But that would be a mistake quite unworthy of one's poetic integrity. Just as it would be a mistake for anyone to attempt to rise to my level whose inner development didn't warrant it. One must be true to oneself, the extent of one's spiritual development, and thus produce work which reflects that fact as accurately as possible. A man who abandons rhyme, metre, stanzas, punctuation, et cetera, just because he sees that I have or has read about my endeavour somewhere ... is being untrue to himself, and what he produces, in consequence, won't be authentic poetry but a sham which someone like myself could easily see through, inasmuch as the level of thought expressed in the poems would be incompatible with the technique employed in its expression. Sham poets, dear fraulein, are no less plentiful than sham painters, composers, and sculptors, and should, if possible, be avoided! Only a certain level of thought will justify a certain corresponding technique, and to get to that level of thought, which we're contending to be a high one, may take years, if not decades.
Non, it's not just a question of age, monsieur, but of lifestyle as well. For only a consistently ascetic lifestyle will permit the emergence of a consistently high level of spiritual thought. The sensualist is doomed to write about his sensuality, and thus remain chained to a comparatively inferior level of poetic endeavour. The romantic poet is ever inferior to the religious one, his subject-matter leaving room for much improvement. As is invariably the case, monsieur, the lifestyle of the individual conditions the quality of the poet's work! One cannot live like a sinner and write like a saint, no matter what certain superficial poets may like to imagine in the throes, presumably, of some liberal delusion. And neither can one live like a poet. For a poet is only such when actively engaged in the poetic craft, not when wiping his arse or, if you'll permit me an additional vulgarism, screwing his mistress!
Ah! I thought that would make you blush, fraulein, since the presence of three men at table is a sufficient pretext for feminine modesty.... No, one cannot make love like a poet. For a poet has no more to do with making love than has a doctor or an engineer. A poet has to do with writing and reciting poems, that's all! But a collectivist must be more than just a poet; he must also be a writer of short prose, an aphorist, and a few other things besides, since only by being the most comprehensive of writers ... can he transcend the separate categories of traditional genres, and thereby reflect a convergence to omega, so to speak, on the level of literary progress.
Yes, I'll admit that sounds rather esoteric, signor. Nonetheless, one must grasp the essence of evolutionary progress if one is to understand exactly why literature should develop in this more comprehensive way. We're not in the world simply to enjoy ourselves, you know, but to evolve towards a condition of transcendent spirit in the future Beyond, a condition which may well take centuries to bring about. Only shallow-pates imagine that life should be lived for its own sake, as though life were inherently something good from which a steady quota of enjoyment could be obtained! There is enjoyment to be derived from it, I'll admit. Yet such enjoyment shouldn't be considered as an end-in-itself but, rather, as the by-product of one's daily struggles with the world. Anyone who enjoys the world shows himself to be lacking in spiritual insight, since it's precisely the world that needs to be overcome ... if we're ever to get our species, or what may emerge from it, firmly on the road to Heaven.
Ah, you accuse me of moralizing, monsieur! But I assure you it's only through moralizing that one can keep the world in perspective, and accordingly direct one's steps along truly progressive lines. Anyone who doesn't moralize sooner or later stumbles into reaction and becomes a victim or accomplice of the world. But the wise man desires to overcome the world, not be overcome by it. Only through his efforts can mankind go forward. And if his efforts lead to the redemption of literature along collective or essential lines, then good for him! For by making literature more moral, he helps the people to become more moral as well. Just as his lifestyle conditions the quality of his work, so the quality of his work partly conditions the people's lifestyle.
Ah, I see you all agree, even you Fraulein Hochmeister, who is too good-looking to be highly moral. Your wisdom consists less in striving to emulate the wisdom of the great philosophers ... than in reducing the extent of your folly. Mine consists, on the contrary, in expanding my literary horizon towards the Infinite!
A PUBLIC WRITER
There are writers who keep most of their thoughts and beliefs to themselves, but Sean Costello was never one of them. He was much the most outspoken writer of his generation, having the courage to commit most of himself to paper regardless of what other people would think of him. He thus exposed his inner life to public scrutiny and allowed people to learn about his social history. This he considered a duty of the modern writer. For to withhold oneself from the reader was bourgeois, to be in favour of private thoughts, and, somehow, private thoughts and a refusal to reveal one's past were incompatible, in Costello's eyes, with literary progress!
"The writer who keeps most of his self to himself is on the wrong side of history," he once said, and few left-wing people would disagree with him there! Another writer, belonging to an older generation, had said: "The higher the artist ... the more distance he will put between himself and his work." This meant that the pure or great writer would never put himself into his work but would stand back from it, letting it speak on its own fictitious or illusory terms. Sean Costello, however, absolutely rejected this objective viewpoint, deeming it only relevant to a bourgeois stage of literary evolution. The man who hid behind his work, in his opinion, was not on the right side of history but an enemy of progress. T.S. Eliot may have been such a man, but, in Costello's estimation, Henry Miller certainly wasn't. For Miller had exposed his inner life and social past to the public eye with a consistency and depth surpassing any of his contemporaries, thereby proving that he was in favour of making the private self public.
Sartre, too, was in favour of making all things public or, at any rate, such things as would prove of interest to others, and can therefore be identified, in large measure, with his work. "When the work and the man are the same," Costello had written, "one is in the highest domain of literature - the socialist literature of the age of the public spirit."
Costello would never have agreed with that man who criticized a conversational passage in one of D.H. Lawrence's novels for being implausible, since according to him - a fellow writer - no two people would ever have spoken to each other in such fashion in reality. No, the little Irishman particularly revelled in passages, conversational or otherwise, that seemed implausible from a naturalistic or a realistic standpoint. "It's not our duty, as modern artists, to mirror the world around us in the interests of bourgeois realism," he said to me one day, "but to create a higher, artificial level of thought which transcends the philistine dictates of the natural-world-order." By this he meant that the modern writer should aim to contrive a supernatural level of conversation rather than remain enslaved to conversational levels which could well take place in reality, and on the lowest and most commercially-oriented levels of reality to boot, as though between two stockbrokers or estate agents! The fact that no two people would have spoken to each other in quite the way the characters did, in the novel the bourgeois writer chose to criticize, was a credit, in Costello's opinion, to D.H. Lawrence's style of writing, since the primary duty of all higher art was to transcend nature, not remain its philistine victim in wilful objectivity!
Yes, I agree with Costello,
and so, too,
does my wife, Jayshree, who reminded me,
day, of that character in Costello's first novel, 'Starbreak',
to a gathering of students with a saucepan tied to his head -
Take, for example, this descriptive passage from his second novel: "She stood before me dressed in her most artificial clothing, her high heels reflecting the glare of the lighting apparatus overhead. I asked her to raise her miniskirt in order to expose her suspenders, and this she duly did, holding a fraction of its nylon material between the forefinger and thumb of each hand. Then I knelt down before her and smacked a gentle kiss on the front of her pale pink panties, whose nylon cloaked a dark mound of pubic hair beneath."
This brief extract reveals the artificial nature of the sexual foreplay which takes place between the novel's male protagonist and his sexual antagonist. For rather than bestowing a kiss upon the young woman's flesh, as most ordinary real-life men would probably have done in the circumstances, our literary lover selects a part of her panties upon which to bestow one. Later on, as the foreplay is superseded by the main course, as it were, of the protagonist's loving, we find this even more artificial passage: "I was now squatting between her legs and able to apply a pair of scissors to the nylon material of her panties, while she continued to hold her miniskirt up as before. In this way I slowly cut open her panties along the groove of her sex, exposing, in the process, her now-naked treasure to my inquisitive eyes. After I had looked at it and sniffed the musky aroma which emanated from the inviting gap between her legs, I delved into my jacket pocket for the vibrator I had bought her as a special birthday present and which I knew she would appreciate. Turning it on, I gently placed its buzzing tip between the eager lips of her labial crack and steadied myself for the final push. This came when I thrust the delightful substitute up into her soft flesh, causing her to giggle aloud and squirm slightly in the process. I placed a finger against its base and waited patiently for it to do my pleasure-arousing job."
Such a passage, it need hardly be emphasized, could only have been written by a man whose mind scorned naturalistic criteria in the interests of a superior literature. Only in adherence to writings of this kind ... does the artist redeem himself as a spiritual leader. The more he extends the domain of creative freedom over natural determinism, the greater he becomes. Sean Costello was undoubtedly one of the greatest!
But there was another side to his writings which should not be forgotten in any attempt to evaluate his status, and we may describe it, in Barthe's famous distinction, as the 'writer' as opposed to 'author' side. In other words, the philosopher in him could not be ignored in deference to the artist, and it was as a philosopher, or 'writer', that he most liked to be known. "I often feel that literature, considered in any strictly fictional sense, is mostly a waste of time and also, from the publisher's viewpoint, a waste of money. The amount of time and money wasted on the production of inconsequential novels ... would stagger anyone foolish enough to make an attempt at ascertaining the sum total! In an age beset by the twin evils of inflation and recession, one ought only to offer for publication those works which are dedicated to Truth. All others are comparatively frivolous."
There are times, certainly,
when one can
sympathize with the sentiments expressed in that utterance, but I
that Costello really meant what he said.
After all, he knew the value of literature, considered from an
artificial angle, as well as anyone, even though he preferred the
responsibilities of a truthful 'writer' to those of a fictional
'author'. His philosophical writings,
easily as voluminous (though this is hardly the most apt choice of
terminology!) as his literary ones, and will doubtless rank higher in
estimation of posterity. Like Huxley and
a number of other twentieth-century 'authors/writers', he took greater
the philosophical side of his work, and always put more effort into
intended to enlighten than into those intended, in part at any rate,
entertain. But he was never a bourgeois
writer, like Huxley, and made a point of emphasizing his commitment to
generalities over concrete particularities.
He wasn't interested, like
"Adults are never strictly asexual," Andrew Foley was saying to a gathering of friends in the newly-furnished sitting-room of his three-roomed flat. "They are either positive or negative, depending on their sex. Only children and the very old could be described as asexual - the former because they haven't yet come-of-age, the latter because they've gone way past it."
Muffled laughter broke from the throats of some of his guests, and someone said: "Post-sexual would be a better definition of the aged!"
On a more serious note I volunteered the suggestion that children were neutron equivalents, and this brought raised brows from a number of quarters.
"Ah, so you're back to your subatomic theories again, Gerald!" observed the host, who then asked me to explain, for the benefit of those who hadn't heard such theories before, how they applied to the sexes.
"Traditionally, women have usually functioned as proton equivalents and men, by contrast, as bound-electron equivalents, with children coming in-between as neuters, or neutron equivalents," I obligingly affirmed, for the benefit of all but a few of the gathering. "But nowadays the atomic integrity of the traditional family unit is being superseded by the elevation of women to quasi-electron equivalents and the elevation or, rather, transformation of men into free-electron equivalents, with children still remaining neutral. Thus marriage is on the way out because it conforms to an atomic age rather than to an incipiently post-atomic one."
"How very interesting!" exclaimed a white-haired gentleman of elderly years, who prompted a grudging acknowledgement of the probable veracity of my theory from a couple of females seated close-by. "A free-electron equivalent is more likely to be a man for the men than one for the women, is that it?" he conjectured on a mischievous note.
"Not necessarily," I hastened to assure him, while simultaneously casting a slightly embarrassed glance in the direction of my girlfriend, who sat to my left. "He will simply be a man who isn't tied down by marriage to any particular woman. But to the extent that a woman functions as a quasi-electron equivalent, she is effectively a superman and therefore not someone to discriminate against as a woman. A quasi-electron equivalent and a free-electron equivalent don't form an atomic integrity, and unless such an integrity is formed, there can be no justification for marriage."
"Here, here!" shouted a young woman farther to my left, whose overall appearance suggested that she habitually thought of herself in superhuman terms. Especially notable, in this respect, were her short hair, absence of make-up, T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. She was also wearing steel-rimmed spectacles.
"Well," said Foley, following a brief pause in the conversation during which Gerald Riley's standard theory of protons and electrons was juggled about in more than a few minds, most of whom were thoroughly perplexed by it and somewhat sceptical if not downright dismissive, "I'm married, so I must be a bound-electron equivalent and my wife, by contrast, a proton equivalent."
Doris Foley, true to her station of affable hostess and compliant wife, nodded her head without, however, showing any facial signs of approval. Indeed, her face was virtually impassive. Nevertheless she did ask: "And what would you describe yourself as, Gerald?"
"Undoubtedly a free-electron equivalent, albeit one more heterosexual than homosexual," I assured her, before casting another glance at my girlfriend, as though for confirmation.
"Perhaps it would be more accurate to describe yourself as quasi-homosexual," the young woman in steel-rimmed spectacles suggested. "You're not married to Deborah for the simple reason that, like me, she's a quasi-electron equivalent, otherwise known as a liberated female, whose standing not only precludes the formation of a genuine atomic integrity between you, but simultaneously prevents your relationship from being genuinely heterosexual. Were she a woman, in the traditional sense, then things would of course be different. But Deborah is effectively a superman, so your relationship is, I repeat, quasi-homosexual."
There were titters of admiring laughter from all sections of Foley's rather crowded sitting-room, and the white-haired gentleman, quick to rise to the occasion, said: "My goodness, girl, what hair-splitting logic!"
"Or side-splitting nonsense!" Foley opined, eyeing its alleged instigator with mock reproof. "So it transpires that you, Gerald, are quasi-homosexual because your girlfriend is effectively a superman."
"Thanks for the honour!" I jokingly responded, and noticed that Deborah was blushing madly behind her makeshift fan - a folded newspaper. Despite her good intentions, she could never get used to the idea of being regarded in such a post-atomic light. In every liberated female there existed an old-fashioned streak of basic femininity. Would they ever succeed in eradicating it, I wondered, or would we, their spiritual superiors? Superior in degree of superhumanity, it may be, but unable or disinclined to discriminate against them as women.
A sudden eruption of ostentatious flatulence from the white-haired old gentleman brought a moment's almost surrealistic reprieve from the sententious austerity of the debate, but it was soon rejoined again when Foley, taking-up the distinction of positive and negative sexual characteristics once more, asseverated that, traditionally, women were the negative and men the positive sex. "And so far as I'm aware, that's generally still the case today," he concluded.
"Bullshit!" I countered. "For these days the transformation of women into supermen is giving rise to a situation where they're becoming less negative and correspondingly more positive in their relations to sex. Which means they're becoming more like men - passive rather than active."
Andrew Foley was clearly not impressed, since he immediately retaliated with: "D'you mean to tell me that you equate positivity with passivity and negativity with activity?"
"Most assuredly, because that is really closer to the truth," I replied. "Men are positive to the extent that they're spiritual, women negative to the extent that they're sensual, and nowadays women are becoming more spiritual and less sensual. Thus they aren't as sensuously active as formerly, though that applies more to the strategies of seduction than to their actual vaginal contribution to coitus. After all, the vagina's a pretty active thing when a man has part of himself inside it, and the clitoris has rarely been outplayed, as it were, by the penis. Au contraire!"
There were various expressions of amusement at large in the air no sooner than I had said this, and although one or two of the guests couldn't prevent themselves reacting with disapproving looks, the general consensus of opinion was nevertheless such as to suggest an affirmation of my viewpoint. The mannish young woman in steel-rimmed spectacles seemed particularly impressed by it, and accordingly voiced the opinion that quasi-electron equivalents were less inclined to flirt with men than their proton precursors, being more inclined, by contrast, to improve their commitment to cultural or intellectual affairs.
"Yes, that would generally appear to be the case," I confirmed, not exactly to the pleasure of my host and hostess, who were each showing signs of unease - the former by turning pale, the latter by turning red.
"Would you not then say that coitus involved the application of the positive male principle to the negative female one?" Foley somewhat ironically inquired of me.
"No, I wouldn't," came my confident response. "For coitus only takes place by dint of the man's lowering himself to the negative principle and thereby drawing on the feminine, active side of his atomic constitution. Love-making is the result of two types of negative functioning, the woman's and the man's, and is only possible to the extent that men are capable of behaving negatively. Should the positive and truly spiritual side of a man's constitution develop to any significant extent, he'll be much less inclined to have sex with a woman. In fact, the highest, most spiritual men have usually been the ones whose intellectual or cultural commitments kept them celibate. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche afford us two notable examples."
"How extraordinary!" exclaimed the white-haired old fart, who had sufficiently recovered from his bout of flatulence to be capable of playing an active role in the discussion again. "I had always imagined that the real philosophers were great lovers, like Bertrand Russell or Voltaire! Just shows how mistaken one can be!"
Not everyone was as honest as him, but no overt dissent was expressed, not even by Andrew Foley, who had better reasons than most to be dissentient! However, his wife, having recovered from her embarrassment, was now eyeing me suspiciously. What could she be thinking, I wondered?
The Earth looked like a cannonball to Captain Anderson as he eyed it from the vantage-point of his spacecraft, several thousand miles into space. He had heard the usual clichés about footballs and baseballs, but to him the analogy with a cannonball, despite its anachronistic nature, appeared more appropriate. He cast a glance over his right shoulder at Major Jim Green, who at that moment was staring down at the central control panel, and said: "You know, every time I take a good look through that porthole, I get kinda mystical about things down there, including the Earth. It seems odd that most people should be leading fairly humdrum lives on that planet of ours."
Major Green gently nodded and then briefly glanced through the same porthole, behind which the Earth lay static and diminutive, no bigger than an average football. "The oddest thing for me is that people should be living there at all!" he exclaimed on a softly humorous note.
Colonel Timothy Boyd, the
on board Craft AV6, volunteered the opinion that nothing was odder than
flight, especially with two nuts aboard.
"You'll be saying that Earth looks like a goddamm
cannonball next!" he snapped at
"You've seized on that analogy more from the planet's size at this distance than from its overall appearance," Major Green conjectured.
"Could be," admitted Captain Anderson, who fell to speculating again. To think that people should be standing on their feet on opposite sides of the Earth, never doubting they were the right way up! Given the planet's circularity, you'd think those underneath would fall into space, did you not also know that the Earth rotated so rapidly on its axis ... as to preclude anyone's being upside down long enough for that to happen. Then he heard Colonel Boyd saying, as though to himself: "It ain't usually the mystical types who get sent up here, but more goddamm down-to-earth guys!"
"That's right," Major Green seconded. "Guys who want a spiritual trip through space can't be trusted to take the material one. My guess is that the material trip is a prelude to the spiritual one, seeing as the latter can't be made just yet."
Colonel Boyd guffawed dismissively, but Captain Anderson protested that his mystical feelings were fundamentally of a materialist order and simply pertained to the so-called heavenly bodies, which seemed to function like clockwork. "After all, the Earth is basically in the position of an electron circling the proton nucleus at the heart of the Solar System," he went on, "and the resulting pattern conforms to an atomic integrity. You can't expect the planets to break loose from their solar moorings, so to speak, and soar towards the heavenly Beyond, like pure spirit. They're stuck with their proton control for as long as it exists."
"Unlike ourselves, whose spacecraft is free to voyage in any given direction as far as its fuel tanks will allow, before it begins to drift," Colonel Boyd postulated.
"And yet, you can't voyage to the Infinite in a spacecraft," Major Green objected, showing no fear of his superior officer. "The spiritual journey and the material one are entirely different. Besides, space is finite, so you'd be bound to return to your starting-point eventually."
"I've always found that difficult to believe, since space is spatial and can't have a beginning or an end," Captain Anderson demurred. "Only the mind is finite, whereas space goes on and on forever, as you can see."
Colonel Boyd winced in response to the apparent lack of Einsteinian perspective in his junior officer. In all probability space was infinite, but in an age when man's mind was expanding towards the Infinite, it didn't do to regard space in a similar light. "What you've always overlooked," the Colonel said, "is the fact that space is curved. For once you've grasped that fact, you'll understand why a body will return to its original starting-point if it persists long enough in a uniform direction."
Major Green nodded his confirmation. "A serious lapse of scientific subjectivity in relation to the higher subjectivity of the superconscious mind!" he solemnly averred for the benefit of his junior colleague. "You shouldn't allow yourself to be influenced by those anachronistic quasi-Newtonian notions that were officially discountenanced some decades ago. You'll be telling us, before long, that not curved space but goddammed force and mass keep the planets in rotation around the Sun!"
Captain Anderson demurred with, for the environment, a quite vigorous rejection of that assumption. "I shall do absolutely no such thing!" he assured the major. "A post-atomic age demands a post-atomic world view. A Newtonian/Einsteinian compromise would simply be out of the question."
"Glad to hear you say so," Colonel Boyd remarked in a conciliatory tone-of-voice. "We don't want to look at the planets too objectively these days.... By the way, did you ever read Locklin's account of antithetical equivalents?"
"Unfortunately not," Captain Anderson replied, with a slightly guilty look on his face.
"Well, I did," Major Green admitted, smiling.
"Really?" the colonel responded. "Well, there were one or two antithetical equivalents that Locklin didn't think of," he proudly informed them, "and you'll never guess what." He paused to allow his second-in-command to ponder the matter a moment but, since Major Green made no comment, continued by saying: "The first one concerns the antithesis between moons and satellites, that is, between natural satellites and artificial, or man-made, ones - the latter functioning on an entirely different plane, superior in every respect, to the former. And the second one, believe it or not, concerns the antithesis between shooting stars and spacecraft or, as they used to be called, rockets. This second antithesis directly concerns us; for whereas shooting stars shoot naturally through space, with their solar propulsion and flying tail, we, their antithetical equivalents, shoot through it artificially, driven-on by the engines of our craft, which leave a comet-like streak in their goddammed wake. Should either of you spot a shooting star today, you'll be looking at our near-absolute antithesis, which could be defined as a natural rocket."
"Remarkable!" Major Green exclaimed. "You must write about that when we get back to base."
"And thereby expand our knowledge of antithetical equivalents," Captain Anderson added half-jokingly. "Say, Locklin didn't write anything about British astronauts, did he?"
Colonel Boyd guffawed and resolutely shook his head. "The day the goddamm Brits get into space will be the day I quit!" he cried, and, for once, both of his colleagues were inclined to believe him.
"A short story shouldn't have too many characters in it," Dr. Murray declared for the benefit of his two prettiest students - Linda Bell and Pauline Dyer, who were seated opposite him at the table nearest to the door in what was, by any standards, a busy lunch-time restaurant. "Though it should have more characters than a dialogue and less than a novel. What particularly justifies a work the length of a novel is the fact that the author intends to introduce more characters to us than he'd be able to do in a short story. To write a novel with as few as two or three characters, on the other hand, would be no less absurd than to write a short story with ten or more! One would be writing a novel as though it were a dialogue or a short story, and that can only be mistaken. Unless one knows why one is writing a novel, one has absolutely no business writing it!"
Dr. Murray said this with such force of conviction, such self-righteous indignation, that both his students blushed and started back from the table slightly. It was as though they were personally being scolded by the pedagogue for having infringed the rules of literature in the above-mentioned way, even though neither of them had so much as contemplated doing any such thing before.
"You'd therefore describe a novel with only a few characters as bogus?" Linda tentatively ventured of her tutor, once she had recovered from her momentary discomfort.
"Oh, yes!" he confirmed. "You can't write a novel like a monologue or a dialogue, you know. A dialogue's a dialogue."
"Emphatically!" Pauline agreed with an emphatic nod of her dark-haired head, which contrasted sharply with her fellow-student's very blonde one. She was especially keen to agree with him, since he was both hale and handsome. Quite the most handsome man on the university staff, she thought. Although, when one really came to think of it, there weren't that many there who could be described as even moderately handsome. Admittedly, a few of them just might have been passably handsome once. But, if so, they were by now long past recognition as such!
"But can't literature kind of converge to a literary Omega Point on the basis of a one-character novel?" queried Linda, who had no personal designs on the man herself.
"No!" came his quick response. "One character would not signify progress over ten or twelve, but simply testify to the degeneration of literature to a level way beneath the accepted norm! A novelist who utilized just one character would be no novelist at all, in my opinion, but a lazy or degenerate person given to writing monologues. Now a monologue can of course be extended to virtually any length, but that won't make it a novel!"
Linda Bell felt relatively satisfied by this line of argument and decided against challenging it. Her fledgling novel had five characters at present, so it could hardly be regarded in a bogus or absurd light on that account. Should a few more characters be added before the end, Dr. Murray would doubtless find her work even more meritorious than it was already. Yet there existed a limit as to how many characters one could reasonably employ in a short novel, since too many would be even worse than too few. She frowned to herself and stared ruefully at the table.
Meanwhile, Pauline Dyer was asking her tutor whether he thought there was any real possibility of literature being created, in the future, through Esperanto, or some such international language. When, to her surprise, he wanted to know why she should ask him this, she replied: "Well, I had read somewhere that literature was destined to become more international in character, and just wondered whether the eventual use of a completely new, universal language would not be preferable to the simultaneous use, in one work, of various languages, as in James Joyce and Ezra Pound. After all, few people can understand more than three or four languages at the best of times, whereas a fresh language, understood the world over, would surely make for universal acceptance?"
"That's an interesting point!" Dr. Murray commented. "For all I know, you may well be on to something there, since the use of various languages, as with the authors to whom you allude, could well be a stage on the road to a completely new language. If so, then we needn't expect any future literature to be created on multi-lingual terms but, rather, on terms more akin to Esperanto. Yet one ought also to remember that literature is destined to become completely abstract, so that intelligibility won't necessarily be a prerequisite for its appreciation."
Miss Dyer smiled ironically and confessed that she couldn't envisage herself reading a literature that made no sense.
"Neither can I actually," Dr. Murray admitted, smiling. "Though that's no reason for us to suppose people in the future will share our limitations. On the contrary, they'd probably be unable to envisage themselves reading a literature that made sense, in that it would run contrary to their more mature post-atomic bias, a bias aligned with free-electron criteria in opposition to all forms and degrees of proton determinism. Literature, you see, can only change and, hopefully, for the better. Naturally, it is perfectly logical that each age should prefer its own level or stage of creativity to any other, since that's usually what is most intelligible at the time."
"That's really a distinction between the tragic and the trivial planes, isn't it?" interposed Pauline, who found herself sliding towards Koestlerian logic.
"I guess so," Linda conceded, before turning back towards their tutor for an answer.
"Yes, well, I prefer the
the comic myself," he replied, blushing slightly in the process,
"because, to my mind, it's an altogether superior type of literature. In the Koestlerian
distinction between the 'Ha-ha' - the 'A-ha!' - and the 'Ah ...'
reactions, the humorous novel appertains more to the first than to the
category, and is accordingly a self-assertive rather than a
kind of literature. It trivializes and is
therefore of diabolical orientation.
Huxley's earliest novels were more humorous than serious in
so conformed to the trivial plane in fidelity to a variety of
tendencies. As he matured as both a man
and an artist, so Huxley became more moral-minded, producing a number
which approximate to the tragic plane in their self-transcending
qualities. If I remember correctly, his
Of the two students, only Linda Bell had read the novel in question, and she confirmed the truth of what Dr. Murray was saying with a gentle nod. Slightly piqued, however, by what she took to be an allusion to youthful immaturity, she said: "Are we students to assume that we'd be incapable of similarly pursuing a more moral-minded stance ourselves?"
The question almost confounded her lecturer who, taken by surprise, assumed a mildly ingratiating tone in self-defence. "On the contrary, I'm confident that both of you would be capable of attaining to the tragic plane in any prospective literary endeavour upon which you happened to be engaged," he assured them. "Yet I doubt that you could hope to emulate the later Huxley much before your mature years! Youth is, I regret to say, rather more self-assertive than self-transcending, as a rule. The destructive instinct usually prevails over the, eh, constructive one.... No, in spite of the fact that I'm a university lecturer, I must confess to not holding a particularly high opinion of youth. I look back on my own with distinct misgivings, wondering how I could have done what I did and said what I said and believed what I believed and thought it all so important at the time. Believe me, youth leaves a lot to be desired - namely maturity!"
Both the students had by now become quite embarrassed by Dr. Murray's unprofessional candour, and Pauline, in particular, wondered why he had to succumb to it, especially since she and Linda were technically youths themselves.
"Naturally, one can't always be frank about such matters to the wrong people," he continued, as though he had read their minds and divined their humiliation from the shocked expression on their faces, "else open civil war would ensue between the different age-groups and classes, whereas normally it's only a covert, largely unconscious civil war that prevails. Most of the time we have to endure adversity, not speak out against it! Thus we usually keep these things to ourselves. So the fact that I've been taken for a bastard by people who knew no more about me than that my lips were rather tightly sealed at the time, is something I'm obliged to take for granted. But, in reality, no such tight-lipped 'bastard' exists in complete isolation, as a kind of independent entity. On the contrary, one is to a large extent what other people - very often fools, vulgarians, aggressive louts, boors, ignoramuses, philistines, barbarians, etc. - oblige one to be! So if one's lips are a little too tightly sealed on occasion, it's likely to be either because one is disgusted by someone or something plaguing one at the time or, alternatively, because one's facial expression is the result of long experience of such disgusting circumstances! To be sure, it would make a refreshing change if the contribution others had made to one's bastard-like appearance was occasionally borne in mind by would-be detractors!"
Although spoken in earnest and with a degree of self-consciousness, Dr. Murray's remarks produced an amusing effect upon his two students, neither of whom were prepared to regard themselves as either actual or potential contributors to his allegedly acerbic character. "Isn't it only by misunderstanding that the world goes around?" retorted Linda, alluding to a contention from Baudelaire's Intimate Journals.
"Yes, since most people, as a rule, aren't disposed or in a position to understand one's point of view," declared Dr. Murray, who broke into a broad smile, much to the relief of his two companions at table.
"Maybe in the future, when Esperanto is being spoken the world over, the degree of misunderstanding between peoples of diverse national background will be minimized?" Pauline suggested, tactfully manoeuvring the conversation back to an earlier topic.
"That would be a good thing, since a convergence to unity on the level of language is certainly needed," her tutor averred.
"Especially in the European Parliament," Linda opined.
"Frankly, I think it would be sadly out-of-place there," Dr. Murray remarked, to her surprise. "For a multilingual set-up would seem pertinent to a bourgeois/proletarian stage of evolution, a stage of transition from dualistic to post-dualistic criteria. Only a future proletarian civilization could reasonably endorse the introduction of a completely fresh language of post-nationalist constitution. A typical petty-bourgeois argument, however, will be one that insists, as many Englishmen now do, on a language like English being adopted as the official universal tongue. Yet the adoption of such a tongue universally would not correspond to a convergence to unity on the level of language, such as would signify the supersession of all traditional languages in a transcendent fashion, but amount to the adoption of one national language at the expense of the others - a no-less unacceptable procedure than the adoption of one so-called world religion, like Buddhism, at the expense of the others, or the adoption of one literary genre, like poetry, at the expense of the others, and so on.... No, a truly global civilization will require a truly universal language, like Esperanto. Those who desire to impose such a language on multinational bourgeois/proletarian civilization are simply being precocious. Everything must abide its rightful time!"
"Absolutely," said Pauline, who began to wonder whether that didn't also apply to the development of a romantic relationship between Dr. Murray and herself?
A PRIVATE INTRODUCTION
along, Mary and I, to hear Mr. Kells
modern art, which he had arranged to do for the benefit of a select
of students, one Thursday evening, in the privacy of his suburban home. Ordinarily his lectures were confined to the
rather stuffy lecture theatre at
We had expected, on arrival, to be introduced to the former before the latter but, as things turned out, found ourselves being escorted round the drawing room, in which the greater part of his art collection happened to be hung, and introduced to the paintings almost as soon as we had removed our coats. It appeared that none of the other students, of which there were to be about ten, had as yet turned up, and that, since we ourselves were late in arriving, the host had decided to proceed with his lecture irrespective of whether to a small gathering or to a mere couple of students. His wife, he assured us, would bring some refreshment at a later hour, though to sustain us in the meantime he kindly offered us a glass of sherry, which we thankfully accepted.
There were some fifty paintings of unequal size and diverse technique on display in what was, by ordinary standards, a fairly large room, and they had been arranged in closely-packed order, occasionally in tiers of four, all around the walls, so that scarcely any space remained between them, suggesting the possibility that they had come to represent, in their owner's eyes, a substitute for wallpaper. The effect was at first somewhat confusing, especially since some of the larger and brighter works on display tended to smother the smaller and duller ones beneath the dazzle of their overbearing effulgence. I remarked on this impression to Mr. Kells, during the course of our slow perambulation around the room, and he surprised me by replying that the apparent confusion was only an illusion introduced by the mind unaccustomed to such profusion and that, after a while, things would begin to sort themselves out, as they had long ago done in his own mind.
"By the way," he added, as if in parentheses, "the emphasis in this particular part of my collection, which means the majority of paintings on these walls, is on mindlessness, though to varying extents, depending on the type of art in question."
Mary, who was always the more courageous where owning-up to ignorance is concerned, asked: "In what way are they mindless?"
A gleam of triumphant satisfaction came into Mr. Kells' cold eyes, and he replied: "Ah, that's what I had hoped you'd ask, since I was intending to explain it to you!"
We stopped suddenly in front of a number of various-sized surrealist paintings, one or two of which were immediately recognizable to me as works by famous masters, British and Irish as well as Continental, and waited for him to continue, which of course he was to do with his tongue.
"The chief impression one gets from Surrealism," he announced, with apparent gusto, "is that mind has been left in abeyance whilst objects, people, nature, or whatever, are juxtaposed in incongruous contexts: a horse standing with a football on its head, a man nearby with a fishing rod between his teeth, the intrusion of a skyscraper into a swimming pool, and so on, being examples of this seemingly arbitrary positioning of diverse phenomena. But, in point of fact, that is an illusion, because no matter how seemingly incongruous the juxtaposition, the phenomena in question have been painted, as a rule, with fastidious application. The impression of mindlessness, of the selective mind's having been withdrawn from service, is merely on the surface of the painting. For underneath, in its technical depths, the application of mind to the structuring and colouring of phenomena is no less vigorous - and in some cases even more so - than in so-called conventional or realistic paintings. Thus Surrealism is a kind of hoax or, at best, transitional painting between Realism and Abstract Expressionism. The interesting paradox is that the artist's mind has been applied to the work in such a way as to create an impression that mind is absent from it, that these incongruous juxtapositions one sees are really the product of mindlessness."
I looked more carefully at the nearest paintings, one after another, and saw that there was indeed some truth in what he was saying, though it had never occurred to me to consider Surrealism in such a mindless light before! Presumably automatic writing, as practised at one time by André Breton and a number of his surrealist colleagues, was designed to give a similar impression, not simply to reveal the subconscious mind but to by-pass the conscious mind altogether, in an attempt to record mindless thought - the nadir of psychic materialism in response to merely physiological promptings. I savoured these conjectures while we moved on a little way and Mary took up the theme of Abstract Expressionism from the reference Mr. Kells had earlier made to it, inquiring of him whether such abstract-expressionist canvases as he possessed were the truly mindless ones.
"In a certain sense they are," he duly replied, positioning himself, and therefore us, in front of a selection of radically abstract works which appeared about as chaotic-looking as such art could do. "In these examples, the artist has simply allowed the paint to drip onto the canvas and form its own patterns, or lack of them, while keeping most of his creative mind in abeyance. They are the nearest one can get to mindless art, though, naturally, a degree of conscious mind had to be applied to them in order to ensure that the paint actually got onto the canvas and didn't completely smother it. One might say that mind has been applied in a tenuous way, a good deal less fastidiously or vigorously than in most of the examples of Surrealism just viewed."
I had to agree with that assumption and responded with a curt nod for our host's psychological benefit. But it was clear to me that no matter how seemingly tenuous the connection between mind and art, a connection still existed and couldn't, in the nature of things, be completely negated. A totally mindless art was impossible, even in a materialistic age like the twentieth century. For art reflected mind, was, in a sense, mind objectivized, and never more so than in the case of truly modern art, as represented, on a variety of levels, by the paintings in Mr. Kells' private collection.
Meanwhile Mary was asking our exhibitionist host whether the application of paint to canvas didn't resemble the application of mind to thought, that is to say, whether there wasn't a direct correlation between a brain and its thought and a paintbrush and its paint. "For if mind arranges thoughts in such a way as to form coherent sentences, then surely the arrangement of paints on a canvas to form coherent patterns is an analogous process?" she added.
"Oh, indeed!" he concurred. "Though if there is very little arrangement of paints on a canvas, then it must follow that there will be very little mind there. This is why I describe these works as virtually mindless. And, for that reason, they're very superficial, very ..." he scratched his head while searching for the right word ... "extrovert. They reflect an extreme form of romanticism and are accordingly rather materialistic, the sort of art one might associate with Socialism."
"But isn't Socialist Realism the sort of art one usually associates with that?" Mary naively objected, as we moved on again to a different wall, where some minimalist paintings were hung.
"To be sure," our host admitted, smiling shrewdly. "But such art is created on bourgeois/proletarian representational terms, whereas these abstract works were created, it seems to me, on petty-bourgeois avant-garde terms, such as are only permissible or truly intelligible within the confines of Western civilization. They signify the materialist side of this civilization, in contrast to those works which emphasize mind on levels suggesting a superconscious affiliation or influence."
I wondered for a moment exactly what such levels could be, and was about to air my uncertainty when Mr. Kells graciously continued by informing us that Mondrian's mature work, which involved grids and squares, afforded us perfect examples of the opposite, or spiritual, kind of petty-bourgeois art, of which, alas, only one example was available in this room, and that an incomplete one. However, there were some neo-plastic and kindred works on display in another room of the house, and this he promised to introduce us to in due course. Apparently, the mindless and the mindful couldn't be hung in the same room, and so, for reasons of propriety, he had arranged to divide his collection into two main parts - the bigger, or secular, part in the drawing room, the smaller, or religious, part in the sitting room opposite. The narrow hallway in between he described as a kind of intermediate, composite realm of conflicting influences, with one or two examples from each side on display there. But we had started our tour of his collection on the lower, or romantic, level, and would duly proceed to the higher, classical one. Not until we had run the gamut of petty-bourgeois art from bottom to top, as it were, would we be in a position to properly appreciate the creative scope of contemporary Western civilization, which, so he contended, was anathema to both Western bourgeoisie and Eastern proletariat alike - the one because beneath it, the other because potentially above it and, in any case, outside the existing confines of bourgeois/proletarian civilization.
I was surprised that he knew so much and told him, as we made for the door to exit ourselves from the materialist part of his collection, that my bias had always been for the spiritual, which I considered an apt reflection of my temperament.
"But the trouble with you,
"That isn't true!" I responded, blushing violently. For I realized that Mr. Kells was a better mind-reader than I had suspected. Nevertheless, I received Mary's ironic smile with grace and was relieved to behold Mrs. Kells suddenly entering the room, followed by her daughter and son, with a tea tray in her hands. Our visit to the smaller collection would now be postponed for a few minutes while we sipped hot tea, paid one another a few gratuitous compliments, and wondered to ourselves just where the other students had got to this evening. At least, Mary and I would.
Living up here in space, one gets an intimation of what it would be like as absolute mind in the transcendental Beyond. Only an intimation, mind you. For, of course, we're only human beings, and our minds are relative, not absolute. We have carnal lusts to satisfy and, on top of that, the captain occasionally issues a stern order or reprimand to certain members of his crew, including myself, which creates feelings quite the reverse of heavenly! No, we can never get a particularly clear idea of what absolute mind would be like. But, even so, we're privileged when compared with some people. I prefer life on this space station, at any rate, to life on Earth, regardless of what other people may think.
I was glad to get a letter from mother, whom I hadn't heard from for a number of months. She posted it early this morning, and it reached me by space mail in the afternoon. The service is getting better these days, though there is still some delay from time to time. Someone told me, the other week, that they might reintroduce distinctions between stamps, making some more expensive than others in the interests of a quicker service. But I rather doubt it. Class distinctions are, by and large, a thing of the past - certainly so far as stamps are concerned!
Mrs. Sewell seems to be keeping well, though still a little overweight. She worries about my social life, wondering whether I get enough company up here. By which she primarily means female company. She needn't worry, though; there's never any shortage of bags to fill, if you like that kind of thing. Young ones are especially plentiful - about twenty in all. The captain keeps his beady eyes on them for a variety of reasons, not least of all personal. But I'm not particularly sensual. Prefer my sexuality sublimated, as a rule, which is why I keep a few pin-ups in my cabin. Not just to look at them, either. I take a pleasure in stroking them, or whichever parts of them happen to be most conspicuous, on the odd occasion. Odd in more senses than one, according to my colleague Second-Lieutenant Wilkins. But he doesn't appreciate such subtleties. He is a flesh-monger to the core, even up here, and for that reason a rotten spiritualist! Thinks I am mad when, in point of fact, old Shane Sewell is simply saner than him. My favourite pin-up, by the way, is a blonde Continental of Germanic origin called Eva. I stroke her cheeks more often than I stroke the more blatantly seductive parts of anyone else. She is a high-grade temptress and, frankly, I find it difficult not to be seduced into admiring her. I won't share her with anyone else, not even the captain. Though I do occasionally lend my blonde inflatable to Second-Lieutenant Wilkins, who sometimes grows dissatisfied with his own, and thereby cater to his ingrained predilection for bigamy. Sublimated bigamy, you could call it. I have named her Eva, after my pin-up heroine.
A more serious note now! I have been reading about theories concerning the so-called Worm Holes which criss-cross space in every direction and are considered to bring distant parts of it together in a multi-dimensional framework of interconnected universes. I used to believe such theories, but now I incline to reject them on the grounds that they are improbable. Living up here, thousands of miles from the Earth, one gets a better view of these Worm Holes and, in my opinion, what one sees has nothing to do with separate universes being interconnected through kaleidoscopic tunnels in superspace, but ... the gradual convergence and expansion of millions of separate globes of transcendent spirit en route, so to speak, to an ultimate unity in ... the Omega Point, or spiritual culmination of evolution as defined by Teilhard de Chardin. I am now quite convinced that these so-called Worm Holes, of which there are countless millions, are fragments of absolute mind existing, in space, in a context of Heaven. I think one is looking at individual manifestations of the transcendental Beyond when one gets these things into psychic perspective.... Not that you can see them very clearly. For they are pretty dark, darker even than space. But, then, transcendent spirit wouldn't be conspicuously apparent, since spirit pertains to essence and is consequently invisible to the senses - noumenon rather than phenomenon, so to speak. Nevertheless, still constituting a presence in space, still there, and not simply a void inseparable from space itself. A deeper deep within the depths of space. Or, as seems to be the case at present, millions of deeper deeps there.
Of course, I'm aware that Black Holes are also deeper deeps, only they're not in continuous motion, like the Worm Holes, so could hardly be assumed to be converging towards and expanding into one another, creating, in the process, this kaleidoscopic illusion. To tell the truth, I used to think that Black Holes could be Spiritual Globes en route to the Omega Point. But now I incline to agree with scientific opinion ... that they represent the antimass of a star which has suffered gravitational collapse and perished as a light. I therefore reserve the supposition of Spiritual Globes for the so-called Worm Holes which, to my mind, would serve a more useful purpose as transcendent spirit than simply as tunnels linking one part of space to another! Is it necessary, I wonder, for distant regions of space to be brought into periodic contact? And are there, in fact, Multiple Universes in this so-called superspace?
No, I respond negatively to both questions, my artistic conscience reminded of its insightful prerogatives. For, to my mind, they pertain to the realm of scientific subjectivity, in which space, meaning the Universe as a whole, has come to appear possessed of certain quasi-mystical qualities that would formerly have been confined, albeit on different terms, to the subconscious mind; evolutionary progress having required that the transformation from external, or cosmic, objectivity to internal, or superconscious, subjectivity be paralleled by a transformation from internal, or subconscious, objectivity to external, or cosmic, subjectivity, which has resulted in the growth of scientific subjectivity as applying, amongst other things, to the Universe in response to 'theological' expedience - 'theology' having been transferred from the inner to the outer world, in accordance with psychic evolution from a predominantly subconscious to a predominantly superconscious affiliation. Without their realizing it, the champions of the more unorthodox theories of cosmic reality are the modern equivalents of medieval theologians - purveyors of a contemporary idealism, the reverse side of the contemporary realism which pertains to superconscious subjectivity. Space was once simple and religion complex. Now religion is becoming simple and space, by contrast, highly complex. This is an inevitable pattern, not to be derided! The philosopher, however, is entitled to view things in a different and more objective light. For philosophy upholds a chink of sanity in a largely insane world, is the essential truth behind theological illusions. As a philosopher, even one writing in space, I continue to represent philosophical objectivity in the face of theological expedience. I remain the 'evil' conscience of the age, a closed book for most, an enlightening one for those who, in their capacity as leaders, require to know what, intellectually speaking, is really going on in the world and why, if they're to keep in touch with the truth, they mustn't succumb to illusions, necessary or otherwise, in the manner of priests.
Enough for today! I must shortly give myself up to the world of dreams and let the subconscious take over. One cannot live as an absolute when one is still only a man, even if transcendental!
It is difficult when one isn't a human sheep to conceal the fact that one is different. And yet, at the same time, it would be even more difficult to admit that one was different to a human sheep. This fact I have come to realize all too poignantly during my occasional visits to Mrs. Daly, an old widow who lives in another, generally more affluent part of north London than I, and whose acquaintance with some of my relatives in Ireland led one of them to put her in contact with me several years ago. Consequently I was to receive, over the years of my residence in London, a number of invitations to visit Mrs. Daly, most of which I accepted, though with certain definite qualms, since, as I soon discovered, this old woman was by no means a kindred spirit but, rather, the converse of one, as I hope to explain. But not knowing anyone else or having any other contacts to speak of, I was prepared to spend a few hours, once every three or four months, in the company of a person whose petty-bourgeois mentality proved to be at such variance with my own rather more radical, if not proletarian, one. Since she would invariably cook me lunch, and quite a good lunch at that, I considered it expedient to persevere with her small-chat, thus saving myself the price of a meal in one or another of the local cafés.
But perseverance it certainly was and, often enough, the strain of having to listen to her opinions and beliefs was so great ... that, fearful of snapping, I would feel obliged to excuse myself from her company and spend a little while longer than usual in the toilet. Occasionally too, when even that stratagem proved inadequate, I would exempt myself from her company altogether and dejectedly return, by way of a flat-fare bus, to my single bedsitter in Crouch End. There I would endeavour to recover from the old woman, vowing to myself that never again would I accept an invitation to visit her! And yet, the next time one came - usually in the form of a short letter wondering how I was and inquiring whether I'd like to come over for lunch one day - I would succumb to the temptation and ring her up to confirm my willingness to do so on a specific day - usually a Wednesday. I would later regret this decision, but never went back on my word. I was as though under a spell beyond my control.
And so, when the dreaded day arrived, I would be prepared for the worst. I knew that her conversation had its limits and knew, too, how easy it was for her senile mind to wander afresh over the same retrospective ground on each occasion. There were, to be sure, a number of recollections concerning her late-husband and family which had acquired, over the years, the status of an obsession, an idée fixe, and I was invariably destined, on each succeeding visit, to witness most of them for at least the fifth or sixth time, though I graciously refrained from reminding her of this somewhat humiliating fact! As her guest, it was my duty, I reasoned, to grant her the privilege of an attentive ear. Though this duty became diluted in the course of time as, growing over-familiar with her memories, I permitted half my conscious mind to wander off at a tangent, so to speak, while with the other half, more usually the emotional half, I mimicked the semblance of undivided attention. And yet, if I was prepared to show patience with such foibles of old age as were to be found in Mrs. Daly's fixed repertory of reminiscences, I drew the line where matters connected with my own interests were concerned, rushing to their defence or charging into the attack with something approaching passionate conviction, such as even someone so obtuse as my hostess couldn't fail to appreciate! I refer here, in particular, to religion, which was the most consistent source of friction between us - Daly esteeming Roman Catholicism, I, a free spirit, advocating the virtues of transcendentalism, neither of us giving an inch of ideological ground to the other. Here is an example of a typically heated conversation: "But Matthew, how can you not believe in God? He made you!"
"I refuse to accept that!" comes my rejoinder. "The God to which you allude, namely 'the Creator', is an abstraction from cosmic reality and has no existence except in relation to the subconscious mind. In all probability, He was originally derived, knowingly or unknowingly, from the governing star at the centre of the Galaxy, since monotheism presupposes a centralizing tendency commensurate with the real beginnings of civilization. Our ancestors inherited Him from the ancient Hebrews, who called Him Jehovah, and then transformed Him into 'the Father' in order to accommodate both a Mother and a Son, namely Christ. He's an anthropomorphic figure with, in the traditional iconography, long white hair and a flowing white beard to stress his age."
"Yes, but didn't that cosmic reality make you?" Mrs. Daly objects.
"I refuse to accept that a star, any star, even one as intrusive as our sun, had any part to play in my birth or in fashioning my bodily form," I tell her. "If one chooses to equate the governing star of the Galaxy with 'the Creator', which, however, would not be exactly theologically orthodox, one will come to understand that it had a direct hand, so to speak, in creating smaller stars and planets, since they must have arisen from the explosive origin of each galaxy in what we now regard as the central, or governing, star. But if stage one of evolution was responsible for creating stage two, if the stars led to the planets, then it's difficult to see how subsequent stages of evolution, from plants to animals and on to man, could also have been created by it, since they arose at considerable evolutionary removes from the direct influence of the one huge star in each galaxy on the formation, through explosive extrapolation, of the millions of smaller ones, and over a period of millions of years. In fact, they constitute a series of ever more radical falls from it, using the word 'fall' in its morally opprobrious sense."
It is obvious, by this juncture in the conversation, that Mrs. Daly has completely lost track of my logical progression or is unable, for reasons best known to herself, to comprehend it. Yet she has a stock counter-argument to hand, which my reference to stars has engendered, and now she hurls it into the fray by asking me: "But who created the stars, or the governing star of each galaxy?"
"Not 'the Creator'," I reply. "For the stars arose from gaseous explosions in space, and before those explosions took effect ... there was nothing but potentially explosive gas at large. You can't conjure-up a 'Creator' out of nothingness, the void of space. And neither can you equate 'the Creator' with those gases, as if they alone were responsible for the smaller stars and subsequent planets. For gases come and go, and after they've gone ... there would be nothing left to pray to there. Thus the stars are at the root of evolution, even if they owe their existence to explosive gases."
"Well, I can't agree with you," Mrs. Daly confesses, somewhat truculently for a woman of her age. "God made the stars and He also made you. And you should be grateful, as I am, for all the blessings He has given us! I am constantly thanking God for the use of my sight, my hearing, my sense of smell, my good health, the use of my arms and legs.... Really, Matthew, we have so many things for which to be grateful!" (It is almost as though she were afraid that she would lose the use of her senses and limbs if she didn't keep offering-up prayerful thanks for them, and that her advanced age has more than a little to do with it, since they're now manifestly past their prime and therefore not quite what they used to be!)
At this more critical juncture in the conversation, however, the argument will either terminate or take a different line, since I am unable to apply rational persuasion to such irrational faith. I attempted to indicate that God, in the rather basic sense she meant, is a theological entity connected with the subconscious, but she persists in ascribing the creation of the Universe and all that is naturally in it to this abstraction. She won't see that before the stars there was nothing, and that stars, or certain stars, were responsible for the emergence of planets. She prefers to think theologically and, like all psychically backward people, she mistakes this theological idealism for reality. As I said, a sheep. The product of many decades of clerical conditioning. Whereas I am a free spirit. I cannot impress my intellectual superiority upon her for, stupid old woman that she is, she would simply think I was being impertinent and presumptuous. She cannot see me in my true light, as a philosopher-king and potential leader. To her, I'm also a sheep, but a younger one and therefore someone who should abide 'the counsels of the wise', meaning, principally, herself. She would not like to believe this isn't so. It would reflect poorly on her.
But I reflect poorly on her even while she is talking. I find this attitude she adopts of always wanting to thank 'the Creator' for the use of her limbs and senses a base and, on the whole, somewhat pagan one. Thank you for the use of the natural, what stems from the natural, and what pertains to the natural. Ah, but religious evolution has to do with a lot more than that, even on the Christian level! It has to do, namely, with what aspires towards the supernatural - in a word, the Divine Omega. Religious evolution stretches, in a sense, from the Father to the Holy Spirit via Jesus Christ. It doesn't end in the compromise realm of Christianity, in which flesh and spirit tend to balance each other and a diluted paganism co-exists with a diluted transcendentalism ... in fidelity to egocentric dualism, Christ being a sort of 'Three in One' in his humanistic relativity. It progresses on up to a post-humanist orientation, eschewing all reference to a 'Creator' and refraining, in consequence, from endorsing an attitude of thanksgiving for natural phenomena, one's own included. For only by overcoming the natural will evolving life on earth eventually attain to the supernatural, in transcendent spirit. Such is the irrefutable logic of religious evolution. But it isn't a logic that Mrs. Daly shares; for she, after all, is a Catholic and Catholics, being Christians, are perfectly entitled to give thanks to 'the Creator' for the use of their natural assets, not to mention the produce of nature in general. Old Mrs. Daly is especially good at this, as I hope to have indicated, and her feminine, sensuous nature is doubtless part of the reason. Another part must be her status as a fairly affluent petty-bourgeois widow, with a nice little pension to draw on and every incentive to take good care of her health. Eating good food, not just any food but only 'the best', is one of the ways she takes good care of it, and I have had reason, over the years, to be amazed at the expense to which she will go to ensure that only 'the best', or what she considers such, finds its way onto her table.
"I've always said that if you buy only the best, you can't go far wrong," is an aphorism dear to old Mrs. Daly's heart, and I have heard it said on more than one occasion, too! Not for this thanker of 'the Creator' to buy margarine, when she can obtain the best butter with the funds available to her! Not for her to eat sliced bread, which she considers spurious, when she can buy a nice home-made uncut loaf rich in calories instead! Not for her to buy thin little dehydrated apple pies wrapped in cellophane, when she can make fat juicy ones in her own kitchen! Oh, the list is virtually interminable! No wonder she revolts against my attitude of preferring to cultivate the spirit than to stuff the flesh!
But that, of course, is how I see it. From her point of view I don't cultivate the spirit at all because, unlike her, I don't attend church but remain aloof from it in the belief that I know better and have no need of orthodox faith. No matter if I should protest that Christianity isn't the end of the religious road, but merely a stage along it, and a pretty ambivalent stage at that, Mrs. Daly refuses to accept my opinion and insists that only by returning to the Church will I find salvation, that only in the Church will I be able to feed my spirit. No matter if I vigorously protest this narrow point-of-view, there is no shaking her conviction that the Church alone is right and Catholicism the one true faith!
Oh hell, what disgust and exasperation overwhelm me at these moments! How I loathe this old woman for her sheep-like narrowness of mind, her lack of evolutionary perspective, her petty-bourgeois philistinism, her love of nature, her religious limitations, her denominational bigotry, and a hundred-and-one other things which burden my 'Steppenwolfian' soul with morose feelings! How I long for the wide-open spaces of an intelligent mind with whom to communicate for once! It would never occur to her that my spirit is being fed when I read books, write aphorisms, listen to music, contemplate art, meditate, play my guitar, etc. Oh, no! To her way of thinking I don't feed my spirit at all. And ... all because I refuse to go to church!
Well, what can one say? A genius confronted by a sheep - it's terrible! There is no possibility of understanding. One simply wonders why one should have allowed oneself to get dragged through the mud of her opaque mind all over again. Is one under an evil spell?
I met a number of other people at this old woman's house in the course of time, friends as well as relatives of hers, but they were none of them particularly inspiring. Occasionally her daughter, Maureen, would be there on vacation from Ireland. She was more broadminded, but still relatively narrow. Once, too, I met her grandson, Seamus, only son of Maureen, and decided, after some conversation, that he was probably the least narrow of the lot, though still far from broad or, at any rate, enlightened. One sheep begets another, so that, despite generational variations, the overall pattern of narrowness and ignorance remains pretty much established in its predetermined mould. Seamus, for instance, was violently opposed to city life, having spent the past seven years living in a country cottage on the West Coast of Ireland (I forget the exact location). I had spent approximately the same amount of time in one of the world's greatest cities and so, not altogether surprisingly, we failed to see eye-to-eye on a number of counts, not least where religion was concerned, which only conformed, after all, to precedent. The countryside isn't really the best place for cultivating a transcendental attitude to life, for turning against nature and aspiring more ardently towards the supernatural, and Seamus was hardly one to sympathize with my transcendentalism. Apparently, he wasn't one to regularly attend church either, which was a disappointment for his grandmother to swallow. He preferred to practise Christianity without making any formal concessions to ritual, and to adopt Zen, or some variation on it, to his rural lifestyle, which embraced a variety of outdoor jobs, including fishing. He was quite capable of defending himself against allegations, from his grandmother, of being a lapsed Catholic, maintaining, in the face of heated opposition, that there was more to Catholicism than going to church and receiving the Eucharist!
That might be true, but I wasn't prepared to enter into the argument, since I had no particular interests at stake. But when the conversation turned to my religious beliefs and I was requested to give an outline of them, it soon became clear to me that a new argument was about to erupt, this time between Seamus and myself, since he protested my contention that life ceased with death and, true to his petty-bourgeois nature, insisted that death wasn't the end, that the spirit could survive it and soar to the Other World.
"But have you ever seen a spirit leave the body of a dead person?" I incredulously ask him, knowing full-well that spirit wasn't connected with phenomenal appearances.
Seamus wisely shakes his head. "Can't say I have," he confesses. "Yet I refuse, all the same, to believe that this life is the only one. It seems to me that we're here to fulfil a purpose, to work out an individual destiny, after which we proceed, at death, to the spiritual world."
All very Christian of course, and half-true in its paradoxical sort of way. Though still falling short of what I knew to be the literal truth!
As does another thing Seamus says, after I've voiced an unflattering opinion of his belief: "There have been a number of accounts of the Other World from people who left their body behind and proceeded, at death, to the higher plane. I read quite recently of a man who, having died, recognized his body lying prostrate on its bed as his soul hovered above it. There he was, a discarnate soul, looking down from the other side of death at his corpse! But it transpired that he wasn't ripe, apparently, for the Other World; that he still had a mission to fulfil on earth, so he was obliged to return to his body and come back to life, which, for several months thereafter, weighed heavily on his soul as it adjusted itself to bearing the burden of his flesh again."
This is the gist, recounted in a touchingly credulous fashion, of one of Seamus's revelations concerning life after death, and I must confess to not having been particularly inspired by it! There is, of course, the possibility that the example cited by him involved a man who hadn't really died but had simply fallen into a deep sleep, from which he was eventually to awaken with the recollection of a dream, involving levitation, which he then mistook for a revelation concerning the Afterlife. There is also the possibility of the whole episode being nothing more than a hoax upon which some unscrupulous person sought to capitalize at the expense of joe public. This would doubtless apply to a number of accounts of life-after-death which exploited the general ignorance of most people concerning such things, in the interests of personal profit from a sensational story. Where it is believed that one cannot prove either way whether or not the spirit survives death, there's obviously sufficient incentive for some people to produce fabrications on behalf of survival theories. Seamus, however, isn't really in an intellectual position to know the truth, whereas I, having spent many years struggling towards it in the development of my philosophy, believe I am. I know that there is no chance of a relative mind being able to accommodate itself to absolute mind at death, since death is the cessation of that mind in consequence of the termination, for one reason or another, of physiological support. There is no reincarnation either, though this oriental theory provides us with a useful metaphor for emphasizing the inability of relative mind to co-exist with absolute mind in the Beyond.
As to Seamus's story of the account of a spirit looking down on its corpse from the other side of death, I was obliged to protest this matter by informing him that such a situation would be quite impossible since, unless this spirit had a pair of eyes in its head, which is most unlikely for something beyond the senses, it would be incapable of identifying anything outside itself, spirit having nothing whatsoever to do with appearances but being entirely essential - wrapped-up in its own noumenal self-consciousness. I could tell, however, that my argument, despite its reasonableness, would have very little influence on Seamus's judgement, such as it was, and that he would continue to believe such accounts of posthumous life as a matter of course, much the way his grandmother, another sheep, was convinced that she would be saved at death, and this in spite of her life-long commitment to the 'best' food, supplied and eaten, I should add, in copious quantities!
Well, good fucking luck to them! These simple people are entitled to believe what they like, since they exist within the Christian civilization as insiders and relate, in their different ways, to what it upholds. I also exist within this civilization but, being a Steppenwolf rather than a sheep, as an outsider, for whom such beliefs as life after death have no substance. My better knowledge obliges me to rebel against their bourgeois beliefs as well as to realize that not being a sheep but a philosopher-king and potential shepherd is as difficult a cross to bear as any, especially when one is more the victim of sheep than their master, as one certainly is in this context! Another civilization and another flock, and one might be on top. In this damn civilization one is simply outside - a dissident without the power to alter anything!
Ah, but that is the social macrocosm. I have been describing, for the most part, the social microcosm, as applying to my periodic visits to old Mrs. Daly. I could never quite understand why I allowed myself to get dragged into successive humiliations-on-a-religious-theme at her hands, or at least so I thought. Now, however, I know differently. It wasn't just that I needed some company and, if only to escape my solitude once in awhile, was prepared to tolerate virtually anyone, even someone so incredibly opaque as her. There was more to it than that, and I only realized exactly what it was on the occasion of my last visit. I recalled that she had an upright piano in the front room and asked whether I might have a go on it. I hadn't touched a piano in years, though I had once been a keen and passably accomplished player. No doubt, that was why I had a vague hankering, on this occasion, to get the feel of a keyboard under my fingers again. Nostalgia was pervading my soul and I wanted to give-in to it. Mrs. Daly, however, wasn't particularly enthusiastic about the idea, probably because she preferred to talk and was half-afraid that, were I to set the piano keys in motion, I would disturb her nearest neighbours and thereby invite some kind of retaliation, either then or, more likely, later that day, after I had left. Accordingly, she attempted to dissuade me from making the attempt. But, contrary to my usual acquiescent nature, I insisted that I proceed. And so she had no alternative but to comply with my wish, though not without remarking, in a brazen attempt to dampen my enthusiasm down a bit, that the piano was very old and seriously out-of-tune. Nevertheless I succeeded in obliging her to lead the way into the front room and, when there, to lift back the piano lid. At last, I thought to myself, an opportunity to form some broken chords again!
"It's very out of tune," Mrs. Daly repeats, more for her own benefit than mine, I figured, as I sat on the piano stool and applied both hands to the tentative formation of a descending sequence of major and minor chordal structures, quickly coming to the conclusion that the notes weren't really very out-of-tune at all but, on the whole, perfectly in-tune. I ranged over the entire length of the keyboard, black as well as white keys, and felt, probably for the first time in the entire history of days spent in Mrs. Daly's boring company, genuinely excited by what I was doing. Not for years had I touched my old love, the most accommodating of instrumental whores, and now my piano-starved fingers were tucking-in to the notes with something approaching lecherous appetite. Mrs. Daly, however, appeared anything but pleased by circumstances not quite under her control, and hastened to remind me that it was only an old piano which had got rather scratched up, thanks to one of her young nephews, who had used the lid for a playground on several occasions. And to confirm this regrettable fact she gently returned the lid to its original closed position, obliging me to withdraw my love-sick fingers from the acquiescent keys.
"There, you see?" she declares, pointing to a few small scratches superficially etched into the woodwork on top of the lid. "I'll have to get someone to come and polish it all over again." And then, abruptly changing track: "Was that music you were playing?"
"Just a jazzy improvisation," I modestly confess.
"Not music, then," Mrs. Daly rejoins, in her customary snobbish fashion.
"Well, music of sorts," I aver, preferring to ignore a definition of music which applied solely to printed scores.
"And did you ever take lessons?" she asks on a faintly sceptical note.
"Indeed I did," I smilingly reply. "For five long years."
She looks as though she doesn't quite believe me. "This was at school, was it?"
"No, privately," I correct, conscious, as ever, of the snobbish implications in the old widow's assumption, but determined not to allow myself to become unduly contemptuous of her. For by now I was beginning to feel an uprush of psychological relief from some remote quarter of my mind, such as I had never experienced in connection with Mrs. Daly before. And then, as quick as lightning, I realized that something I must have wanted to do all along, namely toy with her piano, had just taken place, in consequence of which I was now free of a nagging subconscious ambition. It was as if a spell had been broken and I no longer had anything to keep me there. To Mrs. Daly's surprise, I remarked that I would now have to be going, since the time was getting late and I had one or two personal things to attend to before the afternoon was over.
"But it has only just turned three-thirty!" she protests, turning desperate eyes towards the nearest clock. "I was about to get you some tea!"
This, of course, was something she normally did at around this time, thereby obliging me to persevere with her conversation until gone four. "Yes, but I've got to go to the local library today," I obdurately inform her, as I proceed, without further ado, to the hall in order to retrieve my coat.
"Well, do come again soon, Matthew," she politely insists, before I could open the door and bid her a curt goodbye.
"I'll try," I assure her. But, deep down, I felt this was the last visit I would ever pay her. For I had broken the spell and now I was free. From now on, her house would hold absolutely no attraction for me!
CONCERNING A TREE
Mr. Gerard Keane was kneeling down in front of the medium-sized Christmas tree he had recently erected and decked-out with coloured lights and silver balls, as tradition required. His wife had taken the children for a walk in the snow and he had promised them that the tree would be fully decked-out by the time they returned. The only other occupant of their sitting room was Joseph Gill, a bachelor, who sat in one of its three comfortable armchairs as sole witness to the proceedings. Now that his next-door neighbour had completed the job, however, he noticed a look of puzzlement on the man's face and inquired of him, in a leisurely way, as to the source of this emotion. For he was slightly puzzled, himself, by its presence there. Surely self-satisfaction or pride would have been more appropriate?
"Ah well, since you ask, I'll confess it to you," said Mr. Keane, turning fully towards his guest. "We perceive before us a Christmas tree, no doubt a fairly typical one for a room this size. This is my tree, my family's tree, and I'm really quite pleased with it. But, you know ..." and here his face tensed slightly as he sought to convey his puzzlement more clearly ... "much as I've set up such a tree for a number of years now, and much as I can recall my father having set up a similar one when I was a boy and decked it out in a like manner, I've never been able to understand what it's all about, just why, I mean, we bother to set up Christmas trees at all. My father would say that it was to decorate a room in accordance with Christmas tradition, and when my children ask me, I've replied that it's to bring a little extra light into the house. Clever young Richard has seen reason to doubt the validity of this reply, on one or two occasions, by insisting that there's enough light in it already. Which, of course, is true. So, to save face, I've then copied my father by referring the tree to tradition. But, unlike me, who was usually content with some explanation ... no matter how vague, clever little Richard has to ask: 'Why has it become tradition?' and I, short of a suitable answer, have to shake my shoulders in a gesture of ignorance and retort 'It just has'. After which neither of us are satisfied, and we long for a more substantial explanation. Unfortunately, my wife can't provide one. Nor can my little daughter. So we call it quits and change the subject. This year, however, Richard might have an explanation of his own. For he's sure to be dissatisfied with the same old story and may not even wish to be confronted with my ignorance again. If only I could think of something more cogent to tell him!"
Poor Mr. Keane looked quite disappointed with himself, though he had no reason, thought Gill, to be particularly ashamed of what was, after all, a fairly general failing throughout Christendom at this time of year. How many other people could have offered their children anything more concrete to go on? He, Joseph Gill, had never received a convincing explanation as a child either, but at least he'd had the good fortune to work out a pretty convincing one for himself in recent years, and, seeing that Gerard Keane looked no less puzzled now than previously, he thought it might not be inappropriate to divulge it to him, as a means to offering some enlightenment. So he leant back in the leather armchair and, to Mr. Keane's obvious surprise, proceeded to reveal what he considered to be the truth. (Doubtless Gerard would be sceptical at first, like most ordinary blokes when confronted by something original or profound. Yet such scepticism was but a temporary barrier to enlightenment.)
"Because man isn't an end in himself but a means to a higher end, namely the attainment of salvation in the heavenly Beyond, it follows that he must one day be overcome, to use a Nietzschean-type expression, in the interests of evolutionary progress. Above man will come, after the next civilization, the post-human life forms of the transcendental millennium, which will be derived from him as, in the first case, brains artificially supported and sustained in communal contexts, and, in the second case, following the removal or transcendence of the old brain, new brains artificially supported and sustained in more intensely communal contexts. These two life forms, the Supermen and Superbeings respectively, are beyond us in evolutionary development, and because we aren't simply creatures of the present, like animals, but capable of projecting our minds backwards or forwards in time, we intimate of this future millennial stage of evolution by placing coloured lights and/or silver balls on a Christmas tree every year which, whether or not we're consciously aware of the fact, symbolize the life forms in question."
Mr. Keane's astonishment at hearing this constrained him to silence for several seconds, before he could bring himself to articulate an incredulous response. "You mean to tell me that men will one day cease to exist, as we know them, and instead become so many brains hanging on a tree?" he well-nigh exclaimed.
"Only the 'tree' will be an artificial one," Gill said, "and the brains won't so much hang as be supported. There'll be thousands of these tree-like supports all over the planet, which will be maintained and supervised by specially-qualified men, who'll function as technicians. There's no other way to Heaven than via a post-human millennium."
Mr. Keane scratched his head in manifest perplexity and turned towards the Christmas tree. There were at least fifty fairy lights in six different colours on it, and almost as many silver balls. There were also some strands of tinsel and, right at the top, a plastic angel with a star-tipped wand in its tiny hand. Having glanced over all this, he turned back to his guest and asked: "Could it be that I'm intimating of both the Supermen and Superbeings simultaneously, then?"
He was of course alluding to the fact that there were silver balls as well as fairy lights on his tree, and Joseph Gill quickly cottoned-on to the apparent incongruity of the situation, allowing himself the ironic luxury of some mild amusement at his neighbour's expense. "That could well be," he smilingly replied. "Though whether you choose to equate the silver balls with Supermen or, alternatively, their superbeingful successors ... doesn't really matter. If you want to intimate of only the first phase of the post-human millennium, you may as well remove the silver balls and leave the fairy lights to symbolize the Supermen. Alternatively, you could skip the first phase and have the silver balls symbolizing the second phase of millennial time, that of our projected Superbeings. Or, assuming you prefer to leave things as they are, you could intimate of both phases at once - an intimation which, despite its illogicality from an evolutionary standpoint, is no less pertinent to the Christmas spirit. Myself, I'd prefer to concentrate on the Superbeings and thus intimate of the millennial phase immediately preceding transcendence."
Mr. Keane chuckled and, pointing to the toy angel, said: "For which, presumably, the fairy at the top of the tree would be an appropriate symbol?"
"Yes, it's towards the angel that evolution must go when transcendence eventually occurs. For it symbolizes the heavenly goal and is accordingly positioned on the topmost branch, as at the culmination of superbeingful evolution from which pure spirit will duly emerge in supra-atomic blessedness. The angel's tiny wand points in the direction, as it were, of the heavenly Beyond, and its tip symbolizes pure spirit."
Mr. Keane was visibly excited by now, and marvelled to think that he had been in the dark about this, metaphorically speaking, all along! "So pure spirit would escape from matter," he commented, "leaving behind it the shattered remnants of a new-brain collectivization. If one imagines all these fairy lights smashed to smithereens ... one would presumably have a symbol for the effects of transcendence."
Joseph Gill winced slightly and took a sharp breath. "Not a very pleasant symbol, considering the mess they'd make!" he averred. "And hardly one that I'd like you to implement, either before or after Christmas. For it would approximate to a diabolical situation, the kind of situation that could arise were pure spirit to break free of brain matter and leave a subatomic context of cursed proton-proton reaction in its heavenly wake! At Christmas, we prefer to concentrate on the blessed, even if this means that we can only symbolize what precedes transcendence and thus, in effect, the ultimate Last Judgement."
"So these fairy lights are to stand for new brains?" Mr. Keane mused.
"Yes. And when they're lit up, as at present, they could be regarded as symbolizing the hypermeditation which Superbeings will be engaged in experiencing."
"And what if they're intended to intimate of the preceding, or superhuman, phase of the post-human millennium?" Mr. Keane asked, becoming purposely difficult.
"Well, in that event, their use will symbolize the LSD trip, or equivalent hallucinogenic commitment, which each Superman will be experiencing."
Mr. Keane looked slightly puzzled again and scratched his head to prove it. "You say 'each Superman'. Does that mean each light can symbolize a different Superman, then?"
"Oh, absolutely!" Gill replied. "The Supermen would be in the plural on any given support/sustain system, because each one is an individual by dint of the fact that he retains the totality of his brain and is therefore capable of a degree of egocentric consciousness. With the surgical removal of the old brain, however, the ensuing new-brain collectivizations would each constitute a single entity, since post-visionary, and so there would be one Superbeing to each support/sustain system - indeed, the support/sustain system would be an integral part of the Superbeing, just as, in an antithetical context, trunk and branches are an integral part of a tree. In fact, they are the tree. Thus you can regard these fairy lights as designed to symbolize either a collection of individual Supermen, artificially supported and sustained, or the principal part of a Superbeing - namely, the collectivized new-brains. This latter viewpoint would, of course, be closer to Heaven, since appertaining to a higher phase of the post-human millennium."
Mr. Keane thought a moment while looking at his Christmas tree, then said: "I tend to regard the lights as individual entities, presumably because they're not all that close together or I'm insufficiently evolved to see them as symbolizing the principal part of a Superbeing. I'll just have to settle for an intimation of the lower or first phase of what you call the post-human millennium, I think."
"Well, that's still a lot better than not knowing that a Christmas tree intimates of anything at all," his neighbour declared, smiling. "At least you're now looking up towards the future in expectation of better things to come. The Supermen won't attain to transcendence, but at least they're in a line of ascent leading directly to what will - namely the Superbeings."
Mr. Keane smiled delightedly, like a child who had just received a knowledge of something that had hitherto escaped its understanding. Now at last he could inform his inquisitive son of the truth about Christmas trees! He was no longer a hapless ignoramus.
"Of course, the average Christian doesn't equate such a symbol-leaden tree with the post-human millennium," Gill continued, ignoring his host's self-satisfaction, "but, rather, with Heaven, which he doesn't regard as the goal of evolution so much as a world following on behind this one at death. There is no place for a post-human millennium in a typical Christian's account of Christmas trees, even though the symbolism is much more appropriate, in this context, to a millennial stage of evolution than to the heavenly Beyond. It will only be with the coming transcendental civilization that men will look upon the context in question in a way similar to myself, a way which stresses the role of the post-human millennium. For by then they'll have ceased to celebrate Christmas, as we understand it, but be celebrating some equivalent festival, in which the role of the post-human millennium will be formally acknowledged. Whether they'll still refer to this festival in Christian terms ... we can't of course know. But it oughtn't to surprise us if it transpires that they adopt a different name - one, say, associated with the Second Coming - and treat this festival as unique to the transcendental civilization. After all, it will eventually be celebrated on a world-wide basis, in accordance with the global nature of ultimate civilization, and you can't expect people of non-Christian descent - which includes the vast majority of Third World peoples - to switch to celebrating Christmas, as though it pertained to world civilization and should therefore be adopted as the logical successor to whatever analogous festival they or their ancestors traditionally celebrated. As it happens, Christianity is merely one of a number of so-called world religions, so its major festival will have to be superseded by a festival relevant to all peoples ... once the transcendental civilization comes properly to pass. Probably this new festival won't be held on December 25th or 26th, or at a time corresponding to the analogous festivals of other world religions, but at some other, more appropriate time. We shall just have to wait and see or, rather, leave it to posterity to decide for themselves."
Mr. Keane nodded deferentially, though not without a slightly bemused expression on his handsome face. All this futuristic speculation was too new and problematic to be properly intelligible to him. Nevertheless it engendered some fresh curiosity in his fertile mind, which prompted him to ask: "And would people still erect Christmas trees in their homes, like us?"
It was a difficult question to answer and Joseph Gill felt obliged to reflect a moment, before replying: "Yes, I imagine so. Though probably on different terms and with other materials than your own. Like, for example, the use of purely synthetic trees or perhaps even branch-like supports which won't so much resemble a tree as the future collectivized support/sustain systems of the post-human millennium. Perhaps these branch-like supports will have more and smaller lights on them than does your Christmas tree, or perhaps they won't use electric lights at all, but some superior medium of illumination and symbolism. Thus the Christmas tree, as we understand it, would simply be an ancestor of this superior offspring, a sort of symbolic forerunner."
"So you don't think the basic concept will become anachronistic or obsolete, with the advent of the coming civilization?" Mr. Keane deduced in a touchingly deferential tone-of-voice.
Gill gently shook his head. "The post-human millennium will still be ahead of the men of that ultimate civilization and, as such, there's no reason why they shouldn't intimate of it in an analogous manner to us. Christianity would seem to be superior to other world religions to the extent that its chief festival already intimates, if unconsciously, of the post-human millennium in this way. I don't think you'll find anything that corresponds to a Christmas tree in Hinduism, Buddhism, Mohammedanism, Judaism, Shintoism, or whatever. So while meditation would have to be partly adopted from oriental precedent, there would seem to be no reason why Christmas trees, or something analogous, shouldn't be adopted from Christianity. They serve a purpose, and that purpose must continue to remain valid while men are still struggling towards the post-human millennium rather than actually in it - as more evolved life forms. The Christmas tree serves as a focal-point for reminding people, at Christmas, what life is really all about, i.e. a struggle to evolve towards ultimate divinity and eventually become one with it. This is the highest interpretation one can attach to life, the only interpretation that really justifies our being here in this world at all. Anything less, say sexual or familial interpretations, would simply reduce us to the level of animals rather than elevate us to the status of potential gods. But that plastic angel at the top of your tree leaves one in no doubt as to where evolution is tending and how it will end, irrespective of what worldly or reactionary people may like to imagine, or how deceptive such symbolism can be when foolishly taken at face-value."
It was at this juncture in their conversation, however, that Mr. Keane's wife and children returned from their cold walk, to enter the warm sitting room with vociferous accounts of their impressions of the snowscape without. Young Richard was especially excited by the opportunity of relating to his father what he had done and seen while traversing the snow-clogged paths, while his sister and mother busied themselves with warming their hands over the electric fire. Gill now realized that there was no possibility of his continuing to enlighten his neighbour, so resigned himself, in tactful politeness, to fading into the humble background of inconsequential chatter. Having listened to and humbly commented upon his son's manifold impressions, Mr. Keane drew Richard's attention to the Christmas tree, which was all aglow with the various-coloured lights and their reflections on the silver balls. Richard stared at it in bafflement a few seconds, and then asked: "But, papa, why have you put a toy angel right at the very top?"
"Ah, that would be telling!" replied the wiser father, who cast his still-seated guest an ironic wink.
Walter Brian had theories about everything, including music, of which subject he was very fond. He was, as they say, a music lover, and his loving ranged from the classics, preferably modern, to jazz, also preferably modern, and with a little opera, ballet, soul, and rock thrown-in for good measure. The classics pertained to the serious part of his spectrum of musical tastes, jazz, soul, and rock to its comparatively frivolous part, while ballet, opera, and some kinds of modern jazz had a place somewhere in-between, in a kind of compromise zone of frivolous seriousness or serious frivolity. Besides listening to music, Walter Brian would often expatiate on it to his friends, and sometimes the conversation that resulted would spill over, as it were, into one or more of the other arts, as analogies were drawn in relation to the interdependence of the Arts as a whole.
On this occasion, Walter Brian was holding forth on the subject of what he called 'bourgeois music' to two of his closest friends, whose eagerness to comprehend suggested that they were closer to becoming disciples. These were Malcolm Murphy and Arthur Kearns, who sat on separate cushions facing their host, himself comfortably seated to one side of a large open window through which the July sun poured its relentless heat.
"Fundamentally there are two kinds of bourgeois music, which are the romantic and the classic respectively," he was saying. "But each kind is itself divisible into two stages, which we may define as a stage more grand than petty bourgeois on the one hand, and a stage more petty than grand bourgeois on the other. This in itself reflects the relative nature of the bourgeoisie, who are compounded, as it were, of an amalgam of grand- and petty-bourgeois elements."
There was a murmur of approval from Malcolm Murphy, while Arthur Kearns simply nodded his bulbous head in apparent agreement.
"Chronologically considered, the romantic kind precedes the classic kind," Walter Brian continued, "and we may ascribe to the nineteenth century a predominantly romantic bias which was to lead, in the early-twentieth century, to the neo-classicism of the finest bourgeois music. Romanticism may be defined as a reaction against; classicism, by contrast, as an attraction towards. The former is predominantly materialistic in character, the latter ... predominantly spiritual. The one signifies a Becoming, the other a Become."
Malcolm Murphy scratched his right cheek, pouted slightly ominously, and then languidly said: "Presumably bourgeois romanticism was largely a reaction against aristocratic classicism, which had attained to its high-point in the eighteenth century?"
"Indeed it was!" Walter Brian confirmed with spontaneous exuberance, "and this stage of romantic reaction was more grand bourgeois than petty bourgeois in character. We're dealing here with composers such as Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms, and Saint-Saëns, who composed in a relatively tonal manner. With the twentieth century, however, we enter an age of bourgeois classicism, though such neo-classicism had also prevailed, to a limited extent and at various times, in the preceding century, as in certain of the works of Grieg, Bruckner, and Bizet."
"A complicator could argue that some of it was really an extension of aristocratic classicism rather than the earliest manifestation of neo-classicism," Arthur Kearns opined, to the low-key amusement of his companions.
"Certainly he could," Walter Brian generously conceded. "And doubtless some of it was, particularly in works of the early Beethoven, in Weber, Mendelssohn, Gounod, and Reinecke. However, it's only with the twentieth century that we arrive at the principal age of neo-classicism, which divides, as you may already have guessed, into two types, viz. a type more grand than petty bourgeois in character, and, opposed to it, a type more petty than grand bourgeois. The first type we may define as tonal, the second as atonal, though still confined to acoustic means. In each case, we're in the realm of a spiritual Become, but of a Become that varies according to the class bias of the composer concerned. Thus the first, or lower, type of neo-classicism had for its chief practitioners composers like Martinu, Hindemith, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Holst, Satie, Ravel, Poulenc, Stravinsky, and Honegger, who mostly worked within a tonal context, though not one suggesting an affinity with the more radical late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century romantic composers, like Tchaikovsky, Rubenstein, Strauss, Wagner, and Mahler - complications and complicators aside."
Arthur Kearns chuckled personal acknowledgement of this allusion to himself, but graciously refrained from complicating. Malcolm Murphy smiled benignly, then remarked: "Of all the composers you mentioned, Martinu was, in my opinion, the most outstandingly consistent exponent of the first type of neo-classicism."
Walter Brian raised his brows in sceptical concession to the possible veracity of this bold contention, and simply said: "You may well be right. For I often tend to think of Martinu as a kind of twentieth-century Mozart, meaning that he was the possessor of a creative facility reminiscent, in its broad range, of what Mozart possessed in his own sphere of musical invention."
"In similar vein, I regard Honegger as a kind of twentieth-century Beethoven," Malcolm Murphy confessed. "Though with regard to the classical rather than to the romantic phase of Beethoven's work. There is certainly a distinct facial likeness between the two men, at any rate, which suggests to me the likelihood of a musical link ..."
"I wish I could verify the correctness of your hypothesis," Arthur Kearns interposed. "But, unfortunately, I've yet to see a photo of Honegger or hear a major example of his work."
Walter Brian reflected briefly before conceding, for Malcolm Murphy's benefit, that there was probably some truth in what he had said, though he couldn't stipulate exactly how much. Nevertheless, with regard to the second type of neo-classicism, he had this to say: "Being more petty than grand bourgeois in character, it pursued a predominantly atonal path, though not in an anarchic, and hence romantic, manner, but with reference to certain technical conventions, such as pertained to the adoption of the twelve-note scale and its serial realization. This scale, first introduced by Schoenberg and subsequently adopted by both Berg and Webern, laid the foundations for the erection of a neo-classicism more petty than grand bourgeois in character, which found its painterly equivalent in the purist abstraction of neo-plasticism, as practised by, amongst others, Mondrian, just as the first type of neo-classicism found its painterly equivalent in symbolism, that predominantly representational art.... Now although these two types of neo-classicism at first co-existed in the early-twentieth century, the atonal type was destined to supersede the tonal as the principal mode of bourgeois creativity - a mode which, even now, continues to be upheld by certain late neo-classical composers, including Tippett and Williamson."
Arthur Kearns remained true to form by remarking: "The earlier mode also continued to be upheld by certain late neo-classical composers, including Walton and Berkeley." This remark was respected, though not commented upon, by Walter Brian, because Malcolm Murphy had something of his own to contribute to the debate.
"Since the later neo-classicism developed out of the earlier, are we therefore to suppose that a similar arrangement duly applies to a new development of romanticism?" he asked.
Walter Brian shook his head. "There's no evidence suggesting that to be the case," he replied, "because romanticism tends to react against a previous classical attainment, and this was generally so with the emergence, earlier this century, of a second type of bourgeois romanticism, which reacted against the first type of neo-classicism. As to whether the later type of neo-classicism developed out of the earlier ... it seems to me that whilst it may have owed something to its predecessor, the main impetus of development came from a combination of factors, both in terms of an extension of - though implicit reaction against - tonal bourgeois romanticism into atonal channels and, by contrast, an aspiration towards, through experimental precocity, a higher and, as yet, unrealized ideal. That, I believe, is the case as regards the second type of neo-classicism.
"As regards the second type of romanticism, however, the neo-romanticism, as it were, of composers more petty than grand bourgeois in creative scope," he went on, riding the wave of his own ebullience, "that was largely a reaction, as I said, against tonal neo-classicism, and, as such, it scorned any affiliation with tonal procedures. Neither did it adopt such serial procedures as applied to atonal neo-classicism, but forged an atonal style, through acoustic means, independently of them. Thus was it romantic and, by definition, materialistic, focusing attention upon the surface rather than alluding to some profounder meaning lying underneath ... in the technical depths, as it were. Its painterly equivalent was abstract expressionism, and its chief practitioners included composers like Russolo, Varèse, Cage, Boulez, Stockhausen, Tavener, and Rawsthorne - some of whom are still working in a similar vein at present, albeit not always in acoustic terms."
There ensued a thoughtful pause in the discussion before Arthur Kearns asked: "Would the use of electronic instruments alter the class integrity of the music, then?"
Walter Brian nodded briskly. "If used consistently in an atonal context, electronic instruments would apply to a proletarian romanticism reacting against the second neo-classicism of acoustic serialists such as Schoenberg and Webern. Should this music follow a similar or more advanced serial pattern in electronic terms, however, then it would constitute a proletarian classicism - the highest possible development of the classical. But we're unlikely to hear much of that kind of music before the next civilization gets properly under way on exclusively transcendental terms. In the meantime, the voice of serious proletarian music will be predominantly romantic, as befitting the materialistic nature of the age and in accordance with the legitimate epochal reaction of such music against neo-classical precedent. This ultimate romanticism finds its visual equivalent in the neon everywhichway light-art of contemporary proletarian artists. Such is the transitional nature of the age, however, that a practising artist or musician can be petty bourgeois in one context and proletarian in another, depending on whether he's utilizing natural or synthetic means, and how these means are being utilized. Stockhausen affords us a typical example of this indeterminate phenomenon, because some of his atonal music is acoustic and some of it electronic. The bulk of it, however, is romantic."
"No man is born an absolute," Malcolm Murphy declared, a wry smile on his haggard face.
"Apparently not these days," Arthur Kearns countered, chuckling aloud. "Though there were times when a composer's music adhered to a definite context, as with Mozart, and doubtless such times will arise again ... come the advent of a more absolutist age."
Walter Brian saw no reason to doubt that conjecture, and duly offered its instigator a confident nod. "Yes, the future will belong to the proletarian classicist," he solemnly averred. "As thinkers, however, it's our business to extricate what sense we can from the seemingly chaotic present, thereby arriving at certain conclusions about it which may be of service to posterity and to the future development of music. We will, of course, be generalizing both composers and movements into near-absolutist categories. But an age like this leaves us very little alternative! If we have brought some order from out the indeterminate muddle, we'll have served our purpose. Or almost so!"
Malcolm Murphy scratched his right cheek a moment, and then said: "One thing you haven't told us, and that pertains to the painterly equivalent of tonal bourgeois romanticism. That's the missing link in the puzzle."
"Ah, perhaps I had thought that too obvious to be worth mentioning," Walter Brian responded, his face betraying a degree of surprise. "Its equivalent is, of course, romanticism - as practised by artists such as Delacroix, Gericault, Friedrich, and Turner."
Malcolm Murphy smiled in apparent satisfaction with this answer and admitted that the puzzle was now solved.
"All except for impressionism," Arthur Kearns declared with complicator's zest.
"Which is nothing more than an extreme manifestation of the first type of bourgeois romanticism," Walter Brian assured him. "Whether in art or music, the intention is approximately the same: to give a surface impression in quasi-abstract terms rather than to hint, like symbolism, at underlying spiritual depths. Thus it is materialist, and thereby akin to the romantic."
"I admit defeat," said Arthur Kearns.
"And I proclaim victory," Malcolm Murphy added. "For now we can talk about something else."
"Whatever you like," sighed Walter Brian, who felt he had theorized long and boldly enough about 'bourgeois music' for the time being.
"Literature can be a lot of things, but one thing it must be, in this day and age, is anti-natural and, thus, pro-artificial," the writer Gaston Healy was saying to no-one in particular but to everyone in general ... at the height of the literary discussion which had evolved, over a number of minutes, in the sitting room of art-dealer Reginald Rice's two-storied inner-city flat. "So-called realism is strictly passé," he continued, "being akin, when it intrudes overmuch, to a cancer that must be eradicated. People should be able to behave towards one another in literature as they wouldn't ordinarily behave in real life but, exceptions to the rule notwithstanding, as the writer feels they ought to behave and one day possibly will behave ..."
"Or, alternatively, as the writer feels they ought not to behave, though possibly did behave in the past," Judith Hagley interposed with roguish glee. She was Gaston's current girlfriend.
Healy didn't consider that worth a verbal endorsement, but smiled graciously all the same. Others laughed aloud or chuckled with intermediate commitment. "Literature can do lots of things, but one thing it must do, these days, is provide the reader with a psychological catharsis, in order that he may be relieved, if only temporarily, from the burden of social repression and thereby be enabled to acquire the simulacrum of freedom from social constraint. You may read things in literature that you would never dare say to anyone in public. You may encounter deeds in literature that you would never dare commit in person."
"You make it sound rather too much like the dark side of the moon," Reginald's baritone voice boomed in the heated atmosphere of the moment. "There's no reason why literature should be reduced to the status of a kind of psychological sewer through which the rats of one's mind may swim if they desire nourishment."
"Here, here!" a shy young man called Peter Hall affirmed in the wake of a brief burst of applause from those more actively engaged in the discussion. "Literature varies to a great extent with the writer, but is usually of a predominantly philosophical or a predominantly poetical cast, though a balance between the two biases is technically possible, if not often achieved these days."
"And what kind of a writer would you describe yourself as?" Reginald boomingly inquired of him.
"A philosophical one unfortunately," Hall admitted with disarming modesty, largely for the benefit of the ladies present. "And one, moreover, who regards himself as a classicist."
"Really?" the host and one of his guests responded simultaneously. The latter was Patricia Doherty, a friend of Judith's, who then ventured to ask Hall on what criterion this value-judgement was based?
"Oh, on a number of criteria actually," the latter corrected, becoming faintly embarrassed in finding himself the cynosure of sceptical curiosity. "But primarily on the fact that the superconscious prevails over the subconscious in such a way as to ensure a maximum order and logic to one's work, in fidelity to a higher approximation to perfection. With the romantic, however, it's usually the subconscious which is given free rein to disrupt previous patterns of classical convention and forge a new, if materialistic, path. But this path should eventually lead not to a romantic dead-end but ... to a higher classicism, the beginnings, in fact, of a superior pattern of classical convention in fidelity to a fresh concept of perfection."
There were a number of contradictory expenditures of breath at large on the air at this point - some expressing bewilderment, others admiration. It was apparent that not many people had thought about the distinction between romantic and classic in such a way, nor formed any clear concept of the changing criteria of perfection. Miss Doherty, tall and elegant spinster, was one of those people, and she accordingly inquired of the philosopher what he meant by perfection.
"In my case," Hall promptly replied, "it's a matter of orientating one's work towards a condition of ultimate spiritual freedom, as applying to the freeing of philosophy from traditional proton constraints and its consequent elevation to a post-atomic theoretical bias, as would seem to reflect a convergence to unity on the level of proletarian philosophy. My approach to perfection doesn't just derive from a desire to emulate 'the Creator', nor from a desire to create a dualistic balance in deference to atomic criteria, but is connected with an aspiration towards ultimate divinity, which demands, in my opinion, a post-atomic approach to the ideal in question."
Somewhat bemused, Reginald Rice now took over the reins of inquiry by asking whether, in that case, there were not three levels of perfection to be approximated in the history or unfolding of classical development - what he described as a pre-atomic, an atomic, and a post-atomic?
"In point of fact, there are four," Hall corrected, to the further bemusement of his host. "As regards Western civilization in particular, one may list classical progress in terms of class distinctions from the aristocracy to the grand bourgeoisie on the one hand, and from the petty bourgeoisie to the proletariat on the other. Aristocratic classicism had for its ideal of perfection the emulation of nature, and was thus somewhat pagan and/or Catholic in character. Grand-bourgeois classicism, however, was more given to conceiving of perfection in terms of a compromise between nature and civilization, since orientated towards Christ rather than the Father, and was accordingly Protestant in character. Petty-bourgeois classicism, although subject to a compromise concept of perfection, strove to emphasize the spirit above the body, and was accordingly closer to a transcendent attitude to perfection, while yet maintaining allegiance to naturalistic roots. It reflected a transition between the atomic and the post-atomic. Only, however, with proletarian classicism can an exclusive aspiration towards the Divine Omega be endorsed, as perfection is conceived in terms of a wholly post-atomic transcendentalism requiring the creation, through literary collectivization, of a fusion literature in fidelity to the Holy Spirit, which we may regard as the future culmination of evolution in ultimate spiritual unity. Collectivization approximates literature, whether philosophical or poetical, to that divine unity in a format transcending all separate genres. There is therefore no stemming from the Diabolic Alpha in separate genres, which reflect the influence of the solar roots of evolution in the Many, but solely an aspiration towards the Divine Omega in an approximation, through collectivization, to the future One."
As the philosopher paused at this juncture in his rather complex discourse, Judith interposed by asking: "Does this gradual evolution of classicism from one interpretation of perfection to another imply a corresponding shift from appearance to essence, as from beauty to truth?"
"Indeed it does," Hall replied, quite flushed by the exertion required to concentrate sufficient attention on his fellow-guest's question. "An approximation to perfection conceived in terms of emulating the natural works of 'the Creator' presupposes an emphasis on beauty, whereas the converse of this approach, in what I've termed proletarian classicism, requires that the emphasis be placed on truth, which is essential rather than apparent, and thus akin to the supernatural constitution of transcendent spirit. In between, during the bourgeois phases of classical evolution, the approach to perfection is atomic, and consequently balanced, in varying degrees, between beauty, on the one hand, and truth, on the other."
"'Beauty is truth, truth beauty'," Gaston Healy quoted, referring the company to the bourgeois sentiments of atomistic Keats.
"So in swinging from one extreme to another, as from the Father to the Holy Spirit, the pendulum of classical evolution tends from emulation of the Diabolic Alpha to an aspiration towards the Divine Omega via a compromise realm of Christianity coming in-between?" Miss Doherty tremulously suggested.
"That's approximately correct," Hall admitted, "evolution being a journey, so to speak, from the stars to the ultimate globe of transcendent spirit."
"Which latter has presumably still to come about?" Judith conjectured in an ambivalent tone-of-voice.
"Correct again," he assured her. "Considered in any ultimate sense, God, as the ultimate Spiritual Globe, doesn't yet exist, since definitive spiritual unity can only be established at the culmination of evolution in the Universe, and we on earth are still at quite an evolutionary remove from transcendence, let alone the subsequent fusion of separate transcendences from whichever part of the Universe into one ultimate globe of ... God the Holy Spirit or, in Teilhard de Chardin's admirable terminology, the Omega Point. It is of course possible - and I incline to grant this hypothesis credence - that Spiritual Globes from more advanced planets than our own in the Universe may already be en route, as it were, to Ultimate Oneness in the heavenly Beyond. But their individual presences in space would no more constitute the Omega Point ... than the planets, at one evolutionary remove from the stars, constitute the Alpha Points, so to speak, of the billions of stellar globes flaming separately in space. What begins in the Many must culminate in the One, but not until that One is attained to ... will evolution be complete and the Universe achieve perfection in the ultimate context of the Omega Point."
"Fascinating!" exclaimed Reginald, who was unaccustomed to such a high level of philosophical discourse, whether in relation to Teilhard de Chardin or anyone else, and, for that reason, still slightly bemused. "Does all this speculation make you an atheist, then?"
"Yes," Hall replied, "because I equate God, conceived definitively, with the Omega Point, which, as I said, can only be in the process of formation, not an already-existent fact. Numerous Spiritual Globes may already be converging towards one another in the heavenly Beyond, but they would be at least at one evolutionary remove from omega unity and couldn't be substituted for it. Their essential constitution would doubtless correspond to a heavenly condition, but they would be more like fragments of Heaven, Omega Absolutes, than the actual definitive Heaven of the Omega Point. They'd be antithetically equivalent to the planets, which are material globes.
"As for the alpha absolutes ... of the stars," he continued, considerably warming to his thesis, "they would correspond to Hell, their proton-proton constitution embracing the most inferior doing, not the supreme being of the electron freedom of transcendent spirit. Of course, Hell and Heaven are theological postulates involving value judgements unique to religion. We don't consider the stars as Hell when we look up at the night sky, but simply as stars. Hell, together with such concepts as the Devil and the Creator, is loaded with subconscious associations peculiar to theology. But the actual constitution of the stars is, you'll find, the very converse of what transcendent spirit would be, involving, as I said, the most inferior doing in a context of diabolical soul. I'm not one to confound the Diabolic Alpha with the Divine Omega, or to specialize in worshipping the former. Let's simplify: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit - three stages of godhead from the alpha to the omega via a dualistic compromise. All very theological, but highly pertinent to an understanding of the atheistic position, insofar as a man is an atheist because he doesn't believe in the existence of God conceived in terms of, say, the Holy Spirit, but contends that it's destined to arise at the culmination of evolution as the Omega Point. And he is such an atheist because his psyche is more post-atomic than atomic in constitution, and consequently disinclines him to relate to the atomic level of God, which is Jesus Christ. Neither can he relate to the pre-atomic level of God in, for example, the Father, which is the proton level derived, in all probability, from both the sun and the core of the earth rather than, like Jehovah, from the governing star at the centre of the Galaxy, from which no 'Son of God' could logically have been extrapolated. His superconscious mind preponderates over his subconscious one in the ratio of at least 3:1, so it's quite impossible for him to relate to either pre-atomic or atomic levels of God. But he desires, instead, to assist in the development of a post-atomic level such as must correspond, in its ultimate manifestation, to definitive spiritual supremacy. He turns his back on the Lie and the half-lie/half-truth in favour of the Truth, which has yet to become manifest in the Universe."
"But truth about the Truth is certainly manifest in this room through what you're saying, Peter," Reginald Rice's baritone voice declared, as admiration at length got the better of bemusement in his mind. "Now I can understand why you're a superior classicist! You've got to the theoretical truth, and are accordingly obliged to treat your philosophical literature in a manner stressing being and truth rather than doing and beauty. Essence predominates over appearance in your work."
"Evidently to a quite considerable extent," Gaston Healy piped-in, stirring himself from the half-sleep in which he had wallowed during the greater part of the philosopher's rather mystical discourse. "The chief difference between us, Pete, isn't simply that you're a philosopher and I'm, by contrast, a poet, but that I'm a romantic and you're a classicist. Doing and beauty take precedence over being and truth in my works, which evidently correspond to a subconscious bias."
"It's just that you're a literary sinner and he's a literary saint!" Judith opined, allowing herself the luxury of a teasing smile.
"Yes, one could put it that way," Healy conceded.
* * *
Later that evening, when everyone but Patricia Doherty had left for home, the art dealer took to thinking about some of the things which had passed for conversation between his guests, particularly as bearing on Peter Hall's adventurous discourse, and wondered to himself whether he would ever hear the likes of such an elevated level of conversation again. Was it possible, he mused, that man was no more than a relatively insignificant link in a chain stretching from the alpha absolutes of diabolic soul to the omega absolutes of divine spirit? It seemed strange, and yet, if the philosopher's evolutionary theories were correct, there could be no denying the transitory nature of man, nor any possibility of refuting Nietzsche's dictum that 'Man was something that should be overcome'. Humanism could, under certain circumstances, become an obstacle to that overcoming, a reaction from the exigencies of evolutionary progress ... as effecting the transformation of man from one level, namely the atomic, to another level, namely the post-atomic, such as would become fully manifest in what Hall had termed the transcendental civilization. For above and beyond man, apparently, was the millennial Superman, and the Superman would be post-human to the extent of being a brain artificially supported and sustained in collectivized contexts - as much post-human, in fact, as apes swinging collectively in the branches of trees were and remain pre-human. And just as trees pre-dated apes in the chronology of evolutionary development on earth, so would the Superbeings of the second phase of millennial time post-date Supermen in that same evolutionary chronology, as new-brain collectivizations forming, on each artificial support/sustain system, not a gathering of independent beings but ... a completely new entity, antithetical in constitution to a tree! And from that link in the evolutionary chain, far more significant from a spiritual point-of-view than the preceding one, it would be just a matter of time before, accustomed to the utmost dynamic meditation, spirit became transcendent and broke free of new-brain atomicity to attain to a free-electron salvation in the context of Spiritual Globes - fragments, so to speak, of absolute mind converging towards and expanding into thousands of other such fragments in a process destined to culminate in the ultimate Spiritual Globe of ... the Omega Point. Oh my! What reasoning and what genius! How could any one man think like that with but a human mind!
Reginald Rice was at a loss to understand it and, noticing Miss Doherty staring at him with a degree of bemused curiosity on her attractive face, he said: "You know, that Peter Hall must be the Messiah. There's no other explanation of his knowledge."
"Yes, you're probably right," she agreed, nodding thoughtfully and with a degree of concern. "As Christ said that no-one would enter the 'Kingdom of Heaven' who didn't come unto Him, meaning of course His teachings, so this man, who would seem to correspond to a Second Coming in his messianic insights, says: 'Unless men adopt my teachings and set themselves on the millennial road to the post-human life forms, they will never attain to the heavenly Beyond. For spirit can only get to that transcendent goal via the superhuman and superbeingful phases of a post-human millennium. He is saying pretty much the same thing as Christ, only saying it on a higher, more evolved level."
Reginald smiled appreciatively and lowered his head in thought a moment. "But he doesn't say that to everyone," he remarked in due course. "He's not expecting dualists to become transcendentalists. For, to paraphrase Nietzsche, 'they're not the ears for his mouth'. He doesn't expect to have any effect on dualistic civilization, because it would be incapable, in his estimation, of transforming itself into the ultimate one. He's too clever to fall into the trap of imagining that he can have any influence on it, that it can be transformed simply through accepting his truth. It cannot accept his truth, for that presupposes a post-atomic will, and where there's no such thing ... there can only be an atomic stasis. He's an outsider in Britain, a man of the future. The transcendental civilization can only be brought about following the eclipse of dualistic civilization. He knows that!"
"Knows it too well," Miss Doherty admitted. "But believes that dualistic civilization cannot be eclipsed except from without, through the agency of external pressures from a country or countries more given to messianic leanings. The upholders of dualism needn't even fear his work, his philosophical truth, for it couldn't lead to a revolution because no such thing is possible here."
"It wouldn't be historically logical," Reginald opined, "since dualistic civilization will probably persist in its traditional tracks until it's toppled from without ... presumably through a combination of American and European pressures. The Roman civilization testified to the same fact, which is, after all, a law of history."
Miss Doherty shook her head in bewilderment and exclaimed: "To think he did all his great work in London! He was brought-up in England, you know. Has never lived anywhere else - except, of course, as a child. Is, I suppose, a sort of Englishman, though an exceptional one by any objective standards!"
"An interesting parallel
with Moses in
a way," Reginald murmured.
"Born a Jew but brought up in
"Yes, I suppose so," Miss Doherty admitted, smiling briefly. "He acquired the benefit of an English education, relatively free from religious superstition or shackles, and became accustomed to living in a more civilized environment. That's the main reason, I should think, why he has climbed to such philosophical heights - his work owing much to the artificial influence of big-city life, which, acting on his native Irish intelligence, resulted in works of unprecedented truth."
"Quite remarkable, the way environment can condition intelligence!" Reginald declared. "Live long enough in an intensively artificial environment and you begin to think transcendentally. Live in a rural environment for any length of time and, by contrast, you think mundanely - in pseudo-pagan terms. That's the essence of class distinctions, you know! The gradual ascendancy of one class over another which corresponds to environmental differences, as reflecting evolutionary progress from nature towards the supernatural. It follows that the last class to arise must, as Marx taught, be the proletariat, who stem, in their cities, from an intensely artificial environment and thereby approximate more closely to the supernatural."
"Ironic that Peter should have been born into a middle-class family but gradually have become proletarianized through confinement in London for a number of years," Miss Doherty averred. "Proletarianized, I mean, to the extent that he began to think in a way reflecting that city's artificial influence and to endorse, in consequence, post-atomic theories of evolution. An ordinary, bona fide proletarian wouldn't have possessed the innate intelligence to get to Peter's high level of thought. But he had intellectual blood in him, so to speak, and only required to have his intelligence refined upon and radicalized by artificial conditioning, to seemingly achieve the impossible and thus become a new messiah.... Not that he enjoyed living in the city, as you can well imagine. It made him very depressed. For he was not only cut off, in his working-class environment, from congenial intellectual and social company, but cut off moreover from an adequate degree of sensuality necessary to safeguarding the psycho-physical integrity of his highly-strung constitution, him being so slender and nervous and all that. The city made him too spiritual for his own sensual good, his sleep becoming shallow and intermittent, and that was the main reason, paradoxically, for his brilliant work."
Reginald nodded knowingly while pouring himself a drop of sherry from the half-full decanter which had stood on a small coffee table to his immediate right. "And his brilliant work is just a little too truthful or progressive, in consequence, for the bourgeois publishing establishment to countenance, is that it?"
"I think he prefers not to admit that fact to himself these days," Miss Doherty responded, "though he's quite aware of the position. He knows what it means to be a Promethean equivalent, beyond the pale of ideological affinity with atomic criteria."
"And consequently what it means to be alone, eh?" Reginald speculated sympathetically. "Resigned to rejection by a society that prefers the half-truth to the whole truth in loyalty to its atomic integrity, and not only as regards religion! You can be sure that politics, science, and art must also reflect such an integrity. A bourgeois atomist won't admit to the possibility of post-atomic development. He sees everything through eyes conditioned to dualistic compromise, conditioned by a suburban if not largely rural or provincial environment. Only the other day I was reading one of Frederick Solomon's books, Critique of Modern Art I think it was, and what he contended was equivalent to what a bourgeois politician will contend about atomic democracy, which, of course, he regards as the only kind of democracy. Frederick Solomon defended the aesthetic side of bourgeois civilization by maintaining that art must entail an emotional commitment and is only art to the extent that it appeals to our feelings in one way or another, preferably, à la Tolstoy, in a positive way. He didn't say that art shouldn't have an intellectual side, which would have been a quite ridiculous assumption, but maintained that whatever didn't also appeal to the emotions wasn't art - art requiring some kind of compromise between emotion and intellect. Well, such a view reflects fidelity to an atomic integrity, to a psychic dualism between the soul and the spirit, which is to say, the subconscious mind and the superconscious mind, and is simply germane to a bourgeois stage of evolution. It reflects a dualistic concept of art and, to the extent that one may be a dualist, fine! What's not so fine, however, is the assumption stemming from it that whatever is purely intellectual isn't art, that paintings which minimize emotional commitment are necessarily poor art or even no art at all. This is simply to take bourgeois criteria for the definitive definition of art, and it's no less mistaken, in my opinion, than to take parliamentary democracy for the ultimate democracy, or Protestant Christianity for the ultimate religion, or the particle/wavicle theory of matter for the ultimate physics. Not altogether surprisingly, there was no reference to Mondrian in Professor Solomon's critique, since Mondrian's great art is quintessentially intellectual or spiritual, and tends to eschew emotional commitment. Yet it isn't for that reason bogus art but, on the contrary, a superior type of art than that which partly or predominantly appeals to the emotions. It's simply post-atomic, reflecting, in Mondrian's case, what I've come to regard as petty-bourgeois classicism - the converse of such petty-bourgeois romantic works as Jackson Pollock and other abstract expressionists were to create at around the same time."
Miss Doherty smiled widely. For she recalled standing in Reginald's art gallery, a few days ago, while he expatiated on the difference between Piet Mondrian and Jackson Pollock, likening the classical abstract of the former to a petty-bourgeois aesthetic approximation to Heaven and the romantic abstract of the latter to a petty-bourgeois aesthetic approximation to Hell - the one testifying to a fairly rigid application of the superconscious mind, the other, by contrast, betraying a degree of subconscious freedom scarcely paralleled in modern times. Mondrian's art was transcendental, Pollock's ... effectively pagan. With typical examples of these two masters hanging side-by-side in Reginald's small gallery, one's vision embraced both the spiritual and the soulful sides of petty-bourgeois civilization simultaneously. Taken for one work, they would have suggested a rather eccentric atomic painting, the Pollock appealing to the emotions and the Mondrian to the intellect. But they were really quite separate and, in a sense, as separate as such works could get on petty-bourgeois terms.... Though that fact probably wouldn't have occurred to one, had not Reginald's genius for distinguishing one type of modern art from another been put to one's service in such an eye-opening fashion!
It had even gone on, this genius of his, to point out that Pollock was one of those paradoxical artists whose work tended to intimate of proletarian romanticism while remaining fundamentally petty-bourgeois. Genuine proletarian romanticism applied, however, to light art in which, for example, neon tubing was arranged in an everywhichway fashion, reminiscent of Pollock's abstract expressionism, and a visually chaotic impression, suggestive of subconscious indulgence, generally prevailed. By contrast, proletarian classicism would demand a strictly logical ordering of neon tubing or fluorescent tubes or laser beams in fidelity to the superconscious, the ensuing pattern establishing a new order of perfection in an approximation to or intimation of a higher level of truth. Beauty would not be the aim of this classicism, which would approach truth from a positive, transcendental base. Neither would it be the raison d'être of proletarian romanticism, any more than it had been of the preceding level of romanticism ... in the petty-bourgeois paintings, for instance, of Jackson Pollock. If the transcendental bias of the classicist demanded a positive approach to truth, then the pagan bias of the romantic demanded, by contrast, a negative approach to beauty, such as could only result in an art of unprecedented ugliness - the romantic ideal of the modern age. Anti-beauty romanticism and pro-truth classicism were the two faces of contemporary art, both petty bourgeois and proletarian, as applying, in particular, to Western civilization. By directly turning against nature, the romanticist indirectly assisted man's progress towards the supernatural. By directly aspiring towards the supernatural, the classicist indirectly assisted man's progress away from nature. Such was the paradoxically dual tendency of modern art, and it reflected the relative, as opposed to absolute, nature of bourgeois/proletarian civilization. A wholly post-atomic civilization, however, would have no place for the romantic. The future proletarian civilization of transcendental man would be exclusively dedicated to the highest, most truth-oriented classicism. Ugliness in art, like beauty before it, was destined to be superseded by an exclusive concern with truth. The romantic was a dying breed, like, for that matter, the unliberated female.
Miss Doherty, however, was a liberated female and thus very much a factor of contemporary life. She was liberated now, as she sat opposite Reginald Rice and lent a sympathetic ear to his theories - an equal in a decidedly intellectual conversation. He, too, was liberated, though not wholly - unlike Peter Hall who, apparently, lived by himself and hadn't touched a woman in years. But poor Peter needed deliverance from his liberation, Patricia could tell that! His was of the pornographic variety and it was undoubtedly a contributory factor to his depression. Reginald's, to the extent that it existed, was gay, if rather more on a bisexual than a strictly homosexual basis. Thus part-liberated, he still clung to women out of petty-bourgeois prudery and a concession to tradition. But they had to be liberated ones, and Miss Doherty was just that - certainly as far as freedom from traditional marital constraints and obligations went! So her presence in his flat, long after the others had left, was by no means arbitrary, but conformed to plan, a plan conceived and destined to be fully executed by Reginald Rice himself! When the conversation had died down, as it seemed on the point of doing, and other concerns began to flare up, as they appeared to be doing. When anti-natural sentiments were supplanting pro-supernatural thoughts. Ah, it wouldn't be long now! Already Reg had lost interest in paintings, philosophy, Peter Hall, and was beginning to eye Patricia in that ironically lecherous way of his. She knew exactly what that meant!
* * *
Arrived home, Judith Hagley switched on the light and headed straight for the bed, which she threw herself down upon with provocative abandon, revealing, as she turned onto her back, the upper half of her dark-stockinged, high-booted legs and the lower half of a pink slip - revelations which weren't wasted on Gaston Healy, who, having gently closed the door, was now in a position to properly appreciate them. He smiled to himself and, climbing onto the bed, bent down to take a closer look at such physical revelations as Judith, in her languor, saw fit to immodestly display. His peeping caused her a degree of embarrassment, but she made no attempt to smooth her skirt down or to draw her legs closer together. He was, after all, her lover, and now they were in private and not in public, where sartorial etiquette was de rigueur. Let him peep, if that was what he most wanted to do! He would probably be appraising her seductive ploys, as he usually did before succumbing to them, like a mouse to a succulent piece of cheese. She was his cheese and he would be sure to eat or, at any rate, nibble her all up. She stiffened slightly as she felt his cold hand, which had scorned a glove, stretch itself flat against the smooth skin of her upper thigh. It was a favourite trick of his, to warm himself on her flesh. And he had written about it on more than one occasion, too!
She moved over in order to make extra room for him on the bed, and he obligingly crawled to a near-horizontal position by her side. Then he started laughing, though not at her, and she felt obliged to ask him what was so funny?
"I was just thinking about what you said to me on the way home concerning Peter Hall's having once been in love with you," he spluttered, after the main paroxysm of humorous excitement had reluctantly subsided.
"And you find that amusing?"
Gaston nodded his wiry-haired head while giving priority of importance to another ejaculation of sarcastic laughter. "Only because it seems so incredible to me that that prize prig should ever have been in love with anybody, not excepting so subtly ravishing a blonde as you!"
Judith blushed graciously and playfully slapped her lover on the hand. "Oh, he was in love with me alright!" she averred. "But he wasn't what he has since become, when I first knew him. He was but a humble student, an apprentice philosopher, ready and willing to study whatever he could lay his hands on. He didn't lay them on me though, because I didn't encourage him to."
"Didn't you like him?" Gaston asked, still partly amused.
"Oh, I liked him alright! Was even in love with him myself for awhile, in spite of already having a steady boyfriend at the time. He was just second at the post and thus a loser."
"He made ovations to you?"
"Oh yes. More than a few, too! But I had to turn him down. And that, believe it or not, is how he was put on the road to being where he is today, in the forefront of contemporary philosophy - if you can call what he thinks 'contemporary'."
Gaston looked touchingly puzzled to Judith as he said: "You mean that your rejections led him to adopt an ascetic existence, for want of anyone else to fall in love with?"
She nodded in tacit confirmation.
"But how can you be sure?"
"Because he told me."
"Shortly after Patricia and I met him in the street the other week. We returned to his flat, which was nearby, and it was there he confessed to me that I had played a significant role in moulding his destiny. No hard feelings, mind! Just simple facts, such as one would expect from someone who had become a self-appointed spiritual leader after years of celibacy."
"So that's how he came to be invited to Reginald's place, is it?"
Judith nodded again and smiled self-indulgently. "I thought they would get on quite well together, and it seems they did. Regie was the one to ask most of the questions and, so far as I could tell, profit most from the philosopher's answers. I dare say he and Patricia are still engaged in fruitful conversation about him even now."
There ensued a brief pause in their conversation while Gaston adjusted his bodily position to one more advantageous to a potential ravisher of Judith's prostrate form.
"And does Patricia like him?" he asked.
"Who, Peter? Why, yes, very much so! She knew him at about the same time as me and, frankly, was grateful for the opportunity to renew their acquaintance, having read one or two of his books in the meantime."
"Which is more than I can claim to have done," Gaston admitted, sighing faintly. "Though being something of an enfant terrible myself, I suppose I ought to be capable of identifying with some of what he says, even if I am a romantic and therefore indisposed to pursue truth at the expense of more traditional values. He would call me a bourgeois romantic, I suppose, in that my work tends to respect beauty in diluted guise. Including human beauty, I should add." Which remark, directed specifically at Judith's feminine vanity, led Gaston to caress her nearest leg, preparatory to bringing his lips to bear on the smooth surface of her stocking top. She arched enticingly and he extended his caressing to a more sensitive erogenous zone conveniently close to-hand.
"I suppose, given Peter's distinction between emulating the natural works of the Creator and striving to create artificial works independently of such a source ... in anticipation of transcendent spirit, human beauty can only be relative, not absolute," he at length remarked, returning his mind to intellectual preoccupations, slightly to Judith's disappointment. "Absolute beauty would appear to exist only in the stars, of which our sun is but a more conspicuous example. If evolution culminates in the absolute truth ... of transcendent spirit, as Peter contends, then logic would indicate that it began in the absolute beauty of the stars, from which man's relative beauty signifies a fall.... Though women would apparently have fallen less far than men," he added, as an afterthought.
"Much less far as a rule," Judith declared, drawing her legs up closer to her lover and trapping his hand between them in the process, "which is one of the main reasons why men have traditionally worshipped or, at any rate, admired women, insofar as they stand closer to absolute beauty."
"Baudelaire conceived of Satan as the most perfect manly beauty," Gaston remarked, tensing his brow, "when, in point of fact, he might have been closer to the mark had he said the most perfect womanly beauty? Yet, to me, Satan is an anthropomorphic abstraction from the sun, while the Creator is an anthropomorphic abstraction from the governing star at the centre of the Galaxy, from which, we have reason to believe, the majority of lesser stars originally 'fell' ... with what scientists now posit as a Big Bang. Where Peter seems to differ from the scientists, however, is that he posits a Big Bang diaspora of lesser stars for each galaxy, not just one Big Bang for the Universe as a whole, which, when you bother to reflect more deeply, appears an absurd theory. After all, there are billions of galaxies, most of them incredibly vast, and by no stretch of the imagination can one attribute their individual formation to just one Big Bang. The Universe couldn't have begun in unity when it's destined, according to Peter's theories, to culminate in unity. Besides, the individual galaxies, of which we know relatively little, don't tend away from one another, as from a central origin-point, least of all in their billions, but diverge relatively, which is to say according to their positions in the Universe - those in this part of it diverging separately from those in more distant parts and creating, in the process, an uneasy equilibrium of tensions between the various inter-divergent galaxies."
Judith placed a forbidding forefinger to Gaston's lips in an attempt to terminate what she was beginning to find too technical and even wildly speculative for her liking. She knew he had a penchant for adventurous macrocosmic speculation and was afraid that he would get completely wrapped-up in it at her expense. Nevertheless, intellectual curiosity still pervaded her mind as she recalled something Peter Hall had said, earlier that evening, and now inquired of Gaston whether the distinction he had just drawn between Satan, as the Devil, and the Creator, as God, didn't contradict Peter's theory that, considered theologically, evolution proceeds from a Diabolic Alpha to a Divine Omega via a humanistic compromise in the person of Christ. "After all," she added, "if one begins with the Devil, where does God fit in?"
Gaston frowned in momentary bewilderment as he attempted to recollect the gist of Peter's argument, then replied: "Ah, you've quite misunderstood him! It wasn't Satan that was primarily being equated with the Diabolic Alpha but the Creator. For the Diabolic Alpha was considered, by him, in terms of the governing star at the centre of the Galaxy, not our little solar star which stands to the larger one as Satan to the Creator. Peter was in effect saying that, vis-à-vis Satan, the Creator corresponded to an archdevil lording it over a petty one, and that, from an evolutionary or alpha-to-omega point of view, only the archdevil counts. Thus the Creator and Satan are but two aspects of fundamentally the same diabolical roots of the Universe, the former simply being bigger and more powerful than the latter. Satan did indeed 'fall' from the Almighty ... with the origin of the Galaxy in the Big Bang. Our sun exploded out of the central one. Theology stands to science as the figurative to the literal."
Now it was Judith's turn to look puzzled. "Would you therefore deny that the Creator actually exists out there in space?" she asked.
"Yes, I would," he replied. "For the Creator can only be traced back to a figurative abstraction from a certain component of cosmic reality, as I've already suggested."
"So, strictly speaking, it was the stars, or one particular star, from which subsequent components of cosmic reality stemmed, not the theological abstraction?" Judith conjectured.
"Yes, the Creator, or God the Father, didn't literally have a hand in anything," Gaston confirmed, "since pertaining to the figurative ... as an anthropomorphic extrapolation from cosmic reality."
Judith was beginning to see the light at this point and smiled her realization of it with spontaneous relish. "So the Creator exists solely as an idea, as a psychic content of the subconscious mind, and whether or not one believes in that psychic content ... will depend on the constitution of one's psyche, whether or not the subconscious figures prominently in it ...?"
"Yes, that must be so," Gaston rejoined, nodding. "The Creator is a fiction, the reverse side of cosmic fact. But to the extent that our planet was created, in a manner of speaking, out of an exploding star, then that star was the literal creative source and doubtless still exists. Thus the First Cause exists, because one is not dealing with a theological abstraction there but with something that actually gave rise to other stars and, when planets were formed, the particular galaxy of which our solar system is but a tiny component. The First Cause pertains to the literal explanation of creation, the Creator, or Father, to its figurative explanation. The one is objective fact, the other objective fiction. I no longer believe in the Creator, even though I'm a romantic, but I do believe in the First Cause. For something did, after all, give rise to this planet, which in turn gave rise to plants, and so on. We didn't have a hand in creating nature, any more than we created the animals or, for that matter, ourselves. A baby is more the creation of nature than of its parents, since they cannot fashion natural limbs the way a sculptor fashions artificial ones. Man creates artificially, by contrast to nature."
"While woman, who stands closer to nature in her bodily capacities, creates naturally, by producing babies," Judith averred. "That, at any rate, was the traditional norm and, to some extent, it still obtains today, in an age of so-called Women's Lib." She smiled in ironic deference to this fact, and then asked whether or not the First Cause could be identified with nature?
"It depends how you define nature," Gaston replied, as he endeavoured to extricate his by-now warm hand from Judith's possessive grip. "The First Cause, conceived in terms of the central star in the Galaxy from which the millions of lesser stars 'fell', is at the root of nature. What happens, it seems to me, is that a more intensive nature begets a less intensive nature, which in turn begets a less intensive nature, and so on, so that nature ascends, in lessening degrees of fiery emotionality, towards spirit with the inception of autonomous life. The stars begat planets, the planets begat plants, the plants begat animals, and the animals begat man. There is still nature in man, human nature in more than one sense, but it's diluted in proportion to the degree of spirit to which he attains. At one point in evolutionary time he's more soul than spirit, at another point soul and spirit tend to balance each other, and at a still higher point, such as he is now entering, spirit outbalances soul. He becomes more truth than beauty. The stars, remember, are absolute beauty; transcendent spirit, by contrast, will be absolute truth. The former are apparent, the latter essential."
"Thus the degree of beauty inherent in a phenomenon will be proportionate to the intensity of soul there?" Judith philosophically suggested.
"That must be so," Gaston affirmed, as he took full possession of his free hand. "If a phenomenon lacks soul, it must lack beauty. An automobile is for that reason not beautiful but, rather, streamlined or flash. The great Welsh philosopher John Cowper Powys contended, in The Meaning of Culture, that beauty is connected or associated with the poetic, which was his way of saying soul. No car has a soul, so a car can never be described as beautiful."
Judith was disposed to agree with that, but wondered whether the same could be said of a painting which strove to emulate natural beauty. "I mean, many great naturalist paintings seem beautiful," she averred.
"Yet, in reality, they're not," he countered. "For they lack a soul, the quality of beauty. They merely give the appearance of beauty, so can never hope to surpass nature. Man cannot surpass the beauty of nature in his artificial creations. Art only begins to surpass nature when it becomes supernatural, reflecting an aspiration towards truth in some degree of transcendentalism. For centuries man was a meek imitator of natural beauty, obliged, through the impossibility of directly investing his work with soul, to play second-fiddle to nature. Only when he turned his back on nature and aspired towards the supernatural ... did he create works of a higher order, thus freeing himself from creative inferiority. For a work indirectly invested with spirit is superior to one directly invested with soul, i.e. a natural work, insofar as it is not a poor imitation of the latter but appertains to a superior realm of creative endeavour. It becomes a subjective illusion, mirroring the spirit, whereas the naturalist painting is an objective fiction."
Judith was clearly puzzled by Gaston's distinction between illusion and fiction, and wondered how he had arrived at it. Why, for instance, had he said 'fiction' instead of 'illusion' when referring to the Creator?
"Ah! a basic philosophical distinction, my dear, between inner and outer, or essence and appearance," he assured her. "Fact and fiction apply to appearance, truth and illusion to essence. The stars, being apparent, pertain to cosmic fact, whereas theological or figurative abstractions from that fact constitute fictional psychic contents which, because they exist in the apparent, or subconscious, half of the psyche are accordingly treated as if they were external, approximating to pseudo-facts. Conversely transcendent spirit, being essential, pertains to cosmic truth, as, to a lesser extent, does the superconscious mind, whereas the scientific postulates derived from this truth, or from the lesser truth of the superconscious, constitute illusory postulates which, because they're treated on essential terms, approximate to pseudo-truths. Appearance has therefore evolved from the objective fact of the stars to the objective fictions of the subconscious, whilst essence has evolved or, rather, is in the process of evolving from the subjective illusions of modern science to the subjective truth of the superconscious ... en route, as it were, to the absolute truth of transcendent spirit. The Creator is literally a fiction when considered objectively, in relation to the subconscious, but becomes, in the practice of theological expedience, a pseudo-fact to the extent that He is projected out into space by the objective nature of the subconscious mind. Conversely, the particle/wavicle concept of matter, for example, is an illusion when considered objectively ... in relation to the solid appearance of matter, but becomes, in the practice of modern quantum physics, a pseudo-truth to the extent that it partly derives from the subjectivity of the superconscious mind in deference to spiritual truth, and accordingly reflects essential conditioning."
Judith felt puzzled now no less than previously, not so much by what Gaston had said ... as by the fact that he was saying it at all. "I didn't realize you were also a philosopher," she sceptically confessed.
He smiled understandingly. "I'm not, only I once was, before I became a romantic artist," he confessed. "A classical philosopher, in fact."
"And you never told me?"
"I didn't think you'd be interested. Besides, I was never a particularly good philosopher, unlike Peter Hall. He would probably find fault with some of my logic, possessing, as he does, deeper insight into metaphysics than me."
"He would certainly be surprised to learn that you were once a philosopher," Judith averred. "No doubt, you'll be no less surprised to learn that he was once a romantic artist before becoming, thanks in part to myself, a classical philosopher."
"Well I never! One would hardly have suspected that from his discourse earlier this evening. I had taken him for a philosopher to the core." Gaston sniffed ironically, smiled, and then said: "Perhaps what he needs now is Patricia, to transform him into a classical artist."
"And what do you need?" Judith teasingly asked, edging closer to the writer's body.
"Not a change of profession," he replied. "Simply, my dear, a change of communication, in order to bring me back into line with my basic romanticism."
"You've got it!" Judith assured him, and she straightaway proceeded to cover his spiritual tongue with her sensual lips.