POWER AND GLORY VIS-À-VIS FORM AND CONTENTMENT
Copyright © 1985-2010 John O'Loughlin
1. Malcolm Muggeridge
2. Arthur Koestler
3. Jean-Paul Sartre
4. Norman Mailer
5. Adolf Hitler
6. Josef Stalin
7. Eamon de Valera
8. Benito Mussolini
9. Charles de Gaulle
10. Andre Malraux
11. Albert Camus
12. Lawrence Durrell
13. Anthony Burgess
14. James Joyce
15. Ezra Pound
16. T.S. Eliot
17. Oswald Spengler
18. Bertrand Russell
19. J.B. Priestley
20. Kenneth Clark
21. Herbert Read
22. Salvador Dali
23. Francisco Franco
24. Teilhard de Chardin
25. V.I. Lenin
26. David Ben-Gurian
27. Simone de Beauvoir
28. Christopher Isherwood
29. Aldous Huxley
30. Thomas Mann
31. Wilhelm Reich
32. Carl Jung
33. W.B. Yeats
I have read most of this great journalist's writings, and have derived, besides pleasure, much useful information and knowledge from them. I particularly admired Chronicles of Wasted Time, Vol. II, which mainly dealt with his wartime experiences in Intelligence and Administration. I also admired The Diaries, which span the greater part of his adult life. He has an amazing facility with words, spinning them with seeming effortlessness across vast tracts of the imagination in a style both fluent and complex, graceful and robust.
Few people could have been more fluent or articulate in speech either, and I always found it a pleasure to listen to him on Radio 4's 'Any Questions'. His was one of the few voices to enliven the programme, and not simply in his tone-of-voice but, more importantly, in what he said with it. For, unlike most people, Malcolm Muggeridge spoke his mind and, again unlike most people's, it was an intensely individual mind, which made it all the more worth hearing.
Few people have exploited free speech like him; for, indeed, few people truly know the meaning of free speech. It takes both intelligence and courage, intellectual courage, to speak one's mind freely and frankly, and this great man had both. His death was a great loss to both letters and freedom. For of all the major public personalities of his time, he came the closest to being a guru and God's Englishman. Not for me to begrudge him that!
Few people could have been more admired in print and less known in speech than this British citizen of Hungarian Jewish extraction who, not surprisingly, spoke English with a markedly foreign accent. But if he was unattractive and thus secretive in speech, he was more than adequately compensated for this disadvantage in prose, spinning, for a foreign-born journalist, some of the most word-perfect, complex, imaginative, and enlivening prose ever recorded in English letters.
First and foremost a philosopher, Koestler pursued his evolutionary and 'holonic' theories with a rigour, consistency, and patience seldom encountered in British philosophical writings. In this respect, he was closer to the French, particularly Sartre, with whom he was friendly for a time during his Paris years. But, for all his personal literary brilliance, Koestler was flawed, perhaps partly on account of his foreign origins, by pedanticism, by too great a respect for past thinkers like Darwin and Freud, and never really broke free of them to establish himself as a major thinker in his own right.
Yet I cannot deny that, for a time, his influence on me was considerable, even in politics, and I owe my own ideological position in part to his thinking, which served as a springboard to my intellectual freedom. Of all his books, probably Janus - A Summing Up (which I read, incidentally, before his much earlier The Act of Creation) had the most influence on me, though I also admired From Bricks to Babel, the more recently-published selective anthology spanning several decades. Koestler may not have been a genius of the first rank, but he was arguably one of the cleverest men of his time.
During my youth Sartre was, for a while, my favourite author, particularly with regard to Nausea, his first and, in my opinion, best novel, which I must have read at least eight times by the age of 22, identifying, in some degree, with its antihero, Roquentin. Of all French authors, probably Sartre came closest to being a guru and hero of French youth. Unattractive in appearance, he was yet attractive in prose, both fluent and profound, though not always true.
As, for instance, in Anti-Semite and Jew, his little book against anti-Semitism, wherein I read of the Jews as Israelites! Israelites? But there was, at the time, no Israel in existence and hadn't been so for some two millennia! How therefore could Jews be identified with a non-existent nationality? In such fashion, starting from a bogus premise, Sartre completely fails to grasp the cold logic of an anti-tribal, closed-society perspective, and consequently came out against anti-Semitism.
Well, I'm not here encouraging people to be anti-Semitic - far from it! An open society does not permit of a supertheocratic opposition to tribalists ... except on the basis of a lunatic fringe, a basis that can entail serious penalties if taken too far! No, but in relation to Nazism, which was the relationship Sartre was mostly writing about at the time, anti-Semitism was a logical ideological procedure, even if cooked-up for the benefit of the masses in some crasser, more tangible guise that makes no reference to Jews as tribalists (though the expression 'submen', also applicable to Gypsies, autocrats, priests, and communists, whether Russian or Polish, carries approximately the same weight).
Well, Sartre was certainly wrong in his own logical position, which is, after all, only to be expected from a French bourgeois writer, since the French, along with the British and to a lesser extent the Americans, usually prove themselves ethnically and ideologically incapable of coming to intellectual grips with extreme ideological positions, particularly when, as in the case of National Socialism, such positions are of a supertheocratic bias, albeit one that was seriously flawed and therefore of no real credit to religion.
Yes, I read Sartre but, like all the other authors I shall be writing about, I eventually grew out of and beyond him. After all, the bourgeois is a dying breed.
Although I haven't read everything of Norman Mailer's, I have certainly enjoyed most of what I read, and that included Barbary Shore, The Prisoner of Sex, and, more recently, Pieces and Pontifications, which was by far the most interesting, if not always the most convincing. I have always felt sceptical about Mailer, particularly in view of his worldly success as one of America's most celebrated and best-paid authors.
The worldly and the spiritual don't go together to any appreciable extent, and it is no surprise for me to learn that Mailer is a staunch democrat - that worldly ideology par excellence - and has been married several times. Neither was I surprised to learn, again from Pieces and Pontifications, that he disapproves of plastic, indeed, equates it with the Devil! For how could such a naturalistic down-to-earth man possibly understand plastic, or things made of plastic, and see them in their true supernatural light? It is as though the Jew in him is too strong, too deeply ingrained, obliging allegiance to the Creator in some quasi-Judaic holy paganism.
No, I was not bound to rave about Norman Mailer, though I will admit he possesses a lively facility with words and an admirable ability to quickly spin ideas from them, which connotes with his fellow-worldly intellectual, Arthur Koestler. Probably his best idea, from my evolutionary point-of-view, concerns the metaphorical correlates or manifestations of the Devil and God in the world at any given time, battling for hegemony over it. Although he sees the Devil, so to speak, in the antinatural, particularly of all things in plastic products, he is none too sure about the metaphorical status of God, since his notions of the supernatural are hazy and constrained by worldly criteria, making him more partial to the natural, which is precisely the world, and hence the real.
Like most Jews, American or otherwise, he suffers from a blind spot concerning the supernatural; for were he to distinguish more objectively between the Devil and God, as between materialism and idealism, he would sooner or later find himself in the unhappy position of discovering that the last ideological manifestation of God in the world, appertaining to a crude approximation to the Second Coming, was Hitlerian fascism, and that this supernatural idealism was defeated not simply by the Devil ... in the guise of communist materialism, but by a combination of the Devil and the World (meaning the allied West), over whose democratic realism Nazism had for a time seemed so triumphant.
Needless to say, Mailer is not going to abandon his worldliness for the sake of a fascist supernaturalism. Whether he would be prepared, in due course, to abandon it for a Centrist transcendentalism ... must remain open to doubt. I, for one, would be sceptical!
Curious that Hitler, for all his faults and Nordic shortcomings, should have appertained or, at any rate, struck me as appertaining to a crude approximation to the Second Coming in the world ... in the face of antichristic communism. Few people in the democratic West seem to realize that the real barbarism and evil afoot at that time was Soviet Communism, and I suspect one could cite the extent of Western decadence as if not an honourable factor in this respect, then at least an extenuating one. For the West was far gone in decadence even then, and when you get a falling away from realism towards materialism in a democratic context, it is almost inevitable that sooner or later a counterbalancing idealism will emerge to attempt to stem the decadence and save what remains of the soul from the jaws of ravenous materialism.
In England, people have long been conditioned to regarding National Socialism as an ideological manifestation of the Devil, purely and simply, with the denigratory epithet 'Nazi' reserved for all those who succumbed to what is perceived to have been one of the worst manifestations of barbarism of all time. Now, admittedly, to the extent that we take the title 'National Socialism' literally, there would be adequate grounds for considering it an indication of materialist barbarism. Yet the fact remains that, whilst a degree of literal nationalistic socialism may have accrued to the ideology, Hitler and most of his closest followers in the Party never took the idea of socialism too seriously, but, on the contrary, constantly fulminated against it in the name of idealistic values, values which diametrically opposed socialist materialism ... as represented, in particular, by the Soviet Union; communism being identifiable, in Hitler's mind, with out-and-out barbarism, an ideology only fit for those who stood lowest in the scale of civilization, the 'chalk' with which no mixture of fascist 'cheese' was possible, the German people no less racially superior to the Russians, in Hitler's eyes, than ideologically superior, no democratic-type compromise being possible between idealistic ürbermenschen and materialistic untermenschen, the Slavs having put themselves beneath the realistic pale through communism and therefore not being entitled to the more lenient, educative treatment accorded to defeated Westerners.
How, then, can one equate
Socialist ideology with barbarism? And
how explain why a people long regarded as one of the most cultured in
Coming late to Empire and losing what little it had acquired to the victorious Allies following World War One, Germany was in a position, like no other country on earth, to adopt an idealistic stance in the face of decadent realism on the one hand and barbarous materialism on the other, and, inevitably, it turned against both with all the vengeance of legitimate hatred. In Hitler it had found its saviour. But the ambitious Führer was unable to prevent the eventual defeat of the German people under the combined weight of the overwhelming forces massed against them. Democracy won the day and, until comparatively recently, the Antichrist sat enthroned not only over the former Soviet Union, but over much of Eastern Europe as well!
There was, however, a certain truth in one of Hitler's last statements, where he claimed to have been ahead of his time. For idealism, in the guise of National Socialism, was no match for the combined opposition of democratic realism and communist materialism, the former of which still holds the day. As remarked earlier, Hitler seems to me to have been a crude approximation to the Second Coming, the first attempt by idealism to challenge the forces of materialistic disintegration and, like most first attempts at anything, it was doomed to failure, an early crack at the bull's-eye, so to speak, that was bound to miss the central target, if only because further practice and rethinking of policy were inevitably required.
When Hitler also claimed that National Socialism would one day rise again, he was approximating to the truth, necessarily from his own doomed point-of-view, but nevertheless in the broader and higher sense that idealism could never be written-off or entirely vanquished from the world, since idealism was the key to the future defeat of materialism and banishment of the Antichrist from the world in the name of the Second Coming, in order that the 'Kingdom of Heaven' could be established on earth, to lead mankind towards a transcendent salvation.
As before ... so again, materialism is but a passing phenomenon destined for liquidation from God's transcendental point-of-view, whether we are referring to the 'before' of the lower supernaturalism in the Roman Catholic culture of the Middle Ages, which superseded the materialist barbarism of the Dark Ages, or to the 'again' of the coming higher supernaturalism in the Social Transcendentalist culture of the future free-electron age when, no less surely, the second 'Dark Ages' of communist/liberal barbarism will be globally superseded by the light of ultimate truth - the supertruth of the more genuine manifestation of the Second Coming, though not, in all probability, without a global struggle.
Yes, idealism will eventually rise-up again, but Hitler couldn't have foreseen exactly how or in what guise, given his National Socialist limitations, his misfortune to have been chosen by fate as a forerunner and not literal embodiment of the Second Coming, to have been born into a people who, despite their high cultural reputation, could not have served as a true 'chosen people' for the development of idealism towards the supertheocratic level of the true religion of ... Social Transcendentalism.
Although far less cultured and intuitively intelligent than Hitler, there is a sense in which Stalin was cleverer, by which I mean shrewder and more cunning, better able to pursue a single objective, no matter how odious or seemingly trivial, and, above all, more realistic, less given to grandiose schemes or false delusions of grandeur. For all his personal faults, Stalin was no internationalist stooge, like Trotsky, but a down-to-earth Soviet 'nationalist' for whom 'socialism in one country' (though the Soviet Union was in fact a hotchpotch of disparate nations) was the means to consolidating and developing communism for possible subsequent external expansion and/or assistance.
If Trotsky was the communist idealist, fanatically bent on perpetuating revolution on a permanent basis, analogous in a way to Mao, then Stalin was very firmly communism's realist, and by taking the Soviet Union, battered and war-weary, off the idealistic pedestal of international revolution, one might almost say off the ideological 'gold standard', he not so much betrayed the revolution as ... rejected a chimera of wishful thinking. Too bad if some people have never been in a position, either ethnically or ideologically, to appreciate this apparent volte face at its true value!
More than anyone else, Stalin was responsible for saving the Soviet Union from the tragic fate that would surely have overtaken it had an unreasoning idealist like Trotsky been in the driving seat. And not only in peacetime, either! For it is inconceivable that the Soviet Union could have fought the 'Great Patriotic War' against Hitler's invading armies as well or as bravely as it did ... had not 'socialism in one country' been the battle cry, sounded under the banner of Slav nationalism, for several years past.
The defeat of Nazi Germany inexorably led to the extension of this Slav ideology to Eastern Europe, thereby vindicating Stalin's line of first things first and a little at a time. Whereas Trotsky was an idealistic aberration, Stalin was history in the making. He was a devil without peers.
Stalin may have been a devil without peers, but minor devils there has been no shortage of, and de Valera - 'Dev' to his friends - could well be cited here in respect of his ardent republicanism, even though he was less of a republican than some of his Sinn Fein and, subsequently, Fianna Fàil comrades.
More than any man, he was responsible for the Irish Civil War that erupted in the swift wake of the withdrawing British, his intransigent republicanism a grave stumbling-block to peace on the basis of the 1921 Treaty, which granted Southern Ireland Dominion Status within the British Empire. For de Valera and his followers, however, it was republicanism or nothing, and although a republic eventually emerged, if only on the 26-county basis, it was paradoxically long after the Anti-Treaty rebels had been defeated.
Yet even with republicanism handed to him on a plate by Sean Costello, leader of the Fine Gael-dominated coalition government, de Valera was not satisfied with Ireland's partitioned status and vigorously campaigned, as before, for its annulment ... on the basis of popular consent. Here he was barking up the wrong tree, but he continued so to bark, sometimes more fiercely, sometimes modulating his tone in an attempt to placate the loyalists, and always, no matter how often, with negligible results.
In Partition, de Valera met his match, indeed was outmanoeuvred and ignominiously defeated. His lifelong dream of a united republican Catholic Ireland was never realized, can never be realized, which, alas, is a thing that most of his Fianna Fàil successors have singularly failed to appreciate, since they also speak in terms of a united republican Ireland achieved through popular consent!
In terms of the ultimate solution to Ireland's tragedy of partition and its ideological concomitance of sectarian intransigence, republicanism is a lost cause, an abysmal failure. Its true value lies not in itself as an ideal end, but, on the contrary, in itself as a means to an ideal end, which can only be realized through Social Transcendentalism, the ideology, if you will, of the Second Coming, or of one who most corresponds, in his own philosophically-derived estimation, to a Messianic equivalent vis-à-vis the possibility of an interpretation of 'Kingdom Come', as expressed in his best theoretical writings, which he regards, not without reason, as both religiously sound and politically sustainable. However that may be, it is within this republican soil that the seeds of Social Transcendentalism should be sown, to sprout Ireland's true freedom ... not merely from the British but, more importantly, for the Holy Spirit.
De Valera couldn't have understood this and it must remain doubtful, were he alive today, that he would support it. For it entails nothing less than the democratically-engineered total eclipse and supersession of the Republic ... by what I term 'the Centre', with the inevitable corollary of the replacement, completely or partially, of the tricolour - that unitary delusion of Tonean grandeur - by the Y-like inverted CND emblem of what is potentially if not actually, at this point in time, the religion of 'Kingdom Come', verily a reformed, and hence true, Cross - the absolutist 'Cross' of a free transcendentalism.
If de Valera was something of a petty Devil in relation to Stalin, then it could be claimed that Mussolini's status was that of a minor God in relation to Hitler, who, through force of will and breadth of vision, towered over the fascist partnership. But Mussolini was accustomed to being dominated, and the fact that he had less political freedom in which to manoeuvre than the Führer only contributed, I suspect, to his subservience before the latter, who was comparatively free of both papal and monarchic constraints.
Probably, family man that he was, Mussolini felt morally inferior beside the ascetic German leader, whose relationship with Eva Braun, his only mistress, was always less than passionate. There also quickly arose before Mussolini's conscience or vanity a succession of military defeats and blunders which could only be atoned for, in some degree, through deference towards Hitler, who was somewhat inconvenienced by them and obliged, as far as possible, to intervene on behalf of fascist prestige, his own not excepted.
What emerges from our record of the Duce's behaviour is a weak, vain, pretentious man who lacked in practice what he advocated in theory, always something of an actor and poseur. Yet, for all his bluster and pretence, his on-stage pomposity and Latin snobbery, Mussolini was basically a more intelligent man than Hitler and certainly cleverer, being well-versed in three languages (in addition to his native Italian) and no stranger to the arts, particularly literature, of which he was a minor practitioner.
But his rational intelligence and foresight were no compensation for his overweening vanity and arrogance, and what he made up for over Hitler in cleverness he lacked in daring. Paradoxically, it was Hitler who was the demonic genius, with Mussolini as the clever-clever hanger-on and second-fiddle, unable to either stem or approach the Führer's vision, with its fanatical ardour for world conquest.
In the end both men contributed to each other's downfall and were, alike, broken by fate. Yet, unlike Hitler, Mussolini's downfall and utter humiliation engendered a penitential awakening accompanied by remorse. By contrast, no-one could have been less penitential or remorseful than Hitler at the final hour, and, although he married for the sake of Eva Braun, he went to his death as an unrepentant god, not as a defeated man!
CHARLES DE GAULLE
De Gaulle was neither god nor devil but ... bourgeois realist, if with a leaning towards the Divine. Arguably the greatest Frenchman since Napoleon, he was not so much a revolutionary as a bourgeois reformer who, more than anyone, saved France from disintegration under the Fourth Republic, which, with its twenty-four governments in half as many years, seemed hell-bent on continuing from where the chaotic, not to say anarchic, Third Republic had left off ... before the Nazi interlude.
De Gaulle had not dedicated the War Years to fighting for and freeing France just to see it handed over to a bunch of parliamentary squabblers, whose predominantly left-wing sympathies were seriously at odds with the concept of France that the General had long cherished. If the German occupation of France had achieved anything, it was to put an end to such party rivalry and sectarian bickering, symptomatic of a materialistic decadence. With the Germans removed, however, it was up to Charles de Gaulle to ensure that nothing similar broke out again, the most obvious way being to assume power in the name of national unity as head of a provisional government, and seek to amend the Constitution in the direction of a presidential executive, with more power for the President - the sort of power that presidents of the Third Republic had manifestly lacked!
Alas, for de Gaulle, temporary power did not enable him to implement the desired reforms, the mandate for which was duly rejected by a majority of the electorate, including, needless to say, the Communists. So he felt obliged, scorning impotence, to resign from office after less than eighteen months ... to remain in the political wilderness during the subsequent Fourth Republic, until the crisis of the Algerian revolt, some twelve years later, brought him back to power on a wave of popular unrest, and the Fifth Republic was duly proclaimed, the General successfully extricating France from the Algerian quagmire and continuing to rule on the basis of his Presidential Constitution for some ten years, before the student-led riots and strikes in the summer of 1968 brought about his final downfall.
As a beacon of light in a storm-tossed sea, de Gaulle brought sanity out of madness and order from chaos, if only for the duration of his rule, which, despite its success, was always threatened by the disintegrating elements of Marxist barbarism and party-political squabbling, and ultimately succumbed to both. In spite of the gains made for the Presidency under the Fifth Republic, the current of materialist decadence continues to drag France down and away from de Gaulle's La France towards some unholy France awaiting Judgement.
If de Gaulle was the leading political star of the French bourgeoisie, then André Malraux was the literary moon which shone in the light of his master's brilliance and for a time served under him as Minister of Culture in the R.P.F. (Rassemblement du Peuple Français) the right-wing party founded by de Gaulle in the interests of national unity.
Considering that Malraux had for so long been a communist or, at any rate, a 'fellow traveller', who fought against Franco in the Spanish Civil War and fought no less ardently against Hitler in the Second World War, it is perhaps surprising that he should have turned coat, so to speak, and joined forces with the nationally-minded de Gaulle in his crusade against parliamentary squabbling and socialist disintegration. But turn he did, and, as his Anti-Memoires attest, France acquired her first and most distinguished Minister of Culture, who was no less determined, in his new capacity, to serve bourgeois idealism than he had formerly been to serve proletarian materialism.
Apart from continuing to write on art, his great peacetime love, Malraux became famous or, depending on one's point-of-view, notorious for his cultural internationalism, an ambitious project designed to place art treasures from all over the world and from virtually any era in museum-like juxtaposition, so that, instead of a national culture perceived in its epochal context, a timeless internationalism would be suggested which was intended to reflect, through apparent contrasts, the essential unity and similarity of great art as a tribute to the Eternal.
Perhaps, after all, such a cultural internationalism is a stage on the road to a truly universal culture of supra-national provenance? If so, then Malraux's project must surely rank as a significant landmark in the evolution of world culture, all the more remarkably so in that it was projected from a Gaullist base. Doubtless, the great French adventurer perceived fresh possibilities for the development of his internationalism in a political compromise with de Gaulle. Power had its consolations!
Unlike Malraux, Albert Camus had been active in the French Resistance as an ardent communist and editor of the clandestine periodical Combat. When the enemy is superidealist, or fascist, then the most credible opposition must come from submaterialism, or communism. Submen against supermen, with the humanistic middle-ground either helplessly looking on or, as in Malraux's case, fighting in a more official capacity as part of the French army of liberation.
Later, when France was victorious or, at any rate, liberated, these two approaches and identities were bound to clash, and clash they did, with, inevitably, unfortunate consequences for the Communists, who were to be denied power by de Gaulle, even though he was shortly obliged to resign the Provisional Presidency on constitutional grounds. With little prospect of a post-war communist France, many former Resistance fighters, both physical and intellectual, grew disillusioned with communism, and Camus was among them, his disillusionment sharpened by Soviet Russia's attitude towards and actions against its satellites.
No less surely than Malraux abandoned communism, so did Camus, who perhaps was too religious and moral, deep down, to be able to take communist nihilism and amoral opportunism for granted - apparently unlike his one-time friend and 'fellow traveller' Jean-Paul Sartre, who sought to harmonize Existentialism with Marxism in an attempt to justify and exculpate communist and, in particular, Soviet amoral behaviour (man never so free as when he acts ... no matter how or against whom).
By contrast, Camus seems to have taken a moral stance, supporting the liberty within an ethical context of individual conscience against the tyranny, as he saw it, of collective expedience, as though to say, à la Burke, no revolutionary change is worth the pain and blood-sacrifice it entails. Needless to say, he was severely castigated for bourgeois revisionism and reactionary humanism by the Communists, not to mention Jean-Paul Sartre, who attacked The Rebel, Camus' long indictment of ideological tyranny, on these and similar grounds.
Undaunted, Camus continued to cling to a precarious liberal realism until his premature death, in a road accident, a few years later. What is surprising is not that he abandoned communism but ... that he ever took up with it in the first place. Youthful works like his brilliant essay Nietzsche and Schopenhauer suggest an innate predilection towards idealism. But he was, after all, an Algerian of mixed French and Spanish extraction for whom the Ideal was more likely to be seen through the objective ambience of sun, sea, and sand than through any subjective criterion. At least, this was the case for the early Camus, who gave the world a contentment with ‘the Given’ in the guise of Patrice Mersault, the protagonist of both The Outsider and A Happy Death, two of his most memorable novels.
Yet Albert Camus was essentially an evolutionary type in his work as in his life, and if he abandoned hedonistic idealism in Algeria, he later came closer to embracing a Christian idealism in metropolitan France, communism being for him, as for Koestler, a 'God that failed'.
Reading Lawrence Durrell is to take a dip in the deep-end of literary genius, of bourgeois writing at its best, which is to say, most poetic. Undoubtedly, The Alexandria Quartet is his classic masterpiece, written at a pace and with an intellectual vigour scarcely matched in the whole of Western literature. It is difficult to be critical of Durrell; for he gives so much so well, both technically and imaginatively, that most other contemporary authors, with the notable exceptions of Anthony Burgess and Norman Mailer, seem mean and mediocre by comparison.
And yet if criticism is due ... from my own anti-bourgeois standpoint, then it must be on account of his complacent acceptance of and willingness to deeply immerse himself in bourgeois criteria, in a world teeming with middle-class references ... from country houses to wealthy merchants, from passionate lovers to dispassionate priests, from expensive clothes to precious jewels - a whole world of open-society phenomena which Durrell objectively portrays with an acumen and stylistic brilliance worthy of the very greatest literary talent, albeit it remains strictly bourgeois, the impartial artist open to a vast panorama of the Given, the antithesis to the revolutionary.
One is almost won over, almost converted by Durrell, but not quite! Despite the manifest genius of his writings, a lacuna opens-up in the soul and remains there on account of the disparity between the contents of the page, natural as well as bourgeois, and one's inability or unwillingness to relate to them. All these lovers long-suffering in exotic spaces - what can they mean to a man who regards love as a bourgeois ideal and marriage as an outmoded tradition?
One reads, as with so many novels, from a higher moral-ground, call it supertheocratic or superproletarian, and no matter how impressive the style or poetic the metaphors, one is still unable to really admire something to which one cannot relate, because it reflects a lower stage of evolution. This is the old world, Western civilization, and it is destined for extinction. Poetic novels are no less obsolescent from a revolutionary point-of-view than philosophical novels and literary novels, the Conservative-Labour-Liberal triangle of idealism, materialism, and realism clinging to life with desperate intent but doomed, sooner or later, to severance from it. Only bourgeois diehards and moral hypocrites would pretend otherwise!
Taking another novelist to write about may not seem the most logical thing to do at this juncture, but I have to confess to a begrudging admiration for Anthony Burgess, whose End of the World News was one of the most fascinating and innovative novels I have ever had the privilege to read, a novel divided, as I recall, into three parts, or 'books', juxtaposed in an overlapping fragmented arrangement (undoubtedly decadent) that encourages one to follow three stories simultaneously, the main story, viz. End of the World News, concerning the destruction of the world by and through cosmic mishap, an unusual and perhaps understandable variation on the theme of global holocaust, which documents the gradual approach through the Galaxy of 'Lynx', a foreign planet destined for collision with the Earth, and telling of the desperate attempts by various people to escape from the doomed world by spacecraft; while the other two stories deal with Trotsky and Freud respectively - the one a dramatised version of Trotsky in New York before the Bolshevik Revolution, the other a more or less complete biographical sketch of Freud that highlights, in particular, his life in Vienna during the early years of the Third Reich.
Here, then, is a bourgeois revolutionary, a novelist or, rather, antinovelist who presents us with an unprecedented combination of facts and fictions, and all in consummate style. Indeed, so radical is his departure from the previous novel, the epic Earthly Powers, that an analogy with James Joyce comes to mind, and one is tempted to think that Anthony Burgess consciously planned to emulate Joyce by following what will probably be regarded, in years to come, as his literary masterpiece with a more radical and complex work paralleling, in some degree, Joyce's progression from Ulysses to Finnegans Wake. And one is tempted to think this all the more doggedly in view of their author's well-known admiration of and professional insights into the works, especially the above-mentioned ones, of the great Irish expatriate. No less than they come at the climax to Joyce's career, it seems feasible to contend that Earthly Powers and End of the World News mark the climax to the career of Anthony Burgess.
But analogies with Joyce can be misleading, particularly in the private sphere, since whereas the Irishman rejected Catholicism and preferred secular freedom on the Continent to theocratic bondage in Ireland, the Briton of predominantly Irish extraction is an avowed Catholic for whom, as with Graham Greene, consolations of the Faith are as yeast to his work.
Abandoning his homeland for permanent exile on the Continent, James Joyce became, with the publication of Ulysses, the most controversial and, later, famous novelist of his time. More an antinovel than a novel, Ulysses could only have been the work of a mind well-versed in classic and, in particular, Homeric literature, from which it derives its Greek title, but of a mind able to draw contemporary parodic parallels with The Odyssey ... in the 'adventures', during one day in Dublin, of a certain Leopold Bloom, an Irish Jew, or archetype wanderer, with whom Joyce was evidently inclined to identify or, at the very least, empathize.
Certainly Joyce had no great love of the Irish, from whose Catholic fold he had 'fallen' into socialist exile, and it is equally evident, from their initial attitude towards his work, particularly Ulysses, that most of the Irish had no great love of him either, since he was hardly typical of the race - what genius ever really is? - but a self-professed rebel against traditional values whose ideological sympathies lay with socialist republicanism. Of course, latterly things have changed somewhat, at any rate to the extent that republicanism, in particular under the banner of Fianna Fàil, has acquired a certain respectability, if not long-term credibility, in many Irishmen's eyes, and Joyce is now regarded by a significant section of the Irish people as Ireland's greatest modern writer, though more by Fianna Fàil supporters, one suspects, than by those who favour Fine Gael!
Poor Ireland! I could not share in the annual celebrations of 'Bloom's Day', nor hold Joyce in such high esteem, even if, as seems probable, he is the greatest of the moderns; for genius that he may be, he was yet a traitor to his race, a socialist materialist whose particle (as opposed to wavicle) bias is only too well exemplified in the technical layout of much of Ulysses, that Fabian novel par excellence. If Joyce served evolutionary progress in Ireland, he served it negatively rather than positively, as a destroyer rather than a builder, a devil rather than a god, and it is doubtful that a Social Transcendentalist transformation in Ireland would encourage the continued admiration of his works by a materialistic minority. For a superfolkish Ireland would not uphold the same criteria as a petty-bourgeois one!
Like James Joyce, the American poet Ezra Pound favoured exile from his native land, first in England, then on the Continent, and also, like Joyce, he was multilingual, a scholar and translator. But, unlike Joyce, he was a great poet, perhaps the greatest poet in English of his generation, if we discount men like Auden, Eliot, and Yeats, as I, for one, would be only too prepared to do!
However that may be, he dedicated himself with a single-minded fidelity to the production of his poems, many of which, in free verse and unrhymed, are technically way ahead of his contemporaries, including Eliot, and even after incarceration in a lunatic asylum in his native America for alleged insanity, he continued with his principal vocation, producing, in the late Cantos, work of undoubted poetic quality, even if, at times, somewhat obscure, arcane, and over-complex, not to mention over-politicized.
But, then, Ezra Pound was a political animal, his wartime collaboration with Italian Fascism, which took the unusual form of Social Credit broadcasts to the U.S.A., having got him into deep trouble when the Americans eventually liberated Italy, trouble which was only partly mitigated by his apparent insanity, with consequences already noted.
Doubtless Pound's standing as a poet suffered greatly in the West in view of his war-time sympathies, and his twelve-year spell behind hospital bars could hardly have enhanced or restored it. The popular image of a cranky old man who wrote some nice lyric poems in his youth persists in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. And yet, if America's greatest succeeding poet, Allen Ginsberg, owes anything to any of his predecessors, it must surely be to Ezra Pound for liberating poetry from the straitjacket of bourgeois form in which it had traditionally languished, a captive to philistine conventions.
If one poem more than any other typifies Eliot's genius for concise and free verse, it is The Waste Land, with its doomsday foreboding and confessional guilt of the 'hollow men'. Antithetical in character and style to Pound, who, after all, was an idealist, Eliot stands closer to Joyce ... as a materialist bent on chronicling the creeping decadence of Western man, the 'hollow man' - superficial as soulless automata, falling ever deeper into capitalist materialism, utterly incapable of spiritual redemption, destined for materialist damnation and an end to the remnants of realism, all liberal pretences, as barbarism closes-in ever closer for the kill, no way out, Eliot (like Dante before him) trapped in the soulless hell and just as surely a part of it - witness his predilection for a steady nine-to-five bank job - as those whom he is writing about or, rather, alluding to in poems such as The Waste Land.
An antipoet whose prose-like style confirms his own decadence in left-wing materialism, fallen away from love no less than from poetic realism, The Love Poem of J. Alfred Prufrock a bitter testimony to heartless degeneracy ... presented in the cruel metaphor of an ageing man, himself a microcosmic reflection of the decline into old age and concomitant moral senility of the once-proud West.
Impossible for me to like or admire Eliot, another of the great exiles from his native America, turned, like Henry James but unlike Ezra Pound, British citizen. That America gave birth to two such contrasting major poets as Pound and Eliot within the same generation, must surely be one of the great literary enigmas of the twentieth century! Certainly it provides ample testimony to democratic relativity, albeit a type of relativity in which, under nuclear pressure, the component parts diverge towards the extremes of fascism and communism respectively.
If Eliot recorded Western decline as both victim and spectator, then Spengler, by contrast, documented it as a critic and opponent, his monumental The Decline of the West a savage indictment of Western decadence, as reflected, amongst other things, in the decline of Christian faith and seemingly inexorable rise of materialism. Only Germany, in Spengler's estimation, could save Western Europe from the jaws of a grisly fate at the hands of Marxist barbarism since, true to its great cultural traditions, Germany alone had the strength of will to combat disintegration in the name of cultural idealism.
Doubtless Hitler paid some attention to Spengler's thesis, though he didn't require its guidance to set Germany on such a world-saving path, and it is ironical that, when National Socialism finally came to power, Spengler was less than enthusiastic - indeed, almost hostile in his scepticism.... Although he didn't live long enough to see it full-blown, so to speak, and victorious over half of Europe, including decadent France, with the Soviet Union gravely on the defensive - an outcome that would surely have brought him firmly into the Nazi fold, no longer in any doubt as to its anti-communist bent.
Even more than his above-mentioned magnus opus, The Hour of Decision takes up the challenge of German idealism, going into the causes and curses of city decadence, the evils of Marxism, racial degeneration, European materialism, etc., with a zeal reminiscent of Mein Kampf, and it would be unduly academic to contend that Spengler and National Socialism were completely unconnected, or that books like this didn't have a seminal influence on Germany's fate, an influence scarcely to be expected in the decadent West; though parallel influences, as, for example, in the works of Benedetto Croce and Ortega y Gasset, were of course at large in Italy and Spain.
As to the central thesis of Spengler's principal work, concerning the rise and fall of successive independent civilizations and the distinction within any given civilization between what he calls 'Culture' and 'Civilization' (roughly corresponding to a religious phase and a secular phase), there can be no doubt of its relative truth, which I long ago recognized and subsequently used as a springboard to my own philosophy of history ... before I came to a wider overall evolutionary perspective stretching from alpha to omega.
For a time I revered Spengler almost as much as I had previously revered Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, and if his work has never been too popular in the decadent West, it is for the good reason that he told the truth about it and must now endure the neglect, if not obloquy, that a victorious and ongoing decadence entails. Of all great German thinkers, he is the one who most suffers from abridgement, and, unfortunately for him, abridgement of The Decline of the West has long been the rule rather than the exception!
I had been a sort of admirer of Bertrand Russell long before I read any of his works, and largely on the basis of information I gleaned from various literary and media sources that he was fervently anti-Christian and thus a kind of atheist. To me, born a Catholic though struggling against Baptist inculcation in the Children's Home to which my mother had cruelly and selfishly dispatched me at the tender age of ten, following the death of my ethnically protective Catholic grandmother, Russell's antipathy to Christianity was a kind of crutch and moral support which I badly needed in order to fortify my own somewhat tenuous position vis-à-vis the various Protestant assaults (subsequently including High School Anglicanism) on my over-sensitive sensibility, and I had a small photo of him tacked to the wall above my bed in the dormitory, where he seemed to occupy the role of a guardian angel, if a rather unconventional, not to say unlikely, one!
Many years later, when I got around to reading such books as Unpopular Essays, In Praise of Idleness, The Conquest of Happiness, and the seminal History of Western Philosophy, he was less of a crutch than a mentor and source of enlightenment. In fact, I soon realized that he was one of the greatest prose masters of the English language, not simply a philosopher or mathematician or political theorist, but a true-born, if belated, philosophe, meaning someone in the tradition of Diderot, Voltaire, etc., who is really a combination of a great many intellectual tendencies and more than the sum of his parts - indeed, a kind of guru and intellectual homme de lettres.
So much for the praise! There was also, in due course, criticism and even disillusionment. For this British guru was no messiah, but a sort of follower of the Antichrist, a man who, in turning against Christianity, had fallen, like so many others, into the Marxist trap, where he was fated to remain on a moderately petty-bourgeois level of democratic compromise. Castigated by hard-line Marxists for his liberalism, it is nevertheless surprising that he should have become a socialist at all, since of aristocratic lineage. Clearly an earl who is also a Democratic Socialist is more decadent than genuine, an autocrat in theory or appearance, but a democrat in practice or essence - a paradoxical and, in this day and age, not entirely uncommon phenomenon!
For the British cling to feudal traditions and the administrative structures thereof like virtually no other people on earth, and it is perhaps ironic that a people who, throughout the duration of their Empire, acted as a crutch to and liberator from jungle primitivity of so many backward peoples ... should seemingly be incapable of standing on their own two political feet and dispensing with such autocratic traditions in the name of socialist or, at any rate, democratic liberation. When oh when, one asks oneself, will the British people democratically throw off the monarchic yoke and grow into full political maturity?
But of course the answer to this highly rhetorical question is: never! If they are ever liberated from constitutional monarchy and its aristocratic or feudal accoutrèments, it will only be either in consequence of closer European integration or through the efforts of a more radical power following, in all probability, a revolutionary upheaval, or both. In the meantime, no serious criticism of the monarchy is permissible for the British people, despite their ostensible free speech which, contrary to appearances, is really a rather limited affair appertaining to democratic criteria and to the continuing service of the bourgeois status quo. Free within democratic bounds but ... ah! there's the rub.
For a freedom of speech, whether in or out of print, beyond this level is perceived as a sort of subversive threat to democratic freedom rather than as a manifestation of or means to a greater, higher freedom ... such as accrues, for example, to my own Social Transcendentalist bent. The British are slaves to their parliamentary democracy and constitutional autocracy, and such they will remain so long as Britain remains comparatively sovereign.
Yet such sovereignty can only be assured by preventing, at all costs, both the development of closer European integration and the outbreak of revolution. Hence the importance attached by the bourgeoisie to both domestic sovereignty and international peace. And there will be others, not least of all among the people, who will say: 'Better alive under a monarchy than dead without one', as though their own measly little lives were of more importance than the march of history and the bringing to pass of a moral-world-order! But what about the notion: 'Dead because of your having lived under a monarchy (a peerage, a parliamentary democracy, a Protestant Church, etc.), dead because guilty by default, implicated, willy-nilly, in the capitalist status quo, and never more so than when you cry out for peace?
Yes, undoubtedly a hard notion for such people to swallow, but nonetheless valid for all that! Still, I am not, after all, the mouth for British ears, so, in all probability, they won't be obliged to swallow it. Instead they will have to continue swallowing the lies and half-truths of essentially well-meaning though fundamentally deluded people like Bertrand Russell, who was passionately opposed to war but not inclined to the sort of revolutionary activism which might have led to an end to the domestic situation which, by its very existence, both justifies and perpetuates war, meaning the bourgeois/aristocratic establishment.
For no matter how futile the attempt may have been, Russell was himself a part of that establishment and no more disposed to battling it in the name of republican values than the next peer. Neither are the great majority of those who live under it disposed to battling it, if for no other reason than that they prefer to take orders from above rather than to do their own thing in social self-determination. And even where, in all but a minority of cases, this isn't the case, there is a slinking suspicion that the battle would be lost even before it had really begun. For if they are slaves to tradition, it is because they have masters, and those masters, whether aristocratic or bourgeois, have generally got the better of them!
Like Bertrand Russell, J.B. Priestley also professed to being a Democratic Socialist, although, unlike Russell, he was no decadent aristocrat but a petty bourgeois who genuinely identified with Democratic Socialist criteria. I confess, in spite of this and of my own sharp political differences, to a grudging admiration for Priestley; for he was probably the finest, most outspoken English writer since D.H. Lawrence, and he wrote with a similar heartfelt conviction and no-nonsense, down-to-earth sanity of mind.
Priestley is like a breath of fresh air in a cobwebbed charnel house, blowing over the bones of the contemporary dead with, at times, a windy gusto that threatens to blow away one or two of the cobwebs and reclothe them in the flesh of earthly enlightenment. Such a book, for example, as Rain Upon Godshill must put new life into many a creaking carcass, inspiring it with contempt for its pitifully cobwebbed condition or rage at its powerlessness. Not all the book, of course, but certainly that part of it which points up the inveterate right-wing bias of official Britain, against which men of Priestley's stamp battle and battle, seemingly, in vain, all the more enraged because of the apparent futility of it all, to be battling from such a minority standpoint.
Well, not for me to be seen to unduly sympathize with the left-wing predicament; though I confess, Irishman that I am, to a certain sympathy deriving from an acknowledgement of the relativity of politics from an Irish point-of-view, which suggests that what is provisionally relevant to an Irishman in Britain is essentially irrelevant to one in Ireland, and vice versa. Right-wing in Ireland, left-wing in Britain; pro-Holy Ghost in Ireland, anti-Christian in Britain; superfascist in Ireland, socialist if not communist in Britain. A strange paradox but, there again, life is paradoxical, and so it will doubtless continue to be for some time to come!
Priestley, then, has my sympathy, albeit qualified, and I am sure that if the Left don't or can't prevail in the short term, something analogous will eventually emerge, even if it takes increased pressure from the European Community [latterly Union] or, failing that, a revolutionary upheaval. However, getting back to Priestley, who, despite his anti-right spleen, lived to a ripe old age and continued to smoke his pipe, it should not be forgotten that, besides being an astute political commentator, he was a knowledgeable literary critic and accomplished man-of-letters, though I confess to not having read any of his plays, detesting the genre too much to bother, nor any of his novels right through, since they are too English and 'Northern' for my taste, I who, in any case, avoid novels as much as possible these days, deeming them too bourgeois.
However that may be, Priestley was another of that populous breed of twentieth-century anti-bourgeois bourgeoisie, though doubtfully as anti-bourgeois or, which usually amounts to the same thing, petty bourgeois as writers like Sartre and Malraux, the English more middle-of-the-road and urbane, as a rule, than their French counterparts. I am not really the man to comment in depth on Priestley, but if there is a book that stands out above the five or six of his that I've read, it must be Literature and the Western Man, which is surely his critical masterpiece and, except possibly in the case of The Novel Now by Anthony Burgess, a work unparalleled in its time. Yet whereas the Burgess is really about twentieth-century novels and, to a lesser extent, novelists, Literature and the Western Man ranges across the entire spectrum of literature, both past and present, and reveals a breadth and depth of reading which few men, even when well-advanced in years, could claim to match. Priestley may be a bourgeois summing up bourgeois literary history for a bourgeois audience, but what a bourgeois! Such works almost deserve the highest praise.
If Jack Boynton Priestley was something of an anti-bourgeois bourgeois, then the art historian Kenneth Clark was, by contrast, a pro-bourgeois bourgeois, a grand bourgeois for whom the world of art history primarily meant the great men of the Renaissance - Botticelli, da Vinci, Michelangelo; the great Dutch and Flemish masters - Brueghel, Rubens, Rembrandt, Vermeer; the great Romantics - Blake, David, Delacroix, Turner, Constable; the leading Impressionists - Manet, Monet, Renoir; and various by and large early twentieth-century masters, including Picasso, Matisse, and Mondrian. Not to mention various architects and sculptors from each of those schools or periods, including Bernini and Rodin.
Thus, fundamentally, Clark was culturally conservative, even if, as has been claimed, he leant a little to the Left in politics, though doubtfully towards the Labour Left. His forte was representational art, or bourgeois realism of one kind or another, and it quite surprised him to discover, one day, that he could derive some aesthetic pleasure from Mondrian's art, which may be described as petty-bourgeois idealist.
Certainly a distinction exists in twentieth-century art, as in politics, between the materialistic and the idealistic, with Expressionism and Abstract Expressionism on the one side, and Impressionism and Abstract Impressionism (more usually termed Post-Painterly Abstraction) on the other side, as though between Labour and Tory, Democratic Socialist and Conservative, levels of political absolutism, with Classical (bourgeois) Realism and Modern (petty-bourgeois) Realism serving as the painterly equivalents to Liberalism and Liberal Democracy - those middle-of-the-road atomic kinds of realism.
Whether Kenneth Clark would have agreed with me here, I don't know. But it is patently obvious that painterly art, meaning all art on canvas, appertains to a democratically relative tradition, as though inherently a kind of middle-of-the-road art coming in-between autocratic sculpture on the one hand and theocratic light art on the other, so that even the most abstract examples of this art will appertain to that same democratic tradition, albeit pushed to a decadent extremism of materialistic/idealistic confrontation, with realism, scarcely perceptible or credible, sandwiched in-between - a sort of Liberal anachronism hanging-on in the ideological background as a memento to what was but no longer is, Tory and Labour extremes having won the democratic day, a contrast between wavicle impressionism and particle expressionism the degenerate norm, all compromise discarded, as each side pursues its absolutist bent irrespective and seemingly oblivious of the other, the reduction of atomic form to the particle materialism of Abstract Expressionism no less obnoxious to the parliamentary (canvas) Extreme Right ... than the elevation of atomic form to the wavicle idealism of Abstract Impressionism is obnoxious to the parliamentary (canvas) Extreme Left.
Is not twentieth-century art this tug-of-war between the conservatism of painterly idealism and the socialism of painterly materialism ... with the liberalism of painterly realism helplessly looking on, unable, in countries like Britain and France, to halt the divergence of the two absolutes, absolutes which lead, in due course, to yet more extreme absolutes that completely transcend the parliamentary (canvas) traditions, with a bias one way or the other, depending on the country in question?
No doubt in my mind, at any rate! And if, on the avowed strength of his art-historicising theories, Kenneth Clark can be ascribed any particular bias ... it would surely be as a liberal looker-on lamenting the death of realism, unable to comprehend or sympathize with the decadent extremes of Western civilization, longing for the day when realism would be resurrected - wishful thinking? - and art returned to something like its traditional representations, saved, as it were, from the ogres of partisan absolutes.
Ah, poor Kenneth! I fear that no such return is possible for Western art except, ironically, in the alien guise of Socialist Realism, a type of realism that you, with your romantic and humanistic leanings, would surely find unattractive and uncongenial. Knowing your books as I do, including the two-part autobiography, I can only suppose that Modern Realism was your last hope and solace before the grave, soulless by comparison with Classical Realism perhaps, but nonetheless preferable, in its Liberal Democratic urbanity, to the militant barbarism of Socialist Realism.
In contrast to Kenneth Clark, Herbert Read was a champion and elucidator of 'modern art', writing about a wide variety of twentieth-century artists ... from Picasso and Kandinsky to Moore and Hepworth, and writing as one of the moderns, a sort of petty-bourgeois intellectual for whom abstraction, whether of the Left or the Right but preferably the former, was the bread of contemporary life - at least in art. A leading art critic, Read was also a poet and philosopher, and it was to such philosophically-biased works as The Redemption of the Robot that I instinctively gravitated, as though in search of a twentieth-century Nietzsche - poet, philosopher, and art critic all rolled into one!
To be sure, it came as no surprise for me to learn that Read had been an ardent admirer of the great Polish-German philosophe and ill-fated genius whose works were to have such a profound influence on the twentieth century. Like Coleridge before him, Herbert Read was one of those rare Englishmen who transcend the narrow parochialism of English letters for the broader, deeper world of European culture, a 'Good European', as Nietzsche would say, and, not altogether surprisingly, he was aware of what was happening on the Continent.
As for his philosophy ... well, certainly the machine must be harnessed to human needs and not be allowed to dominate or blight the spirit, a sort of mechanical slave or servant which frees man for higher cultural and religious realization, progressively unburdening him of the past. Herbert Read was no reactionary in this respect, but welcomed the liberating potential of the machine, much as Oscar Wilde had done a generation or two earlier. And the machine, tamed and perfected, must lead, in due course, to the next civilization, a civilization of truly global proportions ... developed and furthered by Western man, world civilization a kind of extrapolation from Western civilization rather than a completely new and independent phenomenon - such, in brief, was how Read reasoned, and we needn't be surprised that he, a Westerner and Briton himself, should take such a comforting, not to say convenient, line!
The truth, I fear, is somewhat different, closer, in fact, to Spengler, with whom Read was conversant, though not, apparently, in complete accord. For nothing could be further from the truth than to imply, as Read does, that the West, contrary to being a decadent civilization limited in time, is capable of saving both itself and the world in due course, spreading the ultimate civilization to every corner of the globe in the name of mechanical liberation, with, no doubt, the probability of the wider dissemination of abstract art thrown in for good measure ... as a sort of cultural corollary to the above!
No, here Read deceives himself and, unwittingly, his readers ... if he thinks the West capable of such a Houdini-like escape from the manacles of manifold decadence. Were he a Catholic Irishman writing about Ireland and the possibility of that country's becoming a catalyst for supertheocratic revolution throughout much of the Third World, then we or, at any rate, I could take his philosophy of redemption more seriously. But, as things stand, it is little more than an assertion of Western decadence, and that is no more likely to prevail in the long term than ... universal communism. We can admire Herbert Read his global perspective, but not the terms in which it was couched! Being British carries its own inherent limitations, both culturally and intellectually, and, no less than the other great Britons I have mentioned, Read was most assuredly their unwitting victim!
If I sketch in my impressions of a painter here, it is primarily because he was also a number of other things, not least of all a writer of some scope and imaginative flair, as amply demonstrated by both Hidden Faces, his only novel, and The Unspeakable Confessions ..., a sort of antinovel-cum-autobiography which embraces, besides 'portraits' of his personal life and background, examples of his rather arcane philosophical contentions and proofs of a no-less arcane, one might even say bizarre, scholarship. In short, a kind of Sadian/Milleresque hotchpotch of views and experiences making for a uniquely Dalian cosmology, which was, I found, an extraordinarily entertaining trip!
Dali, the painter with a great mind, not a second-rate artist but a genius unique in his time, as unique as Bosch or Rubens on even Dadd in their respective times, the creator of unprecedented and unsurpassed masterpieces of transmuted realism - Surrealism a kind of idealistic realism suggesting a right-wing liberal bias, an abstract enigma in form. Admittedly, there are surrealist works that, whether or not by Dali, suggest just the opposite - namely the materialistic realism of a left-wing liberal bias. But, generally, Dali's works display a wavicle rather than a particle painterly technique, an oily smear of fastidiously-applied brushstrokes which are the very antithesis to the dotty, smudgy, lumpy, cubic applications of paint favoured, as a rule, by left-wing schools, whether pointillist, cubist, expressionist, abstract expressionist, tachist, or whatever.
Of course, not all of Dali's paintings can be classified as surreal. Far from it! There are early works that are realistic, purely and simply, and later ones that are effectively symbolist, almost Christian in their religious directness, showing the influence of Op Art and Kinetics, comparatively recent techniques applied to traditional religious themes ... as though a metaphorical embodiment, in art, of Francoist dictatorship, which ran concurrently with the greater part of the artist's late period, when he was resident in his Catalan homeland, the adventurism of Paris surrealism far behind him. If Dali's late work is, on the whole, rather more mystical than realistic or surreal, it should be seen, I believe, against this background of Francoism, which gave the Catholic Church a new lease-of-life and preserved Latin civilization, not least of all in the form of Dali's art.
Yet whilst I can, or could, admire much of his painting, no matter how surreal or quasi-symbolist it may be, being a writer myself, I chiefly admired his literary writings, particularly Hidden Faces, which, in its treatment of the unrequited love of the Comte de Grandsailles, the male protagonist, so to speak, for Solonge de Cleda, dealt with a theme all too familiar, and therefore perversely congenial, to myself, even down to the substitution of the spiritual image of the loved one for her physical presence ... in a sublimation - Dali terms it 'Cledarism' - intended to compensate the victim of the passion in question for the absence of more tangible satisfactions. Nowadays I doubt that I would wish to re-read Hidden Faces, though at the time, several years ago, I thought it one of the greatest novels I had ever read, a novel seemingly ranking, in exotic sophistication, with Huysmans' À Rebours and Roussel's Locus Solus.
It would be tempting to regard de Gaulle as a French Franco was it not for the existence, during the Occupation, of Vichy France under Pétain. Likewise it would be tempting to regard Franco as a Spanish Mussolini were it not for the existence, before and during the Spanish Civil War, of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, leader of the Falange, the Spanish Fascist Party. Clearly, a compromise has to be settled for in Franco's case, since he seems closer to Pétain than to either de Gaulle or Mussolini, a military dictator with fascist leanings who nevertheless was not a fascist.
That honour rested with Primo de Rivera, who, like Mussolini and Hitler, was a genuine idealistic revolutionary, too revolutionary, it seems, for Franco's liking. For de Rivera would have transformed Spain in a fascist way, debarring or liquidating the royalist Right, whereas Franco was anxious to draw the various right-wing strands together in order not only to placate the different allegiances which existed, but to prevent the kind of internecine factionalism endemic to the Left which, more than anything else, was ultimately responsible for its downfall.
For Franco, however, a wavicle cohesion of the Right was the only logical retort to the particle frictions and squabblings of the Left, and although the outcome was less than fascist, it at any rate served his purpose of crushing, on a broad front, the Socialist-Communist-Syndicalist-Anarchist-Marxist-Soviet opposition, and returning Spain, after protracted bloody warfare, to something approaching stability.
As a dictator Franco was neither fish now fowl, royalist nor fascist, but a pragmatic combination of both, if intrinsically a man of the traditional Right. Not for me to admire him for that, and he got scant admiration from Hitler, who simply considered him a reactionary bourgeois. Yet he did at the very least save Spanish civilization from the almost certain destruction that would have befallen it, had the Left taken over and the Republic survived.... Which, as I see it, means that, even after Franco, Spain is still capable of taking a path opposed to and superior than communism, since barbarism did not triumph there and consequently the future is undecided - at least in a manner of speaking.
What, then, is this alternative path? The reader familiar with my work will know that I call it Centrism (pronounced Centerism), the supertheocratic ideology of what is potentially if not (at this moment in time) actually a true world religion, which manifests itself on the political front as Social Transcendentalism, and he will also know that Social Transcendentalism is not a new nationalist ideology but a supra-national ideology which desires nothing less than the establishment of a Centrist federation.
The choice for the world is there ... between the (Second Coming) ideology of Centrism, and the (Antichrist) ideology of communism, and Spain has yet to make it ... thanks to Franco who, if he failed to erect the highest and best, at any rate prevented the lowest and worst from dragging Catholic Spain down to the particle materialism of the Devil's last stand in the world.
TEILHARD DE CHARDIN
When I read Activation of Energy by this French theologian and man of science, this Gallic Sweitzer, it had the effect of a revelation on me, confirming me in my own, at the time, tentatively-held suppositions reached independently but tending in the same general direction, the direction of 'Point Omega', a term used by Teilhard de Chardin to define the culmination of spiritual evolution ... achieved through a gradual convergence, in 'centro-complexification', of pure mind, corresponding to a 'noosphere' of cosmic consciousness, towards this Omega Point - the entire process of heavenly evolution interpreted in terms of a 'Christogenesis', or realization of Christ in the Universe.
Baffling? Yes, to the extent that, for all his scientific evolutionism, de Chardin is fundamentally a Catholic theologian, and he remains one even in the context of such seemingly revolutionary terminology as that to which I have just referred, which supplement and clarify his basic Catholic allegiance.
Thus whilst in one sense de Chardin is revolutionary, in another sense he isn't so much reactionary as ... traditionalist, and consequently held back, as though by an ethical anchor, from the spiritual freedom of a truly revolutionary and progressive ideological position, corresponding to a true world, or global, religion. If he is the nearest thinker to the formulation of such a religion within Christian terms and traditions, he is yet limited by his Catholicism from achieving a genuinely revolutionary breakthrough onto a higher plane - the plane, one might say, of the Second Coming. He remains, deep down, a Christian humanist whose 'Christogenesis', whilst assuming spiritual implications, attaches too much importance to the Resurrection and the articles of faith, deriving from this theological postulate, of a spiritual Christ 'On High', consanguineous with the Holy Ghost. We must, in de Chardin's estimation, follow Christ's example and attain, in due process of Christogenesis, to the Omega Point.
This is all very well - up to a point! But still limiting us to Christian reference, the very thing that will not and cannot serve as the basis of a truly global religion, since one is of necessity dealing with millions if not billions of people of non-Christian descent who would be unable to take kindly to the notion or prospect of a quasi-Christian conversion!
However, for all his conservatism and obvious identification with Western civilization, de Chardin was an exceptional man, even a kind of genius, and we need not disparage such terms as 'Point Omega' and 'centro-complexification' (a self-explanatory term identified with the process of higher evolutionary progress), even if terms like 'Christogenesis' and 'noosphere' are somewhat limited in global applicability or, as in the latter's case, of doubtful authenticity.
Certainly I prefer not to think of the 'noosphere' as a kind of spiritual halo surrounding the Earth, like a cosmic field, but as a level of pure mind which unites the practitioners of transcendental meditation in a universal consciousness - a consciousness transcending thought. The noosphere of the mind, then, beneath rather than above the clouds!
And the Devil said: 'Let there be a new darkness in the world' and, behold! there was Lenin, chief architect and beneficiary of the Bolshevik Revolution, a revolutionary who knew better than to directly hand power over to the people, like a naive Marxist, when they were in need of leadership. For the leadership of the people by a revolutionary vanguard is of the very essence of Bolshevism, Lenin bringing a sort of quasi-fascist centralism to bear on a predominantly anarchic philosophy, saving the people from mass-participatory chaos - except in war - while simultaneously damning them to a life of communist darkness - the proton-particle equivalent to an anti-supernatural materialism.
Interesting how Lenin was so often made to appear as a kind of Genghis Khan in Soviet iconography, features dynamic with nihilistic intent, beard more pointed and dark eyebrows more arched ... than ever the historical Lenin's were, although he was arguably far from saint-like in appearance! Rather, something inherently diabolic and malevolent there - a twentieth-century manifestation of the Devil, determined to overthrow bourgeois civilization wherever it was to be found, implacably opposed to 'God building'.... This isn’t really surprising, since the Devil can hardly be expected to do God’s work, knowing little of and caring nothing for the spiritual. Only dialectical materialism, and the more of that the better - darkness throughout the world the diabolic ideal, all bourgeois realism overthrown, proletarian barbarism gloatingly triumphant over a burnt-out materialistic planet, red everywhere the order of the day, a flame-like ardour intermingled with yellow to confirm diabolic allegiance, only a people as traditionally backward or, more accurately, snowbound as the Russians ... capable of being led along this path to any appreciable extent - 'Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise' (Gray).
Well, devilish or not, an historical destiny, inescapable as Attila the Hun, whose barbarous hordes put decadent Roman civilization to the sword, indirectly paving the way for the cultural flowering, in the centuries that followed, of the Catholic Middle Ages. The World (First World) and the Not-World, whether beneath and diabolic (Second World) or above and divine (Third World). But while the Devil may be busy in the world and have his day, so, too, will God be busy there, erecting a new civilization in the name of the Second Coming, furthering the transcendent among those peoples he has chosen to lead the way towards the light of the Holy Spirit. Not for God to save the World; for that is doomed. But he will save his own from socialist materialism and elevate them, in the process, to the divine superidealism in the ultimate global religion of Social Transcendental Centrism.
Against this, the Devil will be powerless, obliged to await the final reckoning with God, the final settling of accounts, the inevitable unification of the globe in divine oneness. Lenin had hoped for the opposite, for global communism. But the Divine does not permit of a diabolic absolutism - world evil more applicable to a pagan age than to an incipiently transcendental one, when, on the contrary, world good is the most logical goal for evolutionary progress to achieve.
Formful, as befits the diabolic, Lenin lies entombed in his giant mausoleum, a mere shell devoid of soul, the lowest-common-denominator of physical appearance.
There is a sense in which David Ben-Gurian, the pioneer founder and first prime minister of Israel, could be regarded as an Israeli Lenin. For he was certainly a socialist who fought long and hard for the birth of a state which the tragedy of the holocaust made all the more poignantly imperative.
Like Lenin, Ben-Gurian was small in stature but large in mind, and also, like Lenin, his mind encompassed several languages and a great deal of scholarly reading. He was, moreover, a prolific author, writing on the need for a Jewish homeland and, later (when such a dream had been at least partially realized), on the history of the Israel he had created and, for a number of difficult years, successfully led.
Yet Ben-Gurian's Israel, unlike Lenin's Russia, was not to be a Godless state, but one sympathetic to the Jewish religion and capable of encouraging a religious rebirth, of serving as the physical cradle, so to speak, for the future realization of Jewish spiritual hopes. Thus it could never be a communist dictatorship, officially atheistic in its ideological posture; for atheism is a philosophy of the Devil or, more literally, of his followers on earth, and the Jews have always been aligned with God, even if only with the most primal stage of God ... in the Creator as Jehovah.
Doubtless the coming of the Messiah will alter all that, transmuting Jewish religious allegiance from the most primal to the most advanced stage of divinity via the enlightenment of the Second Coming, not to be confounded with Christ but a sort of minor transcendental divinity approximating to the Jewish concept of a true world messiah, a messiah whose teachings really could apply to the entire world in the course of time, as, globally considered, the world is led towards a universal religion.
But atheism denies God all along the line, including the concept and realization of a Second Coming and its corollary of an aspiration towards the establishment and furtherance of pure spirit in the Universe. Atheism appertains to the Antichrist, that proton-particle diabolism of Marxist communism, and, as Lenin reminded his followers, there could be no 'God building' in the Soviet Union or, indeed, anywhere where communism had established its materialist hegemony. Materialism and idealism are antithetical, not contiguous, and therefore we cannot expect the Devil to further God's work. It isn't for the Antichrist to build the next civilization but, so far as he's concerned, to destroy the existing or Christian one. What he puts in the place of the latter would bear little resemblance to a spiritual aspiration, an aspiration towards Holy Spirit. So much for socialism!
Yet Ben-Gurian, whom we were discussing, was not interested in destroying a civilization but only in establishing a state, and to that extent we must account him a realist, if one with strong left-wing sympathies. And the Jews needed his realism at that time, besieged as they were from all sides, hunted in Europe and opposed in the Middle East, a ramshackle garrison under permanent siege. Ben-Gurian had no illusions about the situation, nor about the need of the Jews to fight tooth-and-nail for their right to a homeland. For the tragedy of the holocaust, whilst it might evoke pity and sympathy in some Gentile hearts, wouldn't automatically lead to a Jewish state. Only the Jews could finally determine whether or not they were to get one, and under Ben-Gurian's dauntless leadership the life-and-death struggles which ensued with their Arab opponents duly led to Jewish victory and to the foundation of the State of Israel, a foundation upon which subsequent leaders were to build and are still building today. For Israel can never take chances, slacken its will to survive, else the winds of Arab nationalism may blow across it to devastating effect! It must be strong, and in this strength, coupled to future messianic insights, lies its destiny ... in opposition, if necessary, to Islamic reaction.
No, one cannot be surprised that the West didn't hand Israel to the Jews on a plate; for the West, with particular reference to Britain, was itself an old civilization ... forced onto the defensive by implacable opponents and mindful of its imperial interests vis-à-vis certain Arab countries. Yet whereas the democratic West was confronted, in its materialist decadence, by the Devil, the Islamic East, with its resurgent fundamentalism, may eventually find itself being confronted, in an ideological manner of speaking, by God, in order that what is potentially the true world religion ... of Social Transcendental Centrism ... may be spread as widely as possible ... to the lasting advantage of the Divine.
Doubtless the Israeli Right, particularly in its extreme manifestation, would be more sympathetic to this prospect than the Left, and it is particularly to them that supertheocratic appeals should be made. The time of God's establishing a 'Final Covenant' with the 'House of Israel', the Knesset, through the agency of the Second Coming has still to arise. But when it does, the transformations in Israel may be so profound that it is doubtful that Ben-Gurian would recognize the country, were he to return from the grave. Realistic materialist that he was, the founder of Israel could have had no inkling of the ideological superstructure to come; for he was, after all, a modern Samson struggling in the wilderness against inclemencies of one sort or another in the name of solid foundations. We need not doubt their strength!
SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR
I first became aware that Simone de Beauvoir was an exceptional writer when, as a youth, I purchased a paperback copy of Must we Burn Sade, and avidly read both her own biography-cum-exegesis of the notorious Marquis and the extracts from various of his writings that followed. Not only was the long introductory essay on de Sade of exceptional quality, it was all the more significant because the work of a woman, and no ordinary one at that, but a genius in her own right, ranking with the greatest writers of the twentieth century.
Certainly, subsequent perusal of her extensive autobiographies, including The Prime of Life and Force of Circumstance, confirmed me in this opinion; for few more intriguing and brilliantly-conceived autobiographies have ever been written, treating, as they do, of a myriad experiences, impressions, reminiscences, convictions, beliefs, portraits, contentions, and expositions - whether with regard to her own literary works or to various of the works of Jean-Paul Sartre, on whom she lavishes much biographical attention. Only Stephen Spender's autobiography comes anywhere near, in my opinion, to evoking a similar wealth of manifold dimensions, albeit on a smaller scale.
Yet if Simone de Beauvoir is her own witness and critic, she is also very much a woman living for a man, and few men can have been blessed with the constant companionship of such a spiritual alter ego as Sartre, whose relationship with de Beauvoir lasted from youth to the grave and was, along with Dali's love for Gala, one of the great romances of the age, all the more significant for lying beyond the bonds of matrimony in a kind of petty-bourgeois concubinage of sexual liberation. So closely were these two lives intertwined, that it is impossible to think of Sartre without evoking thoughts of de Beauvoir, and vice versa. Birds of a feather flock together, and, certainly, these two philosophical writers of communistic leaning had much in common, so much, in fact, that they seem intellectual twins. In all their walks of life, from students to teachers, from novel-writing to play-writing, philosophy to autobiography, socialism to feminism, Marxism to Existentialism, France to the world, they complement and reflect each other, as inseparable as Siamese twins. Impossible not to be slightly envious of Sartre's luck!
And yet, whenever I read de Beauvoir, I remained conscious of the ideological gap that opened-up between us and, inevitably, I became contemptuous, in spite of my admiration for her literary abilities and temperamental resilience, of her deeply-entrenched left-wing allegiance. Not a communist, no; for, like Sartre, she values truth and intellectual liberty too highly to risk ever having to toe a party line. But again, like Sartre, a fellow-traveller and communist sympathiser nonetheless, and therefore at quite a remove from my own ideological position.
Force of circumstance ... you could argue? And, to be sure, one can hardly begrudge her these left-wing sympathies, earned, as they were, through historical expedience, and complementing her temperament. Is not the proliferation of autobiographical/philosophical writings, this century, a reflection of left-wing sympathies, a kind of petty-bourgeois opposition and/or alternative to bourgeois literature, a symptom of literary decadence? It is to me, at any rate, and I can well believe the sincerity of Simone de Beauvoir's sympathies, in light of her extensive autobiographical/philosophical commitments. Not for her the road of experimental or transcendental poetry that leads toward God. She prefers descent into the hell of anti-literature, though not, it has to be admitted, too far. For she stays well short of the Devil and his overtly communist allegiance, preferring, like Sartre, to cling to what freedom remains available to one in a liberal society ... in the interests of truth.
So basically one of my sort, only ... living under different conditions and with a very different historicity which seemingly precludes the development of a Centrist identity. Beyond Social Democratic allegiance, yes; but not capable of a Social Transcendentalist one, and all because of fate! Socialism with freedom, the freedom to develop culturally and spiritually - an ideal of both de Beauvoir and Sartre, impossible to realize except in the ideological guise of Social Transcendentalism, which is necessarily anti-Marxist, scorning dialectical materialism in the interests of dialectical or, rather, post-dialectical idealism, aligned not with the Antichrist but with the Second Coming, beyond all bourgeois realism in an 'above' rather than a 'beneath' sense, exactly what Sartre and de Beauvoir unofficially upheld in their heart of hearts while officially proclaiming, through force of circumstance, the exact opposite ... for the benefit of ideological credibility in the wake of Nazi occupation. Being spiritual in materialist terms, the extremist paradox of this highly paradoxical couple!
Doubtless, history will judge them as petty-bourgeois intellectuals who, together with Camus, Malraux, Koestler, and other such politically-conscious writers, clung to idealism in the face of ongoing materialism. I shall not condemn them for that, nor use de Beauvoir's extreme left-wing sympathies as a cudgel with which to attack her intellectual integrity and standing, along with the likes of Simone Weil, Agnes Heller, and Iris Murdoch, as arguably one of the greatest female intellectuals of the twentieth century.
The English author Christopher Isherwood provides us with a rare if not unique example of a communist become transcendentalist. For if, during the 1930s, he was partial to communism, particularly in its German manifestation, then the advent of Hitler and the coming of World War Two somewhat changed all that, not in the sense of his becoming pro-Nazi so much as by making Germany an unattractive place for a young British writer of his inclinations, both political and sexual, to remain in. As an active homosexual, Isherwood would have been doubly vulnerable to Nazi censure, and like a good many others of a like-persuasion he opted to leave, to abandon the Berlin of his youthful dreams and return home before things became too uncomfortable.
Whatever we may think of Isherwood's predilections, or of his motives for going to Germany in the first place, we must at least credit him with some kind of consistency. For communism and homosexuality are birds of a feather or, to put it less figuratively, two aspects of an anti-natural, anti-realist allegiance. Anyone who is both communist and homosexual to any significant extent is certainly well-integrated, whatever the general climate of moral opinion may happen to be. Whether Isherwood was both to any significant extent, however, must remain open to doubt, all the more so given his upper middle-class and Cambridge background.
Yet if he was more of a sympathetic spectator than a committed participator, he at any rate had some kind of engagé attitude to the progress of communism, an attitude virtually de rigueur in those momentous days after the frivolous lull of the self-indulgent Huxleyite 1920s. Even Mr. Norris Changes Trains, a novel at first stylistically reminiscent of Point Counter Point, leaves one in little doubt as to the author's political (not to mention sexual) proclivities, which were nurtured at Cambridge long before he ever abandoned chaste Albion for the decadent enticements of the Weimar Republic. Very unlikely, therefore, that the street battles between Communists and Nazis would have struck his youthful imagination as a microcosmic metaphor for the struggle between the Devil and God on levels, approximately, of the Antichrist and the Second Coming for the right to 'take on' the World in due course, a right to which only the victor could aspire, since the two spheres of influence must remain forever separate and independent, not subject to duplication - the antinatural and the supernatural having next-to-nothing in common.
Coming from a staunchly realistic, and hence democratic, background, Isherwood could only have been a spectator, though, as was noted, one with unequivocally communist sympathies - no doubt, ample testimony to his own upper middle-class decadence, which, partly taking the form of a predilection for communist materialism, was rife among the fashionable products of English public-school and university education at the time. How much Isherwood was simply following trends and how much he was genuinely left-wing must remain open to dispute, since unknown quantities to anyone writing from this distance. But, bearing in mind his subsequent conversion to transcendentalism, I would be inclined to grant more credence to the first supposition, which also takes into account his class background.
However that may be, Isherwood's subsequent departure for the United States in the company of Auden, shamefully conducted while Britain's fate hung in the balance, led to a change of emphasis, as well it might, as the young author sought and acquired the companionship of other British expatriates, including Huxley and Heard, and gradually drifted away from his communist past, leaving Auden in New York while he set-up home on the West Coast, where transcendentalism was fast becoming a growth industry thanks, in part, to the oriental connections and sympathies of various of his fellow-countrymen and, in part, to a growing demand for self-realization among the 'indigenous' population, a demand doubtless fostered, in some degree, by geographical factors not unconnected, despite the immense distance between the one side of the Pacific and the other, with the Far East, and this in spite of Mao or, perhaps - who knows? - by some subconscious desire to epatez les Communistes.
Paradoxical speculation aside, Isherwood soon became a devotee of oriental mysticism, with regular stints of transcendental meditation under the professional guidance of resident gurus. Thus his trajectory from communist materialism to Buddhist idealism took him from one extreme to another, from the Devil to God, with scant regard, seemingly, for the middle-ground.
Yet if America gave Isherwood a new ideological beginning and enabled him to write A Meeting by the River, probably his most perfect work, conceived in the unusual form of a one-sided exchange of letters in a way reminiscent of Rousseau, it doesn't seem to have provided him with a new sexuality or tempted him out of his old ways, which is all the more surprising in view of his evidently genuine commitment to transcendentalism; though one cannot be blamed for seeing in The World in the Evening, one of his most ambitious novels, a veiled attempt to disguise his true leanings behind a façade of masculine friendship, as though he were somehow uneasy about the relationship between homosexuality and transcendentalism, which is nothing less than a contradiction between the antinatural and the supernatural, the material and the ideal. Doubtless censorship considerations played their part, as to some extent they do with any author. But it seems ironic, all the same, that, despite his professed transcendentalism, Isherwood should still be a realist of sorts, stretched between divergent poles in fidelity to a strung-out liberal integrity. Not for me to suppose that he should be an out-and-out idealist, given his English upper middle-class background!
Indeed, it would appear that he and, to a lesser extent, Auden are to an upper middle-class background what Kerouac and Ginsberg subsequently became to a lower middle-class one ... paralleling, on their respective terms, this paradoxical homosexual/transcendental disparity. As is well known, Kerouac was slightly ashamed of his homosexual leanings, and if novels like On the Road and the Dharma Bums are any indication of his true sympathies, then we needn't be surprised! However, any form of sex is slightly shameful from a transcendental standpoint, and it is probable that many heterosexuals feel less than complacent about their fleshy indulgences on that account. Certainly, Isherwood seems to have made much moral progress since his years as a communist, even if, together with a majority of his liberal kind, he still professed to left-wing sympathies.
One thing he most certainly isn't ashamed of, however, is choosing not to draw any marked line between his novelistic and essayistic work, as though the two were complementary and part of a continuous spectrum of related ideas. Like a good many other authors, the Barthean distinction between 'artist' and 'writer' is still maintained, although 'the writer' is all the time gaining ground at 'the artist's' expense, as though in a bourgeois/petty-bourgeois tug-of-war which can only be resolved, in the future, by the unequivocal victory of the essayist over the novelist.
Needless to say, Isherwood is too much of a liberal, at heart, to be overly partial to 'the writer'; though, like others in his predicament, he will go as far as to accord the essayist, both in himself and in others, more respect than could ever be expected from an out-and-out novelist like, say, Evelyn Waugh or even Graham Greene, so that a kind of equalitarianism of the two genres and/or types of author is upheld. In Barthe's view, the age of 'the writer' has still to come, and we may believe that, in a certain sense, this is quite true. For liberal civilization, necessarily partial to 'the artist', has still not been overthrown by socialist barbarism [which, in 2004, looks increasingly unlikely!], and consequently, by establishment reckoning, 'the writer' per se is something of a Marxian outsider, hammering on the door of novelistic tradition but not yet capable of breaching it and, in rejecting everything bourgeois, having things all his own way.
The lowest-common-denominator of writerly prose could only be ubiquitous under a left-wing communist regime, and whether the West will ever suffer that must remain open to doubt. Certainly the Soviets, with their Socialist Realism, would have been less than enthusiastic about an overtly journalistic, essayistic, notational 'literature' symptomatic of a Marxist purism in proletarian materialism; though they would doubtless have encouraged the study of Marx and Lenin, with especial emphasis on the latter. For whilst a proletarian 'literature' of notational writing does and has long existed in the West, the growth of essayistic writing at the expense of novelistic art within the bourgeois camp could only have been regarded, from a Soviet point-of-view, as symptomatic of decadence and degeneration, a particle splitting from an atomic whole - appearance and essence going their separate ways.
More than any other author of his generation, Huxley deepened the novel, took it away from literary realism towards a metaphysical idealism, and exploited it as a vehicle from which to explore the paradoxical pathways of alternative religion, particularly, from approximately Eyeless in Gaza onwards, those which led to a Buddhist nirvana. He could in some sense be described as an English Kerouac, though his interest in oriental mysticism was rather more theoretical than practical, in deference to his intensely intellectual temperament, and he never bothered to venture to the East in search of enlightenment or spiritual fulfilment. Evidently there was enough scope for such enlightenment in the Far West, as California might be termed, and also the freedom to experiment with a variety of hallucinogenic drugs like mescaline and LSD, in the hope of discovering an alternative, uniquely Western path to Heaven.
Writing about such drug-taking experiments in The Doors of Perception & Heaven and Hell, Huxley does not dismiss the 'Artificial Paradises' obtained - as the great French poet Baudelaire would probably have done under similar circumstances or, indeed, as Koestler actually did do - but, on the contrary, sees in their otherworldly intimations a necessary reprieve from naturalism and the attainment of expanded consciousness made easy - a not-unattractive proposition in an age of technological expansion and artificial culture, and preferable, by far, to continued recourse to such mind-contracting drugs as alcohol and tobacco!
Despite his English origins and very English cultivation, Huxley was no puritan, condemning drugs wholesale, but flexible and realistic enough to perceive in the sensible use of certain kinds of synthetic hallucinogens an alternative to pure religion, which, whilst ultimately inadequate for spiritual salvation, was within the reach of most people and of some benefit in the short term, if only as a means to combating traditional dependence on the more sensual, because naturalistic, drugs, and leading people towards a higher possibility - namely, self-realization achieved independently of visionary experience through transcendental meditation. For whilst artificially-induced visionary experience is preferable to alcoholic somnolence, true enlightenment lies in a realm of pure mind necessarily beyond and above all appearances, a realm corresponding to the utmost spiritual essence.
So Huxley was aware of the two approaches to religious enlightenment, what in previous works I have called 'the romantic' and 'the classic', or the indirect approach and the direct approach, which of course find traditional parallels in the Christian distinction between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism (with especial reference to Puritanism), and he very wisely dismissed neither the one nor the other, as, in their opposite ways, both Koestler and Jung were to do. America was moving towards artificial appearances when Huxley experimented with hallucinogens, gradually abandoning its puritan roots under pressure from various contemporary phenomena, some ethnic, some technological, others social, and it is a trend that will doubtless continue into the next civilization - the transcendental civilization of what I have called Centrism ... in countries destined, in the short term, for supertheocratic transformation. Appearances precede essences, and no less on the transcendent level of artificial religion than on lower or naturalistic levels - Social Transcendentalism the antithetical equivalent to Roman Catholicism.
So Huxley to some extent participated in alternative civilization within the decadence of puritan civilization, when oriental mysticism was on the increase, and his findings were by no means negative. On the contrary, they indicate a strong sympathy for an alternative approach to religion, and Huxley is now better known for writings concerned with mind-expanding drugs than as an advocate of transcendental meditation - great though his interest was in all aspects of oriental religion. Even Island, his last and in some ways most radical novel, has its own variant on LSD called 'soma', and since his death an anthology of his writings on drugs entitled Moksha has appeared, as though in confirmation of this alternative bias.
Certainly, I would never have taken to Huxley had he been a typical, instead of highly untypical, Englishman, and although he lived abroad - first in France and then in the United States - on account of his eyes requiring a drier and brighter climate, one is never given the impression that this was in any way an inconvenience to him, but, on the contrary, can well believe that those countries were more congenial to his intellectual temperament than England, with its deadpan academicism and philistine conservatism. Doubtless Huxley would never have achieved the spiritual standing he did, had it not been for this exile abroad, which not only encouraged him to deepen the novel, but to expand essayistically towards imaginative horizons transcending the narrow parochialism of British letters. In the first if not the second respect, he resembles Lawrence Durrell.
My first experience of Thomas Mann came not, as might be expected, through one of his books but, rather, through the film-adaptation of Death in Venice, starring Dirk Bogarde, and I have to confess that, despite some breath-taking scenery enhanced by some no-less beautiful music, I was profoundly bored and only too glad when the tragic dénouement came and we were released from the gruesome clutches of what seemed to me a disastrously pretentious scenario. My only gratification was to witness the beach-scene humiliation of the young boy with whom the leading protagonist, Gustav von Aschenbach, had suffered the misfortune to fall in love, and which now brought about his overdue demise through, if memory serves me well, a love-provoked heart attack. My chief regret was that I hadn't chosen to visit the studio next-door instead, where an adaptation of Henry Miller's Quiet Days in Clichy was simultaneously showing. But I suppose the fact that I was in my reserved stepfather's company had precluded me from doing so - largely, I suspect, on his account!
Hardly surprising, therefore, that my opinion of Thomas Mann remained for several years less than enthusiastic, even though I eventually got round to reading some of his novels, the most memorable undoubtedly being Dr. Faustus, which, despite its pretentious stylization and overmodest chapterization (the narrator-protagonist seemingly afraid to bore the reader with long chapters), I found quite educative, and, following that, Felix Krull - Confidence Trickster, a more entertaining and, on the whole, enjoyable novel which, so far as the above-named protagonist's endeavour to avoid being drafted into the German army was concerned, had more than a little in common with D.H. Lawrence's Kangaroo - the tale, in part, of someone who got himself passed unfit for military service by faking ill-health.
And so I wasn't altogether indisposed to Mann when, compliments of the local library, I eventually got my hands on the Diaries 1918-39, apparently a first instalment of his total output in this subjective direction, and read through them with a certain amount of aesthetic pleasure not unmingled, it transpired, with mounting contempt for and finally exasperation at his bourgeois lifestyle, socialist pretensions, anti-Nazi vituperations, literary projects, and snobbish upper middle-class socializing - all of which construed to place him on a pedestal of cultural elitism and political aloofness.
Of course, he had good reasons to be anti-Nazi. For his work on the Joseph sequence of novels, dealing with the Biblical account of Joseph and his brothers, could hardly have endeared him to the Nazis, with their rampant anti-Semitism. But it is doubtful, on the other hand, that he would have welcomed a communist revolution in Germany either, particularly in view of his own upper middle-class sympathies and contacts. Essentially, he was a theoretical Social Democrat for whom people's revolutionaries were so many riffraff.
No, I didn't enjoy the Diaries 1918-39 which, though quite promising at first, became ever more conservative and reactionary the further they progressed. It was almost as though, following the débacle of the Great War, Mann had been a proto-Nazi in his socialistic nationalism before the advent of National Socialism, but then became violently anti-Nazi afterwards. A curious paradox perhaps, though proof enough that he was no people's champion, but a bourgeois reactionary and incorrigible democrat!
No such accusation could be levelled at the German psychologist Wilhelm Reich, whose politics was unequivocally socialist, and I mean socialist in a purely Marxist rather than in either a Soviet or a democratic way. Indeed, his brand of proletarian socialism, with its advocacy of the workers literally owning the means of production themselves and being their own political masters, would not have looked out-of-place in The Socialist Standard in Britain or in the no-less politically radical La Cause du Peuple in France, so hostile was it to any Bolshevik suggestion of hierarchical control of the masses through revolutionary vanguards or elites such as have, until quite recently, prevailed throughout the whole of Eastern Europe.
To be sure, Soviet Communism struck Reich as equivalent to 'Red Fascism', given its autocratic control of the people through a professional revolutionary organization with a built-in hierarchy. He would much rather have seen the people free to organize and express themselves, not least of all sexually.... Which fact brings us to the other side of the in-many-ways prophetic Reich - namely his advocacy, as a clinical psychologist, of sexual promiscuity as an antidote to neurosis and depression. In short, his unequivocal condemnation of celibacy and asceticism, and wholehearted commitment to heterosexual activism, to the pursuit of mental and bodily health through natural sex. For in regular, emotionally-charged heterosexual practices there lay, according to Reich, the key to sanity, which alone would open the door upon human maturation and freedom from guilt.
To enter the 'promised land' of perfect all-round health one had only to fuck regularly, though preferably with someone whose looks and temperament inspired mutual love, since the key to sanity lay in the orgasm, not in any old orgasm, whether involving masturbation or sodomy, but in the purely heterosexual orgasm of a loving couple who, during the moment of orgasmic fulfilment, were put directly in touch with the cosmic scheme-of-things, became one with the Universe, and thus acquired life-renewal energy. In such fashion, they would be replenished by the orgasmic feedback of mutual oblivion, their spiritual batteries in turn recharged with a cosmos so rich in the type of basic energy - Reich termed it the 'orgone' - with which loving couples were alone able to get in touch, and thus avoid the physical pitfalls and psychic delusions attending celibacy or perversion which, so Reich contended in The Mass Psychology of Fascism, led to ideologies like National Socialism - a manifestation, in Reich's view, of sexual perversion and celibacy, the ideological concomitant of widespread sexual repression in the masses, which can only find perverse expression in the topsy-turvy world of fascist politics, where demented leaders - men who, like Hitler, had never experienced genuine mutual love or orgasmic feedback - canalized and exploited this repression to further their own imperialist, tyrannical, and bloodthirsty ends!
Such was how Reich saw fascism, i.e. through the distorting lens of his own sexological, not to say atomic, philosophy, and the result could only be extremely partial and opposed to a transcendental perspective. If ever there was a man who lacked a transcendental perspective ... it was Wilhelm Reich, for whom mysticism and transcendentalism were symptomatic of sexual repression rather than manifestations of idealistic evolutionary progress.
Not that National Socialism was brimming-over with genuine transcendentalism - far from it! To some extent Reich was justified in attacking the false mysticism he perceived in the adulation of the Führer. Yet sexual deprivation alone hardly suffices to explain fascism, and neither does it square with the fact that many top Nazis, including Goebbles, Speer, and Bormann, were highly sexed - indeed, oversexed ... if the size of their families was anything to judge by! But Reich didn't see this, preferring, in his capacity of Freudian psychologist, to impose his own extremely partial value-judgements upon an ideology which he evidently couldn't understand, not least of all in light of his Marxian communism, and to cast a sex-smear over all idealism.
Even Christ had to undergo Reichian modification in order to fit into his salvation-through-sex philosophy, all idealism discredited in the interests of a starkly realistic - even materialistic - view of the Saviour which, in The Murder of Christ, focuses on Christ's status as a sexual being, a man who had and endorsed regular fornication in contradistinction to any spiritualistic asceticism, such as the Catholic Church has upheld down the centuries to the detriment, in Reich's view, of Christ's true message of sexual love, a message which the Church has denied, thereby effectively murdering Him.
Clearly, if the decadent West requires a new view of Christ to accord with its sexual promiscuity and ongoing materialism, then Reich is the man to provide it, so that salvation-through-sex can be pursued on the authority of the Saviour Himself, and no-one need ever doubt the spiritual validity of their copulatory devotions again! Christ, too, can be transmuted to suit the quasi-pagan Zeitgeist, and no degree of transmutation is impermissible, seemingly, so long as it contributes to the endorsement of thoroughly sensual behaviour.
So much for Wilhelm Reich, Germany's rather more sophisticated, intellectualized, and all-too-earnest equivalent of D.H. Lawrence, for whom sex is the key to salvation, a salvation achieved here below rather than in any perverse mystical Beyond. And so lacking in theocratic perspective was he, that even Soviet Communism, with its totalitarian control of the masses, was unacceptable because largely alien to him, a 'Red' manifestation of fascism and therefore symptomatic of general sexual deprivation among the Soviet masses. No wonder that the Soviets, who were a lot closer to being fascist Reds than vice versa, took a dim view of his books and accordingly had them banned in the Soviet Union! Not being partial to Western decadence themselves, they had every reason to protect the Soviet masses from the kind of anarchistic and orgiastic nonsense which passes for wisdom among many so-called enlightened people in the West!
Doubtless, an Irish Social Transcendental Centre would take an even dimmer view of Reich than did the (former) Soviet Union, and I fancy that his name would be anathema wherever superidealistic men prevailed. Even the Americans deserve some respect for having dealt with this dangerous and lunatic subversive in the manner they did - namely by incarceration. More's the pity that it wasn't in a mental institution, where Reich could have expounded his 'orgone' mysticism and no-less false mysticism of sex to fellow inmates without fear of censure!
It was not so much a taste for psychology as a distaste for Freud that drove me to Carl Jung, the great Swiss psychoanalyst and one-time disciple of Freud who, like so many disciples both before and since, was subsequently to turn against his 'master' and pursue his own less dream- and sex-oriented mode of psychoanalysis ... with quite spectacular results! Unlike his Viennese counterpart, Jung was convinced that more factors than sexual repression were at work in the overall development of neurosis - indeed, that sexual repression was only one amongst a number of possible causes and not necessarily the most important, nor even something that had to count at all. In short, neurosis could stem from any number of basic causes and develop along different lies from person to person, depending on one's temperament, background, experiences, ethnicity, and so on.
Compared to Freud, Jung seemed like a breath of fresh air, a release from the charnel house of sexual fixation and oedipal guilt, a sort of J.B. Priestley to D.H. Lawrence. He expanded the horizons of psychoanalysis and psychology to a degree which made him interesting to men of letters, not least of all to Hermann Hesse, and, in a way, he was something of an artist or writer himself, his autobiographical Memories, Dreams, and Reflections being of immense general interest and certainly one of the most fecund autobiographies of the twentieth century - rich in experience, speculation, imagination, recollection, and spiritual wisdom. It wasn't for nothing that the great German-born novelist and poet alluded to above was an admirer and good friend of Carl Jung, and the correspondence between the two men is ample testimony to their mutual respect, taking its place beside the letters of Henry Miller and John Cowper Powys, not to mention Lawrence Durrell and Henry Miller, as a valuable record of contemporary literary friendship, in this case having more than a little to do with their mutual interest in oriental religion, particularly Hinduism and Buddhism, which influenced the writings of both men; though Jung dismissed transcendental meditation in the West as a false transplant which was out-of-place amid the noisy streets and teeming skyscrapers of cities like New York and Chicago.
Neither was he particularly sympathetic to such artificially-induced visionary experiences as could be engendered by LSD and kindred synthetic drugs, preferring to regard mystical illumination as the fruit of long meditative endeavour which could not and should not be 'gate-crashed' through recourse to artificial means, a viewpoint that Aldous Huxley sharply criticized for its naturalistic conservatism in the face of new pharmacological breakthroughs which, in conjunction with modern technology, would bring 'heaven' within everyone's reach and with a minimum of effort, in accordance with the demands of evolutionary progress. In other words, mystical illumination made easy through mind-expanding drugs. And, of course, Huxley was right and Jung wrong or, at any rate, somewhat reactionary in this matter, as well as sceptical, if not contemptuous, of the value of transcendental meditation in the urbanized West.
Thus a sage without a religious commitment, for he wasn't a practising Christian and was little more than a theoretical student of oriental traditions; though he did flirt with quasi-religious National Socialism for a while, if only as a Swiss outsider who had no personal contact with the Movement and little at stake to deter him from seeing in Nazism the rise of a virile new ideology that would stamp on Western decadence and communist barbarism with all the passion of the elemental forces unleashed from the prison of subconscious repression - a testimony to the shadow side of the psyche which Jung claimed for everyone, himself not excepted, and which had to be respected in the interests of psychic hygiene.
To be sure, there was plenty of darkness in Jung's psyche, which had brought him into contact with his own elemental forces on more than one occasion, not least of all in the presence of Freud. Was not Jung a kind of twentieth-century black magician after all, a man for whom alchemy and magic were no foreign subjects but, for a time, of passionate concern to him? Again, we are reminded of Huxley's criticism of Jung for having taken symbols too seriously in his quest for spiritual insight, for having substituted symbolic appearances for mystical essences and become bogged down in occult distractions to the detriment of inner wisdom, bedazzled if not bedevilled by sacred mandalas and other shrines to natural determinism.
And 'synchronicity', the more than coincidental correspondences of seemingly unconnected events, phenomena, patterns, signs, etc., which exercised such a deep fascination for Jung, and led him to develop his own theory on the subject - what was that if not an aspect of medieval alchemy and pagan animism in contemporary guise, another manifestation of the occult in quasi-scientific dress ... to accord with the rational diabolism of a secular age? Hardly surprising that Jung's theories of 'synchronicity' were subsequently to exercise such a profound fascination on Arthur Koestler, in many ways a kindred spirit who fought shy of genuine transcendentalism under pressure from his political experiences and scientific bent. One wonders whether Cocteau would have seen Jung's numerological 'synchronicity' and the planetary 'synchronicity', defined by astrologers in terms of the cosmic pattern prevailing at the moment of one's birth, as an example of the 'miraculous in the commonplace' or as mere coincidence, had he chanced upon both kinds of synchronicity on the same day? Doubtless, Jung knew of the planetary kind, for he was not immune to astrological speculation - far from it! - and had more than once invoked astrology in the course of his occult investigations.
Yet, for all that, it is chiefly as a clinical psychologist and theorist that Jung's international reputation stands, and he undoubtedly made a valuable contribution to our understanding of the psyche. Reading The Portable Jung at a time when my own psyche was in need of understanding, I became fascinated by his theory of 'psychological types', which was based on an extrovert/introvert dichotomy, with its further fourfold division of the psyche into thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition functions - the first and third superior, or primary; the second and fourth inferior, or secondary; the ratio of one to another varying from individual to individual, and therefore giving rise to corresponding fourfold distinctions between the principal 'psychological types'. [A predominantly thinking type will have an inferior feeling function, a predominantly sensation type ... an inferior intuition function; and, conversely, a predominantly feeling type will have an inferior thinking function, a predominantly intuitive type ... an inferior sensation function.]
Certainly this theory convinced me to begin with, though I subsequently criticized some aspects of it, including Jung's desire that the inferior functions, viz. feeling and intuition, [Though I personally regard feeling and sensation as superior, or primary, and thinking and intuition as inferior, or secondary.] should be brought up to the level of, and thus equalized with, the superior functions, viz. thinking and sensation, or vice versa, depending on one's 'type', so that a psychic equilibrium was the equalitarian result - a desire which struck me as both unrealistic and undesirable in light of one's inherent predilection one way or another, not to mention the fact that it appeared to deny an evolutionary psychic progression in the direction of greater spiritual freedom and a correspondingly lopsided psyche.
Indeed, it seemed to deny the spirit altogether, unless the spirit be equated with psychic feeling and the raising of the inferior functions (assuming they aren't already predominant) is but a first - and atomic - step on the road to their eventual overhaul of the superior functions in furtherance of a free-electron psychic bias comprised of a sort of Social Transcendentalist compromise between intuition and feeling, [Or, as I prefer to see it, sensation and intuition, the former overhauled by the latter.] regarding the one as of the State and the other as of the Centre, in complete contrast to the proton and/or neutron psychic bias of thinking and sensation ... [Or, from my standpoint, feeling and thinking.] corresponding to Kingdom and Church respectively, a particle/wavicle dichotomy on a fundamentally autocratic level of psyche that Jung wished to see superseded by an atomic balance between intuition and feeling on the one hand and thinking and sensation on the other, which is nothing less than a liberal mean embracing an atomic compromise between reason and emotion, thereby indicating a distinctly bourgeois point-of-view.
Clearly, if my hunch is correct then the only logical step beyond Jungian psychic equilibrium lies not in the furtherance of the so-called inferior functions to a point where they greatly preponderate over the so-called superior functions, but in the furtherance of the function which, within the framework of Jung's terminology, I regard as both inferior (secondary/introvert) and germane to the Divine, viz. intuition, at the expense of everything else, though in relation, primarily, to sensation, the function most germane to the world, and consequently in reflection of a supertheocratic psychic integrity commensurate with a free-electron, or classless, stage of evolution which is Social Transcendentalist rather than Autocratic Socialist (communist), the difference being that, in the one case, intuition would preponderate over sensation, whereas, in the other case, feeling tends to predominate over sensation - at least officially.
However that may be, one has to admit that, when most true to themselves, most people tend to have such a psychic bias anyway, rendering the need for Jungian adjustments quite superfluous. Regarded from a class point-of-view, it is precisely those of a proton (feeling) or of a neutron (thinking) persuasion who would be irrelevant to a people's or, rather, classless society.
Of all the poets I read and enjoyed as a youth, W.B. Yeats was the one whose work most intrigued me and who, together with James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Robert Graves, and Thomas Hardy, acquired a special status in my hierarchy of poets by dint of the fact that I was able to commit so many of his poems to memory. In fact, some of his poems seemed to commit themselves to memory, which was, I supposed, a mark of their poetical worth. I especially admired The Second Coming and Byzantium, particularly the former, which, though poetically inferior to the latter, was possessed of a politico-historical dimension that made it all the more interesting, in light of my own burgeoning politico-historical predilections such that were to lead me, in due course, to Spengler, with whom Yeats was well acquainted.
Years later I was to find fault with the second stanza of this tragic poem, because it seemed to do a grave disservice to the concept of the Second Coming, likening it to a 'rough beast' with 'lion body and head of a man' which 'slouches towards Bethlehem to be born' ... Yet, by then, I had parted spiritual company with Yeats, whose poetry I no longer read and whose philosophical views, including many of those expressed in that remarkable book A Vision, the product of what might be called a consummate 'lune', I would have been only too ready to analyse in relation to his Protestant ancestry.
For, of course, Yeats was a Protestant Irishman, and hence someone to distrust from a Catholic standpoint - or so I reasoned. One could admire his apparent attempt at ingratiation with the majority population through assimilation of traditional Irish culture, as expressed in various poems and plays, but, nevertheless, it was still difficult to take all that Celtic mythologizing seriously, particularly from the pen of someone who had little or no ancestral connections with it and was questionably Celtic himself! For me, the plays dealing with traditional Irish themes were the least acceptable part of the Yeatsian corpus, partly for the above reason and also partly because I had an inbuilt distrust of drama, which eventually matured into a distaste for what I could only regard as an extremely antiquated, not to say autocratic, medium of literary expression, even more antiquated than narrative literature, whether novelistic or otherwise, with its inherently liberal and bourgeois overtones. Television plays were another thing, but theatrical plays I could not abide, and never read any these days.
Indeed, it is primarily because Shaw was a playwright (horrible term!) that I have little interest in the man; though I suppose the fact that Shaw, too, was a Protestant and therefore less than truly or deeply Irish ... is another factor which has to be taken into account, as also with his fellow-dramatist and bon viveur, Oscar Wilde, one of the greatest shallow-pates of all time. All these men - Yeats not excepted - were Anglo-Irish and accordingly descended from or connected with the Ascendancy, a British phase, as it were, of 'Irish' culture and civilization which the Catholic Irish have no great love of and consequently no reason to respect. Doubtless, the high literary reputations of men like Wilde, Shaw, Beckett, and Yeats in England owes more than a little to their Anglo-Irish origins, while Joyce's own not inconsiderable reputation with the English in part derives from his anti-Irishness and atheistic socialist bent, which could only have been out-of-place or, at any rate, less than welcome in Ireland. Hence his long exile on the Continent where, though nominally an Irish Catholic writer, he functioned more as a European homme de lettres within the Western tradition than strictly as an Irish expatriate. An Irish Social Transcendental Centre would certainly take a less than indulgent view of Joyce's work, not to mention the works of Wilde, Shaw, Beckett, and Yeats, who would also seem alien to Ireland's true destiny on a properly idealistic level of people's evolution, where all forms of bourgeois literature, together with all the other traditional arts, would be officially beneath the ideological pale.
Returning to Yeats, it is interesting that, in A Vision (a rare excursion into esoteric philosophy), the poet wrote of a distinction between what he termed 'primary' and 'antithetical' men, the former given to a cohesive and middle-of-the-road view of life, the latter to a dichotomous and extremist view - a distinction roughly corresponding to British and Irish alternatives. So much Yeats reasoned, though it apparently didn't occur to him that the one is worldly, whereas the other reflects a God/Devil dichotomy, in antithetical polarity, flanking and distinct from a worldly view of life. If we apply Yeats' classification to Christianity, we find that Catholicism signifies the antithetical view while Protestantism, Yeats' own religious tradition, signifies the primary one. In the former case, a distinction between Satan and Christ, with Satan symbolic of evil and Christ symbolizing good, being effectively Le Bon Dieu. In the latter case, no such dichotomy but a cohesive Christ, abraxas-like in his dual integrity between good and evil, a worldly figure who lacks true divinity by dint of his inherently human, or atomic, integrity - a stage on the downhill road to the secular humanism of communism, which denies bourgeois realism in the interests of proletarian materialism, all idealism abandoned or scorned in the name of the Antichrist (Marx).
So Protestant realism leads to communist materialism as surely as the evening twilight to the darkness of night. God humanized becomes a stage on the road to the secular deification of the proletariat through communist atheism. Protestant realism leads not up towards Heaven, but down towards the hell of a godless materialism.
Yet what of the Catholic antithesis between Satan and Christ, diabolic materialism and divine idealism? Does this not project towards a Second Coming/Antichrist antithesis between Social Transcendentalism on the one hand and Autocratic Socialism on the other, with a wavicle/particle distinction on the evolutionary levels of electron superidealism and proton submaterialism? Yes, I believe so, and he who, in his transcendental extremism, corresponds to a Second Coming would recognize and be recognized by the Catholic Irish people for his inherent idealism - no dualistic worldly figure but one corresponding to Christ as the Catholics conceive of Him: Le Bon Dieu who wishes to establish His 'Kingdom of Heaven' here on earth in order that joy may reign supreme, and all frictions and hatreds, not to mention aggressors and haters, be consigned to the rubbish heap of history.
Obviously a long, difficult, and at times arduous process, but not impossible once the world, or worldly and anachronistic manifestations of life, have been overcome and all those who do not recognize or relate to the Second Coming have been cast out of the heavenly Kingdom ... of the Social Transcendental Centre. Would Yeats have recognized this transcendental Messiah, this man of the Holy Spirit, had he appeared in the world during the poet's lifetime? No, not if the Antichristic image of The Second Coming is anything by which to judge!
LONDON 1985 (Revised 1986-2010)