At its best literature is a superior kind of human endeavour to science, being concerned not with the apparent, i.e. the external world and the way it works or may be changed, but with the essential, i.e. the internal world of the psyche in connection with spiritual experience. Literature can and does evolve from a lower, instinctually emotional level to a higher, spiritually intellectual level, just as science evolves from a lower materialist to a higher quasi-spiritual level, with the development from Newtonian objectivity to Einsteinian subjectivity, as relative to the evolution of the psyche from the internal objectivity of the subconscious to the internal subjectivity of the superconscious. Yet science, for all its transmutations, cannot deal in direct spiritual experience, for which the discipline of literature is required, in fidelity to man's highest and most sublime aspirations - aspirations which transcend the pragmatic prerogative of proof through verifiable experimentation, and therefore cannot be subjected to scientific endorsement. Science may dismiss these aspirations from its own, narrowly empirical point-of-view, but they cannot be dismissed on their own terms, which, being internal, transcend the boundaries of scientific inquiry. Neither can they be proved in terms of the quasi-electron science of post-Einsteinian subjectivity, despite the various attempts which this 'spiritual' science may make to prove them. For, once again, experience transcends investigation, making the findings of this pseudo-science conform to hidden impulses which derive, in all probability, from the superconscious.
If modern science is an ally of the spiritual life rather than a sceptical enemy, it is nonetheless constrained by the fundamentally external, superficial nature of science from a truly spiritual identification with matters experiential, as opposed to experimental. Only literature is capable of speaking on behalf of the spirit from a direct point-of-view, and the greater the literature ... the more direct will be its speech. To paraphrase, one may say that whereas science deals with phenomena, literature deals with noumena - a distinction, in short, between the apparent and the essential. When science strives to deal with tiny phenomena, as it must do at its highest level, it interprets what is being investigated as though they were noumena. For it, too, is subject to superconscious influence and must accordingly accommodate its findings or provisional hypotheses to the internal subjectivity of contemporary reality. No scientist is an impartial instrument looking at the world from a completely neutral point-of-view. His psyche is conditioned by the age in which he lives and by the influences, intellectual or otherwise, with which he is brought into regular contact. The man who appertains to a transcendental civilization must necessarily interpret matter according to transcendent criteria.
As yet, however, no transcendental civilization has officially arisen in the world; for it can only do so once society becomes wholly post-atomic in constitution, which, needless to say, won't be before the existing bourgeois and bourgeois/proletarian civilizations have been superseded by proletarian civilization at some future point in time. The contemporary transitional level of civilization, which for the most part prevails in America and Germany, may have extended traditional dualistic alignments in the arts and sciences towards the coming post-dualistic ones, but it hasn't entirely broken with the past, nor can we reasonably expect it to do so! The particle/wavicle theory of matter, as relative to transitional science, may prevail over the traditional particle theory of bourgeois science, but we cannot expect it to be transmuted into an exclusively wavicle theory before the onset of post-atomic civilization. So long as transitional civilization prevails, a particle/wavicle theory of matter will be the academic norm, against which the scientifically precocious would be powerless to rebel. Only an ignoramus could expect bourgeois/proletarian science to accommodate itself to wholly proletarian criteria.
And something similar could be said with regard to literature, which will continue to toe-the-line of transition between bourgeois determinism and proletarian freedom so long as bourgeois/proletarian civilization remains relatively intact. Even if, here and there, some form of proletarian literature were to be created, it could not be popularly endorsed, but would exist beyond the pale of transitional civilization, awaiting its proper appreciation in the post-atomic civilization still to arise. My guess, however, is that no such literature would be created anyway - the nearest thing to it being some radical manifestation of petty-bourgeois decadence, such as exists, in comparatively short supply at present, in the contemporary West.
The progression away from traditional fictional standards is manifested on two levels of petty-bourgeois literature and, broadly, one might define them as the objective and the subjective, or the lower and the higher. The first level mainly pertains to what has become known as philosophical literature, and is characterized by a partial rejection of fictitious illusions in favour of factual truths, in order that the resulting literature may serve as a vehicle for philosophical speculation. Among the major authors to have worked on this level are André Gide, Aldous Huxley, Hermann Hesse, Arthur Koestler, and Jean-Paul Sartre. The second level mainly pertains either to the substitution of autobiographical information, i.e. subjective fact, for conventional fictional inventions, or to the extension of literature, whether fictitious or otherwise, into experimental channels. Leading exponents on this level include James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell, Anthony Burgess, and William Burroughs. Both levels of literature tend away from fictions, but they do so in different directions - the first down towards philosophy, the second up towards the proletarian literature of the future post-atomic civilization. Admittedly, no writer is ever entirely any one thing, since no man is an absolute. But a preponderating tendency will exist in each author for either the first or the second level, thereby enabling us to define him in terms of one of the two traditions. If the philosophical, then his art will be constrained to an atomic integrity by dint of its adherence to philosophical speculation and factual information, and will exist on a comparatively materialist level of dogmatic thought. If, on the other hand, the autobiographical and/or experimental is the tradition to which he pertains, then his art will be capable of extension towards the post-atomic, though only on experimental terms. For a wholly abstract post-atomic literature can only arise out of a subjective tradition which, in abandoning or spurning autobiographical fact, may gravitate towards the higher subjectivity of the abstract.
But I use the term 'subjectivity' only in contrast to the objectivity of philosophical literature, which largely focuses on facts outside the self, i.e. in the external world. I do not wish to give the impression that such subjectivity is in any way illusory or necessarily entails a concession to fiction. On the contrary, it is really the highest form of objectivity, insofar as it pertains to the superconscious looking back and down at the subconscious. Perhaps one should therefore define it as the higher objectivity, in contrast to the lower objectivity of philosophical literature, which focuses on external reality and the world in general? This higher objectivity of autobiographical and/or experimental literature transcends the self for an impersonal realm of post-atomic freedom. Or, at any rate, it will do in the future. For, in the contemporary West, it exists on a petty-bourgeois level, and that level is by no means post-atomic.
Probably the greatest petty-bourgeois novelist of the twentieth
century was James Joyce, whose Finnegans Wake extended language beyond the
merely national to the international, in its adoption of multi-lingual puns and
phrases. Finnegans Wake is almost
abstract, but not quite! Most of it is
intelligible and therefore subject to a degree of neutron constraint in the
interests of meaning. The words - often
oddly juxtaposed or formed into teasing puns - are perhaps freer than words
have ever been at any previous time in the history of literature, but they
aren't completely free; they don't correspond to free-electron equivalents. They exist on the level of some radically
Expressionist painting, say a Kokoschka, or some predominantly atonal acoustic
composition by a composer like Webern.
And of course they exist in a novel, not in a volume of fusion literature,
which may or may not embrace narrative writings. Together with their syntactical predecessors
in Ulysses, they constitute a petty-bourgeois contribution to the
decadence of French dualistic civilization.
For although Joyce was born in
None too surprisingly, because Americans were asserting
themselves in a like-manner to Joyce and were already set on course for the
coming time of American ascendancy in the arts, when the tide of exile would be
reversed and Europeans flock to America instead of Americans flocking to Europe
and, in particular, to France. Prior to
the Second World War, however, it was generally the other way around, since the
transitional civilization of
At the time of writing, transitional civilization - which, of
course, is more than petty bourgeois - is still in existence, and
Petty-bourgeois literature and poetry have generally failed to live-up to the challenge set by Joyce in Finnegans Wake and by Pound in the Cantos. The finest artists since them may have extended creative progress in one or two directions, but, overall, they have failed to extend it more comprehensively ... right across the transitional board, as it were, of the higher literature. Even Henry Miller, who succeeded like no-one else in making autobiographical literature respectable, could not attain to the same experimental level as Joyce, and came no closer than Surrealism to the abstract. Of British writers, both Lawrence Durrell and Anthony Burgess have surpassed Miller in certain technical matters, though they haven't produced anything analogous to Finnegans Wake, despite their commitment to the experimental. Could it be, I wonder, that petty-bourgeois genius attained to its zenith with Joyce and Pound, or has someone greater still to arise?
One will have to wait until transitional civilization has run its course before a definite answer to that question becomes possible! Although it does seem that the petty-bourgeois literature of the above-mentioned masters has been eclipsed by bourgeois/proletarian literature which, ever more popular, seeks an accommodation with film, and thus with proletarian civilization in its comparatively naturalistic phase.