SPIRITUAL TRUTH FOR THIRD-STAGE MAN
NICHOLAS: (Flicking through a volume of Lady Chatterley's Lover) So you really think that D.H Lawrence was the devil's advocate?
BRIAN: Not literally, of course! But certainly in a manner of speaking. To be more precise, I would regard him as the advocate of a return to paganism, rather than of an advancement towards transcendentalism.
NICHOLAS: (Visibly puzzled) Paganism?
BRIAN: Yes, which is
another way of saying nature and the sensual.
Lawrence's god, being dark, was antithetical to Huxley's. The god of
NICHOLAS: So it would
seem. And yet if
BRIAN: Not simply, but
partly. Yes, I am a member of the
intelligentsia, if rather unofficially and unorthodoxly so, and therefore I
cannot be expected to share
NICHOLAS: You mean that we are on the threshold of some kind of biological and/or spiritual mutation from man to superman?
BRIAN: Not as yet exactly on the threshold, but certainly heading in its direction. You see, we began our human pilgrimage under the sway of nature, which is strictly sensuous. But, as men, we were destined to pit ourselves against it, at first very slowly and unconsciously but, nevertheless, in accordance with the essence of man, which is spiritual. Even at that early stage of his evolution, man felt the pull of his spirit in opposition to the predominantly sensual identification with nature of the apes or, for that matter, his ape-like predecessors, and thus initiated civilization, or the establishment of a world uniquely belonging to man - a world which included religion. Being surrounded by so much raw or relatively untamed nature, however, it isn't surprising that his earliest religious impulse acquired a predominantly sensual character and accordingly manifested itself in fertility rites, phallic worship, pantheism, blood sacrifices, etc., in which the spirit of man, or religion-forming impulse, was subordinated to his body, and thereby confined to an acknowledgement of the Father, or some such pagan equivalence.
NICHOLAS: Like the 'dark gods' of D.H. Lawrence?
BRIAN: Precisely! It is fundamentally to this earliest stage of
man's religious evolution that
NICHOLAS: And this evidently leads us further away from the sensual allegiance to the Father or, rather, Creator of our pagan ancestors, and closer to the spiritual concept of God which Aldous Huxley advocated?
BRIAN: Indeed it does! Though not without an intermediate, or second, stage of human development as characterized by the great world religions, such as Christianity and Buddhism, which signifies a kind of compromise between the sensual and the spiritual. It is at this dualistic stage of his evolution that man is in his prime as man - finely balanced between the two antitheses. For he has evolved beyond the paganism of early man through the environmental progress he has made in his struggle with nature, and has now established his civilization to a degree where the natural is no longer as influential as formerly, having been pushed back and thinned out, so to speak, to make room for his villages and towns. Man's spirit - which is, after all, what distinguishes him from the brutes - has succeeded in freeing itself from subservience to nature and, in the process, managed to direct its religious impulse towards the transcendent, the Holy Spirit, and thus establish itself on a higher plane. But whilst it may have freed itself from subservience to nature, it has by no means triumphed over the natural realm, as Christianity is only too keen to point out, and so allegiance to the sensual still exists, if no longer as strongly or partially as before. It is when this compromise between the dual tendencies of man is at its finest and most balanced ... that one attains to the high-point of a great culture, which is nothing less than a record of man in his prime as man. Here is the point at which man's artistic or expressive capacities are at their greatest, since he is now enabled to depict his spiritual strivings in the sensuous images of his partly sensual nature, and thereby give them tangible form.
NICHOLAS: Which is doubtless where all the great paintings of madonnas, angels, visitations, transfigurations, crucifixions, etc., come into the picture, so to speak. Man's spiritual aspirations given bodily form.
BRIAN: Absolutely! And that is why we get the paradoxical compromise between the mundane and the miraculous - the concepts of the Immaculate Conception, Resurrection, Transubstantiation, Ascension, etc., not to mention the delightfully sensuous nature of so many madonnas, angels, saints, saviours, etc., which the greatest painters and sculptors chose to depict. There is more than a hint of soft pornography about various of those high-flying angels whose heavenly garments flow gracefully with their movements and offer us discreet glimpses of beautiful limbs. And what about those numerous damnation scenes in which the Damned are pitchforked into Hell in the nude, and often exposed to our eyes in postures which are anything but spiritual? Being damned for their sensual crimes, they are appropriately sensuous, and we recognize in them that section of humanity which is closer to the earlier, predominantly sensual stage of human development. In the time-honoured distinction between 'the quick' and 'the slow', they represent 'the slow', who have not kept abreast of evolutionary strivings and are accordingly damned. Only 'the quick' can hope for salvation in the Beyond, those who put their trust in the transcendent - the spiritual as opposed to sensual allegiance. For it is towards the transcendent that human evolution is slowly proceeding, and in which it will attain to its ultimate salvation in the godlike beatitude which lies beyond the merely human.
NICHOLAS: Thus the Day of Judgement is no mere figment of the imagination but, presumably, something still to come?
BRIAN: Yes, in a manner of speaking. Though not, by any means, in the exact terms which Christianity has outlined. For we should not confound such a Judgement Day with the appropriately sensuous symbols employed in its depiction! What we are really dealing with here is the final stage of human evolution - the transformation from man to superman, in which spirit, represented in Christian symbolism by Jesus Christ, is wholly triumphant, and man thereby attains to salvation in the transcendent Beyond. However, it may well transpire, at that more evolved juncture in time, that some men, insufficiently spiritual, will be unable to achieve this transformation, this mutation onto the highest plane of existence, in which case they will probably be confined to the world of time and suffering, and their confinement, in contrast to the pure godlike beatitude experienced by those who have climbed onto the Eternal Plane, may be interpreted as a kind of damnation. For, as Aldous Huxley rightly said, man's Final End must reside in unitive knowledge of the Godhead, though it doesn't necessarily follow that all men will attain to such an End. Again there will be 'the quick' and 'the slow', with the relevant consequences attending each. But the real mistake, concerning the Last Judgement, would lie in taking the Christian symbolism - beautiful and appropriate though it was at the time of its conception - at face-value, and thus confounding it with the reality which lies beyond, and which it strives to convey in sensuous terms. The consequences of doing so could only be extremely foolhardy and pitifully beside-the-point, leading one to imagine Christ literally making His second appearance in the world, with the Second Coming, in order to divide the chaff from the wheat and thereupon establish His 'Kingdom of Heaven' on earth. Symbolically, this is perfect. For the principle it strives to convey of the ultimate triumph of the spirit over nature is wholly in accordance with the trend of evolution and demands our utmost respect. But, conceived at a time when man was in the second stage of his religious evolution, it is inevitable that the sensuous representation of the spiritual principle, viz. Jesus Christ, should pertain to human understanding as it was at that stage of its development and not at the present stage, where, on the contrary, the spiritual principle demands a literal representation or, rather, no representation at all. For we have outgrown the symbolic stage of our evolution and thus entered the third and final stage of it, wherein civilization has the better of nature instead of existing, as before, in a balanced compromise with the sensuous world.
NICHOLAS: You mean the subsequent enlargement of our towns and cities has further limited or curtailed nature's influence, and accordingly engendered a different religious impulse.
absolutely! Which is why Christianity
has been increasingly on the decline since the eighteenth century. For Christianity is the religion appertaining
to man in his prime as man, balanced between flesh and spirit. But with the expansion of urbanization, this
balance has been upset in the general direction of greater spirituality, so
that the sensual side of man is subordinate to the spirit and approximately in
the position the latter was in when man lived as a nature-worshipper. In entering the third stage of our religious
evolution we are the converse of the first stage, and our religious impulse is
appropriately transcendental. In
isolating ourselves from nature we are drawn away from the Father and closer to
the Holy Spirit, in consequence of which the Christian compromise is no longer
relevant, since possessing too much sensuality for our tastes. We don't require symbols now, because they
are simply a means of expressing the spiritual in sensuous terms, and we are
too spiritual to appreciate them. Our
traditional instinctually- and emotionally-charged religious impulse has been
superseded by an intellectually abstract one, in which the Holy Spirit becomes
our concept of divinity, as we cease to think in terms of bodily
representation. For throughout the
Christian era men did conceive of God in
bodily terms, and this we can no longer do, this we no longer wish to do,
having abandoned the sensual life to a much greater extent. Admittedly, there were transcendentalists of
one persuasion or another in
NICHOLAS: So we have recently entered the positive stage and thus drawn one stage closer to the Holy Spirit?
BRIAN: We are certainly drawing closer to the Holy Spirit, but we are by no means in the positive stage, which would indeed be that of ultimate divinity. As long as we remain men, which should be for some time to come, we shall be partly negative, though not, of course, to the same extent as our cultural or pre-cultural forebears. Instead of being predominantly negative, as were they, with their work and art and sport and war and sex, we shall become increasingly positive, draw progressively nearer, with each succeeding generation, to the pure beatitude of the supreme existence which still lies beyond us. Our machines will increasingly carry the burden of our negativity, as we proceed into the future, and thereby make it possible for us to spend more time simply meditating our way towards unitive knowledge of the Holy Ghost. But as long as we remain men - and this should be perfectly obvious - there can be no question of our becoming divine. Man is man at any stage of his evolution, though never more so than when he composes great music or writes great literature or paints great paintings or involves himself in any other form of great creative work. For such work is the hallmark of man, especially man in his prime as man, not of the Superman that lies beyond him. And even the (from an egocentric standpoint) lesser creative work of predominantly intellectual and spiritual man will not entitle us to consider either him or it truly godlike, even though it may be the closest man has yet come to such a state in his physical actions. For man is never closer to himself than in his actions, and all physical actions, no matter how clever or socially beneficial, take one away from the Holy Spirit. It is only in meditation that man will come to know the Godhead, and thus cease to be himself. But pure spirituality is still some way into the future, so we needn't fear anything for our manhood at present.
NICHOLAS: That comes as quite a relief to me, I can assure you!
BRIAN: Yes, I thought it would! Though I am confident that it would come as an even greater relief to most healthy, attractive young women! However, joking aside, it should be emphasized that pure spirituality, if and when it comes to pass, will be vastly superior to any of our physical doings, even the most agreeable of them, and therefore something that is unlikely to cause its experiencers any serious regrets. They will be too blissfully absorbed in the higher state to care anything about the world of men - a world which, so far as they're concerned, would have completely ceased to exist. In the meantime, however, we must bear the burden of our human status and carry-on with our physical actions, the bad as well as the good, while the new religious impulse takes root in us and slowly expands towards our ultimate salvation. Christianity has 'had its day' and this is something for which, despite all the works of great art it inspired, we should be sincerely grateful, since we can now look towards a brighter future, one in which art will eventually cease to be necessary and, no less significantly, cease to be possible. For as Tolstoy indicated, art is essentially a means of conveying feelings and emotions, preferably the noblest and most pertinent to any given culture, through symbols. It is a phenomenon dependent upon and linked to the sensuous, so that when man's sensual/instinctual capacities decline, with the advancement of civilization, and his spiritual/intellectual ones take over, then the age of great, or egocentric, art comes to an end. A new age of post-egocentric, intellectually-oriented art takes its place, until such time as even that ceases to be practicable and art disappears altogether. What one increasingly finds nowadays in the realm of art is thought, i.e. philosophy, technology, psychology, sociology, etc., as befitting beings dominated by their intellect and consequently under the sway of a higher spirituality than the instinct-bound spirituality of the great artists of the past. It is the intellect rather than the id, or instinctive will, which is destined to condition our responses to life over the coming decades, and this will merge with and eventually give way to the still-higher spirituality of pure knowledge, leading, in due course, to man's Final End in total union with ultimate divinity. So do not brood over the death of traditional art as though it were some terrible tragedy! For it is only through the demise of such art that we can hope to live on a higher plane - freed from the lower, sensuous spirituality it represents. Great egocentric art has already come to its end and, eventually, post-egocentric art will follow suit, to be respectfully buried in the giant curatorial mausoleums of mankind's cultural history as tokens of our more sensual past. And thus the way will be cleared for us to proceed with our intellectual and spiritual preoccupations in the optimistic spirit of post-cultural man - a spirit diametrically antithetical to the pessimism of our pre-cultural ancestors, and no longer indulgent of the dualistic compromise on which our more recent cultural forebears built their great culture. It won't be the novel, the play, or the poem that will characterize our creative urge in this third stage of evolution, but the essay, dialogue, and aphorism - the philosophical genres of beings liberated, through large-scale urbanization, from the tyranny of their emotional instincts and placed firmly under the control of their spiritual intellects. Like art, literature and music will completely die out, great music and literature having already done so, their post-egocentric successors soon to follow suit. After all, regarded from another standpoint, can one really expect the arts to live-on indefinitely? Aren't there enough great paintings, symphonies, concertos, drawings, etchings, novels, plays, songs, operas, poems, sculptures, etc., in the world already? Not to mention all the comparatively mediocre works which have either come down to us from earlier times or proliferated during the course of this century? Surely one cannot continue hoarding them up in the world, as though there was an unlimited supply of space! Obviously a halt has to be called sometime, and we are closer to it now than at any previous time in the history of man. The future will have no use, you can be certain, for art of any description!
NICHOLAS: Which is probably just as well, if the subject-matter of the bulk of it is anything to judge by! But even if, as I'm now inclined to believe, art is destined to perish, what makes you so confident that man will survive? After all, we still live in the shadow of nuclear obliteration, and it isn't a shadow that permits one to be particularly optimistic about mankind's future, is it?
BRIAN: No, maybe not in the short term. But that isn't to say that man won't survive the effects of a nuclear accident and/or war, and therefore is destined to perish along with his traditional creations. In the unlikely event of a nuclear war, it stands to reason that large numbers of human beings would perish, just as they have perished in or through wars from time immemorial. But I can't for one moment believe that humanity in toto would perish, as some present-day pessimists are only too apt to imagine. It would be entirely against the grain of human evolution, which is leading man from a lower to a higher state, leading him beyond the phenomenon of war towards an era of eternal peace. No, if he is destined to perish as a species it won't be in consequence of nuclear war, but through his metamorphosis from man to superman, which we earlier discussed and briefly referred to as constituting, in post-Christian terms, a kind of Last Judgement, in which the temporal world of man in his third stage of evolution will be superseded by an eternal world of pure godlike beatitude. It could well be that we are on the verge of the most radical revolution in the entire history of mankind, but I don't see that such a possibility should induce us to assume that mankind is on the point of perishing. On the contrary, it seems more probable that the old Judeo-Christian world will ultimately come to an end in that event, thereby clearing the ground, so to speak, for the widespread acceptance of man's third-stage religion - the religion centred on meditation and leading, inevitably, to the transcendental Beyond.
NICHOLAS: So you don't believe that mankind is on the verge of nuclear annihilation?
BRIAN: No, I don't. Like Koestler, I believe in short-term pessimism but in long-term optimism. It is precisely in the transitional stages between the old religious impulse and the new one that most confusion and uncertainty is apt to arise, as our recent history adequately attests. But it is our duty as intellectuals to lead as many people as possible out of that confusion and uncertainty towards the brighter future in which their salvation resides, and thus to assure them that, in spite of all the vicissitudes or apparent setbacks with which contemporary life may confront them, human evolution is slowly winding its way towards a future consummation in the post-human absolute. History is on the side of the spirit, and it is the spirit of man that will ultimately triumph - not in any fictitious Beyond, such as one might be led to believe in, à la Malcolm Muggeridge, through a misconception of Christian symbolism, a more or less literal belief in that symbolism instead of a figurative interpretation of what, in sensuous terms, it was striving to convey at that particular stage of human evolution, but, rather, in the very genuine Beyond of our future transformation from men into godlike beings, which will be a consequence of our technologically-biased urban lifestyle and the transcendental religion appertaining to it. Man, to cite Nietzsche, is something that should be overcome, and we are now some way on the road to overcoming him. Only when he is completely overcome, however, will we fully enter the long-awaited transcendent Beyond which our ancestors have been dreaming about, in various ways, since the spirit first liberated itself from heathen subservience to nature. But we needn't pretend that we are on the verge of that dream just because we have entered the third and final stage of human evolution. We may be closer to it than man has ever been before, but it should be fairly evident, from a glimpse at the world around us, that we still have a long way to go in order to attain to our ultimate salvation in unequivocal spiritual triumph. There are still buildings to demolish, new buildings to build, machines to invent, drugs to discover, meditation techniques to learn, further aspects of nature to overcome, space explorations to make, technological improvements to effect, racial frictions to eradicate, and so many other things to do before we arrive at our heavenly destination. But even if we must face-up to this sobering thought, at least we can be assured that there is a purpose, a justification to our activities, that progress is a fact, and that we are slowly but surely working-out our destiny, in accordance with evolutionary requirement. Even The Hour of Decision, that largely reactionary work by Oswald Spengler, was a part of our destiny which had to be worked out and proven inadequate, before we could proceed beyond the narrowly temporal view of culture it takes to a much wider view of human evolution, in which the decline of individual cultures is regarded as part of a greater, more comprehensive development in human progress, rather than simply seen as a lamentable tragedy to be bewailed and if possible - which, incidentally, it never can be - prevented. No, it isn't for us to lament over our cultural decline, but to grasp the full implications of what it signifies in terms of our ongoing spiritual development - a development which has no further use for traditional modes of cultural expression. Spengler had a task to fulfil and we may congratulate him for fulfilling it. But his is not the last word in the struggle for Truth, which must continue as long as man exists and cannot possibly come to a halt, not even where the efforts of such distinguished thinkers as Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Arthur Koestler, Louis Mumford, Aldous Huxley, Teilhard de Chardin, and Arnold J. Toynbee are concerned. For it is the task of the outstanding minds of each generation to carry the torch of Truth one stage further in the direction of that ultimate truth which will reside in the transcendental Beyond and have no need of verbal justification, being its own silent witness. Neither will this ultimate truth be clouded or diminished by illusion, which inevitably characterizes and accompanies, to varying extents, our struggle for intellectual truth. In the Beyond there will be no place for that conflict of opposites, no opportunity for sensual illusion to mar the pure face of spiritual truth, since antitheses will have been transcended in the One, and the One will reign supreme. But that, as already noted, is some way into the future, so, in the meantime, we must persist with the truth relative to ourselves, as third-stage men, and thereby endeavour to overcome what illusion we can. Now the truth relative to ourselves is by no means the truth relative to man in his previous two stages, when he looked upon life and God from either a predominantly sensual stance, as in the first stage, or a balanced sensual/spiritual stance, as in the second. It is a truth superior to the lower truths of both these stages and, as such, isn't something that we should regard as a misfortune or decadence in relation to the past. D.H. Lawrence tried to relate to the first stage of human development - that of paganism, with its phallic worship and fertility rites. So much for Lawrence! Malcolm Muggeridge related to the second stage of our development - that of Christianity, with its preoccupation with sin and death, culture and faith. So much for Muggeridge! But Aldous Huxley related to the third stage of our religious evolution - that of a mystical acknowledgement of and allegiance to transcendentalism, with its key to our ultimate salvation in a future spiritual transformation. What could be more logical? Clearly, Lawrence was a reactionary, Muggeridge a conservative, and Huxley the only true leader of the three, the only one to point towards the future and thus lead men away from the down-dragging and static currents of the age. That is something worth knowing, you know!
NICHOLAS: Yes, I guess I shall have to agree with you, even though I rather like Lawrence. Perhaps he appeals to a certain nostalgia in us for our distant, pre-cultural past? Still, it just goes to show how wrong one can be in determining who is or isn't an intellectual leader! I had always taken Lawrence for one, you know.
BRIAN: Well, now you know better, don't you? You ought to have a sufficiently comprehensive criterion to enable you to distinguish between the reactionaries and the progressives, thus avoiding unnecessary confusions. And watch out for the traditionalists as well, since they won't point you in the direction evolution is taking either, but will simply strive to impose their limited notions of salvation upon you. Always fight for the truth, but make certain that it appertains to man at this stage of his evolution, not to a previous one! For there are all too many people who are convinced that there is only one truth and that they have it, even though circumstances indicate that their particular stage of truth is no longer relevant - indeed, may even be several centuries out-of-date!
NICHOLAS: Or even thousands of years - as, presumably, in Lawrence's case?
BRIAN: Yes, absolutely! Fortunately for humanity, however, there are still intellectual leaders in the world, and they are in it to do a specific job, irrespective of whether or not the bulk of mankind approves of it. Life isn't static but evolutionary, and it is the task of intellectual leaders to remind people of that fact and to lead them in the right direction, which, in effect, is the only possible direction, since they themselves are led by the pressures of intellectual evolution.
NICHOLAS: How right you are!