An Ultimate Universality
FRANK: As a self-taught philosopher, you are very much the type of the 'universal man' - perhaps his ultimate manifestation, insofar as you weave a variety of disciplines together and cause them to interrelate and overlap.
COLIN: I agree that my philosophical interests are wide-ranging rather than confined to any one discipline, like a logical positivist. I prefer to integrate education eclectically, since the development of one discipline is tied-up with that of another and one cannot hope to further an integrated society unless each discipline is harmonized, as closely as possible, with the others in an all-embracing unity of purpose. They must be co-ordinated with one another on a uniform ideological plane. It is no good trying to separate politics from religion or science from art or sex from society. They have to be harmonized on the same class-evolutionary plane, their respective spheres of influence respected while still being developed to an identical evolutionary stage. This is why my work has remained universal, scorning narrow specialization in the interests of a more comprehensive evolutionary perspective concerned with the future development of proletarian civilization, and accordingly determined to bring all the major disciplines within the scope of a uniform assessment and standardization, which, needless to say, should be of crucial importance from a moral standpoint.
FRANK: Thus the type of the 'universal man' essentially pertains to the foundation of a new civilization; he is the root organizer and comprehensive criterion from whom specializations will eventually emerge, with the development of this civilization?
COLIN: Yes, as the next civilization will be the last in the history of human evolution, you are correct, I think, in contending that I am the ultimate manifestation of the 'universal man'.
FRANK: An essay on 'universal men' written by the art historian Kenneth Clark suggested that the age of such men had passed, in consequence of which there wasn't likely to be another 'universal man' in the future.
COLIN: Considering that
British art historians, together with their counterparts in other Western
nations, are unwilling to concede to the possibility of a future civilization,
following their own rather bourgeois one, I cannot be surprised that
FRANK: I agree, and when he did get round to a positive involvement in both the discussion and elucidation of modern art, it was with a materialist bias that left the superconscious out of account and accordingly induced him to describe such art in terms of the subconscious, which, from an objective viewpoint, totally fails to do proper justice to, if not the greater part, then at any rate the most spiritually important part of it.
COLIN: A typically bourgeois limitation, and not least of all where the British are concerned! For an acknowledgement of the superconscious could, after all, suggest the possibility of subsequent evolutionary progress, and not only in the context of art, to the detriment, needless to say, of monarchic determinism! So while Kenneth Clark may have been prepared to cite universal men like da Vinci and Jefferson, as pertaining to the relativistic developments of the Italian grand-bourgeois and American bourgeois renaissances within the overall context of Western civilization, he couldn't be expected to know anything about the ultimate 'universal man', whose work, breaking with bourgeois tradition, necessarily pertains to the future development of an absolutist civilization of truly universal scope and significance.
FRANK: And who would be less a philosopher than a philosophical theosophist, am I correct in saying?
COLIN: Very, bearing in mind that the life-span of philosophers does not extend beyond the confines of bourgeois/proletarian civilization, since they stem from the pagan root of things and are only permissible so long as that root remains intact, which it will do even into a petty-bourgeois phase of the civilization in question, wherein the most extreme relativity of transcendental bias is to be found. The foundations of an absolute civilization, on the other hand, cannot be rooted in a philosopher, least of all an academic one, but only in a philosophical theosophist, whose creativity is more literary than a philosopher's, employing the use of certain genres that, taken in conjunction with traditional philosophical ones, elevate his work above traditional categorization in deference to transcendental criteria.
FRANK: So, as a philosophical theosophist, you are nevertheless equivalent to a philosopher.
COLIN: More like his successor actually, though I am unlikely to have any successors myself, since 'universal men' aren't entitled to eternal life but appertain, as a rule, to the inception of a given civilization, and, as already remarked, the transcendental one will be the last!
FRANK: So, after you, one must expect specialists to emerge who will tackle each particular discipline in the context of the whole.
COLIN: Yes, religion and art, not to mention science and politics, will continue to require specialist attention to further their advancement, though such attention won't be carried out in defiance or ignorance of the justification for other disciplines, but ... will be conducted within the all-embracing context of a wider perspective, harmonized to ends outside itself and therefore precluding the danger of any given discipline degenerating into some 'ism', be it scientism, politicism, spiritualism, or aestheticism. Thus the integrating influence of the ultimate 'universal man' will never be very far away.
FRANK: Would you therefore describe the 'universal man' as inherently superior to the specialist?
COLIN: In a certain sense, I would. That is to say, with regard to specialists of a preceding civilization, whose work he has personally transcended in his commitment to a future one. He can afford to 'look down' upon the outmoded theological beliefs of an earlier civilization's priests, or upon the obsolescent art of that same civilization's artists, and so on.
FRANK: What about the specialists who succeed him?
COLIN: Well, that is another matter and, at the risk of succumbing to my old vice of offensive clarity, I shall concede the right of creative superiority to the spiritual specialists who succeed him, such as future artists and priest-equivalents, whilst according a less flattering status to their materialist counterparts in science and politics. For, to my mind, the absolute man is inherently superior to the relative one, provided, however, that he pertains to a later spiritual absolutism! The later materialist absolutism, on the other hand, of the scientist I regard as less entitled to such a claim - indeed, as not entitled to it at all - since his materialistic preoccupations, whilst equalling or surpassing those of the 'universal man', cannot be expected to match or surpass the latter's spiritual preoccupations, which constitute the most important aspect of his work. Certainly I can vouch for that fact as regards my own universal tendencies!
FRANK: You must have a low regard for scientists generally.
COLIN: Well, I don't consider them superior to the foremost artists of any given age, if that's what you mean. It is a distinction between the discoverer and the creator, the negative and the positive, the reactive and the active. A similar distinction holds true between politicians and priests, though we should define it rather more in terms of doing and being than of, say, discovering and creating.
FRANK: In other words, a distinction between the active and the passive, the coercive and the instructive.
COLIN: Yes, that must be approximately so! Now when we compare the reactive scientist with the active politician or the creative artist with the instructive priest, it is only logical to regard the latter as superior, in each case, to the former, their positivity entitling them to a hierarchic distinction over the negativity of the scientist and politician.
FRANK: What happens when we compare the artist with the priest?
COLIN: The instructive being of the latter takes precedence over the creative doing of the former. There is no-one higher than the spiritual leader! And wherever civilization prevails, his superiority will be acknowledged and taken for granted. Likewise, the artist's status will be accorded due recognition.
FRANK: Interesting how, in another of the essays published in Moments of Vision, Kenneth Clark should have contended that modern art signified a decline in inspiration and quality over traditional art, and that one of the main reasons for this was the fact, as he saw it, of the twentieth century being a scientific rather than a religious age, in which scientific and technological endeavour took precedence over art, their pursuit being worthy of greater prestige in consequence.
COLIN: All of which
only goes to confirm what you said about his materialist bias, and further
underlines how out-of-touch he must have been with petty-bourgeois religious
developments, including yoga and hallucinogenic contemplation, to see in the
age such a scientific hegemony. Besides,
the contention that modern art signifies a decline in creative inspiration over
what preceded it in earlier centuries simply reflects the psychological
limitations of its author, since, lacking knowledge of the superconscious,
he entirely fails to perceive, in the by-and-large post-egocentric nature of
such art, an advancement towards greater simplicity. His preference for more complex works
doubtless accords with a representational bias which demands not abstraction
but the grandiose spectacle of what Spengler would
have called 'great art'. Fortunately, we
are unlikely to witness a recrudescence of such egocentric art in the future,
FRANK: Such as light art and abstract holography?
COLIN: Yes, particularly the latter, which should become the principal visual art form of the transcendental civilization, bringing such art to a climax in the symbolization, through apparent means, of maximum essence. This will be at the furthest possible remove from the inception of civilized visual art in the attempts, doomed to failure, of pagan man to emulate the beauty of nature through sculptural images, the most materialistic of beginnings, compared to which even representational paintings signify a marked spiritual advancement!
FRANK: Though presumably not one for which the ultimate 'universal man' is likely to have much philosophical respect, given his commitment to transcendental values.
COLIN: No, since he has better things to do than to dote on the achievements, aesthetic or otherwise, of relativistic civilization. In pointing forward, he turns his back on the past. And that, believe it or not, is precisely what the final human civilization will do - at the expense not only of art historians but of historians in general! For relativistic history, my friend, will have no place in the coming transcendental age. The only history worthy of academic sanction will be the absolutist history of proletarian man. And that begins - does it not? - where bourgeois history leaves off.