CHAPTER NINE

 

It was around 7.00pm that same day when young Philip Grace called on Edwin, who had spent the greater part of the afternoon in his room with a book.  As usual, it was Edwin's mother who answered the front door.  Aside from the obliging young women who came to visit her son during vacations, Philip was the most regular caller - almost a member of the family.  But, as ever, he couldn't be induced to say very much to Mrs Ford, whom he found slightly intimidating on account of her matronly build and deep voice.  It was accordingly straight up to his fellow-student's room that he went.

     "Ah, so you've finally broken away from your father's guests!" Edwin observed, as soon as Philip had proffered his customary "Hi!" in a terse, high-pitched tone of voice.

     "Yes, fortunately!  They left just under an hour ago."  He helped himself to a wooden chair and sat down on it with a sigh of relief, more from habit than fatigue.  It was often his way to sigh at contact with chairs, even when he hadn't run the 400-odd yards which separated their parents' houses, as on this occasion.  To him, a chair signified less a support than a letting go of oneself, a general collapse of the physical organism, an abdication of moral high-standing, which he ordinarily strove to maintain on as athletic a plane as possible.

     "Were you glad to see the back of them?" Edwin asked, politely putting his book to one side and sitting up a little on his bed, where he had been sprawled-out in luxurious abandon.

     "Yes and no," Philip ambivalently replied.  "I didn't much like the painter, who struck me as rather pompous and effeminate in a middle-class kind of way.  But I quite liked the other two, especially Miss Jackson.  She was certainly pretty!"

     Edwin smiled broadly in conspiratorial acknowledgement of his friend's assessment of Carol.  "A good fucking lay, what?" he facetiously speculated.

     "I bet!" Philip enthusiastically responded.  "Too good for that painter jerk, so far as I'm concerned.  I'd like to have tried something on her."

     "But you evidently didn't?" Edwin deduced.

     "I hardly had time!  Nonetheless I'm quite convinced, from the way Pauline was behaving this morning, that the other guy tried something on her last night, after leaving us in the lounge."

     "Oh, what makes you think that?"  Edwin seemed concerned, almost worriedly so.

     "I couldn't help noticing the way she was staring at him during breakfast - kind of intimately," Philip revealed, fidgeting slightly in his chair.  "Even mother was aware of something, or at least of a change in her.  And the way she was dressed too, in her best and most seductive minidress, like she wanted to show off and please someone.  I bet you anything she was dolled-up specifically to please him."

     "So you think he got off with her last night?" Edwin conjectured nervously.

     "I shouldn't be at all surprised!" Philip averred.  "After all, she didn't come back downstairs after she'd disappeared with him at around eleven o'clock, did she?"

     "She might have gone straight to bed after having shown him to his room," Edwin speculated, shifting uneasily on his bed.

     "She might," Philip conceded, giving his friend the benefit of the doubt.  "But, knowing my sister, I incline to think otherwise, since she doesn't usually go to bed till after twelve on Saturdays.  No, I bet you anything he had his way with her."

     Edwin appeared even more concerned than before.  He hadn't quite realized, until now, that he was virtually in love with Pauline or, at any rate, fonder of her than he had hitherto imagined.  But Philip's sister had never shown any real romantic interest in him - nothing comparable to the interest she had evidently shown in Andrew Doyle.  Her attitude towards him, on the contrary, had always been rather cool.  However that may be, it wasn't for him to make a blabbering fool of himself in front of Philip!  "Oh well, if that writer-bastard got on intimate terms with her, good fucking luck to him!" he at length exclaimed, trying to sound as flippantly impartial as possible.  "We needn't begrudge him such modest pleasures!  I guess he deserved something after all the trouble we put him through, encouraging him to expound his religious views to us in your father's lounge.  Had I not been so stoned, when we arrived back at your place yesterday, I doubt that I'd have launched out so frigging vehemently in defence of Marxism in front of your distinctly conservative father, and thereby precipitated the impromptu lecture from Doyle which was destined to lead to a show-down between the Christian camp on the one hand and the transcendentalist camp, or whatever, on the other.  To tell you the truth, I'm still pretty confused about this Social Transcendental compromise between modified forms of socialism and transcendentalism which he was advocating.  But, really, I can't say I've ever seen your dad look more aggrieved or sound more offended than when he let rip at the guy for having dismissed Christianity as outmoded.  Too frigging terrible!"

     Philip had to agree.  "It quite poisoned the atmosphere for the rest of the weekend, and not only so far as their attitude to each other was concerned," he declared.  "You ought to have felt the strain at breakfast, what with Andrew on my left and Robert on my right.  I could almost feel the needles of antipathy passing through me from the one to the other!  And Andrew hardly spoke a word all the time, not even when I attempted to start a conversation with him."

     "I don't really blame him," Edwin remarked, grinning ironically.  "If I had been in his shoes, I wouldn't have said very much either.  But I could never be in his shoes, since I've no use for transcendentalism."

     "Not even after what he said on the subject yesterday afternoon?" Philip queried.

     "No, absolutely not!  I'm still a Marxist and don't desire to meditate.  I'll remain loyal to my type, even if it's only one amongst others and not necessarily the most important.  You can keep your Krishnamurti, Radhakrishnan, Sri Chinmoy, Prabhupada, Sri Rajhneesh, and all the rest of them, if that's what you bloody-well want.  But leave me my Marx, Engles, Trotsky, Kropotkin, etc., who suit me better.  Alright, he may be correct in claiming Marxism isn't everything.  But that's no reason for me to suppose I ought necessarily to abandon it and embrace meditation instead!  If I'm of a predominantly materialistic disposition, well then, I shall just have to live in accordance with its dictates and attend to matters as they stand in relation to it.  For me, politics is more important than religion."

     "And for me it's the other way around, my temperamental disposition being somewhat different," Philip confessed.  "But you must admit you've slightly changed your position, due to what Andrew was saying.  For you were previously inclined to dismiss religion altogether, and not concede that meditation had any place whatsoever in the march of history.  You hadn't learnt to differentiate between Christianity and transcendentalism, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, and therefore weren't prepared to accept that the latter might have more relevance to a post-Christian socialist society than you supposed.  To you, all religious people, no matter how they conceived of God, were equally detrimental to socialism, and hence to a world based on the claims of materialism.  You would have wanted them all done away with, so that atheistic Marxism could flourish unimpeded by religion, which to you was nothing more than a system of glorified superstitions, and thus bring the world to the millennium as you conceived of it, that's to say, a socialist millennium in which only material things mattered - everyone being well-fed, well-housed, well-sexed, etc., and thereby reduced to the level of contented cabbages.  But such a millennium would be an absurdity, as I'm sure you must now realize, in which men simply vegetated, in accordance with their new-found ease, and degenerated to a level on a par with, if not actually way below, the beasts.  They would be stuck in front of their television sets night after dreary night, with never an ambition in their starry-eyed heads beyond the materialistic desire to indefinitely maintain the status quo and thereby reduce human sufferings to a bare minimum.  But is that salvation?  Is that the climax to our long and difficult evolution?  No, you know as well as me that such a lamentable state-of-affairs, already manifest in all-too-many-cases, would eventually prove intolerable, the source of ineffable boredom.  If we didn't go mad or turn psychopathic, we'd simply sink into our bodies, like abject clods, and die of humiliation and shame!  No, it's obvious there must be more to the coming millennium than that, something which lifts us above material survival and makes it possible for us to experience spiritual bliss.  And what is that something if not Transcendental Meditation and an identification, in consequence, with the Godhead, an identification, through the superconscious mind, with holy spirit."

     "Don't frigging-well preach to me!" Edwin objected, becoming resentful.  "I don't want your salvation.  I may have slightly modified my attitude to transcendentalism, but I'm still a Marxist, still predominantly political."

     "Oh, I'm not preaching to you!" Philip corrected.  "I know only too well by now that any kind or degree of transcendentalist preaching would be wasted on your damn ears, since they're not attuned to it.  'I'm not the mouth for those ears,' as Nietzsche would say.  No, I'm merely pointing out the absurdity in conceiving of the Millennium in purely materialist terms, as though it were nothing more than a glorified consumer society bereft of the spirit.  Let's not degrade ourselves to that level!"

     "Alright, alright, have it your own frigging way!" Edwin countered, with an air of weariness.  "To some extent I accept what you say - at least to the extent of distinguishing between Christianity and transcendentalism, and thereby acknowledging that there's probably more to the Millennium, in the ideological sense, than material well-being."

     "And you still consider yourself a Marxist?"

     "Yes, in a manner of speaking!  At least I'm still dedicated to politics, not religion.  I'm still atheistic as far as the Christian god is concerned.  Still an enemy of the Church!"

     "But not of the Holy Spirit or of Transcendental Meditation?" Philip pressed him, scenting victory.

     There was a strained silence during which the Cambridge undergraduate wearily shrugged his shoulders and sighed faintly, torn between allegiance to Marxism and the overwhelming logic in support of the claims put forward by his fellow-student.  No, he wasn't going to admit defeat.  "I'll content myself with the policies of socialism," he defiantly averred.  "At least they're tangible.  I'll be the Commissar and you can be the Yogi.  You do your thing to help the individual and I'll do mine to help the collectivity.  But don't expect me to get down on my knees or rump or whatever before the Godhead.  That's not my responsibility."

     "I didn't for one moment expect it to be!" Philip remarked.  "But at least you now know or are prepared to admit that the superconscious has a legitimate role to play in shaping our future salvation, and therefore can't be dismissed as an illusion or a fancy.  If anything should be dismissed as such, it's the belief that the ego - as representative, at its height, of a balanced fusion between subconscious and superconscious elements - should indefinitely continue to dominate us, and every criterion of truth, progress, goodness, etc., be referred back to it as a matter of logical course.  As Andrew was only too keen to point out yesterday, the ego is on the decline and will doubtless continue to decline, or 'wither away', for as long as it takes us to attain to the goal of human evolution in spiritual bliss.  Eventually we'll overcome it altogether, and so break free of the subconscious.  Then, once we've broken free of that, we'll be in the Millennium, the post-human millennium, as Andrew Doyle wisely calls it.  So let's not subscribe to the popular psychological fallacy, so dear to bourgeois intellectuals, that the mind is only divisible into subconscious and conscious, and that the conscious mind, or ego, will reign for ever.  Fortunately, that would appear to be anything but the case!"

     "Indeed, here I'll have to agree with you," Edwin confessed, breaking into a gratified smile at last.  "For that aspect of the writer's logical acumen has a certain relevance to the development of co-operative economics, suggesting a break with the ego-bound competitive/cooperative system of the bourgeoisie in deference to the self-transcending dictates of the superconscious.  Yes, there's evidently something in what he said about religion and politics hanging together on a common framework of evolutionary development!  At least, I can see the political and economic side of his argument.  But, in case you're interested in emphasizing fallacies, illusions, superstitions, and the like, this is the book you ought to be reading right now.  It's by a certain Philip Ward, and it's about fallacies of one kind or another."

     It was the book he had been reading when his friend first entered the room, one that had kept him engrossed like few others, and he now proceeded to flick through its pages by way of refreshing his memory about various of its contents.  Fallacies listed, he duly informed his fellow-undergraduate, included biogenesis, the Arthurius Society, astrology, Atlantis, inheritance of acquired characteristics, divination, flying saucers, ghosts, giants, homeopathy, I Ching, the immortality of the soul, the infallibility of the Pope, karma, Lawsonomy, Lysenkoism, metoposcopy, naturopathy, orgonomy, osteopathy, ouija boards, poltergeists, psychometry, reincarnation, scientology, scrying, tarot, telegony, and theosophy - each fallacy being described in relevant detail with careful reference to existing knowledge on the subject.  Not since he read Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary, during his first year at college, had Edwin Ford encountered a more perspicacious or enlightening book, the logical acumen of its author cutting through the welter of superstitions that clouded our age with a clear-sightedness worthy of Voltaire himself!  No-one who was interested in the progress of truth over illusion could possibly fail to be impressed by such a book.  It was an invaluable safeguard against so many of the intellectual or spiritual tricks-and-traps which beset us on all sides, rendering us the victims of other men's delusions.  It cleared the ground, so to speak, of thousands of books to which one might otherwise, in one's comparative ignorance, have fallen victim, giving one a healthy scepticism concerning the ostensible incontestability of so many trendy 'truths'.  After reading such a book one felt mentally purged, delivered from the pernicious influence of contemporary illusion.  It was a kind of cleansing agent of the psyche.

     "Well, as long as it doesn't say anything against the value of Transcendental Meditation and the reality of the superconscious," said Philip, "I think I'd like to read it - assuming you're willing to part with it, that is?"  He looked inquiringly at his friend.

     "Sure, take it home with you later this evening!" Edwin gladly proposed, handing the voluminous hardback across to him.  "I don't think you'll be disappointed.  Although it does contain an entry dealing with the fallacy of believing that, with the Millennium, the Messiah will return."

     "Which, in any case, isn't something I really believe," Philip hastened to assure his mocking companion.  "Like Andrew, I believe that the Millennium will signify the triumph of the spiritual principle, not the literal return of the theological symbol, viz. Jesus Christ, standing for that principle.  The difference, if you like, between taking the Last Judgement literally and taking it figuratively, if you see what I mean."

     Edwin shook his head.  "I'm not altogether sure I do," he confessed, "but I'm prepared to believe that what you say is probably nearer the truth than what has generally been accepted for it, over the centuries.  I'll concede you the benefit of the agnostic doubt!"

     "I'm glad to hear it," Philip declared, smiling ironically.  "I'd always thought you were less of a Marxist than you made yourself out to be."

     "Frigging nonsense!" the other defiantly concluded.

 

 

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