TWO TYPES OF CRITICISM
One can be religious on one of two levels, though neither level is mutually exclusive. The level, in the first place, of genuine religion, and the level, in the second place, of quasi-religion - a distinction, in large measure, between the absolute and the relative. Most people, at any given time, are more likely to be religious on the second level, and certainly this may be said of twentieth-century people. There are, in the petty-bourgeois phases of evolution, adherents of a genuine religion, be it neo-Catholicism and LSD tripping on the materialistic side, or neo-Puritanism and neo-Orientalism on the spiritualistic side, as it were, of each phase, but they are a minority, probably a tiny minority within the overall confines of Western society - the truly civilized members of bourgeois/proletarian civilization. Co-existent with this minority is that overwhelming majority of people who, in the absence of a genuine religious discipline, may loosely be described as barbarous, and whose religiosity will accordingly take the form of adherence to one or more manifestations of contemporary quasi-religion, such as football, cricket, rugby, television, cinema, video, snooker, chess, quiz contests, art, music, literature, etc., depending on their class/temperamental integrity, that is to say, on whether their main 'religious' allegiance corresponds to the earlier or to the later phases of petty-bourgeois evolution, the lower or higher levels of quasi-religious indulgence, or whether, on the other hand, it is in fact largely proletarian, as in regard to pop music. Probably these phases or levels can be divided into materialistic and spiritualistic sides, as in the case of genuine religion, and I shall venture the opinion that materialist indulgence in the earlier phase of petty-bourgeois evolution will take the form of a strong interest in football, cricket, rugby or some such physically-biased active sport, whereas its spiritualist counterpart will take the form of an equally strong interest in theatre, cinema, and television, which are all appearance-biased active arts. Following on behind this, as it were, we may find materialist indulgence in the later phase of petty-bourgeois evolution taking the form of a strong interest in snooker, chess, darts, quiz contests, or some such intellectually-biased passive sport, whereas its spiritualist counterpart will take the form of a strong interest in abstract art, electronic music, experimental literature, and biomorphic sculpture, which are all essence-biased arts. The 'barbarous' no less than the 'civilized' are entitled to class/temperamental distinctions.
Of course, civilized people are not exempt from an interest in one or another form of quasi-religion, in whichever phase or on whichever side of petty-bourgeois evolution. Quite the contrary, most of them are keen followers of some sport or admirers of various works of art, depending on their individual temperamental predilections for either the materialistic or the spiritualistic sides of life. Doubtless, there must be some people whose temperaments fall, so to speak, between two stools, making them if not equally then at least unequally partial to both materialistic and spiritualistic achievements. But, on the whole, it will be found, I think, that the majority of people given to quasi-religious devotion are not civilized, in the sense we have suggested, but non-participators in contemporary or traditional genuine religion. Regarded in conjunction with the proletariat, they are 'the Many', whereas the others are 'the Few', for whom petty-bourgeois civilization is a spiritual reality - the class evolutionary stage centred on them.
When we come to regard the age in this light, criticisms levelled against the bourgeoisie, whether on political or religious grounds (as applying to bourgeois art, science, literature, music, or anything else), which are so widespread an aspect of modern life, become intelligible from a class-evolutionary viewpoint as the rejection of the values of a preceding governing class by their petty-bourgeois successors, who, in all vital regards, rule the contemporary roost and are accordingly entitled to if not respect then at least toleration from the bourgeoisie, including the grand bourgeoisie, since there are worse things than criticism and we may be sure that the petty bourgeoisie won't indulge in them, being a relative class themselves - if on extreme rather than moderate terms. Besides, the bourgeoisie would have a very difficult, not to say impossible, task endeavouring to refute most of the criticisms levelled against them by their petty-bourgeois successors, who are well aware that they have an ideological superiority. Like it or not, they are obliged to bow before the new civilized class and put-up with such criticism, at times bordering on slander, as comes their way. This is particularly conspicuous in the realm of so-called modern art, the abstract bias of which leaves many members of the older class either cold or, more usually I suspect, completely bewildered, unable as they must be, with their balanced relativity, to relate to works of art which are near absolute in construction. Their own representational preferences are of course mocked and, at times, sardonically criticized by supporters of the avant-garde, who, as members of the new class, consider themselves entitled to deal condescendingly with what are perceived to be cultural inferiors. The bourgeoisie, as already remarked, learn to live with this fact!
Yet if they are prepared to tolerate criticism from 'above', the same most certainly can't be said of criticism from 'below', and by this I don't so much mean from their grand-bourgeois and/or aristocratic predecessors (though such criticism is at times strongly resented) as from the broad mass of people who, lacking genuine religious allegiance, may be defined as barbarous - in short, the proletariat. Here, if anywhere, lies the distinction in bourgeois eyes between a reasonable criticism based (no matter how much they may privately resent the fact) on class-cultural superiority, and an unreasonable criticism directed against everything bourgeois, in whichever stage of its relativity, and threatening, by its radical vehemence, the social stability and cultural integrity of Western civilization. The criticism of the bourgeoisie by the proletariat is no mere extreme relativity directed against an earlier and more moderate relativity, but something that appertains to an absolutism the essence of which is the undermining and eventual elimination of relativistic civilization in toto, regardless of whether the focal-points of criticism be the grand bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie, or the petty bourgeoisie. All criticism aimed against the bourgeoisie strikes at the relativistic heart of petty-bourgeois civilization when it comes from the barbarous majority, or from certain activist quarters of it, and such criticism, it need hardly be said, is no less objectionable to the new civilized class than to the old. Both will take measures to protect themselves from this absolutist onslaught, even to the extent of proscribing what is deemed to be particularly virulent and thus capable of undermining the relative integrity of the bourgeois state. Toleration of freedom of criticism does not extend to the absolutist extreme in a relativistic civilization. The so-called open society is really closed, in practice if not theory, at the top, open, in theory if not practice, to virtually any depths below.
Were I to criticize the bourgeoisie from a petty-bourgeois standpoint, my work would doubtless be tolerated by some and even admired by others. Yet speaking as one who, at least in theory, does not consider himself an integral part of petty-bourgeois civilization but a barbarous outsider (if a comparatively well-read and intelligent one), I cannot expect either toleration or admiration from upholders of one or another degree of relativity. My spiritual temperament favours an absolutist religion which, as Transcendentalism, will form the focal-point of genuine religious allegiance in the civilization to-come. I could not, in all honesty, describe myself as a yoga-practising petty-bourgeois extremist, still less as an extreme puritan. I am less the upholder of a contemporary religion than the founder of a future one, in which transcendental meditation will play a part. Being in favour of what pertains to tomorrow does not allow one to participate in that which pertains to today. One can't live wholly in two worlds at once. Paradoxically, it is from the ranks of the quasi-religious that the blueprint for the genuine religion of the future absolutist civilization has sprung. That, after all, conforms to evolutionary logic!