CHAPTER ONE

 

Keith Logan hadn't been to a party in years and, now that he had met the hostess and been escorted into the tightly packed room where the festivities were taking place, he felt curiously shy and embarrassed, like a young adolescent on his first date.  The room was certainly more crowded than expectations had led him to believe, and with the crowd went the noise of chatter and laughter, occasional coughs and shouts, elaborate gestures and sudden jerks.

     Casting around for psychological support amidst the welter of strange faces, Logan's gaze fell upon the rather large head of the art critic Martin Thurber, and he immediately set about drawing the man's attention with a clear if rather brief wave of his hand, which, as if by a miracle, duly produced positive results.  It was Thurber who had invited him along to the party in the first place, so it was only proper that the one familiar and vaguely sedate face in the room should act as a kind of life-support harness and straightaway come floating to his rescue through the choppy sea of animated faces swimmingly at large there.  The hostess, who had so promptly answered the door to him a moment before, was already being pulled away by the call of duty to answer it to someone else, leaving Logan stranded in her turbulent wake just inside the large brightly lit drawing room in which he now floundered.  Hence the curious shyness and embarrassment which had so suddenly descended upon him, in the absence of his customary self-confidence.

      But Martin Thurber was coming to his rescue, brimming over, it appeared, with self-confidence and pleasure.  "So glad you could make it, Keith," he announced, extending what seemed like a life-saving hand to the new arrival's nearest shoulder and gently patting it a few times.  "I was beginning to fear you weren't coming."

     Logan smiled in an ambivalent cross between apology and reassurance at the fair-haired, clean-shaven face before him, the light-blue eyes of which twinkled mysteriously and even a shade mischievously, it seemed to him, in the festive atmosphere.  It was a wonder to himself that he had actually come, since the prospect of visiting this Highgate house unaccompanied, and without any foreknowledge whatsoever of who or what he would encounter there, had more than once cast a serious shadow of doubt over his prior resolution to turn up.  But to have backed down at the last moment, after he had assured Thurber of his pressing desire to attend, would hardly have contributed towards the friendship which had recently sprung-up between them and, since he had precious few friends anyway, he thought it expedient not to disappoint the poor fellow.  "I didn't want to turn up too early," he averred, following the termination of his ambiguous smile.

     "And no difficulty finding your way here, I trust?" Thurber remarked.

     "Nothing to grumble about," Logan declared.

     "Good."  Thurber's eyes twinkled in an even more mysterious, not to say mischievous, fashion.  He was just about to add some banality about no address being easier to find when a burst of piercing laughter from a group of revellers to their left interrupted the flow of his thoughts, inducing him, instead, to say: "Well, now that you've arrived, allow me to introduce you to our host."

     A few yards to their right a well-groomed, silver-haired man of average build but more than average height was standing on the edge of one such group, gracefully chatting to an attractive young woman with light-green eyes who peered into his handsome face like a person intent upon discovering the secrets of the universe there.  It was towards him that Thurber boldly advanced, dragging his reluctant acquaintance along by the sleeve.

     "Allow me to introduce a highly talented novelist by name of Keith Logan," he respectfully interposed, compelling the man's attention.  "Keith, this is Edward Hurst, our magnanimous host!"

     Hurst smiled magnanimously before extending a rather clammy hand, which the newcomer dutifully clasped.  "Delighted to meet you," he announced, focusing a sharp pair of dark-grey eyes upon the latter's aquiline nose.  "I've heard a little about you from Martin, though I haven't yet got round to reading any of your books.  But let me introduce you to someone who may have - Miss Greta Ryan, who is something of a writer in her own way."

     He was of course referring to the attractive young woman beside him, whose attention had, in the meantime, shifted down a gear, so to speak, in its change of direction.  She extended a slender hand and smiled shyly through a moist pair of sensuous lips.  "I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you too," she confessed, as Logan tentatively responded to her gesture.  "I'm only familiar with your name; though I understand you mostly write, er, nonsense, if that's the right word?"

     Logan blushed slightly and emitted a gentle self-deprecatory laugh.  "Not quite nonsense in the usual sense," he insisted.  "But certainly novels that make no sense."

     "He's purely an abstractionist," Thurber revealed, coming to his social rescue again.  "So what he writes is senseless from a representational or, rather, narrative and descriptive standpoint."

     "Really?" Hurst exclaimed in a show of surprise mingled with incredulity.  "Whatever next?"  He gulped down a mouthful of wine before adding, on a slightly reproachful note: "All of which leads one to assume that your novels are completely unreadable?"

     "Not 'completely'," Logan responded a shade despondently.  "It's just that what you read doesn't tell you anything.  It simply makes you conscious of words, of their sound and symbolic nature."

     The dark-haired woman to whom he had just been introduced wanted to know why readers should be made conscious of the 'sound and symbolic nature' of words instead of being told a story, as with most novels.  It didn't quite make sense to her, she confessed.

     "It's not supposed to make sense!" Hurst facetiously reminded her.

     "No, in actual fact it only makes sense from a philosophical and avant-garde angle," said Logan, briefly turning towards Greta.  "I mean it's doubtless right, at this juncture in time, that the more progressive writers should be engaged in exploring the tools, so to speak, of their trade rather than simply constructing traditionally-inspired literary works out of them.  We've got beyond the purely representational stage of literature and are busily exploring abstract or non-narrative possibilities, in accordance with the transcendental Zeitgeist of the age, which, in my opinion, stems from the radically artificial influence of the urban environment.  We've been exploring such possibilities since at least the beginning of the century, and until we transcend literature, not to mention art and music, altogether, we must continue to explore them, in the interests of progress."

     "Even to the extent of writing meaningless novels?" Hurst queried, less the magnanimous host than the sceptical critic.

     "Absolutely," Logan confirmed, nodding bravely.  "For, as we evolve to a higher and more spiritual level of life, so we must get beyond symbols, transcend words and their meanings, in order to penetrate to the pure truth which lies ahead of us, and thus attain to the goal of our evolution in spiritual bliss - total enlightenment."

     This opinion could hardly be expected to win much approval from people like Edward Hurst and Greta Ryan, who were already a trifle tipsy and therefore not particularly interested in hearing what a sober abstract novelist had to say concerning the justification of his craft.  If Logan had arrived an hour or two earlier, the people concerned might have been a shade more receptive and willing to hear him out.  But now, under the influence of their wine and the ensuing frivolity of the party atmosphere, even Martin Thurber, who was ordinarily sympathetic to contemporary trends, appeared somewhat disinclined to pay much attention to or encourage further explications from the 'highly talented novelist' whom he had impulsively, and some would say rashly, introduced to their influential host.  On the contrary, he was rather upset that Logan should have been obliged, through no particular fault of his own, to touch upon the thorny subject of his literature, and was almost afraid that, with further encouragement from either of the two unappreciative and slightly irresponsible people in front of him, the novelist would extend his penchant for the didactic out of all proportion, transforming the party's predominantly frivolous atmosphere into something more attuned to his own expository soberness.  So, in an attempt to preclude any such thing from happening, he drew Logan's attention to the subject of booze and offered to fetch him a glass of wine or beer, if that was to his taste.

     It wasn't really, but Logan pretended otherwise, saying: "Yes, a beer would do fine," as he briefly turned towards the table on which bottles of wine, sherry, gin, whisky, and beer stood packed closely together waiting, like whores in a brothel, for prospective clients.  Although the table was partly obscured by intervening guests, enough of it was visible from where he stood to leave him in no doubt as to the heterogeneous nature of its alcoholic contents, about which he felt obliged to entertain a private misgiving.

     But Greta Ryan, who was less under the influence than their magnanimous host, seemed unwilling to let the matter rest where Logan had so awkwardly dropped it and asked him, in a slightly-strained and mocking tone-of-voice, whether he really thought what he wrote would induce people to turn away from symbols and dedicate themselves to the elusive attainment of pure knowledge and enlightenment instead?  Wasn't it more likely that they would simply become bored with it and return to something more meaningful?

     "Well, whether or not they do, the essential thing is that I should continue to explore the field in which I'm working until it wins wider approval, and not be disheartened or deflected by the indifference and even hostility it may incur from various people in the meantime," Logan replied confidently.  "As a pioneer in the realm of literary progress, I must continue to forge ahead, in accordance with an appropriately pertinent response to the contemporary urban environment, no matter what others might think.  If a majority of the reading public prefer straightforward stories of one kind or another, that's too bad!  I can't force everyone up to a level transcending the fictional or, indeed, expect them to appreciate what I'm doing when they're insufficiently motivated or qualified to do so.  I can only set an example, lead the way forwards in response to my duty as a serious writer, and hope that the comparatively small percentage of persons who now appreciate my work will be augmented, in due course, by a much wider public.  By which time, however, the equivalent of the present few will doubtless have given-up reading altogether, having attained to a more transcendental context than currently exists, in which abstract literature, no less than abstract music or art, would have ceased to appeal to them."

     Thurber had meanwhile returned with a glass of foaming beer, which he handed straight to Logan.  As for himself, he had poured out a little extra German wine and was just about to comment on it when Greta cut across him with a response to the novelist's argument.  "So you're of the opinion that your abstract approach to literature will eventually catch-on and appeal to a wider public, making them contemptuous of conventional fiction?" she said, having grasped the gist of Logan's comments.

     "Yes, I feel that it may be of some significance in furthering the rapidly escalating process of de-intellectualization upon which we're currently embarked, and thus contribute towards freeing us from the tyranny of verbal concepts," the abstract novelist averred.  "It's merely a milestone on the road to total emancipation, timeless bliss.  Whether we outgrow language, and hence literature, in another century or after several centuries ... is relatively unimportant.  The essential thing is that we should eventually outgrow it, and I have no doubt that this is what we're currently engaged in doing - each according to his own fashion.  If primitive men were beneath language, then it seems not unlikely that future men will be above it, especially the most advanced future men - those on the point of becoming godlike."

     Thurber shook his head slightly and tipped back a stiff draught of wine.  The conversation was much too serious for his liking, and hardly the kind of thing he expected Eddie Hurst would take kindly to, bearing in mind his hedonistic nature.  The beer in Logan's hand had received only the most perfunctory of sips.  It was still virtually untouched.  He was on the point of regretting that he had invited him along to the party in the first place, when the host claimed his attention by asking whether he agreed with Logan that we were engaged in a process of outgrowing language?

     "Well, in a way I suppose I do," Thurber replied half-heartedly, unsure of whether to take a conservative or a libertarian stance.  "At least I'm of the opinion that, largely thanks to media like cinema and television, we're now taking pure seeing and abstract contemplation more seriously than ever before.  Some of us are, at any rate."

     "And would you agree that we're in the process of becoming godlike?" Greta asked, an ironic smile on her lips.  "Or even goddess-like?" she added, as an afterthought.

     Thurber glanced uneasily at Keith Logan and noted the slightly pained expression on the latter's ordinarily bland face.  "Well, that's not really for me to say," he confessed, "since I don't make a study of such matters - unlike my, er, learned friend here.  But for what it's worth, I do believe that we're closer to the godly these days than to the beastly.  We're advanced men of sorts."

     "Yes, I think it's fair to say that the principal tendency of human evolution is towards the godlike," Logan opined, desiring to clarify the subject.  "Though this by no means implies that everyone is on the same level or that we're on the point of becoming godlike ourselves.  If we're still engaged in the process of outgrowing our humanity, I think it's only fair to say that we have a long way to go before attaining to a post-human millennium, a heavenly stage of evolution beyond man.  As yet, we're still in transition, it would appear, between middle- and late-stage life and are, at best, inceptive late-stage men, not those on the point of actually becoming godlike.... Or goddess-like," he added, for Greta's dubious benefit.  But he was aware, as he spoke, that his opinions weren't being properly or even partly appreciated, and that a wall of sceptical detachment now existed between himself and his new acquaintances, preventing true understanding.  Really, he was beginning to feel annoyed with himself for having allowed Martin Thurber to lure him along to the place, not knowing who or what lay in store for him!  He hadn't been to anything like a party for so long that he had completely lost contact with the party spirit, the ethos of party-goers, and accordingly felt unable to enter into the general atmosphere of frivolity and revelry which even now vigorously prevailed, especially among the younger guests, at this particular party.  Somehow he was too serious-minded to be at ease in such an atmosphere, temperamentally too austere and independent, too much the teacher and leader to be at home in the Dionysian realm of lustful Bacchus.  He had never particularly enjoyed parties anyway, even as a youth, when the temptation to attend them was greater and the number of invitations correspondingly more frequent.  Then they had usually struck him as a bore.  Now, on the evidence of the affair before him, it was more a case of having one's dignity and self-respect affronted by all the frivolity afoot!

     "And how, pray, do you conceive of the godlike?" Greta wanted to know, taking up the challenge.

     "Yes, how do you?" Hurst echoed in a fiercely impatient, not to say condescending, tone-of-voice, which induced Thurber to shake his head again - this time not so slightly - and seek temporary refuge in another draught of wine - one even stiffer than the last.

     Unruffled, Logan replied: "The godlike appertains to a condition of life beyond man, in which the superconscious completely triumphs over the subconscious, and consequently egocentric dualism, appertaining to man at virtually any stage of his evolution, is transcended."

     "The superconscious?" Hurst queried, looking decidedly perplexed.  "I'd no idea we had one!"

     "Neither had I," Greta echoed, with a titter of disrespectful laughter.

     "Well we do, which is why we happen to have a consciousness," Logan averred in deadly earnest.  "For if we didn't, we'd be completely in the dark, floundering around in the dungeon of the subconscious."

     "Really?" Hurst exclaimed.  "How strange!  I had always thought that the mind was simply divided into subconscious and conscious, or ego, as old Freud and a fair number of other psychologists maintained.  I must say, I am surprised to hear you disagree with them!  It's the superconscious that gives us consciousness then, is it?"

     "More correctly, the fusion-point between the subconscious and superconscious parts of the psyche which, translated into physiological terminology, corresponds to what has been called the old brain and the new brain, as discussed by Koestler in, amongst other works, Janus - A Summing Up," Logan replied, "the old brain being predominantly an emotional and sensuous phenomenon, the new brain, by contrast, having intellectual and spiritual implications which set it morally apart."

     "I'm afraid I haven't read the book in question," Hurst confessed, with what seemed to Logan like an impertinent relish.

     "Well, whether or not you've read it," the writer rejoined, "the fact remains that a dichotomy in the psyche has long been acknowledged by psychologists and thinkers, and this dichotomy should be equated, in psychological terminology, with the subconscious and the superconscious, the meeting-point of which gives rise to everyday consciousness as we generally understand it."

     Edward Hurst appeared to be even more perplexed than before.  He didn't like the idea that Freud and the few other psychologists he had bothered to read in the past may not have said the last word on the psyche or, indeed, that what they had said may not always have corresponded to absolute truth.  He didn't like it one little bit!  Even so, he wasn't prepared to believe that this abstract novelist, whom he hadn't even set eyes on prior to Thurber's impertinent intrusion, was in possession of a more comprehensive assessment of the psyche than the textbook authorities themselves, irrespective of whether the textbooks he happened to have read weren't exactly the most up-to-date ones but, like their authors, a shade time-worn.  Still, let the novelist speak, let him entertain!  Consciousness, then, was a consequence of the fusion of subconscious and superconscious minds, and all one had to do to become godlike was transcend this fusion and break away into - what?

     "Pure spirit, in which the ego ceases to have any say and we attain to the post-human millennium, to the blissful salvation which, in its wisdom, Christianity has been promising us for centuries," Logan affirmed.  "Only by overcoming the subconscious will we enter the realm of spiritual beatitude, and thus cease to be human ..."

     "You mean our future descendants will," interposed Thurber, who was reminded of what he had already learnt on the subject from previous discussions with the novelist.

     "Yes, precisely!" the latter rejoined.  "Not us personally but, rather, those who'll correspond to the culmination of human evolution and thus vindicate, through their spiritual perfection, the long and often difficult struggle of humanity to perpetuate itself.  We exist, believe it or not, as mortal links in the chain of human evolution, as means to a higher end, torchbearers on the road to ultimate truth.  Even the great mystics, such as Saint Teresa and St John of the Cross, were no more than links, if relatively important ones, in the evolutionary chain - pointers, as it were, in the general direction of millennial salvation.  Their occasional moments of ecstasy, of spiritual enlightenment, during which the ego was eclipsed by the superconscious, would indeed appear paltry by comparison with the ecstatic experiences of people living, say, hundreds of years into the future, who will doubtless be able to tune-in, as it were, to their superconscious minds on a much more frequent, not to say intensive, basis.  And compared with beings who spent all of their time in the superconscious, who had become completely godlike, such transient ecstasies of transcendent beatitude as were experienced by the leading mystics of the past would indeed pale to a comparative insignificance - highly significant though they undoubtedly were to their recipients at the moment of experience!  But anyone who had transcended the subconscious - and hence egocentric reference - to the extent of existing wholly in the superconscious wouldn't be concerned with what had gone before anyway, with the comparatively modest degree of enlightenment attained by those who'd had the misfortune to have been born into a lower stage of human evolution.  For his consciousness would be totally immersed in the divine light, and, as such, no reflections on the thorny subject of spiritual progress through the centuries would occur to him.  He would have ceased to relate to the world of human evolution, having left the last vestiges of humanity behind."

     At this point, Greta Ryan cast a dubious glance at her host and sought temporary refuge in the sweet wine to-hand.  For his part, Hurst could hardly believe his ears.  It was completely new to him, this subject of spiritual salvation in a post-human millennium, and not something of which he particularly approved!  Though not a practising Christian, he had long cherished a belief in an afterlife in which the Good, meaning the financially successful, would be rewarded by eternal bliss, and the Bad, meaning the financially unsuccessful or crooked, be obliged - if they weren't cast into eternal perdition - to return to the world.  He had a kind of smug, old-fashioned view of the Afterlife as something that occurred following death rather than at some indeterminate point in the distant future ... when those who had been sufficiently biased on the side of the superconscious attained to Nirvana, or whatever it was, and thus to the culmination of human evolution in spiritual bliss.  He wasn't at all partial to the notion that the greater number of humanity lived and died as no more than mortal links in a chain to some post-human millennium, and that only the trailblazers of evolution in the distant future would experience the equivalent of Heaven.  Somehow it failed to appeal to his self-importance as a successful citizen, an upright bourgeois with vague hankerings after eternity.  If the saints could be reduced, in Logan's stringent estimation, to the paltry level of spiritual beginners, where, for heaven's sake, did he figure in the spiritual hierarchy?

     No, he didn't like the idea of being no more than a fragile link in a terribly long chain one little bit!  Yet although he was impatient with the conversational trend, and annoyed that a perfectly frivolous evening was becoming, in spite of alcoholic indulgence, a matter of serious debate, he couldn't resist the temptation to ask his guest what he thought about the Afterlife - in other words, about the prospect of life-after-death - and whether it didn't have more applicability to salvation than this business of a post-human millennium.  "I mean, don't you think that salvation will come, if it's to come at all, the other side of the grave?"

     Keith Logan emphatically shook his head.  "I've no use for traditional concepts of life-after-death," he confessed, casting his gaze upon all three listeners successively.  "Neither in the sense of a paradise to which the Good are admitted, nor in the rather more puzzling sense of a disembodied state which enables spirits to travel around, visit elderly females and dictate messages, dream their own dreams, perform miraculous feats of a mathematical order, or do any number of other things scarcely imaginable to the living."

     "What about the Oriental concept of a posthumous Clear Light ... with which the spirits of the dead either merge, and thus experience spiritual salvation in undiluted transcendence or, assuming they can't bring themselves to do that, continue to dream their past and, indeed, certain future experiences until such time as, circumstances permitting, they can return to the world in the guise of a new-born child?"  This time it was Greta who was putting the question, and she was of course alluding to the type of afterlife hypothesis explored by Aldous Huxley in Time Must Have a Stop - a novel in which Eustace Barnack, its principal character and afterlife 'guinea pig', is given a choice between merging with the Clear Light of the Void or retaining his egocentric personality, and eventually opts for the latter, thereby necessitating reincarnation.

     Again Logan shook his head, this time even more emphatically than before.  "I can't go along with that concept either," he confessed, unable to suppress an involuntary shudder, "and for the simple reason that it puts the possibility of salvation after death rather than in life, and posits a Divine Ground separate from and anterior to man as something towards which the Dead are led as a matter of course, irrespective of the degree of their individual spiritual standings and the likelihood that, under existing or traditional environmental situations on earth, the vast majority of them would be foregone candidates for rejection, and hence  reincarnation.  But I can't believe in reincarnation, any more than I can believe in a posthumous Ground towards which one's spirit is led, following death.  Somehow, this Ground has a strong suggestion of the Creator about it, which I regard as increasingly irrelevant to the modern consciousness - a consciousness which, in an ever-growing number of cases, pertains more to the superconscious than to the subconscious and is thus beyond both the primitive soulful stance in subconscious dominion, where worship of some creator deity prevails, and the more worldly stance in egocentric balance, in which Jesus Christ, or some such avatar-like anthropomorphic equivalent, assumes the mantle of God, as the focal-point of religious awareness.  Today, however, it's essentially the Holy Ghost that reigns over the religious awareness of the more evolved people, and this, the third and highest component of the so-called Holy Trinity, may be equated with spirit - with the spirit, more precisely, that leads us and can be traced to the superconscious mind in which, believe it or not, only inner light prevails.  Thus I have no use for the Ground as a something-apart from man towards which the Dead are led and with which they either link, in consequence of their own superconscious mind and the extent of their allegiance to it or, as a result of subconscious interference, and hence egocentric nostalgia, from which they flee in hope of a return to the world.  Indeed, I can't believe that the Ground would be the setting of ultimate salvation.  For the Creator, not least of all in the undilutedly objective guise of Jehovah, has long been associated with negativity, cruelty, fear, jealousy, strength, power - in other words, with pagan blood-sacrifices and the desire to propitiate a vengeful deity, as befits a people subjected to the tyranny of subconscious dominion in response to sensuous nature.  One could hardly associate the Ground with light therefore, least of all the Clear Light.  On the contrary, the only feasible association would be with darkness, comparatively speaking."

     "That isn't a view Aldous Huxley would have agreed with," Greta countered, recalling to mind what the great author had written on the subject of the Ground and its relation to the Father in The Devils of Loudun.

     "I quite agree," Logan admitted, offering her a mildly ingratiating smile.  "But, in my honest opinion, Huxley was quite mistaken to assume what he did, and no less mistaken to equate enlightenment, full enlightenment, with the equivalent of a simultaneous allegiance to the Blessed Trinity - as union with the Ground, union with the manifestation of the Ground in human consciousness, and, finally, union with the spirit that links the Unknowable to the known, or whatever his exact words were, so that the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are regarded as part of a simultaneous experience rather than a projection of successive stages of religious evolution.  But to me, the Father is largely a figment of pre-Christian imagination, a consequence of subconscious illusion rather than a truth which can be taken seriously by the modern mind, so that any attempt to equate the Ground with Him can only lead to one's taking the Ground for illusion too.  And as for Jesus Christ, well, I view him as half-illusion and half-truth, reflecting Christian man's dualistic balance or compromise between subconscious and superconscious minds in the ego.  As far as the god is concerned - illusion.  I cannot regard Christ as God.  But as a man - yes, I'm not inclined to quibble with his historicity, which can, I believe, be proved.  However, the Holy Ghost, or third so-called 'Person' of the Trinity, seems to me to reflect the religious awareness of man under the sway of superconscious enlightenment, and can thus be equated with truth, which is to say, with joy, light, spirit, peace, bliss - in short, with whatever pertains to the superconscious.  The path of evolution accordingly leads from an illusory god conceived externally, out there behind the self, to the truth of God perceived internally, as spirit, via a compromise god who is both external and internal, illusion and truth.  It leads, in other words, from the Dark to the Light."

     "So, according to your assessment of religious evolution, the Ground is purely illusory," Greta rejoined in a solemn tone-of-voice.

     "I find it difficult not to believe so," confirmed Logan, who was now obliged to compromise with the reference he had made to Huxley's theory and not deepen the discussion to include a distinction between the Creator as Jehovah and the Creator as Father, Judaic and Christian alternatives, and the possible closer association of the Ground to the former than to the latter, which, after all, was less an Oriental extrapolation from, in all probability, a major star of the Galaxy ... than one partly extrapolated, in Occidental fashion, from the sun and partly from the phallus of pagan precedent, in order to accommodate both the earthly Mother and the lunar Son - a thing which the Jews, with their religious objectivity in regard to the concept of Creator, had been unprepared to do.  And for good reason, since there is no contiguity between what is truly stellar on the alpha plane of creative deity and what is extrapolated from the moon as a 'Son of God', and therefore no possibility of a solar Father in the Christian sense.  "All that really concerns us as post-Christian transcendentalists," he went on, "is this intimation of God - as joy, light, spirit, etc., - in the superconscious mind.  Outside of it there is just the world, the planets, stars, galaxies.  If the Holy Spirit is to emerge from anywhere, it can only be from the superconscious."

     Having maintained a discreet if peeved silence during the preceding rather too esoteric conversation for his liking, Edward Hurst now ventured to ask the novelist whether he really thought that man would eventually become godlike by transcending the subconscious mind altogether.  "After all," he continued, snorting slightly in supercilious detachment, "isn't it somewhat unlikely that man will ever desire to live wholly in a transcendent state-of-mind, and thus forsake all consciousness of the outside world?"

     Greta endorsed this question with a snigger.  "And how would he survive?" she wanted to know.

     "Obviously, I'm not in a position to know for sure what will happen," Logan confessed, blushing faintly under pressure of this philistine opposition.  "Nor how long it will take man to attain to the post-human millennium.  But if and when he does, I think you can take it as axiomatic that he or, rather, his godlike successor won't find the transcendent state-of-mind in any way inconvenient or excessive, but will be perfectly resigned to living on a purely spiritual plane, freed from the human obligations to eat, drink, sleep, work, think, dream, walk, etc., which characterize our own lives.  Having broken free of the subconscious, such a life-form would automatically have abandoned the sensual and emotional, automatically have abandoned the flesh of manly appearance, and thus become godlike - as different from and superior to man as man is different from and superior to the apes from which he is believed to have evolved."

     At this remark, Hurst burst into a peal of derisive laughter, tilting his head back and spilling some wine in the process.  To some extent both Greta Ryan and Martin Thurber were affected by his amusement, though the latter, mindful of his friend's earnestness and sensitivity, endeavoured not to show it.  "And you really believe this will happen?" he snorted.

     "I shouldn't be at all surprised," Logan averred, trying not to look hurt by their host's highly sceptical response to his opinion.  "After all, it's rather difficult to believe that man will just continue being human century after century, millennium after millennium, world without end, as though there were nothing better to become.  The fact that we have evolved this far, since our first appearance on earth, should give us reason to assume that we'll carry on evolving, becoming ever more spiritual, ever more disposed to the superconscious, until, at some momentous turning-point in evolution - more momentous by far than that which thrust us out of the pre-human beast-like stage - we leave our humanity behind us altogether and enter a discarnate realm of pure spirituality, a realm incomparably superior to anything we can know as men."

     "Really?"  Hurst seemed less than convinced.  Indeed, he wasn't particularly convinced that man had evolved from apes, and said as much.

     "Well, I'd find it extremely difficult to believe that we just appeared on the face of the earth, kind of out-of-the-blue, especially in a world where everything can be claimed to have evolved from something lower, including the apes themselves," Logan retorted, frankly surprised by Hurst's naiveté.  "After all, we know that the earliest men tended to look more beastly, more ape-like in appearance, than their properly human successors.  In all probability, their immediate predecessors were if not apes then certainly something correspondingly bestial and pre-human.  They doubtless went on four legs, or two legs and two arms, more often than they walked."

     "And presumably they were subject to subconscious dominion," Greta suggested, returning to the fray.

     "Certainly to a greater extent than the earliest men," Logan remarked.  "But not, of course, to an extent which ruled out superconscious influence altogether.  For even beasts, even man's predecessors, had a consciousness of sorts, which enabled them to get about the face of the earth, to clamber through the jungle in search of food, drink, sex, or whatever.  As I said before, consciousness is ever a product of each part of the psyche acting upon the other part to a greater or a lesser extent, depending on the stage of psychic evolution, and what applies to man must surely apply, in some degree, to the beasts, who aren't devoid of consciousness, even if what they happen to have is relatively dark and uninspiring.  No, if there wasn't at least some influence from the superconscious, they'd be totally in the dark, unable to take cognizance of what was going on around them - immobile.

     "For a life form completely dominated by the subconscious," he went on, warming to his theme, "one has to turn to the plant world - to vegetables, trees, flowers, shrubs, etc., which are wholly sensuous and constitute the lowest level of organic life, a level which evolution is gradually working away from in the guise of man who, if he subsequently succeeds in transcending his humanity, should attain to a level radically antithetical to that of subconscious stupor ... in superconscious bliss, and thus bring evolution to completion.  Thus it isn't so much the beasts that are antithetical to the godlike as ... the plants - those victims of perpetual darkness.  And because a life form exists which signifies complete enslavement to the subconscious, we have no reason to doubt that a life form can't eventually be brought into existence which will signify complete freedom from the subconscious and, consequently, total allegiance to the superconscious.  The fact of the existence of the one presupposes the possibility of the future existence of the other - the former in diversity, the latter in unity.  We have no reason, therefore, to deride it out-of-hand."

     Hurst's face suddenly turned red from suppressed rage.  For it was principally to him that Keith Logan addressed these words, turning his sceptical detachment and derisive humour back upon himself in a manner which made it perfectly clear how presumptuous he had been to dismiss the novelist's theories of enlightenment.  Even Greta looked suddenly less sure of herself and, despite her dislike of what Logan had said concerning the illusory nature of the Ground and his rather sweeping dismissal of posthumous survival, felt more disposed to sympathize with his viewpoints than previously, even if they did somewhat contradict what she had already read and thought on the matter.  At least they possessed a certain logical consistency, which couldn't be ignored.

     "So it would appear that earthly evolution is a journey, so to speak, from plants to gods or, rather, the godlike," Thurber remarked, feeling it was about time he contributed something to the debate again, "and that animals and men are the in-between developments en route, the sharers of utilitarian consciousness."

     "Precisely!" Logan confirmed, nodding vigorously.  "Though the burden of transmutation from animal to divine consciousness is exclusively the prerogative of man, who, unlike the beasts, must continue to evolve in accordance with civilized necessity, until the last vestiges of his humanity are discarded and he enters the post-human millennium.  Thanks to his cities, modern man is generally more under the sway of his superconscious than of his subconscious and, consequently, closer to the godlike than ever before.  Assuming his cities continue to develop, we have no reason to suppose that he won't become ever more biased on the side of the spirit, and thus draw still closer to the godlike."

     "You must have a poor opinion of nature," Greta deduced, following a short pause.

     "Generally speaking I suppose I have," Logan confirmed, nodding thoughtfully, "insofar as, being under subconscious dominion, nature is a sensual phenomenon and accordingly indifferent, if not opposed, to man's evolutionary progress.  It has no sympathy with the spirit."

     "But surely nature is a part of God's creation," Hurst objected, frowning menacingly, "and that if one is to worship God, one should do so through His creations, through the beauty of the flowers and the goodness and wholesomeness of the fruit, vegetables, grain, etc., which He has caused to grow.  Not to mention through the beauty of the autonomous life-forms He has also made."

     "It's all very well to worship what you call God through such natural creations as we can take pleasure in or deduce some profit from," Logan retorted.  "But what of those creations that we can't?  What, for example, of all the stinging nettles that exist and would doubtless exist in far greater abundance if man didn't take the trouble to root them out or cut them back?  What of all the weeds that likewise would exist in far greater abundance if allowed to do so?  What of those trees or bushes upon which grow various types of poison berry?  What of the prickly thorns, dense bracken, destructive creepers, poisonous toadstools, hurtful brambles?  What, too, of the disease-ridden swamps, treacherous quicksands, man-eating plants, active volcanoes, periodic earthquakes, suffocating jungles?  What of tarantulas, vipers, piranhas, sharks, mosquitoes, vultures, lice, rats, skunks, barracudas, stingrays, men-of-war, wolves, foxes, pythons, flies, gnats, crocodiles, locusts, wasps, etc., ad nauseam?

 

                                 Tiger, tiger, burning bright

                                 In the forests of the night.

                                 What immortal hand or eye

                                 Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

 

     "And what of all those creatures who go on two legs whom one is unable to take pleasure in - congenital lunatics and criminals, ruthless oppressors and exploiters, mass murderers and torturers, hypocrites and liars, bullies and vandals, rapists and perverts, et al?  Is one to thank God for having put them into the world, too?"  He looked from face to face, dwelling more lengthily on Hurst's, which once again turned red from suppressed anger - the anger of a man whose superficial notions had been exposed for what they were!  Confident that he had scored a point, with or without William Blake's help, Logan continued: "No, it seems to me that to worship God through His creations, as I believe Thomas Traherne did, is either to worship Him for only a restricted number of them or to include within one's worship the whole gamut of Creation - the dangerous, evil, and low creations no less than the safe, good, and high ones.  In both cases, it seems to me that one would be deceiving oneself.... But really, this notion of worshipping the Creator, whether through His creations or not, is a little out-of-date now and conveniently overlooks the Fall, which rather puts nature beneath God in a worldly realm which was and remains its own creation - at least beneath Jehovah if not the Father Who, as already noted, was in my opinion partly derived from pagan phallic sources.  Yet that kind of deity is largely a figment of the imagination which may formerly have been pertinent to human life, but which has ceased to have any real applicability to matters as they now stand - matters, in other words, in which the superconscious has come to play an increasingly pervasive role in shaping our destiny, and it's therefore much more relevant to equate God with that rather than with some primordial creative force held responsible, in large degree, for the shaping of sensuous nature, its bad as well as good components.  And God, as incipiently manifested in the superconscious, isn't there to be worshipped, but simply experienced!  God stands at the furthest remove from sensuous nature, and when we or our distant descendants become truly godlike, truly recipients of superconscious bliss, then we, too, shall stand at the furthest remove from it and thereupon experience the 'Kingdom of Heaven' which, consciously or unconsciously, Christianity has been directing us towards since its inception, but which Transcendental Meditation will ultimately bring about."

     "So you assume!" snapped Hurst with the air of a man who knew better, and, desiring to restore himself to the party spirit the intellectual intrusion of Keith Logan had effectively dampened, he abruptly turned away from the three people in whose presence he had spent the past thirty minutes and swiftly headed in the direction of a vivacious group of conversationalists across the far side of the room, whose revelry suggested that they were oblivious of anything Logan might have said.

     "Well," sighed Greta, suddenly conscious of an uneasy vacuum created by their host's departure, "I suppose I ought to refill my wine glass while the opportunity prevails."  And, so saying, she took herself off in the general direction of the booze.

     Thurber shook his head slightly and sought temporary refuge in his own glass of wine.  The evening hadn't really turned out as he had hoped, and largely because he hadn't expected Logan to behave in quite such a didactic fashion.  Glancing at the latter's glass, it was evident to him that no more than a few tiny sips of beer had been consumed, and that its bearer was still, to all appearances, as serious and sober-minded as when he first entered the room.  Really, Thurber was forced to admit to himself that he had quite underestimated the fellow!

     "Well," Logan sighed in turn, after he had taken stock of the room's other human contents, most of whom looked pretty unprepossessing to him, "is there anyone else you wish to introduce me to?"

     "Er, yes, I suppose there is," Thurber responded somewhat shamefacedly, and this time he emitted a faint but audible grunt of despair.

 

 

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