All posts by Jonny Walsh

• A Conversation with Simon Donald •

Early in 2018, PARIAH PRESS sent Dorian Cox to interview
Simon Donald, co-founder of 
Viz and creator of Sid the Sexist.
The following is an edited transcript of their four-hour chat in a Manchester pub.
Words by Dorian Cox. Edited by Jonny Walsh.


Almost immediately, the interview is interrupted by the wife of a friend of Simon’s. He glances over at me with a look I recognise as: ‘I can’t remember this lady’s name!’ I attempt to step into the breach and introduce myself in order to ascertain the lady’s name, but I am roundly ignored. From here on in much of the interview is sidetracked. Simon pre-warns me that he tends to get tangential and talk nonsense about irrelevant topics. Well, so do I…

In my standup act, I tend to slip some bad jokes in – my dad is where I got a love of shit jokes from. Someone with long hair: “You still not going to the same barber?” Anyone wearing tartan: “You pay for that by cheque.” The trouble is, trying to explain what a cheque is to youngsters. Another comedian suggested I use the line: “If you’re too young to get that joke, the punchline, it should be with you in the next three to four working days.” I’d love to credit the guy but I can’t remember who it was! Doing this character, Barry Twyford, who works in market research – I didn’t wanna do characters but got talked into it – became a bit of a curse ‘cos I was now, sort of, stuck with this character. So, I did a show at the Edinburgh Festival with him called: ‘Barry Twyford Isn’t Meant…’ He’s still doing his market research, but tells you about his life ‘cos he’s a bit bored, you know. I came up with the idea that Barry had gone up to the Edinburgh Festival to do market research outside venues but there’d been some mix up so he’d accidentally booked himself to perform, all because some jobsworth has filled out the wrong form, so he’s pleading with this guy saying no Barry Twyford isn’t meant to have a show. And the guy says that’s too many words so that’s why it becomes ‘Barry Twyford Isn’t Meant’.

“… I tend to use those memo books where you can tear each page off and I get rid of an awful lot of pages. But, there’ll always be one or two ideas worth revisiting… What was her name?!”

There’s a new show that’s like a Barry Twyford chat show… He’s in a blind panic ‘cos he doesn’t know what to do so, he pleads with the audience to get someone up on stage but then realises he doesn’t have any questions to ask them. He just ends up just ranting about his own life, and having a bit of a nervous breakdown as he recounts how his left home when he was a child – whilst they’re sat there awkwardly.

“A, B… E…??…
… Oh, sorry mate… Yeah, that’s my coat, yeah, no worries.”

If I’m asked who my favourite Viz character is, my answer is always Sid, because once the character was created it kinda wrote itself. It was just a case of observing stuff in pubs and and just putting it into one person. It was based on a guy Graham I still know – who didn’t know for twenty years that Sid was based on him, he only found out when my brother wrote about it in his autobiography. He was a mature student, a real brain box, but he didn’t have great social skills but that wasn’t the end of the story, I mean a mature student with no social skills would have made a great character as it is, but… he was incredibly shy around women, to a point where nowadays he might be described as high functioning on the Autistic spectrum. He was very gifted in one respect, i.e. maths, but the reverse of that was a complete lack of social skills – the thing that brought it together as a great character was that he answered phones at the bin depot when he wasn’t studying. So, he was hanging around with a load of bin men who had a proper rough-arsed Geordie sense of humour and an overtly alpha way of behaving – when he’d be in the pub with us he’d tell us the latest great chat-up line or whatever that he’d heard. One day, he comes ’round and he’d fallen for this girl and thought the best person to get advice from was me and my brother (Chris, whom I started Viz with), you know, a couple of teenage boys who spent all their time in their bedroom drawing comics and eating Quavers. He came ’round to ask us how we thought he should ask this lass out. We were, well, a bit embarrassed but I’d heard this gem which was: “Don’t worry, ‘cos even if she rejects you she’ll be dead flattered, you know?” So, I told him this, and we were telling him other chat up lines we’d heard and he said: “No, naw that wouldn’t work…” We suggest he goes ’round and asked her, which he wasn’t up for. We’d given him as much advice as we could and he’s poo-pooing it all and your thinking, ‘we’ll come on man, whaddya want, we’ve given you as much advice as we can…’ So, conversation switches, he then produces this little scrap of paper from his pocket and says: “Do ya think this’ll work?” It said on it ‘Dear Sandy, I’d really like to take you to the pictures, if you’d like to please ring me on this number… from Graham’. What he’d done is he’d written this backwards in mirror writing. He thought it would impress this lass – a man who could write backwards, right? So… it was terribly embarrassing, but we said: “Well, if that’s what your comfortable doing then go for it.” Eventually, he leaves and walks down the path. He left the house all timid, like a mouse. About halfway down the path, he turns round – chest all puffed out and brandishing these scrap of paper – shouting: “Ee, tell ya what, this piece of paper’s gonna pull us some fuckin’ totty tonight.” I just went back to my bedroom and Sid The Sexist was written there and then, y’know?

Crockery crashes from the kitchen area. Cheers from the punters.
“F? Nah… G…”

We did an anniversary issue where we called on all the original artists. Sid, thirty years on… all the characters thirty years on. Almost a where are they now. It begins exactly the same as the first ever Sid strip with him sat at home thinking, ‘aye, I think all gan oot on the toon tonight, get on the lash’, so he rings his mates up. But, by this time Sid is bald and fat. So, he rings one mate, saying: “Come on man, we’ll gan owt, have about fourteen pints there, like.” He says: “Sid man, I cannae, with all the drinking I’ve been diagnosed as an alcoholic.” He rings his other mate, Joe… “Come on Joe lad, lets gan oot on the lash…” It cuts to a shot of Joe and he’s there with an oxygen mask on and says: “Sorry, Sid with all the tabs and that, I’ve ended up with chronic emphysema and I cannae walk away from the hoose.” So, he rings up Baz: “Howay Baz, you’re not fucked an all are you?…” “No, no man, I’m in the best of health but I cannae come out cos I’ve got a game of squash, I’m waiting on the child-minder and I’ve got a big interview tomorrow with the boss about me promotion, like.” So, the last scene, Sid has hung the phone up, and you just see his legs hanging from the rafters with his mam coming in with a cup of tea and plate of biscuits…

“H? No… I?”

Every Sid chat up piece was taken literally word for word – girls would tell us stuff blokes has said to ‘em: “D’you fancy a pizza, I could just eat a pizza you.”  You know, just dreadful stuff. The most fun I had with Sid was using all the stuff you heard lads saying, like: “I’m off for a piss.” “What’s up? Got a teacup bladder, like?” All these unwritten Rules Of The Pub:

– There’s no excuse for a soft drink.
– Your not allowed to go for a piss unless you’ve had ten pints.
– There’s a bloke in the bar, bought a half… Let’s gan and sort him out.
– He’s had a piss, he’s only had two pints!

Our Chris used work with this guy at the department of health and social security… This guy, he wouldn’t go for a piss until he got home, it was like some moral crusade – he wouldn’t piss it out in the place he bought the drinks. It was like: “Why should they get it back.” On Tyneside the point at which you’ve had enough to drink doesn’t exist. I do a piece on stage where there’s a guy lying flat out in the street, he’s been arrested, he’s fallen in the gutter, he’s unconscious, he’s pissed himself, he’s been sick, he’s in a pool of blood, he’s shat himself. The paramedics can’t get anything out of him. I act out his mate relaying these horrors one at a time back to the other lads, he’s in tears: “There’s nee sign of life, man!” So, one of the other mates says, quite blandly “Right, I’ll just get him a lager then?”

“J, no… K!”
In the background: “You will never break the chain (never break the chain)…”

So, there was this pub in a rough bit of Gateshead, I was about nineteen-years-old. A pub between two tower blocks. My girlfriend at the time had a mate who was having an engagement do in the function room in the pub. At the time, if we went for a drink in the toon, I’d always have a couple of bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale but then I’d change to a tap beer, like a Stones or something. Now, in this function room, there was no tap beer so, having already had a couple of bottle of Newky Browns I though, ‘alright well, I’ll stick with that’. They had tap beer downstairs but I didn’t wanna go down there ‘cos it was a proper sketchy boozer and quite busy, like, so it was just easier. I’d never just drunk Brown Ale all night, right, and they call it Journey into Space – it’s a common Geordie expression. In fact, the ex-Spurs footballer Martin Chivers cornered me at some corporate thing one time and said “Oh aye, the Newcastle Brown Ale stuff, bloody hell, had some right nights on that, a Journey into Space, innit?”

So, anyway, at one point I’m coming back from the bar with a tray of drinks for everyone at our table and, I remember, I walked across the dancefloor and somebody had a microphone and I made some silly, pithy – but I assumed amusing – quip into the mic, and when I sat back down the whole table… It was like looking through a kaleidoscope with all these angry faces at the end of it, and I’m handing people they’re drinks and everyone’s just scowling at me. I couldn’t work it out. The next day, I ring my girlfriend, she says: “Have you got no idea what happened last night?” “No! I’ve got no idea how you got out of there alive.” It turns out, when I staggered back from the bar, the DJ was standing in between the couple who were getting ready to announce they’d become engaged, and I ended up bowling through them with this tray of drinks and said in to the microphone: “Big tits.” So, I’ve never touched Newcastle Brown Ale since! I think I must have got away with it ‘cos they thought, ‘well, he’s mortal drunk…’

“Christ alone knows how we ended up on this topic, hahahahahaha…
… L, no… M??”

After hearing Derek & Clive and Monty Python, me and Chris made these little spoof radio shows. Just on cassette for our own amusement. There was always an element of brutal violence in them – mainly because after the initial premise we often didn’t know where to take the sketch. Python showed you that, more often than not, there was a better way to end a sketch than with a punchline. I mean, even Pete and Dud always ended with a punchline, and it was often a disappointment. Whereas Python just seemed to go, ‘fuck it, let’s move on to the next bit, we’ve done as much funny as we need to here’. That influenced a character we created call The Fat Crusader who goes around attacking his enemies in more and more grotesquely violent ways, like Itchy & Scratchy type stuff.

“… Aye, it’s a funny old, terrifying world when you look that closely…”

The first place we sold Viz was at a place called The Gosforth Hotel, which I was just talking to Mr Sting about – the other day – that was where he first performed n’all. They’ve renamed it The Gordon Sumner Suite. It’s a room above a pub, you know? Hahahahahahaha.

“N? No… O?”

We’d do interviews with the bands playing locally in Newcastle – in like a humorous style – just to be able to say to people at shows: “Ere, buy our comic, the bands playing tonight are in it.” We knew early on that there had to be a Viz style. You couldn’t just have a serious piece suddenly, it had to be done in our irreverent style. A lot of the lads in local bands on the scene drew bits and bobs for Viz in the early days. Some of the bands would go away on tour to places that seemed miles away, like South Shields, and sell some comics on our behalf. People would also drift away to university and sell the comics in the uni bookshop, so a little network started up.

Brian, who ran a – sort of – teenager subculture shop called Kard Bar sold the mag for us and early on said: “You need to do advertising to take it to the next level.” Which seemed against the initial ethos. Brian said: “Well, I’ll pay you for an advert and you can write it, just write whatever you want.” Kardbar sold all things that teenagers would use to define their existence: records, badges, patches – all that. He knew Viz would become one of those things. So, he helped us get the advertising off the ground and we founded some Viz advertising rules, which were…

– We will design and advert for you in the Viz style.
– It will slag your product off in some way.
– If you don’t like it and refuse to pay, we will just go ahead and print it anyway.

There was this punk shop in town called Phaze, the guy who ran it was called Keegan. We did an advert for him and he hated it because we slagged his shop off – saying it was out of date and all this – he said: “I’m not bloody paying for that!” But, we just put it in anyway. But, what happened was, these punters started coming in the shop saying: “Eh, we love that advert, mate, right funny.” And then the penny dropped. Advertisers started knocking at the door.

“P? No. Not Q… R then?…
… And my mates pinned it on me. But, the teacher didn’t believe it was me ‘cos he said: “Simon can draw better than that…””

In terms of physical sales, the annual still sells well – yeah, I’ll get it as a stocking filler every year. The magazine always does well at airports and motorway service stations for some reason. Once, I was going on holiday and went into the shop at Newcastle Airport with the family, just as they were unloading the delivery of Viz. It took up a quarter of the shop…Which was utterly insane. A proper photo opportunity. But, yeah, you have to count your blessings. The NME‘s gone, the Dandy’s gone. But, around 1991 we were the third biggest selling magazine in the country, only beaten by the Radio Times and the TV Times. It’s crazy to think that our childish level of humour connected with so many people. That’s a magical moment for me.

With stuff like, The Day Today and Vic Reeves Big Night Out, there was a time when the surrealism of Viz was part of the mainstream, aye definitely. Obviously Vic and Bob did the Top Tips and there was a fall out with the producer over that cos he fannied about with it, adding stuff and taking stuff out, and generally not trusting our judgement. I said: “Well, the proof is in the fact that we do this week in week out, what’s your background?” And he said: “Well, I used to write material for Russ Abbott…” Fuckin’ Russ Abbott! Vic asked me to do the warm up for his autobiography launch at Durham Labour Club, that was great, so we’d go for a pint and what have ya. They’re great, I mean, Bob is – shall we say – more user friendly. Whereas Vic is a bit more eccentric, and a genuine ‘man of mystery’.

“S! It must be S, or T.”

Capturing that uniquely North-East sense of humour was important. One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen was on the BBC: they interview someone out of the crowd piling off a train for the derby match [Glasgow Rangers vs Manchester United], they ask this one Geordie guy if he thinks they’ll be any trouble… He just looks straight at the camera and says: “Nah, we all just hope every cunt’s gonna get on…” It’s just sheer poetry! On the BBC teatime news, no less. Stewart Lee made a brilliant point to me about the Oxbridge types who run the BBC, they’d rather have somebody pretending to be working-class than some one whose actually working-class, ‘cos they don’t understand it…”

The thing is, ‘cos me and Chris were born somewhere between working and middle-class it meant we could take the piss out of both types of person without coming across as cultural tourists in the Common People tradition. When we were writing these characters we weren’t just surreptitiously peering in from the door of the pub for an afternoon here and there. These were people we knew. These were people we socialised with. These were, in many cases, friends.

“… Not U, or V, no…
… A guy who I still get ideas off
[Alex Collier] was a guy who, when he was a young lad, his teacher sent us some of his stuff and he came to do work experience wth us, if you can imagine such a thing -a fifteen-year-old lad doing work experience at Viz! I mean, he’s gone on to do Dangermouse and some new Mr Bean stuff… But when he gets chance, he’ll sort of chip in.”

I remember you telling me about when you ended up in some pub in Newcastle and the saloon doors kinda swing shut and all the locals are staring you out, then as soon as you sit with a regular they become your best mate and you’ve got a table full of pints of watered down Carling to wade through…

“Can I get you two another drink?”

I’ve had it when I’ve been at a PR agency in London and the post boy comes in, who’s a Geordie, and he invites me out with his Geordie mates to watch the match that night. So, I’m out and of course they’re all washing machine drinkers set on a spin cycle, you know where once they’ve started they can’t turn it off… another pint, another pint, another pint. One of ‘em looks at me and says: “Ere, Simon, I think you’re a bit of a cheeky cunt you, I think I’m gonna have to fill you in.” So I kinda rode that out and a bit later he puts his arm round me and says: “You’re alright you are, Simon. You’re a good lad.” It was just like a sketch straight out of Viz.

“… And if you’re northern and you go to London, you’re automatically assumed to be salt of the earth working-class, whereas in Newcastle I might be seen as slightly posh, for example… But as soon as you get off the train at Kings Cross, it’s like everyone’s expecting you to walk around with this cap doffing attitude, y’know?…
… Could it be W? It’s not X, or Y, or Z.”

Do ignore me, Dorian, I have a habit of going off on a tangent at the drop of a hat… Actually, that’s a good idea for a new character: Tommy TangentTerry Tangent… A guy who diverts the conversation away from the original issue as soon as possible.

[Author’s note: When this appears in Viz, I’m claiming a writing credit.]

“This is my mate… *dictaphone crackles*… Oh, we saw your wife earlier…”

I first met Simon when were both singing at a Fall tribute-night, in the wake of Mark E. Smith’s last orders. Me, I performed Rowche Rumble, Simon tackled How I Wrote Elastic Man. He was good enough to pick me up after I had had a fight with the drum kit towards the end of the night – I’d been drinking the long draught down for a little too long. We spent a good amount of time backstage chewing the fat about flat-roofed pubs in Gateshead, Gazza and The Wonderful & Frightening World Of The Viz.

My introduction to the Prole Art Threat of Viz was during the early 1990s – I would spend Saturday’s at my father’s house. He’d have copies of the magazine in his bathroom, much to my mum’s consternation, noticing it as she did when she would come round to snoop through the windows to see in what kind of state dad lived in… She confronted him, arguing that it was inappropriate for a 10-year-old boy to see, let alone my sister who was four years younger. Meanwhile, I found it hilarious; amongst the childish profanities was wit, satire and Top Tips

Pretend you don’t live in Tottenham by walking around Tottenham
with an A-to-Z Guide and asking people for directions.
~ Simone Glover, Tottenham.



© Dorian Cox, 2018

• Q&A with Andrew Biswell •


Andrew Biswell is an author, scholar and director of
The International Anthony Burgess Foundation
based in Manchester, UK.


For the uninitiated, please explain the purpose and work of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation.

With pleasure. The International Anthony Burgess Foundation is an educational charity, created by Liana Burgess (Anthony’s widow) in 2003. The Foundation exists to promote knowledge about Burgess’s life and work to the general public, and it makes grants to students of literature and music.

When Liana died in 2007, she left a legacy which allowed the Foundation to move to a large building in Manchester city centre [3 Cambridge Street]. This operates as a library, a study centre and a venue for events, music and live literature. So the Foundation has become an important landmark on the cultural landscape of the city. We undertake work such as conferences and exhibitions. Every year since 2012 we have awarded a writing prize [The Observer/Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism], in association with the Observer newspaper and the Guardian Media Group, to encourage new talent in arts journalism.

The other main element of the Foundation’s work is to manage Burgess’s literary estate, through a series of reprints, translations and editions of new work, based on manuscripts in the archive. Obscenity & the Arts is one of the fruits of this labour. The Irwell Edition of the Works of Anthony Burgess is another.


What was your background before becoming the Burgess Foundation’s director?

Before I came to the Foundation eight years ago, I had worked as a university lecturer, a literary journalist and a freelance writer. At Warwick University I researched a PhD on Burgess’s literary essays, and spent the next three years writing a full-scale biography, The Real Life of Anthony Burgess, published in 2005. The 1990s and early 2000s were a good time to be finding out about Burgess’s life, as many of his close friends were still alive and willing to share their memories. I came to the director’s job by way of having been a trustee when Liana Burgess was still with us. She was a person of great charm and determination, and the Burgess Foundation as it exists today is very much her creation.


Why work with PARIAH PRESS?

The Foundation got to know PARIAH through an event based around the themes of The Myth of Brilliant Summers, a short story collection by Austin Collings, published by PARIAH in 2014. I also made a radio programme with Jennifer Reid, who is another PARIAH author. The greatest advantage of working with a smaller press is that they have more time and energy at their disposal — unlike a big, commercial publisher, who will give your book no more than a few days of their attention. In such circumstances, with a genuine conversation going on, the publishing process becomes a true collaboration.

In the case of Obscenity & the Arts, the period of gestation has been almost three years from the first conversation to the published book appearing. During that time, it’s been delightful to watch the work evolving, in collaboration with Jonny Walsh at PARIAH and the graphic designer, Adam Griffiths. As the research which stands behind the book has taken shape, I’ve been pleased to find out more about the history of Burgess’s time in Malta. I’ve made new friends, such as Marie Benoit, the Maltese journalist who has contributed her interview with Burgess to the book. And the Foundation has come to a much better understanding of its photographic collection, some of which appears in the book. We have just installed a new exhibition, ‘BANNED BOOKS: Anthony Burgess and Censorship’, which will coincide with the publication of the Obscenity book.


Why does Anthony Burgess’s life and work continue to be relevant in the twenty-first century?

I think Burgess was ahead of his time in some (but not all) of his thinking about the pressing social questions of his day. He was an innovator when it came to language and neologisms, and I suppose that extended into other areas of experience. Right from the start of his publishing career in the 1950s, his novels engaged in contemporary debates about decriminalizing drugs and homosexuality. In Honey for the Bears, published in 1963, he wrote about same-sex relationships, between both men and women, at a time when the law in Britain was hostile to such practices. His championing of dissident writers such as William Burroughs and Hubert Selby can be related to his forward-thinkingness about other political questions. After the Moors Murders trial in 1966 there was a movement to suppress dangerous books which were said to have driven the killers to commit their crimes. Burgess resisted this as a matter of principle, and partly because he was worried about his own books being suppressed. I have a strong impression that many of these debates about censorship are being revisited in our own time. In that sense, Obscenity & the Arts seems to me to be entirely relevant to a twenty-first century readership.

“Language exists less to record the actual than to liberate the imagination.”
– Anthony Burgess

For anyone looking to delve past A Clockwork Orange and Earthly Powers, which of Burgess’s works would you recommend?

A remarkable new collection of Burgess’s literary essays, The Ink Trade (edited by Will Carr) has just been published by Carcanet. Inside Mr Enderby and Enderby Outside (both available in The Complete Enderby) are two of his best comic novels. Other high points include Nothing Like the Sun and A Dead Man in Deptford. And, I’ve always had a fondness for Byrne, a late novel in verse which deserves to have more readers.

[PARIAH PRESS concur with A Dead Man in Deptford, and also recommend ABBA ABBA, Here Comes Everybody, and Burgess’s semi-fictionalised autobiographies: Little Wilson & Big God and You’ve Had Your Time.]

“He must be a kind of Batman of contemporary letters.”
– Philip Larkin on Anthony Burgess

November 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of Burgess’s death. Where does his reputation stand today?

That’s hard to say. I have the impression that, as Kubrick’s film version of A Clockwork Orange has faded from view, Burgess is now better known in his own right. More of his novels are in print today than there were ten years ago, but a huge amount of work is still below the waterline. Burgess is also becoming known for his orchestral and piano music, which is now available commercially. So I suppose he has the reputation of a writer-composer, which is an unusual thing to be. Some of his music (a short piece for solo-piano) has found its way into Obscenity & the Arts, which is very cheering.


Is there anything left to be discovered about Burgess?

A lot more than you’d think. Some of the novels have been out of print for more than fifty years. My hope is that they will come back in the near future. The Foundation is planning new editions of Burgess’s short stories and letters over the next couple of years. None of this work has been published before, and it really does show him at his best. There is interest from PARIAH PRESS in publishing a book of his prefaces and introductions. That sounds like an excellent project.


What’s next for the Burgess Foundation?

2018 has been a very busy year for us, with the musical version of A Clockwork Orange playing at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, two new critical books coming out, the launch of a Naxos CD of Burgess piano music (The Bad-Tempered Electronic Keyboard, performed by Stéphane Ginsburgh), and the No End to Enderby films, which were screened at the Glasgow International Festival.

Future projects will include three new Irwell Editions (Puma, Beard’s Roman Women and ABBA ABBA), a new theatre production in the autumn, a Stanley Kubrick conference, and a collaboration with English PEN and PARIAH in December in London [more news on that soon]. As if that wasn’t enough, new translations will appear in Russian, Chinese, Turkish, Romanian and other languages.


Give us your favourite fact about Burgess…

In 1972 Burgess was asked to write a stage musical about Harry Houdini as a vehicle for Orson Welles, who was fascinated by magic and claimed to have been taught magic tricks by Houdini himself. A letter from Burgess’s agent confirms that he completed this work and delivered it. After which point it disappeared from sight completely. We went to the agent, who said that his office and its contents had been destroyed by fire, and there seems to be no trace of the Houdini script in the Orson Welles archives, or in the files of the producer who commissioned it. But I’m sure it must exist somewhere. Just imagine Houdini: The Musical by Anthony Burgess. If we can find it, could it be a possible publishing project for PARIAH PRESS?


Obscenity & the Arts is now available for pre-order.
It will be stocked in bookshops and stationers from 22nd August. customers will receive their copies in July.

• Raymond Yiu & Andrew Biswell in Conversation •

Transcript of a live pre-concert discussion
at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester on 4th July 2017.
The World Was Once All Miracle premiered
as part of the Manchester International Festival.

Raymond Yiu is a composer, conductor, jazz pianist and music writer.
Andrew Biswell is an author and Director of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation.


Andrew Biswell:  I suppose the first thing I want to ask you, in the context of this concert, is what attracted you to Burgess, because, unusually, you’d heard of him as a musician before you knew him as a literary writer. That in itself is quite odd and interesting.

Raymond Yiu:  The origin of my attraction to Burgess goes back twenty years, when I discovered this book, which is called This Man and Music, published in 1982. It was at a time when I was originally interested in the work of Paul Bowles. I was curious to know if there were any other writers who also composed, and then I just discovered this book. One of the things that really fascinated me, or even haunted me about this book was the third chapter, entitled Let’s Write a Symphony. Burgess spent the whole chapter talking about his Symphony in C, which we’re going to hear today in the concert. For years I tried to track down a recording, or materials to do with that symphony, and did not go anywhere. So, about two years ago when you approached me about the possibility of a piece of music to celebrate the centenary of Burgess’s birth, the first thing that came into my mind was to ask, ‘Does the International Anthony Burgess Foundation have a recording of the Symphony in C?’, and you said, ‘Yes’. Then I knew it was not a work of fiction. That was the way it all started.

AB:  Burgess is an autodidact, and I think that is quite important to your relationship with his work. Are there other things that are important as well?

RY:  As an autodidact myself, I think it’s one of the main reasons I was attracted to his music. I suspect that he was attracted to music by two other self-taught composers, Elgar and Walton, who approached musical structure and orchestration in their own idiosyncratic ways for a very similar reason. I like Burgess’s writing, because it seems to go anywhere and everywhere. You can never quite guess to which direction it is going to go next. His music has that quality too.

AB:  The book you mentioned, This Man and Music, it is a very odd book. How would you describe it for those who don’t know it? It’s partly an autobiography, but it’s also written through the focus of his musical life.

RY:  People working in a bookshop would not know quite where to put it – it could go into fiction, non-fiction, or the music department. Where would you put it? It is a mixture of his ideas on music and words. It is a set of meditations on the relationship of the art of words and the art of music, and how the two relate to one another, with a good measure of autobiographical detail thrown in here and there.

AB: Tell us how your new piece, The World Was Once All Miracle, came about, because I know you were reading very widely in Burgess’s novels – his Malayan Trilogy, the Enderby novels and Earthly Powers – before you settled on the poetry. Tell us something about that journey through the work, if you can.

RY:  I thought if I was going to write a piece around Burgess, it would be weird not to look into the words. But, after reading some of his novels I found things very alarming, because they were very long and unfocused, and it was very hard to extract parts to make it a coherent musical structure. You sent me a copy of the new edition of his poems, Revolutionary Sonnets and Other Poems. I was reading it over and over again and then, gradually, some of the phrasing stood out for me. The process of choosing the text in this project was quite difficult. It was a very long process.

AB: And was it the shape or forms of the poems that suggested particular accompaniments? How did that work?

RY:  The criteria to choose a text was actually informed by your biography of him, The Real Life of Anthony Burgess. His fascination with music, with languages and with the conflict of good and evil – a theme that runs through a lot of his poems – and his works in general. Those were the three topics in the back of my head when I was looking for the texts.

AB:  Would you say the cycle tells a story, that there is a narrative?

RY:  It is very hard to say. The music is a response to the texts with the feeling of some kind of dramatic structure. But I’m not writing a play. So it is very hard to tell you exactly what’s happening at any specific moment in this song cycle. I just wanted to make the music create a type of dramatic impression and shape in the audience’s minds.

AB:  What about your approach to setting the poems? Is it different for each piece within the cycle?

RY:  The World Was Once All Miracle consists of six songs and they are all, in principle, very different in character. I’ll go over them very quickly.

The first is a reasonably accurate portrait of Burgess as a person. When you see him in interviews, he appears to be quite neurotic, nervous, and often speaks quite fast. You can sense his mind running at very high speed and changing the directions of his speech all the time. Hence, the first song has a psychotic and manic feel.

The second is a nocturne. It has a drowsy feeling to it, and is based on a poem about sleeping, but in metaphor it is about guilt.

The middle two are my favourites. The third one is based on the fact that Burgess and his first wife Lynne lived in Malaya for several years in the 1950s. Burgess had a very strong interest in Malaysian culture and Asian culture. It is a setting of a love poem with this slightly strange, imaginary folk music floating in the background. I’m not going to tell you any more because you are supposed to be surprised by it.

The fourth song is a setting of a poem called The Music of the Spheres. It is a Burgessian take, in poetic form, on his idea of music. In This Man and Music he talks about his discovery of a new type of music through Debussy, and also he had this obsession with Beethoven all his life. So, the fourth song features the quotations from these two composers, as well as Purcell and Arne, who are mentioned in the poem. Anyone who is interested in that kind of thing, do listen out for it.

The fifth song is very dark. He was affected by the Second World War, and was always very aware of the cruelty of human beings. The lines I use are a fragment of a very long poem which sets out his bleak view of humanity in general.

The final poem is a relief, as well as a tribute to the music of Noël Coward and Cole Porter, which Burgess adores. It is a poem of farewell, a farewell to life, in a sense. It’s not very specific about death but, it is kind of implying it.

AB:  When you were researching your pieces, you spent a lot of time in the archives of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation here in Manchester, looking at Burgess’s music scores. Tell us what you found and how that fed into your piece.

RY:  Back in October I came in for an afternoon just to go through his manuscripts and particularly the musical manuscripts. I was flicking through them casually and for a moment I saw this page of musical notation. It caught my attention, so I took a picture and went home without thinking too much about it. Two weeks later when I looked at it close up, I discovered it was a sketch where Burgess was trying to write atonal serial music. The melody consists a forward statement of the tone row [i.e. a specific sequencing of all twelve available notes in an octave], followed by a reversed version of it – hence palindromic in nature – supported by four chords derived from a straightforward three-note grouping of the row. He was trying out writing music with serialism. For me it’s fascinating and I incorporate that tone row and that sketch into the fifth song.

AB:  We should say something about Burgess as a composer. It is such a wide and varied output that Burgess had – he wrote, we think, at least two hundred and fifty separate compositions. But in his lifetime so little of his music was performed, and so many people, until recently, hadn’t heard it. That’s changed over the last couple of years, but what is your impression of Burgess and his musical life?

RY:  I would say that after hearing the Symphony in C being played yesterday for the first time, my jaw just dropped. What struck me was that his sense of imagination was staggering, and he has got very good ears. There are people out there who will try and compare Burgess to the ‘professionals’, such as Elgar or Britten. They will say ‘Well, this is like a second or third-rate Walton.’ But, I think it is wrong to assess Burgess’s music from that angle. He was trying to be a composer early in his career, but he could not, due to the circumstances. Bear in mind that this is the music of a composer who did not have many opportunities to hear his music until much later in his career. On account of that, it is incredible what he has come up with. I would like to think if he had heard his music performed much earlier in his life, he would have learned so much more from the musicians that he could have worked with. Composing is a much more practical art than one imagines, and this is how I build my trade. The only way I learnt was to get my music played, and to find out what does and does not work. I think Burgess would have benefited a great deal from that. I would rather hear music by a composer with a better imagination with lesser craft than, a composer with an excellent technique but with imagination dull as dishwater.

AB:  There was something you said the other day that I was very struck by. You said that Burgess was a composer who was still learning his craft. There was something about that which resonated.

RY:  He was always learning his music. In his Symphony you can detect fingerprints of Walton, and some Elgar, a sense of those English composers of the early twentieth century. At the same time, there is something else. It is very hard to put my finger on it, to tell you exactly what it is. But, the thing for me that really stood out yesterday – or just knowing the piece – was just the way the music turned, it was so unexpected, almost weird, but somehow it made sense. I did an interview with the American composer Lukas Foss, who was my mentor, about fifteen years ago. I asked him: ‘So, what is a musical idea?’ and his reply was, ‘A musical idea is a surprise that makes sense.’ Somehow, when I listen to Burgess’s music, this is what I get. So many surprises.

AB:  I want to ask you about your own process. How do you write music? Do you do it at a desk, or at a piano?

RY: One of the first steps, when I compose, is to visualise the whole piece. Mozart saw the whole piece in his head and all he had to do was just write it down. Certainly, when I compose I see the structure, like an architect. I see the pieces, like buildings. My job as a composer is trying to work to out all the small details. Sometime, I visualise the performance, like a black and white silent movie, which I try to write the soundtrack for.

AB:  Is it piano score first or a full score?

RY: I always start with a short score, a kind of extended piano score. One of the things that I have learnt from the music of Stravinsky and Janáček, if you look at their manuscripts – a lot of time they did not use manuscript paper; they draw their own staves. Janáček once said he hated manuscript paper because it is tempting to fill the entire page. You only draw enough staves for what you need, so you don’t have that kind of temptation. I think that was quite a useful tactic.

AB:  We should probably say something about Beethoven.

RY:  Well, I think people might hate me for saying this but, I do not like Beethoven’s piano music – I find it very boring. But, his symphonies are extraordinary. I tend to go for the unusual ones. For the concert tonight, Number 8 is the one I proposed because I love this work. It is so compact, and so joyous. I am a jazz pianist, I like melodies, and the opening of this symphony is simply extraordinary. Once you hear it, you just cannot get it out of your head. I like music when it is not trying to make a huge statement, when it is very concise and nicely put.

AB:  Maybe we could end by saying something about Burgess’s twin reputations as a writer and composer. He would have celebrated his hundredth birthday this year. How should we remember him?

RY:  We should remember Burgess not as a writer. We should remember Burgess as an artist who has multiple talents. As we are discovering more and more of his music, it can give us the chance to understand the man as an artist from a different angle, coming from the books and going to the music, or going from the music to the books. Most people are going from the words to the music; I am coming from the music to the words. It just depends on how you want to approach it.

AB:  This seems like a very uplifting way to end. Thank you very much.


© Raymond Yiu and Andrew Biswell, 2017
Transcription by JW, with thanks to Yiu, Biswell & Carr.

• Sex is Politics •

Gore Vidal writing for Playboy in 1979.

The sexual attitudes of any given society are the result of political decisions.


Although our notions about what constitutes correct sexual behavior are usually based on religious texts, those texts are invariably interpreted by the rulers in order to keep control over the ruled. Any sexual or intellectual or recreational or political activity that might decrease the amount of coal mined, the number of pyramids built, the quantity of junk food confected will be proscribed through laws that, in turn, are based on divine revelations handed down by whatever god or gods happen to be in fashion at the moment. Religions are manipulated in order to serve those who govern society and not the other way around. This is a brand-new thought to most Americans, whether once or twice or never bathed in the Blood of the Lamb.


At any given moment in a society’s life, there are certain hot buttons that a politician can push in order to get a predictably hot response…. It is good politics to talk against sin–and don’t worry about non sequiturs. In fact, it is positively un-American…to discuss a real issue such as unemployment or who is stealing all that money at the Pentagon. To divert the electorate, the unscrupulous American politician will go after those groups not regarded benignly by Old or New Testament.


In desperation, the nation’s ownership has now gone back to the tried-and-true hot buttons: save our children, out fetuses, our ladies’ rooms from the godless enemy. As usual, the sex buttons have proved satisfyingly hot.


Today Americans are in a state of terminal hysteria on the subject of sex in general and of homosexuality in particular because the owners of the country (buttressed by a religion that they have shrewdly adapted to their own ends) regard the family as their last means of control over those who work and consume…. In the Symposium, Plato defined the problem:

“In Ionia and other places, and generally in countries which are subject to the barbarians [Plato is referring to the Persians, who were the masters of the Jews at the time Leviticus was written], the custom [homosexuality] is held to be dishonorable; loves of youths share the evil repute in which philosophy and gymnastics are held, because they are inimical to tyranny; the interests of the rulers require that their subjects should be poor in spirit and that there should be no strong bond of friendship or society among them, which love, above all other motives, it likely to inspire, as out Athenian tyrants learned by experience; for the love or Aristogeiton and the constancy of Harmodius had a strength which undid their power.”

This last refers to a pair of lovers who helped overthrow the tyrants at Athens.

• Dr. Amp’s Monologue •

 Russ Tamblyn’s first monologue as Dr. Amp, AKA Dr. Jacoby.
Aired during Part 10 of Twin Peaks Season 3 on 16th July, 2017.


It’s seven o’clock.
You know where your freedom is?

Coming to you alive and electrified from Studio A, high atop the escarpments of White Tail Peak. The roof, ruf ruf, of the American Hindu Kush. This is Doctor Amp, doing the math for liberty, climbing the ramp to justice, and lighting the lamp for freedom.

So, what’s on your mind tonight?
I mean, you know I’m going to tell you what’s on mine…

We’re sinking down deep in the mud, and the fucks are at it again. The same vast global corporate conspiracy, different day. You can’t see it without a cosmic flashlight. Guess what? I’ve got one, and its beam penetrates the igneous rocks of ignorance. It flips that rock over and there they are exposed, wriggling, squirming, crawling on their bellies like fowl maggots, frantically racing back to the cover of darkness that they so crave. We’re coming for you, yeah we’re coming for you. Let’s just see what they’re cooking up today.

Know the ingredients, read what’s on the box, in fact read between the lines. What’s lurking in that toaster waffle, those muffins, that frozen children’s treat. Poisons, deadly poisons, that’s what’s there. And, what’s waiting for you? Cancer, leukemia, auto-immune disorders, pulmonary embolism, warts, psoriasis, eczema, cardiac arrest, where are the cops when we need them, anorexia, body image bullshit, microbial toxins, bacterial toxins, environmental toxins, our air, our water, our earth, the very soil itself, our food, our bodies poisoned, poisoned…

[Sips tea] Yes, huckleberry extract in clean boiled water from the pure artesian springs of White Tail Peak. Yeah, fuck that Acai berry shit from the Amazon.

In the immortal words of Pete Seeger, “If I had a hammer.” Guess what? I’ve got a hammer.
You must see, hear, understand, and act, act now.

• Ode to Clarice •

Introducing Alexandra Pereira,
from this moment onward
the gatekeeper 
of the Pariah Press Blog

[Email her at
with blog submissions and enquiries]


On the 40th anniversary of her death and the publication of her novel Hour of the Star, I wrote this for the author Clarice Lispector.

Her house was full of mysticism
Near to the wild parts.
She told everyone it was a bungalow
With the aim of being left alone to climb the stairs. I was Childminded in the mystery chains and tangled in concentrations of poppies,
My lunacy in Rio,
When I found the lady with the cat’s face.

And in the top corners of conservatories, this meditating medium, this flame haired weirdo, breathed Death
over Brazil. She shot and
She assumed that every house was built
for the everywoman. She shot to screens I’ve never seen. She smoked in every house muttering
‘This is my Real name.’

In her mystical house the roof was wet, Agua Viva, living water and those Impeccable manners of hers were grinding
Right up against
A Middle Earth, a casual extrovert
already off with my head, off my head, her hands_____

But in the book of her house
Under the watch of the clock
Under the watch of her grandfather
I started to think about the baby blue sky and the navy blue clouds My hero the Royal Marine
And how much I’ve seen in the pages I found.

On the hour of the star of David, her house moved further away and she dropped the final cigarette
Their twinkling lights and fire, visible through the dark clouds are like a gold necklace I dropped down a drain. I dropped you down a drain.
One I couldn’t retrieve but wouldn’t miss.
And closer there’s another house
But never another Clarice
Lying there winking a Real fool’s gold
A rock I’ll own, making me think that it’s Funny
! that a story must have a name


• A Poem on the Use of Tobacco by Charles Shaw Adams •

First published in USA in 1852.


There is a certain plant whose use exceeds.
By far the use of other kinds of weeds;
And what is worthy of a special note,
No animal but man, a worm and goat
Will deign to use — to chew, to smoke, to snuff —
This nauseous, and withal this hateful stuff.
This noxious plant now used so much by msui
Was found at Tobaco in Yucatan;
Its name, Tobacco, it is said to take
From this same fact, if I do not mistake
Its first appearance every eye offends,
And to the nose a noxious odor sends;
It harms the brain, is nauseous to the taste.
Injures the lungs, and does the fluids waste;
Its horrid fume is like the stygian smoke.
Emitted from a hole in Hades broke.
And yet this weed, with deadly poison fraught.
More human minds has into bondage brought.
More tastes depraved, more seeds of sickness
Than any herb upon the “footstool” known;
Wielded more sway, more signal conquests won,
Than ever were achieved beneath the sun.
The force of law, in vain has been applied,
In former years; for this it has defied.
Popes, kings, and legislatures, all combine,
By excommunication, threats, and fine.
To stay its march, and break its iron rod —
It conquers still, and triumphs like a god;
This nauseous weed, despite of all their laws,
Still holds its throne within the human jaws.
Since o’er our race this foe began his sway.
More than three hundred years have passed
Man is the slave. Tobacco is the king,
That loathsome, nauseous, black and dirty
Blush, O my soul, for human nature blush!
That such a foe immortal man should crush,
And from its noble rank, by heaven assigned.
Seduce to abject slavery his mind!
A thing so strange, whoever heard, indeed?
Immortal man enslaved by such a weed!
It is too much! The blood within my veins
Curdles to view my fellow man in chains.
His cause I will espouse — I am his friend —
He must be free — heaven assistance lend!
listen my friends, while I his cause this day
Plead and maintain — then judge ye what I say.
And FIRST, I reason man no slave should be ;
Much less a slave to this vile Luridae.
(A class of poisons, which, as chemists say,
Include the foxglove, henbane, Atropa,
Lobelia, deadly night-shade, and the like.
Whose sad effects the mind with horror strike.)
Tobacco with these deadly drugs is classed.
Nor least in strength, though it is mentioned
For with another class it takes its stand.
Whose common use depopulates the land.
I group, says Hitchcock, (for they do agree
In being poisons, as ’tis plain to see.)
I group together, and reject the sum
Of Alcohol, Tobacco, Opium.
Although in common language they belong
To diverse classes, their effect is one;
And though distinct the ends applied to serve.
This to relax and that to brace the nerve.
Yet their effect will ultimately be
Upon the system, great stupidity;
Of either if a quantum sat you take.
Death will ensue without the least mistake.
Nor should the truth escape, as we proceed.
The worst of these is the Tobacco weed.
The vegetable kingdom can’t produce
More deadly poison, one whose common use
More surely tends, as stubborn facts declare.
To waste the health, the intellect impair;
Nor one whose concentrated power can do
The work of death more sure, more quickly too.
Its oil, (one drop, experiments have shown,)
Placed on the tongue, has in convulsions thrown
A full-sized cat. Three drops were once ap-
She was convulsed, and in three minutes died.
Upon a squirrel’s tongue two drops were
With agitation he was quickly seized,
His nimble body, active feet and head.
Were, in one minute, motionless and dead.
See yonder pale, emaciated frame.
With trembling hands — his nerves all shake
the same —
In sleep disturbed, and with his food distressed.
With dizzy head, and spirits quite depressed;
His stomach sinks, his appetite is gone.
His breathing hard — he raises blood anon.
A walking ghost! Yet his true name I lack —
Dyspeptic? Yes, and Hypochondriact
Yea, more than this; a fool! an abject slave!
Ere long to fill a suicidal grave!
What made him such ? Who did the dreadful
deed ? —
Naught but the use of the tobacco weed.
But can you prove it? To be sure I can,
He quits the weed — again he is a man
That man a slave should be, the thought
Perverted end! he was for freedom bom.
On him the right his Maker did bestow,
To take the name of lord of all below.
Who holds in bondage Africa’s injured race.
Is by the just and good esteemed as base;

The following is an extract of a letter from Bev. Solomon Hardy, of
South Wellfleet, Mass., to the author:

“I began to use tobacco when I was about sixteen years old. The prac-
tice was fashionable, and I thought it a mark of a smart spirit to be seen
chewing the quid, and spirting the dark colored saliva from my lips. This
foolish feeling was only temporary. I soon found I had formed a tyrannical
habit. I kept it for the most part till I was thirty-seven years old. I then
made several ineffectual attempts to break it up. My efforts, however,
were not entirely useless. I had already begun to fear, from reading and
experience, that I was engaged in a rumous practice. I strove hard to
break up the habit. But whenever I laid my tobacco aside, my body was
so enfeebled, and my mind so depressed, that I was unfit for any employ-
ment; and tobacco alone would restore my prostrated powers to their
wonted tone. At length I succeeded measurably, and I now think the
habit pretty well conquered. I am fully convinced that it was highly in-
jurious to me. The disagreeable sensations I experienced in attempting
to break off were solely the effect of tobacco. I was then learning what
the bewitching poison had done to my system. I have since learned more
on the subject. I am now free from many disagreeable nervous symptoms
with which I was once afficted. At one time the powers of my mind would
be suddenly paralyzed, accompanied with a kind of swimming sensation
in the brain. At another time my bodily strength would be suddenly pros-
trated. Bodily and mental prostration would sometimes come together.
At other times I felt as if I was either about to die, or to lose my reason,
or go into a fit. In other words I felt as if I was “just going off.” At
other times I would be suddenly agitated with fear to a very distressing
degree. Loss of appetite, listlessness, melancholy and dizziness, were my
frequent companions.
I now believe that all the above symptoms were caused by the use of
tobacco; for Ist, Since I left off the use of tobacco, they left me; and 2nd,
whenever I would resume the use of tobacco for a few days, after I had
measurably dispensed with it, those disagreeable sensations would begin to
return. Had I continued the use of tobacco, I might by this time have
been entirely useless, and mberable indeed. I thank God that he has
opened my eyes on the subject, and given me resolution to bid farewell to
the insidious poison.
I commenced the use of tobacco without suspecting any evil would at-
tend it. Nor did I suspect the disagreeable symptoms above recited, to
have been caused by tobacco, till I had felt them for several years. I could
not now resume the use of tobacco perseveringly, without great guilt, and
my ‘only safety is in a total abstinence’ fix) from it.”


Who holds theu- life at his capricious will,
A tyrant is, and counted baser still.
What shall we say, when man, the sovereign
Of all below, bows of his own accord,
An abject slave — not to a fellow man —
But to the deadly weed of Yucatan?
What shall we say, when he so sweetly rolls
Beneath his tongue a poison that controls
His mind, health, property and life; yea, all
That in this world he can a blessing call ?
We say, though he’s depraved, he does deserve,
Bad as he is, a better lord to serve.
Who serves a lord like this has sunk beneath
His grade, courts death, and chews it in his
Again I say, not only he’s a slave,
Who does tobacco use — he serves a knave.
A scoundrel he, who, with his dirty paw.
Does from your pocket fraudulently draw;
A single fraud, ’tis true, does not amount
To anything that’s worthy of account;
But oft repeated, like the use of rum,
Would rob you in a year of quite a sum.
Three cents a day a trifle may appear,
Yet if you reckon for a single year,
Eleven dollars, with a fraction less,
Is the amount your figures will express.
Some less than this pay for this dirty weed.
While others more than twice this sum exceed;
To some who smoke and chew, their yearly cost
Is FIFTY DOLLARS — just the samc as lost!
And if you think I’m reckoning too fast,
You’ll please to read king James’s” Counter-
“Some do bestow” ( I give his words I think )
“Four hundred pounds upon this precious
But just suppose (within due bounds to speak)
That you expend some twenty cents a week;
In fifty years, if I do not mistake,
It would for you a little fortune make;
Three thousand dollars (worth your saving too!)
Would, in round numbers, all be saved to you!
Your debts with this you could, perhaps, all
With something left against a rainy day.
From calculations accurately made,
‘Tis found that in this land is yearly paid
Millions of money — yes, it will exceed
Fifteen millions — for this nauseous weed.
Suppose we say the real cost is ten,
Of all that’s chewed, and smoked, and snuffed,
what then
Why, money will not cover all the cost
Of this vile drug — much precious time is lost.
Twelve millions yearly would not be enough
For wasted time upon this odious stuff;
‘Twould take some half a million more, to pay
For all the time that’s wasted in this way.
Nor is this all; with wasted wealth and time,
There will be surely poverty and crime.
For pauper tax we safely may set down
Three millions more — ’tis felt in every town.
The total sum of items, told before,
A fearful sum! and to our land’s disgrace.
We say, it is a worse than yearly waste.
Should Uncle Sam a tax like this demand,
Rebellion would burst forth throughout the
Were it applied the plague or death to buy,
Each breath would bear a murmur or a sigh.
And yet it goes to make men fools and slaves.
Purchase disease and shame, and early graves.
Much better far applied to common schools,
Than making beggars, idlers, sots and fools.
Applied to feed the hungry and the poor,
For what a number it would bread procure!
Or used to distribute the Word of Life,
‘Twould rescue thousands from a noisy strife;
Or spent to some the Gospel trumpet’s blast,
Millions of souls ‘twould bring to heaven at last.
Who pays this dreadful tax “to gain this
The infidel, the Soldier of the Cross,
The monarch on his throne, the abject slave.
Alike the statesman, drunkard, and the knave;
The female sex (I blush to tell the truth!)
Pay their proportion, and the tender youth;
In this one thing all classes now agree,
To spread disease, and crime, and poverty.
But THIRDLY, there’s another reason still,
Besides the shame of paying such a bill.
Why man, my brother, should not be a slave
Much less to serve a despot and a knave.
This reason is so obviously seen.
It has ere this anticipated been;
For it has passed the notice of but few —
I mean, he serves a filthy master too.
Who’s seen them make cigars, has seen them dip
The noxious leaf, that they might form the tip
A sweeter morsel for the smoker’s taste.
In urine stale, or other filthy waste
And then, my friends, just think there’s naught
The filth that from the chewer’s mouth proceeds.
Two ounces chewed a day, ’tis said, produce
A half a pint of vile tobacco juice,
Which, if continued five and twenty years,
From sober calculation it appears,
With this foul stuff would near five hogsheads fill.
Besides old quids a larger parcel still
Nor am I with this calculation done —
He in that time has chewed a half a ton —
A wagon-load — of that which would of course
Sicken a dog, or even kill a horse.
Could he foresee, but at a single view,
What he was destined in his life to chew.
And then the product of his work survey.
He would grow sick and throw his quid away
Or could the lass, ere she had pledged to be
His loving wife, her future prospect see;
Could she but know that through his mouth
would pass,
In this short life, this dirty, loathsome mass,
Would she consent to take his hand for life,
And wedded to this filth, become his wife?
And if she would, say, where’s the, pretty miss,
That envies her the lips she has to kiss.
Nor is this all – this dirty practice leads
To kindred habits and to filthy deeds.
To smoke and chew, an able Statesman thinks.
Creates a thirst for stimulating drinks.
Full many a one (who envies him his lot?)
Both smokes and chews, then drinks and dies a
The chewer’s filthy deeds who has not seen,
Has to the passing world a stranger been.
I’ve seen the house of God— its aisles, its pews,
Long bear the filthy marks of him that chews.
I’ve seen the sacred desk (Oh God, forbid!)
Sometimes polluted by the pastor’s quid.
I’ve seen -the wall beside a certain bed
Of one who chews tobacco — near the head —
Bedaubed and blackened with this hateful juice,
While near it lay old quids for future use.
I’ve seen the woman, who loved snuff so well,
(How much she took no mortal tongue can tell,)
Pick up old quids and dry them by the fire.
And grind them up to sate her strong desire.
I’ve seen the bride upon her wedding gown
The dirty pipe and filthy weed lay down,
And then prepare the hateful thing to smoke,
Before she had the nuptial silence broke.
And, like a daughter true of mother Eve, —
Her new-made husband she did not conceive
Was constituted HEAD, and not a limb, —
She smoked herself, and gave the pipe to him;
And he, like Adam, in submission true,
Took from her hand the pipe, and smoked it too.
But I forbear; for time would surely fail.
To tell the whole of this disgusting tale.
Who’s travelled in the steamboat or the stage.
Has seen this weed all decency outrage.
And he can tell by his olfactory nerves,
What master the tobacco user serves.
But though convinced that what I’ve said is true,
Youll make excuse, perhaps, as others do.
You say your stomach’s watery and cold —
You use the pipe, or quid, because you’re told
It has been tried, and will at once increase
Expectoration, and the water’ll cease.
Or indigestion is the ail you plead.
And smoking is the remedy you need;
Your eyes are weak, or you’ve an aching head.
And you take snuff, for that is good ’tis said;
Or your defective teeth you would preserve.
And this you find, relieves the aching nerve;
Or better still you think is your excuse.
The rising of your food demands the use.
Besides, against contagion it will guard,
And you complain, it is amazing hard
That you can’t have so good an antidote,
When health alone ‘s the object you promote.
But such excuses of the devotees
Of this foul drug are mere apologies;
Reasons they are not, it is very clear,
The common notion is delusion sheer.
For eyes diseased, or to digest the food,
Or save the teeth, this hateful weed is good.
Physicians say, ’tis common sense abused —
There’s no disease for which it need be use;
It is a poison, and to sum the whole.
It ruins health, life, property and soul.
Is this the case? then let me ask each one.
What ought? what can? and what must now
be done?
To make decision were it left to me,
I would propose a simple remedy.
One thing is needful and alone but one —
Its use abandon, and the work is done.
And I may challenge all the world to say.
How they would do it in a better way.
I now appeal to all experience —
When was it done, except by Abstinence?
The love of sin, when was it once subdued.
Or habit cured, while it was still pursued
To make the cure complete, it will require
No less a thing than abstinence entire.
Who, by its use his self-control has lost,
This may indeed, a mighty effort cost ;
That he’ll have cravings for a while, ’tis clear,
Yet if he will but three weeks persevere,
I will ensure, that when the effort’s made,
With health and freedom he’ll be richly paid.
From what’s been said, you must I think, con-
The evil is of no small magnitude.
No less the public, than the private weal,
Requires me now to make a strong appeal
To Christians; yea, to all the friends of man.
To lend their aid, and do whate’er they can
To save the land, and set the people free
From this vile curse — this worst of slavery.
The effort to be made, though great, I’m sure
Is safe, and will no doubt, effect a cure.
The antidote is easily applied,
With moral power enlisted on our side.
To make the effort let each one agree —
The work is done — the nation will be free.
In this good cause, and for the public weal,
To PATRIOTS I make my first appeal.
Your patriotic spirit spurns to show
A poltroon face before your country’s foe.
Should war invade the land, you would arise
To quell the foe, at any sacrifice ;
And shall this weed, whose common use de-
The public morals, and the mind enslaves.
Its deadly poison through the land extend.
Nor yet the patriot assistance lend
To stay the curse — to save the waste of wealth,
Of life, of mental energies, and health
Who has examined both the breadth and length
Of this portentous evil, and its strength.
Yet feels on him this subject has no claim.
Does not deserve a patriotic name.
Do you inquire, as to your country true,
What duty in this case devolves on you ?
What efforts you must make against this weedl
The answer is an easy one indeed.
From this narcotic evermore abstain.
Urge on your friends their duty to refrain —
To practice thus if you will all agree.
The work will soon be done — the nation free.
We put the question. Patriots to you.
In this good cause will you your duty do?
To Christians next let my appeal be made.
In view of what eternal truth has said.
“Deny thyself and take thy daily cross,
The pleasures of the world account but loss.
Depart from evil, its appearance shun.
Ere all thy duty to the Saviour’s done.”
Now let me ask, can they be Christians true,
Who smoke this weed, or this narcotic chew?
Do they deny themselves, can we suppose.
Who daily snuff this poison to their nose
Is there no sin in what destroys the health.
Dethrones the reason, makes a waste of wealth?
For this vile weed would Christ a farthing waste.
Were he on earth? Or would he touch or taste
The dirty thing, whose hateful, nauseous smell
Proclaims its fitness for the world of hell?
And can you friends, whose names are in his book.
Who through his blood for heavenly blessings look
Can you, whom he expects the world to light
By your example, think that you are right?
Can you believe you are his friends indeed.
While you are slaves to such a filthy weed?
Ye are his servants whom ye do obey
With willing mind the sacred Scriptures say.
Then let each Christian in the land proceed,
From this time forth, to quit this dirty weed;
Let him persuade to abstinence entire.
Alike the blooming youth and aged ske;
Then is the work of this reform begun.
And if pursued, will very soon be done.
We put the question. Christian friends to you,
In this reform will you yowr duty do ?
If on this subject there is any truth
In what I’ve said, it must concern the youth.
Conscious of what my duty bids me do.
I make, young friends, my next appeal to yon.
You are the nation’s hope its strength, its prime;
And, under God, you will be called in time,
To take its rule, its mighty counsels weigh.
Its laws enact, its destinies to sway.
The vast importance of the place you’ll hold
In public life, cannot be fully told
No tongue can tell, if you should not be found,
To hold enlightened principles and sound,
What evils to the nation would accrue.
From the mistakes that might be made by you;
And if your habits are impure and base,
Upon your country you will bring disgrace.
But the reverse, if we suppose is true.
Who can describe the public good you’ll do ?
The evils we deplore are more a dread,
Than armed hosts, with Xerxes at their head ;
Yet, with the moral power which you possess,
It lies with you to make these evils less.
Let all the youth in this Republic be
But from the use of this narcotic free,
A nobler cause, I fearlessly maintain,
Brutus and Gracchus never died to gain.
We put the question, then, dear Youth, to you,
In this great work will you your duty do?
Nor am I done — for sure I could not feel
In conscience clear, should I make no appeal
To those untiring men, who would advance
That noble cause — the cause of Temperance.
A work like yours demands that naught exist,
Which can your moral potency resist.
But will complete success your efforts crown,
Till you combine to put Tobacco down
In that good cause can you consistent be
While you are held in this vile slavery
I do aver, your cause you must give up,
While you retain this handmaid of the cup.
We put the question, then, my friends to you,
In such a cause will you your duty do?
The firmest spoke set in the moral wheel.
The LADIES form, — to whom I next appeal.
To you belongs the power; we must concede,
To stop the use of this disgusting weed.
The rising generation you control —
You watch the early buddings of the soul.
You on the tender mind impressions make.
Which mark the course their future actions take;
And thus ’tis plain the habits of the land
Are formed and moulded by the female hand.
Abstain yourselves — let your example teach —
And urge the same on all within your reach ;
In twenty years, I will engage to say.
This filthy practice will be done away.
We put the question, female friends, to you,
In this good work will you your duty do ?
Physicians too, will suffer an appeal —
Are you not called the sickly slave to heal
Slave to a weed, whose common use you know,
Strikes at the health a sure and deadly blow ?
You could relate, if you were so inclined,
Some cases where it stupefied the mind,
And where it made disease more stubborn still,
Defied your means, and baffled all your skill.
You know a deadly poison ’tis, and hence
There is no cure but Total Abstinence.
To urge this truth, is what we ask of you.
By your example, and your precepts too.
This reforniation, which bespeaks your aid,
You will eflect, if such an effort’s made.
Men of the healing art, we now to you
The question put, — will you your duty do?
To those who at the sacred altar kneel.
And preach the Word, I make my last appeal.
On Zion’s walls you stand to watch the foe,
And guide the flock in ways they ought to go;
With trumpet voice the Gospel to declare.
Their sins expose, nor their transgressions spare.
But while you make the way to others sure.
No habit of your own should be impure —
While you “allure to brighter worlds,” I say.
By your example you should ” lead the way.”
Then let me ask, if you may not mislead
Some thoughtless youth, by using this foul weed?
As in the fear of God you should decide.
Whether you follow Christ your perfect guide;
Who, as he went about to cure disease,
And save the soul, sought not himself to please;
Or imitate the great Apostle, Paul,
Who would not make a weaker brother fall.
To eat things lawful he made no pretence,
When to his brother that would give offence.
Would the Apostles such success have found,
Had they to habits like your own been bound ?
Had they been slaves to quids^ cigars and snuff?
But to the wise a word is quite enough.
Throw all your efforts on the side of truth.
Persuade your flocks, especially the youth.
To quit the weed, the slavish habit ceetse.
And walk in wisdom’s Ways whose paths are peace.
Then will this cause a final triumph meet —
This foe of man be laid beneath your feet.
We put the question. Ministers to you,
In this good work will you your duty do?
Did time permit, I would indeed appeal
To those who in this deadly poison deal;
But at this time it must suffice to say,
You deal out death with every ounce you weigh.
The worthy band, whom I this day address,
To you I would my highest joy express,
That in this cause, though recently begun.
You have advanced, and very nobly done;
Arid in conclusion I can only say.
Go on, my friends, until your dying day;
The final triumph of your cause I hail —
It is of God, and must of course prevail.


• Dante & The Secret Language of the Fedeli D’Amore by Arturo Reghini (Pietro Negri) •

Taken from
Introduction to Magic, Volume 2


Arturo Reghini, Guido De Giorgio, and Julius Evola each tried to recapture the ideal of the Roman Tradition in a different way. For example, where De Giorgio saw in Dante the amalgamation of the Eagle and the Cross through a development, Reghini, as a pagan, Mason, and Pythagorean, sought to cleanly separate the two. In this essay, Reghini, as did Rene Guenon, counts on the work of Luigi Valli to explicate the hidden meaning of Dante‘s Divine Comedy, not to mention the group of poets known as the Fedeli d’Amore.

Reghini reveals that the object of Dante’s “love” is really the Divine Sophia. He brings up the ideas of the active and potential intellect, a topic of great interest at that point of the Middle Ages. Astute readers will be able to relate this to the meditation formulated by Valentin Tomberg in the second letter, which we have addressed several times. Reghini also points to an interesting correspondence with an idea from the The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

In the concluding part, Reghini points to several other Hermetic symbols found in Dante and other writings of the Fedeli d’Amore. These include the Arrow, the Rose, the Rebis, the Azoth, and the Phoenix. Finally, he mentions the significance of the analogical or spiritual meaning of such texts, which simply cannot be understood by those not prepared for it.

Several years ago Luigi Valli published La Chiave della Divina Commedia [The key to the Divine Comedy] in which, proceeding successfully along the interpretative line divined by Foscolo and then followed by Gabriele Rossetti, Perez, Pascoli, and a few others, succeeded at highlighting thirty accords between the Eagle and the Cross in the sacred poem and finds, at least in part, the doctrine hidden under the veil of the strange verses [delli versi strani]. The thought exposed and simultaneously hidden by Dante would be, very synthetically, this: The Cross showed itself impotent to redeem in fact humanity and cannot redeem it alone. The involvement of the Eagle is necessary, I.e., of authority and imperial justice, it is necessary to reestablish the Empire, take away from the Church the unfavorable donation of Constantine; the corruption of the Church and humanity will then certainly have an end, thanks to the double virtue of the Cross and the Eagle, it will actually be able to save itself. Dante proclaimed openly that on the cathedral of Saint Peter stood the unworthy usurpers, the preachers of gossip, who did not possess the genuine intention given by Christ to his first monks; and he covertly added that on the car of the Church was seated the apocalyptic whore, he recognized the failure of the preaching of the Cross and the necessity of the intervention of the imperial Eagle to save humanity. This bold conception and for certain not very orthodox from the Catholic perspective inspired not only Dante’s writings but also his action, understood as carrying out his program first by means of the armies of the Templars, and then of the Emperor.

Following logically the thread of these studies, Luigi Valli next published an extremely important, interesting, and powerful volume, entitled: Il Linguaggio segreto di Dante and dei Fedeli d’Amore [The Secret Language of Dante and the Fedeli d’Amore]. The first centuries of Italian literature and all the history and the battles of those times are the object of this study, and are presented under a light and an aspect from even now is unsuspected and unexpected. With a patient, methodic, scientific, and imposing work, Valli, resuming the misunderstood and neglected work of Rossetti confirms and demonstrates the existence from the beginning of Italian literature of a secret language, the jargon of the Fedeli d’Amore; he deciphers its meaning, the numerous doctrinal, sectarian, and political allegories and brings back into the light a whole grandiose movement, inspired by the “initiatic tradition” and bitter enemy of the Church of Rome.

Unable to even succinctly summarize the events of this great battle, we will only say how, through this understanding, the poets of love, the writer of the “sweet new style”, who strangely seemed to lose themselves singing of their absurd, self-conscious and inconsistent love, are transfigured into formidable battlers, into ardent champions of their Holy Faith. They dramatically tower over all the most noble figures of Cecco d’Ascoli and Dante Alighieri, who are greater, the more they are understood. We express to Luigi Valli our admiration and our recognition; his work constitutes, as we intended to point out, a “piece of gelatin”, and as much against it as the myopic and lazy misoneism and “positive criticism”, the vestal of pure aesthetic, and the shrewdness of the curious, has coalesced, the light is by now made and will end up by standing out.

The love for which the heart of Fedeli d’Amore was burning, is similar to the mystical love of Persian literature and that of the Song of Songs. Gabriel Rossetti reconnected it above all with Platonic love, which would give a pagan character to the movement. Valli demonstrates that the “rose”, the “flower”, the “woman”, which is under various names the only object of this love, is the active intellect, that loves of itself the potential intellect: it is, as Dino Compagni sings:

L’amorosa, Madonna Intelligenza [The lovely Lady intelligence]
Che fa nell’alma la sua residenza [Who makes her home in the soul]
Che co’ la sua bielta m’ha innamorato [Who with her beauty enthralled me]

To the accumulation of the proofs that Valli discovered or brought back in this regard, more of them could be added; this, for example: Dante from the principle of the Comedy speaks of the:

Divina potestate [The divine power]
La somma sapienza e il primo amore [Wisdom in the Highest and Primal Love]

He places his “love” in a triad that corresponds perfectly—in the Kabbalah—to the triad of the highest sephiroth: Kether, Chokhmah, Binah, or the Crown, Wisdom, Intelligence.

If this is the woman, the domina, of the Fedeli d’Amore, it is perfectly logical that Francesco da Barberin in his Documenti di Amore puts docilitas, docility (from docere, to teach), first among the twelve virtues that Love must awaken in the novices. The tradition that puts this docility among the first requisites of initiation is transmitted up to us, as is shown for example by what much Arturo Reghini writes on pages 106-108 of his book on the Parole sacre e di Passo [Sacred Words and Passage]. Even the world discipline has the double meaning of science and constraint; and the German gelebrig corresponds through its polysemy to the Latin docilis.

The transmission of the secret language of the Fedeli d’Amore in that of later sects and movements was recognized, in addition to Valli and before him, by Rossetti and Aroux, who actually pushed too much on this way and were sometimes led astray by the intent of wanting to recognize the concordance between the various sectarian jargons; but the concordance undoubtedly exists in part, and leads to posing the problem of the transmission, not of only sectarian jargon, but of the same traditional doctrine.

We, too, with Valli, believe that Rossetti, the first systematic discoverer of the sectarian jargon of the Fedeli d’Amore, was led to his interpretation by the knowledge of ancient secret traditions. If memory does not fail us, his Mystery of Platonic Love in the Middle Ages was dedicated to B. L., which is very plausibly Bulwer Lytton, the author of Zanoni, who beyond having a profound esoteric erudition was also an expert on Italian language and literature. One could perhaps think that Rossetti was inducted and launched by Bulwer Lytton into the systematic study of the sectarian medieval jargon, a study happily taken up by Valli, who succeeded in emending, extending, and completing the results achieved by Rossetti in the last century.

We saw that Love is the ‘Active Intellect’, it is, as Dante says in the last verso of the Comedy: “The love that moves the Sun and the other stars”. In the potential intellect of the Fedeli d’Amore this active intellect is awakened and operative, in the profane it is sleeping and inoperative. According to Valli, in the sectarian jargon, sleeping consistently means to be in error, to be far from the truth and in particular to belong to the Church of Rome. It is the symbolism adopted by Dante in the last cantos of the Purgatory, in which after the immersion in the river Lethe, the river of the dream and oblivion, the immersion into Eunoe follows, by virtue of which like a new plant (neophyte) with renewed frond. Dante becomes pure and ready to jump to the stars, that is, capable of rising to the “kingdom of Heaven”. As we noted, it is about a pagan symbolism adopted by Virgil and Plato, and that is found again without in the very olf orphism and in the Eleusinian mysteries; here at the river Lethe, which sweeps away the knowledge of men, is contrasted to the fresh arising of Memory or the mnemonic virtue of the pomegranate, that gives awakening and immortality. The Platonic anamnesis, the record, is identified to the consciousness and correspondingly the truth, the aletheia, is the negation, the passing of Lethe. The attainment of the truth is a conquest of consciousness above the dream and death; it is necessary to arrive at maintaining the continuity of consciousness even through the dream and death.

Love in the initiatic sense has therefore the capacity to take away the dream and death, giving to the Fedel d’Amore a new life. That is reached through degrees of successive development.

In Francisco da Barberino’s Documenti d’Amore [Documents of Love], the Fedele d’Amore is represented in the first degrees as pierced by the arrow of Love and in the last degrees with some roses in the hand. The symbolism of the arrow is also found in one of the twelve figures of Basil Valentine’s Azoth. But the similarity between the symbolism of love and Hermetic symbolism and the link between the two traditions again turn out to be shown more through the presence of the Hermetic Rebis in one of the designs that illustrate Barberino’s Documents of Love. The Rebis, or Hermetic androgyne, is a characteristic and very important Hermetic symbol, whose history we briefly treated in another work, “Un codice alchemico italiano”; the figure of the Rebis reproduced by Valli goes back to Dante’s time and is older by several centuries than what we tracked down in the books on Hermetism.

Other concordances with the symbolism and Hermetic terminology are found in the verses of an obscure poet of love, Nicolo dei Rossi, who in one of his lyrics expresses “the degrees and the virtue of true love”. There are four degrees: the first is called liquefatio which is opposite, says dei Rossi, to congelazione. The second degree is called languor, the third zelus, and in the fourth, love reaches the hierarchical summit by means of ecstasy or excessus mentis. We understand therefore how one of the most important works of the literature of Love, the “Romance of the Rose”, (whose Italian version, “Il Fiore”, is due to a Florentine Durante who is almost certainly Dante), treated alchemy explicitly and is classified in the alchemical literature. This rose sung with such moving harmony by all these poets, starting from Ciullo l’Alcamo, the dantesque rose candida, is clearly similar, if not identical, to the Hermetic rose of the Rosicrucians.

An important confirmation of this assimilation and affinity between Hermetism and the Fedeli d’Amore is given here by the four so-called ‘Templar degrees’ of Masonry which arose in France or in Germany toward the middle of the 18th century. It is about the Princes of Mercy, called also the Knights of the Sacred Delta, and also designated in another way. Their task, says the ritual, is “to guard with fidelity the treasure of traditional wisdom, always concealing it from those who do not know how to penetrate into the third heaven”. The third heaven is the name of their temple and is, as everyone knows, the heaven of Venus. We note moreover that in orphism and Pythagoreanism, the third heaven is the last. Philolaus in fact says that there are three heavens: Uranus, the cosmos, and Olympus. The third heaven, Olympus, is the home of the gods, and Saint Paul referred to this orphic-pythagorean classification when he told of having been raptured to the third heaven.

Now the ‘intellect’ of Dion Compagni, writes Valli, “stays in a palace where different locations represent probably degrees of initiation, and in that palace the third place is the salutatorio…  referring us back to the frequent allusions to the third heaven or the third degree, that in the material heaven is the heaven of Venus, but in the symbols signified rather probably the worship or a higher degree of his initiation.”

The Princes of Mercy “by means of their triple virtue succeed in lifting up the veil of truth”; and are therefore called beni emeth, the sons of Truth. Among the characteristic symbols of the degree the Palladium of the Order appears, or the “statue of Truth, naked and covered with a tricolored veil”. These three colors that reappear in the decorations of the Temple and in other symbols of the degree are green, white, and red, the three Hermetic colors with which Dante adorns his Beatrice (Purg, XXX, 31-33).

The numeric symbolism of the degree is based on the number three and its powers: the sacred or luminous Delta is one of its principle symbols. The word emeth, truth, contains three letters, the first, the middle, and the last of the Hebrew alphabet. Its numeric value is four hundred and forty one, or nine. On the throne are nine lights. In the temple are nine columns, each one of which bears a candelabra with nine lights or in all there are eighty one lights. The age of eighty one years is the ritual age. We will not dwell on recalling the importance Dante attached to three and nine, and with the frequency the number nine recurs in the “Vita Nuova”: Valli relates some verses in which Giacomo da Lentini proposes that “the mercies are strict… nor by the lovers called finally who completes nine years”. As to the number eighty one, Valli already reported the following strange and bold passage from Dante that he writes precisely in the Convivio: “Plato, from whom one can very well say that he had matured … living eighty one years … And I believe that if Christ had not been crucified and had lived out the span which his life, according to its nature, might have encompassed he would have passed from the mortal body into the eternal in his eighty-first year” (IV, xxiv); i.e., if etc…, he had reached the ritual age of the Knights of the sacred Delta. Naturally Dante in the Vita Nuova had Beatrice die in the ninth day of the month of June in 1281; and he took care to specify that in Syria the month of June is the ninth, and that Beatrice was dead when “the perfect number was completed nine times” in the third tenth century, or in 1281.

Among the symbols of this degree that are reconnected to the symbolism of the Fedeli d’Amore we note again the arrow that was on the throne of the Most Excellent (the president of the chamber), that is obviously the arrow that Francesco da Barberino puts in the hand of Love in the first figure of his Documents of Love. This arrow is of white wood and has feathers colored partly in green and partly in red, with a gold point.

Another symbol of the degree is composed of two arrows, the two arrows of the Love of tradition, one of gold, the other of lead: the two arrows of the dantesque lyrical poem: “Three women have come around my heart”. For fuller information about this topic we refer to the Manual of Andres Cassard. And finally it is necessary to note how the sole Phoenix, about which there is a continual mention in the poetry of the Fedeli d’Amore and that, as Valli shows, represents the organization and the initiatic tradition always being reborn, either one or the other of the most important symbols of Hermetism, the symbol of the Rubedo. The purple Phoenix is reborn and lives among the flames of the “philosophical fire”, as the Fedele d’Amore, burning with holy zeal (the zelus of Nicolo dei Rossi), is reborn to new life by means of the excessus mentis.

Numerous other comparisons could be established between the sectarian jargon deciphered by Valli and the symbolic languages of the Hermetists, among the symbolism of the doctrine of Love and of similar and derived movements; comparisons that indicate a clue and perhaps a proof of the existence and continuity of an initiatic tradition that arose in the Middle Ages. Unlike Valli, we however have several reservations about the purity of the Christian character of such tradition. When one begins to recognize the existence of a ‘false appearance’ in a secret organization, beginning by degrees, it is right to doubt that if love and a noble [gentile] heart are one thing, the word gentile can also have the meaning that it has in latin: sangue gentile [native blood]; and if Dante takes from Virgil the beautiful style, Virgil can also represent pagan initiation. But we will have the chance to return to these problems; for now, we limit ourselves to note how Boccaccio, who Valli shows us, glorified the Templars, the same Boccaccio, author of a Genealogy of the Gods in the tenth story of the Decameron, makes jokes of the resurrection of the flesh, typical, i.e., of that same teaching that the Athenians mocked, saying to Saint Paul: “we will hear you about this another time”. We recall, in regards to Boccaccio, that in his third story he has Melchizedek say that between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, “no one knows which is the true faith”. That Boccaccio puts phrases of this type even in Melchizedek’s mouth, who occupies a position of the first order in tradition and in the esoteric hierarchy, is something that can make us reflect and can make us suspect what was the only Phoenix that with Zion joined the Appenines, as a sonnet says that goes under the name of Cino da Pistoia.

One final observation: in our earlier writing on the Knowledge of the Symbol, we had the chance to cite a passage from the Convivio, in which it shows how, according to Dante, the meanings to consider in the allegorical language were four, corresponding perhaps to the four degrees of the rite and of the organization. Of these four meanings, the most important for us, is the last, i.e., the anagogical meaning. Naturally this spiritual meaning, which is related to the process of spiritual development, cannot be understood and sometimes simply imagined, without the personal experience of it: who does not experience it, cannot understand it, says Dante, And it is for this reason that it almost always eludes those who up until now were occupied with secret language of the Fedeli d’Amore, unlike the meaning that we will call synagogic. For example, to sleep means allegorically to live in ignorance, in the inertia of the intellect; morally, it means not to participate in the work of the organization; anagogically, it is the state opposite to that of initiatic Awakening. Valli thinks that, while the Vita Nuova was written in code, Dante abandoned in the Comedy the sectarian jargon; but if this is true, in part at least, through its moral or political meaning, since in the sacred poem the hostility against the Church is explicit and even extreme, it is not true for the anagogic meaning. This meaning is still and necessarily hidden under the veil of symbolism, in order to interpret it, it is necessary to possess the experience of the stages of consciousness to which it refers, and the knowledge of the symbols traditionally adopted to indicate them. For this reason, the true and higher meaning of the secret language of Dante and of the Fedeli d’Amore remains and will always remain a mystery to all those who “sleep” and will continue to sleep.


• Paul Muldoon & P.J. Harvey in Conversation •

A full transcript of
PJ Harvey and Paul Muldoon in Conversation,
from the Nuffield Theatre at Lancaster University
on 27th Febuary 2017


Paul Muldoon:  In the poetry business, which is the business in which you are now rather wonderfully functioning, we’re used to small crowds. In fact, this is a huge crowd. The publication of a book of poems, as some of you will know, is referred to as the calm before the calm.
Is poetry something that has fired you throughout your songwriting career?

P.J. Harvey:  No, it’s a relatively new thing for me, I first became interested in poetry when I was beginning to work towards writing Let England Shake which I think I started writing for that album in 2008, and because I knew I wanted to deal with the subject matter of war, it seemed like there would be so many pitfalls. To try and enter into that as a lyric writer, how do you get the balance right, and I could hear where I thought the balance had been got wrong in so many other areas. By the balance I mean I didn’t want to write songs that felt like they were going to be preaching or wagging your finger and telling people what to think and what not to think, or giving across a particular point of view. I needed to find a way to be impartial, and paint a more oblique picture for people to make up their own minds. I knew that I needed help as a lyricist, I needed to begin to understand more about words and how they work, and there just so happened to be a poetry seminar group run in Bridport in Dorset, where I was living at the time, and it was run by Greta Stoddart – a poet that we both know. It was a once a month gathering, and you’d just bring in your poem and everyone would dissect it and discuss it. And, I joined this group and slowly began to learn of the vast difference between poetry writing and lyric writing, of which I really had no idea quite how big the difference is. I just thought: ‘go to a few poetry classes and help my lyric writing’. But, it didn’t, it just opened up a new world, an entirely different world and I had to start all over again.

PM:  And that’s one of the things we are going to be discussing tonight, are those two related worlds that are kin but which also are quite separate.
I was struck, as I’m sure I always am by the influence, am I right in thinking there was a Blakean component to some of the songs on that fabulous album? Did you go back to Blake, for example?

PJH:  I did, but I was mostly, actually, looking at the First World War poets when I was writing that album and I was also looking at the soldier’s songs for the First World War – I had this very old hardback book of the songs they had sung – and they were all very funny and very rude. Taking very well known tunes but putting funny lyrics with them, but it was all to boost their morale of course.

PM:  Could you remember any of those lyrics at all?

PJH:  Oh, I wish I’d brought that book with me.

PM:  Inky Winky Parlez-Vous?

PJH:  Yes, things like that. Then of course, the heartbreaking song We’re Here Because We’re Here, that’s all it does for about six verses, to the tune of Auld Lang Syne.

PM:  It’s an indicator, if no other indictor is required, of actually how… in a strange way, how very sparse a lyric may be. Which is one of the facts about a lyric which I think many people find surprising, people are taken aback actually by how short the lyrics of many songs are.

PJH:  Yeah, I’ve read a lot of Stephen Sondheim’s writing. He’s got that wonderful book out called Finishing the Hat about his experience of being a lyricist. He talks quite a lot about the difference between poetry and lyric writing, and he uses a great example of an utterly brilliant lyric which is:

“Oh what a beautiful morning,
Oh what a beautiful day,
I’ve got a wonderful feeling,
Everything’s going my way.”

You can’t get a better lyric that that. It’s so simple and yet it soars, and the melody soars with it because of its simplicity. Yes, I think song lyrics do have to be very simple.

PM:  Do you have a favourite song of his? We’ve actually not prepared this…

PJH:  I’ve chosen There’s Something About a War from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

PM:  That’s the show it was in but, in fact, I think it didn’t actually get into the finished show…

PJH:  Did it not?!

PM:  I’ve a feeling it didn’t…

PJH:  Well, this is one of the lyrics in the Finishing the Hat book – that when I was writing Let England Shake – I read this lyric and thought: ‘that’s amazing’, and I used to keep it pinned up to look at it.

PM:  Would you mind, terribly, reading that to all of us this evening?

PJH:  No, I’d love to.

[Performs There’s Something About a War.]

PM:  One of the things about it is it’s highly ironised, and I wonder – and I don’t know enough about this, I’m sorry I don’t – but I’d be fascinated to know why it was dropped from the show, and yet it has been collected in the little known ‘Sondheim cuts’ as it were. But, it could be – I was going to suggest to you and I wonder if this would mean anything to you – is it possibly a little too smarty pants?

PJH:  I wonder… I find it’s quite risqué as well… I mean we go into:

“Priestesses to violate, children to annihilate, farmers to be decapitated.”

I wonder if it was just a step too far.

PM:  At that stage in his career it may have been. This is, after all, the composer-writer who wrote a musical about the series of assassins of US Presidents. So, no subject is off limits, as it were.

PJH:  I think I kept it pinned up, as well, because of – what you’re saying about irony, because how do you deal with such serious subject matter – and also, going back to your thing about the soldier songs – because of the way they dealt with it too was through dark humour. I was looking to see if that might help me find a way into it. As it was, a lot of the lyrics in Let England Shake they weren’t black humour, but they did trip the line of irony.

PM:  I suppose it’s an area, as you say, when one is concerned about seeming to be, almost, using the material for slightly worrying reasons. It’s a difficult area with which to engage, but ideally in some sense, the song that would be the real ground breaker in a war song category would be the pro-war song, that would set people thinking.

Is there another poem you’d like to read, that is something you hold close to your heart?

PJH:  When I was thinking about the subject matter for tonight, discussing poetry and song lyrics, I immediately thought of Autobiography by Louis MacNeice – because I think it’s a very song-like poem. I don’t think that happens that often. It’s something that we’ll talk about more probably… the refrain, that songs use a lot of refrain / the chorus / the refrain, not so much in poetry certainly now. But, I think this is an example of refrain being used beautifully. Early on, when I first became interested in poetry, when I was looking to write Let England Shake I was very drawn to this, probably because of the fact I could almost sing it in my head.

PM:  I want to ask you about: ‘singing it in your head’… Yeats, who was very fascinated by this point in which the song lyric and the poem were indivisible as they so often were in the Irish tradition, used a term of his own delivery of his song-poems – which was chanting, or a version of chanting. As you were reading that Sondheim – is reading the word even? As you were performing that, perhaps even singing to some extent…

PJH:  Well, it’s to be sung. It’s so obviously to be sung, you hear the rhythm all the way through. You can’t really just read it without feeling that rhythm or pulse, I don’t think.

PM:  It’s instructing you almost to break into song, or at least to perform it in a certain way. That’s something which I think is true of the more conventional lyric poem also. It’s telling one how it needs to be in the world, in perhaps less obvious ways because it’s not so ‘singalong-ish’ I suppose.
Let’s hear that MacNeice poem…

PJH: [Performs Autobiography]

PM:  It’s meaning shifted ever so slightly as it went from stanza to stanza, and in this case there’s something quite troubling about the cumulative affect.

PJH:  Depending on what’s gone before it, what’s been said in the stanza before, the meaning of, ‘come back early or never come’, feels quite different. It becomes more chilling as it goes through, I feel. That’s what fascinates me with that one line that’s repeated over and over – keeps changing the quality of its feeling.

PM: The burden of it. Burden, as you know, was the term that was used for the refrain. Yeats’s couple of poems that refer to three songs or four songs to the one burden.
May I ask you, as you sit down at your desk – if you sit at a desk – are you conscious of limbering up to write or song or write a poem?

PJH:  Yeah, I am now. When I first started to look at words in depth, which was only around the time of Let England Shake; that was actually the first time I ever sat at a desk and just worked at words. Prior to that, I’d only ever brought words together in tandem with the music. I worked on them at exactly the same time. So, that was quite a new thing, to just sit there and I knew I had to do it that way because of what I was saying earlier about tackling the subject matter of war. I had to get the words right first or everything was going to fall down because it was such a weighty topic. So, that’s why I wanted to make the words work on the page to begin with. I knew that whenever I added I already had a good starting place.

PM:  So, that’s one theory about how to go about this most effectively. Of course it varies from case to case. The second is writing words and music simultaneously, as it were. The third which is espoused by some very successful songwriters – Paul Simon springs to mind, for example – he writes the music first on the principle that if the music isn’t effective and doesn’t grab you on one level or another it actually doesn’t matter about the words. Have you gone down that route at all?

PJH:  Yeah, it didn’t work for me. I remember when I’ve concentrated on the music first it’s never worked for me, I’ve never been able to fit words in that seem to fall naturally. It always felt a bit forced, like I forced the words. Another interesting thing with Let England Shake is that I wrote all the lyrics first but then I sung them, I didn’t play an instrument, I sang them. I’d go for long walks beating the rhythm with my feet and I’d sing the words, and if I remembered the melody when I got home it was a strong melody and then I’d keep it.

PM: So, that was Wordsworth’s method, a tried and true method.
Let me ask you a question, I hope I’m not presenting this indelicately. Were you using what used to be known, perhaps, and perhaps still are, as dummy lyrics, or lyrics that are not going to be there at the end of the day? The famous case, of course, being: ‘scrambled eggs’ that became ‘yesterday’. Do you use that device at all?

PJH: For the early days, the first three albums were exactly that. I’d just make rhythmical noises and sing as I was playing and then they would become words. So, songs like Sheela-Na-Gig would’ve been ‘nee-nee-ne-nig’.

PM:  Well, that’s also quite difficult perhaps. It’s not dissimilar from fitting words to music. But, perhaps slightly easier if there’s some vocalisation.

PJH:  It’s so interesting, every way you can work. I think it depends what you’re interested in at the time. I’ve become much more drawn to words and their meaning. I find it fascinating. If you can marry the music and the words perfectly that’s such a satisfaction. It happens very rarely, I think, to get that beautiful balance between words and music, when they’re just supporting each other perfectly at their optimum.

PM:  Any other songs you feel that might fit that description, from the canon?

PJH:  Well actually, I did bring the Let England Shake lyric, because that was one of the first… I had to write a lot. I think I wrote about thirty songs towards this record just to get the ten or eleven that were on it. So many I had to throw away because I didn’t get the balance right because they ended up sounding like I was preaching, or telling people what to think, or a bit too pompous or self-righteous. This was one that surprised me because it was one of the most complex song lyrics I’ve written, in a way, and yet it still managed to sing.

PM:  Is it possible that one could be slightly more ‘preachy’, as it were, in a song lyric than in a poem? There was that great line from Keats about how we steer away from poems that have palpable designs on us. But, in a strange way there’s a long tradition, one thinks of the protest song for example, of the song that very definitely has designs on us and that’s OK. So, it’s a delicate balance.

PJH:  Do you still think it’s OK? This is a question I ask myself a lot. When you think about the peace movement of the 60’s and you had Dylan, you had Joan Baez and so many other great performers, there performing at the rallies… Could that still happen now? I ask myself this. Now, when I see a lot of political music it leaves me cold. I don’t know if it was just a that moment in time, everybody aligned for it to be very powerful and feel a very potent force. I, personally, don’t feel there’s much of that successfully going on any more.

PM:  Well, who knows? There may be, one would like to think, that in our present era songwriters might actually begin to write some protest songs. It’s not as if we haven’t plenty to protest. It was part of what I was getting at with the ‘pro-war song’, in a strange way that would be the news… An anti-peace song… that’s the thing we’re all meant to feel the thing we’re all meant to believe, and I suppose artists tend not to go along with what they think people want them to think or say, and they’re fearful of seeming to cash in on things.

PJH:  Let England Shake [performs Let England Shake].

PM:  You started with, ‘The West’s asleep’, which I assume is a reference to, ‘The West’s awake’. I want to ask you a very personal question. As you were standing, performing that, did you not feel how wonderful it would be to have the band?

PJH:  I do feel that that is at its best with music. Again, it’s very interesting, that’s not a great poem, that’s not a poem. That’s a song. That’s full, becomes full, with its music with it.

PM:  What I find fascinating, and what I’m taking from what you’re saying is that your impulse now is to write the lyric where the pressure per square inch on the words is actually pretty high. So that, for example, when we read the Collected Poems of Leonard Cohen we are coincidentally reading the Collected Songs of Leonard Cohen. Leonard Cohen would be the prime example of someone whose poems and songs are going to withstand any kind of scrutiny or pressure that might be brought to bear on them. But, that is not, however, a requirement. It is not a defining characteristic of the song lyric. In fact, if anything, a defining characteristic – from what I understand of what we are saying, is that it could be there’s a sense that there’s something left out of the lyric and that lacuna, that gap is what’s filled in by the music. It becomes most itself when the band is behind you, as it were. Not to say that you can’t present it here, of course, you just have. But, we know what can happen.

PJH:  That song, reading the words off the page; it’s actually quite sad. But, when it’s got the music with it, the music’s like a strange dancy shuffle and I sing it with a voice like a goat. It’s got this strange slant on it. In some way, going back to the black humour… I put very… almost funny music with a very serious lyric. The tune I reference is Istanbul (not Constantinople).

PM:  Wow, I never realised that. It’s a revelation here.
So, what would the defining characteristics of a poem be? Something that absolutely doesn’t mean music?

PJH:  I think a poem has its own music in it already.

PM:  It brings its own score with it?

PJH:  Yes

PM:  That certainly is the wide-ish idea about this, and I think there’s a lot in it. The poem and the poet is desperate to achieve a kind of perfection with the lyric itself, where there is no room for anything else at all. I mentioned Yeats earlier on. One of my favourite quotes from Yeats is: “One may refute Hegel but not a song of sixpence.” There is no argument against that. It is what it is. One way of thinking about the poem as absolutely successful, so far as we can point to such a thing, is that there is no refutation of it. It is complete in some way. It brings its own music and it brings its own score. It actually instructs one, perhaps in how it wants to be read. Although, that’s not always clear from the poetry reading where, there are cases where a style of reading is imposed upon the poem which is absolutely nothing to do with the poem itself.
Time for a poem or two I think…
One of the things I’m fascinated by, of course, is one of the ways a poem and a song might coincide. I’ll read one of my favourites, by Warren Zevon.

[Performs Excitable Boy]

It actually reminds me, as it happens, of the MacNeice poem. MacNeice, as you know, his Autobiography was an early-ish poem, early-to-mid poem. “This middle stretch of life is bad for poets,” he said. Of course he didn’t mention the earlier part, or the later part. His posthumous book: The Burning Perch, the poems there are described as nightmare nursery rhymes, and there’s something I feel there about that song lyric. When I began myself to think about trying to write song lyrics, in my innocence; as it happens I was lucky enough to be asked by Warren Zevon.

PJH:  I was going to say, what made you start?

PM:  What made me start, we wont linger on over this, what made me start was an invitation from Warren Zevon. I’d written him a fan letter, saying what a great songwriter he was and how in the discussions in songwriting that cropped up and the names that were mentioned, his name was one I would always mention. I expected no response from him, but he did get in touch. Anyway, we met up, had a chat, went for a walk around New York together. He said to me casually, as it were, “Would you like to try to write a song with me?” Of course, I was buzzing. I casually responded, “Maybe we’ll give it a go.” Or, something along those lines. In any case, I’ll read this song lyric we wrote together…

PJH:  When you say ‘wrote together’. Did you sit down together, and did you do things back and forth between you?

PM:  We did quite a lot of back and forth. Not quite as much, I suspect, as would be done nowadays, because – for better or worse – the era which brings so many problems on the electronic front also brings great Godsends and windfalls in that sending material around is so much easier, as you know. It was still comparatively easy but, when we wrote this just after 9/11 – which explains an energy to it – I wrote the first verse of it – he had a chorus for it which he used at various venues. I think he started off at a small-ish venue and an ambulance went by outside. It was such a small venue that one could hear it inside, and he said: “My ride’s here.” So, all we had to work on was the title of the song. So, this is the first bit:

I was staying at the Marriott
With Jesus and John Wayne
I was waiting for a chariot
They were waiting for a train
The sky was full of carrion
I’ll take the misuma…

Misuma’s not a word one hears much in song. Warren was the kind of songwriter that gave me and many others a lot of courage. One of his great coups, he though, was that he used the word brucellosis in a song, and was very proud of that…

The sky was full of carrion
I’ll take the misuma
Said Jesus to Marion
Plus the 3.10 to Yuma

And this was before the remake, by the way…

My ride’s here.

So, I wrote that and I sent it to him and he sent back a CD with the rest of the written music plotted out, and then we spent weeks and maybe even months writing the rest of it. And, that was a dreadfully hard lesson, because one imagines – largely because the lyrics of so many popular songs are… kind of insubstantial – the terrible discovery that actually so much work truly has to go into this to make it work. Anyway…

The Houston sky was changeless
We galloped through blue bonnets
I was wrestling with an angel
You were working on a sonnet
You said, I believe the surf with gather my pinto
And carry us away Jim
Across the San Jacinto
My ride’s here

Of course, that’s the moment when things get boring and we need a little middle eight or bridge, which is a different feel…

Shelly and Keats were out on the street
And even Lord Byron was leaving for Greece
While back at The Hilton last but not least
Milton was holding his sides
Saying, you bravos had better get ready to fight
Or we’ll never get out of east Texas tonight
The trail is long and the river is wide
But my mind’s here.

Then back to the verse…

I was staying at the West
And I was playing to the draw
When in walked Charlton Heston
With the tablets of the law
He said, it’s still the greatest story
I said, man I’d like to stay but I’m bound for glory
And on my way
My ride’s here.

Would you be good enough to read us one of your poems?

PJH:  I’ll read something new, I think. When I started writing poetry it really was still lyric writing for a lot of it. The Hollow of the Hand, my first book; although it’s getting there, a lot of those are very simple… This is the new collection – working title The Forest – but it’s set on a sheep farm and a haunted forest in the West Country, and this poem is called The Forest.

[Performs The Forest]

PM:  Supposing I were to come along to you, or a composer were to come along to you, and say: “Miss Harvey, I’d really like to set your poem to music.” One of the things composers really like is the short-ish poem. What would you say to them?

PJH:  I’ve never heard it done very well. Apart from a wonderful album by Joan Baez called Baptism. Do you know that album?

PM:  I don’t.

PJH:  It was an orchestral composer, whose name I’ve forgotten, he wrote musical setting for all sorts of different poems. It’s all about war, it came out during the Vietnam War. It’s a wonderful, wonderful piece. So, I think that can work. She’s reading poems over music a lot of the time, but sometimes she sings.

PM:  That’s a slightly different thing.

PJH:  Well, I’ve personally never heard it done in a way I’ve liked.

PM:  You know, Polly, I think we’re both going to get into a lot of trouble here. Are you ready?

PJH:  Go on…
Me either, I was being gentle there. Whenever I’ve heard it done it’s nauseating.

PM:  Tell me why it’s troubling to you…

PJH:  Ah, it’s hard to unravel it…

PM:  Well, let’s try, we’re amongst friends here.

PJH:  Because you know that poem for what it is, and love it for what it is, the music changes words profoundly. If you’ve not got the right music for those words it can change the words in a really bad way. Suddenly the poem seems pompous, self-righteous, poncy in a way it never seemed before. It takes all the air away from it and it takes all the mystery away from it.

PM:  We certainly are not involved in denigrating or downgrading an entire genre of music here, or are we? I think one of the difficulties is – and we wouldn’t want this to be taken amiss – but there is a terrible danger which is rarely overcome, that they all sound the same, they make everything sound the same. Anyway, I think we should probably move quickly along because, I value my life.
You describe the voice, the poem spoken with the musical… What do you make of the long tradition of the spoken word piece with music? There’s a long tradition… who knows, perhaps the Beowolf poet would have fallen into that category, Homer may have fallen into that category, as it were?

PJH:  I’m very fearful of that genre, that it works well… Someone like Patti Smith, when she’s performing and she might do one or two spoken word pieces in amongst her songs, I think that works really well. I’ve seen her do solo shows that work brilliantly where she’ll read a poem then she’ll put her boots on and do a song, then she’ll just read a poem, but when she’s with her band, the band might be playing and she’ll recite – or improvise – over it. I think she can do it, and does it well. But, I don’t think a lot of people do it well like she does.

PM:  In some sense Leonard Cohen may have been doing it. Is that possible?

PJH:  Do you mean because he sort of half spoke, half sung?

PM:  Partly, partly because of that.

PJH:  Hmmm, I’ve haven’t thought of it like that. I’m a huge fan of his early work where he really was singing then. It was only the later work where he stopped singing as much. I wonder if he became just interested in words, or his voice didn’t enable him to sing so much any more, I don’t know. He seemed to drop a couple of octaves as he got older. I always preferred his singing, his early two or three albums, myself. Again, because the words sund with a beautiful melody come alive if they’re a song, if they were written as a song.

PM:  I think we’re probably moving towards the end of our time. Shall we each read a little poem?
This is a little poem there; I’m not really sure what it is after all our conversation…

[Performs Sadie and The Sadists]

PJH:  You choose, I can either read Down by The Water, or Ae Fond Kiss by Robert Burns

PM: I’m sure I speak for everyone here… Could you do both?

PJH:  [Performs Down by the Water]

I immediately wanted to read something by Robert Burns – with the theme of tonight – because I think he is sombody who really understood the differences between poetry and song writing and seemed to get the balances just right a lot of the time. The language of his songs is often a lot simpler, the words are more monosyllabic. This is such a beautiful song, it’s called Ae Fond Kiss

[Performs Ae Fond Kiss]

PM:  PJ Harvey, thank you so much for your nuance, beautiful nuance in reading these poems and songs by others and yourself tonight. May I be bold enough to suggest that one of the things we have been missing here is the opposite of nuance. The opposite of nuance one hears in Polly’s fabulous band with its great cavalcade, I suppose, of drummers… What’s the collective noun of drummers?

Audience: A battery.

PJH:  A battery…

PM:  A battery of drummers, it’s absolutely fantastic. There’s this visceral thing… So, we going to leave you with a non-nuanced version of Sadie and the Sadists tonight, and we wish you a beautiful evening. Thank you all for coming tonight.

PJH: Thank you.

Transcription by JW



• Esoteric Orders and Their Work by Dion Fortune •

Text first published, 1928.
Dion Fortune was a British occultist.
She founded The Society of the Inner Light in 1924.



In all ages and among all races there has existed a tradition concerning certain esoteric schools or fraternities, wherein a secret wisdom unknown to the generality of mankind might be learnt, and to which admission was obtained by means of an initiation in which tests and ritual played their part. Whoever is familiar with the literature of folklore and anthropology knows that this belief exists among primitive peoples, from the Eskimos of the Arctic Circle to the Digger Indians of Tierra del Fuego. Whoever has also studied history knows that it has prevailed from the first dawn of human culture Today, in the centres of the civilized world, this belief is still alive; and although it may be ridiculed by the orthodox-minded, an unprejudiced observer cannot fail to note that some of the noblest of men have been among its advocates, and that the greatest creative intelligences have, almost without exception, borne witness to a source of inspiration in the Unseen.

It is hard to believe that this rumour should be so widespread and so long-lived if it were entirely without foundation; moreover, the fact that it has the same form among races who have had no intercourse with each other, such as the primitive Mexican and primitive Egyptian, is a further evidence in favour of its truth. It is not possible to demonstrate to those who are without the pale the existence of the organizations to which we have referred, because with the revelations of their secrets comes the obligation of silence. It is permissible, however, to give sufficient information to enable the earnest seeker to discern the path whereby he may approach the entrance to one or another of these schools, and for that purpose the following teaching concerning the esoteric orders and their functions is placed before the reader, though the proofs of the statements therein contained must of necessity be withheld until he shall have entitled himself to receive them.

The different occult schools declare themselves to be the holders of a secret traditional science, communicated to them, in the first place, by divine founders, and enriched and revised from time to time by great teachers; this science concerns the study of the causes that lie behind observable phenomena and condition them. After preliminary tests as to character and fitness, the occult fraternities are prepared to communicate the theory of this science to accepted candidates, and subsequently to convey the powers for its practical use by means of ritual initiations. These, briefly, are the claims made for the occult schools by those competent to speak on their behalf.

It is very frequently, and very reasonably, asked why it is that societies avowedly formed for the service of humanity, and having such valuable teaching to give, should not freely communicate it to all corners; should not, moreover, conduct active propaganda work in order to induce people to come and share in their wisdom, and not, as they appear to be doing, hide themselves away as if seeking by every possible device to avoid observation and prevent themselves being discovered by those who would learn from them.

The answer to this question will be found when the nature of occult science is understood. It concerns certain little-known powers of the human mind and certain little-understood aspects of nature. Were its researches into these subjects purely theoretical there would be no need to guard their findings so carefully, but the knowledge of the facts thus discovered immediately reveals their practical applications; knowledge bestows power in this field of research, even more than in the fields explored by orthodox science, for the power thus rendered available is the power of the mind, and the effects of the use of this power are so far-reaching, whether for good or for evil, that it is a thing not lightly to be trusted into the hands of any human being, Just as the Dangerous Drugs Acts restrict the purchase and administration of potent drugs, so do those who are the custodians of this ancient traditional knowledge seek to safeguard its use. Being of so subtle a nature, it is impossible to guard it from abuse at the hands of the unscrupulous, and therefore its custodians do all in their power to prevent such persons from gaining access to it. Hence the restrictions with which its teaching is hedged about. But the restrictions are no more severe than those which attend the practice of medicine, for which a five years’ onerous apprenticeship is required. We are so accustomed, however, to see spiritual teaching freely given, to hear the call, ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters of life and drink freely.’ that we cannot understand a policy which refuses any stream from this spring to those who are athirst.

The reason lies in the fact, which cannot be too clearly understood by its would-be neophytes, that occult science is a mental, not a spiritual thing, and is neither good nor bad in itself, but only as it is used. It is potent for good or for evil; it can save souls which no other means could approach, and it can, even without evil intention, destroy them. It is no child’s play, and few there be who are suited to that path to the heights. Nevertheless, for such as can adventure it, here is a noble quest for the soul, a true crusade against the Powers of Darkness and spiritual wickedness in high places. In the hidden places of the world there is so much occult evil, little suspected by those who have not met it face to face, that men and women of courage, strength, and the necessary knowledge are needed to deal with it.

The training given in occult schools is designed to produce the adept, a human being who, by intensive training has raised himself or herself beyond the average development of humanity, and is dedicated to the service of God. Certain work in connection with evolution and the spiritual development and safeguarding of the nations is undertaken by highly-trained men and women, though their work is never seen and the place of their training is never known. Their actual training it may be said, is given on the Inner Planes, and only the preliminary training which fits them for the Inner Schools takes place on the physical planes. Consciousness is prepared for its Great Quest, and adventures alone into the Unseen.

Not much can be told concerning this training and not many are suitable for it, but enough has been said to give food for thought.

Esotericism, Occultism and Mysticism

Before embarking upon the study of the subject of this book, The Esoteric Orders and their Work, it is necessary to define the sense in which the term esotericism is used to include all aspects of super-physical science. To do this is a matter of some difficulty as it is a relative term, being used in contradistinction to exotericism. Esotericism begins where exotericism ends; and as the boundaries of exoteric science are always advancing so the boundaries of esotericism are always receding; that which was taught to the initiates of Egypt is taught to the schoolchildren of England. Reading, writing and arithmetic were once occult arts. So also are the profounder aspects of hypnosis, though some of its minor aspects have been rediscovered by exoteric scientists. As evolution advances, the average man becomes capable of that which once was only possible to the exceptional man. As the civilized man is to the savage, so is the adept to the average man. The powers of the civilized man appear miraculous to the savage because he does not know the laws to which they conform; but the civilized man knows only too well that he does not transcend the realm of law when he flies like a bird or heals the sick; he achieves his results by knowing certain natural laws and utilizing them, and so does the adept.

The individual savage may be capable of benefiting by education, or he may not; it depends upon his capacity The average man may be capable of benefiting by initiation, or he may not; it also depends upon his capacity; but each individual should have the opportunity of advancing to the highest development of which he is capable. A certain degree of evolution must be reached before initiation becomes operative; a student does not enter upon a postgraduate course until he has graduated. It is the function of exoteric religion to see to it that each member of the race reaches the normal standard of evolution; it has to seek the lost sheep and raise the submerged tenth. Until a man has learnt the lessons of his faith he is not ready for the lessons of initiation.

It is the function of the Mysteries to enable each individual admitted to their teaching to attain the highest degree of development of which he is capable. In the Lesser Mysteries are unfolded the latent capacities of man; but in the Greater Mysteries are unfolded the hidden capacities of nature. The Lesser Mysteries deal with the subjective sphere, the Greater Mysteries with the objective sphere, and the one is the essential preliminary to the other. It is not possible for a man to command the elemental essences of nature unless he is master of the elemental aspects of his own nature, for the powers within, if rebellious, will betray him to the powers without. Discipline must precede dominion. We operate upon that which is without by the corresponding aspect that is within. If the nature be not purified, it will make a mixed contact when it touches the Unseen. The operations of occultism are based upon the powers of the will and the imagination; both blind forces. Unless they are controlled and directed by a motive which has relation to the universe as a whole, no ultimate synthesis is possible. The personality must be universalized by the ideal at which it aims in order that it may function as an organized part of the cosmic whole. It is this urge towards universalization which is the ultimate hunger of the soul; the lesser self seeks to achieve it by drawing all things into itself in a rage of possession; the greater self seeks to achieve it by transcending the bounds of self and becoming one with the universe There are two unions to be achieved: the self may become one with the universe by means of universal sympathy—this is the goal of the occultist; the self may also be made one with the Creator of the universe by means of absolute devotion— this is the goal of the mystic. But the occultist, having achieved his own goal, has not yet made the ultimate integration, he has not yet passed from the manifested phenomenal aspect into the cosmic; and the mystic, having achieved his transcendent union, cannot hold it, but must lapse back into the phenomenal universe. The ultimate integration can only be achieved by means of universal sympathy and absolute devotion united in one nature. Into such a one all things are gathered by means of sympathy, and he is in his turn gathered into the All by means of devotion.

This is the ultimate aim of evolution for the manifested universe as a whole; and he who goes by the Way of Initiation does but anticipate evolution. It is the function of the Mysteries to assist the initiate to tread that section of the Path which has already been explored, but beyond lies a section that is known to no consciousness that is in a physical form; this section a man must tread alone with his Master; and beyond lies a section where a man is alone with his God.

Not in one incarnation can this be achieved. Three incarnations of absolute devotion without error may serve; but who is without error, and how far must we be upon the Path before absolute devotion is attained? We cannot step out of the march of evolution with one foot, into the Cosmic Light with the other; it takes many steps to tread the Path, and some of them slip and have to be retraced. The difficulties are emphasized because many embark lightheartedly upon this great and terrible venture, but the fruits of it are not minimized, for they transcend all that eye can see or heart can dream. Neither do we have to wait until the end of the journey before we begin to reap. Day by day the manna fell during all the journey through the wilderness, though Egypt had to be abandoned and the Red Sea over-passed before it appeared.

So in the great journey of the soul to the Promised Land, which is the Way of Initiation, the safety of human habitations has to be left, and the soul journeys houseless and alone into the wilderness and comes to the Red Sea; here it is that the weak turn back and return into slavery to make bricks without straw for which they receive no wages. But if the supreme test of the Red Sea is faced, the waves are parted by an unseen force and the traveller passes through dry-shod, with a wall of waters standing up on either hand; this is the test of faith, for by mundane law those waters should fall; it is only a higher law that keeps them back.

Then, the test being safely passed, though still in the wilderness, waters flow from the rock and manna falls daily, for though still in the world of sense, the traveller has come under the operation of a higher law.

The Origin of the Mysteries

In order to understand the import of initiation it is necessary to glance at the history of the evolution of humanity. Occult science teaches that other species of human beings existed previously to humanity as we now know it; these distinct species it calls the Root Races, and believes that the Root Race at present in possession of the globe is the fifth in this evolutionary series. In the two previous races, known as the Polarian and Hyperborean, consciousness had not become individualized, but humanity was overshadowed by its group-soul in the same way that the lower types of animals are overshadowed to the present day. The esoteric psychology of the group-soul affords a vast field of study and is too involved to enter into in the present pages; it must suffice to say that the operations of such a group-soul may be recognized in the intelligence of the ant and bee and the migrations of the birds. Many puzzling phenomena of animal intelligence are accounted for by the hypothesis of a group-soul.

As human evolution proceeded, more and more of the mind-stuff common to the species became organized into distinct complexes and incarnated in the many separate vehicles which formed the composite body of the group; these organized complexes, developing about the original nuclei, or divine sparks, scattered through the amorphous mass of the group-soul, ultimately became individualized entities and developed into human form. After evolution had proceeded a certain distance, these individualized entities attained a degree of independence which rendered them difficult of control by the over-shadowing groupsoul; and the Logos summoned to His aid those of His children who had completed the cycle of their growth in a previous evolution and attained cosmic adulthood. (For it must not be forgotten that an evolution is to the Solar Logos what an incarnation is to a human being; and that each evolution is but a day in the great cyclic life of Brahma.)

These Great Ones influenced the forerunners of humanity by presenting images to their minds by means of a process which we should call telepathic suggestion. The images necessary to enable sensation to be translated into mentation were thus provided ready-made, as it were, and mankind was saved the lengthy and laborious necessity of building these images out of accumulated experiences. In the first Cosmic Day, of course, the then humanity had to go through this process; but subsequent evolutions were enabled rapidly to recapitulate stages previously gone through by the aid of their Elder Brethren. It is only after the high-water mark of the previous Cosmic Day has been reached that evolution has to take place out of the raw material of experience.

By means of the experiences to which consciousness had now rendered man susceptible, the concrete or objective mind of humanity was gradually built up upon the basis of the inspirational content which had been injected into the subconscious human mind by the ministrations of the Elder Brethren and the influences of the group-soul. The point was finally reached when the concrete consciousness overruled the inspirational subconsciousness, just as the latter had overruled the influence of the group-mind; the direct line of control from the Logos, through the Oversoul, to the individual, thus being lost. It therefore became necessary to link up the conscious mind with the subconscious mind so that the cosmic control might be re-established, and this was the function of the Cosmic Initiators, or Manus.

These Great Ones, who are the nearest kin to humanity of all the Lords of Evolution, having attained their development in the Cosmic Day immediately preceding our own, appeared upon the earth during the middle of the Atlantean Period. These are the ‘High Priests after the Order of Melchizedek,’ being without father or mother and building their physical vehicles without human assistance. It was their office to communicate with the concrete mind of humanity, and forge a connecting chain of associated ideas from consciousness to subconsciousness, thereby enabling man to pick up the subtler vibrations which are the voice of the higher spheres.

In order to do this they had to appear to concrete consciousness in concrete form; hence with infinite difficulty they had to build a vehicle that concrete consciousness could cognize. These anthropoid forms were so unsuited to the highly evolved forces they had to carry that they were only held together with the greatest difficulty and for short periods of time. Hence the accounts of the sudden appearances and disappearances of the gods which form part of all primitive traditions. For these Great Ones were the actual gods of myth and fable, the Divine Founders of racial cultures to which all primitive traditions look back. (They must not, however, be confused with the personifications of the nature forces of later periods; these are the culture gods or divine progenitors.)

These great entities gathered about themselves bands of students selected from the most promising of the race to which they came, and developed their faculties until they were able to cognize consciously those subtle types of vibration which hitherto they had only been able to perceive intuitively, thus recovering the primitive type of mentation upon a higher arc. This having once been accomplished, the Manus were able to withdraw to those planes upon which they could function with greater ease and freedom, summoning their pupils to ‘rise upon the planes’ and attend them there for instruction, and leaving it to those same pupils to train others as they themselves had been trained, thus recruiting the occult school through succeeding generations.

Thus was the great Sun-worship of Atlantis founded and its school of initiation equipped with knowledge The Manus were able to tell their pupils of the formations of the spheres because they themselves had been present when the spheres were being builded; they could inform them of the phases through which evolution had passed because they were either eyewitnesses, having themselves developed in certain of the phases, or were the initiated pupils of those who had. Thus it is that the occult schools hold the traditions of the history of cosmic evolution.

The Three Great Traditions

Readers of esoteric literature will be aware that there are many different schools of occultism, and will find that the teachings and symbolism employed in all are fundamentally the same; so much so that by a mere translation of the terminology the initiate of one is enabled to understand the scriptures of another. Nevertheless, these schools are not identical, for although the form is the same owing to their common origin, the force that animates them is entirely different owing to the circumstances of their foundation.

It will be remembered that, among the many seismic disasters which shook ancient Atlantis, there were three of greater magnitude than the others; and these were distinguished as the Three Great Cataclysms. Before each of these cataclysms an emigration went forth of those who had sufficient development to enable them to foresee the disaster. These took with them copies of the Sacred Books, and also had among them initiates of a grade to found a lodge. These initiates drew their authority for the foundation of the new centre from the then Manu. Now the Manus, like all else, function under the aspects of the cosmic phases, and as the Logos of our system is a triune entity whose three phases are wisdom, power and love, the Logoidal phases run through a cycle of three, so that although all three aspects are always there, yet at one time one, and at another time another, will predominate, just as a triangle, revolving upon its centre, would present first one angle, and then another to the observer’s gaze, while still remaining triangular. This sequence can be observed in history if a sufficiently lengthy period be studied; there will be a phase in human culture during which power is being built up, succeeded by another in which wisdom is being accumulated, and culminating in the final phase of the period in which brotherly love brings in a Golden Age.

Thus it was that the force transmitted to their disciples by the Manus of Atlantis was coloured by the Logoidal aspect which prevailed at the time of their functioning The force transmitted by a Manu is spoken of as his Ray. In addition to enabling man to raise his consciousness to awareness of the subtler planes, the Manus put their pupils in touch with a great cosmic force proceeding direct from the Logos, and it is with this force that candidates are put in touch by means of the ritual of their initiation. It will thus be seen that, although the theory taught to an initiate of the different occult schools is fundamentally the same, the modus operandi of its practice will differ greatly according to the special nature of the Ray which supplies what may metaphorically be called the motive power of the Order.

The great Sun Temple, in which all the Rays met, no longer exists, being sunk beneath the waters of the Atlantic, but its teaching is still preserved by the three great occult traditions which are the descendants of the three great emigrations.

The First Emigration, which came out under the direction of a Manu operating under the Power aspect of the Logoidal cycle, has power for its keynote. This emigration, moving eastward according to the then disposition of the land-masses of the globe, halting each year to sow and reap its wheat and building temporary altars where it did so, moved across the north of Europe and Asia, leaving a megalithic trail behind it, until its progress was blocked by what we now call the Yellow Sea; it then spread southward along the coast-lands of Asia until it finally contacted the remains of the Lemurian culture in the Pacific, from which it derived some of those elements which render it today a dangerous and polluted current. Although it is not permissible in a book of this nature to enter into questions which involve practical occultism, those who know the nature of the Sin of the Mindless may be able to deduce its results.

It is this First Emigration Tradition which is the basis of all the primitive cults of Ju-juism, Fanteeism, and primitive magic; its initiation is a Second Plane initiation, and gives its candidates access to the lower astral only. And although, because it is the plane of control for the physical plane, it is admittedly necessary to have the powers of this plane for any magical operations involving the manipulation of the etheric forces or dense matter; it is nevertheless essential that the occultist who essays the processes of this plane should hold the initiations of the plane above, from which it in its turn is controlled; otherwise he will tend to become absorbed into its conditions, and as the initiation of the second plane employs a very primitive type of force which can only have an uplifting influence upon a type of intelligence so lowly that it is, at the present stage of evolution, sub-human, to place oneself under the control of these forces is a regression for a civilized man. Upon this plane the white man must function as a master; he cannot, with justice to himself, meet its entities upon equal terms. The phenomena which characterize the magic of this plane are those with which the experiments of the seance room have made us familiar and in view of the foregoing words, the reader can readily see wherein lies the danger of these researches in the hands of the ignorant and inexperienced.

The Second great Emigration moved in a more southerly latitude, owing to the advance of the Polar ice, and, crossing Central Europe, continued its easterly movement till its course was barred by the uplands of Asia with their eternal snows. Here the temples were established, forming the Himalayan Centre; and from here the culture spread down the river valleys, following the waterways, as primitive travel must; so that all those parts of the world whose rivers have their rise in the ranges of Central Asia likewise look to the Himalayan centre for the inspiration of their religion. From this emigration it is that the Wisdom Religions of the East are derived, and although some of the sects are tainted by the influences of the First Emigration culture, over which in parts the second outpouring flowed (just as the first was tainted by the lingering Lemurian tradition), yet for the most part a remarkable degree of purity has been maintained in the inner Orders, and some of the profoundest knowledge in the world is guarded in its mountain strongholds.

The Third Great Emigration came out from the doomed continent immediately before the final cataclysm sank it for ever below the waves; and, travelling eastward in a yet more southerly direction than its two predecessors, crossed northern Africa and continued its journey till ‘the Red Sea and the Wilderness’ barred its way, and it settled down upon the only fertile lands of that barren region, the valley and delta of the Nile, founding the culture which is known to us as Egyptian. Anyone who compares the Egyptian civilization with that of Central America, which tradition states to have been an outlying portion of Atlantis, cannot fail to be struck by the similarity of the two, whether shown in the concepts of their religion or their architecture

Navigation developed early in the inland sea, and wherever the galleys went in trade the Egyptian philosophy penetrated, so that the Third Emigration Tradition spread all over the Mediterranean Basin and the Near East. The Tyrrian and Grecian Mysteries admit that their adepts were trained in the Egyptian temples; from the Tyrrian we know that the Hebrew tradition derived its renaissance, and from the Grecian Mysteries grew that Gnosis which translated the spiritual concepts of Christianity into the language of the intellect; and from the Gnosis, crushed as it was by the Christian Church after the power had passed into the hands of those who knew nothing but the outer form of the truth they held, arose that long line of intellectual mystics who kept the fire alight in Europe and whom later generations have called the Alchemists.

As the development of communications caused cultures to spread and overflow each other it was natural that the lines of demarcation between one tradition and another should not be as rigid in later days as they were in the earlier; and the disciples of the second and third Traditions met and influenced each other along the trade routes of the Near East; but though the teachings may have undergone modifications under the influence of characteristic racial cultures, the forces employed in initiations are distinct. The disciplines, or methods of training are also radically different. Those of the Power Ray work from below upwards, and by operating upon objects of the plane of manifestation, seek to influence their subtle aspects.

It is characteristic of the methods of this Ray that they are obliged to have a material starting-point, a magical substance, which is their point d’appui; and much of their wisdom consists in a knowledge of those natural objects which are in close association with the unseen world and thereby give ready ingress to it; and we see the witch-doctors of these cults with collections of curious trophies, each of which is credited with supernatural values.

Whether their values depend upon their actual properties or upon the faith of their owner is a point which has to be tested in each individual case, for there is too much evidence of the existence of such properties for all claims to be dismissed as delusion, and it is a rash man who will undertake to give an opinion upon a matter which he has not investigated.

In this tradition, then, we find much knowledge of physical magic, and of those drugs which affect states of consciousness by acting on the nervous system and endocrines, and at the same time a complete dearth of any rational understanding of the methods used. First Tradition knowledge when uninfluenced by the more evolved traditions, is a rule-of-thumb affair, and much adulterated by pure superstition, which is as alien to true occult science as it is to natural science

The Second Tradition methods are characterized by the stress laid upon the acquisition of knowledge, and the very remarkable systems of mind culture whereby the consciousness of the initiate is expanded; at the same time, however, the teachers of this school are not ignorant of the First Tradition methods, by reason of the fact that, arising from the same Atlantean school of occultism, though at a later period of its history, they were in possession of the lower as well as the higher degrees that evolution had added; they had all which the initiates of the First Emigration had possessed as well as the acquirements of later generations, and the original methods, being fundamentally sound, have never been superseded upon the planes to which they belong. Each tradition, in fact, possesses all that its predecessor possessed, in addition to that which is characteristically its own.

The Western Esoteric Tradition had its origin in the third and last Emigration from Atlantis, which took place immediately before the final catastrophe which sank the Lost Continent beneath the sea, together with its wisdom and civilization. The priests who accompanied the emigration bore with them the Sacred Books and Symbols so that they might found a Temple of the Sun in the Land of Darkness towards which they made their way. For the founding of this temple they received a mandate from the then Manu, and the contact, being when the Love Aspect of the Logos prevailed, was consequently upon the Ray of love and devotion; and just as the First Emigration, coming out under the Power Aspect of the Logos, had for its ideal the wielding of power, perfect and supreme beneath the cosmic laws; and the Second Emigration, coming out under the Wisdom Aspect of the Logos, had perfected wisdom for its ideal; so the Third and last Emigration, coming out under the Love Aspect of the Logos, had brotherhood and compassion for its ideals and socialization for its task.

The priests of the Third Emigration, being trained in the same tradition that had sent forth the priests of the First and Second, possessed the secret wisdom of both these traditions in addition to that which later ages had evolved; and through these phases the new Mystery School had to pass in building up its system, as can be clearly distinguished in the history of the Mysteries; but having recapitulated these, and reached a level of culture equivalent to that of the parent civilization, the last and characteristic phase was brought in by the work of the Master Jesus. The Western Tradition therefore has three aspects: the Nature aspect, corresponding to the Astral initiations, whose master on the Lower Astral is represented by the Left-hand pillar of the Temple, and on the Upper Astral by Orpheus, the sweet singer; the Wisdom aspect, corresponding to the initiations of the mind, whose Master on the Lower Mental Plane is Hermes, and on the Upper Mental is Euclid; and the Devotional and Spiritual Aspect, whose Master of Masters is Jesus of Nazareth. These three great aspects form the full Western Tradition, and each without the other two is but partial.

Unless the Ray of Nature Worship is complemented by the Ray of Intellectual Development and Hermetic Training, sub-human aspects will become dominant in the subconsciousness of the aspirant; and unless the Intellectual Ray be illuminated by the spirituality of the Devotional Ray, it will tend to hardness of heart and narrowness of outlook; while the Nature Ray itself sweetens and vivifies the Mysteries with the joy and beauty of its primitive nature-contacts.

All Rays unite in the sun; and therefore their paths converge, and after a certain stage is reached they coalesce, so that an initiate of the higher degrees of any mystery school will stand upon common ground with the initiates of any other school; but in the lower degrees, and especially in their methods of work on the astral and physical planes, the schools are widely divergent, as the differences in their invocations testify. That which summons the devas of the East will not invoke the angelic hosts of the West, nor will the banishing formula which sends Hindu devils about their business give protection in a European country, as many an English chela has found to his cost. The very mantrams, spells and Words of Power are put together upon different principles. To borrow a metaphor from music, the Rays are played in different keys, and if transposition is to be effected, it must be done by a skilled master who understands the correspondences; horrible effects are produced by merely playing sharps as flats.

Any student of comparative religion knows that although the great deities can be identified throughout the different mythologies, and analogous symbols appear in all religious systems, modification in both names and signs takes place when they are translated from one country to another. Many students ignore the differences and concentrate upon the similarity, believing the alterations to be due to local peculiarities of pronunciation, and therefore superficial, and that having identified the different sun-gods throughout the world, they are dealing with one and the same potency. It is, of course, quite true that the same force is behind all of them, but one might just as well attempt to use indiscriminately a telephone, a dynamo, and an electric cautery because the same force is behind them all.

The correct pronunciation and orthography of Words of Power is extremely important in all occult operations, and they do not undergo permutation without reason, but according to definite laws. The change in the Sacred Names from country to country is to make the forces fit the conditions, and is not lightly to be tampered with.

Occultism upon the planes of form is always racial and local because it must be adapted to its environment; and although upon the higher planes one formula is valid for all, and mystic experiences of the same type characterize all the higher degrees so that adepts can meet upon an equal footing, the systems employed in training aspirants are totally different and should never be confounded. Meditation and asceticism will bring the Eastern chela to the feet of his Master but the Western initiator, working in the much denser material conditions of that civilization, has to employ ritual to get his results—rituals that very few Eastern bodies could stand. The meditative methods of the East will not get results in the West unless the vitality is lowered, and it is a very risky thing to attempt to handle high potencies on a lowered vitality; nor will the aspirant fare well in the rush and drive of our civilization.

Methods worked out to fit one type of life, régime and etheric conditions, are not suitable for another and totally different type, and the unsuitability shows itself in the nervous strain of the pupil. If you wish to follow the yogi methods you must lead the yogi life; if you do not, you will break down.

The Eastern forces require very purified and rarefied vehicles for their operation, and therefore the primitive aspects of the nature have to be pruned away. The Western forces are much stronger and more drastic in their action, because they take hold of the primitive aspects and use them for their own ends, sublimating the base metal into gold, not precipitating the gold from the ether. You may enable yourself to receive wireless signals beyond normal range either by increasing the power of the transmitting apparatus or the sensitivity of the receiving apparatus. The Western method employs the former, the Eastern the latter. If the teacher desires to use the methods of the East, he must make his pupils fulfil the conditions of the East, and for the higher degrees he must go to the East.

The Western methods are based upon the Western symbolism and potencies; they have their roots deep in the spiritual life of the race Their influences have moulded its civilization, and therefore they do not tend to make their initiates aliens in their own land and unfit them for the conditions of European life; but rather they train their aspirants to cooperate with racial forces, to use, and to be used by them.

The knowledge of the Ancient Wisdom of the East has been popularized by the Theosophical Society, but do not let us forget that there is our own native esotericism hidden in the superconscious mind of the race, and that we have our holy places at our very doors which have been used for initiations from time immemorial, potent alike for the nature contacts of the Celt, the work of the Hermetcist and the mystical experiences of the Church of the Holy Grail.

The Paths of the Western Tradition

The Western Tradition has several different aspects which really constitute schools within the Tradition, and these are generally spoken of as the Rays. These Rays are generally named after the colours of the spectrum with which they are held to equate. There is some difference of opinion concerning the colour-notation to be assigned to the Rays; the popular system of assigning the first Ray to the first Plane, and so on, is purely arbitrary and exoteric, for the Planes did not develop in a single Ray-cycle, periods of Pralaya intervening at different points. The true esoteric colour-notation differs from this in several respects. A terminology has therefore been employed which names the Rays according to the school which saw their highest development, and correlates them with the planes and the states of consciousness. This is a system which will be readily understood by readers whatever may be the terminology they are accustomed to, and prevents the confusion of mind which arises when the terms to which one is habituated are given an unfamiliar implication.

The subject of the Rays is highly technical and intricate, and although it is of great importance in practical occultism, it is not possible to enter upon it in detail in these pages, for it demands a book to itself. It must suffice to say that the Rays originate in the periodic outpourings of the Logoidal life-impulse. These outpourings may be conceived of as cutting channels on the inner planes, and the Logoidal force continues to flow in these channels after the original spate has spent itself. These outpourings build up the successive planes of manifestation, depositing them, one might say, as the river-flood deposits silt. Each of these outpourings has to find its ingress into the plane of matter through the consciousness of an incarnated being, and the Great Ones, perfected in previous evolutions, come forward in turn to undertake this task. After they have completed it, and the spate, having deposited its silt, is subsiding they withdraw to the Inner Planes, and there continue their work of focussing that particular manifestation of the Logoidal Life and giving it form and expression. They are then known as the Lords of the Rays or Star Logoi. The planes of human consciousness correspond with the planes laid down by the Rays, and it is the forces of a Ray, re-concentrated to a miniature spate by means of a ritual, which are used to stimulate the corresponding plane of consciousness into active functioning.

Each soul possesses all seven aspects, but in a given incarnation some of these may be latent. There is very seldom an even, all-round development. One of these planes will be the focus of consciousness and the other aspects will be subordinate and contributory thereto. For instance, one person may function in his emotions and his judgment will be swayed by his feelings. Another may concentrate on his mind, and, in the old phrase, his head will rule his heart. When these folk come to initiation it is the difficult task of the initiator to try and persuade them to develop the complementary aspects and so effect a balance

It is a comparatively easy matter to induce a stimulation of the natural bent of a person. The difficulty is to induce a corresponding strengthening of his weak points, which alone will produce balance The man who focusses in his mind has to learn to use his heart, and the man who focusses in his heart has to learn to use his head. Neither alone is sufficient.

Students, therefore, tend to separate themselves into groups according to type, and the different types have to be dealt with differently in the initiation school. The Lesser Mysteries aim at giving an all-round preliminary training first in the purification and discipline of character, and then in the development of the intellectual powers, especially that of concentration. All candidates need to pass through this course, and many failures come from too early specialization. It is only after they have passed through the three grades in which consciousness is trained that the dedication is offered and accepted and they pass on to the Greater Mysteries.

Here it is that they are separated out on to the Rays, working upon first one and then another till they have acquired the Powers of the Planes to which the Rays correspond. Each Ray influences a different aspect of consciousness, and by the time the student has passed through them all, his nature will be developed, purified and harmonized in all its aspects; then according to his temperament he chooses the Ray in which he will specialize, and thereafter settles down to his work upon that Ray; but it is essential that he shall have had experience of all the Rays before he does this, otherwise he will be like a composer who is trying to score a band-piece and does not understand the technique of the wood-wind; he cannot score for an instrument unless he understands its technique. So with the initiate: even if his chosen plane be the Upper Spiritual, he will need to have knowledge of the Lower Astral; and if his chosen plane be the powerful elemental forces of the Lower Astral, he will need none the less the contacts of the Upper Spiritual lest he be drawn under and submerged in the non-human aspects of nature.

Each plane and its corresponding aspect of consciousness is opened up under the aegis of the Lord of the Ray, whose name is the supreme Word of Power of that Plane

Each occult school, unfortunately, tends to specialize, because racial temperaments have their natural bent. The Rays most worked at present in the Western Tradition are the Rays of the Concrete Mind, and of the Concrete Spirit. The Eastern Tradition, on the other hand, has brought to a high degree of development the Ray of the Etheric aspect of matter in the Hatha Yoga, and the Ray of the Abstract Spirit in the Raja Yoga. Other Rays have had their development in different phases of the world’s history. The Greeks, for instance, worked their initiations on the Rays of the Upper Astral and the Abstract Mind. When we come to study a Ray, therefore, we turn to the esoteric school which specialized in that aspect.

The seventh plane, the Plane of Abstract Spirit, is never contacted at the present stage of evolution while in the body; the ego must withdraw from the body for that contact, and the body then goes into deep trance. This aspect has been most highly developed in the East, and therefore this Ray is generally known as the Buddhic Ray; but we have examples of it in the West in our ecstatics; St Theresa is our principal authority upon it. It is exceedingly rare at the present day, and can only be developed in retreat under ascetic conditions. It has no Ray Logos in the sense in which the other Rays have, for it has not yet been brought through into manifestation in matter, and therefore has never focussed through the consciousness of an incarnated being. Its invocation and contacts are those of the Holy Ghost, and it is never operated in waking consciousness, but only, as has already been said, in full trance.

The operations of these contacts involve the withdrawal of the soul from the world, and are never undertaken until the time is approaching when freedom from the Wheel of Birth and Death may be claimed. Concentration on this contact before the time is ripe causes an arrestation of spiritual growth. We have an example of this in Europe in the Quietists: Mme Guyon, to use an expressive metaphor from Evelyn Underhill’s great work on Mysticism, ‘basked like a cat in the rays of the Sun of Life’. It is the extensive development of this aspect that has paralysed the progress of the East.

The sixth plane, or Plane of Concrete Spirit, is the focussing point of civilization at present. Hereon are developed the spiritual qualities of Love, Truth, Goodness, Purity, and many others. This Ray was made manifest to man by the Master Jesus, who is its Master of Masters, its Ray Logos; it is therefore known as the Christian Ray. The initiation of this Ray is the highest ideal which a man can achieve while still remaining on the human path of evolution.

It is the contacts of this Ray which give the saint his Vision Beautiful and which make the chalice into the Grail. It is the hidden power of Christianity which was taught to the disciples in the Upper Room whilst the multitude received but a rule of life—a rule, however which, if faithfully followed, would bring them to that Upper Room where they could receive the inner teaching which is not withheld, but merely kept separate. It is the power of the Christian Ray that shines through the Grail; and it is to the Church of the Grail that the aspirant comes who elects to follow the Way of the Cross. This is the Church behind the church which is not seen, but realized; it is to this that devotion to the Sacraments brings a man. The church which is of stone fades away for him, and he finds himself in the Church not built with hands, eternal in the heavens. It is here that the Christian mystic worships; here that he meets his Master face to face in the wine and bread that are not bread and wine, but the substances of a magical operation sublimated to spiritual gold.

The initiations of the Plane of Abstract Mind are concerned with the development of intuitive thinking and of the power of deductive reasoning to extend from the known into the Unknown and translate it into cognizable terms. It is often called the Pythagorean Ray, because it had its heyday in the Mystery Schools of Greece. This is the true Wisdom Ray, for its contacts represent the first of the objective initiations, wherein the doors of self are opened and it enters into immediate relations with the Not-self. All initiations prior to this do but open up the hidden heights and depths of the self.

The Ray of the Concrete Mind is the highest aspect of the incarnate personality Thrice-greatest Hermes is its Ray Logos. Its highest development was in the Egyptian and Qabalistic systems, and it was blended with Christian thought in the schools of the Neo-platonists and the Gnostics; but the persecuting energy of the Church, long since exotericized, stamped it out as an organized system. Its studies were only kept alive during the Dark Ages among the Jews, who were the chief exponents of its Qabalistic aspect. Its Egyptian aspect was reintroduced into Europe by the Templars after the Crusades had put them in touch with the Holy Centres in the Near East. Stamped out again by the fear and jealousy of the Church, it reappeared once more in the long line of Alchemists who flourished after the power of Rome was broken by the Reformation; and it is still alive today.

The Ray which correlates with the Upper Astral Plane is known as the Celtic Ray, for its initiation of the higher emotional self gave the Celtic racial culture its impetus. It is seen in its highest manifestation in the earlier Greek tradition, especially in the Dionysian cults before the influence of Eastern and Egyptian thought had produced developments which were not typical of the Hellenic racial genius.

The Celtic Ray is essentially elemental and deals with the nature aspect of things; being an initiation of the emotions, its standards of value are aesthetic, not ethical; its ideals are beauty and joy, not truth and goodness, and we must bear this in mind when judging its votaries. It is far removed from the world of men and mundane values; but without its leaven, utilitarianism would crush out the wider vision.

It is from this Ray that all imaginative work derives its inspiration and creative artists draw their power. It is essentially the Artist’s Ray, whatever be the medium in which his craftsmanship finds expression; and it is the force of this Ray which makes the subtle difference between the products of the handcraft worker and the products of the machine, and gives handmade things the subtle fascination they have for the sensitive soul. Even though their technique be not so perfect as that of the factory, they are alive with the wonderful elemental life of the Celtic Ray which their maker, working with creative inspiration drawn from that Ray, builds into them. Yes, they are literally alive, being ensouled with elemental essence, and hence they are ‘companionable’ in a way that a machine-made object is not.

But although the Greek expression of the Ancient Wisdom affords excellent material for study, it is by means of the form it has built itself in the group-spirit of our race that we must seek to approach the actual contacts of its power, and the true expression of the Celtic Ray for the inhabitant of the British Isles is in the Gaelic fairy lore

Many generations of British intellect have been nourished upon the classical tradition, and consequently have produced that remote, antique and alien type of artistic or literary beauty which is called classical. This is a type of beauty for whose appreciation a special culture is required, a classical culture similar to that which inspired the creator of the beautiful thing because the elemental life which ensouls his creations is derived from the Hellenic aspect of the Celtic Ray (for the Roman tradition also derives from that source), and therefore it does not appeal to the common man who has not built up these contacts within his soul. Contacts with an alien force have to be slowly and elaborately built, they do not arise spontaneously, nor are they innate; and not only must they be built, but they must be tenderly cherished, for they are tropical plants of the soul.

But that which derives from our native folk tradition springs up like water from the soil, made alive by the good brown earth and fresh with the breath of herb and tree; it springs, it sparkles, and the wayfaring man, though dull, cannot but rejoice therein, for it is native to him; he needs no commentary to tell him its beauties; he loves it because he enjoys it; and he enjoys it because it vitalizes his nature. It vitalizes his nature because it puts him in touch with the sun-warmed, rain-wet earth, his native earth, that his bare feet trod as a child when his soul was open and he still could feel the Unseen. It blows through his soul like the wind on high places; it drives over him like the waves of the open sea; and his heart leaps to it like the springing leaping flames of the living fire; for by the dust of his fathers he is kin to the elements in his native land, and by the road of his childhood dreams he approaches the Celtic contact. For the initiate of the Celtic Ray is the Immortal Child, the Fool of Heaven, ever young but never wise, for Wisdom is not upon the Celtic Ray.

The Ray which corresponds to the Lower Astral Plane is known as the Norse Ray, because the purest contacts of this much-corrupted tradition which are available to us in the West are those of the Nordic mythology. The Lower Astral Plane is the plane of the primitive instincts and the crude passions associated with them, and it is the sublimation of these passions which gives the ecstasy of the initiation of this contact. In the Nordic tradition, the ecstasy is derived from a sublimation of the quality of courage in its apotheosis as the baresark lust of battle

In other traditions this Ray takes different forms. In the Hindu system it is the terrible Kali-worship, with its thugs and self-mutilations; the apotheosis of cruelty, not of courage. The Priapic, as distinguished from the Dionysian aspect of phallic worship, is also contacted on this Ray.

It must not be thought that this Ray is evil in itself, however Nothing that God has created is evil in itself; it is only in its perversion and distortion that it becomes evil. The Norse Ray is the Ray of the heroic virtues of courage, endurance and stability. When this potent primitive element is lacking people become decadent and neurotic, cranks and faddists, artificiality taking the place of the natural instincts.

The time when this Ray manifested upon earth is so remote that its functions correlate with the cerebellum, for it was in function before the cerebrum, the part of the brain which gives the characteristic human forehead, was developed. Normally, the mentation corresponding to this part of the brain does not come within the focus of the waking personality, but is subconscious, only rising to the surface during periods of intense emotion, or when the more recently developed parts of the brain have been put out of action by the influence of drugs or disease.

It is, of course, the Ray par excellence of Black Magic, and has become much contaminated in consequence Its contacts are only used in primitive witch-cults and, contradictory as it may appear; by very highly-trained occultists; for upon the ability to contact and control the forces of this plane depends the power to produce tangible effects in dense matter. The Name of the Master of Masters of this plane cannot be given, because it is a Word of Power; but it may be said that it is the special function of the Archangel Michael to guard the gates of the Underworld, so that no uprush of ‘chaos and old night’ may break through onto the earth-plane.

The Ray which was concerned with the laying down of the Plane of Earth is of even greater antiquity than the Nordic Ray. It manifested before matter as known to us in its dense aspect had been evolved. As an initiatory force it develops the powers of the etheric double Its contacts are worked in the East in the Hatha Yoga discipline, and as we have no corresponding school in the West, we will call it the Etheric Ray.

In its original aspect is has long since passed out of manifestation, but the cycle of evolution is beginning to bring it in again on a higher arc, and we are seeing a great development of the power of mind over body in such cults as Christian Science and the New Thought movement. It is, of course, by operating upon the etheric double that the mind-healer obtains his results, just as the fakir obtains his phenomena.

These seven Rays constitute the gamut of initiation, and no one can be justly called an adept who does not possess the degrees corresponding to them. The Buddhic Ray lies ahead of evolution; the Etheric Ray in its original aspect lies behind it. The Christian Ray is the focussing point in the present age. It is along the lines laid down by the Master Jesus that development is taking place. The powers of other Rays, with the exception of the Buddhic Ray, which does not belong to the Earth-plane at present, are recapitulations whereby a man takes possession for himself of that which humanity has achieved in the past and which is part of the heritage of the race.

The Master Jesus, Star Logos of the Ray under which modem civilization is developing, is the Lord of this epoch, and His Name is the Supreme Word of Power; for to each manifestation of the Christ are committed all things in heaven and earth, including those of His Brethren who have preceded Him in office. Another incarnation of the Christ-force will come in due evolutionary season, as all religions teach, but it has not come yet, and until it does the Master Jesus is the Master of Masters for the West and the Great Initiator of the white peoples.

The Evolution and Functions of the Masters

Much has been written of recent years concerning those who are called the Masters, and many different opinions have been expressed. Some writers rank them as but little inferior to the Deity, and others seem to use the word as being equivalent to the ‘control’ of the spiritualist, or even refer to them as in human form and having places of residence on the physical plane. This has led to much misunderstanding and to a cheapening of the concept of these Divine Beings and supermen with whom it is possible for humanity to come into touch. The misunderstanding is largely due to the fact that all superhumanity has frequently been classed together by thoughtless students, and the functions of the Adept, the Master, and the Master of Masters, Star Logos, or Ray Chohan (according to the terminology employed) have been confused and their gradations confounded. In the terminology employed in these pages the word Master is never applied to a being incarnated on the physical plane, but is reserved for those who no longer need to incarnate for the performance of their work. The term Adept is used for those beings who have passed beyond the stage which evolution has as yet reached on our planet, and have therefore nothing to learn from its conditions, but elect to incarnate for the purpose of performing certain work; and they are not regarded as Divine Beings, but as elder brethren. The man or woman who has advanced beyond a certain grade in the Greater Mysteries is referred to as an initiate, and below these come the grades of brother, neophyte, dedicand, server, and seeker.

As the degrees of the hierarchy have reference to evolutionary stages, their significance can be best understood by studying them in their sequence, beginning at the first manifestation, which is now the highest, each subsequent advent bringing initiation a stage further down the planes; and as humanity is meanwhile steadily evolving up the planes, there comes a time when cosmic consciousness can be attained and maintained in the normal waking state ‘In my flesh shall I see God’ The work of the Manus, the evolved of previous evolutions, has been explained in another chapter; and we will take up the story at the point where the Greater Masters, who were the pupils of the Manus, come into function.

Let us consider first the condition of humanity at the time the Manus began to appear upon the physical plane It was far lower than that of the most primitive savage today, intelligence being essentially animal in type, for it was the function of the Manus to assist in the development of those faculties which are characteristically human and distinguish us from our younger brethren, the animals. The Manus themselves had evolved in previous evolutions; and it was their function to assist humanity rapidly to recapitulate the evolutionary experiences which should bring them abreast of the level at which their predecessors withdrew from the physical plane, so that humanity should take up the work of the planet where the Lords of Mind laid it down. In order to save the time occupied by a laborious rebuilding, certain of the perfected entities of the previous life-wave undertook the task of handing over to humanity the fruits of their evolution.

Humanity had only reached the stage of perceptive consciousness; that is to say, it could form mental images which were linked in memory-sequences; it had now become necessary that conceptive consciousness should be developed, so that memory-images could be synthesized into generalizations. The Manus, by means of suggestion or thought-transference, planted IDEAS in human consciousness, and the men chosen for this operation, once having experienced the apprehension of a concept and realized the possibility of this form of thought, were soon able to construct other syntheses of images for themselves, and they were made assiduously to practise this process under their instructors, just as aspirants at the present time are made to practise the intuitional thought of the abstract planes.

Once this process was well underway, the Manus were able to withdraw to a higher plane, and the pupils they had initiated into their methods of thought were left to train their fellows under the instructions of the Manus. In due course of evolution some of these pupils had made so much progress that they had evolved beyond the need of incarnation, and themselves withdrew from the physical plane. The Lords of Mind who had been their initiators were then able to withdraw to their own place, which is not on our planet, though within the limits of our solar system, and the Lords of Humanity became the initiators of their own people.

The perfected entities evolved by previous evolutions have their own functions within the universe as laws, forces and principles, the Lords of Mind alone approximating in the least degree to our concept of conscious beings. Though perfect and complete according to their own type, they are of a much lower grade of evolution than humanity will be when it has in its turn completed its course But just as a dog of two years old is in a much higher state of development than child of two years old, and might be put to guard the latter; so the Lords of Mind are infinitely higher than the infant humanity, though humanity will be higher than the Lords of Mind when fully evolved.

As each fresh phase of human evolution was entered upon, one of the Lords of Humanity undertook to incarnate upon the physical plane in order to introduce into human consciousness the archetypal ideas which it was intended to work out during that phase, and these He taught to a chosen band of disciples by precept, but to the multitude by example; that is to say, He lived the ideal life, He manifested the ideal character; thus presenting a new concept of human perfection to men’s consciousness, and forming a standard against which they could measure their lives and actions. They are thus the Great Exemplars, and represent the Archetypal Man to which humanity attains when it has completed the phase of evolution thus ushered in.

But they are more than Exemplars, they are also Saviours, for before the work of a new phase can be undertaken they have to clear up and adjust any residuum of error in the last phase of evolution, and this they do by taking upon themselves the sin of the world, to use theological terminology.

There is known to occultists a method of healing by substitution, in which, by extreme compassion with the suffering of a beloved one, the suffering is experienced in the very self, and then, by the appropriate reaction and realization, is expiated upon a higher plane. Such a process is extremely dangerous, for, if the expiation is not successfully accomplished, the would-be healer is left with the disease; it is also an extremely painful process, for what would have been the long-drawn-out physical suffering of the patient is transmuted into its equivalent of mental suffering in the healer for a short period, and therefore concentrated. Moreover, the whole process has to be accomplished according to the laws of karma, or more harm than good is done.

Now that which is sometimes done between two individuals is performed between the Saviour and the group-soul of the world when an Atonement is made at the end of a phase of evolution. In the few short hours of the Crucifixion the sin and suffering left over from a phase of evolution were realized and abreacted. Little wonder that, in anticipation of this ordeal, the Lord of the Purple Ray prayed, ‘Let this cup pass from me’

The initiate of the Western Tradition gives to the Passion and its ritual presentation in the Mass the same place that the theologian does; to him the Eucharist represents the supreme contact of his Ray and race. But he also recognizes the other great Redeemers, and knows that the legend of the sacrificial death is true of all of them.

When a Master has incarnated as Redeemer and passed through the sacrificial death, He does not reincarnate, but becomes the Star Logos of His Ray, one of the Seven Spirits before the throne, and he brings that aspect of Logoidal force to a focus through the lens of His personification. Now a personification is not the same as a personality, but is the image which the individuality builds of a particular incarnation in order to manifest upon the plane of matter. This is a significant point in practical occultism, and is what Madame Blavatsky refers to when she says in The Secret Doctrine that a Master’s body is illusory. When psychics report that the Master Jesus is incarnated at the present time at such-and-such a place, it is not an incarnation they have perceived, but a personification, a thought-form in the consciousness of the Star Logos which is being used to focus His Ray; and when this incarnation is reported at a Sacred Centre in the Himalayas or the Caucasus, it means that the astral body of the seer is working at one of those astral centres. It is not that the Master Jesus is living there, but that the psychic is functioning there! A very different matter. It is an extremely easy thing to get the astral consciousness reopening when the seer is supposed to be functioning in his causal, or abstract, mental body, and then both types of consciousness are presented simultaneously to the ego, like two exposures of one photographic plate.

Again, psychics who have not got the proper testing-formulae for ‘trying the spirits’ on the plane and Ray on which they are working, may easily find the subconscious content externalized as thought-forms, and so merely be reading their own subconscious minds when they believe themselves to be reading the Records, thereby bringing through preconceived notions as vision.

Finally, a psychic who can work no higher than the astral plane will describe everything in terms of anthropomorphic picture-consciousness; when therefore he or she elects to investigate things which are not of that plane, they cannot rise consciously to a realization of the abstract, but will only be able to see the reflections in the astral light, using astral consciousness as a mirror; and things which are of pure spirit, and therefore formless, will be reported as having form and their appearance described. The appearances seen are simply symbolic representations of the abstract as apprehended by concrete consciousness, which the seer should be able to interpret in abstract terms, as did Anna Kingsford in regard to her illuminations; but when we get a seer who does not understand the method of the transmutation of symbolism between the planes, we get an account of the Christ standing under a tree in His garden and blessing the world with outstretched hands every evening.

Now the Christ is not, and never has been, a personality; it is not even individualized, but is simply the regenerative and reconciling aspect of the Logoidal force, and as such is spoken of as the Cosmic Christ in order to distinguish it from the manifestation of that force coming through the channel of a Redeemer’s consciousness. It is this force that has functioned through all the World Saviours, Eastern, or Western, but Jesus the Christ, being the Saviour of the Western civilization phase of evolution, is for us ‘the only Name under heaven whereby we shall be saved’, that is to say, whereby we shall obtain the supreme initiation available at present to us in this sphere. ‘To each man his own Master’, nor may we judge another man’s servant but to the Western races Jesus of Nazareth is The Christ, for it is His ideal that our civilization is so slowly and laboriously working out. The Coming World Teacher concerns the next root race, and has nothing to do with Western civilization, which must work out the Law of Love according to the dispensation of the Master Jesus. It is only the seed-people of the new race who will follow the new Teacher when He summons them, and they will not find it possible to regenerate European civilization by the methods they wish to inaugurate, but will have to segregate themselves into colonies or communities and live their own life apart, while Western civilization works out its own destiny and achieves it zenith; then, with the decay of that civilization, the souls which it has perfected will withdraw, later to reincarnate in the new root race; but they will come as individuals, for it is not possible to transfer the group-soul of a civilization from one Manu to another; for the group-soul, like the group-body, or social organization, is finite and mortal, and must die before it can be reincarnated; it is the spirit of humanity alone which is immortal and endures through an evolution; the spirit alone which is universal and one throughout the planet. Social organizations are as separate as individuals, and their group-souls, or devas, will not let them coalesce, though they may form brotherhoods upon the plane of group consciousness.

The Master Jesus is ‘an High Priest after the Order of Melchisedec’, and had, according to the Western Esoteric Tradition, but two manifestations on this plane before He passed beyond the planes of form after the third, last and highest manifestation which was the completion of His work. He was never of our humanity, and is now of the grade of Cosmic Fire in the hierarchy, and therefore the sun is His appropriate symbol and His Church keeps the seasons of the solar year and identifies them with the incidents of His career; thus giving rise to the hypothesis of the Solar Myth.

The Gospel stories deal with two sets of facts, the historical narrative of the Incarnation, and the attributes of the office of Redeemer, which our Lord held; the exposition of this dual significance would be too long for the present pages, but the enlightened will readily be able to distinguish the two, and allocate each incident in the divine Life to its proper category.

The Master Jesus is not of the same hierarchical grade with other of the Masters with whom He has sometimes been associated or confused. He stands upon the same degree as the Manus Krishna and Osiris, as a Master of Masters upon His Ray, below whom are the Greater Masters, who are Regenerators, but not Redeemers, for they did not die the Sacrificial Death. Of these are Moses, who gave the Law to Israel, Gautama, who gave the Law to Asia, Mohammed, who gave the Law to Africa, and Paul, who gave the Law to Europe. The work of these is done with the conscious minds of men, but the work of the Christs is done with the consciousness of the race.

Below these again are the Lesser Masters, who in Christian terminology would be called the saints, and it is these who have to do with the teaching and training of humanity at the present time.

The mystic talks of the Communion of Saints, and the occultist talks of the Lodge of the Masters, and both refer to different types of the same thing The Communion of Saints is that ‘body of just men made perfect’ who, by the Way of the Cross, have passed beyond incarnation. And as they loved the Church during their sojourn in the tabernacle of flesh, so they still love her in the life of the spirit. And so, ‘with angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven’ they answer the summons of the sanctus bell, and in that Mass of the Grail of which the mystical soul partakes, the Church of Heaven and Earth meet together. It is they who constitute the Church behind the church, or, in the language of the Western Tradition, the Church of the Grail, and it is in this ‘body of just men made perfect’ that the strength of the Church lies.

It is for this reason that prayer to the saints and the adoption of a patron saint has great value upon the Mystic Way, for his patron saint is to the mystic what his Master is to the occultist—a lens through which the Cosmic Power is concentrated, a symbol by which consciousness is lifted to transcendent concepts, an Elder Brother who, having come by the same path, understands the human needs of the seeker committed to his care, and out of a deeper wisdom and greater power can give counsel and help in those small things which seem so big to the struggling soul.

Great cosmic forces are only used for great cosmic purposes, but those cosmic souls whom we call Saint and Master can transmute and apply these forces for the relief of the little human needs of those in their care in a way which those souls themselves, owing to the smallness of their grasp and the limitation of their ideas, cannot do so successfully. It is true that no prayer sent up to the Father of All shall fall fruitless to the ground, but the surmounting of the temporary difficulties of human life is not the function of the Great Unmanifest, any more than the lighting of fires is the function of the sun; yet if the rays of the sun be focussed through a burning-glass, the fire can be lighted.

The First Manifest sustains all things, and will sustain them whether we pray to It or not, and in the end we shall all be gathered back into that Infinite Life, but at the present state of our evolution It is, for all practical purposes, beyond our ken (save in certain advanced meditations when It is approached by means of a symbol); we are carried in the great streams of Its force like animalculae in the tides of the sea, borne in a movement so vast that our senses cannot cognize it. It will function whether we worship It or not, and no prayer of ours can turn It a hairsbreadth from Its course

The Cosmic Christ is a world-force; by aspiration we can open our consciousness to it, and align ourselves with its lines of power until consciousness is suffused by it and illumination occurs; but it is not a force which relieves small human needs, though we can draw upon it for any cosmic task upon which we may be engaged. It is the Guardian of the Soul, whether we call him Saint or Master; who stretches the hand in the dark that the struggling heart demands, bringing to him the power of the Christ that, were it applied to his naked soul, would burn it; or shielding him from that ineffable glory when it becomes so bright that the newly-opened eyes of the soul are seared by it. For the power of the Christ is so strong in its purificatory force that it is only gold which has been tried by the furnace that can stand it; all that is dross in our nature goes up in flames when exposed to its regenerative fires, and it is the function of the Guardians of Souls to temper the wind to the shorn lamb and the fiery light to the imperfect spirit, leading gently those who have conceived the Divine Ideal until such time as it shall be brought to realization and fulfilment.

When in need of power for cosmic purposes we align consciousness with the forces of the Cosmic Christ by means of certain meditations; but when in need of comfort we reach out hands of faith through the darkness of the Veil, and from behind the Veil we feel them taken by the answering hand of the Guardian of the Soul. Silently in the night the hands may be lifted above the head and the answering grip imaged in the imagination, and then it may be found that imagination has been transformed into reality and a sudden power has touched the soul, an unseen Presence has been sensed in the darkness, and the wanderer knows that he is not alone.

The Training and Work of an Initiate

Those who seek knowledge upon the occult path win through finally to the service of a Master, and a description of the stages by which that apprenticeship is obtained will assist realization.

All manifested life is advancing towards perfection in the great current of evolution, broad, slow, but certain; each organized unit of evolution, or group-soul of a species, is overshadowed by a great angelic consciousness that acts as individuality to the slowly evolving group-mind. When individualization takes place within the group consciousness, each unit thus created becomes its own master and learns by bitter experience the right use of its powers, generating much karma in the process, and the group-soul of the whole, metaphorically speaking throws its weight so as to counterbalance the composite karma thus generated, thus maintaining the racial poise; should the over-balance proceed beyond the power of righting the group angel, or higher soul, withdraws, and the death of the group takes place as does the death of any other body from which the soul is withdrawn.

Should the individual consciousness, thus developed, perceive the brooding spirit that overshadows the whole of which it is a part and transmits to it the Divine forces, should it conceive the idea of co-operating with the Divine Life rather than experimenting with its own personal life, then it comes out from under the dominion of the group-soul and into the jurisdiction of the Lodge of the Masters concerned with that group.

Now the Lodge of the Masters is but another name for the ‘body of just men made perfect’, those souls which, by supreme effort, have outdistanced their fellows and attained the full stature of human development before evolutionary time has brought it about for the rest of mankind. Many souls have done this since the beginning of our race; some, having attained completion, elect to await the end of the manvantara, or day of manifestation, in a state of beatitude; others, however, out of compassion, return again within reach of the earthsphere in order that they may assist those who are struggling to advance by the path which they themselves have followed. It is these that are indicated by the name of Master as generally used. There are indeed other perfected souls of the higher grades who are concerned with other work, but these should more properly be referred to as Regents; the term Lord is usually applied to a being perfected in an earlier evolution. The Lords of Flame, Form, and Mind, however, are gradually withdrawing to more remote spheres as their work becomes stereotyped by cyclic repetition in the course of vast ages, and their tasks are taken over by the Regents, so that instead of a Lord of Form one might find oneself dealing with a Regent of the Sphere of Saturn. The distinction is an important one, especially in adjusting karma by means of astrological calculations, for the Regents are much more accessible than the Lords.

The work of an initiate, and consequently the task the aspirant has to undertake in order to prepare himself for that work, cannot be fully realized unless it be understood in connection with the process of evolution, of which it forms an integral and very vital part. The occultist believes that the work of the universe is carried on by means of a hierarchy of consciousnesses. These consciousnesses have been personified as gods, archangels or devas by different schools of belief; and although these personifications have been anthropomorphized by the unenlightened, they retain their metaphysical significance for the initiated, and the reader is asked to try and disabuse himself of the associations which uninstructed thought has allowed to gather about these entities. They differ as much in degree from the highest form of consciousness with which we are acquainted as that highest form differs from the lowest which our instruments of precision and magnification enable us to perceive; but although they differ in degree so much as hardly to be recognizable as entities to our myopic perception, they do not differ in kind from that type of organization and activity of which our human intelligence forms one of the earlier milestones, and therefore they are better described as entities, or conscious beings, than by any other description, because such an identification with our own type of evolution serves to indicate a relationship; for what we are today they were in the yesterday of cosmic time, and what they are today we shall be in the cosmic tomorrow.

We shall understand this statement better, and realize that it is not a wild phantasy of the transcendental imagination, if we remind ourselves of the established and accepted teaching of biology concerning the evolution of man from primitive forms of life. Biology has demonstrated beyond cavil the line of the ascent of man, and the concept of a superhumanity and an archangelic kingdom is but a further continuation of that line beyond the point at which humanity now stands.

Occult science differs from orthodox science in that it looks upon man as occupying an intermediate stage on the ladder of life, instead of its topmost rung and upon this hypothesis bases its doctrine of initiation and the speeding-up of individual evolution thereby. When it is remembered that, as can be proved historically, the mystery schools taught the doctrine of evolution at a time when orthodox science taught that of special creation and a static universe, it does not seem impossible that orthodox science may ultimately admit the rest of the esoteric hypothesis of which it has already admitted so much.

The Logoidal Consciousness is conceived of as formulating ideas concerning Its universe; these ideas are realized as spiritual ideals by the great Star Logoi, or Ray Chohans, to use the Eastern terminology; these ideals are intellectualized as abstract ideas by the Greater Masters, and are thereby brought down into manifestation as far as the plane of the Abstract Mind. Beyond this plane, the life of form begins, and for ideals to be brought through into the planes of form they have to be ‘formulated’ by consciousness working in terms of form. It is at this point that the work of the Adept begins, for he, still living upon the plane of form but able to raise consciousness to the plane of the abstract mind, is able to get into rapport with the Masters and receive from them the inspiration of the abstract ideals which it is to be his function to bring through to the plane of matter

It will therefore be realized that the Adept acts as intermediary between the Masters and humanity; he is, in fact, one of the links in the chain whereby the Archetypal Ideas conceived in the Logoidal Consciousness are brought through into manifestation in matter.

The Adept is not, however, the last link whereby the chain of evolutionary inspiration is connected with the plane of matter, for he of necessity lives apart from the world of men because he has to maintain a footing in two worlds, and this he cannot do if he be deeply immersed in matter. Below him come his pupils, or apprentices, as they are technically termed in the Mysteries, and to these he hands on the Archetypal Ideas, duly formulated, in order that they may be lived out on the plane of matter and so brought through into manifestation in human consciousness. Once this has been accomplished, and the Archetypal Idea injected into the group-mind of the race by being realized and lived by a consciousness forming part of that group-mind, it is caught up by the race and forms part of its subconsciousness, gradually permeating it, destroying ideas which are antagonistic to it and coalescing with ideas which are sympathetic, thereby changing the whole tone of the group-mind of the race. We say race advisedly, for the whole scheme is racial being worked out through group-minds, and the racial factor cannot be ignored in any question of occult work or initiation. This does not mean that there need necessarily be racial antagonism, but there must always be racial differences until such time as evolution shall have brought humanity beyond the plane of form, and as long as those differences exist they must be allowed for in practical occultism.

The pupil of the Adept, as has already been noted, is known in the language of the Mysteries as an apprentice, and this word more truly expresses his status and relationship to his Teacher than does the more commonly used denomination of pupil; for the term pupil implies one whose attitude towards his teacher is purely receptive, who is being educated solely for his own benefit by a teacher who has no other purpose to serve than that of education; but the term apprentice implies a different type of relationship, for although the apprentice is indeed taught, he learns by sharing in the work of his master, thus catching ‘Hints of the proper craft, tricks of the tool’s true play’. He takes his part in the work that is going forward in his master’s workshop; his labour is essential to the scheme of operations; he is not a mere onlooker, nor does he perform certain actions simply for the sake of acquiring manual dexterity; the clay which he has worked to the proper consistency is not tossed back into the mass but placed by the master upon the wheel; during the earlier stages of his training he performs the manual tasks of unskilled labour for his master; he is used as ‘a hewer of wood and a drawer of water’ and by these services he pays his footing in the workshop and earns the right to pick up his craft by watching the skilled craftsmen at their work. Long before the end of his apprenticeship he will have learnt his trade, but he still has to continue to serve his master for a time, and the value of this unremunerated work again helps to pay for his training until finally, being ‘out of his time’, he is himself a master-craftsman, and as such has the freedom of the city

The experience of the pupil accepted by the Masters is exactly analogous; he serves them in order that he may learn, and his labour is also utilized in the actual performance of the tasks upon which they are engaged. Even while he is receiving the preliminary instruction, he has to serve in their workshop of daily life, and it is in accordance with the way in which these humble offices are fulfilled during the probationary period that the final decision of acceptance or rejection is made. All the time the pupil is learning he is working and as he works he learns. It is one of the tests of a true initiator that he never demands a fee, but always makes the pupil work for his training—makes him serve his time in the traditional way.

We may also conceive of the evolution of humanity as a vast army, toiling slowly along its line of march in a great column; and, scouting far ahead of the main body, solitary outriders, swift-mounted, light-armed and without baggage, exploring the way for the rest; spiritual guerrillas, whom Paul referred to as those born out of due season. From time to time we shall see some swift-footed soul draw ahead of the great army of mankind and push on alone into the wilderness. For a period his path is solitary, but presently he catches up with the far-flung line of the scouts, and if able to give the password that proves him to be of their body, is given his place in the ranks of that adventurous company, a boundary-rider of evolution, alone on his patrol, yet not out of touch with his comrades, for there are signalling-points along the line, and at certain seasons all gather in to the council.

There are certain times and places where the council is held, according to the degree being worked. The supreme council of the Great White Lodge is held beyond the planes of form and is therefore placeless, but the Star Lodges of the Rays have each their point d’appui on the physical plane, whether it be in the Himalayas, Mecca, Jerusalem, or its English equivalent; this holy place is used as a focussing-point to enable those who are still on the plane of matter to get their bearings. Those on the planes beyond form are able, if need be, to descend as far as the Upper Astral, and those who can free their consciousness from the brain and rise thereto can meet them there if they be summoned. Sometimes the pilgrimage to the holy place is made in the flesh, but more often in the astral body; sometimes it is the conscious projection of that body by the trained occultist; sometimes the aspirant is taken thither by his Master and retains the memory as a dream; but in all cases none returns as he went, for he has met the Great Light face to face and its glory remains upon his countenance. The uninitiated never profane the holy places on these occasions, an unseen power keeps them off; even the very cattle are withdrawn, and whether it be pagan mount or Christian pool, in absolute stillness the great vibrations begin to throb till the place is humming like a bell; a strange heat beats up from the ground even in mid-winter; the astral fire glows till every object is rimmed with light; incense, swung in no mortal cense, is heavy on the air and a sense of innumerable presences, rank on rank, presses in on every side, performing the great astral ritual that links spirit with matter; and, under all, the roaring nature-forces can be heard like a river in flood, for it is on the high tide of the world of form that we pass out to the world of force

To the aspirant the memory of such a visit shines out like a star in the dark night of the soul; he who, having set his hand to the plough, turns not back when the toil in the darkness begins, but works on, awaiting the dawn, may suddenly find himself caught up in dream to meet the Master face to face and then returned to the plough-tail again with that glorious memory to comfort him, so that he may say with another seer who had the gift of song

Yea, though Thou then shouldst strike him from his glory, Blind and tormented, maddened and alone,

Even on the Cross would he maintain his story,
Yes, and in Hell would whisper, ‘I have known’.

It is the seeker who remembers in Hell what was shown him on the Mount who attains to illumination.

The Occult Schools

The training of a student of Occult Science falls into well-marked stages, whatever Ray or tradition he may be working upon. Each stage is, or should be, the preparation for the one above it, and serious harm is done when students pass from stage to stage insufficiently prepared. The conditions which are described here must not be taken as referring to any one special order or fraternity, but as being generalizations and a counsel of perfection. Fraternities have their rise and fall, as do other institutes of learning. Upon the mundane plane it is impossible to escape from the limitations of human personalities. A great occultist will make a great occult school, but upon his death the mantle may fall upon unworthy shoulders and the glory be departed or turned to corruption. The way of initiation has been rendered tortuous in the Western hemisphere by persecution and materialism, but the cloud seems to be lifting under the great impulse of spiritual power which all sensitive souls know to be flowing out upon the world at the present time; occult orders and study groups are springing up in every direction, and it is well for the aspirant to have some idea as to what an occult school ought to be in order that he may understand whether the one in which he contemplates enrolling himself meets with the requirements of a genuine initiatory standard.

After the Reformation set men free to speculate in religious matters and worship each at his own discretion, there sprang up a rank crop of sects, some of which differed from orthodoxy in such minute details that the smallest display of tolerance and goodwill could have saved a schism; others were so wild in their doctrines and practice as to be obviously the product of disordered minds. So it is with modern occultism: a very little knowledge and some experience of the Unseen will enable a man to set up as a teacher of occultism and even an initiator; this esoteric quackery is as remote from the spirit of the great Schools of the Mysteries as the methods of a patent medicine seller at a country fair from those of scientific therapeutics.

The great Mystety Schools have existed from the dawn of consciousness in the human race; they are neither fabrications of the imagination, frauds to dupe the superstitious, nor existent solely on the Inner Planes. Outside Europe they have flourished unchecked from time immemorial, revered and feared by the peoples they guided; sometimes fallen upon evil days, as the degenerate voodoo schools of the negro, sometimes retaining a noble tradition, as in certain of the Indian and Chinese schools, but always accepted as a part of the racial life just as the are the monastic orders among ourselves.

In Europe, however, the state religion, which should have been the custodian of the Mysteries, became instead their persecutor. This unhappy state of affairs came about owing to the political expediency which placed men in high positions who did not hold high degrees in the Mysteries. These men, such being human nature, were naturally disinclined to defer to their inferiors in office who were their superiors in knowledge and so the esoteric teachings, which should have formed the inner school of the Church, became interdict as heresies.

Before the Reformation, systematic persecution effectually stamped out all attempts at a Gnosis; and after the Reformation the unguided intellect of the age, reacting against the doctrines of an unilluminated theology despised all transcendentalism as superstition. Occult pursuits were therefore limited either to the very few who in any age are capable of independent thought, or the very ignorant, among whom a traditional magic still survived the civilizing influences of the time, such as they were. These latter brought a discredit upon the science of the Unseen that forced its worthier students to conceal their interest, and therefore Occult Science in Europe led for several centuries a hunted life, and developed the defects that such an existence must invariably give rise to.

The archetypal concepts, however, remained on the Inner Planes, and whenever individual men were able to raise consciousness thereto they found that the great Inner Orders still existed in the Unseen, though persecution had destroyed their physical forms. It was as if the immortal spirit of the Mysteries survived the death of its physical body—the Temple—and those who were able to raise consciousness to a higher plane could communicate with the dead Orders.

During the last half-century innumerable attempts have been made to induce the soul of the Mysteries to reincarnate, and these attempts have met with varying success. Out of many abortive efforts a tradition is gradually being re-formed; the smouldering fire of occult knowledge has been fanned to a blaze, and the gods have again drawn near to man.

During the Dark Ages of European occultism any form of Lodge work was almost impossible, for the gathering together of a number of persons was difficult to conceal, and roused suspicion. The apprenticeship system of training was therefore used by the few European initiates who kept the spark alive. They took individual pupils into their laboratories, just as a master craftsman did into his workshop; and these pupils, after the death of the Adept, usually either scattered for the purpose of seeking further instruction, or took pupils on their own account if sufficiently advanced. The drawbacks of this system can readily be seen; like all unsupervised teaching it tended to slackness and degeneration, and for this reason the Western Esoteric Tradition on the physical plane does not possess a great literature like the Eastern Tradition. Nevertheless, as no student of the subject needs to be reminded, the most important part of an Order is on the Inner Planes, and these Inner Orders remained intact down through the ages, receiving the rare initiates who were able to find their way to them through pure intuition, and biding their time till men should once again be free to build the temple that should hold the shrine.

When a temple has been thus builded, and the altar orientated according to the best knowledge of the artificers, it is necessary to light the Sacred Fire. This can only be done by bringing a live coal from another altar, unless the High Priest is of the Order of Prometheus—and there are not many such. Or, to vary the metaphor, apostolic succession is of the essence of initiation for the reason that the teacher has to induce in the soul of his pupil a particular type of activity, and unless he himself be functioning in this way he is unable to do so. He has to cause the higher consciousness of his pupil, hitherto lying dormant, to start functioning. This is done by means of the process known as the sympathetic induction of vibration.

If a piano and a harp are standing near each other, and a certain note be struck on the piano, the corresponding note will sound forth on the harp because the vibrations of the air, proceeding from the vibrating piano cord, impinge upon the harp strings, and the one of them that is capable of vibrating to that rhythm is set in motion. So it is with the initiator and his pupil. The activity of the higher self of the initiator stimulates that of the pupil. This is the most vital part of an occult training. The theory of occultism can be learned from books that are now available for the general public, but it is only from the functioning occultist that a student can receive the spiritual inoculation which shall work in his veins. Very few souls have ever been able to conceive by the Holy Ghost, and the study of books on embryology will not bring them much nearer to their goal.

The Priests of the Order of Prometheus are those Light-Bearers who institute the new degrees in the Mysteries as the advance of evolution renders man able to receive further teaching. They are the first bestowers of a degree that has not hitherto been worked upon the earth. It must not be thought, however, that when a man comes forward with a new teaching he is necessarily a Priest of the Order of Prometheus. The Order of Prometheus is the next highest degree to the Order of Melchizedek, and these degrees are not conferred upon the simple and ignorant as are the mystic degrees of the Inner Light, such as the Quakers know, but represent the higher spiritual attainments of an initiate. It will be remembered that Moses was taken as an infant into the palace of the Pharoahs and that the Lord Jesus was ‘taken into Egypt’ as a young child. The significance of these words will need no emphasis to the student of esoteric science. Beware of the self-taught occultist; he is as unreliable as the self-taught healer.

Great weight is attached to apostolic succession, or derivation from a genuine tradition; no occult work, as distinguished from mystic development, is possible without it. It may be that the coal that is brought to the newly-consecrated altar is to all outward view a very dead cinder indeed, but if there be the least spark of fire within, it can be blown to a flame; and then a judicious accumulation of fuel will enable the true altar fire to blaze up and initiations to be performed by its light and heat. For the altar fire two things are necessary: the live coal, and a supply of fuel; although the apostolic succession be brought from a genuine tradition, unless there be occult knowledge; unless the temple be properly orientated, the fire cannot be blown to flame; and even after it has been duly kindled and builded, it may still be allowed to go out through lack of fuel or choking ash. Not everyone that cries ‘Lord Lord’, is called of our Father.

An occult school can only be founded by an initiate of one of the great traditions. It will be recalled that Paracelsus travelled in the Near East before he received occult power; it will also be remembered that Mme Blavatsky penetrated into Tibet before she was able to establish an esoteric school. The reason that the Lesser Mysteries of Europe use the terminology of the building trade is that the necessary contacts for the degrees were found in the debased rituals that the mediaeval building guilds performed ‘for luck’ when laying foundation stones. These rituals dated back to the times when temples of the Mysteries were designed as great symbols and systems of correspondences, and the men who did the work had therefore to be initiated into certain lower degrees in order that they might adequately perform their tasks. Only initiate workmen could be allowed to build these symbolic temples, just as only initiate caretakers can look after Masonic temples, and so an elementary knowledge of the Mysteries was as much a part of the training of the better type of builder as an elementary knowledge of mechanics.

When temple-building gave place to church-building the tradition survived for along time. The builders persisted in raising their structures due east and west and working into them a mass of ancient symbolism that their new employers failed to recognize as anything more than ornament. Not that the operative masons had any such esoteric designs as are attributed to them by imaginative writers, for they were seldom initiates of the Greater Mysteries, but they were possessed of stock patterns and lacked original ideas, and thus many of the symbols of ancient faiths have been preserved for us in our Christian buildings long after all shadow of knowledge had been lost to the men who wrought them. The old rituals were retained as superstitious luck-bringers after the manner of the child who prayed regularly, ‘Lead us not into Thames Station’, but when men of knowledge in 1717 wanted living fire for their newly-raised altar, they found that the ancient rituals yielded a few live coals under all their smother of ash, and availed themselves of them.

Orders, Fraternities, Groups

There are two Paths to the Innermost: the Way of the Mystic, which is the way of devotion and meditation, a solitary and subjective path; and the way of the occultist, which is the way of the intellect, of concentration, and of the trained will; upon this path the co-operation of fellow workers is required, firstly for the exchange of knowledge, and secondly because ritual magic plays an important part in this work, and for this the assistance of several is needed in most of the greater operations. The mystic derives his knowledge through the direct communion of his higher self with the Higher Powers; to him the wisdom of the occultist is foolishness, for his mind does not work in that way; but, on the other hand, to a more intellectual and extrovert type, the method of the mystic is impossible until long training has enabled him to transcend the planes of form. We must therefore recognize these two distinct types among those who seek the Way of Initiation, and remember that there is a path for each.

The occultist goes by a well-marked way which has been trodden by countless feet from time immemorial. As soon as he has reached a certain stage of inner development, the Mystery Schools of his race are open to him, and to these he finds his way by a method which will be described in detail in a later chapter The origin of these Mystery Schools and the source of their knowledge has been described in an earlier chapter, and in these pages we will undertake the task of explaining something of their general discipline and organization, the reader being again reminded that these descriptions must not be taken as referring to any particular school, but as generalizations.

Esoteric science begins where exoteric science ends. The latter derives its knowledge from observation of phenomena; the former works by intuitive methods. It is exceedingly desirable that all knowledge should be of that exact nature which only observation and experiment can produce; but the orthodox scientific method is a slow process, and meanwhile man had to live his life and cope with his environment, and therefore, in order to understand himself and solve his problems, availed himself of every faculty of the mind, including the faculty of intuition or subconscious mentation, and also of direct apprehension. Details of these two methods of mentation are too lengthy to be entered upon now, and properly form part of the subject-matter of esoteric psychology

Exoteric science may be conceived as raising a noble and permanent dome in stone; and esoteric science as being the timber scaffolding that holds the unfinished walls in place until such time as the keystone is finally dropped into position. As each fresh course of masonry goes in, the timber comes out, for it is no longer needed; and as each new discovery adds to the domain of exact scientific knowledge, esoteric science withdraws further into the Unseen, still serving its purpose of a temporary framework that enables men’s minds to operate and life to be carried on in a purposive fashion. It is x, the unknown quantity of our mundane algebra, which enables the calculation to be worked; but the problem cannot be regarded as finally solved until x itself is reduced to a numerical quantity and ceases to be unknown.

The great esoteric Orders are in possession of detailed cosmogonies concerning the Unseen Worlds which press about that little of manifestation which is perceived by the five physical senses, and just as the telescope and microscope opened up to man’s knowledge whole universes of new life which were imperceptible to the unaided senses, so do certain little-known powers of the mind, when these are developed, reveal plane beyond plane of existence unsuspected by the average man. The esoteric schools teach the use of these powers because they are to the occultist what the microscope is to the biologist, and by their use he is able to acquaint himself with those states of existence which elude the human mind in its present stage of development.

A System of Correspondences consists of a set of symbols which the concrete mind can apprehend and a knowledge of the association chains which connect them with each other; this knowledge is absolutely essential for occult development, and it is different for each of the great main divisions of mankind and of the earth’s surface because local conditions vary, and upon its astral and mundane aspects the system has to be adapted to them, although in its higher aspects it is universal. For instance, many occult operations are best performed at a certain time; and time is different in different longitudes; therefore the operation which should be performed at a certain hour in London would have to be performed five hours later in New York; for it may not depend upon sun-time; but upon sidereal time; and that is constant for the whole globe; and the difference in sun-time between one part and another has to be allowed for. Likewise, in any process which has relation to magnetic currents and tides, these have to be calculated for the spot where the operation is to occur and cannot be set going at random. All these considerations will show that practical occultism is not a thing to be learnt out of books by the uninitiated. An Order knows the methods of raising and developing consciousness best suited to the land and race to which it belongs, and without such guidance a student of the Secret Science is at a grave disadvantage.

In order to avail oneself of the chart, however, it is necessary to have navigating instruments and understand their use, otherwise one might know where America was, but be quite ignorant of ones own whereabouts in relation to it. The instruments of the occultist are certain little-known faculties of the mind, trained and developed by certain definite processes. Not much can be said in these pages concerning the work of the Greater Mysteries which is carried on by the Orders, but enough has been said to make it clear that they possess the secret cosmogony and understand the methods of training the higher consciousness.

Before such a training can be undertaken, however, it is necessary that the lower consciousness and character should receive a thorough purification and discipline, so that foundations are laid deep and sure that will not shift or yield when the great superstructure of occult knowledge is raised upon them through the functioning of the higher mind. Unless this be done, disaster is very likely to occur; in fact, one might say that it is certain to occur. Many souls, of course, have received initiation in previous lives, and therefore soon recapitulate and recall their old knowledge when they come in touch with the Mysteries again, but even for these it is well to rub up their past memories and be sure that they have brought them through into waking consciousness in their entirety before undertaking the perilous task of occult development; but for the soul that is coming on to the Path for the first time, such a preliminary training is absolutely essential. A very large proportion of the disasters that occur in the pursuit of practical occultism are due to the neglect of the preliminary training so that the foundations could not carry the superstructure. An occult school is a gymnasium of the mind, and if a student attempts to do certain feats when he is untrained or out of condition, a serious accident may occur and he may be injured for life, whereas, when he is properly trained he can perform the same feat with perfect safety. The exercises that develop the higher consciousness have to be graduated just as carefully as those that develop the body, and ignorance or a faulty system produce just as bad results in the Lodge as in the gymnasium. It is a maxim among athletes that no man can train himself, and this is just as true among occultists, as a good many adventurous students have found to their cost. Occultism is a great adventure, and it is not without its risks, though, under proper conditions, these risks are such as a brave man may not consider himself unjustified in taking. It is not unlike mountaineering in this respect: there is always a certain element of danger, and that element may unexpectedly assume serious proportions which no man can foresee; but given good guides, good ropes, and a steady head, there is no reason why a man should not habituate himself to the heights by attempting the easier climbs, and finally be able to conquer the classic peaks of mountaineering. But the man who comes straight out of a London office, and without guides, maps, ropes, or anything but an out-of-date Baedeker, sets out to walk up the Matterhorn, would either get no further than the next village or come to an untimely end.

The preliminary training which fits a man for the heights of occult science is, or ought to be; given in that section of the Mysteries which is known as the Fraternities. It is the function of the Fraternities to train the personality of the pupil, and in the process to weed out those who are unfit for the heights in the present incarnation. No one need be ashamed, after having won into a Fraternity to be unable to go any further; we all have to spend several incarnations working in the Lesser Mysteries before we are ready for the Greater Mysteries, and although when one has succeeded in setting foot on the first rung of the ladder the way lies open to him, it must not be thought that it is possible to climb to the top of the ladder in a single incarnation. Those who make phenomenally rapid progress are recapitulating that which they have done in past lives, and those who make slow progress are working up the Mysteries for the first time; there is nothing to be ashamed of in this slow progress if one is honestly doing ones best, and the time is not wasted, but essential to the training; but one has to be very wary of attempting to travel at the pace that is only possible in a recapitulation, or disaster will ensue.

In a Fraternity the training of character is especially stressed, and the great lessons of brotherhood and selfless service have to be learned. The conscious mind has also to be got ready for its amalgamation with super-consciousness, and for this purpose it has to be equipped with the general theory of occult science. In the Lesser Mysteries, therefore, the aspirant trains his character as an athlete trains his body in order that it may be strengthened to stand the ordeal of the heights to which the Greater Mysteries will enable him to climb. He also seeks to equip his mind so that he may fully understand the teaching that will be conveyed to him when he enters the Greater Mysteries.

Much of the teaching received in the Lesser Mysteries is not now secret but is available in many modern publications; nevertheless, its concepts have to be thoroughly grasped before the student is a fit candidate for the Greater Mysteries, where its real significance is revealed. It is, however, in the character-training that the value of the Lesser Mysteries chiefly lies, and in the fact that the member of a Fraternity is under the influence of one or another of the great Orders; for a Fraternity, to be able to give a valid training, must be the pendant of one of the great initiation traditions, and unless an initiate of the Greater Mysteries occupy the East, its ceremonies will be invalid.

Finally, we come to the consideration of the function of the group or society in the study of the Sacred Science. Such groups are innumerable at the present time, and may either represent the door ajar or be a snare and a delusion, or even something worse. The methods of discriminating between the worthy and the unworthy are given in detail in a later chapter

A group or society is nothing more than a study circle unless its leader is an initiate of the Mysteries, for a group should be the pendant of a Fraternity, just as a Fraternity is the pendant of an Order. Initiates of the Mysteries who have arrived at a certain degree are permitted to work openly in the world, teaching the elements of occult science to all who will listen, but no more than the elements can be given out thus freely for reasons that have already been considered. Such a lecturer or writer does little more than act as a signpost; he says to his students, ‘If you follow the line of preparation which I indicate, you will be able to qualify for occult training’. This, also, is all that the propaganda societies are able to do in their public lectures, but it goes without saying that it is an absolutely necessary task and must be done by somebody, and the initiates of the Mysteries are required to serve their time in this work.

If the leader of a group or the president of a society be indeed an initiate of the Mysteries, he will pass his students on to an inner school where they will receive further training and thus he will be able to set their feet upon the path; but if he be not himself a regular initiate, in touch with one of the great systems, he will have nothing to offer his students beyond the resources of his own intellect, and that is a fountain which the more advanced among them will soon drink dry.

The groups and societies should be looked upon as the outposts of the Mysteries, and it is the aim of every true teacher to pass his pupils through his hands as speedily as may be and send them on to the Order where he himself received his training. The quicker he can bring them to the state of development required for admission to the Mysteries the greater his skill as a teacher. The man who is an initiate of one of the great Mystery Schools never fears to let his pupils outdistance him, because he knows that it stands him in good stead with his superiors if he is constantly sending up to them aspirants who ‘make good’. He therefore never tries to hold back a promising pupil, because he has no need to fear that pupil, if allowed to penetrate into the Mysteries, would spy out the nakedness of the land; he will rather bring back a report of its exceeding richness, and thereby confirm the statements of his teacher and spur his fellow-pupils to yet greater eagerness.

Never trust the occultist who tells you that he is the head of a tradition, because if he were, in the first place, he would not tell the fact to the uninitiated, and in the second place he would in all probability be living in great seclusion and inaccessible to all but his immediate subordinates. If a man is a great artist he does not need to inform us of the fact; we shall know him by his pictures that are hung in the galleries of the nation, and we shall, moreover, find that he guards himself from casual acquaintances because of the inroads on his time to which his fame renders him liable. The more eminent a person, the harder he is to approach, not out of of any spirit of pride and exclusiveness, but because so many people want to see him that discrimination has to be used in admitting them.

So it is with the occultist—the great ones are not easy to find, and the ones that are accessible are either among the smaller fry, or are Guides to bring the seeker to the Mystery School where they themselves received their training. The genuine occultist does not make his secrets up out of his head, but receives them as a great and sacred responsibility, given to him by men who themselves have received them from their predecessors; and so the torch of occult knowledge is handed on down the generations.

This, then, is the organization of the occult schools: first, the groups that gather about initiates of the Lesser Mysteries; then the Fraternity that is a pendant of the Greater Mysteries; and finally the Greater Mysteries, the Order itself, wherein the real occult work begins. It is up this ladder that the aspirant climbs towards the light, and his progress depends on none but himself, for even the Order upon this earth is but the gateway that leads into the Unseen; it is from the Great Initiator alone that he can take his initiation, and that initiation is not given in the flesh or by the flesh. Groups, Orders and Fraternities work in symbols, and in them he sees as in a glass darkly; but it is their function to help him to develop super-consciousness, and when he has achieved it he shall see face to face and know even as he is known.

It must again be emphasized that the study of occultism is only a means to an end, and that end is the Way of Divine Union. Some there are who can take that journey direct, but others have to proceed by stages through the planes of form, of which the mental plane is not the least, and for them the mind has to be trained and raised and taught to function under new forms that shall more nearly approximate to the spiritual actuality. But let it never be forgotten that all forms but obscure the light, and we only know them by the shadows they throw upon a lower plane. The aspirant should use the symbols of occultism to train consciousness, not to furnish it, and it should be his aim to cast them aside at the earliest possible moment that pure consciousness can dawn upon him.

The Use and Power of Ritual

The Inner Light alone can bring a man to the Great Light; but this is a supreme achievement, and to correlate such an experience with normal consciousness, so that it shall not pass like a flash of lightning, it is necessary that consciousness should be prepared for its reception. When it be remembered that each object upon the plane of physical form has within it substance of each of the other six planes of manifestation, and each aspect of substance is shaped into a form according to the laws and types of its own plane, it will be seen that every material object has analogies upon every plane of the manifested universe. It is by the use of these analogies that systems of symbolism are built up.

If those who have knowledge of the Divine Light in any of its aspects wish to assist a neophyte to obtain a conscious realization of the nature of that Light, they have to supply him with a chain of associated ideas, a veritable Jacob’s ladder, leading right up the planes with an accurate correlation upon each. Not every object which may be chosen at random according to superficial resemblance to the thing intended to symbolize can do this, and only those who themselves can lift consciousness plane by plane are competent to work out a system of symbology, and of such, those who can pass through the seven planes are very rare; therefore it is that initiators of a lesser calibre are content to rely upon the symbolism of the Manus of their race even if they themselves are unable to interpret its higher aspects, because they know that their pupil, when he achieves to the plane on which he is entitled to receive any degree of initiation, will be able, having once been shown the mundane symbol, to make that interpretation for himself. It is therefore of great value to have access to the ancient rituals which the Great Ones of the past designed, Manu, Saviour and Master, working each in His degree.

Every object in a Lodge should be a symbolic representation of the different aspects of force functioning upon the plane to which it is intended to raise the consciousness of the candidate. Nothing should be omitted, and nothing extraneous included. The creation in consciousness of an image of the symbol forms a point of contact with the force it is intended to represent. Form, colour, movement, sound, and incense make their appeal to the gates of the physical senses, each of which is an analogue of the subtle senses, and thus the symbolic image is built up which, provided that conditions are right, will be translated into experience by the subtle body upon which it is designed to act.

It has been well and truly said that in the exoteric church the ceremony is performed by one person for the benefit of the congregation; but in the Lodge the ceremony is performed by the congregation for the benefit of one person. The candidate is the principal actor in a mystery play wherein he passes in symbolic action through certain experiences of the soul in its passage from darkness to light. It is intended thereby to recall to memory experiences through which the soul has passed in ultra-consciousness, and unless the initiator has this basis of subconscious achievement to work upon, initiation is a meaningless ceremony to the candidate. Each degree of initiation marks the completion, not the commencement, of a stage on the Path. Let it be clearly understood that ritual initiation in the Lesser Mysteries bestows nothing it merely renders available that which has been attained in ultra-consciouness. The real initiation is a spiritual experience. To pass through the symbolic representation of death and resurrection can mean nothing to a candidate in whom desire is not dead and spiritual consciousness has not arisen.

It is recorded of the ancient Mysteries that the candidate for initiation into the different Fraternities was usually made to act out the life-story of the original Hierophant, the Divine Man whose history formed the basis of the symbolism of the ceremonies. He took the leading part in a mystery play in which the other parts were played by the Lodge officers. The Divine Man was the archetype or ideal which was to be held in consciousness by the neophyte; and each officer of the Lodge represented a force which played upon the Divine Man in the course of his evolution. An officer who rightly understood his function would dwell upon the force which should act through his office till his personality became so saturated with it that he radiated its influence upon the candidate he was helping to initiate. The united action of all the officers builds a group-mind which is capable of transmitting and focussing potencies of a much more massive or cosmic type than could be transmitted through the channel of a single consciousness.

Colour and sound play important parts in the operation of transmuting the forces of one plane into their correspondences on a lower and denser level. Their influence has its basis in the principles of the law of the Ratio of Vibration; this can be best explained by analogy. It is well known that many people associate colours with certain musical tones; it is also a proven fact that if sand be scattered on a disc and a violin bow drawn across its edge, causing it to vibrate, the sand will assume regular patterns consisting of geometrical forms; sound is a vibration of the air, of which the number of vibrations per second of any given note can be ascertained; light is a vibration of the ether of which the number of vibrations per second of any given colour can also be ascertained, and it will be found that there is a mathematical relationship between the air-vibration of a sound and the ether-vibration of the colour which it evokes in the consciousness of certain people of the more sensitive type; the latter will be a multiple of the former. Upon the subtler planes are many different types of force, each with its own vibration-rhythm; if the rate of that rhythm can be discovered, and either its root or prime factors be ascertained, and sounds be formulated which have the vibration-rate of the several factors, and these be enunciated in sequence, they will evoke the complementary vibration in the subtle body which corresponds to the plane of the potency it is intended to evoke, just as the musical tone causes the colour to which it bears a ratio to rise in consciousness. This is the rationale of the use of Sacred Names and Words of Power.

And likewise with geometrical forms: certain composite influences have their correspondences in the intersecting lines of force which give rise to the regular figures of the sand patterns; upon a similar principle are constructed the Sacred Symbols which represent lines of force in the Unseen.

All these influences are employed to construct a great thought-form in the group-mind of the Lodge; and into this thought-form are poured the potencies evoked by the Names of Power used in the initiatory work, and these influences are focussed upon the candidate while he is in a state of exalted consciousness. This is the rationale of initiation.

The candidate, while acting out the ritual with his physical body, should remember that he himself is but a symbol of the Divine Man he is made to represent, and he should follow out in consciousness the processes of the soul that are being enacted on the subtle planes.

Secrecy and Obedience

Those without the gate frequently question the wisdom and right of the occultist to guard his knowledge by the imposition of oaths of secrecy We are so accustomed to see the scientist give his beneficent discoveries freely to all mankind that we feel that humanity is wronged and defrauded if any knowledge be kept secret by its discoverers and not at once made available for all who desire to share in it.

The knowledge is reserved in order that humanity may be protected from its abuse in the hands of the unscrupulous.

The initiate of the Right-hand Path uses every endeavour to ensure that the Secret Science shall be taught to worthy pupils and to these alone.

No initiate of the Right-hand Path would ever withhold knowledge from anyone who was worthy to receive it; rather does he desire to come bringing with him his sheaves when called to enter the Great White Lodge; he seeks earnestly for pupils whom he can train to assist him in his work, for without such assistance many tasks are impossible to him. But, on the other hand, he dare not, for his own protection if for no worthier motive, accept as a pupil anyone likely to abuse that knowledge or betray that trust. For this reason he subjects his pupils to tests and only admits them gradually to the knowledge he holds so that, should they, under the stress of occult training reveal unsuspected flaws of character, they may be rejected before they have gone far enough to be dangerous. The critic of the Adepts would form a truer opinion of their attitude if he did not look upon them as guardians of a treasure, grudgingly doling it out to applicants whose rights it was impossible to ignore or defy, but rather as trainers of racehorses, patiently trying beast after beast in the hope that one may ultimately be found that will win the Grand National. The Adept who accepts an unsuitable pupil is guilty of cruelty just as much as the rider who sends a horse at a fence it cannot take.

Regarding obedience, it is quite true that, for initiation, the pupil must offer unreserved dedication to his Master, but he should allow no one to interpret for him the terms of that dedication; his own Higher Self should be the sole judge. The true initiator will help him to find his Master, but should never for one single moment stand between him and that Master, and if such an attempt is made the pupil is counselled to brush it peremptorily aside. True, an occultist of a higher degree may bring through to him a message or instruction from his Master, but he should never regard it as authoritative unless it ‘causes his heart to burn within him’, unless there is that response of intuition which makes it valid for him.

Supposing for instance, an Adept should say to a neophyte that the Master has given such-and-such an instruction to him, and the neophyte replies, ‘That does not seem right to me’, who is to be the judge? Most unquestionably the neophyte, for it is better for his advancement that he should err as a man than be thrust forward as a slave; he will learn more from an honest mistake than from an unintelligent reliance on the judgment of another. Rashness and overweening self-confidence will no doubt receive their rebuke, but the man who has the courage of his convictions is more likely to win through to initiation than the one who is content to let someone else do his thinking for him. Advice is one thing and commands are another. Advice is given in order that it may enlighten the understanding and is only to be followed after mature consideration; a man of a Western race will generally reply that it is incompatible with his manhood to take orders in questions of conscience from a fallible fellow-creature. It is a bold man who will assume the responsibility of guiding another soul blindfold between Heaven and Hell.

The true trainer of souls knows that it serves no useful purpose to require an oath, for unless he is prepared to carry his pupils bodily into the Kingdom of Heaven he must teach them to walk upon their own feet, and he can never do that as long as he keeps them in the splints of an oath. And indeed, were he so to carry them, it is very doubtful if Heaven would have them, for initiation requires great qualities of character, and these cannot be learnt save in freedom. The Mysteries always demand of a man that he shall be free as well as of good repute, and this is not a mere form of words retained from ancient times, for if a man is of such a nature that he passes readily under the domination of a fellow-being without instinctively resenting the process, he will be very liable to pass under the domination of beings who are not his fellows and fall a victim to obsession.

What is required of the neophyte is not a blind obedience but an intelligent comprehension of principles. His teacher demands of him that he shall have reached such a degree of self-discipline that, when a principle is explained to him, he will immediately be able to put into practice without the bray of Brother Ass becoming unduly loud. The tests of occultism are based partly on the intelligent application of principles to circumstances and partly on character and stamina, and a capacity for blind obedience is not going to take an aspirant through these tests.

If the light that is in him be so dim that he cannot understand the principles involved, he should not be placed in the position of having to deal with problems beyond his powers. Would you make a child in the kindergarten swear loyalty to Euclid and obedience to his principles? When he understands the propositions of Euclid he will see that they are self-evident. And so it is with occult principles: they are natural laws, not arbitrary enactments, and to argue with them is like flogging a dead donkey. If would-be teachers of occult science would realize that their position is as impregnable as that of an astronomer, and that they can safely leave a recalcitrant pupil to be dealt with by the laws he defies, there would be much less talk of schism and rebellion in occult schools. In these matters no man has any need to take the law into his own hands, whether he be pupil or initiator. Supposing the pupil of an astronomer threatened to jump off the earth, would his teacher lock him up in order to save his life? Supposing he threatened to do an injury to the moon, would he make him swear a solemn oath to refrain? The Masters can take care of themselves, and if we persist in poking sticks into the cosmic wheels, it is we who get a broken wrist and no thanks for our pains.

If a teacher bases his teaching upon spiritual principles, he can safely leave his pupils to these principles, whether for reward or punishment. The man who takes his stand upon such principles is in an impregnable position and nothing can dislodge him. Even if he be a neophyte groping in darkness, spiritual principle is the thread that will take him through the labyrinth; if he releases his hold upon it he is lost; if he maintains it he can be his own initiator.

‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy strength’, and ‘Him only shalt thou serve’; the function of teacher, intiator, fraternity, or order, is to bring you to God, not to take the place of God and demand your loyalty. ‘Only follow me so far as I follow the Masters’, said H. P B., and she spoke as a true initiator. All white occultists tell you never to surrender your will; they should also tell you never to surrender your judgment. The teacher who asks you to follow blindly is no more training you than a mathematician who uses the same method. If a suggestion does not appeal to your reason and conscience, reject it. Those who climb high are subject to great temptations, and we never know when the vertigo of the heights may seize even the greatest; there are matters in which onlookers often see most of the game, and the wayfaring man, though a fool, may sometimes form a clearer judgment than those whose eyes are blinded by too much light.

Questions of principle have nothing to do with the intellect, they concern character; and however little you may know of occultism, you are competent to decide a question of principle by the guidance of your conscience, which, for you, is the voice of the Master.

The Right and Left-Hand Paths

The distinction between White and Black occultism is not as easy to draw as the naïve and inexperienced would like to believe. In order to understand it, it is necessary to define the esoteric concept of evil.

If we compare the teaching of the Old and New Testament we shall find that under the Old Dispensation life was regulated by innumerable minutely detailed regulations which told a man exactly what to do in any given circumstances. These regulations, being detailed and precise, were inelastic, and, as conditions of social life changed, became inapplicable; they gave no instructions concerning matters that greatly needed regulation, and obsolete laws remained irksome and needless restrictions. For the interpretation and application of the Mosaic Law were developed hosts of scribes and commentators who by the exercise of great ingenuity and much stretching of the meaning of words, succeeded in maintaining them as a more or less workable system. When the Master Jesus came, however, He said: ‘Behold a new commandment give I unto you: and in some two dozen words He gave the principles underlying the Law and the Prophets. He said: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind and with all thy strength. . . and thy neighbour as thyself.’—This is a comprehensive statement which sophistry cannot elude and which can serve as a guide in all imaginable circumstances. It is a measuring-rod which, upon whatever plane we may be functioning will always give true measure. We can apply it to our dealings with elementals as well as men, with the loftiest intelligences and the most debased of evil spirits. It is a rule of conduct which never fails us.

In estimating external conditions, however, we need some further guidance, and herein it is impossible to apply a standard ruling; a thing which may be right under one circumstance may be wrong under another; a thing which may be right for one person may be wrong for another; there is no Levitical Code which can be applied to the infinite variety of the problems on the Path.

The initiate takes as standard, not an ethical foot-rule, but movement and direction. He measures all things against the current of evolution. He asks of any given action or set of circumstances: Is it moving in the same direction as evolution, and is its pace faster or slower than the normal tide? And he will judge relative rightness or wrongness by the answers to these two questions.

For instance, he might consider the work and teachings of some narrow and bigoted sect, and ask himself: Can I condemn these people who are so obviously full of good intentions? And if he saw that they darkened the human spirit and prevented it from reaching the stature of manhood which it normally attains, he would judge that sect to be moving at a slower pace than the current of evolution, even though going in the same direction, and therefore not to be beneficial to man or God.

Or again, he might study some unorthodox teaching on morality, and, wanting to discover its trend, view it in the light of biology, and find it to be a deviation from the line by which life has come; he would then declare that, although it might be progressing at a greater speed and producing changes more rapidly than the slow amelioration of human conscience, yet it was not moving towards the goal of Divine Union, but diverging at a greater or lesser angle from the path of normal advance as determined by prolonging the line by which the race has come. He would then condemn it as out of alignment with evolution.

Or, finally, he might find that different standards prevailed in societies and among men of different states of development. If he were to assess them justly he would have to take into consideration the step of the evolutionary ladder upon which they stood, for principles have to be applied differently at different stages of development, although themselves unchanging. For instance, every primitive man has to be a warrior and a hunter if he is to do his duty to society, but if the predatory impulses persist in civilized society they lead to crime; it was noticeable how many habitual criminals distinguished themselves in the war, and the remarkable freedom from crime that prevailed while that outlet was available for the adventurous impulses of the race. The professional criminal is by no manner of means invariably a man of ugly temperament or nasty disposition; he will frequently have heroic virtues. Often he is a man whom civilization has not suited and who is in rebellion against the cramping conditions of modern life. Had he been the citizen of a frontier colony he might have made good and achieved distinction. He is evil because he is out of date. The impulses which actuate him have ceased to serve a social purpose. He is atavistic, a ‘throwback’ to primitive conditions.

These principles enable us to estimate the Right- and Left-hand Paths and Black and White Occultism. The Right-hand Path is that which prolongs the line of evolution and leads by the most direct route to its goal; it is the shortest route between the stage at which a man has arrived when he hears the Call, and Divine Union. It will therefore be seen that no one particular route can be laid down as the true Path or system by which every man must come. ‘The ways to God are as many as the breaths of the sons of men.’ It is the directness or indirectness of the route that counts.

And again, with regard to Black Occultism, it is impossible to label any operation as at all times and under all circumstances definitely Black or definitely White; all we can say is, that under certain circumstances it is black or white. Dirt has been defined as misplaced matter, and evil can be defined as misplaced force. Force can be misplaced in time or in space. A thing may be right at one time which is wrong at another. Black Occultism, then, may be defined as misplaced force or out-of-date methods.

The question of out-of-date initiatory methods has been dealt with in an earlier chapter, but we must now take up the question again from the standpoint of the actual training of an aspirant as given in an occult school. Let the aspirant picture himself as standing at the lowest point of an ellipse whose highest point is God; on his left stretches up the path by which he has descended into matter; on his right stretches up the path by which he will return to Spirit. Should he turn and retrace his steps along the path by which he has come, he would be treading the Left-hand Path; should he press on by the path which evolution will ultimately follow, he would be following the Right-hand Path. By either route he can rise upon the planes, and if he has achieved mastery of a plane by the Right-hand Path, he will be Master of both its aspects, primitive and evolved; he will, however, have to be careful to keep both its aspects in their right places, but they will not be forbidden to him any longer.

Let us try to make this clear by an example. Supposing without initiation he tried to penetrate into the higher consciousness with the help of drugs; their action would be to put in abeyance the higher faculties of the mind, thereby enabling the primitive powers of direct psychic perception to function unchecked; he would indeed penetrate to the astral plane, but would find himself in its limbo, or purgatorial aspect. Should he open the astral senses by the true initiatory methods of the development and extension of consciousness, he would equally obtain access to the astral plane, but into another sphere of it. Should he, however, successfully penetrate that sphere, he would find that when he had achieved mastery over it so that he could move about freely in consciousness thereon, he was able also to penetrate its hells. This power, however, he would never use save for the purpose of ‘preaching to the spirits in prison’. The methods of entering the hells may be used by the Black magician who desires to obtain control over the spirits and employ them for his own evil purposes, and by the White occultist who desires to redeem a soul that may have been drawn into one of the hells; therefore it cannot be said that these formulae are definitely evil and should never on any account be used.

There is little doubt that evolution has reached the stage when form is beginning to be laid aside ‘For as we rise the symbols disappear’. The legitimate scope of ritual magic at the present time is limited; it is rightly used for dealing with certain occult pathologies, especially those which originate in the witchcraft of the past, but it is not a thing to be played with for experimental purposes. Nevertheless, a knowledge of its modus operandi and principles is necessary to the neophyte who is opening up the psychic powers, just as a knowledge of swimming is essential to anyone who goes in for boating. The student may be working along lines of spiritual development which do not employ ritual magic, but should an accident occur—and initiation is not fool-proof—he will be precipitated into the sphere where ritual magic operates, and it is the only thing which will extricate him.

The occult powers should be looked upon as a lamp to show the Path to the aspirant, but not as a beacon for him to steer by. They can guide him safely through the unexplored hinterland of the human mind, and without such guidance he is very likely to go astray; but if he turns aside and builds himself a house in the realm of occultism, he will have quitted the Path. His goal is on the heights of Spirit, not in the jungles of mind, but as he must traverse the jungles of mind, he needs equipment for the journey.

12. Seeking the Master

The history of initiation has been touched on very briefly, all too briefly, no doubt, for the general reader unversed in the elements of the subject; it is intended for students, not for propaganda, and the rudiments are taken for granted. It is designed to indicate the way of approach to the Western branch of the great Esoteric Tradition for those who, having made acquaintance with as much of the Secret Wisdom as can be given out publicly, are desirous of continuing their studies in the deeper aspects of the subject.

For this pursuit industry and intellect are not enough; certain conditions of character and certain attitudes of mind are required, and the would-be student must discipline and develop his nature as well as pursue his researches. The Higher Self is the first initiator, none other can put us in touch with the Unseen Masters, and the preliminary work has to be performed subjectively.

It is often asked whether it be possible for initiation to take place without the conscious mind being aware of the experience. To this question the answer is in the negative. Initiation involves the unification of the higher and lower consciousnesses and therefore cannot obviously take place without awareness, or if it could would serve no useful purpose. This, at any rate, is true of the Western Esoteric Tradition wherein the degrees confer actual occult powers which have to be demonstrated to the satisfaction of the magus before the pupil can go on to the higher grades. Whether the same be true of the Eastern Tradition the writer cannot say, not being an initiate of that Tradition, but the evidence points to the same state of affairs prevailing therein, and to the possession of the Siddhis, or occult powers, by all genuine initiates of that Tradition. A different state of affairs, however, arises when a soul incarnated in a Western body seeks, while resident in a Western country and without actual contact with an Eastern Guru, to take an Eastern initiation. In such a case it might be quite possible that awareness of the experience would not succeed in penetrating the physical vehicle. It would then be held, however, that such an experience was only partial, and it would certainly not confer the Siddhis, or Powers of the Degree. Its fruits might be reaped in another incarnation, but hardly in this one. Therefore it is that the initiates of the West have always held that Western methods must be used for Western people, and they have never been denied to suitable applicants, nor yet to any group or society that came with clean hands seeking the contacts. The great Western Esoteric Tradition is a living force; the Western Way is an open road trodden by countless feet, and all who seek it can find it.

The Master is aware of the existence of the pupil, and may even have begun the preliminary training before the pupil is sufficiently psychic to be aware of the presence of the Master. The preliminary training can indeed go on without awareness on the part of the pupil. The invocation that summoned the Master may have been forgotten; the quest, though still desired, regarded with despair, and the seeker believe that he has cried to ears that were too remote for hearing or even do not exist; and yet the work may be going steadily forward upon his higher self, beyond the range of brain consciousness. Let him not despair, but keep on with his aspiration, and in due course he shall reap if he fail not. Day by day the higher consciousness is being pushed nearer and nearer to the threshold; the great forces that the Masters let loose upon the soul that opens itself to them is filling its depths like a spring flowing into a reservoir; slowly the waters gather head behind the barrier that separates subconsciousness from consciousness, and when the time is ripe the initiator lays his hand upon the lever that operates the sluices and the water flows in its appointed channel.

The operation, therefore, is a twofold one, and is performed upon two planes simultaneously, just as a tunnel through a mountain is bored from both ends at once. And just as in the driving of a tunnel, it depends upon the skill of the engineers and the accuracy of their instruments whether the two cuttings shall meet or miss each other in the depths of the mountain, so it depends upon the psychological skill of the teacher as to whether the two lines of development shall meet or miss each other in the depths of the aspirant’s subconsciousness. His duty it is to see that the training of the personality and conscious mind shall be conducted in such a way that the crooked places shall be made straight and the Path of the Soul be brought into alignment with the Path of the Power of the Spirit descending like a lightning-flash. If this be not done, the junction between the two Paths may have to be effected by means of just such an S-bend as disfigured one of the earlier Alpine tunnels. Such a twisting of the path of power is always a source of danger, for it is the tendency of any force to go straight on, and it may fail to take the bend. Such a force, ploughing a track through consciousness and oversetting all that lies in its course, is known to occultists as a tort, and is the cause of many pathologies of both mind, morals and body. The risk of such an occurrence is greatly lessened when the Path is trodden under the guidance of a reliable teacher. He will know the angle of incidence of the initiatory force and can instruct his pupil how to bring his state of consciousness into alignment with it.

How shall he who has glimpsed the possibility of the Great Work find a Master who shall train him for its performance? This is the supreme question for the earnest seeker. But remember this: treading the Path is very different from studying the map. The map may be studied by lamplight at the fireside, the Path is trodden out in the wind and darkness of the barren places of the soul; for the Path is within, and leads from brain consciousness, through subconsciousness, to superconsciousness. It is, nevertheless, by no manner of means subjective, and it is concerning the objective aspect of the quest that the student will no doubt be curious.

Let us consider the spiritual history of one who sets out on the quest, and note the stages through which he will pass.

First there comes the formulation of the concept; he conceives the idea of initiation and the ideal of the Master’s service and desires to make his dedication. But is desire enough? Yes, it is enough if it is strong enough and long enough; if it continues unwavering and unshaken through all the testing of the soul that shall try its fibre, through the purgation that shall purify it for the Master’s contacting and through the toil of the training that shall fit it for the Master’s service; if the desire for initiation continue unwavering through all this, it shall bring the pupil to the feet of the Master.

But how few achieve or even realize the strength of the desire that is needed to bring about initiation. The beautiful Eastern tradition tells of the Master who held his chela under water till he was half-drowned, and told him that when he desired light as fervently as he desired air he would receive it; and the Western story tells of the man who sold all he had in order to buy the pearl of great price. He who sets foot upon the Path may take nothing with him; naked are we born into the world, and naked we pass out of it into the higher consciousness. The ‘heavenly homesick’ are many, but those who will endure the divine journey are few. It is impossible to make the best of both worlds, for where our treasure is there will our heart be also.

It is only those for whom the lust of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the pride of life have ceased to have any significance who will essay the Path that leads to the heights, and for them the journey will not be hard, because they travel light. He who goes empty-handed treads easily; it is the great burden of egoistical necessities that renders the way toilsome

Presently there comes to the soul a bitter period of conflict. It has glimpsed the divine ideal, it has drunk of the living waters of the spirit, and these have begotten in it a thirst which cannot be slaked upon earth; having known reality, it cannot find rest in appearances; and yet it has not exhausted the delights of matter. It is best that such a one should seriously count the cost before embarking upon the Great Quest and calling upon the Masters for aid in his search. For the Masters will take him at his word if he invokes them, and cause him to pass through the flame of circumstance so that all dross may be purged from his character; but if the core of his nature be poor in spiritual metal, the conflagration thus caused will generate such heat that the gold will fuse and run, and the form of that man be lost. It is the desireless man alone who passes into the Great Freedom, and when one who is ruled by desires essays the passage, these desires, being torn up by the roots, cause the soul to bleed. It is better that a ripening of the spirit should be achieved so that it parts with its fleshly desires naturally by outgrowing them, rather than do violence to the instincts of nature. It is not the suppression but the outgrowing of desires that we should seek; ripe fruit parts readily from the stem, and the man who has learned the lessons that life teaches will pass on without repining. An incomplete, abortive experience of life is not a good foundation for illumination.

Initiation cannot be obtained in less than three incarnations of steadily directed effort. In the first incarnation the soul conceives the ideal and nurses it in secret, fulfilling all the duties of humanity in humility and patience, thus building character; in the second incarnation the soul undergoes testing and purgation and has to meet its karma—this is sometimes spoken of as the seed incarnation; and in the third incarnation it rapidly recapitulates the development attained in the other two and is ready for the Path.

Each individual who conceives the ideal of initiation has to ascertain whether consciousness is being awakened for the first time, or whether memory is returning from the depths of the subconsciousness after the inter-natal sleep; it is here that the advice of a teacher who can read the Records is very necessary, for an imagination fired by the lust of adventure or the spirit of emulation may lead the aspirant grievously astray, causing him to venture in out of his depth. It may also happen that the previous preparatory life may not have fulfilled its purpose and the preparation thus be incomplete; the work has then to be done over again before further advance can be made. Finally, there are many souls who have been initiated in the past but have been led astray or failed in a test, and must then laboriously climb back up the ground that has been lost; such souls are often psychic but have no knowledge of occultism; the subtle senses that have been developed may remain, but the contacts are broken and the memories obliterated by the Master who has been betrayed; for these the Path is forbidden until expiation has been completed and the wrong redressed; their own instinct is the best guide in this matter for they will know with an unerring certainty when the invisible barrier is down and they are free to go forward.

The aspiration of the soul for initiation should be formulated and held with an unswerving determination; it should be meditated upon and brooded over in the night watches, and every action of the waking hours dedicated to the perfecting of character and the service of humanity, and, through it, of the Masters; but the soul should wait in humility for psychic experiences, not seeking to project itself out into the astral spaces where it has neither guide, chart nor compass. In due season, when the time is ripe, it shall indeed travel the astral ways, but under the care of a guide, and not alone.

The Masters receive souls as pupils, not for the benefit of the soul, but for the benefit of the Great Work; a man is not trained for the sake of his curiosity or enthusiasm, but only in so far as he is of value as a servant; it is for this reason that a selfless desire to serve is the surest path to the Master; no one who desires knowledge or power for its own sake ever succeeds in obtaining the innermost essence of it. He may become a magician, or an astral seer, or even possess deep intuitional wisdom, but the spiritual Light of the Innermost is unlit. Let us make no mistake, it is the Spirit which is the goal of the quest; all else is a means to an end, all else an appearance, not a reality; and though appearances may not necessarily be delusive, but rather a true and accurate symbolism and system of correspondences, they cannot satisfy the hunger of the spiritual nature after the Spirit of God. The astral body functions on the astral plane, and the mental body wakes to consciousness on the mental plane when it receives its initiation, but the spiritual body must needs wake to the world of Spirit before the seven-fold man is completed. Neither mentality nor emotion will satisfy the needs of the spirit.

In Union with the Divine, which the Western esotericist conceives of as being the supreme initiation, the Spark of Divine Spirit, which is to man what the grain of sand is to the pearl, wakes into consciousness within the fully-formed sixth-plane body of concrete spirit; this is the first of the cosmic initiations, because the Divine Spark, being metaphorically speaking of the Plane of God, has passed beyond the Ring Pass-not of the projected universe into the noumenal Cosmos where the consciousness of the Great Entity dwells.

This supreme spiritual ideal must never be lost sight of in all the long course of the Path: it alone is the goal, for nothing else can give the final and full completion. Neither astral sight nor magical powers are ends in themselves, but rather subserve the ends of the Adept, who, unless he has also the powers of the spirit, is but as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal; but yet, if he have the things of the spirit and have not these also, he must needs be of those who wait in subjective bliss for the end of the Day of Manifestation, for without the Powers of the Planes he cannot return to help humanity on its upward path; he must be a magician if he is going to be a Master, for without the occult arts he cannot pass from plane to plane. This is a very important point and one to be seriously considered in the choice of an esoteric school or teacher.

Let us now consider the actual stages in the training of the seeker who, having formulated a true ideal, has caused his light to shine forth in the dark places of the world. By thinking of the Masters we attract their attention, and it is unbelievably easy to establish a magnetic link with those who are always more ready to give than we are to receive; and if any one, after thinking about the Masters and formulating a wish to be accepted as a pupil, finds that the circumstances of his life are beginning to blow up for storm, he will know that his application has been accepted and that the preliminary tests have begun. At every point in his life he will be tested for freedom from desire. Now it must not be thought that the service of the Masters necessarily means bankruptcy and bereavement; a man may have vast wealth and yet the things that money can buy may mean so little to him that he never troubles to buy them, leading a life of great simplicity and using the whole of his vast resources in selfless service, asking neither reward nor thanks. Such a one would feel relief rather than loss were he deprived of his fortune. But if there is one who, even with the narrowest means, clings desperately to his slender security, he will be tested by financial loss until he realizes that, if we take the Master at His word and seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and its righteousness, all these things are added unto us.

The Master Jesus is the Master of Compassion, and His Kingdom is the Kingdom of Love, but if we love any creature or thing with a purely personal love, a love that enjoys the sensation of loving rather than the good of the beloved, we shall surely be tested by the withdrawal of the thing desired. But if we love with a love so completely selfless that we would stand aside without a pang if the beloved one might thereby receive a greater good than it is in our power to bestow, then we love with the Greater Love which shall not be taken away, neither can height nor depth nor any other creature sunder us from the object of our love.

Do not let it be thought that in the sacrifices of the Path any duty has to be put aside; it is not duties, but desires that have to be foregone. Every legitimate duty has to be fulfilled, not evaded, and every human debt paid before we are free to enter upon the dedication which the study of the Secret Wisdom involves. There are, however, many ways to the Masters of Wisdom, and one of them is the path of the Hearth-fire, whereby through the fulfilling of household duties in love, initiation is won. The sacred duties of the home are the steps on the Path, and it often falls to the lot of those who in past incarnations have pursued knowledge for its own sake rather than for service that they should follow this discipline. Let these dedicate themselves to it as to the Master, but using all leisure to study faithfully and provide the necessary basis of knowledge, and let their motto be:

Earn the means first, God surely will contrive
Use for our earning,

Wherever the soul finds itself, from that point must it start upon its journey; no one can stand in the shoes of another. The soul must always ‘make good’ on that which lies to its hand before it enters upon the Path. If that soul finds itself as a clerk or a cook, it must become an efficient clerk or a good cook; the Masters have as little use for incompetence as they have for sin, and if we are incompetent in the discharge of any section of our undertakings, a substratum of weakness will underlie the whole nature, and the tests of the Path will find it out.

In due course the time will come when the seeker, having safely undergone the preliminary tests, finds the Path proper opening up before him; having made the utmost of the means at his disposal and exhausted them, further opportunities are given him. The exhaustion of material placed to hand for his practice is a very important point in connection with advancement. A seeker may sigh for books beyond his means, and feel unable to advance in his studies for lack of them, but has he exhausted the possibilities of the municipal free library? Or he may desire deep teaching on meditation, but has he learnt to keep his head during the rush hours of his business? All these things are used by the Masters as discipline, and They observe the proficiency of the pupil in these things before They advance him, and one of the surest tests is the tidiness of the room a person occupies and the orderly conduct of his affairs; an occultist needs an even temper and an iron nerve, and there are few walks in life that cannot be made to afford opportunities for the development of the essential preliminaries.

All having been done, then, that the seeker can do in solitude, the Star Lodge under which his Path is being taken allots him a Guide. The office of Guide is one of the first that is filled by a soul that has advanced beyond incarnation in matter. After the last death of the body of one who has dedicated himself to the service of the Masters, the newly-liberated soul is employed in the great humanitarian work that goes on on the astral plane; this work is well known to all engaged in spiritualistic research, and need not be entered into in detail in these pages, and the office of Guide is one of its sub-divisions.

A guide acts as messenger between the Master and the pupil, conveying instruction by means of telepathic suggestion to the consciousness of the soul in his care; he also has the task of protecting his charge during his first expeditions on to the inner planes, safeguarding him during the difficult moments of transition from one plane to another and supporting him until he has learnt skill in making the transition through the states of consciousness.

For a period varying from a few months to several years the relation of Guide and seeker continues, and by the end of it they are as well acquainted with each other as any other pair of friends. Guides are simply human beings of a lofty type who have not got physical bodies, and the personality is that of the last incarnation. A time may come, however, when the Guide is ready to advance to higher work but the seeker is not yet ready for the next stage; a new Guide will then be allotted to him and the other will withdraw, though he may from time to time visit his erstwhile charge, for these friendships of the inner planes are just as real as those of the earth-plane

When the time comes, however, that the pupil is able to come and go between the planes with confidence and sureness and can himself receive the commands of his Master, he no longer needs the help of his Guide, who is then withdrawn for other work.

Many souls are trained entirely from the inner planes in this way, but there are others which do not so readily develop psychism, and for them another method is used. The Guide will act as go-between from the pupil who is to be trained to another servant of the same Master who has already been trained in the physical body, and will place the student under a teacher. Now a teacher is not a master, and no one worthy of the name would claim the title: his function is to inform the pupil, not to dominate him.

An occult student is in as much need of protection during the early stages of his training as a hermit crab that has left one shell to search for another, otherwise he will develop nerve trouble and exhaustion; these complaints are not a sine qua non of occult development, neither do they show the spirituality of the nature, but are a sign of faulty training; they do not redound to the credit of the student but to the discredit of the teacher. No occult work should be attempted by a person in a devitalized or unbalanced condition; everything must be put aside until he has recovered his physical fitness, and it is the duty of the teacher to look after the physical condition of the pupil as carefully as after his spiritual condition.

The teacher knows the pupil by the seal of the Master which is stamped on the aura just above the head, but how is the pupil to know the teacher and be sure that he is not in the hands of a charlatan? Firstly because the teacher will ask him for no money for his instruction. This is the supreme test of an occult teacher and effectually rules out the mercenary. A man, however, may be well-intentioned and idealistic, but nevertheless a fool; how is the pupil to know that he is not getting into the hands of an incompetent? He must exercise the same care and discretion as he would in transacting any important business matter on the physical plane; he must make enquiries as to the reputation and record of the person into whose hands he proposes to commit his spiritual life. He must observe closely the character, outlook and type of the members of the group by whom the teacher is surrounded, for here will be seen the clearest indication of the nature of the teaching given, and it is an indication that cannot lie. ‘By their fruits ye shall know them.’ And the wayfaring man, though a fool, knows the fruits of the Spirit when he sees them. Purity and peace, a sane mind in a sound body; charity of thought and action as well as of speech and printing; order and cleanliness of both mind and environment; fair dealing and the honourable meeting of obligations; and, above all, the simple kindliness that sweetens human intercourse, ‘against these there is no law’ but where these are lacking beware.

Occult training should build nobility of character and balance of mind. If it fails to do this there is something amiss. What shall it profit a man if he sees the heavens open and lose his reason? It is better to have five senses and sanity than psychism and a lack of balance. A teacher of any system of occult training can only be justified by results. Good intentions may serve to protect the individual who ventures into the Unseen in search of knowledge for himself, but they are not sufficient equipment for the one who undertakes to train another.

Some cry ‘Peace, peace’, where there is no peace, refusing to see signs of mental and physical deterioration in their pupils, and regarding the symptoms of nervous tension as incipient psychism. Unskilled in the processes of the mind, they fail to recognize dissociation and hallucination when they see them, regarding abnormal phenomena as evidence of unfolding powers. Seership is an integration of the individuality, not a disintegration of the personality. The great problem that always besets the seer is the problem of synthesis, the maintenance of open communications between the higher and lower self, and the translation of the abstract into the concrete so that it may be assimilable by consciousness; and no system of training which tends to loosen the cohesion of the personality can produce satisfactory results.

Other teachers, accustomed to operate an ineffectual system, suddenly lose their heads when an exceptionally sensitive pupil begins to get results and naturally turns to them for explanation and guidance. Not being sensitive themselves, they are unable to sense what the pupil senses, and if all does not go smoothly (and under such circumstances it is not very likely to go smoothly), they become panic-stricken and drop the pupil like a hot coal. The condition of such a one is deplorable, and generally ends in severe breakdown or even insanity. The condition of such a teacher is not less deplorable, though the karmic results may not manifest so quickly.

Every true initiator knows that he has to share in the karma that shall be generated by any pupil he trains; if that pupil makes good use of his knowledge and does well, the initiator is thereby advanced; a highly evolved group is of incalculable value to any occultist, hence the folly of withholding advancement out of jealousy. On the other hand, the abuse of occult power has a disastrous effect not only on the person who does it, but on the group in which he was trained. Just as the pupil should be careful in placing himself in the hands of a teacher, so the teacher has just as great need to be careful in the acceptance of a pupil, and the applicant must be prepared to submit to tests before he is trusted. He should be wary of the ever-open door; those who have treasures guard them.

He must remember, however that the teacher cannot reveal his system to the uninitiated, and the more he knows the less he will be inclined to tell, and even the most cautious must be prepared to take something on trust; but if, considering the teacher, he feels that he desires to become even as he, then he will be safe in enrolling himself. But if, after considering the teacher, he feels that he must reject the character while absorbing the knowledge, he will be very unwise to have any dealings at all with that person, because he will find that in actual practice he is unable to maintain the distinction.

A man may teach natural science without any considerations of personal character entering into the matter, but not so with occult science. The essence of occult training does not lie in what is taught, but in the influences that emanate from the teacher and gradually tune the pupil to higher and higher vibrations. The teacher has to transmit the forces of the Master until the pupil becomes en rapport with that Master: it is in this that the real value of the training lies, not in the information that is communicated; everybody teaches much the same things, some a little more, some a little less; there is no great divergence between the different schools, but there is an immense difference in their respective vitality and purity.

If a teacher has evil or unsublimated aspects in his own nature, these aspects will put him in touch with the corresponding potencies in the unseen world, and when he seeks to bring through the force of his Master, he will be working on a mixed contact, and the results for the pupil will be good and evil inextricably blended. Under such circumstances the teacher tends more and more to be dissociated from his Master, and is therefore working upon a falling tide, and as the higher forces fail, the lower come more into evidence. Such a one is an exceedingly dangerous acquaintance for anyone who is at all sensitive.

However strong he may feel himself to be, no pupil may hope to be stronger than his teacher, for if the latter does not know more than he, why go to him? Never believe that you will be able to sort out the wheat from the tares before the harvest. If the teacher is a man of impure life you cannot fail to be involved in impurity; if he be unscrupulous, you will be sacrificed to his love of power or gain.

To stand by the teacher through good and ill report is indeed a test, but to condone evil action is not; the test in such a case is of a contrary nature. Are you prepared to lose your chance of initiation rather than receive it from unclean hands? Are you prepared to refuse the Waters of Life if they are polluted with dirt? On the answer to these questions much depends. Is it the test that you should swallow the dirt for the sake of the teaching? Or is it that you should reject the opportunity on account of the dirt? Follow your instinct. It will lead you to the place where you belong.

But remember this: no one has the power to give you initiation or deny it to you; as soon as you are entitled to it you claim it by right, not by grace. If one channel closes, another will open up. Claim your initiation from the Masters, not from any Lodge, Fraternity, or Order upon the physical plane; and although the vote of such an assembly has the power to close any particular Lodge to you, it has not the power to close the Order if that Order be a true occult fraternity, for in such case the decision does not rest with those upon this plane, but with those upon the Inner Planes whence the Order derives its power. If those who are the guardians of the gates on the physical side persistently deny access to those to whom it is due, the stream of force issuing through those gates will be deflected to another channel, a bare and boulder-strewn bed will lie where there once had been a navigable course, and the Waters of Life will flow elsewhere; but the Waters of Life will not cease to flow because human judgment declares them private. No seeker after truth need fear human judgment; the issue lies between him and his Master and none other. If he fit himself for initiation he will receive it, if not from one hand, then from another, and if he were not ready for it the greatest Adept in the cosmos would be unable to bestow it on him.

Never hesitate to take your stand boldly upon a principle in occult matters, for you are dealing in principles, and if you take not your stand upon these, where shall you set your foot and find it firm? Expediency is a most dangerous double-edged weapon; never risk it. In all moments of difficulty and danger, rise on to a higher plane, and in spiritual principles find the solution of astral difficulties. Never be guided by anybody’s opinion in seeking the solution of an occult problem. Look within, and seek to hear the still small voice of conscience, for it shall be to you the Voice of the Master. But before so listening, invoke the Master, and ring yourself about with the sacred circle of His power, drawing it in the air with your finger while invoking the Name; for there is such as thing as telepathic suggestion, and if you have reason to believe that this is at work, if you find ideas obtruding themselves in your mind which would not normally find tolerance there, then you would do well to conduct the meditation that shall make clear your path in a church where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, for into that Presence and potency can come nothing that maketh a lie.

The Choice of an Occult School

For those of highly developed will and consciousness it is possible to obtain access to the source of the Secret Wisdom by purely intuitional and meditative methods, but a considerable degree of advancement in these methods is necessary before this is possible. There are many, however, who have a sincere desire for such knowledge, and who have already achieved the development of character which entitles them to receive it, but who cannot obtain it owing to a lack of the necessary technique of consciousness which renders it accessible to purely meditative methods. For these there exists a school of training which, although it does not claim to open the gate of the unseen worlds, can show where that gate is and give the key that will unlock it when the pupil has trodden the path that brings him to it. More than this no one can do, unless he chooses to make use of drugs and hypnosis and pay the price that these exact.

As has already been said: ‘The ways to God are as many as the breaths of the sons of men’. There are seven known Paths, though not all are in function as Ways of Initiation at the present time, and upon each Path are many schools. The choice of a school depends upon temperament, for all those that are not of the Left-hand Path teach an aspect or degree of the eternal Truth which is universally valid. A school of esotericism usually arises in connection with some special realization of the Truth, which it sometimes stresses beyond its due proportion to life as a whole, but there will never be found any teaching which has the power to hold together a body of earnest seekers which has not a spark of the divine fire at its heart; therefore respect should be given to all who seek in sincerity, however far from the goal they may appear to be, and all who are engaged in the great Quest should rather try to see the vision which a brother has glimpsed than the special errors to which he has fallen a victim.

No enunciation of the Truth will ever be complete, no method of training will ever be suitable to all temperaments, no one can do more than mark out the little plot of Infinity which he intends to cultivate, and thrust in the spade, trusting that the soil may eventually be fruitful and free from weeds so far as the bounds he has set himself extend; but although labour is essential to any enterprise, it is God who giveth the increase. A fraternity which has no illumination save the inspiration of its founder is limited by the capacity of his personality and will be a burnt-out cinder when the personality is withdrawn. An esoteric school differs from all other schools in the fact that though, like them, its wisdom may be stored in its library, its power lies in its contacts with the Inner Worlds, and unless it has these contacts it cannot give its pupils the power to put theory into practice. All schools of the Right-hand Path teach the same principles, but they differ very much in their power to apply them. Some maintain that it should be enough for us to know the theory, and that to attempt its practical application is a dangerous presumption; others maintain that all experience is purely subjective. This, of course, may be true for the pupils of these schools, but there is no need for those foxes which have tails to cut them off.

Unless the study of esoteric science yields fruits of practical application it is unworthy of the pursuit of any serious-minded person, and unless these fruits be the fruits of the spirit it is unworthy of the study of any spiritually-minded person. Man has four aspects—physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual—and any method of training should take account of all four if it is to produce that balance of nature which alone can give stability. Psychism is often unfortunately associated with instability, but nothing but stability and fortitude are compatible with the exercise of the occult powers.

Occultism is not fool-proof; it makes heavy demands upon the spiritual stamina of those who elect to study it, but if pursued under the right conditions it can be productive of good without any inevitable alloy of evil. It is no pursuit for either the weak or the timorous, however pure their intentions may be, neither is it a wholesome interest for the immature; as maturity is a matter of individual development, it is difficult to draw a hard and fast line, but the writer never cares to see anyone under the age of twenty-five taking an interest in these subjects. The first quarter-century of life should be given to the physical plane; if attention is turned to the inner planes prematurely, it tends to withdraw energy from the outer planes before the full development of brainconsciousness has been attained, and that person will have insufficient power of extroversion, and a tendency to become permanently introvert, whereas the properly trained occultist should maintain a balanced rhythm between the two aspects of consciousness.

Balance is the keynote of all true esoteric training; to the ill-balanced nature the higher wisdom is nothing but a danger; stability is as necessary as purity upon the Path. A sensitive is a very different kind of person from an occultist; and the type of training which will develop a sensitive is very different from that which is employed to train an occultist. Those who adventure into the unseen worlds may be divided into three classes, sensitives, mystics, and occultists. Sensitives are of the negative or purely receptive aspect of the higher consciousness; they are passive, affected by that which is external to the self, without power to control it; whereas both occultist and mystic are intensely active. The powers of a sensitive should form part of the armoury of a fully-trained occultist; he should be able to perceive the unseen as clearly as can a sensitive, and he should be able upon occasion to act as transmitter of communications from one plane to another, but he also needs to be so very much more.

It is amusing to note that, while the occultist decries the spiritualist, the mystic looks askance at the occultist; yet a mystic is simply an introvert occultist, and the occultist an extrovert mystic. Both aim at the same goal, though they seek it by different methods. The difference between them is of temperament, not of ideal. When the scientific temperament approaches the Unseen, it chooses to Occult Path of development, and when the artistic temperament approaches the Unseen, it chooses the Mystic Path; one progresses through right knowing and the other through right feeling, and both meet in the end. Difference of method should never blind us to unity of aim.

The mystic pursues a solitary path, even when he is a member of a community; his visions are for himself alone, and he has often but little power to teach that which he has himself learnt. He reaches the heights of the spirit and dwells there apart; his experience is a personal one, and cannot be communicated to others. He is essentially the artistic temperament working upon the things of the spirit; creative, joyous, and inspiring to those who can appreciate his art because they are akin to him in nature. Esotericism, without a touch of mystic rapture, would be as drab as a culture that had no place for the beautiful; but a spiritual culture which is purely mystical has little relation to the problems of humanity and no message for the common man.

Occultism, on the other hand, is of the intellect. The occult path is followed in co-operation with others, because its heights are achieved by means of group-work and the use of ritual.

We might well speak of the mystic art and the occult science; and in so speaking we are reminded that every art is based upon a science, and every applied science partakes of the nature of an art. The highest development is attained when the mystic has the knowledge and technique of an occultist, or when the occultist is at heart a mystic. The mystic can then express the teachings of the spirit in terms of the intellect and so render them available for those who have no higher consciousness than that of the mind; and the occultist who shares in the things of the spirit will have that element of devotion in his nature which is so often lacking in those in whom the intellect is dominant. Without this element the final synthesis is impossible; he will only be as the exoteric philosopher who follows an ever-receding horizon, because he only studies phenomena by means of the effect they produce upon the senses. Noumenal consciousness, which is the ultimate aim of the esotericist, is only possible to those who can actually unite with that which they wish to know. The ultimate object of realization is the Logos by whose fiat all things are; union with the Divine can only take place through devotion, and union with the Divine is the ultimate synthesis. To this all paths lead, and in this all aims find their realization. The mystic seeks a state of feeling in which he shall be at one with God, and the occultist seeks a state of knowing in which he shall have a complete realization of truth; both of these can know God, but neither can know God in His entirety.

The Path of Initiation

‘If the light in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness’. It is the Christ within who is the First Initiator. The entrance to the Path is to be sought within, not without, for it is a state of exalted consciousness. But once that consciousness is attained, the Path is objective as well as subjective. Some teachers declare the Path to be entirely subjective, saying that the aim of initiation is the perfecting of man; others teach that initiation is an astral experience; while popular thought often believes than the man who seeks initiation will find it in some remote district behind high walls. None of these concepts contains the whole truth, but there is an element of truth in all of them.

In order to attain to initiation the raising of consciousness to a degree higher than is common among the average of humanity is necessary Consciousness must not only transcend the five physical senses, but it must also transcend ordinary psychism if the experience which is connoted by the term initiation in these pages is to be achieved. Initiation is a spiritual, not an astral experience; the candidate shifts the focus of his consciousness from the personality the unit of incarnation, to the individuality, the immortal ego, or unit of evolution, and the consciousness of the individuality, being abstract, is able to apprehend the things of the spirit.

The initiate transfers the focus of his consciousness from the personality to the individuality, and therefore things which are hidden from the ordinary man are perceptible to him. He lives in an evolution, not in an incarnation, and consequently all his values are changed. He can see deeply into the realm of causes, perceiving events brewing on the inner planes long before they become manifest on the outer; therefore he has the gift of prophecy. Seeing causes, he can often control them; therefore he appears to have magical powers. Operating upon the higher planes, which act as controlling-levels to the lower planes, he can balance force against force by throwing his will into the scale, and so change the issue of events on the physical plane. These things it is which cause the initiate to be regarded as possessed of magical powers; but these powers are not of the nature of magic; the initiate achieves his ends by employing the powers of his higher self on the higher planes, even as does the wayfaring man whose prayer achieves an answer.

The Path which leads to initiation is the way of life which enables a man to rise above the desires and limitations of his personality and live in his higher self, and the experience of initiation is the transference of consciousness from the personality to the individuality.

A man sets foot upon the Path immediately he desires to do so. This is the first step, and a very simple one. But it is only by continuation of desire that he sets one foot before another, which is the treading of the Path. It is very few souls who maintain a sufficiently steadfast desire to enable them to make perceptible progress; but desire, steadily continued, will presently be found to have achieved the desired aim, and the candidate will be placed in possession of the necessary knowledge to enable him to make purposive progress and to direct his efforts to a definite end. It is for this reason that the Masters found and support such organizations as the Theosophical Society, the Anthroposophical Society, the Rosicrucian Fellowship, and many others, less well known but not less useful, and to all such, those who have seen the dawn should give their support out of gratitude for the light they have themselves received and in order that the Path may be made easier for others.

Through the books and lectures of such societies as these the candidate will learn that his dream has a foundation in fact, and that his inner urge is founded on a true instinct; they will give him a map of the Path, though no one but himself can tread it. From them he will learn of the origin of man as a divine potentiality, of his evolution through the sevenfold experiences of form, and of his ultimate transcendence of form in the development of the divine actuality; he will learn of the seven planes and the possibilities of those planes, and he will also learn of the existence of the Masters.

Having learnt of all these things, having as it were, acquired the theory of esoteric science, how is the candidate to translate that theory into practice? How is he personally to experience that of which he reads? He can achieve the perception of the astral plane by the use of autohypnosis and drugs; the method is simple, but the consequences are disastrous to the higher self. He can also bring the astral into manifestation on the physical plane by the use of magic. The knowledge of these methods, however, is carefully guarded and not easily obtained, neither may it safely be used by anyone except an Adept.

The way to attain personal knowledge of the higher worlds may easily be told, though it may not so easily be practised. The senses of the individuality can cognize these worlds; if therefore the higher aspects of man, the spiritual nature and the power of abstract thought, be cultivated until they have attained a considerable degree of development. and if the focus of consciousness be then shifted from the personality, the unit of incarnation, to the individuality, the unit of evolution, it will be found possible to further develop these aspects of the nature until the universe shall be apprehended in terms of abstract thought and spiritual intuition. The shift of the focus of consciousness is attained by shifting the focus of desire from the things of the senses to the things of the spirit. It is not enough that the will should be directed to a spiritual objective; a stage of development must be reached at which the spontaneous desires are also directed there. Many would-be initiates make the mistake of thinking that the will to initiation is sufficient, but this is not the case; the majority of the desires of the nature, both conscious and subconscious, must be turned away from the things of sense towards the things of spirit; and as the subconscious mind contains much that concerns the childhood of the race and tends towards matter in its densest forms, it is necessary to extend consciousness far into what is usually the territory of the subconsciousness in order to secure the assimilation of the instinctive desires to the aims of the spiritual nature.

In order to achieve this assimilation we must first know ourselves in our most primitive aspects, and then sublimate those aspects till they can be assimilated to the personality; for not until the personality has itself been integrated can it deliberately, of its own enlightened volition, seek the fulfilment of its life in the ideals of the individuality This is the apotheosis of the personality; it is for this that the hunger of the soul is for ever crying out, for it can find no satisfaction in the things of sense. Union with the divine aspect of the self, the God within, must precede awareness of the God of the Whole of which it is but a part. The spiritual level of man’s nature is but a circumscribed portion of the One Spirit, the All, the Noumenal aspect of manifestation. For that which is itself Noumenal, or an underlying actuality, there can be no satisfaction in that which is phenomenal, or of the nature of projected experience. The spark of the Divine Light, which is the nucleus of the reincarnating ego, or individuality must associate with its equals if it is to know companionship; the spiritual aspect of the herd instinct can only achieve satisfaction through union with Spirit; it has no abiding place in the world of phenomena, and if consciousness has ever been raised to the apprehension of spiritual realities apart from experiences in the world of form, it will never again accept anything as valid which has not a nucleus of such noumenal actuality. Such a reality, once experienced, bringing as it does, the complete satisfaction of life itself, not of any satiated appetite, forms the type of all future satisfaction and determines its validity. Should such an experience ever have taken place in the history of the incarnating ego, it will never be forgotten, but will be carried forward life after life and imprinted upon the subconsciousness of the personality, the unit of incarnation, until such time as evolution shall render it possible for that which is ultra-conscious to be made conscious.

The first initiation consists of the flash of cosmic consciousness wherein the ego sees with the eyes of the spirit instead of the eyes of the flesh. This is only achieved by exaltation of consciousness, and comes from within. But such an experience having been known, to reproduce it in any subsequent incarnation it is only necessary to link consciousness with subconsciousness by means of an association-chain in order to bring this particular aspect of subconscious content into conscious awareness. This is achieved by means of ritual initiation, and the symbolism of the ritual employed is designed to carry consciousness along the appropriate association-chain which shall end in the memory of the Light of Reality.

Ritual initiation can do no more than this, but it is sufficient; for in the Great Light, Masterhood is comprised. The developed psychic or fully trained magician may become an Adept upon all the planes of the cube of manifestation, but beyond lies something more, which has its affinities with that which, in relation to the solar universe, is unmanifest, being Cosmic. No one can be called an initiate who has not experienced cosmic consciousness. To pass through the degrees of the Greater Mysteries without it may mean no more than a psychic upheaval, the eyes being blinded by excess of light which consciousness possesses no symbol to interpret; on the other hand, the neophyte, if properly prepared, may see the Light behind the symbols and receive illumination.

If the preceding pages are to be understood, they must not be interpreted in their literal or verbal meaning. Those things which they are intended to describe have no words or images in the language to represent them. In order to arrive at their meaning the reader must interpret them by means of analogous experiences of his own. If he has no analogous experience, he will not receive the impression it is intended to convey, and will not unreasonably account these things foolishness. To such a one I can offer nothing; evolutionary time must do its work.

• Aleister Crowley Banned Lecture •

Undelivered to Oxford University Poetry Society
Monday 3rd February, 1930.


Long ago when King Brahmadatta reigned in Benares, a gentleman whose Christian names were Thomas Henry – you possible have heard of him – he was no less apersonage than the Grandfather of the great Aldous Huxley – once found himself threatened be a predicament similar to that in which I stand tonight. He had been asked to lecture a distinguished group of people.

What bothered him was this: what assumption was he to make about the existing knowledge of the audience? He adopted the sensible course of asking the advice of an old hand at the game; and was told: “You must do one of two things. You may assume that they know everything, or that they know nothing.” Thomas Henry thought it over, and decided that he would assume that they know nothing.

I think that merely shows how badly brought up he must have been; and explains how it was that he became a dirty little atheist, and repented on his death-bed, and died blaspheming. Gilles de Raise was born sometime in 1404. He married Catherine de Thonars on the 30th November 1420, thus becoming the richest noble in Europe. He lived extravagantly until his arrest by the Church. He began alchemical studies under the instruction of Gilles de Sille, a priest of St. Malo. Montague Summers believes he sacrificed around eight hundred children and quotes the proceedings of ecclesiastical high court in which a Dominican priest named Jean Blouyn took over as the delegate of the Holy Inquisition for the city and diocese of Nantes. Needless to say, Gilles ‘confessed’, and was put to the stake and charcoaled on 26th October 1440 leaving his estates and untold riches to Mother Church, who, wasting no time, added them to her list of material gains. Included in this particular cache were Gilles personal hand-painted manuscripts which were eagerly welcomed into the Mother Lode’s vault where they sit to this day. Unfortunately, the Vatican’s library is inaccessible to ‘common folk’, and will probably remain so until the demise of Mother Church herself, at which time this author will assist other interested persons in converting it into a public library.

No! No! that would be quite impossibly bad manners. I shall assume that you know everything about Gilles de Rais; and that being the case, it would evidently be impertinent for me to tell you anything about him. So that we can consider the lecture at an end, and (after the usual vote of thanks) pass on immediately to the discussion, which I think ought to be more amusing, if scarcely as informative.

It is rather an hard saying – however worthy of all acceptation in a university like Oxford, where, I understand, the besetting sin of the inmates is lecturing and being lectured, but discussions are always apt to turn out to be amusing, especially if conducted with blackthorns or shotguns, where as lecturing is merely an attempt, foredoomed to failure, to communicate knowledge which usually the lecturer does not possess.

I am sure that we all recognise that an attempt of this kind is impossible in nature. No! I am not proposing to inflict upon you my celebrated discourse on Scepticism of the Instrument of Midn. I am not even going to refer to the first and last lecture which I suffered at a dud university somewhere near Newmarket, in which the specimen of old red sandstone in rostrum began by remarking that political economy was a very difficult subject to theorise upon because there were no reliable data. Never would I tell so sad a story on a Monday evening, with the idea of Tuesday already looming darkly in every melancholic mind. I should like to be just friendly and sensible, though it is perhaps too much to expect me to be cheerful.

The fact is that I am in a very depressed state. My attention was attracted by that little work ‘knowledge’ of which we hear so much and see so little. I don’t propose to inflict upon you the M.C.H., and demonstrate that the life and opinions of Filles de Rais were inevitably determined by the price of onions in Hyderabad. But I do think that in approaching a historic question, we should be very careful to define what we mean—in our particular universe of discourse – by the work ‘knowledge’.

May I ask a question?

Does anyone here know the date of the battle of Waterloo?

… 1815.

Thank you very much. To be frank with you, I know it myself. I did not require information on that particular point. What I asked was, whether anyone know the date. I felt that, if so, it would have created a sympathetic atmosphere.

But since we are talking about Waterloo, we may ask ourselves what, roughly speaking, is the extent of our knowledge?

I have heard plenty of theories about why Napoleon lost the battle. I have been told that he was already suffering from the disease which killed him. I have been told that he was out-generalled by Wellington. I have been told that his army of conscripts was underfed and not properly drilled. I have also been told that the battle was won by the Belgians.

Now, all these things are merely matters of opinion. There may be a little truth in some of them. But we have practically no means of finding out exactly how much, even if our documentary support is valid to establish any of these theories. It is, also, almost impossible to estimate the causes of any given event, if only because those causes are infinite, and each one of them is to a certain extent an efficient determining cause.

Take a quite simple matter like the time of year. If it had been winter instead of summer, the hens would not have been laying and Hougomont and La Haye Sainte would not have been able to nourish the contending forces. But though it is profitable for the soul to contemplate the extent of what we don’t know, it is in some ways more satisfying to our baser natures to consider what we do know in a reasonable sense of the word.

It is not disputable that the battle of Waterloo was fought and won. It is not disputable that it was the climax, or rather the denonucement, of campaigns lasting over a number of years. And there is no reason for doubting that Napoleon was born in Corsica, that he entered the French army, and rose rapidly to power by a combination of military genius and political intrigue.

There is a vast body of indirect evidence which confirms these statements at every point. Taken as a whole, they would be totally inexplicable on any other hypothesis. But when we consider the character of Napoleon, we are at once involved in a mass of contradictions. Probably no one in history has been more discussed, and every writer gives a totally different account. Each seeks to buttress his opinion by incidents which we have no reason to suppose other than authentic, but seem incongruous. So far as we can get any truth out of the matter at all, it is that the character of Napoleon, like that of everybody who ever lived, was extremely complex. And the writers are more or less in the position of the Six Wise Men of Hindustan who were born blind and had to describe an elephant.

Spiritually fortified by these simple meditations, we may apply their fruits to the problem of Filles de Rais, and ask ourselves what we really know about him as opposed to what we have heard about him.

We know that he was a gentleman of good family, because otherwise he could not have held the offices which he did hold. We know that he was a brave soldier, and a comrade of Joan of Arc. We know that he had a passion for science, for the basis of his reputation was that he frequented the society of learned men. We know finally that he was accused of the same crimes as Joan of Arc by the same people who accused her, and that he was condemned by them to the same penalty.

I do not think that I have left out any verifiable fact. I think that all the rest amounts to speculation. The real problem of Gilles de Rais amounts, accordingly, to this. Here we have a person who, in almost every respect, was the male equivalent of Joan of Arc. Both of them have gone down in history. But history is somewhat curious. I am still inclined to think that ‘there aint no sich animile’. In the time of Shakespeare, Joan of Arc was accepted in England as a symbol for everything vile. He makes her out not only as a sorceress, but a charlatan and hypocrite; and on tope of that a coward, a liar, and a common slut. I suspect that they began to whitewash here when they decided that she was a virgin, that is a sexually deranged, or at least incomplete, animal, but the idea has always got people going, as any student of religion knows. Anyway, her stock went up to the point of canonisation. Gilles de Rais, on the other hand, is equally a household work for monstrous vices and crimes. So much so, that his is even confused with the fabulous figure of Bluebeard, of whom, even were he real, we know nothing much beyond that he reacted in the most manly way to the problem of domestic infelicity.

A moment’s digression; in fact, the main point. What is the most precise and most atrocious charge that is made against him? That he sacrificed, in the course of alchemical and magical experiments, a matter of eight hundred children? I submit that, a priori, this sounds a little improbable. Gilles de Rais was the lord of a district whose population would not have been very extensive, and even in that age of slavery, dirt, disease, debauchery, poverty and ignorance, which seems to Mr. G. K. Chesterton the one ideal state of society, it must have been a little difficult to carry out abductions and murders on such wholesale principles.

Whenever questions arise with regard to black magic or black masses, invocations of the devil, etc., etc., it must never be forgotten that these practices are strictly functions of Christianity. Where ignorant savages perform propitiatory rites, there and there only Christianity takes hold. But under the great systems of the civilised parts of the world, there is no trace of any such perversion in religious feeling. It is only the bloodthirsty and futile Jehovah who has achieved such monstrous births. Such upas-trees can only grow in the poisonous mire of fear and shame where thought has putrefied to Christianity.

There is thus no antecedent improbability that Gilles de Rais (or any other person of that place and period) was addicted to black magical practices, for they were all Catholics. The power of the Church was, at that time, absolute, and even research was limited by the arbitrary theology imposed upon the mind of everyone. The abomination was at its height. But its decline has been rapid. True, one hundred years later it was still possible for Queens to be bulldozed by Presbyterian pulpiteers, but the time was already predictable when their best was for undergraduates to be bluffed by homosexual ecclesiastics. I suppose it is all in the family.

While these profound thoughts were producing a hypochondriac obnubilation of my mental faculties, it suddenly occurred to me that after all, I had heard this story before. And I saw the connection.

In the pitch-dark ages, when Christianity held unchallenged sway over those portions of this globe which it had sufficiently corrupted, the pursuit of knowledge – knowledge of any kind – was justly estimated by the people in power as the one and only dangerous pursuit. Even so, as late as three hundred years ago, it was not considered very gentlemanly to be able to read and write. I am not sure that it is.

In any case, it is a great error in education to teach these things. Grammar, we must never forget, appears in the word Gramarye, beloved of Sir Walter Scott, and grimoire, a black magical ritual – that is to say, any written document.

Precious little knowledge filtered through Christianity. It was against the interests of the Church, and in those times it was much easier to suppress people and ideas than it is now, though even today we find priests – at least in Oxford – who appear not to have heard of a certain recent invention by a notorious Magician inspired by the Devil – the Printing Press.

But they feared. So, those who pursued knowledge were at the best under strong suspicion of heresy. I need not quote the obvious names. But there were certain bodies of people who did carry on the old knowledge, mostly by oral tradition, and who were perforce tolerated to a certain extent, because even the little knowledge that they did possess was so exceedingly useful. The best way to make armour, or to build Cathedrals, or to heal sickness would enable the Christian to get ahead of his friends. Therefore, although conscience evidently demanded the maximum amount of persecution compatible with the existence of villains, the Jews and the Arabs were at least allowed to live. Besides, the Arabs saw to the themselves.

But no one was better aware than the Pope that knowledge was power. For all he know, and he probably knew that he did no know much, the Jews and the Arabs might get together and overturn the whole construction of society. Had he not in his own records the very best example of such a catastrophe?

There is a large number of excellent people, possessed of even less that the minimum amount of brains required to grease a gimlet, who are always boring us with the bogey of the Jew-Bolshevist peril. But as most of them are Roman Catholic and unaware that Rome is laughing in its sleeve at them, they conveniently ignore what should be – if they realised it – their best argument. What was the ultimate cause of the destruction of the great civilisation of Rome? What corrupted the spirit of a people unconquerable in arms? What but the spread of the slave morality of Jewish communists of the period? If you will take your New Testaments from your pockets, you will find in the fourth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles and the thirty-second verse: “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul: and not one of them said that aught of the things that he possessed was his own, but that they had all things in common.” Of course one of them, and he too was a Jew, tried to hold out on the kitty, and was struck miraculously dead for his pains. Lenin and Trotsky never did as well!

So, as Roman Catholics are always telling us, the Church has a monopoly of logic, and The Pope argued that all Jews were communists. Anyone who had or wanted knowledge must be a Jew, and therefore a communists, and therefore – well, the Pope too believed in preparedness, though he probably called it a programme of disarmament. When people scrap battleships in the name of peach on earth and goodwill to men, it means that they have found battleships useless and too expensive, and that they have found something cheaper and more deadly. So the Curia kept a weapon in reserve, in order to be sure of having a nice jolly pogrom whenever they gave the word. And what was the word to be?

Nice quiet peasant folk, or genial hard-working hunters and fighters, are not easy to arouse to indiscriminate slaughter without reason. In order to get them going, there are only two things which you can play on – greed and fear. The motive behind the Crusades was the story of the fabulous wealth of the East. We find, in fact, that well-organised armies of buccaneers, such as the Templars, did not bring back incalculable spoils, while the honest pious mugs ruined themselves in the process.

Now, in this particular sport of suppressing earnest enquirers, it was not much good trying to play on people’s greed. For everyone knew that even if the Jews had wealth, they managed to hide it very successfully, and that they had a nasty was of arranging for protection with people who were too powerful to be bullied, and too good business men to be fooled into killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. So the only motive available was fear, and in those ages where ignorance was fostered with infinite devotion, it was even easier to create a scare about bogies than our propaganda in the recent scrap found it.

I was in Venice just before the war, when Halley’s comet was around, and although the Pope himself sprinkled holy water over the comet, and sent it his special benediction and told the people it would do no harm, in his most ex cathedra manner, the Venetians gathered themselves in panic-stricken crowds in the Square of St. Mark and waited, howling, for the end of the world.

It was accordingly easy enough to associate the pursuit of knowledge with the most abominable crimes, real or imaginary or both. For this reason, we hear – not as a demonstrated thesis, but as a commonplace of inherited knowledge – that Jews were sorcerers and wizards. In other works, they know something about grammar. We heard that they transformed themselves into cats or bats, and sucked people’s big toes. I have never, personally, investigated the question as to whether this form of nutrition is palatable. But, alas! even in those idyllic Chestertonian times there was a little shrewd common sense knocking about; the instinct – sometimes very splendidly described as horse sense – which comes from intimate wordless unintellectual communing with Nature (please do not take that word ‘communing’ in any bad sense; if it were not for Baldwin, I would be a Conservative myself) – the instinct of some people, who at the bottom of their hearts, did not so much believe in these phantasms. I was not so easy to get them to go out and murder a lot of inoffensive people at the word jump. They had to be supplied with something a little more tangible.

You will notice how all this fort of argument is invariably of the ad captandum variety. It is produced out of nowhere for a definite purpose; and, as the French say, does not rime with anything. If it did, of course, it would immediately be exposed as nonsense. It is satisfied that nobody can disprove it any more than they can prove it.

Take a concrete example. A nice young gentleman the other day wanted (very properly) to earn his living, and not being peculiarly endowed by Nature in the matter of original invention, he thought he might make a story out of the idea of a Suicide Club. In this he was evidently correct. Robert Louis Stevenson had in fact proved the point. So he took Stevenson’s story and transferred it to Germany, and drivelled on about the ace of spades, and quoted statistics of suicides, and said that I was the president of the Club and that the Berlin police were after me.

Now, I am afraid it would be a little bit difficult for anyone to prove that I am responsible for any suicides that may take place in Germany. But, on the other hand, it is quite impossible for me to disprove it. So now, if you want to attack anybody without the slightest fear of contradiction, you know how to set to work.

I omitted to mention that all these suicides were excessively beautiful and even voluptuous young women of high social position, and that the wicked president had blackmailed them out of vast sums. You see, the people for whom this dear young gentleman was writing all get sexually excited by pictures of young women, and also by any statement about large sums of money. For they immediately have a wish phantasm—if they had large sums themselves, what terrible fellows they could be.

In the Middle Ages, the art of exciting the people was not very different. The Jew had always an immense hoard of ill-gotten wealth, and of course every penny that was exacted by Reginald Front-de-Boeuf was laid to the Jews’ account. But there was another treasure that the peasant was afraid to lose, the dearest treasure of all, his children. As little boys, thank God, have a habit of straying in search of adventure and getting lost in the process, which is good for their souls, the peasant naturally has moments of serious disquietude as to whether something terrible can have happened to little Tommy. Very Good. All we have to do is to play on the alarm.

We put into his mind that little Tommy (who turns up all right, if rather muddy, half an hour later) has almost certainly been kidnapped by the Jews for purposes of ritual murder.

The main accusation against Gilles de Rais is therefore just this general accusation against anyone in Christendom who exhibited any desire for knowledge. Only, in his case, it was concentrated and exaggerated to fantastic lengths by some factor or other on which I feel it useless to speculate. The one thing of which I feel certain is that eight hundred children is a lot.

I don’t know over how many years these practices were supposed to have spread. As I think you must all feel sure by now, I know nothing whatever of my subject.

But scientific experiment in those days was always a very prolonged operation. They thought nothing of exposing some unknown substance to the rays of the sun and moon for periods of three months at a time, in the hope that in some mysterious way the first stage of some dimly – visaged operation might be satisfactorily accomplished. And even if they sacrificed a child every day, it would have taken a matter of two and a half years to dispose of eight hundred children. Besides, it must have taken more than a few minutes to kidnap a child with the secrecy obviously required. Did the disappearance of the first four hundred, say, put no parents on their guard?

I think, at the best, it is a case of little Tommy who told his mother that there were millions of cats on the wall of the back garden, but under cross-examination, in the style made popular by the dialogue of Lot with Almighty God, admitted that it was “Tom and another.”

Of course, it will be obvious to you by this time that I have been seduced by Jewish gold, and the only way that I can think of to disarm your suspicions is to bring forward another case of the same kind, little more then a century old, with which Jews had nothing to do.

There was a poet laureate – I am not quite sure what this species of animal is – but his name was Robert Southey, and he lived, if you can call it living, about the time of William Blake. He wrote a number of words arranged in some scheme connected with rime and rhythm; apparently, like golf clubs, “a set of instruments very ill-adapted to the purpose.” But, anyway, he called it a poem, and the title was something to do with the old woman of Berkeley and who rode behind her. The person who rode behind her was Mr. Montague Summers’ friend, the Devil. What she actually did to merit this favour is to me rather obscure, because I have forgotten the whole beastly thing. But I do remember two lines, because I am in the same line of business myself.

“I have candles made of infants’ fat,”

“I have feasted on rifled graves.”

Southey was an ambitious man. He was not content with the brilliant success of this masterpiece of the poetic art. He immediately sat down and wrote another alleged poem all about infants’ fat and rifled graves and the Devil coming for the villain at the proper moment. This poem has nothing to do with witchcraft. It is called The Surgeon’s Warning.

I think this is the best evidence in support of my thesis – whatever that is, I am not quite sure – that it is possible to adduce.

In the minds of the kind of people who believe in their neighbours making candles of infants’ fat and digging up corpses to economise on the butcher’s bill, the surgeon—that is to say, the man in pursuit of knowledge which it is hoped may alleviate human pain—is the same kind of animal as the witch and the ritual-murdering Jew.

It is, no doubt, because it is a part of the old taboo complex about the corpses of one’s relatives, that the clerical attack on surgeons concentrated itself on one fact—the fact that to learn to be a surgeon you must have corpses to dissect. For at that time, it will be remembered, hospitals were not as flourishing as they are today, and it was very difficult to find living people whom you could cut up to see what came of it. The surgeon was, in fact, not understood at all, except in the one way which such people were capable of understanding; i.e., as the body-snatcher. The rest of his proceedings were perfectly mysterious to them.

You notice that even Charles Dickens – who may yet go down to history for having wished to prosecute Holman Hunt, of all people in the world, for painting indecent pictures – takes very much this popular view of medicine and pharmacy in Pickwick.

I think, then, it is not altogether unfair to assume that Gilles de Rais was to a large extent the victim of Catholic logic. Catholic logic: and the foul wish-phantasms generated of its repressions, and of its fear and ignorance. He wanted to confer to a boon on humanity; therefore, he consorted with the learned; therefore he murdered little children.

I think it is about time that somebody got after J.B.S. Haldane. It is too late to do anything more to Fidley and Latimer, but I am quite sure that the candle they lit was made of infants’ fat. It is no use your starting to rifle Graves, because his publishers might resent you interference.

Those in favour of the motion will now please signify the same in the usual manner. Any may the Lord have mercy on your souls!

• Two Pieces from Hamish Rush •

Salford born Hamish Rush is an actor and writer,
and sometime dweller of Whalley Range forest.

A Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama graduate,
he will be starring in Lies We Tell (BIFA, 2016)
alongside Gabriel Byrne and Gina McKee.


• 2 •

2: if you’re ever part of a life painting clan and you have an attractive father
bring them along.

They’d be asked to join
And they’d get stolen by the teacher.

And you’ll be drawing them before you know it.

Every crevice.
Every bollock.
Every single pube on their arse.
The most secret of positions in public.

With red stains round their lips
and rolling eyes
and naked
and dead.

And you’ll be drawing them before you know it
and you wouldn’t even realise.
You’d be drawing someone else’s fetish
but it’d be your blood as well.

Despite the disappearance your mother would put the drawing on the fridge forever.

Beat, turns to 1

The safety word is mum.

1: good. It’s more acceptable.



I have to confess
I am in love with a Tree.

The Herring hunter
distracted me.

You will find no golden herring here
the slime is all you’ll get!

My infrastructure love
creates its own slim waist shaven boundaries
and grafts;
It Welfares
Florence who lost life giving birth on ripples of Valencia,
A husky Angel
over Dani’s ample skeletal left over ribs,
Flat tired isosceles,
-on a budget- the mourners
of hapless farmers sunk in sand
dropping crucifix builder cones
on their heads,
And an arrow
for the Postmen who sweat
touring every siamese Ship
now a tavern in cluster coast.
I should’ve took a picture for the lonely Homefront.



• Mass-Producing Traditions by Eric Hobsbawm •

Eric Hobsbawn was a British Marxist historian.
Below is an excerpt from an essay contained in
The Invention of Tradition, published in 1983.


The most universal political traditions invented in this period [1870-1914] were the achievement of states. However, the rise of organized mass movements claiming separate or even alternative status to states, led to similar developments. Some of these movements, notably political Catholicism and various kinds of nationalism, were keenly aware of the importance of ritual, ceremonial and myth, including, normally, a mythological past. The significance of invented traditions is all the more striking when they arose among rationalist movements which were, if anything, rather hostile to them and lacked prefabricated symbolical and ritual equipment. Hence the best way to study their emergence is in one such case – that of the socialist labour movements.

The major international ritual of such movements, May Day (1890), was spontaneously evolved within a surprisingly short period. Initially it was designed as a single simultaneous one-day strike and demonstration for the eight-hour day, fixed on a date already associated for some years with this demand in the USA. The choice of this date was certainly quite pragmatic in Europe. It probably had no ritual significance in the USA, where ‘Labor Day’ had already been established at the end of summer. It has been suggested, not implausibly, that it was fixed to coincide with ‘Moving Day’, the traditional date for ending hiring contracts in New York and Pennsylvania. Though this, like similar contractual periods in parts of traditional European agriculture, had originally formed part of the symbolically charged annual cycle of the pre-industrial labouring year, its connection with the industrial proletariat was clearly fortuitous. No particular form of demonstration was envisaged by the new Labour and Socialist International. The concept of a workers festival not only was not mentioned in the original (1889) resolution of that body, but was actively rejected on ideological grounds by various revolutionary militants.

Yet the choice of a date so heavily charged with symbolism by ancient tradition proved significant, even though as Van Gennep suggests – in France the anticlericalism of the labour movement resisted the inclusion of traditional folklore practices in its May Day.  From the start the occasion attracted and absorbed ritual and symbolic elements, notably that of a quasi-religious or numinous celebration (Maifeier’), a holiday in both senses of the word. (Engels, after referring to it as a ‘demonstration’, uses the term ‘Feier’ from 1893. Adler recognized this element in Austria from 1892, Vandervelde in Belgium from 1893.) Andrea Costa expressed it succinctly for Italy (1893): ‘Catholics have Easter; henceforth the workers will have their own Easter’; there are rarer references to Whitsun also. A curiously syncretic ‘May Day sermon’ from Charleroi (Belgium) survives for 1898 under the joint epigraphs ‘Proletarians of all lands, unite’ and ‘Love one another’.

Red flags, the only universal symbols of the movement, were present from the start, but so, in several countries, were flowers: the carnation in Austria, the red (paper) rose in Germany, sweet briar and poppy in France, and the may, symbol of renewal, increasingly infiltrated, and from the mid-1900s replaced, by the lily-of-the-valley, whose associations were unpolitical. Little is known about this language of flowers which, to judge by the May Day poems in socialist literature also, was spontaneously associated with the occasion.

As it happened, the First of May was initiated at a time of extraordinary growth and expansion in the labour and socialist movements of numerous countries, and might well not have established itself in a less hopeful political atmosphere. The ancient symbolism of spring, so fortuitously associated with it, suited the occasion perfectly in the early 1890s.

It thus became rapidly transformed into a highly charged annual festival and rite. The annual repetition was introduced to meet a demand from the ranks. And indeed, the public parade of the workers as a class formed the core of the ritual. It was, as commentators noted, the only holiday, even among radical and revolutionary anniversaries, to be associated with the industrial working class and no other; though in Britain at least – specific communities of industrial workers had already shown signs of inventing general collective presentations of themselves as part of their labour movement. (The Durham miners’ gala was first held in 1871.) Like all such ceremonials, it was or became, a basically good-humoured family occasion. Most crucially, it asserted the working-class presence by that most fundamental assertion of working-class power: the abstention from work For, paradoxically, the success of May Day tended to be proportionate to its remoteness from the concrete every-day activities of the movement. It was greatest where socialist aspiration prevailed over the political realism and trade union calculation which as in Britain and Germany, tended to favour a demonstration on the first Sunday of the month over the annual one-day strike on the first of May. Victor Adler, sensitive to the mood of the Austrian workers, had insisted on the demonstrative strike against the advice of Kautsky, and the Austrian May Day consequently acquired unusual strength and resonance. Thus, as we have seen, May Day was not so much formally invented by the leaders of the movement, as accepted and institutionalized by them on the initiative of their followers.

The strength of the new tradition was clearly appreciated by its enemies. Hitler, with his acute sense of symbolism, found it desirable not only to annex the red of the workers’ flag but also May Day by turning it into an official ‘national day of labour’ in 1933, and subsequently attenuating its proletarian associations.  We may, incidentally observe that it has now been turned into a general holiday of labour in the EEC.

May Day and similar labour rituals are halfway between ‘political’ and ‘social’ traditions, belonging to the first through their association, with mass organizations and parties which could – and indeed aimed to – become regimes and states, to the second because they genuinely expressed the workers’ consciousness of their existence as a separate class, inasmuch as this was inseparable from the organizations of that class. while in many cases – such as Austrian Social Democracy, or the British miners – class and organization became inseparable, it is not suggested that they were identical. ‘The movement’ developed its own traditions, shared by leaders and militants but not necessarily by voters and followers, and conversely the class might develop its own ‘invented traditions’ which were either independent of the organized movements, or even suspect in the eyes of the activists. Two of these, both clearly the product of our period, are worth a brief glance. The first is the emergence – notably in Britain, but probably also in other countries – of costume as a demonstration of class. The second is linked with mass sports.

It is no accident that the comic strip which gently satirized the traditional male working-class culture of the old industrial area of Britain (notably the North East) should choose as its title and symbol the headgear which virtually formed the badge of class membership of the British proletarian when not at work: ‘Andy Capp’. A similar equation between class and cap existed in France to some extent and possibly also in parts of Germany. In Britain, at least, iconographic evidence suggests that proletarian and cap were not universally identified before the 1890s, but that by the end of the Edwardian period – as photographs of crowds leaving football matches or mass meetings will confirm – that identification was almost complete.

Keir Hardie’s demonstrative entry into parliament in a cap (1892) indicates that the clement of class assertion was recognized. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the masses were not unaware of it. In some obscure fashion they acquired the habit of wearing it fairly rapidly in the last decades of the nineteenth and the first decade of the twentieth century as part of the characteristic syndrome of ‘working-class culture’ which then took shape.

The adoption of sports, and particularly football, as a mass proletarian cult is equally obscure, but without doubt equally rapid. Here the timing is easier to establish. Between the middle 1870s, at the earliest, and the middle or late 1880s football acquired all the institutional and ritual characteristics with which we arc still familiar: professionalism, the League, the Cup, with its annual pilgrimage of the faithful for demonstrations of proletarian triumph in the capital, the regular attendance at the Saturday match, the ‘supporters’ and their culture, the ritual rivalry, normally between moieties of an industrial city or conurbation (Manchester City and United, Notts County and Forest, Liverpool and Everton). Moreover, unlike other sports with regional or local proletarian bases – such as rugby union in South Wales, cricket in parts of northern England – football operated both on a local and on a national scale, so that the topic of the day’s matches would provide common ground for conversation between virtually any two male workers in England or Scotland, and a few score celebrated players provided a point of common reference for all.

The nature of the football culture at this period – before it had penetrated far into the urban and industrial cultures of other countries – is not yet well understood. Its socio-economic structure is less obscure. Originally developed as an amateur and character-building sport by the public-school middle classes, it was rapidly (by 1885) proletarianized and therefore professionalized. The structure of British football professionalism was quite different from that of professionalism in sports with aristocratic or middle-class participation (cricket) or control (racing), or from that of the demotic entertainment business, that other means of escape from the working-class fate, which also provided the model for some sports of the poor (boxing).

Unlike Central European Social Democracy, the British labour movement did not develop its own sporting organizations, with the possible exception of cycling clubs in the 1890s, whose links with progressive thought were marked.

To establish the class presence of a national middle-class elite and the membership of the much larger middle class was a far more difficult matter, and yet rather urgent at a time when occupations claiming middle-class status, or the numbers of those who aspired to them, were increasing with some rapidity in industrializing countries.

For the upper middle classes or ‘haute bourgeoisie’ the criteria and institutions which had formerly served to set apart an aristocratic ruling class provided the obvious model: they merely had to be widened and adapted. A fusion of the two classes in which the new components ceased to be recognizable as new was the ideal, though it was probably not completely attainable even in Britain, where it was quite possible for a family of Nottingham bankers to achieve, over several generations, intermarriage with royalty. What made the attempts at such assimilation possible (insofar as they were institutionally permitted) was that element of stability which, as a French observer noted of Britain, distinguished the established and arrived upper bourgeois generations from the first-generation climbers. The rapid acquisition of really enormous wealth could also enable first-generation plutocrats to buy them- selves into an aristocratic milieu which in bourgeois countries rested not only on title and descent but also on enough money to carry on a suitably profligate life-style. In Edwardian Britain the plutocrats seized such opportunities eagerly. Yet individual assimilation could serve only a tiny minority.

The basic aristocratic criterion of descent could, however, be adapted to define a relatively large new upper-middle-class elite. Thus a passion for genealogy developed in the USA in the 1890s. It was primarily a female interest: the ‘Daughters of the American Revolution’ (1890) survived and flourished, whereas the slightly earlier ‘Sons of the American Revolution’ faded away. Though the ostensible object was to distinguish native white and Protestant Americans from the mass of new immigrants, in fact their object was to establish an exclusive upper stratum among the white middle class. The D.A.R. had no more than 30,000 members in 1900, mostly in the strongholds of ‘old’ money – Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania though also among the booming millionaires of Chicago. Organizations such as these differed from the much more restrictive attempts to set up a group of families as a quasi-aristocratic elite (by inclusion in a Social Register or the like), inasmuch as they provided nation-wide linkages. The less exclusive D.A.R. was more likely to discover suitable members in such cities as Omaha than a very elitist Social Register. The history of the middle-class search for genealogy remains to be written but the systematic American concentration on this pursuit was probably, at this period, somewhat exceptional.

Far more significant was schooling, supplemented in certain respects by amateur sports, which were closely linked to it in the Anglo-Saxon countries. For schooling provided not only a convenient means of social comparability. between individuals or families lacking initial personal relations and, on a nation-wide scale, a means of establishing common patterns of behaviour and values, but also a set of interlinked networks between the products of comparable institutions and, indirectly, through the institutionalization of the ‘old boy’, ‘alumnus’ or ‘Alte Herren’, a strong web of intergenerational stability and continuity. Furthermore it provided, within limits for the possibility of expanding an upper-middle-class elite socialized in some suitably-acceptable manner.

Secondary schooling provided a broad criterion of middle-class membership, but one too broad to define or select the rapidly growing, but nevertheless numerically rather small, elites which, whether we call them ruling class or ‘establishment’, actu- ally ran the national affairs of countries. Even in Britain, where no national secondary system existed before the present century, a special sub-class of ‘public schools’ had to be formed within secondary education. They were first officially defined in the 1860s, and grew both by the enlargement of the nine schools then recognized as such (from 2,741 boys in 1860, to 4,553 in 1906) and also by the addition of further schools recognized as belonging to the elite class. Before 1868, two dozen schools at most had a serious claim to this status, but by 1902, according to Honey’s calculations, they consisted of a minimum ‘short list’ of up to 64 schools and a maximum ‘long list’ of up to 104 schools, with a fringe of perhaps 60 of more doubtful standing. 47 Universities expanded at this period by rising admissions rather than by new foundations, but this growth was sufficiently dramatic to produce serious worries about the overproduction of graduates, at least in Germany. Between the mid-1870s and the mid-1880s student numbers approximately doubled in Germany, Austria, France and Norway and more than doubled in Belgium and Denmark.” The expansion in the USA was even more spectacular. By 1913 there were 38.6 students per 10,000 population in that country, compared with the usual continental figure of 9-11.5 (and less than 8 in Britain and Italy). The problem of defining the effective elite within the growing body of those who possessed the required educational membership card was real.

In the broadest sense it was attacked by institutionalization. The Public Schools Yearbook (published from 1889) established the member schools of the so-called Headmasters’ Conference as a recognizable national or even international community, if not of equals, then at least of comparables; and Baird’s American College Fraternities (seven editions between 1879 and 1914) did the same for the ‘Greek Letter Fraternities’, membership of which indicated the elite among the mass of American university students. Yet the tendency of the aspiring to imitate the institutions of the arrived made it desirable to draw a line between the genuine ‘upper middle classes’ or elites and those equals who were less equal than the rest. The reason for this was not purely snobbish. A growing national elite also required the construction of genuinely effective networks of interaction.

Here, it may be suggested, lies the significance of the institution of the ‘old boys’, ‘alumni’ or ‘Alte Herren’ which non-developed, and without which ‘old boy networks’ cannot exist as such. In Britain ‘old boy dinners’ appear to have started in the 1870s, ‘old boy associations’ at about the same time – they multiplied particularly in the 1890s, being followed shortly after by the invention of a suitable ‘old school tie’. Indeed it was not before the end of the century that the practice of sending sons to the father’s old school appears to have become usual: only 5 per cent of Arnold’s pupils had sent their sons to Rugby. In the USA the establishment of ‘alumni chapters’ also began in the 1870s, ‘forming circles of cultivated men who would not otherwise know each other’, and so, a little later, did the construction of elaborate fraternity houses in the colleges, financed by the alumni who thus demonstrated not only their wealth, and the intergenerational links but also – as in similar developments in the German student ‘Korps’ – their influence over the younger generation. Thus Beta Theta Pi had 16 alumni chapters in 1889 but 110 in 1913; only a single fraternity house in 1889 (though some were being built), but in 1913. Phi Delta Theta had its first alumni association in 1876 but by 1913 the number had grown to about one hundred.

In Britain, it is safe to say the informal networks created by school and college, reinforced by family continuity, business sociability and clubs were more effective than formal associations. How effective may be judged by the record of such institutions as the code-breaking establishment at Bletchley and the Special Operations Executive in the Second World War. 55 Formal associations, unless deliberately restricted to an elite – like the German ‘Kosener Korps’ which between them comprised 8 per cent of German students in 1887, 5 per cent in 1914 – served largely, it may be suggested, to provide general criteria of social ‘recognizability’. Membership of any Greek Letter Fraternity – even the vocational ones which multiplied from the end of the 1890s – and possession of any tie with diagonal stripes in some combination of colours served the purpose.

However, the crucial informal device for stratifying a theoretically open and expanding system was the self-selection of acceptable social partners, and this was achieved above all through the ancient aristocratic pursuit of sport, transformed into a system of formal contests against antagonists selected as worthy on social grounds. It is significant that the best criterion for the ‘public-school community’ discovered is by the study of which schools were ready to play games against each other, and that in the USA the elite universities (the ‘Ivy League’) were defined, at least in the dominant north-east, by the selection of colleges choosing to play each other at football, in that country essentially a college sport in origin. Nor is it an accident that the formal sporting contests between Oxford and Cambridge developed essentially after 1870, and especially between 1890 and 1914.

The characteristic which singles out academic youth as a special social group (Stand) from the rest of society, is the concept of ‘Satisfaktionsfahigkeit’ [the acceptability as a challenger in duels], i.e. the claim to a specific socially defined standard of honour (Standesehre). Elsewhere de facto segregation was concealed in a nominally open system.

This brings us back to one of the most significant of the new social practices of our period: sport. The social history of upper-and-middle-class sports remains to be written, but three things may be suggested. First, the last three decades of the nineteenth century mark a decisive transformation in the spread of old, the invention of new, and the institutionalization of most sports on a national and even an international scale. Second, this institutionalization provided both a public showcase for sport, which one may (with tongue in cheek) compare to the fashion for public building and statuary in politics, and a mechanism for extending activities hitherto confined to the aristocracy and the rich bourgeoisie able to assimilate its life-styles to a widening range of the ‘middle classes’. That, on the continent, it remained confined to a fairly restricted elite before 1914 is another matter. Third, it provided a mechanism for bringing together persons of an equivalent social status otherwise lacking organic social or economic links, and perhaps above all for providing a new role for bourgeois women.

It is hardly necessary to document the fact that the institutionalization of sport took place in the last decades of the century. Even in Britain it was hardly established before the 1870s – the Association football cup dates back to 1871, the county cricket championship to 1873 – and thereafter several new sports were invented (tennis, badminton, hockey, water-polo, and so on), or de facto introduced on a national scale (golf), or systematized (boxing). Elsewhere in Europe sport in the modern form was a conscious import of social values and life-styles from Britain, largely by those influenced by the educational system of the British upper class, such as Baron de Coubertin, an admirer of Dr. Arnold. What is significant is the speed with which these transfers were made, though actual institutionalization took somewhat longer.

Middle-class sport thus combined two elements of the intention of tradition: the political and the social. On the one hand it represented a conscious, though not usually official, effort to form a ruling elite on the British model supplementing, competing with or seeking to replace the older aristocratic-military continental models, and this, depending on the local situation, associated with conservative or liberal elements in the local upper and middle classes. On the other it represented a more spontaneous attempt to draw class lines against the masses, mainly by the systematic emphasis on amateurism as the criterion of upper and middle-class sport (as notably in tennis, rugby union football as against association football and rugby league and in the Olympic Games). However, it also represented an attempt develop both a specific new bourgeois pattern of leisure activity and a life-style – both bisexual and suburban or ex-urban – and a flexible and expandable criterion of group membership.

Both mass and middle-class sport combined the invention of political and social traditions in yet another way: by providing a medium for national identification and factitious community. This was not new in itself, for mass physical exercises had long been linked with liberal-nationalist movements (the German Turner, the Czech Sokols) or with national identification (rifle-shooting in Switzerland), Indeed the resistance of the German gymnastic movement, on nationalist grounds in general and anti-British ones in particular, distinctly slowed down the progress of mass sport in Germany. The rise of sport provided new expressions of nationalism through the choice or invention of nationally specific sports – Welsh rugby as distinct from English soccer, and Gaelic football in Ireland (1884), which acquired genuine mass support some twenty years later’. However, although the specific linking of physical exercises with nationalism as part of nationalist movements remained important – as in Bengal – it was by now certainly less significant than two other phenomena.

The first of these was the concrete demonstration of the links which bound all inhabitants of the national state together, irrespective of local and regional dif- ferences, as in the all-English football culture or, more literally, in such sporting institutions as the cyclists’ Tour de France (1903), followed by the Giro d’Italia (1909). These phenomena were all the more significant as they evolved spontaneously or by commercial mechanisms. The second consisted of the international sporting contests which very soon supplemented national ones, and reached their typical expression in the revival of the Olympics in 1896. While we are today only too aware of the scope for vicarious national identification which such contests provide, it is important to recall that before 1914 they had barely begun to acquire their modern character. International sport, with few exceptions, remained dominated by amateurism – that is by middle-class sport – even in football, where the international association (F.I.F.A.) was formed by countries with little mass support for the game in 1904 (France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland). The Olympics remained the main international arena for this sport. To this extent national identification through sport against foreigners in this period seems to have been primarily a middle-class phenomenon.

This may itself be significant. For, as we have seen, the middle classes in the broadest sense found subjective group identification unusually difficult, since they were not in fact a sufficiently small minority to establish the sort of virtual membership of a nation-wide club which united, for example, most of those who had passed through Oxford and Cambridge, nor sufficiently united by a common destiny and potential solidarity, like the workers. Negatively the middle classes found it easy to segregate themselves from their inferiors by such devices as rigid insistence on amateurism in sport, as well as by the life-style and values of ‘respectability’, not to mention residential segregation. Positively, it may be suggested, they found it easier to establish a sense of belonging together through external symbols, among which those of nationalism (patriotism, imperialism) were perhaps the most significant. It is, one might suggest, as the quintessential patriotic class that the new or aspiring middle class found it easiest to recognize itself collectively.

The nationalism which gained ground was overwhelmingly identified with the political right. In the 1890s the originally liberal-nationalist German gymnasts abandoned the old national colours en masse to adopt the new black-white-red banner: in 1898 only 100 out of 6,501 Turnervereine still maintained the old black-red-gold.

What is clear is that nationalism became a substitute for social cohesion through a national church, a royal family or other cohesive traditions, or collective group self-presentations, a new secular religion, and that the class which required such a mode of cohesion most was the growing new middle class, or rather that large intermediate mass which so signally lacked other forms of cohesion. At this point, once again, the invention of political traditions coincides with that of social ones.


• Traumatic Dreams: Lacanian Love, Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, and the Ancient Greek Novel, or, Gliding in Phantasmagoric Chains of Metonymy •

Dr. Anton Bierl is
Professor of Greek Philology
at the University of Basel

Original article sourced from
Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies


I. Introduction
During Greg Nagy’s last visit to Basel, we had an intense discussion about adolescence and the work of psychologist Carol Gilligan, who has made great strides toward giving a voice to young women. [1] On this occasion I realized that I had not yet told him in detail about the progress of my current book on the ancient novel, entitled Youth in Fiction, which deals, among other topics, with love and the crisis of coming of age. Immediately we had arrived at another common interest. Since we share already interests in theory as well as metonymy, [2] and as he is a movie enthusiast and expert, I wish to tie these subjects together in a varied bouquet and offer it as a modest birthday present to a dear intellectual friend and wonderful colleague.

I would like to focus on how art expresses the overwhelming feeling of love in Lacanian terms. The excessive erotic sensation, the crisis of awakening sexuality, and the difficulty coping with anxieties are transferred in gliding movements of, for example, speech, narrative, and fantasy. The sliding tropes—metaphors and metonymies—express a fundamental disconnectedness and therefore revolve around sex itself in ongoing variations based on an erotic poetics. Love as quintessential lack and decentering intrusion, which strives for an unreachable union, is projected onto the symbolic level of the unconscious—onto sound, language, and images. In imaginary scenarios and dream-like phantasms we are screened from the unbearable reality of hazardous encounters with others and given the opportunity to work through that reality by way of even more tremendous nightmares. [3]

In a paper from 2003 I ventured for the first time to associate the ancient novel with dream and Lacanian psychoanalysis, [4] and at its presentation at Harvard in 2004, David Elmer, one of the editors of the present volume, mentioned to me a filmic parallel in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, which has repeatedly been given a Lacanian reading. [5] Just as psychoanalytic insights from Sigmund Freud to Jacques Lacan are essential for Kubrick, they also feed into my considerations on the ancient novel. [6] In what follows I will attempt to demonstrate that Eyes Wide Shut and the ancient ideal romances are comparable, meeting in their common focus on love.

Despite the intellectual attraction it initially provoked, Eyes Wide Shut, as far as I know, has never been associated with Greek erotic fiction, which flourished between the first and the third centuries CE. As so many years have passed since 2003/4, I wish to compare both media through the lenses of my current approach. [7] I am well aware of the anachronism that the ancient novel could certainly not be concerned with philosophical or psychoanalytic reflections on the subjects that were valid in specific circles of twentieth-century Paris. However, it is perfectly legitimate to draw on Lacan to understand love, which is constitutive of the genre. With this in mind, some of the essential features of the Greek love novel that encountered so much criticism, [8] particularly in the case of Xenophon of Ephesus, find an explanation in the nature of love itself. [9]

II. The Ancient Love Novel and Youth in Fiction
Based on anthropology as well as psychoanalysis, my approach could be summarized as a cultural close reading. The analysis highlights the erotic poetics of the love novel and applies modern theory with the aim of creating accessibility also for readers of modern fiction. As a starting point I will begin with the nature of love and the anthropological fact that adolescents undergo a deep crisis, ideas that help to explain the two main aspects of the genre: love and adventure. I intend to show that the ideal love novel, as well as its more satirical forms, deals with the troubled and difficult phase of puberty, acting it out in fictional and dream-like realms.

Young girls and boys are the protagonists in this genre; they experience love at first sight and discover their sexuality. Their stories involve long journeys through the vast Greco-Roman world, attacks by robbers who eventually fall in love with them, separations, shipwrecks, and continuous threats to their chastity and fidelity, which are constantly put to the test. They are confronted with various horrendous situations, even death, though it inevitably turns out not to have happened (Scheintod). The stories finally culminate in a happy ending where the lovers are reunited and a wedding at home is often celebrated, notwithstanding those novels where the dramatic adventures start shortly after a honeymoon.

In the Greek conception, Eros has to do with lack. We never love what we can easily obtain, but yearn for what is achieved only through effort. Thus love always implies—to quote Roland Barthes—a “discourse of absence.” [10] In this discourse longing is the desire (ὄρεξις) for the beautiful and pleasant. Anne Carson emphasizes that everyone who yearns after something does so in and through his imagination (φαντασία). The act of recalling the past or the anticipation of events in the future helps to close the gap of desire and grant the wish of satisfaction (Aristotle Rhetoric 1370a14–1370b29). [11] Every lover struggles for fulfillment, but suffers because the goal can never really be reached. The Tantalus situation is kept at bay by fantasies of a complete union, which materializes in the novel’s happy ending. However, marriage is not a viable solution; it defers sexuality only into the symbolic order of society. On the other hand, the ideals of faithfulness and chastity are not only a reflection of new concepts in the history of sexuality, developing in parallel to Christian ideas. [12] They can also be read as an expression of a typical idealization of the Woman, just as in courtly love, and are thus representative of a deficient relation between both sexes, since women pursue a different, not-whole ‘sexuation’ in melancholic or non-faithful phantasms. [13]

The lovers transfer their lack into speech and eventually also into writing. [14] Departing from Sappho, Carson suggests that the novel pursues in extenso the lyric strategy of “triangulation” – both partners, due to their god-like beauty, are attracted by third parties who threaten the faithfulness or union of the ideal couple. The ongoing alternation of intruding potential sex partners illustrates the fundamental gap and intersubjective floating of love, in Lacanian terms. Novelists use their literary imagination to transform these erotic circumstances from lyric into narrative. The fictional prose about love and adventure is thus composed in evolving chains of textualization according to the principles of metaphor and metonymy. [15]

Space, the realm of the Other where journeys and adventures take place, is hence a ‘tropological’ manifestation of love, which is constituted by a typical lack. Desire is projected onto a spatial axis as a series of threats, and it is transferred on the level of narration onto episodes of robbery, sacrifice, violence, death, slavery, shipwreck, and fire. Therefore, the adventures of the Greek novel are neither supplementary nor a means of providing a dull genre with action; rather, they are constitutive of the sliding erotic discourse of absence, lack, loss, and triangulation. [16]

I suggest that all ancient novelists shaped their stories with regard to the critical biographical threshold of puberty and marriage, which was ritually acted out in ancient Greece as a special turning point in life, a rite de passage. The fictional texts mirror this liminal experience, as well as the circumstance of excessive love before reunion. In a kind of dream sequence, on the level of an oral and/or folklore structure, the suppressed fears and passions are set into action. This scenario forms a deep, anthropological subtext that applies also to the more refined romances. It goes without saying that many authors try to disguise this underlying layer, elevating the sexual and corporeal elements by enriching them with new cultural codes. Most important are sublimations into allegory, philosophy, mystery cults, and religion. In later and more sophisticated novels, such as those of Longus, Heliodorus, and even Apuleius, this trend is evident, and in further novel-like textual productions, i.e. the so-called fringe novels, desire can also be presented as curiosity, lust after knowledge, justice, piety, or mystery-like wisdom.

On the other hand, strategies of elevation are part of the idealization of a perfect union, which is projected onto the divine and which reflects the difficulty of a real sexual relation. According to Lacan, there is no such relation, and desire is rather only “the Other’s desire.” [17] In this vein, the mysteries—which for a long time have served as the deeper background for critics like Reinhold Merkelbach or Karl Kerényi, and which some novelists, in particular Achilles Tatius, notoriously equate with the sexual act [18] —become the typically unspeakable kernel of love that is located in the Other. This idealization, following Lacan, is characteristic of female love. Thus love in the novel can be seen as primarily female, as the excessive jouissance of the unfathomable, and even the young men are feminized in their passion. That said, the phallic love of men presents female partners as an endless chain of projected objects petit a, a relation that is bound to fail because they are illusory and thus elude their pursuers. This sort of male love is part of the strategy of triangulation—each partner is basically the beloved ideal that cannot be attained. [19]

Exaggerated allegorical readings—like that of Merkelbach, who pleads for novels to be seen as mystery texts—are bound to be frustrated from the very beginning. However, even if we acknowledge that many novels enrich their stories by presenting initiations into mystery cults, it is nevertheless a mistake to reduce them to texts only understandable for the initiated. Instead, I would suggest an interpretation that revolves around the ‘initiation’ of youths, on their imaginary experience of coming of age, and on the mysteries’ link with the abyssal state of love. The underlying theme of a rite de passage in the novels seems obvious, though it has only been associated with the novel within the last few years. [20] The tripartite pattern of action detected by Arnold van Gennep (separation, liminality, reintegration) forms the basis of almost all stories. [21] In the love novel, it becomes self-evident: boys and girls act in their years of adolescence, and the goal—the telos—of their initiation story is marriage. The excessive experience of first love, as well as any intense sexual relation which involves desire, is so overwhelming that they fall into an abyss of nightmares, which are all linked to gliding chains of erotic metonymies. From the phantasms they reenter into the framing story. Thus the novelistic plot takes place practically entirely in the liminal, which conveys the transition into the symbolic, or the Other. Therefore, I would argue that the novels are less stories of identity than stories of excessive erotic sentiment, entailing an ambiguous floating in chains of tropes. [22]

Moreover, even marriage is a dramatic transition, especially for the young girl. In order to understand its psychological impact we have to rid ourselves of modern conceptions of romantic love and the glitters of the Hollywood wedding. In traditional societies, such as in antiquity, marriage was a threatening experience full of uncertainties; the girl was forced to leave her parents’ home and move into a new one where the promise of her care and security would have been unforeseeable. Furthermore, the upcoming defloration indicated a drastic change that involved danger and anxieties. In short, the step towards the wedding or first sexual contact had considerable consequences for the girl’s (and boy’s) body and psyche. The transition meant a stage of crisis full of anxiety; in order to cope with it, the crisis was ritually acted out and thus deepened. In almost all cultures marriage is associated not only with joy, but with death, mourning, and loss. [23] This is the material with which the novel is concerned.

To some extent, the Greek novels are the modern myths of a new imperial age, comparable to contemporary romantic films. I believe that such myths in their basic function are not very different from folktales or other forms of popular traditional stories. Ancient novels often have to do with dreams or nightmares, and they often resort to the fantastic and miraculous. Myth and ritual typically generate the material of the ancient novel—both the ideal Greek novel of love and adventure and the more parodic and satirical Latin novel. [24] Both are associated with the imaginary and the unrealistic. Consequently, the dividing line between the ideal and the satirical novel is much more blurred than is usually assumed. Even in ideal Greek novels we find breaches of the norm, ironic twists, and comic perspectives.

According to Margaret Alexiou, myth and ritual, defined in such broad terms and with the same real life preoccupations, underlie the oral forms of folktale and popular stories as well. [25] With the dominance of literacy, oral and performative elements of myth and ritual do not disappear, as is commonly believed, but are transformed and live on. In the novel they have, as Alexiou contends, the same functions of acting out, playing with, affirming, undermining, deferring, and transferring threatening elements in order to better cope with life. [26] Myth and ritual as well as traditional story patterns therefore have many elements in common with novels that occur less frequently in other forms of literature: violence, terror, miracles, contact with gods, heroes, the supra- and supernatural, excess, excrement, corporeal fluids, food, sex, and the foreign or the ‘Other’. By entering into this world of the ‘Other’—and by ‘emerging from it’—the novel shares with these forms of expression the structure of the rite de passage. [27]

I would argue that the novels and some modern romantic movies about love are somehow based on orally transmitted traditional fairytales, or better, wonder-tales. In the same way as do some myths, they circulate and help young people to overcome their central crisis: the moment of first love, the sexual awakening and ritual threshold to marriage. The stories are very often told from the vantage point of the pubescent girl. Both novels and popular Greek stories deal with these issues in a dream-like manner, in positive and negative ways. Fears, nightmares, and scenarios of blood and sacrifice are mingled with euphoric fantasies. Love thus becomes decisive for the genre.

The trajectory of the fictions about young adolescence is marriage, but between the frame of a beginning and an ending, we find the immature lovers during their phase of marginality in a loop of destabilizing thoughts and adventures in liminal spaces. Everything concerns the drama of puberty, the traumatic experience of coming of age. This means that behind the novelistic plots and traditional tales, we can detect a “biological track,” a psycho-anthropological foundation. We have to deal with the “maiden’s tragedy,” [28] but less in the sense of Walter Burkert, who tries to establish a structural program of action in these terms, than as a loose set of motifs which can be freely associated in various combinations. Love, and the irritating sentiments connected with it, is the engine of the genre. [29] Erotic feelings, experienced as disease (nosos), express desire. The sense of absence gives way to dreadful fantasies of loss, fear, sexual threats by third parties, death, and rebirth; they are transformed into stories of separation, sacrifice, rape, and violence. The quintessential absence, the deep longing, leads to a gliding concatenation of signifiers at work in a metaphorical and metonymical process. In modern Greek culture, such wonder-tales are called paramíthia, stories that go in between, transform, transgress, and, by telling, provide paramuthía ‘relief, reassurance, and consolation’. [30]

Although the Greek novel as product of the Second Sophistic represents high culture, it displays a low-culture or popular substratum. With its emphasis on anthropological and bio-ritual explorations, it pursues as well a completely different poetics, which, despite all the intertextual allusions to classical drama and narrative, could be characterized, following Alexiou, as popular and myth-like “oneirodrama.” [31] Moreover, many ancient and post-antique Greek narratives and popular songs depict crises and states of fear in a highly pathetic manner, which allows them to adopt a nearly ritual function. Specifically, the world of the young girl during puberty and the dramatic, liminal situation of marriage also represent an important theme. The woman, who in novels is bewildered by her first experience of love and, despite its repression, is confronted nonetheless with sexuality, is an ideal mediator between patriarchal demands, new religious forms, sexual daydreams, and power fantasies. [32]

As I mentioned above— and as will be a guiding principle of my interpretation—excessive erotic desire can in turn be connected to Lacan’s theory of the permanent shifting of meaning, which assumes a fundamentally deficient and structurally split subject. According to this theory, the ego only deceives itself into believing in a unity through imaginary means, in opposition to the real. In an intersubjective web, it succumbs to the symbolic, an alienated Other or id, as the unconscious, which is encoded in speech, language, or images. Moreover, the decentered ex-istence of man is constituted on the basis of chains of signifiers—according to the linguistic turn based on Ferdinand de Saussure and Roman Jakobson—by way of the supplementarity of signs in the tropological play of metaphor and metonymy. [33] The subject and, even more so, the lover, whose desire is the Other’s desire, are located in a state of continuous gliding, a “glissement incessant du signifié sous le signifiant,” [34] which closes the opened gaps to the Other. Therefore, the lovers are particularly subject to language, and in the reference play of signs a meaning-generating narration is born. Jakobson associates “Freud’s metonymic ‘condensation’ and synecdochic ‘displacement’” on the one hand, and “Freud’s ‘identification and symbolism’” on the other hand, which are all typical of the structural process of dreams, with the paradigmatic and syntagmatic axes of language that determine the textual fiction. [35] In other words, love, stemming from the Other and projected onto it, in its constitutive lack makes way to speech or narrative, be it the love novel or a film, as sliding images about love. And according to the two linguistic principles of similarity and contiguity, Jakobson links prose fiction particularly with metonymy and poetry with metaphor. [36] This is also the reason why in both film and novel we will discover a sliding chain of contiguous semiosis.

III. Modern Film: Eyes Wide Shut
Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999) represents a rather faithful adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle (1926). The scenery is transferred from Vienna, with its carnival balls, to Manhattan and its fancy Christmas parties. Many names are changed: Fridolin and Albertine become Bill (acted by Tom Cruise) and Alice (acted by Nicole Kidman), an allusion to Lewis Carroll’s famous children’s fantasies Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1872). Moreover, instead of the literary analepsis of the adventure at the ball, we witness the party with both protagonists’ flirting in real time.

Both the novella and the film draw heavily on psychoanalysis, elaborating a journey in the realms of dreams, nightmares, and the unconscious within the context of love, jealousy, and sexual relations. Schnitzler’s text is basically a Freudian reading, while Kubrick is deeply influenced by Lacan, who rereads Freud using philosophical and linguistic lenses. Whereas Freud’s goal consists of finding out the deeper meaning hidden behind the superficial—his statement “Wo Es war, soll Ich werden” (“where id was, there ego shall be”) [37] is indicative of his belief that the cognitive subject should take control of the subconscious mess—Lacan locates the existence of the deficient subject, the je or the “subject de l’Autre” in the id, by commenting and practically reversing the sentence (“Wo Ich war, soll Es werden.)” [38] The reflexive, specular moi produces (as I) only an illusion or mirror image of an auto-sufficient, cognitive, and self-conscious subject, while the real subject (I as je) is decentered and located in the Other as id, i.e. in the symbolic chain of signifiers. Desire and lack are constitutive of the human being. To bridge the gap in an intersubjective web of social claims and relations we turn our desire over to the symbolic concatenation of signs. [39]

Love and sexual desire are quintessential for our lack of being. In this flux of signification we are exposed to the Imaginary, or fantastic, which provides us with a screen from the Real and an illusion of presence. [40] Both literary text and movie emphasize the blurring boundary between reality and dream—in the words of Pedro Calderon de la Barca one might even say ‘life is a dream’. We witness the typical sliding in signs, words, sounds, and images, all of which establish and enhance desire by way of metonymies. [41] Love happens in the Other. Sexual desire toward the other becomes so intense that both parties fall into an abyss of gliding, dream-like, amorous vicissitudes. The exposure to the desiring other is overwhelming and unbearable. Thus the lover shatters from within his alleged identity (e.g. Bill as renowned medical doctor) and dissolves his illusory subject, which is structured by symbolic behavior, norms, and rules, in the Other of phantasm.

Eyes Wide Shut is not just a film about the boredom of marriage or a disclosure of the consumerist view. [42] Nor is it merely a sterile puritan product that fails to excite the spectator. [43] Rather, it is a cinematographic study about the impossibility of a couple’s sexual relation, about unfathomable desire, the difference of gender-behavior in this context. It displays the fantasies of nightmares, the mutual intertwining and generative primacy of Alice’s dreams and Bill’s sexual wanderings in nocturnal New York, and the unclear line between dream and reality—with dreams building on the alleged reality, all the while working to keep the Real at bay. Most of all, it deals with the different forms of love. [44]

Bill typically displays the phallic love that projects an endless series of objects petit a, or other desirable girls, which are lost before they can be consumed, particularly since he takes refuge in his cocoon of symbolic norms. Alice, on the other hand, displays a female jouissance. Overconfident, she does not want to be reduced to a name on the eternal list of Don Juan. [45] She enjoys fantasies, resorting to daydreams in which she is infatuated with a naval officer (for whom she would leave husband and daughter behind), or to dreams or nightmares in which she sleeps with innumerable men in front of her husband in order to ridicule him. She indulges herself in a sexual dream-world where she completely shatters the symbolic masquerade of her marriage. On the other hand, she is sad and melancholic, almost frigid, and she commits her amorous adventures only in her dreams or when she is under the influence of drugs. [46]

Both fall into a chasm where they are confronted with a chain of metonymically linked, erotic vicissitudes, and they escape from the spiral of various sexual encounters only at the very end. Alice triggers Bill’s jealousy and ruptures his symbolic image when she tells him about her daydreaming—the sexual fantasy with the naval officer. Both imaginary worlds are intertwined: in her dreams she anticipates a variant of what he will later encounter. The lack of desire gives way to chains of signification in the realm of dreams, the Other, death, and the unconscious.

Bill reacts to her disclosure with a nocturnal journey to explore the forbidden, both in red-light New York and in the realm of sacral orgies full of symbolic conventions. Yet the imagined objects are none other than imaginary variations of his nude wife Alice, whom he seems to have lost; these sexual objects of the other, i.e. other women, are lost the moment he wants to grasp them. He meets Marion, the daughter of a deceased patient who unexpectedly kisses him and confesses her love to him next to her father’s deathbed, but he renounces the temptation. Soon the doorbell rings and her fiancé enters. Bill’s male image is broken when a group of men insult him as if he were homosexual (“faggot”). In the jungle of the city he enters the house of a prostitute named Domino, but when they intimately look into each other’s eyes and start to make love the cellular phone rings—it is Alice, his wife.

Then he looks for the Sonata Café and meets his friend Nick Nightingale, who tells him about his blindfolded performances at strange orgies. Nick gives Bill the password to the coming orgy: ‘Fidelio’, an ironic allusion to love and fidelity. In addition to the password, Bill must don a costume and Venetian mask, part of the masquerade’s lack of identity. In pursuit thereof, he stops at a shop called Rainbow Fashion. A strange Eastern European man consents to open the shop, and he provides Bill with the necessary equipment. But before Bill leaves, he sees the shopkeeper’s daughter, who has had sex with two other men. The father detects what has transpired, and she, in a maniacal state, flees naked into Bill’s arms.

Bill visits the strange, sacral orgy at Somerton mansion. Here, naked with the exception of masks, girls perform and copulate in a most sterile manner of sexual non-relation. Despite several warnings, Bill is revealed, and he is threatened with a severe penalty. However, one of the girls (Mandy?) intervenes, sacrificing herself for him. Bill escapes home and meets his wife, who, having indulged in her sexual nightmares, wakes up and tells them to him in detail.

The following morning Bill goes to return his mask—at the Rainbow Fashion the daughter is now together with the two men, having obviously been sold by her father as a prostitute—and he searches for Nick, who has disappeared. He wants to see again the prostitute Domino (the name denotes a costume for a masked ball and is an allusion to a domina and the blending of the sexes), but in her apartment he finds another girl named Sally, who starts seducing him and then tells him that Domino was diagnosed with HIV. He escapes into the streets and is pursued. He buys a newspaper and reads that a famous beauty queen named Amanda Curran (the woman who sacrificed herself the previous evening?) died in the hospital. He examines her body in the morgue and returns very worried to his elder friend Ziegler. Ziegler tells him that Nick is not dead but that he had to leave for Seattle. Moreover, Ziegler enlightens him that the phony sacrificial victim was a junkie who would have died anyway. Finally at home, Bill sees his mask—he has apparently left it beside his wife—and when she wakes they tell each other everything. After a night of tears, they decide to go Christmas shopping with their daughter. At a famous toy store, Bill asks Alice how they can go on. She contemplates the blurring line between dream and reality and suggests that they go home and “fuck” in order to escape the nightmares.

Already from the title it becomes clear that prominent elements of Lacanian theory—the eye, the view, and the gaze, as well as the mirror—are key themes of this film. [47] We know also from the novel how important the eye is as organ for the reception of love. Love at first sight occurs via the eye, and it is immediately felt as an all-consuming disease that causes terrible suffering. Through the gaze one affects the eye of the other and makes it succumb to the Other. The oxymoron of eyes that are wide shut refers to the fact that the protagonists gaze at their objects of desire with eyes wide open. At the same time, Bill and Alice are introverted, and they fall, with closed eyes, into the vortex of dreams where they encounter things with eyes wide shut.

Mirrors are prominent in several scenes. In a sort of initiatory image preceding the film, Alice is shown nude from the back in front of a mirror, like a Venus framed by two Doric columns, and in an advertisement the couple are again framed in a mirror-like image clearly intended to draw a gaze. At the beginning, a half-naked Alice faces the bathroom mirror making herself up for the party. She asks her husband whether she does not look great, but he takes little notice of her; his mind is occupied with many other symbolic things, e.g. his missing wallet. Thus, already at this point, the couple can be viewed as a typical example of non-communication.

When they return home after the party, she again stands naked in front of the mirror, but this time in a strangely distanced manner. Bill embraces her from behind to make love. She looks into the mirror, puts down her glasses, makes eye contact to the outside spectator via the reflecting glass, then shuts her eyes and enters the chasm of dreams. The glimpse into the mirror represents the reflexive moi, the imaginary security of an identity, the illusion of a narcissistically centered subject. The immersion into the mirror with closed eyes amounts to the entrance into the realm of death and the Other. Alice literally falls Through the Looking-Glass to her Wonderland of nightmares, where she, as erotomaniac, meets innumerable variants of her “ideal incubus.” [48]

The scenery of the Christmas party anticipates this fall into the Other. Again dream and reality, previous and subsequent, are mysteriously intertwined. After many years Bill unexpectedly meets his former fellow student Nick Nightingale, who dropped out of medical school to become a piano player. His name alludes to death, lament, and music. Two attractive girls link arms with Bill and promise to take him to “where the rainbow ends.” Alice, on the other hand, drinks a glass of champagne and meets Samdor Salas, a Hungarian Casanova and attendee of the coming jubilee. They look deeply into one another’s eyes and start sliding in the open gap of desire. This movement is expressed in a close, slow waltz during which she comes dangerously close to his lips. She glides in words and dance, like in jouissance and trance. Salas tries to pick her up, making a passing mention of Ovid’s Art of Love. [49] Alice wonders whether Ovid did not cry his eyes out in exile, and the Hungarian gentleman replies that, despite this, he did a great job in his seduction. When she tells Salas that she is married, he pontificates about his theory of marriage, which presupposes that husband and wife search for another partner: Why should a girl lose her virginity? Women enter marriage only to be free to sleep with other men. This given wisdom is equivalent to the deconstruction of the symbolic order—also part of the ideal novel. Salas offers to show her the host’s gallery of Renaissance bronzes upstairs. Alice rejects the proposal: the nude statues are an allusion to the display and sexual consumption of her body.

In the meantime, Bill is flattered by the two models who profess to having met him before. He does not initially remember them, but one of them reminds him of her name, enunciating the sounds N-u-a-l-a. He opens his eyes. Nuala calls to his mind that, at a photo shoot in Manhattan, she had something in her eye and he, in his role as doctor, removed it with a handkerchief. Their eyes then also meet deeply.

Bill does not reach the end of the rainbow; instead, he is called by servants to apply his medical knowledge for the host Ziegler. The prostitute and junkie named Mandy has fainted in the bathroom, and Ziegler, who has just had sex with her, is worried that she might die from her overdose. Doctor Hartford arrives upstairs—now to examine yet another nude statue (above whom hangs a nude drawing by Modigliani): the perspective of the camera glides over the girl’s naked body, which mirrors the posture of the nude woman in the picture and which, with eyes closed, seems to be dead. In a professional manner he asks her to open her eyes, looks deeply into them with his ophthalmoscope, and brings her back to life.

What I would like to re-emphasize now—what has yet to be explored in the film’s numerous treatments—is that the film proceeds through an incessant chain of sliding metonymies in an erotic key that expresses the typical shifting movement in the gap of desire. The signified, Eros, glides similarly under the endless concatenation of signifiers that revolve around sexual vicissitudes. Certain key motifs are endlessly deferred and displaced, and they pop up again and again in the texture of the film, one element evolving out of the previous. The different sexual partners and threatening encounters are merely particular variations in an endless plot.

We have already looked at the emphasis on eyes, views, and mirrors. We have scenes of parties, orgies, drugs, and a shift from the pursuit of the end of the rainbow to Rainbow Fashion. We witness a series of beauties and prostitutes—Mandy and her variants, the doubling of Alice’s dreams about the naval officer, the mass orgy in the sacred space and sex with innumerable men in Alice’s fantasies—telephones that ring; cases of death; professions of love; scenes of masks and masquerade; returns, both to the scene of the party and to the costume rental; and the substitution of masks for real persons. Moreover, speaking and symbolic names are used: Jason, the hotel where Nightingale lodges and from which he disappears, hints at the decentered Jason, whom Medea brought into trouble. And will the couple’s daughter Helena be another Helen, imitating her mother? Last but not least, we have framing devices, but in these frames of reality the boundary to the oneiric is already blurred. The entire technique recalls the Freudian dream-work through condensation, displacement, representation, symbolism, and secondary elaboration. [50]

IV. The Parallel of Xenophon of Ephesus
The similarities between Eyes Wide Shut and the ancient romance are striking. After the excess of desire, these novels’ protagonists fall into an abyss, that same gliding chain of erotic vicissitudes, dreams, and nightmares in the Other. In the end, they return to reality and celebrate their wedding, after which they can finally have sex.

Anthia and Habrocomes, by Xenophon of Ephesus, provides a good example of these types of techniques used in the ancient novel. [51] Habrocomes, a sixteen-year-old boy of high Ephesian aristocracy, is extremely beautiful. Following Lacan, we could consider his initial pride in his own beauty and the general rejection of love toward someone else as a narcissistic phase of moi that remains absolutely illusory. Eros, furious about such behavior, enacts revenge by making him fall in love with the beauty Anthia, two years his junior and of high birth herself.

The occasion for Eros’ stratagem is the famous festival of Artemis. The god of love instills them with mutual desire. Through their “eyes wide open” (1.3.2) they fall madly in love at first sight. The sensation is overwhelming, and the desire (as lack) is expressed as a terrible disease (1.4.6–1.5.4). The lovers lose control of themselves due to their excessive emotion, and their imaginary delusions of a self-sufficient life are shattered. Thus Habrocomes’ narcissistic mirror phase comes to an abrupt end, though his fixations on symbolic norms will cause his phallic love to fail since he remains close to the imaginary. Anthia’s female love, on the other hand, elevates her beloved object to the status of a god. Despite their non-relation, they feel the gap of love. Due to the lack of desire, the je experiences itself as the true other, the decentered self in the stream of signifiers, and the loving subject extracts itself and gives space to semiosis in a gliding chain of metaphors and metonymies, that is, to the novelistic plot.

The protagonists wither away. Anthia’s parents even try to cure her with “diviners and priests,” a sort of magoi to perform sacrifices, libations, and the pronouncement of barbarian sounds, but to no avail. Sacrifices and prayers cannot provide remedy for Habrocomes either. At this point, the fathers send out envoys in order to consult the oracle of Apollo in Colophon (1.5.5–9). The often criticized reply of the god (1.6.2) is ambiguous from the point of view of motivation. [52] On the level of the plot, the oracle serves, in the same way as dreams sometimes do, as prolepsis, i.e. a preview to the continuing chain of events. But here it is an additional part of “dissemination,” the pluralization of meaning that Eros tends to cause. Oracles, by nature, are unclear, and people typically find many ways to interpret them. Critics have tended to overlook the fact that nearly all contents of the oracle are confined to the sickness of love in a metaphorical way. [53]

The fathers are at a complete loss as to what to do with these signs. After long deliberations they decide “to palliate the oracle as far as they could” (1.7.2) and to unite the young people in marriage. Thus, without understanding, they make the right decision; marriage is truly the desired goal. However, it comes too early. Since love, the crisis of sexuality, and the transition from youth to adulthood are obviously too irritating the couple drops into the abyss of nightmares, dreams, and phantasms, which are condensed and displaced in concatenations of metonymic variations of the erotic situation. In the first sexual union of the wedding night, with the pathos that they release in intense emotion on a bed with a canopy designed with the mythic wedding of Ares and Aphrodite (1.8.3), the full decentering of both lovers’ subjects comes to light in an especially impressive manner (1.9.1–8):

Both of them felt the same emotions and were unable to say anything to each other or to look at each other’s eyes but lay at ease in sheer delight, shy, afraid, panting—and on fire. Their bodies trembled and their hearts quivered. And at last Habrocomes recovered and took Anthia in his arms. And she wept, as she poured forth the tears that symbolized her inward desire. And Habrocomes spoke: he sighed at the arrival of the night he had longed for and reached with such difficulty after many previous nights of misery. “Girl sweeter to me than the light of day, and luckier than anyone in any story—you have a husband the man who loves you! God grant that you live and die with him a chaste wife!” With this he kissed her and caught her tears, and they seemed to him a sweeter drink than nectar, more powerful a remedy than any against pain. She said only a few words: “Is it true, Habrocomes? Do you really think I am beautiful? Do I really please you even after your own handsome appearance? Unmanly coward! How long did you delay your love? How long did you neglect it? I know what you have suffered from my own miseries. But look, here are my tears; let your beautiful hair drink a cup of love; and as we lock together, let us embrace and wet the garlands with each other’s tears so that these too may share our love.” With this she kissed him all over his face, pressed all his hair to her own eyes, and took off the garlands and joined his lips to hers in a kiss; and their feelings passed through their lips from one soul to the other. Anthia kissed Habrocomes’ eyes and said to them: “It is you who have often brought me grief, you who first implanted the goad in my heart; then you were full of pride, now you are full of desire; you have served me well, and well have you brought my love into Habrocomes’ heart. So I kiss you again and again, and let my eyes meet his, for mine are the servants of Habrocomes. May you always look on the same objects and not reveal anyone else’s beauty to Habrocomes, nor may anyone else appear beautiful to me; accept the hearts that you yourself set on fire; and preserve them both in the same way.” With this they relaxed in each other’s arms and enjoyed the first fruits of Aphrodite; and there was ardent rivalry all night long, each trying to prove they loved the other more.
Trans. G. Anderson

The scene appears so intensive and the exchange of souls so unnatural to Kerényi that he, and later Merkelbach, connects the embrace of Isis and the dead Osiris with it. [54] Yet its sense does not necessarily lie in hidden myths and mysteries. It seems more appropriate to take the passage from a love novel at face value, that is, as an expression of love in the course of an erotic plot that all revolves around love and its complications. The tears become first the fluid of exchange that can be drunk and used to wet each other’s hair and garlands. These braided and plaited objects metonymically underline the mutual embrace of the couple, who seek complete union. At the same time, the unio mystica that Kerényi and Merkelbach detect cannot be achieved and is bound to fail. [55] Anthia reproaches Habrocomes for his narcissistic behavior and is afraid that he might not have completely changed. Because he has delayed and might continue to delay love, she scolds him as “unmanly and coward” (1.9.4). On the other hand, they lock together in their kisses, and through their lips the excessive passions pass from one soul to the other. Achilles Tatius (2.37.6–10) will later reflect on the exchange and union of the souls in even more extreme tones. [56]

Then, Anthia kisses Habrocomes’ eyes, the organs that serve to love but were first the messengers of his narcissistic rejection. She even lets his eyes join with hers. Simultaneously, she displays jealousy and an envy that will be decisive for non-relation, as well as for the journey into the Other, where a series of other partners—as negative extensions—threaten the desired union. She is full of anxiety and afraid of losing him. Love remains a source of suffering, and they start gliding into the Other as decentered beings.

After the erga of love, the sexual intercourse as an agonizing fight in bed (1.9.9), an end to the illness seems to be reached. The following day they are doing splendidly: “Their whole life was a festival, everything was full of enjoyment …” (1.10.2). They forget the oracle since it has been fulfilled in a simple way. At this point the narrator intervenes with the remark: “but destiny had not forgotten” (1.10.2). Those who misunderstand the oracle trigger the events, unwittingly doing precisely what they wish to avoid. For παραμυθία (see 1.7.2 and 1.10.3), for reassurance and abatement, the pair go on a honeymoon to Egypt. But this is exactly the place they should avoid given the predicted disaster. From a psychoanalytical point of view, the primae noctis experience is too intense and abrupt for the still immature adolescents. Desire and the gap it creates between them can never be relieved completely. Therefore, the condition of lack expands now in the chain of signification and unfolds in space toward the Other.

The excessive longing for each other becomes traceable in the auto-annulment of meaning. Subjects and clear referents of signifier to signified extract themselves, making space for signs and meaning to float freely. The couple’s separation, the resulting pursuit of the lost other, the splitting of the male hero into two figures—himself and the good robber—Hippothous’ missed and partial recognition of Anthia, and the extreme deferral of the final reunion elucidate the gap between the lovers and between signifier and signified. The search for a sign and the supplement for the lost other turn into key themes of the animated plot.

After the precipitous and intensive fusion of the souls (1.9.6), the fear of separation returns. Possible assaults that deal with the loss of sworn fidelity and chastity are projected onto the space in the form of a third person. Another form of triangulation occurs with unfaithful sexual encounters with other partners. After a terrible dream about a frightful, superhuman woman dressed in red clothes (1.12.4), we fall into the yawning chasm of a nightmare. This gliding movement is expressed in the oneiric association of episodes where, just like in a textile fabric, one sign is interwoven with another.

In another article, I argue that Xenophon’s novel, in its agglomeration of adventures that can all be read in erotic keys, resembles a dream. [57] After the introduction, where the birth of the pair’s love is told, the actual wanderings are placed between two sets of frames: an exterior, stops at Rhodes, where the lovers consecrate a panoply and where the final recognition takes place (1.11.6–1.12.2 and 5.10.6–5.15.1); and an interior, two dreams (1.12.4 and 5.8.5–6) that give the entire series of nightmarish adventures the appearance of an endless dream. The gap of desire between the couple finds its textual expression in the separation after the Manto-episode. Directly after it, in 2.8.2, Habrocomes dreams, while in prison, that his father wanders in a black robe over land and sea and finally enters the dungeon to free him from his chains. Moreover, the hero imagines himself as a horse pursuing a mare over the whole globe, in order to find her and become human again. The dream, as well as the oracle, functions as prolepsis and at the same time as symbolic and associative dissemination. From now on, the lack of love is transferred into the oneiric pursuit of the lost other.

I would like to point out in detail how Xenophon carries these gaps inscribed in love over to his fictional story as a sliding chain of signifiers and names in the tropological game of metaphor and metonymy—the signified glides under the signifiers as well. This technique, which heavily draws on allusions and speaking names as functions of narrative, bears again a great similarity to Eyes Wide Shut.

Let us begin with the sudden calm on their journey from Rhodes to Egypt (1.12.3), Habrocomes’ dream about the oversized woman in red (1.12.4), and the assault on their vessel that follows (1.13). The transition of signifiers from φοινικῆν (1.12.4) to Φοίνικες (1.13.1), i.e. from blood-red clothing to the Phoenician pirates, is striking. Corymbus, ‘the ship’s figurehead’ or the ‘braided hair tuft’, [58] and Euxinus, the ‘well-meaning guest-friend’, attack the couple, fall madly in love with each of them, and decide that Euxinus should win over Habrocomes for Corymbus, and Corymbus, in turn, Anthia for Euxinus (1.13.1–1.16.7). But their chief Apsyrtus claims the beautiful pair for himself; he is called by the same name as Medea’s brother, whom the barbarian sorceress dismembers and throws into the sea. Through this allusion he is connected with Habrocomes’ teacher, who jumps into the water out of desperation and remains behind with the other corpses (1.14.4–6).

Apsyrtus’ daughter Manto, who is infatuated with the hero (2.3.1), hints back to the disseminating oracle (1.6.2). Moeris (2.5.6), Manto’s new husband—who falls in love with Anthia—alludes to moira, the fate. The name of the goatherd Lampon (2.9.3), to whom Anthia is sent by Manto out of revenge, refers to the brilliance of marriage and to some hidden illumination or enlightenment in the context of mysteries.

After Habrocomes’ release from imprisonment by Apsyrtus, who finds out that Manto’s allegations that the faithful hero raped her were wrong, he starts his search for the lost Anthia and bumps into Hippothous (2.14.1). The ‘fast stallion’ resumes the image of Habrocomes’ dream (2.8.2). The horse primarily functions as a symbol of young people’s initiation into the status of maturity. [59] Furthermore, in the famous image of the chariot in Phaedrus (245c5–254e10, esp. 246a3–246d5), Plato portrays the soul as a charioteer with a team of two winged horses. One stands for that which is instinctively driven, whereas the other, as instance of the spirit or ego, attempts to control it. Hippothous, the good robber, whose band captures the fugitive Anthia in Cilicia (2.11.11), is, so to speak, Habrocomes’ alter ego, who is governed by his desire [60] and who embodies homosexuality and aggressive erotic inclinations toward the heroine. [61] With this in mind, it is no wonder that he is connected with the practice of human sacrifices for Ares, or that his band is about to kill Anthia by hanging her from a tree and throwing spears at her body from a distance, a metonymy for her rape by militant robbers (2.13.1–3). This fact, in turn, refers to Ares’ presentation on the wedding canopy (1.8.3) and to Areia, an Egyptian village, which Hippothous will plunder (5.2.4; 5.2.7).

Perilaus arrives at the last moment to rescue the heroine. He is irenarch in Cilicia, a high official in the Roman Empire, and his name accordingly means the one who ‘stands above the people’ or ‘cares about the people’. As soon as he sees the girl, he naturally falls in love with her and lies in wait for her (2.13.3–8).

In Hippothous’ metadiegesis (3.2), his lover Hyperanthes is analogous to Anthia, she ‘who is blooming’ and thus sexually attractive, merely in an excessive form. The story denotes the practice of pederasty before marriage and complements the picture of Eros with homosexual love. The poison of the doctor Eudoxus, he ‘of a good reputation’, who comes from Ephesus like the author and the heroes, turns into a remedy against Perilaus’ propositions.

Anthia’s apparent death mirrors the death experience of the bride (3.4.1–3.8.2). Robbers break the grave open (3.8.3–3.9.1), and she is sold to the ‘desert sandman’ Psammis (3.11), whose name alludes to pharaoh Psammetichus and anticipates their Egyptian trip (4.3.1–4). The barbarian merchant from India presses to marry her again, but she uses the excuse that they still have to wait one more year due to her consecration to Isis (3.11). On their way to India, they pass through Memphis where she prays at Isis’ shrine for help (4.3.3–4). Right at the border to Ethiopia, at which point they would cross over the border and disappear completely from Habrocomes’ world, she is again kidnapped by Hippothous, who kills Psammis. They do not recognize each other, and Anthia pretends to be an Egyptian girl called Memphitis (4.3), recalling the fact that Hippothous had stopped in Memphis shortly before (4.1.3). The name again builds a bridge to Anthia’s next episodes in Memphis, where she takes refuge at the sanctuaries. At the temple of Isis, she can defend herself against Polyidus’ attempts to rape her, and she makes him swear not to harass her any more (5.4.5–7). At the shrine of Apis, she receives a positive oracle that the reunion with her spouse is close (5.4.8–11).

It is worthwhile to consider the drift of signifiers more specifically by taking up the theme of the dogs. Dogs, like robbers, represent the sexual threat that further extends the gap between the two lovers. After the shipwreck at the end of Book 3, Habrocomes is sold to Araxus by Egyptian robbers. Araxus’ lewd wife Cyno, the personification of the bitch full of sexual drive, lusts after Habrocomes, and he nearly responds to her overtures. But when she kills her husband, things become too much for him and he flees. Out of revenge, Cyno accuses him of the crime (3.12). The Egyptian prefect learns the truth only after many attempts to put Habrocomes to death, and Cyno is finally crucified (4.2; 4.4).

Then the dog motif leads directly into Anthia’s story line. When Anchialus, a member of Hippothous’ band, attempts to rape her, she kills him in self-defense. Her punishment is to be thrown in a hole guarded by two ravenous Egyptian dogs. They will eventually rip her to shreds and then consume her (4.5.1–4.6.4). However, Amphinomus, a guard whose name alludes to the just and noble suitor in the Odyssey (esp. 16.394–398), and who is, of course, already in love with Anthia (4.6.5), rescues her from the male robbers threatening her chastity, and he feeds the hungry dogs (4.6.5–7) with meat. It is only later that he feels desire for her.

After an inserted narrative about Aegialeus (5.1), the story of Amphinomus’ civilized love to Anthia resumes. Both abscond from Hippothous’ gang, and the girl responds to his promises not to touch her until she agrees by her own free will (5.2.3–5). They set off for Coptus; “the dogs, however, did not leave them, for they had become close to them and loved them.” (5.2.5). Both care for the hounds and supply them with sufficient food (5.2.6). The dogs are turned into the externalized male threat, so to speak. With the meat they receive a substitute for their sexual instinct. This hints at Anthia’s consent in ‘tamed’ sexual services. The carnivorous mammals are simultaneously connected with Cerberus, the dog of the underworld, which can be associated with Anthia’s pit (4.6.3–4), and here in Egypt with Anubis, who accompanies Isis on her search for Osiris. [62] The jackal-like god of mummification, in turn, prefigures Thelxinoes’ condition in Sicily (5.1.9–11).

In Coptus (5.2.6), which is punningly associated with κώπτω ‘to strike’, Amphinomus is struck down and caught by Polyidus (5.4.3). As ‘a frequent on-looker’, he calls the heroine’s intactness once more into question (5.4.5–7). His desirous male gaze anticipates the prostitution scene in Tarentum (5.5.4–8; 5.7.1–2), in which Polyidus’ jealous wife Rhenaea has Anthia sold to a brothel keeper in Italy (5.5). Through her simulated epilepsy, Anthia acts as if she is suffering an excessive dissolution of her imaginary self (5.7.3–5), and she expresses a sensation complementary to female jouissance and orgasm. Having returned to her senses, she claims that a ghost put a hand on her. This explanation of the sacred disease includes again the theme of a sexual threat (5.7.6–9). [63]

In the meantime, Hippothous is the only one of his band who can escape from Polyidus’ attack. He arrives in Taormina, marries a rich older woman, inherits a fortune after her death, and comes with a lover to Tarentum as well (5.9.1–3). Since Hippothous recognizes Anthia as the girl who killed Anchialus, he acquires her from the brothel keeper, who has put her up for sale (5.9.4–9). Even as a homosexual he is attracted by her beauty and wants to sleep with her (5.9.11). In her predicament, Anthia decides to tell Hippothous that she is the lover of his friend Habrocomes (5.9.12–13). Soon both decide to return to Ephesus, and on their way home they stop in Rhodes (5.11).

At the same time, Habrocomes, who meets Aegialeus in Syracuse after leaving Egypt (5.1), will remain—with this step to Italy—one step ahead of his object. In addition, he misses his goal and lands in Sicily so that his search becomes completely random. In desperation Habrocomes leaves for Nuceria in Southern Italy, and since he cannot find Anthia he starts working in a quarry (5.8.1–4). The hard work of breaking the earth and splitting the rocks again symbolizes love and the vain search for the lost object of desire. Without being aware of it, he follows Anthia’s tracks again and they are close. However, since he cannot bear his labors any more, he wishes to return home. On his way, he arrives in Rhodes, and both storylines finally merge (5.10.1–5).

Moreover, the good servant Rhode is also associated with Rhodes, where the complicated anagnorisis takes place (5.10.6–5.15.1). Rhode accompanies the couple with her husband Leucon via Rhodes (1.11.6–1.12.2) up to the point when Manto causes the split of the loving protagonists. Manto later separates the benevolent pair from Anthia in Syria by selling them off to Xanthus in Lycia (2.9.1–2; 2.10.4). After the death of their good master, Leucon and Rhode decide to return home (5.6.3–4), and they make a stop at Rhodes, where the nightmares come to a happy end. After the recognition, which is postponed over many phases, we break out of the chain of signifiers that are constitutive of the erotic plot.

V. Conclusion
We have seen that the ancient, so-called “ideal” novels, in particular those of Xenophon of Ephesus—but also those of Chariton, Achilles Tatius, Longus, and Heliodorus—and Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut are comparable in their treatment of the central subject of love. Since ancient sources explain love already as a “discourse of absence” and its consequences as suffering and disease, it makes perfect sense to link the love novel also with Lacan’s psychoanalytic reading, which emphasizes even more the quintessential lack of desire. Love entails a loss of the illusory self, the subject’s dissolution. The feeling of being desired by another human being is so overwhelming that we tend to act out the anxieties in phantasms and dreams. The gap of longing in an intersubjective, social field articulates itself in speech, language, narration, and images, that is, in a chain of gliding sign production where the signified constantly slides under the signifiers. The Other takes control over the lovers, who start gliding in dreams of erotic rivalry, envy, and triangulation. The excessive sensation revolves around condensed and displaced erotic constellations. Love circulates around, and mediates between, opposites such as eternal fidelity and unfaithfulness, nightmare and daydreaming, idealization and disdain, elevation and violence, tenderness and rape fantasies, chastity and erotomania, sacralization, and prostitution. The crisis of the first sexual encounter is particularly traumatic. Therefore, in the ancient novels, we often witness adolescents who fall vehemently in love at first sight and for the first time. In a sort of coming of age story, their floating in excessive desire articulates itself in a dream-semiosis where all details are incessantly displaced, switched in metonymic and metaphoric chains, and based on an erotic poetics.

However, love does not manifest itself only in stories centered on rites of passage. It can also have devastating results for a married couple, as is portrayed in the film. Moreover, in the novel marriage can be contracted at an early stage of the plot and must not be the happy end or goal of the narrative. Thus the wedding often comes too soon, such that both young partners must still work through traumatic experiences in phantasms. Even at a later stage the symbolic, legal bond cannot keep the violent power of Eros at bay.

The typical idealizations of the chaste and faithful couple can be seen as strategies of the erotic discourse itself. Many elevate their object to the essential Other, a god-like figure, comparing beauty with a hero(ine) or statue. Desire is thus sublimated into a high, spiritual feeling, and the sexual act is circumscribed as the unspeakable Other of mysteries. However, even the ideal novel features transgressions and breaches of the norm. It incessantly exhibits daydreams of unfaithfulness and phantasmagoric displacements of sexual practices with other partners. Thus the so-called comic novel, as represented by Achilles Tatius, which slides dangerously along the borderline of becoming pornographic, simply belongs to the general category of the erotic novel.

Like Eyes Wide Shut ideal novels combine high and low culture; [64] besides all of the intertextual allusions, they reflect popular wonder-tales. Ancient Greek romances and Kubrick’s movie—among many filmic examples—meet in an anthropological substratum that deals with acting out and working through the traumatic experience of love in chains of sign production. These dreamlike and pathetic articulations in text or image, or combinations of the two, might be a reason for the particularly iconic quality of the Greek novels as well.

All of Greg’s friends know that he enjoys movies and that he appreciates the iconic dimension of Greek literature. Moreover, he often reads texts through anthropological, intercultural, and theoretical lenses. With the application of diachronic and synchronic methodology, originally derived from linguistics, our jubilee attempts to reach both backward and forward in time. His seventieth birthday will be an occasion to reflect about the past and what lies ahead. With all the insights of this contribution in mind, let us happily glide into the future!


1. See Gilligan 1982; the theme arose when Greg told me about Classics@, Issue 9, “Defense Mechanisms,” which includes a contribution by Gilligan (2011).
2. Greg Nagy’s current project is entitled Masterpieces of Metonymy.
3. See Bierl 2006, esp. 82–93 (on Xenophon of Ephesus). See also Lacan 1966 (Engl. 2006); esp. 1957; 1958; 1962; 1977; 1998. On Lacan, see Mitchell and Rose 1982; Frank 1983:367–399; Gallop 1985; Welsch 1996:275–290; Tholen 2002:61–92, 139–146; Barnard and Fink 2002; Zizek 2006.
4. Published later as Bierl 2006.
5. See Dauverchain 2001; Sharpe 2003; Pizzato 2004; Ragland 2005; Zizek 2006. I thank David Elmer for referring me to Kubrick’s 1999 posthumous masterwork.
6. Freud 1900; 1905; 1912; 1917; 1925; on Freud, see also the introduction by Mitchell 1982; Lacan 1966 (Engl. 2006); esp. 1949; 1952; 1957; 1958; 1960; 1962; 1977; 1998; Lacan has the ancient novel in mind, particularly the Lycaenion scene in Longus; see Lacan 1958 (1966:687; 2006:576) and 1977:199, 204.
7. This approach has been further developed in Bierl 2007 and 2009.
8. E.g. the lack of motivation and suspense, the dream-like flux of events in repetitive variations full of inconsistencies, the stereotypical figures with missing characters, the pathetic wallowing in suffering and self-pity, the effeminacy of the male protagonists.
9. See e.g. Rohde 1876:421–435; Gärtner 1967:2060–2072.
10. Barthes 1979:13–17.
11. Carson 1986, esp. 77–95.
12. Foucault 1977–1986; Konstan 1994.
13. Lacan 1962 (2006:617–619; 1966:733–736); 1982:170; 1998, esp. 64–77, 83–89. See also Fink 2002.
14. Carson 1986, esp. 10–76. Above all, she assumes that the primary reason for writing lies in this act of yearning. The lyric poet understands the nature of love through writing (esp. 53–76).
15. Carson 1986:77–95. On “triangulation” in the novel, see also Fusillo 1989:219–228.
16. See Bierl 2006.
17. Lacan 1998: “there’s no such thing as a sexual relationship” (12); Lacan 1960: “man’s desire is the Other’s desire” (2006:690) – “le désir de l’homme est le désir de l’Autre” (1966:814). On the tendencies of idealization, see Lacan 1962 (2006:617–619; 1966:733–736); 1982:170; 1998:64–77, 83–89.
18. Kerényi 1927; Merkelbach 1962; 1995.
19. On failure, see Lacan 1998:58; Fink 2002:37. On asymmetrical sexuation and the difference between male and female sexual behavior, see Lacan 1962; 1998; Fink 2002; Zizek 2002; Morel 2002.
20. I have raised the idea of reading the novel as an elaboration on the ‘initiation’ or rite of passage in a number of articles (Bierl 2002; 2006; 2007; 2009), and it has been raised independently by Lalanne 2006, who approaches it, however, from the perspective of ancient history and not from literature. According to Lalanne, the romances as texts of paideia serve the Greek elites in Asia Minor to redefine their identity under the dominance of Rome, and they provide a medium for self-assertion and gender modeling.
21. Van Gennep 1960.
22. On identity, see Whitmarsh 2011 pace Bierl 2007.
23. Alexiou 1974.
24. Bierl 2007; 2009.
25. For the following remarks I have heavily profited from Greg Nagy’s wonderful colleague Margaret Alexiou, with whom I had inspiring conversations during my years at Harvard, as she completed her monograph After Antiquity (2002).
26. Alexiou 2002:151–413, esp. 152–167.
27. Alexiou 2002, esp. 211–265, 317–348 and Bierl 2007:246–249.
28. See Burkert 1979:6–7; 1996:69–79.
29. Brooks 1984, esp. 37, 55–56, 58–59, 105, 234, 278–279 links narration and plot with Lacan’s concept of desire.
30. Alexiou 2002:162–171; 211–216; Bierl 2007:255–258.
31. Alexiou 2002:297; see also 304 and 310 (“dream drama”); she also places great emphasis on the narratives’ ethopoiia, i.e., the pathetic sketching of the emotionality of young people in the state of love, and the oneiric textual linkages (“êthopoieía and plokê”).
32. See Bierl 2007:254–255.
33. See Alexiou 2002:151–171 and Bierl 2007:255–258.
34. Lacan 1957 (1966:502); Engl. Lacan 2006:419 (“incessant sliding of the signified under the signifier”); see also Bierl 2006:85–86.
35. Jakobson 1971, esp. 258, referencing Freud 1900. Lacan 1957 (1966:511; 2006:425), on the other hand, interprets condensation as a mechanism of poetry and metaphor. On Lacan’s answer to Jakobson, see Lacan 1977:14–25.
36. Jakobson 1971:258–259; on the realistic novel and contiguity, ibid. 255, on metonymic techniques in film, ibid. 256.
37. From the thirty-first of his “Neue Vorlesungen” (Freud 1933).
38. Lacan 1956 (1966:417; 2006:347). See also Lacan 1977:44–45.
39. Lacan 1957.
40. See Zizek 2006.
41. See Lacan 1957 (1966:505; 2006:421): “It is among the figures of style, or tropes – from which the verb ‘to find’ [trouver] comes to us – that this name is, in fact, found. This name is metonymy.” With this trope, an author finds the concatenation of signs that result in a plot.
42. Sharpe 2003.
43. See Meeker 2004 (with her reply in terms of Sade).
44. Zizek 2006.
45. Lacan 1998;1–13, esp. 10; Salecl 2002:96–97.
46. Lacan 1962 (1966:731–736; 2006:616–620); Morel 2002; Salecl 2002.
47. On the eye, the view, and the gaze as well as the picture, see Lacan 1977:67–119. On the mirror, see e.g. Lacan 1949.
48. Morel 2002:81, with reference to Lacan 1962 (1966:733; 2006:617).
49. Clitophon actually puts this text into practice in Achilles Tatius.
50. Freud 1900; see also the remarks by Jakobson 1971:258.
51. On Xenophon, see among others Hägg 1966; Gärtner 1967; Scarcella 1979; Schmeling 1980; Laplace 1994; Ruiz-Montero 1994; O’Sullivan 1995; Bierl 2006; König 2007.
52. On the oracle, see Rohde 1876:424–425; Gärtner 1967:2066–2067; Ruiz-Montero 1994:1098–1101.
53. See Bierl 2006:87.
54. Kerényi 1927:42; see also Merkelbach 1962:94.
55. See Lacan 1998:66–68; Barnard 2002:174–180.
56. On the female jouissance, see Lacan 1998:1–13, 64–77.
57. Bierl 2006, esp. 82–85.
58. See Ruiz-Montero 1994:1108; the latter would refer back to the hero, he ‘of the luxurious hair’.
59. On the horse as a key symbol of the young girl on the threshold of womanhood, see Alcman’s Louvre Partheneion, fr. 1 Davies.
60. Laplace 1994:466.
61. The fact that Hippothous owns a horse (2.14.5) emphasizes the glissement des signifiants.
62. See Merkelbach 1995:361n2 and 100–101.
63. Puiggali 1986, esp. 328.
64. Caduff 2006.


• Industrial Society & Its Future •

 Ted Kaczynski’s manifesto
published under the pseudonym ‘FC’.

Originally printed as a suppliment
in the Washington Post on 22.09.95



1. The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster
for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of
those of us who live in “advanced” countries, but they have
destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected
human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological
suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and have
inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued
development of technology will worsen the situation. It will certainly
subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage
on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social
disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased
physical suffering even in “advanced” countries.

2. The industrial-technological system may survive or it may break
down. If it survives, it MAY eventually achieve a low level of
physical and psychological suffering, but only after passing through a
long and very painful period of adjustment and only at the cost of
permanently reducing human beings and many other living organisms to
engineered products and mere cogs in the social machine. Furthermore,
if the system survives, the consequences will be inevitable: There is
no way of reforming or modifying the system so as to prevent it from
depriving people of dignity and autonomy.

3. If the system breaks down the consequences will still be very
painful. But the bigger the system grows the more disastrous the
results of its breakdown will be, so if it is to break down it had
best break down sooner rather than later.

4. We therefore advocate a revolution against the industrial system.
This revolution may or may not make use of violence: it may be sudden
or it may be a relatively gradual process spanning a few decades. We
can’t predict any of that. But we do outline in a very general way the
measures that those who hate the industrial system should take in
order to prepare the way for a revolution against that form of
society. This is not to be a POLITICAL revolution. Its object will be
to overthrow not governments but the economic and technological basis
of the present society.

5. In this article we give attention to only some of the negative
developments that have grown out of the industrial-technological
system. Other such developments we mention only briefly or ignore
altogether. This does not mean that we regard these other developments
as unimportant. For practical reasons we have to confine our
discussion to areas that have received insufficient public attention
or in which we have something new to say. For example, since there are
well-developed environmental and wilderness movements, we have written
very little about environmental degradation or the destruction of wild
nature, even though we consider these to be highly important.


6. Almost everyone will agree that we live in a deeply troubled
society. One of the most widespread manifestations of the craziness of
our world is leftism, so a discussion of the psychology of leftism can
serve as an introduction to the discussion of the problems of modern
society in general.

7. But what is leftism? During the first half of the 20th century
leftism could have been practically identified with socialism. Today
the movement is fragmented and it is not clear who can properly be
called a leftist. When we speak of leftists in this article we have in
mind mainly socialists, collectivists, “politically correct” types,
feminists, gay and disability activists, animal rights activists and
the like. But not everyone who is associated with one of these
movements is a leftist. What we are trying to get at in discussing
leftism is not so much a movement or an ideology as a psychological
type, or rather a collection of related types. Thus, what we mean by
“leftism” will emerge more clearly in the course of our discussion of
leftist psychology (Also, see paragraphs 227-230.)

8. Even so, our conception of leftism will remain a good deal less
clear than we would wish, but there doesn’t seem to be any remedy for
this. All we are trying to do is indicate in a rough and approximate
way the two psychological tendencies that we believe are the main
driving force of modern leftism. We by no means claim to be telling
the WHOLE truth about leftist psychology. Also, our discussion is
meant to apply to modern leftism only. We leave open the question of
the extent to which our discussion could be applied to the leftists of
the 19th and early 20th century.

9. The two psychological tendencies that underlie modern leftism we
call “feelings of inferiority” and “oversocialization.” Feelings of
inferiority are characteristic of modern leftism as a whole, while
oversocialization is characteristic only of a certain segment of
modern leftism; but this segment is highly influential.


10. By “feelings of inferiority” we mean not only inferiority feelings
in the strictest sense but a whole spectrum of related traits: low
self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, depressive tendencies,
defeatism, guilt, self-hatred, etc. We argue that modern leftists tend
to have such feelings (possibly more or less repressed) and that these
feelings are decisive in determining the direction of modern leftism.

11. When someone interprets as derogatory almost anything that is said
about him (or about groups with whom he identifies) we conclude that
he has inferiority feelings or low self-esteem. This tendency is
pronounced among minority rights advocates, whether or not they belong
to the minority groups whose rights they defend. They are
hypersensitive about the words used to designate minorities. The terms
“negro,” “oriental,” “handicapped” or “chick” for an African, an
Asian, a disabled person or a woman originally had no derogatory
connotation. “Broad” and “chick” were merely the feminine equivalents
of “guy,” “dude” or “fellow.” The negative connotations have been
attached to these terms by the activists themselves. Some animal
rights advocates have gone so far as to reject the word “pet” and
insist on its replacement by “animal companion.” Leftist
anthropologists go to great lengths to avoid saying anything about
primitive peoples that could conceivably be interpreted as negative.
They want to replace the word “primitive” by “nonliterate.” They seem
almost paranoid about anything that might suggest that any primitive
culture is inferior to our own. (We do not mean to imply that
primitive cultures ARE inferior to ours. We merely point out the
hypersensitivity of leftish anthropologists.)

12. Those who are most sensitive about “politically incorrect”
terminology are not the average black ghetto-dweller, Asian immigrant,
abused woman or disabled person, but a minority of activists, many of
whom do not even belong to any “oppressed” group but come from
privileged strata of society. Political correctness has its stronghold
among university professors, who have secure employment with
comfortable salaries, and the majority of whom are heterosexual, white
males from middle-class families.

13. Many leftists have an intense identification with the problems of
groups that have an image of being weak (women), defeated (American
Indians), repellent (homosexuals), or otherwise inferior. The leftists
themselves feel that these groups are inferior. They would never admit
it to themselves that they have such feelings, but it is precisely
because they do see these groups as inferior that they identify with
their problems. (We do not suggest that women, Indians, etc., ARE
inferior; we are only making a point about leftist psychology).

14. Feminists are desperately anxious to prove that women are as
strong as capable as men. Clearly they are nagged by a fear that women
may NOT be as strong and as capable as men.

15. Leftists tend to hate anything that has an image of being strong,
good and successful. They hate America, they hate Western
civilization, they hate white males, they hate rationality. The
reasons that leftists give for hating the West, etc. clearly do not
correspond with their real motives. They SAY they hate the West
because it is warlike, imperialistic, sexist, ethnocentric and so
forth, but where these same faults appear in socialist countries or in
primitive cultures, the leftist finds excuses for them, or at best he
GRUDGINGLY admits that they exist; whereas he ENTHUSIASTICALLY points
out (and often greatly exaggerates) these faults where they appear in
Western civilization. Thus it is clear that these faults are not the
leftist’s real motive for hating America and the West. He hates
America and the West because they are strong and successful.

16. Words like “self-confidence,” “self-reliance,” “initiative”,
“enterprise,” “optimism,” etc. play little role in the liberal and
leftist vocabulary. The leftist is anti-individualistic,
pro-collectivist. He wants society to solve everyone’s needs for them,
take care of them. He is not the sort of person who has an inner sense
of confidence in his own ability to solve his own problems and satisfy
his own needs. The leftist is antagonistic to the concept of
competition because, deep inside, he feels like a loser.

17. Art forms that appeal to modern leftist intellectuals tend to
focus on sordidness, defeat and despair, or else they take an
orgiastic tone, throwing off rational control as if there were no hope
of accomplishing anything through rational calculation and all that
was left was to immerse oneself in the sensations of the moment.

18. Modern leftist philosophers tend to dismiss reason, science,
objective reality and to insist that everything is culturally
relative. It is true that one can ask serious questions about the
foundations of scientific knowledge and about how, if at all, the
concept of objective reality can be defined. But it is obvious that
modern leftist philosophers are not simply cool-headed logicians
systematically analyzing the foundations of knowledge. They are deeply
involved emotionally in their attack on truth and reality. They attack
these concepts because of their own psychological needs. For one
thing, their attack is an outlet for hostility, and, to the extent
that it is successful, it satisfies the drive for power. More
importantly, the leftist hates science and rationality because they
classify certain beliefs as true (i.e., successful, superior) and
other beliefs as false (i.e. failed, inferior). The leftist’s feelings
of inferiority run so deep that he cannot tolerate any classification
of some things as successful or superior and other things as failed or
inferior. This also underlies the rejection by many leftists of the
concept of mental illness and of the utility of IQ tests. Leftists are
antagonistic to genetic explanations of human abilities or behavior
because such explanations tend to make some persons appear superior or
inferior to others. Leftists prefer to give society the credit or
blame for an individual’s ability or lack of it. Thus if a person is
“inferior” it is not his fault, but society’s, because he has not been
brought up properly.

19. The leftist is not typically the kind of person whose feelings of
inferiority make him a braggart, an egotist, a bully, a self-promoter,
a ruthless competitor. This kind of person has not wholly lost faith
in himself. He has a deficit in his sense of power and self-worth, but
he can still conceive of himself as having the capacity to be strong,
and his efforts to make himself strong produce his unpleasant
behavior. [1] But the leftist is too far gone for that. His feelings
of inferiority are so ingrained that he cannot conceive of himself as
individually strong and valuable. Hence the collectivism of the
leftist. He can feel strong only as a member of a large organization
or a mass movement with which he identifies himself.

20. Notice the masochistic tendency of leftist tactics. Leftists
protest by lying down in front of vehicles, they intentionally provoke
police or racists to abuse them, etc. These tactics may often be
effective, but many leftists use them not as a means to an end but
because they PREFER masochistic tactics. Self-hatred is a leftist

21. Leftists may claim that their activism is motivated by compassion
or by moral principle, and moral principle does play a role for the
leftist of the oversocialized type. But compassion and moral principle
cannot be the main motives for leftist activism. Hostility is too
prominent a component of leftist behavior; so is the drive for power.
Moreover, much leftist behavior is not rationally calculated to be of
benefit to the people whom the leftists claim to be trying to help.
For example, if one believes that affirmative action is good for black
people, does it make sense to demand affirmative action in hostile or
dogmatic terms? Obviously it would be more productive to take a
diplomatic and conciliatory approach that would make at least verbal
and symbolic concessions to white people who think that affirmative
action discriminates against them. But leftist activists do not take
such an approach because it would not satisfy their emotional needs.
Helping black people is not their real goal. Instead, race problems
serve as an excuse for them to express their own hostility and
frustrated need for power. In doing so they actually harm black
people, because the activists’ hostile attitude toward the white
majority tends to intensify race hatred.

22. If our society had no social problems at all, the leftists would
have to INVENT problems in order to provide themselves with an excuse
for making a fuss.

23. We emphasize that the foregoing does not pretend to be an accurate
description of everyone who might be considered a leftist. It is only
a rough indication of a general tendency of leftism.


24. Psychologists use the term “socialization” to designate the
process by which children are trained to think and act as society
demands. A person is said to be well socialized if he believes in and
obeys the moral code of his society and fits in well as a functioning
part of that society. It may seem senseless to say that many leftists
are over-socialized, since the leftist is perceived as a rebel.
Nevertheless, the position can be defended. Many leftists are not such
rebels as they seem.

25. The moral code of our society is so demanding that no one can
think, feel and act in a completely moral way. For example, we are not
supposed to hate anyone, yet almost everyone hates somebody at some
time or other, whether he admits it to himself or not. Some people are
so highly socialized that the attempt to think, feel and act morally
imposes a severe burden on them. In order to avoid feelings of guilt,
they continually have to deceive themselves about their own motives
and find moral explanations for feelings and actions that in reality
have a non-moral origin. We use the term “oversocialized” to describe
such people. [2]

26. Oversocialization can lead to low self-esteem, a sense of
powerlessness, defeatism, guilt, etc. One of the most important means
by which our society socializes children is by making them feel
ashamed of behavior or speech that is contrary to society’s
expectations. If this is overdone, or if a particular child is
especially susceptible to such feelings, he ends by feeling ashamed of
HIMSELF. Moreover the thought and the behavior of the oversocialized
person are more restricted by society’s expectations than are those of
the lightly socialized person. The majority of people engage in a
significant amount of naughty behavior. They lie, they commit petty
thefts, they break traffic laws, they goof off at work, they hate
someone, they say spiteful things or they use some underhanded trick
to get ahead of the other guy. The oversocialized person cannot do
these things, or if he does do them he generates in himself a sense of
shame and self-hatred. The oversocialized person cannot even
experience, without guilt, thoughts or feelings that are contrary to
the accepted morality; he cannot think “unclean” thoughts. And
socialization is not just a matter of morality; we are socialized to
confirm to many norms of behavior that do not fall under the heading
of morality. Thus the oversocialized person is kept on a psychological
leash and spends his life running on rails that society has laid down
for him. In many oversocialized people this results in a sense of
constraint and powerlessness that can be a severe hardship. We suggest
that oversocialization is among the more serious cruelties that human
beings inflict on one another.

27. We argue that a very important and influential segment of the
modern left is oversocialized and that their oversocialization is of
great importance in determining the direction of modern leftism.
Leftists of the oversocialized type tend to be intellectuals or
members of the upper-middle class. Notice that university
intellectuals (3) constitute the most highly socialized segment of our
society and also the most left-wing segment.

28. The leftist of the oversocialized type tries to get off his
psychological leash and assert his autonomy by rebelling. But usually
he is not strong enough to rebel against the most basic values of
society. Generally speaking, the goals of today’s leftists are NOT in
conflict with the accepted morality. On the contrary, the left takes
an accepted moral principle, adopts it as its own, and then accuses
mainstream society of violating that principle. Examples: racial
equality, equality of the sexes, helping poor people, peace as opposed
to war, nonviolence generally, freedom of expression, kindness to
animals. More fundamentally, the duty of the individual to serve
society and the duty of society to take care of the individual. All
these have been deeply rooted values of our society (or at least of
its middle and upper classes (4) for a long time. These values are
explicitly or implicitly expressed or presupposed in most of the
material presented to us by the mainstream communications media and
the educational system. Leftists, especially those of the
oversocialized type, usually do not rebel against these principles but
justify their hostility to society by claiming (with some degree of
truth) that society is not living up to these principles.

29. Here is an illustration of the way in which the oversocialized
leftist shows his real attachment to the conventional attitudes of our
society while pretending to be in rebellion against it. Many leftists
push for affirmative action, for moving black people into
high-prestige jobs, for improved education in black schools and more
money for such schools; the way of life of the black “underclass” they
regard as a social disgrace. They want to integrate the black man into
the system, make him a business executive, a lawyer, a scientist just
like upper-middle-class white people. The leftists will reply that the
last thing they want is to make the black man into a copy of the white
man; instead, they want to preserve African American culture. But in
what does this preservation of African American culture consist? It
can hardly consist in anything more than eating black-style food,
listening to black-style music, wearing black-style clothing and going
to a black-style church or mosque. In other words, it can express
itself only in superficial matters. In all ESSENTIAL respects more
leftists of the oversocialized type want to make the black man conform
to white, middle-class ideals. They want to make him study technical
subjects, become an executive or a scientist, spend his life climbing
the status ladder to prove that black people are as good as white.
They want to make black fathers “responsible.” they want black gangs
to become nonviolent, etc. But these are exactly the values of the
industrial-technological system. The system couldn’t care less what
kind of music a man listens to, what kind of clothes he wears or what
religion he believes in as long as he studies in school, holds a
respectable job, climbs the status ladder, is a “responsible” parent,
is nonviolent and so forth. In effect, however much he may deny it,
the oversocialized leftist wants to integrate the black man into the
system and make him adopt its values.

30. We certainly do not claim that leftists, even of the
oversocialized type, NEVER rebel against the fundamental values of our
society. Clearly they sometimes do. Some oversocialized leftists have
gone so far as to rebel against one of modern society’s most important
principles by engaging in physical violence. By their own account,
violence is for them a form of “liberation.” In other words, by
committing violence they break through the psychological restraints
that have been trained into them. Because they are oversocialized
these restraints have been more confining for them than for others;
hence their need to break free of them. But they usually justify their
rebellion in terms of mainstream values. If they engage in violence
they claim to be fighting against racism or the like.

31. We realize that many objections could be raised to the foregoing
thumb-nail sketch of leftist psychology. The real situation is
complex, and anything like a complete description of it would take
several volumes even if the necessary data were available. We claim
only to have indicated very roughly the two most important tendencies
in the psychology of modern leftism.

32. The problems of the leftist are indicative of the problems of our
society as a whole. Low self-esteem, depressive tendencies and
defeatism are not restricted to the left. Though they are especially
noticeable in the left, they are widespread in our society. And
today’s society tries to socialize us to a greater extent than any
previous society. We are even told by experts how to eat, how to
exercise, how to make love, how to raise our kids and so forth.


33. Human beings have a need (probably based in biology) for something
that we will call the “power process.” This is closely related to the
need for power (which is widely recognized) but is not quite the same
thing. The power process has four elements. The three most clear-cut
of these we call goal, effort and attainment of goal. (Everyone needs
to have goals whose attainment requires effort, and needs to succeed
in attaining at least some of his goals.) The fourth element is more
difficult to define and may not be necessary for everyone. We call it
autonomy and will discuss it later (paragraphs 42-44).

34. Consider the hypothetical case of a man who can have anything he
wants just by wishing for it. Such a man has power, but he will
develop serious psychological problems. At first he will have a lot of
fun, but by and by he will become acutely bored and demoralized.
Eventually he may become clinically depressed. History shows that
leisured aristocracies tend to become decadent. This is not true of
fighting aristocracies that have to struggle to maintain their power.
But leisured, secure aristocracies that have no need to exert
themselves usually become bored, hedonistic and demoralized, even
though they have power. This shows that power is not enough. One must
have goals toward which to exercise one’s power.

35. Everyone has goals; if nothing else, to obtain the physical
necessities of life: food, water and whatever clothing and shelter are
made necessary by the climate. But the leisured aristocrat obtains
these things without effort. Hence his boredom and demoralization.

36. Nonattainment of important goals results in death if the goals are
physical necessities, and in frustration if nonattainment of the goals
is compatible with survival. Consistent failure to attain goals
throughout life results in defeatism, low self-esteem or depression.

37. Thus, in order to avoid serious psychological problems, a human
being needs goals whose attainment requires effort, and he must have a
reasonable rate of success in attaining his goals.


38. But not every leisured aristocrat becomes bored and demoralized.
For example, the emperor Hirohito, instead of sinking into decadent
hedonism, devoted himself to marine biology, a field in which he
became distinguished. When people do not have to exert themselves to
satisfy their physical needs they often set up artificial goals for
themselves. In many cases they then pursue these goals with the same
energy and emotional involvement that they otherwise would have put
into the search for physical necessities. Thus the aristocrats of the
Roman Empire had their literary pretentions; many European aristocrats
a few centuries ago invested tremendous time and energy in hunting,
though they certainly didn’t need the meat; other aristocracies have
competed for status through elaborate displays of wealth; and a few
aristocrats, like Hirohito, have turned to science.

39. We use the term “surrogate activity” to designate an activity that
is directed toward an artificial goal that people set up for
themselves merely in order to have some goal to work toward, or let us
say, merely for the sake of the “fulfillment” that they get from
pursuing the goal. Here is a rule of thumb for the identification of
surrogate activities. Given a person who devotes much time and energy
to the pursuit of goal X, ask yourself this: If he had to devote most
of his time and energy to satisfying his biological needs, and if that
effort required him to use his physical and mental facilities in a
varied and interesting way, would he feel seriously deprived because
he did not attain goal X? If the answer is no, then the person’s
pursuit of a goal X is a surrogate activity. Hirohito’s studies in
marine biology clearly constituted a surrogate activity, since it is
pretty certain that if Hirohito had had to spend his time working at
interesting non-scientific tasks in order to obtain the necessities of
life, he would not have felt deprived because he didn’t know all about
the anatomy and life-cycles of marine animals. On the other hand the
pursuit of sex and love (for example) is not a surrogate activity,
because most people, even if their existence were otherwise
satisfactory, would feel deprived if they passed their lives without
ever having a relationship with a member of the opposite sex. (But
pursuit of an excessive amount of sex, more than one really needs, can
be a surrogate activity.)

40. In modern industrial society only minimal effort is necessary to
satisfy one’s physical needs. It is enough to go through a training
program to acquire some petty technical skill, then come to work on
time and exert very modest effort needed to hold a job. The only
requirements are a moderate amount of intelligence, and most of all,
simple OBEDIENCE. If one has those, society takes care of one from
cradle to grave. (Yes, there is an underclass that cannot take
physical necessities for granted, but we are speaking here of
mainstream society.) Thus it is not surprising that modern society is
full of surrogate activities. These include scientific work, athletic
achievement, humanitarian work, artistic and literary creation,
climbing the corporate ladder, acquisition of money and material goods
far beyond the point at which they cease to give any additional
physical satisfaction, and social activism when it addresses issues
that are not important for the activist personally, as in the case of
white activists who work for the rights of nonwhite minorities. These
are not always pure surrogate activities, since for many people they
may be motivated in part by needs other than the need to have some
goal to pursue. Scientific work may be motivated in part by a drive
for prestige, artistic creation by a need to express feelings,
militant social activism by hostility. But for most people who pursue
them, these activities are in large part surrogate activities. For
example, the majority of scientists will probably agree that the
“fulfillment” they get from their work is more important than the
money and prestige they earn.

41. For many if not most people, surrogate activities are less
satisfying than the pursuit of real goals ( that is, goals that people
would want to attain even if their need for the power process were
already fulfilled). One indication of this is the fact that, in many
or most cases, people who are deeply involved in surrogate activities
are never satisfied, never at rest. Thus the money-maker constantly
strives for more and more wealth. The scientist no sooner solves one
problem than he moves on to the next. The long-distance runner drives
himself to run always farther and faster. Many people who pursue
surrogate activities will say that they get far more fulfillment from
these activities than they do from the “mundane” business of
satisfying their biological needs, but that it is because in our
society the effort needed to satisfy the biological needs has been
reduced to triviality. More importantly, in our society people do not
satisfy their biological needs AUTONOMOUSLY but by functioning as
parts of an immense social machine. In contrast, people generally have
a great deal of autonomy in pursuing their surrogate activities. have
a great deal of autonomy in pursuing their surrogate activities.


42. Autonomy as a part of the power process may not be necessary for
every individual. But most people need a greater or lesser degree of
autonomy in working toward their goals. Their efforts must be
undertaken on their own initiative and must be under their own
direction and control. Yet most people do not have to exert this
initiative, direction and control as single individuals. It is usually
enough to act as a member of a SMALL group. Thus if half a dozen
people discuss a goal among themselves and make a successful joint
effort to attain that goal, their need for the power process will be
served. But if they work under rigid orders handed down from above
that leave them no room for autonomous decision and initiative, then
their need for the power process will not be served. The same is true
when decisions are made on a collective bases if the group making the
collective decision is so large that the role of each individual is
insignificant [5]

43. It is true that some individuals seem to have little need for
autonomy. Either their drive for power is weak or they satisfy it by
identifying themselves with some powerful organization to which they
belong. And then there are unthinking, animal types who seem to be
satisfied with a purely physical sense of power(the good combat
soldier, who gets his sense of power by developing fighting skills
that he is quite content to use in blind obedience to his superiors).

44. But for most people it is through the power process-having a goal,
making an AUTONOMOUS effort and attaining t the goal-that self-esteem,
self-confidence and a sense of power are acquired. When one does not
have adequate opportunity to go throughout the power process the
consequences are (depending on the individual and on the way the power
process is disrupted) boredom, demoralization, low self-esteem,
inferiority feelings, defeatism, depression, anxiety, guilt,
frustration, hostility, spouse or child abuse, insatiable hedonism,
abnormal sexual behavior, sleep disorders, eating disorders, etc. [6]


45. Any of the foregoing symptoms can occur in any society, but in
modern industrial society they are present on a massive scale. We
aren’t the first to mention that the world today seems to be going
crazy. This sort of thing is not normal for human societies. There is
good reason to believe that primitive man suffered from less stress
and frustration and was better satisfied with his way of life than
modern man is. It is true that not all was sweetness and light in
primitive societies. Abuse of women and common among the Australian
aborigines, transexuality was fairly common among some of the American
Indian tribes. But is does appear that GENERALLY SPEAKING the kinds of
problems that we have listed in the preceding paragraph were far less
common among primitive peoples than they are in modern society.

46. We attribute the social and psychological problems of modern
society to the fact that that society requires people to live under
conditions radically different from those under which the human race
evolved and to behave in ways that conflict with the patterns of
behavior that the human race developed while living under the earlier
conditions. It is clear from what we have already written that we
consider lack of opportunity to properly experience the power process
as the most important of the abnormal conditions to which modern
society subjects people. But it is not the only one. Before dealing
with disruption of the power process as a source of social problems we
will discuss some of the other sources.

47. Among the abnormal conditions present in modern industrial society
are excessive density of population, isolation of man from nature,
excessive rapidity of social change and the break-down of natural
small-scale communities such as the extended family, the village or
the tribe.

48. It is well known that crowding increases stress and aggression.
The degree of crowding that exists today and the isolation of man from
nature are consequences of technological progress. All pre-industrial
societies were predominantly rural. The industrial Revolution vastly
increased the size of cities and the proportion of the population that
lives in them, and modern agricultural technology has made it possible
for the Earth to support a far denser population than it ever did
before. (Also, technology exacerbates the effects of crowding because
it puts increased disruptive powers in people’s hands. For example, a
variety of noise-making devices: power mowers, radios, motorcycles,
etc. If the use of these devices is unrestricted, people who want
peace and quiet are frustrated by the noise. If their use is
restricted, people who use the devices are frustrated by the
regulations… But if these machines had never been invented there
would have been no conflict and no frustration generated by them.)

49. For primitive societies the natural world (which usually changes
only slowly) provided a stable framework and therefore a sense of
security. In the modern world it is human society that dominates
nature rather than the other way around, and modern society changes
very rapidly owing to technological change. Thus there is no stable

50. The conservatives are fools: They whine about the decay of
traditional values, yet they enthusiastically support technological
progress and economic growth. Apparently it never occurs to them that
you can’t make rapid, drastic changes in the technology and the
economy of a society with out causing rapid changes in all other
aspects of the society as well, and that such rapid changes inevitably
break down traditional values.

51.The breakdown of traditional values to some extent implies the
breakdown of the bonds that hold together traditional small-scale
social groups. The disintegration of small-scale social groups is also
promoted by the fact that modern conditions often require or tempt
individuals to move to new locations, separating themselves from their
communities. Beyond that, a technological society HAS TO weaken family
ties and local communities if it is to function efficiently. In modern
society an individual’s loyalty must be first to the system and only
secondarily to a small-scale community, because if the internal
loyalties of small-scale small-scale communities were stronger than
loyalty to the system, such communities would pursue their own
advantage at the expense of the system.

52. Suppose that a public official or a corporation executive appoints
his cousin, his friend or his co-religionist to a position rather than
appointing the person best qualified for the job. He has permitted
personal loyalty to supersede his loyalty to the system, and that is
“nepotism” or “discrimination,” both of which are terrible sins in
modern society. Would-be industrial societies that have done a poor
job of subordinating personal or local loyalties to loyalty to the
system are usually very inefficient. (Look at Latin America.) Thus an
advanced industrial society can tolerate only those small-scale
communities that are emasculated, tamed and made into tools of the
system. [7]

53. Crowding, rapid change and the breakdown of communities have been
widely recognized as sources of social problems. but we do not believe
they are enough to account for the extent of the problems that are
seen today.

54. A few pre-industrial cities were very large and crowded, yet their
inhabitants do not seem to have suffered from psychological problems
to the same extent as modern man. In America today there still are
uncrowded rural areas, and we find there the same problems as in urban
areas, though the problems tend to be less acute in the rural areas.
Thus crowding does not seem to be the decisive factor.

55. On the growing edge of the American frontier during the 19th
century, the mobility of the population probably broke down extended
families and small-scale social groups to at least the same extent as
these are broken down today. In fact, many nuclear families lived by
choice in such isolation, having no neighbors within several miles,
that they belonged to no community at all, yet they do not seem to
have developed problems as a result.

56.Furthermore, change in American frontier society was very rapid and
deep. A man might be born and raised in a log cabin, outside the reach
of law and order and fed largely on wild meat; and by the time he
arrived at old age he might be working at a regular job and living in
an ordered community with effective law enforcement. This was a deeper
change that that which typically occurs in the life of a modern
individual, yet it does not seem to have led to psychological
problems. In fact, 19th century American society had an optimistic and
self-confident tone, quite unlike that of today’s society. [8]

57. The difference, we argue, is that modern man has the sense
(largely justified) that change is IMPOSED on him, whereas the 19th
century frontiersman had the sense (also largely justified) that he
created change himself, by his own choice. Thus a pioneer settled on a
piece of land of his own choosing and made it into a farm through his
own effort. In those days an entire county might have only a couple of
hundred inhabitants and was a far more isolated and autonomous entity
than a modern county is. Hence the pioneer farmer participated as a
member of a relatively small group in the creation of a new, ordered
community. One may well question whether the creation of this
community was an improvement, but at any rate it satisfied the
pioneer’s need for the power process.

58. It would be possible to give other examples of societies in which
there has been rapid change and/or lack of close community ties
without he kind of massive behavioral aberration that is seen in
today’s industrial society. We contend that the most important cause
of social and psychological problems in modern society is the fact
that people have insufficient opportunity to go through the power
process in a normal way. We don’t mean to say that modern society is
the only one in which the power process has been disrupted. Probably
most if not all civilized societies have interfered with the power ‘
process to a greater or lesser extent. But in modern industrial
society the problem has become particularly acute. Leftism, at least
in its recent (mid-to-late -20th century) form, is in part a symptom
of deprivation with respect to the power process.


59. We divide human drives into three groups: (1) those drives that
can be satisfied with minimal effort; (2) those that can be satisfied
but only at the cost of serious effort; (3) those that cannot be
adequately satisfied no matter how much effort one makes. The power
process is the process of satisfying the drives of the second group.
The more drives there are in the third group, the more there is
frustration, anger, eventually defeatism, depression, etc.

60. In modern industrial society natural human drives tend to be
pushed into the first and third groups, and the second group tends to
consist increasingly of artificially created drives.

61. In primitive societies, physical necessities generally fall into
group 2: They can be obtained, but only at the cost of serious effort.
But modern society tends to guaranty the physical necessities to
everyone [9] in exchange for only minimal effort, hence physical needs
are pushed into group 1. (There may be disagreement about whether the
effort needed to hold a job is “minimal”; but usually, in lower- to
middle-level jobs, whatever effort is required is merely that of
obedience. You sit or stand where you are told to sit or stand and do
what you are told to do in the way you are told to do it. Seldom do
you have to exert yourself seriously, and in any case you have hardly
any autonomy in work, so that the need for the power process is not
well served.)

62. Social needs, such as sex, love and status, often remain in group
2 in modern society, depending on the situation of the individual.
[10] But, except for people who have a particularly strong drive for
status, the effort required to fulfill the social drives is
insufficient to satisfy adequately the need for the power process.

63. So certain artificial needs have been created that fall into group
2, hence serve the need for the power process. Advertising and
marketing techniques have been developed that make many people feel
they need things that their grandparents never desired or even dreamed
of. It requires serious effort to earn enough money to satisfy these
artificial needs, hence they fall into group 2. (But see paragraphs
80-82.) Modern man must satisfy his need for the power process largely
through pursuit of the artificial needs created by the advertising and
marketing industry [11], and through surrogate activities.

64. It seems that for many people, maybe the majority, these
artificial forms of the power process are insufficient. A theme that
appears repeatedly in the writings of the social critics of the second
half of the 20th century is the sense of purposelessness that afflicts
many people in modern society. (This purposelessness is often called
by other names such as “anomic” or “middle-class vacuity.”) We suggest
that the so-called “identity crisis” is actually a search for a sense
of purpose, often for commitment to a suitable surrogate activity. It
may be that existentialism is in large part a response to the
purposelessness of modern life. [12] Very widespread in modern society
is the search for “fulfillment.” But we think that for the majority of
people an activity whose main goal is fulfillment (that is, a
surrogate activity) does not bring completely satisfactory
fulfillment. In other words, it does not fully satisfy the need for
the power process. (See paragraph 41.) That need can be fully
satisfied only through activities that have some external goal, such
as physical necessities, sex, love, status, revenge, etc.

65. Moreover, where goals are pursued through earning money, climbing
the status ladder or functioning as part of the system in some other
way, most people are not in a position to pursue their goals
AUTONOMOUSLY. Most workers are someone else’s employee as, as we
pointed out in paragraph 61, must spend their days doing what they are
told to do in the way they are told to do it. Even most people who are
in business for themselves have only limited autonomy. It is a chronic
complaint of small-business persons and entrepreneurs that their hands
are tied by excessive government regulation. Some of these regulations
are doubtless unnecessary, but for the most part government
regulations are essential and inevitable parts of our extremely
complex society. A large portion of small business today operates on
the franchise system. It was reported in the Wall Street Journal a few
years ago that many of the franchise-granting companies require
applicants for franchises to take a personality test that is designed
to EXCLUDE those who have creativity and initiative, because such
persons are not sufficiently docile to go along obediently with the
franchise system. This excludes from small business many of the people
who most need autonomy.

66. Today people live more by virtue of what the system does FOR them
or TO them than by virtue of what they do for themselves. And what
they do for themselves is done more and more along channels laid down
by the system. Opportunities tend to be those that the system
provides, the opportunities must be exploited in accord with the rules
and regulations [13], and techniques prescribed by experts must be
followed if there is to be a chance of success.

67. Thus the power process is disrupted in our society through a
deficiency of real goals and a deficiency of autonomy in pursuit of
goals. But it is also disrupted because of those human drives that
fall into group 3: the drives that one cannot adequately satisfy no
matter how much effort one makes. One of these drives is the need for
security. Our lives depend on decisions made by other people; we have
no control over these decisions and usually we do not even know the
people who make them. (“We live in a world in which relatively few
people – maybe 500 or 1,00 – make the important decisions” – Philip B.
Heymann of Harvard Law School, quoted by Anthony Lewis, New York
Times, April 21, 1995.) Our lives depend on whether safety standards
at a nuclear power plant are properly maintained; on how much
pesticide is allowed to get into our food or how much pollution into
our air; on how skillful (or incompetent) our doctor is; whether we
lose or get a job may depend on decisions made by government
economists or corporation executives; and so forth. Most individuals
are not in a position to secure themselves against these threats to
more [than] a very limited extent. The individual’s search for
security is therefore frustrated, which leads to a sense of

68. It may be objected that primitive man is physically less secure
than modern man, as is shown by his shorter life expectancy; hence
modern man suffers from less, not more than the amount of insecurity
that is normal for human beings. but psychological security does not
closely correspond with physical security. What makes us FEEL secure
is not so much objective security as a sense of confidence in our
ability to take care of ourselves. Primitive man, threatened by a
fierce animal or by hunger, can fight in self-defense or travel in
search of food. He has no certainty of success in these efforts, but
he is by no means helpless against the things that threaten him. The
modern individual on the other hand is threatened by many things
against which he is helpless; nuclear accidents, carcinogens in food,
environmental pollution, war, increasing taxes, invasion of his
privacy by large organizations, nation-wide social or economic
phenomena that may disrupt his way of life.

69. It is true that primitive man is powerless against some of the
things that threaten him; disease for example. But he can accept the
risk of disease stoically. It is part of the nature of things, it is
no one’s fault, unless is the fault of some imaginary, impersonal
demon. But threats to the modern individual tend to be MAN-MADE. They
are not the results of chance but are IMPOSED on him by other persons
whose decisions he, as an individual, is unable to influence.
Consequently he feels frustrated, humiliated and angry.

70. Thus primitive man for the most part has his security in his own
hands (either as an individual or as a member of a SMALL group)
whereas the security of modern man is in the hands of persons or
organizations that are too remote or too large for him to be able
personally to influence them. So modern man’s drive for security tends
to fall into groups 1 and 3; in some areas (food, shelter, etc.) his
security is assured at the cost of only trivial effort, whereas in
other areas he CANNOT attain security. (The foregoing greatly
simplifies the real situation, but it does indicate in a rough,
general way how the condition of modern man differs from that of
primitive man.)

71. People have many transitory drives or impulses that are necessary
frustrated in modern life, hence fall into group 3. One may become
angry, but modern society cannot permit fighting. In many situations
it does not even permit verbal aggression. When going somewhere one
may be in a hurry, or one may be in a mood to travel slowly, but one
generally has no choice but to move with the flow of traffic and obey
the traffic signals. One may want to do one’s work in a different way,
but usually one can work only according to the rules laid down by
one’s employer. In many other ways as well, modern man is strapped
down by a network of rules and regulations (explicit or implicit) that
frustrate many of his impulses and thus interfere with the power
process. Most of these regulations cannot be disposed with, because
the are necessary for the functioning of industrial society.

72. Modern society is in certain respects extremely permissive. In
matters that are irrelevant to the functioning of the system we can
generally do what we please. We can believe in any religion we like
(as long as it does not encourage behavior that is dangerous to the
system). We can go to bed with anyone we like (as long as we practice
“safe sex”). We can do anything we like as long as it is UNIMPORTANT.
But in all IMPORTANT matters the system tends increasingly to regulate
our behavior.

73. Behavior is regulated not only through explicit rules and not only
by the government. Control is often exercised through indirect
coercion or through psychological pressure or manipulation, and by
organizations other than the government, or by the system as a whole.
Most large organizations use some form of propaganda [14] to
manipulate public attitudes or behavior. Propaganda is not limited to
“commercials” and advertisements, and sometimes it is not even
consciously intended as propaganda by the people who make it. For
instance, the content of entertainment programming is a powerful form
of propaganda. An example of indirect coercion: There is no law that
says we have to go to work every day and follow our employer’s orders.
Legally there is nothing to prevent us from going to live in the wild
like primitive people or from going into business for ourselves. But
in practice there is very little wild country left, and there is room
in the economy for only a limited number of small business owners.
Hence most of us can survive only as someone else’s employee.

74. We suggest that modern man’s obsession with longevity, and with
maintaining physical vigor and sexual attractiveness to an advanced
age, is a symptom of unfulfillment resulting from deprivation with
respect to the power process. The “mid-life crisis” also is such a
symptom. So is the lack of interest in having children that is fairly
common in modern society but almost unheard-of in primitive societies.

75. In primitive societies life is a succession of stages. The needs
and purposes of one stage having been fulfilled, there is no
particular reluctance about passing on to the next stage. A young man
goes through the power process by becoming a hunter, hunting not for
sport or for fulfillment but to get meat that is necessary for food.
(In young women the process is more complex, with greater emphasis on
social power; we won’t discuss that here.) This phase having been
successfully passed through, the young man has no reluctance about
settling down to the responsibilities of raising a family. (In
contrast, some modern people indefinitely postpone having children
because they are too busy seeking some kind of “fulfillment.” We
suggest that the fulfillment they need is adequate experience of the
power process — with real goals instead of the artificial goals of
surrogate activities.) Again, having successfully raised his children,
going through the power process by providing them with the physical
necessities, the primitive man feels that his work is done and he is
prepared to accept old age (if he survives that long) and death. Many
modern people, on the other hand, are disturbed by the prospect of
death, as is shown by the amount of effort they expend trying to
maintain their physical condition, appearance and health. We argue
that this is due to unfulfillment resulting from the fact that they
have never put their physical powers to any use, have never gone
through the power process using their bodies in a serious way. It is
not the primitive man, who has used his body daily for practical
purposes, who fears the deterioration of age, but the modern man, who
has never had a practical use for his body beyond walking from his car
to his house. It is the man whose need for the power process has been
satisfied during his life who is best prepared to accept the end of
that life.

76. In response to the arguments of this section someone will say,
“Society must find a way to give people the opportunity to go through
the power process.” For such people the value of the opportunity is
destroyed by the very fact that society gives it to them. What they
need is to find or make their own opportunities. As long as the system
GIVES them their opportunities it still has them on a leash. To attain
autonomy they must get off that leash.


77. Not everyone in industrial-technological society suffers from
psychological problems. Some people even profess to be quite satisfied
with society as it is. We now discuss some of the reasons why people
differ so greatly in their response to modern society.

78. First, there doubtless are differences in the strength of the
drive for power. Individuals with a weak drive for power may have
relatively little need to go through the power process, or at least
relatively little need for autonomy in the power process. These are
docile types who would have been happy as plantation darkies in the
Old South. (We don’t mean to sneer at “plantation darkies” of the Old
South. To their credit, most of the slaves were NOT content with their
servitude. We do sneer at people who ARE content with servitude.)

79. Some people may have some exceptional drive, in pursuing which
they satisfy their need for the power process. For example, those who
have an unusually strong drive for social status may spend their whole
lives climbing the status ladder without ever getting bored with that

80. People vary in their susceptibility to advertising and marketing
techniques. Some people are so susceptible that, even if they make a
great deal of money, they cannot satisfy their constant craving for
the shiny new toys that the marketing industry dangles before their
eyes. So they always feel hard-pressed financially even if their
income is large, and their cravings are frustrated.

81. Some people have low susceptibility to advertising and marketing
techniques. These are the people who aren’t interested in money.
Material acquisition does not serve their need for the power process.

82. People who have medium susceptibility to advertising and marketing
techniques are able to earn enough money to satisfy their craving for
goods and services, but only at the cost of serious effort (putting in
overtime, taking a second job, earning promotions, etc.) Thus material
acquisition serves their need for the power process. But it does not
necessarily follow that their need is fully satisfied. They may have
insufficient autonomy in the power process (their work may consist of
following orders) and some of their drives may be frustrated (e.g.,
security, aggression). (We are guilty of oversimplification in
paragraphs 80-82 because we have assumed that the desire for material
acquisition is entirely a creation of the advertising and marketing
industry. Of course it’s not that simple.

83. Some people partly satisfy their need for power by identifying
themselves with a powerful organization or mass movement. An
individual lacking goals or power joins a movement or an organization,
adopts its goals as his own, then works toward these goals. When some
of the goals are attained, the individual, even though his personal
efforts have played only an insignificant part in the attainment of
the goals, feels (through his identification with the movement or
organization) as if he had gone through the power process. This
phenomenon was exploited by the fascists, nazis and communists. Our
society uses it, too, though less crudely. Example: Manuel Noriega was
an irritant to the U.S. (goal: punish Noriega). The U.S. invaded
Panama (effort) and punished Noriega (attainment of goal). The U.S.
went through the power process and many Americans, because of their
identification with the U.S., experienced the power process
vicariously. Hence the widespread public approval of the Panama
invasion; it gave people a sense of power. [15] We see the same
phenomenon in armies, corporations, political parties, humanitarian
organizations, religious or ideological movements. In particular,
leftist movements tend to attract people who are seeking to satisfy
their need for power. But for most people identification with a large
organization or a mass movement does not fully satisfy the need for

84. Another way in which people satisfy their need for the power
process is through surrogate activities. As we explained in paragraphs
38-40, a surrogate activity that is directed toward an artificial goal
that the individual pursues for the sake of the “fulfillment” that he
gets from pursuing the goal, not because he needs to attain the goal
itself. For instance, there is no practical motive for building
enormous muscles, hitting a little ball into a hole or acquiring a
complete series of postage stamps. Yet many people in our society
devote themselves with passion to bodybuilding, golf or stamp
collecting. Some people are more “other-directed” than others, and
therefore will more readily attack importance to a surrogate activity
simply because the people around them treat it as important or because
society tells them it is important. That is why some people get very
serious about essentially trivial activities such as sports, or
bridge, or chess, or arcane scholarly pursuits, whereas others who are
more clear-sighted never see these things as anything but the
surrogate activities that they are, and consequently never attach
enough importance to them to satisfy their need for the power process
in that way. It only remains to point out that in many cases a
person’s way of earning a living is also a surrogate activity. Not a
PURE surrogate activity, since part of the motive for the activity is
to gain the physical necessities and (for some people) social status
and the luxuries that advertising makes them want. But many people put
into their work far more effort than is necessary to earn whatever
money and status they require, and this extra effort constitutes a
surrogate activity. This extra effort, together with the emotional
investment that accompanies it, is one of the most potent forces
acting toward the continual development and perfecting of the system,
with negative consequences for individual freedom (see paragraph 131).
Especially, for the most creative scientists and engineers, work tends
to be largely a surrogate activity. This point is so important that is
deserves a separate discussion, which we shall give in a moment
(paragraphs 87-92).

85. In this section we have explained how many people in modern
society do satisfy their need for the power process to a greater or
lesser extent. But we think that for the majority of people the need
for the power process is not fully satisfied. In the first place,
those who have an insatiable drive for status, or who get firmly
“hooked” or a surrogate activity, or who identify strongly enough with
a movement or organization to satisfy their need for power in that
way, are exceptional personalities. Others are not fully satisfied
with surrogate activities or by identification with an organization
(see paragraphs 41, 64). In the second place, too much control is
imposed by the system through explicit regulation or through
socialization, which results in a deficiency of autonomy, and in
frustration due to the impossibility of attaining certain goals and
the necessity of restraining too many impulses.

86. But even if most people in industrial-technological society were
well satisfied, we (FC) would still be opposed to that form of
society, because (among other reasons) we consider it demeaning to
fulfill one’s need for the power process through surrogate activities
or through identification with an organization, rather then through
pursuit of real goals.


87. Science and technology provide the most important examples of
surrogate activities. Some scientists claim that they are motivated by
“curiosity,” that notion is simply absurd. Most scientists work on
highly specialized problem that are not the object of any normal
curiosity. For example, is an astronomer, a mathematician or an
entomologist curious about the properties of
isopropyltrimethylmethane? Of course not. Only a chemist is curious
about such a thing, and he is curious about it only because chemistry
is his surrogate activity. Is the chemist curious about the
appropriate classification of a new species of beetle? No. That
question is of interest only to the entomologist, and he is interested
in it only because entomology is his surrogate activity. If the
chemist and the entomologist had to exert themselves seriously to
obtain the physical necessities, and if that effort exercised their
abilities in an interesting way but in some nonscientific pursuit,
then they couldn’t giver a damn about isopropyltrimethylmethane or the
classification of beetles. Suppose that lack of funds for postgraduate
education had led the chemist to become an insurance broker instead of
a chemist. In that case he would have been very interested in
insurance matters but would have cared nothing about
isopropyltrimethylmethane. In any case it is not normal to put into
the satisfaction of mere curiosity the amount of time and effort that
scientists put into their work. The “curiosity” explanation for the
scientists’ motive just doesn’t stand up.

88. The “benefit of humanity” explanation doesn’t work any better.
Some scientific work has no conceivable relation to the welfare of the
human race – most of archaeology or comparative linguistics for
example. Some other areas of science present obviously dangerous
possibilities. Yet scientists in these areas are just as enthusiastic
about their work as those who develop vaccines or study air pollution.
Consider the case of Dr. Edward Teller, who had an obvious emotional
involvement in promoting nuclear power plants. Did this involvement
stem from a desire to benefit humanity? If so, then why didn’t Dr.
Teller get emotional about other “humanitarian” causes? If he was such
a humanitarian then why did he help to develop the H-bomb? As with
many other scientific achievements, it is very much open to question
whether nuclear power plants actually do benefit humanity. Does the
cheap electricity outweigh the accumulating waste and risk of
accidents? Dr. Teller saw only one side of the question. Clearly his
emotional involvement with nuclear power arose not from a desire to
“benefit humanity” but from a personal fulfillment he got from his
work and from seeing it put to practical use.

89. The same is true of scientists generally. With possible rare
exceptions, their motive is neither curiosity nor a desire to benefit
humanity but the need to go through the power process: to have a goal
(a scientific problem to solve), to make an effort (research) and to
attain the goal (solution of the problem.) Science is a surrogate
activity because scientists work mainly for the fulfillment they get
out of the work itself.

90. Of course, it’s not that simple. Other motives do play a role for
many scientists. Money and status for example. Some scientists may be
persons of the type who have an insatiable drive for status (see
paragraph 79) and this may provide much of the motivation for their
work. No doubt the majority of scientists, like the majority of the
general population, are more or less susceptible to advertising and
marketing techniques and need money to satisfy their craving for goods
and services. Thus science is not a PURE surrogate activity. But it is
in large part a surrogate activity.

91. Also, science and technology constitute a mass power movement, and
many scientists gratify their need for power through identification
with this mass movement (see paragraph 83).

92. Thus science marches on blindly, without regard to the real
welfare of the human race or to any other standard, obedient only to
the psychological needs of the scientists and of the government
officials and corporation executives who provide the funds for


93. We are going to argue that industrial-technological society cannot
be reformed in such a way as to prevent it from progressively
narrowing the sphere of human freedom. But because “freedom” is a word
that can be interpreted in many ways, we must first make clear what
kind of freedom we are concerned with.

94. By “freedom” we mean the opportunity to go through the power
process, with real goals not the artificial goals of surrogate
activities, and without interference, manipulation or supervision from
anyone, especially from any large organization. Freedom means being in
control (either as an individual or as a member of a SMALL group) of
the life-and-death issues of one’s existence; food, clothing, shelter
and defense against whatever threats there may be in one’s
environment. Freedom means having power; not the power to control
other people but the power to control the circumstances of one’s own
life. One does not have freedom if anyone else (especially a large
organization) has power over one, no matter how benevolently,
tolerantly and permissively that power may be exercised. It is
important not to confuse freedom with mere permissiveness (see
paragraph 72).

95. It is said that we live in a free society because we have a
certain number of constitutionally guaranteed rights. But these are
not as important as they seem. The degree of personal freedom that
exists in a society is determined more by the economic and
technological structure of the society than by its laws or its form of
government. [16] Most of the Indian nations of New England were
monarchies, and many of the cities of the Italian Renaissance were
controlled by dictators. But in reading about these societies one gets
the impression that they allowed far more personal freedom than out
society does. In part this was because they lacked efficient
mechanisms for enforcing the ruler’s will: There were no modern,
well-organized police forces, no rapid long-distance communications,
no surveillance cameras, no dossiers of information about the lives of
average citizens. Hence it was relatively easy to evade control.

96. As for our constitutional rights, consider for example that of
freedom of the press. We certainly don’t mean to knock that right: it
is very important tool for limiting concentration of political power
and for keeping those who do have political power in line by publicly
exposing any misbehavior on their part. But freedom of the press is of
very little use to the average citizen as an individual. The mass
media are mostly under the control of large organizations that are
integrated into the system. Anyone who has a little money can have
something printed, or can distribute it on the Internet or in some
such way, but what he has to say will be swamped by the vast volume of
material put out by the media, hence it will have no practical effect.
To make an impression on society with words is therefore almost
impossible for most individuals and small groups. Take us (FC) for
example. If we had never done anything violent and had submitted the
present writings to a publisher, they probably would not have been
accepted. If they had been accepted and published, they probably would
not have attracted many readers, because it’s more fun to watch the
entertainment put out by the media than to read a sober essay. Even if
these writings had had many readers, most of these readers would soon
have forgotten what they had read as their minds were flooded by the
mass of material to which the media expose them. In order to get our
message before the public with some chance of making a lasting
impression, we’ve had to kill people.

97. Constitutional rights are useful up to a point, but they do not
serve to guarantee much more than what could be called the bourgeois
conception of freedom. According to the bourgeois conception, a “free”
man is essentially an element of a social machine and has only a
certain set of prescribed and delimited freedoms; freedoms that are
designed to serve the needs of the social machine more than those of
the individual. Thus the bourgeois’s “free” man has economic freedom
because that promotes growth and progress; he has freedom of the press
because public criticism restrains misbehavior by political leaders;
he has a rights to a fair trial because imprisonment at the whim of
the powerful would be bad for the system. This was clearly the
attitude of Simon Bolivar. To him, people deserved liberty only if
they used it to promote progress (progress as conceived by the
bourgeois). Other bourgeois thinkers have taken a similar view of
freedom as a mere means to collective ends. Chester C. Tan, “Chinese
Political Thought in the Twentieth Century,” page 202, explains the
philosophy of the Kuomintang leader Hu Han-min: “An individual is
granted rights because he is a member of society and his community
life requires such rights. By community Hu meant the whole society of
the nation.” And on page 259 Tan states that according to Carsum Chang
(Chang Chun-mai, head of the State Socialist Party in China) freedom
had to be used in the interest of the state and of the people as a
whole. But what kind of freedom does one have if one can use it only
as someone else prescribes? FC’s conception of freedom is not that of
Bolivar, Hu, Chang or other bourgeois theorists. The trouble with such
theorists is that they have made the development and application of
social theories their surrogate activity. Consequently the theories
are designed to serve the needs of the theorists more than the needs
of any people who may be unlucky enough to live in a society on which
the theories are imposed.

98. One more point to be made in this section: It should not be
assumed that a person has enough freedom just because he SAYS he has
enough. Freedom is restricted in part by psychological control of
which people are unconscious, and moreover many people’s ideas of what
constitutes freedom are governed more by social convention than by
their real needs. For example, it’s likely that many leftists of the
oversocialized type would say that most people, including themselves
are socialized too little rather than too much, yet the oversocialized
leftist pays a heavy psychological price for his high level of


99. Think of history as being the sum of two components: an erratic
component that consists of unpredictable events that follow no
discernible pattern, and a regular component that consists of
long-term historical trends. Here we are concerned with the long-term

100. FIRST PRINCIPLE. If a SMALL change is made that affects a
long-term historical trend, then the effect of that change will almost
always be transitory – the trend will soon revert to its original
state. (Example: A reform movement designed to clean up political
corruption in a society rarely has more than a short-term effect;
sooner or later the reformers relax and corruption creeps back in. The
level of political corruption in a given society tends to remain
constant, or to change only slowly with the evolution of the society.
Normally, a political cleanup will be permanent only if accompanied by
widespread social changes; a SMALL change in the society won’t be
enough.) If a small change in a long-term historical trend appears to
be permanent, it is only because the change acts in the direction in
which the trend is already moving, so that the trend is not altered
but only pushed a step ahead.

101. The first principle is almost a tautology. If a trend were not
stable with respect to small changes, it would wander at random rather
than following a definite direction; in other words it would not be a
long-term trend at all.

102. SECOND PRINCIPLE. If a change is made that is sufficiently large
to alter permanently a long-term historical trend, than it will alter
the society as a whole. In other words, a society is a system in which
all parts are interrelated, and you can’t permanently change any
important part without change all the other parts as well.

103. THIRD PRINCIPLE. If a change is made that is large enough to
alter permanently a long-term trend, then the consequences for the
society as a whole cannot be predicted in advance. (Unless various
other societies have passed through the same change and have all
experienced the same consequences, in which case one can predict on
empirical grounds that another society that passes through the same
change will be like to experience similar consequences.)

104. FOURTH PRINCIPLE. A new kind of society cannot be designed on
paper. That is, you cannot plan out a new form of society in advance,
then set it up and expect it to function as it was designed to.

105. The third and fourth principles result from the complexity of
human societies. A change in human behavior will affect the economy of
a society and its physical environment; the economy will affect the
environment and vice versa, and the changes in the economy and the
environment will affect human behavior in complex, unpredictable ways;
and so forth. The network of causes and effects is far too complex to
be untangled and understood.

106. FIFTH PRINCIPLE. People do not consciously and rationally choose
the form of their society. Societies develop through processes of
social evolution that are not under rational human control.

107. The fifth principle is a consequence of the other four.

108. To illustrate: By the first principle, generally speaking an
attempt at social reform either acts in the direction in which the
society is developing anyway (so that it merely accelerates a change
that would have occurred in any case) or else it only has a transitory
effect, so that the society soon slips back into its old groove. To
make a lasting change in the direction of development of any important
aspect of a society, reform is insufficient and revolution is
required. (A revolution does not necessarily involve an armed uprising
or the overthrow of a government.) By the second principle, a
revolution never changes only one aspect of a society; and by the
third principle changes occur that were never expected or desired by
the revolutionaries. By the fourth principle, when revolutionaries or
utopians set up a new kind of society, it never works out as planned.

109. The American Revolution does not provide a counterexample. The
American “Revolution” was not a revolution in our sense of the word,
but a war of independence followed by a rather far-reaching political
reform. The Founding Fathers did not change the direction of
development of American society, nor did they aspire to do so. They
only freed the development of American society from the retarding
effect of British rule. Their political reform did not change any
basic trend, but only pushed American political culture along its
natural direction of development. British society, of which American
society was an off-shoot, had been moving for a long time in the
direction of representative democracy. And prior to the War of
Independence the Americans were already practicing a significant
degree of representative democracy in the colonial assemblies. The
political system established by the Constitution was modeled on the
British system and on the colonial assemblies. With major alteration,
to be sure – there is no doubt that the Founding Fathers took a very
important step. But it was a step along the road the English-speaking
world was already traveling. The proof is that Britain and all of its
colonies that were populated predominantly by people of British
descent ended up with systems of representative democracy essentially
similar to that of the United States. If the Founding Fathers had lost
their nerve and declined to sign the Declaration of Independence, our
way of life today would not have been significantly different. Maybe
we would have had somewhat closer ties to Britain, and would have had
a Parliament and Prime Minister instead of a Congress and President.
No big deal. Thus the American Revolution provides not a
counterexample to our principles but a good illustration of them.

110. Still, one has to use common sense in applying the principles.
They are expressed in imprecise language that allows latitude for
interpretation, and exceptions to them can be found. So we present
these principles not as inviolable laws but as rules of thumb, or
guides to thinking, that may provide a partial antidote to naive ideas
about the future of society. The principles should be borne constantly
in mind, and whenever one reaches a conclusion that conflicts with
them one should carefully reexamine one’s thinking and retain the
conclusion only if one has good, solid reasons for doing so.


111. The foregoing principles help to show how hopelessly difficult it
would be to reform the industrial system in such a way as to prevent
it from progressively narrowing our sphere of freedom. There has been
a consistent tendency, going back at least to the Industrial
Revolution for technology to strengthen the system at a high cost in
individual freedom and local autonomy. Hence any change designed to
protect freedom from technology would be contrary to a fundamental
trend in the development of our society.

Consequently, such a change either would be a transitory one — soon
swamped by the tide of history — or, if large enough to be permanent
would alter the nature of our whole society. This by the first and
second principles. Moreover, since society would be altered in a way
that could not be predicted in advance (third principle) there would
be great risk. Changes large enough to make a lasting difference in
favor of freedom would not be initiated because it would realized that
they would gravely disrupt the system. So any attempts at reform would
be too timid to be effective. Even if changes large enough to make a
lasting difference were initiated, they would be retracted when their
disruptive effects became apparent. Thus, permanent changes in favor
of freedom could be brought about only by persons prepared to accept
radical, dangerous and unpredictable alteration of the entire system.
In other words, by revolutionaries, not reformers.

112. People anxious to rescue freedom without sacrificing the supposed
benefits of technology will suggest naive schemes for some new form of
society that would reconcile freedom with technology. Apart from the
fact that people who make suggestions seldom propose any practical
means by which the new form of society could be set up in the first
place, it follows from the fourth principle that even if the new form
of society could be once established, it either would collapse or
would give results very different from those expected.

113. So even on very general grounds it seems highly improbably that
any way of changing society could be found that would reconcile
freedom with modern technology. In the next few sections we will give
more specific reasons for concluding that freedom and technological
progress are incompatible.


114. As explained in paragraph 65-67, 70-73, modern man is strapped
down by a network of rules and regulations, and his fate depends on
the actions of persons remote from him whose decisions he cannot
influence. This is not accidental or a result of the arbitrariness of
arrogant bureaucrats. It is necessary and inevitable in any
technologically advanced society. The system HAS TO regulate human
behavior closely in order to function. At work, people have to do what
they are told to do, otherwise production would be thrown into chaos.
Bureaucracies HAVE TO be run according to rigid rules. To allow any
substantial personal discretion to lower-level bureaucrats would
disrupt the system and lead to charges of unfairness due to
differences in the way individual bureaucrats exercised their
discretion. It is true that some restrictions on our freedom could be
eliminated, but GENERALLY SPEAKING the regulation of our lives by
large organizations is necessary for the functioning of
industrial-technological society. The result is a sense of
powerlessness on the part of the average person. It may be, however,
that formal regulations will tend increasingly to be replaced by
psychological tools that make us want to do what the system requires
of us. (Propaganda [14], educational techniques, “mental health”
programs, etc.)

115. The system HAS TO force people to behave in ways that are
increasingly remote from the natural pattern of human behavior. For
example, the system needs scientists, mathematicians and engineers. It
can’t function without them. So heavy pressure is put on children to
excel in these fields. It isn’t natural for an adolescent human being
to spend the bulk of his time sitting at a desk absorbed in study. A
normal adolescent wants to spend his time in active contact with the
real world. Among primitive peoples the things that children are
trained to do are in natural harmony with natural human impulses.
Among the American Indians, for example, boys were trained in active
outdoor pursuits — just the sort of things that boys like. But in our
society children are pushed into studying technical subjects, which
most do grudgingly.

116. Because of the constant pressure that the system exerts to modify
human behavior, there is a gradual increase in the number of people
who cannot or will not adjust to society’s requirements: welfare
leeches, youth-gang members, cultists, anti-government rebels, radical
environmentalist saboteurs, dropouts and resisters of various kinds.

117. In any technologically advanced society the individual’s fate
MUST depend on decisions that he personally cannot influence to any
great extent. A technological society cannot be broken down into
small, autonomous communities, because production depends on the
cooperation of very large numbers of people and machines. Such a
society MUST be highly organized and decisions HAVE TO be made that
affect very large numbers of people. When a decision affects, say, a
million people, then each of the affected individuals has, on the
average, only a one-millionth share in making the decision. What
usually happens in practice is that decisions are made by public
officials or corporation executives, or by technical specialists, but
even when the public votes on a decision the number of voters
ordinarily is too large for the vote of any one individual to be
significant. [17] Thus most individuals are unable to influence
measurably the major decisions that affect their lives. Their is no
conceivable way to remedy this in a technologically advanced society.
The system tries to “solve” this problem by using propaganda to make
people WANT the decisions that have been made for them, but even if
this “solution” were completely successful in making people feel
better, it would be demeaning.

118 Conservatives and some others advocate more “local autonomy.”
Local communities once did have autonomy, but such autonomy becomes
less and less possible as local communities become more enmeshed with
and dependent on large-scale systems like public utilities, computer
networks, highway systems, the mass communications media, the modern
health care system. Also operating against autonomy is the fact that
technology applied in one location often affects people at other
locations far away. Thus pesticide or chemical use near a creek may
contaminate the water supply hundreds of miles downstream, and the
greenhouse effect affects the whole world.

119. The system does not and cannot exist to satisfy human needs.
Instead, it is human behavior that has to be modified to fit the needs
of the system. This has nothing to do with the political or social
ideology that may pretend to guide the technological system. It is the
fault of technology, because the system is guided not by ideology but
by technical necessity. [18] Of course the system does satisfy many
human needs, but generally speaking it does this only to the extent
that it is to the advantage of the system to do it. It is the needs of
the system that are paramount, not those of the human being. For
example, the system provides people with food because the system
couldn’t function if everyone starved; it attends to people’s
psychological needs whenever it can CONVENIENTLY do so, because it
couldn’t function if too many people became depressed or rebellious.
But the system, for good, solid, practical reasons, must exert
constant pressure on people to mold their behavior to the needs of the
system. Too much waste accumulating? The government, the media, the
educational system, environmentalists, everyone inundates us with a
mass of propaganda about recycling. Need more technical personnel? A
chorus of voices exhorts kids to study science. No one stops to ask
whether it is inhumane to force adolescents to spend the bulk of their
time studying subjects most of them hate. When skilled workers are put
out of a job by technical advances and have to undergo “retraining,”
no one asks whether it is humiliating for them to be pushed around in
this way. It is simply taken for granted that everyone must bow to
technical necessity and for good reason: If human needs were put
before technical necessity there would be economic problems,
unemployment, shortages or worse. The concept of “mental health” in
our society is defined largely by the extent to which an individual
behaves in accord with the needs of the system and does so without
showing signs of stress.

120. Efforts to make room for a sense of purpose and for autonomy
within the system are no better than a joke. For example, one company,
instead of having each of its employees assemble only one section of a
catalogue, had each assemble a whole catalogue, and this was supposed
to give them a sense of purpose and achievement. Some companies have
tried to give their employees more autonomy in their work, but for
practical reasons this usually can be done only to a very limited
extent, and in any case employees are never given autonomy as to
ultimate goals — their “autonomous” efforts can never be directed
toward goals that they select personally, but only toward their
employer’s goals, such as the survival and growth of the company. Any
company would soon go out of business if it permitted its employees to
act otherwise. Similarly, in any enterprise within a socialist system,
workers must direct their efforts toward the goals of the enterprise,
otherwise the enterprise will not serve its purpose as part of the
system. Once again, for purely technical reasons it is not possible
for most individuals or small groups to have much autonomy in
industrial society. Even the small-business owner commonly has only
limited autonomy. Apart from the necessity of government regulation,
he is restricted by the fact that he must fit into the economic system
and conform to its requirements. For instance, when someone develops a
new technology, the small-business person often has to use that
technology whether he wants to or not, in order to remain competitive.


121. A further reason why industrial society cannot be reformed in
favor of freedom is that modern technology is a unified system in
which all parts are dependent on one another. You can’t get rid of the
“bad” parts of technology and retain only the “good” parts. Take
modern medicine, for example. Progress in medical science depends on
progress in chemistry, physics, biology, computer science and other
fields. Advanced medical treatments require expensive, high-tech
equipment that can be made available only by a technologically
progressive, economically rich society. Clearly you can’t have much
progress in medicine without the whole technological system and
everything that goes with it.

122. Even if medical progress could be maintained without the rest of
the technological system, it would by itself bring certain evils.
Suppose for example that a cure for diabetes is discovered. People
with a genetic tendency to diabetes will then be able to survive and
reproduce as well as anyone else. Natural selection against genes for
diabetes will cease and such genes will spread throughout the
population. (This may be occurring to some extent already, since
diabetes, while not curable, can be controlled through the use of
insulin.) The same thing will happen with many other diseases
susceptibility to which is affected by genetic degradation of the
population. The only solution will be some sort of eugenics program or
extensive genetic engineering of human beings, so that man in the
future will no longer be a creation of nature, or of chance, or of God
(depending on your religious or philosophical opinions), but a
manufactured product.

123. If you think that big government interferes in your life too much
NOW, just wait till the government starts regulating the genetic
constitution of your children. Such regulation will inevitably follow
the introduction of genetic engineering of human beings, because the
consequences of unregulated genetic engineering would be disastrous.

124. The usual response to such concerns is to talk about “medical
ethics.” But a code of ethics would not serve to protect freedom in
the face of medical progress; it would only make matters worse. A code
of ethics applicable to genetic engineering would be in effect a means
of regulating the genetic constitution of human beings. Somebody
(probably the upper-middle class, mostly) would decide that such and
such applications of genetic engineering were “ethical” and others
were not, so that in effect they would be imposing their own values on
the genetic constitution of the population at large. Even if a code of
ethics were chosen on a completely democratic basis, the majority
would be imposing their own values on any minorities who might have a
different idea of what constituted an “ethical” use of genetic
engineering. The only code of ethics that would truly protect freedom
would be one that prohibited ANY genetic engineering of human beings,
and you can be sure that no such code will ever be applied in a
technological society. No code that reduced genetic engineering to a
minor role could stand up for long, because the temptation presented
by the immense power of biotechnology would be irresistible,
especially since to the majority of people many of its applications
will seem obviously and unequivocally good (eliminating physical and
mental diseases, giving people the abilities they need to get along in
today’s world). Inevitably, genetic engineering will be used
extensively, but only in ways consistent with the needs of the
industrial-technological system. [20]


125. It is not possible to make a LASTING compromise between
technology and freedom, because technology is by far the more powerful
social force and continually encroaches on freedom through REPEATED
compromises. Imagine the case of two neighbors, each of whom at the
outset owns the same amount of land, but one of whom is more powerful
than the other. The powerful one demands a piece of the other’s land.
The weak one refuses. The powerful one says, “OK, let’s compromise.
Give me half of what I asked.” The weak one has little choice but to
give in. Some time later the powerful neighbor demands another piece
of land, again there is a compromise, and so forth. By forcing a long
series of compromises on the weaker man, the powerful one eventually
gets all of his land. So it goes in the conflict between technology
and freedom.

126. Let us explain why technology is a more powerful social force
than the aspiration for freedom.

127. A technological advance that appears not to threaten freedom
often turns out to threaten freedom often turns out to threaten it
very seriously later on. For example, consider motorized transport. A
walking man formerly could go where he pleased, go at his own pace
without observing any traffic regulations, and was independent of
technological support-systems. When motor vehicles were introduced
they appeared to increase man’s freedom. They took no freedom away
from the walking man, no one had to have an automobile if he didn’t
want one, and anyone who did choose to buy an automobile could travel
much faster than the walking man. But the introduction of motorized
transport soon changed society in such a way as to restrict greatly
man’s freedom of locomotion. When automobiles became numerous, it
became necessary to regulate their use extensively. In a car,
especially in densely populated areas, one cannot just go where one
likes at one’s own pace one’s movement is governed by the flow of
traffic and by various traffic laws. One is tied down by various
obligations: license requirements, driver test, renewing registration,
insurance, maintenance required for safety, monthly payments on
purchase price. Moreover, the use of motorized transport is no longer
optional. Since the introduction of motorized transport the
arrangement of our cities has changed in such a way that the majority
of people no longer live within walking distance of their place of
employment, shopping areas and recreational opportunities, so that
they HAVE TO depend on the automobile for transportation. Or else they
must use public transportation, in which case they have even less
control over their own movement than when driving a car. Even the
walker’s freedom is now greatly restricted. In the city he continually
has to stop and wait for traffic lights that are designed mainly to
serve auto traffic. In the country, motor traffic makes it dangerous
and unpleasant to walk along the highway. (Note the important point we
have illustrated with the case of motorized transport: When a new item
of technology is introduced as an option that an individual can accept
or not as he chooses, it does not necessarily REMAIN optional. In many
cases the new technology changes society in such a way that people
eventually find themselves FORCED to use it.)

128. While technological progress AS A WHOLE continually narrows our
sphere of freedom, each new technical advance CONSIDERED BY ITSELF
appears to be desirable. Electricity, indoor plumbing, rapid
long-distance communications . . . how could one argue against any of
these things, or against any other of the innumerable technical
advances that have made modern society? It would have been absurd to
resist the introduction of the telephone, for example. It offered many
advantages and no disadvantages. Yet as we explained in paragraphs
59-76, all these technical advances taken together have created world
in which the average man’s fate is no longer in his own hands or in
the hands of his neighbors and friends, but in those of politicians,
corporation executives and remote, anonymous technicians and
bureaucrats whom he as an individual has no power to influence. [21]
The same process will continue in the future. Take genetic
engineering, for example. Few people will resist the introduction of a
genetic technique that eliminates a hereditary disease It does no
apparent harm and prevents much suffering. Yet a large number of
genetic improvements taken together will make the human being into an
engineered product rather than a free creation of chance (or of God,
or whatever, depending on your religious beliefs).

129 Another reason why technology is such a powerful social force is
that, within the context of a given society, technological progress
marches in only one direction; it can never be reversed. Once a
technical innovation has been introduced, people usually become
dependent on it, unless it is replaced by some still more advanced
innovation. Not only do people become dependent as individuals on a
new item of technology, but, even more, the system as a whole becomes
dependent on it. (Imagine what would happen to the system today if
computers, for example, were eliminated.) Thus the system can move in
only one direction, toward greater technologization. Technology
repeatedly forces freedom to take a step back — short of the
overthrow of the whole technological system.

130. Technology advances with great rapidity and threatens freedom at
many different points at the same time (crowding, rules and
regulations, increasing dependence of individuals on large
organizations, propaganda and other psychological techniques, genetic
engineering, invasion of privacy through surveillance devices and
computers, etc.) To hold back any ONE of the threats to freedom would
require a long different social struggle. Those who want to protect
freedom are overwhelmed by the sheer number of new attacks and the
rapidity with which they develop, hence they become pathetic and no
longer resist. To fight each of the threats separately would be
futile. Success can be hoped for only by fighting the technological
system as a whole; but that is revolution not reform.

131. Technicians (we use this term in its broad sense to describe all
those who perform a specialized task that requires training) tend to
be so involved in their work (their surrogate activity) that when a
conflict arises between their technical work and freedom, they almost
always decide in favor of their technical work. This is obvious in the
case of scientists, but it also appears elsewhere: Educators,
humanitarian groups, conservation organizations do not hesitate to use
propaganda or other psychological techniques to help them achieve
their laudable ends. Corporations and government agencies, when they
find it useful, do not hesitate to collect information about
individuals without regard to their privacy. Law enforcement agencies
are frequently inconvenienced by the constitutional rights of suspects
and often of completely innocent persons, and they do whatever they
can do legally (or sometimes illegally) to restrict or circumvent
those rights. Most of these educators, government officials and law
officers believe in freedom, privacy and constitutional rights, but
when these conflict with their work, they usually feel that their work
is more important.

132. It is well known that people generally work better and more
persistently when striving for a reward than when attempting to avoid
a punishment or negative outcome. Scientists and other technicians are
motivated mainly by the rewards they get through their work. But those
who oppose technilogiccal invasions of freedom are working to avoid a
negative outcome, consequently there are a few who work persistently
and well at this discouraging task. If reformers ever achieved a
signal victory that seemed to set up a solid barrier against further
erosion of freedom through technological progress, most would tend to
relax and turn their attention to more agreeable pursuits. But the
scientists would remain busy in their laboratories, and technology as
it progresses would find ways, in spite of any barriers, to exert more
and more control over individuals and make them always more dependent
on the system.

133. No social arrangements, whether laws, institutions, customs or
ethical codes, can provide permanent protection against technology.
History shows that all social arrangements are transitory; they all
change or break down eventually. But technological advances are
permanent within the context of a given civilization. Suppose for
example that it were possible to arrive at some social arrangements
that would prevent genetic engineering from being applied to human
beings, or prevent it from being applied in such a ways as to threaten
freedom and dignity. Still, the technology would remain waiting.
Sooner or later the social arrangement would break down. Probably
sooner, given that pace of change in our society. Then genetic
engineering would begin to invade our sphere of freedom, and this
invasion would be irreversible (short of a breakdown of technological
civilization itself). Any illusions about achieving anything permanent
through social arrangements should be dispelled by what is currently
happening with environmental legislation. A few years ago it seemed
that there were secure legal barriers preventing at least SOME of the
worst forms of environmental degradation. A change in the political
wind, and those barriers begin to crumble.

134. For all of the foregoing reasons, technology is a more powerful
social force than the aspiration for freedom. But this statement
requires an important qualification. It appears that during the next
several decades the industrial-technological system will be undergoing
severe stresses due to economic and environmental problems, and
especially due to problems of human behavior (alienation, rebellion,
hostility, a variety of social and psychological difficulties). We
hope that the stresses through which the system is likely to pass will
cause it to break down, or at least weaken it sufficiently so that a
revolution occurs and is successful, then at that particular moment
the aspiration for freedom will have proved more powerful than

135. In paragraph 125 we used an analogy of a weak neighbor who is
left destitute by a strong neighbor who takes all his land by forcing
on him a series of compromises. But suppose now that the strong
neighbor gets sick, so that he is unable to defend himself. The weak
neighbor can force the strong one to give him his land back, or he can
kill him. If he lets the strong man survive and only forces him to
give his land back, he is a fool, because when the strong man gets
well he will again take all the land for himself. The only sensible
alternative for the weaker man is to kill the strong one while he has
the chance. In the same way, while the industrial system is sick we
must destroy it. If we compromise with it and let it recover from its
sickness, it will eventually wipe out all of our freedom.


136. If anyone still imagines that it would be possible to reform the
system in such a way as to protect freedom from technology, let him
consider how clumsily and for the most part unsuccessfully our society
has dealt with other social problems that are far more simple and
straightforward. Among other things, the system has failed to stop
environmental degradation, political corruption, drug trafficking or
domestic abuse.

137. Take our environmental problems, for example. Here the conflict
of values is straightforward: economic expedience now versus saving
some of our natural resources for our grandchildren [22] But on this
subject we get only a lot of blather and obfuscation from the people
who have power, and nothing like a clear, consistent line of action,
and we keep on piling up environmental problems that our grandchildren
will have to live with. Attempts to resolve the environmental issue
consist of struggles and compromises between different factions, some
of which are ascendant at one moment, others at another moment. The
line of struggle changes with the shifting currents of public opinion.
This is not a rational process, or is it one that is likely to lead to
a timely and successful solution to the problem. Major social
problems, if they get “solved” at all, are rarely or never solved
through any rational, comprehensive plan. They just work themselves
out through a process in which various competing groups pursing their
own usually short-term) self-interest [23] arrive (mainly by luck) at
some more or less stable modus vivendi. In fact, the principles we
formulated in paragraphs 100-106 make it seem doubtful that rational,
long-term social planning can EVER be successful. 138. Thus it is
clear that the human race has at best a very limited capacity for
solving even relatively straightforward social problems. How then is
it going to solve the far more difficult and subtle problem of
reconciling freedom with technology? Technology presents clear-cut
material advantages, whereas freedom is an abstraction that means
different things to different people, and its loss is easily obscured
by propaganda and fancy talk.

139. And note this important difference: It is conceivable that our
environmental problems (for example) may some day be settled through a
rational, comprehensive plan, but if this happens it will be only
because it is in the long-term interest of the system to solve these
problems. But it is NOT in the interest of the system to preserve
freedom or small-group autonomy. On the contrary, it is in the
interest of the system to bring human behavior under control to the
greatest possible extent. Thus, while practical considerations may
eventually force the system to take a rational, prudent approach to
environmental problems, equally practical considerations will force
the system to regulate human behavior ever more closely (preferably by
indirect means that will disguise the encroachment on freedom.) This
isn’t just our opinion. Eminent social scientists (e.g. James Q.
Wilson) have stressed the importance of “socializing” people more


140. We hope we have convinced the reader that the system cannot be
reformed in a such a way as to reconcile freedom with technology. The
only way out is to dispense with the industrial-technological system
altogether. This implies revolution, not necessarily an armed
uprising, but certainly a radical and fundamental change in the nature
of society.

141. People tend to assume that because a revolution involves a much
greater change than reform does, it is more difficult to bring about
than reform is. Actually, under certain circumstances revolution is
much easier than reform. The reason is that a revolutionary movement
can inspire an intensity of commitment that a reform movement cannot
inspire. A reform movement merely offers to solve a particular social
problem A revolutionary movement offers to solve all problems at one
stroke and create a whole new world; it provides the kind of ideal for
which people will take great risks and make great sacrifices. For this
reasons it would be much easier to overthrow the whole technological
system than to put effective, permanent restraints on the development
of application of any one segment of technology, such as genetic
engineering, but under suitable conditions large numbers of people may
devote themselves passionately to a revolution against the
industrial-technological system. As we noted in paragraph 132,
reformers seeking to limite certain aspects of technology would be
working to avoid a negative outcome. But revolutionaries work to gain
a powerful reward — fulfillment of their revolutionary vision — and
therefore work harder and more persistently than reformers do.

142. Reform is always restrainde by the fear of painful consequences
if changes go too far. But once a revolutionary fever has taken hold
of a society, people are willing to undergo unlimited hardships for
the sake of their revolution. This was clearly shown in the French and
Russian Revolutions. It may be that in such cases only a minority of
the population is really committed to the revolution, but this
minority is sufficiently large and active so that it becomes the
dominant force in society. We will have more to say about revolution
in paragraphs 180-205.


143. Since the beginning of civilization, organized societies have had
to put pressures on human beings of the sake of the functioning of the
social organism. The kinds of pressures vary greatly from one society
to another. Some of the pressures are physical (poor diet, excessive
labor, environmental pollution), some are psychological (noise,
crowding, forcing humans behavior into the mold that society
requires). In the past, human nature has been approximately constant,
or at any rate has varied only within certain bounds. Consequently,
societies have been able to push people only up to certain limits.
When the limit of human endurance has been passed, things start going
rong: rebellion, or crime, or corruption, or evasion of work, or
depression and other mental problems, or an elevated death rate, or a
declining birth rate or something else, so that either the society
breaks down, or its functioning becomes too inefficient and it is
(quickly or gradually, through conquest, attrition or evolution)
replaces by some more efficient form of society.

144. Thus human nature has in the past put certain limits on the
development of societies. People coud be pushed only so far and no
farther. But today this may be changing, because modern technology is
developing way of modifying human beings.

145. Imagine a society that subjects people to conditions that amke
them terribley unhappy, then gives them the drugs to take away their
unhappiness. Science fiction? It is already happening to some extent
in our own society. It is well known that the rate of clinical
depression had been greatly increasing in recent decades. We believe
that this is due to disruption fo the power process, as explained in
paragraphs 59-76. But even if we are wrong, the increasing rate of
depression is certainly the result of SOME conditions that exist in
today’s society. Instead of removing the conditions that make people
depressed, modern society gives them antidepressant drugs. In effect,
antidepressants area a means of modifying an individual’s internal
state in such a way as to enable him to toelrate social conditions
that he would otherwise find intolerable. (Yes, we know that
depression is often of purely genetic origin. We are referring here to
those cases in which environment plays the predominant role.)

146. Drugs that affect the mind are only one example of the methods of
controlling human behavior that modern society is developing. Let us
look at some of the other methods.

147. To start with, there are the techniques of surveillance. Hidden
video cameras are now used in most stores and in many other places,
computers are used to collect and process vast amounts of information
about individuals. Information so obtained greatly increases the
effectiveness of physical coercion (i.e., law enforcement).[26] Then
there are the methods of propaganda, for which the mass communication
media provide effective vehicles. Efficient techniques have been
developed for winning elections, selling products, influencing public
opinion. The entertainment industry serves as an important
psychological tool of the system, possibly even when it is dishing out
large amounts of sex and violence. Entertainment provides modern man
with an essential means of escape. While absorbed in television,
videos, etc., he can forget stress, anxiety, frustration,
dissatisfaction. Many primitive peoples, when they don’t have work to
do, are quite content to sit for hours at a time doing nothing at all,
because they are at peace with themselves and their world. But most
modern people must be contantly occupied or entertained, otherwise the
get “bored,” i.e., they get fidgety, uneasy, irritable.

148. Other techniques strike deeper that the foregoing. Education is
no longer a simple affair of paddling a kid’s behind when he doesn’t
know his lessons and patting him on the head when he does know them.
It is becoming a scientific technique for controlling the child’s
development. Sylvan Learning Centers, for example, have had great
success in motivating children to study, and psychological techniques
are also used with more or less success in many conventional schools.
“Parenting” techniques that are taught to parents are designed to make
children accept fundamental values of the system and behave in ways
that the system finds desirable. “Mental health” programs,
“intervention” techniques, psychotherapy and so forth are ostensibly
designed to benefit individuals, but in practice they usually serve as
methods for inducing individuals to think and behave as the system
requires. (There is no contradiction here; an individual whose
attitudes or behavior bring him into conflict with the system is up
against a force that is too powerful for him to conquer or escape
from, hence he is likely to suffer from stress, frustration, defeat.
His path will be much easier if he thinks and behaves as the system
requires. In that sense the system is acting for the benefit of the
individual when it brainwashes him into conformity.) Child abuse in
its gross and obvious forms is disapproved in most if not all
cultures. Tormenting a child for a trivial reason or no reason at all
is something that appalls almost everyone. But many psychologists
interpret the concept of abuse much more broadly. Is spanking, when
used as part of a rational and consistent system of discipline, a form
of abuse? The question will ultimately be decided by whether or not
spanking tends to produce behavior that makes a person fit in well
with the existing system of society. In practice, the word “abuse”
tends to be interpreted to include any method of child-rearing that
produces behavior inconvenient for the system. Thus, when they go
beyond the prevention of obvious, senseless cruelty, programs for
preventing “child abuse” are directed toward the control of human
behavior of the system.

149. Presumably, research will continue to increas the effectiveness
of psychological techniques for controlling human behavior. But we
think it is unlikely that psychological techniques alone will be
sufficient to adjust human beings to the kind of society that
technology is creating. Biological methods probably will have to be
used. We have already mentiond the use of drugs in this connection.
Neurology may provide other avenues of modifying the human mind.
Genetic engineering of human beings is already beginning to occur in
the form of “gene therapy,” and there is no reason to assume the such
methods will not eventually be used to modify those aspects of the
body that affect mental funtioning.

150. As we mentioned in paragraph 134, industrial society seems likely
to be entering a period of severe stress, due in part to problems of
human behavior and in part to economic and environmental problems. And
a considerable proportion of the system’s economic and environmental
problems result from the way human beings behave. Alienation, low
self-esteem, depression, hostility, rebellion; children who won’t
study, youth gangs, illegal drug use, rape, child abuse , other
crimes, unsafe sex, teen pregnancy, population growth, political
corruption, race hatred, ethnic rivalry, bitter ideological conflict
(i.e., pro-choice vs. pro-life), political extremism, terrorism,
sabotage, anti-government groups, hate groups. All these threaten the
very survival of the system. The system will be FORCED to use every
practical means of controlling human behavior.

151. The social disruption that we see today is certainly not the
result of mere chance. It can only be a result fo the conditions of
life that the system imposes on people. (We have argued that the most
important of these conditions is disruption of the power process.) If
the systems succeeds in imposing sufficient control over human
behavior to assure itw own survival, a new watershed in human history
will have passed. Whereas formerly the limits of human endurance have
imposed limits on the development of societies (as we explained in
paragraphs 143, 144), industrial-technological society will be able to
pass those limits by modifying human beings, whether by psychological
methods or biological methods or both. In the future, social systems
will not be adjusted to suit the needs of human beings. Instead, human
being will be adjusted to suit the needs of the system.

152. Generally speaking, technological control over human
behavior will probably not be introduced with a totalitarian intention
or even through a conscious desire to restrict human freedom. [28]
Each new step in the assertion of control over the human mind will be
taken as a rational response to a problem that faces society, such as
curing alcoholism, reducing the crime rate or inducing young people to

study science and engineering. In many cases, there will be
humanitarian justification. For example, when a psychiatrist
prescribes an anti-depressant for a depressed patient, he is clearly
doing that individual a favor. It would be inhumane to withhold the
drug from someone who needs it. When parents send their children to
Sylvan Learning Centers to have them manipulated into becoming
enthusiastic about their studies, they do so from concern for their
children’s welfare. It may be that some of these parents wish that one
didn’t have to have specialized training to get a job and that their
kid didn’t have to be brainwashed into becoming a computer nerd. But
what can they do? They can’t change society, and their child may be
unemployable if he doesn’t have certain skills. So they send him to

153. Thus control over human behavior will be introduced not by a
calculated decision of the authorities but through a process of social
evolution (RAPID evolution, however). The process will be impossible
to resist, because each advance, considered by itself, will appear to
be beneficial, or at least the evil involved in making the advance
will appear to be beneficial, or at least the evil involved in making
the advance will seem to be less than that which would result from not
making it (see paragraph 127). Propaganda for example is used for many
good purposes, such as discouraging child abuse or race hatred. [14]
Sex education is obviously useful, yet the effect of sex education (to
the extent that it is successful) is to take the shaping of sexual
attitudes away from the family and put it into the hands of the state
as represented by the public school system.

154. Suppose a biological trait is discovered that increases the
likelihood that a child will grow up to be a criminal and suppose some
sort of gene therapy can remove this trait. [29] Of course most
parents whose children possess the trait will have them undergo the
therapy. It would be inhumane to do otherwise, since the child would
probably have a miserable life if he grew up to be a criminal. But
many or most primitive societies have a low crime rate in comparison
with that of our society, even though they have neither high-tech
methods of child-rearing nor harsh systems of punishment. Since there
is no reason to suppose that more modern men than primitive men have
innate predatory tendencies, the high crime rate of our society must
be due to the pressures that modern conditions put on people, to which
many cannot or will not adjust. Thus a treatment designed to remove
potential criminal tendencies is at least in part a way of
re-engineering people so that they suit the requirements of the

155. Our society tends to regard as a “sickness” any mode of thought
or behavior that is inconvenient for the system, and this is plausible
because when an individual doesn’t fit into the system it causes pain
to the individual as well as problems for the system. Thus the
manipulation of an individual to adjust him to the system is seen as a
“cure” for a “sickness” and therefore as good.

156. In paragraph 127 we pointed out that if the use of a new item of
technology is INITIALLY optional, it does not necessarily REMAIN
optional, because the new technology tends to change society in such a
way that it becomes difficult or impossible for an individual to
function without using that technology. This applies also to the
technology of human behavior. In a world in which most children are
put through a program to make them enthusiastic about studying, a
parent will almost be forced to put his kid through such a program,
because if he does not, then the kid will grow up to be, comparatively
speaking, an ignoramus and therefore unemployable. Or suppose a
biological treatment is discovered that, without undesirable
side-effects, will greatly reduce the psychological stress from which
so many people suffer in our society. If large numbers of people
choose to undergo the treatment, then the general level of stress in
society will be reduced, so that it will be possible for the system to
increase the stress-producing pressures. In fact, something like this
seems to have happened already with one of our society’s most
important psychological tools for enabling people to reduce (or at
least temporarily escape from) stress, namely, mass entertainment (see
paragraph 147). Our use of mass entertainment is “optional”: No law
requires us to watch television, listen to the radio, read magazines.
Yet mass entertainment is a means of escape and stress-reduction on
which most of us have become dependent. Everyone complains about the
trashiness of television, but almost everyone watches it. A few have
kicked the TV habit, but it would be a rare person who could get along
today without using ANY form of mass entertainment. (Yet until quite
recently in human history most people got along very nicely with no
other entertainment than that which each local community created for
itself.) Without the entertainment industry the system probably would
not have been able to get away with putting as much stress-producing
pressure on us as it does.

157. Assuming that industrial society survives, it is likely that
technology will eventually acquire something approaching complete
control over human behavior. It has been established beyond any
rational doubt that human thought and behavior have a largely
biological basis. As experimenters have demonstrated, feelings such as
hunger, pleasure, anger and fear can be turned on and off by
electrical stimulation of appropriate parts of the brain. Memories can
be destroyed by damaging parts of the brain or they can be brought to
the surface by electrical stimulation. Hallucinations can be induced
or moods changed by drugs. There may or may not be an immaterial human
soul, but if there is one it clearly is less powerful that the
biological mechanisms of human behavior. For if that were not the case
then researchers would not be able so easily to manipulate human
feelings and behavior with drugs and electrical currents.

158. It presumably would be impractical for all people to have
electrodes inserted in their heads so that they could be controlled by
the authorities. But the fact that human thoughts and feelings are so
open to biological intervention shows that the problem of controlling
human behavior is mainly a technical problem; a problem of neurons,
hormones and complex molecules; the kind of problem that is accessible
to scientific attack. Given the outstanding record of our society in
solving technical problems, it is overwhelmingly probable that great
advances will be made in the control of human behavior.

159. Will public resistance prevent the introduction of technological
control of human behavior? It certainly would if an attempt were made
to introduce such control all at once. But since technological control
will be introduced through a long sequence of small advances, there
will be no rational and effective public resistance. (See paragraphs
127,132, 153.)

160. To those who think that all this sounds like science fiction, we
point out that yesterday’s science fiction is today’s fact. The
Industrial Revolution has radically altered man’s environment and way
of life, and it is only to be expected that as technology is
increasingly applied to the human body and mind, man himself will be
altered as radically as his environment and way of life have been.

161. But we have gotten ahead of our story. It is one thing to develop
in the laboratory a series of psychological or biological techniques
for manipulating human behavior and quite another to integrate these
techniques into a functioning social system. The latter problem is the
more difficult of the two. For example, while the techniques of
educational psychology doubtless work quite well in the “lab schools”
where they are developed, it is not necessarily easy to apply them
effectively throughout our educational system. We all know what many
of our schools are like. The teachers are too busy taking knives and
guns away from the kids to subject them to the latest techniques for
making them into computer nerds. Thus, in spite of all its technical
advances relating to human behavior the system to date has not been
impressively successful in controlling human beings. The people whose
behavior is fairly well under the control of the system are those of
the type that might be called “bourgeois.” But there are growing
numbers of people who in one way or another are rebels against the
system: welfare leaches, youth gangs cultists, satanists, nazis,
radical environmentalists, militiamen, etc..

162. The system is currently engaged in a desperate struggle to
overcome certain problems that threaten its survival, among which the
problems of human behavior are the most important. If the system
succeeds in acquiring sufficient control over human behavior quickly
enough, it will probably survive. Otherwise it will break down. We
think the issue will most likely be resolved within the next several
decades, say 40 to 100 years.

163. Suppose the system survives the crisis of the next several
decades. By that time it will have to have solved, or at least brought
under control, the principal problems that confront it, in particular
that of “socializing” human beings; that is, making people
sufficiently docile so that their behavior no longer threatens the
system. That being accomplished, it does not appear that there would
be any further obstacle to the development of technology, and it would
presumably advance toward its logical conclusion, which is complete
control over everything on Earth, including human beings and all other
important organisms. The system may become a unitary, monolithic
organization, or it may be more or less fragmented and consist of a
number of organizations coexisting in a relationship that includes
elements of both cooperation and competition, just as today the
government, the corporations and other large organizations both
cooperate and compete with one another. Human freedom mostly will have
vanished, because individuals and small groups will be impotent
vis-a-vis large organizations armed with supertechnology and an
arsenal of advanced psychological and biological tools for
manipulating human beings, besides instruments of surveillance and
physical coercion. Only a small number of people will have any real
power, and even these probably will have only very limited freedom,
because their behavior too will be regulated; just as today our
politicians and corporation executives can retain their positions of
power only as long as their behavior remains within certain fairly
narrow limits.

164. Don’t imagine that the systems will stop developing further
techniques for controlling human beings and nature once the crisis of
the next few decades is over and increasing control is no longer
necessary for the system’s survival. On the contrary, once the hard
times are over the system will increase its control over people and
nature more rapidly, because it will no longer be hampered by
difficulties of the kind that it is currently experiencing. Survival
is not the principal motive for extending control. As we explained in
paragraphs 87-90, technicians and scientists carry on their work
largely as a surrogate activity; that is, they satisfy their need for
power by solving technical problems. They will continue to do this
with unabated enthusiasm, and among the most interesting and
challenging problems for them to solve will be those of understanding
the human body and mind and intervening in their development. For the
“good of humanity,” of course.

165. But suppose on the other hand that the stresses of the coming
decades prove to be too much for the system. If the system breaks down
there may be a period of chaos, a “time of troubles” such as those
that history has recorded: at various epochs in the past. It is
impossible to predict what would emerge from such a time of troubles,
but at any rate the human race would be given a new chance. The
greatest danger is that industrial society may begin to reconstitute
itself within the first few years after the breakdown. Certainly there
will be many people (power-hungry types especially) who will be
anxious to get the factories running again.

166. Therefore two tasks confront those who hate the servitude to
which the industrial system is reducing the human race. First, we must
work to heighten the social stresses within the system so as to
increase the likelihood that it will break down or be weakened
sufficiently so that a revolution against it becomes possible. Second,
it is necessary to develop and propagate an ideology that opposes
technology and the industrial society if and when the system becomes
sufficiently weakened. And such an ideology will help to assure that,
if and when industrial society breaks down, its remnants will be
smashed beyond repair, so that the system cannot be reconstituted. The
factories should be destroyed, technical books burned, etc.

167. The industrial system will not break down purely as a result of
revolutionary action. It will not be vulnerable to revolutionary
attack unless its own internal problems of development lead it into
very serious difficulties. So if the system breaks down it will do so
either spontaneously, or through a process that is in part spontaneous
but helped along by revolutionaries. If the breakdown is sudden, many
people will die, since the world’s population has become so overblown
that it cannot even feed itself any longer without advanced
technology. Even if the breakdown is gradual enough so that reduction
of the population can occur more through lowering of the birth rate
than through elevation of the death rate, the process of
de-industrialization probably will be very chaotic and involve much
suffering. It is naive to think it likely that technology can be
phased out in a smoothly managed orderly way, especially since the
technophiles will fight stubbornly at every step. Is it therefore
cruel to work for the breakdown of the system? Maybe, but maybe not.
In the first place, revolutionaries will not be able to break the
system down unless it is already in deep trouble so that there would
be a good chance of its eventually breaking down by itself anyway; and
the bigger the system grows, the more disastrous the consequences of
its breakdown will be; so it may be that revolutionaries, by hastening
the onset of the breakdown will be reducing the extent of the

168. In the second place, one has to balance the struggle and death
against the loss of freedom and dignity. To many of us, freedom and
dignity are more important than a long life or avoidance of physical
pain. Besides, we all have to die some time, and it may be better to
die fighting for survival, or for a cause, than to live a long but
empty and purposeless life.

169. In the third place, it is not all certain that the survival of
the system will lead to less suffering than the breakdown of the
system would. The system has already caused, and is continuing to
cause , immense suffering all over the world. Ancient cultures, that
for hundreds of years gave people a satisfactory relationship with
each other and their environment, have been shattered by contact with
industrial society, and the result has been a whole catalogue of
economic, environmental, social and psychological problems. One of the
effects of the intrusion of industrial society has been that over much
of the world traditional controls on population have been thrown out
of balance. Hence the population explosion, with all that it implies.
Then there is the psychological suffering that is widespread
throughout the supposedly fortunate countries of the West (see
paragraphs 44, 45). No one knows what will happen as a result of ozone
depletion, the greenhouse effect and other environmental problems that
cannot yet be foreseen. And, as nuclear proliferation has shown, new
technology cannot be kept out of the hands of dictators and
irresponsible Third World nations. Would you like to speculate abut
what Iraq or North Korea will do with genetic engineering?

170. “Oh!” say the technophiles, “Science is going to fix all that! We
will conquer famine, eliminate psychological suffering, make everybody
healthy and happy!” Yeah, sure. That’s what they said 200 years ago.
The Industrial Revolution was supposed to eliminate poverty, make
everybody happy, etc. The actual result has been quite different. The
technophiles are hopelessly naive (or self-deceiving) in their
understanding of social problems. They are unaware of (or choose to
ignore) the fact that when large changes, even seemingly beneficial
ones, are introduced into a society, they lead to a long sequence of
other changes, most of which are impossible to predict (paragraph
103). The result is disruption of the society. So it is very probable
that in their attempt to end poverty and disease, engineer docile,
happy personalities and so forth, the technophiles will create social
systems that are terribly troubled, even more so that the present one.
For example, the scientists boast that they will end famine by
creating new, genetically engineered food plants. But this will allow
the human population to keep expanding indefinitely, and it is well
known that crowding leads to increased stress and aggression. This is
merely one example of the PREDICTABLE problems that will arise. We
emphasize that, as past experience has shown, technical progress will
lead to other new problems for society far more rapidly that it has
been solving old ones. Thus it will take a long difficult period of
trial and error for the technophiles to work the bugs out of their
Brave New World (if they ever do). In the meantime there will be great
suffering. So it is not all clear that the survival of industrial
society would involve less suffering than the breakdown of that
society would. Technology has gotten the human race into a fix from
which there is not likely to be any easy escape.

171. But suppose now that industrial society does survive the next
several decade and that the bugs do eventually get worked out of the
system, so that it functions smoothly. What kind of system will it be?
We will consider several possibilities.

172. First let us postulate that the computer scientists succeed in
developing intelligent machines that can do all things better that
human beings can do them. In that case presumably all work will be
done by vast, highly organized systems of machines and no human effort
will be necessary. Either of two cases might occur. The machines might
be permitted to make all of their own decisions without human
oversight, or else human control over the machines might be retained.

173. If the machines are permitted to make all their own decisions, we
can’t make any conjectures as to the results, because it is impossible
to guess how such machines might behave. We only point out that the
fate of the human race would be at the mercy of the machines. It might
be argued that the human race would never be foolish enough to hand
over all the power to the machines. But we are suggesting neither that
the human race would voluntarily turn power over to the machines nor
that the machines would willfully seize power. What we do suggest is
that the human race might easily permit itself to drift into a
position of such dependence on the machines that it would have no
practical choice but to accept all of the machines decisions. As
society and the problems that face it become more and more complex and
machines become more and more intelligent, people will let machines
make more of their decision for them, simply because machine-made
decisions will bring better result than man-made ones. Eventually a
stage may be reached at which the decisions necessary to keep the
system running will be so complex that human beings will be incapable
of making them intelligently. At that stage the machines will be in
effective control. People won’t be able to just turn the machines off,
because they will be so dependent on them that turning them off would
amount to suicide.

174. On the other hand it is possible that human control over the
machines may be retained. In that case the average man may have
control over certain private machines of his own, such as his car of
his personal computer, but control over large systems of machines will
be in the hands of a tiny elite — just as it is today, but with two
difference. Due to improved techniques the elite will have greater
control over the masses; and because human work will no longer be
necessary the masses will be superfluous, a useless burden on the
system. If the elite is ruthless the may simply decide to exterminate
the mass of humanity. If they are humane they may use propaganda or
other psychological or biological techniques to reduce the birth rate
until the mass of humanity becomes extinct, leaving the world to the
elite. Or, if the elite consist of soft-hearted liberals, they may
decide to play the role of good shepherds to the rest of the human
race. They will see to it that everyone’s physical needs are
satisfied, that all children are raised under psychologically hygienic
conditions, that everyone has a wholesome hobby to keep him busy, and
that anyone who may become dissatisfied undergoes “treatment” to cure
his “problem.” Of course, life will be so purposeless that people will
have to be biologically or psychologically engineered either to remove
their need for the power process or to make them “sublimate” their
drive for power into some harmless hobby. These engineered human
beings may be happy in such a society, but they most certainly will
not be free. They will have been reduced to the status of domestic

175. But suppose now that the computer scientists do not succeed in
developing artificial intelligence, so that human work remains
necessary. Even so, machines will take care of more and more of the
simpler tasks so that there will be an increasing surplus of human
workers at the lower levels of ability. (We see this happening
already. There are many people who find it difficult or impossible to
get work, because for intellectual or psychological reasons they
cannot acquire the level of training necessary to make themselves
useful in the present system.) On those who are employed,
ever-increasing demands will be placed; They will need more and m ore
training, more and more ability, and will have to be ever more
reliable, conforming and docile, because they will be more and more
like cells of a giant organism. Their tasks will be increasingly
specialized so that their work will be, in a sense, out of touch with
the real world, being concentrated on one tiny slice of reality. The
system will have to use any means that I can, whether psychological or
biological, to engineer people to be docile, to have the abilities
that the system requires and to “sublimate” their drive for power into
some specialized task. But the statement that the people of such a
society will have to be docile may require qualification. The society
may find competitiveness useful, provided that ways are found of
directing competitiveness into channels that serve that needs of the
system. We can imagine into channels that serve the needs of the
system. We can imagine a future society in which there is endless
competition for positions of prestige an power. But no more than a
very few people will ever reach the top, where the only real power is
(see end of paragraph 163). Very repellent is a society in which a
person can satisfy his needs for power only by pushing large numbers
of other people out of the way and depriving them of THEIR opportunity
for power.

176. Once can envision scenarios that incorporate aspects of more than
one of the possibilities that we have just discussed. For instance, it
may be that machines will take over most of the work that is of real,
practical importance, but that human beings will be kept busy by being
given relatively unimportant work. It has been suggested, for example,
that a great development of the service of industries might provide
work for human beings. Thus people will would spend their time
shinning each others shoes, driving each other around inn taxicab,
making handicrafts for one another, waiting on each other’s tables,
etc. This seems to us a thoroughly contemptible way for the human race
to end up, and we doubt that many people would find fulfilling lives
in such pointless busy-work. They would seek other, dangerous outlets
(drugs, , crime, “cults,” hate groups) unless they were biological or
psychologically engineered to adapt them to such a way of life.

177. Needless to day, the scenarios outlined above do not exhaust all
the possibilities. They only indicate the kinds of outcomes that seem
to us mots likely. But wee can envision no plausible scenarios that
are any more palatable that the ones we’ve just described. It is
overwhelmingly probable that if the industrial-technological system
survives the next 40 to 100 years, it will by that time have developed
certain general characteristics: Individuals (at least those of the
“bourgeois” type, who are integrated into the system and make it run,
and who therefore have all the power) will be more dependent than ever
on large organizations; they will be more “socialized” that ever and
their physical and mental qualities to a significant extent (possibly
to a very great extent ) will be those that are engineered into them
rather than being the results of chance (or of God’s will, or
whatever); and whatever may be left of wild nature will be reduced to
remnants preserved for scientific study and kept under the supervision
and management of scientists (hence it will no longer be truly wild).
In the long run (say a few centuries from now) it is it is likely that
neither the human race nor any other important organisms will exist as
we know them today, because once you start modifying organisms through
genetic engineering there is no reason to stop at any particular
point, so that the modifications will probably continue until man and
other organisms have been utterly transformed.

178. Whatever else may be the case, it is certain that technology is
creating for human begins a new physical and social environment
radically different from the spectrum of environments to which natural
selection has adapted the human race physically and psychological. If
man is not adjust to this new environment by being artificially
re-engineered, then he will be adapted to it through a long an painful
process of natural selection. The former is far more likely that the

179. It would be better to dump the whole stinking system and take the

180. The technophiles are taking us all on an utterly reckless ride
into the unknown. Many people understand something of what
technological progress is doing to us yet take a passive attitude
toward it because they think it is inevitable. But we (FC) don’t think
it is inevitable. We think it can be stopped, and we will give here
some indications of how to go about stopping it.

181. As we stated in paragraph 166, the two main tasks for the present
are to promote social stress and instability in industrial society and
to develop and propagate an ideology that opposes technology and the
industrial system. When the system becomes sufficiently stressed and
unstable, a revolution against technology may be possible. The pattern
would be similar to that of the French and Russian Revolutions. French
society and Russian society, for several decades prior to their
respective revolutions, showed increasing signs of stress and
weakness. Meanwhile, ideologies were being developed that offered a
new world view that was quite different from the old one. In the
Russian case, revolutionaries were actively working to undermine the
old order. Then, when the old system was put under sufficient
additional stress (by financial crisis in France, by military defeat
in Russia) it was swept away by revolution. What we propose in
something along the same lines.

182. It will be objected that the French and Russian Revolutions were
failures. But most revolutions have two goals. One is to destroy an
old form of society and the other is to set up the new form of society
envisioned by the revolutionaries. The French and Russian
revolutionaries failed (fortunately!) to create the new kind of
society of which they dreamed, but they were quite successful in
destroying the existing form of society.

183. But an ideology, in order to gain enthusiastic support, must have
a positive ideals well as a negative one; it must be FOR something as
well as AGAINST something. The positive ideal that we propose is
Nature. That is , WILD nature; those aspects of the functioning of the
Earth and its living things that are independent of human management
and free of human interference and control. And with wild nature we
include human nature, by which we mean those aspects of the
functioning of the human individual that are not subject to regulation
by organized society but are products of chance, or free will, or God
(depending on your religious or philosophical opinions).

184. Nature makes a perfect counter-ideal to technology for several
reasons. Nature (that which is outside the power of the system) is the
opposite of technology (which seeks to expand indefinitely the power
of the system). Most people will agree that nature is beautiful;
certainly it has tremendous popular appeal. The radical
environmentalists ALREADY hold an ideology that exalts nature and
opposes technology. [30] It is not necessary for the sake of nature to
set up some chimerical utopia or any new kind of social order. Nature
takes care of itself: It was a spontaneous creation that existed long
before any human society, and for countless centuries many different
kinds of human societies coexisted with nature without doing it an
excessive amount of damage. Only with the Industrial Revolution did
the effect of human society on nature become really devastating. To
relieve the pressure on nature it is not necessary to create a special
kind of social system, it is only necessary to get rid of industrial
society. Granted, this will not solve all problems. Industrial society
has already done tremendous damage to nature and it will take a very
long time for the scars to heal. Besides, even pre-industrial
societies can do significant damage to nature. Nevertheless, getting
rid of industrial society will accomplish a great deal. It will
relieve the worst of the pressure on nature so that the scars can
begin to heal. It will remove the capacity of organized society to
keep increasing its control over nature (including human nature).
Whatever kind of society may exist after the demise of the industrial
system, it is certain that most people will live close to nature,
because in the absence of advanced technology there is not other way
that people CAN live. To feed themselves they must be peasants or
herdsmen or fishermen or hunter, etc., And, generally speaking, local
autonomy should tend to increase, because lack of advanced technology
and rapid communications will limit the capacity of governments or
other large organizations to control local communities.

185. As for the negative consequences of eliminating industrial
society — well, you can’t eat your cake and have it too. To gain one
thing you have to sacrifice another.

186. Most people hate psychological conflict. For this reason they
avoid doing any serious thinking about difficult social issues, and
they like to have such issues presented to them in simple,
black-and-white terms: THIS is all good and THAT is all bad. The
revolutionary ideology should therefore be developed on two levels.

187. On the more sophisticated level the ideology should address
itself to people who are intelligent, thoughtful and rational. The
object should be to create a core of people who will be opposed to the
industrial system on a rational, thought-out basis, with full
appreciation of the problems and ambiguities involved, and of the
price that has to be paid for getting rid of the system. It is
particularly important to attract people of this type, as they are
capable people and will be instrumental in influencing others. These
people should be addressed on as rational a level as possible. Facts
should never intentionally be distorted and intemperate language
should be avoided. This does not mean that no appeal can be made to
the emotions, but in making such appeal care should be taken to avoid
misrepresenting the truth or doing anything else that would destroy
the intellectual respectability of the ideology.

188. On a second level, the ideology should be propagated in a
simplified form that will enable the unthinking majority to see the
conflict of technology vs. nature in unambiguous terms. But even on
this second level the ideology should not be expressed in language
that is so cheap, intemperate or irrational that it alienates people
of the thoughtful and rational type. Cheap, intemperate propaganda
sometimes achieves impressive short-term gains, but it will be more
advantageous in the long run to keep the loyalty of a small number of
intelligently committed people than to arouse the passions of an
unthinking, fickle mob who will change their attitude as soon as
someone comes along with a better propaganda gimmick. However,
propaganda of the rabble-rousing type may be necessary when the system
is nearing the point of collapse and there is a final struggle between
rival ideologies to determine which will become dominant when the old
world-view goes under.

189. Prior to that final struggle, the revolutionaries should not
expect to have a majority of people on their side. History is made by
active, determined minorities, not by the majority, which seldom has a
clear and consistent idea of what it really wants. Until the time
comes for the final push toward revolution [31], the task of
revolutionaries will be less to win the shallow support of the
majority than to build a small core of deeply committed people. As for
the majority, it will be enough to make them aware of the existence of
the new ideology and remind them of it frequently; though of course it
will be desirable to get majority support to the extent that this can
be done without weakening the core of seriously committed people.

190. Any kind of social conflict helps to destabilize the system, but
one should be careful about what kind of conflict one encourages. The
line of conflict should be drawn between the mass of the people and
the power-holding elite of industrial society (politicians,
scientists, upper-level business executives, government officials,
etc..). It should NOT be drawn between the revolutionaries and the
mass of the people. For example, it would be bad strategy for the
revolutionaries to condemn Americans for their habits of consumption.
Instead, the average American should be portrayed as a victim of the
advertising and marketing industry, which has suckered him into buying
a lot of junk that he doesn’t need and that is very poor compensation
for his lost freedom. Either approach is consistent with the facts. It
is merely a matter of attitude whether you blame the advertising
industry for manipulating the public or blame the public for allowing
itself to be manipulated. As a matter of strategy one should generally
avoid blaming the public.

191. One should think twice before encouraging any other social
conflict than that between the power-holding elite (which wields
technology) and the general public (over which technology exerts its
power). For one thing, other conflicts tend to distract attention from
the important conflicts (between power-elite and ordinary people,
between technology and nature); for another thing, other conflicts may
actually tend to encourage technologization, because each side in such
a conflict wants to use technological power to gain advantages over
its adversary. This is clearly seen in rivalries between nations. It
also appears in ethnic conflicts within nations. For example, in
America many black leaders are anxious to gain power for African
Americans by placing back individuals in the technological
power-elite. They want there to be many black government officials,
scientists, corporation executives and so forth. In this way they are
helping to absorb the African American subculture into the
technological system. Generally speaking, one should encourage only
those social conflicts that can be fitted into the framework of the
conflicts of power–elite vs. ordinary people, technology vs nature.

192. But the way to discourage ethnic conflict is NOT through militant
advocacy of minority rights (see paragraphs 21, 29). Instead, the
revolutionaries should emphasize that although minorities do suffer
more or less disadvantage, this disadvantage is of peripheral
significance. Our real enemy is the industrial-technological system,
and in the struggle against the system, ethnic distinctions are of no

193. The kind of revolution we have in mind will not necessarily
involve an armed uprising against any government. It may or may not
involve physical violence, but it will not be a POLITICAL revolution.
Its focus will be on technology and economics, not politics. [32]

194. Probably the revolutionaries should even AVOID assuming political
power, whether by legal or illegal means, until the industrial system
is stressed to the danger point and has proved itself to be a failure
in the eyes of most people. Suppose for example that some “green”
party should win control of the United States Congress in an election.
In order to avoid betraying or watering down their own ideology they
would have to take vigorous measures to turn economic growth into
economic shrinkage. To the average man the results would appear
disastrous: There would be massive unemployment, shortages of
commodities, etc. Even if the grosser ill effects could be avoided
through superhumanly skillful management, still people would have to
begin giving up the luxuries to which they have become addicted.
Dissatisfaction would grow, the “green” party would be voted out of of
fice and the revolutionaries would have suffered a severe setback. For
this reason the revolutionaries should not try to acquire political
power until the system has gotten itself into such a mess that any
hardships will be seen as resulting from the failures of the
industrial system itself and not from the policies of the
revolutionaries. The revolution against technology will probably have
to be a revolution by outsiders, a revolution from below and not from

195. The revolution must be international and worldwide. It cannot be
carried out on a nation-by-nation basis. Whenever it is suggested that
the United States, for example, should cut back on technological
progress or economic growth, people get hysterical and start screaming
that if we fall behind in technology the Japanese will get ahead of
us. Holy robots The world will fly off its orbit if the Japanese ever
sell more cars than we do! (Nationalism is a great promoter of
technology.) More reasonably, it is argued that if the relatively
democratic nations of the world fall behind in technology while nasty,
dictatorial nations like China, Vietnam and North Korea continue to
progress, eventually the dictators may come to dominate the world.
That is why the industrial system should be attacked in all nations
simultaneously, to the extent that this may be possible. True, there
is no assurance that the industrial system can be destroyed at
approximately the same time all over the world, and it is even
conceivable that the attempt to overthrow the system could lead
instead to the domination of the system by dictators. That is a risk
that has to be taken. And it is worth taking, since the difference
between a “democratic” industrial system and one controlled by
dictators is small compared with the difference between an industrial
system and a non-industrial one. [33] It might even be argued that an
industrial system controlled by dictators would be preferable, because
dictator-controlled systems usually have proved inefficient, hence
they are presumably more likely to break down. Look at Cuba.

196. Revolutionaries might consider favoring measures that tend to
bind the world economy into a unified whole. Free trade agreements
like NAFTA and GATT are probably harmful to the environment in the
short run, but in the long run they may perhaps be advantageous
because they foster economic interdependence between nations. I will
be eaier to destroy the industrial system on a worldwide basis if he
world economy is so unified that its breakdown in any on major nation
will lead to its breakdwon in al industrialized nations.

the long run they may perhaps be advantageous because they foster
economic interdependence between nations. It will be easier to destroy
the industrial system on a worldwide basis if the world economy is so
unified that its breakdown in any one major nation will lead to its
breakdown in all industrialized nations.

197. Some people take the line that modern man has too much power, too
much control over nature; they argue for a more passive attitude on
the part of the human race. At best these people are expressing
themselves unclearly, because they fail to distinguish between power
is a mistake to argue for powerlessness and passivity, because people
NEED power. Modern man as a collective entity–that is, the industrial
system–has immense power over nature, and we (FC) regard this as
less power than primitive man ever did. Generally speaking, the vast
power of “modern man” over nature is exercised not by individuals or
small groups but by large organizations. To the extent that the
average modern INDIVIDUAL can wield the power of technology, he is
permitted to do so only within narrow limits and only under the
supervision and control of the system. (You need a license for
everything and with the license come rules and regulations). The
individual has only those technological powers with which the system
chooses to provide him. His PERSONAL power over nature is slight.

198. Primitive INDIVIDUALS and SMALL GROUPS actually had considerable
power over nature; or maybe it would be better to say power WITHIN
nature. When primitive man needed food he knew how to find and prepare
edible roots, how to track game and take it with homemade weapons. He
knew how to protect himself from heat, cold, rain, dangerous animals,
etc. But primitive man did relatively little damage to nature because
the COLLECTIVE power of primitive society was negligible compared to
the COLLECTIVE power of industrial society.

199. Instead of arguing for powerlessness and passivity, one should
argue that the power of the INDUSTRIAL SYSTEM should be broken, and
that this will greatly INCREASE the power and freedom of INDIVIDUALS

200. Until the industrial system has been thoroughly wrecked, the
destruction of that system must be the revolutionaries’ ONLY goal.
Other goals would distract attention and energy from the main goal.
More importantly, if the revolutionaries permit themselves to have any
other goal than the destruction of technology, they will be tempted to
use technology as a tool for reaching that other goal. If they give in
to that temptation, they will fall right back into the technological
trap, because modern technology is a unified, tightly organized
system, so that, in order to retain SOME technology, one finds oneself
obliged to retain MOST technology, hence one ends up sacrificing only
token amounts of technology.

201. Suppose for example that the revolutionaries took “social
justice” as a goal. Human nature being what it is, social justice
would not come about spontaneously; it would have to be enforced. In
order to enforce it the revolutionaries would have to retain central
organization and control. For that they would need rapid long-distance
transportation and communication, and therefore all the technology
needed to support the transportation and communication systems. To
feed and clothe poor people they would have to use agricultural and
manufacturing technology. And so forth. So that the attempt to insure
social justice would force them to retain most parts of the
technological system. Not that we have anything against social
justice, but it must not be allowed to interfere with the effort to
get rid of the technological system.

202. It would be hopeless for revolutionaries to try to attack the
system without using SOME modern technology. If nothing else they must
use the communications media to spread their message. But they should
use modern technology for only ONE purpose: to attack the
technological system.

203. Imagine an alcoholic sitting with a barrel of wine in front of
him. Suppose he starts saying to himself, “Wine isn’t bad for you if
used in moderation. Why, they say small amounts of wine are even good
for you! It won’t do me any harm if I take just one little drink…”
Well you know what is going to happen. Never forget that the human
race with technology is just like an alcoholic with a barrel of wine.

204. Revolutionaries should have as many children as they can. There
is strong scientific evidence that social attitudes are to a
significant extent inherited. No one suggests that a social attitude
is a direct outcome of a person’s genetic constitution, but it appears
that personality traits tend, within the context of our society, to
make a person more likely to hold this or that social attitude.
Objections to these findings have been raised, but objections are
feeble and seem to be ideologically motivated. In any event, no one
denies that children tend on the average to hold social attitudes
similar to those of their parents. From our point of view it doesn’t
matter all that much whether the attitudes are passed on genetically
or through childhood training. In either case the ARE passed on.

205. The trouble is that many of the people who are inclined to rebel
against the industrial system are also concerned about the population
problems, hence they are apt to have few or no children. In this way
they may be handing the world over to the sort of people who support
or at least accept the industrial system. To insure the strength of
the next generation of revolutionaries the present generation must
reproduce itself abundantly. In doing so they will be worsening the
population problem only slightly. And the most important problem is to
get rid of the industrial system, because once the industrial system
is gone the world’s population necessarily will decrease (see
paragraph 167); whereas, if the industrial system survives, it will
continue developing new techniques of food production that may enable
the world’s population to keep increasing almost indefinitely.

206. With regard to revolutionary strategy, the only points on which
we absolutely insist are that the single overriding goal must be the
elimination of modern technology, and that no other goal can be
allowed to compete with this one. For the rest, revolutionaries should
take an empirical approach. If experience indicates that some of the
recommendations made in the foregoing paragraphs are not going to give
good results, then those recommendations should be discarded.

207. An argument likely to be raised against our proposed revolution
is that it is bound to fail, because (it is claimed) throughout
history technology has always progressed, never regressed, hence
technological regression is impossible. But this claim is false.

208. We distinguish between two kinds of technology, which we will
call small-scale technology and organization-dependent technology.
Small-scale technology is technology that can be used by small-scale
communities without outside assistance. Organization-dependent
technology is technology that depends on large-scale social
organization. We are aware of no significant cases of regression in
small-scale technology. But organization-dependent technology DOES
regress when the social organization on which it depends breaks down.
Example: When the Roman Empire fell apart the Romans’ small-scale
technology survived because any clever village craftsman could build,
for instance, a water wheel, any skilled smith could make steel by
Roman methods, and so forth. But the Romans’ organization-dependent
technology DID regress. Their aqueducts fell into disrepair and were
never rebuilt. Their techniques of road construction were lost. The
Roman system of urban sanitation was forgotten, so that until rather
recent times did the sanitation of European cities that of Ancient

209. The reason why technology has seemed always to progress is that,
until perhaps a century or two before the Industrial Revolution, most
technology was small-scale technology. But most of the technology
developed since the Industrial Revolution is organization-dependent
technology. Take the refrigerator for example. Without factory-made
parts or the facilities of a post-industrial machine shop it would be
virtually impossible for a handful of local craftsmen to build a
refrigerator. If by some miracle they did succeed in building one it
would be useless to them without a reliable source of electric power.
So they would have to dam a stream and build a generator. Generators
require large amounts of copper wire. Imagine trying to make that wire
without modern machinery. And where would they get a gas suitable for
refrigeration? It would be much easier to build an icehouse or
preserve food by drying or picking, as was done before the invention
of the refrigerator.

210. So it is clear that if the industrial system were once thoroughly
broken down, refrigeration technology would quickly be lost. The same
is true of other organization-dependent technology. And once this
technology had been lost for a generation or so it would take
centuries to rebuild it, just as it took centuries to build it the
first time around. Surviving technical books would be few and
scattered. An industrial society, if built from scratch without
outside help, can only be built in a series of stages: You need tools
to make tools to make tools to make tools … . A long process of
economic development and progress in social organization is required.
And, even in the absence of an ideology opposed to technology, there
is no reason to believe that anyone would be interested in rebuilding
industrial society. The enthusiasm for “progress” is a phenomenon
particular to the modern form of society, and it seems not to have
existed prior to the 17th century or thereabouts.

211. In the late Middle Ages there were four main civilizations that
were about equally “advanced”: Europe, the Islamic world, India, and
the Far East (China, Japan, Korea). Three of those civilizations
remained more or less stable, and only Europe became dynamic. No one
knows why Europe became dynamic at that time; historians have their
theories but these are only speculation. At any rate, it is clear that
rapid development toward a technological form of society occurs only
under special conditions. So there is no reason to assume that
long-lasting technological regression cannot be brought about.

212. Would society EVENTUALLY develop again toward an
industrial-technological form? Maybe, but there is no use in worrying
about it, since we can’t predict or control events 500 or 1,000 years
in the future. Those problems must be dealt with by the people who
will live at that time.

213. Because of their need for rebellion and for membership in a
movement, leftists or persons of similar psychological type are often
unattracted to a rebellious or activist movement whose goals and
membership are not initially leftist. The resulting influx of leftish
types can easily turn a non-leftist movement into a leftist one, so
that leftist goals replace or distort the original goals of the

214. To avoid this, a movement that exalts nature and opposes
technology must take a resolutely anti-leftist stance and must avoid
all collaboration with leftists. Leftism is in the long run
inconsistent with wild nature, with human freedom and with the
elimination of modern technology. Leftism is collectivist; it seeks to
bind together the entire world (both nature and the human race) into a
unified whole. But this implies management of nature and of human life
by organized society, and it requires advanced technology. You can’t
have a united world without rapid transportation and communication,
you can’t make all people love one another without sophisticated
psychological techniques, you can’t have a “planned society” without
the necessary technological base. Above all, leftism is driven by the
need for power, and the leftist seeks power on a collective basis,
through identification with a mass movement or an organization.
Leftism is unlikely ever to give up technology, because technology is
too valuable a source of collective power.

215. The anarchist [34] too seeks power, but he seeks it on an
individual or small-group basis; he wants individuals and small groups
to be able to control the circumstances of their own lives. He opposes
technology because it makes small groups dependent on large

216. Some leftists may seem to oppose technology, but they will oppose
it only so long as they are outsiders and the technological system is
controlled by non-leftists. If leftism ever becomes dominant in
society, so that the technological system becomes a tool in the hands
of leftists, they will enthusiastically use it and promote its growth.
In doing this they will be repeating a pattern that leftism has shown
again and again in the past. When the Bolsheviks in Russia were
outsiders, they vigorously opposed censorship and the secret police,
they advocated self-determination for ethnic minorities, and so forth;
but as soon as they came into power themselves, they imposed a tighter
censorship and created a more ruthless secret police than any that had
existed under the tsars, and they oppressed ethnic minorities at least
as much as the tsars had done. In the United States, a couple of
decades ago when leftists were a minority in our universities, leftist
professors were vigorous proponents of academic freedom, but today, in
those universities where leftists have become dominant, they have
shown themselves ready to take away from everyone else’s academic
freedom. (This is “political correctness.”) The same will happen with
leftists and technology: They will use it to oppress everyone else if
they ever get it under their own control.

217. In earlier revolutions, leftists of the most power-hungry type,
repeatedly, have first cooperated with non-leftist revolutionaries, as
well as with leftists of a more libertarian inclination, and later
have double-crossed them to seize power for themselves. Robespierre
did this in the French Revolution, the Bolsheviks did it in the
Russian Revolution, the communists did it in Spain in 1938 and Castro
and his followers did it in Cuba. Given the past history of leftism,
it would be utterly foolish for non-leftist revolutionaries today to
collaborate with leftists.

218. Various thinkers have pointed out that leftism is a kind of
religion. Leftism is not a religion in the strict sense because
leftist doctrine does not postulate the existence of any supernatural
being. But for the leftist, leftism plays a psychological role much
like that which religion plays for some people. The leftist NEEDS to
believe in leftism; it plays a vital role in his psychological
economy. His beliefs are not easily modified by logic or facts. He has
a deep conviction that leftism is morally Right with a capital R, and
that he has not only a right but a duty to impose leftist morality on
everyone. (However, many of the people we are referring to as
“leftists” do not think of themselves as leftists and would not
describe their system of beliefs as leftism. We use the term “leftism”
because we don’t know of any better words to designate the spectrum of
related creeds that includes the feminist, gay rights, political
correctness, etc., movements, and because these movements have a
strong affinity with the old left. See paragraphs 227-230.)

219. Leftism is totalitarian force. Wherever leftism is in a position
of power it tends to invade every private corner and force every
thought into a leftist mold. In part this is because of the
quasi-religious character of leftism; everything contrary to leftists
beliefs represents Sin. More importantly, leftism is a totalitarian
force because of the leftists’ drive for power. The leftist seeks to
satisfy his need for power through identification with a social
movement and he tries to go through the power process by helping to
pursue and attain the goals of the movement (see paragraph 83). But no
matter how far the movement has gone in attaining its goals the
leftist is never satisfied, because his activism is a surrogate
activity (see paragraph 41). That is, the leftist’s real motive is not
to attain the ostensible goals of leftism; in reality he is motivated
by the sense of power he gets from struggling for and then reaching a
social goal.[35]

Consequently the leftist is never satisfied with the goals he has
already attained; his need for the power process leads him always to
pursue some new goal. The leftist wants equal opportunities for
minorities. When that is attained he insists on statistical equality
of achievement by minorities. And as long as anyone harbors in some
corner of his mind a negative attitude toward some minority, the
leftist has to re-educated him. And ethnic minorities are not enough;
no one can be allowed to have a negative attitude toward homosexuals,
disabled people, fat people, old people, ugly people, and on and on
and on. It’s not enough that the public should be informed about the
hazards of smoking; a warning has to be stamped on every package of
cigarettes. Then cigarette advertising has to be restricted if not
banned. The activists will never be satisfied until tobacco is
outlawed, and after that it will be alco hot then junk food, etc.
Activists have fought gross child abuse, which is reasonable. But now
they want to stop all spanking. When they have done that they will
want to ban something else they consider unwholesome, then another
thing and then another. They will never be satisfied until they have
complete control over all child rearing practices. And then they will
move on to another cause.

220. Suppose you asked leftists to make a list of ALL the things that
were wrong with society, and then suppose you instituted EVERY social
change that they demanded. It is safe to say that within a couple of
years the majority of leftists would find something new to complain
about, some new social “evil” to correct because, once again, the
leftist is motivated less by distress at society’s ills than by the
need to satisfy his drive for power by imposing his solutions on

221. Because of the restrictions placed on their thoughts and behavior
by their high level of socialization, many leftists of the
over-socialized type cannot pursue power in the ways that other people
do. For them the drive for power has only one morally acceptable
outlet, and that is in the struggle to impose their morality on

222. Leftists, especially those of the oversocialized type, are True
Believers in the sense of Eric Hoffer’s book, “The True Believer.” But
not all True Believers are of the same psychological type as leftists.
Presumably a truebelieving nazi, for instance is very different
psychologically from a truebelieving leftist. Because of their
capacity for single-minded devotion to a cause, True Believers are a
useful, perhaps a necessary, ingredient of any revolutionary movement.
This presents a problem with which we must admit we don’t know how to
deal. We aren’t sure how to harness the energies of the True Believer
to a revolution against technology. At present all we can say is that
no True Believer will make a safe recruit to the revolution unless his
commitment is exclusively to the destruction of technology. If he is
committed also to another ideal, he may want to use technology as a
tool for pursuing that other ideal (see paragraphs 220, 221).

223. Some readers may say, “This stuff about leftism is a lot of crap.
I know John and Jane who are leftish types and they don’t have all
these totalitarian tendencies.” It’s quite true that many leftists,
possibly even a numerical majority, are decent people who sincerely
believe in tolerating others’ values (up to a point) and wouldn’t want
to use high-handed methods to reach their social goals. Our remarks
about leftism are not meant to apply to every individual leftist but
to describe the general character of leftism as a movement. And the
general character of a movement is not necessarily determined by the
numerical proportions of the various kinds of people involved in the

224. The people who rise to positions of power in leftist movements
tend to be leftists of the most power-hungry type because power-hungry
people are those who strive hardest to get into positions of power.
Once the power-hungry types have captured control of the movement,
there are many leftists of a gentler breed who inwardly disapprove of
many of the actions of the leaders, but cannot bring themselves to
oppose them. They NEED their faith in the movement, and because they
cannot give up this faith they go along with the leaders. True, SOME
leftists do have the guts to oppose the totalitarian tendencies that
emerge, but they generally lose, because the power-hungry types are
better organized, are more ruthless and Machiavellian and have taken
care to build themselves a strong power base.

225. These phenomena appeared clearly in Russia and other countries
that were taken over by leftists. Similarly, before the breakdown of
communism in the USSR, leftish types in the West would seldom
criticize that country. If prodded they would admit that the USSR did
many wrong things, but then they would try to find excuses for the
communists and begin talking about the faults of the West. They always
opposed Western military resistance to communist aggression. Leftish
types all over the world vigorously protested the U.S. military action
in Vietnam, but when the USSR invaded Afghanistan they did nothing.
Not that they approved of the Soviet actions; but because of their
leftist faith, they just couldn’t bear to put themselves in opposition
to communism. Today, in those of our universities where “political
correctness” has become dominant, there are probably many leftish
types who privately disapprove of the suppression of academic freedom,
but they go along with it anyway.

226. Thus the fact that many individual leftists are personally mild
and fairly tolerant people by no means prevents leftism as a whole
form having a totalitarian tendency.

227. Our discussion of leftism has a serious weakness. It is still far
from clear what we mean by the word “leftist.” There doesn’t seem to
be much we can do about this. Today leftism is fragmented into a whole
spectrum of activist movements. Yet not all activist movements are
leftist, and some activist movements (e.g.., radical environmentalism)
seem to include both personalities of the leftist type and
personalities of thoroughly un-leftist types who ought to know better
than to collaborate with leftists. Varieties of leftists fade out
gradually into varieties of non-leftists and we ourselves would often
be hard-pressed to decide whether a given individual is or is not a
leftist. To the extent that it is defined at all, our conception of
leftism is defined by the discussion of it that we have given in this
article, and we can only advise the reader to use his own judgment in
deciding who is a leftist.

228. But it will be helpful to list some criteria for diagnosing
leftism. These criteria cannot be applied in a cut and dried manner.
Some individuals may meet some of the criteria without being leftists,
some leftists may not meet any of the criteria. Again, you just have
to use your judgment.

229. The leftist is oriented toward largescale collectivism. He
emphasizes the duty of the individual to serve society and the duty of
society to take care of the individual. He has a negative attitude
toward individualism. He often takes a moralistic tone. He tends to be
for gun control, for sex education and other psychologically
“enlightened” educational methods, for planning, for affirmative
action, for multiculturalism. He tends to identify with victims. He
tends to be against competition and against violence, but he often
finds excuses for those leftists who do commit violence. He is fond of
using the common catch-phrases of the left like “racism, ” “sexism, ”
“homophobia, ” “capitalism,” “imperialism,” “neocolonialism ”
“genocide,” “social change,” “social justice,” “social
responsibility.” Maybe the best diagnostic trait of the leftist is his
tendency to sympathize with the following movements: feminism, gay
rights, ethnic rights, disability rights, animal rights political
correctness. Anyone who strongly sympathizes with ALL of these
movements is almost certainly a leftist. [36]

230. The more dangerous leftists, that is, those who are most
power-hungry, are often characterized by arrogance or by a dogmatic
approach to ideology. However, the most dangerous leftists of all may
be certain oversocialized types who avoid irritating displays of
aggressiveness and refrain from advertising their leftism, but work
quietly and unobtrusively to promote collectivist values,
“enlightened” psychological techniques for socializing children,
dependence of the individual on the system, and so forth. These
crypto-leftists (as we may call them) approximate certain bourgeois
types as far as practical action is concerned, but differ from them in
psychology, ideology and motivation. The ordinary bourgeois tries to
bring people under control of the system in order to protect his way
of life, or he does so simply because his attitudes are conventional.
The crypto-leftist tries to bring people under control of the system
because he is a True Believer in a collectivistic ideology. The
crypto-leftist is differentiated from the average leftist of the
oversocialized type by the fact that his rebellious impulse is weaker
and he is more securely socialized. He is differentiated from the
ordinary well-socialized bourgeois by the fact that there is some deep
lack within him that makes it necessary for him to devote himself to a
cause and immerse himself in a collectivity. And maybe his
(well-sublimated) drive for power is stronger than that of the average

231. Throughout this article we’ve made imprecise statements and
statements that ought to have had all sorts of qualifications and
reservations attached to them; and some of our statements may be
flatly false. Lack of sufficient information and the need for brevity
made it impossible for us to fomulate our assertions more precisely or
add all the necessary qualifications. And of course in a discussion of
this kind one must rely heavily on intuitive judgment, and that can
sometimes be wrong. So we don’t claim that this article expresses more
than a crude approximation to the truth.

232. All the same we are reasonably confident that the general
outlines of the picture we have painted here are roughly correct. We
have portrayed leftism in its modern form as a phenomenon peculiar to
our time and as a symptom of the disruption of the power process. But
we might possibly be wrong about this. Oversocialized types who try to
satisfy their drive for power by imposing their morality on everyone
have certainly been around for a long time. But we THINK that the
decisive role played by feelings of inferiority, low self-esteem,
powerlessness, identification with victims by people who are not
themselves victims, is a peculiarity of modern leftism. Identification
with victims by people not themselves victims can be seen to some
extent in 19th century leftism and early Christianity but as far as we
can make out, symptoms of low self-esteem, etc., were not nearly so
evident in these movements, or in any other movements, as they are in
modern leftism. But we are not in a position to assert confidently
that no such movements have existed prior to modern leftism. This is a
significant question to which historians ought to give their



1. (Paragraph 19) We are asserting that ALL, or even most, bullies and
ruthless competitors suffer from feelings of inferiority.

2. (Paragraph 25) During the Victorian period many oversocialized
people suffered from serious psychological problems as a result of
repressing or trying to repress their sexual feelings. Freud
apparently based his theories on people of this type. Today the focus
of socialization has shifted from sex to aggression.

3. (Paragraph 27) Not necessarily including specialists in engineering
“hard” sciences.

4. (Paragraph 28) There are many individuals of the middle and upper
classes who resist some of these values, but usually their resistance
is more or less covert. Such resistance appears in the mass media only
to a very limited extent. The main thrust of propaganda in our society
is in favor of the stated values.

The main reasons why these values have become, so to speak, the
official values of our society is that they are useful to the
industrial system. Violence is discouraged because it disrupts the
functioning of the system. Racism is discouraged because ethnic
conflicts also disrupt the system, and discrimination wastes the
talent of minority-group members who could be useful to the system.
Poverty must be “cured” because the underclass causes problems for the
system and contact with the underclass lowers the moral of the other
classes. Women are encouraged to have careers because their talents
are useful to the system and, more importantly because by having
regular jobs women become better integrated into the system and tied
directly to it rather than to their families. This helps to weaken
family solidarity. (The leaders of the system say they want to
strengthen the family, but they really mean is that they want the
family to serve as an effective tool for socializing children in
accord with the needs of the system. We argue in paragraphs 51,52 that
the system cannot afford to let the family or other small-scale social
groups be strong or autonomous.)

5. (Paragraph 42) It may be argued that the majority of people don’t
want to make their own decisions but want leaders to do their thinking
for them. There is an element of truth in this. People like to make
their own decisions in small matters, but making decisions on
difficult, fundamental questions require facing up to psychological
conflict, and most people hate psychological conflict. Hence they tend
to lean on others in making difficult decisions. The majority of
people are natural followers, not leaders, but they like to have
direct personal access to their leaders and participate to some extent
in making difficult decisions. At least to that degree they need

6. (Paragraph 44) Some of the symptoms listed are similar to those
shown by caged animals.

To explain how these symptoms arise from deprivation with respect to
the power process:

Common-sense understanding of human nature tells one that lack of
goals whose attainment requires effort leads to boredom and that
boredom, long continued, often leads eventually to depression. Failure
to obtain goals leads to frustration and lowering of self-esteem.
Frustration leads to anger, anger to aggression, often in the form of
spouse or child abuse. It has been shown that long-continued
frustration commonly leads to depression and that depression tends to
cause guilt, sleep disorders, eating disorders and bad feelings about
oneself. Those who are tending toward depression seek pleasure as an
antidote; hence insatiable hedonism and excessive sex, with
perversions as a means of getting new kicks. Boredom too tends to
cause excessive pleasure-seeking since, lacking other goals, people
often use pleasure as a goal. See accompanying diagram. The foregoing
is a simplification. Reality is more complex, and of course
deprivation with respect to the power process is not the ONLY cause of
the symptoms described. By the way, when we mention depression we do
not necessarily mean depression that is severe enough to be treated by
a psychiatrist. Often only mild forms of depression are involved. And
when we speak of goals we do not necessarily mean long-term, thought
out goals. For many or most people through much of human history, the
goals of a hand-to-mouth existence (merely providing oneself and one’s
family with food from day to day) have been quite sufficient.

7. (Paragraph 52) A partial exception may be made for a few passive,
inward looking groups, such as the Amish, which have little effect on
the wider society. Apart from these, some genuine small-scale
communities do exist in America today. For instance, youth gangs and
“cults”. Everyone regards them as dangerous, and so they are, because
the members of these groups are loyal primarily to one another rather
than to the system, hence the system cannot control them. Or take the
gypsies. The gypsies commonly get away with theft and fraud because
their loyalties are such that they can always get other gypsies to
give testimony that “proves” their innocence. Obviously the system
would be in serious trouble if too many people belonged to such
groups. Some of the early-20th century Chinese thinkers who were
concerned with modernizing China recognized the necessity of breaking
down small-scale social groups such as the family: “(According to Sun
Yat-sen) The Chinese people needed a new surge of patriotism, which
would lead to a transfer of loyalty from the family to the state. .
.(According to Li Huang) traditional attachments, particularly to the
family had to be abandoned if nationalism were to develop to China.”
(Chester C. Tan, Chinese Political Thought in the Twentieth Century,”
page 125, page 297.)

8. (Paragraph 56) Yes, we know that 19th century America had its
problems, and serious ones, but for the sake of breviety we have to
express ourselves in simplified terms.

9. (Paragraph 61) We leave aside the underclass. We are speaking of
the mainstream.

10. (Paragraph 62) Some social scientists, educators, “mental health”
professionals and the like are doing their best to push the social
drives into group 1 by trying to see to it that everyone has a
satisfactory social life.

11. (Paragraphs 63, 82) Is the drive for endless material acquisition
really an artificial creation of the advertising and marketing
industry? Certainly there is no innate human drive for material
acquisition. There have been many cultures in which people have
desired little material wealth beyond what was necessary to satisfy
their basic physical needs (Australian aborigines, traditional Mexican
peasant culture, some African cultures). On the other hand there have
also been many pre-industrial cultures in which material acquisition
has played an important role. So we can’t claim that today’s
acquisition-oriented culture is exclusively a creation of the
advertising and marketing industry. But it is clear that the
advertising and marketing industry has had an important part in
creating that culture. The big corporations that spend millions on
advertising wouldn’t be spending that kind of money without solid
proof that they were getting it back in increased sales. One member of
FC met a sales manager a couple of years ago who was frank enough to
tell him, “Our job is to make people buy things they don’t want and
don’t need.” He then described how an untrained novice could present
people with the facts about a product, and make no sales at all, while
a trained and experienced professional salesman would make lots of
sales to the same people. This shows that people are manipulated into
buying things they don’t really want.

12. (Paragraph 64) The problem of purposelessness seems to have become
less serious during the last 15 years or so, because people now feel
less secure physically and economically than they did earlier, and the
need for security provides them with a goal. But purposelessness has
been replaced by frustration over the difficulty of attaining
security. We emphasize the problem of purposelessness because the
liberals and leftists would wish to solve our social problems by
having society guarantee everyone’s security; but if that could be
done it would only bring back the problem of purposelessness. The real
issue is not whether society provides well or poorly for people’s
security; the trouble is that people are dependent on the system for
their security rather than having it in their own hands. This, by the
way, is part of the reason why some people get worked up about the
right to bear arms; possession of a gun puts that aspect of their
security in their own hands.

13. (Paragraph 66) Conservatives’ efforts to decrease the amount of
government regulation are of little benefit to the average man. For
one thing, only a fraction of the regulations can be eliminated
because most regulations are necessary. For another thing, most of the
deregulation affects business rather than the average individual, so
that its main effect is to take power from the government and give it
to private corporations. What this means for the average man is that
government interference in his life is replaced by interference from
big corporations, which may be permitted, for example, to dump more
chemicals that get into his water supply and give him cancer. The
conservatives are just taking the average man for a sucker, exploiting
his resentment of Big Government to promote the power of Big Business.

14. (Paragraph 73) When someone approves of the purpose for which
propaganda is being used in a given case, he generally calls it
“education” or applies to it some similar euphemism. But propaganda is
propaganda regardless of the purpose for which it is used.

15. (Paragraph 83) We are not expressing approval or disapproval of
the Panama invasion. We only use it to illustrate a point.

16. (Paragraph 95) When the American colonies were under British rule
there were fewer and less effective legal guarantees of freedom than
there were after the American Constitution went into effect, yet there
was more personal freedom in pre-industrial America, both before and
after the War of Independence, than there was after the Industrial
Revolution took hold in this country. We quote from “Violence in
America: Historical and Comparative perspectives,” edited by Hugh
Davis Graham and Ted Robert Gurr, Chapter 12 by Roger Lane, pages
476-478: “The progressive heightening of standards of property, and
with it the increasing reliance on official law enforcement (in 19th
century America). . .were common to the whole society. . .[T]he change
in social behavior is so long term and so widespread as to suggest a
connection with the most fundamental of contemporary social processes;
that of industrial urbanization itself. . .”Massachusetts in 1835 had
a population of some 660,940, 81 percent rural, overwhelmingly
preindustrial and native born. It’s citizens were used to considerable
personal freedom. Whether teamsters, farmers or artisans, they were
all accustomed to setting their own schedules, and the nature of their
work made them physically dependent on each other. . .Individual
problems, sins or even crimes, were not generally cause for wider
social concern. . .”But the impact of the twin movements to the city
and to the factory, both just gathering force in 1835, had a
progressive effect on personal behavior throughout the 19th century
and into the 20th. The factory demanded regularity of behavior, a life
governed by obedience to the rhythms of clock and calendar, the
demands of foreman and supervisor. In the city or town, the needs of
living in closely packed neighborhoods inhibited many actions
previously unobjectionable.

Both blue- and white-collar employees in larger establishments were
mutually dependent on their fellows. as one man’s work fit into
another’s, so one man’s business was no longer his own. “The results
of the new organization of life and work were apparent by 1900, when
some 76 percent of the 2,805,346 inhabitants of Massachusetts were
classified as urbanites. Much violent or irregular behavior which had
been tolerable in a casual, independent society was no longer
acceptable in the more formalized, cooperative atmosphere of the later
period. . .The move to the cities had, in short, produced a more
tractable, more socialized, more ‘civilized’ generation than its

17. (Paragraph 117) Apologists for the system are fond of citing cases
in which elections have been decided by one or two votes, but such
cases are rare.

18. (Paragraph 119) “Today, in technologically advanced lands, men
live very similar lives in spite of geographical, religious and
political differences. The daily lives of a Christian bank clerk in
Chicago, a Buddhist bank clerk in Tokyo, a Communist bank clerk in
Moscow are far more alike than the life any one of them is like that
of any single man who lived a thousand years ago. These similarities
are the result of a common technology. . .” L. Sprague de Camp, “The
Ancient Engineers,” Ballentine edition, page 17.

The lives of the three bank clerks are not IDENTICAL. Ideology does
have SOME effect. But all technological societies, in order to
survive, must evolve along APPROXIMATELY the same trajectory.

19. (Paragraph 123) Just think an irresponsible genetic engineer might
create a lot of terrorists.

20. (Paragraph 124) For a further example of undesirable consequences
of medical progress, suppose a reliable cure for cancer is discovered.
Even if the treatment is too expensive to be available to any but the
elite, it will greatly reduce their incentive to stop the escape of
carcinogens into the environment.

21. (Paragraph 128) Since many people may find paradoxical the notion
that a large number of good things can add up to a bad thing, we will
illustrate with an analogy. Suppose Mr. A is playing chess with Mr. B.
Mr. C, a Grand Master, is looking over Mr. A’s shoulder. Mr. A of
course wants to win his game, so if Mr. C points out a good move for
him to make, he is doing Mr. A a favor. But suppose now that Mr. C
tells Mr. A how to make ALL of his moves. In each particular instance
he does Mr. A a favor by showing him his best move, but by making ALL
of his moves for him he spoils the game, since there is not point in
Mr. A’s playing the game at all if someone else makes all his moves.

The situation of modern man is analogous to that of Mr. A. The system
makes an individual’s life easier for him in innumerable ways, but in
doing so it deprives him of control over his own fate.

22. (Paragraph 137) Here we are considering only the conflict of
values within the mainstream. For the sake of simplicity we leave out
of the picture “outsider” values like the idea that wild nature is
more important than human economic welfare.

23. (Paragraph 137) Self-interest is not necessarily MATERIAL
self-interest. It can consist in fulfillment of some psychological
need, for example, by promoting one’s own ideology or religion.

24. (Paragraph 139) A qualification: It is in the interest of the
system to permit a certain prescribed degree of freedom in some areas.
For example, economic freedom (with suitable limitations and
restraints) has proved effective in promoting economic growth. But
only planned, circumscribed, limited freedom is in the interest of the
system. The individual must always be kept on a leash, even if the
leash is sometimes long( see paragraphs 94, 97).

25. (Paragraph 143) We don’t mean to suggest that the efficiency or
the potential for survival of a society has always been inversely
proportional to the amount of pressure or discomfort to which the
society subjects people. That is certainly not the case. There is good
reason to believe that many primitive societies subjected people to
less pressure than the European society did, but European society
proved far more efficient than any primitive society and always won
out in conflicts with such societies because of the advantages
conferred by technology.

26. (Paragraph 147) If you think that more effective law enforcement
is unequivocally good because it suppresses crime, then remember that
crime as defined by the system is not necessarily what YOU would call
crime. Today, smoking marijuana is a “crime,” and, in some places in
the U.S.., so is possession of ANY firearm, registered or not, may be
made a crime, and the same thing may happen with disapproved methods
of child-rearing, such as spanking. In some countries, expression of
dissident political opinions is a crime, and there is no certainty
that this will never happen in the U.S., since no constitution or
political system lasts forever.

If a society needs a large, powerful law enforcement establishment,
then there is something gravely wrong with that society; it must be
subjecting people to severe pressures if so many refuse to follow the
rules, or follow them only because forced. Many societies in the past
have gotten by with little or no formal law-enforcement.

27. (Paragraph 151) To be sure, past societies have had means of
influencing behavior, but these have been primitive and of low
effectiveness compared with the technological means that are now being

28. (Paragraph 152) However, some psychologists have publicly
expressed opinions indicating their contempt for human freedom. And
the mathematician Claude Shannon was quoted in Omni (August 1987) as
saying, “I visualize a time when we will be to robots what dogs are to
humans, and I’m rooting for the machines.”

29. (Paragraph 154) This is no science fiction! After writing
paragraph 154 we came across an article in Scientific American
according to which scientists are actively developing techniques for
identifying possible future criminals and for treating them by a
combination of biological and psychological means. Some scientists
advocate compulsory application of the treatment, which may be
available in the near future. (See “Seeking the Criminal Element”, by
W. Wayt Gibbs, Scientific American, March 1995.) Maybe you think this
is OK because the treatment would be applied to those who might become
drunk drivers (they endanger human life too), then perhaps to peel who
spank their children, then to environmentalists who sabotage logging
equipment, eventually to anyone whose behavior is inconvenient for the

30. (Paragraph 184) A further advantage of nature as a counter-ideal
to technology is that, in many people, nature inspires the kind of
reverence that is associated with religion, so that nature could
perhaps be idealized on a religious basis. It is true that in many
societies religion has served as a support and justification for the
established order, but it is also true that religion has often
provided a basis for rebellion. Thus it may be useful to introduce a
religious element into the rebellion against technology, the more so
because Western society today has no strong religious foundation.

Religion, nowadays either is used as cheap and transparent support for
narrow, short-sighted selfishness (some conservatives use it this
way), or even is cynically exploited to make easy money (by many
evangelists), or has degenerated into crude irrationalism
(fundamentalist Protestant sects, “cults”), or is simply stagnant
(Catholicism, main-line Protestantism). The nearest thing to a strong,
widespread, dynamic religion that the West has seen in recent times
has been the quasi-religion of leftism, but leftism today is
fragmented and has no clear, unified inspiring goal.

Thus there is a religious vaccuum in our society that could perhaps be
filled by a religion focused on nature in opposition to technology.
But it would be a mistake to try to concoct artificially a religion to
fill this role. Such an invented religion would probably be a failure.
Take the “Gaia” religion for example. Do its adherents REALLY believe
in it or are they just play-acting? If they are just play-acting their
religion will be a flop in the end.

It is probably best not to try to introduce religion into the conflict
of nature vs. technology unless you REALLY believe in that religion
yourself and find that it arouses a deep, strong, genuine response in
many other people.

31. (Paragraph 189) Assuming that such a final push occurs.
Conceivably the industrial system might be eliminated in a somewhat
gradual or piecemeal fashion. (see paragraphs 4, 167 and Note 4).

32. (Paragraph 193) It is even conceivable (remotely) that the
revolution might consist only of a massive change of attitudes toward
technology resulting in a relatively gradual and painless
disintegration of the industrial system. But if this happens we’ll be
very lucky. It’s far more probably that the transition to a
nontechnological society will be very difficult and full of conflicts
and disasters.

33. (Paragraph 195) The economic and technological structure of a
society are far more important than its political structure in
determining the way the average man lives (see paragraphs 95, 119 and
Notes 16, 18).

34. (Paragraph 215) This statement refers to our particular brand of
anarchism. A wide variety of social attitudes have been called
“anarchist,” and it may be that many who consider themselves
anarchists would not accept our statement of paragraph 215. It should
be noted, by the way, that there is a nonviolent anarchist movement
whose members probably would not accept FC as anarchist and certainly
would not approve of FC’s violent methods.

35. (Paragraph 219) Many leftists are motivated also by hostility, but
the hostility probably results in part from a frustrated need for

36. (Paragraph 229) It is important to understand that we mean someone
who sympathizes with these MOVEMENTS as they exist today in our
society. One who believes that women, homosexuals, etc., should have
equal rights is not necessarily a leftist. The feminist, gay rights,
etc., movements that exist in our society have the particular
ideological tone that characterizes leftism, and if one believes, for
example, that women should have equal rights it does not necessarily
follow that one must sympathize with the feminist movement as it
exists today.

If copyright problems make it impossible for this long quotation to be
printed, then please change Note 16 to read as follows:

16. (Paragraph 95) When the American colonies were under British rule
there were fewer and less effective legal guarantees of freedom than
there were after the American Constitution went into effect, yet there
was more personal freedom in pre-industrial America, both before and
after the War of Independence, than there was after the Industrial
Revolution took hold in this country. In “Violence in America:
Historical and Comparative Perspectives,” edited by Hugh Davis Graham
and Ted Robert Gurr, Chapter 12 by Roger Lane, it is explained how in
pre-industrial America the average person had greater independence and
autonomy than he does today, and how the process of industrialization
necessarily led to the restriction of personal freedom.


• List of Fictional Works in Gargantua & Pantagruel •

 First Published in 1532
Gargantua & Pantagruel
is a garrulous pantology
written by Benedictine monk
Alcofribas Nasier [Francois Rabelais]


Abbots’ Donkey-Size Pricks

Advanced Asslicking, for Graduate Students

Adversus quemdam qui vocaverat eum fripponatorem, et quod fripponatores non sunt damnati ab Ecclesia, by Sutor

Alchemists’ Windpipes

And Cheese, Too

Antidotarium animae, by Merlin Coccaius

Antipericatamentanaparbeugedamphibricationes, or Discussions on All Manner of Subjects by Shit Monks

Ars honeste petandi in societate, by Hardouin de Graetz

Astrology’s Chimney Sweep

Badinatorium Sophistarum

Ball-biting Promoters

Barbouilamenta Scoti, by Scotus

Batwing Hats for Cardinals

Begging Monks’ Stew

Bell Ringers’ Ballgames

Bigot’s Stew

Bigua salutis

Bishops’ Antidotes for Aphrodisiacs

The Bishops’ Bagpipes

Blinders for the Road to Rome

Boots for the Stouthearted

Bragueta juris

Cacatorium medicorum

Callibistratorium caffardie, actore M. Jacobo Hostratem hereticometra, by Jacobo Hostratem

Campi clysteriorum, by Symphorien Champier

Cardinal Cajetan’s Whinnyings

Catalogue of Academic Candidates

The Chains of Religion

Cheated Husbands in Court

Close-Shaven Clerks, by Ockham

The Clownishness of Little Priests

Commercial Rope Tricks

The Cost of Letting Monks Beg

The Crucible of Contemplation

Cullebutatorium confratiarm

De auferibilitate pape ab ecclesia, by Gerson

De Baboinis et cingis, cum commento Dorbellis, by Marmotretus

De batisfolagiis principium, by R. Lullius

De bobelinandis glosse Accursiane baguenaudis repetitio enucidiluculidissiam, by Pilloti Raquedenari

De brodiorum usa et honestate chopinandi, by Silvester of Priero

De cagotis tollendis, by Justinianus

De calcaribus removendis decades undecium, by Aubry de Rosata

De capreolis cum chardoneta comedendis, tempore Papali ab Ecclesia interdicto, by Pasquilli

De castrametandis crinibus, by Ejusdem

De compotationibus mendicantium, by Friar Lubinus

De croquendis lardonibus, by Reverend Father Friar Lubinus

De Differentiis soupparum, by Guillaume Briçot

De emulgentiarum profectibus enneades novem, cum privilegio papeli ad triennium, et posteanon, by Bishop Boudarinus

De grabellationibus horarum canonicarum lib. quadraginta by Maîstre Fripesaulcetis

De Magistro nostrandorum magistro nostratorumque beuvetis lib. octo galantissimi, by Chaultcouillon

De modo cacandi, by Tartaretus

De modo faciendi boudinos, by Majoris

De moustarda post prandium servienda lib. quatuordecium, apostilati per M. Vaurillon, by M. N. Rostocostojambedanesse

De optimitate triparum, by Beda

De originbe patepelutarum et torticollorum ritibus lib. septem, by Moillegroin

De patria diabolorum, by Merlin Coccaius

De pelendis mascarendisque cardinalium mulis, by Marforius

De re militari, cum figuris Tevoti, by Franctopinus

De terribiliditate excommunicationum libellus acephalos, by Jo. Dytebrodius

De usa et utilitate escorchandi equos et equas, by “Our Master of Quebecu”

De vita et honestate braguardorum by Lourdadus

Decretum universitatis Parisiensis super gorgiasitate muliercularum ad placitum

Decrotarorium scholarium

Dribbling Tipplings by Useless Bishops

Fairy Tales of the Law

Faking the Holy Cross

Folk Dances for Heretics

Forcible Removal in Matters Requiring a Conscience

Formicarium artium

Fun With Dice

Garters, or Patience’s Knee-Boots

The Guzzlers’ Den, by Alcofrybas Nasier

Heretics’ Hides

Heroes’ Elephant Balls

The History of Elves, Brownies, and Hobgoblins

How a Vision of Saint Gertrude Appeared to a Nun, at Poissy, When She Went into Labor

How Fast Friars Fool Around

How Grabby Beggars Grab, collected by Brother Cut-your-wallet

How Priests Cover Themselves

How Priests Say No

How to Get to the Bottom, in Discipline

How to Keep It Up Till You’re Ninety

How to Make a Nobleman Shut Up

How Virgins Shit

How Wine Spurs You On

Humility’s Worn-out Shoe

The Hungry Jaws of Lawyers

Incessant Fartings of Ecclesiastical Scriveners: Scribes, Copyists, Abbreviators, Court Clerks, and Calendar Fixers, compiled by Regis

Ingeniositas invocandi diabolos et diabolas, by Guingolfus

Judges’ Bulging Bellies

Ladies’ Finger Bells

Landing in Brazil, by Antonio de Leva

Lawyers’ Complaints about the Abolition of Bribes

Lyripipi Sorbonici Moralisationes, by Lupoldus

Magistrates in Cat Fur

Magnanimity’s Stewpot

Making Money on Indulgences

Malogranatum vitiorum

Maneries ramonandi fournellos, by Eccius

Marriage Tied Around with a String

Misers’ Mountains

Monks’ Cowls

The Musty Mustard-Pot of Penitence

The Notary’s Basket

Official Swindlers

Old Soldiers and Other Bums

On the Clownishness of Country Priests

On the Serving of Mustard after Meals, fourteen volumes, collected by M. Vaurillon

Pantofla decretorum

Peas in Lard, with commentary

Perpetual Almanac for Those Afflicted with Gout or the Pox

The Pharmacists’ Fart Sucker

Piety’s Handcuffs

Pleasures of the Monastic Life

Poetasters’ Bellybuttons

Poiltronismus rerum Italicarum, by Etienne Brulefer

Political Glue

A Pot for All Seasons

The Preacher’s Featherduster by a bum

Prognostication, by Songecruyson, the “Master of Useless Dreams”

Quaestio subtilissima, utrum Chimera in vacuo bombinans possit comedere secundus intentiones, et fuit debatuta per decem hebdomadas in concilio Constantiensi

Rear-Flapping Trousers for Shitheads

Roman Fanfares

Stories of the Kings of Canarre, by Marotus du Lac

Stratagemata Francharchieri de Bagnolet

Stupid Noises by Celestine Monks

Surgery’s Kiss-My-Ass

The Sweat Stink of Spaniards, by Iñigo de Loyola

Tarraballationes Doctorum Coloniensium adversus Reuchlin

Theologians’ Rat Traps

Theology’s Tennis Ball

Thieves’ Dens

Travelers’ Trinkets

Tricks by Trixies and Elves

The Tripe-Pod of Noble Thought

Virevoustatorium nacquettorum by F. Pedebilletis

What Bothers Priests about Holy Confession

Why Hermits Have Pendulous Beards

Why Monkeys Smack Their Lips When They Pray

Widows’ Bald Asses

Worm Powder for the Poor


• On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry •

C.G. Jung’s lecture was given at the
Society for German Language and Literature.
Zurich, 1922


In spite of its difficulty, the task of discussing the relation of analytical psychology to poetry affords me a welcome opportunity to define my views on the much debated question of the relations between psychology and art in general. Although the two things cannot be compared, the close connections which undoubtedly exist between them call for investigation. These connections arise from the fact that the practice of art is a psychological activity and, as such, can be approached from a psychogical angle. Considered in this light, art, like any other human activity deriving from psychic motives, is a proper subject for psychology. This statement, however, involves a very definite limitation of the psychological viewpoint when we come to apply it in practice. Only that aspect of art which consists in the process of artistic creation can be a subject for psychological study, but not that which constitutes its essential nature. The question of what art is in itself can never be answered by the psychologist, but must he approached from the side of aesthetics.

A similar distinction must be made in the realm of religion. A psychological approach is permissible only in regard to the emotions and symbols which constitute the phenomenology of religion, but which do not touch upon its essential nature. If the essence of religion and art could be explained, then both of them would become mere subdivisions of psychology. This is not to say that such violations of their nature have not been attempted. But those who are guilty of them obviously forget that a similar fate might easily befall psychology, since its intrinsic value and specific quality would be destroyed if it were regarded as a mere activity of the brain, and were relegated along with the endocrine functions to a subdivision of physiology. This too, as we know, has been attempted.

Art by its very nature is not science, and science by its very nature is not art; both these spheres of the mind have something in reserve that is peculiar to them and can be explained only in its own terms. Hence when we speak of the relation of psychology to art, we shall treat only of that aspect of art which can be submitted to psychological scrutiny without violating its nature. Whatever the psychologist has to say about art will be confined to the process of artistic creation and has nothing to do with its innermost essence. He can no more explain this than the intellect can describe or even understand the nature of feeling. Indeed, art and science would not exist as separate entities at all if the fundamental difference between them had not long since forced itself on the mind. The fact that artistic, scientific, and religious propensities still slumber peacefully together in the small child, or that with primitives the beginnings of art, science, and religion coalesce in the undifferentiated chaos of the magical mentality, or that no trace of “mind” can be found in the natural instincts of animals – all this does nothing to prove the existence of a unifying principle which alone would justify a reduction of the one to the other. For if we go so far back into the history of the mind that the distinctions between its various fields of activity become altogether invisible, we do not reach an underlying principle of their unity, but merely an earlier, undifferentiated state in which no separate activities yet exist. But the elementary state is not an explanatory principle that would allow us to draw conclusions as to the nature of later, more highly developed states, even though they must necessarily derive from it. A scientific attitude will always tend to overlook the peculiar nature of these more differentiated states in favour of their causal derivation, and will endeavour to subordinate them to a general but more elementary principle.

These theoretical reflections seem to me very much in place today, when we so often find that works of art, and particularly poetry, are interpreted precisely in this manner, by reducing them to more elementary states. Though the material he works with and its individual treatment can easily be traced back to the poet’s personal relations with his parents, this does not enable us to understand his poetry. The same reduction can be made in all sorts of other fields, and not least in the case of pathological disturbances. Neuroses and psychoses are likewise reducible to infantile relations with the parents, and so are a mans good and bad habits, his beliefs, peculiarities, passions, interests, and so forth. It can hardly be supposed that all these very different things must have exactly the same explanation, for otherwise we would be driven to the conclusion that they actually are the same thing. If a work of art is explained in the same way as a neurosis, then either the work of art is a neurosis or a neurosis is a work of art. This explanation isall very well as a play on words, but sound common sense rebels against putting a work of art on the same level as a neurosis. An analyst might, in an extreme case, view a neurosis as a work of art through the lens of his professional bias, but it would never occur to an intelligent layman to mistake a pathological phenomenon for art, in spite of the undeniable fact that a work of art arises from much the same psychological conditions as a neurosis. This is only natural, because certain of these conditions are present in every individual and, owing to the relative constancy of the human environment, are constantly the same, whether in the case of a nervous intellectual, a poet, or a normal human being. All have had parents, all have a father- or a mother-complex, all know about sex and therefore have certain common and typical human difficulties. One poet may be influenced more by his relation to his father, another by the tie to his mother, while a third shows unmistakable traces of sexual repression in his poetry. Since all this can be said equally well not only of every neurotic but of every normal human being, nothing specific is gained for the judgment of a work of art. At most our knowledge of its psychological antecedents will have been broadened and deepened.

The school of medical psychology inaugurated by Freud has undoubtedly encouraged the literary historian to bring certain peculiarities of a work of art into relation with the intimate, personal life of the poet. But this is nothing new in principle, for it has long been known that the scientific treatment of art will reveal the personal threads that the artist, intentionally or unintentionally, has woven into his work. The Freudian approach may, however, make possible a more exhaustive demonstration of the influences that reach back into earliest childhood and play their part in artistic creation. To this extent the psychoanalysis of art differs in no essential from the subtle psychological nuances of a penetrating literary analysis. The difference is at most question of degree, though we may occasionally be surprised by indiscreet references to things which a rather more delicate touch might have passed over if only for reasons of tact. This lack of delicacy seems to be a professional peculiarity of the medical psychologist, and the temptation to draw daring conclusions easily leads to flagrant abuses. A slight whiff of scandal often lends spice to a biography, but a little more becomes a nasty inquisitiveness – bad taste masquerading as science. Our interest is insidiously deflected from the work of art and gets lost in the labyrinth of psychic determinants, the poet becomes a clinical case and, very likely, yet another addition to the curiosa of psychopathia sexualis. But this means that the psychoanalysis of art has turned aside from its proper objective and strayed into a province that is as broad as mankind, that is not in the least specific of the artist and has even less relevance to his art.

This kind of analysis brings the work of art into the sphere of general human psychology – where many other things besides art have their origin. To explain art in these terms is just as great a platitude as the statement that “every artist is a narcissist.” Every man who pursues his own goal is a “narcissist” – though one wonders how permissible it is to give such wide cur-rency to a term specifically coined for the pathology of neurosis. The statement therefore amounts to nothing; it merely elicits the faint surprise of a bon mot. Since this kind of analysis is in no way concerned with the work of art itself, but strives like a mole to bury itself in the dirt as speedily as possible, it always ends up in the common earth that unites all mankind. Hence its explanations have the same tedious monotony as the recitals which one daily hears in the consulting-room.

The reductive method of Freud is a purely medical one, and the treatment is directed at a pathological or otherwise unsuitable formation which has taken the place of the normal functioning. It must therefore be broken down, and the way cleared for healthy adaptation. In this case, reduction to the common human foundation is altogether appropriate. But when applied to a work of art it leads to the results I have described. It strips the work of art of its shimmering robes and exposes the nakedness and drabness of Homo sapiens, to which species the poet and artist also belong. The golden gleam of artistic creation – the original object of discussion – is extinguished as soon as we apply to it the same corrosive method which we use in analysing the fantasies of hysteria. The results are no doubt very interesting and may perhaps have the same kind of scientific value as, for instance, a post-mortem examination of the brain of Nietzsche, which might conceivably show us the particular atypical form of paralysis from which he died. But what would this have to do with Zarathustra? Whatever its subterranean background may have been, is it not a whole world in itself, beyond the human, all-too-human imperfections, beyond the world of migraine and cerebral atrophy?

I have spoken of Freud’s reductive method but have not stated in what that method consists. It is essentially a medical technique for investigating morbid psychic phenomena, and it is solely concerned with the ways and means of getting round or peering through the foreground of consciousness in order to reach the psychic background, or the unconscious. It is based on the assumption that the neurotic patient represses certain psychic contents because they are morally incompatible with his conscious values. It follows that the repressed contents must have correspondingly negative traits – infantile-sexual, obscene, or even criminal – which make them unacceptable to consciousness. Since no man is perfect, everyone must possess such a background whether he admits it or not. Hence it can always be exposed if only one uses the technique of interpretation worked out by Freud.

In the short space of a lecture I cannot, of course, enter into the details of the technique. A few hints must suffice. The unconscious background does not remain inactive, but betrays itself by its characteristic effects on the contents of consciousness. For example, it produces fantasies of a peculiar nature, which can easily be interpreted as sexual images. Or it produces characteristic disturbances of the conscious processes, which again can be reduced to repressed contents. A very important source for knowledge of the unconscious contents is provided by dreams, since these are direct products of the activity of the unconscious. The essential thing in Freud’s reductive method is to collect all the clues pointing to the unconscious background, and then, through the analysis and interpretation of this material, to reconstruct the elementary instinctual processes. Those conscious contents which give us a clue to the unconscious background are incorrectly called symbols by Freud. They are not true symbols, however, since according to his theory they have merely the role of signs or symptoms of the subliminal processes. The true symbol differs essentially from this, and should be understood as an expression of an intuitive idea that cannot yet be formulated in any other or better way. When Plato, for instance, puts the whole problem of the theory of knowledge in his parable of the cave, or when Christ expresses the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven in parables, these are genuine and true symbols, that is, attempts to express something for which no verbal concept yet exists. If we were to interpret Plato’s metaphor in Freudian terms we would naturally arrive at the uterus, and would have proved that even a mind like Plato’s was still struck on a primitive level of infantile sexuality. But we would have completely overlooked what Plato actually created out of the primitive determinants of his philosophical ideas; we would have missed the essential point and merely discovered that he had infantile sexual fantasies like any other mortal. Such a discovery could be of value only for a man who regarded Plato as superhuman, and who can now state with satisfaction that Plato too was an ordinary human being. But who would want to regard Plato as a god? Surely only one who is dominated by infantile fantasies and therefore possesses a neurotic mentality. For him the reduction to common human truths is salutary on medical grounds, but this would have nothing whatever to do with the meaning of Plato’s parable.

I have purposely dwelt on the application of medical psychoanalysis to works of art because I want to emphasize that the psychoanalytic method is at the same time an essential part of the Freudian doctrine. Freud himself by his rigid dogmatism has ensured that the method and the doctrine – in themselves two very different things – are regarded by the public as identical. Yet the method may be employed with beneficial results in medical cases without at the same time exalting it into a doctrine. And against this doctrine we are bound to raise vigorous objections. The assumptions it rests on are quite arbitrary. For example, neuroses are by no means exclusively caused by sexual repression, and the same holds true for psychoses. There is no foundation for saying that dreams merely contain repressed wishes whose moral incompatibility requires them to be disguised by a hypothetical dream-censor. The Freudian technique of interpretation, so far as it remains under the influence of its own one-sided and therefore erroneous hypotheses, displays a quite obvious bias.

In order to do justice to a work of art, analytical psychology must rid itself entirely of medical prejudice; for a work of art is not a disease, and consequently requires a different approach from the medical one. A doctor naturally has to seek out the causes of a disease in order to pull it up by the roots, but just as naturally the psychologist must adopt exactly the opposite attitude towards a work of art. Instead of investigating its typically human determinants, he will inquire first of all into its meaning, and will concern himself with its determinants only in so far as they enable him to understand it more fully. Personal causes have as much or as little to do with a work of art as the soil with the plant that springs from it. We can certainly learn to understand some of the plant’s peculiarities by getting to know its habitat, and for the botanist this is an important part of his equipment. But nobody will maintain that everything essential has then been discovered about the plant itself. The personal orientation which the doctor needs when confronted with the question of aetiology in medicine is quite out of place in dealing with a work of art, just because a work of art is not a human being, but is something supra-personal. It is a thing and not a personality; hence it cannot be judged by personal criteria. Indeed, the special significance of a true work of art resides in the fact that it has escaped from the limitations of the personal and has soared beyond the personal concerns of its creator.

I must confess from my own experience that it is not at all easy for a doctor to lay aside his professional bias when considering a work of art and look at it with a mind cleared of the current biological causality. But I have come to learn that although a psychology with a purely biological orientation can explain a good deal about man in general, it cannot be applied to a work of art and still less to man as creator. A purely causalistic psychology is only able to reduce every human individual to a member of the species Homo sapiens, since its range is limited to what is transmitted by heredity or derived from other sources. But a work of art is not transmitted or derived – it is a creative reorganization of those very conditions to which a causalistic psychology must always reduce it. The plant is not a mere product of the soil; it is a living, self-contained process which in essence has nothing to do with the character of the soil. In the same way, the meaning and individual quality of a work of art inhere within it and not in its extrinsic determinants. One might almost describe it as a living being that uses man only as a nutrient medium, employing his capacities according to its own laws and shaping itself to the fulfilment of its own creative purpose.

But here I am anticipating somewhat, for I have in mind a particular type of art which I still have to introduce. Not every work of art originates in the way I have just described. There are literary works, prose as well as poetry, that spring wholly from the author’s intention to produce a particular result. He submits his material to a definite treatment with a definite aim in view; he adds to it and subtracts from it, emphasizing one effect, toning down another, laying on a touch of colour here, another there, all the time carefully considering the over-all result and paying strict attention to the laws of form and style. He exercises the keenest judgment and chooses his words with complete freedom. His material is entirely subordinated to his artistic purpose; he wants to express this and nothing else. He is wholly at one with the creative process, no matter whether be has deliberately made himself its spearhead, as it were, or whether it has made him its instrument so completely that he has lost all consciousness of this fact. In either case, the artist is so identified with his work that his intentions and his faculties are indistinguishable from the act of creation itself. There is no need, I think, to give examples of this from the history of literature or from the testimony of the artists themselves.

Nor need I cite examples of the other class of works which flow more or less complete and perfect from the author’s pen. They come as it were fully arrayed into the world, as Pallas Athene sprang from the head of Zeus. These works positively force themselves upon the author; his hand is seized, his pen writes things that his mind contemplates with amazement. The I work brings with it its own form; anything he wants to add is rejected, and what he himself would like to reject is thrust back at him. While his conscious mind stands amazed and empty before this phenomenon, he is overwhelmed by a flood of thoughts and images which he never intended to create and which his own will could never have brought into being. Yet in spite of himself he is forced to admit that it is his own self speaking, his own inner nature revealing itself and uttering things which he could never have entrusted to his tongue. He can only obey the apparently alien impulse within him and follow where it leads, sensing that his work is greater than himself, and wields a power which is not his and which he cannot command. Here the artist is not identical with the process of creation; he is aware that he subordinate to his work or stands outside it, as though he were – a second person; or as though a person other than himself had fallen within the magic circle of an alien will.

So when we discuss the psychology of art, we must bear in mind these two entirely different modes of creation, for much that is of the greatest importance in judging a work of art depends on this distinction. It is one that had been sensed earlier by Schiller, who as we know attempted to classify it in his concept of the sentimental and the naive. The psychologist would call “sentimental” art introverted and the “naive” kind extraverted. The introverted attitude is characterized by the subject’s assertion of his conscious intentions and aims against the demands of the object, whereas the extraverted attitude is characterized by the subject’s subordination to the demands which the object makes upon him. In my view, Schiller’s plays and most of his poems give one a good idea of the introverted atti-tude: the material is mastered by the conscious intentions of the poet. The extraverted attitude is illustrated by the second part of Faust: here the material is distinguished by its refractoriness. A still more striking example is Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, where the author himself observed how ”one became two.”

From what I have said, it will be apparent that a shift of psychological standpoint has taken place as soon as one speaks not of the poet as a person but of the creative process that moves him. When the focus of interest shifts to the latter, the poet comes into the picture only as a reacting subject. This is immediately evident in our second category of works, where the consciousness of he poet is not identical with the creative process. But in works of the first category the opposite appears to hold true. Here the poet appears to be the creative process itself, and to create of his own free will without the slightest feeling of compulsion. He may even be fully convinced of his freedom of action and refuse to admit that his work could be anything else than the expression of his will and ability.

Here we are faced with a question which we cannot answer from the testimony of the poets themselves. It is really a scientific problem that psychology atone can solve. As I hinted earlier, it might well be that the poet, while apparently creating out of himself and producing what he consciously intends, is nevertheless so carried away by the creative impulse that he is no longer aware of an “alien” will, just as the other type of poet is no longer aware of his own will speaking to him in the apparently “alien” inspiration, although this is manifestly the voice of his own self. The poet’s conviction that he is creating in absolute freedom would then be an illusion: he fancies he is swimming, but in reality an unseen current sweeps him along.

This is not by any means an academic question, but is supported by the evidence of analytical psychology. Researches have shown that there are all sorts of ways in which the conscious mind is not only influenced by the unconscious but actually guided by it. Yet is there any evidence for the supposition that a poet, despite his self-awareness, may be taken captive by his work? The proof may be of two kinds, direct or indirect. Direct proof would be afforded by a poet who thinks he knows what he is saying but actually says more than he is aware of. Such cases are not uncommon. Indirect proof would be found in cases where behind the apparent free will of the poet there stands a higher imperative that renews its peremptory demands as soon as the poet voluntarily gives up his creative activity, or that produces psychic complications whenever his work has to be broken off against his will.

Analysis of artists consistently shows not only the strength of the. creative impulse arising from the unconscious, but also its capricious and willfull character. The biographies of great artists make abundantly clear that the creative urge is of ten so imperious that it battens on their humanity and yokes everything to the service of the work, even at the cost of health and ordinary human happiness. The unborn work in the psyche of the artist is a force of nature that achieves its end either with tyrannical might or with the subtle cunning of nature herself, quite regardless of the personal fate of the man who is its vehicle. The creative urge lives and grows in him like a tree in the earth from which it draws its nourishment. We would do well, therefore, to think of the creative process as a living thing implanted in the human psyche. In the language of analytical psychology this living thing is an autonomous complex. It is a split-off portion of the psyche, which leads a life of its own outside the hierarchy of consciousness. Depending on its energy charge, it may appear either as a mere disturbance of conscious activities or as a supraordinate authority which can harness the ego to its purpose. Accordingly, the poet who identifies with the creative process would he one who acquiesces from the start when the unconscious imperative begins to function. But the other poet, who feels the creative Force as something alien, is one who for various reasons cannot acquiesce and is thus caught unawares.

It might be expected that this difference in its origins would be perceptible in a work of art. For in the one case it is a conscious product shaped and designed to have the effect intended. But in the other we are dealing with an event originating in unconscious nature; with something that achieves its aim without the assistance of human consciousness, and often defies it by wilfully insisting on its own form and effect. We would therefore expect that works belonging to the first class would nowhere overstep the limits of comprehension, that their effect would be bounded by the author’s intention and would not extend beyond it. But with works of the other class we would have to be prepared for something suprapersonal that transcends our understanding to the same degree that the author’s consciousness was in abeyance during the process of creation. We would expect a strangeness of form and content, thoughts that can only be apprehended intuitively, a language pregnant with meanings, and images that are true symbols because they are the best possible expressions for something unknown – bridges thrown out towards an unseen shore.

These criteria are, by and large, corroborated in practice. Whenever we are confronted with a work that was consciously planned and with material that was consciously selected, we find that it agrees with the first class of qualities, and in the other case with the second. The example we gave of Schiller’s plays on the one hand, and Faust II on the other, or better still Zarathustra, is an illustration of this. But I would not undertake to place the work of an unknown poet in either of these categories without first having examined rather closely his personal relations with his work. It is not enough to know whether the poet belongs to the introverted or to the extraverted type, since it is possible for either type to work with an introverted attitude at one time, and an extraverted attitude at another. This is partic-ularly noticeable in the difference between Schiller’s plays and his philosophical writings, between Goethe’s perfectly formed poems and the obvious struggle with his material in Faust II, and between Nietzsche’s well-turned aphorisms and the rushing torrent of Zarathutstra. The same poet can adopt different atti-tudes to his work at different times, and on this depends the standard we have to apply.

The question, as we now see, is exceedingly complicated, and the complication grows even worse when we consider the case of the poet who identifies with the creative process. For should it turn out that the apparently conscious and purposeful manner of composition is a subjective illusion of the poet, then his work would possess symbolic qualities that are outside the range of his consciousness. They would only be more difficult to detect, because the reader as well would be unable to get beyond the bounds of the poet’s consciousness which are fixed by the spirit of the time. There is no Archimedean point outside his world by which he could lift his time-bound consciousness off its hinges and recognize the symbols hidden in the poet’s work. For a symbol is the intimation of a meaning beyond the level of our present powers of comprehension.

I raise this question only because I do not want my typological classification to limit the possible significance of works of art which apparently mean no more than what they say. But we have often found that a poet who has gone out of fashion is suddenly rediscovered. This happens when our conscious develop-ment has reached a higher level from which the poet can tell us something new. It was always present in his work but was hidden in a symbol and only a renewal of the spirit of the time permits us to read its meaning. It needed to be looked at with fresher eyes, for the old ones could see in it only what they were accustomed to see. Experiences of this kind should make us cautious, as they bear out my earlier argument. But works that are openly symbolic do not require this subtle approach; their pregnant language cries out at us that they mean more than they say. We can put our finger on the symbol at once, even though we may not be able to unriddle its meaning to our entire satisfaction. A symbol remains a perpetual challenge to our thoughts and feelings. That probably explains why a symbolic work is so stimulating, why it grips us so intensely, but also why it seldom affords us a purely aesthetic enjoyment. A work that is manifestly not symbolic appeals much more to our aesthetic sensibility because it is complete in itself and fulfils its purpose.

What then, you may ask, can analytical psychology contribute to our fundamental problem, which is the mystery of artistic creation? All that we have said so far has to do only with the psychological phenomenology of art. Since nobody can penetrate to the heart of nature you will not expect psychology to do the impossible and offer a valid explanation of the secret of creativity. Like every other science, psychology has only a modest contribution to make towards a deeper understanding of the phenomena of life, and is no nearer than its sister sciences to absolute knowledge.

We have talked so much about the meaning of works of art that one can hardly suppress a doubt as to whether art really “means” anything at all. Perhaps art has no “meaning,” at least not as we understand meaning. Perhaps it is like nature, which simply is and “means” nothing beyond that. Is “meaning” necessarily more than mere interpretation – an interpretation secreted into something by an intellect hungry for meaning? Art, it has been said, is beauty, and “a thing of beauty is a joy for ever.” It needs no meaning, for meaning has nothing to do with art. Within the sphere of art, I must accept the truth of this statement. But when I speak of the relation of psychology to art we are outside its sphere, and it is impossible for us not to Speculate. We must interpret, we must find meanings in things, other-wise we would be quite unable to think about them. We have to break down life and events, which are self-contained processes, into meanings images, concepts well knowing that in doing so we are getting further away from the living mystery. As long as we ourselves are caught up in the process of creation, we neither see nor understand; indeed we ought not to understand, for nothing is more injurious to immediate experience than cognition. But for the purpose of cognitive understanding we must detach ourselves from the creative process and look at it from the outside; only then does it become an image that expresses what we are bound to call “meaning.” What was a mere phenomenon before becomes something that in association with other phenomena has meaning, that has a definite role to play, serves certain ends, and exerts meaningful effects. And when we have seen all this we get the feeling of having understood and explained something. In this way we meet the demands of science.

When, a little earlier, we spoke of a work of art as a tree growing out of the nourishing soil, we might equally well have compared it to a child growing in the womb But as all comparisons are lame, let us stick to the more precise terminology of Science. You will remember that I described the nascent work in the psyche of the artist as an autonomous complex. By this we mean a psychic formation that remains subliminal until its energy-charge is sufficient to carry it over the threshold into consciousness. Its association with consciousness does not mean that it is assimilated, only that it is perceived; but it is not subject to conscious control, and can be neither inhibited nor voluntarily reproduced. Therein lies the autonomy of the complex: it appears and disappears in accordance with its own inherent tendencies, independently of the conscious will. The creative complex shares this peculiarity with every other autonomous complex. In this respect it offers an analogy with pathological processes, since these too are characterized by the presence of autonomous complexes, particularly in the case of mental disturbances. The divine frenzy of the artist comes perilously close to a pathological state, though the two things are not identical. The tertium comparationis is the autonomous complex. But the presence of autonomous complexes is not in itself pathological, since normal people, too, fall temporarily or permanently under their domination. This fact is simply one of the normal peculiarities of the psyche, and for a man to be unaware of the exist-ence of an autonomous complex merely betrays a high degree of unconsciousness. Every typical attitude that is to some extent differentiated shows a tendency to become an autonomous complex and in most cases it actually does. Again, every instinct has more or less the character of an autonomous complex. In itself, therefore, in autonomous complex has nothing morbid about it; only when its manifestations are frequent and disturbing is it a symptom of illness.

How does an autonomous complex arise? For reasons which we cannot go into here, a hitherto unconscious portion of the psyche is thrown into activity, and gains ground by activating the adjacent areas of association. The energy needed for this is naturally drawn from consciousness – unless the latter happens to identify with the complex. But where this does not occur, the drain of energy produces what Janet calls an abaissement du niveau mental. The intensity of conscious interests and activities gradually diminishes, leading either to apathy – a condition very common with artists – or to a regressive development of the conscious functions, that is, they revert to an infantile and archaic level and undergo something Tike a degeneration. The “inferior parts of the functions.” as Janet calls them, push to the fore; the instinctual side of the personality prevails over the ethical, the infantile over the mature, and the unadapted over the adapted. This too is something we see in the lives of many artists. The autonomous complex thus develops by using the energy that has been withdrawn from the conscious control of the personality.

But in what does an autonomous creative complex consist? Of this we can know next to nothing so long as the artist’s work affords us no insight into its foundations. The work presents us with a finished picture, and this picture is amenable to analysis only to the extent that we can recognize it as a symbol. But if we are usually to discover any symbolic value in it, we have merely established that, so far as we are concerned, it means no more than what it says, or to put it another way, that it is no more than what it seems to be. I use the word “seems” because our own bias may prevent a deeper appreciation of it. At any rate we can find no incentive and no starting-point for an analysis. But in the case of a symbolic work we should remember the dictum of Gerhard Hauptmann: “Poetry evokes out of words the resonance of the primordial word.” The question we should ask, therefore, is: “What primordial image lies behind the imagery of art?”

This question needs a little elucidation. I am assuming that the work of art we propose to analyse, as well as being symbolic, has its source not in the personal unconscious of the poet, but in a sphere of unconscious mythology whose primordial images are the common heritage of mankind. I have called this sphere the collective unconscious, to distinguish it from the personal unconscious. The latter I regard as the sum total of all those psychic processes and contents which are capable of becoming Conscious and often do, but are then suppressed because of their incompatibility and kept subliminal. Art receives tributaries from this sphere too, but muddy ones; and their predominance, far from making a work of art a symbol, merely turns it into a symptom. We can leave this kind of art without injury and without regret to the purgative methods employed by Freud.

In contrast to the personal unconscious, which is a relatively thin layer immediately below the threshold of consciousness, the collective unconscious shows no tendency to become conscious under normal conditions, nor can it be brought back to recollection by any analytical technique1, since it was never repressed or forgotten. The collective unconscious is not to be thought of as a self-subsistent entity; it is no more than a potentiality handed down to us from primordial times in the specific form of mnemonic images2 or inherited in the anatomical structure of the brain. There are no inborn ideas, but there are inborn possi-bilities of ideas that set bounds to even the boldest fantasy and keep our fantasy activity within certain categories: a priori ideas, as it were, the existence of which cannot be ascertained except from their effects. They appear only in the shaped material of art as the regulative principles that shape it; that is to say, only by inferences drawn from the finished work can we reconstruct the age-old original of the primordial image.

The primordial image, or archetype, is a figure be it a daemen, a human being, or a process – that constantly recurs in the course of history and appears wherever creative fantasy is freely expressed. Essentially, therefore, it is a mythological figure. When we examine these images more closely, we find that they give form to countless typical experiences of our ancestors. They are, so to speak the psychic residua of innumerable experiences of the same type. They present a picture of psychic life in the average, divided up and projected into the manifold figures of the mythological pantheon. But the mythological figures are themselves products of creative fantasy and still have to be translated into conceptual language. Only the beginnings of such a language exist, but once the necessary concepts are created they could give us an abstract, scientific understanding of the unconscious processes that lie at the roots of the primordial images. In each of these images there is a little piece of human psychology and human fate, a remnant of the joys and sorrows that have been repeated countless times in our ancestral history, and on the average follow ever the same course. It is like a deeply graven river-bed in the psyche, in which the waters of life, instead of flowing along as before in a broad but shallow stream, suddenly swell into a mighty river. This happens whenever that particular set of circumstances is encountered which over long periods of time has helped to lay down the primordial image.

The moment when this mythological situation reappears is always characterized by a peculiar emotional intensity; it is as though chords in us were struck that had never resounded before, or as though forces whose existence we never suspected were unloosed. What makes the struggle for adaptation so labo-rious is the fact that we have constantly to be dealing with indi-vidual and atypical situations. So it is not surprising that when an archetypal situation occurs we suddenly feel an extraordinary sense of release, as though transported, or caught up by an overwhelming power. At such moments we are no longer individ-ual, but the race; the voice of all mankind resounds in us. The individual man cannot use his powers to the full unless he is aided by one of those collective representations we call ideals, which releases all the hidden forces of instinct that are inacces-sible to his conscious will. The most effective ideals are always fairly obvious variants of an archetype, as is evident from the fact that they lend themselves to allegory. The ideal of the “mother country,” for instance, is an obvious allegory of the mother, as is the “fatherland” of the father. Its power to stir us does not derive from the allegory, but from the symbolical value of our native land. The archetype here is the participation mys-tique of primitive man with the soil on which he dwells, and which contains the spirits of his ancestors.

The impact of an archetype, whether it takes the form of immediate experience or is expressed through the spoken word, stirs us because it summons up a voice that is stronger than our own. Whoever speaks in primordial images speaks with a thousand voices; he enthrals and overpowers, while at the same time he lifts the idea he is seeking to express out of the occasional and the transitory into the realm of the ever-enduring. He transmutes our personal destiny into the destiny of mankind, and evokes in us all those beneficent forces that ever and anon have enabled humanity to find a refuge from every peril and to outlive the longest night.

That is the secret of great art, and of its effect upon us. The creative process, so far as we are able to follow it at all, consists in the unconscious activation of an archetypal image, and in elaborating and shaping this image into the finished work. By giving it shape, the artist translates it into the language of the present, and so makes it possible for us to find our way back to the deepest springs of life. Therein lies the social significance of art: it is constantly at work educating the spirit of the age, conjuring up the forms in which the age is most lacking. The unsatisfied yearning of the artist reaches back to the primordial image in the unconscious which is best fitted to compensate the inadequacy and one-sidedness of the present. The artist seizes on this image, and in raising it from deepest unconsciousness he brings it into relation with conscious values, thereby transforming it until it can be accepted by the minds of his contemporaries according to their powers.

Peoples and times, like individuals, have their own characteristic tendencies and attitudes. The very word “attitude” betrays the necessary bias that every marked tendency entails. Direction implies exclusion, and exclusion means that very many psychic elements that could play their part in life are denied the right to exist because they are incompatible with the general attitude. The normal man can follow the general trend without injury to himself; but the man who takes to the back streets and alleys because he cannot endure the broad highway will be the first to discover the psychic elements that are waiting to play their part in the life of the collective. Here the artist’s relative lack of adaptation turns out to his advantage; it enables him to follow his own yearnings far from the beaten path, and to discover what it is that would meet the unconscious needs of his age. Thus, just as the onesidedness of the individuals conscious attitude is corrected by reactions from the unconscious, so art represents a process of self-regulation in the life of nations and epochs.

I am aware that in this lecture I have only been able to sketch out my views in the barest outline. But I hope that what I have been obliged to omit, that is to say their practical application to poetic works of art, has been furnished by your own thoughts, thus giving flesh and blood to my abstract intellectual frame.

• Bloodhound •

Alexandra Pereira is a writer and journalist.

Currently based in Berlin by way of
 Manchester and London.

My escutcheon, no longer my escutcheon.
Dancing, huffing, batting, puffing
I then lay in dark rooms saying ‘I need to be in the dark’ and
Ended affairs with you, on a log in the park.

The easiness surprised me, and with highs and skipping I
Surged, bounded into my new bounty.
My furniture was better without you
Your clothes were free of me.

Series one of seductions pinched me, my head, torso and toes whilst I
Logged on, I watched, I waited for server error because I knew I’d be
Gnawed on, not even chewed on, and spat right out. Not
Two shields, or one, but none.

Tight jeans and condoms stayed in pine drawers with bottled glitter
My furniture, soaked with smoke, grew hackneyed with the weight of my tears and
My tired friends who, kind, patiently listened as I lay
In sunlit rooms saying ‘I need to be in the dark from this.’

And flickering, just twelve weeks ago, but there in my reel sits
The bloodhound, waiting for his walk.

• The Songs of Maldoror •

1868 – 1869, Comte de Lautreamont
[Isidore-Lucien Ducasse]
Transcribed by hand by DP


Dedicated to Elizabeth Emelia
who understood me and this book like none other


May it please heaven that the reader, emboldened and having for the time being become as fierce as what he is reading, should, without being led astray, find his rugged and treacherous way across the desolate swamps of these sombre and poison-filled pages; for, unless he brings to his reading a rigorous logic and a tautness of mind equal at least to his wariness, the deadly emanations of this book will dissolve his soul as water does sugar. It is not right that everyone should savour this bitter fruit with impunity. Consequently, shrinking soul, turn on your heels and go back before penetrating further into such uncharted, perilous wastelands. Listen well to what I say: turn on your heels and go back, not forward, like the eyes of a son respectfully averted form the august contemplation of his mother’s face; or rather like a formation of very meditative cranes, stretching out of sight, whose sensitive bodies flee the chill of winter, when, their wings fully extended, they fly powerfully through silence to a precise point on the horizon, from which suddenly a strange strong wind blows, precursor of the storm. The oldest crane, flying on alone ahead of the others, shakes his head like a reasonable person on seeing this, making at the same time a clack with his beak, and he is troubled (as I, too, would be, if I were he); all the time his scrawny and featherless neck, which has seen three generations of cranes, is moving in irritated undulations which foretoken the quickly-gathering storm. Having calmly looked in all directions with his experienced eyes, the crane prudently (ahead of all the others, for he has the privilege of showing his tail-feathers to his less intelligent fellows) gyrates to change the direction of the geometric figure (perhaps it is a triangle, but one cannot see the third side which these curious birds of passage form in space) either to port or to starboard, like a skilled captain; uttering as he does to his vigilant cry, like that of a melancholy sentry, to repulse the common enemy. Then, maneuvering with wings which seem no bigger than a starling’s, because he is no fool, he takes another philosophic and surer line of flight.

Reader, perhaps it is hatred you wish me to invoke at the outset of this work! What makes you think that you will not sniff—drenched in numberless pleasures, for as long as you wish, with your proud nostrils, wide and thin, as you turn over on your belly like a shark, in the beautiful black air, as if you understood the importance of this act and the equal importance of your legitimate appetite, slowly and majestically—its red emanations. I assure you, they will delight the two shapeless holes of your hideous muzzle, if you endeavour beforehand to inhale, in three thousand consecutive breaths, the accursed conscience of the Eternal One! Your nostrils, which will dilate immeasurably in unspeakable contentment, in motionless ecstasy, will ask nothing better of space, for they will be full of fragrance as if of perfumes and incense; for they will be glutted with complete happiness, like angels who dwell in the peace and magnificence of pleasant Heaven.

I will state in a few lines that Maldoror was good during the first years of his life when he lived happily. That is that. Then he noticed that he had been born evil: an extraordinary fatality! As far as he could, he hid his real character for a large number of years; but in the end, because of the concentration this required, which did not come naturally to him, the blood used to rush to his head every day; until, no longer able to bear such a life, he flung himself resolutely into a career of evildoing…a sweet atmosphere! Who would have thought so! Whenever he kissed a little pink-faced child, he felt like tearing open its cheeks with a razor, and he would have done so very often, had not Justice, with its long train of punishments, prevented him. He was no liar, admitted the truth and said that he was cruel. Human beings, did you hear that? He dares to say it again with his trembling pen. So it is a power stronger than will…Curse! Could a stone escape from the laws of gravity? Impossible. Impossible, for evil to form an alliance with good. That is what I was saying in the above lines.

There are those whose purpose in writing is, by means of the noble qualities of heart which their imagination invents or which they themselves may have, to seek the plaudits of other human beings. For my part, I use my genius to depict the delights of cruelty: delights which are not transitory or artificial; but which began with man and will end with him. Cannot genius be allied with cruelty in the secret resolutions of Providence? Or can one, being cruel, not have genius? The proof will be in my words. You have only to listen to me, if you wish…Excuse me, for a moment it seemed as if my hair was standing on end; but it is nothing, for I had no trouble in putting them back in place again with my hand. He who sings does not claim that is cavatinas are utterly unknown; on the contrary, he commends himself because his hero’s haughty and wicked thoughts are in all men.
Throughout my life, I have seen narrow-shouldered men, without a single exception, committing innumerable stupid acts, brutalizing their fellows, and perverting souls by all means. They call the motive for their actions fame. Seeing these spectacles, I wanted to laugh like the others but I found that strange imitation impossible. I took a knife with a sharp steel cutting-edge on its blade and slit my flesh where the lips join. For a moment I believed I had achieved my object. I looked in a mirror at this mouth disfigured by an act of my own will It was a mistake! The blood flowing from the two wounds prevented me from discerning whether the laugh really was the same as the others’. But after comparing them for a few moments I saw clearly that my laugh did not resemble that of human beings, i.e. I was not laughing at all. I have seen men, ugly men with their eyes sunk in dark sockets, surpassing the hardness of rock, the rigidity of cast steel, the insolence of youth, the senseless rage of criminals, the falseness of the hypocrite, the most extraordinary actors, the strength of character of priests, beings whose real character is the most impenetrable, colder than anything else in heaven or on earth; I have seen them wearing out moralists who have attempted to discover their heart, and seen them bring upon themselves implacable anger from on high. I have seen them all now, the strongest fist raised towards heaven, like a child already disobedient towards its mother, probably incited by some spirit from hell, eyes full of the bitterest remorse, but at the same time of hatred; glacially silent, not daring to utter the vast ungrateful meditations hidden in their breasts, because those meditations were so full of injustice and horror; I have seen them grieve the God of mercy in his compassion; and again at the moment of the day, from their earliest childhood right up to the end of their old age, I have seen them uttering unbelievable anathemata, void of all common sense, against everything which breathes, against themselves, and against Providence; prostituting women and children, thus dishonouring the parts of the body consecrated to modesty. Then, the waters of the seas rise up, engulfing ships in their bottomless depths; hurricanes and earthquakes level houses; plague and all kinds of diseases decimate families. But men do not realize this. I have seen them blushing, or turning pale for shame at their conduct on this earth—rarely. Tempests, sisters of the hurricanes; bluish firmament, whose beauty I refuse to acknowledge; hypocritical sea, image of my own heart; earth, who hold mysteries hidden in your breast; the whole universe; God, who created it with such magnificence, it is thee I invoke; show me a man who is good…But at the same time increase my strength tenfold; for at the sight of such a monster, I may die of astonishment; men have died of less.

One should let one’s nails grow for a fortnight. Oh! How sweet it is to brutally snatch from his bed a child with no hair yet on his upper lip, and, with eyes wide open, to pretend to suavely stroke his forehead, brushing back his beautiful locks! Then, suddenly, at the moment when he least expects it, to sink one’s long nails into his tender breast, being careful, though, not to kill him; for if he died, there would be no later viewing of his misery. Then, one drinks the blood, licking the wounds; and, during the entire procedure, which ought to last no shorter than an aeon, the boy cries. Nothing could be better than his blood, warm and just freshly squeezed out as I have described, if it weren’t for his tears, bitter as salt. Mortal one, haven’t you ever tasted your blood, when by chance you cut your finger? Tasty, isn’t it? For it has no taste. Besides, can you not recall one day, absorbed in your dismal thoughts, having lifted your deeply cupped palm to your sickly face, drenched by the downpour from your eyes; the said hand then making its fatal way to your mouth, which, from this vessel chattering like the teeth of the schoolboy who glances sidelong at the one born to oppress him, sucked the tears in long draughts? Tasty, aren’t they? For they taste of vinegar. A taste reminiscent of the tears of your true love, except a child’s tears are so much more pleasing to the palate. He is incapable of deceit, for he does not yet know evil: but the most loving of women is bound to betray sooner or later… This I deduce by analogy, despite my ignorance of what friendship means, what love means (I doubt I will ever accept either of these, at least not from the human race). So, since your blood and tears do not disgust you, go ahead, feed confidently on the adolescent’s tears and blood. Blindfold him, while you tear open his quivering flesh; and, after listening to his resplendent squeals for a good few hours, similar to those hoarse shrieks of death one hears from the throats of the mortally wounded on battlefields, you then, running out faster than an avalanche, fly back in from the room next door, pretending to rush to his rescue. You untie his hands, with their swollen nerves and veins, you restore sight to his distraught eyes, as you resume licking his tears and blood. Oh, what a genuine and noble change of heart! That divine spark within us, which so rarely appears, is revealed; too late! How the heart longs to console the innocent one we have harmed. “O child, who has just undergone such cruel torture, who could have ever committed such an unspeakable crime upon you! You poor soul! The agony you must be going through! And if your mother were to know of this, she would be no closer to death, so feared by evildoers, than I am now. Alas! What, then, are good and evil? Might they be one and the same thing, by which in our furious rage we attest our impotence and our passionate thirst to attain the infinite by even the maddest means? Or might they be two separate things? Yes… they’d better be one and the same… for, if not, what shall become of me on the Day of Judgment? Forgive me, child. Here before your noble and sacred eyes stands the man who crushed your bones and tore off the strips of flesh dangling from various parts of your body. Was it a frenzied inspiration of my delirious mind, was it a deep inner instinct independent of my reason, such as that of the eagle tearing at its prey, that drove me to commit this crime? And yet, as much as my victim, I suffered! Forgive me, child. Once we are freed from this transient life, I want us to be entwined for evermore, becoming but one being, my mouth fused to your mouth. But even so, my punishment will not be complete. So you will tear at me, without ever stopping, with your teeth and nails at the same time. I will adorn and embalm my body with perfumes and garlands for this expiatory holocaust; and together we shall suffer, I from being torn, you from tearing me… my mouth fused to yours. O blond-haired child, with your eyes so gentle, will you now do what I advise you? Despite yourself, I wish you to do it, and you will set my conscience at rest.” And in saying this, you will have wronged a human being and be loved by that same being: therein lies the greatest conceivable happiness. Later, you could take him to the hospital, for the crippled boy will be in no condition to earn a living. They will proclaim you a hero, and centuries from now, laurel crowns and gold medals will cover your bare feet on your ancient iconic tomb. O you, whose name I will not inscribe upon this page consecrated to the sanctity of crime, I know your forgiveness was as boundless as the universe. But look, I’m still here!

I have made a pact with Prostitution to sow disorder in families. I remember the night which preceded this dangerous liaison. Before me I saw a tombstone. I heard a glow-worm, big as a house, say to me: “I will give you the light you need. Read the inscription. It is not from me that this supreme order comes.” A vast blood-coloured light, at the sight of which my jaws clacked and my hands fell inert, suffused the air as far as the horizon. I leaned against a ruined wall, for I was about to fall, and read: “Hear lies a youth who died of consumption: you know why. Do not pray for him.” Not many men perhaps would have shown such courage as I did. Meanwhile, a beautiful naked woman came and lay down at my feat. Sadly, I said to her, “You can get up.” And I held out to her the hand with which the fratricide slits his sister’s throat. The shining worm, to me: “Beware, look to your safety, for you are the weaker and I the stronger. Her name is Prostitution.” With tears in my eyes and my heart full of rage, I felt an unknown strength rising within me. I took hold of a huge stone; after many attempts, I managed to lift it as far as my chest. Then, with my arms, I put it on my shoulders. I climbed the mountain until I reached the top: from there, I hurled the stone on to the shining worm, crushing it. Its head was thrust six feet into the ground, a man’s height; the stone rebounded as high as six churches. Then it fell down again into a lake, and for a moment the water-level, eddying, dropped as the sinking stone created an immense inverted cone. The surface became calm again; the blood-red light ceased to shine. “Alas! alas!” the naked woman exclaimed. “What have you done?” I said to her: “I prefer you to him. Because I pity the unhappy. It is not your fault that eternal justice has created you.” And she said: “One day men will do me justice; I will say no more to you. Let me go and hide my infinite sadness at the bottom of the sea. Only you, and the hideous monsters who swarm in those black depths do not despise me. You are good. Adieu, you who have loved me.” I, to her: “Adieu, once more adieu! I will always love you. From today, I abandon virtue.” And that is why, oh you peoples of the earth, when you hear the winter wind moaning on the sea and by its shores, or above the large towns which have long been in mourning for me, or across the cold polar regions say: “It is not God’s spirit passing over us: it is only the shrill sigh of Prostitution in unison with the deep groans of the Montevidean.” Children, it is I who say this to you. Then, full of mercy, kneel down. And let men, more numerous than lice, say long prayers.
In the moonlight, by the sea, or in isolated parts of the country, when plunged in bitter reflections one can see everything take on yellow, vague, fantastic shapes. Tree-shadows, now quickly, now slowly, run, come back, and disappear again to return in different shapes, flattening out, sticking to the ground. In the days when I was borne along on the wings of my youth, this used to make me dream, this appeared strange to me. Now I have grown used to it. Through the leaves the wind moans its languorous notes, and the owl sings its solemn complaint, which makes the hair of those who hear it stand on end. Then dogs, driven wild, break their chains and escape from distant farms. They run all over the countryside, a prey to madness. Suddenly they stop and, wildly anxious, their eyes burning, they look around them on all sides. And just as elephants, in the desert, before they die, look up one last time at the sky, despairingly raising their trunks, not moving their eyes, so too these dogs’ ears do not move, but, raising their heads, they swell out their dreadful necks and start barking in turns, like a hungry child yelling for food, or a cat who has ripped its guts open on a roof, like a woman about to give birth, or a plague-ridden patient dying in hospital, or a young girl singing a sublime air; at the stars in the north, at the stars in the east, at the stars in the south, at the stars in the west; at the moon; at the mountains which in the distance seem like giant rocks in the darkness; at the tops of their voices they bark at the cold air they are breathing, the cold air which makes the insides of their nostrils red and burning; at the silence of the night; at the screech-owls who brush against their muzzles in their oblique line of flight, as they carry off in their beaks a rat or a frog, living nourishment, sweet to the little ones; at the rabbits who scurry out of sight in the winking of an eye; at the thief, fleeing on his galloping horse after committing a crime; at the snakes stirring in the heath, who make their flesh creep, their teeth chatter; at their own barks, which frighten them; at the toads whom they crush with a quick, sharp movement of their jaws (why have they strayed so far from the swamps?); at the trees, whose gently-rustling leaves are as many mysteries that they cannot understand, which they want to fathom with their attentive, intelligent eyes; at the spiders hanging beneath their long legs, who climb up trees to escape; at the raves who, during day, have found nothing to eat and are returning with tired wings to their nests; at the craggy cliffs along the sea-shore; at the fires burning on the masts of invisible ships; at the muffled sound of the waves beating against the huge fish who, as they swim, reveal their black backs and then plunge down again into the fathomless depths; and against man, who makes slaves of them. After which, they start running again through the countryside, bounding across ditches, paths, fields, through weeds and over steep rocks, their paws bleeding. You would think they had caught rabies and were seeking a vast pool in which to quench their thirst. Their prolonged howls fill nature with dread. And then, woe to the belated traveler! These graveyard fiends will set upon him, will tear him to pieces and eat him, their mouths dripping blood; for they have sound teeth. The wild animals, not daring to approach and partake of the meal of flesh, fled out of sight, trembling. After some hours, the dogs, exhausted by running round, almost dead, their tongues hanging out, set upon one another and, not knowing what they are doing, tear one another into thousands of pieces with incredible rapidity. Yet they do not do this out of cruelty. One day, a glazed look in her eyes, my mother said to me: ‘When you are in bed and you hear the barking of the dogs in the countryside, hide beneath your blanket but do not deride what they do; they have an insatiable thirst for the infinite, as you, and I, and all other pale, long-faced human beings do. I will even allow you to stand in front of your window to contemplate this spectacle, which is quite edifying.’ Since that time, I have respected the dead woman’s wish. Like those dogs, I feel the need for the infinite. I cannot, cannot satisfy this need. I am the son of a man and a woman, from what I have been told. This astonishes me…I believed I was something more. Besides, what does it matter to me where I come from? If I had any choice, I would rather have been born the male of a female shark, whose hunger welcomes tempests, and of the tiger, whose cruelty is well-known. You, who are looking at me, go away, for the breath I exhale is poisonous. No one has yet seen the green wrinkles on my brow; nor the protruding bones of my face which are like the bones of some huge fish, or the cliffs along the sea-horse, or the steep alpine mountains which I often crossed when the hair on my head was of a different colour. And when on stormy nights I prowl around the habitations of men, my hair lashed by the wind of the tempests, my eyes aflame, isolated like a huge boulder in the middle of a path, I cover my face with a piece of velvet, black as the soot which gathers inside chimneys. No eyes may behold the ugliness which the Supreme Being, with a smile of omnipotent hatred, has set upon my face. Each morning, when for others the sun rises, spreading joy and health-bringing warmth through nature, no line of my face moves as, staring into the space which is full of darkness, crouching in the depths of my beloved cave, in a mood of despair which intoxicates me like wine, I tear my breast to shreds with my powerful hands. Yet I do not feel that I am the victim of some rabid fit! Yet I do not feel that I am the only one who suffers. Yet I feel that I am still breathing. Like a condemned man flexing his muscles and reflecting on their fate as he is about to mount the scaffold, sitting up on my bed of straw with my eyes closed I slowly move my neck from right to left, from left to right, for hours on end; I do not fall down stone dead. From time to time, whenever my neck cannot continue moving in any direction, whenever it stops before starting to turn the opposite way again, all of a sudden I look up at the horizon, through the rare gaps in the brushwood which covers the cave’s entrance. And I see nothing! Nothing…unless it be the countryside dancing and whirling with the trees and the birds criss-crossing the air. This perplexes my blood and my brain…who is beating me on the head with an iron rod, like a hammer striking the anvil?
I propose, without emotion to declaim the cold and serious strophe which you are about to hear. You, pay attention to its contents and beware of the painful impression which it will not fail to leave, like a brand, on your perplexed imaginations. Do not think that I am about to die, for I am no skeleton yet and old age is not yet stamped on my brow. Discard therefore any notion of comparison with the swan at the moment when its soul takes flight; see before you nothing but a monster, whose face I am glad you cannot perceive; though it is less horrible than his soul. However, I am not a criminal…enough of this subject. It is not long ago since I saw the sea again and walked the decks of ships and my memories of this are as strong as if I only came ashore yesterday. Nevertheless be, if you can, as calm as I in reading these lines which I already regret offering you, and do not blush at the thought of what the human heart is. O Octopus, with your silken look! whose soul is inseparable from mine; you most beautiful inhabitant of the terrestrial globe, who have at your disposal a seraglio of four hundred suckers; you in whom linked indestructibly by a common accord, the sweet communicative virtue and the divine graces are nobly present, as if in their natural residence, why are you not with me, your mercury belly against my aluminum breast, both of us sitting on some sea-shore rock, to contemplate the spectacle I adore! Old ocean, crystal-waved, you resemble proportionally the azure stains seen on the disfigured tops of mosses; you are an immense blueness on the body of the earth: I love this comparison. Thus on seeing you first, a prolonged breath of sadness which one would take for the murmuring of your delicious breeze, passes, leaving ineffable traces on the deeply-moved soul, and recalling to the minds of those who love you—though one does not always realize this—man’s crude beginnings, when he first came to know sorrow, which has been with him ever since. I hail you, old ocean!

Old ocean, your harmoniously spherical form, which gladdens the stern countenance of geometry, reminds me only too well of man’s small eyes, which are like the boar’s in their minuteness and like the eyes of night-birds in the circular perfection of contour. However, throughout the centuries, man has considered himself beautiful. For my part, I rather suppose that man only believes in his own beauty out of pride; that he is not really beautiful and he suspects this himself; for why does he look on the face of his fellow-man with such scorn? I hail you, old ocean!

Old ocean, you are the symbol of identity: always equal to yourself. You never vary essentially and, if somewhere your waves are raging, further away, in some other zone, they are perfectly calm. You are not like man who stops in the street to watch two bulldogs snarling and biting one another’s necks, but who does stop to watch when a funeral passes; who is approachable in the morning, in a black mood in the evening; who laughs today and cries tomorrow…I hail you, old ocean!

Old ocean, there is nothing far-fetched in the idea that you hide within your breast things which will in the future be useful to man. You have already given him the whale. You do not easily allow the greedy eyes of the natural sciences to guess the thousand secrets of your inmost organization. You are modest. Man brags incessantly of trifles. I hail you, old ocean!

Old ocean, the different species of fish to which you give nourishment have sworn no brotherhood among themselves. Each species keeps to itself. Temperaments, shapes and sizes, which vary from species to species, satisfactorily explain what at first appears to be only an anomaly. The same is true in man’s case, though he cannot plead the same excuses. If a piece of land is occupied by thirty million human beings, they feel obliged not to become involved in their neighbour’s existence, rooted as they are to their own piece of ground. From great to small, each man lives like a savage in his lair, rarely venturing out to visit his fellow-creature, who is also crouching in his lair. The great universal family of men is a utopia worthy of the most mediocre logic. Furthermore, his ingratitude stands out against the spectacle of your fecund breasts; for one thinks of those many parents ungrateful enough to their creator to abandon the fruit of their wretched union…I hail you, old ocean!

Old ocean, your physical immensity can only be conceived if one tries to measure the active potency needed to engender the totality of your mass. You cannot be embraced in a single look. In order to contemplate you, the sights of the telescope must be turned in a continuous movement towards the four points of the horizon, just as a mathematician is obliged when doing and algebraic equation to examine individually all the various possible cases before arriving at an answer. Man eats nourishing substances and makes other efforts, worth of a better fate, to appear huge. Let him puff himself out as much as he wishes, this adorable frog. Set your mind at rest, he will not equal you in size; at least, I suppose not. I hail you, old ocean!

Old ocean your waters are bitter. Their taste is the same as the rancorous gall which criticism distills and pours on the arts, the sciences, everything. If someone is a genius, it condemns him as an idiot; if another has a beautiful body, then he is a frightful hunchback. Certainly, man should have a strong sense of his own imperfections, three-quarters of which are due to himself alone, in order to criticize them thus. I hail you, old ocean!

Old ocean, men, despite the excellence of their methods, though they are helped by scientific means of investigation, have not yet succeeded in measuring your vertiginous depths. Even the largest and heaviest sounding-lines have failed to plumb your inaccessible gulfs. Fish may: but not men. I have often wondered which is the easier to fathom: the depth of the ocean or the depth of the human heart! Often as I stood on ships’ decks with my hand on my brow, while the moon swung fitfully between the masts, I have found myself grappling with this difficult problem, having set aside anything which could distract me from my object. Yes, which the deeper, the more impenetrable of the two: the ocean or the human heart? If thirty years of experience of life can sway the balance from one to the other of these solutions, I will venture to say that despite the depth of the ocean, it cannot rank, as far as a comparison of this quality goes, with the depth of the human heart. I have had connections with men who were virtuous. They died at sixty, and not one of them failed to exclaim that ‘he had done his best on this earth, that is he had practised charity; that is all, that was easy enough, anyone might do the same.’ Who can understand how two lovers who idolized each other only the day before, separate over a misinterpreted word, one going east, one west, with needlepoints of vengeance, hatred, love and remorse, and never see each other again, each one draped in his solitary pride. It is a miracle which recurs every day but is none the less miraculous. Who can understand how it is that we relish not only the general misfortunes of our closest friends, at the same time as being distressed about them? An unanswerable example to close the series: man hypocritically says ‘yes’ and thinks ‘no.’ That is why the wild boars of humanity have so much trust in one another and are not egoists. Psychology still has a long way to go. I hail you, old ocean!

Old ocean, your might is such that men have discovered it to their own cost. In vain do they deploy all the resources of their ingenuity…they are incapable of mastering you. They have met their match. I say that they have found something stronger than they. This something has a name. That name is: the ocean! The fear that you inspire in them is such that they respect you. In spite of this, you set their heaviest machines dancing with grace, elegance and ease. You make them execute gymnastic leaps right up to the sky, and admirable dives to the bottom of your domains: a circus acrobat would envy them. They are fortunate if you don not enfold them finally in you whirling, bubbling embrace, taking them on a trip–not by railway–to see your aquatic entrails, to see how the fish are, and above all, how they are themselves. Man says: ‘I am more intelligent than the ocean.’ That is possible; it is even quite true; but the ocean is more terrifying to him than he to the ocean; this does not need to be proven. This observant patriarch, contemporary of the first epochs of our suspended globe, smiles with pity as he witnesses naval battles among the nations. The hands of men have created hundreds of leviathans. The pompous orders given on deck, the cries of the wounded, bursts of a cannon-fire, these are noises whose only function is to kill a few seconds. It seems that the excitement is over, the ocean’s belly has swallowed everything up. Its mouth is formidable, it must be huge towards the bottom, in the direction of the unknown. And at last, to crown the stupid comedy, which is not even interesting, you can see a passing stork in the air, slowed down by fatigue, beginning to cry, though not slackening its wingspan: ‘Well…how annoying! There were some black specks down there; I closed my eyes and they just disappeared.’ I salute you, old ocean!

Old ocean, great celibate, when you survey the solemn solitude of your imperturbable realms, you are justly proud of your native magnificence and of the true praises which I so fervently bestow on you. Rocked voluptuously by the gentle effluvia of your majestic slowness–that most imposing of all the attributes with which the divine power has endowed you–you unroll in sombre mystery, along all your sublime surface, your incomparable waves, in calm awareness of your eternal power. At short intervals, they follow one another in parallel lines. No sooner does one subside than another comes to meet it, accompanied by the melancholy sound of the frothing foam, reminding us that all is foam. (Thus human beings, those living waves, die one after another, monotonously; but they make no foaming sound.) The bird of passage rests on the waves, then abandons himself to their movements, full of proud grace, until the bones of his wings have recovered their accustomed strength and he can continue his aerial pilgrimage. I wish that human majesty were only the incarnate reflection of your own. I am too demanding but my sincere wish glorifies you. Your moral grandeur, image of infinity, is as vast as the philosopher’s reflections, as woman’s love, as the divine beauty of the bird, as the meditations of the poet. You are more beautiful than the night. Answer me, ocean, will you be my brother? Swell more violently…more…still more, if you want me to compare you to God’s vengeance. Lengthen your livid claws, as you clear a way over your own breast…that is good. Unroll your frightful waves, hideous ocean, whom I alone understand, before which I fall, prostrate, at your knees. Man’s majesty is a deception; he does not overawe me; but you do. Oh when you advance with your high and terrible crest, wild and hypnotic, surrounded by a court of sinuous coils of waves rolling on one another fully aware of all you are, while you utter from the depths of your breast, as if weighed down by and intense remorse whose cause I cannot discover, the perpetual suppressed moan which men so often fear, even when they contemplate you, in safety, trembling from the sea-shore, then I see that I cannot claim the illustrious right to call myself your equal. That is why, in face of your superiority, I would give you all my love (and no one knows the amount of love in my aspirations towards the Beautiful) if only because you make me think with sorrow on my fellows, who form the most ironic contrast with you, the most farcical antithesis that has ever been seen in the whole of creation; I cannot love you, I detest you. Why, then, do I return to you for the thousandth time to your welcoming arms which caress my flaming brow, your touch dispelling its feverish heat. I do not know your hidden destiny; everything about you interests me. Tell me, then, if you are the abode of the Prince of Darkness. Tell me…tell me, ocean (only me, so as to cause no grief to those who till now have known only illusions), tell me if it is the breath of Satan that creates the tempests which whip your salt-water cloud-high. You must tell me, for I would rejoice to know that hell is o near to man. I intend this to be the last strophe of my invocation. Thus, one last time, I want to hail you and bid you goodbye. Old ocean, crystal-waved…Free-flowing tears well up in my eyes, I have no strength to go on; for I feel that the moment has come for me to return to men, brutish in their appearance; but…courage! Let us make a superhuman effort and, conscious of our duty, fulfill our destiny on this earth. I hail you, old ocean!

You will not, in my last hour, find me surrounded by priests. I want to die lulled by the waves of the stormy sea, or standing on a mountain-top…my eyes looking upwards, no: I know my extinction will be complete. Besides, I would have no hope of mercy. Who is opening the door of my funeral chamber? I had said no one was to enter. Whoever you are, go away; but if you believe you notice some mark of sorrow or fear on my hyena’s face (I use the comparison although the hyena is more handsome than I, pleasanter to look at), if you believe this, then let me undeceive you: let him approach. It is a winter night on which the elements are dashing against one another on all sides, man is afraid, and the youth broods on some crime against one of his friends, if he is like I was in my youth. Let the wind, whose plaintive whistle has saddened mankind ever since the wind and mankind have existed, let it carry me on the bone of its wings, just before my last agony, across the world impatient for my death. I will still enjoy in secret the numerous examples of human malice (a brother, unseen, likes to observe his brothers’ acts). The eagle, the raven, the immortal pelican, the wild duck, the migrant crane, awakened, chattering with cold, will see me passing by the light of the lightning, a horrible, happy spectre. They will not know the meaning of it. On earth, the viper, the toad’s bulbous eyes, the tiger, the elephant; in the sea, the whale, the shark, the hammer-fish, the misshapen ray-fish, and the tooth of the polar seal, will wonder what this violation of the laws of nature is. Man, trembling, will press his head against the earth in the midst of his groans. ‘Yes, I surpass you all by my innate cruelty which it was not for me to suppress. Is this the reason why you prostrate yourselves before me? Or is it because you have seen me, a new phenomenon, traversing blood-drenched space like a terrifying comet? (A shower of blood falls from my vast body, like the blackish cloud which the hurricane pushes before it.) Do not be afraid, children. I do not want to curse you. The harm you have done me is too great, too great the harm I have done you, to have been deliberate. You have gone your way and I have gone mine, both similar, both depraved. Given our resemblance of character, we must, necessarily, have met; the resultant impact has been fatal for us both.’ Then men, taking courage, little by little will look up, stretching out their necks like the snail to see who is speaking thus. All of a sudden, their flaming, distorted faces, showing their terrible emotions, will grimace in such a way that wolves will shrink in fear. They will all rise at once like an immense spring. What imprecations! What voices breaking as they yell! They have recognized me. And now see how the animals of the earth are joining in with men, making their bizarre outcry heard; the hatred they both feel has turned against the common enemy, me; they are reconciled by universal assent. Winds who bear me up, carry me higher; I fear perfidy. Let us disappear gradually from their sight, witness, once again, of the consequences the passions bring in their wake, completely satisfied. I thank you, oh bat rhinolophe, for waking me with the beating of your wings, bat with the horse-show crested nose: I realize that it was, in fact, only, unfortunately, a passing illness, and I feel–with disgust–that I am recovering. Some say you were coming towards me to suck the little blood left in my body: why cannot this supposition be reality?

A family around a table with a lamp on it:
‘My son, give me those scissors on that chair.’
‘They are not there, mother.’
‘Go and look for them in the other room, then. Do you remember the time, my dear husband, when we vowed to have a child in whom we would be born again a second time and who would be the comfort of our old age?’
‘I remember, and God granted our wish. We have nothing to complain in our lot on this earth. Every day we bless Providence and its goodness. Our Edward has all his mother’s charms.’ ‘And his father’s manly qualities.’
‘Here are the scissors, mother. I found them at last.’
He resumes his work…but someone has appeared at the front door, and has for some time been contemplating the scene before him.
‘What does this sight mean? There are many people less happy than these. What shifts have they made to be able to love their existence so? Away, Maldoror, from this peaceful hearth! You do not belong here!’
He has withdrawn!
‘I do not know what can have brought it about; but I feel my human faculties conflicting in my breast. My soul is ill at ease, and does not know why; the atmosphere is heavy.’
‘Wife, my impressions are the same as yours; I am trembling with fear that some misfortune is going to befall us. Have faith in God; our supreme hope is in Him.’
‘Mother, I can hardly breath; my head aches.’
‘You too, my son! I will wet your temples and forehead with vinegar.’
‘No, dear mother.’
See, he leans back on his chair, tired.
‘Something is going round and round inside me, which I cannot explain. Now the least object annoys me.’
‘How pale you are! This evening will not pass without some catastrophe plunging all three of us into the lake of despair.’
I hear in the distance prolonged cries of the most acute pain.
‘My son!’
‘Oh mother, I am afraid.’
‘Tell me quickly if you are feeling ill.’
‘Mother, I fell no pain…I am not telling the truth.’
His father has not recovered from his astonishment: ‘These are cries one sometimes hears in the silence of starless nights. Although we hear these cries, he who utters them is not near here; for one can hear groans at three leagues’ distance, borne by the wind from one town to the next. People have often spoken to me of this phenomenon; but I have never had occasion to judge the truth of it for myself. Wife, you spoke to me of a catastrophe; never has greater woe existed in time’s long spiral than the woe of him who now troubles the sleep of his fellows…’
I hear in the distance prolonged cries of the most acute pain.
‘Please heaven his birth may not be a calamity for his country, which has driven him from her breast. He goes from land to land, abhorred by everywhere. Some say he has been afflicted since childhood with a kind of original madness. Others assert that he is extremely and instinctively cruel, is himself ashamed of this, and that his parents died of sorrow. There are some who claim that he was branded with a surname in youth; that he has been inconsolable ever since, because his wounded sense of dignity saw in this fact a flagrant proof of the wickedness of man, which becomes apparent in his earliest years and increases later. That surname was the vampire!’
I hear in the distance prolonged cries of the most acute pain.
‘They add that day and night, without relief or rest, horrible nightmares make him bleed from his mouth and his ears; that spectres sit at his bed’s head and—impelled in spite of themselves by an unknown force, implacable persistent, in voices one moment gentle, another like the roars of battle—yell in his face this name, still tenacious, still hideous, which will only perish with the universe. Some even assert that love has reduced him to this state; or that these cries testify to his repentance at some crime buried in the night of his mysterious past. But the majority think that he is tortured by immeasurable pride, as Satan once was, and that he wants to be equal with God…’
I hear in the distance prolonged cries of the most acute pain.
‘My son, these are exceptional confidences. I pity you for having heard them at your age, and I hope you will never imitate this man.’
‘Speak, oh my Edward; answer that you will never imitate this man.’
‘Oh beloved mother, to whom I owe my life, I promise you, if the holy promise of a child has any value, that I will never imitate this man.’
‘That is good, my son. You must obey your mother, no matter what.’
The groans can no longer be heard.
‘Wife, have you finished your work?’
‘There are still a few stitches to be put in this shirt, though we have stayed up late this evening.’ ‘And I have not yet finished my chapter. Let us take advantage of the lamp’s last gleams; for the oil is running out, let each one of us finish his work.’
The child exclaims: ‘If God lets us live!’
‘Radiant angle, come to me. You will walk through meadows from morning to evening; you will no have to work. My palace is built of silver walls, gold columns, and diamond doors. You will go to bed when you choose, to the sound of celestial music, without saying your prayers. When, in the morning, the sun shows its dazzling rays and the lark carries its song with it out of sight up into the sky, you can stay in bed until you become tired of it. You will walk on the most precious carpets; you will be constantly enveloped in an atmosphere composed of the perfumed essences of the most fragrant flowers.’

‘It is time to rest body and mind. Rise up, mother, on your muscular ankles. It is right that your stiff fingers should abandon this excessive work. We should avoid extremes.’
‘Oh, how pleasant your life will be there. I will give you an enchanted ring; when you turn its ruby round, you will be invisible, like the princes in fairy-tales.’
‘Put those daily weapons of yours into the cupboard while I, for my part, arrange my papers.’ ‘When you put it back in its normal position you will reappear as nature formed you, oh young magician. All this because I love you and aspire to make you happy.’
‘Go away, whoever you are; take your hands off my shoulders.’
‘My son, do not fall asleep, lulled by the dreams of childhood. Our evening prayer together has not begun, and you have not yet put your clothes tidily on your chair…on your knees! Eternal creator of the universe, you show your inexhaustible goodness even in the smallest things.’
‘Do you not like clear streams where thousands of little red, blue and silvery fish dart? You will catch them with a net so fine it will itself be the bait, until it is full. You will see the shiny pebbles beneath the surface, more polished than marble.’
‘Mother, look at these claws; I do not trust him; but my conscience is clear. I have nothing to reproach myself with.’
‘You see us as prostrate at your feet, overwhelmed by you greatness. If any proud thought has crept into our minds, we reject it immediately with the spittle of contempt and make you irremissible sacrifice of it.’
‘You will bathe with the girls there, who will embrace you in their arms. When you have left the bath, they will tress you crowns of roses and carnations. They will have transparent butterfly wings and long undulating hair floating around their pretty foreheads.’
‘Even if your palace were more beautiful than crystal, I would not leave this house to follow you. I believe you are no imposter, since you speak so softly, for fear of being heard. To leave one’s parents is a wicked deed. I do not intend to be an ungrateful son. As for your little girls, they are not as beautiful as my mother’s eyes.’
‘All our life is spent singing canticles to your glory. We have been your faithful servants up to now and such we will remain until the moment when we receive your command to leave this earth.’ ‘They will obey you at your slightest sign and will think of nothing but pleasing you. If you wish for the bird which never rests, they will bring it to you. If you wish for the snow-carriage which takes you to the sun in the twinkling of an eyelid, they will bring it for you. They would bring you anything you asked for! They would even bring you the kite, big as a tower, who was hidden in the mo and from whose tail birds of all kinds hang by a silken thread. Think of what you are doing…follow my advice.’
‘Do whatever you wish. I do not want to interrupt the prayer by calling for help. Although your body vanishes whenever I try to ward it off, know that I do not fear you.’
‘Before you, nothing is great, unless it be the flame from a pure heart.’
‘Think of what I have told you, if you do not want to repent later.’
‘Celestial Father, avert, avert the woes which may befall our family.’
‘Will you not be gone evil spirit?’
‘Preserve this my dearest wife, who has consoled me in my dejection.’
‘Since you refuse, I will make you weep and grind your teeth like a man on the gallows.’ ‘And this my loving son, whose pure lips have scarcely opened to the kisses of life’s dawn.’ ‘Mother, he is strangling me…Father, help me, I cannot breathe…Your blessing!’
A cry of immense irony has risen in the air. See how the eagles, stunned, fall turning and turning from the clouds, literally thunderstruck by the column of air.
‘His heart has stopped beating…And his mother dead too at the same time as the fruit of her womb, whom I can no longer recognize, he is so disfigured…My wife…My son…I recall a far-off time when I was a husband and a father!’
At this scene he had said that he would not be able to bear this injustice. If that power accorded him by the infernal spirits, or rather which he draws from within himself, is efficacious, then this child, before the night has passed, should no longer be.

He who does not know how to weep (for he has always repressed the suffering within) saw that he was now in Norway. He was in the Folrol isles, looking for sea-birds’ nests on sheer crevasses, and was astonished that the three-hundred-metre-long rope which hold the explorer above the precipice had been so well chosen for strength and soundness. He saw in this, whatever may be said, a striking example of human goodness, and could not believe his eyes. If it had been his responsibility to prepare the rope, he would have made little cuts in it, so that it would snap, and hurt the hunter into the sea!
‘Grave-digger, do you not want to talk to me? A sperm-whale slowly rises from the ocean’s depths, lifting its head above water to see the ship which is passing through these solitary regions. Curiosity was born with the universe.’
‘Friend it is impossible for me to exchange ideas with you. For a long time now the moonbeams have been shining on the marble tombstones. It is the silent hour when more than one human being dreams that he sees women in chains appear, trailing their winding-sheets, covered in blood-stains, like stars on a clear night. He who sleeps utters groans like those of a condemned man, until he awakes to find that reality is three times worse than dreams. I must finish digging this grave with my tireless spade, so that it is ready tomorrow morning. One cannot do two things at once, if one is doing serious work.’
‘He thinks that digging graves is serious work! You think that digging graves is serious work!’ ‘When the savage pelican resolves to give its breast to be devoured by its young, with no other witness than Him who could create such love, although the sacrifice is great, this is an act which can be understood. When a young man sees a woman he would worship in the arms of a friend, he starts to smoke a cigar; he stays at home, and enters into indissoluble friendship with sorrow; this act can be understood. When a boarder at school is controlled for years which seem like centuries, from morning to evening and from evening to morning again by a pariah of civilization whose eyes are constantly fixed on him, he feels the tumultuous upsurge of lasting hatred rising like thick smoke to his brain, which seems about to burst. From the moment when he was thrown into that prison, to the approaching moment when he will leave it, an intense fever turns his face a sickly yellow, knits his brow, makes his eyes sink in their sockets. At night he broods because he does not want to sleep. During the day, his thoughts soar beyond the walls of the place of degradation until the moment comes when he escapes, or when, as if plague-ridden, he is thrown out of the eternal cloister. This act can be understood. Digging a grave often surpasses the forces of nature. How, stranger, can you expect the pick to go on digging this earth which first nourishes us then provides us with a comfortable bed, protected from the winter winds which whistle through these cold lands, when he who holds the pick—having all day been touching convulsively with his trembling hands the cheeks of those once living who are now returning to his realm—sees before him in the evening, written in flaming letters on each cross, the statement of that terrifying problem which man has not yet resolved: the mortality or immortality of the soul. I have not ceased to love God, the creator of the universe; but if after death we are no longer to exist why do I see most nights each grave opening and its inhabitants gently lifting the leaden lids, to go out and breathe the fresh air?’
‘Stop your work. Emotion is sapping your strength; you seem weak as a reed; it would be utter madness to go on. I am strong; I will take your place. Stand aside; and let me know if I am doing anything wrong.’
‘How muscular his arms are, and what a pleasure it is to watch him digging the earth with such ease.’
‘You must not let your mind be tormented by useless doubt: all these graves scattered throughout the cemetery are worthy of measurement by the philosopher’s serene compass. Dangerous hallucinations may come by day; but above all they come at night. Do not therefore be surprised as the fantastic visions which your eyes seem to perceive. During the day when the mind is resting, examine your conscience; it will tell you, certainly, that the God who created man and gave him part of His own intelligence possesses goodness without limits and after our earthly death will take His masterpiece to His breast. Grave-digger, why do you weep? Why these tears, like a woman’s? Remember this: we are on this mastless vessel to suffer. It is man’s merit that God has judged him capable of conquering his deepest sufferings. Speak and since, according to your wishes, there would be no more suffering, tell me, if your tongue is like that of other men, in what virtue, that ideal which everyone strives to attain, would then consist?’
‘Where am I? Has not my character changed? I fell a powerful breath of consolation brush against my cool, calm forehead, like the spring breeze which revives old men’s hopes. Who is this man who in sublime language has said things which no mere passing stranger could have uttered? What musical beauty there is in the incomparable melody of his voice! I would rather hear him speak than hear others sing. Yet the more I observe him the less candid his face appears to be. The general expression of his features contrasts singularly with these words which only the love of God could have inspired. His somewhat wrinkled forehead is marked with an indelible stigma. And this stigma which has prematurely aged him, is it a mark of honour or infamy? Should those wrinkles be looked on with veneration? I do not know, I am afraid to know. Although he says what he does not believe, I think he has reasons for acting as he has done, moved by the few tattered shreds of charity which still remain in him. He is absorbed in reflections which are unknown to me, and he is redoubling his activity in a kind of labour to which he is unaccustomed. His skin is drenched in sweat; he does not notice. He is sadder than the feelings inspired by the sight of a child in its cradle. How sombre he is!…Where do you come from? Stranger, allow me to touch you, let my hands, which rarely grasp those of the living, trespass on the nobility of your body. Whatever happens, I would know what to hold on to. This hair is the finest I have ever touched in my life. Who would be so bold as to doubt my judgment of the quality of hair?
‘What do you want with me? Can you not see I am digging this grave? The lion does not wish to be disturbed when he is feasting on flesh. If you don not know that, I will teach you. Come on, hurry. Do what you wish.’
‘What is now shivering at my touch, making me shiver too, is flesh, there is no doubt of it. It is real…I am not dreaming! Who are you, you who stoop here as you dig a grave, while I stand here doing nothing, like an idler living on others’ bread? It is the hour for sleep, or for sacrificing one’s repose to the pursuit of knowledge. In any event, no one is out of his house, or if he is, he has been careful to close the door, so as not to let in thieves. Everyone is enclosed in his room as best he can, while the ashes in his old fireplace can still manage to give off enough dying heat to keep the room a little warm. But you do not do what the others do. Your clothes indicate that you are from some distant land.’
‘Although I am not tired, it is pointless to continue digging the grave. Now undress me; then put me into it.’
‘The conversation we have just been having, the two of us, is so strange that I do not know how to answer…I think the gentleman is having a little joke.’
‘Yes, yes, it is true, I was not serious; I do not know what I am saying any more.’
He collapsed, and the grave-digger rushed to support him!
‘What is wrong?’
‘Yes, yes, it is true. I was lying. I was really tired when I put down the pick…it is the first time I have done this kind of work…do not take any notice of what I said.’
‘My opinion of him is being confirmed more and more. He is someone who has known dreadful affliction. I pity him so much that I prefer to remain in the dark. And then he would not want to answer me, that is sure: to open one’s heart in such an abnormal state is to double one’s suffering.’
‘Let me leave this cemetery; I will continue on my way.’
‘Your legs are not strong enough to hold you. You would get lost on the way. My duty is to offer you a simple bed. I have no other. Trust in me. Accepting my hospitality does not oblige you to reveal any of your secrets to me.’
‘Oh venerable louse, you whose body has no wing-case, one day you will bitterly reproach me for not having loved your sublime understanding enough; perhaps you were right, since I feel no gratitude towards this man who is helping me. Oh lantern of Maldoror, where are you guiding his steps?’
‘To my home. Whether you are a criminal who has not taken the precaution of washing his right hand with soap after committing his atrocious crime and whose guilt is revealed by close inspection of his hand; or a brother who has lost his sister; or some dispossessed monarch fleeing his realms, my truly imposing palace is worthy to receive you. It was not built of diamonds and precious stones, for it is only a poor cottage, crudely put together; but this famous cottage has a historic past, which the present renews and continues incessantly. If it could speak it would astound even you, who seem to be astonished by nothing. How often this cottage and I have seen coffins pass by containing bones soon to be more worm-eaten that the door I leant against. My countless subjects increase each day. I need no periodical census to ascertain this. Here it is the same as in life; everyone pays rates in proportion to the opulence of the dwelling he has chosen for himself; and if some miser should refuse to hand over his dues, then I have instructions to do as bailiffs and vultures who would enjoy a good meal. I have seen many drawn up under the flag of death—the once-handsome man; the man who remained handsome even after death; men, women, beggars, kings’ sons; the illusions of youth, the skeletons of old men; genius; madness; idleness and its opposite; the false and the true-hearted; the mask of the proud, the modesty of the humble; vice crowned with flowers and innocence betrayed.’
‘No, certainly I will not refuse your offer of a bed worthy of me, till dawn which will come soon. I thank you for your kindness Gravedigger, it is grand to contemplate the ruins of cities; but it is grander still to contemplate the ruins of human beings!’

The brother of the leech was walking in the forest, slowly. He stops several times, opening his mouth to speak. But each time his throat contracts, drives back the abortive effort. At last he cries out: ‘Man, when you come across a dead dog lying on its back against a sluice gate which will not let it through, do not, as others do, go up and pick out the worms crawling from its swollen belly, examine them in wonder, take out a knife and cut up a large number of them, saying as you do so that one day you will be no more than this dog. What mystery do you seek? Neither I nor the four fin-legs of the polar bear in the Boreal ocean have been able to solve the problems of life. Take care, night is approaching, you have been here since morning. What will your family say, and your little sister, seeing you arrive so late? Wash your hands, go on your way, to your home, your bed. Who is that being yonder on the horizon who dares to approach me, without fear, in crooked, agitated jumps; and what majesty, mingled with serene gentleness! His look, though gentle, is deep. His enormous eyelids play in the breeze and seem to have their own life. I do not know him. When I stare at his monstrous eyes, my body trembles—for the first time since I sucked the dry breasts of what is called a mother. There is, as it were, a halo of dazzling light around him. When he spoke, all nature was hushed and felt a great shudder. Since it pleases you to come to me, as if drawn by a lover, I shall not resist. How beautiful he is! It hurts me to say it. You must be powerful; for you have a more than human face, sad as the universe, beautiful as suicide. I abhor you with all my being; and I would rather, from the beginning of the centuries, have had a serpent coiled about my neck than look on your eyes…What…is it you, toad?…fat toad!…wretched toad!…Forgive…Forgive! Why have you come to this earth where the accursed are? But what have you done to your viscous, reeking pustules to look so gentle? When you came from on high by command from above, with the mission of consoling the different races of living beings, you struck the earth with the speed of the kite in your long magnificent flight; I saw you! Poor toad! How often did I think of infinity then, and of my own weakness. “Another who is superior to those of the earth,” I said to myself. “By divine will. Why should I not be, too? To what purpose this injustice in divine decrees? He, the Creator, is mad; and yet, he is the strongest, his wrath is dreadful! Since you appeared to me, monarch of pools and swamps, arrayed in the glory which belongs to God alone, you have in part consoled me. But my stumbling reason founders before such greatness! Who are you? Stay…oh stay on this earth. Fold your white wings, and do not look up with such anxious eyes. If you must leave, let us leave together!”’ The toad sits on his haunches (which so resemble those of men) and, while slugs, lice and snails flee at the sight of their deadly enemy, he speaks in these terms: ‘Maldoror, listen to me. Look on my face, calm as a mirror. I believe my intelligence is equal to yours. One day you called me the mainstay of your life. Since then I have not proved unworthy of the confidence you put in me. I am only a simple dweller among the reeds, it is true; but thanks to my contract with you, taking only what was beautiful in you, my mind has become more exalted, I can speak to you. I have come to you to haul you from the depths. Those who call themselves your friends are struck with consternation when they see you, pale and stooping, in theatres, in public places, in churches, or with your two sinewy thighs pressed against that horse which gallops only by night as it carries its phantom master, wrapped in his long, black cloak. Abandon these thoughts, which make your heart as empty as the desert; they are more burning than fire. Your mind is so sick that you do not realize it; you think you are perfectly normal when you are uttering the most senseless words (though full of infernal grandeur). Wretch! what have you said since the day of your birth? O sad remnant of an immortal intelligence, which God created with so much love! You have engendered only curses more frightful than the sight of ravenous panthers. For my part, I would prefer to have my eyelids struck down, to have a body without legs or arms, to have murdered a man, than to be you! Because I hate you. Why do you have this character which astonishes me? What right do you have to come to this earth and pour scorn on those who live on it, rotten wreck buoyed up by skepticism? If you do not like it here, you should return to the spheres from where you came. A city-dweller should not reside in a village, like a foreigner. We know that in space there exist spheres more spacious than our own, whose spirits have an intelligence of which we cannot even conceive. Well…go there then. Leave this moving ground! Show at last your divine essence, which you have kept hidden until now; and as soon as possible, direct your rising flight towards your sphere, which we do not at all envy you, proud that you are! For I have not managed to discover whether you are a man or more than a man! Adieu, then. Do not hope to encounter the toad again on your way. You have been the cause of my death. I leave for eternity, to beg your forgiveness!’

It is sometimes logical to refer to the appearances of phenomena, this first song finishes here. Do not be severe on him who has yet only been tuning his lyre; it makes such a strange sound! However, if you are impartial, you will already have recognized a strong stamp amid the imperfections. As for me, I shall resume my work, to bring out, without too great a delay, a second song. The end of the nineteenth century will have its poet (yet, to start with, he must not produce a masterpiece, but follow the law of nature); he was born on American shores, at the mouth of the Plata, where two nations, once rivals are now striving to surpass each other in moral and material progress. Buenos Aires, the Queen of the South, and Montevideo, the coquette, stretch out their hands in friendship across the silvery waters of the great estuary. But eternal war holds destructive sway over these lands, joyously reaping countless victims. Adieu, old man, think of me if you have read me: and you, young man, do not despair; for whatever you may believe to the contrary, you have a friend in the vampire. And counting the scab-producing sarcoptes-mite, you will have two friends!
What has become of Maldoror’s first song, since his mouth, full of belladonna leaves, uttered it through the realms of anger, in a moment of reflection?…What has become of this song…We do not know exactly. It is not in the trees, nor in the winds. And morality, passing through that place, not foreseeing that it had found in these incandescent pages an energetic advocate, saw him making for the dark recesses and secret fibres of consciousness, with a firm straight step. This much at least we do know; since that time, toad-faced man can no longer recognize himself, often falling into fist of rage which make him seem like a beast of the forest. It is not his fault. For ages, his eyelids weighed down beneath resedas of modesty, he had believed himself to consist only of good, and a minimal quantity of evil. Revealing his heart with all its wicked plots to him, I bluntly taught him the reverse: that he consists of evil only, with a minimal quantity of good which legislators are hard pressed to prevent from evaporating completely. In this I am teaching him nothing new and I wish he would not feel eternal shame at these bitter truths of mine; but the realization of this wish would not conform to the laws of nature. In fact I am tearing the mask off his false and slime-covered face, dropping, like ivory balls into a silver bowl, the sublime lies with which he deceives himself: it is understandable, then, that he cannot summon a look of calm on to his face, even when reason disperses the darkness of pride. That is why the hero I present has brought upon himself implacable hatred, by attacking humanity, which thought itself invulnerable, through the breach of absurd philosophical tirades; these abound like grains of sand in his books, the comic qualities of which I am sometimes, whenever my reason abandons me, on the point of finding so droll—but tiresome. He had foreseen it. It is not enough to sculpt statues of goodness on shelves of libraries where parchments are stored. O human being, here you are now, naked as a worm, in the presence of my sword of diamond! Abandon your method; the time for pride is past: prostrated before you, I offer up this prayer. There is someone who observes the smallest actions of your guilty lives. You are ensnared by the subtle network of his relentless perspicacity. Do not trust him when his back is turned; for he is watching you; do not trust him when his eyes are closed, for he is still watching you. It is difficult to conceive that you can have made the dreadful resolution to surpass the child of my imagination in matters of guile and wickedness. His least blows are fatal. If one is careful, one can teach him who does not know it that wolves and brigands do not devour one another: perhaps they are not in the habit of doing so. Therefore fearlessly entrust all care for your existence to him: he will guide it in the direction he knows so well. Do not believe in his apparent intention of making you better; for you are, to say the least, only of indifferent interest to him: even in saying this I am making allowances in your favour. What I have said does not approach the whole truth. But it is because he delights in doing evil to you, rightly convinced that you will become as wicked as he and that you will accompany him, when the time comes, into hell’s gaping abyss. His place has long since been appointed, the place where an iron gibbet stands, with chains and halters hanging from it. When destiny brings him there, the dismal pit beneath the trap door will never have tasted more delicious prey, nor will he ever have contemplated a more fitting habitation. It seems that I am speaking an in intentionally paternal manner, and that humanity has no right to complain.
I am grasping the pen which is going to compose the second song…an instrument torn from the wings of some red pyraugue! But what is wrong with my fingers? The joints remain paralysed, as soon as I want to start my work. Yet I need to write…It is impossible! I repeat that I need to write my thoughts. I have, like any other man, the right to submit to this natural law…But no, no, still the pen will not move! What is this? See the lightning flashing in the distance, across the countryside. The storm is crossing the sky. It is raining…Still it is raining…How it rains! The thunder has burst, it has beaten down on my open window, stretching me out on the floor. It has struck me on the forehead. Poor young man! Your face was already disfigured enough by premature wrinkles and the deformity of birth. It did not need this long sulphurous scar, too! (I have just assumed the wound has healed, but it will be some time before that happens). What do the storm and the paralysing of my fingers mean? Is it a warning from on high to make me think twice about the risks I am running by distilling the saliva of my square mouth? But this storm did not frighten me. What would a legion of storms matter to me? These celestial policemen carry out their difficult duties with zeal, if I am to judge summarily by my wounded forehead. I do not need to thank the Almighty for his remarkable skill; he aimed the thunderbolt so that it cut my face exactly in two; from the forehead, where the injury was most critical, down to the neck. Let someone else congratulate him on his accuracy! But these storms attack one who is stronger than they. And so, viper-faced Eternal One, not content with placing my soul between the frontiers of madness and these frenzied thoughts which are slowly killing me, you had to decide, after mature consideration, that it befitted your majesty to make torrents of blood gush from my brow! But what can you hope to achieve? You know that I do not love you, that I in fact hate you. Why do you persist? When will your behaviour cease to be enshrouded in all the appearances of strangeness? Speak to me frankly, as a friend. Do you not suspect that your odious persecution of me is characterized by a naive eagerness which is utterly ridiculous, though none of your seraphim would dare to point this out to you? What rage has taken hold of you? I want you to know that if you abandoned the pursuit and let me live in peace I would be grateful to you…Go on then, Sultan, lick the floor and rid me of the blood which has stained it. The bandaging is finished: my brow has been stanched and washed with salt-water, I have wound bandlets around my face. There is not much to speak of: four blood-drenched shirts, two handkerchiefs. One would not think at first sight that Maldoror had so much blood in his arteries, for his face has only a waxen, corpse-like sheen. But there it is. Perhaps that is all the blood his body could contain, and it is probably that there is not much more left. Enough, enough, you greedy dog; leave the floor as it is; your belly is full. You must no go on drinking; for you would very quickly start vomiting. You have glutted yourself adequately, now go and lie down in your kennel; consider yourself swimming in bliss; for three immense days you will not think of hunger, thanks to the globules which you have swallowed with visible and solemn satisfaction. And you, Leman, take a broom; I should like to take one, too, but I do not have the strength. You understand, do you not, that I do not have the strength? Put your tears back in their scabbard, or else I will think that you are not courageous enough to contemplate in composure the huge gash occasioned by a punishment which for me is already lost in the night of past time. You will go to the fountain and fetch two pails of water. Once you have washed the floor, you will take the linen into the next room. If the laundress comes back this evening, as she should, you will give it to her; but as it has been raining heavily for an hour and is raining still, I do not think she will leave her house; in that case, she will come tomorrow. If she should ask you where all this blood comes from, you are not obliged to answer her. Oh, how weak I am! No matter; I shall nonetheless be strong enough to raise my pen-holder, and courageous enough to work out my thoughts. What concern was it of the Creator’s, that he should plague me with the thunderstorm as if I were a child? I shall nonetheless persist in my resolve to write. These bandelets are a nuisance, the air in my room is thick with blood…

May the day never come when Lohengrin and I pass one another in the street, brushing against one another like strangers in a hurry! Oh let me flee for ever far from this thought! The Eternal One has created the world as it is: He would have been very wise if, in the time strictly necessary to break a woman’s skull with hammer-blows, He had forgotten his sidereal majesty for a moment to reveal to us the mysteries amid which our existence stifles like a fish flailing on the ship’s deck. But he is great and noble; He prevails over us by the might of his conceptions; if He parleyed with men, all His disgraceful acts would be flung in His face. But…wretch that you are! Why do you not blush? It is not enough that the army of physical and moral afflictions which surrounds us should have been created: the secret of our shabby destiny is not even revealed to us. I know the Almighty…and He too must know me. If we chance to be walking along the same path, His sharp eyes see me coming from afar: He crosses the road, to avoid the triple platinum dart which nature gave me for a tongue! You will do me the favour, O Creator, of letting me give vent to my feelings. Wielding my terrible ironies in my firm untrembling hand, I warn you that my heart will contain enough to keep on attacking you until my existence ends. I shall strike your hollow carcass; but so hard that I undertake to knock out the remaining portions of intelligence which you did not want to give to man, because you were jealous at the thought that he would become your equal and which, cunning bandit, you had shamelessly hidden in your bowels, as if you did not know that one day I would discover them with my never-closing eyes, take them away and share them with my fellows. This I have done and now they no longer fear you; now they deal with you on an equal footing. Come, kill me and make me repent my boldness: I bare my breast and await you with humility. Appear, then, derisory spans of eternal punishments! Pompous displays of over-rated qualities! He has proved incapable of stopping the circulation of my blood which defies Him. Yet I have proofs that he does not hesitate to stop the breath of other human beings in their prime, who have scarcely tasted the delights of life. It is quite appalling, in my humble opinion! I have seen the Creator whetting His futile cruelty, kindling fires in which old men and children alike have died. It was not I who started the attack; it is He who forces me to turn around with my steel-cord whip, like a spinning-top. Does He not Himself provide me with the accusations I use against Him? My terrifying verve will not flag. It thrives on the senseless nightmares of my sleepless nights. And this has been written for the sake of Lohengrin; so let us return to him. Fearing that he would become like other men later, I had at first resolved to stab him to death once he had passed the age of innocence. But I reconsidered and wisely abandoned my resolution in time. He does not suspect that his life was in danger for a quarter of an hour. Everything was ready, and the knife had been bought. It had a fine and delicate blade, for I like grace and elegance even in the instruments of death; but it was long and pointed. Just one cut in the neck, carefully piercing the carotid artery, would have been enough, I think. I am glad I acted as I did; I would have regretted it later. So, Lohengrin, do whatever you wish, whatever you please; lock me up forever in a dark prison with scorpions as the only companions of my captivity, or pull out my eye till it falls to the ground, I shall never reproach you in the least; I am yours, I belong to you, I no longer live for myself. The pain you cause me will not be comparable to the joy of knowing that he who wounds me with his murderous hands is steeped in an essence more divine than that of his fellows! Yet it is still noble to give one’s life for another human being and thus to keep alive the hope that not all men are wicked, since there has been one who overcame my mistrust and aversion and attracted himself to my bitter sympathy.

It is midnight; there is no longer a single omnibus to be seen, from the Bastille to the Madelaine. I am wrong; here is one which has appeared suddenly, as if from under the earth. A few late passers-by are looking at it attentively; for it does not resemble any other. On the open top deck men are sitting, with fixed unmoving eyes like dead fish. They are hunched up tight beside one another and seem to be lifeless; apart from that, the number of passengers permitted by the regulations has not been exceeded. When the coachman whips his horses, you would think it was the whip moving his hand, not his hand moving the whip. Who can this group of strange dumb people be? Are they moon-dwellers? There are moments when one would be tempted to believe so; but they are more like corpses. The omnibus, anxious to arrive at the last stop, tears through space, making the roads rattle…It is disappearing!…But a shapeless form is madly pursuing it, in its wake, amid the dust. ‘Stop, I beg you, stop…my legs are swollen from a day’s walking…I have not eaten since yesterday…My parents have abandoned me…I do not know what to do now…I have made up my mind to go back home and I would be there soon if you would let me have a seat…I am only a little boy, eight years old, I trust in you…’ It is disappearing!…It is disappearing!…But a shapeless form is madly pursuing it, in its wake, amid the dust. One of the men, cold-eyed, nudges his neighbour and seems to be expressing his displeasure at these silvery moans which reach his ears. The other imperceptibly nods his head in agreement, only to plunge again into motionless self-absorption, like a tortoise into his shell. Everything in the expressions of the other travelers indicates that their feelings are the same as the first two. The cries can be heard for two or three minutes, becoming shriller every second. Along the boulevard one can see windows being opened and the frightened face of someone with a candle in his hand who, having looked out into the street, slams the shutters to again, and does not reappear…It is disappearing!…It is disappearing!…But a shapeless form pursues it madly, in its wake, amid the dust. Among all the stony faces, only a young man absorbed in reverie seems to feel any pity for the boy’s misery. He does not dare to raise his voice on behalf of the child, who still thinks he can reach the omnibus with his aching little feet; for the other men are casting contemptuous, imperious looks at him and he knows he can do nothing against their will. Stunned, his head in his hands, his elbows resting on his knees, he wonders if this is an example of ‘human charity.’ Then he realizes that it is only an empty phrase which is no longer even to be found in the dictionary of poetry, and he freely admits his mistake. He says to himself: ‘In fact, why should I be interested in this small child? Let us leave him behind.’ Yet a hot tear rolls down the cheek of this adolescent who has just blasphemed. Uneasy, he passes his hand across his brow, as if to push away a cloud whose opacity darkens his intelligence. He is struggling in vain in the century into which he has been thrown; he feels that this is not where he belongs, and yet he cannot get out. Terrible prison! Dreadful fatality! Lombano, since that day I have been well pleased with you! I did not cease to observe you, while my face appeared to be as indifferent as that of the other travelers. With an impulse of indignation the adolescent gets up and wants to go away, so as not to participate, even unwillingly, in an evil action. I beckon him, and he comes to my side…It is disappearing!…It is disappearing!…But a shapeless form pursues it madly, in its wake, amid the dust. Suddenly, the cries cease; for the child has tripped over a stone protruding from the road’s surface, and he has injured his head in falling. The omnibus has disappeared over the horizon and all that can be seen now is the silent street… It is disappearing!…It is disappearing!…But a shapeless form no longer pursues it madly, in its wake, amid the dust. Behold a ragman passing, bending over the child with his dim lantern in his hand; he has more goodness of heart than all his fellows in the omnibus. He has just lifted up the child; you may be sure that he will heal him, that he will not abandon him as his parents did. It is disappearing!…It is disappearing!…But from where he is standing the ragman’s piercing look pursues it madly, in its wake, amid the dust. Stupid, idiotic race! You will regret having acted thus! It is I who tell you. You will regret it! My poetry will consist exclusively of attacks on man, that wild beast, and the Creator, who ought never to have bred such vermin. Volume after volume will accumulate, till the end of my life; yet this single idea only will be found, ever present in my mind!

On my daily walk I used to pass through a narrow street every day. Every day a slim ten-year-old girl would follow me along the street, keeping a respectful distance, looking at me with sympathetic, curious eyes. She was big for her age, and had a well-shaped body. Long, black hair, parted on her head, fell in separate tresses on to shoulders like marble. One day she was following me as usual; the sturdy arms of a woman of the people caught her by the hair, like a whirlwind catches a leaf, and slapped her twice, brutally, on her proud, silent face. Then she brought that straying consciousness back home. I tried in vain to appear unconcerned; she never failed to pursue me, though her presence had by now become irksome. When I took a different route, she would stop, struggling violently to control herself, at the end of the street, standing still as the statue of silence, and she would not cease looking before her until I was out of sight. One day this girl went on ahead of me in the street, and fell into step with me. If I walked faster to pass by her, she almost ran to keep the same distance between us. But if I slowed down so that there would be a large space between us, she slowed down too, and did so with all the grace of childhood. When we reached the end of the street, she slowly turned round barring my way. There was no time no for me to slip away; now I stood before her. Her eyes were swollen and red. It was easy to see that she wanted to speak to me, but did not know how to go about it. Her face suddenly turning pate as a corpse, she asked me: ‘Would you be so kind as to tell me what time it is?’ I told her I did not have a watch and walked rapidly away. And since that day, child of the troubled and precocious imagination, you have not seen in your narrow street the mysterious young man whose heavy sandals could be heard clattering along those winding roads. The appearance of this blazing comet will never be repeated; the mournful object of your fanatical curiosity will no longer flash on the facade of your disappointed observation. And you will often think, too often, perhaps always, of him who did not seem to be worried about the good and evil of this life, who went haphazardly away—with his face horribly dead, his hair standing on end, with a tottering gait, his arms swimming blindly in the ironic waters of ether, as if he were seeking there the bleeding prey of hope, continually buoyed up, through the immense regions of space, by the implacable snow-plough of fatality. You will see me no more, and I will no longer see you!…Who knows? Perhaps this young girl was not what she appeared to be. Perhaps boundless cunning, eighteen years’ experience and the charm of vice were hidden beneath her innocent appearance. Young sellers of love have been known to leave the British Isles gaily behind them and cross the channel. They spread their wings, whirling in golden swarms in the Parisian light; and whenever they were seen, people would say: ‘they are no more than ten or twelve years old’. But in reality they were twenty. Oh, if this supposition be true, cursed be the windings of that dark street! Horrible! horrible! the things that happen there. I think her mother struck her because she was not plying her trade skillfully enough. It is possible that she was only a child and, in that case, the mother is even more guilty. For my part, I refuse to believe this supposition, which is only a hypothesis and I prefer to see and to love, in this romantic character, a soul revealing itself too soon…Ah, young girl, I charge you not to reappear before me, if ever I return to that narrow street. It could cost you dear! No! No! I, generous enough to love my fellows! I have resolved against it since the day of my birth! They do not love me! Worlds will be destroyed, granite will glide like a cormorant on the surface of the waves before I touch the infamous hands of another human being. Back…back with that hand! Young girl, you are no angel, you will become like other women after all. No, no, I implore you, do not reappear before my frowning squinting eyes. In a moment of distraction I might take your arms and wring them like linen which is squeezed after washing, or break them with a crack like two dry branches and then forcible make you eat them. Taking our head between my hands with a gentle, caressing air, I might dig my greedy fingers into the lobes of your innocent brain—to extract, with a smile on my lips, a substance which is good ointment to bathe my eyes, sore from the eternal insomnia of life. I might, by stitching you eyelids together, deprive you of the spectacle of the universe, and make it impossible for you to see your way; and then I should certainly not act as your guide. I might, raising your virgin body in my iron arms, seize you by the legs and swing you around me like a front, concentrating all my strength as I described the final circle, and hurling you against the wall. Each drop of your blood would spurt on to a human breast, to frighten men and to set before them an example of my wickedness. They will tear shreds and shreds of flesh from their bodies; but the drop of blood remains, ineffaceable, in the same place, and will shin like a diamond. Do not be alarmed. I will instruct half a dozen servants to keep the venerated remains of your body and to protect them from the ravenous hunger of the dogs. No doubt the body has remained stuck to the wall like a ripe pear and has not fallen to the earth; but a dog can jump extremely high, if one is not careful…

How delightful this child is, sitting on a bench in the Tuileries garden. His bold eyes dart looks at some invisible object, far off in the distance. He cannot be more than eight years old, yet he is not playing happily and in a manner which would befit one of his years. He should at least be laughing and walking with some friend, but to do so would not be in character. How delightful this child is, sitting on a bench in the Tuileries garden! A man, moved by a hidden design, comes and sits beside him on the bench. His manner is suspicious. Who is he? I need not tell you, for you will recognize him by his tortuous conversation. Let us listen to them, without disturbing them: ‘What were you thinking of, my child?’
‘I was thinking of heaven.’
‘You do not need to think about heaven. It is quite enough to think about this earth. Are you tired of life, you who have only just been born?’
‘No, but everyone prefers heaven to earth.’
‘Not I. For since heaven, like earth, has been made by God, you may be sure that there you will meet the same evils as down here. After your death you will not be rewarded according to you merits; for injustices are done you on this earth (and experience will later teach you that they are), there is no reason why, in the next life, they should not continue to be committed. The best thing you can do is not to think of God and to take the law into your own hands, since justice is denied you. If one of your companions offended you, would you not be glad to kill him?’
‘But it is forbidden.’
‘It is not as forbidden as you think. It is just a matter of not getting caught. The justice of laws is worthless; it is the jurisprudence of the offended party which counts. If you detested one of your companions, would you not be wretched at the thought of constantly having his image before your mind’s eye?’
‘That is true.’
‘Such a companion would make you wretched for the rest of your life; for, seeing that your hatred is only passive, he will continue to sneer at you and hurt you with impunity. So there is only one way of putting an end to the situation; that is to get rid of one’s enemy. This is the point I wanted to make, so that you would understand the basis on which our present society is founded. Each man, unless he is simply an imbecile, must take the law into his own hands. He who gains victory over his fellow-men is the cleverest and the strongest. Would you not like to dominate your fellow-men?’
‘Yes, yes.’
‘Then be the strongest and the cleverest. You are too young yet to be the strongest; but from today you can use guile, the finest instrument of men of genius. When the shepherd-boy David struck the giant Goliath’s forehead with a stone from a sling, is it not wonderful to note that it was only cunning which enabled David to conquer his adversary and that if on the other hand it had come to a hand-to-hand fight, the giant would have crushed him like a fly? In open war you will never be able to conquer men, on whom you wish to impose your will; but with cunning you can fight alone against them all. You desire riches, palaces, fame? Or were you deceiving me when you declared these noble aspirations?’
‘No, no, I was not deceiving you. But I would like to attain what I want by other means.’
‘Then you will achieve nothing. Virtuous and well-meaning methods lead nowhere. You must bring into play more powerful levers, more cunningly contrived traps. Before your virtue has brought you fame, before you have achieved your goal, a hundred others will have time to leap- frog over your back and arrive at the winning-post ahead of you, so that there will be no more room left for your narrow ideas. One must be able to embrace more amply the horizon of the present time. Have you not heard for example of the immense glory victories bring? And yet victories do not simply happen. Blood must be shed, a lot of blood, to achieve them and to lay them at the feet of conquerors. Without the corpses and the scattered limbs you see on the plain where carnage is wisely practised, there would be no war and, without war, there would be no victory. You see that, when one wants to be famous, one has to dive gracefully into rivers of the blood of cannon-blasted bodies. The end excuses the means. The first thing you need to be famous is to have money. Now, as you have none, you will have to murder to acquire it; but as you are not strong enough to handle a dagger, become a thief until your limbs are big enough. That they may grow more quickly, I advise you to do gymnastics twice a day, one hour in the morning, one at night. In this way, you will be able to start your career of crime at fifteen, instead of waiting till you are twenty. Love of glory excuses everything and perhaps later when you are the master of your fellow-men you will do them almost as much good as you did them harm in the beginning!…’ Maldoror notices that the blood is boiling in his young interlocutor’s head; his nostrils are swollen; his lips are flecked with a light white foam. He feels his pulse; it is beating very fast. Fever has taken hold of this delicate body. He fears the consequences his words will have; the wretch sneaks away, frustrated at not having been able to converse longer with the child. When even in mature years it is so difficult to master our passions, poised between good and evil, how hard it must be for so inexperienced a mind? How much more relative energy is required! The child will escape at the price of three days in bed. May it please heaven that his mother’s presence should restore peace to this sensitive flower, the frail exterior of a fine soul!

In a flowery grove the hermaphrodite sleeps a deep, heavy sleep, drenched in his tears. The moon’s disc has come clear of the mass of clouds, and with its pale beams caresses his gentle adolescent face. His features express the most virile energy as well as the grace of a celestial virgin. Nothing about him seems natural, not even the muscles of his body, which clear their way across the harmonious contours of a feminine form. He has one arm around his head and another around his breast, as if to restrain the beating of a heart which can make no confidences, laden with the heavy burden of an eternal secret. Tired of life and ashamed of walking among beings who are not like him, he has given his soul up to despair and wanders alone, like the beggar of the valley. By what means does he live? Though he does not realize it, compassionate souls are watching over him near at hand, and they will not abandon him: he is so good! he is so resigned! Sometimes, he willingly talks with sensitive people, without touching their hands, keeping at a safe distance for fear of an imaginary danger. If he is asked why he has chosen solitude as his companion, he raises his eyes towards the sky, scarcely restraining tears of reproach against Providence; but he does not reply to this tactless question, which fills his eyes, otherwise white as snow, with the redness of the morning rose. If the conversation goes on, he becomes anxious, looks around him in all directions as if he is trying to flee from an approaching enemy, quickly waves good-bye and moves off on the wings of his reawakened sense of shame to disappear into the forest. he is generally taken for a madman. One day four masked men, acting on orders, fell upon him and bound him tightly, so that he could only move his legs. The rough thongs of the whip crashed down on his back as they told him to make his way without delay to the Bicetre road. He started to smile as the blows rained down on him and spoke to them with such feeling and intelligence of the many human sciences he had studied which indicated great erudition in one who had not yet crossed the threshold of youth, and of the destiny of mankind fully revealing the poetic nobility of his soul, that his attackers, chilled to the blood with fear at the act which they had committed, untied his broken limbs, and falling at his knees, begged forgiveness, which was granted, and went away, showing signs of a veneration which is not ordinarily accorded to men. Since this event, which was much spoken of, everyone has guessed his secret; but they pretend not to know it so as not to increase his suffering; and the government has granted him an honorary pension, to make him forget that there was a moment when, without preliminary investigation, they had wanted to put him by force into a lunatic asylum. He keeps half of the money for his own use; the rest he gives to the poor. When he sees a man and a woman walking along a path shaded by plane-trees, he feels his body splitting from top to bottom into two parts, and each new part going to embrace one of the walkers; but it is only a hallucination, and reason soon takes over again. That is why he mixes neither with men nor with women; for his excessively strong sense of shame, which arose with the idea that he was only a monster, prevents him from giving his burning love to anyone. He would consider it self-profanation, and profanation of others. His pride repeats this axiom to him: ‘Let each remain among his own kind.’ His pride, I say, because he fears that by sharing his life with a man or a woman, he will sooner or later be reproached, as if it were a dreadful crime, for the conformation of his body. So he shelters behind his self-esteem, offended by this impious supposition, which comes from him alone, and he persists in remaining alone and without consolation amidst his torments. There in a flowery grove the hermaphrodite sleeps a deep heavy sleep, drenched in his tears. The birds, waking, contemplate, enraptured, this melancholy figure, through the branches of the trees, and the nightingale will not sing its crystal-toned cavatinas. The presence of the unhappy hermaphrodite has made the wood as august as a tomb. Oh wanderer mislead by your spirit of adventure to leave your father and mother from the earliest age; by the sufferings you have undergone from thirst, in the desert; by the homeland you are perhaps seeking, after long wanderings as an outlaw in strange lands; by your steed, your faithful friend, who with you has borne exile and the inclemency of the climes which your roaming disposition has brought you through; by the dignity which is given man by journeys through distant lands and unexplored seas, amid the polar ice-floes, or under the torrid desert sun, do not touch with your hand, like a tremor of the breeze, these ringlets of hair on the ground among the grass. Stand back several steps, and you will be acting more wisely. This hair is sacred; it is the wish of the hermaphrodite himself; he does not wish this hair, perfumed by the mountain breeze, to be kissed religiously by human lips, nor his brow, which shines at this moment like the stars which has fallen from its orbit, passing through space and on to this majestic brow, which it surrounds with its diamantine brightness, like a halo. Night, casting off sadness, puts on all its charms to fete the sleep of this incarnation of modesty, this perfect image of angelic innocence: the gentle humming of insects is less audible. The branches of trees bend their bushy heights over him to protect him from the dew, and the breeze, plucking the strings of its melodious harp, sends it joyous harmonies through the universal silence towards those closed eyelids which are dreaming that they are present at the cadenced concert of the spheres. He dreams that he is happy, that his bodily nature has changed; or that at least he has flown off on a dark-red cloud towards another sphere inhabited by beings whose nature is the same as his! He dreams that flowers are dancing around him like huge mad garlands, imbuing him with their suave perfumes, while he sings a hymn of love in the arms of a human being of magical beauty. But what his arms are clasping is only twilight mist; and when he awakes, his arms will clasp it no longer. Do not awaken, hermaphrodite; do not awaken yet, I implore you. Why will you not believe me? Sleep…sleep on for ever. May your breast rise as you pursue the chimerical hope of happiness. I grant you that; but do not open your eyes. Ah! do not open your eyes! I want to leave you thus, so that I do not have to witness your awakening. Perhaps, one day, with the help of a voluminous book, I will tell your story in moving words, appalled by all that it contains and by the moving lessons to be drawn from it. Till now, I have not been able to; for every time that I wanted to, copious tears would fall on to the paper, and my fingers would tremble, but not from old age. But now I want to have the courage at last. I am shocked that my nerves are no stronger than a woman’s and that I faint like a girl every time I reflect on your great misery. Sleep…sleep on; but do not open your eyes. Ah! do not open your eyes! Adieu, hermaphrodite: I will not fail to pray every day for you (if it were for myself, I should not pray). May peace be with you!

When I hear a soprano uttering her vibrant and melodious notes, my eyes are filled with a hidden flame, flashes of pain shoot across them, and the burst of alarm-bell and cannonade resound in my ears. What can be the reason for this deep loathing of everything related to man? If those harmonies are played on the chords of an instrument, I listen in delight to the pearly notes wafting in cadence through the elastic waves of the atmosphere. Sense conveys to my hearing an impression so sweet as to melt nerves and thought. The magic poppies of an ineffable drowsiness envelop, like a veil filtering the light of day, the active power of my senses and tenacious strength of my imagination. The story is told that I was born in the arms of deafness! In the first years of my childhood, I could not hear what was said to me. When with the greatest difficulty, they had taught me to speak, it was not until after I had read on a sheet of paper what someone had written that I could in turn communicate the thread of my ideas. One day, woeful day, I had grown in beauty and innocence. Everyone admired the intelligence and goodness of the divine youth. Many a conscience blushed inwardly when it contemplated those clear feature in which his soul was enshrined. No one approached him without veneration, for they had noticed in his eyes the look of an angel. But no, I knew only too well that the happy faces of youth would not flower perpetually, wreathed in capricious garlands, on hi modest and noble brow, which all mothers used to kiss with frenzied devotion. It was beginning to seem to me that the universe, with its starry vault of impassable and tormentingly mysterious globes, was not perhaps the most imposing thing I had dreamt of. And so, one day, tired of trudging along the steep path on this earthly journey, trudging along like a drunkard through the dark catacombs of life, I slowly raised my splenetic eyes, ringed with bluish circles, towards the concavity of the firmament and I, who was so young, dared to penetrate the mysteries of heaven! Not finding what I was seeking, I lifted my eyes higher, and higher still, until I saw a throne made of human excrement and gold, on which was sitting–with idiotic pride, his body draped in a shroud of unwashed hospital linen–he who calls himself the Creator! He was holding in his hand the rotten body of a dead man, carrying it in turn from his eyes to his nose and from his nose to his mouth; and once it reached his mouth, one can guess what he did with it. His feet were dipped in a huge pool of boiling blood, on the surface of which two or three cautious heads would suddenly rise up like tapeworms in a chamber-pot, and as suddenly submerge again, swift as an arrow. A kick on the bone of the nose was the familiar reward for any infringement of regulations occasioned by the need to breathe a different atmosphere; for after all, these men were not fish. Though amphibious at best, they were swimming underwater in this vile liquid!…until, finding his hands empty, the Creator, with the first two claws of his foot, would grab another diver by the neck, as if with pincers, and lift him into the air, out of the reddish slime, delicious sauce. And this one was treated in the same way as his predecessor. First he ate his head, then his legs and arms, and, last of all the trunk, until there was nothing left; for he crunched the bones as well. And so it continues, for all the hours of his eternity. Sometimes, he would shout: ‘I have created you, so I have the right to do whatever I like to you. You have done nothing to me, I do not deny it. I am making you suffer for my own pleasure.’ And he would continue his savage meal, moving his lower jaw, which in turn moved his brain-bespattered beard. Oh reader, does not this last- mentioned detail make your mouth water? Cannot whoever wishes also eat brains just the same, which taste just as good and just as fresh, caught less than a quarter of an hour before in the lake–the brains of a fish? My limbs paralysed, utterly dumb, I contemplated this sight for some time. Thrice I nearly keeled over, like a man in the throes of an emotion which is too strong for him; thrice I managed to keep my feet. No fibre of my body was still; I was trembling like the lava inside the volcano. Finally, my breast so constricted that I could not breathe the life-giving air quickly enough, my lips opened slightly and I uttered a cry…a cry so piercing…that I heard it! The shackles of my ears were suddenly broken, my ear-drum cracked as the shock of the sounding mass of air which I had expelled with such energy, and a strange phenomenon took place in the organ condemned by nature. I had just heard a sound! A fifth sense had developed in me! But what pleasure could I have derived from such a realization? Since then, no human sound has reached my ears without bringing with it the feeling of grief which pity for great injustice arouses. Whenever anyone spoke to me, I remembered what I had seen one day above the visible spheres, and the translation of my stifled feelings into a violent yell, the tone of which was identical to that of my fellow-beings! I could not answer him; for the tortures inflicted on man’s weakness in that hideous red sea passed before my eyes roaring like scorched elephants and brushing with their wings against my singed hair. Later, when I knew mankind better, this feeling of pity was coupled with intense rage against this tiger-like stepmother whose hardened children know only how to curse and do evil. The brazen lie! they say that evil is the exception among them! That was long ago; since then I have not spoken a word to anyone. Oh you, whoever you may be, when you are beside me, do not let any sound escape your vocal cords; do not with your larynx strive to outdo the nightingale; and, for yourself, do not on any account attempt to make your soul known to me by means of language. Maintain a religious silence, uninterrupted by the least sound. Cross your hands humbly on your breast, and lower your eyelids. I have told you this, and since that vision revealed to me the supreme truth, too many nightmares have sucked my throat, by day and by night, for me to have any courage left to renew, even in thought, the sufferings I underwent in that infernal hour, the memory of which remorselessly pursues me. Oh! When you hear the avalanche of snow falling from the high mountain; the lioness in the barren desert lamenting the disappearance of its cubs; the tempest accomplishing its destined purpose; the condemned man groaning in prison on the eve of his execution; and the savage octopus telling the waves of the sea of his victory over swimmers and the shipwrecked, then you have to acknowledge it: are not these majestic voices finer than the sniggering of men?

There exists an insect which men feed at their own expense. They owe it nothing; but they fear it. This insect, which does not like wine but prefers blood, would, if its legitimate needs were not satisfied, be capable, by means of an occult power, of becoming big as an elephant and crushing men like ears of corn. And one has to see how respected it is, how it is surrounded with fawning veneration, how it is held in high esteem, above all the other animals of creation. The head is given it as its throne, and it digs its claws solemnly into the roots of the hair. Later, when it is fat and getting on in age, it is killed, following the custom of an ancient race, to prevent it from suffering the hardships of old age. It is given a magnificent hero’s funeral, with prominent citizens bearing the coffin on their shoulders straight to the grave. Above the damp earth which the grave-digger is shrewdly moving with his spade, multicoloured sentences are combined on the immortality of the soul, the emptiness of life, the incomprehensible will of Providence, and the marble closes for ever on this life, filled with such toil, and which is now but a corpse. The crowd disperses, and night soon covers the walls of the cemetery with shadows.
But be consoled, human beings, for this grievous loss. Look at his countless family, which he so freely bestowed on you and which is advancing, that your despair should be less bitter, should be, so to speak, sweetened by these surly abortions, which will later grow into magnificent lice of remarkable beauty monsters of wise demeanour. Under its maternal wing it has incubated several dozen beloved eggs in your hair, dried by the unremitting suction of these fearsome strangers. And now the time has come for the eggs to hatch. Do not fear, these youthful philosophers will soon grow, in the course of this ephemeral life. They will grow so much that they will soon make you aware of it with their claws and their suckers.
And yet you still do not know why they do not devour the bones of your head, why they are satisfied with ceremoniously extracting the quintessence of your blood. Wait a moment and I will tell you: it is because they do not have the strength. You may be sure that if their jaws conformed to the measure of their infinite desires, your brain, the retinas of your eyes, your spinal column and all your body would be consumed. Like a drop of water. Take a microscope and examine a louse at work on a beggar’s head; you will be surprised. Unfortunately these plunderers of long hair are tiny. They would be no good for conscription; for they are not the size which the law requires. They belong to the short-legged lilliputian world, and the blind do not hesitate to classify them among the infinitesimally small. But woe to the sperm-whale that fought against a louse! Despite his size, he would be devoured in a trice. Not even his tail would remain to tell the news. An elephant can be stroked. But not a louse. I would not advise you to try this dangerous experiment. Beware, if you have a hairy hand, or even if it is only flesh and bone. Your fingers have had it, they are beyond hope. They will crack as if they were on the rack. By a strange enchantment, the skin disappears. Lice are incapable of doing as much evil as their imagination contemplates. If you find a louse, go on your way, do not lick its papilla with your tongue. An accident would happen to you. Cases have been known. Never mind, I am already content with the amount of harm it has done you, O human race; but I would like it to do you even more harm.
How much longer will you keep up the worm-eaten cult of this god, who is insensible to your prayers and to the generous sacrifices that you offer him as expiatory holocaust? Can you not see that this horrible manitou is not grateful for the bowls of blood and brains which you lay on his altars, piously decorated with garlands of flowers? He is not grateful…for earthquakes and tempests have been raging uninterruptedly since the beginning of all things. And nonetheless (this is a spectacle worthy of observations), the more indifferent he is, the more you admire him.
It is clear that you are wary of his attributes, which he hides; and your reasoning is based on the consideration that a divinity of such extreme power can only show such disdain for the faithful who obey the commandments of his religion. For that reason different gods exist in each country: here, the crocodile, there, the prostitute. But when it comes to the louse, of holy name, the nations of the earth, one and all kissing the chains of their slavery, kneel together in the august sanctuary before the pedestal of this shapeless and bloodthirsty idol. Any people that did not obey its own groveling instincts and made as if to rebel, would sooner or later disappear from the face of the earth like an autumn leaf, destroyed by the vengeance of the inexorable god.
O louse of the shriveled-up eyes, as long as rivers pour their waters into the depths of the sea; as long as the stars gravitate along their fixed orbits; as long as the dumb emptiness has no horizon; as long as humanity tears its own sides apart with disastrous wars; as long as divine justice hurls its avenging thunderbolts down on this selfish globe; as long as man denies his creator and, not without reason, snaps his fingers at him, combining insolence and disdain, your reign over the universe will be assured, and your dynasty will extend its influence throughout the centuries. I salute you, rising sun, heavenly liberator, you, the invisible enemy of man. Continue to tell lewdness to couple with in impure embraces and swear to him with oaths not written in powder that she will be his faithful lover until eternity. Kiss from time to time the dress of the great unchaste, in memory of the important services she does not fail to render you. If she did not seduce man with her lascivious breasts, it is improbable that you would exist, you, the product of this reasonable and logical coupling. O son of lewdness! tell you mother that is she abandons man’s bed and thenceforward walks a solitary way, alone and without support, she will put your existence at risk. And let her fragrant womb, which has borne you for nine months, be stirred at the thought of the dangers which her tender fruit, so gentle and peaceful, but already cold and savage, would run as a result. Lewdness, queen of empires, keep before my hate-filled eyes the sight of your starving offspring’s imperceptible growth. To achieve this goal, you know that you have only to stick more closely to man’s sides. And you may do this without compromising modesty, since both of you have been married for a long time.
As for me, if I may be permitted to add a few words to this hymn of glorification, I will say that I have had a grave built, forty square leagues in area, and of a corresponding depth. There, in its foul virginity, lies a living mine of lice. It fills the bottom of the pit, and thence it spreads out in wide thick veins in all directions. This is how I built this mine. I pulled a female louse out of the hair of man. I slept with it for three consecutive nights, then I threw it into the pit. Destiny saw to it that human fecundation, which would have been impossible in other similar cases, was successful this time; and after a few days, thousands of monsters, crawling in a compact mass of matter, first saw the light of day. This hideous mass became more and more immense in time, acquiring the liquid property of mercury, and branched out into several groups which at the moment sustain themselves by eating one another (the birth-rate being higher than the mortality- rate), unless I throw them as fodder a new-born bastard whose mother wished its death, or the arm of some young girl which I cut off during the night, after drugging her with chloroform. Every fifteen years, the generations of lice which live off men diminish noticeably and infallibly predict the approaching era of their complete destruction. For man, more intelligent than his enemy, has managed to conquer him. Then, with an infernal spade which increases my strength, I extract blocks of lice from this inexhaustible mine, break them up with axe-blows, and transport into the arteries of cities. There they dissolve on contact with human temperature as in the first days of their formation in the winding galleries of the underground mine, they dig down into the gravel and spread like little streams into the dwelling-places of men like malign spirits. The watchdog gives a low bark, for it seems to him that a legion of unknown beings is penetrating the pores of the walls, bringing terror to the bed of sleep. Perhaps, at least once in your life, you have heard one of these wailing, prolonged barks. With his feeble eyes he tries to pierce the darkness of the night; for all this passes the understanding of his dog-brain. This humming irritates him, he feels he has been betrayed. Millions of the enemy swoop down thus on each city, like clouds of locusts. That will be enough for fifteen years. They will fight against man, and inflict sharp wounds on him. After this period, I will send others. When I am smashing the block of living matter, it may happen that one fragment is denser than another. Its atoms are striving furiously to break off from the agglomeration and go and torment mankind; but the cohesion of the whole is such that it resists all their efforts. In a supreme convulsion, they make such an effort that the block, unable to scatter its living elements, soars right into the air as if set off by gunpowder, then falls again, and buries itself firmly in the ground. Sometimes, a pensive peasant sees an aerolith vertically rending space, moving downwards towards a cornfield. He does not know where the stone comes from. Now you have, clearly and succinctly, the explanation of the phenomenon.
If the face of the earth were covered with lice as the seashore is covered with grains of sand, the human race would be destroyed, a prey to dreadful pain. What a sight! With me, motionless on my angel wings in the air to contemplate it!

Oh rigorous mathematics, I have not forgotten you since your wise lessons, sweeter than honey, filtered into my heart like a refreshing wave. Instinctively, from the cradle, I had longed to drink from your source, older then the sun, and I continue to tread the sacred sanctuary of your solemn temple, I, the most faithful of your devotees. There was a vagueness in my mind, something thick as smoke; but I managed to mount the steps which lead to your altar, and you drove away this dark veil, as the wind blows the draught-board. You replaced it with excessive coldness, consummate prudence and implacable logic. With the aid of your fortifying milk, my intellect developed rapidly and took on immense proportions amid the ravishing lucidity which you bestow as a gift on all those who sincerely love you. Arithmetic! Algebra! Geometry! Awe- inspiring trinity! Luminous triangle! He who has not known you is a fool! He would deserve the ordeal of the greatest tortures; for there is blind disdain in his ignorant indifference; but he who knows you and appreciates you no longer wants the goods of the earth and is satisfied with your magical delights; and, borne on your sombre wings, wishes only to rise in effortless flight, constructing as he does a rising spiral, towards the spherical vault of the heavens. Earth only offers him illusions and moral phantasmagoria; but you, concise mathematics, by the rigorous sequence of your unshakable propositions and the constancy of your iron rules, give to the dazzled eyes a powerful reflection of that supreme truth whose imprint can be seen in the order of the universe. But the order surrounding you, represented by the perfect regularity of the square, Pythagoras’ friend, is greater still; for the Almighty has revealed himself and his attributes completely in this memorable work, which consisted in bringing from the bowels of chaos the treasures of your theorems and your magnificent splendours. In ancient epochs and in modern times more than one man of great imagination has been awe-struck by the contemplation of your symbolic figures traced on paper, like so many mysterious signs, living and breathing in hidden ways not understood by the profane multitudes; these signs were only the glittering revelations of eternal axioms and hieroglyphs, which existed before the universe and will remain after the universe has passed away. And then this man of vision wonders, leaning towards the precipice of a fatal question-mark, how it is that mathematics contains so much imposing grandeur and undeniable truth, whereas, when he compares it with mankind, he finds among the latter only false pride and deceitfulness. And then this saddened superior spirit, whose noble familiarity with your precepts has made him even more aware of the pettiness and incomparable folly of mankind, buries his white-haired head in his fleshless hands and remains engrossed in his supernatural meditations. He kneels before you and in his veneration pays homage to your divine face, the very image of the Almighty. In my childhood you appeared to me one May night by the light of the moonbeams in a green meadow beside a clear stream, all three equal in grace and modesty, all three full of the majesty of queens. You took a few steps towards me in your long dresses floating like mist and lured me towards your proud breasts like a blessed son. Then I ran up eagerly, my arms clenched around your white throats. I fed gratefully on your rich manna, and I felt humanity growing within me, becoming deeper. Since that time, rival goddesses, I have not abandoned you. How many mighty projects, since that time, how many sympathies which I had believed to be engraved on the pages of my heart as on marble, have been slowly effaced from my disillusioned reason by their configurative lines, as the oncoming dawn effaces the shadows of the night! Since that time, rival goddesses, I have seen death whose intention, clear to the naked eye, was to people graveyards, I have seen him ravaging battlefields fertilized by human blood from which morning flowers grow above human remains. Since then I have witnessed revolutions on this globe, earthquakes, volcanoes with their blazing lava, the simoun of the desert and tempest-torn shipwrecks have known my presence as an impassive spectator. Since that time I have seen several generations of human beings lift up their wings in the morning and move off into space with the inexperienced joy of the chrysalid greeting its first metamorphosis, only to die in the evening before sunset, their heads bowed like withered flowers blown by the plaintive whistling of the wind. But you remain always the same. No change, no foul air disturbs the lofty crags and immense valleys of your immutable identity. Your modest pyramids will last longer than the pyramids of Egypt, those anthills raised by stupidity and slavery. And at the end of all the centuries you will stand on the ruins of time, with your cabbalistic ciphers, your laconic equations and your sculpted lines, on the avenging right of the Almighty, whereas the stars will plunge despairingly, like whirlwinds in the eternity of horrible and universal night, and grimacing mankind will think of settling its accounts at Last Judgment. Thank you for countless services you have done me. Thank you for the strange qualities with which you enriched my intellect. Without you in my struggle against man I would perhaps have been defeated. Without you, he would have made me grovel in the dust and kiss his feet. If it had not been for you, he would have flayed my flesh and bones with his perfidious claws. But I have kept on my guard, like an experienced athlete. You gave me the coldness of your sublime conceptions, free of all passion. And I used it to reject scornfully the ephemeral pleasures of my short journey, and spurn the well-meaning but deceptive advances of my fellows. You gave me the dogged prudence which can be deciphered at every step of your admirable methods of analysis, synthesis and deduction. I used it to outdo the pernicious wiles of my mortal enemy and to attack him skillfully in turn, plunging into his entrails a sharp dagger which will forever remain buried in his body; for it is a wound from which he will never recover. You gave me logic which is, as it were, the soul itself of your teachings, full of wisdom, and with its syllogisms, the complex labyrinth of which makes it nonetheless intelligible, my intellect felt its audacious strength increasing twofold. By means of this terrible auxiliary, I discovered in mankind, as I swam towards the depths, opposite the reef of hatred, the black and hideous wickedness which lurked amidst the noxious miasmata admiring its navel. First I discovered in the darkness of his entrails that nefarious vice, evil! superior in him to good. With the poisonous weapon you lent me I brought down from his pedestal, built by man’s cowardice, the Creator himself! He gnashed his teeth and was subjected to this ignominious insult; for he had as adversary one stronger than he. But I will leave him aside like a bundle of string, in order to fly down lower…The thinker Descartes once observed that nothing solid has ever been built on you. That was an ingenious way of pointing out that not just anybody can immediately discover your inestimable value. In fact, what could be more solid than the three principal qualities above mentioned which rise up, joined in a single crown, to the august summit of your colossal architecture? A monument which is incessantly growing as discoveries are made daily in your diamantine mines, and with all the scientific researchers carried out in your domains. O holy mathematics, may I for the rest of my days be consoled by perpetual intercourse with you, consoled for the wickedness of man and the injustice of the Almighty!

‘O lamp with the silver burner, my eyes perceive you in the air, companion of cathedral vaults, and they ask why you are hanging there. It is said that at night your light illuminates the rabble who come to adore the Almighty, that you show the repentant the way to the altar. Listen, that is very probable; but…do you need to perform such services for those to whom you owe nothing? Let the columns of the basilica remain plunged in darkness; and when a blast of the tempest, on which the demon is borne whirling through space, penetrates with him into the holy place, spreading terror, instead of struggling courageously against the foul gust of the Prince of Evil, go out, suddenly as he blows feverishly on you, so that he may select his victims unseen from among the kneeling believers. If you do that, you may say I owe you all my happiness. When you shine thus, spreading your dull but adequate light, I dare not succumb to the promptings of my character and I remain standing beneath the sacred portico, looking through the half-open door at those who escape my vengeance by hiding in the bosom of the Lord. O poetic lamp! you who would be my friend if you could understand me, when my feet are treading the basalt of churches in the night hours, why do you begin to shine in a way which, I must confess, seems extraordinary to me? Your gleams are then tinged with the white hue of electric light; the eye cannot look at you; and you illuminate with a new and powerful flame every detail of the Creator’s kennel, as if you were in the throes of holy wrath. When, having blasphemed you, I withdraw, you become imperceptible, pale and modest again, sure in the knowledge that you have accomplished an act of justice. Tell me now; would it be because you know all the windings of my heart, that when I happen to appear where you are keeping watch, you eagerly indicate my pernicious presence, drawing the attention of the worshippers to the direction where the enemy of man has just appeared. I am inclined towards this view; for I, too, am beginning to know you; and I know you who you are, old witch, keeping watch so well over sacred mosques where your curious master struts like a cock’s crest. Watchful guardian; your mission is a mad one; I warn you; the first time you point me out to my cautious fellow-beings by increasing the strength of your phosphorescent light (I do not like this optical phenomenon which is not, by the way, mentioned in any textbook of physics), I will take you by the skin of your breast hooking my claws into the scabs of your scurvy nape, and I will fling you into the Seine. I do not intend, when I leave you alone, that you should deliberately behave in a manner harmful to me. There I will allow you to shine as much as I please; there you will defy me with your inextinguishable smile; there, convinced of the ineffectiveness of your criminal oil, you will urinate bitterly.’ Having spoken thus, Maldoror does not leave the temple and remains with his eyes fixed on the lamp of the holy place…He believes there is a kind of provocation in the attitude of this lamp, which he finds in the highest degree irritating because of its untimely presence. He says to himself that if there is a soul enclosed in the lamp it is cowardly of it not to answer his honest attack with sincerity. He beats the air with his sinewy arms, wishing the lamp would change into a man; and then it would have a hard time for a quarter of an hour, he could promise it that. But by what means can a lamp change into man; it is unnatural. He does not give up, and goes in search of a flat stone with a filed-down edge on the floor of the wretched pagoda. He hurls it violently into the air; the chain is cut in the middle like grass by a scythe, and the implement of worship falls to the ground, spreading its oil on the tiles. He seizes that lamp to take it outside with him, but it resists and grows bigger. He seems to see wings at its sides, and the top part takes on the shape of an angel. The whole thing is trying to rise into the air and fly off; but he holds it back with a firm hand. A lamp and angel forming one and the same body, that is something one does not often see. He recognizes the form of the lamp; he recognizes the form of the angel; but he cannot separate them in his mind; in fact they are in reality cleaving to one another, and form only one free and independent body; but he thinks that some cloud has passed before his eyes; causing him to lose something of the excellence of his eyesight. Nevertheless, he prepares courageously for the struggle, for his adversary shows no fear. The naive tell those credulous enough to believe them that the sacred portal closed of its own accord, turning on its anguished hinges lest anyone should witness the impious struggles whose changes of fortune were going to occur within the walls of the profaned sanctuary. The man in the coat, though serious wounds are being inflicted on him by an invisible sword, tries to bring his mouth near to the angel’s face; he thinks only of that, and all his efforts tend towards this goal. The angel’s energy is ebbing, and he seems to have a presentiment of his fate. He only struggles weakly now and one can see the moment coming when his adversary will be able to kiss him with ease, if that is what he wishes to do. Well, the moment has come. With his muscles he strangles the angel who can no longer breathe. For a moment he is moved at the thought of the fate which awaits this celestial being whose friend he would gladly have become. But he says that he is the Lord’s envoy and cannot control his wrath. It is done; something horrible is going to return to the cage of time! He leans over and puts his tongue, dripping with saliva, on to the cheek of the angel, who is looking up imploringly. For some time, he moves his tongue up and down his cheek. Oh!…Oh…look…look!…the white and pink cheek has become black as coal! It is emitting putrid miasmata. It is gangrene; there is no longer any room for doubt. The gnawing evil spreads all over his face and from there ravages the lower parts; soon the whole body is nothing but one vast vile sore. He himself, terror-stricken (for he did not think that his tongue contained such strong poison), picks up the lamp and rushes out of the church. Once outside, he sees a blackish shape with burnt wings laboriously flying towards the regions of heaven. They look at one another as the angle climbs towards the serene regions of the good, whereas he, Maldoror, descends into the vertiginous abysses of evil…What a look! All that mankind has thought for sixty centuries, all that it has yet to think in the centuries to come, could easily be contained in that supreme adieu, so much did it say! But it is obvious that these were thoughts far higher than those which spring from human intelligence; first of all because of the two characters and then because of the circumstances. This look bound them in eternal friendship. He is astounded that the Creator can have such noble envoys. For a moment, he thinks that he has made a mistake and wonders if he ought to have followed that road of evil as he has done. His disquiet has passed; he persists in his resolution; and it is glorious, according to him, to conquer the Almighty sooner or later, in order to reign in his stead over the entire universe, and over legions of such beautiful angels. The angel makes it clear without speaking that he will reassume his original form as he flies nearer heaven; and he lets fall a tear which cools the brow of him who gave him gangrene; and gradually disappears, rising like a vulture amidst the clouds. The guilty one looks at the lamp, the cause of all the preceding events. He runs like a madman through the streets towards the Seine and flings the lamp over the parapet. It whirls around for a few seconds and then plunges down into the murky waters. Since that day, every evening from nightfall onwards a shining lamp can be seen which rises and floats gracefully on the water, passes beneath the arches just off the Pont Napoleon, bearing instead of handles two charming little angel’s wings. It moves forwards slowly on the water, passes beneath the arches of the Pont de la Gare and the Pont d’Austerlitz, and continues on its silent course along the Seine as far as the Pont d’Alma. Once there it turns easily again to follow the course of the river, returning after four hours to its starting point. Its light, white as electric light, eclipses that of the gas-lamps bordering the banks between which she advances like a queen, solitary, inscrutable, with and inextinguishable smile, not bitterly spilling its oil. In the beginning, the boats gave it chase; but it foiled these vain efforts, escaped from all pursuits, diving like a coquette to reappear a long way further on. Now superstitious sailors stop singing when they see it, and row in the opposite direction. When you are crossing a bridge by night, be careful; you are bound to see the lamp shining somewhere or other; although it is said that it does not show itself to everyone. When a human being with something on his conscience crosses the bridge, its light suddenly goes out, and the man, terror-stricken, vainly and desperately peers at the surface and the mudbanks of the river. He knows that that means. He would like to believe that he has seen the celestial light; but no, he says that the light only came from the front of the boats or from the reflection of the gas-lamps; and he is right…He knows that he is the cause of the lamp’s disappearance; and, plunged in sad reflections, he quickens his step to arrive at his house. Then the lamp with the silver burner reappears on the surface and continues on its way with elegant and capricious arabesques.

Listen, human beings, to the thoughts which came to me in my childhood when I awoke with my red verge: ‘I have just awoken; but my thoughts are still dull. Each morning I feel a heaviness in my head. It is rare for me to be able to rest at night; for frightful dreams torment me when I manage to get to sleep. In the day my mind is weary with strange meditations, while my eyes gaze aimlessly into space; and at night I cannot sleep. When shall I sleep then? And yet nature needs to insist on its rights. Since I disdain her, she makes me face pale and makes my eyes glow with the bitter flame of fever. Besides, there is nothing I would like better than to be spared exhausting my mind by continual reflection; but even if I did not want to, my dismayed feelings would irresistibly drag me down this slope. I have noticed that the other children are like me; but they are even paler and their faces are distorted by permanent frowns, like grown men, our elder brothers. O Creator of the universe, I will not fail to offer you up this morning the incense of my childish prayer. Sometimes I forget it and I have noticed that on these days I feel happier than usual; my heart opens out, free of all constraint, and I breathe more easily the balmy air of the fields; whereas whenever I accomplish this painful duty, imposed on me by my parents, of addressing a song of praise to you every day, I am always bored by the tedious necessity of laboriously inventing new versions, and so I feel sad and irritated for the rest of the day; for it does not seem to me to be either logical or natural to invent what I do not really think, and then I seek isolation, immense solitudes. If I ask them for an explanation of this state of soul, they do not answer me. I should like to love and adore you; but you are too powerful, and there is fear in all my prayers. If simply by the manifestation of your thought you can destroy or create worlds, my weak prayers will be of no use to you; if whenever you wish you can send cholera to ravage cities, or send death to carry away in its claws, indiscriminately, people of all ages, then I wish to have no truck with one so fearsome! Not that hatred dictates the thread of my arguments; on the contrary, it is your hatred I fear which, at a capricious command, may suddenly emerge from within you and become vast as the wing-span of the Andean condor. Your questionable amusements are beyond me, I would probably be their first victim. You are the Almighty. I am not disputing your right to that title, since you alone have the right to bear it and you are yourself the end and limit of your own desires, be their consequences disastrous or beneficial. That is precisely why it would be painful for me to walk beside you in your cruel, sapphire-inlaid tunic, not as your slave but with the risk of becoming your slave from one moment to the next. It is true that when you look into your soul to examine your sovereign conduct, if the ghost of a past injustice towards wretched mankind, which has always obeyed you as your most loyal friend, should raise up before you the motionless vertebrae of and avenging backbone, then, too late, your haggard eyes weep tears of remorse, and then your hair standing on end, you really believe in the resolution you make; which is: to suspend forever in the undergrowth of nothingness the inconceivable diversions of your tigerish imagination; an idea which would be ludicrous if it were not pitiable; but I also know that constancy has never fixed like strong marrow in your bones the harpoon of its eternal habituation, and that quite often you and your thoughts, covered in the black leprosy of error, relapse into the dismal lake of dark maledictions. I would like to believe that these maledictions are unconscious (although that would in no way dilute the deadliness of their venom) and that good and evil joined together burst in reckless leaps from your gangrened breast, like the mountain stream from the rock, by the secret spell of some blind force; but I have no proof that this is the case. Too often I have seen your vile teeth chattering with rage and your august face, covered with the moss of time, reddening like a burning coal because of some trivial misdemeanor of men; I have seen this too often to be able to stand for long before the signpost of this innocent hypothesis. And so, every day, my hands devoutly joined, I shall offer up to you my humble prayer, since it has to be. But, I implore you, do not include me among the objects of your providence; leave me out of consideration, like the worm which crawls beneath the ground. I would prefer to feed greedily on marine plants, washed by tropical waves on to the shores of wild an unknown islands in the heart of those foaming regions; I would prefer this to the knowledge that you are observing me and that your sneering scalpel is probing my consciousness. It has just revealed to you the totality of my thoughts, and I hope that you, in your prudence, will generously approve of the good sense ineffaceably stamped on them. Apart from these reservations about the more or less intimate relations between us, my mouth is ready at any hour of the day to exhale, like an artificial wind, the wave of lies which reverence for your halo rigorously requires of each human being, from the moment when bluish dawn breaks; seeking the light in the satin folds of twilight as I seek good deeds, spurred on by love of the Good. My years are not many and yet I already sense that goodness is nothing more than a couple of sonorous syllables. I have not found it anywhere. Your character is easy to read; you make it too blatant. You ought to hide it more skillfully. Yet perhaps I am mistaken and you are doing it deliberately; for you know better than anyone else how ought to act. Men pride themselves on imitating you; that is why holy goodness finds no tabernacle in their wild eyes: like father, like son. Whatever one should think of your intelligence, I am only speaking as an impartial critic. I would be delighted to be shown that I have been led into error. I do not wish to show you the hatred I bear you, which I lovingly brood on like a cherished daughter; it is better to hide it from your eyes and in your presence only to assume the appearance of a severe censor, with the duty of checking on all your foul actions. Thus you will break off all active intercourse with my hatred, you will forget it and you will destroy completely this maggot which is gnawing at your liver. Rather I would prefer you to hear words of reverie and meekness… Yes, it is you who created the world and all that is in it. You are perfect. There is no virtue which you do not possess. You are very mighty, as everyone knows. May the entire universe sing your eternal hymn through every hour of time. May the birds bless you as they soar over the countryside. The stars are yours. Amen!’ How astonished you will find me as I really am!

I sought a soul akin to mine, but I could not find one. I searched every corner of the earth; my perseverance brought no reward. Yet I could not remain alone. Someone had to approve of my character; someone had to have the same ideas as I. It was morning; the sun rose in all its magnificence on the horizon and before my eyes a young man also arose whose presence made flowers grow as he passed. He approached me and, holding out his hand, said: ‘I have come to you who seek me. Let us bless this happy day.’ But I answered: ‘Go away. I did not call you; I do not need your friendship.’ It was evening; night was beginning to spread the veil of its blackness over nature. A lovely woman, whose form I could only just make out, was exerting a spellbinding influence over me, and looking at me, I said: ‘Come closer, that I may make out clearly the features of your face; for the light of the stars is not strong enough to show them, at this distance.’ Then, with her eyelids lowered, she stepped chastely across the lawn in my direction. As soon as I saw her I said: ‘I see that goodness and justice have dwelt in your heart. We could never live together. Now you admire my beauty, which has distracted more than one; but sooner or later you would repent of having given your love to me; for you do not know my soul. Not that I would ever be unfaithful to you; to her who gives herself to me with such trust and abandon I will give myself with equal trust and abandon; but get this into your head and do not ever forget it: wolves and lambs do not look lovingly at one another.’ What did I need, I who had rejected with such disgust the loveliest of mankind! What I needed I could not say. I was not yet in the habit of keeping strict note of my mental phenomena according to the methods recommended by philosophy. I sat down on a rock, by the sea. A ship had just set all sails to leave those parts: an impenetrable point had just appeared on the horizon and was gradually approaching, driven on by the gust of wind, and growing rapidly in size. The tempest was about to begin its assaults, already the sky was growing dark, until it became black, almost as hideous as the heart of man. The ship, which was a big man-of-war, had just dropped anchor to avoid being swept on to the rocks. The wind was whistling furiously from all directions, tearing the sails to shreds. Thunder was bursting amid the lightning flashes, and could not drown the sounds of lamentations heard in this house with no foundations, this moving sepulchre. The rolling of those watery masses had not yet broken the anchor-chains; but their buffetings had opened a way for the water in the ship’s sides. It was an enormous breach; the pumps are unable to bail out the flood of salt water which comes foaming and beating down on the bridge like mountains. The ship in distress fires the cannon to give the alarm; but it sinks slowly…majestically. He who has not seen a ship sinking in a hurricane, and flashes of lightning alternating with the deepest darkness, while those who are in it are overwhelmed with the despair you know of, that man knows nothing of the accidents of life. At last a universal wail of immense pain goes up from the sides of the ship, while the sea redoubles its dreadful attacks. It is the cry of men who have no strength left. Each man wraps himself in the cloak of resignation and leaves his fate in God’s hands. They huddle up together like a flock of sheep. The ship in distress fires the cannon to give the alarm; but it sinks slowly…majestically. The pumps have been going all day long. Vain efforts. Night, thick and implacable, has come to put the finishing stroke to this gracious spectacle. Everyone says inwardly that once he is in the water he will not be able to breathe; for as far as he can recall, he knows of no fishes among his ancestors. But he resolves to hold his breath for as long as possible, to prolong his life by two or three seconds; that is the avenging irony with which he wishes to confront death…The ship in distress fires the cannon to give the alarm; but it sinks slowly…majestically. He does not know that the sinking vessel causes a powerful circumvolution of waves; that murky undercurrents have joined the troubled waters and a force from below, the counterpart of the tempest raging above, is making the movements of the element nervous and spasmodic. Thus, despite the store of composure which he is gathering in advance, the future drowned man, after mature consideration, ought to feel happy if he can even prolong his life amid the eddying deeps by the space of half a normal breath for good measure. He will not be able to flout death, which is his supreme wish. The ship in distress fires the cannon to give the alarm; but it sinks slowly…majestically. I am wrong. It is no longer firing its cannon, it is not sinking. No! the cockle shell has been completely engulfed. O heaven! how can one go on living after experiencing such delights! I had just been given the privilege of witnessing the death- throes of several of my fellow-beings. Minute by minute I followed the vicissitudes of their agony. Now the bawling of some old woman, mad with fear, was at a premium. Now only the yelling of a child at breast prevented the steering orders from being heard. The vessel was too far away for me to hear distinctly the sound of groans carried on the gust; but I brought it nearer by an act of will, and the optical illusion was perfect. Every quarter of an hour, when a gust stronger than the others, uttering its mournful tones above the cries of fear-stricken petrels, broke up the ship in a longitudinal crunching movement, increasing the laments of those about to be offered as sacrifices to death, I dug a sharp metal point deep in my cheek and secretly thought: They are suffering more! In this way I at least had a point of comparison. I apostrophized them from the shore, hurling threats and imprecations at them. It seemed that they ought to hear me! It seemed that my hatred and my words, over-leaping the distance, were abolishing the physical laws of sound and distinctly reaching their ears which had been deafened by the roaring of the angry ocean. It seemed that they ought to think of me, and breathe vengeance in impotent rage! From time to time I looked up towards the cities slumbering on firm land; and seeing that nobody suspected that a ship was going to sink some miles from shore, with birds of prey for a crown and ravenous aquatic giants for a pedestal, I took courage again and hope returned to me: so I was certain of their destruction! They could not escape! To make assurance doubly sure, I had gone to fetch my double-barreled rifle so that if some survivor was tempted to approach the rocks of the shore to escape imminent death, a bullet in the shoulder would shatter his arm and prevent him from carrying out his plan. At the moment of the tempest’s greatest fury, I saw a head, its hair standing on end, frantically bobbing up and down in the water. The swimmer was swallowing litres of water and, buoyed up like a cork, was sinking into the deep. But soon he would reappear, his hair streaming, his eyes riveted on the shore; he seemed to be challenging death. His composure was admirable. A huge bleeding wound caused by the jagged point of a hidden reef had gashed his brave and noble face. He could not have been more than sixteen years old; for the peach-like down on his upper lip could just be made out by the flashes which lit up the night. And now he was only two hundred yards from the cliff. I could easily get a clear view of him. What courage! What indomitable spirit! How the determined set of his head seemed to flout destiny as he vigorously cleaved the waves which did not easily give way before him. I had made up my mind in advance. I owed it to myself to keep my promise; the last hour had tolled for all; none must escape. That was my resolution; nothing would change it…a sharp sound was heard, the head went down, and did not reappear. I did not take much pleasure in this murder as one might think; it was precisely because I was sated with all this killing which I was doing out of pure habit; one cannot do without it, but it provides only a slight enjoyment. The sense is dulled, hardened. What pleasure could I feel at the death of this human being when there were more than a hundred who, once the ship had gone down, would provide me with the spectacle of their deaths and their last struggle against the waves? This death did not even have the appeal of danger; for human justice, rocked by the hurricane of this dreadful night, was slumbering within doors, a few steps from me. And now that the years are weighing down on me, I can sincerely speak this simple and solemn truth: I was never as cruel as men afterwards said I was; whereas many times their persistent acts of wickedness went on wreaking havoc for years on end. Then my rage knew no bounds; I was possessed by fits of cruelty and I became fearsome to anyone who came within sight of my haggard eyes–that is, if he was of my race. If it was a horse or a dog, I let it pass: have you heard what I have just said? Unfortunately, on the night of that tempest, one of those fits had come upon me, my reason had abandoned me (for normally I was just as cruel, but more cautious); everything which fell into my hands that night would have to die; I am not claiming that this excuses my misdeeds. The fault is not entirely with my fellow- creatures. I am only stating things as they are while I wait for the last judgment, which makes me scratch my head in advance…What does the last judgment matter to me! My reason never abandons me, as I have just claimed in order to deceive you. And when I commit a crime, I know what I am doing: I did not want to do something else! Standing on the rocks as the hurricane lashed my hair and my cloak, I watched ecstatically as the tempest’s might bore down on a ship beneath a starless sky. I followed all the peripeteias of this drama, from the moment when the vessel dropped anchor until the moment when it was swallowed up, a deadly garment which dragged into the bowels of the sea all those who had put it on as a cloak. But the moment was approaching when I myself was to be involved in these scenes of nature in tumult. When the place where the vessel had been struggling clearly showed that it had gone to spend the rest of its days on the ground-floor of the sea, some of those who had been carried off by the waves began to reappear on the surface. They held one another around the waist, in twos and threes; it was a good way of not saving their lives; for their movements became entangled and they went down like leaking jugs. What is this army of sea-monsters cleaving the water so rapidly? There are six of them; their fins are strong and they are forcing their way through the heaving seas. The sharks soon make an omelette without eggs of all the human beings moving their limbs on the unstable continent; they share it out according to the law of the strongest. Blood mixes with water, and the water mixes with the blood. Their wild eyes light up well enough the scene of carnage. Yet what tumult is that there, yonder on the horizon? You would take it for a whirlwind approaching! What flailing! I see what it is. A huge female shark is coming to partake of the pate de foie of duck and cold beef. She is wild with anger; for when she arrives, she is starving. A struggle ensures between her and the other sharks, fighting over the few palpitating limbs which are floating here and there dumbly on the surface of the red cream. She snaps and bites to the right and to the left, wounding fatally all that she gets her teeth into. But there are still three living sharks around her and she is obliged to turn in all directions to foil their tricks. With increasing emotion, such as he has never felt, the spectator follows this new kind of naval battle from the shore. He is staring at the courageous female shark, whose teeth are so strong. He no longer wavers, but shoulders the rifle and, with his customary skill, lodges his second bullet in the gills of one of the sharks as it appeared above the waves. Two sharks remain who, seeing this, go to it all the more eagerly. From the top of the rock the man with the briny saliva flings himself into the sea and swims towards the pleasantly-coloured carpet, holding in his hand the steel dagger which he always carries with him. From now on each shark has an enemy to deal with. He advances on his weary adversary and, taking his time, buries the sharp blade of his knife in its belly. The moving citadel easily accounts for her last adversary. The swimmer is now in the presence of the female shark he has saved. They look into each other’s eyes for some minutes, each astonished to find such ferocity in the other’s eyes. They swim around keeping each other in sight, and each one saying to himself: ‘I have been mistaken; here is one more evil than I.’ Then by common accord they glide towards one another underwater, the female shark using its fins, Maldoror cleaving the waves with his arms; and they hold their breath in deep veneration, each one wishing to gave for the first time upon the other, his living portrait. When they are three yards apart they suddenly and spontaneously fall upon one another like two lovers and embrace with dignity and gratitude, clasping each other as tenderly as brother and sister. Carnal desire follows this demonstration of friendship. Two sinewy thighs press tightly against the monster’s viscous flesh, like two leeches; and arms and fins are clasped around the beloved object, while their throats and breasts soon form one glaucous mass amid the exhalations of the seaweed; amidst the tempest which was continuing to rage; by the light of lightning-flashes; with the foaming waves for marriage-bed; borne by an undersea current and rolling on top of one another down into the unknown deeps, they joined in a long, chaste and ghastly coupling!…At last I had found one akin to me…from now on I was no longer alone in life…! Her ideas were the same as mine…I was face to face with my first love!

A human body is dragged along in the Seine. In the circumstances, she flows solemnly. The swollen body is buoyed up on the water; it disappears beneath the arch of a bridge; but further on it can be seen turning round and round like a mill-wheel and going under now and then. A boatman hooks it with a rod as it goes by and brings it back to earth. Before it is brought to the morgue the body is left on the bank for some time to revive it if possible. A dense crowd gathers around the body. Those who cannot see because they are at the back push those in front, as much as they can. Everyone says to himself: ‘I would never have drowned myself.’ They pity the young man who has killed himself; they admire him; but they do not imitate him. And yet he found it quite natural to take his life, judging that there was nothing on earth capable of satisfying him, and aspiring towards higher things. His face is distinguished, his clothes are expensive. Is he seventeen yet? That is dying young! The stunned crowd continues to gape at him. Night is coming on. Everyone moves quickly away. No one has dared to turn the drowned man over and make him throw up the water which fills his body. They are afraid of showing any feeling, and no one has moved, they all keep to themselves. One of them goes away singing discordantly an absurd Tyrolean air; another snaps his fingers like castanets…Troubled by his dark thoughts, Maldoror, on horseback, passes near the place with the speed of lightning. He sees the drowned man; that is enough. Immediately, he brings his courser to a halt and gets down from the stirrup. He lifts up the young man with no sign of squeamishness, making him throw up large amounts of water. At the thought that this inert body could re revived by his hands he feels his heart leap and under this excellent impression his courage redoubles. Vain efforts! Vain efforts, I said, and it is true. He rubs his temples; he rubs this limb and that; he breathes into his mouth for an hour, pressing his lips against the unknown young man’s. At last he seems to feel a slight beating of the young man’s breast. The drowned man lives! At this supreme moment several wrinkles could be seen disappearing from the horseman’s forehead, making him ten years younger. But alas! the wrinkles will return, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps as soon as he has left the banks of the Seine. Meanwhile the drowned man opens his lusterless eyes and thanks his benefactor with a wan smile; but he is still very weak, and he cannot move at all. How fine it is to save someone’s life! And how many faults are redeemed by this action! The bronze-lipped man, preoccupied till then with snatching him from the arms of death, looks at the young man more attentively, and his features are not unfamiliar to him. He says inwardly that there is not much difference between the blond-haired young man who had just nearly drowned and Holzer. Look how effusively they embrace one another. It is nothing! The man with the pupils of jasper is anxious to maintain a harsh an undemonstrative appearance. Saying nothing, he takes his friend and puts him up behind him on the saddle, and the steed moves off at a gallop. O Holzer, who thought you were sensible and strong, do you not see, from your very own example, how difficult it is, in a fit of despair, to maintain the composure you boast of! I hope you will not cause me such grief again, and I for my part have promised you never to take my life.

There are moments in life when man with his louse-ridden hair casts wild staring looks at the green membranes of space; for he believes he hears, somewhere ahead, the ironic hoots of a phantom. He staggers and bows his head; what he has heard is the voice of conscience. Then with the speed of a madman he rushes out of the house, takes the first direction his wild state suggests and bounds over the rough plains of the countryside. But the yellow phantom never loses sight of him, pursuing him with equal speed. Sometimes on stormy nights, while legions of winged octopi, which look like ravens at a distance, hover above the clouds, moving ponderously towards the cities of men, their mission to warn them to change their conduct; on such nights the dark-eyed pebble sees two things pass by, lit up by the flashes of lightning, one after another; and wiping a furtive tear of compassion which flows from its frozen eye, it shouts out: ‘Yes, he certainly deserves it; it is only justice being done.’ Having said that he reassumes his grim attitude and continues to watch, trembling nervously, the manhunt, and the big lips of the shadowy vagina from which immense dark spermatozoids flow unceasingly like a river and then soar up into the lugubrious ether, hiding all nature with the vast span of their bat’s wings, including the solitary legions of octopi, now gloomy at the sight of these dumb inexpressible fulgurations. But all the time the steeplechase between these two tireless runners is going on, and the phantom hurls torrents of fire from his mouth on to the singed back of the human antelope. If, while he is accomplishing this duty, he comes upon pity trying to bar his way, he gives in disgustedly to her supplications, and allows the man to escape. The phantom makes a clicking sound with its tongue, as if to tell itself that it is giving up the chase, and then returns to its kennel for the time being. His is the voice of the condemned: it can be heard even in the furthest layers of space; and when its dreadful shrieking penetrates the human heart, then man would prefer, as the saying goes, to have death as his mother than remorse as his son. He buries his head up to his neck in the earthy windings of a hole; but conscience volatilizes this ostrich-trick. The hole disappears, a drop of ether; light appears with its train of beams, like a flight of curlews swooping down on lavender; and man, his eyes open, is face to face with his pale and ghastly self again. I have seen him making for the sea, climbing a jagged promontory, lashed by the eyebrow of the surge; and flinging himself arrow-like down into the waves. The miracles is this: the corpse reappeared next day on the surface of the ocean, which had brought this flotsam of flesh back to the shore. The man freed himself from his body’s imprint in the sand, wrung the water from his drenched hair, and silently, stoopingly, returned to the way of life. Conscience judges our most secret thoughts and acts severely, and is never wrong. Being powerless to prevent evil, it never ceases to hunt man down like a fox, especially in the hours of darkness. Avenging eyes, which ignorant science calls meteors, shed a livid flame of light, revolving on themselves as they pass and uttering mysterious words…which he understands! Then his bed is battered by the convulsions of his body, burdened by the weight of insomnia, and he hears the sinister breathing of night’s vague rumours. The angel of sleep himself, having been struck a mortal blow on the forehead from a stone whose thrower is unknown, abandons his task and reascends towards heaven. Now this time I am here to defend man; I, the scorner of all virtues; I, whom the Creator has never forgotten since the day when I knocked from their pedestal the annals of heaven where by some infamous intrigue his power and his eternity had consigned, and I applied my four hundred suckers to his armpits, making him utter dreadful cries. They changed into vipers as his mouth uttered them and went and hid in the undergrowth, among ruined old walls, on the watch by day, on the watch by night. These cries crawled, endowed with countless rings and a small flat head, and wickedly gleaming eyes. They have vowed to stop at the sight of human innocence. But when men in their innocence are out walking in the tangles of the maquis, on steep slopes or on the dunes of the sand, they soon change their mind, something makes them want to go back. If, that is, there is still time; for, at times, men notice the poison is creeping along the veins of their leg by means of an almost imperceptible bite, before they have had time to turn back and escape into the open. Thus it is that the Creator, admirably cool even in the presence of the most appalling sufferings, extracts from the very breasts of men the germs which are harmful to those who live on earth. Imagine his astonishment when he saw Maldoror changed into an octopus coming towards him with his eight monstrous tentacles, each one of them which was a solid lash which could easily have encompassed a planet’s circumference. Caught unawares, he struggled for some moments against the viscous embrace, which was getting tighter and tighter…I feared some foul trick on his part; having fed copiously on the globules of his sacred blood, I suddenly pulled away from his majestic body, and went and hid deep in a cave, which has been my abode since then. After many fruitless searches, he was still unable to find me. That was a long time ago; but I think he knows now where I live; he is wary of entering; the two of us live like monarchs of neighbouring lands, who know their respective strengths, cannot defeat one another, and are weary of the useless battles of the past. He fears me, and I fear him; each of us, though undefeated, has felt the savage blows of his adversary, and it is stalemate. However, I am ready to take up the struggle again whenever he wishes. But I advise him not to wait for the right moment for his hidden schemes. I will always be on guard, I will always keep my eye on him; let him not visit the earth with conscience and its torments. I have taught men what weapons to use to combat it successfully. They have not yet grown accustomed to conscience; but you know that, for me, it is as the wind-blown straw. And I treat it as such. If I wanted to used the opportunity to indulge in subtle poetic discussion, I would add that a straw is more to me than conscience; for straw is useful for the ox chewing the cud, whereas conscience has only its claws of steel to show. These claws suffered a painful setback the day they came before me. As conscience had been sent by the Creator, I did not think fit to allow it to bar my way. If it had come to me with the modesty and humility proper to its rank (which it ought never to have tried to rise above), then I would have listened to it. I did not like its pride. I stretched out my hand and ground its claws with my fingers; they fell as dust to the ground, beneath the pressure of this new kind of mortar. I stretched out my other hand and pulled off its head. Then I hunted that woman out of my house with a whip, and I never saw her again. I have kept her head as a souvenir of my victory…Gnawing the skull of the head which I held in my hand, I stood on one leg, like a heron, beside a precipice on the side of a mountain. I was seen going down the valley, while the skin of my breast remained as still and calm as the lid of a tomb! Gnawing the skull of the head which I held in my hand, I swam in the most dangerous gulfs, along by lethal reefs, and I dived deeper than any current, to witness, as a stranger, the combats of sea-monsters; I swam so far the shore that it was out of my piercing sight; and hideous cramps, with their paralysing magnetism, prowled around my limbs as they cleaved the waves with their forceful movements, but they did not dare to approach. I was seen returning safe and sound to the beach, while the skin of my breast remained as still and calm as the lid of a tomb! Gnawing the skull of the head which I held in my hands, I mounted the steps of a high tower. I reached the platform, high above the ground. I looked out over the countryside and the sea; I looked at the sun, the firmament; kicking hard against the granite which did not give way, I challenged death and divine vengeance with a supreme howl of contempt and then hurled myself like a paving-stone into the mouth of space. Men heard the painful resounding thud which occurred as the head of conscience, which I had abandoned as I fell, hit the ground. I was seen descending, slow as a bird, borne on an invisible cloud, and picking up the head, so that I could force it to witness a triple crime, which I was to commit that day, while the skin of my breast remained as still as the lid of a tomb! Gnawing the skull of the head which I held in my hands, I made for the place where the guillotine is. Beneath the blade, I placed the smooth and delicate necks of three young girls. Executor of fine works, I released the rope with the apparent deftness of a lifetime’s experience; and the triangular blade, falling obliquely, lopped off three heads which were looking at me sweetly. Then I put my own head beneath the weighty razor, and the executioner prepared to do his duty. Thrice the blade slid along the grooves with renewed force; thrice, my material carcass was moved to the very depths, especially at the base of my neck, as when one dreams that one has been crushed to death beneath a collapsing house. The stunned crowd let me pass and leave the gloomy square. It saw me opening up with my elbows its undulating waves, carrying the head straight in front of me, while the skin of my breast remained as still and as calm as the lid of a tomb! I said I wanted to defend man, this time; but I fear my apologia is not an expression of the truth; and consequently I prefer to remain silent. Mankind will applaud this prudence with gratitude!

The time has come to draw in the reins of my inspiration and to stop for a moment along the way, as when one looks at a woman’s vagina; it is wise to look over the ground I have covered, and then, having rested my weary limbs, to soar off with a bold leap. To cover such a stretch in a single breath is by no means easy; one’s wings get very tired, flying high, without hope or remorse…No, let us not lead any further the haggard pack of pickaxes and spades across the explosive mines of this impious song. The crocodile will not change a word of the vomitings from beneath his skull. So much the worse, if some lurking shade, excited by the praiseworthy object of avenging mankind whom I have so unjustly attacked, stealthily opens the door of my room, and brushing against the wall like a seagull’s wing, buries a dagger in the side of the plunderer of heavenly wrecks! The atoms of clay may just as well be dispersed in this way as any other.



Let us recall the names of those imaginary beings of angelic nature, creations of a single mind, who, in the second song, shone with a light of their own. Once born, they die, like the sparks whose swift extinction on the burning paper the eye can hardly follow. Leman!…Lohengrin!…Lombano!…Holzer! for a moment you appeared on my charmed horizon covered in the insignia of youth; but I let you fall back into chaos, like diving bells. You will never come forth again. It is enough for me to keep the memory of you; you must give way to other substances, less beautiful perhaps, engendered by the stormy flood of a love resolved not to quench its thirst with the human race. A hungering love, which would devour itself, if it did not seek sustenance in celestial fictions: creating, in the long run, a pyramid of seraphim more numerous than the insects which swarm in a drop of water, he will weave them into an ellipse which he will whirl around himself. During this time, the traveler, who has stopped at the sight of a cataract, will, if he looks up, see a human being in the distance, borne towards hell’s depths on a garland of living camellias! But…silence! The floating image of the fifth ideal slowly takes shape, like the blurred nuances of the aurora borealis, on the vaporous forefront of my intellect, where it takes on more and more of a precise consistency…Mario and I were going along the strand. Our horses, with straining necks, rent the membranes of space and struck sparks from the stones on the beach. The cold blast struck us full in the face, billowing out our cloaks; and the hair of our twin heads was blowing in the wind. The seagull, by its cries and the beating of its wings, tried to warn us of the possible proximity of the tempest. It cried: ‘Where are they going, at this mad gallop?’ We said nothing; plunged in reverie, we let ourselves be borne along on the wings of this wild career; the fisherman, seeing us pass by, swift as the albatross, and believing that here, fleeing before him, were the two mysterious brothers, so called because they were always together, hastened to make the sign of the cross and hid with his petrified dog behind a huge boulder. Those who lived on the coast had heard strange things told of these two characters, who would appear on earth amid the clouds in times of great calamity, when a dreadful war threatened to thrust its harpoon into the breasts of two enemy countries, or cholera with its sling was preparing to hurl death and corruption into entire cities. The oldest beachcombers would frown gravely as they explained that these two phantoms, the vast span of whose black wings everyone had noticed in hurricanes, above sandbanks and reefs, were the spirit of the earth and the spirit of the sea, whose majestic forms would appear in the sky during the great revolutions of nature, and who were joined together by eternal friendship, the rarity and glory of which have astonished the endless cable of generations. It was said that, flying side by side, like two Andean condors, they liked to hover in concrete circles among the layers of the atmosphere nearest to the sun; that in those regions they lived on the purest essence of light; that with great reluctance they decided to direct their vertical light down towards the orbit in which the fear-stricken human globe deliriously revolves, inhabited by cruel spirits who massacre one another on the fields where battle rages (when they are not treacherously and perfidiously killing one another with the dagger of hatred or ambition in the middle of towns), and who feed on beings as full of life as themselves, but lower down in the scale of existence. Or when, to urge men to repentance by the strophes of their prophecies, they firmly resolved to swim with huge and powerful strokes towards the sidereal regions where a planet moved amid the thick exhalations of greed, pride, imprecations and sneers which rose like pestilential vapours from its hideous surface; this planet seemed only as big as a bowl, being almost invisible because of the distance; and there, sure enough, there were many opportunities for them to regret bitterly their spurned and misunderstood kindness; and they went and hid in the bowels of volcanoes to converse with the enduring fires of lava which bubble in vats in the center of the earth, or at the bottom of the sea, where their disillusioned gaze could linger pleasantly on the fiercest monsters of the depths, who seemed models of gentleness in comparison with the bastards of mankind. And then when the propitious darkness of night fell, they would rush out of the porphyry-crested craters and from the undersea currents, leaving behind them the stony chamber-pot where the constipated anus of the human cockatoo strains, till they could no longer make out the shape of the vile planet suspended in space. Distressed at their fruitless attempt, the spirit of the earth and the spirit of the sea embraced and wept, amid the stars who shared their grief, and beneath God’s eye. Mario and he who galloped by his side were not unaware of the vague and superstitious rumours spread by fishermen as, with doors bolted and windows closed, they whispered to one another around the fireside of an evening; while the night wind, wishing to warm itself, whistles around the straw cabin, shaking with its force the fragile walls, surrounded at the base with shells brought in by the dying undulations of the waves. We were not speaking. What have those who love to say to one another? Nothing. But our eyes expressed everything. I told him to pull his cloak around him more and he remarked that my horse was moving too far from his; each of us was as much concerned for the other’s life as for his own; we are not laughing. He tries to force a smile. But I notice hat his face is deeply lined, and bears the terrible weight of reflection, which is constantly struggling with the sphinxes who, with their squinting eyes, baffle mortal intelligence in all its anguished endeavours. Seeing that his attempts are futile, he averts his eyes and bites his earthly rein, raging and foaming at the mouth and looking towards the horizon, which flees at our approach. In turn, I try to remind him of his gilded youth, which need only advance like a queen in the palace of pleasures; but he notices how difficult it is for my thin mouth to utter these words, how the years of my own spring have passed, sad and glacial, like an implacable dream passing over banquet tables, satin beds where love’s pale priestess sleeps, paid with the glitter of gold, the bitter pleasures of dis-solitude and the torches of sorrow. Seeing that my attempts are futile, I am not surprised that I cannot make him happy; the Almighty appears with his instruments of torture in the resplendent aureole of his horror. I avert my eyes and look towards the horizon which flees at our approach…Our horses were galloping along the shores, as if they fled the eyes of men…Mario is younger than I; the dampness of the weather and the salt water which spurts up on us bring cold to his lips. I said to him: ‘Take care!…Take care!…close your lips on one another; do you not see the sharp claws of the cold which will chap your skin, furrowing it with its smarting wounds?’ He fixed his eye on my brow and answered with the movements of his tongue: ‘Yes, I see these green claws, but I will not alter the natural position of my mouth to get rid of them. Since this appears to be the will of Providence, I wish to submit to it. Its will could have been less harsh.’ And I exclaimed: ‘I admire this noble revenge.’ I wanted to tear out my hair, but he forbade me with such a stern look that I obeyed him respectfully. It was getting late, the eagle was returning to its nest amid the jagged mountain rocks. He said: ‘I will lend you my cloak to protect you from the cold. I do not need mine.’ I replied: ‘Woe to you, if you do as you say. I do not want another to suffer instead of me, and especially not you.’ He did not answer, because I was right; but I began to comfort him, because of the violent and hasty tone in which I had spoken. Our horses were galloping along the shore, as if they fled from the eyes of men…I looked up, like the prow of a ship borne upon a huge wave and I said to him: ‘Are you crying? Tell me, king of the snows and the fog. I see no tears on your face, lovely as the cactus flower, and your eyes are dry as the bed of the stream; but in the depths of your eyes I see a blood-filled vessel in which your innocence boils, bitten in the neck by a scorpion of the largest kind. A violent wind blows down on the fire beneath the cauldron, spreading the dark flames outside your sacred eyeball. I moved close to you, my hair near your rosy brow, and I smelt burning, because my hair had been singed. Close your eyes; for, if you do not, your face, burning like the lava of the volcano, will fall in ashes into the palm of my hand.’ And he turned towards me again, heedless of the reins he was holding in his hands, gazing at me tenderly, raising and lowering his lily eyelids like the ebb and flow of the sea. He wished to reply to my bold question, and did so as follows: ‘Do not worry about me. Just as the mists of rivers drift over hillsides and on reaching the top rise into the atmosphere to form clouds; so have your anxieties on my account increased imperceptibly without any reasonable grounds, forming the illusory shape of a desolate mirage in your imagination. I assure you there is no fire in my eyes, although I feel as if my skull had been plunged into a basin of burning coals. How could my innocent flesh be burning in the cauldron, since I can hear only weak and indistinct cries which are but the moans of the wind passing over our heads. A scorpion could not have taken up residence and fixed his sharp pincers in my torn sockets; rather I feel as if there are more powerful tentacles grinding my optic nerves. Yet I am of your opinion, that the blood which fills the cauldron was extracted from my veins by an invisible torturer as I slept at night. I waited a long time for you, beloved son of the ocean; my sleep-weakened arms engaged in vain combat with the One who had stolen into the vestibule of my house…Yes, I feel my soul padlocked in the bolt of my body and it cannot get out and flee from the shores lashed by human waves, no longer witness to the livid pack of miseries relentlessly pursuing the human lizards over the sloughs and pits of immense despair. But I shall not complain. I received life as a wound, and I have forbidden suicide to heal the scar. I want the Creator to contemplate the gaping crevasse for every hour of his eternity. That is the punishment I inflict on him. Our coursers slow down, their bodies trembling like the hunter set upon by peccaries. They must not start listening to what we are saying. By dint of attention, their intelligence would increase and they might understand us. Woe to them! for they would suffer more. Just think, in fact, of the boars of mankind: does it not seem that the degree of intelligence which separates them from other beings has only been granted at the irremediable price of incalculable suffering? Follow my example and dig your spur into your courser’s side. ‘Our horses were galloping along the shore, as if they fled the eyes of men.’

Behold the madwoman dancing along, with a vague memory of something in her mind. Children chase after her and throw stones at her, as if she were a blackbird. She brandishes a stick and makes as if to chase them, then continues on her way. She has left a shoe behind her on the path, and does not notice it. Long spiders’ legs move on her nape; they are none other than her hair. Her face no longer looks like a human face, and she bursts into fits of laughter, like a hyena. She utters scraps of sentences in which, when they are put together, few would be able to find any clear meaning. Her dress has holes in several places and moves jerkily to show her bony and mud-bespattered legs. She moves forward in a daze, her youth, her illusions and her past happiness, which she glimpses through her ruined mind’s haze, all swept along like a poplar leaf by the whirl of unconscious powers. She has lost her former grace and beauty; the way she walks is mean and low, her breath reeks of gin. If men were happy on this earth, it would surprise us. The madwoman reproaches no one, she is too proud to complain, and she will die without revealing her secret to those who are interested in her, but whom she has forbidden even to speak to her. Children chase after her and throw stones at her, as if she were a blackbird. She has dropped a roll of paper from her breast. A stranger picks it up, shuts himself in his room all night, and reads the manuscript, which contains the following: ‘After many years of barrenness, Providence blessed me with a child, a girl. For three whole days I knelt in churches and never ceased thanking Him who had at last granted my wishes. With my own milk I suckled the child, who meant more to me than my own life. She was endowed with all the good qualities of body and soul, and she grew quickly. She would say to me: “I would like to have a little sister to play with; ask the good Lord to send me one; and I, in return, will wreathe a garland of violets, mint, and geraniums.” My answer was to sit her on my lap, press her to my breast and kiss her lovingly. She was already interested in animals and used to ask me why it was that the swallow merely brushed against the cottages of men with its wings, without ever daring to enter. But I would put my finger on my mouth, as if to tell her to keep silent on this grave questions, the rudiments of which I did not wish to explain to her and perhaps over-excite her childish imagination with too vivid a sensation; and I was anxious to change the subject, which is a painful one for every being who belongs to the race which has imposed its unjust dominion on all the other animals of creation. Whenever she spoke to me of the graves in the cemetery, saying how there one could breathe the pleasant perfumes of cypresses and immortelles, I was careful not to contradict her; but I said to her that it was the town where the birds lived, that they sang there from morning till dusk, that the graves were their nests where, lifting up the gravelids, they slept at night with their family. It was I who sewed all the pretty little clothes she wore, as well as the lace-dress, with its thousand arabesques, which was reserved for Sundays. In winter, she had her special place by the hearth; for she considered herself an important person. In summer, the meadows felt the gentle pressure of her steps when she ventured out with her silk net on the end of a rush, chasing the wild, free hummingbird, and butterflies with their frustrating, zig-zagging motion. “What have you been doing, you little scamp, your soup has been waiting for you for over and hour?” But she exclaimed as she flung her arms around my neck that she would never go back there. The next day she was off again, skipping over the daisies and the mignonettes; among the sunbeams and the whirling flight of the ephemera; knowing only life’s prismatic glass, none of its rancour yet; glad to be no bigger than the bluetit; innocently teasing the warbler, which does not sing as well as the nightingale; slyly putting her tongue out at the nasty raven which was looking at her in a fatherly way; graceful as a young cat in her movements. I was not to enjoy her company for much longer; the time was coming near when she would unexpectedly have to say goodbye to life’s enchantments, abandoning forever the company of turtledoves, grouse and greenfinches, the babbling of the tulip and the anemone, the counsel of the marsh-grass, the sharp wit of the frogs, the coolness of the streams. I was told what happened; for I was not present at the event of which my daughter’s death was the result. If I had been, I would have defended that angel at the cost of my blood…Maldoror was passing with his bulldog; he sees a young girl sleeping in the shade of a plane-tree, and at first he took her for a rose. It is impossible to say which came first to his mind: the sight of this young girl, or the resolution which followed. He undresses rapidly, like a man who knows what he is going to do. Stark naked, he flung himself upon the girl, lifting her dress to commit an assault upon modesty…in broad daylight…that will not worry him, you may be sure. But let us not dwell on this impure act. Discontented in mind, he hurriedly gets dressed again, casts a prudent glance towards the dusty pathway where no one is walking, and orders the bulldog to strangle a blood-bespattered young girl with a snap of his jaws. He points out to the mountain-dog the place where the suffering victim is breathing and shrieking, and withdraws from the scene, not wishing to be present as the sharp teeth enter the pink veins. It seemed to the dog that the execution of this order was harsh. He thought he was being asked to do what had already been done, and contented himself, this monstrous snouted wolf, with violating in turn the virginity of this delicate child. From her torn belly the blood flows again along her legs, over the meadow…Her moans join the whining of the animal. The young girl gives him the golden cross which adorned her neck, so that he would spare her. She had not dared to show it to the wild eye of him who had first thought of taking advantage of the weakness of her age. But the dog knew well that if he disobeyed his master, a knife-thrust from his sleeve would open up his entrails without a word of warning. Maldoror (how revolting to pronounce the name!) heard the agonized cries of pain, and was astonished that the victim was so tenacious of life that she was not already dead. He approaches the sacrificial altar and sees the behaviour of his bulldog, gratifying his base instincts, rising above the young girl, as a ship- wrecked man raises his head above the waves. He kicks him and cuts out one of his eyes. The maddened bulldog flees across the countryside, dragging after him along a stretch of the road, which though it is short, is still too long, the body of the young girl which is hanging from him and which only comes free as a result of the jerky movements of the fleeing dog; but he is afraid of attacking his master, who will never set eyes on him again. He takes an American penknife from his pocket, consisting of twelve blades which can be put to different uses. He opens the angular claws of this steel hydra; and armed with a scalpel of the same kind, seeing that the green of the grass had not yet disappeared beneath all the blood which had been shed, he prepares, without blenching, to dig his knife courageously into the unfortunate child’s vagina. From the widened hole he pulls out, one after one, the inner organs; the guts, the lungs, the liver and at last the heart itself are torn from their foundations and dragged through the hideous hole into the light of day. The sacrificer notices that the young girl, a gutted chicken, has long been dead. He stops his ravages, which had gone on until then with increasing eagerness, and lets the corpse sleep, again, in the shade of the plane-tree. The knife was picked up where it had been left, a few steps away. A shepherd, a witness of the crime whose author was never discovered, waited until long afterwards before telling the tale, until he had made sure that the criminal had reached the frontier and that he no longer had to fear the revenge which would be taken on him if he told the truth. I pitied the madman who had committed this appalling crime which the legislators had not foreseen and for which there were no precedents. I pitied him, because it is likely that his reason deserted him as he went to work with the twelve-bladed knife, ripping the viscera from top to bottom. I pity him because, if he was not mad, his shameful behaviour shows that he must be harbouring intense hatred against his fellow-beings, to swoop so savagely down on to the flesh and arteries of a harmless child, my daughter. I was present at the burial of the last remains, silently resigned; and every day I come and pray over a grave.’ When he has finished reading this, the stranger’s strength fails him and he faints. He comes to, and burns the manuscript. He had forgotten this memory of his youth (how habit dulls the memory!); and after an absence of twenty years, he had returned to this fateful land. He will not buy a bulldog!…He will not converse with shepherds!…He will not sleep in the shade of plane-trees!…Children chase after her and throw stones at her, as if she were a blackbird.

Tremdall, for the last time, has touched the hand of him who is deliberately going away, always fleeing onwards, the image of man always pursuing him! The wandering Jew says to himself that he would not be fleeing thus if the sceptre of the earth belonged to the race of crocodiles. Tremdall, standing in the valley, puts his hand before his eyes to concentrate the solar rays and make his sight more penetrating, while the other touches the breast of space with his horizontal unmoving hand. Leaning forward, the statue of friendship, his eyes mysterious as the sea, he contemplates the traveler’s garters as (with the aid of a metal walking stick) they make their way up the hillside. The earth seems to give way beneath his feet and even if he wished, he could not hold back his tears and his feelings: ‘He is far away; I see his form making its way along a narrow path. Where is he going, with that slow and heavy step? He does not know himself…Yet I am convinced that I am not asleep: who is it approaching, and going to meet Maldoror? How huge the dragon is…bigger than an oak. You would think that its whitish wings, joined firmly to its body, had sinews of steel, such was the ease with which they cleft the air. Its body begins with a tiger’s head and ends in a long serpent’s tail. It was not accustomed to seeing such things. What is that on his brow? I see a word there, written in a symbolic language which I cannot decipher.’ With one last wing-beat, he repaired to a place near him whose tone of voice I know. He said to him: ‘I have been waiting for you, as you for me. The hour is come. Here I am. Read on my brow my name written in hieroglyphic signs.’ Scarcely had he seen the enemy coming than Maldoror changed into an immense eagle, and prepared for the combat, contentedly clacking his hooked beak, by which he means that he will take it upon himself alone to eat the dragon’s lower parts. Now they are describing circles of diminishing concentricity, as each weighs up the other’s strengths. They are wise to do so. The dragon seems to me to be stronger; I should like him to gain victory over the eagle. I shall experience great emotions at this spectacle in which a part of my being is involved. Powerful dragon, I will, if necessary, spur you on with my shouts. For it is in the eagle’s interest that he should be defeated. Why are they waiting before they attack? I am in mortal terror. Come on, dragon, you attack first. You have just landed a sharp blow with your claw: that is not too bad. I can assure you that the eagle has felt it; the wind blows away his beautiful, blood-stained feathers. Oh! the eagle has plucked out one of your eyes with his beak, whereas you have only torn off his skin; you should have been looking out for that. Bravo! take your revenge, and smash one of his wings; there is no denying how strong and sharp your tiger’s teeth are. If you could only approach the eagle as he whirls in space and swoops down towards earth. I notice that even when he is falling you are wary of this eagle. He is on the ground, he will not be able to get up again. The sight of all these gaping wounds intoxicates me. Fly around him at ground level and finish him off, if you can, with the blows of your scaly serpent’s tail. Courage, my fine dragon. Dig your powerful claws deep into him, and let blood mix with blood to form streams in which no water flows. It is easier said than done. The eagle has just devised a new strategic plan of defence, occasioned by the unfortunate risks of this memorable struggle; he is wise. He is sitting solidly in an unshakeable position, on his remaining wing, on his haunches, and on his tail, which had previously served as a rudder. He defies attacks even more extraordinary than those which have hitherto been flung at him. Now he turns with the speed of the tiger, and does not seem to flag; now he is on his back with his two strong claws in the air, coolly and ironically weighing up his adversary. I must know who the victor will be; the combat cannot go on for ever. I am thinking of the consequences! The eagle is fearsome; he is making enormous leaps which shake the earth, as if he were about to take off; yet he knows that is impossible. The dragon does not trust appearances. He believes that at any moment the eagle will attack him on the side where he has lost his eye…O wretch that I am! This is what happens. How could the dragon have let himself be caught by the breast? In vain he uses his strength and his cunning. I see that the eagle, clinging to him with all his limbs like a bloodsucker, is burying his beak, and indeed his entire neck, deeper and deeper in the dragon’s belly. Only his body can be seen. He appears perfectly at ease; he is in no hurry to come out. No doubt he is looking for something, while the tiger-headed dragon utters groans which awaken the forests. Behold the eagle, as he comes out of that cave. Eagle, how revolting you are! You are redder than a pool of blood! Though you hold a palpitating heart in your beak, you are so covered with wounds that you can hardly stand upright on your feathered claws; and, without relaxing the tight grip of your beak, you are staggering beside the dragon which is dying in the throes of frightful pain. Victory has been hard to achieve; no matter, you have won it; one must at least tell the truth…You are acting according to the laws of reason as, moving away from the dragon’s corpse, you divest yourself of the eagle’s form. And so, Maldoror, you are the victor! And so, Maldoror, you have defeated Hope! From this moment, despair will prey on your purest substance! From this moment you will return, with a firm step, to your career of evil! Although I have become, so to speak, dulled to suffering, the last blow you struck the dragon did not fail to have its effect on me. Judge for yourself if I am suffering! But you frighten me. See, see that man fleeing in the distance. The busy foliage of malediction has grown on him, excellent soil; he is accursed and accursed. Where are your sandals taking you? Where are you going, tottering forward like a sleepwalker on a roof? May your perverse destiny be fulfilled! Maldoror, adieu! Adieu, until eternity, when we will not be together!

It was a spring day. The birds were pouring forth their warbling songs, and human beings were going about their different duties, bathed in the holiness of toil. Everything was working towards its destiny: trees, planets, dogfish. Everything, that is, except the Creator! He was lying stretched out on the road, with his clothes all torn. His lower lip was hanging down like a heavy chain; his teeth had not been cleaned, and the blond waves of his hair were full of dust. His body, benumbed by heavy sluggishness, pinned down on the stones, was making futile attempts to get up. His strength had deserted him and he was lying there, weak as an earthworm, impassive as the bark of a tree. Floods of wine filled the ruts which had been hollowed out by the nervous jerkings of his shoulders. Pig-snouted brutishness covered him with its protective wings and cast loving glances at him. His legs, their muscles slack, swept across the ground like two flapping sails. Blood flowed from his nostrils: as he fell he had knocked his face against a post…He was drunk! Horribly drunk! Drunk as a bug which in one night has gorged three barrels of blood; his incoherent words resounded all around; I shall refrain from repeating them here, for even if the supreme drunkard has no self-respect, I must respect men. Did you know that the Creator was drunk? Have pity on the lip, soiled in the cups of debauch. The hedgehog which was passing stuck his needles into his back and said: ‘Take that. The sun has run half its course. Just wait till I call the cockatoo with its hooded beak.’ The woodpecker and the owl, who were passing, buried their necks in his belly and said: ‘Take that. What are you up to on this earth? Is it to offer the spectacle of this lugubrious comedy to animals? But I promise that neither the mole, nor the cassowary, nor the flamingo will imitate you.’ The ass, which was passing by, gave him a kick in the temple and said: ‘Take that. What had I done to you to deserve such long ears? Even the crickets despise me.’ The toad, which was passing by, spat a fountain of slime on to his brow and said: ‘Take that. If you had not given me such big bulbous eyes and I had seen you in the state you are in now, I would chastely have hidden the beauty of your limbs beneath a shower of ranunculi, myositis, and camelias, so that no on would see you.’ The lion, who was passing by, inclined his royal head and said: ‘For my part, I respect him, even though his radiance now seems to be eclipsed. You others, so proud and superior, are mere cowards, since you attacked him while he was asleep. How would you like to be in his place and to have to endure from passers-by the insults which you have not spared him’? Man, who was passing by, stopped before the unrecognizable Creator; and for three full days, to the applause of the crab-louse and the viper, he shat on his august face! Woe to man, for this insult; for he did not respect the enemy, sprawled out in a mixture of blood and wine; defenceless, and almost lifeless! Then the sovereign God; awoken at last by all these mean jibes, got up as best he could; staggering, he went and sat down on a stone, with his two hands hanging down like the consumptive’s two testicles; and cast a glassy, lack-lustre glance over all of nature, which belonged to him. Oh human beings, you are enfants terribles; but let us spare, I implore you, this great being who has not yet finished sleeping off the vile liquor and who has not got enough strength left to stand up straight; he has slumped down on to the boulder, on which he is sitting like a weary traveler. Look closely at the passing beggar; he saw the dervish stretching out a thin and hungry hand and, without knowing to whom he was giving alms, threw a piece of bread into the hand of him who was begging for mercy. The Creator expressed his gratitude with a nod of the head. Oh! you will never know how difficult it can be to keep on holding the reins of the universe! Sometimes the blood rushes to one’s head when one is seriously trying to conjure a last comet from nothingness, and with it a new race of spirits. The intellect, stirred to the depths, yields like a beaten man and, for once in its life, lapses into the aberrations which you have witnessed!

A red lantern, the flag of vice, hanging from the end of a tringle, rocking its carcass, lashed by the four winds, above a massive, worm-eaten door. A dingy corridor, smelling of human thighs, led to a yard where cocks and hens, scrawnier than their own wings, were looking for food. On the wall which surrounded the yard, on the east side, several very small openings had been made and were closed off by a metal grating. Moss covered this main part of the building which had no doubt once been a convent and was now used as a residence for all those women who, every day, showed the inside of their vagina to the clients in return for a little money. I was on a bridge, the piers of which went down into the muddy water of the moat. From its raised surface I contemplated the old ramshackle building and I could observe the minutest details of its inner architecture. Sometimes a grating would rise with a creak, as if by the impulsion of a hand which did violence to the metal; a man’s head would appear in the half-open space; then his shoulders emerged with flakes of plaster falling on them, followed in this laborious extraction by his cobweb- covered body. Putting his hands like a crown on the filth of all kinds which pressed the ground with its weight, his feet still caught in the twists of the grating, he resumed his natural posture and went to dip his hands in a rickety bucket whose soapy water had seen entire generations come and go; then he made off as quickly as possible, away from these suburban side-streets, to breathe the purer air nearer the town-centre. When the client had gone, a completely naked woman came out in the same manner, and went over towards the same bucket. Then the cocks and the hens rushed up in a crowd from all parts of the yard, attracted by the smell of semen, forced her on to the ground despite her vigorous resistance, swarmed all over her body as if it were a dung-heap and tore at the flaccid lips of her swollen vagina with their beaks until the blood came out. The hens and cocks, sated, went back to scratch around in the grass of the yard; the woman, now clean, got up, trembling and covered in wounds, as when one awakes after a nightmare. She dropped the cloth she had brought to wipe her legs with; no longer needing the communal bucket, she went back to her lair to await the next client. At this sight I, too, wanted to enter that house. I was about to come down from the bridge when I saw, on the coping of the column, the following inscription in Hebrew characters: ‘You who cross this bridge, do not go in there. There crime sojourns with vice; one day, the friends of a young man who had passed through the fatal door waited in vain for his return.’ My curiosity overcame my fear; a few moments later, I was standing before a grating of solid, intercrossing metal bars, with narrow spaces between them. I wanted to look inside, through that dark screen. At first I could see nothing; but I was soon able to make out the objects in the dark room by means of the rays of the sun, which was setting and would soon disappear on the horizon. The first and only thing which struck my sight was a blond stick consisting of horns which fitted into one another. The stick was moving! It was walking in the room! Its jerking was so violent that the floor shook; with its two ends it was making huge holes in the wall and seemed like a ram battering the gates of a besieged town. Its efforts were in vain; the walls were made of freestone, and when it hit the wall I saw it bend like a steel blade and rebound like an elastic ball. Then this stick was not made of wood! I noticed later that it coiled and uncoiled easily, like an eel. Although it was as tall as a man, it did not stand upright. Sometimes it would try and then its ends could be seen through the grating. It was leaping up wildly and violently, then falling to the ground again. It could not break down the obstacle. I began to look at it more and more carefully, and I saw that it was a hair! After its great struggle with the matter which surrounded it like a prison, it went and rested against the bed which was in the room, with its root on the carpet and its tip against the head of the bed. After a few moments of silence, during which I heard broken sobs, it raised its voice and spoke thus: ‘My master has left me in this room and forgotten all about me. He has not come back to look for me. He got up from this bed on which I am lying, combed his perfumed hair and did not realize that I had already fallen to the ground. Yet if he had picked me up, there would have been nothing surprising in such a simple act of justice. He has abandoned me in the confines of this room after being enfolded in a woman’s arms. And what a woman! The sheets are still damp from their warm, moist embraces and bear, in their untidiness, the stamp of a night of love…’ And I wondered who his master could be! And I pressed my face even harder against the grating. ‘While all of nature was slumbering chastely, he coupled with a degraded woman in lewd, impure caresses. He demeaned himself so far as to allow those withered cheeks, despicable in their habitual shamelessness, to approach his august face. He did not blush, but I blushed for him. There is no doubt that he was happy to spend a night with such a spouse. The woman, struck by his majestic appearance, seemed to be enjoying incomparable delights, and kissed his neck madly.’ And I wondered who his master could be! And I pressed my face even harder against the grating! ‘During this time, irritant pustules began to appear and grow in number as a result of his unaccustomed eagerness for fleshly pleasures; I felt them surrounding my roots with their deadly gall and imbibing with their suckers the generative substance of my life. The more they abandoned themselves to their wild, insane movements, the more I felt my strength diminishing. At the moment when their bodily desires were reaching the paroxysm of passion, I noticed that my root had slumped, like a soldier wounded by a bullet. The torch of life had gone out in me and I fell from his illustrious head like a dead branch; I fell to the ground, without courage, without strength, without vitality; but with deep pity for him to whom I had belonged; but with eternal sorrow for his willful aberration!’ And I wondered who his master could be! And I pressed my face even harder against the grating! ‘If he had at least taken to himself the innocent breast of a virgin! She would have been worthier of him, and the degradation would not have been so great. With his lips he kisses that mud-covered brow, on which men have trampled, full of dust…he breathes in, with his shameless nostrils, the emanations of those two moist armpits!…I saw the membranes of the latter shrink in shame while, for their part, his nostrils shrunk from the infamous inhalation. But neither he nor she paid any attention to the solemn warnings of the armpits, to the dull, pale revulsion of the nostrils. She raised her arms higher and he, thrusting more strongly, buried his face deeper into their hollow. I was obliged to be a party to this profanation. I was obliged to be a spectator at this unspeakable contortion; to be present at the unnatural alloying of these two beings, whose different natures were separated by an immeasurable gulf…’ And I wondered who his master could be! And I pressed my face even harder against the grating! ‘When he was sick of breathing his woman, he wanted to wrench off her muscles one by one; but as she was a woman, he forgave her, preferring to make one of his own sex suffer. He called in a young man from an adjoining cell. This young man had come to spend a few carefree moments with one of these women; he was enjoined to come and stand one step from his face. I had been lying on the ground for a long time now. Not being strong enough to get up on my burning root, I could not see what they did. All I know is that the young man was hardly within arm’s reach when bits of flesh began to fall at the feet of the bed and came to rest on both sides of me. They told me in hushed tones that my master’s claws had ripped them off the adolescent’s shoulders. The latter, after some hours in which he had struggled against one of greater strength, got up from the bed and withdrew majestically. He was literally flayed from head to foot; he trailed his skin, which had been turned inside out, over the flagstones of the room. He said that his own character was full of goodness; that he liked to believe that his fellow-beings were good too; for that reason he had agreed to the wish of the distinguished stranger who had called him in; but that he would never have expected to be flayed by such a torturer. By such a torturer, he added after a pause. At last he went towards the grating which compassionately opened to ground level in the presence of this body deprived of an epidermis. Without abandoning his skin, which could still be useful to him, if only as a cloak, he was trying to escape from this cut-throat; once he left the room, I could no longer see if he had had the strength to reach the gate which let out of that building. Oh, how the hens and the cocks moved respectfully away from the long trail of blood on the drenched ground, despite their hunger!’ And I wondered who his master could be! And I pressed my face even harder against the grating! ‘Then he who should have thought more of his dignity and his righteousness sat up and leant, with some difficult, on his tired elbows. Alone, dark, disgusted, and hideous! He dressed slowly. The nuns, buried for centuries in the convent’s catacombs, having been awoken with a start by the noises of that dreadful night, the crashing and the shaking in the cell above the vaults, now held hands, and came and formed a funeral circle around him. And while he looked for the ruined remnants of his former splendour; while he washed his hands with spittle, then wiping them in his hair (for it was better to wash them with spittle than not to wash them at all, after and entire night of vice and crime), they intoned the laments for the dead, which are sung when someone has been buried. And in fact the youth was not to survive the tortures inflicted on him by a divine hand, and his agonies came to an end during the nuns’ songs.’ I remembered the inscription on the column; I understood what had become of the pubescent dreamer whose friends had been waiting for him since his disappearance…And I wondered who his master could be! And I pressed my face even harder against the grating! ‘The walls opened to let him pass; the nuns, seeing him soar into the sky with wings till then hidden beneath his emerald robe, returned to their places beneath the lid of the tomb. He has returned to his celestial dwelling, leaving me here; it is not fair. The other hairs are still on his head; and I am lying in this dismal room on a floor covered with clotted blood and bits of dried meat; this room is damned since he came in; nobody enters; yet I am locked in. It is all over now. I shall never again see the legions of angels marching in thick phalanxes, nor the stars moving in the gardens of harmony. Well…let it be…I shall be able to bear my woe with resignation. But I shall not fail to tell men what happened in this cell. I shall give them permission to discard their dignity like a useless coat, since they have my master’s example before them; I shall advise them to suck the verge of crime, since another has already done so.’ The hair stopped speaking…And I wondered who his master could be! And I pressed my face even harder against the grating!…Immediately, thunder clapped; a phosphorescent light penetrated into the room. In spite of myself I stepped back, warned by an inexplicable instinct; although I had moved away from the grating, I heard another voice, but this time insinuating, quiet, for fear of being heard: ‘Stop leaping up and down! Be quiet…be quiet…if anyone should hear you! I will put you back with the other hairs; but first wait for the sun to set on the horizon, that night may cover your steps…I have not forgotten you; but you would have been seen as you left, and I would have been compromised. Oh! if only you knew how much I have suffered since that moment! When I returned to heaven, my archangels surrounded me inquisitively; they did not want to ask me the motive for my absence. They, who had never dared to look up at me, cast looks of utter amazement on my downcast face as they tried to solve the riddle; although they could not see into the heart of this mystery, their whispered thoughts expressed the fear that an unusual change had come about in me. They were shedding silent tears; and they had a vague sense that I was no longer the same, that I was now inferior to my previous self. They wanted to know what disastrous resolution could have made me cross t