There is no evidence to show that man was created and accoutered to serve as God’s vice-regent upon the earth. There is no reason to believe that he is naturally good and kind, brave and wise — or that he ever was. On the contrary, there is much to show that he was a beast who took a strange turning in the jungle and blundered rather aimlessly into a mental world in which he was certainly not at home.
There is much evidence that man is by nature cruel, cowardly, lustful, avaricious and treacherous. He holds dominion over these terrible internal enemies and defends against the other predators (his fellow men) by virtue of his ferocity, his cunning and his indomitable will. This is his beauty and his significance: that out of the blind primordial forces of sex and the survival urge, he has forged reason and science and spun the splendorous web of art and love. If there is no other reason and no other significance, man himself has on occasion created reason and significance, standing as the maker of his gods in a garden made fruitful by his own creative power.
We think in terms of ourselves relative to the external universe. It cannot be shown, however, that this external universe is other than an extension of our own perception. But if we differentiate the internal from the external, we are still part of and not separate from the entire process of nature. We are made from the nova by way of the sun and built from the air, the rock and the sea, animated by the primordial fire of life. There are filaments in our consciousness that reach back to the first ancestor and extend to all other men and all other life with which we share a common creation and a common destiny.
Here is the totality that the Greeks called “Pan”; all-devourer, all-begetter — life and death, good and evil, pain and pleasure, unity, duality and multiplicity; all things and beyond all things. The Soul of Night and the Stars.
If in our folly and fear we will ascribe moral qualities to the lightning that strikes, to the star that shines, to the tiger that kills, then we will not hesitate to assign them also to the woman who gives and the man who takes. Thus we will define god and found a religion. And thus we degrade the living universe into a bewhiskered and irascible character endowed with immortal omnipotence and a hatred for our enemies, or with those nature lovers who catch cold communing with “The All” in the park at night, we sink into the platitudinous sitz baths of various ‘religious science’ systems on our way to the catalepsy of middle age.
All nature partakes of the eternal sacraments of life and death, of ebb and flow, of creation and destruction and regeneration. These are the harmonies of eternity that change forever and never change. The cry of the baby is echoed in the tumult of the nova. Men suns and seasons pass and return again. The spate of semen is one with the jet of stars men call The Milky Way.
The mind that comprehends these immortal processes in love and in worship is an immortal mind that soars beyond time and death. We are of one age with Aeschylus and Sophocles and Shakespeare, of one blood with Moses, Lao Tse and Newton. The body changes and decays while time cuckolds all shapes of desire and all transient things. But the shapes of desire, although transient, are the very vehicles of man’s adventure. He cannot attain by denying these steeds but by strengthening them — by training and bridling them with love and creative will until their wings are revealed. Sex and hunger are the raw stuff of art. Out of his passion, fury and despair the artist transmutes the shapes of terror and wonder into an eternal beauty.
All ways are the right way when will and love are the guides. The grace and bounty of life are free to all, saint and sinner alike, who desire them. The voice of the wind, the poignancy of music, the shout of thunder all cry out to man, daring him to know himself. Sunlight, sea and stars and the splendour of a naked woman are the signs and witnesses of a covenant that is forever. We know these things; we know them with the only certainty that is ever given us. This is the beautiful-pitiable knowledge of childhood and first youth — that the world denies and necessity circumvents. This is the knowledge of the poets, artists and singes who are beloved and outcast by men and of the mystics whom the world calls mad.
And man, self-castrated and self-frustrated, flees down the corridors of nightmare, pursued by monstrous machines, overwhelmed by satanic powers, haunted by vague guilts and terrors — all created out of his own imagination. He escapes into absurdity, drowns his spirit in pretense, worships brass gods of power and tin gods of success. Then, shamed by his pretenses and frustrated by his self-denial, he projects his horror on imagined enemies, seeks release in scapegoats and false issues, thereby propitiating those bestial gods who have arisen from the shattered eidolons of his spirit with sacrifices of blood.
Nothing is of its nature, evil — and nothing is of its nature, good. Evil is only excess; good is simply balance. All things are subject to abuse and likewise susceptible to beneficial use. Balance does not consist in denial or excess in indulgence. Balance can only be obtained by exceeding. The elemental forces in man’s nature are so tremendous that they can only be balanced by an ultimate self-expression. To place limitations and restrictions on this nature is to build a wall of plaster around a sun. If we clip an eagles’ wings or feed carrots to a lion we will not uplift or improve either species.
The fundamental purpose of religion is to attain an identity with a power which we believe to be greater than ourselves, whose omnipotence and immortality we can share. Having achieved some sense of this identity, we then feel that we can cope with problems and attain ends with more confidence. The reliance on religion as well as the reliance on property can indicate a lack of self-reliance.
We ourselves create this ‘God of Power’. It is from our own individual ‘self’ that his power is drawn and this self is greater than any god which it creates. Therefore to know ourselves is the highest form of wisdom and to believe in ourselves is the highest form of faith. Science which seeks to know and art which seeks to interpret are two forms of love which constitute the only availing way of worship. That these two greatest expressions of the human spirit should be subservient to religion, politics, nationalism and war is the ultimate blasphemy.
We are now in the midst of a tremendous battle of forces contending for domination over the mind and spirit of man. It is not, unfortunately, a battle between good and evil, between freedom and tyranny but rather a struggle of dogma against dogma and authority vs. authority. The contenders are fascism and communism. Each is a doctrine alien and hostile to the ideal of freedom. Each says that we must choose between one or the other and each is, in reality, identical. Each demands the absolute enslavement of the individual, the abnegation of the intellect and the subjugation of the will. The authoritarian is right, absolutely right, so right that every extreme of falsehood, suppression and tyranny is justified in the accomplishment of his ‘divine’ ends. Behind his benevolent paternalism lurks the star chamber and the concentration camp; behind his morality looms the stake and the inquisition of the “Old Time Religion” so many profess to long for. All these systems are old; older than human history. Freedom and democracy are the only new things under the sun and they offend alike the slaves and the slave masters.
“Come unto me,” goes the old harlot’s song. “Come unto me you weary and heavily laden. Surrender your intolerable burden of freedom and I will fill your mouths with miracles and your bellies will be full of food. Come with me and I will confound your enemies and show you paradise. Look, you do not even have to change a name, only keep the letter and deny the spirit, for the letter giveth life.”
She is harvesting the nations now, that old whore, for an appointment in the place called Armageddon. There will be a hunting of free men in the name of freedom and there will be prisons and pogroms in the name of democracy, murder and slavery in the name of brotherhood, and all for the sake of dominion over the minds and bodies of men.
There is a choice: the choice of freedom which has no other name and no other cause. Man, freed of his demons, without the need of a dogma or the use of a creed, can, of and by himself, avail, triumph and achieve significance. This is the faith of a liberal; belief in himself and belief in man. There is no other way to the full status of manhood. It is the long way, the hard way; through trial, error, failure and heartbreak — but it is the way guided by science and inspired by art; leading at long last to the stars. This is our choice: we may believe in ourselves, believe in our fellow men and in freedom and in brotherhood. We may start to achieve here and now that paradise which has so long been relegated to the hereafter. Or, with the dogmatists, the positivists, the authoritarians we can return again to the ape-hood from which we have so late arisen.
If we wish identity with a greater power, let us seek union with ourselves — our total self, raised to its highest potential of wisdom, knowledge and experience. If we wish to unite with the universe, let us court the whole of nature, all experience, all truth and the splendour of the awesome cosmos itself. For ‘out there’ lies the great campaign that comes first and last; the ultimate adventure of the individual into himself. He must go down like Moses into his unknown self, out into the new dimension, out with Orpheus and the barque of Arthur, with Tammuz and Adonis, with Mithra and Jesus, into the labyrinths of the Dark Land. There he will meet The Mother and hear Her final question: “What is man?”. Thereafter, close by the heart of the cryptic Mother, he may find the Graal; ultimate consciousness, total remembrance, instinct made certain, reason made real. For it is he, wonderful monster, embryo god who has swum in the fish, shed the skin of the crocodile, peered from the eyes of serpents, swung with the apes and shaken the earth with tramp of the tyrannosaur’s hoof. It is he who has cried out on all crosses, ruled on all thrones, grubbed in all gutters. It is he whose face is reflected and distorted in all heavens and hells — he, the Child of the Stars, the son of the ocean; this creature of dust, this wonder and terror called MAN.