AT last he had it all out with himself, right to the bitter end. And then he realised that all the time, since the year 1918, whether he was in Sicily or Switzerland or Venice or Germany or in the Austrian Tyrol, deep in his unconsciousness had lain this accumulation of black fury and fear, like frenzied lava quiescent in his soul. And now it had burst up: the fear, then the acute remembrance. So he faced it out, trembling with shock and bitterness, every detail. And then he tried to reckon it all up.
But first, why had it all come back on him? It had seemed so past, so gone. Why should it suddenly erupt like white hot lava, to set in hot black rock round the wound of his soul? Who knows? Perhaps there is a periodicity even in volcanic eruption. Or perhaps it was this contact with Kangaroo and Willie Struthers, contact with the accumulating forces of social violence. Or perhaps it was being again in a purely English-speaking country, and feeling again that queer revulsion from the English form of democracy. He realised that the oh-so-pleasant democracy of the English lower classes frightened him, always had frightened him. Yet everybody was so very pleasant and easy-going down in Mullumbimby. It REALLY seemed so free.
Free! Free! What did it mean? It was this very ultra-freedom that frightened him, like a still pause before a thunderstorm. “Let him that thinketh he stand take heed lest he fall.”
Or perhaps it was just the inversion of the season, the climate. His blood, his whole corporeal being, expected summer, and long days and short nights. And here he had wilfully come into the Southern hemisphere, with long starry nights of winter, and the late sun rising north-east behind the sea, and travelling northwards up the sky, as if running away, and setting in a cold glare north-west, behind the bluey-black range. It should have been bird-nesting time, and leaves and flowers and tall corn and full summer with cherry blossom fallen and cherries beginning to change colour. Whereas the grass was sere and brown, the earth had one winter-numb, the few deciduous trees were bare, and only the uncanny coral tree flared its flowers of red-hot iron.
Perhaps it was just this: the inversion of the seasons, the shock to his blood and his system. For, of course, the body has its own rhythm, with the sun and with the moon. The great nerve ganglia and the subtle glands have their regular times and motions, in correspondence with the outer universe. And these times and motions had suddenly received a check from the outer universe: a distinct check. He had had an inkling of what it would be when from the ship in the Indian Ocean he had seen the great and beloved constellation Orion standing on its head as if pitching head foremost into the sea, and the bright dog Sirius coursing high above his heels in the outer air. Then he realized the inversion in the heavens.
And perhaps it was this inversion which had brought up all that corrosive and bitter fire from the bowels of his unconscious, up again into his full consciousness. If so, then let it be so.
One thing he realized, however: that if the fire had suddenly erupted in his own belly, it would erupt one day in the bellies of all men. Because there it had accumulated, like a great horrible lava pool, deep in the unconscious bowels of all men. All who were not dead. And even the dead were many of them raging in the invisible, with gnashing of teeth. But the living dead, these he could not reckon with: they with poisonous teeth like hyaenas.
Rage! Rage! Rage! The awful accumulations that lie quiescent and pregnant in the bowels of men. He thought of the big gaunt collier with the blunt, seal-like face shorn of its intelligence, squatting naked and ghastly on his heels. It passes, it passes for the time being. But in those moments there is an inward disruption, and the death-hot lava pours loose into the deepest reservoirs of the soul. One day to erupt: or else to go hard and rocky, dead.
Even the athletic young man who wanted to be approved of. Even he. He had not much true spunk. But what was he feeling now? Unless, of course, he had got into business and was successfully coining money. That seemed to be the only safety-valve: success in money-making. But how many men were successful, now?
Of course it was all necessary, the conscription, the medical examinations. Of course, of course. We all know it. But when it comes to the deepest things, men are as entirely irrational as women. You can reason with a sex-angry woman till you are black in the face. And if for a time you DO overcome her with reason, the sex-anger only arises more hideously and furiously, later. Perhaps in another guise.
There is no arguing with the instinctive passional self. Not the least use in the world. Yes, you are quite right, quite right in all your contentions. BUT! And the BUT just explodes everything like a bomb.
The conscription, all the whole performance of the war was absolutely circumstantially necessary. It was necessary to investigate even the secret parts of a man. Agreed! Agreed! BUT—.
It was NECESSARY to put Richard Lovat and the ugly collier through that business at Derby. Many men were put through things a thousand times worse. Agreed! Oh, entirely agreed! The war couldn’t be lost, at that hour. Quite, quite, quite! Even Richard, even now, agreed fully to all these contentions. BUT—!
And there you are. BUT—. He was full of a lava fire of rage and hate, at the bottom of his soul. And he knew it was the same with most men. He felt desecrated. And he knew it was the same with most men. He felt sold. And he knew most men felt the same.
He cared for nothing now, but to let loose the hell-rage that was in him. Get rid of it by letting it out. For there was no digesting it. He had been trying that for three years, and roaming the face of the earth trying to soothe himself with the sops of travel and new experience and scenery. He knew now the worth of all sops. Once that disruption had taken place in a man’s soul, and in a stress of humiliation, under the presence of COMPULSION, something has broken in his tissue and the liquid fire has run out loose into his blood, then no sops will be of any avail. The lava-fire at the bottom of a man’s belly breeds more lava fire, and more, and more — till there is an eruption. As the lava fire accumulates, the man becomes more and more reckless. Till he reaches a pitch of dehumanised recklessness, and then the lid is blown off, as the top is blown off a hill to make a new volcano. Or else it all sets into rocky deadness.
Richard felt himself reaching the volcanic pitch. He had as good as reached it. And he realised that the Russians must have reached it during the war: that the Irish had got there: that the Indians in India were approaching the point: that the whole world was gradually working up to the pitch. The whole world. It was as inevitable as the coming of summer. It might be soon — it might be slow. But inevitable it was. Or else the alternative, the dead-rock barrenness.
But why? Why, oh why? Is human life just opposed to human reason? The Allies DID have to win the war. For it would certainly not have been any better letting Germany win. Unless a very great disaster might have shocked men to their deeper senses. But doubtful. Things HAD to go as they went.
So, it was just Thomas Hardy’s Blind Fate? No, said Lovat to himself, no. Fata voldetem ducunt, nolentem trahunt. The Fates lead on the willing man, the unwilling man they drag.
The Fates? What Fates? It takes a willing man to answer. Man is not a creature of circumstance, neither is he the result of cause-and-effect throughout the ages, neither is he a product of evolution, neither is he a living MIND, part of the Universal Mind. Neither is he a complicated make-up of forces and chemicals and organs. Neither is he a term of love. Neither is he the mere instrument of God’s will. None of these things.
Man lives according to his own idea of himself. When circumstances begin really to run counter to his idea of himself, he damns circumstances. When the running-counter persists, he damns the nature of things. And when it STILL persists, he becomes a fatalist. A fatalist or an opportunist — anything of that sort.
Whose fault is it? Fate’s? Not at all. It is man’s fault for persisting in some fixed idea of himself.
Yet, being an animal saddled with a mental consciousness, which means ideas, man MUST have some idea of himself. He just must, and those that deny it have got a more fixed idea than anybody.
Man must have some idea of himself. He must live HARD, HARD, up to this idea of himself.
But the idea is perishable. Say what you like, every idea is perishable: even the idea of God or Love or Humanity or Liberty — even the greatest idea has its day and perishes. Each formulated religion is in the end only a great idea. Once the idea becomes explicit, it is dead. Yet we must HAVE ideas.
When a man follows the true inspiration of a new, living idea, he then is the willing man whom the Fates lead onwards: like St. Paul or Pope Hildebrand or Martin Luther or Cromwell or Abraham Lincoln. But when the idea is really dead, and STILL man persists in following it, then he is the unwilling man whom the Fates destroy, like Kaiser Wilhelm or President Wilson, or, to-day, the world at large.
For the idea, or ideal of Love, Self-sacrifice, Humanity united in love, in brotherhood, in peace — all this is dead. There is no arguing about it. It is dead. The great ideal is dead.
How do we know? By putting off our conscious conceit and listening to our own soul.
So then, why will men not forgive the war, and their humiliations at the hands of these war-like authorities? Because men were COMPELLED into the service of a dead ideal. And perhaps nothing but this compulsion made them realise it WAS a dead ideal. But all those filthy little stay-at-home officers and coast-watchers and dirty-minded doctors who tortured men during the FIRST stages of the torture, did these men IN THEIR SOULS believe in what they were doing? They didn’t. They HAD no souls. They had only their beastly little WILLS, which they used to bully all men with. With their wills they determined to fight for a dead ideal, and to bully every other man into compliance. The inspiring motive was the bullying. And every other man complied. Or else, by admitting a conscientious objection to war, he admitted the dead ideal, but took refuge in one of its side-tracks.
All men alike, and all women, admitted and still admit the face value of the ideal of Love, Self-sacrifice, and Humanity united in love, brotherhood, and peace. So, they persist in the dead ideal. Fata nolunt. Fata nolunt. Then see how the fates betray them. In their service of the defunct ideal they find themselves utterly humiliated, SOLD. In England, Italy, Germany, India, Australia, that had been the one word men had used to describe their feeling. They had been sold. But not before they had sold themselves. Now then. The moment a man feels he has been sold, sold in the deepest things, something goes wrong with his whole mechanism. Something breaks, in his tissue, and the black poison is emitted into his blood. And then he follows a natural course, and becomes a creature of slow, or of quick, revenge. Revenge on all that the old ideal is and stands for. Revenge on the whole system. Just revenge. Even further revenge on himself.
Men revenged themselves on Athens, when they felt sold. When Rome, persisting in an old, defunct ideal, gradually made her subjects feel sold, they were revenged on her, no matter how. Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire the same. And now our turn. “Revenge,” Timotheus cries. And Timotheus is just everybody, except those that have got hold of the money or the power.
There is nothing for it but revenge. If you sow the dragon’s teeth, you mustn’t expect lilies of the valley to spring up in sweet meekness.
And Kangaroo? Kangaroo insisted on the old idea as hard as ever, though on the Power of Love rather than on the Submission and Sacrifice of Love. He wanted to take his revenge in an odour of sanctification and Lily of the Valley essence. But he was the mob, really. See his face in a rage. He was the mob: the VENGEFUL mob. Oh, God, the most terrifying of all things.
And Willie Struthers? The vengeful mob also. But if the old ideal had still a logical leaf to put forth, it was this last leaf of communism — before the lily-tree of humanity rooted in love died its final death. Perhaps better Struthers than Kangaroo.
“But what about myself?” said Richard Lovat to himself as he lay in the darkness of Sydney, his brain afire. For the horrible bitter fire seemed really to have got into his brain, burst up from his deepest bowels. “What about me? Am I too Timotheus crying REVENGE?”
Oh, revenge, yes, he wanted to be avenged. He wanted to be avenged. Especially when he felt tangled up in the horrible human affair, the ideal become like an octopus with a ghastly eye in the centre, and white arms enwreathing the world. Oh, then he wanted to be avenged.
But now, for the moment he felt he had cut himself clear. He was exhausted and almost wrecked — but he felt clear again. If no other ghastly arm of the octopus should flash out and encircle him.
For the moment he felt himself lying inert, but clear, the dragon dead. The ever-renewed dragon of a great old ideal, with its foul poison-breath. It seemed, as if, for himself, he had killed it.
That was now all he wanted: to get clear. Not to save humanity or to help humanity or to have anything to do with humanity. No — no. Kangaroo had been his last embrace with humanity. Now, all he wanted was to cut himself clear. To be clear of humanity altogether, to be alone. To be clear of love, and pity, and hate. To be alone from it all. To cut himself finally clear from the last encircling arm of the octopus humanity. To turn to the old dark gods, who had waited so long in the outer dark.
Humanity could do as it liked: he did not care. So long as he could get his own soul clear. For he believed in the inward soul, in the profound unconscious of man. Not an ideal God. The ideal God is a proposition of the mental consciousness, all-too-limitedly human. “No,” he said to himself. “There IS God. But forever dark, forever unrealisable: forever and forever. The unutterable name, because it can never have a name. The great living darkness which we represent by the glyph, God.”
There is this ever-present, living darkness inexhaustible and unknowable. It IS. And it is all the God and the gods.
And every LIVING human soul is a well-head to this darkness of the living unutterable. Into every living soul wells up the darkness, the unutterable. And then there is travail of the visible with the invisible. Man is in travail with his own soul, while ever his soul lives. Into his unconscious surges a new flood of the God-darkness, the living unutterable. And this unutterable is like a germ, a foetus with which he must travail, bringing it at last into utterance, into action, into BEING.
But in most people the soul is withered at the source, like a woman whose ovaries withered before she became a woman, or a man whose sex-glands died at the moment when they should have come into life. Like unsexed people, the mass of mankind is soulless. Because to persist in resistance of the sensitive influx of the dark gradually withers the soul, makes it die, and leaves a human idealist and an automaton. Most people are dead, and scurrying and talking in the sleep of death. Life has its automatic side, sometimes in direct conflict with the spontaneous soul. Then there is a fight. And the spontaneous soul must extricate itself from the meshes of the ALMOST automatic white octopus of the human ideal, the octopus of humanity. It must struggle clear, knowing what it is doing: not waste itself in revenge. The revenge is inevitable enough, for each denial of the spontaneous dark soul creates the reflex of its own revenge. But the greatest revenge on the lie is to get clear of the lie.
The long travail. The long gestation of the soul within a man, and the final parturition, the birth of a new way of knowing, a new God-influx. A new idea, true enough. But at the centre, the old anti-idea: the dark, the unutterable God. This time not a God scribbling on tablets of stone or bronze. No everlasting decalogues. No sermons on mounts, either. The dark God, the forever unrevealed. The God who is many gods to many men: all things to all men. The source of passions and strange motives. It is a frightening thought, but very liberating.
“Ah, my soul,” said Richard to himself, “you have to look more ways than one. First to the unutterable dark of God: first and foremost. Then to the utterable and sometimes very loud dark of that woman Harriet. I must admit that only the dark god in her fighting with my white idealism has got me so clear: and that only the dark god in her answering the dark god in me has got my soul heavy and fecund with a new sort of infant. But even now I can’t bring it forth. I can’t bring it forth. I need something else. Some other answer.”
Life makes no absolute statement: the true life makes no absolute statement. “Thou shalt have no other God before me.” The very commandment suggests that it is possible to have other gods, and to put them before Jehovah. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” But oh deepest of perplexing questions, HOW do I love myself? Am I to love my neighbour as if he WERE myself? But my very love makes me know that he ISN’T myself, and that therein lies his lovableness, unless I am a conceited prig. Am I to love my neighbour as much as myself? And how much do I love myself? It is a wildly problematic commandment. Supposing I love my neighbour more than myself. That again is a catastrophe.
Since every man must love himself in a different way — unless he is a materialist or a prig — he must love his neighbour in a different way. So Christ’s commandment is as large as life, and its meaning can never be fixed. I sometimes hate myself: and my neighbour as myself.
Life makes no absolute statement. It is all Call and Answer. As soon as the Call ceases, the Answer is invalid. And till the Answer comes, a Call is but a crying in the wilderness. And every Answer must wait until it hears the Call. Till the Call comes, the Answer is but an unborn foetus.
And so it is. Life is so wonderful and complex, and ALWAYS relative. A man’s soul is a perpetual call and answer. He can never be the call and the answer in one: between the dark God and the incarnate man: between the dark soul of woman, and the opposite dark soul of man: and finally, between the souls of man and man, strangers to one another, but answerers. So it is for ever, the eternal weaving of calls and answers, and the fabric of life woven and perishing again. But the calls never cease, and the answers never fail for long. And when the fabric becomes grey and machine-made, some strange clarion-call makes men start to smash it up. So it is.
BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART. That is absolute truth, a statement of living relativity, because the pure in heart are those who quiver to the dark God, to the call of woman, and to the call of men. The pure in heart are the listeners and the answerers. But Rameses II was no doubt as pure in heart as John the Evangelist. Indeed perhaps purer, since John was an INSISTER. To be pure in heart, man must listen to the dark gods as well as to the white gods, to the call to blood-sacrifice as well as to the eucharist.
BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT. It depends. If it means LISTENING. Not if it means taking up a permanent attitude.
BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS. It depends. If it means ANSWERING. Not if it means enforcing the peace, like policemen.
BLESSED ARE THE MEEK. It depends on the occasion.
BLESSED ARE THEY THAT MOURN. It depends altogether.
BLESSED ARE THEY THAT DO HUNGER AND THIRST AFTER RIGHTEOUSNESS. Ah, yes, but the righteousness of the profound listener, and of the answerer who will answer come what may. Not any other righteousness of the commandment sort.
BLESSED ARE YE WHEN MEN SHALL DESPISE YOU. Nay, nay, it is rather: UNBLESSED are the despisers —.
After all his terrific upheaval, Richard Lovat at last gave it up, and went to sleep. A man must even know how to give up his own earnestness, when its hour is over, and not to bother about anything any more, when he’s bothered enough.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:52