on March 24, 2014
The World of William Clissold gives us a character who is like Wells and also unlike him. For example, Clissold critiques one of Wells' books in a passage I will quote below. I find this humorous and shows Wells could laugh at his own writing.
The main theme in my view is Group Mind. If only mankind could work together, all our lives would be so much better. There is also the hint that Group Mind may be more than a metaphor. There may be literally a mind, something like an intermediate god, that is formed when humanity is no longer "a house divided."
This book has run past its 73 year copyright and should be given for free as a kindle book by now, just that nobody has gone to the trouble to scan the 800 pages (sometimes broken into two volumes, sometimes three). It is not anywhere else on the internet yet, not even Gutenberg, not even the University of Adelaide site that houses many of Wells' works. I imagine any month now, it will appear on Gutenberg, Adelaide, or as a free kindle book. If you'd like that to happen, please click on the little banner to the side that says, "I'd like to see this in a Kindle version."
I scanned five pages of my own copy and am pasting it below for your enjoyment :) This is page 85-93 in Volume I. Clissold is speaking in first person about a conversation he had with Jung. Enjoy!
The last time I was in London I met a very stimulating man whom I had long wished to encounter, Dr. Jung, the psycho-analyst. He had come from Zurich to London to give some lectures, and after one of these, the last of them, he had joined a party in a flat looking out upon the Thames at 'Westminster. I do not remember who my host and hostess were--Dickon had taken me there-but there was a pleasant and interested and not too numerous gathering to meet Jung, and we smoked and drank champagne and whisky and ate sandwiches and talked late. It was very good talk, no fireworks, no posturing in it, but close and clear. Jung's English is excellent, and an hour's lecture at the Queen's Hall had not fatigued him in the least.
I buttonholed the great man because I wanted to know how he regarded this conception of a sort of super-mind of the species, and he said that it was entirely sympathetic with his views. He made it clear I had not been following up that track alone; I had been running beside and responding to contemporary thought. One meets a phrase here and a suggestion there, and subconsciously they incorporate them- selves with one's own ideas. I had thought myself original.
I quoted Paul that we were all members of one body, and remarked upon the ease with which one fell into theological phraseology in this matter. Some one mentioned a distant relative of mine, Wells, who had employed many religious expressions in a book called God, the Invisible King; a Manichean book, said somebody, neither Greek nor Hebrew, but Persian. The writer in question had gone very fat indeed in his resuscitation of theological terms and in his recommendation of prayer and suchlike exercises. Too far, said some one. I agreed. I had already talked about that with Wells himself, and it was plain to me that this God the Invisible King of his was not so much God, in the sense in which people understand that word, as Prometheus; it was a titanic and not a divine being. This unseen monarch was much more akin to Nietzsche's Overman than to a normal divinity. Frederic Harrison toot some one remarked, had said that God the Invisible King was merely the Humanity of Comte with a crown on. I had not heard of this before but it struck me as being a justifiable comment.
Yet I would not be too hard on my cousin for his use of the word God. For can it have other than a lax use? If you believe in good as an objective reality, in a sense you believe in God. I doubt if many Protestants nowadays believe in God in any other sense. The human mind has been struggling to apprehend this something behind and above and about individuality for thousands of years and insisting most pitifully upon exactitudes just where exactitude is most misleading. Theology has been experimental, and it has been angry and cruel because it did not realise what an experiment it was. ft was worried by immediate practical needs. It has been dogmatic because it felt that its flimsiness could not stand the strains of inquiry. ft felt it must take a standpoint if it was not to wander for ever. ft has shown all the nervous irritability, rising at times to vicious violence, of a weak, well-intentioned man trying to carry out an important task with a defective equipment. i But in all its aberrations it has clung to its essential idea, the denial of individual isolation. The assertion of complete individual isolation is, I suppose, the essential idea of the dogmatic Atheist.
Jung laid great stress on the readiness of people to misconceive these ideas about a greater human being. They did not grasp how that being was supposed to be synthetic and comprehensive. They thought of it as something outside themselves, an individual of the same order as themselves, as some one put over them, and not as a being including and comprehending them as I include and comprehend my own nerve cells and blood corpuscles. Neither Nietzsche's Overman nor Shaw's Superman was really to be thought of as an individual person. Both were plainly the race development, the whole race in progress. But writers with the journalistic instinct to caricature got hold of these ideas and cheapened them irremediably, and the popular interpretation of these phrases, the Overman and the Superman, had come to be not a communion of saints but an entirely ridiculous individual figure, a swagger, a provocative mingling of Napoleon Bonaparte, Antinous, and the Admirable Crichton.
Jung came back to my quotation from St. Paul about our all being members of one body. Evidently he attached much importance to that. He said that not only Christian theology, but nearly all mystical religion in the world, was saturated with the idea of a merger of the narrow self in some variously apprehended greater soul. So soon as religion began to develop theology and pass out of the phase of abject fear of the mythological Old Man, the tribal God,
this conception appeared. The believer in the mysteries became more or less the greater being and the greater being became more or less the believer. In the phase of ecstatic communion the believer was lifted altogether out of his sinful and finite self and above all the frustrations of life.
You found this same idea of transcending individuality, in the Mass, in Mithraism and in many surviving hymns and phrases of ancient Persian and Egyptian cults. It was expressed almost in identical terms by Moslem and Jewish mystics. It was not a clear and cool intellectual realisation with the mystics; it was felt rather than thought, but clearly it was strictly parallel with the inclusion of the individual in a racial being that was so congenial to modern biology. fn Christian mysticism it was obscured by the heavier emotional charge of that cult. fn the case of women mystics particularly the suggestion of the phrase "the divine spouse" had been excessively powerful, and with such types as St. Hildegarde or St. Gertrude or the Blessed Angela de Foligno, Christian mysticism had sunken a long way towards a mere sublimation of sexual abandon. The Being became very personal and physical and responsive in their imaginings. The egoism was exalted rather than expanded to divinity. That, some one suggested, was what happened when women took to mysticism. A remark which started a detached wrangle in one corner of the room.
Jung listened for a while to that, and then he remarked that by his "superior Person" Confucius must have intended the same generalised comprehensive man as this we had in mind, the racial and not the individual man. That again was new to me. "Superior Person," Jung remarked, could be translated just as well by Overman; but we Europeans had an unfortunate trick of misunderstanding and making Chinese thought ridiculous and unprofitable by using the least dignified words possible in our literal translations of its phrases. One can do that to European phrases with an equal destructiveness. Caradoc Evans, I remarked, degraded Welsh religiosity simply by translating the shining garments of righteousness as White Shirts. We had still the cloudiest notions of Chinese thought, said Jung, even of contemporary Chinese thought; the Chinese might be getting towards a working philosophy of the modern world, without our aid or sympathy, along a road of their own.
But so it was, whether one turned to the great teachings of China or the sacrificial mysteries of Peru, one found in forms that were sometimes gross and monstrous, and sometimes cold and enigmatic, intimations of an almost universal idea. Every great religion and every philosophy of life throughout the world seemed to have been feeling its way, often in spite of enormous initial difficulties of creed and training, towards this same process, the process of subordinating the egoism to a broader generalised being, the being of communion. Could one doubt that a common psychological necessity determined these agreements, that like parallel streaks on the surface of a great river they show the direction of a current that has been flowing with gathering force for five-and-twenty centuries?
The realisation of this inner psychological necessity which, under the suggestions of Jung and Freud and their groups of associates, we are now beginning to correlate with a new phase in the circumstances of human life, marks what one may perhaps compare to a coming-of-age. Just as we are disentangling our minds from the last lingering fears and submissiveness that marked the childhood of our race,
90 THE IMMORTAL ADVENTURE
so also are we growing out of the intense individualism of its romantic adolescence. As our mental range increases we realise that in the end frustration and extinction await everything that is purely individual in us. We are beginning, some of us, or even most of us, to develop a further, a more fully adult, mental stage. This adult mentality of the years ahead will be self-neglectful and scientific and creative in comparison with anything that has gone before. It will be consciously and habitually a contributory and co-operating part in the over-mind.
"Adventure" is more in the quality of my character than any imperative to live in this or that particular fashion, and it conveys, what the theological terminology fails to convey, the suggestion that after all the limitless will of man for knowledge and power may not prove to be sanctioned by the nature of things. He may fail and freeze after all. He may smash to nothingness in some interstellar collision. Even with the admission of that uncertainty, the adventure is great enough and wonderful enough to hold my imagination completely.
This way of looking at existence differs from any religious interpretation in its entire voluntariness. We are not told dogmatically that we are so-and-so or that we must do so-and-so; but it is put to us, Let us be and do so-and-so. Let us gather knowledge and power, let us communicate and learn to co-operate, let us lay hands on life and fate. Let us at any rate make the attempt.
To give oneself knowingly to the Adventure of Mankind has this much to be said for it, that it is in the trend of current things. Whatever we may think of the universality of progress, there can be little dispute that the current phase of existence is by human standards progressive. We shall be in the movement whether we desire it or not. And since we are thus conscripted in the army of the Titans against the old Jove of chance and matter, since we are obliged willy-nilly to participate in the increase and creative application of knowledge to human ends, we may as well give our lives cheerfully and take a conscious share in the process. We shall be happier so. We shall be happier to extend our motives and desires beyond the tragic uncertainties of the purely egotistic life. We shall be broadened and steadied by that participation, we shall be released, we shall be very largely released from the worst intensities of personal desire and passion and from bitter fear and still bitterer realisation of futility that haunt self-centered minds.