Sunday, February 1, 2015

I Wrest His Case

When I was an adolescent, that is, before I learned that I didn't, in fact, know everything there was to know, I used to pick up the books that my father had just finished reading and read them on the sly. Just to keep him honest, I guess. Although, I guess he wasn't doing a good job of keeping me honest, because often I slid a Camel out of his sleeping packet, or relieved him of pocket change so I could buy editions of the Journal-American, or the World-Telegram and Sun, two newspapers that he felt unworthy, even, for wrapping fish. To my credit, I did deliver, door-to-door, Dorothy Schiff's Bronx Home News and imbibe, by inky osmosis, I suppose, a sense of what those commie-pinkos at the Post were trying to put over on us. All of this changed one day when he finished reading and closed a book that opened my eyes to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I didn't know everything after all.

That book was Philip Wylie's, "An Essay on Morals": A Science of Philosophy and a Philosophy of the Sciences / a Popular Explanation of the Jungian Theory of Human Instinct / a new Bible for the Bold Mind and a Way to Personal Peace by Logic / the Heretic's Handbook and Text for Honest skeptics, including a Description of Man suitable for an Atomic Age /  together with a Compendium of Means to Brotherhood in a Better World / and a Voyage beyond the Opposite Directions of Religion and Objective Truth, to Understanding / with a new preface by the author" (1951)

Below is an excerpt from that new preface to Wylie's, "An Essay on Morals"


"In the same letter in which he has expressed his general satisfaction with this effort to explain his basic theory, Dr. Jung has also said it may be five hundred years before the principle is popularly understood or widely put to use. If it is, I feel sure that man faces the worst half-millennium in his terrifying history. For man, today, must either quickly learn who and what he is and how he is governed by Nature or else he will indubitably employ the very forces of the sun to bring upon himself a sequence of hideous nights--of wars, rebellions, rampages, continental ruinations and sterile centuries. In such a case, this essay and all similar works will stand as mere inscriptions to be comprehended by the descendants of any who may have survived the agonies. The knowledge existed and was ignored, our voices will say: Kilroy was here. That token, and the present value of truth-seeking to such individuals as will undertake it, are the reasons for attempts to share an advanced science with a currently regressive society."

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