DEUS AMERICANUS (1929)

The following essay by Benjamin DeCasseres was published in E. Haldeman-Julius’ “Little Blue Book” No. 1411, titled The Real Thomas Edison, published circa 1929. Haldeman-Julius had a page count that he wanted to reach for his famous little booklets, and since the titular essay only constituted 15 pages, we can assume he included the three other essays to fill the rest of the 64 pages. It is the only Litle Blue Book DeCasseres was included in, though his writing did appear in some of E. Haldeman-Julius’  journals.

Of note is the website Little Blue Books Bibliography. Any research into the publishing history of the E. Haldeman-Julius catalog will show that not only were publishing records not clear, but he often reused catalog numbers for different booklets, and would also retitle booklets just before they were published, but after promotional material was released! Jake Gibbs, the author of the website, worked on the bibliography for fifteen years, and it was completed just before his death. It is a monumental worth that others have attempted before, but his is certainly the most definitive by a long shot.

Mr. Gibbs describes the booklet:

1411. A. L. Shands. The Real Thomas A. Edison. c1929.
Contents:
1 LBB (c).
2 copyright, PUSA.
3 “Contents.”
4 blank.
5-19 “The Real Thomas A. Edison,” A. L. Shands.
20-33 “The Amazing Ignatius Donnelly,” Miriam Allen deFord.
34-49 “Deus Americanus,” Benjamin deCasseres.
50-61 “Was Thoreau an Anarchist?” C. Hartley Grattan.
62-4 blank.

Previous to Mr. Gibbs work was http://haldeman-julius.org/, which is sadly now only available through archive.org. There is a great deal of information there found nowhere else.

The essay itself is about Theodore Roosevelt, the 33rd governor of New York from 1899 to 1900, and then the 26th president of the United States from 1901 to 1909.

I want to thank S.P. for this assistance in proofreading this transcription.


DEUS AMERICANUS

HOW THE PERFECT ONE BECAME THE LIVING SOUL
OF THESE STATES

Benjamin deCasseres

The noblest activity of Man is the creation of myths and gods. Man is a lie-loving animal. He calls it the search for the Ideal. Euclid, Newton, Darwin, Einstein and Edison have no power over his psychical life, and very little over his practical life. No human being has ever patterned his life on the type of the impersonal, cold, reasoning truth-seeker. It is Venus, Apollo and Hercules; Siegfried, St. George and St. Patrick; Christ, Buddha, Mahomet, Swedenborg; Hamlet, Huckleberry Finn, Pollyanna; Caesar, Napoleon, Lincoln; Kit Carson, Byron, Paul Revere, that are deified. Try to make a hero out of Eli Whitney in a school boy’s mind if he is reading the life of Daniel Boone! Try to make a heroine out of Madame Curie in the mind of a schoolgirl if she is reading the life of Joan of Arc!

The elect are not yet cold in the grave when they are lovingly lifted out of their coffins and swaddled in attributes that they never possessed. Their least gesture exaggerated to heroic proportions, they are set to suckle at the fat breasts of credulity; and so they rise, trailing their garments of mythic glory, into the empyreans of the imagination, where they reign as richly festooned prototypes, or, rather, as generating stud-horses and mares of the Ideal.

Every people must have an archetype of its national consciousness. The Greeks delighted in personifying all the elements of the Greek soul and of life. The modems are somewhat slower at the beautiful art of deification, although it has gradually accumulated a stock of Alfred the Greats, St. Genevieves, and, later, quite a litter of Joan of Arcs, Garibaldis, Bismarcks, Cromwells and other variations of Thor, Prometheus and Mexitl.

America had no national Deus until God decreed the mighty conflict of San Juan Hill. Neither Washington nor Lincoln quite filled the bill. Both are destined to become gods, no doubt, and float around in the skulls of posterity as immaculate prototypes of Liberty and Equality. They have already passed into the semi-legendary stage; but they both lack the quality of university, of cosmical versatility, of physical prowess. Washington and Lincoln were specialists. They were supermen by accident, not by divine intention, as was he who was born unto us, like Buddha, amid purple and fine linen, in the annus mirabilis 1858, but who chose deliberately the Common Way, the suffrages and approbation of the lowly.

I make no less a claim—which I shall prove—for this man than an incarnation. He was Deus Vulgus, the People incarnate, the body, brain and breath of America made corporeal. His evolution from foetus to Pantheon was as clearly ordained as was the assassination of McKinley, which cleared the way for his emergence from military fame to civic glory.

There is not an element in the American character that is not found magnified with startling clearness in our Deus. He is the very lexicon of all our virtues. By our “virtues” I mean of course our strengths, our root-motives, which I have catalogued in “The Complete American.” For those who have not read that wonder-book I will give here a list of those elemental American characteristics of which Deus Amcricanus is the supreme Hanuman: The passion for the circus; love of good, honest humbug; dialectical righteousness; camp-meeting mysticism; blare; hearth, home and mother; Pragmatic idealism; belief in the divinity of statistics; Our Hero; belief in nonogenarian wiseacres; the sentimental reformer; hullabaloo; upward and onward; respectability; you’re a liar; autoscopy; Chauvinism; keep smiling!—or grinning! Multiply, multiply! acrobatie superficiality; healthy, prolonged and manly exhibitionism; the masterful courage that first discovers the will of the people and then follows it resolutely to the end; speed; gregariousness; resonant, torse, ethico-orotund, ethico-magniloquent, ethico-detonating phrases like “a square deal,” “predatory interests,” “malefactors of great wealth.”

These constitute the very gizzard of the American’s Thirty-nine Articles, all en-souled in our Deus. And much more, for Deus Americanus was not only a mold into which was poured the soil-sap of a people but he was a creator as well. He o’er-leaped the mold and gave his people new values, new nebulae for posterity in which it could sun itself and worship from afar. He was a Hercules of physical strength, a mighty, planet-roving Nimrod; a Columbus of lost rivers and lost lands, a patron of the arts, sciences and the new spelling; a mighty warrior; a Mazeppa of the Dakotas; a super-policeman; a world-feared boxer and fencer; conqueror of the Jungfrau and the Matterhorn; maker of republics, with or without their consent; the constructor of a mighty canal; a naval-lord after several sea-goings; the conserver of American womanhood and childhood; the discoverer of Oliver Cromwell and Thomas Hart Benton; a super-Linnaeus, a super-Audubon, a super-Thoreau; the Great Peacemaker; Ambassador-at-Large to all peoples and all royal funerals; founder of the Ananias Club, which he convened and prorogued at his pleasure; patron saint of the Boy Scouts and Madonna to the Campfire girls; founder of the American Lourdes, Sagamore Hill; he taught His People to fear God and do their part; father of the Dry Sunday; Big Brother to all coal-strikers; and, above all, the divine Gascon of the Strenuous Life. Since Adam delved and Eve bit has any people ever had such a Deus? Take all the Dei and semi-Dei out of Homer, Asgard and Nibelheim, fuse them into a single Deus and you would not find in him the universality and perfectability of our Deus Americanus!

Every authentic god must have at least one temptation, one Gethsemane, one wrestling match with the Devil, one dragon to his credit.  The god must or else he cannot become a god. Our Deus had such a test put on him, and he came out triumphant, having beheaded the Foe in four words—”that dirty little atheist!” That Deus Americanus deliberately cast around to find a Fiend with which to wrestle—as some Doubting Thomases have intimated—I reject, after profound thought and study, as utterly ridiculous. Tom Paine had long been in the minds of all Real Americans the Arch-Fiend and the Anti-Christ. The Methodists had pictured him with horns and tail and the cloven hoof. Millions of American babies were scared into untimely righteousness with “If you are not a good little boy, Tom Paine’ll get you!” He was universally anathema. George Washington turned his back on the Devil when he returned from Europe, and so, shortly afterward, soared to the Heaven of the Saved. Paine was therefore inexorably listed by Fate as one of the Great Labors of Deus Americanus.

This final slaughter of Tom Paine by our Deus was, I believe, the greatest of his Labors because the conflict was spiritual and was hidden from the public gaze. Our god must have reconnoitered the Anti-Christ of the American Revolution from all angles before he began his attack, before there issued from his mighty pen the searing and deadly phrase “that dirty little atheist!” Our Lohengrin-Siegfried found his deepest suspicion realized; the fiend Paine was dirty, little and an atheist. More, he found confronting him a poxy, malignant dwarf, who under the mask of reason practiced the obscene black mass which he had learned in a French prison, where he had been thrown for trying to overthrow the God of Louis XIV and Tor quemada. The battle was short and decisive Hallelujah! Tom Paine is no more, our little children sleep in peace, and Deus Americanus for reward, now sits beside Elohim and watches the writhings of Paine the Anti-Christ and Anti-God in Hell. Sursum corda!

Deus Americanus was the looking-glass of all mythological genius, but much. more. If he was Hercules, Nimrod, Lohengrin, Mars and St. George, he also held in that mighty soul a Confucius, a Tartarin, a Marco Polo, a Taras Bulba, a Munchausen, a Wilhelm the Second. “I am large; I contain multitudes!” he might have said just as well as did a minor American poet whom Deus Antericanus never took up because, no doubt, he saw in him a rival of the doctrine of the Strenuous Life. Our Deus would tolerate no rivals. To him alone, and for him alone, the khaki and the sword, the medals and the decorations, the bay and the laurel. That which did not come from Sagamore-Horeb was terefah, scabby, ratty, un-American. A summons was a command. Has any American dared to reject a call to Sagamore-Horeb from Deus Amcricanus? Not even James Huneker dared to face the wrath of the expunger of Tom Paine and the Attila of San Juan Hill!

No godlet could ever become Deus Americanus unless he was impeccably respectable. Respectability and sexual rectitude are to .the American what bacchic and venusian bohemianism was to the ancients. So there is no smirch on the Earth-life of Deus Antericanus. He comes up clean—as clean as the whistle of Gabriel. No whisper shadowed him through life. He was Made in America, where Family Life is the cornerstone of the Temple. He sprouted from the loins of our most ancient and adamantine virtue. Had Tom Paine, the Foe, a wife or even children? I never heard of them (I am not an authority on demonology). Ben Franklin might have been Deus Americanus, but he, who incarnated so many of our traits, failed in two characteristics—he had no San Juan Hill and his puritanism was tainted with common Latin habits. George Washington ran a still, gambled and they do say——. Lincoln told Boccaccian stories. They were automatically ruled out. But the Immaculate One was found in a cradle in East Twentieth street. Destiny’s dice were set. The Perfect American—sans peur et sans reproche was born unto us!

Deus Americanus of course had his enemies while he was still in the woof and mesh of the flesh. What god had not his enemies? The Strenuous Life stimulates the birth of rivals. Deus Americanus was, in fact, always at Armageddon. Every day was Armageddon to him. Carrying in his larynx the very Voice of the quick and the dead, his brain weaving ideals for countless unborn Boy Scouts, feeling within his depths the Message of the Square Deal of Posterity, hearing in the cyclopean thump of his fist on thousands of tables the muffled drum-beat of his immortality, uttering through those great carnivorous teeth a defy to the enemies of His People, who, naturally, were the enemies of the Lord of Righteousness; casting out in the fire of his nostrils Malefactors of Great Wealth (no names given), slaughtering with mighty Isaiahan epithet those who dared disagree with him. battling for the Lord in rain or shine. Yankees win or Yankees lose—it would, indeed, have been miraculously unique if this Mighty Killer of the Moose and the Lion had not had his Lucifer, his Cain, his Brutus. The New York World even went so far as to sue Deus Americanus for libel. As well try to smash an Idea with a bamboo walking-stick!

They have accused him of disloyalty. How un-Deus-like such charges seem to us today, we who are molding for posterity the Great Legend! A god may be—nay, must be—inconsistent. He is protean. A law unto himself—sublime and impeccable egotist that he was!—those who could not do a volteface in perfect step with our Deus Amenicanus were flung to the ambulance corps. He was true to himself and to his heaven-storming dreams. Little men of Earth! Little men of Earth!—you who speak of loyalty, consistency! You live in realities, While our Deus was an Absolute. Loyalty! Gratitude! Consistency! A dog’s virtues! A nationalist when he spoke to the Egyptians in Egypt, imperialist when he addressed Englishmen in England—that was typically American, and therefore right. Our fishers of men and votes, do they not have one doctrine for the white aristocracy of the South, another for the Hog and Wheat Blocs of the West, another for the Mammon-sodden peoples of the East, and still another for the Harlem Ethiopian Belt? Consistency, thou art neither an American nor a Deus. Every blasphemy that has been uttered against Deus Americanus has been uttered by Prometheus against Zeus; but Zeus (and his heirs) still reigns and the vultures still nibble at the penitent liver of Prometheus.

The divinity of our Deus was squarely proven in his lifetime. He was bullet-proof. Twice was the Sign given. Twice did Deus Americanus come forth a greater than Siegfried, who, it will be remembered, had a vulnerable spot in the back which worked his undoing. But the King of the Nibelungs of the West—our Deus—although he had bathed in the blood of many Dragons of Evil, had been a Friend of Nature since boyhood, and so even the trees held their breath in brotherly awe and stayed the naughty leaf from falling on his back when he raged against the Malefactors and atheistic heathens.

Soaked in Dragon’s blood! No! Our Deus was soaked in something far greater. He was soaked in American Virtues and American Ideals. We Americans are baptized in the blood of Righteousness, and neither Excalibur nor the hosts of Tom Paine shall prevail against us! At the height of the Homeric contest on San Juan Hill, when the thunders from the fifty-mile-long Spanish artillery were shaking the world, Deus Americanus abandoned his horse, like Napoleon at Lodi, and, pistol in hand, charged with his handful of men into the frightful rain of shells and bullets. The great Spanish Army collapsed at the daring, miraculous feat and surrendered. San Juan Hill was the whirling fiery egg that hatched a Deus. An invulnerable incarnation had appeared amongst us. The Great Legend had begun to jell!

Again, many years later, when the voice of Achilles, which by its sound alone had shattered the Trojan army, had taken possession of our Deus the second Sign of invulnerability was given. It was in Milwaukee. An unknown man—a descendant or a disciple of the dirty little atheist, no doubt—shot at Deus Americanus, but so completely and miraculously was he panoplied in American Home Virtues and Ideals that he went right on speaking to his audience with most miraculous tongue.  Unshatterable proof this, and finally, that he was our Deus!

He had his play-moments, too, that endeared him to us probably beyond all else, for we are a play-people, almost infantile, it would seem, sometimes. We are the laughing baby-eye of the world, and ’twas fit that that element of our national character should appear in Deus Americanus. He played for us in the White House for many years. What gambols, what clownings, what sensational pranks he put on for us! How we guffawed, rocked, shook with mirth! So much so that when the Deus left the White House to retire into the Desert, like St. Francis of Assisi, for meditation and counsel with the lions of the Zambesi, he gave Utterance to the most celebrated mot of any abdicating ruler, “Well, I’ve had a corking good time!” Only a god could indulge in and get away with (as the saying goes) such a sportive remark after guiding for eight years the spiritual, moral and physical destinies of His People. Life is always a comedy to the gods—and what has an Olympian to do except have “a corking good time”?

Deus Americanus was a being of sublime moral courage, another trait that is almost uniquely American and which is one of the reasons, no doubt, why the Zeitgeist chose him as the Living Soul of These States. While he was reveling in his “corking good time” in the White House he executed one of those sudden morale coups that got him the name in some quarters of the Spiritual Marechal Ney, “the bravest of the brave.” He invited Booker T. Washington to dine with him and told the Associated Press so point-blank. There were gasps and sputterings among us Earth-whiffets, especially among the whiffets of the Southland. A Negro on terms of equality with the greatest of the White House Dei! But the Deus had resolved to go Lincoln one better. The latter had merely set the Negro free physically, but Deus Americanus had resolved to set him free socially and politically, which he did, as is known of all men, for he followed up his recognition of Booker T. Washington by enforcing throughout the Southland the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. This being one of the celebrated Twelve Labors, I will not touch upon it further. If Lincoln was the Great Emancipator, the Deus was certainly the Great Necromancer, for in assuring the Negroes of the South during their lifetime and unto unborn posterities the right to vote he accomplished one of the greatest moral and seemingly impossible victories in history.

Deus Americanus had not a provincial soul. He was never a local god. He went forth, when the Call came, unto all the world with the Big American Idea. He proclaimed it from the Sorbonne, from the Pyramids, on the Banks of the Amazon, at the very doors of the Vatican, from the Tower of London, on the Nile, and he fairly slapped it into the back of that fellow-Deus. Kaiser Wilhelm II, at Potsdam, where he uttered that famous toast which terrified the world, “With an army like that, I could lick the world!” Did he say “I” or “you”? N’importe! As a good American and a sound Deusian, I prefer to believe he said “I.” It sounds American, it is American, for we can lick the world, by Jingo!—as was said of yore. Messenger, handshaker and Ambassador to all the world was our Deus, and he was received wherever he went as Caesar Americanus by vast mobs that shouted Viva! and Prosit!

Like all genius, like all beings destined for apotheosis, he knew as a youth that he was born for a Purpose. The attractions are proportioned to the destinies, says Swedenborg. He first of all prepared himself for his secretly foretold Deushood by strengthening his body and his will. All gods are perfect physically and have almighty wills, he read in his dictionary of mythology. He was in his younger adolescent days a weakling, timid, almost sickly. By acts of fortitude and discipline such as only the Pre-Destined dare undertake he finally achieved, after many years, the title of Bwana Tombo, the Fat Man.

All greatness in action is founded on the exclusion of some universal human quality. No man can act continuously and have a continuous sense of humor. For humor is the supreme critic, the supreme disintegrator, the supreme paralyzer of action. Deus Americanus, like Narcissus, Alexander the Great, Cromwell and Napoleon, was totally devoid of a sense of humor. It was his pillar of strength, else he would not have undertaken the Labor of “Drying up” New York for one whole Sunday when he was Police Commissioner, a Labor which was so signally and admirably successful and grows so great in the eye of Fame that Deus Dry Sunday will, no doubt, in the calendars of posterity oust Easter Sunday as a day celebrating the rise of a regenerated New York from the hells of Swizzle.

Of all the elements which have gone to making Deus Americanus the body, blood and brain of our national, innermost self no small credit is due to the “style” of his many books. Nothing can be farther from “literature,” which among us is feminine for writin’. And there was, of course, nothing feminine in the Deus. His collected Logos is the American Style, as plain as a hitching post, as devoid of metaphor as an income-tax blank, as raw as the meat of pre-Promethean anthropophagi. Indeed, as his enemies can vouch, did he not verbally “eat ’em alive?”—he who would have branded in his pistol-shot prose Pan himself a “Nature Fakir” if the latter had ever questioned the eye and ear of the great Wilderness Hunter? No American writer, Deus or semi-Deus, has ever given us such home-grown and root-American epigrams: “The good woman is the best of all good citizens.” “Deeds, not words, alone shall save us.” “Let us pray with our bodies for our souls’ desire.” (This last is the one mystical flight in the prose of the Deus, and is almost Sapphic in its pagan grandeur.) “I believe in hard work and honest sport.” “I believe in a sane mind in a sane body.” (Our Deus translated this from the mens sana in corpore sano of an obscene Roman reformer named Juvenal, and, although he gives him no credit—gods have plenary rights in expropriation—the perfect translation of the difficult phrase proves the profound nature of his scholarship. Besides, the phrase achieved American validity only at the exact moment that Deus Americanus wrote “I believe” in front of it.) “These nations (Germany and Turkey) in this crisis stand for the reign of Moloch and Beelzebub on this earth.” “A churchless community is a community on the rapid down grade.” These are but a few of the epigrams from the vast treasure-house of Sagamorean wisdom, which has already. swept away forever the moral pot-shots of Epictetus, Confucius, Aurelius, Poor Richard, Oscar Wilde and Godey. The style is the god, verily.

But I do not ask trans-Atlantic and cis-Atlantic mankind to take my word alone that he of whom I have written is the veritable soil-and-soul Deus Americanus. Here follows the proclamation from Pantheon of the Deus on East Twentieth Street, New York City, where one may see the sacred relics and vestures of the American. I do not know who is the author of this sublime apotheosis of the greatest Police Commissioner New York ever had; but I do know that in it he has condensed the soul of Deus Americanus. To wit:

“He was found faithful over a few things and he was made ruler over many; he cut his own trail clean and straight and millions followed him toward the light. He was frail; he made himself a tower of strength. He was timid; he made himself a lion of courage. He was a dreamer; he became one of the great doers of all time. Men put their trust in him; women found a champion in him; kings stood in awe of him, but children made him their playmate. He broke a nation’s slumber with his cry, and it rose up. He touched the eyes of blind men with a flame that gave them vision. Souls became swords through him; swords became servants of God. He was loyal to his country and he exacted loyalty; he loved many lands, but he loved his own land best. He was terrible in battle but tender to the weak; joyous and tireless, being free from self-pity; clean with a cleanness that cleansed the air like a gale. His courtesy knew no wealth, no class; his friendship, no creed or color or race. His courage stood every onslaught of savage beast and ruthless man, of loneliness, of victory, of defeat. His mind was eager, his heart was true, his body and spirit, defiant of obstacles, ready to meet what might come. He fought injustice and tyranny; bore sorrow gallantly; loved all nature, bleak spaces and hardy companions, hazardous adventure and the zest of battle. Wherever he went he carried his own pack; and in the uttermost part of the earth he kept his conscience for his guide.”

America, behold your soul; behold your one Olympian double!

FIND AUTHOR’S TASTES DIFFER

The Pomona Progress Bulletin (Pomona, California)
12 May 1932 (Page 14)

NEW YORK (U.P.) Literary tastes differ among leading authors and editors of the United States, according to a symposium collected by the United Press. A number of prominent writers were asked to name three recently published books particularly to their liking. Their selections follow:

H. L. Mencken, editor The American Mercury: The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, by Robert Eisler; The Mysterious Madame, by C. E. Bechofer Roberts; The Work, Wealth, and Happiness of Mankind, by H. G. Wells.

Carl Van Doren, editor The Literary Guild: Expression In America, by Ludwig Lewlsohn; Wellington, by Philip Guedalla; The Social Life of Apes and Monkeys, by S. Zuckerman.

Fannie Hurst

Fannie Hurst, novelist: The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck; Russia, by Hans von Eckhardt.

Chrigtpher Morley, novelist and critic: The Tragedy of Henry Ford, by Jonathan Leonard; Kamonga, by Homer W. Smith; And Life Goes On, by Vici Baum.

Alexander Woolcott, critic: Stepping Westward, by Laura E. Richards; The Unseen Assassins, by Norman Angell; Loads of Love, by Anne Parrish.

Benjamin DeCasseres, critic: Mental Healers, by Stefan Zwelg; The Decline of the West, by Oswald Spengler; Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley.

Anthony Abbott

Anthony Abbott, detective novel writer: Death Answers the Bell, by Valentine Williams; The Kennel Murder Case, by S. S. Van Dine; The Documents In the Case, by Dorothy Sayre.

William McFee, novelist: Way of the Lancer, by Richard Boleslav-sky; Rackety Rax, by Joel Sayre; Seventy Years in Archaeology, by Sir Flinders Petrie.

George Jean Nathan, critic: Essays In Persuasion, by L. M. Keynes: The Story of My Life, by Clarence Darrow; The Puritan, by Liam O’Flaherty.

Ben Hecht, novelist: “It’s no body’s business what I read.

Gene Fowler, novelist: Dr. Hofstetter’s Spavin & Gold Cure Almanac; Pueblo, Colo., telephone directory, issue of 1902; Black Beauty.

Harry Elmer Barnes, author and critic: Only Yesterday, by Frederick Lewis Allen; The Story of My Life, by Clarence Darrow; Is Capitalism Doomed? by Dennis

Spinoza: Liberator of God and Man & Against the Rabbis

Celebrating the 300th birthday of his relative Benedict Spinoza (1632 – 1677) saw Benjamin DeCasseres release two volumes about the man and his work. The first was Spinoza: Liberator of God and Man in 1933, and the second was Spinoza Against the Rabbis in 1937. This new edition combines them both for the first time, newly typeset and designed. DeCasseres brings to the light in this book hitherto unknown aspects of the doctrines of Spinoza: his liberation of God from the shackles of anthropomorphism, his glorification of the Will-to-Power, and his divinization of the Ego of the individual man. In the chapter entitled “Anathema!” DeCasseres has with a dramatic power only equaled in the pages of Victor Hugo or Merejkovsky pictured the excommunication from the Jewish Church of Benedict de Spinoza.

Limited hardback available exclusively from the publisher.

Paperback edition available on Amazon.com, Amazon UK, or directly from the publisher.

Edwin Markham to Benjamin DeCasseres

Edwin Markham ( 1852–1940) was an American poet. From 1923 to 1931 he was Poet Laureate of Oregon.

Image may contain: text

My dear Mr. De Casseres:
I wish to thank you for remembering me with occasional copies of your printed writings. I trust that you will send me more.
I have a sincere admiration for your remarkable powers of expression; and many of your ideas meet with my entire approval.
But of course I do not accept the philosophy of ultimate pessimism. I cannot follow you into the Cimmerian darkness where you sometimes wander. Man has built his own hells, and he will sometime climb out of them to stand upon a cliff of stars.
Cordially yours,
Edwin Markham

DeCasseres Dances With Nietzsche

 

Two small articles/reviews from the Detroit Jewish Chronicle concerning Benjamin DeCasseres and Nietzsche.  The first about “Germans, Jews and France,” published November 15, 1935,  followed by  “I Dance With Nietzsche,” published December 11, 1936, enjoy.


DeCasseres Shows Nietzsche Hated the German People

Benjamin DeCasseres, eminent writer and critic, descendant of the family of Baruch Spinoza, is the author of a pamphlet, “Germans, Jews and France,” in which is compiled a series of statements from the writings of Nietzsche. This pamphlet, published by the Rose Printers & Publishers, Inc., 91 Runyon St., Newark, N.J., proves that contrary to the claims of Nazis, Nietzsche hated the Germans and had the highest respect for the Jews. DeCasseres took the excerpts in this pamphlet from the 15 volumes of Nietzsche’s works. In a foreword to the booklet he states:  “In Germany his universal doctrine of Will-to-Power and his ideal of Superman have been used by professors and mob-masters as philosophy to excuse their atrocities, their sadism and their totalitarian-state crimes. But they have carefully concealed what you will find in this booklet.”

In his attack on the Germans, Nietzsche is quoted among other things as follows:

“German intellect’ is my foul air.”

“When I try to think of the kind of man who is opposed to me in all my instincts, my mental image takes the form of a German.”

“Even the presence of a German retards my digestion.”

“I can no longer abide the (German) race.”

“I was condemned to the society of the Germans.”

Under the caption “Germany and the Germans,”Mr. DeCasseres has compiled a chapter of quotations among which we read:

“The Germans have not the faintest idea how vulgar they are.”

“The spirit of Germany—soft, swampy, slippery soil.”

“A man lowers himself by frequenting the society of Germans.”

Another chapter in which he condemns the Germans is titled “German Culture.”

Three of the 31 pages are devoted to a discussion of the Jews, and he says of them:

“What a blessing a Jew is among Germans!”

“This race (the Jews) should not be irritated without necessity. Therefore anti-Semites should be expelled from Germany.”

“Since Wagner’s return to Germany he has condescended to everything that I despise—even to anti-Semitism.”

“In respect to cleaner intellectual habits, Europe is not a little Indebted to the Jews; above all, the Germans as being a lamentably deraissonable race, who, even at the present day, must always have their ‘heads washed. ‘It has always been the Jews’ problem to bring a people to raison.”

“It was Heinrich Heins who gave me the most perfected Idea of what a lyrical poet could be.”

“Among Jews I did, indeed, find taste and delicacy toward me, but not among Germans.”

“The Jews are beyond all doubt the strongest, the toughest and purest race at present living in Europe.”

A two-page chapter on France pays tribute to the French as compared to the Germans he despised. Nietzsche is quoted as saying: “We Germans are nearer to barbarism than the French.”

Detroit Jewish Chronicle – November 15, 1935, P.6


DeCasseres “Dances With Nietzsche”

Benjamin DeCasseres, lineal descendent of Spinoza, ranks among the outstanding authorities on the German philosopher, Nietzsche, whose name has been invoked by Nazis in the campaign against the Jews. A short time ago DeCasseres published a pamphlet entitled “Germans, Jews and France by Nietzsche” in which he compiled the writings of this German to prove that instead of being a hater of Jews, Nietzsche, rather, favored them and despised the Germans.

A great lover of Nietzsche, DeCasseres is continually writing commentaries on his works and one of the most interesting of his pamphlets entitled “I Dance with Nietzsche” has just come off the press. It is procurable at 50 cents from him, care of the Blackstone Publishers, 118 W. 27th St., New York City.

The title of this pamphlet is derived from Nietzsche’s having been referred to as the Dancing Philosopher. A most interesting tribute to Nietzsche is contained in this pamphlet in which DeCasseres writes:

“No one has stimulated me over a longer period of time than Nietzsche. Merely to pick up one of his books after reading him for 30 years gives me a great thrill, physical, mental and metaphysical. With a book of his in my hand I feel precisely like a person who holds a bomb.”

“I love him because he inflames every part of my physic and physical life. He is perpetual ecstasy, orgasm. He inflames me to intellectual anger, quite often, as well as to dancing with intellectual joy. But I thank him for infuriating me almost as much as I thank him for penetrating me with mental ecstasy. For whether I agree or disagree with him, he causes my emotions, my thoughts, my nerves to dance.”

Elsewhere in this booklet, Mr. DeCasseres states:

“The prophet and writer in Nietzsche are straight out of the Old Testament. He is of the strain of Isaiah and Jeremiah, King David and Jesus. He is an Old Testament Jew transposed to a modern sensibility. He Is par excellence the Puritan. He is in no sense Greek. He is Oriental. “His “funeral of God’ Is somewhat pathetic, for he has resurrected Jehovah under the name of the Superman. ‘Sacrifices’ are demanded in the name of the Superman. Here is the God of the Old Testament again.”

DeCasseres calls Nietzsche “the greatest phychologist of all time, one of the greatest poets who have ever lived, one of the master-stylists of world-literature, one of the Six Colossi of Thought, the incarnation of all militant Individualists that have been and the protagonist of those to come — sublimely beautiful soul whose like we shall probably not see again.”

Detroit Jewish Chronicle – December 11, 1936 P.13

 

Hawthorne: Emperor of Shadows

 

From the “Hawthorne number”  of The Critic – Vol.XLV No.1, July 1904


Hawthorne: Emperor of Shadows

By Benjamin DeCasseres

 

HAWTHORNE drank from the beaker of inexhaustible shadows; his soul sought instinctively the obscure and the crepuscular; the shadow-glozed figures of his brain were never mockeries of the real, but phantasms of the dead-beings called out of the endless night of the tomb to sport, at his will, in the shadow of crypts and catacombs, or to languish in half-lights, or to be the pawns in some moral problem that vexed his sensitive heart. He dallied in byways and roamed strange, blighted heaths, and preferred to listen to the sibilant murmurs that came from the brackish tarn than to stand beside the gay, tumbling waterfall in the full light of the sun. He was an emperor—but an emperor of elves—an Oberon whose reign began at the twilight hour and who abdicated at the first cockcrow. He was a giant—but a giant leashed in cobwebs. He was a thinker whose thoughts were always at half-mast for the sorrows that sucked at his heart. He was exquisitely aware of a Conscience. He knew that the supernormal could alone explain the normal, that the exceptional housed all the laws that governed ordinary occurrences plus an explanation, which if it did not explain gave us something better — another mystery. “The Scarlet Letter” is the romance of pain; “The House of the Seven Gables” is the romance of crime; “The Marble Faun” the romance of penitential despair.

The evil that is in the heart of man; the subtle poisonous vapors that emanate from his soul like vent-hole gases; strange, sudden maladies without name, dateless in their birth, bringing with them reversions to a kind of devilship; moral cankers which he identified with physical environment and which he made to dwell in dank cellars, in old gabled houses, in curious angles in the garden-wall, or in the fetor of old wells—these things possessed Hawthorne entirely. He dealt with pain as though it were a conscious being —a survival in his brain of the puritan belief in a personal devil. He never burst through the black cerements and dun dreams that kept him apart from his kind. His tales are his soul-saga.

They portray a man immured in a sunless moat—one who is content with the dark, but who, unconsciously, rises from his seat at intervals and searches the walls with his eyes for a chink of light. His mind was a lodging-house for the distraught. What weird, pain-bitten, grief-ravaged beings took up their abode in that caravansary at night and slunk away in the morning, maybe never to return!—imprinted, unprintable, untellable. And there came, too, to stay with him myriads of wan, pale, ethereal wayfarers who seemed to bear about their eyes the light of impalpable worlds and on their brows the sombre thoughts of thwarted genius. The best that is in a man is never told—and the worst is past imagining. Two things the soul cannot formulate in language: its remote, obscure emotions and its immediate noon-day certainties. In Hawthorne’s face there are the wonderful tales that he never told.

There is phantom-touch in his pages. He lacked the sense of reality—the sure test of spirituality. Long, shadowy files sweep up from out the unconscious and form black processions across the earth. That is life. It is the phantom lockstep. These shadows come and go, making frenetic comic gestures. They whisper hoarsely each to the other—and this they call history. They scud across the earth from the immurmurous to the immurmurous — from Mist to Mist. They are palpitant sobs vested in flesh-mesh. This star is but a ghost walk—the fading ramparts of a mystic Elsinore, and graveyards are but tombs within tombs. The days sheened in their meridional glories, the nights set with their little pulsing eyes are the reflections of soul-torrent. Our arts are but the photographs of the apparitional.

Who has touched the Real or tethered the Now? What Hawthorne saw, that is so. Who can say, “Here thought begins and things cease”? Who can put his thought upon that moment that divides the sleeping moment from the waking moment?—who can tell how far one trenches on the other? Life is but a conscious sleeping; sleep an unconscious waking—or a waking into the Unconscious. Life in prospect is always phosphorescent with hope; the path behind is a white capped dream. Youth and Age are to both somnambules. Our imaginations —and Hawthorne was an imaginative seer — are unplumbed, immeasurable. Fancy is the mirror that gives us back the real. Life is a progressive dream, a languorous, painful unwinding. We pace the decks, withered gods, the definite shrunk to a hint, a puzzle to ourselves, a puzzle to the beasts below and the inhabitants of the fourth dimension above. Hawthorne nowhere formulates this sense of mystery, but it stands shadowlike behind each sentence. It is the breath of his literary body.

Though here, of our date and time, he was a belated spirit—a fanciful, roving, ether-cleaving spirit who one day, while peeping in curiosity over the eaves of his dream-mansion, fell into flesh. Society annoyed him and he turned from the rouged arts of civilization with a fine contempt.

Genius treads far from that bellowing sphinx called civilization. The nineteenth century was a coarse melodrama written by the devil for the delectation of the blasé gods. By ignoring it utterly Nathaniel Hawthorne and Walter Pater became its greatest critics. Civilization at best is a peddler dressed up to look like a monarch. It is that process which has subtilized the direct and made automatic the spontaneous. It has made a crooked line the shortest way between two given points and substituted Machiavelli for Euclid. It invents pains in order to banish from its heart the horrible boredom that oppresses it. The vaunted arts and sciences sit cheek-by-jowl with Mammon. “Progress” is the cluck-cluck of satisfaction of Caliban as he makes headway into thicker mud.

Practical life stands for the utter materialization of the soul. Its glitter, which attracts from afar, is the glitter that falls from pomade-burnished garbage cans. In the great cities, which Rousseau called nature’s sinks, men do not congregate, but fester. Cities are great street-canalled slime-vats, wherein long familiarity has indurated the sense of smell. Here the souls of men turn turtle: they call it “business.” Ideals melt in these fens like the snow-image in Hawthorne’s tale when it is dragged by the Practical Man—always and everywhere an atheist—before the fireplace. Practical life!—the domain of the arched spine and the furtive glance—it is better to become moss-grown in the Old Manse of Dreams. Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, Clifford Pynchon, Miriam, Donatello shall outlive in shadowy immortality the flesh and blood beings that mimic their ways here below, and the turrets and spires of our civilization shall long be gangrened in the muds of oblivion when the shadow-makers that have gone shall still with potent rod smite the souls of generations unborn, and from them, as from us, shall burst the fountains of exalted wonder.

What strange shadows tread at our heels!—shadows of evil and shadows of good. On how slight a pivot turn our fortunes! In that exquisite fantasy, “David Swan,” the muffled march of events that never materialize, that cross and recross our paths unseen, unapprehended, like the ghost of Hamlet’s father when he parades before the eyes of the spirit-blind Queen Gertrude, is the theme of  Hawthorne. In this little allegory we read the chances of life. Our destinies are brittle but inexorable, and we are tossed around in the great world-forces like a bottle in the sea.

Young Swan lies down to rest beneath a tree that stands by a well-travelled road. He is poor and sleeps deep. A carriage becomes disabled near him and the occupants, an elderly lady and gentleman, while waiting for a broken wheel to be mended, contemplate his adoption, but the coachman interrupts with the message that the carriage is ready, and Fortune, which just grazed him in her flight, passes on forever. Death, in the guise of thieves who are about to murder him for his clothing, but who are opportunely frightened off, lingers near him for a second and then postpones her rendezvous with the soul of David Swan. Love, in the person of a young girl who steps aside to contemplate and blush, glides by him. David wakes and goes on his way whistling.

Our days are freighted with gifts and curses, and the bitterness of life lies in the consciousness of what might have been. Yet the Law never swerves, or if it swerve, it carries on its breast the debris of our dreams and hurries us to the Gulf that swallows all dreams. The might-have-been is as far away as that which never came to being. “Our happiness passes close by us.” Not so: it is the illusion of space. Unless we possess it, it is but the greater mockery when it thrusts its flowers under our noses and when we are about to inhale the fragrance substitutes snuff.

Hawthorne, King of a realm fantastic, Emperor of shadows, Grand Seigneur of the unmapped, tourist of the sub terrene, who saw from behind his lattice of fancy the pain that bases the moral world and the comic lie that is called optimism — he sups to-night, with Omar, Amiel, and de Maupassant, on herbs and bitters. For he was one of the Order of the Black Veil—in life a soul of regal pains, in death a quenchless memory in our hearts.

 

 

DECASSERES PLANS U. S. LIBERTY FIGHT

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, SUNDAY MORNING. AUGUST 11. 1935


DECASSERES PLANS U. S. LIBERTY FIGHT

Philosopher Turns to New Credo in “War on Collectivism”

NEW YORK, Aug. 10 (A. P.) Benjamin DeCasseres, philosopher and descendant of philosophers, turned today from his abstractions to what he termed “a fighting political realism in the defense of American liberty.”

“I purpose from now on,” he said, to use all my forces in battling for the preservation of the American-British-French ideal of civil liberties against Communism, Fascism, Nazism or any form of collectivism that ties the individual to the Juggernaut of a dictatorial State.

“The difference between Communism and Fascism is a difference in stench.” The descendant of Spinoza, great Dutch philosopher of the 18th century, turned his back on the philosophers of antiquity and modernity.

Rings Liberty Bell

“I have hobnobbed with Buddha and Aeschylus, Plato and Schopenhauer, Spinoza and Nietzsche, Victor Hugo and Baudelaire, Goethe and Heine, Montaigne and Whitman, Hegel and Keats, Thomas Hardy and Dostoievsky,” he said,”–in fact, with the whole earth brain trust.

“I salute them in temporary farewell, walk down Olympus into Independence Hall, roll up my sleeves, carry the Liberty Bell up to the tower—and ring it till it either cracks to dust or until I die.” For his battle cry DeCasseres has taken a new American credo, culled from the men he considers the great type American political leaders—Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

His credo:

“I believe with Benjamin Franklin that any nation that exchanges its liberty for security is not worthy of either.”

“I believe with Thomas Jefferson that the least government is the best government.”

Activities Divided

“All my life I have divided my spiritual, mental and emotional activities between Olympus and Independence Hall.”

“That is, part of me pursued truth and beauty in the great thinkers and poets, and part of me pursued with passionate militancy the fierce individualism of Thomas Jefferson.”

“Today I leave Olympus, except for short visits, and move, bag and baggage, into Independence Hall and Monticello.” DeCasseres said he considered that “there is a mighty war being fought now in every country in the world.”

“It is individualism versus collectivism; freedom versus reactionary totalitarianism.”

“I shall advocate individualism against all forms of standardized stagnation, sterile conformity, beehive Socialism. Communism and the efforts of capitalism to monopolize the necessities of life.”

“The most brutal form of capitalism is the totalitarian State: Russia, Germany and Italy.”

The philosopher, although he has turned from thoughts to deeds, insists on the rational approach to action.

“Every American worthy of the name,” he said, “should know why he is an American.”

“And having found out that this greatest deliberate experiment ever made in human liberties, with all its attendant faults and corruptions, is the superior politically of any other Government that has heretofore appeared on earth, he should be prepared to risk everything to save it from the threatened universal catastrophe of the superstitious belief that the State is a miracle machine.”

America’s Most Unpublished Author

As published in the San Bernardino Sun, Volume 67, Number 23, 23 September 1930


Intelligentsia Pole Star Gives Bernard Shaw Merciless Flaying In Volume Lauding H.L Mencken

America’s Most Unpublished Author at Last ‘Clicks’ and Works to Be Printed

By H. ALLEN SMITH (United Press Correspondent) NEW YORK, Sept. 22.

Benjamin Decasseres, pole star of the American intelligentsia and sometimes called the most unpublished author in the United States, has written a new book that will be published. It is called “Mencken and Shaw, the Anatomy of America’s Voltaire and England’s Other John Bull.” Between its covers Decasseres sets out, with a pen that drips blue fire, to prove that George Bernard Shaw is a colossal mountebank and that H. L. Mencken is the true modern Voltaire.

Lives in Apartment Off Gramercy Park

This being an interesting thesis, Decasseres submitted to an interview. He lives in an apartment off Gramercy park surrounded by books, green pencils, unpublished manuscripts and an ice box well stocked with tannic acid. The “Lone Eagle” of American literature wore brown striped pajamas, of a silken texture, during the interview. First off he brought out his 16 unpublished books. These range in topic from a volume of poetry to the love letters of Bio and Benjamin Decasseres. “The publishers,” Decasseres said, “won’t touch my stuff because I won’t go to literary teas.” His new volume on Mencken and Shaw will be published by Silas Newton, a Texas oil man. Newton may publish all of Decasseres works. The 57-year-old author believes that Mencken’s books should be placed in the schools, “to teach Americans how to write English.” He holds that Mencken is the greatest writer as well as the greatest social satirist this country has ever produced. “I have taken Mencken and Shaw,” he said, “as the world’s two outstanding sane rebels. But my idea is that Mencken’s sanity is sincere, while Shaw’s is not. Shaw delights in making people believe he is insane, which he probably is. He is a cheap publicity-seeker, a publicity-shark of the lowest type. He is like a trick bear, always clowning. “The big difference lies in the fact that Mencken has character, Shaw has none. I don’t agree with Mencken on many of his literary and esthetic judgments. But I believe that his grandeur comes from his narrowness, his height comes from his lack of breadth. “Mencken glories in the use of words. He takes the same pleasure in studying the use of words that a Beethoven would take in the study of notes, or a Rembrandt in the study of colors.” The frequent charge of insincerity, brought against Mencken, irritates Decasseres.

Has Been Pursuing One Line of Thought

“For 20 years.” he said, “the man has been following one solid line of thought a battering ram against sham and humbug and popular idols. My objection to him is that he is monotonously sincere. I wish he would change his record occasionally.” Decasseres said that Shaw has never created a character that will live, that he is the “father of all the sophisticated drool that exists on the stage today. He is the greatest disaster to the English stage of the century. He cannot create human beings, only epigrani-spouters, and he creates his characters to fit his epigrams instead of letting the epigrams flow naturally from the characters. I might add that he gats all his epigrams from jazzing up Schopenhauer, Neitzsche, Tolstoy, La Rochefocauld, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Butler. Shaw is related to the world of great artist? as jazz composers are related to Beethoven and Mozart.” Decasseres sent the proofs of his book to Mencken, who in- turn wrote a letter to the author. The last line of this letter reads: “You forgot to put in that I was baptized at the age of two months and had the hives for five weeks thereafter.”

“The Shadow Eater” reviewed in The Dial, 1917

The following review was published in The Dial, Vol. LXII No. 756, February 22, 1917.


The later 1923 edition.

Mr. Benjamin De Casseres brings together in “The Shadow Eater” a group of verses in the mood of a dyspeptic Whitman. On the principle that nothing is so emphatically defunct as the fads of yesteryear, these verses make an impression of astonishing antiquity. Compared with Longfellow they are old-fashioned and bromidic: Felicia Hemans, compared with them, is fresh and youthful. All the old exploded diseases of the soul that Max Nordau took seriously, all the spiritual sores, the puny blisters, the enfant terrible attitudinizing which our grandmothers gasped at in the French and German egoists of their day, are here exhumed and ranged anew for our inspection. But the gasp turned long ago into a yawn. Tom Sawyer could not go on forever mulcting his playfellows of pennies and marbles by the exhibition of his sore toe. Those who have read Leopardi, Schopenhauer, Weininger, and Baudelaire, will find no novel shudder in this book. They will see another desperate man storming sternly, inexorably, against a Deity whose existence he has just denied. They will see him again, in a mollified mood, patting his God on the head, with a half surmise that he may himself be God. They will find the old familiar familiarity with the word “lust” and with the obstetrical metaphor. (Is the time not ripe, by the way, for a midwife’s anthology ?) They will find another verse maker who is determined at all costs to be astonishing who, when sense palls, tries nonsense, and, that failing, tries capital letters. All this was good fun fifty years ago, but the wind of the poor jest is broken. The determination to cast off all shackles of convention is carried into orthography, so that beside such words, caviare to the general, as “adytum” and “lutescent,” we have the spellings “wafir,” “tapir” (not an animal), and “cozzen”! These spellings are the features of the book which one does not remember having met too frequently before.
Now and then a line attains epigrammatic value by its vigorous compression. Here, for example. is the pessimist’s description of a human life : “The cry in the womb, the release, the hasty scud across earth, the thud in the Pit !”
Here is solipsism in a nutshell : “My soul is a fountain that balances the ball of the visible cosmos.”
Here, again, is the “cosmic foot-pad’s” word about. Love, which, for reasons analogous to those which actuated Otto Weininger, he says he “rejects”: “Love, that accouched every star in the blue, that with knout of desire sends the young worlds grunting round and round the senescent suns.”

 

“A Counsel of Imperfection” by Benjamin DeCasseres

The following was published in The International, Vol. VI, No. V for October 1912.


A Counsel of Imperfection
by Benjamin DeCasseres

GULLIBUS:—But if your theories prevailed what would become of the race?

SATIRICUS:—The race ? My dear Gullibus, there is no such thing as the race; like posterity, it is a verbal superstition. The word was invented to keep social philosophers from saying anything dangerous. “To live for posterity” is the phrase of faddists. The attempt to live up to that phrase results in mental, moral and physical decay. It is part of the doctrine of Christian altruism—the part that is the most beautiful and decadent in tendency ; for you know, dear Gullibus, that all altruism is degeneracy. I can conceive of nothing more immoral than to sacrifice a present benefit in order to avoid a future evil. Grasp what you can now. Why should we live like a naked Hypothesis, sacrificing ‘the facts of this day for fear of the things that may not happen to-morrow ? Fine phrases have eviscerated the instinct to individuality. Social evolution is the evolution of phrases. The idea that we should so order our lives as to benefit generations not yet born is an idea that came into the world with the advent of man ; and man is only an abnormal development of the monkey, the most perfect, to my way of thinking, of all the vertebrates. Being an abnormality, man’s ideas are all abnormal, freakish. Do you suppose for a moment that the histories of those wonderful social states that the ants, bees, monkeys and other forms of superior intelligence have organized can show such worship of Cant as the history of man?
Let us look at some of the consequences were men to live solely with an eye to the good of posterity. What would become of sin, the one thing that gives form, color and symmetry to life? We dream of transmitting our sins and our defects as well as our virtues, and a father would rather see a son resemble him on his seamy side alone than not to have the son resemble him at all. The dream is to have “a chip of the old block.” There is no greater secret humiliation for a parent than to see a child who is “better” than himself. Superiority always draws the arrows of hate from the hidden slings where they are kept.

GULLIBUS :—You mean to say, Satiricus, that we are all in love with sin?

SATIRICUS :—Yes. Our dream of Heaven, of Perfection, is but the soul brooding over its abrogated darling sins. Perfection is sin deferred. The dream of a perfect social State springs from the cupidity of the heart. As for me, the most beautiful thing I can think of is a life wherein I shall live out my thwarted instincts. That is a marvellously beautiful thought which comes to me at times—that in some other sphere, social or celestial, I will be able to do all those things which the policeman would not allow me to do here. For the way of the transgressor who meets with no resistance is paved with gold.

GULLIBUS :—And conscience, Satiricus, what of that?

SATIRICUS :—It is not our sins that have begotten conscience. On the contrary, it is the inability to realize our sinful (miserable word !) desires that gives us that uncomfortable feeling in the head which is known as conscience. Successful murderers and thieves and swindlers have no conscience until they are caught. Success never had a conscience. It is born of fear and baffled instinct. Conscience is the homage that evil intention pays to the policeman.
Altruistic ideals are indeed valuable if we do not try to live up to them. Nothing so coarsens a thing as to use it. The sublime is only the sublime as long as we do not humanize it. Self-sacrifice is a sublime feeling; it attracts because of its unreality. To live for others ! Superb uplift in these words ! What exaltation in the idea! And, my dear Gullibus, it only exalts because it is an idea. We love goodness in an inverse ratio to our means of realizing it. Pegasus appeals to the imagination because he never existed. Drag him from his habitation in the clouds and we should yoke him to drays and furniture vans. It is thus with our ideals. If by any accident a great ideal becomes practicable it is soon ground up in the mills of the commonplace—and so loses all its beauty.

GULLIBUS :—What a paradoxist you are ! You destroy the value both of conscience and the ideal. Has the ideal, for instance, no value at all?

SATIRICUS :—Of course—did I not just speak of its value ? The ideal of self-sacrifice has an aesthetic value, like a sunset or a charming landscape. It has the beauty of perspective, the vague charm of aloofness. It has the value of an incentive. To degrade a dream into a concrete rule of conduct is as vulgar a thing as to litter the heavens with patent medicine advertisements. Have you noticed how convictions lose their force when enacted into law ? All our legislative bodies are engaged in repealing what the previous body ordained. It is a tragedy of the Ideal—the debacle of Imagination.
The man who goes to the stake for his convictions is an ass. But the martyr as a motive for a work of art or a novel is invaluable. For the beauty of an act of martyrdom lies in the fact that it will appear beautiful to somebody else. It has an aesthetic value only and is absolutely destitute of moral significance. Bruno, Savonarola and Socrates were merely obstinate fanatics. It is we who have created them. A kind of ex-post facto idealism. Now as to this craze of living for posterity and the “good of the race,” the motive is not moral, but aesthetic ; and that it has a value (as a human motive) no one can doubt who loves the marvellous literature of the New Testament, the jewelled but inutile phrasings of Ruskin and the simple patriarchal style of the late Tolstoi. What literature the unphilosophical philosophy of self-acrifice has given us!

GULLIBUS :—And Truth—what becomes of that in this amazing view ?

SATIRICUS :—Truth ! There is only one truth !—The universality of error. You remember what I said about Pegasus? Well, if Men ever discovered the Truth they would be bored to death. Without error life would not be worth the living. Indeed, life is hardly worth the living to-day because it is so much better than it used to be. People actually commit suicide now because they are happy—that is, they are bored with life, and what is boredom but the highest phase of happiness ? We are confronted by the dreadful possibility that every ideal may soon be realized. The Socialists are about to decree the end of poverty and want and will substitute a nasty ennui. The pride of rank is to make way for rank pride. The Empire of the Wise will soon be in the dust and every wise man will be compelled to live out his system as a penance for having dared to dream it. Gullibus, the imagination of man is confronted by the greatest crisis in its history. We are going to lose our gods ; the corner orator is decreeing the death of the Intangible. We shall fall from Parnassus into the Bon Marche.
And then in these days we are all understood. We no longer know the sweet secret of incommunicable sorrows. We are no longer mysterious one to another. We read each other like circus billboards. Life has lost its savor of mutual ignorance. The Brain is discovering all things, even its own limitations. Everything is classifiable. We are verging toward truth, goodness and cosmic lassitude. I foresee a time when there will no longer be room for those exquisite little hatreds and subtle jealousies from which we at present derive much pleasure.

GULLIBUS :—You don’t seriously hold that our hatreds are a source of pleasure, do you ?

SATRICUS :—Nothing is more clearly true. All hatred adds to self-esteem, and anything that adds to self-esteem must be pleasurable. Envy I hold to be the first and highest of virtues. To be envious of another reveals to us our own limitations. It makes us desire the things we lack ; and this gives birth to the instinct of pursuit. I often conceive envy as an exquisite perfume. It gives us our ideals. It is the fairest flower that blossoms on the Tree of Good and Evil. I, for one, dear Gullibus, would not consent to live another minute did the Green Goddess desert me. Envy is certainly the father of genius and the mother at least of self-culture. The total absence of this almost universal spur argues a low origin—bovine or porcine. We find little envy among peasants because they have no knowledge of values and no aspirations ; they would rather sleep on a dunghill than in the seigneur’s halls. Nothing so titillates my daily life as a desire for my neighbor’s wife or his rugs or his gold. Those who lack this divine and urgent fire of envy will be found prosy and virtuous or stupidly wise ! To dream of undoing your neighbor raises the tide of life—and Herbert Spencer, you know, defines pleasure as a rise in the tide of life. This is the age of intellectual Borgias, but it will pass, is passing now with the coming apotheosis of stupidity, the Brotherhood of Man. The Brotherhood of Man ! What a gigantic egotism ! We so love ourselves that, not being content with that, we are constantly seeking to be some one else. The precious fluids of selfhood seek discharge in other modes of life than our own. The passion for the consummation of the scheme of the Brotherhood of Man is generated in the monstrous desire of o’erbrimming egotists to expand the bladder of self to the dimensions of the race. The soul of man blasphemously seeks to take on the characteristics of Omnipotence ; this it calls self-sacrifice. Men desire to be MAN ; this they name the Brotherhood of Man.
It is envy that creates want ; it is the fulcrum on which Power tries its instruments. I would rather envy than have.

GULLIBUS :—And what becomes of justice?

SATIRICUS :—Justice is a catchword. It is as fugitive as the idea of God. It has never been defined. The only definition of justice that sounds rational to me is the tiger’s definition : What you want go and take. It is just that the strong should prey and that the weak should pray. All that I have has been stolen, even my present reasoning. If any one interferes with my methods, that is unjust, for injustice may be defined as settling an arbitrary limit to Power. Our present social condition is the most unjust imaginable because of the unceasing depredations of the weak on the strong. All organized government is used by the weak to harry and oppress primitive strength. Hence the present reign of mediocrity. The strongest go to the wall or jail and the unfittest survive and write our laws, our literature and our poems. You see, Gullibus, it is the old posterity-worship idea again. We are preserving the race at the expense of the individual. There is no justice in a system that will tie a Gulliver to the ground and allow myriad black ants from the government ant-villages to void their offal on him. Only war is justice.

GULLIBUS :—You are hardly convincing. From your remarks I gather that you have a very poor opinion of civilization. Come, have some common sense.

SATIRICUS :—Common sense is vulgar sense. Let us put common sense aside and talk intelligently. Civilization is a device for increasing human wants. It, too, is merely barbarism tattooed. But civilization is good in this : that it never satisfied a human craving. It promotes all the sacrosanct vices. There is nothing more frightful than a sense of satisfaction with things. Content is ever the doctrine of the aged and well-to-do. No, my dear Gullibus, let us not underestimate the blessings of civilization. Nowhere else can you find such exquisite pains and sufferings. Nothing so promotes the picturesquely criminal as our great and compact cities. The vileness of modern life is the one thing that redeems it. It made Balzac, Zola and Gissing possible. The slums are worth while when they manure such genius. Organized want—that is London ; unique thought, is it not ? Artists and psychologists and thinkers are interested in the phenomenon. It is the clay of the artistic spirit. Thus does civilization tend to perpetuate the arts and sciences. Gloria in Excelsis ! Have a cigarette?