February 15, 2022
Selections from Lipton’s Journal
Or thoughts on being a “happier more effective rebel.”
During the winter of 1954–55, Norman Mailer found himself at a crossroads. He was 32-years-old and concerned that his career as the promising and precocious young author of The Naked and the Dead might have already burnt out like a shooting star. His second novel Barbary Shore (1952) had not been well received by critics, and he was struggling to publish his third novel The Deer Park. He considered that perhaps the international success of Naked had been a fluke, and that he was just “an imposture.” Mailer turned inward toward self-analysis and considered his relationship with the external world. He used cannabis (his “tea,” or “Lipton’s”) on the weekends and recorded his thoughts and experiences in over-700 journal entries from December 1954 to March 1955. His journey plumbed the depths of his soul, skirting the borders of dread, insanity, and despair, but allowed him to see cleareyed his own responsibility as an artist and develop his own self-reliance, his genius, and his practical existentialism. The journal ends abruptly when Mailer secures a publisher for The Deer Park, but not before his personal breakthrough that would become the foundation of his more mature thought in his subsequent short fiction and later in Advertisements.
Another factor which led Mailer to Lipton’s is his relationship with prominent psychologist Robert Lindner, author of several books including Rebel Without a Cause (1944) and Prescription for Rebellion (1952). After reading the latter, Mailer wrote to Lindner with praise and criticism, beginning a close friendship that would last until Lindner’s death in 1956. Both were competitive and often at odds with each other, but they managed to support one another’s work through candid epistles and animated conversations. Since Lindner refused to analyze Mailer, suggesting that it would end their friendship, Mailer undertook his own analysis in the pages of his journal, often sending his work to his friend for comment. Lindner’s work advocated rebellion over adjustment, profoundly influencing Mailer’s evolving thought.
Mailer’s journal covers all manner of topics—like sex, jazz, the sounds of words, relationships, The Deer Park manuscript, existentialism, the nature of genius, social conformity, among others—so entries are inconsistent and vary widely in scope, approach, and mood. I have tried to select entries that show the breadth of this thought, but that follow his major concerns of the journal, especially his preoccupation with the individual artist/genius and his struggle with the oppressive forces of conformity. This struggle between the individual’s homeodynamism (which Mailer calls “homeostasis” and later “H” and “er”) and the external sociostatis (the “S” or later “sup” of social conformity) becomes the primary concern of the journal. The following selections from Lipton’s Journal typify Mailer’s mindset during this transitional period in his life. These selections have been edited, but the original entries appear on Project Mailer.
December 1, 1954
Lipton’s seems to open one to one’s unconscious. Perhaps its brothers do too. Last night, for an experiment, I tried an overhead press with the 45 lb. barbell. I did it seventeen times, double what I normally do, and while I could probably do as much without Lipton’s, I felt very little strain, and no stiffness this morning. Undoubtedly, our latent strength is far greater than our actual, and we become tired or drained because of anxiety. This would account for the super-human strength people exhibit in time of necessity. It is always there, but it takes the threat of death or something which is its psychological equivalent to quiet the anxiety and allow the full strength to appear. Perhaps this is why animals are always so strong for their size—their latent strength is always present.
In modern jazz, one feels a key to aesthetics. Because modern jazz consists almost entirely of surprising one’s expectation, and it is in the degree, small or great, with which each successive expectation is startled, that the artistry lies. But modern jazz has risen to share the crisis of modern painting. It is a self-accelerating process for the audience’s expectations are changed almost nightly (that is, the tight critical yeast of the true aficionados) and so questions of “beauty” disappear before the dilemma—last night’s innovation is tomorrow’s banality. What is suggested is a movement across the arts, each of them engaging the other in order to find new startlings of old expectations until the arts blend, possibly in mathematics, the only art where the expectations of expectations of expectations, etc. can approach infinity.
December 8, 1954
There may actually be such a separate entity as “society.” It may be the sum of that part of everybody’s unconscious which leads into action. Society is the sum of men’s actions, and beneath the surface of life may be that stratum of the collective unconscious which connects men in a net of actions, “social and productive relations independent of their will.” Marx is still perhaps the first and the only major psychologist.
Psychoanalysis, liberalism, etc., are ways to reduce men to zombies. Perhaps Bob [Lindner]’s anger at lobotomies comes from the unconscious fear that with all his good will and his courage, perhaps he is making zombies of his patients too. Is psychoanalysis perhaps no more than an ideational lobotomy to sever man completely from his deeper world, and leave him marooned, will-less, and adjusted (anger less) in the dead world of society. The sterile land of relating, of conformity, of proportion—what is it worth to lose one’s anger if we remember that anger is only the side result of frustrated vision. Children’s anger is always violent for children have visions destroyed every instant of their existence.
December 17, 1954
There is no death-instinct, there is only anger, and we are not born with anger, not unless the mother is capable of communicating her anger to the embryo. What we think of as the death-instinct, which is applied almost always to the act which seems completely irrational and purposeless, is actually the anger of the soul at being forced to travel the tortured contradictory roads of the social world. The meaningless act is never meaningless—its meaning goes too deep. It is the cry of the soul against society, and it has a purpose—only the most irrational cries can appeal to the soul of others. It is the language allowed us. Only the soul can understand their meaning which is why we flee the impulse in ourselves and others, and call it the death-instinct. All words have their echoes, their deep contraries, and what we call the death-instinct is actually the life of the soul, its anger. But to admit it, to face up to it, is the most terrible revolution a human can undergo, for he loses not only all the vanities of his previous thought, his snobberies, his deceptions, but he is likely to lose his friends, his mate, his reputation, and even most probably his ambition.
Equations: Man is born with a soul which is part of the collective soul. Society is composed of the net of men’s unwilled actions. It is opposed to the soul.
Each child enters the world with a pure soul (probably).
Society attempts to destroy the soul in order to maintain its stability. The soul fights back. The war between the two is what we call the world which is the battleground between society and the universe (the collective soul—how inadequate are all these words.)
Through history up to now the soul of the savage which was all soul relinquished a part of its soul to enable man to battle against nature, for until nature was conquered, at least in its inhospitable manifestations, man was doomed to remain an animal.
The movement of man to find his soul worked its drama upon society, for as society (which is the concretion of the collective surrender of man’s will) developed and altered men, removing them further and further from their souls, so did man fight back, occasionally altering society, the movement of his soul (with what endless waste) improving social structure. But usually losing his soul.
The twentieth century marked the point in history where society was ready to conquer nature completely. But the tragedy was that by then the majority of men had virtually lost their souls—they were psychopaths, and leaders, and unfeeling. So society instead of being finally conquered by men as was conceived in the original contract, instead drew away from men. The interrelation between man and society was broken. Society went its way, and man (those who had souls) retreated, or gave themselves up to being the machines of society. And the revolution never took place. And its only substitute, its echo, its polarity, was totalitarianism.
War is the symbolic collective act of man’s anguish—“They got tired of living at home, and so they went to war.” Living at home is not a home, it is a war against society, and when it becomes collectively intolerable, it is turned against society, but a false image of society—the enemy. It is also society’s way of not allowing the battle against nature to be won by sheer development of technique. If man wants socialism, and from that, God, he must win it by revolution.
December 31, 1954
The collar of this is the Stalinist who in the better forms is a man with a soul which feels acutely the outrages of society. But the good Stalinist cannot make the full repudiation of the world; it is too terrifying, and so he takes the half-repudiation of Stalinism, with all its frightful restraints and smothering, because he is terrified that to relinquish the world completely is to mean madness. And this is society’s last weapon, the one which indeed is working on me now. For the first time in my life I have come to realize that I, too, could go mad or commit suicide. I do not really believe it, I spend most of my hours in ebullience and enormous inner excitement, but there are moments at night when I am simply, soulfully happy that Adele [Morales, Mailer’s second wife] is there, and that she understands me, and I can turn to her, and say, “Baby, I’m scared.”
January 24, 1955
Writer’s blocks exist because the writer is in danger. His sociostatic forces are mobilized against where his homeostatic urges are leading him, and if the danger is great enough, nothing will come out. Life is pure depression. What is a more usual case is that the writer advances slowly against his sociostasis, burdened with depression.
A novel is the record of a sociostatic retreat if it is a great or good novel. A bad novel is the record of a sociostasis advance (all this of course relative to the talents, the danger, and homeostatic energy of the creator) and the bad novel being the record of a sociostatic advance is written usually more rapidly and with more satisfaction until the hangover comes—the homeostatic urges (homeodynamic would be a much better word)—Now, I’ve got it.
Homeostasis is not homeostatic at all. It is homeodynamism vs. sociostasis—the hangover comes because homeodynamic forces are enraged at the self and shame is felt. Thus, for people homeodynamic expression arouses emotions of guilt which are generated by sociostasis. Sociostatic expression arouses emotions of shame which are generated by homeodynamism. Thus guilt and shame are not close—They are Polar.
Sociostatic repression allows the writer the least dangerous (to society) expression of his vision (homeodynamic urge). Therefore, style gives the clue usually to what happened in the soul. The great stylist is indeed a man who relatively does not have too much to say. There are geniuses like Joyce, Proust and Mann who said an awful lot but the difficulties of their style kept them alive so to speak—they would have been hung if people had been able to understand them.
To the other side are the bad stylists like myself who are just overflowing with ideas. My sociostatic defense against being hung myself is that I express them so badly that nearly everyone reading this journal would take me for a crank. My sociostatic defense (S.D.) at this stage is to allow the ideas to come in such waves that all is confusion. The S.D. (Social Democrat) hopes that I’ll waste these ideas by throwing them away in the crudities of the style. But even this is dangerous for it.
For years my brain was most alive when I was incapable of taking a note, or trapping the thought. And in my novels like Barbary Shore and The Deer Park where I had comparatively few ideas, I could reach them only through great pain, and the most stubborn depression and writing blocks. Yet I broke sociostatic things in myself. I have lost weight and with it depression. I am manic, alive, filled every day with the excitement and revelation of everything I see. There is that wonderful line in The Deer Park which goes: “There was that law of life, so cruel and so just, which demanded that one must grow or else pay more for remaining the same.” So the writer has to grow and the more his talent the more he has to grow.
Which is why it is so awful and so exciting to be a novelist. Of all the art forms it is the one where one can hide the least, and in this country where growth is the most accelerated there is small wonder that American novelists die artistically very young. To be a great American novelist demands a superman. That is why great writers in America are not able to turn out work after work of equal value—the moment they do not continue to grow, the sociostatic defenses chase them back in a rout, as indeed they have to for the great American writer is living very dangerously.
January 26, 1955
Let me put it this way: One of the basic analytic concepts is that the id forces are repressed by the ego and super-ego because they are too horrible to bear. I think that is true only until the euphoric phase takes place. Thereafter, in a conventional analysis, a transfer occurs within the patient, it is the Id or what I prefer to call the H (being more healthy) which becomes the censor, the resistance. Deeply it knows that it is being tricked, being called forth in order to be converted from H to S. So H forces censor the H. Of a sudden the patient does not want to give up his neurosis. Of course not. Beneath the S, the H is very alive in a neurotic. Over and over again most analysts are haunted by the suspicion that their adjusted patients have lost something very vital. Indeed, that is why there is not to my knowledge a single example of a talented writer who did better work after his analysis. The rebel in him was quieted too much.
Sociostasis and sociostasis. Societies leave behind them a homeostatic record (H vs. S) which we call history. Each death of an H vs. S leaves us a truth. Human life is not a circle but a spiral. When the spiral returns to the point where it was an age, a century, an eon ago, what was once an H may now be an S. Reason which is part of man’s soul was once an H-instrument which put S in retreat. But S is part of life too; it is Other-Life, and so in defeating an H it absorbs it. Reason has now become Rationalization (in the large sense of the word). It is one of the bulwarks of society.
So the H turns to the illogical, the intuitive, the irrational. One symptom of this is what everybody is calling the plague of irrationality. Small communities refuse the fluoridation of water, although rationally fluoridation prevents tooth decay and does no known harm. McCarthys spring up and have to be defeated at what cost to the rational nervous system of the State, it is difficult to contemplate. Demagogues are on the march, painting deserts the representational—to wit, the rational. Poetry ceases to communicate to large audiences. Billy Grahams electrify the staid English, Aldous Huxley, the last in line of a great intellectual family takes a drug and writes a book about it.
The demagogue is everywhere. Millions give themselves to the gibberish of television. Be-bop floods America after the war, and it is the artistic expression of double-talk (ultimately the expression of many things at once). Monsters in uniform murder in the name of the state until finally the state itself is caught in contradiction. It is killing its own. It is killing the very people it needs for production which is its health. What then am I saying?
The state has appropriated reason. With reason it is attempting to destroy life. So life responds by bewildering the state with monsters and mystics. At this moment in history, the State can handle anything rational, can adapt itself to anything rational, borrow from it, use it. The State has used Marxism itself in order to make super-states. So, life fights back by having people become monsters and mystics, the two things the State just cannot possibly handle. The hipster who combines both monster and mystic within himself is on Cloud Seven, and the psychoanalyst who is his social counterpart is merely in the chair.
In a curious cockeyed way, the concentration camps of the world were not an unalloyed monstrosity. They could have been worse, the world could have been destroyed. It is possible that in the long view of the historian centuries from now, the concentration camps will be seen as the warning which succeeded—the statement of life which warned people that the ultimate nature of the totally rational society is the monster. That if society is allowed total reason, it will destroy Life.
Once, in the Middle Ages mysticism and monsters were the province of society and reason was the expression of life. But we are half around the spiral, and it is possible that at this moment in history the irrational expressions of man are more healthy than the rational. For state-planners, and civic planners and community planners are always rattled, bewildered, rendered anxious by the totally irrational. McCarthy fucked up the confidence of the American State more completely than a million Communist Party members could have. Perhaps we fail to see the signs. Perhaps the crazy reactionaries and the tabloid papers and the comic books (I see what Bob [Lindner] means) and television and advertising even in certain ways, all the monstrosities are eating at the calm of the experts, fuddling the bureaucrats, expressing against Other-Life, the warped twisted but nonetheless assertive H permitted man today. And on a higher level, a century or three or five from now, the spiral may be completed (it will of course go on) and Reason, Higher Reason will return to the H and monsters and mysticism to the S.
January 31, 1955
Cancer. I believe instinctively, intuitively, that cancer is the rage of the soul at not having lived properly, at not expressing the H. Its relation to cigarette smoking seems to be that cigarettes are not so much cancer producing agents as cancer accompanying agents. In other words, the smoker is probably an S man with rebellion very close to his surface. So he smokes, taking little sips of the tiny antiseptic penis with its red hot tip, and is both antiseptic-and-social and rebellious and orgiastic at the same time. He gets lung cancer if the H is never properly expressed.
He is able to give up cigarettes if the H is waning, the S relaxing, and a state of comparative armistice arriving. So we gain weight when we give up smoking, we feel contented, we taste food—the S has prevailed. I wonder if one can give up cigarettes if the H triumphs over the S. Possibly. I have given up much of sweets and alcohol—I wish to eat less. But cigarettes—I’d have to have a very successful H analysis.
February 7, 1955
Any rationalist reading this would exclaim, “What a diseased mind. What a fantastic and unpleasant imagination. What monstrous and fantastic rationalizations this Mailer sets up to justify himself.” To which I would answer, “simply, dear old friend who is now an enemy, just tell me where the hell all this came from. Tell me why man is on earth, why there is life, why people are not rational when you know reason is most reasonable, why you want and even believe in a good society when you think people are insignificant, stupid, hopeless, cruel, and in need of order.”
In a sentence: I get these ideas from somewhere, something, be it myself or the universe, but these ideas have a psychological reality which one cannot ignore. For if one does, one enters philosophically into the most untenable position of all for the rational materialist, to wit, something (nonsense) has come out of nothing. And all rationalists believe in the conservation of matter, and the conservation of energy. One cannot be scientific if one does not believe this. So reason demands the mystical explanation. That in the one is found the other. That every Thing contains its Opposite.
But what remains an enigma to me is what I called earlier life-force or life-energy or basic energy. And whether people are born with this—that is born unequally, or whether they develop it—that is, potentially, even actually, all infants or at least all sperm-ovule connections contain the same energy is almost impossible to even guess at.
What I am afraid is true is that life-energy, shall we call it the lerve (libido I don’t like—Freud has id I-death running through everything) is already conditioned to a certain extent by the parents. It makes more sense to me. If the condition of the body is a reflection of the psyche which travels through a social arena, how can one assume that the sperm itself should be unaffected.
But here we’re even closer to the mystery and so more ignorant. What is undeniable is that the lerve seems to be the determining thing in keeping people alive and functioning despite the heavy psychic armor they carry. A person with low lerve reaches the end of his or her possibilities much sooner, and so must take the next step or perish. Like myself. Paradoxically enough I probably have low lerve (comparatively, that is). But there is so much more lerve in all of us than we are ever able to use, that once we make even a little more available our energy becomes incredible—as mine is at the moment.
February 14, 1955
The curve is life, the straight line is society. We believe we solve in a straight line—that is reason’s assumption. The slovenly is the inchoate mass. To be simply a solver or simply a sloven is to deny oneself. One must be both. One must love disorder and love order, hate order and hate disorder.
Yet, here is where I disagree with the Greeks and all the other Golden Meaners—there is no such thing as the Golden Mean in Life. It is only by welcoming the extremes of one’s personality, tempering those extremes only—assuming of which I’m not certain that life here is better than life-after-death—tempering those extremes only by the knowledge that one must not be destroyed by them, that one goes on, one grows, one finds creative-destroying fulfillment. For no philosopher (artist, scientist, merchant man, chief) is ever simply a creator, no real good one. The essence of creativity is that it accepts the destruction implicit in its assertion.
Let me make as assumption. Every human is born with the same er, the same soul or self which is capable of understanding All. But the second nervous system, the sociostatic nervous system gives us our warp, our “identity,” and in the collaboration of the irreconcilables our capacity to enter the pool of knowledge which exists in all of us, is different for everyone.
So, everyone apprehends Reality in his own way, through the filter of his own S. And therefore no matter how deeply we dip into our er, our collective wisdom, the “particular” insights we return to the world with, are colored by our S. So, we can never know All, never that is until all men reach God which is the point of infinity.
Therefore, we cannot “know” the murderer driver around the corner, although we can come very close to knowing him, and so, total knowledge of the totality impossible for us—at least while we live—we can only guess and gamble, exercise our free-will. Free-will is the manly substitute-attribute of Man who has not reached God. So we have Choice which is indispensable if we are to reach God. To postulate a rational world is to postulate a totally determined world. To postulate God is to postulate free-will. This is one of the most fascinating of the philosophical opposites.
And I find that as I believe in free-will, so I am terrified. I was much more comfortable with determinism for it gave the solace that one could not make a mistake—that, so to speak, if one had not fucked-up the way one did, one would have fucked-up worse.
I lost weight all last summer and fall because I was generating the lerve necessary to change a good many old habits, habits which had grown to the point of strangling me. When I married Adele [Morales], I made the decision to change my habits. If I had remained as I was, I would have drowned in depression.
So, I am still capable of adapting, and the knowledge that I can adapt gives me optimism again as well as a sense of greater fear, but fear with dignity attached, for I recognize that my old neurotic fears were disgusting to me because I could not understand the validity of them. My new fears I take on as a gambler. Which is why I “romanticize” myself, ergo infuriating all my rationally-determined friends. Every gambler is a romantic, he knows that life and death ride on every ball on every wheel.
But how much harder this would have been without Lipton’s.
I truly have the feeling that my self-analysis will succeed in making me a happier more effective rebel. More effective because I’ll be less afraid, more confident of my real stature. For example, for the first time in my life, I am becoming aware of how much effect I have upon people in my personality. Until now, ridiculously, I could only understand how people acted on me—I never realized how much I stimulate, frighten, warm and chill people around me. No wonder my I-characters were always acted upon rather than acting.
The secret to being a successful rebel is to feel in one’s bones the wisdom of the two. Most rebels—for the rebel always has a strong sup—he would be a mystic otherwise. The only way he can accommodate the discrepancies of sup and er is to dream of a better society. So most rebels think in terms of a one. They think of what they should be, how they should act, and they attempt to force themselves—they give before they are ready to give, they refuse to take unless the taking fits the arbitrary (one) scheme they have set up for themselves.
These days I wander, I allow myself to follow my curiosity—I read or watch something with absorption until I am bored, and the moment I am bored, I respect the boredom, it means I have taken enough of whatever has been given, and now I must stop trying to force it, but instead “digest,” really take. So, from now on, so far as is possible, given the exigencies of outer life I am going to do what my body dictates. When I feel like exercising and not before, I will exercise; when I feel like staying up, I will stay up instead of trying to force sleep upon myself. My insomnia which used to be anxious, depressed and miserable, has been different the past few months—I do not sleep because I feel too active, my mind is too active, I am too full of life. Hence, I resent deeply forcing system upon myself. For insomnia like everything else is a double or more. The child’s insomnia—or rather its refusal to go to bed—is a legitimate expression of its taste for life, and within reason (outer social exigency) one should not suppress it.
On the business of sleep one does well to obey that too. If one cannot sleep long enough (to fit the idea of the scheme) one should get up. If one can sleep longer—as indeed I can—one should, and then work longer. From now on, I will try to ease myself from the tyranny of the eight hours. There are times when I need no more than six hours of sleep or even four; there are other times when I must have ten. So be it.
One further note on my Lipton’s fuckanalysis. It releases my paranoia, which is why I see far and always “exaggerate” the good or evil of my friends—paranoia is actually I believe legitimate perception, but it ignores social shaping—it leaps across time to see the end in the present, it seeks to grasp essential er character rather than er and sup character.
And in fucking, I learn also. One must not be ashamed of what one feels for one’s mate afterward. These days I am rarely depressed after making love. The reason: I do not try to force my emotions while fucking any longer. If I feel aggression or hatred, I allow myself to feel it, I wallow in it—amazingly, feeling of love follows it, and without guilt. If I feel masculine (giving) then I give; if I feel feminine and passive then I lie like a woman and allow Adele to express her art, and I relish the passivity, relish it enough so that I arise refreshed from that phase of the continuing act, and enter the next phase where I wish to give.
So our fucking gets better and better, and as it does we love each other more. What I must allow Adele is to be actually sadistic with me—it is buried in her, she represses it, just as I repress the masochist, the male-female terrified of outer aggression. If I were to allow her to whip me for example, I’d probably be less afraid of being beaten up—for my fear of being beaten up has always been—I realize now—that I would grovel before my beater. Hence the almost paralyzing anxiety I feel before a fight. And for Adele, it would soften her occasional spasmodic aggressiveness, her at times unreasonable temper. So be it again—I will look forward to getting my ass slapped.
Tears and semen. Colds are homosexual-repressions, passivity repressions. Which is why I used to get so many colds. And now don’t. Now I start to get sore throats—the punishment I suppose for wishing to suck cock. We leak semen from our nose and eyes in a cold—the cold is always the expression of the need to be promiscuous and orgiastic (seen of course always in terms of what would be the next step). That was why I always hated my colds—I knew they were punishment, er punishment for what I did not do. Colds will be cured when sex is free.
For some time the analysts have been saying that colds are a form of weeping. But what are tears? They are the expression of child makes when a pleasure is cramped. An er expression is being mutilated. So a child weeps when it falls off a tree it is climbing. It weeps not from the pain so much as from the knowledge that the joyous expression of climbing trees is dangerous. So, tears express the sadness, the discharge, of frustration which comes from the outer environment. As we get older we cannot weep so freely, so we get colds more often, just as a child gets colds when it realizes that the thing it wishes to weep for will not be allowed by its parents. So, sexual frustrations, toilet training, etc., are the cause of colds in children.
But there seems some evidence that some of the substances in tears prevent or inhibit cancer. There is an enormous clue here. For tears, while usually a sex substitute a love-rage substitute, are occasionally philosophical tears and thus express a higher faculty, a more noble potentiality. We can weep for others—we can weep for them because we can recognize that they like us live in the terrible situation of man upon the anvil of society and that very little can be saved from the enormous effort of merely keeping alive. Like an army which needs three-quarters, nine-tenths of its men and effort merely to keep the one-tenth or one-hundredth in action, so human life demands that ninety-nine percent of our lives are used merely to keep alive, and few are the creators in a position to advance man. Such tears are noble.
But to get back, tears express a love-rage substitute. As a practical matter one cannot always fuck and one cannot always fight when one wishes to. So one finds substitutes, less satisfying but more safe. Tears are dangerous but necessary—dangerous because they are still close to what was denied, they keep it open; necessary because they are a body expression. Tearless people get cancer, people who deny the soft side of themselves (always relatively to the distance gone—a compassionate person who could have been a saint can also get cancer, although its less likely if he or she start refusing compassion).
The principle in all this can be taken from a profound line by John Dewey: “A bad man is one, who no matter how good he has been, is getting worse, and a good man is one, who no matter how bad he has been is getting better.” So for the sick man, the powerful man, the sexual man, the compassionate man, etc. One gets to be less of anything good—the compassionate, the sexual, even the developing of one’s personal power as opposed to the dominating and manipulating of others—one gets to be less at the expense of one’s health.
So in sex you either screw your own wife better, or you screw other women, or you do both, or else you get sick. Most men live in the condition of doing all four things half-assesdly and so live in a state of doubt and conviction, depression and excitement, joy and gloom. But that’s better than killing oneself with cancer, asthma, or one of the others. You have to grow or else carry more for remaining the same.
March 4, 1955
Also I have been going through terrifying inner experiences. Last Friday night when I took Lipton’s I was already in a state of super-excitation which means intense muscular tension for me. When the Lipton’s hit, and it hit with a great jolt, it was my first in a week, I felt as if every one of my nerves were jumping free. The amount of thought which was released was fantastic. I had nothing less than a vision of the universe which it would take me forever to explain. I also knew that I was smack on the edge of insanity, that I was wandering through all the mountain craters of schizophrenia. I knew I could come back, I was like an explorer who still had a life-line out of the caverns, but I understood also that it would not be all that difficult to cut the life line.
Insanity comes from obeying a hunch—it is a premature freezing of perceptions—one takes off into cloud even before one has properly prepared the ground, and one gives all to an “unrealistic” appreciation of one’s genius. So I knew and this is my health that it is as important to return, to give, to study, to be deprived of cloud seven as it is to stay on it. One advances forward into the unknown by going forward and then retreating back. Only the hunch player decides to cast all off and try to go all the way.
What I ended up with was a sort of existentialism I imagine although I know nothing of existentialism (Everybody accuses me these days of being an existentialist). Anyway, the communicable part of my vision was that everything is valid and that nothing is knowable—one simply cannot erect a value with the confidence that it is good for others—all one can do is know what is good, that is what is necessary for oneself, and one must act on that basis, for underlying the conception is the philosophical idea that for life to expand at its best, everybody must express themselves at their best, and the value of the rebel and the radical is that he seeks to expand that part of the expanding sphere (of totality) which is most retarded.
Deep in the vision action seemed trivial which is why I knew the cold graveyard of schizophrenia. Out of the vision I had a happier tolerance. I could deal with people like Catholics and sadists because I was not worried about who would win the way I used to be. And indeed I learned the way to handle sadists—there are only two ways: One must wither be capable of generating more force, of terrifying them or else one must dazzle and confuse them.
- ↑ Mailer 2020, #159.
- Mailer, Norman (1959). Advertisements for Myself. New York: Putnam.
- — (2020). Lennon, J. Michael; Lucas, Gerald R.; Mailer, Susan, eds. "Lipton's Journal". Project Mailer. The Norman Mailer Society. Retrieved 2022-02-15.