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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer RIP

I saw in the news that Norman Mailer has died. For those that want to, you can read his BBC obit here. You can also read an excerpt of the first chapter of Mailer's book, On God: An Uncommon Conversation on this page - link. From the little of it I've read, Mailer's ideas of God seem an interesting mix of Gnosticism and Teilhard de Chardin :-) Here's just the beginning of it ....



Chapter 1

On God as the Artist

michael lennon: Scientists believe that the universe is expanding. Is this accelerating nature of the cosmos reflected in your concept of a god who can grow and develop?

norman mailer: I start from another direction. Having been a novelist all my working life, I may know a little about human beings. I should. They have been my study. You might say my theological notions come out of such questions as, Who are we? What are we? How do we develop? Why, indeed, are we in existence? And is there the presence of a Creator in what we do?

So the larger cosmic speculations are of less interest to me. In truth, I would hate to rely on the ever-changing state of advanced physics for my ideas.

ml: In places, you've said that God and the Devil are lesser divinities in liege to larger powers who might be the ultimate creators. Who or what do you feel is the ultimate power in the universe? Who created the universe?

nm: I feel the same way about the ultimate Creator as I feel about the expanding universe: All that is too large for my speculations. But I don't see any inherent logical contradiction in saying that I do believe our God created the world we live in and is in constant conflict with the Devil.

ml: In St. George and the Godfather, you say, "The world's more coherent if God exists, and twice coherent if He exists like us." I'm afraid this logic smacks of wish fulfillment. God need not exist merely to satisfy your desire for order. Perhaps the world is incoherent; perhaps the cosmos is disordered.

nm: Where does my desire for order come from? Not only do we humans have a fundamental desire for order, we have an obvious tendency as well toward disorder-a true conflict between order and disorder. So I say it may be worth the attempt to search into such questions.

ml: That may require hearing your thoughts on the relationship between the nature of the deity and codes for human living.

nm: Oh, Christ, Mike, I don't think in these formulae. I want to get to something more basic to my thought, which is that much of the world's present-day cosmology is based on such works of revelation as the Old and New Testament, or the Koran, yet for me Revelation is itself the question mark. Revelation, after all, is not God's words but ours, words debated back then, if you will, in committee and assembled by working theologians with varying agendas. After all, why would God bother to speak in such a fashion? There's no need. God could have imparted such thoughts directly to us. Revelation has always struck me as a power trip for high priests who were looking to create a product that would enable them to lead their flock more securely, more emphatically. Their modern-day practitioners quote constantly from Scripture on TV, use it as their guide rail, and run into intolerable contradictions that are guaranteed to cripple their power to reason. I will go so far as to say that to be a Fundamentalist is to exist as a human whose reasoning powers have been degraded into inanition before any question for which a Fundamentalist does not already have an answer.

I confess, then, that I feel no attachment whatsoever to organized religion. I see God, rather, as a Creator, as the greatest artist. I see human beings as His most developed artworks. I also see animals as His artworks. When I think of evolution, what stands out most is the drama that went on in God as an artist. Successes were also marred by failures. I think of all the errors He made in evolution as well as of the successes. In marine life, for example, some fish have hideous eyes-they protrude from the head in tubes many inches long. Think of all those animals of the past with their peculiar ugliness, their misshapen bodies, worm life, frog life, vermin life, that myriad of insects-so many unsuccessful experiments. These were also modes the Artist was trying-this great artist, this divine artist-to express something incredible, and it was not, for certain, an easy process. Indeed, it went on forever! I would guess that evolution was tampered with, if not actually blindsided on occasion, by the Devil. I think there were false trips that God engaged in because the Devil deluded Him-or Her. Forgive me if I keep speaking of God as "Him," that's a habit that's come down to me from Revelation. Obviously, to speak of God as "Her" is off-putting, but to speak of "Him/Her" or "It" is worse.

In any event, it makes sense to me that this strife between God and the Devil has been a factor in evolution. Whether God had a free hand or the Devil was meddling in it from the commencement-either way, some species were badly conceived. Sometimes a young artist has to make large errors before he or she can go farther.

I can hear the obvious rejoinder: "There's Norman Mailer, an artist of dubious high rank looking to give himself honor, nobility, and importance by speaking of God as an artist." I'm perfectly aware that that accusation is there to be brought in. All I say here may indeed be no more than a projection of my own egotistical preferences .....



Blogger Paul said...

Isn't one of the oldest known religions Zoroatrianism or something like that - the world as a battleground between good and evil? Easy to see how it could be taken that way. Maybe Dubya's a Zoroasstrianist but just doesn't know it.

Disclaimers: I haven't googled and this is a really old memory. Could be gibberish. Some mispellings may have been intentional.

1:51 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Paul,

I'm not going to google it either :-) I get Zoroatrianism mixed up with Mithra-ism and Ahura-Mazda-ism ... are they all the same? I think Plato talked about the demiurge - a sort of finite God. Not thinking well today.

2:32 PM  
Blogger cowboyangel said...

Zoroastrianism, after Zoroaster. Or Zarathustra, as he was also known.

I wanted to post an obit for Mailer - glad you did. I was too busy thinking about rock and roll. :-) I've only read two of his books: The Armies of the Night, which I thought was excellent, and another, which I can't remember and didn't like as much. But Armies is one of the best books on politics and the sixties that I've ever read. Actually had a lot of influence on me.

4:21 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

So, Thus Spake Zarathustra? I just realized me choice of crosby, stills and Nash is unacceptable because of nash. How about the buffalo springfield?

7:10 PM  
Blogger cowboyangel said...

Yeah, that Zarathustra. He did the music for Kubrick's 2001, I think.

Buffalo Springfield is great. I think I like them even more than CSN. But same problem - 3 of the 6 were Canadians: Neil, Bruce Palmer and Dewey Martin. But, if they weren't, they would also have to be considered. They might have made the Top 20.

7:57 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

OK, Jefferson Airplane?

11:31 AM  

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