Back to Methuselah eBook

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I had always known that civilization needs a religion as a matter of life or death; and as the conception of Creative Evolution developed I saw that we were at last within reach of a faith which complied with the first condition of all the religions that have ever taken hold of humanity:  namely, that it must be, first and fundamentally, a science of metabiology.  This was a crucial point with me; for I had seen Bible fetichism, after standing up to all the rationalistic batteries of Hume, Voltaire, and the rest, collapse before the onslaught of much less gifted Evolutionists, solely because they discredited it as a biological document; so that from that moment it lost its hold, and left literate Christendom faithless.  My own Irish eighteenth-centuryism made it impossible for me to believe anything until I could conceive it as a scientific hypothesis, even though the abominations, quackeries, impostures, venalities, credulities, and delusions of the camp followers of science, and the brazen lies and priestly pretensions of the pseudo-scientific cure-mongers, all sedulously inculcated by modern ‘secondary education,’ were so monstrous that I was sometimes forced to make a verbal distinction between science and knowledge lest I should mislead my readers.  But I never forgot that without knowledge even wisdom is more dangerous than mere opportunist ignorance, and that somebody must take the Garden of Eden in hand and weed it properly.

Accordingly, in 1901, I took the legend of Don Juan in its Mozartian form and made it a dramatic parable of Creative Evolution.  But being then at the height of my invention and comedic talent, I decorated it too brilliantly and lavishly.  I surrounded it with a comedy of which it formed only one act, and that act was so completely episodical (it was a dream which did not affect the action of the piece) that the comedy could be detached and played by itself:  indeed it could hardly be played at full length owing to the enormous length of the entire work, though that feat has been performed a few times in Scotland by Mr Esme Percy, who led one of the forlorn hopes of the advanced drama at that time.  Also I supplied the published work with an imposing framework consisting of a preface, an appendix called The Revolutionist’s Handbook, and a final display of aphoristic fireworks.  The effect was so vertiginous, apparently, that nobody noticed the new religion in the centre of the intellectual whirlpool.  Now I protest I did not cut these cerebral capers in mere inconsiderate exuberance.  I did it because the worst convention of the criticism of the theatre current at that time was that intellectual seriousness is out of place on the stage; that the theatre is a place of shallow amusement; that people go there to be soothed after the enormous intellectual strain of a day in the city:  in short, that a playwright is a person whose business it is to make unwholesome confectionery out of cheap emotions.  My answer to this was to put all my intellectual goods

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