Cabell Prize, 2000, Bill Patterson

"The Heir of James Branch Cabell:
The Biography of the Life of
the Biography of the Life of Manuel
(A Comedy of Inheritances)"
By Bill Patterson

Introduction, With Apologies
The year is 1929. Two midshipmen about to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis have just finished a barracks-room performance of Twain's Elizabethan fart-comedy "1603." Both are brighter than the average USNA middie -- the topmost cream of the topmost cream -- and they know it. Admiration for Twain is the basis for their friendship.
One of them -- Caleb Barrett Laning -- hands the other -- Robert Anson Heinlein -- a brown-bound book. "Here. You'll like this."
"What is it?" He turns the book over. The cover is stamped in gold with a bridled stallion. Robert looks closer. That stallion really was rampant! "That's bold."
"Sometimes," Barrett says sententiously, "You can tell a book by its cover."
Robert opens it to the fly page. Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice by James Branch Cabell. The name rings bells, but faintly. Something -- five or six years ago, in the papers?
"Just read it. It was banned in Boston."
"Oh?" That was it: there was a trial -- an obscenity trial -- when he was just a kid in Kansas City. His interest was definitely piqued.
"Just read it. You'll see."
Heinlein rifled the pages and started reading at random. His eyes grew wide with delight. "Hey! That's good!" [Note 1]
The year is 1985. Robert Heinlein is now seventy-seven years old, the acknowledged master of speculative fiction for more than forty-five years. His forty-fourth book is published: Job: A Comedy of Justice -- a sprawling satire that characteristically blends half a dozen major sources: the Biblical Book of Job, Twain's "Extract from Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven" and liberal references to Milton's Paradise Lost, as well as his own 1941 short story, "They." At the focal point of the book, Loki, Satan, and Jahweh are gathered to be judged in their treatment of a human -- by Mr. Koshchei, the maker of things as they are.
With both subtitle and character from Jurgen in one book, attention was finally drawn to Heinlein's longstanding admiration for Cabell -- and more was to come. After Heinlein's death, a collection of extracts from his professional correspondence was published as Grumbles from the Grave. In it, he characterized his masterwork, Stranger in a Strange Land as "a Cabellian satire of sex and religion." And Glory Road, his next work but one, is also revealed as a Cabellian comedy by deliberate intention.
These books dated back to the early 1960's -- and were the first fruits of Heinlein's new resolve to write no more to the taste of editors, but to write "my own stuff, my own way." [Grumbles, 227] Heinlein's kind of story, it appears, was Cabellian.
James Branch Cabell, during his time, was widely and justly praised as a stylist and ironist. His masterwork is the nineteen-volume Biography of the Life of Manuel [Note 2], embracing nearly the whole of his fiction before 1930. Mythic, allegorical, salacious, and ironic, Cabell's writing was widely praised for its exquisite prose, but not widely understood. Indeed, it is unlikely that he could, for this reason, ever have attained a wide readership except for the accidents of time and place that brought Jurgen, the keystone of the Biography, before an obscenity trial, which made Cabell an international cause célèbre at just the time when the lure of the forbidden had attained manic status in America.
But the Depression Era and the World War that followed were dominated by more astringent styles and modes; the Romantic aesthetic dedication to "writing perfectly of beautiful happenings" passed out of fashion in an increasingly ironic age, and Cabell's reputation -- and that of the close generation of his fellows -- went slowly to dust. But Cabell had blazed a pathway, and Heinlein kept the map in mind. A short-lived revival of popular interest in the Biography in the early 1970's may have sparked the appearance of direct and unequivocal references to Cabell by Heinlein in Job, where his past homages had been silent and referential.
Those references and homages are gradually being uncovered, and the sum of them yields a remarkable conclusion. In a genealogical metaphor of which Cabell might have approved, Cabell did not pass on without literary issue; rather, his concerns, his literary craftsmanship, and his good name were carried to future generations by Robert Anson Heinlein.
1. Science Fiction, Meet Mr. Cabell
Heinlein is widely and justly renown as by far the pre-eminent science fiction writer of the century (second, if at all, only to H.G. Wells). With the publication of Job: A Comedy of Justice in 1985, he forcibly effected an introduction between two of his oldest and most highly-valued literary friends, science fiction and James Branch Cabell who, for reasons of time and place and circumstance, knew each other not. Science fiction readers truck little with centaurs and poisoned shirts, and even less with the doings of high-church vestrymen in settings so "mundane" (however superlunary) as Lichfield, (presumably) Virginia. On the other hand, Heinlein has always been bigger than science fiction.
For most of his professional life, Heinlein publicly and vigorously resisted categorization as a "science fiction" writer, preferring the more aptly descriptive designation of "speculative fiction." (see, e.g., "Science Fiction, Its Nature, Faults, and Virtues") [Note 3] His wishes in this matter have been honored far more in breach than in observance: anything he wrote came instantly to be regarded as "science fiction," and the field expanded from its narrow beginnings as a mode of "Major-key" pulp adventure-romance [Tarrant, 61] to accommodate his "fairy stories," polemic, and fictive philosophizing.
The process that began in 1961 with "Once upon a time, when the world was young, there was a Martian named Smith" (the opening words of Stranger in a Strange Land) and progressed through I Will Fear No Evil (1970) -- a book that makes not even a perfunctory nod to the rationalistic conventions of science fiction when two minds sharing a single body take in a third boarder, and then a fourth -- readied science fiction to take in the Christian Heaven of Jurgen's grandmother, as imagined by Mark Twain.
By ignoring pulp conventions, Heinlein has returned science fiction to the state in which he found it in 1923 -- a respected branch of the broad mainstream of American letters, one houseboat of which was occupied by Poictesme, Lichfield, and the eccentric Mr. Cabell. The introduction was then promptly effected.
As in most small communities, these near neighbors had already a nodding acquaintance. In the 1970's, Ballantine Publishers, then science fiction's premier specialty paperback publisher, had brought out six of the period romances of the Biography in paper. [Note 4] Mythopoeia was temporarily à la mode; Kalki rode in on Tolkein's coat-tails and again out with the fashion, and Cabell became again a specialist's pursuit. But Heinlein doubtless noted the resurgence of popular interest (scholarly interest had never quiet died out entirely: several major studies had been issued in the decade-plus since Cabell's death).
The Biography of the Life of Manuel is undeniably Cabell's great literary achievement, and it was principally from the Biography that Heinlein drew material for his own creative work.
The critical literature from Van Doren forward has concentrated on Cabell's esthetic theory and the "mechanics" of the Biography -- the casting of the fictions around the Way of the Artist, the Way of the Gallant, and the Way of the True Knight -- at most mentioning a "fluvial metaphor" supposed in some way to have derived from Cabell's genealogical researches during the period when the grand outline of the Biography was taking shape in his mind.
The fluvial metaphor is, in fact, one of two parable-analogies Cabell put forth for the Biography. Taken together, they shed great light on Cabell's philosophical foundations. Heinlein's many resonances with Cabell, of dissonance as well as consonance, begin at this level.
The metaphors are set out by Van Doren [60], quoting Cabell's "Epistle Dedicatory" to The Lineage of Lichfield [Note 5]: The fluvial analogy is a mirror-image pair of figures concatenated so smoothly that the transition is scarcely noticed. First he warns us, in this pseudo-genealogy, that the genealogical basis of the Biography is a superficiality. The Life of Manuel is not to be thought of as the life of an individual who lived at a particular time:
"Now on the face of it, as I have confessed, the thing is a pedigree which indicates the descent of various persons, about whom I have written the stories and books named, marginally, from Dom Manuel of Poictesme. In reality, I think, this volume is an outline -- or, say, a map -- of some nine centuries of Dom Manuel's life, the life of which my others books are the Biography. For, be it repeated, the life that informed tall Manuel the Redeemer did not become extinct when the old champion rode westward with Grandfather Death. The body and appearance of Dom Manuel had gone. But his life remained perpetuated in divers children -- in, to be accurate, a respectable total of sixteen persons, -- who afterward transmitted this life to their progeny, as did they in turn to their own offspring."
This first "fluvial" metaphor pictures the flow of the Life "dividing and subdividing":
"So this life flowed on through time, -- and through such happenings in France and England and America as, one by one, my book recorded, -- with every generation dividing and subdividing the troubled and attritioned flowing into more numerous streamlets . . . ." [61]
This is the picture of a river system that originates in a mountain range and waters the broad plains below, dividing into smaller and smaller streams. The analogy to the flow of the Biography is obviously apt, the flow of the subsidiary streamlets losing the vigor of the source waters, an "attritioned flowing." By the end of the passage, however, Cabell has softly slipped through the looking glass:
"It is about this life that I have written elsewhere, in many places, in various chapters of a Biography which is largish now, but stays incomplete, and may not ever be completed. For this human life, as I write about it, appears to me a stream that, in journeying toward an unpredictable river, itself the tributary of an unplumbed ocean, is fretted equally (still to preserve the fluvial analogue) by the winds of time and by many pebbles of chance." [61] (Emphasis added)
This river system is like the Mississippi River system, flowing not to a plain, but to the ocean, and gathering still other streams and rivers to itself, gaining vigor and power as it approaches its union with the Great Water.
"So there are various ripples raised upon the stream as it goes -- ultimately -- seaward; and, noting these, we say this ripple is Manuel, that Ormskirk, and the other Charteris; noting also that while we name it the small stir is gone. But the stream remains unabated, nor is the sureness of its moving lessened, any more than is the obscurity of its goal." [61]
It may be questioned whether the mirror-imaging of the river metaphor is deliberate and substantive, or merely an accidental side-effect of Cabell's literary device -- a "turn" of the metaphor comparable to that in the sestet of a sonnet. But Cabell intends this effect; he has changed the substance of his metaphor, and, just as in a well-constructed sonnet, the turn reveals the strength and power of the metaphor. Cabell does not mean us to picture the Life attritioning to nothing, as his second metaphor demonstrates -- a world-wandering performer, perhaps of the commedia dell'arte:
"Or let us shift the figure. Let us rather liken this continuously reincarnated life of Manuel to an itinerant comedian that with each generation assumes the garb of a new body, and upon a new stage enacts a variant of yesterday's drama. For I do not find the comedy ever to be much altered in its essentials . . . . That is the comedy which, to my finding, . . . the life I write about has enacted on every stage between Poictesme and Lichfield.
"I call it a comedy. Really there is thin sustenance for the tragic muse in the fact that with each performance the costume of the protagonist is spoiled, and the human body temporarily informed with Manuel's life is thrown perforce to the dust-heap . . . The parent's flesh is flung by like an outworn coat: but the comedian, re-clad with the child's body, tricked out with strong fresh sinews and re-rouged with youth, is lustily refurbishing, with a garnish of local allusions and of the latest social and religious and political slang, all yesterday's archaic dialogue and inveterate 'situations.'" [62-63]
Thus, Cabell construes in literary terms the Transcendentalist conception of the one true reality which is all humankind. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote of it as the "Over-Soul," standing outside time, so that each "individual" is but a tendril of the Over-Soul intruded into time, but all are parts of the same fundamental reality: "There is one mind common to all individual men . . . . Of the universal mind each individual man is one more incarnation." [Emerson, "History" at 123, 124] Emerson is consistent about this unity, and emphatic:
" . . . the heart in thee is the heart in all; not a valve, not a wall, not an intersection is there anywhere in nature, but one blood rolls uninterruptedly, an endless circulation through all men . . ." [Emerson, "The Over-Soul" at 276]
Much has been made of the influence upon Cabell of Walter Pater and the Aesthetic movement, but very little has been written of Cabell's philosophical grounding. At the heart of the Biography we find a creative adaptation of American Transcendentalism to the new scientific truths of evolution. The life of Manuel, Cabell goes on to say, is Life itself, and evolution is the "mundivagance" of his comedian. Cabell has now converged on some of Heinlein's most abiding concerns. Compare, from the same passage of The Lineage of Lichfield, Cabell's almost Shavian evocation of life beginning from "a single bubble embedded in primeval slime" with Heinlein's Tale of the Restless Worm, recapitulated in several places but most completely and succinctly in The Rolling Stones:
Formerly, "the scene was arboreal, and our comedian wore fur and a tail; as before that his costume was reptilian, and yet earlier was piscine. So do scientists trace backward his career to life's first appearance upon the stage, when the vis comica . . . had for its modest apparel only a small single bubble embedded in primeval slime . . . " [63]
"So she told him again about the worm that crawled up out of the slime . . . because the worm was restless. How it crawled up on dry land and grew legs. How part of it got to be the Elephant's Child and part of it got to be a monkey, grew hands, and fiddled with things. How, still insatiably restless, it grew wings and reached up for the stars." [237]
Cabell then goes beyond Darwin, to Bergson and, perhaps beyond even the "noosphere" of Teilhard de Chardin.
"[T]he restless artist that we call life cannot long stay content with human bodies for his apparel and medium. Already, in considerate eyes, life tends to some more handsome expression, by means of the harnessed chemistries and explosions, and collaborating flywheels and vapors, and wire-dancing thunderbolts, that in all our cities dwarf the human beings who serve as the release levers." [64]
Having introduced us to a cosmic evolutionary philosophy typified in popular fiction by Olaf Stapledon, Cabell then re-grounds himself:
"I merely know that, even though the life of our planet may by and by discard mankind . . . at present men and women are life's clothing: and I take it to be the part of urbanity to accept the mode of the day."
In this passage, one pole of Heinlein's attraction to Cabell is complete, for Stapledon, regarded as half philosopher, half visionary, was one of his favorite writers, as was H.G. Wells, whom Cabell evokes in his vision of cities with "wire-dancing thunderbolts" dwarfing human "release levers."
Both Heinlein and Cabell, thus, draw on American Transcendentalist ideas, and both link Transcendentalism to evolution. To Emerson's "Of the universal mind each individual man is one more incarnation," compare Heinlein's "the universe is just a little thing we whipped up among us the other night for our entertainment and then agreed to forget the gag." [Stranger, 417, as a representative sample of a recurring proposition -- or the more succinct -- but exactly equivalent -- "Thou art God," from the same work, passim. Cf. also from Beyond This Horizon: "You locked up your memory and promised not to look, then played through the part you had picked with just the rules assigned to that player" [152] Heinlein's versions of this proposition are "flavored" with the solipsism of Twain's "The Mysterious Stranger," though it becomes clear from context that the self that is alone in Heinlein is the Neo-Platonic Over-Soul rather than the Cartesian cogito, from which Twain's reductionist vision is derived. [Note 6] Cabell's cosmogony, however he believes it to be a statement of things as they are, is a matter of a particular generation, a particular place and time, and a particular compromise between Neo-Platonic idealism and the materialism that was then gathering strength. It was
"a form of pragmatic idealism closely resembling the thought of Jules de Faultier in La Bovarysme (1890, expanded 1902) and Le Fiction universelle (1903) of Hans Vaihinger in The Philosophy of 'As If' (1911, translated 1925), and of George Santayana in Interpretations of Poetry and Religion (1900) and Scepticism and Animal Faith (1923). Generally these thinkers accept a natural universe which is basically inimical to the desires of men, though, at the same time, they acknowledge man's need for something more than nature is able to provide. Since the material world is not able to satisfy man's spiritual needs man must himself construct 'fictions,''noble delusions,' 'dreams,' 'mental structures.' These are the ideals which man lives by in his determination not to accept a meaningless cosmos." [Godshalk, ix]
It is not known whether Heinlein ever read The Lineage of Lichfield -- or, indeed, any of Cabell's effusions of self-explication. But he surely recognized in the Biography the work of a robust and kindred intellect, and when it came Heinlein's turn to "go into a room and come out with paper dirtied on one side," [Note 7] he realized Cabell was also a pathfinder in the techniques of thematizing in Heinlein's own unique way, the ideas Heinlein regarded as perennial and important. And Cabell was well suited as a model for science fictional thinking, not because of his fictional "furnishings," but because science fiction is virtually the only literary ghetto in which romance forms survived the overwhelming pre-eminence of journalistic naturalism well into the twentieth century. A major battle was fought by science fiction writers in the late 1960's -- only partially successful -- to write in forms other than romance forms. (See, e.g., Note 24.)
As the world slowly went awry in the 20th century, Heinlein found in Cabell a firm ground, compatible with his own values. The world fell away from Cabell, who sought refuge in Romance. Heinlein, thirty years younger, was of a different generation, inheritors of power and influence, that yearned to create themselves "the visionary, matter-of-fact people who rule the world." [Beyond Life, 67]. Cabell's compromise was no longer enough; not for Heinlein the "dynamic illusions" of Romance "which rounds out with curves and colors the clumsily articulated skeleton of fact," [Beyond Life, quoted in Van Doren at 71]. The difference in generational attitude shows most clearly in the two writers' attitudes toward Woman. Heinlein adores Woman, yearns after Her, and makes Her the centerpiece of his view of the human community, which degree of abstraction marks him a pre-modern thinker, as it is no longer fashionable to think of "woman" in the abstract. But that modified domnei in Heinlein is made to celebrate, in quite a modern way, woman, individual and concrete. That "unforgotten vision . . . once revealed to him, once for all time" [Beyond Life, 61] in Heinlein comes out of the experience of loving and living with a single individual [Time Enough for Love] -- precisely the experience, in Cabell, that kills the romantic vision. What Cabell believes is just "human nature" is, in the perspective of time and history, only attitude. Romance, finally, stands between Cabell and the humanity Heinlein wants to engage.
In common with his generation, Heinlein engaged with history with an earnestness at which Cabell probably could only blink in amaze. When Heinlein turned from the practice of social engineering through politics [Patterson], to writing, he saw in Cabell an exemplum of fundamental artisanship and artistry. If, as Aristotle suggested, a university is a log with a teacher at one end and a student at the other, Heinlein made wood-pulp paper serve instead of the primal log. Heinlein learned much of his phenomenal technique from Cabell.
2. A Brief Biography of Heinlein [Note 8]
Like Wells and Stevenson before him, Heinlein came late to writing. His first stories were published in the pulp science fiction magazine, Astounding, in 1939, when he was 32 years old. Heinlein's late start (his contemporary, Jack Williamson, had started in 1928) is accounted for by the fact that writing was his third career -- and not actually a career choice at the time, just an expedient way of raising some ready cash.
Heinlein had been invalided out of the Navy (his first career choice) in 1934, after contracting pulmonary tuberculosis. He briefly returned to school in Los Angeles, but withdrew to become a professional politician from 1934 to 1938. Profoundly influenced by the political and social ideals of freethinkers and by the social philosophy of H.G. Wells, Heinlein signed up for Upton Sinclair's radical-progressive EPIC ("End Poverty in California") gubernatorial campaign and was prominent in the California Democratic Party apparatus when Sinclair turned EPIC over to the party organization and went back to being a Socialist.
An unsuccessful campaign for the Hollywood State Assembly District seat in 1938 left Heinlein "flat broke, with a mortgage to support." [Expanded Universe, 4] It was the twilight of the EPIC movement; Heinlein no doubt saw the mene mene tekel upharsin and abandoned his political aspirations. His second choice of career was a washout.
It is quite possible that Heinlein had been toying with writing as a fine art for some time, for there are stories and poems in his files dating back to the end of his Naval Academy days (1925-1929). The 1936 release of H.G. Wells' film Things to Come seems to have inspired Heinlein's first long fiction, a utopian novel of the Social Credit theory, with a suggestively Cabellian subtitle: For Us, the Living: a Comedy of Customs (1937?). [Note 9] Casting around now, late in 1938, for some way of paying down his mortgage, he decided that he could probably sell some science fiction.
When he had first started reading science fiction, in 1923, the field did not even have a name -- it was just an offshoot of the gothic romance that the Belgian emigré-inventor Hugo Gernsback was putting into his popular electrical magazines for audience appeal. He might feature a Poe or Wells story. Heinlein was already reading Wells's social philosophy (his copy of The Outline of History was acquired in 1922), so Wells' "scientific romances" drew him to Amazing.
In 1926, Gernsback launched a pulp magazine filled with "scientifiction," thus conventionally creating the pulp ghetto of science fiction -- though the process had begun in 1923 with the founding of the magazine Weird Tales to feature stories of the fantastic such as the work of Alfred Lord Dunsany or A. Merritt. The magazines were popular and proliferated, and Heinlein read them all, through the Navy and his political career. In 1938, the pulp science fiction market was expanding again, and a notice in the October Thrilling Wonder Stories trying to hustle new writers caught his eye, just at the time he was casting around for some new direction. Pulp writing standards were dreadfully low, consisting of essentially two formulas of gadget stories and adventure romances, which, following Robert Silverberg's analysis, might be characterized as the "Gernsback paradigm" and the "Tarzan paradigm" [Requiem, 323]. But Upton Sinclair, after all, had started his career as a pulp writer, and look where he had gotten. And the fans were demanding better writing and more "sociological" themes. The time was ripe for just the kind of increase in sophistication he could bring to science fiction.
Heinlein's first story, "Life-Line," appeared in the August 1939 issue of Astounding. Heinlein laid out several themes he would concern himself with over and over again in his early career: It used a geometrical, fourth-dimensional vision of the Emersonian Over-Soul, a bush-metaphor with tendrils twining through time. It also had a good gadget -- a machine that can read life-lines -- and it was "sociological," in the way it pitted a Promethean inventor against the entrenched interests of big business. But more importantly, it was high tragedy in miniature -- the story of a man who gave his life for Truth.
Within only a few months, Heinlein was acknowledged as the modern master of science fiction, and the field, at the urging of Astounding editor John W. Campbell, began to shape itself around Heinlein's ideas and ways of approaching its material.
With the coming of World War II, Heinlein left commercial writing in favor of aviation engineering for the Navy. When he returned to writing in 1946, it was with the intention of expanding the boundaries of his commercial writing career; he broke through the walls of science fiction's pulp ghetto and began selling to "the slicks," including Colliers and the Saturday Evening Post; he was among the first to have his science fiction novels printed in hardcover; and he [co-]wrote and served as technical advisor for the first modern science fiction film, Destination Moon. He also picked up a lucrative contract for a series of boys books for Scribners, for which he wrote a dozen enduringly popular "juveniles" during the 1950's. But by 1959, the success of the juveniles began to be a strait-jacket in which he was increasingly restive; he was angered that editors asked him to trim his "adult" novels to juvenile standards, and his relations with his editor, Alice Dalgliesh, had become strained as a result of the censorship she felt necessary to impose on the writing, to get it sold to librarians. Ultimately, Heinlein wrote a bildungsroman that dealt with the making of a citizen-soldier, Starship Troopers, and Scribners rejected it for the series, thus bringing to an end its string of options. Heinlein's post-war agent, Lurton Blassingame, took the book to Putnam's, who brought it out to enthusiastic acclaim and frenzied denunciations. Forty years later, Starship Troopers is still generating heat and light, though the debate has moved to the internet.
In his new determination to write "my own stuff, my own way" Heinlein co-incidentally threw off the trammels that had consciously prevented using deliberate references to Cabell. His next work, Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), he characterized to his agent as "a Cabellian satire on religion and sex," and Glory Road (1963), his next work but one, was formally a Cabellian comedy as Cabell had described the form in Beyond Life.
Stranger in a Strange Land is widely regarded as Heinlein's masterwork. Assuredly it is the one of his works which has attained the widest distribution, even without benefit of an obscenity trial, for it appeared just at the moment when a great social change was about to overtake the U.S., and the counterculture builded itself at least partly around Stranger. Nor was that the only social reconstruction Heinlein was to midwife in the 1960's, for his 1966 novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress served the same function for the Libertarian movement that was just then beginning to come together. Heinlein in the 1960's was supremely in tune with the Zeitgeist.
For much of the decade of the 1970's, Heinlein was ill or engaged in charitable work, such as blood drives, though Time Enough for Love (1973) was technically and thematically ambitious. In 1980, Heinlein published The Number of the Beast, and started without fanfare a powerful series of Cabellian, inter-related novel-satires called the "World as Myth" series. In rapid succession followed Friday (1982), Job: A Comedy of Justice (1984); The Cat Who Walks Through Walls: A Comedy of Manners (1985); and To Sail Beyond the Sunset: The Life and Times of Maureen Johnson (1987). Much as Cabell had, presumably around 1917 or 1918, tied all of his previous fiction into the conception that would become the Biography of the Life of Manuel, so, too, did Heinlein tie all of his superficially unrelated prior fictions into the World as Myth.
The large-scale structure of the World as Myth series, however, was never to be revealed, for Heinlein again fell ill and was in and out of the hospital four times in 1987 and early 1988. He died during a morning nap May 8, 1988. He had not yet started a new work, though his card file of ideas was by his side.
Gradually it is becoming clear that Cabell's influence was never far from Heinlein's mind throughout his long career. His culminating work was a reflection of Cabell's methods. The Biography of the Life of Manual had its singular career in the writing of Cabell and now has another personal biography in Heinlein's career.
3. Cabellian Materials in Heinlein's Corpus
After the suggestively Cabellian subtitle of his 1937 Opus 1, For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs, overt Cabellian references disappeared from Heinlein's writing until 1963 (Glory Road). [Note 10] It is quite likely that Heinlein initially considered Cabell inappropriate for reference in the "hackwork" divertissements he was writing: editors of the prewar pulp magazines would not care to be associated with either end of Cabell's reputation for delicate, exquisite prose or sexually suggestive content -- and after the war Cabell no longer had currency. The moment had passed.
Nevertheless, it appears that Cabellian concerns were not far from the surface of much of Heinlein's work. Two possibly Cabellian figures bracket Heinlein's writing before World War II -- but even without explicit reference, Cabell's influence was felt, for Cabell had given Heinlein an example of focus and a demonstration of literary attack for Heinlein's abiding personal concern with gallantry. There are (or may be), thus, both direct references and parallel, personal extensions of Cabellian material and concerns in Heinlein's writing, long before public references made Heinlein's confession of debt obvious.
3.1 The First Suite of Stories -- Heinlein's "Figures of Earth"
Just as Manuel took whatever native clay he happened to find to make his Figures of Earth, so, too, did Heinlein make his own figure in the world of Cabellian clay.
There are two figures in Heinlein's first suite of stories (those written before World War II) that suggest a derivation from Cabellian materials. The first, very early indeed, is the Future History itself as a mode of organizing his storytelling. The second is the last fiction he wrote before going into Naval aviation engineering during World War II. Cabellian materials thus bracket Heinlein's early writing.
The Future History and the Biography of the Life of Manuel
The "Future History" is a chart devised by Heinlein before actually starting to write in 1939, on which a coherent, consistent future for humankind was plotted for the next two hundred years. The progression of the Future History was derived from Korzybski's statements in Science and Sanity indicating that now General Semantics had arrived on the scene, humankind would go through a transition from childhood to adolescence. This idea of a transition out of humanity's childhood was, to a certain extent, "in the air." H.G. Wells also looked forward to a (socialist-progressive) transition then in progress. See, e.g., Leon Stover's editorial introduction to his critical edition of When The Sleeper Wakes (1899, 1999). In Wells' major treatise on social economics, The Work, Wealth, and Happiness of Mankind, he predicates a final world-historical transformation based on the perfected content of three interactive "personas.' ". . . the aim of the socialist-managerial-technocratic revolution is to remodel these basic personas as for collective service in the name of 'ultra-modern State Capitalism." [Stover 1999, at 33]. The overall shape of the Future History, however, is that of the Biography of the Life of Manuel. Compare: The Future History is a historic progression, originally running from, about 1939 to about 2150 a.d., dominated by the tutelary figure of Lazarus Long. On the graphic representation of the Future History Heinlein made for his own guidance (published in Astounding in May 1941), Lazarus Long's lifeline extends off the chart in both directions. Lazarus Long was instrumental in rescuing his extended family from political persecution, and he gifted his descendants with their own planet(s) where they could live in peace and prosperity. Venerated as the Eldest among a family of long-lived, he removes from their Ken (but not ours) after a revolution, returning to his beginnings in Kansas City in 1914.
The Biography of the Life of Manuel is a historic progression running from the thirteenth century to about 1920 a.d., dominated by the tutelary figure of Manuel the Redeemer. Manuel never dies, but he is seen going off with Grandfather Death. Interviewed once in the afterlife, his spirit persists in his descendants. Manuel was instrumental in rescuing his County of Poictesme from oppression of invaders, and his rule and his legend gifted his descendants with a period of exemplary peace and prosperity. Venerated as a "Redeemer" he is translated bodily into life-after-death, returning to his beginning as a swineherd at the Pool at Haranton, and disappears as an object of veneration after an invasion of Poictesme. Lazarus Long is a primary character in two novels, Methuselah's Children (1941) and Time Enough for Love (1973). Although the figure of Lazarus Long is known to evoke Caleb Catlum [Rogers, 230-234], Lazarus Long (aka Captain Joseph Gilead, aka birth name Woodrow Wilson Smith) is also known to be a composite character. To the name-sources of Emma Lazarus and R.A. Long explicated by Dr. Stover [Stover Jul. 1998] must be added the figure of Manuel the Redeemer.
The evocation of Cabell greatly assists in interpreting a very difficult character in Heinlein's corpus. Several critics have remarked the perpetual youth of Lazarus Long and interpreted him as the author's stubborn and infantile refusal to countenance aging and death, resistance to the natural progression of human life. But this interpretation is clearly without merit: in Methuselah's Children, Lazarus Long is merely primum inter pares of a clan of the exceptionally long-lived; and in Time Enough for Love, everyone in the worlds of Secundus and Tellus Tertius is as aged or as youthful as he or she wishes to be: that is a descriptor of the biotechnology of the day. Lazarus Long is not posed in his long youth as a novelistic character raging against the dying of the light. He represents humankind in a state of its evolutionary development and must be interpreted allegorically, rather than novelistically. In allegorical terms, Lazarus Long is Manuel the Redeemer, and his perpetual youth and vigor is the requirement of gallantry for sufficient youth to effect its gallant attentions:
"Gallantry requires an assumed mood of gayety -- Hellenic in derivation -- to cover its broken heart. Another of its requisites is the ability to see both sides of a question -- one of the marks of a mature mind. And a third requisite is the kind of sexual vigor that youth alone insures. Only with these possessions can the gallant realize himself completely -- in pragmatic exploration of experience, in avoidance of ideological commitment, and in giving women a full measure of physical pleasure." [Davis, 95]
Cabell achieves his effects by having Manuel perpetually restored in generation after generation, in his simile of the commedian del arte; or else Jurgen is gifted with the youth of a past Wednesday by Sereda so that he may achieve his gallant ends. Heinlein takes advantage of the freedoms of science fiction to dispense with the simile and the flattery and gifts his protagonist with what is necessary, having the restorations Cabell assures us are merely cosmetic performed medically so that the comedian need not wear out his body. Long life, Heinlein reasons, dispenses thus with the need for "economy" as Cabell describes it in Beyond Life. Both Manuel and Lazarus Long then return to their beginnings -- Manuel to the pool at Haranton, and Lazarus Long to Kansas City in 1914. For both it is a new beginning.
This kind of multiple layering of source materials -- Caleb Catlum with Manuel the Redeemer, Emma Lazarus and R.A. Long -- is highly characteristic of Heinlein's later writing, making the task of textual analysis quite dauntingly complex.
The Future History has been referred to the influence of Sinclair Lewis:
"The only mainstream writer to whom Heinlein acknowledges a debt is Sinclair Lewis, and it is not for literary style. Lewis laid out extensive backgrounds for his works which did not directly appear in the story. That way, he understood how his characters would react in a given situation, since he knew more about them than the reader did. In Heinlein, this ultimately grew beyond the bounds intended by Sinclair Lewis, whose characters performed against a setting with which the reader might be familiar. The Sinclair Lewis method couldn't work for science fiction unless an entire history of the future was projected; then individual stories and characters in that series could at least be consistent within the framework of that imaginary never-never land." [Moskowitz, 190-191]
During the 1930's, at a time when Lewis was probably the most widely-read writer in the English language, Lewis had discussed the writing-mechanics of his Zenith-Winnemac stories, and Heinlein undoubtedly did make use of some of the same methods, creating the wall-chart eventually published in Astounding and as end-papers in the Future History collections. However, it may be doubted that the inspiration for the Future History derived from Lewis.
All such cross-story fiction plans, Lewis' and Cabell's included, owe something of their inheritance to Balzac's enormous Comédie humaine. Balzac's express intention was to create a portrait of an era -- France in the early 19th century, moving from aspect to aspect of his multifaceted subject. [Note 11] Lewis similarly moved from aspect to aspect of his own times, less systematically, perhaps, but for all that just as effectively. The same methods worked for him because he had roughly the same goal as Balzac.
Cabell, however, had a somewhat different goal in mind -- a progression through time (though emphatically not "progress") corresponding to his evolutionary notions. Certainly, Cabell was conscious of the influence of Balzac: even before the Biography took its shape, he referred to the linking together of the "modern books" to Gallantry and The Soul of Melicent as done with "Balzacian thoroughness." [Letter to Holt dated 4/16/1917, Wagenknecht, 13.]
Joe Lee Davis attributes the progression of the Biography to an extended parody by Cabell of the Rougon-Macquart series of Emile Zola -- twenty naturalistic novels that trace hereditary "lesions" of the nervous system through succeeding generations. But Cabell's subject is somewhat larger than Zola's: in asserting Romanticism, Cabell is studying modernism, as it comes into being, by means of historical contrast, and so begins, as Henry Adams had begun his own study of modernism, in the high days of the age of faith -- not with Mount St. Michel or Chartres, but quite close by, in a fictional amalgam of Poitiers and Angoulême -- and uses the tools of genealogical descent to trace a cultural descent from the age of myth-making to the age of ironic detachment, from Manuel the Redeemer to Felix Bulmer Kennaston. The Mediaeval and Regency settings of the biography may have been suggested by a favorite writer of Cabell's -- the only writer, indeed, to whom Cabell has been compared, Anatole France (particularly Penguin Island [1909] and La Rôtisserie de la Reine Pédauque [1893], a book also deeply steeped in hermetic lore, for which Cabell wrote the introduction for the Modern Library edition). Curiously, Anatole France was also one of Heinlein's favorite writers.
Heinlein, too, has a historical progression in mind -- Korzybski's predicted transition from humanity's (aristotelian) earth-bound childhood to a (non-aristotelian) adolescence that will inherit the cosmos. His affinity is clearly more with Cabell than with either Lewis or with Balzac. That the debt is specific to Cabell is suggested by the collateral fact that, by the time of the reappearance of Lazarus Long, 2,300 years into the Future History, virtually the whole of humanity in the cosmos are his descendants, direct and reinforced. This was not the case in the early days of the Future History, any more than Coth or Donander were blood relatives of Manuel. But the principal personae of the historically-later books of the Biography are likewise all descendants of Manuel -- as Florian de Puysange combined the lineages of Manuel and Jurgen. Heinlein's affinities lie with Cabell rather than with Lewis.
The distinction that Lazarus Long continues to be an influence on events in his own person, whereas Manuel's influence is felt in his descendants, even unto the twentieth generation, is superficial and trivial. Cabell had a personal interest in genealogy; Heinlein did not. Take genealogy away from the Biography, and Manuel and Lazarus Long become enough alike to be almost twins.
3.1.2 Through a Looking Glass, Donander
In early 1942, it had been determined that Heinlein would go to the Naval Air Experimental Station attached to Mustin Field (near Philadelphia) to spend the war years working on "the necessary tedium of aviation engineering." While waiting for his papers to formalize the arrangement, he wrote two novelets, the last of his prewar fiction. "Waldo," like the immediately preceding novel, Beyond This Horizon, is a comedy of initiation and integration, using thinly disguised hermetic imagery. [Note 12] "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" is also hermetic in its inspiration, but also recognizably and in the same terms Cabellian.
A husband-and-wife team of private investigators is approached by a somewhat effete Jonathan Hoag, with an odd assignment: they are to find out what he does in the daytime -- he blanks out between dinner parties, it seems. The investigation -- a search for and through hidden knowledge -- steps through the mirror and uncovers a vast conspiracy of preternatural Sons of the Bird, purely materialist creatures in human guise. The couple fall into their power and are separated. At the end, they are re-united, and their client turns into a deus (literally) ex machina. In a traditional "cozy mystery" denoument, the couple and Hoag are securely locked in a car while the entirety of the mystery is unraveled for them. Jonathan Hoag's "unpleasant" profession is that of art critic, and he has been sampling Earth in order to judge it as an artistic creation of a student-god (demiurge). The Sons of the Bird, he explains, were a kind of pentimento, leftovers from a prior "draft" of the final creation -- carelessness on the part of the student-god. The world is remade, and Hoag's work is finished. The knowledge terrifies the couple, and they sleep from then on handcuffed together, mirrors painted over, so they cannot be separated.
The materials are hermetic, but Hoag is not an initiatic guide. He is, instead, the arcanum, the Emersonian "bird of power," moving in the world by means of the couple, but not staying to fructify their union into a microcosmic whole. Love, the couple have, but love, Heinlein seems to be saying, is not enough in a world where forces vaster than ourselves, terrifying and incomprehensible, are at work -- surely a fraught metaphor for World War II.
The notion that the creator-god of Earth might be a student -- an immature godling -- seems a somewhat transformed reference to the Donander Veratyr episode of The Silver Stallion.
By a cosmic mistake, Donander of Evre, companion of Manuel and Fellow of the Silver Stallion is translated to a Norse afterlife instead of the Christian Heaven. He marries a goddess and amuses himself by demiurgy -- world-creating -- all the while faithfully awaiting the Christian Day of Judgment, while Jahweh and all His creations perish into eternity -- excepting only the faith of Donander Veratyr. His prolonged godly adolescence becomes an embarrassment to his family-by-marriage, and his father-in-law urges him to put away childish things and take up the responsibilities of gods' adulthood.
"In Donander's playing there is really just an artist's interest in his own craftsmanship . . . Earth is not important beyond the experience it provides the artist as he improves his skill. And Donander himself is under the command of a greater God." [Tarrant, 98-99]
The events of "Unpleasant Profession" seem to happen within one of Donander Veratyr's early creations -- or perhaps that of a less talented fellow student demiurge. It also recalls the image evoked by Felix Kennaston in The Cream of the Jest, of a god in his study-workbench tinkering with his creation.
It is quite possible that Heinlein made more extensive use of Cabellian materials early in his career than is readily apparent. If so, the references are quite thoroughly transformed in the Star Mill of Heinlein's own powerful creative processes. Heinlein was, even in this early stage of his writing career, an artist of considerable technical ability, and any native clay he found he made into his own figures of earth, that bear more family resemblance to Heinlein than to their original sources. Given Heinlein's powerful creative transformations, there could be many Cabellian references, devices, and methodologies tucked away in one or another level of his early stories. Certainly there are other possibly Cabellian "moments" in early Heinlein -- such as the encounter of a human with the Gods of the Jockaira in Methuselah's Children (1941), in which a human is introduced to a secret ceremony on an alien planet and is returned, rejected and mad, to his kind. Compare to Cabell in Beyond Life, the prolog to the Biography:
". . . we decline, very emphatically, to consider the universe as a whole, -- 'to encounter Pan,' as the old Greeks phrased it, who rumored that this sometimes befell a mortal, but asserted likewise that the man was afterward insane." [93]. [Note 13]
3.1.3 Parallel Extensions of Cabellian Materials
In addition to direct-and-transformed references to Cabellian devices -- Heinlein's own figures of earth -- Heinlein's personal concern with some of the same thematic material resulted in parallel rather than derived treatments. Gallantry
Cabell's Biography of Manuel had been structured as parallel examinations of three contrasting modes of life, the Way of the Artist, the Way of Chivalry, and the Way of Gallantry. Cabell's personal "picture" of gallantry is said to have derived from the phony chivalry of late 19th century Virginians, which he imbibed with his mother's milk, his family being respectably connected to the upper crust of Virginian aristocracy. (see, e.g., Davis.) The models he cites, however, are the gallants of Restoration Comedy (curiously it is the authors of the plays, rather than the characters, who serve as Cabell's models): Wycherly, Congreve, Sheridan. Among his earliest writings are stories collected into books titled, respectively, Chivalry (1909) and Gallantry (1913). Mark Twain, fascinated by the chivalric ideal, was quite taken with Cabell's writings on the subject. His encouragement directed to Cabell resulted in Domnei, published in 1911 as The Soul of Melicent.
Twain also transmitted some notions of chivalry and gallantry to Robert Heinlein, though Heinlein's derived also partly from the same sources as Twain's -- the boys' literature of the nineteenth century. Many boys played at knights in shining armor, but Heinlein took the ideals more seriously than most and made them part of himself, in the esthetic sense, at least. He was to become a living "vicar," of a sort, a representative of the U.S. government, if not of God, on earth -- but the world treats such ideals roughly. Heinlein was personally inclined to a kind of gallantry similar, but not identical, to Cabell's notions.
Heinlein was not to this manner born. Although his family was of sound "old American" stock, having emigrated from Bavaria to Pennsylvania in 1756, and then to Missouri some time later [Stover 1987, at 8], the Heinleins had been prosperous farmers with a pronounced military tradition. His mother's family, by the late nineteenth century, was professional, her father a country doctor with progressive ideas about hygeine and Pasteur's new "germ" theory. Heinlein's father was a bookkeeper-clerk for a farm-implement manufacturer.
Heinlein imbibed chivalry from his boyhood play, but he brought it into his military career, where it underwent a sea change. The Code of Honor taught at the U.S. Naval Academy, made up of equal parts punctilio, chivalric behavior, and cynicism, came naturally to him, reinforcing a native amour propre, and so a gentleman-by-legal-decree was created from a rustic. The cynicism of the USNA, combined with his own amour propre, gave Heinlein a necessary dynamic balance between attachment and detachment from the chivalric ideal. His gallantry is less distinct from chivalry than is Cabell's.
The simultaneous attachment and detachment to the chivalric ideal is an important motivating factor in both Heinlein and Cabell. Historically, gallantry rises when the chivalric ideal cannot longer be sustained, and chivalry begins to die from the inside. The forms continue to be observed, but the substance changes. Northrop Frye points out a progression in literature of ironic detachment from ideals, where "irony" is principally defined as saying one thing while meaning another [Note 14], from the Mythic to the Heroic, and from Chivalry to Gallantry. This progression may be regarded, in some sense, as the governing mechanics of the Biography in the mode of historical descent, though, in both The Silver Stallion and in his explications, Cabell conceptualizes the progressive vitiation of the Life as a matter of the blurring of the realities of person and place by the remove of time and the world's will to be deceived, and the work of the cosmic Romancer. The cusp is explicitly taken up in Domnei: A Comedy of Woman-Worship, where the rogue-king Demetrios is intellectualized "into a complex, extreme exponent of the way of gallantry." [Davis, 77] The way of Chivalry is contrasted with the way of Gallantry, to the detriment of the latter: the merely gallant Demetrios cannot conceive the total immersion of both Perion and Melicent in the Chivalric ideal. They are in the Tao, and he is not. He knows the values but sees them only as modes of behavior, observing those he finds convenient and dispensing with those he does not. Melicent and Perion do not know the chivalric ideal in terms of outer forms; for them they are modes -- or rather, the mode -- of their being. The forms are merely the limbs and outer flourishes of their interior reality.
For Heinlein, the process of ironic detachment from the chivalric ideal is only a little more advanced than for Cabell, and somewhat differently nuanced -- the difference of their generations is quite telling. Much has been made of Heinlein's "competent man," (Panshin and others) as against the more naturalistic conventions of his colleagues in science fiction, but it is truer to see Heinlein's protagonists in terms of genre; Heinlein's settings are often a late reflection of the Chivalric Romance -- stories of the doings of the king and court (See especially Time Enough for Love (1973), but also the exception that proves the rule, Farnham's Freehold (1964) -- a story of the king and court in exile). They are differences, as Frye defines them, of degree but not of kind, similar to the hero tale genre (one step closer to the genre of myth in which the gods are superior to the reader in kind as well as in degree). Cabell was of a disillusioned generation. He could say -- and mean -- "nothing in the universe is of importance, or is authentic to any serious sense, except the various illusions of romance, the demiurge" (Beyond Life, quoted in Van Doren at 71). But Heinlein's generation has been invited to step up and take control of the destiny of human evolution by means of "social engineering," the applied fruit of the new science of sociology. In this, Heinlein's affinities for the progressive, "free thought" traditions of the American midwest at the end of the 19th century are evident. Lacking Cabell's aristocratic bent, Heinlein is both more and less attached to the chivalric ideal, in that his personal conception of vicarship is secular. First as a political animal, and then as an artist, he expresses a seriousness of purpose alien and risible to Cabell, who gently mocked the "all-devasting 'earnestness'" of Heinlein's generation. [Beyond Life, 131]
The dynamic balance of Heinlein's gallantry is seen on full display in the pivotal work Beyond This Horizon, published serially in Astounding 1942, and revised for publication in book form in 1948. One exemplary scene might have been written with Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac in mind. After demonstrating an unusual type of personal firearm and admiring his friend's new nail tint -- mauve iridescent -- protagonist Hamilton Felix takes Monroe-Alpha Clifford to dinner. There is an accident with a crab leg in their Bouillabaisse; it falls on a table below them:
He started to rise; Hamilton put a hand on his forearm. "My fault," he said. "I will repair it." He stood up and looked down at the table directly beneath their booth.
He did not see the stray bit of seafood at once, but he had no difficulty in telling approximately where it had landed. Seated at the table was a party of eight. Two of them were elderly men who wore the brassards-of-peace. Four women alternated with the males around the table. One of them, quite young and pretty, was dabbing at something which seemed to have stained her gown. The wayward crab leg was floating in a crystal bell of purple liquid directly in front of her; cause and effect was easy to infer.
The two remaining men were both armed, both standing, and staring up at the balcony. The younger, a slender youth in bright scarlet promenade dress, was resting his right hand on the grip of his sidearm, and seemed about to speak. The older man turned coldly dangerous eyes from Hamilton to his youthful companion. "My privilege, Cyril," he said quietly, "if you please."
The young brave was clearly annoyed and reluctant to comply; nevertheless he bowed stiffly and sat down. His elder returned the bow punctiliously and turned back to Hamilton. The lace of his cuff brushed his holster, but he had not touched his weapon -- as yet.
Hamilton leaned over the balcony, both his hands spread and plainly visible on the rail. "Sir, my clumsiness has disturbed the pleasure of your meal and invaded your privacy. I am deeply sorry."
"I have your assurance that it was accidental, sir?" The man's eyes were still frosty, but he made no move to draw. But he did not sit down.
"You have indeed, sir, and with it my humble apology. Will you graciously permit me to make reparation?"
The other glanced down, not at the youth, but at the girl whose gown had been splashed. She shrugged. He answered Hamilton, "The thought is taken for the deed, sir."
"Sir, you leave me indebted."
"Not at all, sir."
They were exchanging bows and were about to resume their seats, when a shouted remark from the balcony booth directly opposite interrupted them. "Where's your brassard?"
They both looked toward the source of the disturbance; one of a party of men -- armed citizens all apparently, for no brassards were to be seen -- was leaning out of the booth and staring with deliberate rudeness. Hamilton spoke to the man at the table below. "My privilege, is it not, sir?"
"Your privilege. I wish you well." He sat down and turned his attention back to his guests.
"You spoke to me?" asked Hamilton of the man across the ring.
"I did. You were let off lightly. You should eat at home -- if you have a home. Not in the presence of gentlefolk."
Monroe-Alpha touched Hamilton's arm. "He's drunk," he whispered. "Take it easy."
"I know," his friend answered in a barely audible aside, "but he gives me no choice."
"Perhaps his friends will take care of him."
"We'll see."
Indeed his friends were attempting to. One of them placed a restraining hand on his weapon arm, but he shook him off. he was playing to a gallery -- the entire restaurant was quiet now, the diners ostentatiously paying no attention, a pose contrary to fact. "Answer me!" he demanded.
"I will," Hamilton stated quietly. "You have been drinking and are not responsible. Your friends should disarm you and place a brassard on you. Else some short-tempered gentleman may fail to note that your manners were poured from a bottle."
There was a stir and a whispered consultation in the party behind the other man, as if some agreed with Hamilton's estimate of the situation. One of them spoke urgently to the belligerent one, but he ignored it.
"What's that about my manners, you misplanned mistake?"
("Easy, Felix." "Too late, Cliff.")
"Your manners," Hamilton stated, "are as thick as your tongue. You are a disgrace to the gun you wear."
The other man drew too fast, but he drew high, apparently with the intention of chopping down.
The terrific explosion of the Colt forty-five brought every armed man in the place to his feet, sidearm clear, eyes wary, ready for action. But the action was all over. A woman laughed, shortly and shrilly. The sound broke the tension for everyone. Men relaxed, weapons went back to belts, seats were resumed with apologetic shrugs. The diners went back to their own affairs with the careful indifference to other people's business of the urbane sophisticate.
Hamilton's antagonist was half supported by the arms of his friends. He seemed utterly surprised and completely sobered. There was a hole in his chemise near his right shoulder from which a wet dark stain was spreading. One of the men holding him up waved to Hamilton with his free arm, palm out. Hamilton acknowledged the capitulation with the same gesture. Someone drew the curtains of the booth opposite.
Hamilton sank back into the cushions with a relieved sigh. "We lose more crabs that way," he observed. "Have some more, Cliff?"
"Thanks, no," Monroe-Alpha answered. "I'll stick to spoon foods. I hate interruptions at meal times, Felix. He might have cooled you."
"And left you to pay the check. Such slug pinching ill becomes you, Cliff."
Monroe-Alpha looked annoyed. "You know it's not that. I have few enough friends not to wish to lose them in casual brawls. We should have taken a private room, as I requested." He reached out and touched a stud under the railing; the curtains waved across the arch, shutting them off from the public room.
Hamilton laughed. "A little excitement peps up the appetite."
(It is an axiom of the novel that "an armed society is a polite society.")
Hamilton Felix, too, is detached from the values of his society. He is first seen -- in the opening words of the novel -- as the outsider observing his fellows:
He punched the door with a code combination, and awaited face check. It came promptly; the door dilated, and a voice inside said, "Come in, Felix."
He stepped inside, glanced at his host and remarked, "You make ninety-eight."
"Ninety-eight what?"
"Ninety-eight sourpusses in the last twenty minutes. It's a game. I just made it up."
Monroe-Alpha Clifford looked baffled, an expression not uncommon in his dealings with his friend Felix. "But what is the point? Surely you counted the opposites, too?"
"Of course. Ninety-eight mugs who'd lost their last friends, seven who looked happy. But, " he added, "to make it seven I had to count one dog."
Monroe-Alpha gave Hamilton a quick look in an effort to determine whether or not he was joking. But he could not be sure -- he rarely could be sure. Hamilton's remarks often did not appear serious, frequently even seemed technically sense-free. Nor did they appear to follow the six principles of humor -- Monroe-Alpha prided himself on his sense of humor, had been known to pontificate to his subordinates on the necessity of maintaining a sense of humor. But Hamilton's mind seemed to follow some weird illogic of its own, self-consistent perhaps, but apparently unrelated to the existent world.
"But what is the purpose of your survey?" he asked.
"Does it have to have a purpose? I tell you, I just made it up."
"But your numbers are too few to be significant. You can't fair a curve with so little data. Besides, you conditions are uncontrolled. Your results don't mean anything."
Hamilton rolled his eyes up. "Elder Brother, hear me," he said softly. "Living Spirit of Reason, attend Thy servant. In Your greatest and most prosperous city I find vinegar phizzes to grins in a ratio of fourteen to one -- and he says it's not significant!"
Monroe-Alpha looked annoyed. "Don't be irreverent," he advised. "And the proper ratio is sixteen and a third to one; you should not have counted the dog."
"Oh, forget it!" his friend answered. "How goes the tail chasing?"
But his detachment is more complete, yet. Superbly able, he lacks the "philoprogenitive" gene and is unwilling even to reproduce.
" . . .You asked me when and how it was that I first came to the conclusion that life doesn't mean anything. I've told you how I first began to have my doubts, but the point is: I still have 'em."
"Wait," Morden put in. "You still have not heard the whole story. It was planned that eidetic memory would be incorporated in your line either in your generation, or in your father's. Your children will have it, if you co-operate. There is still something lacking which needs to be added and will be added. I said you were a survival type. You are -- except for one thing. You don't want children. From a biological standpoint that is as contra-survival as a compulsion to suicide. You got that tendency from your dexter great-grandfather. The tendency had to be accepted at the time as he was dead before his germ plasm was used and we hadn't much supply in the bank to choose from. But it will be corrected at this linkage. Your children will be anxious to have children -- I can assure you of that."
"What's that to me?" Hamilton demanded. "Oh, I don't doubt that you can do it. You can wind 'em up and make 'em run. You can probably eliminate my misgivings and produce a line that will go on happily breeding for the next ten million years. That still doesn't make it make sense. Survival! What for? Until you can give me some convincing explanation why the human race should go on at all, my answer is 'no.'" He stood up.
"Leaving?" asked Mordan.
"If you will excuse me."
"Aren't you interested in knowing something about the woman whom we believe is suitable for your line?"
"Not particularly."
Nonetheless a child-like relishing of intrigue for its own sake involves him playing at spying and then in the ultimate defense of his society's values. Through a wager, happily lost, he gains attachment to his social values in the second part of the book. He reproduces, and his children receive the gifts of the good witch Carlotta -- a reversed Sleeping Beauty needs not go to sleep, but instead wakens all of humanity to life-after-death and metempsychosis.
If comedies are, in Frye's analysis, works of integration with society, Beyond This Horizon is a comedy of Initiation. An outsider becomes integrated into his proper society through the agency of a guide. Heinlein has consistently used a triadic figure to represent the completeness of integration, and here the triad appears composed of the wisdom figure of Mordan Claude, who understands his society's values but cannot attain them without Hamilton Felix's consent and active participation, Hamilton Felix, and Longcourt Phyllis, the essential female element of completeness. The triad coming together becomes fruitful in the world: the star lines of Hamilton and Longcourt are brought together and the social goal is fulfilled in reproduction.
Heinlein's preoccupation with gallantry was lifelong; his next-to-last novel, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls: A Comedy of Manners (1985), poses the gallant orientation of Col. Richard Ames, the books' first-person viewpoint character, against the vagaries of universes grown mannerless. Like Hamilton Felix before him, Col. Ames is highly cultivated and not a little bloodthirsty -- with, apparently, a similar penchant for violent episodes at dinnertime:
"Schwartz, or whatever his name is, was killed while he was a guest at my table. That's intolerably rude. I won't put up with it. Gwen, my love, if one tolerates bad manners, they grow worse. Our pleasant habitat could decay into the sort of slum Ell-Five is, with crowding and unmannerly behavior and unnecessary noise and impolite language. I must find the oaf who did this thing, explain to him his offense, give him a chance to apologize, and kill him." [36]
Where the living spirit of the Chivalric ideal has gone, one's standards of behavior are all that is left to one. This sentiment is pre-figured by Jubal Harshaw (Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) and Lazarus Long (Time Enough for Love (1973)) -- both characters who make a re-appearance in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. Ames is, in fact, a son of Lazarus Long.
For Heinlein, gallantry is an active and passionate way of engaging the human condition; it is the appropriate axiological response of humankind to a universe chaotic and indifferent. Heinlein's approach to gallantry is nuanced differently from Cabell's. Yet it is on this subject that their agreement is most striking.
In a scene of Job: a Comedy of Justice (1985) highly reminiscent of the shop-talk of Janicot and the Archangel Michael near the end of The High Place [Chapter 29, "The Wonder Words"], Heinlein presents humankind to Koschchei, and it is of gallantry he speaks:
". . . almost everything about a human creature is ridiculous, except the ability to suffer bravely and die gallantly for what it loves and believes in." [248]
Heinlein joins Cabell in appreciation of an ape "reft of its tail" that nevertheless claims kinship with the angels.
"Throughout his stories Heinlein displayed his view of the pathetic nobility of the human race. That nobility lies in the fact that human beings have the ability to face up to danger, uncertainty, and death with pride, courage, and dignity." [Owenby, 358]
Or, as Heinlein put it:
"Monkeys with a spot of poetry in them, cluttering and wasting a second-string planet around a third-string star. But sometimes they finish in style." ["Year of the Jackpot," 45] Something About Pan -- Initiatic and Esoteric Material
Both Cabell and Heinlein made pivotal use of hermetic and initatic materials, but to such individual ends that it is not possible to identify a clear "derivation" from Cabell to Heinlein. Rather, they represent a source of "resonance" -- of likemindedness -- a factor which may contribute to an explanation of why Heinlein retained his reverence for Cabell so long in his own writing.
It has generally been assumed, when particular reference is made to it at all, that the incident of Jurgen's encounter with Pan was drawn from the same eccentric collection of myth, arcana, and erotica as the almost explicitly phallic passages that raised the ire of the Comstock organization, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. But there is reason to suppose this represents a vein of ore Cabell had been working for some time, perhaps with other ends in mind. The first serious study of Cabell, Cabellian Harmonics (written, in fact, during the composition of the Biography and published in 1928), takes time out from its exploration of Cabell's commingling of prose and verse techniques to explore the pigeons and mirrors symbolism of The Cream of the Jest (and elsewhere) and concludes: that ". . . these objects are used in some branch of sorcery." [93] Mr. MacNeill asked Mr. Cabell to explain himself, and this voluminous self-explicator replied, with entirely unwonted discretion:
"There are reasons, which I consider with real regret, why I cannot explain to you the secret of the mirror and the pigeons. I am however at liberty to say that the reference is by no means to a mere 'myth.'" [92]
The references, thus, to the secret "society," whose members Felix Kennaston finds, it seems, everywhere, are distinct from the exoteric "Russian framework, padded . . . out with pure Kiltartanese, flavored with Graeco-Roman mythological scraps, and just for luck peppered . . . with a little Buddhistic lore" [Letter to Burton Rascoe dated March 25, 1919, Between Friends at 105] that formed the tapestry of Jurgen [Note 15], but also Figures of Earth, and The Silver Stallion. It is an actual secret to which he referred, and he is bound in some fashion to keep it. This, by itself, suggests an initiation on Cabell's part: if he had merely stumbled across this material in research or miscellaneous reading, he would not be bound to keep the secret. That it might be an initiation to a well-disseminated esoteric tradition is suggested by Arthur Machen's deliberately cryptic remark in a letter to Cabell dated February 17, 1918: "But I do not know whether you know all that is to be known concerning small mirrors: but of this, silence." [Between Friends, 27] Machan had been a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn since 1899. [Gilbert, 169]
Arvin Wells attempts to view the historical sequence of Cabell's early writing as a progression of acquired depth and technique, and this linear interpretation works well until 1916 is reached. Here, Wells must acknowledge a disjunction from more-or-less conventional prosodic thinking to the uniqueness that defined the "later" Cabell. He chooses the publication of The Certain Hour, with The Cream of the Jest written but awaiting publication, as the end of Cabell's middle (journeyman) period. [92] Wells finds both the overtly mythological themes and, indeed, the basic pattern of Cabellian comedy emerging with The Cream of the Jest:
"The comic pattern which emerges clearly for the first time in The Cream of the Jest was to remain the essential comedic pattern of the later comedies. This pattern as the comic protagonist experiences it consist basically of three steps or movements . . ."
There is other evidence that some intellectual or spiritual experience came to Cabell at about this time and wrenched him out of his accustomed mental paths. With the hindsight of his later works available, we can pinpoint the wrench as having something to do with the occult. [Note 16]
Occult material had begun to appear in Cabell's writing with "Concerning Corinna," written in 1910, a story that makes use of an almost exoteric anecdote taught to beginning magic-users about the need to keep the integrity of the Magic Circle. [Note 17] It is thus fairly superficial and might be the result of common research into the uncommon, a prospect that was somewhat more difficult in the early years of this century than it was to become.
The Cream of the Jest was originally planned as a dizain of Richard Harrowby's adventures in the occult, but the individual stories sold but poorly, and by 1914, Cabell had recast the material as a continuous narrative to be titled In The Flesh. [Preface to the Past, 117]. Under this title, the book was rejected in 1915 by Doran (by editor Sinclair Lewis) and by McBride & Co. (Guy Holt). The summer of 1916 was spent in revising the manuscript, taking Mr. Holt's comments into consideration. [Between Friends, 6]
"Whatever intervened during the following years [after "Concerning Corinna"] to put Cabell's mind on a somewhat different tack is not clear, but The Cream of the Jest, as it was finally published in 1917, is a very different book from what was apparently at first intended. It is, rather than a book of occult adventurings, a book of adventurings in the kingdom of the mind, Felix Kennaston's mind, and it contains only subdued overtones of the occult." [Wells, 95]
On the contrary, The Cream of the Jest brims with the occult -- but it is no longer at a superficial level. Between the plan and the final execution, Cabell moved from the anecdotal to deeply philosophical thinking about the place of the mind in the universe; he has joined the conversation of the immortals at which Emerson marvels in "Intellect" [Emerson, 303].
Finally, Cabell himself speaks in terms which imply some "watershed" experience at the time:
"In preparing the Storisende edition of the biography, during 1927-1930, I found all the books prior to The Cream of the Jest to have been written by persons who are to me, nowadays, comparative strangers. I edited the entire Biography as best I might. But only in The Cream of the Jest and its temporal successors had I any sense of dealing with my own work."
Preface to the Past, 126, "The Eagle's Shadow."
The Sigil of Scoteia in The Cream of the Jest, the encounter with Pan in Jurgen, and of Janicot and The Brown Man (all Pan avatars) in subsequent books, all strongly suggest an involvement with an initiatic, magic-using branch of the hermetic traditions. The Storisende preface to Gallantry confesses as much:
"[In] 1914, when The Cream of the Jest was being written . . . under the guidance of Richard Harrowby I took up, in a more or less serious way, the study of what is loosely called 'magic' and . . . I learned something of those realities which are behind what we, just as loosely, call 'ordinary experience.' It was only then, in fine, that I turned definitely away from the merely mundidicious." [Preface to the Past, 126]
Pan shows Jurgen reality as it truly is, and that "monstrous clever fellow" can only take refuge in flat denial:
"'It is not true,' Jurgen protested. 'What you have shown me is a pack of nonsense. It is the degraded lunacy of a so-called Realist . . . It is, in a word, something I do not choose to believe." [137]
Cabell, in Beyond Life (written immediately before Jurgen), attributes this trope to the Greek notion of the "encounter with Pan" that shows man his true place in the universe. This "encounter with Pan" is also a traditional trope of hermetic writing, of the human mind brought into contact with esoteric knowledge.
Hermeticism is, in a sense, the stem religion of the west, purported to have originated in Egypt around 3,000 b.c. as the teachings of Toth in medicine, mathematics, and religious observances. The name was later hellenized to Hermes Trismegistes ("thrice-great"). Traditionally, a tactical disagreement 4,300 years ago led to a schism, with the group who wanted to keep their knowledge within a rigidly defined priestly caste moving to India and founding the "eastern" traditions of religions. The main body of hermetics continued to teach "all those found worthy." (Hall, among others). This early program of "information transfer" caused much of the hermetic knowledge to become "secularized." Hermeticism became the foundation of classical-world scholarship, and so cross-fertilized every religious and intellectual tradition with which it was brought into contact -- including both Judaism and, multiply, Christianity. Meanwhile, the original religious priesthood continued to flourish, and the testing for worthiness on the part of a student evolved into a body of information and belief about the process of initiation. There are thus both secular and religious strains of hermeticism.
Much nonsense has been written about the unbroken tradition of observances from Egypt into the modern world, so that, for example, Freemasonry claims to be Egyptian in origin, despite the fact that the earliest known Masonic lodge records date from no earlier than 1590 a.d. and in Britain, making Freemasonry contemporary with Puritanism. Nevertheless, it seems clear that a tradition of ideas has been passed from hand to hand and mouth to mouth, fairly intact. Several writings supposed to be original composition of Thoth-Hermes are extant, though no one can say how corrupt they might be by this time, and several distinct traditions of religious hermeticism have been in existence parallel with the rise and spread of Christianity. Festugière dates the composition of the hermetic fragments, in fact, to the period of Christianity's nascence: a.d. 100 to 300. [Quoted in French at 68] This "vector of transmission" is partly due to Christianity having adopted Platonism through Augustine of Hippo; so that the church has always harbored a hermetic tendez (Plato formulated the philosophical system that bears his name after studying with the Pythagoreans, one of the more bizarre hermetic sects of the ancient world). Partly also, the hermetic basis of classical scholarship followed the alchemical tradition, surviving into the 20th century to help form Jung's concept of the collective unconscious. In addition, a third group of traditions has come into being, standing midway between the purely religious and the purely secular-philosophical: these are the traditions of the practical magic (or "magick") users which flowered in the nineteenth century. All these hermetic lineages have in common the aim of making something more of humans than mere animal man.
The basic tenets of the religious hermeticism are that the universe is permeated by a high-level consciousness called Reason in the Enlightenment Era recensions of the hermetic fragments. Proceeding from this central fire of the universe are multiple layers of secondary intelligences. The earth and Humans were created by beings several levels down and are specifically spirit wrapped up in the shadow of materiality. Creation by secondary intelligences is a hallmark of hermeticism. More recent hermetics have identified the time-sense as the essence of the shadow. As long as humans love the shadow they cannot join with the infinite. Only when a spark of the central fire of the cosmos chooses to illuminate a prepared individual, can he make the leap to union with the divine -- initiation, a joint act of the human Will in congruence with the Divine Will.
There were "exoteric" hermetic traditions flourishing as a result of the NeoPlatonist intellectual movement of the nineteenth century. Ralph Waldo Emerson made several homages to the "Trismegisti," among whom Plato is numbered. His conception of a single reality of which all that exists are merely tendrils intruded into time is an exact correspondence to Heinlein's several iterations of the concept, of which the best known is "Thou Art God" and "All that groks is god." It is probably Mark Twain who initially passed the conception to Heinlein by way of The Mysterious Stranger in its closing paragraphs.
During the 19th century, religious hermeticism flourished again, not only in the by-now conventional freemasonry and in the spiritualist movement, but in magical practices. The most "public" of the 19th century magical organizations was the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, formed about 1865, an international church that seems to have gathered together the many individuals who were carrying on hermetic work. Madame Blavatsky was a member of the HBofL until she recapitulated the ancient "sacerdotalist" schism in about 1870 to form the Theosophical Society. [Note 18] The HBofL faded away in about 1915, having passed the torch to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which still exists (Godwin). In 1909, Aleister Crowley, Chief of the Order, founded the hermetic religion of Thelema, which also still exists as a collateral organization parallel to (and confusingly interpenetrated with) the Golden Dawn. (Holy Books of Thelema)
Hermetic magic practice cannot be interpreted by Christian tropes, which are based on black-and-white, God/Devil, good-evil dichotomies that do not exist in a hermetic framework. The practice of magic, in highly simplified terms, is "about" the will of the individual, in congruence with the divine Will, impressed on and expressed in the external world. The predominant strains of hermeticism in the 19th and 20th centuries tend strongly toward sex magic practices based on a manual compiled in the mid-19th century and adopted as the initial teaching paper of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, The Mysteries of Eros [Godwin, passim], though many of the fundamental practice notions of sex magic were exoterically spread through the marriage-reform and sex-radical movements connected with the 19th century Spiritualism and the "free thought" tradition [Sears] that nurtured such historical figures as Margaret Sanger and Annie Besant (the second head of the Theosophical Society, after the death of Mme. Blavatsky).
Hermeticism views human sexuality as our principal means of becoming at one with the universe as it is. It is Woman, to male magic practitioners, that is the gateway to cosmic power and to the actualization of the Self in terms of the Divine Will. The persistence of hermetic ideas and practices from the end of the middle ages to the modern world provided a very convenient "hook" to hang certain cross-story references on, such as the homunculi with which Manuel and various of his descendants (most notably Florian de Puysanges) deal.
Recognizing a hermetic input to Cabell's Biography gives us an additional tool for viewing Cabell's conception of domnei -- and of woman's role in general -- in terms of the tension between exoteric and esoteric knowledge, which can be overlaid on the secular esthetics of Vaihinger and Santayana. The esoteric Ettarre is hidden within the exoteric Kathleen Kennaston, and the Sigil loses none of its mystic significance when it is discovered to be the broken lid of a cold-cream jar -- the prosaic and exoteric tool of woman evoking her innate magic. Cosmetics generally (with their implication of a mask and therefore of hiding) are used to enhance the beauty that both inspires and snares. The hermetic interpretation, too, gives an additional explanatory dimension to the "something" which is "about Eve." It is Gerald Musgrave's magical work that has stalled his epic about Manuel, after all. The true Gerald Musgrave lives on the very door of the exoteric world, in the bidding of Maya of the Fair Breasts, who domesticates men and retains them in their animal nature -- an evocation of Circe. As with Circe, it is possible for Musgrave-Odysseus to pass through Mispec Moor -- as Maya shows and tells Musgrave -- and resume the journey to the yesteryear (Antan) in terms of which Cabell conceives Romance. The younger Musgrave, whom the elder meets without recognizing, passes though Maya as gateway -- which is the "correct" relationship of ninth degree (sexual) magic-making. This must be an alternate world Gerald Musgrave, who progressed in his magic-working.
In terms of the mythology of the Biography, Maya is an avatar of Sereda, but in addition to the evocation of Circe, the name "Maya" also evokes its Hindu interpretation as the veil or dance of illusion which we call reality. Mispec Moor -- the place where men stay in their animal nature -- is ruled by the dance of Maya, illusion, nescience, which turns men into domestic animals. Musgrave must pass through Mispec Moor, the place of static illusion (where Musgrave comes to a stop in his journey), to achieve the place of the "dynamic illusions" of Romance. The stalling of Musgrave-the-Seeker in Mispec Moor is paralleled in the exoteric, "real world" story of the story by the stalling of Musgrave-the-writer a third of the way into his story of Manuel, a self-reference if ever there was one -- but also quite definitely hermetic. In order for Musgrave (writer) to achieve creative fulfillment in the story of Manuel, he must achieve Antan (yesteryear), but both Musgraves -- body and spirit -- have wrapped themselves in the "shadow" of the material world and cannot achieve union with the central fire of the cosmos (from whence creativity flows) (although the mind of Gerald Musgrave animated by a materialist spirit, can still master the kind of scholarship of a certain level that does not require creativity ab initio).
Cabell's literary expressions of hermeticism seem more personal and idiomatic than Heinlein's. Cabell's 1917 The Cream of the Jest, though its framing incidents are based on the scrying and magic mirrors recommended by the HbofL, is a record of an initiatic experience. Felix Kennaston records his initiation into an esoteric brotherhood (the cryptic references to white birds) and then describes how he reconciles his privileged, esoteric knowledge with the mundane demands of Christian worship still at that time believed to be essential for social stability. (Heinlein makes exactly this argument in the "Da Capo" section of Time Enough for Love.) There are hints in Beyond Life that Cabell has concluded the making of verbal enchantments is his particular calling to magic(k), rather than the raising of elementals and casting of magic circles (a quite legitimate conclusion in terms of the hermetic understand of magic), but the figure of the magic-worker remains important to him. After The Cream of the Jest, Cabell wrote Jurgen, The High Place, and The Silver Stallion -- but his interest in the figure of the magician survives even the Biography. In These Restless Heads (1932), among his "trilogy of Romantics" is Prospero after The Tempest. He finds magick-making vainglorious but not less vainglorious than the glory and honor of good political administration and the life of a public personage. Both attract him; when he has one he desires the other, for they exclude each other. The freed spirit Ariel regards him now with "amusement, ruthlessly" [16] and conducts him back to his island.
It is not known whether Cabell was actually initiated into one or another secret society prior to the writing of The Cream of the Jest, but the book speaks authoritatively of the experience, and its immediate successors indicate the possibility.
Precisely the same ambiguity may be stated of Heinlein, for he included an abundance of hermetic material in his writing throughout his long career. Moreover, Heinlein is known to have applied for membership in the Rosicrucians and expressed interest in joining the Freemasons in the early 1930's (though in neither case was the application finalized). He is also known to have made extensive reference to Ouspensky's Tertium Organum (1912, 1934), a compendium of esoteric traditions ranging from Platonism to gnosticism, to hermeticism and Theosophy and such modern-day oddities as J.W. Dunne's An Experiment With Time (1927) (another book Heinlein referenced explicitly in his writings). [Note 19]
Heinlein may or may not have been a formal initiate himself, but the figure of the Initiate and his Preceptor/Guide appear so commonly in his writing that his leading explicators to date, George Edgar Slusser and Leon Stover, have felt compelled to build their primary interpretations around this figure. Unfamiliar with hermetic sources, they appeal to a Christian frame of reference and call it a figure of the Calvinist Elect. [Slusser, 1975; Stover 1987] Heinlein, though, makes very un-Christian use of the figure, combining the Initiate and his Guide with a female figure to whom the Initiate (but never the Guide) may or may not be married. In hermetic terms, the male and female make up two parts of the same, originally hermaphroditic soul. [Note 20] The male principle is that of Will; the female that of Intellect ("The Intellect is the female principle of the soul." Meditations on the Tarot -- Journey into Christian Hermeticism, 4). To this primal diad is joined the Wisdom-figure as the esoteric "arcanum" or "word of power" (compare Emerson's "bird of power") that fructifies will and intellect.
This triad is, for Heinlein, a personally significant figure of completeness, active and fruitful in the world. Again and again, the triad comes together and the story begins ("The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag," The Puppet Masters) or the plot line is expressed as a series of interlinked triads (Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress), or three beings come together in one mind (I Will Fear No Evil) or three individuals are the same body (Time Enough for Love).
Heinlein's illuminated individuals join or form "secret societies" who work for the betterment of humankind, a clear evocation of the esoteric "White Brotherhood" (in the western traditions) or society of Mahatmas (in the eastern traditions). He begins writing of conventionally esoteric secret societies guiding human evolution, as in the community of the illuminated that includes Ambrose Bierce in "Lost Legacy," but Heinlein both secularizes and modernizes the concept by 1949 in "Gulf" and 1950 in The Puppet Masters. Now the secret society of the elect/initiated/illuminated guard the mass of unevolved humanity from technological terrors and alien invaders. [Note 21] This figure was explicitly to be brought forward with a further analysis in Friday (1982), in which the White Brotherhood is broken up, and the initiatic superman must find self-actualization in the cultivation of his (her) own garden.
Heinlein also expresses his affinity for the hermetic and to the tradition of American Transcendentalist thought (both are expressions of the Idealist philosophical tradition) in the maxim from Stranger in a Strange Land, "Thou Art God" and "All that groks is God." These formulations express the difficult hermetic idea that the whole of creation is suffused by intellect. Ralph Waldo Emerson discussed the idea as all human beings are tendrils of the One Being inserted into time, going so far as to say a single blood rushes in the veins of all humankind. ["The Over-Soul," 276] Heinlein touches the idea in 1941 in "They" and, much more extensively in Stranger (1961).
Heinlein's explorations of esoteric and initiatic sources are much more extensive than the treatments of the same materials found in Cabell, and yet, at the same time, more general and theoretical. Moreover, Heinlein confronts ands returns to the question of power with a significant difference. The hermetic theory of magic is based on the concept of Will expressed in Reality. The practices that develop the Will initially are those that cause a practitioner to rise out of his state of animal humanity; continued practice, however, causes the practitioner to leave humanity behind -- become a superman (in the religious sense) and remove from human ken. As Cabell sees Prospero condemned to choose between his island and the administration of Milan, Heinlein approaches power and turns it back on itself, to avoid its excessive cost, choosing always to side with and within his humanity. Waldo attains the power of the "other world" to cure his severe case of myasthenia gravis -- but its main effect is to cure his equally severe case of misanthropy. He attains the real-world ideal of superlative talent combined with the love of his fellowman. "Joe Green" (of "Gulf") refuses his election to Homo novis and his erstwhile initiatic guide, Hartley Baldwin, comes, decades later, to agree with him. In Friday (1982), we learn that Baldwin abandoned the supermen of "Gulf." He struggles with his last energies to hold the vision together in the midst of decay and dissolution.
Yet power has charm and allure for Heinlein -- it is the means of the "social engineering" that attracts him so strongly. There is a definite approach-avoidance in Heinlein of the relationship of the initiate to the mass of humanity. Heinlein chooses to dwell on the cusp; he chooses to be human and more than merely human at the same time.
It is a fraught fact that both Cabell and Heinlein exhibit what might loosely be called an "anagogic impulse," [Note 22] which results in containing, not merely the world(s) of their fables, but the whole of external reality, as well, within themselves as artists. Cabell jumbles together the µ of unrelated myths, and is king and master in each. He is, as Gerald Musgrave, master of the Third Truth (as Pan is the master of the Two Truths [Jurgen]). Whatever truth Cabell might have had in mind for Something About Eve, the phrase irresistably recalls the Aristotelian two truths of being and non-being, for which myth is a tertium quid. In Heinlein, the anagogic "epiphany" of the World As Myth books sees all powerful mythopoeic fictions as co-equal with each other and with "objective" reality -- and himself as author as the Beast (antichrist) of the biblical Book of Revelations.
These anagogic impulses, directed to non-literary ends, must be an essential part of the mental apparatus of the magic-user in the hermetic and esoteric traditions. It may, in fact, be the factor that marks the difference between the religious hermetic and the "practical magic" user. But in Cabell and in Heinlein, the anagogic impulse is turned to the mythopoeic, µ-creating. For them, literature is the true and personal practice of hermetic and esoteric magic, which replaces initiatic membership in a secret society. Cabell seems to have reached this conclusion explicitly, if certain cryptic and ambiguous remarks in Beyond Life are correctly read. The issue may never have risen for Heinlein, never, apparently, a formal initiate. [Note 23] But he comes to the same practical conclusion. His fictive parables are the world-in-great, and his vision -- his Will -- is made manifest in the world of consensus reality.
The hermetic references in Cabell may have formed for Heinlein the basis for a special affinity, but the esoteric and initiatic material in Heinlein is not derived and must therefore be considered a parallel treatment rather than use of Cabell as a source.
3.2. The Emergence of Explicit Cabellian References -- Middle Years
Following World War II, Heinlein seems to have been completely reconciled to his career as a businessman-writer. Slighting references to the insignificance of his stories disappear from his correspondence. They are "product," tailored by a "professional prophet" to his readership. Even if he had any inclination to introduce Cabellian material, there was little opportunity to do so in any of the new markets Heinlein now penetrated, for Cabell's star had faded decades earlier, and Cabell himself had turned to more mundane matters.
Heinlein's writing until 1958 was dominated by his series of annual "boys' books" for Scribners. From his third book on (1949), he was engaged in a censorship struggle with his editor at Scribners, the childrens' writer Alice Dalgliesh. By 1953 he expressed disgust with the process of writing -- not for adolescents, but for juvenile editors. [as an example of the recurring complaint, see letter from Robert Heinlein to Lurton Blassingame dated 10/8/54, Grumbles at 69] But the series' very success militated against him. The string of options kept him chained to Scribners.
The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy ran a series of full-page ads in newspapers across the country in early 1958, urging unilateral cessation of nuclear testing. Incensed, Heinlein broke off writing to conduct a counter-campaign. When the campaign ended (unsuccessfully: President Eisenhower unilaterally suspended nuclear testing), Heinlein wrote a polemical, anti-communist novel, Starship Troopers, in the form of a serious examination of the meaning of citizenship. He submitted it to Scribners as the thirteenth in his juvenile series. The Scribners' editorial board rejected it unanimously, thereby breaking their string of options. Heinlein's agent took the book to Putnam's (who were frankly eager to get a series of Heinlein juveniles of their own). The book sold hugely, won many awards, and generated controversy which has not died down after forty years.
Heinlein was now free from the straitjacket of juvenile editorial constraints. He could write his own stories, his own way, and sell them (or not), on their own merits. It was a unique situation in his writing career.
His first project was his "Cabellian satire of religion and sex" that he had been fiddling with since 1949.
3.2.1 Stranger in a Strange Land, a "Cabellian" Satire
Stranger in a Strange Land was published in 1961, after a twelve-year gestation period. It had been conceived in 1949 (or possibly late in 1948; the date is not certain in Mrs. Heinlein's recollection) as a twist on Kipling's Mowgli story - a human raised by Martians. It was to be a menippean satire using the alien eyes of Valentine Michael Smith to view and critique the two most sacred cows of contemporary western society - monogamy and a personal god. [Letter by Robert Heinlein to Lurton Blassingame dated 10/21/60. Grumbles, 228] A definite echo of Cabellian concerns lies in the thesis statement, if only in the factors that had made Jurgen important to the 22-year old midshipman, and was to continue to be important to the writer, aet. 77.
Heinlein had worked on the Stranger manuscript on four occasions during the 1950's, but the work did not "jell," and he put the manuscript away. He had picked it up again in 1958 when the SANE ad appeared and derailed his train of thought. Perhaps he had known, in the earlier attempts at the book, that it could not be published if he wrote it as he had in mind. Now, however, the social climate was visibly changing. The success of the Grove Press issues of Lawrence and Burroughs toward the end of the decade heralded a loosening of social values. By 1959, Heinlein's satire was -- at least marginally -- publishable. He finished the book as a declaration of artistic independence. His agent showed it first to Putnam's, and they wanted the book - if only he would take out all the sex and the religion. Heinlein pointed out that there would be no story without the sex and the religion: it was a book framed around miracles. The correspondence among Heinlein, his agent (Lurton Blassingame) and the editors at Putnam's published in Grumbles from the Grave [fl. 225-233] is highly illuminating as to Heinlein's thought processes and intentions for the book. It was in this correspondence that Heinlein called Stranger "a Cabellian satire of religion and sex." Heinlein thus is seen as regarding Cabell as in some sense a source or inspiration, or perhaps a formal exemplar for Stranger in a Strange Land. But it is difficult to find specifically Cabellian elements in Stranger. There are Cabellian affinities, to be sure - the hermetic and initiatic material surfaces in full force here, aligning both Cabell's and Heinlein's view of the role of sex in human existence -- but Heinlein is more concerned with elaborating the esoteric material on the religious significance of the Superman concept which is found in Ouspensky's Tertium Organum and A New Model of the Universe, filtered through the Christ variant of the hero story. [Thornton, 12]
Stranger in a Strange Land has been analyzed as a formally grotesque novel [Panshin], as a fictionalized religious tract [Blish], or as a "subverted" novel of adventure and Bildung [Slusser 1976], but these analyses are widely mistaken as to genre, for the book bears all the classic hallmarks of a menippean satire. Two of its prosodic models - Swift's Gulliver's Travels and Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy - are referenced explicitly in the text. There are also fainter echoes of Voltaire's Candide, in the panglossian Dr. Jubal Harshaw, though no one views this as a "best of all possible worlds" and the cultivation of one's own garden here bears distinctly missionary implications.
It is curious that Rabelais is not mentioned as a source reference, for Heinlein had long known Gargantua and Pantagruel and had repeatedly referenced it in earlier writings. The sexual content of Stranger would seem to call for a reference to Rabelais - but Heinlein preferred to reference another sexual satirist, James Branch Cabell.
The extra-textual reference to a "Cabellian satire" is, thus, doubly puzzling, for Cabell's satires were not regarded as formally innovative or even as exemplary works in the same way as Candide or Gulliver's Travels - or The True History, for that matter. But as Heinlein cannot be expected to have been aware of the scholarly work on the genre which had only recently begun to appear (led by Northrop Frye's Anatomy of Criticism in 1957), this remark can only sensibly be interpreted as intending that Heinlein personally regarded Cabell's satires - and particularly Jurgen - as exemplary. Cabell had significantly helped form Heinlein's vision of the genre. Stranger was "not science fiction" as Jurgen was not a PreRaphaelite Medieval fantasy. Heinlein referred to Stranger as a "fairy story," and its opening words are "Once upon a time, when the world was young, there was a Martian named Smith." Above all, Heinlein owed Cabell for the dense layering of sources they both practiced -- a practice which prepares a practitioner above all for the making of satires.
Heinlein's personal exemplum of Cabell is likely to lie in Cabell's "dualistic" use of irony. The common definition of irony is to say one thing, yet mean (or indicate) another -- as Swift does not intend to suggest that Irish babies be fattened for English tables in "A Modest Proposal," though that is what he says. Nevertheless, there is -- and must necessarily be -- an element of intention even in the "disowned" statement (else it could not be recognized). Swift observes that then-current policy toward the Irish treats them like "cattle." Ironic inversion drops the simile. Swift then performs a reductio ad absurdum to arrive at his ironic thesis.
Cabell, Arvin Wells notes in Jesting Moses, has a (neo-Platonic) philosophical framework with irony built into it: man lives in the material world of domestic comforts, but his values derive from the ideal world of romance. As his comedy, simultaneously affirms the need for the ideal, and yet its ultimate failure in the face of man's material nature, so Cabell forged a uniquely dualistic form of irony, which says one thing, indicates another, and "means" them both.
"Irony, then, is not a matter of saying the opposite of what is meant; it is a means of saying more than one thing at a time . . . the irony to which Cabell subjects human illusions . . . merely demonstrates that man participates in more than one realm of being." [Wells, 43]
Cabell's dualistic irony was to be a shaping tool of Stranger. Heinlein builds the frame of his story around the Christ variant of the hero-tale (as John Barth, a few years later, built Giles, Goat Boy around the Oedipus Tyrannus variant of the hero-tale). The formal patterns of the Christ story are necessarily "true" for storytelling purposes -- yet the satiric thrust of Stranger challenges the notion of a personal god, proposing instead the Hindu/hermetic proposition, Thou art God -- "all that groks is God." The antinomy of ideas is expressed in the capital "G" of god, for the Thou which is God is not the Jahweh monotheistic one-god, but the One Reality of the Emersonian Over-Soul. It is on this point that Heinlein builds a synthesis of Christian (+Jewish + Muslim) and hermetic and Hindu religious thinking -- he dualistically affirms both "sides."
In the interplay of this Cabellian dualistic affirmation, Heinlein achieves some quite elegant satiric effects. With regard to the sacrament of the Eucarist, for example, he finds and dissects away layers of cloaking symbolism in traditional Christian dogma, concealing the ritual cannibalism that is the essence of the rite ("take, eat: this is my body.") For his satirical religion, Heinlein demystifies the rite by having his (Martian) cannibalism baldly and raw:
"I couldn't see why, if people were hungry, some of them didn't volunteer to be butchered to that the rest could eat . . . [in original] on Mars this is obvious -- and an honor." [Stranger, 510]
Ironic inversion results in a statement of bare fact, and Heinlein is thus able to enlist the American frontier tradition of plain speaking in support of his satiric religion -- producing a comic dissonance that heightens the satiric effect.
The circular pattern of Stranger also owes something to Cabell. Cabell has remarked that he deliberately structured the books of the biography as returns, or returns with variations to the beginning situation, as Manuel in "death" returns to the Pool at Haranton. [Figures of Earth at 353, et seq. Chapter 40, "Colophon: Da Capo."] Stranger begins with the deaths of the first Martian expedition and the birth of Valentine Michael Smith; it ends with the death of Valentine Michael Smith and the presumed birth of a new world order. Tarrant's discussion of the nature of myth [at 14] suggests that Cabell's persistent use of the circular pattern may be attributed to the cosmic character of myth itself, that embraces all of existence within itself by subsuming the circular natural pattern of birth, death, and rebirth. As the Christ story is itself a variant of the dying-god solar myth, so Jurgen and Gerald Musgrave are solar myths, and so is Valentine Michael Smith.
Stranger sold only moderately well in its initial release. In 1963, sales began to pick up by virtue of word of mouth recommendations, principally among college students. By 1968, its neologism "grok" had so penetrated pop culture that it was being used in advertising by a Canadian telephone company, and the water-sharing ritual and jargon was routinely and widely used in the emerging Counterculture. To some extent, the Counterculture constructed itself around Stranger as a seed crystal. So prevalent were references to Stranger that incidental usage among Charles Manson's "family" was picked up by the news media and blown out of proportion (though Manson appears never to have read the book, and the prosecutor for the 1972 trial investigated the claim of influence and dismissed it as insubstantial [Stover Jan. 1998]). Stranger in a Strange Land had become one of the most influential books in American history, comparable in its impact to Uncle Tom's Cabin or The Jungle.
Glory Road - a Cabellian Comedy
Heinlein's 1963 novel Glory Road is ostensibly an essay in the sword-and-sorcery genre that was then coming back into vogue. Sword-and-sorcery is a subset of the heroic/quest fantasy form conventionalized by pulp writers such as Robert E. Howard, in which warriors and magic-users band together to combat warriors and magic-users. At the time Glory Road was published, pirated paperback editions of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings were enthusiastically circulating among college students in the U.S. The popularity of the sub-genre has continued to accelerate over the intervening decades, moving out of print and into role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, and films of extremely variable quality.
It would have been wildly uncharacteristic of Heinlein to write a story that conforms to the narrow conventions of the field, and, indeed, he did not. He enlarged the possibilities of the genre by writing his sword-and-sorcery story as a Cabellian comedy -- and he takes Cabell's own cue by making it a "fairy story" (i.e., an allegorical fable), as well.
Cabell explicitly stated the form of the Cabellian comedy in several places, most notably in the Epistle Dedicatory (which became the Storisende edition preface) to The Lineage of Lichfield.
"For I do not find the comedy ever to be much altered in its essentials . . . The first act is the imagining of the place where contentment exists and may be come to; and the second act reveals the striving toward, and the third act the falling short of, that shining goal, or else (the difference here being negligible) the attaining of it, to discover that happiness, after all, abides a thought farther down the bogged, rocky, clogged, befogged, heart-breaking road, if anywhere. That is the comedy which, to my finding, . . . the life I write about has enacted over and over again on every stage between Poictesme and Lichfield." [quoted in Van Doren at 62]
Heinlein joins his warrior -- a disillusioned veteran of a Southeast Asian conflict (in 1963!) -- "Scar" (instead of "Flash") Gordon -- to the geomantic "Star" (cf. Etarre), a "white witch," and they go off adventuring in quest of first marriage and then "the Egg of the Phoenix." Betimes, the context of their adventures widens for the Hero, and he discovers that his adventures are science fictional, after all, and not those of a fantasy. The Egg is the data core of a unique teaching machine, a super-high-tech artifact, rather than a magical talisman. Heinlein has taken [Sir] Arthur Clarke's dictum that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" to make a story of the type named by science fiction fan Walt Liebscher a "gay deceiver" -- a story of apparently fantastic doings given, at the end, a mundane explanation. The "mundane" is here a matter of relatives. Star's geomancy -- indeed, all her "magic" -- is explained as an application of super-high-order mathematics (geometry) (a subject with which Heinlein has been preoccupied since at least high high school years and which has figured in a number of his stories -- e.g., inter alia, "Pied Piper," "'And He Built a Crooked House--'," Starman Jones, Tunnel in the Sky, Stranger in a Strange Land).
Star is not only the magic-user of the sword-and-sorcery form; she is also the conventional "damsel" (princess) in distress of the fairy-tale form -- or, rather, she is the Empress of the Twenty Universes, and the Egg is her teacher, for it contains, and she must assimilate, the combined "wisdom" of all her predecessors in that office.
The story pivots at the capture of the Egg in a way which is particularly Cabellian, for it focuses now on the marriage, as Cabell was ever wont to do -- but with Heinlein's own, unique twist. Star is content in the power and glory of her administration, but Oscar now feels like a fifth wheel when the domestic virtues of judgment and administration are wanted, and not heroics. He decides, ultimately, to offer his services to anyone in need of a hero, to take up again the Glory Road. Scar Gordon thus returns to his starting situation, and the Glory Road assumes its place as myth and archetype.
Thus Glory Road is not merely "a" Cabellian comedy, it is a reply, in Heinlein's own terms, to a specific Cabellian comedy -- Something About Eve. Oscar Gordon is not Gerald Musgrave, pottering with visitors in Maya's domestic comfort of Mispec Moor. Heinlein does not share Cabell's fatalistic notion that hero-artists necessarily fall from their pursuit of the ideal into the arms of Maya, Sereda, or even Her Wisdom Star. This seems to be Heinlein's central disagreement with Cabell, and it is pervasive through his corpus. The compromise (of which Mispec Moor is an anagram) would not appeal to a Hero in the first place. Heinlein seems to rejoin, indirectly, that this particular compromise with domestic usage is bourgeois, and not either gallant or chivalric. Even less is it the compromise of an artist -- the route Scar Gordon chooses. As Tolkein was contemporaneously assuring American college students, "the road goes ever on and on."
Heinlein knew precisely what he was doing and why. When his first editor wanted to cut the last hundred pages from the manuscript -- the Cabellian third act, after the capture of the Egg -- Heinlein protested:
". . . I am not interested in his offer . . . What I do object to is that he wants me simply to chop off the last hundred pages.
"If I do this, what is left is merely a sexed up fairy story, with no meaning and no explanations. I do not want this story published in such an amputated form. . . I am quite unwilling simply to chop the story off at the point where they capture the Egg of the Phoenix. It leaves the story without meaning." [Grumbles, letter of RAH to Lurton Blassingame dated 9/30/62, pp 170-171]
The "meaning" of the story is in the finding that " happiness, after all, abides a thought farther down the bogged, rocky, clogged, befogged, heart-breaking road, if anywhere." Without the third act of the Cabellian comedy, the story is left "without meaning." Heinlein's intention is clearly a Cabellian comedy. He is standing deliberately apart from the genre conventions at which his editor is aiming. He has no interest in writing a marketable, highly commercial "sexed up fairy story." He is aiming, as would become gradually more clear, at a higher art.
3.2.3 More Cabellian Comedies
The form of the Cabellian comedy continued to dominate Heinlein's subsequent work. Farnham's Freehold, his next novel, was an inversion of the comedic formula, as it was a cautionary inversion of genre conversions of an optimistic future. In direct response to the Cuban Missile Crisis, Heinlein portrays a nightmare future in which the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction has eliminated the civil values of western civilization from the earth. The "bogged, rocky, clogged, befogged, heart-breaking road" that led Hugh Farnham into the nightmare, leads him out and back to the situation at the beginning -- another Cabellian "turn" to the story, as Cabell always arranged his stories as returns da capo to the beginning.
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966), too, shows the Cabellian stamp in its bittersweet ending: the Lunar revolution succeeds -- at a tremendous personal cost for Manny O'Kelly Garcia, the narrator -- but the values of liberty were even during his lifetime being nibbled to death by ducks. By the time Heinlein revisits Manny's Luna, to rescue the sentient computer that ran and won the revolution, by a trick of time travel (The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, (1985)), Luna Free State is free in name only. The goal has been achieved -- but the ideals of liberty are still to be pursued and, perhaps, never achieved.
Heinlein's middle period of Cabellian influence ends in 1973 with another masterwork, Time Enough for Love, a huge anatomy that turns on the Cabellian return to the starting situation -- in a way richer, perhaps, than Cabell himself ever achieved. The novel which concludes the book is (sub)titled "Da Capo" and is thus the culmination of the Future History planned in 1939. The title had been listed without explanation on publications of the Future History chart in the 1950s (though not on its 1941 publication in Astounding). In the light of hindsight, it is possible to reason that Heinlein had intended "Da Capo" to be a time-travel return of Lazarus Long to his own beginnings (thus showing a possible Cabellian preoccupation in about 1950). But, written in 1972, it was doubtless vastly different in its details than the original conception.
Time Enough for Love is ostensibly structured loosely around an evocation of The Thousand Nights and a Night, with the frame device of the autobiographical reminiscences of a two-thousand-year-old Lazarus Long during a rejuvenation providing a matrix for stories of various lengths that demonstrate how Long learned -- through his own experience and that of others -- what was truly important. Although the book appears to echo the major theme of George Bernard Shaw's Back To Methuselah: a Metabiological Pentateuch (1921), Heinlein has said he was not aware of referencing Shaw [Schulman, 91]. The book does extensively reference Vincent McHugh's Caleb Catlum's America (1936), the story of another "redeemer," red-haired and long-lived.
The decade of the 1970's was as close to a "fallow" period as Heinlein ever experienced. Late in 1969 he had completed the initial draft of a book that attempted a radical reformation of science fiction. I Will Fear No Evil (1970) took the hoary sci-fi chestnut of a brain transplant and eliminated from it the mad scientist element on which pulp treatments had turned. Instead, it focused on the body and mind personalities (a concept on which his 1940 short story "Successful Operation" was based and which seems to have been drawn from P.D. Ouspensky's Tertium Organum (1912, 1932)). This was Heinlein in dialog with the developmental state of science fiction at the time -- a major statement in the esthetic controversy of the time loosely called the "New Wave." [Note 24]
A very serious illness brought Heinlein close to death in 1970. He spent nearly two years recuperating and then brought out Time Enough for Love (1973), the first of a series of books an order of magnitude more complex than anything previously written in the field. At the age of 65, when most people are at the end of their creative lives, Heinlein exhibited a "growth spurt." Every work that followed was to have the same degree of complexity as did Stranger in a Strange Land, the product of twelve years of meditation -- and, taken together, they make up a work more complex yet.
The da capo return of Time Enough for Love naturally suggests that structural myth is being marshalled, but Russell Letson holds that this represents a "psychoanalytic return," and that TEFL represents a kind of self-analysis and psychoanalytic "healing." [Letson, 208, 212-215] In light of the biographical events that preceded TEFL, such a introspection would not be surprising -- but the tools are those of symbolical philosophy rather than psychoanalysis.
The remainder of the decade was devoted to several non-science fiction projects -- blood drives, two exhaustively-researched articles for the Compton (Encyclopedia) Yearbook, Congressional testimony on space technology spinoffs benefitting the aged and the disabled -- and a novel never released for publication.
3.3 The World As Myth Books
Cabell began writing in 1901, but it was not until about 1917 or 1918 that the philosophical conception of the Biography -- mediated, as we have seen, by a hermetic/initiatic experience of some kind -- occurred to him. It gave him a way to bring all the divers fictions he had written -- of chivalry and gallantry and contemporary correlates -- into a coherent esthetic and philosophical unity. It would guide his creative life -- of fiction and of exegetics -- until its completion in 1930.
Heinlein began writing in 1939. He, too, discovered later a philosophical concept that would unify all his diverse fictions into a grand esthetic cosmogony. It, too, rose out of hermetic/initiatic material.
The World As Myth emerged in 1980 with The Number of the Beast, a complex and referential work replete with anagrams, a work that deliberately flouts the conventions. The Beast was the author himself, pushing and pursuing his multiple-viewpoint protagonists through their own cosmos and touching on a near-infinity of others, from Baum's Oz to Burroughs' Mars to Jimmy Carter's United States, finally to rest in the Tellus Tertius of Lazarus Long, a direct reference to his most recent book, Time Enough for Love (1973).
The Number of the Beast (1980) takes up, in a sense, where Heinlein left off. It begins with a scene that evokes E.E. Smith's Lensman series -- specifically Gray Lensman -- and rapidly catapults his multiple viewpoint protagonists into the six to the sixth to the sixth of possible universes, pursued by the "Black Hats." They link up with Lazarus Long, and the World As Myth series, though not yet so named, is set in motion.
The concept seems to grow out of a passing reference in Time Enough for Love. When the sentient spaceship Dora is asked how she manages time travel, she replies that she must choose a time-axis coordinate at which to emerge into space-time, as well as the three spatial coordinates. [TEFL, 239] This n-dimensional geometry is a subject to which Heinlein has returned repeatedly from the very earliest days of his writing ("Elsewhen," "Pied Piper"). At times it is a shaping conception, as in Starman Jones (1953) and Between Planets (1951); at other times, it is an incidental element of the "furniture" of a story, as in Stranger in a Strange Land, where Michael turns people, guns, and other miscellanea "ninety degrees from everything." In The Number of the Beast, the theory is worked out in detail and combined with other material in a fascinating way.
The key to comprehending the theory of The Number of the Beast and the rest of the World As Myth books is the Number of the Beast of the biblical Book of Revelations, 666, the symbol of a specific person, as it is geometrized to (66)6. The general notion of multiple, parallel (or almost parallel) time tracks seems to derive from J.W. Dunne's An Experiment With Time (1927). Dunne proposed the idea in the context of his discussion of "forerunners" (precognitive dreams). The mind dissociates from the space-time framework of the body and can visit alternate, parallel realities. [Note 25]
Heinlein had specifically referenced Dunne by name in "Elsewhen" (written 1939, published 1941). In that same story, P.D. Ouspensky is also referenced by name. Both Ouspensky and Dunne treat the theory of time in a geometrical way and make similar assumptions about consciousness subsisting in "higher" dimensions. But Dunne makes all of his demonstrations from the viewpoint of a fifth dimension (a second, higher time dimension). Dunne's "picture" of time dimensionality makes use of only two time dimensions (nested in an infinity of time dimensions, by a process of infinite regress); it is from Ouspensky that Heinlein derived the specific geometric theory of The Number of the Beast and the World As Myth books with their three time dimensions.
Ouspensky, a Russian journalist-turned-philosopher-mystic, is best known as a popularizer of the Fourth Way religious/mystical/philosophical system of Gurdjieff. But in the years before meeting Gurdjieff, he published his own system in Tertium Organum (1912, rev. 1932), a synthesis of analytical philosophy, theoretical physics, and various occult and esoteric disciplines. It was a rich mixture, and Heinlein was to draw extensively on Tertium Organum and its 1934 companion, A New Model of the Universe.
Ouspensky builds up his geometric theory from Kant's critical idealism as a foundation. Consciousness, he explains, is a phenomenon of a higher dimension than our four-dimensional spacetime. Nor is the four dimensional spacetime with which we are familiar the only one such: just as there are three spatial dimensions, so there are three time dimensions, each with its own panoply of space dimensions -- so there are actually six dimensions of possible spacetimes -- 66 possibilities for unique spacetimes, of which we inhabit one. [New Model of the Universe, passim, but see 380] Consciousness, a phenomenon of the seventh dimension, can experience (66)6 modes of spacetime and consciousness. Thus, the Number of the Beast of the Biblical Book of Revelations. As Cabell identifies himself with Horvendile, the demiurge of the Biography, Heinlein identifies himself with the Beast, the anagrammatic names of the villains and servants working out to variant versions of his own name and pseudonyms, and, in one case, that of his wife. The author is the enemy of his protagonists precisely because he is Cabell's Cosmic Romancer who pushes and manipulates his characters for his own dramatic purposes.
The central "device" of the World As Myth series is introduced in The Number of the Beast: the Burroughs Continuum Craft, also known as the "Irrelevancy Bus," a traveler from spacetime to spacetime among the (66)6 possible spacetimes. Many, they discover, are "realities" described by fabulists -- the Oz of L. Frank Baum, the Mars of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Lensman universe(s) of E.E. Smith (and, we discover in another book, the Twenty Universes managed by Her Wisdom Star), finally meeting the Lazarus Long of Time Enough for Love and Methuselah's Children. The Future History per se has been brought to its natural (and Cabellian) end by Lazarus Long's da capo return to his beginning. Natural Man has healed himself and made himself whole. What lies beyond is a near-infinity of experience. In a deliciously ironic commentary on the Beast's longstanding feud with his over-eager fans, Heinlein concludes The Number of the Beast with what is recognizably a science fiction convention with invitees from many different dimensions -- his colleagues in Heinlein's own here-and-now, and Heinlein himself, it seems, included. And he takes appropriate revenge for Cabell as well as for himself by installing literary critics in a special lounge without an exit, presided over by that ultimate art critic of demiurges, Jonathan Hoag (but, like Dante's Hell, there is a way to the heaven of the convention even from the depths of the Critics' Lounge -- only usable by a critic who can actually read what he criticizes. It is an escape not expected to be used).
The Burroughs Irrelevancy crew devise an explanation for the fabulists' universes they experienced, tricked out with the jargon of quantum mechanics and particle physics: there are "fictons" shaped by the creative imagination of mythopoeic writers [TNOTB 294]. The theory is restated by Jubal Harshaw in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (1985):
"Hilda discovered what none of us had noticed before because we were inside it: The World is Myth. We create it ourselves -- and we change it ourselves. A truly strong myth-maker, such as Homer, such as Baum, such as the creator of Tarzan, creates substantial and lasting worlds . . . whereas the fiddlin', unimaginative liars and fabulists shape nothing new and their tedious dreams are forgotten. On this observed fact, Richard -- not religion but verifiable fact -- is based the world of the Circle of Ouroboros." [360]
Shorn of the jargon, Ouspensky explicitly states the demiurgic theory:
"If the fourth dimension exists while we possess only three, it means that we have no real existence, that we exist only in somebody's imagination, and that all our thoughts, feelings, and experiences take place in the mind of some other higher being, who visualizes us. We are but products of his mind and the whole of our universe is but an artificial one created by his fantasy " [New Model, 80]
"The whole of our life actually consists of phenomena of the 'seventh dimension,' that is, of phenomena of fictitious possibility, fictitious importance, and fictitious value. " [New Model, 380]
And Ouspensky's n-dimensional geometry, with its cascades of power triggered by the thought-phenomena of poets, is itself a mathematical justification for a very ancient precept of magic-working:
"When a man imagines he actively creates a form on the Astral or even on some higher plane; and this form is as real and objective to intelligent beings on that plane, as our earthly surroundings are to us . . . . The imagination unaided can create an image, and this image must have an existence of varying duration; yet it can do nothing of importance, unless vitalized and directed by the will." [Edward William Berridge, "Some Thoughts on the Imagination," Flying Roll #5 of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn quoted in Gilbert at 161]
Thus, in magic theory, every magic-worker -- and in Ouspensky and Cabell and in Heinlein every creative artist -- is a demiurge.
The Number of the Beast introduced the framework for a series of books, just as The Cream of the Jest foreshadowed the Poictesme books of Cabell. It is quite likely that Heinlein had not yet planned the subsequent books, any more than Cabell foreknew Jurgen, Figures of Earth, or The Silver Stallion at the time The Cream of the Jest was published. [Note 26] But The Number of the Beast began the process of unifying Heinlein's entire body of previous work into a coherent artistic unity.
Heinlein had already started the process by revisiting, as a mature artist, themes, ideas, devices he had first used as a beginner. The "Ramsbotham Gate" of Tunnel in the Sky (1955) and the Horst-Conrad drive of Between Planets (1951) and Starman Jones (1953) are all refinements of an Ouspenskyan device used first in "Pied Piper" (written in 1939, published 1942). Stranger in a Strange Land (1960) revisits some of the human-potential themes he laid out in "Lost Legacy" (written 1939, published 1941), and one story element -- the moral purging of a city -- is carried over almost without modification. I Will Fear No Evil (1970) revisits the (again, Ouspenskyan) notion of "Operation Successful" (1940) that personality resides in the whole tissues of the body, not simply in the brain. Friday (1982) continues the re-examination of his early body of work, explicitly referencing an important character of "Gulf" (1949) and opening with essentially the same spy-courier pursuit-and-escape dramatic movement. It returns also to the examination of racism and prejudice of Farnham's Freehold (1964). Farnham's Freehold had demonstrated that bigotry damages everyone it touches, but initially focused on the perpetrators. Friday turns to an examination of the damage done to the victim of the bigotry. Friday, the (female) protagonist, is a genetic superhuman, engineered from the genes of superior humans, including the "Joe Green" of "Gulf." Here, humanity has taken control of its own evolution and does not depend on the natural occurrence of "homo novis." But in the matrix of her society, such genetic constructs are hated and feared and oppressed. Friday has internalized the oppression. She thinks of herself as not fully human -- an "artificial person" -- and as a mere convenience for true humans, to such an extent that she views rape as merely a hazard of her occupation, not as violation of a self she is not allowed to possess. She is able to "pass" -- indeed, there is no way of telling the artificial person from a "true human" -- but sabotages her New Zealand line marriage (a device exploited previously in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress [1966]) by telling the truth about her origins when she discovers them practicing a conventional anti-Maori prejudice. Friday is thrown on her own resources when her professional sponsor and foster-father, the Hartley Baldwin of "Gulf," dies. Both of her "homes" have disintegrated, and she must build her life anew. She finds in a dangerously balkanized North America acceptance of herself as a person and as a human being and begins the process of self-healing in out-migration to the stars, which is reflected in giving up her profession as a courier (i.e., a convenience of others) and cultivating her own family.
It is not clear whether Friday is in the World As Myth series: it bears no obvious cross-reference to Lazarus Long -- but after The Number of the Beast, it does not need an explicit cross-reference. It may be that the World As Myth conception had not yet been fully worked out.
Heinlein's next work, Job: A Comedy of Justice (1983), combines some aspects of Jurgen with the controlling conception of his 1941 story, "They" (Unknown, April 1941) and the basic story structure of his 1942 novelet, "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag." In "They," an entity known only as "The Glaroon" manipulates reality -- constructing cities from scratch as stage props (an idea which may have been suggested by Ouspensky's Tertium Organum, 34, but which was also exploited in Theodore Sturgeon's nearly contemporaneous "Yesterday Was Monday," Unknown, June 1941). The Glaroon's purpose is to prevent his "subject" from recognizing and fulfilling his potential as a human/god, and he is bound by "The Treaty." "They" has been puzzlingly characterized as a solipsist paranoia (Panshin, 24), though the multiplicity of "players" in the game seems to rule out solipsism.
In Job, Alex Hergensheimer (surely an almost direct reference to Cabell's friend and colleague Joseph Hergesheimer) is forced into the same cosmic wager as was the Biblical Job and is wrenched from reality to reality, holding fast only to his Margrethe (a possible reference to Goethe's Faust). Alex's "mundivagance" may be referred to Jurgen's wandering from mythic reality to mythic reality. Alex and Margrethe are separated at the Last Trump. St. Alex ascends to the Heaven of Jurgen's grandmother and all low-protestant grandmothers, but the details are partially derived and partially built up from Mark Twain's Extracts from Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven (1909). But Heaven is not bliss without Margrethe -- an Odin-worshiping pagan not admitted to the Christian Heaven. Saint Alec, like Jurgen before him, journeys to Hell in search of his wife. But she is not in Hell, either. Lucifer/Satan is not the other player in this cosmic game. Satan himself -- whose principal persona is a wealthy Texas Cadillac salesman and investor (the lord of the underworld must necessarily be a plutocrat) -- is annoyed with his brother Jehovah's juvenile games and arranges for a judgment by the Big Boss, Mr. Koshchei. Odin and Loki, from the Norse pantheon, join them. Loki has been the other player in this wager.
Lucifer sets the context in terms of gallantry, with comments reminiscent of those of the conversation of Janicot-Lucifer and Archangel Michael in The High Place [297-8]:
"Mr. Chairman, almost everything about a human creature is ridiculous, except its ability to suffer bravely and die gallantly for whatever it loves and believes in . . . These are the uniquely human qualities, independent of mankind's creator, who has none of them himself -- and I know, since he is my brother . . . and I lack them, too." [368]
It is Alex's gallantry that prompted Lucifer's intervention in the wager between Jehovah and Loki. Mr. Koshchei renders his verdict on esthetic, not moral, grounds:
"There is an artistic principle -- not a rule -- that volitionals should be treated consistently. But to insist on kindness would be to eliminate that degree of freedom for which volition in creatures was invented. Without the possibility of tragedy the volitionals might as well be golems. . . . For a creature to act out its own minor art, the rules under which it acts must be either known to it or be such that the rules can become known through trial and error -- with error not always fatal. In short the creature must be able to learn and to benefit by its experience." [369]
Jahweh/Jehovah, rendered a Jewish God speaking dialect, protests, but he is arraigned on charges of inconsistent (i.e., "unjust") treatment for Margrethe and Alec -- setting up a lose-lose game. Koshchei rules that, ethically, Jahweh may do what he likes with his creatures; but he is governed by the esthetic laws of demiurgy:
"'Oy! Every prophecy I fulfilled! And now He tells me consistent I am not! This is justice?'
"'No. It is Art." [372]
This is the last word of the discussion.
Heinlein has analyzed Cabell's theories, set out in the exegetic "bookends" of the Biography, Beyond Life (1919) and Straws and Prayer Books (1924), dispensed with the frills and qualifications that mark Cabell a regionalist of Virginia in dialog with the genteel traditions of the South, and passed an artist's approving judgment on gallantry. The "justice" of Job's comedy is an esthetic judgment rendered against God himself.
As in "Unpleasant Profession," the couple is reunited by the gods and demiurges and returned to a comforting illusion with hot fudge sundaes, surrounded by good neighbors drawn from the hosts of the fallen angels of Paradise Lost. Saint Alex, scourge of the ungodly in his native timeline, has become something greater by virtue of his love for Margrethe: a useful citizen and a loving human being.
The connection of Job to The Number of the Beast (and, therefore, to the emerging World As Myth series) is somewhat clearer than that of Friday. On his own, much lower level of resources, Alex uses the same kind of research and reasoning to orient himself in each new spacetime (which may, considering the involvement of The Glaroon, be only continent-wide illusions) as do the continuum travelers of The Number of the Beast. Alex lives in a fabulist's cosmos conspicuously left out of The Number of the Beast -- one which references Jurgen's Mr. Koshchei. It is his human passion for his mate that redeems him -- an echo of the theme and message of Time Enough for Love. And he co-exists with The Glaroon, a creation of The Beast. The Glaroon is a scene changer of "They" and possible the Scene Changer of The Number of the Beast and the Future History World As Myth books. Thematically, Job is quite closely related to The Number of the Beast. In a sense, it is a continuation and extension of the esthetic argument of the earlier book, as it is a continuation and extension of its 1942 model, "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag."
Heinlein next turns the gallant-esthetic judgment of Job to the pragmatic matter of manners and mores. The Cat Who Walks Through Walls: A Comedy of Manners (1985) continues his analysis of gallantry as it continues the story line of The Number of the Beast. The protagonist, Col. Richard Ames, and his lifemate, Gwen, again travel through continua to unite with Lazarus Long, now primum inter pares rather than patriarch. A White Brotherhood has formed, Heinlein's own Lensmen: their Circle of Ouroboros is a counsel of heroes drawn from many spacetime continua, who supervise several timelines and make changes to the flow(s) of history. Ames, a child of Lazarus Long (unknowing), is resentfully manipulated into joining the Circle for a special project -- the rescue of one of Heinlein's most engaging characters, the sentient computer Mycroft Holmes of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, to join the sentient computers of Tellus Tertius in an even larger project known only as "Project Galactic Overlord." The Black Hats attack, and a confusing number of circles in time develop, with faint resonances of Heinlein's 1941 "By His Bootstraps." Ames and Gwen are killed in the assault. Gwen on her deathbed confesses to being Hazel Mead Stone (of The Rolling Stones (1952) and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966)). True to his innate gallantry, Ames, in Cabell's words, "accept[s] the pleasures of life leisurely and its inconveniences with a shrug" and dies. But the end is too reminiscent of Time Enough for Love, where Lazarus Long was killed. Ames and Gwen, we suspect, will be rescued by the medical science of Tellus Tertius -- a Valhalla nestled in the roots of Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life.
To Sail Beyond the Sunset: The Life and Loves of Maureen Johnson (Being the Memoirs of a Somewhat Irregular Lady), published on Heinlein's eightieth birthday (1987), turns from analysis of specific aspects of gallantry to a gallant critique of the twentieth century's cultural development during Heinlein's lifetime -- a fictional counterpart to the culture criticism included in Expanded Universe (1980). It revisits several situations of the Future History, from an interestingly different point of view. The "irregular lady" of the subtitle is Lazarus Long's mother. She visits her son as understudy for the pilot of the first moon rocket, and she sees the manipulations that deprive D. Delos Harriman of his control over the space travel he created as an insider, board member, and friend and sometime lover of George Strong, Harriman's friend and business partner of "The Man Who Sold the Moon" (1950).
A direct and unacknowledged circle in time has been created: the historical information the Lazarus Long of "Da Capo" (Time Enough for Love) gave his mother in 1914 was used by the Howard Foundation to invest profitably and to avoid financial pitfalls. In time it became strong enough to affect the flow of history and to make the Future History timeline, code-named Leslie LeCroix, take on the historical pattern Lazarus Long remembered and participated in -- a self-fulfilling "prophecy."
Mama Maureen joins her son's group-marriage on Tellus Tertius and becomes an operative of the Circle of Ouroboros. The bulk of this book is concerned with her personal expansion from a schoolgirl in nineteenth century Kansas City under the freethinking tutelage of her father, Dr. Ira Johnson, to a capable wife and mother, to a proud and wealthy philosopher-financier, to, finally, a Friday-like unlimited operative of the cross-universe Circle of Ouroboros. But the book is told as two converging story lines -- the operative-Maureen is dumped into an unfamiliar timeline, inconveniently entangled in the local politics by the Committee for Esthetic Deletions -- a secret society of the fatally ill or damaged who extract revenge on their oppressive society by Grand Guignol assassinations. The two story lines converge in another circle-in-time: Maureen is rescued by the Circle in time to miss having to make an assassination, and then goes on to pluck her father -- Ira Johnson -- from his death during World War II.
Heinlein died less than a year after the publication of To Sail Beyond the Sunset (May 8, 1988). He had not yet begun another book -- perhaps because of his illness. He had been hospitalized four times in the last year of his life and had to give up his custom-designed house in the country outside Santa Cruz to live closer to emergency medical facilities.
The last six of his books, from Time Enough to Love to To Sail Beyond the Sunset, seem to make a unified structure of some kind -- comparable in its scope to Cabell's Biography of the Life of Manuel -- but with its own dramatic arc governed by the conflict of the Circle of Ouroboros with the Black Hats and the Scene Changers. Even Friday, which contains no ostensible links to the Future History, may be a part of this larger super-novel, inasmuch as Friday and Maureen Johnson are both unlimited operatives of a White Brotherhood type of secret society. Friday's bildung concentrates on the process of psychological healing, whereas Maureen's is a more or less linear expansion of her personal scope, so that she winds up where Friday started but without the personal neuroses that crippled the genetic superman. This kind of mirror-symmetry, contrary motion is exactly the kind of structural motif one would expect to find in a large-scale argument. It is comparable to the contrast in the Biography of Jurgen's wisely passing by the sleeping Helen in her violet coverlet (Jurgen) with Florian de Puysange unwisely seeking to incorporate beauty and holiness into his everyday life (The High Place).
If Heinlein's last several books do constitute a super-novel comparable to Cabell's Biography, the Cabellian references in Job indicate that Heinlein intends this book -- which also contains no direct references to the Future History timeline -- as his own Jurgen, also a "Comedy of Justice." Its analysis of male-female love as transfigurative and redemptive is central to the conception of the whole structure.
The continuing analysis of gallantry in the Future History books (Time Enough for Love, The Number of the Beast, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls and To Sail Beyond the Sunset) has a linear development, expanding from a specific question, about the nature of command, to an all-inclusive critique of the social disintegration of the twentieth century. The argument seems completely developed in its existing tems.
The pattern of the whole "super-novel," however, is not complete. The dramatic conflict -- perhaps a gotterdämmerung -- of the Black Hats and Scene Changers with the Circle of Ouroboros has never gotten beyond the stage of skirmishes, and there is not yet any clear intelligence about the enemy. [Note 27]
Although there is no statement of the conceptual structure of the World As Myth comparable to Cabell's statement of the three attitudes toward life which govern the development of the Biography (unless it is hidden somewhere in Job, as yet undetected), certain of the "landmarks" in the stories may have been intended as resonant structures, as the contrary-motion and mirror symmetry of Friday and To Sail Beyond the Sunset create a resonant structure.
4. Conclusion
Throughout his long writing career, Heinlein has confronted the issue of power and its cost in terms of isolation from the human community. He has rejected power in favor of community, as Thorby rejects his financial and commercial power in favor of the X-Corps' continuing battle against commercial slavery in Citizen of the Galaxy; and as Waldo rejects his isolation to dwell again among men. But Heinlein has been building community for fifty years. If he concluded, as did Cabell, that fiction writing was his own personally-proper form of magic-working, then the World As Myth books may have been his personal grand working, a way of achieving transcendence through community.
Cabell's theories so saturate and penetrate Heinlein's ideation that they shape the small no less than the great. When Heinlein gratuitously and peculiarly, yet plangently, suggests that the story fault of his "No Bands Playing, No Flags Flying--" [Expanded Universe, 243] is that it recounts a true event, he is recapitulating Cabell's identification of Romance and the Demiurge in Beyond Life -- the depiction of "men as they are" is "the one unpardonable sin against art and human welfare" [21], as against the romantic depiction of men "as they ought to be."
Nevertheless, it is important to recall that Heinlein presents us, in terms of his sources and influences with a rope of many strands and the strength of the whole is in the multiplicity of the strands. To lift one strand out and examine it has two immediate effects: it magnifies the relative importance out of proportion to its place in the whole; and it weakens the whole. For all the good and interesting use Heinlein made of his encounter with Cabell, he was not a disciple or even a "Cabell minor." Rather, he used Cabellian materials to make his own figure in the world, and in so doing he has given the Biography of the Life of Manuel a Life of its own, flowing into literary history.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery -- but in literature, transformation is the only form of progeny.
1. Apologies are owing to the shades of Cal Laning (d. 1990) and Robert Heinlein (d. 1988). This account is a fictional stew made from a very few factual oysters. The known facts are: (1) Laning and Heinlein were classmates at the USNA (1925-1929); (2) they formed a lifelong friendship based initially on their mutual admiration for Twain; (3) they informally performed "1603"; and (4) Laning introduced Heinlein to Jurgen in 1929. This fictionalized scene is made up from such slender materials.
2. The size of the Biography is confusingly given as either eighteen or nineteen volumes. Cabell himself thought of it as a double dizain: "The Biography is in twenty parts, since the Music [From Behind the Moon] and The Jewel Merchants must count as separate performances . . . all must stay in eighteen volumes." (Letter to Warren MacNeill dated 3/24/28, Wagenknecht, 149) The body of the Biography was published in eighteen volumes in the uniform, Storisende edition of 1927-1930. However, the prefaces to the Storisende edition were collected separately as The Past As Prolog and published in 1936, bringing the total of the Biography to nineteen volumes.
3. Heinlein was quite serious; he was not dealing in stories that would not have happened except for their technical content (Theodore Sturgeon's exact but rather narrow definition of science fiction); rather, he was engaged in writing "[his] own stuff, [his] own way" and intended to respect no trammels whatsoever. He knew and respected science fiction, and had written quite a lot of it in his own day, but it was not, to his way of thinking, what he was engaged in after 1959.
4. There is a certain historical irony in this re-issue, which might have pleased Mr. Cabell's sense of the absurd, for the resurgence of popular interest in Cabell was an aspect of the "NeoPreRaphaelite" vogue. Mr. Cabell had been dropped from the Harpers line in 1907 because Howard Pyle, one of the leading PreRaphaelite illustrators, thought Mr. Cabell's mediaeval romances not doctrinally pure enough for the PreRaphaelite vision his work represented and exemplified.
5. It seems sometimes the better part of convenience to quote from the more widely available source than from the original, and this practice has been judiciously followed throughout.
6. Note also that "Thou Art God" is a translation of the Hindu tat tvam asi ["Thou art That [Brahman]"], and Emerson equivalences his Over-Soul to the Hindu conception of Brahman.
7. From unpublished correspondence of Mrs. Robert A. Heinlein to the author, quoting Robert Heinlein's opinion of autobiography -- but also, perhaps unwittingly, echoing Cabell's "The Art of Dirtying Paper."
8. Most of the factual material in this biographical sketch is drawn from Patterson, Bill. "Robert A. Heinlein: A Biographical Sketch." The Heinlein Journal, No. 5 (July 1999), pp. 7-30.
9. This first novel was never published, and all copies were destroyed by Mr. and Mrs. Heinlein in 1987.
10. Although Heinlein referred to his earlier Stranger in a Strange Land as a "Cabellian satire . . . ," the reference was in a private letter to his agent, and did not, at the time, constitute an "overt" reference.
11. "By drawing up an inventory of vices and virtues, by collecting the chief facts of the passions, by depicting characters, by choosing the principle incidents of social life, by composing types out of a combination of homogeneous characteristics, I might perhaps succeed in writing the history which so many historians have neglected: that of Manners. By patience and perseverance, I might produce for France in the nineteenth century the book which we must all regret that Rome, Athens, Tyre, Memphis, Persia, and India have not bequeathed to us; that history of their social life, . . . "Author's Introduction" to the Comédie humaine, at lviii.
12. Both Heinlein and Cabell made extensive use of hermetic material, but the uses they made of this body of philosophical and religious ideas were sufficiently different, yet sufficiently idiosyncratic, to treat the subject as a "parallel" development of the two writers, rather than Cabell providing a source for Heinlein's use of the material. Discussion of two lines of development in which Heinlein parallels Cabell follows this treatment of unequivocal "source" materials.
13. This incident, in which a human is forced to confront the smallness and insignificance of man's place in the universe and goes insane, is interestingly and symmetrically contrasted with a scene in "Waldo" (1942), in which an intellectually rigid scientist learns the literal truth of Kant's critical idealism -- which implies that man's place in the universe is highly significant -- and goes insane. Heinlein has thus taken both positions. Between these symmetrical treatments lies Cabell's dynamic illusions of the tailless ape who claims kinship with the archangels.
14. The conventional definition of irony goes back to Quintilian (Institutio Oratorica, 9.22.44). Cabell created a new mode of irony out of the inherent tension between the formal symbol and its ironic denotation. The symbol is both inverted and not inverted. As Arvin Wells brilliantly points out, in Cabell's case irony is produced by saying one thing and meaning two -- the thing said is meant as well as the thing ironically denoted.
15. But, "For source books (mythological) I used as always Lemprière and Tooke's Pantheon . . . But thereafter, during the temporary possession of my uncle's library, I garnered stray bits of erudition from all sorts of rare improper books, . . . and shamelessly stuck them in the text. The book is now a jungle of phallic hints and references, which will shock nobody because nobody will understand them." (Between Friends, Letter to Burton Rascoe dated June 21, 1919, at 21)
16. Curiously, the subject is not even mentioned in Edgar MacDonald's 1993 biography, James Branch Cabell and Richmond-in-Virginia -- but MacDonald pays scant attention to the content of Cabell's writing in any case.
17. "Concerning Corinna" is omitted entirely from the index and the text of MacDonald's biography, either as a separate writing or as a part of its discussion of The Certain Hour.
18. This schism of the priests (sacerdotes)is an important legend of the hermetic tradition. Heinlein multiply retold it in his pivotal early story, "Lost Legacy."
19. Mrs. Heinlein in unpublished correspondence with the author doubts the influence of Ouspensky, saying that in nearly forty years of marriage (1949-1988), Heinlein never discussed Ouspensky with her, though he did discuss other of his interests -- Korzybski and Dunne, among others. However, at almost every crux where a figure or device may be attributed to some other source, even as late as the 1980's series of World As Myth books, textual analysis suggests sourcing from Ouspensky.
20. This proposition is doubtless familiar from Plato -- but Plato derived it from Egyptian (= hermetic) sources. Plato is himself a hermetic -- a fact tacitly acknowledged by the neo-Platonic/Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson when he grouped Plato among the "Trismegisti" (=hermetics).
21. As Heinlein loses faith in social engineering, his evocations of the White Brotherhood become passive and then are abandoned entirely.
22. By analogy to the anagogic phase of criticism.
23. That Cabell may have been a formal initiate but Heinlein was not is suggested by their variant uses of mirror imagery. Even when mirrors are structural for a Heinlein story, they are the mirrors of literary convention, of Alice's Adventures Through the Looking Glass, rather than the pigeons-and-small-mirrors symbolism of The Cream of the Jest, inter alia.
24. The New Wave was an esthetic movement without a manifesto -- and, indeed, many of its major practitioners denied that there was any such thing as a "movement" going on. Rather, they maintained, there were several disparate but likeminded individuals who were doing nothing more than "modernizing" science fiction by discarding "Campbellian" genre conventions and working in contemporary literary idiomata.
The ostensible issue of the New Wave controversy was that writers demanded to approach science fiction as artists, contemporaneously trained, rather than as engineers (the expected approach). In practice, this meant substituting conventions of contemporary naturalism in place of the conventions of literary romanticism which had persisted and predominated in science fiction. Readers protested that they came to science fiction to escape those repellant contemporary literary idiomata.
Heinlein could not but have sympathized with both "sides" in the controversy, and I Will Fear No Evil attempts a synthesis of contemporary-idiom writing with science fiction conventions.
25. An Experiment With Time excited considerable interest and went into three editions over thirty-one years. It is still referenced in technical and/or formal discussions of the time sense. H. Beam Piper's Paratime series was also directly influenced by Dunne's Serial Time theories. Curiously, Dunne converges not only on Emerson's conception of the Over-Soul, but on Cabell's genealogical conception: ". . . this superlative general observer . . . must . . . contain in himself a distinct personification of all genealogically connected conscious life. Id. at 194." The unity among Heinlein's sources is remarkable.
26. Note the letters In Between Friends and the Wagenknecht collection of Cabell's correspondence, asking Burton Rascoe and Guy Holt what they thought Cabell should write following Jurgen and its suppression, with Beyond Life intervening.
27. There is mention of "Treaties" with the enemies -- but the Circle does not know anything else about them, not even their identities. Moreover, the number of enemies seems to have expanded rather dramatically from the Black Hats of The Number of the Beast:
"'Who is our antagonist? The Beast? The Galactic Overlord? Boskone? Or is it direct action by another history-changing group, treaty or no treaty? Or -- don't laugh -- are we up against an Author this time? [Cat, 315]
28. Time Enough for Love seems a "prolog" to the World As Myth , inasmuch as the White Brotherhood of the Circle of Ouroboros (which is managing the conflict) cannot form until Lazarus Long has finalized his long initiatic period via his da capo return to his childhood. The conflict of the World As Myth is not a pulp-convention, "Campbellian" hero pitted aginst one or more black villains: it is, rather, a Heinleinian movement of the human community-virtues against the materialist and atomistic forces of dissolution, waste, destruction. In this interpretation, the World As Myth is seen as a restatement of the themes of "Lost Legacy" and "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" on a vaster scale. The interpretation seems justified since the story line of "Unpleasant Profession" is the backbone of Job, the supposed keystone of the World As Myth."
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