Thursday, February 19, 2009

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950): from realism to mysticism

In my post on Gary Sloan, I linked to his interesting article:

George Bernard Shaw: Mystic or Atheist?

At the same time I discovered this book review by a leading ideologue of the Communist Party of Great Britain:

Dutt, R. Palme. "Back to Plotinus," Labour Monthly, July 1921, Vol. I, No. 1.
Review of: Back to Methusela: A Metaphysical Pentateuch, by Bernard Shaw.

Both of these articles deal with Shaw's regression to mysticism. For a general critical study of Shaw's weaknesses, see:

Caudwell, Christopher (pseudonym of Christopher St. John Sprigg). "George Bernard Shaw: A Study of the Bourgeois Superman," Chapter 1 of Studies (1938), in Studies and Further Studies in a Dying Culture, introduction by Sol Yurick. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971. [Reprint of Studies in a Dying Culture (1938) & Further Studies in a Dying Culture (1949)]

One can get a usable snapshot of Shaw's life, work, and development from Wikipedia.

Several decades ago I noted discrepancies between and in Shaw's works. The Quintessence of Ibsenism (1891) was soberly down-to-earth, puncturing the illusions of ideals and idealists. Man and Superman (1903), perhaps the summa of Shaw's philosophy, manifests Shaw's characteristic intermixing of nonsense about the life force into otherwise harshly realistic, often cynical, exposes of social reality.

I lack the patience to enumerate Shaw's crackpot views on various subjects. A couple years ago I stumbled on to his piece on Lysenkoism, in which Shaw shows his regret that Lysenko gave vitalism a bad name:

Shaw, George Bernard. "The Lysenko Muddle," Labour Monthly, January 1949.

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