Bernard Shaw: A Reassessment
Colin Wilson, 1969
Shaw grew up with a mother who paid little attention to him. She had suffered abuse herself and thought it best to leave him alone. Shaw was naturally shy and introverted.
He made money in a difficult times by Ghost Writing for Lee. His fictional/novel writing was not a huge success though. These novels were his record of his search for a hero. Irrational Knot was his best novel. The Hero was a sensitive outsider.
Karl Marx was an influence. He chose not to be dominated by self-interest. The Fabian Society was also an influence.
He used mockery and wit in his dramas. He had a love of Beethoven, Handle, and Wagner, which allowed him to also be a drama critic. Shaw’s seen many performances of Faust. He also loved Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.
Pre-socialist Shaw had a psychology similar to D.H. Lawrence.
Shaw married Charlotte Payne Townshed. He was 40 and she was 39. Still, he wanted a mother figure. Didn’t connect sex with domestic partnership. He had many affairs. Not sure if she was frigid or they just weren’t attracted to each other. He believed man’s highers impulses were just as natural as his lower impulses.
He was influenced by Abraham Maslow, who was an existential psychologist, who talked about how are higher impulse where toward meaningful work, creativeness, poetry, philosophy and art.
By 1900 Shaw had obtained world fame. He addressed life’s aims in the preface to Man and Superman. His life’s aims were intellectual and he had the intent of evolving.
Nietzsche foresaw 2 centuries of nihilism. Nihilism devalues values. He foretold the age of dictators.
Pygmalion was his most poplar play in the early 1900s. During the early 1900s he wrote about the coming war and suggested an alliance. However, his opinions on the war made him unpopular in general. Back to Methuselah was his “world classic.”
It is Shaw’s belief that man I on the point of entering a new estate. He has evolved very slowly from the animal level, and the chief characteristic of an animal is passivity. It is a slave of its environment, and its main problem is merely staying alive. Through the use of intellect and his imagination, man has ceased to be passive and when he discovered the organization called science, his relation to the universe changed abruptly, he was suddenly the master of immense fields of knowledge, which meant mater of immense fields of the universe. The change from slave to master was abrupt, and he still had to psychologically adjust to it. (page 245)
When a man tells you that you are a product solely of circumstantial selection, you can finally disprove it. You can only tell him out of the the depths of your inner conviction, that he is a fool and a liar. (pg 248)
Postscript: Shaw’s evolutionary vision was a kind of dawn in which new things became visible in the half-light. Since then, the light has grown stronger and it becomes possible to see an answer for the question of “What shall we do?” Psychology is not simply moving away from the old tradition of determinism, it is actually uncovering the practical mechanism of evolution in human beings. (pg 294)