Lipton’s Journal/December 8, 1954/31

From Project Mailer

The saint and the psychopath are twins.[1] Each are alone, each are honest or rather cannot bear dishonesty. The saint looks for truth in the immaterial world; the psychopath in the world. If the psychopath kills a man because they have quarreled for ten seconds over who was first in line to go through the subway turnstile, it is not so much because he is uncontrollable as because he cannot bear the absolute insanity and indignity of two men quarreling over so insignificant a thing. The saint seeks to lead people away from the world; the psychopath wishes to destroy the world; each has a vision of something else. The saint is aware of how insignificant is the fiction of each envelope, each “individual” who is part of the whole; the psychopath, less far along the route, merely feels that he is no one person, but becomes this person or that person, slipping from skin to skin as the real world presents new situations to him. No wonder that I who at bottom am both can control them only by the apparently silly compromise of an over-friendly anxious, boyish, Jewish intellectual—“seductive” and inhibited by turns.


  1. Here is the first mention of a linkage that obsessed Mailer for decades, a belief, as he put it in Existential Errands (1972), that “the saint and the psychopath were united to one another, and different to the mass of men. They were closer to existence. They shared a sense of the present so powerful that memory, caution, precedent, tradition, commonplace, project, and future enterprise were nerveless before the sense of the present in their mind and body. In their most incandescent states, they existed for their next breath, and so were indistinguishable from one another.” He planned to use his ideas on this duality in a 1000-page book titled A Psychology of the Orgy. Mailer drew on his definition of the psychopath a few years later in “The White Negro,” which is arguably the greatest fruit of Lipton’s. In the opening of the essay, he states that the psychopath seeks to “explore that domain of experience where security is boredom and therefore sickness, and one exists in the present, in that enormous present which is without past or future or planned intention.” It is easy to find dozens of passages in Lipton’s that resurface conceptually or syntactically or both in the essay.