Lipton’s Journal/February 1, 1955/425

From Project Mailer

The spectrum of the saint-psychopath. The infant, initially, is all H or virtually all H. The child is mainly H with great conversions into S being formed daily, being vomited back, absorbed again, shifted, etc. The saint-psychopath retains this quality of the child, and probably if I knew enough, and if it were worthwhile one could draw the spectrum. The homicidal psycho at one end—the total saint at the other. And petty crooks, gamblers, adventurers, certain kinds of businessmen, entertainers, reporters, artists, evangelists, psychotics, alcoholics, beggars, old maids and saints would fit in some order of development and H vs. S flowings (I prefer to avoid the word: structures).

But what characterizes them and separates them from the other world of humans, the conformist—neurotic spectrum which inhabits the middle of society just as the saint-psych occupies the top and the bottom (this is even more true psychically than by classes or status) is that the saint-psychs are spontaneous, apparently contradictory—since reality shifts for them all the time, their reaction to apparently similar stimuli may be vastly different on different occasions—fluid and mobile, subject to crisis, subject to recovery, generally givers, active and inert, intuitive, manic-depressive, undependable in long-term love but incandescent for short love, the subject of gossip, the centers of attention, electric in quality, driven shriven, and driven again, compassionate and selfish. They are creators.

The neurotic-conformist is the total opposite. They are dependable, stable, cautious, consistently honest, privately dishonest, expert at best, plodders at worst, socially affable, privately malicious, petty, envious, takers, subject to attrition, mildly steadily active, dull for short-term love but good providers for long-term, listeners, mechanical in air, intelligent and practical once the scope is defined, analytical, helpless before problems of synthesis. They are professionally compassionate (charity and community work) and professionally selfish. They are critics.

These, naturally, are poles. And the majority of people fit somewhere in between although of course they tend toward the neurotic-conformist. But the tendency of society is to make all of mankind neurotic-conformist—the tendency of man, as viz his modern heroes and celebrities, is to liberate the saint-psychopath present to some degree in everyone.

Generally speaking we have come to the point in history—in this country anyway—where the middle class and upper middle class is composed primarily of the neurotic-conformists, and the saint-psychos are found in some of the activities of the working class (as opposed to the working class itself), in the Negro people, in Bohemians, in the illiterates, among the reactionaries, a few of the radicals, some of the prison population, and of course in the mass communication media.[1]


  1. Another anticipation of “The White Negro,” in which Mailer defines this group in opposition to upper and middle class neurotic-conformists, or put more simply: hip vs. square.