Lipton’s Journal/January 24, 1955/224

From Project Mailer

What I have noticed is that over the years although I have spoken of society as nominally no more than a concept, the fact is that I believe there is such a tangible physical reality as society. As there is material man, there is material society. And I have even been one of the few to attempt to locate society—I have called it over and over the sum of man’s actions. But as a wild speculation, I wonder if society does not actually have its material physical presence in life, in the very structure of atoms or molecules or even intra-atom structures.

As a crude example, the total presence of building and structures in the world is an expression of society—it is part of the physical principles of society. In other words buildings do have a kind of life (and there is a basis although of course inaccurate in feeling ghosts in old houses). What I try to say is that a building is alive but it is not alive like animals or humans or even plants (I’m not at all sure of the last).

In other words there are two kinds of life-forms in the universe. Animal forms and socio-structural forms of life, and they war upon one another. As a more stimulating example, I would say that the laws of physics for example are not something static and to be discovered for all time piece by little piece, but that just as man and animals, both homeostatic, evolve, so too does physics evolve. The physical laws of today are not the same as the physical laws of five thousand years ago, for example, and certainly not the same as the physical laws of five million years ago. I will put it crudely. Five million years ago one plus one might have been equal to one. Five thousand years ago one plus one were equal to two. Today one plus one is equal to 4? But the answer is certainly not two, thanks to Einstein.

What is present in this, and intellectually enthralling is that man, Life, wars against the sociostatic principles of society (Other-Life) and of physics too. Said otherwise, man is not merely a creature of the universe—his concerted creative expression of the life-force alters the universe even as the universe alters him. So that, philosophically, we may be coming upon a time when the circle will be closed, or rather the spiral rounded and man will again see himself as the center of the universe, rather than as the victim of the universe. Put as the Grand Theory of Relativity it comes out thus: As man discovers the universe, so he changes the very laws of its being. I suspect Planck’s Quantum theory[1] would throw interesting lights on this if I knew anything about it. Also what Bob[2] said about the nearness of the instruments to the experiment.


  1. Planck (1858-1947) was a theoretical physicist who proposed that the energy of light is proportional to its frequency.
  2. A prominent Baltimore psychoanalyst and writer, Robert Lindner (1914 – 1956) became acquainted with Mailer after reading Lindner’s 1952 sharp critique of current psychoanalytic practice, Prescription for Rebellion (1952), published by Mailer’s publisher, Rinehart. The letter, which contained both praise and criticism for Lindner’s ideas, led to a close friendship over the next four years, including many visits and the sharing of work, including Lipton’s. See extended note on entry 56.