Lipton’s Journal/March 4, 1955/707

From Project Mailer

Also I have been going through terrifying inner experiences. Last Friday night when I took Lipton’s I was already in a state of super-excitation which means intense muscular tension for me. When the Lipton’s hit, and it hit with a great jolt, it was my first in a week, I felt as if every one of my nerves were jumping free. The amount of thought which was released was fantastic. I had nothing less than a vision of the universe which it would take me forever to explain. I also knew that I was smack on the edge of insanity, that I was wandering through all the mountain craters of schizophrenia. I knew I could come back, I was like an explorer who still had a life-line out of the caverns, but I understood also that it would not be all that difficult to cut the life line.

Insanity comes from obeying a hunch—it is a premature freezing of perceptions—one takes off into cloud even before one has properly prepared the ground, and one gives all to an “unrealistic” appreciation of one’s genius. So I knew and this is my health that it is as important to return, to give, to study, to be deprived of cloud seven as it is to stay on it. One advances forward into the unknown by going forward and then retreating back. Only the hunch player decides to cast all off and try to go all the way.

What I ended up with was a sort of existentialism I imagine although I know nothing of existentialism[1] (Everybody accuses me these days of being an existentialist). Anyway, the communicable part of my vision was that everything is valid and that nothing is knowable—one simply cannot erect a value with the confidence that it is good for others—all one can do is know what is good, that is what is necessary for oneself, and one must act on that basis, for underlying the conception is the philosophical idea that for life to expand at its best, everybody must express themselves at their best, and the value of the rebel and the radical is that he seeks to expand that part of the expanding sphere (of totality) which is most retarded.

Deep in the vision action seemed trivial which is why I knew the cold graveyard of schizophrenia. Out of the vision I had a happier tolerance. I could deal with people like Catholics and saidsists sadists because I was not worried about who would win the way I used to be. And indeed I learned the way to handle sadists—there are only two ways: One must wither be capable of generating more force, of terrifying them (I have a story I have to tell Bob[2] when I see him) or else one must dazzle and confuse them. Lulu[3] up against one of the great sadists, Herman Teppis,[4] comes off with a part victory because she has given all her energy to confusing and startling him.


  1. Mailer came to his version of this philosophy via events in his life, the rejection of The Deer Park by Rinehart, for example, rather than his reading. Existentialism was thrust on him. In November-December 1960, when he was committed to the violent ward of Bellevue for stabbing Adele, he began to seriously read existential writing in Walter Kaufmann’s 1956 collection, Existentialism from Dostoyevsky to Sartre.
  2. A prominent Baltimore psychoanalyst and writer, Robert Lindner (1914-56) became acquainted with Mailer after reading Lindner’s 1952 sharp critique of current psychoanalytic practice, Prescription for Rebellion (1952), published by NM’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.
  3. Lulu Meyers, a Hollywood actress in The Deer Park who was once married to Charles Eitel, aspires to be the most popular actress in America and has an affair with Sergius O’Shaugnessey through most of the novel.
  4. Herman Teppis, the head of Supreme Studios in The Deer Park, is an unscrupulous movie producer who manipulates actors for his own benefit.