The melancholic's melancholy, the manic's fits of fury, the paranoid's despair, were no doubt as little autonomous as the long fat face of a mute. Left in peace they would have been as happy as Larry, short for Lazarus, whose raising seemed to Murphy perhaps the one occasion on which the Messiah had overstepped the mark.
This is quite funny (in the typical Beckettian way), but what (you may well ask) has this to do with the dilemma formulated by the 'Misfit', between on the one hand the idea that the miracle truly happened, which would demand a faith in Christ, and on the other, the conviction that it did not happen, which leaves us with no moral responsibility except to the primacy of the will?
Well, not that much, to be honest. But the novel as a whole has many interesting things to say about the philosophical possibility of a life of the mind detached from the 'colossal fiasco' of reality, or an 'authentic consciousness' if you prefer (I demur).
I certainly do not agree with the claim, made in the post linked to by the post to which the post linked above links (clunk!), that an atheist position which fails to pursue the Tyler Durden philosophy jusqu'au bout is fundamentally hypocritical or inauthentic. There is, still, the possibility (I should say, the demand) for an authentic philosophy of life without a belief in a power that transcends the self: humanism is one option, though it is not entirely (philosophically) satisfactory; another is the cultivation of an Epicurean or Stoic ataraxia; or perhaps of Neary's Apmonia (αρμονία?), the mediation between the extremes of frenetic action and the calm of the rocking-chair.
Elsewhere in the novel, Murphy speaks of 'the Belacqua bliss', the state of mind proper to the 'half-light' between the apprehension of the bright forms of the physical world and the obscure flux of preconscious thought (in which the self is 'but a mote in the dark of absolute freedom'). Belacqua, you will remember, appears in the Purgatorio lounging in the shade of a rock halfway up the mountain, in no hurry to get to Purgatory. It is not that the life of sensual self-indulgence is a life worth living; no, rather it points to the possibility of a withdrawal into the mind, for a period of respite from desire (as long as a lifetime), in the realm of dreams, between life and its expiation.
Later, working in the sanatorium, Murphy comes to envy the patients their absolute commitment to the inner life, the 'little world' divested of the importunate demands of empirical reality and the gravamina of the body.
The issue therefore, as lovingly simplified and perverted by Murphy, lay between nothing less fundamental than the big world and the little world, decided by the patients in favour of the latter, revived by the psychiatrists on behalf of the former, in his own case unresolved. In fact, it was unresolved, only in fact. His vote was cast. "I am not of the big world, I am of the little world" was an old refrain with Murphy, and a conviction, two convictions, the negative first. How should he tolerate, let alone cultivate, the occasions of fiasco, having once beheld the beatific idols of his cave? In the beautiful Belgo-Latin of Arnold Geulincx: Ubi nihil vales, ibi nihil velis.
The patients have definitively decided the matter in favour of the little world, the Microcosm. Murphy himself is suspended between the two, unable to commit absolutely to the life of the mind, to withdraw from the empirical world, despite willing it. He is unable to attain to what might elsewhere be called the religious, the transcendent experience; perhaps something like what John B. calls the authentic 'embracing of the not-empirical'.
But is not the realization of this suspension of the point of mediation, this ephectic stance between the two worlds, in fact a viable way of living? Can there not be a commitment to the inner life, purified of the impedimenta of the self and its desires, that does not nevertheless deny our involvement in self-experience and empirical reality? Murphy's failure argues that there cannot.
Is it not possible to live on the basis of a provisional commitment to the 'little world'? Can we not rehabilitate those 'beatific idols of the cave' so unjustly impugned by Plato? To maintain a silence, 'that frail partition between the ill-concealed and the ill-revealed, the clumsily false and the unavoidably so'? And, if we cannot, is it not worth living as though we might?