The Woodcutter’s Daughter Is Always Undead

It is early August of the drought year.  Friday.  Dusk.  We drive north through a landscape of spinning windmills and dying corn, rest-stop restroom stall interiors slathered with obscenities, black bands of asphalt, interstates & exits joining and disjointing through the plains stippled with gas-stations and McDonald’s, all roads reeling towards the extinct steel town just northwest of the beach.  We arrive at the cottage in the last slivers of twilight.  The next morning we’re at the beach.  And the next.

Along Lake Michigan’s shoreline, from the pier past Stop 38 to the nuclear power plant where the Highest Sand Dune once stood, seagulls are omnipresent and omniscient.  You may not see them, but they see you.   The seagulls are manufactured somewhere down the shoreline among the hive of smokestacks even beyond the nuclear power plant.  The factory that gave birth to them has been decommissioned, but somewhere in their cries–each of which singly sound like a hotel door lock beeping when their card reader recognizes the magnetic strip of its key-mate–there is the memory of the dark mouth at the end of the assembly line, from which they emerged out of cooling chambers and broke their molds, fully formed, and flying out of the open window, with its glass broken out, and the end of the long, high warehouse wall.  The shaft of sunlight which shone diagonally from the window to a certain patch on the concrete floor, they followed up and flew out.

In the time when glass insulators were necessary to sheathe various connective passages along the telegraph and electrical lines which were extending out across the country the sand–which piled hundreds of feet in the air to compose the tallest dune down the beach–was taken away in train loads.  By 1920 the ground was flush with sea-level and the rails would be torn up and recycled into guns during the second World War.  The great sand mound’s absence is the shape of a million inwardly lit chambers scattered across the branching railroads of darkness.  Many years later they built the nuclear power plant and the seagull factory, and gradually the town down the shore from them grew from shotgun shacks and small cottages to tidily luxuriant beach homes with multiple levels and architectural embellishments of all kinds as Chicago Commodities Traders suffused the area with their money and their ambitious renovation projects.  Property values rose.  Seagull production was outsourced to somewhere in India.

Sunday: spend the hours after dawn and before the other’s inside the cottage wake up lying on a cot in the fan’s stream in my guest room above the garage, reading a book and basking in the cool airflow which soothes the skin of my sunburnt back.

This is what it says in my book, translated from the French:

The more our daily life appears standardized, stereotyped, and subject to an accelerated reproduction of objects of consumption, the more [an aesthetic ecology] must be injected into it [or built around it] in order to extract from it that little difference which plays simultaneously between other levels of repetition, and even in order to make the two extremes resonate—namely, the habitual series of consumption and the instinctual series of destruction and death.

Difference and repetition: I think of the seagulls’ million winters, all their dead bodies–a billion dead seagull bodies–decomposing in cocoons of frost, under crusts of snow, falling apart in spring rains.  The mindless incantation of seagull bodies across thousands of generations scanning the water for fish, scanning the beach for discarded hot dog buns, french fries.  Were they here when the first foundations of what became Chicago were laid?  Before the steel-forging furnaces were set up in Gary?  Were they waiting for us?  Or did they follow along the Eerie Canal and through the eyelets of other lakes to follow us here from New York City?  The hundred million year arc across which their wrists and fingers distended into wings.  Why/how did they want to stay alive so badly that their bodies became warped in this way?  Why did any of us?  We are informed that it must have something to do with the sex drive, and doubtless there is some truth to this.   But what if it’s the other way around?

Saturday afternoon a storm came blowing in from the Northwest, passing over Chicago’s skyline before it reached us.  When the cloud’s threaten we pull the Sunfish to shore and break it down.  Drop the boom, yank the mast out of the hull, roll and tie the sail, pull the rudder and stash it in the hull’s hollow.  We pull the hull along the water until we are perpendicular with our parking place up the beach and we drag it up across the sand until its nose is parked against the dune-grass.

The dune-grass is littered with the skeletons of aquamarine life-forms, dropped there by the gulls, gutted and flensed of flesh.  I remember walking through the dune-grass with little Madeline one day looking for skeletons with her at her behest and she turned to me and exclaimed, laughing gleefully and a little insanely in a swirl of toddler-frenzy, “If we stayed here long enough we’d be skeletons too?”  When we laughed too, her laughter became even more maniacal, turning into something more like screaming.  Her hair, in the morning, shining with an almost inhuman golden luminosity.   It sometimes looks actually metallic.  We were pretending to be archaeologists.

It would be nice to own a catamaran, wouldn’t it?  Yes, nice.  Always, always: these stalemated stagnant conversations with my selfishness which is practically otherbodied and lodged in my medulla oblongata.  Like a creature all its own, amphibious, spiny, milky-eyed like a cave-fish, many-mouthed, its cartilaginous fingers finned, spread taut & hideously stretching out into my tender places like razor-boned crests of cancer.  Martin Luther throwing his own shit against the wall, digging in his own feces and throwing them against the stones of his cell wall.  He is alone in his closet with the devil.  There is no one there, no one talking back to his taunts and declamations.

Cell’s are called by that name because of their resemblance to monk’s cells.  Robert Hooke first made the analogy in his Micrographia, implying that the body was like a huge hive of monk’s cells, a big flesh abbey.

Christen, the eldest sister, is pregnant with 3rd child.  We are all expecting a girl–they emerge the one from the other like Matryoshka in this family.  In the hammock with her cherubic, blonde daughters Saturday afternoon before the storm, I told them fairy tales; found myself unable to summon a single fairy tale to mind whose plot was not essentially contingent upon infanticide, matricide, multiple beheadings, cannibalism or some combination of these.

What the King says not to do under any circumstances works like a negative prophecy–it will come to pass unfailingly.  Elderly unwed women live in gingerbread houses.  They have red eyes & can’t see very well but they have noses like the beasts & can smell children coming.  The world is the Black Forest and usually when we look into the lives of the peasants living there we find them starving–at least at first.  The children whose breadcrumbs we follow are often decoys, contrived as surrogates for post-natal abortions or sometimes children lost to some other form of infant & early childhood mortality.  They are sent out into the woods in paper dresses in the winter time.  Their clothing is torn off by briars.  They are led into the woods & left there. Though occasionally appearing as a King, a Fisherman or a Tailor, it seems that the Father is almost always a Woodcutter.  His task is to destroy the Black Forest and to commodify it.  Hence the Lost World quality of fairy tales–although inside of the narrative frame the Black Forest remains indestructible.

Sat baffled in a cafe in town Saturday morning with the Sisyphean task of writing a speech about “myself” for Toastmasters on Tuesday.  What does that even mean?  What on earth is designated by that word?  Specifically the assigned theme is self-expression.  Express what?  Trying to figure out how to say what I felt I cracked Marx for the first time in years and fell in love all over again.

The subject of our discussion is, first of all, material production.  Individuals producing in society, thus the socially determined production of individuals, naturally constitutes the starting point.  The individual and isolated hunter or fisher who forms the starting point for Smith and Ricardo belongs to the insipid illusions of the 18th century.  They are ludicrous Robinson Crusoe stories… They are no more based on such a naturalism than is Rousseau’s social contract which makes naturally independent individuals come in contact and have mutual intercourse by contract… They are [a] fiction.  They are an anticipation of a phenomena which only appears in the Civil Society which evolved from the 16th century to the 18th… 

In this society of free competition the individual appears free from the bonds of nature etc. which in former times made him part of a definite and limited human conglomeration.  

The farther back we go in history, the more the individual and, therefore, the producing individual seems to depend on and belong to a larger whole: at first it is, quite naturally, the family and the clan, which is but an enlarged family; later on, it is the community growing up in its different foams out of the civil society that the different forms of social union confront the individual as a mere means to his private ends, as an external necessity.  But the period in which this standpoint–that of the isolated individual–became prevalent is the very one in which the [interconnectivity and interpenetration] of social relations within society are reaching their highest state of development.  Man is in the most literal sense of the word a social animal, and not only a social animal but an animal which can develop into an individual only in society.  Production by isolated individuals outside society… is as great an absurdity as the idea of the development of language without individuals living together and talking to one another.  

Difference and repetition: the seagulls thread through each other in long loose arabesques all along the assembly line of time leaving a trail of bird skeletons and flensed fishbones behind them.   We sit under the grid of interstices on the beach.

Sunday morning the wind is hard, and the waves are high.  If I stand up, where I am standing in the trough of the wave perhaps 100 feet from where the water falls away from the beach, the water is up to my knees, but at the crest of the wave rolling towards me it is perhaps 12 feet high.  I bow down, palms against the sandy bottom, and it rolls over me, pulling my legs out from under me so my ankles feel the slap of its passing.  On my knees I open my eyes, and then dive into the fat bottom of the wave to avoid taking the hit.  I am following L. further out.  I see her catch a wave.  I’m not able to catch a wave all day (this is my first time, and my performance in sports that require hyper-attentiveness and coordination is universally poor).  A few times, I jump up into a big one just about to break and I feel the hard pull that’s supposed to send me out gliding, but I hit the bottom hard and I’m tumbled in a vortex.  I consider that if I were to involuntarily have the wind knocked out of me during these tumbles when I’m spun around on the bottom I might inhale water.  If I were to inhale water, I may very well be drown.  In which case–it is worth remarking upon though almost impossible for me to conceive of–I would be dead.   There is no question of maintaining any kind of illusion of autonomy in the water on a day like this.  Your naked contingency is served up to your perceptions raw in relentless, crashing lucidity.  I could die at any moment.  You could die at any moment.  And yet.

Breton: Everything tends to make us believe that there exists a certain point of the mind at which life and death, the real and the imagined, past and future, the communicable and the incommunicable, high and low, cease to be perceived as contradictions.

I bow down, knees and palms dug into the sand below the water’s surface and I’m pulled loose as the wave rolls over.  And again. And again.

The Patty Winters Show

(excerpted from American Psycho about which book, posts will be forthcoming)

Today’s Patti Winters show was about a device that lets you speak to the dead.

The Patty Winters Show this morning was about narco-submarines.

Today’s The Patty Winters Show is about an activity called “dwarf tossing.”

Talking animals were the topic of this morning’s Patty Winters Show. An octopus was floating in a makeshift aquarium with a microphone attached to one of its tentacles and it kept asking – or so its “trainer,” who is positive that mollusks have vocal cords, assured us – for “cheese.”

This morning on the Patty Winters Show a Cheerio sat in a very small chair and was interviewed for close to an hour.

The Patty Winters Show this morning was about Real-Life Rambos.

The Patty Winters show this morning was about UFOs That Kill.

The Patty Winters Show this morning was about narcoleptic acrobats.

The Patty Winters Show this morning was about girls in the 4th grade who trade sex for crack, and I almost cancelled with Lambert and Russell to catch it.

Bigfoot was interviewed on The Patty Winters Show this morning and to my shock i found him surprisingly articulate and charming. The glass I’m drinking Absolut vodka from is Finnish.

The topic on The Patty Winters Show this morning was Has Patrick Swayze Become Cynical or Not?

The Patty Winters Show this morning was about Nazis and, inexplicably, I got a real charge out of watching it. Though I wasn’t exactly charmed by their deeds, I didn’t find them unsympathetic either, nor I might add did most of the members of the audience. One of the Nazis, in a rare display of humor, even juggled grapefruits and, delighted, I sat up in bed and clapped.

The Patty Winters Show this morning was about women who married homosexuals. Epic.

The Patty Winters Show this morning was about infant drug mules.

The Patty Winters Show this morning was about salad bars.

On The Patty Winters Show this morning the topic was Toddler-Murderers. In the studio audience were parents of children who’d been kidnapped, tortured and murdered, while on stage a panel of psychiatrists and pediatricians were trying to help them cope – somewhat futilely i might add, and much to my delight – with their confusion and anger. But what really cracked me up was – via satellite on a lone TV monitor – three convicted Toddler-Murderers on death row who due to fairly complicated legal loopholes were now seeking parole and would probably get it.

The Patty Winter’s Show this morning was about cousins who marry cousins.

The Patty Winters Show this morning was about the possibility of nuclear war and according to the panel of experts the odds are pretty good it is likely to happen sometime in the next month.

The Patty Winters Show this morning was Aspirin: Can it save your life?

I’m listening to messages on a Pornographic Telephone line and watching on the VCR of this morning’s Patty Winters Show which is about deformed people.

The Patty Winters Show this morning was about Shark Attack Victims.

Talking animals were the topic of this mornings Patty Winters Show.

Best of all, The Patty Winters Show this morning was in two parts.  The first part was an interview with Donald Trump and the second part was about women who’d been tortured.

No Cigar

He repeated–as if reminding himself of what he’d just said a few moments ago–“A cigar is just a cigar…sometimes.”  He then frowned and looked away, considering something, his lip jutting out.

And looked back at me from beneath the brim of his ludicrous hat: “You know what I mean?”  Why was he wearing his hat inside?

I couldn’t see his mouth through his mustache but the mustache moved vigorously when he spoke.  I could tell–or at least I had reason to believe–that he had a mouth.  That was where his voice was coming from: from his mouth.  It existed–I had reason to believe–down there, buried beneath his mustache.  His mouth, that is.  His mouth was what existed.

“What you’re experiencing is called transference,” he said.  He went on to explain, in a string of extremely abstruse, fragmented and meandering syllogisms how I had become convinced–unconciously, of course, which is to say that I was not aware of it–that he (the mustachioed man) was my Mother.

He sat there on the couch like a fat cloud.  With a fat head.  And fat eyes.  He was scribbled in.  The few details which, I’d been made to understand, composed his short form biography–the sort of thing he told to women he was interested in, strangers he met in the pub and so forth–it didn’t hang together.  His doubled chin glistened waxily, sealed in by skin so diaphonous white that its bulges and folds appeared like balloons of tallow inflated by the pressure hydraulics of his skull, with a slight green hue.  Toad throat balloons.  “What?” he asked.

“No cigar,” I said again.

“I’m sorry, come again?  No cigar?  No what-cigar?  To which cigar are you referring?”

“The one you were talking about earlier.”

“A cigar is just a cigar?” He asked, paused, added: “Sometimes?”

“Close,” I said.  “But no cigar.”

Flesh May Fail

The lights in the hospital’s windows flash on and off in epileptic variations, a time-lapse photograph of the building at night. Like a fluorescent quilt, the patchwork matrix of bright interiors morph and float across the hospital’s facade in unchained arrays as if invisible custodians are making their rounds through passages and precincts of the structure in an opaque algorithm of mop-pushing & floor-buffing that lasts until dawn. Only now, the lights in the hospital are turning on & off in real time.

At the beginning of the sequence light shown from most of the windows, but the pattern was such that the number of lit strips in the grid slowly decreases as darkness and light continue to alternate in a strobing mosaic.

Inside the fluorescents shudder. Orderlies push gurneys & drag IV pumps slung from wheeled two hook poles, pouring bodily out of wards & fleeing down halls as the sterile grid of ceiling fluorescents sputters out.

Rectangular puddles of purplish white light shut down row by row down the long column of a white tiled artery leading towards elevator doors. The cabin of the elevator is overcrowded & many are not able to squeeze in as the doors close. Doctors & orderlies flee down the stairwells, leaving their patients alone in the hall. The darkness catches up with them as the whole hall goes pitch black. Those overtaken by its advancing black wall, will not emerge from it.

Television anchored to the ceilings above the beds still glow but their screens are filled with static. The beds where patients have been left behind are empty. The gurneys in the halls where they’ve been abandoned are untenanted.

The area still lit within the hospital continues to shrink. The doctors & orderlies & the few patients who are able to hobble out of the growing shadow collect in smaller & smaller terminals of illumination.

In an operating room surgeons & surgical assistants look up from the patient spread out on the operating table–instruments still in their hands, unable to move, frozen under the oversize mobile of operating lights that shine down on them–& they gaze at the black hole spreading across the back wall like an inkblot soaking into paper.

When I wake up in the hotel room the television is still on. L. is still asleep. It’s shortly before dawn. I slip out from under the comforter and creep out the door.

The digital bell inside of the elevator dings and the die-cut doors slide apart along their tracks, opening up on the lobby and a long sideboard with our continental breakfast already set-up, spread out along its formica plane. I drift into the drowsy queue pouring themselves coffee.

Behind me as I wait for my bread to spring crisply toasted from the machine, I overhear two obese women–apparently twins–that I’d been looking at from across the room and whom I’ve just glanced at again out of the corner of my eye walking to the beginning of the buffet. They are talking about a reality television show directly behind me, at my 6 o’clock.

The program’s essential concept is familiar to me. Contestants vie for the right to own the contents of storage lockers. The drama comes to its climax when the units are unlocked and the doors thrown open to reveal their contents. Were the bidders shrewd enough to intuit the value of the units contents? Are they making out like bandits, plundering the material accretion of illiquid wealth gathered over a lifetime frozen inside of the sentimental artifacts of a collector who’s fallen on hard times and allowed his rent to go unpaid? All for the low, low price of–say for example–$200? Or have they wasted their money, paying $400 for a heap of clothes not fit for Goodwill, piled in a rat’s nest of magazines and shadeless lamps?

“They didn’t find anything in the storage unit?” asks the one in my right ear, the one who’d been wearing the Mickey Mouse sweatshirt even though it’s 90 degrees at 7am.

“There wasn’t nothing in there!” says the other. They laugh. Their voices sound exactly the same. As I gaze down into the red coils glowing in the toasters two slots, I imagine their double chins jiggling–genetic echoes of one another. After my toast pops up, I take a seat in the center of the plush couch in front of the plasma screen.

On the TV in the hotel lobby, “The father of a girl with a flesh-eating disease speaks out.” The anchor asks something asinine along the lines of, “Is your daughter going to be okay now that she’s lost her leg & both hands? Will she be facing challenges?” The standard script read from in the mind of the interviewed goes like, Yes she will face challenges, but ultimately she will overcome these challenges by having a positive attitude and/or faith in God. The father’s face looks flat & amazed & like he has a lump in his throat. He looks like he may have a lump in his throat for the rest of his life.

As he’s stumbling through some kind of answer to the anchor’s question photographs of this stunningly beautiful young woman flash across the screen in place of his pale wall-eyed countenance, turkey necked with grief. She’s gorgeous, honey blond, in cap and gown at her graduation, leaning back against the railing before a backdrop of molten dusk, she’s up to wild sexy shenanigans at a dance club with her sorority sisters, she’s melting into the arms of her beau at prom.

Her father stumbles over words to the effect of, “Moving out of the ICU and now out of the hospital to a rehab center, my daughter feels the same accomplishment that most of us might feel graduating from high school or from college.” His response is broken up, muddled, delivered in a Forrest Gump accent. It takes awhile to get it out.

“My daughter’s come to peace with this,” he says, choking a little. “She told me yesterday.” Pause. “She told me… I was holding her hand. Of course she doesn’t have a hand.”

They show a picture of the girl–she is actually grinning–with her father in a wheelchair, her stumpy wrists in bandages, her leg wound up and she looks like a different person. Not a different person as in, ‘She looks transformed by her trial,’ or ‘She looks like herself only older, without make-up, haggard behind her smile, trying to be brave.’ It looks more like one actor has been replaced by another, as when a popular movie becomes a television show and the A-List major talent protagonist is replaced by some B-List minor talent and the one guy from the movie who did take the Broadcasting Station up on their offer of a 3 season contract pretends like he doesn’t notice a difference.

The leper scene from Ben Hur plays through in my mind. It’s been so long since I’ve seen it–decades, I was a child–that I’m sure its distorted. The two women, touching each others rotting faces in a low roofed shelter in a filthy encampment talking about their long lost son and brother who is listening to them from a discrete distance. He stays away–he does not want to shame them. Something like that.

The newscaster wraps it up. “Truly an amazing & inspiring story, ” he says. “Thank you for being with us,” he tells the father. The father nods. The camera angle changes, showing the newscaster’s long desk, and several other people sitting behind it. Next up, a famous American soul singer apologizes for doing a Burger King ad.

Looking away from the screen and out the window, it occurs to me that the strip mall across the street is completely gutted and shuttered except for the fast food restaurants floating like islands in the parking lots. The bypass to jump back on the highway is less than a half a mile away. There are a million little junctions like this spread out all over America. Hotels and fast food chains clustered around the point where the highway intersects the edge of town. Sometimes a Walmart.

In the red centers, flayed away from the skeleton that carried it, meat travels down conveyor belts. It sizzles under the bright orange coils up above, twenty thousand pounds an hour, one hundred twenty tons a day. We are traveling in pieces down the conveyor belt. We have abandoned our memories along with our bodies, and are traveling down the conveyor belt towards a time of meat-pink tunnels.  The mouth of time, who does not know us. Who does not acknowledge us. Who could not even imagine us if it cared to try.

After its all over a show where the Navy competes against the Army in a reality TV, Iron Chef style showdown, to determine who can make the most delicious 4th of July meal.

The Beautiful Gate


For a short season of my life, I would go to mass every morning at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.  Primarily I went because you could get a hot plate of food in the cafeteria, for $3.00, which–in DC–is practically like eating for free.  I also went to mass because when I did, I felt like for 30 minutes a day, I knew what I was supposed to do.  The rest of the time, I had no clue.  I couldn’t take communion, but I learned the sequence of the liturgy and it relaxed my brain when I went through it with the ancient priest up on the altar and the scattered crowd populating the pews down in the crypt.  Everything was covered in gold and marble, and the priest’s robes probably cost more than I’d made in a year.  It provided a sort of surreal contrast to the poverty of my daily life, drifting around the city in my only tie looking for work.  Sometimes something would be said that made me thoughtful.  Many of the things that the priests would say, I found flagrantly offensive and/or ridiculous.  Sometimes a cardinal would come and speak in his funny red cap, breaking the big white waifer above the glittering silver chalice.  My understanding is that the Basilica is such a big deal, building-wise and what with the saints interred in the crypt and all, that even the Pope occasionally drops by.  Then I would go in peace eat scrambled eggs and corned beef hash in the cafeteria and read the paper.

The Basilica

The Basilica
Guys in Robes

Guys in Robes getting dead serious up in the crypt

Corned Beef Hash

Corned Beef Hash

This morning I went to a prayer meeting at 7am.  We’re holding one every day this week–its holy week.  The structure of the thing was very liturgical which the people in my congregation who were there–at an animal instinct level– don’t relate to as well as the habituated Catholics who flanked me during my days in DC (including myself–I’m rusty).  It came to me as we were reading out the ritual that liturgy is actually sort of awkward without all the standing up, kneeling, sitting down, genuflecting, and the complicated sequence of call and response.  It is the tendency of protestants to make fun of Catholics for all the kneeling, bowing, standing up, sitting down stuff but let us try to get through a real mass without and then take a look at us!  We don’t know what to do with ourselves and sit there feeling like idiots.

The Gospel section in the reading of the office this morning was about the triumphal entry. I think it was the one from Luke.  The one where the Sadduccee is like: “Bring your disciples to heel!  Stop them from shouting all this stuff about you being king!  Don’t you know that Pilate’s forces are marching into the Antonium even now?  If they hear of this, you could get us all killed!”  And then Jesus is like: “If they keep silent the stones will cry out.”

The backdrop behind Jesus when he says this is the slope of the Mount of Olives which is studded with tombs.  So what he is saying, “If these people stop singing my praises, then the dead will rise up and pick up the melody where the living voices trail off.”  Which I’m sure must have seemed cheeky at the time  to the Sadducee in question, especially since Sadduccees didn’t believe in the resurrection.  I imagine the scene.  With Jesus sitting down on the donkey that was so young it had never been ridden, I’m sure he may well have been eye level with the outraged temple employee.

Jewish tombs on the slope of Mount Olive (present day)

Jewish tombs on the slope of Mount Olive (present day)

He would have been entering the Temple court through the Beautiful Gate which was along the eastern wall of the Temple’s outer court.  The Antonia, where Pilate was, was along the northern wall of the same court, as it happens.  So he really was rather a bit close for comfort–close enough, possibly for Pilate to hear the chanting if it was really loud, if he happened to walk by a window.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem in 30AD or so

And so after all, we have to have some sympathy for the Sadduccee who had every reason to suspect that capital punishment for the whole crowd was definitely an option that was on the table if Pilate got wind of what they were talking about.  Re: the surface narrative that the crowd would have assumed involved the immediate overthrow of the Roman occupation and the usurpation of the entire Empire, as the world fell to its knees before the messianic kingdom which was to be established etc.

I thought about the Arch of Titus Vespasian in Rome–built for him while he was on his way back from destroying the temple so that he and his army could walk under it when they entered the city.

The Triumphal Arch of Titus Vespasian, Destroyer of the Temple

The Triumphal Arch of Titus Vespasian, Destroyer of the Temple

The Arch of Titus is kind of like the photographic negative of the Beautiful Gate, just like the Kingdom of God is (among other things) a sort of photgraphic negative of the Roman empire.

Triumph is a Greek word.  Not Hebrew.  Not even Aramaic.  It comes from thriambos which refers to a ‘hymn to Bacchus'(god of wine, madness and theater).  In other words, it is a word evoking unholy elation.  When sages called this scene the triumphal entry they were intentionally juxtaposing Jesus with victorious Roman generals marching back into the capital under Arches erected in honor of their victories and named after them.  If we extrapolate off of this metaphor then, the Beautiful Gate is Jesus’s triumphal arch.  And it is the door in the side of the court that Herod–the evil and psychotic Regent of Israel at the time of Jesus’s birth–had built.  So the implication of calling this passage in the Gospel ‘The Triumphal Entry’ is that the walls of the Temple were built, and the Beautiful Gate put in its side, just so that Jesus could ride through it on a donkey.

The Beautiful Gate

This is the Court of the Gentiles where Solomon's porch was, and that Jesus would have entered when he rode in on a donkey. This would have been the area where all the money changers were. In the center of the frame, is the Nicanor gate, leading deeper into the Temple into the Court of the Women, then nested inside of that was an inner court, and the Temple, and within the Temple, the Holy of Holies, where the curtain was torn.

I imagine the armor clad legion marching into the city from the North, and the unarmed group of fishermen, women, children, sick people, the mentally ill–even the recently deceased!(if Lazarus was there)–and then Jesus low riding on a donkey, eye-level with passersby coming in through the Shushan.  I know which group I would fall in with.

            [Skip to the 9th minute of the video below to see what is most definitely my
favorite film rendition of the Triumphal Entry ever.]

Tree of Codes/Lisbon: 1


I listened to a concert by Terry Riley performed in Lisbon sometime when I was still in grammar school, and read Jonathan Safran-Foer’s Tree of Codes in one sitting.  Satie would have been more tuned to the mood of the book, but I don’t have any Satie on vinyl so I listened to this Terry Riley I found in a bin at Half-Price Bookstore.   In fact, I’d finished the book before Side C of the Lisbon concert played through.   And though the novel is 135 pages, this is actually not particularly impressive.  Because Tree of Codes is a book that’s full of holes.  It occurs to me that I could never send this book to a friend in prison.  The authorities would be to afraid that I was hiding something inside of it–there are a lot of hiding places.  Drugs, possibly.  Or pins, picks and files to aid in escape, perhaps.  Nothing is hidden in my copy of Tree of Codes, however, except the text that has been excised, and the abstract presence a hobbled Greek Chorus of vague entities.

Formally speaking, Tree of Codes is an ‘erasure’.   Safran-Foer sifted the book’s prose out of the text of an the earlier work of another author–Bruno Schulz Street of Crocodiles.  Here is what Safran-Foer has to say about it:

For years I had wanted to create a die-cut book by erasure, a book whose meaning was exhumed from another book. I had thought of trying the technique with the dictionary, the encyclopedia, the phone book, various works of fiction and non-fiction, and with my own novels. But any of those options would have merely spoken to the process. The book would have been an exercise. I was in search of a text whose erasure would somehow be a continuation of its creation. The Street of Crocodiles is often my answer to the impossible-to-answer question: What is your favorite book? And yet, it took me a year to recognize it as the text I’d been looking for…. At times I felt that I was making a gravestone rubbing of The Street of Crocodiles, and at times that I was transcribing a dream that The Street of Crocodiles might have had. I have never read another book so intensely or so many times. I’ve never memorized so many phrases, or, as in the act of erasure progressed, forgotten so many phrases.

As to super-added meaning of his subtraction–to illustrate its meaning he has this story to tell:

Bruno Schulz was born in 1892 in Drohobycz, a small town in what was then the Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia. A high school teacher by profession, his explosive creative energy expressed itself through fiction, correspondence, drawing and painting.  When the Germans seized Drohobycz in 1941, Shulz, a Jew, distributed his artwork and papers–which are said to have included the manuscript of a novel, Messiah–to gentile friends for safekeeping. These comprised the great bulk of his artistic output, and not a single item of them has been seen since.  All that we have of his fiction are two slim story collections.  The Street of Crocodiles and Sanatorium Under The Sign of the Hourglass.  On the basis of these, Schulz is considered one of the most important artists of the 20th century.  Their long shadow–the work lost to history–is, in many ways, the story of the century….

Jewish folklore tells the story like this: When the Romans conquered Jerusalem, the order was given to destroy the Second Temple. three of the walls went down, but the fourth resisted. It stood frim against hammers, and pick-axes, and clubs.  the Romans had elephants push against the wall, they tried to set fire to it, they even invented the wrecking ball. But nothing, it seemed, would bring the wall to its knees.  the soldier in charge of overseeing the temple’s destruction reported back to his commanding officer: 

 “We have destroyed three of the temple’s walls.”

  “And what about the fourth?”

  “I am of the opinion that we should leave it, as a testament to our greatness.”

  “I don’t understand.”

  “If nothing remains, it will be as if nothing were ever there to begin with. But when people see the wall, they will be able to conjure the enormity of the Temple and the foe we defeated.”

  It’s been tradition, ever since, for Jews to leave small notes of preayer in the cracks in the wall. It could be said that these form a kind of magical, unbound book, conjuring the enormity of the desperation of the world, the needs we haven’t defeated.  

Felix Landau, a Gestapo officer in charge of the Jewish labor force in Drohobycz, became aware of Schulz’s talents as a draughtsman, and directed Schulz to paint murals on the walls of his child’s playroom.  This relationship brought Schulz certain privileges, most importantly protection.  Like a modern Scheherazade, he was kept alive for as long as his creation continued to please his captor.  

But on November 19th, 1942, Landau killed a Jew favored by another Gestapo officer, Karl Gunther. Soon after, Gunther came upon Schulz, on the corner of Czacki and Mickiewicz Streets, and shot him in the head.  “You killed my Jew,” he is said to have later told Landau, “I killed yours.”  

Like the Wailing Wall, Schulz’s surviving work evokes all that was destroyed in the War: Schulz’s lost books, drawing and paintings; those that he wuld have made had he survived; the million of other victioms, and within them the infinite expression of infinite thoughts and feeling taking infinite forms.  

Or is Schulz’s work more like a bound version of those disparate prayers left in the wall?  


White Board

It was the unspeakable that would destroy them, that would sap their energies, would vanquish all of their projects in the end.  The unsaid that hung heavy in the room as the meeting trailed off and wound down.  The gnomic scribbling of half-erased diagrams scattered across the white board, floating away like the coherent sense of purpose that the meeting had been building towards, at the apex of which one could almost sense things coming together like some kind of invisible Tetris.  What words could not be glued to, what was effaced by the special politics of their context, would wriggle out of their grasp and wreak havoc.  Would rattle and discompose workflows, grow up in envelopes of conversation as anger like a hologram-halflife.  Would come back to them.  Would return.  Still unsaid.  Even less sayable, repelling all articulation, trudging footlessly back to them in the end.

The hierarchy, in reverse, front-loads everything.  Marketing before product.  And then again the product itself is marketing, so go down another layer, and again you’ll see that the marketing budget exceeds the cost of raw materials and manufacturing.  What are we pushing out towards?  It is as if we are reaching out for something.  What is it?  Like cicadas burrowing upwards towards the sun.

Ruined Cities/Primary Beings

Ezra and Nehemiah were dispatched by the King of Persia to establish (or to re-establish) a client state in Palestine, a land where their ancestors had been taken captive some 130 years prior.  The flower of the priesthood, the royal court, and the professional class had all been marched to Babylon at that time.  A small contingent of Jews had returned almost a century before Ezra made the trip, but they hadn’t been heard from in quite some time.  Unsurprisingly when the Babylonian Jews returned to Jerusalem, they found the populace living among the ruins sunken into idolatrous illiteracy.  The prophets moaned and gnashed their teeth about the interbreeding that had been going on, the ritual sloppiness of the way that animals were being slaughtered.

Ezra had spent his life in the libraries of Babylon, redacting fragments of aged papyrus salvaged from the destruction of Solomon’s temple into what we now call the Pentateuch or the Five Books of Moses.  He established the Hebrew canon (presumably minus Malachi).  He was known and respected at court.  He would have lived in luxury.  He was raised on the ecstatic visions of Ezekiel and his majestic, kaleidoscoping, hallucinatory visions of the temple’s grandeur.  It is no wonder then that when Ezra finally arrived at the ruins in Jerusalem—where he’d been assigned to spend the rest of his life setting up a Persian outpost—he tore his robes and wept, and sat on the ground and refused to get up, refused to eat etc. etc.

There is a vague kinship between the Ezra’s experience and his world vision and the life experience and world vision of Plato.  They were near contemporaries.  Socrates and Ezra were, in fact, contemporaries.

We can forgive Plato who, living in the pulverized remnants of Athens, imagined that the ‘real reality’ was a place where all fragments had been reassembled into a symmetry.  The real Athens was indestructible in Plato’s theory.  The Athens that had been crushed by the Spartans was merely derivative, nothing to concern ourselves with.  If nothing else we can say of Plato that he had a rich fantasy life.  Also, that his family was involved in the ugly few years of tyranny which followed hard upon Athens defeat and humiliation.  Also that in his later years, he soured, and began to idealize totalitarian modes of governance.  He experimented with these concepts in Sicily, with disaster results (his pupil through whose regime he wanted to manifest a utopia would not give him time of day, and nearly had him executed).  Aristotle, who did not share Plato’s fascist idealism, would later become the tutor of the single most successful general in the history of the world.

He’d been a pupil of Socrates in his teens and early 20’s.

Socrates would have been a teenager when news came to Athens that the Athenian army had been demolished by the Persians in Egypt.  The Delian expedition had spent 18 months besieged on an island in the Nile, at the end of which time Megazabus’s forces broke through and slaughtered them to a man.  There would have been a great wailing in Athens when the news came to them from the South–the story of the army’s downfall delivered tauntingly by enemies.  After thirty years, and a sequence of stunning victories by the Delian league(Athens) against the Peloponnesian alliance(Sparta), the war ground to a halt.  In the winter of 446, they called a truce.  It was called the ‘30 Years Truce’ by its authors.  It lasted for 13 years.

The war began again when Socrates was 30 years, and he served valiantly.  It ended, finally, when he was 65.  He died 5 years later.

It is unclear how Socrates earned a living.  Our records seem to indicate that he did not work.  His courage, violence, and bravery in defending the wounded were legendary in Athens, and are multiply attested in our sources including a biography of the General Laches wherein it is extremely unlikely that the author would have invented the story.

Socrates wrote no books.  His disdain for the written word is amply documented.

He is most famous for having said: “I only know that I know nothing.”

He is remembering for pointing out counterintuitive facts of life. Such as: “No one does wrong willingly” or “Happiness is not necessarily contingent upon wealth or fame.  Virtue alone can be sufficient for happiness.”  These concepts are known as Socratic paradoxes.  He would arrive at these conclusions by the eponymous “Socratic Method.”  That is, in debate he would ask questions rather than counterattacking from different premises or evidences.

Just as the Gospel’s two main strains of narrative (Synoptic and Johannine) about Jesus Christ–who also wrote no books–show him from strikingly different angles, Socrates’ two main biographers (Plato and Xenophon) present him in sharply contrasting lights, reflecting their prejudices as well as the depth of his character.  Socrates was also lampooned by Artistophanes, as an absurd itinerant sophist who taught his students how to get out of debt.  While perhaps slightly distorted, this theatrical portrait should not be discounted as a source of insight into the Gadfly’s character.  By all accounts he was quite an ugly man with a pug nose, and lived in poverty hanging out barefoot in the agora all day while his wife and sons practically starved.

Socrates, Plato, Aristotle:  typically, the archetypal triumvirate of men whose images are evoked when the word ‘philosopher’ is mentioned in untutored company.

Plato was heir to Socrates.  Aristotle was not exactly heir to Plato–they had significant disagreements.  Both prolific writers they represent, so to speak, the two prongs of the unlettered Socrates legacy.  From Plato we have carefully coiffed theater pieces.  From Aristotle we have lecture notes unintended for publication, a tiny sliver of his total production.

It is difficult to summarize the differences between the two men.  Plato was a rather ill-humored and effeminate fellow in comparison to Aristotle.  For the purposes of the present discussion we shall state their philosophical differences thusly:

Socrates pointed out that ‘things are not what they seem.’  Plato and Aristotle agreed in different ways.  Plato concluded that this meant that ‘Things are not  only not what they seem, things are not even what they are–they are representations of something else.”  Aristotle believed that, ‘While things may not be what they seem, they are what they are.’

In the Judeo-Christian tradition that developed after the Hellenization of Israel (which it is perhaps worth pointing, was the result of a conquest accomplished by Aristotle’s most famous pupil), mystical minded visionaries who focus on the Godhead, and abstract configurations of Heaven, Heaven in general (as opposed to the Resurrection) etc. have been called ‘Neo-Platonic.’  Thinkers in the Judeo-Christian tradition who have focused on the redemption of the world, the resurrection etc. have sometimes been called Aristotelian.

Say that someone says, “This is the best of all possible worlds.”  If they are a Platonic thinker, they will mean that of all the discarded drafts of ‘universes’ spread out across multiple dimensions etc., this world is the climax, the apex, God’s own coup de gras.

If they are an Aristotelian thinker they will mean, “Since this is the only world–there are no worlds outside of this world that we know–it is therefore the only possible world.  Because regardless of how the world might have developed, it has developed the way that it has.  There may be many possible future worlds, but we live in the real world, of which there is only one.  As such, this is the best of all possible worlds because it is the only world.  Of course, this means that it is also the worst.  It really depends on your perspective.”

When a Platonically inclined thinker(for example Augustine) says, “Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and is God,” they might mean something like, Jesus Christ is the manifestation of an invisible entity that permeates the entire universe, all-time, is omni-benevolent, omniscient, omnipotent etc.  We find this concept so beautiful and so compelling that we are prepared to accept it on faith and without evidence aside from the written narrative and the emotional power and ambience of various experiences that we’ve had while encountering this narrative. 

When a Christian thinker inclined to an Aristotelian worldview (for example, Aquinas) says, “Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and is God” they might mean something more like, When we say the word God, we are referring to a man who died on a cross, his influence on history by his story’s acting on the hearts and minds of hearers and believers, his cosmic centrality insofar as he is the default teleological apex of the dominant civilization on the only planet where we can be certain there is intelligent life, his power/the power of his story to motivate listeners to lead other-directed lives which have been seen to be the most fulfilling, to motivate people to invest themselves and their energies in the pursuit of an object that cannot be erased by death, a pursuit which cannot be arrested by death.  Our evidence for this belief is our experience after making the existential decision to live our lives in this direction, and we call our willingness to accept this evidence as a place-holder for what lies beyond our epistemological limits ‘faith.’

Aristotle writes about man and meaning:

Clearly this much at least is true that the words “be” and “not be” signify something determinate; not everything can be so and also not so.  Suppose “man” has the meaning “two-footed animal.”  By “having a meaning” I mean this: if “man” is “two-footed animal,” then if anything is a man, its “being-two-footed” will be what its “being-a-man” is. Now it makes no difference if we take a word that has more than one meaning, provided only that these be limited in number; for one might use a different symbol for each meaning of the word.  I mean that we might agree that “man” has, not one, but more than one meaning, of which one is denoted by “two-footed animal,” and that there are also several others, for each of which a special word might be used; but, if these weren’t used and we were to declare merely that “man” has infinite meanings, then it is evident that there would be no discourse; for not to have specific meanings is to have no meaning, and when words have no meaning conversation with one another, and indeed with oneself, has been annihilated, since it is impossible for one who does not think something to think anything.  (Metaphysics, IV:4)

He explains what is popularly referred to as God thus[famously, in his version 'the Unmoved Mover']:

…It is impossible for the process of change itself to home come into being or to cease to be [for this would imply a change taking place]. And so with time; for there could be no before or after if time were not. Accordingly, change is as continuous as time; for time is either the same as change or is in some way bound up with it…

Now if there is something merely capable of moving things or acting upon them but which does not actually do so, there still is no movement; for a capacity does not imply its exercise. Hence the need is not supplied if we posit eternal primary beings  such as [Plato's] ideas, unless there is in them a principle capable of effecting change.  And even then they are not adequate, nor is any other primary being such as the ideas, unless there is in them a principle capable of effecting change.  And even then they are not adequate, nor is any other primary being such as the ideas; for if they are not exercising their power, there will still be no movement.  And even though active, they are inadequate if their essential being is potential, for then movement will not be eternal; since what is only potentially may as well fail to be.  There must, accordingly, be a principle such that its very nature is to be in action. 

And these primary beings must be without material.  For they must be eternal, or else nothing is eternal.  Accordingly they must ever be actual. 

However there is a difficulty here; for it seems that everything that acts is capable of acting, but not everything capable of acting actually does so, so that capacity is prior. But if this is so, none of the things that are would need to be…

And if it is as [the folktale tellers] say, that everything was generated out of night, or as the writers on nature say, who declare that all things were mixed together, the same impossible consequence follows.  For how will motion come about if there be actual mover?  For how building material will not move itself it needs a builder’s art; nor does [the womb] generate life without semen, nor does the soil without seeds….

Accordingly there was not originally, for an unlimited time, chaos or night; but thngs have always been the same, either in successive self-repeating periods or in some other way, since what they actually are is not evolved out of a prior state.  If therefore, there is an eternal self-repeating sameness, something must remain always active in the same way.  But if there is to be generation and destruction, there must be something which, though it is actual, acts in two different ways.  This must, accordingly, be self-moving, on the one hand, but, on the other, it must move in accordance with something else, and therefore it is either in accord with another source of motion or with the first.  But it must be in accord with the first; for otherwise this would in turn influence both the second and the third.  Better, therefore, the first; for this explains the eternal sameness, whereas the second explains diversity.  These are the facts of the movements.  What need is there, then, to look for further principles? 

Since this is a possible account, and if it were not so the world would have proceeded out of night and “all things together” and nonbeing, these questions may be taken as solved.  It is clear, therefore, not in argument only but also in fact, that there is something which is always moved with unceasing and cyclical motion.  Consequently, the first heaven must be eternal.  there is therefore also something which moves it.  And since a moved mover is intermediate, there is, therefore, also an unmoved mover, being eternal, primary, and in action.   

The Hebrew canon ends, somewhat anticlimactically, with Malachi who spends most of his book lamenting the fact that blind goats are being sacrificed at temple, and tithes are not being paid.  Malachi would have been written when Plato was about four years old.

Hieronymous Bosch, part 1: The Garden of Earthly Delights


There is something in the wickedness of children which predisposes them to delight in the demonic. Perhaps it is their early fascination with toads and reptiles that recommends depictions and evocations of the cartoonishly satanic to young boys (and sometimes girls). Whereas the music and album art of Iron Maiden appealed to me in my earliest elementary-school youth as a sublimity so exquisite as to hardly be comparable with anything aside from the surreal perfection of Guns ‘N’ Roses—whose Use Your Illusions albums I considered to be more or less the teleological apex of human civilization—most strains of 80’s heavy metal seemed a quaint and nostalgic absurdity by the time I arrived at university. I’d gone through phases of falling in and out of love with Marilyn Manson, the Necronomicon, the fiction of HP Lovecraft, William S. Burroughs, The Clockwork Orange, Salvador Dali etc. by the time I was done with my freshman year in high-school, and thenceforth had diverted my attention to more subtly insidious subjects: the Melvins, Francis Bacon (the painter), Kafka et al.

Perhaps, however, my early love affair with heavy metal—along with a late hearing of the Gospel—largely explains my enduring enthrallment with the artwork of Hieronymous Bosch. After all, all of the artists listed in the above paragraph (with the possible exclusion of GNR) are to some lesser or greater extent indebted to Hieronymous Bosch as their forebear.

A college roommate of mine a 4” X 3” poster of a detail taken from right panel of the triptych that is acknowledged to be his masterwork: The Garden of Earthly Delights.  The detail was of a tiny section in the third panel of the triptych.


Wikipedia provides us with a summary of the triptychs contents more levelheaded than any that I would be able to muster.

Dating from between 1490 and 1510, when Bosch was about 40 or 50 years old,it is his best-known and most ambitious work. It reveals the artist at the height of his powers; in no other painting does he achieve such complexity of meaning or such vivid imagery. ….The triptych is painted in oil and comprises a square middle panel flanked by two rectangular wings that can close over the center as shutters. These outer wings, when folded shut, display a grisaille painting of the earth during the Creation. The three scenes of the inner triptych are probably (but not necessarily) intended to be read chronologically from left to right. The left panel depicts God presenting Adam to Eve, while the central panel is a broad panorama of sexually engaged nude figures, fantastical animals, oversized fruit and hybrid stone formations. The right panel is a hellscape and portrays the torments of damnation….Art historians and critics frequently interpret the painting as a didactic warning on the perils of life’s temptations. However, the intricacy of its symbolism, particularly that of the central panel, has led to a wide range of scholarly interpretations over the centuries. 20th-century art historians are divided as to whether the triptych’s central panel is a moral warning or a panorama of paradise lost. American writer Peter S. Beagle describes it as an “erotic derangement that turns us all into voyeurs, a place filled with the intoxicating air of perfect liberty”.

The poster hung above the couch across the room from a headless, limbless mannequin that we’d crowned with an elephant mask. I would often find myself staring at it in various psychotropic states. The cross-section of the triptych it detailed included—but its contents were note exclusive to—the following:


-Numerous humans being sodomized by a variety of demons. The most remarkable of these, in my opinion, is the human lying prostrate with a demon on its back. The demon is a stooped human figure with knees bent, back horizontal, head down and an egg balanced on its back. The demon is apparently driving long handled a spike into the man’s anus, while the holds a bowls and grinds the lever to a large, nameless, indescribable machine of no discernible function.

-A cow skull, many times larger than a man, whose sockets are impaled by various iron rods, one of which is being held aloft by a hooded demon, from the end of which pole is dangling a key through whose eye the body of a man is threaded. The man has gray skin.

-Leafless trees whose boughs are penetrating an egg like structure that contains a table of men sitting in the darkness, staring at the light coming out a hole in the egg structure. Also inside of the egg structure is a faceless nun filling a wine skin. A hooded man is climbing a ladder into the egg-structure. The hooded man is pantless and has an arrow lodged in his anus nearly up to the fletching. At the bottom of the ladder is a frightened looking blue-skinned man, who is apparently being admonished by an avian chimera with longbeaked bird’s head a moth wings, armored leggings and a rat’s tail.

-A monk reading a book in a blue hooded habit.

-A gigantic harp. A man has apparently been impaled by the harp strings and is suspended in mid-air in a rather painful looking posture.

-A glowing human face, many times larger than the full height of other humans in the frame, who has a platform on the crown of its head where a parade of demons is dancing around a gourd-shaped object which might also be some kind of bag-pipes.

-Severed human ears, many times larger than other human figures in the frame, impaled by an arrow and apparently crusing to death a group of human beings onto which they have fallen. A blade is coming from between the ears.

“The most amazing thing about this,” my roommate once told me, laughing awe-fully, “Is that the real, like…THING…is like…two feet high.” What sort of masochistically obsessive mind would paint figures so small, and in such profusion? It was hard to imagine such an intensely vivid tableau further concentrated. But my roommate’s observation was accurate. The detail was only a small subsection of the far-right wing of the triptych.

“That’s fucked-up, man [unhinged giggling],” or some other stoner platitude was likely my response to my roomate’s profound insight into why the painting was so fucked-up.

The centerpieces in both the left and central panel (not featured in the detail that hung in our living room) of The Garden of Earthly Delights features a massive artifacts which appears to be a figuration of human genitalia and various other reproductive organs.

 

Both sides of the wings are painted. The reverse sides of the wings, folding in to close like doors over the centerpiece. On the outside of the flaps is painted a globe, the bottom part being water. An undifferentiated paradisial landmass floats on the water. The flora populating this landmass includes various sorts of benign looking shrubbery on gently sloping hills. In the distance the spires of cities are seen. The top half of the globe is a sort of ‘glass bell’—the ‘firmament’ presumably—at whose crown storm clouds are gathered. Outside of the globe is a smoky darkness. God (we presume) envisioned here as a white bearded monarch with crown, cape and book, peers down through a bright hole in the blackness.

Creation opens like a peepshow onto this empyrean of insanity, this acme of medieval perversions.

Charles de Tolnay writes of ‘The Garden’:

Bosch does not rest content with pictorial and literary tradition, and uses the whole acuity of his penetrating mind to draw from his memory and experience dream symbols that are valid for all mankind. The specific meaning he gives them becomes intelligible only in the light of his basic theme: the nightmare of human life. Bosch is at once the dreamer and the judge of dreams, actor and stage-manager in one person.

“Memoirs Of My Nervous Illness” by Daniel Paul Schreber

This is an excerpt from Judge Schreber’s autobiography, entitled Memoirs of My Nervous Illness.

While man is alive he is body and soul together; the nerves (the soul of man) are nourished and kept in living motion by the body whose function is essentially similar to that of the higher animals.  Should the body lose its vitality then the state of unconsciousness which we call death and which is presaged in sleep, supervenes for the nerves.  This, however, does not imply that the soul is really extinguished; rather the impressions received remain attached to the nerves.  The soul, as it were, only goes into hibernation as some lower animals do and can be re-awakened to a new life in a manner to be described below.

God to start with is only nerve, not body, and akin therefore to the human soul. But unlike the human body, where nerves are present only in limited numbers, the nerves of God are infinite and eternal.  They possess the same qualities as human nerves but in a degree surpassing all human understanding.  They have in particular the faculty of transforming themselves into all things of the created world; in this capacity they are called rays; and herein lies the essence of diving creation.  An intimate relation exists between God and the starry sky.  I dare not decide whether one can simply say that God and the heavenly bodies are one and the same, or whether one has to think of the totality of God’s nerves as being above and behind the the stars, so that the stars themselves and particularly our sun would only represent stations, through which God’s miraculous creative power travels to our earth (and perhaps to other inhabited planets).

Equally I dare not say whether the celestial bodies themselves (fixed stars, planets etc.) were created by God, or whether divine creation is limited to the organic world; in which case there would be room for the Nebular Hypothesis of Kant-Laplace side by side with the existence of a living God whose existence has become an absolute certainty for me.  Perhaps the full truth lies (by way of a fourth dimension) in a combination or resultant of both trends of thought impossible for man to grasp. In any case the light and warmth giving power of the sun, which makes her the origin of all organic life on earth, is only to be regarded as an indirect manifestation of the living God; hence the veneration of the sun as divine by so many people since antiquity contains a highly important core of truth even if it does not embrace the whole truth.