Salem witchcraft. Superstition. Replaced now by shamanism, freebase coke, heroin, acid, ayhuasca. Karmic back-pressure like dope smoke curling back through the centuries. The bits are ghosts, seance channelings. Tap tap. Tap tap...
Think Swedenborg shouting at his evil spirits late at night. Demonic goats in a tree. I wake terrified thinking: THERE'S SOMEONE ELSE IN THE ROOM! Long shot of a monkey in a dinner jacket smoking a cigarette in a long holder. Six foot salamanders in the damp hotel garden. Aunt Sally's Policy Players Dream Book. Cabaret Voltaire.
Ezra Pound, reacting to the election of Grover Cleveland, threw his rocking chair across the room. He was seven years old.
Howard Hughes would sing "hey bop-a-re-bop" when he shot up. Codeine and valium were his drugs of choice. In Las Vegas on April Fool's Day, 1967, he acquired the Desert Inn.
Robert Graves sent R. Gordon Wasson to Mexico to search for the Flesh of God. At the time, Wasson was a bank vice president at J.P. Morgan.
When I was a kid of eight or nine, I had to take an IQ test. Like any kid, I was afraid I'd fail. Some of the questions were easy, so I started to relax. Then came the zingers. What is the same about black and white? What is the same about high and low? Etc. I was stumped. I was wondering if this was some kind of trick. Then a light bulb went off. (Or did it go on?) Oh! They're both colors. They're both altitudes of a sort. My mind has been warped ever since.
I am thinking of three Russians. What is the same about Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff, and Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum -- aside from the fact that each has three names and the first two Russians aren't Ayn Rand? Here's what I think it is: that the "systems of thought" they left to us were so baroque, so bizarre, so abstruse, that to this day no one has the slightest clue what they were on about, if anything. But precisely because of this opaque impenetrability, all sorts of seeming profundities can be derived from their literary droppings, much as the arcane art of gematria finds weird and shocking numerological equivalencies in various sacred scriptures. Revelation is always an endless source of further mysteries. If this sort of thing appeals to you, what can I say? Get your kicks on Route 666.
This will raise howls of protest, of course, from the extant remnants of The Theosophical Society, The Work, and all card-carrying Objectivists, as the Randily inclined like to advertise themselves. All would undoubtedly label me an Unbeliever, probably using other words meaning basically the same thing. And I would say: guilty, Your Honors, Your Graces, Your Lordships. I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to have your knickers yanked down around your ankles and your asses laughed at. It's the American Way. Get used to it, Russkies!
Of all the howling protestations, though, Rand's might be the loudest, the most wounded and unjustly affronted. Why, to associate her logical positivity, her rigorous reasoning, her scientific methodology with, of all things, those ...sputter... mystics! As if she wasn't one. As if her impassioned odes to capital-C Capitalism didn't constitute the introibo ad altare Dei to a sacred cult of primitive anticommunism, arrived just in time for HUAC, the '50s, and those more serious teens who weren't falling for Elvis and all that jungle music. Truth be told: because they were far too self conscious and couldn't dance.
Self is a grayscale value between shades of night, a balancing act, an article of faith. Winnicott asks: why do even the sanest of the sane become uncomfortable at talk of the dissolution of personality when they have never had any direct experience of such states of mind? They must know something, he suggests. Enough to know better. Enough to be afraid.
"Don't be silly," the doctor says to the man with the thousand-yard stare. "There is nothing out there in the jungle waiting for you. You are only imagining that." Slowly, the man looks up at him, through him, as if he has distantly sensed some disturbance in another world. The doctor feels ice form along his spine. If he's any good, he knows this is dangerous work. If he's not, he is protected only by his ignorance of being human.
The ocean was murmuring, the night huge. There was no moon. There were no stars. No way forward or back. I was falling.
Then I kissed a cop at 34th and Vine. I don't know what came over me. I'd been at a party out in the Hamptons, I think. All I remember was a green light at the end of a pier. Maybe I was cracking up. Wouldn't surprise me. Now I was heading into the city to meet a guy at the Apollo up on 125th. He said he had some new gauge I just had to taste. When I got there I paid a kid five bucks to watch my car. I told him there was another five in it for him if the car was in one piece when I got back. Luther was upstairs like I'd knew he'd be. The man looked like he was seeing things. I said, "You look like you're seeing things, Luther." He passed me the brown cigarette and said, "See for yourself."
I took a few pokes. Nothing happened. I was still pretty wasted from the party out on the Island I guess, so it was hard to tell. I was blowing out a lungful when there was a knock. I looked at Luther but he didn't look like he'd heard it. I got up and opened the door.
"Hello," said a very big man in the hallway. He must have been over seven feet. "I'm the Angel Moroni and I'm here to help."
By the time he was 19, Nathan Blumenthal had read The Fountainhead forty times. You could say he was a big fan of Ayn Rand. You can imagine what kind of life he had. Today, we would call Nathan a "loser." Later he changed his name to Nathaniel Branden and wrote lots of best-selling books like The Six Pillars of Self Esteem, a real page-turner. In between changing his name and writing all those books, he had an affair with Ayn. It was "an affair" because both of them were already married. But they got permission from their respective spouses first. They were heavy into integrity. They described what they meant by this in a book they wrote together called The Virtue of Selfishness.
Guess what it meant.
After Enron and a bunch of other companies got busted for committing various forms of outrageous fraud, many businessmen started reading Atlas Shrugged. Sales went through the roof. An article in USA Today said: "CEOs put the book down knowing in their hearts that they are not the greedy crooks they are portrayed to be in today's business headlines but are heroes like the characters in Rand's novel."
The writer didn't mean that these corporate types put the book down, even though that's what he wrote. The writer meant that, after finishing it, they liked the book, and that what they liked about it was the idea that selfishness is a virtue. I tried to find a date for when this article was published, but all the website says is...
Posted NaN/NaN/NaN NaN:NaN PM
Isn't there a song that goes like that?
In the Fall of 1827, in the Burned-Over District of upstate New York, the Angel Moroni delivered the Golden Tablets to Joseph Smith, who was 21 years old at the time. Thus was the Mormon religion established. By the end of his short life, Smith had made quite a few serious enemies. They finally killed him. This was after he had declared himself King of the United States of America, and before he raised the following toast at a formal banquet: "Here is wishing that all the mobocrats of the 19th century were in the middle of the sea in a stone canoe, with an iron paddle; that a shark might swallow the canoe, and the shark be thrust into the nethermost part of hell, and the door locked, and the key lost, and a blind man hunting for it."
In 1857, almost exactly 30 years after Moroni gave Joseph the golden plates in Palmyra, a band of Mormons slaughtered 140 west-bound travelers -- men, women and children -- in the single worst case of homicidal mayhem ever perpetrated in the U.S. up until the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma Federal Building. Mark Twain wrote of the Mountain Meadows massacre: "A large party of Mormons, painted and tricked out as Indians, overtook the train of emigrant wagons some three hundred miles south of Salt Lake City, and made an attack."
The date was September 11.
Damn. Now that song is stuck in my head. What was it? Na na nah, nana na nah... Oh right, Hey Jude. But wait, but no, something more obscure, something further back. Land of 1000 Dances, that's it! These things could be clues. In the midnight hour, you never know. I google the lyrics and there it is:
...got to know how to pony
like bony Moroni...
Was Wilson Picket a Latter Day Saint, then? Highly unlikely, given the Church's views on race. You can have any color you want, as long as it's white. But was Moroni, in fact, bony? Did he know how to pony? Questions to which we shall probably never have satisfying answers. Still, it's odd that the angel of Mormon should emerge from a passing similarity between a database error and a bit of soul. An image comes to mind unbidden, a remote viewing sort of thing with a dash of timeshift: Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli rocking out around an old upright piano...
could be syn-chron-i-city...
Again, unlikely. Hard to imagine that such Germanic types knew how to pony -- much less bone a Moroni. Not a typo, no. I was reading Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, which is about these two Mormon brothers who murdered a woman and her baby. Grisly material. Lotsa blood. Lotsa stuff about the Mormon precept of "blood atonement." Psycho shit all the way. Nonfiction. And one of the brothers, while he's on death row, develops a new twist on the theology. According to the author, who interviewed him in prison, he thought the angel Moroni "was an evil homosexual spirit trying to invade his body through his anus."
(if you got it lemme see)
could be syn-chron-i-city...
(if you got it lemme see)
As Jung said, once we pulled him away from his piano, "Among all my patients in the second half of life, there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life." Too right, Carl. And in the background, Pauli and Daniel Paul Schreber are doing a little syncopated harmony on Soul Murder, though their long subjection to Prussian pedagogy is inevitably screwing with the beat. Grüss Gott.
I need to take a break. Take a breather. I'm reading way too much into these random hits. I decide to rent The Fountainhead, the movie made in 1949 from Ayn Rand's novel. She wrote the screenplay too -- and it shows. The film is unspeakably bad, unless you tune in to the unintended humor. Then it's hysterical. Sorta like Rand's entire oeuvre. On the Internet Movie Database, user comments have titles like
- Boy does Ayn Rand like to hear herself talk.
- Patricia Neal Has Skyscraper Envy
- Strickly 4 laffs
- Howard Roark and the True Meaning of Christmas
- Overwrought trash
...and my favorite:
In that last, David Atfield (email@example.com) from Canberra, Australia, writes...
And what about that ending! Our hero is building the tallest building in the world (read phallus!) and our heroine is orgasmic as she rides an elevator up his glittering shaft, on top of which he stands legs astride. Please!
The actual image in the final scene is even more overt than that makes it sound. The thing is cringeworthy adolescent slag from start to finish. But I sat through it, falling asleep only during Roark's bombastic courtroom self defense -- he had a fool for a lawyer. I even stayed through the credits.
- Gary Cooper: Howard Roark
- Patricia Neal: Dominique Francon
- Raymond Massey: Gail Wynand
- Kent Smith: Peter Keating
- Robert Douglas: Ellsworth M. Toohey
- Henry Hull: Henry Cameron
- Ray Collins: Roger Enright
Suddenly, I sat bolt upright.
Moroni? I go to Wikipedia and read: "Olsen was born in Ogden, Utah, to Mormon parents who named him after the prophet Moroni."
I can feel my eyes get that wild demented look I'm all too familiar with. Trapped again in Synchronicity City. As the Eagles once said in a slightly different context: "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."
I want to believe in you. That you are more. More interesting, more mysterious, more intelligent. I was born for this. Let's fall in love. Let's make dirty movies. Come dance in my projection.