There is another world, but it is in this one.

Paul Eluard. Œuvres complètes, vol. 1, Gallimard, 1968.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Rich and Strange: John Keel and Machenean Perichoresis?

From the article Some Thoughts on 'N' By Thomas Kent Miller (Copyright © 2012-2018 All Rights Reserved):

….in 1936 Machen declared (albeit through a character's conviction at the end of one of his last stories, 'N'):

I believe that there is a perichoresis, an interpenetration. —which is a state of being, not a state of mind. However, in the same story, he has another character reflect: Has it ever been your fortune . . . to rise in the earliest dawning of a summer day, ere yet the radiant beams of the sun have done more than touch with light the domes and spires of the great city? . . . If this has been your lot, have you not observed that magic powers have apparently been at work? The accustomed scene has lost its familiar appearance. The houses which you have passed daily . . . now seem as if you beheld them for the first time. They have suffered a mysterious change, into something rich and strange [and] now 'stand in glory, shine like stars, apparelled in a light serene.'

They have become magical habitations, supernal dwellings, more desirable to the eye than the fabled pleasure dome of the Eastern potentate, or the bejewelled hall built by the Genie for Aladdin in the Arabian tale.

This latter passage, in my view, is an example of that subtle and transitory enhancement in perception that many of us have experienced, and which can be precipitated by anything from various kinds of intoxicants and hallucinogens to being vouchsafed exceedingly good news.

In other words, over the decades Machen's mystical pronouncements seemed to vacillate between cheerful metaphors on the one hand and virtual acceptance of rips in the universe on the other—though the language and vocabulary were sufficiently similar to obviate the differences without especial scrutiny. Was this conscious obfuscation or was he himself unsure? How does the reader decide which had more validity for Machen—the 'belief in a world' or the 'pattern in the carpet'?

I am of the opinion that Arthur Machen gravitated more to the belief in the reality of connected . . . well . . . dimensions, insofar as it seemed to be, over a 50-year literary period, his predominant theme ('the intermingling of this world and another of far vaster significance', per Machen biographer Mark Valentine.) From first to last he succeeded in imbuing nearly all his fiction (and much nonfiction) with successive variations of that one theme—a belief that he in all likelihood absorbed by virtue of his youth and upbringing in the folklore and myth-immersed border region of Gwent. Howard says (paraphrasing critic Joseph Wood Krutch) that 'Machen had only one main plot in his fiction, that of "rending the veil"'.

From John Keel's The Mothman Prophecies:

….On May 20, 1967, Steve Michalak was out prospecting near Falcon Lake, Manitoba, Canada, when he saw a large circular object land. It seemed to be made of glittering metal "like stainless steel." He approached it and thought he could hear voices mumbling inside. He called out but received no answer. Instead, the object spewed out some kind of gas or flame which caught him full in the chest and sent him reeling backward as it took off. Both his shirt and the skin underneath were burned with an odd checkerboard pattern.

Mr. Michalak became extremely ill, suffering a week of blackouts, nausea, headaches, and a weight loss of twenty-two pounds. It took him many weeks to return to normal. Then, on September 21, 1967, 124 days after the initial incident, the burns on his chest returned and his body began to swell. He was hospitalized and again returned to normal. But the malady returned every 109 to 124 days. In August 1968, after a year of recurring illnesses, he visited the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota at his own expense. Doctors there told him they had treated another UFO victim from California who suffered from the same thing. His problems stemmed from "a foreign substance" in his blood, he was told.

When scientists from the air force-financed UFO study conducted by Colorado University visited Michalak, they asked to see the place where the saucer had landed. He admitted that he had been searching for the spot himself, without success. He was puzzled by his inability to locate it. Despite his inexplicable injury, the scientists viewed this inability as proof that his story was a hoax. In their final report they implied he was not telling the truth.

Actually there are a great many cases in which the witnesses found they could not relocate the site of their experience. Buildings and landmarks clearly seen at the time seem to vanish. Roads and highways disappear. This bewildering phenomenon is well-known in psychic lore also, probably because many psychic experiences are hallucinatory, too. There are innumerable stories about restaurants that seemed to dissolve after the witnesses stopped there. Tales of disappearing houses are common. A weary traveler stops at an old abandoned house for the night, just like in the movies, and later learns the house he stayed in does not exist … or had burned down years ago.

True to the reflective factor, as I was writing this I received a letter from F. W. Holiday, the British investigator, in which he tells the following:

A family in the south of England still spend their weekends driving around woods looking for a mysterious lake they encountered some fifteen years ago. Out in the middle they saw a huge rock with a sword driven into it. Later they went back to do some research but there was no trace of such a lake. No one had heard of it and it isn't on the maps.

One could fill a book with such incidents, and, indeed, some authors have. Long ago I classified such episodes as distortions of reality. Throughout history people have been straying through Alice's looking glass, seeing things that don't exist, visiting places that spill off the maps into some hallucinatory other dimension. Fifteen years ago there was a lake in England with a sword jutting out of a stone, waiting for some king to come along and pull it out, shouting, "Excalibur!"



9 June 2018

1 comment:

  1. Dear Jay - I've recently taken a bit of a vacation from FB. Nonetheless, I am perplexed why you seem to have deleted the kind and positive review you have recently posted on Amazon for my pseudo-journalism essay. Have I done or not done anything to offend you? I sent you a query via messenger a few days ago, but have heard nothing back. THOMAS KENT MILLER