The Top of My Head
For what’s left of our religion I lift my voice and pray:
May the lights in The Land of Plenty
shine on the truth some day - Leonard Cohen
When the US Declaration of Independence was signed on the second Dog Day of the summer of 1776, the Sun was conjunct Sirius, a star of unrivalled significance to ancient Egyptian mystery religions, esoteric Freemasonry and New Age UFO cults. (Remember Alice Bailey's teaching that the ancient mysteries were received from the "Great White Lodge on Sirius," and that initiation into Earthly orders such as Freemasonry is merely preparatory for "admission into the greater Lodge on Sirius.") In 1846, the date for the laying of the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was chosen to again coincide with the passage of the Sun over Sirius, this time while the Moon was in Virgo. Its dedication ceremony saw Sirius rise over the Capitol building, as Jupiter auspiciously assumed the Moon's position, thus evoking the motto of the Seal of the United States, "Favor our daring undertaking": Audacibus annue coeptis, Virgil's invocation to Jupiter, the God. Regarding the great obelisk, David Ovason writes in The Secret Architecture of Our Nation's Capitol that it is a "mystery, involved in some of the deeper mysteries of Masonic symbolism." It "represents, from almost every viewing point in the city...a triangle hovering against the skies."
"We are touching upon mysteries which are so extraordinary that they seem to be beyond belief," Ovason adds. "Yet one need only look to the skies, and the records of stellar events, to realize that they are absolutely true."
It shouldn't need to be said, but it seems that everything must be said these days: the existence of mysteries is not necessarily an evil. Mysteries themselves merely evidence things hidden, occulted from general sight, and suggest there are supra-mundane forces to the world that show their hand to us, the uninitiates, in riddles. The architects and heirs of America's mysteries don't always shy from claiming their credit. The forward to Ovason's "fascinating and well-researched" study of Washington's secret fetish for Egypt's Old Kingdom, and perhaps things older, is provided by C Fred Kleinknecht, 33rd degree Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council, 33rd degree (Mother Council of the World), Southern Jurisdiction, USA.
"I'm seeing something that was always hidden," says Jeffrey Beaumont, early in Blue Velvet. "I'm in the middle of a mystery and it's all secret." Let's be honest, like Jeffrey: there can be a thrilling novelty to the process of discovery, even if we don't discover what the secret is, but merely that there is a secret. Even, sometimes, once we learn the secret, and find it nauseates and dizzies us. (Amusement rides, too, are about disorientation. Some get their kicks instead from metaphysical and parapolitical scares.) It was only later, when the mystery was recognized as not a vicarious amusement but a threat to life and sense of self, that it stopped being a thrill.
How do we recognize mystery's power? I think it's something like how Emily Dickinson recognized poetry:
If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?
Felt the top of your head come off lately? There's a poetry to this mystery we're in. That's not to say it's a thing of beauty; merely that there's an authorship, a manicured landscape of meaning. An intelligence at work. Materialists and coincidentalists who lack the semiotic skillset will see neither signs nor patterns; just random moments strung together by our imaginations. But C Fred Kleinknecht says, "As above, so below."
Edgar Cayce, America's "sleeping prophet," was a Christian and Freemason whose entranced alter claimed to have been a high priest of Egypt named "Ra Ta." Ra Ta predicted an American Golden Age based upon the principals of Freemasonry, linked to the projected opening of a hypothesized "Hall of Records" beneath the Sphynx at the end of the 20th Century. Cayce seems to have been a better psychic diagnostician than he was a prophet, but his influence had a long reach. Cayce advised Woodrow Wilson - two biographers claim he was summoned to Washington to advise on the creation of the League of Nations - the meeting arranged by head of the Secret Service, Colonel Edmond Starling. Sterling came from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and Cayce was born on a farm just outside Hopkinsville and resided in the town until a young adult.
(Does Hopkinsville ring another bell of American weirdness? The "Hopkinsville Incident"of August 21, 1955: a farmhouse, just outside the Kentucky town, besieged by shining, seemingly nickel-plated mischevious entities. Is there a connection? Maybe, though maybe no more than America is a weird place, and some American places are weirder than others.)
What do we do about the poetics of mystery? Sometimes we construct our own. At least that's how I understand the self-discrediting work of Tom Flocco, Sherman Skolnick and others. Flocco's recent "exclusive" fantasies - Barbara Olson arrested! French intelligence kill Israeli terrorists in NYC subway! Bush orders Fitzgerald fired! - is "conspiracy theory" as poetry slam: associative narratives to compete with the official stories, all of them wholly unhinged from reality. Such writers are not disinfo agents so much as they are fabulists, and no matter how often they are proven wrong they will still find a readership, because they promise emotionally satisfying resolution. As in a fable, all loose ends are tied. And like a fable, it all happens without our intervention. All we need do is watch it unfold, though only in our minds.
Poetry can help us understand our situation, if we don't, as Flocco appears to have done, mistake it for our situation. I can't speak for Emily Dickinson, but one poem that took the top of my head clean off this year was the film adaptation of Frank Miller's Sin City.
Dominating the city's religious and political life are two brothers, a Cardinal and a Senator. The family is respected, and protected, acting above the secular and divine laws they administer. The Roark dynasty harbours serial killers, paedophiles, cannibals. The marginalized characters who challenge their authority doom themselves by doing so, though they leave small victories that survive them. Is this America? No, just something like it. Maybe more than Frank Miller knows. Maybe not as much as I think.
"What the hell do you know?" Cannibal Cardinal Roark asks Marv, the monster of vengence. Marv replies, "I know it's pretty damn weird to eat people." In the end, the esoteric meaning - the consumption of souls - is irrelevant. It is simply pretty damn weird. And wrong.
As Senator Roark tells the good cop Hartigan, as Hartigan lies in hospital, wounded and framed for having protected a young girl from Roark's predatory son:
Power doesn't come from a gun, or a badge. Power comes from lies. Once you got everybody agreeing with what they know in their hearts ain’t true you got ‘em by the balls.
There’s what, maybe, 500 people in this hospital? I could pump you full of bullets right now and I wouldn’t even be arrested. Everyone would lie for me. Everyone who counts. Otherwise all their own lies, everything that runs Sin City, it all comes tumblin’ down like a pack of cards.
Those who know things go deeper, weirder and darker than Scooter Libby know the cards haven't tumbled yet. Those who don't have yet to see the deck.