A question we had to learn to deal with during the dope decade was, How do you break the news to someone that his brains are fried? This issue had now passed over into Horselover Fat's theological world as a problem for us-his friends-to field.
It would have been simple to tie the two together in Fat's case: the dope he did during the Sixties had pickled his head on into the Seventies. If I could have arranged it so that I could think so I would have; I like solutions that answer a variety of problems simultaneously. But I really couldn't think so. Fat hadn't done psychedelics, at least not to any real extent. Once, in 1964, when Sandox LSD-25 could still be acquired-especially in Berkeley-Fat had dropped one huge hit of it and had abreacted back in time or had shot forward in time or up outside of time; anyhow he had spoken in Latin and believed that the Dies Irae, the Day of Wrath, had come. He could hear God thumping tremendously, in fury. For eight hours Fat had prayed and whined in Latin. Later he claimed that during his trip he could only think in Latin and talk in Latin; he had found a book with a Latin quotation in it, and could read it as easily as he normally read English. Well, perhaps the etiology of his later God-madness lay there. His brain, in 1964, liked the acid trip and taped it, for future replay.
On the other hand, this line of reasoning merely relegates the question back to 1964. As far as I can determine, the ability to read, think and speak in Latin is not normal for an acid trip. Fat knows no Latin. He can't speak it now. He couldn't speak it before he dropped the huge hit of Sandoz LSD-25. Later, when his religious experiences began, he found himself thinking in a foreign language which he did not understand (he had understood his own Latin in '64). Phonetically, he had written down some of the words, remembered at random. To him they constituted no language at all, and he hesitated to show anyone what he had put on paper. His wife-his later wife Beth-had taken a year of Greek in college and she recognized what Fat had written down, inaccurately, as koine Greek. Or at least Greek of some sort, Attic or koine.
The Greek word koine simply means common. By the time of the New Testament, the koine had become the linguafranca of the Middle East, replacing Aramaic which had previously supplanted Akkadian (I know these things because I am a professional writer and it is essential that I possess a scholarly knowledge about languages). The New Testament manuscripts survived in koine Greek, although probably Q, the source of the synoptics, had been written in Aramaic, which is in fact, a form of Hebrew. Jesus spoke Aramaic. Thus, when Horselover Fat began to think in koine Greek, he was thinking in the language which St. Luke and St. Paul-who were close friends-had used, at least to write with. The koinelooks funny when written down because the scribes left no spaces between the words. This can lead to a lot of peculiar translations, since the translator gets to put the spaces wherever he feels is appropriate or in fact wherever he wants. Take this English instance:
GOD IS NO WHERE
Actually, these matters were pointed out to me by Beth, who never took Fat's religious experiences seriously until she saw him write down phonetically several words of the koine, which she knew he had no experience with and could not recognize even as a genuine language. What Fat claimed was-well, Fat claimed plenty. I must not start any sentence with, "What Fat claimed was." During the years-outright years!-that he labored on his exegesis, Fat must have come up with more theories than there are stars in the universe. Every day he developed a new one, more cunning, more exciting and more fucked. God, however, remained a constant theme. Fat ventured away from belief in God the way a timid dog I once owned had ventured off its front lawn. He-both of them- would go first one step, then another, then perhaps a third and then turn tail and run frantically back to familiar territory. God, to Fat, constituted a territory which he had staked out. Unfortunately for him, following the initial experience, Fat could not find his way back to that territory.
They ought to make it a binding clause that if you find God you get to keep him. For Fat , finding God (if indeed he did find God) became, ultimately, a bummer, a constantly diminishing supply of joy, sinking lower and lower like the contents of a bag of uppers. Who deals God? Fat knew that the churches couldn't help, although he did consult with one of David's priests. It didn't work. Nothing worked. Kevin suggested dope. Being involved with literature, I recommended he read the English seventeenth century minor metaphysical poets such as Vaughan and Herbert:
"He knows he hath a home, but scarce knows where,
Which is from Vaughan's poem "Man." As nearly as I could make out, Fat had devolved to the level of those poets, and had, for these times, become an anachronism. The universe has a habit of deleting anachronisms. I saw this coming for Fat if he didn't get his shit together .
Of all the suggestions given to Fat, the one that seemed most promising came from Sherri, who still lingered on with us in a state of remission. "What you should do," she told Fat during one of his darker hours, "is get into studying the characteristics of the T-34." Fat asked what that was. It turned out that Sherri had read a book on Russian armor during World War Two. The T..34 tank had been the Soviet Union 's salvation and thereby the salvation of all the Allied Powers-and, by extension, Horse- lover Fat's, since without the T- 4 he would be speaking-not English or Latin or the koine-but German.
"The T-34," Sherri explained, "moved very rapidly. At Kursk they knocked out even Porsche Elefants. You have no idea what they did to the Fourth Panzer Army." She then started drawing sketches of the situation at Kursk in 1943, giving figures. Fat and the rest of us were mystified. This was a side of Sherri we hadn't known. "It took Zhukov himself to turn the tide against the Panzers," Sherri wheezed on. "Vatutin screwed up. He was later murdered by pro-Nazi partisans. Now, consider the Tiger tank the Germans had and their Panthers." She showed us photographs of various tanks and related with relish how General Koniev had successfully crossed the Dniester and Prut Rivers by March twenty-sixth.
Basically, Sherri's idea had to do with bringing Fat's mind down from the cosmic and the abstract to the particular. She had hatched out the practical notion that nothing is more real than a large World War Two Soviet tank. She wanted to provide an antitoxin to Fat's madness. However, her recitation, complete with maps and photographs, only served to remind him of the night he and Bob had seen the movie Patton before attending Gloria 's graveside service. Naturally, Sherri had not known about that.
"I think he should take up sewing," Kevin said. "Don't you have a sewing machine, Sherri? Teach him to use it."
Sherri, showing a high degree of stubbornness, continued, "The tank battles at Kursk involved over four thousand armored vehicles. It was the greatest battle of armor in history. Everyone knows about Stalingrad, but nobody knows about Kursk. The real victory by the Soviet Union took place at Kursk. When you consider-"
"Kevin," David interrupted, "what the Germans should have done was show the Russians a dead cat and ask them to explain it."
"That would have stopped the Soviet offensive right there," I said. "Zhukov would still be trying to account for the cat's death."
To Kevin, Sherri said, "In view of the stunning victory by the good side at Kursk, how can you complain about one cat?"
"There's something in the Bible about falling sparrows," Kevin said. " About his eye being on them. That's what's wrong with God; he only has one eye."
"Did God win the battle at Kursk?" I said to Sherri. "That must be news to the Russians, especially the ones who built the tanks and drove them and got killed."
Sherri said patiently, "God uses us as instruments through which he works."
"Well," Kevin said, "regarding Horse, God has a defective instrument. Or maybe they're both defective, like an eighty- year-old lady driving a Pinto with a drop-in gas tank."
"The Germans would have had to hold up Kevin's dead cat," Fat said. "Not just any dead cat. All Kevin cares about is that one cat."
"That cat," Kevin said, "did not exist during World War Two."
"Did you grieve over him then?" Fat said.
"How could I?" Kevin said. "He didn't exist."
"Then his condition was the same as now," Fat said.
"Wrong," Kevin said.
"Wrong in what way?" Fat said. "How did his nonexistence then differ from his nonexistence now?"
"Kevin's got the corpse now," David said. "To hold up. That was the whole point of the cat's existence. H\: lived to become a corpse by which Kevin could refute the goodness of God."
"Kevin," Fat said, "who created your cat?"
"God did," Kevin said.
"So God created a refutation of his own goodness," Sherri said. "By your logic."
"God is stupid," Kevin said. "We have a stupid deity. I've said that before."
Sherri said, "Does it take much skill to create a cat?"
"You just need two cats," Kevin said. "One male and one female." But he could obviously see where she was leading him. "It takes-" He paused, grinning. "Okay, it takes skill, if you presume purpose in the universe."
"You don't see any purpose?" Sherri said.
Hesitating, Kevin said, "Living creatures have purpose."
"Who puts the purpose in them?" Sherri said.
"They-" Again Kevin hesitated. "They are their purpose. They and their purpose can't be separated."
"So an animal is an expression of purpose," Sherri said. "So there is purpose in the universe."
"In small parts of it."
"And unpurpose gives rise to purpose."
Kevin eyed her. "Eat shit," he said.
In my opinion, Kevin's cynical stance had done more to ratify Fat's madness than any other single factor-any other, that is, than the original cause, whatever that might have been. Kevin had become the unintentional instrument of that original cause, a realization which had not escaped Fat. In no way, shape or form did Kevin represent a viable alternative to mental illness. His cynical grin had about it the grin of death; he grinned like a triumphant skull. Kevin lived to defeat life. It originally amazed me that Fat would put up with Kevin, but later I could see why. Every time Kevin tore down Fat's system of delusions-mocked them and lampooned them-Fat gained strength. If mockery were the only antidote to his malady, he was palpably better off as he stood. Whacked out as he was, Fat could see this. Actually, were the truth known, Kevin could see it too. But he evidently had a feedback loop in his head that caused him to step up the attacks rather than abandon them. His failure reinforced his efforts. So the attacks grew and Fat's strength grew. It resembled a Greek myth.
In Horselover Fat's exegesis the theme of this issue is put forth over and over again. Fat believed that a streak of the irrational permeated the entire universe, all the way up to God or the Ultimate Mind, which lay behind it. He wrote:
38. From loss and grief the Mind has become deranged. Therefore we, as parts of the universe, the Brain, are partly deranged.
Obviously he had extrapolated into cosmic proportions from his own loss of Gloria.
35. The Mind is not talking to us but by means of us. Its narrative passes through us and its sorrow infuses us irrationally. As Plato discerned, there is a streak of the irrational in the World Soul.
Entry 32 gives more on this:
The changing information which we experience as World is an unfolding narrative. It tells about the death of a woman (italics mine ). This woman, who died long ago, was one of the primordial twins. She was one half of the divine syzygy. The purpose of the narrative is the recollection of her and of her death. The Mind does not wish to forget her. Thus the ratiocination of the Brain consists of a permanent record of her existence, and, if read, will be understood this way. All the information processed by the Brain-experienced by us as the arranging and rearranging of physical objects-is an attempt at this preservation other; stones and rocks and sticks and amoebae are traces of her. The record of her existence and passing is ordered onto the meanest level of reality by the suffering Mind which is now alone.
If, in reading this, you cannot see that Fat is writing about himself, then you understand nothing.
On the other hand, I am not denying that Fat was totally whacked out. He began to decline when Gloria phoned him and he continued to decline forever and ever. Unlike Sherri and her cancer. Fat experienced no remission. Encountering God was not a remission. But probably it wasn't a worsening, despite Kevin's cynical views. You cannot say that an encounter with God is to mental illness what death is to cancer: the logical outcome of a deteriorating illness process. The technical term-theological technical term, not psychiatric-is theophany. A theophany consists of a self-disclosure by the divine. It does not consist of something the percipient does; it consists of something the divine-the God or gods, the high power-does. Moses did not create the burning bush. Elijah, on Mount Horeb, did not generate the low, murmuring voice. How are we to distinguish a genuine theophany from a mere hallucination on the part of the percipient? If the voice tells him something he does not know and could not know, then perhaps we are dealing with the genuine thing and not the spurious. F at knew no koine Greek. Does this prove anything? He did not know about his son's birth defect-at least not consciously. Perhaps he knew about the near-strangulated hernia unconsciously, and simply did not want to face it. There exists, too, a mechanism by which he might have known the koine; it has to do with phylogenic memory, the experience of which has been reported by Jung: he terms it the collective or racial unconscious. The ontogeny-that is, the individual-recapitulates the phylogeny-that is, the species-and since this is generally accepted, then maybe here lies a basis for Fat's mind serving up a language spoken two thousand years ago. If there were phylogenic memories buried in the individual human mind, this is what you might expect to find. But Jung's concept is speculative. No one, really, has been able to verify it.
If you grant the possibility of a divine entity, you cannot deny it the power of self-disclosure; obviously any entity or being worthy of the term "god" would possess, without effort, that ability. The real question (as I see it) is not, Why theophanies? but, Why aren't there more? The key concept to account for this is the idea of the deus absconditus, the hidden, concealed, secret or unknown god. For some reason lung regards this as a notorious idea. But if God exists, he must be a deus absconditus-with the exception of his rare theophanies, or else he does not exist at all. The latter view makes more sense, except for the theophanies, rare though they be. All that is required is one absolutely verified theophany and the latter view is voided.
The vividness of the impression which a supposed theophany makes on the percipient is no proof of authenticity. Nor, really, is group perception (as Spinoza supposed, the entire universe may be one theophany, but then, again, the universe may not exist at all, as the Buddhist idealists decided). Any given alleged theophany may be a fake because anything may be a fake, from stamps to fossil skulls to black holes in space.
That the entire universe-as we experience it-could be a forgery is an idea best expressed by Heraclitus. Once you have taken his notion, or doubt into your head, you are ready to deal with the issue of God.
"It is necessary to have understanding (noos) in order to be able to interpret the evidence of eyes and ears. The step from the obvious to the latent truth is like the translation of utterances in a language which is foreign to most men. Heraclitus ...in Fragment 56 says that men, in regard to knowledge of perceptible things, 'are the victims of illusion much as Homer was.' To reach the truth from the appearances, it is necessary to interpret, to guess the riddle. ..but though this seems to be within the capacity of men, it is something most men never do. Heraclitus is very vehement in his attacks on the foolishness of ordinary men, and of what passes for knowledge among them. They are compared to sleepers in private worlds of their own."
Thus says Edward Hussey, Lecturer in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of All Souls College, in his book The Presocratics, published by Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1972, pages 37-38. In all my reading I have-1 mean, Horselover Fat has-never found anything more significant as an insight into the nature of reality. In Fragment 123, Heraclitus says, "The nature of things is in the habit of concealing itself." And in Fragment 54 he says, "Latent structure is master of obvious structure," to which Edward Hussey adds, "Consequently, he (Heraclitus) necessarily agreed. ..that reality was to some extent 'hidden.'" So if reality "[is] to some extent 'hidden,'" then what is meant by "theophany"? Because a theophany is an in-breaking of God, an in-breaking which amounts to an invasion of our world; and yet our world is only seeming; it is only "obvious structure," which is under the mastery of unseen "latent structure." Horselover Fat would like you to consider this above all other things. Because if Heraclitus is correct, there is in fact no reality but that of theophanies; the rest is illusion; in which case Fat alone among us comprehends the truth, and Fat, starting with - Gloria's phonecall, is insane.
Insane people-psychologically defined, not legally defined -- are not in touch with reality. Horselover Fat is insane; therefore he is not in touch with reality. Entry no.30 from his exegesis:
The phenomenal world does not exist; it is a hypostasis of the information processed by the Mind.
35. The Mind is not talking to us but by means of us. Its narrative passes through us and its sorrow infuses us irrationally. As Plato discerned, there is a streak of the irrational in the World Soul.
In other words, the universe itself-and the Mind behind it-is insane. Therefore someone in touch with reality is, by definition, in touch with the insane: infused by the irrational.
In essence, Fat monitored his own mind and found it defective. He then, by the use of that mind, monitored outer reality, that which is called the macrocosm. He found it defective as well. As the Hermetic philosophers stipulated, the macrocosm and the microcosm mirror each other faithfully. Fat, using a defective instrument, swept out a defective subject, and from this sweep got back the report that everything was wrong.
And in addition, there was no way out. The interlocking between the defective instrument and the defective subject produced another perfect Chinese finger-trap. Caught in his own maze, like Daedalus, who built the labyrinth for King Minos of Crete and then fell into it and couldn't get out. Presumably Daedalus is still there, and so are we. The only difference between us and Horselover Fat is that Fat knows his situation and we do not; therefore Fat is insane and we are normal. "They are compared to sleepers in private worlds of their own," as Hussey put it, and he would know; he is the foremost living authority on ancient Greek thought, with the possible exception of Francis Cornford. And it is Cornford who says that Plato believed that there was an element of the irrational in the World Soul.
There is no route out of the maze. The maze shifts as you move through it, because it is alive.
PARSIFAL: I move only a little, yet
already I seem to have gone far .
(The whole landscape becomes indistinct. A forest ebbs out and a wall of rough rock ebbs in, through which can be seen a
1 Plato's Cosmology, The Timaeus of Plato, Library of Liberal Arts, New York.1937.
gateway. The two men pass through the gateway. What happened to the forest? The two men did not really move; they did not go anywhere, and yet they are not now where they originally were. Here time turns into space. Wagner began Parsifal in 1845. He died in 1873, long before Hermann Minkowski postulated four-dimensional space-time (1908). The source-basis for Parsifal consisted of Celtic legends, and Wagner's research into Buddhism for his never-written opera about the Buddha to be called The Victors (Die Sieger). Where did Richard Wagner get the notion that time could turn into space?)
And if time can turn into space, can space turn into time? In Mircea Eliade's book Myth and Reality one chapter is titled "Time Can Be Overcome. " It is a basic purpose of mythic ritual and sacrament to overcome time. Horselover Fat found himself thinking in a language used two thousand years ago, the language in which St. Paul wrote. Here time turns into space. Fat told me another feature of his encounter with God: all of a sudden the landscape of California, USA, 1974 ebbed out and the landscape of Rome of the first century CE. ebbed in. He experienced a superimposition of the two for a while, like techniques familiar in movies. In photography. Why? How? God explained many things to Fat but he never explained that, except for this cryptic statement: it is journal listing 3. He causes things to look different so it would appear time has passed. Who is "he"? Are we to infer that time has not in fact passed? And did it ever pass? Was there once a real time, and for that matter a real world, and now there is counterfeit time and a counterfeit world, like a sort of bubble growing and looking different but actually static?
Horselover Fat saw fit to list this statement early in his journal or exegesis or whatever he calls it. Journal listing 4, the next entry, goes:
Matter is plastic in the face of Mind.
Is any world 'out there at all? For all intents and purposes Gurnemanz and Parsifal stand still, and the landscape changes; so they become located in another space-a space which formerly had been experienced as time. Fat thought in a language of two thousand years ago and saw the ancient world appropriate to that language; the inner contents of his mind matched his perceptions of the outer world. Some kind of logic seems involved, here. Perhaps a time dysfunction took place. But why didn't his wife Beth experience it, too? She was living with him when he had his encounter with the divine. For her nothing changed, except (as she told me) she heard strange popping sounds, like something overloaded: objects pushed to the point where they exploded, as if jammed, jammed with too much energy.
Both Fat and his wife told me another aspect of those days, in March 1974. Their pet animals underwent a peculiar metamorphosis. The animals looked more intelligent and more peaceful. That is, until both animals died of massive malignant tumors.
Both Fat and his wife told me one thing about their pets which has stuck in my mind ever since. During that time the animals seemed to be trying to communicate with them, trying to use language. That cannot be written off as part of Fat's psychosis-that, and the animals' death.
The first thing that went wrong, according to Fat, had to do with the radio. Listening to it one night-he had not been able to sleep for a long time-he heard the radio saying hideous words, sentences which it could not be saying. Beth, being asleep, missed that. So that could have been Fat's mind breaking down; by then his psyche was disintegrating at a terrible velocity.
Mental illness is not funny.