Thursday, April 12, 2012
Illuminatus! Excerpt: Didn't seem to do much for the Nazis did it?
Saul, listening on the extension phone, nodded a vigorous affirmative.
"Go as far back as you have to," Barney said. "This is a complicated matter we're trying to untangle here."
"OK, I'll try to remember you're not in my theology class at Fordham and keep this as brief as I can."The priest's voice faded, then came back— probably he was shifting the phone as he got out of bed and moved to a chair, Saul guessed.
"There were many approaches to Gnosticism," the voice went on in a moment, "all of them centered on gnosis—direct experience of God— as distinguished from mere knowledge about God. The search for gnosis, or illumination as it was ometimes called, took many odd forms, some of them probably similar to Oriental yogas and some of them using the very same drugs that modern rebels against the slow path of orthodox religion have rediscovered. Naturally, with such a variety of paths to gnosis, different pilots would land at different ports, each insisting he had found the real New Jerusalem. Mystics are all a bit funny in the head anyway," the priest added cynically, "which is why
the church locks them all up in mental hospitals and euphemistically calls these institutions monasteries. But I digress.
"What you're interested in, I guess, is Cainism and Manicheanisra. The former regarded Cain as a specially holy figure because he was the first murderer. You have to be a mystic yourself to understand that kind of logic. The notion was that, by bringing murder into the world, Cain created an opportunity for people to renounce murder. But, then, other Cainites went further— paradox always seems to breed more paradox and heresy creates more heresy— and ended up glorifying murder, along with all the other sins. The credo was that you should commit every sin possible, just to give yourself a chance to win a really difficult redemption after repenting. Also, it gave God a
chance to be especially generous when He forgave you. Related ideas popped up in Tantric Buddhism about the same time, and it's a great historical mystery which group of lunatics, East or West, was influencing the other. Does any of this help you so far?"
"A bit," Barney said.
"About this gnosis," Saul asked, "is it the orthodox theological position that the illuminations or visions were actually coming from the Devil and not from God?"
"Yes. That's where Manicheanism enters the picture," Father Muldoon said. "The Manicheans made exactly the same charge against the orthodox church. According to their way of looking at it, the God of orthodox Christianity and orthodox Judaism, was the Devil. The god they contacted through their own peculiar rites was the real god. This, of course, is still the teaching of Satanists today."
"And," Saul asked, begining to intuit what the answer would be, "what has all this to do with atomic energy?"
"With atomic energy? Nothing at all. . .at least, nothing that I can see. . . ."
"Why is Satan called the light-bringer?" Saul plunged on, convinced he was on the right track.
"The Manicheans reject the physical universe," the priest said slowly. "They say that the true god, their god, would never lower himself to mess around with matter. The God who created the world-our God, Jehovah— they call panurgia, which has the connotations of a kind of blind, stupid blundering force rather than a truly intelligent being. The realm which their god inhabits is pure spirit of pure light. Hence, he is called the light-bringer, and this universe is always called the realm of darkness. But they didn't know about atomic energy in those days— did they?" The last sentence had started as a statement and ended as a question.
"That's what I'm wondering," Saul said. "Atomic power releases a lot of light, doesn't it? And it sure would immanentize the Eschaton if enough atomic power was unleashed at once, wouldn't it?"
"Fernando Poo!" the priest exclaimed. "Is this connected with Fernando Poo?"
"I'm beginning to think so," Saul said. "I'm also beginning to think we've stayed in one place a long time, using a phone that is almost certainly tapped. We better get moving. Thanks, Father."
"You're quite welcome, although I'm sure I don't know what you're getting at," the priest said. "If you think Satanists control the United States government a few priests would agree with you, especially the Berrigan brothers, but I don't see how this can be a police matter. Does the New York Police Department now maintain a bureau of holy inquisitions?"
"Don't mind him," Barney said softly. "He's very cynical about dogma, like most clergymen these days."
"I heard that," the priest said. "I may be cynical but I really don't think Satanism is a joking matter. And your friend's theory is very plausible, in its way. After all, the Satanist's motive in infiltrating the church, in the old days, was to disgrace the institution thought to represent God on earth. Now that the United States government makes the same claim, well. That may be a joke or a paradox on my part, but it's the way their minds work, too. I am a professional cynic —a theologian must be, these days, if he isn't going to seem a total fool to young people with their skeptical minds— but I'm orthodox, or downright reactionary, about the Inquisitions. I've read all the rationalist historians, of course, and there was certainly an element of hysteria in the church in those days, but, still, Satanism is not any less frightening than cancer or plague. It is totally inimical to human life and, in fact, to all
life. The church had good reasons to be afraid of it. Just as people who are old enough to remember have good reasons to be panicky at any hint of a revival of Hitlerism."
Saul thought of the cryptic, evasive phrases in Eliphas Levy: "the monstrous gnosis of Manes . . . the cultus of material fire. . . ." And, nearly ten years ago, the hippies gathered at the Pentagon, hanging flowers on the M.P.'s rifles, chanting "Out, demon, out!" . . . Hiroshima ... the White Light of the Void. . . .
"Wait," Saul said. "Is there more to it than just ideas about killing? Isn't killing a mystical experience to the Satanists?" "Of course," the priest replied. "That's the whole point— they want gnosis, personal experience, not dogma, which is somebody else's word. Rationalists are always attacking dogma for causing fanaticism, but the worst fanatics start from gnosis. Modern psychologists are just beginning to understand some of this. You know how people in explosive group-therapy sessions talk about sudden bursts of energy occurring in the whole group at once? One can get the same effect with dancing and drum-beating; that's what is called a 'primitive' religion. Use drugs, nowadays, and
you're a hippie. Do it with sex, and you're a witch, or one of the Knights Templar. Mass participation in an animal sacrifice has the same effect. Human sacrifice has been used in many religions, including the Aztec cult everybody has heard about, as well as in Satanism. Modern psychologists say that the force released is Freud's libidinal energy. Mystics call it prajna or the Astral Light. Whatever it is, human sacrifice seems to release more of it than sex or drugs or dancing or drum-beating or any less violent method and mass human sacrifice unleashes a ton of it. Now do you understand why I fear Satanism and half apologize for the Inquisition?"
"Yes," Saul said absently, "and I'm beginning to share your fear. ..." A song he hated was pounding inside his skull: Wenn das Judenblut vom Messer spritz. . .
He realized that he was holding the phone and seeing scenes forty years ago in another country. He jerked himself back to attention as Muldoon thanked his brother again and hung up. Saul raised his eyes and the two detectives exchanged glances of mutual dread. After a long pause, Muldoon said, "We can't trust anybody with this. We can hardly even trust each other."
Before Saul could answer the phone rang. It was Danny Pricefixer at headquarters. "Bad news. There was only one girl in research at Confrontation named Pat. Patricia Walsh to be exact, and—"
"I know," Saul said wearily, "she's disappeared, too."
"What are you going to do now? The FBI is still raising hell and demanding to know where you two are and the Commissioner is having the shits, the fits, and the blind staggers."
'Tell them," Saul said succinctly "that we've disappeared." He hung up carefully and began stuffing the memos back into the box.
"What now?" Muldoon asked.
"We go underground. And we stick to this until we crack it or it kills us."
The Illuminatus! Trilogy is a series of three novels written by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.