Date: October 31, 2001
To: The Fleet of the Damned
From: William Blake in Cyberspace
"O lend me an ear while I call you a fool.You were kissed by a witch one night in the wool."
-- Jethro Tull
You scum-sucking dishwashers, you wise-ass carpenters (a worthy trade for a fisher of men, but hey, if the world was perfect, what would we complain about?), you hard-boiled cynics, you brothers and sisters with hearts of gold, oh so soft in the middle (I see you, though I’ve never met you), you perennial river-of-webzine dreamers, whoever the fuck you are today, I do take offense! You hurt and frustrated me in ways I’m barely able to explain.
I’m centered and aware, in a Gnostic way, since gnosis is to know. Not think, or hope or believe, but I have faith, I know. I have no choice. I’m sure you feel the same. I can tell you also know the signs are everywhere, if we only care to see. Magic is a witches’ trick, say some, but magic is only what the uninitiated call it. Same for science and technology. Oh, how we fear what we do not understand!
Oh, how they burn their witches here in Salem, Massachusetts! Oh yes, it’s very dangerous, for that matter, we are at the very real front of the very real war. Now we have to wash our hands after getting their mail. Now they have closed a courthouse and a post office in Salem, just because someone sent a letter to both that stated, "You are contaminated with anthrax. Have a nice day."
The new face of terrorism: Communication breakdown with a wicked pumpkin smile. Happy Halloween, indeed.
I tremble over a letter to a loved one. Write on the envelopes, "Please wash your hands after opening," but even if it’s the end of the world, they need to know. O man, mon Amis, how you offend me. But I needed it. Always did. Always will. As William Blake wrote, "the artist and oppressor are One." Since this is true, then let me move on, let me spin you a web-of-a-tale. Get yourself a beer and spread the peanut butter thick. It’s a fine and fitting time for the harvester of souls, of Halloween, a fine time of year to go "boo."
Sure, I scare people. That’s actually the best of what I do. And I do it to myself, self-same, it’s true. This is a season of bounty for me, but it’s a lunatic’s boon, especially in late October, living so close to Salem, on a hill home near the mouth of the Ipswich River. Close to Salem, where it’s been overly reported: They burn their witches here. Not much has changed since 1692.
O God, how I need a cigarette. Get the jump on Osama. Get the jump on regret.
Let me light up. There. Let me not forget. Let me blow smoke out in a shaman’s prayer. Allow me please, a muse Amis, let me summon every electronic energy bolt of fire and brimstone (We both know: The Baphomet computer is the philosopher’s stone), first wrote in old-tech script from my poison dirty pen (found so serendipitously on the ground in the harvest time of fall). Allow me to go "boo" to you, as well as those who are not so faint of heart, anyone capable of hearing a strange a mystical tale that, detail to detail, is absolutely true … in this season of moon, it will keep its mojo moving, regardless of you.~
We are on a romantic road and the digital dashboard indicator of a red-wine beaut’ of a 2000 Mercury Mountaineer sayeth, "96 miles to empty." The urban assault vehicle is here as a loan, a gift for just a day from the sister of my fellow traveler after her sibling departed for her wedding in Hawaii. I’m blissfully delighted at the arrival of such a pumpkin carriage. Totally surprised by the red-wine gleam and the company of a very, very tall blonde, who, of many other fine and sensual abilities, has translated Homer’s Odyssey in three different languages. She has come all of the way from the south side of Boston, about 40 miles, no less, to roam the harvest country with me at speeds both slow and fast. She has no idea what she is in for with me. Just another day in my current life in the fire leaf blazing morning glory of the North Shore. This is my romantic road. My quest, your open-heart attack arrest.
Obviously, loud tunes and gasoline gallons are required, since the maximum more of the foliage season is no time for being less; See it burn, matter turning to fire, turning to smoke, turning to cloud, the snow of winter, all to fall to the ground and begin again. The harvest time is a season to be full and wild and free. But don’t forget, in this botched and mortal coil-of-a-world, we must drive straight and thread the needle, and not for the time being leave all of my past control-freaked ladies alone. Or their ghosts. Ask not of golems. Just say no. Let the very particles of the sun charge the protective gothic gargoyles on my window sill, let the sun at dusk speak of lies and the friendly spirits, dragons, and sacred music. Let the gargoyles shiver in the very overwrought undulations of the sun, and the sun behind the sun. Even if the earth’s very vibrations shake, there is enough time to spend with a good, fair-haired witch, one free enough to brave my romantic road, a twisted, snaking string of a magical web of back roads heading to Route 101/West in New Hampshire, may oui! We are heading to where each and every license plate states, "Live free or die!" Ask not or reason why. We are chasing ghosts of lost love. Or, at least, I am. Free wheeling nature souls, coyotes and jaguars, purring kittens behind the trees, sorcerers, sea devils, and that Beast that has returned. Nor the microbes we can’t see. That which was once gone, indeed! So bring your skull and Templar crossbones flag. This is no time to run. Bring your cross of silver as a talisman. Have courage, cowardly lion. Let your titanium heart roar. Fear nothing, nothing at all, son. Every day the devil doesn’t get us, well, that’s his mistake! Fear nothing and nothingness will run.
Fear not loss. Fear not the cops. Or the courts. Or loss, nor terror. Breathe free the air, not the fear and error in the poisoned wind. All that is folly now (you know this, of course). Fret not about state dependent on north/south routes, of woodsy back roads, swamps and thickets, thorny paths and even thornier people. Just drive Route 101, which begins (depending, sayeth Dylan, Bob, on your point of view-uuuu) on the far east end near Portsmouth, New Hampsheer, where great whalers once trimmed their sails and oars. Take a westerly route. But remember, old man, to the very end of the road toward the sun, and, into the night, we are really quite alone.
We take 133 West out of Ipswich, where the Anglican churches and Christian Science bookstores co-mingle with the remnants of the great Ipswich River seaport of long ago. It’s already past noon and the flock of cars are forming into an endless line of foliage-gaping lookiloos. As we skulk a threaded needle through this mechanic’s parade, the CD player sounds off the mood, the Tragically Hip, it is, sangin’, "The constellations reveal themselves one star at a time."
I take notes because I feel as if I’m on a portentous road (in fact, as it turned out, me and my companion would be forever shaken by its portents). But, O, how I lose time and miss out on all of the beauty with my eye on blank paper (and your’s on this screen), my heart firing the very Promethean fire of Zeus through my pen warmed up in hell. Such a sense of loss and anxiety and a premonition that the very scythe of death is making a big all comeback this year: I guess that’s what fall in New England is all about.
When you take 113, heading toward Andover, you are enveloped in the careening psychedelia of the season. As I write this now, I feel winter is coming. You can see it in each and every leaf that blows across the windshield. Tiny white churches, Odd Fellows and Rotary halls, all perched alone in sharply cut acres in the woods, a vintage World War II mobile artillery machine (a convertible, maybe .50 calibre), pretty typical, all of it, in this land of God and Cannon; all of this set against a blazing backdrop of red, yellow and browning fire orange trees. Shit, will I be glad when all of this glorious instruction on the unmerciful passing of beauty is done! That is when I can be calm again.
But, it’s time to be vigilant and wired and world weary, because once you pass the Andover reservoir (which may or may not have been poisoned by anthrax-anthrax terrorists on a fly-by), you better get ready. That’s because you have to get back on 133 again, the Andover to Haverhill east/west road, which is to say: The Freemason maze, a technological terror running through the Merrimack River Valley (the pre-colonial natives called it "Mer O Wac"). Haverhill to Andover, Andover to Haverhill, past CMGI and Lucent Technologies, past software firms in small offices intertwined with dentists and barbers’ and beauticians’ storefronts. A key word, that: front.
A false front, no doubt, no maybe, may oui. The demon’s path is a copper wire of roads where the aged architecture of civilization, old as this country, old as the Crusades (which is older even), is a foundation still apparent in the great four-story Masonic Hall overlooking the Merrimack in Haverhill, in the obelisk spires that decorate the bridge crossing the river, in the Andover freemason lodge at the opposite end, but still, just off the road, almost touching it, in the very Eye of Horus that decorates the haircutter’s salon downtown.
O yes, the medium is the message: the quiet, all-seeing eye, our trillion-dollar-sponsored benevolent and supposedly sane security, our Public Safety Committee, our ubiquitous protector, our worldly, eye-in-the-sky overlord. Ah, how we do choke on the fumes of this everpresent background static, this electromagnetic energy. Even at the gas station, where there is a freemason compass signifier sticker on the window next to the credit card signs, it’s easy for those who haven’t lost sight of history to see. At the gas station, the Mark of the Beast didn’t actually mean that freemasons here get cheaper gas. I asked. It just means they own the place, said the woman who takes your credit card but prefers the ease of dollar bills behind the glass, said the woman who is restricted from irrational and impossible me, overly rational you.
They own the place, indeed!
When you log on to the freemason commuter maze with your metallic key, left is right, up is down, and U.S. 495 goes west when the sign says south. Not much different, this disorienting ghost in the machine, than the sense of dislocation created in casinos and shopping malls. The magician’s trick, O man behind the curtain, is to disorder our hearts with disinformation intended to keep us from being still long enough to even know who we are, or, where we came from: nature. All of it forces us to be so dependent upon the big cement swamp of man that we will have nothing left to do but desire, nothing left to do but shop, nothing left to do but drive to our homes and businesses and back again for our very survival.
Thank this pseudo god for TV!
O, now here is a warning for all of this Promethean potpourri: Get out while you can. Be not of this world. And please, O please, wash your hands. Best to get out of there, out of Metheun, Andover, and especially out of Lawrence, where the satanic mills are a thing once gone that’s now returned. Yes, indeed. Yes, indeed. A magician’s techno dance and trick, I say, best to get out of there, lickity split. Use your Bible, or, just use your wit.
So take 495 south to go west, moving past Jack Kerouac’s bluesy Lowell train depot, perhaps even his soul, and then point it north on Route 3 into New Hampshire … O muse Amis … News flash: This just in: Some discordian trickster has thrown a bag of an unknown white powder at the Haverhill Beef outlet, lodged in the Freemason Lodge, and Hazmat is now testing the substance for anthrax. It’s air that I’m breathing, even as I write and speak my heart, so we will see, we will see. Oh, in this air age of the overlord, fear is thy food and thine enemy.
The Trial and Evidence, or the Lack of …
William Blake was once tried to for sedition. According to biographer Peter Ackroyd:
"The affair started outside Blake’s cottage on the twelfth of August (1803). A soldier, who was billeted at the Fox Inn just down the lane, came into the garden in order to speak to the ostler from the inn who was working there: Private John Scofield was leaning against the wall, `lounging about’ as was later related, when Blake came out. He did not realise that his gardener had asked the soldier for assistance, and wondered what he was doing on the premises. Some words were exchanged, which the gardener, William, testified he had not heard. At this point Blake seems to have lost his temper and, taking the private soldier by the neck and back, he marched him up the lane to the Fox Inn. There were now some witnesses, among them the landlord of the tavern and his wife as well as another soldier billeted there. Blake and Scofield were then separated, after more angry words were spoken. It might have been a common enough incident, but these were not common times. Five months later Blake faced trial in Chichester for sedition."
The soldier testified that, while in the garden, Blake repeatedly said, "Damn the King. The soldiers are all slaves. "
Faithfully, we believe we have been to the moon. We have a copy of a newspaper that says so. Why would it lie? Every article in that July 21, 1969 issue has some tie-in to the moon. Even the sports page. That’s so like New York. The overkill. New York is our national endorsement for ego, hubris, for fully licensed, cross-promotional insanity. In New York, advertising is everything. New York spams us with everything it knows, and, everything it knows about us. In New York, temptation is everything. The forces of gravitational pull are compressed into advertising, into motivational icons, hanging from the sides of skyscrapers at all angles, as big as your neighborhood grocer, giant grins and girls rivaling -- at least in terms of size -- the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
A video game arcade is a bizarre place to run into anything stimulating enough to invoke profound thoughts. Guzzling Gotu Kola, caffeine and taurine in Bar Code, I thought about just who or what, exactly, is running things from the deep and impenetrable layer of myth. What is the reason to despair when the Beast is no longer in hiding? Isn’t that proof that an iron-clad, compassionate cosmos actually gives a shit? More significant clues to what it all means, you would think, might be frustratingly beyond our fingertips down the street at the NASDAQ headquarters, if we could only crunch the right numbers for chaos and (Pie Symbol). Or, more likely, inside some closeted peep show around the corner. You know, the Underworld. The Overlord. The Demiurge. Urizen. The lesser god within the God. Whatever. Such an entertainment venue, at best, provides furious craving for just one more quarter to blow a demon back to digital hell. But the Big Apple, especially someone who has bitten from the forbidden fruit of knowledge too many times, does have a tendency to push the thinking toward megalomania. Such as when a hot dog vendor dreams of owning a McDonald’s.
Or when the poet dreamer believes William Blake is calling him from his grave.
I was writing down the words, "Gotu Kola Herb," so that he would remember downloading -- Ok, Ok, drinking -- and I thought of that alchemist’s elixir, and gulped it down. My eyes narrowed with a quick compression on the orgy of techno-pagan icons in a multimedia lounge, restaurant and video arcade. Funny, this place seemed to be some kind of premeditated Mythappropriation: a marriage of corporate heaven, and, the charismatic Christian’s imminent Big Brother.
The very worst of all anxieties in apocalyptic culture, the fear that an ISBN unique identifier might be stamped on our foreheads, is tamed, fully licensed and packaged for trendy, positivistic commercial concerns. Co-branding is everything. It cools. It soothes the senses. Makes us docile and compliant and repeat customers. Their memetic icons are implanted onto our brains by repetition, via telecommunications entering every known mammalian orifice. Convergence is a well-supported attack of chess pieces, mate: Game over. Insert another quarter to return, again, to Mythville.
I drank another slug, took a long drag on a cigarette, and considered myself innoculated for the Brave New Databasing to come. To my back were rows of video arcade games. In front, the bar, the waitress in her Bar Coded uniform. She dispensed brain-enhancing fluids beneath a horizontal wall panel with simultaneous video displays that streamed pulsing, chimerical patterns of color in tight syncopation with familiar pop music. Nothing new in particular, but the blue light of a roaming overhead projector, which produced circular blue patterns on the bar’s counter to imitate the roving eye of a bar code scanner -- now, that was new. Involuntary invasions of personal information harvesting as a source for happy-hour amusement. Even if it was faked up by some graphic art school geek, now that was an inspired idea.
Next, the poet William Blake reached out and spammed me. From two centuries of stony sleep he arrived, on the wall-hanging were the following words, "What is now proved was once only imagined." Bar Code had appropriated the line (Napsterized it, even, since there was no attribution) from "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell." What it hadn’t appropriated, but should have, from the same passage, was this: "The path of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom."
Here’s a little mystery worth revealing to those still reading.The code is embedded in the lines of Blake’s "Jerusalem":"And did those feet in ancient time Walk upon England’s mountains green?And was the holy Lamb of God On England’s pleasant pastures seen?"
Now, ask yourself, and certainly get your Catholic priest to confess: Did Jesus really die on the cross. Or did he, as the Catharis may have believed, escape? Or, if he did not escape, where did his DNA go? Holy Grail indeed. A viral effect may be in our very blood.
The year is 1790, seven years before The Encylopedia Britannica, still unplugged, observes: "The capitols of distant nations might be united by chains of posts, and the settling of those disputes which at present take up months or years might be accomplished in as many hours."
The year is 1790, which means it will be 16 years before Mary Shelley will get to writing chapter four of "Frankenstein, " or "The Modern Prometheus." Eighteen years before Mary Shelley went to work that day, Blake was already be well on the way to completing his groundbreaking new technology in convergent media, an "illuminated book" for two tracts, "All Religions Are One" and "There is No Natural Religion." The first begins with the line, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness," and then, stating his argument, observes: "As the true method of knowledge is experiment the true method of knowing must be the faculty which experiences."
The latter poem, "All Religions Are One," in which the artist attempts to explain the embracing of both good and evil, Blake looks as far back as Heracleitus, an ancient Greek philosopher who 1,800 years before decided pretty much the same thing, that everything is interrelated, and that the reason we suffer is because we live the false dream of failing to comprehend the logos. Whenever we see the connection between the opposites, sayeth Heracleitus, that world order is "an ever-living fire kindling in measures and being extinguished in measures." Then, we are walking in the real. Just like William Blake, the Greek philosopher was extraordinarily unpopular, at least considering his intellectual gifts. All the same, 1,800 years later, Blake could even appreciate that the publishing world that resisted him, the rational minds of his days, the logic choppers out there preaching the new material regime of man, the mechanical God, well, all of that was working counter-intuitive wonders with his creativity. He even had compassion for his oppressor, writing in his tract in 1788, "The bounded is loathed by its oppressor. The same dull round even of a universe would soon become a mill with complicated wheels."
A mill with complicated wheels, indeed.