Church of East Stranger Creek

February 19, 2007 at 8:38 pm (Borjes Society, Occult History)

Lynn Alexander

Many of our residents are unaware that in the late 19th and early 20th century there were two Churches in Stranger Creek, the Congregational Church, which survives, and the Church of East Stranger Creek, which burned down in 1927 and was never rebuilt.

The Church of East Stranger Creek was established in the early years of settlement. By 1889 the Church had prospered to the point where it was able to build a solid wooden building in the gothic manner on the corner of 3rd and Peculiar. The Church of East Stranger Creek was a prophecy church with an independent congregation that allowed a significant degree of latitude in what was deemed acceptable prophecy. Men, women and children were all allowed to prophesize. Services consisted of the congregation sitting quietly in a set of circles while each, as inspired, stood and prophesized. Some just stood and remained silent which was considered especially blessed. All prophecies for a given year were bound in dark grey leather book stamped with a silver cross. The Church’s library consisted of a series of these annuals dating back to 1871.

If one had the time to read through these testaments one would find that the spirit gave voice to a wide range of issues personal, political and social as well as visions and moral sentiments, expressions of faith and odd turns of thought that were always very unusual and heavily superstitious. In the spring of 1927 all that changed – everyone all at once began prophesizing in a higher tone than before. It was as if their own voices had disappeared completely and voices of another realm altogether were heard. During their services rainbows would sometimes appear and on several occasions flowers fell through the air.

This spontaneous manifestation of holiness began to concern the leaders of the other Churches in town. Some serious discussion took place and the Congregationalists, Theosophists, and the Swedish Brethren agreed to form a ‘Board of Elders’ charged with looking into unusual matters in the town and conducting investigations where necessary at public expense. As the first investigation was about to be launched the Church burned to the ground during a lightening storm. No one was hurt but as no specific prophecy had been made prior to this, members were shaken. There were several attempts to reestablish the group on a reformed basis but they failed and the members eventually dispersed.

Before departing once again, John Hayes pointed out to me a special place in his library where I found the manuscript copy of the 1927 prophecies. It had apparently belonged originally to William Hayes who if not a member was a friend of the Church in the 1920’s. I have selected a few of the less obscure of these to include here:

From the 1927 Book of Prophecies
Church of East Stranger Creek

April 7h

Listen

I am the Lord of Mystery who knows all

That is hidden in heaven and on earth

I am the one who instructs

The one who inspires

The one who knows both the visible and the invisible

The one who guides both the living and the dead

I am the one who will lead you out of the labyrinth of time

But first all of you must choose

Do you remain in sleep?

Do you continue to serve the changing?

Or do you make your single wish

To know that which has never changed?

When faith overcomes the sleep of desire

When the mind that seeks advantage

In the passing is given rest

Then I will appear

April 14th

Everything comes from me
I am all that exists
I alone am the One God of all
I have never had a name
Yet I am the God of all that has name
Always present, within you and within everything
From me both the visible and invisible rise
The invisible is stillness and the visible is movement
Goodness and the heart that cherishes goodness
I am always with you
In all that you have been instructed
I am the one who has instructed you
In kindness you will see kindness
In stillness presence
In inquiry, knowledge
In prayer, clarity
All things flow out of me
The unspoken
The word

The image
The manifest
And the darkness
I am the One without a second
The perfect mind of thunder
From me the father reigns
From me the mother nurtures
From me everything is
Through me the earths
And the heavens came to be
I am changeless yet I am ever changing
I am virgin and prostitute
I am sinner and saved
I am foolish and wise
I am teacher and student
I am all things each to their degree
I am nothing, and nothing beyond nothing

April 21st

Listen
I am the One who is All
The One revealed in every scripture
The One who has known you since the beginning
The One who becomes clearly manifest at your wish
By your own efforts you can accomplish nothing
But all is possible in me
My word is everywhere
In the world of many, I am one
The visible and the invisible
The known and the inexplicable
I am the sovereign and I am the revealer
I am the spirit and the truth
My home is the unbounded
My being is the unlimited
If you know me
You know everything
I am the timeless and the One whose net is time
When the son stills his revolt against the Father
And becomes humbled
Then he is reborn in my light
I have no name
No history, no philosophy, no theology
No myth, no words, no syllables and no symbols
There is no path to me
But all of these
History, philosophy, theology, myth
Paths, words, syllables and symbols
All these flow out of me and flow back to me
Do not look at what I have brought to light
But turn in stillness to the source
Of all that is
Then you will see me face to face
For I am traceless and I am perfectly in view
The more you forget, the more you remember
The more you surrender, the deeper you are bound
Bound to me like a wave
Whose delusions I will shatter
Once we reach the shore

I realize at this point the reader’s understanding of the specific nature of the Church and what took place there may be somewhat clouded which is quite understandable. In addition to the Book of Prophecies, we also recovered the Book of Rites, which after consulting with Reverend Talisman I have decided not to print here, as I am not sure what that might lead to.

As to the cause of the fire that burned the Church to the ground in 1927, there is much speculation. Some say it was caused by certain powers opposed to the Church’s teachings, others say it was a bolt of lightening delivered as a warning from On High. In either case, it did not deter William Hayes from continuing his explorations as we know from subsequent events. Perhaps in some way it inspired him.

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Autumn 1919

February 15, 2007 at 8:24 am (Borjes Society)

J.T.N.


He came back in autumn of 1919, one month before Rose’s 28th birthday. The orchards were ripe with apples on the long paved walk that led to the estate house. The hired workers would pick them in the following week, taking away the only color left on the landscape, the trees having lost their leaves in the weeks before. She had received notice that he was coming, and had pictured his return ever since she had received the telegram from Cairo saying he was no longer missing in action, that he had been found.

When the door rang Jacob stood dutifully by, his tired hands resting on one of the shined brass handles, knowing that Rose would want to be the first thing her husband saw when the door was opened. Rose came down the stairs wearing the same blue dress that she had on when he first made love to her, eight years ago by the fishing pond on her parents’ estate. It had been autumn then too but she liked to remember it as a spring day, with a field of flowers to lie on instead of the dry, dead leaves that had actually been her mattress. Rose had her hair down, as she knew he liked, and it ran in waves to her waist; it had been golden-tan once but now showed strands of gray. Rose felt giddy in a way she hadn’t known for some time.

It took a moment for the recognition to set in. Physically, the man standing in the doorway looked every bit like the man who left three years ago, except perhaps for a scar on his forehead. He was still tall, smartly dressed, with thin sandy hair that covered his head in sporadic peaks and valleys. Rose rationally identified the man, who stood in front of her, but it wasn’t her husband, and she couldn’t explain why. There was something changed, and Rose’s emotions did not accept this altered form which presented itself as her husband. The man looked at Rose with passive, empty eyes. There was no indication of whether or not he was surprised by his wife’s apprehension. Breaking the mood, Jacob coughed audibly.

“Master, a pleasure to see you safely returned.”

At Jacob’s voice the moment was broken, and Rose grabbed her husband around his neck and hugged him, saying his name over and over while her tears poured into his chest. The man dropped the small leather satchel he was carrying and put an arm around his wife. His other arm held onto his crutch, which he balanced against.

That night they ate their first meal together in three years. Rose wanted to ask her husband about what had happened since his letters to her had stopped. How he had gone down, how he escaped the Sopwith which had still not been found, how he had survived in the desert, how he had got back. Restraining herself, she only asked about his leg. He said he would be able to get off the crutch in a few weeks, that the doctors had to reset the bone but it would be right soon. He asked about the house and grounds, about how Rose had been faring. She had little to complain about; her family had helped her quite a bit and she regularly took weekend train trips with her sisters into Kent for shopping. She had been lonely, yes, but she had always had others around. Jacob of course had taken good care of her. Her husband nodded toward his head butler appreciatively and Jacob turned modestly away.

Later Rose tried to make love to her husband, but he didn’t seem to notice her touches. He stared at the ceiling above him, his eyes glinting eerily as they reflected moonlight from the open window. When he had undressed for bed, Rose had noticed that the skin across his chest and shoulders was discolored, as if from a burn.

In the weeks that followed, Rose tried to return the estate to how it was before the war. It was difficult. While Rose oversaw the tending of the grounds, the orchards, and the vineyards, her husband kept mostly to himself. He stayed in his study looking through old albums of photos and would only occasionally leave to wander around the surrounding countryside. Rose wanted to encourage him to be sociable, but whom would he see? Neither Arthur nor Brian had returned from France. Her husband’s best friend before the war, Arthur had commanded men in Somme and was killed by a machine gun in the battle of Saint-Quentin while his friend Brian received a wound from shrapnel in Ypres that got infected before he could be taken off the line. Helping their widows, whom Rose had known since preparatory school, had almost broken her, especially while her own husband was missing.

Meals were eaten almost entirely in silence, and Rose kept having to remind herself that this was at least in some way still the same easy-going, chronically likable, and perpetually humorous man she remembered. In the years he was away Rose had dwelled every day on the memories she had of him. She would replay her favorite memories in her mind over and over, changing and altering them as the real image of him started to fade. Now she questioned herself; had she changed her recollections so much that she was remembering someone completely different than how her husband really was? Had he always been like he was now? Did she just not notice the emptiness before? A lot could change in three years, over the channel or at home.

One night Rose awoke to find her husband wasn’t lying next to her. In the moonlight she slipped on her robe and was about to go looking for him when she noticed something out the window. Opening the window and looking out, Rose saw clearly in the blue half light of the early morning a figure standing on a small hill that overlooked the work shed on the east side and the vineyards on the north side. The figure was not looking at anything particular, but standing in the stillness of the night, as if it were absorbing the soft light. Rose closed the window quietly and pretended to go back to sleep. An hour or so before she would normally have awoken her husband returned to bed and lay still, but Rose could tell by his breathing that he was awake.

The next day, while her husband was out taking a walk, Rose found herself in the study. She immensely wanted to understand what had happened to her husband, or what was happening to him still. He had not spoken of the war at all; he didn’t even acknowledge that it had existed. There, resting against the Italian leather armchair which Arthur had given her husband on his 27th birthday was the small brown satchel which was the only relic her husband had brought back from his three years in Europe and Africa. She imagined it must contain photos or correspondences of some sort; he must have made friends with the rest of the pilots. Did he have a copilot? In his letters home, before he was lost, he had mentioned the other pilots only abstractly. Perhaps he didn’t want to have to inform Rose of their deaths when, later on, she would ask how they were. Rose was reaching for the satchel when she heard the door of the study opening behind her. Startled, she whirled around to find Jacob.

“Is everything alright, ma’am?”

“Jacob,” Rose recovered quickly, “have you… noticed anything about the master since he’s been back? I mean anything unusual?”

Jacob looked uncomfortable; discretion was a principle part of a well-trained servant’s duties. “I’m not certain I understand you, ma’am.”
“I feel something’s not right with him. Do you remember how he used to be?”

“I’m sorry ma’am, but my memory is perhaps not as good these days.”

Rose nodded. After being her pillar for so long, the last thing Rose wanted was to torture the old servant. “Jacob, I have my husband’s well-being at heart and…” Rose trailed off, not knowing how to explain herself.

“We all care for the master’s well-being.” As Jacob closed the door behind him, he said in an offhand fashion “oh, and the master is returning from his walk.”

Rose left the satchel alone for the time being; she would have to return to it later. That night Rose pretended to be asleep. She felt her husband, on the other side of the bed, wait for her breathing to become steady and measured. Then, when it seemed she was asleep, he left. Rose didn’t notice that he was gone for quite some time, as he made no noise at all. Moreover than not making any sound, Rose was surprised that there was no difference in the atmosphere of the room from when her husband had entered and when he exited. She realized almost with a start that he had no presence which she could feel. As in his eyes, all surrounding him was emptiness

Rose waited for ten, fifteen, perhaps twenty minutes. When she could wait no longer she went to the window and looked out. There had been brief showers earlier in the day, however, and the moon was obscured. Not being able to see anything, Rose went to bed. She forced herself to stay awake as long as she could, waiting for her husband to return. Strange paranoid thoughts arose about what her husband might be doing out in the darkness, and about what might have happened to him. A singular question kept forcing itself to the surface of Rose’s consciousness; what if he never sleeps? Fighting against dwelling on this question strained Rose, and a feeling of dread starting to rise up inside her. She began to wish that he had never come home at all, and she feared his return to her room. She had no sanctuary now. Eventually these queries drifted into fatigue and Rose felt herself finally drifting into the dark black sea.

Rose awoke to a methodical knocking sound that took her a moment to realize was a hammer. It was still dark outside, and Rose had to fumble for a flint to light the gaslight by her bedside. Rose walked out into the hallway in a daze, not sure if she was dreaming. In the hallway stood Jacob with an electric lamp. He was dressed as usual, yet it was obvious by his demeanor that he too had been roughly awakened by the noise. His voice was weary.

“It’s coming from the shed.”

“What is it?” Rose asked.

“The master,” Jacob replied.

Without another word Rose stormed down the hall and threw open the door to the study. She needed to know immediately what her husband had brought back, and hopefully what had happened to him. She grabbed the leather satchel from the armchair and heaved it onto the large oak desk, fumbled with the clasps, then finally tore open the top. And froze.

“Not what one would expect, is it?” Jacob walked up from behind Rose, closed the satchel, and calmly placed it back on the armchair. “To be in the army five years and bring back nothing but a pack filled with-”

“Desert sand,” Rose murmured, still staring at the open satchel in her mind. “It’s desert sand.”

Rose left early the next morning to visit her sisters in Kent. She hastily packed a few belongings, wrote a letter for her husband about feeling ill and needing to see a physician, and caught the train. Jacob took her to the station without question. Before she boarded, Rose turned to Jacob, who was standing by the auto.

“If anything happens, let me know immediately by wire.”

Jacob nodded.

Rose’s sisters lived together in a large duplex on Whistler Street, just North of Liston avenue. The duplex was one of a number of real estate holdings owned by Rose’s brother-in-law Frank, whose investment in an ammunitions plant during the war had made him even wealthier than Rose’s husband. Rose always sensed that her husband inadvertently inspired Frank’s competitiveness to the point of hostility, and that Frank was not entirely upset when the former went missing. Rose was glad to find only her sister Margaret at home.

There was no excuse that Rose could find for why she needed to leave her estate on such short notice, especially following the much awaited return of her husband. All Rose could do was try to explain the truth as best she could.

“He’s not the same as when he left. I know he would have changed but… but not this much.”

Margaret set down her tea to lean across the sofa and hold Rose’s hand. They sat in the upstairs parlor, which overlooked the park behind the house. The sunlight cast the room in pale yellow.

“It’s dreadful to think about,” Margaret began, carefully picking her words, “but if it provides you with the slightest consolation, I’ve heard the same from many of the women whose husbands have returned. The men have trouble sleeping, they wake up screaming, during daytime they’re either too violent or too somber. It’s a mess. The war was a mess and the mess it produced is still with them.”

Rose shook her head, “It… it’s deeper than that. I can’t explain, but it’s not as if he changed even, it’s as if… oh I don’t know how to explain.”

“Now he went missing, what, six months? Something could have happened- something horrific- in that desert and your husband is still carrying it with him. Give him time Rosie. He’ll change back.”

Rose sipped her tea and looked out the parlor’s bay window. Below two nannies were pushing strollers and talking, an old man was sitting by himself, and several young boys were playing with a model airplane.

Rose settled down at Margaret’s as she had several times during the war, when the mansion became lonely and foreboding. She had a room to herself, and split most of her days between reading and excursions to the shops downtown with her sister, who had always believed most problems could be solved by buying new things. Rose didn’t want to go back to the mansion, and with Frank rarely free from business Margo was delighted to have her. Each day Rose distracted herself from thinking of her husband, but at night she was haunted by the image of him out in the shed, oblivious to the hour, never sleeping, building something. What is he building in there? The more Rose thought about him the more anxious she became, and her dreams were usually frightening. Nevertheless, with the coming of morning scones and coffee would distract from the darkness of the nighttime and Rose would push unpleasant thoughts to the back of her mind. Then one afternoon, when Rose and Margo were coming back from a café, one of the staff stopped them.

“Telegraph for you ma’am, arrived this morning,” the young maid thrust out a piece of paper towards Rose.

“For me?” Rose asked, “but who would-“

Rose stopped as she noticed the sender.

Rose and Jacob rode home in silence from the train station. There was a tension in the air, a strain that grew as they approached the mansion. They passed the orchards, which Rose had strolled when the indoors became stifling. Without their fruit the trees seemed sullen and brooding. As the mansion sprawled out ahead of them, Rose turned to Jacob.

“You’ve seen it then?”

Jacob only nodded.

Rose didn’t know what her husband had built in that barn, but according to Jacob he had worked every night. The sounds from the shed had been constant, and Jacob had almost grown accustomed to them. Then early that morning when Jacob had awakened he felt something was amiss. It wasn’t until after breakfast that Jacob realized the sounds had stopped.

Everything seemed unnaturally quite to Rose as she walked to the shed. Every step she took would crush leaves under her feet, and the sound was deafening. There were no birds; there was no sign of wildlife. The autumn breeze turned the blood in Rose’s pale arms into cold, muddy water. As the shed approached, Rose’s breathing became heavy and her heart beat rapidly. Everything inside her was pulling Rose away.

“You’ve seen it then?”

But Jacob had only nodded. As Rose reached the shed’s door, she almost became sick, and she leaned against the door for support, the cold mud pulsing in her hands, in her head. Suddenly there was a tremendous creak that shot through the silence like a streak of lightning through night, and the door swung wide under Rose’s weight. Rose fell onto the floor of the shed, and looked up before she could stop herself. The mud froze. A plane. He’s been building a plane!

Rose got to her feet and dusted herself off, transfixed on the aircraft. Rose subconsciously began walking around plane, her eyes scanning it over and over. She quickly realized that her first thought hadn’t been correct- it was not a plane in the true sense as even a child could see that it could never fly. Instead it was a life-sized model of the plane her husbands’ squadron had flown during the war, the Sopwith Camel. The frame seemed to have been made out of whatever wood had been available and the wheels Rose recognized from one of the horse carts. The fuselage and long tail had been wrapped in tan sheets, and the tip of the tail had been painted red. The expansive bi-wings likewise had been covered in sheets, though white ones this time. He had taken the propeller off their sailboat, which was in storage, and Rose noticed that it was far too small for flight. The cockpit had been taken from the drivers’ seat of their coach, which had been in storage as well since Rose bought the auto. On both sides of the plane and on the wings was painted the blue and red bulls-eye of the British air force. As she completed her loop around the giant model aircraft, Rose suddenly realized that her husband was nowhere around.

Back at the house, Jacob met her look with a nod towards the study. Rose noticed that the old butler had forgotten to shave, and his clothes looked like they had been worn for days. Complacently, no longer acting on curiosity or hope but out of an obligation to herself to see things through, Rose entered the study. Her husband stood by his desk, and was carrying the satchel he had brought back with him from the war. He was dressed in full flight gear, exactly as he appeared in the photo he had sent Rose early in the war. His goggles hung loosely around his neck, and when he saw Rose he smiled boyishly.

“Right- should be a nice run, no worries. Just scouting today.”

“Don’t… don’t…” Rose’s voiced trailed away. She didn’t know what she had been trying to say.

“Besides, no use being a hero this late in the game, eh? No, the mechanic says she’s sound, don’t know what the trouble was last time.”

Rose’s husband left the study, satchel in hand. Rose didn’t move. A minute later she heard the opening and closing of the back door of the mansion. Rose didn’t feel strained anymore. She didn’t feel tired, or anxious, or frightened. All of her feeling was gone, it had exhausted itself. The entire scope of the war, every nervous day and distressing night she had lived through over the last five years, over her husband leaving, over his disappearance, over his rescue and over his return had finally used up all that was left of her.

Rose didn’t know how much time passed before Jacob ran in. It must have been almost half an hour but it didn’t seem more than a moment or two. Jacob’s clothes and face were smeared with ash and he smelled strongly of kerosene and something else. Rose couldn’t identify the second scent but it was repulsive. Jacob breathed heavily as he tried to speak.

“The shed—it’s all afire… from the inside… he was lying there… the master… lying under the plane,” Jacob coughed heavily, “lying on the sand. couldn’t… couldn’t reach…” Jacob shook his head, “I… I’m sorry Rose I couldn’t reach him in time. The master… he’s gone.”

“I know,” said Rose, glancing out the window at the charcoal sky. “It was mechanical failure.”


 

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Lost Poets of the 20th Century

January 4, 2007 at 10:45 am (Borjes Society)

Von Josti

Through the auspices of Grunwald’s Antiquarian Books I was able with great difficulty to obtain a copy of Sonnentraumen, the rare German anthology published in 1937 by Rosenkranz which contains the collected works of the ill-fated circle surrounding the young widow Baronness Sophia.

Her spiritual and literary salon was well attended by many of the young academy graduates in Vienna, and some of their teachers as well. She herself was a spiritualist and preferred all things otherworldly to those of the senses. Her striking personality coupled with a certain gentleness and good humor inspired much serious verse. Berchold reports in his memoir Days in the Garden that “all were in love with her, and yet she moved like a spectre among them, thin and pale, absent even when she was present.”

Rosenkranz’s book contains the works of six of the poets in the group, friends and co-conspirators of Rosenkranz. Although they all share a preoccupation with the invisible, the specific standing each enjoyed in the twilight world varied considerably. Perhaps I would do well to introduce them.

Christina Else-Niesse (1904-1981) was born in Neisse, Silesia, the daughter of a Lutheran minister. She studied Art History and Classical Greek in Munich and Bratslavia. She moved to Vienna in 1931 where she made her living as a teacher and translator. Her shifting intimacies with several of the circle’s members and her role as the “White Princess” and leader of the group’s ill-fated festivals are now legendary. Her writing attempts a balance of the Apollonian and Dionysian elements, but despite certain concessions to restraint, the latter appears to predominate. Escaping Austria in 1938, she lived the remainder of her life in relative obscurity in Switzerland.

Friedrich Gustav Gedantz (1895-1936) was a history teacher at the academy . Son of Pietist parents, he was one of the oldest members of the group. His involvement in certain Gnostic circles and his scorn for organized religion was reflected in much of his work. His publication of some of the first German translations of certain heretical Christian writers in 1935 earned him the enmity of certain highly-placed clerics and provoked several threats on his life. Married with two daughters, he died mysteriously in a train accident shortly before the circle disbanded.

Erich Cohn (1897-1963) was born in Trieste of German-speaking parents. Cohn went to sea at 16 and served in the Austrian army in World War I, when he was wounded. After the war, he spent a number of years in France and then in Haiti. The reason for his presence in Vienna in the 1930’s isn’t quite clear, although it appears he may have had ties to various left-wing political groups. After the circle’s demise in the summer of 1937 he returned to Haiti, where he spent the remainder of his life. Famous early as a war poet, his later work reflects a more than casual involvement with the native Haitian religion.

Else Saint-John (1915-1944) was a native of Salzburg and student at the Athenian Academy there, Else was the youngest member of the circle. A surviving photograph of her shows a pale thin girl with a decidedly dreamy look. She was a student of divination and was popular as a spiritualistic medium. Her brooding, oracular poems were published in several small volumes now lost. She was killed in the allied bombing of Dresden.

Franz Bachman (1901-1973) studied Chinese at the University of Vienna and lived in China for a number of years. Returning to Austria in 1932, he lectured on Chinese and Buddhist Studies at various schools around Vienna. He was introduced to the circle by his former schoolmate Rosenkranz and participated in their activities including the notorious festivals until the group dispersed. He returned to China, and after the collapse of the Nationalist government in 1949, he emigrated to America where he continued to write and teach. Bachman was easily the most optimistic member of the group–his faith no doubt fortified by his long study of Eastern contemplative practices.

Albin Landauer (1911-1940) was born to a wealthy Jewish family in Vienna and studied in at the University there. He was part of the Baronness’s circle when it first began to form in the early 1930’s. Although one of the youngest members of the group, he was perhaps the most gifted. A close friend of Else Saint-John, he went into hiding after the group’s demise and was active in the anti-Nazi resistance until his discovery and execution in February of 1940.

Concerning Rosenkranz himself there is decidedly less information. He is almost invisible as the editor of Sonnentraumen and only a little more revealed in the few pieces of his own work that survived, which consist mostly of philosophical aphorisms. Perhaps the most famous of these is his statement, “It is the text that explicates the dream, and the dream that explicates the text.”

Rosenkranz never claimed to have written anything himself but said that he merely transcribed and alphabetically organized aphorisms he had collected from conversations in various cafes and coffeehouses of Vienna. However, according to the historian Reinmetz, it was a common practice of Rosenkranz’s between 1937and 1938 to sit alone each evening in these smoke-filled cafes and write hurriedly in a blue notebook as if in a trance, totally oblivious to everyone around him.

Reinmetz further notes that Rosenkranz was one of those who indiscriminately studied everything: Greek religious cults, Chinese metaphysics, English alchemy, German romanticism, and Russian devotional texts, to name a few of his interests. His major literary achievement was the publication of Sonnentraumen. He also was believed to be responsible for furthering its translation into English and publication by Berkeley‘s Intertext in 1939. On this I must take Reinmetz’s word, for I myself have not been able to find any mention of this edition nor of Berkeley‘s Intertext in other works I have consulted.

The German edition of Sonnentraumen runs almost 200 pages, which is long for a book of poetry. When I first acquired the work, it was my intention to do a fresh English translation, but as I began my labors I ran into numerous obstacles. There were the normal difficulties of the translation itself. Although I am not without merit as a poet (my first book of poems having received kind notice by the Omaha Arts Bulletin and others) it was hard to do justice to the grace many of these poems have in the original German. Certain allusions are almost impossible to render, and the use of obscure and archaic words, unusual syntax, and the generally oracular and ambiguous tone of many of the works make the task even more difficult. Also, in German the poems have a certain incantational quality which is difficult to capture in English. Perhaps as Rosenkranz himself suggested, they should be read very late at night, preferably in an abandoned churchyard.

It was not the literary obstacles that ultimately prevented my efforts from reaching fruition, however. I found that the book had, shall we say, certain desires of its own. It took me some time to fully realize this. There were the dreams of course–not just my own, but those of my family, which began to be very upsetting. Then there was the waking up at night, the lights, the sounds of voices, footsteps and so forth. All of these events I ascribed merely to my somewhat overwrought imagination. More disturbing was the way the book would move from room to room in the house. Wherever I set it down the night before, it would certainly not be there in the morning.

One night I will not soon forget I woke up in a cold sweat about four in the morning. I had terrible dreams but on waking they dispersed so suddenly that I could not recall a single image. Through the bedroom window I could see the full autumn moon and the room itself was lit in a most unusual way. I got out of bed and went downstairs to the library to read. I read for perhaps an hour and then feeling tired went back upstairs. Just as I reached the landing, I heard a voice in German coming from my young son’s room. Startled, I slowly approached the room and looked in. My son was sitting up in bed with his eyes wide open. He was looking right at me, but I could tell he didn’t see me. Rather, he was looking past me at something else. I turned around but saw nothing. Then he started to speak in perfect Austrian-accented German,

“Lassen uns allein bleiben.”

At that I jumped, for I was quite sure that my son, who was only nine, did not know a single word of German.

Lassen uns allein bleiben!”

He spoke more forcefully and then slumped over, apparently asleep. I rushed to him and woke him immediately.

“There. You were just having a bad dream,” I said to him.

“But I wasn’t dreaming at all,” he replied, confused. There was no point in pushing the matter, so I stayed by his bed until he fell back asleep.

Leave us alone!” Yes, perhaps I should have taken that as a warning, for it was scarcely a week after this when continuing my translation work late at night I felt someone walk up behind me. Before I could turn around, the pen in my hand rose up into the air and flew across the room. Quickly I jumped up, but again I saw no one. This sort of event began to happen more often, yet stubborn to a fault I continued my work. I had perhaps translated about a quarter of the poems in the collection when I noticed that my translations were reverting back into the originals. That is, the notebook that contained my English versions began to show German mixed with the English. At first I thought I had been careless or distracted, even though my method is to keep the translated work quite separate from the original. As the number of lines in German continued to increase, I realized that other forces were at play.

I was at a total loss as to what to do. Obviously, I could not continue with the project. At the same time, having read and reread the original work I was ever more convinced that a translation of it would secure my literary reputation once and for all. Many writers of this period are widely acclaimed, but in my mind, they pale in comparison to the six writers Rosenkranz chose to include in Sonnentraumen. But what use is it to sing their praises, when I cannot provide a single specimen of proof to back up my claim? Completely frustrated, I decided that my only course of action was to reprint the book in the original German. I could prepare a new edition, and no doubt someone less troubled by spirits than myself would convert it to English.

To this end, I arranged a trip to Vienna to talk with several publishers I know there. Unfortunately, even this small initiative proved ill-fated. The agents at the airport had no record of my electronic ticket, and I could not find my confirmation number. On top of that, I discovered that my passport was missing as well. And to add insult to injury, while I was arguing with the airline agents, someone walked off with my laptop computer containing my working copy of the book. I began running through the terminal after them, only to crash into a woman who spilled coffee all over me. When I helped her up, she said only one word to me: “Allein!” I realized then that it was futile to persist and went home.

The book itself I then kept in a very secure safe. This had proved a successful deterrent to its nocturnal wanderings. On arriving home, I checked to see if it was still there–which it was–and then locked the safe again. I was now prepared to give up my efforts toward either translating or reprinting the book. I would have to be content with being one of the few who owned one of the great lost masterpieces of 20th Century literature, even though I could do absolutely nothing with it.

And so it was. I went on to other projects. I wrote a book about Brazilian spiritualist movements and started another on Shinto shamanism. From time to time I would open the safe and take the book out and read some of the poems in it and then carefully put it back again. Years went by, and I had almost forgotten my ambitions and difficulties concerning the book. Then a few months ago I was looking for a lost file on my son’s computer when I discovered, quite by accident, that he had been writing poetry himself. Curious, I began to read his works. You can imagine my great surprise to discover that he had unconsciously composed flawless English versions of many of the Sonnentraumen poems. That night when he got home from high school, I questioned him excitedly about his writing. Unfortunately, he became incensed at the fact that I had read his private works without his permission. No amount of pleading or bribery on my part has since induced him to part with any of them. Not only that, but he now keeps all of his poems on a disk whose hiding place I have yet to uncover.

“They’re quite good poems,” I tell him, “You really should think about publishing them.”

“Dad,” he invariably replies, “Just leave me alone.”

 

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The Mirror

November 30, 2006 at 6:09 pm (Borjes Society)

By Edgar Rice

 


In the last few years I have started to collect mirrors. I buy them in antique stores and auctions. I discover them in second-hand furniture shops and rummage sales. Sometimes I find them in junk yards; sometimes friends give them to me. A few I’ve even discovered by accident walking over the three-hundred acres of my hilly, mostly wooded farm. My whole house is filled with mirrors. They are in every room. There are mirrors in the attic and mirrors in the basement and they hang in every hallway. I’ve even begun storing them in the barn, along with the old tools and farm machinery that once was part of my life.

At first I wasn’t sure why I collected mirrors. It just seemed to be something that happened as I grew older. Gradually though I began to realize that my fascination for mirrors comes out of loneliness. Every mirror holds within it the imperceptible images of all the faces it has ever reflected. I can’t see them, but I feel they are there. And somehow they frame my loneliness, keep it from spilling out uncontrolled into the empty expanses of space.

The image I am surrounded by most often is that of my wife. It has been twelve years since she died, yet her presence still hovers in the house and it seems any moment I will feel her touch or hear her voice again. I know that if any image could break loose from the silent depths of the mirrors and float to the surface, it would be hers. I have even tried to call it into view. I took the oldest, most turbulent mirrors with me into the attic, alone, on winter nights when even the slightest sounds were ominously amplified, when it felt as if imminently spirits would rise out of the floor and roof-beams and whisk me away, but I accomplished nothing. In every mirror I saw only my own reflection.

Gradually I came to realize I was approaching the matter in the wrong way. Instead of invoking the dead, l decided to find a mirror that could blur the line between the two worlds enough so that I might pass through and search for her. I found many mirrors that seemed promising, mirrors that did not give an altogether accurate reflection, that distorted the ordinary world in ways which suggested a blurring, and uneasy dissonance, mirrors in which the forms of this world almost broke and washed away, but I could not find one that would erase the line completely.

Then I began to understand that it was my relationship to the mirror which needed to change. I would have to somehow rearrange myself in order to journey from one side of the mirror to the other. I went through the usual ways of altering consciousness but each of these attempts failed too. The one obstacle that stood in the way of his journey always remained. I could not erase my own reflection.

But then one day, I saw, in a clear moment of inspiration, exactly how I should proceed. It was as if having been lost in a forest, I had suddenly uncovered a hidden path. My work became easier and I felt at times as if I were being gently directed by an invisible force inside of me, a force which knew my situation precisely and foresaw the outcome. Still the work went slow and required of me an alertness and concentration I had never before expressed. I could proceed only at night, and not all nights were suitable. There had to be enough moonlight for me to see my own reflection in each of the mirrors I brought one by one up the attic. I knew that only one mirror would give a true reflection; all the others would in one way or another lie. Some would flatter, others mock, some would cast to strong an image, others would be too weak. All of these false mirrors had to be destroyed. And I knew that each false mirror destroyed would bring me closer to attaining my desire.

So I proceeded, slowly and patiently, with my task. Days and months passed until, quite by accident, I discovered the right mirror. It was at twilight on a warm spring evening. I was carrying one of the mirrors from the barn into his house. It was a large, round mirror set in a walnut frame. I remembered it had hung in the bedroom of my house long ago when my wife and I were first married. Seeing the mirror again sparked a chain of memories which slowly wafted into the fragrant spring wind.

Suddenly, I heard a loud screeching in the woods several hundred yards to my left. A few moments later a giant snow owl flew up from the top of the trees and began moving towards me. In his surprise, I dropped the mirror on the grass. The owl swooped around in a circle and then disappeared again into the forest. I gazed after it a few moments then turned to pick up the mirror. A slight tremor shook through me as I found myself staring at an old, wrinkled, slightly quizzical face. It was mine and yet not mine. I knew instantly that I had found the right mirror.

I took the mirror upstairs to the attic. All the other mirrors were forgotten now – there was only this one. I set it down in a corner of the bare, dark room and waited. Gradually the moon rose and I could see my reflection faintly in the glass. I stared at it silently as if in meditation. The hours of the night slowly went by and my gaze grew more and more concentrated. Light and dark began to alternate in the room, but I did not notice. Both the mirror image and my own had somehow separated themselves from the rest of the world and existed in a continual twilight. Other images began to arise in the mirror and mix with ours. I realized that certain moments of my life were being played back as if I were watching a movie. The order was haphazard though. Scenes from my childhood mixed with scenes from when I was older. I felt my wife was somewhere in the flow of images, but I couldn’t distinguish her. It always seemed that I was talking to her as if she were off in another room. Image after image came to life, dances slowly across the silvered glass and dissolved. After awhile I could no longer tell if the images were in the mirror or in my mind. It had all merged together into one stream- bright, glittering, evanescent.

Then gradually I realized that the mirror had become blank. I knew that it must have been blank for some time before I realized it, but I couldn’t remember just when it had changed. Suddenly I understood that the mirror was blank because I was looking at it from the other side- I realized I had crossed over. I stood up and looked around. The attic with its one small window and its dusty beamed roof appeared exactly the same to me. I looked back at the mirror. It was gone. A slight tremor went through me and I hesitated a few moments staring silently into space. Then I went over to the stairs and walked down. It was still twilight. The house was the same house- the hallways, the rooms, the furniture, the cracks in the plaster, the chipped china teapot in the kitchen- all was exactly as I had left it.

I walked outside. A faint crescent moon glowed softly through a thin haze of clouds. Everything was still. Then I noticed a thin, blurred figure standing by the forest a few hundred yards from me. The figure shifted into focus for a moment and I realized that it was my wife. She appeared as she was when I first loved her- she stood tall and straight in a flowing white dress with lace sleeves. Her thick black hair blew in a wind that l could not feel.

I began to run towards her, thinking I would rescue her from the dead as Orpheus. I had almost reached her when suddenly I was stopped by an invisible wall of glass. I began to pound on it but it wouldn’t break. Then I realized my mistake – she wasn’t on this side at all, she had always been on the side I was. Then slowly everything began to blur- the forest was a blur, the night was a blur, my wife was a blur. I imagined that the glass had started dissolving, but actually I was dissolving, dispersing into nothingness, into the blurred, imperceptible recesses of the mirror that was my own death. I called out her name and then everything went blank.

I woke up on the wet grass. It was morning now. I stood up and looked around. Sunlight was pouring over the hill into the house. I walked indoors. Everything was once again as I had left it. I didn’t know which side of the mirror I was on, and now weeks later, I still don’t know. I have gotten rid of all the mirrors though. They wouldn’t be of any more use anyway – whenever I walk by them, I never see an image at all.

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White Mountain

November 10, 2006 at 5:43 pm (Borjes Society)

By Ed Mathisson

I went hiking earlier this week and ran into Old Trolmong who has been living on the road to White Mountain. I thought he had died some time ago and was surprised to find him alive and about. Discovering I had a flask on me, he invited me in, and we shared a drink. We got to talking about the mountain and he told me the story of how it got its name.

He told me that one of the old settlers came down from the North, from where they have real mountains with snow on their peaks. One night in winter during a storm he got lost in the bluffs when he was out drinking and stumbled onto a mountain even higher than the ones he knew in the old country, so he told his wife when he came home in a daze three days later. He took to be with a fever, became delirious and started say all sorts of wild things about the mountain which he called White Mountain. Apparently this is some mountain in the North that reaches all the way to heaven. His wife brought the preacher and the elders in to reason with him, but he would have none of it. I have seen what I have seen, he said. Too much Habanero Tequilla they thought, shaking their heads as he worsened and died. After this the bluffs began to go by the name White Mountain, and people avoided them.

Old Trolmong went out to talk of his wanderings in the bluff and some of the things he had seen there. Finally, he bid me adieu, and I continued on my way. It had been many years since I had climbed all the way to the top. It’s the best view around – you can see the river and the creek, the grove and the town, pretty much the whole township.

That evening back at home, I lit a warm fire and with a glass of port in hand sat down to examine the XIth volume of Grunwald’s Geography of the Interior Ranges and found the following account:

WHITE MOUNTAIN

In the deep North, there is a mountain that soars so high, that it touches the formless heavens. This mountain is a destination for those who weary of deserts, savannah, and forests. It is notoriously difficult to find. Surrounded by clouds, it is rare to catch more than just a glimpse of it. Still, its existence is well established – in fact, over the years, certain villages at the base of the mountain have sustained themselves in service to the tourists who come hoping for just such a glimpse.

These villages have, in fact, grown quite prosperous in the services they provide and in other ventures such as producing travel guides that tell of past expeditions that allegedly reached the peak. Other villages, not content to simply amuse sightseers, outfit the more committed with the equipment and training necessary to actually ascend the mountain oneself. However, climbing the mountain is considered quite dangerous. Numerous deaths have been attributed to accidents and snow madness is a frequent occurrence. This has led to a view held by some that the mountain is haunted by spirits, not all of a beneficent nature. In fact, a whole genre of guide books has developed along these lines as well.

Yet, ascending the mountain confers certain magical benefits, not the least of which is that those who reach its summit are said to live forever in the company of the gods. Writers of guidebooks often stumble over themselves as they vie for the most ethereal and evocative description of the many delights of such an existence. Some of these stories are no doubt based on the reports of those who have partially ascended the mountain and then returned. Unfortunately the accounts of such ascent are sometimes so fantastic that it is not clear who in fact has really ascended the mountain and who having studied the literature of the guidebooks simply imagined such an ascent.

Due to this confusion, an entire school has developed that holds the opinion that the mountain itself is simply a dream, one developed by villagers as a pleasant and clever way to sustain a living. The villagers themselves have contributed in no small part to such opinions by the way they themselves have elaborated certain stories, especially those that encourage belief in mystical guides who can magically carry one to the top of the mountain without any effort on the part of the seeker.

Of course the proper way to invoke such guides is itself a matter of some dispute, and this and other issues have led the villages into numerous trade wars among themselves. Even to this day they often disparage each other while at the same time secretly borrowing whatever new technique or innovation their competitors discover that becomes popular.

It is well known, but not always believed, that one of the great dangers of attempting to ascend this mountain without proper preparation is that one may fall into deep crevices that reach into the very depths of the earth, where great fires burn without ceasing, or great rivers of ice churn and toss. The fear of these crevices is a great stimulant to the business of the villagers who at times have spent more of their energies in explaining and guiding people away from these crevices than in preparing people for ascent itself. The existence of such crevices is also commonly cited as a reason why a reliable guide is necessary. Such beliefs in fact are so strongly ingrained in certain villages that any individual attempt to ascend the mountains without the use of an approved guide is considered reckless and a sign of impiety toward the summit itself.

In all villages, it is common that those who in their youth aspired to ascend this mountain over time find themselves spending the rest of their life engaging in the comfortable provision of services to other villagers and in the general discussion of mountain lore that is so perennially popular. Naturally enough, one who spends a great deal of time in the villages will on occasion see the mountain itself and that coupled with an incessant preoccupation with mountain discussion will lead them to producing books themselves, which often are merely compilations, commentaries and summaries of other books. In fact it is a rare village that does not now have both large libraries of such literature and stores which do an excellent trade in selling these books of this type along with supplies for expeditions, postcards of the mountain, t-shirts and small statues of past mountain climbers, music that makes one think of mountains, and so forth.

Indeed, life in the mountain villages has become so refined and accommodations improved so much from earlier days and it is now possible for the tourist to visit these villages on a frequent basis and without actually seeing the mountain itself, which appears to have become even more distantly embedded in clouds, return refreshed to the flatlands with certain souvenirs that evoke a fine mountain feeling and at some later point write a short, popular book on the subject.

Strangely enough, those who have actually encountered the mountain are the most reticent to talk about it. It is sometimes possible with the aid of wine or bourbon to pry out from them certain details, but for the most part they keep to themselves what they have discovered. Thus it is, that the most prized genre of guide books are those that purport to reveal just those mysteries that have never been written down or widely discussed. Most of these books are of course quite worthless but occasionally there will be a fragment of dialogue or a piece of description that proves useful.

Such fragments tend to suggest that the mountain may be altogether different than has been imagined, and perhaps that is why those who have encountered the mountain first hand find themselves at a loss to describe their experience. Reports of these experiences have given rise to a school of opinion that asserts that the mountain, while real exists only in the climber’s mind, and that everything, including the villages is simply a mirror image of one of the mountain’s innumerable faces. Precisely because everything other than the mountain is simply a mirror, so many different reflections have arisen.

This school further believes that because of its invisibility that it is impossible to ascend the mountain directly, but that by a careful and informed study of the mirrors it is possible to ascend the mountain indirectly on the steps of the images that the mountain has itself generated. This staircase of reflections is said to be the most difficult of all possible ascents because of the fragility of the images. Here, there are no books or guides, because books and guides are themselves simply images. And yet others say that ascending the staircase of reflections is the easiest of paths since the mirrors are everywhere and ascent can be initiated at any moment and any place.

These opinions of course have had little impact on the villages themselves. At this point the economic life of the villages has become so intertwined with the promotion of various tangible representations and vividly rendered descriptions that suggestions of the mountain being invisible or only indirectly apprehended are almost incomprehensible. Also since villages pride themselves on their long lineages and the reliability of their approach schools that lack such credentials are held in little regard.

This is particularly true of those who believe the mountain is invisible and omnipresent, as they, having little inclination to create a replica of something that is in plain view have dispersed themselves over existing villages such that it is difficult to even discover who they are. This lack of visibility of course is precisely what members of this school desire since it permits them to explore the various facets of the mountain reflected in appearance without drawing attention to themselves.

I sat the book on the table next to me and poured myself another glass of Port. Just then something occurred to me, and I reached for the current edition of Jason Plutarch’s Lives of Eminent Stranger Creek Residents. I was right – Old Trolmong has been dead for ten years. I shook my head. Then I reached for a notebook and tried to remember what he had said.

 

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Miss Emily

November 3, 2006 at 11:35 am (Borjes Society)

By Edgar Rice

It is a sunny autumn day and I am sitting lazily on the sofa, a book in hand, watching my cat probe about the antique desk in my study for a mouse it believes to have cornered. I have had a number of cats over the years, but this one is by far the best mouser of the lot. It has an almost uncanny ability to not only discern their presence, but to anticipate their movements and impulses, such that it never fails to capture its prey.

About a year ago, I became rather concerned over the health of my cat. Having left town for a few days to get a bit of fresh air, I returned to find that the cat, whose appetite had always been prodigious, was now not eating anything at all. She was listless and just slept all the time, occasionally letting out a brief, rather eerie moaning sound. I would hold her in my arms, and she would look up at me as if from a great distance and then turn away.

Although through various careless mistakes I have lost a number of pets in the past, I was especially attached to Miss Emily and was not wont to see her depart. So I took her to our town’s vet, who suggested I attempt to force feed her. This I did for a week, but only by offering her an extremely rare grade of serum was I able to pursuade Miss Emily to return to the living, where she resumed eating on her own.

All seemed fine for awhile, but then Miss Emily began to display some unusual new behaviors which troubled me. She has always been attached to a particular small stuffed animal which she drags around the house and nurtures in a somewhat motherly fashion. As I am often gone during the day, I have been grateful that she had a companion to ease her loneliness. You could imagine my distress when I came home several weeks ago and discovered her adopted friend in front of the fireplace, torn into shreds.

“Miss Emily! What have you done?” I exclaimed, holding her up and staring into her yellow eyes – but all I got back was a look of utter incomprehensibility.

Shortly after that, she seemed to have found a new friend – I didn’t know exactly what it was. She guarded it quite carefully, almost secretively, and I couldn’t pry it away to take a look. It was never left where I could see it clearly. Sometimes when I was in another room, or at night when I was resting, I heard her making the strange moaning sounds that I heard when she was ill.

Once I surprised her and saw that as she made these sounds she was clutching her new friend tightly in front of her, kneading it over and over as if she were praying. Yet the fully sensuous and abandoned way she gave herself over to this activity made it seem as if she was in some kind of trance state. There was something almost ritualistic about these cries that started slowly, gradually built to a crescendo, then fell back suddenly, only to start again.

In addition, I became convinced, though I have no way to prove it, that Miss Emily was becoming larger almost daily, and her fur was getting a blue iridescent sheen to it as well. She also began a new, rather upsetting behavior of bringing me little objects and laying them outside my door at night–things that I discovered each morning as I stepped into the hall.

The first was a dead toad. How it got into the house and how she managed to capture it, I don’t know. Seeing it, I jumped back – its warty, grayish-brown skin was repellent enough, and its large blood red eye staring up at me was definitely disconcerting, but the worst was the stench of the thing. Even after I removed it to the woods out back, the smell lingered for days.

This was followed by a menagerie of small dead things left to greet me each morning – a ring neck snake, a large green beetle, a chimney swift with intense black eyes, a mangled tail from what I assumed was a possum, and a long purplish tongue from something, I know not what. Miss Emily was an indoor cat who never ventured outside at all, so where she was finding these creatures – the attic or the basement, or somewhere else – I am at a loss to explain.

As if this wasn’t enough to disturb my quiet, I began hearing strange growling and howling noises at night from other cats. Sometimes it seemed as if they were fighting; other times they were somehow engaged in some sort of infernal conclave. I would wake with a start and look out the window into the yard, but I never saw anything.

I decided that the easiest way to put an end to all of this was to acquire a dog. I went to a certain dealer I knew to acquire the largest Russian wolfhound he had, and I brought it home. I wasn’t sure how Miss Emily would receive her new housemate. It had just been the two of us living together for quite some time now, but surprisingly she didn’t put up any protest. She looked at the dog warily, kept her distance, and went on her with life. I gave the dog the run of the house and the property and the gifting and the nocturnal conclaves both ceased.

Unfortunately my relief was all too brief. Two weeks later I woke up, called for the dog, and got no response. I went downstairs and to my horror saw it lying stiff and disjointedly in front of the fireplace, decidedly dead. My alarm only increased as I walked up to it and saw that its chest cavity had been ripped open and its heart torn out. This was altogether too much. I glanced back, and there on the piano Miss Emily sat as if nothing untoward had happened at all, calmly licking her paws, staring straight at me.

That afternoon I took Miss Emily to the veterinarian, and had her put to sleep. It was a very sad moment for me. The vet hardly recognized her she had grown so large – she weighed over 19 pounds now, but he didn’t ask any questions and I didn’t provide any explanations. Back home, the house seemed strangely quiet. I buried both Miss Emily and the Wolfhound in the little cemetery I have down by the creek. I felt shaken but hopeful that this would at last put the matter at rest.

In this belief, I was badly mistaken. For a few days all stayed calm, almost too calm, and then the most horrible thing of all happened. I woke up suddenly around 3 AM to sounds of an oncoming storm and the most dreadful cacophony of feline shrieking, hissing, howling, and growling. It seemed to be coming from all sides at once. I jolted up, grabbed my pistol, and darted to the window. By the outdoor lights I could see clearly into the yard. I saw nothing–nothing at all. Then slowly I realized the noises were coming from inside the house. I shuddered with fear, but not nearly as great a fear as I felt a few moments later when the scratching began. Something was at the door to my bedroom, and it wanted to come in.

At this I lost all confidence, and my skin turned pale. The door was solid oak and bolted, of course, but whatever was on the outside didn’t seem bothered by that at all. The loudness and rhythm of the scratches suggested that whatever was out there was of considerable size. This was further confirmed when it started throwing its entire weight against the door, and I saw the hinges groan. I myself couldn’t have achieved such an effect – whatever was out there had an unearthly force to it.

I was delirious with fear. I crouched in the corner of my bed, covers drawn up, gun cocked and loaded, and waited as the thing, whatever it was, repeatedly thrust itself against the door, loosening it with each crushing impact.

Suddenly there was a loud clap of thunder and all the lights went out. Livid with fear, I screamed and began to shout oaths, horrid oaths – I have no idea where they came from — and fired my gun over and over at the door until the bullets were all gone. I heard the most dreadful, anguished moan I have ever heard, a sound so infernal that every nerve in my body froze. Wave after wave of thunder rolled and rolled over the house. But whatever was at the door had ceased its attempt to enter.

The next morning, having not slept at all, I carefully unbolted the door and peered outside. There was a gift waiting for me. With fresh terror I looked down. There on the carpet was the severed hand of a woman lying there, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. Its long fingernails were caked with blood and on the wrist was a thin bracelet made of what appeared to be the beaks of small birds. Sitting next to the hand was Miss Emily.

She seemed quite calm, and I noticed she had returned to her normal size and color. I sighed. I put the hand in the African room, set a candle on it, and then went downstairs to the kitchen to find Miss Emily some food. I was greatly relieved to see that she would eat dry cat food again.

The next week I bought a tickets for a cruise for both myself and Miss Emily. While in Port-a-Prince, I bought her a small stuffed animal which she devotedly carries around with her. “As long as you behave yourself,” I tell her, “you can stay. But at the first sign of strangeness, we must part company.” I trust she understands this but holding her as I speak, I still get a look of utter incomprehensibility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Order of the White Rose

October 26, 2006 at 8:15 am (Borjes Society, Occult History)

We have concluded our Ghost River series. However, in going through the papers of the late John Hayes, we found this account of his grandfather’s work, which readers may find interesting.                                                              –Lynn Alexander

 

 

Anyone who casually glances through Melchizedek’s lengthy Unabridged Encyclopedia of American and European Religions will be impressed by the great diversity of creative energies represented there. As a species, esoteric spiritual groups are perhaps the most creative and temporal of religious associations. This is not surprising, since the spirit that informs such groups is by nature mercurial and almost antithetical to the clerical efficiency necessary to propel an organization into perpetuity.

We should not assume however that such organizations, having passed from their earthly existence, do not continue in some other world or dimension. For example, we could consider the continuing influence of one such group that–although it is unlikely that anyone living has even heard of–has affected everything around us in ways we haven’t the slightest knowledge of.

I am of course speaking of the Order of the White Rose. The fact that you are reading this now is itself an indication that you too are invisibly a member of this Order for reasons that will soon become apparent.

According the account compiled by Melchizedek, the Order of the White Rose was a Spiritualist organization founded in Chicago in the 1890s by one Jesse Charles Fremont Grumbine. Over the next thirty years the order moved first to Boston, then to Cleveland, and finally to Portland where it appears to have disappeared by the early 1930s. The Order was said to be mystical and contemplative in nature and was composed of two branches, the Order of the Red Rose–the exoteric or outer branch, and the Order of the White Rose–the esoteric or inner branch. Both branches led members to a third branch whose name is not specified.

Spiritualism was the most popular mystical movement of the 19th century. As the Industrial Age reached its apex and the bounty of its energetic developmental impetus began to touch all corners of the known world, the daimonic imagination, which been allowed to roam freely in the untouched regions of the earth for centuries, was forced to find a new home. It found this home in a region that technology could never reach, a region that was the pure antithesis and counterpoint to all positivist endeavors: the land of the dead.

As a popular movement, Spiritualism was continually energized by its controversial assertion that properly trained and receptive individuals could not only contact the dead on an individual basis but speak directly for them. In an age when death was a visible and pressing concern, not yet drained of mystery and brought under institutional auspices, the opening of such a conversational conduit provided tremendous assurance that the ties we forge in this life are not severed by the departure of souls from one world to another.

Grumbine, like his contemporary and predecessor Andrew Jackson Davis, was a philosophical spiritualist. The conducting of seances and the activity of mediums was fine entertainment, but the truly fascinating aspect of the movement was its metaphysical implications. If communication with the dead were truly possible, then a mapping of the land of the dead was also presumably possible. In fact, the entire invisible was opened up for exploration just as the far reaches of the visible were quickly falling under the purview of an imperialistic empirical geography.

Grumbine theorized that beyond or preceding individual personal spirits there was a universal spirit that existed not as a God outside of creation, but as the radiant center from which all spirits drew life. The individual spirit underwent a purification process through its existence on earth that renewed the dynamic of the universal spirit. Spirits living on earth were enveloped in earthly form that fell away at death and was replaced by a spiritual body that inhabited a celestial earth. The true medium, the one who through contemplative arts had emptied himself of mundane preoccupation, could become an initiate and emissary of this celestial earth, which we know as the land of the dead, but the dead know as a world even more vibrant and alive than ours.

It was not Grumbine himself, but a close student of his, William Hayes, who most fully completed the map that Grumbine had envisioned. His investigations were reported somewhat cryptically in a thin pamphlet entitled Tales of the World of the Spirits published in Omaha in 1931 by the Spiritualist Association of Nebraska. The precise relationship of the Spiritualist Association to the Order of the White Rose is unclear. It may in fact have been a pseudonym, made necessary by certain discoveries that took place within the Order of the White Rose that required it to further veil its existence

Since contacting the dead is at best an uncertain proposition, there is always the likelihood that one may bring back to this world a spirit whom the medium is unable to control, who in fact has a mission of its own to fulfill. For the most part, these rogue spirits quickly tire of communicating through such a dense material haze as we must present to them and go on to other amusements. On rare occasions though, a spirit will find a compatible host and set about to accomplish its desires.

Hayes himself had been close to Spiritualist circles for many years prior to meeting with Grumbine and was well aware of these difficulties. As he wrote in his pamphlet, “We would be more than a little amazed to know how much of our history, of our institutions, and our literature has been directly inspired by the dead, and what a great debt we owe to them.” Hayes’s own debt is made clear in the body of his pamphlet, most of which was communicated to him by a spirit in a series of séances conducted in Omaha in the winter of 1927.

The spirit, whose name we cannot mention here, informed Hayes that the creation of the Order of the White Rose was not an accident. Certain circumstances transpiring on the celestial earth had necessitated a transference of the Order from their plane to ours. Grumbine had more or less gotten the philosophy of the Order right, as much as could be explained at this time. The key task was to perform certain rituals that would widen the conduit between the two worlds enough so that a much larger infusion of spiritual force could take place. As to the end purpose of this infusion, that would be revealed later.

The first ritual that Hayes was to perform was called quite simply The Rite of the Dead. This was to be conducted once a month at the new moon. Initiates were to gather in a closed room in which eight black candles were arranged in a circle around a table holding a white rose in an urn, preferably one procured from a crematorium. Next to the vase was a black box in which certain names were placed. As the clock struck midnight, the preceptor would randomly draw names from the box, one by one, saying,

We invoke the spirit of —- and all those who are invisibly part of the Order of the White Rose. The world you have departed from has not forgotten you. Do not disdain the living, but following the path we have opened. Return and be present with us.

We do not know what names the box contained, or how many names had been placed there. Possibly it contained names of former members of the Order, or the names of various obscure visionaries who had died in the distant past. Hayes seems to suggest at one point that it held the name of every person who had ever lived, although how this would be possible within the confines of a small box is not made clear. At the close of the rite, the room was to be emptied and the lid of the box left open.

A second ritual involved contacting the inhabitants of certain celestial cities. Only their celestial residents knew the actual names of these cities, so as a substitute, the names of various cities of the ancient world were used. In all, there were seven such cities: Athens, Rome, Alexandria, Palmyra, Harran, Samarakand and Khotan. In a manner similiar to the Rite of the Dead, each of these cities was invoked by name, one at a time, on separate evenings. This time the initiatory circle would stay in the room, and from midnight until six in the morning would envision themselves as residing in these cities.

As Hayes narrates, this was not an easy accomplishment even for a circle whose members already possessed considerable visionary and mediumistic powers. However most of the initiates were eventually able to sustain the appearance of the designated city for six or seven hours without a thought. Then something went awry and some of the members were unable to leave the cities they had visited. Their bodies remained in a state of suspended animation, alive and warm, but they could not be roused back into normal consciousness. After the third incident of this kind, Hayes dispensed with the rite. The individuals involved were transported to a farm in northeastern Kansas where members of the group looked after them. Other than occasional dusting, the bodies required no special care and maintained their color and appearance without diminishment.

The Order of the White Rose itself disbanded in the early 1930s after disagreement between members over certain obscure theological points. One group believed that according to certain Tlonic texts, the world would end on Friday, December 31st, 2012 sometime around two or three in the afternoon, while another believed that it would end on the “twelfth hour of the twelfth day of the twelfth month of the twelfth year”. Both groups believed that the end of the world was not an occasion for panic, but rather a time when everyone would have their innermost dreams fulfilled in a world almost like this one. Very few people would realize that any change had taken place, but to the careful observer it would be apparent that a complete separation with the past had been made.

Hayes himself passed over to the other side in 1941, Grumbine having preceded him some three years earlier. The farmhouse and its special occupants became the charge of Hayes’s daughter, Lillian, my mother. I knew nothing about it until she took me there a few years ago and announced that she was going to Vienna and I was to now assume the family’s caretaking responsibilities.

After learning about The Order of the White Rose and having a chance to meet personally some of its former members, I have been able to uncover a few details of which even Lillian was unaware. The most striking discovery was that the three initiates, as Lillian called them, do not always remain in a state of suspended animation. It would not be prudent to discuss how I made this discovery, but suffice it to say that I have now come to realize that the accident Hayes thought had occurred was–like the founding of the Order itself–not a chance event.

Nor have any of my activities been chance events. Unfortunately, being a bit clumsy at keeping things secret, through my naiveté I have exposed a number of individuals to the Order. There is really no need to worry, as the Order is on the whole benevolent in its intentions. But those who cherish the notion of free will may on close reflection find that some of the events that more than a number of usual events may have occurred in their lives recently. I have tried my best to mask this under various contemplative auspices, but it has become too difficult to contain what is in rather uncontainable, and things have reached the point where I must make a clean account of the entire affair.

In brief, the larger conduit that Hayes was to create through his rituals was actually successfully constructed, bodily, in the persons of the three initiates whose spirits now reside in certain celestial cities. Meanwhile, the inhabitants of those cities have been pouring into northeastern Kansas for some sixty years now. These spirits reached such a mass that by the late 1960s a complete revival of the Order was possible. However, as the cities themselves possess diverse spiritual traditions, the development of the movement–as it has come to be called–is no longer contained within a single organizational structure. It is fair to say, however, that all serious discoveries of a spiritual nature that have occurred since that time can probably be linked to the Order of the White Rose and its rites.

Although I have not been able to discern which of the two dates concerning the end of the world is correct, I have felt it wise to make certain preparations since in my view the extent of the disagreement is not materially significant. As part of these preparations, I have deemed it necessary to revive in part some of the rites of the Order so that I can ascertain the direction that the movement is heading. To this end, I have attempted to envision certain cities. Unfortunately, even with the help of various ancient contemplative techniques I am unable to sustain visualization for longer than a few minutes without distraction. I can only hope that one of my friends or acquaintances will be more successful than I. If not, then well, things will soon become very interesting.

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Hotel Buenos Aires

October 15, 2006 at 4:39 pm (Borjes Society)

 
It was the end of November and I was passed out in a hotel room next to a woman who did not appear to be breathing. If  I could have remembered anything of the night before it would perhaps have helped to clear things up, but then, sometimes it is better not to remember.

 I have learned in situations like these it is best to leave as quickly and as quietly as possible, without calling attention to myself. I looked about – found some clothes that fit, and a wallet in the pocket of the pants and within a couple of minutes, I was out on the street.  

Sometime later I found myself at the bar of the Hotel Buenos Aires. I was finishing my second drink when a man sat next to me and introduced himself as Senor Novalis. I did not know who he was, but I knew for a fact he was not the noted scientist, Senor Novalis for I had buried the good Senor some years ago in an empty monastery in Uddiyana.

And yet there was something in the eyes and manner of the strange gentleman who stood before me that suggested more than a chance resemblance. I stared at him a moment and then went on drinking. After some time, we went into the dining room. The waiter had just taken our order when a tall, pale woman with long black hair arrived.

 “Countess Tegre,” Senor Novalis said, standing. I stood along with him.

 “Who is your friend?” she asked with more than casual interest

“This is Dr. Gelupka.”

“My pleasure” she said, “I have heard so much about you.”

 “The pleasure is mutual,” I replied and our eyes met.

 We sat down and ordered several bottles of Argentina’s best reds.

 Are you now in the rare book business like our friend Senor Novalis?,” she asked.

 “Not really,” I replied, “Senor Novalis traffics in a large number of books. There is only one book that interests me.”

 “Is that so?” she smiled, “What book is that?”

 “You must know,” I replied. Otherwise, why would we be conversing? It must be close at hand, since we are all stumbling into one other.”

 “But where?” she asked.

 “I don’t know,” I answered. “Perhaps Senor Novalis knows.”

 “It doesn’t exist,” Senor Novalis replied smiling, “If it did, I would have catalogued it by now.”

She laughed, “How could you? I don’t think it would stay still enough for your efforts. It is just as well you haven’t found it.  There are less than a dozen people alive who know what this text is, and each of them would give their life to protect it. They would also take life to obtain it.”

 “It is kind of you to warn me,” Senor Novalis replied.

 “It is only fair since I am one of the interested parties.”

 “When do you intend to kill me?” he asked.

 “I am not in a hurry,” she said.

 “I do not know what Dr. Gelukpa would say, but it would not be so bad to die in hands such as yours. But we speak prematurely of such matters. I do not have the book. In fact I’ve never even seen it.”

“I have seen it many times,” she said, “I have been to libraries where it lies forgotten on some dusty shelf.  I have been to churches where a strange copy of it, with all the parts out of place is read. And I have been in rooms where the text was used to conjure apparitions. But all of this has been while I’ve slept. I’ve never seen it in the clear light.”

 As she talked I felt her leg brush against me. She sipped her wine slowly and said, “And Dr. Gelukpa, you are so quiet. Surely, you have seen it.”

 “Only once, a long time ago,” I answered, “It was late at night and I was with the girl I would later marry for the first time. We went to the theatre with a friend, then to a party.  We met some other friends there and went to another party, and then another.  Sometime, near dawn, I was in a small library and caught a glimpse of it. But I had to leave suddenly.  I never saw it again.”

 “On the shelf in the library, what was the book next to it?” she asked.

 “The book next to it?” I thought back, “A blue encyclopedia.”

 She smiled her best. “That is wonderful. We have shared the same dream then…”

 At this point Senor Novalis interrupted, “So you have both seen the book. That is very sweet. But what is it?”

 I turned and said, “As you may imagine, there are many different views on what the book is, and to the manner of its existence, if it even exists. My own feeling is that it is a book of infinite dimensions, and unlimited pages. And yet it is all contained in a single manuscript.  The best account of it is in Grunwald’s Texts of the Ancient Church.

 “The 1789 edition with the red spine?” the Countess asked.

 “Yes.  He claimed that when the Church Council put together the ‘Book of Life’, a second book came into existence at the same time. It was never intended to be read.”

 “The text is said not to even have words at all, or to have words that always change, or to have words one time and not another, or to swerve in and out of words, or to consist only of mirrors, that by reflecting back and forth on each other bring entire languages into being.”

 “It has also been called the ‘Book of Death’. It is said that anyone who opens the text instantly dies.”

 “Why would anyone want such a book?” Senor Novalis asked.

 “It has its purposes. The Church has had many enemies. The ‘Book of Life’ is not enough to sustain it. It also needs the second book. If it weren’t for the second book, no doubt Julian would have succeeded in making the Church a mere historical footnote. Or perhaps an altogether different faith might have arisen.”

 “I thought Julian died at the hands of Persian cavalry?” the Countess said.

 “No,” I replied, “His wounds were not serious. The book was.”

 “Supposedly, it has come to the aid of the Church on any number of occasions, the last being about thirty years ago. You will remember the Pope who died a few weeks after his election…It disappeared after that. Something went awry and the Church lost control of it. That is why finding it is now a matter of some interest.  The fact that our paths have intersected suggests that the book may be very close. I suspect it is even in one of the rooms of the Hotel itself.”

 “Since none of us represents the interests of the Church,” the Countess said, “Can we assume there may be others who will arrive soon?”

 We looked around the room. At the table next to us, sitting alone, an elderly white haired Priest smiled.

 “Ah, Father Lessant,” I said, standing up and extending my hand, “It has been a long time since we’ve talked.”

 “Always a pleasure, Dr. Gelukpa.” He seemed even frailer than the last time we met.

 He pulled his chair up to the table. “You are wrong about the number of those who are still searching. I think it has shrunk to just us four. It will be interesting to see which of us the book favors.”

 “So it is in the hotel,” she said, “But this is a large hotel. How do you intend to search all the rooms?”

 “I don’t,” I replied, “People always assume that to find things you have to go where they are. You can also ask them to come to you.”

 Senor Novalis nodded, and the Countess poured me a glass of wine.

 “You have a plan?” she asked.

 “You are all acquainted with numbers or you wouldn’t be here. So you know as well as I the combination that must occur for the book to appear. It will be midnight in just a couple of hours. At that time we can retire to my room. I have arranged things appropriately.”

 This seemed to suit everyone and we continued to drink and converse among ourselves. There were still some loose points left to be clarified. It is unfortunate that due to the wine I can’t remember exactly how the conversation flowed. I’m sure a transcript of it would be of some value. At the appointed time, we went upstairs. The room I had prepared was empty of all furniture and every surface had been replaced by a mirror.

 We did not have to wait long for the text. Within an hour it appeared precisely in the center of the circle we had formed. The text did not appear as a book. Rather, it appeared as a thin black bottle. 

 “What is this?” the Countess said surprised.

 I walked over and touched it. “This is the text. Look at the label.”

 I turned the bottle. At first we saw a drawing of a small map. But then as we looked closer, a swirling vortex opened up. We could only gaze for an instant and then our eyes were forced away. In the vortex was everything – all the natural elements – wind, water, fire, earth and space – and all the unnatural elements as well.

 “I understand,” she said with a hint of something transcendent in her eyes, “We are to open the text here.”

 “That is right,” I replied and the others nodded.

 She took the bottle from me, lifted it up and took a long drink. She then handed it to Senor Novalis who did likewise. Senor Novalis handed it to the good Father who drank, and then to me.

 I brought the bottle to my lips, but then suddenly a strange chill ran across my back.  My hands trembled, and I dropped the bottle which shattered in this and a thousand other worlds. When I looked up, Senor Novalis, Father Lessant, and Countess Tegre were gone.

That is all.  I went back to my room, saw that there was now a thin manuscript laying by the bed, bound in faded leather. With such a significant history, it was not a particularly striking object – it was hard to imagine that opening it would cause such fortune as was alleged to occur. But I was not one to put it to the test.   Bundling it tightly in old newspapers, I gathered my belongings and checked out of the hotel. For I have learned in situations like this it is best to leave as quickly and as quietly as possible without calling attention to oneself.

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