Stonewall Jackson’s Way (1862)

Come, stack arms, men! Pile on the rails,
Stir up the camp-fire bright;
No matter if the canteen fails,
We’ll make a roaring night.
Here Shenandoah brawls along,
There burly Blue Ridge echoes strong,
To swell the brigade’s rousing song
Of “Stonewall Jackson’s Say.”

We see him now, — the old slouched hat
Cocked o’er his eye askew;
The shrewd, dry smile, the speech so pat,
So calm, so blunt, so true.
The “Blue-Light Elder” knows ’em well;
Says he, “That’s Banks, — he’s fond of shell;
Lord save his soul! we’ll give him” — well,
That’s “Stonewall Jackson’s way.”

Silence! ground arms! kneel all! caps off!
Old Blue-Light’s going to pray.
Strangle the fool that dares to scoff!
Attention! it’s his way.
Appealing from his native sod,
In forma pauperis to God,—
“Lay bare Thine arm; stretch forth Thy rod!
Amen!” That’s “Stonewall’s way.”

He’s in the saddle now. Fall in!
Steady! the whole brigade!
Hill’s at the ford cut off — we’ll win
His way out, ball and blade!
What matter if our shoes are worn?
What matter if our feet are torn?
“Quick-step! we’re with him before morn!”
That’s “Stonewall Jackson’s way.”

The sun’s bright lances rout the mists
Of morning, and, by George!
Here’s Longstreet struggling in the lists,
Hemmed in an ugly gorge.
Pope and his Yankees, whipped before,
“Bay’nets and grape!” hear Stonewall roar;
“Charge, Stuart! Pay off Ashby’s score!”
In “Stonewall Jackson’s way.”

Ah! Maiden, wait and watch and yearn
For news of Stonewall’s band!
Ah! Widow, read, with eyes that burn,
That ring upon thy hand.
Ah! Wife, sew on, pray on, hope on;
Thy life shall not be all forlorn;
The foe had better ne’er been born
That gets in “Stonewall’s way.”


—By J. W. Palmer


“In September, 1862, I found myself at the glades Hotel, at Oakland, on the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and in that part of Allegany County, Maryland, which is now known as Garrett county. … I wrote the ballad of ‘Stonewall Jackson’s Way’ with the roar of those guns in my ears.”

—J. W. Palmer quoted in The Photographic History of The Civil War, p. 86.

Experimental Archaeologist Wulf Hein’s Remarks Concerning The Hohlenstein-Stadel Löwenmensch

§00 The Löwenmensch of Hohlenstein-Stadel, discovered in the Lone River valley, in Southern Germany (which was occupied from the Middle Palaeolithic through the Neolithic), is the oldest known piece of man-made figurative art ever discovered. Given this, a considerable number of theories have been developed in a attempt to explain the statuette’s role in ancient Aurignacian society.
§01 Experimental archaeologist Wulf Hein of Archaeo-technik, who, in 2009 was commissioned to create a replica of the Löwenmensch, was, despite his busy schedule, kind enough to share his thoughts concerning the importance of the ancient work of art with me.
“Personally,” Hein remarked during our correspondence, “I believe that the LM [lion-man] was object to some kind of worshipping, most probably functioning as a hunting charme, because according to the latest research the mouth region of the statuette was frequently rubbed with some red substance, perhaps blood.”

Sources
  1. João Zilhão & Francesco d’Errico. (2003) An Aurignacian «garden of Eden» in southern Germany? An alternative interpretation of the geissenklösterle and a critique of the Kulturpumpe model. Paleo. Revue d’archéologie préhistorique.
  2. Thomas Wynn, et al. (2009) Hohlenstein-Stadel and the Evolution of Human Conceptual Thought. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 19:1, 73-83.
  3. Wulf Hein. (2013) Ivory Experimentation. Companion book to the exhibition The Return Of The Lion Man: History, Myth and Magic. Ulmer Museum.
  4. Wulf Hein. (—) Tusks & Tools. Private research manuscript to be published in l´anthroplogie.

Notes On Charles Brockden Brown: A Study Of Early American Literature by Martin S. Vilas (1904)

The interest in Charles Brockden Brown and his works arises largely from his ranking position among American Prose Writers. Hence, it is not expected that an estimate, somewhat extended and somewhat critical, of his writings is likely to become popular. No other than this, save very brief sketches of Brown and of what he has done, is known to the writer. It may be, then, that the student of American literature will find in this book, written five years ago, something suggestive, perhaps something usually called original.

 

—Martin S. Vilas, 1904; introduction to Charles Brockden Brown: A Study Of Early American Literature.


§.00 Martin Samuel Vilas’ Charles Brockden Brown: A Study Of Early American Literature (Burlington, VT., Free Press Association, 1904) is one of the better overviews of the work of the American gothique novelist Charles Brockden Brown I have ever come across. Its value lays chiefly in Vilas’ clear and forthright approach to literary criticism (“It has been said,—and rightly I think,—that to study literature correctly and determine the value of the work of each author, he should be studied with reference to himself alone first, next with reference to his place in the history of the literature,” Vilas, p. 66) despite his clear appreciation for Brown as a writer of considerable ability (“Brown is not lacking in invention or originality” p. 56), and praise for Wieland and Ormond, Vilas never allows his appreciation to deteriorate into feeble sentimentalism and excuse-making in relation to Brown’s lesser works (ie. “Brown had been trained a Quaker, but that in no sense excuses him for his inaccurate uses of ‘thee,’ ‘thou,’ and ‘thine'” p. 56).

§.01 As a consequence of Vilas approach (and good writing), the work retains an amusing character, while never compromising swiftness or comprehensiveness to entertainment, which is surprising for a corpus retrospective (cast your mind to any contemporary volume on literary history). The text examines Brown’s novels, Wieland (1798), Ormond (1799), Arthur Mervyn (1799-1800), Edgar Huntly (1799), Clara Howard (1801), and Jane Talbot (1801), in addition to Brown’s social background, philosophic and political influences, and his influence on other writers, all in the space of only 80 pages.

§.02 However, Vilas’ criticism, deft though it is, contains some flaws, as demonstrated in his analysis of Brown’s treatment of wild nature, “He could not describe a cavern, a precipice or a deep ravine without letting his imagination lead him into something that is gruesome. Thus nature becomes not an emblem of the bright and beautiful, but the representation of an infinite and awful power which hangs over and around all things” (p. 58). This characterization is accurate, but is held to be a failing in Brown’s works by Vilas, who notes that his contention with this “gruesome” portrayal of wilderness, is theological in origin. He writes, “[Brown’s descriptions of nature] never go back with a glad and cheerful heart to say,—I am of nature and of God. I exist as a part of it and of Him. If he is great and wonderful, aye, awful at times in his manifestations, I rejoice in it, for it exalts me that see in it an expression of myself. The Almighty is great and powerful, so am I in a small degree as a manifestation in one form of Him.” Vilas then writes, “… these optimistic feelings were not akin to the soul of Brown. His philosophy was the philosophy of darkness and distortion.” (p. 59) At the first, it should be noted that even if it were true that Brown’s philosophy was one of “darkness and distortion” this, in no way detracts (indeed, would enhance) the powers of his prose. I consider this criticism to be irrelevant in relation to Brown’s prose, precisely because it is a problem only in contradistinction to Vilas’ personal philosophy (of providential-anthropocentric unity), which, itself, is far less realistic, than Brown’s more cautious and skeptical view of nature’s savage increase (contemplate Leishmaniasis, or the black plague, cancer, the flesh-feasting botfly, the rivers of blood spilt by the man-eating tigers of India, or the thousands upon thousands who die to mosquitoes annually). That Brown long-suffered with health complications (chiefly consumption) was likely a factor which effected his outlook on ‘nature,’ and one which would predispose him towards a view of ‘the natural’ which was less than ideal (much to Vilas’ evident chagrin), in spite of his gentle yet sedulous religiosity.

§.03 Despite the reservations and harsh criticisms expressed in his text, Vilas’ view of Brown, both as a novelist and American, is ultimately favorable, as he concludes, “Within the limits of his strength, he did a great work. He realized his duty to his country and to civilization to contribute as much as within him lay and he never faltered though beset constantly by weariness and disease. His patience, his conscientiousness and his unfaltering devotion to the light that came to him led him ever on with a resolute heart and, even when disease was constantly preying upon him, his smile of affection always covered the deep-seated anguish. His pure and upright life was reflected in his writings, and if he could not write brilliant facts so that they would endure, all things of him exhibited the greatest of all truths that the highest virtue consists in ‘the perfection of one’s self and the happiness of others.’ It was then a courageous thing to be an American writer and especially to attempt to be the first American novelist, but Brown constantly displayed that courage. Had he not deserved to be first, the position would not have been accorded him. If he did not set the pace, he started the movement. It is with very great respect and considerable admiration that I have studied this ‘brief but blazing star’ that during his short and sickly life worked with such unfailing earnestness along lines that to him seemed best and highest.”


Sources (alphabetically, by author)

  1. Arkaprabha92. (2015) The Realm of Shadows & Chimera: Gothicism in Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland or, The Transformation. JUSAS Online.
  2. Cheryl Spinner. (2010) Martin S. Vilas, Early 20th Cent. CBB Scholar. Electrically Speaking (Cheryl Spinner’s Research Blog).
  3. Martin S. Vilas. (1904) Charles Brockden Brown: A Study Of Early American Literature. Free Press Association.
  4. Memoir of Charles Brockden Brown (preface to Cornell University’s edition of Wieland).
  5. Rob Velella. (2010) Birth of Charles Brockden Brown. The American Literary Blog.

The Effects of Atomic Weapons (1950)

The Effects of Atomic Weapons was a joint project of the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Atomic Energy Commission which sought a “quantitative approach to atomic bomb phenomenology.”

The book was published in 1950.

A PDF of the book is provided below:

The Effects of Atomic Weapons (1950)

Reading List Of Works Formative To Early American Thought

Medieval Works

  1. Ordinance of William the Conqueror (1072).
  2. Laws of William the Conqueror (c. 1066).
  3. Constitutions of Clarendon (1164).
  4. Assize of Clarendon (1166).
  5. Magna Carta (1215).
  6. De Legibus Et Consuetudinibus Angliæ (c. 1235).
  7. Summa Theologica (1265-1273).
  8. Marco Polo’s Travels (c. 1300).
  9. The First Manual of Parliamentary Procedure (c. 1350).
  10. The Declaration of Arbroath (1320).

15th & 16th Century Works

  1. Malleus Maleficarum (1486).
  2. Journal, C. Columbus (1492).
  3. Epistola De Insulis Nuper Inventis, C. Columbus (1493).
  4. Letter to the King and Queen of Spain, C. Columbus (1494).
  5. King Henry VII’s Commission to John Cabot (1497).
  6. The Prince, Machiavelli (1513).
  7. Temporal Authority: To What Extent it Should Be Obeyed, Luther (1523).
  8. The Bondage of the Will, Luther (1524).
  9. The Act of Supremacy, Henry VIII (1534).
  10. Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin (1540).
  11. The Journey of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza De Vaca (1542).
  12. From The Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies, Copernicus (1543).
  13. The Council of Trent (1545).
  14. A Short Treatise on Political Power, John Ponet, D.D. (1556).

The list is a work in progress and will be continuously updated. Recommendations for the future inclusion of works is welcome.

Thou, Thee, Thy, Thine & Ye: Meanings & Usage

In works of old, high-fantasy or historic fiction one may have chanced across the strange words: thou, thee, thy, thine and ye. While most people understand the gist of the words (that they all refer to people), the way each is to be correctly (formally) deployed is somewhat less well understood.

Thou, thee, thy, thine and ye are archaic personal pronouns (words which are substitutes for nouns or noun-phrases) which are generally articulated in the form of subject and object (depending upon the pronouns relation to the structure of a sentence). Subject pronouns in modern English typically take the form:

  • I (singular)
  • we (plural)
  • you (singular and plural)
  • he/she/it (singular); they (plural); it (dummy)

Example: I like writing.

Whilst object pronouns take the form of:

  • me/us
  • you/you
  • him/her (singular); them (plural); it (dummy)

Example: Writing likes me.

Modern English reflexive pronouns (self-referential pronouns) typically take the form of:

  • myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself (singular)
  • ourselves, yourselves, themselves (plural)

Example: I myself find writing difficult.

The Middle English pronouns follow a similar trajectory:

  • Thou = you when the subject (“Thou liketh writing.”)
  • Thee = you when the object (“Writing liketh thee.”)
  • Thy = your possessive form of you. (“Thy blade well serves thee.”)
  • Thine = your possessive form of you, typically used before a noun. (“Thine writing smacks of mastery.” or, “The writing is thine.” — thy own can be used in place of thine to similar effect)
  • Ye = you all | all of you used when referring to a group of people (“Ye fools!”)

Or, to put it more formally:

Subject form | Object form

I — I               | Me — Me

You — Thou  | You — Thee

You — Ye       | You — You

Just like with modern English pronouns, the more you (or rather, thou) practice with the words and use them in your sentences, the easier it will be to write fluently with them. Don’t agonize over precision of grammar if, in doing so, the fluidity of the writing is shattered, especially if your (thy) work is fictional (save when it is a work of historical fiction) and focus instead on the particular way your characters speak as they won’t always speak with ‘perfect’ grammar and syntax.

Fiction Writer’s Compendium: Middle English

Below is a resource for writers, consisting of dozens of Middle English words paired with their modern-day equivalent meanings. The list is not meant to be exhaustive of all Middle English. If there are any words you wish me to add to the list, feel free to contact me and let me know (Middle English to the left, current English to the right broken by ‘-‘).


al, or, al be that – though

als – as

anon – at once

artow – art thou, thou art

atte – at, at the

aventure – chance

axe – ask

ay – always

been – are

bet – better

beth – are; (imperative) be

brenne – burn but,

but if – unless

can, kan – know, be able

canstow – can you, you can

cas – happening, chance

certes – surely, certainly

clepe (n) – call

clerk – scholar

cokewold – cuckold

coy – quiet

ech – each

echo (o) n – each one

eek, eke – also

er, or – before; formerly

everich – every; every one

fay, fey – faith

forthy – therefore

fro – from

gan, gonne – began

hastow – have you, you have

hem – them

here – her

hight – named, called

him lest (list) – he wants

hir (e) – her, their

ich – I

ilke – same

kan – know, know how to; can

konne – learn; know how to; can

koude – knew; knew how to; could

kynde – nature

lasse – less

le (e) ve – dear

lite – little

lystes – jousting or tilting fields; enclosed grounds for formal combat

maistow, maystow – may you, you may

make – mate, husband, make

mo – more

moot – may, must, ought to; so (also, ever) moot I: as I hope to

morewe – morrow, morning

mowe – may

muche – much, many

nam – am not, namo, namoore, no more

nas – was not

nat – not

nathelees – nevertheless

ne – not, nor

nere – were not

nolde – would not

nones, nonys – occasion

noon – none, no

noot – know not

nyce – foolish

nys – is not

o, oo, on, oon, that oon – one

of – of; off

pardee: (lit. “by God”), a common oath – certainly

prime, pryme – 9 A.M.

quod – said

rakel – rash

rathe – early, soon

rede – advise; interpret; read

seistow – you say

sely – innocent, simple

seyde – said

seye – say

shaltow – you shall

sikerly – certainly, surely, truly

sith – since; then

somdel – somewhat

sooth, soothfastnesse, sothe – truth

swich – such

syn – since

than (ne) – then, than

thilke – this, that, at that

tho – those; then

tweye – two

unnethe – scarcely

unwemmed – undefiled

verray – true, veritable

wantrust – distrust

wene, -eth – think, thinks

whylom – once, once upon a time, formerly

wight – person, thing

yaf – gave

ycleped – named

ye – eye

yeve, -en, -est, -eth – give, given

ynogh – enough

ywis – surely, certainly

Celebrations Of The Winter Solstice Through Cultures & Time

Myth bares a indelible connection to the changing of the seasons and the modulation of the land they harbing. Hercules contestation with the Hydra (a multi-headed water monster) in ancient Greece bares parallels to the struggles of Greecian water managers and their multi-faceted (ie. multi-headed) irrigation systems. The snake-god Apophis (Apep) who clashed every morning with Ra as he rode his resplendent barque across the sky, was slain at the beginning of the Nile flood season, but was immortal and eternally recurring (just like the interplay between dry and flooding seasons). The indo-European god Indra (Devendra) defeated the water-serpent Vrtra (which draws its roots in the word wrto/eh, meaning, ‘enclosure’) a victory which corresponds to the release of mighty floods; the beginning of monsoon season.

As with the Greeks, Indo-Europeans and Egyptians, so to with our modern holiday celebrations, chief among which is Christmas, which is, of course, connected to the Winter Solstice; the death of winter and the birth of spring; a renewal of life.

Origins of Christmas

Ritualized celebration of the Winter Solstice is an exceedingly ancient practice that can be traced back to the beginning of recorded history. Whilst many popular celebrations of the the solstice survive to this day, such as the Iranian Shab-e Yalda (a celebration of the triumph of Mithra), or the Chinese Dong Zhi (a celebration of the increase in positive energy concurrent with longer days), the Japanese Toji (practice intended to start the new year with good health and luck), or the Hopi rite of Soyal (night long festival of dancing and gift-giving, celebrating the solstice), none are as famous as the western practice of Christmas.

In modernistically recognizable form, Christmas can be traced back to the establishment of December 25th celebration of the Invincible Sun, Dies Natali Invictus (birthday of the unconquered) or Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of Sol Invictus), by the roman emperor, Aurelian in the 3rd century. Later, in 273. It was not, as might be thought a solstice celebration, but rather a religious ceremony. The Christian Church selected Aurelian’s date as the official birth of Jesus (which was also the birthday of Mithras) and by 336 the solar celebration was Christianized, with Christ having supplanted The Invincible Sun, as the singular focus of the event. The debt to the ancient cult of the sun has continued ever since. Will Durant, in his The Story of Civilization wrote, “Christianity was the last great creation of the ancient Pagan world.”

The Yule Log

The ancient nords annually burnt a great log in honor of the god, Thor. Upon coming into contact with Christians, the practice was adopted and syncretically incorporated into the broader framework of celebration.

The Tree

The fixture of the ‘Christmas tree’ is part of a broader meta-cultural phenomenon which is often expressed through a ‘tree of life’ or ‘tree of the world’ (such as the Eagle-Serpent Tree described in the Myth of Etana or Yggdrasil which also features serpent-eagle motifs) which acts as a nexus for mythological narrative within which are generally metaphors concerning diametrically opposing qualities (such as snake and eagle, land and sky, good and evil, the seen and the hidden, etc). Trees were central to ancient peoples for their fires, their lodgings and shade after a long days toil; additionally, the greening of trees after the passing of winter signaled a great revitalization, the conquest of life over the frigid reign of death, so it is understandable why trees have always been so central to celebrations and rites related to the Winter Solstice (and it is likely that man-made habitation will take up a similar position in the far off future; for example, it may be the space ship which is venerated by exomoon colonies, as the vessel of life). In The Book of Christmas Folklore, Coffin writes of the history of the practice: “Most people have heard that the Christmas tree originates in the tannenbaum and is some sort of vestige of Teutonic vegetation worship. THIS IS PARTIALLY TRUE. However, the custom of using pine and other evergreens ceremonially was well established at the ROMAN SATURNALIA, even earlier in Egypt” (p. 209).

Santa Claus

One of the most iconic of mythological figures associated with contemporary Christmas celebrations is Santa Claus, a fat, bespectacled jolly man possessed of magical powers who travels the word, sliding down the chimney of innumerable homes to give gifts to the deserving. This belief can be traced back to the norse goddess Hertha, who would appear in one’s fireplace to grant good luck. The practice of leaving gifts underneath the tree are also nordic, as Odin would leave gift beneath evergreens during Yuletide, a tree considered sacred due its association with the deity. Tony van Renterghem in his When Santa Was a Shaman, writes:

“In newly Christianized areas where the pagan Celtic and Germanic cults remained strong, legends of the god Wodan were blended with those of various Christian saints; Saint Nicholas was one of these. There were Christian areas where Saint Nicholas ruled alone; in other locations, he was assisted by the pagan Dark Helper (the slave he had inherited from the pagan god Wodan). In other remote areas…ancient pockets of the Olde Religion controlled traditions. Here the Dark Helper ruled alone, sometimes in a most confusing manner, using the cover name of Saint Nicholas or ‘Klaus,’ without in any way changing his threatening, Herne/Pan, fur-clad appearance. (This was the figure later used by the artist Nast as the model for the early American Santa Claus)” (page 96).

Celebrations of the Future

In my own personal capacity, I should like to see the celebration of the Winter Solstice focused upon a veneration of the ingenious human industry which girds us from the rending chaos of frostbite and frigidity, of all that turns against dissolution and all that revitalizes our commitment to our fellows, in sonorous mirth and joyous creativity, as we contemplate the return of warmth and growth and plan endeavours for the Spring.

This season, if you should find yourself warm and well-stocked, thank the local architects and engineers, the electricians and designers who have, through the powers of their mind, created the magnanimous shell which girds you from near-certain death.


Sources & Resources for Further Reading

  1. David C. Pack. (undated) The True Origin of Christmas. RCG.
  2. HOIM Staff. (undated) The Shocking Pagan Origins of Christmas. Hope of Israel Ministries.
  3. Klaus Antoni & David Weiss. (2013) Sources of Mythology: Ancient & Contemporary Myths (Two-Faced Solstice Symbols & The World Tree). 7th Annual International Conference on Comparative Mythology.
  4. Patti Wigington. (2018) History of Yule. ThoughtCo.
  5. Patti Wigington. (2018) Yule Wassail Recipe & History. ThoughtCo.
  6. Sarah Pruitt. (2016) 8 Winter Solstice Celebrations Around The World. History.
  7. Stavanger Writer. (1997) Christmas In Norway. Stavanger-Web.

‘Defamation Factory’ Now Available

Defamation Factory: The Sordid History of the ADL by Kaiter Enless (preface by Tomislav Sunic) from Reconquista Press is now available on Amazon. It is the only book which documents the colorful history of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, from its founding in 1913 amidst the furor surrounding the trial of Leo Frank, all the way up to their present campaigns of internet censorship, in detailed chronological order. The book is presently available in paperback format.

Defamation Factory Full Cover
Full jacket cover for Defamation Factory.

Pick up a copy from Amazon or Book Depository.

 

Scalegrave

“What ya looking at?”

“A tire.”

“Tire? Tire-frame is more like it. From an old tractor by the looks of it.”

Dan Kennedy stood over the tire-frame with a glum look and prodded it with his work boot.

“Yep. Says C. B. on it. Whose tractor do you fancy this used to be?”

“Tell me, Mr. Ellis, you ever heard of Chester Bedell?”

“Can’t say as I have.”

“Was a prominent landowner here in Berlin Township in the late nineteenth century. Owned some 1700 acres. This used to be his land. One of the reasons I brought you out here.”

Ellis perked up and swiftly drew a small black, leatherbound notebook and a pen from his red plaid jacket, opened it and began energetically scribbling down his guide’s story.

“Bedell was an atheist. Problem was, most who lived thereabouts, then as now, were Christians. A woman by the name of Mary Hartzell caught his eye and they married in 1851. Mary’s father, Henry Hartzell demanded that Bedell and his family come into the fold. Propriety and all that. Wanted his daughters kids to be brought up right. Demanded that Bedell have his baby boy baptized. Bedell, despising the church, would have nothing to do with such a proposition. He had his own philosophy and, in his opinion, no need for a Christian one. Well… Hartzell didn’t like that. Not one bit. So he sent in a Presbyterian minister to baptize his newly born. Bedell was furious and began publicly denouncing the Bible as a myth and Christianity as foolish superstition. Caused quite a stir, as you can well imagine, only furthered the tension between the two men. So tensions rose throughout the community, some of the folk siding with one or the other in the dispute. Not long after, there was a string of barn burnings. Arson. One of them burned down with a little girl still inside it and a choir girl for the church at that. The murderous fire-bug was fingered as none other than Bedell himself. Said he wanted to get back at the Hartzell’s someways and that torching their flock was one of them. Now Chester, he denied he had anything to do with it, said that just before the latest barn had burnt, he’d seen three men heading thereabouts, three associates of Simon Hartzell, Henry Hartzell’s son. Hard to say who was at the bottom of it, but one of the supposed arsonists kilt hisself and the other two were clock-cleaned in court by Bedell who sued them for defamation. Bedell publicly boasted of his victory, blaming his old foe Hartzell for siccing his son and his men on him, said it was a frame job and that again and again, he were an innocent man, maligned. As the disputation grew, so did Bedell’s disdain for religion, his contempt for the clerisy, such that he told his family to “Shun priests of all orders.” Well, many years passed and Chester Bedell was now an aged and sickly man, he knew he was nearing the end of his life and, unrepentant, said, “If there be a god, let him fill my grave with snakes.” Shortly thereafter, the old farmer died. He left behind two sons and two daughters, the sons, having took up the irreligious philosophy of what Bedell called “Universal Mental Liberty,” received equal shares of his property, whereas his daughters, who had gone into the fold of the Presbyterian church, received nary more than a dollar each. After the funeral, the bearers took Bedell in his coffin to the spot they’d dug in the North Benton cemetery and then froze to a hissing. They looked down into that gaping hole and saw that it were filled with snakes of every shape and had to put the coffin down and clear out the attendees so they could kill the serpents without making a scene. When Bedell was finally buried, his will dictated that a bronze statue of hisself which he’d commissioned in his final days be erected over his grave. This was done and yet… you know what they found on the statue, not a day after it had been placed?”

Garret Ellis looked up over his notebook and smirked, “Lemme guess. Snakes?”

“That’s right. Snakes. Whole area is infested with them. Don’t matter how many they kill, they just keep coming back, as if they’re materializing from the very air…”

At this point in the tale Ellis laughed. “Well, that’s quite a story! I could definitely use this in my book. Uh, look, its getting dark, I’ve gotta head back to my motel.” He shut the notebook and pocked it alongside the pen, “But I wanted to thank you for showing me around, filling me in on the local history. Searching up articles online is one thing but actually being here, that’s quite another.”

“It was no trouble at all Mr. Ellis-”

“Please, call me El, all my friends do.”

“Well, was no trouble at all El. I hope you just remember to include me in the credits of your book.”

“Of course, I always include my sources.”

*

Ellis drove swiftly, racing against the encroaching darkness and arrived at the North Benton Motel just before nightfall. The moment he closed the door to his room the phone rang. He cursed under his breath and picked up the phone, lighting a cigarette as he did so and gazing out the front window at the half-dead trees which loomed across the road like gigantic, bony claws.

“Yeah?”

“El?”

“Oh, hey Jimmy.”

“Hey Jimmy yourself. You’re wife’s been blowing smoke up my ass ever since you left. You have your phone turned off, as usual.”

“I don’t like distractions when I’m working.”

“Well take a break, El. You’re wife is worried sick.”

“She only has two hobbies. Worrying and let me know it.”

“Kinda cruel for a man not to give his wife a call.”

“I’m busy Jimmy. Anyways, what are you, my psychiatrist now?”

“The way she’s been speaking, I think a marriage counselor would be more appropriate.”

Ellis chuckled.

“So whats on your mind, Jim. I know you didn’t call just to remind me I’m married to a shrew.”

“Sheesh. Harsh. But true. I just wanted to know how your research was coming. There’s plenty of books out about the history of Ohio but there aren’t many out there that are solely about so small a place as Benton. You dig up anything interesting?”

“Yeah, actually think I might have. Old urban legend. Very juicy.”

“Oh? Like a murder?”

“Nah. A curse.”

“Curses are good. Curses sell paperbacks. Look, I’ve gotta go. You ring me up in the morning and tell all about it.”

“I’ll send you an email.”

He hung up on the editor, returned the phone to the ringer, took a drag and looked out the window once more. He could have swore he saw something moving out there beyond the treeline.

*

The flee market hummed like a overworked engine as Ellis, notebook in hand, strolled down the main thoroughfare, between the stalls of the vendors, busily hocking their wares to the easily ambling fairgoers. Upon arriving at the eastern-most stretch of the fairgrounds, Ellis paused and beheld a young Amish woman step up to a clothing stall, wait until the vendor’s back was turned at which point she grabbed hold of a ornate, hand-sewn dress and slipped it up underneath her shirt and began walking away. The stall owner turned about in perplexity, aghast that her dress had vanished. Shortly her eyes met Ellis’, the man raised his brows and pointed to the slowly ambling Amish woman. With astounding velocity, the dress merchant leapt over her stall grabbed the Amish about the hair, shouting, “You blind? Sign says flee market, not free market! Only thing free round here is a beating.”

“You must be mistaken-”

The dress vendor yanked hard as she could upon the thief’s hair, snarling, “Don’t bullshit me, sister!” at which point the Amish let out a howl, saying “Alright, alright! Here, here!” Once the dress was returned the vendor, slowly and with narrowed gaze, released her quarry, who, bug-eyed and gulping, ran away as fast as her plump and knocking knees could carry her. A few people turned to look and stare, but most were too absorbed in buying, selling, conversing or trying to thieve their own prizes to notice the incident. Police were nowhere to be seen.

Ellis walked up to the vendor who had set about re-folding the lifted dress.

“Howdy, ma’am.”

“Oh, hello, thanks for that. She would have got away clean if it weren’t for you.”

“Why aren’t there any police officers here?”

The woman laughed, “You’re not from around here are you?”

“Nope. From the coast. Hope you don’t hold it against me.”

“Depends on how smug and over-syllabled your verbiage is.”

They exchanged smiles and Ellis strode forth with his hand extended.

“Name’s Garret Ellis.”

She smiled, arching her brows with surprise, “Debbie Barrow. What brings you to our little corner of nowhere. Ain’t much around here of ‘historical significance. We had the mob, steel works… ghost stories. That’s bout it. You ain’t one of those UFO, cryptid people are you?”

“The who now?”

“You know, tin foil hat types – oh, most of them don’t really believe it, what they write and blog about, but it sells – we had a couple of guys from the history channel come by asking if anyone had seen any bigfoots recently. The HISTORY CHANNEL. Don’t that beat all.”

“It does indeed. But no, to answer your question. That’s not my wheel house. I’m researching the history of Benton for a book. See it occurred to me a little while ago that though there are no shortage of history books on Ohio generally, there weren’t very many on Benton, give how small it is, that made sense, but I wanted to uncover the reality of the place. Heard some interesting stories. I was told you were a member of the historical society, thought you might be able to help.”

“You picked a strange time to ask, Mr. Ellis.”

“Yeah, sorry to drop in on you like this – your dresses are very nice by the way – you make them by hand?”

“Yep.”

“Impressive. I quite like them. Think my wife would like them even more.”

“Married? Congratulations.”

“You’d think that would be the appropriate response.”

“Ha. I’m bout to wrap up here. Going to be heading down to Hal’s diner which is inside the historical society council hall. You’re welcome to come along. Could use some company.”

“To protect you from the Amish?”

“Nah. That I got covered.”

*

Hal Hewit was an enormous man with a head like an overripe melon and two small, squinty eyes that twinkled with keen intelligence. He doubled as both the chair of the Benton Historical Society and the rustic diner inside it, which he’d named after himself. When he spotted the two entrants, he smiled broadly and raised one of his enormous, meaty hands and waved from behind the polished wooden counter.

“Well, look what the cat dragged in. Who alls ya friend, Debbie?”

Ellis returned the smile and walked up to the diner counter and shook the man’s hand.

“Garret Ellis. I’m a historian. Researching the history of Benton. Daniel Kennedy might have mentioned me.”

“Oh yes, yes of course. Dan had mentioned you’d be stopping by. Well, ya’ve met Dan and Debbie and now me, that’s half the town already, haha.”

“Dan had told me about Chester Bedell.”

The big man froze. The smile slowly vanishing from his face.

“W-well, ah, I don’t know much about that; how bout some coffee and doughnuts, or bacon and eggs? Yall hungry right?”

“Hungry as a hog,” Debbie replied.

Ellis was confused at the man’s reticence. How could he, the leader of the historical society, “not know much about that?” Perhaps, Ellis thought, there was some family history. Perhaps the Hewits were, at one point, as bounded up with the Bedells as the Hartzells… perhaps…

“Debbie, I got the doughnuts over here, why don’t you come and grab them so our guest doesn’t wither away while I’m rustling up the eggs.”

Debbie stood up from where she sat across from Ellis and made her way across the patternless green linoleum floor. Ellis watched them from the corner of his eye; the big man was whispering something into her ear, then he stood up straight with a cheezy smile and slide a tray of doughnuts across the table to the woman. When she sat back down opposite the investigator he folded his hands together and leaned forwards.

“What did he say?”

She paused a moment, waiting until Hal had vanished into the kitchen.

“Hal’s kinda superstitious. He doesn’t like talking about bad things that happened around here. Thinks it will scarce off customers.”

“Well, he’s dead wrong about that. Brought me here didn’t it? Besides, why do you think there are so many ghost hunting, cryptid-catching, conspiracy theory shows on television? So many websites with that stuff plastered everywhere? Its because people love it. They gobble that stuff up. Rather than driving people away, it’d drive people in. By the boatload.”

“Maybe.” She grabbed a doughnut and began munching idly. Ellis’ mouth began to water, it only occurred to him then that he had not eaten all day. He plucked out a fine chocolate glazed pastry and popped it into his mouth.

“Splendid. Ya know my father always said, ‘Be happy for what you have to eat. There are starving kids in Biafra.”

“Biafra?”

“Secessionist state in West Africa.”

“Oh. My mother always used to withhold our desserts until we had ‘earned them.’ She’d say ‘Plenty breeds indolence.”

“She’d have gotten along well with my father then. Oh, tell me, is Hal religious?”

“Yeah, he’s a Presbyterian. Goes to The North Benton United Presbyterian Church.”

“Where is that?”

She smiled and shook her head, “Ya know, you might be a historical expert but you sure aren’t perceptive about the present.” The woman jerked her thumb over her shoulder and out the diner’s front window. He followed her gesture and discerned a large church situated directly across North Benton Road.

“Oh,” he grinned sheepishly.

*

After Ellis and Debbie had finished up at the diner they said their goodbyes and she departed to go see to the dog of a neighbor whilst he stayed and convinced Hal to give him a tour of the historical society. When they passed through the library, Ellis paused to query.

“You have archives I take it.”

Hal’s small, squinty eyes flicked to a door to the left momentarily. “You can look through the records if you like, but its quite a bit of paperwork.”

Ellis pulled out his notebook and smirked, “I’m used to long hours.” He flipped through a stack of records until he saw the name “Bedell” and then flipped upon the folder and rifled through until he lit upon a grainy photograph of a intelligent, yet imposing looking man with a thick, well-groomed beard and dark suit. Chester Bedell.

All the while Ellis worked through the files, Hal watched with interest.

*

When Ellis had satisfied himself as to the archives and filled his small, black notebook up with dates and names and hidden stories, he closed his book and headed for the exit, the image of Chester Bedell burning in his mind. Pausing at the counter of the diner on the lobby floor to thank his gracious host. Hal nodded stoically and put his hand on Ellis’ shoulder.

“You ain’t going up to Ole Bedell’s grave, is ya?”

“I was planning on it. Files say his grave was moved up by Canyo on Hartzell Road. Figured I’d go have a peek for my research. Why?”

The big man shook his head, his brilliant black eyes going wide and mournful and filled with something else. Something that looked a lot like fear.

“I wouldn’t say its wise. Now listen, I know its easy enough to laugh. To dismiss the whole thing as nothing more than an ole wives tale… but there’s usually some truth in such tales and I tell ya, there is truth in this.”

“Well… I’ll keep that in mind.” It took considerable effort for Ellis to keep himself from smiling.

*

When Ellis pulled into the wide, gravel drive of Hartzell Cemetery he was surprised at how small and sparse the place was, nothing more than a few slabs of stone stuck into a couple of tiny plots of grassy land, boarded up in the middle by wind slashed oaks. He had expected gargoyle statues and grand iron-works and roiling clouds of mist, maybe a spooky old groundskeeper, yet his only company was a fat raccoon which looked up from one of the graves with an oily hamburger wrapper in its mouth. Its eyes flashed and it bolted into the treeline. The daylight waned as Ellis made his way between the graves, the ground, hard and unyielding; probably thick with clay, he thought idly. He passed a grave which read ‘Henry Hartzell,’ Ellis tipped his hat towards it, then bent and placed a sheet of paper over the tombstone and ran a piece of charcoal over it until he had a good impression. Then he folded up the paper, slid it into his inner right coat pocket and moved on. He could see Chester Bedell’s grave up ahead, even if one wasn’t looking for it, the edifice would have been hard to miss, for it was the largest grave in yard, with the largest font. In the archives, Ellis had read that there used to be a statue of the old farmer with a raised tome in one hand that said ‘Universal Mental Liberty,’ whilst his foot crushed a scroll which read ‘Superstition,’ however, some yahoos had shot it up in a drunken frenzy and it was removed to a local museum for renovation. As he stood before the grave in the twilight, he tipped his hat.

“Howdy, old man.”

Moments later, as if in response, there came a hissing.

Ellis whirled and leapt aback as an enormous snake slithered up from the ground and coiled about the grave. Once his heart-rate returned to normal he smiled, shook his head and leaned toward the serpent as if in defiance.

“You seem to have mistaken me for Hal, old girl, I ain’t afraid of snakes. My friend Julie’s got a pet python that would gobble you up for lunch.”

He gingerly grabbed the snake by its tail and, with the utmost caution, slid it across the ground until it was well and clear of the tombstone. Then he bent to Bedell’s grave and jotted down some notes and made a copy of the faceplate as he had done with Hartzell’s. Just as he was about to finish, there came yet another hissing and another; jerking his head to the left he could see two massive black rat snakes coiling up about him. He drew back silently, rising from the grave.

Such a concentration of the animals wasn’t natural. Something was very wrong.

He turned to make his way back to his car and beheld a figure in the distance, standing at the treeline. The man was tall, with a thick beard and a fine black suit over which he wore a battered overcoat, drab and dark. His eyes were pits of void and the hissing of the serpents then grew louder as the clouds slithered over the warming light of the sun and choked its bountiful rays from all existence. Ellis gasped and ran.

*

Night fell like a blanket of smog as Ellis drove back from the cemetery to his motel on North Benton Drive. Upon returning he locked the door behind him. His breathing erratic; eyes bulging, slightly crooked teeth grinding back and forth.

“It couldn’t have been real. It couldn’t have been real…” He muttered to himself, pacing, veins flashing out like ruddy-blue worms against the pallor of his skin. He lit up a cigarette and poured himself a glass of wine to calm his nerves. Then he paused, mid drag, a thought flashing through his skull with blinding clarity.

The apparition I saw was extremely tall. Who else in town is of a similar height?

*

Debbie laughed like a hyena as Hal recounted his twilight haunting in the dimly lit confines of his diner, now closed up for the night.

“Ya should have seen the look on that fella’s face!”

“Oh, its a little cruel. I feel bad for laughing.”

Dan Kennedy waved away her concerns as if they were a gaggle of mischievous pigeons and gestured to the owner.

“Don’t be so melodramatic, he weren’t hurt. Just scared. Like Hal said before, this is gonna drive business. Big business. We keep this up, we’ll be practically rolling in cash.”

Hal intervened, suddenly severe.

“That’s as may be, but we’ve gotta be careful.” He stabbed his finger through the air at Kennedy. “If anyone finds out that you’re the one whose been putting snakes on the grave it will all be for nothing.”

“Well, I always do just like ya say and check to make sure there ain’t no one there before I place um. Them ole rat snakes are easy ta catch once ya can find um, so I been breeding them out behind my barn and ain’t no one ever goes out there.”

Hal nodded as if that were acceptable and turned to Debbie, “Alright, now when your historian friend calls you – you did give him your phone number right?”

“Yep.”

“Ok. Good. When he calls you and tells his story, you tell him that’s happened before, really ham it up, if we keep saying there’s been tons of these sightings and enough people listen, they’re bound to believe it. At that point I won’t need to play dress up and Danny here won’t need to keep bringing snakes, they’ll be all so convinced about the truth of it, they’ll starting seeing things themselves, now that’s bound to bring in some news stories.”

“Hell,” Dan snickered. “Forget the news, that fella is bound to write this up in his book, I looked him up, he’s pretty well known. Not quite a New York Times bestseller, but close enough.”

“Alright we just have to-”

Suddenly there came a thumping, but wherefrom, none of the conspirators could tell. Hal rose first and swiftly, “What was that?”

Dan shrugged, unconcerned, lighting a Marlboro and taking a swig of Coors. Moments later there came a second thumping. Debbie jumped and Dan shook his head, his brows going up and his facade falling to amused disappointment.

“Yall are jumpin’ at shadows, probably just a coon. Ya know how they get up on top of the roof sometimes-”

“It werent no coon.” Hal whispered grimly.

Debbie yelped suddenly as a black snake twined about her ankle. She windmilled her arms and fell to the floor howling and kicking whereupon Hal froze and Dan cursed aloud.

“How the fuck did one of your snakes get loose?”

“It weren’t one of mine Hal, I swear they’re all locked up.”

Both men paused and looked at each other as Debbie rose and steadied herself as the snake moved out to the middle of the floor. They followed it with their eyes and when it reached the center of the diner they heard the thump once more and followed its source to a tall man in a dark suit with a thick mane of hair who stood at the window outside the restaurant. His eyes were luminous and dark as collapsing stars and his mouth formed a cold and motionless line and the only expression he made were as the face of Death himself.

Debbie cried out, Hal went white with terror and Danny swore and took a step back.

When they looked again, he was gone. Only the serpent remained.

*

In the little cafe to the immediate right of Hartzell road, Ellis sipped his coffee; the place was packed to bursting. A Amish woman came in and asked to sit and he nodded, “Sure. Yeah, of course. I don’t own the table.” She sat down beside him, ordered coffee and eggs and asked to see the newspaper. She flipped it open and raised a brow.

“What is it?”

“Hal and Dan Kennedy, co owners of Hal’s Diner recently claimed that they had been attacked by… a ghost.”

“Oh? Does their ghost have a name?”

“Chester Bedell. Apparently.”

“Oh. Interesting.”

“They’re claiming that they’ve been cursed. That the grave of Chester Bedell is haunted.”

Ellis grinned like a jackal as he sipped his coffee with his left hand and zipped up a bag filled with a fake wig and beard and a dark, old-fashioned dress suit.

“Mighty good for business.”

The Image of Man | Specter of Earth

(a) Immanence or Earth?

What way went vigor?

Subsumed by vice.

Struggle lost to paradise.

Elimination of a concept is only a reduction of literal spatiality insofar as no parvenu concepts are there fabricated in its place. Fabrication should not come to be confused here with falsity, such as an illusion (true presentation, false content) but rather should be associated with methodological or normative effect (a presentation which may not be “true” but which contains true content – ie. a bracketing concept).

(a.1) The Image of Man | Specter of Earth

In his Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man1, Wilfrid Sellars posits two competing conceptions of the human subject, that of the “manifest image” and the “scientific image.” The manifest image, as defined by Sellars, constitutes the folk-psychological schema by which man describes himself, to himself, and relates to his fellows (I am, she is, she talks to him because she likes him, etc), what Sellars referred to in his more casual moments as “knowing one’s way around” the map of the world. To quote Sellars: “The ‘manifest’ image of man-in-the-world can be characterized in two ways, which are supplementary rather than alternative. It is, first, the framework in terms of which man came to be aware of himself as man-in-the-world. It is the framework in terms of which, to use an existentialist turn of phrase, man first encountered himself—which is, of course, when he came to be man. For it is no merely incidental feature of man that he has a conception of himself as man-in-the-world, just as it is obvious, on reflection, that ‘if man had a radically different conception of himself he would be a radically different kind of man.’”2

In contrast, the scientific image is that set of things which also constitutes man but which cannot be detected by the manifest image (or rather, which cannot be discerned by simply “feeling one’s way around”). He describes the scientific image thusly,

The scientific image of man-in-the-world is, of course, as much an idealization as the manifest image—even more so, as it is still in the process of coming to be. It will be remembered that the contrast I have in mind is not that between an unscientific conception of man-in-the-world and a scientific one, but between that conception which limits itself to what correlational techniques can tell us about perceptible and introspectible events and that which postulates imperceptible objects and events for the purpose of explaining correlations among perceptibles.”3

Sellar’s takes special care to note that by utilizing the word “image” he is not thereby positing that either the manifest, scientific, or both – as conception of being-in-the-world – are in anywise not of ‘the real.’ Rather, he ‘brackets’4 the “images,” thus transmogrifying them into philosophical objects of navigation. The tension between these images is starkly exemplified by such permutations in the humanities as posthumanism and its attendant sub-categories – transhumanism, non-humanism, anti-humanism and so on – as well as in the popularization of the displacement of the holocene by the anthropocene, patterned after the noosphere5 of the Russian geochemist, Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky; further refined by de Chardin and Le Roy. The anthropocene was utilized as early as the 1960s but was popularized in the early 2000s by Dutch chemist, Paul J. Crutzen. The anthropocene, broadly described, is the geo-era birthed out of post-industrial human civilization; generally, a human-dominated geological epoch; a time where man has obtained unprecendent power which has, through his ignorance, caused irreparably damaging climate change and ecological devastation. In other words, the anthropocene places man as geological force. This is a transmogrification of the manifest image; a taking of man from his place as the center of concern and placing him within a system with it’s own concerns (the planet, earth, Gaia, etc). Such a transformation is the summation of a existential quandary. The end of the world, or, more minimally, the end of the world of man. If you should find this talk of “the end of the world” to be an incredibly over-the-top pronouncement know that it is not our pronouncement but rather, a sentiment which is increasingly accepted by academia at large. Consider this excerpt from a 2014 speech given by the urban geographer, Stephanie Wakefield, “The end of the world then is not this or that disaster coming in the future – a flood, a hurricane, the collapse of mid-western agriculture – the end of the world is not a potential extinction of homosapiens. The end of the world is what we are living through right now.”6 Now, clearly, this is manifestly false if “end of the world” is to be taken as a literal and immediate eventuality (as her usage of “now” could connote). The world, either as nature-as-such, or, the-earth-as-such, in totality, is not literally at an end; it was not “ending” back in 2014 when such statements were made nor is it “ending” now (anymore than it has always been ending). Rather, it is Sellar’s manifest image that is slipping away – this a failure of synthesis – behind computer screens and into the ever-burgeoning smart-phone matrix, slipping through the cracks in the facade of a world torn open in the new reality birthed by empiricism and modern science, slithering through the fissures of the harmonic concordance which has been shattered by the might of human industry and will.

Man is no longer merely a clever beast, he has become something else entirely. We are all cyborgs, after all. All the more reason for synthesis! The crucial question to answer then is whether he has become more or less his constituent parts. Obviously more. We now add on the collective armature of the whole of our species to increasingly powerful frames through mass communication and speculative theoretical exploration; no longer captive to the landlocked and resource scarce existence of our ancestors, oft trapped upon infertile planes or swampy marshes, nor are we so easily dispatched by meteorites, those great foes from the sky, nor the devastation of hurricanes, mudslides, deluges of the rain-cloud, nor the ague or the fangs of chittering beasts. Hence, the only truly meaningful question left in regard to man in relation to the earth is: “Should he continue the process of reifying his immanence, thus synthesizing the manifest and scientific images or doing away with one or the other or should he cease and desist altogether?”

Before we can even begin to answer such a series of questions it is of great importance to critically examine the conceptions of the earth which have been constructed by the manifest image, what we shall here collectively refer to as the specter of earth. What then is this specter which shrouds our clarity? The answer is: not earth as-is but rather, the idea of earth which has been collectively crafted from centuries of our relationship with it, imbued with agency by our own, misattributed and implicitly carried. Whether the concept takes the form of earth-as-hyperorganism or earth-as-deity; what is fundamental to the foundation of the concept of the specter is the idea that the planet is something which acts. Additionally, the specter is a being which also has specific interests which its proponents contend broader humanity (or in rarer instances, all human action) is actively working against, for in the philosophy of the spectral shamans, Man is nothing more than a virus, crawling out upon the whole of the world, siphoning it’s lifeforce with vile machinic efficiency for some unstated, hideous and invariably cataclysmic end. The decline of anthropocentric thinking via the rise of new and destabilizing schools of thought have acted as catalysts to this thought-process which has, in turn, allowed the mental ecological niches necessary for anti-human envirocracy7 to grow. But is this mindset justified? Is it true? We would affirm that even if such statements were true, that should not mean that man should cease philosophical and technological innovation and simply set himself down into the muck and the mud, scratching about with sticks to carve out a hovel in the hardening clay of some noisome landslide. All of nature wars with us and it is only right and just that man should the wage battle with equal fury. Now as ever. But before we lay out our positive position (what is correct and should be done) we must first finish our negatory enterprise (what is wrong and what should not be done).

What is wrong, principally, with the various notions which we here collectively describe as the specter of earth is that it is just that, a specter; a construct of the mind with no verifiable external reality. This is not to say that mental constructions are not themselves true or that they are not immensely important; they are. Rather, it is to say that there is a profound distinction to be drawn between the conception itself and the way that conception maps onto any given externalities (if any at all). As pertains to usefulness it is crucial to understand that every mental construction is only as useful or useless as its applications within the mind to the individual who contemplates it and the ability of the individual who conceives of it to then utilize that concept to effect “the world” in some way that is conducive to some end. In the case of humanity, that end is, typically, a anthropocentric one. The problem with the concept of the specter is that, though it is obviously false (or, in more rare and sophisticated iterations, unfalsifiable), it is not useless; in fact, it is highly useful for a variety of human pursuits. To illustrate this fact and better conceptualize the actual effects of the specter, consider the cult of femininity which sprung up around the archaeological discoveries of Çatalhöyük, Turkey. In 1958 the archaeologist James Mellaart unearthed the remains of a proto-city in southern Anatolia, Konya Province, Turkey. It came to be known as Çatalhöyük8. Among the ruins of the neolithic settlement were various female figurines which Mellaart believed to be evidence of a cult of some Mother Goddess that was “the basis of our civilization.”9 Other similar claims had been, for instance, the American occult writer, Rosemary Ellen Guiley wrote that goddess worship extends as far back in time as the neolithic and might possibly be even older10 and the mythologist Joseph Cambell once cited a discovery that was dated to 6500 BC11 which he believed to be indicative of mother goddess worship. The validity of Mellaart’s theory, however, was somewhat complicated by the fact that not only was the archaeologist possessed of black market connections, he was also a proven forger. Regardless of these facts, Mellaart’s theories garnered a following and in short order a new, tentative religion had sprung up around his findings (both real and counterfeit). A similar fixation surrounds the ancient Bronze Age city-site of Knossos in Crete wherein many figurines and frescos were discovered which hinted at nature worship conducted under the auspices of powerful priestesses. Despite widespread denouncement of the idea that either Knossos or Çatalhöyük were, in their time, hotbeds of mother goddess worship, the idea persisted; indeed, both locations are still quite popular tourist designations for dedication worshipers of “the mother goddess” which has formed into various different internet communities. The “the” here is significant as members of the Knossos and Çatalhöyük mother goddess community believe in a monotheistic conception of the divine; a great and all powerful woman-creator who stands separate from man. It is pertinent to note that many modern devotees of the Mother Goddess believe that during neolithic times (or other proximal ages) womankind lived in tranquility until they were invaded by men who brought chaos into the world through the creation of technology. In it’s modern iterations, mother goddess worship tends to arise in, or affix itself to, circles wherein radical feminism, Jungian Psychoanalysis, New Age pantheism and extreme forms of evironmentalism are present. Whilst Mellaart’s discovery was a important locus in the reknewal of the specter goddess, it was but a portion of the multifarious iterations of modern earth and goddess worship, which re-surged in the 1960s in tandem with reinvigorated feminist movements, the popularization of ecology and neo-paganism and various non-asatru associated witchcraft and occult movements.

Another important node in the reification of the specter of earth was the work of the independent British scientist, James Ephraim Lovelock. During a joint venture with NASA to discover life on Mars, Lovelock conceived of what he called the Gaia12 Hypothesis, which postulated that a planet which contained life could be thought of as one, cohesive and self-regulating organism. First put forth in the 1960s, Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis was elaborated upon in his 1974 paper, Atmospheric homeostasis by and for the biosphere13 and various, subsequent scientific and polemical papers and books. The Gaia Hypothesis, originally conceived of as a new way of modeling the planetary ecosystems, Lovelock took the concept well outside the bounds of the hard sciences when, in his paper, Science and Christian Belief, Vol. 4, No. 1, 29, he wrote, “Gaia is Mother Earth. Gaia is immortal. She is the source of life. She is certainly the mother of us all, including Jesus.” Therefore it is starkly evident that Lovelock, whatever his initial conceptions, had come to believe the earth to be a literal feminine deity, possessed of vast intelligence, power and agency; sensitive to the workings of man and all the other organisms which take up residence beside, below and above him. Thus, in Lovelock’s schema, man is subsumed in the telos of “the world” and must readjust his workings in alignment with it or face The Revenge of Gaia14. Two decades after Lovelock’s hypothesis took hold, numerous other earth-centric thinkers and movements began to percolate throughout the increasingly global zeitgeist. We must pause he to take the measure of the thing, the strange convergence of scientific modeling and neolithic mythology, which, we would postulate, might have emerged out of the isolating and uncommunal nature of scientific research; for instance, both Mellaart and Lovelock were academics, given over to isolation in pursuit of furthering their personal knowledge of their particular field of study. It would not be unreasonable to suppose that such habituations occasioned considerable loneliness given the obvious social dimension of the human animal.

New “green” forces, less mystical and considerably more political, began to arise seldom a decade after Lovelock’s magnum opus. In the 1970s, the international NGO, Greenpeace, rose to prominence amidst the hippie furor of the 1960s, having no single founder or founders, the group organically coaleseced around environmental concerns, gradually becoming both more influential and more radical in their beliefs and tactics. 1987 saw the publication of the book, The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth, wherein Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor declared of the masculine,

Perhaps the greatest harm patriarchy has done to us is to stifle, coopt, and deform our powers of imagination. Moralism, dualistic dogmas, repressive prohibitions block our imagination. Patriarchal religions keep this fusion from happening, imagination dies, and is replaced by mechanical-linear thought patterns, i.e. indoctrination.”15

and in another section,

The world’s definition of God is the self-definition of humanity. The Gods who rule us “from above” are simply mirrors in the sky, faithfully reflecting our own faces. The Gods who rule us ‘from within’ might represent deep truths of the mind and heart, or they might reflect the profound self-distortions of four millennia of ontological misperception. We do not know if a ‘God’ is a true God or a false God until we see what kind of world is created in that God’s image. When we look around today at the world generated by the male Gods of patriarchal rule, we see warfare, degradation, suffering, and sadism on a scale such as earth has never seen, nor will ever see again—for of course if we don’t end it, it will surely end us.”

and later,

This is all very rudimentary, but once it has been set into motion as world machinery, every living thing on earth is entangled in its gears, all our functions become definitively embodied in its functions—and it’s very hard for those living inside the machinery to stop the machine, because our lives and all their ontological terms have come to depend on the ongoing machinery in all its terms.”16

Thus, we can see, from the mists of prehistory to the present, a consistent familiarity of association; earth to mother, woman as creator and thus God(dess), feminine magicks stultified and routed by vile patriarchal will and the persistent disdain for the horrid masculinity of the machine. If we define spirit as that portion of the human mind which motivates, and if we define the machine as the concretization of masculine will, we can accurately define opposition to the machine as indicative of a feminine spirit.

1‘Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man’ was a lecture given by Sellars in 1960. It was later transcribed and published in the journal, Frontiers of Science and Philosophy.

2Sellars, ‘Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man,’ p. 3

3Sellars, ‘Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man’, p. 10

4‘Bracketing’ was a phenomenological term deployed by the philosopher Edmund Husserl, meaning: to suspend direct engagement with the world in partiality to better focus on some form of analysis of experience therefrom gained.

5The noosphere was conceived of as a biosphere of human thought. Nous = mind, sphaira = sphere.

6Notes on the Anthropocene: “What Must I Do?” At the End of the World, 2014.

7Those who place lack of human impact upon the environment at the forefront of all political & philosophical thinking.

8The name Catalhoyuk is a combination of the Turkish catal (fork) and hoyuk (mound).

9Evaluation Claims of a Mother Goddess Cult on Prehistoric Malta, Margaret Creech, 2015.

10Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experiences, (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), 239.

11The Masks of God, vii.

12Gaia, or, Gaea, is a important primordial Greek deity who is the living embodiment of the earth.

13Lovelock wrote the paper in co-authorship with the microbiologist Lynn Margulis. The paper was first published in Tellus XXVI, 1974.

14The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth is Fighting Back, is a book published in 2006 that was written by Lovelock.

15Sjoo, Mor, The Great Cosmic Mother, p. 427

16Sjoo, Mor, Great Cosmic Mother, p. 217 [PDF ver.]

TLC REPORT: US & IRANIAN GEO-STRATEGY, PRT. 2

In the last installment of the report we took a brief look back at the history of Iran (Persia). Now that we have a better grasp of the tenor of the country we shall turn our attention to Iran geo-strategic aims, both past, present and what they project for the future. In the third installment we shall tackle America and its relationship to Iran.


Key notes concerning Iran

  • Total Iranian Dominion: 1,648,195 sq km (19th largest country in the world by landmass); irrigated landmass, 95,530 sq km (approximately)
  • Border countries: Afghanistan 921 km, Armenia 44 km, Azerbaijan 689 km, Iraq 1,599 km, Pakistan 959 km, Turkey 534 km, Turkmenistan 1,148 km
  • Population dispensation: Iranian settlements are primarily concentrated in the north, northwestern and western areas surrounding the Zagros and Elburz mountain ranges.
  • Devoid of maritime power
  • Natural land fortress (the walls of Iran)
  • Semi-arid climate, rough terrain, mountainous, spotted with deserts
  • High lands house majority population.
  • Low lands are treacherous and difficult to traverse.
  • Resources: petroleum, natural gas, coal, chromium, copper, iron ore, lead, manganese, zinc, sulfur
  • Majority Shi’ite (member of the “Shia Crescent”)
  • Strongly favors Shia regimes and minorities populaces across the middle east over Sunni conglomerations.
  • Primary languages: Persian (official), Azeri Turkic and Turkic dialects, Kurdish, Gilaki, Mazandarani, Luri, Balochi, Arabic
  • Considered state-sponsor of terrorism by USA

Iranian Strategic Imperative

  • Bolster military
  • Maintain control of the Zagros & Elburz mountains and Mesopotamia.
  • Maintain control of mountains east of Dasht-e Kavir & Dasht-e Lut to maintain frontiers against Pakistan & Afghanistan.
  • Maintain security surrounding the Caucasus to defend land from Russo-Turkish threats.
  • Secure Western Coast of Persian Gulf.
  • Mitigate ethnic conflagration and work towards inter-ethnic and inter-religious cohesion.
  • Bolster economy to mitigate population dissent
  • Exploit Shia Crescent
  • Win the proxy war with Israel.
  • Extricate country from US, UN, EU control

Finding a clear starting point in the geo-strategic aims of Iran is a difficult task due to the chaotic nature of the country, its peculiar, still-congealing form of government (Republican Islamic Theocracy) and its complex, tapestried past. We must begin our exercise by looking to the foremost concentration of power, the religious clerisy of Iran. They are led by the Supreme Leader[1], Ali Khamenei, a poet and scholar who was a devout disciple of the late Supreme Leader, Imam[2] Sayyid Ruhollah Mūsavi Khomeini (these leaders are often confused for each other by Westerners due to the similarities of their names). Khamenei’s words will doubtless echo as much as his predecessors throughout future Iranian policies and trajectories and he, like Khomeini are already well enshrined in popular culture, thus, a summary of the man and his positions is well in order.

Supreme Leader Khamenei

No political action can be taken and sustained without the approval of the Supreme Leader. As Iranian National Library director and 5th president of Iran, Mohammad Khatami once said, “The Supreme Leader has the final say over everything, so before standing [for election], I had to see what he thought of my candidacy.”[3]

Therefore we turn to the current Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei. Khamenei is a peculiar man in that he is not very peculiar at all. He has been described by many of those who knew him as a extremely ordinary Iranian. Despite these descriptions he does have many notable attributes, the first and foremost is his caution. Khamenei is a extremely introspective individual, one who carefully considers, not just his words, but also his actions (his methodical method of speech and comprehensive assimilation of geopolitical events well attests to this characterization). This is to say, he is not a man who “shoots from the hip.” He is also a highly educated man and took for his mentors both Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Hadi Milani (1892–1975) and the notorious Imam Ruhollah Khomenei (1902–1989). Ethnically, Khamenei is of Azerbaijanis (Iberian) extraction, the largest minority population in Iran. The Supreme Leader is reportedly in failing health and sometimes vanishes for long periods of time from the public eye; these reports are not conclusive but rather, largely speculative.

Khamenei’s political ideology is concurrent with his faith in that he champions a strong, independent Islamic Iran. Whilst Western media outlets (especially ostensibly “right-wing” ones) take to characterizing Khamenei as little more than a mad-dog dictator, this is far too reductionist; Khamenei is a very philosophically adept and reasonable individual (provided those whom he is engaging with are not considered existential threats to Iran or Islam). Khamenei and his followers believe that the Western powers are decadent but fully acknowledge that the Eastern hubs of power pale in comparison to those of the United States and Europe; one of the slogans of the Iranian Islamic Revolution is: Neither Easterners nor Westerners.

“The part of the slogan, ‘…nor westerners’ means that we should not be mesmerized, submerged, enslaved or influenced by the west; we should not move in the direction of their demands; we should cleanse the country of a process of assimilation into the decadent western culture. The Assembly of Experts should examine this issue and it should put forward its demands.” – Khamenei, 2017

Elsewhere Khamenei has reiterated his point through colorful aphorisms, such as,

“-we should not exchange our powerful legs for the foreigners’ cane.” – Khamenei, 2017

This is to say that, though he is open to the idea of dialogue with the rest of the world, the Iranian’s should always move forwards under their own power and towards their own ends (the Islamic Revolution) and not be tempted into assimilation with the comfortable (or “decadent” to use his own phraseology), western way of life.

His opinion of the current president as of this writing, Donald J. Trump, is as low as his opinion on the general character of Western Civilization. He stated in a speech given to the Assembly of Experts (The Revolutionary Islamic Intellectual Clerisy) that:

“The reason behind the ignorant, derogatory, and thoughtless speech delivered by the US President – rife with gang-like rhetoric and cowboy fantasies, and filled with much falsehood and confusion – is due to his anger, desperation, and witlessness,” he went on to say, “The statements of the US President were not a source of pride for the American nation; personalities representing USA should feel embarrassed by these statements and their President. Of course, they have expressed this embarrassment before.” He later elaborated, “Beginning decades ago, the Americans (USA) had a plan for West Asia, they called this plan, ‘The New Middle East’ or ‘The Greater Middle East.’ The three main axes of this plan were Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, but they faced defeat in all of these three countries.” He continued, “On the basis of this plan, Iraq – with its ancient history and civilization – Syria, as the Center of Resistance, and Lebanon with its special position, were supposed to fall under the influence and domination of the US and the Zionist regime. Today, however, the realities of the region are so different, because they (US and Zionists) have not managed to accomplish anything in Lebanon; and, in Iraq, what has happened is the exact opposite of what they set out to do; in Syria, too, despite the countless crimes of the US and its allies, the massacre of the people in that country, and the USA’s overwhelming support of terrorist and takfiri [those who excommunicate others in religion] groups, DAESH has now reached its end game, and takfiri groups, such as the al-Nusra Front, have become isolated,” later still he added, “The presence and influence of the Islamic Republic have caused plans and desires of the US and the Zionist regime to fail in the region, and that is why they are angry.”

In a more recent speech which clearly defines the national project of Iran, Khamenei stated,

“It’s not simply a question of a number of years. It is a fight of a nation against an anti-nation; a fight of Iran against anti-Iran; a fight of Islam against anti-Islam: this has always existed and will persists.” -Khamenei (January 9, 2018)


Policy Trajectories

Moving from the micro to the macro, Iranian foreign and defensive policy has, in recent years, moved much in line (and away from and then back in line) with Khamenei’s afore-sketched-out philosophy.

Occasional Non-sectarianism

Despite critics of Iran stating that the country is highly sectarian in favor of Shia Muslims, this isn’t entirely true. Whilst it is true that Iran is primarily Shi’ite in terms of religious composition and thus favors the Shia overall, Iran has shown support for various Sunni groups such as Hamas and also works in tandem with non-Muslim groups who support the Palestinians.

Support for the Palestinian People; Opposition to Israel

To frame the issue with the most brevity: Israel hates Iran, Iran hates Israel. Due the Iranians sympathy for the Palestinian people – who they view as being oppressed – they look upon Israel as a tyrannical force which must be destroyed. The total eradication of Israel and the Zionist program is the publicly stated end goal of Iranian foreign policy as pertains to the region.

Trajectory Towards National Interest (Territorial Power) Over Religion

Despite Iran’s intensive support for the Shia tradition and its practitioners, wherever on the globe they might happen to be, numerous instances have shown that they are not nearly so “radical” or “fanatical” as they are often made to outwardly appear. For instance, Iran has sided with the Christian dominated Armenia over the Muslim (Shi’ite) dominated Azerbaijan in a attempt to prevent their own Azeri population from forming nationalistic sentiment towards the region (which would thus destabilize Iran from within and strengthen Azerbaijan). Iran, additionally, has refrained from showing any support for Sunni exigencies within Central Asia, a policy trajectory that mirrors that of Russia.

Opposition to EU, US economic and military power

Iran has a history of engagement with Turkey (a US ally) in order to fight against US/EU sanctions. Iran also believes that the US and Israel wish to restructure the Middle East to their benefit (which some portion of each state clearly does, as modern history well attests) and view this as antithetical to Iranian interests.

In Khamenei’s own words,

1. “The plot was made by Americans (US) and Zionists. They have been plotting for many months to initiate riots in small cities and eventually move towards the center.”
2. “Money was provided by a wealthy government near the Persian Gulf. Well, these plots are costly. The Americans are not willing to spend money while such accomplices are already there.”
3. “The third side of the triangle consists of the US submissive henchmen: Mohajhedeen-E-Khalq Organization, the murderous MEK.”

“The plot” being the covert take-over of the middle east.

National Exceptionalism

Much like the USA, Iran has a self-conception of its own exceptional nature which is granted it by God (Allah). Iranians often demonstrate this perceived uniqueness by comparing and contrasting their history and form of governance with that of the six surrounding Gulf monarchies (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman).

Internal Factionalism

Iran is highly factionalized with many different interests groups vying for different approaches concerning external and internal policies. The two main poles of power are Khamenei and the clerisy and the moderate and far more diplomatic president, Hassan Rouhani who has asserted that it is disadvantageous for Iran to have any “permanent enemies.” Rouhani also believes that the controversial JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action/Iran Deal) is a circumstance which can be turned to Iran’s advantage as he believes that is is important for Iran to renew old friendships and affirm new ones with other world powers as this would greatly bolster both Iranian security and influence; the JCPOA, Rouhani asserts, is the path towards this new era of cooperation and influence.

Rouhani’s pragmatic “real-politik” is in stark opposition to the Khamenei faction who look upon the JCPOA as something which must be begrudgingly accepted.

After President Trump stated that Iran had not lived up to the spirit of the JCPOA, Khamenei responded by saying, “Trump’s stupidity should not distract us from America’s deceitfulness … If the U.S. tears up the deal, we will shred it … Everyone should know that once again America will receive a slap in its mouth and will be defeated by Iranians.”

This stark contrast in diplomatic tact and lack of coherent messaging could prove increasingly problematic for the Supreme Leader and may open up paths of ascent for Rouhani and/or the office of the presidency as a whole given the fact that the moderate president of Iran has the backing of the youth (largely more liberal than the previous generation) and the intellectual elite (who largely desire moderate reform and world participation).


We thus conclude our overview for the moment and will be looking into US policy to Iran and some policy suggestions in the third installment of our paper.


Notes:

  1. Supreme Leader: The highest religious authority in the country of Iran who governs the clerical body; the true source of governing power.
  2. Imam: Most venerable designation in Shi’ite tradition. Superior to a Ayatollah.
  3. Quoted from, Iran and the West, Part 2: The Pariah State (documentary).

Sources

CIA, The World Fact-Book: Iran

Islamic Government: Governance of the Jurist, R. al-Khomeini

A HISTORY OF MODERN IRAN, Ervand Abrahamian

CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran

CDC: Facts About Sarin

PubChem: SARIN Compound Summary

Iranian Protests Offer Opportunity For A Real U.S. Reset In The Middle East

Human Right’s Watch: Iran

Middle East Institute: Rouhani’s Corruption Problem

The Shia Crescent and Middle East Geopolitics

Protesters in Iran Qom city shout death ‘Hezbollah,’ ‘Shame on Khamenei’

Iran: The Pariah State (documentary)

Anger at Iran’s Victories & Their own Defeats is the Reason for America’s Enmity with Iran (Speech by Supreme Leader Khamenei)

Recent damage inflicted on Iran by US will gain a response (Speech by Supreme Leader Khamenei)

CIA Documentation

  • Situation report on the Iran-Iraq war, noting that each side is preparing for chemical weapons attacks (July 29, 1982)
  • Top secret memo documenting chemical weapons use by Iraq, and discussing Iran’s likely reactions (Nov. 4, 1983)
  • Memo to the director of Central Intelligence predicting that Iraq will use nerve agents against Iran (Feb. 24, 1984)
  • Intelligence assessment of Iraq’s chemical weapons program (January 1985)
  • CIA predicts widespread use of mustard agents and use of nerve agents by late summer (March 13, 1984)
  • CIA confirms Iraq used nerve agent (March 23, 1984)
  • CIA considers the consequences for chemical weapons proliferation now that Iraq has used mustard and nerve agent (Sept. 6, 1984)