Forests and Pencils

John Updike read Kevin Kelly’s article, Scan This Book! in last week’s NYT [go here for background] and reacted vehemently: “Unlike the commingled, unedited, frequently inaccurate mass of “information” on the Web, he said, “books traditionally have edges.” But “the book revolution, which from the Renaissance on taught men and women to cherish and cultivate their individuality, threatens to end in a sparkling pod of snippets. So, booksellers,” he concluded, “defend your lonely forts. Keep your edges dry. Your edges are our edges. For some of us, books are intrinsic to our human identity.”

And, as if by faerie-majick If:book answered by launching GAM3R 7H30RY – a book with no edges. Rejoice as your unique human identity snaps in two like a pencil!

The possibilities that GAM3R 7H30RY opens for us historians – translations/recensions/commentaries interspersed and commingled; languages bleed in and out of text pages; layers conceal and reveal. More, much much more, soon. Go see the book, in the meantime.

Hic Locus Terriblis Est III

sepoy notes: Apparently, DaVinci Code made 200 plus million $s around the globe this weekend. Understand how Tom Hanks’ Coif triumphed over the Pope’s Mitre by reading the conclusion of Farangi’s charming foray into historical memory.

V. Pass Go, Collect Awareness

The DaVinci Code begins where it ends—at the Louvre. Paulo Coelho’s charming The Alchemist begins where it ends. John Fowles’, The Magus — a vexing novel of initiation, also begins where it ends. To Einstein, matter and energy form an eternal loop of exchange. Phillip Dick’s Martian Time Slip whipsaws us through time, repeatedly touching the same place. Donnie Darko revisits the past to understand his present. The movie Memento keeps returning us to go before it reveals its intent. And those of us persistent or stoned enough to make it through Finnegan’s Wake found ourselves back at Adam and Eve’s house.

Like most Occult organizations’ processes, Freemasonry’s schedule of initiation also begins where it ends—after terrifying ordeals, the initiate finds himself on the other side of Chapel Perilous, still alas himself, alone, back in the world, but changed.

This is the ultimate Secret, and value, and joke, of the Occult. Through a progressive system of clues, shocks, dead ends and revealing, an initiate learns to pay close attention to the world around him, and that the ultimate end of all “magickal” operations is quite mundane—there is magic in everyday life, and one need only open his eyes to see. Yet how much hard is it for us, who spend most of our hours in two dimensions, to stop and smell the Rosicrucians? The philosophers told us. Aliester Crowley told us. We’re sleeping. And it’s hard to wake up without subjecting ourselves to shocks.

Continue reading “Hic Locus Terriblis Est III”

Hic Locus Terriblis Est II

sepoy notes: It is beyond doubt that the Glorious Lord will send farangi to hell for punning Gloria Dei. It is also beyond doubt that I have been giggling like a, um, girl about it ever since.

III. A 500 Year Old Argument Over Money

The controversy between Catholics and the Enlightenment is a deep one, and is primarily due to the Enlightenment’s humanist, secular, and sometimes libertine ideals, which are overtly, and often explicitly, hostile to Catholicism. Yet the Church itself has weathered greater threats to its authority, and this leaves one to wonder why the Church considers the Enlightenment, the Occult—and Freemasonry in particular—worthy enough opponents to issue pronouncements, some ex cathedra, against it.

Though many believe a connection between the Templars and Freemasons is dubious, it cannot be denied that the Masons themselves believe they are carrying DeMolay’s Great Work, and this adoptive connection must be given credence. What does it matter, after all, if the Templars actually handed a baton to the earliest Masons, if the Masons themselves believe it, and act on that presumption?

What’s more, the narrative gaps in the story of the Templars’ demise suggest tantalizing conclusions that lend credence to the historicity of a Masonic-Templar connection. Much of this evidence is located in Scotland, which would have been a logical and very un-Papish place for the Templar navy to port. Indeed, Scotland’s early-modern always-war of self-defense against England, then a loyal Catholic country, might have made easy bedfellows between a covertly pagan Scottish elite, and a newly excommunicated group of commandos.

Continue reading “Hic Locus Terriblis Est II”

Hic Locus Terriblis Est

sepoy notes: At long last, I have cajoled our friend farangi back to CM. Be thankful. This is his first post on Da DaVinci Code. If you haven’t read his Religion in America series, do yourself a favor.

When a cryptographer and a symbologist get together, it usually ends in tears. — A. O. Scott, NYT, 05.18.2006.

I. All the world’s Dr. Strangelove’s situation room, and we are merely

Chapati Mystery’s readers fall into various categories. Among our audience we count a goodly number of professional academics and scholars, who really should be getting back to work on that article, right now…I’m not kidding…you’ve wasted enough time, haven’t y0u? We have a few homeboy-haters in the crowd, who come to harrumph at Sepoy’s progressive values and consider his unruly coif a betrayal of Islam. We cannot forget the spooks and troops and NSA folk who haunt these pages (hi there!), and comprise a third of our unique IP address hits.

And finally, to my extreme pleasure, are the reality-challenged malcontents who mistake possibility for probability and ruin the party for grown-ups trying to engage in serious conversation. And I say that out of love, because, to a lesser degree, I’m one of them.

Sepoy and I have a long history of disagreement over the concept that drives such people—that of the capital-C conspiracy. I am not a proper historian, so my days are not filled with crackpots trying to explain, earnestly, that Venusians built Mohenjo Daro using Orgone energy. I feel Sepoy’s pain—were I him, I would be inclined to dismiss speculation about concerted malfeasance in high places as well. It rings of darkness, of the Elders of Zion, of poisoned wells, of witches in woods.

I am more tolerant of the conspiracy theorists’ basic cynical viewpoint. I encourage it, because though conspiracy theorizing is to critical thinking as cancer is to a normal, happy cell, CT’s at least show some inclination to ask basic questions about why things are the way they are. They tend to lack the ability to wield Occam’s Norelco. They illogically assume, at once, evil omnicompetence and bumbled overreaching on the part of the powerful and rich. They believe humans can keep secrets, or at least tamp juicy information. They look to fantastic, romantic causes for horrible effects.

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The Polyglot Manifesto II

There are, hence, two types of interlocutions required for the historian interested in future-ese. One within the discipline and one outside. One with the colleagues in Social Sciences, Physical Sciences and Computer Sciences and the other with the digital public. In both cases, the historian has to learn to speak another language – to be a polyglot – and communicate effectively. In both cases, the act of translation is key. I concede that the necessity of being a translator or a connector may not be apparent or deemed beneficial by many. Especially on the latter point – the speaking with the public point. Academics are, after all, pursuing our inner monologues in the bookstacks and who really wants to invite the barbarians in? Fair enough. I will leave that conversation for some other time except to say that as was astutely commented in my previous post, history itself is publicly contested – and not among historians [take, for example, the storm over Profs. Dower and Miyagawa’s class Visualizing Culture].

So, let me focus just on the first type of discussion that we must have – with our colleagues in computer science or those pursuing digital projects in other disciplines. How do we become connectors? What can we offer to the historian as incentive for learning another language? What scholarly benefit could there be to someone who has sunk 8-10 years mastering Arabic or Persian or Sanskrit in learning PhP or XML or Java? This is what we do; that is what they do. Pelikan, again, gives us a wonderful explication:

For it is the repeated experience of those who learn a second language, as it is of those who have always oscillated between their mother tongue and one or more other languages, that the other language sets them free from the confinement of one vocabulary, one semantic system, even one phonetic system, and thus gives them both a freer and a deeper awareness of their own language than they could have had if they had not learned to look at it, as it were, from the outside.

It is exactly the act of speaking with the computer scientist that provides us the scholarly incentive we need. To reimagine our archive digitally is not to déjà vu the print revolution Рit is to reimagine text itself. It is our conversation with the computer scientist that will allow us to see the future of the humanities or the discipline. It will give us another knowledge system to construct without the limitation of print. Yes. I said it, Print is Limited. Let me immediately clarify that I am not saying that print is dead [author is; god is]. We will always have the Book. Ok? Now, can we move on?

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