Friday, May 6, 2011

Some Thoughts on Found Things

Last evening, while attending my Art dealer's meet and greet for the art dealers of Dragon street which had as a conceit the theme of Cinco de Mayo, I met among many others a couple from France who own one of the galleries, or something, I really don't know exactly, you know. Now normally I wouldn't mention such a thing, but the couple was charming and left me thinking about a small detail. While we were trying to communicate with one another through our various accents and poor hearing (mine) and the hubbub, and what not, Odille said she liked to use parlis with fresh chanterelles and beure. I said, "Parlis?" She said, "Oui." I spelled it out, "P-A-R-L-I-S?" But suddenly I said, "Parsley?" "Ah yes, Parsley.." I remember thinking just before I landed on parsley, that there was something odd about that word: Parlis. "Parlez-vous français?" And if I could write this off as being just a small slight against my ignorant nature, I would of course, I should have learned French, I shouldn't drink, I shouldn't smoike, etc.. ie: I know I'm an ass, but it's rather pointless at this point, the ship is on the water, so to speak.. In the end, I satisfied my self with the wry couplet of parse and parley, and parlis is such a lovely slip of the tongue, in French with my spelling the s would certainly be silent. Well, the whole thing was just very poetic and French. Here I was wearing one of my most beautiful shirts. A shirt whose pattern must literally 5 thousand different mushrooms. They are rather small. I think I would even need my glasses to discern them in all their marvelous detail. So what did we talk about, the poor state of mushroom shopping in Dallas! In Portland, we had amazing fungus options, but not so here. At any rate, as I woke up this morning, and began to poke my head into the world of ideas to try and pull out a fish, or a fresh garnish of parlis. I ran across the name of Camille Flammarion in John R. Clark's book The Modern Satiric Grotesque. I knew he was an astronomer, and I knew he served as a model for Raymond Roussel's character Canterel in Locus Solus. But let's pause, let's give this the small pause, Canterel? Chanterelle! This parlis is a very rivivifying herb, no? Now the next thing that caught my attention was Flammarion's novel called Lumen written in 1867. Not all of it is terribly interesting, but none of it is terribly uninteresting. I could not help but reproduce this section: 

from Lumen by Camille Flammarion

Psychical Optics

When the spirit travels in this ethereal ray of pictures with a swiftness greater than that of light, it sees in succession, backwards, the ancient pictures. When it arrives at the distance at which the aspect of events that set out in 1767 is to be seen, it has already retraced a hundred years of terrestrial history. When it reaches the point where the aspect of 1667 has arrived, it retraces two centuries. When it attains to the photograph of 1567, it has seen, again, three centuries, and so on successively. I told you in the beginning that I directed my course toward a group of stars situated at the left of Capella. This group proved to be at an incomparably greater distance than that star, although from the Earth it appeared to be close beside it, because the two visual rays are near one another. This apparent proximity is solely due to the perspective. In order to give you an idea of the remoteness of this far-off universe, I may tell you that it is not less vast in size than the Milky Way. One may then ask to what distance should the Milky Way be transported to reduce it to the apparent size of this nebula. My learned friend Arago made this calculation, of which you must be aware, as he repeated it every year in his course of lectures at the Observatory, that have been published since his death. It would be necessary to suppose the Milky Way to be transported to a distance equal to 334 times its own length. Now, as light takes 15,000 years to traverse the Milky Way from one end to another, it follows that it cannot take less than 334 times 15,000 years, that is to say, less than 5,000,000 years, in coming from thence. I have ascended a ray of light from the Earth to these remote regions, and if my spiritual sight had been more perfect, I should have been able to distinguish not only the retrogression of history for 10,000 years or 100,000 years, but even for 5,000,000 years.

QUÆRENS: Can the mind, then, by its powers alone, cross in this way the immeasurable spaces of the heavens?

LUMEN: Not by its own power alone, but by making use of the forces of nature. Attraction is one of these forces. It is transmitted with a velocity incomparably superior to that of light, and the most rigorously exact astronomical calculations are obliged to consider this transmission as almost instantaneous. I will add that if I have been able to perceive events at such distances, it is not by the apprehension of a physical sense that I know them, but by a process incomparably more subtle, which belongs to the psychic order. The movements of the ether, which constitute light, are not luminous by themselves, as you know. The eye is not necessary in order to perceive them. A soul vibrating under their influence perceives them as well, and often incomparably better than an organic optical apparatus. This being psychical optics. For example, attraction crosses instantaneously the 148,000,000 of kilometres that separate the Earth from the Sun, whilst light occupies 493 seconds in this passage.

QUÆRENS: What length of time did your voyage to that remote universe occupy?

LUMEN: Have I not told you that time does not exist outside the movements of the Earth? Whether I employed a year or an hour, it would have been exactly the same period in infinity.

QUÆRENS: I have thought it over, and the physical difficulties seem to me enormous. Permit me now to submit to you a strange thought that has just come into my head.

LUMEN: It is to hear your reflections that I give you this narrative.

QUÆRENS: I want to ask you if the same inversion would take place with the hearing as well as the sight? If you can see an event backwards from its real occurrence, can you also hear a discourse backwards, beginning at the end? This is perhaps a daring question, and apparently ridiculous, but in paradoxes where can one stop?


Now, as a few of you may know, I myself have had a psychic travel experience which supports the claims of Lumen as preposterous as this sounds. I think I believe in this in some strange, perhaps Peter Lamborn Wilsony way, about the space of the imaginal, or perhaps a collective imaginalis, I'm not sure.

At any rate I have been taken to other realms by a being whose body is precisely a gravitational lens, a lens which can contract and focus like an eye or a muscle. The experience is very old, but I can remember it in almost a hyperreal detail to this day some 35 years after the fact.

To return to the scene of mushrooms, and to Martial Canterel. The OED lists 3 meanings for Chanterelle:

1.    †1. A decoy bird. (In quot. A female partridge used as a decoy.) Obs.
   1601 Holland Pliny I. 289 Forth they goe against the foulers chanterell or watch which calleth them out.

2.  (See quot.)
   1878 Grove Dict. Mus. I. 135 The chanterelle or melody-string [in the banjo] is called from its use+the thumbstring.  Ibid. II. 176 Making thirteen strings in all [for the lute], the highest, or Chanterelle, being a single string.

3. [a. Fr. chanterelle: in mod.L. cantharellus, dim. of cantharus drinking-vessel.]

   A yellow kind of edible fungus (Cantharellus cibarius).
   1775 Lightfoot Flora Scot. (1777) II. 1008 Yellow Agaric or Chanterelle.  1794 Martyn Rousseau's Bot. xxxii. 501 The Chanterelle, or little Yellow Mushroom, so common in the fairy rings on dry pastures.  1859 All Y. Round No. 15. 342 The beautiful yellow chantarelle, growing by the bushel.  1880 M. Collins Th. in Garden II. 12 Myriads of mushrooms, morels, truffles, chantarelles, champignons are wasted+because the poor do not understand their use.

Well, I guess there's not much use in trying to tie these things together. It's certain Martial comes from Mars,
and Mars from Marvort, and or Mamert, etc.. but these things are in the dim and remote past. There is a present day place name in France called Mamers which isn't all that far from the site of Camille Flammarion's Observatory.

or maybe there is this strange association

"military mushrooms"

Which makes me think of some of the material I have run across concerning the use of mushroom by the Zulus during the Anglo-Zulu wars. And the odd thing about that is

While talking with a young lady last night I mentioned Malcolm Forbes Toy Soldier Museum in Tangier Morocco which I had visited, it occurs to me now

How wonderful would it be to make a series of wonderful dioramas based on Roussel's Locus Solus!
And even include my own experience of psychic optical travel!

I'm going to eat Indian food in a few minutes, I sure hope they have mushrooms and peas on the menu today!

Bon Jour! Ah! Update: Scroll to the section in the book called "The Death of the Humanities"
and think upon "Martial Chanterelle", and even this post perhaps, and my cellphone themtos..

Ah Oui! Parlis!

Not to be outdone by contemporary gloominess, check out Camille Flammarion's dark place:

"This end of the world will occur without noise, without revolution, without cataclysm. Just as a tree loses leaves in the autumn wind, so the earth will see in succession the falling and perishing all its children, and in this eternal winter, which will envelop it from then on, she can no longer hope for either a new sun or a new spring. She will purge herself of the history of the worlds. The millions or billions of centuries that she had seen will be like a day. It will be only a detail completely insignificant in the whole of the universe. Presently the earth is only an invisible point among all the stars, because, at this distance, it is lost through its infinite smallness in the vicinity of the sun, which itself is by far only a small star. In the future, when the end of things will arrive on this earth, the event will then pass completely unperceived in the universe. The stars will continue to shine after the extinction of our sun, as they already shone before our existence. When there will no longer be on the earth a sole concern to contemplate, the constellations will reign again in the noise as they reigned before the appearance of man on this tiny globule. There are stars whose light shone some millions of years before we arrived … The luminous rays that we receive actually then departed from their bosom before the time of the appearance of man on the earth. The universe is so immense that it appears immutable, and that the duration of a planet such as that of the earth is only a chapter, less than that, a phrase, less still, only a word of the universe’s history." — Camille Flammarion, Le Fin du Monde (The End of the World)