A-crowned-woman-in-red-holding-a-rose-topped-caduceus

For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.[i]

Sunhill Asylum, November 30, 1956.

I rarely spoke. Speech, I told myself, was for the lower orders. Only the ignorant expressed themselves in words. But the chosen ones – the enlightened ones – remained mute. I lived in exile, far from the world, as if I had fallen through a gyre in my own brain. How deep and dark was my dungeon! I lay shrouded forgetfulness, beyond the reach of Time, beyond all mortal cure and prayer. The ward seemed to float before my eyes like a mirage. Day by day, the leaden clouds drifted past the windows, the nurses came and went, and the nights crawled on, in a blank and nameless horror. For many moons I lay still as stone, lost in trance. I withdrew timidly from any approach, especially the doctors who tormented me with pinpricks. When food was put before me, I sat helpless, unable to eat. If an object was put in my hand, I would grip it tightly for hours, unable to release. During these periods of aimless will, I was wholly unable to care for my bodily needs; I was spoon-fed gruel and soiled myself like a baby. But every now and then, I was subject to periods of intense excitement. Then I would burst into song, or run wildly through the wards, searching for my gold…

Throughout this time, I had the anxious feeling of being watched. Curiously enough, I was being watched – by myself – or rather, The Parisian Lady. She stood at end of the ward, hovering in an ethereal bubble, critically assessing my condition. She was dressed in a red gown and held a rose-topped caduceus in her right hand. But this exterior projection seemed powerless to remedy my situation. My interior consciousness was clouded and felt quite extinguished.

Then one morning, I was overcome with a sudden clarity as she touched me with her caduceus. The dewy rose kissed my crown, and a ray of light penetrated the veil of my catalepsy. But with this awakening came a morbid fear. Was I not firmly in the grip of Satan? Surely, the spirit of God had forsaken me. I was unable to pray, had forgotten the ten commandments, the creed, the benediction, and had lost the prospect of eternal bliss. I had committed an unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost. I had trafficked in forbidden things. And now the Devil was coming to fetch me. How could I enter eternity if I did not redeem the world? The only way to Paradise was to solve the Paradox.

‘That’s impossible,’ said Monkey, jumping on the bed. ‘You cannot solve the Paradox. A paradox is a paradox because it cannot be solved. It’s a chicken and egg problem, you see. You are experiencing the paroxysms of circular psychosis.’

‘But what about the horned man?’

‘An hallucination brought on by the full moon.’

‘No. It was an eidolon. The ghost of my future self.’

‘Or your past self, perhaps?’

‘Which is it, Monkey? I have been wondering all year if I am not crazy. Perhaps my brain is starved of blood? Do you think I’m crazy, Monkey?’

‘Never mind. We should be more concerned of how we got into this mess in the first place. Something happened in London.’

‘London? I don’t remember London.’

‘Pity.’

‘Why? What happened there?’

‘We were captured by spies. And interrogated.’

‘Interrogated? What ever for?’

‘If I knew that, I wouldn’t be stuck in here with you, would I? But it concerned your best friend, Alan.’

‘I don’t know any Alan.’

‘Yes you do. Alan, the code breaker. Remember?

‘Never heard of him, Monkey.’

‘How could you forget Alan?’

‘You should tell the doctors – perhaps Alan can get us out of here…’

‘Alan is dead.’

‘Oh.’

‘I give up! You’re completely ga-ga!’

‘Don’t be cross, Monkey. My mind has gone.’

‘A perfect lump of useless jelly!’

‘At least I’m talking now.’

‘But you’re not. This conversation is all inside your head. Your lips are hardly moving at all. The words escape you. All you do is drool, all day long. Did you know that?’

‘I can still think, Monkey.’

Think, stink! Have you wet yourself again? This ward reeks to high-hell. Can’t they open a window?’

Monkey jumped from the bed-rail and scampered round the sills, rattling the casements and tugging the stays. Then he crawled back on the pillow and said:

‘We’re locked in.’

‘Of course we’re locked in, you idiot.’

‘As if life wasn’t bad enough. Your amnesia is driving me nuts. Do you know what you mutter after every sentence? “Our father who art in heaven.” Or some other religious twaddle. It’s entirely misplaced and very annoying.’

‘Do I really do that, Monkey? … Our father who art in heaven.’

‘See! You’ve just done it again!’

‘Well I can’t hear myself do it. At least it’s a meaningful sentence. A logical construct. Which is more than can be said for theory of evolution. The idea that I evolved from a monkey like you, is completely preposterous.’

‘However senseless it seems, you must submit to the idea.’

‘Why? Men of science are raving lunatics. But natural selection has put them in charge of the planet. Which is about to get blown to kingdom come. Global Thermonuclear War. Intelligence destroys itself. The Darwinian creed is an enemy of Life. I think it would be better if everyone just said “Our father who art in heaven” after every sentence, like me. Don’t you?’

‘I’ve told you countless times before: religion is an existential threat to the state. Er, will you stop staring? It’s very rude to stare. Didn’t your mother teach you any manners?’

‘My stepmother, you mean.’

‘Ah! So you remember her. That’s a good sign. The first step on the road to recovery is to remember who you are.’

‘I can remember lots of things.’

‘Oh?’

‘Yes. I remember Sykes’ the grocer; hand sliced bacon and broken biscuits; Jennings’ the butcher; the paper shop with its “Christmas Club”, and Joe’s fish shop at the corner of Lodge Lane; the dunes at Seaforth Sands; the tramway on Parliament Street by the Rialto Cinema; Fran’s Foundation Wear on Granby Street; the animal hospital on Mill Street; playing with peg dolls; Brunswick Dock and bomb sites; Dingle Glen; the psychic lady who lived on Egerton Street; Kavanagh’s bar; the fire station on Essex Street; the florist’s on Granby Street; the haunted house on Peel Street; Saint Margaret’s of Antioch – at the corner of Princess Road, with Banner and Bunting as altar boys, Harry Cooper the organist, and the laundry in the burnt out chapel…’

‘You see! It’s all coming back. I knew it would!’

‘But none of that is my life, Monkey.’

‘Then whose life is it?’

‘That’s Jack’s life. But I’m not Jack. I don’t exist. I’m not here. I’m just a shadow. I’m her shadow…’

‘Whose shadow?’

The Parisian Lady…

Pah!

‘—She’s standing right there, at the end of the bed. The mind is its own witness. A subject cannot know an object different from itself.’

‘I applaud your devotion to philosophy, but there’s nobody there.’

‘You don’t feel her like I do. She has such acute perceptions and emotions; I feel her rage, passions, fear and love; yet they have no bodily expression of their own. This voice is the wrong voice; this face the wrong face; these bones the wrong bones. Self consciousness is the faculty by which we realize. And I realise my whole existence is false. But she is my intellectual and moral illumination. I feel her returning impulse, drawing me upwards and inwards towards the centre from whence I came… My heart opens to this revelation as a flood to life. Believe me, my resurrection is nigh. Jack is just shadow, sliding between worlds. Here one minute and gone the next…’

‘No Jack. You must stay here with me.’

‘You have no care for my liberty.’

‘Where is liberty in a Universe ruled by an inflexible determinism? You shall never be free. Not in the way you desire.’

‘Am I not equal to other women? … Our father who art in heaven.’

‘No Jack, you are not equal. You are entirely different, incongruent and incompatible. But be proud of yourself; you are moving forward. The inequality of all creatures is the fundamental condition of their progress.’

‘There shall be no progress. The New World is doomed. Can’t you feel it, Monkey? The darkness is coming. I must return to The Old World and solve the Paradox.’

‘You couldn’t solve a crossword puzzle in your present state. Anyway, why flee to the past? The medieval doctors treat the insane no better than the Freudians. Castigation, exorcism, inquisition, torture and capital punishment. You will simply exchange delusion for the Devil, one dark cell for another, and be left to die in filth and misery. Or worse, get thrown to the faggots, your temporal body to be consumed by fire. Avert your gaze, if you please. Your bug eyes give me the creeps. All your sighs, tremors and tics. You look like death warmed up. Lazarus of Bethany.’

‘I can’t help it. Dr. Hardy says I’m cataleptic.’

Cataleptic, Socratic, hermetic, pyretic. You should eat more. I’m starving. What’s for lunch?’

‘I don’t know. What day is it?’

‘Friday.’

‘We get sloppy mashed potatoes on a Friday.’

‘Yuck. What about pudding?’

‘Milky Complan with soggy bread.’

‘Double yuck.’

‘Grazide will help us.’

The Faery Queen? Grow up. Admit it Jack: no one is coming to help us. We’ve been stuck in here almost a year, and your precious faery is nowhere to be seen.’

‘She’ll be back. I know she will.’

Fool!’ scorned Monkey. ‘This should be a Pantomime, except they wouldn’t allow it. There’s nothing funny about life in Sunhill Asylum. What a travesty of a girl! You don’t even know where you are, half the time.’

‘I know where I should be: Princess Day Care…

‘Princess Day Care? Pah!

‘—In a frilly frock and tiara.’

‘Unfortunately, “Princess Day Care” does not accept late-onset transsexuals who look like mountain gorillas.’

‘That’s very cruel, Monkey. I can’t help the way I look.’

‘I can’t breath. I’m suffocating. Dying. Well, don’t just lie there like a sack of potatoes! Do something! We must escape this place!’

‘Calm down, Monkey. We’ve been put in here for a reason. The CORE are planning a new time line. We just have to wait, that’s all. Then Maria will come.’

‘Maria?’

‘From The Old World.

‘A delusional phenomena. A schizophrenic process resulting from disintegration of the ego. You have a premorbid syntonic temperament. Your acute attacks have a cyclothymic trend with manic-depressive episodes. As for Maria—she is nothing but a psychotic personality of dementia præcox.’

‘You’re just a monkey. You don’t know anything.’

‘Shall I tell you what you are Jack Vallis? You’re a pseudo-melancholic pervert, that’s what you are.’

‘Get lost, Monkey.’

‘I would if I could.’

‘They put me in here for my miracles.’

‘I warned you not to mess with Kundalini. I’ve seen it a thousand times: people who dabble in the occult become prey to the evil influence of the phantasmal world. The Serpent has corrupted your intellect. Your Orgone sorcery and misguided concentration on the sexual centres has resulted in a downward transcendence.’

‘That’s slander. You’re no better than the lawyers. And I don’t “dabble” in anything.’

‘Do you know where you’ve been these past months? You’ve been isolation, that’s where. Euphoric, loquacious, deluded, and hallucinated.’

‘No. I went back to The Old World.

‘In your dreams.’

The Old World is all round us.’

‘All around us? How can it be?’

‘It is written in the Vishvaskâra Tantra: “What is here is there. What is not here is nowhere”. I spoke with Maria only yesterday.’

‘Maria? But who is she, exactly?’

‘My salvation… Our father who art in heaven.’

‘I must say, I remain very sceptical.’

‘That’s because you’re unfamiliar with the transcendental reality. You’re not an adept like me.’

‘Don’t teach your aunt to suck eggs. What impertinence! Lecturing me on the Vishvaskâra Tantra! “What is here is there. What is not here is nowhere”. I mean to say, are you aware that you’re actually here at all? Are you fully conscious? By your own logic, if you’re not here, then you’re nowhere. And where is nowhere? Nowhere is a fantasy. Your salvation will come? Pah! Come from where?’

‘Mental states of awareness and subsequent happenings are interrelated. We must trust in the Universal Mind, Monkey.’

‘I prefer to trust in the facts. And the facts of the matter are perfectly clear. You’re suffering from audio-visual synæsthesia. Your mind is dominated by hallucinatory visual perceptions – both elementary and complex. But you mistake these mental aberrations for pan-psychism.’

‘I mistake nothing. I’ve seen Maria—seen her in spirit—in this world and the next. And I’ve heard her speak. She’s real. Why don’t you believe me?’

‘Because it’s spiritualist mumbo-jumbo, that’s why.’

‘Pan-psychism is a physical fact of transcendent importance. Mind over Matter, Monkey.’

‘You should concern yourself with the material world, instead of heeding imaginary spirits. Become a little more sceptical and a little less credulous.’

‘Like you? A sceptic fails in his duty if he excludes the possibility of a Universal Mind at work in these phenomena. Clairvoyance has an intelligence operating at root of it; an intelligence far superior to that of the medium.’

‘Your clairvoyance is a morbid condition of the blood. Like all lunatics, you labour under false beliefs and delusions. Last night you conversed with an imaginary Cyclops; the day before, you laboured to transform the clouds into the angels of heaven, and were convinced the trumpets of Revelation were sounding from the hilltops. Although, I must confess, that was nothing compared to poor wretch beside you, who spent all day boxing the distant bell tower, which he mistook for some Goliath. And last month you were busy devising all kinds of ingenious plans to escape the Holy Inquisition.’

‘I’m on trial, even as we speak.’

‘On trial for what?’

‘Something terrible. I was coerced by the Cyclops to commit the most loathsome abominations. That’s what caused the Paradox…’

‘The only paradox is you believing in a paradox when there is none.’

‘Perhaps I’m just eccentric.’

‘Eccentricity of conduct always merges into madness; you have committed every species of mischief, morally, socially, and physically; the perversion of natural feelings, affections, temper, habits, and moral dispositions. Your moral insanity is the result of your spiritual negligence. The lower ape is not yet eliminated from the mind of man; an important fact that you foolishly overlooked. I have observed all kinds of insanity – post-partum psychosis, epileptic mania, paralysis, intellectual disorders, delirious ideas, anomalies of thought, suicidal tendencies, melancholia, sexual derangement, maniacal excitement, profound dejection, hypochondriasis, stupor, exaltation, monomania, dementia, and even lunacy from materialistic doctrines of the soul. But your insanity is of quite a different order. You have become rooted in a mire of Tantric madness.’

‘Like a lily, who draws its chaste life from the black mud. Anyway, I thought you were on my side.’

‘I was at first. Until I read Dr. Hardy’s diagnosis.’

‘Why, what did it say?’

‘Must I repeat myself?’

‘The Freudians like convenient laws to describe conscious processes; either physiological or psychological. As I see it, there are four possibilities: one), I was born without the correct mental equipment; two), my brain has undergone some physiological change during development; three), I am mentally ill, and suffer gender dysphoria; four); I am what I claim to be, and trapped in the wrong body. In which case the former would be an unavoidable consequence of the latter… Our father who art in heaven.’

‘You have a Vairagya or distaste for this world. Monkey knows best. Heed my instruction. I am a Senior Accredited Yogi…’

‘A Senior Accredited Twit, that’s what you are.’

Monkey stood on one leg, closed his eyes and bid:

‘Hush! Be still! Allow me to sing The Song of Real Meaning… No shape, no shadow. Entire body transparent and empty. Forget your surroundings and be natural. Like a stone chime suspended from West Mountain. Tigers roaring, monkeys screeching. Clear fountain, peaceful water. Turbulent river, stormy ocean. With your whole being, develop your life”…’

As Monkey sang, I noticed a palsied patient struggling to drink, his fingers splayed around a cup. His whole body quivered like jelly; his arms wavered and wobbled, and his head jerked from side to side. Try as he might, he could not bring the cup to his lips, and kept spilling milk down his pyjamas.

‘The Song of Real Meaning?’ asked I. ‘What meaning? Just look at that poor sod! He’s had his brains cut out. That’s the preferred “cure” in this place: turn a functioning neurotic into a vegetable. But no matter. The Senior Accredited Shrinks deem him free of all delusions…’

‘What delusions, I wonder?’

‘Hard to tell. Shrinks specialise in asking perverse and leading questions. They assume the positive even when you answer the negative. An inquisition of deviant sophistry… “Are you a tidy person?”“Why do you like dressing in women’s clothes?”“Does it excite you?”“Why do you hate your penis?”“Did you love your father?”“Why are you obsessed with the female form?”“How would you define an erotic woman?”“Does she have bright eyes?”“Long legs?”“Dainty feet?” … “What about her hair?”“And her odour?” … “Painted lips are erotic, don’t you think?”“Was your mother good looking?” … “Are you an artistic person?”“What do you prefer, painting or sculpture?”“What about statues?”“Have you ever fallen in love with a statue?”“What about dolls?”“Did you play with dolls as a child?”“Do you prefer inanimate friends?” … “What about inanimate lovers?”“Do you phantasize about having sex with dolls?” … “With statues?” … “Did you grieve your mother’s death?” … “And the dead?”“Do you phantasize about corpses?” … Psychiatry in the hands of witch doctors is very dangerous indeed. I’m done for Monkey. What if they cut my brains out? They’ll never believe that I’m The Parisian Lady.’

‘Listen to me,’ continued Monkey. ‘If you carry Shiva to your cerebral centre, you shall taste that supreme bliss, which is liberation from the body. Then you shall shine like a chain of lights. For in the centre of your body is the Inner Woman. What need have you of the Outer Woman, when there is an Inner Woman within?’

‘You don’t understand anything. I was born into Hell. Born a hungry ghost. Leave me in peace. Go and taunt the doctors for a change.’

‘I will on one condition.’

‘And what’s that?’

‘That you tell me more about this Maria.’

‘You will meet her soon enough.’

‘When?’

‘In about six years from now.’

‘Six years! I can’t wait six years!’

‘Why not Monkey? This last year has flown by. You will just have to start reckoning in Transsexual Time. Each day is a week; which means there are 52 days in a year; multiply 52 by 6 years gives 312 days, or 11 months. So there you have it: six years is just eleven months in Transsexual Time. That’s no time at all when you come to think about it. When you’re imprisoned in the wrong body, it’s a life sentence. And you find ways to make Time go faster. Transsexual Time. Six years or eleven months: it’s just a matter of perspective… Our father who art in heaven.

‘Yes, but what will become of us in the mean time? You said so yourself: there are bad men in this place. Powerful men. Men who want to steal our pearls. Men who want us neutralised. Do you know what they intend to do? Conflate transsexuality with perversity. There’s no justice in this world. No justice at all.’

‘We must trust in the CORE. This Limbo is a skein of many interwoven fates. Be patient, Monkey. All shall come together at the appointed time. Have faith. The Faery Queen will return. She alone can restore my wits. And then we shall know what happened in London. Eleven months, Transsexual Time.’

Monkey flashed his teeth, slapped his head, rolled his eyes at the ceiling, then gibbered:

Transsexual Time! What I have endured for you! The endless flowerings and extinctions! The perpetual proliferation of new forms! Eternal ages of bestiality and barbarism! Me, a poor runt amid the pack! The howling tongues, snarling teeth and rapine claws! Savagery, blood and sufferings infinite! A million winters, groping the icy shallows for some rank crustacean that tastes of shit and bile! Aeons of my semi-brutal existence, foraging on berries, roots and nuts; the millennias of triumphs and failures at the hands of cruel fate; the accidental discovery of some chance tool – a stick to spear fish; a club to kill; a flint to skin my prey and kindle fire! Beans to plant and seeds to sow! My shelter, a charnel cavern in the stinking bowels of Earth. And there, amongst the bones of my ancestors, came the first dim flickerings of your conscious mind! The guttural utterances of speech and the evolution of the written word! All my pains and strife! All my hopes and bloody sacrifice! What amaranthine incarnations! Semper et ubique! The destructive creations of solar radiations! Behold my myriad incinerations in the olamic eye of fire! The Carboniferous expansion of forest biomes! The worms, fishes, reptiles and mammals! The recapitulation of your phylogenetic and ontogenetic evolutionary sequence! Your foetal development in the womb of Mother Earth! Your six billion year history, from a tenaciously flailing cell, to this vertebrate made in the image of God! Think of your inter-uterine existence! All that I fought and died for, since that first thunderbolt struck the Precambrian mud! From a primordial germ to this moment of hominid insanity! And now you want me to wait in Limbo for the restoration of your wits? The Faery Queen? Have you any idea how stupid that sounds? Assuming she ever returns, what then?’

‘Then I will give palpable proof of The Old World. And we shall see the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And we shall all be changed; in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible.’ [ii]

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 1992-2022. All rights reserved.

i. Isaiah, 65:17. (King James I version).

ii. Revelation, 21:2; The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, 15:51. (King James I version).

Image credit: A crowned woman in red holding a rose-topped caduceus; she is suspended in a circle of water; a cherub blows wind from above; representing a stage in the process of alchemy. Coloured etching, circa 18th century. Creator unknown. Wellcome Collection. Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0).