A masque was a form of entertainment popular in 17th century courts, involving singing, dancing, acting, costumes, theatrical stagings, myths, fables and excess. Nobles would mix with masked players and local amateurs would be invited to play their parts. Often, a masque would involve a great deal of fawning over an elite on an occasion such as a royal birth. And, usually, it would be rife with political sub-text. At its conclusion, everyone would unite in an artificial show of peace, light and concord.
In his 1965 novel, The Magus, John Fowles sets a masque within the microcosm of a beautiful Greek island. There, the protagonist and victim, Nicholas Urfe, is repeatedly duped by his wealthy host, Maurice Conchis, who snares him with false autobiography and an elaborate illusion, a form of psychological warfare.
Urfe is alternately titillated, intrigued and outraged by the game. Greek gods and Victorian figures leap out from behind rocks and shrubs; Nazis reenact an atrocity that took place in the island village; and a set of beautiful blonde twins leads Urfe on a not-so-merry chase. There are plenty of bit parts to go around, from maid and handyman to physician and teacher and scuba diver and village traitor/monster/murderer … etc. But in truth most of the cast are expert mind-magicians. The novel ends in a form of treachery that neither the reader nor Urfe himself is psychologically prepared for – and remains unwilling to accept until the ambiguous final pages. What he longs for at the end is the genuine article.
Even so, he is maddeningly inclined to give his beguiler and “god,” the Magus, the benefit of the doubt. This is true even after the ultimate betrayal: the faked death of a woman Urfe loves. Even after learning that he has been thoroughly duped, his psyche shipwrecked on a fake reef, Urfe demonstrates ambivalence toward his torturers. Why? Because Urfe wants the mystery. (1) He wants the beautiful illusion to replace banal reality. And he’s hardly in a position to cast stones at Conchis: Urfe comes to recognize himself in the moral inventory that Conchis forces him to take.
I have read the book (both the original and revised versions) many times, not only because I enjoy Fowles’s prose, but also because it’s a manual of sorts for the brave new world(2) we find ourselves beached upon, where it’s normal and acceptable to remain delusional. Those who, like Urfe, struggle to tear back the scrim are the perceived losers, paranoid and driven toward an encounter with oneself in the dark mirror.
Who would be willing to pay such a price?
The Magus, like its cinematic successor, The Matrix, is about the cost of an examined life. No one who commits to the red pill is going to come out of it happier and ahead by worldly standards. The flawed protagonists of our time, like Urfe, are bound for disillusionment with the world, with themselves — “… for in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.”(3) But many of us believe that an unexamined life is costlier in the long run.
Thanks to television, technology and Tavistock, contemporary masques are increasingly difficult to penetrate, but it can be done with diligence and a healthy dose of humility. A 360-degree, 12-D cognitive grasp is, of course, impossible. And for that reason, it may be tempting to cast aside one’s limited perceptions in favor of the big drowning eye of mass media.
But we let ourselves and others down in doing so. In the story, the real story, behind the murder of JFK, behind Project Paperclip; behind Roswell and the UFO phenomenon; behind 9-11, Agenda 21 and the faked killing of Osama Bin Laden; behind eugenics and all of the wars of my lifetime; behind the Clinton, double-Bush and Obama presidencies; behind the Sandy Hook massacre and the ultra-secret Trans-Pacific Partnership; behind MK-Ultra and the pedophile rings run by elites – behind all of these stories lie our stories, our personal biographies. We have an obligation to, at very least, unmask the face in the mirror. Because the lies of governments and media corrupt us all.
While telling the truth remains a “revolutionary act,” and I heartily applaud all who do it, narrating the story is an interpretive act, one that links fact to metaphor. In that spirit, the following:
In the hamlet of Sandy Hook, where a reported massacre of schoolchildren took place on December 14, 2012, there are few main roads. One of these, Riverside Road, stretches in a northeasterly direction from the center of the village up and up, then meanders and eventually aligns itself with I-84. It’s a road well-positioned to get you out of town and onto the highway.
On Riverside Road we find the famous Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company, where people gathered after the incident. At the southwest corner of the firehouse, curved roughly like a fish hook from the long fishing-line arc of Riverside Road, is Dickenson Drive, the street address of the once and future Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Driving northeast from the firehouse roughly 200 meters, we come to 28 Riverside Road, the address of the Newtown Underwater Search and Rescue (NUSAR), a non-profit organization of volunteer divers situated in Sandy Hook. These are first-responders to accidents involving the many lakes, rivers and streams in neighboring vicinities, notably the Housatonic River and its watershed. NUSAR’s Web and Facebook pages are readily found by doing a search.
The group appears to be made up of stocky, stalwart men and women, some of them professionals in the community. Besides conducting underwater search-and-rescue missions, members of the team provide water and safety instruction. Beyond that I cannot speculate as to character or conscience – they appear to be a committed assembly. If you click here, you’ll find various photos of NUSAR trucks, boats and members.
Scroll halfway down the page to find a group photo of the NUSAR team around a memorial plaque. It reads: “Dedicated January 19, 2013 [Map of Connecticut with the familiar Sandy Hook ribbon and heart] In memory of the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School / Our hearts are broken / but our hope is unbreakable.”
To commemorate the Sandy Hook incident, NUSAR members conducted a memorial dive, not in Connecticut, but in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at a site known as Dutch Springs. This would seem strange to those outside of the scuba diving milieu, but there’s a simple explanation.
Dutch Springs is an aqua-park, a little mecca for divers, where families who scuba-dive can enjoy an adventure vacation searching for underwater attractions. One of these is a submerged yellow school bus that has been part of the underwater landscape at Dutch Springs since October 1995. With its doors and windows removed, the bus was sunk to the lake bottom (depth 50′) to give professional divers an opportunity to practice “penetration skills.”
On January 19, 2013, NUSAR members affixed the plaque quoted above on the submerged school bus at Dutch Springs, attaching it to a space where a window had once been. Click here for the memorial video on Youtube. It’s profoundly disturbing to see the little bus now bearing the signs of galvanic corrosion as the divers swirl around their sign, the sign they have made to commemorate dead children.
I have no reason to believe this act of tribute was cynical or disingenuous on the part of the divers, people prepared to save lives. Cinderella hasn’t interviewed them. It isn’t clear that there is consensus among its members about the Sandy Hook event or, indeed, about anything at all. During a recent (Jan. 2016) anti-gun rally in Newtown, one of NUSAR’s members, Brian Solt (assistant chief), offered rhetoric from the opposition, defending the second amendment and saying that the gun grabbers “don’t speak for me.”
We must accept that the underwater scene of January 19th, 2013, in and of itself, wasn’t part of the conspiracy to sink the evidence.
But I offer it as a metaphor for the rest of the Sandy Hook story, which is, indeed, a sunken treasure of anomalies, destroyed evidence, buried records (and glaring errors and omissions in official ones), redacted language, and slowly dissolving witness accounts amid multiple sea-changes in the narrative.
The submerged school bus with its memorial plaque seems an apt and ironic symbol for the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre investigation and its political outcome. I will leave you to ponder it, alongside this famous verse, “Ariel’s Song,” from William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, I.ii. 482-90:
“Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them — Ding-dong, bell.”
1) I would argue that God has given us a galleon of mysteries to ponder, beginning with the Incarnation and Resurrection. The dance of the grebe, the migratory pattern of the hummingbird, the spiral staircase of identity contained in our genes, numerical constants and patterns, the diatonic scale – these are real mysteries, too. We don’t need the manufactured, self-destructive ones of modern “magi,” the intelligence agencies, the political class, the banking conglomerates and the presiding principalities. And while a good mystery novel can be a valuable traveler’s companion, “Who am I?” is still the greatest mystery of all.
(2)”Brave new world”: References to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, in which that phrase was first coined, are scattered throughout Fowles’s novel. The phrase became the title of another book by Aldous Huxley that describes almost to a hair the kind of world we’ve come to accept as normal and “real.” But, of course, it is neither.
(3) Ecclesiastes, 1:17-18