Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Eliot Weinberger, from “Dreams from the Holothurians”

Why does atl mean “water” in the Aztec language?

Why are there three Armenian cities cited by Ptolemy as Chol, Colua and Cholima, and three Mexican cities named Cholula, Coluacan and Colima?

Atlantis! Augustus Le Plongeon, the first to excavate the Maya ruins in the Yucatán, deciphers the glyphs and discovers that they tell the story of the princes Coh and Aac, rivals for the hand of their sister Moo, Queen of Atlantis. Coh is accepted, but is murdered by Aac, whose armies overrun Atlantis as the continent begins to sink. Moo flees to Egypt, where she builds the Sphinx as a monument to her husband/brother, changes her name to Isis, and is the founder of Egyptian civilization. The Greek alphabet, recited in the proper order, is actually a Mayan poem on the fate of Moo.

Lost! Plutarch claimed that Solon began an epic poem on Atlantis, and gave it up. Lost! Plato’s account of the continent, Critias, ends suddenly in mid-sentence: “And when he had called them together, he spoke as follows:”

Why do the Basques speak Algonquin?

Atlantis! Heinrich Schliemann’s grandson Paul claims that he inherited a letter, an envelope and an owl-headed vase of unknown provenance. The letter instructed that only a family member willing to devote his life to the material contained in the envelope and vase should open them. He pledged his life, and broke the vase. Inside were four square coins and a metal plaque inscribed in Phoenician, Issued in the Temple of Transparent Walls. He opened the envelope, and found his grandfather’s secret notes from the excavation of Troy: the finding of a bronze urn full of coins marked From the King Cronos of Atlantis. Young Schliemann then set off for Tibet, where he discovered a Chaldean account of the destruction of the Land of the Seven Cities. Schliemann reports his findings to the New York American in 1912, promising to reveal much more in a forthecoming book.

Atlantis! Rudolf Steiner writes how the Atlanteans had no ability to reason, but that they had trained themselves in the mnemonic arts, and could even pass on their collected memories to their children. When faced with a problem, they found the solution from precedence; but if it was a new problem, they could only experiment blindly. They used words to heal wounds immediately, and flew in aircraft that ran on  “life force.”

Lost Atlantis! It was all a dream from the holothurians. The holothurians, despised by men, called “sea cucumbers” after that insipid vegetable, dismissed as cylindrical purplish blobs, nothing more than a mouth and an anus, forever filtering mud in the gloom of the ocean floor—it was the holothurians who did it. For each is the cell of a huge collective brain, a brain trapped in millions of useless bodies that inhabit the dullest stretches on earth. So, to amuse itself, this brain has spun stories along its submarine network, stories that bubbled up and randomly entered the dreams of the sleeping people above. Stories that provoked strange longings for the ocean floor: that the origin of all life began there, that forgotten kingdoms lie there in the mud, along with the shipwrecks of fantastic wealth. A dream that Solon and Platon and Bacon and de Falla and the other could only partially remember: they wrote it down, then went to sleep again to recover the rest, and never could. A dream that has led so many to dive into the sea and keep swimming down.

Atlantis! In the dark the holothurians eat and excrete and move on and eat, inching forward, thinking, sending out their mental flares in the hope that someone, something, anything will drop by and relieve the tedium of their biological fate, down there, at the bottom of the sea, with the calcified sponges, magnesium nodules, the crushed spines of sea urchins, the ghosts of coelenterates, unexploded torpedoes, skeletons of bathypterids and halosaurs, the hieroglyphic tracks of sea pens and ophiuroids, fecal coils, the waving arms of a burrowed brittle-star, manganese encrusted dolphin teeth, the remains of a jettisoned crate of Manilla-envelope clasps, zeolite crystals, pillows of basalt, calcareous shells of pteropods, the sinister egg-casings of skates, the broken anti-matter locks from a crashed spaceship, the short-crested ripples of sand and the scour moats forming in globigerina ooze.

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