Masks of Origin: Regression in the Service of Omnipotence – A Review
Each chapter of Masks of Origin—a book of what perhaps can only be called “visionary” essays, by Brian George—reads like an individual novel. Divided into personal and universal experiences, each informs the other. Descriptions of events in childhood and adulthood provide a wormhole into the cosmos. The demeanor of his writing lends itself to a constant awareness of meaning. The mind is broken apart like a geode, revealing its crystalline structure, layers built atop one another, born from the ancient and all that precedes it.
The experiences that George describes are ones that are available to anyone but are rarely perceived. The author is so finely attuned, so inexplicably hyper-observant that nothing escapes his notice. In fact, everything acts as a Russian Doll in his perception: one event opening to another to another, so that each observation is a fractal and holds the seed for the next incarnation of thought. It is a world that many of us visit and aspire to reach, yet only rarely can we put into words. Everything is significant and is in a relationship with his thoughts, yet these are deliciously bereft of opinion.
In “The Music of the Spheres, Again Audible,” he thanks a glorious scarab for appearing and making the miraculous known to him. He notices a triangular shape etched on the stone of a wall where the scarab had positioned itself beneath a circular light the night before. He writes: “Through the years, I had experienced quite a number of synchronicities, events in which the inner and the outer worlds, for a moment, corresponded. The encounter with the scarab nonetheless took me by surprise. This did not seem like a ‘meaningful coincidence.’ Rather, it seemed like a sign that had been sent, and the sign itself appeared to have some degree of agency. What is the sound of one anonymous poet speaking?” The scarab was the physical embodiment of an answer. Here, the writer acknowledges the experience in a poet’s tunnel, the scarab acting as a sort of rabbit to George’s Alice.
He again has audience with another scarab and observes subtle movement, knowing that the scarab was attempting its own method of communication. George speaks Scarabese. He also wonders whether they were “impressed,” but in his humorous manner, shrugs it off with a “one makes do.” Without self-interest getting in the way, one can see all measure of the wondrous. A leaf on the floor. Dust in the corner. All beautiful and fulfilling and amazing—and these chapters teach us to see it.
Not one to linger in the solitude of a clear mind, George ventures out to the machine of the power structure, wondering indeed where such strata get permission to evolve from idea to materialization. He exposes his young angst quite stunningly in his chapter, “Only Two Lines Could be Saved from the Mahabharata,” in which the writer relates a parallel world with a certain history teacher. George is a young student who notices the methods by which a teacher packs his pipe with tobacco, and then rejects these in one fell swoop. Remembering an action such as this is a vortex in which a story is formed, like cotton candy around a paper cone in a cotton candy machine. George beautifully relates feeling a common thread with this teacher: that both had somehow stared into the Abyss while cheating it of its absorption. Young George feels a kinship with this man and asks him to edit his epic poem, his “Teenage Mahabharata,” which he wrote in the wee hours of the morning. The teacher flips on him, probably from envy, and proves himself to be not of a similar soul at all. Reducing himself to snobbery and pettiness, intimidated by the power of the young man’s writing, he tears it to shreds. George, ever thankful, calls it “sowing the seed of divine discontent,” using his powerful personal alchemy against the follies of a lower mind.
In the author’s words, it is a sobering thought to realize, when you are a four-year-old playing with clay, that the snakes and rivers you are attempting to make pale in comparison to the real ones you had once created (from “The Long Curve of Descent”). George opens these gaps in perception. Perhaps they are already open. He will slap your face until you stop trying to dress him up as a healing shaman. There are other writers for that. This writer finds himself to be a shaman but hasn’t always time to consider it, to put any grand importance on the fact. He is not interested in the veracity of his shamanhood, but of his work, his experience. That is the beauty of Masks of Origin: it is self-referential without being about the self.