There are, of course, a number of modern novels and films that portray mists as gothic, malevolent forces, often that serve as cover for ghosts, monsters, or unknown miasmas.
The presence of a magic site – some locale from which the hidden world can manifest itself, often with disastrous effects – implies some point of origin for the hidden world, or at least for its manner of manifesting itself to us as human beings.
In our previous readings we considered the theme of the hidden world as manifest in “mists” – clouds, gases, and the like. There we saw how the hidden world often manifests itself in ways that are cataclysmic – at least for the human characters in those stories. Not surprisingly, genre horror is also replete with ooze.
In our consideration of ooze – as one facet of the hidden world – we have one more step to take, and that is to consider ooze not only as archaeological and geological, but noological as well. Here ooze is not just a biological amoeba, and not just the mud of the Earth; here ooze begins to take on the qualities of thought itself.
The hiddenness of the world, whether revealed via the human-oriented motif of the magic circle, or the unhuman motif of the magic site, puts forth the greatest challenge, which is how to live in and as part of such hiddenness. In that ambivalent moment in which the world-in-itself presents itself to us, but without immediately becoming the human-centric world-for-us, might there be a way of understanding hiddenness as intrinsic to the human as well?
The “hiddenness of the world” is another name for the supernatural, exterior to its assimilation by either science or religion – that is, exterior to the world-for-us. But these days we like to think that we are much too cynical, much too smart to buy into this – the supernatural no longer exists, is no longer possible…or at least not in the same way. In a sense, it is hard to escape the sense of living in a world that is not just a human world, but also a planet, a globe, a climate, an infosphere, an atmosphere, a weather pattern…a rift, a tectonic shift, a storm, a cataclysm. If the supernatural in a conventional sense is no longer possible, what remains after the “death of God” is an occulted, hidden world.
Lemarchand’s box is a fictional lock puzzle or puzzle box appearing in horror stories by Clive Barker, or in works based on his original stories. The best known of these boxes is the Lament Configuration, which features prominently throughout the Hellraiser movie series. This was designed and made by Simon Sayce, one of the original creative team. A Lemarchand’s box is a mystical/mechanical device that acts as a door — or a key to a door — to another dimension or plane of existence. The solution of the puzzle creates a bridge through which beings may travel in either direction across this “Schism”. The inhabitants of these other realms may seem demonic to humans. An ongoing debate in the film series is whether the realm accessed by the Lament Configuration is intended to be the Abrahamic version of Hell, or a dimension of endless pain and suffering that is original to the Hellraiser films.
“Come on, Oldschool. We’re long past the days when all you had to do was clock a falling apple or compare beak length in finches. Science has been running into limits ever since it started trying to get Schrödinger’s cat to play with balls of invisible string. Go down a few orders of mag and everything’s untestable conjecture again. Math and philosophy. You know as well as I do that reality has a substructure. Science can’t go there.”
“Nothing can. Faith may claim—”
“Knot theory,” Lianna said. “Invented it for the sheer beauty of the artifact. We didn’t have particle accelerators back then; we had no evidence at all that it would turn out to describe subatomic physics a century or two down the road. Pre-Socratic Greeks intuited atomic theory in two hundred B.C. Buddhists were saying centuries ago that we can’t trust our senses, that sensation itself is an act of faith. Hinduism’s predicated on the Self as illusion: no NMRs a thousand years ago, no voxel readers. No evidence. And damned if I can see the adaptive advantage of not believing in your own existence; but neurologically it happens to be true.”
She beamed at him with the beatific glow of the true convert.
“There’s an intuition, Dan. It’s capricious, it’s unreliable, it’s corruptible—but it’s so powerful when it works, and it’s no coincidence that it ties into the same parts of the brain that give you the rapture. The Bicamerals harnessed it. They amped the temporal and they rewired the parietals—”
“You mean ripped them out completely.”
“—and they had to leave conventional language back in the dust, but they figured it out. Their religion, for want of a better word, goes places science can’t. Science backs it up, as far as science can go; there’s no reason to believe it doesn’t keep right on working after it leaves science behind.”
“You mean you have faith it keeps working,” Brüks observed drily.
“Do you measure Earth’s gravity every time you step outside? Do you reinvent quantum circuits from scratch whenever you boot up, just in case the other guys missed something?” She gave him a moment to answer. “Science depends on faith,” she continued, when he didn’t. “Faith that the rules haven’t changed, faith that the other guys got the measurements right. All science ever did was measure a teensy sliver of the universe and assume that everything else behaved the same way. But the whole exercise falls apart if the universe doesn’t follow consistent laws. How do you test if that’s true?”
“If two experiments yield different results—”
“Happens all the time, my friend. And when it does, every good scientist discounts those results because they failed to replicate. One of the experiments must have been flawed. Or they both were. Or there’s some unknown variable that’ll make everything balance out just as soon as we discover what it is. The idea that physics itself might be inconsistent? Even if you considered the possibility in your wildest dreams, how could you test for it when the scientific method only works in a consistent universe?”
He tried to think of an answer.
“We’ve always thought c and friends ruled supreme, right out to the quasars and beyond,” Lianna mused. “What if they’re just—you know, some kind of local ordinance? What if they’re a bug? Anyway”—she fed her plate into the recycler—“I gotta go.”