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The Miracle of Context

Image Source: Minds . Can you recognize  the truth, if it's taken out of context? The Internet has lately become Pandora's Box, spilling out its contents to those who dare to look  (or look again - or again ). Images Source: Hello! Magazine / Getty . Last week, a friend dismissed my claim that people want to see the truth. He thinks people are not interested in abstracts like 'truth.' They just want to get on with their lives. Whether they want the truth or not, the signs and symbols of truth are on the move. Conversations float around and skim the surface. Another friend wondered out loud tonight, "It feels like the virus is more of a meme than anything else." In the wake of the US inauguration, disinformation, strange rumours, and weird info dumps are circulating online. Everything feels off, but bizarrely connected. There is something bigger at play. Image Source: 4chan ; also here . Truth and fiction overlap. There is no way to drill down to bedrock. It

Character Development 1: Rémy Balthazar, Psychiatrist-Magician

I want to extend a huge thank you to graphic artist Mark Kind, who sketched my fictional character, Rémy Balthazar. It's incredible to see this character depicted so accurately. Please see Mark's Instagram page here and Youtube channel here. The sketch was a regional word count milestone reward during my participation in NaNoWriMo in November 2018.

Image Source: Kate's Clothing.

Balthazar is a key player in my works in progress, Ink of the Palimpsest and Isis Chrysalis, a character who knows all the other characters, an unmoved mover. While Mark Kind illustrated the psychiatrist in his late thirties or forties, I also found an image which resembled how I saw the character as a young man. From a clothing ad at the UK outlet, Kate's Clothing:
"Devil Fashion Mens Red Velvet Adrian Jacket The lovely trad goth Adrian jacket from Devil Fashion is made from a deep red velvet and is covered in desirable features. A detachable frilled collar, and central embroidered hook and eye fastening, add to the classic feel of this smart jacket which measures 43" from the shoulders to the tip of the tails."
I collect images related to Balthazar on a Pinterest board, here.

Balthazar is a psychiatrist to world leaders and keeper of their secrets. I wanted an enigma who has the ear of powerful people, a John Dee or Rasputin figure. Of course, there is Balthazar's Biblical namesake, the Magus Saint Balthazar, traditionally known as an African King of Arabia and bringer of myrrh to Jesus's crèche. Myrrh, a resin from a Middle Eastern shrub of the same name, is used in religious, spiritual and magical settings to seal and preserve boundaries around a space. It creates a shield to ward off evil spirits.

Myrrh was also used by the ancient Egyptians in funeral rites. According to Grove and Grotto, the gift of myrrh at Jesus's birth therefore would protect the Christ Child, while foreshadowing his crucifixion and entombment, which connoted being restricted, shut in, closed off. The gift of myrrh brought Jesus full circle to his death, and bent time to connect to the precise moment of his birth. The Adoration of the Magi is surrounded by questions. It is odd that the story of Christ's birth maintains that his arrival was attended by three sorcerers, no less ones wielding Egyptian death magic.

The Adoration of the Magi detail of King Balthazar from the central panel of the 1510 triptych by Hieronymus Bosch. Image Source: Ocean's Bridge.

The Drama and Mystery of Modern Success

We should ask questions about strangers who come bearing gifts, and Balthazar is one of these. The character haunts the edges of the action, while being essential to the story. He helps the main characters at an unexpected price. That idea echoes in our own lives. Embark on any new circumstance - be it a job, relationship, a purchase, a birth - and there is an element of surprise. One may be rewarded even more through the initiative, but each new boon can have strings attached and demand a later sacrifice.

Balthazar represents the unexpected price the other characters will pay, or the rewards they will get, down the road. He's like a warning figure who appears at the beginning, a walking question mark; he's the Chance card in Monopoly. It is fitting that this character evolves out of mystery. Plucked from an orphanage as a child by a wealthy French family, Rémy Balthazar's origins are obscure. He seems to have faced no obstacles and has floated to the top, faintly smiling at each new invitation and opened door.

Not only has he been successful, but he helps others who are even more so. He is present at their greatest triumphs and their shattering failures. I wanted to know what role a figure like this plays in the fate of world leaders. This question reflects real world envy, fear and curiosity about how very successful people get where they are, how much power they wield, and whether others serve or control them.

Perhaps Balthazar is - like the Three Wise Men who traveled to Bethlehem - an attendee who must be there for things to transpire. Balthazar reveals the power of the observer, especially in the perception of world events. As George Berkeley hypothesized, the tree that falls in the wood must have a witness present; otherwise, it (possibly) did not happen.

Without a witness, would the most terrible decisions a person could make be completed in the moment he or she made them? In Isis Chrysalis, the psychiatrist has the ear of the world leader who starts World War III. Balthazar is the last person whom that leader consults before she faces the press about her declaration of total war.

There is the unsettling possibility that global policies are courses of directed personal therapy for Balthazar's patients. This, too, might resemble our reality. Few people consider, for example, that becoming President of the United States might be great therapy for a narcissist like Donald Trump. The rest of us have to sit through it while he works through his complexes on a grand scale. The same could be said of any world leader. It's a small club of big personalities.

To consider this aspect, I thought of the brilliant strategies and inner voice of Frank Herbert's villain, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. Another feeling I wanted to evoke with this character came from Thomas Mann's 1930 novella, Mario and the Magician, which concerns psychological and occult manipulation during the rise of fascism in Europe.

Despite these sinister inspirations, Balthazar is not entirely an antagonist. In that regard, he is a negative player a bit like the Moscow lawyer Viktor Komarovsky in Doctor Zhivago (1957). He forces other characters to confront hidden knowledge and the shadows within. Sometimes he does this by introducing characters to one another and setting off crises between them. His patients don't like him, but they keep coming back for more, and he takes this with acerbic resignation. He has the flair of a master manipulator, broods like a Gothic antihero, is not romantic. Balthazar becomes recognizable at the point where being attractive, charismatic and not nice is also not sexy. He does not take magnetic traits to their normal conclusions.

The Psychiatrist-Magician

Venturing into Sacred Space | Archetype of the Magician (21 April 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

I considered which white collar profession would modernize the wizard or wise man archetype. Balthazar updates the magus as the Magician-Psychiatrist.

Magic draws the character into the highest ranks of politics. I based Balthazar partly on the historical figure and high society occultist, Count Alessandro di Cagliostro (1743-1795). In April 1787, the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) tracked down Cagliostro's true identity through a Palermo lawyer. At the behest of the French government, the lawyer had found birth and marriage documents confirming that Cagliostro was actually Giuseppe Balsamo, a forger, swindler and Freemason who had, through a series of scrapes, scaled the European pyramid. Goethe's Italian Journey (available in German online: vol. 1 and vol. 2) shattered the illusion that Cagliostro was a flamboyant figure who wanted to transform Europe for the better. You can read Goethe's exposé in English translation here and in searchable form here (search for 'Cagliostro').

Count Cagliostro the Masonic Magician by Phillippa Faulks (Full Lecture) (11 August 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

You can see videos on Cagliostro here, here and here; he was also the subject of a famous Japanese animated film in 1979, Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro. Writer Philippa Faulks thinks that Cagliostro tried to create a Christian alchemy after an attempt to revive Freemasonry in England.

A moment from Cagliostro's Egyptian Rite: "reception for the grade of egyptian mistress. the ceremonial closure of the shutters containing the blessed crown of roses is accompanied by the drawing of a circle with a sword around the recipient - 1890s." Image Source: allposters.

Cagliostro's main claim to fame was his revival of an Egyptian magical rite to perfect the practitioner through "moral regeneration." It is as though the wealthy and powerful felt they needed to be born again in order to take on increased responsibilities. Cagliostro's rite may have amalgamated other practices to prescribe an alchemical transformation of the material and mortal condition, which would ultimately make the practitioner divine on the earthly plane and grant immortality. The rite apparently brought a fully-fledged sacred mode of existence from a higher plane down into the profane environment. In other words, those who performed the rite sought to become - as they saw it - gods, walking the earth.

Although the Inquisition tracked him down in Revolutionary France and tortured and imprisoned him for heresy, one gets the feeling that Cagliostro's Egyptian Rite caught on with Europe's élites and its practice may have persisted for some time. A Portuguese video on Youtube claims that the rite was adopted in St. Petersburg, Warsaw, Strasbourg, Paris and Lyon.

For a century after his death in 1795, Cagliostro's reputation was publicly ruined; he was dismissed as a revolutionary-era con man. By 1900, his name and ideas returned to the public eye. A 1910 book by W. R. H. Trowbridge cast him in a positive light; you can read it here. The Egyptian Rite is described in a 1919 book, here; it states on page 11:
"Cagliostro is supposed by some writers to have been an agent of the Illuminati, a secret order pledged to overturn the thrones of Europe and establish democracy."
I have previously written about supposed Masonic activities during the French Revolution here and here. At the heart of this exploration is an ugly rumour from France at that time, that the birth of modern government was never founded upon the merger of politics and rationalism, but rather upon a secret wedding of politics and magic. Rationalism was merely the cornerstone of a new, nominally-secular faith. This claim implies that it is impossible to understand politics from 1789 to the present without being aware of its occult dimension.

Jean-Antoine Houdon's bust of Cagliostro (1786, National Gallery of Art, Washington). Image Source: Wiki.

Cagliostro, historically inaccurate biopic from Italy, 1975. Directed by Daniele Pettinari; writers: Pier Carpi (novel), Enrica Bonaccorti; starring: Bekim Fehmiu, Curd Jürgens, Ida Galli, Evelyn Stewart. (13 May 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

Black Magic, American film about Count Cagliostro, 1949. Directed by Gregory Ratoff, starring Orson Welles. (30 August 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

The Mind as a Basis for Reality, Society and Politics

If the Cagliostro example inspires the 'magician' part of the Psychiatrist-Magician, the 'psychiatrist' aspect asks what modern psychiatry is and how it has been used in politics.

How we view the mind determines how we order society. What governs us? Is it rationalism? Is it a consciousness which can be experimented upon by researchers and manipulated by marketers and politicians? Or is it an extra-dimensional higher power, with the mental plane intersecting the material and spiritual planes?

Psychiatry's labels and theories have been abused over the past decades. I have previously written (here and here) about the mass application of psychoanalytic theories in social and political engineering from the mid-20th century to the present. Investigations into the way the mind works evolved into techniques for mind control. The most sophisticated of the latter spurred on the development of technological gadgets and the Internet. Control of the mind can shift consciousness and mass consciousness. If you believe theories from quantum physics about the Observer Effect, those shifts can potentially alter reality and change the course of history.

Psychoanalytic theories, developed in Vienna around the turn of the last century, were superficially scientific and rationalized. However, they implicitly implemented arcane principles. The field of psychology relies on procedures and labels which twist and limit our whole grasp of the workings of the mind.

Psychoanalysis pathologized the social experience. A different view maintains that that the mind may merely be the brain, an organ which functions subject to genetics, hormones, biochemicals and electrical signals, and which reflects larger physical injuries and imbalances. Mental illnesses could be treated as physical illnesses rather than as arcane complexes arising from social conditions.

Alternatively, mental disturbances could relate to spiritual phenomena, which have explanations we do not yet understand. Carl Jung believed that his patients' hallucinations were glimpses of other dimensions, to which all humans could and did collectively gain access.

These basic revisions hint that conventional psychiatric theories about individual neuroses have limited how we see the mind as a basis for how we organize ourselves. Those limitations have been used to justify social control.

Image Source: pinterest.

Guaido vs. Maduro: The two men locked in Venezuela power struggle. Image Source: Sky News.

These were some of the things I thought about while developing Rémy Balthazar, a man who can destroy a world leader with a diagnosis, or who could spark an economic depression or world war with one wrong turn in a patient's therapeutic course. If Balthazar feels that his patients' neuroses are too bounded by definitions or labels, he introduces them to the only larger frame of reference he knows: the secret society and its promise of a superhuman, everlasting life.


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