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Sir Toby's -- Invisibility Cloak

“With interest I have been reading the stories told of your Jesus.” The Old Man occupied his usual place by the fire, the thin trail of smoke that rose from his pipe adding to the perpetual haze which enveloped the coarse yet voluble theologians gathered at Sir Toby’s. His long and bony finger hovered above the scroll, begrimed and creased and rendered flexible by much use, that lay spread open before him on the table. “Tell me, by what good fortune did this valuable piece of correspondence from Luke to Theophilus come into your possession?”

“What?” Returning from the kitchen with yet another flagon of beer, the Ethiopian hermit glanced over the Old Man’s shoulder. “Oh yes, the letter is widely distributed among the Christians.”

“Ah, of course, a copy.” His finger traced a line of text. “In this particular story Jesus is teaching in the synagogue. Though I am not yet familiar with his particular wisdom, apparently it provoked no small controversy among his contemporaries.” Leaning back from the table the Old Man squinted at the scroll. “After reading from his holy book Jesus offers a brief observation about the text. His listeners marvel at the words that proceed from his mouth. Then, immediately after this success, he recounts an incident from the days of Elishah the prophet – apparently the incident was well-known among the people, for Jesus calls attention only to certain very specific features of what must have been a far longer account. Now those who but a moment before praised Jesus are enraged by him. Luke writes that they dragged Jesus from the synagogue to a precipice at the margins of the village, their intent being to cast him down, to his death perhaps.”

“You must understand the historical context,” pronounced the Alexandrian scholar, his words strongly accented but precise. “Though the Book of Kings is not specific about the duration of the drought, the three years and six months specified here by Jesus and later by James assume a well-known oral tradition that…”

“Excellent, well said,” the Old Man interjected loudly; the Alexandrian, stunned, held his tongue for a change. “Now look here,” the Old Man said, jabbing the text with the long nail of his index finger. “Jesus survives this assault. Does the mob relent? Do other voices rise up in support of Jesus? Does Jesus himself elaborate on the words that had provoked his listeners to such drastic measures? No indeed. I quote: ‘But passing through the midst of them he went away.’

With surprising agility the Old Man sprang to his feet. “Passing through the midst of them! Powerful magic indeed. Of course there are distractions and subterfuges available to even the least gifted of wizards. But the more powerful means of enchantment, the spells, the cloaks… well it’s unusual, isn’t it? To have performed this feat in such trying conditions, witnessed by so many people… And he seems to have used neither words nor devices to achieve the effect. Remarkable. Tell me: did Jesus ever reveal this secret magic by which he rendered himself invisible? Perhaps he passed this knowledge on to his apprentices?” Still standing, the Old Man leaned with both hands on the table and swept his expectant gaze around the inn.

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Re: Sir Toby's -- Invisibility Cloak

The story (http://www.opensourcetheology.net/node/1126#comment-5360; http://www.opensourcetheology.net/node/1139#comment-5377) had left the Trappist striding purposefully towards his uncertain destiny, following his remarkable escape from almost certain death by drowning in the submarine coffin. In his pack had been the scroll which the Old Man had left behind on a previous visit to the Inn, the reading of which had precipitated the eventful denouement of his untimely precipitation via a trapdoor in the antechamber of the hostel into the murky depths of the Vltava.

But the Trappist had been assailed by a moment of doubt as he strode towards the place of the proclamation he was intending to make. Did the scroll really contain the contents which he had so confidently pronounced to the cabal? The true meaning of the Coming of the Son of Man? Flashes of creation narrative gnawed at his thoughts in some deeper recess of his memory. The five possibilities? What had the Old Man been saying?

So it was that the Trappist decided to take a detour from his intended destination, and adopting the disguise of a false moustache crept unnoticed into a gloomy corner of Sir Toby’s, where he might observe, perhaps for the final time, the true purpose of the triumvirate - and the Old Man in particular. It was thus that he witnessed the incident of the Old Man railing about an invisibility cloak as he pored over the account of the Mount of Precipitation in Luke’s gospel.

Invisibility? Precipitation? Surely these were coded words - pointing back to his own precipitation into the Vltava? But wherefore ‘invisibility’? The Master in the story had not adopted a magical cloak of invisibility to escape through the crowd. No sorcery had been involved. The escape was attributable to the crowd’s confusion in its fury, no doubt aided by his own divine presence, rather than primitive stories of magic.

But ‘invisibility?’ The Trappist reflected on his own situation. Somehow he had managed to evade a murderous attempt on his own life, and to succeed in retrurning to the very scene of the attempt, which was still occupied by the three who even now were convinced of the success of their dastardly stratagem. And the object of their conspiracy, the succesful worldwide launch of the pamphlet which was to be the their manifesto - what was it called - “Otherways”? Was this word ‘invisibility’ not in some way a commentary on his own ability, Houdini-like, to evade imprisonment and death, and return to face the very perpetrators of his attempted demise?

From the corner of the communal room, the Trappist bided his time, waiting for the moment, obscured by the darkness and the drooping moustache, now wilting in the heat, and drooping at an angle to his face. The pack, which lay at his feet, still contained the eighth scroll, and another - which he himself had penned. He drummed a finger on the table before him, waiting for the propitious moment: the climactic confrontation.

The Monk

So, this dingy, smelly, dogflea infested, eatery was where the greatest Western minds gathered to argue about maya?

I have walked all the way from the forests south of Trincomalee to witness this absurdity. So mused the monk. His green refuge of silence now a distant and indistinct memory.

With little bits of text on little bits of parchment, were they going to discover the secrets of the universe? They appeared confident, or so it seemed, the old man was now declaiming on the lack of suggestions to his questions.

The monk stood. He was diminutive, about 50 and with a wisp of graying beard that swayed gently below his chin. No one even turned to look.

There is nothing strange about invisibility, it is the natural corollary of visibility, is it not?”… the silence was sudden. The old man looked discomfited. He blustered “what do you mean, is it not magic?”. “No indeed, I can show you that disappearing is as easy as appearing, for we see what is there only if what is there can bend light. If light passes through then we are blind even though we see. Seeing but not seeing, is that not something that the same master said?”,

They were trapped in the thought for it was unsettling, profound, and when they looked up at the monk, behold he was gone.

Live to serve : Serve to live

Re: Invisibility Cloak

“Come back here you,” shouted the Old Man into the void where the monk had stood not a moment before. “Show yourself! How dare you inveigh against the conjuror’s arts, and then perform the very feat recorded in this scroll? Who invited that man? To what sect, to what teaching does he adhere?”

But no one knew the stranger who had so effortlessly demonstrated mastery of insubstantiation. When had he arrived, this unassuming yet powerful mystic, and from whence? With whom had he been conversing before the Old Man punctuated the easy equanimity of the gathering? None could say. “It’s as if he conjured himself out of smoke and fumes,” opined the Ontologist. “Or out of the cloud of words swirling about the room,” offered one of the Striatorians.

What began as a mild chuckle gradually crescendoed into hearty laughter, and the diffuse vectors of attention scattered across the room came into sharp focus on the indistinct features of the young Andalusian priest. “A cloud of words: of course. Don’t you see?” The priest wiped his eyes on the extravagantly ornamented scarf wrapped about his thick neck. “It is a metaphor. ‘Invisibility is the corollary of visibility’ – this is what the Easterner said, yes?” The priest paused to acknowledge the nods and murmurs of agreement. “And ‘disappearing is as easy as appearing’?” Again the priest laughed; no one else seemed amused. “These are metaphorical words. Tell me: when you pass through the busy square at the heart of a great city – you see many people throngs of people. But: do you see any one person in particular? You do not. And yet if someone in the crowd were to jostle you, causing you to drop the ham you had just purchased from the baker, in your irritation you would become aware of this particular person, would you not? This one person, previously indistinguishable from the rest, has to you become visible.” The Andalusian, smiling broadly, crossed his arms across his chest. “It is the enactment of metaphor we have witnessed, nothing more.”

Now it was the Old Man’s turn to laugh. “The monk was there, and then he was not. And you say this act of dematerialization serves to represent an idea to which it corresponds? That the experience of not being acknowledged by others, of one’s subjective invisibility, is the reality for which physical invisibility is merely a… a shadow play?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes, that’s precisely what I contend,” the Andalusian replied. Mind, Idea – of course these are more real than matter. Looking upon my face and my admittedly excessive bulk you see a solid mass. But the ideas I think and the words with which I speak them – are these not far more solid than my physical substance?”

“In your case, mate, I wouldn’t count on it,” shouted a voice from the other side of the room. Laughter erupted from every corner of the inn.

The Old Man raised his hands. “A moment please.” He glanced first at the Andalusian, who if his facial expression could be read as a metaphor for his state of mind, was as amused as everyone else at the joke told at his expense. Then, lowering himself back into his chair, the Old Man appeared visibly to withdraw into himself. Had his thoughts been visible, written in letters for all to see, the other theologians would have known that he was thinking of the Trappist who, though having employed very different means, had disappeared just as convincingly as had the Easterner, and for a far longer period of time. Many had witnessed his death, only to be told it was an elaborate deception. But then new stories began to circulate: this time he really was dead, drowned in the very coffin that had saved him the first time. As time passed the speculation settled into presumed fact.

“Suppose, through fate or chance,” the Old Man began, “an invisibility cloak were to come into your possession, a real one. Do you truly vanish, or is it simply that no one pays you the slightest mind? In fact it matters little. The cloak hides you from your enemies, from those who would destroy you if they could. It buffers you from interference, allowing you to pursue your private schemes without interference and to hone your skills before putting them to the test. It lets you explore dangerous and forbidden realms without compromising your safety or your reputation. In secret you amass a storehouse of arcane knowledge, master strange spells. You delve into the hidden realms and steal their secrets. You’re ready to face death himself if need be, for even death cannot detect your presence.

“But now, prepared at last to unveil yourself, you discover that your invisibility cloak has wrapped itself around you so tightly that you cannot remove it. No one can detect your presence. What you know, what you can do, who you’ve become – hidden. You demonstrate your powers but no one is watching, or maybe they convince themselves it was an accident, or act as if it had never happened. It’s as though you have become a ghost haunting the world of the living. But even more: you are haunted by it, by the world, by the opaque separateness of the beings who surround you. As if you were already dead.

“Of course you can continue to take advantage of your invisibility, cultivating the kind of uniqueness that only isolation affords, but what does it matter if no one can ever see you? You stop watching, learning, creating, caring. As if you were already dead. Would you even care if you released the most powerful spells upon the world if no one knew who was wielding them? Suppose through your anonymous wanderings you stumbled upon the portal that returns the dead to the land of the living. Would you not far rather find the magical stone that can transport the living across the barrier of invisibility so they can see the ghosts of the lonely dead?”

Re: Invisibility Cloak

Observing the turn that the conversation was now taking, the Trappist could see that, perhaps by the hand of a benign providence, he had been called to this place and this hour - this moment of destiny. Equally, he knew that it was going to call on all of his powers of rhetoric and persuasion - subterfuge even - to address the dark powers which lay behind the seemingly innocuous vacuity of the discussion. Here was a challenge to which he would, must, rise - for which he had perhaps been born, and for which all of his life so far had been a preparation - before a theological paradigm was established which might derail the train of scholarship in the academies and seminaries, and hence give rise to a generation of prebends and ordinands, and so by a fatal chain of consequence, corrupt the minds of honest, gullible folk flocking week by week to their customary pews in houses of religious observance, for years, if not generations to come.

Sensing the moment, the Trappist once again felt the frisson which accompanied the call of destiny - the challenge which sent adrenalin rushing through every cell of his being. He adjusted his moustache, and rose from his bench.

Fellow theologians!” He boomed, achieving the anticipated and pleasurable shocked response and turning of heads which always added weight to the gravitas of his demeanour and delivery.

Of course, what we are observing in this arcane discussion today is nothing more than a stratagem, a cover for more profound and pressing issues - not some ivory-tower debate amongst cloistered scholars, anchorites and hermits living out their days in sequestered cells of the mind - if not the body.

Let us consider - in ordered, logical sequence - the facts of the matter under scrutiny. ‘Invisibility’ - what does this word perpend? And by what chain of logic can we follow it to its true and derivative meaning? ‘That which is unseen’? But with a shift of prestidigital sleight of hand, the silk scarf of deception is whisked away, and the rabbit of hidden significance is pulled from the top hat of persiflage and dissimulation. Allow me to make my meaning perfectly plain, by producing the lexical key which unlocks the door of obstupefaction, obstrusity and obfuscation. Dare I mention the word: ‘antonym’?”

A gasp arose from the assembled throng.

What then is ‘Invisibility’ anything other than a coded signifier of its opposite? And what is this gathering in this resort of chequered reputation, if not outright ill-fame, anything other than a ploy to mask a deeper intent - to foist upon an unsuspecting world a plot of such malign magnitude that it will shake our academies of pure theological enquiry to their very foundations - such as we have not experienced since the vision of the Syriac Damascene who was enticed into the wilderness of Zin by the three-headed quadruped of Nineveh!”

The atmosphere in the hostel was electric. All eyes were now firmly fixed on the Trappist, whose eloquence and steely-gazed demeanour had riveted their attention to him.

And what is this word, which even now rises from the depths of our collective unconscious, to appear in the full light of day, parading itself on the stage of history - for all to see? What is this beast which arises from the sea - this antonym? I refer, of course, to ‘Emergent’!”

The weight attached to this final word seemed to infuse it with the power and authority of a dangerous missile - causing the assembled throng by reflexive action to cower behind their pewter pint pots, and duck under beer-stained tables.

In short,” continued the Trappist, winding to the end of his peroration, “By a catena of possibilities, we might con-join the story of the Mount of Precipitation with the equally apposite tale of the Gadarene demoniac, from whom the demonic infestation flew into the herd of pigs, and were precipitated to their doom over a cliff into the Galileean Sea.”

With a flourish, he drew from his cloak a copy of the manifesto which had been the true focus of the triumvirate’s deliberations, and from which the Elderly Sage had sought to distract attention by the smoke-screen of misleading theological controversy.

Thus,” thundered the Trappist with prophetic intensity, flinging the manifesto to the floor, “may the words of all heresy find their ultimate destination and doom!”

At which point his moustache, which had been adopting an ever more acute angle to his face, fell to the floor.

Fort-Da

“Ach, it is only the Trappist.” The Viennese alienist had expressed in words what could readily be discerned on the faces of those who had listened with rapt attention to the mustacheoed theologian’s portentious declamation, only to find themselves victimized by yet another of his seemingly endless deceptions. “So, you come back to us now. Perhaps you have left something behind?”

“Thought the blighter was deceased…”

“Looks considerably older than I remember…”

“More beer!”

“You see,” the goateed Austrian began, removing the well-chewed unlit cigar from between his teeth, “there is something vaguely disturbed about this fellow, jah? When I was a child I would play a game with my dear mother – perhaps you know this game? ‘Fort-Da,’ we called it. Please allow me to offer an episode in my own experience as a clue to this poor fellow’s… yes, well.” He extracted a silver watch from his vest pocket, with one hand flicked it open, and set it on the table in front of him.

“Though by most accounts a good little boy, I had acquired the occasional disturbing habit of taking any small object I could lay my hands on and throwing it away – into a corner, under the bed, and so on. As I did this I would give vent to a loud, long-drawn-out ‘o-o-o-o,’ accompanied, I am told, by an expression of interest and satisfaction. My mother and father were in agreement: my childish outburst was not meaningless gibberish; in fact I was saying the word fort – ‘gone’ in English. Eventually my parents realized that it was a game, this throwing-away business, and that the only use I made of any of my toys was to play ‘gone’ with them. One day my father made an observation which confirmed his hypothesis. Someone, perhaps my nursemaid, had given me a wooden reel, and I had tied a piece of string around it. Apparently it never occurred to me to pull it along the floor behind myself, for instance, and play at its being a carriage. What I did was to hold the reel by the string and very skillfully throw it over the edge of my curtained cot, so that it disappeared into it, at the same time uttering my expressive ‘o-o-o-o.’ I then pulled the reel again by the string and hailed its reappearance with a joyful da – ‘there.’ This, then, was the complete game: Fort-Da, gone-there, disappearance and return. My parents witnessed only its first act, which I repeated untiringly as a game in itself, though there is no doubt that I derived the greater pleasure from the second act. The interpretation of the game then became obvious. It was related to my great cultural achievement: the instinctual renunciation – that is, the renunciation of instinctual satisfaction – which I had made in allowing my mother to go away without protesting.”

“The game – it was a way of relieving my anxieties, you see? By controlling the actual presence and absence of an object, by making it disappear and then making it reappear, I was able to manage the repeated departures and returns of my mother from my presence. The Fort-Da game was my childlike invention of symbolism. The wooden reel represented my mother: absent, present, absent, present.” Repeatedly and with considerable vigor the Viennese thrust his cigar forth and returned it to his lips, forcing the castrato seated on his right to cower in a most undignified manner.

“But he is playing Fort-Da with himself, non?” It was the Parisian docteur, a habitual collocutor of the Viennese.

“Yes, but you must understand.” The alienist was holding the soggy cigar limply near his ear, to the evident relief of the castrato who now sat bolt upright daintily picking his teeth with a small carved-ivory implement apparently crafted for this particular use. “This is a second-order symbol. For the Trappist, Sir Toby’s represents security, nurture, nourishment, love – these are what one comes to expect from one’s mother, is it not? Or perhaps an imaginary perfect mother – let us call her, say, the Big Mother. But the Trappist cannot make this inn disappear – at least, I do not believe that he can do this.” Not everyone mirrored the alienist’s smirk. “And so he must introject the inn, making himself a symbol of the inn, which is itself a symbol for his mother. Now do you understand?”

“But has he not also introjected his mother?” asked le docteur.

“Yes yes, of course. But does he not also project his mother? Project, introject: fort, da. You see?” The Parisian nodded but said nothing. “This business of fort-da, of disappear and reappear, of project and introject: it goes on and on, dare I say compulsively, this attempt to comfort oneself with a game that is an enactment of one’s great fear. But it is the fear that drives the behavior, jah? The fear! That one day he will return to the inn, to his mother, and she will be gone. She will have disappeared. And so we have this monotonous charade, this donning of disguises, this feigning of death, this lying alive in one’s own coffin, this irrational and uncontrollable compulsion, this eternal return of the same behaviors. The disguises, they fool no one… no one except…

“Except the one who dons the disguise!”

“Yes, you see? Even the serving wench understands. ‘Emergence,’ declares the Trappist, as if we had not already witnessed this sorry charade. ‘Emergence.’ Pah! It is Fort-Da, Fort-Da. The comfort of repetition, the eternal return of sameness. This is not emergence. Emergence comes from no one knows where, it is immanent, it is unprecedented. But this.” As one wielding a dagger he pointed his cigar at the Trappist, who was wrestling with one of the dogs over his false mustache. “This is what I have named the death drive.”

Interlude I

The consternation was general. Sir Toby’s had never witnessed so much excitement in such a short time. The Trappist finally succeeded in getting a half back and sent the dog packing with a swift kick before turning to glare at the inoffensive but nonetheless offending Austrian.

Somebody suddenly remembered that this was an Inn and cries of "More Pilsner!" and "A couple of pitchers, and quickly!" again started to echo round the befuddled gathering.

An old lady sat near where the strange Easterner had ‘disappeared’. She could hardly contain her excitement, for she had seen it with her own eyes. The very secret of invisibility.

"You know" she sibilantly whispered to a middle aged candlemaker who was seated just behind her, "that was a spy". "What are you talking about? How can he be a spy, they’re supposed to blend in while all he did was stand out!". "But that’s just it" said she, "While all of you were thinking, in a split second he released his robe, and underneath he was wearing A SUIT, then his beard came off, he spat something on to the floor, and then he sat down right there. As soon as the Old Man started to shout, and everyone turned towards him, that spy slipped out".

The Candlemaker gawked at her, was it possible? Could the secret of invisibility be so simple? Yet, hadn’t that Trappist chappy fooled them all with just one moustache?

But, the really big question, and that the most philosohical of them all - Why on earth? What possible purpose could have been served by causing the Trappist to be just so slightly delayed in his delivery, or was it more to do with shaking the Old Man off of some dangerous trail? The questions piled up, and now it was the Candlemaker who looked around for someone with whom to share these delicious intrigues.  Aah, right over there was Johannes, the Baker’s assistant…

Live to serve : Serve to live

Re: Interlude I

The Old Man slammed down the hatch which provided a means of observing what was happening in the communal room from the antechamber. Inside the small annex, three familiar figures might have been made out - in addition to the Sage, who stomped towards a hard-backed chair, and slumped down on it.

Once again, congratulations are in order for an impeccable performance,” said a suave figure seated by a trapdoor which gave out onto the external wall of the hostel, directly above the Vlatava. “However, there do remain one or two issues to be addressed.”

Hell’s teeth!” swore an Australian personage, easily identifiable by the shock of red hair and bristling beard as the Antipodean.

Yes,” said the Sage grumpily. “I think we may have got away with it this time. But the emerging storyline is beginning to leave a lot to be desired.”

Indeed,” spoke one who had just entered the room via a concealed entrance, none other than he, the Trappist, who had just discharged himself of the bombastic invective which had electrified his theological audience. “Disappearing monks, Viennese Alienists, characters from nursery rhymes - I think it is time that the Project was relocated from these dismal quarters and relaunched from somewhere more salubrious.”

Precisely what I was thinking,” said the suave westerner. “Miss Sophie’s, then?”

No, it has already been arranged,” said the Trappist. “Paulchen has made a room available. The Czech Inn - merely a 10 minute tram ride from the centre, a direct route to the Castle, Art Nouveau embellishments on every building, a congenial clientele and atmosphere. Everything is in place.”

And the relaunch of the Project?” questioned the Antipodean.

Everything is in place,” said the Westerner. “The opposition thrown off the scent, the possibility of uninterrupted access to the world’s media, while our colleagues,” he nodded towards the adjacent rooms, where the sound of wild chanting of familiar children’s songs about medieval craftsmen and purveyors of everyday provisions mingled with raucous laughter and the filling of pint-pots, “engage themselves in more congenial pursuits.”

The four figures shrouded themselves in their theological cloaks, and donning theological pointed hats, slipped unobtrusively out into the street in the warm, early autumn sunshine.

The Prelude

The bedraggled beggar waited with seemingly endless patience on the street opposite the den of the dubiouos thinkers.

It had been all a bit too close for comfort. There was something decidedly less than salubrious being plotted out. Now, how to find out exactly what? The Cardinal’s plan had backfired and he would be furious. By now the word would have got back to that master of spies. And who could guess how many other blinkered eyes had watched his monkish persona’s near miraculous escape. But then he had seen the Trappist secreting that scroll in his shoulder pack. The very scroll that had been so carefully crafted in the Cardinal’s own laboratory, any discussion of the contents of which should have revealed the true nature of the heresies that awaited the cabbal’s dissemination.

They knew, there was no doubt about it. Evasive action would be taken and it was imperative that he stay one step ahead of them. He could feel it in his bones. Powerful minds were at work, and the final denouement was not far off.

Live to serve : Serve to live

Re: The Prelude

"Trappist — the name of your order is apt. My dear master of the trap door, I begin to suspect that I too may be falling into one of your traps." The Old Man rubbed his eyes, suddenly aware of a great fatigue pressing him into his chair. Though he had tried to ignore it, he could no longer evade the sense of being ensnared in an untenable situation, surrounded by intrigues that remained entirely impenetrable to him. Though his pride reveled in being thrust into the unaccustomed position of insider, he could no longer determine whether he had forgotten the plot or had never been privy to it. Through the mists of perplexity the contours of a face began to emerge, its composed intelligence masking a sinister shrewdness — the face of the suave young Westerner.

"Nonsense! All is as it appears. Better to rid ourselves once and for all of those ruffians and peasants and frauds than to roll in the slops like dogs." Attempting to recover his customary hauteur the Trappist brushed the sawdust and potato peelings that had attached themselves to his robes during his undignified tussle over the false mustache. "Now the real work can begin."

"But who was the Eastern monk, the disappeared one? Is he one of your agents as well?" But the Westerner met the Old Man’s concentrated stare with his customary silent equanimity.

"Damn it, they’re on to us!" bellowed the Antipodean.

The Trappist emitted a delicate belch. "You suspect he is one of the Cardinal’s men, do you? Perhaps it was the éminence grise himself, unsurpassed master of intrigue and dissimulation and treachery. It is said that no one knows what he truly looks like — no one alive, that is."

"But on to what? That’s what I’d like to know," growled the Antipodian.

The Old Man slumped even lower into his chair. If I close my eyes, he wondered, will all of this sordid business disappear? Will I find myself back in my study, surrounded by my own books and cauldrons, pursuing in solitude the elusive secrets of the ages, instead of being pushed back and forth across this slippery continent like a pawn on a chessboard? No, he decided: I will see this thing through for at least another few moves. I may be old, yet there is time. Straightening himself in his chair and placing his pack on the floor beside him, the Old Man cast a sharp gaze across the table at his colleagues — or his adversaries. "Your move, I believe?"

  

Interlude 2

Waiting, the Old Man thought back on how this latest adventure had begun. Is it so easy then to pass through a crowd without their noticing, even when all their attention is focused on you? Is it so easy to disguise your identity, only to reveal yourself at the moment of your choosing? Is it so easy to feign your own death, then to rise from the coffin? In a world of deception and illusion is there no longer any real magic?

The Cardinal's New Clothes

Would that there had been some alternative to this furtively destructive battle, nay war, the Cardinal mused, with only one decent operative nearly in place, I need to bring in some players. The threat of an untimely uprising of an immature E is simply too great to contemplate. The King’s orders had been unambiguous, and final - at no cost must there be further division!

The failure of the Monk was unfortunate.  He picked up his mobile and called the one operative left who may, just may, be still implantable. Precisely on the third ring : "Yes Master?" she answered.

"I need you. Pick up the next flight home. Don’t use the Austrian route. Prepare yourself by reading everything you can on … EMERGENCE!"

  

  

Live to serve : Serve to live

The Westerner Speaks

“I believe,” the Westerner began, “that we discern the situation, though we may not fully understand it or be willing to face it. The contours of the world have changed. Once holy men rained down fire on the earth; now this is the work of the most profane among us. Once holy men spoke the words of God; now the gods speak the words of men. Once holy men changed wine to blood; now the vineyards are sown with blood and the wine tastes like water. Once the son of man was the son of God; now he is orphaned and childless. Once none could escape the presence of God; now few even notice his absence.

“And so we must confront the difficult questions. The world has changed, and mankind with it. Has God too changed? If so, what form does he take now, that we might recognize him? With what voice does he speak now, that we might attune our ears? What work does he perform now, that we might join him? Or does he now take our form, speak our words, do our work? Or can he no longer make himself visible, make himself heard, make anything happen in our world?

“We have engaged in futile intrigues: the meaning of this word or that one, the songs to be sung for this holiday or that one. Soup or meat, beer or wine, this inn or that one. All the while we sequester ourselves away from a world that constantly asks the questions we do not wish to consider. If man be dead, how will he come back to life? If God be dead, how will he be resurrected?”

Research

Just an hour into the last long leg and she had her laptop going at full speed. This stuff was interesting, very interesting and potentially explosive, she could pick out the contours of the Cardinal’s agitation.

Fomenting division, as a prelude to atomisation had been Satan’s favourite but most hidden passtime over the last two millennia. The sad, sad, history of Christianity! The scholars of this once great religion, those who should have been guarding these gates, these most often were the first to be subverted to his cause, and they didn’t have a clue!

Now, the Cabal were finally preparing the penultimate assaults. Rifts that would run up and down every tattered seam of what was left of the patchwork quilt that was now Christendom.

Issues were being primed. Opposing arguments planted, feelings were being stoked up; the truth, or the Truth, in such small increments were the seeds of ultimate disruption to be planted that would nullify all that had been begun with that crushingly historical blow dealt from the wooden beams and stony cave.

The Cardinal was frightened, and that was scary, for he had been preparing himself for this ultimate test for as long as she could recall - and they went back together a fair ways, these two. Now, how was she going to get in? The coded sms’s had been pouring in and that the Monk should have failed, and probably been detected, indicated that her chances were slender. Yet, in another 8 hours, she too would try.

Live to serve : Serve to live

Disappearance and Doubling

As with a calm, almost bemused offhandedness the Westerner delivered his remarkable précis, the Old Man found himself overcome with the uncanny sense that he had entered a portal between two worlds. The inscrutibly reserved Occidental scholar who had just given voice to such radical doubt: was he the same man who so often at Sir Toby’s had mediated heated disputes and preserved the old traditions? Here in the comfortable unfamiliarity of the Czech Inn the Old Man sensed that he had been listening to the Westerner’s double, the familiar suave exterior and tranquil mein suddenly released from the even-handed diplomacy and myopic attention to textual minutia by which he had established his centrality to the endless and pointless debates that even now must surely be swirling about the common room at Sir Toby’s, suddenly possessed of a vision of such power and scope that no cloister could contain it and no cabal could control it.

At the same time the Old Man sensed that the Trappist, such a prominent and reliable presence at Sir Toby’s, consistently providing counterpoint to the Westerner’s intramurally controversial discourses, was fading from view. As he watched the Trappist unroll a transparent scroll and mouth inaudible words, he wondered whether the Trappist could still see him sitting there next to him or whether, in that parallel reality, he, the Old Man, was the one who was disappearing.

Re: Disappearance and Doubling

The prologues are over. It is a question, now,

Of final belief. So, say that final belief

Must be a fiction. It is time to choose.

- Wallace Stevens

“I believe that we discern the situation,
though we may not fully understand it or be willing to face it." As the Westerner began his speech for the third time, the Old Man could no longer deny the obvious: this was but a projection of the Westerner, the image and likeness but not the real thing, yet another in a seemingly endless string of deceptions. Does the real exist, the original source, or is everything a simulacrum? Are true words spoken anywhere, by people who mean what they say? The Old Man wanted to believe it, yet he had begun to think that perhaps it was his own hope that kept deluding him. Perhaps, he thought, if I could learn to live without hope, I could grasp the truth. And yet hope needed very little encouragement; it always seemed to come back.

I must accept the truth of this situation, thought the Old Man. No one here can see what I see or hear what I hear. The words spoken by the Westerner: I put them in his mouth. I am alone in this place. It is time to leave. And yet he found himself delaying his departure, rearranging the contents in his pack, dusting off his cloak, listening again to the simulated Westerner’s final questions: "If man be dead, how will he come back to life? If God be dead, how will he be resurrected?”

Ways and Means

She was in place. it had not been easy, for the cabal had apparently split up. The stratagem was deep. Which group was going to do the real damage? Or was it that there were two weapons being weilded to supplement each other or perhaps to act as backup? High time to find some answers.

The apparently more powerful group led by the Trappist had headed into the heart of the city. They would be followed by the monkish beggar and kept under close external observation. Unbeknown to them the Cardinal had their friend Paulchen by the short hairs for something in his past.

But the Old Man was still here and the Cardinal suspected him the most. The Trappist was dangerous, but during his brief, enforced leave the Cabal had continued their deliberations without a stumble, or even a pause.

The Westerner was the writer, the craftsman, of their secret pamphlet, but he was not ultimately the author. The driving force, he who played with simulacra on many levels, was actually here and she was at his side, or more acurately at his feet!

The real apprentice had been neatly sidetracked as she disembarked from her Train. Now I would, hmmm, no, was, the postgraduate student from the Sorbonne. He, the Old One, would not deign to share his secrets with a lowly student, but then, she had her own ways of finding out, for wasn’t she the proverbial Cat?

Live to serve : Serve to live

Re: Sir Toby's -- Invisibility Cloak

The Old Man had really dozed off this time. At first she had suspected that he was merely placing temptation in her path to see what mischeif she might get up to, and that indeed was still a possibility, but then he was old. Last night he had been up, busily, almost desperately, scribbling on another scroll till almost dawn. That scroll was still spread out beneath him on the desk and he was now out cold face down upon it. It was 6 a.m. when she had quietly got up from her bedroll on the floor in the anteroom.

She had watched with patience for a half hour now and was satisfied that he really was insensible. The satchell with his pipe and tobacco and some other bits of parchment was leaning on the leg of his chair and to this she now gave her undivided attention.

And there it was, what looked like detailed notes on something called "Otherways". She felt the thrill of fear and anticipation as she pulled out her cam and scanned the scroll from top to bottom. No time to read now, she would do that later. The opportunity had been preprogrammed as she was scheduled to attend a lecture on the great Jan Hus and his contemporary Wycliffe at the famous Charles University. In spite of her present preoccupation, she was looking forward to it, for Lollardism was the real forerunner of todays postmodernism.

The Old Man groaned and turned slightly. She shook him gently awake and helped him to stagger to the fourposter that dominated one corner of the main room. These rooms were ancient and this was purportedly the very same suite where St. Agnes had stayed during the construction of her hospital.

She called down for coffee and went back to being the assiduous student. The Old Man had given her some of his own papers on the Lollards and she was soon absorbed.

Her cell buzzed once. An SMS. She decoded it. "Come backstage of the 3rd Hall by 3:30". It was unsigned. She sipped her coffee. Something unforeseen and also urgent. The Cardinal simply would never have risked this otherwise. Speculation was useless, she would wait and see.

Live to serve : Serve to live

Cat's in the cradle

The lecture hall was full. It seems that the very name Hus would bring out the crowds in Czechoslovakia! The presentation was lively and competent but there was nothing new. Another tale of a quickly smothered split off of true Christianity and how it met its deserved end. It was funny how the Reformation was treated so differently, but then, that was politics for you, the politics of power. The cross and the gospel soon forgotten, replaced by this worldwide network of duelling but rich religiosi!

Her reverrie came to an abrupt end. There was work to do. She quietly slipped out and found a bench near the fountain, pulled out her cam, extracted the pen, and plugged it into her laptop.

The Old Man’s critique was acute and fatal. Copious notes, but at the end, angrily, almost disgustedly "where’s Neitzsche, and how could they ignore Foucault". "The existentialists are not acknowledged and even the linguists Wittgenstein, Gadamer, and Chomsky". And the very idea that eschatology will, can or should correct history, modernist! Thus the ‘dreaded pamphlet’, in his own words scrawled beneath the quotes and heavily underlined, "Will Not FLY!".

She scanned the quoted text. Much was the talk of Derrida, Lyotard, and ‘narrative’, but many really important thinkers had been strangely shunned and the resulting "Critical Realism" therefore left as a simple mental exercise, skewed by an interesting but eccentric eschatological perspective, one that may enrich but would more likely simply propagate a bunch of new historical and intercultural errors of analysis.

Most shockingly, the corrective of letting the text deconstruct itself and its context, that was prominently missing as was the crying need for continuing cross-perspectival collaboration.

The Old Man, and he really was an outsider, one outsider that perhaps would
have fleshed out their enterprise had they not been in such a hurry and so sure of their
 ground.

She looked at her watch, 3:15, time to meet the Big C!

Behind the backdrops, the engrimed skylights let in dusty beams of midafternoon sunlight. It was silent. She went further and saw the change rooms, their doors hanging open. Props lay scattrered about and she made a loud clatter as she blundered into a mop and pail.

The Cardinal appeared at her side "Well?". "Boss, either they have misled the Old Man by giving him a false trail to analyse or they are a bunch of egomaniacal fools. As it stands there will be a few within the folds of the Emergings who might find it of interest but as a whole the impact will be limited." "Excellent dear Cat, you have done well. Our Monk is now in London and he seems to report something similar though his analysis was based on less information than you have gathered. And the Old Man?" "Madamme, I see him as a genuine seeker, one who hoped that they actually had something new, but he is still the skeptic and will probably remain so… I like him, his perspective is different, even Differant!".

"Well then, till your next assignment, you may stick on and do that which most interests you - Learn." For some moments all she could hear were their out-of-time breaths, "I am greatly relieved, but we must be ready, it is only a matter of time before the enemy actually lays his hands on the right tool, still that’s now my headache, but do keep those sharp ears wide open. As usual, the telegram of your mother’s sudden illness may arrive at any moment, so be prepared!"

Live to serve : Serve to live

Re: Invisibility Cloak -- introductory commentary

[Note: I attempted to insert this commentary between the initial post and the first comment, but I failed.]

It seems clear that Doyle was attempting,
within the picaresque fictional setting of Sir Toby’s and by means of a
relatively minor and ambiguous passage from Luke’s gospel, to introduce
a rather broad theological question: was Jesus a miracle-worker or not?
The Old Man was Doyle’s alter-ego at Sir Toby’s, a rather self-inflated
and occasionally addled mystic who claims not only to have visited many
places in his travels but also to have traveled backward and forward in
time. We know from other sources, most notably from his Ktismatics blog,
that Doyle himself did not subscribe to the Old Man’s mystical
leanings. Though well-versed in Scripture, Doyle presents himself at
OST as an outsider to the Christian community — much as the Old Man is
an outsider at Sir Toby’s.

The Old Man makes no reference to alternative viewpoints regarding
Jesus’ divinity or the historical accuracy of the Gospel texts. He
assumes that Jesus, like any other magician, had the ability to make
himself disappear: the Old Man merely wants to know how it was done. In
reviewing his personal journals it becomes evident that Doyle, avowedly
an agnostic and a materialist, did not intend to exploit Sir Toby’s as
a forum for exposing to skeptical inquiry the veracity of every
miraculous episode reported in the life of Jesus. Rather, he wished to
explore the possibilities of dialogue between Christian and
non-Christian in a relatively playful setting, where harangues and
diatribes could quickly be defused and where heterodox alternatives
could be explored as thought experiments rather than as serious – or
heretical – proposals for an “emerging” post-evangelical worldview.
Previously Doyle had made a similar attempt in the Seven Scrolls fragment,
with the Old Man prepared to introduce alternative cosmogonies from
within a mythic framework of his own device. That attempt failed, as
would this one. In retrospect it is remarkable that these rather arless
and chaotic fictive beginnings would open the portal through which the
post-evangelicals would emerge into its present configuration. Whether
this portalic transport proves salubrious or fatal must await the
verdict of a history yet to be written.

Commentary on the Trappist's first appearance

In his initial response to Doyle’s post, Wilkinson immediately diverts the conversation away from the Old Man’s question through the introduction of a bit of cloak-and-dagger chicanery. Wilkinson provides links to prior Sir Toby’s threads in which the intrigue motif figured prominently. That he felt compelled to re-introduce this ploy so quickly in the new post suggests that Wilkinson may have regarded Sir Toby’s simply as a diversion from the usual theological discourse that characterized OST. On the other hand, he might have suspected that Doyle’s post was in fact an opening salvo of skeptical confrontation hidden under the Old Man’s cloak. “Invisibility? Precipitation? Surely these were coded words” – the Trappist’s paranoiac musings at least hint at this alternative interpretation of Wilkinson’s authorial intent.

In his silent musings the disguised Trappist reveals his thoughts about Jesus’s supposed disappearance in Luke 4; namely, that the event ought to be understood as a rather ordinary human occurrence. Why did Wilkinson not have the Trappist reveal his opinion through conversation with the Old Man? Was he concerned that, in giving direct voice to his own non-supernatural interpretation of the passage, he would be subjecting himself to criticism within the Christian readership of OST? Perhaps this is so, since he does add the seemingly gratuitous caveat that Jesus’s escape from the crowd was “no doubt aided by his divine presence.” But again, why does the Trappist not discuss with the Old Man his understanding of how the natural commingles with the supernatural in Jesus’s earthly ministry?

In the next paragraph the Trappist contemplates the “unholy alliance” that had tried to kill him in a previous encounter. In this re-imagined version of the Sir Toby’s Revisited story, the Old Man is part of a conspiracy to encourage widespread adoption of the “Otherways” manifesto – clearly a reference to Perriman’s recently-published book of the same name, a book which would prove improbably influential over the subsequent decades. On OST Wilkinson persistently presented counter-arguments to Perriman’s exegesis of the New Testament. In his review of the Otherways book Wilkinson graciously yet directly noted his fundamental disagreement with Perriman:

"Andrew has been remarkably generous in allowing me to review the book –
given my consistent questions and criticisms of his strategy. My
questions and criticisms remain – and have not diminished with time. I
have often felt that Andrew does not see the theological wood for
exegetical trees - but I would make that comment with considerable
reservation in the light of the book as a whole. I am aware that I need
to come up with rather more convincing arguments than the stock answers."

Is it conceivable that Wilkinson believed that Doyle’s agnosticism was a ruse, and that in fact he was acting as a kind of undercover operative on Perriman’s behalf, and perhaps even at his behest? Or did Wilkinson regard Perriman’s theology as inherently dangerous to the Christian cause, inevitably precipitating a landslide into the radical skepticism that had already undermined Doyle?

At the end of this first comment the Trappist refers to a new scroll that he himself has penned. The reader presumes that the scroll in question will not offer yet another alternative cosmogeny to be added to the Old Man’s collection. Instead, it will constitute an alternative to, and probably also a critique of, the Otherways Manifesto, which the Trappist regards as the real threat. Here it becomes clearer that Wilkinson’s dispute wasn’t with the agnostic Doyle but with the emergent Perriman.

In the end, of course, the Sir Toby’s discussions and the names of those who engaged in them would have disappeared forever in the long-abandoned internet servers of the age were it not for Perriman’s historical importance. Is it conceivable that, if Wilkinson had directed his attention to Doyle’s agenda instead of Perriman’s, post-evangelicalism would have veered onto a different trajectory altogether?

Commentary on the Eastern Monk's Appearance

Here Carr enters the thread, introducing a new character, the Monk. Carr too was a frequent contributor to OST, though his involvement in Sir Toby’s had heretofore been mininal. It is not known whether Carr joined the thread solely out of personal interest or as a favor to Doyle, inasmuch as the two of them had previously discussed the subject on Doyle’s blog. At OST and on his own blog Carr presents himself as a Christian concerned primarily with living a Christlike life.

As with the Old Man and the Trappist, the Monk is presumably the author’s alter-ego. He is a visitor to the West who is familiar with “maya,” a fundamental Hindu concept in which physical appearances are an illusion of the unenlighened mind. Here the Monk signals a preliminary intent to engage the Old Man in his discussion of Jesus’s ability to dematerialize himself. Unlike the Trappist, Carr’s Monk does enter into conversation with the Old Man, interpreting maya from the perspective of modern physics. But then the Monk disappears: is it a demonstration of maya, or complicity with the Trappist’s all-too-human disappearances?

In the next comment Doyle introduces the Andalusian priest, who offers a ludicrous metaphorical interpretation of the Monk’s disappearance. Doubtless this was Doyle’s mildly sarcastic jab at Christian attempts to re-interpret some of the more problematic passages of Scripture as “true myths” or metaphors rather than as purely human inventions or errors. The Old Man then recounts a story about an invisibility cloak that could not be removed. “Had his thoughts been visible, written in letters for all to see,” the Old Man muses, “the other theologians would have known that he was thinking of the Trappist.” Did Doyle intend for this story to be interpreted metaphorically, possibly referring to the invisibility of his own discourse to Wilkinson? As we make our way through these posts we see more and more clearly that Wilkinson’s eyes remained fixed on the one whose physical absence only accentuated his psychological omnipresence at Sir Toby’s…

Re: Commentaries

Doyle’s analysis (Review of Theological Studies/Sept. 2007) of the respective parts and roles played by Carr (op cit) and Wilkinson (sic), and their respective personae (non gratae) is as profound as it is challenging. One suspects, however, that Wilkinson’s strategy was as teasingly playful as it was subversive. Did he really have any serious intention in mind when engaging with the issues raised on this thread? Was his sudden and abrupt departure from the one thread to reappear on another anything other than a ploy to avoid tackling the issues which were being raised? An avoidance strategy that was as theologically bankrupt as it was intellectually irresponsible??

Perhaps Wilkinson was enjoying the creation of cyber-personae more than the actual arguments and viewpoints they attempted to express. That is, until a comment on another thread caught his eye, and pulled the discourse of his own thread in that direction. As usual, the eminence grise of the OST website could prove to be his nemesis. We shall wait and see how he extricates himself, if at all, from the quicksands of postmodern theological reflection. Perhaps he should have stuck to stamp-collecting.

Commentary on the abandonment of Sir Toby's

We can now move quickly through the rest of this post, making only the briefest observations about subsequent contributions to the string:

• The Trappist returns with a rhetorical flourish, contravening “the dark powers which lay behind the seemingly innocuous vacuity of the discussion.” Thus he interprets “disappearance” as a code word for its antonym, “emergence.” The Trappist then brings forth the manifesto, again clearly referring to Perriman’s book, asserting that it “had been the true focus of the triumvirate’s deliberations, and from which the Elderly Sage had sought to distract attention by the smoke-screen of misleading theological controversy.”

• Doyle, apparently irked, responds through a new character, the Viennese alienist, a thinly-veiled stand-in for Freud. Dismissing the Trappist’s reappearance as trivial and observing that “there is something vaguely disturbed about this fellow,” the Alienist launches into a story about a game he played as a child. This is a nearly word-for-word transcription of Freud’s Fort-Da Game from Beyond the Pleasure Principle. The Alienist uses this story as an explanation for the Trappist’s obsession with repeatedly disappearance from and reappearance at Sir Toby’s. There is reason to believe that Doyle was also using the Alienist to explore Wilkinson’s seeming compulsion to return, again and again, to Perriman’s discourse.

• Carr re-enters the thread, revealing that the Eastern Monk was actually a spy, and that he hadn’t disappeared through magic or maya, but through a trapdoor in the floor. Here Carr seems to ally with Wilkinson, turning the thread into an intrigue. Perhaps he had decided it was time for “shaking the Old Man off of some dangerous trail.” Perhaps he is referring not to the Old Man but to “the inoffensive but nonetheless offending Austrian” who, in Carr’s interlude, has irritated the Trappist.

• Wilkinson now has the Trappist and the Old Man slip through the trapdoor. We discover that the Westerner (Perriman) is the mastermind behind this latest disappearance. Here the conspiracy is rejoined by the Antipodean, the alter-ego of Paul Hartigan, another frequent contributor at OST. The Westerner decides that, in order to relaunch “The Project” the co-conspirators must leave Sir Toby’s and reconvene secretly at another inn. Clearly Wilkinson is breaking definitively with this post, this line of discussion, this distraction. By placing the Westerner at the center of the intrigue, the project, and the abandonment of Sir Toby’s, Wilkinson acknowledges that Perriman, even when absent, remains the focal point at OST.

• From this point on the Invisibility Cloak thread is continued by Doyle and Carr but without Wilkinson, who now establishes a parallel post focused explicitly on the Westerner’s Manifesto; i.e., Perriman’s “Project.”

Metacommentary

The “Invisibility Cloak” thread must be deemed a failure both theologically and literarily. It does, however, illustrate certain paradoxes and anomalies we have come to associate with what, in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, was termed the postmodern sensibility.

More than most other blogs of its time, OST cultivated the illusion of being a self-contained community. Any registered user could write a post, but neither posts nor comments provided links to the writers’ own blogs. As a result, participants in OST discussions knew very little about one another outside of the way they represented themselves at OST. This self-presentation was quite formal and rational and impersonal, focusing almost exclusively on serious theological discussion and debate. Though the reader might detect clues about the writers’ lives and character traits, consciously self-revelatory remarks were purposely kept to a minimum.

Doyle initially introduced the Sir Toby’s conceit in response to an anomalously personal post by Wilkinson in which he briefly described his recent visit to Prague. Sir Toby’s became an alternate reality embedded within OST, where frequent discussants were assigned fictional monastic alter-egos meeting in the common room of an inn where plenty of food and beer kept the discussion flowing freely. While donning their fictional identities inserted another layer of illusion between writer and reader, the very unreality of Sir Toby’s may have given Doyle and Wilkinson license to relax their characteristic writerly sef-discipline at OST. As a result, the reader catches brief glimpses of the individuals giving voice to their quasi-mythic doppelgangers.

As the ill-fated “Invisibility Cloak” post stumbles toward its inconclusive end, a metafictional layer is superimposed on the fictional world of Sir Toby’s. Doyle and Wilkinson present themselves as historians revisiting the post as if it had been written in the fairly distant past. Under the guise of exploring authorial intent and unconscious motivations of these supposedly long-dead bloggers, Doyle and Wilkinson further expose their own personal motivations to public scrutiny. Doyle in particular seems bent on psychoanalyzing Wilkinson, while in the process revealing more about his own resentments and frustrations. Doyle, who held a doctorate in psychology and who practiced psychotherapy intermittently during his rather unfocused career, infused his commentator persona with a degree of ruthless cruelty that his Old Man persona lacked. Doyle had by this time written three unpublished books, and his personal correspondence shows that he had approached Wilkinson with the possibility of turning the Sir Toby’s premise into a book. Doyle was experiencing a depressing sense of subjective invisibility due to his inability to get his books published, as is evident in many of his blog posts around this time. That the reprise of Sir Toby’s at OST was obviously failing undoubtedly frustrated Doyle and contributed to the rather abrasive tone of his commentary. In hindsight it is perhaps fortunate that the Sir Toby’s project never materialized, inasmuch as it might have distracted Doyle from writing what would prove to be his masterpiece.

We see layer upon layer of self-distancing at work in this otherwise unremarkable bit of theoliterary experimentation: OST the rational-impersonal virtual community, Sir Toby’s the fictional world-within-a-world, the metafictional commentary on the Sir Toby’s personae. And yet as each layer is added we witness a progressive unveiling of the writers’ “real” personalities. Or were these self-revelations too an illusion and an obfuscation? It was a pervasive and well-documented aspect of the postmodern era that the subjective sense of self was being decentered, multiplied and, in extreme cases, dissolved altogether. In a Moebius-like inversion, the Sir Toby’s writers revealed themselves by donning disguises. By objectively distancing themselves from their writing as “commentators" they exposed themselves as subjects presented themselves as subjects. By burying themselves ever deeper in fictional alternate realities they made themselves more real. Or perhaps none of this is true; perhaps behind every disguise was yet another disguise. One is left to wonder whether, by the end of the Invisibility Cloak thread, the writers had become more visible to themselves, or more invisible.

Re: Metacommentary

Intriguing,” said the Trappist, handing back to the Elderly Sage the manuscript which purported to be a commentary on the escapades of the pentavirate since their more recent emergence from silence.

Yes,” grumbled the Elderly Sage, taking a brief kick at a pigeon, which was strutting around the metal bench where they were seated, in the main concourse of Prague Central railway station. “And about time too. I have been sitting here for three hours waiting for your arrival. What about the others?”

Oh, they fell asleep on the padded seat in front of the Van Dyck,” said the Trappist. “They couldn’t go back to the club, smelling of salt and vinegar. They’re probably still there, for all I know.”

And the pentavirate?” questioned the Sage?

Yes, carried nem con,” said the Trappist. “Though it’s getting a bit unwieldy, and this Eastern Monk chap will have to show his true colours; we’ll want to know precisely what his persona is if we are to include him in the Project. All this hanging around on street corners in disguise, pretending to be an emissary of some fictitious cardinal or other - it really has its limitations.”

So where to now?” said the Sage.

Well, that depends on whether you want to continue the dissimulation,” replied the Trappist. A smoke-screen of retrospective academic analysis and pseudo-theological contributions to alternative threads is a master stroke. Should give some time for things to settle down, while we get on with the real business.”

Using his stick as grappling hook on a nearby railing, the Sage heaved his bulk to the vertical, shaking off the remaining crumbs from his station sandwiches. Accompanied by the Trappist, he clattered off towards the main exit, where the pair disappeared into the anonymity of streets crowded with evening commuters hurrying purposefully to bus and tram stops for their homeward journey.

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