Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The Huguenot's Revenge

We return now to our Mumbai series, and to where we left off here, promising to examine two 'minor' themes pertinent to Fortean studies, before moving to conclude the series by examining the role played by soma in this psychic operation. That was the plan, anyway... until an analysis of those 'minor' points revealed layers of complex significance previously unsuspected. This is a common phenomenon in occult investigations, which depend upon the intuitive method and trail following of an exceedingly subtle kind. A minute detail can generate a connection which illuminates the whole structure in a radically different light, deepending and expanding one's immediate frame of way comparable, probably, to the creative travails of imaginative authors; propelling the work into strata unimagined when first embarking upon the investigative journey.

Such a conceptual 'leap' accompanied our study of the first of those themes: the role of 'synchronicity' in a Fortean event, which we documented in a number of posts concerning the Synchronicity Foundation and the death of Alan and Naomi Scherr. The second is a criterion not included in this useful formulation of an occult operation, cadged from an article posted last year, which reads as follows:

'There are certain characteristics common to all stories warranting occult investigation. The incident will have occurred on or around a specific date or 'window': a 'wrinkle in time' which a little research will prove to be curiously rich in symbolism. Similar discoveries will likely pertain to its spatial location too- often possessed of a far greater historical and mythic pedigree than its surface existence would suggest. The events themselves are peopled by characters that seem to embody archetypal forces as much as singular personalities; are heralded by 'prophecies' of various forms; and provoke a whole series of uncannily familiar aftershocks.'

A factor we can now add to that list is the sense of the 'miraculous'- akin, perhaps, to the numinous as conceived by William James, see here- that overhangs these psychically-directed events. Of course, all Fortean events are- to some degree- miraculous, insofar as they resist rational explanation, or are explicable only in terms which transcend pure reason; but to find the principle illstrated so finely in the midst of an event of such provable occult dimensions as Mumbai is Fortean to the power of five. The presence of such a 'unit' (the pericope) strengthens the rest of the edifice to a degree out of proportion to its own importance.

Have we located just such a pericope in the tale of Simon Healeas, the miraculous 'Bulletproof Briton'? From the Daily Mail, December 5, 2008:

'A university lecturer survived four attempts on his life in last week's Mumbai terror attacks.

Gunmen opened fire on Simon Healeas, a finance lecturer at the University of Westminster, in the Taj Mahal hotel- but he survived as he was carrying his wife's glasses case in his breast pocket which shielded his chest from a bullet.

He also had a grenade thrown at him and was shot in the arm and the leg during the attack on November 26.

Mr Healeas was with colleagues who had travelled to Mumbai with the British Council.' (Full story here.)

Unpacking this mini piece of Forteana reveals some curiously rich coincidences, all highly pertinent to the broader themes of our investigation.

Healeas, as the article says, is a lecturer and research in finance based at the University of Westminster: formerly The Polytechnic Institution. The latter, a stalwart of Victorian education, opened its Regent Street premises at the height of empire in 1838. Renamed The Royal Polytechnic Institution in 1841 when Prince Albert became its patron, the school was very closely associated with both Crown and Church, the Anglicanism of the Church of England. (The significance of this last point will become obvious very shortly.)

Healeas, moreover, is a most unusual name, amenable to (at least) three possible decryptions. As 'son of Helle', the first could be considered another unambiguous nod to the goddess, or Feminine Principle: evoked repeatedly during the course of the attacks, as several articles have shown. In Norse myth, Hel- or El- is the dark queen of the underworld, whose symbol was the holly. In medieval times, emissaries of this harlot-queen were symbolised by the character Harlequin: a name possibly derived from Dante's Inferno (which features a devil called Arlecchino.) But the fact that Healeas derives not from a Scandinavian tongue, but rather from Flemish, Dutch or old French, indicates that the likelihood of the name referencing a Norse goddess is far less likely than the more prosaic etymology of hele, related to our modern word 'holler', a surname designating its bearer's status as a medieval town crier.

Phonetically, however- a valid technique for sifting symbolic meaning from the random scatter of language- Healeas is extremely suggestive of Helios, the sun. Moon symbolism has, as we have seen, been an integral component of the twilight language of Mumbai... A reference, possibly, to Shiva, but perhaps more fundamentally to the pantheon of goddesses associated with the same: Selene, Luna, Artemis, et al. Helios was the brother of Selene, later known as Apollo and by the Romans as Sol Invictus; whose emergence upon the symbolic content of Mumbai suggests the egression of an opposing principle: the representative, perhaps, of an atagonistic set of symbols.

Most significantly, Healeas is of likely Huguenot origin: a group of sixteenth century Calvinists who virulently opposed what they regarded as the excesses of Catholicism: its ritual, its obession with the dead, its icons, saints, pilgrimages, prayers... and its recidivist devotion to Mary. Emerging at almost an almost identical junction in history, the Huguenots invite comparisons with the Catholic sect evoked at least three times during the Mumbai ritual: the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits. Expressly formed to protect the Papacy, the Jesuits are consecrated under the patronage of Madonna Della Strada, Our Lady of the Way... and were targeted- successfully, if unconsciously- by the Mumbai shooters in the attack on the indo-gothic St Xavier's College, a Jesuit school since 1868. In this article, however, we also linked the attack on the Metro Cinema to the Order, through the birth of both Cubism and the Jesuit movement at the Mount of Mars in Paris's Right Bank.

Further investigation reveals that Alan Scherr, the 'jubu' member of the Synchronicity Foundation, was a former professor at Loyola College in Maryland, a Jesuit foundation, named for the order's founder: Ignatius of Loyola. And, most remarkably, the date originally intended for the attacks, Spetember 27, happens also to be the anniversary of the granting of the Order's charter by Pope Paul III in 1540.

By being affiliated, however unconsciously, with a vigorously anti-Marianist sect, did Healeas unwittingly raise up a talisman against which the influence of the Dark Queen was impotent? Did he erect a barrier which the Fates, the Graces were helpless to penetrate?

Ideas are bulletproof... More to follow...


wise woman said...

Wonderfully crafted - very interesting musings to finish.

Was reminded, as I read, (with the mix of the cinema & the Jesuits) that Jesuits were involved in the making of the film The Exorcist -"Aside from the trappings one assumes that the exorcism rite is correct since three Jesuit priests are credited as technical advisors and two of them have small parts in the movie"
A little off topic, but had just found out about it very recently & then reading your article reminded me.

This is an excellent series

All the best

Ben Fairhall said...

Thanks for your comment, Alex.

I have written about The Exorcist, and director Bill Friedkin before: see here.

Your comment greatly cheers me; thanks for your continued attention.


Citius64 said...

Hi Ben,

Very interesting analysis as usual, just one observation: to name the Jesuits a Catholic sect seems to be a bit far strectched. The Society of Jesus is the biggest of the Catholic Church and as you know has a long history. Maybe the "sect" noun can be used more wisely to describe the Opus Dei or the Legion of Christ, very closed and fundamentalist Catholic orders. The Jesuits may be still the favourite target of Conspiracy theory, but today... they seem more a caricature of what they were centuries ago. Their influence is waning, and the laicity is taking charge of many of their works, sometimes with many disagreements from the order, but every day there are less and less jesuits...

Ben Fairhall said...

Yes, point taken, Citius. The use of the noun was not meant to be perjorative; perhaps 'Order' or 'body' would have been a better word to use?

Thanks for your comment,