Sunday, March 25, 2012
undo the belts that tie mind and matter
And it's interesting, as well, to see that Hudson's ideas were absorbed into Théophile Gautier's short story Avatar, and allowed to play out into the world through the character of the Doctor, whose name is Balthazar Cherbonneau, and who is tied to the other book in several detectable ways, for instance, his journey through exotic foreign jungles, avoiding dangerous animals, to find an old man, who is "propped against the wall of a cavern" -- the significant cave again, for the third time, and the jungle or woodland, the animals, all recurring, and the mystery in the jungle, which, in this case, is a piece of magical knowledge that will let Cherbonneau "undo the belts that tie mind and matter" which, obviously, can be understood as a reference to Rima's dual existence, flying through the trees like a supernatural creature one minute, and the next minute walking tamely on the ground with her hair tied back and speaking Spanish to her adoptive father, so thoroughly earthed that the hero of Hudson's book has to stare closely to convince himself that this is the same woman, and thus the spirit, in Avatar, flies out of a human carcass and back in, abducting the person from themselves, until Count Labinski's wife looks at her husband suspiciously and doesn't think it's him. The body is right, the voice is right, but something else is wrong. The old man propped against the wall of the cavern passes on his secret to Cherbonneau and then dies, making the doctor the last repository of this unique treasure, as Rima is the last repository of her people's language, likewise kept alive by an old man, her adoptive father. The doctor's magic-science needs electricity to work, "swift as a lightning flash a bluish spark passed before my eyes" -- of course this is our lightning from Hudson's storms again; the lightning in Mansions has penetrated two other stories more fruitfully than it penetrated its original home. When the doctor says he "scaled the heavens to rob them of fire" he is evidently thinking of Rima falling from her tree "into the sea of flames below" and he is performing the same operation in reverse, he will ascend, he will take the fire, he will not be killed, instead he will live on at the end of the story, supernaturally, thanks to his esoteric spells. Doctor, Octave says to him, what do you mean? I dare not fathom the awful profundities of your thought.