Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Magus Magazine: Rumblings in the Rockies: 'Hannibal', the Mormons ...: Rumblings in the Rockies: Hannibal, the Mormons, and Liminality. I couldn't tell if I'd been jolted out of a dream or was suff...
Rumblings in the Rockies: Hannibal, the Mormons, and Liminality.
I couldn't tell if I'd been jolted out of a dream or was suffering from some inner-ear calamity when I found myself dizzy and nauseous after answering a call from my twisted editor. He sounded scorned and manic. Jabbering about some goddamn injustice, I could hear running water and what appeared to be dozens of yowling cats in the background. A feeling of defeat washed over me and I sullenly braced myself for the storm that was about to erupt on the line. "They've done it!" He screamed into the phone. "The filthy bastards! They dropped it from the line-up!" There was a loud bang followed by coughing and several minutes of silence while I listened to my beleaguered leader curse and howl indiscriminately. Something had gone very wrong.
Of course, I'd already heard the cruel news that had Jack Vates in a savage state of mind. He had been hiking outside of Las Vegas at the Valley of Fire state park when a violent and blinding blast of light shot out from the sky and embedded itself directly into his forehead. Amidst American Indian petroglyphs and a desert terrain that was otherworldy, Vates was seized by a powerful alien force or entity that left him in complete disarray. During this divine invasion, he was directed to head into Vegas and bet heavily on NBC's new television line-up. In particular, the alien presence instructed him to focus on the new crime-thriller 'Hannibal'. You can bet on anything in Las Vegas and playing the odds in television ratings is serious business. When Jack stepped up to 20-1 odds and put the keys to his convertible up as collateral, nobody took him seriously. They pointed and stared at him pitifully. But when 'Hannibal' hit the ground running, even the Vegas bigwigs started jabbering about a 'sleeper' hit. It looked like the Salt Lake City market was gonna embrace this show and Jack doubled-down that the Mormons would at least pay enough attention to criticize. There was a terrible quickness about it. 'Hannibal's' ratings blasted off like a rocket and only CBS's 'Elementary' was in any position to act as competition. Network exec's squawked and ran around in a frenzy. There was talk of NBC stock tripling over night.
And then it happened. The Salt Lake City NBC affiliate KSL dropped 'Hannibal' from their Thursday night line-up because it was deemed 'too gory'. In what was another violent and blinding blast, the entire population of Utah were denied the chance to even watch the program. Stocks plummeted like the Hindenburg and grown men were seen openly weeping and stumbling around like the walking dead.
Christian fundamentalists were giddy about the Mormon decision and renewed their Jihad against the heathen Pagans and Jews. Both the 7th Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses went deep into hiding. The dogs were at the door. When asked about the program, Mormon president Thomas Monson snarled, "If they want to watch what the Church deems heretical, they can move the hell out of Utah! We don't need their kind." It was reported that a silent hiss accompanied this savage outburst.
And alas, the question becomes why? Oh God, why do we have to shut our mouths when they close our eyes? I've seen 'Hannibal'. The show is a crime-drama that weaves a host of occult imagery and themes into its plot and characters. In many ways it acts as a mystery that sparingly parts the veil just enough to reveal the esoteric and arcane. The main character-Will Graham, is an FBI consultant who regularly appears disheveled and is virtually always in a liminal state. A liminal or transitory state refers to the second step in a rite of passage. After an initiate is separated from society or experiences a separation in 'status', a liminal stage of being betwixt and between occurs when the novice undergoes some Ordeal or initiation. Afterwards, the initiate is reintegrated into the community with a new 'state of being'. It is a new ontological status. The person has changed and has become something else.
Will Graham embodies that liminal existence that is between our reality and an occult or unseen reality. He exhibits a distinct form of empathy that allows him to identify so completely with a murderer that he can reduce a crime scene into its parts by temporally reversing the chronology of events. Will gets into the head or fuses with the murderer so as to form a connection and thereby deduce the manner and motive of the crime. While performing these 'thought experiments', Will enters a state of being inbetween physical reality and a numinous or Other reality, In this manner he is perpetually in a liminal state.
Moreover, there is an undercurrent of psychology in the series due to the fact that Will's personal psychiatrist and colleague is serial killer Hannibal Lecter. Dr. Lecter acts as both friend and confidante to empath Will creating a kind of polarity or dichotomy of extremes in their relationship. Dr. Lecter also seems to be aware that Will's psyche is constantly pushing the boundaries of reality. This is nothing new. Many psychologists have patients such as Will who exhibit different modes of thought. For example, Carl Jung had a patient who was frequented by spirits. He stated that, "she was fully oriented to the external world but seemed to have one foot in her dream-world. She saw and heard her spirits, saw how they walked around the room among those present, standing now by on person and now by another". Just like Will, Jung's patient existed in an inbetween state.
Occultist Kenneth Grant has also done extensive work on inbetween states in Ceremonial Magick. In fact, he remarks that, "the magic of Light concerns neither White nor Black magic but an occult current that vibrates in the spaces 'between'; in the interstices, so to speak, of spiritual spacelessness that exists in a necessarily timeless void behind or somewhere outside the tree (Tree of Life)". Furthermore, Grant states that "according to a secret grimoire, 'the Beast' was called down not from known spaces but from 'cells between them', while bultu dreams beat off-beat rhythms". In both these instances the temporal and spatial aspect of being inbetween or liminal is essential to the ritual. Also, the aforementioned off-beat rhythms suggest an aspect of subversion in the rite. This subversion or discord is also apparent in 'Hannibal'.
Indeed, there is no limit to the shock and awe used in 'Hannibal' to upset the norm. Much of the imagery is a screeching assault on public morale. Deliberate use of inversions and the grotesque is meant for us to displace what we are accustomed to. Aspects of surrealism also attack our comfortability. The subversion upsets the social norm by placing Will, an unstable man in the role of stalker. Arguably a sociopath himself, Will becomes a hunter of serial killers. This juxtaposition forces us to question who are the heroes and who are the villains of the show. After all, Dr. Lecter really doesn't come off as a wild-eyed feverish monster. At no time does he jabber insanely or shriek of hellfire. Only the audience really knows the Leviathan just under the surface.
Elements of stalking the stalker can also be found amidst the initiations into spirit possession within the Chwezi culture of Tanzania. According to the Chwezi, spirits are previously initiated ancestors who fuse with members of society in a form of mediumship. The initiation ceremony is designed not to expel the invading entity but to become accustomed to a mediumistic disposition. The Chwezi chant 'Bumanga butashilaga. Bushilailelo, isamva lyvshila: "Mediumship does not die. What ends today is the spirit's anger". Subversion during the liminal state occurs on a number of levels. When novices are abducted or 'separated' from the group, it is a clear subversion of the social order. The initiation is also subversive to social norms because the rite depicts possession "as a reciprocal process of 'stalking' the spirits who themselves are busy stalking the novices".
And this was the ugly scene that caused my editor to lapse into a brooding and foul state of mind. Some pagan god with the sense of humor of wily coyote dropped an acme anvil on Jack for no other reason but to see him bitter and frantic. The outraged Mormons are still promising eternal bliss if only he repent for his crass remarks. Dozens of hate filled letters have now showed up at Liber Ra Publishing with a clear intent to intimidate. One hand-scrawled note from a farmer declared that: "There's still time to save your soul. Even if I till your body with my tractor, the Lord Jesus'll save you if you ask him". The Center for Disease Control neither confirmed nor denied the presence of a strange powder on the paper. An unmarked parcel from the "Committee for Mormon Sovereignty" contained what appeared to be a severed pinky finger accompanied by a photograph of wild badgers. And every time Jack leaves the office, he is stared at and heckled like a leper. This we can do without but business is what it is. These things happen.
-Mad Doctor Abdullah
Grant, Kenneth. Nightside of Eden. Skoob Publishing. London. 1995.
Jung, Carl. Psychology and the Occult. Bollingen Series. 1981. Princeton.
'Stalking the Stalker': a Chwezi initiation into spirit possession and experiential structure. Koen Stroeken. Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute. 12, 785-802.