from the series "Sundays in the Capital of the Dead"
All Saints Day in Paris. Where else could I go? The lockdown was again upon us, but the cemetery remained opened, buzzing with activity of a singular sort.
While most returned to care for the same old tomb, I was busy striking up conversations with new dead friends. Extensive discourse with the deceased invariably challenges one’s ideas about death. This was something I found refreshing as the new doctrine of Covidism takes hold of society. In this state of mind, I came across the grave of an early 20th-century hypnotist and occultist, founder of the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose-Croix, the Martinist Order, and member of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light. His name is Gérard Encausse, better known as Papus.
“Hello, Papus. How is your disembodied self coming along these days?”
“Thanks for stopping by,” Papus replied. “Hardly anybody notices me anymore. Allan Kardec over in division 89 has won the popularity contest for deceased occultists. You cannot imagine how many Brazilian boobs have hovered over him. Well, I’m not jealous about that, but it’s not because I am disembodied that I have nothing left to say, and it’s not because I don’t have a dolmen as a tomb, like Kardec, that my thoughts have no sway!”
“Well, you always were a bit hermetic, weren’t you? But that’s OK, because I’d like to have your take on this pandemic as a once pre-eminent hypnotist. Slapping myself into lucidity, I still can’t make sense of it all.”
“A timely question, indeed! Such a pity that nobody bothered to ask it in 1919, 1957, or 1968. I’ve been hanging out for so long here. So here’s what I have to say: you’ve all been collectively hypnotized. You are going through a wave of mass madness. You have been hoodwinked into believing a dangerous virus lurks out there, when in fact the most dangerous virus of all is your own fear. More will die as a result of this fear than of the virus itself. In truth, none will die of the virus independently of all other factors. You must understand this, otherwise, you will become like a corpse before your body dies. Believe me, that is far worse than hanging around as a ghost after your body dies! A ghost can be released in an instant, but an entrenched, obsessive belief can resist all treatments. If you fail to understand the human psychology of fear, you will lose control of the situation without even knowing it. Fear will drive you into accepting unimaginable things.”
“You mean, like being forbidden access to one’s dying child or parents? Or being required to labor and give birth with a mask? Or imposing masks on young children?”
“Those are indeed signs that your madness has led you to renounce your humanity.”
I pulled from my coat pocket a recent article I had cut out from Le Nouvel Observateur, but realized there was nobody to show it to. The article was entitled “I admit to kissing: the wave of Covid19 denial."
I had underlined a quote from Jean-Paul Ortiz, president of the confederation of French Medical Syndicates: “Many patients come to their doctor’s office in complete denial. Few adhere to the appropriate safety protocol in their homes, with their family, their closest friends, and their spouse. Half of all infected subjects are asymptomatic!”
Gérard spookily replied to what I read:
“Should I gather that you have not enjoyed massaging your spouse with sanitizing gels?”
“What can be done against such collective madness?” I pleaded.
“To begin, stop watching the fear-mongering, propaganda-perfect news. During an epidemic, the dominant state of the collective mind becomes irrational. Stop talking all the time about this epidemic. Repeating the same things over and over again is a form of auto-hypnosis. Fear is a form of auto-hypnosis. It triggers chemical changes in your body. If you maintain that state long enough, the toxicity in your body will cause disease. So you won’t die of the virus, but of some other condition three years after.”
“So, even more important than wearing masks to block out the millions of microscopic viruses, we must shield ourselves from fear.”
“Your token masks have blocked out much more than microscopic viruses. The so-called pandemic is here. You can no longer avoid it. But you can stop being terrified by life.”
“Terrified by life?” I object.
“Yes, because death is very much a part of your life experience. Insomuch as you fear death, you fear life. It’s like wanting to read one and only one chapter of a story. You know, If death didn’t exist, it would have to be invented. Your enduring self would be terribly constrained, like a sculptor only having a single block from which to work.”
“But that is a matter of beliefs” I again object “and most of us expect there is nothing beyond death, so we desperately clutch onto what we have.”
“Beliefs are killing you, and against them, there is no inoculation possible.”
“So, there is no hope for a materialist” I conclude.
“Yes, there is hope, and this hope is a secret gift of nature. In the same way that your body is perfectly able to neutralize the harmful effects of any virus on its own, you are able to neutralize the effects of beliefs that are harmful to your psychological well-being.”
“Well, that sure sounds like a get-rich scoop!” I smirked.
“On the contrary, it is free for all. There is nothing you need to buy or even to take. You have only to silence your mind every day and become attentive to what is going on beneath the surface of your cognition. Listen to the ongoing flow of existence. With time, with practice, or maybe even in a flash, you will know.”
“You are suggesting that there is some sense of knowing other than in my brain?”
“Do not ask to be persuaded. Experience for yourself.”
“What if we don’t believe we have such psychic capabilities? Or what if we just can’t manage to make them work?”
“Well then, like some clueless warrior, you will have to content yourself with the idea that death will grab you whenever it pleases.” he lamented.
We paused for a moment while I observed a gust of wind release a flurry of yellow leaves.
Then Gérard’s voice rose up with a sudden burst of conviction:
“Why remain so helpless when truly your life is in your hands? May I refer to the message of one who is dead, without ever having lived?”
“What kind of mumbo jumbo is that?” I exclaimed. “It’s weird enough for me to be having conversations with those who are officially dead!”
“You must understand that were I to identify the source, you would likely discredit the message. I had enough of being discredited during my lifetime, you know, and now that I’m dead would like to enjoy greater legitimacy.”
“Well alright, if you put it in those terms, carry on. But could you at least shed some light on the riddle for me? Who can be dead without ever having lived?”
“There are more mysteries beneath the human psyche than there are bodies buried beneath all these tombstones. Kindly let the riddle remain for the time being, and simply hear me out.”
“I’m all ears, then.”
“For those who have ears to hear, this is the nature of human epidemics. An epidemic serves an individual purpose for each involved, but also a purpose in the framework of the greater human body, of which the individual is analogous to a conscious cell. Part of the species dies with each death, and is reborn with each birth. Contrary to common belief, no death comes unbidden.”
“Some say the same for Joe Biden” I interjected.
Gérard ignored me and continued:
“If you consider the virus to be the cause of an epidemic, then the solution will appear obvious: you simply inoculate each individual to force an immune response. That is the same short-sighted reasoning used to justify pesticides. There are insidious long-term effects in both cases. Once you understand that the cause of an epidemic is not exclusively biological, indeed that the virus is only the carrier of a deadly intent, then you will adopt a more holistic approach to dealing with it."
"No vaccine will avert the decline of your civilization,” he solemnly concluded.
“It’s a good thing you’re already dead, because under the current regime of Covidism, your subversive theory would get you into serious trouble.”
“I am indeed among the grateful dead,” he punned.
“Still, I’m afraid that Louis Pasteur must be rolling over in his grave to hear such things.”
“That’s OK, he doesn’t live here at Père Lachaise.”
“You meant to say he doesn’t lie here,” I promptly rectified.
“Well, I trust that Pasteur was entirely honest in his findings. Polio and tuberculosis vaccines effectively accomplished the isolated task for which they were developed. But now the time has come to embrace a holistic understanding of diseases and empower our full humanity.”
There was another pause, with a gust of wind and leaves, before his voice returned more faintly:
“And now the time has also come for my ghost to get lost. Adieu!”
Just like someone hanging up, he was gone with a click.
A solitary chestnut leaf, brown and wilted, drifted onto his tomb, reminding me that millions of chestnut trees across the country were also sick.
See also my complete Père Lachaise photo album here.