Charles Brian Orner


Interested readers will discover additional details here in a wide variety of areas, including the arts, astronomy, business, culture, environment, gaming, geography, language, history, literature, music, mythology, philosophy, politics, religion, and science. Spend a little time with the notes; it'll pique your interest. Then buy the book. Most notes have been taken from public sources such as Wikipedia. The remainder are given attribution.

Chapter 23

1    Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, / And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, / I will be brief: your noble son is mad. - Hamlet Act 2, Scene 2 - William Shakespeare
2    The Angel Moroni is, in Mormonism, an angel that visited Joseph Smith, Jr. on numerous occasions, beginning on September 21, 1823. According to Smith, the angel was the guardian of the golden plates, which Latter Day Saints believe were the source material for the Book of Mormon, buried in a hill near Smith’s home in western New York.
3    Fundie or fundy (plural fundies) is a pejorative slang abbreviation used to refer to religious fundamentalists of any religion or denomination, although it is primarily directed towards fundamentalist Christians.
      A fatwā in the Islamic faith is the term for the legal opinion or learned interpretation that a qualified jurist or mufti can give on issues pertaining to the Islamic law. The person who issues a fatwā is called, in that respect, a Mufti. As used here, it is intended as a generic reference to a religious scholar.
4    Opus Dei is an institution of the Roman Catholic Church that teaches that everyone is called to holiness, and that ordinary life is a path to sanctity. The majority of its membership are lay people, with secular priests under the governance of a prelate (bishop) elected by specific members and appointed by the Pope.
5    The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester, is an American novel, science fiction and inverted detective story, that was the first Hugo Award winner in 1953. Once arrested and convicted, the main character is sentenced to the dreaded Demolition—the stripping away of his memories and the upper layers of his personality, emptying his mind for re-education. This 24th-century society uses psychological demolition because it recognizes the social value of strong personalities able to successfully defy the law, seeking the salvaging of positive traits while ridding the person of the evil consciousness of the criminal.
       æriste: from Middle English, c1250-1300; A rising up, the resurrection.
6    Several authors have written that J.B.S. Haldane (1892–1964) said that the discovery of a fossil rabbit in Precambrian rocks would be enough to destroy his belief in evolution. However, these references date from the 1990s or later. In 1996 Michael J. Benton cited the 1993 edition of Mark Ridley’s book Evolution, Richard Dawkins wrote in 2005 that Haldane was responding to a challenge by a “Popperian zealot.” In 2004 Richa Arora wrote that the story was told by John Maynard Smith (1920–2004) in a television program. John Maynard Smith attributed the phrase to Haldane in a conversation with Paul Harvey in the early 1970s.
7    In the late nineteenth century, luminiferous aether, æther or ether, meaning light-bearing aether, was the postulated medium for the propagation of light. Following the negative outcome of aether-drift experiments like the Michelson–Morley experiment, the concept of aether as a mechanical medium having a state of motion lost adherents. It has been replaced in modern physics by the theory of relativity and quantum theory.
8    The miasma theory (also called the miasmatic theory) held that diseases such as cholera, chlamydia, or the Black Death were caused by a miasma, a noxious form of “bad air,” also known as “night air.” The theory held that the origin of epidemics was due to a miasma, emanating from rotting organic matter. The miasma theory was accepted from ancient times in Europe, India, and China. The theory was eventually displaced in the nineteenth century by the discovery of germs and the germ theory of disease.
9    “The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.” - Carl Sagan, Cosmos
10    A phage is a virus that is parasitic in bacteria; it uses the bacterium’s machinery and energy to produce more phage until the bacterium is destroyed and phage is released to invade surrounding bacteria.
11    The elixir of life, also known as elixir of immortality and sometimes equated with the philosopher’s stone, is a mythical potion that, when drunk from a certain cup at a certain time, supposedly grants the drinker eternal life or eternal youth. The elixir of life was also said to be able to create life. Related to the myths of Thoth and Hermes Trismegistus, both of whom in various tales are said to have drunk “the white drops” (liquid gold) and thus achieved immortality, it is mentioned in one of the Nag Hammadi texts. Alchemists in various ages and cultures sought the means of formulating the elixir.
12    Abrosia is abstinence from food.
13    Ignatia amara is a homeopathic remedy derived from the seeds of the St. Ignatius bean, Strychnos ignatii, a tree found in the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia. It is used as a homeopathic remedy because of its effects on the nervous system. Commonly called “homeopathic Prozac,” ignatia is often used in treating grief stages. Ignatia was commonly used in the 1800s but has not been studied in modern scientific trials. Although there is little scientific evidence regarding the medicinal use of ignatia, it was added to Materia Medica (book of written descriptions of homeopathic medicines) in the early 1800s. Chinese doctors have used ignatia for emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety. Folk healers also used ignatia to treat headaches, sore throats, coughs, and menstrual problems. Ignatia is not widely used because it contains strychnine, which can be fatal to humans.
14    “The water looked strangely shiny, glossy, like a thick varnish. I wanted to ask don Juan about it and laboriously I tried to voice my thoughts in English, but then I realized he did not speak English. I experienced a very confusing moment, and became aware of the fact that although there was a clear thought in my mind, I could not speak. I wanted to comment on the strange quality of the water, but what followed next was not speech; it was the feeling of my unvoiced thoughts coming out of my mouth in a sort of liquid form. It was an effortless sensation of vomiting without the contractions of the diaphragm. It was a pleasant flow of liquid words.” - Carlos Castenada, The Teachings of Don Juan
15    Ayahuasca, also commonly called yagé, is a psychedelic brew of various plant infusions prepared with the Banisteriopsis caapi vine. The brew was first described academically in the early 1950s by Harvard ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes, who found it employed for divinatory and healing purposes by the native peoples of Amazonian Peru. People who have consumed ayahuasca report having spiritual revelations regarding their purpose on Earth, the true nature of the universe, as well as deep insight into how to be the best person they possibly can. This is viewed by many as a spiritual awakening and what is often described as a rebirth. In addition it is often reported that individuals can gain access to higher spiritual dimensions and make contact with various spiritual or extra dimensional beings who can act as guides or healers. It is nearly always said that people experience profound positive changes in their life subsequent to consuming ayahuasca, and it is often viewed as one of the most effective tools of enlightenment. Vomiting can follow ayahuasca ingestion; this purging is considered by many shamans and experienced users of ayahuasca to be an essential part of the experience as it represents the release of negative energy and emotions built up over the course of one’s life.
16    Poet Allen Ginsberg has described the physiological part of his use of ayahuasca: “Stomach vomiting out the soul-vine,” he writes, “cadaver on the floor of a bamboo hut, body-meat crawling toward its fate.” Beat writer William Burroughs read a paper by Richard Evans Schultes on the subject and sought out yagé in the early 1950s while traveling through South America in the hopes that it could relieve or cure opiate addiction. In The Yage Letters, he described it in this way: “I must have vomited six times. I was on all fours convulsed with spasms of nausea. I could hear retching and groaning as if I was some one else."
17    Hermes Trismegistus may be a representation of the syncretic combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth. In Hellenistic Egypt, the Greeks recognized the congruence of their god Hermes with Thoth. Subsequently the two gods were worshipped as one in what had been the Temple of Thoth in Khemnu, which the Greeks called Hermopolis. Both Thoth and Hermes were gods of writing and of magic in their respective cultures. Thus, the Greek god of interpretive communication was combined with the Egyptian god of wisdom as a patron of astrology and alchemy. An account of how Hermes Trismegistus received the name “Thrice Great” is derived from the The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, wherein it is stated that he knew the three parts of the wisdom of the whole universe. The three parts of the wisdom are alchemy, astrology, and theurgy. Much of the importance of Hermeticism arises from its connection with the development of science during the time from 1300 to 1600 A.D. The prominence that it gave to the idea of influencing or controlling nature led many scientists to look to magic and its allied arts (e.g., alchemy, astrology) which, it was thought, could put Nature to the test by means of experiments. Consequently it was the practical aspects of Hermetic writings that attracted the attention of scientists.
18    The Pythia, commonly known as the Oracle of Delphi, was the name of any priestess throughout the history of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, located on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, beneath the Castalian Spring (the new priestess was selected after the death of the current priestess). The Pythia was widely credited for her prophecies inspired by Apollo. The Delphic oracle was established in the eighth century BC, although it may have been present in some form in Late Mycenaean times, from 1400 BC and was abandoned, and there is evidence that Apollo took over the shrine from an earlier dedication to Gaia. The last recorded response was given about 395 A.D. to Emperor Theodosius I, after he had ordered pagan temples to cease operation. During this period the Delphic Oracle was the most prestigious and authoritative oracle among the Greeks. The oracle is one of the best-documented religious institutions of the classical Greeks. Authors who mention the oracle include Aeschylus, Aristotle, Clement of Alexandria, Diodorus, Diogenes, Euripides, Herodotus, Julian, Justin, Livy, Lucan, Ovid, Pausanias, Pindar, Plato, Plutarch, Sophocles, Strabo, Thucydides, and Xenophon.
19    Ulysses Evert McGill is a character from the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a 2000 comedy about three stumblebum convicts who escape to go on a quest for treasure and who meet various characters while learning where their real fortune lies in the 1930s Deep South. Directed by Joel Coen. Written by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen. Inspired by The Odyssey by Homer.
20    This is a subtle reference to the resurrection discussion at the beginning of the chapter: ...the descriptor with the most baggage.

Brian Orner