Editor’s note: Anyone who has read Michael’s “The Abominable Snowman” knows that he can distort matters into a bit of ridicule. The following piece seems at first glance somewhat far-fetched, but is in fact a discourse on our great humanist inheritance and the cold-hearted tyranny of Mammon pitted against it. Whereby he comes to the conclusion that the latter might have overstretched itself and so precipitated its own demise. A hope that most of us will happily endorse, I’m sure.
The Humps and Palefeet, a gruff and unkempt sideline of the Germanic Teutons who initiated Rome’s decline by rubbing out Quinctilius Varus and his legions in the Teutoburg Forest, dwelt before and during the Common Era some ten leagues downriver from present day Hamelin. Of a parochial temperament, did they espouse an accordingly meagre pantheon composed of only one deity, the Universal black Hen, who had laid one Egg only, our Globe. Though not exactly round as in fact it nearly is, was this an observation already far more accurate than the one held by numerous Popes for many centuries afterwards. Yet it had one serious flaw, namely the assumption that the Egg must have a yolk which they deemed to be pure gold. This was the reason why they dug extensive tunnels and ducts into the Wiehen mountains, though luckily never deep enough to burn their fingers. But they didn’t find anything either, a clear lesson for those of their dumb descendants who believe, as the proverb goes, that gold is the yolk of the Egg.
Similar conjectures were entertained by the Pygmies of the Upper Congo basin, with the difference that here, due to a slightly altered visual angle, the Worldlayer was an ostrich.
Gold apart, is it a historically accepted surmise that our forbears, blessed with less information but more fantasy, wisdom and poesy, were fairly awed by the Egg’s mystery. How was it possible, they asked themselves astonished, that out of a chalky wafer-thin receptacle and its sticky content real life could irresistibly break forth? Did God regale the humble observer here with a clear and overwhelming proof of His omnipotent presence? Could it be, what an outrageous thought, that He Himself hid as an eternal spark within the thin shell? Were God and Egg of the same Essence?
Since indeed they are, does it surprise little if some of antiquity’s most important personages have been born on the maternal side out of an Egg. Take the Tien, an unspecific arch-bird who dropped her Egg on the virginal ocean and from which hatched the first human being, a Chinese. Able to breed long before anybody else, is this of course the explanation why his offspring swarms across our overcrowded planet in such a vast number.
Brahma, an Indian Deity, was born from a golden Egg and afterwards created the world. A genesis seriously challenged by some Darwinian eggheads who, on the basis of evolutionary mechanics, insist that it should have been the other way round.
Ra, a falcon-headed God of the Egyptians who sailed the Sun Disc every day in his ship of papyrus from horizon to horizon, originated out of an Egg. An amazingly beautiful precept, as everybody agrees, though hotly contested by this cerebral cockroach Christopher Hitchens and his band of mental midgets, on the grounds that since there isn’t a God there can’t be an Egg.
The Dioscuri Castor and Pollux, roving twins of Hellenic provenance with a predilection to abduct voluptuous and extremely naked damsels as seen in Ruben’s marvellous canvas, are a scientifically interesting example of the Egg birth, because their mother was the calm and beautiful Leda. Seduced by Zeus himself in the disguise of a swan, must she have been fairly overwhelmed not so much by his song but his majestic grace. Since he commanded, genetically speaking, the best references possible, contained the egg laid by her not only one yolk but two. The resulting twins, by the way, stand symbolically for an intrinsic psychological phenomenon, namely the lifelong battle of our Inner Angel with our Inner Devil. Both can be found, expressively sculptured, on the façade of Christendom’s most artistic font of wisdom, Notre Dame de Paris. Or, by extension, as Alice’s Tweedledee and Tweedledum, comrades-in-arms ofHumpty-Dumpty the Eggman and His Most Illustrious Excellency the White Knight, Grandmaster of past and present Knights Templars. The same perception is expressed in the Far-Eastern Yin and Yang, a more cloudy system of thought that pales somewhat by comparison but is much en vogue with certain soulful minds, usually longhaired and holding a joint in both hands, who have bravely declared Christ’s message as obsolete.
The old Greeks saw the heavenly dome as the inside of an eggshell and themselves, a most perplexing observation, as unborn or unfinished within. Whereby the shell consisted of seven layers or spheres which needed to be cracked one after the other in order to attain Enlightenment and Eternal Life. To describe exactly of what mental leapfrog each layer consists would bust the scope of this little discourse, provided it could be expressed in any case.
Our Christian custom to hide painted Eggs for our children on Easter Sunday is based on an old lore where the resurrection of our gentle Saviour, His opening of the sarcophagus, is compared to the birth of a chicken. Or vice versa. The search as such is of course inspired by the ancient Science of Alchemy, mankind’s most sublime discipline, and its contention that the Sacred Egg, once found, will eventually turn into the Stone of the Wise.
In the world of the Fine Arts the Egg has been used in manifold variations, though always with the same philosophical meaning. William Blake’s (1757 – 1827) little Angel has just done what we all dream of, namely breaking out of its confinement and gazing with a wondrous expression at the World as if it sees her for the first time in all her splendour.
In Hieronymus Bosch’s (1450 – 1516) triptych ‘The Garden of Earthly Delight’ can it be found in the absolute centre of this fantastic and incredibly complex extravagance.
A particularly fine example of using the Egg as an artistic metaphor is ‘The Oberried Altar’ by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497 – 1543). There it shines by night as a pale moon and blazes during the day as a bright sun from the sky, and the sensitive beholder may know, just as the poor shepherds or the wise Magi, which Sovereign, what kind of Idea it serves as a radiant crown.
Piero della Francesca (1420 – 1492) has it floating, in one of the most grandiose representations ever painted, above the Virgin and Her Child. The fact that it is suspended on a thin thread from a large seashell, namely the one in which Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love, was born, elevates the theme to a metaphor of far-flung significance. Because here merge Hellenic myth with Christian canon into a
resplendent Alchemist doctrine, meaning in fact that the highest possible wisdom attainable within a human lifespan must necessarily be the Wisdom of Love.
These are just a few interesting observations as to the use and essence of that divine invention called Egg. They might help you to recall the power of expression, awareness of beauty, depth of thought and feeling which our incomparable Indo-European culture has accumulated in its long and glorious history.
The Zero, a human invention, has the form of an Egg and might be easily confused with the latter if seen from a one-dimensional plane only. But that’s about it. Because if perceived realistically, an Egg contains so very obviously the divine spark of life in all its radiance, beauty and splendour, whereas the Zero stands for an icy, implacable and nocturnal emptiness, be it on paper, of the mind or the heart. Which is the reason why someone with a bagful of Zeros can come along and scoff at you and the Egg you hold in your hand, and tell you that in case he feels like it, he can buy all the Eggs in the world. Wherewith he admits to worship Zeros only, and reveals accordingly his terrible deficiency, namely that he hasn’t the faintest idea what Eggs are all about.
Let us take a look at the Zero’s history. It was dreamt up by the same mental acrobat who invented Chess, that noble game. Which I have tried, long ago, against a rather dim boy half my age who managed to beat me repeatedly, and which I deem in consequence as unsavoury if not repulsive. As to its inventor, he turned up one day at the fabled court of Golconda in faraway Aryanistan where his invention caused a small sensation among the emperor and his entourage. Persuaded to buy it, the wily monarch wanted to know its price. Very little, answered the mental acrobat who had come all the way from Sodom on the sumptuous banks of the Dead Sea. Just one grain of wheat with an exponent number made up from the game’s sixty four squares. The emperor, who understood as much about exponent numbers as any decent Christian, namely near to nothing, added everything up and arrived at sixty five, which he found so moderate a demand that he put a few sacks on top out of sheer generosity. But a decent mathematician will tell us of course that the quantity of grains owed to the acrobat were truly astronomical. Knowing this, the latter had long since invented the Zero and thus could count each grain properly, and in due course arrived at the final bill which added up to a debt as gargantuan as that of the United States right now.
A fait accompli that made the emperor’s bursar wring his hands in despair, but could not be reneged on because those were times when Christian ethics and tolerance stood large on the agenda and honour had still a meaning. Another reason, it must be admitted, was of course the fact that the emperor and his advisers did at first not fully understand where they had themselves landed in.
The acrobat meanwhile invited his uncle and granduncle from Gomorrah, and all three set up an off-shore company that managed the newly won riches. By adding plenty of empty Zeros and thus tricking people out of their savings, houses and jobs, did they increase it even more. Soon they owned most of Golconda, had the upright politicians exchanged for corrupt ones, started proxy wars and ran a secret army of assassins. This worked well for a while, but could of course not last. Because, to tell you the truth and you better agree with me, it would have been against God’s intent. Or better, His blueprint for mankind’s eventual though distant salvation. What facilitated the acrobat’s final downfall was his arrogance, his blatant disregard of the general feeling of distrust, disgust, even hate, which his evil antics had brought about. Thus one day the General of the Imperial Guard had a tête-a-tête with the Chief Astrologer during which they discussed an interesting question, namely if one must stick to one’s honour if honour isn’t part of the other party’s vocabulary. After some serious debate they arrived at a morally sound conclusion, to the effect that they advised the emperor to pull himself together and do his job. Which led to a thorough criminal investigation, the acrobat’s indictment, the confiscation of his assets and his expulsion to Sodom and that of his associates to Gomorrah respectively.
Thereafter matters got back to normal, and henceforth a cabbage changed hands again for three apples, twenty loafs of bread were sufficient to buy a pair of sandals, and a future spouse, depending on her warmth and skills, could be had for an adequate number of horses and poultry.
As to the Zero, it was decided that a few might be a decent cushion to sleep on. But if they were ever again to multiply into astronomical dimensions at the hands of clever acrobats, the latter would be strung up from the highest palm trees the empire had to offer. Which is the reason why usury was regarded from then on and for many centuries afterwards as a deadly sin. A credo that begins to gain ground again in present days, particularly after it becomes more and more clear to what extent our latter-day money acrobats have corrupted and destroyed the moral and financial fibre of entire countries and their societies.
Thus we may today not witness the final consolidation of the Zero as a Global Tyrant, but its descent into the gutter where it in fact belongs.
Michael Colhaze (email him) is a pen name.