Nov 2, 2010

No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger


Mark Twain died a hundred years ago this year, and his final novel, No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger, was left unpublished at his death. My friend Bob from NYC recommended I read it, and since we’ve reached the mid-term of the 44th American president, I thought at least the numbers lined up. It also occurred to me that I was 44 years old when my ego “died”.

It’s an action/fantasy/gothic story set in medieval Austria, though with a time traveling wizard, plenty of 19th century America makes it into the tale as well. Twain was attempting to set out his metaphysical views, and it has plenty of fascinating little synchs, such as his Austrian villain was named Father Adolph, who’s character was based upon Twain’s unfavorable impression of Dr. Karl Lueger, leader of the anti-Jewish Christian Socialist Party and Burgermeister of Vienna.

The book contains Twain’s usual criticisms of organized religion and the futility of a dualistic, adversarial approach to reality.
“This version also introduces an idea Twain was toying with at the end of his life involving a duality of the "self", one being the "Waking Self" and the other being the "Dream Self". Twain explores these ideas through the use of "Duplicates", copies of the print shop workers made by No. 44.” --wikipedia
An odd dream of a few weeks ago pre-conditioned me to accept this idea: I had a vivid impression of being a captive patient in a hospital, and the doctors wanted me to go somewhere to get a needed treatment, but I steadfastly refused to go. I remember thinking of this treatment as being like in prison, and they wanted me to go back, and I did NOT want to go back! So they distracted me and suddenly jammed a hypo in my arm, which almost immediately put me to sleep, and as my subconscious self drifted off, my conscious self became awake.

Twain’s “Duplicates” had a very similar idea of the waking state - it was like prison, to be chained inside a rotting body of flesh, when they could be out exploring the galaxy at the speed of thought! According to Twain, I am indeed me, myself and I. (Thanks to the Happy Creatures for recently pointing out 111 symbolism).

In the end, 44 reveals himself to be a Shiva/Satan/Light Bringer character, who’s main purpose was to show August the deceptive illusions of his culture and his own mind, the teachings of the Catholic Church being the most egregious example. 44 teaches August about the dream nature of reality, that in fact there is no thing at the center of every particle and universe, except a mere thought. As August accepts this, even 44 begins to fade away, a creature of his own imagination.
"In a little while you will be alone in shoreless space, to wander its limitless solitudes without friend or comrade forever--for you will remain a thought, the only existent thought, and by your nature inextinguishable, indestructible. But I, your poor servant, have revealed you to yourself and set you free. Dream other dreams, and better!"
As another illusionary election comes to a close, I ponder the nature of duality and bi-partisan politics. How odd that at first the nation saw Obama as their savior, and now many see him as the devil incarnate. In the book, Twain's No. 44 impersonates a third-rate wizard in order to raise the wizard's standing amongst the locals. The wizard dressed the part and seemed to have a kind of mystical aura around him, though he had no actual magical powers, except when 44 was "playing the wizard".

Our own "44" is fond of playing the wizard, though he must privately wonder when something like the Norway Spiral occurs. Has Obama read Twain's dream novel? Does he know that the wizard is likely to be burned at the stake by an angry mob of villagers tea-partiers?
Row row row your boat
gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream.

-------------------------

Notes:

The Mysterious Number: "Mark Twain’s rationale for this arresting number-name is not certainly known, though there are some interesting clues, not the least of them being Twain’s early acquaintance with the two Levin boys in Hannibal. They were the first Jews he had ever seen, and they seemed to him ‘clothed invisibly in the damp and cobwebby mould of antiquity’. The youths of Hannibal JOKINGLY nick-named them ‘Twenty-two’, that is, ‘twice Levin’.”

"For Carl Jung, four or a multiple of four symbolized psychic wholeness. “The number forty-four would intensify this significance. (C. G. Jung, Man and His Symbols). Mark Twain’s work of course antedates Jung’s, however, Jung did not claim to have invented the signification of fourness, but only to have elucidated it as an abiding symbol of the whole personality, the greater Self that includes both the conscious and unconscious mind."

Mark Twain made an appearance in STNG - "Time's Arrow" and I recall that he deliberately left a pocket watch of his in the ground, to be found by people in the future. He also explicitly told us to seek him in his books. I wonder... was Samuel Clemens a time traveling shape shifter?

Very curious that I am experiencing difficulties with a 3D file called Orion 2 right now. Orion is the hunter.

A list of 44 meanings at Star Theory (scroll through conspiracy land to bottom).

8 comments:

startheory said...

Thanks for the link!

~Mysterious Stranger :P I

Alan Abbadessa, now Alan Green said...

Great post!

You've got to watch The Mysterious Stranger's temple destruction:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBGGAjMg9vw

This guy has the whole movie:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxIe2206oLU

Fascinating idea of Twain as a time-traveling shape shifter. I'm sure you know of his other famous time travel story:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Connecticut_Yankee_in_King_Arthur's_Court

Michael said...

You bet, Startheory. Pi!

Alan, after I saw your 111 mention, I was literally flooded with 111 synchs - the power of suggestion cannot be underestimated. I think that claymation scene was based off of the earlier version of The Mysterious Stranger that was based off of Twain's first manuscript and then heavily abridged and embroidered (much like the bible). The one I read was based off his third manuscript and according to the forward, not heavily edited, sort of like the dead sea scrolls... ;-)

There is one chapter when 44 makes the sun reverse direction and time go backwards (a biblical prophecy, I believe) and he makes a character say the previous paragraph completely backwards to illustrate the effect, and darn if I didn't flash on the Beatles and Helter Skelter. I'll bet that paragraph would yield some amazing sh*t if examined forensically.

I've not yet read the King Arthur story, but since Eleleth is deep into the Grail Legend at the moment, I figure I'll read it next. Mr. Twain (which means twin) might have some good ol' Yankee ingenuity stored up in there.

Christopher Knowles said...

Fascinating- I'll add this to the pile of must read books I've never heard of along with Huxleys' The Island. Cheers, Michael.

Devin said...

Michael --this is just so fascinating on so many levels!!!!!!!!!!!
thanks for the wonderful post and I will come back to it as there is much in it regarding Twain I didn't know and his 'synchs'!!!!
Obama has had a very strange and 'mysterious' presidency so far if you will:-)
I was once again fascinated (and at the same time repelled) by the left/right false paradigm/dichotomy as it of course sprung its ugly head this election cycle on forums, media well everywhere.
I still feel more than a bit of a fool for voting (back to almost always third party now haha) but I also don't have any illusions about it either.
There was a massive amount of rumors this week with regard to his trip to India etc. up to and including "is he evacuating" haha.
all the best in the world to you my friend!!!!

Michael said...

Devin, I was just thinking today how I hadn't heard anything from you in a very long while, and boom, here you are. Thanks so much for commenting!

Yea, I love me my Mark Twain. He's a national treasure.

startheory said...

Okay, so 44 is also DD, which is the bra size referenced by the infamous Reverend Manning in regards to Obama's marketing campaign. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--xSJU7Ew7U

PI-MP

Michael said...

Ha! 44 is also $$ - snake eyes.

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