I guess you could say it's a joke if you're fishing for the thirteen parts of Osiris in the Euphrates river. Isis and the lost penis of Osiris are the midpoint and the American dollar bill the end. You get suspicious about all obelisks and domes as species of impregnation of the apotheosis gods, but put that aside for more pressing matters. As though it were in the news, however too late, way late by any reckoning of Joel Garreau (Radical Evolution), chapter eight, published in 2005. Oddly enough Garreau is now Professor of Law at ASU where we hope his office is not near the Templeton School of Religion and its transhuman projects. His account of the Senate Appropriations Inquiry of 2002, "The staffers went down the list of DARPA's projects, found the ones with titles that sounded frighteningly as though they involved the creation of a master race of superhumans, and zeroed out their budgets from the defense appropriations bill." The PDF is here of the NSF and Department of Commerce report.
Should we take the crack in the Washington Monument in the recent earthquake as comfort that some of this talismatic symbolism has slowed, that the cracked phallus has lost some magical power? Either that or the Monument is closed for terminal experimentation and Isis has her organ back.
The college I went to had gargoyles plastered all over the outside and inside of their main. Gargoyles down marble balustrades, gargoyles on the corners, stone heads with mouths open is if in speech, emphatic speech, something one had to bear up with in the trials of education. Nobody ever mentioned them. They were plastered all over the monk's quarters in York, England and Notre Dame in Paris as if the stone carvers either had a sense of humor or a bad breakfast. That college named its lit mag The Gargoyle and that is where both first fiction and poets appeared, gargoyles surmounting the cover. Similar ugly, bestial, thought beasts ornament all the temples of the world. If you buy they are downspouts, to project water through the open mouth from the roof away from the building, water spewer is the literal meaning of the French original gargouille, "throat. " La Gargouille is said to have been the typical dragon with batlike wings, a long neck, and the ability to breathe fire from its mouth. They called the mascot of this college the Dragons.
Of course downspouts mask the utilities that say nothing of the mystic powers of downspouts which take the form of all sorts of animals, chimeras. St. Bernard of Clairvaux was famous for speaking out against gargoyles. What are these fantastic monsters doing in the cloisters before the eyes of the brothers as they read? What is the meaning of these unclean monkeys, these strange savage lions, and monsters? To what purpose are here placed these creatures, half beast, half man, or these spotted tigers? I see several bodies with one head and several heads with one body. Here is a quadruped with a serpent's head, there a fish with a quadruped's head, then again an animal half horse, half goat... Surely if we do not blush for such absurdities, we should at least regret what we have spent on them.
There is no end to the mythic imaginary animals and chimeras used in this way. Everything from the slope of the roof is common to Shinto and Buddhist temples to ward off evil. The gorgon on Greek temples, the eye "doorways and windows of buildings were felt to be particularly vulnerable." Mythological but demythologized content neutral writers see more the decorative than the sinister. Pre-Transparanoid: A Natural History of Gargoyles concludes gargoyles of Gothic architecture are of Celtic origin, " Giants, biting creatures and figures with protruding genitals" on cathedrals are supposed to ward off evil spirits, which to that college did and do not exist. Neither faculty, college or deans mentioned them. who knows if they believed. Absurd idea.
I think that was when I first fell prey to something besides the ordinary human nature which is prone to be wild, found myself swallowed by something greater than the experience I had in the protected environs of college, church, family, not that I knew it, you don't have to know you are hunted to be prey, but if you survive you know. Later I heard stories of missionaries to China or India or wherever who encountered forces greater than themselves that made an impression. America they said was not a favorite of these perceptions and they didn't have them. It was like camping alone in the wilderness with only a fire, compared to the mall of America where security guards were supposed to provide. I had seen the world's gargoyles in the British museum, all over the antiquities Dept, atop Hammurabi's gates, flying winged forms of victory, curling snakes. Come to think of it I don't remember seeing any in Soviet occupied East Europe. Maybe they cut them down like the statute of Hussein, but it is obvious that the cross is used for the same purpose to ward off evil as it used to be on the windshields of cars.
Photograph by AE Reiff