Free Jonestown by Wilson Harris

Book: Jonestown by Wilson Harris Read Free Book Online
Authors: Wilson Harris
    ‘I am no ill-begotten son of a French Catholic ghost,’ I cried. ‘I am Mr Mageye’s South American pupil. He is my magus. I wish he were my father. But I – a nameless orphan really – must respect the wishes of my poor mother who saw herself on the Cross as the bride of a slave-owning, masquerading, divine imperialist.’
    Having nourished itself on comic divine flesh-and-blood the apparition of Mr Mageye was able to feed my imagination in turn.
    He stepped from his coffin into a classroom in San Francisco College and looked across the water to the famous prison of Alcatraz.
    Why are prisons famous? What secrets do they keep?
    Are they the abode of apparitions across the ages, legendary kings of crime, legendary Napoleons, Bastilles, legendary pirates knighted by queens?
    My eye flicked into Mr Mageye’s Camera and I saw the prison of Devil’s Isle, French Guiana. A prisoner or Old God was housed there. He was as old as Quetzalcoatl (the most ancient king of the Americas), he was as young as the French Revolution.
    ‘Kingship is a sphere within us,’ said Mr Mageye, ‘that dazzles and tricks our senses again and again. We hunger for romance, or chivalry, or knights in shining armour, or Scandal (with a capitalS), or pageantry (with a common p as processions line the streets).
    ‘But all this is an evasion of the complex necessity for kingship. At the core of kingship resides a true embattled reality that we forfeit or lose sight of at our peril. Kingship witnesses to the agonizing problematic of freedom, the gift of freedom to ourselves within ourselves yet bestowed upon us by some incalculable design in heaven and upon earth …’
    I raised my hand, but Mr Mageye rushed on, a rush yet a peculiar deliberation – ‘I know, I know… Freedom is seen as the achievement of the common people …’
    ‘Is it not?’ I demanded.
    ‘At the heart of the common people exists an invisible fortress in which a Prisoner or Old God or King is held as a guarantee, a half-compulsive , half-spiritual guarantee that some principle lives in the Primitive mind (surviving Primitive archetype) to sift the problematic resources of freedom.’
    ‘I do not follow,’ I said. But in myself I knew or thought I knew.
    ‘The Prisoner or Old God places a question-mark against the extravagant gift of freedom. Is freedom anarchy? Is freedom reserved for the strong, does freedom nurture crime, does it come when we are not ready for it? At what age are we equipped to bear the burden of freedom? Do we need to cultivate wholly different philosophies of the Imagination to bring us on a wave of the future from which to discern how free or unfree we were in the past and still are in the present, how just or unjust to others we remain, how prone to exploit ourselves and others in the name of high-sounding lies?’
    I could not help voicing a protest – ‘Kings need to be forced, do they not, into granting freedom to their subjects?’
    ‘And they pay a terrible price,’ said Mr Mageye, ‘their heads roll. Force – in such a context – may be an explosion of conscience in the King or Old God himself. He knows without quite knowing (he knows in the collective subconscious and unconscious) that he has failed in the problematic authority that he exercises. He is as much condemned as self-condemned. And without that tension of visionary, interior condemnation and trial by others at the heart ofcomposite epic, epic populace, epic king, art dies, philosophy dies, faith in truth perishes. Freedom needs to weigh, examine, re-examine its far-flung proportions which radiate from a core of the Imagination, it needs to promote a variety of cautions in the body politic, freedom is not a gross or even a subtle indulgence of public appetite; or else it deteriorates into cynical diplomacy, it becomes a tool, a machine, a gravy train, a sponsor of a rat-race.’
    I was appalled and aghast at all this. I felt as if I had been dealt a blow by an

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