Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Potemkin Mosaic

The Potemkin MosaicThe Potemkin Mosaic by Mark Teppo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There is no linearity to Mark Teppo's incredible The Potemkin Mosaic. If you are looking for a straightforward plot and real-world logic, look elsewhere. This will sear your eyes out of their sockets. This is the realm of dream, of astral fields, of the hidden tunnels of gnosis and the far-depths of psychology.

Perhaps we should start with the book's blurb:

TH3y want you to be TH3iR agent.
Harry wants you to be free.
Nothing is what it seems, but everything herein actually happened.

Ten years ago, dream doctor Harry Potemkin realized someone was editing his identity, in much the same way that he ventured into the minds of his psychologically damaged patients. In order to discover how he was being changed, he started a dream journal. He also built a lexicon, a persistent record of the symbolic markers that would enable him to remap his consciousness should it become severely fragmented.

Ten years ago, Trinity Pharmacopoeia was about to release a new neurological nootropic called Atramabor, a drug that would revolutionize how we sleep and dream. Teh first promotional commercial for Atramabor aired once, and was then mysteriously pulled. Lawsuits, contending that subliminal messaging was hidden within the thirty second spot, were filed. Within six months, Trinity Pharmacopoeia canceled all plans to release Atramabor. A year later, the company dissolved.

Harry Potemkin never woke up from his dreams. In fact, there is no evidence he ever existed.

Nor are there any copies of the Atramabor commercial, though there are documented interviews with individuals who claim to have been changed by what they saw. All corporate records regarding Trinity Pharmacopoeia have been expunged from state and federal databases.

And yet, the battle between Potemkin and Trinity is very real. It continues to this day. TH3y know he can stop them, unless TH3y get to him first.

The Potemkin Mosaic is Harry's exploration of his fragmented dream psyche. This is the only record of his identity.

TH3y want you to read it, because this is the only way Harry can be caught.

And this is as straightforward as anything gets with this . . . novel? Yes, novel. Originally produced at the sadly defunct Farrago's Wainscot (where your's truly had a few pieces of fiction published), The Potemkin Mosaic, in its original incarnation, was a hypertext novel of incredible depth and complexity. When I first heard that Mark was going to try to wrestle this non-linear virtual text into something less non-linear, in physical format, I was skeptical that it could even be done. But he's pulled it off with panache.

It would be one thing, a minor miracle, if Teppo pulled off the structural heist alone. But he's gone way beyond that. The prose is compelling, the subject matter an esotericist's dream . . . literally. Take, for example, the entry on page 163 entitled "Cage"(with the zodiac symbol for Aquarius underneath - the book is full of symbols and interesting typography):


"Black Iron Prison" is the term you'll hear used by the modern seeker of gnosis. It's a reference to the Archonic Construction of the Universe, a theorythat multi-dimensional intelligences are preventing us from realizing our full spiritual and cognitive potential by locking our minds in these psychic prisons.

There are a number of analogous mythological scenarios strewn throughout history, so as a cosmological definition, the Archonic Construction of the Universe is as good as any. It benefits from being connected to Philip K. Dick's paranoid visions, which any competent oneironaut appreciates.

Modern culture suffers from a lack of decent mythological canon. We should make our own, because, really, we are children of the 3rd millennium. It's time we believed in our own gods.

Which brings me back to the concept of cages. We continue to be trapped by second-millennial constructs. Hell, even the apocalyptic terror of the end of the first millennium still pervades our psyches. We're still too busy looking over our shoulders to realize the first apocalypse of the third millennium is rapidly approaching.

That's another story. I'll get to it later.

Cages. No man can ever be imprisoned against his Will. Crowley knew this once, though he forgot it shortly after the other initiates and adepts started fawning over his "transmission from teh desert." Yes, you can cage the flesh and you can even lock the mind into a cell, but the Will is unbreakable.

Jung gave it a different name - "individuation" - but didn't allow himself the freedom to imbue it with any lasting power. Freud (the last black magician of the twentieth century, frankly) had managed to bind Jung tightly enough that the Swiss psychologist never truly realized he had been . . . caged.

Now, you could just turn the page and continue, reading the entry on Casual Disarray (with the symbol for Virgo under it), but what's this? To the side of paragraph 4 is a reference:

* fragmentary
p. 209

And to the side of the last paragraph:

* burnblack
p. 26

I like the side of burnblack. Let's turn there. It reads (starting with a triangle character, which I'm not able to replicate here because my html skills suck):

"Burnblack, o falling star!"

I've tried to find the source of this quote, but it has eluded me. Like a number of the mythological and symbolic elements within my dreams, I'm starting to believe it as an admixture. There is a fusion going on in my head, and I can't quite tell if it is a matter of too much time in the Oneiroi or too many days and nights of being under the influence of narcotics, hallucinogens, and other psychotropic compounds. My head is already warped enough.

More likely,
burnblack is of archaic origin, possibly some lost bit of biblical apocrypha. A reference to the fallen angels. Or maybe the first of the fallen ones.

Quomodo cecidisti de caelo, lucifer, fili aurorae?

How else would you describe the back of a being who was not burned by the fire of his wings, but was burned by the fire of his fall? And, as my hand unconsciously strayed as I was writing down my dream: "sun-darkened (burnblack, o falling star!)" If God is the sun and you have been cast away from his grace, would not "sun-darkened" accurately describe your state?

To be burnblack is to be fallen. But falling is necessary to find the path to ascension. At least, one must be willing to fall - one must understand the fall.

Quod est inferius est sicut quod est superius, et quot est superius est sicut quod est inferius, ad perpetranda miracula rei unius.

Finally, some use for those two stifling years of Latin classes - from before the experiments and the drugs. Not all of it was wasted time.

Again, in the margins, we are given the choice to seek out "labyrinth", "fire", or "descent", with corollary page numbers. Or, you could just continue reading, going to the facing page titled "IV The Library" and attempt to forge a linear path through this labyrinth. But you won't. Your curiosity will pull you to another side entry and you will travel down the rabbit hole until you feel that you, yourself, are "living the dream" of Harry Potemkin. Oh, and incidentally, for those who were wondering, and I know some of you were wondering, this book was published the same year that David Bowie's Blackstar was released, though the original hypertext novel was published nine years earlier. Methinks they were on the same wavelength, if not tapping into the same esoteric substance.

Potemkin reaches into the ethereal, grasps its strands, and becomes enmeshed in the mists of dream, puncturing the veil, from time to time, in sudden moments of startling lucidity, only to find that beyond that veil is another and another and another. It is an ambitious work, a labyrinthine carnival that leaves the reader clutching at the ever shifting walls of reality and perception - the author's, the reader's, and that of Potemkin himself. Read, wander, lose yourself, and try to find yourself again. Sleep easy, if you can.

The original hypertext novel is still available here, but I strongly recommend you pick up the physical book, which is both a little more manageable and a little more unruly than the original, in good ways. Good luck. See you on the other side.

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