Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Point of No Return; Our Games of Make-Believe are at an End

Once upon a time all we had to do was discern the meaning of a simple tale. Laying out the path for the way back home has always been the intended goal for The Story of the Grail. Yet we’ve wandered so far beyond the original story that even while clinging to threads—woven of details—the way back is obscured in a labyrinth that grows with the slightest thought; and now this . . .

Unlike the other works that have come into play, The Phantom of the Opera isn't concerned with sharing insights into Eleanor of Aquitaine’s well guarded past. This new contributor is different on so many levels. Indeed, the novel written by Gaston Leroux in 1911 describes “five stories” beneath the stage of the Opera House . . . and “seventeen stories” rising above it. If placed on a timeline, Leroux’s ghost tale was the first of the gemstone books to be published. But it is the last to reveal itself. In my mind this suggests we have maneuvered around a bend in this odyssey designed with automated trigger points that draw us closer to its conclusion. This is not the time however, to become complacent or succumb to a belief that the story will deliver us of its own accord. From every vantage point, The Phantom of the Opera is inflamed with passion and pivots on a choice between life and death.

If the woman who meticulously orchestrated the words woven through 9,234 lines of octosyllabic rhyming couplets—in order to reveal the truth—knew the truth of where her audience would be led, she would echo the words that Christine Daaé hurls at the Opera Ghost in the modern movie of The Phantom of the Opera: "I gave you my mind blindly!"

The collaboration of music and lyric by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart, and Richard Stilgoe, explores the strange affair of the phantom that Gaston Leroux introduced to the world—finely tuned to shed light on “a mystery never fully explained.”

In reality, The Phantom of the Opera is the story of the Bridegroom and his Bride—connected by details to the Fisher King's Manor House and the Wondrous Palace—all of which have been borrowed from a much older book. Taking everything into account, this spectral genius who works behind the scenes has been around for a very, very long time.

Specially contrived for today's audience, the movie is set in the year 1919 and begins as a public auction is getting underway. Forty-nine years have passed since that dreadful night when the Opera Populaire was destroyed. The Vicomte de Chagny arrives as a crippled old man and is wheeled into the building moments before the auctioneer describes a poster from the house’s own production of Hannibal. The auctioneer attempts to start the bidding at 10 francs. Nobody is interested. He lowers it to 5 and in quick pace 8 out bids 7. A wooden pistol goes at 15. And 30 francs—going once, going twice—takes the papier-mâché musical box, shaped like an organ barrel and adorned with a monkey dressed in Persian robes, which was discovered in the vaults of the theatre.

If you have been following the path of the story, the numbers that appear during the auction should be familiar . . . but numbers aren't what hold this collection of gems together.

As the Vicomte examines the musical box which he undoubtedly heard described many times, we’re privy to the thoughts that come to his mind.

“A collector’s piece indeed . . . every detail exactly as she said."

The auctioneer moves on. Lot 666 includes pieces from the chandelier involved in that famous disaster. “Perhaps we can frighten away the ghost of so many years ago with a little illumination.”

As if his words have the power to roll back time . . . the covers are lifted and dust and ash are tossed into the air as the old story comes to life before our very eyes. Tiered rows of red seats wait patiently for the audience while golden images of gods and goddesses take their place near the ceiling next to box seats trimmed in red velvet that are reserved for special guests.

The year is now 1870. The stage is humming with activity as rehearsal begins. New managers have assumed the task of overseeing operations and introduce the Vicomte de Chagny as the opera’s new patron. An accident befalls Carlotta, the prima donna, creating an opportunity for Christine Daaé to audition as her replacement. The Opera Ghost, who has been privately mentoring her, expresses his pleasure with her premiere performance by leaving a single red rose tied with a black ribbon in her dressing room. Christine’s attention however is given to the Vicomte de Chagny who she knows as Raoul and describes as her childhood sweetheart. They reminisce about stories they shared at her father’s house by the sea.

“Little Lotte thought: Am I fonder of dolls or of goblins or shoes . . . or of riddles or frocks . . . or chocolates.”

When Raoul departs to make arrangements for dinner, all of the candles in Christine’s room are put out by a draft that moves from the vanity, to the nightstand, to the candelabras. As darkness settles around her, the phantom begins his serenade:

“Flattering child,
you shall know me.
See why in shadow I hide!
Look at your face in the mirror—
I am there inside.”

She follows the voice of her “teacher”—the Angel of Music—into the mirror and is guided through secret passages to the phantom’s kingdom in the dungeon of the theatre, where all must pay homage to music. He sings to her:

“Nighttime sharpens, heightens each sensation.
Darkness stirs and wakes imagination.
Silently the senses abandon their defenses.
Slowly, gently, night unfurls its splendor.
Grasp it, sense it tremulous and tender.
Turn your face away from the garish light of day,
turn your thoughts away from cold, unfeeling light –
and listen to the music of the night.
Close your eyes and surrender to your darkest dreams!
Purge your thoughts of the life you knew before!
Close your eyes; let your spirit start to soar . . .
and you’ll live as you’ve never lived before.”

The movie is woven with visual details that capture scenes found within The Story of the Grail. When shown a likeness of herself dressed in a wedding gown, Christine faints and is carried to a bed nestled in a frame shaped like a falcon. Her two suitors clash with swords leaving drops of blood on the snow. A one-legged man is shown walking in front of the stairs of the opera house.

Three months pass without “incident” before the Opera Ghost, dressed in a crimson suit, makes a grand entrance in the midst of the New Year’s masquerade ball and delivers his finished score, Don Juan Triumphant. When the phantom approaches Christine, he sees that Raoul has given her a ring, which quickly shares a similar fate with that of the emerald ring in The Story of the Grail. The phantom grabs hold of the chain from which it hangs and tears it away as he informs all those who have ears to hear, “You belong to me!”

Raoul and the managers plot against the Opera Ghost. “We shall play his game. Perform his work. But remember, we hold the ace!”

The ghost has his own plan for how Don Juan Triumphant will play out. On the night of its performance, he strangles Piangi in order to appear on stage himself in a scene with Christine. When he comes from behind the curtain and begins to sing the song composed with this singular moment in mind, she recognizes the voice behind the mask. It is a voice that she can’t resist. Their fiery duet renders the opera cast, the stagehands, and Raoul awestruck.

“You have come here
in pursuit of your deepest urge,
in pursuit of that wish,
which till now has been silent.
Silent . . .
I have brought you,
that our passions may fuse and merge.
In your mind
you’ve already succumbed to me,
dropped all defenses
completely succumbed to me.
Now you are here with me—
no second thoughts,
you’ve decided.
Decided . . .
Past the point of no return—
no backward glances:
our games of make-believe are at an end.
Past all thought of “if” or “when”—
no use resisting.
Abandon thought
and let the dream descend.
What raging fire shall flood the soul?
What rich desire unlocks its door?
What sweet seduction lies before us?
Past the point of no return.
The final threshold.
What warm unspoken secrets
will we learn
beyond the point of no return.

Past the point of no return,
no going back now.
Our passion play has now at last begun.
Past all thought of right or wrong.
One final question:
How long shall we two wait before we’re one?
When will the blood begin to race,
the sleeping bud burst into bloom.
When will the flames at last consume us?

Past the point of no return.
The final threshold.
The bridge is crossed
so stand and watch it burn.
We’ve passed the point of no return.

Say you’ll share with me
one love, one lifetime.
Lead me, save me from my solitude.
Say you’ll want me
with you here
beside you.
Anywhere you go
let me go too.
Christine, that’s all I ask of . . .

As soon as the phantom professes his one true desire, Christine tears off his mask revealing his scarred and hideous face to all that are present. Aghast, he halts the performance, releases the rope that holds the humungous chandelier above the audience and leaps off the platform with Christine in his arms. They fall through the air, dropping through a circle of fire—a prop strategically located and centered over a trap door on the stage floor—as the theatre itself becomes engulfed in flames.

Once they are in the phantom’s dungeon, he returns the ring he took from her. But an unparalleled opportunity arises and Christine is forced to make a choice between life with the phantom or death for Raoul.

The Opera Ghost emphatically reiterates, “THIS IS THE POINT OF NO RETURN!”

In a whirl of emotions that begin with fear and transform to hate, then pity for this creature of darkness, Christine eventually finds compassion as she sings: “God give me courage to show you, you are not alone.”

An act of genuine love diffuses the situation. Before this scene is over, Christine removes the ring from her finger and places it in the palm of the phantom's hand, as a token, before leaving him to his solitude.

When the story returns to the year 1919, the Vicomte de Chagny is traveling in a vehicle along a straight and narrow road. He arrives at the cemetery and insists on standing on his own two legs to deliver the papier-mâché musical box to Christine’s grave. As he turns to leave, he notices a single red rose, adorned with the familiar ring, tied together with a black ribbon lying on the ground next to her gravestone. Raoul shudders in realization. The Bridegroom has returned to claim his Bride.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rendition of The Phantom of the Opera is only half of the story. It’s the half that the “spectral genius” working behind the scenes would like the audience to keep close to their heart. The other side of this ghost tale is capable of sending shivers through the most defiant spirits; it’s the half that portends an unparalleled event, IN REALITY, with life or death ramifications for the audience.

In the year 1911, Gaston Leroux claimed “the ghost” was real, and he set out to prove it. The Frenchman used the novel to narrate his personal investigation into certain mysterious events that were discovered when he ransacked the archives of the Opera House. His was a tale contrived from sources others have been unable to verify such as the "Memoirs of a Manager." His work also relies upon a journal maintained by a man known only as the Persian—a gentleman who shared a history with “the ghost” and was familiar with his modus operandi.

However, it is the details that Leroux incorporated into the sixth chapter of The Phantom of the Opera that require our immediate consideration. In both the movie and the novel, the Opera Ghost demands that Box Five be reserved for his personal use during all performances. The new managers are skeptical about the existence of this “ghost” and do their best to ignore his requests.

An excerpt from Chapter VI: A Visit to Box Five

We left M. Firmin Richard and M. Armand Moncharmin at the moment when they were deciding "to look into that little matter of Box Five."

Leaving behind them the broad staircase which leads from the lobby outside the managers' offices to the stage and its dependencies, they crossed the stage, went out by the subscribers' door and entered the house through the first little passage on the left. Then they made their way through the front rows of stalls and looked at Box Five on the grand tier. They could not see it well, because it was half in darkness and because great covers were flung over the red velvet of the ledges of all the boxes.

They were almost alone in the huge, gloomy house; and a great silence surrounded them. It was the time when most of the stage-hands go out for a drink. The staff had left the boards for the moment, leaving a scene half set. A few rays of light, a wan, sinister light, that seemed to have been stolen from an expiring luminary, fell through some opening or other upon an old tower that raised its pasteboard battlements on the stage; everything, in this deceptive light, adopted a fantastic shape. In the orchestra stalls, the drugget covering them looked like an angry sea, whose glaucous waves had been suddenly rendered stationary by a secret order from the storm phantom, who, as everybody knows, is called Adamastor.* MM. Moncharmin and Richard were the shipwrecked mariners amid this motionless turmoil of a calico sea. They made for the left boxes, plowing their way like sailors who leave their ship and try to struggle to the shore. The eight great polished columns stood up in the dusk like so many huge piles supporting the threatening, crumbling, big-bellied cliffs whose layers were represented by the circular, parallel, waving lines of the balconies of the grand, first and second tiers of boxes. At the top, right on top of the cliff, lost in M. Lenepveu's copper ceiling, figures grinned and grimaced, laughed and jeered at MM. Richard and Moncharmin's distress. And yet these figures were usually very serious. Their names were Isis, Amphitrite, Hebe, Pandora, Psyche, Thetis, Pomona, Daphne, Clytie, Galatea and Arethusa. Yes, Arethusa herself and Pandora, whom we all know by her box, looked down upon the two new managers of the Opera, who ended by clutching at some piece of wreckage and from there stared silently at Box Five on the grand tier.

I have said that they were distressed. At least, I presume so.

*Adamastor is the storm spirit found in South African literature

The entire text of chapter six is only two and a half pages in length and much of what is described sheds no light on the author’s investigation. Yet in a single paragraph Gaston Leroux manages to secure the phantom’s tale to ancient stories that have crossed our path as well as touch upon—as Carlotta would say—these things that “do happen” and keep happening in reality.

My blog “In A World Gone Upside Down” didn’t include the fact that Alexander Selkirk, the marooned sailor who inspired the novel Robinson Crusoe and who became attached to the only thread that connected the earthquake in Chile to the earthquake in Haiti, was eventually buried at sea off the coast of Africa. I’m mentioning this detail now because it suddenly has significance. The thread spun solely of the word maroon . . . crystallized when Pat Robertson, the Christian evangelist, made a comment suggesting that the Haitians were being punished for a pact they made with the devil two hundred years ago.

A more complete history of the Haitian people tells a different story. However, in the original telling of The Phantom of the Opera, Christine reveals her voice for the first time with a few passages from Romeo and Juliet and soars with superhuman notes when singing in the prison scene and the final trio in Faust—an opera that tells the story of a man who made a pact with the devil. Actually, Faust comes into play three times in Gaston Leroux’s novel: Chapter II “The New Margarita” captures Christine’s first performance; Chapter VII “Faust and What Followed” tells of the night Carlotta croaks like a toad, which according to the phantom is what triggers the chandelier to fall; and Chapter XIII “A Master-Stroke of the Trap Door Lover” includes Christine’s final performance and also a repeat of Faust. On this night, Christine sings with all her heart and soul just before an incident occurs that eventually leads to the discovery of the terrible deed the phantom has planned.

I should add that when this crisis with Christine erupts in the midst of Faust, all of the people in the theatre are abuzz with what happened, except for the managers who are preoccupied with an incident a month earlier—involving the “ghost”—during which they lost a large sum of money. I mention this because details from The Phantom of the Opera have already begun to find their way into articles describing events in reality. Should the details from chapter six follow suit, there is one event of unparalleled proportion waiting to happen off the coast of Africa. Specifically: a volcano with a tentative grasp on a cliff that could bring about an ocean in turmoil.

Ian Gurney, journalist, broadcaster and author, has described the possibilities that would follow the next eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano in the Canary Islands, a portion of which follows:

". . . the destruction in the United Kingdom will be as nothing compared to the devastation reeked on the eastern seaboard of the United States. Dr. Day claims that the Mega Tsunami will generate a wave that will be inconceivably catastrophic. He says: “It will surge across the Atlantic at 500 miles per hour in less than seven hours, engulfing the whole U.S. east coast with a wave almost two hundred feet high—higher than Nelson's Column—sweeping away everything in its path up to 20 miles inland. Boston would be hit first, followed by New York, then all the way down the coast to Miami, the Caribbean and Brazil.” Millions would be killed, and as Dr. Day explains: “It's not a question of ‘if’ Cumbre Vieja collapses, it's simply a question of ‘when.’”
(For the complete article visit: )

According to the phantom, there are no more questions of “if” or “when.”

Having spent a fair amount of time contemplating what all of this means . . . should Cumbre Vieja erupt in the near future and cause the cliff to fall, a wave—a beast—would rise in the ocean. It could be an unprecedented catastrophe, unparalleled with anything the modern world has witnessed . . . or it could provide the perfect conclusion for the unfinished story, depending on how we respond.

There’s Always a Choice

In the novel, the phantom goes by the name Erik, but the Persian tells us he is known in other parts of the world as “the trap door lover.” It is a trap door that allows the Persian and Raoul to temporarily escape Erik’s torture chamber after being locked inside for what seemed like forever. They drop into a dark chamber and come upon rows of barrels and barrels and more barrels. Knowing that Erik enjoys wine, the Persian taps into one of them hoping they can quench their thirst only to discover it’s filled with gun powder. Above them, Christine is a hostage whose future hinges on a choice and a deadline . . . and the pair suddenly comprehends the gravity of the situation:

“Ah, what was the time? . . . For, after all, eleven o’clock tomorrow evening might be now, might be this very moment! Who could tell the time? We seemed to have been imprisoned in that hell for days . . . for years . . . since the beginning of the world. Perhaps we should be blown up then and there! Ah, a sound! A crack!”

They rush back through the trap door into the torture chamber and try to calculate the time, but are incapable of reasoning. If only they could see the face of a watch.

Behind the wall, they can hear Christine and Erik talking. On the mantelpiece, he has placed two small caskets. One is embellished with a scorpion and the other a grasshopper, both imitated in Japanese bronze. Christine must choose between them. Initially, Erik doesn’t tell her which of the two will commit her to a life with him in marriage or . . . the alternative:

“The monster had given her until eleven o'clock in the evening. He had chosen his time well. There would be many people, many ‘members of the human race,’ up there, in the resplendent theater. What finer retinue could be expected for his funeral? He would go down to the tomb escorted by the whitest shoulders in the world, decked with the richest jewels.”

Christine’s final decision is based entirely on trust, but it doesn’t come easy:

“If, in two minutes, mademoiselle, you have not turned the scorpion, I shall turn the grasshopper . . . and the grasshopper, I tell you hops jolly high!”

The terrible silence began anew. The Vicomte de Chagny, realizing that there was nothing left to do but pray, went down on his knees and prayed. As for the Persian, his blood beat so fiercely that he had to hold both hands against his heart, lest it should burst.

The Genius behind the Story

The beauty of our situation is that the genius behind it all has provided guidance every step of the way. Each book that has joined the gemstone has brought something beneficial in terms of the larger story that's unfolding.

Forrest Gump provided the map the path would follow. The Da Vinci Code was an exercise in looking at words and situations with multiple meanings or possibilities—one of which would lead to a dead-end versus the other which opened up a new path. The Last Templar introduced the idea of an ancient decoder that was used to decipher an equally ancient document. It also led to a reminder that the last thing out of Pandora’s Box was Hope. Love Happens pulled in one of Eleanor's prior tales, The Knight of the Cart. The best advice this tale offered came in its Epilogue: add nothing more to what's been provided and take nothing away. The movie Love Happens acted out words and ideas in the same way that Ezekiel did in the Bible. Within weeks of its arrival to this odyssey destined to raise the consciousness of the Western world, the city of Concepción was raised 6 feet in elevation and pushed 10 feet to the west.

Gaston Leroux’s contribution is his penchant for making a case and providing a viable conclusion. According to his novel, there are two master keys that open all the doors of the Opera House. For the first time, we’ve been given an opportunity to escape the labyrinth of details whose sum is so great they obscure our vision. The only books we need concern ourselves with at the moment are The Phantom of the Opera and The Story of the Grail because the holy hermit in the forest holds the keys we need . . . to literally save our souls.

The hermit taught the knight a prayer
by whispering it in his ear
time and again, till it was clear
that he could say it back the same.
Such potent forms of Our Lord's name
were in this prayer, so great and many,
no one should utter it on any
pretext except in fear of death.

It was the prayer comprised of the 72 names of God which Moses was reminded of when he and the Israelites stood at the edge of the Red Sea with the Egyptians on their heels. It was the prayer that was said, invoking the Lord God to part the waters. And He came in the form of a Mighty Wind.

We Hold the Ace for the Perfect Ending

When The Story of the Grail abruptly stops, King Arthur is holding court for the feast of Pentecost. Gawain's attendance is sorely missed; the gallant knight has become lord of the Wondrous Palace after surviving an amazing feat and is forbidden to leave.

If the story were to begin where it left off, Pentecost is just a few weeks away. However, there are two Pentecost celebrations in reality: the Christian Pentecost falls on May 23rd in 2010 while the Jewish Pentecost begins at sunset on May 18th and ends with nightfall on May 20th.

Curiously, scholars have always questioned the inclusion of two Pentecosts in The Story of the Grail. When Eleanor wrote the tale she distinguished between the two; the feast of Whitsuntide—another name for the Christian Pentecost—is being celebrated by King Arthur in the same moment a mighty wind blows across the sea outside the town of Belrepeire and the knight dressed in red saves the people from both exile and certain destruction.

This suggests that King Arthur was celebrating the Jewish Pentecost when the story stopped.

The quake in Chile on February 27th, 2010, raised the city of Concepción 6 feet in an action symbolizing the raising of consciousness of the Western world and marking the beginning of our spiritual evolution. It occurred exactly 175 years and 7 days after an earthquake sharing similar details was personally experienced by Charles Darwin, initiating his theories of evolution . . . in this world which is a place like none other in the universe.

Seven days beyond the Jewish Pentecost would be the equivalent of the Octave of Pentecost, reminiscent of the day that the Church sentenced Peter Abelard to silence for the remainder of his life . . . because he espoused the idea that God alone was Omnipotent.

In the novel, The Phantom of the Opera, Christine tells Raoul that Erik can hear his name . . . and listens whenever it's said regardless of where they might be. When they don't want the ghost to listen to their conversations concerning him, she implores they use generic terms such as "he" or "him."

Using the details we've been provided to determine where this tale is headed . . . should the volcano Cumbre Vieja erupt, triggering the big-bellied cliff to fall and a beast of a wave rises in the ocean, I hope the entire world drops to their knees and prays to God Almighty, God of Israel, invoking the Lord's power to hold back the waters just as was done so many years ago.

The Lord God alone controls where the tide will stop.

Don't pray to Jesus. He isn't coming.

The courteous lord Gawain entreated,
(the finest man the world has seen,)
"The Lord preserve my lady queen;
God is all goodness and your Saviour.

For what it's worth, this story isn't over yet . . .

Added May 29th:

On May 27th Cumbre Vieja didn’t erupt, the fat-bellied cliff didn’t fall, and the beast didn’t rise in the ocean. Instead, the Pacaya volcano in Guatemala erupted, damaging “some 800” homes in a nearby village; a 7.2 earthquake rocked Vanuatu and a regional tsunami warning was issued in the South Pacific; President Obama referred to the barrels and barrels of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico as an “unparalleled disaster” and told coastal residents, “you are not alone.”

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