The Omasters - Constance Chang & Ignatz Fine


Sunlight slanted through crystal windows in the main bathhouse of the People's Awareness Center & Existential Hot Springs, where it fell in glistening colors on the comfortably arranged forms of Constance Chang and Randy Walker, in decorous Tantric embrace, and of Ignatz Fine, the Chasidic Mandarin. Fine's field of awareness included neuro-transmissions initated by tryptamine and dopamine in his own pineal gland recognized by the scholar to impend the approach of that limit, when the the earth passes through that point where its ecliptic is tilted maximally to the sun, which at high noon stands still in the well beside the Nile, precisely 23°27' north of the Equator.

Like the ancient sages, Fine contemplated the changes in the dark and the light, from which he divined the movements in the firm and the yielding represented in the 64 ordered patterns of the oracle called by the name of the Book of Changes, or I Ching. The others dreamed only of the psychic healers' midsummer T’ai Ch’i Convention; for Connie, the 18-year-old Oriental violin virtuoso, had been engaged with Walker, a pianist equally adept on the black keys and the white, to entertain the assorted shamans and charlatans--Gestaltists, Reichians, lamas, dance therapists, body kneaders of various persuasions, adepts in the sudden new disciplines that facilitate the Bicentennial soul-searching, the whole consciousness crew--during the weekend frolic.

Yet as Connie twined her legs with her fiance's in the 31st posture enjoined by the sacred sutra, The Gentle in the Presence of the Creative, she became aware of a sensation not wholly pleasurable.

"I infer from your breathing that you are cramping your leg," Fine offered politely. Constance blushed. She never ceased to astonish herself over Fine's uncanny ability to read her body. She localized the pain in the sartorius muscle of the left  thigh, which she stretched to its limit in a performance, since she always played from the lotus posture.

"The tailor's muscle," mused Fine, "The Weaving Sisters, which in Greek is the constellation Lyra, known as the Little Tortoise, or Shell, referring to the legendary origin of the creature cast upon the shore with the dried tendons stretched across it. This is later Apollo's lyre, seven stringed, discovered by Hermes, the inventor of dice."

Here Fine paused and sank briefly beneath the sulphurous waters. The animal oracle was not his field. The yarrow stalks of the I Ching, a Mandarin discovery whose permutations were fleshed out by Leibniz in 1666 in De Arte Combinatoria; Fine's expertise lay essentially in this field and he missed the presence of Joseph MacKay, a computer designer knowledge whose knowledge of topology might prove a key to the mystery of the turtle. MacKay was not present. Fine, therefore, surfaced and proceeded with confidence.

"There are many transformations from Lyra. We may consider that three of Hermes' dice, fashioned from stones rolling in a brook, permute the 56 Major Arcana, 77 cards with The Fool, who is hors commerce, as it were, make up the deck of cards known as the Tarot, whose name has the same root as "tortoise," Indo-European wendh - to turn, wind, weave. A recursive loop. Better perhaps to focus on Vega, the alpha star in Lyra. Now our friend Heinz von Schlüssel, isn't he from Las Vegas?"

"We saw him there when we played the Double Cross Saloon," Constance recalled. "He's probability consultant to Ahab McGaff himself."

"From which we may infer that he is the official representative MaFie at this conference," replied Fine, fixing his gaze on Randy, who was massaging the girl's sartorius with practiced digits, allegro assai. “Sonata 23, opus 57," he continued, recognizing the fingering. "My boy, your passion becomes you.”

Fine arose from the tub and began to perform, on the platform beside it, the figure known as "The Old Lady Weaves the Shuttles." By the time he finished his skin glowed pinkly and dryly. Wrapping himself in a long purple robe, he beckoned to the musicians. "When you have finished your bath, please join me in my room for tea," Fine said.

Receptive after the pianist's exercise on her thighs, Constance announced herself ready to receive instruction. "What is 'MaFie"?" she opened.

Randy played a reluctant brief coda. Vibrations in air initiated by the girl's larynx rattled his own brain pan initiating a memory search in the auditory mode; he had heard those sounds before. "But I always thought it was called 'My Fee," he told her. "Probably the same outfit, McGaff's spiritual materialist monopoly. They arrange workshops, manufacture zafus, power objects and amulets; they publish texts on psychology and other alchemies, they import coffee, tea and incense." He did not mention the other imports, of dubious legality, which were rumored to support, along with contributions to the Palace of Improbable Delight, the Double Cross Saloon (whose neon icon soared 555 feet above the desert like some gigantic carpenter's rule), the entire MaFie conglomerate.

Randy himself held membership in Dial-a-Gram, the artists' radio-dispatched vans adorned with the snowflake mandala, crisscrossed California and the Southwest, responding to emergencies like AAA. “They’re big,” he assured Constance. “When von Schlüssel's here, it mean's something's up."

"Das steh ichuber!” cried the mathematician himself, standing over them in what had now become deep twilight. He was a trim man in his fifties, with a fringe of white hair around a tanned skull. "My dear young friends, what a pleasure that you are here for our cooperative competition." He slid into the tub beside the pair and began massaging Constance's other thigh, (for, he assured them, the polarity currents thus engendered would promote the general well-being of her entire young body). “I do hope you will be able to play for us," he told Connie. "Above all pleasures in life I rank music, the harmony of all that moves."

Accepting him as a second teacher, she asked  what the “competition" was about.

"Why, Glassperlenspeil,” he replied. "The Glass Bead Game for the prize of Great Indications. For whoever, you see, best realizes the forms establishes the way we call their names. And so tomorrow, under the auspices of the Bodhidharma Certification Board, we meet to construct the theoretical foundations of the discipline known as Life in a manner that will support any of its particular applications, such as Gestalt therapy or experimental psychology, as well as offer a more general framework in which the language of our experience is seen to rest."

Constance pressed on: "What's 'best'?"

"Why, if you would just lift your knee a little higher--" began the mathematician.

"As in 'best realizes the forms,'" Connie continued hastily. While she enjoyed the awakening polarities between her legs, the message of Randy's fingers had been molto agitato since the arrival of von Schlüssel, and knowing her fiance to be innocent of jealousy, she tempered her response to the older man. He however proceeded smoothly:

“By Occam's razor, the best explanation is the simplest. Now when we have a theory that discusses emotions, how then can we apply it to a science of perception? And when we have a theory of perception, how then can we apply it to behavior? Only by analogies, which are imprecise since the systems are not identical. So we try to find the constants to which the therapy and the others are variations. I have the honor to represent my organization"--here he appeared to bow slightly, despite his comfortable hold on Constance's right thigh, which lay over his left -- “in this matter. You were quite right to question the word 'best.' There is no need to bring up the question of good and evil. We are concerned here with elegance and clarity.”

'We are concer-r-rned here,” said Joseph MacKay later, in Fine's apartment "with men and women who, being uncommitted to any particular truth, may thus be inclined to replace government by control of information, secrecy, and deceit with leadership through inspiration, education, and freedom!"

"I am sure that Herr von Schlüssel understands the political aspects,” Fine murmured, from his seat on the skin of a snow leopard. “I suggest we concern ourselves with the sewing of the net in which, tomorrow, we trap chaos, in accordance with Sufi Central directive 37, from C. Wells: Net grammars map images onto directed graphs or iconic descriptions. I refer of course to our young friend, Miss Chang.” As Fine spoke he poured steaming liquid from a doughnut-shaped teapot into a cup of mother-of-pearl, and handed the cup to Constance. “Darjeeling Gold Tip,” he explained.

“I don't understand anything you're saying,” she told Fine truthfully.

“And you persist in tensing your leg,” Fine reminded her. “We have a knot, a self-interfering pattern, the knots by which we tie the net of consciousness. Distinction is perfect continence. Whereas, we see from bulletin 37 also the paradigm for logic and theory (and, by implication, theatre) as a tree grammar, trees being, we know from N. J. A. Sloane's invaluable handbook of number sequences, 'not closed paths.' Thus we map iconic descriptions onto hierarchical directed graphs or symbolic descriptions. The icon and the symbol, the likeness whose value is determined by the fineness of our net, and the hierarchical mode presented as a tree with branches and roots. This is how tree logic, which forbids feedback under the grandly named Theory of Types, avoids closure.”

“Tomorrow,” he continued, “we gestalt the midsummer-night's dream.”

Kurt von Meier
Walter (Clifford) Barney
Circa 1975