The Invisible Web

Your Trip Into the Chapel Perilous

Committee for Surrealist Investigation of Claims of the Normal [ CSICON ]

Posted by invizweb on July 23, 2008

From Robert Anton Wilson‘s site:

Wilson describes himself as a “guerilla ontologist,” signifying his intent to ATTACK language and knowledge the way terrorists ATTACK their targets: to jump out from the shadows for an unprovoked ATTACK, then slink back and hide behind a hearty belly-laugh.

— Robert Sheaffer, The Skeptical Inquirer, Summer 1990

Dublin, 1986. I had given a talk to the Irish Science-Fiction Society and the question period began.

“Do you believe in UFOs?” somebody asked.

“Yes, of course,” I answered.

The questioner, who looked quite young, then burst into a long speech, “proving” at least to his own satisfaction that all UFOs “really are” sun-dogs or heat inversions. When he finally ran down I simply replied,

“Well, we both agree that UFOs exist. Our only difference is that you think you know what they are and I’m still puzzled.”

An elderly gentleman with blonde-white hair and a florid complexion cried out in great enthusiasm, “By God, sir, you’re right. I myself am still puzzled about everything!”

And thus I met Timothy F.X. Finnegan, Dean of the Royal Sir Myles na gCopaleen Astro-Anomalistic Society, Dalkey, sometime lecturer at Trinity College, Dublin, and founder of the Committee for Surrealist Investigation of Claims of the Normal.

In fact, Prof. Finnegan signed me up as a member of CSICON that very night, in the Plough and Stars pub over our ninth or tenth pint of Ireland’s most glorious product, linn dubh, known as Guiness to the ungodly.

Now I hear that Prof. Finnegan has died, or at least they took the liberty of burying him, and I feel that the world has lost a great man.

The Commitee for Surrealist Investigation of Claims of the Normal (CSICON) , however, lives on and deserves more attention than it has received hitherto. Prof. Finnegan always asserted that the idea for CSICON derived from a remark passed by an old Dalkey character named Sean Murphy, in the Goat and Compasses pub shortly before closing time on 23 July 1973.

Actually, it started with two old codgers named O’Brian and Nolan discussing the weather. “Terrible rain and wind for this time of year,” O’Brian ventured.

“Ah, faith,” Nolan replied, “I do not believe it is this time of year at all, at all.”

At this, Murphy spoke up. “Ah, Jaysus,” he said, “I’ve never seen a boogerin’ normal day.” He paused to set down his pint, then added thoughtfully, “And I never met a fookin’ average man neither”

(About Sean Murphy nothing else appears in the record except a remark gleaned by Prof. LaPuta from one Nora Dolan, a housewife of the vicinity: “Sure, that Murphy lad never did any hard work except for getting up off the floor and navigating himself back onto the bar-stool, after he fell off, and he only did that twice a night.”)

But Murphy’s simple words lit a fire in the subtle and intricate brain of Timothy F.X. Finnegan, who had just finished his own fourteenth pint (de Selby says his fifteenth pint). The next day the aging Finnegan wrote the first two-page outline of the new science he called patapsychology, a term coined in salute to Alfred Jarry’s invention of pataphysics.

Finnegan’s paper began with the electrifying sentence, “The average Canadian has one testicle, just like Adolph Hitler — or, more precisely, the average Canadian has 0.96 testicles, an even sadder plight than Hitler’s, if the average Anything actually existed.” He then went on to demonstrate that the normal or average human lives in substandard housing in Asia, has 1.04 vaginas, cannot read or write, suffers from malnutrition and never heard of Silken Thomas Fitzgerald or Brian Boru. “The normal,” he concluded “consists of a null set which nobody and nothing really fits.”

Thus began the science of Patapsychology, Prof. Finnegan’s most enduring,and endearing, contribution to the world — aside from the computer-enhanced photos of the Face on Mars with which he endeavored to prove that the Face depicted Moishe Horwitz, his lifelong mentor and idol. This, of course, remains highly controversial, especially among disciples of Richard Hoagland, who believe the Face looks more like the Sphinx, those who insist it looks like Elvis to them, and the dullards who only see it as a bunch of rocks.

Read more.

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