I'm the High Voltage Messiah.
… The Electric Christ…
I saw my son Jamie die.
He had a cancer at the base of his spine...
and one in his head.
They put the black spider treatment on him.
They crawled all over,
cracking the body vermin with its nippers!
I can cure your bursting.
Fire a laser beam into you to clear away the sick pus...
the sack of pus, the white pus,
the dead fetus!
- The Ruling Class
Gustave Jäger is best known today as one of the coiners of the word, homosexual. In his day, though – the 1890s – he was a well known naturalist. In the book in which he dropped his coin to fame, the Discovery of the Soul, he also wrote a sort of materialist prose poem to that thing, the brain. If we have decided that the Geist – the mind/spirit – is material, Jäger reasonably asks, what form of matter does it take? Is it a gas, a liquid (tropfbar fluessig – dissolvable into liquid drops), or a solid?
“The answer easily reveals itself. The first two forms of aggregation are completely expluded, since the midne obviously doesn’t follow the laws of diffusion which governs all fluids – otherwise it couldn’t be localized in the brain surface; and as a gas it must rarify and be at least quantitatively injured by the process of filtering, which, according to what we have described previously, is not the case. As a fluid dissolvable into drops it must, in case it is supposed to move, mix with blood and lymph, and then it would be everywhere – but if it didn’t move, then movements as those that have been shown by the faculty of attention wouldn’t be possible.”
So, the mind doesn’t drip and it doesn’t rarify. And, since it has to move, it isn’t, Jaeger insists, a solid. He concludes, then, that it is another form of matter, and this takes him to “the often made comparison between the mind and electricity.” Jaeger likes the analogy in some ways – for instance, both seem to exist on the surface of their carriers; both are unities even in motion; and both do move. However, two things are dissimilar. Electricity can be discharged in contact with a metal conductor – and that seems to have no analogy with the mind; and the mind is plastic, and electricity isn’t.
“One million volts.
Two million volts.
Three million volts.
Four million volts!
Five million volts!
Six million volts!
Seven million volts!
Eight million volts!
Nine million! Ten million!”
This naïve inventory of the mind’s characteristics interests me not so much for the physiology behind it as for the mythology it reveals. For the connection between electricity and mind is of the utmost importance in the creation and spread of the polarity affects model. Reading Hartley, whose mental metaphysics are taken from Newton’s corpuscular theory of vibraticules, I’ve been struck with how the substitution of electricity for ‘animal spirits’ plugs into a mystique, a mythology of electricity, that most scientific of substances for the 18th century, on the one hand, but a substance deeply steeped in folk myth, on the other. Electricity has a natural affinity with the more elaborate cosmologies of the insane, from James Matthews’s Air Loom to Schreber electrified body. Lenin plugged into the way the peasants’ world and the scientific world view crossed when he said that “Communism is Power of the Soviets plus Electrification.” Nobody has yet done a Bachelardian psychoanalysis of electricity, but I am longing for one as I venture into the lumberyard of notions about the passions, the sentiments, the affects in the 18th and 19th century.
No god of love made this world.
I have seen a girl of four whose nails had been torn out by her father!
I have seen the mountains of gold teeth and hair...
and the millions boiled down for soap!
S- S-Sometimes God...
turns his back on His people...
And breaks wind...
and the stench clouds the globe!
I am the High Voltage Man...
closer to God than you,
you sentimental clishmac-laverer!