CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, a “monk for the modern age” by George Parker, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is
Featured Book
The Young Wizard's Hexopedia
Search Site

Breathing Circle
Music Box Moment
Cautious or Optimistic
King of Hearts of War and Peace
As I Was, As I Am
Perdition Slip
Loves Me? Loves Me Not?
Wacky Birthday Form
Test Your ESP
Chess-Calvino Dictionary
Is Today the Day?
100 Ways I Failed to Boil Water
"Follow Your Bliss" Compass
"Fortune's Navigator" Compass
Inkblot Oracle
Luck Transfer Certificate
Eternal Life Coupon
Honorary Italian Grandmother E-card
Simple Answers


A Fine Line Between...
A Rose is a ...
Always Remember
Annotated Ellipses
Apropos of Nothing
Book of Whispers
Call it a Hunch
Colorful Allusions
Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up?
Disguised as a Christmas Tree
Don't Take This the Wrong Way
Everybody's Doing This Now
Forgotten Wisdom
Glued Snippets
Go Out in a Blaze of Glory
Hindpsych: Erstwhile Conjectures by the Sometime Augur of Yore
How to Believe in Your Elf
I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought
Images Moving Through Time
Indubitably (?)
Inflationary Lyrics
It Bears Repeating
It's Really Happening
Last Dustbunny in the Netherlands
Miscellanies of Mr. Jonathan
Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led
No News Is Good News
Non-Circulating Books
Nonsense Dept.
Not Rocket Science
Oldest Tricks in the Book
On One Condition
One Mitten Manager
Only Funny If ...
P I n K S L i P
Peace Symbols to Color
Presumptive Conundrums
Puzzles and Games
Letter Grids
Tic Tac Toe Story Generator
Which is Funnier
Restoring the Lost Sense
Rhetorical Answers, Questioned
Rhetorical Questions, Answered!
Semicolon Moons
Semicolon's Dream Journal
Simple Answers
Someone Should Write a Book on ...
Something, Defined
Staring at the Sun
Staring Into the Depths
Strange Dreams
Suddenly, A Shot Rang Out
Telescopic Em Dashes
The 40 Most Meaningful Things
The Ghost In The [Scanning] Machine
The Only Certainty
The Right Word
This May Surprise You
This Terrible Problem That Is the Sea
Two Sides / Same Coin
Uncharted Territories
What I Now Know
What's In a Name
Yearbook Weirdness
Yesterday's Weather
Your Ship Will Come In


September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006


Magic Words
Jonathan Caws-Elwitt
Martha Brockenbrough
Gordon Meyer
Dr. Boli
Serif of Nottingblog
Joe Brainard's Pyjamas
Ironic Sans
Brian Sibley's Blog
Abecedarian personal effects of 'a mad genius'
A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.
August 26, 2018

Go Out in a Blaze of Glory (permalink)

The Secrets to
the Spontaneous Expansion
of One's Quivering Entangled Vibrations


[For Clint Marsh.]

In 1929, the occult Welsh novelist John Cowper Powys, who wrote his magnum opus on Myrddin/Merlin (Porius), revealed his mystical secrets for the spontaneous expansion of one's quivering entangled vibrations.  We say "revealed," but these secrets are actually hidden and dispersed within the novel Wolf Solent.  For the first time, the varied elements of the technique are here coalesced and adapted for present-time adventurous spirits who wish to direct their own inner lives in their own peculiar fashions.

This technology is best practiced in the countryside, leisurely, from the passenger seat of a moving automobile, train, bus, or mountainside gondola.

Preliminarily (root word limen, "threshold"), stare through the open window and allow the passing telephone poles or trees to induce a mild hypnotic state.  Allow yourself to feel indulged by the peculiar pleasure in this luxury of simply taking in the environs.

The first step, when you're ready, is to imagine yourself to be a prehistoric giant running alongside your vehicle with effortless ease.  Leap over hedges, ditches, lanes, streams or ponds.  Let the noisy mechanical vehicle be deftly rivaled by the silent, natural-born speed of your giant.

Second, watch this other self, this leaping giant, with "the positive satisfaction of a hooded snake," as Powys put it, "thrusting out a flickering forked tongue" from coils that shimmer in the sun.

Third, notice that your real self is neither the giant nor the snake but rather that tree over there, "still in the rearward of its leafy companions," whose hushed grey branches throw such contorted shadows.

If you happen to see a cow eating grass in a churchyard, watch it for a quarter of a minute as it gathers to itself "such an inviolable placidity" that its feet seem "planted in a green pool of quietness" older than life itself.

If you happen to see a church tower, wonder whether the religions of the world are "nothing but so many creaking and splashing barges," whereon the souls of humanity ferry themselves over "lakes of primal silence," disturbing the swaying water lilies that grow there and frightening away the timid waterfowl.

If you happen to notice that a bluebottle fly is your traveling companion, fix your gaze upon it as it cleans its legs and wonder whether from church tower to church tower there might be sent, on "one gusty November night, a long-drawn melancholy cry, a cry heard only by dogs and horses and geese and village-idiots, the real death-cry of a god—dead at last of extreme old age!"

Whatever you happen to see, draw into your lungs the lovely breathings from damp mosses, cold primroses, hazel wood, or whatever foliages in question, breathings that seem to float up and down valleys on airy journeys of their own.  

And then begin the practice of "sinking into the soul," a device that supplies one with the secret substratum of one's whole life.  This is accomplished by summoning-up to the surface of your mind a subconscious magnetic power from your early days, from that time when you watched the glitter of the sun or moon on the waters—a power that seems prepared to answer such a summons.  Allow a bit of arrogance, the idea that you are taking part in some occult cosmic struggle, between what you like to think of as "good" and "evil" in those remote depths.  See the magnetic impulses as resembling great vegetable leaves over a still pool of blue-green water, "leaves nourished by hushed noons," as Powys put it, "by liquid, transparent nights, by all the movements of the elements—but making some inexplicable difference, merely by their spontaneous expansion, to the great hidden struggle always going on in Nature between the good and the evil forces."  Let the worries of daily life become faintly-limned images in a mirror.  Let the true reality exist in your mind, "in these hushed, expanding leaves—in this secret vegetation—the roots of whose being hid[e] themselves beneath the dark waters" of your consciousness.

When you're ready, feel your body in that water, like the body of a tree or fish or animal.  Feel your hands and knees "like branches or paws or fins."  Notice that floating around your body is a thought, "'I am I' against the world."  Let this "I am I" include a new purpose and include your will toward this new purpose.  Contemplate Powys' contention that there is no limit to the power of the will as long as it is used for two purposes only: to forget and to enjoy.  "The stream of life is made of little things. … To forget the disgusting ones and fill yourself with the lovely ones, that's the secret."

When you're ready, look above the surface of the pool, over the high tops of the trees, until your gaze loses itself in the blue sky.  "Millions of miles of blue sky," Powys said; "and beyond that, millions of miles of sky that could scarcely be called blue or any other colour—pure unalloyed emptiness, stretching outwards" from where you sit, "to no conceivable boundary or end!"

And, as you exhale into that vastness, say aloud, "Not dead yet!"  And then recite this passage from Wolf Solent: "Good is stronger than Evil, if you take it on its simplest terms and set yourself to forget the horror!  It's mad to refuse to be happy because there's a poison in the world that bites into every nerve.  After all, it's short enough!  I know very well that Chance could set me screaming like a wounded baboon — every jot of philosophy gone!  Well, until that happens, I must endure what I have to endure!"


See John Cowper Powy's Wolf Solent (Simon and Schuster, 1929) and Janina Nordius' "I Am Myself Alone": Solitude and Transcendence in John Cowper Powys (Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, 1997).


—Craig Conley is author of HarperCollins’ One-Letter Words: A Dictionary, Weiser Books’ Magic Words: A Dictionary, and The Young Wizard's Hexopedia.  His more arcane publications include A Field Guide to Identifying Unicorns by Sound, a guide toSeance Parlor Feng Shui, and a manual on The Care & Feeding of a Spirit Board.  He is co-author of New Star Books’ Franzlations: The Imaginary Kafka Parables.  His work has been profiled in the New York Times, the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News, Publishers Weekly, The Associated Press, and dozens of others.

> read more from Go Out in a Blaze of Glory . . .
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Pinterest

Original Content Copyright © 2019 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.