SUPERSTITION



From Dr. Ehirllimbal's private journal—

April 20th, 1954: It has been a troubling few days of waiting at Borja. Mr. Harrington is making some headway on repairing the boat, but the rains are making his progress slow and tedious. Though, I think he and the others assisting him look upon the work as a respite from the inactivity of our situation. Mr. Harrington, a veteran of numerous safaris and expeditions, has told me that the jungle and the mountains will squeeze a man's mind; a fellow might be exceptionally well-grounded and self-reliant, but after a few days in the wilderness, he starts to realize how lost he is. If the men stay busy, he says, they have less time to wonder where they are.

Dr. Arnash likens it to a primeval reptilian sense that is buried deep in our brains. As cultured and civilized as we believe we have become, once we take all that away, a primordial instinct reawakens. It might not be a conscious memory that we have (and he's talking specifically about he and I), but our ancestors—our distant genetic forefathers—remember what it is like to walk in the wood. To hear the sounds of animal life in the underbrush. To smell the ripeness of the decaying wood matter, the sickly sweetness of the heavy fruits, and the acrid scent of territorial markers.

Lamarckian evolution, I told him, that theory of genetic memory; though I thought Lamarck was mostly concerned with the heredity of proximal generations (parents and offspring). I didn't extrapolate this line of reasoning into the realm of psychology. Dr. Arnash, while he received an outstanding medical education at Harvard, hadn't much exposure to the theories and observations about why the brain works. He could certainly dissect one, and explain the neurological and physiological activities within it to me, but his expertise ends there. Were I to bring up Jung's idea of the collective unconscious, to mention Whyte's unitary principle, or to suggest to him the idea of morphogenetic fields would be to ask him to consider more seriously the idea that the troubles with Mr. Benway and Yellow Eye were caused by psychic phenomena.

Mr. Harrington is correct: we are a superstitious lot. Look at the cave paintings at Lascaux. The men who painted those animals weren't repressed artists who had to crawl off and hide in caves in order to express themselves artistically. These paintings were a secret shame—both an acknowledgment of weakness and an effort to make the enemy known. If you know the face of the beast that hunts you, it is much easier to kill it.

I fear there are a number of beasts lurking along our path and, based on my analysis of the dream from the 16th, I believe some of them will be men hiding behind masks. Animals on the outside only.

Mr. Benway was our ethnobiologist, the only one of us truly skilled at pharmacognosy. It seems too convenient that I am suddenly at the mercy of Círo's recollection of Versai's route, or that I am suddenly disposed to see the arrival of the Ytucalis shaman as an expedient gift.

Or is this my own superstitious fear of the unknown —of being lost—creeping in?



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