Screwing Messiahs & Screwy Coffins

I love living in Somerset. Not only does it have some of the most beautiful English countryside, it is also full of history and craziness. Everywhere there are stories of ghosts, black magic and all manner of spookiness. It is also a hotbed of New Age beliefs and religious cults. And of course, as you know from following this blog, Glastonbury is just down the road.

Not too far from Glastonbury is the sleepy village of Spaxton, the centre of the notorious Agapemone – the “Abode of Love,” founded in 1846 by an unfrocked curate, Rev Henry James Prince. Prince who had declared himself to be immortal, was an early example of a messiah cult, similar to David Koresh and his Branch Davidians.  One of the perks of the job, apart from living forever, was that he surrounded himself with a harem of women, his ‘soul brides’ whom he fleeced for their fortunes to support his luxurious life style. So much so that they were able to afford to build an extravagant temple, the Ark of the Covenant, at Clapton in London.

The centre of the Somerset community however, was the Spaxton chapel, which also acted as bar, lounge and billiards room. It was here that the ‘Great Manifestation’ took place. In 1856, to the strains of organ music, Prince deflowered a young virgin in front of a congregation, including his own wife– such is the power of a charismatic messiah. The subsequent pregnancy was later attributed to the devil which immediately reminded me of the plots of several later witch movies; most notably “Rosemary’s Baby” or “To the Devil a Daughter.”

The Agapemonites lived well – eating drinking and playing billiards in the company of attractive young ladies, but despite the actions of their beloved leader, the rest of the community, including the married couples lived in chastity. Anyway, the good times could not last forever, and of course, Prince eventually died in 1899.

Prince was buried standing up so as to be ready for his resurrection. He could have benefited from a recent development in grave technology that would have been perfect for this purpose. Californian inventor Donald Scruggs has just been granted a patent for a vertical screw coffin that is designed to bury the dead in the space saving vertical position. It even offers a bonus for those terrified of being buried alive. This was a common concern in the Victorian era which is why some graves came with a rope and pulley attached to a bell on the grave stone so that the undead could raise the alarm. As a resurrected Messiah, Henry James Prince, could have simply popped the lid and jumped out with a triumphant “Ta-da!”

Screw coffins or useful telegraph pole foundations?

The one problem with the screw design is the amount of force necessary to insert the coffin into the ground. On the other hand, I think that such coffins, once inserted could act as very stable foundations for more municipal purposes such as the base for telegraph poles and such. Now that would make the line of telegraph poles  across the countryside much more useful and interesting to view.


Filed under General Thoughts, supernatural

7 responses to “Screwing Messiahs & Screwy Coffins

  1. Hey Bruce, sorry for the OT, but I couldn’t find an e-mail address on the page.

    Interesting essentialism sighting for ya: I was watching Star Trek: First Contact last night and there is this scene where the Borg (the bad guys) give the android Data an implant of human flesh, as some kind of perk to try to tempt him to join their side. The essentialism part of it is that, with no explanation of why this would be so, Data experiences sensations of touch, etc., on the patch of human flesh much more intensely and emotively than he does anywhere else on his android body.

    Of course the scene rests on our notion of “meat” being the important factor in the experience of qualia — a purely essentialist belief. Surely this patch of flesh had to be connected to Data’s synthetic brain in the same way as any other of his sensory equipment, and presumably it would be far less sensitive than his normal sensing apparatus. The only explanation for why the flesh would provoke such a strong reaction is that it’s got some magic “essence” of being human in it.

    The impulse to believe that (go Supersense!) is so strong that I initially accepted the conceit without question — even though I scoff at those (e.g. John Searle) who insist that there is something intrinsic to organic matter that allows consciousness/subjective experience. I’m used to rejecting that particular essentialist belief, and have argued vociferously against it in blog postings — and I still was willing to go along with it in that context!

    In fact, I would argue that since computers have made us all fairly comfortable with the notion of thinking machines (i.e. the brain does not necessarily seem magical), the modern person might be more inclined to buy into the essential nature of organic material if it were presented as something abstract, like a patch of skin.

  2. brucehood

    Hi James,
    Yes, essentialism is ubiquitous in our human reasoning and I am continually spotting examples of it in literature, fiction, movies, prejudices, cosmetics, creationism…. just about anything where integrity is evoked. And because it operates almost intuitively it can slip under the rational radar all too easily. Thanks for the considered comment. Much appreciated. I welcome such extended comments as they give something for others to consider.

  3. Arno

    From the [url=]transcript of a radio program on the Agapemone[/url]:
    “In an 1856 pamphlet, the first founder, Henry J. Prince, claimed that the flesh would be liberated from sin and made perfect in this world rather than having to wait until the next. To achieve ‘flesh made perfect’, however, all he needed was to experience sexual union with a virgin; by this act, he would complete man’s salvation and reconciliation with God!”
    The reasoning behind it is of course essentialism and follows a well-established tradition of beliefs found all around the world. Intercourse with babies can cure AIDS, [url=]thrall women had sexual intercourse with all men who served a chieftain to act as vessels of these men’s essences so it would ‘energize’ their chieftain in the afterlife[/url] and holy men are born from virgins. Not to mention its modern version: [url=]the sex magic practices of various organizations, such as the wicca and the Thelemites.[/url]

  4. Arno

    …bah, forgot that WordPress uses html.

  5. Screw coffins, how absolutely wonderful. If one must be planted in the ground, then why not become telephone pole bases?

    The Agapemonites sound like a rowdy bunch, just the right sort to build a chapel near Ground Zero as apparently, only mosques are uncool. Some fundamentalist homophobe is planning to build a church in proximity to Ground Zero, but have you heard any objections to that?

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