(This is a continuation of last week’s post, a review of the books The Man From Mars: Ray Palmer’s Amazing Pulp Journey by Fred Nadis, and War over Lemuria: Richard Shaver, Ray Palmer, and the Strangest Chapter of 1940s Science Fiction by Richard Toronto, both published in 2013.)
“I myself cannot explain it. I know only that I remember Lemuria! Remember it with a faithfulness that I accept with the absolute conviction of a fanatic. And yet, I am not a fanatic; I am a simple man, a worker in metal …”
The words of Richard Shaver. Or possibly not of Shaver, but of Ray Palmer, editor of the science-fiction pulp magazine Amazing Stories, who took the 10,000-word manuscript that Shaver had submitted under the title “A Warning to Future Man,” and turned it into a 31,000-word story called “I Remember Lemuria!” Then, as subsequently: Shaver’s creativity and Palmer’s were so fused that it’s hard to tell where the Shaver Mystery ends and the Palmer Mystery begins.
Palmer gave the story, and Shaver, advance promotion throughout the year 1944. Then he published “I Remember Lemuria!” as the cover story in the March 1945 Amazing Stories. That issue sold a whopping 50,000 copies, and the “Shaver Mystery” was launched.
It had begun with a letter from “S. Shaver” which Palmer had retrieved from a wastebasket and printed in the January 1944 issue. The letter purported to set forth “an ancient language,” in reality an imaginative reinterpretation of the letters of the English alphabet, which in some unexplained way was supposed to be “definite proof of the Atlantean legend.” Palmer republished Shaver’s alphabet as an appendix to “I Remember Lemuria!” Only now it was headlined, “MANTONG: The Language of Lemuria“ and said to represent a primordial language–later declared to be the lingua franca of interplanetary space–underlying no fewer than thirteen Earth languages. Conveniently, this “Mantong” (= man + tongue) bore a strong resemblance to modern English.
“We may have the key to man’s past here,” Palmer challenged his readers; “help us to unlock it.”
The Shaver Mystery, as it unfolded in subsequent issues of Amazing Stories, was a mythology of primordial Earth, which Shaver and Palmer called “Lemuria” or “Mu.” It was a myth of prehistory–not, however, the conventional prehistory of dinosaurs and ice sheets and woolly mammoths, and its “cave men” weren’t primitives dressed in animal skins. They were an advanced technological civilization, inventors of extraordinary machines to prolong life indefinitely and to intensify its pleasures (notably sexual) beyond modern imaginings.
Fleeing the toxic rays of our dying sun–dying even then–these “Lemurians” had abandoned Earth’s surface for an elaborate network of subterranean caves, to which they transferred their civilization. Eventually they abandoned this planet altogether, seeking a newer and healthier sun somewhere out in space. They left behind them their “abandondero,” “dero” for short, who degenerated into a race of perverted dwarfs, stupid to the point of idiocy, addicted to the sexual pleasures of their stimulation (“stim”) machines and to the sadistic delights of torturing non-dero creatures. Such as the unwitting surface dwellers of Earth, namely ourselves.
(Are we also descendants, degenerated though not so drastically, of these “Elder Folk” who are also the “Elder Gods” and the “Immortals”? So it would seem. But it’s not quite clear. Shaver never sets forth his myth in any methodical fashion; it has to be inferred from a string of fictional-sounding narratives, thematically linked but independent of each other and sometimes contradicting each other, which Shaver declares to be essentially true though somewhat jazzed up to keep readers’ interest. That’s part of what makes it a Mystery.)
But back to the dero …
“Clothed in rags and dirt, hung all over with hand weapons, their hair long and matted, were the strangest, most disgusting creatures I had ever seen in my life. They were dwarfs, some of them white-haired, from the Gods know what hidden hole in Mu’s endless warren of caverns.”
So they’re described in “I Remember Lemuria!” And only the gods know what were the feelings of Ray Palmer, who truly was a dwarf, and strange-looking enough to be stopped on the street by astonished children–he sometimes told them he was a man from Mars–as he read or possibly wrote those words.
After “I Remember Lemuria!” came a second Shaver story, “Thought Records of Lemuria,” in the June 1945 Amazing Stories. (Which was the first issue to appear since March; wartime paper shortages had forced Amazing Stories to reconfigure as a quarterly.) Here it’s revealed that Shaver’s knowledge of primordial Lemuria wasn’t really a “racial memory,” as the first story had presented it. The truth was that Shaver, working in an auto plant in Detroit, heard voices speaking to him, apparently through his welding gun.
“Put him on the rack. … It’ll pull him apart in an hour!” said one of those voices, with grim pleasure. And then: “The horrible scream of agony that echoed in my brain jolted me right up to my feet with a gasp, and with a cry of terror I hurled the gun from me and ran. … Somewhere, somehow, a human being was dying in slow agony–and I was hearing him die!”
Shaver didn’t yet know it, but he was listening to a human abductee being tortured to death, deep in the caves of the dero.
Later it was all explained to him, by a beautiful girl with huge but sightless eyes whom he called “Nydia.” This girl wasn’t quite human but rather one of the “tero,” underground dwellers who unlike their more numerous dero cousins are decent and benevolent. “This is our enemy’s pleasure palace,” Nydia told Shaver; “a Hell for helpless victims of their lust for blood and pain. From immemorial times, they have had such Hells in the underworld, and it has never ceased. You see, you surface Christians are not so far wrong in your pictures of Hell, except that you do not die in order to go there, but wish for death to release you once you arrive. … There has always been a Hell on earth, and this is one of them.”
But that’s not quite the Christian hell. Identical, perhaps, in its furniture; but in its significance, its moral meaning, it’s as far from the Christian conception as can be imagined. Shaver, for all the rococo mythology that defined his everyday life, was fiercely atheist, contemptuous of any belief in spirits or Spirit. Immortality for Shaver was not a function of the soul, but of the magic machinery of the Elder Races.
Which set him at variance with his partner Palmer, who unlike the often despairing Shaver was a man of faith. (This point is made in Jeffrey Kripal’s brief but extremely perceptive discussion of Shaver and Palmer in his book Mutants & Mystics. Both Nadis and Toronto, who show little interest in the religious aspects of the Shaver Mystery, seem to have missed it.)
“You are black,” Palmer would write years later to an embittered African-American correspondent, “and have great odds against succeeding in your pursuit of liberty and happiness. I am a cripple, and I have had to pit myself against able-bodied men all my life, who looked down on me because I am a hunchback. They have even fought me with their fists. …
“Brawn is never the victor in the long run over brains. … Forget those muscles and use your brain. It’s as good as mine, and it can get you all you want. …
“Want to know a secret? I’m a bitter man myself; it isn’t ‘just’ that one man should suffer so much pain in one lifetime! But I have my pride also, and I think I can ‘out-suffer’ any man on the face of this Earth!”
A tough guy, as I said in the first installment of this post. The kind of guy, maybe, that even dero tortures couldn’t break. But this isn’t the half of it.
Before he and Shaver met, Raymond Palmer had twice been inside the jaws of death, condemned by medical experts to a speedy end. The first time was as a child of 7, when his spine was shattered by an encounter with a milk truck and his father refused to get him prompt treatment because it would cost too much. The second time was when he was 20, when his injured spine, infected by a form of tuberculosis, began to disintegrate and he went into a sanatorium, told he had six months to live. On each occasion his response was, I am not going to die! In an extraordinary feat of mind-over-matter he reconstructed his own spine, and walked out of the sanatorium a well man. If still a hunchback.
You don’t experience this kind of resurrection without knowing first-hand the power of the spirit. Or the Spirit.
This was the faith which, coupled with Shaver’s bleak awareness of Hell on earth, propelled the Shaver Mystery into the national consciousness.
by David Halperin
Learn more about David Halperin on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/davidjhalperin
Connect to Journal of a UFO Investigator on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/JournalofaUFOInvestigator
and Find David Halperin on Google+