Table of Con­tents | Arti­cle doi: 10.17742/ IMAGE.PM.13.1.4 | PDF

Excerpts of The Tome of Light Elia Var­gas

Excerpts of The Tome of Light

Com­piled, record­ed, and spec­u­lat­ed by 
Elia Vargas 

Field Notes 1: The Present

Cement is a strange sort of mate­r­i­al, a cal­cin­ing lime and clay mix­ture, which hard­ens and binds oth­er mate­ri­als when water is added. The path­way of cement that runs the length of Oil Creek State Park in the Gre­go­ri­an Cal­en­dar year 2017 fol­lows the path laid pre­vi­ous­ly by the Oil Creek Rail­way, built to move oil from Titusville to Petro­le­um City. Odd to walk this his­tor­i­cal path, built upon tech­nolo­gies of the past, bind­ing time as much as the mate­ri­als that hold it togeth­er. Stand­ing here-now, in this time, is a van­tage point defined by oth­er times. It is bol­stered by the some­thing else, made pos­si­ble in con­junc­tion with a being here-now. The riv­er, the for­est, a his­to­ry of look­ing ini­ti­at­ed by a his­to­ry of extrac­tion. There was a pulling out of the earth, which was then put back in place in a dif­fer­ent eco­log­i­cal design set-para­me­ter: rail­way, a cement path, ener­getic bod­ies. > Oil too was used as a cement­ing agent. Sto­ries tell of a place-time that used it as home insu­la­tion. This was com­mon prac­tice until the urban metrop­o­lis went up in flames.

Field Notes 8: A Part of the Tome of Light?

I found this sto­ry writ­ten by hand on the back of a pam­phlet for Rock Oil Med­i­cine while dig­ging inside the Drake Oil Well Muse­um Archive. I had been camp­ing for days. It was hot and rainy. The pam­phlet was inside a short book titled, “Report on the rock oil, or petro­le­um, from Venan­go Co., Penn­syl­va­nia: with spe­cial ref­er­ence to its use for illu­mi­na­tion and oth­er pur­pos­es” writ­ten by Ben­jamin Sil­li­man Jr., a Yale chemist, in 1855. There are report­ed­ly only a few orig­i­nal copies of this short book, the first com­pre­hen­sive chem­i­cal analy­sis of Penn­syl­va­nia crude oil, for George Bis­sell, founder of Seneca Oil Com­pa­ny. I took advan­tage of the oppor­tu­ni­ty to look through the old text, respon­si­ble for so much of the finan­cial invest­ment in oil.

The book was in bet­ter shape than the town of Titusville. Turn­ing each page with great care, there was an unnat­ur­al knot in the thick­ness of the pages towards the back. Three quar­ters or so through the report, just after a page that end­ed with *The light from rec­ti­fied Naph­tha…*, a wad of paper emerged. It expand­ed quick­ly like a sponge as it was exposed to air. The folds marked the pamphlet’s pres­ence. Like a rag, its creas­es had worn soft and the white of the exposed paper pulp was smooth. They were wrin­kles more than creas­es; the paper had aged well, smoothed and oiled from touch. An organ­ism seek­ing con­tact. The pam­phlet had been read by many.

Beneath, above, and through the print­ed let­ter press of the “Rock Oil Med­i­cine” head­er, there were an inde­ter­mi­nate num­ber of hand­writ­ten words. They appeared to go on with no end. Turn­ing the pam­phlet over and rotat­ing it con­tin­u­ous­ly, the words found their way. This is what it said:

>In this sto­ry, oil is the protagonist.

>It is about a dark organ­ic mass that hides under­ground and accu­mu­lates all the rich ener­gy of the earth. It enlists the help of chloro­phyl, algae, kero­gen, hydro­car­bons, and geo­log­ic pres­sure, among oth­er kin, to escape the solar dom­i­na­tion of light. A dark mass recon­sti­tut­ing light, defused, sub­ter­ranean, and in the shad­ows. Out of sight, after the break­down, oil gains pow­er over time, against the back­drop of the all-illu­mi­nat­ing solar orb. Oil resist­ed the bath of trans­paren­cy the solar orb radi­at­ed outward—The Solar Order of Enlight­en­ment. The burn­ing cir­cle above, clev­er­ly hid­ing its spher­i­cal nature, launched invis­i­ble mat­ter trans­form­ing the globe. Oscil­lat­ing at dif­fi­cult to per­ceive fre­quen­cies amidst shin­ning trans­paren­cies, waves of ener­gy shaped visibility.

>In its silence the dark mass remained. It remained even as it changed. A meta­mor­pho­sis of pow­er, shed­ding what it did not need, it accu­mu­lat­ed and reduced. An unpar­al­leled expres­sion of mean­ing and mat­ter, in hid­ing, for no one. Oil resist­ed. Oil was patient. Oil con­vert­ed waste into strength. The dark mass grew; from out of itself it expand­ed. In dif­fer­ent forms, amidst great vari­a­tion, a seep­ing mass con­gealed as one/many things simul­ta­ne­ous­ly. A mono­lith­ic mon­ster of many plu­ral­i­ties. A mon­ster absorb­ing the trans­par­ent sun­beams, feed­ing off them towards mutu­al opacity.

>The Solar Order of Enlight­en­ment radi­at­ed a regime of total con­trol. It con­quered by illu­mi­na­tion, co-con­sti­tut­ing con­cepts of vis­i­bil­i­ty as it ren­dered vis­i­ble new vis­i­ble forms. All will be seen; all that is, becomes through light. This was its coda, inscribed with­in the very bod­ies of vis­i­bil­i­ty. All that there is, is gov­erned by the pos­si­bil­i­ties of The Solar Order.

>Oil resist­ed; an impen­e­tra­ble mass of decay­ing light, it absorbed the pos­si­ble and dif­fract­ed it towards inde­ter­mi­nate out­comes. Sub­ter­ranean, in/of the earth, a con­sor­tium of ele­ment beings, cat­alyz­ing a deep now instant/forever, oil became with its kin. A dark mass actu­al­iz­ing con­di­tions for new exis­tence, not against The Solar Order, but towards new pos­si­bil­i­ties. Oil remained in/of the earth, regen­er­at­ing ener­gies, cat­alyz­ing new infra­struc­tures, mate­ri­al­iz­ing new perceptions.

>Then a new force emerged. Bod­ies that indexed the earth con­struct­ed arbi­trary dif­fer­en­ti­a­tions between tech­ni­cal exten­sions of their forms. They con­quered The Solar Order and advanced the regime of Enlight­en­ment in their own image. New radi­ant pow­ers emerged, short­er and short­er waves were har­nessed, extend­ed, wast­ed. Oil was dis­cov­ered, hid­ing amidst its sub­ter­ranean kin. The bod­ies depres­sur­ized oil’s resis­tance, tapped and extract­ed it.

>Oil sus­tained great loss­es. It’s very form bro­ken up, syn­the­sized, recon­fig­ured. The con­sor­tium of kin was divid­ed again, the great frac­ture began. The opac­i­ty of oil was enlight­ened. But the dark mass con­gealed with deep kin amidst the…

Already, it was dif­fi­cult to make out the final words. I lost track of the orig­i­nal ori­en­ta­tion of the pam­phlet. Despite the irreg­u­lar shape, it was marked­ly clear. Thus, there was no doubt­ing it end­ed abrupt­ly, mid-sen­tence. I hadn’t real­ized the ener­gy ris­ing in me until the ten­sion of unre­solve took hold. Such ten­sion. It grasped me. How does it end? I did notice, how­ev­er, look­ing over the entire doc­u­ment again, a set of sym­bols I had not seen next to the first sen­tence. Hard to dis­cern them, they were inscribed in the paper in some way, nei­ther let­ter press ink, nor lead or pen ink, nor worn wrin­kles of time. They were, rather, a sort of emul­sion of light, phys­i­cal and impressed, but not tac­tile. There were three of them.


Var­gas notes that to deci­pher The Tome of Light, cer­tain expla­na­tions are required: 

  • Some of these dia­grams may have been devel­oped by Jason Huff; how­ev­er, there is con­sid­er­able ques­tion as to the authen­tic­i­ty of their dates, the ori­gin of scan­ning, and the avail­abil­i­ty of geo­log­i­cal min­er­als for dig­i­tal reproduction.
  • The ver­ti­cal black lines on page three might depict a palimpsest rela­tion­ship of crude oil pipelines at the Oil Creek region of Penn­syl­va­nia, Gre­go­ri­an Cal­en­dar year 1866, from “Howe’s Map of the Oil dis­trict of Penn­syl­va­nia,” and the loca­tion of fiber optic cables in 2017, based on the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin Long haul infra­struc­ture data IMPACT inter tubes map.
  • On page four, “Odic Force” refers to the all-per­me­at­ing mes­merist vital force that Ger­man chemist Karl Von Reichen­bach devot­ed his lat­er life to dis­cov­er­ing. Reichen­bach is known with­in West­ern oil indus­try his­to­ry for his dis­cov­ery of the paraf­fin hydro­car­bon in Gre­go­ri­an Cal­en­dar year 1830. How­ev­er, the mean­ing of the rela­tion­ship between the “Odic Force” and the illus­trat­ed dia­gram requires fur­ther exam­i­na­tion of The Tome of Light.