Monday, August 24, 2009


Upon completion of the Trans Taresh-Dafare Railroad in May of 1843 the only organized settlement in the vicinity of the Jogues Valley was a ramshackle collection of shacks and tents called Le Mur, which sat atop a bluff of the same name at the extreme southern end of the valley. Since its discovery in 1834, the valley had remained relatively quiet as it played host to an assortment of scientists, army personnel, and railroad workers, but by July of 1843 the colonial government had cleared the spot at Le Mur to make way for an ambitious building project. Using pink sandstone quarried near the base of nearby Mt. St. Pierre, the government constructed an imposingly grand train station, as well as a number of other buildings including a hospital, army barracks and a school. Later, two additional buildings, flanking the train station on either side, were added to house government offices, as well as prisoners. Around this nucleus the town sprang up and thrived. By 1855, Le Mur boasted a growing population of approximately 4,000, and was the principal settlement and administrative center of the vast Taresh-Dafare desert.

In 1963 a crude, hand-drawn map of Le Mur was found amidst the personal correspondence of the late Colonel Bardonne of Marseille. The map was apparently drawn by one Jean P. Theberge, a soldier assigned to the barracks at Le Mur from 1895-1898. The map, which was drawn on the back of an advertisement for a piano concert at the Hotel du Ciel, was dated 1897, and depicted a sprawling, prosperous town established between the railway and the rim of the valley. The map varied from those produced by the French Army and the Colonial Government in only one respect- Theberge depicts a rectangular enclosure in the upper left portion of the map. The enclosure and its attendant buildings are neatly labeled “Le Temple d’Eden” (Translated- the Temple of Eden). On other maps, produced during the same period, the area is left blank. Why the government failed to include the site on its official maps is something of a mystery, but the leading theory is that they feared that knowledge of the cult’s prominence in the burgeoning settlement might have discouraged much-needed investment from Catholic France.

The founder of the Edenist movement was a charismatic, American-born, physician named William “Billy” Pill. Dr. Pill, who was 45 years old when he arrived at Le Mur in 1875, had served as a surgeon in the Union Army during the American Civil War before returning to his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri in 1866 where he established a drug store at the corner of Pine and 6th street. It was through his new career as a druggist that he first became aware of the amazing properties of the celtanine-laden water from Jogues Valley, which he bottled as a cure for “melancholy .” In late 1874 Dr. Pill quite suddenly sold all that he owned and, without explanation, bought passage to the Taresh-Dafare where he found the drug-addled community of Le Mur highly receptive to his unique theology.

The Edenists believed that Jogues Valley was, in fact, the lost Garden of Eden, and the Water Tree was none other than the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Water Tree’s fruit, containing a high concentration of the psychotropic drug celtanine, was a holy sacrament in the Temple of Eden. Billy Pill believed that prior to tasting of the fruit, mankind was as simple as any other creature, and did not possess the creativity, intellect, and spiritual nature that marks humanity today. According to Edenist dogma, it was the fruit that first gave man his humanity, and God, who became threatened by mankind’s “awakening,” cut them off from the garden before they could achieve the fullness of enlightenment and their divine potential. Man was therefore left in a “mongrel state”- not purely creature as they had been and not purely spirit as they had the potential to be. By returning to the garden, rejecting the tainted institutions and mores of society, and by eating of the fruit of the tree it was their expressed intention to achieve eternal life by achieving equality with God through the opening of their minds. Pill taught that when a person died he simply ceased to exist unless he had been “awakened.” For those who had experienced an awakening, death was viewed as a shedding of the corporeal and a freeing of the individual’s spirit as it attained divinity.

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