propose to illustrate true cause of AIDs by analyzing one of the several comparable catastrophes that have affected my own age.

For hundreds of years or more the world has been visited by the plague known now as typhus.  In my century this scourge had paid a murderous visit to Ireland, affecting thirty percent of the island's population in 1816.  I well remember its deadly hand when I was a boy in Philadelphia. My father died of it.

Now the Salish Indians of Montana had among their ancient ways the knowledge that a springtime visit to certain snowbound mountains west of the Bitterroot Valley brought one in contact with evil spirits of the most dangerous kind.  Students of Celtic custom will recognize the parallel between this theme and the appearance of dangerous fairies in snowy mountain areas.

European invaders of these native lands seeking pots of gold and cutting trees scoffed at such superstitions.  Until, in 1873, one of them, John McDonald, died suddenly of a new and mysterious disease that covered his body with blackened spots.  Soon enough other greedy invaders were affected, and those touched by the scourge were as likely as not to die of it within days.

Now it happened in these days that a new theory of disease was developed, the germ theory, and through a decade of detective work various scientists, culminating with Dr. Ricksett in 1906, established that this typhus-like illness was "caused" by virus-like microorganisms transmitted to humans by the bite of a tick. 

Readers will of course see the connection to that modern epidemic - second only to AIDS in its dreadful impact - Lymes Disease.

Now the basic thesis of my 1885 book Ragnorak is edenic: the world was once a warm benign habitat supporting harmonious life until a catastrophic comet impact; the memory of which is preserved via myth in most cultures.  Lacking modern methods of dating I was of course unable to work out an absolute chronology for the disaster.  Much of the geological evidence that I brought to my argument - the source of glacial drift in the northern latitudes was ascribed to impact rather than to continental glaciation - appears naïve - but as I will show my fundamental theme of the 1880's can be restated in close agreement with modern science.

I have noted with warm approval based on my own experiences  that the wisdom of ancient peoples has gained a certain currency among you.  Sad to say that their source is less available to you today due to a thinning of the ranks of older cultures that are not a part of your nervous global capitalism.  In the absence of living spokespeople the bones of the ancients may provide us with counsel.

My readers are doubtless aware that belief in fairies, leprechauns (Old Irish luchorpan, "little body") and other forest folk is central to the Celtic tradition.  Less appreciated may be the general character of these creatures who in truth have no special love for mankind and who exhibit little of the cartoon synchophancy of your twentieth century Disney World.

The modern tendency to prettify fairies in children's stories represents a bowdlerization of what was once a serious and even sinister folkloric tradition. The fairies of the past were feared as dangerous and powerful beings who were sometimes friendly to humans but could also be cruel or mischievous. --Encyclopedia Brittanica

Is it not more morally instructive to think of these beings as protectors of their forest realms, gardians who when disturbed by greedy ruination of their habitats are capable of striking back with merciless effectiveness?

Now the reader is advised to think of these creatures as neither dichotomized "imaginary" nor "real" but as powerful agents in the Celtic sense that they are actors of moral capability.  Naturally they are fully capable of taking on various disguises.  Historically these guises have varied but at present they favor appearing as what you call microbes.  To state my thesis boldly, the organism that "causes" AIDS or Lymes Disease is what pre-scientific peoples called evil spirits, what the Celts used to call leprechauns. 

Let me anticipate your protest.  "Very well, " you might say, "irregardless of the deep reality of viruses the apparatus and variations of post modern scientific discourse that creates them (electron microscopes, epidemiological conferences, glass ceilinged laboratories, DNA sequencing) our "virus" labels at least lead to a beneficial means of control over nature; prescientific "superstitions" did not.

To which I answer this: they are all memes, cultural artifacts (as are viruses) of much great antiquity than science, which when given proper due produce even greater benefits as good as those produced by science.

 For as my father's hero Francis Bacon once said, there are those places in the world where both man and nature are driven to extremes, and are therefore forced to yield up certain truths that otherwise might remain hidden.

And moreover: you have but to follow and as it were hound nature in her wanderings, and you will be able, when you like, to lead and drive her afterwards to the same place again.

Hence it is little surprise that the original transmission of AIDS has now been traced to an identical invasion of forest lands by greedy cutters of trees; the butchering of monkeys, who carry the virus without harm to themselves, is now known to be the cause of its rampage into the human community.

In this case the traditional conceptualization of AIDS leads to some combination of reactions - respect, love, or fear may all be strategies - that results in less human invasion of habitat which mitigates the potential for disturbing the forest creatures.

Now it is not my aim to disparage the germ theory of human illness though I cannot but not its impotence in contending with either AIDS or Lymes Disease and suggest that as noted by Professor Kuhn in connection with the disease entity of syphilis the existence and longevity of the disease entity is in large part founded on the efficacy of treatments (Such a thought would not have surprised Bacon!)

But neither should we disparage the rules of the Salish, for their evil spirits are but a name for the ticks (or whatever other essences will be invented in the future to "explain" the disease) and their practical inference of avoidance in the springtime (when the infected ticks are active) as useful as any drug that has been devised to treat this or related diseases.

Further, if avoidance is the preventive strategy, then the underlying vice of greed (for gold and timber) is surely the true cause of the problem.


Bacon's science is a masculine activity requiring that nature be plucked when at a peak of ripeness: "under constraint and vexed; that is to say, when by art and the hand of man she is forced out of her natural state, and squeezed and molded."

[2] Control in the Baconian sense: nature, etc. (--Francis Bacon, the New Organum).  "By contrast your foolish cartoon creatures are superstitions which do no good in the world." 

[3] Love may not be appropriate.  By loving deer and attempting to share their habitat ("county living" especially favored by the gentry) we disturb other forest creatures that cause Lymes Disease.

Donnelly here refers to Thomas Kuhn's famous structure of scientific revolutions.  (Kuhn, Thomas S." The structure of scientific revolutions" 
University of Chicago Press, 1962.) Kuhn derived much of his thinking from Rudolph Fleck's work on syphilis, see Fleck, Ludwig, 1896-1961.
"Entstehung und Entwicklung einer wissenschaftlichen Tatsache" : Einf.
in d. Lehre von Denkstil u. Denkkollektiv / Ludwig Fleck ; mit e. Einl. von
Lothar Schèafer u. Thomas Schnelle.Edition: 3. Aufl.Imprint: Frankfurt am Main : Suhrkamp, 1994.Your editor attempted to apply this thinking to a geologic "plague" of the 1970's, see Meehan, R. "The Atom and the Fault". MIT Press, 1986.

Donnelly's father was said to have been an avid Baconian, and Donnelly himself spent two years promoting the theory that Bacon was the true author of Shakespeare's plays.  Donnelly refers here to Bacon's famous analogy of science to the hunting and entrapment of nature in her forest abode.