This project could totally fail. This entire idea is cockamamie but we believe in this art community — the same community who created the All Worlds Fair, a spectacular immersive artistic collaboration between hundreds of artists from dozens of disciplines — can top even that!
The energy and talent behind the All Worlds Fair gave impetus to the San Francisco Institute of Possibility. The SFIOP, a fledgling non-profit, is dedicated to making more stunning events of the caliber of The All Worlds Fair.
We trust that everyone will participate in this experiment of the arts, otherwise it will just fade back into the ether of infinite possibility.
There is an historical link to the Hellfire Club, a debauched English secret society that counted Grand Master Mason Benjamin Franklin amongst its members:
In 1730 12 members of the English nobility – led, it is rumored, by Sir Francis Dashwood, Chancellor of the Exchequer – founded a “The Hell-Fire Club,” situated on a former Franciscan abbey, over which the words were placed in stained glass: “Fay ce que voudras” – do what you will.
Politics proved incapable of defending itself – the impious were too rich and influential – and the club’s influence grew until even Benjamin Franklin was known to attend during his time in England in 1758.
But there was a response. Another group of 12, whose names are lost to history – until now – formed a new order, unaffiliated with either English or Catholic church, to oppose the desecration of the sacred. By 1755, this had become known as “The Legion of Shame.”
It is believed that between 1752 and 1759 the Legion of Shame met in the catacombs beneath the Temple Street Burlesque, sanctifying it in much the same manner that the Hell-Fire club had profaned a former monastery. One of its methods, which came to light in an 1852 monograph by Dr. Nathaniel Underhill, of Oxford, was to purchase the gambling and whoring debts or society gentlemen who belonged to London’s clubs of ill-repute, and to forgive the debts only if the aristocrats made public confessions of all their sins and resigned their government positions.
Numerous men of science and patrons of the arts were so ruined, forced by public condemnation to leave the metropolis for their country estates, or retreating to the colonies. A few of the particularly rich were able to purchase titles in France through connections with the infamously corrupt Jacob le Fin, secretary to the Sun King. At the time this seemed the ideal escape, living in continued debauchery and notoriety as members of that nation’s ruling class. But they earned a reputation, among the French intellectuals, as “Satan’s Englishmen,” and were particularly targeted by the Revolution, when they and their families were wiped out to person.
By 1760 the Hell-Fire Club became aware that there was organized resistance against it outside of the government and church, and endeavored to track down the identities of their equal and opposite numbers. They failed, and the Hell-Fire club itself collapsed in 1766 during a leadership quarrel, when the Earl of Sandwich, hoping to unseat Wilkes, arranged for a General Warrant to be issued for the abbey, where materials deemed seditious against the king were found.
The Hellfire caves, West Wycombe
But The Legion of Shame continued after the fall of its nemesis, perhaps believing that the concentration of blasphemous impulses that had led to its creation were now spread across society. Its motto appears to date from this time, first recorded (so far as we know) in 1768: “Erit in exemplum cunctis potentibus.” An example shall be made of the mighty. It has appeared on monuments and government buildings across the world since then.
Now, for the first time, we know who they are.
The exposure of the secret identities of The Legion of Shame, two years ago, has made The Fallen Cosmos Possible.
What will you choose?