Monday, February 25, 2013

Masks of the Illuminati discussion part two


Dell edition, pages 35-76; Pocket Books edition pages 29-64; up to about 20 percent in an e-book (up to Sir John Babcock's answer to the I.N.R.I. question

"Joyce looked at it and at every part of it with a meticulous curiosity that seemed almost obsessive to Babcock," page 45 of Dell edition; RAW believes the cure for boredom was paying closer attention.

"a most singular person," page 46, Lenin.u

"You behold in me," page 48. Leftist statists like to claim RAW as one of their own, but notice how RAW claims Joyce for libertarianism.

"only the madman is absolutely sure," page 48. A succinct statement of Wilson's philosophy, and a restatement of his "maybe logic" philosophy, i.e. the world would be a saner place if people made a habit of qualifying their dogmatic statements with maybe, i.e. "Maybe the economy would be better off if the U.S. returned to the gold standard." Consistent with the workings of quantum mechanics, Wilson suggested using probabilities rather than certainties for many statements. A statement of Wilson's generalized agnosticism."

"a book so vile," page 51, the Necronomicon invented by H.P. Lovecraft. Dan Clore says references to Lovecraft's work permeates Masks.

"another hermetic dream" page 60. Although Masks supposedly originally was intended as "an ordinary detective story," the dream sequences suggest this plan was given up early in the process of writing the novel.

Paragraph beginning with "A true initiation never ends," page 62. Statement of a major theme of the novel.

UPDATE: Wikipedia article on George Cecil Jones.

Arthur Machen exhibition. Link via Dan Clore, who remarks, "Arthur Machen had a big influence on Masks of the Illuminati."

36 comments:

PQ said...

Is there any consensus as to who the character Sir John might be based on (if anyone)?

Really enjoying this book, very tough to put down. It would help to let us know ahead of time what the stopping point should be for the next section.

Page 44-52 is in the same vein as the "Eumaeus" chapter of Ulysses which begins "Preparatory to anthing else." That line "You behold in me" on pg. 48 is taken from the line spoken by Stephen in the first chapter of Ulysses: "You behold in me, Stephen said with grim displeasure, a horrible example of free thought." The next sentence is (I think) a quote from Joyce's letters.

The dream sequences are pretty funny. He seems to be trying to mimic the style of Finnegans Wake a little bit, mixing in subconscious puns through phonetic misspellings.

gacord said...

PQ took the words right out of my mouth. The Q&A sections though, I thought were Ithaca section of Ulysses, not Eumaeus... but then I haven't sat down and studied the exact lines or demarcation.

Following that thought line though, I found another parallel. In Eumaeus and Ithaca Bloom and Stephen are heading to (and arriving at) Bloom's house. Here, Joyce, Einstein, and Sir John are heading to (and arriving at) Joyce's house. 2, then 3 (23. yeah, they're EVERYWHERE I look.) Molly (and Nora) are asleep in crumpled bedsheets. etc. etc. RAW did say Joyce is ever present in his work. That, for me, has become another 23. A quarter in the street.

I'll also second PQ on the "heads up" or hint at the pending stopping point. I have a tendency to read ahead, which would easily take my focus off of digesting a segment and instead propel me headlong into the story itself, lost in the art.

Oz Fritz said...

I see a lot of RAW in Sir John.

The phrase in caps on p. 54 and 61 riffs on “ beware of wizards for they are subtle and quick to anger from “The Lord of the Rings” chapter 3, p. 93 in the red hardcover edition.

Coincidently, on p. 68 RAW explains the Holy Guardian Angel (HGA) the Knowledge and Conversation of which occurs in Tiphareth. The HGA represents an epitome of what the number 68 indicates, in my view; 6 = Tiphareth, 8 = Mercury = communication (conversation).

RAW seems to relate the number 3 with the HGA/68 – 3 appears three times when he discusses the HGA. Also note the 3 suicides that begins the book. 3 = Binah.
The first suicide was 68 years old. The second suicide, Annie Verey, was 59. 59 indicates the Justice tarot card (Adjustment in the Thoth deck). Among other things, this card represents the classic Egyptian afterlife scene of the heart getting weighed against a feather on a set of scales. If the heart is heavier than a feather, it won’t fly.

Adjustment = the woman satisfied. Crowley writes: “this card is the feminine complement of the Fool for the letters Aleph Lamed constitutes the secret key of the Book of the Law.” The name “Annie” brings up Anna Livia Plurabelle (ALP = 111 = the Fool) from Finnegans Wake. Crowley also connects the Adjustment card with the phrase, “Love is the law, love under will, and says that it indicates manifestation.

RAW says about the HGA, “ when you have the experience, you will find your own metaphor for it” (p.68) which highlites its relative nature. Everyone who I have heard defining the HGA experience has given a slightly different explanation of it though they all seem consonant with each other. Crowley gave different explanations, some apparently contradictory, at different times in his life.

Discussing Cabala (p. 66) RAW writes: “… true understanding, he said, could only come through intuition or through direct experience…” Working with Cabala has the effect of strengthening and developing intuition. In the two examples of Cabala logic that follows one might get an intuitive sense of what works and what doesn’t.

Oz Fritz said...

Forgot to mention that the HGA goes into the category of a Tiphareth operation.

Also, Knowledge and Conversation of the HGA defines the intended outcome of the Abramelin ritual. Crowley bought his house on Loch Ness for this purpose, as I mentioned earlier. He said that his Boleskine House perfectly met all the required conditions as given in Abramelin. He abandoned the practice at a certain point to help Mathers break up the Golden Dawn. Crowley took it up again about 9 years later without those perfect conditions but instead visualized a temple while walking across China with is wife and infant child. Spontaneous, extemporaneous magick gets mentioned later on in "Masks..."

Crowley fully realized his HGA after the China walk while working with George Cecil Jones in London, the same Jones who initiates our hero, Sir John Babcock in the book.

Rarebit Fiend said...

Eric, I just finided "Nature's God" a couple weeks ago and in your forward you compare "The Historical Illuminatus! Chronicles" to Pynchon's "Mason &Dixon." Do you think, as I do, that there is a distinct thematic correspondence between "Masks" and certain parts of "Against the Day?"

Rarebit Fiend said...

For instance, the Compassionate in "Against the Day" and the Illuminati in the works of A Moore and "Masks" had the same rule over my mind.

PQ said...

A recent James Joyce-related news headline struck me as being a funny RAW-related synchronicity in the vein of the witty Joyce fan fiction in Masks, wrote about it here: http://www.abuildingroam.com/2013/02/archaeologists-dig-through-joyces.html

Eric Wagner said...

Rarebit, sorry it took me so long to answer. I can see parallels between Against the Day and Masks. Reading Mason and Dixon I had a strong sense the Pynch had read Bob's Historical Illuminatus! novels. Bob said he agreed with me.

Eric Wagner said...

I'd forgotten that Bob quoted Gilbert and Sullivan on pg. 40.

The recent HBO miniseries Parade's End give an interesting portrait of England at the time of this novel.

Eric Wagner said...

Pg. 44 Joyce gets the quote wrong. "I have heard the chimes at midnight" comes from Henry IV Part 2.

I suspect the author of Clouds Without Water wrote the letters in the Historical Journal criticizing Sir John's scholarship.

Eric Wagner said...

I find it an interesting coincidence to read about INRI during the Papal Conclave. When I visited the Vatican in 1985 I noticed all the INRI's on the images of the Crucifixion. I had forgotten what it meant, so I asked a nun in the Vatican who kindly explained it to me.

Eric Wagner said...

Phil Hine comments on this part of Masks of the Illuminati at http://www.philhine.org.uk/writings/ess_divunfold.html .

John Ohno said...

I always thought Sir John Babcock was supposed to be a descendent of some analog of Horace Walpole: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strawberry_Hill_House

Specifically, Walpole was a collector of curios (he had, in his home, Dr John Dee's magic mirror). His family crest strongly resembles the one described as Babcock, and his period of activity corresponds closely to the first Illuminati panics.

Even if Walpole was not the intended interpretation, it may be fulfilling to accept it. Specifically, for the british and western europeans in the audience here, Walpole's home has had most of its strange collections replaced and is now open to visitors as a museum.

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