Monday, April 15, 2013

Masks of the Iluminati, Part Nine

Pages 280-316 of the Dell Edition; Pocket Books pages 231-261 (e.g.,  end of Part Four of both editions); about 90 percent of an ebook.

Isn't this a beautiful resolution of Robert Anton Wilson's mystery plot?

As I mentioned earlier, Wilson explained in an interview, "I can't write a formula book. I tried once, that was Masks of the Illuminati. I started out to write an ordinary detective story, and then my imagination ran away with me and out came Masks Of The Illuminati which is a detective novel but hardly an ordinary one."

It's hardly ordinary, as RAW writes, but he conforms to the requirements of the detective novel by explaining what has happened and he even follow the convention of the detective who solves the case explaining his reasoning to an assembled group of all of the participants. In this case, Crowley is supposedly absent, but Joyce suggests that he "has been hiding in the garden listening to us all evening."  (One of my favorite mystery writers, Lawrence Block, always parodies this plot device in his popular "Burglar" series.)

Page 281, "The Rites of Eleusis." The Eleusinian Mysteries were an important feature on ancient Greek paganism and required initiation. From Wikipedia: "some scholars believe that the power and longevity of the Eleusinian Mysteries came from psychedelic agents." Wikipedia article is here. In Illuminatus!, it is stated (Page 123) that participants were given a magic mushroom and then told the secret of the mysteries, "Osiris is a black god!" The Rosicrucian Digest discussion of Eleusis is here. 

Page 284, Mansour-el-Hallaj, Sufi mystic who traveled to India and China. 

Page 292, "the tale is this," the archetypal tale of returning to a magic place that has vanished is something I've encountered in fantasy novels, but where? I think I saw it in Jack Vance's Lyonesse trilogy. In his memoir, This Is Me, Jack Vance! Vance recalls a wonderful time with an exotic Latin American girl who he never saw again, perhaps offering a psychological key to the archetype.

Page 298, "a puzzle-book," Wilson uses Joyce to state RAW's own artistic philosophy. In Masks, perhaps to reward more conventional readers, Wilson explains much of the puzzle.

Page 314, "I have trained myself not to judge but to understand." Good journalists have to learn to understand rather than judge, as I've noticed in my career in the business. This also relates to paying close attention, so that you can be fascinated by other human beings and what's happening around you.

Page 316, "The worship of sex is, to an objective observer, no more absurd than any other form of worship." Bloomsday, June 16, commemorates a memorable sex act (a handjob) that Nora Barnacle performed upon James Joyce. Wilson worked for Playboy magazine, a publication which arguably worshiped sex.

I am grateful to each and every one of you who have contributed comments to the Masks discussion, and I mean each of you, but I would feel remiss if I did not particularly thank Oz Fritz for sharing his knowledge of Aleister Crowley and related matters. Oz's blog is here.  And don't miss the time Oz gave a book to Sting.


gacord said...

Agree. I've read a fair amount of Uncle Al, retained very little. I thoroughly enjoyed Oz's feedback. Would love to take a Crowley class from him some day. Wow.

PQ said...

I also enjoyed Oz's contributions very much.

What a wild Walpurgisnacht to end this book. Totally didn't see that coming, but was pretty humorous. RAW clearly had lots of fun writing this, getting to toy with favorite historical characters like Crowley, Joyce, and Einstein with a concluding psychedelic trip involving all three.

Once again, lots of parodying of Ulysses in this final chapter, most prominently "Circe" but also a mix of the other episodes' styles as well.

I had a great synchronicity occur as I had been taking notes about the Shem/Shaun duality (and the Shadow) in Finneagans Wake right before I came to page 297 of Masks where both Joyce and Einstein ponder quotes on yin/yang polarities, before getting into a discussion about the Jungian idea of the shadow.

Lastly, I've got a whacky little personal theory about the book now that I've completed it. Mind you, I'm not asserting this with too much seriousness and it's colored by my own experiences lately.

It occurs to me that Babcock could = RAW, while Crowley = Tim Leary.

At the same time, Joyce and Einstein seem like imaginary figments, the scientific and artistic sides of RAW's own mind.

The mirror image of that is Professor Jones and Reverend Verey are both purposeful projections put on by Crowley (two sides of Leary, though I can't account for the hunchback!).

Also, maybe this is obvious to everyone else but the Soldier and Hunchback = Professor Jones and Rev Verey.

Oz Fritz said...

Thanks everyone! Great analysis Tom and PQ.

p.284 " Crowley himself had certain links with Commander Marsden of our own Army Intelligence which I do not pretend to fathom." The writer Richard Spence did pretend to fathom ACs links to spying with his book, "Aleister Crowley Secret Agent 666" "Pretend to fathom " to me gives an excellent description of the aproach of this book. There is a fair amount of weakly supported supposition and unproven assumptions though some of it rings true. It is documented that Crowley had some involvement with Army Intelligence.

Verey disappearing in the garden turning into the tall looking Baron recalls the hunchback and the soldier. The question turning into the AHA exclamation, a sudden realization. That this takes place in a garden seems significant.

Mary Sturges was one of ACs most significant Scarlet Women (ie magickal partner). She has a cowriter credit to Magick, Book 4. She was also one of the few Scarlet Women of ACs not to go crazy in some way and they remained friends after they split up. She indeed was Isadora Duncan's secretary.

supergee said...

I love Joyce's reply to "I know the difference between right and wrong." It is the heart of the book, and the heart of Babcock's initiation.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I love PQ's theories, but it seems to me that if Crowley=Timothy Leary, then RAW=George Cecil Jones, with Babcock a stand-in for readers who are trying to understand Leary's and Wilson's theories.

Didn't Leary believe he was in some sense following in Crowley's footsteps?

gacord said...

The funny thing to me is, everyone here could be right, wrong, mostly right, mostly wrong, or partly meaningless. All the while, it's plausible that RAW really did just sit down to write a detective story and this little saga fell out of his brain without any of our personal realities interpretations intended. And he knew _enough_ about Crowley, Joyce, and Einstein to carry the narrative. Or, of course, like Joyce, he could have planted even MORE meanings that we never touched on in this discussion. Regardless, it all has me laughing. I think RAW would have hoped for that the most. Keep the lasagna flying.

Thanks, Tom, for giving us all this opportunity. Can't wait for the next one.

Oz Fritz said...

Tom, yes Leary believed he was carrying on Crowley's work. There's a video on You Tube where he states that directly but I forget what it's called. He had one of his more powerful trips in the North African desert then found out it was nearly at the same spot where Crowley had one of his most significant experiences, the invocation of Choronozon, the demon of chaos. Then he asked Crowley's Thoth tarot deck something to the effect if he was carrying on AC's work, drew one card and got Crowley's signature card, the Ace of Disks. Also they were responsible (or irresponsible depending upon or view) for introducing psychedelics to a number of people.

At another time, Leary also stated that he was carrying on Gurdjieff's work.

Oz Fritz said...

Jones was the one who brought Crowley into the Golden Dawn and one of his 3 early magic teachers along with Alan Bennett and MacGregor Mathers.

After the Golden Dawn split up, Crowley started his world travels. One such adventure was walking across China with his wife Rose and infant daughter. He was also rigorously invoking his HGA the whole way across with visualization and prayer. When he finally got back to England he reconnected with Jones and did some intense ritual work with him for some weeks that culminated in the realization of his HGA.

Then, at some later point Jones and Crowley formed the A.'. A.'. and it became one of Crowley's vehicles. At some Jones began distancing himself from Crowley for his public reputation.

RAW kind of reverses their roles, though in terms of their accomplishments it's kind of true.

Oz Fritz said...

p. 291 "They are clever," Einstein agreed. Devilishly clever." When I read this it sounded to me something nearly verbatim from a Sherlock Holmes story but couldn't place it exactly.

On the next page I saw: " The charm of this story, I have found, is that if you tell it to somebody they will immediately claim to have heard it, or read it, somewhere before, but they can never recall where . . ."

Subtly brilliant writing!

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