Monday, March 31, 2014

Illuminatus online reading group, Week Six

Antioch Hall at the reopened Antioch College

This week: Page 52 "Saul picked up the ninth memo" to Page 63 "the shadows of Maya."

This section of Illuminatus! introduces one of the major themes of the novel. Given the fact that libertarians and anarchists are doomed, at least in the short term, to live in a statist world ("those on the light side moved about the tasks appointed for them by their rulers" page 58) there is only so much that the libertarian or anarchist can accomplish in the world around him; the task therefore becomes to free yourself, or at least free your mind.

Here is the key passage on pages 62 and 63, after Simon Moon has listened to  his anarchist parents argue:

"You're both wrong," I said. "Freedom won't come through love, and it won't come through Force. It will come through the Imagination." I put in all the capital letters and I was so stoned that they got contact-high and heard them, too. 

Libertarians always have plenty to complain about, of course, but 1969, when Wilson and Shea began Illuminatus!, was a particularly bad time. The Indochina war raged in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and Americans were being drafted to participate in a war that many of them regarded as unjust. Science fiction writer William Gibson was among those Americans who went to Canada to avoid participating in the Vietnam War; years later, RAW read Gibson at the behest of a friend who was trying to keep RAW current on the science fiction scene.

Perhaps partially because they were reacting against a horrible war, many anarchists and artists in the 1960s had a renewed interest in surrealism, which was at least in part the stepchild of dadaism, which was born amid the horror of World War I. Moon alludes to this on page 62, "The young frontal-lobe-type anarchists in the city [of Chicago, where Shea and Wilson lived and worked] were in their first surrealist revival just then ..."

Here is a quote from Surrealism founder Andre Breton, "It was in the black mirror of anarchism that surrealism first recognised itself." (That's from "The Politics of Surrealism.")

The book is explicit about Simon Moon's use of sex magick as a brain change agent and as a means of escape (page 57) but other libertarians also have talked about the need to escape, or at least separate themselves from everyday reality.

This has given rise to (so far) Utopian schemes such as migrating to space (something that RAW advocated, of course) and setting up libertarian communities in floating cities. A more practical approach was advocated in the late Harry Browne's How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, and see also Bryan Caplan's blog post advocating creating a "bubble" for yourself, "Create Your Own Bubble in Ten Easy Steps." (I've tried to follow some of Caplan's advice.)

Neither of these gentlemen were isolated from day to day libertarian issues. Browne ran for president as the Libertarian Party candidate. Caplan is very active campaigning for open borders and pacifism. But both have offered practical counsel for living in a statist world with tasks appointed by rulers.

RAW's "mentor" James Joyce had an autobiographical hero, Stephen Dedalus, who adoped "silence, exile and cunning" as a defense against the twin oppressions of the state and the church. Joyce spent much of his exile from Ireland in neutral Switzerland.

The Internet has for years provided a means for escape, not just for libertarians but for many other interest groups who have been able to use it to find each other. The cypherpunks in particular saw encryption as a means to escape the attention of the authorities, although the cypherpunk project has been hampered by the apparent reluctance of even many libertarians to actually use encryption. (Anyone interested in this topic could consider using TAILS and other tools, such as PGP email. If you want to try encrypting your emails, I suggest using Enigmail with Thunderbird as a relatively easy method.)

A few notes on the text:

Page 54, Arthur Flegenheimer. Better known as mobster Dutch Schultz. Expect to read more about his last words.

Page 57, "everything else in my life has been a hallucination." Simon is trying to get her to "wake up."

Page 58, Malaclypse the Younger, e.g Gregory Hill.

Page 61, " ... the orders will still come from Wall Street."

Page 62, "Antioch in dear old Yellow Springs." Antioch College, in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

RAW lived in the Yellow Springs area for two years, an experience he talked about in Cosmic Trigger Volume 2: Down to Earth and  the Lewis Shiner interview:

You grew up in New York, then moved to Ohio. Why Ohio?

I was offered a job editing a magazine for a place called the School for Living, which later moved to Maryland. The School for Living had a very interesting philosophy, which was "back to nature, live on the land, eat health food" — and a bit of anarchism and Wilhelm Reich. I agreed with about half of that and thought the over half was kind of flakey, but it was interesting. I thought it would be a great idea to live on a farm and see how I did at it.

I enjoyed it. We were there for two years.

Were you influenced by your years on the farm?

Yeah, I think so. My children were very young then. I guess the oldest was about eight when we left Ohio. I used to look at the grass and crops and trees and goats and cows and at my children and my wife and myself and think about evolution — all these different types of intelligence. I got fascinated by the intelligence of insects. It turned me into a pantheist. No, pantheist is not correct. The technical word is pan-psych-ist. I became more and more convinced that everything was intelligent.

Next week: Page 63 ("Dad was the first to recover") to Page 73 ("he began thinking of alternate plans.")


JCG said...

p.53: "the pieces of the puzzle slipped together smoothly.[...] He was also wrong."

Since Illuminatus! was integral in embedding the concept of the Illuminati into both the Discordian mythos and Discordianism as a form of subjectivity, I find it helpful to separate the various schemes presented in the memos (and postulated by the characters) from the didactic function they seem to serve for Wilson/Shea. That is to say, instead of focusing too much on which parts of the conspiracy theories are partially accurate and partially inaccurate (& possibly irrelevant!), I tend to try and track the dynamics of the 'Wilson/Shea Illuminati thesis'. Unlike the 'euclidean' orientations of the Illuminati theses as presented in the book (Right Wing/Left Wing~ Fascist/Anarchist~etc.), the 'Wilson/Shea Illuminati thesis' marks a 'post-euclidean' paradigm shift in conspiracy theory, wherein (guerrilla) ontology replaces (revisionist) history as primary.
Essentially, the 'Wilson/Shea Illuminati thesis' does not indicate who is running the world, but that reality is "thermoplastic" i.e. "nothing is true everything is permitted". The shift is from the 'loser script' of 'I am a victim of the Illuminati' to a 'winner script' of being 'the master who makes the grass green', or at least that how I interpret it as I embark on this reading of the trilogy.

(Did not intend for my first post to be so long-winded. Nonetheless, Hello everyone!)

Jesse said...

At the time that he wrote that book, Harry Browne was opposed to political activism. His presidential campaign came more than two decades later.

Jesse said...

First presidential campaign, I should say. (Though, naturally, the second one also came more than two decades later.)

fuzzbuddy said...

pg. 53. Saul was convinced. He was also wrong. Which voice is this and is it trustworthy?

pg. 54. How "soapy" Mocenigo got his nickname.

pg. 54. General Talbot looks at Mocenigo pityingly and raises his pistol to the scientists head - explained later.

pg. 54 Arthur Flegenheimer also just referred to as The Dutchman later.

pg. 55. This stumps me: "but when the paths of Mr. Flegenheimer and Mr. Drake crossed, in 1935..." I can't remember them ever appearing together later in the book. What was the link formed?

pg. 56. BUGGER - Blowhard's Unreformed Gangsters, Goons, and Espionage Renegades. - It is shown to exist when 00005 is at woodstock Europa, but is Hagbard also alluded too?

pg. 58. Hopalong Horus Rides Again. - I never quite got my mind around this phrase.

pg. 63. "Imagination" - This conversation leaves a strong imprint on Simon Moon, we see in a few pages time.

fuzzbuddy said...

I just remembered RPD does write 2 papers on Schultz's last words.

michael said...

I'd just like to POINT out the last word of the first trip, Kether, is "point."

From Eric Wagner's An Insider's Guide to RAW:

"Wilson and Shea chose the final words in the first five trips in keeping with Crowley's Naples arrangement, as discussed in his Book of Thoth." -p.118

fyreflye said...

I got fascinated by the intelligence of insects. It turned me into a pantheist. No, pantheist is not correct. The technical word is pan-psych-ist. I became more and more convinced that everything was intelligent.

No, the technical word is "animist." See Emma Restall Orr's recent enquiry into humankind's default religion:

Arthur Hlavaty said...

Wilson's panpsychism strikes me as an excellent subject for Wilson's agnosticism. I don't believe it (just as I don't believe in the three-omni God), but that may just be the limits of my imagination, and I can't disprove it, so I don't disbelieve it either.

Drew Zi said...

Simon moon's coupling with mary lou at the end of the first trip seems to parallel the movement of the book. This is re-enforced by the ages of Illuminatus in appendix Beth, and Yesod's correspondence with the trigram K'an.

Arthur Hlavaty said...

fuzzbuddy: The voice that tells us Saul is wrong is the Narrator, who introduces him/herself at the beginning. We learn the Narrator's identity near the end.

fuzzbuddy said...

Thanks Arthur.

Drew Zi said...

"Two blocks north in space and over forty years back in time... on p59. is this the first clue we get as to when the main narrative of the book is set.

Wagner in his book says that he asked wilson at one point if was some particular date, I cannot recall precisely what it was, and Wilson said no and later said yes.

From this bit of information in the book, we gather that the present year has to be after 1974.

Eric Wagner said...

Yeah, I asked Bob in 1988 if the main action of Illuminatus! took place in 1976. He said no. Years later he told me yes.

Fuzzbuddy, thanks for posting the stuff from Bob's Maybe Logic class on Illuminatus! I wish I'd taken that. I still wonder why Bob became so fascinated by the Decembrists at the end of his life. My wife got me War and Peace for Christmas in 2005, and I finished it in 2006. I didn't realize until I'd finished it that Tolstoy started writing that book to explore the origins of the Decembrists. The book has a small Masonic subplot. (I know I've told this story before. Perhaps the NSA didn't catch it the first time.)

Neil_in_Chicago said...

The dean of surrealism in Chicago was the redoubtable Franklin Rosemont. I can't cite passages in the book, Wilson once told me he was part of Simon Moon.

It never occurred to me that there is a 'Wilson/Shea Illuminati thesis'.

I thought BUGGER was just 00005's imagination. As best I recall, he only encountered it when he was tripping heavily.

My recollection is that the book was set in 1976. That made it slightly futuristic when it was written.

Jesse said...

Rosemont was a part of Operation Mindfuck, too. Or at least he was on the distribution list when Wilson sent around some ideas on how the pranking should proceed.

Eric Wagner said...

Rather than feeling doomed to live in a statist world, Bob once commented that he and Shea wanted to suggest in Illuminatus! that governments didn't exist, just as Voltaire suggested God didn't exist.

When W. tells 00005 that "If you're captured, Her Majesty's government will have to disavow any knowledge of your actions," it made me think of the film "The Rock."

On pg.62 Simon paints a picture of his innocence in the mid-60's, contrasting it with getting maced in 1968. This makes me think of the contrast Bob saw between the innocent picture of the 1960's presented in films like Skidoo and I Love You Alice B. Toklas and the harsher images of the sixties in films of the late 1960's. It also makes me think of the contrast between Rubber Soul and Revolver and the final Beatles' albums.

(IWW - World Wide Wobs.)

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