Monday, July 14, 2014

Illuminatus online reading group, Week Twenty One [Updated]


"The Judgment of Paris" by Enrique Simonet. He's checking out Aphrodite, as Hera and Athena stand to the side.


(This week: Page 204, "Behind the golden door stood the lovely black receptionist," to page 214, "And speaking of war, the enemy lies ahead.")

After George Dorn undergoes the ceremony initiating him into the Legion of Dynamic Discord, Hagbard explains the meaning: "If there were no death, there would be no sex. If there were no sex, there would be no death. And without sex, there would be no evolution toward intelligence, no human race. Therefore, death is necessary. Death is the price of orgasm." (Pages 210-211).

And when the ceremony is finished, George has a question: "What the blazes does Kallisti mean?" (Page 210).

Let's answer George's question, and go into some detail about the origins of the Trojan War and how the golden apple played into it. It's a story that has plenty of sex and death.

It's a story that begins in the mythical days of ancient Greece, before the classical age of Athens and Sparta and Plato and Herodotus and Sophocles, before the Trojan War, when gods and legendary heroes mingled together.

The story of the golden apple and the Trojan War involves the goddess Eris, patron goddess of Discordianism, and begins at the wedding of the Greek hero Peleus and the goddess Thetis,  the parents of the mighty but all-too-mortal Greek hero of the Trojan War, Achilles. (For my account, I am relying mainly on Robert Graves' wonderful The Greek Myths.)

Their wedding was the social event of the season, and all of the important Greek gods were there, but Eris, the goddess of discord and chaos, was left off the guest list, for fear that she would cause trouble. In Discordianism, this is known as the "original snub."

Eris reacted, however, by causing trouble. She crashed the event, tossing a golden apple at the feet of Hera, Athena and Aphrodite that was inscribed "Kallisti," "to the most beautiful one") (Graves, chapter 81).

Well, this was embarrassing. All three of the goddesses, as Eris intended, assumed that the apple was intended for her, and they began an  argument about who the apple belonged to. This put Zeus in the no-win position of having to decide who was the best-looking goddess: His wife, Hera, his daughter, Athena (as some say) or his daughter (as some say) Aphrodite. He needed a fall guy for a decision that would make two out of three goddesses unhappy.

Fortunately one was at hand (Graves, chapter 159): Paris, son of Priam, the king of Troy. When Paris was born, it was prophesied that any royal Trojan who gave birth that day, and the baby also, must be killed, to spare Troy from utter destruction. Hecabe, who gave birth the fateful day, was asked to at least kill her baby, but couldn't bring herself to do it, and gave the job to a herdsman, who didn't get the job done and raised the kid as his own out in the country, far away from big city life.

Paris, already famous the fairness of his judgments after he had grown up, was picked to decide who should get the apple. Each goddess agreed to accept his decision. One by one, each took off her clothes so that Paris could inspect her charms. As each goddess approached Paris to be objectified, she whispered an offered bribe. Hera said she would make Paris lord of Asia, and the richest man alive. Athena offered to make him victorious in war, and the best looking and wisest man on earth. Aphrodite offered him the most beautiful woman on Earth as his lover. As it happened, Helen was already married to Menelaus, brother of King Agamennon, but Aphrodite explained that her divine powers as a matchmaker could overcome such trifling problems.

Either because Aphrodite knew what Paris really wanted, or because she deserved to win, Paris awarded her the golden apple. In due course, Aphrodite helped Paris steal Helen away. When Agamemnon's envoy to Troy demanding Helen's return came back empty-handed, the incident provided an excuse to lead a mighty Greek army against Troy, to sack the wealthy city.

Whatever his merits as a judge of beauty, Paris was not a very good politician: His decision earned the enmity of the two most powerful goddesses in the trio. They took the side of the Greeks in the ensuing Trojan War.

In a way, the story of the golden apple provides a mythological underpinning for centuries of classical civilization, pagan Greco-Roman civilization that only went away several centuries after Christ, when Germanic tribes overran the western Roman Empire and Christianity took over the entire Mediterranean basin, supplanting the previous culture. Following the Trojan War, Greeks became the dominant people in the eastern Mediterranean. They were able to win a kind of reverse Trojan War, when armies from the east, from the Persian Empire, sought to conquer Greece but failed. (John Stuart Mills called the battle of Marathon an important event in English history). And in the Roman national myth, chronicled in Virgil's Aeneid, refugees from Troy migrated to Italy and were connected to the founding of Rome, which of course eventually took over the entire Mediterranean, turning it into a Roman lake, and much of Europe and Asia, including England.


Joseph Hauber's rendition of Paris' fateful choice.

George Dorn undergoes an initiation in this section of the book that is pleasurable but also frightening. But in a sense, he is constantly going through an initiation in the book, being scared and angered and trying to figure out what is doing on.

"Beyond a certain point, the whole universe becomes a continuous process of initiation." Robert Anton Wilson, from The Widow's Son. 

Update: Please see this followup post. 

(Next week: Page 214, "In the distance, George could make out what appeared to be a mighty city rising on hills," to page 224, "Soon we must to Bavaria go. Ewige Blumenkraft!")

4 comments:

fuzzbuddy said...

Good write up Tom.

On Pg. 210 William S. Burroughs, and the Marquis de Sade get one of several mentions in the book.

I love the take on dolphin poetry.

I enjoy the phrase "Porpoise Corpus" on Pg. 213.

There is or was a band by this name, and it is also said on an Aesop Rock hip hop track.

Oz Fritz said...

p.205 "The sexually responsive male," said Stella. "Good, good, good. Now you're ready for the next chamber..."

Could be a dedication or consecration for beginning the sex magick. According to Regardie in his "Tree of Life" after banishing, every magick ritual begins with some sort of dedication, acknowledgement or invocation of the Highest. Conventional wisdom in the arts holds that repeating something three times makes the thought form more substantial.

p. 211 "Therefore death is necessary... I showed you orgasm and death in one image and brought it home to you. And you'll never forget it. It was a trip George. Wasn't it a trip?"

- seems like Hagbard gives a George a big transformational secret not unrelated to the O.T.O.'s IXth degree secret, maybe.

p.214 "Our philosophers mostly hold that we live in beauty all the days of our lives, as no human does."

Dolphin philosophy seems to echo one theme of Illuminatus! - activation of Leary's 6th circuit.

Eric Wagner said...

The reference to the green door on pg. 205 may refer to the film "Behind the Green Door" which Bob Wilson listed as one of his favorites in Trajectories.

Eric Wagner said...

One might model Howard as a rapper with his spontaneous composition. Perhaps James Earl Jones or Nas could do his voice for the film.

The discussion of the shock of encountering a different (dolphin) civilization on pg. 213 reminds me of Pynchon's fascination with the Herero and their demoralization after encountering Europeans.