Monday, September 15, 2014
Illuminatus Reading Group, Week 30
"The Death of Caesar" by Jean-Léon Gérôme, just after the conspirators have pressed home their attack on Julius Caesar by inflicting 23 wounds.
(This week: Concluding pages of The Eye in the Pyramid. Page 292, "RAGS. Hail Ghoulumbia, her monadmen are fled," to page 304, "Every emotion is a motion.)
The end of The Eye in the Pyramid brilliantly ties together the Cthulhu mythos with the occult and with anarchism. It provides a good thematic summary for the book, although of course for a dramatic resolution we have two more books to go.
"He's inside the Pentagon. That's why they build it in that shape, so he couldn't escape. The Aztecs, the Nazis ... and now us ... "
A fictional metaphor for the National Security state and for the military-industrial complex, and for the way it demands the sacrifice of thousands, regardless of who wins the elections? At the time Illuminatus! was written, the U.S. was involved in the war in Vietnam, which had little to do with national security in a traditional sense. No one believed the Vietnamese were about to invade Hawaii or California.
Perhaps the passage I've quoted, and some of themes of Illuminatus!, come from the peace demonstration which attempted an exorcism of the Pentagon.
Handbill written by Ed Sanders (of the Fugs, mentioned in Illuminatus!) with instructions for exorcism of the Pentagon, taken from above link.)
Some notes on the text:
"A rag, a bone, a hank of hair," page 293. The quotation is from a Rudyard Kipling poem, "The Vampire."
Anthropologist J.N. Marsh, page 294. Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe, considered a classic SF novel, has an anthropologist named John V. Marsch.
Dr. Henry Armitage, page 294. Head librarian at Miskatonic University in the H.P. Lovecraft story, "The Dunwich Horror."
Allegro's The Sacred Mushroom, page 294. The so-called "Jesus as mushroom" theory. Controversial, obviously, but Allegro has his defenders, including classical scholar Carl Ruck. I blogged about Ruck.
amanita, page 297, more here.
"young black student named Pearson," page 297. Later the leader of a rock music band, Clark Kent and his Supermen.
"I can see the fnords," page 302. Explanation of fnords here. The use of fnords to induce fear in the populace relates to the National Security State.
"I suppose you've read Seutonius and know that the late J. Caesar was rendered exactly 23 stab wounds by Brutus & Co.," page 304.
Suetonius is misspelled, but I pulled my copy of The Twelve Caesars off the shelf, and there is a reference to 23 stabbings. After the initial two stabbings, Suetonius relates, Caesar pulled his gown over his face. "Twenty-three dagger thrusts went home as he stood there." Suetonius also mentions that Caesar was 55 years old when he died, so his death conformed to the Law of Fives.
By the way, my copy of the The Twelve Caesars is translated by Robert Graves, the "Graves" mentioned on Page 294.
(Next week: Prologue to the Golden Apple, available here if you are using the Dell Omnibus edition (which omits it).