Monday, September 29, 2014
Week 32, Iluminatus! online reading group
A sculpture from the British Museum, depicting the death of the Buddha. Shortly before he died, the Buddha advised his followers, as Timothy Leary paraphrased it, to think for themselves.
(Page 309, "There is no god but man," to page 323 "Do-da, -do-da, do-da-do-da-day")
As the Golden Apple begins, many of the plot elements of Illuminatus! are tied together with the last words of mobster Dutch Schultz, who as Illuminatus! says was killed on orders of the Mob because Schultz wanted to kill prosecutor (later presidential candidate) Tom Dewey. As police attempted to question the dying, incoherent mobster, a police stenographer wrote down many of his words, which in Wilson and Shea's telling contain many references to the Illuminati and their relationship with the Mafia and with others.
There is one slight alteration in the novel, which has the Dutchman saying, "They did it. Come on, Illuminati" (page 317). What he really said, according to this transcript, was "They did it. Come on. (A name, not clear)." So, if you like, you can believe that Illuminatus! is set in a parallel world not quite our own, or that They made sure the reference to Them was taken out of the transcript.
Other portions of the Dutchman's words can be read to match plot elements of Illuminatus!, for example, "Please crack down on the Chinaman's friends and Hitler's commander," a reference to the occult creatures mentioned by Lovecraft and others. There is more on this in the next section for the online discussion, when Robert Putney Drake chats with Hermann Hesse.
Meanwhile, some notes on the text of this section:
Page 311, "Mordecai Malignatus," Robert Anton Wilson.
Mendy Weiss, page 313. one of the assassins of the Dutchman. Executed on the electric chair in 1944.
"I am a pretty good pretzler, Winifred," page 318, another quote from the Dutchman. Winifred is a leader in the Illuminati.
"Camp-town racetrack five miles long," page 319. Famous Stephen Foster song about horse racing track, though I don't understand why is it is quoted here and on page 323.
Malaclypse the Elder, page 320, not to be confused with Malaclypse the Younger, e.g. Greg Hill.
"Communication is possible only between equals," page 322. Hagbard Celine's rant on the subject reminds me of Neal Stephenson's point in Cryptonomicon, that the American armed forces, more egalitarian than the Japanese, did a better job of correcting mistakes and allowing the communication of ideas.
"To receive light you must be receptive," Hagbard said curtly. "Work that out for yourself." Pages 322-333. A reference to the last words of the Buddha, who in the Mahaparinibbana Suttanta told his followers to rely upon themselves when seeking enlightenment. His words are translated in various ways, but here is one translation:
"Therefore, O Ananda, be ye lamps unto yourselves. Rely on yourselves, and do not rely on external help.
"Hold fast to the truth as a lamp. Seek salvation along in the truth. Look not for assistance to any one besides yourselves."
(Translation quoted from "Buddha's Farewell Address," in The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha, edited by E.A. Burtt)
Translation also available here.
"Never Whistle While You're Pissing," page 323. More Buddhism, a reference to mindfulness. "Hagbard Celine, H.M., S.H." Holy Man, Shit Head. From a famous Discordian parable by Camden Benares; see this post by noted Discordian Pope Guilty I.
(Next week: Page 324 (And Semper Cuni Linctus, the very night he reamed his subaltern for taking native superstitions seriously" to page 334 "and tellers turned to stare at him.")