Monday, February 23, 2015

Week 53, Illuminatus! online reading group


The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, which some believe was deliberately provoked to force the U.S. to enter World War II.

(This week: Beginning of Leviathan, page 565, "The mutation from terrestrial to interstellar life must be made," to page 575, "Joe gasped, 'It's alive!' ")

If the biggest kind of fool is the person who thinks he has it all figured out, and has quit thinking, the characters in Illuminatus!, and the people who are reading it, would seem to have escaped that trap. The characters, and the readers, are trying to figure it all out.

One thing they are trying to figure out is who belongs to whom. We have run into John Dillinger before, but as Leviathan opens we learn he is a double agent for the Illuminati and not the loyal ally of Simon Moon and Hagbard Celine that we had been led to believe. Pat Walsh is revealed as a secret Illuminati mole on Joe Malik's staff at Confrontation magazine.

One of the ways that the Illuminatus! trilogy is about paranoia, and perhaps the most convincing way (as the fear of the Illuminati is a little remote for many of us), is the way it dramatizes how the fear of "double agents" is a part of everyday life. That's what drives the TV series "The Americans" — not so much the fear of a KGB couple living next door, but who is the person I am married to, really?

While a "double agent" is technically a spy working for two different governments, in reality double agents are found in all walks of life,  just like Pat Walsh. A little bit of disloyalty is hardly worth remarking on. Even the most stringent employer likely accepts the occasional non-work-related phone call or personal email or website visit. Most spouses would not be surprised by a minor flirtation at work. It's the degree of disloyalty, and whether it is covert. Is the employee giving company secrets to a rival? Is the spouse planning to run off with someone else? A romantic triangle is much more interesting if one of the points is not aware of the other one.

As the classic Alan Jackson country song "Who's Cheating Who?" asks

Who's cheatin' who, who's being true
Who don't even care anymore
It makes you wonder
Who's doing right with someone tonight
And who's car is parked next door

Illuminatus is rife with double agents, as I've broadly defined the term. Can you really trust anyone with the initials "H.C."? Or anyone else?

This is a theme of James Joyce's Ulysses, by the way. Leopold Bloom is worried that his wife, Molly, is cheating on him, even as he secretly corresponds with another woman, using the name "Henry Flower."

A few notes on the text:

"Timothy Leary, Ph.D., and L. Wayne Brenner, Terra II," page 565. I have not read Terra II. L. Wayne Benner (that's his actual name, it is misspelled in Illuminatus!) knew Leary when the two were in a California prison together. Benner wrote a self-published memoir, Seven Shadows, which mentions RAW very briefly and describes Leary. I read it in 2013 and I did not think it was a very good book. (I contacted officials in the California prison system and they did not remember the prison breakout that is claimed in the book, so I believe Benner likely made it up.)

Page 566, 567, the list of band parodies a paragraph of James Joyce's Ulysses (part of the bar scene with "the citizen") :

He wore a long unsleeved garment of recently flayed oxhide reaching
to the knees in a loose kilt and this was bound about his middle by
a girdle of plaited straw and rushes. Beneath this he wore trews of
deerskin, roughly stitched with gut. His nether extremities were encased
in high Balbriggan buskins dyed in lichen purple, the feet being shod
with brogues of salted cowhide laced with the windpipe of the same
beast. From his girdle hung a row of seastones which jangled at every
movement of his portentous frame and on these were graven with rude
yet striking art the tribal images of many Irish heroes and heroines of
antiquity, Cuchulin, Conn of hundred battles, Niall of nine hostages,
Brian of Kincora, the ardri Malachi, Art MacMurragh, Shane O'Neill,
Father John Murphy, Owen Roe, Patrick Sarsfield, Red Hugh O'Donnell,
Red Jim MacDermott, Soggarth Eoghan O'Growney, Michael Dwyer, Francy Higgins, Henry Joy M'Cracken, Goliath, Horace Wheatley, Thomas Conneff,Peg Woffington, the Village Blacksmith, Captain Moonlight, Captain
Boycott, Dante Alighieri, Christopher Columbus, S. Fursa, S. Brendan,
Marshal MacMahon, Charlemagne, Theobald Wolfe Tone, the Mother of the
Maccabees, the Last of the Mohicans, the Rose of Castile, the Man for
Galway, The Man that Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, The Man in the Gap,
The Woman Who Didn't, Benjamin Franklin, Napoleon Bonaparte, John L.
Sullivan, Cleopatra, Savourneen Deelish, Julius Caesar, Paracelsus, sir
Thomas Lipton, William Tell, Michelangelo Hayes, Muhammad, the Bride of
Lammermoor, Peter the Hermit, Peter the Packer, Dark Rosaleen, Patrick
W. Shakespeare, Brian Confucius, Murtagh Gutenberg, Patricio Velasquez,
Captain Nemo, Tristan and Isolde, the first Prince of Wales, Thomas
Cook and Son, the Bold Soldier Boy, Arrah na Pogue, Dick Turpin, Ludwig
Beethoven, the Colleen Bawn, Waddler Healy, Angus the Culdee, Dolly
Mount, Sidney Parade, Ben Howth, Valentine Greatrakes, Adam and Eve,
Arthur Wellesley, Boss Croker, Herodotus, Jack the Giantkiller, Gautama
Buddha, Lady Godiva, The Lily of Killarney, Balor of the Evil Eye,
the Queen of Sheba, Acky Nagle, Joe Nagle, Alessandro Volta, Jeremiah
O'Donovan Rossa, Don Philip O'Sullivan Beare. A couched spear of
acuminated granite rested by him while at his feet reposed a savage
animal of the canine tribe whose stertorous gasps announced that he was
sunk in uneasy slumber, a supposition confirmed by hoarse growls and
spasmodic movements which his master repressed from time to time
by tranquilising blows of a mighty cudgel rudely fashioned out of
paleolithic stone.

"the Ultra-Violet Hippopotamus," page 567.

Ultraviolet Hippopotamus, the name of a current rock band based in Grand Rapids, Mich. "As they tried to settle on a name for their new group, they stumbled across a story containing a fictional band with the name, Ultraviolet Hippopotamus.  They felt it worked as a pefect represetation of the ridiculousness nature of the band... and so it stuck." (From the "History" section of the band's website.) The band, which has recorded five albums, currently is taking a break from recording and touring but denies it has broken up. So you may have to wait to see them live, but you can watch the video's posted on the band's website.


The American jam rock band Ultraviolet Hippopotamus. 

Page 568, "Nirvana," later the name of a very big American rock band, of course, associated with the Seattle rock scene. Seattle is the U.S. location where the Illuminatus! play was staged in 1978. 

"... when the Pearl Harbor revelations started coming out in the late 1940s," pages 570-571. Robert Anton Wilson's reading of revisionist historians convinced him that FDR maneuvered the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor and dragging the U.S. into World War II; see for example this essay. 

(Next week: Leviathan continues, page 575, "JUST LIKE A TREE THAT'S STANDING BY THE WAATER" to page 585, "AND HANK BRUMMER.")

85 comments:

JCG said...

"the Wrathful Visions...", p.567
Imagine annotating all of the band names in this section. From what I could identify, I picked out:
-SF titles
-Historical events
-Theological concepts
-Sexual puns
-Films
-Philosophy titles


"They might be scanning" p.570
It would would have been interesting if Wilson and Shea offered more info on what they thought the rank and file Illuminati would be up to on any given day. Who does the cognitive scanning?

"Five tons of flax, Mal" p.573
In regards to the reception history of Illuminatus!, the mention of Mal here is akin to Kerouac's mention of his friends in On the Road.

Arthur Hlavaty said...

The band list is a sign that Illuminatus! is an anatomy, a category defined by Northrop Frye as made up of large books in which the central plot is subsidiary to digressions, copias, lists, set pieces, parodies, and other sideshows, creating a whole larger than the sum of its parts. Many of the books I love, such as Ulysses, Stand on Zanzibar, John Barth's Letters, The Recognitions, The Public Burning, Matt Ruff's Sewer, Gas, & Electric, and Neil Stephenson's The Cryptonomicon also fall into that category.

Leopold Bloom isn't worried that his wife is having an affair. He knows it.

Manic The Doodler said...

p. 568-- Standard Oil Of Ohio, aka SOHIO... A gas station in Ohio until BP took them over. My dad ran a couple different ones back in the late 60's through the 70's... My first job was at one of them...

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Arthur,

I guess my thought was that you can know something and also worry about it, e.g. if you know someone in your family has a serious illness, you would worry.

Arthur Hlavaty said...

That makes sense.

Oz Fritz said...

The first band, the Wrathful Visions, from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, telegraphs the bardo-like sequences the novel dives into.

"St. Valentime's Day Massacre" - I mixed a show for the free jazz band Massacre last week in Paris. The got the name Massacre because their first show ever was on Valentine's Day. I just found that out despite working with them for about 10 years.

Out of all the bands and musicians three appear to have been real at the time: Dr. John, Joan Baez and Steppenwolf. I wonder why those thee? I mixed a set once for Joan Baez. She began her career singing a lot of tragic anglo folk songs about murder and death. Dr. John the Nightripper is a total night tripper if you've ever seen any of his old videos from the '60s - bardo spaces to the extreme. Steppenwolf was one of the first rock bands I listened to from playing the Easy Rider soundtrack (8 track tape!) which put them on the map to a broader audience. Both a strong bardo and death sequence in that film.

p. 569 - the O.T.O. yoga that Dillinger was doing reminds me of the phrase "keep the lasagna flyin."

p. 570 - the paragraph that starts "A mind leak..." seems based on experience.



.

Eric Wagner said...

I finally got caught up. I played briefly in a band called the Nine Unknown Men, named after the one in Illuminatus!

I had forgotten they had a band called the Entwives.

chas said...

One thing I love about the song list, aside from the band names, is how it serves to give a quick timeline of the action so far.

There are also a few other "real" bands in the list (beyond those listed by Oz):

The Climax--a soft rock band who dressed like 3 Dog Night and had one hit--Precious and Few

The Association, who started their career with a mid sixties hit titled Along Comes Mary (And does she want to set them free, and let them see reality
From where she got her name
And will they struggle much when told that such a tender touch as hers
Will make them not the same
When we met I was sure out to lunch
Now my empty cup tastes as sweet as the punch), written by Tandyn Almer when he was 23 years old, of course.

The Zombies--numerous hits including Time of the Season

And of course Mick Jagger and The Trashers--I'd love to get a copy of that particular bootleg!

One of my favorite band names is The 23rd Appendix--hoot!

chas said...

P,S,--Do we have a link to the recap at the start of the 3 volume copy of Leviathan?

chas said...

Okay, here is the link to the Leviathan prologue. My favorite part is right at the start, when the authors assert:

If you’d go out and buy Volumes I and II, you wouldn’t have to read this synopsis.

As if!

https://sites.google.com/site/onlymaybe/illuminatus-trilogy/books-chapters-and-trips/leviathan-prologue

Arthur Hlavaty said...

Along Comes Mary: Many of us believed at the time that her last name was Juana.

chas said...

And boy does she ever!

Toff said...

Nirvana is also the name of a UK band of some note that existed at the time Illuminatus! was written. Whether RAW and Shea were familiar with that band, I don't know.

The whole list deserves to be annotated.

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