Monday, March 9, 2015
Week 55, Illuminatus! online reading group
The General Slocum. As James Joyce scholar Jim Cartwright notes, the disastrous sinking of the ship that killed more than 1,000 people took place one day before the events of Ulysses, so people in the novel are reading about it in their newspapers.
(This week: page 575, "JUST LIKE A TREE THAT'S STANDING BY THE WAATER" to page 585, "AND HANK BRUMMER.")
Sheriff Jim Cash Cartwright, who I think is really working for Hagbard Celine, is one of the more interesting characters in Illuminatus. His lecture to Joe Malik, in its mixture of insight and B.S., is reminiscent of Mama Sutra's audience with Tobias Knight. It also pretty much captures the approach of the entire work.
"And it was hard to think that Cartwright was lying, since he knew so much about so many other things," page 585. I think that's the key. He's not lying, and he knows a lot, but the world is so vast that as we try to figure it all out, we can't get it all. It's also possible that he's blackening Hagbard Celine's name to provide cover for his own connection to Celine.
Toff's Character Breakdown for Illuminatus has this entry for Jim Cartwright:
Sheriff James Jim Cash Cartwright little short fat man, hot reptilian palms, breath smells of bourbon and cheap cigars, Sheriff of Mad Dog, Texas, Episkopos of Mad Dog Cabal of LDD; author of How the Ancient Bavarian Conspiracy Plotted and Carried Out the Assassinations of Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., George Lincoln Rockwell, Robert Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, George Wallace, Jane Fonda, Gabriel Conrad, and Hank Brummer. Arrests and imprisons George Dorn; initiates Tobias Knight into LDD. I30, E; I67, E; I561, G271; I578, L26; I613, L61; I637, L8
5; I691, L139
(Key to the page references)
I=Illuminatus! Trilogy, Dell omnibus
E=Illuminatus! Part I: The Eye in the Pyramid, Dell
G=Illuminatus! Part II: The Golden Apple, Dell
L=Illuminatus! Part III: Leviathan, Dell
to convert page numbers from the omnibus to those of the individual volumes or vice versa:
Illuminatus! Trilogy to Eye in the Pyramid: I?=E; E?=I
Illuminatus! Trilogy to Golden Apple: I-290=G; G+290=I
Illuminatus! Trilogy to Leviathan: I-552=L; L+552=I
Here is an interesting passage from Cartwright's lecture to Joe Malik (pages 479-480):
"Well, sir," said Cartwright, "my basic finding is that life energy pervades the entire universe, just as light and gravity do. Therefore, all life is one, just as all light is one. All energies, you see, are broadcast from a central source, yet to be found. If four amino acids—adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine—suddenly become life when you throw them together, then all chemicals are potentially alive. You and me and the fish and bugs are that kind of life made from adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine: DNA life. What we call dead matter is another kind of life: non-DNA-life. Okay so far? If awareness is life and if life is one, then the awareness of the individual is just one of the universe's sensory organs. The universe produces beings like us in order to perceive itself. You might think of it as a giant, self-contained eye."
Joe remained impassive.
Cartwright went on. "Consciousness is therefore also manifested as telepathy, clairvoyance, and telekinesis. Those phenomena are simply non-localized versions of consciousness. I'm very interested in telepathy, and I've had a lot of success with telepathic research. These cases of communication are just further evidence that consciousness is a seamless web throughout the universe."
Compare with Scotus Erigena's "all things that are, are lights," which we've mentioned earlier, and while the "life energy" bit is possibly a stretch, this is pretty close to Robert Anton Wilson's own adaption of quantum mechanics to theories of consciousness; see for example the "Note" at the beginning of email to the universe: "I also suspect that this world shows signs of intelligent design, and I suspect that such intelligence acts via feedback from all parts to all parts and without centralized sovereignty, like Internet; and that it does not function hierarchically, in the style [of] an Oriental despotism, an American corporation or Christian theology."
Horace Naismith, page 581, pen name for Playboy editor William Helmer, according to Adam Gorightly.
H.L. Hunt, page 582, right wing, wealthy Texas oilman. According to the Wikipedia biography, the character of J.R. Ewing from "Dallas" was inspired by Hunt.
(Next week: Page 585, "Well, said Joe," to page 595, "a circle with a downward pointing trident carved inside it.")