Monday, May 25, 2015

Week 66, Illuminatus online reading group


A rendering of Leviathan. Source. 

This week: Raise you five," said Waterhouse, throwing down another five-ton note," page 715, to page 729, "Don't you remember any of the last ten minutes?" said Hagbard.)

I feel a bit stuck in this week's episode; much is explained, but I don't really see how to talk about it without putting a bunch of spoilers in a blog post.

But I do think this section has a passage has a pretty clear exposition of one of the book's main themes, a political and spiritual libertarianism of "do not lay your own trip on others." It comes during Ms. Portinari's Tarot reading, when she is talking about the Buddhist concept of the Wheel:

The most important lesson of all, the one that explains all the horrors and miseries of the world, is that you can get off the Wheel at any point and declare the trip is over. That's okay for any given man or woman, if their ambitions are modest. The trouble starts when, out of fear of further movement — out of fear of growth, out of fear of change, out of fear of Death, out of any kind of fear— such a person tries to stop the Wheel literally, by stopping everybody else. That's when the two great bum trips begin: Religion and Government. The only religion consistent with the whole Wheel is private and personal; the only government consistent with it is self- government. Whoever tries to lay his trip on others is acting from terror, and will soon resort to terror as a weapon if the others won't accept the trip through persuasion. Nobody who understands the whole Wheel will do that, however, for such people understand that every man and every woman and every child is the Self-Begotten One—Jesus motherfucking Christ, in Harry's gorgeous brand of English." 

Also, reading this 14-page chunk of the book with its explanations tying together many of the plot strands reminds me that many of my favorite works of fiction are big works: Works that create their own world. I'm thinking of Illuminatus!, of course, but I'm also thinking of works such as Ulysses (which covers the events of one day, but which contains so much, people are still trying to figure it out); The Lord of the Rings (which according to Tom Shippey, Tolkien thought of in a way as a true history of a world), Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susannah Clarke, Neal Stephenson's long novels, and the way that modern science fiction is dominated, as Eric Flint writes, by series, entire groups of novels. Readers want to immerse themselves into another universe.

And don't you love Joe's realization of the universe all of the characters are in, and the description of the authors as the Secret Chiefs? (Page 722.)

(Next week: End of Leviathan and beginning of the appendices! "George was thinking. He remembered something," page 729, to page 742, "call Gold and Appel Transfers and leave a message," page 742.)

79 comments:

Oz Fritz said...

p. 715 - "He spread out his cards - the eight, nine, ten, princess and queen of swords - and scooped up the pot.
"It's the story of the development of the soul," Miss Portinari was saying at the moment, spreading out the twenty-two trumps or "keys" of that very ancient deck."

A few puns here - what Portinari says also rings true for her namesake - Dante's last guide in the "Divine Comedy." It also rings true for the preceding paragraph's tarot cards as well as the general description she continues with; three different meanings. The suit of Swords = the element Air which has to do with the intellectual mind and thought forms. Dillinger's cards could read as "concentrated attention breaking through interfering thoughts." Portinari = Port in airy; I see this "port" as concentrated attention, i.e. focused thought/nonthought.

p.717 - "This is an internal discovery - this whole trip is an internal voyage - and this is really the second stage. But if one thinks of the story as the story of the external world, and if the order is reversed ..." - Portinari is ostensibly talking about the tarot but it could just as easily refer to one strata of "Illuminatus!" which then makes her earlier comment, " - and it's the most important book in the world" appear as a humorous pun. Of course, "Illuminatus!" naturally becomes the most important book in the world to the characters in it especially the ones who realize it. The second stage likely refers to the second stage of the Bardo, the unravelling and breakdown of the elements of consciousness.

The next scene after the tarot shifts to the "external" voyage - a crisis with Leviathan and the sub.
p.719 - "Suddenly, below, above and on all sides of the globe-shaped vision screen there were suckers, great yard-across craters of flesh. The submarine's forward motion stopped suddenly with a force that threw Joe against the railing and knocked the wind out of him." A reference to air and the lack thereof in the last sentence. Leviathan makes a great metaphor here. What gets him to let go of the sub (p.728 - 729) seems a major theme of "Illuminatus!" and Crowley's ideology

p.727 - "...It is really just love-starved."
"We can do it!" Stella cried, "Hagbard, the communication ought to benefit all concerned."

This quote suggests the "68" motif that runs throughout; 6 = Tipharteh (heart) 8 = Hod (communication). Also, "Stella cried" = 68 when adding the initials "s" and "c"

For me, "Stella cried" suggests a famous scene in "A Streetcar Named Desire" where Marlon Brando repeatedly cries out for Stella. The scene seems similar in flavor to Stella talking down Leviathan though on a much smaller scale. Streetcar = 68 adding the initial letters of the syllables. The whole title suggests True Will. Even the playwright's name, Tennesee Williams shows qabalistic relevance especially now that we are on the Tenth Trip, Or Malkuth Farewell To Planet Earth.

Eric Wagner said...

pg. 725 - The Dealy Lama's "most gifted student". I think this means Jesus.

pg. 727 - The reference to Cecil B. DeMille makes me think of "Sunset Blvd." where DeMille played himself. He lived in that movie just as Joe Malik (and many of us) live in _Illuminatus!_

beowulf1723 said...

p. 715:

@Oz Fritz:

Portinari:
Port=door, gate
In=into
Ari= “lion” (Hebrew)=Ha-Ari (the lion), R. Isaac Luria, whose reformulation of the Kabbalah in the 16th century is the basis for the variants since then.

p. 176:
“They had the levels confused”: a reference to Korzybski’s levels, or orders, of abstraction?
“The World”: …, because in the dream-waking state can they be governed by those who wish who wish to govern”. Some near-Gnosticism here, in re Archons.

p. 716-7
“The Last Judgement”: a very dualistic interpretation, albeit on the physical-psychological level. The Unio Oppositorum is getting the two parts of these dualities together.

p. 717:
“The Sun”: The trouble with ‘savior’ figures is that they can lead you astray if you abandon reason and identify with them. Then the Sun is the Black Sun which deilluminates, and you back in your winter of discontent.
….
Its too bad that this interpretation of the Major Arcana wasn’t continued elsewhere.
….
“The wind blows whither it will…: John 3,8.

p. 718:
“Only the name of the voyager has been changed to preserve his Innocence.” : An echo of the the last line in the introduction of the old Dragnet TV show, “Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent”?

p. 719:
Verne’s 20,000 Leagues under the Seas has been one of the more obvious threads in the background of Illuminatus! Now the (terrestrial) cephalopods attack as one in the form of Leviathan.

p. 723: “… I couldn’t remember how I got here or what I was talking to Hagbard about. That because the authors just moved me here.” Predestination anyone?

@Eric Wagner: "I think he means Jesus"
Yes. For Jesus in the desert see Mat. ch. 4, and probably elsewhere.

JCG said...

P.722: "I programmed him to put it in the form of a novel for easy reading."
Hagbard entered all of the data concerning his crew's life for the past few weeks into FUCKUP and it produced the novel we are reading. This would suggest that our reading of the novel brought the characters to life, which is true insofar as they did not exist before I began reading about them.

JCG said...

Likewise, if we can extrapolate from the text that we too are in a prefabricated reality, then we can also rest assure that we cannot die because we do not exist either, in some sense. Here, we get mighty close to Buddhism. However, as Mao Tsu-hsi makes clear, on the 'level' we experience our reality as really happening, death is real and we can die.
Though, I must say that describing different realities 'levels' seem less accurate than describing it as 'dimensions'. Using the term 'levels' implies a hierarchy, which, it seems, the authors are intent on doing.

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