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Monday, March 25, 2019

The Earth Will Shake reading group, Week Five

Mural of Venus from Pompeii

This week, please read from page 90, "The horror came quite unexpectedly, one day as he was returning from school," to page 103, the end of part one, "I tell you my three souls are all sick ..." That's only about a dozen pages, but I think it's logical to conclude part one. We still haven't gotten that far, so perhaps other readers can still be persuaded to join us.

Part One ends with some surprising revelations. I don't want to put any spoilers here.

But perhaps I can point out an interesting reversal of expectations: One of the "bad guys," the blonde man, sounds like RAW:

"Every national border in Europe marks the place where two gangs of bandits got too exhausted to kill each other anymore and signed a treaty. Patriotism is the delusion that one of these gangs of bandits is better than all the others." (Page 95).

The drug that Sigismundo is given is belladonna, about which RAW has a lot to say about in Email to the Universe, in the chapter "La Belle Dame Sans Merci."

It begins, "The four weirdest and scariest drug stories I know all involve belladonna, a chemical for which I now have the same sincere respect as I have for hungry tigers, earthquakes, floods, wildfires, the IRS and Dr. Hannibal Lecter."

What follows are four very frightening stories, three involving friends (one is William Burroughs), and one involving RAW himself, when he made the mistake of taking belladonna as a tea while living on Ohio.

It really sounds like something you shouldn't mess with. "Bella donna" means "beautiful lady"  and Wilson's title comments on the seductive and destructive power of the drug by referring to the famous John Keats poem.

Oz Fritz has been posting many comments to these chronicles. I recently read an article in the New York Times about classical conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, and a quote from the article about how concerts have "the power of the ritual" reminded me of some Oz' writings about music on his blog.

The full quote: "There’s a certain moment when you go off line and someone curates a space, with a piece, and the power of the ritual. You have this moment, along with many others, but still a finite experience. It happens in real time, but it will never happen again, and you were there. You can let yourself go. And I think that’s actually a real liberation. We are going to need that more than ever before.”

Of course, that "finite experience" in the moment was the only way to listen to music in Sigismundo's day.


Rarebit Fiend said...

No one write a psychedelic experience like RAW- maybe its because all of my experiences were tinted so much by his light though.

This section is reminiscent of his greatest feat of psychedelic writing; Part V of "Masks of the Illuminati" and shares a few blatant recollections to that book: the presence of Rev. Verey (Crowley), the orgiastic women rushing to fuck cocks, the refrain "they shall all go mad in that house." I have always had a fondness for . St. Jude and I think it's worth noting that the title of "Clouds Without Water," a collection of sonnets by Rev. Crowley (Verey) that figures greatly in "Masks," is taken from Jude 1:12. The ditty about the Mason Word also appears in "Masks." The end of Part I is cinematic enough that RAW could have slipped in some camera and soundtrack suggestions as in "Masks" but I guess it wouldn't have fit the overall tone of the book.

I vividly remember reading the belladonna essay years ago and I think its still one of my favorite parts from "email to the Universe." I've had a healthy respect for solanaceous alkaloids ever since and while I've raised datura plants I would dare to experiment. DeKorne makes an interesting conjecture in "Psychedelic Shamanism," (eye roll-inducing name, great read) that belladonna, angel's trumpet and the like are naturally/spiritually more agreeable when used by women, who know what they're doing of course, as opposed to men.

I look forward to seeing more Cagliostro as we go one.

Oz Fritz said...

I like that quote by Salonen. Hendrix called the ritual of a music concert an Electric Church, on one recording.

After posting my last comment last week about Sigismundo imagining an opera tragedy then going into the Osteria Allegro drinking establishment (p.47), mentioning that Allegro also indicates a musical passage of a faster tempo, I begun speculating that this whole novel can be considered a piece of music of its own. It seems to have a musical structure. The episode immediately following the Osteria Allegro with Sigismundo apparently getting caught by the revolutionaries does feel like a quicker tempo, to me.

p. 93: Another musical reference: "I might eventually only notice the times my heart isn't banging like a bass drum at the opera." This mirrors a line from the song "Bitch" by the Rolling Stones: "My heart is beating like a big bass drum," which gets ad libbed in different versions to : "My heart keeps a pumping like a big bass drum, etc." The chorus lyrics seems relevant to our story: "You got to mix it child, you've got to fix it, must be love, it's a bitch."

p. 102: "I have been born in the middle of a grand opera but we bleed real blood." The Earth Will Shake = the grand opera that Sigismundo has been born into.

I have not been skipping ahead in the reading. I did not know that Pompeii would figure in this week's reading (p. 100) when I mentioned it in a comment last week.

Rarebit Fiend said...

No one writes*&I wouldn't* dare- good god I'm sorry mea culpa all

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

@Oz, the "Historical Illuminatus" books do seem obsessed with music -- and we haven't even gotten to a mention of Mozart yet!

Oz Fritz said...

@ Tom, I once read a review of a Nietzsche book, I think it may have been for "The Birth of Tragedy" but don't remember for sure, that interpreted his book as if the book itself was a piece of music. Apart from all the references to composers and music, I wonder if the same kind of interpretation can get applied to "The Earth Will Shake?"

I'm interested in RAW's use of the word "blood," it seems therein might lie an esoteric pun.
p.46: "Sigismundo wondered if he was crazy to get himself into such a masquerade; but he remembered Uncle Leonardo's blood.
'I may be sending you to your death,' Drake said at the gate. 'But God is on the side of the damned fools and optimists.' '
Leonardo suggests the sign of Leo the Lion. RAW writes of lion symbolism in "Coincidence," I believe. "Remember yourself," appears a significant catchphrase or formula in the Fourth Way.
p.73: "... invented to persuade wise people to stay at home and let the bloody fools do all the traveling."
p.92: "'Mother Tana who gives birth in blood, whose sacrament is blood, whose regeneration is in blood.'"
p.102: "I have been born in the middle of a grand opera but we bleed real blood.

Compare this with "The Vision and the Voice", 12th Aethyr, by Aleister Crowley:
"Let him look upon the cup whose blood is mingled therein, for the wine of the cup is the blood of the saints. Glory unto the Scarlet Woman, Babalon the Mother of Abominations, that rideth upon the Beast, for she hath spilt their blood in every corner of the earth and lo! she hath mingled it in the cup of her whoredom. ...

With the breath of her kisses hath she fermented it, and it hath become the wine of the Sacrament, the wine of the Sabbath; and in the Holy Assembly hath she poured it out for her worshipers, and they had become drunken thereon, so that face to face they beheld my Father. Thus are they made worthy to become partakers of the Mystery of this holy vessel, for the blood is the life."

p. 103: Still under the influence Sigismundo says, "But my mother is a whore..."

Oz Fritz said...

Whenever diving deep into a RAW novel synchronicities abound for me. After reading the current pages for this week I watched a short review of "Gravity's Rainbow" by Pynchon on YouTube. The reviewer broadly characterized it as someone on a secret mission to discover a secret device. This seemed like it might apply in a general sense to "The Earth Will Shake." Then the reviewer mentioned someone getting dosed calling that passage a " hallucinogenic, trippy thing." This week had the first hallucinogenic, trippy episode in "The Earth Will Shake."

After this review I began reading "Gravity's Rainbow" for the second time and noticed many points of congruence between the two books. GR begins with a missile going across the sky, the initial protagonist wondering when and where it would strike the ground i.e. when and where the Earth will shake. On page 4 it says: "... to try to bring events to Absolute Zero." Zero is the number of the tarot card The Fool, the title of the first Part of "TEWS" Much of the imagery at the beginning of GR recalls Dante's Inferno. Music plays a major role in both novels. The subject of Death figures prominently in both. Both authors use Qabalah and both incorporate Fourth Way material in these two opi.

RAW and Pynchon were strongly influenced by James Joyce and William Burroughs. GR has obvious parallels with "Finnegans Wake" Both of these postmodern novels present the archetype of a fall on their first page. GR p.3: "But it's night. He's afraid of the way the glass will fall - soon - it will be a spectacle: the fall of a crystal palace. But coming down in total blackout, without one glint of light, one great invisible crashing." Compare that with the opening phrase of TEWS: "Sigismundo Celine was lost in a dark forest with a Red Indian." RAW doesn't explicitly write of a fall here, but it is implied. Sigismundo's normal every day reality gets shattered with the events that begin the book.

This synchronicity did it for me, GR p. 14: "... But sooner or later the time would come when someone else would find out his gift, someone to whom it mattered - he had a long running fantasy of his own, rather a Eugene Sue melodrama, in which he would be abducted by an organization of dacoits or Sicilians, and used for unspeakable purposes." I read this about an hour after seeing the exact same storyline in TEWS.

Eric Wagner said...

Page 94: When the blond Sicilian says, "He is one of us", it makes me think of the movie "Freaks" and the Ramones song "Pinhead" - "Gabba gabba we accept you we accept you one of us!"

I wonder about the date of Sigismundo's birth.