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Monday, April 8, 2019

The Earth Will Shake online reading group, Week Seven

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), the French mathematician and theologian known for Pascal's Wager. 

This week, please read from page 127 ("The next week Frankenstein came to Napoli") to page 146 ("Well, I am Sigismundo Balsamo of Napoli, not the man in the moon.")

As with other sections of the book, I love the ironic statements, made with a straight face, made by characters who expect Sigismundo to read between the lines, i.e., Father Ratti saying, "We are most fortunate. The good Dominicans -- the ornament and glory of Mother Church and the model toward which all other, and hence lesser, orders can only aspire ... " (Page 131).

This sort of solemn sarcasm recurs in the book, as when Uncle Pietro says (Page 32), "The Dominicans act directly under the infallible command of our Holy Father the Pope, who is the divine representative of God on Earth. I meant no sarcasm. We are the luckiest people in Europe: where others flounder about in endless confusion and perpetual questioning, we have these good, holy men to tell us when we are thinking correctly and to correct us, with proper firmness, when we stray into error."

Surely people living in countries such as North Korea must know certain phrases that they have to repeat to demonstrate that they are loyal.

Pietro always expresses himself well, as on the next page (page 33) when he tells Sigismundo, "Leave murder to the professionals."

As I read the rant of the Dominican monk, going on for page after page, it seemed to be that Robert Anton Wilson had put together a long speech of everything that Wilson disagrees with. And so much of it sounds like what I heard from believers growing up in Oklahoma.

Sigismundo thinks about Pascal's Wager before deciding to reject what the monk says. Wikipedia says that Voltaire, one of Wilson's heroes, "rejected the idea that the wager was 'proof of God' as 'indecent and childish,' adding, 'the interest I have to believe a thing is no proof that such a thing exists'."

All of this seems very personal for Wilson, who had his own rebellion from the Catholic church, and perhaps also explains why Wilson related so closely to James Joyce.


Eric Wagner said...

I think Wilson patterned the hellfire sermon on a similar passage in Joyce's Portrait.

Manic The Doodler said...

The rant/sermon of the Dominican reminded me of a similar rant/sermon in Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, where the boys are encouraged to confess their sins before it's too late followed by detailed descriptions of the eternal tortures of hell if they fail to do so. I'm sure being raised Catholic that RAW heard similar rants/sermons growing up...

Oz Fritz said...

p. 127: "The next week Frankenstein came to Napoli.
The rumor ran through town like Mercury himself..."
Last week, for my book, I wrote about Mercury as an archetype of communication. Also watched the film Young Frankenstein at my girlfriend's request. Though RAW doesn't really allude to this metaphor here, Frankenstein can get viewed as a story about the activation and education of the higher circuits of consciousness, mainly C5 and C6 at first. An alchemical metaphor - the creation of life out of inert matter, RAW seems aligned to it by making the Frankenstein character an alchemist. Johann Dippel, a real person rumored to have been the model for Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein." Dippel also practiced alchemy.

Oz Fritz said...

p. 129: "S.B. Frankenstein said suddenly. "I am getting the letters S.B." Just at the age when you start trying to figure out who you are, what identity you will play in society, RAW turns Sigismundo's world upside down with the reveal of his biological father and the name change this brings. Sigismundo Celine becomes Sigismundo Balsamo to himself. His initials change from S.C. to S.B. I have written extensively about the former letter combination, S.C. = 68. For additional evidence of this trope in postmodern literature and magick, read "Gravity's Rainbow" where it recurs ad nauseam astonishing even my confirmation bias.

S.B. = 62 = Healing; Angel of Aires; The sons; To commit; healing (healing repeats in "777")
In the "Book of Lies" ch. 62 "Twig" is a poetic comment on "The Mass of the Phoenix" (ch. 44), a ritual to enact the birth of the Phoenix out of the ashes. In the Commentary Crowley writes: "Twig? = dost thou understand? Also the Phoenix takes twigs to kindle the fire in which it burns itself."

Balsamo = Balsam = "an aromatic resinous substance, such as balm, exuded by various trees and shrubs and used as a base for certain fragrances and medical and cosmetic preparations." This ties in with the healing attribute. All of this, and looking at the difference between the two identities, suggests to me that Sigismundo might have a messianic type of role later on.