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Friday, August 30, 2019

The Widow's Son online reading group, Week Two

King Louis XVI

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

This week: Pages 21 to 33 of the Hilaritas Press edition, chapters Three and Four of all editions) 

This week we get to read Signor Duccio’s beginning of an account of the Upheaval of ‘89 and after the irascible yet clear-minded stonecutter runs through the usual factions blamed for the Revolution- King Louis XVI, the Duc de Orleans, and the ever-present Illuminati- provides a rudimentary lesson in sociological analysis. (Note Duccio’s profession and rank in conjunction with the faux-quote from The Gospel of Mary and Masonry.) Duccio seems to me to be another Wilson alter-ego whose cynicism is borne from seeing beyond the conventions of his time and presenting a very Wilsonian idea of technological advancement as freedom from poverty.

On page 27 (Hilaritas edition) there is a footnote mentioning the Gordon Riots- obviously we are meant to consider the property damage of the Riots comparatively with the French Revolution in a negative light. One person in his young twenties had fond memories of the Riots who I think bears mentioning: William Blake. The young Blake stood with the crowd and happily watched Newgate Prison burn to the ground, set ablaze by King Mob. I can’t really bring myself to shed a tear for the unfortunate land-owners of London myself.

Finally Chapter 3 ends with the second direct mention of Sigismundo by name, this time not being sized up for murder but instead in the same breath of conflicted Robespierre. Something to think about.

The next chapter is a short missive from the A.’.A.’. which wasn’t formally announced until the dawn of the Twentieth Century- I imagine most of us reading the book are familiar with Crowley, the Golden Dawn, and the A.’.A.’.. (If not, everything in the first footnote to this chapter is absolutely true and it's been around since Atlantis, also real, controlling everything behind the scenes.)  There are a number of fascinating ideas brought up over the course of the three pages that make up Chapter 4- the A.’.A.’.’s original purpose of protecting the Widow and the Widow’s Son, the complete transformation of the human mind, the rejection of dogmatic doubt in favor of uncertainty, another Bible quote, this time from the Gospel of Luke, and cave-dwelling enlightenment. I’m sure someone will have an interesting take on all of this in the comments.

Finally, our de Selby for the week: “The more we know, the less we sense, and the true rationalist would be autistic, narcissistic, and strictly senseless.” (Similar qualities to de Selby’s rationalist are routinely ascribed to my generation.)

Next week I’d like to cover three chapters, please let me know what you all think!


Eric Wagner said...

Note: I do prefer shorter readings. I tend to get behind. "Only sequoias's are slow enough" - Ezra Pound.

Pg. 22 - The pendants with pieces of the Bastille remind me of the piece of the Berlin Wall my dad brought me from Berlin.

I wonder how Mr. Duccio and/or Dr. Wilson would explain the election of Donald Trump.

Rarebit Fiend said...

Okay Eric, I remember you saying that before- the shorter page amounts do give us a better opportunity for close reading. Since you were the first to chime in, I'll just go ahead and only have two chapters on the docket.

Duccio indicates how much his reputation has changed over the course of 16 years after the storming of the Bastille- from hero, to villain, to curiosity- which brings to mind the immediate and lasting ambivalent attitude a lot of people and historians have about the whole French Revolution. I think that 28 years later the fall of the Berlin Wall is a more generally celebrated event.

BUT my meandering, and the multitude of guesses that have already gone through my head in response to your last musing, could go to show how foolish it is to presume to understand what is happening when one is so close to the subject. I hope this makes sense.

I know "economic anxiety" was thrown around a lot during and after November 2016 but I feel like Signor Duccio would have a more incisive understanding of the situation than that tepid explanation.

As someone who still sympathizes with the supposedly needless worries of Rev. Malthus I found Duccio's rumination on population all too relevant. Not that I necessarily think that had much to do with the events of '16. (Of course being concerned about population increase is unfashionable these days period. To some this makes me an unscientific moron who doesn't understand technological advancement in conjunction with the billions of people we seem determined to add to our planet; to others it makes me a classist/racist. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

Our society seems to be turning into steam.

Rarebit Fiend said...

Thank you to Tom for filtering the clutter and facilitating out discussion. By making sure I can't be tempted by Russian escorts you're probably saving my marriage!

Oz Fritz said...

Shorter readings are better for me too. I'm in a very busy cycle - just moved, building a recording studio and keeping a full music production schedule going.

Duccio described as a "master stonecutter" indicates his work as a literal mason builder, among other professions - revolutionary, politician. His book or essay, "THE REVOLUTION AS I SAW IT" reminded me of the comedy film "Start the Revolution Without Me" which we started watching last night. It has a great opening scene with Orson Welles and hilariously contrasts the French aristocracy with the peasantry.

All my page citations come from the Bluejay edition.
p. 14 - Interesting time twist: Wilson writing about someone in the past, Duccio, writing to the future.

The discussion about economics, real wealth and technology that begins on p. 15 seems to have some Bucky Fuller influence. In my copious spare time, I've been working on a blog about Capitalism and Schizophrenia and mass shootings that seems a bit related; should have it posted soon..

RAW regards the A.'. A.'. in the same way Crowley did, as an occult order that has existed in various forms since ancient times. RAW adds embellishments. To my knowledge, Kenneth Grant didn't make the claim to be the current "Grand Master of the Argentum Astrum" ; he did make the claim to be the head of the O.T.O. The A.'. A.'. and the O.T.O. are both Thelemic organizations with notable differences. Keith Ready has a new, seriously flawed (in my opinion), but otherwise excellent book, "One Truth and One Spirit: Aleister Crowley's Spiritual Legacy" that delineates the history and differences of the two orders.

Both Wilson and Grant connect the silver star with Sirius. Lon Milo Duquette states that the silver star definitely did NOT indicate Sirius in his book "Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot" though doesn't provide any supporting evidence. This statement could have derived from a gnostic realization of some kind, and it seems difficult to impossible to prove a negative.

I have and have worked from "The Complete Golden Dawn" by Regardie though can't say I've read it cover to cover. I don't think it ever mentions the A.'. A.'. I could be wrong.

p. 19: I enjoy the irony of information given from a book that you're supposed to burn the pages after reading, as we're repeatedly told.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

This section reminded me I still haven't read Adam Smith and I need to do that. So much for my libertarian credentials!

While I appreciated RAW invoking Smith, his discussion of how supply and demands works in the labor market seems incomplete. "Thus, as population rises, wages always inevitably fall." But if the economy is doing well, jobs are created and demand for workers goes up, driving up wages. Perhaps France still had too much of a feudal system and that kept the economy from growing as well as it should have.

Oz Fritz said...

From the de Selby footnote p. 20 "... but La Fournier should not be confused with La Tournier." The latter name suggests the French writer Michel Tournier who was a schoolmate and long-time friend of Gilles Deleuze. Tournier wrote an excellent adaptation of "Robinson Caruso" called "Friday, or, The Other Island." Deleuze included an essay on it as an appendix in "Logic of Sense" Also, coincidentally, I discovered that Jean Tournier was the dp for "Start the Revolution Without Me."

Rarebit Fiend said...

Oz- It's good to be the king. To my knowledge Grant didn't claim to be head of the A.'.A.'. but I could have forgotten such an assertion among all of his other claims. And as far as I know you are correct about the A.'.A.'. not being mentioned in Regardie's book. I think the connection is simply because the A.'.A.'. was Crowley and Jones' reworking of the Golden Dawn. There are tons of embellishments and, I think, honest misconceptions in RAW's telling that I enjoy very much. I like to add my own sometimes. It's more interesting that way. I'll have to check out the book at some point. The history of the A.'.A.'.(s?) since Crowley is extraordinarily confusing. Even inside of one of the lineages the histories are confusing and biased.

Tom- I also have not read Smith but probably should. The most I've read about him is in relation to Hume. My qualms about job creation is the quality of the job- if the job creators are Amazon, Walmart, and gas stations I'm not sure how much good that actually does the populace. Having read and heard second hand accounts from my wife, who worked with clients at an Amazon distribution center- we have to be careful not to confuse employment with actual wealth or benefits other than "scraping by." Economic growth stills seems to favor a select class of people while making life worse for others and giving those in between just enough carrot to make them follow along while still getting mostly stick.

Alias Bogus said...

I am interested in people’s ideas about the use of footnotes which seem like an alienating device (Brechtian?) As far as I recall, Bob doesn’t use this trick in the other parts of the trilogy (?)

I realise that Bob lived in Ireland at the time, and his de Selby reference ties this use of footnotes into The Third Policeman, by Flann O’Brian. I love that book. I have also read The Dalkey Archive (once) but do not have a copy of my own – and that relates directly to de Selby.

As I recall, footnotes also feature (here and there) in Finnegans Wake.

I appreciate it allows for a parallel universe, and ironic commentary from another time period, and a parody of academic style, etc – but I wondered if anyone has a more detailed theory about it.

Rarebit Fiend said...

Alias- I always assumed it was more-or-less a direct reference to O'Brian since the footnotes are so similar to those in The Third Policeman.

Like O'Brian's use of de Selby and Bolano's Archimboldi I think a large part of his presence in The Widow's Son is a loving send up of obscure authors and a vicious mockery of the academics who try to understand them through pretentious, over-specified lenses.

Alias Bogus said...

It’s interesting to me that Erwin Schrödinger moved to Dublin in 1939, and remained there for something like 17 years. While there, he did, in fact, know Flann O’Brien (Myles na gCopaleen aka Brian O’Nolan), as he mixed in artistic and intellectual circles. He also appears to have had great interest in women, and a lively sex life, as well as a fascination for Hindu belief systems.

In a newspaper column, Myles teased the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, and Schrödinger in particular, but apparently Erwin laughed it off. Still, O’Nolan was found guilty of libel, and paid a fine.

And, of course, The Third Policeman has various mocking references to quantum theory and relativity.

Oz Fritz said...

Alias, de Selby footnotes turned up in another RAW book we went through here not terribly long ago. It might have been "Email to the Universe," it wasn't "The Earth Will Shake." Footnotes seem a conceit of Academia, my take on RAW's use - in part he uses them to troll/satirize Academia. Someone in this blog recently mentioned having to use two bookmarks to read a particular book, the second one for the footnotes in the back. In my project to understand the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, nearly every book I read by him, or the secondary literature about his ideas required two bookmarks. I strongly suspect RAW read Deleuze, presenting my reasoning in the "EttU" discussion. Occasionaly, mostly not, de Selby appears like a stand-in for Deuluze. I look forward to exploring this angle more here. Mostly, I think the footnotes provide a pretext for information and jokes outside the historical narrative. This recalls Nabokov's "Pale Fire" which also employs fake footnotes.

Rarebit, it's an enjoyable job. Hopefully, someone will write a biography on Grant, he was a fascinating and erudite character. I had some short private message conversations with him near the end of his life. He did make some rather extravagant claims regarding his explorations and cosmology, however the only Orders I know that he claimed leadership of were the O.T.O. and the one he started in London. Again, I could be wrong. My take on RAW's creative use of the facts - maybe he trolled all the in-fighting regarding Crowley's "rightful" successor and the administrative minutiae about the "proper way" to run the orders - not seeing the forest due to the tree in front of your face. Note that in "Cosmic Trigger I", RAW gave positive input from two people both claiming to be the head of the O.T.O., McMurtry and Grant whose organizations engaged in court battles against each other for legitimacy.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

@Oz, I was the one who mentioned using two bookmarks. It was in connection with Erik Davis' excellent new book, in which the footnotes are interesting and an important part of the book.

And yes, in "Pale Fire" almost the entire book are purported academic notes on a poem, as you know from participating in that reading group. Eric Wagner says in "Insider's Guide" (new edition out soon, I'll tell you all when) that the footnotes in "Widow's Son" were inspired by "Third Policeman" and "Pale Fire" -- one of my reasons for doing a "Pale Fire" group.

Not directly germane, but my review copy of Kevin Williamson's new book "The Smallest Minority" arrived in the mail today, and I notice footnotes are an important part of his book, too, or at least contain many of his sardonic comments:

"28. Senator Ben Sasse is a very intelligent man, a man of genuine liberal leaning with a genuinely humane mind. But he seems even more remarkable than he is, because he is surrounded by debased men who have substituted Sean Hannity for Cicero."

Alias Bogus said...

Of course, Joyce refers to Giordano Bruno as "the Nolan".

Oh no, I've started writing footnotes!

This, from philosophiatopics

"What made Bruno’s Nolan philosophy – named from his home town near Naples – so diabolical, was that Bruno further concluded that an infinite universe could have no centre, top or bottom, beginning or end. There could therefore be no God at its height overseeing it. In fact in an infinite universe, God was as accessible to anyone and at any place, part or time."


And Brian O'Nolan's libel case revolved around saying, in a newspaper column in 1942:

‘Talking of this notorious Institute (Lord, what I would give for a chair in it with me thousand good-lookin’ pounds a year for doing “work” that most people regard as recreation). a friend has drawn my attention to Professor O’Rahilly’s recent address on “Palladius and Patrick”.
I understand also that Professor Schrödinger has been proving lately that you cannot establish a first cause. The first fruit of the Institute therefore, has been an effort to show that there are two Saint Patricks and no God.
The propagation of heresy and unbelief has nothing to do with polite learning, and unless we are careful this Institute of ours will make us the laughing stock of the world.’