The eight towers of the Bastille.
Week 6 (pg. 71-79 Hilaritas Press edition, Chapters 11&12 all editions)By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger
On pg 71 we are treated to two paragraphs of extremely sharp writing from RAW that manages to be atmospheric writing “[p]recisely at midnight, Captain Loup-Garou summoned his trolls,” which hits on three or four horror themes in a sparse sentence, to the humorous amount of detail we can glean about the concierge and her character from a paragraph and a sentence. “The only way to terminate her monologue without the using a rifle-butt was to salute and leave.”
Loup-Garou and Lt. Lenoir and the reader get to savor the bizarre circumstances that have led to Sigismundo’s presence in the office of the lieutenant criminal before the arrest. Sigismundo seems to have an interesting effect on both men with Lenoir recounting the failed assassination “dreamily” and Loup-Garou thinking his eyes are “like some Christs in old paintings.” During the arrest we are treated to another glimpse at Sigismundo’s skills as Lenoir realizes that he couldn’t account for Celine’s movements from desk to window and concludes “[m]aybe I should get a Neapolitan fencing teacher.” Incidentally, I couldn’t find much significance in the name “Lenoir” the closest being that it is occasionally used to refer to a dark, swarthy man. Considering how Loup-Garou and Lenoir observe his physical traits as a dark Southerner or Neapolitan this is somewhat interesting.
I imagine most of the men reading this felt a reflexive twinge simply reading about the method by which Sigismundo is first quieted.
The Bastille, with its eight gaunt towers, is an appropriately frightening vision, especially considering this is happening in the dead of night. That RAW describes what is happening as Sigismundo being in the process of becoming a non-person adds to the horror of the moment. We are given two probable reactions from Loup-Garou, one pious, one an invocation of ever present merde.
Chapter 12 is a beautiful, cryptic chapter where we once again find ourselves considering the stone that the builders rejected, that is worshipped by all and reviled by almost all. The fate of those who speak of the stone in the arch, as described in this missile, is similar to that of Aleister Crowley, William Blake, Ida Craddock and others who spoke during their lifetime about the supernal. The association of the aspirant with the “refiner’s fire” is a reference to Malachi in the Old Testament and also used during the confrontation between Sir John Babcock and Aleister Crowley in Masks of the Illuminati. “Only the fool takes our past lightly…” The tarot reference isn’t lost on most of the audience, I imagine.
In the footnote RAW quotes the alchemical writings of Thomas Vaughan, brother of Metaphysical poet Henry Vaughan, who was himself an influence on Philip K. Dick. Vaughan was a well-known alchemist whose writings are regarded as especially poetic and sophisticated, as opposed to simply being confusing. RAW, in Sex, Drugs, and Magick uses the same passage from The Collected Works to illustrate his theory that much of the pre-Modern alchemical scripts were coded instructions for tantric sex.
De Selby’s ten witnesses to his alchemical transformation, noted by Hanfkopf to have been “blind drunk and notorious liars,” are reminiscent of the Eight Witnesses whose pledge to the veracity of the existence of golden plates and seeing stones are emended to every copy of The Book of Mormon. And once more Hafkopf seemingly puts a rival scholar of de Selby in relatively grave danger by placing 150 kg (330 lbs!!) of pure heroin in his hotel room during a conference. The menace of the figure is either heightened or given a lilt of humor when the phone call again described the frame up being orchestrated by a Germanic villain, reminiscent of Caligari, Mabuse, or someone with the voice of Conrad Veidt in Casablanca.
For those of us who are inclined to such a past time, I’d like to suggest taking a couple or more moments to meditate on the allegory given in Chapter 12 “until he [sic] understands the extent of lunacy of this species and why only the bravest may be entrusted with guardianship of the Grail.”
Another excellent selection from Eric Wagner:
“I’ve selected Mozart’s first piano concerto this week. I tend to prefer Mozart’s mature work, but Greta Thunberg has reminded me of how much young people have to offer.”