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Friday, September 6, 2019

Widow's Son reading group, Week Three

Antoine de Sartine ("Sardines") Chief of Police

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

Week Three: (Hilaritas Press edition pg. 35-50, Chapters 5&6 all editions)

Taking in the book at a slower pace it is easier to savor the overt presence of death and birth in nearly every paragraph in The Widow’s Son.

In Chapter 5 we begin with the very pregnant Maria Maldonado troubled over Merovingian nightmares and the distressing misnomer of “morning sickness.” I think her anxiety over what exact time of day she is sick is a good example of the annoying and persistent traps we fall into because of words and labels.  Having never been pregnant, nor ever having to entertain the notion that I might one day become pregnant, I don’t know how much leeway I have to judge this scene; but I would say it is an empathetic portrait of the character and true to my own experiences with physical/spiritual anxiety. (It’s worth noting that our Tom Jackson has always pointed out that Maria is, in his opinion, RAW’s most complete female character.)

I haven’t read Holy Blood, Holy Grail and I think that’s one big blind spot for someone trying to lead this group. (I did read The Da Vinci Code when I was fourteen if that counts, haha.) So if any of you have read the book please fill us in on pertinent information, unscrupulously sourced or not, from the book to the Merovingians in The Widow’s Son. With that said, from the context I could pick up about the scene it probably had more to do with Lovecraft than Baigent, Lincoln, and Leigh. The Merovingians, while perhaps more aesthetically pleasing, are reminiscent of Lovecraft’s daemonic Deep Ones which manage to be alluring in spite of their grotesque and otherworldly appearance. (If you haven’t read “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” why not?)

Maria’s thoughts also give insights into what I’m beginning to think are two of the most interesting themes of the novel so far: the idea that people usually believe themselves to live in an “enlightened” and advanced time without understanding how primitive their society is and the divide between Catholicism and Protestantism. In light of the first theme in Chapter 5 we have Maria trying to banish her bad dream by thinking “It was 1771 and intelligent people did not believe in old legends like that anymore” and her blind grasps at what might affect her sullen husband. In Chapter 6 we have the facts of Parisian living, a metropolitan lifestyle if there was one according to the standards of the day, soberly related with an emphasis on the pervasive smell of shit hanging everywhere. “The philosophes tell each other how enlightened the world is becoming.” Perhaps we don’t munch on loaves of bread with fecal matter in them everyday but I have a feeling most of us eat more shit than we realize.

The difference between the Catholic mode of reality and the Protestant mode of reality, or at least the eighteenth century thinking person’s remix, is something that is necessarily pervasive throughout this novel. Somehow, like many outdated debates, this seems to be becoming a more relevant issue than it was when I first read this novel. I hope to develop my thoughts on this as we go along.

In Chapter 6 we spend the briefest amount of time with Sigismundo and the rest of the chapter with the characters of Paris and Lieutenant Sartines. While an administrator and chief of police, both secret and exoteric, might not seem like Wilson’s kind of guy I think he expresses a certain amount of respect for Antoine in this chapter, at least implicitly. Having just finished the RAW portion of Erik Davis’ High Weirdness, I was reminded of a small point where Davis points out that RAW occasionally shows sympathy with law-and-order policeman types such as Saul Goodman and Barney Muldoon in Illuminatus!.

Since we do not have a de Selby quote in this week’s reading, here is a selection from The Third Policeman: “in the Layman’s Atlas...he inveighs savagely against ‘the insanitary conditions prevailing everywhere after six o’clock’ and makes the famous gaffe that death is merely ‘the collapse of the heart from the strain of a lifetime of fits and fainting.’” We won’t be truly civilized until we do something about all this goddamned noxious black air.  


Oz Fritz said...

I also got a sense of a Lovecraftian atmosphere at the beginning of chapter 5.

Thought it an interesting coincidence with the very strong storm in Chapter 5 and the Dorian hurricane on the East coast all over the news. The love between Maria and her husband recalls the path of Daleth on the Tree of Life. Daleth = door.

I mused about the chapter numbers this week qabalistically relating to their contents like Crowley does in "The Book of Lies." Maria gestating a baby in Chapter 5 suggests Circuit 5 (C5) in the Leary/Wilson model of consciousness - the first circuit past the robot. Also recalls Horus, the Crowned and Conquering Child, the avatar of this aeon according to most Thelemites, with its attribute of Mars corresponding to the 5th Sephira. The 6th Chapter shows us all the resistance to the birth of C6 taking place - we're reminded that Sigismundo Celine is marked for assassination; all the shit and sewage. There's a scene near the beginning of "Gravity's Rainbow" that also evokes much merde, also literally. "The Third Policeman" quote Gregory put closing the post has the same theme, resistance/obstacles to C6, it seems to me.

Also the last sentence of Chapter 6, quoted above: eating "food" made from shit seems pervasive in the Trump/Fox News alternate reality construct. Gurdjieff taught that impressions served as a kind of food for the post-terrestrial circuits. Eating fabricated shit impressions seems counterproductive to inner space exploration.

Eric Wagner said...

I read Holy Blood, Holy Grail back in the 80's. I read The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception by Baigent and Leigh back in the 90's. I never finished The Messianic Legacy. I enjoyed the two books I read.

Dustin said...

It appears that Sigismondo likes to challenge his college teachers much like his distant relative Hagbard.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Doesn't the emphasis on the terrible Paris sewers underscore the point Wilson tries to make elsewhere that progress in human affairs is a real thing? In the West we enjoy endless supplies of potable water and a sanitary sewer system without even thinking about it, or reflecting that there are still parts of the world where such things are a luxury. And yet it took the labors of generations of engineers and the spending of much wealth to bring about a system we all take for granted.

Rarebit Fiend said...

@Oz- I think it's been long enough that I honestly don't know if I cribbed this or not but I once wrote a Qabalistic exegesis of my life and represented Daleth with a cut-up of the Penelopiad. I also experienced a very odd synchronicity with this week's reading and the Netflix "Dark Crystal" series.

@Eric- Do you think I should give them a read then? I regretted not putting up RAW's entry on the Priory and "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" from "Everything Is Under Control."

@Tom- I think I am an example of the cynical side of model agnosticism while you're more of a cavalier. I think that you absolutely have a point- RAW is definitely putting effort into making history as ugly as is *was* to show how far we have come. I also think he puts enough irony into the wording of the novel to show that humans typically believe they are civilized when they are everything but. Perhaps my single favorite excerpt from RAW's fiction is the HGA exercise between Benedict and Cagliostro in "The Universe Next Door" when the magician answers the question "why is there so much suffering" with the answer "it is always this way on primitive worlds"...keep in mind the scene was contemporary when it was written. (And took place on the balcony of a NYC coke party- if that isn't the paragon of civilization and progress I don't know what is!) We are all of us in the gutters and too many of us aren't looking at the stars. One reason I loved the Terra Ignota series is that it shows humanity how we could be if we actually progressed past this point instead of dooming ourselves or degrading. I hope that this day and age will be seen for how ook-ook primitive it is in the light of future history and we don't end our days patting ourselves on that back because of the Internet and a better standard of life for a small part of the population.

Adie said...

I found the prose in the Merovingian passages erotic and chillingly beautiful, and thought perhaps there was a parallel between Maria's dream-visions of the fish-men emerging from the Mediterranean and Sigismundo's emergence from the river in TEWS. Maria thinks the Merovingians are not quite human, and while searching for Antonio, he thinks, "Peppino was more than human...What I must do is be like that." Peppino is also a darkly Messianic figure, and Sigismundo has his own Messianic potential, so they've got their own nascent Merovingian-type lineage going. (This is my first time reading these books, so for all I know Peppino turns out to be a literal Merovingian.) Perhaps Maria's subconscious is expressing some fear that Sigismundo has astrally impregnated her, or maybe she is just having repressed fantasies about sexy fish-men.

I haven't read Holy Blood, Holy Grail either--is the quasi-Lovecraftian fish-man thing actually a part of the Merovingian legend/conspiracy theory or is this an invention of RAW's? I'm pretty curious about the whole thing now, so I'm hoping to pick up the book soon.

Adie said...

I wanted to add a bit to my previous comment—I did a bit of reading (okay, Wikipedia) about the Merovingians and the reference in Ch. 5 is absolutely connected to Sigismundo. Aside from Sigismund being the name of a Merovingian monarch, the fish-men legend refers to the legendary founder, Meroveus, allegedly being fathered by a monstrous sea-bull called the Quinotaur who had raped his mother. That sounds familiar!

Alias Bogus said...

I did read Holy Blood, Holy Grail, after watching the original tv documentaries. It’s a wonderful blasphemy, of course, that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, and had children, who migrated to France, landing at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, where the Roma (Gypsies) still have a festival once a year, to a black Madonna (and that’s another whole subtext).

Like most tall tales with elaborate genealogies to ‘prove’ their provenance, it seems distinctly possible that this whole thing got invented quite recently. In the MLA we had a resident ‘pataphysician (Borsky) and he told me about OuLiPo and other creative writing spin-offs.

‘Pataphysics retains a deadpan exterior, but seems full of pranks and jokes (like other “scientific religions” we know), and you can find cross-overs with Surrealists and other creative types.
For more on HBHG, including the bloodline story, the Cathars, the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau and the Priory of Sion and all sorts of other tied-in material, you can see some posts in the MLA blog “Only Maybe”. For instance, this piece about OuLiPo (which overuses the attribution to Surrrealists, I don’t think James Joyce ever belonged, for instance, and it now has some broken links). It does seem fairly likely that the Priory of Sion remains a hoax / invention of Philippe de Chérisey, Gérard de Sède and Pierre Planchard, complete with forged documents, some planted in the National Library, etc.
For a longer piece, almost as complex as one of Bob’s footnotes, you can read Borsky on ‘Pataphysics and the AA Revue, here

In passing, I stumbled over a post about Flann O’Brien, too. Myles from Dublin

Because so many of the links broke, on that old blog, I checked out the Internet Archive for a piece Borksy wrote in memory of RAW Patapsychology and Maybe Logic, which he intended for publication in a ‘Pataphysical magazine, the Cahiers du Collège de 'Pataphysique, and contains some references to The Widow’s Son, de Selby, etc.
PS: to Rarebit Fiend, you have passed on a synchronicity, whatever it was that occurred, because in a former life I worked as a puppeteer on the original Dark Crystal movie!

Eric Wagner said...

Greg, I suspect you will find "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" worth your time.

I agree with Tom about Maria seeming Bob's most fully realized female character

Eric Wagner said...

Pg. 44 - "fate knocking on the door" seems a reference to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

Oz Fritz said...

@Adie, the Sigusmundo - Merovingian connection is very cool, thank-you. RAW describes the Merovingians as star-eyed men three times on p. 21.

My small coincidence this week: reading "V" by Pynchon and got introduced to the character Vera Meroving. "V" was first published in 1963 long before "Holy Blood Holy Grail" made the Merovingians more broadly known.

I fully agree with the barbaric description of most of human life on this planet. Ouspensky first realized this when he saw a truck full of prosthetic limbs on the way to the front in W.W.I meant for soldiers who hadn't lost their limbs yet but were expected to.

This next example seems less barbaric, more just plain stupid: the media invests much coverage in Trump's outdated prediction of the hurricane's path into Alabama and inability to admit he's wrong. Another incredibly useless debate that helps absolutely noone. The media also castigates Marianne Williamson for suggesting that a combined will of people could alter the course or intensity of the monster storm making it turn away from land. Coincidentally, the storm did turn before going into Florida and barely touched any land in the U.S., a far cry from the devastation it brought to the Bahamas. I have no idea if her suggestion to use the collective "power of the mind," which she had to walk back because she's playing the political game, had any effect on the quantum physics of the storm, but it seems potentially more useful to make these kinds of experiments rather than argue over something completely inconsequential. Wilhelm Reich documented experiments that demonstrated the ability to cloud burst using directed orgone energy. Jack Parsons (sucessfully or coincidentally) raised a squall with magick to prevent L.Ron Hubbard from fleeing in a yacht. Hubbard did have to turn back. RAW documents at least one or two of his successful (or coincidental) magick experiments in "Cosmic Trigger I."

Alias Bogus said...

I find it interesting that Oz Fritz drew our attention to parallels with current situations. I figure that any English person, wanting to make Brexit happen, who doesn’t understand why the Irish appear so intransigent, could benefit from reading The Widow’s Son. Bob might wake them up to Anglo-Irish history, with his vivid portrayal of the justified Irish hatred of the English.
6 times the Irish learned not to trust the British

Rarebit Fiend said...

I've been sick and sleeping through most of the past couple days without even having to resort to a Nyquil-induced coma.

@Tom- Potable water is a good thing. I would wager most of those plumbing initiatives were done with municipal funds.

@Adie- Thank you for the insights, great research.

@Alias- The synchronicity actually began with Tom asking me if I knew that "[you] were Jabba the Hutt?" I then read you had worked as one of the Mystics on The Dark Crystal, which my wife and I were deeply invested in at the time because of the new show. More importantly, you were a Fiery! I asked Santa for a Fiery doll when I was young in the pre-Internet days even though I hadn't seen one. Regrettably I didn't get it. Thanks for bringing me so much joy over the years.

I thought about making a snarky comment about the torture scenes of the Irish appealing to pro-Trump readers but didn't want to be aggressive. Besides, the Irish are white so they probably would feel bad for them.

@Eric- It looks like I'll have to check out the book. I agree that is a reference to Beethoven.

@Oz- I asked people at the O.T.O. body I was attached to at the time why no one had tried to sic Bartzabel on Trump yet. There's also the legend that it was the magic of Dr. Dee that helped cause the storm that destroyed the Spanish Armada. The Ouspensky example is always extremely powerful.

I haven't read V. yet and I really should.

Chelvis said...

Hi everyone, just joining the reading group now (having read Illuminatus! for the 3rd time in about 20 years this August, then went through The Earth Will Shake in the last week or so (my perfunctory review is here: and finally catching up with where the reading group is at, and looking forward to reading at the pace of the group. In my experience, though it's sometimes nice to race through books, when you take your time, it's a richer experience.

Loving all the numerical and symbolic coincidences being pointed out by some others. My only comment at this time is how the blurb by Grant Morrison, showing his appreciation of the Earth Will Shake on the back of that book, really casts HIS great opus, The Invisibles, in a new light. If you've never read The Invisibles, I would recommend you get to it at some point.

As for this week's reading, if you ever have the chance to take a tour of the Paris catacombs, you'll get a sense of the immensity of centuries of the Parisien dead, piling up and crowding the living.