Week Eleven (pg. 161-185 Hilaritas edition, Chapters 5&6 (Part II) all editions)By Gregory Arnott, special guest blogger
Chapter Five and Chapter Six are hinged together by Father Benoit’s ruminations on indelible marks. In the beginning of Chapter Five it seems as if it is a commentary on the extravagant symbolism of Sir John’s initiation before transforming into a darkly perverse prologue of Seamus’ ordeal. After the stomach churning, ear-ringing horrors of Chapter Six, imprisonment in the Bastille seems quaint.
Citizen Benoit, like Signor Duccio, is given a special position in the novel as we know that they survive much of the French Revolution, are clearly skeptical individuals, and both have intimate knowledge of Sigismundo’s plight which is ostensibly the main thrust of The Widow’s Son. So the reader is given multiple reasons to trust their reminiscences in a way that we cannot trust the ongoing narratives. Celine, Babcock (Lord and Lady), and Muadhen are all “trapped” in their personal heaven/hell/purgatory of 1771 along with most of the secondary and tertiary characters. It follows that the excerpts of their memoirs provides a respite from the action of the novel and a clue to what RAW might be trying to impress upon the reader therein.
Benoit discusses the decline of the Church into vain repetitions and the failure of the sacraments as opposed to the rediscovered purgative of the Peripatetic’s catharsis found within the secrets of Freemasonry; the ability to impress upon the soul an indelible mark. This is an interesting way of examining the diminishing power of religion in the Age of Enlightenment. Instead of seeing the Church as overwhelmed by the scientific and humanistic revolutions of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries, Benoit seems to see the institution as rotting on its own (lack of) merits and the spiritual center shifted to another that is no less spiritual, but spiritual in a different manner. The brief discussion of Aristotle’s Poetics brings to mind the historically accepted principle that what sparked the Renaissance, itself a prelude to the Enlightenment, was the rediscovery of the classical authors by secular scholars and members of the Church who were not as cowed by doctrine as the grim monks of the Middle Ages. The mention of the buried dog in the logbook of the New Hope Lodge on pg. 164, its connection with Gurdjieff and the further connection with Sirius/the Silver Star hints at another cause for the massive spiritual/political/cultural shifts of the late second millennium- the advent of the Aeon of Horus.
Genesis 14:18, also inscribed in the logbook of the Viennese lodge, reads “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.” This is of great interest as Abram was blessed by Melchizedek and later the Nazarene described himself as “a priest in the order of Melchizedek.” What makes this all the more interesting that in the Hebrew text Melchizedek blesses Abram not in the name of El, but El Elyon which was not the name of the god of the Hebrews but rather that of the preexisting Canaanite father/sky god.
Later Benoit brings up John 3:2 which reads “The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” I read this as an allusion to the “miraculous” feats of will allowed by the illuminations transferred by Masonry for Sigismundo and Babcock (who will soon face his own trials in this novel) and the shanachie O’Lachlann to Muadhen. His earlier observation that the compositions of Haydn and Mozart defend the tenets of the Craft more ably than his own writing jives with the views of Alan Moore who often points out that Art is the ablest expression of Magic. (For another, slightly different perspective on this interplay please consult the work of Ramsey Dukes in SSTOMBE which he revisited as Lionel Snell in My Years of Magical Thinking on the “four cultures.”)
Mozart’s endorsement of peace of mind over medicine isn’t helped by the fact he died in his mid-thirties.
I agree with Benoit’s assessment of the power in the phrasing of the Lord’s Prayer. I still occasionally say the Lord’s Prayer throughout my days and nights and observe it whenever I perform the Star Ruby/LBRP/Kabbalistic Cross. In Chapter Six we see a visceral portrayal of how well man has done establishing God’s will on Earth.
Not very well.
This scene is all the more horrific as it is clear that scenes similar to this are taking place all over the world and in our own country today. Perhaps the details are changed, the oppressed and their tormentors look a bit different, but even in our vastly improved and enlightened age despotism, fear, and hatred are alive and well and free to do as they like to the powerless.
Coming to a crescendo on pg 179, and drawn out for the next few pages of the chapter, RAW’s talent for conjuring alternative states of mind with his prose is put on full display as we are tugged along into Seamus’ dark transcendence. Babcock’s sweating over Masonic shadowboxing seems pitiable compared to the very real physical harm being done to Muadhen; both initiations are presided over by Englishmen, although Muadhen is “guided” by a traitorous Irishmen, both end in an indelible mark being left upon the soul. It is appropriate that they should meet soon.
During Seamus’ departure of spacetime we hop into both the Schroedinger’s Cat and Illuminatus! trilogies before coming back to bloody 1771. The de Selby footnote is humorous and humorously out of place in the chapter.
Edmund Burke’s appearance and failure to defend the Irish with the fervor that their cause required at the end of the chapter is all the more poignant when we remember that those who claim political descent from his philosophy are those most often in favor of or willing to turn a blind eye to corruption, despotism, violence, torture, and inhumanity today. God Bless Trump.
Sasanach ithean cac.
From Eric Wagner: A bit of “The Magic Flute” seems in order this week.
(Contrast Papageno and Papagena’s trilling, matched dialogue with the conversation Seamus has with the fairies/himself as he experiences the bucket.)