Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Widow's Son reading group, Week Eleven

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.)


Alias Bogus said...

I don’t have my library to hand, but in Prometheus Rising (written in the same time period as this novel) you can find lots of discussion about learning, conditioning and imprinting. You can always learn something new, to replace previous knowledge, given sufficient motivation. Conditioning depends on repetition, and once established proves quite hard (but not impossible) to reverse, as the behaviour becomes an automatic reflex. However it appears nearly impossible to change imprints, which only need one critical event to manifest (The indelible mark). LSD sometimes gets mentioned as an effective tool for changing imprints. A common aspect of an acid trip often gets described as some kind of death (of the ego, etc) which hardly seems a coincidence, as simulated death/terror activates the Third Degree experience and initiation.

Siggy’s fencing master had taught him how to change his reflexes, by repetitive conditioning, and he uses the same principle by routinely hanging out of his window.

These two chapters mostly relate to the tougher task of changing imprints. Benoit describes how we can learn things from books, but they don’t make an indelible impression on us, and it takes the rituals of Freemasonry (as in classical Greek theatre) to genuinely ‘impress’ us (leave a mark). The Saxon policeman, who arrests Seamus, also gets described as playing a role, just as Seamus himself plays a dumb Irish stereotype. And although nature offers several natural moments of imprint vulnerability, (birth, first sexual experience, etc) both the Freemasonic ritual ordeals, and actual torture, appear designed to put the candidate, or victim, in an altered state of imprint vulnerability, through fear, uncertainty, anxiety, disorientation, etc.

“To create a new imprint, first reduce the subject to the state of infancy, i.e., bio-survival vulnerability. We will enlarge upon this later. In pre-neurological terms, the biosurvival circuit is what we usually call "consciousness," per se. It is the sense of being herenow, in this vulnerable body, subject to the raw energies and forces of the physical universe.” RAW Prometheus Rising.

The sense of bottom dog helplessness can be escalated by periodic doses of real terror. One of Charlie Manson's famous sayings was "Fear is the great teacher," and every brainwasher would agree ardently. In communist countries (as dramatized in Costa-Gravas's fine and factual film, The Confession) a favorite trick is to take the subject out of his cell, march him to a courtyard, place a noose about his neck, and convince him he is about to be hanged. The relief, when this turns out to be a bluff, creates ideal imprint vulnerability. A variation in my novel Illuminatus! has the victim persuaded he has been poisoned, dumped in a coffin and the lid slammed upon him. Those who have been initiated as Mark Master Freemasons will recognize at once that the same technique is the "mark that you will carry to your grave." RAW. PR.

At times, people have tried many tactics for re-programming themselves: solitude, fasting, extreme asceticism, etc. As William Burroughs says, "Anything that can be done chemically can be done by other means."

PS: “Da liegt der Hund begraben” - “That’s where the dog is buried” seems to have been a common phrase or saying, apart from Mr G’s esoteric use, to mean “There’s the catch” or “there’s the bit we forgot to mention.”

If you want to read Mozart and Masonry, you can find the text here (also a PDF).

Alias Bogus said...

Just a note, because I don't know my Bible, but when I search 1 John 3:2 I get "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."

Not sure I understand the numbering system...

Rarebit Fiend said...

Damnit, I looked at the Gospel of John not the Epistle. Good catch Alias!

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I pulled out my Bible to look up the references, but you guys got to it before I could.

I think Gregory has put his finger on something important when he writes that RAW is trying to "impress" something upon the reader: Apparently RAW trying to leave an indelible impression on his audience is one of his literary techniques. Certainly the long description of a torture sessions seems designed to leave an impression (and in "Nature's God" the torture of Sigismundo's biological father is an important scene in the book.)

If leaving an indelible impression on the reader is a deliberate technique, that would seem to explain why people who "get" RAW act as if they have been marked for life, becoming very loyal RAW fans.

Alias Bogus said...

I agree, Tom.

I remember the slight shiver, when I read in Appendix Lamed of the original trilogy:

"This book, being part of the only serious conspiracy it describes— that is, part of Operation Mindfuck — has programmed the reader in ways that he or she will not understand for a period of months (or perhaps years)."

tony smyth said...

Interesting. I'm not reading this book now but have read it in the past. Great post from Bogus.
I'd just make one comment on this: "it appears nearly impossible to change imprints". That what used to be thought by Leary and probably RAW at one time but when I did my Master Prac course in NLP in 1999 we were told that imprinting could be changed. I remember questioning that. However I don't know in detail how its done. I heard this from Robert McDonald one of the highly guys in NLP at the time.

Eric Wagner said...

A friend of mine signed up for a class on the letters of John, so I have spent some time on them this semester because we have talked about them a lot. Teaching at a Catholic high school, I have to attened mass sometimes. Last Friday's mass included a reading from 1 John 3 including the quotation in this week's reading. I found that an interesting coincidence.

Oz Fritz said...

Chapter 5 connects with the Heirophant (numbered V in the Tarot). RAW gives a brilliant encapsulated description of Freemasonry first comparing it with Greek tragedy, then music:

"Freemasonry, then, is like the Greek tragedy in calling us to attend with with sobriety to eternal mysteries and to experience with our hearts the meaning of death and the triumph beyond death: but it is more like the music which is the special glory of our age..." p. 107 Bluejay edition.

The two analogies appear connected as music educates the "experience within our hearts" and can give an experiential glimpse of the "triumph beyond death," it seems to me.

I mentioned the need for courage in the final comment last week. Seamus Moon reflects that this is the one thing that can't be taken from him. That appears what he hangs on to for getting through the ordeal. p. 117.

Chapter 6 invokes Tiphareth. p. 119 last paragraph: "Spaniel-like eyes full of a Hebrew or Arabic word - the widow's son, that singing sungold man who died the first death and lived the starry second life ..."
Obvious Tiphareth references as well as connecting with music. The capital letters in the first phrase, S + H + A = 66 - i.e. two sixes.
The initials of 'widow's son' w + s also = 66. "Spaniel-like eyes conjures Pan: eye = aiyn = Pan.

This section shows Seamus' mind bouncing around the non-local circuit as an effect of his torture. He has a vision of the super-computer from Illuminatus!, "GWB-666" - three sixes and an allusion to Crowley; GWB = Great White Beast. When asked to explain in a trial proceeding the meaning of his adopted moniker, The Beast 666, Crowley told the judge that it was a solar number (6 = Tiphareth = The Sun)repeated three times and he could just call him Sonny.

All the torture, pain and resistance Seamus goes through seems only a slightly exaggerated metaphor for the trials and tribulations of attempting to realize a permanent and stable Tiphareth awareness which I associate with Leary's C6.

Oz Fritz said...

p. 118 Bluejay: "It was all machinery repeating the same mechanical cycles over and over, again and again..." The vision of the mechanical universe I first heard of through the 4th Way and had a brief realization of this at the time. It seemed truly horrific.

The following sentence not only appears to accurately reflect current times - as Gregory suggests above - it alludes to the nature of the Great Work.

"It was always the same, the identical gears turning, the puppets moving in jerky gestures to kill and maim each other, the eternal insanity of a blind universe where God had died of a broken heart." - p. 119

Eric Wagner said...

I think Bob Wilson might claim political descent from Burke.

Rarebit Fiend said...

I wasn't clear enough Eric, I'm sorry. I would as well, it was a comment pointed directly at modern conservatism- a "philosophy" which has nothing to do with Burke in shape or substance but still claims him as one of their sources. (At least, it seems to me to be that way.)

Oz- that line actually made me cry. While I knew it was coming, the chapter was still harrowing to read through again. Towards the light.

Alias- as always, thank you for all of your research and insights. I'm excited to read Mozart and Masonry.

Thank you Tom and tony for the extremely thoughtful comments. When I went through the Lodge, the memory of RAW's passages and Crowley inflamed me more than the physical circumstances. The true initiation began a long time before that. I guess. Maybe.

Alias Bogus said...

I confess to finding Biblical references difficult, as I didn’t get raised in the Christian (or Judaic) tradition, more as a secular humanist, with a touch of pantheism.

I don’t fully understand the significance of Melchizedek in this context. OK, so Jesus belongs to the tradition (Sang Real, etc) but does the significance of the bread and wine relate to the obvious Catholic connection (body and blood)?

What triggered in my mind, when I saw the name, came from reading Jacques Vallée, many years ago, in his UFO phase, when he investigated a cult called The Order of Melchizedek, and one day caught a taxi, asked for a receipt, and found that his taxi driver had just that name, the only person in the whole city. He became interested in synchronicities. Later, when Colin Wilson was reading Messengers of Deception, he came across a letter in another book (on life after death) from the Order of Melchizedek. RAW loved this library angel stuff…and I feel it likely that Bob had read Vallée.
One afternoon in Los Angeles in the winter of 1976, the week he began compiling his notes on various branches of the UFO cult “the Order of Melchizedek” for what became Messengers of Deception, Jacques Vallée stood curb side at Sunset Boulevard and hailed a taxi. He looked downstream at the rush hour traffic, raised his hand towards several oncoming cabs, and one swerved into the curb lane and stopped for him. After a short ride, during which Vallee did not discuss his current research, he paid his fare and accepted a receipt. He stuffed it in his wallet and thought nothing more of it, until two days he noticed it was signed Melchizedek:

“I cannot afford to write this story, because I cannot expect anyone to believe it. At the same time I cannot sweep it under the rug. There is only one Melchizedek listed in the LA phone book, and I have the receipt signed by the driver right in front of me. It was this incident that convinced me to put more energy into understanding the nature of such coincidences.”

And here you can find a little more – from Jim Keith “Saucers of the Illuminati”
A remarkable UFO group was contacted by Jacques Vallée in Paris, France. The group is called the Order of Melchizedek, and it uses the Star of David for its emblem, and for its program espouses a one world government and the doing away with money and religion - except for the UFO-oriented sort of religion, I would imagine. The Order is cabalistic in its mystical practices, the Qabalah being an ancient form of Jewish mystical cosmology, a philosophy also employed by other occult groups such as the OTO and the Freemasons. Vallée notes the curious number of organizations that the head of the French Order of Melchizedek fronts, including the Front for Christian Liberation, Jesus People Europe, Jesus Revolution, the Charismatic Christian, the Christian Socialist Party, and Jew and Arab movements. Here relevant cross-currents include cabalism, the Order of Melchizedek, and the Star of David.

Eric Wagner said...

Pg. 173 - The way torture leads Seamus to join the White Boys reminds me of "The Looming Tower" which suggests that torture of prisoners in Egypt in the 1940's led the radicalization of some of those prisoners.

Rarebit Fiend said...

@Alias I'm not quite sure how to explain the significance. I was raised Methodist but hated church, personally studied and believed in the Greek gods and committed apostasy when I was nine. Yet I remained in love with the idea of god and religion. Melchizedek is an alluring figure insofar as he seems to offer an initiation that is a blessing to two of the most "blessed" men in the Abrahamic mythos. I personally love Melchizedek for the irregularity I talked about in the post which I was first introduced to while reading R. Crumb's adaption of the Book of Genesis (which inspired me to read the actual Bible).

The Jacques Vallee connection is very interesting. I enjoy his work an awful lot. When I was in high school I was obsessed with UFOs and it almost filled a religious role in my life at the time. I used to spend my evenings roaming around our family farm trying to spot weird lights in the sky. Eventually I started to read Vallee and I think he's as close to "the truth" as any of the theorists have been- I was introduced to his ideas through John Keel and Gray Barker. I am always struck by how Vallee ends up being one of the most venerated and wise characters in Cosmic Trigger. I have yet to read Messengers of Deception or anything of Colin Wilson's. I have read a lot of Gary Lachman materials on him.

Alias Bogus said...

@Rarebit Fiendjavascript:void(0)

I did skim read the whole Bible at one point (just as I read both volumes of HPB’s Theosophical The Secret Doctrine - over a period of three months) but never quite got ‘the feel’ of The Bible. HPB has that Hindu/Buddhist/pantheist subtext that feels more familiar to me.

The only reason I focused a little? Because Bob’s references often lead me somewhere interesting. The Jacques Vallée thing came from my own head/memory of the early 80s.

In purely ‘Biblical’ terms, given that the first few books also count as The Torah, I felt astonished that the reference came from Genesis, which I figured must more or less pre-date ‘humans’.

In that sense, after further digging, it appeared that “Melchizedek” seems like an unborn/undying entity/energy (foreshadowing Jesus), rather than a human being (?)

Anyway, just a footnote, easily skimmed over. Close reading can prove a little obsessive!