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Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Widow's Son reading group, Week Twenty

 Joseph Warren rethinking his refusal of a General’s commission 

Week Twenty (pg. 325-337 Hilaritas edition, Chapter 11&12 all editions) 

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger 

Chapter 11 serves as another zoom out shot of what is happening in Sigismundo’s world while he is imprisoned, while Chapter 12 is a zoom into Sigismundo’s mind as he languishes in the Bastille.

The Committee of Correspondence is precisely what RAW describes it as, though there is plenty more interesting historical information about the Committees here. These Committees served as the first Continental network of Revolutionary sentiment in the years building up to the spring of ‘75. Given that the purpose of the first Committee was explicitly spelled out as to “state the rights of the colonists,” I don’t think the “radicals” Samuel Adams and Dr. Warren were trying hard to fool anybody.

Dr. Joseph Warren was a physician who served along with Revere on his Midnight Ride to warn the countryside, fought at Lexington and Concord, and denied his General’s commission to fight at Bunker Hill as a private which proved to be a noble decision, if not entirely the best one. Dr. Warren’s martyrdom was preserved by John Trumbull’s painting that served as powerful propaganda for the American Experiment. Samuel Adams was, of course, a famous brewer who pioneered overcharging customers for mass-produced mediocre beer by claiming it was “craft beer.”

Weishaupt was, by many accounts, outwardly a pretty mellow guy. He was a deep one.

As someone who sat through enough Music Appreciation classes in grade school to have seen Amadeus at least three times, I can attest based on the most solid of historical information that Mozart’s relationship with his dad was, indeed, quite fraught.

This is an accurate description of one of the many scandals in the life of de Sade. The four prostitutes that he procured that afternoon would perhaps serve as an inspiration for the four prostitutes who inspired the sexual depravities in the beginning of 120 Days of Sodom. (The prostitutes were considerably more jaded and enthusiastic about sexual excess in de Sade’s fucked up masterpiece- go figure.) Cantharides, also known as Spanish Fly, is a classic aphrodisiac which is derived from beetle excretions and inflamed the urethra which I guess is what some people felt they needed to perform. Today it ranks up there with famously mysterious accoutrements such as Horny Goat Weed and those tablets behind the counter at gas stations as an essential part of any witches’ apothecary.

What RAW leaves out of the account of de Sade’s debauchery in the south of France is that he was sentenced to death for sodomy with his manservant during the same orgy he had with the four prostitutes. He, the manservant, and the seduced sister of his wife were the ones who made the initial escape. They would be captured shortly after this only to escape again and be rejoined by his wife at a later date. I guess Renee de Sade would adopt an attitude of “if you can’t beat ‘em” for a few years before finally divorcing the Divine Marquis.

Jean Jacques Jeder reminds us again of the quotidian facts of existence in the 18th century as he experiences meager prosperity. Sartines, who evidently trusts the free market as much as the infallibility of the Roman See and the benevolence of governments, has taken control of some parts of the Parisian economy, freezing inflation.

And finally we come to Sigismundo, slowly succumbing to despair and fearing that he is succumbing to madness.

Richard St. Victor was a Scottish theologian and one of the Mystics of the Catholic Church. The other philosophers that Sigismundo quotes in his journal are all pretty well known. Sigismundo is dithering, understandably so as it seems his luck has run out for the time being and all that he has ahead of him is confined within the walls of the Bastille. Between Sigismundo’s entries RAW’s footnotes provide a scaffolding of conspiracies so that the reader shares in Sigismundo’s inability to take much comfort from the philosophical fragments that he records. The anxiety of Oglesby’s War and the sinister machinations of Hanfkopf and the Vatican seep through time to infect the already tenuous situation in 1772.

Like Sir John Babcock (Crowley’s student not Maria’s husband), as Sigismundo is spinning out he uses formulas and equations to calm his mind. This reminds both men of the non-subjective “facts” of reality and that there is something very solid outside their own, relatively uncomfortable, existences.

Finally something happens to free Sigismundo from his depressing musings. He finds himself stuck on the roof of his cell.

From Eric Wagner: “This section of the novel enters 1772 and mentions Mozart’s Symphony 21, so that seemed an obvious choice: .”


Eric Wagner said...

I suspect Bob learned those Richard St. Victor phrases from Ezra Pound’s translations, available in Pound’s “Selected Prose”.

Oz Fritz said...

p. 213 Bluejay edition, talking about Mozart's father: "... Leopold, poor Leopold, blooming happily at his son's success." We see a reference to Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of Ulysses by James Joyce. I also suspect he wants to introduce the name to share the image Joyce created: Leo = Leo the Lion, gets filed under Tiphareth; a blooming lion = his son's success. RAW went into lion symbolism in an earlier book, Coincidance, I think?

"Now, one Saturday afternoon he had staged a saturnalia ..." I suspect RAW connects de Sade's antics with the planet Saturn which can represent the dark side, or the empty, hollowed out side of Binah. See the image for the the Thoth Tarot card the Three of Swords, "Sorrow" to illustrate this point.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

In Chapter 12, Sigismundo refers twice to the "consolation of philosophy." This is an apparent reference to a famous book written in prison, "The Consolation of Philosophy" by Boethius, written by a late Roman nobleman in 524 after he was imprisoned by Theodoric, ruler of the Ostrogothic kingdom of Italy.

Alias Bogus said...

I am really grateful to Eric, for drawing my attention to the Quotes for Richard of St Victor, which I had skimmed over.

He seems like an extraordinarily ‘psychological’ mystic, for the 12th century.

Quick research tells me he distinguished between cogitation, meditatio and contemplatio.

Thinking: the mind flits aimlessly about the object (Hell)
Meditation: circles about in a methodical manner (Purgatory)
Contemplation: unified with the object (Paradise)

Oz Fritz said...

In Chapter 12 RAW reminds us of the importance of Philosophy for ontologically grounding ourselves when the going gets weird - like getting imprisoned in the Bastille or some such scenario; watching monkeys wage war. Crowley advises a thorough grounding in Philosophy in one of the initial sentences in the first chapter of Magick in Theory and Practice.

Chapter 12 also has three instances of a reversal of perspective - two in the de Selby footnotes, and the final one when Sig wakes up apparently on the ceiling. To his credit, Sigismundo becomes immediately skeptical about the appearance of his upside down room and looks for signs of the trick like a detective: he doesn't unthinkingly accept appearances. As mentioned many times, reversing perspective appears a key tool in the Qabalist's arsenal.

Starting from the end of Chapter 12, the first reversal shows Sigismundo's predicament, he gets this reversal involuntarily flung upon him and has to deal with it; his reflexes appear sharp. The second reversal of perspective has de Selby placing the Big Bang at the end of the universe, not the beginning. The third (or first if moving forward, not backward), and most interesting to me occurs at the bottom of p. 217:

"...this astrology works backwards in time: as explained in Golden Hours I 17 - 23, the hour of a person's death creates all the cosmic and terrestrial "resonances" which cause the life that precedes it (in conventional time) ..."

The "hour of a persons death" is italicized in the book. Gold as in "Golden Hours" gets filed under Tiphareth. "Golden Hours" and hour of a person's death shows another Tiphareth/Death link.

As I see it, RAW encourages taking a reversed perspective, therefore it behooves one to take a look at reversing his reversal. Reversing the de Selby notion about the hour of death causing your life gives the idea that your whole life leads up to and influences the hour of your death. Putting this into practice reveals a Sufi exercise called "the deathbed perspective" where you take the view from shortly before your death about current actions, courses or decisions. It seems this can help one find and align to True Will. E.J. Gold has a variation on this exercise in the Last Hour of Life chapter in his book Practical Work on Self.

p.220: "Like the compass and square used in the craft, this equation was a demonstration that behind every tragedy and beyond any possible doubt there was some core of rationality at the heart of existence." What do we get if we reverse this?

supergee said...

F = ma is never falsified because it's a definition, not an empirical statement.