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Monday, February 24, 2020

The Widow's Son reading group, Week Twenty Seven

Family Portrait of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette 

Week Twenty Seven (pg. 457-470 Hilaritas edition, Chapter 1&2 Part IV all editions) 

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

Part IV begins with another scene in the mode of realism. The dregs of society gather to talk about the machinations of great men and debate their merits. Pierre, still riding on an upward tangent, has become a shopkeeper but is still troubled by dog shit. A fitting allegory for life. 

Louis XVI was regarded much as the text and characters indicate.The poor guy had the lowest charisma score of perhaps any monarch in history. 

I discussed Madame du Barry and Beaumarchais all the way back in my post for Week 8. I think, I hope, that what I wrote down still stands as a decent enough commentary on these figures. The Chevalier d’Eon was discussed a little more fully in the post for Week 4. 

Finally Duccio recalls the very true story about Robespierre the student addressing the newly crowned King Louis and Marie Antoinette. He kneeled and recited an address composed in Latin verse and neither monarch seemed to care. It’s one of those funny moments that makes one wonder. As they say on Last Podcast on the Left: be sure to hug your aggressive, strange acquaintances- you never know when it might save your life. 

From Eric: “With this week’s discussion of Beaumarchais, this seemed appropriate: .”


Eric Wagner said...

I wonder what Bob Wilson would think of our comments in this discussion group.

Alias Bogus said...

I like Bob’s view from below, the revolution from the point of view of the common folk, as well as the usual history perspective of kings and priests, etc.

Talk of the useless nature of Louis XVI (as viewed from below) subverts the idea that genealogy justifies royal inheritance, which I find funny. Maybe Jesus’ son would turn out fat and shy…or stupid and ugly…

In relation to the Chevalier, I hear an echo of “These words will not be understood until the male becomes female, and the female becomes male” – from the Gospel of Mary.

Oz Fritz said...

Part 4 starts with what appears a cyclic return of sorts to the beginning of Part 1, the beginning of the book. Both sections start with characters from the French lower class discussing the death of an aristocrat: in Part 1 they plan the assassination of Sigismundo, in Part 4 they discuss the ramifications on the French royal household, and France itself, of the death of King Louis XV. The book opens with a quote regarding the cornerstone the builders rejected from The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene. This same quote appears in Chapter 24 of Part 3 just a few pages before Part 4 - more evidence of a cyclic return. Pierre's issue with stepping in dog poop recurs as well. In both sections, he immediately utters, "Goddam dogs" before asking his friends, "Do you know what I just stepped in?."

This repetition with difference exemplifies Deleuze's radical interpretation of Nietzsche's Eternal Recurrence. In Part 1 they planned a death that failed to occur. In Part 4 a royal death has already occurred. The cyclic form also reflects the descent on the Tree of Life. Parts 1, 2 and 3 could symbolize the Supernal Triad of Kether, Chokmah and Binah with Part 4 indicating Chesed. This map places a daunting Abyss between the Supernals (not to be confused with Diana Ross and the Supremes), said to represent the Actual World, and the Sephiroth below them beginning with Chesed said to represent the word of appearance and illusion. Chesed plays a role like Kether below the Abyss, hence the cyclic return, but different.

The Monty Python quote beginning Part 4 jumped out to me the first time I saw this film in the theater as a young urban shaman. It seems one of the great jewels in The Meaning of Life. I used it in a blog post somewhere. Hats suggests Kether.

Oz Fritz said...

The title of Part Four, The Thing With Feathers reminds me of The Beast although analysis reveals it seems more connected to Babalon.

Thing = 77. In The Book of Lies Chapter 77 Crowley associates this number with Babalon via Laylah, his Scarlet Woman (human manifestation of Babalon) at the time. A photograph of Laylah, the only photograph in this book, appears opposite Chapter 77. From the commentary to this chapter: "77 is the number of Laylah (LAILAH) to whom this chapter is wholly devoted. The Devil from the Tarot gets introduced - see the full commentary for an explanation - then continues:
"Now the Devil of the Tarot is the Phallus, the Redeemer and Laylah symbolizes redemption to Frater P. (Crowley). The number 77, also, interpreted as in the title, is the redeeming force.

First words spoken in part Four: "The thing is," the initials of this phrase that appears by itself, T + t + i = 28. Chapter 28 in BoL shows another Laylah chapter, there are only a few, titled The Pole-Star. We see another glyph combining male and female energies; pole = male through phallic association; star = female through the Tarot image.

This symbolism of Babalon beginning Part Four recalls the beginning of Part One with the quotation from Mary Magdalene only in that instance the invocation of Babalon appears literal, we don't have to unlock the symbolism using Qabalah. Mary Magdalene effectively plays the role of Babalon to Jesus according to Holy Blood Holy Grail.

The second person to speak in Part Four, Francois, opens with: "She's a whore," suggesting the whore of Babalon, to me. "Whores" receive several mentions in this chapter and another one in Chapter Two regarding a decision by 'the enlightened despot,' Emperor Joseph to confine himself to whores for life. The word "whore" gets used 6 times on the first page of Part Four followed by 3 uses of the plural version, "whores" on the next page. "Whores' shows up again two paragraphs later. The whore in question, Madame Du Barry falls under the rubric of "sinful companions" during the King's final absolution.

Whore gets associated with Binah in the previous chapter, 23 of Part Tree:
"And he said: If you know your true mother, the world will call you the son of a whore."
By many accounts, Mary Magdalene worked as a whore before she met the big Gee.

Oz Fritz said...

To answer Eric's question: I think RAW would be pleased and grateful for these discussion groups about his books. I suspect he would have liked sombunall of my comments and all of Gregory's introductory write-ups. This question sparked reflection on his reactions to the comments in the online courses of his that I took. He usually responded to people's comments always making it quite clear what he thought either way. I realized that I missed his voice in these proceedings, but then thought that his voice is always there as the subject matter and is getting expanded and explicated through our various interpretations. I recently began reading In Search of Lost Time (like Deleuze, I prefer the literal English translation of the title many call Remembrance of Things Past) and I sense some relationship between these discussion groups and the endeavor of recovering lost time at the heart of Proust's classic.

Last night I discovered a decent biopic on Mary Shelly on Showtime streaming, it says will be up until Saturday. I watched about half of it and will see the rest. The Shelly's had quite the intense and tumultuous relationship if there's any veracity to this drama. Frankenstein remains a classic, important work, but I also enjoy Percy Shelly's poems. They also inspired a young Bob Dylan.

Alias Bogus said...

Remembering the MLA, I can only say that I would love to hear from the lurkers, before we finish. I don't believe that only 4-7 of us get involved, here, and actually make a post.

I can't find the exact quote right now, but I remember RAW pointing out the importance of actually doing the exercises, in Prometheus Rising. I can't pretend I did them all...but several influenced the rest of my life.

Something about a thousand people read them, a hundred people think about doing them, ten people try them, etc.

Someone will know the exact quote... Please remind me.

Eric Wagner said...

I have pretty much done all the exercises in Prometheus Rising. I don't get a massage every week though. I found these exercises useful over the past 35 years.

Oz, glad to hear you've started Proust. I really love his writing. Which translation have you started?

Oz Fritz said...

The original title of Mary Shelley's novel: Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus

I'm reading a Barnes & Noble Classics edition translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff. I got it last time shopping at Powell's in Portland. I pondered between 4 or 5 different editions available there and don't remember why I chose this edition. To my delight, Elizabeth Dalton references Deleuze's Proust studies in the Introduction.

Eric Wagner said...

I bought my first copy of The Cantos at that bookstore in 1984.

Oz Fritz said...

Holy Blood, Holy Grail considers the Holy Grail to be the womb of Mary Magdalene according to the Wikipedia summary of the book. Originally portrayed as a cup or a dish, it got connected to the divine feminine through the Arthurian legends and the story of Parzival. Jerry Cornelius provides an historical sketch of the origins of this myth in ESSAYS 1 . One early account by Wolfram Von Eschenbach caught my attention: "He describes the Holy Grail as a stone lapis exillis which fell from Heaven and was being protected by neutral Angels who did not take sides in the war in Heaven. " This reminded me of the coincidence in The Widow's Son of Babcock witnessing a stone fall from Heaven at virtually the same moment he's told of his daughter's impending birth - in a way, a metaphorical stone falling from Heaven. Both stone, and daughter emerging from her mother's womb connect with the Holy Grail.

Crowley makes the connection between a precious stone, the Holy Grail and the divine feminine in The Book of Thoth commenting on The Chariot:

"The central and most important feature of this card is its centre – the Holy Grail. It is of pure amethyst, of the colour of Jupiter, but its shape suggests the full moon and the Great Sea of Binah.
In the centre is radiant blood; the spiritual life is inferred; light in the darkness."

Bob Dylan addresses his song Like A Rolling Stone to a woman. He asks the question, 'how does it feel?' When asked what he was searching for in the recent Rolling Thunder film, Dylan answered, "the Holy Grail."

I've often appreciate these lyrics from Cold Water by Tom Waits:

Slept in the graveyard it was cool and still, cool and still, cool and still, it was cool ...
Slept all night in a cedar grove, I was born to ramble, born to roll
Some men are searching for the Holy Grail,
Ain't nothing sweeter than riding the rail.

Alias Bogus said...

I felt fascinated by Oz’s mention of the lapis lazuli. I noticed before that in the rituals, the stone rejected by the builders, not wanted because not square, becomes the crucial keystone in the arch (and a keystone in a Roman Arch has the rhomboid shape - almost triangular) to lock the arch in place. One of the genuine industrial secrets of practical masons….

The Gothic door has a slightly improved, more elongated shape, the vesical piscis, in which the keystone exerts more downward pressure, so the flying buttresses used to counter the outwards pressure in the Roman Arch seem no longer needed… The keystone may then take a more diamond-like shape.

Note that Gothic doors have occasionally been compared to the vulva, which would make the keystone the clitoris. From a wider perspective, if we look at the pillars of the arch as legs, then that keystone certainly lies exactly between the “legs”. And Jesus often gets portrayed inside a vesica piscis. This makes the vesica piscis the womb of the Virgin Mary. You’ll see something similar in the Marseilles Tarot deck, for the card The World, which also has the four apostles/archangels in the corners.

I find it curious that a stone might get used to indicate the female genitalia, when it seems a more logical model to use a cave, like the one Jesus’ body disappeared from ( in spite of the stone which sealed the entrance) and from which he arose, or got born again. I have also seen references to a vault…

I remember feeling intrigued by the title of Israel Regardie’s book about Crowley’s research into Hashish (sadly I no longer have my copy).
Roll Away The Stone: An Introduction To Aleister Crowley'S Essay'S On The Psychology Of Hashish By Israel Regardie

Something just eludes me, in this evocative imagery. These remain research notes…

In Craft Masonry, we usually find only three degrees (Entered Apprentice, Fellow-Craft Mason, Master Mason), but the fourth degree (which Cagliostro and others signal to Sigismundo, and which Sir John Babcock appears to have joined) gets called the Mark Master.

Do we count RAW’s use of the form “Master Mark” a typo, or a sly reference to FW “Three quarks for Muster Mark” – and, by extension to Quantum Physics, as the word “quark” literally came from Joyce)?

Not all lodges recognise or grant this fourth degree, and it apparently does not lie above the third degree, but exists as a lateral extension. Royal Arch (sic) masons also grant the fourth degree. I find it very hard to discover the origins of the name of this particular Masonic group (but see above).

I don’t claim any real knowledge of the Freemasons, and the literature appears confused (or confusing) at times. As far as I can tell, RAW never became a Mason (?) so I guess everything he writes also comes from research. And pre-internet research, at that. I wonder what material he had access to?

Currently riffling through an old paper copy of “Irish and English Freemasons and Their Foreign Brothers:
Their System, Oaths, Ceremonies, Secrets, Grips, Signs, and Passwords” by Michael di Gargano (1878)
which doesn’t feel entirely sympathetic. Like so many texts, what we know comes from someone who doesn’t ‘belong’ or entirely approve. I also suspect an alias (nom-de-plume).

Oh, look, Catholic cave shrines in Gargano, to St Michael the Archangel… Feel free to dive down the rabbit hole….

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I had never heard that Bob Dylan was into Percy Shelley. When I took my survey class in English literature in college, the Romantic poets were my favorite section, but I was particularly taken by Shelley and after the class ended I continued to read as much of him as I could.

Speaking of Dylan, he apparently is pleased by the people who study his lyrics, and I would have to think RAW would be pleased by the reading groups, although on that point I guess I have to defer to the people who actually knew RAW.

Eric Wagner said...

Synchronistically’ a friend and I discussed Shelley yesterday just before I read Tom’s comment.

Alias Bogus said...

In reference to Tom’s comment about hoping Bob would have enjoyed the reading groups, I can only quote an exchange from the Maybe Logic Academy, when we did a 12 week course on the Illuminatus! Trilogy, and in the forum I made a comment to which Bob replied:

Bogus Magus: Little did I know, however, that I would end up treating it the way we are now – poring over the text like a Joycean scholar!


10 Nov 2004

Dear Bogmag,
Of course, I wanted at least some readers to
pore over the text like Joyce scholars….that’s
why I made it so Joycean
It has taken 29 years [plus the 5 years
lost in getting it published] but that
dream seems real at last,
and I thank everybody