Week Twenty Six (pg. 433-454 Hilaritas edition, Chapter 23&24 Part III all editions)By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger
I am yesterday, today and the brother of tomorrow: these words are from Crowley’s Liber Israfel. Israfel was supposedly based on a manuscript by the sainted Allen Bennett named Liber Anubis which was itself supposedly a translation of a hymn from that disparate corpus of writings known as The Egyptian Book of the Dead, more properly called The Book of Coming Forth By Day. And now, it seems, Sigismundo is allowed back into the light of liberty.
Sigismundo naturally doesn’t trust that his rescuers are who they claim to be at first. He begins to cotton to the situation as-it-appears-to-be after being given the grip of the fourth degree. Earlier in the novel Sir John is lectured after his fourth degree initiation that help may always come from an unexpected quarter. Sigismundo/Joseph has become despondent and had almost given up hope of salvation.
Johann Conrad Dippel was born in 1673 at Castle Frankenstein; he was a man of learning, a theologian, hermetic scholar and an alchemist. The great visionary Emmanuel Swendenborg was once a student of Dippel’s but later rejected him and viciously attacked him as a megalomaniacal opportunist. Dippel believed that hermetic scholarship and alchemy was a truer key to understanding Nature than the then emerging natural sciences and espoused millenarian beliefs about the Second Coming. However, one friend claims that as an adult he despaired of Christ, describing him as “an indifferent being”, and put all of his faith into his alchemical experiments. At one point he tried to buy his birthplace with a vial of something he claimed was the elixir of life. A contemporary myth about Dippel that is pertinent to the incarnation in the novel is that he conducted experiments to transfer souls into cadavers. Nearly a decade before The Widow’s Son was published a popular and controversial idea was proposed to Academia that Shelley had been inspired to write Frankenstein after visiting Castle Frankenstein and hearing the tale of Johann Dippel. Regardless, Dippel - who indeed was said to have died in 1734 - strikes an interesting and undeniably Faustian figure. Dippel claimed a year before his death at age 61 that he had developed a tonic that would allow him to live to 135 - so in the manner of most of the people I admire, he was a dumbass and a goddamn liar but I’m sure RAW would appreciate the life-extension optimism.
Frankenstein, or Actually, It’s Frankenstein’s Monster, is one of those novels that some people are forced to read in school or believe that they know through cultural osmosis but is definitely worth revisiting often. The novel is a mess of ideas and contradictions that not only exemplifies Romantic literature and philosophy but the eternal crises of “progressing” humanity. Shelley, not her husband, was the superior wit. (Not to mention that she single-handedly created the genre of science fiction.) Ingolstadt figures strongly with Frankenstein as the location of Victor Frankenstein’s studies and his monster’s birthplace: Shelley almost certainly chose Ingolstadt because of its connection to Herr Weishaupt and His Merry Men.
Dippel von Frankenstein and Sigismundo is a satisfying conclusion to the mind-bending action of the third Part that can only be followed up with something like Chapter 24. A few observations:
When Sigismundo begins to think that the key is to Stay Drunk All The Time I was reminded of Baudelaire’s advice which I have tried to follow and also that after seeing how his relationship with alcohol played out in the previous novel, I’m hoping he doesn’t pursue that train of thought.
This sequence, I believe is meant to be funny:
“What do you feel when you look at the stars at night?” Frankenstein asked.
“The same as anybody else. Feelings that I cannot put into words.”
“Not the same as anybody else. Try putting it into words….” and so forth.
I'm pretty sure RAW/Frankenstein is playing a trick on the reader who is almost invariably going to identify with Sigismundo as Frankenstein lists all the ways that he is special. I would especially imagine the type of person who would be reading this novel in the first place would love to relate. We’re all the Fairest.
The idea of the Enlightened Despot is an old one though I do think it is interesting that two of my favorite series, this one and Terra Ignota, both play with this idea. If you enjoy The Historical Illuminatus! Chronicles I heartily recommend checking out Ms. Palmer’s novels as they are the closest material I can think of.
The following chapter is a hodge-podge of Gnostic fragments, Biblical verse, and the Author’s ingenium. I have tried to think of something to add and I cannot summon up anything worthy. This is the Gospel According to St. Wilson the Evangelist and it is a perfect encapsulation of Chesterton’s absurd good news or Pascal’s Night of Fire. Read and Read and Read it.
“The foxes have their holes and the birds have their nests, but the Living One does not stop and rest.”
The ankh is actually a representation of a sandal strap and the Egyptian form of “god” was conjugated as a verb.
“That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” Genesis Chapter 6
Maybe Dippel was onto something.
“Believe in the Stars.”- Kenneth Parcell, another Immortal
From Eric: “For the soundtrack I have chosen Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis conducted by Jascha Horenstein. This piece seems to fit the mystic Christianity of this section. Man, this section of the novel blew me away when I first read it during the carefree Reagan years. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmjSzSc2bxk”