Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Widow's Son reading group, Week Twenty Eight

Pope Clement XIV, noted for his suppression of the Jesuits (after heavy political pressure) and his humane treatment of the Jews.

Week Twenty Eight (pg. 471-477 Hilaritas edition, Chapter 3&4 Part IV all editions) 

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

De Sade remains indomitable; or rather, as written about previously in this series of posts, the Divine Marquis will evade capture (until he doesn’t). Then he’ll be free again, and then captured again — but they never quite get the best of De Sade. We could expect such a harsh philosophy from so singular a man, who mustn’t have worried what could be done to him as opposed to what he could do to those around him.

Everyone hates the Jesuits. They’re feared outside and within the Catholic Church, they are depicted as learned scholars, shadowy spies (see Pynchon’s Mason and Dixon), and tormentors of the imagination (Portrait of the Artist). The Jesuit secrecy, or supposed secrecy, has won them few friends over the years. Although I don’t think anti-Jesuit sentiment is that popular or thought of today, we could relate the fear of the Jesuits to the whispers about the Knights of Malta during the P2 conspiracies heyday, or Opus Dei when Dan Brown released his magnum opus The Da Vinci Code.

It looks like old Ganganelli is being targeted by meme magic. I guess Pope Francis, another liberal Franciscan, should make sure not to piss off any gamers. Imagine the outskirts of the Vatican, covered in graffiti of a frog in a blond wig standing over Francis’s corpse flashing a white power sign. Like everything related about Pope Clement XIV, the information about the Pugachev Uprising is related accurately if occasionally with the flavor of contemporary perspective. The Pugachev rebellion is yet another example of how Russians are entirely incapable of self governance. It would be nice for someone in Russia to lead an uprising now instead of being as utterly feckless as the rest of the world in combating the menace that is Vladimir Putin.

We move on from Weishaupt’s nuptial bliss to a tumultuous chapter in Sir John and Maria Babcock’s marriage. Like the scenes with Sigismundo’s drinking in the first novel, RAW depicts the inner turmoil of a character flirting with alcoholism. Maria and John’s conversation sees some of the truth come to the surface, but not enough to make this reader comfortable. But considering the attitude that is still prevalent about homosexuality, it is eminently understandable that Sir John does not want to add that to Maria’s knowledge of his infidelity. Moon has acted the blackguard, and now has his shop in Liverpool: just as Sir John unknowingly played a part in Moon’s terrible experiences, does his blackmail count as some sort of revenge?

From Eric: “I have selected Mozart’s Symphony 29 this week. President Trump tweeted suggesting Symphony 23. I appreciate the suggestion, but I chose 29 instead.”


Oz Fritz said...

Chapter 3 begins with the Marquis de Sade being protected by his wife - "one so closely related to the royal family." In Dylan's words, she gives him shelter from the storm. Hopefully by now people see where I'm going with this without further explanation.

We find, or imagine, a coincidence with the meme tormenting the Pope after he fired the Jesuits, and current events. The meme: ISSSV = 196
196 = The crown, summit, point
Crown in Spanish = corona
The first ruler mentioned after the Pope to fire the Jesuits = Don Carlos of Spain who did so in '68.
The corona virus = a meme currently freaking out many people. Whenever the Pope experiences minor health issues, he worries that he will die.

Eric Wagner said...

As we near the end, I want to thank Gregory and Tom and Oz and Toby and all the other participants. Nature’s God awaits.

Alias Bogus said...

Having grown up in a Protestant country (now more secular, or, at least, multi-cultural) I never fully glimpsed the power of the Catholic Church until I visited Spain and Mexico. Having said that, many of my favourite authors grew up under the influence (Leary, Lilly, McKenna, Wilson, Joyce, etc).

One quote attributed to the Jesuits: 'give me a child until the age of seven and I will give you the man'.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean they would remain Catholic. The Jesuits have as odd a reputation as the Freemasons, in terms of whether they represent “good” or “evil”. At one level, the Jesuits have functioned as Catholic enforcers and missionaries, yet at another as some kind of heretic – approving of education, intellect, etc. (in a faith-based organisation). As many conspiracy theories swirl around them as around Freemasons and “Jews” – with similar rumours about “World Domination, etc). Weishaupt represents a particularly complex result of such influences, and stories.

To counter-balance the “clever, brainy” reputation, Jesuits do sometimes appear like a cult, or a mystical group. The “Spiritual Exercises”sound like a yoga to me, or possibly like brain-washing, or maybe even a set of occult rituals: “by doing certain things, certain results follow”
Ignatius first retired from his warrior life in front of the Black Virgin, in Montserrat, and his initial revelations came to him when in retreat in a cave.

I can only read the expulsion of the Jesuits as some kind of power play. Suddenly they seem more like an element of the resistance to Catholic influence – by implication, indicating that the Church itself had become corrupt, and that they represented the “true Christianity”. This kind of inner conflict arose over and over again, from the Gnostics to the Cathars, and a variety of Protestants, people deciding they have found the true message, and the Catholic Church turning on them, with all its might…

I confess, I have no empathy for any of these battles, but if I had to choose a form of Christian worship you would find me among some simple group, like the Quakers – devoid of ritual, ceremony, wealth, and conspicuous display…

The conditioning displayed in the ISSSV routine (repetition) reminded me of Bob’s writings about “Black Magick and Curses”. Also Don’t be afraid of Black Magick. (the anarchist library)

By the end of the second of this week’s chapters, Maria mentions again the idea that some see us as machines, passing through life in our sleep.

Oz Fritz said...

The ever-accelerating crescendo that the Bishop of Munster encourages of "light, love, liberty and laughter" (p. 316) recalls the declaration from Crowley's gnostic mass:
"I believe in one Gnostic and Catholic Church of Light, Life, Love and Liberty, the word of whose law is THELEMA." RAW removes "life" from Crowley's sequence and brilliantly adds "laughter" at the end. Crowley also wrote an excellent essay worth reading expounding upon those alliterative principles, Liber CL

The graffiti tormenting Old Ganganelli, ISSSV, forces him to confront death every time he sees it. Getting confronted with death in one way or another occurs frequently in the first two Historical Illuminatus books. I suspect we can find more to this meme than meets us on the surface.

Earlier in the novel, in a more than usual non-sequitur footnote attached to this sentence: "All I know is that you're the strangest coot I've ever interviewed..." (p.283) the footnote reads:
"Contrary to the general impression, the whale is not a fish; it is a symbol of divine inscrutability."

fish = nun = death. The whale, with this description, suggests Moby Dick, alluded to earlier in the book. I interpret this to say that these confrontations with death seem not about death but about something else behind it. Perhaps this holds true for the ISSSV slogan?

ISSSV = 196 = 14 squared.
Ganganelli = Pope Clement XIV (i.e. 14)

My provisional interpretation, until a better one comes along, of the divine inscrutability behind ISSSV:
IS = the word "is" - identity
SS = 120 = ON = The Star; also suggests Crowley's Order of the Silver Star.
V = The Hierophant and all other associations related to V ( see my blog about Pynchon's V.

We find examples of the ON formula at the beginning and end of this chapter - simply meaning male and female energies combining to enact magick of some kind. The Marquis and Marquise de Sede at the beginning and the wedding of Adam and Eve Weishaupt near the end.

The chapter concludes with the ISSSV graffiti appearing on new walls every day. Leading up to that: "...— the rebels are led by Cossacks, who know strategy. They keep ON winning. Everybody says they will be beaten soon, but they still keep winning —and winning—"
(Emphasis for "on" added by me)

In the Blue Jay edition, the above sentence ends with the dash suggesting, to me, its connection with the final sentence about the ISSSV graffiti. That last sentence also has no final punctuation mark, as if it doesn't end. I wonder if the editors of later editions kept it that way?

Oz Fritz said...

The sentence about the Bishop of Munster (p.316 Bluejay), quite profound in my opinion, maybe connects with a very successful construction of Frankenstein's Monster from the p.o.v. of the alchemical allegory discussed earlier.

A pop culture joke appears in the narrative, intentional it seems. In 1964 two sitcoms premiered in the U.S., The Munsters, and The Addams Family both having macabre, horror show themes. The Widow's Son introduces the Bishop of Munster, the following page documenting the beginning of Adam's family - Adam Weishaupt's marriage to Eve. Adam and Eve, of course, imply the creation myth that resulted in a great deal of begating until all the "sons and daughters" got begat and are still begating to this day! Herman Munster, the lead character in The Munsters looked like Frankenstein's Monster. As discussed earlier, the Monster implies an alchemical creation myth, the creation of a new species, ET, the extra-terrestrial circuits.

The Addams Family had a character named Thing, that appeared as a disembodied hand in the original TV series. This section of the book is The Thing With Feathers

Oz Fritz said...

The chapter immediately following the marriage of Adam and Eve and the ISSSV slogan gets set in a family home a few months before childbirth. Chapter Four begins with Circuit 2 (Emotional/Territorial) drug abuse; alcohol being the C2 intoxicant according to the Authorities. Stage 4 in this model signifies the input stage of the emotional circuit. The chapter begins with the input of the C2 drug, then a burst of strong emotion.. It seems the whole chapter works as a life-study of the second circuit.. Maria plays the Guide in their drama, Babcock eventually wakes up enough to listen.

RAW blatantly writes a pun about C2: "That man did not think for one second of any reality but his own emotions.." (p.322)

A brilliant line: "I suspect, sir, that guilt is a counterfeit of responsibility just as punishment is a sham of correction."