Thursday, April 30, 2020

Nature's God: Eric Wagner's introduction

Nature’s God: Introduction “Bewitching Rhetoric” by Eric Wagner (pg 3-7 Hilaritas edition)

From “John Wilcock presents ‘Four Significant Events in U.S. Counterculture, 1958 &1959.’”

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

Knock three times and say a prayer to Nature’s God. It’s time to follow Sigismundo into the Northern Territory wilderness and Maria into the all-enveloping arms of Her. Time to test the mettle of humanity against the inexorable tides of change. Happy Walpurgisnacht, tomorrow is May Day- one of the two days when Magonia or Faerie is closest to the mortal realm.

Eric Wagner begins by telling us the ways that he has experienced Nature’s God over the years. In one way this is the look inside the life of someone who has been a RAW fan long before many of us in the community. He can remember when Nature’s God was not yet published- I can contrast this to when I read Illuminatus! the first time a year after RAW’s Greater Feast. The third way that Eric experiences Nature’s God considers its (possible) relationship with Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon, a novel I read after Illuminatus! and roughly a couple months before I read Masks of the Illuminati and Cosmic Trigger and roughly four years before I would read The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles. Eric seems to have a profound, or at least extraordinarily circumspect, relationship with RAW’s last novel; the first time I read it, I was underwhelmed. All this is to point out how Eric does an excellent job of making the reader consider their relationship with the novel at hand. I have to confess I don’t remember if my New Falcon copy had Eric’s introduction in it, although it was published after 2010. But this is an excellent introduction for someone who is rereading the text- it prompts curiosity and reflection and I can’t think there’s much more an author could ask of a colleague.

As I said, I was not a huge fan of Nature’s God when I first read it; after the denser The Earth Will Shake and The Widow’s Son it just didn’t seem to be complete. Given that I had the prejudice of knowing this was meant to be the third of five novels it almost seemed like a hinge that was missing a flap. (Flap? Side? I’m not a craftsman, folks.) What was supposed to be the pivot of an angle became the second point of a line. And then-

But, it is what it is, or it seems to be what it seems to be, and that’s just life. Stories don’t always have neat endings and we don’t always get to find out exactly what happened. I don’t know why Wilson didn’t complete the, from what I understand, much anticipated and lamented Bride of Illuminatus! or the final novels of the Historical Illuminatus! quintet. That said, as much as I love his novels I have always found his nonfiction - if anything can be truly called nonfiction in RAW’s wonderful world - more thrilling than the fiction. I don’t prejudice The Grand Old Man any of his choices, but I do wonder. (And for fuck’s sake do I wish he had published Tale of the Tribe, much thanks to Fly for salvaging the remains.)

Eric asks what is Will and discusses the dual concepts of Will as personal force and as symbolized by the penis in Nature’s God. One of the best explanations of Will and how to visualize one’s own dick or someone else’s dick or whatever makes you happy is found in Crowley’s essay “The Wand” from part two, Magick. of Liber ABA: Book Four. (Chapter VI). But the discussion of Maria’s essay - which is obviously an embedded version of RAW’s first published essay for Krassner’s The Realist, “The Semantics of God” - takes the idea of Will to a whole new level, at least for this reader. When I reread Nature’s God earlier this year I realized that RAW’s final novel contains the same thrust, if you will, and vibe of his first published essay; there’s an ouroboros here and it is delightful. RAW removed two novels to suck his own dick. Maria gets her due and becomes RAW’s mouthpiece in a history that is perhaps better than our own for having heard the word a couple centuries earlier. RAW has the first and final word. In a fashion.

There are many ways to look at the novel at hand. I hope to read a lot about your perspectives and ideas over the coming months. RAW is an excellent antidote to dismal times: three knocks gains you entry.

From Eric Wagner: " I thought Thelonious Monk dancing might prove a nice opening soundtrack:"


Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Nature's God was a bit of a letdown to me, too, in comparison to the first two books. So as I do the re-read, I'm going to pay attention to whether I still feel that way, or if I can accept the book on its own terms. Certain Eric's introduction gets things off to a good start, and I hope a few people will jump in.

Bobby Campbell said...

I <3 this book! It was the first of the 3 that I ever did art for. I got the call to work on it just a few days after I started my first read through, a synchronicity that probably gave me a little extra pep in my neuro-semantic step. This was also when I was living in Center City Philadelphia, within earshot of the occupy wall street encampment around City Hall. The presence of the past was palpable :)))

Also, a shocking amount of the most virulent RAW quotes come from Sigismundo's wilderness journal.

Like the GZA says "half short, twice strong"

Eric Wagner said...

Thank you, Greg and Tom, for the kind words. I have come to see the fragment of "The Tale of the Tribe" at the end of "TSOG" as a complete work of art in the spirit of the Romantic fragment. I just finished rereading Charles Rosen's "The Romantic Generation", and he spends a long chapter discussing the role of the fragment in the Romantic aesthetic. At the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968, Bob took William S. Burroughts and Allen Ginsburg to the Playboy Club where they discussed the ending of Pound's "Cantos". They decided it seemed appropriate for the great epic of the 20th century to end in fragments.

I find that I have trouble getting motivated to read during quarentine sometimes, but I flew through "The Romantic Generation". I have to remember if I get bored, musicology helps connect me to a universe next door.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, found RAW's non-fiction to be more compelling if not always convincing.
However, going to read along for the kicks.

Rasa said...

I'm a terrible RAW critic since I find something to love in all of his books. True, this 3d book in the series seems like a bridge, and I sorely miss the adventures of Siggy in newly formed America that we may only read if some inventive Hollywood writer gets creative once the three books become popular TV shows, but I agree with Bobby that Siggy's wilderness journal makes this book spectacular. Some of my favorite quotes can be found in that journal. I have a big brain (granted, a lot of that is probably empty space), so I have a lot of ideas of what Siggy did once leaving the wilderness. I imagine him hanging out with Washington, getting drunk with Franklin, and revealing any number of other characters we didn't even know were involved in the early illuminated history of the USA.

Alias Bogus said...

I never know which bits of my knowledge resonate in the USA. In French theatre, the tradition of three knocks announces the beginning of the show (listen to the opening of Les Enfants du Paradis, which mimics live theatre of the time).

I shared the (slight) let down, after the density of the first two books, but felt familiar enough with Bob’s deliberate changes of style (some of which must come from Joyce’s voices) to go along with it.

I don’t have Eric’s Intro (I feel a bit broke/skint/poor since the cancellation of all gigs) but have the New Falcon edition from 2004.

Still interested to follow along…

Oz Fritz said...

Great write-up and fabulous clip of Monk. I have an old, pre-Wagnerian copy of Nature's God. Ordered the new Hilaritas edition, supposed to arrive yesterday, but the slow, now accelerated collapse of Western Civilization must have delayed it. Interesting observation and comparison about RAW's first article turning up as Maria's essay.

I think I've only read Nature's Godone time a long time ago, probably when it was released. I don't remember being disappointed with it. I enjoy both RAW's fiction and non-fiction. I like his fiction a lot for several reasons. I like to solve puzzles. His fiction contains multiples layers of sense. The more you learn and study his methods, his Joycean, Thelemic, General Semantic, Fullerian, Conspiritorial etc, etc, etc, background, the more his fiction reveals genius levels of expression, for me. Without fail so far, every time I reread his fiction, I see and understand the books more. I also consider him an Initiated Adept, a Secret Chief, if you will, meaning able to make contact and invoke Intelligence(s) beyond his own, perhaps some unknown to him. My bias gets compounded by the ridiculous number of synchronicities I see and experience whenever working with his material.

The more I read RAW and Pynchon, the more it seems likely that they knew about and referenced each other's work. I look forward to reading of the relationship with Mason & Dixon. For me, the definitive Tales of the Tribe, so far, occurred in the online course of the same name RAW guided, though I also consider it open-ended. That material could make an interesting publication if it still exists.

Interesting that Eric discussed Will in the Introduction and compared it to concepts of the phallus. Jerry Cornelius writes extensively of Crowley's sex magick cult as phallic in orientation. I both agree and disagree, my disagreement stemming from the opinion that this doesn't tell the whole story.

The first synch with this discussion came about an hour after reading this write-up and discovering Eric wrote about Will to start the reader's adventure. I was reading Crossing the Abyss by Cornelius, the story of Crowley's magical son, Frater Achad (Charles Stanfeld Jones) and came across this:

"In regards to Chicago, Achad would later tell the press that every – 'city that amounts to to anything in the future must have a motto that crystallizes in a few words its highest aspirations.' He adds that Chicago's motto was already 'I WILL' before he had arrived ... He ends his thought by stating that this – 'motto implies action in every conceivable way. It was given to Chicago because this city is the heart center of the country.'"

Unless mistaken, I believe RAW's writing career began in earnest in Chicago, where he wrote his first book Illuminatus! with Shea.

A second, minor coincidence with Will occurred not quite a week ago after acquiring a new Holy Guru, when my housemate invited a cat to live with us. She was already known as Willow - i.e. Will low, low for me referring to Malkuth on the Tree of Life. A living feline manifestation of Nature's God.

Manic The Doodler said...

I really liked the first two of the Historical Illuminatus books & am looking forward to this one.

Oz Fritz said...

My copy arrived yesterday. I guess we can still hope for Western Civilization if the mail only gets here a day late. Some minor numerical coincidences: I noticed the Introduction appears almost exactly 10 years old; Eric mentions the film 2010 in the Introduction; The book begins in the year 1014. Eric references three different uses of Will, then we see the Nietszche quote from The Will to Power. The lowest Station on the Tree of Life = the tenth Sephira, Malkuth. My friends in the group MaMuse, whom I dearly love, perform live on Facebook every weekday at noon for a half hour in front of a WILLOW tree.

I enjoyed the Introduction for several reasons, but primarily because it alludes to keys or suggestions for how to approach the book starting with multiple perspectives. At first the dream of RAW seeing Thelonious Monk dancing seemed non sequitur until I read the paragraph a couple of more times. Finally, a new neural connection formed and I got the reference. Linking to a video of Monk actually dancing adds a whole new dimension making the book appear 3D or 5D or whatever D makes it seem the novel and author's mindset has leaked off the pages and infiltrated daily life. Of course, Monk gets implicated in the Qabalistic conspiracy by his name: Thelonious Sphere Monk. The initials TSM = 109 = Music, also Sphere.

I peaked ahead and read the first chapter, but will wait to comment on it. My Penguin First Edition of Nature's God carries a blurb attributed to Timothy Leary: "MORE IMPORTANT THAN ULYSSES OR FINNEGAN'S WAKE" At first, before looking at the book again, I considered this typical Leary hyperbole or something some editor, unaware that Finnegans Wake doesn't have an apostrophe, slapped there because it sounded good. Now, I grant Leary a high probability of accuracy with the statement. It also gives an approach of how to unlock this novel.

Any good puzzle maker or labyrinth designer makes it more challenging as you go along while still providing some semblance of Ariadne's thread. I contend that RAW has buried the dog even deeper here, to use Gurdjieff's expression (see Cosmic Trigger I). The first words in the book following the Table of Contents, immediately prior to the Introduction, come from the US Declaration of Independence. It appears in Nature's God like this:

When in the Course of human Events it becomes
necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands
which have connected them with one another and to assume
among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal
Station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature's God
entitle them ...

It seemed odd that "course" got capitalized so I found an exact transcription of the Declaration of Independence and compared them. Indeed, the word "course" does have a capital C there, however, most of the other capitalizations in this passage do NOT appear in the original. All of them got added by RAW except "When, Course, Laws of Nature, and Nature's God." For me, these added capital letters placed added emphasis on those words. The capital E of Events. almost gives us HCE as the first three capital letters of the book - you only have to move the h of "When" over one position to the left. Investigative readers of Finnegans Wake recognize HCE as the initials of the protagonist there, Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker. Joyce has those recur throughout his novel with a wide variety of different meanings and implications.

Bury the dog deeper. Gregory points to recurrence in RAWS literary output - his first essay turning up in his last book. In RAW's first book, Illuminatus! he explicitly mentions 68th Street on the first page. The first two capital letters of his final novel Nature's God , W and C, implicitly suggests 68 through the transcription of Gematria.

quackenbush said...

Natures God was my fav for a long while. The alt history on George really stuck with me. It wasn't until the 3rd reading that I began to see the limitations in the writing...

D.M.S. said...

Thanks for your comment, Oz Fritz. I feel pretty much the same about RAW. His fiction isnt only about the craft of simply telling a story, but setting signposts of various knowledge - from guerilla ontology to the eight circuit model and much more.

Really looking forward to the new journey and wish everybody on board a safe travel....