Monday, May 18, 2020

Nature's God, Chapter Three

It is surprisingly difficult to find depictions of Washington with red hair. 

Week Three: Chapter 3 “Revolutions and Witty Sayings” (pg. 35-48)

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

This chapter is one of the more Joycean I’ve read in RAW’s novels aside from the direct patiches of “The Penelopiad” and “Circe” in Illuminatus! and Masks of the Illuminati respectively. There’s still plenty of RAW’s voice in the chapter and the combination of their prose styles is beautiful. For instance: “A mystery in blue silk European gentlemen’s clothing sat in a shadowy corner, stirred, translated a glass from the table to its lips. Clinking clank the glass was returned to the table, and a sun glint crept through the window as silently as a burglar to flash sudden golden-purple on the red wine.” 

And in that this is taking place in a publican’s tavern, the discussion of Ireland, cynical sentimentalism, and dreadful History all tie back into Joyce. When Sigismundo growls “God save us all from history” that could have been, with less aggression, an exchange between Stephen Dedalus and Headmaster Deasy. Consider also the slightly romantic language that Sigismundo and James use with each other and we can see another, albeit non-paternal, parallel to Bloom and Dedalus towards the end of Ulysses.

Like Bloom and Dedalus, Sigismundo and Moon are wayfarers who have found a brief port before heading off toward different horizons. The reader already knows, aside from the similarities of being brought up in an occupied land, how similar these two tortured souls are in some ways and RAW does an excellent job of reflecting this during their conversation. It is enough to make me wish that there was a way for the two to be reunited, because both of them desperately need a friend. For now, however, Sigismundo “ah Malatesta” is moving towards the Northwest Territory by way of a fictitious trip to New Orleans and Seamus is introduced to a man he can follow at the end of the chapter. 

We’ll have a lot of fun talking about RAW’s portrayal of Washington in the weeks to come. As Eric and Oz have pointed out, he bears striking similarities to Washington in Thomas Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon. (The recently deceased critic Harold Bloom considered Mason & Dixon to be Pynchon’s masterpiece. While I personally preferred Against the Day, it is an amazing novel with the most delightfully named narrator a reader could ask for. (Also I don’t give a shit about ending sentences with prepositions if that hasn’t become apparent yet. English teacher!)) I wrote my Modern Novel seminar’s capstone on the similarities between Pynchon and Wilson so I actually have some material on this...oddly enough I hadn’t read Nature’s God when I was in the class and drew mostly on passages from Sex, Drugs, and Magick and Illuminatus!. I mention this because Eric points out in his foreword that one of the biggest similarities between Pynchon and Wilson’s Washington is that both portrayals are semi-permanently stoned; the reason for this, aside from possible author-influence, is historical fact brought up in the Appendixes of Illuminatus!. Washington was a prodigious hemp grower and his journals clearly indicate he was interested in female flowering plants which are not used for hangman’s nooses or whatever ghoulish excuses square historians have tried to come up with and instead are only required for consuming cannabis. More on this later!

On Washington in this chapter: I don’t know about Washington’s cursing but I imagine that a seasoned military man and frontiersman wouldn’t necessarily be afraid to fully express himself. However, I should note that Washington liked acting the role of a reluctant, Cincinnatus-style leader but had been showing up at the Continental Congresses in full military dress since the first day. While this quandary is complicated by Washington’s personal writings, I think that we can safely say that one doesn’t end up leading a fledgling nation without a little bit of ambition. 

Chapter 3 ends with a leap forward to 1968 where, as we see in Illuminatus!, Simon Moon and Hagbard Celine will join historical events with William S. Burroughs, Ginsberg, Shea and Wilson, along with Ed Sanders in protesting the nomination of Hubert Humphreys as the Democratic candidate for President. Curious how writing that sentence reminds me so much of this year’s election. 

Sigismundo’s variation of “The Derry Air '' is regarded by Moon to be more mournful and hauntingly fragile than the original. Eric has selected the original for us this week: 


supergee said...

1. My favorite take on Stephen Dedalus’s view of history is John Sladek’s “History is a bunk on which I am trying to awaken.”

2. I think Pynchon hit a peak with Gravity’s Rainbow, bit I won’t argue with Harold Bloom (who may be fictional on his grandfather Leopold’s side). I slogged through Against the Day and haven’t tried Bleeding Edge for fear that it’s his Golem 100 or Slapstick

3. “The Derry Air” is the subject of a number of puns.

Eric Wagner said...

Eric Wagner said...

I loved Pynchon.’s Vineland. The link above points to a picture of a Ginsburg and Burroughs in 68 in Chicago.

Oz Fritz said...

To start, I want to make sure Hilaritas knows about the typo on Chapter 3's subtitle. I recently purchased Nature's God; in my copy, on p. 35, Chicago gets spelled Chlcago.

I don't have enough familiarity with Ulysses to recognize the similarities with the writing style and themes in this chapter, thank-you Gregory for revealing this. Reading your post recalls Deleuze's interpretation of Nietszche's Eternal Return, which appears pretty much opposite to the common interpretation of this concept. For Deleuze, difference eternally recurs not sameness. Joyce's writing recurs here in this chapter with differences. Joyce's writing itself appears a recurrence of Homer ... and probably other writers too. We also sense recurrence with a difference in the chapter's subtitle: Philadelphia 1776 - Chicago 1968, from one revolution to another albeit with different outcomes. RAW discussed Eternal Recurrence in the Tales of the Tribe course in relation to Finnegans Wake.

Manic The Doodler said...

I've read (not claiming to fully understand or follow) a few of Pynchon's books--the first one being Inherent Vice which for my money is one of the more accessible & understandable ones (it was even made into a movie a few years ago).

Gravity's Rainbow, The Crying of Lot 49, Mason & Dixon & Vineland as well as Slow Learner a collection of early short stories are others I've made it through.

My problem with reading people like Pynchon, Joyce or Faulkner is I tend to daydream while reading & it's easy to get lost reading these people if you don't concentrate & pay attention. I've never had that problem reading (in particular) these Historical Illuminatus books or the original Illuminatus! for that matter.

Probably why I like RAW so much. He makes things easy to read as well as enjoyable!

Alias Bogus said...

This may appear a relatively trivial detail, but I always assume Bob does things on purpose, not by mistake. The Goat and Compasses falls among the odder names for pubs, and its origin remains disputed.
The possible Masonic connection seems relevant (the “G” and the compasses), and the idea that it derives from coats of arms of two trade groups (those of leather makers, and of carpenters) seems most likely, but one common story has it that it represents a distortion of a phrase “God encompass us".

You can Google it, of course, but I offer one link to a discussion of these points.

Oz Fritz said...

I thought The Goat and Compasses an odd name for a Pub as well. I like the Masonic connection.

Thomas Pynchon rates as a my favorite living author. Against the Day served as my initial foray into his world. I entered it reading slowly as part of a discussion group like this one. Eric Wagner brought my attention to it. Against the Day remains a favorite. These times suit that title. I recall reading about telephone telepathy in it - when the phone rings, you know who calls - which I also remember from Cosmic Trigger , my first clue that Pynchon read RAW. My reading projects include rereading all of Pynchon, Mason and Dixon appears next on that list after getting through Proust.

Rarebit Fiend said...

@supergee- thanks for bringing up the Sladek quote! I've only read "Roderick" which was very funny but I know Moorcock and Moore both think very highly of his writing. He and Jack Trevor Story are often said to be some of the funniest contributors to New Worlds- or am I incorrect?

You wouldn't believe how many times I mix up Leopold and Harold in writing and conversation. I really liked "Against the Day," like I said, it was dreamy and odd and based off of a lot of the literature I enjoyed. I never made it around to reading "The Bleeding Edge."

@Eric- Vineland is one of the Pynchon's I've never read- one professor told me it wasn't any good when I asked to borrow his copy haha and after a few years I realized how silly it was to listen to that advice. I've wanted to read it for years.

@Oz- One of these days you're going to have to make sure I read Deleuze. Eternal Recurrence is one of my favorite theories- or at least one that makes the most sense to me- however I've always hoped that it works a little like Karma and we can make little adjustments each time through.

@Manic- you've read a lot of Pynchon! I really enjoyed "Slow Learner," especially the story "Entropy" which was published in Moorcock's New Worlds magazine tying in with Supergee above. I agree with one of my old friends who said "it is very rare when a movie is superior to the book but Paul Thomas Anderson did a better job with the material." I love the book but the movie is so perfectly adapted and condensed. Also it gets more direct visual references to Eliot Gould's "The Long Goodbye" by nature.

I understand about the daydreaming. It took me days to get through "Oxen of the Sun" because my mind kept wandering. I also made sure to compartmentalize my reading o "Finnegans Wake" so I didn't glaze over. But I also believe these works still get through to the subconsciousness in some ways. I do like to reread to catch what I missed and I find the text more engaging the second or third time.

@Alias- I spent at least 30 minutes trying to find anything about a Goat and Compass in Philadelphia so I appreciate you finding something about it.

I like the Masonic connection! Especially because "riding the goat" is a besmirching rumor started about the Third Degree. (That Masons have to fuck a goat to be Master Masons- seemingly an adaption of the Goat of Mendes.) Goats were commonly used in anti-Masonic political cartoons during the 19th century. Today Masons like to try to scare initiates by repeating the rumor.

Oz Fritz said...

It has been interesting observing the various synchronicities between current events and Historical Illuminatus events. I hope that continues because the subtextual theme in Chapter 3 = healing, starting with the title, Revolutions and Witty Sayings. Adding the caps: R + W + S = 266; 2 = Chokmah = Will; 66 has multiple correspondences with a healing modality. I would call that sketchy evidence or wishful thinking if that comprised the extent of it. However, when we add the "a" of "and" in the title we get
267 = Geomantic Intelligence of Leo
Currus (Latin for car, also cure us)
Vehicle; Throne
Nasiraeus - a Greek form of Nazareth suggesting Jesus, a healer. Also, according to some, the town of Nazareth derives from a word meaning branch (netzer) or twig and refers to Isaiah 1:11 "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots." The rod suggests Will. Alternatively, others say Nazareth derives from nasar and means "watchtower" or "guard place" according to Wikipedia. Nazareth gets associated with healing by some occultists.

What kind of sayings? Witty = 44 = The Mass of the Phoenix in Chapter 44 of BoL. The phoenix, of course, = the legendary bird said to rise up out of its own ashes reborn. This chapter comprises a ritual the core of which has Crowley's reworking of The Lord's Prayer. 44 also = blood which I interpret in its esoteric sense. From the BoL Commentary: "This is the special number of Horus; it is the Hebrew blood and the multiplication of the 4 by the 11, the number of Magick, explains 4 in its finest sense. Chapter 62 in BoL has the title Twig (recalls nasiraeus/Nazareth) and "is itself a comment on Chapter 44"
62 = Healing
To commit; healing

p. 37 "... it was certainly better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick." That basically states the esoteric subtext of chapter 2. The sum of the initials of that phrase = 267, same as the chapter 3 title. A healing modality gets juxtaposed with this painful theme through gematria. Appearing right before this phrase: "Guinness's Extra Stout"; G + E + S = 68, a number which describes how healers work. Also, a beverage forever associated with the band U2 and Ireland

This imagery resumes on the following page when James and Sig explore the associations with chara and caro. "A charo, caro mio, caress (close to currus, chara could suggest chariot, a Tarot card significant to this theme), Seamus was thinking ( S + w + t = 75 = NUIT, THE STAR GODDESS), but what about charisma and cardiac, and perhaps the couer in Couer de Leon and courage. Couer de Leon = Lionhearted and also shows us Leo (see above) + n = Death.

Oz Fritz said...

p. 37: The third sign mentioned that begins "NO GAMBLING ..." recalls the ontological mindfuck notices Markoff Chaney posted in Illuminatus; "garish" appears in quotes,
garish = 279 = 93 X 3. 93 registers as an extremely significant number to Thelemites, their work sometimes represented as the 93 current. It corresponds to both Will and Love.

Bottom of p. 37: Clinking clank the glass was returned to the table ..." Italics in original. That phrase begins a sentence appearing as a prelude to the meeting of Sig and James. This whole sentence suggests associations of healing.
Clank = 109 = Lightning; Quiet; Music; Angel of Jupiter; Circle, sphere. I like how the clank of the glass implies music. Jupiter connects with both the 4th Sephira, Chesed = Mercy, and the 21st path, Kaph = Wheel of Fortune. 4 got mentioned in my previous comment. In the column of "The Forty Buddhist Meditations" (column XXIII from 777 Chesed = Friendliness forecasting this quality in their upcoming meeting. In column XXXVI "Selection of Christian Gods ..." the path of Kaph = Philadelphia, also the name of the city where they meet. Various other associations suggesting healing appear in these two key numbers, 4 and 21. I also find the column numbers significant.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

When I read this chapter I was struck by the bits that resonated with what we are all going through now.

I loved the comment by Moon about talking about politics, "Never in my life have I seen any good come of it." This seems less relevant to July 4, 1776, and more relevant to our current time, when it seems to me that polarized politics poisons any attempt at rational discussion. (I once heard an American comedian talk about being in England on Independence Day. "It's not a big holiday over there," she said.)

And the bit about how history is something that "comes and gets you." We were all minding our own business, trying to live our lives, and we've all been swept up in the pandemic in some fashion.

I still have not read any Pynchon, apparently unlike any other Robert Anton Wilson fan on the planet. It reminds me of when I asked an old friend, an English professor, if he had read a certain other famous American writer. "No," he said. "And don't tell anyone."

Eric Wagner said...

Vineland really resonates for me. Oz, I hope Proust goes well for you.

Oz Fritz said...

@Tom, when I was 24 a roommate strongly urged me to read Gravity's Rainbow. I tried, but couldn't get into it despite knowing its huge influence on Leary. It would take over 20 years before reading any Pynchon and only then because I got invited to join a discussion group going over a small portion of Against the Day every week. RAW appears much more accessible; reading RAW helps with comprehending Pynchon, in my experience. Like Nabokov, whose Cornell lectures Pynchon attended, they both enjoy writing with multiple levels of sense. James Joyce also appears a significant influence on all three.

This chapter opens on July 4th, 1776 with Seamus Muadhen/James Moon observing things in Philadelphia. He uses different forms of the adjective "mad" in the first couple of paragraphs to describe these events to himself.
Mad = 45 - purely a coincidence that Trump = the 45th American President and this chapter introduces Washington who would become the first President.
45 = the mystic number of Yesod;
= Adam (the first Man in one creation myth; also recalls the conspiracy theory that Adam Weishaupt of Illuminati fame and George Washington were the same person. I think RAW has written about this somewhere.)
= Redemption, liberation (connects with the healing theme)
Yesod = the sphere of the Moon
= Foundation (this chapter takes place on the day of the founding of the United States of America, an abstract representation that I find multitudes take way too seriously)

Symbolically, the Moon appears very complex with both a positive side and a dark side. This reminds me of a plan my friend Floyd told me once after smoking a joint of sinsemilla about how he hoped to build a spaceship that would take him to the sun. I said, "Floyd you can't land on the sun, you'll get instantly fried." He replied, "that's not a problem, Oz, we'll land at night!"

"Mad," of course, connects with lunacy. Seamus Muadhen's initials, S + M = 100.
100 = the value of the letter Qoph = The Moon in the Tarot.

Eric Wagner said...

Some see Lowry's achievement in Under the Volcano as parallel to Joyce's Ulysses. I got David Markson's "Malcolm Lowry's Volcano: Myth, Symbol, Meaning" for under $10 online. We could discuss the book via email, at my blog, or at Rawillumination.

Eric Wagner said...

Facebook might work even better for a Lowry group.

Oz Fritz said...

@Rarebit Fiend, I will take you up on your offer for encouragement to read Deleuze. I'll be in touch via email.

@Eric, Proust serves as my port in the storm of getting inundated by covid conspiracy theories and whatnot from people I know, and from the whole pandemic situation in general. Bob Dylan compared John Prine's songwriting to Proust. The synchronicity for me came when I happened to google "Bob Dylan Proust" the day after Prine transitioned.

Apart from intuition, what spurs me to deciphering RAW via gematria analysis: words in quotes, italics, or unusually capitalized. Pattern recognition plays a strong part too.

On page 37 we find the phrase "What To Do ..." given three times. Subtextually, this chapter shows "what to do" about the problems presented in the first two chapters.
w + t + d = 19.
19 = the feminine glyph
= Chavvah; to manifest, shew forth; Eve

"What To Do About England ..." = 25 by adding the caps.
25 = To break
= Let there be
= Will be separated
Obviously consonant with the American Revolution.

"... What To Do About the Law of Gravity" = 53
53 = The stone that slew Goliath
= To defend, hide; a wall; the sun; fury
Also consonant with this history.

p. 41: "... Holy Mother Church." = 53
53 also = The garden
= Angel of 9 of Pentacles. 9 = Yesod = Foundation, see my previous comment.
Further investigation of this correspondence, and with the whole sentence "Holy Mother Church" appears in, would reveal the sex magick angle.

Oz Fritz said...

In this chapter RAW seems to go to great lengths to connect the characters of Sigismundo and Seamus, nearly superimposing them on top of each other, or making them appear as two peas from the same pod. Sigismundo changes his last name to Malatesta giving his new name the same initials, S & M (no pun intended though we do encounter de Sade in chapter 6) as Seamus' old name before changing it to James. Sigismundo knows the Irish term of endearment, chara, friend, while James knows the Italian one, cara mio; they both start thinking of the common origins of these terms. We learn that Siggy has visited the obscure town James comes from, Dun Laoghaire, no reason given why, no plot explanation except that it goes toward making another connection between the two. They both love their beer. Both have descendants at the Chicago demonstrations in 1968.

Though the Historical Illuminatus series touches upon actual events, the French and American revolutions for example, this chapter marks the first time it intersects with an actual event in the author's life. For me, the author as a character in his own story suggests the idea of the novel bleeding outside its edges to encounter real life.

supergee said...

The author as a character in his own story is of course a main theme in Schrodinger’s Cat, where Robert Anton Wilson and Joe Malik are like Escher’s two hands drawing each other.

Eric Wagner said...

Oz, glad to hear Proust provides you shelter from the storm. I just read his "Letters to His Neighbor" which I loved. I want to reread "Swann's Way", but I left it in my classroom. I have almost finished rereading Beckett's short book on Proust.