Monday, May 25, 2020

Nature's God reading group, Chapter Four

Kindred Spirits, County Cork

Week Four: Chapter 4 “A Reverser of Laws” (pg. 49-58 Hilaritas edition)

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

Before beginning to discuss this chapter I should point out that I am not a scholar of American Indian society or beliefs. (Neither was RAW for that matter.)  I do believe that Western interpretations of Native peoples have been overly-cavalier and fetishistic. Currently the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe are dealing with two of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the United States: I am going to make a small donation and I would encourage others to consider making a donation as well. Considering that this is the 75th anniversary of V-E and V-J days it should be pointed out how valuable the Navajo Code Talkers were to establish effective, secure communications in the Pacific Theatre.

Interestingly, since we have spent so much of the early novel considering Ireland I should point out that the Irish have been donating to the American Indian groups in small amounts as a show of solidarity. This is because of the generosity of the Choctaw people during the Potato Famine when they sent a donation for the Irish people. Considering that the survivors of a forced relocation by the US Government made this donation, it is one of the more noble moments in history. Some of the Irish didn’t forget. In County Cork there stands a monument called “Kindred Spirits” to commemorate the unique bond between the two peoples. In many ways “Kindred Spirits” would have been a good alternative title to this chapter. (Incidentally, Eric’s music selection this week contains a Navajo chant called “Potato Song.”)

It wouldn’t be a Historical Illuminatus novel without someone trying to kill Sigismundo; instead of inept assassins hired by overly-competent conspirators Sigismundo encounters an opponent who is equal to him in strength as well as mystery. My searching couldn’t find anything about the Maheema tribe so I am going to presume that they are fictional. Because of indications later in the novel and because Sigismundo is in the then “Northwest Territory” we can assume that the Maheema people live in Ohio- Miskasquamish indicates that the Maheema and Chickasaw people were sometimes familiar. From my understanding he would probably have encountered Chickasaw peoples south of the Ohio territory in what is today Tennessee. The Chickasaw inhabited the areas that are modern day Mississippi and Tennessee- “Father of the Waters” is a translation of the name of the Mississippi River.  Because of a reveal later in the book we also know that Miskasquamish’s perspective on the land and time is different than Sigismundo’s.

Let’s talk about funny names. Miskasquamish is an obvious Wilsonian pun on H.P. Lovecraft’s Miskatonic River/University which is another fictional name that comes from a mashup of Algonquin language sounds. This is possibly an allusion to the fact that the Maheema people are also a fictional creation. The Squamish are a First Nations’ people from British Columbia. Another Lovecraftian connection is when Miskasquamish thinks: “A man of medicine can look straight at a Sky Demon, He who Walks on the Wind, and not show his fear.” I believe this is a reference to one of August Derleth’s, sometimes regrettable, contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos. Ithaqua is often called “the Wind-Walker” and one of Derleth’s stories is titled “The Thing that Walked on the Wind.” I’m not a huge Derleth fan but Ithaqua is based on Algernon Blackwood’s excellent, subtle tale of ineffable horror in the wilderness, “The Wendigo.” (With some homoerotic subtext to boot!) It’s a longer short story but many of us have time on our hands: give it a read. The Wendigo itself is a “real” evil spirit spoken of by the Algonquin people of Eastern Canada. Finally, my favorite name in this chapter is Miskasquamish’s misapprehension of Sigismundo: Sackymondo. For some reason this mistranslation reminded me of an older cartoon, by my estimation, called Rugrats which I watched as a child: in one episode the children are very afraid of Sasquatch who they call “Satchmo” throughout.

Miskasquamish’s beliefs and practices seem to be derived more from Wilson’s own imagination and the relatively-lurid descriptions of psychedelic use in Native cultures propagated during the mid to later twentieth century. (This is not to say that these accounts were entirely untrue or of no value.) Mainly, Miskasquamish’s use of drug blends and his talk of animal spirits reminds me of the novels of Carlos Castaneda. (The bear-people though are a reflection of RAW’s interest in early bear gods and ideation.) In Cosmic Trigger Wilson discusses Castaneda frequently, and to this reader, his influence is clear. Castaneda’s books have received a great deal of scrutiny from Academia and his later “Tensegrity” cult activities mars an already complicated legacy. That said, I didn’t read Castaneda until pressured to by one of my teachers - I considered it nonsensical trash until then - and found that his works make a great deal of sense as far as magical philosophy goes. Indeed, I find the teachings of Don Juan resemble those of Aleister Crowley to a great degree. Who am I to refuse nonsensical fiction as a path to the “truth?”

Miskasquamish’s other unique belief, and the one that drives much of his activities throughout the novel, is that Sigismundo is a “Reverser of Laws.” My searching didn’t find anything quite like what Miskasquamish describes but there was the concept of “contraries” or “reverse warriors” among the Plains Indians. The idea was that these people would deliberately act opposite from the rest of the tribe and sometimes formed “cults” of similar people. It’s an interesting idea.

Naturally, Sigismundo’s attempts to dissuade Miskasquamish’s enmity doesn’t pan out. There is a series of breakdowns in communication that strengthens the medicine man’s convictions. We may meet again next week as we revisit James Moon and the Man from Mt. Vernon.

From Eric: “ I don’t know the tribe of the shaman in the novel, but I play a Navajo song for my music history students in our unit on Gregorian chant and other religious chant traditions. I couldn’t find the exact recording I usually use, but I like this one: .”


supergee said...

When I read The Teachings of Don Juan, I decided that Castaneda went down to Mexico with the typical condescension of the anthropologist, but he got in too deep and encountered something that scared the social science out of him. He finally managed to calm himself by applying one of the banishing rituals of the Anthropologist tribe: the structural analysis. I now believe I was attributing too much factuality to the story.

Eric Wagner said...

Great write up, as usual, Gregory. Dorothy Parker, Harpo Marx, and others met at the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan in the 1920's and 1930's in a group called the Algonquin Round Table or the Vicious Circle. In the 1980's I engaged in a vision quest called the Search for the Lost Screwball Continent of Algonquin. I enjoyed the movie "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle". It seemed about as funny a movie as one could make about a suicidal alcoholic.

Oz Fritz said...

Thank-you for your final comments last week supergee and Eric.

I missed the Lovecraft connection in Chapter 4, cheers for that! Castenada really affected how I encountered the world when I read those books.

This chapter appears to be written from the perspective of Rousseau's "State of Nature" ," "the hypothetical, prehistoric place and time where human beings live uncorrupted by society."; most appropos for a book called Nature's GodThe "reverser of laws" from this perspective might be the one or ones who introduce "civilization" into that natural state. It doesn't seem like Sigismundo has any intention of doing that perhaps indicating that Miskasquamish projects that fear on to him like past secret societies that have targeted him. Miska recognizes Sigs power but immediately judges him a Reverser of Laws not considering, it seems, that he may be a "man of medicine" or something else entirely.

The chapter starts in an interesting way with the summary quote, "Truth is an arrow with two points" then the text begins: "Returning as always. I didn't consciously know that opening when reminded of the Eternal Return following last week's OP. Part of the hippie ethos lived for a return to that "State of Nature."

It doesn't seem a stretch to see 45 as a Reverser of Laws - pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, the Iran nuclear treaty, missile treaties with Russia, all the deregulation of environmental protection laws, how to lead a country, etc.

He had to find the dangerous one, the Reverser of Laws, enemy of the Wakan, enemy of the Maheema tribe, enemy of all humans and the star people.
The one called Sackymondo

Sack = English slang meaning fired from your job. mondo = Latin for world.
Sackymondo adds to 333 = Choronzon = "the demon of dispersion", "Choronzon is described by Crowley as a temporary personification of the raving and inconsistent forces that occupy the abyss". By his own account, this bugaboo kicked Crowley's ass in the North Algerian desert.

the Wakan, "the One Inside All Things" sounds like what Deleuze termed Univocity of Being, a concept he borrowed and modified from the philosopher Duns Scotus. Deleuze claimed this effectively states the organizing principle in Spinoza's The Ethics though Spinoza didn't use that term. Spinoza put it as " everything that exists is a modification of the one substance, God or Nature."

Rarebit Fiend said...

@supergee- please get my contact from Tom if you'd like to begin a correspondence, I'm always very interested in what you have to say and while Eric, Oz, and Tom can testify I'm not a timely writer, I do try to keep up. I'd love to discuss Castaneda with you- you're probably the only non-academic I've ever heard bring up Part II of The Teachings.

@Eric- I love Dorothy Parker! I bought my high school sweetheart a compendium of her stories for Xmas one year. Mud in your eye. I am now going to watch that movie tonight- as someone who experienced, in some part, that reality tunnel- in a similar sense to "Under the Volcano"- I enjoy laughing about it. My favorite line in any movie is Ava Gardner in "Night of Iguana", after Richard Burton and Deborah Kerr's terrifying-pentecostal-nocturnal conversation, stumbling onto the veranda ans slurring a hateful "I want a Coke!"

God Bless Harpocrates and his Avatar in the New Aeon.

Rarebit Fiend said...

@Oz- I'm kinda pissed I didn't pick up on the Rousseau influence. Miskasquamish is interesting in how powerful he is, or seems to be inside his own mind, yet how driven he is by fear. Understandably so if we consider the slightly older use of "state of nature" by Hobbes: the war of all against all. Miska (thanks for introducing an abbreviation!) is preoccupied with mysterious beings that inhabit his cosmos/the wilderness: more than the star-people, who seem aloof, on the Moon Lady, who seems to be related to the the universal mother, Miska is obsessed with the bear-people. It's interesting we really don't get that much about Miska's interactions with the Maheema people but more his overwhelming fear for the well being and his commitment to keep dangers secret from the tribe.

This reminds me very much of Don Juan's rather unforgiving world of the man of power; there is an element of the weird and dangerous in all of Castaneda's books. I've encountered some younger readers who rejected it as too dark- interesting when you consider that is how some people react to Crowley.

We could dissect the ideas of the Noble Savage and all the cognitive dissonance that caused between idealization and reality of the situation and the use of the "wilderness" motif. Many American scholars, especially those of Native heritage, have pointed out that the idea of the "wilderness" discounts the different variety of civilization present before the coming of the Europeans. I think it is safe to say that RAW, for no malicious purposes, is following in the American lit tradition of the wilderness idea. And as we go through Sigismundo's time in the Northwest Territory the wilderness motif is really brought into the Romantic tradition of being associated with inward transformations.

I was also thinking about the post yesterday and felt I should have added that the Native populations was already crippled before the genocidal actions began. Early accounts of sailors on the coasts of North America account for hundreds of blazing fires; the introduction of disease decimated the Native population dramatically in the first few years of contact. Now COVID, which was mishandled by an ignorant, racist, and reactionary government, is threatening Native populations disproportionately.

Meanwhile, in Morgantown people have suddenly decided that masks aren't that necessary. It is disgusting how cavalier people are being, almost as if pretending that the disease isn't here will make it go away.

On the note of Choronzon: didn't Crowley/Choronzon attack Victor Neuberg that night as well? If you're interested we'll have to talk about the hilariously edgy Choronzon Club which is connected to one of my favorite oddball occultists Louis T Culling.

Oz Fritz said...

Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle by Pierre Klossowski examines the Eternal Return and how it affected Nietzsche's personal life. Deleuze refers to it and considered it essential reading. I enjoyed reading it, but will have to do so again.

Chapter 4 appears to me at the moment as one of the most recondite, yet brilliant in all of RAW's fiction. It also seems self-referential, once again, in both a personal and mythological way. To me, the setting suggests the area of Yellow Springs, Ohio where he lived in the early 60s - one sentence in particular recalled this.

A note on structure: The Widow's Son employed extensive footnotes. Nature's God forgoes these, at least so far, but instead has a summary sentence (not sure what to call this?) before each chapter. Other notable books using this summary technique to begin chapters include Ouspenky's In Search of the Miraculous, The Tree of Life by Israel Regardie, and The Human Biological Machine as a Transformational Apparatus by E.J. Gold; all of them classic magick/brain change manuals and all of them familiar to Wilson.

"Truth is an arrow with two points" headlines Chapter 4 and appears to have multiple implications. For me, it suggests the adversarial stance Miska takes toward Sig while also acknowledging their kindred spirits.

The chapter title, "A Reverser of Laws" starts with the initials A & R. The last sentence of this chapter has two words capitalized with the same letters, "And this Reverser..." and no others. The exact same words that start the title, "A Reverser" appear twice in the penultimate paragraph of the chapter.
A + R = 201 = Light. The title of Chapter 5 = "The Light Sings Eternal"

Reversing these letters gives us RA, the name of the Ancient Egyptian Sun god. Every Thelemite who practices Liber Resh begins their day with "Hail unto thou Thee art RA in thy rising even unto Thee who art RA in Thy strength ..."

RA gets pronounced the same as RAW; Ra also = the generic shout for cheering a team on - "ra, ra, ra, go team go." RAW played up this double pun with his name at the conclusion of his Crowley class. Leary called himself a "cheerleader for change."

Back to the title: "A Reverser of Laws."
A + R = Light; Sun, as noted.
The rest of the title, o + L = 100 = The Moon. We find multiple mentions of the moon and in multiple contexts in this chapter.

Gregory mentions the likely fictional name of the tribe Maheema = Ma + hee + ma. Truth points in two directions within this word; hee = 15 = The Devil = Yang energy.

p. 58: "A Reverser, like a man of medicine, has been to the Wakan, the One Inside All Things, and has learned that he himself is not different from the Wakan."

Wakan comes from the Lakota tribe and means "sacred" or "powerful." The sentence quoted begins with "A Reverser" and ends with "the Wakan."
Wakan adds to 78 which indicates depletion, loss of vitality as I've mentioned previously, so reverse that.
Reversing 78 = 87
87 = Whiteness; frankincense; Sphere of the Moon.
= White Storks

Olibanum = another term for frankincense. We find that olibanum corresponds with Tiphareth and the paths of Teth (Horus) and Shin (Fire).

"the One Inside All Things"
O + I + A + T = 90. The title of chapter 90 in The Book of Lies = STARLIGHT. Tony Starlight was one of my friends in High School. He was a member of the Sarcee tribe.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I like Dorothy Parker, too; I read "The Portable Dorothy Parker" years ago. And I also liked the movie Eric referenced.

I have been trying to figure out who the "Maheema" are; my best guess is the Miami tribe, an Algonquin speaking tribe that was in Ohio. Not sure they were actually in southern Ohio, but they were in parts of Ohio. Miami University is in southern Ohio.

Eric Wagner said...

Beware the Cleveland Illuminati.

Eric Wagner said...

Hi, Iain. I love science too, but I don’t like the unscientific methodology of CSICOP.

Oz Fritz said...

Please don't miss my previous lengthy comment chronologically posted after Cleveland Okie's comment but coming before his in the que.

@Rarebit Fiend, I don't know that much about Rousseau's ideas, the Noble Savage and all that, I suspect you know much more. I kept getting a video summarizing his philosophy in my YouTube recommendations so watched it. Those kinds of synchronicities happen way too frequently to rationally explain. An axiom in the occult world maintains that we have no plain, straightforward coincidences. I don't fully agree with that, I suspect a threshold exists between something that can get represented as just a coincidence and an occult sign. The latter does occur to me frequently especially when actively involved with any RAW material. That threshold gets crossed regularly and frequently. Coincidentally, or not, I came across a mention of Rousseau in my morning's Proust reading. A few pages latter, one character suggests getting some Corona cigars for her son Robert de Saint Loup, - looping us back to Wilson and the current moment?

My recollection of the story of Crowley's Choronozon incident: Neuberg assisted Crowley in opening and penetrating the Enochian Aethers serving as scribe with AC as the visionary. They would do this every few days camping out in the desert. On this occasion, Crowley, situated in the triangle, became possessed by Choronzon. Neuberg sat in the protective circle but somehow the circle got compromised. Crowley/Choronzon took advantage of this and attacked Neuberg trying to kill him, I guess. Neuberg was able to fend him off magically, I forget exactly how. They eventually completed the project published as The vision and the Voice. They did not live happily ever after especially Neuberg. Some maintain that this incident permanently psychologically scarred both of them. I don't know about that. Neuberg managed to go on and later mentor a young Welsh poet named Dylan Thomas. Years later, as the story continues, Timothy Leary had some kind of more profound than usual psychedelic experience with Brian Barritt. It blew his mind to find out later that it occurred at the same location in the Algerian desert.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

If "Wakan" is a Lakota term, that would seem to be a bit of artistic license on Wilson's part, as the Sioux were certainly never as far east as Ohio.

Oz Fritz said...

Sigismundo's name never gets spelled correctly in this chapter, this could suggest dissolution of ego. The first misspelling, Sackymondo = 333 = Choronzon, as perviously noted. "Choronzon became an important element within the mystical system of Thelema, founded by Aleister Crowley, where he is the "dweller in the abyss", believed to be the last great obstacle between the adept and enlightenment. Thelemites believe that if he is met with proper preparation, then his function is to destroy the ego, which allows the adept to move beyond the abyss of occult cosmology."(

This chapter begins with a voyager whose ego appears completely dissolved until it gets reformed, he kind of lands back into it.

p. 49 He had to remember continually that the bear-people could do terrible magic if they ever learned his real name.. The subject = Miska here, but it made me consider the possible magick in the alternate spellings of Sigismundo's name. Bear corresponds with the path of Pe and thus Horus. Bear-people could represent Thelemites who can do magick by decoding the alternate names.

The second variation we encounter: "Siggy Moondo Chilline"
Siggy = 86 = A name of GOD, asserting the identity of Kether and Malkuth. That ties in nicely with this chapter's theme, "Truth is an arrow with two points."

Moondo = Moon + do. Generally speaking we find two somewhat contrary correspondences with the Moon at opposite ends of the Tree of Life. The illusory, lunatic, deceptive and hallucinatory side of the moon corresponds with the the path Qoph connecting Malkuth with Netzach. The other moon correspondence occurs in the path of Gimel which crosses the abyss and connects Tiphareth with Kether. What exactly he means by Moon do is anyone's guess. That name occurs in between the names with initials S & C which can indicate healing. Wilson's youngest daughter was named Luna, her story is told in Cosmic Trigger I

Chilline. In a different group, I believe Illuminatus! I introduced the idea of a qabalistic sentence where the addition of every letter in a word produces a new sign or image. I haven't mentioned this until now that it appears RAW does this in Nature's God. For instance,
C + h = 13 = Gimel
13 + i = 23 = RAW's numerical signature - I
23 + l = 53 = the garden
53 + l = 83 = Consecration: love in its highest form: energy, freedom, amrita,
aspiration. The root of romance plus religion.
83 + i = 93 = Horus - another I
93 + n = 143 = Running waters - we find running waters in this chapter; it relates to a verse from Chapter 4 (we are discussing a different Chapter 4) from the Song of Solomon: "A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon."
143 + e = 148 = Victory
= Scales; Libra - balance; the arrow pointing of truth two ways
= Flour, meal - remember the metaphor with bread from ?
The Qabalist has the freedom to break up the word ("the stops as thou wilt") anyway they want. For example, Chilline could be Chillin = 143 = Running waters + e = The Star; the star as the deep self and star people both get mentioned in this chapter as well as running waters.

This only represents one name, given as an indication of the richness of the information available with a little digging.

Oz Fritz said...

p. 57: "The gate that is not a gate opened, and I was afraid. I was not able to confront it as a man. I became a boy again, a cowardly boy. I am still ashamed. Finally, I passed through the gate. It was not terrible on the other side. Only going through the gate is terrible."

This describes a common experience on the Path and underscores the general wisdom that the transition between two states marks the most difficult part of change. This seems to act as one of those as above/so below laws, or conditions, not just transitions to higher or metaphysical states of consciousness. For example, moving from one place of residence to another, or traveling long distances. Once I'm in Europe for a gig and the jet lag goes away, I feel fine. Traveling there from California, making the transition can sometimes feel like pure hell, it never seems easy. You can even see this in simple tasks like doing the dishes or housework, but this also applies to major life events - birth, death, marriage, divorce, etc.

At the moment, our society appears to show difficulty and experiences pain making the transition from the lockdown quarantine to a fully open economy. I think this finds some expression in the current burning of our cities sparked by racial injustice and protests but going beyond to descend into anarchy. The mayor of Atlanta passionately echoed that this morning, "... these aren't protests, this is chaos."

The last sentence of Chapter 4: "And this Reverser would be harder to kill than any of the others" The initials of the first three words, A + t + R = 210, a significant number I mentioned yesterday in a comment about The New Inquisition as part of the subtitle, Irrational Rationalism also adds to 210. The new inquisition reminds me of our corrupt AG, William Barr and his endeavors to "investigate the investigators."

All the initials from the last sentence = 411
411 = Fundamenta Terrae = Earth foundation, foundation of the Earth, or simply foundation. This resonates with the tone and setting of this chapter and the "state of nature."
As noted, the moon occurs directly and indirectly frequently in this chapter. Moon = Yesod = Foundation
411 commonly used to represent the number you dialed for "Information."
411 = 4 - the number of this chapter & multiple other correspondences - and 11 - the number of magick, energy tending to change.