By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger
This chapter opens with a quote from Finnegans Wake: “It* is not just a riot of blots and blurs and dislocated jottings linked by spurts of speed…it only looks as like it as damn it.” Bob adds this note: “* Presumably the input (software) or the brain (hardware). Or both (pg. 215).” Part of me says, no, Joyce would likely not use this vocabulary. On the other hand, Joyce might like the way Bob uses the material from Finnegans Wake. Part of me enters the orthodox Joycean headspace and pooh-pooh Bob’s creative use of Joyce material. Another part of me recalls that a lot of contemporary Joyce criticism echoes ideas that Bob published before anyone else. Of course, orthodox Joyceans rarely give Bob any credit.
Someone said of Alexander Pope’s Homer translations, “It’s a very pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must not call it Homer.” (Ezra Pound shorted this to “Very pretty, not Homer.”) Rereading Masks of the Illuminati over the past forty years, I have sometimes thought of this when considering Wilson’s treatment of figures like Joyce and Pound and their works. The first time I read Masks in 1982 I knew very little about Joyce and Pound and had never read either of them. Then my Wilson obsession led me to read Pound and Joyce (and develop Joyce and Pound obsessions as well), and rereading Masks I sometimes found myself thinking, “Very pretty, not Joyce” and/or “Very pretty, not Pound.” Then I lived a bit more as a Cosmic Schmuck, and I read a lot more, and then rereading Masks I found myself thinking, “Well, maybe. These seem like valid insights into these two mysterious men and their works.”
(It looks like the fellow in the picture on page 216 found a quarter or two.)
On pages 219-220 Bob says, “Assuming you are reading this in your own home, look around the room. Note that everything in your field of vision – furniture, paintings or posters on the walls, stereo set or absence of same, rugs, TV or not TV, etc. – is, in a sense, your creation or co-creation.” I find myself reading this in a community college classroom surrounded my computer, books, papers, and the James Joyce tote I got at the 2011 North American James Joyce Conference. I also have a 1988 ticket designed by Steve and Vicky Snow to a Robert Anton Wilson talk which I use as a bookmark.
 That “is” the question.
This is one of my favorite chapters.
I love this description RAW makes of himself: "Wilson does not get reviewed in the Liberal magazines that decide which authors are important, but he has a wide readership among science-fiction fans, political Libertarians and veterans of the Consciousness Revolution."
One of the surprises when I started this blog was that I assumed most hardcore RAW fans were SF fans or libertarians, apparently because that's who the RAW fans were whom I knew in college; as far as I can tell, the majority fall into the third category.
Like Eric, I was struck by the "look around the room" passage. I read it while sitting in my living room. And as RAW observes, it very much reflects my wife and myself. My wife likes candles, so all the candles I see are hers. And I collect radios, so the solar powered radio and 1940s tube radio are mine. The living room also has a toy cow on the rug, which was placed there by my cat.
Orthodox must mean beholden to a particular identity or the belief system that feeds this identity.
I hadn't noticed the subtle Hamlet reference before. Probably wouldn't have now except for the footnote in this post.
Masks of the Illuminati rates as a favorite. I've read it at least 3, maybe 4 times, yet I don't recall Ezra Pound as a character in it. I'll have to read it again! I got into Joyce through RAW fairly early, got into Pound due to the Tales of the Tribe course he gave. I recently read A Moveable Feast a posthumous release by Ernest Hemingway that has brief, but great portraits of Joyce and Pound (among others) in 1920s Paris.
I'll comment on this chapter when I have a bit more time
Thank you Eric Wagner for this introduction to the new chapter. I had not picked up on the 25c from the drawing on p. 216. This fella is giving away a quarter, trying to buy himself a new reality. In a sense the reader is luckier, as SHe entered one upon finding hir first quarter.
Part of the FW quote already appeared just before, on p. 211. To me, it sounds like it might apply to ‘reality’ just as well as to FW itself.
As for the “look around the room” passage, I made this reflection to myself many times before, that my current tiny attic of a flat reflects extremely well my interests. Filled with books, records, and all sorts of pictures on the walls. As an introvert, I sort of have exteriorized some of the content of my mind in a very fluid fashion, in such a way that what is inside and outside me merge a lot.
Although perhaps another reading of the situation could be that I am vainly attempting to fill up the Void Inside by hoarding material possessions, which end up possessing me. Which seems to get us close to semantic spooks territory… A possible reason for the traditional ascetic lifestyle of the mystic?
The idea about the vegetarian not seeing the same meat than the meat-eater, I can relate to from personal experience. I never turned full-on vegan or even vegetarian, but my meat consumption drastically decreased over the past decade. Eventually, I did notice that my interest in ingesting the stuff went down (while I used to love it earlier in life), but I even became almost judgmental towards people doing it! A similar thing happened regarding alcohol after my consumption diminished greatly. These were important learning experiences for me, to realize that in order to avoid becoming a prickly judgmental A-hole, I’d better never go for the extremes. This also raises questions about the matter of self-convincing, AKA the placebo effect.
To this day, I still enjoy eating meat every now and then, but make a point of calling it “dead animal”.
This chapter mentions several times the semantic circuit, thus in my eyes reinforcing the idea that C7 can be seen as a meta-C3 of sorts. At least, these two seem to connect neatly, if one is looking for upper and lower circuits links.
Most welcome, Spookah. What a long, strange trip this study group has proved.
RAW first demonstrates the importance of language to metaprogramming in this chapter, then the importance of belief.
Realizing your living room as your own creation or co-creation could lead to the artistry involved in setting up spaces for invocational purposes.
What RAW calls models and muddles, Deleuze labels signifiers and signified. According to Deleuze, models and muddles have a very dynamic relationship with each other (the only stability = change); the signifier and signified communicate with each other - this appears suggested in the model/muddle nomenclature. RAW clearly illustrates how a model affects perception of the muddle; Deleuze maintains that the muddle can affect the model by saying that the signifier and the signified can switch places, the muddle can signify the model. One can begin to understand both Deleuze and Wilson's fondness for Lewis Carrol. I'll dive into this further in Series 6 of my Deleuze video episodes.
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