Thursday, March 19, 2020

The Widow’s Son Discussion Group

“Life then is indestructible as all else is.  All destruction and construction are changes in the nature of Love, as I have written to you in the former chapter proximate.  Yet even as the blood in one pulse-throb of the wrist is not the same blood as that in the next, so individuality is in part destroyed as each life passeth; nay even with each thought."  – Aleister Crowley, De Lege Libellum

After many months, the discussion group examining The Widow’s Son by Robert Anton Wilson led by Gregory Arnott and hosted by Raw concluded last week.  I was a frequent contributor and had planned to post a final comment but extenuating circumstances postponed it until now. 

Like every interactive event related to Wilson endeavors – reading groups, online courses, workshops and talks, The Widow’s Son opened my eyes to a great deal of magic and to mysteries of life in general.  Often simply reading one of his books becomes an interactive event from all the synchronicities encountered and the thoughts, feelings, and sensations they provoke.  The books can become even more interactive upon initiation into the belief system that they intend to teach as well as connecting to a multiplicity of other teaching portals through references and allusions.  The interactive part also arises from the feedback loop that occurs from learning how to penetrate his puns, metaphors and coded symbolism which then opens to comprehension of seeing more. 

I got exponentially far more out of The Widow’s Son this time than the previous two times reading it and feel certain that represents a small fraction of everything there; as a multiplicity, it seems nearly infinite in interpretation, as infinite as the readers who dig in and partake.  I agree with several others who consider this novel one of his top works of fiction.  From the occult, didactic angle, it rates as a masterpiece, in my experience.  On the scale of fun things to research, wonder about and figure out, it jumps off the charts at the high end.

One of the key comments in this discussion was correspondence from RAW posted by AliasBogus in which he said something to the effect that he hoped his work would be studied like James Joyce and that perhaps explains why he wrote like him.  This seems a huge clue to me, the author tells us of a multiplicity of meanings, connections, wormholes and doorways waiting to get discovered, as in Joyce. 

At one point, RAW referred to his work as postmodern.  In another postmodern classic, Nabokov’s Pale Fire, an allusion or a suggestion gets made to approach the book like Sherlock Holmes unlocking a mystery; using all your skills of observation and deduction with high attention to assemble the pieces of the puzzle.  This aptly applies to fiction by RAW, and another postmodern master, Thomas Pynchon who seems to get a nod or several in The Widow’s Son and a direct quote shout out in Illuminatus! Postmodern writers and philosophers seem to create an intertextual network through cross-references  and allusions. 

The Joyce comment reminded me that Wilson wrote of the significance of the letter “S” in Finnegans Wake somewhere in Coincidance.  I don’t recall what it said and haven’t had the time to sleuth it out, but it did make me wonder about the “esses” in the ancient graffiti meme, ISSSV that shows up many times in Part IV Chapter 3 intended to hasten the demise of Pope Clement XIV.  ISSSV turns up 11 times in that chapter.  11 appears a number highly significant to Thelemites as it indicates magick, or energy tending to change, among other things.  Thelema, the initiation system presented by Aleister Crowley, has its place as a primary teaching portal entrance in The Widow’s Son .

The following chapter in Part IV talks about the “grain war” prior to the French Revolution and has a phrase “six sous a loaf” given three times.  I analyzed and commented upon that earlier.  Links to all prior comments from this group can get accessed via the front page of I also wondered about the significance of the esses in “sous” which begin and end the word and thus could hold significance to a qabalist who studies the shapes and sounds of words and letters.  Sous already has a special place because it adds to 196 and ISSSV = 196 too.  The Hebrew word for “crown” also adds to 196.  The Spanish translation for crown = “corona;” the Spanish king gets a brief mention shortly before the debut of ISSSV.  This synchronicity with current events – the coronavirus as a meme which will kill us all, or at least (temporarily, one hopes) kills our economy and way of life – seems consistent with unintended prophecies in Wilson’s works, others have been documented.  One may go further with this by analyzing the Spanish king’s name, Don Carlos.  This aligns with the esoteric maxim that the solution to a problem may get found in how the problem gets stated.

The interactive nature of The Widow’s Son upon my personal circumstances doesn’t need to be searched for, deduced, imagined or implied.  More like it clobbers me over the head … wake-up motherfucker!!

I interpreted the penultimate phrase, of the novel, “Paine said cheerfully,” to be an indication of how to deal with pain.  I connected this pain management idea to an earlier passage regarding “The Bishop of Munster… encouraging this ever-accelerating crescendo of light, love, liberty and laughter that Mozart pours forth.”  Humor as an highly effective form of pain management.  I overlooked the connection with music, this oversight made apparent by Tom’s post two days ago at music as a healing force.

The day after I posted about dealing with pain cheerfully, our propane tank ran completely dry – the gas company failed to put me on the plan to regularly check and refill it.  I cheerfully took a couple of cold showers until that situation easily resolved.  Two days later our rural neighborhood began receiving a great deal of snow that totaled about six feet over a couple of days.  That in itself isn’t a big deal, no access to town until the snow stops and roads get plowed, however it got compounded by the electricity going out the first night.  That also seems no big surprise, we are used to temporary failures of service from our electrical providers, PG&E, it usually lasts no longer than 12 – 18 hours when weather related.  The criminal incompetence resulting from PG&E policies entered new territory with this new situation they blame on equipment failure.  We are currently halfway through our 6th day without power.  After a break, the snow has continued its crystalline construction of the landscape, beautiful in itself, but cutting off access to the outside world and internet until the power gets restored or the roads cleared. According to an article published Monday in the Sacramento Bee, 22,000 people in four counties are affected by this outage on top of the income loss, social shift and scramble for supplies from the coronavirus hermitage.  The article observed that temperatures here range in the low 30s, hovering right around freezing, and that many people don’t have a wood stove or generator to stay warm.

* * * * * *

As mentioned in earlier comments, the Bishop of Munster’s Mozart line with “life, love liberty and laughter” referenced Crowley’s Liber CL (130) De Lege Libellum

130 = “Deliverance;
             The Angel of redemption;
             Decrees, prophetic sayings;
             Eye; Ayin;
             The Pillars;
             A staircase, ladder (Sepher Sephiroth)”. 
I read it for the first time and found that it goes along very nicely with The Widow’s Son

Many confrontations with death in the first two books of the Historical Illuminatus series have been noted.  Death appears to become as much of a behind-the-scenes-character in The Widow’s Son as it does in Gravity’s Rainbow.  I pointed out several associations or simultaneous occurrences of Tiphareth with Death.  This resonates with the instruction given many times in The Egyptian Book of the Dead for the voyaging soul to unite with Osiris upon departing the physical sheath at death.  In De Lege Libellum Crowley writes:

“There be moreover many other modes of attaining the apprehension of true Life, and these two following are of much value in breaking up the ice of your mortal error in the vision of your being.  And of these the first is the constant contemplation of the Identity of Love and Death, and the understanding of the dissolution of the body as an act of Love done upon the Body of the Universe, as also it is written in length in our Holy Books.  And with this goeth, as it were sister with twin brother, the practice of mortal love as a sacrament symbolical of that great Death: as it is written ‘Kill thyself’: and again ‘Die Daily.’”

We find this identity between Love and Death qabalistically expressed in the last line of the book, right before it says “coming soon” in the Bluejay edition then advertises Nature and Nature’s God, the third book in the series:

“'Two scoundrels,’ Paine said cheerfully, “in an unpredictable universe.”

The initials of the first phrase, “Two scoundrels”  add to 69, often indicating a reversal or looking at something backwards.  A main plotline of the book concerns the lineage of Jesus.  If he did procreate and create a lineage this would indicate a reversal of the usual story that he died on the cross.  The 69 reversal also simply suggests that the gentlemen in question, Paine and Moon, seem not scoundrels, or that their scoundrelness can get reversed.

The initials of “Paine said cheerfully” add to 148.

Reversing the first two numbers gives 418, a number of high significance to Thelemites indicating both “The Great Work completed” (a great sign to finish a book on) and “Abrahadabra,” a word suggesting World Creation and Maintenance.

148 = “To withdraw, retire (prophetic of the current social distancing)
            Victory (also the name of the 6 of Wands in the Thoth Tarot)
            Flour, meal (recalls the “grain war” and bread allegory mentioned earlier)

Within that phrase we see “… said cheerfully” = 68

“in an unpredictable universe” = 23

23 = “Parted, removed, separated
           A thread

The 23rd Hexagram of the I Ching = “Breaking Apart” or “Splitting Apart.”

I interpret 23 as a number indicating the Bardo.  The correspondences suggest both death and life, or perhaps, death and rebirth.  A primary instruction in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Bardo Thodol, = “maintain the thread of consciousness.  If you look at the transmission of the 23 Enigma from William Burroughs to Robert Anton Wilson as described in Cosmic Trigger I, this number, 23, most frequently came up in relation to death.  Outside of physical death, the Bardo represents a space in between where change occurs between one thing and another.  It makes sense to end the book with this correspondence, we enter the Bardo in between the second and third books of the Historical Illuminatus series.

This passage from The Revolution As I Saw It by, Luigi Duccio, a publication within the publication of The Widow’s Son, seems a fitting end.  They’re ostensibly talking about freedom for Ireland:

“What we are doing is for our children, and I even misbelieve that at times. Before God, it may be only for our grandchildren.  It is a long and desperate struggle ahead and it is not to be won by bravery or high hopes.  It is planning and perseverance we need.”

The letters and puns of the middle sentence could suggest Crowley’s 0=2 formula, a cancellation of opposites.  More directly,the last sentence conjures Crowley’s motto, Perdurabo, I will endure unto the end.  It also relates with the Calvin Coolidge poem Israel Regardie used to begin The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

 And finally:

"What then maketh WoMan, if she dieth and is reborn a changeling with each breath?  This: the consciousness of continuity given by memory, the conception of her Self as something whose existence, far from being threatened by these changes, is in verity assured by them.  Let then the aspirant to the sacred Wisdom consider her Self no more as one segment of the Serpent, but as the whole.  Let her extend her consciousness to regard both birth and death as incidents trivial as systole and diastole of the heart itself, and necessary as they to its function." - Crowley, De Lege Libellum (translation modified).


  1. Oz,

    The discussion of the letter "S" is in the essay "Synchronicity and Isomorphism in Finnegans Wake" in part one of Robert Anton Wilson's book "Coincidance." The relevant paragraph:

    "Shakespeare, Swift and Sterne, already in synchronistic mesh with FW, all have S as the first letter in their names. Joyce named his autobiographical hero Stephen Dedalus, which begins and ends with S. ULYSSES begins with an S ("Stately, plump Buck Mulligan ...") and ends with an S ("yes, I said yes I will Yes"). The letter S in Joyce's notes for FW symbolizes the serpent in Eden but also stands for a mysterious figure, usually called Sanderson or Sigurson but sometimes varying to Mahan and Behan and even to Pore Old Joe in the Black Spiritual, who is both an aggressor (the Norse invaders of Ireland) and a victim (the servants and slaves of all history). Only God and James Joyce understands this mysterious S business, and Joyce is dead and God isn't telling."

  2. I used to use the penname "S." but I don't have much else to add. Excellent write up Oz and I really love reading what you have to say. Also great "translation" of Lege Libellum.

    I think what I like best about RAW's work is it is about how to cope with having a little knowledge in an infinitely larger universe. Laughter, and demerol, is truly the best medicine.