"The Vietnam War had been punishing in ways to all Unistaters, but Case, embroiled in the center of it, experienced it as very bad TV. It was like the film had stuck and Moe kept jabbing his finger in Curley's eye, over and over in infinite regress, until the myth and metaphor had turned meaningless through redundance. If the war wasn't that, it was sloppy editing or just plain bad taste."
It starts with a philosophical challenge.
The second section begins with a (hopefully) fictional problem, missing plutonium, that points to a real problem, destruction through atomic weaponry. The first chapter concludes with instructions for building a nuclear bomb, again pointing to a very serious problem, the potential ability of any sociopath to carry out their destructive mission. I don't know how fictional this notion looked at the time Wilson wrote the book. A quick google search comes up with at least a couple of You Tube videos with step by step instructions for building an A bomb.
Incidentally, two well-known cat lovers include Freddie Mercury, the lead singer for the band Queen and lyricist for the songs, We Are the Champions of the World, and Don't Stop Me Now. The latter has the lines: "I'm travelin' at the speed of light, I want to make a supersonic man outta you. Another cat lover, William S Burroughs, wrote The Western Lands about the Egyptian land of immortality, and had an important influence on Robert Anton Wilson..
I have yet to come across any direct evidence that RAW perused the philosophical writings of Gilles Deleuze. In his article Damnation by Definition found in Email to the Universe one finds several parallels with Deleuze. For instance, they both criticize "'common sense,' that dreary bog of Stone Age prejudice and muddy inertia," as Wilson writes. Other parallels turn up in the De Selby footnotes in The Widow's Son. I regard these as coincidences due to Deleuze and Wilson having much in common. Their overlaps include James Joyce, Lewis Carroll, William S Burroughs, Carlos Castaneda, David Hume, Baruch Spinoza, Frederich Nietzsche. They both criticized some of the traditional philosophies of Plato, Aristotle and Freud. For instance, in the same article Wilson writes, "A psychoanalyst, finding an Oedipal castration ritual here has performed a third Damnation..." With Felix Guattari, Deleuze wrote Anti-Oedipus. Both both included Hermetic puzzles and codings in their writings, both directly reference Qabalah, both participated in social activism. Of course, there are many differences between the two, also.
I argue in my You Tube presentation of The Logic of Sense series,
that Deleuze outlines and provides (often Hermetically, of course) the metaphysics for Aleister Crowley's system of magick. In Sex, Drugs and Magick
Phil Farber says, "Bob did more to raise the awareness of magick as a form of brain-change than anyone since Aleister Crowley."
Relevant to this piece, in The Logic of Sense Deleuze presents a transcendental field (what seems behind it all, what causes things to come into existence) based on extremely mobile, unique events as opposed to Plato's field of static Ideal forms. Deleuze says events bear exclusively on problems and define their conditions. He'll use James Joyce, among others to illustrate this point (LoS p. 56). Defining the conditions of problems provides the genesis for solutions. This reflects something I've often heard about engineering, solutions come from how well the problem gets stated.
In my video series, I suggest that Deleuze points to War as a major problem. Schrödinger's Cat satirically explores problematic aspects of war in the first chapter. Might we not regard one level of this quantum epic as an effort to correctly state various problems of human existence, both individual and general? By definition, this effort also provides solutions.
Unfortunately, the problem of humans not getting along with each, to grossly understate the problem, seems relevant now more than ever. We have a war in Ukraine that pits Russia against the Western World. Even though we don't directly fight them, we are fighting with them and they are fighting with us. Apart from the usual atrocities, this war makes a serious impact on the global economy and aggravates food shortages. In my opinion, sanctioning this war by not making serious efforts to stop it, throwing weapons at it instead, subconsciously gives permission and makes it easier for every sociopath out there to potentially enact violence. If Rupert Sheldrake's theories hold true, the morphogenetic field of violence increases with every violent act. The United States currently experiences a crisis of gun violence that only seems to get worse.
The increasing aggressively adversarial nature of politics have increased threats of violence across the political spectrum by some people who don't like what the other side does. From Supreme Court Justices threatened with assassination over unpopular decisions, to threats against election workers counting votes, and educators mandating masks. A recent poll concluded that 58% of Americans see a strong possibility of Civil War in the United States. I find this a misnomer, all wars seem uncivil and extremely impolite.
British and French politics appears in disarray, the former very much economically struggling against the aftermath of Brexit. Covid mutates and lingers like an unwanted house guest, or a bug, who won't clean up and refuses to leave. Are we dealing with climate change effectively and quick enough? Etc. etc. etc., In a general sense, human society may seem like it goes through the disorientating, discombobulation of Chapel Perilous. How do we get to the Universe Next Door?
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"Joyce is a comedian but his comedy goes to the essence of existence"
- Robert Anton Wilson, On Finnegans Wake & Joseph Campbell, 1988 talk.
"Megalithic monuments were certainly not places of worship but places of refuge fleeing the advance of mud" – Furbish Lousewart V, Unsafe Wherever You Go"
– Quote opening the section "Funny Valentine" SC, p. 161
Humor may not directly solve problems, but it certainly helps with lifting ourselves out of a despairing perspective, perhaps a first step. It can significantly change our moods when going through personal crises or when Chapel Perilous seems a tad too intense. As Groucho says, "we're way past tense, we're living in bungalows now."
On another recorded talk, RAW is asked what he likes about Aleister Crowley and he answers by saying that he's the funniest mystic he knows. He loves finding all the hidden jokes in Crowley's writings; ditto with Finnegans Wake. He riffs a bit on all the humor in Crowley. It seems most, if not all the leading satirists and social critics had a wicked sense of humor. The ones I can think of off the top of my head include Cervantes, Francois Rabelais, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Jonathon Swift, James Joyce, Thomas Pynchon, Robert Anton Wilson, and Garfield the Cat.
From the same 1988 Joyce talk: "If the publishers just had the sense to put on the cover, 'The funniest and dirtiest book in the world - Tindall/Columbia,' it would sell a lot better and people would make the effort to decipher it." Wilson gives this marketing strategy advice for Finnegans Wake, but I reckon it could just as easily apply to Schrödinger's Cat.
A rationale for encoding jokes and other information cryptically and hermetically concerns teasing the reader into using their own Intelligence. Solving puzzles, unraveling various labyrinths of meaning
Increase's Intelligence - the middle term in Leary's famous S.M.I.2L.E. formula. Leary may been inspired by a cat, more specifically Wonderland's Cheshire Cat when Alice asks,"'Would you tell me please which way I ought to go from here?' 'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to', said the cat." Soon after the cat disappears completely except for his grin prompting Alice to say, "she has often seen a cat without a grin but never a grin without a cat." The two states of visible and invisible cat seems isomorphic with the two states of dead or alive cat in Erwin Schrödinger's famous thought experiment on quantum causality. Increasing intelligence seems one general solution to the problems we face as a species.
In the second chapter of SC, Wilson describes himself in the third person as a scientific shaman and puts himself in the company of "Leary, Lilly, Crowley, and Castaneda." A Shaman, in the general sense, can be thought of as someone who goes outside their ordinary realities and identities to explore Unknown Territories and bring something back, something useful, perhaps healing, for the Tribe. Great artists perform this shamanic function in the creation of their Art. Artists have the advantage of having a skill at a medium which expresses and communicates their shamanic explorations. It comes through painting, music, literature etc. Wilson, and the other scientific Shamen he cites, knew how to communicate their shamanic visions extremely well through writing. At the end of the chapter the author suggests SC "is actually a manual of shamanism in the form of a novel," then immediately walks it back.
* * * * * *
RAW likes hunting down all the synchronicities and prophecies in FW, he calls this a favorite thing. "So many things in Finnegans Wake refer to events after 1939 when Finnegans Wake was published," he says in the 1988 talk. He mentions that he plans to write a book along these lines. The first example he gives comes from the middle section where Buckley shoots a Russian General. "Buckley was a friend of Joyce's father who served in the Crimean War which to Joyce was a symbol of all wars because it had the word "crime" in it." The current Ukraine War could be said to have started when Russia annexed Crimea in 2013. Many Russian Generals have been shot in the current war. RAW says that Joyce put all the wars in history into that one chapter. He suggests Joyce alludes to the atom bomb dropping on Nagasaki, Japan which occurred in 1945. At the end of a lengthy riff beginning with "Adams and ifs" – quantum uncertainty, on one level – Wilson says that he thinks that "Joyce is prophesying the entrance into the whole Space Age that we're now entering." He connects the prophesying with a deep dive into Carl Jung's Collective Unconscious. This Collective Unconscious may represent the Unknown Territory shaman's explore.
It makes sense that an invocational, scientific shaman like RAW might have prophecies in his own books. We know that Joyce greatly influenced Wilson's writing. He begins the first chapter of SC by twisting Joyce's well-known line from Ulysses and attributing it to the character Stephen Prometheus in Carl Jung's Odysseus. Knowing how the quote actually goes provides a valuable clue to the intention of SC as a shamanic manual. Finding out what the quote really says requires effort on the part of the reader who doesn't know it already.
I've heard or read RAW tell the story of how he and Shea put a cult whose leader tells his members to commit suicide in Illuminatus! then being shocked when it actually occurred with Jim Jones in Guyana. Coincidentally, RAW participated in the Nova Convention honoring William S Burroughs in 1979 not long after it happened. Bill Laswell attended this event: "Burroughs began the proceeding by walking onstage in cowboy boots and a big cowboy hat and facetiously saying in his dry, dead-pan voice, " I've recently come back from Jonestown, everything is going exactly as planned."
Eric Wagner made a comment in the Prometheus Rising discussion group about something in Schrödinger's Cat. that gave me a good enough excuse to reread the novel, the first time in 17 years. The timing of this new dive into it seemed completely random. About five weeks after Putin's invasion I came across Ukraine in the Collapse of the State Vector chapter, p. 80. Ukraine is what Josphine Malik mishears when Hugh Crane says his name outside her door. Crane tells her, "The novel we're in is coming to a horrible conclusion ..." He also tells her he was Hagbard Celine in the previous novel they both appeared in. Their interaction ends with nuclear annihilation of the city. This astonished me as I'd read news articles earlier in the day speculating whether Russia will resort to the use of tactical nuclear weapons on the Ukraine battlefield. Whenever Hugh Crane, aka Cagliostro, turns up later in the adventure I tagged it with the Ukraine association.
On page 336, Cagliostro gets assassinated on Central Park West, in New York City, in a scene that conflates the assassinations of Kennedy, Lincoln and John Lennon. Well, I thought John Lennon because of the location, method and same month. Uncertainty creeps in after noticing the Dell edition has a copywrite year of 1979. Lennon was gunned down on Central Park West in December, 1980.
His killer in the novel hears voices egging him on. Shortly before he pulls the trigger one of those voices "wanted to know which monk Vlad impaled?" The synchronicities between Ukraine getting attacked, their peace (Lennon, an ardent symbol for peace during the Vietnam War) assassinated, their country impaled by Vladimir Putin seem rather prophetic, not a stretch at all. The shaman may see and record visions across time as evidenced by both Joyce and Wilson.
I continued reading with Ukraine on my mind. Fifteen pages on from the metaphor of the assassination of peace, the next book, The Homing Pigeons begins: Part One Who's Zelenka. Of course, I immediately thought of Zelensky, the former comedian, now the leader of embattled Ukraine. The first chapter begins with the title: The Universe Will Surprise Us; immediately true, for this reader. Zelenka refers to the baroque composer Jan Zelenka. The chapter begins with Frank Dashwood going through an identity crisis as characters from the universe of Illuminatus! try to convince him that he's really George Dorn. Asked why he thinks he's Frank Dashwood, he gets the answer, "[w]e're in Maybe Time here." Maybe Time indeed. That answer would also work for my question, how did RAW happen to choose the name of an obscure Bohemian composer whose name closely resembles a major player on the world stage some forty plus years later? A major player who fits perfectly into the metaphorical subtext of the assassination of peace in Ukraine.
Dashwood goes through a bardo/dream sequence then wakes up in his own bed and tells himself it was only a dream. He turns on the radio to help get back to terra firma and hears some classical music he can't identify. After the music concludes, the dj say it was "Concerto for Harp by Jan Zelenka" No such piece exists in this universe, as far as I can tell from a google search, though the composer did. "Who the hell was Zelenka? Same period as Bach, I'm sure." thinks Dashwood. As our intrepid orgasm researcher goes about his business, this question, who's Zelenka? keeps running around his mind and surfacing for the rest of the book. Finally, in the last section of the penultimate chapter, Dashwood, modulating back and forth with his George Dorn persona, gets handed a short bio of Zelenka by none other than Hugh Crane (Ukraine), naturally. Right after that, as if to underscore my point about humor, a surrealistic scene ensues and we hear a character exclaim "Gravity sucks! ... "The cream of the jest rises to the top. That's the Law of Levity."
What do I conclude from this startling synchronicity/prophecy? That Schrödinger's Cat requires a lot more serious study, pun intended, and that it can serve as a valuable instrument for navigating these times of social chaos and uncertainty. I have barely scratched the surface of RAW's all quarks in motion masterpiece, it seems. Also worth noting, Hagbard Celine/Hugh Crane/Cagliostro the Great makes his last appearance in the penultimate section of the novel saying he used to be a stage magician, "[b]ut then I got turned on to Cabala." Not at all playing into my confirmation bias, lol.
In the very last section, we find a riff essentially connecting magick with metaprogramming along with a well-known Crowley quote, one that he painted on the wall of his Abbey of Thelema in Sicily. Wilson changes the first line of the quote to now suggest a key for the solution of problems stated earlier. I'll let you, dear readers, discover it on your own. SC begins with an altered Joyce quote that he makes into a negation, and ends, nearly, with an altered Crowley quote that he makes into an affirmation. Problem stated, problem solved ... or the keys to given... maybe.
Cabalists often work contrariwise. Through the looking glass. The sense of the Joyce quote changed to almost opposite what Joyce said. The first line of the Crowley quote changed into something much less dark sounding than the original. I don't think RAW consciously saw Volodymyr Zelensky down the road but it does interest me that he happened to choose a musician/composer with a soundalike name. You can't get more opposite in the major events of their lives. In a feed to the 2022 Grammy Music Awards: "What is more opposite than music?" Zelensky said. "The silence of ruined cities and killed people."
* * * * * *
In those halcyon days of the early 1980's when I came across and hungrily consumed the inspired optimism and hope for the future found in the writings of Robert Anton Wilson, Timothy Leary, Buckminster Fuller and other visionaries it seemed like only a matter of time before things would get better. I looked forward to the cutting edge of humanity reaching for our H.O.M.E.S. in Space, living greatly extended lives and becoming intelligent enough to sometimes transcend our robotic programs and Pavlovian conditioning. Leary had a gift for making it all sound so easy, Wilson clarified the message and championed the cause. These Utopian prognostications seemed to get confirmed with the dismantling of the Soviet Union, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Eastern bloc. Maybe wealth and technology would flow more easily across the world. Perhaps the elimination of the Communist threat would enable the start of a shift from weaponry to livingry.
In our current political, social, and economic climate with so much violence and unrest, it seems crucial to preserve, embody and transmit all this brain-change information and technologies for future generations.
In the Widow's Son, RAW presented a puzzle that, in the context of the story, indicates a theme of carrying the light underground through the darkness of world conditions. The story takes place in Paris just prior to the French Revolution. This puzzle begins with a stone given at the end of a Masonic ritual that has the Latin phrase ET IN ARCADIA EGO inscribed upon it. "And in Arcadia, I" Arcadia refers to a Golden Age. This stone represents the stone the builders rejected that's now become the center of the Arch. John Babcock, the one getting initiated, has these thoughts about it:
"The stone that was rejected . . . they are dramatizing that imperfection is illusory, not real . . . I am in Arcadia, the Golden Age, all the time . . . it is not faith, hope, or love that sees through delusion to the essence of things; it is courage . . ."
ET IN ARCADIA EGO becomes a floating signifier in the story turning up in a variety of circumstances, including a list of Initiates and a painting belong to the King called the The Shepherds of Arcadia. "The shepherds were looking at a tomb. Their expressions did not show grief, not at all: they seemed to be looking out of the canvas right at you with expressions that seemed to say nothing else but 'we know something you don't know." ET IN ARCADIA EGO was on the tomb.
The enemy, in the form of Satrines the Spymaster, comes across this enigmatic phrase and searches to unravel it. He questions the imprisoned Sigismundo Celine: "'What does this mean?'
The paper said ET IN ARCADIA EGO.
"It means time is unreal. The illuminated mind sees across and beyond time."
Satrines rearranges the letters to read I TEGO ARCANA DEI. Sigismundo translates it as "I conceal the secrets of God." My point - ARCADIA changes to ARCANA, different, but related meanings. Arc appears common to both. These three letters can signify both an arc, like an electric arc or welder's arc, and its homonym "ark" - a repository of something precious like an arcana or life in the case of Noah's Ark. Arc appears cognate with Arch, the stone the builders rejected, now the center of the Arch. An arch or arc or ark across time. In The Widow's Son the Masons carry the light of Illumination through the darkness of revolutionary France.
Speaking of courage, that attribute arcs to, connects with, the Courage found at the conclusion of Schrödinger's Cat. Another surrealistic floating signifier found there is a detached flying phallus that travels around the world. Markoff Chaney finally gets ahold of this phallus and has a procedure to make it part of him. He nicknames it his Courage. He gets sexually aroused when talking to someone about consciousness and intelligence and observes, "His Courage was growing." Three or four sentences later we find another and more hopeful permutation of the famous Ulysses quote: "Death is a nightmare from which humanity is trying to awaken."
There seems a lot more death and death threats going on than usual currently on this backward planet. Courage seems good advice to get through. This advice gets dramatically given in coded fashion on
p. 521 when, in crisis, Dashwood does some magick, roaring a long vocalizaton which manifests as 5 large lines of a phonetic sound representation. The section which immediately follows is called Chapel Perilous. I'll leave it there for a puzzle to solve. It seems a significant clue for how to navigate through that chaotic and frightening territory.
* * * * * *
Music has the ability to extend words beyond the verbal level allowing them to sink in on deeper emotional and spiritual levels. Bob Dylan's words have changed my outlook on life more than a few times. A delicate but powerful new song, Evil Crawls the Line by Mariee Sioux has that effect. Helping Mariee produce this art by engineering it has placed it at the core of my being. It effectively expresses a theme of this essay – carrying a precious transmission through the disorienting Chapel Perilous of modern times. It's in the final stages before release. Stayed tuned to this space, I'll let you know when it comes out. The first verse begins:
"Bare the light
And guide Death for to the carry us home
We went out to find
What kept our brothers from making it home."
The last chorus cycles around and around singing:
"Bend the light
Arcing for to carry us home "
Schrödinger's Cat concludes with the theme of returning home at the end of the final book, The Homing Pigeons. "Well, cheer up George. It's over now. We're heading home."