Saturday, December 16, 2023

Folds and Overlaps between Aleister Crowley and Finnegans Wake

 “Smiting his breast, he reproached his heart with word. 
Endure, heart, endure you have endured worse before.” 

 - Odyssey, XX, 17 -18 by Homer as quoted in Allan Bloom’s translation of The Republic, p. 68. 

It’s interesting to see how different books in a writer’s oeuvre connect together. Each episode in Ulysses, except for the first three, corresponds with an organ in the human body. For instance, the 6th episode, Hades, connects with the heart. This scene in the book takes place at Paddy Dignam’s funeral in a graveyard causing Bloom, by association, to reflect upon his dead son Rudy as well as his late father. Reaching the end of the book, these organs collectively and metaphorically construct a transcendental, new “man,” actually a WoMan. This new WoMan, Eve and Adam, continues her riverun in the first sentence of Finnegans Wake signified by the initials HCE found in Howth Castle and Environs.

 “riverun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.” 

This describes a real place in space/time. The river, the Anna Liffey, flows through Dublin, Ireland past the Church of the Immaculate Conception aka Adam and Eve’s and out into the ocean overlooked by Howth Castle. We’ll call this real place, a Microcosm. Joyce likes to use puns to suggest or convey multiple meanings. I postulate that Joyce intends to communicate HOW to construct an edifice, a castle, in the Higher Dimensions, or, if you will, the higher, “extraterrestrial” brain circuits as given in Timothy Leary’s 8 Circuits of Consciousness model. This edifice, if successful, will connect with everything. We call that the Macrocosm. Uniting the Microcosm with the Macrocosm describes a basic goal of Magick.

Constructing such a structure, or a “higher body” if you will, seems a different kind of immaculate conception. It’s signified by the initials HCE (Howth Castle and Environs) which appears frequently throughout the book in many guises. These are the initials of the primary protagonist, Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker but they also stand for Here Comes Everybody; these two significations allude to uniting the Microcosm with the Macrocosm. This theme gets suggested again at the beginning of the 4th section: “Array! Surrection! Eireweeker to the wohld bludyn world” (p. 593). I read this as: A resurrection! Earwicker to the whole bloody world. The “how” part gets suggested later on the same page: A hand from the cloud emerges, holding a chart expanded. Joyce gives us a map; HCE shows up twice in that sentence. An allusion to “how” turns up in the last complete sentence in the book and the sentence preceding: “The keys to. Given!” The trope, “keys” turns up elsewhere in Finnegans Wake including a few pages before the end. The same trope turns up in Ulysses

Incidentally, Joyce used Cabala, a fundamental technology for the construction of higher bodies or brains. By Gematria, the Cabalistic transposition of letters into numbers, HCE adds to 18; Ulysses has 18 episodes. 

Aleister Crowley also endeavored to provide everyone with such edifice building keys through Magick and his system or quasi-religion called Thelema. This essay intends to point out some of the parallels between Finnegans Wake, Magick and Thelema alongside references to Mr. Crowley, himself. Due to time constraints and the vastness of the subject, this piece merely provides an outline for a more detailed expanded account in the future. You could call this a work in progress, if you will. 

Thelema and Finnegans Wake appear completely isomorphic and resonant with each other right from the get go. Thelema means Will in ancient Greek and adds to 93 by Greek Cabala. Agape, spiritual Love – the highest kind, also adds to 93 indicating a connection and strong resonance between Love and Will. It’s called love under will because on the surface Thelema directly means Will and under that, qabalistically, it also means Love. Love under will also indicates intentional or directed love. 

Speaking of the Greeks, the word “swerve” from “swerve of shore” in the first sentence dates back to Epicurus when he used it to describe the unpredictable and indeterminate swerve atoms take which he attributes to the creation of life and order out of chaos. This swerving (of shore) “provides the free will which all living things throughout the world have.” Gilles Deleuze calls it the production of sense. Swerve = Will. 

The next sentence, physically under the first one as you look at the page, has:

“Sir Tristram, violer-d’amores, fr’over the short sea, had passencore rearrived from North Amorica on this side the scraggy isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his penisolate war.” 

“Violer” could mean violater; it also suggests what Joyce had in his first draft, “viola-d’amore,” a six or seven stringed musical instrument with an equal number of sympathetic strings below the played ones to create additional harmonics. It’s similar to a regular viola; played in the baroque period. Stringed instruments at that time often had intricately carved heads at the top of the neck. Most common on a viola d’amore was a carved head of Cupid blindfolded to show the blindness of love. As a bonus, the “d” before “amore” qabalistically connects with Venus, the Goddess of Love. The first two sentences in Finnegans Wake clearly show “love under will – Thelema.” 

Still on page 1, Joyce not only indicates great potentialities he also confronts those possibilities with obstacles and challenges anyone attempting to realize those potentials might face such as “wielderfight the penisolate war”, “the great fall” and the fragility and volatility of the metaphysical surface (higher brain circuits) represented by Humpty Dumpty, the giant, sentient egg. 

The appearance of Sir Tristram alludes to the story of Tristram and Iseult, a frequently recurring theme in the Wake, where Tristram is a knight escorting the Irish princess Iseult back to Ireland to marry King Marc. They fall in love along the way. Joyce has him coming back from North Armorica, Armorica being an ancient name for Brittany. It also suggests North America, where Joyce is about to go in this same second sentence. 

Sound plays a huge role and provides an entrance to Joyce’s language and meanings. Armorica sounds like amour – love; it also has the word “armor,” the American spelling for armour. The message: protect your love. Very soon we see the fragility of this construction of higher consciousness. The image of the Thoth Tarot card The Chariot illustrates this story – escorting and protecting the Grail. 

Iseult connects with all the Goddess archetypes in the Wake and with Babalon in the Thelemic cosmology. In the Hebrew tradition both of these, Babalon and Iseult is called the Shekinah. 

 * * * * * * 

Nothing mentioned thus far connects directly with the man Crowley. We first find this link on page 105, the only time in the book he’s mentioned this clearly and unambiguously. Joyce connects him with Rabelais, a major influence on both Crowley and Joyce, by alluding to the Abbey of Thélème: 

 From Abbeygate to Crowalley 
 Through a Lift in the Lude, Smocks for Their Graces and 
 Me Aunt for them Clodshopper, How to Pull a Good Horuscoup 
 even when Oldsire is Dead to the World, ...

 "Abbeygate" seems a clear reference to Rabelais connecting with Gargantua chapter 52, "The Inscription set above the main Gate of Thélème." The first line obviously alludes to the trajectory of the Abbey of Thelema; the word "all" appears in the Crowley allusion consonant with the theme of Pan. "Lude" suggests the lewd humor Rabelais was known for, it also translates as 'play" from Latin; this one word indicates playful lewdness or lewd playfulness. "Lift in the Lude" implies wisdom in the folly; "Smocks for Their Graces" = mocking their Graces - satirizing Papal and Church establishment authority. "Horuscoup" brings us back to Crowley who was an expert astrologer (horoscope - he was the ghostwriter for popular American astrologer Evangeline Adams). More pertinent is the inclusion of the Egyptian god Horus in the portmanteau word. Crowley defined his mission as announcing and helping make manifest the new aeon of Horus, a central tenet of Thelema. 

Both Joyce and Crowley drew upon Nietzsche. “ … even when Oldsire is Dead to the World” suggests the famous “God is dead” pronouncement which, according to Deleuze, has at least 12 different interpretations. Horuscoup also = a coup by Horus as in a coup d’etat; a take-over from the old, authoritarian rendition of God to one that affirms life and the joy within it. Affirmation of life was also championed by Nietzsche. The first page of the Wake ends: “where oranges have been laid to rest upon the green since devlinfirst loved livvy.” Joyce announces an affirmation of life here: “livvy” = the river Liffy = Anna Livia Plurabelle = LIFE. 

Anna Livia Plurabelle is the main female protagonist, wife of Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker and mother to their children. Her initials, ALP appear the second most frequently found in phrases throughout the book. She represents the Goddess archetype and, in this sense, is the first character in the Wake entering with the 3rd word “Eve.” Just as Crowley or Aiwass begins The Book of the Law with Nuit, Joyce begins Finnegans Wake with Eve. 

Attentive readers will notice that nearly everything – themes, people, places, etc. - repeats or recurs in the Wake albeit a little differently each time. This seems along the lines of Nietzsche’s concept of Eternal Recurrence as well as Vico’s cyclic theory of History. The first sentence illustrates this structural aspect with the phrase: “commodious vicus of recirculation.” Pattern recognition seems a crucial key for unlocking the secrets and keys herein. Thus we can expect a return to Crowley by name even if obscurely. 

The first mention of Crowley, quoted above, comes on the second page of the first Anna Livia Plurabelle chapter as part of a list of names of [h]er untitled mamafesta memorializing the Mosthighest. The second time, more of an obscure allusion, comes on the second page of the second Anna Livia Plurabelle chapter, p. 197, with the name “Garda Growley.” It’s preceded by a description that bears some resemblance to Uncle Al as portrayed in the tabloid press in the early to mid 1920s: “And the cut of him! And the strut of him! How he used to hold his head as high as a howeth, the famous eld duke alien, with a hump of grandeur on him like a walking weasel rat. And his derry’s own drawl and his corksown blather and his doubling stutter and his gullaway swank.” The last sentence references various Irish locales. Crowley is an Irish name though Aleister was an Englishman, alien to Ireland. “Garda Growley” suggests the nursery rhyme: “Mary, Mary quite contrary how does your garden grow? With silverbells and cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row.” Crowley’s lifestyle certainly seemed contrary to convention. The feminization of the male principle appears an important concept in both the Wake and Thelema and connects with the concept “becoming-woman” as presented by Deleuze and Guatarri in A Thousand Plateaus. More on that later. 

 The next possible mention occurs on page 229: 

“Go in for scribenery with the satiety of arthurs in S.P.Q.R. ish and inform to the old sniggering publicking press and its nation of sheepcopers about the whole plighty troth between them, malady of milady made melodi of malodi, she, the lalage of lyon-esses, and him, her knave arrant. To Wildrose La Gilligan from Croppy Crowhore. For all within crystal range. 

Crowhore could be a portmanteau allusion to Crowley and Horus. Joyce plays around a lot with the name Horus elsewhere in the Wake. Horus, of chorus, represents the reigning deity of the new aeon in Thelema. Wildrose La Gilligan might represent Rose Crowley, AC’s first wife who was quite wild. Their marrriage lead to the reception of The Book of the Law. There was a “plighty troth between them” – they got married to rescue Rose from a planned marriage to someone else whom she didn’t love – her malady? Gilligan comes from an Irish name meaning lad or boy. La adds to 31 = Not or Nothing and corresponds with Nuit. Wildrose not a boy? La also = the feminine form of “the” in French; “the” is the last word in Finnegans Wake and etymologically means God. Croppy was a name for Irish rebels in the late 19th Century. Crowley, along with Nietzsche and Joyce strongly rebelled against the Roman Catholic Church. S.P.Q.R. stands for the “Senate and the People of Rome.” Crowhore could also indicate Crowley plus whore. Wildrose is described as the lalage of lyon-esses. Lalage was an old common name for courtesans = high class prostitutes. It’s also the name of the genus of triller birds – song birds, thus a connection with “milady made melodi.” And with enough imagination one can suggest the reception of The Book of the Law. Making a melody out of a malady connects with the alchemical transformation of gold out of lead or out of shit. Lyon-esses recalls the French city Lyon, also female lions. Lion has great symbolic importance in Thelema, it corresponds with Tiphareth. Crowley has been called a lion of light. The beginning of the quote could again refer to the yellow journalism that befell the Beast. La = 31 also = “How?” according to the Sepher Sephiroth

I found an aside with Gilligan that Joyce couldn’t possibly have known, a fun coincidence. Most readers will remember the TV sitcom, Gilligan’s Island. The very last episode was called "Gilligan, the Goddess." It concerns the Chief of a neighboring island in search of a “White Goddess.” The characters think that this might get them off the island but the three women bow out after finding out this Goddess is meant to be sacrificed to a volcano. So the men put on dresses and pretend to be this White Goddess recalling the “becoming-woman” concept mentioned earlier. 

Moving on to page 234 we find another possible Crowley reference: he had his tristiest cabaleer on; and looked like bruddy Hal. Hal = Al? “bruddy” = either brother or bloody or both (blood brother) all of which could apply to A.C.. Cabaleer = someone who practices Cabala. Hal adds to 36 = 6 x 6. 36 also = “How?” A few lines down on the same page: “a haggiography in duotrigesumy, son soptimost of sire sixtusks.” A hagiography is the biography of a Saint. Crowley famously called his autobiography, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley a hagiography or the “hag” for short. Joyce could have seen that – the first volumes of the hag were published in the 1920s. Duotrigesumy breaks down as duo (2) + tri (3) + gesu (Italian for Jesus = key 6 Tiphareth ) + my (possessive pronoun). I could go on, and there’s more of a similar nature on the same page. I considered that this may be Joyce calling Crowley his brother, maybe? 

Sixtusks could refer to 6 + the tusks of an elephant, a large beast. Page 234 also alludes to Buddha, another key 6 correspondence; there’s a well-known parable about Buddha calming an angry elephant with loving kindness. Tusks also sounds like a homonym for “tasks” as in 6 tasks; especially when we look ahead to p. 263 to find: “The tasks above are as the flasks below, saith the emerald canticle of Hermes [HCE] and all’s loth and pleasestir [ALP], we are told on excellent inkbottle authority, solarsystemised, seriol-cosmically, in a more and more almightily expanding universe under one, there is rhyme-less reason to believe, original sun. 

 Next on page 276: “But bless his cowly head and press his crankly hat, what a world’s woe is each’s other’s weariness waiting to beadroll his own proper mistakes, …” Head and hat qabalistically connect with Tiphareth and Kether respectively. The two adjectives in the first phrase are “cowly” and “crankly” and when you switch their first letters you get “crowly” and “cankly”; it seems the kind of wordplay Joyce employs.

 This one on p. 328 – 329 seems less visible except for the obvious Thelemic symbols: “our fiery quean, upon the night of the things of the night of the making to stand up the double tet of the oversear of the sieze who cometh from the mighty deep and on the night of making Horuse to criumph over his enemy, be the help of me cope as to pluse the riches of the roed-shields, with Elizabeliza blessing the bedpain, at the willbedone of Yinko Jinko Randy, come Bastabasco and hippychip eggs, she will make a suomease pair and singlette…” 

The first part of “Bastabasco” sounds close to “Beast.” Beast gets mentions elsewhere, but doesn’t seem to connect much with Crowley as far as I can tell – except for this one and the next one below with its proximity to Horus. Crowley + Horus becomes a recurring motif. It also has the Egyptian cat-headed goddess Bast who sometimes manifested as a black jaguar or a humanoid jaguar, a unique beast. Bast is a protector goddess and the daughter of Ra. She was sometimes called the Goddess of the Rising Sun. The second half, basco, suggests the fiery tobasco sauce used in some egg recipes. The “willbedone of Yinko Jinko and Randy” provides a qabalistic synch: Y+J+R = 220 = the number of verses in The Book of the Law. 

The next beast linked to Crowley and Horus appears on page 347. We see “a white horsday” . . . “how the krow flees end in deed. . . “ (Crowley’s name Perdurabo means “I will endure until the end”.) and “when we sight the beasts.” All in the same sentence. This last mention from page 473 occurs at the end of the second chapter of Book 3 or chapter 14 overall. In the story it speaks of the ending of night and the coming of the morning: “Brave footsore Haun! Work your progress! Hold to! Now! Win out, ye divil ye! The silent cock shall crow at last. The west shall shake the east awake.” Haun refers to Shaun, one of the twin sons of HCE and ALP. The last line quoted here resonates with a line in The Book of the Law: “There cometh a rich man from the West who shall pour his gold upon thee” (III:31). “The silent cock shall crow at last” looks very straightforward on the surface, but also pregnant with Thelemic meaning. Silence seems a big deal in Magick. Horus represents a twin God with one aspect, Ra Hoor Khuit, very outgoing and connected with yang/male energy. The feminine aspect, Hoor Pa Kraat, is withdrawn and connected with silence. In the Star Ruby, the Thelemic version of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, one assumes the classic posture of silence, forefinger to the lips, no less than four times in the short ritual. It occurs immediately after assuming the posture of sign of The Enterer aka the sign of Horus for the outgoing aspect. Cock being slang for penis, silent cock combines the female (silence) and male energies. Silent cock represents a feminization of male energies, a subject I haven’t been able to expand upon much with this short piece, but which recurs throughout the Wake. This feminization has absolutely nothing to do with either biological gender identities or emasculation. It represents the sublimation of sexual energies. Sexual energy = spiritual energy when sublimated. We find this “becoming-woman” trajectory in the name of the male protagonist, HCE. Both the letters H and E correspond with the Hebrew letter “Heh” which occurs twice in the four-fold name of God called Tetragrammaton: YHVH (Jehovah). These letters symbolize: Y = Father, King or Knight in the Tarot court cards depending on the deck; the first H = Mother or Queen; V = the Son/Prince; the final H = the Daughter/Princess (Thoth Tarot). The final two words of the sentence under discussion, “at last” have the initials a + l, which holds much significance Thelemically. The Book of the Law seems more commonly known by its Latin title: Liber AL vel Legis often abbreviated as Liber Al. This a +l letter combo occurs four times in the last sentence of Finnegans Wake: A way a lone a last a loved a long the 

Joyce tips off the alert reader to look through the lens of Cabala in the third word of the Wake, “Eve”, which corresponds with the third sephira, Binah, key # 3. In Coincidance, Robert Anton Wilson writes of the Cabalistic significance of Anna Livia Plurabelle = ALP = 111. He also seems very aware of the SC code as I’ve commented upon numerous times often in discussion groups about one or another of his books. Joyce employs this code. Joyce scholars appear pretty hip to the cryptography and letter play of HCE and ALP. They may want to also turn their attention to SC. This code appears quite connected to Crowley’s system stemming from an often overlooked important text of his called The Paris Working which revealed the identification of Christ (Tiphareth – 6) with Mercury ( Hod – 8). SC adds to 68 when corresponding C with Cheth as non-traditional Qabalists often do. Tiphareth = the heart chakra; Hod = communication. Communicate the heart. The Book of the Law affirms this in the 6th verse of the first chapter: “Be thou Hadit, my secret center, my heart & my tongue!” “The silent cock shall crow at last.” shows two instances of S+C in this short sentence. 

I traced this SC coding back to Rabelais in a section about Saint Chapelle found in the third book of Gargantua and Pantagruel in chapter 15 called “The Excuse of Panurge; and an exegesis of a monastical cabbala concerning salted beef.” It also connects with divine food – see Chapter 68 in The Book of Lies called “Manna.” On page 68 of Finnegans Wake in one sentence near the top we find: "sweet churchyard"; "soft coal"; "same hot coney" and "son of a Coole." The next sentence begins with a phrase carrying the initials HCE followed by one with ALP. On page 132 amidst much Cabalistic reference we find: “cabalstone”, “sleepy children”, “storen clothes”, “snake charmer”, “calm sagacity”, and “the clearness of his spotless honour.” This penultimate phrase on this page reads: “and as for the salmon he was coming up in him all life long.” From A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake by Campbell and Robinson: “The strong play on the salmon theme throughout Finnegans Wake corresponds to the importance of salmon in Irish myth and folklore. It was from the taste of the flesh of the great, wise, salmon that Finn MacCool, according to the ancient tale, acquired his ‘Tooth of Knowledge.’” There’s the food connection. Incidentally, the first word in Ulysses begins with S; the last word of the first sentence begins with C. 

So many subjects, so little time. The Egyptian Book of the Dead gets lots of airplay in the Wake and serves as a major component in Golden Dawn magic, the basis of Crowley’s Magick. Phoenix Park in the Wake and the “Mass of the Phoenix” in Thelema illustrates another overlap between the two, both concerning the theme of resurrection. It was either Campbell, Robinson or Tindall who opined that resurrection serves as the main theme in Finnegans Wake. Resurrection follows death; in between is the territory known as the Bardo. This territory gets addressed by the Egyptian and other books of the dead. One of the two major ordeals in Thelema is known as “Crossing the Abyss” which appears a similar territory as the Bardo and relates with Chapel Perilous. Finnegans Wake can be looked at as how to successfully navigate the Bardo to realize a good resurrection, or how to cross the Abyss; how to get through the Night or Chapel Perilous. John Lilly called it meta-programming. All this and more lies ahead in the riverun. 



  1. Lucretius was a Roman poet; the concept of the swerve with atoms goes back even further, to the Greek philosopher Epicurus. Lucretius' poem was an attempt to explain Epicureanism.

    "lyon-esses" could also refer to Lyonesse, a legendary kingdom connected to King Arthur; the same passage you quote refers to a "satiety of arthurs." According to Wikipedia's article on Lyonesse, Lyonesse also is connected to the Tristan and Iseult story:

    1. Thank-you for the correction on Lucretius. I will modify the post to reflect that.

      FW contains many allusions to the Arthurian legend.