Tag Archives: James Joyce

Brain Books

“Brain Books,” Trajectories, Autumn 1996, No. 16/17.

I have another list that I revise every couple of months.  This is not my “Ten Favorite Books” so much as a list of the ten books I wish everyone would read:  the ten books I most feel the lack of in people who otherwise seem intelligent.  These books would fill anyone’s cranium with useful information.

In order of priority, the list would begin with:

1. Ulysses by James Joyce.  Nobody has really entered the 20th century if they haven’t digested Ulysses.  And if they haven’t entered the 20th century, they’re going to fall pretty far behind pretty soon, as we enter the 21st.  There’s a guy I correspond with occasionally who spends all his time fighting with Fundamentalists over Darwin.  He’s living in the 19th century; nothing in the 20th century has affected him yet.  He’s carrying on the brave battles of Thomas Henry Huxley a hundred years later.  I know some people who are back in the 18th century – Burkian conservatives, trying to apply Burke’s principles to modern times.  I sometimes do that myself – try to apply some of Burke’s principles.  But not all of them!  I don’t think he’s written in stone either.  At any rate, everyone should read Ulysses to get into the 20th century.

And everybody should struggle as much as they can with:

2. The Cantos, by Ezra Pound.  And that means getting to the last page.  You may give up on some pages, and say, “I’ll never figure this stuff out!”  But keep going until you get to the last page.  Pound offers something no other writer except Dante has ever attempted – and Dante does it in a medieval way that doesn’t mean much to modern people.  Pound offers a hierarchy of values.  We’ve heard so many voices from the East telling us “All is One,” and we’ve got so many puritanical duelists of all sorts telling us, “No; there’s good and bad.”  And they all define those terms in their own way:  the Christian “good and evil” duality; the ecologist’s “nature good; man bad” duality; the feminist’s “woman good; man bad” duality, and so on.  Against this monism and dualism Pound offers a hierarchy of values, in which he gives you a panoramic picture of human history, very much like Griffith’s Intolerance, only in it, Pound shows levels of awareness, levels of civilization, levels of ethics and levels of lack of all these things.  And you realize that you have a hierarchy of values too, but you’ve never perfectly articulated it.  Every writer gives you a hierarchy of values.  But by making this the central theme, Pound makes you face the question, “Will I accept this as the best hierarchy of values?”  I can’t, because the guy had a screw loose.  Great poet, but a little bit funny in the head at times, trying to synthesize Jefferson, Confucius, Picasso and Mussolini.  So what you’ve got to do is struggle with Pound, and create your own hierarchy of values to convince yourself that you grok more than he did.  And he combined genius and looniness.  It’s an invigorating book to get you out of dualism, which is the Western trap, and monism, which is the Eastern trap, to attain realism: a hierarchy of values.

Another book I wish everybody would read:

3. Science and Sanity by Alfred Korzybski.  this one gives you the tools to enable you to avoid most of the stupidity prevalent on this planet at present. It won’t cure all forms of stupidity, and you really have to work at it; it doesn’t do magic.  But if you use its principles, you’ll gradually cure yourself of a lot of prevalent forms of stupidity.  If you work at it hard enough, you may cure yourself of most.  I don’t know; I’m still working at it.

4.  Ovid.  I wish everybody would read Ovid.  The great myths of our particular culture – the Greek and Roman myths – can’t be found in any one book, except Bullfinch or Ovid, and Ovid has a much better style than Bullfinch.  So read Ovid and get the whole panorama of classical myth.  Classical myth has so much meaning that it permeates every bit of modern psychology.  The myths of other cultures have much to offer, but we still need our myths.  So we might as well face up to them.  It’s our culture; let’s not lose it.  And let’s find out something that happened before 1970.

5. The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer – just because it’s so damn good.

6. Justine, by deSade — because everyone needs to be shaken up.  Justine asks you some pretty fundamental questions.  And you may not find them easy to answer.

7. Instead of a Book by a Man Too Busy to Write One, by Benjamin Tucker, which contains the best arguments for minimizing force and maximizing options; the best argument for extreme Libertarianism that anyone has put together.  He deals with concrete issues in economics, and makes a damn good case for a maximum of liberty and a minimum of coercion as a formula for a happy and prosperous society.

8. Progress and Poverty, by Henry George.  Not that I agree with it.  But everyone’s heard of Karl Marx and Adam Smith.  If you read Tucker and George, you get the idea that there are more than two choices.  You don’t have to choose between them.  There are other options, not in between, but at right angles to those choices; a hierarchy of possibilities.  George poses a challenge to both Marxism and orthodox capitalism.

9. The Open Society and its Enemies, by Karl Popper, which introduces you to a lot of aspects of modern scientific thought, but in a different way than Korzybski, and applies them to tearing apart most of the arguments for determinism and totalitarianism.  I think determinism and totalitarianism have done so damn much harm that everybody needs a good inoculation against them.  Popper seems the best inoculation.  He fled both the Communists and the Nazis, and had good emotional reasons for detesting totalitarianism.  He was a physicist, so he expressed himself in terms of a very deep and trenchant philosophical analysis of what’s wrong with theories that claim, “We know what’s best (?) and we know how to achieve it – and we know who has to be killed to make it happen.”

10. Shakespeare.  I think everybody should read Shakespeare, not only because he was such [a] great poet, but because he’s under so much attack these days.  You might as well check him out for yourself, and it will give you an idea of how just dumb the politically correct people who attack him seem in comparison to him.

Other recommended authors:

Jonathan Swift.  All of Gulliver’s Travels.  There are some anthologies which contain not only this, but a selection of his other writings, too.  Swift does a great job of tearing apart conventional ideas about almost everything.  He’s very, very liberating; almost psychedelic in some passages.

Nietzsche.  There are a couple of good one-volume editions which contain both Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ.  The two should be taken together.  They represent Nietzsche at the height of his…whatever it was. More than any other writer in the history of philosophy, Nietzsche set out to refute everyone who came before him, without exception and without mercy, and he had the intellect to do a damn good job.  He tears down so many accepted ideas that you’re left floating in a kind of nihilistic void.  Many people find this terrifying.  I find it exhilarating, and I manage to recover from it every time I subject myself to re-reading something by Nietzsche.  There are a lot of other good books by Nietzsche, but I’d especially recommend those two.

Olaf Stapledon.  There’s a one-volume edition that contains both First and Last Men and Last Men in London.

Then, when somebody has read that much, I think intelligent conversation can begin.  Otherwise, we’re pretty much on the level of grunting.

(digitized and posted to alt.fan.rawilson by Eric Wagner)


Also from Recommended Reading on RAW’s site:

The Mass Psychology of Fascism, by Wilhelm Reich, M.D.
Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce
Machine Art, by Ezra Pound
Selected Prose, by Ezra Pound
Harlot’s Ghost, by Norman Mailer
Go Down, Moses, by William Faukner
The Alphabet vs. the Goddess, by Leonard Shlain
Confucius: The Great Digest, The Unwobbling Pivot, The Analects trans. by Ezra Pound
Chaos and Cyberculture, by Timothy Leary, Ph.D.
Critical Path, by R Buckminster Fuller
Digital McLuhan, by Paul Levinson
Saharasia, by James DeMeo, Ph.D.
The Natural Economic Order, by Silvio Gesell

To which RMJon23 once remarked:  “I’m surprised neither list included Peter McWilliams’ Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest RAW wants everyone to read that one, too.


Other recommendations:

Recommended Viewing (scroll to the bottom of that page)

From the Paradigm Shift Interview:
As of today (August 11, 1997) I find the most interesting ideas in traditional Buddhism, Nietzsche, Charles Fort, several quantum physicists (Nick Herbert, David Bohm, Fred Wolfe, David Finkelstein) and in Rupert Sheldrake. Add together the Buddhist yoga of detachment from fixed ideas and emotions, Nietzsche’s and Fort’s merciless assault on the cultural prejudices that are so deeply embedded we usually don’t notice them, quantum uncertainty and holism, Sheldrake’s special variety of holism, and I think we have the beginning of a hint of the New Paradigm we need.  But after looking at this list I realize I should have included Korzybski’s general semantics, Bandler’s neurolinguistic programming and Leary’s evolutionary-existentialist neuro-psychology or info-psychology as he most recently labeled it.


Origin unknown:
The living writers whose work especially interests me at present include Douglas Adams, William Burroughs, who still seems topical no matter how old he gets, Tom Robbins, who writes the best sentences of anybody working in English today, George V. Higgins, who sees humans with a wonderful irony and writes the most realistic dialogue I’ve ever seen (even better than Joyce or Hemingway), and a lot of scientist-philosophers who seem to me to be giving us wonderful new ideas and perceptions: Rupert Sheldrake, Ralph Abraham, Terrence McKenna, Barbara Marx Hubbard, the fuzzy logic people, Riane Easier, Nick Herbert, Nicholas Negroponte, Marilyn Ferguson, Peter Russell, Fred Alan Wolfe . . . and of course, Tim Leary, who is ill, but may have a few unpublished books that might still blow all our minds.


excerpt from Thought of the Month:  30 Apollo 78 p.s.U.:
“There are only two kinds of artists: the plagiarists and the revolutionaries.”  – Paul Gauguin
In my opinion, the primary “revolutionary” Masters of our past century include Picasso, Klee, Pound, Joyce, Faulkner, Ginsberg, Frank Lloyd Wright, D.W. Griffith, Chaplin, Welles, Clint Eastwood, Stravinsky, Gershwin, Epstein, Brancusi, Carlin : the man or woman who doesn’t know their work deeply and richly still lives in the 19th Century as the rest of us prepare to enter the 21st. The artists on that list haven’t become familiar enough to stop surprising us. We still need to interpret our interpreters, as Ellman said of Joyce.

The Land Where Bulls Are Pregnant

magical blend 20

The Land Where Bulls Are Pregnant

by Robert Anton Wilson

 from Magical Blend, Issue 20, Aug-Sept-Oct 1988

There are four clocks atop the City Hall tower in Cork, facing the four quarters, and since Cork is in Ireland the four clocks always show four different times, none of which is ever correct. People in Cork refer to them as “the Four Liars.”

After six years in the Alternative Reality of Erin, I find the Four Liars to be the single best symbol, or synechdoche, to summarize all that I have learned about the Irish people and the strange, eerie charm of Gaelic culture. Do not understand me too quickly. It is not that “the Irish” as a collective or “ethnic” group lack some genetic endowment connected with mechani­cal ability, or do not know how to repair a clock. Not at all: they build excellent computers-my Irish-built Macintosh Plus is a superb instru­ment-and most of the computer companies are in Cork where the Four Liars continue to tell you the wrong time four different ways if you walk all the way around the City Hall.

Irish Time simply is not identical with ordinary or linear time. My wife Arlen and I never found two clocks in the whole country that agreed. Once, when I was still new to Irish Time, I returned to Ireland from the continent and set my quartz watch to agree with the time on the official radio station, RTE; the next day the watch and the radio station disagreed by four minutes. I wondered if something was wrong with my watch and re-set it; the next day it disagreed with the radio by six minutes…Then I discovered the radio time and the television time also disagreed, even though Irish radio and TV come out of two facilities in the same building complex in Donnybrook. When it is 6:05 on Irish radio, it is often 6:10 on Irish TV.

James Joyce once pointed out that there are only three world-class philosophers of Celtic origin-Scotus Erigena, Bishop Berkeley, and Henri Bergson (who was a Breton Celt)-and all three of them denied the reality of time. Joyce indeed seemed to think there was some genetic basis for the Celtic rejection of the normal time-sense of the rest of the Occident. I’m not sure of that. Others, including some Irish sociolo­gists, claim that the Irish time-sense is similar to that of other colonial or post colonial people and represents a form of unconscious sabotage of the colonizer’s reality-grid.

Whether the basis be genetic or sociological, there is no doubt that Irish Time is more relative than even Einsteinian time and seems infinitely flexible in all directions. For instance, if you hire a plumber and he tells you he will come “Tuesday week,” that literally means one week from Tues­day but actually he’ll come when he feels like it. “Tuesday fortnight,” however, is even more daunting: it literally means two weeks from Tuesday but actually it indicates that the job sounds hard and the plumber will probably never come at all. Most events in Irish Time occur in the oc­cult interval between temporarily uncertain Tuesday week” and for-ever uncertain “Tuesday fortnight,” which I think is the time it takes Schrödinger’s cat to jump from one eigenstate to another.

If you suspect that the wobbly time-sense of Eire can be explained entirely as a manifestation of the cal­culated procrastination of colonial peoples, you are probably missing the complexity of the Gaelic mindset. One story tells of the two clocks in Padraic Pearse Station, Dublin, which, of course, being Irish clocks always disagree. An Englishman, this story claims, once commented loudly and angrily on how typically Irish it was to have two clocks in a train station that gave different times. “Ah, sure,” a Dublin man replied, “if they agreed, one of them would be superfluous.”

The logic there might not be Aristotelian but it has its own internal consistency, like a Monty Python routine. One encounters such ratio­cination frequently on the Emerald Isle. The day I arrived (16 June 1982: Bloomsday), I heard some interviews on radio, which were part of what I later learned was an oral history of modern Ireland being compiled by RTE-Radio Telefis hEirann, the government radio-TV monopoly. These interviews concerned the pookah, a six-foot-tall white rabbit often reported in County Kerry-al­though one pookah, named Harvey, wandered as far as Broadway and became the hero of a famous play. Legends of the pookah probably date back to the Stone Age, and some etymologists even think “pookah” and “god” come from the same pre-Indo-European root, which also gave us Shakespeare’s Puck (pronounced “pook” in Elizabethan times), the Russian bog (god) and that familiar childhood demon, the bogie or boogie.

One Kerry farmer interviewed on this documentary was particularly knowledge-able about the pookah and had endless stories about men who had encountered him on their way home from the pub at night. (For some reason, the pookah seems to prefer to play his tricks on men returning from pubs, especially if they have had more than fourteen pints of Guinness. In the Broadway play, Harvey the pookah first encounters Elwood P. Dowd coming out of a bar.)

“Do you believe in the pookah yourself’?” the interviewer asked finally.

“That I do not,” said the farmer with exquisite Kerry logic, and I doubt very much that he believes in me either.

Most of the Irish insist that such reasoning is peculiarly native to Kerry. I doubt it, but there are countless Kerry legends that are cited as examples. In the time of the Troubles, it is claimed, an English landlord in Kerry was found dead of forty-seven pistol wounds and the jury pronounced it the most aggravated case of suicide in our experience.” In another case, a Kerry jury allegedly ruled, “We find the defendant innocent, but he better not do it in this town again.” There is even a story claiming that one judge released a defendant with the words, “You have been found not guilty and may leave the court with no stigma on your name, except of course for being acquitted by a Kerry jury.

Most of this, no doubt, is folklore-and Kerry stories are indeed most popular in Dublin. (They even say you can sink a sub-marine full of Kerry men by knocking on the door.) I’m told that in Kerry they tell similar stories about Dubliners. One yarn claims that a millionaire left all his money to build hospitals for the insane. The executors, it is said, built one hospital in Galway; and another in Limerick, and then put a roof over Dublin.

I could go on about such local Irish chau­vinism at great length, but instead I would like to explore further into what baffled commentators call the Celtic Twilight. In Illuminates! I proposed that all oppressed people seek revenge against their oppressors by pretending to be even more “backward” than the propaganda line of the oppressor claims. Women used to do this, too, before Feminism: remember the dumb wife played by Gracie Allen and all the dumb blondes in old films?

Ireland was colonized before any part of Asia, Africa or the Americas-the first British invasion began on 23 August 1170—and British troops even today patrol six counties that arc called Northern Ireland and are still part of the British Empire.

Meanwhile, an Irish Bull is a kind of oxymoron, or sentence that contradicts itself. Some linguists love Irish Bulls so much they have made book-length collections of them. One of my favorites is the legendary Dubliner’s response to “Bad weather for this of year, is it not?” The reply was “Ah, faith, it isn’t this time of year at all.” Perhaps the all-time classic Bull was uttered by an Irish member of Parliament: Children who are too young to walk or talk are running about the streets blaspheming their Maker.” Joyce’s Ulysses is full of Irish Bulls; a choice example is All Bergan’s reply when asked who made certain allegations: “I’m the alligator:”

One theory alleges that Irish Bulls result from thinking in Gaelic and trying to talk in English at the same time. Maybe; but I tend to agree, rather, with Anthony Burgess who argues in his RE:JOYCE that the English spoken in England and America has become increasingly “functional” in recent centuries, but Irish English retains the “ludic” qualities of earlier epochs.

On the other hand, an Irish Bull is like a surrealist painting: it jolts you out of your ordinary reality-tunnel and shows you a whole new landscape of possibility.

Ireland is the land where Bulls are pregnant.

But, listen now: during the 1840s Potato Famine, while two million of the Irish died, the English continued to enforce the Poaching Laws. Any Irishman who tried to feed himself or his family by hunting or fishing was hanged if caught, because the land and the rivers both were owned by English landlords.

I don’t think the English were worse than any other conquerors. Similar horror stories can be told about any land occupied by an imperialist power. But you do not understand Irish humor unless you understand the enor­mous human tragedy out of which that humor grew.

Oscar Wilde was more Irish than readers in America generally realize. It is very Hibernian, indeed, that his best-known (and funniest) play has a title that suggests it is about the importance of honesty or sincerity, but the play is actually about clandestine homosexuality and impersonators imper­sonating other impersonators…

Wilde also wrote a little-known essay, ‘The Reality of Masks,” which uses the drama as an example to demonstrate that illusions are often real and reality is often illusory. “The reality of metaphysics is the reality of masks” is the typically Wildean paradox on which the essay climaxes; and Yeats developed his poetic theories of Mask and Anti-Mask out of Wilde. This Yeatsian mystique of Mask, Anti-Mask, Self, Anti-Self, etc. helped make classic Japanese drama comprehensible to Westerners; but what would you expect? Yeats himself pointed out that “Ireland was part of Asia until the Battle of the Boyne. I often think it is still part of Asia.

But, again, the Celtic Reality-Labyrinth cannot be reduced to a formula. Most critics think Yeats’ Mask and Anti-Mask have only a poetic and metaphysical meaning. A look at the man’s life reverses that opinion. Yeats was not only a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the most high-voltage occult group then active in Europe, but also of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, which was hatching the conspiracy that birthed the bloody revolution of 1916. “How can you tell the dancer from the dance?” he once asked explicitly. How can you tell the Mask from the Anti-Mask?, his best poems all ask implicitly. In Ireland, you seldom can and eventually you stop trying.

Thus, in Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman – which I consider the greatest Irish novel since Finnegan’s Wake – the nar­rator reflects that while it is good if people know nothing about you, it is even better if they know several things which are not true. This could almost be called the first Axiom of Irish Sociology. Naturally – this should be no surprise, if you have followed me this far – Flann O’Brien himself did not exist. He was considered the funniest Irish novelist of his time, just as Myles na gCopaleen was con­sidered the funniest newspaper columnist of the same years (the mid-1930s to mid-1’950s), but then Myles na gCopaleen never existed either. Both O’Brien and na gCopaleen Were inventions of Brian O’Nolan, a minor clerk in the government bureaucracy. (If Kafka had lived in Ireland, he would have been equally perplexed but more amusing about it.)

When Time magazine discovered O’Brien’s novels, or O’Nolan’s novels, they did an interview with him, in his normal space-time identity as O’Nolan. They printed every yarn he told them, including a marve­lous fantasy about defeating Alekhine, the world champion, at chess. Evidently, Time did not fully understand Irish Facts. I doubt that anybody does understand Irish Facts, but Professor Hugh Kenner attempts to define Irish Facts in his study of recent Irish literature, A Colder Eye. Prof. Kenner gets quite metaphysical about the matter, and seems to regard Irish Facts as incomprehensible to the non-Irish, but I think an Irish Fact is simply, like a rubber inch or one of Dali’s melting clocks, an attempt to create a realm of communication wherein six-foot-tall white rabbits can survive despite all “English” or Rational attempts to banish them.

For instance, if you ever studied Modern Literature at all, you know the story about

what Joyce did on Yeats’ 40th birthday. He went to the hotel where Yeats was staying and said, “I hear you’re 40 today.” Yeats allowed that such was the case. “Too bad,” Joyce replied. “That means you’re too old to be influenced by me.”

That is a typical Irish Fact. It is in many biographies of Joyce, most biographies of Yeats, standard histories of Irish Literature, etc. It got into all those sources because, as Prof. Kenner pointed out, most American researchers do not understand Irish Facts and assume they are similar to American Facts or English Facts or ordinary everyday Facts,

The source for this widely published story was Oliver St. John Gogarty, one of the greatest inventors of Irish Facts in this century (and the model for “Buck Mulligan” in Joyce’s Ulysses). The major flaw in this par­ticular Gogarty invention is that when Yeats was 40, Joyce was living a thousand miles from Dublin in Trieste, Italy.

Nonetheless, an Irish Fact has its own beauty, even if it does not correspond to ordinary actuality. The more you understand the relationship between Yeats and Joyce, the more you realize that if Gogarty’s yarn never happened, it should have happened. It is not just Irish Bulls that are pregnant; Irish Facts are equally fertile.

Gogarty, incidentally, is the hero of one of the great stories of the Civil War. He was one of the senators who voted to accept the Treaty of 1922, which granted Ireland semi-inde­pendence from England, and the IRA set out to assassinate all the senators who had voted for that Treaty. They grabbed Gogarty at his home one night, took him to a car, and drove him to a lonely spot in the country for the execution.

“Am I expected to tip the driver?” Gogarty asked, or claims he asked.

Then, when the IRA was about to shoot him, he asked for permission to take a piss CO. Being Irish, they allowed him to go behind a bush. He kept going until he got to a river, swam to the other side, and escaped.

I don’t know whether that’s an Irish Fact or a normal Fact, but it was a story Gogarty loved to tell. Ezra Pound wrote a poem about it, too, `so now, like many things Gaelic, it is literature even if it is not actuality.

And Joyce, when asked for maybe the thousandth time why he was writing a book as “queer” as Finnegan’s Wake, replied “To keep the Ph.D. candidates busy for the next thousand years.” Was that another Irish Fact? Does it represent Joyce’s Mask or his Anti‑

Mask? His Self or his Anti-Self? And (to parody one of his famous parodies) if not, why not? You have to deal with such puzzles if you want to read Irish literature, and you even have to deal with them if you ask the time in Dublin.

There is a sea-walk at Sandycove, on the southern rim of Dublin Bay, that illustrates the sociological ramifications of Irish Time, Irish Logic, Irish Facts and the Hibernian imagination in general. This sea-walk is about ten feet below the street-walk, and gives one a more intimate view of the Bay and the birds and other flora and fauna that flourish there. Just as you come in sight of the James Joyce Tower-an unpopular building commemo­rating the man who may be Ireland’s greatest (or perhaps its only) Rationalist-the sea-walk gives you a Celtic Surprise, There is a brick wall in the middle of it, and you cannot walk further. You can try to climb the wall, if you feel athletic, or you can jump in the water and swim around It you don’t mind getting your clothes wet, or you can turn around and go back the way you came.

The sea-walk does not terminate, please understand; it continues on the other side of the brick wall. You really ought to go there someday to look at that brick wall, and then try to decide for yourself if there is a solution to the puzzle better than the three alternatives above-or if the wall is another Gaelic satire on the Rationalist’s faith that all things in the Universe are comprehensible.

Arlen probably has the right answer. She suggests the sea-walk was constructed before 1922-i.e. when all Ireland was still colonized-by Irish workers who were supervised by an English foreman. If so, I imagine they constructed the wall while he was watching but, as Holmes would say, not observing.

A similar explanation was offered to me by a student at Trinity to explain why the Dublin telephones are notoriously the worst in Europe (even worse than the French) but Irish country phones work quite well usually. The Dublin phone lines were installed during the British occupation. The country phone lines have been installed since Independence. See?

But the socio-psychology of Colonialism only carries one part of the way in grappling with Celtic Mysteries. For instance‑

Ireland has the highest schizophrenia rate in Europe, and 90 per cent of the schizo­phrenics live in the same two counties (Clare and Connemara), which suffered the greatest population loss during the Potato Famine of the 1840s. Many Irish writers had a special fondness for those counties – “A.E.” (George Russell), Liam 0′ Flaherty, W.B. Yeats and John Millington Synge, for instance-and found the people there especially “wise” and “mystical.” Did some genes mutate during the famine, or did the trauma of mass starvation send psychic terrors down through the gener­ations to the present?

Bob Quinn, a native of Connemara, doubts both these theories. Quinn, a producer of films for RTE, claims the West Irish, especially in those two counties, are not basically Celtic but pre-Celtic. He thinks that what makes the West Irish seem “schizophrenic” to doctors and “mystical” to poets is that they are not really Europeans at all. (I find this fascinating because 25% of my ancestors come from that area…) In three one-hour films collectively and misleadingly titled “Atlantean,” Quinn preaches his doctrine using such evidence as:

Irish step-dancing resembles Spanish flamenco and the dancing of North African Berbers.

The journey from North Africa around the Celtic-speaking coast of Spain, up past Celtic France to West Ireland, is a trade route known to exist for several hundred years, and perhaps for millenniums.

West Irish music hasa different tonal scale than ordinary European music. Playing the tunes of Connemara to musicologists and asking them to identify the tunes, Quinn found most of them guessed “African” although a

few said “Asiatic.”

Type 0 blood is rare in Europe, but com­mon in North Africa. It is also common in Clare and Connemara.

A Christian cross with the Arabic word BISM’ILLAH (“In the name of God…”) has been found in Kerry and carbon-dated at 900 AD.

Basically, itis Quinn’s thesis that the Irish as an ethnic group contain more African-Arabic and pre-Celtic genes and cultural traits than they realize. He wants the Irish to give up Celtic Pride they developed during their Revolutionary epoch and develop a sort of pre-Celtic Pride, you might say. He even claims the Celts never existed as a distinct ethnic group and “Kelltoi” was just a general label the Romans pinned on all tribes they met in Europe.

Only God and Bob Quinn know why he presented this theory using an English-speaking narrator for his three films and yet appears in them himself speaking only Gaelic, the language that has been associated with Celtic Pride since the Gaelic revival of the 1890s.

I mentioned earlier that the IRA once tried to assassinate every Senator who ratified the Treaty of 1922. One article that the IRA found unacceptable ordained that every member of the Irish Parliament, dail hEirann, had to take an oath of loyalty to the English king (or queen).

When de Valera left the IRA and entered the dall in 1927, he took the oath of loyalty. Or did he? They are still arguing about it, in Dublin. Dev ‘s followers spread the rumor that he carefully did not let his hand actually touch the Bible while taking the Oath, and ergo the Oath was null and void. (In any case, Dev was able to get that article of the Treaty abolished in 1937, ten years later.)

You see, Dev, like most Irish politicians (and intellectuals), had a Jesuit education, and the words “casuistry” and “equivocation” have been associated with Jesuits for so long that to say one had a Jesuit education is to say that one can prove two plus two equals five anytime there is a need to prove it, and also that one can quickly reconstruct the proof that two plus two equals four if one’s opponents try to argue that it equals five.

Irish Logic and Irish Facts and Irish Time and all the rest may not be entirely explicable in terms of the psychology of the colonized, or Celtic mysticism, or possible non-European genetic/cultural traces, etc. A lot of the ex­traterrestrial or at least extramundane quality of the Irish imagination may result from Jesuit education…

I once interviewed Sean MacBride, co-founder of Amnesty International, winner of the Lenin Peace Prize, the U.S. Medal of Justice, the Dag Hammarskjold Medal of Honor of the UN, and the Nobel Peace Prize. He probably did more to secure the release of political prisoners, all over the world, than any man of his time.

“Ireland is a third world country,” he told me.

Ireland is officially reckoned the second poorest country in the European Economic Community (only Portugal has more pover­ty), yet in public opinion polls the Irish always rate themselves as much happier than other Europeans. American tourists are always astounded that the Irish can be happy without being rich.

“It’s the gargle,” said Irish TV star Gay Byrne, trying to explain this. “The gargle” is Irish whiskey; Byrne meant the population is too drunk most of the time to notice how miserable they are. But Byrne is a Social Critic by profession and Social Critics hate to admit that anybody is really happy.

An American friend who spent six months in Ireland once told me that the honesty of the Irish was the most striking thing about them. Indeed, coming from America, one’s first impression is that the Irish are less paranoid than Americans; only later do you realize that they trust you because they trust one another and have little experience with con-artists and swindlers.

“You know what it is?” my friend asked me rhetorically. “They still believe in Hell. If you leave your wallet in a pub, the waiter will chase you down the street to give it back, because he thinks he’ll go to Hell otherwise.”

Yet Liam O’Flaherty’s Autobiography begins with the blunt warning sentence All men are born liars.” (Empedocles the Cretan, who said Cretans always lie, must have been part Irish, I guess…)

Ireland is 95% Catholic and every August the natives of Kerry have a holiday in which a goat is crowned and Dionysian revelry fol­lows. The Church has fulminated and fretted for centuries, but the good Catholics of Kerry insist on remaining good pagans as well. What else could you expect in a place where six-foot rabbits still roam the night?

It was in Kerry, also, in 1986, that literally thousands of people saw a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary move and make gestures, over a period of three months. To show how contagious such things are, foreign tourists saw the “miracle” as often as natives, and June Levine, a Jewish Feminist from Dublin, also saw it.

Some people, including agnostic Conor Cruise O’Brien and a cameraman from RTE, saw strange lights in the sky when the Lady was performing. “UFOs?” you may ask. Search me. The Kerry people probably thought they were seeing fairies.

Incidentally, the BVM in Kerry-in a town, by the way, which had the wonderful name, Ballinspittle-finally stopped moving after October 31, 1986. Two Protestants from Dublin drove down to Kerry that night-Halloween, to Americans; Samhain, to the Celts-and bashed Her head in with ham­mers, while ranting against “Idolatry” to the Catholic witnesses.

The joke in Dublin the next day was “Why didn’t She duck?” Dublin has more atheists per square foot than Moscow, I think. They were all educated by the Jesuits and express themselves with superb eloquence. After Archbishop McNamara issued some dog­matic thoughts on “God’s plan for family life,” one of these Jesuit Atheists wrote a letter to the press imploring His Eminence to ex-plain, in detail, how, and with what degree of metaphor, a timeless being can be said to have plans.

Up until the 19th century, nobody but an Irishman would seriously argue against the proposition that, in algebra, pq = qp, which means that if you multiply two quantifies the result is the same whether you multiply the first by the second or the second by the fast.

Even those of you who hate mathematics remember that much algebra, I’m sure. 3 x 5 = 5 x 3. If you buy 3 oranges for 5 cents each, it will cost you as much as buying 5 apples for 3 cents each, because 3 x 5 always equals the same as 5 x 3, namely 15 cents. That’s what the general expression pq = qp means. Right? It’s only common sense.

Naturally, an Irishman finally challenged that. His name was William Rowan Hamilton and he made so many original contributions to math that some consider him on a level with Euclid, Gauss or Descartes. His most astounding and Celtic production, however, was what is called non-communicative algebra, or Hamiltonian algebra, and it is the system in which pq does not equal qp.

The most startling recent finding in quantum math, as everyone has heard by now, is Bell’s Theorem, which proves that quantum systems once in contact remain correlated no matter how far a part in space or time they may move. Prof. Nick Herbert explains this in the homely language it deserves. “There is no difference between anything,” Herbert says. “Here is there.”

The inventor of Bell’s Theorem was an-other Irishman, John S. Bell, born in Belfast

Irish Logic may have survived, evolutionarily speaking, because even the Western half of the human race needs alternatives to orthodox European (Aristotelian) logic. Until we discovered Buddhism and Taoism in this century, we needed the Irish to remind us that clock time is not living time and a bull may be pregnant Maybe that’s why the Irish survived, despite all the Brits did to eliminate them.

[submiteed to rawilsonfans by RMJon23]

James Joyce – Ulysses

James Joyce  – Ulysses

by Robert Anton Wilson

 from Magical Blend, Issue 15, 1987

…the time is come wherein a man of timid courage seizes the keys of hell and of death, and flings them far out into the abyss, proclaiming the praise of life, which the abiding presence of truth may sanctify, and of death, the most beautiful form of life.

The time was 1 February, 1902: the place, the Literary and Historical Society room in University College, Dublin. The speaker, who would be twenty years old the following morning, 2 February, was James Joyce; and it does not take great perspicacity to observe that his style was not yet equal to the task of containing his vision. Dublin students, who are always great wits, had a wonderful time parodying “timid courage” in the following days, but one of them (whose name has been, alas, lost) had even more fun with the final strophe, satirizing it as “absence, the highest form of presence.

In Ulysses, the dead and absent are not only present but omnipresent. Stephen Dedalus is afflicted with what psychiatrists would call clinical depression; Stephen with his medieval erudition, prefers to call it “agenbite of inwit”-the incessant gnawing of rat-toothed remorse. His sin? He refused to kneel and pray when his dying mother asked him, an act not motivated by atheism but by antitheism: Stephen fears that there might be a malign reality in the God he has rejected, and that any act of submission might open him to invasion and reenslavement by that demonic Catholic divinity. Probably, only another ex-Catholic can understand that anxiety, but any humane person can understand the dreadful power of the guilt that, personified by Stephen’s mother, haunts him all through the long day’s journey of 16 June 1904 into night.

Stephen is the overture, and, later, the anti-chorus. The major theme of Ulysses is Leopold Bloom, Irish Jew, timid here, solid wanderer in the formless abyss, the greatest comic and tragic figure in modem literature. If Stephen is haunted by a dead mother, Bloom is equally preoccupied with a dead son: Rudy Bloom, dead at the age of 11 days, absent from the public world of Dublin, alive and ever-present in Bloom’s memories.

If the dead have power over our imaginations, the absent have even more power. Conspicuously absent from the text of Ulysses – he only appears on stage once, to utter banalities to a shopgirl, is Hugh “Blazes” Boylan, who is also overcon­spicuously absent from Bloom’s thoughts most of the day. Only about two thirds of the way through the book, on first reading, do we discover why Bloom’s private inner con­versation with himself (which we are priv­ileged to share) always wanders into chaotic images and a wild search for a new topic of interest whenever Boylan’s name is men­tioned by another character. Bloom knows, but does not want to know, that Blazes Boylan is having an affair with Bloom’s wife, Molly. By being absent from Bloom’s consciousness, Boylan acts like an invisible magnetic field governing thought processes that we can see, but cannot understand, until we know Boylan is there, unthought of, deflecting and determining the conscious thoughts we do see. That the name Blazes Boylan suggests devils and hell reminds us that Joyce’s “man of timid courage,” Bloom, will seize the keys of hell and of death” before the book is over.

Bloom earns his living cadging ads for a newspaper. On 16 June 1904, he is trying to secure an ad for Alexander Keyes, whose company logo is a pair of crossed keys, sug­gesting the coat of arms of the Isle of Man. Symbolically, the crossed keys indicate everything associated with Celtic crosses, Christian crosses, Egyptian Tau-crosses and all crossed emblems of rebirth; and the Isle of Man symbolizes humanity’s isolation and solidarity at once (another Joycean paradox): every man is an island, but we are all crossed or linked with each other, as Stephen Deda­lus and Leopold Bloom are crossed and linked in ways neither understands. (It is no accident that the first sentence of Ulysses has 22 words, one for each letter of Cabala, and that the last is “crossed.)

Indeed, Ulysses is made up of crossed keys in time as well as in space. In the first chapter, Stephen Dedalus broods on his agenbite of inwit, eats breakfast, and replies with dry, bitter wit to the more robust, blas­phemous and outrageous jokes of Buck Mulligan. Only when we discover the paral­lelism with Homer’s Odyssey that explains Joyce’s title do we realize that Stephen is re-living the experiences of Telemachus, who at the beginning of the Odyssey awakens in a tower, as Stephen does, and is mocked and bullied by Antoninoos as Stephen is mocked and bullied by Mulligan. When Stephen, in chapter two, is given pompous and pontifical advice by the Ulster Protestant, Mr. Deasy, we are again watching trans-time synchro­nicity: Telemachus was similarly given ad-vice by Nestor in the similar section of the Odyssey. The parallels follow throughout: Bloom is Ulysses, Molly is Penelope, the Catholic Church is the island of the lotus eater, the newspaper office where everybody quotes their favorite political speeches is the Cave of Wind, etc. Dead and absent for 3,000 years, Homer’s images are alive and present, in some sense, in Dublin.

In what sense (as the impatient may ask) is Stephen literally the reincarnation of Tele­machus and Bloom of Ulysses? Or is the connection one of Jungian synchronicity (not yet discovered when Joyce wroteUlysses)? Or might one posit Dr. Sheldrake’s mor­phogenetic resonances in time? Joyce does not answer. He exhibits the living presence of the absent dead and lets us draw our own conclusion.

That the simple model of reincarnation or metempsychosis (which is deliberately hinted at by Joyce in Chapter 4, when Molly asks Bloom the meaning of methimpikehoses and Bloom tries to explain “the transmi­gration of souls” to her) will not quite cover the case is indicated by the secondary level of parallels with Hamlet which underlies and reinforces the parallels with Homer. A whole stream of symbols linking Stephen with Hamlet, Bloom with the ghost of Hamlets father, Molly Bloom with Gertrude etc. gradually emerges on re-readings of the book. What Joyce is exhibiting to us is, in fact, a coherent synergy or blot, as Bucky Fuller would say: a pattern that coexists in many places and times. The dead and absent will be again live and present, in this context, because history repeats the same stories endlessly, just changing the names of the players.

But Ulysses is also a mock-encyclo­pedia, with every chapter corresponding to one human science or discipline; and the discipline emphasized in chapter one is theology, as Joyce’s notes indicate. This begins with Buck Mulligan’s burlesque of the Mass, runs on through Stephen’s tor­tured reflections on the “mystic oneness” of Father and Son in the Trinity, comes back in Mulligan’s hilarious “Ballad of Joking Je­sus,” and permeates every paragraph in subtle ways. If Stephen=Telemachus as son disinherited (Stephen’s father, a drunk, has sold at auction the properties Stephen expected to inherit) and Stephen= Hamlet as son haunted (by a mother’s ghost, not a father’s, but still haunted), the theological context of the chapter implies that Stephen= Telemachus= Hamlet because all young men, at some point, are obsessed with a father who is either dead or missing-in-action: namely, God the Father. Ulysses is set exactly 18 years, or nearly a breeding genera­tion, after Nietzsche announced that God was dead. Stephen as young rebel orpuer aeternis is a perennial archetype; Stephen as individual is representative of the first generation to arrive at maturity with that grim Nietzschean autopsy on their minds.

This is why Mulligan remarks that he and Stephen are both “Hyperboreans.” He is almost certainly referring to the startling opening paragraph of Nietzsche’s The Anti­christ:

Look me in the face. We are Hyperboreans; we know very well how far out we have moved. “Neither by land nor by sea will you find the Hyperboreans”-Pindar al-ready knew that about us. Beyond the north, beyond ice and death, lie our life, our happi­ness. We have discovered joy, we know the way, we have the exit out of the labyrinth of history.

Nietzsche ‘s labyrinth of history, which Stephen later calls the nightmare of history, is the rules laid down by State and Church. Mulligan has indeed found his way out of the labyrinth; but Stephen has not. He is named after the maker of labyrinths Daedalus: whose name also means “artist” in Greek-and he remains trapped in the labyrinth of his own narcissistic agenbite until Bloom de-livers him.

For Bloom, as for Stephen, God is either dead or missing-in-action; but Bloom, at 38, has been a freethinker longer and is no longer hysterical about it. Approaching mid­dle-age (by 1904 standards, when average life expectancy was 50), Bloom has lost faith, successively, in Judaism, Protestant-ism, Catholicism and Freemasonry; one feels that his attachment to Socialism is precarious also. In the abyss of uncertainty, Bloom re-mains a modern Ulysses steering his way diplomatically and prudently among such hazards as drunken Catholics (Simon Deda­lus), anti-semitic Nationalists (the Citizen) and unctuous undertakers who may be police informers (Corny Kelleher.) Mourning his dead son, ashamed of and yet attached to his father who died a suicide, knowing his wife is “unfaithful,” Bloom retains equanimity and practices charity discreetly and incon­spicuously: feeding the seagulls, helping the blind boy across the road, negotiating to pro­tect the rights of Paddy Dignam’s widow, visiting Mina Purefoy in the hospital. Lest we think this kindly chap is a paragon, Joyce keeps Bloom in the same precise naturalistic focus as we watch him defecate, urinate, peep into a masochistic porn novel and mas­turbate. Joyce announced that he did notbelieve in heroes, and Bloom is no hero: just an ordinary decent man. There are a million like him in any large city: Joyce was merely the first to put him in a novel, with biological functions and timid courage unglamorized and uncensored.

The climax of Ulysses – the brothel scene in which Stephen, drunk, actually sees his mother’s ghost cursing him, and Bloom, exhausted, dreams in hypnogogic reverie of his son not at the age of his death (II days) but at the age he would be if he had lived (11 years)–brings us back to the living presence of the absent dead. But in that scene also, Bloom’s timid courage becomes timid cour­age as he risks scandal, gossip, disgrace and even associating with the possible informer, Corny Kelleher, in order to protect Stephen from two drunken and violent English soldiers. This is the pivot-point of the novel, and, since Joyce carefully avoids revealing Blooms actual motivations, critics have had endless entertainment “interpreting” for us.

My own guess is that, even if Bloom is looking for a substitute son, as some say, or has unconscious homosexual urges as others claim, or is hoping to procure for Molly a lover less gross and offensive to Bloom’s sensibilities than Boylan, as Marilyn French recently suggested, the answer lies in a four-letter word that each of Joyce’s three major characters speaks once at a crucial point in the narrative. Stephen speaks it first, in the library, when asking himself what he left out of his theory of Hamlet; he answers, “Love, yes. Word known to all men.” Bloom speaks. it to the Citizen, offering an alternative to poli­tics and national hatreds:

– Love, says Bloom. I mean the oppo­site of hatred. And Molly concludes her ruminations on what’s Wrong With Men by repeating the theme of the two major male voices in the narrative: they don’t know what love is.

Beneath the Odyssey, Hamlet and Don Giovanni (recently discovered), Ulysses also parallels the most effective and memorable of the parallels of Jesus: the story of the Good Samaritan.

The dead and absent survive, then, because we love them. Ulysses itself, the most complexly intellectual of comedies, is a testament to love: to Alfred Hunter, a man of whom we know only a few facts: he lived in Dublin in 1904; he was Jewish; his wife was, according to gossip, unfaithful; and one night he took home a drunken, depressed, impoverished and totally embittered young man named lames Joyce and sobered him and fed him. All else about Alfred Hunter is lost, but those facts plus artistic imagination created “Leopold Bloom;” and if Hunter is dead and absent, Bloom remains forever alive and present for students of literature.

The curiosity of Joyce’s mature tech­nique is that while on first reading Ulysses seems only intermittently funny and con­sistently “naturalistic” (realistic), on succes­sive re-readings it becomes progressively funnier and spookier. None of Joyce’s 100 or more major and minor characters knows fully what is going on in Dublin on that one extraordinarily ordinary day of 16 June 1904-“a day when nothing and everything is happening,” as Edna O’Brien recently wrote. The first-time reader is similarly ig­norant, navigating through 18 chapters and 18 hours of “realism” that is often as squalid and confusing “as real life,” Beneath this surface, as we have already seen, the ghosts of Homer, Shakespeare, Mozart and (if I am right about the Good Samaritan theme) Jesus are present-although-absent as the archetypal themes of their works are reflected in this everyday bustle of ordinary early 20th Cen­tury city.

Everybody in the story is involved in misunderstandings or ambiguities that be-come clearer and more hilarious on each re-reading. This existential fact that every mind creates its own reality tunnel is the abyss of which Joyce spoke, at nineteen, in the lecture on absence and death from which we began.

  • By the middle of the book, almost everybody in Dublin thinks Bloom has won a great deal on the horse race that day. On first reading, we are likely to think so, too, and wonder why he hasnt gone to pick up his winnings. Only on careful re-reading do we discover the confusions out of which this inaccurate rumor got started.
  • A dog who appears vicious and ugly to one narrator appears “lovely” and almost human” to another narrator, and a third narrator claims the dog actually talks.
  • Alf Bergan sees Paddy Dignam at 4 p.m. but Paddy was buried at 10 in the morn­ing; we are to decide for ourselves if Alf saw a ghost or just shared in the general fallibility of human perception.
  • Some Dubliners think Bloom is a dentist, and discovering the source of that error is amusing to the rereader.
  • Bloom thinks Molly doesn’t know about his Platonic “affair” with Martha Clif­ford, but Molly knows more than he guesses about that and all his other secrets.
  • Nosey Flynn, the first Dubliner to tell us Bloom is a Freemason, is wrong about everything else he says; it takes careful study to discover that this fount of unreliable gos­sip is right about this particular detail.

The tradition of the realistic novel, at this point, has refuted itself, in a classic Strange Loop. Joyce has given us more realism than any other novelist and the upshot of it is that we don’t know what’s real anymore. If Dante’s epic was informed by the philosophy of Aristotle, whom he called The Master of Those Who Know, Joyce’s epic, as Ellmann commented, is dominated by David Hume, the Master of Those Who Don’t Know. We have seen Reality and found it an abyss indeed; Blake only claimed to see infinity in a grain of sand, but Joyce has shown us the infinity by opening every hour of an ordinary day to endless interpretations and re-inter­pretations.

Things become even more interesting, and weirder, when we begin to count the coincidences in this very, very average day: a day so banally normal that early critics com­plained chiefly that many chapters are boring and pointless.

The Irish critic Sheldon Brivic has counted over 1000 coincidences integrating the banalities and confusions of 16 June 1904 into a patterned harmony that none of the characters consciously apprehend, al-though their thoughts and actions are creating or co-creating it in collaboration with each other and with the dead and absent. As Brivic says (Crane Bag, VI, 1):

The unconscious Joyce represents is not merely an area within the brains of his creatures. It is a network of connections through time and space that extends beyond any awareness most absolute.

(submitted to rawilsonfans.org by RMJon23)