I read in my youth, in a Hebrew manuscript I found in a Spanish monastery, that there is a moment after the Sun has entered the Ram and before he has passed the Lion, which trembles with the Song of the Immortal Powers, and that whosoever finds this moment and listens to the Song shall become like the Immortal Powers themselves...
-- W.B. Yeats The Secret Rose
Superstition and Contagion
It has been 110 years (and one month...) since Leopold Bloom invited Stephen Dedalus to his home for a cup of hot cocoa. It has also been 110 years since James Joyce took a walk around Dublin with Nora Barnacle. Both Bloom and Joyce enjoyed a happy ending to June 16th, 1904. Will we?
Joyce was 22 at this time, and this blog has often pointed out the deep personal significance of the number 22 to the author. He was born on 2/2, and his very initials, JAAJ (10+1+1+10), convert to 22. It may be no accident, then, that June 16th -- 6/16 -- can also sum to 22 (6+16).
But 6/16 also adds up to another extremely salient number in Joyce's life -- the number 13 (6+1+6). Joyce died on the 13th of January, the thirteenth day of the year. His mother's death, an event that haunts Ulysses, occurred on the 13th of August. This itself might have disturbed the conscience of the coincidence-obsessed James Augusta Aloysius Joyce.
In Ulysses, Joyce directly refers to the connection of the number thirteen with death and obliquely predicts his own death on the thirteenth day. The man in the macintosh is described by Bloom as being the thirteenth guest to Paddy Dignam's funeral. But who was the mysterious Macintosh? No one knows for sure, but critics as astute as Vladimir Nabokov have speculated that he is none other than the Blind Scribe himself.
Mr Bloom stood far back, his hat in his hand, counting the bared heads. Twelve. I'm thirteen. No. The chap in the macintosh is thirteen. Death's number. Where the deuce did he pop out of? He wasn't in the chapel, that I'll swear. Silly superstition that about thirteen.
Joyce published Ulysses on 2/2, 1922, his fortieth birthday. The first sentence of the book contains 22 words, a fact that becomes even more meaningful when considering that Joyce was just then at the traditional required age to study the Kabbalah. Both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake are bottomless kabbalistic enigmas.
Most "readers" of the Wake have noticed that its 17 chapters curiously correspond to the 17 years (1922-1939) that Joyce took to construct it. Not discussed, to my knowledge, is that the 18 chapters or episodes of Ulysses might also correspond to the 18 years from 1904, the year the novel was set in, to 1922, the year it was published. If we add these two (17+18), the years from 1904 to 1939, we get 35. And, just like Joyce and/or the entire universe planned it this way, 35 is 22 plus 13.
The coincidances swirling around June 16th and the number 22 appear to be contagious. Joyce's principal biographer and critic, Richard Ellmann, is also caught up in the maelstrom. Towards the beginning of his prodigious biography, James Joyce, he comments on the somewhat manic importance that Joyce placed in his own birthday.
James Joyce liked to think about his birthday. In later years, fond of coincidences, he was pleased to discover that he shared his birth year, 1882, with Eamon De Valera, Wyndham Lewis and Frank Budgen, and his birthday and year with James Stephens. That February 2 was Candlemas helped to confirm its importance; that it was Groundhog Day added a comic touch; and Joyce made it even more his own by contriving, with great difficulty, to see the first copies of both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake on that white day.
In my paperback edition of Ellmann's book this quote is appropriately found on page 22. I also have a paperback version of Ellmann's bio of Yeats, Yeats: The Man and the Masks, in which Joyce first enters the story on page 22 (strangely enough, Aleister Crowley, and his role in all of this will be brought out shortly, is only mentioned once -- on page 93.)
To round this off, I have a copy of Joyce's Selected Letters, edited by Ellmann, and on the twenty-second page is a letter by Joyce to Nora on July 12th, 1904 -- the closest date after Bloomsday of any letter to Nora so included. What was Ellmann, or his publishers, or just my own fried brain, trying to suggest here?
The Dirty Back Street
It was Ellmann, too, who revealed another couple of coincidences/syncs related to June 16th. It is now well known that Joyce's younger brother and confidante, Stanislaus, died on June 16th, 1955. It is not as widely known that W. B. Yeats, along with the poet George Russell and others involved with Theosophy, held the first meeting of the "Dublin Hermetic Society" on June 16th, 1885. Joyce would have been three years old and Ezra Pound was to be born that October.
In Yeats: The Man and the Masks, Ellmann describes the background and motivation of this small esoteric society:
They all began to study European magic and mysticism and Eastern religion, and took a room in "a dirty back street" to be the headquarters of their new "Dublin Hermetic Society." They saw themselves as a small select group with infinite potentialities. In a country like Ireland, filled at that time with plots and counterplots, they had their own conspiracy against the state of things.
It is fascinating that Ellmann characterizes this little club as a "conspiracy," both political and occult, from its inception. It is even more alluring that a subject of its first meeting on June 16th, presided over and addressed by Yeats himself, was no nearer to the heart of the mysteries than on the very nature of the Secret Chiefs or Mahatmas of Theosophy.
The Hermetic Society met for the first time on June 16, 1885 with Yeats as chairman. Surviving notes of the opening address throw considerable light on his state of mind. He opens the meeting by announcing that the society has been assembled to discuss the wonders of Eastern philosophy. The first paper will describe recent occult phenomena, and other papers will deal with the question of whether the Mahatmas of the Theosophists really exist, and what their powers may be.
Ellmann does not suggest, to my knowledge, that this opening meeting of the Dublin Hermetic Society had anything to do with Joyce setting Ulysses on June 16th. It is quite a coincidance, though, that this magical order first met on the same day in Dublin that Nora first performed her own version of sex magick with Jim during a walk through the same city streets. Yeats's profound influence on Joyce is clearly evident and the question is begged: was Joyce in on the conspiracy?
Ellmann may not directly connect the two events, but another Joyce scholar, Enrico Terrinoni in Occult Joyce: The Hidden in Ulysses (2007), strongly implies that Joyce himself must have made this connection.
However, given Joyce’s particular obsession with dates and the importance he attached to simultaneity and coincidental occurrences in fiction, there is no doubt that the foundation of Yeats’s Dublin Hermetic Society on June 16, 1885—provided that he had access to such an information—would have proved significant to him.
Terrinoni's book is excellent, but he remains cautious and scholarly in his approach to the somewhat controversial subject. Fortunately or not, crackpot bloggers like myself are in no way subject to such limitations. I take no risks in spinning it all much further out.
If we make the assumption that Joyce was aware of the earlier significance of June 16th, then our next question might be: why was this date meaningful to Yeats and his hermetic brothers in the first place? And surely, as the inaugural date of an organization dedicated to the study of esoteric symbolism, it must have had a meaning.
The Radiant Sun
The close proximity to the Summer Solstice is one possibility, but why the 16th, a Tuesday evening? Yeats's own birthday, on June 13th (another 13!), might be another clue, but this is still not the 16th. With just a bit of mucking around in the usual places, though, it's easy to find that June 16th, 632 was the coronation day of Yazdegerd III, the last monarch of the Sassanid dynasty of Persia.
This is marginally interesting trivia, but the link to Irish hermeticism is not immediately obvious. It's quickly discovered, though, that the Zoroastrian religious calendar came to base its reckoning on the day of Yazdegerd's coronation. The Zoroastrian new year has always been the Spring Equinox, but the traditional starting-date of the religious calendar, still in use, is June 16th, 632.
Where it gets downright engrossing, however, is the fact that the insanely notorious Bavarian Order of the Illuminati fully adopted the Yazdegerd Calendar. Like the Zoroastrians, the Illuminati celebrated their new year on March 21st, but they would have been highly aware that the calendar traced itself back to Yazdegerd's coronation on June 16th, 632. This is explicitly stated in their own documents, in more recent scholarship, and by the Order's earliest detractors like the Abbé Barruel.
Historian James H. Billington, in Fire in the Minds of Men, notes that much of the symbolism of the Illuminati, including the calendar and the name itself, was derived from Persian sources.
...but the name Illuminist was apparently chosen from the image of a sun radiating illumination to outer circles. At the very center within the inner circle of Aeropagites burned a candle symbolizing the solar source of all illumination. The Zoroastrian-Manichaean cult of fire was central to the otherwise eclectic symbolism of the Illuminists; their calendar was based on Persian rather than classical or Christian models.
This may be surprising to those who associate the Illuminati with eye-in-the-pyramid, Egyptian-style symbology. But while the Bavarian Illuminati clearly had freemasonic roots, and Freemasonry itself is obsessed by Ancient Egypt, it is from the fire cult of Zoroastrian Persia that the Illuminati took their primary inspiration. Back in 1797, Abbé Barruel was writing much the same thing:
He [the Illuminati novice] must also learn how to date his letters, and be conversant with the Illuminized Hegira or Calendar; for all letters which he will receive in future will be dated according to the Persian era, called Jezdegert [Yazdegerd III] and beginning A.D. 630 [now usually reckoned as A.D. 632].
Barruel also records how the Illuminati named everything related to them with mythically charged pseudonyms. Their titles for Ingolstadt, the Bavarian town where the Order was founded in 1776, are especially revealing for the wider study of this blog.
Ingolstadt, the natal soil of the Order, was not sufficiently denoted by Ephesus; this privileged town was to be decorated with a more mysterious name, and the profound adepts bestowed on it that of Eleusis.
Eleusis again! It is hard to believe that Yeats, and especially, although much later, his friend and disciple Ezra Pound, would not have been aware of this Illuminati symbolism -- including the significance of June 16th. Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled, a major influence on the Dublin Hermetic Society, has over a hundred references to Zoroastrianism, and such references can also be found scattered throughout Joyce:
And what a cheery ripe outlook, good help me Deus v Deus! If I were to speak my ohole mouthful to arinam about it you should call me the ormuzd aliment in your midst of faime. Eat ye up, heat ye up! sings the somun in the salm.
Whether the dreaded Illuminati themselves had any influence on Yeats's hermetic brotherhood, on Joyce, or on Bloomsday in particular, is an open and perhaps dubious question. What isn't speculation, though, is the fact that Ulysses itself was the basis of yet another occult calendar.
In the Spring of 1922, "The Little Review Calendar" was published anonymously in The Little Review, a modernist literary magazine which is best known for serializing Ulysses. The scholarship of Forrest Read (Paideuma, Spring/Fall 1978) and others have established that the designer of the calendar was none other than Ezra Pound, at that time the foreign editor of the magazine.
The heading of the calendar reads "YEAR 1 p.s.U." and a subsequent note states:
The Christian era came definitely to an END at midnight of the 29-30 of October (1921) old style.
There followed the Feast of ZAGREUS, and a feast of PAN counted as of no era: the new year thus beginning as on 1st November (old style), now HEPHAISTOS.
Robert Anton Wilson, as usual, was well aware of this calendar and its origin:
The Poundian calendar, designed by Ezra Pound, attempts to define the post-Christian era and dates everything from 31 October 1921 (Gregorian)--the date Joyce wrote the last words of Ulysses.[*] (The "p.s.U." means post scriptum Ulysses, "after the writing of Ulysses.") 1 November 1921, accordingly, becomes 1 Hephaistos in the year 1 p.s.U. The year has 6 male months for the solar phallic male gods (Hephaistos, Zeus, Saturn, Hermes, Mars, Phoebus, i.e. in Gregorian, November, December, January, February, March and April) and 6 female months for the lunar female goddesses (Kupris, Juno, Athene, Hestia, Artemis, Demeter i.e. in Gregorian May, June, July, August September and October.)
RAW explains in a footnote that Pound, who was Joyce's editor at the time, celebrated his birthday on the day Ulysses was completed. This is more or less correct -- Pound received a note from Joyce saying that the book was finished on the evening (towards midnight) of the 29th -- but Pound's birthday is on October 30th. Both writers found this coincidence remarkable.
* Pound had his 36th birthday on that date also. You can't expect an egomaniac, even one as generous as Ez, to leave himself entirely out of the dating of the New Age.
And Pound did seem to genuinely believe that a New Age had begun. He was certainly not alone in thinking this. After all, an awful lot happened that year:
Annus 1 Post Scriptum Ulixes, First Year of the Pound Era
The literary era that has just slipped over the horizon began, it could well be argued, in 1922, the year of Joyce’s Ulysses, Eliot’s The Waste Land, and—Mussolini’s March on Rome. It was the year of Woolf’s Jacob’s Room; Lawrence’s Fantasia of the Unconscious and Aaron’s Rod; Yeats’s Later Poems; Cummings’ The Enormous Room; Bergson’s Durée et simultanéité; Spengler’s Der Untergang des Abendlandes, volume II; Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus; and the abridged reader-friendly edition of Frazer’s twelve-volume The Golden Bough (1911-1915). It was the year Proust died, and the year Cocteau opened Le Boeuf sur le Toit.
RAW notes how the calendar is split into six months named after gods (November to the end of April) and six months named after goddesses (May to the end of October). Additionally, the female half of the year is ruled over by three further gods, while the male, top half of the calendar is ruled over by Isis alone. At the centre of the calendar, though, ruling over the whole is an even more relevant deity. The note to the calendar declares:
The year turns upon HORUS
The new era, for Ezra Pound, is the era of Horus. This instantly calls to mind Crowley's insistence that the Aeon of Horus began in 1904 with the transmission of The Book of the Law. This in turn links up to the setting of Ulysses on June 16th, 1904. Is Pound, by announcing the inception of the new era -- turning upon Horus -- with the completion of Ulysses, confirming the connection between these two?
A further connection is with Yeats's most famous poem, The Second Coming, published in 1919:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The "widening gyre" indicates the start of the new cycle or era and a good case can be made that "the falcon" is Horus. It should not really come as a surprise that Yeats would also associate the coming aeon with Horus. Both he and Crowley were members, although bitter rivals, of the same magical society -- the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. And as Golden Dawn initiates both men would be keenly aware of that order's Rosicrucian roots.
Is it much of of stretch, then, to argue, as I have before, that Yeats like Crowley, and perhaps Joyce and Pound subsequently, would be equally aware of the 108-year Rosicrucian cycle running from 1904 to 2012? The 18 years from 1904 to 1922 are numerologically equivalent to the 108 years of the wider cycle. The year 1904 was also highly important for Ezra Pound. It was this year, according to Pound's own recollections, when the poet first came up with the concept and basic structure of The Cantos.
I began the Cantos about 1904, I suppose. I had various schemes, starting in 1904 or 1905. The problem was to get a form -- something elastic enough to take the necessary material. It had to be a form that wouldn't exclude something merely because it didn't fit. [interview in 1960]
At least three deeply inspired works, then, The Book of the Law, Ulysses, and The Cantos, have intimate, foundational connections to 1904. What else was born that year?
While the prophecies concerning 2012 are now almost universally derided, by examing the phenomena through the lens of the 108-year cycle it may be that everything is exactly on track. In fact, the 108-year cycle is only one half of a 216-year cycle. According to the Rosicrucians (AMORC), after 108 years of invisibly working in the background, years of preparation and inhalation, the fruits of that labour will finally be harvested over the next 108 years, years of revelation and exhalation. After the nearly year long rituals in celebration of the turning of the cycle in 2012, in 2013 the revelations soon began.
Snowden's continuing exposure of the global NSA spy network, and whether this is being staged or not is really unimportant, is certainly a large part of the present cycle of manifestation. In the current year, 2014, the unveiling has continued in depth and scope. Now, for the first time in centuries, Isis is being invoked as an entity of potentially terrible power. The DoD program is yet another invocation -- Minerva against Isis. As Yeats predicted about the turn of the gyre, the stage is being set for a new Helen and a new Trojan War. The goddesses are once again in deadly competition for the Apple of Discord.
While they were still mourning, the next oldest of the old men fell asleep whilst he was reading out the Fifth Eclogue of Virgil, and a strange voice spoke through him, and bid them set out for Paris, where a dying woman would give them secret names and thereby transform the world that another Leda would open her knees to the swan, another Achilles beleaguer Troy. [The Adoration of the Magi]
But unlike the furor which erupted around the Winter Solstice of 2012, we should not expect massive change overnight. The veils will fall over the next 108-year cycle. The light will increase in intensity, but it will not be instantly blinding. The full 216-year cycle of the later Rosicrucians would seem to be out of sync with the cycles mentioned in the earliest documents of the Rosy Cross. In The Fama Fraternitatis, for example, a 120-year cycle, and not a 108 or 216-year cycle, is mentioned in relation to the founder, Christian Rosencreutz:
Then, having now passed the century of years, though oppressed by no disease, which he had neither felt in his own body nor allowed to attack others, but summoned by the Spirit of God, amid the last embraces of his brethren he rendered up his illuminated soul to God his Creator. A beloved Father, an affectionate Brother, a faithful Teacher, a loyal Friend. He was hidden by his disciples for 120 years.
In Foucault's Pendulum, Umberto Eco employs these early Rosicrucian texts to introduce the cycle of 120 years. In his incredible novel, which takes a skeptical tone towards the existence a such occult plots, the main characters uncover a supposed Templar conspiracy that had progressively unwound itself through cycles of 120 years:
These knights of revenge are to carry out missions in particular places every hundred and twenty years. It's a kind of relay race. Clearly, six Templars set out on that night in 1344, each one going to one of the six places included in the plan. But the keeper of the first seal surely can't remain alive for a hundred and twenty years. Instead, each keeper of each seal is to hold his post for twenty years and then pass the command on to a successor. Twenty years seems a reasonable term. There would be six keepers per seal, each one serving twenty years. When the hundred and twenty years had gone by, the last keeper of the seal could read an instruction, for example, and then pass it on to the chief keeper of the second seal.
The discrepancy between the 120-year Rosicrucian cycle and the 216-year cycle, however, may only be apparent. 216 years of the 25,920-year precessional cycle is the equivalent to a 120th part of the whole. 120 "years" and 216 years in the literature may in fact be interchangeable.
If the 108-cycle from 1904 to 2012 was acknowledged by initiates, then 1921/22 appears to have been a pivotal juncture in this cycle. Exactly a year after Pound's calendar began on November 1st of 1921, an event occurred which would initiate yet another calendar. This event would demonstrate that the new era was geopolitical in scope and by no means limited to occult and literary circles.
From October 22nd to October 29th, 1922, Benito Mussolini led an army of Fascist Blackshirts on a triumphant March on Rome. On October 28th, King Victor Emmanuel III granted power to Mussolini. The next day, October 29th -- the same day that Ulysses was completed just a year before, inaugurating Year 1 p.s.U. -- was later designated as the first day of ANNO 1 of the Fascist Era. The two calendars, both marking a new modern era, commenced exactly a year apart. The coincidence would have blown Pound's (if not Joyce's) mind.
Pound moved to Italy from Paris in 1924. He began to date his letters using the Fascist calendar by the early thirties. One wonders if a big part of the awe he held for this calendar was because it so perfectly synced with his own. The Pound Era was, in a weird sense, the Fascist Era.
Pound's relation with Mussolini and fascism is somewhat complex. To have been a fascist supporter before and during World War Two is very different than someone who continued to support the ideology even after the atrocities of it and its allies were fully exposed. Such a person is analogous to the comrade who stayed loyal to Stalinism even after the horrific details of that dictator's pogroms and crimes were finally disclosed by Nikita Khrushchev following Stalin's death.
Pound certainly admired Mussolini. He viewed Il Duce as being a great reformer and a liberator of the Italian people, and in this regard Pound favorably compared Mussolini to Thomas Jefferson. Pound also naively believed that Mussolini would eliminate usury and implement Social Credit-style economic reforms. This did not happen.
A distinction should also made between Italian Fascism and the German Nazi movement. Pound voiced some support for Hitler, but it was by no means uncritical support. Mussolini did not share Hitler's obsession with the Jews, and in any case Pound, like most of the world, was unaware of what was really happening in Germany.
Fascism can also trace some of its roots to the European avant-garde. Many Italian Futurists, including Marinetti himself, became card-carrying Fascists, convinced of the close ideological affinity between the two movements. The Symbolist poet, Gabriele D'Annunzio, a favourite of Joyce, led an eccentric yet powerful movement that was a direct precursor and inspiration to Mussolini and the Fascists.
For a brief yet almost magical period after the First World War, D'Annunzio became Il Duce of an independent republic in Fiume, a port city in present-day Croatia. The constitution, a bizarre hybrid of anarcho-syndicalist and proto-fascist ideas, declared music to be the first principle of the state. Artists, bohemians and freaks of all sorts flocked to the poet's independent republic. Mussolini, himself a syndicalist, greatly admired what D'Annunzio had accomplished although the two would become rivals after Mussolini's rise to power.
Fascism, therefore, was not the almost universally reviled political ideology that it is today. Yeats, himself not a fascist, gave some support to the proto-fascist Blueshirts in Ireland. Pound, although a fascist sympathizer, also remained good friends with Ernest Hemingway who fought against fascism in Spain. As always, things are very mixed.
If the argument is made that the Nazis, although quite distinct in many ways, were directly inspired by Italian Fascism, then if the Fascist Era began on October 29th, 1922 it might also be argued that it ended on April 30th, 1945. This was the day that Adolph Hitler and his wife apparently committed suicide in their bunker, the Third Reich in full retreat and collapse all around them. Just two days before Mussolini had been executed and publicly hung up by the heels.
April 30th, 1945 was exactly 22 and a half years after October 29th, 1922. Twenty-two yet again. April 30th is Walpurgisnacht but, as mentioned above, it is also marked on Pound's calendar as the Feast of Priapus. The Fascist Era, therefore, began on the Feast of Zagreus and ended on the Feast of Priapus. This is somehow fitting: Priapus was the son of Aphrodite and Dionysus, and the name for Dionysus at the Mysteries was Zagreus. A dark Dionysian age had come and gone. Or had it?
But Pound's calendar turns on Horus, not Dionysus. And while Crowley was thrown out of Italy by Mussolini due to the Dionysian excesses of the Abbey of Thelema in Sicily, the Aeon of Horus as revealed in The Book of the Law does at times employ the same violent, militaristic rhetoric as that associated with fascism:
This shall be your only proof. I forbid argument. Conquer! That is enough. I will make easy to you the obstruction from the ill-ordered house in the Victorious City. Thou shalt thyself convey it with worship, o prophet, though thou likest it not. Thou shalt have danger & trouble. Ra-Hoor-Khu is with thee. Worship me with fire & blood; worship me with swords & with spears. Let the woman be girt with a sword before me: let blood flow to my name. Trample down the Heathen; be upon them, o warrior, I will give you of their flesh to eat! [The Book of the Law 3:11]
The argument is made, however, that Crowley's teaching is by no means authoritarian. "Do what thou wilt" is not a slogan for control freaks. If anything the Aeon of Horus is libertarian and even anarchist, not fascist. This would seem to bring Crowley closer to Joyce than Pound. Richard Ellmann, this time in The Consciousness of Joyce, concluded that Joyce's political beliefs were closest to classical anarchism.
Since they anatomize and deride Church and State alike, Bloom and Stephen might be supposed to be anarchists. Joyce has sometimes been linked to this point of view, too. He did maintain a lifelong interest in anarchism, and once, in a poem he wrote in Zurich, "Dooleysprudence", he expressed anarchist views in music hall terms.
Here is a section of this fantastic poem:
Who is the tranquil gentleman who won’t salute the State
Or serve Nabuchodonesor or proletariat
But thinks that every son of man has quite enough to do
To paddle down the stream of life his personal canoe?
It’s Mr Dooley,
The wisest wight our country ever knew
Mr. Dooley might be the perfect anarchist or Thelemite, but there is a curious relation between these types of beliefs and Fascism. There is a danger in especially individualist anarchism, popular among avant-garde artists and bohemians, of developing an elitist outlook. The individualist, unlike the common herd or sheep, is awake and free. The masses, in contrast, seem to revel in their ignorance and slavery. Both individualist anarchists and fascists are contemptuous of democracy. Rule by the stupid majority is just as bad or worse than rule by kings.
It is just this kind of elitism that men like Crowley, Yeats, Pound and perhaps even Joyce, among many other great artists, seem to share. And it is difficult to avoid. I also resonate most with this strain of anarchism. But I know that its slopes can be slippery. One day you're paddling happily alone, the next day society is erecting all sorts of barriers across the river, and the following day you're banding together with fellow obstructed paddlers with the aim to set that society on fire. Live free or die! This could also be a slogan of the Aeon of Horus.
Like D'Annunzio's republic of poets in Fiume, the Italian Regency of Carnaro, the new Aeon may be potentially anarchist and fascist at once. This might explain much of what is happening now. And yet there is always more going on. What is the role of the Dublin Hermetic Society in all of this? Or Theosophy? Or the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn? Or the Fascists? Or the Zoroastrians? Or the Bavarian Illuminati? Or the Modernists? Or the Abbey of Thelema? And what does it really have to do with June 16th, 1904?
The Portal of Central Park West
There is one more connection I'd like to make to Crowley. In 1918, in New York City, Crowley and various others, although primarily Roddie Minor, performed a sequence of magickal workings involving the use of opium, hashish and a variety of sexual practices in order to invoke and perhaps manifest certain "intelligences." This has come to be called the Amalantrah Working. According to Crowley's official documentation of these rituals, The Amalantrah Working [Liber XCVII], they were conducted from
January 14 to June 16, 1918 e.v.
Richard Kaczynski in his 2010 biography of Crowley, Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley, confirmed that this particular working was completed on June 16th:
The Amalantrah Working nevertheless proceeded, with new assistants arriving in May. Operations continued until June 16, when Crowley, satisfied that he and Roddie had built the Temple of Jupiter, had ended the Amalantrah Working.
The timing of this is astonishing. Not only did it end on June 16th, 33 years after Yeats presided over the first meeting of the Dublin Hermetic Society, but Roddie's opium trance visions began just after midnight on January 14th. This means that the working actually started on what in conversation would be called the night of January 13th -- Joyce's deathday.
The connection with the number thirteen is clearly evident. Roddie's first visions were of becoming thirteen candlesticks which then morphed into thirteen naked women all being caressed simultaneously. And to compound the weirdness, from the 13th/14th of January to June 16th are exactly 22 weeks.
The location is as significant as the timing. From March of 1918, Ulysses began to be serialized by The Little Review, with Ezra Pound as its foreign editor. The offices of the literary magazine were at 24 West Sixteenth Street, while Crowley was staying at Roddie's apartment on Central Park West. Both the Wizard Amalantrah and Leopold Bloom were being gradually released upon the world from Manhattan in 1918.
From a very positive review that he wrote in 1923, we know that Crowley loved Ulysses and that he likely also read it in serialized form. Was he reading it in The Little Review during the months of the Amalantrah Working? A tantalizing thought. And did Ulysses have anything to do with the working's completion on June 16th? Or was this date chosen for its earlier significance? Or is this all coincidence?
But the Amalantrah Working was not just any magical working. It was not even just any Crowley working. From 1918 on this series of rituals and visualisations has taken on more and more significance. This is all the result of the manifestation of an entity who is not even directly mentioned in Liber XCVII. This intelligence is called "Lam," and it is still an open debate as to whether Lam is the Wizard Amalantrah or not. Lam only became famous through a sketch by Crowley published in 1919. As is now well known, the figure of the sketch bears an uncanny resemblance to the archetypal Gray Alien.
From this similarity of images has whipped up a typhoon of conjecture. Did Crowley make contact with the Grays in 1918? Did he, in fact, open an extra-dimensional portal that allowed the Grays and other beings to enter our world? Was this a precursor to the magical operation, the infamous Babalon Working, conducted by Crowley disciples Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard in 1946, which itself is credited with ushering in the modern UFO phenomenon?
Another top Crowley acolyte, the mysterious Kenneth Grant, is largely responsible for fostering the Lam mythos. He writes about Lam in connection with the Amalantrah Working in Outside the Circles of Time (1980). Curiously, in the following quote he gets the date wrong. This happened in 1918 not 1915, as Grant himself notes elsewhere in the book. He has no doubts, however, about the fundamental importance of Lam:
71, as shown elsewhere, is the number of Lam, the Intelligence with whom Crowley was in contact while in America. It is highly probable that this Intelligence dominated the Amalantrah Working, which Crowley performed with Achad and others around 1915.
Is Lam Bloom? Is Bloom Lam? Loom. Blam! We do know at least one person that Bloom certainly is: Ulysses. Odysseus. The whole of Odysseus's ten year journey by sea back to his wife and son in Ithaca is telescoped by Joyce into the events of June 16th, 1904. This is no metaphor. By metempsychosis, by reincarnation, Bloom is Odysseus. But the myth has been changed. Instead of the faithful Penelope there is the adulterous and sensual Molly Bloom. Instead of returning and killing the suitors (and there are 108 of them!), there is only one suitor, Blazes Boylan, and Bloom largely forgives both Boylan and Molly.
The purpose of Leopold Bloom's quest turns out to be very different than that of his previous incarnation. The real culmination comes with the melding of the minds of Bloom and his "son" and alter-ego, Stephen Dedalus. Bloom's acts of forgiveness to his wife and compassion to Stephen end history. The cycle does not continue to roll on in the same fashion. Bloom has become Nobody.
In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus famously tricks the Cyclops by declaring himself to be No Man/Nobody (outis in Greek or nemo in Latin). The trick works, but it also brings about Odysseus's downfall. He later boasts of his real name to Polyphemus, who in turn curses him and brings down the wrath of his father, Poseidon, upon the seafarer. Odysseus manages to get home and he frees his kingdom, but Homer does not tell of his hero's final fate.
Many poets subsequently took up thread where Homer left off, but it was Dante's version of the story which proved to be most influential on Joyce. In The Divine Comedy, Odysseus is met in Hell and the old hero tells of his final voyage. He sailed through the Pillars of Hercules and eventually came to the Mount of Purgatory, which he attempted to ascend by force. At Purgatory, he at last went down with his ship.
Only the real Nobody, one who has fully transcended his own selfish motives and desires, can reach the summit of Purgatory, pass the terrible angel at the gates, and reenter the Garden. Joyce, unlike Dante, rescues Odysseus from eternal damnation. The hero is, according to Joyce, destined to achieve his quest. He is Outis-Zeus, Odys-seus, both noone and god. He is brought back in an unlikely form in a distant location. He is a Jewish ad salesman in Dublin, circa 1904. In a single day the whole epic recurs and he is finally liberated. Such are the mysteries of fate.
Crowley, in his review of Ulysses, acknowledges that the cycle has been repeated:
Mr. Joyce has taken Homer’s Odyssey and made an analogy, episode by episode, translating the great supernatural epic into terms of slang and betting slips, into the filth, meanness and wit and passion of Dublin today.
And yet Bloom is also the Wandering Jew. He is sometimes called Ahasuerus, the merchant who did not allow Jesus to rest by his house while burdened with the cross, and who is condemned to wander the Earth until the time of Christ's/the Messiah's return. Christ said:
I shall go and rest, but you shall know no rest -- tarry till I come back.
The Wandering Jew is both Elijah and John the Baptist. It is he who heralds the New Age. On June 16th, 1904, his labour also came to an end.
Both Ahasuerus and Odysseus were exiles. Both were forced by circumstances, created by both themselves and others, to wander far from home. So were Joyce and Pound and Crowley. All of these men were restless wanderers.
Pound's Cantos begin with Odysseus's journey to the underworld to seek the guidance of the shade of Tiresias. As in Homer, the blind sage foresees that the wanderer will be able to return home but only after being utterly forsaken and entirely bereft of companions. From the outset of his epic, Pound clearly identified with Odysseus. It became prophetic therefore that Pound also, in the Pisan cage and in the D.C. nuthouse, became forsaken and terribly alone.
Pound's own journey up from the underworld, to Eleusis and to the Nobody was a struggle lasting several decades. He was Odysseus but he was also, despite and maybe because of his antisemitic rantings, the Wandering Jew.
This is the thesis of Daniel Perlman's essay, "Ezra Pound: America's Wandering Jew." Perlman argues that Pound was also a rootless nomad and exile who was quite conscious of the connection of Odysseus with the Wandering Jew, which he would have encountered in Ulysses. Pound is Ezra after all. He was a prophet in the wilderness, Moses leading his people in the desert, who more than once wrote that his epic would take more than 40 years to complete.
Perlman quotes from Pound in Guide to Kulchur:
My predisposition (at least in youth) being nomadic. It is not for me to rebuke brother Semite for similar disposition.
And so this whole mess is the usual story of the fall and redemption, of the descent to the underworld, of exile and return. Exile in particular is a recurrent theme. Ireland's exile into the British Empire and the struggle of Yeats and other to liberate it via political and magical means, the personal exiles of Joyce, Pound and Crowley, the exiles of Odysseus and the Wandering Jew, the deeper strains of the soul's exile into matter, of humanity's exile into history, of Zion's exile in Babylon, are all found in peregrination around June 16th.
Even Lam, even the Grays, fall into this caravan. The alien is one who is far from home. Or is returning home. Are the UFOs in flight or return? Yazdegerd's coronation also began a period of exile for the Zoroastrians of Persia. Are the Bavarian Illuminati, like the shadowy Templars of Foucault's Pendulum, an aspect of an immense project to prepare for the return of Zarathustra?
In Ulysses and The Cantos, paradise, purgatory and the inferno can be found simultaneously at all points. June 16th may be the end of the cycle, but it is the whole cycle as well. It is the ten years of Odysseus's wanderings. It is the entire 108 years, 216 years, 432 years, 25920 years. The gyre ever widens. It resonates, then, with every rupture in time when eternity shines through and paradise is realized. At any instant it can be summoned. Pound scholar, Akiko Miyake, wrote of the poet:
But what happens when the feasts of Dionysus and Pan are joined? What occurs when we find the moment and hear the Song? Nothing we can predict. Heaven is fused with hell. Meanwhile we continue to wander. And what does this mean? A cryptic clue is found in the final line of the Amalantrah Working:
In order to bring the new pagan era, it was necessary to initiate himself by creating "The Little Review Calendar," to identify himself with the sun, to join the feasts for Dionysus and Pan, to appoint himself as a priest for presiding at the readers' initiation, and all these must work out for bringing forth the new fertile era for literary productivity that had already started with James Joyce's Ulysses and T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land in 1921, the year before the publication of the calendar. [Paideuma, Spring/Fall 1978]
Wander suggests to our memorie ( . . . ) we read to wander to love.