James Augusta Aloysius Joyce turns 131 today. His most well-known book, Ulysses, is now 91 years old. I've discussed before in this blog Joyce's obsession with his birthday on 2/2, coinciding with Imbolc, St. Brigid's Day, Candlemas and Groundhog Day, and the number 22.
He was 22 in 1904 on June 16th, a day he later immortalized in Ulysses and now celebrated as Bloomsday. 6+16 equals 22, and, as Robert Anton Wilson pointed out, the first sentence in Ulysses has 22 words:
Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.
Into the Pot
Joyce turned 40 years old on the day Ulysses was published, and he would have been very aware of both the connection of 22 with the Kabbalah as well as the taboo, whether accurate or not, of studying the Kabbalah before the age of 40. We can assume that Finnegans Wake, which he began almost immediately after publishing Ulysses, is a profound study, undoubtedly in a playful way, of his own version of the Kabbalah.
Joyce, in a more detached than egoistic way, made himself a central symbol of the Wake. He was very aware of his own occult significance. This is what I want to explore in this post.
As noted previously, the initials JAAJ also equal 22 (10+1+1+10). This can also be expressed as 101110. As a binary number this equals 46 in decimal notation. This will take on significance in a subsequent post.
The six digits of 101110 also convert nicely to the six lines in a hexagram of the I Ching. Conventionally, ones represent yang lines and zeroes represent yin lines. In this way, the number 101110 converts to Hexagon 50, Ting, the Cauldron.
The Richard Wilhelm translation of the I Ching explains the image of this hexagram:
...at the bottom are the legs, over them the belly, then come the ears (handles), and at the top the carrying rings.
The hexagram is made up of the trigram for fire above and the trigram for wood below. The bottom yin line can therefore also represent the logs, or bundles of wood, placed under the cauldron as fuel for the fire that heats both the cauldron and its contents. The "ears" or handles of the cauldron can be visualized in the upper yin line.
The original Chinese cauldrons were cast of bronze, but in shape and function they are very similar to the usual image of the black iron cauldron of the West.
The judgment of this hexagram is extremely positive. It indicates "Supreme good fortune. Success." Wilhelm's I Ching also explains,
Here it is the wood that serves as nourishment for the flame, the spirit. All that is visible must grow beyond itself, extend into the realm of the invisible. Thereby it receives its true consecration and clarity and takes firm root in the cosmic order.
Joyce's work, and especially Finnegans Wake, does exactly this. It takes all that is mundane and visible and extends it into a realm or perspective which is eternal and invisible. Leopold Bloom is also Ulysses. Dublin is also the New Jerusalem. Joyce is the master alchemist behind this transmutation.
The cauldron can also be translated as the crucible and its place in Chinese tradition has the same alchemical connotation. Like all legitimate alchemists, it is his own self that Joyce is really transforming.
But does this connection with the I Ching really have anything to do with Joyce or the Wake? Perhaps it does in a way. Respected Joyce scholar, John Bishop, writes that Joyce intended to have Finnegans Wake be taken as a sort of Western I Ching:
I have only been practicing on Finnegans Wake a kind of textually self-endorsed "Sortes Virginianae" (281.R2 [Wake page and line]), where the phrase refers to a traditionally long-standing, if odd kind of reading procedure called "Sortes Virgilianae" (L. "Virgilian fortune-telling"). A Western version of the I Ching, Virgilian sortilege licenses the eager reader who seeks light in personal affairs to open his Virgil "at random" and "volve the virgil page" (270.25) -- begin interpreting whatever line he hits upon "ad lib" (583.6, 302.22-23). Joyce's Book of the Dark p. 305
Along with the poetry of Virgil, this type of "sortilege" was also practiced by randomly opening pages of the Bible and blindly pointing to particular verses. A synonym would be bibliomancy. To be really the Western equivalent to the I Ching, though, Joyce would need to mirror the complex structure of the Book of Changes. Any book can be randomly flipped through for bits of wisdom. A genuine oracle, however, is structured to resonate with the higher order of the cosmos.
Does the Wake have this type of structure? It can be argued that it does. All of the original, non-"restored", versions of Finnegans Wake have 628 pages. I believe, but haven't confirmed, that Joyce intentionally set 628 as precisely the amount of pages he wanted the Wake to be.
There should be no surprise in this. For 17 years, Joyce meticulously planned every detail in the 17 chapters of Finnegans Wake. Would he overlook the number of pages? Bishop called it "the single most intentionally crafted literary artefact that our culture has produced." Would Joyce not also intentionally craft his masterwork's length?
Even if he hasn't done this, remarkable synchronicities emerge by assuming that there is a significance to the number of pages in the Wake. Perhaps these synchronicities have their origins in the playful, flowing ALP rather than the scrupulously designed work of the "masterbilker," HCE.
The Earwicker Man
In this blog, we've already seen the remarkable link of Robert Anton Wilson's Wake-based obsession with the number 111 to his death on 1/11, and to the apparent references to RAW on p. 111 of Finnegans Wake. Did the Wake somehow predict Wilson's death?
At first this sounds completely absurd. But by deeply looking into the Wake this becomes increasingly plausible. Joyce's birthday on 2/2 is also the 33rd day of the year. On leap years, and both 1882 when Joyce was born and 2012 were leap years, there are also 333 days left to end of the year from 2/2. Joyce would have been highly aware of both of these facts.
33 is a number most deeply associated with Christ, who was crucified and resurrected at the age of 33. In the very centre of p. 33, then, is a capital "T" which also symbolizes the Tau cross. To emphasize this connection, Joyce on this page first identifies his hero HCE -- who on one level is Joyce himself -- and compares him directly to Christ.
To anyone who knew and loved the christlikeness of the big clearminded giant H.C. Earwicker...
Joyce was born on the 33rd day of the year, but died on the 13th day -- the thirteenth of January, 1941. If we look on p. 13 of the Wake we can find some clues of Joyce's death -- "With a grand funferall" -- but a clearer sync is with page 131, or 13/1 (the thirteenth of January) in the common European date format of day/month.
On page 131 the first word is "life;" -- the semicolon perhaps indicating that all of the items which follow are events and concerns in the life of, apparently, Finn MacCool, but it's easy to imagine that Joyce is also referring to his own life, and maybe death as well.
He seems to identify himself as the subject of this page by including "the joy of shells" in the body of the text. He writes about being married, about being buried -- "till he was buried how-happy he was" -- and he even hints about how he was to die. Joyce died of a perforated ulcer which could not be treated even with multiple blood transfusions. There are some suggestions that he died due to a type of blood infection. On page 131 we read:
...we strike hands over his bloodied warsheet but we are pledged entirely to his green mantle;
At the Cross
By far the biggest clue, however, that Joyce intended this page to refer to his own life and perhaps act as a sort of obituary after his death is found in a couple of acrostics in the last three lines of the page. Joyce was well aware of the cryptic use of acrostics in classical, medieval and Renaissance texts. That he used acrostics and acronyms in the Wake is widely accepted by scholars. A common example is the first line of Chapter 3 of Part 2:
It may not or maybe a no concern of the Guinesses but.
This awkward construction includes the acronym "noman," which is significant if we remember that a key episode in the Odyssey is when Odysseus/Ulysses tells the Cyclops that he is "Noman." This blog has already discussed the emphasis by magicians and other seekers on the need to shed the ego and become "no man" in order to successfully cross the Abyss. It is likely that Joyce also had this in mind.
The acrostics on page 131, though, are of a distinctly personal character. They are directly related to Joyce as the Cauldron. They also are only possible as intentional acrostics if Joyce purposely set the number of pages at 628. Here is an online version of p. 131 as it appears in the text.
The first letters of the last three lines on the left-hand side of the page spell out "fag." It is likely, if it has any meaning at all, that this refers to a bundle of wooden sticks used for burning, a "faggot," or a cigarette in British/Irish English, rather than the North American slang for homosexual. Knowing Joyce, though, it could mean both at once.
The first meaning appears to be intended, though, as opposite the acrostic on the last line of page 130 is written "smoking fags." This in turn recalls the smoking logs or faggots represented by the bottom yin line of the Cauldron hexagram.
This could all be sheer coincidence, but the chances of this lessen when we look at the acrostic of the last letters of the same three lines. On the right side of page 131, in the bottom three lines, we find the word "ear." Here is the image of the Cauldron spelled out in front of us! The "fags" burn at the bottom while the cauldron is later raised by its "ears."
This is amazing confirmation of the sync of the initials JAAJ with the lines of the Cauldron hexagram. If this is not intentional the synchronicity surrounding this is mind-blowing. Either way, it is almost too much to contemplate.
As far as I know, this has never been pointed about by either scholars or "casual" readers of the Wake. This may be the first time this has come out, but it goes to show that many such nuggets still lie buried in the pages of the Wake. I decided, though, that this day, the 131st birthday of Joyce, was the perfect day to reveal the possible mysteries of page 131.
The Biggest Secret
There is an even deeper mystery to unveil involving the bottomless 628-page structure of Finnegans Wake. This also is concerned with Joyce's birthday on 2/2, but it may point to something far greater as well, something that may be unfolding right now.
The Wake has 628 pages with a possibility of 36 lines on each page. Not all of these pages and lines are filled with text, and in one chapter the format is altered, but there is the space for 628 pages with 36 lines each. This is the spatial limit of the universe of Finnegans Wake.
If we multiply 628 by 36 we get 22,608. This is quickly recognized as a potential precessional number. Researchers will know that the length of a precessional Great Year is traditionally 25,920 years. It takes approximately 72 years for the fixed stars of the zodiac to appear to move one degree along the precessional circle. Science now provides more accurate figures, but Joyce was always more interested in traditional, and thus more symbolic, accounts.
I wondered, what date do we get if we determine the equivalent date of 22,608 on the wheel of the solar year instead of that of the Great Year? The math is easy, but first we need to know the starting point. Traditionally, the astrological year begins on the Spring Equinox, the first day of Aries, or March 21st. Aries also begins the precession cycle (although as this is precession and not procession the two circle in opposite directions -- I'll address this point later).
If we take March 21st, then, as the starting point then the calculation is straightforward. 25,920 years is the equivalent of the 365 days of the solar year. 22,608 is to 25,920 what x is to 365. But what is the value of x? 318.36. This means that the equivalent date is just over 318 days from March 21st. What date is this? If we plug this into an online date calculator we instantly find the result.
318 days after March 21st is February 2nd -- Joyce's birthday!
The very structure of Finnegans Wake, the number of its pages and the lines contained on them, encodes the day Joyce was born! If this was intentional it may seem like colossal egoism, but I think that Joyce was pointing to something far more profound then just his own birth. If, again, this is accidental it is a synchronicity of monumental proportions that surely appears to demonstrate a greater intelligence at play.
One may argue that as precession "moves" backwards through the zodiac, then we should calculate 318 days before March 21st. This argument does not really hold water, though, because as the solar year always moves forward such a calculation would not provide an exact equivalence of cycles. If, however, we did decide to bring the date forward we would come up with May 7th.
There is nothing significant I could find that happened in Joyce's life on May 7th, but the next day, May 8th in 1939, Joyce appeared on the cover of Time magazine following the publication of Finnegans Wake on the 4th of May, that same year.
This was only the second occasion Joyce had been featured on the cover of Time. The first was after his 1934 US publication of Ulysses, delayed for many years because of obscenity claims against it. While the May synchronicity is not as striking as the 2/2 date, and is very difficult to think how Joyce would have in any manner planned it, it does show that a vast amount of weirdness is involved in the life of James Joyce.
None of this, to my knowledge, has come out before. I do not know the full significance and implications of all of this. It is very probable that this would be laughed off and dismissed instantly by "serious" Joyce scholars. But for fanatics like me, this is pure gold.
Not Apart From
Joyce is the Cauldron. He is the crucible. He is the master alchemist who turns the banal, quotidian shit of modern life into the purest ingots.
In a previous post on the Wake, I quoted an idea of Philip K. Dick, expressed in The Divine Invasion, that Finnegans Wake is a channel of "cosmic consciousness." It's worth quoting again:
Someday I'm going to get my article published; I'm going to prove that Finnegans Wake is an information pool based on computer memory systems that didn't exist until centuries after James Joyce's era; that Joyce was plugged into a cosmic consciousness from which he derived the inspiration for his entire corpus of work. I'll be famous forever.
This is a wild idea, but it's very easy to come up with even wilder scenarios. Perhaps Joyce was not simply "plugged into" and inspired by this, but that his life and work was a direct expression of this consciousness. It's easy to imagine that he was the real Krishnamurti-type World Teacher, made manifest by Yeats and other initiates of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Did Joyce, like Krishnamurti, rebel against this assumed role? This would be great fodder for a beyond-the-grave Dick novel, but we can only speculate.
The judgement of hexagram 50, the Cauldron, might best sum up Joyce and his incredible work:
The ting serves in offering sacrifice to God. The highest earthly values must be sacrificed to the divine. But the truly divine does not manifest itself apart from man. The supreme revelation of God appears in prophets and holy men. To venerate them is true veneration of God. The will of God, as revealed through them, should be accepted in humility; this brings inner enlightenment and true understanding of the world, and this leads to great good fortune and success.