Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ulysses, Chapter Fifteen: Circe

The word "parallax" appears several times throughout the book. It refers to the difference in the apparent position of an object as seen from two different points of view. The word is vaguely associated, in Bloom's train of thought, with the lost word of the Freemasons. The lost word bears some relation, as a principal, to the idea of the Logos as the divine utterance which gives rise to all created things. Interestingly, the Greek "Logos" became the Latin "ratio", which may be taken in this case to refer to the proportion between two differing points of view.

This concept appears as the contrast between Stephan and Leopold's hallucinatory vision in regards to the chandelier in the music room of the brothel. The chandelier, for Leopold, becomes the new Jerusalem, as well as the source of his forbidden sexual fantasies. The veil hung upon the chandelier keeps the moth from touching the bare bulbs, which is to say that it prevents the mystic from self-annihilation in Divine consciousness, and Bloom from plunging into depravity with unbridled lust. For Stephan, the chandelier is his dead mother, and the guilt he feels for refusing to pray for her as she was dying.

The ratio between these two points of view is the ratio between father and son, Macroprosopus and Microprosopus, the old and new testaments (and hence, the Jewish and Catholic Mysteries). As the Logos is the organizing principal of the cosmos, this ratio would then be the organizing principal of the book (to be taken with a grain of salt of course, as Joyce would never allow himself to be pinned down to a single organizing principal).

Now that father and son have officially met, Bloom gets his beloved key back (he receives them from a whore after giving her his talismanic potato). Both keys, the silver and the gold, are now his, but only in the visionary sense. The gates of the Mysteries both Greater and Lesser may be open, but the front gate of Bloom's house is not, and Bloom must enter into his own house by other means (this in the Ithaca chapter).

Stephan, in a drunken frenzy, strikes the chandelier with his ashplant with a cry of "Nothung!", which is the name of the magic sword in Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelingen (literally translated as "needful" or "sword of need", the sword had been planted in a giant ash tree, hence the ashplant). Try as he may to plunge his "magic rood" into the "mystic rose", as it turns out he only manages to pierce the veil a little. The Lost Word remains mostly concealed, the Holy of Holies is inviolate, and order is soon restored.

Stephan's ashplant refers also in part to the nail, which is the literal meaning of the Hebrew letter Vau (as a word, Vau is also used to represent 'and', which is a word that joins two things together). In Rosicrucian symbolism, the nail fixes the volatile spirit to the cross of matter. Here, it plunges heedlessly into the heart of the Mysteries and sends it crashing into the floor. Our mystical son is still a tad bit immature. It seems just barely possible that, in due time, he and Milly will marry, thus uniting heaven and earth and allowing the rose to bloom on the cross. Joyce keeps all of the symbols slightly skewed. Nothing ever fits perfectly. His characters are not embodiments of archetypal principals as much as they are bound to partial expressions of them in endless variety. They cannot help but bring the mythical into the mundane, but never to completion. Some part of the mystery must always remain veiled.

It is worth noting that the nail also marks the point around which the heavens revolve. 

If the mock mass in the first chapter of the book is the rite of Stephan's exile (from the church, from art, from Ireland's roots, from himself - it is the exile of the son from Eden, or the Vau of Tetragrammaton from the heaven of the Supernal Sephiroth), then the black mass toward the end of this chapter signifies a re-admittance. Here Stephan is admitted into the Mysteries that have no church, ever reserved for wanderers and exiles. (Both rites are performed by Malachai Mulligan). The theme of the Occidental Exile comes to mind (see Suhrawardi), which is very much tied to the theme of the Wandering Jew, who taunted Christ as he hung upon the cross and was cursed to wander until the second coming. The Hymn of the Pearl from the apocryphal Acts of Thomas addresses the same theme, which is that of the spiritual wanderer in exile, forced to remain on the outside, unaware of his Divine origin, until such time as he is allowed back into the heavens of perfection. Stephan and Leopold are both depicted as key-less wanderers throughout the book. Neither of them are accepted by their peers. Of course, Leopold is more or less at peace with this, while Stephan is somewhat of a tortured soul.

Remembering that Bloom corresponds to the Yod of Tetragrammaton, the literal meaning of the letter seems to translate well to the symbols and motifs that surround him. Yod means "hand", which in Leopold's case is shown grasping the bar of perfumed soap for Molly, grasping the potato ("a talisman"), even grasping his own virile member. Yod is also the sperm and the phallus. The phallus of the father is seen at the end of chapter five ("floating hair of the stream around the limp father of thousands"), and the sperm is discharged onto his shirt in chapter thirteen.

Similarly, Heh means window. Molly is the first Heh in Binah, appearing always veiled between the sheets of the bed, except for a brief scene in the Wandering Rocks chapter in which only her hand is seen emerging from the window in order to throw a coin down to a one legged sailor. We do see Molly, but only through a tiny window. She gets a single chapter to herself.

Milly is the second Heh in Malkuth, characterized by her absence from the book, much like a window is characterized by the absence of wall.

Kinets Chien suggests that Leopold and Molly's first son, Rudy, who died at an early age, represents Da'ath, the false Sephira of "knowledge", the eleventh sphere of the tree of Sephiroth, who's spheres enumerate to "ten and not nine, ten and not eleven" according to the Sepher Yetzirah. 

Rudy suggests rudimentary. At the end of the Circe chapter, Rudy appears to bloom in a hallucinatory vision as he stands over the unconscious Stephan (who's been clocked most rigorously by an English militant).

"(Silent, thoughtful, alert, he [Bloom] stands on guard, his fingers at his lips in the attitude of a secret master. Against the dark wall a figure appears slowly, a fairy boy of eleven, a changeling, kidnapped, dressed in an Eton suit with glass shoes and a little bronze helmet, holding a book in his hand. He reads from right to left inaudibly, smiling, kissing the page.)" 

Bloom calls his name, "Rudy: (Gazes unseeing into Bloom's eyes and goes on reading, smiling. He has a delicate mauve face. On his suit he has diamond and ruby buttons. In his free left hand he holds a slim ivory cane with a violet bowknot. A white lambskin peeps out of his waistcoat pocket.)"

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ulysses, Chapter Thirteen: Nausicaa

"Mary, star of the sea." 

At 8am, Buck Mulligan performs a mock mass for Stephan Dedalus using his shaving bowl, razor and mirror. At 8pm, the actual flesh and blood (so to speak) mass commences in a chapel by the sea. After the mass is over, Cissy Caffrey exposes her holy sanctuary while gazing up at fire 'cross the sky, and Leopold Bloom, peering deep into its Mysteries, casts his seed into his shirt which is tucked into his pants. Blessed sacrament. 

Kineta Chien suggested to me, years ago, that Leopold and Stephan represent (among several other things) the Yod and Vau of Tetragrammaton, with Molly and Milly standing in for the first and final Heh. Interestingly, the only difference in name between Molly and Milly is a Vau and a Yod (respectively). Of further interest is the fact that Milly is absent from the book, only her name is mentioned, and the only part of Molly that we see outside of bed is her arm sticking out the window as she throws a coin to a one-legged sailor in the Wander Rocks chapter. 

Somewhat of a big deal has been made about the phrase that Leopold begins to scratch into the sand, "I AM A..." I would suggest that Bloom is misspelling "AIMA", the Great Mother of the Kabbalists (per Isaac Luria) and the Heh of Tetragrammaton. AIMA is perfectly represented by the vastness of the sea, as is illustrated several times in the Proteus chapter, wherein Stephan wanders around this very area musing on various subjects, not the least of which is the blissful yearning for final dissolution in the sea or in the starry heavens (where AIMA is concerned, these are more or less the same). 

I think that attributions of Heh and Heh final here leave some room for ambiguity. On the one hand, Molly and Milly are perfectly suited to represent them. On the other hand, Odysseus and Penelope never had a daughter, so where does Milly fit in? Also note that Molly Bloom does double duty here, on the one hand she's Penelope, but in the fourth chapter she appears as Calypso in the navel of the sea (opposite Buck and Stephan's tower). Molly doesn't seem to fit so well as Stephan's spiritual mother, and Milly is curiously absent for a sister (besides, Stephan has several perfectly legitimate sisters, at least one of whom he has not disowned). Perhaps the Heh of Tetragrammaton is also represented by the sea, and Heh final by Dublin itself. 

Joyce's structure is never rigid or definite, I think it's clear that there is no one key by which any part of the book may be unlocked. Rather, there are a succession of keys, may of which are interchangeable. Stephan and Bloom are both key-less wanderers, and while we as readers are given no shortage of keys, yet still they remain enigmatic, we can never quite make them fit perfectly, and there are always further doors left to be found. 

"That was their secret, only theirs, alone in the hiding twilight and there was none to know or tell save the little bat who flew so softly through the evening to and fro and little bats don't tell."