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The Widow's Son by Robert Anton Wilson

The Widow's Son (original 1985; edition 1985)

by Robert Anton Wilson

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425324,867 (3.77)2
Title:The Widow's Son
Authors:Robert Anton Wilson (Author)
Info:Bluejay Books (1985), paperback, 343 pages
Collections:Your library, deaccession, PEIB, packed, Fiction
Tags:conspiracy, science fiction/fantasy, occult fiction

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The Widow's Son by Robert Anton Wilson (1985)



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Compelling story. Too goddamn many footnotes. Probably won't look up the last installment of the series, as much as I love RAW. ( )
  wirehead | Jul 9, 2013 |
My reactions to reading this book in 1992. Spoilers follow.

As I recall, when this series (at least the first two books) were published by Bluejay books, it was put out one book right after another. I wonder if this second book was written right after The Earth Will Shake but later revised to include all the footnoted references to books from 1983 and 1984 involving, amongst other things, violent Italian Freemasons and Vatican banking scandals. These facts are the best part of the book, particularly the fictious philosopher and Wilson alter ego de Selby. De Selby, that strange philospher of plenumary time (the belief that every nanosecond is the result of all the other nanoseconds before and after -- obvious influenced by Wilson study of the implications of Bell’s Theorem in quantam mechanics), constantly bothered by mysterious rappings as he tries to build a time machine (he seems to appear to Sigismundo Celine when he’s imprisoned in the Bastille), an unrequited lover of a lesbian, and a purveyor of strange whimsical statements like all reported sensations (be they ghosts, UFOS, whatever) are real (“patapsychology” argues that perceptions show reality -- objects do really shrink at a distance for instance), that all aesthetic statements (however contradictory) are true descriptors of the speaker’s neurological system, and that King Kong, the Holy Ghost, and photons are all real because the human mind has encountered and endured them -- the rest of reality is created by gossip.

De Selby is attacked by critics (one who maintains he is a composite character created by Shrodinger, Einstein, and Groucho Marx amongst others). One critic may even be de Selby under a pen name. And there is the mysterious Dr. Hankopf (with ties to the Knights of Malta and CIA) who, out of Heidelberg, conducts murders and slurs agaisnt De Selby and his supporters and, just before his death, seems to have uncovered an even vaster conspiracy. Wilson does a delightful job playing with your mind.

The novel is also full of occult conspiracy lore. The widow’s son (part of Freemas lore and initiation -- “Will no one help the poor widow’s son?”) may be Christ (who, following the lead of Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln, we learn did not die on the cross and went to France with his wife where he sired the line of Merovingian kings), Parcifal, or Hiram of the Bible. The legend that the Merovingian kings were half-fish from the sea (explained as occult symbolism for the descending from Christ -- the fish in Greek). The mysterious Templar excavations of the Temple of Jerusalem and their struggle with the Kings of Malta who set up their destruction. (And the interesting sidebar that Bill Casey, member of the Order of the Knights of Malta, was double agent in a Vatican CIA conspiracy.) The orgin of the Roscrucian saying of the rose blooming only on the cross (it’s a metaphor for sexual imagery -- sex gets a lot of attention here as a gateway to higher states of consciousness). The Jesuit part in Freemasonry.

There’s a lot of interesting historical stuff too: that Paris was incredibly filthy, that the Bastille was actually a pretty good prison by the standards of the day, French secret police for the Bourbons, the abominable state of English-Irish relations. The plot itself is more dramatization of philosophy -- ontological and political. Lots of references to Hume. The characters of Edmund Burke and Voltaire (seen off stage) provide politcal commentary as does stonecutter Luigi Duccio who delves into the idea of impersonal historical forces driving history -- not great men though he is a friend to Robespierre and tells us little of his younger days. Sir Babcok’s experiences asa bisexual and expounder of meteorites as real (Wilson uses this well-known fact to show science can be blind to very real phenomena -- science as dogma) and Celine’s brush with the Dominicans and Seamus Moon’s interrogation by British troops thematically show Wilson’s contentions that all authoritarian defenders of the status quo -- political, religious, moral, scientific -- use the same techniques of repression just as mystical and religious groups use similar paths to invoke altered mental states of illumination. Cagliostro -- Celine’s half brother -- is engaged in provoking revolution throughout Europe for undisclosed reasons. Frankenstein tires to recruit Celine into a conspiracy to bring a world government of benevolent Masons. It was kind of disappointing to see the book sink, in the end, to pure relativism -- man as the source of all values and aesthetic judgements (the latter may be true but it’s probably hardwired into our biology to seek for answers outside ourselves), repression and laws producing sin. Celine seems to, as our enlightened hero, decide Aleister Crowley’s “Do what thou wilt” is truth. I hope it’s only a stage to a different, more fufilling philosophical truth that will come out of the concluding segments of the series.

Still, you don’t read Wilson for moral insights but to mentally and morally challenged, to have Wilson screw up your mind’s notions of reality, to think, and, of course, have incredible amounts of conspiratorial/occult lore dumped on you. ( )
  RandyStafford | Dec 23, 2012 |
Robert Anton Wilson almost defines a new genre with this series. The Chronicles series are part conspiracy, part satire, part historical fiction, part philosophical, and completely mind altering. As a sequel to 'The Earth Will Shake', The Widow's Son brings the reader further into the strange world of the Illuminated Seers, the Rosicrucians and renaissance time Italy through the eyes of protagonist Sigismundo Celine.

In this book, Wilson's eccentricities creep in and the reader is bombarded with crazy footnotes that offer historical insights, personal comments, and suppositions about which historical figures and writers were in an `altered state' (that is, smoking dope). Wilson's drug induced paranoia isn't quite as annoying as Hunter S. Thompson, but it does get to be a bit much at times and detracts from the narrative. Still, the writing is competent and the conspiracy is more plausible than the fluffy Dan Brown novels. This book is far better than Dan Brown but not as competent as Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum. ( )
  Jawin | Jan 4, 2007 |
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Peter Asked: Who sent thee?

Jesus answered him and said: The cornerstone that the builders rejected is the place from which I came. The gate that not a gate is the source of the Living One.
The Gospel According to Mary Magdalen
Our revolution has made me feel the full force of the axiom that history is fiction. I am convinced that coincidence and conspiracy have produced more heroes than genius and virtue.
    Maximilien Robespierre, 1792

Not only are teratological molecules invisible and inaccessible in the normal sense; they also appear to be deliberately clandestine.
De Selby, Golden Hours, II, 114
No man can aspire higher than this: that he be remembered as one who selflessly obeyed the harsh dictates of Logic and Reason; that he was truly disinterested and objective.
Hanfkopf, Werke VI, "Was ist Wahrheit?"
There are no rocks in the sky; therefore, rocks do not fall out of the sky.
     Antoine Laurent Lavoisier
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Armand Daumal didn't like the idea of wet work,* but even more strongly didn't like what he was hearing about the king.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451450779, Mass Market Paperback)

Throughout history, secret societies have played a crucial role in shaping events that have created our world. Only an inner circle of power elite know the full extent of the influence of the conspiracy...It is Paris, 1772, and Sigismundo Celine knows he is destined to play an important part in this history-behind-history. The masons, the English nobility, the Jabobites, the Rosicrucians, the ruling clique of pre-Revolution France: these are but a few of the factions involved in the machinations and intrigue in which Sigismundo has become enmeshed.Thrown into the Bastille, shot at, assaulted by assassins, tortured, and brutally interrogated, he knows only what he is and what he must do to become the one spoken of in the old texts. But what he doesn't know could kill him: the secret powers of Maria, the Italian beauty who has become an English Lady; the Irish fisherman, Moon, who stumbles across the inner workings of an unsuspected cult; and the question they keep asking: the identity of The Widow's Son.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:00 -0400)

"The story of two fiercely strong women, mother and daughter, one determined never to explain her choices and the other equally as determined to dig deeply and unrelentingly for the truth. Charlotte Atkinson was born into a life of privilege. Raised by a widowed mother on a vast and wealthy estate near Sutton Forest, New South Wales, she and her three siblings enjoyed an idyllic early childhood in the great stone house still known today as Oldbury. But in the summer of 1836, a violent incident in the Belanglo wilderness set off a chain of events that transformed Charlotte's existence. Inexplicably, as a result of this affair, her mother was prompted to marry again - thereby surrendering her property, fortune and offspring to Charlotte's vicious and degenerate new stepfather, George Barton. His presence turned Oldbury into a place of madness and terror, casting a shadow so long that it continued to haunt Charlotte for years after his somewhat mysterious death."--Provided by publisher.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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