Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Robert Anton Wilson on "Isomorphisms"

Untitled (Atlantis) by Teun Hocks.

In my youth I majored in mathematics for a few years before switching to Education and then to Psychology. Out of this strange smorgasbord, I developed a lot of the surreal ideas in my books, and especially my weird habit of looking at art and myth in terms of isomorphisms ["similarities of structure"].

For instance, when I first saw Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I immediately saw an isomorphism with the Grail legend. Roy [Richard Dreyfus], the contactee most traumatized by his experience, seems like a fool to everybody -- especially to his wife. Parcifal also seems a fool, even "the perfect fool" in Wagner's version. Yet Roy gets past the government cover-up and enters the Mother Ship, and Parcifal passes through Chapel Perilous and finds the Holy Grail. Since Roy and Parcifal both have lots of companions or rivals on the Quest, one can even see an analog with the single sperm that beats all of its brothers and reaches the Egg first...

Close Encounters also has strong isomorphism to H.P. Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu;" but I leave that to the student's own ingenium, as Crowley would say.

Or consider the folktale, found from Russia across Europe to Ireland, in which a young girl on an errand of mercy meets a cannibal in the woods. The monster sets her three riddles, and when she solves them, instead of eating her he becomes her ally and defender. One variation on that became "Little Red Riding Hood" and another became The Silence of the Lambs.

The three brothers who go forth to slay the dragon in many fairy-tales appear as the three shark-hunters in Jaws; the Three Stooges trying to repair a plumbing system; the Englishman, the Welshman and the Scotsman, in many jokes of the British Isles; Smith, Jones and Robinson in logical puzzles [note the distinctly English, Welsh and Scot names]; Dumas' Three Muskateers; and all of these plus the three sons of Noah and the Holy Trinity in Finnegans Wake.

You might find some amusement in discovering the isomorphisms between Jesus' parable of the Good Samaratan, "The Little Engine That Could," and Ulysses; you might even glimpse why Joyce, who never used a word without intense awareness of its history, describes Bloom as behaving "in orthodox Samaratin fashion" in the first sentence of Book III.

Any number can play this game. Try finding the isomorphisms between the ancient ritual of bride-capture; the Eternal Triangle of Finn/Graunia/Dermot, Arthur/Guinevere/ Launcelot, Mark/Isolde/Tristan etc.; Zeus and Leda, Zeus and Danae, etc.; King Kong; Behind the Green Door; the rude man in the lower berth who interrupts the honeymoon couple in a 1001 bawdy jokes...

The more often you try this method, the more likely you will come to credit something like Jung's "collective unconscious" or Sheldrake's "morphogenetic field" and to suspect it has a structure both sexual and mathematical, like I Ching.

From the man's old blog.

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