Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Gravity's Rainbow, Timothy Leary, and the Occult Part 2

We saw in the previous post that Thomas Pynchon considered the possibility he had an Extrapersonal Source for his writing.  I saw two interesting synchronicities related to publishing that blog, one I'd rate as about 8 or 9 on a scale of 10, the other maybe a 3 or 4.  I had compared Gravity's Rainbow to Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson based on a conversation almost 35 years ago.  I still know that person, but haven't stayed in touch.  The last time we spoke seems at least 20 years ago.  Within a minute of posting that blog on Facebook he gave me a "like.".  The next morning the TVs at the gym played repeated footage of rockets shooting into space and Kim Jun (Rocket Man)  Un with a silly grin.  Renowned scientific researcher John Lilly postulated that highly meaningful synchronicities have an Extrapersonal Source which he dubbed Coincidence Control.  Synchronicities seem to affirm something in certain contexts.

Timothy Leary had a lot of time to think and write when in jail.  By miraculous serendipity (if this blog had a soundtrack it would be playing the theme for Extrapersonal Source right about now), against prison rules, he received a copy of Gravity's Rainbow and proceeded to devour it at least twice as soon as he got it.  The fact that Gravity's Rainbow, of all books, got anywhere near him in prison seems unbelievable.  The book appears about as revolutionary and anti-establishment as it ever gets in fiction.  Richard Nixon gets blatantly skewered.    I'll let a blog called Future Conscience pick up the story from here.  I believe this is by Robert A Gordon:

"Leary lived a varied life filled with scientific research; psychedelic therapy; metaphysical exploration; social commentary and government oppression.  During his time spent inside prison, he developed a futurist philosophy summed up in the phrase S.M.I2.L.E. - Space Migration, Increased Intelligence, Life Extension.  These ideas developed out of Leary's life-long interest in the evolution of humanity away from our primal roots, but they also had another influence which Leary termed the 'Starseed Transmission'.

The Starseed Transmissions were a series of experiments in group telepathy that occurred during Leary's time in prison.  These experiments allegedly culminated in a communication with some kind of extra-terrestrial intelligence; that through a rather cryptic series of messages set forth the futurist programme that Leary would adhere to quite stringently for the latter part of his life.  Whatever happened during that time, it certainly had a profound impact on the man and his ideas of future progress."

I believe the Starseed Transmissions were within a year or two prior to Leary reading Gravity's Rainbow, it could have been closer, I don't know.  If he did indeed make contact with an Extrapersonal Source, then perhaps that source through Coincidence Control arranged to get him that book, a book that in many ways mirrored his life?  In the  first sentence from the above quote you could change "Leary lived a varied life ..." to "Gravity's Rainbow contains ..." and it would read just as accurate.  I wonder if Leary ever considered GR as part of the Starseed Transmissions or perhaps related in some way?  After all, it is a book that ends with the character Gottfried (God peace) going towards the stars although he also dies. The final words in the novel suggest that everyone else go there too, to the stars.

This research makes me want to find out about the genesis of the S.M. I2. L.E. formula; how did Dr. Tim come up with it? All three categories, Space Migration, Intelligence Increase and Life Extension play intrinsic roles in the theater of Gravity's Rainbow.  To begin in the middle with Intelligence Increase - you have to get smarter just to read the book and figure out what's going on.  You will learn an incredible amount about the end of World War II in Europe, not simply historical facts, rather some idea of what it felt like to go through that chaotic period.

Leary's annotated copy of Gravity's Rainbow
Courtesy of the New York Public Library Archives

I've seen a cool documentary on YouTube, A Journey into the Mind of P with a superb soundtrack by The Residents.  Actually, the film looks great for two thirds or three quarters then becomes creepy when switching into fanboy stalker mode.  A talking head at one point says, "Pynchon is a cryptogram, a code to be cracked." Like solving any puzzle or maze, you get smarter by doing it; not just with that particular puzzle, your puzzle solving skills increase overall; known as becoming maze-bright.  Gravity's Rainbow seems a cryptogram par excellence.  The multiple levels ensure that you could crack it indefinitely getting smarter each time and never have absolutely everything figured out.  The notion that GR emanates from an Extrapersonal Source with the readers to decipher ( as per his letter mentioned in the last post) means that this transmission doesn't get limited, rather it forms a synergy with Pynchon's own formidable knowledge, intelligence and resources.  I bet his intelligence increased substantially while serving as a translator and conduit for this esoteric download.  The Extrapersonal Source factor ("...for there is a factor infinite & unknown;" Liber Al 2:32) indicates that data and things he didn't consciously know about could have found a way into the book.  The  construction of the Gravity's Rainbow labyrinth had outside help.  The more you run it, the smarter you get.  It's not possible to read this book without intelligence increasing.

In 1973 Richard Poirier wrote an insightful review of GR, one of the first.  He writes about the "reverberating structures or assemblies" that help construct the book's labyrinth.

One obvious example is the sign of double integrals, resembling two elongated S's. It is at once a mathematical principle behind the velocity rate of the Rocket, the insignia of the SS, the shape of the tunnels at Nordhausen (the Nazi's rocket research complex), the shape of lovers side by side in bed; in physics, the symbol of entropy is S.

Not only that.  "S" on the Tree of Life = the path of Samekh = Sagittarius, the Archer.  GR begins on the first Sunday of Advent, December 1944 in the sign of Sagittarius.  Thanks to John Ebert for this start date. Ebert also pointed out that an archer shooting an arrow into the heavens becomes an apt analogy for a rocket launching.  In the hermetic sciences this symbolizes the arrow of aspiration.  The corresponding tarot card, XIV Art, reveals a significant alchemical aspect to this path as described in The Book of Thoth in the commentary on that card worth reading in its entirety to help penetrate the occult veils in GR.  I will quote a small portion: "the last three paths of the Tree of Life make the word Qesheth, a rainbow, and Sagittarius bears the arrow which pierces the rainbow, for this path leads from the Moon of Yesod to the Sun of Tiphareth."  Yes, this path connects the sixth to ninth Sephira, sometimes signified by the number 69.

The Arrow ( = the Rocket), both in this card and in Atu VI, is of supreme importance.  The Arrow is, in fact the simplest and purest glyph of Mercury, being the symbol of directed Will.  Mercury has a starring role in GR in the highly repetitive and varied patterning of the  c-s letter combination.  C+ S = 68, or in deity nomenclature Christ/Mercury (see Crowley's The Paris Working.) In Coincidance, Robert Anton Wilson mentions the repetitive use of the S symbol in Finnegans Wake.  This should give a picture of the endless, intelligence increasing labyrinth Pynchon and his Source construct.

The subject of Space Migration exists in Gravity's Rainbow mostly as virtual - real, without yet being actual.  By that I mean that it exists in the background, in the character of The Rocket which Pynchon connects with The Tower, the path of Pe, the explosive opening of the Eye of Horus.  The face of the Rocket (The Tower) displays mostly War.  Can we find a creative use for the Rocket (The Tower)?  How about Space Migration?


"This ascent will be betrayed to Gravity.  But the Rocket engine, the deep cry of combustion that jars the soul, promises escape.  The victim, in bondage to falling, rises on a promise, a prophecy of Escape. ..."

" ... last word from Blicero: "The edge of evening . . . the long curve of people all wishing upon the first star. . . . Always remember those men and women along the thousands of miles of land and sea.  The true moment of shadow is the moment in which you see the point of light in the sky.  The single point, and the Shadow that has just gathered you in its sweep . . . "
Always remember.
The first star hangs between his feet.
Now -"
- GR p. 774 - 775

One subplot in GR does specifically bring up Space Migration.  Rocket engineer Franz Polker's daughter has recurring dreams and fantasies about living on the Moon and making a home there, fantasies that she shares with her dad and he participates in.  Somewhere in a biographical note on Werner von Braun, the Nazi and later American rocket engineer who got N.A.S.A off the ground, it says that his interest in rockets was always to get humans into space, he never wanted them for war use, but went along with it to fund and further the rocket research.  GR begins with a von Braun quote:  

Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation.  Everything science has taught me, strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death.

This brings us to the subject of Life Extension, the final term in the S.M.I2.L.E. formula.  Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson almost always spoke about the extrinsic side of the formula - constructing and living in High Orbital Mini Earths; the migration of terrestrial life off the planet as the next step in human evolution; drugs and technologies to dramatically prolong the life of the body, or revive it in the future, etc.  

In a groundbreaking essay, 22 Alternatives to Involuntary Death originally published by New Falcon, later turned into a book by Ronin, Timothy Leary wrote as one alternative:

Develop New Rituals

Our cultural taboos have prohibited the development of much detailed work in this area, but some important research has been done by E.J. Gold described in The New American Book of the Dead. We need new rituals to guide the post-body transition.

This brings us to bardo training which could be succinctly called: Get Familiar with Death.  This describes the method of Life Extension prevalent in Gravity's Rainbow.  Death seems almost as big a character as the Rocket.  Of course, the Rocket delivers Death; these two characters seem conjoined, like twins.  The very last scene in the book occurs in a movie theater about to get struck by a rocket.  The book ends with everyone in the theater about to die.  The novel begins with the sound of a rocket going across the sky.  Two alternate interpretations come to mind: the whole novel takes place in a movie theater with the story and events making up the film the audience watches.  The second interpretation has to do with the fact that the V2 rocket was supersonic, it travelled faster than the speed of sound.  By the time you heard it screaming across the sky it had already hit land and exploded.  Everyone in the theater is already dead at the start of the book.  The event in the last section of the book occurs prior to the event at the beginning.  Many reviewers have commented upon the circular form of GR.  The end of the fourth sentence at the start, "... but it's all theatre.", connects with the theatre at the end.  

Von Braun's opening quote regarding death echoes at the end of GR:

"The screen is a dim page spread before us, white and silent ...

The last image was too immediate for any eye to register.  It may have been a human figure, dreaming of an early evening in each great capital luminous enough to tell him he will never die, coming outside to wish on the first star.  but it was not a star, it was falling, a bright angel of death.  And in the darkening and awful expanse of screen something has kept on, a film we have not learned to see..."

The last sentence quoted matches the description of death from the Tibetan Buddhist point of view; "... something has kept on" = spiritual existence after death; "a film we have not yet learned to see..." = the Bardo.  GR endeavors to show us this film.  Note the use of the word "on", recalling Crowley's formula ON.  Other instances of this word in the book suggest that either Pynchon or his Extrapersonal Source knows this formula.

Tibetan Buddhists believe in reincarnation, but they also believe in a 49 day transitional period after the departing spirit, the voyager, leaves the physical body upon its death and before it takes rebirth in a new incarnation.  This transitional period is not life or death.  The Tibetans came up with the word bardo to describe this between lives space.  The Bardo soon came to refer to any space in between not just those regarding biological death.  Leading this Western use of Tibetan terminology was Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert and Ralph Metzner with their book The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead.  Leary says that the psychedelic researchers found it  difficult to notate and catagorize their results in a consistently scientific way; The Tibetan Book of the Dead is what they turned to help map their experiences.  The Bardo designating the territory of the in between seems well suited for mapping the psychedelic trip, a space, a series of spaces, the subject travels through in between their usual personality.  Conversely, I once recorded E.J. Gold giving an account of why he wrote The American Book of the Dead.  He said that in the late sixties John Lilly asked him to translate the Tibetan Book of the Dead to help with the large number of young people overdosing on psychedelics and having a rough time.  The guided instructions intended for the Voyager who has died and left their body substantially helped people feeling fearful on their trip.

The Bardo territory can be effectively simulated without dying and without taking drugs.  Among other things, words, language, and writing in the hands of a master like Thomas Pynchon can make the reader feel like they entered a bardo space.  Gravity's Rainbow contains many bardo sequences that quite effectively simulate this space.  A theory states that becoming familiar, less freaked out, by these bardo simulations will provide habits and skills that will help the Voyage navigate the post-mortem condition when the time comes for their body to die; bardo training -  knowing and getting  familiar with Death becomes a very familiar in GR.  Death becomes a character popping up explicitly and alluded to implicitly in many multiple ways.  Death seems omnipresent, always in the background when not directly mentioned.

The book starts with the sound of a rocket "screaming across the sky."  Because of its supersonic speed this means it has already landed and exploded; seems likely someone has died.  The next few pages up to the introduction of Pirate Prentice run through a series of bardo spaces - a bardo sequence.  Beginning with "The Evacuation still proceeds ..."(p. 3) the book describes all the in betweeness of people leaving their homes transitioning to a hopefully safe refuge.  Historically based on the 1944 evacuation of 1.5 million Londoners when the Nazi's first began firing the V2 rocket at them, Pynchon writes impressionistically of what that transition felt like in the moment.  The writing creates bardo percepts and affects.  The subject in these pages seems to be the event itself, not in the historical sense, but of what it may have felt like to experience it happening.

The name of the main antagonist, Blicero, is a German nickname for death.  He's introduced on p. 30: "into the realm of Dominus Blicero," translated by Weisenburger to mean "into Death's domain."

On page 256 we see a "flopping Sydney Greenstreet Panama hat." Weisenburger notes the reference to a 1944 film, Between Two Worlds, "set in London during the blitz."  Most of the characters in it have died, but don't know it. " ... their task is to work through their fate by understanding the kind of person they are..." very much keeping in line with the bardo process.  Greenstreet's character, known as "The Examiner" is the one passing final judgement.  His name is Reverend Tim Thompson, coincidentally a conflation of Tim Leary and Thom Pynchon's first names.

One of the psychics working at The White Visitation, Carroll Eventyr, can communicate with the dead and receives valuable information at times.  She can repeat but can't remember what was said so all her paranormal sessions are recorded.  A few episodes later in the book take place on the luxury yacht Anubis named after the Egyptian deity who guides souls through the land of the dead.  Anubis = the Roman God, Mercury.  This is only the tip of the iceberg regarding references and allusions to death and the bardo.

Starting with the blatant opening quote, the subject of the transcendence of death gets fairly frequent play.  Another thing I discovered is that several times Pynchon uses the word "smile" in a way that recalls S.M.I2.L.E. I have to wonder if this influenced Leary at all when he came up with this formula possibly around the time he read G.R., or if that's a coincidence from Dr. Tim and Mr. Thom tuning in to the same Extrapersonal Source?  The  first subject of the death/rebirth sequence below reminds me of Leary:

"A beautiful Christmas gift," he confessed to the resident on his ward, "it's the season of birth of fresh beginnings." Whenever the rockets fall - those which are audible - he smiles, turns out to pace the ward, tears about to splash from the corners of his merry eyes, caught up in a ruddy high tonicity that can't help cheering his former patients.  His days are numbered. He's to die on V-E Day.  If he's not in fact the War, then he's its child-surrogate, living high for a certain term but come the ceremonial day, look-out.  The true king only dies a mock death. Remember. Any number of young men may be selected to die in his place while the real king, foxy old bastard, goes on. Will he show up under the Star, slyly genuflecting with the other kings as this winter solstice draws on us?" Bring to the serai gifts of tungsten, cordite, high octane. Will the child gaze up from his ground of golden straw, then gaze into the eyes of the old king who bends long and unfurling overhead, leans to proffer his gift, will the eyes meet, and what message, what possible greeting or entente will flow between the king and the infant prince? Is the baby smiling, or is it just gas? Which do you want it to be?" (p.133)

This death/rebirth episode conflates the death of War with the Nativity scene, the birth of Christ, rocket materials, someone whose description suggests Timothy Leary and an allusion to one of Aleister Crowley's most recognized instructions that he claimed derived from an Extrapersonal Source.  The sentence "Will he show up under the Star" = "Will under love" to anyone who knows the Star tarot card.  Pynchon's penchant for reversing things turns this into " love under will." .  Crowley, and many Thelemites to this day, close all their personal correspondence with: "Love is the law, love under will."  Liber Al 1:57.

Crowley claimed his methods could produce Christs.  (Postcards for Probationers, Equinox I Vol. 2).  The word Christ comes from an Ancient Greek term that means "Anointed One" and doesn't necessarily refer to a particular historical individual.  The difference with Crowley's production of Christs is that he believed anyone could do it given sufficient time and effort.  It corresponds with Tiphareth on the Tree of Life.

In case anyone like me wondered what the word "serai" means in the last quote -  it's of Persian origin and is a different word for "caravansary" i.e. a caravan; this suggests the three Magi and their gifts to the newborn Messiah.

140 pages later another death/rebirth scenario plays out.  It's connected to the one quoted above by the fact of it occurring on V-E Day:

"It is peacetime again now, no room for the pigeons in Trafalager Square on V-E Night, everyone at the facility that day mad drunk and hugging and kissing, except for the Blavatskian wing of Psi section, who were off on a White Lotos Day pilgrimage to 19 Avenue Road, St. Johns Wood." (p.273)

This gives the historically correct address where Madame Helena Blavatsky, noted mystic and founder of the Theosophical Society, died on this same date in 1891.   Steven Weisenburger explains the white lotos symbolism in Gravity's Rainbow Companion:

"[Theosophy's] three aims were to promote the unity of mankind; to promote the comparative study of religion, philosophy and science; and to explore human psychic faculties. Theosophists adopted the Hindu white lotos, a symbol of the Trimurti, or threefold godhead, as a sign of these unified aims.  To them, the lotos also symbolized the unity of world religions; in Hinduism it is padma, birthplace of the gods, and in Buddhism it is Buddha's throne, just as in Egyptian religions the lotos was Horus's seat. It came to Christianity as the multifoliate rose. Blavatsky died on the Buddha's birthday, May 8, 1891 at the address Pynchon gives on Avenue Road ..." (p. 168)

May 8 also marks Thomas Pynchon's birthday.  He turned 8 on V-E Day.  Aleister Crowley gave significance to the fact that Blavatsky established Theosophy in 1875, the year he was born.  The death/rebirth pattern appears as a major recurring theme in Timothy Leary's, High Priest.

All of this suggests the Hero archetype.  Tyrone Slothrop goes though a few different alter-egos before his fragmented personality completely breaks apart.  His last identity before dissolution is the mythical Plechazunga, the Pig-Hero.  This leads to him traveling around in a Pig-Hero costume for a few days that inadvertently saves him from castration.  Another series of events related to the Hero by way of homonym resonance gets found in the extensive subplot concerning the Herero indigenous people of Southwest Africa and their war with the German Empire in the early XXth Century.

In Richard Poirier's review linked to above he writes:

Film is everywhere in Gravity's Rainbow.  So is musical comedy - any scene might break into a lyric.  So are comic books, and although Plastic Man and Sundial are directly mentioned, Superman, Batman and Captain Marvel, the superheroes of World War II comics determine the tone and conduct of many of the characters.

Both Batman and Superman are directly alluded to.  Toward the end Slothrop joins a group of misfit superheroes called the Floundering Four which could point to what Pynchon sees as missing from the World.  More on that next time.  For an excellent essay on the comic book angle see A Comic Source of Gravity's Rainbow which can be downloaded for free.

To be continued ...

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Gravity's Rainbow, Timothy Leary and the Occult

   "Somewhere in Der Platz now, early morning, somebody's two-year-old, a baby as fat as a suckling pig, has just learned the word "Sonnenschein." "Sunshine" sez the baby pointing. "Sunshine" running into the other room.
   "Sunshine" croaks some grownup morning-voice.
   "Sunshine!" hollers the baby, tottering off.
   "Sunshine," a smiling-girl voice, maybe his mother
   "Sunshine!" the baby at the window, showing her, showing anyone else who will look, exactly.
 - GR p. 700

For the working mystic, having the vision and passing through the chambers one by one, is terrible and complex.  You must not only have the schooling in countersigns and seals, not only the physical readiness through exercise and abstinence, but also the hardon of resolution that will never go limp on you.  The angels at the doorways will try to con you, threaten you, play all manner of cruel practical jokes, to turn you aside.  The Qlippoth, shells of dead, will use all your love for friends who have passed across against you.  You have chosen the active way, and there is no faltering without finding the most mortal danger.   
- GR p. 764

All page numbers refer to the 2006 Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition. The following essay assumes some familiarity, at least a rough outline, with the story of Gravity's Rainbow.  It's easy to find a synopsis online.  The Leary connection has been given an excellent treatment by The Overweening Generalist in a joint effort with PQ who wrote a separate and excellent overview of the book.

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon has been called the premier book of postmodern literature.  It communicates multiple visions on multiple levels not the least of which coincides with Dr. Timothy Leary's vision for the next step for humanity - space colonies; expanding terrestrial life into outer space.  On another, not mutually exclusive level, GR presents a manual and course of study for the aspirant, the initiate, the bardo explorer and the working mystic.  We present a preliminary exploration into the occult side of this novel as well as Timothy Leary's role in it.

Pynchon gets quite explicit with the occult angle particularly toward the end.  One whole sub-episode called Weissmann's Tarot gives a full Celtic Cross reading for this character.  A few pages later he gives the Kabbalist Creation myth.  The Golden Dawn is name checked and sourced as well as A. E. Waite, Madame Blavatsky, Freemason's, Rosicrucians and others of their ilk.  All this arcanum gets expressed literally and therefore not quite occult, meaning hidden.  Yet, we see a great deal below the surface.  The literal references suggest a direction to look in.  This direction leads down Alice's rabbit hole into the Wonderland of transitional consciousness with lots of handy hints, advice and warnings along the way.

The plot of GR concerns the rockets used at the end of World War II.  It could be said that the main nonhuman character = a Rocket.

"Of 77 cards that could have come up, Weismann is "covered" that is his present condition is set forth by The Tower.  It is a puzzling card, and everybody has a different story on it. ... We know by now that it is also the Rocket."  - GR p. 762  Pynchon then goes on to explain this card on The Tree of Life.  In PQs blog linked to above, there is a photo of a mock-up of Mindless Pleasures, GRs original title, with The Tower card as its cover.  Pynchon makes this correspondence explicit.

As an aside to critics who considered Mindless Pleasures a stupid title, although I agree that Gravity's Rainbow is unquestionably better, the former appears quite brilliant from the working mystic point of view especially when you understand that Pleasure relates to another tarot card.   Qabalistic illiteracy obscures and occludes particular signs that may seem abstract, nonsensical, or trivial without knowing the language.  Your judgements often reveal the limitations of your knowledge.

The quote I opened this post with looks completely congruent to the new born child Horus, the deity in charge of our present age according to Aleister Crowley and his spiritual kinfolk.  The work of Crowley et al gets known as the 93 Current.  The baby in the quote = "a baby as fat as a suckling pig." P = 80, I = 10, G = 3; PIG = 93.  Crowley uses the same pig pun in The Book of Lies.  Pynchon has his main character Tyrone Slothrop going around in a pig costume at one point.  I am not asserting that Pynchon consciously and deliberately used a pig totem to indicate Thelema (Crowley's religion), we'll get to that.

An obvious reason Pynchon chose The Tower to represent the Rocket and hence, the book:  The Tower = the path of Mars = War.  Except for a couple of flashbacks and flashforwards, War hangs in the background for the entire novel.  He gives other explicit reasons for The Tower attribution on page 762.  A less obvious reason could be that this path indicates an introduction to Thelema.  This path corresponds with Horus.  It is one of the three cross paths on the Tree of Life, being the lowest and thus the first cross path encountered when ascending from Malkuth, the Material World.

One of the stories of The Tower card, known in older decks as the House of God, gets told quite well in The Book of Thoth by Crowley.  The whole entry is worth reading; here is a relevant excerpt:

There is a direct reference to this card in the Book of Law.  In Chapter I, verse 57, the goddess Nuith speaks: "Invoke me under my stars! Love is the law, love under the will.  Nor let the fools mistake love; for there are love and love.  There is the dove and there is the serpent. Choose ye well! He, my prophet hath chosen, knowing the law of the fortress, and the great mystery of the House of God."
      The dominating feature of this card is the Eye of Horus.  This is also the Eye of Shiva, on the opening of which, according to the legend of this cult, the Universe is destroyed.  
 - The Book of Thoth, p. 108

The opening of the Eye of Horus, the introduction of this vision, can blow up old belief systems and destroy the Universe as you know it.  On the card it looks, and gets described as, explosive.  Explosions repeat somewhat frequently in GR, even moreso in Pynchon's next epic, multilayered and magickly related novel, Against the Day.

I did not notice any direct references to Crowley in Gravity's Rainbow and have no idea if Pynchon knows anything about him.  Given TP's encyclopedic proclivities, I suspect he does.  He kind of dances around Crowley naming people and things like The Golden Dawn that played roles in the old man's life without any direct references.  He even alludes to a well-known incident involving uber Crowley student and collector, Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page (p. 666). The lack of any mention could be from not knowing the Crowley literature or it could be that he keeps AC occult and remote like Pynchon's own public persona.  The closest mention of Crowley I saw in GR occurs on page 24.  At this point in the adventure, Slothrop is working for an Allied government agency called ACHTUNG investigating the aftermath of V-bomb (i.e. rocket) "incidents."  ACHTUNG = German for attention.  Slothrop works for attention - this seems a huge clue!

"...he'd detach his pencil smeared buck slip, go draw the same aging Humber from the motor pool, and make his rounds, a St. George after the fact, going out to poke about for droppings of the Beast, fragments of German hardware that wouldn't exist, writing empty summaries into his notebooks - work-therapy.  As inputs to ACHTUNG got faster, often he'd show up in time to help the search crews..." GR p. 24

As is well known, though with little understanding, Crowley identified with The Beast of Revelations.  Another indirect reference is the introduction of Timothy Leary as a character in the book.  More on that later.  Leary declared himself to be carrying on Crowley's work.  You can view a YouTube video where he says that.

Perhaps Pynchon knew absolutely nothing about Crowley when he wrote Gravity's Rainbow.  Still, there appears hard evidence that he worked invocationally; he could have been tapping into the 93 Current without knowing it, though I personally find this unlikely, I suspect he had some conscious knowledge of it.  In a 1970 letter Pynchon wrote to Arthur Mizener about writing: "the further I get into this wretched profession the clearer it is that I am doing very little consciously beyond some clerk routine - assembling, expediting - and that either (a) there is an Extrapersonal Source, or (b) readers are the ones who do most of the work, or all of the above. "(Quoted from Weisenburger in The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Pynchon, p. 44)

Like Robert Anton Wilson, some of Pynchon's characters turn up in more than one book.  In Weisenburger's invaluable guide: Gravity's Rainbow Companion, he mentions which characters began life in Pynchon's first novel V, others that first showed up in one of the short stories found in Slow Learner, etc.  We also find metaphors repeating in his different novels.  Pynchon's entire vision might only come to light by reading his entire oeuvre, or at least all the novels.

I tried to read V, but couldn't get into it.  At some point I'll go back and dive in with more preparation.  The first time I tried Gravity's Rainbow, I slogged through the first half before giving up.  A few weeks ago it came back up on my radar when I started seeing video reviews for it on my YouTube recommendations list.  After seeing a few of these, I realized it was time to try again.  I took it as an instruction from the "Universe" to act upon.  I picked up a used copy at Powells when working up in Portland, thinking to start reading it within a few weeks.  My prior copy literally self-destructed. The next evening after work I read the assigned portion of The Earth Will Shake by Robert Anton Wilson for a discussion group.  Waiting for dinner, I turned on another GR review and observed the reviewer bring up some points also found in Wilson's book.  This dude sounded very whimsical, part of it may have been his pronounced Australian accent; he ended the review by saying: "see if you can read the first 12 pages of Gravity's Rainbow without craving a banana."  Naturally, I took this as another instruction and proceeded to begin the adventure and read at least the first 12 pages.  My edition begins on page 3 so I read the first episode ending on page 17.  On page 14 Pirate Prentice has a long running fantasy briefly described as exactly what happens in a scene I had just read in The Earth Will Shake involving getting kidnapped by an organization of Sicilians.  These two books successively conspired to blow my mind with that synchronicity.  Both writers act as Hierophants and they both went to the same school.

Although I've only read a few pages of V, I've seen one or two reviews and learned that the primary plot point concerns a search for V described as a woman who does get found near the end.  At least one critic has said that Gravity's Rainbow could have been called V2 because that is the type of rocket at the center of the novel.  His next novel's title = Vineland.  Qabalistically the letter V corresponds with The Hierophant in the Tarot - the one who communicates the secrets of the temple.  The search for V in Pynchon's first novel may have symbolically reflected a search for The Hierophant, a search for an Extrapersonal Source to serve as a conduit for.  As reflected in his fiction, he definitely found and took on the Hierophant's task by the time of GR.

Another attribute of GR aligned with both Crowley and Gurdjieff = its profound God intoxication.  It has been rightfully said that this novel is dark, expresses extreme pain and has very disgusting scatalogical and pornographic scenes.  That perspective may be what predominately comes through without the insight of Qabala.  A subtext of imagery pertaining to Kether, the highest Sephira on The Tree of Life and the one associated with God, runs throughout the book.  It shows itself most often through the color white, a color that makes frequent appearances in the description of various things particularly near the novel's beginning.  For instance, the building that houses the odd group of psychics and clairvoyants making up "PISCES - Psychological Intelligence Schemes for Expediting Surrender," goes by "The White Visitation."

These instances of white seem hardly ever, if ever, pure.  They often appear in a mixture with a dark element of one sort or another.  In other words, Pynchon doesn't offer the appearance of Kether as an escape into a spiritual world, he injects the vision of Kether into the material world of war, dirt and pain possibly as one response to the Sufi question: "Why is God in Hell?"  From a Qabala perspective Hell = the Space/Time continuum.  The work seems on the surface, right where you are sitting now.  Another instance of Kether arrives toward the end with the search for the next model of rocket, this one with the serial number 00001.  The firing of its predecessor, rocket # 00000 plays a large role and ends the novel; we'll get to that.

The white of Kether gets folded in to so many much darker elements that it appears, at times, like a dialectic between the two poles of light and dark, spiritual and material; as a mixture or blend, not as mutually exclusive.  In painting or drawing this effect is called chiaroscuro.  You can find no better philosophic treatment of this than in The Fold, by Deleuze.  A good example of this symbolic chiaroscuro blend occurs in the character of Blicero, the novel's primary antagonist.  Weisenburger informs us that according to Grimm's Teutonic Mythology, one of Pynchon's sources: "'Blicero' is one of the many German nicknames for death. Grimm traces the etymology from 'bleich' (pale)" aka "The Bleacher for what death does to bones."  We find an element of whiteness in this dark character's name.

The first time I spoke with someone other than myself who had read Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson by G.I. Gurdjieff said that the two things they were most struck by were his demonstration of the horrors and stupidity of war and his adoration and love for "Our-Common-Father-Creator Endless.  I find these same two attributes in Gravity's Rainbow.  Pynchon depicts war as mindlessly bureaucratic, mechanical, horrific and insane.  An atmosphere of violence, oppression and pain runs in the background for nearly the entire book.  On the other hand, the encoded language of Qabalah enables the detection of a profound respect, adoration, and love for the Highest.

 The chiaroscuro cover of the edition used here

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YouTube book reviewer The Book Chemist made the point that historical novels inevitably contain elements of the present time of writing.  This holds true of Gravity's Rainbow written in the 1960s and early 70s.  As was true of that era, we see a liberal amount of a wide variety of drug use.  Slothrop steals a whole brick of hashish in one scene that becomes a plot element for awhile.  Richard Nixon even makes an appearance, first literally with a quote attributed to him that starts the 4th section, then as the character Richard M. Zhlubb "who is fiftyish and jowled, with a permanent five-oclock shadow ..."  Pynchon has fun skewering him. Nixon, of course, became a leader of the status quo culture.  His counter-cultural nemesis, Timothy Leary also makes an appearance.

The story of Leary receiving a copy of Gravity's Rainbow in prison and declaring it a book of genius appears well known to readers of the Good Doctor's life.  See the OG blog by Michael Johnson linked to above for more background and details about this.  In a brief YouTube clip Leary gets asked the one thing he would like to do that he hasn't done before.  He answers: "meet Thomas Pynchon" then goes on to make this a direct appeal to the author.  Many people have wondered what he saw in this dark, chaotic and fragmented novel.  Johnson appears to suggest that the setting of solitary confinement in prison make have played a significant part.  I agree as the atmosphere of GR often makes you feel like living in an oppressed environment.  Some times GR evokes pure Hell in a disgustingly visceral manner like it probably feels in the worst prisons.  I would go so far as to say that getting inside GR feels like being in a prison comprised of the worst aspects of humanity, or as the Gurdjieffians might have it, a prison of sleep.  Yet all along we feel a promise, a rainbow, of redemption and eventual freedom.  I can see this resonating with any prisoner.

It remains unknown to me whether Leary recognized himself as a character in the novel, though I don't see how he couldn't, and whether this factored in to his high opinion.  In my reckoning, Pynchon recognizes and praises his contribution in one spot while also criticizing and rebuking his message elsewhere.  Leary takes the stage as the character Steve Edelman.  On page 770 Edelman "is currently in Atascadero under indefinite observation."  The ever helpful Steven C. Weisenburger notes that: "LSD guru Timothy Leary was incarcerated there after his arrest in 1969." (GR Companion p. 382).  In the previous paragraph from p.770, the Nixon character says that he had a lot of trouble from that Steve Edelman.  Nixon famously declared Leary "the most dangerous man in America."  Mirroring Leary's situation Pynchon writes: "It is alleged that Edelman, in an unauthorized state of mind, attempted to play a chord progression on the Department of Justice list, out in the street and in the presence of a whole movie-queue of witnesses." 

Pynchon honors Leary in a couple of ways.  First, his character's name.  Edel = old-fashoned German for noble or kingly.  Steve comes from the Greek Stephanos meaning crown.  Steve Edelman = the crowned nobleman or the crowned king.  Crown corresponds with Kether.  Also, I am told there is a portion of Christian imagery in this adventure.  St. Stephen was a deacon who was stoned to death as told in the Book of Acts in the New Testament.  He is regarded as the first Christian martyr. It seems easy to consider Leary a martyr for his cause at that time.  By all accounts including his own, Leary frequently got stoned to death, albeit the death of his ego which never failed to get reborn. 

Two pages back, p.768, "Kabbalist spokesman Steve Edelman" explains the Tree of Life.  Though not widely known or recognized, Leary indeed rates as a master Qabalist after his own fashion.  See his book, The Game of Life.  After explaining the creation of the Sephiroth, Edelman continues:  "To return to God, the soul must negotiate each of the Sephiroth, from ten back to one.  Armed with magic and faith, Kabbalists have set out to conquer the Sephiroth.  Many Kabbalist secrets have to do with making the trip successfully."  There's more that connects Edelman with Leary on this page though one must be aware that Pynchon likes to reverse meaning.  We'll get to his reversals shortly. 

This obvious representation of Timothy Leary makes it easier to consider a criticism meant for him made earlier on page 744: Henryk the Hare, driving, keeps a leery eye on the temperature gauge.  He's called "the Hare" because he can never get messages right, as in the old Herero story.  So reverences are dying.  This recalls the story of the Tortoise and the Hare.  To me, it appears to criticize the message of LSD as a quick route to enlightenment.  Reverences are dying seems a heavy statement. 

I noticed another Leary sighting earlier in the book in a passage reminiscent of Crowley on p. 84: "But the Reverend Dr. Paul de la Nuit is not fond of the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory). "Rosie, are there scales for measuring interpersonal traits?" Hawk's nose probing, probing, eyes lowered in politic meekness. Human values? Trust, honesty, love?  Is there - forgive me for special pleading - a religious scale, by any chance?

No way, padre: the MMPI was developed about 1943.  In the very heart of the War.  Allport and Vernon's Study of Values ..."  In the 50's, before his psychedelic researches, Leary developed his well-known Interpersonal Circle Model of Personality that measured interpersonal traits.  Although anachronistic, the name Allport suggests Leary's future research partner Richard Alpert.

There is another aspect related to the 1960s that probably caught Leary's attention which recurs frequently throughout the book and will remain occult in this essay. 

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The number 69 appears significant in Gravity's Rainbow.  The main character = Tyrone Slothrop.  His initials add to 69.  The first 3 words of the book's first sentence: "A screaming comes across the sky" adds to 69.  The entire sentence = 139; 1 = Kether; 39 = To abide, dwell; Dew; The Eternal is One; Angel of 3 of Pentacles = Work (from AC's 777).  

69 indicates reversal of meaning, a reversal of letters, or it can mean a pun with two opposite meanings.  Tyrone Slothrop's name appears a good indication of the latter.  His name makes an anagram of Sloth Entropy with the letter "o" left over.  O = The Devil in the tarot, it can indicate male energy destructive and gone amok as in a war.  Another anagram his name makes: by switching the position of one letter Tyrone becomes "Try one," another reference to Kether.  By switching one letter in his last name and reading it backwards, Slothrop becomes "Porthols", the word "portholes except for the letter "e."  E = The Star in the tarot.  That is what is missing.  Try one Porthols seems opposite in nature to Entropy Sloth. 

The other number that shows up an incredible amount of times = 68 in the form of "s" and "c" letter combinations; most often where these letters occur as initials to consecutive words or words obviously connected.  You will see this in the very first sentence: "A screaming comes across the sky."  The possible significance of that shall also remain occult here though if you click on this link, my interpretation will get revealed especially when you click on the links inside that link.