Saturday, June 22, 2019

Gravity's Rainbow, Gilles Deleuze and the Occult Part 4

Interviewer: "Can you tell us briefly how you broke out of prison?"

Timothy Leary: "I'd like to say telepathy, teleportation, magick — that was part of it."

- YouTube Folsom Prison interview

A SCREAMING COMES ACROSS THE SKY. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.  - Gravity's Rainbow, p. 3

These are the first two lines as they appear in the text with the first sentence all in caps.  One critic called it one of the most famous first lines ever.  Indeed, these six words communicate a multiplicity of sense; they can be profitably studied and decoded like a magick rune. This one line accurately characterizes the literary impact of the entire book.  It screamed so loud that it got rejected for the 1974 Pulitzer Prize despite being unanimously recommended by the jurors.  It also screams a multiplicity on a psychic level, confronting the worst aspects of humanity with a Counterforce.  And, this line resonates with the album I recorded with Bill Laswell and The Master Musicians of Jajouka in 1990, Apocalypse Across the Sky. I don't know if Pynchon was an influence on the album title or not? The music of Jajouka definitely fits in with the atmosphere of Gravity's Rainbow in many regards and is a counterforce of its own.

The second sentence encapsulates core concepts in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze appearing in his Master's Thesis, Difference and Repetition.  Everything repeats, but turns up something different each time;  it demonstrates Deleuze's unique take on Nietzsche's Eternal Return - what returns = difference. It seems a genius second line, especially if you just finished reading the book and immediately start again as did Timothy Leary when he first got hands on it.  

Deleuze, Friedrich Nietzsche, Thomas Pynchon, Timothy Leary, and Aleister Crowley share the common ground of wanting to change the world, to reimagine and reinterpret it along more creative lines that gives power to individual expression and freedom from any form of tyranny and fascism — what William Burroughs called Control; Deleuze through his philosophy of difference, Leary via the raising of consciousness and his S.M.I2.L.E. formula, Crowley through Magick and Thelema, Nietzsche with the transvaluation of values and the creation of the Übermensch, and Pynchon through an arcane literary mixture of all of the above and more.

In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze attempts a monumental shift in how we see the world by attacking what he calls the dogmatic image of thought.  We get programmed and conditioned, probably beginning in our DNA, to interpret everything we perceive according to conventions and categories first established by Plato, and reinforced by Aristotle, Descartes and Kant.  This is the philosophy of the Same, of Recognition, of Essences and Identities.  We see a chair and know it "is" a chair because we recognize that it looks the same as other chairs.  We immediately and unconsciously attach a label and identity to the object as a "chair." It shares some essence of "chairness" found in Plato's Ideal or Archetypal chair.  Any difference between two chairs or two objects gets determined by what is not the same about them.  Difference gets subordinated to the Same in conventional philosophy.  Deleuze joins Nietzsche's project to overturn Platonism, to usurp the dominance of Representation which habitually and commonly takes the map for the territory to use Korzybski's metaphor.  Deleuze aims to create of philosophy of "difference in itself," a philosophy of difference not subordinated to the same or to recognition.

The valorisation of the same and subordination of difference to it for the past 2500 years has real world, sociological consequences.  It appears the root of racism, sexism, nationalism and any kind of identity politics.  Them that's the same as us = good; those that be different = bad.  Hitler attempted to off all the Jews because they were different than the Aryans.  This difference meant they were inferior according to his perverse and distorted beliefs, yet beliefs based on a longstanding algorithm of the Same.  Of course, we find far more complexity in the cause of the Holocaust than this reductionist view, but it does exemplify the potential danger of unconscious assumptions.

Difference in itself finds its ontology between identities.  Difference = in between; the in between = the Bardo.  Paying attention to difference = a way into the Bardo while alive.  Learning to handle the Bardo = a way to survive death as discussed in Part 2.  Gravity's Rainbow, to me, appears the best example of difference in itself realized in literature; a multiplicity of portholes into the Bardo; an excellent training ground to ride the explosion and expulsion of death and come out something different on the other side.  Thou knowest! And the sign shall be my ecstasy, the consciousness of the continuity of existence, the omnipresence of my body. Liber Al I:26 - Nuit in her starring role as the univocity of Being.

Beyond memory, the evident paradox of the death instinct lay in the fact that, despite its name, it seemed to us from the outset to be endowed with a double role: to include all the force of the different in repetition, and at the same time to provide the most positive and most excessive account of repetition.  Difference and Repetition, p. 289

Pynchon presents a coded plan for reimagining the world along creative lines.  We can learn much about it by examining the name of his main character, Tyrone Slothrop.

Notice that the first and last letters = Pynchon's initials.  I suspect Tyrone Slothrop's name derives somewhat from Cervantes's Don Quixote.  This book has long been seen as a metaphor for realizing a high ideal, some kind of vision of a different world, or a different way of dealing with this world.  Gravity's Rainbow shares this metaphor in a more occult way.  Much like Quixote, Slothrop comes to imagine himself as a super-hero, he goes around in a Rocketman costume complete with cape, much like Quixote dons the uniform of a medieval knight errant and imagines himself a member of the highest Order of Chivalry.

"Who can doubt that in future times, when the true history of my famous deeds sees the light, the sage who chronicles them will, when he recounts this my first sally, so early in the morning, write in this manner: "Scarce had ruddy Apollo spread over the face of the wide and spacious earth the golden tresses of his beauteous hair, and scarce had the speckled little birds with their harmonious tongues hailed in musical and mellifluous melody the approach of rosy Aurora who, rising from her jealous husband's soft couch, disclosed herself to mortals in the portals and balconies of La Mancha's horizon, when the famous knight Don Quixote de la Mancha, quitting the slothful feathers of his bed, mounted his famous steed Rocinante and begin to ride over the ancient and far-famed Plain of Montiel?" - Don Quixote, p. 30 -31, Penguin Books 2001

This scene describes a golden dawn.  We see the sloth of Slothrop in this quote while we get "porthols" (portals) reading Slothrop backwards and changing the position's of the letters t and h.  "...mortals in the portals and balconies of La Mancha's horizon" suggests entering the Bardo.

We have said before that two anagrams of opposite sense can be made from Tyrone Slothrop:
(1) Sloth Entropy leaves an extra letter "o"
(2) Try One Porthol(e)s except it misses the letter "e" for a correct spelling.

O = The Devil in the Tarot
E = The Star

The extra o from Sloth Entropy = the problem; the missing e from Try One Porthols also = the problem but at least indicates a direction for a solution.  The Devil, when poorly signified as it is here, indicates aggressive and out of control male energy gone amok; unbalanced energy that starts wars like WW II, the literal setting in GR, but with a subtext that this problem along with potential solutions remains current.  As I write this, the U.S. appears on the brink of a war with Iran, a war likely far more deadly and severe than either Iraq or Afghanistan if allowed to go the full course.  On a psychic level, I see this deriving from rampant male egos pushing their aggressive, phallic, territorial disease on the world.  Iran nearly experienced
A SCREAMING COMES ACROSS THE SKY last night.

Tyrone Slothrop = every WoMan.  He portrays the Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (Finnegans Wake protagonist) in GR.  James Joyces sprinkles Earwicker's initials, HCE, throughout Finnegans Wake, at one point saying: Here Comes Everybody.  Slothrop = you, me,  and everyone with a spiritual bone in their body.  His two anagrams, Entropy Sloth and Try One Portholes (TOP) = the internal dynamic between the animal and the Being; the primate and the Star.  Follow his adventures as he becomes Rocketman for a time then narrowly escapes castration by fortuitously changing costumes (masks) in the nick of time, so to speak.

We can take a different look at the two anagrams as indicating two different series of themes coursing through Gravity's Rainbow and run it through Deleuze.

The law governing two simultaneous series is that they are never equal. One represents the signifier, the other the signified.
 - Logic of Sense, p. 37

These are linguistic terms. The signifier = how we represent something - an object, a person, a world, etc.; the signified = the thing itself.  Plato called it intelligibility (signifier) and sensibility (signified). Korzybski used the metaphor of the map = signifier and the territory = signified.

As I see it, Entropy Sloth = the signifier; Try One Portholes = the signified.

We will not say, therefore, of the two series it (Tyrone Slothrop in this case) animates, that the one is originary and the other derived, though they certainly may be originary or derived in relation to one another.  They can also be successive in relation to one another. But they are strictly simultaneous in relation to the entity by means of which they communicate.  They are simultaneous without ever being equal, since the entity has two sides, one of which is always absent from the other.  It behooves it, therefore, to be in excess in the one series in which it constitutes it as signifying, and lacking in the other which it constitutes it as signified; split apart, incomplete by nature or in relation to itself.  It's excess always refers to its own lack.  But even these determinations are still relative.  For that which is in excess in one case is nothing but an extremely mobile empty place; and that which is lacking in another case is a rapidly moving object, an occupant without a place, always supernumary and displaced.                             
- Logic of Sense, p.41

The "extremely mobile empty place" occurs in the series Entropy Sloth.  The "occupant without a place" in Try One Portholes.  

I have composed several essays comparing the philosophy of Deleuze with Crowley's magick and the above quote provides another excellent example of their synergy.  The word "place" in the description of both series appears a key.  See The Book of Lies chapter 57.  Therein lies a methodology. Thomas Pynchon appears intuitively and intimately familiar with both Crowley and Deleuze.  His ability to animate their concepts in his literature really seems quite astounding!

To restate the problem qabalistically, we have an excess of O (The Devil) and a lack of E (The Star).  Where can we find some of the missing E in Pynchon's convoluted cryptogram?  Let's take a look at the name of the Timothy Leary character in GR, Steve Edelman.  An anagram of that name gives us:

"Lsd tv man" with "eee" left over. 

Why three Es?  Because of a well-known occult axiom that states anything repeated three times automatically becomes a folk song. LSD gives the common association with Tim Leary, his media signature; three Es — to discover the meaning of this, read up on The Star in The Book of Thoth by Crowley.  TV MAN because Leary loved publicity and tv = television = tell a vision, something he never failed to attempt.  In Steve Edelman's case, the three e's become the telling vision. 

The extra O misses his E. O(70) + E(5) = 75
75 = NUIT, THE STAR GODDESS - as it appears in Crowley's gematria dictionary.

To restate: Vineland  = Gravity's Rainbow part 2 concerning these esoteric themes. A direct, alchemical continuation, update, and refinement seventeen years later. This is how Vineland ends.  The context is the character Prairie waking up after sleeping in the woods:

" ... before settling down into sleep, sleeping then unvisited till around dawn, with fog still in the hollows, deer and cows grazing together in the meadow, sun blinding in the cobwebs on the wet grass, a redtail hawk in an updraft soaring above the ridgeline, Sunday morning about to unfold, when Prairie woke to a warm and persistent tongue all over her face.  It was Desmond, none other, the spit and image of his grandmother Chloe, roughened by the miles, face full of blue-jay feathers, smiling out of his eyes, wagging his tail, thinking he must be home."  p. 385

Desmond is Prairie's dog who has been missing.  We have here rich qabalistic imagery.  Tim Leary introduced the S.M.I2.L.E. around the time Gravity's Rainbow came out, not too long after the Starseed Transmissions — I don't know what came first?  I don't know if Pynchon knew about this formula at that time, but it seems highly probable he knew of it when writing Vineland.  The phrase, "smiling out of his eyes" connects with Leary.  His character in Pynchon's world, Steve Edelman, has extra E's in his anagram.  Eye corresponds with O.  smiling out of his eyes = E out of O = The Star out of The Devil.  See chapter 23 in The Book of Lies for the OUT formula. 

"grandmother Chloe" seems another rich image when analyzed, which I won't do here, only to note that when you say Chloe you actually pronounce the letters o and e. Two of the main female characters,  mother and daughter Frenesi and Prairie, have names that end with an e sound.  One of the main plotlines concerns the fact that Frenesi has been completely missing from 14 year old Prairie's life.  Prairie sets out to find out about her mother's life and to meet her.

If you find all this interesting, then check out the opening quote to Vineland by blues musician Johnny Copeland.  It gives the novel a circular aspect.


Another chiaroscuro book cover from Pynchon

To be continued ...

Friday, June 7, 2019

Gravity's Rainbow, Timothy Leary and the Occult Part 3


"... it is not often Death is told so clearly to fuck off."

- Gravity's Rainbow, p. 10

Thomas Pynchon's unwavering attention on Death in Gravity's Rainbow has strong emotional motivation. The book is dedicated to Richard Fariña, his close friend who tragically died at the age of 29 in a motorcycle accident near Carmel California. It happened on the day of a party jointly celebrating the release of his book, Been Down So Long, It Looks Like Up To Me and the 21st birthday of his wife Mimi Baez, sister of Joan.  Pynchon served as Best Man at Fariña's wedding to Baez.

At the time of his death, Richard Fariña seemed on his way to becoming a significant cultural figure of his times.  He performed as a folksinger, released two albums before he died and another posthumously.  At the time of his death he was producing an album for Joan Baez. A music critic once said he would have given his friend Bob Dylan a run for his money had he lived.  He was a well-known character in hipster circles. The splash his short life made is excellently documented in Positively 4th Street, The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez  Fariña, and Richard Fariña, by David Hajdu, a book I highly recommend to anyone interested in the nascent history of the 1960s.

Fariña's death has least two direct references in Pynchon's next novel Vineland published 17 years after GRVineland continues the revolt against the finality of Death.  It appears very much a continuation of Gravity's Rainbow in terms of esoteric communication.  I consider Vineland even more of a masterpiece in that regard and would suggest those new to Pynchon tackle Vineland first.  It's an easier read and less scatalogical. Other themes connect the two novels such as authoritarian persecution and extreme, hyperbolized, paranoia.

Fariña died when the bike he was a passenger on failed to negotiate a curve on Carmel Valley Road.  As Pynchon writes in the Foreward to a later edition of Been Down So Long ..., they were going about 90 mph when it should have been no faster than 35 mph.

"The band played up and down in valleys still in those days unknown except to a few real-estate visionaries, little crossroads places where one day houses'd sprawl and the rates of human affliction in all categories zoom.  After work, unable to sleep, the Corvairs liked to go out and play motorhead valley roulette in the tule fogs.  These white presences, full of blindness and sudden highway death, moved, as if conscious, unpredictably over the landscape.  There were fewer satellite photos back then, so people had only the ground-level view. No clear bounded shape - all at once, there in the road, a critter in a movie, to quick to be true, there it'd be.  The idea was to enter the pale wall at a speed meaningfully over the limit, to bet that the white passage held no other vehicles, no curves, no construction, only smooth, level, empty roadway to an indefinite distance - a motorhead variation on a surfer's dream." - Vineland p. 37 1997 Penguin edition

56 pages later finds a chapter dedicated to a wedding scene set in the same area as Fariña's wedding, in the hills just south of San Francisco.  Fog connects this scene to the previous one quoted.  We find the father of the bride Ralph Wayvone:

"Emerging from a pool the size of a small reservoir in plaid swim trunks from Brooks Brothers, unable even at first glance to be mistaken for the white marble statues surrounding it, Ralph Wayvone Sr., caped himself with a towel stolen not that long ago from the Fairmont, ascending a short flight of steps, and stood looking out over a retaining wall that seemed in the morning fog to mark the edge of a precipice, or of the world.  With only a few tree silhouettes, and both freeways and the El Camino Real miraculously silent ...." p. 92

Pynchon attacks the finality of biological death through strong and consistent doses of Kether among other things.  How?

Wayvone = way v one = "way of one"  in the abbreviated, phonetic style Pynchon uses throughout Vineland to express his more rustic characters' speech patterns; also v = The Hierophant as discussed earlier.  Compare "way of one" with "try one," Tyrone Slothrop's first name anagram.  Wayvone also sounds like "wavy one" which suggests the ubiquity of physical energy transmissions in waves.  Note the allusion to the Hero in the quote.

The interpretation that one refers to Kether in this instance gets reinforced by reading the last 3 paragraphs of the chapter previous to the wedding scene in which Frensei Gates speculates on the nature of God and the World.  On page 97, still at the wedding, we find a sentence that might also serve as a mission statement of sorts for Pynchon's writing or of a working mystic: "I'm a percussion person, my job is to take hard knocks and rude surprises, line 'em up in a row in some way folks can dance to ..."  Vineland has two major Wayvone characters, Ralph Sr. and Ralph Jr., and three more minors one, Senior's wife, another son, and the daughter who is getting married.

 Apart from the direct allusions to Richard Fariña's roadway accident mentioned, we find a few more references to driving too fast around curves sprinkled throughout the book.  Perhaps the most revealing to Pynchon's state of mind at the time occurs on page 374 near the end:

"Out on those runs, speeding after moonset through the smell of the redwoods, with all the lights out, trying to sense among the different patches of darkness where the curves were, and what gear to be in for grades that were nearly impossible to see, bouncing along in a vintage Power Wagon, Zoyd from among somebody's collection of beat-up old 8-track tapes usually found himself listening to the Eagles' Greatest Hits, in particular "Take It to the Limit," basically his whole story these days, singing mournfully along, though obliged from time to time to interrupt himself as some new set of headlights appeared ..."

Vineland concludes on a very upbeat note, very life affirming.  For me, it recalls the ending of Joyce's Ulysses with more subtle encoding.  We have a "foreign magician and his blond tomato assistant" whose Act imitates a defiance of gravity and death.  How Pynchon imitates this defiance in his writing is coded in the "Power Wagon" Zoyd drives in the last excerpt.  Decoding this message requires reading the book and paying close attention.  Here's a clue: check the behavior of the Thanatoid dogs and compare that to the last sentence in the book.  Know that Pynchon was influenced by James Joyce and Vladimir Nabokov (also strongly influenced by Joyce), and remain open to the possibility that Pynchon knows, or could invoke, some of Crowley's magick formulas as I've previously suggested. 

William S. Burroughs famously said that he wrote himself out of the tragic black hole created by the accidental shooting death of his wife by his own hand.  Could Pynchon, clearly influenced by Burroughs, intend his writing to do the same regarding the death of Fariña on a personal level and the suffering and death of War victims on a global scale?

In Lines of Flight, an abstruse commentary on Pynchon's oeuvre through the lens of Deleuze, Guattari, Derrida and other philosophers, Stefan Mattessich suggests that The Rocket can also be a metaphor for the writer's pen.  This matches the correspondence of The Rocket with the Roman deity Mercury in the previous post.  Mercury = the god of communication.  The writer's pen adds and constructs the influence of Kether into Death's domain.  Close examination will make this quite evident in the Vineland scenes quoted above.


The white rocket as a pen adding whiteness into the blackness of War, Death and human suffering to create a chiaroscuro effect.

The idea of the writer's pen becoming a magical implement creating new realities has precedence in Aleister Crowley's Magick in Theory and Practice.  In the introduction to that book Crowley endeavors to systematize Magick in a similar way that Euclid did with Geometry, and Spinoza did with his philosophy in The Ethics.  We find a definition of Magick in the first section of this Introduction, a postulate in the second section, and a series of theorems in the third.  Nearly every one of these comes with a practical illustration.

I. Definition

MAGICK
is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.
     (Illustration: It is my Will to inform the World of certain facts within my knowledge.  I therefor take "magical weapons," pen, ink, and paper; I write incantations — these sentences — in the "magical language" i.e. that which is understood by the people I wish to instruct; I call forth "spirits," such as printers, publishers, booksellers, and so forth, and constrain them to convey my message to those people.

In this example, the Author makes explicit the magick inherent to the construction and dissemination of a book and stays silent regarding any effects the writing may have.  My favorite anecdote of change brought about through writing occurred at the height of WWII when it appeared England would soon get overwhelmed by the forces of fascism.  Aleister Crowley wrote a one page tract known today as the Rights of WoMan as an antifascist support of Liberty.  After publishing and magically consecrating it, he sent it to every well-known person he knew well or had the address for.  Ten days after publication, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor causing the U.S. to declare to war on  Japan, Italy, and Nazi Germany, a pivotal point in the turning of the War.  Admittedly, this event reads as circumstantial, we'll never know for sure if Crowley's literary ritual had anything to do with it, yet it does encourage similar experimentation in dire situations.

Some models in quantum physics may provide a material basis and explanation for how writing can help change the World.  It appears easy to view Gravity's Rainbow as a kind of subatomic particle accelerator juxtaposed into an historical time and place.  The characters serve as the subatomic particles while their connections and entanglements illustrate behavior in the quantum universe.  The last time I heard Timothy Leary speak, at the Wetlands in New York in 1993, he urged everyone to "think of yourself as a quark," the fundamental unit of matter.  He fleshes this position out in the article, Willam Gibson: Quark of the Decade originally published in Mondo 2000, now included in the book Chaos and Cyber Culture.  To give you an idea:

Q. Who can explain these mysterious digital programs? Who can read us young, wanna-be quarks nice bedtime stories to make us feel secure about loosening up? Who can make us feel comfortable with the chaotic science of our wild times? Who can make us laugh at the structures crumbling before our eyes in Einstein smiles because relativity and the fractal natures of the running programs are always funny? (Why? Because they surprise us.) Who will get us giggling like shocked schoolkids at the facts of life? Who will tickle us with accurate disorder? 

A. The artists-poets-musicians-storytellers. The popularizers of quantum linguistics.

Anyone who has read GR will likely recognize it in this question.   It certainly appears full of surprises with tons of humor including slapstick.  Leary goes on to call Thomas Pynchon the greatest and last of the "quantum linguists." (We do not use the nervous term "science fiction" to describe the quantum-science writers.) Murray Gell-Mann, the physicist who first postulated the existence of quarks, found the word in Finnegans Wake; another example of how writing changes the world we live in and how we see it.  Finnegans Wake had a significant influence on Gravity's Rainbow.



Pynchon may have found the title to his book in science literature:

Gravity's rainbow is a theory that arose from attempts by physicists to generate a "theory of everything," or a theory of the universe that unites quantum mechanics and general relativity.

This theory holds that different wavelengths of light have different measures of gravity and are separated in the same way a prism splits white light into the different frequencies of the rainbow.  It doesn't require much imagination to see how this applies to the book of the same name.

A talking head in A Journey into the Mind of P likens the In the Zone section to a "quantum subatomic smasher" with Slothrop "wormholing his way around it.

Wormholes are solutions to the Einstein field equations for gravity that act as "tunnels," connecting points in space-time in such a way that the trip between the points through the wormhole could take much less time than the trip through normal space - Richard F. Holman


We find multiple anomalies and insinuations of alternate rates of time in GR.  More on that next time.  Slothrop reversed = porthol(e)s - a synonym for wormholes.  

"He entered a brick labyrinth that had been a harmonica factory.  Splashes of bell-metal lay forever unrung in the factory dirt.  Against a high wall that had recently been painted white, the shadows of horses and their riders drummed.  Sitting, watching, from workbenches and crates, were a dozen individuals Squalidozzi recognized right away as gangsters.  Cigar-ends glowed, and molls whispered back and forth in German.  The men ate sausages, ripping away the casings with white teeth, well cared for, that flashed in the light of the movie. ... Crowned window frames gave out on the brick courtyard where summer air moved softly.  The filmlight flickered blue across empty windows as if it were breath trying to produce a note.  The images grew blunt with vengeance.  "Yay!" screamed all the zoosters, white gloves bouncing up and down.  Their mouths and eyes were as wide as children's.

... For days, as it turned out, the gangsters had known Squalidozzi was in the neighborhood; they could infer to his path, though he himself was invisible to them, by the movements of the police which were not.  Blodgett Waxwing —for it was he—used the analogy of a cloud chamber, and the vapor trail a high-speed particle leaves ...
    "I don't understand."
    "Not sure I do either, pal.  But we have to keep our eye on everything, and right now all the hepcats are going goofy over something called 'nuclear physics.'"
 - Gravity's Rainbow, p. 391

Much photon movement in the first paragraph.

To be continued ...