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 ...

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