Monday, July 1, 2019

Gravity's Rainbow, Timothy Leary and the Occult Part 5

In our last episode, we examined the linguistic coding in the name of GR's primary protagonist, Tyrone Slothrop.  We found two anagrams by arranging his name appearing to go in opposite directions. 1) Sloth Entropy - sounds like something with much gravity. 2. Try One Porthol(e)s - that signals hope, like a rainbow.  We called Sloth Entropy, the signifier and Try One Porthol(e)s the signified.   This arises from invoking Deleuze to analyze these two anagrams as two simultaneous series related to one another.  According to Gilles, and demonstrated by Pynchon, the signifying has an excess of sense, in the case of Sloth Entropy, the extra letter o that doesn't belong in the anagram while the signified has a lack of sense - the missing letter e in Try One Porthols.  Deleuze says that the excess always refers to its own lack.

The signifier series has an extremely mobile empty place - the extra o, in this case; the signified series has an occupant without a place, always displaced - the missing e.  Last time I suggested looking at Chapter 57 in The Book of Lies for an insight into PLACE.  Since then, I came across this passage appearing to reinforce the suggestion:

"But oh, Egg the flying Rocket hatched from, navel of the 50-meter radio sky, all proper ghosts of place—forgive him his numbness, his glozing neutrality. Forgive the fist that doesn't tighten in his chest, the heart that can't stiffen in any greeting. . . . Forgive him as you forgave Tchitcherine at the Kirghiz Light. . . . . Better days are coming."  - GR, p. 518

The rainbow anagram derives from rearranging the letters of Tyrone to get "try one," while Slothrop gives us "porthols."  We can come up with another anagram arranging Tyrone Slothrop using the letters of both names interchangeably.  Try One Porthols can shift the e to become Try On Portholes.  This still sounds pretty abstract unless we consider Crowley's ON formula.  Earlier I gave my intuitive feeling that Pynchon knows this formula; either that, or the formula came through him despite not having conscious awareness of it.

They stood on the roof of one of the assembly buildings, the Oie across the water six miles away clearly visible, which meant a change in the weather tomorrow.  Steel was being hammered somewhere out in the sunlight, hammered in cadences, purified as the song of some bird.  Blue Peenemünde shivered around them in all directions, a dream of concrete and steel masses reflecting the noon heat.  The air rippled like camouflage.  Behind it something else seemed to carry on in secret.  GR p. 415

On seeing the light jangling this way, you begin to wait for something terrible — not exactly an air raid but something close to that.  You look quickly over at a clock.  It's six on the dot, hands perfectly straight up and down, and you understand that six is the hour of the appearance of the light.  GR p. 139

I came across other examples more convincing, but didn't note them.  The first example has an obvious, alchemical subtext.  The "Oie" refers to a rocket launching site;  it clearly fits in with this linguistic drama.

Looking at ON with basic Tarot attributions

O = The Devil
N= Death

Crowley extends this formula by adding the letter X to get NOX.  He presents this formula for the first time in The Book of Lies, Chapter 1, The Sabbath of the Goat.  The Goat = Capricorn = The Devil.  The Sabbath of the Goat = Death.  In the Commentary he writes: N is the Tarot symbol, Death; and the X or Cross is the sign of the Phallus.  For a fuller commentary on Nox, see Liber VII, Chapter 1.  Recall the symbolic resonance of the Rocket with the Arrow of aspiration:

37.  I shoot up vertically like an arrow, and become that Above.
38. But it is death, and the flame of the pyre
39. Ascend in the flame of the pyre, O my soul! Thy God is like the cold emptiness of the utmost heaven, into which thou radiatest thy little light.
40. When Thou shall know me, O empty God, my flame shall utterly expire in Thy great N.O.X. 
44. I have thrown a million flowers from the Basket of the Beyond at Thy feet, I have anointed Thee and Thy Staff with oil and blood and kisses.
45. I have kindled Thy marble into life — ay! into death.
46. I have been smitten by the reek of Thy mouth, that drinketh never wine but life.
47. How the dew of the Universe whitens the lips!
48. Ah! trickling flow of the stars of the mother Supernal, begone!
49. I Am She that should come, the Virgin of all men.
54. Now!
           It is done! Death.
55. I cried aloud the word — and it was a mighty spell to bind the Invisible, an enchantment to unbind the bound, to unbind the bound.
- Liber VII, Chapter 1

Netzach, the seventh sephira on the Tree of Life, corresponds with emotions. Thus, Liber VII dramatizes a passionate, poetic, and emotional exposition of theurgic Magick.  As we read it, Gravity's Rainbow aligns closely with this passage - the first two verses could describe what happens to Gottfried at the end of the book; the last verse above, 55, describes a function of the book as a whole.

After a slight detour through the Night of Pan (NOX) we return to our endlessly fascinating cryptogram.  Deleuze would call Tyrone Slothrop a "paradoxical entity," as other GR commentators probably have.  This entity has two series represented by the anagrams, Sloth Entropy with an excess O = the signifying series; The signified series =  Try One Porthols and Try On Portholes.  Speaking of this paradoxical entity (Tyrone Slothrop), Deleuze writes:

"It is a two sided entity, equally present in the signifying and the signified series.  It is the mirror. Thus, it is at once word and thing, name and object, sense and denotatum, expression and designation, etc. It guarantees, therefore, the convergence of the two series which it traverses, but precisely on the condition that it makes them endlessly diverge.  It has the property of always being displaced in relation to itself. - Logic of Sense, p. 40

Paradoxical indeed, and a fitting characterization of Slothrop.  Deleuze uses a literary example: In Finnegans Wake, once again a letter causes an entire world of series to communicate in a chaos-cosmos.  In Tyrone Slothrop's world of series, Sloth Entropy = chaos; Try On Portholes = cosmos.  They co-exist in the paradoxical entity, in an ever shifting chiaroscuro blend both converging and endlessly diverging; Joyce's chaosmos.

I depart from this topic with one last observation, the subject far from fully exhausted.

O(70) + N(50) = 120 = the Mystic Number of the path of Heh, the English letter E.  Pynchon creates a linguistic demonstration of a magick operation.  Applying the formula of ON in Slothrop's rainbow anagram shifts the letter e to now correctly spelling Portholes, aka wormholes.  He shows this magick operation accessing the quantum world where different kinds of change can occur outside the determinations or Laws of Newtonian physics.  Crowley devotes significant portions of The Book of Lies and The Book of Wisdom and Folly (Liber Aleph) to showing how to apply ON.  Grady McMurtry and Jerry Cornelius continued the effort  to explicate and understand it further.

The title of Pynchon's book just prior to GR, The Crying of Lot 49, resonates with this discussion.  See Chapter 49 in The Book of Lies.

* * * * * * 

The characteristics and measurement of Time changes drastically in the worlds of Relativistic and Quantum physics.  Pynchon plays around with time anomalies in several of his novels including GR—more common ground with Timothy Leary.  In his biography of the good Doctor, Robert Greenfield revealed Leary's fascination with time and his observation of time dilation effects in some of his consciousness research.  Greenfield points out that Leary ended his autobiography, Flashbacks, with the phrase, "it's about time."

Gravity's Rainbow occurs in at least two orders of time, depending on how you interpret it.  The events of the novel could occur in a linear sequence taking place from December 1944 until September 1945, approximately 9 months, the gestation period for a human baby.  They could also have all taken place on a single night as events described in a movie.

Related to the ON formula, the last section of the book takes place in a movie theater:

"The rhythmic clapping resonates inside these walls, which are hard and glossy as coal: Come-on! Start-the-show! Come-on! Start-the-show! The screen is a dim page spread before us, white and silent. The film has broken, or a projector bulb has burned out.  It was difficult even for us, old fans, who've always been at the movies (haven't we?) to tell which before the darkness swept in."
- GR, p.775

Herein lies the temporal ambiguity; have we, the readers, been at the movies the whole time watching the narrative unfold on the screen in the 2 - 3 hours it takes to look at a film?  Quite possibly, the book ends after the projector stops; or have we been following our heroes and anti-heroes in linear, sequential, planetary time?

"And in the darkening expanse of screen something has kept on, a film we have not learned to see . . . it is now the close-up of a face, a face we all know—"
- GR p. 775

Recall that 2001: A Space Odyssey ends with a close-up of a baby's face appearing inside a cosmic Egg over the music of Richard Strauss's Thus Sprach Zarathustra, and that Gravity's Rainbow takes place over a period of approximately nine months.  2001: A Space Odyssey gets an explicit shout-out in Vineland.

Star-child from 2001: A Space Odyssey

The symbol Δt - delta t,  recurs throughout Gravity's Rainbow and Pynchon gives it some unique interpretations.  The t stands for time.  The Pynchon Wiki gives the definition: "An increment of time represented spacially, as on a graph."  Weisenburger says: "In calculus, Δt represents the time interval separating instantaneous values in the range of a function." (GRC, p. 109). Deleuze uses Δt as a measurement unit for the minimal amount of time necessary for a change to produce difference.

Pynchon applies Δt  to consciousness, talking about Δt  reaching zero as you penetrate the moment becoming fully present in the here and now:

"She even tried, from what little calculus she'd picked up, to explain it to Franz as Δt  approaching zero, eternally approaching, the slices of time growing thinner and thinner, a succession of rooms each with walls more silver, transparent, as the pure light of the zero comes nearer ..." - GR, p.161

This also sounds very much like death; a succession of rooms conveys a classic bardo description, the rooms usually called chambers in bardo terminology.  Pynchon more explicitly connects Δt  with death in the penultimate paragraph of the book as he writes of the rocket descending and about to hit the movie theater:

"And it is just here in this dark and silent frame, that the pointed tip of the Rocket, falling nearly a mile per second, absolutely and forever without sound, reaches its last unmeasurable gap above the roof of this old theatre, the last delta-t."  - GR, p. 775

A materialistic explanation of the bardo experience following physical death holds that it occurs as the unraveling of consciousness in the last few moments before brain death.  These moments get perceived in a vastly dilated sense of time, time slowed down so that lifetimes come and go in a few seconds of ordinary time, the last delta-t.  The film Jacob's Ladder gives a good portrayal of this though it runs a bit on the gritty, horror-show side of things, not for the faint of heart.  The traditional length of time for the voyager in the bardo = 49 days.  Applied to the materialist model, this means that 49 days, each day a different room or chamber, goes by in the few seconds or minutes before brain death.  Many examples of alternate rates of time exist in folklore, mythology, philosophy and personal accounts by intrepid explorers.  See, for instance, Robert Anton Wilson's voyage into fairyland in Cosmic Trigger I.  Time dilation gained some legitimacy when Einstein put it in his theory of Relativity.

Pynchon slips in the idea of a "new kind of time" using the example of jazz music; creative music often makes its own kind of time:

"... off the jukebox a quick twinkle in the bleat of a trombone, a reed section, planting swing notes precisely into the groove between silent midpoint and next beat, jumping it pah (hm) pah (hm) pah so exactly in the groove that you knew it was ahead but felt it was behind, both of you at both ends of the counter, could feel it, feel your age delivered into a new kind of time that may have allowed you to miss the rest, the graceless expectations of old men who watched, in bifocal and mucus indifference, watched you lindy-hop into the pit by millions, as many millions as necessary ... "
- GR, p. 479

This passage connects the stopping of time with the acceleration of consciousness using the metaphor of the double integral, the symbol that appears like two elongated Ss discussed in Part 2:

"... But in the dynamic space of the living rocket, the double integral has a different meaning.  To integrate here is to operate on a rate of change so that time falls away: change is stilled ... "Meters per second" will integrate to "meters."  The moving vehicle is frozen, in space, to become architecture, and timeless.  It was never launched.  It will never fall." - GR, p. 305

The final passage in Gravity's Rainbow is a hymn by Slothrop's ancestor, William Slothrop (with the obvious anagram, Will I am) that begins by alluding to a much bigger sense of time than the ordinary:

There is a Hand to turn the time,
Though thy glass today be run, ...
Till the light that hath brought the Towers low
Find the last poor Pret'rite one . . .
Till the Riders sleep by ev'ry road,
All through our crippl'd Zone,
With a face on ev'ry mountainside,
And a Soul in ev'ry stone. . . . 

Now everybody—
- GR, p. 776

Qabalistically, the Hand in the first line refers to the letter Yod, "the foundation of all the other letters of the Hebrew alphabet, which are merely combinations of it in various ways.
    The letter Yod is the first letter of the name Tetragrammaton, and this symbolizes the Father, who is Wisdom; he is the highest form of Mercury, and the Logos, the Creator of all worlds."
 - Crowley, Book of Thoth, p. 88

Other attributions of Yod include: the Intelligence of Will; Heru-pa-kraat, the silent aspect of the twin god Horus; Isis (as Virgin); Virgo; and the Hermit from the Tarot.  In The Song Remains the Same, when Jimmy Page climbs the mountain in his fantasy sequence, he encounters the Hermit who gives the vision of an accelerated passage of time.  Page and Led Zeppelin get at least a couple of shout outs in GR and Vineland.  The mystical number of Yod = 210, also the number of NOX.

Note that the last fine lines in the closing song each contain a word with an apostrophe substituting for a missing letter e.  The same word "ev'ry" occurs in 3 of those lines.  This will reward qabalistic analysis.

To be continued ...