We can look at the penetration of the deeper levels of association and meaning in Bleeding Edge as a form of spiritual gaming. The game: decode the behind-the-scenes kabbalistic cryptography that provides clues for spiritual development. This kind of gaming can show possibilities you wouldn't ordinarily see. It can open doors leading to higher planes of existence, help you become enlightened and advance to higher grades of consciousness.
Kabbalah provides the structure, the architectural girders that build this game engine. Kabbalah = multiple vision, the word itself means "to receive." To receive multiple visions. This kind of game, this form of communication, turns up in all of Thomas Pynchon's novels seeming to become more refined and advanced with each succeeding book. In a discussion group going through Against the Day that took place a couple of years prior to the publication of Bleeding Edge, I noted how the author explicitly introduces and writes about Kabbalah as if letting the reader know to look through that lens for further signs. He illuminates one way for readers to read his books.
The hint to the attentive reader that "the game is afoot," as Sherlock Holmes would say, repeats in Bleeding Edge. On page 87 a character named Axel provides the name of Phipps Epperdew, 'better known as Vip" as a suspect in an investigation by the main protagonist Maxine Tarnow. When I came across Phipps Epperdew, my kabbalah training immediately suggested the Hebrew letter "Pe" yet I had no context or clue to think this intentional. Until I read the next paragraph:
"... Features written into the software that you don't find in the manual are meant instead to be passed on in person, orally, from cash-register vendor to user. The way certain kinds of magical lore go from rogue rabbis to apprentices in kabbalah. If the manual is scripture, phantomware tutorials are the secret knowledge. And the geeks who promote it—except for one or two little details, like the righteousness, the higher spiritual powers—they're the rabbis. All strictly personal and in a warped way even romantic." (p. 88)
Strictly personal because each individual in the game builds their own kabbalistic lexicon and correspondences. Everyone will interpret the code differently, everyone constructs a spirtitual path, a road to higher consciousness unique to their journey. My interpretations, the way I play the game, may have little or no relevance to anyone else, yet the game exists for everyone to play as thou wilt. I offer my interpretations to those interested to show how one individual plays it. More on Phipps Epperdew, Vip, and the romantic aspect in a bit.
Pynchon hardly seems alone as a postmodern writer transmitting didactic Hermetic information. Robert Anton Wilson experiments extensively with similar, but different techniques. Other such novelists include James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, Malcolm Lowry, and William S. Burroughs. The reference dictionary, 777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley can provide much help with unlocking these doors. A post modern literature reader seems required to actively put effort into understanding and deciphering these books in the same way a spiritual seeker needs to make efforts and apply themselves to their path in order to advance.
Pynchon and Wilson appear to base their literary occult structure on the system of Magick presented by Crowley called Thelema while expanding their lexicon to include contemporary cultural references. Thelema endeavors to apply the method of Science to the aim of Religion. Both Crowley and Wilson teach and strongly advocate the practice of balanced Skepticism. Maxine Tarnow works as a fraud examiner, she's in the business of being skeptical. In many instances, Tarnow appears a model or metaphor for the student of Initiation. A fraud examiner = a bullshit detector, a critically necessary attribute for following the thread through the labyrinth. Pattern recognition provides entrance into Kabbalistic worlds:
"By which point—part of the Certified Fraud Examiner skill set being a tendency to look for hidden patterns—Maxine began to wonder" (p. 22).
The student learns to look for signs that can give suggestions, hints, instructions and advice for the construction of their royal road. In Thelema this falls under the rubric of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, a model for contacting Higher Intelligence.
"... there are places we should be looking, not in newspapers or television but at the margins, graffiti, uncontrolled utterances, bad dreamers who sleep in public and scream in their sleep" (p.322)
Speaking of graffiti, much earlier, we humorously learn that Maxine relies on her bladder to sense useful information. When it's in range, she will have to pee: "... when phone numbers, koans, and stock tips from which she's likely to profit are close by, the gotta-go alarm has reliably steered her to enough significant restroom walls that she's learned to pay attention" (p. 84)
Developing this kind of intuitive sensing through practice and experience seems part and parcel of Maxine's work as a fraud examiner. For instance, she can receive indications through intuitively reading beats of silence in conversations. She pays attention not only to the words being spoken, but to the tone of voice, inflections of speech, etc. to read an overall mood; to sense and receive what isn't being said.
This next quote from page 78 - 79 speaks well to both the esoteric aspect of BE and to the construction of a spiritual path. The conversation concerns virtual reality software in the "Deep Web" hosted by the mysterious DeepArcher:
Even if the reader shows absolutely no interest in Kabbalah and spiritual gaming, it seems incumbent on them to actively participate by researching the references the author alludes to. Pynchon frequently uses contemporary songs and films to invoke mood and to advance the narrative. Without knowing those songs and films, those references will fail to communicate. For example, Maxine's friend Heidi in describing the situation with her new boyfriend, Conkling Speedwell, asks if there's an issue there. Maxine replies, "as in Bird Dog by the Everly Brothers? Without knowing that song, easily found on You Tube or Spotify, etc, one may not infer the issue in mind.
* * * * * *The epiphanal moment for me occurred in Chapter 23 when it's revealed that Maxine's Prime Directive as a fraud examiner = "You Never Know." Reading this sparked a strong intuitive flash that Pynchon intended to bring Robert Anton Wilson into the mix. "You never know" seems synonymous with RAW's brand of agnosticism, Maybe Logic and rejection of belief with absolute certainty. At the bottom of the next page he injects the word "maybe" six times in three sentences. In the previous online group before BE came out, a short discussion speculated on the influence of RAW and Pynchon upon each other. By no means did that appear clear and evident to me at the time. I remember reading about telephone telepathy in Against the Day – when the phone rings you flash on who is calling – that RAW wrote of in Cosmic Trigger I, but that could have been a coincidence, or a sampled idea, it didn't necessarily indicate a strong affinity. True, they both write about Kabbalah overtly and use it subtly, they both appear to use a Thelemic lexicon, RAW quite blatantly and unabashedly extending it out like Ra Hoor Khuit; Pynchon only via subtle code and allusion, almost silently like Hoor Pa Kraat; these two Egyptian deities unite in the twin god Horus. Both writers are extremely funny. Both appear to experiment with magical realism through their literature.
Continuing to read with the working postulate that RAW's tags in BE – what conjures him to mind – are 23 and "maybe" we encounter more indications for the high, fraternal regard Pynchon holds for him, acknowledgement and regret for his death, and perhaps some criticism – maybe, you never know. In other words, Pynchon doesn't simply allude to or name check Wilson, we find a short, occult/opaque series of communications about him. Timothy Leary turns up in an obvious, explicit reference just once; I don't see any other references, coded or otherwise, to him.
I have seen what I thought could be allusions to Pynchon's books by RAW and commented about that in the online group going through the Historical Illuminatus series archived over at Rawillumination.org. Often these came through the letter "V," an obvious tag for Pynchon being the title of his first novel.
Also discussed re Against the Day: the Thelemic ordeal Crossing the Abyss. Sure enough, similar imagery turns up in Bleeding Edge whose very title relates to that terrain. A little demonstration of Thelemic cosmology shows how. The guide helping the traveler cross the Abyss is Babalon a representative of Binah the home destination for a successful crossing. The first three verses of Liber Cheth vel Vallum Abiegni Sub Figura CLVI: