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Book: Foucault's Pendulum

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I finished this book a long time ago, and I've been meaning to write this entry for quite awhile. However, just like reading this book, I've taken my time saving up the willpower to write this entry. When I first picked this book up, I couldn't stand the first chapter, and it took a good three or four tries before I finally got enough momentum to vault through the book. Perhaps it's appropriate that I've waited until after I read The Golden Ratio, as both books share the same theme of the ability to hallucinate hidden messages in nearly anything.

I'll save the spoilers for the extended section -- this part of the entry should be safe.

Before this book, I had no idea what a Templar was. Maybe I'm a cretin. I had gone twenty-three years without noticing their presence, watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in complete innocence. Now they're everywhere. Just the other day I was walking through Amoeba Music, and there they were, sitting at the front of the CD rack, Templars. It seems like every book I've picked up since Foucault's Pendulum has a Templar connection: Seville Communion, 1602, The Magdelena, and The Golden Ratio (Rosicrucians). I hear The Da Vinci Code revolves around them, and that friggin' book is at the counter of every bookstore I visit. Kavalier and Clay has Jewish tradition/kabbala, Superman, and World War II Europe in common with the Foucault's Pendulum, so there's got to be a Templar hiding in their somewhere. Argh! This book has turned me into a lunatic.

With that bit of paranoia out of the way, let me say that Foucault's Pendulum is both a great and a terrible book. There are certain passages that are absolutely brilliant, and then there's the crushing weight of the overly ambitious plot. I would compare the structure to a book like Godel Escher Bach, though I use the comparison lightly because I think GEB is an awesome book that I liked thoroughly, whereas I only like Foucault's Pendulum intermittenly. To make the isomorphism:

Achilles, Tortoise <=> Casaubon, Belbo Crab <=> Diotallevi Hofstader's dialogues <=> Conversations between Causaubon, Belbo, and Diotallevi.

I don't mean the comparison between Achilles, Tortoise, and Crab and Casaubon, Belbo, and Diotallevi directly as personalities, as much I want to point out that, just as Hofstader saves the really clever bits for the dialogues, so, too, does Eco save the clever bits for his dialogues between his three main characters. And just as the chapters inbetween the dialogues in GEB can be fatiguing, so is the rest of the text in Foucault's Pendulum. In the case of GEB, the fatigue comes from the large amounts of intellectual ground Hofstader is covering, which is a good thing, because you're reading the book to learn. In Eco's case, the fatigue comes from overly frequent intellectual references and drawn-out storyarcs that try to unite everything under the Sun, from Templars to Rosicrucians to kabbala to love stories to World War II Italy to book publishing to philosophy to science to math to politics. Whereas Hoftsader succeeds in his attempt to bring math, music, art, and AI together, Eco's connections fail to coalesce.

Case in point, while I was reading this book, meta would ask me how it was going, and each time I would say, "oh, it looks like the plot is starting now, so I think the story's about to pick up." I said this at page 100, page 200, page 300... Just when you think that Eco's put his dominoes into place, he starts a new line that tries to extend the puzzle further, and eventually you feel that Eco is losing sight of the overall picture. This book takes soooo long to get going... (spoiler cut)

...that there's very few pages left for it to finish in, and when you get to the ending I wondered how all the ambition thrown into the book could have converged on a point so unsatisfying. I imagined that a book of this scale, especially one about a Plan, would have a plan for itself, a final pattern for all its threads. Yet, this ending feels more appropriate for Michael Crichton, or perhaps Neal Stephenson (to draw the Cryptonomicon comparison).

To save myself the effort of future readings, I've tried to copy out my favorite passages and include them here in the extended entry. This really wouldn't have been possible without gnutenberg, which has the full text online at:
- http://textz.gnutenberg.net/textz/eco_umberto_foucault-s_pendulum.txt

I've also translated portions of the text that were in French and Spanish. I used Google, so the translations are pretty stilted, though I did get some help from meta and honeyfields.

It's been quite awhile since I've read the book, so as I went back through my bookmarks, there were some for which I could no longer discern why the bookmark was left. You will also notice a significant tailing off in annotations the further along in the book you get. This reflects the general fatigue I felt with Eco's never-ending obscure references and use of languages that I don't know. How in the world do I translate the hebrew? I can't even type it in.

Notes, annotations, favorite passages

pg. 4
Ayers Rock

pg. 5
panta rei: "everything is changing." related to the philisophy of Heraclitus

Ein-Sof: The infinite (God's infinite light), unknowable to humans

pg. 6
archeopteryx: toothed bird of the Upper Jurassic age, the most primitive of birds.

Breguet: French aviation pioneer (first to carry 12 aloft) and airplane manufacturer

Esnault-Pelterie: rocket pioneer of the 1930s. Published L'Astronautique

Louis Bleriot: first man to fly the English Channel

Dufaux brothers: early flight pioneers

pg. 7
"it is as if the progeny of Reason and the Enlightenment had been condemned to stand guard forever over the ultimate symbol of Tradition and Wisdom.

pg. 11
Zenobe Gramme: inventor of the dynamo. Belgain

Lavoisier: chemistry pioneer

p. 21
Belbo:"Here was a man who had said, with his wan smile, that once he realized that he would never be a protagonist, he decided to become, instead, an intelligent spectator, for there was no point in writing without serious motivation. Better to rewrite the books of others, which is what a good editor does. But Belbo found in the machine a kind of LSD and ran his fingers over the keyboard as if inventing variations on "The Happy Farmer" on the old piano at home, without fear of being judged. Not that he thought he was being creative: terrified as he was by writing, he knew that this was not writing but only the testing of an electronic skill. A gymnastic exercise. But, forgetting die usual ghosts that haunted him, he discovered that playing with the word processor was a way of giving vent to a fifty-year-old's second adolescence. His natural pessimism, his reluctant acceptance of his own past were somehow dissolved in this dialog with a memory that was inorganic, objective, obedient, nonmoral, transistorized, and so humanly inhuman that it enabled him to forget his chronic nervousness about life.

p. 28

"I'm a skeptic."

"No, you're only incredulous, a doubter, and that's different."

p. 37
Borges quote (El Golem):

Jud� Le�n se dio a permutaciones
De letras y a complejas variaciones
Y alfin pronuncio el Nombre que es la Clave,
La Puerta, el Eco, el Hu�sped y el Palacio...

Google translation:
"Jud� Leon occurred to exchanges
Of letters and to complex variations
and alfin I pronounce the Name that is the Key,
the Door, the Echo, the Guest and the Palace..."

p. 43
That day, I began to be incredulous.

Or, rather, I regretted having been credulous. I regretted having allowed myself to be borne away by a passion of the mind. Such is credulity.

Not that the incredulous person doesn't believe in anything. It's just that he doesn't believe in everything. Or he believes in one thing at a time. He believes a second thing only if it somehow follows from the first thing. He is nearsighted and methodical, avoiding wide horizons. If two things don't fit, but you believe both of them, thinking that somewhere, hidden, there must be a third thing that connects them, that's credulity.

Incredulity doesn't kill curiosity; it encourages it. Though distrustful of logical chains of ideas, I loved the polyphony of ideas. As long as you don't believe in them, the collision of two ideas-- both false--can create a pleasing interval, a kind of diabolus in musica. I had no respect for some ideas people were willing to stake their lives on, but two or three ideas that I did not respect might still make a nice melody. Or have a good beat, and if it was jazz, all the better.

"You live on the surface," Lia told me years later. "You sometimes seem profound, but it's only because you piece a lot of surfaces together to create the impression of depth, solidity. That solidity would collapse if you tried to stand it up."

"Are you saying I'm superficial?"

"No," she answered. "What others call profundity is only a tesseract, a four-dimensional cube. You walk in one side and come out another, and you're in their universe, which can't coexist with yours."

p. 44
...so I came to the conclusion that for many of my companions political activism was a sexual thing. But sex was a passion. I wanted only curiosity. True, in the course of my reading about the Templars and the various atrocities attributed to them, I had come across Carpocrates's assertion that to escape the tyranny of the angels, the masters of the cosmos, every possible ignominy should be perpetrated, that you should discharge all debts to the world and to your own body, for only by committing every act can the soul be freed of its passions and return to its original purity. When we were inventing the Plan, I found that many addicts of the occult pursued that path in their search for enlightenment. According to his biographers, Aleister Crowley, who has been called the most perverted man of all time and who did everything that could be done with his worshipers, both men and women, chose only the ugliest partners of either sex. I have the nagging suspicion, however, that his lovemaking was incomplete.

impotentia coeundi: sexual impotence

p. 46
Pilade's as a Rick's Cafe

Belbo had a way of standing at the bar as if he were just passing through (he had been a regular there for at least ten years). He often took part in conversations, at the counter or at a table, but almost always he did no more than drop some short remark that would instantly freeze all enthusiasm, no matter what subject was being discussed. He had another freezing technique: asking a question. Someone would be talking about an event, the whole group would be completely absorbed, then Belbo, turning his pale, slightly absent eyes on the speaker, with his glass at hip level, as though he had long forgotten he was drinking, would ask, "Is that a fact?" Or, "Really?" At which point everyone, including the narrator, would suddenly begin to doubt the story. Maybe it was the way Belbo's Piedmont drawl made his statements interrogative and his interrogatives taunting. And he had yet another Piedmont trick: looking into his interlocutor's eyes, but as if he were avoiding them. His gaze didn't exactly shirk dialogue, but he would suddenly seem to concentrate on some distant convergence of parallel lines no one had paid attention to. He made you feel that you had been staring all this time at the one place that was unimportant.


p. 54 lunatics, morons, and cretins

"I work for a publishing company. We deal with both lunatics and nonlunatics. After a while an editor can pick out the lunatics right away. If somebody brings up the Templars, he's almost always a lunatic."

"Don't I know! Their name is legion. But not all lunatics talk about the Templars. How do you identify the others?"

"I'll explain. By the way, what's your name?"

"Casaubon."

"Casaubon. Wasn't he a character in Middlemarch?"

"I don't know. There was also a Renaissance philologist by that name, but we're not related."

"The next round's on me. Two more, Pilade. All right, then. There are four kinds of people in this world: cretins, fools, morons, and lunatics."

"And that covers everybody?"

"Oh, yes, including us. Or at least me. If you take a good look, everybody fits into one of these categories. Each of us is sometimes a cretin, a fool, a moron, or a lunatic. A normal person is just a reasonable mix of these components, these four ideal types."

"Idealtypen."

"Very good. You know German?"

"Enough for bibliographies."

"When I was in school, if you knew German, you never graduated. You just spent your life knowing German. Nowadays I think that happens with Chinese."

"My German's poor, so I'll graduate. But let's get back to your typology. What about geniuses? Einstein, for example?"

"A genius uses one component in a dazzling way, fueling it with the others." He took a sip of his drink. "Hi there, beautiful," he said. "Made that suicide attempt yet?"

"No," the girl answered as she walked by. "I'm in a collective now."

"Good for you," Belbo said. He turned back to me. "Of course, there's no reason one can't have collective suicides, too."

"Getting back to the lunatics."

"Look, don't take me too literally. I'm not trying to put the universe in order. I 'm just saying what a lunatic is from the point of view of a publishing house. Mine is an ad-hoc definition."

"All right. My round."

"All right. Less ice, Pilade. Otherwise it gets into the bloodstream too fast. Now then: cretins. Cretins don't even talk; they sort of slobber and stumble. You know, the guy who presses the ice cream cone against his forehead, or enters a revolving door the wrong way."

"That's not possible."

"It is for a cretin. Cretins are of no interest to us: they never come to publishers' offices. So let's forget about them."

"Let's."

"Being a fool is more complicated. It's a form of social behavior. A fool is one who always talks outside his glass."

"What do you mean?"

"Like this." He pointed at the counter near his glass. "He wants to talk about what's in the glass, but somehow or other he misses. He's the guy who puts his foot in his mouth. For example, he says how's your lovely wife to someone whose wife has just left him."

"Yes, I know a few of those."

"Fools are in great demand, especially on social occasions. They embarrass everyone but provide material for conversation. In their positive form, they become diplomats. Talking outside the glass when someone else blunders helps to change the subject. But fools don't interest us, either. They're never creative, their talent is all second-hand, so they don't submit manuscripts to publishers. Fools don't claim that cats bark, but they talk about cats when everyone else is talking about dogs. They offend all the rules of conversation, and when they really offend, they're magnificent. It's a dying breed, the embodiment of all the bourgeois virtues. What they really need is a Verdurin salon or even a chez Guermantes. Do you students still read such things?"

"I do."

"Well, a fool is a Joachim Murat reviewing his officers. He sees one from Martinique covered with medals. 'Vous etes negre?' Murat asks. 'Oui, mon general!' the man answers. And Murat says: 'Bravo, bravo, continuez!' And so on. You follow me? Forgive me, but tonight I'm celebrating a historic decision in my life. I've stopped drinking. Another round? Don't answer, you'll make me feel guilty. Pilade!"

"What about the morons?"

"Ah. Morons never do the wrong thing. They get their reasoning wrong. Like the fellow who says all dogs are pets and all dogs bark, and cats are pets, too, and therefore cats bark. Or that all Athenians are mortal, and all the citizens of Piraeus are mortal, so all the citizens of Piraeus are Athenians."

"Which they are."

"Yes, but only accidentally. Morons will occasionally say something that's right, but they say it for the wrong reason."

"You mean it's okay to say something that's wrong as long as the reason is right."

"Of course. Why else go to the trouble of being a rational animal?"

"All great apes evolved from lower life forms, man evolved from lower life forms, therefore man is a great ape."

"Not bad. In such statements you suspect that something's wrong, but it takes work to show what and why. Morons are tricky. You can spot the fool right away (not to mention the cretin), but the moron reasons almost the way you do; the gap is infinitesimal. A moron is a master of paralogism. For an editor, it's bad news. It can take him an eternity to identify a moron. Plenty of morons' books are published, because they're convincing at first glance. An editor is not required to weed out the morons. If the Academy of Sciences doesn't do it, why should he?"

"Philosophers don't either. Saint Anselm's ontological argument is moronic, for example. God must exist because I ^can conceive Him as a being perfect in all ways, including existence. The saint confuses existence in thought with existence in reality."

"True, but Gaunilon's refutation is moronic, too. I can think of an island in the sea even if the island doesn't exist. He confuses thinking of the possible with thinking of the necessary."

"A duel between morons."

"Exactly. And God loves every minute of it. He chose to be unthinkable only to prove that Anselm and Gaunilon were morons. What a sublime purpose for creation, or, rather, for that act by which God willed Himself to be: to unmask cosmic mo-ronism."

"We're surrounded by morons."

"Everyone's a moron--save me and thee. Or, rather--I wouldn't want to offend--save thee."

"Somehow I feel that Godel's theorem has something to do with all this."

"I wouldn't know, I'm a cretin. Pilade!"

"My round."

"We'll split it. Epimenides the Cretan says all Cretans are liars. It must be true, because he's a Cretan himself and knows his countrymen well."

"That's moronic thinking."

"Saint Paul. Epistle to Titus. On the other hand, those who call Epimenides a liar have to think all Cretans aren't, but Cretans don't trust Cretans, therefore no Cretan calls Epimenides a liar."

"Isn't that moronic thinking?"

"You decide. I told you, they are hard to identify. Morons can even win the Nobel prize."

"Hold on. Of those who don't believe God created the world in seven days, some are not fundamentalists, but of those who do believe God created the world in seven days, some are. Therefore, of those who don't believe God created the world in seven days, some are fundamentalists. How's that?"

"My God--to use the mot juste--I wouldn't know. A moron-ism or not?"

"It is, definitely, even if it were true. Violates one of the laws of syllogisms: universal conclusions cannot be drawn from two particulars."

"And what if you were a moron?"

"I'd be in excellent, venerable company."

"You're right. And perhaps, in a logical system different from ours, our moronism is wisdom. The whole history of logic consists of attempts to define an acceptable notion of moronism. A task too immense. Every great thinker is someone else's moron."

"Thought as the coherent expression of moronism."

"But what is moronism to one is incoherence to another."

"Profound. It's two o'clock, Pilade's about to close, and we still haven't got to the lunatics."

"I'm getting there. A lunatic is easily recognized. He is a moron who doesn't know the ropes. The moron proves his thesis; he has a logic, however twisted it may be. The lunatic, on the other hand, doesn't concern himself at all with logic; he works by short circuits. For him, everything proves everything else. The lunatic is all id6e fixe, and whatever he comes across confirms his lunacy. You can tell him by the liberties he takes with common sense, by his flashes of inspiration, and by the fact that sooner or later he brings up the Templars."

"Invariably?"

"There are lunatics who don't bring up the Templars, but those who do are the most insidious. At first they seem normal, then all of a sudden..."He was about to order another whiskey, but changed his mind and asked for the check. "Speaking of the Templars, the other day some character left me a manuscript on the subject. A lunatic, but with a human face. The book starts reasonably enough. Would you like to see it?"

"I'd be glad to. Maybe there's something I can use."

"I doubt that very much. But drop in if you have a spare half hour. Number 1, Via Sincere Renato. The visit will be of more benefit to me than to you. You can tell me whether the book has any merit."

"What makes you trust me?"

"Who says I trust you? But if you come, I'll trust you. I trust curiosity."

A student rushed in, face twisted in anger. "Comrades! There are fascists along the canal with chains!"

"Let's get them," said the fellow with the Tartar mustache who had threatened me over Krupskaya. "Come on, comrades!" And they all left.

"What do you want to do?" I asked, feeling guilty. "Should we go along?"

"No," Belbo said. "Pilade sets these things up to clear the place out. For my first night on the wagon, I feel pretty high. Must be the cold-turkey effect. Everything I've said to you so far is false. Good night, Casaubon."


p. 62
Sub umbra alarum tuarum, Jehova.
translation: Under the shadow of thy wings, Jehova

p. 64
"...Listen, Jacopo, I thought of a good one: Urban Planning for Gypsies."

"Great," Belbo said admiringly. "I have one, too: Aztec Equitation."

"Excellent. But would that go with Potio-section or the Adyn-ata?"

"We'll have to see," Belbo said. He rummaged in his drawer and took out some sheets of paper. "Potio-section..." He looked at me, saw my bewilderment. "Potio-section, as everybody knows, of course, is the art of slicing soup. No, no," he said to Diotallevi. "It's not a department, it's a subject, like Mechanical Avunculogratulation or Pylocatabasis. They all fall under the heading of Tetrapyloctomy."

"What's tetra...?" I asked.

"The art of splitting a hair four ways. This is the department of useless techniques. Mechanical Avunculogratulation, for example, is how to build machines for greeting uncles. We're not sure, though, if Pylocatabasis belongs, since it's the art of being saved by a hair. Somehow that doesn't seem completely useless."

"All right, gentlemen," I said, "I give up. What are you two talking about?"

"Well, Diotallevi and I are planning a reform in higher education. A School of Comparative Irrelevance, where useless or impossible courses are given. The school's aim is to turn out scholars capable of endlessly increasing the number of unnecessary subjects."

"And how many departments are there?"

"Four so far, but that may be enough for the whole syllabus. The Tetrapyloctomy department has a preparatory function; its purpose is to inculcate a sense of irrelevance. Another important department is Adynata, or Impossibilia. Like Urban Planning for Gypsies. The essence of the discipline is the comprehension of the underlying reasons for a thing's absurdity. We have courses in Morse syntax, the history of antarctic agriculture, the history of Easter Island painting, contemporary Sumerian literature, Montessori grading, Assyrio-Babylonian philately, the technology of the wheel in pre-Columbian empires, and the phonetics of the silent film."

"How about crowd psychology in the Sahara?"

"Wonderful," Belbo said.

Diotallevi nodded. "You should join us. The kid's got talent, eh, Jacopo?"

"Yes, I saw that right away. Last night he constructed some moronic arguments with great skill. But let's continue. What did we put in the Oxymoronics department? I can't find my notes."

Diotallevi took a slip of paper from his pocket and regarded me with friendly condescension. "In Oxymoronics, as the name implies, what matters is self-contradiction. That's why I think it's the place for Urban Planning for Gypsies."

"No," Belbo said. "Only if it were Nomadic Urban Planning. The Adynata concern empirical impossibilities; Oxymoronics deal with contradictions in terms."

"Maybe. But what courses did we put under Oxymoronics? Oh, yes, here we are: Tradition in Revolution, Democratic Oligarchy, Parmenidean Dynamics, Heraclitean Statics, Spartan Sybaritics, Tautological Dialectics, Boolean Eristic."

I couldn't resist throwing in "How about a Grammar of Solecisms?"

"Excellent!" they both said, making a note.

"One problem," I said.

"What?"

"If the public gets wind of this, people will show up with manuscripts."

p. 66
Legend of the oxdrawn cart full of hidden knights leaving the Temple of Paris two days before the arrest warrant.

...How can the Marquis de Carabas not exist when Puss in Boots says he's in the marquis's service?"

p. 68
Fiat Lux: let there be light

Part one of the history of the Templars

p.95

Does it make sense to choose the wrong Opportunity just to convince yourself that you would have chosen the right one--had you had the Opportunity? I wonder how many of those who opt for fighting today do it for that reason. But a contrived Opportunity is not the right Opportunity.

Can you call yourself a coward simply because the courage of others seems to you out of proportion to the triviality of the occasion? Thus wisdom creates cowards. And thus you miss Opportunity while spending your life on the lookout for it. You have to seize Opportunity instinctively, without knowing at the time that it is the Opportunity. Is it possible that I really did seize it once, without knowing? How can you feel like a coward because you were born in the wrong decade? The answer: You feel like a coward because once you were a coward.

But suppose you passed up the Opportunity because you felt it was inadequate?

p. 114
Colonel's decoded message

THE (NIGHT OF) SAINT JOHN
36 (YEARS) P(OST) HAY WAIN
6 (MESSAGES) INTACT WITH SEAL
F(OR THE KNIGHTS WITH) THE WHITE CLOAKS [TEMPLARS]
R(ELAP)S(I) OF PROVINS FOR (VAIN)JANCE [REVENGE]
6 TIMES 6 IN SIX PLACES
EACH TIME 20 Y(EARS MAKES) 120 Y(EARS)
THIS IS THE PLAN
THE FIRST GO TO THE CASTLE
IT(ERUM) [AGAIN AFTER 120 YEARS] THE SECOND JOIN THOSE
(OF THE) BREAD AGAIN TO THE REFUGE AGAIN TO OUR LADY BEYOND THE RIVER
AGAIN TO THE HOSTEL OF THE POPELICANS
AGAIN TO THE STONE
3 TIMES 6 [666] BEFORE THE FEAST (OF THE) GREAT WHORE.

p. 119
Templars: The stone is the Holy Grail

p. 127
Colonel murdered

p. 153
Comte de Saint-Germain
- Voltaire on Comte: "C'est un homme qui ne meurt jamais et qui sait tout" ("He is a man who never dies and who knows everything")
- Frederick the Great on Comte: "C'est un comte pour rire" ("He is a count to laugh about")

p. 162
POST CXX ANNOS PATEBO ("One hundred and twenty years hence I shall open")

Rosencreutz/Rosy Cross

p. 168

"Of course, denying it wouldn't have worked. The way things were, if somebody came up to you and said, 'Hi there, I'm a Rosicrucian,' that meant he wasn't. No self-respecting Rosicru-cian would acknowledge it. On the contrary, he would deny it to his last breath."

"But you can't say that anyone who denies being a Rosicrucian is a Rosicrucian, because I say I'm not, and that doesn't make me one."

"But the denial is itself suspicious."

"No, it's not. What would a Rosicrucian do once he realized people weren't believing those who said they were, and that people suspected only those who said they weren't? He'd say he was, to make them think he wasn't."

"Damnation. So those who say they're Rosicrucians are lying, which means they really are! No, no, Amparo, we musn't fall into their trap. Their spies are everywhere, even under this bed, so now they know that we know, and therefore they say they aren't."

p.167

Tintinnabulum: a bell

p. 196
La psychanalyse? C'est qu'entre l'homme et la femme...chers amis...ca ne colle pas. ("Psychoanalysis? It's the thing between the man and the woman... dear friends... That doesn't stick")


p. 314

"Last night I happened to come across a driver's manual. Maybe it was the semidarkness, or what you had said to me, but I began to imagine that those pages were saying Something Else. Suppose the automobile existed only to serve as metaphor of creation? And we mustn't confine ourselves to the exterior, or to the surface reality of the dashboard; we must learn to see what only the Maker sees, what lies beneath. What lies beneath and what lies above. It is the Tree of the Sefirot."

"You don't say."

"I am not the one who says; it is the thing itself that says. The drive shaft is the trunk of the tree. Count the parts: engine, two front wheels, clutch, transmission, two axles, differential, and two rear wheels. Ten parts, ten Sefirot."

"But the positions don't coincide."

"Who says they don't? Diotallevi's explained to us that in certain versions Tiferet isn't the sixth Sefirah, but the eighth, below Nezah and Hod. My axle-tree is the tree of Belboth."

"Fiat."

"But let's pursue the dialectic of the tree. At the summit is the engine, Omnia Movens, of which more later: this is the Creative Source. The engine communicates its creative energy to the two front or higher wheels: the Wheel of Intelligence and the Wheel of Knowledge."

"If the car has front-wheel drive."

"The good thing about the Belboth tree is that it allows metaphysical alternatives. So we have the image of a spiritual cosmos with front-wheel-drive, where the engine, in front, transmits its wishes to the higher wheels, whereas in the materialistic version we have a degenerate cosmos in which motion is imparted by the engine to the two lower wheels: from the depths, the cosmic emanation releases the base forces of matter."

"What about an engine in back, rear-wheel drive?"

"Satanic. Higher and lower coincide. God is identified with the motion of crude matter. God as an eternally frustrated aspiration to divinity. The result of th Breaking of the Vessels."

"Not the Breaking of the Muffler?"

"That occurs in aborted universes, where the noxious breath of the Archons spreads through the ether. But we mustn't digress. After the engine and two wheels comes the clutch, the Sefirah of grace that establishes or interrupts the flow of love that binds the rest of the tree of the Supernal Energy. A disk, a mandala that caresses another mandala. Then the coffer of change--the gear box, or transmission, as the positivists call it, which is the principle of Evil, because it allows human will to speed up or slow down the constant process of emanation. For this reason, an automatic transmission costs more, for there it is the tree itself that decides, in accordance with its own Sovereign Equilibrium. Then comes the universal joint, the axle, the drive shaft, the differential--note the opposition/repetition of the quaternion of cylinders in the engine, because the differential (Minor Keter) transmits motion to the earthly wheels. Here the function of the Sefirah of difference is obvious, as, with a majestic sense of beauty, it distributes the cosmic forces to the Wheel of Glory and the Wheel of Victory, which in an unaborted universe (front-wheel drive) are subordinate to the motion imparted by the higher wheels."

"A coherent exegesis. And the heart of the engine, seat of the One, the Crown?"

"You have but to look with the eyes of an initiate. The supreme engine lives by an alternation of intake and exhaust. A complex, divine respiration, a cycle initially based on two units called cylinders (an obvious geometrical archetype), which then generate a third, and finally gaze upon one another in mutual love and bring forth the glory of a fourth. In the cycle of the first cylinder (none is first hierarchically, but only through the miraculous alternation of position), the piston (etymology: Pistis Sophia) descends from the upper neutral position to the lower neutral position as the cylinder fills with energy in the pure state. I'm simplifying, because here angelic hierarchies come into play, the valves, which, as my handbook says, 'allow the opening and closing of the apertures that link the interior of the cylinders to the induction pipes leading out of the carburetor.' The inner seat of the engine can communicate with the rest of the cosmos only through this mediation, and here I believe is revealed--I am reluctant to utter heresy--the original limit of the One, which, in order to create, somehow depends on the Great Eccentrics. A closer reading of the text may be required here. The cylinder fills with energy, the piston returns to the upper neutral position and achieves maximum compression--the sim-sun. And lo, the glory of the Big Bang: combustion, expansion. A spark flies, the mixture of fuel flares and blazes, and this the handbook calls the active phase of the cycle. And woe, woe if in the mixture of fuel the Shells intrude, the qelippot, drops of impure matter like water or Coca-Cola. Then expansion does not take place or occurs in abortive starts..."

"Then the meaning of Shell is qelippot? We'd better not use it anymore. From now on, only Virgin's Milk..."

"We'll check. It could be a trick of the Seven Sisters, lower emanations trying to control the process of creation...In any case, after expansion, behold the great divine release, the exhaust. The piston rises again to the upper neutral position and expels the formless matter, now combusted. Only if this process of purification succeeds can the new cycle begin. Which, if you think about it, is also the Neoplatonic mechanism of Exodus and Parodos, miraculous dialectic of the Way Up and the Way Down."

"Quantum mortalia pectora ceacae noctis habent! And the sons of matter never realized it!"

"They never saw the connection between the philosopher's stone and Firestone."

"For tomorrow, I'll prepare a mystical interpretation of the phone book."


p. 350

History of sects

p. 433

Tres

faute de mieux ("for want of anything better")

p.504

"Parce que... parce que ca fait peur, c'est tout." ("because why?... because that makes fear, that is why")

p. 507

Monsieur, vous �tes fou ("Dear sir, you are insane")

p. 513

We offered a map to people who were trying to overcome a deep, private frustration. What frustration? Belbo's first file suggested it to me: There can be no failure if there really is a Plan. Defeated you may be, but never through any fault of your own. To bow to a cosmic will is no shame. You are not a coward; you are a martyr.

Comments (2)

A better translation for 504 would be "because it's frightening, that's why." ...damn french and it's odd grammar. :)

And I'm pretty sure you were never a cretin. A moron, certainly, but not a cretin.

Samer Akl:

i want the mathmatical calculations of the foucault pendulum so please and if u can send them to me on my email: tiger_akl@hotmail.com

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