Gravity's Rainbow: an Analysis
Contrary to the opinion of some frustrated readers and a few cranky critics, Gravity's Rainbow is not an unstructured work that sprawls chaotically across 800 pages. Like its literary grandparents Moby Dick and Ulysses, if the light of intelligent analysis is directed upon its pages, a structure emerges from the dense thickets: there is a method in its madness. On the most basic level, it is organized into four parts, each given a name and prefaced by a quotation. These parts are then divided into smaller sections generally called "episodes," which vary in length from a single page to fifty or more. Although unmarked by Pynchon, critical convention has given these episodes numbers. (See Dr Larry Daw's summary for a complete synopsis of each episode.)
My analysis of the novel will be in three sections -- a discussion of some organizational themes, a structural analysis of the novel's four parts, and a final discussion of overall structure. I would also like to mention that since Pynchon has never offered any public criticism or commentary on his great book, all this remains pure speculation. (Even Joyce had his Stuart Gilbert!) It is very likely that my view of some things may be radically different from another reader's opinions. So treat my commentary in the spirit that it is offered -- just one of many interpretations of the cast rune-stones, one more oracle offering its insights up for debate in the marketplace of reality. I would like to thank Steven Weisenburger, whose A Gravity's Rainbow Companion helped clarify the structural mechanics of the text as well as pointing out some of Pynchon's sources; Joseph Campbell, for his work illuminating heroes from Luke Skywalker to HCE; and Dr Larry Daw, for his proofreading and suggestions. I also quote generously in the following sections from Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces and Aleister Crowley's The Book of Thoth.
I took the greatest care in writing this section so as not to spoil any surprises or reveal any pivotal points in the plot of Gravity's Rainbow. Of course, it would be impossible not to disclose anything about the book -- but I feel that a first-time reader will not have their enjoyment of the text spoiled by reading my commentaries.
Close study will reveal that certain organizational themes are at work to bring a sense of cohesion to the book. These tend towards the religious, the mythopoetic and the occult, and are reinforced by recurring textual correspondences to the Christian calendar, the Qabalah, the Tarot, astrology and numerology, and various mythological systems including the Teutonic, the Herero (African), and the Celtic. The most important organizing principle seems to be the Christian calendar as mapped onto the seasonal wheel of pagan festival dates, and each of the four parts begins and ends on key points across a nine month period, from Advent season to the Feast of the Exaltation. Interestingly enough, the climax of the book centers on Easter Sunday -- the focal point of a nine-month parabola -- although these events are not actually revealed until the end. While these temporal nodes provide a grounding of sorts, three other important organizing principles may be found in the various systems of the Jewish Qabalah, the Tarot and its imagery and symbolism, and in the idea of the hero monomyth. These three deserve some further elaboration.
The Qabalah provides a major tool to understanding both the structure and some of the underlying themes that hold Gravity's Rainbow together, and a very brief explanation may be in order to shed some illumination on Pynchon's magnum opus. In the Qabalistic Tree of Life, Godhead emerges from the incomprehensible Beyond and cascades downwards to our material world in ten stages, or "Emanations," each rich in symbolism and meaning. These focalized ten points make up the "Sephiroths" of the Tree of Life, and each one represents a decrease in the original power of the Godhead as it descends into the material world of the Creation from Kether, the first Sephirah, to Malkuth, the final Emanation. Each Sephirah also holds within its mystery the essence of all the lower Emanations -- the Power flows downwards in a series of successive crystallizations. As Golden Dawn member Dion Fortune says, "Let us conceive of Kether, then, as a fountain which fills its basin, and the overflow therefrom feeds another fountain, which in turn fills its basin and overflows. The Unmanifest for ever flows under pressure into Kether, and there comes a time when evolution has gone as far as it can in the extreme simplicity of the form of existence of the First Manifest. . . . the next phase of development is to combine into more complex structures. Just as Kether crystallized out of Limitless Light, so the second Sephirah, Chokmah, crystallized out of Kether. . . ." And so on, down to good old Malkuth. The forces represented by each Sephirah are progressively closer to the limits of our comprehension, but each Emanation has also sacrificed some of the original purity and unity for complexity and new modes of existence. Therefore the first -- Kether -- is the most incomprehensible to the human mind, as it represents the pure unbroken Word as it is spoken from the negative Beyond. This Word is splintered and divided in its fall, all the way down to the final Sephirah. Malkuth, the tenth Emanation, represents the throne of the material world, and is therefore the point at which we must begin in making any spiritual journey back to the One. This idea -- of the Fall from divine unity into the material world of illusionary division -- is not unique to Jewish mythology, but the Qabalah stands as one of the most eloquent systemizations of the idea, and it provides an organizational structure rich in symbolism and tradition ready to syncretically graft itself onto other models and structures of organized thinking. Everywhere in the book there is a tendency for certain elements to descend, to be refracted downwards through many different incarnations and levels of meaning. Ideas are in constant transformation, moving fluidly between higher and lower planes of existence. Conversely, there is just a strong tendency in many of the characters for a desire to return to that unsplintered state of being. From "all the shit is transmuted to gold" to "there must be a return," the narrative reinforces this theme quite frequently.
The Tarot deck is another system of symbolism and correspondences that dates back quite some time. In essence, the 78 cards of the Tarot deck are divided into 22 Major Arcana (also called Trumps or Keys) and 56 lesser cards of the Minor Arcana (the "suit" cards.) The 22 Trumps represent metaphysical concepts similar to the Sephiroth of the Qabalah, and all have a wealth of astrological and Qabalistic correspondences that tie them into to numerous other systems of occult organization. The first 21 Trumps are numbered, from Key 1: The Magus, to Key 21: The Universe; and the 22nd card is called the Fool, which is usually marked as Key Zero and placed at either the beginning or the ending of the deck. In some views of the Tarot, the Major Arcana can bee seen as "stations" on the Fool's mystic journey through Life. The other 56 cards are arranged into suits, and resemble our modern deck of playing cards. Generally speaking, the Minor Arcana are considered to be less powerful than the Trumps. Usually labeled as Wands, Swords, Cups, and Pentacles, each of these four suits corresponds to one of the four philosophical Elements: Fire, Air, Water, and Earth, respectively. The 14 cards of a suit are comprised of four court cards and ten numbered cards, each representing some aspect of life and having their principle meanings derived from the interplay between the symbolism of the given suit and the numerological position of the card itself. Today there are almost as many systems of reading Tarot cards as there are varieties of decks; but Pynchon kept to the then standard A.E. Waite deck and followed the familiar "Celtic Cross" method of divination. Both Dr Larry Daw and myself favor the interpretations of Aleister Crowley, and the majority of my quotations about the Tarot cards are taken from his works.
The Hero Monomyth
The monomyth of the "Hero's Adventure" may also provide us with some insight into the structure of Gravity's Rainbow, particularly in regards to its main protagonist, Tyrone Slothrop. If Slothrop can be considered the "hero" of the novel, one can read his progress through its pages on several levels. In the context of the Tarot, he may be seen as the Fool on his journey. But Slothrop can also be quite nicely be placed into context with Joseph Campbell's four principle stages of the "Hero's Adventure": Departure, Initiation, Return, and Death/Dissolution. Each of these four stages can be seen loosely reflected in the four parts of Gravity's Rainbow. Of course, the fact that Slothrop is hardly the stuff from which heroes are made provides us with a slyly modern perspective. (But I would still rather have a few drinks with Tyrone than Gilgamesh any day.)
Part 1: Beyond the Zero
Part 1 takes its name from Pavlovian psychology; though the term will be broadened to allow for several other meanings as well. It has 21 episodes, all taking place over nine days in the Advent season. The time is winter, when the pagan gods lie slain and waiting for rebirth, and the Christian world prepares to celebrate their alchemical transformation of the solstice into a promise for spiritual renewal: Christmas. The section starts on December 18 and ends on Boxing Day, December 26, and takes from this calendar Christian resonances that center on dissipation and the hope of redemption -- like the popular mantra of a Christian burial, "in sure and certain hope of resurrection," the characters spend their winter looking towards the future with a mixed sense of hope and anxiety. This feeling of apocalyptic prehension colors many of the passages, and the whole mood of the first part tends towards introspection, anxiety and anticipation -- the very air itself is charged with the Presence of the War, the almost sentient War . . . which is slowly dying, winding down like some Great Beast slouching towards Bethlehem to -- to what? Not be born, unless Death itself is just a transfiguration. Surely some great revelation is at hand. . . .
Notes on the Liturgical Calendar
Closer examination of both Advent and Boxing Day produce a few interesting notes. Advent takes its name from the same source as "adventure," the Latin adventus or "arrival," which provides another concurrence with the mood of Part 1. And the original custom followed on Boxing Day (which coincides with the Feast of St. Stephen) was to place presents to be given to the serving class in earthenware vessels (the "boxes") which then must be broken. So the first part of the novel ends on a day when gifts arrive for the preterite classes, emerging from broken vessels like the Word tumbling downwards. . . .
Part 1 takes Pisces as its astrological sign, the sign that governs dissolution, decay, strife, institutions, psychic phenomena and the supernatural. (Although it should be noted that Sagittarius, and not Pisces, is the correct sign for the calendar time covered by Part 1, there are plenty of indications that Pisces is the operative mode. One must be careful when analyzing Gravity's Rainbow; there are a variety of false leads and clever illusions that may lead one astray.) Crowley indicates that Pisces "represents the last stage of winter" and that it "might be called the Gateway of Resurrection." The Tarot card associated with Pisces is Key 18, the Moon -- card of the unconscious, of psychic powers and hidden forces, where "all is doubtful, all is mysterious, all is intoxicating." The Moon represents the Dark Night of the Soul. An occult significance is further seen in the number of episodes -- 21, the amount of numbered cards in the Major Arcana of the Tarot deck. This is made even more intriguing by the fact that the twenty-second card, the Fool, is marked as Zero and is traditionally assigned to a place at either the beginning or the end of the other 21 Arcana cards, a fact which gives the title of the first book an additional resonance. The Fool -- understood to be Slothrop's card -- is one of the most striking of all the Major Arcana, representative of Force about to enter manifestation, and symbolic of the redeeming power of pure innocence. It is the card of Parsifal, of Bacchus, of the Green Man of the Spring festival and of the April Fool. Card 21 itself is the Universe, or sometimes called the World, and is compliment to the Fool. It is symbolic of success, completion, triumph, and return. As Crowley says, "The Fool is negative issuing into manifestation; the Universe is that manifestation, its purpose accomplished, ready to return. The twenty cards that lie between these two exhibit the Great Work and its agents in various stages." The balance between these two cards then represents many of the themes in Gravity's Rainbow, from the breaking of the Word to the promise of a redemption, a return.
The Hero's adventure
On a mythopoetic level, Part 1 may be read as Slothrop's heroic call to adventure as he enters Campbell's first stage of "Departure." Frequent analogies may be connected to numerous components of this mythic stage -- particularly if we include Slothrop's activities in the first two episodes of Part 2, which though located in a different place, actually take place temporally during the time frame covered by Part 1. Part 1 contains a heroic "statement of his powers," an explanation for the "unusual circumstances of the hero's birth," and most importantly, the "call to adventure." As Campbell explains, one of the ways an adventure can begin is when "a blunder -- apparently the merest chance -- reveals an unsuspected world, and the individual is drawn into a relationship with forces that are rightly not understood." That's a fairly decent description of old Tyrone. . . . Additionally, the first two episodes of Part 2 could be extended to Campbell's "crossing the first threshold" and making the transition into a sphere of rebirth in the "belly of the whale" -- perhaps under the womb-red tablecloth? Oh, yes, and of course there's the monster that must be fought. Poor Grigori. . . .
Part 2: Un Perm' au Casino Hermann Goering
Permissionnaire is a French word describing a soldier on leave, so the title of this part may be loosely translated as "A Soldier on Leave at the Hermann Goering Casino." Part 2 is the shortest part of the book with only 8 episodes. Covering five months of calendar time, it begins around Christmas (on the Continent) and ends back in England on Whitsunday, May 20, 1945. The overall tone of this part is generally more lighthearted than the first, and is filled with symbols and moods associated with the coming of Spring -- sexual acrobatics, mistaken identities, prankish evasions, and madcap escapes.
Notes on the Liturgical Calendar
Whitsunday -- or "White Sunday" -- is set 50 days after Easter and represents the Christian version of the feast of Pentecost. The Jewish Pentecost -- Greek for "fiftieth," and originally applied to the holiday of Shabuoth by Greek-speaking Jews -- traditionally occurs fifty days after Passover. (In 1945, Pentecost was on May 18, and Whitsunday was on May 20.) The Christian celebration of this feast centers around events in Acts 2, when the Holy Ghost descended upon Christ's disciples during the feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem, granting them the ability to speak in tongues so they could give proof of the savior's resurrected glory. The narrative of Gravity's Rainbow takes two internal reference points from this holiday -- first, keeping in mind that the climax of the book can really be said to have taken place on Easter Sunday, Part 2 can be seen to close on the Feast occurring fifty days afterwards. Second, according to Acts 2:17, during Pentecost Peter was to sermonize with the voice of the Holy Spirit: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams." Part of this prophesy has a kind of humorous fulfillment in the delusional ramblings of an old Pavlovian in the closing episode of Part 2.
Aries the dominant sign of Part 2: the fiery Vernal sign of ego-confirming action whose Tarot card is the Sun, "Lord of Light, Life, Liberty and Love" and whose "Freedom brings sanity." There are eight episodes, 8 being a number that signifies evolution to a higher state of being; of reaping what is sown, of cosmic balance and of infinity. Slothrop -- like Stencil in Pynchon's V. -- will also have eight separate "identities" or disguises throughout the book.
The Hero's adventure
The narrative also reflects the second stage in Slothrop's development as a hero as it details the trials and tribulations of his training and education as he passes through the womb of rebirth and enters the "Initiation" stage, a "dream landscape of curiously fluid, ambiguous forms, where he must survive a succession of trials." Traditionally, these trials usually include a meeting with the Goddess as a mystical bride as well as an encounter with a temptress: in the case of Slothrop, they are one and the same woman. Other traditional stages in the hero's Initiation are carried out with varying degrees of black humor and touches of burlesque: Campbell's "atonement with the father" has a satiric counterpart in Slothrop's reluctant understanding of his unique childhood; our hero receives a few "boons" in the form of useful personal contacts and a talismanic Zoot Suit; and he must reach an "apotheosis" of sorts in order to move to the next phase of his quest.
Part 3: In the Zone
Part 3 is the longest section of the book, taking 32 episodes to cover the distance from Whitsunday to the Feast of the Transfiguration on August 6. The dominant feeling is that of a Summer in transition. The action of this part takes place in the Zone: a conquered Germany opened to exploration, colonization, and restructuring. The Zone becomes a metaphor for a field of infinite permutation and fertility: all is permitted. All the previous structures have been collapsed, and its inhabitants -- and conquerors -- engage in a scramble to force its free energies into new configurations. Like a stable nucleus smashed by high energy particles, the Zone exists in the exhilarating sliver of time before unfettered potentialities must crystallize into new structures: for a brief amount of time, anything seems possible, and a hypothetical cloud chamber seems alive with a chaotic array of shifting possibilities. Only those who can most resolutely project their wills onto reality will be left standing at the end. . . . And for many, their plans include the Rocket. But just what each one sees in the Rocket is quite different. . . .
Notes on the Liturgical Calendar
August 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration, the celebration of the day when Jesus revealed his divinity to Peter, John, and James on the top of Mount Tabor. (Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2.) It has been called "the culminating point of His public life, as His baptism is its starting point and His ascension its end." As an actual holiday, the Feast of the Transfiguration had its origins in the forth century. It is believed that it was substituted for an early pagan feast called Vatavarh, or Roseflame, held in honor of Aphrodite. In an ironic pairing typical of Gravity's Rainbow, this feast coincides with another event on August 6, 1945: the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
Leo is the operative astrological correspondence, another sign of spiritual radiance whose Tarot card is Strength -- or as Crowley has it, Lust -- a card that symbolizes "vigor, and the rapture of vigor," "divine drunkenness or ecstacy," "primitive, creative order," and the alchemical process of distillation: the penultimate step before the completion of the Great Work. The 32 episodes of this third part have the most obvious occult correspondence in the Qabalah. The ten Sephiroth are linked by twenty-two paths, one each for a letter of the Hebrew alphabet and representing a dialectic between the two Sephiroth linked together. 10 plus 22 makes 32, the "number of acquired wisdom" -- appropriate for the Zone, that vast and complex network of paths and connections which the protagonists must master to bring them closer to the completion of their quests.
The Hero's adventure
The Zone provides the mythical background for Slothrop's travels, and as such he makes the transition from his Initiation to the Return phase, wherein he must secure his "life-transmuting trophy" and return "back into the kingdom of humanity." Slothrop's adventures in the Zone -- though he is still questing for enlightenment -- have some marvelous parallels to Campbell's monomyth. The "magic flight," for instance, in which "a lively, often comical, pursuit" of the hero takes place seems to be a common theme of this third part. And in another inversion, "rescue from without" takes on quite a different spin when They attempt to retrieve Mr. T. Slothrop. . . .
Part 4: The Counterforce
Part 4 moves from the Feast of the Transfiguration to the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross -- from when Christ revealed his divinity to his disciples to the raising of the Cross. The time frame of the final part shifts from late Summer to early Autumn, and the action largely takes place in an increasingly stabilizing Zone. The Counterforce section deals with the final outcome of many of the characters, and is filled with surprises and revelations -- and a few enigmas as well.
Notes on the Liturgical Calendar
Though the time covered by this final part of the book is from May 20 to September 14, it is important to note that the book's climax does not really center on Autumn, but is reflected back via an analepsis to that most important of Christian days, Easter Sunday. True to form, these lofty dates find sardonic isotopes in the mundane calendar: in the year 1945, the Feast of the Transfiguration occurred on August 6, the day the Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima; and Easter Sunday landed on April 1st -- April Fool's Day. Each of these three liturgical holidays plays an important symbolic role in the novel. The Feast of the Transfiguration -- discussed above -- frames Slothrop's final metamorphosis, again bringing to mind the theological appraisal of the Transfiguration as "the culminating point of His public life, as His baptism is its starting point and His ascension its end." The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, also known as "Holy Rood Day" or "Holy Cross Day," had its first celebrations in the seventh century. Rood Day commemorates several events connected with the Holy Cross: its adoption as a Christian sign, its miraculous appearance to Constantine, and the recovery and the return of the True Cross to Jerusalem. Constantine's conversion to Christianity figures in the most heavily. Legend has it that before he defeated the Emperor Maxentius, he saw a vision in the sky of a giant cross and the Greek words "In this sign shall you conquer" emblazoned across it. Thinking "What the hell," he gave it a whirl, and was so impressed with his victory that he became a Christian. When St. Helena uncovered the True Cross in Jerusalem, he honored his conversion by erecting a shrine for it. The True Cross was later captured by the Persians when they sacked Jerusalem in the seventh century; but it was returned by the Emperor Heraclitus II who carried it from Constantinople back to Jerusalem, and hence the origins of the feast. Gravity's Rainbow makes use of this feast by translating the Cross into the Rocket. The Rocket, then, becomes the central figure of exaltation -- and not just for the Herero whose Rocket-related project coincides with September 14. In a scene early in the book, Captain Blicero spies the words "In hoc signo vinces" scratched into the bark of a tree which holds a cross-shaped directional marker . . . "In this sign shall you conquer."
But of course, the most important holiday is Easter Sunday. Although, temporally, Easter takes place during the time covered by Part 2 of the novel, the events that occurred on that Sunday are only revealed as the book plummets to closure. If the narrative is a parabola of sorts, its focus converges on April 1st -- and only after the arc is fully traversed are we allowed to see the Holy Center. Easter itself, of course, is one of the principle feast days of the ecclesiastical year, and represents the resurrection of Christ. It is celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. The name of the feast has its origins in the pagan festival of Eostre, the Teutonic goddess who was responsible for opening the gates of Valhalla to allow Baldur entrance after his six months in the underworld. (Baldur, the "white god" and ruler of the Sun, is the Teutonic deity most associated with Christ. After he was slain by Loki, he was forced to spend half the year in the province of Hel. His return to Valhalla was symbolic of Spring, and therefore the Christian resurrection.) As previously mentioned, in 1945 Easter fell on April 1st -- April Fool's Day. While always having associations with the Spring Equinox, April foolery really got its start in France. Up until 1564, people had exchanged new year's gifts on April 1st. After Charles IX adopted the reformed calendar that set the beginning of the year to January 1st, it became customary to send mock gifts to people on the old date, as quite a few Frenchmen resisted the calendar change. Eventually the victim of an April Fool's prank became known as a poisson d'avril, or an "April Fish." One of the more interesting theories explaining this epithet is that at the cusp of the Equinox the Sun leaves the zodiacal sign of Pisces and enters Aries. . . . The fact that Easter and April Fool's day also coincide again raises the nagging question of meaning: which is more real to us, the sacred or the vulgar? Or is the quest for meaning itself another Fool's errand? And if it is, which fool are we? The Holy Fool of the Tarot, or the poisson d'avril? As previously mentioned, Gravity's Rainbow enjoys pointing out these ambiguities; as Weisenburger states, "the book refuses to dish up that totalizing signifier. It approaches, but avoids, closure. It combines the elegance of a preordained structure and the unintelligibility of pure coincidence." In other words, if we demand concrete answers, Gravity's Rainbow will, like the old Zen master, cheerfully whack us with a stick.
There are 12 episodes in this last part -- a number freighted with many important correspondences. For Christians, 12 is the number of Apostles gathered around Christ. 12 were the Labors of Hercules, an archetypical hero. 12 are the signs of the Zodiac. Key 12 of the Tarot is the Hanged Man, a card that symbolizes, among other things, Crowley's "baptism which is also death . . . the descent of the light into the darkness in order to redeem it." It has connotations of self-surrender, sacrifice, Christ-power, and the completion of the Great Work -- transmuting base matter into gold; which itself is symbolic for the transformation of base intelligences into the pure ecstasy of awareness. The astrological sign of this final part is Virgo, an earth symbol attached to those who seek for an ideal, the sign of grail-questers, and a powerful symbol of "Fertility in its most exalted sense." Virgo's designated Tarot card is the Hermit, whose Hebrew letter is Yod: which means hand, but also divine sparks of creative energy, representative of "the Logos, the Creator of all worlds." The Hermit's lonely figure contemplating his lamp -- the Orphic egg -- represents to Crowley "the entire mystery of Life in its most secret workings. Yod=Phallus=Spermatozoon=Hand=Logos=Virgin. There is perfect Identity of the Extremes, the Manifestation, and the Method." It is a powerful image to attach to Virgo, and a good set of associations with which to end the book.
The Hero's adventure
Here also we find an end to Slothrop's adventure as a hero, analogous to Campbell's "transformative departure" and "dissolution." As he states, "The hero of yesterday becomes the tyrant of tomorrow, unless he crucifies himself today . . . the enigmatical figures dissolve back into the primal chaos. The mighty hero . . . is each of us. This is the sense of the prayers for the dead, at the moment of personal dissolution: that the individual should now return to his pristine knowledge of the world-creative divinity who during life was reflected in his heart." For Pynchon, Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus provide the pattern for the dispersion and dissolution. Let's hear it for the rainbow cock. . . .
Final Words on Structure
Before I close, I would like to make a few comments on my view of the overall structure of Gravity's Rainbow. I previously implied that I believed the structure of Gravity's Rainbow to be parabolic in form. This is certainly not agreed upon by everyone, and I would like to elaborate my ideas. In particular, Weisenburger remarks in A Gravity's Rainbow Companion that the book "unfolds according to a carefully drawn design. Gravity's Rainbow is not arch-shaped, as is commonly supposed. It is plotted like a mandala, its quadrants marked by Christian feast days. . . ." Although I respect Mr. Weisenburger's opinion, I see the shape as being more of a synthesis of the parabola and the mandala. I see the book being, indeed, circular in design -- but parabolic in manifestation. The narrative itself only covers nine months of a year, emerging suddenly as "a screaming came suddenly across the sky," soaring into the air to a lofty peak, then falling and plummeting back down into the earth in mid sentence. The rest of the book is unknown, deliberately unwritten, inconclusive, chthonian: Persephone and Baldur in the Underworld. As the narrative itself informs us, a rainbow is: "not, as we might imagine, bounded below by the line of the Earth it 'rises from' and the Earth it 'strikes' No But Then You Never Really Thought It Was Did You Of Course It Begins Infinitely Below The Earth And Goes On Infinitely Back Into The Earth it's only the peak that we are allowed to see." What lies in these hidden Autumnal months? The Underworld? The Beyond? Maybe the answers to all Gravity's Rainbow's ambiguities, answers hinted at by those called back from the dead by the craft of canny mediums. This model allows us to see the whole work as symbolic of consciousness itself. The narrative surfaces from the Piscean depths of the Moon-haunted subconscious, rams into the air with fiery brilliance, turns at a visible cusp, pounces back down with a leonine energy, disassembles itself and splinters on its fall to impregnate the virgin earth on its way through to repeat the cycle again. The focal point of the parabolic narrative is Easter, where many narrative rays come to a convergence: a progressive unfolding of allusions, hints, and analepses all seem to draw our attention there as we progress through the arch -- first a tentative projection forward, then after the cusp is turned, a strengthening projection inward, then backwards -- and yet this critical moment (the peak, or the peek?) is denied to us until the completion of the arch, as if it could not be revealed until we had swept all the light from the shape of the rainbow. And yet, even then, we are denied a total completion -- for the focus is the Holy Center of a great mandala, and we are not allowed to continue our Fool's errand into the last quadrant by following the narrative alone . . . . We must rely on our own abilities to complete the mandala, to determine for ourselves if we are on the vision quest of the Holy Fool or following the fruitless capering of the poisson d'avril.
-- Allen B. Ruch
21 March 1997
The Vernal Equinox
Here is a list of the sources used in writing this analysis
Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1949.
Crowley, Aleister. The Book of Thoth. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1969.
Douglas, George William. The American Book of Days. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1937.
Dunkling, Leslie. A Dictionary of Days. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1988.
Fortune, Dion. The Mystical Qabalah. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1984.
Gray, Eden. A Complete Guide to the Tarot. New York: Bantam, 1970.
Regardie, Israel. A Garden of Pomegranates. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1970.
Waite, Arthur Edward. The Pictorial Key to the Tarot. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1971.
Wang, Robert. The Qabalistic Tarot. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1983.
Weisenburger, Steven. A Gravity's Rainbow Companion. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1988