7 x 7
A 'number' of concepts [and maybe a pun or two] are embedded in the title of Thomas Pynchon's second novel, a work that the author appears to dismiss as the worst of his juvenilia in the introduction to his collection of early short stories Slow Learner:
- "The Small Rain" was my first published story. . . ."
- . . . .Most of what I dislike about my writing is present here in embryo, as well as in more advanced forms. I failed to recognize, just for openers, that the main character's problem was real and interesting enough to generate a story on its own. Apparently I felt I had to put on a whole extra overlay of rain images and references to "The Waste Land" and A Farewell to Arms. I was operating on the motto "Make it literary," a piece of bad advice I made up all by myself and then took. . . .
- . . . .The next story I wrote was "The Crying of Lot 49," which was marketed as a "novel." and in which I seem to have forgotten most of what I thought I'd learned up until then. . . .
The title suggests a property auction as auctions are Cried and Lot usually is in reference to a plot of land. A Lot is also a group of things sold at an auction, these lots are numbered. Lot is also a reference to Lot in the Bible, see Wikipedia/Lot:
- "In Luke 17:28-32 Jesus uses Lot's wife as a warning to those who do not watch for the signs of the Apocalypse, and in 2 Peter 2:7-8 Lot is described as a righteous man surrounded by wickedness."
Of course, a lot can be too much, see Mucho Maas.
Crying [. . . ."St Francis of Assisi is said to have gone blind from too much crying". . . .] has a primary meaning of tears and sadness. The novel will feature a parade of homonyms surrounding all this 'crying', derived from the Middle English word Triste, a word borrowed from Old French, originally from the Latin root Tristis. Pynchon's a grand champion at word webs and the web he spins from this tiny word oozes into every nook and cranny of this novella.
The number 49 has a great deal of Christian and Occult significance. Christian numerology has 49 as the number before Pentecost. From the Wikipedia article on the Pentecost:
- ". . . .one of the prominent feasts in the Christian liturgical year, celebrated the fiftieth day after Easter Sunday (the tenth day after Ascension Thursday). Historically and symbolically related to the Jewish harvest festival of Shavuot, it commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus as described in the Book of Acts,Chapter 2. Pentecost is also called Whitsun, Whitsunday, or Whit Sunday in the United Kingdom and other English-speaking areas."
There is an implied meaning of Revelation' and Gnosis in Pentecost, so 49 would be just before Revelation. In 1966, soon after the President John Kennedy's Assassination and the Cuban Missile Crisis, Biblical Apocylypse managed to slip into Top 40 Radio with Barry McGuire's Eve of Destruction' back in 1965 an early addition to a series of increasingly ominous messages that managed to slip into the ears of middle class American ears, including a few Young Republican housewives who go to Tupperware parties.
In Tibetan Buddhism, the Bardo State---that interregnum twixt death and rebirth---lasts 49 days:
- Bardo literally means "in between." It indicates a number of transitional or liminal conditions: (a) between birth and death, (b) the meditational state, (c) the dream stage, (d) the moment of dying, (e) the interim between death and rebirth, and (f) the process of rebirth. The bardo teachings are relevant to each liminal stage but are more pertinent to dying and death (Turner, 1969). . . .
- . . . .The soul mother or lama guides the separation of the soul in various liminal situations and is the spiritual guide who accompanies the subtle consciousness of the dead person step by step on the difficult and sometimes perilous path during the 49 days between death and rebirth.
The source book for these transitions of life and death---Tibetan Book of the Dead---was re-worked by Ralph Metzner, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert into their guide for using LSD in a therapeutic environment, re-titled The Psychedelic Experience.John Dee, astrologer to Queen Elizabeth and one of the most learned men in Renaissance England worked out his Enochian system of magick in order to communicate with Angels:
- In 49 voyces, or callings: which are the Natural Keyes, to open those, not 49, but 48. (for One is not to be opened) Gates of understanding, whereby you shall have knowledge to move every Gate, and to call out as many as you please, or shall be thought necessary, which can very well, righteously, and wisely, open unto you the secrets of their Cities, and make you understand perfectly the [mysteries] contained in theTables.
See: The Enochian Apocalypse by Donald Tyson also Enochian Materials and Wikipedia: Enochian.
The Wikipedia article on Enochian Magic notes: "the features showed are commonly found in instances of glossolalia. This could be indicative of Kelley actually receiving at least this set of texts through the well-known phenomenon of Glossolalia." Pentecost is associated with glossolalia, a mode of verbal articulation that fits our author to a "T" .
John Dee deployed 'Scrying' as part of his angelic invocations, see Wikipedia/John Dee:
- "Later life: By the early 1580s, Dee was growing dissatisfied with his progress in learning the secrets of nature and with his own lack of influence and recognition. He began to turn towards the supernatural as a means to acquire knowledge. Specifically, he sought to contact angels through the use of a "scryer" or crystal-gazer, who would act as an intermediary between Dee and the angels."
Scrying is something of an Idée Fixe for Thomas Pynchon, as are Gnostic conceptions of Angelic correspondence, exemplified by Rilke's angelic invocation/poem Duino Elegies
John Dee's skills also included Map-Making and Navigation.
- "Dee continued to work at the development of scientific instruments. While consultant to the Muscovy Company Dee assembled geographic and nautical information and prepared charts for navigation in the polar regions. De Smet calls him the central figure in the development of scientific cartography in England, and he suggests that Dee's influence was transmitted to the Netherlands where it helped form Dutch cartography in its so-called golden age."
These important contributions assisted England in their exploration and colonization of 'The New World.' There is a statue in Springfield's Stearns Square named The Pilgrim, that 'honors one of the town's founders, the Deacon Samuel Chapin. I have seen in some older histories of Springfield the name of Thomas Pynchon's direct ancestor [great-grandfather back ten generations] William Pynchon as the subject of that statue. But you all know how unreliable history can be. William Pynchon was part of the first British expeditions to the New World. William Pynchon is also distinguished as the first writer to have a book---The Meritorious Price of our Redemption, Iustification, &c.---burned in Boston, an exile from the Puritans. a heretic among heretics.
But the number 49 has an additional meaning, very deeply buried in Pynchon family history. Popular Law Library, Albert Hutchinson Putney has Pynchon v. Stearns, a court case concerning estates and property rights in the legal concept generally known as the Waste Doctrine. The 'Pynchons' in this case were direct descendants of William Pynchon whose establishment of Springfield had grown over the passing two hundred years, abbuting into the interests of the Stearns Family who set up in Salem the same time William Pynchon founded Springfield. And for some reason, page 95, citing 'Pynchon v. Stearns', has the ominous heading: Section 49: Who May Commit Waste.
The Stearns family were, like the Pynchon Family, among the first settlers in New England, beneficiaries of John Dee's cartography, becoming a force to be reckoned with as the lands they aquired as early settlers became a center for American investment banking services and the insurance industry.
Charlotte Champe Stearns (1843–1929) was a social worker, a poet and the mother of T.S. Eliot. She wrote two long poems concerning Giordano Bruno, published in the The Unitarian - A Monthly Magazine of Liberal Christianity, look for pages 320 and 564 in the link. Giordano Bruno was famously burned at the stake, and his demise echos a number of scenes in The Courier's Tragedy. [Author's note: I am still looking for more information concerning the Genealogy of Charlotte Stearns, still trying to find out where she fits on the family tree. While her history and interests point to the old family/old money Old New England Society, additional information is needed to confirm this family connection.]
The 'S' in T. S. Eliot stands for Stearns.