Why "Spermatikos Logos?"
Trying to formulate one single phrase to encompass the entirety of the Pynchon oeuvre could put you, as Oedipa Maas might say, into "orbiting paranoia!"
Yet, each reader of Pynchon brings to the works his or her own set of organizing principles. Pynchon's writings cannot merely be accepted, passively, as if we are Isaac under the blade. . . . No. They must be constantly Re-created in the specific mind of the Ideal reader which is you. Each will have his own personal Rocket, as it says in Gravity's Rainbow, as each will have his or her own personal conveyance to whisk them to a unique personal source of Meaning.
Our connection to the Locus of Understanding has been designated as The Spermatikos Logos, because Pynchon may have given the apprehension of the Word special meaning. Such theoreticians of the Logos as the Stoics, the Jewish philosopher Philo, and the early Christian apologist Justin Martyr, thought of the Divine Principle as seminal, germinating, in every sense a Spermatikos Logos. Justin actually writes of "the seed of reason . . . implanted in every race of man." The Word is "spermatic," vivifying, fertilizing and awakening in us what has lain dormant for so long within the Sleep of Reason.
Therefore, we try to follow, like so many of Pynchon's characters -- from the Stencils, through the Maas's, the Grover Snodds, and the Mondaugens, to the singing Fools -- the journey of the Word as it passes from the mythical realm of a priori certainty along the Parabola of Disassociation down into the realms of multiplicity we call reality. We know it is there. Borges before, and Pynchon after, have seen it. It is there, in the soft dusk of mirrors out of which something [is] about to walk. . . .
The graphic frontispiece that begins this page, tucked into one of the multitudinous corners of the Libyrinth of Allexamina bears the name of only one of a plethora of decoding strategies. It is for us, and perhaps for others, a means to receive The Spermatikos Logos.
The graphic design is set on a field which shows the expanding green of fertility growing out of the centre of a square pyramid. This geometric solid is a pentahedron, and, as such, represents the five novels. Dominating the piece are the two V's which represent the first and the fourth novels -- V and Vineland -- the apogee and nadir of the Pynchon oeuvre thus far!! One V is violet, the other grey -- specifically to give a sense of beginning and ending.
The golden numbers 4 and 9 -- many thanks to Frank Stella -- are for The Crying of Lot 49. Added together, they are 13, which gives 1 + 3, which is 4, as was emphasized earlier. 4 is also the number of Spring; 9 the number of Lunar wisdom.
Woven through the lines of the pyramid and between the letters of the V's, is the intricate, multiplied symbol which we have made for Gravity's Rainbow. It is the colour of a rocket exhaust, and in it you see the Rocket itself, on its stand, the parabolic shape of the Rainbow, and, if you are truly Initiated, a map or a plan of the Raketenstadt, surely the dwelling place of all Paranoids. . . .
The number 13, at the topmost pinnacle of the design, is red. Its colour represents the Passion which frees the Spermatikos Logos to wend its way serpentitiously from on High to the apex of the V's -- surely the most feminine, chthonic, and fecund of locales we might know in this, the earthly Gaia which we inhabit.
13 is the number which Aleister Crowley chose for the Death card of the Major Arcana of his Tarot deck, a card which spins out the chance of change, re-birth, fertility, and renewal. On the Tree of Life depicted in his Kabbala, it is the path which links Netzach with Tiphareth. The link takes us from the Active Way to the Central Way to Kether, or Avalon -- at the tip of the Tree -- and then, possibly, beyond, to Ain Soph Aur. This path is symbolized by the Astrological sign Scorpio, and also by the Fish and the Hebrew word Nun.
It is thus that we have included this word at the centre of the Spermatikos symbol. It floats there as the Fish, carried on the undulations of the sperm's tail, truly nestled in a net of apexes which looks like a flower whose foliations are made, singularly, of many V's.
Below it is the dark oval packet of information which would, if the sperm had been biological, carry enough genetic information to create a new life. But here, the oval is the Word which, when it touches the mind, explodes into Meaning. . . .
We will read the Pynchon texts as documents found on the quest for Meaning, whether it be by means of cogitated re-formulation, merest chance, or a blast of Divine Inspiration.
Read on; seek; know.
From the desk of the Great Quail, Libyrarian:
At first, there was the Idea. The unCreated egg dreaming of its futurity, its form already embedded in the uncarved block of the tenebrous future. The works of Pynchon were the source, a shower of Yods falling from the Tower, a scattered rain of divine light that sparked the creative impulse. The Idea thrashed about in the murky dark, waiting for a proper medium to call its own, waiting for that mystical catalyst, the command to grow. The Web would grant an answer to that call, providing a matrix, and the Libyrinth would open its mazes to provide a womb. The Idea would be born, receiving a round slap on the rump on the auspicious day of Friday 13, December 1996, and it would open its eyes to the world.
This site is the alchemical child of Dr Larry Daw and myself, the Great Quail. And, like any child, it is a collaboration, the product of two visions, and without either the site would not exist. Allow me to tell the story of a lazy quail and a most unusual doctor.
I had always had a Pynchon site in mind, but the idea was as hazy and nebulous as it was tenaciously pervasive. All I had was a murky, subterranean swirl of ideas and a potential name. To be called "The White Visitation," during long nights I could feel it beaming me the dreams of its resident madmen; like a transuranium element buried in the vaults of my subconscious, I was breathing in the percolations of its slow radiation. It wanted to be created. Each dream, each emitted particle, was enacting a subtle change, a scintillation on the dark screens of my sleeping imagination. It was as if each triggered a binary switch too minute to quantify individually, but I knew that in time, the statistical weight of the sum was destined to collapse in a sudden revelation of form. I knew that one day I would uncover the ore surrounding my mysterious isotope; I would strip away the base metal, mercurial, plumbic, plutonian, and force the alchemical transmutation to gold. But I still needed to devour more of Pynchon's work, and I still needed to navigate the Sephirothic paths to Tiphareth before I could really begin. I needed a catalyst, a brush with the Word.
Then I was contacted by one Dr Larry Daw. Author of strange email epistles, he shared many affinities with me: Robyn Hitchcock, Philip Glass, Aleister Crowley . . . and Thomas Pynchon. Suddenly the equation balanced, and I saw a way out of my quantum uncertainty. Why bother with the dreams of madmen, when Fate was delivering one right to my door? Foolishly my Canadian friend made a commitment to the Libyrinth: he wanted to create a Pynchon page by the end of 1996. (Here he was -- a Pynchon scholar! a professor! a novelist! And most importantly, he was willing to do most of the work! Ahh . . . la dolce vita!) Larry had an idea -- many ideas -- and he wanted my help in bringing them to reality. He handed me a ring of keys, a topographic map, and a shovel. With a firm belief that my "madmen" were really psychic visionaries, he sent me deep into my subconscious mine and suggested where to dig. In the habit of any good Nun, he forced my Yod, and I finally brought my creative energies into focus, crystallizing the warm dreaming swirl into a tangible form. Together we spent the Autumn of 1996 brewing up this homunculus you have before you, with Larry providing most of the research and materials, and myself transforming them in the retorts and crucibles of my electric Libyrinth. Besides my gratitude for his ideas and his work, I am forever indebted to him for his inspiration, his assistance, and his guidance.
So, to conclude, you have before you a joint project, a hybrid labor of love. Larry is responsible for most of the actual content; the message, the dominant DNA is his -- as are all the English spellings. I am responsible for the structure of the message, wrapping the memes in a loopy protective blanket and introducing the site to its brothers and sisters happily at play in the forking gardens of the Libyrinth. I am also to blame for most of the graphics (though the hermetic logo that greets you on the front page springs from the elves at Larry's arcane workshop), the textual connective tissue, the run-on sentences and abuse of semi-colons, the purple prose, and (I guiltily confess) a bit of authorial tinkering.
A picture? Sure, click here. But since you can read about my personal history elsewhere in the Libyrinth, I will now turn the pen over to my partner, the originator of Spermatikos Logos:
From the desk of Dr Larry Daw, author, artist:
Born in Calcutta on May 5, 1953, under the aegis of British Colonialism, one Frederick John Laurence Daw, Esq. He emigrated to England from out of the Bay of Bengal, weathering a typhoon in the process. Youthful days were spent gambolling in English meadows whilst playing with kites and hobby-horses. In grammar school there were the translations of Catullus and Homer, and regular whippings with a cruel bamboo cane for transgressions against the bureaucracies of Church and State. He dreamed of Ovid's metamorphoses and painted pictures in his mind of ships and aeroplanes set loose on wine-dark seas and in azure skies.
Another emigration, this time to the frozen wastes of Canada, forced further adjustments of culture and aesthetics. But out of this re-location was born his artistic and literary proclivities. A pimply person began producing poems, short stories, drawings, designs, and posters. It was the Summer of Love, 1967, and as the hair grew longer, the bell-bottoms grew wider and the pink and green psychedelic drugs were free. Laurence and his friends raced ten-speed bikes all over Ontario, got so incredibly high, and watched Jane Fonda wearing her provocative fish-bowls in Barbarella.
Still every inch a hippie, he was at the University of Western Ontario from 1972 to 1990, first as a student, then an apprentice, and finally a professor. The Freshman year contained a terrible bike crash which occasioned a bona fide near-death experience, and after recovery a gradual progression into the delirious happiness of the Disco era, replete with the platform shoes and the hideous polyester shirts. Soon, Laurence had moved on to graduate school, working as a late-night DJ at the hard-core campus station, writing record reviews and drawing his infamous cartoon -- Dr Daw's Mind Theatre -- for the school papers. Degrees kept mounting up -- MA, PhD, etc., etc. A dissertation entitled Us and Them: Technological Hierarchies in Fowles and Pynchon came forth. Three novels were written, the last of which was called Gravity's Well as an homage to Pynchon, and several others were started and left to gather dust at the edge of his mind. Work at the radio station now included forming a production company entitled Lemnischatological Interosculations with the legendary jazz trombonist Herb Bayley to produce a trilogy of radio-plays: "Miles in Heaven," "Rings of Time," and "Virgin Beauty." Displays of computer graphics, stained glass, and paper sculptures followed at local galleries. It was a time of great production values, musical experimentation, and artistic output, a full period of some six years of constant creation!!
But the now the University scene has been lost and work has moved onto the 'Net. E-mail correspondences and the cultivation of new and better media representations have replaced the paper and pens of yore. Most notably, F.J.L. Daw has been lucky enough to hook up with the Great Quail, and is currently spending a little time lost in the multitudinous Libyrinth of that bird's devising. . . . What will emerge from therein is anybody's guess!
To see the Doctor at work, click here for a picture of him at a well-known coffee shop in London, Ontario, where Leon Trotsky fomented many an idea for dialectical materialism and Tristan Tzara invented the Dada Jelly-Bean. . . .