Abbreviated Sources
and References

Annotations: title,
epigraph and

Part I

Part II
II.1 Synopsis
pp. 281-306
pp. 311-342
II.2 Synopsis
pp. 343-373
pp. 374-381
pp. 382-385
pp. 386-389
II.3 Synopsis
pp. 390-392
pp. 393-403
pp. 404-420
pp. 421-442
II.4 Synopsis
pp. 446-468
pp. 470-486
II.5 Synopsis
pp. 487-495
pp. 496-511
pp. 512-540
II.6 Synopsis
pp. 542-564
II.7 Synopsis
pp. 568-605
pp. 606-645
II.8 Synopsis
pp. 647-678
pp. 679-699
II.9 Synopsis
pp. 700-719

Part III

A Reader's Guide to William Gaddis's The Recognitions


II.3 pp. pages 421-442

421.41] Druids [...] often struck by lightning: see 55.31. Actually, the oak tree is struck more often than others simply because it has vertical roots that provide a more direct route to groundwater.

423.31] The Toast [...] who beg for bread: a poem by American writer Mary Kyle Dallas (1830-97), reprinted in temperance anthologies such as Lizzie Penney's Readings and Recitations (see 404.13 above). {Mark Hale}

425.10] Superbia [...] "I would desire [...] O my sweet gold!" [...] Covetousness: in Christopher Marlowe's (1564-93) play Doctor Faustus (1592?), Lucifer arranges for Faustus a parade of the Seven Deadly Sins, the second of which introduces itself thus: "I am Covetousness, begotten of an old churl, in an old leathern bag: and might I have my wish, I would desire that this house and all the people in it were turned to gold, that I might lock you up in my good chest: O, my sweet gold!" (Marlowe's Plays and Poems, ed. M. R. Ridley, Everyman's Library [New York: Dutton, 1955], 138-39).

425.34] Μειθρας [Mithras in Greek font] [...] = 365: from SPIM 62n1; see 433.1.

426.1] bread [...] fish [...] waiting for something to happen: cf. the miraculous multiplication of bread and fish in Mark 6:37 ff.

426.37] white navy beans: see WG 51-52 for possible significance: in ancient Greece and Rome, it was believed ghosts entered beans, to be eaten by women for rebirth; thus "for a man to eat a bean might be an impious frustration of his dead parents' designs" to be reborn.

427.40] If I fell among thieves: quoted from the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37.

428.2] carnival [...] O flesh, farewell: "carnival" originally referred to the days preceding Lent, after which time meat was to be put away (It. carne levare). "The explanations 'farewell flesh, farewell to flesh' (from L. vale) [...] belong to the domain of popular etymology" (OED). Cf. 800.8 ff.

428.9] glittering eye: the most noticeable feature of Coleridge's Ancient Mariner (ll. 3, 13, etc.). Sinisterra likewise possesses a "glittering eye" (794.25).

428.12] "in hell is all manner of delight": from Marlowe's Doctor Faustus; see note to 441.34.

428.23] And when the seed began to grow: see 98.41.

428.44] And if beauty did provoke thieves, sooner than gold?: deciding to take to the road with Celia, Rosalind asks: "Alas, what danger will it be to us, / Maids as we are, to travel forth so far! / Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold" (As You Like It, 1.3.110-12.)

429.1] ape to nature: perhaps another Shakespearean allusion: "Julio Romano [...] would beguile Nature of her custom, so perfectly he is her ape" (Winter's Tale, 5.2.105-8; Romano was a famous Italian artist of the sixteenth century).

429.36] Thessalonian witches: see 28.15 ff.

429.41] "The moon [...] Arnobius [...] a thousand forms": Arnobius (fl. A.D . 300), early Christian apologist, whose only known work is Adversus Gentes (Against the Heathens; also called Adversus Nationes, as at 436.40]), a devastating attack on the Roman religion. The present quotation is from book 6, chap. 10 (as quoted in SPIM 52), a discussion of the futility of trying to create images of the gods; which of the moon's thousand forms, for example, is to be rendered in a statue devoted to her?

430.18] Saint Bernard: (1090-1153), French abbot and theologian, a founder of the Cistercian order; quoted earlier on feminine charm (393.31-33).

430.22] "And the brother [...] put to death": Matt. 10:21.

430.25] Laodicea: one of the seven churches in Asia singled out in the Book of Revelation; it is criticized for being "neither cold nor hot" in religious matters (3:14 ff.).

430.25] God's fool: cf. 1 Cor. 4:10.

430.28] the wren: see 47.33.

431.6] The trials before you, for the priesthood: an extended series of extracts from Phythian-Adams's Mithraism (83-92) is necessary to annotate the Mithraic elements of R 431-32. (The location of Gaddis's borrowings will be indicated in brackets; footnotes have been eliminated.) The most striking feature of Mithraism, says Phythian-Adams, is what "may be called the Tests or Trials of Fortitude":

Of these there were twelve in all [432.1] (or, as some writers aver, eighty!); and in the old days, in the mountains of the Near East, they must have been more than moderately severe. The Neophyte was exposed to scorching heat and biting cold [431.41, 43], to hunger, thirst, the terrors of drowning [432.2-3], to every torment (they were also called "cruciatus" [432.18]) which the wit of man could devise to render the human body "Passionless" [431.8, 22], [...] to inure it to hardship, and strengthen it against temptation [431.21]. Such was the candidate's entry into the mysteries. [...]

Thus far, then, the neophyte had learned two lessons - Fortitude, and Subdual of Passions [432.9-10]. His next lesson was Renunciation [431.37]. At some point, presumably as the last test had been triumphantly surmounted, a Crown of Victory was presented to the elated youth [431.26]; yet ere he could accept it, he was warned to thrust it from him with the words "Mithras is my crown." So even in the moment of success, he learned entire submission and self dedication to his god. It is not surprising that Tertullian [420.15] held up this custom as an example and reproach to his "Fellow soldiers in Christ."

When the act of Renunciation had been made, the candidate was Sealed upon the forehead [432.4] and became a "tried soldier" of Mithras. It was perhaps then also that he was Baptized to the Remission of Sins [431.12]. Justin Martyr tells us that "Bread and a cup of water" [431.15] were placed with certain incantations in the rite of initiation. If this statement is correct, it describes an imperfect or preliminary act of Communion [431.15], which foreshadowed that fuller Participation which only those who had reached the grade of Lion [432.20] were allowed to experience.

Yet before the neophyte had climbed to this spiritual eminence, a last and greatest trial of his fortitude and fidelity still awaited him. [...] Now he had to Die [436.16, 22].

That the Mithraic mysteries (in common with all others before and since) contained a Mystical Death appears perhaps a somewhat hazardous suggestion. In reality, the fact is practically undeniable. Tertullian speaks of an "image of Resurrection" [432.33] which the Devil had introduced into the Mithraic rites with the object of overthrowing and contaminating the Truth. The other side of the same ritual act is fortunately preserved for us by the chronologist of Commodus. That Emperor, we are told, "polluted the mysteries of Mithras by a real homicide, when something of the kind is done or spoken there to produce terror."

Interpreting this sentence in the light of our previous knowledge we obtain two facts: (1) that there was a symbolic murder, (2) that it was performed by the Pater Patrum [432.27], who was the direct representative of Mithras (since it must be presumed that Commodus would be content with none but the chief rôle in this as in all else). The mythical explanation of this act would then run as follows: [...] "By suffering 'death' at the hands of the Pater Patrum, the initiate passes into true 'life.'" [...]

We have now surveyed, in however cursory a manner, the vital principles of the Mithraic creed. We have seen that it contains in "outward and visible form" the sacred "Rock" [431.11], Baptism, the Sign on the Brow, Communion of Bread and Cup [431.14-15]; and on its inward and spiritual side the doctrine of Sin, Redemption, Sacramentary Grace and Salvation to Everlasting Life [431.15-16]. Is it surprising that in the face of this astonishing similarity the Christian apologists denounced the Mysteries as a most crafty and insidious attack upon the Truth, made not, be it observed, by men (human plagiarism is never suggested), but by that great Counterfeiter, the Devil himself?

431.11] Born of the Rock: Mithra was said to have been born from a rock, as illustrated in various Mithraic bas-reliefs (e.g., M 54); see the reaction of Firmicus Maternus to this belief below (436.40).

431.28] the third temptation, "All these things will I give thee": "[...] if thou wilt fall down and worship me" (Matt. 4:9). Similarly, Mephistopheles tempts Faust (part 2, act 4, "High Mountain"):

In boundless space the world thou hast surveyed,
Its kingdoms and their glory, all displayed.
And yet, insatiate as thou art.
To thee did they no joy impart?

Earlier (i.e., the night before), Wyatt had said, "hurry . . . the forty days is almost done . . ." (383.41).

431.30] he's behind me: after the third temptation, Jesus says: "Get thee behind me, Satan" (Luke 4:8).

432.3] sacramentum: "We learn from Tertullian [De Coronâ, 15] that Mithraism exacted an Oath of Allegiance (sacramentum) from the recruits for its 'sacred warfare,' and signed or sealed them on the forehead as a memorial of their vow" (M 76). Phythian-Adams later cites Tertullian's De Præscriptione Hæreticorum (chap. 40) on the same point (M 84 n.2); Rev. Gwyon's library contains both works.

432.9] Nonnus [...] In Sancta Lumina: Geden (SPIM 80) quotes the little-known Nonnus the Mythographer's commentary on Gregory of Nazainzus's In Sancta Lumina (4th century).

432.15] Pater Patrum: "Father of Fathers," the head of those Mithraic initiates who reached the father (pater) degree (see next note). "Pater Patratus" (432.27) Phythian-Adams gives as a variant of Pater Patrum.

432.20] Cryphius [...] Heliodromus: from EB's article on Mithra (15:620):

As regards the organization of Mithraism, S. Jerome (Epist. 107, 2) and inscriptions preserve the knowledge that the mystic, sacratus, passed through seven degrees, which probably corresponded to the seven planetary spheres traversed by the soul in its ascent; Corax, Raven; Cryphius, Hidden ([...] the initiate was perhaps veiled); Miles, Soldier, signifying the holy warfare against evil in the service of the god; Leo, Lion, symbolic of the element of fire; Perses, Persian (cf. the Christian use of "Israel," "Zion," etc.); Heliodromus, Courier of the Sun; Pater, Father, a degree bringing the mystic among those who had the general direction of the cult for the rest of their lives.

432.37] Natalis invicti: the birthday of the sun at the winter solstice, celebrated on 25 December (M 58); Graves notes: "That the Sun-gods Dionysus, Apollo and Mithra were all also reputedly born at the Winter solstice is well known, and the Christian Church first fixed the Nativity feast of Jesus Christ at the same season, in the year 273 A.D. " (WG 262).

433.1] Abraxas [...] the resident of the highest Gnostic heaven: abraxas was a symbolic word used by Basilides of Alexandria (fl. third century) as a title for the divinity; later it became a proper name. (See SPIM 61-62, which gives the numerical values.) There seems to have been seven heavens or spheres in the Gnostic system, though Basilides for one counted no less than 365 heavens -- obviously reflecting the solar year (see EB 1:62).

Gnosticism (Greek gnosis, knowledge) augmented Christianity with the speculations of Pythagoras, Plato, and other Greek and Oriental philosophers, which resulted in an esoteric "religion" available only to initiates. (Its elitism alienated many of the more democratic early Christians.) Emphasizing knowledge rather than faith, Gnosticism involved magic, occult symbolism, and what later would develop into alchemy. Several early church fathers attacked Gnosticism, the most thorough being Saint Irenaeus, whose Against Heresies furnishes R's motto. In spite of Irenaeus's definitive exposé of the cult's contradictions and absurdities, Gnosticism continued to attract certain temperaments, as it does to this very day.

433.8] "The gods are benevolent [...] Elisæus [...] by the hands of the king: from SPIM 72-74. Elisæus was a 5th-century Armenian religious writer.

433.15] Mithras means friend [...] mediator between the gods and the lower world: in one footnote Phythian-Adams notes "Mitra in Sanskrit ='Friendship' or 'Friend'" (M 6, n.1), and in another: "As the god of Light, M[ithras]. occupied a 'middle' place in the air (Vayu) between the splendour of Heaven and the gloom of Hell. He was thus called the Mediator (Mesiths)(Plutarch de Isid, c. 46), a title later transferred by Mazdaeans to his relations between Ormuzd and mankind. There is no trace of this doctrine in Mithraism, and Christian writers do not refer to it in spite of the obvious parallel in their own religion" (M 8, n.1). Cf. Weston: "Mithra is the mediator, who stands between 'the inaccessible and unknowable God, who reigns in the ethereal spheres, and the human race which suffers here below'" (FRR 165-66, quoting Cumont).

436.24] woman's grade [...] Porphyry [...] Hyena: noted in Porphyry's De Abstinentia, as quoted by Geden (SPIM 50). Porphry (232?-304?), Greek scholar and Neoplatonic philosopher, vigorously defended paganism and opposed Christianity in his many books.

436.28] Then the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed: Isa. 24:23.

436.30] The sun shall be no more [...] for the Lord shall be: Isa. 60:19-20.

436.39] Tertullian's De Præscriptione Hæreticorum: The Prescription against Heretics argues that those who base their religious beliefs on unorthodox interpretations of the scriptures (as the Gnostics did) thereby forfeit their right to use the scriptures at all. Quoted in SPIM 43-44.

436.40] De Errore Profanarum Religionum of Firmicus Maternus: Julius Firmicus Maternus was a Latin Christian writer of the fourth century; this title is another anti-Mithraic tract quoted in SPIM (56-57) and in M (90).

436.40] De Errore Profanarum Religionum of Firmicus Maternus: Julius Firmicus Maternus was a Latin Christian writer of the fourth century; this title is another anti-Mithraic tract quoted in SPIM (56-57) and in M (90).

437.1] Saint John of the Cross [...] Dark Night of the Soul: see 23.40.

437.9] Herakles star-adorned [...] my prayer: an invocation quoted by Geden (SPIM 76) from the epic poem Dionysiaca by the 5th-century Greek Christian writer Nonnus of Panopolis (unrelated to the Nonnus at 432.9).

437.21] O king [...] the man Gwyon: an invocation quoted by Geden (though ending "the man N.") "from a magical papyrus text in the national library at Paris, which is ascribed to the fourth century" (SPIM 55).

437.25] I invoke thee [...] abraalbabachaebechi: another invocation by Geden (with no explanation of the final word) from a papyrus in the British Museum, probably from the fourth century (SPIM 55).

437.32] verse eight [...] according to Saint Matthew: this chapter concerns the sign of the Second Coming.

437.36] verse twenty-four: "For there shall arise false wonders, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."

438.21] "While we go now [...] The Prince of India: a 300,000-word novel (1893) suggested by President Garfield to popular novelist Lew Wallace (1827-1905), best known as the author of Ben Hur. Very successful in its day, The Prince of India reworks the Wandering Jew theme; the quotation is the final paragraph of book 2, chap. 1.

441.34] "Away, to hell, to hell! [...] How happy were I then": in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, Faustus dismisses the Seven Deadly Sins (see 425.10 ff.) thus (140 in Everyman's ed.):

FAUST: Away, to hell, to hell! [Exuent the Sins.
LUCIFER: Now, Faustus, how dost thou like this?
FAUST: O, this feeds my soul!
LUCIFER: Tut, Faustus, in hell is all manner of delight.
FAUST: O, might I see hell, and return again,
How happy were I then!

442.5] harrowing of hell: the apocryphal legend of the Harrowing of Hell (based on an enigmatic statement in 1 Peter 3:19) has it that Jesus, on the day after his crucifixion (Holy Saturday), descended to hell and took with him to heaven the first souls to be saved. Vergil speaks nostalgically of the event in Dante's Inferno and names several of the lucky souls (4:52 ff.). The subject has been treated often in apocryphal writings (see Acts of Pilate, 23.38) and religious literature (see epigraph to II.8 [647]). For the pagan origin of Christ's infernal descent, see MMM 286.


index || introductory & general || site search || Gaddis news
The Recognitions || J R || Carpenter's Gothic || A Frolic of his Own || Agapē Agape

All contents © 2000-2005 by the Gaddis Annotations site and the original authors, contributors, publishers, and publications.