|A Reader's Guide
to William Gaddis's The Recognitions
II.5 pp. pages 496-511
496.2] Holy Year: a year in which the pope grants the Jubilee indulgence to all Catholics who fulfill the prescribed conditions. Holy Year has been proclaimed every twenty-five years since 1450; the Holy Year of 1950 was extended to 1951.
496.14] Battle of Hanging Rock: 6 August 1780.
496.18] his rousing battle with wealth, and the Bank of the United States: recounted in CCP 75; Jackson attacked the Second Bank of the United States as an organ of privilege and monopoly.
497.14] Democritus [...] it is the unexpected which occurs: these remarks on the Greek philosopher of the fifth century B.C. are from EB's article on him (7:187-88) - which furnished the Hippocrates anecdote and the composition of the soul as "round, smooth, specially mobile atoms" - and from Saltus (AN 36-40), who calls Democritus "the grandsire of materialism" rather than "sire," sees in his philosophy portents of atheism, and notes the philosopher's discovery "that it is the unexpected that occurs" (AN 40).
497.28] Nirvana? [...] a goal where nothing was: "In the ears of not a few modern thinkers," writes Saltus of the Buddha's conception of Nirvana, "this promise of annihilation has sounded like a gigantic paradox. It has seemed inconceivable that men could be found who would strive unremittingly their whole lives through to reach a goal where nothing was" (AN 25).
497.30] Buddhism [...] its tangible (idolatrous) form [...] - Life is suffering: with concessions in Buddhism to popular superstition, Saltus feels, "Idolatry had begun [...] and today before a gilded statue a wheel of prayers is turned while through the dim temples, domed like a vase, the initiates murmur, 'Life is evil'" (AN 23). For Gaddis's variant "Life is suffering," see 764.3.
497.33] What sense in the Buddhists? They who affirm. What sense in the Gainas? They who say Perhaps: "Another religion without a God, and one which is a twin-sister to Buddhism, is that of the Gainas," writes Saltus, who discusses their philosophy (Jainism) over the next few pages (AN 27-29). Similar to the Buddhists, they are more rigorous and austere in their observances, and like the Gnostics have an abhorrence of matter. "In Gainism it is not existence that is an affliction," Saltus concludes, "it is life; and the Nirväna [macron over a] is less an annihilation than an entrance into eternal beatitude. To distinguish between the two faiths, the Brahmans called the Buddhists, 'They who affirm,' and the Gainas, 'They who say, Perhaps'" (AN 29).
497.35] Prince of Kapilavastu: that is, Gautama (the Buddha), born in the city of Kapilavastu.
497.36] the chain of twenty-four lakhs [...] might be severed: in an effort to explain the existence of pain, writes Saltus, "the Hindu accepted an unfathered idea that he is expiating the sins of anterior and unremembered existences, and that he will continue to expiate them until all past transgressions are absolved and the soul is released from the chain of its migrations. According to the popular theory, the chain of migrations consists in twenty-four lakhs of birth, a lakh being one hundred thousand" (AN 11); and later: "while the Buddha agreed with the Brahmans that life formed a chain of existences, it was the former who brought the hope that the chain might be severed" (AN 21).
497.37] the Nazarene (who, agreeing with the Buddha that life was a sore thing: cf. Saltus: "To him [Jesus], as to the Buddha, life was a tribulation" (AN 75).
497.43] Cesare Borgia Machiavelli: Borgia is spoken highly of in the seventh chapter of Machiavelli's The Prince.
498.1] Father Dinet: a teacher at the Jesuit school at La Flèche "to whose special care" the young Descartes was entrusted. "Later, during his controversies with Bourdin and Voetius, he tuned to his former school teacher, Father Dinet, for advice" (EB 7:244-45).
498.2] Schiller: Johann Cristoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805), German poet and playwright, second in importance only to Goethe in German literature.
498.3] Dale Carnegie: (1880-1958) author of the well-known How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936), discussed over the next few pages. De Rougemont, in DS ("The Demon of Popularity," 110-13), also discusses Carnegie's book in order "to measure to its full extent the dwindling of proper spiritual energy which our 'moral progress' represents."
498.5] Salome's mother was right: Herodias advised her daughter Salome to ask for the head of John the Baptist to stop his slanders against her (Matt. 14:3 ff.).
498.6] Damon [...] Phintias: "Phintias" is the correct form of the more common Phythias, who, condemned to death by Dionysius, arranged to have his friend Damon take his place to be executed should he not return from a journey. Return he did, and the tyrant was so struck by their trust and friendship that he released them both.
498.9] a half-million yards of upholstery (aggregate value $1,600,000): from an anecdote illustrating "how richly it sometimes pays to let the other fellow do the talking" (HWF 3.6).
498.11] a Packard car [...] the Connecticut attorney: his reward for showing interest in an aunt's house and antiques (HWF 2.6).
498.15] "Let me repeat: [...] a new way of life": concluding paragraph of HWF 5.
498.18] "Regard this as [...] specific problem": from HWF 1, "Nine Suggestions on How to Get the Most out of This Book."
498.22] "Ah yes, you are attempting a new way of life": ibid.
498.24] Descartes [...] (cogitans, ergo sum-ing): see 96.21.
498.29] Roger Bacon [...] geometrical proofs of God: see 7.42.
498.30] a potential buyer [...] head of the Hotel Greeters of America: a baker had failed for years to sell his goods to the manager of a New York hotel until he learned the manager was president of the Hotel Greeters. He then feigned an interest in the Greeters, after which he was invited to bring samples over to the hitherto recalcitrant manager (HWF 2.5).
498.38] an action book: citing Herbert Spencer ("the great aim of education is not knowledge but action"), Carnegie declares: "And this is an action book" ("How This Book Was Written - and Why").
498.40] "I am talking about a real smile [...] in the market place": HWF 2.2.
499.8] exchanged the things worth being for the things worth having: cf. E. E. Cummings's description of a woman "cruel as only she who has exchanged being for having can be cruel" in Eimi (New York: Sloane, 1933), 239.
499.14] Kapila: (perhaps fl. 600 B.C.) founder of the so-called Sankhya philosophy (which the Buddha used as a point of departure). Saltus writes: "Kapila was the fist serious thinker who looked up into the archaic skies and declared them to be void" (AN 10) - that is, void of god(s).
499.15] of what the Athenians accused Anaxagoras: impiety: see 392.35.
499.16] the secret name of Jahveh: the name of the god of the Hebrews was represented only by the letters YHWH (now usually rendered Yahweh, Jahveh, etc.; Jehovah is a poor but popular transliteration). The name was never to be pronounced for fear of its falling into enemy hands and being used against him in sorcery, and as a result the original pronunciation is now unknown. In addition, 12-letter, 42-letter, and 72-letter names of Yahweh were known to initiates. (Some of these appear in Waite's Book of Ceremonial Magic.) See the chapter entitled "The Holy Unspeakable Name of God" in Graves's WG.
499.16] who cleft the Gordian knot: Alexander the Great, in "an act of far greater moral significance than is generally realized" (WG x; see Graves's long footnote on 380 for significance). There is also an echo here of the line "who cleft the Devil's foot" from John Donne's famous "Song" ("Go and catch a falling star"), which likewise enumerates "strange wonders" similar to Gaddis's.
499.17] the meaning of 666: in the Book of Revelation, the Beast of the Apocalypse is associated with this number - probably, Graves argues (WG 281-84), a numerical code for Domitian, emperor of Rome at the time Revelation was written (ca. 95).
499.20] calculus. Vergil: "Most men go through college and learn to read Virgil and master the mysteries of calculus without ever discovering how their own minds function" (HWF 1.3).
499.22] "You don't have to study for four years in Harvard to discover that": Carnegie's response to Harvard president Charles W. Eliot's secret to a successful business interview ("Exclusive attention to the person who is speaking to you is very important. Nothing else is so flattering as that")(HWF 2.4).
499.29] Andrew Carnegie [...] Cyrus H. K. Curtis [...] George Eastman: see HWF 1.3, 3.10, and 2.6 respectively.
499.42] fraud practiced on a bed-wetting child: his parents allowed him to think he purchased his own new bed, which of course he would not want to wet (HWF 1.3).
499.44] deceit practiced on a great opera singer: feigned sympathy was sometimes necessary to get bass Feodor Chaliapin out on stage (HWF 3.9).
500.1] author had read "everything [...] to win friends and influence people": from the introductory "How This Book Was Written - and Why."
500.10] Charles Schwab: (1862-1939), American industrialist, mentioned throughout HWF.
500.10] Dutch Schultz [...] Capone [...] Two-Gun Crowley: noting that even criminals have high opinions of themselves, Carnegie asks: "If Al Capone, 'Two Gun' Crowley, Dutch Schultz, the desperate men behind prison bars don't blame themselves for anything - what about the people with whom you and I come in contact?" (HWF 1.1).
500.11] Pola Negri: (1899-1987), Polish-born American actress, quoted on the importance of flattery (HWF 1.2).
500.14] ("Daniel Webster [...] most successful . . ."): HWF 3.4.
500.17] "You owe it to yourself [...] TO YOUR INCOME!": untraced, perhaps from the cover of the edition of HWF Gaddis used.
500.18] "old King Akhtoi": "And 2,200 years before Christ was born, old King Akhtoi of Egypt gave his son some shrewd advice - advice that is sorely needed today. Old King Akhtoi said one afternoon, between drinks, four thousand years ago: 'Be diplomatic. It will help you gain your point'" (HWF 3.2).
500.22] The Socratic method [...] a 'yes, yes' response": HWF 3.5.
500.26] Christ and Confucius appeared, to recite the Golden Rule: HWF 2.6.
500.35] Nietzsche's idea of the Christian: best illustrated in his Antichrist.
500.42] "A little iodine [...] for five cents": HWF 3.6.
501.1] camel passing through the eye of the needle: see Matt. 19:24.
501.8] Reformation Symphony: Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 5, composed in 1830 for the tercentenary of the Augsburg Conference (at which Luther announced the establishment of the German Reformed church).
501.11] a land where mental diseases tolled more people than all other human ills combined: HWF 1.2.
502.32] the janitor [...] call him by his first name: one of Carnegie's success stories boasts: "'When I used to walk through my establishment, no one greeted me. My employees actually looked the other way when they saw me approaching. But now they are all my friends and even the janitor calls me by my first name'" (HWF, "How This Book Was Written - and Why").
503.3] King David, what did he say: "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son! my son!" (2 Sam. 18:33). See 513.13.
503.11] the words of Rosalind
[...] but not for love": As You Like It, 4.1.106-8.
503.32] what was the shape of Mr. Pivner's soul? round, or oblong?: ridiculing early church councils, Saltus writes: "Meanwhile, in a corner of the Orient whither some of the flotsam and jetsam of civilization had drifted, a college of charlatans wearied the centuries with abstractions and discussions on words. Their earlier disputes are legendary. One of them concerned the soul. Was the soul round or oblong? This question was never satisfactorily determined" (AN 84-85).
503.34] round, smooth, and especially mobile?: repeated from 497.22.
504.36] chapter nine: HWF 3.9.
507.12] Albert, King of the Belgians, was killed mountain-climbing: died 1934.
508.15] Procrustes: in Greek legend, a robber who would place his victims on an iron bed and stretch them to fit if too short, and cut off the excess if too long; finally slain by Theseus. He is also called Damastes, as at 511.23.
511.24] Theseus [...] the sword his father had left behind: see Ovid's Metamorphoses, book 7.
511.31] Proteus [...] the curious caught him: in book 4 of Homer's Odyssey, Menelaus succeeds in holding Proteus long enough to wrest a prophecy from him.