“I am blessed Metatron. I am keeper of the Secret. I am guardian of the Throne…” (Pynchon 234)
In this portion of the novel, is Webley’s sort of monologue (I wrote about the beginning of this part in my last post, coincidence) that describes either a literal or figurative jail (which I’m not entirely sure) and it’s inmates. In a distance, one inmate is heard referencing “Metatron” which sounds like some sort of fantastic robot in my opinion. Once further researching this Metatron, I learned that it’s actually a character in Kabbalistic mythology. According to the Gravity’s Rainbow Companion, Pynchon depicts this Kabbalisitc myth satirically.
We see references made to Kabbalah more than just a few time. Kabbalah is derived from Judaism but has adapted to Christianity, New Age, and Occultist Syncretism. Kabbalah is meant to teach and explain the relationship between unchanging, eternal and mysterious Ein Sof (no end) and the mortal and finite universe (God’s creations). Kabbalah developed within Jewish thinking, and kabbalists will often use classical Jewish sources to explain and demonstrate its esoteric teachings (“Kabbalah”). It’s a fairly complex concept, and quite interesting, but it is beside the point I am trying to make, which is why Pynchon uses Metatron in Gravity’s Rainbow.
In Kabbalistic myths, Metatron is an angelic host and mostly depicted as standing beside or “keeping” the Jahweh’s (I believe this is a sort of Jesus figure) throne. According to one of the sources of the Gravity’s Rainbow Companion, the Metatron must first initiate through seven antechambers, each confronting the aspirant with a test. The first palace the aspirant is devout (hasid), the second palace they are pure (tahore), the third palace they are sincere (yashar), the fourth wholly with God (tanim), the fifth they display holiness before God, in the sixth the speak the kedushah (the trishagion) before “Him who spoke and created”, and in the seventh they hid themselves erect, trembling. This apparently signifies a redemptive process (Weisenburger 145).
Pynchon takes a satirical approach on this idea but rather inverts the process instead. He has Brigadier Pudding descend into a personal hell of sorts, into the darkness signified by the muds of Passchendaele and symbolized in the Domina Nocturna. Each of the seven anterooms that Pudding passes through is comparably in the inverts the motif of Kabbalistic myth. Pudding, however, mocks the idea of being “wholly with God” and at the end rather than standing erect before the ultimate creator, finds himself kneeling, sexually erect before Shakinah, the mother of material being and of dissolute death (Weisenburg 145).
After further researching Metatron, I happened upon a book titled The Seductiveness of Jewish Myth, which I found interesting considering the sexual nature of the characters and writing in this novel. According to this book, Metatron and Lucifer were often depicted together in the myths. This was interpreted psychologically as “the world-old conflict between father and son, between the younger and the older generation…” (Breslaur 280).
The passage continues on to say, “The Metatron complex views the struggle from the perspective of the rising generation, the Lucifer complex from that of the entrenched generation. Just as the generational struggle renews itself endlessly, so do the myths.” (Breslaur 281).
I think that the excerpt above can be applied to Gravity’s Rainbpw, and although Pynchon does not tell us why directly, everything he mentions plays a complex and meaningful role in the novel and represents each message portrayed accurately.
Breslauer, S. Daniel. The Seductiveness Of Jewish Myth : Challenge Or Response?. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
“Kabbalah.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Mar. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
Pynchon, Thomas. Gravity’s Rainbow. New York: Penguin, 1973. Print.
Weisenburger, Steven. A Gravity’s Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon’s Novel. 2nd ed. Athens, GA: University of Georgia, 2006. Print.