Tuesday, September 10, 2013

James Michener analysis - part 4: 'The Novel'; various geometrical patterns; links


The Novel was written by Michener in 1991. A departure from his better known historical fiction, The Novel is told from the viewpoints of four different characters involved in the life and work of a writer of historical novels concerning a picturesque district (Grenzler) in rural Pennsylvania. There is much discussion of writing, not all of it in support of Michener's own style. Many story devices discussed by the characters are later used by Michener in this same story.

Chapter Summary
The Writer - Lukas Yoder: Narrated by the author of a popular series of historical novels as he works on his "final" novel.
The Editor - Yvonne Marmelle: The personal and professional life of Lukas Yoder's editor.
The Critic - Karl Streibert: A new literary star appears in Grenzler, and tries to rise from Lukas Yoder's shadow.
The Reader - Jane Garland: Told in the voice of an avid reader and prominent citizen of the Grenzler area.[a]

Hex signs
Early in The Novel, we find that Lukas Yoder has a hobby of sorts: He locates, restores, and then sells (or sometimes gives away for free), hex signs.

Above left: Barn with a five-pointed hex sign in Berks County, Pennsylvania in 1941. [Image from the Wikipedia 'Hex sign' page, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.] Above right: Barn with compass rose hex signs at the historic Mascot Mills in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.[b]

Hex signs are a form of Pennsylvania Dutch folk art, related to fraktur, found in the Fancy Dutch tradition in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Barn paintings, usually in the form of "stars in circles," grew out of the fraktur and folk art traditions about 1850 when barns first started to be painted in the area. By the 1940s commercialized hex signs, aimed at the tourist market, became popular and these often include stars, compass roses, stylized birds known as distelfinks, hearts, tulips, or a tree of life. Two schools of thought exist on the meaning of hex signs. One school ascribes a talismanic nature to the signs, the other sees them as purely decorative, or "Chust for nice" in the local dialect. Both schools recognize that there are sometimes superstitions associated with certain hex sign themes, and neither ascribes strong magical power to them.[c]


Shown at left is a pentagram. [Image from the Wikipedia 'Pentagram' page, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began using both upright and inverted pentagrams (five-pointed stars) in Temple architecture, dating from the Nauvoo Illinois Temple dedicated on 30 April 1846. Other temples decorated with five-pointed stars in both orientations include the Salt Lake Temple, and the Logan Utah Temple.[d]

According to the Dictionary of Symbols, "Pentagrams can take either pentagonal or star shape. Their symbolism is manifold, but is always based upon that of the number five, which expresses the conjunction of inequalities. The five points of the pentagram come together in the fruitful marriage of three (the male principle) with two (the female principle). In this context, the pentagram symbolizes hermaphroditism. Pentagrams were used as recognition signs between members of the same group or society, as for example the followers of Pythagoras in Classical antiquity. The pentagram unified them: it was one of the keys to Higher Knowledge and opened the door to what was secret. ...

"In Europe the pentagram of Pythagoras became that of Hermes Trismegistus and was regarded, not simply as a symbol of knowledge, but as a means of casting spells and of obtaining power (Ghyka, Matila C., Le nombre d'or, Vol. 2, Paris, 1931, p. 77). ...

"In its stellar, rather than pentagonal shape, Masonic tradition calls the pentagram the Blazing Star. With some reservations Boucher quotes Ragon's interpretation of the Blazing Star as being 'the image in ancient Egypt of the son of Isis and the Sun, begetter of the seasons and emblem of motion, of that Horus, symbol of primeval matter, inexhaustible well-spring of life, spark of holy fire and universal seed of all beings. To Masons, it is the emblem of the Genius which raises the soul to great deeds'.[e] ...

"The pentagram gives expression to a force which is the synthesis of complementary powers."[f]

Compass roses

Shown at left is an eight-point compass rose.[g]

Above left and right: Note the compass rose-like eight-point star figure on the wall in this scene from Stanley Kubrick's 1999 movie, Eyes Wide Shut. The star here represents, in part, the Egyptian Ogdoad, which, as described in part 1 of this analysis, is a set of four male-female pairs of deities that was worshiped in ancient Egypt. Each of the eight points on the large, outer star here represents one of the Ogdoad's deities, with the four larger points representing the four male deities. Kubrick uses the star to draw a correspondence between the four male deities of the Ogdoad, and William Blake's four Zoas: Each Zoa was associated with one of the four major compass directions: north, east, south, and west. As denoted on the right-hand screencap above, each of the four large outer points on the star from Eyes Wide Shut, can be taken to be pointing to one of these four directions, and thus, each point can be taken to represent one of the four Zoas; thus the correspondence Kubrick is drawing, between the four male deities of the Egyptian Ogdoad, and the four Zoas. Blake, in his later mythology, developed an ogdoad consisting of the four Zoas and their four feminine emanations. He called them the Eight Immortal Starry-Ones.


Above left: The Jewish Star of David is a hexagram: Two equilateral triangles, one upright and the other inverted, overlapping each other. Note that the boundary of the interior region of the star has been traced out in heavy lines - this interior border is a regular hexagon (a six-sided figure). Above right: As described in the analysis of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey on this blog, Kubrick uses a hexagonal shape for each of the three rear thrusters of the Discovery One spaceship (shown here). The disproportionate extension of the hexagons in the vertical direction here indicates the predominance of the unconscious mind, which in a man (i.e., 2001 astronaut David Bowman), has feminine characteristics. (For more on the symbolism of the Discovery One spaceship, see the analysis of 2001).

In Jungian psychology, the hexagram "expresses the union of opposites - the union of the personal, temporal world of the ego with the non-personal timeless world of the non-ego. Ultimately, this union is the fulfillment and goal of all religions. It is the union of the soul with God."[h]

Hexagrams are also featured within and on the outside of many Masonic temples as a decoration. It may have been found within the structures of King Solomon's temple, from which Freemasons are inspired in their philosophies and studies. Like many other symbols in Freemasonry, the deciphering of the hexagram is non-dogmatic and left to the interpretation of the individual.

The Shatkona is a symbol used in Hindu yantra that represents the union of both the male and feminine form. It is a hexagram and looks exactly like the Star of David.[i]

Links between Freemasonry, Judaism, and Rosicrucianism
1. Kabbalah, an esoteric method, discipline, and school of thought that originated in Judaism, is studied in certain non-Jewish organizations, such as Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism and the Golden Dawn.
2. The Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross (Orden des Gold- und Rosenkreutz, also the Fraternity of the Golden and Rosy Cross) was a German Rosicrucian organization founded in the 1750s by Freemason and alchemist Hermann Fichtuld. Candidates were expected to be Master Masons in good standing. Alchemy was to be a central study for members. Much of the hierarchical structure for this order was used in Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA) and from there, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.[j]

Links between Mormonism and the 'occult' (e.g., hermeticism and alchemy)
See The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 by historian John L. Brooke, Ph.D.
Excerpt from this book: "Quite simply, there are striking parallels between the Mormon concepts of the coequality of matter and spirit, of the covenant of celestial marriage, and of an ultimate goal of human godhood and the philosophical traditions of alchemy and hermeticism, drawn from the ancient world and fused with Christianity in the Italian Renaissance. Mormonism and hermeticism both propose a distinct relationship between the visible and invisible worlds. The classical Mormon theology announced by Joseph Smith at Nauvoo in 1844 cast the Mormon faithful not in traditional Christian terms, supplicating divine favor, nor in the role of magicians, manipulating and coercing supernatural forces. Rather, Mormons were to expect, as hermetic perfectionists, to be coparticipants in divinity and to play a direct role in the supernatural cosmos of the invisible world."
(--Brooke, John L., The Refiner's Fire, Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. xiii-xiv.)

a. Wikipedia, 'The Novel'. Web, n.d. URL = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Novel.
b. Image from the Wikipedia 'Hex sign' page; Mascot Mills Barn w Hexes LanCo PA by Smallbones, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
c. Wikipedia, 'Hex sign'. Web, n.d. URL = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hex_sign.
d. Wikipedia, 'Pentagram'. Web, n.d. URL = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentagram.
e. Boucher, Jules, La symbolique maçonnique, 2nd edition, Paris, 1953.
f. Dictionary of Symbols. Ed. Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant, Trans. John Buchanan-Brown. London: Penguin Group, 1996. pp. 747-748.
g. Image from the Wikipedia 'Compass rose' page; Compass rose en 08p by ElfQrin, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons; edited for clarity.
h. Man and His Symbols. Ed. with introduction Carl G. Jung. London: Aldus Books, 1964. p. 240.
i. Wikipedia, 'Hexagram'. Web, n.d. URL = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hexagram.
j. Wikipedia, 'Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross'. Web, n.d. URL = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_the_Golden_and_Rosy_Cross.


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