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Foucault's Pendulum

Foucault's Pendulum

by Umberto Eco

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A literary prank leads to deadly danger in this “endlessly diverting” intellectual thriller by the author of The Name of the Rose (Time).
Bored with their work, three Milanese book editors cook up an elaborate hoax that connects the medieval Knights Templar with occult groups across the centuries. Becoming obsessed with their own creation, they produce a map indicating the geographical point from which all the powers of the earth can be controlled—a point located in Paris, France, at Foucault’s Pendulum.
But in a fateful turn the joke becomes all too real. When occult groups, including Satanists, get wind of the Plan, they go so far as to kill one of the editors in their quest to gain control of the earth. Orchestrating these and other diverse characters into his multilayered semiotic adventure, Umberto Eco has created a superb cerebral entertainment.
"An intellectual adventure story…sensational, thrilling, and packed with arcana."—The Washington Post Book World

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547539683
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 03/05/2007
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 658
Sales rank: 7,680
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

UMBERTO ECO (1932–2016) was the author of numerous essay collections and seven novels, including The Name of the Rose,The Prague Cemetery, and Inventing the Enemy. He received Italy’s highest literary award, the Premio Strega, was named a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by the French government, and was an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


Bologna, Italy

Date of Birth:

January 5, 1932

Date of Death:

February 19, 2016

Place of Birth:

Alessandria, Italy


Ph.D., University of Turin, 1954

Read an Excerpt

That was when I saw the Pendulum.
 The sphere, hanging from a long wire set into the ceiling of the choir, swayed back and forth with isochronal majesty.
 I knew—but anyone could have sensed it in the magic of that serene breathing—that the period was governed by the square root of the length of the wire and by p, that number which, however irrational to sublunar minds, through a higher rationality binds the circumference and diameter of all possible circles. The time it took the sphere to swing from end to end was determined by an arcane conspiracy between the most timeless of measures: the singularity of the point of suspension, the duality of the plane’s dimensions, the triadic beginning of p, the secret quadratic nature of the root, and the unnumbered perfection of the circle itself.
 I also knew that a magnetic device centered in the floor beneath issued its command to a cylinder hidden in the heart of the sphere, thus assuring continual motion. This device, far from interfering with the law of the Pendulum, in fact permitted its manifestation, for in a vacuum any object hanging from a weightless and unstretchable wire free of air resistance and friction will oscillate for eternity.
The copper sphere gave off pale, shifting glints as it was struck by the last rays of the sun that came through the great stained-glass windows. Were its tip to graze, as it had in the past, a layer of damp sand spread on the floor of the choir, each swing would make a light furrow, and the furrows, changing direction imperceptibly, would widen to form a breach, a groove with radial symmetry—like the outline of a mandala or pentaculum, a star, a mystic rose. No, more a tale recorded on an expanse of desert, in tracks left by countless caravans of nomads, a story of slow, millennial migrations, like those of the people of Atlantis when they left the continent of Mu and roamed, stubbornly, compactly, from Tasmania to Greenland, from Capricorn to Cancer, from Prince Edward Island to the Svalbards. The tip retraced, narrated anew in compressed time what they had done between one ice age and another, and perhaps were doing still, those couriers of the Masters. Perhaps the tip grazed Agarttha, the center of the world, as it journeyed from Samoa to Novaya Zemlya. And I sensed that a single pattern united Avalon, beyond the north wind, to the southern desert where lies the enigma of Ayers Rock.
At that moment of four in the afternoon of June 23, the Pendulum was slowing at one end of its swing, then falling back lazily toward the center, regaining speed along the way, slashing confidently through the hidden parallelogram of forces that were its destiny.
Had I remained there despite the passage of the hours, to stare at that bird’s head, that spear’s tip, that obverse helmet, as it traced its diagonals in the void, grazing the opposing points of its astigmatic circumference, I would have fallen victim to an illusion: that the Pendulum’s plane of oscillation had gone full circle, had returned to its starting point in thirty-two hours, describing an ellipse that rotated around its center at a speed proportional to the sine of its latitude. What would its rotation have been had it hung instead from the dome of Solomon’s Temple? Perhaps the Knights had tried it there, too. Perhaps the solution, the final meaning, would have been no different. Perhaps the abbey church of Saint-Martin-des-Champs was the true Temple. In any case, the experiment would work perfectly only at the Pole, the one place where the Pendulum, on the earth’s extended axis, would complete its cycle in twenty-four hours.
 But this deviation from the Law, which the Law took into account, this violation of the rule did not make the marvel any less marvelous. I knew the earth was rotating, and I with it, and Saint-Martin-des-Champs and all Paris with me, and that together we were rotating beneath the Pendulum, whose own plane never changed direction, because up there, along the infinite extrapolation of its wire beyond the choir ceiling, up toward the most distant galaxies, lay the Only Fixed Point in the universe, eternally unmoving.
 So it was not so much the earth to which I addressed my gaze but the heavens, where the mystery of absolute immobility was celebrated. The Pendulum told me that, as everything moved—earth, solar system, nebulae and black holes, all the children of the great cosmic expansion—one single point stood still: a pivot, bolt, or hook around which the universe could move. And I was now taking part in that supreme experience. I, too, moved with the all, but I could see the One, the Rock, the Guarantee, the luminous mist that is not body, that has no shape, weight, quantity, or quality, that does not see or hear, that cannot be sensed, that is in no place, in no time, and is not soul, intelligence, imagination, opinion, number, order, or measure. Neither darkness nor light, neither error nor truth.
I was roused by a listless exchange between a boy who wore glasses and a girl who unfortunately did not.
 “It’s Foucault’s Pendulum,” he was saying. “First tried out in a cellar in 1851, then shown at the Observatoire, and later under the dome of the Panthéon with a wire sixty-seven meters long and a sphere weighing twenty-eight kilos. Since 1855 it’s been here, in a smaller version, hanging from that hole in the middle of the rib.”
 “What does it do? Just hang there?”
 “It proves the rotation of the earth. Since the point of suspension doesn’t move . . .”
 “Why doesn’t it move?”
 “Well, because a point . . . the central point, I mean, the one right in the middle of all the points you see . . . it’s a geometric point; you can’t see it because it has no dimension, and if something has no dimension, it can’t move, not right or left, not up or down. So it doesn’t rotate with the earth. You understand? It can’t even rotate around itself. There is no ‘itself.’”
 “But the earth turns.”
 “The earth turns, but the point doesn’t. That’s how it is. Just take my word for it.”
 “I guess it’s the Pendulum’s business.”
 Idiot. Above her head was the only stable place in the cosmos, the only refuge from the damnation of the panta rei, and she guessed it was the Pendulum’s business, not hers. A moment later the couple went off—he, trained on some textbook that had blunted his capacity for wonder, she, inert and insensitive to the thrill of the infinite, both oblivious of the awesomeness of their encounter—their first and last encounter—with the One, the Ein-Sof, the Ineffable. How could you fail to kneel down before this altar of certitude?
I watched with reverence and fear. In that instant I was convinced that Jacopo Belbo was right. What he told me about the Pendulum I had attributed to esthetic raving, to the shapeless cancer taking gradual shape in his soul, transforming the game into reality without his realizing it. But if he was right about the Pendulum, perhaps all the rest was true as well: the Plan, the Universal Plot. And in that case I had been right to come here, on the eve of the summer solstice. Jacopo Belbo was not crazy; he had simply, through his game, hit upon the truth.
 But the fact is that it doesn’t take long for the experience of the Numinous to unhinge the mind.
 I tried then to shift my gaze. I followed the curve that rose from the capitals of the semicircle of columns and ran along the ribs of the vault toward the key, mirroring the mystery of the ogive, that supreme static hypocrisy which rests on an absence, making the columns believe that they are thrusting the great ribs upward and the ribs believe that they are holding the columns down, the vault being both all and nothing, at once cause and effect. But I realized that to neglect the Pendulum that hung from the vault while admiring the vault itself was like becoming drunk at the stream instead of drinking at the source.
 The choir of Saint-Martin-des-Champs existed only so that, by virtue of the Law, the Pendulum could exist; and the Pendulum existed so that the choir could exist. You cannot escape one infinite, I told myself, by fleeing to another; you cannot escape the revelation of the identical by taking refuge in the illusion of the multiple.
Still unable to take my eyes from the key of the vault, I retreated, step by step, for I had learned the path by heart in the few minutes I had been there. Great metal tortoises filed past me on either side, imposing enough to signal their presence at the corner of my eyes. I fell back along the nave toward the front entrance, and again those menacing prehistoric birds of wire and rotting canvas loomed over me, evil dragonflies that some secret power had hung from the ceiling of the nave. I saw them as sapiential metaphors, far more meaningful than their didactic pretext. A swarm of Jurassic insects and reptiles, allegory of the long terrestrial migrations the Pendulum was tracing, aimed at me like angry archons with their long archeopterix-beaks: the planes of Bréguet, Blériot, Esnault, and the helicopter of Dufaux.
A signed first edition of this book has been privately printed by The Franklin Library.
Copyright © 1988 Gruppo Editoriale Fabbri Bompiani Sonzogno Etas S.p.A., Milano.
English translation copyright © 1989 by Harcourt, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at contact or mailed
to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
1. When the light of the infinite   
2. Wee haue divers curious Clocks  
3. In hanc utilitatem clementes angeli   
4. He who attempts to penetrate into the Rose Garden   
5. And begin by combining this name   
6. Judá León se dio a permutaciones   
7. Do not expect too much of the end of the world   
8. Having come from the light and from the gods   
9. In his right hand he held a golden trumpet   
10. And finally nothing is cabalistically inferred   
11. His sterility was infinite   
12. Sub umbra alarum tuarum   
13. Li frere, li mestre du Temple   
14. He, if asked, would also confess to killing Our Lord   
15. I will go and fetch you help from the Comte d’Anjou   
16. He had been in the order only nine months   
17. And thus did the knights of the Temple vanish   
18. A mass terrifyingly riddled with fissures and caverns   
19. The Order has never ceased to exist, not for a moment   
20. Invisible center, the sovereign who must reawaken   
21. The Graal . . . is a weight so heavy   
22. The knights wanted to face no further questions   
23. The analogy of opposites   
24. Sauvez la faible Aischa   
25. These mysterious initiates   
26. All the traditions of the earth   
27. One day, saying that he had known Pontius Pilate   
28. There is a body that enfolds the whole of the world   
29. Simply because they change and hide their names   
30. And the famous confraternity of the Rosy Cross   
31. The majority were in reality only Rosicrucians   
32. Valentiniani per ambiguitates bilingues   
33. The visions are white, blue, white, pale red   
34. Beydelus, Demeymes, Adulex   
35. I’ mi son Lia   
36. Yet one caution let me give   
37. Whoever reflects on four things   
38. Prince of Babylon, Knight of the Black Cross   
39. Doctor of the Planispheres, Hermetic Philosopher   
40. Cowards die many times before their deaths   
41. Daath is situated at the point where the abyss   
42. We are all in agreement, whatever we say   
43. People who meet on the street   
44. Invoke the forces   
45. And from this springs the extraordinary question   
46. You will approach the frog several times   
47. The sense alert and the memory clear   
48. The volume of the Great Pyramid in cubic inches   
49. A spiritual knighthood of initiates   
50. For I am the first and the last    51. When therefore a Great Cabalist   
52. A colossal chessboard that extends beneath the earth   
53. Unable to control destinies on earth openly   
54. The prince of darkness   
55. I call a theatre   
56. He began playing his shining trumpet   
57. On every third tree a lantern   
58. Alchemy, however, is a chaste prostitute   
59. And if such monsters are generated   
60. Poor idiot!   
61. The Golden Fleece is guarded   
62. We consider societies druidic if   
63. What does the fish remind you of?   
64. To dream of living in an unknown city   
65. The frame was twenty foot square   
66. If our hypothesis is correct   
67. Da Rosa, nada digamos agora   
68. Let your garments be white   
69. Elles deviennent le Diable   
70. Let us remember the secret references   
71. We do not even know with certainty   
72. Nos inuisibles pretendus   
73. Another curious case   
74. Though his will be good   
75. The initiates are at the edge of that path   
76. Dilettantism   
77. This herb is called Devilbane   
78. Surely this monstrous hybrid   
79. He opened his coffer   
80. When White arrives   
81. They could explode the whole surface of our planet   
82. The earth is a magnetic body   
83. A map is not the territory   
84. Following the plans of Verulam   
85. Phileas Fogg. A name that is also a signature   
86. It was to them that Eiffel turned   
87. It is a remarkable coincidence   
88. Templarism is Jesuitism   
89. In the bosom of the deepest darkness   
90. All the outrages attributed to the Templars   
91. How well you have unmasked those infernal sects   
92. With all the power and terror of Satan   
93. Whereas we stay in the wings   
94. En avoit-il le moindre soupçon?   
95. Namely the Jewish Cabalists   
96. A cover is always necessary   
97. I am that I am   
98. Its racist gnosis, its rites and initiations   
99. Guenonism plus armored divisions   
100. I declare the earth is hollow   
101. Qui operatur in Cabala   
102. A very thick and high wall   
103. Your secret name shall have 36 letters   
104. These texts are not addressed to common mortals   
105. Delirat lingua, labat mens   
106. List No. 5   
107. Dost thou see yon black dog?    108. Are there several Powers at work?   
109. Saint-Germain . . . very polished and witty   
110. They mistook the movements and walked backward   
111. C’est une leçon par la suite   
112. Four our Ordinances and Rites   
113. Our cause is a secret   
114. The ideal pendulum   
115. If the eye could see the demons   
116. Je voudrais être la tour   
117. Madness has an enormous pavilion   
118. The conspiracy theory of society   
119. The garland of the trumpet was set afire   
120. They hold for certain that they are in the light   

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