Foucault's Pendulum

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The Pendulum told me that, as everything moved — earth, solar system, nebulae and black holes — one single point stood still ... How could you fail to kneel down before this altar of certitude?

Foucault's Pendulum (original Italian title: Il pendolo di Foucault) is a 1988 novel by Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco. Translations are by William Weaver unless noted otherwise.


  • Only for you, children of doctrine and learning, have we written this work. Examine this book, ponder the meaning we have dispersed in various places and gathered again; what we have concealed in one place we have disclosed in another, that it may be understood by your wisdom. - Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim
    • Dedication
  • When the Light of the Endless was drawn in the form of a straight line in the Void... it was not drawn and extended immediately downwards, indeed it extended slowly — that is to say, at first the Line of Light began to extend and at the very start of its extension in the secret of the Line it was drawn and shaped into a wheel, perfectly circular all around.
    • (original in Hebrew)
    • Keter

Chapter 1[edit]

  • There are four kinds of people in this world: cretins, fools, morons, and lunatics.
    • Jacopo Belbo in his first philosophizing with Casaubon, Binah

Chapter 4[edit]

  • He who attempts to penetrate into the Rose Garden of the Philosophers without the key resembles a man who would walk without feet.

Chapter 7[edit]

  • Not that the incredulous person doesn't believe in anything. It's just that he doesn't believe in everything.
  • Incredulity doesn't kill curiosity; it encourages it. Though distrustful of logical chains of ideas, I loved the polyphony of ideas. As long as you don't believe in them, the collision of two ideas — both false — can create a pleasing interval, a kind of diabolus in musica. I had no respect for some ideas people were willing to stake their lives on, but two or three ideas that I did not respect might still make a nice melody. Or have a good beat, and if it was jazz, all the better.

Chapter 10[edit]

  • A lunatic is easily recognized. He is a moron who doesn’t know the ropes. The moron proves his thesis; he has a logic, however twisted it might be. The lunatic, on the other hand, doesn’t concern himself at all with logic; he works by short circuits. For him, everything proves everything else. The lunatic is all idée fixe, and whatever he comes across confirms his lunacy. You can tell him by the liberties he takes with common sense, by his flashes of inspiration, and by the fact that sooner or later he brings up the Templars.

Chapter 13[edit]

  • They remind me of Tom and Jerry.
    • Jacopo Belbo describing the Templars at the siege of Ascalon
    • Chapter 13

Chapter 18[edit]

  • If our eye could penetrate the earth and see its interior from pole to pole, from where we stand to the antipodes, we would glimpse with horror a mass terrifyingly riddled with fissures and caverns.

Chapter 18[edit]

Chapter 58[edit]

  • Alchemy, however, is a chaste prostitute, who has many lovers but disappoints all and grants her favors to none. She transforms the haughty into fools, the rich into paupers, the philosophers into dolts, and the deceived into loquacious deceivers ... .

Chapter 63[edit]

  • "I've seen your files, Pow," Lia said to me, "because I have to keep them in order. Whatever your Diabolicals have discovered is already here: take a look." And she patted her belly, her thighs, her forehead; with her spread legs drawing her skirt tight, she sat like a wet nurse, solid and healthy — she so slim and supple — with a serene wisdom that illuminated her and gave her a matriarchal authority. "Pow, archetypes don't exist; the body exists. The belly inside is beautiful, because the baby grows there, because your sweet cock, all bright and jolly, thrusts there, and good, tasty food descends there, and for this reason, the cavern, the grotto, the tunnel are beautiful and important, and the labyrinth , too, which is made in the image of our wonderful intestines. When somebody wants to invent something beautiful and important, it has to come from there, because you also came from there the day you were born, because fertility always comes from inside a cavity, where first something rots and then, lo and behold, there's a little man, a date, a baobab."
    • Lia's explanation to Casaubon, Gevurah

Chapter 68[edit]

  • "It’s all clear. Now follow me, because we must go back to the fourth century, to Byzantium, when various movements of Manichean inspiration have already spread throughout the Mediterranean. We begin with the Archontics, founded in Armenia by Peter of Capharbarucha — and you have to admit that’s a pretty grand name. Anti-Semitic, the Archontics identify the Devil with Sabaoth, the god of the Jews, who lives in the seventh heaven. To reach the Great Mother of Light in the eighth heaven, it is necessary to reject both Sabaoth and baptism. All right?”
    “Consider them rejected,” Belbo said.
  • "The Massalians are not dualists but monarchians, and they have dealings with the infernal powers, and in fact some texts call them Borborites, from borbors, filth, because of the unspeakable things they do."
    "What do they do?"
    "The usual unspeakable things. Men and women hold in the palm of their hand, and raise to heaven, their own ignominy, namely, sperm or menstruum, then eat it, calling it the Body of Christ. And if by chance a woman is made pregnant, at the opportune moment they stick a hand into her womb, pull out the embryo, throw it in a mortar, mix in some honey and pepper, and gobble it up."
    "How revolting, honey and pepper!" Diotallevi said.

Chapter 83[edit]

  • "Not bad, not bad at all," Diotallevi said. "To arrive at the truth through the painstaking reconstruction of a false text."

Chapter 85[edit]

  • Whatever the rhythm was, luck rewarded us, because, wanting connections, we found connections — always, everywhere, and between everything. The world exploded in a whirling network of kinships, where everything pointed to everything else, everything explained everything else…
    • Casaubon,

Chapter 106[edit]

  • People believe those who sell lotions that make lost hair grow back. They sense instinctively that the salesman is putting together truths that don't go together, that he's not being logical, that he's not speaking in good faith. But they've been told that God is mysterious, unfathomable, so to them incoherence is the closest thing to God. The farfetched is the closest thing to a miracle.
    • Lia in conversation with Casaubon.
    • Chapter 106

Chapter 113[edit]

  • And Belbo, now invincible, said, Ma gavte la nata.
    • A captive Belbo, responding to Aglie's command to speak about the Plan, Hod
    • Translation: Unplug yourself.

Chapter 118[edit]

  • The conspiracy theory of society . . . comes from abandoning God and then asking: Who is in his place?
  • We invented a nonexistent Plan, and They not only believed it was real but convinced themselves that They had been part of it for ages, or rather They identified the fragments of their muddled mythology as moments of our Plan, moments joined in a logical, irrefutable web of analogy, semblance, suspicion. But if you invent a plan and others carry it out, it's as if the Plan exists. At that point it does exist. Hereafter, hordes of Diabolicals will swarm through the world in search of the map. We offered a map to people who were trying to overcome a deep private frustration. What frustration? Belbo's first file suggested it to me: There can be no failure if there really is a Plan. Defeated you may be, but never through any fault of your own. To bow to a cosmic will is no shame. You are not a coward; you are a martyr.
  • The true initiate is he who knows that the most powerful secret is a secret without content, because no enemy will be able to make him confess it, no rival devotee will be able to take it from him.
  • There are no bigger secrets, because the moment a secret is revealed, it seems little.
  • The universe is peeled like an onion, and an onion is all peel.

Chapter 119[edit]

  • You spend a life seeking the Opportunity, without realizing that the decisive moment, the moment that justified birth and death, has already passed. It will not return, but it was — full, dazzling, generous as every revelation.

Chapter 120[edit]

  • Where have I read that at the end, when life, surface upon surface, has become completely encrusted with experience, you know everything, the secret, the power, and the glory, why you were born, why you are dying, and how it all could have been different? You are wise. But the greatest wisdom, at that moment, is knowing that your wisdom is too late. You understand everything when there is no longer anything to understand.
  • I have understood. And the certainty that there is nothing to understand should be my peace, my triumph. But I am here, and They are looking for me, thinking I possess the revelation They sordidly desire. It isn't enough to have understood, if others refuse and continue to interrogate.
    • Casaubon in hiding from Them, Malkhut
  • It hurts me to think I won't see Lia again, and the baby, the Thing, Giulio, my philosopher's stone. But stones survive on their own. Maybe even now he is experiencing his Opportunity. He's found a ball, an ant, a blade of grass, and in it he sees paradise and the abyss. He, too, will know it too late.

See Also[edit]

External Links[edit]

Digital illustrations of the book by Fabio Arciniegas

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