The search for knowledge that obsesses historian Pierce Moffett reaches an inevitably muted conclusion in this dense, final volume of Crowley’s fascinating, knotty Ægypt Quartet.
Readers of its predecessors (Daemonomania, 2000, etc.) will already know what emerges gradually here: that Pierce’s quest to comprehend an “alternate history” of everything expresses an idea he gleaned from eccentric novelist Fellowes Kraft’s learned historical romances—that the plenitude, indeed infinitude of the universe, composed as it is of “endless things,” promises “[m]ore than one history of the world, one for each of us.” Transformation and cyclical process are of the essence, as Pierce travels to Europe, researching evidence of gnosis (i.e., ultimate meaning) in the life and martyrdom of Renaissance philosopher Giordano Bruno, the eclectic genius of Elizabethan scientist-magus John Dee, the mazelike lore of Rosicrucianism and the significance of the “chemical wedding” that united a 17th-century Bohemian prince with the daughter of England’s King James I. This portion of the novel is kick-started by a lovely account of Pierce’s London meeting with legendary Renaissance scholar Frances Yates and a fragmented history of Fellowes Kraft’s embattled and enlightened childhood, and dominated by a lengthy account of Bruno’s several reincarnations after he was burned at the stake. Then, in what amounts to a book-length dénouement, numerous flashbacks and segues to Pierce’s youth, marriage and adoptive fatherhood link the resolution of his quest to the repetition of ancient stories, trysts and moral lessons—as do the experiences of his scattered family, friends, lovers, mentors and soul mates. The book ends with a pilgrimage to a mountaintop that accomplishes a long-desired reconciliation.
Forbiddingly intricate, frequently static and, doubtless, only semi-intelligible to readers who do not recall in considerable detail the content of its three predecessors.