Foucault's Pendulum (book)

From Academic Kids

Foucault's Pendulum (original title: Il pendolo di Foucault) is a 1988 novel by Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco. Its theme is the popularity of conspiracy theories throughout time, as well as their constant presence as a form of pseudo-religion. It is divided into ten segments represented by the ten Sefiroth.

Told in the form of a kind of intellectual game, three friends compile a fictitious plan (the "Plan") which stretches throughout history and hopes to combine all conspiracy theories, also embracing unlikely opposites. The book's secret history has elements of the pseudohistory of Holy Blood, Holy Grail; Ardenti's find which inspires the Plan and its multiple possible interpretations play a role similar to that of the parchments in the Rennes-le-Château conspiracy theories.

The novel is an encyclopedic work, moving critic and novelist Anthony Burgess to comment that it needed an index. It was first published in 1988 and, the following year, a translation into English by William Weaver appeared.

This book has been called a thinking person's The Da Vinci Code (which it predated by over a decade).



The following conspiracies and secret societies appear in Foucault's Pendulum:

For a list of many of the 'difficult' words used in Foucault's Pendulum, see: [1] (

Wiktionary, the free dictionary, has a concordance of the words from Foucault's Pendulum


Missing image
The Foucault pendulum at the Musée des arts et métiers in Paris plays a major part in the novel.

The book begins with the narrator, Casaubon (the name is probably inspired by Isaac Casaubon of George Eliot's Middlemarch), in the Musée des Arts et Métiers, a technical museum located in Paris. Casaubon is in the museum, hiding in fear from the Templars, whom he believes have kidnapped his friend Jacopo Belbo.

The story is then told in flashback.

In 1970s Milan, Casaubon is a student writing a thesis on the history of the Knights Templar and watching the revolutionary and counter-revolutionary activities of the students around him. He encounters Belbo, who works as an editor for the Garamond Press. Belbo invites Casaubon to come and give his opinion as an expert on a book that has been submitted to him for publication about the Templars. Casaubon meets Belbo's colleague, Diotallevi, a cabalist.

The book, by Colonel Ardenti, is patent nonsense, claiming to have discovered a secret plan by the medieval Templars to take over the world in the year 2000. Ardenti is nevertheless insistent it must be published. Belbo suggests another publisher that might do the job.

That evening Ardenti goes missing. A police inspector, De Angelis, interviews both Belbo and Casaubon. He hints his job as a political department investigator leads him to investigate people who claim to be linked to the Occult as well as revolutionaries.

After this experience Casaubon goes to Brazil for two years and encounters South American and Caribbean spiritualism. There he meets Agliè, an elderly man who implies he is the reincarnation of the mystical Comte de Saint-Germain.

On his return to Milan, he completes his thesis. He is hired by Belbo's boss, Signor Garamond, as a researcher to find illustrations for a history of metals the company is working on. Casaubon learns that as well as the respectable Garamond publishing house, Garamond also owns Manuzio (inspired by Aldus Manutius), a vanity publisher that swindles incompetent authors out of large sums of money.

Garamond shortly starts two lines of occult books. One is intended for serious publication by Garamond; the other, 'Isis Unveiled', is intended to be published by Manutius and bring in more vanity authors.

Belbo, Diotallevi and Casaubon quickly become submerged in occult manuscripts, drawing all sorts of ridiculous connections between historical events. They engage Agliè as a specialist reader.

The three editors start to develop 'The Plan' as part satire and part intellectual game. Starting from Ardenti's 'secret manuscript', they develop an intricate web of mystical connections – trying to avoid making any connection that has not been made before by one of their authors, who they refer to as the 'Diabolicals'.

"The Plan" involves the Knight Templars having discovered a secret energy source during the crusades, probably related to Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail (or both), which makes it possible to control energy flows (resembling Mana, Qi, etc.) relating to the movement of Plate tectonics. One instrument involved in finding where the energy flows is (the scientific instrument) called the Foucault pendulum.

The discovery is purposefully hidden away and the Knights Templar trigger their own destruction, while at the same time hiding independent cells in several corners of Europe. These cells are set up to meet at distinct long-term intervals, and in the end reunite and recover the hidden energy source in order to achieve world domination.

However, the adoption of the Gregorian calendar disrupts the time table and the groups lose track of each other, creating several secret societies in order to search for each other throughout history.

While the Plan is total nonsense and Ardenti's text is, in all likelihood, a laundry list (as Casaubon's wife suggests), the editors get more and more involved in it. Diotallevi is diagnosed with cancer and Belbo retreats into the Plan to avoid confronting his personal life.

The three send Agliè their chronology of secrets societies in the Plan, as if it were from a manuscript they had been presented with. They add one more secret society, Tres, alongside Templars, Rosicrucians, Paulicians and Synarchists. They believe Tres is fictional, but it was a word mentioned to Casaubon by the policeman De Angelis at a chance encounter.

Then Belbo goes to Agliè and tells him about the Plan, as if it were serious research, and that he is in possession of a secret Templar map. Agliè becomes frustrated with Belbo's refusal to let him see the (non-existent) map. He sets Belbo up as a terrorist suspect in order to force him to come to Paris. It emerges that Agliè has cast himself as the head of a secret spiritual brotherhood, which includes Signor Garamond and many of the Diabolical authors.

Casaubon follows Belbo after hearing a call for help, leading to the scene at the start of the novel.

Agliè's group are, or have deluded themselves to be, the Tres society in the Plan, and are angry that Belbo knows more about the Plan than they do. They try to force him to reveal the secrets he knows. Refusing to satisfy them or reveal that the Plan was a nonsensical concoction, Belbo is hanged by wire connected to the Foucault pendulum.

Casaubon then flees through the Paris sewers and the novel ends with him meditating on the events of the book.

Initial quotation

The book begins with a long quote in Hebrew, which comes from page seven of Philip Gruberger's book The Kabbalah: A Study of the Ten Luminous Emanations from Rabbi Isaac Luria with the Commentaries Sufficient for the Beginner Vol. II, published in Jerusalem by the Research Center of Kabbalah in 1973. The quotation translates into English as follows:

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.

See also

External links

fr:Le Pendule de Foucault he:המטוטלת של פוקו (ספר) hu:A Foucault-inga pt:O Pêndulo de Foucault (livro)


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