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Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 162

This novel describes the quest of four rebellious college students to find arcane wisdom, an obscure cult, and the secret of immortality, all of which are supposedly located in a secret monastic order in the Arizona desert. Their journey, which starts with their departure from a New England college and...

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This novel describes the quest of four rebellious college students to find arcane wisdom, an obscure cult, and the secret of immortality, all of which are supposedly located in a secret monastic order in the Arizona desert. Their journey, which starts with their departure from a New England college and proceeds across the North American continent to Arizona, is at times a vivid and almost hallucinatory experience; but it ends tragically with the suicide of one of the students and the murder of another by a third. In short, this novel is an ironic version of the theme of the quest for mystical enlightenment and transcendence. The search of the four oddly assorted students is in reality not an enriching and ennobling pursuit of religious experience, but instead a debased perversion of such a quest: Its main concern is the longing for assurance of personal immortality, through entry into a communion which requires one to sell one's soul (metaphorically, if not literally).

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