I think it's often more pleasurable to simply read Lafferty literally. And it's not as mindless an activity as you may think. After all, humans have, throughout most of their long history, believed in apparently crazy things, such as magic, with the certainty that many of us now reserve for the tenets of materialism. I used to be a materialist, so I used to read Fourth Mansions as an allegory: after all, a character in the story more or less says that the story is an allegory, and explains it. But later I started to read it mainly as a literal tale about a telepathic group trying to ascend to the next level of humanity, about an open-minded journalist, about a possibly reincarnated Khar-ibn-Mod (Carmody Overlark), and about whatever else is in the story. What if Lafferty really did believe in telepathy? More relevant, what if telepathy is real? You don't have to believe in a lot of paranormal stuff, only some (telepathy, reincarnation), for the novel to start making a surprisingly lot of sense as a literal story. Of course, it could be that, rather than an argument for open-mindedness, the story is an argument against open-mindedness, that Lafferty is making the Christian point that when you keep your mind too open, monsters (wrong ideas, evil thoughts) will find their way in and make it their home. But I like it as a literal story.
Arrive at Easterwine is also interesting as a literal story. It has a computer in it that is becoming a sort of God, all-knowing. It's an interesting idea, because I'm certain that it will be attempted in the real world at some point, when persons can be turned into digital bytes and so on, or when some other manner of information storage and manipulation is invented that opens the door to such an accomplishment. Lafferty gave his machine the mission to find true leadership, true love, and the true shape of the universe. The real-world machine might be given the job of creating a virtual world for virtual people, and to be their God. It would put new meaning into the phrase, "humans invented God". In a virtual world, miracles would be possible. (Perhaps this is a virtual world? How would you know?) Anyway, simply the idea about the precis machine, with human persons being made parts of the machine's databases, is so good and prophetic and real and apparently not very common that, as science fiction, the book beats most other sci-fi, traditional or not, 10 to 0, in my opinion. Building such a machine is just the kind of thing that one would expect humans to be doing if they get the chance. Yet almost no other writer has thought of it. There are super intelligent machines and computers but nothing like the precis machine. It's brilliant. Who needs to take it as a symbol for anything?
Well, those are the two Lafferty novels I have reread recently.