(urth) silk horn

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes danldo at gmail.com
Mon Dec 6 11:07:05 PST 2004

On Sun, 5 Dec 2004 13:05:16 -0800 (PST), turin <turin at hell.com> wrote:
> I think Chris is right, and the Silk/Horn problem is central to the debate of 
> the soul, the mind-body problem (which is different because we have
> already ruled out, thank gooness, Descartes), and identity.

Ummm, yeah. Please read the archives on this. I've been preaching this 
basic idea for a couple of years now.

> Silk/Horn is a more complex of Severian's own identity "crisis", (I don't
> konw if any situations like this is in Cerebus or Latro), 

Well, the only interesting identity crisis I can think of in Cerebus is Artemis,
the Roach, but perhaps you're thinking of Cerberus? 8*)

> but I think Severian's acquisition of extra personae has anything to
> do with the part of our debate that concerns the soul, and here's why.
There are two basic mechanisms of memory and/or soul transfer in the
Solar books: 

1. Some kind of pan-and-scan, which allows people to be "uploaded" to
Mainframe, downloaded to chems, possession, and so on. (Analogous 
to the scanning that creates Mr. Million in 5HC, though apparently not 
as destructive.) I would posit that some form of this basic process is also
behind Jonas' possession of the dead Miles and the Narrator's translation
by the Neighbors from the Horn-body to the Silk-body.

2. "Communion," ranging from the Alzabo and the analeptic, to the
sharing of body parts. Severian's communions, of course; but also the
way memory seems to transfer with chem parts, the blooddrinking of the
inhumi, and many other things.

I suspect that Wolfe is writing from instinct here and has not really worked
out a full "techne" of soul/memory transference. But if we can find some
intersection point between these two major categories, we might find
what he has in mind (whether or not he is fully consciously aware that
he has it in mind).

> With Severians acquisition of Thecla's

Paragraph lost?

>  Both are examples of communion, though one is profane and the
> other well if not exactly sacred as in communing with God, it is
> certainly not evil. I don't think there is anything "mystical" about it,
> how a drug and a bit of muscle tissue transfer memories or even eating
> a piece of neocortex is unclear, and how that effects Severian's
> neurophyisology is unclear, but Wolfe is writing creative neuroscience;
> however, I think it's safe to assume he means that they are downloading
> mindware, not only narrative memories but also cognitive processes
> and sensory memory, which minds he is downloading in full or in part
> of the model of that person's entire mind.  

Well, I think we need to start with the idea of memory as hologrammatic,
so that one piece contains an image of the whole, but in less detail. 
Thus, the earlier Autarchs are less clear in Severian's memory than that
of his immediate predecessor. (Hologrammatology - yes, that word is quite
deliberate - is also a major if hidden theme of the whole _BotNS_; indeed,
the _Book_ itself is hologrammatic, with the shape of the whole contained,
in a least a vague image, in any significant (say a few chapters) portion.

> f Wolfe fails to mention a change in Severian's neural pathways or how
> it is supported within his body, that's understandable, but I definitely
> think we are meant to see this as a biological if fantastic process.

One of Wolfe's major techniques is to blur the distinction between the
"natural/scientific" and the "supernatural/religious." One of the more
obvious signs of this is his constantly providing "scientific" explanations
for the more obivously "supernatural" events, which turn out not to be
very good explanations at all  - such as Crane's explanation of Silk's
enlightenment as a brain accident.
> In the same way I don't think Marble is sharing a body with Rose.
> It seems rose had a secondary memory storage, a harddrive, if you
> will which Marble acquired in a physical way, a way that is similar
> to Severian ingesting the flesh of Thecla and the Autarch.  these
> events in many ways are scientistic if not scientific, they involve
> hardware or meatware. 

That is the sign that they are moments of communion.

>  I would argue the same for Auk and Chenille's possession by the
> god's.

How do you find this similar?

> Severians "ressurection", however, is of the same type as Silk/Horn and
> the Inhumi.  I think of this class, it is fairly obvious Silk/Horn is the most
> important case.

You've clearly divided matters into some interesting duality but you have
not made clear what the division is, at least to me.

> As far as the "complex" and "simple" views are concerned, I think the
> first class if complex and the second simple.  We would call them
> instead the dynamic and static self, though this isn't very desciptive
> either.  Here is a question.  Descartes believed the soul is an "object"
> outside of time and space which somehow corresponds to consciousness
> and is interact with the meat world.  This is of course logically impossible. 
> However, for Wolfe it does not seem the soul is the mind, otherwise why
> the distinction between the cases we've looked at, if of course, you think
> the the distinction is valid.  However, does Wolfe think of the soul
> outside of time?

I suspect that he thinks it capable of existing outside of time, but as
bound to time as long as it is bound to a body.

> The reason I say this is because for medieval Catholicism, and this is
> translating it into our terms today,it seems the soul is an object inside
> time and space corresponding to the mind and emotions supported
> by an unknown energy structure called "spirit" which supports these
> processes of cognition etc after bodily death but in a different way,
> since incarnation means you are subject to certain changes in
> emotions and cognition due to changes in your body.

The relation between soul, spirit, and body is complex and not at
all well understood - indeed, I don't think that there is any really
definitive Catholic teaching on the subject (certainly it is not 
covered in the Catechism of the 1990s, which is supposed to be
an encyclopaedic referrence of the definitive teachings).


Freedom has no barcode.
     --J.G. Ballard

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