(urth) Urth before Earth

b sharp bsharporflat at hotmail.com
Wed Jul 19 22:27:10 PDT 2006

Well, I am in the minority (probably a minority of one) in thinking Earth 
might reside in Yesod and that Yesod is the future of Briah, so I am 
probably wrong about that. Wouldn't be the first time.

Tony Ellis' objection is that in Citadel:
>Severian calls Yesod "the universe higher than our own". 'Higher' is an
>odd word to use if all he meant was 'in the future of our own', and
>since there are a perhaps infinite number of future flowerings of our
>universe, he should rather have said "_a_ universe higher than our own".

Well, first I don't think we can rely on Severian, pre-Yesod trip, to be 
much of a cosmological expert but to me that statement is just a recognition 
that Yesod is a stage further, just as fuligin is _the_ color darker than 
black.  I suppose there could be an infinite number of colors progressively 
darker than black but they are beyond human perception or consideration.  
Likewise any universe further in the future than Yesod is beyond 
comprehension to someone from Briah.  "Fuligin is _a_ color darker than 
black"  ?  Doesn't resonate, I think.

All this made me want a certain passage from Urth of the New Sun and I did 
find it:

Severian notes there are more stars in the sky of planet Yesod than in 
Urth's sky.  Apheta replies:

>"When we require them, the Hierogrammates will build more---, worlds as 
>fair as this or more fair. >Suns for them too, should we require more suns. 
>  Thus for us they are there already. Time runs as >we ask here, and we 
>like their light".

It was this passage that originally made me think that Severian travelled to 
the end (of time) of Briah and arrived in the beginning of Yesod, still 
under construction.  So Earth will be created, in Yesod, far in the future 
of Apheta, and in the image of Urth.

Did the Hierogrammates or some similar race construct Briah? Or is it a 
direct product of natural forces, i.e. The Increate?  Can this difference 
between Briah and Yesod be explained Kabbalistically?

I like Dan'l's statement that:
>One could as easily ask of Christianity, "What was the pointof all the 
>rises and falls, the triumphs >and sufferings, of the nation of Israel?" 
>From the Christian standpoint, it appearsto have been "to >prove that 
>fallen humanity is not perfectable without the direct intervention of the 
>Increate, that >even aperfect Law can not save humanity, only grace." Could 
>a similar demonstration be going on >here on a grand scale, oneappropriate 
>to Hiero-beings whose schemes cross the boundaries from >one cycle of Briah 
>to the next?

But if Yesod is reserved for Hieros, while Briah and all its residents are 
just destroyed, their atoms or quarks just get collapsed and big banged into 
another Briah, then where is the reward? Where is the heaven?  Where does 
grace and salvation take you?

A step closer to God? Well, then that should be Yesod, yes?  If you make 
spiritual advancement you (or your cognate race) become God(s) in the next 
leve.  In Wolfe's scheme perhaps we, on Earth, can also advance and move to 
that level above Yesod?  What we call "heaven" and another step closer to 
God. (hm...why is only Tzadkiel named as a Hierogrammate? avoiding 

Dan'l feels that concerning names used in BotNS, Wolfe:

>"carefully considered the historical and mythological significance of every 
>_other_ person, place,
>and thing"

I can't agree with this.  The most obvious counter-example for me is his use 
of Saint names.  Except for Saint Dorcas being resurrected, I can't find any 
significance in his choices for the names of human Commonwealth residents 
(with the exception of kaibits having diminutive names).  They seem picked 
from a list.

Brings up a pet peeve of mine which is the assumed omnipotence of Gene 
Wolfe.  That his work contains unsolvable mysteries.  His intelligence and 
knowledge are far greater than mine but I can't accept that the combined 
wisdom and problem solving skills of many intelligent people won't ever 
allow something approaching complete understanding of his work.  I think it 
is possible that someday his books can be read with either a precise or 
intuitive understanding of what he intended with each and every passage.  I 
admit that is my goal, anyway.  I am currently most mystified by the five 
coffin conundrum discussed in the Two Tombs thread.


Regarding Gene Wolfe faced with certain questions in interviews, Dan'l 
>How shall I put this... Wolfe is sometimes a bit, ahhh,_disingenuous_ about 
>such things.

I think I will disagree, based on this and similar examples:

>JJ: Many of your books, particularly the Latro and Briah books, portray a 
>dimly-seen conflict or at >least interaction of "higher powers" that is in 
>part "behind" the human events. One sees the same >kind of thing in the 
>Book of Daniel, chapter 11, and also in the Iliad. I'm wondering about the 
> >origin of this interesting theme in your writing, how you came to think 
>of writing this way.

>GW: No comment.

That's it.  No pithy, convoluted, misleading answer to what I think is too 
penetrating a question, simply.."No comment".

I get the impression, from all his writing and interviews, that Gene Wolfe 
has certain principles he adheres to, and one of those is that tricksterism 
and manipulation is okay in artistic creation but not personal conduct.  His 
favored characters are all rather honest and plain spoken, while characters 
like Agia think sideways and are always creating puzzles for others.

Tony Ellis responds to my:

>The only other place I know of in BoTNS where an Earth bookis quoted is L. 
>Carroll's Through The Looking Glass...

>Here's another for your collection, then: in The Sword of the 
>Lictor,chapter XXXV, Dr Talos alludes to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

I checked chapter 35 and I think Tony refers to Talos' line- "The castle? 
The monster? The man of learning? I only just thought of it.  Surely you 
know that just as the momentous events of the past cast their shadows down 
the ages, so now, when the sun is drawing toward the dark, our own shadows 
race into the past to trouble mankind's dreams"

I have previous said I think Baldanders and Talos are a sly Wolfe allusion 
to Mary Shelley, a reverse Frankenstein where a monster creates a doctor.

But I think Talos' statement refers to the legend Llibio has recently told 
Severian, about a small man from the south and the building of the castle 
and an evil giant, a legend which Severian has just told Talos.  If Talos 
was really refering directly to the Frankenstein book then he is saying the 
Baldanders story travelled back in time to Mary Shelly; then we are again 
saying Earth is in the past of Urth.

Dan'l mentions the Neil Armstrong picture as an iteration of the same 
picture in our own Urth cycle.  I interpret it differently.  I think the 
picture and the twisted Earth stories on Urth are a result of the occasional 
direct contact between Urth and Earth through mirrors or Jungle Huts.  I 
think Father Inire/Isangoma and Jonas are the primary characters where we 
see examples of this and the Armstrong painting is one more by Fechin/Inire.

Sidenote question- Could sad old slender Jonas, riding his little merychip 
and hopelessly pursuing the haughty Jolenta be an allusion to Don Quixote, 
riding his nasty horse, Rocinante and pursuing the haughty Dulcinea?  
Severian doesn't make a good Sancho Panza I suppose.


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