(urth) Gnostic characters

b sharp bsharporflat at hotmail.com
Fri Jul 28 06:06:41 PDT 2006

As noted in the "more symbols" post I think BotNS has Gnostic characters who 
seek advancement/salvation through acquisition of arcane knowledge.  This is 
in opposition or competition to belief in the New Sun,  paralleled in the 
competitors to early Christianity.

Which characters and what is the knowledge they seek?  I'd like to start 
first with the unnamed old leech who treats Severian after his near-fatal 
facial wound.  They discuss corpse eating and the leech is quite familiar 
with it (more than Vodalus, even) but says that method is not useful in this 
quest.  None of the recently dead have the knowledge he seeks and it must be 
obtained by experimentation.  Severian worries that children have been 
tortured in these experiments, but I suspect the leech's current experiments 
regarding this unnamed secret knowledge has a different subject.

Next is Ceryx (name implies cacogen) who relies on mumbo jumbo but shows 
himself to have some real secret knowledge and power, the most notable being 
the ability to animate dead flesh into zombie form.  He seems insanely 
jealous of Severian and his true healing powers.  I've always thought Ceryx 
was the original inspiration for the Jungle Sorcerers who also rely on 
mumbo-jumbo but also are shown to have secret knowledge and abilities.  Agia 
is shown, in multiple ways, to be associated with these sorcerers.

Next I'll mention the Cumaean, who enlists Severian's aid in resurrecting a 
long-dead Apu Punchau.  I have a hard time believing this is a chance 
meeting or that the Cumaean, Merryn or Hildegrin have any real interest in 
Apu Punchau. What good is he to them?  I think what is of interest is 
Severian's contribution to the process.  Gnostic symbols are found in the 
Witches' Keep and the only mention of Witches' purpose is raising the dead.  
I notice that Hildegren is present at two other instances of Severian's 
resurrectional powers, the Lake of Birds with Dorcas, and after Severian's 
own death by Avern.

It seems clear that there are higher powers contending behind the scenes in 
BotNS.  Severian himself starts the story suggesting he might have had some 
pre-sentiment of his future.  If so there are likely other, more 
knowledgable characters who also have this pre-sentiment.  We might ask why 
those who oppose the coming of the New Sun wouldn't kill him. I think the 
answer is 1.) They try but can't.  2.) They seek knowledge of power that 
only Severian has in this universe (and the next?) and are trying to get it 
from him.


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