(urth) Wolfean theologies

John Watkins john.watkins04 at gmail.com
Thu Feb 5 08:15:54 PST 2009

On Thu, Feb 5, 2009 at 10:28 AM, David Stockhoff <dstockhoff at verizon.net>wrote:

> That's a very interesting and useful analysis of Frodo---not just the
> correspondences, which are easy enough to create/find/project/whatever, but
> the construction of the orthodox or doctrinaire Christ (let's just call him
> the OTC, or One True Christ, and assume we are talking about the Catholic
> one). ....Thanks, John, this is really useful! For Silk as well, as you
> suggest.
Thanks!  I think about this stuff too much.

> As you say, even this momentary experience of divinity could have huge and
> problematic implications as far as the Increate's implied approval of
> Severian, his puppetmasters, his crimes, etc. And the stronger the
> connection, the bigger the problem. I wouldn't want to bring all that in on
> the strength of this single passage.
> Yes.  I've written before that while I find the general critiques others
have written of the Hierowhatevers and their motives compelling, I also keep
coming back to the notion, which is more fully developed in Long Sun, of
evil pretending to be good and advancing the goals of good.  Pas is
Typhon--he's a false god, briefly plays the role of the Devil in the New Sun
and then has a return appearance as Pontius Pilate--pretty much as obviously
a Bad Guy as anyone in the entire cycle.  But Pas pretends to be a good
guy--the creator-god and god most worthy of worship, and the Outsider's
plans in the Long Sun series, anyway, dovetail almost entirely with the Plan
of Pas.  Likewise Quetzal is a vampiric inhumu pretending to be a kindly,
well-respected religious leader, but aside from his habit of feeding on
children, most of his actions aid the cause of good, and even his final act
of "betrayal" may--*may*--have served the plans of the One True God anyway.

This leads me to suspect that although Severian is a false messiah figure
propped up by artificial insectoid lifeforms pretending to be angels in
order to advance their eugenic goals, he is *also *the instrument of the
Increate.  This renders the destruction of Urth *not *a perfectly justified,
divinely ordained slaughter *but rather *some kind of *felix culpa*.

Or so I suspect.  I have no idea what the mechanics of such a plot actually
are--I can't answer "what's so great about Ushas."  I simply assume that
there's something deeper going on that I've missed, possibly having to do
with the Green Man, possibly (although I'm not convinced of this) having to
do with the plot of Short Sun.

> ------------------------------
> Message: 2
> Date: Wed, 4 Feb 2009 11:33:46 -0500
> From: John Watkins <john.watkins04 at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: (urth) Wolfean theologies
> To: The Urth Mailing List <urth at lists.urth.net>
> Message-ID:
>        <93d4039f0902040833n8443ab2p994f575480ab07c8 at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
> On Wed, Feb 4, 2009 at 11:17 AM, David Stockhoff <dstockhoff at verizon.net
> >wrote:
> > Dan'l:However, outside the work, I personally don't see much difference,
>> > because to me they are all characters, and the world is plainly big
>> enough
>> > for infinite variations. Christ himself was partly derived from
>> characters
>> > who preceded him. I would identify a character with stigmata and a spear
>> > wound who carries the Divine Spark as one with a much more *specific*
>> > relation to the Christ than Frodo would have.
> I chuckled here because this isn't a great example of your point (which I
> do
> take.)  Frodo obviously does not have a stigmata or a spear wound in the
> side (he is stabbed in the side by a spear, but his mithril coat deflects
> the thrust.)  But there is specific imagery from the Stations of the Cross
> applied to him--he is wounded three times in the text (stabbed in the
> shoulder, stung by Shelob, and loses his finger) paralleling Christ's three
> falls carrying the cross.  What we're supposed to take from this, of
> course,
> is that Frodo partakes of the Christ-nature in a very specific way--he is a
> type of Christ the Cross-bearer, not Christ the Teacher or the Son of God.
> Likewise I think Severian might be an attempt to isolate and examine
> Christ's career as a miracle worker uninformed by moral teachings.  (It is
> logical that such a figure would at least have pretentions of being an
> divine figure.)  Silk (in Long Sun, anyway) might be said to be the
> opposite--a great moral teacher and religious/political leader who is not a
> miracle worker or disguised transcendent being.
> >
>> > Second, I asked, if Severian experiences in TUotNS, as he relates he
>> does,
>> > at least a glimpse of what it's like to be God/a god/a godling/whatever
>> (I
>> > don't see support in the text for useful distinctions between these),
>> then
>> > what does that mean for the work? To this question, I got John's
>> suggestion
>> > that Severian's divinity might have been temporary, and Brunian's. It's
>> > still open. Is this passage part of TUotNS's New-Sun-for-Dummies role,
>> or
>> > does it tell us something specific, like Severian is divine? is he
>> divine
>> > temporarily or inherently? Or am I jumping to conclusions? Perhaps, read
>> > properly, it tells us Severian is NOT divine?
>> >
> I think it tells us that Severian is an instrument of the something far
> greater than himself--it's his experience, one might say, of being
> "possessed."  I think there are parallel sequences in That Hideous Strength
> when planetary angels possess mortals--Lewis does not thereby posit that
> planetary intelligences are equivalent to God, but just that to a human
> being, the angel is sufficiently above him to induce a numinous experience.
> What I think it doesn't tell us is that Wolfe's conception of the divine in
> compatible with the flaws in Severian's character.  That is too wildly
> implausible for a writer of Wolfe's background to suggest.  My biggest
> issue
> is not with the idea of interrogating Severian's role as a chosen one, an
> instrument, or a savior figure--it's with imputing moral sanction to all of
> his actions and especially the destruction of Urth simply because Wolfe is
> a
> Catholic and bestows Christ-like attributes to Severian.
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