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From: "Fernando Q. Gouvea" <fqgouvea@colby.edu>
Subject: Re: (whorl) Quibbles "R" Us
Date: Fri, 4 Apr 1997 08:09:58 

[Posted from Whorl, the mailing list for Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun]

**** On Fri,  4 Apr 97 00:08:00 GMT, Mantis said:

M> What strikes me about this offhand passage is first, and rather
M> superficially, that this is a clear link to Biblical text on Jesus
M> Christ; second, the more haunting/puzzling part, is what is being said
M> here: that Jesus was "possessed and enlightened" by the Outsider.  While
M> I'm not by any means a theologian, it is my understanding that this
M> scenario is not acceptable to any of the main branches of modern day
M> Christianity (mainly because it seems to deny the divine part of Jesus,
M> the "theo" of theoanthropos)--it is, however, an official element of
M> both Gnosticism (some branches, at least [hedge]) and Islam, both of

The hedge is correct, as far as Gnosticism. There are other words that come
to mind too: "adoptionism", for example, and other kinds of "low

M> which go on to claim (basically) that a mortal substitute died on the
M> cross in the place of Jesus (i.e., the old tanist tradition again, but
M> that is a tangent too far). 

You are certainly right that (for orthodox Christians) "possessed and
enlightened" is far too weak a description of the incarnation. 
(Unfortunately, there are far too many Christians who would find it 
perfectly ok, but that's another story.) But in the context of the story,
it seems right: Silk's "theology" doesn't seem to be able to accomodate
such a concept as a true incarnation, so how else is he to grasp the idea?
"Possessed" is not a Christian concept at all, except in the negative
sense---demons possess people, God enlightens, inspires, and in one case
becomes incarnate. But Silk's gods *do* possess people, in fact they seem
to do that far more often than they enlighten them.

So my reaction is that we shouldn't read too much into this expression. It
makes sense to me that within Silk's context it's the closest he can get to
the idea of incarnation, and hence (presumably) that this is the doctrine
he knows. By the way, does he know about the cleansing of the temple from
the Writings or from his illumination? If the latter, then it's even more
natural that his understanding of it isn't yet complete (since this
mention, if I remember right, is early in Nightside).

(Hmmm, I suppose I've got to come up with a Vironese name... I'm Quill's
father, so I need something related to that. Anybody have a suggestion?)


Fernando Q. Gouvea			
Chair, Dept. of Math & CS		Editor, MAA Online
Colby College				http://www.maa.org
fqgouvea@colby.edu			fqgouvea@maa.org

There are certain things men must do to remain men.
		-- Kirk, "The Ultimate Computer", stardate 4929.4

Questions or problems to whorl-owner@lists.best.com

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