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From: James Jordan <jbjordan4@home.com>
Subject: (whorl) Soul & Body
Date: Tue, 27 Feb 2001 14:54:00 

At 12:09 PM 2/27/2001 -0700, you wrote:
>  I think the most interesting question one can ask is whether or not Wolfe
>seriously considers the doctrine that at the true resurrection the body and
>the spirit are reunited in perfection.  In this orthodox understanding of the
>resurection, the body cannot be seen as an evil and flawed temporal 
>but as a necessary component of perfection.  How should we consider
>disembodied "souls" like Horn or even (at times) Mucor?  Are they the total
>being? Is the soul enough? For a fascinating discussion of the relation
>between the "real" identity of a man and the parts of his body, Ultan's
>lecture to Severian at the beginning of Shadow is an ideal place to start.
>(can the smallest finger of a man contains his whole essence, etc).  At the
>end of The Urth of the New Sun, it is very clear that Severian's soul has 
>hoisted from one body to another.  Is he the same Severian in essence without
>that body, or are they inextricably linked?  I think the same kinds of ideas
>are being thrown around when we consider "Horn" in Silk.
>Marc Aramini

         Good ramble. Definitely some of what Wolfe's playing with. As 
always, Ultan gives us a Borgesian perspective.
         I don't know that there is any real good way to "do" this kind of 
thing. Our doctrine says that the soul (person) is separated from the 
physical body at death, but rejoined to a new body (new atoms) in the 
resurrection. So, there is some reality to the soul as the seat of 
personhood. But, despite the many ways in which all branches of the Church 
keep lapsing into gnosticism, Biblical religion is very physical, sexual, 
culinary, festive, and bodily -- thus sacramental in the best sense. I.e., 
the sacraments are not a means of withdrawal from engagement with "social 
issues," but should push believers back into the world, transformed.
         Now, "What happens if one soul gets into another body?" Well, I 
don't think that ever happens, or even can, so there really is not going to 
be a way to describe the results that is very satisfactory. To put it 
another way, on Hindu presuppositions there is no problem; on Christian 
presuppositions there is a vast problem. Souls don't "merge," and the body 
is really an extension of the soul. Each soul has its own proper body, and 
none other.
         Thus, one could use as a literary artifice the "ghost in a 
machine" view, and just put Horn into Silk's body, with Silk himself gone. 
Initially I thought that was all that was going on.
         Or, you can roll a bunch of memories together and give them to a 
particular person, as happens to Casher O'Neill in Cordwainer Smith, and to 
Severian in his Memoirs. That can be done, as in Smith, as a way of saying 
that when a person receives Christ, he also receives all of the Church, all 
of "true humanity" also -- thus all the wisdom of Jesus and all the wisdom 
of humanity with Him.
         Or, you can dump memories into another person, and have those 
memories "come to life again" as a person, like Thecla and everybody else 
that comes into Severian (so that he becomes a kind of positive "Legion"). 
I guess something like that has happened to Horn in Silk. But, who are the 
"new Thecla" and the "new Horn"? Have the original Thelca and Horn gone on 
to their reward with the Outsider, so that we have new persons, with new 
destinies, now travelling inside of Severian and Silk? Or is it that old 
Horn and Thecla are not really yet dead and are continuing their lives 
inside Silk and Severian?
         Again, what is the "soul status" of a download, like Mainframe 
Pas, Kypris, or Silk? Are these separate persons? Are they real persons, 
who can change, who are images of God in some sense, and who will go to the 
Outsider in the end? Or are they just mechanical programmes? How does Wolfe 
treat them? Or does Wolfe keep them backstage precisely because there 
really is no answer to such questions within his own Christian framework? 
(Smith's answer seems to be that if robots and animals are raised to the 
point of being able to use language, they can interact with the Word of 
God, and thus are true persons. Is that how Wolfe views the "gods of 
         I guess my point is that to press into these questions may be 
pointless. Such combinations of persons work at a symbolic level, and can 
be dramatized in a SF narrative as a literary device. But this is 
literature, not philosophy.
         There is a good deal of such stuff in Cordwainer Smith, given 
Linebarger's interest in psychoanalysis, such as the question of what 
happens to a "person" if his entire memory is wiped (i.e., at the end of 
"The Dead Lady of Clown Town"). The Christian answer has to be that God 
preserves the person, in His own way, though we cannot see it. Somehow it 
is the same person, and a person is more than memory. But given that nobody 
really understands even this stuff in real life, I don't see how Wolfe can 
be very satisfactory if called upon to delineate the particulars of the 
kinds of things he's doing. It works best, I suggest, to leave it at the 
literary and symbolic level.


Ptero-nutria (not a cradle Roman Catholic, but did go to RC grammar school 
in the '50s)

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