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'Super Position'
And Other Mythic Concepts with c8 and James
c8 commented on Myth Dec-14-2019 12:08 PM UTC
Some drive-by's:
1. Did not know that Howard committed suicide at such a young age till I read it here. That's very sad, the lost talent as well as thinking upon the torment that drove him to do that.
-c8

Howard was sick and frail as a boy, was tormented and bullied and still managed to make himself into a stronger than normal man. His parents spent much time with him, much of it telling stories to one another. His father knew that Robert only remained among the living as a man to spare his mother the agony of his loss. He literally lived as a writer as a means of passing the time awaiting his self-execution as a decade-long courtesy to his mother. He told his father just before he killed himself that he had great respect for his strength and did not fear to leave him alone in the world, a world which he clearly saw as evil. His father was obviously the model for the Solomon Kane character.
-jl

2. My son axed me if I'd heard of Gene Wolfe. I said no but that you named him as an influence. Googling I found your piece on 'Gene Wolfe and the Gods That Should Not Be Worshiped,' in which you question, "Could the concept of super position be related to the Roman idea of a metaphysical overlay which only linked the divine and the temporal world at multidimensional events such as battles, sacrifices and celestial alignments?" Given the unusual rules of quantum entanglement, it may be that these events are moments of peak "harmonic discordance" and since our brains are wired to hear only the "beat frequency" (difference in amplitude peaks between oscillating waves or something) that we "hear" best the hidden reality at such times. (I'm channeling Itzhak Bentov, errant genius, whose work become subject of CIA scrutiny in the 80s (launching their search for 'remote viewing'), and also Julian Jayne's notions of the Bicameral Mind, wherein the Yale prof proposed that ancient man did indeed hear the voices of God/s, perhaps because the right and left hemispheres were in congruence, "entrained," better to function as receivers of the cosmic advertisments, before the emergence of formal language systems ruined everything. "Ancient man was schizophrenic" is the dismissive gloss. Bentov (Ben Tov, "good son") noted in a 1978 interview that those super high IQ folk who inhabit the far right edge of the Bell Curve are found not in academia but in mental institutions, since they inhabit a different reality than normies. He died the next year in the famous DC-10 crash at O'Hare (wing fell off plane), pilot named Lux, there's fate again making its jokes.
-c8

Evola's essays on the metaphysics of war, reviewed two years ago under the Dread Grace tag, and Jason Reza Jorjani's Prometheus and Atlas both touch upon this in a less penetrative way than Wolfe's fiction. Most of my look's at Wolfe can be found under the tag above, Before the Setting Sun. Wolfe does deep mythic work in Soldier of the Mist and Soldier of Arete. Where he shines most darkly, is taking that overlay of Aryan and pre-Aryan European myth, expressing it as a scientifically justified Catholicism synced with a Hellenized Hinduism manifested via artificial intelligence and alien symbiosis and placed at end time economic collapse. His Book of the New Sun [4 volumes and an epilogue], The Long Sun [4 volumes] and The Short Sun [3 volumes] read like an infotech mogul's fantasy of AI upload to lingering goodhood as a yoke upon the neck of an interstellar human diaspora. After my reading of Gilgamesh and The Aeneid, I suspect Wolfe of suspecting that Western Man fell or escaped from a high tech "garden" and that his placement of mankind at the end of the life of Sol was an artistic rendering of a cyclic fall from domesticated grace, with an overtly Aryan humanity becoming nomad once again in a migration through space.
-jl

Where was I? Oh yeah, pedantry: you noted re: Wolfe "Animistic people subscribed to countless extra-human agents of a Universal Consciousness, including totemic and ancestral spirits..." Not merely subscribed to those channels but binged, per Jaynes, hearing the voices as clearly as I hear Michael Buffer ask me if I'm "ready to rumble." Later literate peoples had to adopt formalized prayers, since they could no longer hear directly the god/s speaking, and even today repetitive prayers like the Rosary (or, for cheaters, ayahuasca) allow a degree of hemispheric entrainment (meditation) to facilitate extra-sensory communication with angels or machine elves, your pick.
But your mentioned 'The Book of the New Sun, described as "set in a distant future when the sun is dying and humanity exhausted. The books tell how Severian, a journeyman of the Guild of Torturers, is exiled for the sin of mercy, takes to the road, fights in a war, and becomes the ruler of Urth."
Exiled for the sin of mercy! Our civilization is dying from an over-abundance of mercy, foisted upon us by a people notorious for their hypocrisy and deception, who are always quick to hold the hapless hyperboreans to their ideals when it suits the elite's purposes.
Most humorously, I see that before becoming a writer Wolfe worked at Proctor & Gamble, developing the machine that cooks the dough used to make Pringles potato chips. As always, life is simply a Pynchon novel*.
(You also wrote, "I think it was Asimov, an atheist, who said that technology sufficiently advanced is for all intents and purposes magic." That was Arthur C. Clarke, the monster of Sri Lanka, not Asimov the NYC agoraphobic.)

As you allude to, mercy loses its grace when practiced by the weak, who lack the true authority to exercises it with meaning, such as in our degenerate cycle. In Severian, Wolfe paints an anti-hero portrait of a low caste character, an orphan, trained to demonstrate vestigial strength on behalf of a decadent order. Severian's character insertion into Wolfe's ancient future mythos was literally as if the seventh Nazgul was defrocked for showing mercy to an elf woman and then began a staggering journey which would place him upon the throne of Middle Earth as its most hated paladin. His crime of empathy for a victim shattered that hierarchal contract and propels him as a living boogie man [like a rural, Christian rifleman among an urban wasteland] among the folk his kind were enslaved to terrorize. His transformation from anti-hero to existential hero is the subject of the rambling allegorical adventure.
Wolfe also served as a combat infantryman, with distinction in Korea. As military action is always part of his protagonistic perspective and his characters exist within a deeply unsympathetic system beyond which an "outsider" deity seeks concourse with them, Wolfe's work as an engineering economic unit seems to join with his young soldier's perspective and spiritual orientation in a horrifically redemptive allegoric picture of the journey of the soul through the anti-soul, of what Howard would call Civilization, with Wolfe's epitaph for technological humanity meeting Howard's epithet for its sociological nadir.
-jl

*James, when you complete your to-do list of reading the Western mythos canon, I know you will enjoy mightily what I think Pynchon's greatest book, 'Against the Day,' and I say that as someone who could never even finish 'Gravity's Rainbow.' Reading and re-reading ATD has been one of my pathetic life's greatest pleasures.
-c8

Thank you, Sir for the clarification of Clark's statement and for this reading recommendation, which I will seek if enough remains of my eyes to read.
A White Christmas
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c8December 16, 2019 7:53 PM UTC

(Part 1)

Well.  As Neo said when Morpheus showed him the Matrix, 'woah.'  Or, as TS Eliot wrote, dedicating 'The Wasteland' Ezra Pound, 'il miglior fabbro,' "to the better craftsman," itself a crib from Dante's Purgatorio, where the exiled Florentine was honoring Arnault Daniel:

“O brother, the one I point to with my finger,”

He spoke, and pointed to a soul in front,

“Was a better craftsman of the mother tongue.”

James, you should really market those genius pills that you're taking.  Or maybe it's just the Baltimore water.  Pearls before swine!  As exampled by your previous essay re: Jorjani's 'Prometheus & Atlas.' which aligns nicely with Julian Jayne's (and Jung's) ideas about the ebb of the supernatural from Western consciousness.  This is also explored in Richard Friedman's 'The Hidden Face of God,' which notes that early on in the OT narrative God simply stops talking to humans directly, in later chapters only doing so sparingly through the Prophets, who themselves are instructed  to denounce the persistent sacrilege and abominations of the stiff-necked Israelites.  Jorjani's trajectory of devolution would follow from decay of the actual physical ability to hear God's voice.

This idea may be less esoteric than generally believed.  For example: the ability of birds, sharks, etc to circumnavigate the earth was long conjectured to be due to some weird undiscovered organ that contained iron, but a newly discovered class of flavoproteins called cryptochromes allow animals to 'see' electromagnetic fields.  If all matter is energy, and DNA, neurons, the universe is simply information, why is it impossible that we once were equipped with the ability to interpret the language of the universe and of its Creator?  If, as Bentov postulated, it is consciousness that creates the brain, and not vice versa, and if our brains are simply antennae which once could tune in the "god" frequency, then the Fall is explicable as the loss of that gift, certainly the greatest disaster to ever befall the species.
responds:December 17, 2019 5:55 PM UTC

You nimbus is overloading my cracked clay circuits.

I will continue our discussion after I get drunk and wake up with a good old Baltimore hangover.

Thanks so much for these thoughtful comments.
c8December 16, 2019 7:51 PM UTC

(part 2)

The apocryphal Book of Enoch names the 'fallen angels' who taught man the dark arts, metallurgy, weapons-making, money, all the rest.  Not a serpent but Azaziel and 70 others.  They bred with women and a race of monstrous giants was spawned, who desired human blood sacrifice, and were likely the actual Builders of all the pyramids around the globe, holding mankind in thrall until God intervened to stop the nightmare the Fallen angels and their Nephilim spawn had wrought, erasing them with a well-flung asteroid (around 12,000 BC).  But some remnant of these abominations survived, in the highlands away from the coasts, the "priests" of Molech and Aztec lands, still thirsting for human blood.  The Abraham-Isaac narrative may have been symbolic of the final revulsion against human sacrifice, a mopping-up operation, so to speak.  In Mediterranean cultures, Crete, Etruscans, Spain, these Molech cults persisted, although increasingly in the shadows, even amongst the Hebrews, as we know from the Prophets.

But now our enlightened society has re-instituted infant sacrifice, and the elites drink their young blood, via companies like San Francisco's Ambrosia, and perhaps by more recondite means.  Perhaps this horror, now made manifest, was what Lovecraft and Robert Howard perceived and fled.  Gene Wolfe's dying sun is a meta-symbol, as you note, of humankind's loss of dignity and nobility, of our wanton refusal to discern any comprehension of the Creator's voice.  We have devolved and become cockroaches with smartphones, staring endlessly into the Shining Darkness of evil, bereft of hope or even any consciousness of what shape hope might take.  We are the damned.