Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Heautontimoroumenos

I have said before that reading Poul Anderson requires a dictionary but he surpasses himself on page 258 of Orion Shall Rise (London, 1988):

"The Life Force is also the Heautontimoroumenos, the Self-Tortured."

The Gaean speaker defines the term as soon as she uses it but it is convenient to be able to Google for further elucidation. (An unusual term used in another series, the Time Patrol, was "psychopomp.")

Gaeanity is one of many future philosophies imagined by Anderson. Characteristically, he shows it as neither simply good nor simply bad. Gaean meditation is not trance but merging of being with world, thus opening senses, heightening perceptions and, in one case, hearing approaching strangers who are still afar. (p. 246)

Iern, conversing with the Gaean, comments that ruling classes favor Gaeanity because it encourages submission among restless populations:

"...never mind liberty or traditional rights, just retreat into your head. Or it can be useful in marshaling forces against a I found out." (p. 258)

The philosophical is also the political. Gaeans address all life on Earth as "Gaea, Great All-Mother..." (p. 102) and regard human beings as "organelles," another word that might need a dictionary. (p. 84)

For me, Gaeanity in and of itself, not just its ideological/political applications, is shown to be a negative force by the following passage. Of someone seeking fissionables, a Gaean directive states:

" - whoever is responsible for this must be found out and annihilated. You are the defensive cells of Gaea. Through you, now, acts the Life Force." (p. 183)

This is green fascism.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Ha! I had completely forgotten about "heautontimoroumenos." It probably seemed so outlandish a I simply passed it (also, the definition was immediately given, after all). I do remember "psyschopomp," however, from "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth." Yes, Poul Anderson had a rich vocabulary and was not afraid to use it.

And I agreed with Poul Anderson's criticisms of Gaeanity in ORION SHALL RISE. The Gaeans far outstripped the Maurai in their hostility to nuclear power. The Maurai merely thought humanity was not yet ready for nuclear power. The Gaeans, as you pointed out, would EXTERMINATE those who used or advocated nuclear energy. As you said, "Green Fascism." To say nothing of its totalitarian potentialities in politics.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I would like to comment on this comment of yours: "Iern, conversing with the Gaean, comments that ruling classes favour Gaeanity because it encourages submission among restless populations." That made me recall how Christianity, especially the Catholic Church had the opposite effect in politics. That is, by deposing Caesar as a god and denying that the state has the right to control her, helped to create and spread ideas that the state has only limited rights and powers.

This does not mean the Church is hostile to the state or denies its legitimate rights. Our Lord, St. Peter, St. Paul, and so on, urged respect for, and obedience to the state in all lawful ways.
And Poul Anderson himself touched on such ideas in the section of THE SHIELD OF TIME called "Amazement of the World."


Paul Shackley said...

In "Amazement of The World", a strong Pope unopposed by a strong Emperor built a theocracy whereas the opposite built an autocracy but unresolved conflict between church and state led to freedom and science.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Yes, that is basically what I was saying in my previous comments. But, the risk of autocraccy by the state is always present. I don't know if you are aware of it, but back in January of this year, Pres. Obama had his HHS Secretary issue edicts commanding all employers in include as part of health insurance policies coverage of abortifacient drugs and contraceptives. This provoked an immediate and furious oppostion from people like me who pointed out Obama's edict violated the First Amendment of the US Consitution. It also aroused the entire US hierarchy of the Catholic to unanimous rejection of this attempt by the state to coerce religious believers into acts contrary to their faith. And both Jewish and Protestant groups sided with the Catholics in agreeing Obama was violating the US Constitution.

So, the risk of tyranny by the state remains.


Paul Shackley said...

Sean, what is the wording of the First Amendment?

Paul Shackley said...


Anderson's point was that an unfettered state and an unfettered church can both be dictatorial.

Is the Catholic teaching? - In a country where Catholics are a minority, they must insist on their rights, including education of children, but, in a country where they are the majority, they must use the democratic process to legislate Catholic morality, thus denying divorce and contraception to others? (I am sure I remember this from my upbringing.)

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Yes, I'll quote the First Amendment of the US Constitution in its entirety: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The text I capitalized above is what Obama and his HHS Secretary are violating in their attempts to coerce Catholics and other religious believers who agree with them into paying for things which violates their faith's teachings.

I'm not quite sure what you meant by the first sentence of the second paragraph of your comment immediately above. Theocracy has not and never has been a teaching of the Catholic Church. Amd I certainly agree that a majority Catholic nation should use democratic or parliamentary means to legislate the ban of abominations like abortion. I doubt, however, there would be much of an attempt to ban contraceptives like condoms. Resignedly disapproving tolerance seems more likely. But contraceptive drugs which are abortifacients would obviously be more sternly treated.

It's Catholic teaching that a valid sacramental marriage can never be lawfully broken up by any power on earth. That said, the Church does allow for the ANNULLING of marriages if it can be proven on reasonable grounds that an alleged marriage was defective or invalid. Such as the use of or threat of force to coerce assent, of if it can be shown that one or both parties had no intention of living up to the obligations of marriage (such as fidelity).

Apologies for this rather long note!


Paul Shackley said...

Thanks for info both on Constitution and on Catholicism. I agree with neither establishment nor prohibition of religion.

I can find the word "theocracy" above but not quite where you say? I think we can agree that the first divergent timeline in "Amazement Of The World" showed a "theocracy", ie, political power exercised by clergy? This is not what the church advocates now but I think Anderson shows that it could have happened (and indeed there were Papal States of which the Vatican is a remnant).

Is a marriage in a registry office, a non-Catholic church or a non-Christian place of worship valid and sacramental? Would a democracy with a Catholic majority ban divorces for people who had had such marriages?

I did not realise that infidelity could be grounds for annulment. That sounds more like a divorce?

I am sure that some of your co-religionists would want to ban all contraceptives!

I know of Catholics who have thought that apostacy, heresy and (I think) adultery should be capital offences. There was a guy called Hugh Benson who wrote 2 sf books LORD OF THE WORLD and THE DAWN OF ALL. His thinking seems to go back to the days of the Inquisition.

When I was 12, I read a text book which tried to play down the Inquisition, eg, by saying that the numbers killed have been exaggerated. It acknowledged that one man had been burned to death but countered this by saying that, from the stake, he called out the most shocking blasphemies, even denying the existence of God.

Paul Shackley said...

I have been adding to James Blish Appreciation.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Thanks for your own comments. I shall strive to reply to at least some of your comments.

No, I do not agree that the existence of the former Papal States or the current Vatican City State demonstrates the Catholic Church is necessarily theocratic. A far too brief review of history will be needed to develop that thought.

Historically, the Papal States have their origins in the collapse of Byzantine rule in most of Italy in the years after the death of Justinian in 565 due to the Lombard invasions. The Eastern Empire was unable to quickly repel the Lombards due to it being forced to combat waves of Avars and Slavs pouring across the Danube River into the Balkan provinces. And just as the Emperor Maurice was finally triumphing over the Avars/Slavs, his assassination in 602 began a long war for often bare survival against Sassanid Persia. And then, on top of THAT, came the even more desperate struggle for survival against the Arab/Muslim invasions beginning in the 630s.

So, given the vacuum of authority existing in Italy, it's no surprise that, as almost the only source of leadership at the time, that the popes more and more found themselves the de facto temporual rulers of Rome and the territory around the City. This was formalized by the Carolingian Donations of the 700s/800s giving the Papal States the extent they were to mostly have till 1860.

From an accident of history, the Popes also came to value the Papal States as a matter of princple. That is, they came to believe they NEEDED a temporal state to help ensure the freedom and independence of the Papacy from attacks or encroachments by the State. Incidents like the sufferings and exile of St. Martin I at the hands of the Byzantine Emperor Constans II, the struggle of Pope Gregory VII against the Emperor Henry IV during the Investiture Controversy, the captivities of Pius VI and Pius VII in France, etc., comes to mind.

All the same, however violent and unjust, the Savoyard seizure of the Papal States did the Church a favor. She was freed of the burden of ruling a large state the worries and vexations of which were a constant distraction from her proper spiritual role. The idea gradually arose that the Papacy did not need a LARGE state by which to defend its freedom. Hence, the eventual Lateran Treaty of 1929 with Italy recognized the current Vatican City as a fully independent state.

I understand your comments about "Amazement of the World." I did not mention it in my previous comment because Poul Anderson's speculation about what might have happened if the Church became truly theocratic was simply a fiction, a "what if" which did not actually happen.

As for marriage, the Church recognizes that non sacramental, "natural" marriages can also be valid. I do not know enough to be able to say how valid natural marriages should be handled by a Catholic state. A few obvious rules having to do with free consent, mimimum ages of consent, degrees of familial relationships within which one could or could not marry comes to mind.

Yes, I dislike contraceptives. Because those drugs and devices nullify the end and purpose of the sexual act, to be open to new life. But condoms revolt me less than abortifacient drugs. And writers like Hugh Benson don't speak for the Church!

Do I think the Spanish Inquisition was a bad idea? I do. Do think all the Inquisitors were bad men? No, I do not. I really do think most of them honestly had the wellbeing of Spain and the Church at heart. Nor were the judges of the Inquisition capriciously cruel. From 1490 to 1790 only about 3000 received death sentences.


Paul Shackley said...

Yes, that theocracy was a what if.

3000 death sentences at the hands of an Inquisition is still a problem for me, though. At school, we saw a play and film about Thomas More. We were told that he was beheaded for his faith but not that he had had Protestants burned for theirs. I think that amounted to a suppression of the facts. A Catholic layman told me that he would occasionally meet old style Catholics who would say, "Benson said it all."

For me, sex doesn't have an end or purpose. It evolved. It is a naturally selected means to reproduction, necessarily involving pleasure. As conscious beings, we can make all sorts of choices that go beyond what results from natural selection: on moral or health grounds, we can opt for a vegetarian diet even though we evolved as omnivores; we can eat socially or ritually not just for the end or purpose of staying alive; we can fly by artificial means even though we did not evolve with wings; we can wear clothes and cook food instead of remaining naked and eating raw flesh; two people can enjoy sex in and for itself, not as a means to reproduction; indeed, if they are two people of the same sex, it cannot be for reproduction (there again, would a Catholic majority re-illegalise homosexuality?); thumbs evolved for grasping branches can be used to write philosophy or play music - in other words, I don't think that there is a pre-planned end or purpose for any limb or organ. We find new uses and purposes.

Paul Shackley said...

In fact, I think our consciousness itself was a by-product of natural selection although we now treat it as an end in itself.