Saturday, 29 June 2013

FX Axor

In Poul Anderson's The Game Of Empire, the Wodenite, Axor, has taken the Christian name, Francis Xavier, and is ordained in the Galilean Order of the Jerusalem Catholic Church. Real world equivalents are the Jesuit Order and the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, Francis Xavier was a Jesuit.

Characters in two earlier installments of the Technic Civilization series, "The Saturn Game" and The People Of The Wind, are Jerusalem Catholics. This is either the Roman Catholic Church with its headquarters moved (back) to Jerusalem or a new denomination existing in the future. Anderson's texts do not say which and, for story purposes, it does not matter. There is no mention either of a Pope or even of Bishops. All that we encounter after a couple of lay members is the single priest, Axor.

Axor seeks evidence of an Incarnation other than the one that (he believes) occurred on Earth three thousand years before. He asks whether strangely familiar religions are to be explained by:

"'Coincidence? Parallel development? Or a deeper mystery?'" (Anderson, Flandry's Legacy, New York, 2012, p. 209)

Surely parallel development suffices as an explanation? It already accounts for the many physical similarities between organisms. Terrans have encountered Merseian and Ythrian monotheisms that are incompatible with Christianity but there might also be some that are less incompatible. How will Axor distinguish between evidence of an Incarnation and evidence of a belief in an Incarnation?

He begins a question with:

"'If science can show that the gospel account of Christ is not myth but biography...?'" (p. 210)

- but can it? That is a big "if." The gospels do not give any biographical details about their central figure but instead present propaganda for a belief about him, namely that, despite the ignominious death of a criminal, he is the Messiah, resurrected in accordance with scriptural prophecies.

Axor suggests that the Builders, who had an interstellar civilization millions of years ago but disappeared:

"'...went on to a higher plane of existence.'" (p. 210)

We encountered this belief in The Day Of Their Return. It is not a Christian belief and I am not sure how Axor proposes to incorporate it into his Christianity.

He studies the remains of Builder records: worn etched diagrams; electronically revocable molecular or crystalline recordings, either incomprehensible or possibly astronomical - signs for pulsars, hydrogen atoms, periods and directions. He estimates how pulsars have slowed and moved, thus where they are now and which star a record might point towards. Certain clues:

"'...appeared to me to whisper of the sun Patricius.'" (p. 211)

I think that is a bit too vague. Whisper? He means that the clues hinted, implied, suggested, insinuated that something was to be found on a planet in the Patrician system? Diana confirms that Tigery explorers speak of what may be ruined walls although Imhotep has never had any native intelligences.

And that is where the matter rests. Anderson's fictitious history is like our real history. Such matters are not resolved quickly or easily and many have not been resolved yet.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...


I did write about such things myself in my own essay called "God and Alien in Anderson's Technic Civilization." Like you, I too am skeptical of the idea that entire races can move "bodily" to a "higher plane of existence."
At least Fr. Axor does not insist the question is settled.

I'm rereading THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN, and I agree with Commissioner Desai that the so called "Elders" (the Chereionies) are far more likely to have simply died out by means or for reasons unknown to us. That the "Elders" were no better than any other race.