Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Empires And Religions

Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy recounts the Fall of the Galactic Empire.

Poul and Karen Anderson's King of Ys Tetralogy recounts the decline of the Roman Empire.

Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization recounts the rise and decline of the Polesotechnic League, then of the Terran Empire, then the rise of later civilizations.

In one period of Robert Heinlein's Future History, religious fanatics control society and use technology to fake miracles.

In one period of its history, Asimov's Foundation cynically uses technology to fake miracles, using religion only as a means of social control.

The Andersons show us the inwardness of religious experience. Gratillonius, now consecrated a Father in the Mystery of Mithras, lifts the chalice, drinks the blessed wine and weeps:

"...abruptly, blindingly, the sacredness of it came upon him. Did the Sun lift out of the night in his spirit, to blaze in terrible majesty from his heart?" (Gallicenae, p. 96)

To this day, anyone brought up as a Catholic understands Gratillonius even if they are not priests. Tears of awe occur in diverse traditions:

"I see Lord Krishna and I weep." (here)

5 comments:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Exactly! Your quoting of how Gratillonius was overcome by awe of his god at the Mithraic rite reminded me of how devout Catholic priests have similar thoughts and feelings when celebrating Mass. I'm reminded of this bit about the scandalous Pope Alexander VI from E.R. Chamberlin's book THE BAD POPES (Signet: 1971): "There is no possible way of knowing whether Borgia committed sacrilege each time he broke the Bread, or whether at those moments he was utterly and humbly absorbed."

    Your mention of Isaac Asimov's Foundation series and Galactic Empire reminded me of how his use of "religion" in those works contributed to me becoming dissatisfied with them. The religion of Science and worship of the Galactic Spirit seemed so crude, thin, and patently faked. How could anyone really believe in this absurd religion cooked up by Salvor Hardin?

    By contrast, if my memory is correct, the religion of the Prophets we see in Heinlein's REVOLT IN 2100, FELT more real to me. Probably because Heinlein meant that false religion to be a corrupt spin off imitating a real religion.

    Sean

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    1. Sean,
      Heinlein's First Prophet was a sincere bigot. Some of his successors might have been insincere manipulators like Asimov's Foundationers. The man who was Prophet at the time of the Second American Revolution was not captured alive because his "Virgins" got to him first.
      Paul.

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    2. Kaor, Paul!

      You mean Nehemiah Scudder, the First Prophet of the dictatorship which arose in the US in Heinlein's "Future History." I checked his famous chart and found two stories RAH thought of writing but never did: "The Sound Of His Wings" and "The Stone Pillow." Either or both of them might have been about Nehemiah.

      I'm a little surprised the Prophet overthrown by the Second American Revolution was killed by his harem girls. Historically, most harem masters were not murdered by their women. Perhaps this "Prophet" was vicious and abusive?

      Sean

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  2. Sean,
    Heinlein's note on stories to be told summarizes the unwritten stories.
    Paul.

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    Replies
    1. Kaor, Paul!

      I have it and I will look it up to see what Heinlein said about his unwritten stories. I do remember him writing that he did not like Nehemiah Scudder, which was apparently why Heinlein never wrote about him.

      Sean

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