Friday, 25 November 2016

Moving Between Universes

We have been following a line of thought, reasoning from premises provided by Poul Anderson:

Is it conceivable that fictional universes created by Anderson and others coexist in a single megamultiverse?

Could there be a narrative in which a single character moves between all these universes?

Are any characters in existing literature potential candidates for such a role?

The prospects suggested so far are Wells' Silent Man and man in grey, the Phantom Stranger and a young man in Mark's Gospel. Sean Brooks has referred to another mysterious Biblical passage: John 21. 20-23. Might the beloved disciple still be around? Also Moses and Elijah? If so, then where have they been and what have they been doing all this time?

In Anderson's own works, Holger Danske moves between universes and the narrator of the Old Phoenix short stories might take a wrong turn coming out of the Inn? This can happen to travelers who have stayed in that other free house owing allegiance to no realm, Neil Gaiman's Inn of the Worlds' End.

Here are some other characters who appear, influence events, then disappear:

the mendicant who inspired the Buddha;
the Good Samaritan (I know that it is a parable but let us suppose otherwise);
the man on the road to Emmaus - he was not recognized as Jesus and slipped away when he realized that the disciples were latching onto his scriptural interpretations but he played a pivotal role in making them believe that Jesus was risen and Messiah.

There is another mystery about the multiverse. In the Old Phoenix:

"The Taverners are as merciful as their charter, or whatever it is that was once granted them by some power unknown, allows them to be."
-Poul Anderson, "Losers' Night" IN Anderson, All One Universe (New York, 1997), pp. 105-123 AT p. 108.


"...there are some powers that no one, not even the Endless, seeks to inquire into too deeply."
-Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: The Wake (New York, 1997), p. 17.

The Endless, seven anthropomorphic personifications of aspects of consciousness, include Destiny and Death yet there are unknown powers beyond them.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    As for John 21.20-23, Fr. Raymond Brown suggested in his commentary on that gospel that it could be understood in two ways: some early Christians thought Our Lord would return during the lifetime of the Beloved Disciple; and that this disciple had an unusually long life span. Since John's gospel is generally believed to have been composed around AD 90, that does not seem unreasonable.

    But, I do agree John 21.20-23 is a difficult text and can easily be interpreted in fantastic ways. One of them being how the Johannines in OPERATION CHAOS tried to appropriate that text. I'm now wondering if any actual, real world sects has been making such claims?

    I have never seen any legends about Moses continuing to live. Deuteronomy 34.5-6 definitely says Moses died in the land of Moab and was buried in a secret grave near Phogor.

    The case of Elijah/Elias is a very different matter. In 4/2 Kings 11 a fiery chariot and horses swept away Elijah as in a whirlwind up into heaven. Iow, Elijah did not die in the usual way but was assumed by God into the after world. It reminded me of how Genesis 5.24 reports how Enoch walked with God and was taken away by Him. The reason in both cases being how God so approved of these faithful servants of His that they were bodily assumed into the afterlife.

    I'm puzzled by your comment about the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The disciples DID recognize the "unknown" man they had met as the Lord after He blessed the bread. The disappearance of Christ at that moment would be an example of His glorified body no longer being bound by the limitations all others had to endure.


    1. Sean,
      Of course the story is that the disciples recognized Jesus after he blessed the bread but why not before? My interpretation is that he was a stranger who inspired the disciples and who was identified with Jesus after he had slipped away from them.

    2. Kaor, Paul!

      But the road to Emmaus story says nothing about "slipping away." Rather, the Lord VANISHED from the sight of the disciples immediately. My conclusion is that by an act of his will Our Lord used teleportation to leave the inn.


    3. Sean,
      It says he vanished. I am interpreting this as an excited and exaggerated report after the guy had quietly slipped away. I can picture the scene. They are becoming inspired by his scriptural identification of Messiahship with suffering but he has nothing further to offer them so he makes a quick exit.

    4. Kaor, Paul!

      Excited and exaggerated? Or isn't it just as likely Our Lord "veiled" himself so that the disciples would not immediately recognize Him?

      We have debated whether "The Chapter Ends" belongs in Anderson's Psychotechnic Institute series. That story shows extremely advanced humans many thousands of years from now able to do very similar things. I argue that if Christ is truly what Christians believe He is, then using teleportaion to "vanish" is as possible as merely "slipping away."

      The reports in John's Gospel of Christ meeting the disciples in a locked room without needing to open or unlock the doors looks like teleportation to me!


    5. Sean,
      I do not think that "veiling" is just as likely as an exaggerated report!
      I do not accept the Fourth Gospel as historical. Its author puts long discourses into the mouth of Jesus, introduces the raising of Lazarus and gives a different account of the Resurrection appearances.

    6. Sean,
      There is a recurrent issue here. If your beliefs are true, then certain consequences follow. Yes. Agreed. But the very point at issue is whether the beliefs are true. We can either note a disagreement and move on or discuss reasons for beliefs but we do not need to restate consequences of the beliefs if they are true.

    7. Kaor, Paul!

      True, we have reached another regrettable impasse. I believe there is more of history in John's gospel than some think (based on the arguments of Fr. Brown and esp. Fr. John Meier's four MARGINAL JEW books. But it's time to note a disagreement and move on.