Sunday, 13 August 2017

Through The Western Gate

This post addresses a dark theme in works by:

SM Stirling;
John Milton;
James Blish -

- but ends on a positive note with Poul Anderson.

"...I wouldn't have liked to be in his skin when he had to make accounting to the Guardians of the Western Gate."
-SM Stirling, Lord Of Mountains (New York, 2013), Chapter Seven, p. 136.

(Anyone who has gone through the "Western Gate" has left his "skin" behind.)

"So many to Heaven or Hell or Purgatory today..." (Chapter Eleven, p. 233)

Is there a judgmental hereafter? If there is, then are we judged by an external deity or by the inner self? The latter process can begin now. How many will be surprised and shocked in such a hereafter? Bigots believe that everyone who disagrees with them will be damned. This happens in Milton's Paradise Lost, Book Three.

James Blish's black magician, Theron Ware, says of his antagonist, the white magician, Father Domenico:

"'He's not significantly holier than us...I know something he doesn't know, too. He's in for a surprise in the next world.'"
-James Blish, Black Easter IN Blish, After Such Knowledge (London, 1991), pp. 319-425 AT Three Sleeps, 7, p. 354.

Later, Ware tells Domenico:

"'I can tell you of my own certain knowledge that every single pillar saint went straight to Hell...
"'...there is no such thing as white magic. It is all black, black, black as the ace of spades, and you have imperilled your immortal soul by practising it...'"
-James Blish, The Day After Judgement IN After Such Knowledge, pp. 427-522 AT The Harrowing of Heaven, 11, p. 511.

Can Poul Anderson tells us anything cheerful after all that? One of his novels concludes:

"'I've a notion He creates nothing in vain. That Satan himself, after Armageddon and what follows have shown him the error of his ways, may repent and be shriven. That on the Last Day, not only will our dead be resurrected, but all that ever was, ever lived, to the glory of God.'
"Father Tomislav was quiet for a space before he said, 'Now don't you suppose that's necessarily the truth. I'm sure of divine love, but the rest of what I spoke was only my mind rambling. It's not in the canon. It could be heresy.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Merman's Children (London, 1981), Epilogue, p. 258.

Father Tomislav combines optimism with humility. Amen.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

But while I admit Fr. Tomislav was only speculating, and would not necessarily agree with what he speculated about if someone insisted on a firm answer, I disagree with such speculations. Because it is DEFINED Catholic doctrine that the fallen angels and all who are in Hell, will be there eternally by their own choice and wish. The angels were tested at their creation on whether they could love and trust God or not--and some, led by that mighty spirit who came to be called Satan, chose to eternally hate and reject God.

As a Catholic I have to go by what our Lord, who is God as well as man, said in the Gospels when He warned us that Hell is real and eternal. And, in fact, in OPERATION CHAOS, we see Satan, the Adversary, as the eternal Enemy of God.