Sunday, 12 March 2017

Communion With Other

We live in a culture that has prioritized correctness of belief, not authenticity of experience. A priestess experiences oneness with the Goddess here. In the following volume:

"...there was a look on [Brannigan's] face that [Juniper] had never seen there before, but  recognized without a moment's hesitation  - recognized from the inside. A wild torrent that was joy and terror and neither, a communion with something utterly Other and yet as familiar as a parent's touch in the night; vast beyond knowing and woven into every atom of your being."
-SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Thirteen, p. 363.

Compare Rudolf Otto and CS Lewis on awe here. Poul Anderson respected religious experience but might not have articulated it as clearly as Stirling does in Volumes I and II of the Change series? - although I would welcome relevant quotations from Anderson's works.

11 comments:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I remember that incident about Brannigan's conversion to neo-paganism. And I recall how skeptical I was. Because everything I knew about the real pagan religions of the past makes me doubtful its devotees had such moments of ecstasy.

But I then remembered this was a novel Stirling was writing, and he would be trying out many different ideas in the book. Including neo-pagan moments of exaltation.

Sean

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

You asked for some quotes from the works of Poul Anderson touching on religious awe or experience. I think one of the clearest from Anderson's works is to be found in Chapter XXIX of OPERATION CHAOS, as the Matucheks and their friends appealed to God for help in the rescuing of Valeria Matuchek from Hell. Quote begins, Steve Matuchek narrating: "He handed out prayer books and we began. The effect on me was curious. As said, I don't believe any set of dogmas is preferable to any other or to an upright agnosticism. On the rare occasions I've been in church, I've found that the high Episcopalians put on the best show, and that's it. Now, at first, I wanted to whisper to Ginny, "Hey, this is a secret service." But soon the wish for a joke slipped from me together with the racked emotions that generated it. Out of that simple rite grew peace and a wordless wonder. That's what religion is about, I suppose, a turning toward God. Not that I became a convert; but on this one occasion it felt as some aspect of Him might be turning toward us." And, later in the same chapter, after a prayer had been offered that Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky would be allowed, if he so wished, to rescue Valeria: "Then the cross on the altar shone forth, momentarily sun bright, and we heard one piercing, exquisite note, and I felt within me a rush of joy I can only vaguely compare to the first winning of first love. But another noise followed, as of a huge wind. The candles went out, the panes went black, we staggered when the floor shook beneath us, Svartalf screamed."

And in Chapter VII of GENESIS, as Christian was being shown Gaia's emulation of an alternate England and York Minster, circa AD 1900, I read this: "He did his best, and indeed the Roman Catholic mass at the hour of tierce sang some tranquility into his heart."

And there might be something similar in Anderson's short story "Kyrie," which I will check out.

Sean

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

You asked if examples of "religious experience," if any, could be found in the works of Poul Anderson. Another example which I think may apply is from his short story, "Kyrie," to be most conveniently found in GOING FOR INFINITY (Tor Books, 2002). The Order of St. Martha of Bethany mentioned in "Kyrie" was a homage to Poul Anderson's friend Anthony Boucher, who used it in several of his own works.

The Sisters of St. Martha is described as one of the "active" orders of the Catholic Church. That is, the primary work of the nuns is described thus on pages 344-45: "They minister to the sick, the needy, the crippled, the insane, all whom space has broken and cast back. Luna is full of such exiles, because they can no longer endure Earth's pull, or because it is feared they may be incubating a plague from some unknown planet or because men are so busy with their frontiers they have no time to spare for the failures." Here it is interesting to note how Anderson reminds us that an exuberant and triumphant age of exploration and discovery and settling of other worlds comes with a very HUMAN cost.

Again quoting, from page 345: "But they are granted some time for contemplation. At night, when for half a month the sun's glare has departed, the chapel is unshuttered and stars look down through the glaze-dome to the candles. They do not wink and their light is winter cold. One of the nuns is there as often as may be, praying for her own dead. And the abbess sees to it that she can be present when the yearly mass that she endowed before she took her vows, is sung."

I also noted with interest what Poul Anderson said in his prefatory comments to "Kyrie": "I wrote shortly before Vatican Two set the Latin mass aside. Well, I still prefer it, and who knows but what it will make a comeback in the future." And there are strong movements in the Church who desire that the Tridentine form of the Mass be freely used for those Catholics who wish it.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
In Liverpool, I walked past a parish church, a mosque, a Krishna Temple and a Latin Rite Catholic Church. I then returned to my apartment to practise zazen.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I vaguely recall how there used to be people called "Hare Krishnas," but I don't know if they had any connections to Krishna temples.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
They are connected. "Hare Krishna" is a mantra. They believe in a very personal God, condemn religious "impersonalists" and, I think, are influenced by Christianity.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Then they don't sound like very orthodox Hindus, which I thought they were. I think by "religious impersonalists" the Krishna believers mean those who don't believe in a transcendent God, or those who advocate pantheism.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
They are very unorthodox Hindus, insisting on Krishna as the supreme deity. Impersonalists are those like Buddhists or materialists who deny that the ultimate reality is a person.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

It certainly seems the Krishna believers were influenced by Christianity.

And I've thought of another text from the works of Poul Anderson indicating some kind of religious experience. I mean the poem he wrote called "Prayer in War" in Anderson's collection of poems called STAVES. A poem originally pub. as part of his novel ORION SHALL RISE.

PRAYER IN WAR

Lord beyond eternity,
Fountainhead of mystery,
Why have You now set us free?

You, Who unto death were given,
By Yourself, that we be shriven,
See, Your world will soon be riven.

After Easter, need we dread
Fire and ice when we are dead?
Hell indwells in us instead.

From our hearts we raise a tower
Wherein sullen monsters glower.
Save us from our hard won power!

You Who raged within the sun
When no life had yet begun,
Will You let it be undone?

We have wrought such ghastly wonders,
Lightnings at our beck, and thunders--
Help, before this poor earth sunders.

Lord beyond eternity,
Fountainhead of mystery,
Why have You now set us free?

First, of course, the original context of this poem was as part of ORION SHALL RISE in the Maurai Federation timeline. And the unifying plot thread of that novel was how people reacted, pro or con, to the reinvention of controlled nuclear energy.

The poet in ORION SHALL RISE was plainly troubled by the mystery of human free will--because men so often used this gift from God so badly. And perhaps this thought also troubled Anderson.

But, all that aside, this poem is very plainly written with Christian ideas and beliefs in mind. So much so that this verse was one of the texts in Anderson's later works causing me to think he at least wished to believe in God.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
Thank you for all these religious experiences.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Anytime! I think I've collected most of the Anderson texts relating to religious experiences to be found in his works.

And I've wondered if "Kyrie" could have been included as one of the Technic Civilization stories. Perhaps set shortly before the Polesotechnic League arose. It's possible the difficulty of incorporating in the Technic History of non human beings who were flaming plasma was the reason that was not done. Because the Technic History gives us no indication of the races in those stories being aware of such a strange "race." If such a race had been known to exist in the Technic timeline then that alone could not fail to have somehow affected how events turned out.

Sean