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From: Alex David Groce <Alex_Groce@gs246.sp.cs.cmu.edu>
Subject: Re: (urth) Zoroastrianism? Buddhism?
Date: Sun, 05 Sep 1999 14:19:44 

>Of course, as you point out reality can always break through cliche. That's 
>true, but difficult. Doesn't Shadow somewhere near the beginning have a 
>remark to the effect that concepts are much weaker than the words we use to 
>bind them? (Sorry for not looking it up. My copy has unaccountably vanished).

>The theme of innovation and experience versus tradition and ritual runs 
>through all five Urth books.

I'm not sure what the reference is to--Severian's statement about symbols
(the "We believe we create symbols..."), perhaps?

At any rate, as usual Wolfe is not presenting a simple black/white
dichotomy between innovation and experience and "cliches".  Vodalus is,
in a real sense, the "innovator" as opposed to the Autarch.  But Vodalus'
"reach for the stars, reclaim the future" turns out to be a false coin,
at best a weak parody of Typhon's malignant grandness, used as a tool both
by the Autarch and by Erebus and Abaia.  The torturer's guild is another
prime example--the best of it is what remains of ancient traditions--the
feast of St. Catherine, etc.  On the other hand, Severian's purpose in
many ways seems to be to discover the points where the Increate's Reality
shines through the fabric of life on Urth, and the good traditions arise
from these direct experiences of a higher order.

The textual similarity to the Buddhist texts is striking.  I'm just
wondering what Wolfe's aims were--maybe nothing more complicated than
suggesting that just as Communism can be seen as a secular parody of
Christianity, it can be seen as a secular parody of elements of Buddhism
as well.

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." John 8:32
Alex David Groce (agroce+@cs.cmu.edu)
Ph.D. Student, Carnegie Mellon University - Computer Science Department
8112 Wean Hall (412)-268-3066

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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