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From: DSG20001@aol.com
Date: Wed, 9 Oct 2002 05:32:33 EDT
Subject: (urth) God in the Machine

I'd intended to lurk around for (at least) a while longer, since the other 
thoughtful posts on this list are much more interesting to read than my own 
newbie contribution will be. But the theological chem vs. bio discussion got 
me musing over a few things, so I've thrown caution to the wind. (And since 
I've missed a few of the recent posts, I apologize in advance if any of the 
following is repetitious.)

Roy said:

"As I have tried to show, chems were never intended to be "people" (the term 
used by Rose). "Clever tools" comes closer to what Typhon intended them to 
be. Chems did, however, come to be self aware (though they were always, to be 
sure, self aware) in a manner and to a degree not intended and not provided 
for by their creators."

I found the possible Genesis parallel here particularly interesting. Roy's 
description of "tools" originally lacking the requisite self-awareness for 
moral agency sounded very much like a description of Adam and Eve before they 
became aware of Good and Evil. 

Which implied, in my mind, that Wolfe's views of God and Typhon might 
actually be similar in some respects. Unless of course one assumes that God, 
being both omniscient and omnipotent, _intended_ His creations to acquire 
their moral sense by means of their tragic Fall. 

But one is then left to wade through questions about divine predestination 
and the Gnostic doctrine of God as Author of All Things: both Good and Evil 
alike, both obedience and disobedience alike. (I've read elsewhere that Wolfe 
is, or was, very intrigued by Gnostic beliefs.)

Which in turn raises one of the oldest theological questions regarding 
Original Sin: if Adam and Eve weren't moral agents before partaking of the 
fruit of (moral) Knowledge, how might the Fall have resulted from their 
breaking a moral commandment? Pragmatic human conventions like "Ignorance is 
no excuse from the law" presuppose some basic moral agency, after all. (We 
don't apply such judicial conventions to toddlers, for example.)

In the context of Wolfe's chems, another question rears up: _whose_ "tools" 
had the chems originally been intended to be? 

At the end of Chapter 7 of LotLS, Silk asks the talus he confronts: "Don't 
you fear the immoral gods, my son?" To which the talus retorts: "I serve 

Does the talus serve a goddess? Or a woman digitized into the mere semblance 
of a goddess? The same questions that apply to chems (sentient beings created 
by humans, in their own image) apply to all the gods in Mainframe as well, 
don't they? 

I'n the James Jordan interview, discussing _There are Doors,_ Wolfe remarks: 
"Laura is my idea of what a pagan goddess might be who survived into the 
Christian world. One of the places where I probably split off from 
conventional Catholic thinking is that I believe that the gods of paganism 
were real...Now, if Aphrodite were to survive into the contemporary world, 
what would she be like? Well, Laura was a shot at trying to show what she 
might be like." What sort of theological status Wolfe grants such entities 
(Laura doesn't seem like the Christian conception of a demoness), I don't 
know. But in the context of his invented Mainframe gods, the question seems 
worth speculating about.

At any rate, if the talus in LotLS is correct, the Whorl's chems weren't 
intended to be the tools of its human "cargo," but of the AIs who supervise 
it. That the gods themselves were the tools of _Typhon_ (who I suppose was a 
kind of man) doesn't simply bring the issue back to Man versus his Objects 
again, since the human cargo inside the Whorl were likewise Typhon's tools.  

Roy also said:

"I can't tell from the text whether or not Wolfe thought 'the Outsider loves 
them as persons'." 

I don't know whether Wolfe agrees with his protagonist on the subject, but 
Silk's words to the talus in LotLS are at least worth mentioning: "'I don't 
want to hurt you,' Silk told it. 'It's evil--that means very wrong--to 
destroy chems, as wrong as it is to destroy bios, and you are very nearly a 
chem.'" Then, after killing the talus in self-defense, Wolfe says of Silk: 
"His chant was flat and almost mechanical at first, but as the wonder and 
magnanimity of divine amnesty filled his mind, his voice grew louder and 
shook with fervor." 

The passage seems to confer some measure of spiritual significance on the 
talus--at least in Silk's rapidly enlightening mind. 

(On the other hand, it's worth noting that Silk (or Wolfe, anyway) doesn't 
invoke the Outsider during the ritual--which he had been doing with bios in 
similar circumstances.)

For myself, I suspect Wolfe sees both chems _and_ bios as slaves: not only 
(on occasion) in relation to each other, but (always) in relation to God. 

St. Paul's Stoical attitude seems to dovetail with Wolfe's here, as in so 
many ways: "Slaves, obey your human masters with the reverence, the awe, and 
the sincerity you owe to Christ. Give your service willingly, doing it for 
the Lord rather than men. You know that each one, whether slave or free, will 
be repaid by the Lord for whatever good he does. Masters, act in a similar 
way toward your slaves. Stop threatening them. Remember that you and they 
have a Master in Heaven who plays no favorites." (Ephesians 6: 5-9)
Daniel Goss


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