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Date: Thu, 31 Oct 2002 11:46:30 -0600
Subject: Re: (urth) Gnostic Wolfe
From: Adam Stephanides 

on 10/29/02 11:36 AM, Dan'l Danehy-Oakes at ddanehy@siebel.com wrote:

> For clarity:
> The "Gnostic model" of the Long Sun books is this:
> In Wolfe's "major" works, he presents settings in an orthodox
> Catholic universe in which "other" religious traditions can be
> literalized.
> tBotNS portrays a world in which Kabbala is literally true;

I don't know much about Kabbalah (just what I've read in Gerschom Scholem),
and don't recall much of the discussions on this list of the topic; but
based on what little I do know, I doubt that this is the case, despite Wolfe
borrowing of Kabbalistic terminology.
> the "Soldier" books portray a world in which paganism -- sc.
> Greek myth -- is literally true.

They reflect Wolfe's own beliefs that the pagan "gods" really existed; this
is different from his writing as if a world-view he believes false were

> And in the Long Sun books,
> he is portraying a world, set against a larger, orthodox
> Catholic universe, in which Gnosticism (or at least one form
> of it) is literally true.
> To summarize how a form of Gnosticism is literalized in the
> Long Sun books:
> All things (the whole larger universe in which the "Sun"
> books are, overall, set) emanate from the one True God
> (Silk's Outsider).

We aren't told whether the Outsider created the universe actively a la
Genesis, or whether it "emanated" from him Gnostic-style.

> From those "emanations," a Demiurge
> (Pas), with the help of other "Archons" (Pas' family and
> the lesser gods) have made a false, material world (the
> Whorl).

Except that, as I said before, Pas created nothing; Typhon did.  And the
relationship between Pas and the other gods is much more like that of a
polytheistic high god to other gods, than that of the Demiurge to the
Archons, afaik.  And while the Whorl is artificial, it isn't "false" in the
sense that the material universe is false in Gnosticism, just artificial.
While the story its inhabitants are told about its creation is false, the
Whorl itself is no less directly part of the Outsider's creation than
anything else.

> In such a world, the only way in which humans and
> the True God can approach each other is by an act of Gnosis
> (Silk's enlightenment),

But afaik, "gnosis" in ancient Gnosticism (which, given Wolfe's general
interest in the ancient world, is more likely to be what he had in mind than
any of the modern varieties, if indeed he had any sort of Gnosticism in
mind) refers not to a sudden, mystical enlightenment, but to the learning of
a body of esoteric doctrine.

> for which a human may and must
> prepare himself (Silk's discipline and religious training),
> but which is still ultimately an act of the True God.

> Zat make sense?

I grant that there are parallels between Gnosticism and the universe of
TBOTLS.  But most of them apply as well or better to monotheism vs.
polytheism, as I've said before.  The only thing which suggests Gnosticism
specifically is the "artificial world" nature of the Whorl, and even that is
not a "literal" transposition of Gnosticism.  Absent any explicit indication
that Wolfe had Gnosticism in mind, I remain unconvinced.



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