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From: "Alice Turner" <al@interport.net>
Subject: (whorl) Clockwork Universe
Date: Sat, 12 Dec 1998 11:59:03 

Re Jonathan's clockwork query:

The idea of the "mechanical (or clockwork) universe" dates back as far as
the 14th c,  but became really influential in the just pre-Enlightened late
17th, early 18thcs, with their enormous advances in optics and clock
manufacture, and followed Gallileo's discoveries at the same time as
Garden-of-Eden theory (what we now call fundamentalism wrt creation).
Descartes was a big proponent, Spinoza a skeptic. In it, all phenomena are
the result of matter set in motion according to natural laws set down by
God. Note, natural as opposed to supernatural, which had been the prevailing
view for all of recorded history to date. There were political Reformist
ramifications: Protestant predestinationism favored it, obviously. But what
doomed it was, first, the successive discoveries of just how huge and
puzzling the universe really is, and second, the theory of evolution. I'm
simplifying alarmingly, of course.

So Wolfe is playing with the idea of the Whorl really and truly being a
mini-universe created down to the last iota not only by Typhon but by
himself, Wolfe. If Silk is a clockwork figure up until the time of his
theophany, that event precipitates him into the uncharted area of free will
(Wolfe is a converted Catholic [Eliot, too], the most tenacious kind) or,
though he is perhaps following the will of the Outsider, actions that he
would never in the course of an ordered life consider. I think that might
help to answer your question of how to reconcile the Outsider's position. He
will not provide supernatural help, but he has put into play a potent form
of natural help (Silk) that may yet fail--free will. There is also the
writer's inside joke of, well, no matter how carefully he has built his
universe and plotted his action---characters sometimes do have a will of
their own. The theophany is at the very beginning of the series, after all.


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