Friday, 20 September 2013

Knowledge Of Knowledge Of

"Science" means (Latin) knowledge.
"Theology" means (Greek) knowledge of (Greek) God.
"Scientology" means (Latin) knowledge of (Greek) knowledge!
"Theontology", coined by Poul Anderson in The Byworlder (London, 1974, p. 5), would mean what? (Greek) knowledge of (Latin) knowledge of (Greek) God?

Theontologists seek the divine through diverse sub-cults of Spirit, Jesus, Brahma, Amida Butsu, Snake or Oracle. If I were being brought up in a Theontologist community, then I would want to practice in a Zen cult but otherwise let's just stick with Zen as taught by a Buddhist lineage.

The Byworlder introduces a genuinely non-humanoid extra-solar alien, the Sigman (plural: Sigmans), who has entered Earth orbit after approaching the Solar System in a Bussard ramjet from the direction of Sigma Draconis. An entire page is necessary to describe this creature. The way he moves is fairly sickening and that comes through in the description. The problem of devising a mutually comprehensible pidgin language is also recounted in the necessary detail.

The Chinese rulers who have to cooperate with the Americans and others in communicating with the Sigman are absurdly sure, first, that they represent "the people" and, secondly, that, if they get the chance to tell the alien the facts about American imperialism, then he will support the cause of the people. (Hopefully, he will indeed support the people, not their rulers.)

Terrestrial society has divided into sub-cultures. Our first viewpoint character belongs to a sub-culture that does not settle down and live in a house with a steady job but travels around, for example, by staying as a guest of Theontologists. However, far from being parasitical, he is a migrant worker with an amazing range of practical skills to offer. There is a, to Anderson readers, now familiar moment when, speculating about the Sigman's motives, he realizes something, breaks off with open mouth and yells but does not immediately divulge what he has realized. We have to read on.

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