Sunday, 23 February 2014

Mohenjodaro And Persia

Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006).

"Mohenjodaro" (p. 108), "Mound of the Dead," an archaeological site in Pakistan, was a large early Indus Valley city contemporary with ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Cretan civilizations, abandoned in the 19th century BC and rediscovered in 1922.

Re-encountering this word on rereading "Brave To Be A King," it has just occurred to me to check its meaning. For some reason, agents of the Middle Mohenjodaro office of the Time Patrol often need to disguise themselves with luminous robes, halos and wings of light. Thus, there is at least one milieu in which time travelers presenting themselves as supernatural beings is a regular occurrence.

Everard borrows disguises for use in ancient Persia. At Ecbatana in 578 BC, a timecycle bearing the disguised Everard and Denison crashes through a palace door, terrifying guards and slaves, and approaches the royal bedchamber where Everard knocks with his sword. Now Denison delivers an admirable performance. Everard, assuming that their disguises and violent entry will have made his purpose clear, has neither briefed Denison nor given him any time to prepare a speech. He merely says:

"'Take over, Keith...You know the Median version of Aryan.'" (p. 108)

Denison needs no second bidding:

"'Open, Astyages!...Open to the messengers of Ahuramazda!'" (ibid.)

- and, when the man in the bedroom has come out:

"'O infamous vessel of iniquity, heaven's anger is upon you! Do you believe that your least thought, though it skulk in the darkness which begot it, was ever hidden from the Day's Eye? Do you believe that almighty Ahuramazda would permit a deed so foul as you plot...'" (p. 109)

Everard does not even bother to listen, until the conclusion:

"'...Know, Astyages, that this child Cyrus is favored of heaven. And heaven is merciful: you have been warned that if you stain your soul with his innocent blood, the sin can never be washed away. Leave Cyrus to grow up in Anshan or burn forever with Ahriman! Mithras has spoken!'" (ibid.)

The Patrol ought to present awards for roles performed on missions.

Denison's moral theology is (dare I say it?) heretical. Most higher religions teach that any sin can be washed away. There is a Buddhist story about a mass murderer who became a monk and was then enlightened - eventually.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

True, Denison erred saying that if King Astyages murdered his grandson, the sin could "never" be cleansed from his soul. As you said, higher religions like Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, etc., makes allowance for sinners to REPENT of their crimes. But, it was effective, Denison's speech! Astyages was reduced to weeping, cowering, and promising to keep his hands off the infant Cyrus.


Paul Shackley said...

Yes, Denison's purpose was to influence behavior, not to teach true doctrine. I am amazed at his ability to produce such a speech without any prior warning from Everard that that was what he was going to have to do.