Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Flandry's Prayer II

"I didn't feel it was fitting that they mean to build you a big tomb on Founders' Hill. I wanted your ashes strewn over land and sea, into sun and wind. Then if ever I came back here I could dream every brightness was yours. But they understand what they do, your people...
"He stooped closer. You believed you would know, Kossara. If you do, would you help me believe too - believe that you still are?
"His sole answer was the priest's voice rising and falling through archaic words. Flandry nodded. He hadn't expected more. He couldn't keep himself from telling her, I'm sorry, darling."
-Poul Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (New York, 2012), p. 577.

This is Dominic Flandry's heart-felt agnostic prayer to his dead fiancee. He stands before the ultimate mystery, asks, does not hear an answer and is unable to make the commitment of faith. He stands where people of faith have stood but cannot proceed any further with them.

He respects her people's funeral practices although these differ from what he would have wanted. "He hadn't expected more.." Expectation could, not necessarily would, have led either to disappointment or to imagination and false assurance. He even apologizes to the dead Kossara for not hearing an answer.

The asking, although not the lack of an answer, also puts him where Spiritualists have stood - but they claim regular communication. Philosophically, I am obliged to ask: even if an experience like this did lead to acceptance of monotheist belief, then why opt for any one tradition of faith and practice as against another? As a result of philosophical reasoning (with which I disagree), CS Lewis converted to "Theism" and expressed this belief publicly by starting to attend College Chapel even though he had not yet converted to Christian belief. Lewis is particularly relevant here because he wrote a unique brand of theological science fiction that commented on and responded to Wellsian secular sf.

The time before his fiancee's coffin in the Cathedral of St Clement is a moment when the immature Flandry of the introductory trilogy has been left far behind.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Paul!

    Yes, I agree, in A KNIGHT OF GHOSTS AND SHADOWS, we see a fully mature Dominic Flandry, far from the brash, callow lad we see in ENSIGN FLANDRY and A CIRCUS OF HELLS. And what you say about Flandry's agnostic prayer before the body of Kossara Vymezal also makes sense. He seems to come close to at least WISHING he believed in God's existence.

    I'm reminded of how, as a Catholic, I believe there are times when God or some of His saints does speak to or appear to various persons. The story of St. Thomas Aquinas being granted a vision of Our Lord being one example. Others being the apparitions of the BVM at Lourdes or Fatima.

    Getting back to Poul Anderson, my view is that here and there in his later works, you can find texts that makes me wonder if he at least WISHED he could believe in God. An example being Anderson's poem "Prayer in War," which can be found in both ORION SHALL RISE and STAVES.

    Sean

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