Tuesday, 27 May 2014
Flandry's Prayer II
"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 (Riverdale, NY, 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.