Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Fantastic Reflections

Are you impressed or inspired by the contents of this blog? I am and I'm writing it. However, remember that I am not creating these contents, merely quoting them from the works of Poul Anderson and comparable authors.

Friedrick Engels wrote:

"All religion, however, is nothing but the fantastic reflection in men’s minds of those external forces which control their daily life, a reflection in which the terrestrial forces assume the form of supernatural forces."
-copied from here.

I would say "Much religion...," not "All religion..." Another fantastic reflection is imaginative fiction. I have discussed certain works of fiction and have sometimes also referred to current affairs. Now let us see how the former reflect the latter:

in Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys, The Gods Themselves are troubled because the heavens have moved (see here) and the rulers of the city of Ys must prepare for the withdrawal of their Gods, which will mean the flooding of their city;

in Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword, ravens hover, gods stoop, the world trembles and "'The gods themselves are troubled...'" (p. 84);

in James Blish's Black Easter/The Day After Judgment, magicians and demons must cope with the death of God;

in Mike Carey's Lucifer, angels and demons must cope with the departure of God.

The common themes here are change, uncertainty and power vacuums on a supernatural level. And that is precisely what many of us are currently experiencing on the terrestrial level:

the UK has voted to leave the EU but the vote was close and there is uncertainty about the consequences;
other countries may follow;
the British Prime Minister has resigned and must be replaced both as PM and as Party Leader;
the Leader of the Opposition has been no confidenced by his colleagues and will be challenged for the Leadership;
most members of his Shadow Cabinet have resigned and had to be replaced (one of the replacements is the young, recently elected, Member of Parliament for Lancaster whom I met inspecting flood damage in the City last year);
Scottish constituencies voted to remain in the EU and now want a second referendum on their independence from the UK.

As I said, change, uncertainty and power vacuums - even including the flooding of a city.

16 comments:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    You beat me the criticism I was thinking about making of Engels remarks! I agree, much, not all religion, can be fantastic. Hardly necessary to elaborate!

    I would argue instead, that one thing to take away from James Blish's BLACK EASTER/THE DAY AFTER JUDGMENT was that both the magicians (white or black) and the demons were not sure God was actually dead.

    I certainly hope the UK survives the stress of leaving the failed EU! I have wondered how much longer a Greece resentful of German supervision will stay in the EU. And we are seeing demands in the Netherlands that the Dutch be asked if they wish to stay in the EU.

    I have seen speculations that Boris Johnson might replace David Cameron as Tory party leader and PM. And Labour is badly damaged because so many formerly rock hard pro Labour constituencies have voted to Leave the EU.

    The Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times!" comes to mind.

    Sean

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    1. Sean,
      Although political turmoil generates an exhilarating sense of living in interesting times (as you have said and I have thought), I cannot say the same for the wave of racist attacks across Britain that have been unleashed by the Leave vote. Two of my correspondents have compared the present situation to pre-WWII Germany.
      Paul.

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    2. Kaor, Paul!

      I don't understand the bit about "racism." The Poles, for instance, certainly don't stand out physically from other white Britons.

      And while I agree it's wrong to attack anyone for such trivial, unimportant things as skin color or whatever, I don't think the anger we are seeing in both the UK and US about immigration is entirely wrong or unfounded. The point many are trying to make is that it is not good to have unrestricted, out of control immigration and that it needs to be brought under control.

      This anger is also being fueled by Muslim fanaticism and terrorism. The sense many ordinary people are getting is that their leaders either don't care about the risks of letting in huge numbers of people following an alien religion whose ideas clash with those of the Christian West or actually favor them.

      And we KNOW fanatical Muslim terrorist organizations like the Islamic State have been exporting thousands of agents to set up cells and begin practicing terrorism. To say nothing of lone wolf attacks by fanatics declaring their allegiance to ISIS (as happened with the Orlando massacre). And the massacre at the Constantinople airport by probable agents of ISIS also comes to mind.

      I'm sorry, but as a religion I don't like Islam. Setting aside my more directly theological objections to Islam, I dislike it because it's a quasi-totalitarian ideology believing in merging mosque and state into a theocratic regime based on Sharia law.

      Let's get something else out of the way. I do NOT in the least believe all Muslims are murderous fanatics, but too many are. Because the ideas and teachings of Islam permits, urges, and encourages such fanaticism. You need only need a minority of Muslims acting on these ideas to cause infinite chaos.

      Nor do I agree our times are much like those of Pre-WW II Germany.

      Sean

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    3. Sean,
      I've found it now. Your comment was on the blog, not on an email! And, yes, there are currently a lot of hard-working Polish immigrants (Sheila taught some of them English and they walked long distances to the classes; I worked alongside some in a temporary factory job I had) and they have been targeted for abuse.
      Paul.

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    4. Kaor, Paul!

      Glad that was cleared up. Yes, the impression I get is that Polish immigrants have been BENEFICIAL to the UK, both in what they do and the example they set. I have wondered if their work ethic makes some native Britons feel inferior. If so, that can too easily lead to violence against Poles.

      And, Polish immigrants seem to be REINVIGORATING British Catholicism. Which would be good for the Church.

      Sean

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    5. Sean,
      In Lancaster, we have not only the Catholic Cathedral (I have shown a picture) but also very near it a Polish language church with its own priest. Sheila taught English in the community center attached to the church. When I came to drive her home, I got speaking to a Polish man who wanted to refer to someone important and kept saying "the first person, the first person..." but he could see that I did not understand whom he meant. Then, because we were in a Catholic center, he was able to point at a picture of the Pope! The Religious Education Teacher in a local school asked his pupils to attend any church in walking distance from the school and write a report on it. First they would have come to the Cathedral or the Polish church. After that, there is quite a wide choice.
      Paul.

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    6. Kaor, Paul!

      First, I've forgotten Lancaster is the seat of a Catholic diocese. Which I'll look up!

      At first I thought the Polish gentleman you were speaking to had the Mayor of Lancaster in mind! (Smiles) But I can see why he had the pope in mind.

      I assume the Polish parish has Mass celebrated in Polish, naturally. And is it one of those churches which also celebrates the Holy Eucharist in Latin?

      I assume Lancaster has Jewish synagogues, Buddhist temples, Anglican churches (of course!), and maybe even Taoists?

      Sean

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    7. Sean,
      The Polish church has Mass in Polish although not in Latin. Despite being officially a city, Lancaster is small. It has a variety of churches and 2 mosques but nothing else. For synagogues or temples of various kinds, it is necessary to go to other nearby cities. Preston had a church, mosque and Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) side by side but the Gurdwara had to move to bigger premises. In Liverpool one evening, I walked past a parish church, a mosque, a Krishna Temple and a Latin Rite Catholic church. Leicester has the only Jain temple in the Western hemisphere.
      Paul.

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    8. Kaor, Paul!

      Welcome back from your safari to the wilds of London! (Smiles)

      I'm a bit surprised Lancaster is only a small city. I somehow expected it to be more like Birmingham.

      And the mention of Sikhs interest me, both because of how a Sikh Navy officer assumed temporary command of the Imperial force which defeated the Merseians at Starkad in ENSIGN FLANDRY and the Sikhs we see in S.M. Stirling's THE PESHAWAR LANCERS.

      Now that I think of it, I'm a bit surprised to recall almost no mention of either Latin or Syro-Malabar rite Catholics in Stirling's book. Aside from, of course, the French heir apparent to France-outre-mer.

      Sean

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    9. Sean,
      The "wide choice" of places of worship that I referred to in Lancaster just referred to Christian denominations.
      Paul.

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    10. Kaor, Paul!

      Understood. I've thought of Baptists, Methodists, various kinds of Pentecostals, etc. Maybe even some Eastern Orthodox?

      Sean

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  2. Sean,
    There are Eastern Orthodox at Lancaster University and in a nearby Lake District town.
    Paul.

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    1. Kaor, Paul!

      Thanks! From time to time I see you commenting about some of the more extreme Protestants you come across. Such persons often take a rigidly literal view of the Book of Genesis, deny evolution, believe in a Young Earth, believe in "Once Saved Always Saved," etc. Is that a fair summing up? Have you met such persons in Lancaster?

      Sean

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    2. Sean,
      Evangelicals address me on the street. I try to engage in dialogue but find that it is impossible. To them, the propositions "This person does not believe in the existence of the Biblical deity" and "This person has received but willfully rejected an offer of salvation from the Biblical deity" are the same proposition!
      Paul.

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    3. Sean,
      Yes. That is a fair summing up.
      Paul.

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    4. Kaor, Paul!

      I can see how the two propositions you mentioned are indeed different. Altho I certainly do believe in the Biblical Deity.

      I too have had my difficulties with "Evangelical" Protestants. To name a single point: many ignore or deny such FACTS as the Earth being about 4.5 billion years old, not a mere 7 or 8 thousand. They wave aside geological analyses of rocks from both Earth and the Moon showing how old these planets are.

      And "Evangelicals" don't seem able to understand the Catholic view that the Biblical texts can have more than one layer of meaning, such as allegory. I'm reminded of how, during the arguments revolving around Galileo, one impatient Cardinal (whose name I don't quite recall) said, "The Bible is about how to get to heaven, not how heaven was made." Which is another concept "Evangelicals" don't seem able to understand.

      To SORT of tie this in with some discussion of Poul Anderson, HE did seem to understand that the Bible can have more than one level or layer of meaning. And, agnostic tho he was for most of his life (I'm not sure he was still an agnostic in his later years), Anderson read the Bible seriously and with respect. Certainly far more so than many other SF writers.

      Sean

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