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Providence as a Chrons Thematic
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PostPosted: Sat May 20, 2017 3:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wosbald wrote:

I believe that I already made myself clear in agreeing with WF that Providence is formally indistinguishable from Luck.


Really? You think this has been clear? Perhaps we've been speaking around each other. I've been talking about Providence in terms of "luck" since we discussed it in 2015.

I think I was confused because you agreed with a post that said this (above):

Quote:
Providence is both divine and mundane. "I am the help God sent you." The mundane form it takes - the arrival of a new ally, the sudden calamity that strikes your foe, the coincidence of something being where it's needed - is only one aspect of it. It's up to each person to decide what that means. Is it random luck? Or is it the hand of fate? Or is it the will of the Creator? Only your own brand of religiosity will determine how you view it. But one thing for sure is God doesn't send lightning bolts from heaven - he works in other ways. He does not, as we say, reach directly through the Arch. God's help may be indistinguishable from a crew of Giant sailors catching up with you at the door of Mount Thunder.


Luck isn't divine. Luck isn't the help God sends. Luck isn't the hand of fate or the will of the Creator. Luck isn't up to your own brand of religiosity to decide. Luck is chance.

It is not clear at all where the conversation has shifted from your original formulation, where Providence was divine intervention which rescues Linden from her mistakes, the ever-presence of the Creator within the story (despite his apparent absence), acting through natural causes to bring good from evil.

But I'm glad you've finally come around to seeing it as nothing more than luck. We could have saved dozens of posts worth of debating if you'd said this clearly two years ago when it was first mentioned. I had no idea.
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Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do–back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Sat May 20, 2017 5:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

In order to facilitate the convo (assuming that there's anything more to say, WF pretty much having summated the whole shebang, IMO) , it may help to lay out some of the possible responses to SRD's text which this thread has provoked:


  • Affirmation of both 1) Luck and 2) all of the wonders being "wrought by the characters themselves". This option seems problematic.


  • Interpretation of SRD's text-in-question as being "betimes Providence/Luck works some wonder to redeem us". This option seems the most defensible. The characters make (and keep making) their decision as to whether events are either Providence or Luck. The audience is invited to do the same. As a living, existential decision, it is a journey — a Way — rather than a destination. Nothing seems to indicate that the characters are irrevocably locked into their decisions.


  • The "Providence/Luck Constellation" is adjudged a narratively useless appendage capriciously thrown out by SRD; a cheap device which only distracts from all of the characters working their own wonders. This option would maintain the affirmation that "[a]ll of the wonders that are wrought in the Chronicles are wrought by the characters themselves", but it would seem to implicitly accuse SRD of manifest authorial crimes-against-Literature.

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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 12:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wosbald wrote:
Affirmation of both 1) Luck and 2) all of the wonders being "wrought by the characters themselves". This option seems problematic.
You don't give any indication that you're read my responses to this point. Why is it problematic that luck is involved in people making their own wonders? If you think WF has said everything there is to say on this subject, why do you ignore where he (and lots of other people have) said, "[L]uck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity"? You thought he made a good point. Why do you say it's problematic when I say it? People can be lucky while they create wonders. This is a fact, not a problem.

Wosbald wrote:
The characters make (and keep making) their decision as to whether events are either Providence or Luck.
Wait, you said the two are formally indistinguishable. How can you tell when the characters are doing this? Can you give text examples where they do this? Why should they decide, if the two options are indistinguishable?

Wosbald wrote:
The "Providence/Luck Constellation" is adjudged a narratively useless appendage capriciously thrown out by SRD; a cheap device which only distracts from all of the characters working their own wonders. This option would maintain the affirmation that "[a]ll of the wonders that are wrought in the Chronicles are wrought by the characters themselves", but it would seem to implicitly accuse SRD of manifest authorial crimes-against-Literature.
Is this a strawman version of my position? It's ridiculous. No one has ever said that it was useless, or a cheap device, or a distraction. If you admit that providence just means "luck" (in most of the uses), then there's no debate between us. The characters are making their own way in a universe that includes not only Banes, Worms, and Despisers, but also luck. I've been saying this from the beginning.
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Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do–back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 11:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

Zarathustra wrote:
… The characters are making their own way in a universe that includes not only Banes, Worms, and Despisers, but also luck. I've been saying this from the beginning.


Taking Luck (or Providence) and lumping it in along with Banes, Worms and Despisers seems, to me at least, like a category error, inasmuch as one can defeat/overcome Banes and whatnot. But how would one defeat Luck?

Does the story even portray Prov/Luck as being defeated? As something which could be — or which stands in need of being — overcome?

Or does it portray it as being "eventally" synchronous with Freewill?
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PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2017 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It turns out I am still thinking about this subject.

In White Gold Wielder was wrote:
"I should've understood," Covenant went on, addressing no one but the cold stars. "I should've given Seadreamer some kind of caamora. Should've found some way to save Bamako. Forget the risk. Mhoram took a terrible risk when he let me go. But anything worth saving won't be destroyed by choices like that."

Here is Covenant pronouncing his hard won wisdom on choices. If you are going to think about the role of Providence in the Chronicles, then this is the elephant in the room.

I get that this can be interpreted all kinds of ways, depending on a persons inclination. But it's clear that Donaldson is discussing something like Providence here. "Won't be destroyed" is very much an admission in a belief that something is guiding fate towards a specific conclusion, as long as you meet certain conditions.

One can wonder if these words are merely describing facts of reality. But I don't think there's any way to believe that taking risks with existence is guaranteed to work out okay.

A better question to wonder is whether or not Donaldson believes that this form of karma is true of all worlds, or if he's only making a case that it's true in the Land. As for me, I think that this is a Land-only thing. Time and again there have been indications that the Land exists for a purpose, to help Covenant (and Linden and Jeremiah) achieve a wholeness. If so, it makes perfect sense for the Land to reward choices conducive to wholeness - this would be built into its physics.

Donaldson doubles down on this position in the Last Chronicles. Berek speaks to Kevin:

In Against All Things Ending was wrote:
"Only the great of heart may despair greatly. You are loved and treasured, not for the outcome of your extremity, but rather for the open passion by which you were swayed to Desecration. That same quality warranted the Vow of the Haruchai. It was not false.

"Doubtless such passion may cause immeasurable pain. But it has not released the Despiser. It cannot. Mistaken though it may be, no act of love and horror - or indeed of self-repudiation - is potent to grant the Despiser his desires. He may be freed only by one who is compelled by rage, and contemptuous of consequence."

Here it is the Dead old Lords providing the wisdom. Again, you can interpret this in many ways. But the author is once again connecting choices with outcomes, and proclaiming that consequences are mitigated by the kind of choice.

It's possible, I supposed, to consider this a prophecy. Then, the statement about how Foul can be freed can be considered a contingent truth rather than a necessary truth. The problem with that, however, is that this prophecy was never fulfilled.

It seems to me that this admonition is a re-iteration of the earlier "choices like these" position. It's re-affirming the statement, and providing more details about it.

After all, it's a little ambiguous what "choices like these" refers to. Compassionate choices? Choices that choose the one over the many? Here, I let other statements in the Chronicles be my guide: I could think that he means choosing to stand up for what you believe in and being true to yourself. But then Kevin... Kevin chose despair, and his choice could not damn the world either.

What common theme is present between saving the rattlesnake-bitten girl, giving Seadreamer a caamora, and raising a Ritual of Desecration? Only that it is all done for Love. So that brings us back to Compassionate choices. When you are honestly motivated by love, then rage and contemptuousness are not part of the equation. But when you are motivated by Hate ... ah, then rage and comptemptuousness are part and parcel.

Nevertheless, regardless of what kind of choices you think Donaldson is talking about, it is certain that choices matter. And it is certain that he is saying that the Land's existence is assured as long as certain kinds of choices are made, and that the outcomes will never tip into fatality.

And that's a form of Providence. A negative form, if you will - preventing the bad rather than supplying the good, if you will. And, again, it's tied to choices - characters need to do their part before Providence will help them, and so the choices characters make still matter.
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PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2017 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wosbald wrote:
+JMJ+

Zarathustra wrote:
_ The characters are making their own way in a universe that includes not only Banes, Worms, and Despisers, but also luck. I've been saying this from the beginning.


Taking Luck (or Providence) and lumping it in along with Banes, Worms and Despisers seems, to me at least, like a category error, inasmuch as one can defeat/overcome Banes and whatnot. But how would one defeat Luck?


We're talking about "luck" as the literal meaning of the metaphor, providence. In that sense, it's good luck, rather than bad luck. Therefore, my statement above can be read as, "..a universe that includes not only bad stuff, but also good stuff." The Land's world contains not only obstacles, but also opportunities. This situation does not invalidate freewill or require external help from Creators.

WF, there's a much more natural and likely interpretation of Covenant's statement than providence (either kind, Divine or luck). In saying, "anything worth saving won't be destroyed by choices like that," he's not making a prediction about the hardiness of the Land and the impossibility of it being destroyed due to Providence "preferring" certain kinds of choices. Instead, he's making a value judgment: if saving the Land requires us to sacrifice innocent little girls, then perhaps the Land isn't worth saving. He's not talking about a guarantee that mitigates risking existence,* he's saying that if saving existence requires us to sacrifice little girls, then perhaps it's not a world we want to live in. He's talking about his own values, not Providence's.

Unlike your interpretation, that's a judgment that can be applied to both the fictional Land and our own world. It's a more universal, relevant point to both readers and characters alike. While Donaldson isn't writing to deliver a message or a sermon to readers, I don't think he'd waste time having characters wrestle with moral quandaries that are only relevant in make-believe worlds. That would be a futile passion. If the Land is the kind of place where its highest truths are merely narrative gimmicks, created only for fictitious depth, then this isn't a book worth reading. But even if we look at it solely in terms of the story itself, if there is some guarantee that everything will be okay if the characters make the right kind of choice, then not only is there no narrative tension, there is also no moral quandary in making those choices. Everything becomes unsuspenseful and uninteresting.

*[an interpretation which would be entirely incompatible with providence as luck ... we're back to Divine intervention, or at least Divine protectionism.]
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Meaning is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD

Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do–back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2017 1:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(Already regretting this.)

Zarathustra wrote:
if saving the Land requires us to sacrifice innocent little girls, then perhaps the Land isn't worth saving.

So you're saying that, after emerging from the Banefire, Covenant is admitting that the Land might not be worth saving after all?

And that what tests whether or not the Land is worth saving is whether or not it can withstand the existential risk of certain actions?

And what do we make of the statement that he should have taken more of those kinds of actions then? Does he believe the Land's worth should be tested further?

If this applies to our world as well, then is our world only worth saving if it doesn't require sacrifices we find personally repulsive?

Your welcome to your opinion. But this line of reasoning is horrifying to me.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 01, 2017 6:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Re: SRD's use of the word 'provident" and the like: this is in part him using that weird style he does where he takes a word with a relevant range of meanings and sets upon a sort of archaic one. It's like using the word "terrific" to mean "terrifying," i.e. technically correct but off-key, so to speak. So likewise when things provide for the characters in the Covenant series, once in a while the author sets upon the term "provident" re: the background word "provide."

Now he's self-conscious enough and all, I think, that he knows of the religious connotations historically tied to the word, for sure. So also on the other hand, though, I kinda want to call BS (forgive me SRD!) on his seeming assertion that he has adapted concepts like this to a nontheistic/nontranscendent metaphysics. When he has his characters do things like reconstruct time while becoming immortal quasi-ghosts and absorbing/merging with previously divine beings, sure, it could be taken all Pilgrim's Progress-like and probably ought to be at least on some level or another, but now... well... It's like his quasi-comparison of wild magic to the Third Person of the Trinity (that's in the GI IIRC???). As far as consensus Christianity goes (we'll call it?), the relationship with the Spirit described as "indwelling" is the most concrete relationship of active conjunction between one of the Persons of the Trinity and mortal agents. That is, the Son is also directly connected in the Atonement but our relation to the Atonement is more passive, I suppose. Something along those lines. Point is, Donaldson can say of, and maybe even believe, himself to be positing a non-transcendent transcendence, but I think that just doesn't make good sense, ultimately.

I mean okay, yeah, Covenant is never absolutely eternal. Even his eternal vantage as the Timewarden is not immutable. He himself is never immutable. Neither is he ever omniscient, he is not partless, he is not uncreated (although perhaps not created in the classical sense, either...), etc. Yet he acquires the power to deconstruct and reconstruct time itself. So...
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2017 12:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

Thanx for resurrecting this, Mig.

Your (seeming) assertion that SRD raises the spectre of concepts which don't make sense (i.e. create an ambiguous narrative tension) within the scope of a closed, totalistic systematic is, for me, the best evidence of the close consonance twixt SRD's literary vision and the oft-excruciatingly paradoxical demands imposed by submission to the Catholic way.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 03, 2017 2:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I suppose I'm saying that SRD might be trying to convert transcendent religious concepts into more humanistic/existentialist/what-have-you ones, but I think that any attempt to do so is going to end up with robustly transcendent religious concepts anyway, somewhere, like at the limit, if using wild magic is aesthetically congruent with being indwelt by the Spirit, then SRD is implicitly (if contrary to his stated intentions?) re-coding the problem of transcendence with a classical religious solution, only the emphasis is romanticized, as it were (in the sense of individualistic romanticism).

Now the Catholic intelligentsia (if you will) have faced the same problem for all the long ages of theology, since the doctrine of the Incarnation requires a way to divinize a man without actually having the man, as a man, be divine.* By approaching the problem from a theological angle, of course, they come to a more explicitly paradoxical conclusion, maybe (or: the irony is that the author, SRD, who is obsessed with the concept of white gold's paradoxical power, is less aware of the paradox?).

*EDIT: By extension, acutely in the Catholic context, this understanding has to be framed with reference to the further question regarding another human mortal's special exaltation, namely Mary's. The desideratum for the whole theory is that Mary has to be fixed, ontologically, above the angels but below Jesus Christ, Who as a man is below Himself as God. The "trick" is to define Mary's position in the order of grace so that she is not rendered equivalent to the Incarnation, which turns upon the means of the Incarnation. Now, effectively, Catholic Mariology is para-Nestorian, if you will, which is to say two persons in two natures (the Spirit being the other Person, here). Yet Christ as a man was also indwelt, to infinity, by the Spirit. And Christ indwells the faithful, who are indwelt by the Spirit, which is therefore in them twice (in themselves and in Christ in them). For all that, the relationship is personal more than physical, of course. So, though, then, Catholicism comes to personalism which ought to be SRD's solution to the issue, too.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 03, 2017 5:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It seems to me that the Chronicles are, if anything, mundane solutions to theological questions. Which usually have theological solutions. Hence, they are an offer of a mundane alternative to theological solutions. (E.g. well-being comes from self-knowledge rather than divine illumination.)

Given that as a framework, you can't say there's no theology in it, in fact theology is sort of an elephant in the room. Think of it this way: you can't teach someone to get down from an elephant without an elephant being in the room at some point.

I'll go one step further. By its very nature, such a Chronicles could not be anything but confused and conflated with the reader's religious assumptions. Such assumptions are, by their very nature, ingrained to the point of invisibility. So: where one reader wonders why something happened, and looks to the author for an explanation, another reader assumes the hand of God, does not question, and soon forgets there even was a question.

So here we are, arguing about Providence. Some readers see it, presume it. Others look to the author to explain, or fail to explain, the seemingly provident event. But the author doesn't care - his goal is to explain how to respond to any providence you happen to get.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Although I have good-posted your post, wf, I do have one question to raise: is there a narrative problem, then, in the representation of the solution to the problem of the Worm?

To be sure, the climactic showdowns in the other two sets of Covenant books, were much more acutely... psychological? It always gets me that SRD packed like 3 or 4 or 5 pages into the three heartbeats it took for Covenant to hand over the ring to Foul. Like, I like that scene so much, and it disheartens me that Covenant's fusion with Foul doesn't have the same gravitas to it. It just happens, Linden actually quasi-breaks the 4th wall by pointing out what the readers are thinking, to wit, "I don't know what it means," or whatever, and then... zam! World saved, by "glory," or the fire thereof, and the characters who do this are exalted, and so... maybe... this is where SRD messed up? By using power as the measure of triumph?

Recall how the third one-on-one with Foul is described in such terms, as turning on physical force so much. I think Covenant even internally contrasts this with his prior showdowns as such, but anyway the thing is that the outcome of such a description, if you will, has to just be the vague postulate of "oh and the three of them are half-gods/goddesses now so together they're like 1.5 deities, more than enough to zap a world back into existence, hoorah!" and, so, yeah.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mighara Sovmadhi wrote:
To be sure, the climactic showdowns in the other two sets of Covenant books, were much more acutely... psychological?

Agreed. I hesitate to say it's a narrative problem, but it is a sore point with me. (I have been writing up something in this regard, but I always lack the time. However, I feel that the point of my soreness arises not from a lack of gravitas, but rather from the authors desire to not spell things out so thoroughly.)
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2017 1:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reading through the thread, and also recalling the point I made earlier in this discussion, the question seems to me to boil down to the following alternative possibilities:

1. By refusing to submit to despair and by continuing (or learning) to believe in their capacity to make choices that matter, the central characters are able to make choices that matter at the crucial junctures, and it is these choices alone that make the difference.

2. By refusing to submit to despair and by continuing (or learning) to believe in their capacity to make choices that matter, the central characters elicit something ineffable in the universe of the Chronicles that synergises with the choices they make at the crucial junctures to produce good outcomes. This "something ineffable" is what some have called providence and others have called luck during the course of this discussion.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2017 1:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That was well said, Dr P.

My response would be to say that I believe the author intends both, and that they are inextricably linked. Neither the choices, nor the providence that they elicit, are sufficient "alone". They are equally necessary.

"Betimes some wonder" is as much about making the right choice as it is about providence. "Choices like that" is as much about eliciting providence as it is about choosing.

Consider your #2. If this were true, this would be saying that the outcome didn't actually depend on Covenant or Linden growing and self-integrating. And your #1 implies that the people and beauty of the Land didn't actually contribute to its own existence. These things would be merely gears which drive something else, not important for what they are, but only for what they elicit. They would be like the bowling ball and the swinging axe in the mouse trap - a means to an end only.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmm, maybe (3), if there was a (3) there, would be my reply... that is, it would seem as if providence exists within the characters themselves, is the power they wield itself.

Let's suppose that the Land's Earth, whatever/wherever it is in one sense, in an original one existed in the mind of the old man in the ochre robe. He was, relative to the Land, a temporal outsider. What explains his presence to Linden is that he needs to introduce her to the world in his mind, as he did with Covenant before. Jeremiah would not be able to receive information (at least not in an obviously easy way) if he were to appear and it is irrelevant for him to "warn" Linden, since the simple fact is that the mere involvement of Land problems, in her life, at all, spells crisis for her, so it's her choice whether to stay or go, but so anyway, the supposed spoiler we were told of would have been: the "Creator" isn't there, because he managed to transfer the meme (you might say) of the Land, to two other people, one of whom is still alive, the other being fused with the fabric of time in the Land, so that these characters, between the two of them, have power outside of time over the Land, namely the power to control the order of time for the sake of their values (providence, in other words). Had we known all along that Covenant and Linden were, subconsciously even so, able to guarantee their triumph in this way, perhaps that would have been a spoiler...? IDK, but so anyway, (3) also means that SRD tries to describe an existentialist transcendence but, because he invests so much in the time-powers of the core protagonists, ends up with a concept that, if rendered consistently, naturally evolves/transforms into a concept like the indwelling of the Spirit of God and the like.

EDIT: Also, if Foul and the Creator are one, then the weakness of Foul, physically speaking, would preclude the Creator/ochre-robed man from being able to appear to people in normal physical reality, eh? That is, in the first series Foul is physically strong and so the Creator is able to manifest as a robust old man, but in the second series Foul has been depleted and is only resuscitated through the Earthpower, so... Lastly, Foul does nothing more than whisper here and there until the end, more or less, and so(!)...
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mighara Sovmadhi wrote:
...I kinda want to call BS (forgive me SRD!) on his seeming assertion that he has adapted concepts like this to a nontheistic/nontranscendent metaphysics. ... It's like his quasi-comparison of wild magic to the Third Person of the Trinity (that's in the GI IIRC???). As far as consensus Christianity goes (we'll call it?), the relationship with the Spirit described as "indwelling" is the most concrete relationship of active conjunction between one of the Persons of the Trinity and mortal agents.
You're taking the Trinity comparison way too literally, I believe. Wild magic isn't similar to the Holy Ghost due to its transcendence of the natural to the supernatural, so there is no need to reconcile an "indwelling" miracle within the mortal/mundane in this case. Wild magic is entirely natural, i.e. "[Covenant's] own personal power to assign meaning to his life and experiences." The identity Mhoram made with, "... you are the white gold," was a way to say that this is a capacity of Covenant himself, certainly not an identification with a transcendent being (who has the capacity originally, merely "loaning" it while Covenant is mortal and they are united).

Here's what Donaldson said:

Quote:
Mark Jeffrey:__Mr. D.,

There seems to be a lot of themes of 'shared identity' throughout the series -- "You are the white gold"; Foul is Covenant's dark side, the side that despises himself. Foul is also the "brother" of the Creator. So, in a sense, they are all really One. This seems to be a rather gnostic or buddhist viewpoint (though i hate to label it like that) and the idea of these identities being separate is actually an illusion of the material world. Would say this is right, or rather your intent? And were these philosophical traditions the ones you drew on in constructing your mythos?

If anything, the tradition I was drawing on was Christian (because of my background in fundamentalist Christianity, not because I am in any useful sense a believer): the Trinity, God in Three Persons. Except I obviously wasn't thinking of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. More like Creator, Destroyer, and Holy Ghost (wild magic). Or Creator, Destroyer, and--what shall we call Covenant as the protagonist of the drama?--Acolyte. But you're quite right about the "shared identity" theme. I was explicitly thinking of the Creator, the Despiser, and wild magic as aspects of Covenant himself. And the part of himself which he denies--wild magic, his own personal power to assign meaning to his life and experiences--is the part which must mediate his internal conflicts (the struggle between the creative and destructive sides of his nature). Hence the thematic development from the first to the second "Chronicles." ...

My general view of the kind of fantasy I write is that it's a specialized form of psychodrama. Putting the issue as simply as I can: the story is a human mind turned inside out, and all of the internal forces which drive that mind are dramatized *as if* they were external characters, places, and events. This is easier to see in the first "Chronicles" because the story is simpler: the Land and everyone in it is an external manifestation of Covenant's internal journey/struggle. Everything is more complex in "The Second Chronicles" because there are *two* minds being turned inside out. Which means that there are actually three stories at work: Covenant's, Linden's, and the interaction between the two.

...

(04/27/2004)
Donaldson was only making this comparison to counter the claim that "shared identity" implies a Buddhist concept (as the question suggests). He admits that he wasn't thinking in terms of the Trinity when he thought of Creator/Despiser/Covenant. In fact, wild magic is only comparable to Holy Ghost because white gold = Covenant. Therefore, Covenant himself = Holy Ghost in that comparison. Is Covenant "indwelling" within himself? That's not a shared identity, much less a transcendent one.

Wayfriend wrote:

Zarathustra wrote:

if saving the Land requires us to sacrifice innocent little girls, then perhaps the Land isn't worth saving.


So you're saying that, after emerging from the Banefire, Covenant is admitting that the Land might not be worth saving after all?
I'm absolutely not saying that. Covenant was talking about Mhoram letting him go back to his own world to save the little girl. He says that Mhoram "took a terrible risk." What risk? The Land being destroyed. (If Covenant were talking about Providence guaranteeing the Land wouldn't be destroyed given the "right" choices, then there would be no risk.) I'm merely saying that Covenant's values are consistent with a place that is ostensibly as good as the Land. If the Land is worth saving, it's because it is the kind of place that can be risked in order to do the right thing. Its value is not contradicted in saving the little girl, it is in fact upheld.

Wayfriend wrote:

If this applies to our world as well, then is our world only worth saving if it doesn't require sacrifices we find personally repulsive?

Your welcome to your opinion. But this line of reasoning is horrifying to me.
No, that's not how my interpretation applies to our world. It applies to our world because we can similarly ask ourselves questions like, "Do we really want to live in an America that tortures prisoners?" Some people (i.e. on my side of the political divide) would have us believe that we risk our nation by refusing to torture terrorists, while others insist that America can't be destroyed by such choices--indeed, they insist that if we succumb to such temptation, we cease to be America, i.e. we cease to be a place worth saving.

This horrifies you? I honestly thought it would appeal to you. Personally, I'm a pragmatist, not an idealist. I'm also a moral relativist, so I do not think repulsive sacrifices are too high a price to pay to save us (either the world or our country). But I do not think either Donaldson or Covenant would agree with me. It's odd that you an I agree on such a point, huh? Unless, as I suspect, you've misunderstood me (and Covenant and Donaldson).

Covenant's point is like a foreshadow of the point 2nd Chronicles shift from a reality question to a moral question. Both he and Mhoram have suspended the question of the Land's existence (or its destruction) for the question of doing the right thing. This isn't to judge the land as "not worth saving," no more than one would think one's life is worthless if he/she risked it to save someone else.
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Meaning is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD

Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do–back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mighara Sovmadhi wrote:
Hmm, maybe (3), if there was a (3) there, would be my reply... that is, it would seem as if providence exists within the characters themselves, is the power they wield itself.

That's an interesting idea. Perhaps the impetus that produces "some wonder" arises not from the Land but from the outsiders. It's possible, but it sits uncomfortably with me. For one, it precludes providence for the people of the Land while Covenant isn't around. But we have the story of Berek, which seems like providence to me.

Mighara Sovmadhi wrote:
That is, in the first series Foul is physically strong and so the Creator is able to manifest as a robust old man, but in the second series Foul has been depleted and is only resuscitated through the Earthpower, so... Lastly, Foul does nothing more than whisper here and there until the end, more or less, and so(!)...

I for one believe that the old man's nature depends on the test he is giving, which depends on whom he is testing, and why. Which unfortunately precludes your idea.

Wayfriend, elsewhere, wrote:
The old man in the ochre robe tests Linden, as he had Covenant, before she goes to the Land. Donaldson creates an obvious parallel story line, and this invites us to consider it. There are two [protagonists] now, both chosen by the old man, and Donaldson would have us compare and contrast Linden and Thomas.

Linden's test involved her dedication to healing in the face of that which is repulsive to her. The old man's mouth was "foul, cankerous, and vile", a precursor of the Sunbane that she would face in the Land. And she was required to put her mouth to his, breathe his breath - she needed to take that repulsiveness inside herself in an intimate way, as she would the Sunbane. She proved she could, and passed the test. And Donaldson establishes that Linden's ability to open herself to that which is repulsive is of paramount importance.

Was Covenant tested by the old man as well? Then, he merely had a bowl, and a sign that said, "Give." If we wonder about how this relates to something about Covenant's struggles in the Land, it seems that we can find something. Covenant's test was whether or not he had left any compassion for others, in spite of having become a pariah and being frought with loneliness and rejection and despair. (This was why the old man returned Covenant's ring: he wasn't seeking a gift, he was seeking the capacity to give.) Donaldson establishes that Covenant's ability to rise above his despair and act out of a concern for others is of paramount importance.

And so we can find that the old man's tests are consistently predictive of each [protagonists'] emotional journey in the Land. Each probes a questionable aspect of their character. Each discovers that this aspect is indeed strong. And each in some way encapsulates the tests that they will undergo in the Land.

By viewing these tests as parallel and corresponding, we can see deeper into the author's intention.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Land is like a character. It suffers. It engenders reader sympathy. Over and over we're given reasons to think it is more than just "scenery," more than an object. It is viewed as worthy of a respect that transcends objectification. Perhaps this is because the Land is Covenant's own "mental" stage, the context that makes possible his confrontation with parts of himself. The Land is Covenant, too.

The Land responding to Berek via the Fire Lions doesn't require providence, on this interpretation, no more than one part of Covenant responding to another part of Covenant. Also, if Fire Lions are agents in their own right, conscious entities that can make decisions rather than merely "forces of nature" which must be motivated/moved by transcendental forces outside of the Land, then this also argues against providence.

Really, the fact that the Creator can't interfere with the internal workings of his own creation is all the proof we need that providence isn't an active force in this story. Donaldson set up the rules from the beginning: characters are going to save themselves. No help from the outside. In fact, even if the Creator could interfere, we know from Donaldson himself that the Creator is just another aspect of Covenant! So all the possible sources of "providence" circle back to a single mundane source. The only reason any of this seems magical is pure symbolism--a consequence of the genre, i.e. the fact that Donaldson is exploring "what it means to be human" in the context of metaphors of "monsters and magic," in his own words. The supernatural bits are all metaphors pointing back to human truths.

Looking for providence in any other sense than the character perspective entirely misses the point of this series. I can't believe it's not clear by now, that there is still debate on the matter.
_________________
Meaning is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD

Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do–back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 1:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some of us are just too thick to get it, I guess. And too unsophisticated to stop discussing it when it is so clearly resolved.

How can you demonstrate the power of choice if you do not measure it against the unexpected? How can the unexpected be a fair measure if it is only ever disasterous? What is hope if all depends on choice alone?
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