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A synchronicity Mr. Moorcock might like...

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  • A synchronicity Mr. Moorcock might like...

    If you havent come across it yourself, that is.

    First, however, my dear Michael Moorcock, I'd like to share something with you that any author would probably be pleased to know.

    Starting last fall, I set myself the task of reading, consecutively, the entire Eternal Champion canon, starting with Erekose, then the von Beks, Elric, Hawkmoon, and Corum. I also included the Jerry Cornelius novels and the End of Time stories through "Messiah" on the suposition (based on hints of yours and things like "Elric at the End of Time" and confirmed in the event) that they, too, are part of the same conception. I finished yesterday-- well, not quite,-- since there is still a third to come after the Skraling Tree, is there not?

    As a devoted reader of romance and as a philosopher, it has, sir, been a marvelous experience, a great pleasure and a source of many deep and fruitful meditations to wander for almost a year among the branes of your vast conception, and I congratulate you upon the depth and, if I may say, the wisdom of your work.

    I recommend this experience to any or your fans. It is well worth the effort and persistance involved.

    Now, for the synchronicity:

    I do a little writing of my own for a private readership maintained on the internet, and I wove into one of my stories a German warrior who must come to terms with the Nazi experience. Somewhat impishly (and I hope you will forgive me), I named him Heros von Beck. (He was named for his great uncle on his mother's side-- Heros von Borcke, who rode with Jeb Stuart in the American Civil War). Now, it turns out that he is a member of one of those far flung German military clans. The von Becks are Prussians (Heros' ancestor rode with Seydlitz) and another branch of the family, the Becks, are Bavarians-- a General of this line who opposed Hitler was discredited on trumped up charges of immorality in the late thirties, allowing Hitler to solidify his control over the army (this is historical fact). And, then of course, there is that odd Saxon branch of the clan....

    But, to the point. In the midst of all this, something tugged at the back of my mind, and sure enough, when I checked it out I found the synchronicity that, if you are not yet aware of it, I am sure you will appreciate:

    the German noun DAS BECKEN-- has three meanings:

    1. A bowl or cauldron
    2. The human pelvis
    3. A valley

    With regard to (2) I remind you of the obvious feminine symbolism of the Chalice, and as for (3), of course one of the suggested etymologies of Parsival is "Pars e Val"-- that which moves through the center of the Valley, i.e. the Cosmic Balance.

    Before I sign off, I have a two questions and a comment.

    The questions are:
    1. You are-- famously-- a critic of Tolkien. Are you familiar with the works of Eric Eddison, whom Tolkien admired as a writer but despised as a philosopher? One reason I ask is that Eddison's Zimiamvian conception incoporates what we now call the Multiverse. Perhaps the tension between your ideas of alternate realities and Tolkien's exists in part because of Tolkien's rather unsophisticated view of Good and Evil-- this was doubltess what he found abhorrent in Eddision's writing.

    2. Are Una and Oona avatars of the same Dame of the Balance?

    The Comment--

    I am currently doing graduate work in comparative philosophy with an emphasis on Middle Eastern and South Asian studies. I was therefore greatly pleased to note that Oona studied in Marrakesh. For further research in this area, you might want to look into the philosopher Al-Suhrawardi. The reason I mention him is that he was the Near Eastern Philosopher who first articulated a theory of what we understand as the multiverse. It is called in Middle Eastern philosophy "Alam-al-Mithal", literally, the "Imaginal World" or the "World of Imaginations."

    Interestingly enough, Sci-Fi writer the late Frank Herbert used this term-- correctly-- to describe the field of infinite branching possibilities that his prophet Paul Maud-dib entered into to obtain his visions of the future.

    I've always wondered where Herbert came by the knowledge.

    My very best regards


  • #2
    Regarding Eddison: The Worm Ouroboros gets its own entry in "Fantasy: The 100 Best Books" by James Cawthorn and Michael Moorcock. Michael also praises it in "Wizardry and Wild Romance"; a new updated edition of it is now shipping from MonkeyBrain Books, and will be available at retail shops next month. It will also include an Introduction by China Miأ©ville ("Perdido Street Station") and an afterword by Jeff VanderMeer ("City of Saints and Angels").


    • #3
      To be sure, the Worm belongs among the 100 best.

      It is interesting to speculate whether the Ouroborous ring worn by Ulric von Bek is the selfsame one worn by both King Gorice XII of Witchland and Sir Edward Lessingham.

      Sadly out of print these days are the three volumes of Eddington's Zimiamvian trilogy. Readers of the 'Worm' will be familiar with Lessingham, whose night in the Lotus Room is the induction into the Romance. The greater trilogy concerns Lessingham, his alternate avatars King Mezentius and Duke Barganax and their ladies (including the "astounding" Fiorinda, one of the most soul-shaking women in all literature) and their dealings with all possible worlds-- which is the connection with the multiverse idea.

      There is considerable depth to the conception. Geopolitically, the alternate world of Zimiamvia is loosely based upon the struggles of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II von Hohenstauffen against the Popes in the 13th century CE. (Playfully, Eddision has Frederick be one of Lessignham's ancestors). This in turn connects it, through von Salza and the Teutonic Knights, to the Grail. There are other hints of these matters to the discerning throughout the novels.

      Eddison's battle-prose is especially fine, as readers of the "Worm" will know. If you liked the battles in that book, try to find a used copy of "Mistress of Mistresses." The Battle of the Ings of Lorkan is a "thumping good read", even if it is a replay of Cannae with Lessingham in the role of Hannibal.

      Eddison's prose is rich and baroque--James Stephens calls it a "..tremendous fifteenth or sixteenth century English which only he can handle". This can make him difficult of approach for modern readers-- probably one of the reasons why, except for the "Worm", he is hard to find.

      But if you liked the Worm Ouroborous, the other books-- "The Mezentian Gate", "A Fish Dinner in Memison" and "Mistress of Mistresses" are well worth a search in the stalls of the used book stores.

      And if you havent read the "Worm" itself, and like battles fought by villians at least as magnificent as the heroes they oppose, magick, and the greatest epic of mountain climbing in the literature of Romance(the ascent of Koshtra Belorn-- it makes Gandalf's attempted passage of the Redhorn Gate look like an afternoon stroll), then start with that.


      • #4
        I must admit that I have yet to read The Worm Ouroboros. I've got the Fantasy Masterworks edition, but I prefer to tackle the language with the 1991 Ballantine edition with the annotation from Paul Edmond Thomas. I actually once ordered it from but it never arrived. I might try again when it becomes available. Luckily, I've managed to get the annotated Zimamvia trilogy from eBay. Yes, sadly it's out of print.

        By the way, the original title is"Ouroboros" but I've seen "Ouroborous" (with "ou") in several places, including Moorcock. I wonder where does this difference stem from? Is it because "ou" in French in the equivalent of the English "u"?




        • #5
          Hi Oren

          I'm not a Greek scholar, but I understand that "ouroboros" means "eating its own tail." A direct transliteration, letter by letter, of the original Greek would give a spelling of "ouroboros."

          The symbol first seems to have appeared in the West as part of the Greek-Egyptian fusion presided over by the Ptolemies. There is an image dating from the time of Cleopatra which shows the snake eating its tail, surrounding an inscription in Greek which reads "The All is One."

          In its symbolic context, the Snake symbolizes Time,the Feminine, and Ressurection and Renewal. A collateral symbol is the moon. Both the moon and the snake shed their skins, and women and the moon run through their cycle in the same period (pun intended). The Snake eating its own tail thus symbolizes cyclical time or what Nietzsche called the Eternal Return.

          Without giving the plot away, this is explicitly worked out in the "Worm Ouroborous."

          The idea also appears in Moorcock's works. For example, the Eternal Champion Erekose begins as John Daker, then aids the Eldren race and, along with one of the von Beks, allows them to escape to a new world by means of freeing the Dragon in the Sword. This seems to be happening in Daker's "future". The Eldren then slowly evolve into the Melniboneans, make their pacts with the Lords of Chaos and establish the Bright Empire. Finally, with the aid of Elric, who adopts "human" virtues, they are overthrown by the humans of the young kingdoms. This seems to be happening in Daker's "past"-- thus closing the circle. Destiny is balanced in this cycle, because, with the aid of a human Champion (Erekose), the Eldren/Meliniboneans destroy humanity, and with the aid of an Eldren/Melnibonean Champion (Elric) humanity destroys the Eldern/Melniboneans. The Branes of the multiverse often close back open themselves in this way, and that is one of the things the symbol of the Ouroboros symbolizes. The particular form of time represented by the Elric/Erekose business is symbolized by the two snakes in the Caduceus-- also an Egyptian-Greek symbol.

          Two other examples:
          If the snake represents Time, then the Spider represents Space-- the symbolism is derived from the Spider's web(for example, the Navajo Spider Woman). Fritz Lieber plays on this opposition (and complementarity) in his Changewar series, where the two opposing Powers who wage war through Time are the Snakes and Spiders. He draws attention in one story (I forget its name) to how all games are either snake games (Parchesi, monopoly, and all card games) or spider games (chess, checkers, go). But then there is Snakes and Ladders from India which is both.

          But what about computer games?

          Second Example
          In the (now) old movie Conan, the Ouroboros symbol appears on the wall behind the mummified (Atlantean) king from which Arnold/Conan gets his sword. Thus Arnold/Conan is identified as a Hero of Oroboros or, in Moorcock's terms, a Knight of the Balance. This symbolism is worked out in the Standard of Thulsa Doom, whom Conan opposes-- "Black Moon, Black Sun, two snakes, coming together, facing one another!" as he tells the Wolf Woman. Thulsa Doom's standard symbolizes the two Forces (Order and Chaos) not in harmony, as they are in the Oroboros ("The All is One") but facing each other in opposition. Thus Thulsa Doom represents the destructive (to mortals) conflict of the two essential forces. Conan's task is to defeat him with the Atlantean sword of the Oroboros and thus bring about harmony.

          To the champion of Order, Time appears chaotic, because it screws up arrangements that are designed to Last -- forever if possible (Gaynor seeks Eternity, failing that, he seeks oblivion, which is much the same thng). Time leads to death, in other words, and Order fears Death. But that means (the point of view of Chaos) that Order also fears Life-- and so fears creativity (that's the lesson of the snake and the moon). Thus, Order is associated with Space, Chaos with Time. In the Western tradition, the Philosopher who understood this best is Oswald Spengler, but he built upon the work of Nietzsche and Goethe (Goethe was one of the stongest inspirations of Rudolf Steiner, whose ideas influenced Mr. Moorcock through his early education). It was Kant, of course, who identified Space and Time as being within us rather than (or as much as) being in the world. Thus, the opposition of Order and Chaos lives incorrigably within each one of us.

          That is why Thulsa Doom says to Conan, "I am the wellspring from which you flow."


          PS If, by and large, the Snake and the Moon represent Chaos and Time, then the Sun and the Eagle represent Order and Space (the Sun, unlike the moon, is constant and unchanging; when he soars, the Eagle sees all the earth at once). So the Eagle has always been the totem of powers who attempt to control all space through the Order of Empire (note also the Spider symbolism of the Roman Roads).


          • #6
            Herbert, as I recall, based much of Dune on the history of Islam, so it isn't surprising he used a term derived from an Islamic scholar. What many people don't know, even now, is that there is a pretty rich history of 'Arab' fantasy, not least, of course, the Arabian Nights sequence.
            Yes, I praise Eddison quite a bit in W&WR. I think he's more substantial than Tolkien, perhaps more original, but the core of Tolkien's appeal, in my view, is the tone of his prose, which, as I say in W&WR echoes that of the nursery -- and as such is far more within the tradition of juvenile fantasy than adult. Sadly, I learn, most of the classic fantasy done in the Fantasy Masterworks series has not done well. Only the idealism of Jo Fletcher and Malcolm Edwards has put many of those books back into print. Certainly they aren't driven by the usual crass commercial motives you find amongst big publishers, these days. I'm not sure of the chances of the three books being reprinted, at least in a good, affordable edition.
            In a sense we have Tolkien to thank for at least some of the lesser known pre-Tolkien work becoming available again. Yet why does nobody reprint Charles Williams ? Could it be that his books just aren't accessible to those who need a more comforting tone to lure them in ?
            Sorry this is brief. Still racing for that deadline. The book could be said to touch on some of the stimulating ideas from contributors to this page!
            Since it will almost certainly be the last fantasy novel in the EC sequence I'll write, I'll be curious to know what you think of it.
            Amd you're right Timur. I'm more than flattered. I'm also enjoying your contributions in general. I hope to spend a little more time on those
            ideas when I have The White Wolf's Son finished. Oh, and look out for
            Jack D'Acre, pards..

            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
            The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
            Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds

            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
            The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
            Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses


            • #7
              Thanks for the fascinating article Timur! I'll have food for thought now for the rest of the day, at least!

              I must say I'm very excited about The White Wolf's Son, especially after the success of the last two volumes. I assume we will see another great Gould cover for it? Is there a rough publication date?

              As a reminder, Mistress of Mistresses, the first volume of the Zimiamvia trilogy, is available as volume 21 in the admirable Fantasy Masterworks series.


              • #8
                Yes, Oren, Gould's doing the cover. As usual he will match his symbolism and imagery to the book's, a sort of reverse design to the first one. I love the way he produces covers to form tryptichs.

                Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds

                Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses


                • #9
                  Part of synchronicity is created by the minds subconscious articulation of things we do not know that become conscious things we do know over time.

                  Gods Channel is more than just this alone for it involves directions to places and objects never seen through the vast electrical connections of the human mind and minds beneath the earths magnetic field which acts like a containment system for such idears.

                  I'm a self made authority on the subject of synchronicity and channels of destiny.

                  May I guide you to this thread :

                  All the best,