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I have written an e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which is free to anyone. To download that book, in several formats, go here.
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sunspots 631


Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:



Christianity: Relevant reports that Congressional Democrats gathered to pray for Representative Scalise after the Alexandria shooting.

Relevant also asks if we need to go to church every Sunday.

A Relevant commentator points out that the oft-given advice to "always believe in yourself," is not very good advice.

And, again, it's Relevant (and other sources) reporting on the Southern Baptist denunciation of racism, including the so-called alt-Right movement.



Computing: Wired reports that the U. S. Supreme Court has ruled, unanimously, that a person, even a sex offender, cannot be barred from having a Facebook account. Such a prohibition would violate his freedom of speech. (He can be barred from contacting minors, and from some other activities on-line.)

Health: You may remember the tricorders used for non-invasive medical diagnosis in Star Trek. Scientific American says that we are getting there, in developing such devices.

Listverse discusses 10 theories on why we dream.


History: Listverse tells us about 10 times when a contest was won by a single vote.


Politics: An analysis by FiveThirtyEight indicates that President Trump's win, and his rhetoric, have made Europe less nationalistic -- politicians praised by Mr. Trump have lost ground in polls and in votes.

(sort of) A photo of Paul Ryan, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi, smiling together at the recent congressional baseball game.


Science: Scientific American reports that we have discovered 69 moons that orbit Jupiter.

Scientific American also has an essay on why fathers downplay their expression of feelings for their children.


Image source (public domain)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 53

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of the result of living by "Convictions from Above" continues:

Duty Becomes a Pleasure. Though the feelings may at first shrink back from some of the leadings of the Holy Spirit, yet if compelled to yield, like conquered children, they will soon dry their tears and be inexpressibly glad under the right decisions of the will. Who has not wept for grief at some summons from above, and then a little later been thrilled with joy over the same guidance. For of such God says: "I will turn their mourning into joy and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow." Men weep when God takes away their coppers, but rejoice when they see that He only did this that He might replace them with rubies.

God never impresses us to give up a Benjamin but He gives us a Joseph, the corn of His kingdom, and Benjamin back again, or something better.

There will be Seasons of Severe Temptation.
Satan will not allow God's life plan for His children to be executed without doing all in his power to thwart it. To accomplish this purpose he will come in thousands of artful and seemingly innocent ways, as well as by open and direct assault. So the Christian's only safety is to "watch and pray," lest temptation be fallen into.

The Bible will be Revered and its Teachings Obeyed. The Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible, and a part of His work is to explain and apply its teachings. Hence He never leads to a course which it condemns, but always in harmony with its instructions. Therefore, all who are fully led by Him will shape their acts according to the teachings of the Word, and their lives, like that of Jesus, will be a fulfillment of the principles of Holy Writ. They realize that all impressions which clash with the Word are wrong and steadfastly resist them.

God Cares for the Consequences. When God's leadings are rightly followed He takes all the responsibility of the results. We march around Jericho, He levels its walls.


Excerpted from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Trusting God when circumstances seem difficult


Biblical examples of trusting God when circumstances seemed difficult:

The Israelites at the Red Sea, and at Jericho.

Rahab and Ruth, aligning themselves (a few generations apart) with an alien culture.

Jonathan, Saul’s son, and his armor-bearer: (1 Samuel 14:1-15). 14:6 Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, “Come! Let’s go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that Yahweh will work for us; for there is no restraint on Yahweh to save by many or by few.” 7 His armor bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart. Turn and, behold, I am with you according to your heart.”

The result of this two against many venture was a victory, wrought by God.

Ahab (!) against Syria: 1 Kings 20: 13 Behold, a prophet came near to Ahab king of Israel, and said, “Yahweh says, ‘Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will deliver it into your hand today. Then you will know that I am Yahweh.’”
[Later, after God delivered the Israelites once.] 26 At the return of the year, Ben Hadad mustered the Syrians, and went up to Aphek, to fight against Israel. 27 The children of Israel were mustered and given provisions, and went against them. The children of Israel encamped before them like two little flocks of young goats; but the Syrians filled the country. 28 A man of God came near and spoke to the king of Israel, and said, “Yahweh says, ‘Because the Syrians have said, “Yahweh is a god of the hills, but he is not a god of the valleys;” therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am Yahweh.’”
29 They encamped opposite each other for seven days. So it was, that in the seventh day the battle was joined; and the children of Israel killed one hundred thousand footmen of the Syrians in one day. 30a But the rest fled to Aphek, into the city; and the wall fell on twenty-seven thousand men who were left.

Jehoshaphat and the Ammonites, Edomites and Moabites: 2 Chronicles 20:5 Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in Yahweh’s house, before the new court; 6 and he said, “Yahweh, the God of our fathers, aren’t you God in heaven? Aren’t you ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in your hand, so that no one is able to withstand you. 7 Didn’t you, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it to the offspring of Abraham your friend forever? 8 They lived in it, and have built you a sanctuary in it for your name, saying, 9 ‘If evil comes on us—the sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine—we will stand before this house, and before you (for your name is in this house), and cry to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ 10 Now, behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned away from them, and didn’t destroy them; 11 behold, how they reward us, to come to cast us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. 12 Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no might against this great company that comes against us. We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
13 All Judah stood before Yahweh, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.
14 Then Yahweh’s Spirit came on Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, the Levite, of the sons of Asaph, in the middle of the assembly; 15 and he said, “Listen, all Judah, and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, king Jehoshaphat. Yahweh says to you, ‘Don’t be afraid, and don’t be dismayed because of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow, go down against them. Behold, they are coming up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, before the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You will not need to fight this battle. Set yourselves, stand still, and see the salvation of Yahweh with you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Don’t be afraid, nor be dismayed. Go out against them tomorrow, for Yahweh is with you.’”
18 Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground; and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before Yahweh, worshiping Yahweh. 19 The Levites, of the children of the Kohathites and of the children of the Korahites, stood up to praise Yahweh, the God of Israel, with an exceedingly loud voice.
20 They rose early in the morning, and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. As they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah, and you inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in Yahweh your God, so you will be established! Believe his prophets, so you will prosper.”
21 When he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to Yahweh, and give praise in holy array, as they go out before the army, and say, “Give thanks to Yahweh; for his loving kindness endures forever.” 22 When they began to sing and to praise, Yahweh set ambushers against the children of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were struck. [They attacked each other.]

Surely, if I am living as I should, I can similarly trust God when my circumstances seem difficult. (At the moment, they aren't, for which I am grateful.)

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sunspots 630


Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:



Christianity: Relevant and other sources report that the US Government is rounding up Christians from Iraq and sending them back, which is probably putting them at risk to their lives.

Benjamin L. Corey tells us 5 things that he wishes conservative Christians knew about Muslims.


Food: The Associated Press tells you more than you knew about cucumber sex and edible cucumbers.

Listverse reports on 10 foods, most of which are regularly eaten elsewhere, but are banned in the US, for various reasons.

Health: UnDark reviews a book about the US health care system, and seriously questions the use of "system" and of "care," in describing it.

Statnews.com reports on a study that indicates that even a small amount of regular alcohol consumption causes some brain damage.

History: Listverse tells us about 10 American inventions that changed the world, mostly for good.
 
Politics: Wired reports that President Trump may be taken to court for blocking some users from his Twitter account, because they disagree with him, on free speech grounds. He IS the President, after all, hence his Tweets may be, legally, a public forum. (The courts may rule otherwise.)

Science: According to a review in Scientific American, some fish can solve fairly complex problems, and can use tools.

Scientific American also reports that asking someone for a favor, through e-mail, is not as effective as asking in person.

Listverse tells us how different colors affect our behavior.

Listverse also describes 10 geological oddities, all of them rather large.




Image source (public domain)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 52

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of the result of living by "Convictions from Above" continues:

They Readily Adjust Themselves to God's Providential Dealings. People who are not thus led, like Saul of Tarsus before his conversion, are ever "kicking against the pricks" of opposing providences. Those who are walking in the light of the interpretations which the Spirit gives them, hear God's voice in all His providential dealings with them. Hence when fortune fades, or health fails, or friends betray, or enemies slander, or plans perish, or loved ones die; though pained, yet in perfect peace they can say:

"Yet still I whisper, 'as God will,'
And in His hottest fire hold still."

Even when God by His providences performs some painful amputation, they can say "He doeth all things well," for they know that He is leading, that the pain is needful for their discipline, and that "all things" are being made to work together for their good.

When called to suffer they have learned:

(a). To hold still in the furnace. That uneasiness hinders the process and mars the work.

(b). Not to question the Refiner too much. He understands His business.

(C). That the purgation, though painful, is worth infinitely more than it costs.

(d). To accept God's discipline without continually making suggestions to Him.

The Spirit of God will never lead people to do what the providences of God make it impossible for them to do. I have known people who were strong in their expressions that it was God's will that they should do certain things, when he was continually and emphatically saying NO to them by His providences.


Excerpted from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Sunspots 629

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:



Christianity: Christianity Today points out, with some examples, that spreading conspiracy theories and other fake news is, well, sin.


Education: Listverse discusses the origins of 10 widely used school supplies (such as backpacks and pencils).

Finance: (or something) Wired comments on the possible changes to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Health: Science reports that a new antibiotic, which may make it impossible for bacteria to develop resistance, has been produced. In tests, it seems to be very effective.



Politics: Scientific American fact-checks President Trump's speech on the Paris climate change accord.

Scientific American says that torture is not effective in extracting information.

Science: The Conversation says that killing coyotes does not make sheep and cattle safer, and explains why.

Scientific American reports on a long-term study of the social lives of wild horses.



Image source (public domain)

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 51

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of the result of living by "Convictions from Above" continues:

They [Those who are led by God] are Reasonable. As the spirit of God leads men through their reasoning power, those thus led are always ready to give a reason for every position they take and every act they do. The life and work of George Muller, of Bristol Orphanage fame, is a remarkable illustration of this principle. His "Life of Trust "is one of the most exhilarating faith tonics of which we know. He states first that he was led to found his work on Scriptural principles. Then he mentions six solid reasons explaining why he took the course he did.

Dr. Watson, in his unique sermon on "The Two Veils," says:

"Dr. Steele, one of the most polished men in the world, prayed for sanctification for three weeks, and the thought kept coming up: 'Now, if God sanctifies you, He'll make you act oddly; and he was afraid he might have to shout in the street cars, or do some other singular thing.' At length the Spirit said to him: 'Don't you think that God has as good sense of what is right as you have? Don't you think that God knows as much about good behavior as you do? Do you think God will do anything foolish?' He saw that it was only a temptation, let loose of everything, and God baptized him with the Holy Ghost so wonderfully, that he could hardly eat or sleep for several days. And let me tell you, he has been one of the best behaved men you ever saw since that time, and has not done anything at all foolish."

They Meet with Opposition. The Holy Spirit often leads contrary to carnal inclinations and the opinions and protests of friends and relatives, and always counter to the world and the devil. Hence, opposition is inevitable. He takes up and carries on the work of Jesus, which is "to destroy the works of the devil," and they of course resist Him. Hence, all who fancy that they can be led by the Spirit and please everyone, are doomed to disappointment. As well might an army expect to do its duty, and at the same time please the enemy.

Depravity and the devil no more agree with the leading of the Holy Ghost than fire can mix with water.

They are Victorious. God is their leader. He always gives the victory to all who fully follow Him.

"From victory unto victory,
His armies He shall lead,
Till every foe is vanquished,
And Christ is Lord indeed."

They Rule Their Own Spirits. Appetites and passions bow beneath the mandates of their Divine Master, and led of God they feel that they "can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth." They love to follow their Leader, and expect soon to see the day when all enemies shall be put beneath His feet; earth, the old battlefield, burnt up and replaced by another wherein dwelleth righteousness and their King "crowned Lord of all."

They are Courteous. As the Holy Spirit leads none to be selfish, all who follow Him will be saved from selfish acts, and thus from all the discourteous ways which selfishness prompts.

A true Christian is in the best sense of that word a true gentleman. Rudeness, coarseness and selfishness being eliminated; gentleness, refinement and love are crowned in their stead, and though the outer garb may be coarse and language lame, yet the good breeding of heavenly parentage will appear in all who follow closely their unseen Guide.


Excerpted from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Sunspots 628

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:



Christianity: A Sojourners writer says that white evangelicals have been far too silent about high-profile African-American deaths.

Relevant says that Christians are too apathetic about sexual abuse.

Relevant also has a good article on being called to some sort of ministry.


Computing: Wired tells us that the .GIF graphics format has been around for 30 years, and is still widely used.

Listverse points out 10 disturbing facts about Facebook.

Education: FiveThirtyEight tells us why the National Spelling Bee is so difficult, and points out the most common types of spelling errors from previous contests.

Health: National Public Radio reports on a study of how accurate fitness tracker devices are.

Undark reports that, under "Trumpcare," as presently envisioned, it is likely that victims of domestic abuse will be denied reimbursement for injuries suffered from an abusive spouse, and, possibly, denied coverage for any problem, if there has been a history of domestic abuse.


Politics: The Wall Street Journal tells us that rural America is the new "inner city."

Science: Listverse tells us 10 interesting facts about eagles.

Listverse also tells us that pink is not really a color, and then goes on to describe 10 "Pink Wonders of the Natural World."

Scientific American reports that some cicadas, which were expected to emerge as adults in 2021, have emerged this year.

Sports: National Public Radio reports on shooting free throws underhanded, as NBA great Rick Barry did. So does his son, a collegiate player.


Image source (public domain)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 50

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of the result of living by "Convictions from Above" continues:

They Please God. Like Enoch, they walk with God, and have the testimony that they please Him because they "keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight." Even when they make mistakes, which through infirmity they are liable to, He does not frown upon them, because He knows they did not mean to, and judges the action by the intention. They prize His smile of approbation more than the plaudits of a universe without it, and this they have. They feel:

"Let the world despise and leave me,
They have left my Savior, too,
Human hearts and looks deceive me,
Thou art not like man, untrue;
And while Thou shalt smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love and might,
Foes may hate and friends may shun me,
Show Thy face and all is bright."

Sometimes the Father calls His children to a course which brings censure from worldings and chiding from friends, and then soothes the pain thus caused by loving caresses which He lavishes upon them when they are all alone with Him. A million fold repaid for their sacrifice, they exclaim:

"Blest Savior, what delightful fare!
How sweet Thine entertainments are!"

They are Inflexible, and Walk by Faith. In nonessentials they are as yielding as air, but in matters where God's will is clearly known they are as firm as granite. They belong to the class of whom it is said: "These are the men of whom martyrs are made. When the day of great tribulation comes, when dungeons are ready and fires are burning, then God permits His children, who are weak in the flesh, to stand aside; then the illuminated Christians, those who live in the region of high emotion rather than of quiet faith, who have been conspicuous in the world of Christian activity, and have been as a pleasant and loud song, and in many things have done nobly, will unfold to the right and to the left, and let this little company of whom the world is ignorant and whom it can not know, come up from their secret places to the great battle of the Lord. To them the prison is as acceptable as the throne; a place of degradation as a place of honor. Ask them how they feel and they will perhaps be startled, because their thoughts are thus turned from God to themselves, and they will answer by saying 'what God wills.' They have no feeling separate from the will of God. . . . Hence, chains and dungeons have no terrors; a bed of fire is as a bed of down."


Excerpted from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sunspots 627

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:



Christianity: Benjamin L. Corey argues that a Christian pacifist, and/or a Christian who refuses to use a gun on others, is not, therefore, a coward.

FiveThirtyEight reports on a study that says that as much as 25% of the US population may be atheists, although most of them don't identify themselves as such.

Christianity Today analyzes the influence of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr on James Comey, the recently fired head of the FBI, and on other prominent public figures.


Computing: Pro Publica reports that some Trump properties, including Mar-a-Lago, used by the President and other important figures, have networks that could easily be hacked. Wired has more on this.

Open Broadcaster Software is a free tool for recording and live streaming video.

The Conversation argues that banning laptops on airplanes would do little to increase security.

Listverse discusses the origin of 10 fonts currently in use.

Politics: Scientific American reports that the Republican governors of Vermont and Massachusetts are seriously concerned about the current and future effects of global warming, and are urging the Trump administration to continue trying to slow it down.

FiveThirtyEight gives a thorough analysis of the likelihood of President Trump being removed from office by the Congress.

Science: The History Blog reports on a fossil Nodosaur.

Scientific American reports that plants may be able to hear.

Scientific American also reports on an apple-picking robot. (With video)


Image source (public domain)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 49

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of "Convictions from Above" continues:

Humility. All divinely led prove the truth that "before honor is humility." They illustrate the truth of Bishop Taylor's statement, that "humility is like a tree whose root when it is set deepest in the earth rises higher and spreads fairer, and stands surer and lasts longer, and every step of its descent is like a rib of iron." The fact that they have no wisdom in themselves, but have to depend upon another at every turn, tends in itself to keep them lowly. Thus, humbling themselves under the mighty hand of God, he exalts them by guiding them with His counsels, and afterwards receiving them into glory.

The possibility that through a defective judgment or some other infirmity they may be mistaken, also makes them very teachable in regard to all points where God's will has not been unmistakably revealed to them. Jesus, our great Exampler, always divinely led, manifested His humility by divesting Himself of the glory He had with the Father, by taking our nature, by His seemingly humble and ignoble birth, by subjection to His parents, by His occupation as a carpenter, by partaking of our infirmities, by becoming a servant, by associating with the so-called "riff raff" of society, by refusing earthly honors, by exposing Himself to reproach and contempt, and by His death as an outcast criminal upon the despised cross. All who are fully led by God have in them this mind which was also in Christ Jesus, and "walking as He walked," they live amid the profusion and fragrance of the flowers which bloom only in the vale of humility.


Excerpted from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Robert Silverberg's Majipoor novels, with comparisons to Jack Vance

Robert Silverberg's Majipoor
(For a quick introduction to Silverberg's Majipoor, see Welcome to Majipoor. For the Wikipedia article on these works, go here.)

I confess -- I originally posted this in my own domain, which no longer exists, several years ago, and discovered that someone had archived it, so I'm re-publishing it as part of this blog. It has been lightly edited, and the links are still good.

In his Lord Valentine’s Castle, (New York: Bantam Books, 1981) Robert Silverberg, (a five-time Nebula award winner, but not for this book) has created a fascinating world. Silverberg has written about that world again, in Majipoor Chronicles, (New York: Bantam, 1989) in Valentine Pontifex (New York: Bantam, 1989), in Sorcerers of Majipoor, (New York: HarperPrism, 1996) in Lord Prestimion (New York: HarperCollins, 1999), in The King of Dreams (New York: HarperCollins, 2001, in "The Seventh Seal," (in Legends: Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy, edited by Silverberg--New York: Tor, 1998) and possibly in some other works.

Warning: if you are wondering about whether to read these books, but are the kind of person who doesn't want to know about what happens until you have finished a book, you should not read this web page further. I recommend the books to you. I have found them worth reading, and reading again.

Majipoor’s geography and government
The planet is very large, probably as large, or larger, than Jupiter or Saturn. (As a reviewer points out, Silverberg claims that it is the largest inhabited planet in fantastic literature, but isn't as large as Larry Niven's Ringworld. The Ringworld is supposed to be a manufactured object.) However, because of a lack of heavy elements, gravity is not oppressive. Most of it is covered by water, but the land areas combined are larger than those of any other inhabited planet. There are four main land areas, Alhanroel, Zimroel, Suvrael, and the Isle of Sleep. There is also one large archipelago. Castle Mount, on Alhanroel, is very tall--so tall, thirty miles high--that there are weather machines near its top, producing a breathable atmosphere for the inhabitants of its cities, and its Castle. Other features, including the oceans and rivers are also, as it were, larger than life. So are some of the manufactured objects, especially the Labyrinth, a vast underground city several miles deep, and the Castle, with thousands of rooms, on Castle Mount.

The Piurivars, an indigenous race, who used to be found on all continents, are almost all confined to a large reservation in Zimroel in Castle. (Some of Silverberg's other writing about Majipoor goes back long before Castle, including before the Piurivars were moved to the reservation.) This species is also known as metamorphs, or shape-shifters, because they have the ability to alter their appearance, even their structure, to mimic other species.


There are four powers of the government throughout most of the books. (There are stories going back before all four were established, and a fifth power is established at the end.) These are the Pontifex, who issues decrees relating to commerce from the Labyrinth, in Alhanroel; the Coronal, who is the ceremonial head of government, carrying out the decrees of the Pontifex, from the Castle, also in Alhanroel; the Lady, sending out, with her subordinates, dreams of peace and goodness from the Isle, and the King of Dreams, sending out dreams to punish criminals from Suvrael. The Coronal becomes Pontifex on the death of an old Pontifex. The new Pontifex chooses a Coronal, usually from a small group of those trained to lead, but does not choose his own relatives. The Coronal’s mother becomes the Lady. The King of Dreams is a hereditary office, passed down within the Barjazid family.

One interesting aspect of the governmental institutions that Silverberg created is that Coronals don't like their jobs very much. They must sign countless documents, and attend countless ceremonies, and listen to countless speeches by various minor functionaries. They are expected to make Grand Processionals every few years, which takes them around Majipoor for as much as five years at a time. They look forward with real horror to moving to the Labyrinth, where they will live as Pontifex when they succeed to that office, coming above ground but rarely.

Culture
Majipoor is so large that its human rulers invited non-humans to come and help colonize it, thousands of years before the time of Castle, the first book written. As a result, there are several species who have lived on Majipoor for a long time. The Skandars are tall and covered with fur, and have four arms. The Su-Suheris have two heads. The Ghayrogs lay eggs. Hjorts and Vroons and Liimen are obviously non-human. These species are all living in harmony, and share a single culture, more or less, and a common language. They travel and work together, and live in the same cities, and have the same government.

There is an indigenous species, the Piriuvar, or metamorphs, who are not part of the common culture, although a few of them do live among the other species, and communication is possible.

The first book describes how Valentine, the Coronal, has been deprived of his memory, and his rulership, but becomes aware of his loss, and, with a group of associates, including humans, Skandars, a Hjort, a Vroon, and even an alien being, (a tourist on Majipoor) regains his memory and his position. During this story, Silverberg often gives us just names of great cities, without any description, or with a very modest description. In no case, except for a city inhabited mostly by Ghayrogs, does he describe one of these cities as having a different culture. The cultural differences in the mostly Ghayrog city, Dulorn, are because Ghayrogs don’t sleep, except at one season of the year, not because they wish to be separate, or others from them.

One theme, spread throughout the Majipoor books, is how the Piurivars were originally mistreated, and how they finally come to accept a role as part of the common culture.

The second book in the series, Chronicles, is a group of stories. Silverberg uses a fictional device. It has been possible for citizens of Majipoor to store their memories and experiences in such a way that they can be re-lived. The book relates these experiences, which are re-lived by Hissune, one of the main characters in the first three books, and are part of his training to take Valentine’s place as Coronal.

In the very first of these episodes, “Thesme and the Ghayrog,” Silverberg takes us back to a time long before Valentine and Hissune, when non-human species are new on Majipoor. Thesme has decided to live in isolation in the forest. She finds an injured Ghayrog, and helps him recover. She eventually has sexual experiences with him. Finally, she tires of this, and returns to living with her family and human acquaintances, but the episode closes with the understanding that humans, Ghayrogs, and other species are going to work together in harmony to tame Majipoor.

Silverberg's use of Culture Compared with Jack Vance's Work
In case anyone wonders, Silverberg has read Vance, and, in fact, he says: "Vance was an influence so far as the design of the planet was concerned -- I borrowed his Big Planet concept, though I designed my own." (Interview with Jim Freund, Ellen Datlow, and Mike McCoy, September 7, 1997.) Actually, I didn't know this when I decided to start this comparison. I just knew that Majipoor was way too homogenous to be a Vance creation.

The most thorough treatment of Vance's propensity to invent culture is "People are Plastic: Jack Vance and the Dilemma of Cultural Relativism," by Tom Shippey, in Jack Vance: Critical Appreciations and a Bibliography, Edited by A. E. Cunningham (Boston Spa and London: The British Library, 2000, pp. 67 - 84) Shippey's first paragraph says, in part:
. . . Vance’s work should not be treated as merely whimsical or decorative, but should be seen as centrally preoccupied with one of the most acute moral dilemmas and major intellectual developments of our age: a dilemma and a development furthermore which tend to be avoided or left unfocused, to our detriment, in literature of the mainstream. The intellectual development is that of social or cultural anthropology, . . . and the dilemma it generates is, to put it bluntly, whether any sense of absolute value, or of ‘human nature’, can survive a thoroughgoing acceptance of the cultural relativism recommended so forcefully by so many anthropologists.

Silverberg's creation has a culture, and there are local variations, but nothing like those of Vance. Every city, almost every neighborhood, seems to call upon Vance's creative powers, as he invents new types of clothing, food, occupations, amusements, language, religion and courtship for so many of these. Or, perhaps, it's the other way around. Vance adds neighborhoods and cities so he can have places for his permutations of culture to inhabit. Majipoor does have a few isolated pockets where there is a separate language, or a separate religion, (even, in Prestimion, an area where several intelligent alien species live) but they are in the minority on the planet, and Silverberg does not dwell on them.

Silverberg uses some of his creative powers in describing variety in the landscape, (or sometimes in the seascape) and in the animals and plants that inhabit it. Besides the several diverse species of intelligent beings that have come to Majipoor, there is an abundant variety of supposedly non-intelligent life there. The most spectacular of these are the sea-dragons, immense beasts that migrate in herds, in paths that take them years, around the planet. They can swim, and have wing-like appendages, but cannot fly. In Castle, Valentine and his companions travel with the dragon-hunters to reach the Isle of Sleep. On the way, a giant sea-dragon attacks their ship, and some of his companions are lost. Valentine, himself, with his giant human female bodyguard, is swallowed by the dragon. The bodyguard finally cuts a tunnel in the side of the dragon, and they escape. In Pontifex, we, and the central culture, find that the sea-dragons are highly intelligent, and have the power to send their thoughts to other intelligent beings at a great distance, but the central culture lived in ignorance of that for thousands of years.

Scattered throughout the books are descriptions of strange landscapes, soil, geological formations of many types. Also, I have not counted, but there must be names, and, in some cases, descriptions, of at least a hundred different species of plants, and as many animals. In both Pontifex and Prestimion, some animals have been produced (by genetic engineering?) for evil purposes. Except for these, the culture of Majipoor lives in general harmony with the land, the sea, and their non-intelligent inhabitants. The variety of natural features, living and non-living, has probably not been matched in any other works of fantastic literature.

It is true that, having established a nearly homogenous culture on the largest inhabited planet in the first three books about Majipoor, Silverberg departs somewhat from that in later writings. The Mountains of Majipoor (New York: Bantam: 1996) presents a story that takes place several hundreds of years after Valentine has departed the scene. Harpirias, a young noble, is sent to a newly-discovered group of humans that have been geographically isolated for thousands of years. They speak a different language, have a different religion, etc. However, Harpirias is able to learn the language, and to understand them. If Vance had written about the same situation, there would surely have been some incomprehensibility between the two cultures. (Mountains also presents the Piurivars as not having been completely homogenized yet.)

Sorcerers of Majipoor (New York: Harper Prism, 1998 -- excerpt from novel here) takes place long before Valentine's time. In it, Silverberg describes how many religious cults, each bizarrely different, have arisen. However, these are all manifestations of the same thing:
In a thousand cities, furious mages came forth, saying, "This is the way of salvation, these are the spells that will restore the world," and the people, doleful and frightened and hungry for salvation, said, "Yes, yes, show us the way." In each city the observances were different, and yet in essence everything was the same everywhere: processions and wild dances, shrieking flutes, roaring trumpets. (p. 33)

Revenge
Since this is fantastic fiction, there is plenty of opportunity for bizarre crime. The first book begins shortly after one such has been committed. Valentine, the Coronal, has had his body taken over by another, who now masquerades as Coronal. Some of his consciousness, but not all—not enough even to remember that he was Coronal—has been placed in a different body. The story of the first book is the story of Valentine’s quest, which is, at first, undertaken very reluctantly, to overthrow the false Coronal and restore harmony to the realm.
At the end, Valentine and his followers discover that one of the Barjazid family members has had his mind placed in what had been Valentine’s body.  The force behind this awful act, however, was a group of metamorphs (Piurivars), who have masqueraded as humans, one of them even assuming the form of the King of Dreams, the usurper’s father. When the plot is unmasked, and Valentine is back in his rightful place, one of his friends proposes vengeance upon the Piurivars. Valentine does not agree: “But I think also we must reach toward those people, and heal them of their anger if we can, or Majipoor will be thrown into endless war.” (Castle, p. 444) He also did not seek vengeance on the human who was the tool of the Piurivars: "Lord Valentine . . . had gently and lovingly sought even to win the soul of his enemy the usurper Dominin Barjazid, in the last moments of the war of restoration." Pontifex, p. 49.

There are three stories in the Chronicles that also demonstrate that vengeance is not central to Silverberg’s characters. In one, a merchant has been sold shoddy goods. While he is meeting with the man who sold them to him, he impulsively pushes him out the window of the hotel room into the river, to his death. The river is so boisterous that the body will not be found. Things go along well enough for a while, but eventually the King of Dreams starts sending terrible dreams to the murderer. He flees, taking on new identity, again and again, each time escaping for a while. Finally, he becomes a pilgrim in the Isle, where pilgrimage from level to level, toward the center, usually takes many years. After some years there, he sees a man who looks like the merchant he murdered. He converses with the man, who turns out to be the son of the dead man. The son says that he does not want to punish the murderer. He has already been punished, and all that the son wants is to find out what happened to his father.

Another story concerns the establishment of the King of Dreams. Dekkeret, a noble from the Castle, has business in Suvrael, which is mostly an oppressive desert wasteland, and hires a Barjazid as a guide into the interior. While on the journey, he is beset by terrible dreams, and almost dies while sleepwalking during one. He discovers that the guide has been sending them, using an apparatus he wears on his head to project dreams from his own brain. Barjazid asks if the noble will punish him. The noble says that he will not. Instead, he wants Barjazid to come to Castle Mount, to show the apparatus to the Coronal and others. This Barjazid’s son, Dinitak Barjazid, will become the first King of Dreams.

In a third story, a shopkeeper is visited by two rascals, who tell her that she has inherited one of the great homes in a city far away. For a significant sum, they will process her claim to the estate. She pays them, and goes to claim her inheritance, finding that she has no such claim, and that the rascals have been saying the same thing to many others. Through a long series of circumstances, the girl does become mistress of this same great home. One day she sees the rascals. She has them arrested, because they have defrauded many, but asks that their punishment be slight, because her circumstances are so much better, because of what happened to her as a result of the swindle.

A fourth story details an episode in the conquest of the Piurivars by Stiamot, the Coronal. In Prestimion, which takes place much later, we read that Stiamot, many years later, tried to travel to ask forgiveness of the Danipiur, the leader of the Piurivars, but died before he was able to finish that journey.

Silverberg said (in the interview cited above, with Freund, Datlow, and McCoy) that "I knew that Lord Valentine's Castle needed a sequel to deal with the problem of the disgruntled Shapeshifters." He said the same thing in other interviews.

There is another interesting aspect of revenge in Pontifex. The Piurivars have a long memory. They remember sacrificing two sea-dragons in their holiest place, on land, long before humans came to Majipoor. They believe that they have so defiled the place, and themselves, that they abandon it. However, the greatest of the sea-dragons tells (through telepathy) Faraataa, Piurivar leader who thinks he is leading his people to atone for this sin:
The gods gave themselves willingly, that day in Velalisier. It was their sacrifice, which you misunderstand. You have invented a myth of a Defilement, but it is the wrong myth. . . . The water-king Niznorn and the water-king Domsitor gave themselves as sacrifices that day long ago, just as the water-kings give themselves yet to our hunters as they round the curve of Zimroel. (p. 362--this idea, of a willingness to be sacrificed by intelligent beings, is reinforced in "Seventh Shrine.")
Silverberg's characters don't always feel that they need revenge. The sea-dragons go further--they willingly offer themselves as victims.

Religion, with comparison to Jack Vance
Although he doesn't spell out its theology, clearly Majipoor, and, presumably, Silverberg, consider that religion is important, and often, although not always, beneficial. Not so with Vance, who never presents religion as anything but empty, and usually dangerous, ritual. Vance's priests, or the equivalent, are usually greedy and hypocritical.

The Lady of the Isle, although a living human person, is, in a sense, worshipped by the inhabitants of Majipoor. They address prayers to her. There is, however, another sort of deity for Majipoor, understood as above all, and, somehow, influencing and controlling events.

Here is a dialog near the end of Castle (p. 375):

Deliamber said . . . "It may be that the present troubles of the realm are the beginning of the retribution for the suppression of the Metamorphs."
Valentine stared at him. "What do you mean by that?"
"Only that we have gone a long way, here on Majipoor, without paying any sort of price for the original sin of the conquerors. The account accumulates interest, you know. . . . perhaps the past is starting to send us its reckoning at last."
"But Valentine had nothing to do with the oppression of the Metamorphs," Carabella protested. . . .
Deliamber shrugged. "Such things are never fairly distributed. What makes you think that only the guilty are punished?"
"The Divine--"
"Why do you think the Divine is fair? In the long run, all wrongs are righted, every minus is balanced with a plus, the columns are totaled and the totals are found correct. But that's in the long run. We must live in the short run, and matters are often unjust there. The compensating forces of the universe make all the accounts come out even, but they grind down the good as well as the wicked in the process."
"More than that," said Valentine suddenly. "It may be that I was chosen to be an instrument of Deliamber's compensating forces, and it was necessary for me to suffer in order to be effective."

Pontifex, in a sentence, is about the long run--righting all wrongs. It is a story of sin, sacrifice, and redemption. The book begins by describing how the life of Majipoor is falling apart, with the agents being, in part, the metamorphs, and ends with the establishment of these Piurivars as equal and participating members of the society of Majipoor. Throughout the book, there is frequent mention of higher powers:
"We have no choice in that: it is the will of the Divine. Is that not so?" (p. 24. The speaker is Aximaan Threysz, an ancient and respected Ghayrog matriarch and farmer.)
"Noor groaned. 'The Divine spare me!'" (p. 27. Noor is an government agricultural agent.)
"By the Divine, if you could know how I long to see the sun again!" (Valentine speaking, p. 47)
"But is he acceptable to the Divine, my friends?" (A human, claiming that Valentine should not be Coronal, pp. 129-130)

Actually, the humans who came to Majipoor long ago are not the only beings who have sinned. Their sin was not "original sin," or not the original one on the planet. The Piurivars sinned, at least in their own eyes, by sacrificing two sea-dragons, before humans ever came to the planet. Here is a dream of a Piurivar:
"In the beginning was the Defilement, when a madness came over us and we sinned against our brothers of the sea," he cries. "And when we awakened and beheld what we had done, for that sin we destroy our great city and go forth across the land. But even that was not sufficient, and enemies from afar were sent down upon us, and took from us all that we had, and drove us into the wilderness, which was our penance, for we had sinned against our brothers of the sea. And our ways were lost and our suffering was great and the face of the Most High was averted from us, until the time of the end of the penance came, and we found the strength to drive our oppressors from us and reclaim that which we had lost through our ancient sin. . . ." (Pontifex, p. 118)

Throughout the Majipoor books, it is clear that there is a higher power. The land-dwelling inhabitants speak of The Divine. The sea-dragons speak of "That Which Is." (All words capitalized in the original.)

(An aside here: in my view, Silverberg has a genius for naming characters, or at least for inventing names. Not all fantastic writers have been so good. Tolkien was, but he was drawing on the languages that he had created to produce those names. Silverberg, so far as I know, did not create any languages for Majipoor, but there is music in some of the names above these lines: Deliamber, Carabella, Aximaan Threysz.)

An on-line chat, apparently held in 1999, and apparently no longer available on-line, includes the following:
R Silverberg: Advocating any doctrine seems to me a violation of the reader-writer relationship.
OrsonScottCard: Obviously I'm not a fan of the genre.
RSilverberg: Exploring, yes. Peddling, no,
RSilverberg: Christianity is at least as worth exploring as atomic theory.
RSilverberg: In fiction, I mean.
. . .
RSilverberg: I was once asked to provide a quote for a Christian novel by Roger Elwood. He was astounded when I pointed out I wasn't Christian.
RSilverberg: And that Zeus was about as real to me as Jehovah.

I believe Silverberg has set out to explore Christianity in the Majipoor writings. It isn't the only thing he explores, and I doubt if he would say it's the main one, but it's part of the exploration. What has he explored? At least four themes closely related to Christianity. As I have said, one of these is revenge, or, rather, forgiveness and love instead of revenge. He has also explored sacrifice, in several ways. Valentine goes to the Piurivars, knowing that he may be killed, in Pontifex, because he is willing to be sacrificed for the good of Majipoor as a whole. Dekkeret's lovely cousin dies, killed by a madman who is trying to kill Prestimion, in Prestimion. Her death brings Dekkeret, who will eventually become Coronal, to Prestimion's attention. The Water-Kings, or seadragons, allow the Piurivars to kill them in a sacrificial ritual. Several warriors die gladly so that their leaders may live. A third is sin, and its consequences. Although there is forgiveness, evil leads to destruction, desolation, and death. Tying all these together is the theme of redemption. Valentine, and, later, Prestimion and Dekkeret, realize that Majipoor needs redemption--some act of love to free them from the consequences of wrong.

Sorcerers of Majipoor: revenge and religion
Sorcerers of Majipoor is set long before the time of Valentine. The plot is this: sorcerers have become prominent in the land. Most people consult them. The wealthy hire them to tell the future, and find things, and even, sometimes, to perform magic. The Pontifex is dying. Coronal Confalume (remembered for the throne he had built, in the marvelous Castle, the throne that Valentine ascended) will become Pontifex. He has chosen Prestimion to be the next Coronal. Although a Coronal's son has never succeeded a Coronal to the throne, Confalume's daughter, Thismet, and her sorcerer, persuade Thismet's twin brother, Korsibar, that he is the man most fit to succeed. (He is not--he is selfish, vain, and shallow, and has not paid much attention to the details of government.) The sorcerer casts a spell of confusion on everyone but Korsibar when the Pontifex dies, and Korsibar seizes the crown and proclaims himself Coronal. Confalume, the new Pontifex, still confused, does not dispute this rash act. Prestimion decides that he cannot accept Korsibar, and that no one should, so rebels. Many follow him, including, apparently, his distant cousin, Dantirya Sambail, the Procurator, the most powerful man on Zimroel, the second-largest continent of Majipoor. Eventually, there is war. Dantirya Sambail betrays Prestimion, and suggests to Korsibar that Prestimion be lured into the valley below a great dam, then have the dam breached. Prestimion escapes, but most of his army, and thousands of innocent farmers, do not. Prestimion, never a believer in sorcery, flees to the city where the most powerful sorcerers live, and decides to try again to remove Korsibar by force. He raises another army, this time with sorcerers in it. Thismet decides that she has no place in Korsibar's Castle. Her sorcerer has left her for her brother, the false Coronal. Her brother does not give her any power, and ignores her. She leaves Castle Mount, and travels to join Prestimion, and becomes his consort. Battle is joined again. Thousands perish, including Korsibar and Thismet, both slain by her former sorcerer, who betrays Korsibar. Prestimion, still not been a devotee of sorcery, reluctantly decides that the only thing that will heal Majipoor is to have the two most powerful sorcerers perform one last sorcery--they make everyone in the whole world, including themselves, forget that Korsibar ever existed, that wars were ever fought, that the dam was breached. Only Prestimion and two of his friends, Septach Melyn and Gilaurys, will remember. The three of them believe that these terrible events, and their effects, are over.

A word about sorcery--in the two previous Valentine books, there is a little sorcery. Two of the races, Vroon and Su-Suheris, have what might be called extra-sensory powers. Autifon Deliamber, who is with Valentine almost from the beginning of his restoration, is a Vroon. Deliamber is able to find ways for Valentine and his companions to travel, by projecting himself, or his senses, ahead to find safety. There is little else in the Valentine books that indicates that sorcery had any prominence. In Sorcerers, it seems that sorcery has recently come to prominence, in part because of the recent arrival of the two races that are most likely to practice it. (Others, including humans, also do.) Apparently it loses its appeal, and its influence, during the reign of Prestimion, or some time after that.

Religion, in Sorcerers, is fractured. There is still some acknowledgement of the Divine. However, it is clear that sorcery has become not only a wide-spread practice, but belief in it has become a religion, or many religions:

So there was no contending against the tide of magic and fear. In a thousand cities furious mages came forth, saying, "This is the way of salvation, these are the spells that will restore the world," and the people, doleful and frightened and hungry for salvation, said, "Yes, yes, show us the way." In each city the observations were different, and yet in essence everything was the same everywhere, processions and wild dances, shrieking flutes, roaring trumpets. Omens and prodigies. Sorcerers, p. 33.

Clearly Silverberg understands, as some authors of fantastic fiction do not, (No less than Tolkien, a faithful Roman Catholic, has been accused of this) that religion plays an important part, often positive, sometimes not, in the lives of people, and this should be reflected even in fantastic worlds. Here are two examples, spoken by Prestimion, from page 264:

"Item two, Korsibar's done something foul and dark and blasphemous by crowning himself like that. Such deeds are inevitably repaid on high. . . ."

"It's well known I have no use for sorcerers and such-like flummery. To that extent I'm a skeptic; but that doesn't mean I'm godless, Dantirya Sambail. There are forces in the universe that punish evil: this I do believe. The world will suffer if Korsibar's left to go unopposed. My own private ambitions aside, I feel he must be taken down, for the good of all."

Near the close of Sorcerers, Prestimion, like Valentine,  rejects violence. He has Dantirya Sambail in his power:

Nothing unhappy had befallen him that Dantirya Sambail had not had a hand in, somewhere. Prestimion felt himself grow hot with fury. Strike at him, he thought, and you are striking at all your misfortunes in a single thrust. . . .
"Go ahead," the Procurator said, "Shove it home, cousin!"
"What a pleasure that would be," said Prestimion. "But no. No, cousin, no." Not like this; not the slaughter of a prisoner, even this one. He could not. He would not. All his wrath had turned away. There had been enough killing for now. (pp. 598-9, emphasis in original)

Prestimion has him put into prison. He also puts a Vroon wizard, who changed sides more than once during the conflict, into the charge of a man named Barjazid, and tells him to take the wizard to Suvrael, the desert continent. The wizard has been working on devices to contact the mind at a distance.

Lord Prestimion: revenge and religion continued
An aside, before I consider the main plot and themes of this work. In Chronicles, Hissune accesses a memory left behind by Dekkeret, which has this statement in the second paragraph. "It was as an act of penance that Dekkeret had undertaken a voyage to the burning wastes of barren Suvrael." (p. 100) Prestimion gives more of the background of this story. Prestimion sees Dekkeret, a commoner, and believes that he has qualities of greatness. He elevates him to the Castle, to training for leadership. Part of that is a trip to Zimroel. After many days as a bureaucrat, Dekkeret goes on a hunting trip. The guides are not friendly, and don't respect Dekkeret and his companion, a noble from the Castle. The quarry animal appears. He goes after it, and kills it, running past his guide as he engages the animal. It develops that the beast has injured the guide, and, when Dekkeret returns to the scene, she is dead. Others do not blame Dekkeret. Indeed, the woman probably would have died in any case, but Dekkeret asks for assignment to Suvrael as penance.

Lord Prestimion continues Sorcerers. Several things which seemed settled aren't really settled. Varaile, a young commoner, with a wealthy widower for a father, is in charge of her household. A servant leaps to her death out of a window, killing two tourists in the street. Others are affected, also. There is a madness that strikes randomly. Not everyone is affected, but too many are. People have horrible headaches, or stop functioning for a few minutes, or go mad, and attack others, or jump off boats. As nearly as anyone can understand, they are in despair. Prestimion, now Coronal, thinks that these troubles are because so many of the citizenry are trying to deal with the changes that came about as a result of the enormous sorcery he ordered, which was designed to put all memories of Korsibar, and the war, out of people's minds. They don't seem able to remember how their friends, relatives, or acquaintances died, or they have forgotten that they existed. They have made up stories about how and why missing people are missing. Confalume, still Pontifex, does not remember that he had any children. He cannot remember Thismet and Korsibar. Prestimion fears that there is a price to pray for the suppression of all this truth.

Besides his two friends, who know what has happened, Prestimion tells Dantirya Sambail enough of what happened to explain why the latter is imprisoned, because Prestimion doesn't feel that he can keep the second most powerful man on the planet in jail for no apparent reason. Dantirya Sambail does not beg forgiveness, and escapes. Prestimion tells a few others, also. He has told his Su-Suheris mage, Maundigand-Klimd (who, by the way, claims, and acts as if, his sorcery is a science, not magic). Prestimion tells his mother, who has become Lady of the Isle, one of the powers of Majipoor, and Variale, who has become his wife, while on a visit to the Isle. In his despair, he tells them: "I thought I was healing the world. Instead, I was destroying it. I opened the gateway for this madness that consumes it now, the full dimensions of which have only become apparent to me today." (p. 394) A little later, Variale remarks that Prestimion must hate Dantirya Sambail, who seems to be at large, and raising an army to rebel. Prestimion realizes that he does hate him.

The King of Dreams
King concludes the second trilogy. Dantirya Sambail's poison-taster, Mandralisca, is a consummately evil man. He establishes a kingdom of his own in Zimroel, with five of Sambail's nephews as fronts for his leadership. A Barjazid, kept by Dinitak from coming to the Castle, goes to Mandralisca, with the secret of thought-projecting helmets that can be used to attack enemies in another continent. Mandralisca uses a helmet to send horrible dreams to members of Prestimion's family. Prestimion's brother is driven to take his own life by Mandralisca's visitation. Prestimion, now Pontifex, believes that the government must go to war against Mandralisca and his followers. However, Dekkeret, now Coronal, hopes that there is some method short of outright war. He, like Valentine, wants to win by projecting goodness. Dinitak Barjazid, now Dekkeret's best friend and confidante, also has the secret of the thought-projecting helmets. He acts to protect Dekkeret from evil thought projection, and Mandralisca is overthrown, without a war. Just before his final overthrow, one of Mandralisca's most trusted lieutenants, Thastain, an innocent farm boy placed into events he has not understood, understands how evil Mandralisca is, and gives his life to protect Dekkeret. Septach Melyn, Prestimion's old friend, as a representative of the Pontifex, kills Mandralisca, but dies himself.

During the time leading up to Dekkeret's expedition to Zimroel to overthrow Mandralisca, he receives powerful messages, apparently from the Divine, that he must do something to change the way things are done on Majipoor. At the end, he decides that what he must do is to set up Dinitak Barjazid as the first King of Dreams, who will punish evil-doers all over the planet.

Mr. Silverberg, himself, found the previous incarnation of this document, and e-mailed me about what I had said about religion and his work. See here.

Thanks for reading! Read Silverberg, if you wish.