Hey, looks like I forgot about Bakker for a while, but doing a re-read of TGO made me think on several things. Rather than make a new thread for each, I thought a blanket thread would be better.
My first thoughts are on the Dûnyain. A practical question I'd have is, how do they avoid incest and its genetic ramifications for a thousand years, in a small community? Secondly, isn't it a bit suspicious that a sect so dispossessed of passions, particularly any facial gestures, and has no intention of actually interacting with rest of the world, is so obsessive in mastering them? A pet theory I have is that the first founders of Dûnyain, or perhaps a figure that influenced them, specifically influenced them towards their Shortest Path so that they'd create an individual like Kellhus that could possess entire nations, to the ends that he does.
On incest, I made this thread some time ago: http://www.second-apocalypse.com/index.php?topic=993.msg8263#msg8263
I'll extract a quote from that in case you don't want to read that wall of text
I got to 7 generations with these 8 families before any child was realted to all of the others. Keep in mind that his is only a sample, each could be done in a different order with different parents each time. This makes it possible to have every possible permutation of that final circle: every combinations of colors would be possible to get.
One thing to note is that at generation 6 I stopped breeding the “pure” lines. This is because, at 12-15 years between each generation, those original children would be unlikely to still be alive, but their offspring could still be viable breeding partners.
Basically demonstrating that you can avoid incenst without too huge of an effort with a pretty small population. In the case above, 6(!) generations without any inbreeding whatsoever. At that point, the original parental genes have almost been squeezed out of the equation. If you recombine these in a different way using the same set, you can get 7th generation offspring that are mathematically related but are functionally entirely separate bloodlines still. To keep it up past that it gets complicated very quickly, but given that I figured that out in a couples hours when I was bored, I think an entire population of brilliant people who's lives were at stake to solve this issue, I think they could handle it.
We don't know how many they started with, so its difficult to say for sure, but even with average intelligence and sufficient planning, its at least possible. Add to that that they clearly used some extraordinary techniques, ie Whale Mothers, and the fact that after some number of generation they became super intellectual human computational machines, I'm satisfied that they didn't really have that issue.
On faces: in order to grasp the absolute they must first yoke the legion within. The training of facial recognition helps them identify passions within themselves as much as outside. Once mastered, it allows and extremely deep intimacy between all those that of the community, allowing them to shed the inadequacies of language and peer directly into thoughts/emotions.
Your theory: Gene Besserit, Tlalaxu, and other Dune analogues abound. Quite possible, yes.
A second thought that occured to me is; how close do you think the Anasurimbor conception of the Absolute is, to Fanimry? I am a bit too busy buried under studies to actually do a full re-read of the first trilogy, but as I recall, Fane alleged that there was a Solitary God, and the idols the Three-Seas worshipped were demons - now, the Anasurimbor don't actually believe that the Hundred are demons (but then again, what precisely is a demon?), but their perception of God, at its essence, seems to be solitary. In fact, Kellhus's full blooded Dûnyain son (what's his name - I keep forgetting names in this series), without the prior knowledge of Three Seas religions, perceives the Absolute as being singular. What are your thoughts? Do you think Fane was the true prophet, to begin with?
I think its likely Fane approached the Truth, and the Absolute and the Solitary God are pretty close conceptually. Granted, the Absolute is essentially an philosophical/logical/mathematical construct, whereas the Solitary God is a faith/spiritual based entity.
Seeing Koringhus' reaction to The Judging Eye, I'd guess the truth is somewhere between the two.
A third point I have in mind is about Kellhus himself. Being a fan of the character, I'm inclined to view him more positively (or at least, beyond good and evil), and I've been thinking about two things in particular. First is, his conversation in the original trilogy with Moenghus; basically, they're discussing the worldborn, and Kellhus asks (in relation to informing them) "But what about the Truth?", and Moenghus replies something like "they will never understand it, but you already know this, so why do you ask?". Now, the second thing is Kellhus's study of Proyas in the last book, where it is flated out stated that the purpose of the study is to discern the effects of the Truth on the worldborn. My thought is, maybe the twist of the story isn't that Kellhus is the bad guy, but that he is the (kinda, sorta, slightly, relatively) good guy, and that he seeks to share the Truth with the world. The Truth being, I suppose, that they are ruled by their inner urges, without free will, and that God does not have a personality like one that they ascribe to him, but is in fact beyond such things.
I don't think you can step outside of good/evil and have a conversation about this. It all comes down to the means taken to reach whatever end.
Kellhus, imo, is functionally the exact same thing as the Inchoroi.
If the 'gods' are truely just evil demons that eat humans souls and perpetuate a cycle of endless suffering, then the 'good guys' would be anyone and everyone attempting to break the cycle. That means all the dunyain, all the inchoroi, Kellhus, the Consult, etc., are all 'the good guys'.
But at what point do the means overshadow the ends?
At what point does murdering an entire world to 'save' those murdered become evil in-and-of-itself?
At what point does forcing the entire population of humanity to die in order to free them just simply become worse than what the Gods are doing? What if they fail? Then all the suffering was for nothing and Kellhus becomes arguable worse than the gods.
On the flip side, what of doing nothing? What of allowing people to perpetuate the cycle in relative happiness and ignorance? That seems evil, if you Know that they are ignorantly diving headlong into and eternity of suffering. There's some obligation to help them.
On and on and on the conversation goes. Comes down to personal feelings on the subject. How important is Truth? Do means matter vs. the ends they are purportedly for? What of happiness - who gets to choose what times of happiness are allowed, what types of suffering is permissible?
I don't think there are absolute answers for these types of questions, and that's one of the 'points' Bakker is making with these books. We know he thinks about the future and the advent of the Semantic Apocalypse. The effect of technology and how its going to short-circuit our millennia old morality drivers. He's forcing the conversation. Demanding we, the readers, determine for ourselves and amongst our peers, who gets define morality, 'good', 'evil'. Define the bounds of 'justice', 'humanity', not in an absolute sense, but for ourselves, because we are approaching a world (be it 10 years or 50 years or 1000 years) where we will be able to do that in a very real way.
Actually, that raises another question - if the Absolute is indeed beyond care, beyond good and evil, then why does it create a code of morality? In fact, is the damnation that it brings even related to morality? Because I don't think we've yet seen a person judged by Mimara, and was not damned; the only thing I can recall as being judged to be good is the chorae.
I think you've somewhat combined the Solitary God and the Absolute. The Absolute exists beyond good and evil, but also beyond damnation, beyond even 'being'. Its a concept that sits above everything, else it refutes its own existence - gee that sounds like God doesnt it .
I guess things in Earwa can be objectively good/evil/whatever. Things can be Holy or Damned. But the Absolute isn't necessarily causing or imposing these attributes onto things. At best, The Judging Eye shows us what Is, but not how it came to be that way. It almost certainly had to have been created as such, implying that there is a creator, but The Absolute necessarily stands outside of the cycle of creation. I think?