"To speak is to name names, but to speak is not important. A thing happens once that has never happened before. Seeing it, a man looks upon reality. He cannot tell others what he has seen. Others wish to know, however, so they question him saying 'What is it like, this thing you have seen?' So he tries to tell them." (1.409)
The speech that gets our minds churning on symbols for the rest of the novel. Can words possibly describe reality? Sam says no, but then again, he's using words to describe the reality that they cannot describe reality… Whoa.
"They are our children, by our long-dead First bodies, and second, and third and many after—and so, ours is the parents' responsibility toward them." (2.298)
Although the Firsts fashion themselves as gods, these personas are just symbols meant to represent them as beyond human. In fact, they're so human they are responsible for an entire planet filled with, yeah, humans.
Occasionally, the lamp would flare or sputter, and it was as if a nimbus of holy or unholy light played about their heads, erasing entirely the sense of the event, causing the spectators to feel for a moment that they themselves were the illusion, and that the great-bodied figures of the cyclopean dance were the only real things in the world. (3.22)
All art is symbolic in one way or another. Not to get all Matrix-y, but what happens when you can no longer tell the real world from the art world? What if the world we think is real is really just an elaborate artistic symbol? In fact, Buddhism and Hinduism do have a concept that suggests the illusionary and—dare we say, symbolic—nature of reality, maya.
The answers following the questions, which now came from all of them, grew longer and longer, for they became parables, examples, allegories. (3.127)
They meditated upon the Udgitha which functions through the eye, but the demons pierced it through with evil. Therefore, one sees both what is pleasing and what is ugly. Thus the eye is touched by evil. (4.Intro)
This introduction to Chapter 4 suggests that all of our senses are a way of receiving symbolic information as it puts all five in parallel with words (which we've already determined are symbols by nature). Too bad these symbols are all infested with demons. Does one need a special type of exorcist or ENT to extract eye demons?
Tathagatha and Sugata would be part of a single legend, he knew, and Tathagatha would shine in the light shed by his disciple. Only the one Dhamma would survive. (4.364)
For the followers of Buddhism, Sam and Rild are now one in the same. The Buddha is no longer a person, but rather two people who have become one symbol. Sounds cramped.
"The Buddha and his words are an abomination in the eyes of the gods."
"He is a bomb-throwing anarchist, a hairy-eyed revolutionary. He seeks to pull down Heaven itself." (5.160-162)
Potato, potato. Tomato, tomato… those are supposed to be pronounced differently. Our point is: The same symbol can be one person's salvation and another's bomb-throwing anarchy, in the same way that the same word can have more than one pronunciation.
"The only other things he cares about in those cities are souls, not bodies. He will move across the land destroying every symbol of our religion that he comes upon, until we choose to carry the fight to him. If we do nothing, he will probably then send in missionaries." (7.218)
When we read this, we thought to ourselves: If you destroy all the symbols of a religion—and we mean all the symbols—can you effectively destroy the religion? What do you think?
"Yours was the power to lay a belief upon them. You are what you claimed to be."
"I lied. I never believed in it myself, and I still don't. I could just as easily have chosen another way —" (7.279-280)
Sam says he lied when he said he was the Buddha. But has his lie become the truth? Has he become the symbol he said he was but never believed he was? Yes? No? We're going with maybe.
Death and Light are everywhere, always, and they begin, end, strive, attend, into and upon the Dream of the Nameless that is the world, burning words with Samsara, perhaps to create a thing of beauty. (7.607)
In the end, the characters of Yama and Sam are no longer discussed as people but as symbols of Death and Light itself. They have passed into legend, and so have obtained symbolhood. By the way, symbolhood, yeah, not a real word, but we hope it'll catch on all the same.
"You have broken upon the dark stone of your will that which is beyond all comprehension and mortal splendor. Why could you not have left me as I was, in the sea of being?"
"Because a world has need of your humility, your piety, your great teaching and your Machiavellian scheming." (1.128-129)
Sam's atman was floating around the planet in an electric cloud, yet even then he senses a reality he calls the sea of being. You'd think it'd be a pretty boring reality as solar flotsam, but Sam seems to really take to it.
"The entire universe is a revelation," said the monk. "All things change yet all things remain. Day follows night… each day is different, yet each is day. Much of the world is illusion, yet the forms of that illusion follow a pattern which is a part of divine reality." (1.313)
In Buddhism, there is a constant that surpasses all views of reality, that is: Change is constant, nothing permanent. Even the illusions of reality follow this truth.
"I am trying to guess your true identity, Lord Brahma. I confess that I cannot."
"That is as it should be," said Brahma, "if one is to be a god who was is and always shall be." (2.254-255)
The first step to becoming a god: You need to hide the reality that you're human because a god, by definition, is not human. The second step to becoming a god: Change your name if it's Madeline, Kevin, Bob, Sue, Matt, or just about any modern-day name. These aren't godly names.
A monk seated nearby noted that [Sam] was tapping his fingers upon the ground, and he decided that the Enlightened One must be keeping time with the drumbeats, for it was common knowledge that he was above such things as impatience. (3.25)
Sam's totally being impatient here, but the monk's version of reality doesn't allow him to consider such an option, so he simply replaces the reality with his version of reality. Ah, the human mind…
"One man, brief in space, must spread his opposition across a period of many years if he is to have a chance of succeeding. You are aware of this, and now that you have sown the seeds of this stolen creed, you are planning to move on to another phase of opposition." (3.428)
Sam can't simply oppose the gods—they're too powerful in the eyes of the average person—so instead, he needs to slowly and methodically redefine reality for the citizens of the world so the gods become less powerful in their eyes. Unfortunately, simply believing Agni's broomstick is less powerful doesn't make it less powerful. He'll have to find a work around for that one.
Hellwell lies at the top of the world and it leads down to its roots.
It is probably as old as the world itself; and if it is not, it should be, because it looks as if it were. (4.1-2)
A nice little nod to how the way things look often decides for us what they are. That is all.
It was said, by the theologians and holy historians, that the one called Sam had recanted his heresy and thrown himself upon the mercy of Trimurti. (5.420)
You know the whole "the winner writes history" saying? This is that exactly. And do you think it's possible to add: He who writes history, writes reality?
"Revenge is part of the illusion of self. How can a man kill that which neither lives nor dies truly, but which exists only as a reflection of the Absolute?"
Kubera's willing to play Sam's word game, but he's not really taken in by the reality picture Sam's trying to draw.
"I can destroy their Temples here in the world. I think the time is at hand to cleanse the world of this abomination. The true faith must come again! Soon! It must be soon…" (7.32)
Nirriti the Black One has a reality picture he wants the rest of the world to see. Imagine it's like one of those 3D stereograms, only if you don't see the picture he wants you to, he's going to kill you. No pressure.
"I wanted to tell you," said Tak, "that I knew you'd win. I knew you'd find the answer."
"It wasn't the answer, but it was an answer, and it wasn't much, Tak. It was just a small battle. They could have done as well without me." (7.535-536)
Sam's view on reality is to know that his view on reality is only one version of reality, and that's as close to reality as we're really going to get in this novel.
"Coldness?" [Mara] asked, extending his arms. "I can break a giant with these hands, Yama. What are you but a banished carrion god? Your frown may claim the aged and the infirm. Your eyes may chill dumb animals and those of the lower classes of men. I stand as high above you as a star above the ocean's bottom." (1.355)
It's telling that the first member of the gods—of the upper class—that we meet in the novel believes he's above and beyond death. Yama soon proves just how wrong he is.
"There is no room for evil in their minds, despite the fact that they suffer it constantly. The slave upon the rack who knows that he will be born again—perhaps as a fat merchant—if he suffers willingly—his outlook is not the same as that of a man with but one life to live." (1.435)
Social injustices are not only commonplace in this society, but accepted. The idea is that if you suffer the social ill quietly, you'll be rewarded later. Of course, rewards never come, or when they do, they are in paltry amount compared to the suffering.
"I can tell you something of them," replied the captain, "since you should not go unwarned. The body merchants are now the Masters of Karma. Their individual names are now kept secret, after the manner of the gods, so that they seem as impersonal as the Great Wheel, which they claim to represent." (2.94)
Whether it's capitalism, communism, or the Great Wheel itself, those who benefit from the inequalities of a system always claim it's not their doing. It's the system's—a thing that is above and beyond man's ability to fix. But any system can be fixed given enough know how or creative license.
"Having your brains scanned has become a standard procedure, just prior to a transfer. The body merchants are [sic] become the Masters of Karma, and a part of the Temple structure. They read over your past life, weigh the karma, and determine your life that is yet to come. It's a perfect way of maintaining the caste system and ensuring Deicratic control." (2.158)
Karma here is not the karma of Hindu of Buddhist philosophy. Good karma is doing what you are told, bad karma not doing so. And who determines which is which? Hint: not the people who have to get their brains scanned.
[Videgha] is wealthy because he levies high taxes upon his subjects. When his subjects begin to complain, and murmurs of revolt run through the realm, he declares war upon a neighboring kingdom and doubles the taxes. (4.8)
Death and taxes are inevitable, doubly so in any society with real jerks for kings or rajahs.
He had seen the city pass through all the stages through which a city can pass, until now it was inhabited by those who could spin their minds for a moment and transform themselves into gods, […]. (4.346)
In all fairness to the gods, they did build the Celestial City up from pretty humble beginnings. Sam just thinks that's no excuse to force humble beginnings on others.
"Accelerationism—it is a simple doctrine of sharing. It proposes that we of Heaven give unto those who dwell below of our knowledge and powers and substance. This act of charity would be directed to the end of raising their condition of existence to a higher level, akin to that which we ourselves occupy. Then every man would be as a god, you see." (5.172)
Accelerationism seems to just be concerned with technological equality, but it moves beyond that and becomes a symbol for social equality in general. Don't believe us? Then head over to our "Symbols " section. We might just change your mind.
"Brahma recommended the transfer, and he would be pleased for me to appear at the wedding party at Milehigh Spire in my new form. Shall I inform him that the Great Wheel is unable to comply with his wishes because it turns exceeding slow?" (5.393)
Ah, the Great Wheel—that which is supposed to be impersonal, above and beyond any member of society, while favoring none. Yeah, notice how well that theory works.
And elsewhere in the world there were those who remembered bifocal glasses and toilets that flushed, petroleum chemistry and internal combustion engines, and the day the sun had hidden its face from the justice of Heaven.
Vishnu was heard to say that the wilderness had come into the City at last. (6.799-800)
Interesting how Vishnu compares the beginnings of an equalizing system with a wilderness. Is he saying civilization is being destroyed? Or is it simply a part of the society that's reintegrating itself into its rightful place? Since we may never know the definitive answer, feel free to start the discussion.
"Then there is the matter of the new religion. Men no longer fear Heaven so much as they used to. They are more willing to defend themselves; and now that they are better equipped, the gods are less willing to face them."
"Then Sam is winning. Across the years, he is beating them." (7.16-17)
We hear freedom ringing. By changing the mindsets of a society, Sam has changed the society. In other words, society is what we, the people, believe it to be—a social and cultural consciousness. Thanks for letting us get all psychological for a moment.
Her figure, once lithe, was wide about the waist; her walk, once the swaying of boughs, was a waddle; her complexion was too dark; even through the veil the lines of her nose and jaw were too pronounced. (1.49)
The body provides confinement for the soul. This is especially true in a future where you can hop from bod to bod willy-nilly.
He played tune after forbidden tune, and the professional musicians put professional expressions of scorn upon their faces; but beneath their table several feet were tapping in slow time with the music. (2.53)
The gods try to confine the past to the past, but as we can see, the past cannot be so confined. Although prudence says the professional musicians must scorn the tune, yeah, they know otherwise.
"Why then do you destroy their own infant technology? The printing press has been rediscovered on three occasions that I can remember, and suppressed each time?"
"This was done for the same reason—they were not yet ready for it." (2.299-300)
Claiming to be a protector, Brahma is really just confining society to a technological dark age. Truth be told, it's really more of an everything dark age.
"I also betray the teachings of my new master. But I must follow the dictates of my heart. Neither my old name nor my new do therefore fit me, nor are they deserved—so call me by no name!" (3.187)
Rild finds freedom in liberating himself from his old name. Now he's allowed to follow his own desires even if those desires go against the teachings that taught him to be free in the first place. That's pretty darn free of him.
With this realization, he came into a greater wakefulness, and it was not always the hand of the demon which raised the wine horn to his lips, or twitched the whip in the dungeon. He came to be conscious for greater periods of time, and with a certain horror he knew that, within himself, as within every man, there lies a demon capable of responding to his own kind. (4.200)
We often view freedom as a good thing, but let's face it, you can have too much freedom. Case in point: When a demon takes your body booze-cruising Vegas-style, it's probably time to reel it in a bit.
"Then lift your curse, Binder, and I will depart this very day. I will give you back this cloak of flesh. I long again for the cold, clean winds of the heights! Will you free me now?" (4.235)
We add another layer to the confinements of the human condition. At first it was the flesh—the body—and now it's guilt. But guilt can be a useful confinement when used against our inner demons. Hopefully the metaphorical kind of demons, of course, though it seems to work for literal ones, too.
The wilderness came to the edge of the City and stopped. It was forbidden to enter there, just as the City kept to its bounds. (5.17)
The Celestial City is a place of hedonistic freedom, but even it has definitive boundaries. Take the wilderness into the wilderness and leave it there.
"The senses are horses and objects the roads they travel," said the voice. "If the intellect is related to a mind that is distracted, it loses then its discrimination," and Sam recognized the mighty words of the Katha Upanishad roaring at his back. (5.377)
In other words, it's in your head, mate. The mind is an important tool when considering what the freedoms and confinements of the self are.
"I cannot die, Siddhartha, save by my own choosing."
"How can that be, Lord Yama?"
"Let Death keep his own small secrets, Binder. For I may choose not to exercise my option in his battle." (6.540-542)
Another confinement of the human condition: We aren't free to choose when we die. Well, unless you're the god of death it seems; dude gets all the special privileges.
"[…], if [Nirriti] will agree not to war against the followers of either Buddhism or Hinduism as they exist in the world, for purposes of converting them to his persuasion—and further, that he will not seek to suppress Accelerationism, as the gods have done, should we prove victorious." (7.269)
Sam's desire is to provide as much freedom for society as he can—and if that means he needs to make a deal with the devil, then he'll confine himself to such a deal. Thankfully it doesn't come to that, but it's good to know he was willing to go the distance like a true hero.
"Sam was the greatest charlatan in the memory of god or man. He was also the worthiest opponent Trimurti ever faced. Don't look so shocked at my saying it, Archivist! You know that he stole the fabric of his doctrine, path and attainment, the whole robe, from prehistorical forbidden sources. It was a weapon, nothing more. His greatest strength was his insincerity. If we could have him back…" (1.75)
Right away, we realize the theme of religion won't be an easy one in this novel. On the one hand, Sam's a total liar of a prophet, but on the other hand, his lies do bring about some good results.
"They are aware that a god may do such things without karmic burden, but the shock was great and the impression vivid." (1.388)
To borrow from Plato: Is an act right because God says it's so, or does God say it's so because it's right? It's a super interesting question when you dig into it, and it might just help you dig into new levels of Lord of Light as well.
"Now that the karma idea has caught on, the [pray-o-mats] are better than tax collectors. When mister citizen presents himself at the clinic of the god of the church of his choice on the eve of his sixtieth year, his prayer account is said to be considered along with his sin account, in deciding the caste he will enter—[…]" (2.184)
Speaking of things that remind us of other things, way back in the day, people actually could pay to have sins removed from their soul (or so they thought). These were called indulgences.
"Like Kali," acknowledged the priest. "And in the cases of both deities have I often sought justification for atheism. Unfortunately, they manifest themselves too strongly in the world for their existence to be denied effectively. Pity." (3.290)
Death and suffering present a bit of a bind for this priest. On the one hand, how can he believe in gods that allow death and suffering? On the other hand, if he's going to die, how can he not believe in god? That's a doozy of a quandary. Best to grow a thinking beard before tackling it.
Over the years, their names would merge and their deeds would be mingled. He had lived too long not to know how time stirred the pots of legend. (4.346)
How does one separate truth, history, and legend in any religion? This passage suggests that, in time, these things get inseparably mingled.
"Peace," said Sam. "But tell me, do the ruling passions of the gods ever change?"
"The goddess of dance was once the god of war. So it would seem that anything can change." (4.563-565)
Even religion. 'Nuff said.
Brahma stood, considered the mirrors, considered Vishnu.
"So after we have disposed of Sam, you will have been the real Tathagatha." (5.204-205)
The gods use their religion to consume Sam's, making it less of a threat. In fact, religious history shows that religions often consume aspects of other cultures and religions as a way to integrate societies together. Christmas tree, anyone?
"The Buddha has gone to nirvana," said Brahma. "Preach it in the Temples! Sing it in the streets! Glorious was his passing! He has reformed the old religion, and we are better now than ever before! Let all who would think otherwise remember Keenset!" (6.794)
Now that they've fully implemented the plan above, the gods may give Sam all the praise he wants. He's one of them now, whether he likes or not.
"I agree with everything you said to Yama, and so do the followers of the one they called the Buddha." (7.485)
It's sometimes said that in every religion you'll find one key feature common amongst them all. We call it the Golden Rule. We aren't sure if this is true or not, but this scene sure has us wondering about it.
These are the four version of Sam and the Red Bird Which Signalled [sic] His Departure, as told variously by the moralists, the mystics, the social reformers, and the romantics. (7.604)
And so Sam departs into legend. His truth and religion are now what others make of them.
One night, long ago, in happier times and better form, he had danced with her, on a balcony under the stars. It had been for only a few moments. But he remembered; and it is a difficult thing to be an ape and to have such memories. (1.40)
Although he's in the body of an ape, Tak still seems to be Tak—just, you know, a little hairier.
"I have many names, and none of them matter." (1.408)
Sam's names only point to aspects of his personality, such as Binder of Demons and Lord of Lights. These are things Sam does, though, not who he is. And if you've ever worked an awful job, be thankful of this fact.
[…] and no matter how hard he tried to suppress the memory and destroy that segment of his spirit, Brahma had been born a woman and somehow was woman still. Hating this thing, he had elected to incarnate time after time as an eminently masculine man, did so, and still felt somehow inadequate, as though the mark of his true sex were branded upon his brow. (2.224)
This section seems to suggest that who we are born is who we stay. On the other hand, maybe Brahma just can't accept himself for who he is. It's a pretty dangerous passage, so tread lightly here, Shmooper.
"You are…?" asked the other, in an unexpected baritone.
"One who teaches the way of liberation," he replied.
"I have been called such."
"This name, too, have I been given." (3.48-53)
Once again, Sam refuses to commit to a name because it doesn't really answer the question of who he is. Philosophically, it's pretty interesting, but we'd probably think twice before inviting Sam to a fancy dress party.
"The real Buddha was named by us Sugata," replied the other. "Before that, he was known as Rild."
"Rild!" Yama chuckled. "You are trying to tell me that he was more than an executioner whom you talked out of doing his job?" (3.407-408)
Yeah, Yama, that's what he's telling you. Also, it's interesting to note that Sam seems to have the ability to see into a person's true self. Not even Rild was aware that he'd become a Buddha, but Sam knew. What do you think grants him this insight? Or is he just naming names like everybody else?
"Because you really have only one body-image, which is electrical as well as chemical in nature. It begins immediately to modify its new physiological environment. The new body has much about it which it treats rather like a disease, attempting to cure it into being the old body." (3.471)
Lord of Light is technically found in the science fiction section of the book story, so between all this philosophical mumbo-jumbo, Zelazny had to give a shout-out to a plausible scientific explanation for self.
"Think not, oh Siddhartha, that because you wear a different body you go now unrecognized. I look upon the flows of energy which are your real being—not the flesh that masks them." (4.46)
Then again… it doesn't have to be all science, all the time. Is this flame Taraka mentions the soul? If so, then how do we explain a novel in which both explanations are acceptable at the same time? Excuse us while we scratch our heads for a moment.
"You are wrong, Sam. Godhood is more than a name. It is a condition of being. One does not achieve it merely by being immortal, for even the lowliest laborer in the fields may achieve continuity of existence." (4.544)
Yama suggests that his godhood is a part of his true self, an aspect of his core. And while we might disagree about the other gods, with Yama, that very well might be true.
"I do not really remember," [Sam] said. "It was so very long ago. We were both different people then—different minds, different bodies. Probably those two, whoever they were, loved one another. I cannot remember." (5.85)
Does true self remain constant, or does it change like everything else? And if true self changes, then is it ever really a true self? Forget your love talk, Sam, we've got questions here.
"[…]. We brought you back to tell us what to do. Pray think about it carefully, now that you are yourself once more."
"You are always stressing those last words."
"Yea, preacher. For you have not been battle-tested since your return from bliss… Tell me, can you make the Buddhists?"
"Probably, but I might have to assume an identity I now find distasteful." (7.139-142)
Sam's become pretty adept at this multi-aspects of self thing; he has assumed so many different roles. We wonder if Yama isn't right to stress those last words. How would Sam know if he is his true self? What is his true self? What is ours? Who are you? What are we doing here…?
"It is written that to live is to suffer. This is so, say the sages, for man must work off his burden of Karma if he is to achieve enlightenment. For this reason, say the sages, what does it profit a man to struggle within a dream against that which is his lot, which is the path he must follow to attain liberation? In the light of eternal values, say the sages, the suffering is as nothing; in terms of Samsara, say the sages, it leads to that which is good. What justification, then, has a man to struggle against those who be mighty for ill?" (1.415)
By making suffering a positive in their religion, the gods have basically made it so that no one will question why they suffer. And if they don't question why they suffer, they won't question the gods. Stamp that power and label it absolute.
Few are the beings born again among men; more numerous are those born again elsewhere. Anguttara-nikaya (2.Intro)
In Hinduism and Buddhism, to live is to suffer. A higher birth may lessen the suffering, but it won't wipe it out entirely. Still, better to suffer as a human than to suffer as, let's say, a boxelder bug. Definitely.
"The definition of bad karma is anything our friends the gods don't like." (2.172)
Once again, the gods have cornered the market on suffering. Don't do anything the gods don't like because that promotes bad karma, and bad karma promotes suffering (but not the kind of suffering the gods will reward like we mentioned above).
"Are you certain," asked the Enlightened One, "that you do not seek merely to punish yourself for what has been weighing upon your conscience as a failure, or a sin?"
"Of that I am certain," said Rild. "I have held your words within me and felt the truth which they contain." (3.109-110)
Since Sam's religion is anti-suffering, he needs to make sure Rild isn't punishing himself by taking up the Buddhist robes. It would kind of defeat the whole point, wouldn't it?
"So? Despite her strength, she is not an unjust goddess."
The priest smiled. "What man who has lived for more than a score of years desires justice, warrior? For my part, I find mercy infinitely more attractive. Give me a forgiving deity any day." (3.275-276)
Justice is fine and dandy, but it can be cruel at times; it's mercy that ends suffering. Which do you think is the more benevolent of the two?
He rested, and a babble of voices filled his mind—promising, tempting, pleading. Visions of wealth and of splendor flowed before his eyes. Wondrous harems were paraded before him, and banquets were laid at his feet. (4.104)
Although these temptations seem to promote happiness, they are empty pleasures and, in the long run, will only promote suffering. In the short run? Well… that's kind of up to you, we suppose.
[…] to behold the flames of their beings, colored with the hues and shades of their passions, flickering with avarice and lust and envy, darting with greed and hunger, smouldering with hate, waning with fear and pain. (4.199)
Interesting, isn't it? When Sam takes a peek at the flames—the souls—of other people, they are colored not in the hues of their virtues, but in the hues of their sins and sufferings. That's fascinating. Awful, but fascinating.
[…] and then Lord Mara re-created the flight of Helba and the Buddha through the City. This last dreaming troubled many, however, and more names were recorded at that time. (5.454)
Mara takes delight in the suffering of others. It's about the only thing we can say about the guy, and it doesn't bode well for him getting an invite to our fancy dress party.
"I decided that mankind could live better without the gods. If I disposed of them all, people could start having can openers and cans to open again, and things like that, without fearing the wrath of Heaven. We've stopped on these poor fools enough. I wanted to give them a chance to be free, to build what they wanted." (6.303)
Sam's version of helping to end suffering is with can openers and cans. Seems odd at first, but take a second and consider a world without cans. Or cans and no can openers. Pretty spot on, right?
"If Heaven will add its power to our own, Nirriti will meet his downfall at Khaipur. We will do this, if Heaven will sanction Accelerationism and religious freedom, and end the reign of the Lords of Karma." (7.401)
Sam's fight was never personal, er, is no longer personal. If the gods help him end the suffering of people by accepting Accelerationism and religious freedom, he'll number them as allies.
The wearers of the saffron robe prayed, however, that He of the Sword, Manjusri, should come again among them. The Boddhisatva is said to have heard… (1.Intro)
Our first introduction to Sam is by his name Manjusri, He of the Sword. Although he's known by many other names, we think it's telling that this is the first one we're given.
"To struggle against the dreamers who dream ugliness, be they men or gods, cannot but be the will of the Nameless. […]; but this suffering is productive of a higher end in the light of the eternal values of which the sages so often speak." (1.419)
The novel has a lot of actual war in it, but it also spends a fair amount of time on more metaphorical types of war, too. Here, we get a twofer: Sam wants the people to struggle against "the dreamers who dream ugliness," meaning fight the gods, but also the social ugliness produced by the gods' dreams.
"Sins I have yet to commit, but which are being written in my mind as I consider them now."
"You plan to oppose the gods?"
The themes of religion and war come together. To oppose the gods is to sin, and to sin is to war against the gods. To war against the gods… we'll stop here. You take the point.
"Good luck. No gods be with you!" (2.364)
This is Sam's battle cry when going into war. It's effective at getting his point across, right?
"I realize that your doctrine is a thing which could have been remembered by any among the First. You chose to resurrect it, pretending to be its originator. You decided to spread it, in hopes of raising an opposition to the religion by which the true gods rule." (3.426)
Interesting how he says that any among the First could have done what Sam has and resurrected a religion to oppose Heaven. But then why are Sam and Nirriti the only ones to do so?
He thought of [the Celestial City's] splendor and its color, in contrast to that of the rest of the world, and he wept as he raged, for he knew that he could never feel either wholly right or wholly wrong in opposing it. (4.346)
Here, we see Sam's internal conflict over his external one. On the one hand, he can't defeat the gods without destroying the Celestial City, but on the other hand, to destroy a thing of beauty is still to destroy a thing of beauty. As is often the case of life, he can't have it both ways. Bummer.
[…] the smell of the blood driving them both into a great frenzy; purring, as the cool twilight came over her, bringing with it the moons, like the changing crescents of her eyes, golden and silver and dun. She sat upon the rock, licking her paws and wondering what it was she had hunted. (5.20)
Kali has become so obsessed with war that she hunts without even knowing what she hunts. She simply desires the kill.
"You are a fool to speak of last great battles, Sam, for the last great battle is always the next one." (5.121)
So sad, but so true at the same time. The last battle only remains so until the next one… and the one after that… and the one after that. Puts a damper on your spirit (well, unless you're Kali).
Brahma decided it was time to move against Accelerationism.
A war party was raised in Heaven, and the Temples of cities adjacent to Keenset sent out the call to the faithful to be ready for a holy war. (6.270-271)
For Kali, this war is a holy war, but for Sam, it's a social war. Can they both be right? If not, guess they could also duke it out to settle things, seeing as they're going to do that anyway.
"I think Ganesha wanted someone available as an enemy of Heaven, should the need for one ever arise in a hurry." (7.189)
This quote suggests that as long as people have an enemy other than Heaven, they won't think of Heaven as their enemy. Very clever, Ganesha., very clever indeed.