Study Guide

Lord of Light Freedom and Confinement

By Roger Zelazny

Freedom and Confinement

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.