Study Guide

Lord of Light Versions of Reality

By Roger Zelazny

Versions of Reality

"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.