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Religion in Left Hand of Darkness 
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Post Religion in Left Hand of Darkness
There are strong Taoist overtones in the novel, beginning with the pairing of colors, cold/warm, male/female, deceit/loyalty, the title of the book (Left Hand of Darkness being "light"). Le Guin blatantly states, " It is yin and yang. Light is the left hand of darkness...how did it go? Light, dark. Fear, courage. Cold, warmth. Female, male. It is yourself, Therem. Both and one. A shadow on snow." That is the strength--or the weakness--of the Gethenians. They are the yin; they are the yang. Both in one person.

I was also interested in her naming the confederation of worlds the Ekumen. Ring a bell? Although the Oxford dictionary defines "ecumenism" as "the aim of promoting unity among the world's Christian churches", it is obviously borrowed from the religious and applied to the unity of the worlds.

I was fascinated with her "to oppose something is to maintain it. To be an atheist is to maintain God." (This would make a good discussion topic in the Religion and Belief forum).

This novel is permeated, even dripping throughout, with religion, from the Handdarata, to the Indwellers, to the Foretellers and Weavers, to the Yomesh mysticism, to the creation myths, to the place inside the blizzard, to the sexless angel(!?) beings --the Gethenians themselves.

Anyone on for a discussion of this?


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Robert Tulip
Wed Jan 06, 2010 3:06 pm
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Post Re: Religion in Left Hand of Darkness
oblivion wrote:
I was also interested in her naming the confederation of worlds the Ekumen. Ring a bell? Although the Oxford dictionary defines "ecumenism" as "the aim of promoting unity among the world's Christian churches", it is obviously borrowed from the religious and applied to the unity of the worlds.

Ekumen - from the Greek oikoumene, the whole inhabited earth, the root of our words economy and ecumenism, and used in Christianity to indicate the kingdom of Christ.



Wed Jan 06, 2010 3:36 pm
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Post Re: Religion in Left Hand of Darkness
I find the underlying religious themes extremely fascinating. There Fortellers and their concept of truth, the strength of the Handarrta, and the likening between Yomish and Buddhism.


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Wed Jan 06, 2010 4:39 pm
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Post Re: Religion in Left Hand of Darkness
Buddhism yes, but I think the foretelling itself has very strong Tantric overtones.

Robert, agreed. The root of the the word is Greek and our words do stem from it. But with regard to the other strong religious images le Guin uses, I think I would make a case for it hinting at a more religious meaning, especially considering the various t<ypes of religion that are borrowed from in the book.

There's a wonderful (and for me, totally unexpected) gallimaufry of religions, dogma, being hashed out here. Fascinating! (to quote the, uh, "Vulcan") :wink:


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Religion is the only force in the world that lets a person have his prejudice or hatred and feel good about it --S C Hitchcock

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it. --André Gide

Reading is a majority skill but a minority art. --Julian Barnes


Thu Jan 07, 2010 2:20 am
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Post Re: Religion in Left Hand of Darkness
These are all great observations. I don't have much to add to what has already been said, I also agree that the "to oppose something is to maintain it" idea is something atheists should consider when vehemently opposing the presence of God. Its like I've always heard said about hate being an expression of love. If you are passionate enough about something or someone to spend your energy hating them/it, then it must mean a lot to you and therefore be the left hand of hate...or love ;)



Sat Mar 06, 2010 3:44 pm
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