Gorean Compass Class from 2/23 – symbolism in the Gor novels

Transcript of Master Gorm’s class on symbolism.  Remember these classes are offered every Thursday at the Gorean Campus at 12pm (noon) and 6pm.  Come, enjoy and participate.

[12:03] Gorm Runo: today, I will be speaking of things such as rational thought, and the Priest Kings, and it is safe to be sitting there close to the podium today

[12:03] Gorm Runo: next week, when I speak of man’s animal nature and reptile brain

[12:03] Gorm Runo: you would certainly be further away

[12:03] Gorm Runo: or maybe not, hmmmmm

[12:04] Gorm Runo: well, I think we should begin

[12:04] Gorm Runo: as usual, I will give a short talk

[12:04] Gorm Runo: when I finish, we will take comments or questions or jeers

[12:05] Gorm Runo: picks up his notes

[12:05] Gorm Runo: Tal and Greetings

[12:05] Gorm Runo: The topic of today’s talk and the next few weeks is going to be symbolism in the early Gorean novels.  A quick internet search for a definition provided the following:

[12:05] Gorm Runo: Representation of a concept through symbols or underlying meanings of objects or qualities.


[12:06] Gorm Runo: Some people, myself included, find a great deal of enjoyment in searching out and discussing symbolic meanings in art and literature, even when we suspect that such things were, perhaps, not the intent of the author.

[12:06] Gorm Runo: We find symbolism where none should logically even exist..

[12:06] Gorm Runo: I like to joke that when I read Tarnsman of Gor for the first time, considering what an avid fan of symbolism I am, I stopped at the very first sentence to try to discover the hidden symbolic meanings behind the opening sentence.

[12:06] Gorm Runo: “My name is Tarl Cabot”

[12:07] Gorm Runo: After many years of intellectual examination, I was finally forced to conclude that John Norman did not intend any secret meaning in that sentence.

[12:07] Gorm Runo: He was merely introducing the protagonist of the novel.

[12:07] Gorm Runo: I have had more luck in other areas of the books, however.  In many discussions and debates over the years,

[12:07] Gorm Runo: I have faced arguments, sometimes backed by supposed statements by John Norman himself, that indicated that I might be barking up the wrong tree on a particular interpretation, but that does not discourage me at all


[12:08] Gorm Runo: One of the well known figures in the early history of Online Gor, a man named Bear of Ar who belonged to a group on MIRC called “The Silk and Steel Tavern” group

[12:08] Gorm Runo: wrote an essay on the subject entitled, “John Norman is not my God.”

[12:08] Gorm Runo: The point of the essay was that he had, personally, found meanings and symbolism in his own readings of the books that had resonated with him on a very visceral level,

[12:09] Gorm Runo: and if his own interpretations did not necessarily jive with the intent of the author, that was just too bad.

[12:09] Gorm Runo: He had found some jewels in the books that gave some insight and meaning that he could apply to his own life and that was all that mattered to him.

[12:09] Gorm Runo: Although Bear of AR was an outspoken foe of any type of Gorean role play, his point of view on the author’s intent could be applied to story line types of rp

[12:09] Gorm Runo: In other words, if someone saw some symbolic meaning in the novels and used his interpretation to enhance his own story that was certainly a good thing, too.

[12:10] Gorm Runo: I have chosen to introduce these talks on symbolism with this disclaimer to stress that I am in no way discussing holy writ here.

[12:10] Gorm Runo: My own personal love of symbolism has led me to look for it and develop my own thoughts on it over the years, but these thoughts in no way reflect anything more than my own personal take and should not be seen as anything else other than food for thought.

[12:11] Gorm Runo: One of my favorite symbolic themes is the idea of the duality of human nature.


[12:11] Gorm Runo: It ties in very well with the genetic predisposition of people and the “nature vs. nurture” discussions from the previous classes.

[12:11] Gorm Runo: It points out that we are both a highly rational and spiritual creature while at the same time being also just another savage animal.

[12:11] Gorm Runo: In one of my all time favorite books concerning the American Civil War Battle of Gettysburg, a Union officer is talking about the nobility of man and his divine nature and states, “How like an Angel is Man.”

[12:12] Gorm Runo: ”  To which, his more earthy subordinate replies, “Well, if he is an Angel, he is certainly a Killer Angel.”

12:12] Gorm Runo: This not only gives the novel its title, “The Killer Angels” , but expresses this duality seen in the Gorean novels perfectly.

[12:12] Gorm Runo: The rational and spiritual side is represented in the books by the Priest-Kings.

[12:12] Gorm Runo: And, of course, the animal side of their nature is represented by the Kur.

[12:13] Gorm Runo: It is important to note that these two races do not represent the balanced superior man that we discussed previously, but rather the extremes.

[12:13] Gorm Runo: I believe that it is of importance to this symbolic approach that Tarl Cabot, and through him, the readers, meet and are exposed to the Priest Kings first.

[12:13] Gorm Runo: This takes place in the third novel of the series, Priest Kings of Gor.

[12:13] Gorm Runo: Humans begin their educational process young and the long period of dependence of human offspring and their extended childhood is a biological result of their large brain and capacity for rational and abstract thought.

[12:14] Gorm Runo: Although anyone familiar with children and toddlers certainly gets a chance to see the little animal side of their nature, the child is not aware of that until much later when it can be articulated and compared with the restrictions and rational rules of civilized behavior.


[12:14] Gorm Runo: When I say that the Priest Kings represent the “extreme” , I mean also that they are not set up as a example of what we should seek to emulate as human beings.

[12:14] Gorm Runo: Even the fact that they are insect like and their society is modeled after the nest of social insects such as the ant and bee is an example of purely rational and spiritual behavior taken to its dangerous extreme.

[12:15] Gorm Runo: Many of the interactions between the Priest Kings and Tarl in this book bring to mind another popular science fiction world.

[12:15] Gorm Runo: ise always had its “Priest King” type persona

[12:15] Gorm Runo: In the Star Trek shows, the crew of the Starship Enterprise always had its “Priest King” type persona

[12:15] Gorm Runo: sorry

[12:16] Gorm Runo: The original had the logical Mr. Spock, and the later show had the robot crew member, Data.  Both these characters were aware of their lack of human emotion and certainly in the case of Data desired to be more human and to appreciate such things as humor and laughter and love.

[12:16] Gorm Runo: I wanted to gather a couple of quotes from the book that show some of interactions between rational PK’s and Tarl.

[12:17] Gorm Runo: In the first one, Tarl has been told that no humans in the Nest are allowed to see the Mother on the holidays where the Priest Kings are allowed into her presence. But, they tell him, they give the Muls a day off from their labors on the holidays.

12:17] Gorm Runo: Tarl replies to this information with a bit of sarcasm

[12:17] Gorm Runo: “The Priest Kings are generous.” I said.
“Do the men below the mountains do as much for their animals?” asked Misk.
“No,” I said, “But men are not animals.”
“Are men Priest Kings? asked Sarm.
“No,” I said.
“Then they are animals.” said Sarm.

Page 88 Priest Kings of Gor


[12:18] Gorm Runo: This insult causes Tarl to draw his sword in a display of anger.  But, he feels guilty about doing this shortly.

[12:18] Gorm Runo: “For some reason, this hurt me. I felt that I had betrayed Misk’s trust in me, that I had behaved as a not fully rational creature, that I had behaved as Sarm had expected me to.”

Page 89 Priest-Kings of Gor

[12:18] Gorm Runo: Now, when I grab a random passage like that in my readings today, I tend to pause and try to discern some symbolic message in the idea that Tarl at first reacted to an insult with anger and then felt shame that he had an emotional reaction unbefitting of a “rational being.”

[12:19] Gorm Runo: This leads me to a whole plethora of thoughts on shaming and guilt and the next thing I know I am relating it to political and social problems of our modern society such as bigotry and marginalization..

[12:19] Gorm Runo: Another example of this mental process comes later in the story when the Nest is engaged in a sort of civil war of its own.

[12:19] Gorm Runo: Tarl is sneaking up on some Priest Kings after messing up the instrumentation that would enable them to detect his presence.

[12:19] Gorm Runo: He notes that two conclusions are possible.  One is that he is no longer in the nest and therefore outside the range of the sensors and the other is that he has disabled the sensors and is sneaking up on the

[12:20] Gorm Runo: on them.

[12:20] Gorm Runo: He notes they are not looking out the window of their vessel where they could easily see him, but rather are staring fixedly at the instruments.

[12:20] Gorm Runo: “—- and I smiled to myself, for I was certain that the second hypothesis would never occur to a Priest-King, for it was too improbable and Priest-Kings were too rational a kind of creature.”

Page 247 Priest Kings of Gor

[12:20] Gorm Runo: So, once again, I stop and think.
[12:21] Gorm Runo: Common sense, I conclude is a totally different creature and despite their supposed superior rational abilities and knowledge, the Priest Kings do not possess it


[12:21] Gorm Runo: It leads me to thinking of such things as “street smarts” and the idea that many people tend to flaunt their “education” as being so superior when they clearly lack basic common sense and tend to be helpless in certain situations regardless of the number of diplomas on their walls, or letters after their names.

[12:21] Gorm Runo: I give these examples of how when I approach this particular book with this symbolic mindset, I open up a whole new way of seeing it.

[12:21] Gorm Runo: Certainly, most of these things did not occur to me on my first reading, when I blew through it with the sole intent of finding out where the plot was going.

[12:22] Gorm Runo: The process is ongoing also.  In Priest Kings of Gor, there are creatures in the tunnels surrounding the nest called “The Golden Beetles”

[12:22] Gorm Runo: (Not a new English Rock band, by the way)

[12:22] Gorm Runo: I have searched for an understanding of the symbolism of the Golden Beetles and the lure they have for the Priest Kings, and every time I think about it, I develop a new theory, but still I am not satisfied.

[12:23] Gorm Runo: .  So, I will continue to think on it, and reread Priest Kings from time to time to try to develop new ideas

[12:23] Gorm Runo: I do not mean this as “homework” of any sort, but if anyone in the class has any ideas on these Priest King death dealers, slap them on a notecard and send them to me.  I would be muchly grateful.

[12:23] Gorm Runo: It was only upon my second and third reading did I begin to understand my own hidden messages

[12:23] Gorm Runo: Rational thought may have allowed us to raise above the animal in many areas, and we are, indeed, the only species to build Cathedrals and produce Opera, but there is another side.

[12:24] Gorm Runo: Greed, envy, prejudice, total warfare, genocide and a host of other terrible things have occurred in recent times unchecked by rationality.

[12:24] Gorm Runo: Our ability to think rationally has not protected us from evil and immorality.

[12:24] Gorm Runo: The plot of Priest Kings is one of the struggle not of our rational vs our animal natures, but rather of good and evil; of morality vs immorality.

[12:24] Gorm Runo: Those are the battles that rage inside our “Nests”  as they did even in the highly structured and rational nest of the Priest Kings.

[12:25] Gorm Runo: It is important to note, and we will get back to this idea as we look closer at the Kur, that Tarl becomes a sort of agent of the Priest Kings.

[12:25] Gorm Runo: He often says that he picks his battles carefully and is not a blind servant of them either, but he does serve the side of the rational against the domination of the animal.

[12:25] Gorm Runo: I like to think that I too serve the Priest Kings

[12:25] Gorm Runo: I support this Campus and work through discussions and my radio shows and writings to bring more rationality and intellectualism even to our online Gorean world,

[12:26] Gorm Runo: but like Tarl , I like to think that I pick my battles carefully, and avoid the dogmatic ant like adherence to any cause, as well as avoiding any shame about being also human.

[12:26] Gorm Runo: I carouse in the taverns and pursue the scantily clad slave girls with unbridled lust and laugh, and love, and cry.

[12:26] Gorm Runo: I value common sense and practical knowledge as well as abstract philosophy.  Those are some of the things that have resonated with me in my reading of the books and if John Norman did not intend for me to find those things within his pages, that is just too bad.

[12:27] Gorm Runo: He is not my God either.


[12:27] Gorm Runo: puts down his notes and takes a breath

[12:27] Gorm Runo: ok, if anyone has any comments on that, or questions for me, please type @

[12:28] Gorm Runo: and say down when finished.

===================Discussion after lecture =============================

[12:28] rhiannon (rhiannon0327) kneels a bit wide eyed, emerald hues glinting brightly. Takes a small breath realizing that she had been holding it.

[12:28] Gorm Runo: pops open a can of paga and takes a sip

[12:28] TABI (xtabi.galaxy): @

[12:28] Gorm Runo: yes, tabi

[12:30] TABI (xtabi.galaxy): Master, in RL I have taken quite a few English classes in which we discussed symbolism and I have usually found it wise to use a bit of caution. As you say, symbolism can be interpreted differently between people and only the author can give a definitive answer. But, would you also advise caution in attributing the symbolism because after all…. sometimes an apple is just an apple.? Done Master.

[12:31] Flavius Kjalarr (gnaeusflavius): @

[12:31] Gorm Runo: thank you, tabi, and I think that I might have heeded that caution actually this morning as I finished up these notes.

[12:32] Gorm Runo: I thought it inapproriate to make this like “The Scrolls of Gorm”

[12:32] TABI (xtabi.galaxy) giggles

[12:32] Gorm Runo: as if I had the right interpretation

[12:33] Gorm Runo: it was more to suggest we view the books as a resource center that we can reach into and draw out what suits them best.

[12:33] Gorm Runo: yes, Flavius

[12:33] Flavius Kjalarr (gnaeusflavius): I tend to think that we approach any subject through the filter of our own “cognitive dissonance”, that is we bring our own assumptions into any thing we study and tend to come away with only what we agree with. This can be seen by the seemingly endless arguments about what is “by The Book” or not. and as for your method of studying what you read for symbolism, I shudder to think how long you spent on the first line of Moby Dick, if you’ve read it *grins

[12:33] Flavius Kjalarr (gnaeusflavius): done

[12:34] Gorm Runo: laughs

[12:34] Gorm Runo: I have grown old and gray in the study of opening lines. Laughs

[12:34] Flavius Kjalarr (gnaeusflavius) chuckles

[12:34] Angel (thewolfslilangel): @

[12:35] Gorm Runo: but, yeah, you are right. And it makes me wonder if the trend to sometimes speak of “in the spirit of the book” when you speak of anything more than the trivia part of this, such as the sleen has six legs, which is not subject to interpretation

[12:36] Gorm Runo: is a better way to go

[12:36] Flavius Kjalarr (gnaeusflavius) nods

[12:36] saki (summerswind): @

[12:36] Gorm Runo: yes, angel

[12:36] Angel (thewolfslilangel): Master on the subject of symbolism..given gor is a very masculine world what do you make of the fact that the Priestkings serve the Mother a Matriarchal figure, suggesting a female domination over all?

[12:36] Angel (thewolfslilangel): Done

[12:37] Gorm Runo: good question indeed, angel

[12:37] Gorm Runo: here is a thought on that

[12:39] Gorm Runo: I find many what might be called “dog whistles” in the books that are designed to make sure we do not get too hung up on the “female slaves as animals” part, and see that as a cultural extreme of Gor. The Gorean novels are not misogynistic in my opinion, and you hit on one of the arguments I would use to defend that it isn’t

[12:39] Angel (thewolfslilangel): Nods this girl agrees

[12:40] Gorm Runo: And perhaps, this idea. The most rational thing our race can do, perhaps, is to make sure it continues after we are gone.

[12:40] Gorm Runo: saki, you were next

[12:41] saki (summerswind): Symbolism is something that is personal, I know with my own writings, I have had several people read something, and come up with different meanings for it. All of which was not my intent as the author, as I am sure Norman did not intend for ”most” of the minute details that end up being haggled over to be done so. Perhaps to him, a vulo crossing the road, was just a vulo crossing the road.

[12:41] saki (summerswind): At times, it seems as if people try to read too much into things. done.

[12:43] Gorm Runo: yes, I agree with that the idea of people do try to read too much into it.

[12:43] Gorm Runo: tries again

[12:44] Gorm Runo: I agree that some people go too far and try to make too much out of things.

[12:44] TABI (xtabi.galaxy): @

[12:44] Flavius Kjalarr (gnaeusflavius): @

[12:45] Gorm Runo: but, others do not look deep enough, and miss even obvious things just barely below the surface. As always, saki, the ideal seems to be balance.

[12:45] Meg Madrigal: @

[12:45] Gorm Runo: and not extreme

[12:45] Gorm Runo: tabi go ahead

[12:45] TABI (xtabi.galaxy): A couple of things related to this. First, a little story about a child who always drew people with their hands behind their backs. The psychologist theorized that the child had deep seated problems of insecurity. However, when the child was finally asked why he drew people the way he did he replied, “I don’t know how to draw hands.” An example of over interpretation.

[12:46] Gorm Runo: laughs

[12:46] Angel (thewolfslilangel): giggles

[12:47] TABI (xtabi.galaxy): Then, getting back to the PK and the mother… just thought that was interesting but was thinking that The PK’s place the goreans on Gor. In a sense they are the “Mother’s” of the gorean race. The mother, the women, they keep the race going. Mother’s are important… therefore to me it makes sense that the PK’s would honor and worship the Mother, especially since their own race continuation was so tenuous as evidenced by sending Tarl to find the egg. Done, Master.

[12:48] Gorm Runo: thanks tabi cat

[12:48] Gorm Runo: Flavius

[12:48] Gorm Runo: go ahead

[12:48] Flavius Kjalarr (gnaeusflavius): At times their filters get in the way also Gorm. I was discussing in one of my Basics classes the subject of whether Masters had affection or love for their girls and even though I provided several quotes from the books, that they did in fact do so, one of my students huffed that I was inserting “earth values” into Gor, the got up and stomped out of the class, never to return I’m either sorry or glad to say

[12:48] Flavius Kjalarr (gnaeusflavius): done

[12:49] Gorm Runo: nods, and we both know that we could find even more than your several examples.

[12:49] Flavius Kjalarr (gnaeusflavius) nods

[12:49] Gorm Runo: with little trouble.

[12:50] Míкα Ɗгαgσηʂεεкεг (aliciasilverfang): @

[12:50] Gorm Runo: I think , even in my talk, I suggested with the idea of picking our battles carefully that we avoid dogmatic stances. Storming out is bad enough, but being in the wrong is embarassing

[12:50] Gorm Runo: meg, go ahead

[12:51] Flavius Kjalarr (gnaeusflavius): I thought it rather amusing

[12:51] Meg Madrigal: thank you, Master. just a short comment. is it not significant in itself that the writing has touched so many to the degree that they are trying to ascribe meaning ? we reveal a lot about ourselves by what we choose to talk about.

[12:53] Meg Madrigal: time spent on apparently insignificant things refleect something, done

[12:53] Meg Madrigal: ii’m not sure what other than it’s important to the speakers

[12:54] Gorm Runo: yes, meg, and as has been mentioned often right here in this arena , this is a Game, after all. A game that has touched many people.

[12:54] Gorm Runo: some in positive ways

[12:54] Gorm Runo: and some in negative ways

[12:55] Gorm Runo: So, it seems important to me , at least, to try to understand it.

[12:55] Gorm Runo: and look at all the people who came out today

[12:56] Gorm Runo: we will have some fun with symbolism

[12:56] Gorm Runo: and I am open to ideas about the golden beetles

[12:56] Gorm Runo: I have been give one theory already

[12:56] Gorm Runo: I will look forward to seeing you all next week

[12:56] Gorm Runo: and tell your friends , we do it all again at 6pm

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