JULY / AUG 2012: BY HANNAH PRICE
God can be found in dark places, at dark times, in mysterious ways. In the world of The Seeker, God is present but hidden from plain sight. He is known as the Creator, the bringer of light, beauty, and life. You wouldn’t know that scanning through any of the Sword of Truth books by Terry Goodkind; a deeper search is needed to discover a multifaceted work of philosophical and moral significance.
At first look, it is a traditional fairytale with a likely cast of characters: a handsome hero, a beautiful heroine, and a grandfatherly wizard fighting to save the world from evil. These are Richard Cypher, the Seeker of Truth, Kahlan Amnell, Mother Confessor (she has the power to bring people under her control with one touch), and Zedd, a wizard of great power. They are united to hunt down and destroy evil, bringing balance and restoring peace.
When authors set out to fashion a fantasy world, the result is a blend of their worldview, personal experiences, invention and the desire to make sense of their beliefs. Goodking’s books are full of philosophical influences and spiritual undertones. These influences are Objectivistic, a worldview marked by an emphasis on individualism, reason, a rejection of blind faith and a firm grounding in reality. The ultimate purpose of life in this belief system is to find individual happiness and fulfillment. Objectivism and the faith of Christianity have opposing views, one focusing on the here and now and the latter on the hereafter. But lest you dismiss the series too readily, let’s take a deeper look under the surface.
The hero’s belief is, life is sacred and beautiful, not something to be treated lightly or thrown away rashly. At first, Richard is an idealistic trail guide, embracing nature and a simple reality. His life is altered by the intrusion of lies, secrets, barriers and artificiality as he embarks into the world as the Seeker. Richard matures and learns to cope with these unfortunate realities, but longs to help others realize the beauty and sanctity of life. He doesn’t conform to people’s expectations or blindly accept harsh realities. He wants to change the world so that everyone can live life to the fullest and pursue their dreams. Wherever he goes and whatever situation he finds himself in, Richard always finds a way to best evil. His faith in goodness and his leadership earn him a following, redeeming former captors and tormentors alike.
Redemption features prominently; a good example is the transformation of the Mord’sith, an elite group of girls trained in the art of torture and domination. Before Richard came along, they were Darken Rahl’s right hand, carrying out his orders with merciless brutality. After Rahl’s defeat, Richard becomes their lord and master. Under his guidance, many of them morph into strong leaders. Another example is Nicci, a sorceress who captures Richard and torments Kahlan in a search for meaning. After a long, hard struggle her heart is transformed, and she becomes a champion for peace.
Religious influences are apparent. The Imperial Order is reminiscent of the Inquisition, and the Sisters of the Light strongly resemble nuns. God is found in the likeness of the Creator, a deity worshipped by both the Imperial Order and Sisters of the Light. But the Order twists the Creator’s intentions, turning faith in a loving and gracious Almighty into a works-based cult that bends faith into a dark power trip. This brings to mind the Catholic Church preceding Martin Luther and the Reformation, a power-hungry institution in need of revival. In contrast, the Sisters of the Light embrace the Creator as a merciful deity, a giver of light, life, power and magical talents.
The debate between determinism and free will is also addressed. The Sisters believe in prophecy, adhering to it strictly and acting on their interpretations of it without realizing the power of free will. But Richard is a passionate believer in free will who fights the idea of a pre-determined fate. Both free will and determinism are shown to be viable, for what is prophesied through the Creator’s foretelling comes to pass through the choices that are made.
Probably the most prominent issue is reason vs. faith. As Christians, we know God is not hidden from us or asking us to believe Him on “blind faith.” He has revealed Himself to us through specific (the Bible) and general revelation (Creation). Science, history, archeology, art, and every other pursuit give us a glimpse into the heart and mind of our Creator. Christians don’t need to view “reason” and “faith” as two rival doctrines. Our minds aren’t designed to be sealed off from logic but to be actively used in pursuing truth. We don’t need to be afraid of reason because our faith should be reinforced by it as we keep our eyes on Christ in the present and our hearts fixed on the hereafter.
Despite the Objectivism in this series, there is also an appreciation of life, beauty, nature, and honesty. Some aspects of it are downright ugly but the beautiful elements found in its pages shine brightly when philosophical views are momentarily set aside and the Creator, our Creator, is allowed to reveal Himself as the light ever present in the darkness. ■
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hannah Price thrives on creativity and loves to be inspired by the creativity of others. Her passion is storytelling in all its forms of expression. Some of those loves are American Sign Language, theater, film, audio drama and the varied mediums of art (painting, drawing, etc.). She wants to be involved in film production someday, as she is already involved in theater production and would like to be able to turn her hobbies into a full time occupation.