Which Way, Western Man?

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Lauded American fiction author Roger Zelazny and hip hop genius GZA (who is obviously American, UK drill is a blight on the sonic medium) were both on one –as the kids say– when they released their respective masterpieces Lord of Light (1967), and Liquid Swords (1995). Both penmen are arguably godfathers of their crafts and genres, with Zelazny's bibliography boasting numerous experimental and genre-defining titles from the mid-sixties through the turn of the century, adorned with awards throughout, and with GZA being one of the founding members of the Wu-Tang clan. Released nearly three decades apart, across vastly different mediums, both works rely on mystic backgrounds of Eastern influence to provide the backdrop for their protagonists to evangelize their uniquely Western ideologies.

These themes of Eastern mysticism often take center stage in both Lord of Light and Liquid Swords. In the former, the Buddhist and Hindu mythologies1 illustrate the power of religion in shaping societal norms and rules as a mechanism of oppression and coercion in Zelazny's fictitious setting. His theater of characters –modeled after the Hindu pantheon of gods and demigods– use religion to control and subjugate the masses,2 while the rebellion against their rule led by the eponymous Lord of Light, Sam, is inspired by Buddhist asceticism and mindfulness and uses these contextually familiar ideologies to spread his message of technological Accelerationism.

In Lord of Light, the use of mysticism is not just limited to its portrayal of society and religion, but also as a literal deus ex machina plot device for karmic reincarnation and destruction which are central to the narrative. We find the protagonist known by many names throughout the book including Mahasamatman, Kalkin, Manjusri, Siddhartha, binder of demons, Tathagatha, Maitreya, the Enlightened One, Buddha, or just "Sam,"3 previously part of the upper elite –a member of the "Firsts" from the starship Eye of India, voyaging from the terran stand-in Urathin media res as a rebel figure who is plucked from the meteoric cloud surrounding the dreamscape planet the novel is set upon in order to fight for the oppressed natives (or rather, just against his foes, there's a lot of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" alliance swapping that takes place). Throughout the novel, Sam undergoes reincarnation and his journey creates a contrast between worldly life and his erstwhile state of nirvanic existence. Reincarnation and karma are thus intertwined with the themes of revolution and societal change. Sam's fight for liberation is ensconced with Hindu beliefs of dharma and karma, elevating the use of Eastern mysticism from the status of a background motif to integral foundation of the story, emphasizing the power of mythology in shaping normative behavior in the dystopian dreamscape. These concepts transcend mere thematic backdrop to the point that, in reading Lord of Light, it's quite easy to lose track of the sci-fi underpinnings of the novel which often reads more like Siddhartha than, say, Asimov.

Take, for example, in a passage like this:

"I could not save you, Keenset," he stated. "I tried, but was not sufficient."

Far below, in the street, Rudra strung his bow.

Seeing him, Sam raised his lance.

The lightnings fell upon Rudra and the arrow exploded in their midst.

When the air cleared, where Rudra had been standing there was now a small crater in the center of a space of charred ground.

Lord Vayu appeared upon a distant rooftop and called forth the winds to fan the flames. Sam raised his lance once more, … (pp. 199).

It's all too easy to forget that a James Cameron / Pacific Rim-type of conflict is unfolding with mechs and laser beams and nukes since it's hidden beneath a dense layer of the vedic prose.

Similarly, Liquid Swords finds significant influence in Eastern mysticism as well, sampling heavily from the 1980 film Shogun Assassin to present G-to-the-iZA's gritty and violent description of urban tumult. Weaving rhetorical minstrelsy, GZA evokes the power of swords (obviously), chi energy, and chess4 to emphasize the importance of wisdom, enlightenment, and spiritual power to survive and usurp the oppressive system within which he and his brethren find themselves entangled. Both works describe struggles of modern Western society, explored through these stylized and hoary lenses of Eastern mythos.

Whereas Zelazny's dazzling and cerebral dharmic anti-pastoral hinges on literal e/acc proselytization via Buddhist soliloquy, Liquid Swords' enlightened narrative focuses on the proliferation of knowledge, rather than the power of religion. GZA's liturgy of the sword incorporates Daoist motifs into hip-hop, making a statement about the need to use knowledge to accelerate progress and overcome oppression. Neither story is radio friendly, by which I mean I do not think Lord of Light was a particularly fun read and NPR didn't do a Wu-Tang Tiny Desk show until 2018!5 While the two works tackle these thematic similarities in different ways, it is apparent that both draw from the same vein of Eastern mysticism to convey their messages.6

Synopses: Lord of Light7

Broken up into seven dense and slightly anachronistic chapters, Lord of Light follows the reincarnation and mission of Mahasamatman as he spreads a message of Buddhism and technological Accelerationism on the planet colonized by the elite Hindu social strata who have achieved literal deification. The Hindu gods oppose Sam at every step of the way, worried that his message of Accelerationism in conjunction with woke & hip Buddhism will cause a social uprising to usurp the status quo which they have maintained the by hoarding8 and honing the technology such that they are gods.9 Sam's mission is to immanentize the eschaton.10

The story begins with The Bodhisattva being awoken, and finding himself in a new body. The first chapter familiarizes the reader with the normalcy of reincarnation as the characters we're introduced to reflect on the limitations of their flesh vessels. Evading the karmic reincarnation system, the once-Buddha, twice GOAT, Sam is channeled from the heavens where he had been previously banished by the gods (casually dissociated into the oort cloud orbiting the planet, lest he become a martyr by true death)11 by Yama, the god of death, by way of a prayer machine. His literal and corporeal son, who has been turned into an ape named Tak, joined by Yama, and the night goddess Ratri welcome him back to temporal existence. A skirmish between Yama and Mara, the god of illusion, breaks out, and Yama snaps Mara's neck, setting the tone for the warmth of Sam's welcome back into the worldly plane. He proceeds to give a speech on lies of words and truth of the Nameless (which is ironic, since he is heavily named; who's truth, then, does he speak of hmmmmm¿?).

The second chapter provides more exposition about the origins of the humans on this planet and the caste system that has been established and reinforced by the body merchants and Karmic Masters who affect population control by designating those with Accelerationist tendencies, or any disagreeable traits, as karmically unfit for rebirth. Sam reconnects with the captain of the starship Eye of India, who is growing decrepit having been barred from reincarnation due to his proclivity for mending things more technologically advanced than sails, which gets sussed out via probe as Accelerationist-leaning (jorjor well moment). Sam gets a hold of Brahma, one of the Hindu head honchos, to try to hear the other side of the story as far as authoritarian control of technology goes, getting a rise out of the god after he correctly names her by her previous identity, but ultimately agreeing to side with the gods after getting his own, more-permanent body transplant on the morrow. Clever Samuel, though, instead hypnotizes a grifter into thinking that he is Siddhartha and needs to go through with Sam's scheduled body transplant which reveals the gods' intended betrayal of Sam after the grifter suffers a seizure moments after taking on the body that was intended for Sam. Shortly, Sam launches a vengeful assault on the Masters of Karma for their assassination attempt, resulting in a duel where he and the master are both injured. Sam wins out, sacks the Karmic Temple, and makes off with the reincarnation machine, plotting his campaign against the two-timing gods.

After some meditation away up in the mountains, the third chapter sees Sam begin to establish himself as a prophet of Buddhism, stoking the ire of his Hindu opposition, namely Yama who has been responsible for much of the R&D of the religious technologies enabling deification of the upper echelon of society only. He encounters the assassin Rild, who had been dispatched by Kali (Yama's lover), but in a demonstration of his nirvanic wisdom, Sam instead converts Rild (sounds cooler than it is, again clouded by the narrative frame of a duel of the wits).12 Yama swiftly kills Rild and confronts Sam, who entraps him in quicksand before browbeating him with some of that Buddhist banter that would bring a tear to Herman Hesse's eye. He quickly follows his wisened admonition of Yama with a chirp:

"I think I am going to make a deal for some weapons," he finished, "some rather special weapons. So when you come after me, bring your girl friend along. If she likes what she sees, she may persuade you to switch sides" (pp. 101).

The fourth chapter is what got this blogpost off the ground. Hellwell chapter Hellwell chapter!

picture bloodbaths in elevator shafts

Sam descends into the Hellwell –the holding place for demons13– and recruits the Rakasha: the "demonic" natives of the planet. No comment on the meta-commentary of this allegory. Imperialism is Western-coded I guess. Sam is overrun by Taraka, the Lord of Hellwell, who seizes control of Sam's physical faculties and indulges in multitudes of worldly pleasures before Sam is able to summon the constitution to guilt-shame Taraka into submission. Agni, the god of fire, attacks the now-bonded-don't-think-about-it-too-hard Sam & Taraka (who are now a team, re: enemy of my enemy is my friend) who flee back to Hellwell where the cast of Hindu antagonists comprised of Kali, Shiva, Yama, and Agni are awaiting him (Like a misplay in Smite, Sam is getting ganked midlane). Sam is exorcised of Taraka,14 and promptly captured.

Back in the Celestial city, the only gentrified oasis on the hellscape planet the deified antagonists have created, Kali attempts to seduce Sam who apparently once had a thing with her.

This was Great-Souled Sam, the Buddha, who, with his warden, had just arrived. He was talking of Buddhism and Accelerationism, and the days of the binding, and Hellwell, and the blasphemies of Lord Siddhartha in the city of Mahartha by the sea. He was talking, and his voice went on and on, hypnotic, and he radiated power and confidence and warmth, hypnotic, and how words went on and on and on, as the crowd slowly pass out and fell down around him (pp. 146).

Kali strikes a deal with the mysterious Brahma character to have Sam sacrificed at her and Yama's wedding (Yama, God of death by the way, is Kali's conciliatory slam piece, with her true affection lying with Brahma. Cold world). Because why not, Sam breaks free, enters the museum of heaven which is just an armory, and steals a weapon powerful enough to enable his escape, but because why not, he's stopped by the same god of illusion, Mara, who was giving him trouble as soon as he touched down. Kali and Yama get married still, the wedding is notably not consummated with the sacrifice of our boy.

Instead, chapter 6 barks open with the mysterious murders of Brahma and Shiva. Kali becomes the new Brahma, annulling her marriage to Yama (God of Death btw) who is pissed and seeks investigative vengeance (a continuation of the enemy of my enemy/ex is my friend). A member of the Karma Police who Sam/Yama evaded at the outset of his reincarnation, Lord Kubera, discovers Sam transposed his Atman (electromagnetic essence) to a new body at the time of his death (despite not being sacrificed, he dies offscreen still, because why not). It is revealed that Sam transferred his Atman to a different body after this death though, and so he and his allies flee the Celestial city and prepare for the inevitable battle, joined by Yama who is all over the place emotionally. In the ensuing battle, Sam et al are defeated at high cost to the Hindu antagonists. Yama honor kills himself (yeah whatever dude), and in doing so transmits his own Atman to a new body as well. Sam beams his own ass up into an orbiting satellite (bc remember we're in space and this is actually a sci-fi novel) in pure Saturnic electromagnetic tour de force.

The final chapter pits Nirriti, the Black One (and, notably, a Christian) against Sam's foes. Siding with the Rakasha as well, Nirriti picks up Sam's crusade against the Hindu pantheon, but for far less ostensibly-altruistic reasons. Space-dust Sam joins with Brahma to defeat Nirriti because this Jesus shit is just whack (again, low-principled gods, just wreaking havoc on the Rakasha who are getting Tsujigiri'd by plasma canons and nukes, but have been denied even bicycles, running water, printing press, etc.) and forms a pact with his former-enemies contingent on them accepting his e/acc religious freedom ideology to resist the real™ oppressive force we all know: Christianity.

"The message is that the Lokapalas –these being Yama, Krishna, Kubera and myself, will ride to battle with him against the gods, bringing all our supporters, powers, and machineries to bear upon them, if he will agree not to war against the followers of either Buddhism or Hinduism as they exist in the world, for the 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. Look upon his flames as he speaks his answer, and tell me whether he speaks it true" (pp. 217).

In the last battle, Nirriti, Brahma, and most of the other gods die (Sam is a genius???) Fittingly, Sam and Yama (God of death btw) survive, sorta.

Synopses: Liquid Swords

With a working knowledge of the rough structure and Zelaznian zane levels of the novel, we can now give a listen through Liquid Swords with a finer appreciation of the inspired lyricism (GZA) and production (RZA, who is responsible for the samples which do a fair amount of tone-setting). First and foremost, it shouldn't be much of a stretch to claim that Wu-Tang clan has eastern influence, the group gets its namesake from a fictitious Shaolin martial arts school comprised of a handful of heroes who spread their prowess in martial arts, exemplary conduct, and deeds of gallantry.15

One of the most overt examples of Eastern influence across the album is the frequency of references to Samurai – revered as honorable and skilled warriors who dedicate their lives to their craft. GZA and the other featuring members of the Wu-Tang clan incorporate these concepts of honor and skill into their lyrics, using them to describe the power and influence of their lyrical ability. This is perhaps most notably heard on the track "Cold World," where GZA raps about the harsh realities of inner-city life while simultaneously drawing a parallel between the harsh urban terrain and a samurai battlefield. The use of samurai imagery puts forth the idea that the struggle for survival in the hood is like a constant battle that requires skill, honor, and determination.

Furthermore, the principles of the samurai are also closely associated with the concept of loyalty. Throughout the album, GZA highlights the importance of loyalty to the clan with lines like "Well, if you like the way it sounds, then clap, man ... But only raise your hands if you're sure."16 The relevance of loyalty can be seen throughout the album as GZA and the other members of the Wu-Tang Clan come together as a collective to share their stories, experiences, and rhymes. In that way, collaborations between the Wu-Tang Clan members are like strategic alliances between a group of Samurai warriors looking out for each other.

Liquid Swords

The first track of the platinum album sets the tone, introducing the members of the Wu-Tang Clan as samurai warriors resisting both the system and inferior MCs who parallel the regressive Hindu regime of Zelazny's setting. Ironically, it is the soft-spoken Buddhist Sam who destroys his enemies with literal weapons, and the comparatively-inflammatory GZA who destroys his enemies with words.

Whereas in Zelazny's novel, it is Brahma and her posse, reigning from the Celestial city, who are instituting the oppression of the masses, the first of many samples from Shaolin Assassin intertwined with GZA's lyrics paint "The Shogun [who] just stayed inside his castle and never came out," as the stand-in bad guy.

An alternative, Kipling-critical interpretation of Sam's role in Lord of Light, wherein he is the enlightened one who must save the people / demonic Rakasha from themselves, might instead view Sam himself as the Shogun, content to stay up in his state of nirvanic oort cloud dissociation, whose head is "infected by devils" e.g. Taraka.

Keeping consistent with the face-level reading of the book, though, GZA presents himself as a disciple of daoist principles with verses like:

I'm sayin', we gonna take y'all back to the source

Through knowledge yo

With a willingness to exact lyrical violence in samurai fashion on his naysayers being conveyed by such lines as :

In mic fights I swing swords and cut clowns


I drop megaton bombs more faster than you blink

Whereas Sam transmits his Atman via electromagnetic waves to usurp the numerous attempts on his life, GZA controls rhyme thoughts to circumvent his foes:

‘Cause rhyme thoughts travel at tremendous speed

I'm on a Mission that ****** say is Impossible

But when I swing my swords, they all choppable

I be the body dropper, the heartbeat stopper

Child educator, plus head amputator

Duel of the Iron Mic

picture blood baths in elevator shafts

As the sample of the shogun's son getting his ass beat fades into the background, GZA let's us know we're heading down the hellwell in "Duel of the Iron Mics." The song draws similarities between combat and rap battles:

When the Gods get on to perform storms blew up

again GZA talks the game, and Sam executes it. At the object level, the song describes the bleak world of Staten Island that the clan was born out of, recounting prison fights and the hood, with the undertone being that the commonplace drugs and violence are the real enemy.

x-foreshadowing the clandestine control of technology which is so central to Lord of Light, as well as the violent elemental battles witnessed in its final chapters, lyrics from this track offer a much more fun synopsis of the former work than I was able to provide:

I reveal

Science that's heavily guarded by the culprit

Bombing your barracks with aerodynamic

Swordplay, poison darts by the doorway

Dynamite thoughts

explode through your barrier

(much like Sam's destructive telekinetic powers).

Living in the World Today

The third track describes the self-proclaimed well known message of the clan: knowledge, modesty, security, and consciousness, and warns the listener ascribing to these values for clout will result in getting "shattered like a glass jaw."

The track rejects commercialism and police state, criticizing that the only way to demonstrate fealty in the World Today is via Cash, which Rules Everything Around Me.


Gold tells the perils of drug dealing and gang life in the music industry, with a nod towards the gold status of his record label, Razor Sharp Records, and the lucrative profits from drug dealing. Despite GZA's success, he's still trapped inside a broader oppressive system.

The hook parallels Sam's / the futuristic characters determination enabled via reincarnation:

No neighborhood is rough enough

there is no clips that's full enough

I can't fold, I need gold, I re-up and reload

For the most part, though, this is just quintessential hip-hop and, with a few of the tracks on the back half of the album as well, bears little explicit semblance to Lord of Light.

Cold World

Following the characterization of the woes of modern commercialism on the previous track, Cold World juxtaposes the material success and the conditions these victories were achieved in. The sample "What a time you chose to be born in" spoken to the Samurai's son (or Sam!) is ironic at the object level since no one has control over the circumstances of their birth or karmic reinstantiation, but is notable for its inclusion. C.R.E.A.M also emphasizes that loyalty is instrumental, and the system deprives them of better means to express this to one another.


Labels recounts the dangers of the music industry, and the merits of creating one's own record label (Buddhism) to challenge the status quo (Hinduism). And, just for shits n giggles, we might also find similarity between the wartime cries of Tak:

"The Buddha and his words are an abomination in the eyes of the gods. … He is a bomb-throwing anarchist, a hairy-eyed revolutionary. He seeks to pull down Heaven itself" (pp. 147).

And the adlibs of Masta Killa:

"Bomb these ******, God!"

4th Chamber

This song rocks, featuring a whole cast of Wu-Tang clan members each spinning their own stories. Notably, GZA states that he won't needlessly attack people ("unnecessary beef is more cows to breed"), but that he will attack the system & major labels for targeting him with scams and counterfeit offers. He also indicates that, much like Sam's threatening command of electrodirection:

"Call it electrodirection," said the other, "mind over energy. It is as good a term as any. But whatever you call it, do not seek to cross it again. I can kill you with it, though no weapon formed of matter may be laid upon you. Go now!" (pp. 108).

He's holding back on this track, but when the time is right, he "won't hesitate to detonate."


Having identified the ways in which the various members of the clan resist oppression, GZA and Method Man demonstrate further defiance of the system and their lyrical wit, beginning with a pledge of allegiance to hip-hop (a clear sister to Buddhism).

Other lyrical and novel similarities abound in this song as well. For example, GZA's line:

Protect ya neck, my sword still remains imperial

rings the same as Sam's demonstrated willingness to dome the Rakasha after they side with Nirriti in pursuit of his own selfishly selfless crusade on behalf of the nameless class of people who exists above the Rakasha, but below the gods.

Hell's Wind Staff / Killah Hills 10304

Per the anecdotes voiced in the 4th Chamber, the two ways to make it out of the projects are rapping and drug dealing; and on this track, all the clan members undertake fake mafioso names to parody high-brow kingpin behavior. Similarly, all the Lord of Light characters affect names and personas of the gods and then do violence. Alongside the lens of the shogunate usurper, a persistent "bit" that Wu-Tang clan songs fallback upon across their discography is that of Wu Gambino. Masquerading as such characters as Mr. Bobby Steels, Maximillion, Joe Bananas (rest in peace), Rollie Fingers (not to be confused with Lucky Hands), Tony Starks (plural), Johny Blaze, Noodles, and Cappachino, the gang voice their grievances with the record label industry etc. through a thin veneer of "in Minecraft" if I were a mobster.

Killah Hills

After the mafioso skit comprising the first half of the track runs its course, the back end hears GZA narrate the possible life of someone in their shoes if they didn't "make it." While the kingpin drug dealer the track follows is more successful than the average rockslinger, he is still plagued by the same violence and paranoia as any other person in his profession, indicating that oppression under the current regime is unavoidable.

So, too, must Sam, or the idea of the one who was called Buddha by those "afflicted with language and ignorance" (pp. 218) continue to exist in the aftermath of the battles, "walk among mankind still, to guard and guide in the days of strife, to prevent the exploitation of the lower classes by those who come into power" (232).

Even after all the battles fought, GZA reminds us

The saga continues

Investigative Reports

Striking a more serious tone, this track continues to explore life after the "making it," for lack of a better term. While there are fewer obvious lyrical similarities, the rhetorical perspectives offered on this track do still bear some semblance to those we get in Lord of Light, and perhaps more notably, some which are conspicuously absent from Zelazny's narrative.

With respect to the former, positive comparison: GZA's verse is told from the point of view a police officer, and barring any overt wrongdoing or wrongthink on the part of that character's frame of reference, GZA is conveying that police are just one side of the ongoing conflict between them and minorities. Similarly, while possessed by Taraka, Sam gains more insight into the worldview of the Rakasha. Here, obviously, the roles are reversed, where Sam is clearly the authoritarian police figure, who nevertheless empathizes with those he and his people have oppressed. Grimly, Sam and his erstwhile Lokapala rivals ultimately defeat the Rakasha who side with Nirriti, and all the respect Sam gained for Taraka and his people is cast by the wayside when loyalties are put to the test.

Musing on intra-class conflict, Ghost Face Killah's verse gives agency to the voiceless, "nameless" characters where Zelazny gives none. His final few bars capture the technology-deprived struggle of those nameless people whom Sam is purportedly crusading on behalf of:

They use guns while we angrily shot arrows


This track lends some insight into the artist's spiritual leanings, with GZA reflecting on the normative influence of religion on the impressionable masses:

Cause at a young age, I was molded in a religion I relied on

And got caught up in superstition

As well as a state of comparative enlightenment in alignment with the "principles of the Sword" that was reached through "knowledge of self" and:

Through the truth, which manifest through eternal minds

Insofar as it relates to Lord of Light –though perhaps with less irony than Zelazny ascribes to his characters– the Wu-Tang members referring to one another as "god" throughout the and album especially in this song is identical in hubris to the artificial deification of their literary counterparts.

I Gotcha Back

Widely considered to be the "true" ending to the album before the bonus track plays, this song which serves as a warning to remain vigilant against the unjust system detailed on previous tracks concludes with one last sample from Shogun Assassin in which a warrior (perhaps paralleled by Yama) is killed by a technique so artful that he can't help but admire it in his final moments.



And finally, just as Sam enters and exits the narrative separated from his people, aloof in nirvanic orbit, so too is GZA absent from this track. Rather fittingly instead, Killah Priest decorates this bonus track with commentary on the oppressive nature of religion. Though far from the central "lesson to be learned" from Lord of Light (it's not nearly that navel-gazey), a similar message can be extracted. Despite the futuristic characters being elevated to godhood by their own command of monopolization of technology, they are still bound in many ways by ancient dogma.


That's enough yappin'


Zelazny, Roger. Lord of Light. Doubleday, 1967.

GZA. Liquid Swords. Geffen Records, 1995.



  1. Worth clarifying that reference to Buddhism and Hinduism as "mystical" or "mythological" is not at all intended as a slight towards their legitimacies. Deification of humans by means of technology, as is the case in Lord of Light, is a mythological transformation, and I don't think mine nor Zelazny's references to this fictitious mechanism ought to be construed as disrespectful. If anything, the overarching commentary on religion is a pseudo-Marxist criticism of oppression at the hands of zealots. Recall, or learn quickly, that the antagonizing faction in the novel bears the banner of Christianity, though admittedly this reads like a conciliatory bone to be tossed to critics.

  2. Masses who largely go unnamed. I think Tak is just about the closest thing to a muggle we get in this book, other than the Rakasha who are like a caste below even the faceless, nameless masses who Sam is intent on saving. I have no object-level thoughts on what this might mean, all I know is Hellwell.

  3. "His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, however, and called himself Sam" (pp. 6).

    I rate it a medium/10 interesting factoid that in the year of our Lord 1967, Zelazny correctly identified the champion or progenitor of accelerationism to be one SamA

  4. GZA loves chess, as evidenced by his bars "A kingpin just castled with his rook and lost a pawn." See also: "I interviewed GZA and All He Wanted To Talk About Was Chess"

  5. Wu-Tang Clan: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert, not that they're necessarily an authority on anything, just sayin'

  6. Trying really hard to come up with a thesis that isn't "both stories are about the Western man resisting oppression; Lord of Light's protagonist harbinges egalitarianism by means of technological evangelism, and GZA's characters achieve similar liberation by [rapping about] pushing rock. And these two things are basically the same." but tbqh the Lyric Genius and Pitchfork (about as credible as NPR) agree:

    GZA is far more objective about the situation. After a classic skit ("I think you do know him"), he announces the start of "Killah Hills 10304" by yelling "LIFE OF A DRUG DEALER" in case you're unaware of the subject at hand. But even with that kind of straight talk, GZA still hovers slightly above the situation and his associates are indeed like chess pieces, functional pawns and slightly higher ranking associates who are still ultimately disposable-- the surgically-altered drug mules, solemn terrorists, low-level dealers and anonymous fiends.

  7. I spent a good two or three months thinking about how to structure this post in a more-sophisticated manner than just vomiting up summaries that do neither work sufficient justice. Something about extracting a few common themes having to do with the lenses being examined, and laying them out horizontally rather than stacking them on top of one another... c'est la vie

  8. "And elsewhere in the world there were those who remembered bifocal glasses and toilets that flushed, petroleum chemistry and internal combustion engines, and the day the sun had hidden its face from the justice of Heaven. Vishnu was heard to say that the wilderness had come into the City at last" (pp. 202).

  9. Even referred to as divine entities in the third person "'That wrong shall fail and right prevail,' said the god, smiling" (pp. 54).

  10. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes oblique reference to the sinfulness of any desire to "Immanentize the Eschaton" in article 676:

    The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism.

    which is highly apropos because the Christians are the third group of antagonists in Lord of Light.

  11. "That is correct. Your past was laid out before them. You were judged." Yama regarded the monks who now sat upon the floor, their heads bowed, and he lowered his voice. "To have you to die the real death would have made you a martyr. To have permitted you to walk the world, in any form, would have left the door open for your return. So, as you stole your teachings from the Gottama of another place and time, did they steal the tale of the end of that one's days among men. You were judged worthy of Nirvana. Your atman was projected, not into another body, but into the great magnetic cloud that encircles this planet. That was over half a century ago. You are now officially an avatar of Vishnu, whose teachings were misinterpreted by some of his more zealous followers. You, personally, continued to exist only in the form of self-perpetuating wavelengths, which I succeeded in capturing."

    Sam closed his eyes.

    "And you dared to bring me back?"

    "That is correct" (pp. 12).

  12. "Rild donned the robe of a buddhist monk and took to fasting and meditating. After a week, when the festival was near to its close, he departed into the town with his begging bowl, in the company of the other monks. He did not return with them, however. The day wore on into evening, the evening into darkness. The horns of the Temple had already sounded the last notes of the nagaswaram, and many of the travelers had since departed the festival. For a long while, the Enlightened One walked the woods, meditating. Then he, too, vanished" (pp. 78).

  13. "It begins with a doorway. There is a huge, burnished metal door, erected by the First, that is heavy as sin, three times the height of a man and half that distance in width."

    followed by

    "The trail that leads to Hellwell is less than ten inches in width for the final three hundred feet of its ascent;" (pp. 103)

    Curiously, if we juxtapose GZA and Taraka, then this description of the Hellwell parallels GZA's characterization of his willful insulation from the influence of major labels from "Living in the World today" is very similar:

    Criminal subliminal minded rappers

    Find it hard to define it

    When narrow is the gate for fat tapes

    And if played out and out of date

    Then I construct my thoughts on site to renovate

    And from that point, the God made a statement

    Draftin' tracements, replacements in basements

    Materials in sheet-rock to sound proof the beatbox

  14. pp. 131

  15. https://www.chinahallway.com/kungfu/sects/wudang

  16. "Living in the World Today"

  17. Panel from Lone Wolf and Cub adapted from this scene