Majipoor is so large that its human rulers invited non-humans to come and help colonize it, thousands of years before the time of Castle, the first book written. As a result, there are several species who have lived on Majipoor for a long time. The Skandars are tall and covered with fur, and have four arms. The Su-Suheris have two heads. The Ghayrogs lay eggs. Hjorts and Vroons and Liimen are obviously non-human. These species are all living in harmony, and share a single culture, more or less, and a common language. They travel and work together, and live in the same cities, and have the same government.
In case anyone wonders, Silverberg has read Vance, and, in fact, he says: "Vance was an influence so far as the design of the planet was concerned -- I borrowed his Big Planet concept, though I designed my own." (Interview with Jim Freund, Ellen Datlow, and Mike McCoy, September 7, 1997.) Actually, I didn't know this when I decided to start this comparison. I just knew that Majipoor was way too homogenous to be a Vance creation.
Valentine stared at him. "What do you mean by that?"
"Only that we have gone a long way, here on Majipoor, without paying any sort of price for the original sin of the conquerors. The account accumulates interest, you know. . . . perhaps the past is starting to send us its reckoning at last."
"But Valentine had nothing to do with the oppression of the Metamorphs," Carabella protested. . . .
Deliamber shrugged. "Such things are never fairly distributed. What makes you think that only the guilty are punished?"
"Why do you think the Divine is fair? In the long run, all wrongs are righted, every minus is balanced with a plus, the columns are totaled and the totals are found correct. But that's in the long run. We must live in the short run, and matters are often unjust there. The compensating forces of the universe make all the accounts come out even, but they grind down the good as well as the wicked in the process."
"More than that," said Valentine suddenly. "It may be that I was chosen to be an instrument of Deliamber's compensating forces, and it was necessary for me to suffer in order to be effective."
"Noor groaned. 'The Divine spare me!'" (p. 27. Noor is an government agricultural agent.)
"But is he acceptable to the Divine, my friends?" (A human, claiming that Valentine should not be Coronal, pp. 129-130)
"In the beginning was the Defilement, when a madness came over us and we sinned against our brothers of the sea," he cries. "And when we awakened and beheld what we had done, for that sin we destroy our great city and go forth across the land. But even that was not sufficient, and enemies from afar were sent down upon us, and took from us all that we had, and drove us into the wilderness, which was our penance, for we had sinned against our brothers of the sea. And our ways were lost and our suffering was great and the face of the Most High was averted from us, until the time of the end of the penance came, and we found the strength to drive our oppressors from us and reclaim that which we had lost through our ancient sin. . . ." (Pontifex, p. 118)
"It's well known I have no use for sorcerers and such-like flummery. To that extent I'm a skeptic; but that doesn't mean I'm godless, Dantirya Sambail. There are forces in the universe that punish evil: this I do believe. The world will suffer if Korsibar's left to go unopposed. My own private ambitions aside, I feel he must be taken down, for the good of all."
"Go ahead," the Procurator said, "Shove it home, cousin!"
An aside, before I consider the main plot and themes of this work. In Chronicles, Hissune accesses a memory left behind by Dekkeret, which has this statement in the second paragraph. "It was as an act of penance that Dekkeret had undertaken a voyage to the burning wastes of barren Suvrael." (p. 100) Prestimion gives more of the background of this story. Prestimion sees Dekkeret, a commoner, and believes that he has qualities of greatness. He elevates him to the Castle, to training for leadership. Part of that is a trip to Zimroel. After many days as a bureaucrat, Dekkeret goes on a hunting trip. The guides are not friendly, and don't respect Dekkeret and his companion, a noble from the Castle. The quarry animal appears. He goes after it, and kills it, running past his guide as he engages the animal. It develops that the beast has injured the guide, and, when Dekkeret returns to the scene, she is dead. Others do not blame Dekkeret. Indeed, the woman probably would have died in any case, but Dekkeret asks for assignment to Suvrael as penance.
Mr. Silverberg, himself, found the previous incarnation of this document, and e-mailed me about what I had said about religion and his work. See here.