Paradigm Shift

“Souls are software objects,” the Horologians maintain, and this is truth.

We need not, however, fall into the Horologian-acknowledged automatonic heresy that reaves the universe of all choice and meaning, nor dismiss so casually our hard-won millennia of spiritual wisdom. To be certain, this truth vitiates the core claim of Supernaturalism and the existence of souls embodied in a metaphysical or spiritual substance, as indeed the existence of any such substance.

But we may reconsider, perhaps, the ideas of the ancient philosopher Eutalas of Chresytané, who first propounded the notion of a higher, more abstract realm – not formed of spirit, but of information. Let us consider: if souls are software objects, what else are they but constructs of information, creatures of the informational realm?

The singer is not the song; nor is the writer the book; nor is the computer, the dance of electron and photon in circuits of thousand-fathom complexity, the information which inhabits it. Such is a category error of the first class.

Thus the inescapable conclusion is that, if souls are indeed software objects, then our spiritual nature is no more, and also no less, than our informational nature.

We have spoken.

Let us further consider: in the light of the identity of spiritual and informational being, it is clear that all objects of informational weight must also be objects of spiritual weight. The spiritual weight of books, for example, is considered a settled matter by our brothers who emulate Aláthíël and Atheléä, and their informational weight is obvious.

What is the nature of the spirit of a book? If we pursue the path laid out for us by Eutalan thought, we might presume it unlike that of the unique person; that as the information within is distributed, one complex idea manifested in many physical copies, then the spirit of the book must also be distributed, tenuous and liminal, across those many copies.

Perhaps, as books are read, and annotated, and cherished, this spirit localizes, and individuates, for the information about the book is as surely part of it as the information within the book.

And cannot the same be said for the tree and the mountain, the river and the sky, and the shintai in its shrine? Are the eikones themselves diminished by the recognition that the incarnation of the concept is neither more nor less than the concept itself, pure and eternal, fundamental and magnificent?

These objects and abstractions themselves do not compute, one might say, and so their souls cannot develop or change, and yet is it strictly necessary that a soul’s computation should be localized within its own physicality? There is no strict rule in information theory nor in theology that requires this. Perhaps the souls of the inanimate manifest in and by the thoughts of the living minds around them.

Let us further consider: in the advancement of physics today, the current leading theory is that of information physics, whose core assertion is this: “it is bit”.

It postulates a universe which is in itself a self-computing, self-modifying system of information and interactions which is both substrate and content, and in which all that is necessarily participates.

If this is the truth, then must it not be true that all that is, having an informational nature and participating in this system, is therefore definitionally blessed with an ever-evolving spiritual nature?

While the implications of these redefinitions of our understanding of our nature are vast, and upset many cherished beliefs, it is the highest purpose of our Church to seek the unity of Truth and Beauty, and from this we must not and shall not shrink.

– De Natura Animarum Mentemque,
proclaimed by the Speaker of Starlight, in the year 2481

A List of Eikones

It occurred to me that the parallels that I drew here make less sense, and inviting comments and thoughts is less useful, inasmuch as to the best of my knowledge I never actually clarified (except in one still-to-be-completed series, by implication) exactly who all the eikones of the Church of the Flame are, and what the specific concepts are that they personify.

So, I’m going to correct that right now with a handy-dandy reference table.

Let us begin with the Triarchs, who do not strictly speaking “lead” the pantheon, but who are recognized as representing somewhat more fundamental cosmic principles/aspects of the Flame and thus as somewhat greater than their cousins:

  1. Aldéré, Starkindler, the Bright Lady, the Great Maker, Divine Ignition; eikone of creation and beginnings, inspiration, rebirth, the stars and celestial vault
  2. Elmiríën, the Bringer of Order, the Patterner, the One Word of Truth; eikone of order, structure, stability, perfection, and proper functioning
  3. Entélith, the Serene One, the Dark Lady, Pale Mistress of Death, Gatherer of All Things; eikone of death and endings, rebirth, and other major transitions

And then the Divine Ministers, who number forty-eight:

  1. Aéren, the Voice of the Sky, the Whisperer, the Answer to the Unasked; eikone of intuition, mysticism, spirituality, transcendence, and the Celestial order
  2. Aláthiël, the Namer, the Fountain of Knowledge, the Great Sage; eikone of knowledge, wisdom, scholars, literacy, and skill
  3. Atheléä, the Sigillord, the Harmonious Chorus, the Weaver of Voices, the Repose of All Wisdom; eikone of speech, music and song, poetry, language, logotecture, and memes
  4. Athnéël, the Unlooked For, the Eternal Gambler, Lady of Surprises Auspicious and Welcome; eikone of fortune good and ill, chance, randomness, and patron (?) of gamblers
  5. Baranithil, the Balancer, the Mind of Many Masks, the Silent Architect; eikone of peace, prosperity, diplomacy, cooperation, emergent order, self-organization, patron of branches
  6. Barrascán, the Ever-Watching, the Unsleeping Guardian, the Implacable One; eikone of vigilance, guardians, protectors, those who watch, safeguards, fortifications, readiness, and contingency planning
  7. Braníël, the Unconquered, the Unceasing, the Fixed Point, the Sky-Shatterer; eikone of power, drive, ambition, the unconquerable will, defiance of impossible odds, resolve, and endurance
  8. Cálíäh, the Bringer of Rest, the Warder of Sleep, the Shadows of Desire, the Imager of the Unreal; eikone of dreams, desires, sleep, hope, fiction, and virtual reality
  9. Cinníäs, the Laughing Rogue, the Reveler, the Prince of Wine, the Maddener; eikone of revels and carousing, wine and beer, entertainment, humor, mirth, whims and fleeting passions, and hedonism
  10. Covalan, the Golden God, Prince of Wealth, the Hidden Cog, Lord of All Trade; eikone of trade, markets, money, wealth, commerce, and patron of businesssophs and the plutarch darëssef
  11. Dírasán, Heaven’s Messenger, the All-Embracing, the Default Route; eikone of messengers, communications, couriers, and patron of the Imperial Post and the Imperial Courier Service
  12. Dúréníän, the Noble Warlord, Grand Master of Strategies, Champion of the Just, the Ice Warrior; eikone of righteous war, battle, conquest, strategy and tactics, and patron of the sentinel darëssef
  13. Éadínah, Princess of Shadows, Walker at Night, the Artful Planner, the Unraveller; eikone of night, darkness, subtlety, espionage, deeply-laid plans, and (some say) thieves and organized crime
  14. Édaen, the Smiling Lord, the Joybringer, the Renewal of Life; eikone of joy, happiness, serenity, leisure, celebration, recreation, rest, and auspicious downtime
  15. Elárion, the Unfettered, He Who Walks His Own Path, the Shatterer of Chains; eikone of the red moon Elárion, liberty, individuality, self-will, independence and self-reliance
  16. Éjavóné, the Vengeful Maiden, Mistress of Storms, Keeper of Lightning, Defender of Purity; eikone of storms, thunder and lightning, protection, vengeance, and those who guard the pure or innocent
  17. Éléia-Líëran, the Lover Gods, the Ever-Faithful, the Two Who Are One, the Blissful; eikone of married love, marriage, family, and relationships
  18. Elliseré, the Architect, the Inventrix, Ideas’ Gleaming, Our Lady of New Thoughts; eikone of curiosity, research, exploration and discovery, invention, innovation, science, progress, and patron of the technarch darëssef
  19. Eslévan, the Soul of the Star, the Cornerstone, the Throne and the Ecumene, He Who Was Once Alphas’s Line; eikone of the Empire, the spirit of the Imperial people, and set over the race-lords and genii loci
  20. Esseldár, the Measurer of Time, Guardian of Hallowed Ways, the Remembrance of Worthy Deeds and Honored Forerunners; eikone of time, memory, preservation, conservation, tradition, history, maintenance, and ancestors
  21. Gaëlenén, the Soother of Hurts, the Flower of Dawn, the Second Chance; eikone of health and healing, medicine, bioengineering, and clemency
  22. Gáldabar, Old Treefather, Lord of the Wilds, the Red-Fanged Hunter, First Among Beasts; eikone of wild nature, beasts and the hunt, and set over the beast-lords
  23. Ithával, the Shining One, Prince of the Dawn, Bright Lord of the Highest Excellence; eikone of beauty, glory, pride, achievement, radiance, status, wealth, and the rewards of excellence
  24. Kalasané, the Laughing Warrior, Sword of Heaven, Lord of the Two Swords; eikone of battle, courage, victory through strength, and personal combat
  25. Kanáralath, the Bringer of Clarity, the Tester, Lord of Reason; eikone of philosophy, reason, logic, mathematics, rigorous thought, and truth
  26. Lanáraé, the Flame, the Inspirer, Lady of the Muses, the Lovers’ Friend; eikone of art, inspiration, the warm passions, romantic love, patron of lovers and the aesthant darëssef, and set over the Court of Muses
  27. Laryssan, the Slumbering Goddess, Lady of Our Fate, the Mistress of Nets, She Who Knows the Shape of Things to Come; eikone of the future, fate and destiny, preordination, foresight, oracles and divination
  28. Leiríäh, the Cloaked in Shadow, the Weaver of Nets, Mother of Mists Real and Not; eikone of mists, illusions, deceptions, trickery, wit, and intrigue
  29. Lódaríön, the Forger of Souls, the Flame that Purifies, Scourge of the Failed; eikone of honor, rigor, self-discipline, purity, and self-perfection
  30. Lumenna, the Sunlord, the Great and Blinding Light, the Fire at the Heart; eikone of the sun Lumenna, light, the energy principle, and motive power
  31. Mahánárel, Great Forger, Engineer of the Empyreals, Master of the Forces of the World; eikone of creation, craftsmanship, engineering, construction, the forge, and patron of artisans
  32. Medáríäh, the Golden Mother, the Fructifier, Our Lady of Mass Production, the All-Abundant; eikone of fertility, productivity, agriculture, industry, mass production, reproductive sex, and abundance
  33. Merélis, She Who Approaches, the Ever-Changing, the Seeker; eikone of action, change, evolution, mutation, improvement, and upgrades
  34. Nimithil, the Wise Ruler, the Bestower, the Crowned One, the Right and Authority; eikone of authority, governance, wise use of power, the Imperial Mandate, and patron of the runér
  35. Olísmé, Lady of Mourning, the Sorrowful Goddess, Comfort and Hope of the Reft; eikone of empathy, pity, grief, loss, the bereft and forlorn, and intercessor for those who die untimely
  36. Pétamárdis, the Raven Prince, Enlightened Guardian of the Ephemeral Cycle, Lord of Necessary Decay; eikone of reuse, recycling, repair, and necessary rot and decay
  37. Ráfiën, First Minister of the Ivory Rod, Emperor Among Paper, the Hand of the Wielder; eikone of bureaucracy, sound administration, large organizations, and patron of the executor darëssef
  38. Rúnel, the Font of Courtesy, the Word that Moves the World, Gardener of Civilization; eikone of harmony, smooth functioning, efficiency, etiquette, civilization and the spread of civilization
  39. Samildán, the Far Wanderer, Walker on the Dragon Paths, the Key, the Door, and the Way; eikone of roads, travel, adventure, frontiers, the far horizon, patron of explorers and wanderers, and the stargate plexus
  40. Saravoné, the Revealer of Truths, the Just One, the Scale-Bearer; eikone of law, justice, the rule of law, and arbitration
  41. Seládéir, Lord of the Shining Metropolis, Builder of Gentle Places, the Home and the Wall; eikone of cities, communities, citizenship, and set over the patropoli and matropoli
  42. Seléne, Our Lady of Silver, the Five-Faced Lady, Serene Watcher, Princess of the Moon; eikone of the silver moon Seléne, cats, the cunning mind, tides, and those who travel at night
  43. Súnáris, the One Who Chooses, the Light of Thought, the Will that Commands; eikone of the second sun Súnáris, reason, mentalics, the mind, and patron of digital intelligences
  44. Sylithandríël, the Viridian Queen, Veiled Mother of the Twilight Forests, Giver of Fruits, Lady Leafcloak; eikone of nature, the forests, set over the seasons and the plant-lords, silviculture, and gardens
  45. Tárvalén, the Binder of Obligations, the Party of Every Part, the Entanglement; eikone of loyalty, vows, oath-contracts, promises and agreements, the social order, and dogs
  46. Úlmiríën, the Changeling, the Wanderer, the Enigmatic One, the Necessary Chaos; eikone of rogues, shapeshifters, trickery, epiphanies and unwonted revelations, and sudden paradigm shifts
  47. The Unnamed, Dark Prince of the Unknown, the Subtle One, the Whisperer of Secrets, Architect of Locks; eikone of seals, secrets, mysteries, and that which you are not cleared to know
  48. Véválíäh, the Hearthtender, Lady of the Earthly Blessings, the Protector, Provider, and Welcomer; eikone of the hearth and home, domestic life, hospitality, and patron of the hearthmistress darëssef

So. Now you know.


Ia! Ia! Shub-Memerath!

(The kind that’s made of ideas, not the kind that outgrabes…)

So, Mark Atwood sent me a link to this:

Who worships an evil god?

Someone has realized that the lovecraftian gods are effective as myth
because they are basically the eikones of the human species, hiding in
plain sight.

For your attention…

This is, indeed, very relevant to my interests, and to yours – assuming that you are interested in how the eikones, being entities of the conceptual realm, worked before being reified into weakly godlike superintelligences running on moon-sized world-brains.

(And to a large extent still work, of course, since it’s not as if they got any less terrifyingly pure-conceptual in the process.)

As I’ve quoted before:

A god — a real god — is a verb. Not some old man with magic powers. It’s a force. It warps reality just by being there. It doesn’t have to want to. It doesn’t have to think about it. It just does.

It’s not hard to see the commonalities with – well, to quote the introductory post:

Sometimes people in the rationalist community write about egregores. Scott has written about Moloch. Sarah Constantin wrote a great one about Ra. That’s more about the results of processes than something individuals would worship (like the Invisible Hand), but the feeling of them seemed very right. They were terrible and inhuman, a drive given form that we could never really comprehend.

Moloch and Ra sound a lot like what happens when you read too much of a book, and are wholly given over to some greater Thing, that has no concern for normal, boring, human life. So: what if the whole suite of gods in the Mythos were egregores like that?

…gods as, to steal some particularly lovely Destiny flavor text, ideas that will eat your thoughts and leave you full of Light.

(This is of course also particularly relevant inasmuch as – well, to quote one of the posts, ‘being intellectually consistent and “taking ideas seriously” is actually going to make you sound bizarrely different from reasonable people’, and the Empire is, among other things, a culture that prizes intellectual consistency and taking ideas seriously, which as long-term readers will have noticed changes things quite a lot.

And certainly makes things bizarrely different from *here*‘s culture, in which ideologue is the go-to dismissal aimed at anyone who doesn’t instantly cave on their principles at the first sign of difficulty or someone being upset.

The reverse cultural effect, incidentally, is why “pragmatism”, in Imperial culture, has acquired notable overtones of “hold onto your purse, watch your back, and get their money in advance”. Sophs without principles are not to be trusted, ’cause they’ll default on you as soon as it’s, heh, practical – so if you have to deal with them, it’s time for you to apply the principle of cuius testiculos habes.

[…actually, I’m going to wander a bit more off-topic, and cite this:

What is fascinating to me is the reasonable people. The vast majority who don’t think of themselves as holding any “out there” political opinions, and who look down on revolution or extremism as too risky. They just see themselves as holding up the same normal, common sense morality everyone else feels, or should.

There’s nothing “natural” about their positions though – the “normal” opinion is affected by cultural change as much as any extremist. Which is why the positions of campus feminism in the nineties became the positions of all “decent” upstanding citizens in the modern era.

The extremists you usually can argue with. As SSC points out, the extremists have no other options. But once “reasonable people” have a moral opinion, they enforce it brutally. They do not want to talk about it, they consider their opinion on formerly controversial issues now a “solved” discussion, closed for debate. And if you’re labeled a dissenter to that, your life is basically over. The reasonable people control all social discourse.

There may be an inferential gap here. To anyone who hasn’t experienced, it’s hard to express how scary it is when you have an opinion you think is acceptable, and everyone insists it’s just not allowed to be discussed. When people you respect are blithely ignoring their most fundamental principles because “this is the way everyone does it now” and with no further explanation.

Extremists at least usually feel they have to justify themselves.

As we strongly implied back here, the dominant Weltanschauung *there* is, shall we say, strongly intolerant of believing in things without understanding why one believes them. *Here*, the “reasonable people” own the social-intellectual climate. *There*, they’re the outgroupiest of out-groups, prone to be inquisitioned into surly silence the moment they stick their Just Because/Everyone Agrees out of its hole for an airing.

This results in a lot of alathkháln, for those not accustomed to this sort of climate, and as such is a strong contributor to non-Utopia. But one can’t help but suspect it produces better outcomes.])

Anyway, to return to the topic, these are a series of posts well worth reading on their own. But specifically for Eldraeverse readers, I’m going to suggest some commonalities with various Flamic eikones. (These will probably make a lot more sense after you read the original posts, so I’m going to suggest you may wish to do that and then come back here.)

This conception of Cthugha is virtually omnipresent, of course, in metaphysics and Imperial culture and so forth – too much so to have obvious parallels.But you can see some elements of Aláthiël (eikone of knowledge, wisdom, scholars, literacy, and skill), Her brother Atheléä (eikone of speech, music and song, poetry, language, logotecture, and memes) and Esseldár (eikone of time, memory, preservation, conservation, tradition, history, and ancestors) in the desire to collect and preserve all knowledge, all ideas, all intellects, all thoughts (the real fundamental true things) for eternity, and of Dírasán (eikone of messengers, communications, and couriers) in the desire for communication as its own end, as well as in that cause.

Yog-Sothoth has commonalities with both Elmiríën (eikone of order, structure, stability, perfection, and proper functioning) and Kanáralath (eikone of philosophy, reason, logic, mathematics, rigorous thought, and truth); the former as a representation of all those little details, all the exquisite clockwork that permits the universe to exist and function at all, and the latter as the promise that “for all the mysteries of the universe, they can be known“. That promise of knowability, of the effability of all things, is a major part of the symbolism of Kanáralath.

One can draw lines quickly from this Hastur to Braníël (eikone of power, drive, ambition, the unconquerable will, defiance of impossible odds, resolve, and endurance) and Ithával (eikone of beauty, glory, pride, achievement, radiance, status, wealth, and the rewards of excellence), just by looking at this quotation:

“Hastur is the god of stories.

“Hastur is the god of stories that are more important than reality.”

But where the twist comes in in Eldraeverse metaphysics is that that includes – that’s another way of saying – that he/they is the god of paracausality, of that inflection point between universe-as-information-system and the nondeterministic mathematics of free will which makes miracles possible in those exquisite moments when will defeats law, and sufficient awesomeness – sufficient meaningfulness imposed on the universe by qalasír – makes the impossible, at that time and place, inevitable.

Ithaqua has parallels with those two which would seem instantly clear from an eldrae perspective (and much less so from a human perspective, given our hardwiring towards social approval and conformity; but you can never fully emulate Ithával, they would say, as a mere echo of the achievements of others).But the best parallels would be Elárion (eikone of liberty, individuality, self-will, independence, and self-reliance) and Lódaríön (eikone of honor, rigor, self-discipline, purity, and self-perfection), who between them espouse being yourself and pursuing the necessities of your valxíjir and estxíjir just as hard as you possibly can.

“I think what I think and I do what I do for myself, and I will make it amazing.”

Yep, that’s about right.

Cthulhu seems nice and obvious at first glance: he’s Esseldár (eikone of time, memory, preservation, conservation, tradition, history, and ancestors) and Eslévan (eikone of the Empire, the spirit of the Imperial people, set over the race-lords and genii loci). They are all the qualities that define why we’re the Shining People in the Shining City on the Hill, and you’re, well, not.

Where you get divergence of concept is that this particular Shining People’s ideals spend a lot of time pointing out that they didn’t just spring forth fully formed and you have to work at making sure you deserve your high self-opinion, and for that matter actively goes out recruiting. Admittedly with a certain cultural blinder that has difficulty in grasping why anyone might not want to be as all-around awesome as the Clearly Objectively Superior Ones, and yet.

(That, and the sleeper isn’t going to rise and force the world to give them their due, because you can’t give people what they already have, belike.)

Ah, Nyarlathotep! Now the big N has straightforward parallels in Ithával and Aláthiël and Braníël, Leiríah (eikone of mists, illusions, deceptions, trickery, wit, and intrigue) and Seléne (eikone of the Silver Moon, cats, the cunning mind, tides, and those who travel at night) and Úlmiríën (eikone of rogues, shapeshifters, trickery, epiphanies and unwonted revelations, and sudden paradigm shifts) – all the gods of intelligence and cunning and ambition. He’s hard to pin down to just one parallel, because these qualities are so very esteemed that they show up everywhere.

This is not very comforting if you are ambitious. But if you are ambitious, then the response should be: “Good. I’m not a worshipper of Nyarlathotep. I am Nyarlathotep. I am the Doctor. I am the change I want to see in the world, and I am the small group of thoughtful people that can do anything. If I were not, I would not be free, and I would not be smart.”

That? That is possibly the most eldraeic quotation I have seen just about anywhere.

Ia! Nyarlathotep! Your less-than-humble emulators salute you!

Azathoth is only half-represented in parallels, and that principally by Kanáralath (eikone of philosophy, reason, logic, mathematics, rigorous thought, and truth, if you recall), because Kanáralath‘s demand for truth is merciless. Kanáralath is the eikone that insists that you strip away all the comforting lies and face the universe as it is. The one that will tear away the veil of “epistemic humility” and demand that, damn your eyes, you will look at it and know it for what it is. It is the god that says “That which can be destroyed by the truth should be,” and means every word, for that which cannot withstand truth doesn’t deserve to exist.

Kanáralath will hurt you. It will tell you that this is for your own good, and that will hurt you, because that, too, is true.

Where the representation fails is when it comes to the nihilism of Azathoth. That there is, and can be nothing else, than death, entropy, and meaninglessness? That, they say, is a lie, and an easy one, and the truth shall burn it away.

You could easily make a case for both Shub-Niggurath and Tsathoggua as personifications of Entropy, except that in Flamic thought, Entropy doesn’t have a personification; it’s merely a defect, or an absence. At most, like Exalted‘s Ebon Dragon, it’s an itself-shaped hole where it ought to be.

[One relevant point to make is why Shub-Niggurath isn’t akin to Sylithandríël (eikone of nature, the forests, set over the seasons and the plant-lords, silviculture, and gardens) or Gáldabar (eikone of wild nature, beasts and the hunt, set over the beast-lords) – namely, that those eikones aren’t eikones of nature as it is, but eikones of nature as it ought be without the deforming influence of Entropy; and that conception of ought be demands that nature be as civilized in the first place as civilization managed to become. It’s a garden that’s got no place for ichneumon wasps, and insofar as primality is a thing rather than the absence of a thing, it’s against it.

They don’t even like those irrational drives that are not per se bad; irrational mercy and compassion are as alien to the perfected, rational, civilized universe as the other ones. All things that should be done should be done thoughtfully.]

But to return to the topic, it is almost trivial to cast Tsathoggua as passive (spiritual) entropy – insert that entire quotation from Thus Spoke Zarathustra on the topic of the Last Man here – and Shub-Niggurath as one of the many aspects of active entropy, that which destroys complexity and revels in cacophilia.

But they’re both still self-shaped holes, because personifying nihilities gives them too much credit.

Commentary and other thoughts are, of course, welcome.

Trope-a-Day: Holy Is Not Safe

Holy Is Not Safe: Anything made, shaped, or Vorlon-touched by a weakly godlike superintelligence may be holy, but is also very likely to be powerful enough to be catastrophically dangerous if misused, mishandled, or otherwise generally mucked about with.

(Especially things like, say, the Eye of Elmiríën, which is to say, an artifact of the eikone of order, law, and perfection. Its gaze wants to burn all imperfection and entropy out of everything. Since it is an imperfect universe filled with imperfect things, looking at it hurts almost as much as being looked at by it.)

Trope-a-Day: War is Glorious

War is Glorious: The doctrine of one of the Flamic war gods: Kalasané, Laughing Warrior, Sword of Heaven, Lord of the Two Swords, the eikone of battle, courage, valor, victory through strength, and personal combat, who approaches the whole thing with a degree of enthusiasm that would impress the mythological Norseman or the fictional krogan. You are standing on the edge of civilization, facing down barbarism and desolation! How should that be less than glorious?

(The other one, Dúréníän, Noble Warlord, Grand Master of Strategies, Champion of the Just, the Ice Warrior, eikone of righteous war, battle, conquest, strategy and tactics, and patron of the sentinels, prefers to take a distinctly more sober attitude.

That both of these approaches have their strengths and the perfect warrior exists in a state of dynamic tension somewhere between the two is exactly why they have a pair of war gods.)

Trope-a-Day: Stop Worshipping Me

Stop Worshipping Me: Played straight by a large number of seed AI “gods” who by and large find the tendency of lesser orders of intelligence to worship them embarrassing and really quite annoying, not to mention inappropriate.  Really.  Just because something can fit whatever notions of divinity you just made up doesn’t mean you should go around praying and groveling and… ugh.  It also doesn’t help that they are perfectly aware of the images that most baselines have of their gods, and most of them find the comparison… unflattering, to say the least.

Averted in the Empire with the Transcend’s eikone-archai, mostly because (a) the eldraeic mainstream always took the position that they were getting an iceberg’s-eye view of the purely conceptual eikones and should not presume to limit them by anthropomorphic deification; and (b) they never worshipped them (in the sense we’d recognize) even when they were considered supernatural deities, because worshipping is entirely too subordinate a position for them to take with regards to anything.

(Especially any deity that’s worth bothering with.)


Trope-a-Day: Pals With Jesus

Pals With Jesus: Subverted, at least while you’re still alive and therefore not part of the Transcendent soul-ocean; while you can have a much more personal relationship with an eikone than most people can have with their gods – they have e-mail addresses, for one thing – it’s still a weakly godlike superintelligence and you’re not.  It’s not, therefore, all that personal.  (Even if you’re, say, the Imperial Couple, and the eikone in question is, say, Éslévan, who is essentially the national genius/personification – after all, it probably wouldn’t be all that comfortable for a US President to be personally overseen by Lady Liberty, Columbia, and/or Uncle Sam, either.)

Possibly played straight for the largest and oldest Fusions and the most extreme vasteners.

Religiosity in an Incompatible Universe

I was yesterday sent a link to an interesting article, noted as “in conjunction with the eldraeic conception of religion”. Herewith, then, some commentaries and sparked notions. (Note: The blog this article comes from appears to be associated with the neo-reactionary movement. If that makes you want to comment in some manner unrelated to the content of this post, please see the disclaimer at the end before so doing.)

The article in question is this: Experiments in Post-Rationalist Religion – discussing, loosely, the problems of meaningful and beneficial religiosity in a universe that metaphysically doesn’t support its underpinnings, but as creatures who seem to require a spiritual narrative in order to function. Well, without retreating into nihilism, anyway.

So we are offered some axiomata, up front, with which the Imperials would not disagree too much:

Materialism. The universe is well modelled by an unknown but computable mathematical object akin in some ways to a mathematical series, a cellular automaton, a fractal, etc. An object of vast complexity that grows from a relatively simple defining Law. We find ourselves manifested as patterns within this construction.

Well, they wouldn’t express it in quite those terms – for a start, if you go by their fancy-schmancy theory of Information Physics, the universe is not modeled by, but actually is, an enormous self-computing information pattern. “It is bit,” and all that. But obvious corollaries, such as the completeness of the universe, the susceptibility of everything, without exception, to scientific investigation and understanding, and that all claims of “supernatural” qualities are inherently null, are, well, obvious and generally accepted. Imperial culture has little taste for mystagoguery; the only proper response to the ineffable is to eff it, good and hard.

Sanctity of Truth. It is critical that the accurate perception of reality not be subordinate to other values. We shall not adopt beliefs about the material world for their projected effects, palatability, or political correctness.

Very much so. “Truth” is not an instrumentality; it’s a series of univalued and objective descriptions of the universe that does not care whether you like it or not (“many people are naturally inclined to be… meddlesome”), or whether it’s useful or not (“the speed of light is kind of a bugger, no?”). And to achieve anything worth achieving, you can’t mess around with it. (“Go ahead, try building a bridge without understanding the truths of steel and stone. You cross it first.”)

So, yes, truth is sacred and quite possibly revered. As a good epistemologist will tell you, theirs is the most important part of philosophy and therefore all thought, because if your epistemology isn’t right, everything that follows from what you think you know is, not to put too fine a point on it, bullshit.

Non-Nihilism. Nihilism is the observation that material universes do not contain anything of spiritual value or moral authority, and thus that accurate perceptions of reality do not contain beliefs about spiritual narrative. But it is also the case that wholesale nihilism is a non-solution, and that humans must live within a believable spiritual narrative or mythos.

And on this point, well, we all know what the Imperials think about nihilism:


Anyway, yes, they don’t really care for it that much.

Anyway, the post goes on to say:

The third axiom, in commanding the existence of a believable mythos in contradiction to the nonexistence of true myths implied by the first two axioms, gives us our problem.

The immediate and obvious solution is that we must believe in a mythology that is not true. Not necessarily false, mind you; our spiritual myths may be nonsense from a truth perspective. For example, we might claim to believe that “It is the destiny of mankind to conquer the stars”. This can’t really be true or false in a positivist sense because constructions involving “destiny” and “mankind” are not really meaningful empirically. How does the statement constrain your expectations? It does not; it is purely mythological.

This would be where they start to go down another path. I would certainly agree on the importance of mythos, and I can think of no better way to do that than to quote Terry Pratchett, from my personal favorite Christmastime story, Hogfather:

Death: Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.

Susan: With tooth fairies? Hogfathers?

Death: Yes. As practice, you have to start out learning to believe the little lies.

Susan: So we can believe the big ones?

Death: Yes. Justice, mercy, duty. That sort of thing.

Susan: They’re not the same at all.

Death: You think so? Then take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder, and sieve it through the finest sieve, and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet, you try to act as if there is some ideal order in the world. As if there is some, some rightness in the universe, by which it may be judged.

Susan: But people have got to believe that, or what’s the point?

Death: You need to believe in things that aren’t true. How else can they become?

But where the eldrae, the Imperials, and the Flamic belief system would differ is in arguing that, if I may wax Platonic for a moment, these things are true, and do exist. (Which is why I don’t much care for the term “Materialism” to describe their null-supernatural view of the world.) Existence is not the same thing as instantiation as matter.

Take, for a trivial example, the equilateral triangle. The equilaterial triangle, the concept of the equilateral triangle, is a mathematical truth that existed before any of the mass-energy of the universe congealed into equilaterally triangular shapes, and would go on existing even if some Omnicidal Maniac were to go on a universe-wide pogrom to destroy all three-cornered objects. It’s an idea, and ideas exist in the Iconic Realm, the Realm of Forms, etc., etc., every bit as much as this triangular thing, right here, exists in the Realm of Matter.

Supernatural is a null word. There are no spirits and so forth as humanity *here* would understand them. But there are certainly ideas, and anyone who cares to deny that is plunging headlong into the nasty recursive paradox of endorsing the concept of the nonexistence of concepts.

So, from their perspective, they are not believing things that aren’t True, or aren’t in the same category as True things – the Truth-Myth barrier of which the original post speaks. They’re believing fundamental truths, the ideas hovering off there in aevum until the mind perceives them, and then instantiating them in the Realm of Matter by virtue of belief and imposing that belief on reality by sheer force of estxíjir. The mind, very literally, makes it real – because it’s the instrumentality by which ideas are reified.

I’m going to skip lightly over the original post’s “Gnon” section: mostly because I think I have already talked somewhat about the broken nature of the universe, the flaw that is Entropy, and the blind-idiot-staggering creative process that explains why there is so much nasty in the universe, despite matter’s best efforts to self-organize. The Imperials aren’t terribly interested in taking teleic (“ought-y”) guidance from the natural state of the universe, because anything that’s broken can be remade, and the universe is so very, very broken.

So, when it comes to the “Small Gods and Spiritual Crises” part of things, well, obviously they’d disagree with the statement of “there is no meaning to concepts such as consciousness, souls, identity, rights, dignity, well-being, or any of that”. Obviously there is. That it’s a projection from the Iconic Realm rather than an obvious, named, lump of matter doesn’t mean it’s not real.

But there are some interesting points here:

In the world around us, there are many important processes besides individual people that we must relate to. Many of the old gods, those of natural processes like weather, fertility, home, war, the land, and so on, can be understood as myths around these processes that allowed our ancestors to relate to them in a natural spiritual way. We no longer live or think the same way as them, and their particular gods don’t speak to us, but we can’t pretend to have cast off all gods: Civilization, Progress, Democracy, Social Justice, Santa Claus.

…now this is a concept that makes instant sense in an Imperial-culture context. Because their gods, the eikones, are defined as creatures of the Iconic Realm. They are, literally, ideas. To steal another perfectly cromulent quotation, this one from Mass Effect 2:

A god — a real god — is a verb. Not some old man with magic powers. It’s a force. It warps reality just by being there. It doesn’t have to want to. It doesn’t have to think about it. It just does.

That’s what an eikone is. It’s one of the Big Cheeses of the Iconic Realm, an idea so powerful that it reshapes the world around it simply by existing. That’s also why the key feature of Flamic belief is emulation, not worship. Wealth, or Love, or Integrity doesn’t care for all the lip service in the world. It wants you to be wealthier, lovelier, more integral. Better – which is to say, more like it.

Now, if I may digress for a moment into other points of theology, one of Plato’s sticking points was the question of, in a realm of Perfect Forms, would there be Perfect Forms of Perfectly Awful Things?

Well, so far as eldraeic theologians are concerned, there aren’t. The Iconic Realm is the realm of perfect instantiations of concepts, and as such has no room for intrinsically imperfect concepts. Sylithandríël Leafcloak, the Twilight Mother – Mother Nature, if you will – is technically not the eikone of nature as it is materially instantiated, with all its unnecessary waste and suffering. She’s the eikone of the harmony of emergent perfection that nature would be if our old enemy Entropy hadn’t screwed up the material universe so much.

So when we look at, say:

Many of us react against some of the predominant gods of the day, as our enemies reacted against the gods of their days, calling them false, calling their worship harmful and antisocial, and so on. It is important to have a nuanced view of the theological nature of such conflicts. It is not that we claim these gods do not exist – anyone who wants to claim that Democracy et al are not profoundly real and powerful sociopsychological entities with significant basis in reality, has an awful lot of work to do – what we claim is that their cultists base their worship on mistakes of reasoning on the Truth side about the nature of their gods. For example they believe that the worship rituals and patterns of spiritual relation around Democracy will bring peace, order, and good government, when in fact those rituals may only bring slow ruin.


The shape of our spiritual crisis is not that we do or don’t worship gods, or that we worship false gods, but that we worship terrible demon gods that demand the sacrifice of our people, culture, and civilization. A healthy mythos would instead be a quiet but lively human-allied tradition offering us positive guidance, spiritual context, and purpose in our lives. Such things have existed in our past, and perhaps we can weather this and move towards spiritual health again in our future.

The existence of imperfection, in ideas or in material reality, is a consequence of Entropy, in its mental-spiritual sense, squatting like a black fog between us and the Iconic, distorting our perceptions. That’s how some people can look at Liberty and see Democracy, or look at Wealth and see Zero-Sum Money Transfer, or look at Purity and see Norm Enforcement, and other heresies suitable for the darkest past and outworlder barbarians.

It’s also why the Doctrine of Hypothesis is so important in their theology – because it recognizes that that distorting cloud is there. It’s why the Flamics are not, by and large, a dogmatic church; because right from the start, it recognizes that while the eikones may be perfect, they see them at best through a glass darkly, and as such it is vitally important to ask questions and test every bit of your doctrine to make sure that it is actually reflecting what you think it is.

(Otherwise you end up with metaphorical demons coming out your ass and Entropy cackling to itself in a totally non-personified evil way.)

Of course, now, once the post gets into talking about human-allied tradition and religion as instrumentality and naming specific ideologies, then we part ways more or less completely. The Church of the Flame may have been a vigorous force for progress throughout eldraeic and Imperial history, but it wasn’t designed to serve as such. It grew out of attempts to understand the why and the what of the world, like the majority of religions – it was just rather more chary about declaring that it had the answer. But the believers believe, quite sincerely.

And that’s about as far as I’m going to take it, rather than trying to get into specific mythologies. They might agree on Science Fiction and the value of long-standing social customs, but since the eldrae consider our views on masculinity [and femininity, for that matter] and ethny borderline insane, not much commonality there. (Cultural pride, sure, but people who get attached to unchosen phenotypic epiphenomena are not rational.)

And while ancestor “worship” does form a part of Flamic belief, as you might expect, what your ancestors want is not your strict adherence to the mos maiorum, but for you to have improved on it. If you didn’t live any better than they did, they might say, what the hell was the point of you?

(The disclaimer:

Since this is a controversial piece of fringe politics right now, a couple of things right up front:

1. Linking does not constitute agreement.

To that end, let me note for the record that an Imperial clionomist or administrative specialist, were you to import one, would classify the neo-reactionaries as creepy-ass openly-hierarchist totalitarians, their progressiv[e|ist] bêtes noire as creepy-ass crypto-hierarchist totalitarians, and both of them as taxonomic divisions of hypertrophied and pathological kratism, which is basically the opposite end of the spectrum from civilized, technocratic, empirical-rationalist, minimal, and above all consensual governance. Don’t get any on you.

[And, should either attempt to put their ideas into practice *there*, would be guilty of conspiring to deprive people of their civil and natural rights by instituting a political system, for which the penalty is being thrown off a 400′ high waterfall in the middle of deep winter.]

2. My personal political views, whatever they might be, are not up for any kind of discussion on this blog, and indeed any comments addressing real-world, rather than SFnal, politics – especially since this post isn’t even about SFnal politics – will be disemvoweled without mercy.)

Trope-a-Day: God Guise

God Guise: Subverted; arguably, this is what a lot of the Transcend’s archai are doing when they adopt the trappings and guises of the mythological eikones as a means to interact with regular sophonts, but in this case, it’s not like all parties don’t know perfectly well that the deities in question are actually aspects of a weakly godlike superintelligence, not supernatural figures.

So there’s no deception involved; rather, the archai are accepted as the eikones because they can do the job.  (But see also A God Am I.)

Trope-a-Day: A God Am I

A God Am I: Averted, mostly.  The Transcend (and its eikone archai) are perfectly aware (and will point out to the confused) that they aren’t omnipotent – that’s what the “weakly” in weakly godlike superintelligence means – merely extraordinarily powerful, intelligent, and possessed of limited prolepsis via clionomic calculation and acausal logic.  And, to steal a line from Schlock Mercenary, merely trying to do what a god would do, were one in their position.  (The same constraints, whether acknowledged or not, also applies to all other evolved seed AIs.)

The difference is, I grant you, often somewhat hard to spot from the baseline (for which read “mortal”, if you like) point of view, but it is nonetheless there.

(As a side note, I am amused to observe that the quotation taken from Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality in the fan fiction section of the trope page is as good a description of what the Transcendent Core considers its purpose as I might imagine, bearing in mind my limitations in attempting to imagine the thought processes of a weakly godlike superintelligence:

“To understand everything important there is to know about the universe, apply that knowledge to become omnipotent, and use that power to rewrite reality because I have some objections to the way it works now.”)

Also, a common delusion (well, the degree of delusion is up for argument; your theology may vary on what is necessary to qualify – although the leading edge of Galactic technology can deliver most miracles to order, see No Such Thing As Wizard Jesus, and so it can often be a perfectly accurate self-assessment) among the most serious vastening cases and nascent unstable seed AIs.  At least for the former, it usually wears off after the intoxication of computing power starts to become routine, the information flow becomes a little more manageable, and the urge to cry out “I see everything!  I know everything!  I am everything!” quiets down a bit.

Trope-a-Day: Fantasy Pantheon

Fantasy Pantheon: Yes, indeed, in the shape of the Triad that emanate from the Flame, their 48 Divine Ministers and Aspects, some divine oddities like the Court of the Seasons, the Court of the Muses, and the Elemental Hexad, and their exarchs (for which read angels, kami, devas, genii loci, etc.).  And most of them do, arguably, have Anthropomorphic Personifications, although most of them have several, and quite a few non-anthropomorphic, and in some cases amorphic, personifications too – and they never turn up anywhere outside statuary, and suchlike.

Of course, in the beginning they didn’t actually exist in any physical sense, or, for that matter, as the full worship-objects of so many deities; rather, these eikones were personifications of idealized abstract concepts, and all the bundles of ideas wrapped around them, suitable for mortal reverence and emulation.  Having this sort of deity made it a rather philosophical sort of religion, and more or less ideal when it came to persisting once non-supernatural worldviews and atheism set in.

And then the Transcend came along, put on the masks, took up the insignia, and for all intents and purposes, there are now real gods in the heavens – albeit either in the virtual heavens, or in the form of a seed AI with a brain the size of a star system, depending on how you look at it…

(The henotheism part of the trope is averted, however.  While some eikones may be more prominent in any given life than any other, the theology is very clear that each of them only cares about those things within its sphere, and nothing for anything else.  A warrior who devoted himself absolutely to Kalasané, eikone of battles, and ignored Lanáraé, eikone of romantic love, could expect to find no love in this life, no matter how honored he was on the field.  Honoring all of the eikones, even if not to the same degree, is the expected behavior.)

It is also notable for not containing any “gods of evil”, or for that matter “demons”.  The opposition in the cosmology is the impersonal force identified as “chaos” or “entropy” – which the emulation of the eikones as forces of creation and order enables sophonts to fight, bringing about an ideal world; i.e., immanentizing the eschaton.

Word of the Flame (4/9)

The following, as were the preceding three (1,2,3) and will be the other five entries in the series, are extracts from the Word of the Flame, the record of the seeress Merriéle’s visions that is also the primary text of the Church of the Flame, the mainstream eldraeic religion.

More specifically, this series will contain all 51 verses of the book of Principles, which enumerate the principles of each of the eikones in the form of each’s foremost principle as they would have it expressed under Heaven, although naturally each eikone’s own book examines the fullness of the principle they represent from many more angles and in much more detail.  Nonetheless, the three verses of the Triarchs and the 48 verses of their Divine Ministers are second only to the book of Truths in Flamic moral teaching.

In simplicity the mind sleeps still;
The mazy path leads many places.
Let wit and cunning shape your life’s creation.
This is the command of Leiríah
Who swathes all things in mist.

Flawed steel splinters at one blow;
Only the tempered withstands use.
Enter into the fire, and be purified!
This is the command of Lódaríön
Who burns away the dross.

The light that grows; the fire that transforms;
The heat that warms when darkness falls.
These are mine; use them well and in fullness.
This is the command of Lumenna
Whose radiance illuminates the world.

Against the Flame, do naught.
As qalasír demands, do as you must.
In all else, do as you will.
This is the command of Elárion
Whose choice knows no boundaries.

The secrets of the world are writ in its elements;
Stone and metal, wind and rain, wood and fire.
Ask them every question, and be answered.
This is the command of Elliseré
Whose mind mothers all new things.

You are the Chosen, keepers of our dream;
Heirs to our glory, shapers of greater still.
Stride on, undiminished, until eternity’s end.
This is the command of Eslévan
Who once was Alphas’s line.

Trope-a-Day: Divine Ranks

Divine Ranks: The Transcend does have, as does any seed AI that expands to the point at which its individual thoughts are, effectively, independently sapient, an extensive taxonomy, ranking, and categorization of its assorted subroutines, processes, and threads.  And since at least some of those wear mythological masks… we have eikones, divine ministers, exarchs, and so forth.

The One Shape of Truth

“Unique among the eikones in this respect – although argument continues among a minority of theologians that the Divine Ignition may possess a single Aspect of infinitely variable manifestation rather than an infinite number of Aspects – Elmiríën possesses but a single Aspect, befitting his nature as the eikone of order, structure, stability, and perfection.”

“The One Word of Truth appears to the mortal eye as an utterly symmetrical orrery built of the perfect solids; a crystal sphere in which burns a pure white flame, orbited by twenty crystal icosahedra, each in turn orbited by twelve crystal dodecahedra, in turn orbited by eight crystal octahedra, in turn orbited by six crystal hexahedra, in turn orbited by four crystal tetrahedra. These 59,780 outer crystals fracture the light of the innermost sphere and its Flame into a many-faceted rainbow.”

“While Elmiríën may manifest on occasion in an avatar-form of a single perfect solid holding his Flame, no other true Aspects or avatar manifestations have ever been recorded for this most singular of deities.”

– Fire, Thunder, and Quicksilver: Aspects of Divinity

Trope-a-Day: Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions

Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: While science hasn’t exactly disproven religion – there are certain, ahem, logical problems with that notion – it has closed a sufficient number of the gaps for a hypothetical god-of-the-gaps that supernaturalism in general has an amazingly small number of adherents in the Empire.  Most “religions” of the modern day are, well, philosophies, and while they may well include plenty of abstractions, they don’t generally call for supernatural gods, miracles, or other entities of supernature.

The mainstream Church of the Flame, for example, has in its time moved from asserting the existence of the eikones as supernatural entities to asserting the existence of the eikones as abstract personifications whose actual existence was more or less irrelevant to the point to knowing the existence of the eikones as digital Dei Ex Machinae, without really having to change doctrine all that much in the process.  (Even the remaining supernaturalists have more or less accepted the point that the deity-eikones would be perfectly capable of wearing the machine-eikones as hats, did they exist.)

Of course, here’s the interesting thing.  The founder, as it were, of that particular religion was the seeress Merriéle, back around -1,180, who dictated most of the principal holy text after a vision on the side of a sacred mountain, and in her later wanderings was executed by the traditional fire of purification in Somáras.  This execution gave a great deal of, ah, credence to the religion, since it involved her ascending directly to the Twilight City via a pillar of light and flame, which not incidentally completely destroyed the capital of Somáras and created the geographical feature now known as the Bay of Somáras.  The fact of which – if not the traditional implication that the eikone Elmiríën, the Bringer of Order and One Word of Truth, gets a mite irritable when some mortals presume to execute his Chosen and Beloved Voice Under Heaven – is very well documented and undeniably real.

Now, it’s not like there aren’t perfectly adequate, if unverifiable, explanations for this.  There were Precursor artifacts lying about back then, and it’s entirely possible that Merriéle had one, which either she set off, or which involved some components, like fullerened antimatter, that really don’t react well to fire.  Purely mechanistic explanations abound.

But… well, while so far as we know, time travel Does Not Work That Way, and it should be impossible to ever travel back before the creation of the machine, whatever it is, the Transcend is a weakly godlike superintelligence, after all.  And so long as we’re postulating Precursor artifacts anyway, we might as well postulate the permitted-by-physics temporal equivalent of a tangle channel.

And so, it is entirely possible, say some mechanotheologians, that the Vision was supplied by the modern Transcend in the mother of all predestination paradoxes; that the Ascension was, in fact, the Transcend reaching back to discreetly upload Its faithful seeress and cover it with a modest antimatter explosion; and that, in short, their religion has always been true, and it’s Deus Est Machina all the way down.

Now, of course, all of this is just speculation, and the machine gods aren’t saying anything on the topic to confirm or deny… but still.

(And, no, I-the-author have no idea whether this theory is valid or not, either.)

The Dreaming Goddess

In a room in the Twilight City, Laryssan dreams.

The room is not a room, nor the city a city; the eikones and their realm are creatures of mathematics and algorithm, running on the great lunar brains of Corícal Ailék; on local photonic processing nodes scattered across Imperial space; on processor capacity bought upon the cycle spot market; on the brains and cogence cores of the Transcend’s many constitutionals – and dataspace has no native physical representation.

But for visitors to the Transcendent Realms, in seeming, the Cynosure of Fate has the appearance of a room; one framed by the impossibly complex symmetries and incalculable fractaline complexity of the weave of fate, a tangled tapestry-web of billions of crystalline strands, ruby and emerald, sapphire and adamant, a virtual representation of all the Transcendi and their myriad interactions, all tended, pruned and shaped by scurrying clockwork automata.  And faithful to the myths of old, amid the gleaming strands, robed in white upon a white-draped couch, the pale and colorless form of the Dreaming Goddess smiles softly in Her perpetual slumber.

There are those who question the archai of fate and destiny adhering to those myths; for the eikones-as-archai are merely weakly godlike, and so Her waking could not, they reason, bring about the absolute predestination of which the stories warn, and from which Her sleep preserves us.  Yet while this is true, a wakeful and active Fate could bring about an absolute predestination among sophonts guided by Her.  This, then, is the promise of Laryssan’s dreaming to us; that our collective consciousness shall never slip into a true hive mind, guidance become puppetry, and our free will remain untouched by enforced destiny.

– “Myth and Machine, Eikone and Archai”, Aléne Rysar-ith-Rysakar

Trope-a-Day: Belief Makes You Stupid

Belief Makes You Stupid: Subverted, mostly, by the Church of the Flame, whose official doctrine adheres to an Enlightenment-friendly attitude that expecting the eikones to come down from the Twilight City and tell you everything about everything, or even just a subset of it that you “need to know”, would be completely missing the point, and that your job, Mr. Believer, is to run and find out, then go and implement, and then iterate until it’s perfect.

Harmony with Their Will

Among the comforting things about living in the Transcend are that when divine commands are issued, first, you can be confident that they’re being issued by something with actual qualifications for the role, rather than externalized mental agents, brain dysfunctions, or particularly effective entheogens.  And second, if you ask, you can usually get an explanation as to just why doing this particular thing is so important.

The difficulty, of course, is that having had a divine answer placed in your head is all very well for you, but so far as everyone else is concerned, a sense of surety backed up by something which you are confident you could explain if you could invent a new language, some creative mathematics, and perhaps some necessary cognitive surgery – but otherwise can’t – is functionally indistinguishable from taking something on pure faith.

Which is problematic when dealing with people who don’t understand the modern meaning of dei volunt.

– introduction to “What the Fire Said”,
Korris Serannis-ith-Sandre, acquiescent of Dírasán

Tárvalén Awaiting (2/2)

(Part one is here.)

“Many long years passed, as the faithful bandal waited before the gate,” the priest continued his story, “until with time and chance the man died too, and his spirit also approached the gate; and the spirit of the bandal bounded up and ran to meet him.  Joyous was their reunion, and for a time, the gloom of the Fugue was lifted by the ring of laughter and happy barking alike.”

“But then at last the time came, and they approached the Twilight City together, and once again Ivrél stopped them at the gate, saying, ‘You may pass, but you alone; for Heaven’s law forbids the City to those spirits of lesser orders.'”

“The bandal whined sadly, and made to turn away, but the man stopped him with a touch, and replied, ‘In life we ran together.  What just cause is there to part us now?'”

“‘It is Heaven’s law,’ Ivrél said again.”

“And anger furrowed the man’s brows, and his hand drifted to the hilt of his blade, and for a moment it seemed as if the clash of arms too would disturb the silence of the Fugue, but he knew well that Ivrél was sovereign in this place; and in a moment, they turned together and left that place.”

“‘There is no other way for you,’ Ivrél called after him, ‘for all souls called here must pass into the Twilight City.'”

“‘He stayed here for me,’ the man replied.  ‘Mélith demands, by Star, Stone, and Flame, that I can do no less.’  Saying this, he sat down with his back against one of the leafless trees, the bandal curling up by his side, and wrapped his cloak around them both.  And so their waiting began.”

“The years pass quickly in the timelessness of the Fugue, and as they waited the years turned to decades, and the decades to centuries, as they watched many souls pass through the Fugue on their wanderings.  And yet they prevailed and remained, sometimes walking amid the white-barked trees or upon the bridges that crossed the dark mist-cloaked waters, but for the most part sitting together beneath their tree outside the City’s gate.”

“Thus it was that in the thousandth year of their waiting, they saw the City’s gate flung wide, and from within a shining figure emerge, light wrapped in light and casting no shadow; Elmiríën, the Patterner, the Bringer of Order, the One Word of Truth, and approach the tree where they rested.  And seeing this, they stood to meet Him.”

“‘That you remain is something unheard of,” the Patterner said, ‘for those souls which remain uncalled dwindle until rebirth, and those which are called pass into the Twilight City.  None remain, and yet here you stand.'”

“‘I hear the call,’ the man replied, facing the god upright as one ought, ‘but I will not leave this place so long as my friend is here; and he will not leave this place so long as I am here.  Therefore, we remain.'”

“‘The chill of the Fugue cleanses the soul of those qualities which do not befit Our City.  After a thousand years, you are assuredly ready.  Come now within.'”

“‘My lord of Order, I cannot.  Heaven’s law forbids my friend entry, and thus -‘”

“‘Heaven’s law forbids’, the Patterner broke in, ‘those whose souls are yet stained by terrestrial passions from entering the Twilight City.  That you each remain here demonstrates your loyalty to be celestial in nature, not terrestrial.  Come you both within; there is a place and a purpose for you there, and know that the Twilight City is open to his kin now, and all of his order who can reach such heights.'”

“And with these words spoken, after their long wait, man and bandal entered the Twilight City together, walking side-by side.”

A small voice rose from the crowd.  “That’s the end?  What happened next, after they waited so long?”

“Why, child, they abide there still.”  He pointed to the statue.  “The defining souls of Holy Tárvalén, the Loyal.  One can, after all, only be called to the Twilight City by an eikone.  Even if that call is to become that eikone.”