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: Balance Between Good and Evil

Balance Between Good and Evil: Strongly averted in eldraeic theology, the Flamics preferring to espouse the notion that good (i.e., light, the Flame) should cheerfully extirpate evil (darkness, Entropy) from the universe and feel jolly happy about it. Good Needs Evil for contrast, forsooth! The thing about light, you see, is that it comes in many different colors.

Ice is for Endings, Side Note

When you think about the Cold Ones, it’s actually a remarkable blessing that the nature of the universe is quantized, because that’s what will eventually kill them. Eventually, those tiny energy states and information stores they use will fall below the threshold at which they cannot (because quantum) be subdivided any more to create necessary differentials, and infinity will come to an end – the granularity of the universe being the major limitation of attempting this sort of end-run around finity.

This is, by any reasonable standards, a good thing, because it places an end-point on their existence.

Imagine, for a moment, if the universe was non-quantized and analog. Then there would always be a way to slice things more finely, and get by on smaller and smaller and smaller energy differentials supporting less and less computation, but never zero. However mad and tortured their desperate struggle to hang on to another sliver of existence became, it could still get progressively worse in an infinite number of steps.

To steal a perfectly good way of putting it from a comment by Jenna Moran on Exalted’s Neverborn, whose situation is in many ways similar:

That would mean, of course, that [the universe] can never be [cold enough to kill them]. That would mean, of course, that they are mad not because they are dead gods, but because they are dead dead gods. Dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead, dead gods. Dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead, dead dead gods.

And still endlessly unraveling and unfolding into ever greater death, loss, experience of no longer having experiences, being the names of something that are ever further away from living, and still falling, and still somehow stuck.

(I have your cosmic horror’s cosmic horror right here.)

Ice is for Endings

Cold Ones (also ice giants, the Finality, Lords of the Last Waste)

Mythological beings who dwell at the end of time, during the final blackness of the universe, the last surviving remnants of the war of all-against-all over the universe’s final stocks of extropy, long after the passing of baryonic matter and the death throes of the most ancient black holes. Savage, autocannibalistic beings, stretching their remaining existence across aeons-long slowthoughts powered by the rare quantum fluctuations of the nothingness, these wretched dead gods know nothing but despair, hunger, and envy for those past entities which dwelled in eras rich in energy differentials, information, and ordered states, and would – if they could – feast on any unwary enough to fall into their clutches.

Stories of the Cold Ones are, of course, not to be interpreted literally: they are a philosophical and theological metaphor for the pessimal end-state of the universe, to wit, the final triumph of entropy in both a physical and a spiritual sense. Nonetheless, this metaphor has been adopted by both the Flamic church and the archai themselves to describe the potential future which it is their intention to avert.

The Cold Ones have also found a place in popular culture, depicted as supreme villains: perhaps best seen in the Ghosts of the Dark Spiral expansion for Mythic Stars, a virtuality game from Nebula 12 ArGaming, ICC, and the Void Cascading InVid series, produced by Dexlyn Vithinios (Sundogs of Delphys, ICC).

Mythographies of the Worlds, 53rd ed., Third League Publishing & c.

Legal Variances

“While it is necessary to examine data from early Imperial history (before the instantiation of the Transcend and its immediate precursors, and to an extent even before the advent of modern meme rehab) to see this trend clearly, from the perspective of the typical Worlds criminologist vis-a-vis Imperial forensic psychedesigners, there is a priority inversion in the treatment of certain petty crimes: when scaled appropriately by magnitude on the hir Verkat/ith-Sereda scale, it becomes readily apparent that, for example, littering, vandalism, and graffiti are punished disproportionately heavily with respect to equivalent crimes in the same category.

“The origin of this lies in an unusual qualitative distinction of the Imperial weltanschauung. While never justifiable, the standard ethical calculus published by the Eupraxic Collegium points out that zero-sum theft, for example, typically originates from a methodological defect, the pursuit of worthy ends (profit, or wealth) by unacceptable means. Even a certain subset of assaults or batteries could be considered as defects of end-selection or control-aspected talcoríëf ; again, never justifiable, but understandable, readily subject to redactive correction, and not apparently arising from fundamental defect.

“Negative-sum crimes such as the examples given above, however – along with the residuum of the other petty crimes which arises on examination from cacophilic motives – are deliberate, by-qalasír-chosen, negative-sum attacks on the community of civilized sophonts, and thereby entirely inexcusable as well as unjustifiable. While amenable in the modern era to redactive correction, in prior times it was the view that those who practiced such acts or found them acceptable in a chronic manner were suffering from, at best, an incurable mental dysfunction, or indeed an entropic soul-deformation, and should be removed as far as possible from civilized society lest it prove contagious.

“Even in the modern era, it is notable that a significantly greater percentage of those convicted for crimes of the latter class refuse meme rehab, even when such refusal necessarily invokes the mortal dictum, than those convicted for crimes of the former type.”

– “Reflections on Inter-Polity Discrepancies Within Unspecialized/Common Legal Codes”,
Worlds’ Journal of Criminology & Penology

Trope-a-Day: Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism

Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Played straight at both ends.

The greater galaxy, by and large, is a cynical place.  It may not be a Crapsack World – hell, it doesn’t even come close to a Crapsack World – but it is a realistic universe – which is to say, entirely indifferent to the sophonts within it, even when they are adequately supplied with unenlightened self-interest, nihilism, or out-and-out bastardry, and guided by blind chance and, of course, the endless deathward drag of entropy.

The Empire, by contrast, is a exceptionally shiny and idealistic Utopia of wealth, freedom, the complete absence of death, disease, poverty, crime, war, or anything else that might disturb the serenity of the average citizen-shareholder; a place where everyone can trust and be trusted, people always care, and happy endings always happen for good people.  And they’re working quite hard on knocking off universal entropy.  (Of course, that’s so because they work very, very hard to make it so – including things like building into their collective consciousness an entire machine-god to replace blind chance with a superior organizational principle, one more prone to fortunate coincidences, happy meetings and Destined True Love.)

Essentially, back in the day, the dozen or so Founders disapproved really rather strongly of the default state of things, and essentially declared war (metaphorically speaking – the paradoxes involved in warring your way to utopia is something else they’re quite aware of, however hilarious punching grimdark in the face with a spacemagic fist of doom can be on occasion) on cynicism, nihilism, and other forms of entropism in the name of holding ideals hard enough that they become real. Because if the universe believes otherwise, the universe is wrong, and dammit, we can fix that.  Their modern tradition-continuing clade-heirs, who make up a supermajority just about everywhere, are very aware that utopia doesn’t come easily, and ensure that things stay the way they’re supposed to work – the way they would work in a properly constructed universe – at least inside the borders – even if that means occasionally acting cynically outside them.

The long term plan, of course, is to ram their paradigm down the throat of the entire universe… but since that’s hard to do and Utopia, they would argue, by definition can’t Justify The Means, it has to be a very long term plan.

(Not that they’re the only enclave of idealism.  Of course, ideals are to a certain degree a matter of personal taste – the founders of the Equality Concord were profoundly idealistic, and they did create a kind of utopia… if you ignore the effective elimination of free will.)

Theology and Destiny

No, not that destiny.

This Destiny.

Specifically, the Books of Sorrow, the history of the Hive, which you can read on this page here if you scroll right down to the bottom (OBVIOUS WARNING: HORRIFIC SPOILERS LIE THERE.), and in particular VI, XI, XV, XVII, XIX, XXXII, and XLVII seem highly relevant to Flamic theology.

Or anti-theology, rather.

While officially, at least, Entropy has not personification, or cult, or gospel in the Eldraeverse…

If it did, though…

If it did…

It would sound just exactly like that.