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.

On Free Will and Noetic Architecture

Another little note on identity, following on from here:

On the whole, do eldraeic mainstream views on free will, determinism, and the possible interactions between the two run more towards compatibilism or incompatibilism?

While ideas vary as ideas always do in the absence of proof one way or another, the mainstream position – certainly among sophontechnologists, who have the greatest claim to knowledge on this point – is incompatiblism, and specifically a variant of that form of it that goes by the name of libertarianism; i.e., that free will is true, and determinism is in certain ways, false.

(This is, of course, purely a coincidence. Heh.)

To explain why that is requires delving a little way into my Minovsky cognitive science, which explains how minds work for the purposes of the Eldraeverse. Since this attempts to explain how minds work in the general case, regardless of species, origin, or substrate, it’s rather different in any case from the kind of cognitive science that concentrates on the specific case of human brains, even before we must point out that I’m pretty much pulling it out of my ass.

So what is a mind?

Well, to a large part, it’s a Minskian society of mind. Which is to say that it’s a massively parallel set of personalities, subpersonalities, agents, talents, memes, archetypes, models, animus-anima pairings, instincts, skillsets, etc., etc., etc., all burbling away continuously alongside each other. None of them can strictly be said to be the mind; the mind is none of them. The mind is, to a large extent, the emergent chorus that results from the argument of all of them, or at least the currently dominant set, each with the other.

(This, incidentally, is how gnostic overlays work. By grafting some voices into the chorus while suppressing others, you can add to, shade, or suppress some elements of that emergent chorus without replacing the basic personality.)

It has, however, two identifiable centers. One of these is the consciousness loop, which is a special cognitive entity present in conscious/autosentient beings whose job is to organize the output of the chorus into a narrative thread of consciousness, a.k.a., that little voice you hear when you think out loud. (It’s important to realize, of course, that despite being the part of your cognition that’s visible to you – assuming, gentle reader, that you are in fact conscious – it has no claim to be you, or indeed to play any particular part in controlling what you do. The most accurate analogy for what it does is that it’s the mind’s syslog, recording everything that the other bits of the mind do, and which they can in turn consult to find out what’s going on. It’s also important to realize that it’s not actually necessary for it to be associated with the mind’s own self-symbol, or indeed for it to exist at all, whatever the most common naturally evolved mental architectures might have to say on the matter.)

The other one is the logos, or personality organization algorithm, which is the weird fractal algorithm sitting in the middle of sophont minds, and only sophont minds (i.e., both autosentient and volitional). It’s also the only part of the mind that isn’t computable at all – vis-a-vis being only computable much more slowly – on a standard computer, requiring a quantum processor.

But none of that is the weird thing. The weird thing is this.

It’s empirically nondeterministic.

More to the point, it’s not nondeterministic in a physical sense, dependent upon its substrate; it’s nondeterministic in a mathematical sense. However you choose to compute a logos, you will never get a perfectly consistent result in an arbitrary number of trials. You will never get a statistically consistent result in an arbitrary number of arbitrary numbers of trials. Except that occasionally you will. It’s funny that way, and it’s definitely not simply random or chaotic.

Now, sure, say the physicists. The observable physical universe is deterministic. And chemistry is deterministic, and biology is deterministic, and computation is deterministic, and thus the 99.99% of mental operations in which the logos takes no part are deterministically determined by the rest of one’s society of mind, because free will or no free will, sophonts don’t actually seem to exercise it that often. (Although the exceptions – chaotic clionomic excursions, say – are suggestive.)

But there’s this THING that shows up in sophont minds.

It’s very poorly understood around the edges – enough to clone and modify and seed with it and understand some of its typology – and not at all understood, pretty much, in the middle. It might mean nothing. It might just be some artifact of the underlying cosmic metaphysics that the ontotechnologists play with, of no real significance in this debate.

But, say the mainstream sophontologists, that’s not the way we’re betting. That’s your free will, your volition, right there, in that tiny little mathematical corner peeking into the universe. That minuscule cog of the engine of creation that runs on paracausality, not causality; where will defeats law.

The Flame.

Also, I’m not quite sure how to reverse-engineer the proper philosophical position from the analogy in sensible words, but: Would a drawing of a Kanizsa triangle count as a real triangle?

Well, I wouldn’t say that it is a triangle (but then, I wouldn’t say that about a simple drawing of a triangle either); but I would say that it represents the concept of a triangle. (Along with various other things; most physical objects represent/instantiate/make use of several concepts. To re-use a precious example, Elements of Arithmetic, Second Edition, 1992 can represent any of “arithmetic”, “book”, “textbook”, “paper”, “cuboid”, etc., etc., depending/instantiate/make use on the context you look at it in.)


Cosmos and Ethos

There are many creation myths.

The Pancreator, Great Architect, crafting the universe out of nothingness.  The worlds born in the passion of Elif and Lithrás at the beginning of time, or stolen from the jewel-box of Eternity, or forged from chaos by the Mad Gods of the Beginning, or captured in the war of the Six Elemental Dragons on Chaos and Night, or thought into being by our own Lady Creatrix, Aldéré, Divine Ignition.

Or, if you are of a more scientific turn of mind, emerging from the detonation of the primordial monad in its embedding non-spatial plenum.

And yet, none of these creators are emulated, or the focus of our beliefs, save only for the Divine Ignition – and even then, not for what is surely either the cause or consequence of her madness.

For the universe is broken from its beginnings, and we have no praise for a creator who would abandon – or worse, deliberately craft – such a flawed creation.

Listen closely, my cousins, and you will hear the long low moan of the universe dying, its life running out.  The endless decay of energy states until the final nullity.  The rot that takes our works and nature’s alike, if not tended.  Disease wracks us, disaster dogs us.  Trees rot, beasts die.  Mountains crumble.  Rivers turn to dust and ash.  Cities and civilizations fall.  And within, all the little entropies; destruction and chaotism, slaving and default, leeching and disharmony, every way in which we betray ourselves – things undone, things done poorly, brass for gold, ash-crystal for fireglass, the inner voice that tempts and excuses us when we permit ourselves to do less, to demand less, to be less…

Yes, we are immortal – we and a few others of the sophont species – but even we are doomed, if not by mere chance and imperfection then by the slow fall deathward in time, as the turning planets slow and stop, the stars cool and die, and all that is collapses into the cold void when all energy, all life, all meaning is at last depleted.

This we must know.

And yet…

And yet, my cousins, the universe is also wondrous.  In the despite of this fall into decay, it brings forth wonders in their hundreds and thousands.  From the elegant structures of atomic nuclei to the graceful curve of the galactic arm; from the symmetry of the tiniest snowflake to the mightiest mountain range; the manifold symmetries of crystals; even the twin worlds of Isshára-Léstára.

And from all of this, life; warm oxygen-breathing life and cold methane-breathing life, and life breathing ammonia and sulphide and halogens, and hydrogen-breathing flyers swimming through gas giants; forests of blue and green and purple and midnight black under cool red suns; coral growing in lovely fractal patterns beneath the sea and forming hovering islands in hydrogen skies; worlds of earth and sky and water; life blooming blue, red, and purple beneath the ice of cold, outer worlds; dolphins leaping in the sun-struck sea, wolves racing the forest twilight, and the cry of the hunting wyvern in the mountains.

And us.  Eldrae and galari and myneni; kaeth and esseli and selyéva and qucequql; and all the other sophont species. Emerged from the miracle of self-organizing matter, capable of looking back, and seeing all this, and turning to strive for more.  Thinking and learning and building new wonders; cities, libraries, and roads spanning the world; carved mountains and gardened forests; the gleaming caverns of Azikhan and the coral-and-crystal domes of undersea cities; artificial islands and districts in orbit; and reaching beyond, first to Seléne’s silver dust and the cold red acridity of Talentar, and then to a hundred new worlds under new suns.

Bringing life, order, and complexity to places where they had never been; making minds blossom in metal brought to life, and raising the bandal and other species to full sophonce, spawning artificial ecologies, mechanical across the hot inner worlds and digital across star-spanning networks, and stranger ecologies of information in libraries, memeweaves, and markets.

Making the pieces of this broken universe into something worthy.

This is the nature of existence, my cousins: the dichotomy between the universe as it is, broken, decaying, doomed; and as it should be, as it can be made.  The Darkness, and the Flame that burns against it.  This is the choice we are given when we come to be:

To accede to the nature of things as they are; to accept the deathward slide, take what we can in the course of the plunge, and slink away from the ruins;

Or to strive ever to hold back the Darkness and stoke the Flame; to build the universe and ourselves ever closer to their proper perfection.

Anything that is broken can be repaired.

Elmiríën’s Truths

The following is an extract from the Word of the Flame, the record of the series of dream-visions the seeress Merriéle experienced on the side of the mountain Tirias Calémon in the year 1,199 pre-Imperial.  The contents of these visions formed the basis of the mainstream Eldraeic religion.

 This particular excerpt are the fifteen verses of the book of Truths, which – while elaborated on in other works – form the core of her religion’s ethos.  Essentially, these are the equivalent of the “Ten Commandments”, or other similar precepts.

In dreams I walked
The streets of the Twilight City
Under the sky lit with starlight,
Amid the buildings wrought from words,
And the towers woven of song.

There Elmiríën spoke to me
Patterner, Bringer of Order.
In the light of the Flame,
That burns at the Heart of Creation,
He revealed these truths to me.

Aldéré, Enkindler, Divine Ignition,
From base matter She made you,
But in your hearts set this Fire,
That you might know yourselves,
And your will might shape the world.

All that live partake of the Flame,
In the heights as in the depths.
The candle that glimmers in the darkness,
The suns that illuminate the world,
Each burns with its own light.

The Fire burns in the Heart,
Through choice its blaze is stoked.
Can a fire burn without fuel?
When one man takes another’s will;
By this the Flame is quenched.

This is the first Darkness.
Vile and accursed are they
Who would command another’s soul.
They shall know death beyond this world,
The Twilight City denied them.

As fire lives in a lantern,
The Flame dwells in the flesh.
Can light shine without its vessel?
To wound the vessel is to mar the light;
To destroy the vessel to extinguish it.

This is the second Darkness.
Those who bring the swords against another
Without right or provocation
Damn themselves in Saravóné’s sight
Her fires shall rise against them.

All the works of your hands:
Stone and metal, wood and water, fire and wind.
All that your will creates.
These things are forged in your Flame;
That which you create is yours.

This is the third Darkness.
Those who take what is another’s
Lay hands upon his soul.
The Flame they steal shall burn them;
No fires shall warm their hearts.

To give your word is to give your Flame.
Two fires commingled burn brighter still;
The hoarded flame can only dwindle.
A promise kept gives light forever;
The heart of the faithless is ashes and dust.

In the light of the Flame truth is revealed;
All things are seen as they are.
To deceive yourself chokes off your Flame.
To deceive another casts you both in Shadow.
Beware, lest Darkness find a dwelling there.

Light burns away the Darkness;
Shadow cannot stand against Flame.
Blessed are those who stand and do not falter
Against those who walk in Shadow.
Dúréníän accepts them as his own.

A man is judged by his creations alone:
All your works partake of your Flame;
By them shall its worth be known.
Above all, create yourself;
The well-tended Flame burns brightest.

Let all your works be wise,
For knowledge is the light of the Flame;
Let all your works be beautiful,
For beauty is its warmth;
Thus is your Heaven built.

– The Word of the Flame, Truths 1-15,
as dictated by the seeress Merriéle,
Chosen of Elmiríën and Namer of Eikones

Little Darknesses

While it is true that the Church of Celestial Harmony has no named adversary, no personification of evil, or rather – bearing in mind that neither are any of the eikones personifications, strictly speaking, of good – of negatively aligned concepts, it nonetheless maintains a fundamental opposition of cosmic principles.  There is the Flame, the positive cosmic principle of volition, creation, excellence, and energy; and there is the Darkness, its opposite.  Neither is the former personified as a whole; the eikones are considered shards seen through a prism, individual colors derived from the pure light of the Flame.  The latter, however, while not personified, is strongly identified with things considered manifestations of the universe’s negative principle, which Church doctrine refers to as the Universal Flaw – Void, Chaos, and Entropy.

Entropy exists in opposition, in the Church’s cosmology, to all the eikones, but most specifically such eikones as Entélith, eikone of death and endings; Éadínah, eikone of night and darkness; Olísmé, eikone of grief and loss; and Pétamárdis, eikone of necessary rot and decay.  These stand in particular opposition to Entropy, given Olísmé’s role as the consoler of the pantheon, and that both Entélith and Pétamárdis represent different aspects of that destruction which must lead to new creation.  Entélith presides over rebirth and major transitions, while Pétamárdis rules the ephemeral cycle, presiding over reuse, recycling, and repair, along with consumption as food or fuel, and ecological cycles of death and birth.  Entropy, by contrast, is the force of absolute destruction that leads to nothing new; waste – and waste heat – dissipation, and unbeing.

Of course, it is quite possible to engage in religious devotion to an abstract principle rather than an eikone (and indeed, where they sprang up, these cults have usually refrained from creating personifications of Entropy), and Entropy-cults by various names (Nightbringers, Children of the Void, the Breakers, the Cult of Finality, the Chaos-Spawned, etc., etc.) have not been unknown in eldraeic history, drawing principally from the discontent, unfulfilled or bitter among the “failed” – those unable to meet the standards demanded by society and eikones alike – and the unsated power-hungry, and from the dissonant, who found purpose and justification therein.

In the early days of the Empire, these cults often ran afoul of the secular authorities, since the activities in which they engaged as part of their devotions led them into conflict with secular law and the Fundamental Contract.  They were also widely persecuted by the templars of the Church (in particular those sponsored by the orders of Entélith and Pétamárdis) as promoters of Darkness, and this was done with the consent and assistance of the secular authorities, who took the legal view that such groups, engaged in activities intended to serve or unleash the cosmic principle of destruction, were eo ipso also engaged in conspiracies to commit crimes of entropism.

(It is entirely possible, indeed likely, that many non-cultists who engaged in activities deemed entropic – serial murderers, book-burners, rioters, vandals, and others – from entirely non-philosophical motives were caught up in the templar actions; since doctrine held that serious or chronic engagement in such activities was a sign of anathematic entropic deformation of the soul, willing or unwilling, this was not considered a significant problem by those authorities of the time who considered it.)

Likewise, the Church engaged in several military actions against entropism abroad, when they found it.  Societies which sacked cities, burned libraries, destroyed artworks for vengeance or for the value of their materials, ravaged lands and populations – all could be, and many were, deemed anathematic and made the target of a holy war.  These Marches of Purity, independent from any secular military actions, performed many punitive raids on such societies, and destroyed no few root and branch, while nonetheless taking great care to preserve their knowledge and artifacts.

While in the modern day such templar persecution and such Marches have not existed for millennia, nevertheless some Entropy-cults (and individual devotees) continue to crop up.  Even in a near-post-scarcity, sanity-guaranteed, libertist utopia, there are some very few people who can still be discontent with their lot – and are all the more so because everyone around them is satisfied with and fulfilled by their lives.  Fortunately, in the current age of ubiquitous law enforcement almost none are able to commit crimes in the name of their beliefs, and the remainder finds the unofficial persecution from their peers onerous; few will deal with, or associate with, an admitted or apparent entropist.  Some seek rectification through psychedesign and others choose to flee the Empire for more tolerant polities, but few remain for long.

– A History of Counterflamic Belief, Introduction

Trope-a-Day: Badass Creed

Badass Creed: Not the Imperial motto (that’s “Order, Progress, Liberty”), but more of a simple statement the eldrae, at least, have been using in tight situations – those who are not of one of the various institutions that have one of their own – for a very, very long time: “The Flame, Unconquered!”.

The Flame, of course, is meant symbolically; the soul, the will, qalasír, that ineffable quality – so in a sense, this can be read as another variant on assorted other creeds of variable badassitude used by various people and institutions from place to place and time to time in their culture: “In Death, Unbroken”, “We Do Not Serve”, “Unowned, Unconquered, Undefeated”, etc., etc.

More pointedly, though, the traditional duality/opposition to the Flame in classical philosophy is Entropy, death, chaos, the void, the decay of all things and the inevitable heat death of the universe.  And that “Unconquered”?  In the original Eldraeic, that’s the verb-like predicate, and attached to that, well, Eldraeic has probabilistic tenses for describing future events.  Care to guess what tense that “unconquered” is in?

Future simple certain.