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.

Questions: Sleep, Implied Contracts, Twinning, Pandeism, Cascading Default, The Drowning, Deals with the Devil, White Elephants, and Stargates

Random thought: Do eldrae sleep?

Yes, except for a few unconventionally modified clades. Specifically, it’s necessary in order to dream – because bio-brains get very unhappy when they don’t get their maintenance downtime. The nowline doesn’t need as much as the baseline (being quite happy to sustain three to four hours a night, or go without for several days if given an extended rest period thereafter), but that’s about where the diminishing returns set in.

The unconventional modifications tend to each come with their own disadvantages.

Do Imperial law and common custom acknowledge the validity of implied contracts, whether implied-in-fact or implied-at-law?

Not as such. The Curial courts have no particular desire to have to invent the terms of contracts and try to parse out the meeting of the minds that may or may not have been.

Instead, to save time, they have form contracts, which are basically library functions in contract law that can be invoked by various things: purchasing over the counter, entering a brawler’s bar, and various other legally defined social rituals. That ensures that the terms are defined, and contracts are always entered into intentionally.

You mentioned that sometimes someone can acquire a backup twin if their incarnation insurer mistakenly believes them to be dead. How is this resolved legally? Is property and assets split evenly? How about debts and obligations? Relationships? Can one arrange in advance what will happen and are there established precedents and norms?

When one person becomes two, the basic legal rule (in the absence of any specific agreements between self and self otherwise) is that various things attaching to them instead attach to the corporate body of both of them. So their property and assets, rather than being split, are jointly owned by both of them; they are jointly and severally liable for all debts and obligations; like any other contracts, they are jointly and severally attached to any relationships they’re in; and so on and so forth.

If it happens accidentally, such that there isn’t any previous agreement, it’s up to the new selves to exchange rights and obligations and buy each other out. Or, y’know, remerge and become one person again.

How are disputes resolved (for those foolish enough not to be able to come to an agreement with themselves).

If all else fails, they can always call on the Curial courts to make a division for them. (This is not recommended; the Curial courts dislike having to referee this sort of thing that reasonable people should be able to work out between themselves, so doing that guarantees that you’ll get a solution that neither of you will like.)

So what would the eldrae make of the idea of pandeism — that the Universe as we know it came about when a Creator of necessarily immense power and knowledge (though explicitly not an omnipotent and omniscient Deity in the classical Abrahamic vein), for whatever reason, ceased to be a unitary consciousness? How compatible would such an idea be with the precepts of the Flamic faith if someone were to make an effort to reconcile the two?

On one level, it has very few compatibility problems – the Flamic faith expends much more time on ethos than cosmos, as evidenced by its existing multiple creation myths which don’t trouble themselves particularly with consistency. And it’s no stranger an idea than many of those creation myths are, particularly in these days of mechanimism and pervasive nanoecologies.

It may, however, somewhat troubled by the pretty clear notion among the Flamics that the creator is a schmuck, for making (or in this case, becoming) such a fundamentally broken universe in the first place. So it would need to be a school of pandeism that can cope with the idea of performing invasive surgery on a blind, idiot, possibly suicidal deity.

And perhaps more interestingly, if said Creator were to have left behind some sort of “last will and testament” (or some other analogous set of injunctions) in the fundamental fabric of the Universe’s structure for its possible beneficiaries to decode and implement, what sort of considerations would the Imperial Curia have to take into account in deciding whether to accept it as a valid and enforceable document?

A contract with only one party is no contract. (Leaving aside the special case of contracts with one’s future self, which is the form many oaths take.) Nor can a creator bind their sophont creations, because they’re independent of will. So between those two alone, it’s not looking good for enforceability.

And the content is going to affect how seriously anyone might take it as advice, even. As mentioned before, the creator is a schmuck. No-one’s going to take the word of the entity responsible for either screwing up and creating entropy, or worse, deliberately creating entropy, as particularly ineffable.

When there are just two parties involved, debt and obligation seem to be pretty straightforward: Once you undertake an obligation, you assume liability for discharging it, and if you default, Bad Things Happen.

However, how do things work out under Imperial law and eldraeic practice when, for instance, A’s default on their obligation to B causes a “domino effect” where B is unable to fulfill their obligations to C as a direct result, causing C to default in turn on their obligations to D, who then has to default against E, etc.? Is each party still responsible solely for its own obligations, or is there some mechanism by which part or all of their liability in this matter can be assigned to A for their role in knocking over the first domino?

“You, and only you, are responsible for yourself,” as the old legal maxim has it.

Contract arrangements delegating risk notwithstanding, you are responsible for all of your obligations. If you choose to subcontract some of your obligations, well then, you’ll want to be confident you have a backup, can cover a potential default yourself, or otherwise hedge  it (using subguard insurance, say, or surety bonds, just like in our system, or guild backing of the subcontractor).

(The courts do have systems to stack cases and process them together for optimal handling in the event of cascading defaults, but that’s merely a convenience feature.)

1. So what’s the “Big Picture” historical view on the Drowning of the People? The “It all happened in seven hours” tale makes for a good yarn to tell around a campfire or kitchen table, but I’m sure that there must have been plenty of preexisting movements, trends, and ideas well before the event itself that all came to a head in that moment.

Actually, that’s more or less accurate for that part of it.

As indicated, the preparations for the revolution took place over years, and the overthrow itself took about a year from start to finish – and afterwards, it took more years to establish the start of what would later be known as the institutions of the Ungoverned Era, to put them on a proper philosophical grounding with the existing ideas floating around (including but not limited to this particular philosopher), and even more time for those to coalesce into the first things resembling a modern Society of Consent…

…but the part where the revolution decided that the democratic faction of their leadership were trying to be the new boss, just like the old boss, and chucked them over a waterfall? That happened pretty much as described.

2. While we’re on the subject of the days of yore, does eldraeic folklore or mythology have any tales in the same vein as the “deal with the devil” plot, where an ambitious yet impatient and shortsighted individual makes some kind of pact with an unsavory sort that (to put it mildly) ends up putting them at a disadvantage, and has to find some sort of loophole to escape their obligation or else risk eternal damnation (or some other equally sordid fate)?

I haven’t written any of them yet, and they are obviously somewhat different inasmuch as most Eldraeic belief systems have/had no adversary/negative-principle personification, merely a negative cosmic force, but it seems quite certain that there are plenty of fairy tales with morals relating to incautious pledges, yes.

(Many of them do probably relate to Úlmiríën, the Necessary Chaos, eikone of rogues, shapeshifters, trickery, epiphanies and unwonted revelations, and sudden paradigm shifts, but hesh’s not a evil deity, but a trickster deity whose bargains, while often painful, teach. Hesh is, after all, the Necessary Chaos.)

Does the Empire have an equivalent of the proverbial “white elephant,” either as an idiom or as an actual “gift”?

The concept exists, as does the social maneuver, although as yet I do not know their names.

After reading that the Empire sends out automated stargate deployment ships, and so there are systems with stargates in them that are otherwise largely unexplored, a thought struck me. How would the Empire respond if they sent a scout through one of these stargates and discovered that there was another non-Imperial, non-Voniensan stargate already in that system? Has that, in fact, ever happened?

By doing SCIENCE to it!

(Carefully and respectfully, of course, certainly. But it’s an obvious scenario that leads to seeking out more of that knowledge and friendship that the Exploratory Service is so keen on.)

And, per below, it has happened…

Also, regarding stargates in the Worlds, the Empire and the Republic are the only folks with the capability to make them, no? I know you’ve said before that Ring Dynamics made most of the stargates in the Worlds, but you never really hinted at anyone else having a weylforge (other than whatever it is that the Republic’s been mining), so I assumed that the non-RD gates were of Imperial manufacture too, just technically by different companies or maybe state-owned.

Ring Dynamics is the only Imperial company in that business, and owns and operates all of the Empire’s gates, under one contract or another, as well as leasing gates and selling gate services elsewhere.

The (rare) non-Ring-Dynamics ones, for the most part and subject to the author’s better-idea privileges, are almost all either rediscovered ancient paleotech relics (many of which are administered by Ring Dynamics under contract because, well, they have people who understand the tech), or belong to local Vingean Powers who figured it out on their own.

 

Trope-a-Day: Gambit Pileup

Gambit Pileup: The more or less inevitable, continuous, and ongoing consequence of people who see social-fu as something to be mastered every bit as much as any other excellence; a society that despises violence and coercion – and, for that matter, outright fraud – and as such places a premium on the ability to get people to do what you need or want them to do without resorting to such things; and a whole lot of people who are far too clever for anyone’s own good.

Everyone, and every organization, has a plan.  Anyone who tells you otherwise has two plans.  Minimum.  (The incomprehensibly ultratech machine-gods, of course, have ALL THE PLANS.)

That four eikones (Éadinah, eikone of night, darkness, subtlety, espionage, and deeply-laid plans; Leiriah, eikone of mists, illusions, deceptions, trickery, wit and intrigue; Úlmirien, eikone of rogues, shapeshifters, more trickery, epiphanies, unwonted revelations, and sudden paradigm shifts; and The Unnamed, eikone of seals, secrets, mysteries, and that which you are not cleared to know) find this sort of thing entertaining, useful, and eo ipso worthwhile – and in a couple of those cases being essentially incapable of playing anything straight – only adds to the fun.