Thorsten's Metaphysics of Earwa

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What Came Before

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« on: May 15, 2013, 05:22:14 pm »
Quote from: Madness
I was searching for some threads - sadly unavailable - on the old Three-Seas forum. In that time, I came across and was reminded of this... one of the best posts ever on TSA. The first piece was written pre-Judging Eye and the second post-release.

Simply awesome.

Also, saw some posts from Nerdanel lol :D... oh, Nerdanel, where art thou?

Quote from: Thorsten
The metaphysics of Eärwa - some thoughts[/i]

"I came across the books recently, and I must say I enjoyed the story very much - in particular the mysteries in the plot, which reminded me of my roleplaying times. Probably like everyone else, I was intrigued by the question of what the No-God actually is. So I started to browse back and forth through the books, made a list of references and tried to figure it out. In the end, I think I do have a compelling theory about what is going on in the books, and ultimately what the No-God is and why he asks the mysterious questions about his identity on the field of Mengedda.

However, it's a lengthy argument, so you'll have to stay with me through quite some text about the nature of reality and sorcery in Eärwa. 8) I think it's worth it, however, and I would be very interested in your thoughts and comments on my ideas.

By the way - since I have volume 1 in the US edition but 2 and 3 in the UK edition (I'm moving quite a lot...) and they don't seem to have the same layout, I'm citing by book and chapter, not by page number.

Abbreviations used:

RSB: R. Scott Bakker
DB: The Darkness that Comes Before
WP: The Warrior Prophet
TT: The Thousandfold Thought
Ch.: Chapter
Gl.: Encyclopedic Glossary

Introduction

This essay grew from the quest to find an answer to what is to me the most puzzling question in RSB's 'Prince of Nothing' cycle: Why is it, that when the No-God, the Destroyer of Worlds, the one entity dreaded more than anything else by mankind, finally appears during the First Apocalypse amidst a whirlwind, that what he utters is so completely at odds with what one would expect evil incarnate to speak in this moment:

What do you see?
I must know what you see.
Tell me!
What am I?


More than anything else, these words reveal how utterly alien as a concept the No-God really is, and this (arguably) poses the greatest enigma of the novels. Can one understand it? Perhaps one can - but in doing so, one needs to carefully investigate the relation of all other things in the world to see where and how the No-God fits in.

Two different concepts of the world

Throughout the novels, we see two different main concepts of the world contrasted over and over again. A very clear passage illustrating this is for example Cnaiür's recalling of Achamian's illustration of the Outside as water leaking through a parchment and his comparison with Kellhus' world as closed (TT, Chapter 9), rooting in itself.

The Dûnyain philosophy - Logos and causality


One concept of the world is exemplified by the Logos, the guiding principle of the Dûnyain. The word 'Logos' is clearly borrowed (as many other terms) by RSB from ancient Greek philosophy. It refuses a simple translation, having a vast range of meaning in different Greek philosophical writings, but the meanings possibly most relevant for the present considerations are the following:

λογος - computation, reckoning, relation, correspondence, proportion, explanation

This captures more or less what we see Kellhus doing most of the time. The principle 'What comes before determines what comes after.' establishes relation between and provides an explanation of events in terms of other events before. The concept expressed in this principle is known as causality, the influence of events spreading forward in times as the cause for other events. Causality is a well-known concept in natural sciences, most strikingly exemplified by modern physics where the laws of Relativity state that information can propagate only in the forward lightcone (i.e. a bit more simplified forward in time), an event which has no overlapping lightcone with another (because it happens simultaneously or after the other) cannot in any way exchange information with the other. Applied to Eärwa, the principle states that there is no purpose in events, because this would mean that an event that comes after (the purpose) determines that which is now.

But the Dûnyain principle actually states more than that: It states that what comes after is exclusively determined by what comes before, in other words, there are no 'uncaused' events (this would involve truly random occurrances) and no events caused by an outside cause (i.e. something that did not come before in the world). This is the reason Cnaiür pictures the world of Kellhus as closed - there is nothing outside that what came before, and what came before is of the same nature as what came after, so logically there is also no beginning cause (which would be outside of this chain), which brings us to the principle 'The Logos is without beginning or end.' (DB, Ch. 17).

Given the absence of randomness in a causal world, there would be absolute certainty in predicting the future for anyone who knows what is now, because this completely determines what comes after. However, the practical problem of Kellhus (or the Dûnyain in general) is the absence of such complete knowledge. In the absence of such knowledge, the Dûnyain resort to a computation based on maximum likelihood of events - the probability trance. In doing so, they replace knowledge of events by assumptions about what events occur most likely and make projections of the future based on these - however such projections are no longer certainties but inherently reflect the assumptions used to derive them. Here, we see the Logos exemplified as computation and reckoning. The only way to improve the predictive power of the probability trance for the Dûnyain is to increase their knowledge. Thus, we can readily understand why Kellhus causes Achamian (who has a vast knowledge of the Three Seas) to be his teacher (DB, Ch. 19).

In the application of the principle of the Logos, we finally find correspondance and proportion. In the view of the Dûnyain, in the absence of an outside cause as higher principle, one way to cause an event is as good as another way, in other words, it is the end that matters, not the means. This is the picture of the trackless steppe described by Moenghus to Cnaiür (DB, Ch. 12) - one may walk any path towards the destination. Judged by the ends, the only guiding principle to select a path is ease - one should take the shortest path, the sequence of actions which requires the least amount of work to achieve the desired ends. The 'true' proportion (as seen by the Logos) between desired end and means is often quite different than the apparent. We see Kellhus acting on this principle numerous times when he uses whatever means he can find to achieve his ends without any moral considerations - from generally benevolent actions such as helping people to understand themselves to rather cynical methods such as using Serwë to make Achamian feel guilty.

There is, finally, something of a philosophical problem in this causal concept of the Dûnyain. Their quest is to be self-determined, self-moving souls, thus they aim to dominate their circumstances instead of being dominated by them (TT, Gl. 'Dûnyain'). The problem is illustrated in describing to Esmenet how the Cants of Compulsion work (TT, Ch. 6,14), it is made quite clear that volition is yet another thing in the soul to be moved, rather than the mover. So Esmenet asks rightfully that if even her volition is a thing to be moved from outside, then what defines her as her? The same argument ultimately applies to the Dûnyain - if volition is yet another thing to be moved, and if what comes before determines what comes after, how can they possibly claim to strife to be self-moving if there is nothing left which would be their 'self'? The Dûnyain do not seem to have solved this question even conceptually - their goal is instead to evolve through generations of training, selection and breeding beings which are more and more aware of the circumstances which determine them under the assumption that this will eventually lead to a self-moving soul which is able to penetrate the 'darkness that comes before', the cause of the soul (TT, Gl. 'Dûnyain')

Inrithism and Fanimry - the God and causes from Outside

Quite a different view of the world is held by the vast majority of people living in Eärwa. Many of them believe in one way or the other in gods, either in the God manifest in many aspects as the gods of Inrithism or as the one God of Fanimry. As a consequence, in this view of the world man has a soul, and the soul comes from an Outside, lives in the world, and if it leads a just life, it passes to the Outside. In other words, the ultimate cause of man is not something that came before within the world, but something from without. Likewise, this world is not without beginning or end - it views God as the creator, as the first cause of the world.

In this view of the world, the relation between ends and means is vastly different from the view taken by the Logos. There is, first of all, a judgment of the actions of a soul after death according to the means a person has used to achieve goals. Thus, the means become as important a consideration as the ends, which is the basis of moral considerations. Indeed, in this open view of the world, the ends of many people lie outside the world, it is the afterlife of their soul they are concerned with, not a goal inside the world.

Likewise, the implications for causality are completely different. Faith views the world (at least partially) evolving according to a divine plan. The God causes events (from the Outside) in the circle of the world such that the plan is fulfilled. Thus, from the point of view of a man in the world, the future, that what comes after, the eventual purpose of the divine plan, determines what comes before. Most of the time, this is without consequence (as the divine plan is not known to mankind), but occasionally the plan is revealed - this is then prophecy. Prophecy leads to a strange backward causality - knowledge of the future causes events in the present to happen. The problem (as always) with backward causality is that knowledge of the future may cause events in the present which prevent this very future from happening - in which case the knowledge of the future was not knowledge in the first place (because the event didn't actually happen).

Kellhus' prophecy to Saubon 'March... The Whore will be kind to you... You must make certain the Shrial knights are punished' (WP, Ch. 4) is actually rather far from backward causality. Kellhus at this point did not actually believe himself that he was describing any real future event - but Saubon did. That in turn caused him to take the field - and the outcome conformed exactly to Kellhus' words. Clearly, Kellhus' words caused the subsequent events in some way, and at least partially helped making them true - this is often called a self-fulfilling prophecy and has not much in common with backward causality. At this point, there was not really anything Saubon could have done (short of deliberately being defeated in battle) to falsify what Kellhus had said. He could have 'not punished' the Shrial knights - but likely that would have resulted in a defeat. Kellhus does not provide an absolute future at this point, he provides a conditional future, and such a prophecy is rather evasive. Nevertheless, while we cannot establish the actual existence of backward causality from any text passage in the trilogy, most people of faith accept it readily. This sense of purpose is in fact the very driving force of the Holy War.

A more complete theory of the Outside is given in the Dyadic Theory of Ajencis: 'The world (...) is simply the point of maximal objectivity, the plane where the desires of individual souls are helpless before circumstance (because it is fixed by the desire of the God of Gods). The many regions of the Outside then represent diminishing levels of objectivity where circumstances yield more and more to desire' (TT, Gl. 'Outside').

Which view describes Eärwa as it is?


It is an interesting observation that even scientific-minded people in our world would accept neither the philosophy of the Dûnyain nor the causes from outside but a mixture of both. In spite of accepting causality, most people would still hold to some kind of ethic principles which make some actions inacceptable even if they are the shortest path towards a goal. But this is not an essay about Earth but about Eärwa, and here RSB gets to decide which view on the world is true, and we get to know by interpreting clues hidden in the text of the trilogy.

There is plenty of evidence that the Dûnyain understand the true nature of the world. Consider simply their enormous success - Kellhus, a single man, manages to bend the whole Holy War to his purpose. He manages to acquire from Achamian what other sourcerous schools have sought for centuries - the Gnosis. Nowhere do we observe a resistive core from Outside in a soul which does not accept manipulation. Even Cnaiür, who is unusually intelligent and moreover has figured out what Moënghus has done and how, who takes ample precaution when dealing with Kellhus since their first encounter - even he falls to Kellhus manipulation and teaches him war when Kellhus uses Serwë (WP, Ch. 13). Thus, not even a person aware that he is manipulated and moreover suspecting that he will be disposed of once he is no longer useful can resist, of such strength is the Dûnyain principle to come before the movements of another's soul. Likewise Achamian, in spite of Kellhus taking the woman he loves from him, in spite of Seswatha residing in him as a kind of second persona who prevents him from revealing the Gnosis even under threat of Xinemus' torture (WP, Ch. 19), in spite of having a philosophy based on doubt eventually yields to the manipulation. So, how could all this occur when the soul is really something with a cause in the Outside? On the other hand, while Kellhus keeps up the appearances of a prophet, he does not actually work miracles. Finding water in the desert (WP, Ch. 18) certainly appears like a miracle to warriors dying from thirst, but is nothing more than keen observation of natural clues. One thing which would require a miracle, i.e. healing the blinded Xinemus, he cannot do (TT, Ch. 6).

And yet, there is also evidence that there is an Outside. In fact, there is rather good, solid evidence through the existence of the Daimos (TT, Gl 'Daimos'), in particular the Ciphrang which are entities summoned from the Outside and through sorcery in general. Moënghus, the only Dûnyain expect Kellhus to have learned sorcery, readily acknowledges the existence of the Outside as such, however he takes the view that there is nothing found which is not a pale shadow of what is found within (TT, Ch. 16). In other words, according to this view, the Logos is still the guiding principle, causality is valid, the Outside is just an extension of the world, a new domain of causality, not something apart from causality.

But the story offers yet more evidence for the view of Inrithism and Fanimry. We may start with the tantalizing clues to prophecy. What about the Kelmomian prophecy that an Anasûrimbor would return before the end (which is a cornerstone in the relation between Achamian and Kellhus, though in all fairness one might consider the possibility that Kellhus would have found another way to acquire the Gnosis - however presumably this was the point which swayed the Seswatha persona in Achamian)? What about the above-mentioned prophecy to Saubon - was it just lucky coincidence, a 'fortuitous Correspondence of Cause', that events played out the way they were predicted - or is this not precisely the way we would expect purposeful events to happen? Then there are the visions of the No-God Kellhus experiences during the circumfixion, visions not anticipated by Moënghus (who otherwise gave a rather accurate assessment of what happened prior to this point).

Most strikingly, there is the question of halos around Kellhus' hands, in the Three Seas taken to be the sign of a prophet. This is a rather confusing clue. Various people observe the halos at various times - but then when, Serwë, during the battle of Anwurat, is visited by a Skin-Spy whom she takes to be Kellhus, she observes halos around his hands too (WP, Ch. 14)! So, are we to conclude that people observe the halos because they already believe Kellhus is a prophet, and their mind completes the picture by showing them what they believe to be true? Partially that seems to be the case - except that Kellhus himself at some point observes the halos (TT, Ch. 16), and that Kellhus himself, on his final way to Moënghus, asks a question and picks up a twig with two leaves as an answer - and acts upon this answer, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the principles of the Logos (TT, Ch. 15). So, what, except an influence from Outside, would drive Kellhus to abandon his otherwise so successful principles? In fact, Kellhus states quite explicitly that he is convinced that he has thoughs from Outside and that Moënghus is wrong.

We may, as Moënghus does, allow for the possibility that Kellhus is getting mad, that his certainty to be right is the false certainty of a person with delusions. However, let us appreciate two important points: First, any formal system used for logical deductions (this includes the Logos as well as mathematics) requires axioms, stated principles about how the system works. However, these axioms cannot be proven within the system, they are assumptions. The Dûnyain philosophy rests on axioms about what is a valid deduction and what not just as any other system, i.e. implicitly Moënghus relies on an unproven certainty to be right just as well as Kellhus. Second, delusional people usually fail to acknowledge some aspect of reality and this leads to discrepancies they have to explain away. Kellhus does not seem to have this problem - all events play out as if he were a prophet. He isn't ever busy explaining away his failures as prophet. Thus, while madness is a possibility, it does not seem to be likely.

In summary, RSB does not seem to answer the issue which view is correct - given the text, both positions can be argued.

The Thousandfold Thought - reality as a construct and emergence

But in fact, I think RSB does answer the issue. If we pose a question if A or B is real, and then an honest investigation of evidence reveals that A and B are both real, it simply means that we did not pose a meaningful question. The question we posed contains hidden assumptions about the nature of 'real' and in order to ask a meaningful question, we have to uncover and remove some of these assumptions.

In order to explain what this means, let us have a look at quantum physics, or more specifically the wave-particle duality. The question at hand is: Is the nature of light a wave, or is it a particle? The evidence is that in some experiments light behaves clearly as a wave, but in others equally clearly as a particle! The answer to this apparent paradox is that it is unreasonable to insist that light must be either wave or particle - in reality, it is neither (we don't acually know what it is, but we describe as a quantum state with a given wave function which describes everything light does). But according to our perception, the underlying reality appears to us as either wave or particle - it is the perception which forms the apparent reality from the true reality. In other words, the apparent reality around us is nothing but a construct of conscious perception. Only in confusing apparent reality with true reality do we get a paradox.

But we cannot actually see true reality unformed by perception. Quantum states are undecided - quantum physics does not demand that a door is either open or closed, it can be both at the same time. Perceived reality however demands that it is one or the other. Quantum evolution does not have a definite history - past events did not happen, but only happened with a certain probability. Perceived reality demands that a past event has either happened or not.

And this last discrepancy is at the heart of a seeming backward causality effect in physics: In a certain process, light is emitted from a moving particle. But an event which happens later to the particle can cancel the emission which happened before. If we insist in the truth of perceived reality, then this is backward causality at its finest - that what comes after determines that which came before. But the error in the reasoning here is that the true past was never fixed, although we could only see it as fixed. Instead, the true past state always contained the probability that the emission never happened at all, and all we do in the experiment is projecting into this probability.

So there is a very real conceptual framework in which both causality and seeming backward causality can be true, and in which conflicting pictures of reality can be reconciled. In fact, it is the foundation principle of our world.

RSB gives various clues that the reality underlying Eärwa is of a very similar nature. For example, one of the prerequisites one needs to do sorcery is described as the ability to see the onta, i.e. reality as it really is (TT, Gl. 'sorcery'). Moënghus describes the Thousandfold Thought in his meeting with Kellhus as a 'lie becoming truth' and draws analogies with the viramsata (TT, Ch. 16), which is nothing but the idea that perception shapes reality with an intermediate step - the lie shaping perception. But for this shaping of reality to happen, belief is not enough. It is too superficial. Simply to believe that something happens does not shape the reality of Eärwa but only the individual perception. Absolute belief is required to shape perceived reality. This is all but spelled out by RSB in the information that sorcery (which undeniably changes reality) relies on the concept of 'absolute meaning' (TT, Gl. 'sorcery'), which is nothing but the absolute belief in a connection between a given word and an outside reality. The role of absolute belief is also confirmed by the fact that Moënghus was able to grasp the concept of the Thousandfold Thought, something the Dûnyain have been unable to do for thousands of years. The reason is probably that Moënghus was surrounded by people who do not ask questions of cause and effect and are thus capable of absolute belief, whereas the Dûnyain isolated in Ishuäl were not in contact with any such worldborn people, they themselves being far too rational to be capable of absolute belief.

This leaves three different layers of reality: 1) the individual perceived reality through belief 2) the perceived reality (through absolute belief of a large number of people) 3) the true reality independent of perception. As for 1), a person might believe that Kellhus is a prophet, but an omniscient observer would disagree and say that the person is deceived about the true state of things. In 2) a person may believe that Kellhus is a prophet, and an omniscient observer would agree that this is so. Finally, in 3) there is no perception of Kellhus as prophet or not, the question does not arise.

But in order to understand the Thousandfold Thought, we must look at one more concept - emergence. Emergence is not an easily defined concept. Roughly, it means that in a sufficiently complex system, new phenomena occur that cannot be traced back to individual components of the system, i.e. the whole is greater than its parts. Thus, in order to understand the system, it is insufficient to analyze all parts of it.

As an example, consider an anthill. There seems to be purposeful activity, ants transport food into the hill, transport rubbish out, find new food sources, repair the hill, and so on. Yet if you mark a single ant with a white dot, there is no sign at all of purpose. The single ant just randomly seems to go here and there, it does not carry out any purposeful action. So, analyzing a single ant does not reveal where the organizing intelligence of an anthill actually is or how it works. The same with the human brain - analyzing the function of neurons does not provide clues as to how consciousness works or where in the brain it is.

The God (or the Outside) is in all likelihood an emergent phenomenon from the interaction between consciousness, belief, perception and reality - some kind of super-consciousness. Kellhus seems to have something like this in mind when he explains to Achamian that the Outside is rather a direction in the soul of man and that the God is looking out of the eye of every man (TT, Ch. 10). Of course, one should always be careful with explanations provided by Kellhus, which rarely are given with the sole aim of explaining anything, but the description seems to fit the evidence rather nicely. Moënghus describes the Thousandfold Thought indeed as a 'living thing' (TT, Ch. 16) which becomes the player using mankind.

The issue about emergence is not that it would not follow causality. It is unreasonable to claim that the behaviour of an anthill does not follow from the behaviour of individual ants when one cannot point to any outside cause. The problem is that emergence follows causality in a way that cannot be isolated, and hence it eludes the Dûnyain analysis. One can not point to a property of the single ant and localize the organizing intelligence of the anthill. It is caused by the ants, but it is caused somehow without a clear line, and this is where the analysis of causation and the predictive power stumble.

The various aspects of the concept known as the Thousandfold Thought then evolve as follows:

Initially, Kellhus wishes to dominate circumstance. Thus, his words and actions shape the belief of others, and his aim is that their belief changes their individual perception of reality, such that they accept him as a prophet, thus that the behaviour of people is changed because of their changed perception of reality. In a sense, he is the omniscient outside observer (so is Cnaiür) and he would state that the true state of affairs is that he is in fact not a prophet. In other words, Kellhus lies about being a prophet and purposefully poses as one. In his initial view, there is an underlying independent reality, and people can choose see it or not, but reality does not depend on whether they do or not.

Moënghus has in fact carefully prepared and anticipated Kellhus' path, since he has figured out one more step in the chain of Kellhus' words forming beliefs and beliefs forming perceptions --- he knows that absolute belief as being created in the holy war will bring about the Thousandfold Thought as an emerging living entity. In other words, he anticipates that he creates a new God in a sense, but he views himself as outside of these events, as their originator, and probably his plan is as Kellhus suspects to dispose of his son and to take over the role as prophet (TT, Ch. 17).

However, what actually seems to happen carries the chain even more steps further. The Thousandfold Thought of the Holy War does shape the God as emergent phenomenon. But in doing so, it actually reshapes reality. In particular, it reshapes (seemingly) the history of events leading to this point, giving rise to (seeming) causality violation. In other words, the events reach back into the past and shape the reality out of which the consciousness of both Kellhus and Moënghus is in itself an emergent phenomenon - and thus the neither Kellhus nor Moënghus are in any sense outside the Thousandfold Thought, but in turn influenced and shaped by the very events they have set in motion.

Thus, the somewhat paradoxical answer to the question of Kellhus is really a prophet is: Initially he is not, but in the end he always has been.

It seems much more useful to analyze the unfolding of events in terms of the evolution of probability amplitudes of events as in quantum physics than in terms of a timeline. This especially relates to the No-God - the mere possibility that he may be resurrected in the future seems to be causing all kinds of events and dreams in the present.

Sorcery

Armed with the conceptual framework outlined above, we may ask the question of the nature of sorcery. Kellhus provides a rather stringent explanation to Achamian (TT, Ch. 10), but Kellhus being Kellhus, everything said should be confirmed by other observations. So, what do we actually know about sorcery in Eärwa?

First of all, it does not seem to be connected in any way to race. The Nomen practice sorcery (DB, Prologue), mankind practices sorcery, the surviving Inchoroi practice it, cf. the compulsion used by Aurang in the meeting with Kellhus (TT, Ch. 12) and there is even one Skin-Spy able to use sorcery (TT, Ch. 13), which is interesting as the Skin-Spies are usually taken to be constructs of Tekne with only a rudimentary soul, although admittedly this Skin-Spy is described as unusual and as having a soul.

Sorcery is also not connected to language - Achamian cites the fact that the Gnosis cants use a different languages than the Anagogis cants as evidence (TT, Ch. 10).

Sorcery is comparatively rare. The sorcerers are referred to as 'The Few', and we learn that about 100 sorcerers of the Scarlet Spires accompany the Holy War which initially has some 350.000 people. Assuming that the number of fighters a country can muster is as much as one tenth of the population (a rather large number), the ability to do sorcery occurs rarer than in one of 35.000 people. However, the ability to do sorcery does not come on a black-and-white basis, but in degrees. In several places, different ranks of sorcerers according to their ability and strength are distinguished within a school. In particular, for Moënghus it is said by Kellhus that his powers are 'proportionate to [his] vestigial passions' (TT, Ch. 16).

Sorcery may work on very different principles. Four of these actually occur in the trilogy:

* The Anagogis: The name is in all likelihood derived from the Greek

αναγωγη - reference to a principle

and this seems to describe the nature of the anagogic sourcery rather well. It is based on analogies and uses mental images in cants, or 'resonance between meanings and concrete things' (TT, Gl. 'Anagogis'), In other words, anagogic sorcerers who want to produce heat conjure images of suns, dragons and such like.

* The Gnosis: This seems to be derived from Greek

γνωσις - higher, esoteric knowledge

and we learn that the Gnosis is originally a Noman sorcery and that it is based on abstractions (TT, Gl. 'Gnosis'). It is therefore considerably more powerful than the Anagogis (Achamian has no problem taking on four Imperial Saik in TT, Ch. 16). It is an 'analytic and systematic sorcery' (TT, Ch. 1). In other words, a gnostic sorcerer who wishes to produce heat conjures the abstract idea of heat directly.

* The Psûkhe: This is the sorcery of the Cishaurim and its name is based on Greek

ψυχη - the conscious self or personality as centre of emotions, desires, and affections

The Chishaurim refer to their sorcerous powers as the 'holy water'. Unfortunately, the main descriptions of the Psûkhe are given by Kellhus. He describes it as a 'metaphysics of the heart' (TT, Ch. 16) and contrasts the gnostic and anagogic concepts which in an analogy correspond to the words the God used in the creation to the Psûkhe as 'the tone and timbre, the passion of the God's voice' (TT, Ch.10).

* The Aporos: This is a Noman type of sorcery which is not very frequently mentioned. It is responsible for the creation of the chorae under the involvement of the Inchoroi though (TT, Gl. 'Cûno-Inchoroi-Wars'). The name is presumably the Greek

απορος- impossible, useless

where the first meaning is implied since the Aporos hinges on contradictions (i.e. the impossible) rather than being a useless type of sorcery. The sorcery is described as being very dangerous.

In fact, the list covers pretty much all aspects of function the conscious brain shows: Imagination and visualization (Anagogis), rational thought and abstraction (Gnosis), emotion and desire (Psûkhe) and the ability to cope with paradox (Aporos) - the latter distinguishes the human brain e.g. from a computer which can not cope with contradictory input. The conclusion is that sorcery is in some way tied to the function of a conscious mind.

So, all in all it seems that we can accept Kellhus' explanation of what sorcery is. It is the ability to perceive not only perceived reality (as all people do) but a glimpse of the underlying true reality (the onta) with 'insinuations of more' (TT, Ch. 10). The power of a sorcerer is then proportional to his capability of using a certain function of his mind - Moënghus' power in the Psûkhe is proportional to his passions and hence is rather weak, but Kellhus' power in the Gnosis is based on his vast capability for abstract thought and hence he can do things no other living sorcerer can do, for example use two inutteral strings in a cant (TT, Ch. 16).

The act of sorcery is then something like a 'Onefold Thought' - the cant serves as a device to create a description of reality with 'absolute meaning' in the mind of the sorcerer, and just as the absolute belief of many in the Thousandfold Thought shapes the perceived reality from the true reality, so shapes the absolute meaning of a cant shape perceived reality from the true reality. But the mind of the sorcerer is not capable of doing it the same way as the superconsciousness of the Thousandfold Thought (note that all metaphysic systems above employ only one function of the mind whereas the super-consciousness would use all conscious and unconscious functions of many minds), and this discrepancy leads to the idea that the sorcerers speak with the words of the creator, but they are always lacking. In other words, the sub-creation of sorcery is never as rich, complete and meaningful as the creation, and this discrepancy is the origin of the concept of the blood of the onta.

The Chorae

The Trinkets fall rather nicely into this concept. If sorcery is a Onefold Thought where an insinuation of more in the perceived reality is turned into perceived reality by creating absolute meaning, the Chorae would prevent this by removing the insinuations of more. That is precisely why they are felt by a sorcerer as an absence in the onta (DB, Ch.1). The name is presumably derived from

χωρη - proper place

and this is literally what the Trinkets do - they locally force true reality to be in its 'proper place', i.e. to equal perceived reality. In other words, they destroy reality in order to reinforce an illusion of perception. Small wonder a sorcery based on contradiction like the Aporos was necessary for their creation!

Interestingly enough, it seems the Chorae must touch skin to offer protection from sorcery (WP, Ch.18). The question remains as to why Chorae destroy sorcerers as soon as they have actually used sorcery. It seems in most cases sorcerers touched by a Chorae turn to salt (e.g. TT, Ch. 16), but in some cases, cf. the end of Moënghus, this does not seem to happen. Partially, the explanation may be that Chorae are needed by RSB as a device for the story - without their threat, given the power of sorcery, there would be no need for conventional warfare with armies. It is chiefly the threat of Chorae bowmen which prevents sorcery from becoming the chief means of warfare, so this property of the Chorae is rather needed.

But (leaving aside the salt as a nice dramatic touch) it would also fit into the pattern outlined here. A sorcerer using sorcery leans out of the reality perceived by other people by creating absolute meaning. This other reality (created by the super-consciousness of the Thousandfold Thought) adjusts and is forced locally to agree with the sorcerer's reality. But this adjustment may not be perfect, so in a sense a sorcerer after using sorcery never quite remains in the same reality as other people. Given that true reality is sufficiently indefinite, that doesn't matter. The Chorae however force true reality to agree with perceived reality and hence leave no place for the slightly different reality of the sorcerer, therefore destroying him.

There are also mentions of 'anarcane ground' (TT, Gl. 'Arithau') in the text on which renders sorcery impotent. This may or may not fall into the ideas developed here, there's simply not enough information to judge how anarcane ground works.

The strangers - the Nomen and Inchoroi

Into this cosmology, strangers intrude, the Inchoroi, the people of the void. There is little doubt that the Incû-Holoinas, the Ark-of-the-sky, is a crash-landed spaceship. Aurang, one of the surviving Inchoroi, recalls that he has 'looked across the void and blotted [the] world by holding a fingertip before it' (TT, Ch.12) which is just the view from a spaceship approaching a planet. He also describes himself as 'a son of the void you call heaven' (ibid).

The Inchoroi are 'a race with hundred names for the vagaries of ejaculation who had silenced all compassion, all pity, to better savour the reckless chorus of their lusts' and 'reapers of thousands' (ibid) although they describe themselves as 'a race of lovers'. Which in essence means they are driven by their rather unrestrained hungers, lusts and passions. By their own standards however they are in all likelihood not particularly amoral or evil, although judged by the standards of Eärwa, there is no doubt that they are.

Their first contact is with the Nomen, which at that time seem to be not too different from men - after all, they have the same capabilities for sorcery and they seem to share the same basic morality and beliefs. In the first encounters, the Inchoroi rely on weapons of light (TT, Gl. 'Cûno-Inchoroi-Wars') against the sorcery of the Nomen. These weapons of light may well be beam weapons like lasers, the important point is that there is no evidence that the Inchoroi knew or used sorcery initially.

Supporting evidence is given by the nature of the Tekne, the non-sorcerous craft of the Inchoroi used to manufacture living flesh (e.g. the Sranc). It is based 'on the presumption that everything in nature, including life, is fundamentally mechanical' (TT, Gl. 'Tekne'). This presumption (which, incidentially, is not so different from the Dûnyain view) clearly argues against any concept of original Inchoroi sorcery. The name seems to originate from Greek

τεχνη - art, craft

which is also at the root of the word 'technology'.

Indeed, the second major strike against the Nomen is presumably made by using the Tekne - in the form of first the Womb Plague (presumably some kind of bioweapon) and then hordes of Sranc, Bashrags and Dragons. The Inchoroi do have Chorae at this point, but they were devised by 'seduced practitioners of the Aporos' (TT, Gl. 'Cûno-Inchoroi-Wars') and not by the Inchoroi themselves. The eventual defeat of the Inchoroi by the hands of the Nomen was owed to 'exhaustion of their fell weapons' (ibid) - so there is in fact no evidence that the Inchoroi fully grasped the concept of sorcery before their contact with the Mangaecca and their transformation to what would eventually become the Consult. However, the Inchoroi are clearly able to work sorcery, as numerous times evident from Aurang's use of it. The use of bioweapons may or may not persist to very late times, cf. the Indigo Plague following the wake of the First Apocalypse (TT, Gl. 'Indigo Plague').

There is one interesting reference to Skin-Spies denoting themselves as 'Keepers of the Inverse Fire' (TT, Ch. 9). However, the meaning of this rather obscure remark is not readily clear. It just possibly may denote the long-lost meaning of a function aboard a spacecraft, i.e. someone in charge of a retro-thruster, but that is a long shot in speculation, and the Skin-Spies do not actually seem to know themselves what it means (ibid).

The Inchoroi problem and its solution - the No-God

The goal of the Consult is, at least as guessed by Kellhus, to seal the world to the outside to avoid the possibility of damnation (TT, Ch. 16) and thus to save their souls. Given the fundamentally different mindset and morality of the Inchoroi, they would surely fail by the moral standards of Inrithism and Fanimry, so their concern was quite real once the Inchoroi accepted the reality of the Outside and he afterlife.

In the light of what has been said above, what happens is that the Inchoroi intruded into the superconsciousness of Eärwa which emerged from the minds of mankind (and, prior to that, the Nomen) which shaped reality and, to a much greater degree, the nature of the Outside. In their own world, there was either no superconsciousness, or it was of a very different nature as it was dominated by Inchoroi minds, but on Eärwa the Inchoroi (especially after the wars against Nomen) were a minority and the nature of the Outside was dominated by mankind, leaving no influence to them. As a result, they were caught up in a reality which did not judge them by their own standards, and therefore damned by the superconsciousness of Eärwa, the God. The role of the human members of the Consult is rather similar, although they lack the 'excuse' that their amoral conduct is genuinely part of their nature.

One solution to the dilemma is the extermination of mankind. After all, the superconsciousness so inimical to them emerges from the minds of men, so if mankind can be exterminated to the point that the minds of the Inchoroi dominate the superconsciousness and hence reality, their problem is solved.

Note that there is no evidence that the Inchoroi initially realized this problem. When dealing with the Nomen, they actually gave the male members of the race immortality whereas they killed the females with the Womb Plague. Simply giving back youth to the Nomen, but not immortality would have exterminated them quite efficiently within a generation. It is probably fair to say that the Inchoroi had opportunity for genocide at this point, but (for whatever reasons) chose not to do so. Presumably, their decision is driven by cruelty - after all, the Nomen could not possibly have the brain capacity to deal with the memories of a vastly increased lifetime, nor did they have the technology to address the problem, so the original plan may have been to see the surviving Nomen go mad over time without any hope of renewal for their race. This in essence is exactly what happened to the Nomen. Presumably, only after the Inchoroi learned sorcery and grew familiar with the nature of the Outside did they make plans to seal the world.

Summarized, the problem of the Consult is an emergent superconsciousness, the God, which is determined by the majority of Eärwan minds. Their solution to this problem is another superconsciousness of their own making, the No-God, and all of his known properties can be understood from this perspective.

The God emerges from multiple self-referencing loops. The perception of the God determines reality, but reality determines the brains of people, those determine minds, and these minds in turn determine the God. So the God shapes reality and is in turn shaped by reality. Likewise, he perceives in reality his own action and hence himself - the main feature of conscious awareness.

The No-God cannot arise as a self-referencing concept (otherwise he would, as the God, become dominated by the minds of men). It cannot be allowed to be shaped by reality but must be 'anchored' somehow in reality and from this point shape only. Thus, note that unlike the God, the No-God can be localized. Not only is he inside the Carapace, but people even feel where he is from afar (TT, Gl. 'Mursiris'). The core of the No-God is some creation of both Tekne and sorcery, presumably some kind of computing core, which can support a superconsciousness. 11 Chorae are embedded in his Carapace (TT, Gl. 'No-God'). The idea that this would be to guard some creature of flesh against sorcery is rather absurd - after all, we know that Chorae only work when touching skin! Rather, the point of the Chorae seems to be to anchor the core of the No-God such that it cannot be shaped (because the Chorae suppress any possibilities in true reality beyond the local perceived reality, and hence any room for shaping) but can shape everything else except himself.

Being a superconsciousness, the No-God primarily conducts a 'spiritual warfare' - in other words wars with the God for domination in shaping reality, in particular the Outside. The 'alternative' Outside created by the No-God can be felt as presence (or absence) in the onta rather similar to the way Chorae can be felt as absence in the onta - as a discrepancy to the 'normal' state of reality caused by the God. The 'alternative Outside' at least partially works - the cycle of souls is disrupted by the No-God - children are stillborn (TT, Gl. 'No-God') and those who died on the field of Mengedda encountering the No-God pass no further. But on the other hand, the 'alternative reality' is not absolute - mankind is not exterminated outright.

The No-Gods has the ability to control Sranc, Bashrag, Dragons and other creations of the Tekne. Again, this is a one-way pattern: The No-God comes from outside the minds of the creatures (i.e. from the core inside the carapace) and controls them, unlike the God he is not in any way influenced by their minds. The ability probably is connected to the idea to make vast majorities of (admittedly almost soulless) creatures believe and perceive reality in a given manner, but certainly proved useful in battles. However, in order to do so, the Consult needed to equip the No-God with enough self-awareness to understand the (self-aware) creatures he was supposed to control.

Nevertheless, the No-God was a superconsciousness, a being of vast intelligence and ability far surpassing any of the Consult, but with only a rudimentary self-awareness and determined by a set of instructions how to shape the alternative reality the Consult desired. Thus, in a sense the Consult worshiped him as a being far beyond their abilities. The No-God, being self-aware, must have asked the question about himself at some point, and its vast intelligence probably very quickly revealed the huge blind spots in his self-image. But by the very purpose of his design as acting one way, the No-God could only shape but not be shaped, only control but not be controlled and only perceive the outside, but not himself directly.

To bring out this difference more clearly: Every time a man experiences the God or the action of God somewhere, the God is directly aware of this and hence also self-aware, since the mind of the man having the experience is also part of the superconsciousness of God. Not so for the No-God - even in any creature (say a Sranc) experiences the No-God or an action of the No-God, the No-God is not directly aware of this since its 'mind' is different from the mind of the Sranc by design.

The No-God's situation can be understood in analogy with the situation of a man having no conscious experience or memory of, say, going to work. He can infer from various facts (money on his account, the passing of time indicated by his watch, people mentioning having seen him at work...) that he indeed is going to work on weekdays, but that is indirect knowledge. Quite possibly, figuring out what happens with him will shortly be an overwhelming desire of this man, and he will continuously ask questions like 'Did you see me yesterday? What did I do?'.

Similarly after a while, this absence of information must have been the main question driving the No-God (quite contrary to what the Consult would have wanted), and thus his main concern on the field of Mengedda was to know himself:

What do you see?
I must know what you see.
Tell me!
What am I?

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« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2013, 05:22:30 pm »
Quote from: Walter
Hmm, this is very well composed.

I'm not convinced that the No-God could be a construct created by merging Tekne with sorcery however, as sorcery seems to be effectively rewriting reality and I don't think there are any sorcerers who understand enough about the Tekne to make such a thing.  Aurax and Aurang aren't technicians (or the Inchoroi) equivalent, right?  The Inchoroi knowledge of Tekne has essentially disappeared by the time the No-God shows up.

If the No-God is simply an artifact, then I'd wager on it being a creation of the same type of sorcery which created the Chorae.  In essence, simply a bigger Chorae.

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« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2013, 05:22:37 pm »
Quote from: jan
I think Thorsten is RSB:)

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« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2013, 05:22:43 pm »
Quote from: Madness
Lol, jan. He is only one of a long line of impersonators ;). Do not be fooled by clowns. There can only be one Bakker.

Walter, you are completely right about the Inchoroi's diminishing memory, just not the timeline. The revelation of Darkness That Comes Before is that the Mangaecca with the Consult have succeeded in creating a new creature from the Old Science. Arguably, they had enough time to teach the Mangaecca some principles of the Tekne.

The Consult laboured for a thousand years before bringing about the No-God. They've laboured two thousand years since, all the while the Inchoroi memory diminished, in order to resurrect it again - this must represent a sufficiently demanding learning curve?

You may be correct that there is no evidence for the how of the No-God's advent in the world. There is also the Glossary entry of TTT for Aurax: A surviving Prince of the Inchoroi. Very little is known about Aurax, save that he is a ranking member of the Consult and the twin brother of Aurang. Mandate scholars speculate that it was he who first taught the Tekne to the Mangaecca (TTT, p521).

That's all hearsay though ;).

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« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2013, 05:22:52 pm »
Quote from: Borric
Quote from: Madness

Walter, you are completely right about the Inchoroi's diminishing memory

Do we have any evidence that the Inchoroi's suffer memory loss?
They seem quite lucid to me.

We have evidence that the Cûnuroi suffer memory loss of course, but I can’t remember reading anything of other races.

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« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2013, 05:23:02 pm »
Quote from: Madness
I feel like there is little textual evidence and much of a consensual opinion on this might have been built from discussions with Bakker on old Three Seas.

A few pieces I can dredge up at the moment:

"But slowly, as the Inchoroi exhausted their fell weapons and relied more and more on their vile slaves, the Cunoroi and their Halaroi servants gained the advantage" (TTT, Cuno-Inchoroi Wars, p546).

I like the note that the Halaroi had to fight among the titans of Earwa... they must have been fodder.

Here we have an indication that the Inchoroi couldn't reproduce their weapons or make more, newer weapons of the Old Science that weren't produced in the initial fight against the Nonmen. Diminishing knowledge?

"Mandate scholars claim that the fundamental principles of the Tekne have been long lost, and ghat the Consult can only proceed in a trial-and-error fashion, on the basis of an incomplete understand, and using ancient and ill-understood instruments. This ignorance, they claim, is all that preserves the world from the No-God's return" (TTT, Tekne, p623).

This seems to suggest that the Tekne, a tool of the Inchoroi, is no longer accessible to them.

"Accounts are incomplete, but it seems clear that what were called the Great Sranc Wars were a consequence of the Mangaecca occupation of what would come to be called Golgotterath" (TTT, Apocalypse, p515).

So Mangaecca break the Glamour around the Ark with Cet'ingira and Shaeonanra, as reminiscent in the False Sun, and then spend time with the Inchoroi (Aurax, if the Glossary is to be believed) (p521) duplicating the initial inventions of the Inchoroi, Sranc.

After that they go direct for the ultimate whisper or rumour of solution in the "No-God," which Seswatha hears about before its advent.

Then it takes them another two thousand years to produce anything new with the Tekne, Skin-spies, Ursranc...

Certainly, there is a leading narrative here, though I understand it isn't explicit.

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« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2013, 05:23:09 pm »
Quote from: Borric
Ahh i see you’re thinking.

That to me was the symptom of losing their brethren though.
They lost a large skill base because there race was virtually extinct, no engineers etc.
Rather than a racial flaw where accumulated memory would cause the brain to overflow as with the Nomen, (and humans?)

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« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2013, 05:23:15 pm »
Quote from: Madness
+1. Either one makes sense.

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« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2013, 05:23:23 pm »
Quote from: Duskweaver
FWIW, I got the same impression as Borric. Individual Inchoroi can remember things just fine, but the only two that still live are essentially children playing with the toys their older siblings made. Deep knowledge and understanding of the Tekne was lost the way we have forgotten how to read Linear A, not the way I've forgotten calculus. ;)

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« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2013, 05:23:29 pm »
Quote from: Madness
We've had versions of this discussion around the forum and the most articulate question that emerges is how do the Inchoroi modify themselves, specifically their brains, for specialization?

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« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2013, 05:23:35 pm »
Quote from: Wilshire
Wait the inverse fire was mentioned in TTT? Maybe I just hadnt yet read the IF yet.
What would it mean that the skinspys are the keepers of the IF?



All in all an interesting post. A lot of good insight into sorcery and other things. Dont know about the whole super conscious thing though, a bit over my head i think.

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« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2013, 05:23:41 pm »
Quote from: Duskweaver
Quote from: Wilshire
What would it mean that the skinspys are the keepers of the IF?
With the obvious caveat that it's all from Cnaiur's PoV, and that he is completely batcrap by that point, the skinspies themselves do not seem to understand what it means. IIRC, they are described as becoming confused by Cnaiur's questions about the IF, perhaps in the same way Mimara's skinspy in tWLW becomes confused by paradox (or the way a dog is confused by the flashing pixels of a TV screen, while its master sees meaningful images).

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« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2013, 05:23:47 pm »
Quote from: Madness
"Occasionally, Cnaiur spoke to them, learned something of their lean ways. They called themselves the Last Children of the Inchoroi, though they were loath to speak of their "Old Fathers." They claimed to be Keepers of the Inverse Fire, though the merest question regarding either their "keeping" or their "fire" pitched them into confusion. They never complained, save to say they hungered for unspeakable congress, or to insist they were falling - always falling" (TTT, p238).

+1 for paradox, Duskweaver.

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« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2013, 05:23:54 pm »
Quote from: Conditioned
Quote
"...or to insist they were falling - always falling"

I had meant to remember to ask about all this on westeros when I read TTT the first time. It's really fucking confusing now that we have some idea of what the IF is -- and we now know someone whose soul is 'always falling,' in a circular sort of fashion. Seeing that Skin Spies don't possess a soul why do they feel they are falling? Are they mimicking what Sheonanra (sp?) feels or are they somehow sort of tuned to him? I swear I had a bunch of really good questions when I first started writing this post, but, well... marijuana.

Quote
"or the way a dog is confused by the flashing pixels of a TV screen, while its master sees meaningful images"

Also, completely off-topic but is it the general consensus that dogs cannot reference what is on a television or in a picture? If so, my English Bulldog is the fucking Einstein of the canine species. You can mute the t.v. all day and she'll lay on the couch watching and waiting for some poor unsuspecting non-human creature to show up (she really hates dogs and horses for some reason) and then goes apeshit trying to kill my t.v. Hmm, all this time I thought she was a dumbshit and turns out she's just an idiot-savant  :D .

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« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2013, 05:24:04 pm »
Quote from: Duskweaver
Quote from: Conditioned
Also, completely off-topic but is it the general consensus that dogs cannot reference what is on a television or in a picture?
IIRC, some dogs (mostly members of short-nosed breeds I think) do seem to be able to 'see' TV pictures, but it's quite rare. I'm not sure what the latest research is on the subject.

I can say anecdotally that it doesn't seem to be linked to 'intelligence'. My two (now sadly departed) dogs were absolute geniuses at working out anything mechanical, but TV pictures clearly meant nothing to them.