Thorsten's Metaphysics of Earwa II

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« on: May 15, 2013, 05:26:24 pm »
Quote from: Madness
Couldn't fit it all in one post ;):

Quote from: Thorsten
The metaphysics of Eärwa (contd.)[/i]

Abbreviations used

RSB: R. Scott Bakker
DB: The Darkness that Comes Before
WP: The Warrior Prophet
TT: The Thousandfold Thought
JE: The Judging Eye

Introduction

Here I continue my thoughts about the metaphysics of Eärwa as outlined in The metaphysics of Eärwa - some thoughts with the new information we have gained in JE.

All in all, JE resembles much more 'conventional fantasy' than the first trilogy ever did. The main interesting tension in DB, WP and TT was between the contrasting worldviews of Logos and Mythos, causality (the past state of the world determining the future) vs. teleology (the world developing towards some purpose), the question which of them is 'true' and all its philosophical implications. This is almost completely absent in JE - the story is never seen with the eyes of Kellhus, and consequently the causal point of view is missing. Reading JE without knowing the previous trilogy, one would in essence conclude that the 'true' view of the world is given in terms of really existing gods and prophets and that there is hell and damnation is an objective, unquestionable fact.

Needless to say, for that reason I did not enjoy JE nearly as much as the previous books. In JE, it is hinted that Kellhus is indeed a fraud, a man clever enough to pose as a prophet, but ignorant of the true state of affairs. Indeed, in the summary of the previous books, it is explicitly stated that Kellhus did 'go mad'. And if the end should be that RSB discards the causal worldview, in essence telling the reader 'it's only Kellhus who told you - you know you can't trust him' then everything special about Eärwa will be gone (and it would be close to cheating - there has been good evidence that Kellhus is indeed a prophet).

But let us not jump to premature conclusions, go slowly through the material and try to reconcile it with what was found in the first trilogy.

The gods and the God


We have not seem much in terms of direct divine intervention in DB, WP or TT, in spite of a highly religious context (you'd think the gods take an interest in holy wars...), so we had to deduce their existence from indirect clues. This has drastically changed in JE: We see Yatwer directly taking the Oracle Vethenestra in Ch. 5, and Yatwer's power is implied to be behind the aging of the White-Luck warrior and the becoming younger of Psatma Nannaferi described in Ch. 9 and similarly her blessing is implied to give Sorweel the power to deceive the Aspect-Emperor in Ch. 15. Barring the possibility that Kellhus actually knows that Sorweel is lying, but (for whatever purpose we don't yet see) allows him to think he is deceiving him, the latter is no insignificant observation: It shows that the gods are in a sense able to defeat the power of the Logos (and therefore in a sense beat causality?).

What, then, is the relation between the gods (as exemplified by Yatwer in JE) and the God as it appeared in the previous trilogy? My impression is that the explanation given by Maithanet to Esmenet in Ch.5 is essentially correct. Previously I argued that the God corresponds to an emergent super-consciousness, resulting from the interaction between human consciousness, belief, perception and reality. But the human mind is a multi-layered thing, not a homogeneous structure. In the Jungian model[/u] of the psyche, complexes appear as functional units of the mind just the same way as organs appear as functional units of the body, and these appear on the deeper level of the collective unconscious as archetypes. A mind layered this way would not only give rise to a super-consciousness, the God, but also to 'super-complexes' - the gods.

Yatwer in particular would seem to correspond to a deeply unconscious and intuitive mind structure - consider all references to earth and darkness. No wonder she opposes Kellhus, who personifies the 'light' of reason! And since everyone has probably made the experience that the mind is not always decided, but that there is for example a tension between 'head' and 'heart', it should not come as a surprise that in spite of being part of a whole, the gods neither act in harmony, nor act necessarily for the good of the whole. Assuming of course Kellhus represents the whole, i.e. the God.

The Judging Eye

The strongest evidence that Kellhus does in fact not represent the God is given by what Mimara's Judging Eye sees in Achamian. Supposedly the Judging Eye should show an objective moral judgement (we have at present no way of really knowing if that is the case, but I'm willing to accept the idea for the moment). Since Kellhus claimed he can rewrite the holy texts and in doing so save the sorcerers from damnation, but Mimara continues do see the damnation of sorcerers, it would follow that Kellhus' claim is wrong. And if Kellhus' claims to spiritual matters are wrong, he cannot be a prophet or represent the God. This would make him appear as someone who poses as a prophet to make use of the belief of others for his own ends - just what he started out to do back in DB.

The truly interesting question is - what does Mimara see when she looks at Kellhus with the Judging Eye? If he is a prophet who just happens to be using the Gnosis, then he may not be damned, but if he is a sorcerer who would like to appear as a prophet, then the Judging Eye would show him as damned just like other sorcerers. Unfortunately, we don't know (although it's a bit of a stretch that Mimara who spent time close to Kellhus wouldn't know and Achamian wouldn't ask her).

In the terminology developed before, what actually is the Judging Eye? It would be something like the ability to see the world while tapping the super-consciousness that is the God, i.e. to see more than one's own judgement, but rather a collective judgement.

Topoi and the nature of Hell


In order to understand better what is later revealed about the Chorae, let us now turn the attention to the nature of the Topoi. Among of the most dense scenes of the book is certainly the passage through the haunted halls of Cil-Aujas, and it is made clear that traversing Cil-Aujas is literally a journey through hell. Cil-Aujas is mentioned to be a Topos just like the Field of Mengedda.

What is the nature of a Topos (or Hell) in Eärwa? It seems to be a place where nightmares literally come true, where fear of some terror is very justified as this terror is about to be realized. An example is the eye found by Achamian in the heart of the abandoned warrior, which is precisely his fear come true (Ch. 14). Again we find here the theme of the close relationship between reality and observation which influence each other.

It is striking that Topoi apparently arise in places where a large number of human beings suffers. We may thus understand the nature of a Topos as follows: While normal reality is shaped by normal consciousness, and in turn influences consciousness and from that processes the God emerges as a super-consciousness, a Topos is shaped by a nightmare, suffering and fear. Normally terror or suffering are individual (and can't affect reality much), or become bearable through the thought that they are not the normal state of affairs, that they will pass and normal consciousness will be experienced again after. Topoi would represent places in which this hope is abandoned and terror is accepted as the normal experience. Then a vicious cycle starts: The more terrifying the situation is, the more terrifying it is perceived, but as perception shapes reality, the Topos actually becomes even more terrifying, the fear is perfectly justified - and so a place turns into Hell.

This means that Topoi arise from minds which do no longer show the central organizing principle, the 'self' in Jungian terms, which would give rise to the God otherwise. As a result, Topoi lack cohesion - they are, as the Outside, more susceptible to desire (or fear) and of diminished objectivity. In this sense, they are places where the Outside leaks into the world.

The Chorae

Previously I argued that Chorea 'force true reality to be in its 'proper place', i.e. to equal perceived reality [i.e. the God]' and that they can therefore be used to 'anchor' something in reality (in fact, I argued that this is their function for the No-God). This idea is confirmed rather nicely in JE.

At the beginning of the key scene in Ch. 16 Mimara observes how reality seems to move whereas the Chorae remains steady: 'a sense that it is not theTrinket that moves so much as it is the whole of creation about it'. Later she uses the Judging Eye to see 'through' the Chorae, and she finds a light, a 'point of luminous white certainty' which she sees as a Tear of God. That is precisely what one would expect to happen in my theory of Chorae. The Judging Eye shows the objective moral judgement of something. The God is emergent from reality perceiving itself in the minds of people. The Chorae forces true reality to be perceived reality, i.e. it shapes the reality of the God out of chaos - of course that act is identical to the nature of the God, and that is what the Judging Eye perceives. This, in fact, is my main argument why the explanation of what the Judging Eye is is correct - it agrees with everything we can deduce about Chorae.

Achamian is astonished at what Mimara does with the Chorae - he is of the opinion that Hell should have swallowed them whole, Chorae or not. But I don't think that could happen - a Topos, the Outside, should be no more able to swallow a Chorae as a sorcerer should be able to use it. Thus, my conclusion is that Achamian is in error here. After all - how could he know?

The Prophet of the Past

There is an interesting analogy I would like draw attention to, although I don't know what it means yet. Achamian is called a 'prophet of the past' in JE. Interestingly enough, the things that play out closely resemble what happens to Kellus in WP. Kellhus' prophecy to Saubon 'March... The Whore will be kind to you... You must make certain the Shrial knights are punished' (WP, Ch. 4) was at this point almost certainly not anything that Kellhus believed himself. Nevertheless, it came to pass later.

The same is true for Achamian's mission. Initially he lies about his intention to get to Sauglish and find the coffers - he just picks Sauglish as a destination which may lure men to accompany him. However, later he learnes that Sauglish is exactly where he has to go - the events evolve in such a way as to make his lie truth in the end. So, in the same sense in which Kellhus was a true prophet, Achamian must be as well. It is certainly intriguing to observe the change in his dreams, but I don't think we have enough clues yet in order to understand what precisely his role is.

Spiritual warfare


What then is overall going on in JE? Is Kellhus a prophet or not - does he represent the God or not? I think it is still possible to arrange all bits of information into a coherent picture - but it also may be that RSB tinkered with the metaphysics between trilogies or deceived us.

The idea which can reconcile everything is a kind of spiritual warfare, a contest who gets to establish the truth of matters. It appears that initially Kellhus as the Warrior Prophet had more support among the people than at the beginning of JE - Psatma Nannaferi in Ch.5 for example mentiones that initially the followers of Yatwer rejoiced, but they do not so any more: 'It was a joyous time, a time of celebration (...) At that time, we celebrated the Shriah and his Holy War, thinking only of what we might regain. We did not see the Demon that slumbered in its belly, that would possess it, transform it into an instrument of oppression and blasphemous tyranny. We did not see the Aspect-Emperor.' That in turn means that Kellhus power to determine what is true and what is not is contested on several fronts - and as a result, he is no longer truly prophet.

In other words, Kellhus is faced with a number of problems which exceed his capacity to deal with adequately. His surviving offspring is a rather sociopathic crowd not likely to inspire any notion of blessing by the God, his continuous wars are demanding for the economy, and while he can attend to problems in person adequately, his empire is just too large to do so.

At the moment, it is my impression that this is behind the damnation of sorcerers Mimara continues to see - Kellhus has ceased to be the only measure of truth.

What Came Before

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« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2013, 05:26:46 pm »
Quote from: Borric
Wow.

I would love to hear his appraisal of the WLW.

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« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2013, 05:26:53 pm »
Quote from: Madness
No doubt. Thorsten never made the hop to or posted on Westeros in the couple years since, unfortunately.

I really enjoyed reading these again, those they've always remained in my mind since written. There are a few things I disagree with, like the Thousandfold Thought specifically being the emergent entity at the end of time and space, reaching back, always back to it's roots... but I need to let this digest before adding my two cents.

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« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2013, 05:26:59 pm »
Quote from: lockesnow
isn't the guy who ran the old 3 seas forum a poster here?  Maybe we could ask him to contact thorsten and make him aware of this forum?

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« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2013, 05:27:05 pm »
Quote from: Madness
aengelas, Sovin Nai of the old Three-Seas, posted only those two times in the introduction thread. While he did highlight that he still retains the rights to the server and content of the old Three-Seas (it exists in its entirety somewhere!), aengelas wasn't very involved in the forum in the last couple years of its existence before the domain name reverted. I'm not sure he'd know Thorsten personally. However, very likely, all the original contact details are still there in the forum content, member profiles.

I'll get after aengelas and see how available he is to hook up the read-only version of the old Three-Seas for Second Apocalypse perusal.

All the old and new fans are finding their way back, lockesnow. We're nearly at 2/3 of the member count of Three-Seas at it's final Wayback incarnation and Bakker has far more notoriety and presence now than he ever has thus far (apparently, we're linked at all his online mediums :D).

Here's to hoping Thorsten finds the way back.

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« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2013, 05:27:14 pm »
Quote from: Davias
:shock: That was an interesting read.

There are some really nice assumptions and I probably like his theories about the nature and function of the "chorae" and the "no-god" the most. It sounds somehow correct in what I grasp from my reading about the world of Eärwa.

Thanks for posting Thorsten's words, madness

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« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2013, 05:27:22 pm »
Quote from: Madness
No worries, Davias. Just doing what I can for information dissemination ;).

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« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2013, 05:27:34 pm »
Quote from: Walter
Hmm, it seems to me that Mimara didn't have the Judging Eye before she was pregnant, right?  I mean, its the viewpoint of the wholly innocent unborn, according to Achamanian, right?  So I don't think she's seen Kellhus with the Judging eye.

Also, I could easily see a situation where Kellhus has saved sorcerers (in general), but Achamanian remains damned.  He wouldn't be damned for his sorcery, but for his rejection of Kellhus.  Mimara is merely seeing the fact of his damnation, and Bakker has said on several occasions that the Damned don't know why they are damned.

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« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2013, 05:27:42 pm »
Quote from: Madness
"[Achamian:] 'The Judging Eye is the eye of the Unborn... The eye that watches from the God's own vantage'

...

[Mimara:] 'But I've had... had this... for as long as I can remember.'

...

[Achamian:] 'Which is my point exactly ... But things are always tricky where the Outside is concerned. Things do not... happen... as they happen here ... I'm just saying that in a sense your life has already been lived - for the God or the Gods, that is...'" (WLW, p90-1)

My takeaway from this passage was that getting pregnant anytime in her life was the only requisite for having the Judging Eye her whole life.

Quote from: Walter
Also, I could easily see a situation where Kellhus has saved sorcerers (in general), but Achamanian remains damned. He wouldn't be damned for his sorcery, but for his rejection of Kellhus. Mimara is merely seeing the fact of his damnation, and Bakker has said on several occasions that the Damned don't know why they are damned.

+1.

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« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2013, 05:27:59 pm »
Quote from: Twooars
Quote from: Madness
Couldn't fit it all in one post ;):

Quote from: Thorsten
The metaphysics of Eärwa (contd.)[/i]

The Judging Eye

The strongest evidence that Kellhus does in fact not represent the God is given by what Mimara's Judging Eye sees in Achamian. Supposedly the Judging Eye should show an objective moral judgement (we have at present no way of really knowing if that is the case, but I'm willing to accept the idea for the moment). Since Kellhus claimed he can rewrite the holy texts and in doing so save the sorcerers from damnation, but Mimara continues do see the damnation of sorcerers, it would follow that Kellhus' claim is wrong.

I know this is taken as fact and maybe was discussed elsewhere too, but is there any mention in the books about Mimara seeing other sorcerers with the JE? Or whether the JE sees damnation due to the act of sorcery? As far as I can remember, the only sorcerers she sees through the JE are Akka and Cleric and that they are damned. But they could just be damned because of the hundred of crimes they committed throughout their lives, right? I mean, the judging eye sees damnation in the other Skin-Eaters, but is there any qualitative difference between this and how the JE sees Akka and Cleric, to indicate to us that it is sorcery specifically that is the cause of their damnation?

Edit: erm, I feel stupid now, I should have read all the posts above before commenting! Yeah, I am saying what Walter said, except that I am being much more long-winded!

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« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2013, 05:29:23 pm »
Quote from: Madness
+1 for perspective, Twooars. The magic of discussing ambiguity in a venue such as this is that insight lies in the overlay of different worldviews, the unique ways we internalize, experience, Bakker's code.

Do Kellhus' revisions to the Holy works reflect any actual change, aside his scrapping a scroll with his knife?
Is Mimara, a whore, not Damned because Kellhus strikes a passage from the Tractate, when he's conditioning Esmenet in TWP?

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« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2013, 05:29:29 pm »
Quote from: Twooars
Quote from: Madness
Do Kellhus' revisions to the Holy works reflect any actual change, aside his scrapping a scroll with his knife?
Is Mimara, a whore, not Damned because Kellhus strikes a passage from the Tractate, when he's conditioning Esmenet in TWP?

Very pertinent questions, Madness. The frustrating bit is, we don't really know if Esmenet was actually damned for being a prostitute, before Kellhus 'rewrote' scripture. From TJE and WLW, we know that some Skin-Eaters are damned for doing stuff that resulted in others suffering (murder and rape, mostly), but maybe prostitution was never a damnable sin, especially considering that there was a kind of patron goddess (Gierra) for prostitutes? (or maybe it is, if we agree with the idea that popular belief in Earwa determines objective morality...)

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« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2013, 05:29:37 pm »
Quote from: Madness
+1 for thoughts.

But "'suffer not a whore to live...' - The passage from Canticles 19:9, The Chronicle of the Tusk, condemning prostitution" (TTT, p622).

I misquoted above - the Tractate are Inri Sejenus' revisions to the Tusk and this is not one of them.

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« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2013, 05:29:43 pm »
Quote from: Duskweaver
Mimara might not even technically have qualified as a 'whore' by the laws of the Tusk, since she was a slave. Alternatively, being a whore might not be considered an unforgivable sin, so that leaving that life was sufficient to escape damnation.

There are just too many confounding variables to conclude very much at all from Mimara's apparently not being damned.

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« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2013, 05:29:49 pm »
Quote from: Twooars
Quote from: Madness
But "'suffer not a whore to live...' - The passage from Canticles 19:9, The Chronicle of the Tusk, condemning prostitution" (TTT, p622).

Agreed. I was just trying to say that we still don't know for sure if the Tusk or the Tractate got it 'right' in the first place, when it comes to Sin, before Kellhus came. The Tusk might have condemned prostitution, but we don't have any evidence that prostitution was indeed a damnable sin, pre-Kellhus?

(On the one hand, Scott Bakker himself said that there is a right and wrong way to believe in Earwa and that entire nations will be damned, but from Mimara's JE, actions appear to be causally associated with damnation. So it seems that both wrong actions and beliefs lead to damnation. From the JE POV, my impression has been that damnable actions are those that cause violence to the world or the souls in it, like sorcery or murder for example. So I find it difficult to consider prostitution a damnable sin. Or maybe I am just conflating my world view with that of Earwa!)

Quote from: Duskweaver
... being a whore might not be considered an unforgivable sin, so that leaving that life was sufficient to escape damnation.

For me, the interesting bit is, who can forgive? It appears that Mimara can, from WLW. But yes, I agree that there are too many variables here, we can't really be sure from the limited glimpses we got through the JE. It appears that WLW was a huge teaser for TUC, in terms of the metaphysics... raises more questions than it answers!