The Monkey Chain of Hierarchies, (or Breaking the “Self” to Realize the Self).

(Ensure that you’ve read “The Divide” post before putting much weight behind this one).

One of the things that I seem to find myself butting my head against more often than not is the notion of “hierarchy”.  At least that’s what a cursory understanding may imply, but digging deeper to try and express what I’m aiming at seems to lead to a notion of the following.  The idea that no matter what, a person, or individual is embedded within a larger social context.  We are after all social creatures, but we seldom maintain one “level” of status consistently.

To some, if not most, people a person encounters in their waking life.  They are an individual of low worth, or indeterminate worth.  You’re still recognized as human for the most part, but other than that you may as well be a stereotype, or a 2-dimensional stock character, a trope.  This is what equality leads to, a sort of dehumanization of the human element in some sense.  A King, a President, a serf, or a slave…all have to use the same/similar “throne” (toilet) at some point during the day.  And yet, the majority of us don’t think of it that way.  We defer to those with “Authority” which in itself has it’s own perks, and cons.

The point I’m attempting to hone in upon is a notion that for as lauded as some people may appear to be, their shit still stinks as with our own, and until they come up with android bodies where we don’t need to use the “Facilities”.  It likely won’t change.  Regardless of this, we clamor, and use whatever slight of mind to discern, and advance ourselves above some sort of “Other”.  An “Other” being something, or someone that is simply not a part of “Us”.

We (the “royal we”), claim to be (insert age) Souls, or whatever level of spiritual/intellectual/cognitive development where we attempt to set ourselves up as some sort of “Status” icon.  At least to ourselves, and at most to those around us.  Thus it starts to boil down to a game of “monkey chain”.  Those who play the best end up at the “top”, but everyone else is beneath them holding on for dear life.  Whereas the one at the bottom has no other burden other than themselves, but they get all sort of “messages” from above.

If one were to construe this as a “moral message”, it would be along the lines of, “abase oneself of their own inflated worth”.  You aren’t special, if simply because until you realize that you aren’t so.  You have no sense of specialty.

To illustrate what I mean by this.  Consider that your entire identity, and sense of “Self” was concocted outside of your own sense of “Self”.  Your Name, given to you by your parents.  Your friends, determined mostly by your social status/grouping.  Your Nation, just a larger group.  It all boils down from above with the notion of “social identification”.  You are “granted/given” a #Number# at birth, and registered with the local official body (for the most part).  And yet, how much of your identity is tied up within these constructs?  Lose said #Number#, or have it “Stolen” and you’ve lost your “Identity”.

Once a person truly realizes this, and integrates it into their consciousness.  There’s no going back.  Your identity is a construct, you aren’t being “Authentic” despite whatever showy actions one takes until this realization is made (or so I think).  At the base you are just another object given a name.  A hunk of carbon, water, and other various chemical compounds that moves, and acts “Human”.  Yet in some sense is still missing a “Soul”.  You have an “Identity”, so much as it is recognized by “Others”.  And yet, this seems really hollow.  You had no say over it as an individual, it just happened.

You are a “Nothing” playing at being “Something”, (this whole post is building off of the last post where Sartre’s Authenticity was mentioned.  That sense of True Self).  A person isn’t truly an individual until they’ve cast aside whatever constructs they have used to precipice their “Identity”.  This is why “Individuation” is so hard, and ego shattering.  It is because that is exactly what one is doing.  Destroying, and allowing their Ego to be destroyed.  Only because they’ve realized that their Ego is, and was completely fabricated by another outside Entity.  Ie; Not their-selves.

It is a Hellish experience to go through, but it is one of the most rewarding ones that a person can experience in their entire lives (as it feels to me).  To realize that you are an animal, that you can be trained “Pavlov Style” (Classical Psychological Conditioning https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_conditioning ).  As my personal thesis, I think that a person can gain control of themselves, but they first need to be “mastered” by another.  A different person, who may, or may not have their newly found servants best interest at heart.  This is to be so because, one is essentially being shown how they’ve been “Domesticated” by society, or whatever culture.

Taking another step from this, One once being mastered, (broken like a wild horse, for analogy) is presented with an option.  To be the eternal servant/slave of “God”, or to struggle/fight for Freedom (become a Prince in Hell).  A person can’t faithfully serve two masters, that should be easily understood.  One Master is external, and are the ones who originally “broke/domesticated you” (say they potty trained you).  The other True, and Honest Master is the one that resides within.  Your True sense of Self, and let me say this, “You’ll always have to live with yourself.”

Thus having been “Socially built” (broken by the external master), and forcibly re-broken/rebuilt by the Internal Master.  One may achieve their sense of Self, and become a True Unique Individual.  After all, if you personally know what it takes to break you, and destroy you.  What is there to fear except yourself, but you are your own Master at that point.  Thus there is no fear, no remorse, no guilt, not one single ounce of internal conflict.

Realizing all of this may be mental gymnastics though, but I wouldn’t be surprised if veterans could relate to this.  The metaphorical “Hump” in Boot-Camp.  The point where one wants to give up upon themselves, and just quit.  To washout.  Pushing through that, and “breaking oneself” once again allows one to remold themselves completely.  Simply because as an analogy the Sergeants have “broken you down at that point”.  One must simply do it to themselves now.  They (The External Master) have demonstrated all the skills needed to do so.

As a quip…., “Spiritualism calls for Ego-Death, but doesn’t that imply something is actively killing or has killed the Ego?”.

Symbols, Language Games, and Alchemy

To revisit the prior posted ideas in regards to the Alchemy system.  Of a system based upon the interpretation of symbols, and the application of derived meanings in that context.  I’ve been thinking quite heavily upon the notions of “postmodernism”, and the idea of a self-created “world”.  As a hobbyist game designer, putting effort into fictional worlds, and trying to create a believable atmosphere for players is interesting if viewed from this light.

The light is the notion that all symbols, all meanings, and everything in the world we take for granted is a construct.  A tool that has been created via another person’s effort in an attempt to find, and create meaning for themselves.  A language is conditioned, and taught into a child during their youth.  And if they’re lucky they may know more than one tongue.  Regardless of how many languages they learn, and some languages may not be even considered “normal languages” (think Math, Chemistry, Physics, Philosophical…etc notations) where to be fluent in said language opens up a new world of thoughts.

In that context, it is easy to recognize that by adopting tongues that are different from one’s standard fare.  One may realize that Reality isn’t quite as concrete as it is generally understood as.  For instance, consider a carpenter (or any craftworker) building an object.  Generally it is taken as an article of faith that the arithmetic and geometry one knows is sufficient to build the object.  And yet think of the rule of thumb, “Measure twice, cut once”.  This could imply that the world in which we are cognizant of is only a mental model.  A sort of, if my mind’s model was complete, and 100% accurate.  I would only need to measure once, and cut once.  For the communications between the realms of mind, and body would be 1:1.  There wouldn’t be a need to re-correlate information between the two.

Now we get into the point of the mind’s limitations.  Can it ever be fully aware of Reality?  To be omniscient?  I would say no, or at least not at all times.  For the status of omniscience would imply that all events are known, and how could an active agent still be active if the actions they were going to take is already known?  They wouldn’t be, such knowledge of what they’ve done via what they’re going to do would imply that said action has already happened.  As in its history.

Thus we are restricted to mental models that are always incomplete at some level, but the joy comes in when one knows this.  That they can invest energy in learning a new language to get a different perspective upon the world.  To change, and update their mental model.  Leading once again into the Alchemy game design.  If one is presented with an option that whatever they interpret the symbol as.  It leads to an ability to create “magic”.

How does one react?  That some little squiggle on a piece of paper is the symbol for “fire”, and by reflecting upon said symbol I can create “fire”?  How is this any different from the symbols above?  Squiggles that are construed as English, but if read and thought upon generate something “different”.  Ex;  Cookbooks, they follow an “esoteric” formula to make a product.  To those who aren’t kitchen literate it is complete gibberish, but to the those in the “know”, it’s not.

Detailing A World

For the past couple of months I’ve been playing a play by email version of the Alchemy rule set with my brothers, and as a result I’ve been able to slowly accumulate details on the Alchemy world.  Considering one of my brothers is playing as a Winnower (more details soon), I’ve been busy coming up with descriptions for the religion of Keulit.

To describe in more detail the faith of Keulit, I’ll start by stating the two major factions that make up the church.  The predominate faction is commonly called Keulit’s Shroud by church members.  This faction believes in the old dogmas, and is actively opposing the new rival faction (Keulit’s Vision).  The doctrines (domains/dogma) of Keulit is Humility, Faithfulness, Order, Loyalty, Duty, Honor, and Tradition.  To put it simply, Keulit’s Shroud is the conservative branch that is opposed to all the change that is happening in the world (printing press type “events” essentially), and is seeking to retain their hold over knowledge/magic.  This is the branch that the generally utilizes the Winnowers.  A Winnower is the equivalent of an Inquisitor from the Spanish Inquisition.

Their opposing faction, Keulit’s Vision, is more liberal and is trying to foster, and cultivate these new inventions/innovations.  This branch is more dynamic, and believes that the Church should change to serve the people…etc.  In order to enact their opinions they have been secretly establishing/dispersing knowledge in the form of universal schooling (free access to texts/magic, and the like).

The entire faith of Keulit is based off of the Catholic Church (with its schisms), and one of the Egyptian mythic deities (namely Anubis).  These reference sources are leading to interesting turns.  For example; Mummies, which are considered a sacred icon to the followers of Keulit are postulated as being clerics (or lay spiritualists) who have lived past their body’s death through shear willpower.  The mummies tend to congregate within one specific city (Modrey) in the world which is considered a Mecca for the faith.  Unlike a normal portrayal of a mummy, these mummies are benevolent, and in order to resurrect a character/person in the lore.  One must regale a mummy with the story of the deceased, and if the mummy sheds tears during the telling.  The one telling the story may collect said tears (Mummy’s tears are a reagent for a resurrection spell).

As a result of this position of “benevolent undead”, there is going to be a restriction of undead monsters.  Namely there aren’t going to be any, or if there is they are going to be very few (namely the mummies, and maybe evil spirits).  In other words no skeleton/zombie armies…etc.

 

Brewing a System

Well, after an initial playtest over spring break.  I’ve realized that the spell/potion system may be a little too vague, but overall the impression from the playtesters was a positive one.  One instance of feedback I’ve received was to develop a set of guidelines for spell/potion use, so the GM doesn’t have to resort to “Hand of God” tactics in order to manage their player’s creations.  This may take some effort considering there is 64 different symbols, and symbols may be chained up to a length of five to create spells/potion effects (In total 64 * 64 * 64 * 64 * 64 = 1,073,741,824 base combinations, and not counting the different effects one may come with for the same symbol….).

As a result I’m thinking I may go with some form of creative commons license as I get further along with the progression of the system.  That way players may create their own homebrew spells/potions, and share them equally.

Some of the symbol use guidelines;

Damage – lethality is equal to the intelligence of the casting/creating character + their esoteric lore/alchemy skill. Wound inflicted is a light wound for skill up to apprentice level, major wound for journeyman, and grievous wound for master.

Healing – heals one check box per esoteric lore/alchemy skill.

Active Duration Effects – lasts 5 minutes per skill level.

Passive Duration Effects – lasts 1 hour per skill level.

And a sample spell;

Necrotic Orb (Symbols used; Dark, Body) – Temporary weakens the target character upon being hit/touched by the orb (marksmanship or pugilism skill check required). Reduces Fortitude by points equal to the caster’s Esoteric Lore skill, and the duration is equal in minutes to the Esoteric Lore skill. Hits from multiple orbs may kill a target if their fortitude hits 0 or lower. Stat Check of Fortitude is allowed to prevent effect. Lethality is equal to Intellect + Esoteric Lore of the caster. (Reagents Required – A glass orb at least 1 inch (2 cm) in diameter, Human Ashes, and Decayed Flesh). Number of orbs that can made from one casting is equal to Esoteric Lore skill +1. Morality Effect; -1 for every orb created.