“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
-- C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
JACOBAN SPACE; POST-IMPERIAL ERA
“It’s time to prepare for your remaining tests, Henry,” came the voice of Edgar. He faced his student in an empty classroom – the walls decorated with constructs of the Great Empires of Man. Edgar studied his student’s face; the side of his mouth twitched at the sight of his student’s apparent lack of anxiety. “It was a truly rare thing that our paths crossed with the Byzantine… after all these years, too,” Edgar affirmed, “But don’t think that our luck trivializes the remaining trials. He won’t save you from them all. It wouldn’t be right.”
Henry smiled slightly and nodded. He didn’t disagree, but somehow he found a newfound confidence bubbling up from within him. “I know. What’s on the agenda today?”
Edgar turned to the board on the classroom’s wall. “What was the basic guiding principle of Old Byzantium?”
“To minimize Delusion.”
“Explain the Doctrine of Strength from Reality.”
“Delusion results from actions taken that are based on some belief that is not true. If one's actions reflect the truth, that is, reality, then one has reached a foundation of strength that is hard to deny. Only another whom bases their acts on Reality could stand as a comparable opponent.”
“Fine definitions, but you haven’t tied it back.”
Henry nodded, “From this, one can see that the Strong need not ever conceal their intentions. A lie is an admission of weakness, for if things were as you desired no lie would be necessary. If Delusion is a failure to know or a denial of Reality, he who knows the objective will triumph.”
“Then give me a concrete example.”
Henry thought for a moment. He crossed his arms, then his legs, staring at the ceiling. Then, he looked down at his master. “The mistake of modernity in Earth Prime.”
Edgar’s expression remained unchanged, but in truth he was concealing his approval. “Pretty creative. The boy is coming along well.” “Explain,” he said.
“It can be summed in a few ways. Societies advanced materially, while the moral or spiritual development of the individual stagnated or regressed. Virtue became derided as cliche, honesty as simple-minded. Morality was outsourced to what one supported rather than how one acted. People stopped believing in higher possibilities-”
Edgar finally relented in his stoicism, nodding encouragingly. “Yes - yes! And in summary?”
“I recall a song from the period that referred to the concepts well. In other words, they became those who wish to seem, rather than those who wish to be. A facsimile of the human potential. A world without Heroes.”
UNKNOWN (BEYOND THE OMNIVERSAL PLANE); UNDEFINED
With the fall of the Blubbering Court, no further entities beyond the Plane and its alternates sought out the Byzantine in-the-current-state. This should not be mistaken for passivity; the Blubbering King was a terrible beast, and his annihilation was sufficient to [intimidate] those wiser entities which may seek to come against the willful light of the Hero. That being so, those higher concepts in that unimaginable expanse lay freely open for investigation.
The Byzantine was interested in but one. It should come as no surprise that the Hero was the source of many of Old Byzantium’s precepts, and the Doctrine of Strength from Reality was no exception. Delusion fled from him by his nature – a nature beyond the concept of Being itself.
Before I can continue further, dear reader, I am afraid that I must first make an aside. I would like to take a moment to discuss the idea of Nothing. The philosopher Martin Heidegger referred to the issue of nothing as perhaps the most fundamental one that philosophy could grapple with. It is an issue that eludes discussion. It is not the absence of matter. It is not a lack of time or space. It is not the negation of a concept. All of these are, through their noted absence, something. Nothing is not. The closest that questionable philosopher could come to describing it was to make reference to the feeling of dread one feels when contemplating their own finity. You might recall that I made use of a similar comparison in referring to that rancid creature who ruled over the Blubbering Court. But, where the Blubbering King transcended such concepts, the truth of Nothing lies even below them.
Perhaps the most fundamental question that one could ask is, why is there something rather than nothing? Rather, a more correct formulation could be, why is there anything? Heidegger regarded the contemplation of Nothing to be helpful in the contemplation of Being. But, one might ask, so what? These things are trivial compared to that grand spectacle we witnessed in the Blubbering Court. What is the point, here, anyway?
You might still be wondering what it is that the Byzantine sought in that non-place he now inhabited. Perhaps some power greater than the Obscene One, so that he might demonstrate further his total supremacy? Perhaps some esoteric truth, to bolster his [archetype]? No. What the Byzantine sought here was Nothing, and that which lies below.
He came upon it at once.
[Now how you attempt to describe this, I would truly like to see.]
Indeed, it is silly that I will choose the words that I will, in relating the encounter. Ascribing a personality to that which the Byzantine encountered? Bah! Preposterous! Absurd! All true, and I bear the blame correctly. But, perhaps the following description is the most useful. So, enough of my apologetics.
As I said, the Byzantine had come upon that which he sought, . He reached out, yet just before he was to make contact, he pulled back. said to him, “Hero.” He grimaced, but continued, “Dangerous for you to be here. Why come?”
“You are the one thing in common with ‘that place.’ The one thing ‘in here’ that I can truly say is the same ‘out there.’
“You are scared?” prodded, “ am not.”
The Byzantine realizes now the gravity of what he has engaged in. This being, , could not affect anything. was below-within even Nothing, lower than all the Planes are great and all the powers in them mighty. In terms of [power], you or I – mere humans – could be said to be stronger by far, by our mere existence, far stronger than the Byzantine is stronger than we. So, what was the threat?
I have said a few times now that one of the chief abilities our discussed Hero has is that [reminder] – that which even the Blubbering King was powerless to do anything against, doomed to be merely interpreted away. What threatened the Warrior-King with was a reminder, too; and with it came a choice.
A realization, as the Byzantine at last reaches out and makes contact. There is something, rather than nothing. Faced with the impossibly contradictory, the hopelessly nonexistent, the Byzantine turns and sees himself.
How do we arrive at reality? Consider the idea that the human brain evolved to perceive objective reality only insofar as it aided in survival. I’m sure you are aware of the many kinds of biases that people are prone to, such as confirmation bias, the Dunning-Kruger effect, and so on. With all of this interfering with our ability to think objectively, how do you know when you believe in reality v. your own delusion?
Consider the following: imagine that you are considering the idea that you are a truly special, gifted person in some way. Perhaps you believe that you possess a rare intellect, far above what the average person possesses. One of two things are true: either you are correct in your self-assessment, or you are a narcissist, believing these things when they are not true (there is technically a third option, but it is unlikely enough to be ignored here). How can you know which it is?
You could turn to an objective measure, such as an IQ test. However, suppose that those who claim that IQ tests are flawed measures of one’s intellect are correct: what then? Perhaps you could compare yourself to other people. “I honestly think that I am smarter than he is,” and so on. However, you could easily imagine that a narcissist could get away with this as well, rationalizing away cases in which another person seems to be smarter than they are – “Well, they just studied that a lot,” “I could have figured that out anyway,” and so on.
Are we hopeless, then? Well, there is one more way to go. What do other people say about you? Do others agree that you are particularly smart? If not, do you have a rational explanation as to why (be careful not to fall into the narcissist’s trap here, as well)?
Let me be absolutely clear. I am not saying that others’ opinions are what determine whether or not you are what you believe. I am saying that gauging the opinions of others is essential to determining if your views on reality (especially about yourself) are flawed or not, and then refining them. Besides the aforementioned biases, even if you are a particularly clever person, you will not be able to account for all possible useful perspectives through your own experiences when compared to the sum experiences of everyone you know. The point is also not to blindly listen to (follow, adopt, etc.) the opinions of others. The point is that you must consider (weigh, determine what is truthful in, etc.) the views of others in order to arrive at a more perfect view of reality yourself.
Why am I relating all of this to you? Well, dear reader, I simply could not think of another way to pose to you the question I think is most important to my story. How can one like the great Warrior-King refine his own view of reality?
There is only himself to turn to. And he agrees.
Beyond the concept of Nikies the Byzantine, having taken into himself, [one] like the Heroes of old understands. The gap in a moment [is clarified], greater than that between and himself previously, all at once, reaching a point at infinity – then again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again aga
[Remember that phrase you’re so fond of. They have the meaning.]
The sum reaches beyond its parts. Not the end of his growth – a beginning. The Byzantine faces foes greater than Existence itself. I will attempt to elucidate these encounters in further writing. For now, a rest, to celebrate. [Nikies] has chosen to be.