Philosophical Skeleton Keys: The Play: Its Wright, Players, & Characters

This post is a sequel to my post on the stack of worlds. It tries to understand a few things about how a stack of worlds might work – or, perhaps, *must* work – and how those workings might help us untangle a few perplexities that have bedeviled thinkers for millennia. It is absurdly long, and for that I beg forgiveness. But I find there is little I can do about that, at present: when the inspiration comes, it comes as a unit, and the overwhelming necessity is just to get it all down before it vanishes.

Let us begin by specifying a stack of 3 worlds: Midgard – our own cosmos – Asgard, and above it Andlang. In Snorri Sturleson’s cosmology, Andlang is the heaven between Asgard and the Highest Heaven, Víðbláinn.

Midgard – along with Jotunheim (the home realm of the giants) and Elfheim (the home realm of the elves) – are subsidiary to Asgard, and Asgard is subsidiary to Andlang. There may be other worlds like Asgard that are subsidiary to Andlang, but we do not hear of them.

Meanwhile Hel is subsidiary to Midgard. It may be subsidiary also to Jotunheim and Elfheim. So also for Niflheim – the home realm of ice and mist, of moisture and cold – and Muspelheim – the home realm of fire and heat. Perhaps a given world might have more than one immediate supersidiary, or more than one subsidiary. The Tree of Worlds that connects all these realms – Yggdrasil – might be more like a twisted complex vine than a tree. An interesting detail, which we shall neglect for the time being.

For the purposes of this post, that Midgard is subsidiary to Asgard means (among other things) that Midgard transpires entirely within Asgard, as a work thereof. This, even if Midgard is internally larger or more complex than Asgard; as Shakespeare’s study is internally smaller and simpler than the worlds of the plays that therein transpire, or as a galaxy might be internally larger and more complex than its container – its Receptacle, bounded by its firmament – in its supersidiary world.

Asgard transpires likewise entirely within Andlang, as a feature and work thereof. Asgard conditions Midgard throughly; likewise Andlang conditions Asgard, throughly. Specifically, only what is possible within and to Asgard might be possible to Midgard; likewise, only what is possible within and to Andlang is possible in Asgard. Supersidiary worlds condition their subsidiaries by limiting them.

But, qua subsidiary, subsidiary worlds are ontologically impoverished as compared with their supersidiary worlds (notwithstanding some nuances noted below). Not all that is possible in and to Asgard, or to her natural denizens, is possible in and to Midgard, or to her natural denizens. That’s why the Aesir look to us like gods.

Andlang is a logical, ergo actual forecondition of Asgard, Asgard is a logical, actual forecondition of Midgard, and Midgard is a logical, actual forecondition of Hel. Conditionality and sidiarity – these are coterminous categories – are transitive: Andlang is a forecondition and supersidiary of Hel; Hel is an aftcondition and subsidiary of Andlang.

Being a logical and thus an actual forecondition of Midgard, Asgard is necessary to Midgard, and Midgard likewise contingent upon Asgard. Likewise, Andlang is necessary to Asgard, and Asgard continges upon it. So, given Andlang, there might or might not be Asgard; given Asgard, there might or might not be Midgard.

Each world supervenes all its supersidiaries. So, worlds are contingent upon their supersidiaries, and necessary to their subsidiaries.

There is Midgard; so, Midgard being plainly contingent, we can be sure that there must be something like Asgard, and in turn then something like Andlang, and so on up the stack of worlds, to wherever it tops out at a world – or at something – that is not contingent upon any supersidiary, but necessary in itself. This much is implicit in Gödelian Incompleteness. On that Incompleteness the stack tops out at Infinity, which is the logical and actual forecondition and environment of Víðbláinn, and so of all her subsidiary worlds – which is to say, of all worlds whatever.

So much for the groundwork (although there is much more we might say about it). How does this scheme help us?

Let us first recognize that it is not possible for an agent to comprehend worlds supersidiary to his own.

Excursus: Nor even, on Gödel, is it possible for him to comprehend his own world; for, on Gödel, an agent might completely comprehend his own world only by recourse to the logical calculi of supersidiary worlds, to which he might gain access at least formally. As limiting their subsidiaries, supersidiary worlds are entirely implicit in them, formally, and therefore accessible to them: the laws of our supersidiary worlds are those of our own, with a few more added in at our own level in the stack (as you go up the stack, things get simpler, even as they get more competent and powerful (simplicity, competence and power are different aspects of the same thing; ergo, the principle of deletion, of natural selection, and so of all askesis)); so that, from a given world, it must be possible in principle to discern the laws of supersidiary worlds all the way up the stack (this is why Platonic anamnesis works; it is why we meaty animals can do math – and enjoy ascents to supersidiary heavens).

It might however be possible for an agent to comprehend worlds subsidiary to his own – at least, a bit.

Excursus: This, even on Gödel – although, we ought ever to remember Rescher’s point that, since there are an infinite number of true statements we might consider about *anything,* it is impossible to finish considering – or thus taking account of, or therefore understanding – anything at all.

NB: this consideration is by no means a counsel of epistemological despair – for, from the fact that we cannot know perfectly it does not follow that we cannot know at all – but on the contrary a thrilling clarion call urging us all to greater vim in the exploration of the endless continent that stands ever before us raw and wild, an inexhaustible adventure.

What do those subsidiary worlds look like, to him? What might our world look like to an angel of the immediately adjacent supersidiary heaven?

Well, perhaps they look a lot like our novels, plays, video games, simulations – or, I loathe to say, movies – look to us. These all proceed within our world, entirely (despite that they often invoke and evoke other worlds). The main difference between a world truly and actually subsidiary to our own and a play or novel or simulation within our world is that the former would be real, whereas – so far as we can know – the latter are all merely fictional.

“Merely.” From the perspective of a given world, all its subsidiaries must be somewhat fictional. What is utterly contingent upon a world must be fictional in respect thereto.

Excursus: Each event of a given world is contingent upon other events thereof, and so is fictional in respect thereto. That sounds odd at first, but it makes common sense when we consider that from the perspective of events that have already transpired, events that have not yet transpired must appear as fictional: as, i.e., not factual.

Some fictional worlds cannot, it seems, ever actually transpire within the world of their origination. The world of a historical novel, e.g., cannot come actually to pass, for time and history had already passed it by before it was written. Again, a science fiction tale that bends the laws of our cosmos cannot in it come to pass, for before it was written, those laws had already been engraved immutably on the material possibilities of our cosmos. Such fictions incompossible with our world are pure fictions. Meanwhile, a compossible fiction – a theory about ancient migrations, say, or the Iliad, or The Bull From the Sea, or a biography, or any history or map or news item – is an impure fiction.

There is then much we might learn about the stack of real worlds from a consideration of the fictional worlds that transpire within our own, by at least a rough analogy.

Consider then first the play, which as enacted on stage is quite familiar to us, and which is also fairly simple – and which is perhaps the most ancient sort of fiction on our planet, and among men.

Excursus: All sorts of literature got their start as dramatic narration of epic poetry – viz., Iliad, Odyssey, Gilgamesh, Mabinogion, Nibelungenlied, etc.; the itinerant bard is the primordial and archetypal poet, playwright, novelist, stage technician, producer, dramaturge, musician, and actor – and preacher, orator, rhetorician, attorney, ambassador, salesman, merchant – spy.

Notice first the differences between the playwright, the player, and the character. No need to elaborate on them, I trust. Can the playwright write himself into the play? Of course he can. Can he play himself in productions of the play he has written himself into? Of course he can. Does he suffer what his character in his play suffers? No. If his character is killed in his play, the author does not die, either as wright or as actor.

Excursus: This gets all more complicated, but no less simple, by recourse to the ancient bard, who is at once wright, narrator, players, and characters – and living record, a meaty sweaty archive and library, the history of the people, and thus its spiritual cosmos, embodied in a living poet (this is the connection between shaman and bard: each can weave a spell, and ascend somehow to the empyrean, returning with fruit (so too (obviously) with the itinerant preacher, the circuit rider – but, surprisingly, also with the itinerant tinker, who is the prototypical engineer (the gypsy is in there somewhere, too))). The story subsists entirely in the bard. So then does the whole people – who all, for the moment of his performance, participate his story, so coalesce and agree, and thus cohere, as audience and as empirical subject of the drama he recounts. By their stories, societies understand themselves, and so are constituted social. Story → socius. This is why the Narrative is so important to our present oligarchs.

So then, here’s why this is a Philosophical Skeleton Key: it resolves (I think!) a key difficulty about the Incarnation, and especially about the Passion. It does lots of other things, too – we’ll get to a few of them – but that’s the most important. The difficulty is this: how could the Omniscient Lógos who is incarnate completely in Jesus of Nazareth fail to know absolutely everything, at every moment of his earthly career? How, e.g., could Omniscience incarnate “grow in wisdom” [Luke 2:52] as he grew from infancy to manhood? Why was it that he could not speak fluent Greek and Hebrew – and, for that matter, English, Fortran, Elvish, and Klingon – the instant he was born? After all, he is the Lógos, and so the basis of all language, no? Mercury is but his angel; every signal is an image and instance of his formation. What gives?

Excursus: We might also, equivalently, ask: why did not Jesus of Nazareth know how to build a locomotive, a cotton mill, a quantum computer, a jet airplane, a fission reactor, an antibiotic, an FTL spacecraft? Why for that matter didn’t he just make all those things happen right away? Why then – considering that Omniscience must ever have known how to do all those things – did not Jesus just hand us the tech we needed in order to become instantly peaceful, prosperous, healthy, and spread throughout the galaxy? Why did he not solve all our problems, instantly?

Or again, and a fortiori, how could he say, “of that day and that hour [of the eschaton] knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son [i.e., me], but the Father” [Mark 13:32]? What? The Lógos himself, by whom are created all worlds, does not know the hour of the end of ours, which he has himself ordained from all eternity? Again: what gives?

OK, here goes. Think of YHWH the Lógos as the playwright of our world, and so a denizen of and natural to a world supersidiary to our own. Which, of course, being God, he must be; indeed, qua God, he must be superlative to all worlds, no matter how many of them he participates as actor, and in character. As the nature of all being, he must be natural to – i.e., native to – all worlds. For, all worlds are native in and from him. So must he participate each of his worlds as an agent native thereto, whenever he thinks it needful so to do, in order to bring about his Providential will therefor.

Excursus: To be is to be an instance and salient of the Lógos, who is the source and end and archetype of all being. It is impossible to be in perfect contravention to the essence of being. Whenever then something actually happens, the Lógos has in it somehow appeared, in virtue of its participation of his being – albeit perhaps as in a glass, and but darkly. To be then is to be at least a bit of an incorporation of the Lógos. This is so even of Lucifer.

*Every* actuality is an image – howsoever darkened – of the Lógos. The Lógos being the principle and principal of Being per se, this must be the case.

So the Lógos must be incorporate in every world. This is to say no more or other than that the Lógos creates every world. It is to say no more or other than that the Lógos is ubiquitous, and in all things immanent, as their first principle, and as their first principal.

You are a bit of the Lógos, willy nilly. That’s how anamnesis, and knowledge of formalities not yet anywise actual in your world, are possible to you. It is the reason you can construe inverse square relations in general, think about triangles, or ponder music as such (so as then to enjoy this or that bit of music). It is the reason you can conceive, at all.

Despite himself then, Lucifer worships YHWH with every fiber of his being; for, that is what it is to be (such is his torment: think infinite, total and comprehensive cognitive dissonance enacted concretely, with all the attendant horrible sensations, and with no way of escape). Because why? Because that’s how being *works.* To be *just is* to worship YHWH. To disagree with that worship and yet enact and so suffer it willy nilly is Hell.

Our world then is a play that YHWH writes, which transpires entirely in his world (whatever that might look like; hold that question in abeyance for the moment, until we all arrive there someday). No doubt, it is one of many such works of his immense art [John 14:2]. YHWH writes himself into our play as a character thereof – Jesus – who in it suffers and dies, and whom he then plays. He might appear in it under many other guises, too, without contradiction, in just the way that Shakespeare might write himself into a play as Narrator and as, say, Oberon, or even as deus ex machina, as tempest or as shipwreck – or as island, as enchanted wood, as proscenium, as stage direction, as book, as dramaturge. Indeed, is not the playwright wrot throughout all aspects of his play? Is he not likewise throughly writ even in all the possible *interpretations* of his play by this or that director, company, or producer? So might YHWH appear in his own story without contradiction or difficulty as Jesus, to Abraham now as angel at Mamre and then as Melchizedek at Salem, to Jacob as guardian angelic adversary and Lord, from the whirlwind to Job and to the apostles on their boat as the god of Storm and Thunder, to vagrant Hebrews as the pillar of cloud and fire, to Moses as the fire of the Burning Bush, to Europeans as the angelic lights of the Christmas Tree (Yggdrasil baptized and realised), to Moses and Saint John of the Cross as the Darkness, to Christians everywhere as Eucharist, as Church, as Magisterium, as Scripture, as Holy Ghost, as music of the spheres, as mystery of being, as blessing and respite, and as still small inmost voice.

There can be no limit to the number of ways that a playwright might write himself into his play, for after all the play is entirely transpiring, at least at first, and only, *within him,* and then *from him,* and so *of him.*

Each play is a play first of YHWH. Only later, and derivately, is it a play of Aeschylus or Sophocles or Shakespeare.

Excursus: All plays are variations or derivations of the Passion Play. For, all plays depend upon the Passion to secure for them the coherence of the cosmic drama, from beginning to end; of which, they are all participant.

Being made actual first in and by him, lo the work of the human wright is he soon realizes prior even to its appearance in his own mind (provided he is a genius of his art, so that, having plumbed her mysteries deeper than most, he is then aptly humble in respect to his capacity ever quite to fathom or know his muse, adequately, or therefore either to understand or to master her (as magicians would like to do); so that he then makes himself her servant, and student). The design of his work is not conjured ex nihilo by the artist, but rather by him humbly *discovered.*

Excursus: All design works this way, even in engineering and architecture: the lógos of the project in view speaks for himself, he simply *appears* to the eye of the mind; and the technician of the artifice is excellent insofar as he listens humbly, and does not get himself in the way of, and so obstruct or pervert, the insights that then come pouring in.

All great artists have reported this. They say that their works were complete already before, or rather (eternally) as, they gained access to them; so that all their work amounted to transcription, exalted yet hurried, so as to get it all down before the superlime vision disappeared even to their sublime apprehensions and workmanlike recollections.

This is what Homer meant when he prayed, “Sing in me, muse!” Iliad and Odyssey were not his own invention. Like Isaiah and Enoch, Homer was a faithful witness: a prophet, a seer (“prophet” and “seer” mean literally the same thing), and a conduit: an angel, in other words.

The same thing happens to me all the time with brainstorms, with cascades of insights. I can’t write them down fast enough. Some I lose. They never come back. It’s excruciating.

That’s bound to happen when subsidiaries grapple with supersidiaries, whom they cannot possibly encompass. And forgetting a massive insight is the least of it. When push comes to shove, you might suffer a dislocated hip [Genesis 32:25], become an incurable cripple like the Fisher King, and still count yourself lucky, and indeed go down in legend and history on account of your struggle. Or you might suffer much worse [Luke 10:18]; never suppose you might not by your impudence Fall from your present heaven of Earthly delights (and, to be sure, travails) to some lower world in the stack, permanently; wherein, there is no beer, nor any burgers. Think about it.

The Fall from Grace cannot but suck.

Nor can it end, except by repentance: because it is impossible to enact absolutely nothing, the approach to utter nonbeing is necessarily asymptotic, and so incompletable, thus everlasting, and ever more horrible.

How was it that Jacob came out of the struggle with his Great Angel ahead of the game? How was it that he did not in it utterly fail? He struggled honestly, the poor morally crippled man (he entered the lists against YHWH already badly handicapped, due not just to his inherently Fallen character, but in particular to his past extraordinary perfidy in respect to his father and his brother). And he never gave up. He kept knocking, kept asking. So was it opened and delivered unto him as morning rose. Confer Jonah, and Job; and David. Augustine, too, somewhat closer to home for most of us.

The struggle of Jacob with YHWH is the archetype and symbolon of the Christian’s examination of conscience and his confession, repentance, and most of all his penance; and, by exactly the same token, also of his perseverance to the end. We might enter Purgation with a ruined hip, but at least we get to enter, and to be purged, as Jacob was; so that YHWH named him Israel, after his guardian angel.

Do *not* omit to go to confession. Do *not* omit to repent, and to do penance. Hell – literally, Hell – you’ll do it anyway, for no one can escape it. You might better do it en route to Paradise, rather than to the Lake of Fire.

You might better do it a member of Israel, than an outcast and exile and excommunicant.

Having written himself into his play, the playwright takes the stage in its production – in *every* such production, NB – and *plays the character* who in it suffers and dies.

Excursus: At every celebration of the Mass, the Lógos plays Jesus. He plays also us, who communicate him, and so are made members of his very Body.

Excursus: It is common in plays to discover a play within a play, or even a play within a play within a play. Viz., Noises Off or Deathtrap. Both of which I highly recommend, by the way.

Here’s the thing: the Mass – and all liturgy, and indeed all ritual of any sort, when you get right down to it (including all drama, all sport (think of the elaborate, absurdly expensive ceremonies attendant upon the Olympics or of the Superbowl – such vast expenditures of economic surpluses are characteristic of sacrificial rites), all politics, justice, all politesse, even down to the ritual of the traffic stop or the birthday party or even the morning coffee (consider the Tea Ceremony) – all these are meant as, and so each of them is, a synecdochal (and fractal) reiteration within the cosmic play of the cosmic play. In the business lunch and the thank you note are captured all things. This is how all those diverse sorts of drama obtain and furnish their moral and aesthetic oomph, it is how they come to matter to us: they intend to be about what is Real; and they ostend some vision of the good, which we might lose; which we might not gain.

Likewise, the Temple is a synecdoche of the created order. So is it that all ritual is a fractal of creation; of the procedure that keeps the world going coherently. By participation in it – even if only symbolically, i.e., by indication and signal and testimony (and, in the limit, by witness unto death, by a commitment to martyry if need be), the participants indicate their agreement with the basic procedure of becoming – with, i.e., Providence.

When you play your proper part in the traffic stop – when even you stop at a red light, or refrain from picking your nose in public – you signal your willing part in the whole drama of justice, insofar as your native cult has discerned it aright, and that reaches all the way up to the Most High, and that from him first reached all the way down.

This is why everyone is so upset right now about who is or is not willing to be vaccinated against covid. Those who are not willing to be experimented upon are, like the Parmenideans who refused to eat meat, recusing themselves from the commensal order, and so represent a fundamental threat thereto. They shall be identified as scapegoats, and shall be ostracized. Unless they win the rhetorical and empirical contest. Which, God send.

A character of a play is subject to the limits of his world. He cannot see beyond them, despite a hunch – shared by all the other characters – that there *is* (and indeed *must be*) something beyond them, which impinges upon them all – so that they each have a coherent plot to follow (i.e., a life to lead), which is a bit intelligible to them, so that, having a reason to act, they then *can* act. So is it likewise for the players, and so to the audience: nothing beyond the limes of the play, then no play, and so no characters thereof.  This hunch of characters, players, and audience is implicit in the very notion of the Limit, which we all feel at every moment of our lives, constraining our choices absolutely (I can’t decide that I shall be a billionaire in a few minutes, e.g.): there must lie something or other beyond the Limit, no? Were there no moral reality transcendent to the play, the characters thereof could not possibly worry about their acts within it; for then, those acts would be meaningless, *absolutely* – i.e., down to the lowest level of the mundane stack.

Excursus: This is why we can’t obtain meaning, significance, goodness, or morality – or, therefore, in practical terms, a reason or motivation to struggle on in life, ergo any such struggle, or therefore any such life – in the utter absence of a transcendent absolute. If in absolute terms it does not matter what happens to Bottom, the entire play is pointless. For, Bottom is the audience, and they know it. That is why they laugh at his absurd predicaments: they *understand* him, and want him to come out of his crisis OK. If Bottom mattered not at all, and so had come to naught – what if Oberon had just (rightly enough) lopped off his asinine head? – the whole thing would fall apart. The audience and players would all go home (including Oberon, Titania, and their whole ilk) and, seeing the ultimate and incorrigible pointlessness and futility of their own lives, would each weep into his beer, crushed by despair; then hobble off to die in some gutter or swamp. There would be then no comedy, nor even any tragedy. Things would all just grind slowly to a halt. Death and chaos would win. End of story; indeed, utter lack of story to begin with, and so of any logic, then of any intelligibility. Utter confusion would reign. Oberon would be dethroned. He’d be no better than Bottom, nor any better help. With Oberon, the whole shooting match would go.

But somebody cares. Bottom matters – *to the playwright.* So, story! Happy resolution, with fun sequels implicit, and with happily e’er after! Oberon rules, and Titania with him his happy wife!

And, NB: with Oberon, all the supersidiary worlds of Faery – all the worlds that make our own intelligible, on Gödel.

Here’s the thing: nobody could care if there were no transcendent reason to care. The entire play supervenes its supersidiary world – its transcendent world – in terms of which, as defining the character of its goodness, it can in the first place hang together coherently – consistently, without logical contradiction, and so without moral contradiction – so that it can then function as the moral and so the practical proscenium for the action of the play.

But, always, that trouble about what should be done in the circumstances given the transcendent moral facts is the whole matter of the play.

That transcendent reality is in most plays just moral fact. This must be evident to the most careless review of the Greek tragedies (and comedies). The emotional engine of the romantic comedies of Shakespeare is the urge to see everyone in the end happily settled toward matrimony with the proper person, everyone in his proper hierarchical place; and the notions of the proper match and the proper place depend entirely upon an a priori notion of propriety.

Alright then, back to our main topic.

The *character* suffers the epistemological limits of the play, and is subject thereto; but the *author* does not, either as wright or as player. Qua playwright, he is omniscient about the play; qua player, he knows what should happen next (leaving room for ex tempore improvisation, as all players must ever do); but, qua character, he can know only so much as a perfect man in his dramatic circumstances might naturally know [Matthew 24:36].

This gives us also a way to understand the hypostatic union of the divine and human natures – of the union without confusion of the divine and human wills and the divine and human intellects in the person of Jesus. The *character* of Jesus in the Passion Play is human, with a human will and intellect. Meanwhile the *player* of Jesus is divine, with the divine will and intellect. How are they united? Consider that when an actor plays a character, the character has no subjective experience and takes no action apart from those of the player. The experience and acts of the character *just are* the experience and acts of the player, and apart from the player, the character has no act or experience.

OK, back to our stack of 3 worlds (sorry to jump around so much): Midgard, Asgard, and Andlang. Midgard is as it were a play or novel within Asgard. The Aesir can see the whole of Midgard, from its beginning to its end (which, in Norse cosmology, is their own). In Asgard, and to the Aesir, Midgard is complete, from beginning to end. As we would look down at a map, so Balder can look down from and within Asgard at Midgard and see our entire history – including the episodes wherein he himself is a participant, a character acting within Midgard. This is just what the Merkavah mystics of the First Temple reported of their ascents to Heaven:

Rabbi Ishmael the high priest, who lived early in the second century AD, ascended to heaven. Since he lived after the temple had been destroyed, he can never have served as a high priest, and so his traditional title must mean that he was from the high priestly family and presumably knew the secret traditions of the temple. In heaven, he was met by Enoch, who had been transformed into the great angel Metatron, and he was shown round the world of the angels. What he saw is now recorded in 3 Enoch, a collection of temple traditions from various periods, that focus on the chariot throne, the merkavah. At one point Metatron showed R. Ishmael the inner side of the temple veil – the side they would see when they were by the throne in heaven, i.e., in the holy of holies. On it were depicted ‘all the generations of the world and all their deeds, whether done or to be done, till the last generation. I went and he showed them to me with his fingers, like a father teaching his son the letters of the Torah.’

Margaret Barker: King of the Jews: Temple Theology in John’s Gospel, page 126

The veil is the firmament – the bound of the cosmos.

Think now of taking War and Peace down from the shelf. Does the novel ever change? No. Are the events of the novel ever unreal to the characters thereof? No. Do the characters know at chapter 1 what shall happen to them in chapter 35? No. Does the fact that the events of chapter 35 are laid down already as we begin to read chapter 1 – and as the characters at that point experience and enact them – mean that the characters are not – within their own world – actual, or free? No.

Excursus: To be actual is among other things to be free, for only on options is it possible to act, and so to be actual.

Excursus: Here perhaps is where the analogy of the stack of worlds to the play within the play that is the life of a playwright begins to break down. It does not seem possible prima facie that there might be in our world such things as fairies or centaurs – or Virgin Births or resurrections. But authors native to our world can recount such things in the histories they record for us. If we take such histories to be those of subsidiary worlds, then those subsidiaries seem to be *less* limited than our own.

NB that a history of events that have transpired in our world – such as those of Thucydides or Caesar or Churchill, or those of Eusebius, Josephus, or Saint Mark – is indeed, as denoting a tiny subset of such events, picking out a world subsidiary to our own, albeit with it entirely continuous and coterminous. Note then that the same thing is so of our own stories of our own lives. Each of our lives is a world subsidiary to the world that forms its proscenium.

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players;

As you Like It, Act II, Scene VII

How can there be talking animals in Narnia, but not in her supersidiary world, our own? Notice that this is sort of like asking how things can happen in our world that have never in it yet happened. In both cases, agents of our world actualize forms potential to our world that are present eternally in the primordial Realm of the Possible.

NB then also that if it is possible that there be talking animals in a world subsidiary to our own, then in principle it must be possible that there be talking animals in our own world. Lo, there are indeed talking animals in our world: us!

OK then. Herewith, some random thoughts, a few products of a brainstorm lasting months:

  • The notion of the stack of worlds solves the problem of real time coordination between moves of independent players in our world, who – as contemporaries, not yet in each other’s past, and so not yet aware of each other’s latest moves – simply cannot be coordinate. How does the rest of the world know that I have just done x, and respond appropriately? Given only our own world, the question seems unanswerable. But, hello, the acts of agents native to our world can be separated by long stretches of hypertime (in their supersidiary world) as their author determines – or discerns – what shall happen next in the subsidiary (this is what Providence of a supersidiary Lord looks like to a subsidiary thereof). To the characters of a given world, their acts and experiences will seem immediately adjacent, a seamless continuous web. But that web is seamless only in the context of a supersidiary world, in which it transpires entirely. Put another way, quanta of action within a simulation might be quite separate in its hypertime, but within the simulation they will appear as an extensive continuum.
  • Gnosticism errs to think we are all characters played by agents proper to supersidiary worlds. It thinks we are players trapped as characters in the drama of this world, who can escape from it back to our natural and proper supersidiary world. But really we are characters played by players of our own world; we are native and natural to this world; for us, character and player are one. So, this world is our proper home. Only the angelic characters of our cosmic play are played by players of supersidiary worlds. The demons were such before they Fell, but in virtue of their Fall they became characters of our world played by agents of our world; they became trapped in a world subsidiary to their natural and proper original world. Gnosticism thinks in effect that we are all like the demons.
  • There are non-player characters: mere algorithms. Insects, for example, may be such.
  • What do we mean when we say that Jesus suffered in his manhood, but not in his Godhood? In Jesus, YHWH wrote himself into his play as a character: as a man. His character suffered; the author of the play did not; nor did the actor.
  • Not only is YHWH the author of the play, and a character in it, but he is also one of the players. It is in his capacity as a player who is also its author that he knows qua character the way the play turns out.

Thus when Jesus on the Cross asks God why he has been forsaken, it is the character crying out to the author. But the character, *as* author, knows full well that the Passion is necessary to the entire drama. So the author abandons his character to death. The author – and, so, also the character – knows as well from the beginning about the Resurrection. So the citation by the character Jesus of Psalm 22 as he suffers on the Cross – a psalm of his own ultimate victory as the player YHWH – is testimony to his own eventual victory, *as character,* and thus as causal factor of and internal to our world’s cosmogony.

  • The character of Jesus revealed to the other characters of the Passion Play that he was played by the author. That did not at all change the fact that he was a character.

Excursus: there is a pretty good play in that plot twist. The play proceeds for a while, and then the protagonist announces to the other characters that he is the author of their play. None of them would be capable of quite believing him, or even understanding him; some, naturally enough, would react with outrage or disgust at his revelation. Many others would just walk away from his obvious insanity. Only a few would hang around to see how things turned out for the protagonist. When they then turned out badly, and he was killed, that remnant would feel sad – he was a great guy, after all – and disillusioned, but that would be the end of it for them … unless the protagonist appeared again among them, breaking all the rules of the play.

I might feel tempted to write such a drama, if I was into writing plays. But even if I were, it’s already been done to death.

  • We the other characters in the play are played by ourselves – just as Bill Murray can play himself in a movie – in what we take to be an improvisation, all the way down. We don’t know, either as player or as character, how things are going to turn out, and suffer ourselves the pleasures and pains of our characters.
  • We play our persons; our personae. When we are psychologically and spiritually healthy, our personae are just ourselves; there is no conflict between us and our personae, the diverse roles we play in the social drama. But we are not usually healthy; for, we are Fallen. So are we qua players often at odds with our personae, our roles and characters in the play: we dissemble, and act badly. So we make a mess of the production. Nothing goes to plan, and everyone is forced to improvise, panicking and feeding each other lines and making it all up as we go, the whole production at risk, so as to save the appearances.

A great actor, per contra, lives his role: he is at one with his character. Even when the production goes horribly awry, he remains in character, and responds aptly as such, knowing as player how the act must logically proceed if the performance is to come off at all.

  • Jesus suffers the Passion as character, but not as author or as player – except insofar as, being a compassionate author and player, he feels for the character he plays, whom he has wrighten from before all worlds, and whom he is.
  • The character of Jesus is partiscient; the player of the character is omniscient.
  • The hypostatic union is between the player of Jesus – the Lógos – and the character of Jesus. Homoousion is of character and player: the character is a mark (literally: the Greek kharakter is mark or imprint) of the player.
  • There may be more than one character of a given player. E.g., the Lógos who played Jesus was also at Mamre in the character of an angel. The human will and intellect of Jesus are of the character of Jesus, and not of the player alone. Nevertheless, the character – his nature, will, and intellect – are entirely and throughly the character of the player. Only in and by the acts of the player is the character at all manifest.
  • Our guardian angels are not our players; we are not their characters in the way that Jesus is the character played by the Lógos. Nevertheless we participate them formally, and so are among their projections or instantiations.
  • Angels naturally proper to a supersidiary world can appear in the play of our own as characters (all angelic characters are players). This includes our guardian angels. Angelic characters are corporeal in our world, albeit neither only animal, nor strictly located. That said, angels can possess animals – and, so, men. They can of course also incorporate directly as animal bodies, although only as animal bodies of the sort that are proper to this world as originally intended and as properly realized: i.e., as what we would think of as resurrection bodies.
  • Our various personae are our characters, whom we play. There are players native to our world, such as we; and there are players native to others who from time to time play characters of our own, such as the angels.
  • That we are players native and proper to our world does not mean we may not ascend or descend to worlds supersidiary or subsidiary, and therein play characters thereof. As angels descend to our world and play characters herein, so may we sometimes ascend to theirs.
  • Novel egregores of our own manufacture are at first merely formal, merely proposals: they are empty characters, mere machines that we must push if they are to be at all evident in act – in our own act. As they begin to function automatically, they are still at first only algorithmic NPCs – albeit with degrees of freedom due to quantum indeterminacy of all mundane systems. But insofar as they proffer any prospect of phenomenal enjoyment or of causal power, they are niches, and agents soon rush to play them, for nature abhors a vacuum.
  • Characters – egregores – famously “take on a life of their own.” Every novelist who is any good at all reports this.
  • Adam and Eve Fell into this already Fallen world, that had Fallen along with its original Angel.
  • With every unrepented sin we Fall into smaller and smaller worlds, more and more subsidiary to our proper worlds, and so ever smaller and more constrained, ever less and less potential, less and less potent.

So when he first Fell, Satan could still travel in – could act in – supersidiary worlds. But with each sin, he more and more Fell. His destiny then, because he has doomed himself to perpetual sin and so to a perpetual Fall through all the stack of worlds, is immobility in frozen ice: a world consisting only of himself, in which there is therefore no possibility of action.

  • When a world Falls, it becomes a play within itself. It artificially constrains its domain of action. Its original capacities – its original domain of action – remain intact, but it has abjured them. It is a function of its original self, but damaged and so unnaturally constrained, so that it cannot explore its true limits. It mistakes the limits of its damaged self for the limits of its world.

We see this with human madness all the time. There is nothing in nature to prevent the madman waking from his dream, shaking it off and leaving the asylum for the wider world. But the logic of his dream prevents his doing so.

Sleepers wake, the night is flying; the Watchers on the heights are crying …

  • Christ came to wake the world. He came to help us shake off the nightmare. He is the archetypal Watcher.
  • Every actuality is a coherent world; is an integration of its actual past. So each person, and each persona, is an evolving world within a world. Persons subsidiate their worlds, and propagate them.
  • The world of the Trinity is the Suprapersonal Godhead. But the world of the Trinity is the Trinity. There is no difference.
  • The Suprapersonal Godhead is the player of the 3 characters of the Trinity.
  • Worlds are constituted of their subsidiaries.
  • Personae are egregores. Our experience is what it is like to be an egregor – a character – that is being played by an agent, a player.
  • Tragedy and comedy are both conflicts of personal worlds; of their lógoi. Tragedy ends in general and common disaster, in death; while comedy ends in reconciliation and fruition, and so in life.
  • Eden did not fall. It waits for us still, in a iuxtasidiary world. It is more expansive than ours along some dimensions, so that it environs our own; but it is at the same level of the mundane stack as ours.

There is more. The Fall from Eden was literal: from a supersidiary world to a subsidiary. So likewise, as should from the foregoing be already apparent, was the Fall of Lucifer. I shall deal with them in some subsequent post.

6 thoughts on “Philosophical Skeleton Keys: The Play: Its Wright, Players, & Characters

  1. Pingback: Philosophical Skeleton Keys: The Stack of Worlds – The Orthosphere

  2. Excellent post. A tour de force. I believe the stack of worlds is one of the most important concepts in thinking our way out of modern materialism.

    Gödel himself believed that there are infinitely many axioms of mathematics (which he thought of as axioms of set theory). He believed that all mathematical problems are solvable, yet his theorem showed that sufficiently powerful mathematical theories are incomplete. Hence, Gödel believed that part of our duty is finding the correct axiom to patch the gaps. Of course, then we would need to find more axioms to patch the gaps in the new theory and so on. So, he believed in a stack of theories.

    In addition, Gödel himself believed in multiple worlds. He had a list of 14 philosophical points, one of which is: “There are other worlds and rational beings of a different and higher kind.”

    “Eden did not fall. It waits for us still”, with regards to this point, the mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich wrote:

    Paradise is still in existence, but it is utterly impos­sible for man to reach it. I have seen that it still exists in all its splendor. It is high above the earth and in an oblique direction from it.

    I found the connection with the worlds of Norse mythology to be helpful and this to be an interesting point:

    The Tree of Worlds that connects all these realms – Yggdrasil – might be more like a twisted complex vine than a tree. An interesting detail, which we shall neglect for the time being.

    I look forward to the next post in the series.

    • Thanks, NLR. I find the stack of worlds an astonishingly fruitful notion. The more I dig into it as a serious hypothesis, the more it yields. For example, in LOTR, it was possible to get to the Undying Lands by just sailing west from Middle Earth in a normal ship. But then, Tolkien writes, the world was “bent,” and a straightforward transit of that sort became impossible. If our cosmos – however generously construed, as with the MWI and its ilk – is the only one, we can have no way of accommodating the idea that the world could become bent. But with the stack of worlds, and in particular with the ontological room it furnishes for a Fall from a nobler more spacious world into a smaller and more crabbed subsidiary, we can see how that bending might have worked. We can see how Middle Earth might have Fallen from the world that also included Faery. I hope to have a lot more on that in the projected subsequent post.

      More on Yggdrasil, too. It turns out that as soon as they learnt of the Rood, the Vikings recognized it as Yggdrasil. Now, Yggdrasil was not just a tree, but a conduit through which you could travel from one world to another. You could get into Yggdrasil, and be in it sheltered from all the vagaries of life in the realms that it connected (in this the World Tree is like the Wood Between the Worlds in the Narnia books). Ragnarok destroyed those realms, but not Yggdrasil. In her, Líf and Lífþrasir – female and male humans, literally Life and Lust for Life – hide as the fires of Surt destroy all the realms, emerging afterward into a regenerate paradise, there to repopulate the worlds.

      The Norse – like their cousins the Greeks – understood the Cross as the Way to Paradise, and out of the world they had always known must be doomed. The fractal stave churches of Norway, stack upon stack, are intentional evocations of coniferous trees – Christmas Trees. Once you see that this is so of the stave churches, it becomes clear that the fractal Gothic style of church architecture expresses the same notion in stone. Then you learn that temples in most cultures are echoes and evocations of the primordial Sacred Wood, wherein sacrifice was offered from the very beginning, and the altar stone stood at the root of a great tree. The Sacred Wood of every temple is a local salient, instance and synecdoche of the Wood Between the Worlds.

      So, when you enter any church – not those modern brutalist monstrosities so popular since 1945 with the dominant liberal – i.e., apostate – wings of all the older denominations, mind, nor those upstart shopping mall auditoria proclaiming by their very building their honest good hearted dedication to profanity – their earnest well meant advocacy of worldly self interest – but rather a true and proper church, that comprehends and speaks the primordial dreadful language of the temple – you step out of this world into the Wood Between the Worlds; into the world beyond the veil. Or near it, anyway. That is the reason of the odd vast looming peaceful uncanny hush that then befalls you. No such hush, no true temple; it’s a reliable tell.

      The sense of the spooky is a sense of a real. Rudolph Otto was all over this.

      The church building is of course just a building. But then, the body of Jesus was just the body of a man, and the consecrate host is just a bit of ordinary bread. And we, all of us, are just meat.

      The most important advantage furnished by the notion of the stack of worlds is that it indicates, and so enables us to think, that our mere meat is through and through a work and manifestation of supersidiary worlds; so that we are each images thereof.

      • “For example, in LOTR, it was possible to get to the Undying Lands by just sailing west from Middle Earth in a normal ship. But then, Tolkien writes, the world was “bent,” and a straightforward transit of that sort became impossible.”

        This is a good point. I think Tolkien was onto something else as well, since the world only becomes bent after his version of the Atlantis story, which has been connected with the Biblical Deluge (though it seems that Tolkien views them separately in his mythology).

        I also believe that the world was not completely fallen from its supersidiary world until the deluge. One reason is the passage in Genesis about angels having children with human women. If the world was closer in some sense to the supersidiary world, then I suppose it would be easier for angels to come and go. Also, the facts about people living for hundreds and hundreds of years. The whole antediluvian era has the flavor of the mythical or semilegendary about it and, indeed, some of mythology may be garbled memories or tales from that time.

        Which also explains why it doesn’t map exactly into the history of Earth as we know it now, because it was partly connected to the history of a supersidiary world as well.

        “They [angels] can of course also incorporate directly as animal bodies”

        This is an interesting thing to think about. I think that to some extent, this works by matter shaping itself according to the nature of the angel. Matter is raised to a higher pitch (in some sense) to express a more noble form.

        I think this is also connected to the Transfiguration of Jesus, where even His garment was transformed. Not just Jesus, but the matter of the garment was elevated.

        I believe that this shows that matter has the potentiality to behave in ways unimaginable to us currently, but it has to be acted upon by the right spiritual impulse.

        Something similar may happen in the case of the levitation of some mystics (which Valentin Tomberg described as coming under the influence of “celestial gravity” as opposed to Earthly gravity). As well as the incorruption of the bodies of saints. What is interesting is that saints do not appear to try to make either of these things happen, they seem to “just happen” and I believe they are related to the connection between this world and the supersidiary world directly above us.

        I had never heard of stave churches before, but they are indeed a magnificent form of architecture.

        “So, when you enter any church … you step out of this world into the Wood Between the Worlds; into the world beyond the veil. Or near it, anyway. That is the reason of the odd vast looming peaceful uncanny hush that then befalls you. No such hush, no true temple; it’s a reliable tell”

        An interesting thought; a connection I had not made before.

      • It seems clear to me that the natural law of our cosmos must be able to accommodate all manner of unexpected things, such as resurrection bodies manifest. Plus the antics of the demons. More things in heaven and earth, Horatio …

        I had not considered the notion that antediluvian history might have transpired in a world that had not yet Fallen quite as far as ours had. I suppose beings could Fall into our world at any time in its history, no? The angelic Fall recorded in Genesis 6 happened after the Fall of Adam, and Adam Fell after Lucifer had done so.

  3. Pingback: Philosophical Skeleton Keys: The Stack of Worlds & the Literal Fall; &c. – The Orthosphere


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