- 1 Introduction
- 2 Terminology
- 3 The Umbral Realms
- 3.1 The Near Umbra
- 3.2 Beyond
- 4 Further Beyond
- 5 The Tenth Sphere and Ascension
- 6 The Essential Divinity and the Godheads
Yeah, some of you probably didn't expect me of all people to be making this blog.
This, I think, doesn't have much of a need for introductions, and in all fairness, it's probably been one of the most straightforward things I've written in a while. In any case, I give props to Udl for getting me into this nightmarish abomination of a verse, and for giving me directions for which books to read so I could organize all of these excerpts.
So, without further addo:
Before delving into the finer details of WoD's cosmology, we first have to establish some basic terms, both fundamental units in which the universe is divided: Tellurian and Tapestry.
“Tellurian” essentially means everything. It’s Reality with a capital R – everything that has been imagined, can be imagined, or has yet to be imagined. It’s a word for something that transcends words… an ineffable name of God, if you will.
In academic terms, a tellurian is a model that demonstrates how the world works; following the ancient principle of macrocosm and microcosm, or “As above, so below,” a tellurian reveals how the world works by offering a “small” demonstration.
And although many mages in our era remain agnostic or atheistic, the mages who put the cosmic Tellurian metaphor in place were men and women of faith, so that metaphor was important… especially when they were trying to bridge faiths without insulting anyone’s ideas about God.
Tellurian is another way of saying Infinity, God, or Possibility. It’s potential that cannot be grasped except through metaphor.
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 91|
|“||The Garou also speak of something larger than Gaia, a concept so encompassing that it includes not only the physical reality we know, but all alternative and impossible realities contained within the spirit world. The Tellurian is all of reality, including the living creation of Gaia and all alternatives to reality in the spirit world. It’s more than the universe as we know it, as it includes all shadows, reflections, and variations of reality that are above, below, and surrounding our world. Such simple words hardly do it justice.||„|
|~ Werewolf the Apocalypse, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 307|
Infinity is too big to wrap your head around. Like God, it needs a face. The Tapestry is that face – a metaphor for that which exists. Whereas the Tellurian is potential, the Tapestry is form. All woven together like some artistic curtain, the strands of interconnected existence create a shimmering whole.
Beyond the obvious pun about tying everything together, the Tapestry metaphor also makes a subtle nod to an ancient magical principle: the idea of interconnectedness. Sometimes known as contagion, this principle asserts that you can affect a thing – say, your landlord – by using something that’s connected with it… in this case, perhaps your lease. And if this sounds like an outmoded idea, look up the quantum physics concept of superstring theory… an idea that also echoes the Tapestry metaphor.
Like I said, mages speak a language of poetics. Even the Technocrats resort to arcane acronyms and cumbersome yet Oh-So-Impressive titles. If you want to truly understand the magickal realm, much less the Otherworlds, it helps a lot if you can wrap your head around the idea of symbols that reveal a deeper truth.
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 91|
So, in essence, while the Tellurian is formless potential in its broadest extent, which contains all that exists or may exist, even in imagination and spirit, the Tapestry is the conventional universe, which emerges out of the primordial soup as a reduced, more limited "face" of infinity, built so human minds can comprehend it. Guide to the Traditions reinstates that concept, and also provides a neat little metaphor for the relationship between the two: If the Tapestry is a sweater, then the Tellurian is an infinite amount of yarn.
Reality is the sum total of everything. Reality is all that exists, has existed, or will exist. Reality lacks boundaries. Reality includes that which is possible but does not exist, for if a thing can be conceived then it is already a thing. Reality includes the absence of a thing, for nothing is, in and of itself, something. By extension, Reality includes that which isn't possible.
This seems pretty self-explanatory. Reality is the basic instance from which everything derives, or perhaps the container in which everything resides. Everything is a subset of reality: you, me, this computer, the toast I had this morning, the Yankees, cancer, love, Cryptonomicon, Madagascar, and even the bee that stung my thumb when I was a kid.
This definition seems to remove the concept
The reality of something that is absent makes sense. I think you're saying that if something could exist in reality at large if it were ever conceived of, but for whatever reason isn't, then there is a “placeholder" that exists for that thing – sort of a cosmic "null set” identifier. Even if all of reality occurs without that particular thing ever existing, there's still the null state placeholder for that thing: your fire-breathing cows, cars that on Jell-o, and so on.
Coupled with the concept of infinity, there must be an infinite number of null-sets as well. In English, there's no way that reality can ever "fill up."
|~ Guide to the Traditions – Page 46|
While the Tellurian is the conception of reality, the Tapestry is reality given form. While the Tellurian is infinite, mercurial and macrocospic, the Tapestry is the discrete metaphorical lens slipped around it to provide definition for the murky chaos beyond. Everything given form is a part of the Tapestry. The Tapestry is not any more "real" than the Tellurian; it is simply an expression of inherent connections between the Tellurian's elements. The Tapestry is not static, elements of the Tellurian slip into the Tapestry on some occasions and out upon others.
Sounds like real fabric-of-the-universe, creation myth stuff. Once again, I'm sure it made a lot of sense to use the word “Tapestry” in the 15th century. Now that we live in a world where knitting isn't the be-all and end-all of the average person's existence, I wonder how valid it still is. It must really suck for you guys to know that most of the knitting is done by machines these days. If I'm getting this right then the Tellurian is all that is possible, whereas the Tapestry is all that actually occurs. It also sounds like the Tapestry is mostly physical, leaving abstract concepts and possibility to the Tellurian. The Tapestry is all that is, while the Tellurian is all that is and that could be. Creating the smaller subset makes sense in the context of getting hierarchical in the universe's ass.
|~ Guide to the Traditions – Page 47|
|“||An obvious oversimplification but a good one, I think. Here's another one: the Tapestry is the object-oriented programming language to the Tellurian's machine language. Essentially, the Tapestry is much more easily comprehensible and recognizable to the human eye, yet is itself composed of the Tellurian. Or how about this? The Tapestry is to sweater as the Tellurian is to an endless amount of yarn, to keeping the knitting angle.||„|
|~ Guide to the Traditions – Page 47|
And the thing doing the knitting, in this case, is nothing but the will and belief of all sapient beings, whose Consensus shapes the Tapestry out of the chaos of the Tellurian, and picks apart form from potential.
The understanding of the Tellurian, Tapestry and fabric of reality varies from mage to mage, naturally. Some mages have very little knowledge of the overall picture (little Cosmology Knowledge). Those mages who do study reality systems intensively often come to wildly differing conclusions. Since years of experience with Paradox, Sphere magic and the gradual change of belief systems have given the Traditions at least a little understanding, most neophyte mages hear a few terms from their tutors --- enough knowledge to be dangerous, to paraphrase a saying.
Most Tradition mages accept that the reality of the world stems from the Consensus — the combined will of all thinking, sapient beings. The Consensus works like an outside observer that determines what's acceptable in reality and what's not. In turn, the Consensus directs the shape of the Tapestry out of the Tellurian. So it is that when a mage works magic, he's rebuilding the Tapestry; works that fit the Consensus picture of the Tapestry are coincidence, while those that violate the rule of the Consensus are not.
However, mages rarely agree on what constitutes the Consensus, or why certain feats are vulgar or coincidental at different times and places. Most mages that the Consensus seems to flex a bit in specific locales. Some places might have a sort of mini-Consensus, where the Tapestry shows a different picture of reality and thus finds specific acts more acceptable: A mage might get away with more spectacular feats involving charms and sigils in a remote, superstitious village, or find better use of Awakened martial skills in an area influenced by mythic Asiatic mores. However, areas that vary wildly from the general Consensus tear away from the Tapestry as a whole.
|~ Guide to the Traditions – Page 51|
To elaborate on the nature of this "yarn," it is then necessary for we to go over the concept of "Quintessence" (Also known as the element of Prime), which in World of Darkness' cosmology is defined as the sea of fundamental energy that fuels and provides the basic framework of all Creation, being "the archetype of all things" and "The perfect model of reality" that is formless and yet holds every Form within itself.
As I mentioned earlier, there’s a Primal Essence that pulses within all things. Whether it’s bound up into Patterns or flowing through concepts and potential, this Quintessence forms the basis for our world. Mages who explore the mysteries of Prime understand the ebbs and flows of this sublime essence – the “Blood of the Dragon” and the seminal fluid of the gods.
Prime Arts study energies and forms, spotting traces of Quintessence in or between each Pattern and then channeling them to suit the purpose of a mage. Masters of this Sphere can follow Quintessential flows, taste the Resonance of certain energies, shift those energies in or out of Patterns, and thus bring things into being or drain them of the power to be real.
As students of the Primal Utility Theory can tell you, Prime energies tend to ebb and flow around living things… most especially around people. When human beings invest themselves, emotionally and intellectually, in something, that something tends to gather Prime energies. Your favorite shirt has more Prime energy than one just purchased off the rack at a store because you have put more of yourself into that Pattern and its energies. Thus, certain students of the Prime principles view their magick in terms of strange math and hypereconomics, calculating the sublime energies involved in transactions between living and unliving things. By tracing those connections, they believe, you can manipulate those energies as well.
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 70|
See, mage Avatars absorb that Quintessence I mentioned earlier – the “fifth essence” referred to in arcane metaphysics. That essence fuels the latticework of all Creation, restoring the sublime energy within us. Just think of it as chicken soup for the Awakened soul.
Sometimes it manifests in material forms called Tass. Think of Tass as ice formed from watery Quintessence: what flows as one becomes solid in the other. Tass embodies our metaphysical chicken soup, with Quintessence as the nutrition within that soup. And it takes a multitude of forms – water, roses, blood, food – that can be held, carried, and broken down into the raw Quintessence energy that sustains our Arts and lives.
Unlike the things I’ve shown you up till now, Quintessence isn’t physical until it manifests as Tass… and even then, it’s only halfway there. Although mages who study the Sphere of Prime can understand such forces more deeply than most folk do, Quintessence slips out of the realm of concrete things and into the realm of seriously subjective reality. It’s slippery stuff, perceived by what people expect to experience. The nature of a Node often shapes the energy – the feel or flavor of Quintessence – but the ways in which that Quintessence manifests (if it manifests at all) can be wildly diverse. In that fountain over there, Tass feels like clear, cold water. A Node in Auschwitz or Wounded Knee, however, might give you blood, ash, or nightmares instead.
Quintessence is luminal. That means it exists at the threshold of what people call reality. It’s like a flow of spirit-water, except that even that description can’t capture what it truly is. You’ll hear many different definitions or descriptions of Quintessence because every human definition falls short. It exists in the realm of poetry and metaphor, a shiny spark of liquid God.
Outside the physical elements of the periodic table, this energy is essentially the world’s life force. It’s one of those things people can feel but not quite measure unless their measurement methods reach outside materialistic science. It’s as real as gasoline, but its properties transcend understanding.
Quintessence is literally as real as you believe it is, and each person experiences it differently.
|~ Mage the Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 79|
Quintessence is the basic unit, the quark, the Aristotelian "fifth essence," of magick. All matter, all spirit, all elements of reality are composed of this mysterious substance. This Prime Force is neither physical nor ethereal and cannot truly be divided or contained.
Although Quintessence is the stuff of which reality is made, even mages cannot truly understand it. Most views regard Quintessence as an ever-fluctuating pool from which all creation arises and returns. As a basic "life-force," it is often gathered by events of great passion and colored by those same emotions. Sharper students realize that this means Awakened Ones are their own best source of Quintessence, with their Avatars providing the internal wellspring. When a new phenomenon comes into being, it draws Quintessence from the pool. When old phenomena fade away, their magickal energy reenters into the vast pool. Some Euthanatos and Nephandi theorize that should reality achieve a state of perfect entropy, the false frameworks imposed by humanity will melt away, leaving only the pure glory of raw Quintessence.
|~ Mage The Ascension – Page 65|
Above and beyond the Pattem Spheres sits the Sphere of Prime, the study of raw creation and the energy that fuels the Tellurian. Prime is the study of Quintessence, literally the "Fifth Essence." To every Tradition this is a sacred and valued power, for with Prime the mage can tap into and manipulate the keystones of cosmic forms. Quintessence is also known as ether or Odyllic Force, the underlying nature of the fabric of reality, the First Essence or Prime. Through Prime magic, the mage directs the flow of universal energies to create, destroy and reshape as she sees fit. While the other Spheres influence the actual stuff of creation, Prime controls the power from which they all spring.
According to the united theories of the Traditions and Technocracy alike, Prime energy fuels everything. It is everywhere, flowing through living Patterns, swirling in Forces and coalescing into Matter only to be released again. The cycle of Prime energy never ends. This cycle is the cycle of magic itself. From Prime energy, a mage can create the base materials of the Pattern Spheres, or he can reduce such objects to the sublime constructs of Spirit and Mind. He can convert Quintessence into magical force and draw out the natural power inherent in places
|~ Mage The Ascension, Revised – Page 179|
As Parmenides predicted, all phenomena that do not exist in fact exist in potential. Great debate rocks the tradition as to the true nature of Quintessence. Many Scientists believe that it is matter or energy in an indeterminate state, a waveform that
Psychic techniques, magnetic fields, alchemically perfect material (such as Primium) and mathematical formulae all assist the study of Prime, but most Sons of Ether concentrate on the one or two methods that suit them.
|~ Sons of Ether, Revised – Pages 59 and 60|
Current Title: Ars Vis
Within the domain of the Oracles and the Ascended Masters, all disparities are resolved and made One. The Ars Potentiae, then, is nothing less than the power to draw upon that perfected model of reality. It is, quite literally, the ability to connect and identify with perfection and Divinity. This is the Fifth, noblest Element, the one that realizes the ultimate ends of the other Four. The Hermetic seeks, through the Ars Potentiae, to realize within herself power over all of Creation.
The Order's foci for using Prime Sphere, without fail, concentrate upon the elusive, rare and flawless nature of Prime, its beauty and its splendor. All Ars Potentiae rites acknowledge, to one degree or another, the imminence of oneness.
|~ Order of Hermes, Revised – Page 63|
Once Quintessence congeals into the "threads" out of which the Tapestry is woven, the interconnectedness of those threads gives rise to abstractions known as "Patterns," which are essentially the building blocks of the universe, akin to changeless, perfect blueprints of everything they define.
The Tapestry is a metaphorical model used by mages to illustrate the workings of reality. Its fabric may be seen as a complex weave of physical, spiritual and intellectual elements.
All things that exist have their own unique pattern, formed from threads of Quintessence into energy, matter and life.
Although very few mages can perceive individual patterns, everyone can view their interaction. For instance, cach raindrop that falls is an example of the interaction of the patterns of water and gravity. The foundation of reality is magic, its forms a result of interwoven threads of Quintessence. Despite scientists' talk of
|~ Mage The Ascension, Revised – Page 144|
The Tapestry's interconnections form Patterns. Patterns are the conjoining of the threads of reality. Each is composed of smaller Patterns and each in turn creates greater ones. Patterns bring context to the disparate elements of the Tapestry. They are not intrinsically static and can be altered by external or internal influences. Each Pattern is unique.
Finally, we're getting down to the code.
If I'm reading this correctly, Patterns are the world's functions, variables, variables and instances. There are no true duplicates, as each Pattern has its own memory allocation, its own unique identifier. Patterns are the Lego bricks of the universe. They can be as simple as a “Hello, world!” application or as complex as the millions of lines that control the space shuttle's attitude adjustment thrusters.
A human being is a Pattern, and is composed of a liver Pattern, a heart Pattern, a brain Pattern, and even a useless appendix Pattern, amongst all other kinds of Patterns. Human Patterns form country Patterns, which are on continent Patterns, which exist within a world Pattern. There's a definite Pattern pecking order, it seems. The more that I thinking about it, the more it seems that Patterns can be general or specific, right? I mean, the Pattern for "human being,” in a general sense, comprises the entirety of humanity. However, a specific human being, such as myself, is a wholly separate Pattern. I suspect that the Catherine Calvert Pattern is similar to the human being Pattern, but that the human being pattern isn't as specific as the Catherine Calvert Pattern.
I wonder if there's true link between Patterns in this sense. For instance, if I fundamentally altered the human being Pattern to say that human beings have gills, would each specific human get gills? Or would only the new humans grow gills, while the rest of us remain without them? What's to slap me down from fundamentally changing how the universe works?
Why does this thought sound like the coolest thing in the world at the same time that it scares the crap out of me?
|~ Guide to the Traditions – Page 48|
If Magic as a whole is the act of drawing from the Tellurian's possibilities to rewrite the Tapestry according to one's will, then a Mage, by doing so, is constantly fighting against the Consensus of humanity itself, which seeks to reassert the agreed-upon reality, and should they lose this battle of wills, they are consumed by Paradox.
Think of magick as Thunderdome: two realities enter, one reality leaves. Ideally, the one that triumphs is the one you create.
If it’s not, then you have a problem.
We tend to call this problem the Paradox Effect, or simply Paradox… yes, with capitalized letters to show how big and important an idea it is. Because this kind of Paradox can kick your ass. There are a million metaphysical explanations for what it is, why it works, and what we can do to get around it, but the simplest explanation is this: Paradox is what happens when two visions of reality exist in the same place at the same time until one of them gives up.
And if your reality gives up, you’re in for a world of hurt.
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 56|
Void Engineers, a source book which explains the cosmology from the slightly-more-science-based perspective of the Technocracy, explains a similar aspect of the setting under the lenses of the "Tychoidian Cosmology," which, to quote the book itself, is founded on the following theorem: Any perfect description of an object is the object itself, relegated to the order of things by divine providence.
The modern Convention believes he predicted a form of digital physics that describes the universe as an ensemble of mathematical objects. So the modern form of Tychoides Theorem states: "The universe instantiates all computable models to the extent of their completeness."
Founded in Platonism, Tychoides’s ideas were refined by cross-research with Iteration X and before their defection, the Electrodyne Engineers. Modern Tychoidian cosmology treats the cosmos as a “hypercomputer:” a phenomenon able to exceed the limits of Turing machines and generate infinite, continuous processing. Physical laws behave like cellular automata and generate further “input” (for lack of a better word in English) for cosmological processing. These functions are handled by the smallest possible unit of physical information, which we call the Prime Element.
|~ Void Engineers – Page 54|
In brief, it basically states that all things in the universe are akin to an ensemble of mathematical objects, with the cosmos itself being essentially a massive computer that generates and instantiates all possible models of reality based on the thoughts of sapient beings. During this formation, however, the laws of physics and mathematics undergo a process of natural selection, and while the winners get to be instantiated within the physical world, rejected models are instead relegated to spirit worlds:
Once these processes produce sentient beings capable of generating their own reality models, the universe instantiates the results just like any other computable input. Non-intelligent sentient beings merely model their own sense data, and cannot model what passes for their imaginations with enough fidelity to generate physical manifestations. But sapient beings, like humans, can instinctually produce perfect mathematical models of imagined objects — as physicist Roger Penrose postulated, such brains are natural quantum computers, capable of more processing power than anatomical studies suggest.
This forms the foundation of the Enlightened Anthropic Principle. The conventional Anthropic Principle says that the universe looks like it’s been fine-tuned for human life because if it was any different, humans wouldn’t be around to observe it. But any Enlightened scientist knows that humans create these conditions by collectively generating the physics that allow them to survive. Adapted as they are to this local reality, individual humans mutate or die when taken away from its framework. Only the highly trained, Enlightened mind of a Master of Dimensional Science can generate an Anthropic Principle by itself. Other human beings need the processing power of the Masses.
Most humans cannot produce models as complete as those spontaneously generated by the laws of nature — these ideas are usually relegated to other dimensions that are less “real” in the hierarchy of cosmological information. We Enlightened are the exception — or, rather, among the exceptions — able to create perfect models which instantiate in the conventional universe. Other minds reproduce these experiences, altering the general makeup of the universe.
|~ Void Engineers – Page 54|
The cosmos instantiates all mathematically coherent phenomena, including contradictions, in a manner determined by its sophistication and viability — natural laws, objects, and energies compete, much as living things do. The winners remain in the conventional universe; losers fall into other dimensions. This solves a problem we refer to as “Umbral exceptionalism:” a possible challenge to the Cosmological Principle.
The Principle claims that Earth occupies no special place in the universe, but if this is true, why do strange phenomena, even entire sub-universes, radiate from it? Tychoidian theory solves the problem by noting how sentient beings generate data in tremendous volumes. When contradictory models clash, the winner stays in Conventional Space, and the losers populate other dimensions, as well as what Traditionalists call “spirit worlds.”
|~ Void Engineers – Page 54|
And the Tradition Book on the Sons of Ether, in turn, offers another metaphor for visualizing this structure:
The Kitab al-Alacir begins with an account of the defense of Troy. In a dialogue with Priam, he describes the city's defenses as an allegory for the state of the cosmos. Reality is defined by struggle; the rational mind first erects a barrier between what is possible and what is abhorrent or
"Thus," says Aretus, "the state is defined by answering falsehood with a barrier of truth, but when built, it is inevitable that these walls are assailed. So it is for men seeking excellence. So it is for the cosmos."
Parmenidean Metaphysics in the
"We do not know," says Aretus, "all that may exist. Noble Priam, you may describe jackal-headed men in Ethiopia, omitting fewer details than you might of the Myrmidon ships moored upon our shores. You have seen neither. I have described one; your scouts, the other. If the cosmos is unbounded, all things must reside therein. So it is with the mind."
Aretus points out that if we were to treat everything that exists as relevant to our experience, then we should surely go
Scientists with a physics orientation will no doubt recognize similarities between Aretus' argument and some concepts in quantum mechanics. When we observe an object, all of its possible states of being—its "waveform" —collapse into a single state. Yet we cannot disprovethe nonexistence of other states; we can openly make a weak appeal to reduction — and as Ether Scientists know, reductionism is false. Aretus would argue that it is simply an unreasonably strong application of the Wall of Troy.
Heraclitus and Reality in Flux
The Kitab al-Alacir avoids the problem of solipsism by revealing that phenomena which the mind denies do, in fact, breach the barrier of our denial. It is the nature of reality, however, to test itself against the Wall of Troy. All change occurs when the metaphysical opposite of an accepted concept breaches the barrier.
The Wall of Troy is rebuilt around it and the synthesis between the two is integrated into reality. Aretus uses arguments similar to Heraclitus's to say that all things are transformed by their opposites and that (in agreement with Parmenides) nothing can
Obviously, this idea creates some problems when applied to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but it is important to remember that all phenomena eventually dissolve into Ether, to arise again. Before introducing the Ether, he says that when change arises, we must either discard a previous law or rebuild the Wall of Troy to encompass more. Expanding the boundaries of the mind, the state or the cosmos requires action and virtue (arete).
The Trojan Horse and the Ether
In the second part of the Kitab (what Scientists now call The Nature of the Ether), Aretus says: "Because nothing can be destroyed but does pass out of perception, it must therefore take some imperceptible medium. Because this medium can only be coherently described as imperceptible, it exists as the primal substance from which all the elements arise and to which they all return. Wise Priam! This Fifth Essence is what composes that which not only lies beyond your walls, but beyond that which your scouts can see, hear, smell, touch or feel. Yet before the Myrmidons laid siege to the golden city, they could not be perceived. Before your noble birth, you, also, could not be perceived. Thus, all things move from the perceptible to the imperceptible. All things are composed of the Fifth Essence."
Then: "Outside the walls of golden llion, there are those who are sympathetic to its laws. These you let inside the gates and reward as spies. There are those that fight its laws. These you kill with steady-handed archers. But there are those that appear sympathetic to hide their enmity. They are of the same essence, but they hold secrets that contradict the law. Thus, Ixion's children offer poisonous tribute. As it is for the state, it is for the mind and the cosmos."
We do not necessarily know everything about what we accept to be true. Therefore, when we accept it, we draw in unanticipated consequences. Etherites call this phenomenon the "Trojan Horse." Accepting one thing as true, we accept related things that might contradict our worldview. This is another reason why reduction is false: By believing that reality is only what we can measure, we deny the existence of change (for change occurs after the state that we
|~ Sons of Ether, Revised – Page 53 and 54|
Now that we've already established all this, it's possible to look further into how exactly the spirit worlds are divided.
The Umbral Realms
The Near Umbra
The basic idea behind World of Darkness' cosmology is that absolutely everything within the physical world also has a metaphysical version of itself existing in the astral plane, which is often linkened to the act of casting a shadow, and thus leads to Mages referring to the other world as "The Umbra."
In the case of the Earth, its projection into the astral plane takes the form of three separate realms: The Low, Middle and High Umbra, which correspond to its underground, surface and upper atmosphere respectively.
The Infinite Tapestry of creation encompasses everything – all that is, all that was, and all that can be imagined. For a frame of reference, mages place the Earth at the center of all creation, if only to understand the mysteries around it. Call this reality the physical world, if you like, or the real world, if you eschew all alternatives. We call it Earth. Mages are human, first and foremost, and thus, they live and die in this world, the sphere inhabited by ordinary humans. When referring to the Tapestry, most rely on the same terms, ideas, and frames of reference they used before the Reckoning. Whether all these ideas hold true remains to be seen. Their planet is no longer the center of creation, and once safe Realms now deceive and destroy the unwary.
Above, below, and around — these are the cardinal directions for places that don't exist. All around us is a spirit world we cannot see, a reflection of the physical world. Everything in our world casts a "shadow" of sorts into that dimension; thus, mages often use the Latin word for shadow – the Umbra – to describe it. Ephemeral spirits inhabit a realm where nearly everything is alive. Its closest dimension, the Penumbra, mirrors our own. For almost every building and person existing in our world, something forged from ephemeral spirits exists in the Penumbra to represent it.
In ages past, mages found it easier to enter the Penumbra than any other alternate dimensions. Learned Verbena speak of the Paths of Wyck that once stretched through it to other parts of the planet, forming roads between continents. These were some of the first pathways used to navigate spiritual wilderness. The few trods, airts, and passageways that remain are crafted by spirits, and guarded by them as well. Older willworkers learned to pass through the Penumbra on their way to other dimensions, places above, below, and around it. These three Umbrae — High, Low and Middle collectively form the Near Umbra; the boundaries of all three extend to the limits of Earth's atmosphere.
|~ The Infinite Tapestry – Page 9|
As for the nature of each of them:
Above us is a dimension of intellect, a realm where ideas and concept exist in strange forms and living images. Perhaps the word "above" is appropriate because of the lofty concepts that dwell there. For untold ages, the High Umbra was only attainable by Masters of the Mind Sphere, elitists who could isolate their intellectual essence in Astral Space. Projecting their minds into astral bodies, they once thought themselves superior to lesser creatures unaware of the Astral Plane's existence. Now, they encounter ancient forces that humble them with impersonal and omnipotent power: courts of Umbrood, alien infestations, and far stranger things only the mightiest minds can survive.
Below us are the realms of the dead, the forgotten, and the victims of entropy. The Low Umbra has always been a bleak and violent dimension. Just as the Penumbra reflects life in the physical world, this underworld holds the shadow of death. Where dynamic, living energy thrives in the Middle Umbra, entropic forces conquer and corrupt in its dark shadow. As the Avatar Storm lashed spirits in the Middle and High Umbrae it tortured souls in the Low Umbra. Whether a mage defines it as the Dark Umbra, the Shadowlands, the Underworld, or even Contrarian depends largely on his philosophy. Whatever you call it, a massive roiling Maelstrom makes it nearly impossible for living mages to enter that dimension at the turn of the 21st century.
|~ The Infinite Tapestry – Page 10|
Despite resistance to using a popular Traditionalists term, Void Engineers call the strange dimensions attached to Earth Umbrae because they’re “mathematical shadows” of Conventional Space. In modern Tychoidian cosmology, these dimensions consist of phenomena that could not be fully instantiated within the conventional universe because they lacked completeness or contradicted “fitter” aspects of reality.
Umbral dimensions include the following:
Biospheric Space: Extending to the Biospheric Horizon, this dimension contains reality models instantiated by non-sapient thought, including certain human instinctual responses. The naive notion that objects are alive generates intelligences here, which in turn create a class of extradimensional entities Superstitionists call “spirits.” These consciousnesses sometimes attain sufficient complexity to cross the Gauntlet, necessitating regular Border Corps and Neutralization Specialist interventions.
Ensemble Space: Called the “Astral Plane” by Reality Deviants, Ensemble Spaces contain objects generated by human minds that lack the characteristics required to instantiate in material reality. This dimension includes fundamental mathematical objects: the Platonic “ultimate ensemble” predicted by mathematician Max Tegmark. The prevalence of “unreal” mathematical constructs gives rise to spatial distortions and subdimensions containing similar data sets, superstitiously referred to “conceptual realms,” “Epiphamies,” and “kingdoms of the gods.”
Entropic Space: Human minds continue to generate models of objects and people (“ghosts”) even after they’ve been destroyed. These phenomena continue to break down after being shunted here. This is a dangerous region, especially since it’s been subject to certain unwise experiments.
|~ Void Engineers, Revised – Page 56|
The Low, Middle, and High Umbra are like the warp woof, and weft of the Tapestry. The cardinal directions of above, around, and below still remain within these three regions, but the Otherworlds have undergone a severe and profound cosmological shift. Dimensions beyond are at the mercy of the winds of change. It's as if the signs have all been knocked down, and travelers are still desperately trying to remember directions. The Otherworlds constantly evolve, and the farther a mage travels from Earth, the more sudden and violent that change can become.
|~ The Infinite Tapestry – Page 10|
Jaynes goes on to write, “There is not much we can do about such metaphors except to state that that is precisely what they are.” In saying this he demonstrates the difference between the Sleeper's view of Astral Space and that of the Awakened. To the overwhelming majority of mortals, this "country of the mind" is unique to the individual, locked up in each person's head with inviolable privacy, “a hidden hermitage.” One cannot travel to another's country except by proxy, exchanging thoughts and feelings only through the medium of words spoken or written, of artistic expressions, of actions and behavior which are imbued with particular significance. Mages know better. (Don't they always?) To the Masters of Mind and Spirit, ideas take on a shared objective existence in a continuous realm that does not simply vanish when the one who contemplates them finally turns away, loses interest, or falls asleep.
These masters immerse themselves in pure
At various times and in various places, Astral Space has been described by Sleeper mystics and philosophers by such names as the Ideosphere, the Noosphere, the Realm of Similitudes, the Lands Beyond Substance, Mundus Imaginalis, Mundus Intelligibilis, or simply Idea Space. (Many of these terms are derived from the paradigms of Awakened Traditions, as will be noted where appropriate.) Just as the Middle Umbra can be said to be composed of the collective feelings and instincts of the world, the High Umbra is composed of the world's thoughts and intellectual abstractions.
|~ The Infinite Tapestry – Pages 37 and 38|
The entirety of the Astral Umbra is comprised of thoughts and concepts. Each area, structure, and item is made real by a collective consciousness thinking of those things. It is the conceptual representation of the world, filled with ideas, hopes, fears, and emotions. The Astral is not beholden to the laws of the physical realm like the other Umbrae, though it is limited by thought and imagination.
The Garou know very little about the Astral Umbra, and what they do know comes from loremasters who dwell on the notions of thought and theory. Some Uktena believe the Astral Umbra is made up of the living dreams of the world, since they often encounter it by passing through the Dream Zone. The idea has a bit of credence as ideas born of dreams do pass through the Astral. The Astral is much more than just dreams, though. Every thought, ridiculous concept, flight of fancy, complex mathematical theory or incongruous physics problem can be found within the Astral Umbra.
Stargazers tell stories that anything a werewolf can think of is in the Astral Umbra and any thought is fulfilled just by thinking it. Some Theurges spend time debating how much the thoughts from the physical realm shape the Astral Umbra and how much the thoughts and ideas within the Astral influence the minds of those in the physical realm
|~ Umbra: The Velvet Shadow – Page 96|
|“||Be polite to the spirits here. They are concepts and ideas, mathematical equations and hypotheses, discarded theories, philosophical posturings, psychological theses and religious beliefs. I do not claim to understand half of the Realms or beings of the High Umbra, but I can sympathize with their desire for respect and courtesy. Many Umbrood make their homes here. Some of them are Paradox spirits that you may someday meet on the other side. Others may be minions to beings of godlike powers who will crush you out of existence for annoying their servants. If all else fails, remember that should you ever need to get into a Horizon Realm through the back door, you'll probably be traveling through the High Umbra to do it. Don't offend the spirits!||„|
|~ Mage, the Ascension – Page 22|
As you can see above, the realms and spirits of the High Umbra are personifications of a wide array of ideas, and some of those are displayed in other source books. The Tradition Book on the Dreamspeakers, for instance, establishes that some shamans manipulate space by interacting with the spirits that define the concept of dimension:
Being a successful shaman is partly a matter of knowing what to ignore. Most of the time, shamans don't need to pay attention to the very simple spirits that define space and time by their movements, any more than a walker needs to think about the composition of the dirt underfoot. Correspondence magic requires the shaman to look at these neglected spirits and learn how to work with them. In some approaches, Correspondence makes it possible for the shaman to move herself, body and/or soul, by convincing a spirit of dimension to carry her across the gap between where she is and where she wishes to be. In other approaches, Correspondence involves speaking to the space itself, and convincing it to move or change to suit the shaman's needs. Sometimes, it's a matter of ignoring the rules of space and distance, and stepping "between" instead of "through" or "sideways."
There are few complex rites among Dreamspeakers for speaking to the spirits of dimension, partly because these spirits wouldn't understand or appreciate them. Rather, Dreamspeaker rotes using Correspondence call for invoking the fetishes they use in dealing with other spirits, acknowledging how the spirits of dimension make all else possible. In effect, the Dreamspeaker makes connections with known spirits to show the importance of connection itself.
|~ Tradition Book: Dreamspeakers – Page 53|
It, in turn, is divided into several different layers of existence, each of which represents a different degree of abstraction extending upwards from the material realm. The first of these is the Vulgate, which is the region of common thoughts and concrete ideas, which acts as the very idea of the world, where all of its conceptual components are laid bare, and everything from intellectual discussions to the gossip of housewives is embodied in one form or another.
To explain that characteristic, it should be kept in mind that Vulgate itself is just the penultimate stage in the process of the universe's creation, where all ideas, possibilities and models assume a semi-physical state, but haven't yet made the transition into a fully material existence. Because of that, it's stated that, if the physical world is a series of shadows being projected upon a wall, then the Vulgate is the residence of the things that cast these shadows.
Although the Astral Umbra may appear differently to all who enter it, seemingly comprised of billions of separate,
|~ The Infinite Tapestry – Page 38|
Generally, astral doorways simply open for the person who finds them; occasionally, you’ll need a password or other form of key. Once you get through that entrance, you’ll find yourself in the Vulgate: the portion of the Astral Umbra dedicated to common concepts and easily-grasped ideas. Here, the truly weird aspects of the High Umbra begin to manifest: flying eyeballs, four-dimensional temples, Escherian landscapes, and snowing geometry… that sort of thing.
In the Vulgate, you can find endless hallways filled with doors; rivers that speak in human languages; glass-tree forests where each leaf is a memory; places where the local reality takes on the flat, brightly colored, and caricatured appearance of an old-school comic strip… complete with word- and thought-balloons. Libraries where books that were never written can be found, philosophical paradises in which abstract theories like Communism and anarchy really do work the way their proponents say they should work… If you took the analogy of Plato’s cave (which actually exists here, by the way), where people see the shadows cast on the walls and believe it’s reality, the Vulgate is where the watchers start to turn away from the wall and begin to see the things casting those shadows.
And no, that view isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Like all portions of the Otherworlds, the Vulgate can be scary as hell… and yes, you’ll find real hells in the High Umbra too, shaped by the things people fear about the concept of Hell. Beyond the freaky shit that’s part and parcel of the realm, there can also be a terrifying sense of disconnection. We humans are accustomed to the world as we know it; when you take that world and start breaking it down into its conceptual components – when the blinders we wear come off whether we want them to or not – the experience can be unnerving, depressing, even shattering. There’s a desert where the reflective sands show you the way that other people see you, stripped of all your self-identified illusions, and a realm in which the shared hallucination of money is revealed by stacks of phantasmal treasure.
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 95|
The astral region adjacent to the Penumbra is known as the Vulgate, or common area, where the most widely held notions of reality directly reflect the physical realm. Medieval Hermetics knew it as the Mundus Imaginalis, or "world of images." To students of the Qabala, this is Yesod, the ninth sephira on the Tree of Life; the Ahl-i-Batin call it the "alam al-mithal," or Realm of Similitudes, in which the transcendent Unity becomes immanent in phenomenal diversity and takes on the forms that ultimately manifest in physical reality.
The Vulgate looks and feels much like the physical world, with the same sense of solidity and immediacy. The Vulgate is comprised of the collective thoughts of humanity, not only the rational intellectual constructs of the intelligentsia, but the gossip of housewives, the prejudices of barroom philosophers, the daydreams of children and every passing whimsy that does not actually belong in the Dream Realms themselves. Whether human thought creates the Vulgate (and, by extension, all of Astral Space) or the thoughts of humans are simply the result of ideas that filter down through the Vulgate has long been a key point of conflict in the Ascension War. The Technocratic paradigm favors the former view, treating Astral Space as simply a consensual hallucination shared by interacting intellects, enjoying an illusion of permanence as ideas are handed down
Regardless of which view one takes, it is clear that actions in the Vulgate closely mirror the mental life of the physical world. Most of the Vulgate's economy is based upon the flow of information rather than
|~ The Infinite Tapestry – Page 44|
The Vulgate's landscapes also mark the appearance of the Spires, mountains of rising abstraction that embody the idea of higher levels of consciousness, and which an astral traveler needs to metaphysically "climb" in order to ascend to the apex of the High Umbra, by wrapping their heads around increasingly loftier concepts. When one climbs a Spire, the world starts to lose its sense of concreteness and immediacy as they start to approach the realm of pure thought and consciousness, with characteristics such as the size, form and shape of things gradually disappearing.
Rising here and there throughout the Courts, rooted in the Vulgate but peaking upward into infinity, you’ll find the Spires: reflections of the idea of higher consciousness. As with so many other things in the Otherworlds, the Spires turn abstract concepts into concrete forms. Some of them appear as towers, minarets, or mountains that make Everest look like a speed bump. Many resemble glass cathedrals with spires that fade into the sky. I’ve seen beanstalks leading into the clouds and literal stairways to heaven. They’re all Spires. So if you want to get your head in the clouds, then you’ll often have to climb these things. And that, my friend, is not easy!
Climbing a Spire isn’t a matter of physical effort but of metaphysical ascent. It’s not your hands and feet that move you – it’s your mind. The slopes can be slippery, treacherous, impossible to grasp. In order to rise up those Spires, you must wrap your mind around difficult concepts and drift beyond the gravity of common thought. Few travelers can make that journey at all… and only the most rarified can reach the top.
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 97|
While physical objects and actions have their reflection and consequence in Astral Space, those mages who visit regularly have learned that astral ephemera forms and reacts according to the meaning and significance attached to it. Newly encountered astral phenomena must be examined in light of what abstractions they represent if any real useful knowledge is to be gained from the study of them.
Travelers in the High Umbra get nowhere by asking “What is it?" rather than "What does it mean?" Likewise, the intentions that propel one's actions are just as important, if not more important than the specific actions one takes, even when the outcome of an action differs from what was originally intended. This aspect of the higher Umbral planes becomes more pronounced the higher one climbs into Astral Space, but does not apply to the Middle or Low Umbrae. Objects carried into the High Umbra tend to perform only the specific functions for which they were intended; all incidental physical qualities – weight, hardness, even size and shape – seem present in the Vulgate, but gradually diminish as the items are carried up the Spires. At the level where reside the High Umbrood, only the purely sensory aspects of an object - what it looks like, how it feels when brandished or worn, the way it sounds when used, what it smells like — remain to signify what it does.
Nearing the Epiphamies, physical objects are translated into pure functions that act as natural extensions of their bearer's own innate faculties. This subtlety of astral existence is frequently misunderstood by novice voyagers, who often believe that they are being forcibly deprived of material possessions as part of the passage to the higher realms of abstraction. (An apt interpretation, for this can happen literally as one approaches certain Epiphamies.)
For instance, a mage manages to step sideways while carrying his brand new athame, a custom-crafted dagger he has begun to use as his focus for magic involving the Sphere of Forces. While recovering somewhere in the Vulgate, necessity finds him employing his dagger for other uses. Its keen edge slices smoothly and cleanly. The sides of the blade
Later, he becomes ensnared in the intrigues of the High Umbrood Court, where the inhabitants might remark upon the dagger's striking design and fine craftsmanship. When a misunderstanding with a short-tempered Umbrood lord forces the mage to use his athame as a defensive weapon, however, he finds that the blade will no longer cut, no matter how well he strikes with it. In the lord's dungeon after he loses the fight, even the massive pommel cannot smash the ancient, rusted lock on the bars of his cell door. Fortunately, the athame still
Later still, bound up amid the ethical perplexities of some deeply moral Epiphamy, the mage wishes to take action in some emotionally charged scene appearing before him, but finds his feet rooted to the ground by literal tendrils of doubt that coil and stretch up his legs just as uncertainty about his intended course of action grows in his mind. Instinct tells him to whip out his trusty blade and slice through the soft clingy
|~ The Infinite Tapestry – Page 39|
As mentioned, the Spires themselves are simply physical visualizations of the general concept of an hierarchy of higher levels, and thus, they can be studied and represented in many different ways, all of which are equally valid, and often comprised of multiple higher levels of being. For instance, The Infinite Tapestry itself cites the colors of the rainbow, the spectrum of visible light, the system of chakras and the kabbalistic Tree of Life (Which indicates that the Vulgate and the physical world are themselves a part of the Spires, as the former is directly stated to correspond to Yesod, the ninth sefirah of the Tree of Life) as symbols of the Spires.
The one thing common to all these great astral journeys is not simply the distance involved, it is the actual effort
Spires have been represented in allegorical literature as ladders and stairs as well, so that some Courts and Epiphamies might be reached without even going outside of a building in the Vulgate. A symbolic motif frequently associated with both Spires and Epiphamic thresholds in texts accessible to Sleepers is the rainbow, or the spectrum of visible light. "Graduated” Spires like ladders and stairs are often depicted with steps of varying colors, usually starting with red (the color of light with the lowest vibratory frequency, most closely associated with the physical world) and going up through orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and finally arriving at violet (the highest rate of vibration corresponding to the highest spiritual states).
This brings up an interesting point that Storytellers may wish to consider. A number of traditions also use the color spectrum (not capitalized, for this lore is available to Sleepers too) to symbolize the chakras of the yogic paradigm and, in a different order, the Sephiroth of the Qabalistic Tree of Life.
|~ The Infinite Tapestry – Page 63|
All of these, of course, are nothing but symbolic representations, and equally valid ones in spite of seemingly establishing different hierarchies with a different number of levels (Six for the colors of the spectrum, seven for the chakras of the human body, ten for the Tree of Life). Indeed, the Spires themselves are described as going upwards into infinity, as seen in the excerpts above, and even the Tree of Life is described as comprised of an infinite number of refractions of a single Unity standing at its top.
Like the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, the Qlippoth represents a symbolic model of principles that nevertheless holds a meta-physical kind of reality, too. Where the Sephiroth represent a “tree” of emanations leading upward from the base principle of earthly reality (Malkuth) to the sublime radiance of Divinity’s Crown (Kether), the Qlippoth represents a profane initiation from the mother of demons (Lilith) to the ultimate paradox of godhood through annihilation (Thaumiel). At the consummation of that paradox, the Void supposedly opens to new potential existences, sometimes referred to in occult lore as the Black Diamond or Universe B: the transcendence of this flawed cosmos through self-divinity that extinguishes the individual so some new totality can be born from nothing-ness. If this seems bizarre, that’s pretty much the point. Such esoteric concepts transcend rational thought. Folks who try to apply conventional logic to such paradigms are not supposed to understand them in the first place.
Certain interpretations place this “Nightside of Eden” parallel to the Tree of Life; others invert it, claiming that the initiate travels down instead of up. The Eaters of the Weak claim their name “the Fallen” because of this Descent. Their Seekings involve dark tunnels and Realms of terrifying beauty.
Among the Fallen, the Qlippoth provides a model for deeper understanding of the Nightside. From the fringes of Jung’s shadow, it reaches toward the Void. Each of its waystations — or Qlipha — are personified by demonic over-lords whose Dominions reflect infernal principles. Certain Qlippoth, like Lilith and Samael, are named specifically for infernal overlords, while others, like Gha’ag Sheblah and Thaumiel, signify forces rather than individuals. Unlike the godly emanations of the Tree of Life, the energies of these broken spheres reflect an array of dire personages, not a single Unity whose glory holds infinite refractions. Echoing that fractured state of affairs, the Qlippothic traveler goes from Qlipha to Qlipha seeking not ultimate unity with the whole but ultimate disconnection for himself.
|~ Book of the Fallen – Page 100|
At the precipice of the Spires, a traveler then leaves concrete existence entirely and enters fully abstract domains known as "Epiphamies," whose nature is described fairly extensively in the cosmology books, and which the passages up there mentioned very often.
Swirling around the highest reaches of consciousness, the Realms within the Epiphamies are realms in name only. These regions are too abstract and ephemeral to feel much like our crude constructs of reality. Composed of symbols and superluminal concepts, these regions drift in and out of contact. For the astral traveler, Ephiphamy Realms remain solid for a few fleeting moments. Such mysteries are too transcendent for a mortal mind to grasp for long.
Astral travel is the only way to reach such regions. Sleeping or inspired mortals can flash into the Epiphamies for brief seconds, but those visitors quickly fade out of that space, hopefully with memories of the visit to guide them through their imperfect lives.
You’ll find realms based upon not only our popular images of holidays (though those exist as well) but around the very ideas those holidays represent. In short, the Epiphamies are as boundless as imagined consciousness itself.
There are said to be Realms within this domain where mortal minds cannot go at all – regions too transcendent for human consciousness to grasp. Are they the dreams of gods? The secrets of the Universe? Who can say? That which we cannot imagine, we cannot travel to… just yet. As human history has shown, though, we puny mortals are capable of expanding our imagination to apparently limitless degrees.
Again, who knows? Perhaps someday, you’ll visit an Epiphamy Realm that hadn’t existed until you conceived of it yourself…
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 97|
An Epiphamy is the most difficult aspect of the High Umbra to understand, as well as the most fundamen-
This may be true up to a point, but the experiences of those who have visited them suggests that an Ephiphamy exists independently of human conception, abiding outside of the space-time continuum in a way that the Vulgate and
While individual Epiphamies often refuse to be identified until one has actually crossed their threshold, all collectively appear in the sky of the Vulgate as clouds of varying size, color and movement. The common lore of the Vulgate claims that specific Epiphamies can be recognized among the clouds by their symbolically suggestive shapes, but actual experience shows no basis for this. The Epiphamy does not exist "on" or "in" a cloud the way that a place corresponds to the surface of a landmass, but the constantly shifting positions and shapes of clouds - how they break apart and seemingly dissipate into thin air, how they grow and spread to blanket the sky - does in some way reflect how Epiphamies can phase in and out of existence (or, rather, in and out of our experience) and how one can lead directly into another at times while having no connection at others. All Traditions can agree that the substance of the astral clouds seen from the Vulgate must be ephemera in its most rarified state, broken down into infinitesimal particles of raw experiential processes and highly reactive to observation and interpretation. This ephemeral "vapor” forms itself into shapes and scenes that are meaningful to the observer, in a deliberate effort to convey the concept that the Epiphamy embodies, not simply as a place to pass through but as a state of mind to be experienced. Ephemeral material as refined as this is extremely reactive to magic, but can nullify magical effects that conflict with the experience it seeks to impart, prompting one neo-Mercurian wag to dub the figures of astral meteorology "cumulonuminous clouds."
Let it not be thought that an Epiphamy is some sort of "place" floating high above the Vulgate, for an Epiphamic revelation can occur anywhere in the Tellurian, whether
|~ The Infinite Tapestry – Page 84|
In this case, the Epiphamies existing "independently of human conception, abiding outside of the space-time continuum in a way that the Vulgate andHigh Umbral Courts do not" refers to how even the Astral Time present in the lower parts of the Umbra does not exist in them at all, and travelers can explore them for what seems like a lifetime while no time passed in the physical world.
Experiencing an Epiphamy, even when on the physical plane, may seem to take days, even a lifetime, but once one emerges from the experience one may find that no time has passed at all. One of the best examplesof this comes from Batini lore, the Night Journey wherein the Prophet Muhammad is borne upon al-Buraq to tour the various heavens of Islamic cosmology. Just as al-Buraq was taking flight, a pitcher of water sitting nearby was knocked over. After spending an evening traveling to the furthest knowable ends of the universe, Muhammad is deposited in his dwelling just in time to see the pitcher fall over and spill across the dry ground
|~ The Infinite Tapestry – Page 85|
For reference, the aforementioned Astral Time in which the Umbra operates is also specified to not be a physical direction at all, but just a vague concept of duration entirely defined by an individual's experience, directly likened to their personal sense of accomplishment and purpose, rather than material, quantitative factors like speed and distance.
|“||If I ask you to think of the last hundred years, you may have a tendency to excerpt the matter in such a way that the succession of years is spread out, probably from left to right. But of course there is no left or right in time. There is only before and after, and these do not have any spatial properties whatever - except by analog. You cannot, absolutely cannot, think of time except by spatializing it. Consciousness is always a spatialization in which the diachronic is turned into the synchronic, in which what has happened in time is excerpted and seen in side-by-sideness.|
In general, time appears to pass at the same rate in the Astral Umbra as in the physical world, but variance and distortion can be quite common in many circumstances. Masters of olden times sometimes spoke of embarking on prolonged quests through the higher realms that took months to complete, and of learning that only a few days had passed when they returned to Earth. Others complained of spending days engaged in some fruitless research in a remote astral library and afterwards finding that weeks had passed in the material world during their absence.
No instances of such extreme can be verified in the modern era but similar stories persist, and Masters of Time who visited the High Umbra agreed that astral time does not flow in a constant ratio with physical time except for the periodicity of the astral moon's phases, which are always the same as the physical moon's. An astral lunar month, however, can be comprised of any number of days, and astral days or nights can take, in game terms, anywhere from one Scene to one Chapter. When the astral sky cannot be seen for whatever reason –overcast Epiphamies, in the shadow of a Spire, being underground or simply indoors– there is no correlation at all between physical and astral time; minutes can seem like years and vice versa, although such extremes are rare. But if the sky can be seen again, the exact date in the physical world can be reckoned by a trained astronomical observer with three successes on an Intelligence + Science or Cosmology roll. (The Storyteller sets the difficulty according to which celestial bodies can be observed at any given moment.)
Those who keep track of such things have, in comparing notes on their respective experiences, developed a rough theory that may explain these time-flow variances. Astral time, they hypothesize, is equivalent to the way humans subjectively experience the constant passage of regular time.When a person is engaged in an enjoyable scene, or is diligently applying her consciousness to a particular task, she perceives time as moving by much faster, perhaps discovering later that something that seemed to last only a few minutes in fact took hours to happen according to a clockoran uninvolved observer. Conversely, when someone is suffering through a difficult or uncomfortable occurrence or is waiting for something specific to happen or simply finds himself with nothing to occupy his attention, he feels that time is passing much slower than it normally would, even to the point where the hands of his watch seem to take longer to move. In theory, the ratio between physical and astral time would vary in proportion to this difference between objectively recorded time and subjectively experienced time.
When a mage in Astral Space is actively pursuing an acknowledged goal or working to accomplish the task at hand, he will find that less time has passed in the physical world than her astral adventure seemed to take. Conversely, a mage who wanders the High Umbra without direction or purpose, or who cannot manage to concentrate and apply himself to whatever his immediate goal might be, will reenter materiality to find that it is much later in the day than he thought it would be. Astral time seems to measure itself in qualitative factors of purpose and accomplishment rather than in quantities of speed and distance. Experienced astral travelers often exhort novices to "be unhurried, but movewith purpose.” In other words, don't go there without a good reason and don't allow yourself to be distracted or sidetracked from doing what you went to do, or you may end up wasting far more time than you realize.
|~ The Infinite Tapestry – Page 41|
To illustrate their relationship to the other spiritual realms we've went over up there, it is further stated that, if the Epiphamies are pure abstractions that ontologically exist a priori from physicality, then the lower realms and things of the High Umbra are just lenses through which these ideas are focused and given pseudo-tangible forms and faces, with the Gods (Or High Umbrood) that live in realms perched along the Spires being examples of such forms.
The High Umbrood may take nearly any shape, but the forms most accessible to them are those defined by millennia of human belief, the gods and goddesses of old pre-monotheistic lore. Some tend to think that it is belief that shapes and sustains them, but others suspect that the ontologically precedent abstractions of the Epiphamies fashion the gods as a kind of lens through which to focus pure idea into the human mind by giving it a quasi-tangible form. The intellect is more receptive to a notion with a face on it, they argue, and this explains why
In either case, it is easier to refer to the High Umbrood as gods since they have for the most part retained some degree of their ancient identities. Furthermore, Umbral explorers have noted the emergence of new god-forms in Idea Space, perhaps indicating that the abstract has not yet surpassed the need for faces.
|~ The Infinite Tapestry – Page 80|
And this was already established even back in Beyond the Barriers: The Book of the Worlds, where it is stated that the abstractions residing in the Epiphamies defy mapping and definition entirely, and once one attempts to express them with words, images and sounds, the result will always be referring to something else.
High up in this Umbra, the Realms and residents become more abstract, harder to grasp. Few minds can reach this far. Geniuses, great artists — all of them help create the Epiphamies, or regions of sublime ideas. You may have difficulty finding many Realms here, but be assured they do exist. It's just very difficult to visit the Realm of General Relativity if you cannot comprehend the concept in the first place. Keep trying as your understanding grows.
These Realms, which spring from the highest reaches of consciousness, lie quite outside the limited purview of words. How does one detail the Corridor of Pi, or the prismatic streams that pass for Language to our eyes? I can tell you of the manifold angles of Logic or the Kingdoms of Color, but those descriptions would be as fleeting as my fingers across this keyboard. For once a concept is set into words, images or even sounds, it becomes something else.
|~ Beyond the Barriers: The Book of the Worlds – Page 25|
Another interesting feature of the Epiphamies, which you may have noticed in the excerpts above, is that they are not limited to the Earth at all: In fact, they are stacked into a series of levels as well, each higher one being a greater degree of abstraction and representing the "completion" of the intellectual work initiated in a lower Epiphamy (The referent example, in this case, being how the Epiphamy of General Relativity is higher than the Epiphamy of Newtonian Mechanics.) Eventually, the Epiphamies stretch beyond the Near Umbra entirely and grow adjacent to the whole Tellurian, with their highest regions being completely inaccessible to mortals, as they represent concepts far beyond the reach of human consciousness, which are impossible to be imagined.
|“||These two closely related Epiphamies are described together here to show how certain Epiphamies can be "stacked" in Idea Space, with the "higher" one representing the completion of the intellectual work begun in the “lower” one. This is commonly found in Epiphamies heavily exploited by the Technocracy, whose scientific method demands a thorough understanding of basic fundamental principles before one may derive a higher order of theories from them. It can also|
be seen here how certain much-visited and widely known Epiphamies bear the imprint of the manner by which their concepts are usually explained to the world at large, taking the form of scenes, characters and actions that may or may not have existed and occurred in the history of the physical world.
|~ The Infinite Tapestry – Page 91|
The Epiphamies range from the relatively solid Realms of Language and Government to the twisting logics of Fractal, Meme and Quark. Time eats its own tail, Music hums in a thousand separate keys, and Touch caresses your astral form like a bath of textures. These places grow more and more abstract until simple minds like ours can't even imagine them anymore. At that point, the ur-consciousness of the Oracles is said to take over.
|~ Beyond the Barriers: The Book of the Worlds – Page 43|
At the lowest levels of the Epiphamies, the traveler recognizes concepts as metaphorical constructs; as with so many other Otherworlds, you see the concept expressed the way you expect to see it. The highest reaches spiral outward beyond the Horizon's restrictions, spinning like Dream Realms off into the endless Void where no one can catalogue them. I've heard that the Oracles dwell (if they exist, of course) in these fluid droplets of pure concept. Mortals cannot visit them because, quite simply, our minds are not comprehensive enough to reach that far.
Such “Realms” are theoretically everywhere yet nowhere at once. Reaching such a state is the goal of Mind Masters, but those few
|~ Beyond the Barriers: The Book of the Worlds – Page 26|
|“||There are said to be Realms within this domain where mortal minds cannot go at all – regions too transcendent for human consciousness to grasp. Are they the dreams of gods? The secrets of the Universe? Who can say? That which we cannot imagine, we cannot travel to… just yet. As human history has shown, though, we puny mortals are capable of expanding our imagination to apparently limitless degrees.||„|
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 97|
As mentioned above, the three realms that comprise the Near Umbra are not the entirety of the cosmology, far from it, and are indeed simply the Earth's metaphysical counterpart in the spirit world. There are a number of further realms existing beyond it, and the first of them, which metaphysically represents the limits of Earth's atmosphere and encompasses that entire reality, is the Horizon:
There’s a point of demarcation between what we know as reality and the vaster Reality beyond our world. And that point’s often called the Horizon. A metaphysical membrane around the many layers of our Earth, it presents a second, thicker Gauntlet that insulates our world from outer space… and probably protects space from us as well.
Unlike the Earthly Gauntlet, you can’t step through this wall unless you’re skilled and powerful enough to try. Astral masters can project their consciousness beyond this point, and lucky travelers can fly through Anchorheads. Technologically inclined folks hop on rocket ships and blast through the planet’s atmosphere, and the fortunate (or unfortunate) others employ portals to reach the Horizon and beyond.
Metaphysically speaking, the Horizon is a titanic wall around the Otherworlds – a shadow of the edge of material Earth’s atmosphere. Whereas the air gets thin up there, however, the spirit barrier gets thicker. Appearing in the Middle Umbra as a rain- or moon-bow and in the High Umbra as the clouds atop the Spires, the Horizon has been called the Dreamshell – enclosing the dreams of humanity while sheltering us, perhaps, from the dreaming Void.
Because, you see, the Void does dream. By “Void,” I don’t mean the inner Void where souls get recycled in the Underworld, although that probably dreams as well. I’m referring to the Great Void of outer space, the fathomless reaches that stagger comprehension. Throughout most of human history, this was the place we could not go – the Vault of Heaven, the Firmament. In recent years, however, human beings have not just observed and theorized about the mysteries of outer space – we have pierced them. And in our dreams and nightmares, it comes to visit us as well.
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Pages 109 and 110|
The three Umbrae described above extend to the limits of Earth's atmosphere, contained by a massive spiritual barrier called the First Horizon. It forms the limit of Earthly reality and the outermost boundary of the Near Umbra. During the Renaissance, mages testing the limits of creation considered it the edge of the world. Modern mages see it in many different ways. Some Dreamspeakers see it as a churning river of ethereal energy; Sons of Ether monitor its disturbances of cosmic rays; Void Engineers often encounter a barrier of unquantifiable energy as they approach it. Whatever your paradigm, it serves as an obstacle for sorcerers and Technocrats who lack the power to cross it.
|~ The Infinite Tapestry – Page 10|
And further than (Or maybe coterminous with) that, there is an infinite, churning sea of magickal energy known as the Etherspace, where the laws of reality are far hazier and more fluid than they are in the Near Umbra (Although Paradox is still existent there, and thus it is nonetheless a part of the Tapestry), and which culminates in a second, "True" Horizon, the spiritual reflection of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
The True Horizon stretches from the limits of Earth's atmosphere to the hazards of the asteroid belt. Just as Earth casts reflections into the Otherworld, space also casts a spiritual reflection. In the spirit world, deep space has never been a lifeless vacuum; instead, invisible and insubstantial winds soar through it. A vast sea of luminiferous ether roils ceaselessly, conducting heat, light, and spiritual energy. In our reality, this area is empty space, a lifeless vacuum, but outside of Earthly reality, it holds infinite possibilities. Some modern mages call this Etherspace, but for others, all of this territory is the Horizon.
|~ The Infinite Tapestry – Page 10|
Certain cosmologists insist there’s a second Horizon – a True Horizon – located out past the moon and Mars, in the region of this solar system’s Asteroid Belt. Between Earth’s Horizon and this True Horizon, a cosmic Umbra often called Etherspace reaches outward toward the stars. Here, a traveler might pass from the hard vacuum of scientific space into the strange expanse of spirit space, where the laws of legend still prevail.
Out past Earth’s Horizon, reality as we know it is far more fluid than it ever was back on Earth. Here, the principles of magick, faith, and science remain in constant flux. We have the airless vacuum of space, true enough, but as I mentioned earlier, certain mages survive just fine there without life-support gear.
In the old days, it’s been said, flying ships waged strange wars and journeyed to distant planets in what was known as the Void of Heaven. In the Age of Steam, star-faring Etherites journeyed out into Etherspace, setting up colonies on Mars and Luna, discovering civilizations of other beings that could simply have been conjured by their own imaginations. (There are, after all, certain types of legendary Martians – Bug-Eyed Monsters, tentacled horrors, red-skinned nude beauties, and so on – and who’s to say whether those entities exist on their own terms or whether they’re there because someone expected them to be there…?) More recently, the Void Engineers, the Etherites, and occasional other explorers staged weird battles in this fluctuating space. Etherships and rocket ships out of science-fiction fantasies populated this space between the stars.
Once again, however, that wild era screeched to a halt when the Avatar Winds kicked in and travel beyond our Gauntlet got more perilous. Given the distance between destinations and the risk of Disembodiment, few travelers have dared to start that space race up again. Supposedly, phantasmal ghost ships still flow through Etherspace, re-enacting cosmic firefights or flitting between colonies of ghost-ridden ruins. If these rumors are true, it puts an eerie spin on that whole idea of a space ghost…
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 113|
The Metaphysical Earth as a whole is also part of a group of worlds known as Shard Realms, which are spiritual reflections of the planets of the solar system, each of which can contain their own Umbrae and hold connections with one of the Nine Spheres of magick that Mages can utilize to exert control over reality. The Earth, for instance, is just the Shard Realm of Prime, while Saturn is the Shard Realm of Time.
Genesis stories both secular and sacred allude to a Big Bang that birthed the universe. According to certain cosmologies, the Shard Realms – which we now know as the planets of our solar system – were especially significant chunks of metaphysical debris. Reflecting mystic principles, these Fragmenti were considered the realms of ancient gods: Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and so forth. We can see their influence in the everyday puzzles of astrology and the corresponding zodiac, through which we are “children of Mars” or “littered under Mercury.” To Otherworldly travelers, the planets are enigmas of the scientific revolution. According to the archives of Etherite explorers, those planets were, until recently, worlds unto themselves, with workable atmospheres and indigenous life. Now, though, the cold hand of Technocratic wisdom has reduced these worlds to spinning protoplasmic cauldrons and icy stone.
Certain Etherites suggest that the only things standing between Earth’s wonders and a similar fate are the mages who refuse to let such things happen. I don’t know how true that is, but the idea is worth considering.
Whether or not the fabled adventures on Mercury and Mars actually took place on the planets themselves or within their Umbral Shade Realm reflections, it is a matter of record that modern-day mages occasionally travel further than Earthly scientists would have us believe. These days, the Shards are more or less “dead” by human estimations; if the great god Mars still makes his home on that red ball of rock, he’s hiding his presence well. Still, the Etherites and Void Engineers send spaceships to the various planets and their moons, occasionally finding ruined Skyriggers and other mysteries on those planetary surfaces. Although the more obvious magickal phenomena seem restricted to the Shade Realms… at least for now… there has clearly been more mystic history throughout our solar system than the average person would possibly believe.
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 113|
|“||Adrift in the night, spheres of isolated reality promise safe havens from the terrors of the Void. Within our solar system, each of the nine planets holds a Shard Realm, and each casts a spiritual reflection within the Otherworld called a Shade Realm. Hermetics have documented that each one corresponds to one of the Nine Spheres. Before the Avatar Storm, these reflections were actually cast on the First Horizon. After the Reckoning, the primal connections between Earth and distant planets were lost; thus, spiritual travelers must now journey to other planets to find them. With the advent of space travel (both spiritual and physical), explorers have found other Planetary Realms, from the Venusian Penumbra and Martian Mythical Realms to personal dimensions that test the minds and spirits of mages who seek them.||„|
|~ The Infinite Tapestry – Page 11|
|“||"In the beginning, there was One, perfect and infinite, encompassing all creation. In one dynamic burst, it fragmented, forming the stars and planets of the universe. Shards of divinity lay in the structure of planets and the souls of the awakened. The Resonance of each of the Nine Spheres remains in the nine planets of the solar system. As above, so below."|
– Winston Teyvel, Mercurial Cosmology, 1553
This introduction from the cosmological documents of a noted Hermetic is typical of a common view of the cosmos. It's as good an explanation as anything else. No one can thoroughly document all the realms and extra dimensions beyond the First Horizon. If we need an anchor for our extra-dimensional epistemology, it might as well be the nine Shard Realms.
The Shard Realms reflect the sun, the moon, and the nine planets of our solar system. Experience verifies that in each realm, one of the Nine Spheres is dominant. It is as though the very character of the realm and the planet reflects the essence of that Sphere. Acts of magic associated with that Sphere are often easier to perform there, and usually remarkably coincidental. According to some accounts, simple acts of willworking hold great power in such realms. A breath of wind that lifts a feather in the physical world may move a mountain in a realm dominated by Forces, at least if the theorists are correct.
At one time, the Shard Realms were accessible from Shade Realms on the Horizon. Each Shard Realm cast a "reflection" on the Horizon in the form of a Shade Realm, which could act as a portal to that distant planet. Since the Avatar Storm, these former portals have become treacherous, dangerous, distant, or misleading. Each one resembles the "spiritual landscape” of its respective planet in some way, but the Umbral winds have altered them. Powerful spirits are needed to find them, and sometimes the spirits themselves must be sacrificed to the winds before a traveler can escape beyond the Horizon.
Old-fashioned loremasters have the disturbing habit of referring to the various planets by the names of their Shade Realms. For instance, a Hermetic referring to Jupiter may choose to call it the Shade Realm of Matter instead. Instead of speaking of the Shade Realm of Matter, it's much easier to simply describe it as the Matter Realm. Technocrats are vilified for just calling a planet a planet, but that's the easiest label to use.
As the spiritual and astral landscape surrounding Earth demonstrates, there's no limit to the number of Realms and dimensions surrounding a planet. The more mages look, the more they find. Theoretically, most of Earth's spirit worlds are in one of three places —one of the three Umbrae— but there are plenty of exceptions to the rule. After all, in a world of limitless possibilities, it's hard to have rules at all. On a distant world where there aren't six billion conscious minds thinking “no, reality is like this!" — well, anything's possible.
|~ The Infinite Tapestry – Page 117|
Beyond the True Horizon, there is only the Deep Umbra, or the Deep Universe, which is the point where humanity's influence over reality breaks down entirely, and the very distinction between realspace and the spiritual world becomes hazy and uncertain. Being what it is, it is outside of the Tapestry, and Paradox doesn't occur within its bounds.
Out past the Asteroid Belt and its True Horizon, the Deep Umbra (or Deep Universe) plays host to the most powerful Marauders and Nephandi – mages too unstable for Earthly confines. Rumor has it that the Traditions and Technocracy joined forces during and after World War II to drive these demented creatures out past the Horizon. Afterward, the story claims, those factions thickened one or both Horizons to keep the Mad Ones, the Fallen, and their various cosmic horrors on the far side. If that’s true, however, then Earth’s Horizon is a poor protection – a powerful wizard can get around it easily enough. Beyond that, though, the story has another major flaw in its logic: if the Horizon is supposed to keep sinister titans out in deep space, why have so many Technocrats and Etherites been dedicated to leaving Earth behind and venturing off into the dark?
Because, yes – there are demonic entities out there in the Void of Heaven. That much is a matter of record. Just as the deepest seas contain creatures too vast for dry land, so the Deep Umbra teems with creatures who’d eat Godzilla for a light snack. The Void Engineers have their Pan-Dimensional Corps to deal with such threats, but their record is spotty at best. The age-old terror of alien invasion is apparently valid, and although the Engineers and Etherites maintain their Earthly rivalry in deep space, they also share camaraderie and occasional cooperation in the face of mutual threats.
So why go there to begin with? Because Paradox, the scourge of magick here on Earth, does not exist in deep space at all. A mage who’s powerful enough to fly through space naked while shooting fireballs out his ass can do so without Reality slapping him into next week. The difference between “realspace” and “Umbraspace” gets hazy out beyond the Horizon. Both science and magick seem equally possible in the Void.
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 114|
|“||Beyond the Far Horizon, the cold and deadly Void stretches out to infinity. In the physical world, deep space may be a lifeless realm, but the Void contains horrors entirely alien to mankind's comprehension. Mages try to define this realm through their disparate philosophies, but the minds of men hold no influence on its shadow or substance. Alien forces are at work, and alien creatures demonstrate abilities beyond magic. Spiritualists know this realm as the Deep Umbra; Technocrats speak of the Deep Universe; both groups are entirely out of their depth within it.||„|
|~ The Infinite Tapestry – Page 11|
The Deep Umbra itself contains infinite different versions of the Tapestry, up to and including the True Horizon, and it is in these alternate universes that the several different game lines take place, with internal contradictions being simply parallel worlds briefly interferring with one another. This is conveyed through a plot device called the "Fractured Cosmos," which Storytellers are free to use should they decide to just not bother creating an unified cosmology for the verse in their game sessions.
In Mage, Storytellers don’t need to worry too much about forging a unified cosmology. Instead, you can decide that each game has its own universe. Let’s outline such a possibility.
Science fiction and occult literature both support the idea of other universes. In Jewish Kabbalah, God created other universes, but none of them suited humanity. In one instance, He created a perfectly just universe, but absolute justice contradicted mercy and free will. Out of compassion, God created a new universe where injus-tice could exist, but where men and women can make meaningful choices. The prototype universes were peeled from Creation, leaving hollow shells (or Qlippoth), full of energies inimical to spiritual health. Mystics who travel the Sephiroth (the Kabbalistic Tree of Life) risk wandering into the Qlippoth and falling to corruption.
Buddhist and Hindu cosmology provides its own opportunities for alternate universes. In this belief system, time is cyclical, moving from yugas of thousands of years to kalpas and mahakalpas of millions and billions of years. Since time is circular, there isn’t a true past or future. Each cycle has common characteristics, such as the manifestations of a great religious teacher or god. Mystics can travel from one iteration of the cycle to the next by recalling other incarnations.
In contemporary physics, the idea of alternate universes exists in the Many-Worlds (or Everett) Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. According to this controversial idea, superpositioned particles don’t collapse into a single state. Instead, every possible per-mutation splits off into its own, self-sufficient universe.
Communicating with or traveling to these worlds is supposedly impossible, but that’s a small barrier for interested Etherites and Technocrats. These universes do interfere with each other on a very small scale. In a Mage game, this interference can be exaggerated to allow for more robust interactions between universes.
|~ Ascension – Page 203|
In Mage, all of these theories can reflect a larger truth: The Tellurian actually consists of several connected Tapestries.
The destinies of these worlds are intertwined. When a significant event occurs in one, its vibrations transmit to the others. Sometimes, this causes the parallel universe to duplicate the event, but precise details shift. A sufficiently strong pulse can violate causality in several universes. The events of the Reckoning might have been so traumatic that cause and effect were scrambled, allowing the Ravnos Ancient to project its singular being into several worlds.
Thus, mages inhabit a Tapestry in which belief shapes reality. This property bleeds into an animistic cosmos, where Garou claim that the Awakened’s alien powers come from twisting Gaia’s sacred names. Vampires’, werewolves’ and mages’ dark sides are paramount in a world where they are all rebels against the cosmic order. In this universe, the imbued fight for the rightful dominion of the Messengers and Ministers. Each game line has a Tapestry in which its rules are paramount — and they are a few drops in a sea of possibilities. Contradictions represent the interference of parallel worlds.
|~ Ascension – Page 204|
Is it possible to travel to alternate Worlds of Darkness? Spirit, Correspondence, Time and Entropy magic could all help catapult a mage into another world. Tradition Book: Sons of Ether features one suggested rote and a story that takes place in an alternate universe.
Characters might be able to reach alternate worlds through the Umbra, but only by traveling past the Outer Horizon and into uncharted Umbral space. In the spiritual wilderness, the traveler needs to search for paths that don’t correspond with physical space. Rumor has it that great cracks and portals lie in the deepest regions of Umbra, capable of taking voyagers out of the known Tapestry completely. Parallel worlds include their own Umbrae all the way to the Outer Horizon. Even the spirit world can change from universe to universe.
In the default Fractured Cosmos, we assume that the universes described in each game line are sufficiently entangled that people and objects can’t duplicate themselves. A technomancer who changes her quantum harmonics to visit the world described in Vampire displaces her counterpart. Her counterpart will be almost exactly the same, but a few slight differences might arouse suspicion in her friends. Remember that according to this model, moving between universes is common. Most people aren’t even aware of it, since the Tapestries tend to have very subtle differences.
What happens to the counterpart? The visitor’s Pattern, mind and spirit might superimpose themselves over the double. Its more likely that when the visitor arrives, the double travels to another universe as well because she replicates the visitor’s Tellurian travel. The double might switch universes with the visitor or move laterally in the same direction as the visitor. The latter option means that the double’s double also moves down a universe, ad infinitum.
|~ Ascension – Page 204|
The Technocracy also catalogues the existence of constructs they call "Everett Volumes," which are basically alternate histories and "timelines" (The term itself being muddled by what we discussed above, but then again, the Technocracy's whole shtick is speaking in technobabble), where one can find counterparts of everything existing in the primary universe, up to and including even the Deep Umbra.
Everett Volumes Named for the founder of the Many Worlds hypothesis, Everett Volumes cut across multiple dimensions. In them, explorers can discover alternate Conventional Spaces, Umbral Dimensions and Deep Universes. They include timelines where the Technocratic Conventions fight a Traditions-ruled tyranny from bases in the Deep Universe, and histories where humanity colonizes the solar system, moving the Spatial Horizon beyond the Oort Cloud.
In some Everett Volumes, time passes faster or slower than the main timeline. Void Engineers might use them for a less risky form of time travel, albeit one with fewer practical benefits. Changing history in an Everett Volume doesn’t affect the main timeline, but it won’t invoke disastrous temporal paradoxes either. Bringing objects or people back to the main timeline invokes extreme Paradoxes, however, crushing Void Engineer schemes to bolster their strength with the help of better-equipped counterparts in other timelines.
Although the main timeline is theoretically an Everett Volume itself, no known traveler has ever crossed into here from another timeline.
|~ Void Engineers, Revised – Page 58|
To explain the things residing even further into the cosmology, we also need to read back into two extremely important concepts that were brought up in the first section of the blog: The Consensus and the Sleepers.
In essence, World of Darkness' cosmology is very heavily founded upon concepts present in Gnosticism, a branch of esoterism which posits that the material world all of humanity takes for granted is, in fact, an illusion, no different from a fantasy or a daydream, and that the utmost duty of an individual is then to "awaken" from this illusion and peer into the true nature of reality that underlies it.
More of a belief system than a specific practice, Gnosticism refers to an overall view that the Creation we perceive as reality is actually the construct of some corrupt or malevolent force. To escape the prison of this fallen reality, a Gnostic seeks wisdom and knowledge (gnosis) that will lead to eventual transcendence.
This concept of an inferior Creation ruled over by malignant “alien forces” or a “lord of this world” can be found everywhere from The Matrix or David Icke’s “reptilian” conspiracy theories to many forms of Christianity or the more dour strains of pre-Christian Pagan belief. Certain approaches to Buddhism or Hinduism could be considered Gnostic even though that word rarely gets used in reference to those faiths. Transhumanism is certainly Gnostic in its ideals of post-human existence through technology. Even certain atheist creeds have Gnostic undertones; Ayn Rand’s fixation with parasitic masses and Nietzsche’s obsession with the Overman cast Gnostic shadows on essentially godless philosophies. On several levels, Mage embodies an essentially Gnostic cosmology, one in which “Sleepers” Awaken, transcend their humanity through knowledge, and potentially Ascend to a higher state. Still, many mages are not Gnostics, either because they do not see their world as innately corrupt; they refuse to believe in higher or lower powers; or they feel that everything is miraculous if and when you open your eyes enough to recognize that fact. Although Mage features certain Gnostic elements, it’s more existential – in the sense that one must find meaning in existence among a meaningless and potentially hostile cosmos – than purely Gnostic in its foundations.
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 39|
The "illusory reality," within the context of World of Darkness, is the Tapestry, the universe that is woven into existence out of the infinite possibilities of the Umbra by the collective belief and thoughts of the masses, containing every possible concept that their minds are capable of grasping. The Technocracy refers to this sphere of existence as "conventional space," and as seen above, the Sons of Ether think of it using the metaphor of the Walls of Troy.
The mundane world is the best-known example of Conventional Space, where the laws of nature function largely as the Masses expect. A strong dimensional Gauntlet separates incompatible instances of reality. Conventional spacecraft contend with vacuum and radiation. In this dimension, Yuri Gagarin looked down from his capsule, and Neil Armstrong took his small step on the Moon.
Conventional Space extends past the Biospheric Horizon and ends at the Spatial Horizon. We work to extend the Spatial Horizon further with unmanned probes, followed by human explorers — formatting more and more of the area into stark vacuum, not a riot of extradimensional horrors. (Due to this, some Void Engineers refer to this region as Formatted Space, notably those who spend a great deal of time with Iterators who use this term.)
|~ Void Engineers, Revised – Page 55|
As they cannot perceive the mystical workings of this reality, as well as what lies further beyond it, the common masses are called "Sleepers," and in contrast, Mages who actively delve into this alien world are called "the Awakened." The key difference being that, while normal people think of the physical world as primary and discard their thoughts and daydreams as secondsry, Mages see the latter as part of a deeper reality, every bit as real, if not more so, than the physical one.
The first card of the Tarot is the Fool – that pretty boy or girl about to walk off a cliff. And yes, the Fool’s androgynous, like many characters in Coleman’s deck. I like to think she did that on purpose, so that folks who knew how to look past their preconceptions could see themselves, male or female, on that journey. Our Fool’s got belongings slung over his or her back, with a little dog yapping right at the edge of the drop.
They’re alive, and they dream, but their eyes are closed to the world around them.
They can sense shapes and sounds and have some degree of control over their movements, but they’re still going through the motions like they’re still asleep. Some of us call such people Sleepwalkers, but they have other names too: hedge wizards, geniuses, mad poets, dreamers, and saints. Certain Sleepwalkers wake up halfway, stuck in nightmares where they imagine themselves to be both potent and powerless. We call them the Night-Folk: vampires, changelings, the various Changing Breeds that rampage through a realm between human, animal, and god. There are hunters and hunted and lost souls of every description. None of them, though, know the secrets we are heir to. They’re mighty in their way, and deadly as hell. But they are not us, and they can never be like us.
Because there are people who take that first breath and then wake up. We might feel sleepy for a while, but there always comes a point when just dreaming isn’t enough for us.
That’s the Awakening.
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition|
If you didn't guess up until now: This structure doesn't stop here. In fact, Truth Beyond Paradox establishes that, much like Mages control the Consensus of the Sleepers, so too do the Gods control the Consensus of the Mages, and just like regular humans are "asleep" to the spiritual reality which Mages experience, Mages are also "asleep" to the world which the Gods experience.
“Consensus isn’t yours, Roy,” ExMachine says. “It doesn’t belong to the Technocrats, and it isn’t controlled by the Council, and not by the Nephandi or Marauders ei-ther. Your various global guilds and conglomerates try to shape what the masses believe, and you create gods left and right. Gods that are smarter than you. Your pride won’t let you see what’s right in front of you.”
“Um…” I interrupt his monologue. “What language are you speaking now?"
Keymon translates for me: “Belief makes reality, baby. It’s easier to control beliefs of Sleepers than it is to cast spells. And it’s even easier to control the beliefs of mages.”
“I think I get it,” I say. “The gods handle mages the same way mages handle… ‘sleepers.’” I saw it in the code on the console. Not any specific code, but the idea itself.
So I know it’s true.
ExMachine nods smugly, and Roy is sputtering and spitting and babbling.
“Neat,” I say calmly.
|~ Truth Beyond Paradox – Page 139|
I’m mulling over what ExMachine said about consensus. If mage consensus is created by the gods, then that means, even as a mage, I’m still a type of sleeper. I’m a sleeper to the larger picture. The picture the gods can see.
Since I’m new to all this, it’s pretty easy for me to accept anything. After all, my whole understanding of existence has been rebooted a couple of times today.
All of reality is a massive 419 scam. Our beliefs assure us our lives and bodies are fixed to a solid reality with immutable laws. It’s no different than the belief that a prince needs forty grand to bribe the Nigerian Banking Bureau.
People need bodies. I get the sense that gods do not.
People, even mages, depend on their heads not being carpet-bombed all over the beach. They live their lives stuck within the bounds of their DNA and organs.
Gods… do not.
I’ve had my epiphany, my real epiphany. To what end do we all exist? What pur-pose do all sparks of consciousness serve?
We live out our puny lives serving reality. Until we realize that reality serves us.
Time to scam the scammers. With no mouth, I speak aloud: “I hereby bypass consensus to become a god.”
|~ Truth Beyond Paradox – Page 140|
Once Theodore, the protagonist of this short story in particular, realizes this and ascends beyond the Consensus in order to become a God, her mind becomes perfectly able to handle contradictions and breaches to normal consensual reality that a simple Mage could not, and ExMachine, her companion, further states that the Gods, too, have their Consensus controlled by even greater Gods that can perceive an even deeper reality with even greater minds, and this whole process, in turn, forms an infinite regression of illusory realities constructed by belief.
Boosted IQ. Product delivered as promised. A++ seller. More tricks than described, but will buy again.
Roy is still muttering about consensus. He can’t handle the cognitive dissonance, apparently. Needs to cling to his rules and reality. Things have got to be a certain way.
“Go home, Roy,” I tell him. “Have too many drinks and pretend it was all a dream.”
The idea must appeal to him, because he frowns and then wanders off, dejected.
“Real paradox is inside ourselves, isn’t it?” I ask. “Contradictions can exist without a problem. They only have the power to hurt our heads, not the universe.”
ExMachine nods. “Paradox is a problem for small minds, like Roy here. We’ve got medium minds. And the gods above us have greater minds still.”
“It’s turtles all the way down.”
He smiles and motions to the sky, beyond which I can reach with senses I’ve never before known, and touch the presence of the stars.
|~ Truth Beyond Paradox – Page 141|
The Tenth Sphere and Ascension
As mentioned above, Mages divide the use of magick into Nine Spheres, each corresponding to a fundamental aspect of reality which they tap into in order to reshape both the Tellurian and the Tapestry to their will; these spheres, as a collective, are believed to encompass all facets of the Tellurian, and their interactions govern the fundamental patterns out of which the all things emerge, forming an infinite cycle which binds all of existence. The spheres themselves are, in total:
Correspondence – the element of connection between apparently separated things.
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 65|
• Correspondence: All points in space are one. Command of this Sphere allows a mage to transcend the constraints of space and distance
|~ Mage The Ascension, Revised – Page 140|
And their cycle, in turn, works by the following sequence:
All Spheres are, of course, interconnected, their properties cycling through a circle of connections that unite the principles while keeping each individual field a specialized unit of study and effect. In plain English, one thing leads to another, with all of them playing a part in the greater scheme of things.
This cycle creates things out of apparent nothingness – from the initial conception of an idea, to its form, to the perception of its form, to the decay of that form so that the idea, its materials, and its essen>ce can return to the first point of the cycle and begin all over again in some new state.
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 67|
And the Tenth Sphere, in turn, is a theorized unifying force representing the most fundamental level of reality out of which everything springs forth, and which, as said above, governs the entire cycle of the lesser Nine Spheres. Attaining dominion over this sphere is said to unlock the gates to Ascension, the namesake of the Mage gameline, and the final goal of all practicioners of magick, in which they attain harmony with the Ultimate Reality.
According to certain authorities, there’s a Tenth Sphere too. The idea has a certain symmetry to it, after all, and – like dark matter in quantum physics – it’s thought to exist simply because there appears to be a place for it in the space between the other elements.
Some folks call this theoretical Sphere Unity, Balance, Unified Field Theory, or even Ascension. By understanding it, they say, you can go beyond the limitation of the other nine Spheres and open the door to Ultimate Reality. So far, though, if anyone actually has discovered and mastered this Tenth Sphere, they’re either not sharing their insights about it or they’ve transcended this Earthly mudball and taken the secret with them. Right now, so far as I’m aware, the Tenth Sphere – like Ascension itself – is an abstract goal of attainment, not something that people achieve and then hang around to talk about afterward.
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 65|
In-verse, every faction disagrees on the exact specifics of the Tenth Sphere, but every single one of their definitions ultimately boil down to the same basic principle. For instance, all of them agree on the existence of the Correspondence Point: The core of existence, and the infinitesimal singularity that preceded the Big Bang that gave birth to the universe, which occupies no point in space and time whatsoever (Even the metaphysical, purely qualitative spacetime of the Umbra) and yet contains all possible spaces within itself.
Space, interrelationships and sympathetic links all become clear through the study of Correspondence. By bending space or bypassing it entirely, a mage can travel rapidly, fly or teleport from place to place. Divining locations allows the mage to see far-away places or direct magic over distances. With a link between a person and an object, Effects may be targeted through connecting rituals.
Distance forms no barrier to a master of Correspondence. Indeed, distance and even space do not exist to the student of this Sphere. Through the unifying Correspondence Point, mages realise that all things occupy the same space of no space at all. Virtual Adepts, the most dedicated modern students of Correspondence, theorize that all things coexist in a single All-Space or Correspondence Point, and that bypassing space is simply a matter of realizing this unity. Mathematically, space is just an illusion, a convenient construct of the mind. Objects, people and places don't really take up space, according to such theories. Instead, everything is just a Pattern, and space simply describes the relations of different Patterns to one another.
|~ Mage The Ascension – Page 156|
The Virtual Adepts, the most proficient of all factions when it comes to the sphere of Correspondence, model their entire cosmology around the Big Bang and the Correspondence Point where it started. In fact, they take an approach far more focused on theoretical physics, and describe the relationship between the consensual reality of the Tapestry (Which they refer to as the Tellurian, unlike other factions, so be mindful of their terminology) and the sea of possibilities from which it emerges using the metaphor of a Hypersphere:
But what is virtual space? It took physicist Stephen Hawking to figure it out. Hawking used advanced mathematics to examine the fabric of space-time. Believing them to be both manifestations of the Big Bang, he came up with a wonderful metaphor to describe how reality works – A metaphor we will now hijack.
The explosion of Quintessence that created the universe spread out in a very predictable pattern, first unevenly <which allowed things like Matter to emerge> and then finally spherically like a giant bubble. In the end, everything within space-time emerged simultaneously; that means that everything we know – the past, present, and future as well as everything within our universe and all its possibilities already exists in the "hypersphere” that makes up reality. Hawking's model showed that everything we take for granted, from the Earth to the Umbra up to the Horizon and quite possibly beyond, exists on the boundary of the bubble. What lies outside is the Deep Umbra. What lies within the bubble? Turing's virtual space!
Within the hypersphere <called the Hype by some unruly Adepts>, there is no space and time as we know it. Everything is relative to the center - the Correspondence Point where the Big Bang started and everything on the boundary of the Hype (our reality) is equally reachable instantaneously from this center. Since space-time doesn't exist inside the Hype, everything outside of the center must be described relative to one another — that is, mathematically. And when you're talking about mathematics, you're getting into the realm of the Adepts.
|~ Virtual Space, Revised – 57|
"This is probably going to sound pretty stupid," she qualified, “but, do we know how the universe began? I've
BOOksmart smirked. "Are you looking to learn the Adept Creation Myth?" She nodded. He thought for a moment. "I guess the best way to explain it is through example."
He held out his hand. A baseball appeared. “This is the universe. I don't suppose you're a fan of America's pastime, are you?" Holly shook her head in mild embarrassment. "You
He grabbed both sides of the ball and twisted. The ball split to reveal a perfectly sliced cross-section. “A baseball is
He pointed at the core of the baseball. “The universe began at the core. Popular opinion says it was the Big Bang. Of course, there's no way to answer that question for sure unless someone was there to witness it. For now, it's what we got. So, to answer your question, the universe was created by the Big Bang." He twisted the ball back together and tossed it at her.
|~ Virtual Adepts, Revised – Page 34|
BOOksmart held out the intact baseball. “All right. To recap: Correspondence Point core Hypersphere twine, leather Tellurian. In order to understand how all of it relates, you must start at the center and work your way out."
The baseball's stitching came undone. The leather cover sloughed off and the twine unwound as if a marlin was hooked on the other end. Finally, the last of the twine snapped away, leaving the plain rubber core resting in BOOksmart's palm. “The Correspondence Point is made up entirely of information. Don't confuse it for a three-dimensional object; it's literally a one-dimensional point that occupies no space whatsoever. Thus, when I say it's made up of information, think of it as Information with a capital I."
"Okay," Holly slowly nodded. "Information with a capital 'I,' then, is the sum of all information."
"No," he corrected, "there is no sum. It's Information, that's it. See, the trick to grasping this is to imagine it as a child might. A child doesn't know a forest is made up of trees until you tell him it is. You need to go back and see the forest for what it was before the trees got involved."
“I think I got it," she assured him.
"Good." BOOksmart reached out with his other hand. The edge of twine floated between his pinched fingers for him to display. "The Hypersphere is the extrapolation of the core.” He presses the end against the rubber core and slowly
He released both the core and the twine. Suspended, the twine whipped around the core, slowly building it out to baseball size. BOOksmart waited for it to finish before continuing. “All the components of reality reside within the Hypersphere. This includes the Quintessence that provides the energy required to translate the info as real objects. What those objects become, of course, depends upon the perspective of those who perceive them."
|~ Virtual Adepts, Revised – Page 34|
The Sons of Ether, meanwhile, identify the Tenth Sphere with the "True Ether," a concept based on the idea of the aether as a fluid medium in which the universe resides, established back in the 19th Century. The True Ether, to them, permeates all of space and time and has infinite forms and manifestations, and is the place from which even the Quintessence springs into being, not a force, substance or a mental construct.
The only common root is the Ether, the basic medium of the universe. Ether takes an infinite number of forms and occupies all space and time, but it is defined by what it is not. It isn't a mental construction, a substance or a force. It is the place from which everything - even Quintessence — rises into existence, and where everything goes when it departs. All matter and energy is conserved.
Aside from the fundamental Ether (what Scientists often call the "Ideal Ether"), other "Ethers" encompass partial states of material and metaphysical reality. Quintessence is held to be the "purest" of these. It is wholly metaphysical, only existing when perceived and acting when acted upon. Contiguous Ether is more base, since it encompasses the physical properties of distance and the relationship between objects. Etherspace is a series of dimensions that lie outside of the Consensus's "Wall of Troy." It has physical features, but they lie outside normal human experience. Quantum Ether theory holds that they are alternate universes that have developed due to humanity's rejection of certain cosmological principles.
|~ Sons of Ether, Revised – Page 54|
If there is a "10th Sphere" for the Sons of Ether, it is their namesake. Ether is the fundament of the cosmos, and to discover its true nature underneath the phenomena it creates would surely raise a Scientist to the pinnacle of her calling. True Ether is more basic than even the Tellurian's Quintessential roots because it must include Paradox (which is not Quintessential, but reacts to Ether Science) and the methods of other Traditions. Ether holds the key to these alien secrets, and the Sons are eager to find it.
It is said that the real goal of all experiments is to touch this True Ether. The Sons' holy grail is a theory that explains all of the Ether's manifestations according to a single set of laws. This would describe the Ether fully - and with it, the true nature of the universe.
|~ Sons of Ether, Revised – Page 60|
And the Nephandi, finally, identify the Absolute Reality with the Void, an endless nothing against which all constructs of reality are nothing but illusions, akin to "metaphysical dust" briefly imposed upon its surface that will eventually disperse. Framed in the terms of the Kabbalah, this is the Ein Soph, the infinity that lies above the Tree of Life from which the Tellurian evolved.
Each Avatar, it’s been said, has an Essence: a sort of metaphysical personality. The nature of that personality is, as with most things, open to debate. Is it a reflection of the mage’s subconscious self? The draw of ancestral spirits? A fragment of celestial or demonic force embedded in the mage’s soul? A wild weaving wyrm conjured up from warring entities? Or is it simply the inclinations – spiritual or even genetic – within the mage herself? Awakened folk debate such questions endlessly. What’s certain, though, is that Essence guides the shape and behavior of your Avatar. Its tendencies tend to become, or mirror, your own.
The Council of Traditions recognizes four clear Essences, with a fifth one theorized but not yet accepted as official.
Dynamism, the force of unbridled possibility;
Between them, there’s a quest for Balance, avoiding the extremes while remaining true to the cycle.
And beyond them all, there’s said to be Infinity, the One-That-Is-All. The Ein Soph. Unity. The Absolute. Sometimes even called the Void, this cosmic “dark matter” supposedly exists because theory insists that it should. To Nephandi and some other mages, this Void is the true nature of reality, an endless nothing onto which we impose the other forms before they dissipate into metaphysical dust. Not the most cheerful concept, but a potent one anyway.
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Pages 44 and 45|
|“||Word: The concept of choosing a Word that embodies the whole essential being of an Awakened spirit is still a bit novel to the members of this House. The Word either tries to summarize the infinite or to create exclusivity in that which should be all encompassing. Those few Solificati who have deigned to adopt a Word have often chosen one that is broad (and lofty) enough in its application to adequately encapsulate the Royal Art: Perfection or Ein Soph (the transcendent state of Divinity which exists "above" the Kabbalistic Tree of Life), for example.||„|
|~ Order of Hermes, Revised – 59|
The Kabbalah is a system of mysticism uncovered by Jewish scholars and holy men that aspires to explain the underlying pattern of the Tellurian and
Gematria is the Kabbalistic study of numerology. In the Hebrew alphabet, every letter has a numerical correspondence, and gematria is the study of the numerological meanings of words. Most Kabbalists focus on the Holy Sefiroth, the ten Lights or primal numbers out of which all of the Tellurian evolved. Each Sefira also represents one aspect of the Unity that, while hidden, seeks to be known and made manifest.
The metaphysicists of the Ahl-i-Batini have compiled enormous amounts of writing on the interactions between the Sefiroth, as well as the angels, Spirits and magical Sphere associated with each Sefira.
|~ Lost Paths: Ahl-i-Batini and Taftani – Page 26|
Several other bits of text reiterate the nature of the Void as a nothing which predates even the Tellurian. For instance, it is often described as the primal state of non-being that preceded "Creation," or "the All," whose advent is explained in several different ways across various creation myths.
Where did it all begin?
According to many myths, a cosmic Sound – a phrase, a song, a thunderbolt – cracked through the empty Void, filling it with possibilities. One, or Nothing, became All. Was this some Big Bang, a titanic OM, a godhead shattering itself into infinity… and really, aren’t they all just different ways of looking at the same thing? Whatever the cause, the Void broke and Creation spilled forth.
Infinities passed. Stars blazed. Balls of spinning stone cooled to become worlds. It’s been said that in those earliest days, holy hands passed over waters and set things into place. God-wars raged and their carnage shaped the universe. Deities cast their servants down into an Abyss, and that Divinity tore itself in half – Light and Darkness, the broken shells of what was and the bright spheres of what is. Perhaps it was simply a mythologized play of natural forces… or maybe there was something more. The truth, as it so often is, was lost to time and space.
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 121|
|“||I AM, said the Voice, THAT I AM.|
It spoke not in English, nor Latin nor Hebrew nor Greek. Its logos was supreme – all words, songs and languages that would ever come to be. The Word rang from the Void and raced out from the Heavens, filling the Nothing with All.
It spoke in the void of possibility: the all-that-is-nothing yet will become all things in time. Its timbre set the void vibrating, and many songs began to spin themselves to life in that dying silence.
|~ Order of Hermes, Revised – Page 14|
In contrast to the Tellurian, which is nothing but potential in its purest form, the Void is also defined as the total absence of any and all possibility.
|“||Void, the: Capitalized, the deepest reaches of space; the principle of ultimate Oblivion; the utter absence of possibility; primal chaos; and the heart of the Underworld – all of which, in essence, may be the same thing. Sometimes called the Absolute, especially by Nephandi.||„|
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 28|
Book of the Fallen, a complement for Mage's 20th Anniversary Edition, then elaborates a bit more on the nature of the Void in the form of a state known as "The Black Diamond," an endpoint where a Nephandic Sorcerer descends beyond Creation entirely and enters the Void, reaching beyond human conception and consciousness, and supposedly emerging as a Supreme Creator of a new universe, of the same ilk as the God who created the Tellurian. In this mode, all symbols and divisions collapse entirely, and everything is united back into the darkness.
As for the Nightside, it both represents a state of symbolic exploration, and occasionally becomes a state of physical location, too. Symbolically, a shaman can venture into the Wilderness without wandering into a real desert or deep forest; physically, that same shaman could take up residence in a far-off location that suits his nature better than, say, an apartment downtown. Any mage can, in fact, do both. Again, though, only the Fallen understand what it truly means to go as far into the Abyss as a mortal person can go.
The Black Diamond waits beyond that point. In that state of personal Descent, the mage becomes the Abyss, the Abyss becomes the mage, and both attain a multifaceted perfection within the Absolute which might consummate annihilation, expand into a new universe where that magus becomes a god, or…who knows? Potentially both. In that state, limitations disappear, and all things become perfect in the Dark.
|~ Book of the Fallen, Page 94|
As the shadow of Kether, the transcendent Crown of Creation, Thaumiel represents the essence of ultimate attain-ment. In Kabbalistic tradition, Kether provides Unity… and so, of course, its dark opposite provides Division: two related but separate dimensions, one ruled by Satan, the other by Moloch.
The consummate Adversary of God and Man embodies the Red Dragon, thief of fire and warlike manifestation of the most beautiful Fallen one of all, Lucifer; Moloch, bull-headed god of avarice and wealth, is the true form of the Golden Bull and the living furnace for innocent souls. To face down their demonic hordes and approach the pandimensional throne is to triumph over mortal weakness, fear, despair, principles, and even love. Only the most powerful Nephandi Oracles, the Aswadim, make it this far, and the ones who manage to seize the Throne and assume the Void in all its glory become deities of fresh and glorious hells.
With such attainment, a Nephandic God-Magus reputedly unlocks the 10th Sphere: The Absolute. With this legendary Art, the lore insists, the traveler ends her quest with the power of a new Jehovah — not merely a shadow of divinity, or even a minor god, but a supreme creator, immortal and remote from the concerns of mere humanity. Whether or not this is true is — as with all things connected to the Qlippoth — debatable.
For certain Fallen, though, this is supposedly the ultimate goal: not to merely end the world as we know it, but to create new worlds to take its place, where the flawed one we know of never mattered at all.
|~ Book of the Fallen – Page 112|
Global Descent, as we’ve seen earlier, involves the final death of Earth, its dominion by Those Who Dwell Behind the Stars, and the final triumph of the Void. For personal Ascension, some Fallen aspire to the Black Diamond: Escape from the frailties of mortal life, ascension to self-divinity, and the birth of a new universe for which she becomes its Demiurge, creator, and tormenter of all life. For that latter goal, the magus claims the Throne of Lucifer, opens the Gates of Thaumiel, passes through the final crown, and celebrates the Consummation of Leviathan, wherein the Nephandus attains supremacy, not by bowing to a Dark Master but by becoming one herself.
Some authorities refer to this stage of perfection as the Black Diamond: A cosmic jewel of infinite perfections, its endless facets reflecting anti-light in the Absolute eternity of the Void.
That Diamond’s an illusion, of course… or a metaphor, or the closest shape a mortal mind can envision when attempting to conceive of something beyond human consciousness. What waits beyond Thaumiel is theoretical. Nephandic Aswadim have supposedly glimpsed it, perhaps held it in their eternal hands, but have not yet assumed its perfect form. Anyone who’s seen this Diamond, though, much less attained its lightless grace, didn’t stick around to offer details. For Nephandi, the Black Diamond and the new universes in its shape represent the ultimate Descent, Falling through the crevices in our world and creating a new cosmos where she becomes its god.
Certain advocates of Leviathan declare that a Fallen God may consume the false gods of our world and, by doing so, attain their power for himself. If that’s true, though, then it hasn’t happened yet… although the theory may explain why so many gods have disappeared, their cults forgotten and their achievements dust.
Just because it hasn’t happened, though, doesn’t mean it can’t. Perhaps a Nephandic god with enough power and infinite hunger actually could consume the gods of this world someday. And if so, that Fallen One’s Ascension would meet both goals of the Nephandic ideal: Ultimate power, and ultimate Void.
|~ Book of the Fallen, Page 113|
The Essential Divinity and the Godheads
Mage's 20th Anniversary Edition, among other things, provides us with an outline of the "Umbral Hierarchy," which, as the name suggests, is the most basic and general pecking order in which Mages divided the Universe, as well as what lies beyond it, though this doesn't necessarily include only the Umbra. And the three most important classifications of this hierarchy, in turn, are the following:
One of Mage’s thorniest elements, both in and out of the fictional world, involves the question of God and other spirits.
To be blunt, where does God rank on the Umbral Hierarchy?
What about Krishna? Is the Goddess somehow lower than God, or is Her consort a Horned God in a cosmos where the Christian God does not exist? How can someone wrestle with God, as Jacob does in the Bible, and does the existence of Raven preclude the existence of Allah or the Buddha? Where does Satan fit in there, if Satan even exists at all? After all, Mage posits the existence of a spiritual world filled with spiritual truths. Which god is God, and are there many gods or only One?
Ultimately, the capital-T Truth depends on what you want it to be. If your Mage chronicle favors your own Muslim, Baptist, Wiccan, or Tibetan Buddhist creed, then by all means decide that all roads lead to your Divinity of choice. If you’re an existential atheist, then maybe all of this is just delusion. We’re not here to tell you how to believe or to force a religion (or the lack of one) down your throat. Maybe all spirits really are aliens or angels or demons or archetypes. That’s your call to make, not ours.
Within the Mage world, the various Traditions have been arguing these points for centuries. The Technocracy discarded an official creed beyond Enlightened Science, and the Disparates have left that question off the table, definitely for now and probably for good. The Umbral Hierarchy represents an uneasy compromise with lots of room to move. It’s certainly not definitive, and it neither demeans nor demands a single point of faith. At the top of that Hierarchy, however, the terms Essential Divinity, Godhead, and The Adversary deserve some explanation:
Essential Divinity is the name given to That Which Cannot Be Named – the I AM THAT I AM at the core of sacred mysteries. An indefinable essence that pervades Creation, it transcends names and identities. As ineffable things go, this one scores the top of the list.
Godhead is what you get when you assign Divinity a face, personality, and name. Sometimes that Divinity incarnates itself in an avatar: an identity that humans can relate to (Krishna, Mary, Old Man, and so forth). Other times, it remains a transcendent yet still relatable force… a Holy Spirit, if you will, understood by certain people in certain terms.
The Adversary is the cosmic Antagonist, the force of Opposition that may or may not be another aspect of Divinity.
Compared to these Greater Powers, all other spirits are functionaries – courtiers, servants, embodiments of principles, or incarnations of ideas. They’ve got their own identities, even though such identities often remain unclear to human witnesses. At the top of the Hierarchy, however, the Greater Powers defy easy categorization, transcend game Traits, and command powers far beyond any human reach.
|~ Mage The Ascension, 20th Anniversary Edition – Page 487 to 488|
This relationship between the Essential Divinity and the Godheads, in turn, is alluded to in Gods & Monsters, which lists the following as one of the possibilities for the origin of Gods listed in the book:
God is a funny word. People will kill each other over different interpretations of it, but few — even when they share a creed — agree completely about just what the word means. For Mage purposes, though, a god-form reflects a spiritual entity who embodies a recognizable identity that has been shaped by human belief in its divinity. Although it might assume temporary manifestations in the human world, a god-form transcends game Traits. Its powers might not be truly limitless, but they’re far greater than those of playable characters or confrontable foes. Whether a given god-form predates humanity, has been shaped by human consciousness (see “Thought Forms” in Mage 20, pp. 598-599), or is an ineffable essence that has, in turn, been shaped into an identity by mortals who revere it… that’s stuff for philosophers to debate.
|~ Gods & Monsters, 153|
And it is also alluded to in the revised Order of Hermes tradition book, where the Creation Myth of the titular faction involves God, itself both male and female and encompassing all things, manifesting its "Nous," which in turn fashions all of Creation from the nothingness of the Void. And the primordial "Word" which it sounded in order to manifest itself, in turn, was "I AM THAT I AM," the same statement that defines the core of the Essential Divinity according to Mage.
|“||"God, being both male and female, beginning as life and light, gave birth, by the word, to another Nous*, the Creator of the world; he, being the god of fire and air, formed seven powers who encompass in their circles the sensory world, and the governances of these powers is called Destiny."|
– Poimandres, from the Corpus Hermeticum
(* Nous, a vital word in Hermetic thought, has no direct English translations. It conveys consciousness, intellect, wisdom, perception, primal divinity and sophisticated creativity, and it means all and yet none of these things directly)
|~ Order of Hermes, Revised – Page 14|
The term itself being used in its Neoplatonic sense, where it is the active faculty of The One, and a Demiurge which fashions the world based on the "thoughts" contained within the Absolute. To quote Wikipedia here:
|“||The Nous (usually translated as "Intellect", or "Intelligence" in this context, or sometimes "mind" or "reason") is described as God, or more precisely an image of God, often referred to as the Demiurge. It thinks its own contents, which are thoughts, equated to the Platonic ideas or forms (eide). The thinking of this Intellect is the highest activity of life. The actualization (energeia) of this thinking is the being of the forms. This Intellect is the first principle or foundation of existence. The One is prior to it, but not in the sense that a normal cause is prior to an effect, but instead Intellect is called an emanation of the One. The One is the possibility of this foundation of existence.||„|
|“||The original Being initially emanates, or throws out, the nous, which is a perfect image of the One and the archetype of all existing things. It is simultaneously both being and thought, idea and ideal world. As image, the nous corresponds perfectly to the One, but as derivative, it is entirely different. What Plotinus understands by the nous is the highest sphere accessible to the human mind, while also being pure intellect itself. Nous is the most critical component of idealism, Neoplatonism being a pure form of idealism. The demiurge (the nous) is the energy, or ergon (does the work), which manifests or organises the material world into perceivability.||„|
And this, in turn, coincides with how a Nephandi who attains the Black Diamond, although empowered by, and one with The Void, is explicitly still a Demiurgic figure whose ultimate role is to create its own universe apart from the one in which they originated.
|“||Global Descent, as we’ve seen earlier, involves the final death of Earth, its dominion by Those Who Dwell Behind the Stars, and the final triumph of the Void. For personal Ascension, some Fallen aspire to the Black Diamond: Escape from the frailties of mortal life, ascension to self-divinity, and the birth of a new universe for which she becomes its Demiurge, creator, and tormenter of all life. For that latter goal, the magus claims the Throne of Lucifer, opens the Gates of Thaumiel, passes through the final crown, and celebrates the Consummation of Leviathan, wherein the Nephandus attains supremacy, not by bowing to a Dark Master but by becoming one herself.||„|
|~ Book of the Fallen, Page 113|