THE HALLS OF PENTHEUS -- PART THREE
The Great Lie
The Empire of Phil Dick's exegesis and of this exploration is a morphological system that hierarchises the symbols of myth and in doing so hierarchises the metaphysical relationships they manifest. From its corridors of power to its outlying dominions and borderlands of exile, the Empire constructs a hegemony of archetypal relationships, transforming the nature of those relationships and redefining the nature of the archetypes themselves -- elder generations of archetypes being recharacterised as defeated monsters (demons, titans, giants) or as lesser powers of a younger generation (sons and daughters of the Zeus, angel messengers of the Deus) -- until it establishes the supremacy of the gestalt ego over all.
Whether we see the Empire as manifest only in psyche and culture (treating the metaphysics as metaphor) or allow for actual physical activity beyond the level of stories and statues (treating the metaphysics as material truth) this morphological system may have its foundations in polytheism (with its King of Gods) but it aspires towards monotheism (with its God of Kings), an ultimate state where only the Supreme Being -- the Empire anthropomorphised as God -- is truly recognised as legitimate, its authority absolute. Given the memetic nature of the Empire, replicating its behaviours through the morphological realm like a computer virus, given that its foundational building blocks are in the psyche (our individual egos), and given that it has what can only be decribed as an agenda, it can and must be considered an agency.
The Empire is the Deus Irae, the Supreme Being as a system seeking supremacy for the sake of supremacy. Its perfect state is complete control.
The great lie (or grand narrative, metanarrative) of the Empire is that this supremacy is its birthright as the agency responsible for the creation of the material cosmos. In fact, the Empire is responsible only for the reshaping of the koinos kosmos, the consensual model of reality constructed from and between the idios kosmos of each human being. The Empire is not the foundation stone of reality, but rather an artficing upon and within reality. It is an emergent feature of a morphological system (metaphysics) which is itself, most likely, no more than an emergent feature of human culture and therefore an emergent feature of temporal reality. It presents itself, however, as an eternal (and external) hyperreality, Platonic and perfect, in which our temporal reality is the artifice, and compared to which that temporal reality is merely a soiled replica.
Not only will it never end, the Empire wants us to believe, but it never began. It has always been there. It is now, was, and ever will be. The Empire must have us believe this. For its supremacy to be absolute, it must be a supremacy over everything, even causality and logic. For its supremacy to be absolute, the Empire must have the power to make two plus two equal five. Or at least to make us believe this is the case.
The Condition of Chaos
Even if we (treating metaphysics as material truth rather than metaphor) posit more fundamental and direct cosmogonic effects of the morphological system on temporal reality itself (e.g. by taking the ideas of 3D time, implicate order, memetic entities and such as actual possibilities), the sociomorphic nature of the Empire and the anthropomorphic nature of the Deus Irae render these highly dubious as cosmogonic principles in comparison with, for example, the chaotic and primal forces of the Egyptian Ogdoad.
In the Egyptian cosmogony order emerges, evolves naturally out of a primal state of chaos which is inherently, as chaos, in conflict with itself. Order is simply that stable point of chaos where the self-contradictory nature of chaos is itself contradicted, that point in the ocean of possibilities, where although two plus two might equal anything, it does actually equal four. It is the area where, of all the non-logical statements that might be true, the one that happens to be true is, "Not (A and Not A)". The dualities of the Egyptian Ogdoad which gives us eight forces of four principles -- the Chaos and the Void, the Formless and the Hidden -- in male and female aspects, represent a recognition that order is merely the emergence of the dialectic from the chaotic. The Elohist Creation of Genesis 1, in contrast to the Yahwist Creation of Genesis 2, carries over much of that elder cosmogony into the mythos of the monotheist God-King. The particularities of revision are illuminating, though, in terms of the claims being made about the relationship of order and chaos.
A state of complete instability, inconsistency, true chaos is not a system but a condition, one of continuous transitions between states, with the nature of those transitions and states unlimited by inherent relationships between them. It is the absence of that limitation that makes it not systematic but conditional, that makes it chaos. In that context, however, order can be understood as simply an emergent feature, the inconsistency of inconsistency, where subsets of transitions and states manifest coincidental patterning (since to exclude coincidence would require systematic limitation). By allowing for pattern in the form of coincidence, chaos allows for subconditions of local stability, zones of order within the general confusion, areas wholly composed of transitions and states which display dialectical relationships consistent enough to be considered inherent and integrated enough to be considered systems. All systems of order, including those of pure morphology -- where we are talking of states and transitions, forms and actions as theoretical abstractions -- can therefore be considered sub-states grounded upon a condition of chaos. To coin a term, what we are talking about in the emergence of order out of chaos is a process of morphogony.
The chaotic condition precedes the dialectic system. Morphogony precedes morphology.
Where the Empire claims supremacy over chaos, over the void of Genesis, where it claims primacy, recasting evolution as creation, this presents a morphological system, personified as the Deus Irae, as master of the entirety of non-manifest possibilities. It inverts the relationship of chaotic condition and dialectic system, placing morphology before morphogony. It denies morphogony completely, in fact, in presenting itself as eternal. The Empire offers no true cosmogony, then, because it does not account for its own origin. It cannot, for to do so would be a negation of its claim of absolute supremacy.
The Empire explains nothing. It simply orders us to believe in it as Prime Cause.
And when I say "orders", I mean in the morphological sense, as well as in the imperative sense. The Empire's ordering of us is the reshaping of the way we think.
Classes and Objects
If we wish to understand how the Empire works, what exactly we mean by terms like "Platonic morphological form", a practical comparison can be made to object-oriented programming. In classic linear programming a program works like one of those Build-Your-Own-Adventure books. Say you have a book called QUEST. Each routine in a program is like a scenario in the book. You work your way through the book, from scenario to scenario, in each scenario selecting an option which refers you on to the subsequent scenario, on page whatever. Routines in code, like scenarios in QUEST, don't need to be grouped in any particular order, as long as all the optional references work, as long as it all hangs together.
In object-oriented programming, however, what you have is the idea of a classes and objects. In terms of a Build-Your-Own-Adventure novel this would be like having a whole library of books to supplement the basic narative framework of QUEST. You meet a troll in one scenario, say. Instead of being limited to a simple one-page interaction with four options that refer you to one of four scenarios, you're referred to a page in the supplementary book, TROLL. Here you find a scenario with options that lead you to other scenarios in TROLL, and on into other scenarios, giving you a much more complex interaction, at the end of which you find yourself referred back to QUEST. The great thing about this is you can have other frameworks which also use TROLL -- QUEST 2, QUEST 3 and so on. The writer can concentrate on making TROLL as good as possible, while someone else works on DRAGON or ORK or any number of additional. It becomes more like your classic D&D game.
In the specific terms of object-oriented programming, a class is a sort of generic template from which we create objects as instances of the class. Objects are defined as variables in the program and instantiated, when that program runs, to do whatever an object of that class can do, whenever the program needs that to be done. The routines of linear programming become methods, actions an object of a class can carry out when called to do so -- e.g. Eat, Sleep, Drink, Fuck, Fight, and so on. A class also has a name -- HumanBeing, for example -- so that the programmer can create an object of that type, like putting in a reference to TROLL in QUEST. One can, in fact, create many objects and use one as a parameter in the method of another:
Create New Object Hal_Duncan as HumanBeing
Create New Object My_Beer as PintOfGuinness
Lastly, it will also have attributes, properties that, for any object, can be assigned a value -- e.g. Name, Gender, DOB, Father, Mother, and so on:
Hal_Duncan.Name = "Hal Duncan"
Hal_Duncan.Sobriety = "Pissed"
An important note here: the class is not the object, simply the architectural schema from which the object is generated. The attributes of the class itself are empty, the methods mere potential. It's only when an object is instantiated, that its attributes can be assigned values and its methods brought into play. Instantiation for an object is what we might more commonly term "existence". Without the existence that an object has, a class is just potentiality, morphology. We can construct a whole system of classes with inherent relationships. The class of HumanBeing might actually have two objects of the class Arm as attributes -- RightArm and LeftArm. When we create a new object Hal_Duncan as an instance of HumanBeing, an initialisation routine would be automatically run, creating two objects of the class Arm and assigning them to the attributes. Without having done so, we might very well not be able to use the Hal_Duncan.Drink(MyBeer), because this method, Drink, would probably involve these steps:
What's my point here? A "Platonic morphological form" is simply a class. When I talk about a morphological system, what I'm talking about is a system of classes whose attributes and methods are intricately related. It is an attempt to define how events work by breaking them down into things (objects) of certain types (classes) which have certain properties (attributes) and certain behaviours (methods). A morphological system can be, like human language, a purely theoretical model, an attempt to represent abstractly the relationships of events observed in the real world, to analyse conditional states and transitions. Or it can be, like code in a computer, a prescriptive program, an attempt to apply such a theoretical model as the rules governing the possibilities of events in the real world, to delimit the potential states and transitions in order to achieve a certain condition.
The DeusIrae class shares many features with the HumanBeing class, its attributes and methods named and modelled after our own. Even where monotheistic abstraction divorces this "God" from the names and faces of pagan divinities, rejecting icons and idols as blasphemous, it fails its own aims by surrendering to anthropomorphism. This is not simply the crude anthropomorphism of God as father, shepherd, king, not even the more subtle psychological anthropomorphism of wisdom, justice and mercy. In the notion of creation, of morphology's precedence over morphogony, what we have is the subtle anthropomorphism of intention.
To re-present the DeusIrae as personification of Empire is to sweep away all anthropomorphism but the last, to reject the physical and psychological symbols and leave only intention, agency. The Empire is not jealous. It is not vengeful. It simply seeks supremacy through self-replication, as any virus does.
The Palm Garden
Dick saw the Empire as the Roman Empire. The true morphology underlying our koinos kosmos, our illusion of the present, as he saw it, was the world of 70 AD, of Romans and early Christians. But the Empire, in fact, goes back further. It is Pentheus's Thebes, Akhenaton's Egypt, Sargon's Akkad. It is a model of and program for psyche and culture as visible in Plato's Republic as it is in Nixon's America or Caesar's Rome.
Plato's Republic -- any utopian ideal, indeed, any ideology at all -- can be viewed as both, as a model of how a society could work and as a program for how a society should work. Dystopian fiction is in a complex relationship with this sort of morpological idealism. It is often hard to tell whether a dystopia is critiquing a pessimistic model of how the world actually works against an ideal program of how it should work, or whether it is critiquing an unrealistic program held by others against a model held by the writer. Often dystopian fiction seems to be doing both, positing that a bad morphology can be imposed and maintained as both model and program, when an alternative morphology would be better as both model and program. Dystopianism is often, then, one person's utopianism in argument with another's.
Dick's Empire, as one would expect from his work, takes this dystopian argument to a whole new level in equating the morphological system of the Empire with consensual reality itself. The dark flip-side of Plato's Republic, Dick's Empire is both model and program, designed and implemented by a Gnostic demiurge, our world as an artifice. Dick tries to formulate an alternative morphology in his exegesis, a utopian morphology that has invaded our world, infiltrated it like a virus, in order to remodel and reprogram. He wrestles with images of Christ and Sophia, the Palm Garden, ideas of the Logos as living information, the homoplasmate as human embodiment of it. He seeks something which functions in the same mixed medium as the Empire, morphology and matter, in order to dismantle it, repair it or combat it. But somewhere in all the convoluted theorising he knows that something about this is wrong, will not work.
To fight the Empire is to become it.
It is not surprising perhaps that someone who portrayed so many psychotic retreat fantasies in his fiction would remain unsatisfied with the utopianism offered by a Gnostic imagery of escape, but it seems that Gnostic imagery prevents him from seeing the true danger of the Empire in its corruption of the very imagery that opposes it, in its use of an apparently contrary morphology as yet another mechanism for imposing and maintaining Empire. The Empire appropriates and rearticulates Christ and Sophia, the Logos, the homoplasmate. Salvation from the Empire is offered by a path that requires surrender to the Empire's great lie of creation, of the supremacy of an eternal form, Platonic and perfect, over not just existential reality but chaotic potentiality, of morphology's primacy over morphogony. To accept this is to accept the basic layout of the model, the system core of the program.
The Palm Garden of Dick's Gnosticism is an escape fantasy predicated on the Platonic perfection of the ideal (and spirtual) in contrast with the actual (and material). It is a garden, and gardens are at most facsimiles of wilderness constructed within civilisation's controlled regime, within the Empire. It is a refuge from Empire only as a park in a city is, a respite offered by the Empire to its good citizens. It is not a higher plane beyond the demiurge's control. Rather it is a consolatory artifice, accessible only through the palace, through the throne room of the Deus Irae -- a tranquility which requires supplication. It may be out of sight and out of mind, but beyond the walls of the Palm Garden is the very heart of Empire. In accepting the Palm Garden we accept the system within which it is defined as a negative space.
To fight the Empire is to become it.
An Agent in Imagination
A class can have sub-classes. The most basic class is just a Thing. The more attributes and methods you assign to it-- the more you specify what it can be and what it can do -- the more you specify the sub-class of Things it belongs to. One sub-class of Things would be PhysicalThings. A sub-class of PhysicalThings would be OrganicThings. And a sub-class of OrganicThings would be HumanBeings. Theoretically we could go down the levels of sub-classes of sub-classes of sub-classes, adding attributes and methods until we got to a class called HalDuncan, the morphological form instantiated in a single object, the Hal Duncan of the real world.
Or we could get to a class called SeamusFinnan, a morphological form which is instantiated only in the imagination. When writers talk about characters coming alive, perhaps what they mean is simply that constructing the attributes and methods of a character is largely unconscious, and is so deeply integrated with the morphological system by which we model real people as a whole that there comes a point where the class SeamusFinnan, say, is too complex to hold all the raw code in one's attention, where it becomes easier to instantiate an object in the imagination and see what happens if you call its methods. Our capacity to compartmentalise might well be such that a character's workings are often only understood intuitively and on a superficial level, with intricacies of the gubbins as inarticulable to us as the exact psychological details of a friend's motivations in doing X in situation Y even though we know with certainty that they would do so.
Imagination itself can be considered a sort of run-time. We have the morphological system which is our model of the world, of events as made up of things of types with properties and behaviours. We construct theoretical things of theoretical types with theoretical properties and theoretical behaviours, and this extends our morphological system. This is our idios kosmos, our personal worldview. With imagination we construct scenarios which we play through, programs which, in running, instantiate those classes as objects and set up interactions between them. We might be replaying or artificing scenarios simply for the fun of it. We might be applying those simulations to the real world, using foresight to try and predict or hindsight to try and find out where the model went wrong. We might be debugging, looking for conflicts in the system that will lead to errors. Either way what we're dealing with is simulations. If characters can be said to "come alive" it is becasue a sufficently complex character in simulation will be indistinguishable from a real person in simulation... because both are fundamentally instances of sub-classes of Person.
Question: Is the sub-class of Persona, the class with which we model our own attributes and methods, which is to say our own identities, our personality, our character, necessarily any more complex than that with which we model others, or might a sufficiently complex character in simulation also be indistinguishable from an identity in simulation? And if so, to what extent could that character be said to be an agent acting in and through our imagination? Is it possible that a character could "come alive" in a more literal way, as much an autonomous being as that object of the class Persona I call "me"?
In the condition of multiple personality disorder, the patient does seem to have multiple objects of the class Persona each with different attributes, or multiple sub-classes of Persona, multiple types of identity, each with their own set of methods. As I understand it, this schisming of self often has a purpose, albeit pathological, beginning as a coping mechanism. A child is incapable of dealing with a situation -- or to be more precise, their identity (an object of the class Persona) is incapable of dealing with a situation -- so another identity is created (another object of the class Persona with different attributes, or an object of a new sub-class AlterEgo with different methods), an identity which can deal with this. When the situation ends, that identity submerges (the object is destroyed) and the previous identity re-emerges (the old object is recreated). In extreme cases, patients can have a host of different identities, schismed into creation throughout their lives, manifesting under certain circumstances to take control, acting as agents in the world never mind in the imagination.
The condition of narcissistic rage (e.g. road rage) can be seen as a mild form of this psychogenic fugue state, one in which there's no compartmentalisation of awareness but in which control is seized temporarily by the Shadow. We talk of "losing it", of "flipping out", and this may be precisely what is happening. Narcissistic rage is a transformative rapture of wrath, an experience of possession, of inhabitation; for the time it lasts, one might well be considered not oneself but rather an avatar of the archetype. Examine the fantasies of dissociated individuals, weird kids at odds with the high school pecking order, dreaming of massacres, and you find an imagery of self as embodiment of dark power. There is reason the Columbine killers were known for their black trenchcoats. When they stalked the corridors, it was the Shadow walking in those coats.
Dick's relationship with his own alter egos of Thomas and Pigspurt is more complex than MPD. While he talks of them in the terminology of possession and inhabitation, they do not seem to have usurped his Phil Dick identity, taken over control, as do the alter egos of multiple personality disorder. Thomas seems to have manifested more as an imaginary friend, someone Dick would sit and watch TV with, chatting. Where, in VALIS, he portrays his own identity as split into Phil Dick and Horselover Fat, they're often seen together, in similar conversation. There's the common view of his last three novels as reflecting that split -- it's as if Phil Dick wrote THE TRANSMIGRATION OF TIMOTHY ARCHER, Horselover Fat wrote THE DIVINE INVASION, and the two of them collaborated on VALIS -- but it's more as if Dick is running dual identities simultaneously than the timeshare situation of multiple personality disorder.
The core point here, however, is that we might well consider an instance of a morphological form as, potentially, an agent in imagination. If we are capable of constructing alter egos with their own abilities and agendas who can usurp our own personas, take the wheel and make us passengers in our own bodies, or if we can project them outwards into conversational companions, one might well wonder if there are less schismed agencies at work in the non-pathologial psyche. To what extent are psychological sub-systems like the Ego, the Id, the Self, the Shadow, functionally autonomous from each other and from the Persona which thinks itself in charge? At what point might an archetypal character, a Campbellian Hero or a Jungian Shadow, in dream and myth, fiction and discourse, not simply represent but functionally manifest a subsystem of the psyche, becoming an avatar of a type of identity just as we, in our bodies, are avatars of our own personas? Becoming, we might say, living information?
If our morphology contains a Thomas or a Pigspurt who, in our imagination, take on a level of autonomy and control, becoming functionally agencies distinct from us, it is only a small step to the generation of a stranger type of agency (or pseudo-agency), not manifesting in the form of a "person" but rather in that of Dick's "Vast Active Living Intelligent System", the alien machine god which invaded (or emerged within) his hallucinations. With the depersonalisation of this agency, the paring away of anthropomorphic characteristics, Dick escapes a literalist symbolism of divine and sentient beings to offer us a more realistic picture of this type of memetic entity, not a sentient being as such, but a simulacrum of one, a model and a program running in his imagination.
We must look at the Deus Irae and the Empire in similar terms, lacking true sentience as simulacra, perhaps, but having agency, to all intents and purposes, as model and program, active in the imagination, manifesting an autonomous identity, an alter ego... or simply, I would argue, a gestalt ego, the gestalt ego. The Empire is a vast active living intelligent system, at work within us. If it does not become apparent through hallucinations to us, as VALIS did to Dick, it remains detectable in the lesser visions of sleep and art.
All archetypal art is agitprop for or against the psychological / metaphysical systems it articulates. It may also be direct action.
A Perfect Map
Unlike a class system in programming, the class system of the idios kosmos is largely reverse-engineered, abstracted from a vast potage of experience, sensations differentiated into events (a riot, an election, a birthday party), which are differentiated, in turn, into nameable objects and actions, nouns and verbs, which are abstracted eventually into classes. We do this because it's an effective approach, but we're engaged in labelling as much as anything. Parameters for an event (like a riot or an election) are generally informal. Whether an object constitutes a participant or not, whether an act is part of the event or not, where and when and how an event begins and ends -- all of this is decided ad hoc. Is a bystander part of the riot because they're caught up in it? Is a non-voter part of an election as a member of the electorate? At what point does a protest become a riot? Does the election begin on voting day or with the electioneering? And so on.
The point is, in constructing the morphological system of a worldview a process of morphogony is again required. We take the chaos of "stuff happening" and seek areas of stability, constances that can be assigned symbolic pointers and articulated syntactically. The process of morphogony we carry out is by and large assumed to be an attempt to map the territory of an underlying morphology. This leads to revisions of taxonomies, as more complex morphology leads us into more complex systems of classes and sub-classes considered more accurate. When "fish" meant simply "sea-creature" it was not inaccurate to talk of whales as a sub-class of fish. As our knowledge of biology increased, the morphogony which gave us "fish" and "whale" has been superseded by a morphology which reassigns these labels in a system of phylum, family, genera and species, a more accurate map.
The taxonomies may be redefined, though, as much when we discover that our personal idios kosmos differs from those of others as when we discover it differs from reality. What I think of as a riot, you might think of as a protest, and vice versa. In order to communicate effectively we need to come to some agreement and its more likely to be a matter of consensus than of essential differences in the natures of a "protest" and a "riot". Think terrorists and freedom fighters. The informal and individual nature of such taxonomies becomes obvious if we take a word like "person" and look at the philosophical problems that arise when it comes to nascence and sentience: many would not consider a human embryo a "person" until a certain stage of development; many would consider any sentient individual a person, regardless of humanity. For many the word "person" does not map directly to "human being" but is rather about sentience, identity, personality, such that scientists who work closely with bonobos might argue they are "people" for entirely unsentimental and entirely valid reasons. Much of our taxonomy must be considered as socially negotiated. As such, the koinos kosmos is as consensual as it is empirical. The map is not just topographical but geo-political.
Imagination is the prime testing ground of a morphology, with prediction fundamental to the scientific method of falsification, and discourse and dialectic two of the most common mechanisms for finding flaws, logical inconsistencies. That a morphology is unfalsified and valid does not prove that it is correct -- if I can cause a cup to smash by throwing it at a wall, it does not follow that a smashed cup was caused by me throwing it at a wall -- but we can at least prove it incorrect if it is invalid and / or inconsistent with what we observe in the world. The map may be a perfect map, just not of our world.
The drive to construct an accurate model in terms of psychology and sociology is what leads us to Plato's Republic of soldiers and craftsmen and philosopher kings. It is also what leads us to Dick's Empire of Romans and early Christians. The two systems are not so very different. Indeed, Plato's exile of the artists offers us an insight into one of the most characteristic features of the Empire, its privileging of ego as Deus Irae over Apollonian self and Dionysian id. The sub-systems of the psyche have no inherent hierarchy, so the Empire must establish one, establish ego's sovereignty, its supremacy, in the symbolic exile of that cardinal threat -- the opposition, the other archetypal components of the psyche.
Plato's exile of the artists is, like Pentheus's rejection of Dionysus, an act of unreason. This opposition to art might appear at first sight to be simply a matter of the old reason versus passion dichotomy (mind versus body, spiritual versus material), a rejection of the dangers of passion (art) in favour of pure intellect (philosophy), but in rejecting art, the Apollonian self is exiled with the Dionysian id; the measured and intellectual elements of creativity are forbidden along with the liberated and emotional wildness. Pentheus's reason is false reason, brutal and crude. The Zeus Irae lacks Apollo's aesthetic judgement, his objective appreciation of pattern for pattern's sake, concerned only with the pragmatics of power. He subjugates Athena too, anima archetype of justice (she must be co-opted, remade in her rebirth from his head, rendered a mere extension of his will).
The morphology that results from this imposition of hierarchical relationships can only be pathological. The corridors of Empire, the halls of Pentheus, can never be a perfect map but can only be a totalitarian program which attempts to remodel the world in line with the map, the grand plan of a Stalin or a Mao. An illusion of rationality is maintained, an insistence that the morphology is not just accurate but supremely accurate, and the Empire does require believers to enforce its imperatives, but terror is as functional as faith, and even belief is fostered in the form of zeal, as a surrender to the overwhelming power of an idea rather than a critical appreciation of its validity and relevance.
The Prime Cause
In talking of a "perfect map", we are assuming, of course, that reality is essentially ordered, that there is actually some underlying consistent morphology to map. Arguably, this is not a given. From Godel's Theorem, through the uncertainty principle, to Random Truths, the last century or so has seen the most commitedly morphological disciplines of logic, maths and physics challenging the very foundations of order. The theory of Random Truths, for example, takes us entirely into the realm of morphogony, positing, it seems to me, (in so far as I understand it,) that reality is as much in the business of generating ad hoc and artificial morphologies as we are, that existence really does precede essence.
This, it will come as no surprise, pleases me rather a lot.
But I am going to assume, for the sake of argument, a consistent morphology to the material cosmos, that the morphogonic model in which order is merely local stability is not a denial of causality but rather a localisation of it. In these zones of order, we are not presenting coincidence as sequential relationship, creating a cosmos which is just one big daisy chain of chance events, but rather as selective relationship, creating the stochastic framework of the cosmos as one big event in its own right. Causality, here, is not a copy of the complete works of Shakespeare typed, by chance, by a bonobo at a typewriter hitting random keys. It is a copy of the complete works of Shakespeare selected, by chance, by a bonobo at a computer randomly clicking the mouse twice on a website of e-texts -- once to select Elizabethan playwrights and once to select "Shakespeare" as opposed to "Marlowe", where "Elizabethan" is the choice of consistency and the distinction between "Shakespeare" and "Marlowe" is that between dynamic and static morphologies.
We can break it down a bit more, map the specific nature of particular stochastic morphologies to particular plays of Shakespeare's, the constants and laws of this physics or that metaphysics to the characters, actions and themes of this play or that, the rich detailing of existence to the linguistic complexity of the actual dialogue. We can map attempts to explicate or replicate stochastic morphologies to attempts to explicate or replicate Shakespearean drama. We can look for a sort of core of simpler forms from which the intricate detail is generated in a process of evolution or design. This is often how we tackle difficult morphologies, by analogy and metaphor, testing one map with another, using it as a map of the map. The danger of this, of argument from analogy, is that a map can seem quite perfect if we are comparing it only with another map.
It is precisely from these sort of comparisons that the argument from design is drawn -- contending that the complex morphology of the world implies a creator just as the complex morphology of the play implies a playwright -- but it is exactly in such comparisons that the argument from design comes apart. The heritage of story and drama implicit in a Shakespeare play (or any play), the historical construction of a fiction from discourses stretching back to the neolithic and beyond, suggests that we therefore view any divine act of creation as similarly constructed, similarly historical. The argument from design collapses into an argument for a tradition of design. If God is a designer, we must ask, who were his influences? Who did he learn from? Who did he steal from? How did he build on that? How did he react against it? What aesthetic form was he aiming for? What corpus of works gives the cosmos its context? What contemporaries were working in the same field? Who were his imitators, his equals, his betters?
Who is his Marlowe?
I assume, for the sake of argument, that there is a morphology to be mapped, largely because this seems to be the general consensus of how the material cosmos works. But there is a problem at the heart of this consensus, rooted in the denial of morphogony. Even those whose maps are physical rather than metaphysical, whose morphologies posit evolution rather than creation, development rather than design, often seem to believe that the map is perfectible and must be perfected, that when it is perfected what we will have is a morphological form which is eternal and absolute and from which all others result, both essentially and existentially.
The problem with this is not that the perfect map may only be an analogue of another map, may be invalid in and of itself or irrelevant in relation to reality, nor even that the perfect map may be a product of social negotiation as much as anything else, a map of the koinos kosmos rather than the material cosmos. The problem is that the Empire has persuaded us that the perfect map comes before the territory it portrays. Morphology must have primacy over morphogony, the Empire must be supreme, so the search becomes a quest for a map so "perfect" it must be true, a morphological form whose validity necessitates its relevance. In buying into this essentialist doctrine of a foundational morphology, Platonic and perfect, even the most ardently scientistic, for whom that morphology is a Great Equation rather than a Great Creator, are buying into the falsehood that underlies ontological arguments for the existence of God, the transference of "perfection" from a measure of the validity and relevance of a morphology as model to a measure of its power as program, as a Prime Cause. "Perfection" ceases to relate to accuracy and comes to relate to authority -- a truth so grand, so absolute, that it cannot be denied.
I can imagine, said Anselm, a being greater than which no being can be imagined.
Great Equation or Great Creation, Law or Lord, that power is the Deus Irae, the Empire.
Next: Part Four -- Anselm's Great God