aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Chapter 21: Thou Also Dwellest In Eternity

Work hard, play hard, converge to a transcendent and unified end state of human evolution called the Omega Point as predicted by Teilhard.
@GapOfGods

Noon, May 12, 2017
San Francisco

I.

The resemblances between San Francisco and the Biblical Jerusalem are uncanny.

The highest point in Jerusalem was King Solomon’s Temple Mount; the highest point in San Francisco is the suspiciously-named Mount Davidson. To the north of the Temple was the Golden Gate, leading to the city of Tiberias; to the north of Mount Davidson is the Golden Gate Bridge, leading to the city of Tiburon. Southwest of Jerusalem city center was the Roman legions’ camp (Latin: “castrum”); southwest of San Francisco city center is the Castro District. To the south of Jerusalem lay Gehennam, the Valley of Sulfur; to the south of San Francisco lies Silicon Valley. To the east of Jerusalem was the giant dungheap where the Israelites would throw their refuse; to the east of San Francisco is Oakland. Like I said, uncanny.

The east gate of Jerusalem is called the Bab al-Buraq; the east gate of San Francisco is called the Bay Bridge. The Bab al-Buraq has been bricked up since the Crusades; the Bay Bridge has been barricaded since the 1970s.

Ana Thurmond spoke a Name, became invisible, and slipped past the barricades, the guards in their guard towers none the wiser.

Just inside the Bab al-Buraq was the Temple Treasury; just past the barricades on the Bay Bridge is Treasure Island. The Temple Treasury became a base for the Knights Templar; Treasure Island became a base for the US Navy. Both military forces abandoned their respective bases a few decades later; both had their partisans who prophecied they would one day regain their former glory. The Temple Treasury, upon the coming of Moshiach and the construction of the Third Temple; Treasure Island, after the San Francisco government completed an environmental impact evaluation and approved a real estate development plan. God in His wisdom alone knows which will happen first.

Ana passed Treasure Island, went into the tunnel through Yerba Buena. There are tunnels underneath Jerusalem, too, built for sieges. Some of them have the earliest known paleo-Hebrew inscriptions on them. The Yerba Buena tunnel had a sign. It said:

AS PER THE CALIFORNIA SECURITY ACT OF 1972, SECTION 22 PART 10:
This has been declared a restricted area
It is unlawful to cross beyond this point
Deadly force will be used upon violators of this ordinance

Ana left the tunnel, walked onto the second half of the bridge. The sun beat down on her. The span of the bridge seemed to shimmer and sway. The city ahead of her grew larger with each step.

John of Patmos described the New Jerusalem as “having the glory of God, and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal”. The buildings of San Francisco were…varied. Ana had seen them before, but only from afar. There’s a park in Berkeley where you can sit on the edge of the Bay and stare directly across at San Francisco. Throughout the 70s and 80s, such watchers were rewarded with strange sights. New skyscrapers arose. Old ones were torn down. A huge lidless eye opened on the top of the Transamerica Pyramid. Weird structures that seemed to defy gravity were erected, geodesic domes, spiral minarets in every color of the rainbow. Iridescent spheres the size of city blocks that hovered in midair. The northern end of the Golden Gate, shrouded in a luminous mist.

Now as she stepped off the Bay Bridge, she saw it face-to-face for the first time. It was even stranger than she had expected. The sidewalks were covered with kabbalistic diagrams written in gold chalk. The walls of the buildings were covered with murals depicting alien worlds, and every spot of greenery burst forth with flowers that were out of season or totally unrecognizable. Young children played in car-free streets with asphalt white as pearl.

(“Thus says the Lord,” prophesied Zechariah. “Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age. And the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.”)

“Transcendent joy,” a little boy told Ana as she passed him, heedless of her invisibility. “Universal love,” said the little girl he was playing with. “Holy, holy, holy!” barked their little dog.

An old man was sweeping the streets with a broom. His faces sparkled like that of a young man looking into the eyes of his beloved. “Transcendent joy,” he told her, and Ana replied with an awkward “Thanks”, breaking her invisibility – not that it seemed to be useful here. Whatever had made them like this must have also –

Wait, thought Ana, did that dog just bark the word ‘holy’ at me?

II.

Francis of Assisi had been unusually holy even for saints. His father had been a rich businessman, and he grew up in a world of luxury, sports, and feasting. One day, he was out selling cloth for his father’s business when a beggar approached him and asked for alms. Francis tossed him a coin, and the beggar went away. Then he sat and thought for a few minutes. Then he ran after the beggar, caught up with him, and gave him everything he had.

When he told his father what had happened, the old man was outraged. Why had he blown away his money like that? Well, why indeed? Francis couldn’t answer. He just thought…well, doesn’t the Bible say we should do good? “Not that much good, Francis!”

His father sent Francis off to war. On the way to battle, Francis saw another knight with worse armor than he, and gave the man his armor. Apparently he was no more a soldier than a merchant. “Look,” his father told him, as they sat selling cloth together in the marketplace, “good is all nice and good in moderation, but it’s a give and take thing. You’ve got to find a happy medium.”

(But the soul is still oracular, amid the market’s din / List the ominous stern whisper from the Delphic cave within / They enslave their children’s children who make compromise with sin.)

(“I’m not saying make compromise with sin. I’m just saying it wouldn’t kill you to be less than maximally saintly sometimes.”)

(“Exactly what do you think compromise with sin is?”)

Everyone likes goodness, in the abstract. Everybody agrees that things that are more good are better things to do. But somehow it slips away. We use words like supererogatory, phrases like “nobody’s perfect”. We set a limit to our duty, reach it if we’re lucky, and past that we just give the usual excuses – “yeah, but if I gave all of my stuff to beggars, I’d end up as a beggar myself”, or just “I never said I was a saint.”

St. Francis gave his clothes to a beggar, then took the beggars’ rags for himself. He swore an oath of perpetual poverty and begged for bread in the streets of Rome. He started hanging around in hovels and ministering to lepers, on the grounds that this sounded like a very holy thing to do. He rebuilt ruined churches with his own hands, stone by stone. When he read that same Bible verse Peter Singer must have read – “if you would be perfect, sell all you have and give it to the poor” – he sold all he had and gave it to the poor, mildly confused that other Christians didn’t when it was right there in the Bible. When someone stole his cloak, he literally ran after him to offer his robe as well.

He attracted a following of thousands of people. He fasted for weeks at a time. The Pope started to have dreams about him.

He decided to stop the Crusades by converting the Sultan of Egypt to Christianity. Unarmed and provisionless, he walked from Italy to the Middle East, performing various miracles along the way. In Egypt he was captured by Saracens and beaten nearly to death. But they let him have his audience with the Sultan, maybe just for the comedy value; Francis dusted himself off, got up, and started talking about how everyone should live in peace and harmony with one another. The Sultan was so impressed that he converted to Christianity on the spot, according to later historians who were all Christians and who never quite got around to citing their sources and who changed the subject when asked why there continued to be Crusades.

After this Francis just went around preaching to everything in sight. When the cawing of a flock of birds interrupted one of his sermons, Francis preached to the birds, telling them that God had provided them with beautiful feathers and the gift of flight, so instead of screeching randomly all the time why didn’t they help him at his prayers? The birds immediately quieted down and began to pray with Francis. When a wolf was eating people in the nearby town, Francis reminded the wolf that men were made in the image of God, and the wolf was so ashamed it slunk into town in an apologetic-looking manner and begged the townspeople for forgiveness. He invented the Christmas nativity scene. He saw visionary angels. He inexplicably developed wounds that looked a lot like the stigmata of Christ.

“Preach of God at all times,” they said he would tell them. “If necessary, use words.”

I am a kabbalist. Names have power. The Spaniards who settled California named a mission after him, Mission San Francisco de Asís. You give a place a name like that, things happen. Maybe it becomes a nexus for countercultural love and tolerance. Maybe it starts to develop uncanny geographical resemblances to Jerusalem. And maybe the Right Hand of God descends upon Mount Davidson into the body of a drug-addled hippie and ushers in a city-specific version of the Messianic Age, leaving its neighbors deeply concerned.

The whole thing happened suddenly, over the course of a couple of days in 1970. Early June they were debating a couple of big banks’ proposals to build new skyscrapers; late June they were pretty much just singing songs of praise for the glory of God. Worse, it was catching. Anyone who stayed in the city long enough seemed to become like that – with long enough being anywhere from days to months. They never got better and they never left. The whole place was sealed off as a public safety hazard, which seemed to bother them not at all.

“The true servant unceasingly rebukes the wicked,” St. Francis had said, “but he does it most of all by his conduct, by the truth that shines in his words, by the light of his example, by all the radiance of his life.” Whatever had happened in San Francisco, the city was happy to stay self-contained, leading only by example. And the rest of the world was happy to place a military barricade around it and keep trying to ignore that example as long as possible.

III.

There were old maps, from the time when the city was still a part of the outside world. Ana remembered certain names: Market Street, Lombard Street, Embarcadero – but she didn’t see any of them, and the street signs seem to have been torn down and replaced with standing stones covered in Enochian, the language of angels. So she followed the waterfront, looking for some kind of official building where she might be able to get some information, register herself, figure out who the authorities were. Back when people had still visited the city, they could go native in as little as days; Ana didn’t plan to stay that long. She would get the kabbalistic books she needed to reconstruct the Vital Name, then get out.

The bulbs of the streetlights had been replaced with lidless eyes, each ineffably wise and beautiful. The mailboxes were made of jasper, and the parking meters of carnelian. Seagulls called “Holy, holy, holy!” down at her from the roofs.

A man in a food stand offered her a churro. Ana fumbled for currency, sputtering that she had only American greenbacks and not whatever passed for money in San Francisco. “God has provided us this food,” said the vendor, “and you are a child of God. Would God let His children go hungry, when all food is His?” He refused to accept a single cent. She sat down on a pier with the churro, drank water from a water fountain made of onyx and abalone. Seals splashed around in the sea in front of her, heedless of her presence.

It was the hottest part of the afternoon now. The air shimmered more than she was used to. The streets were changing color in a seven second cycle, red-yellow-green-blue-purple-red. The stars were clearly visible, though it was day. The seals barked “Holy, holy, holy!” at her, and the seagulls answered with “Universal love!”.

“Universal love,” a woman walking a Golden Retriever said to Ana. “Transcendent joy,” barked the dog. “Everything has been perfect forever,” the woman told her dog, and it quieted down.

There was a tower on a hill, a few minutes’ walk from the waterfront. The lure was irresistible. She left the shoreline and begin to walk inland, gradually uphill. She wasn’t sure if the streets were spiral-shaped or, if so, how she continued to cover distance. The clouds came in tens, ten of one type, then another. Ana thought this might be important. In a yard ahead and to the right of her, two men were talking to a flock of scarlet macaws, and the macaws were listening intently.

“Universal love!” screeched one of the macaws, and the men sagely nodded their heads in agreement. “Transcendent joy,” one of them said, and the others laughed knowingly.

She reached the tower. Needless to say, there was a spiral staircase. The inside was covered in colorful murals. The symbolism was unclear. A man crumpling a newspaper. A library. Endless fruit trees, vast machinery, scenes of devastation. Empty-eyed people crammed together like crabs in a bucket or the damned in Hell. A woman swimming in a cloud, a thousand feet above what was recognizably San Francisco. A doorway flanked by the sun and moon, with two great Eyes staring forth from thunderclouds above.

Ana stepped through the doorway and reached the top of the tower.

The sky was now very clearly glass, and she could see the gears and conduits above it, the part Ginsberg had called the machinery of night. She could see the connection between the machinery and the pulse of San Francisco. She knew the city’s hidden pattern now, she saw it all laid out in order around Mt. Davidson. She knew she could go there in an instant if she wanted, but there was no need, not here.

She spoke the Zephyr Name and called the winds for no reason but exultation.

They came to her, the sirocco and the squall, the monsoon and the derecho. The mistral, the levante, the tramontane. The haboob, the marin, the simoom. They all presented themselves before her, but came no further.

She had never spoken a kabbalistic Name like this before. Before they had just been letters, the appellation of a distant and transcendant deity. Now God was with her and beside her. John of Patmos had said that there would be no Temple in the New Jerusalem, because God would dwell there everywhere alike.

Last of all the winds came her own wind, the Santa Ana.

She danced in the wind, maniacally, singing, laughing. “Holy, holy, holy!” she sang, and the wind carried the word to the four quarters. For a brief moment, she passed beyond time. “Transcendent joy!” she shouted at all the poor people trapped in the sublunary world, but they didn’t hear.

Someone grabbed her body, the part of her that was stuck on the tower, the part of her that meant nothing. “Stop!” he told her, in a man’s voice. “You’ve got to come back!”

Ana soared. She circled the Transamerica Pyramid, and the giant lidless eye watched her course impassively.

“Listen!” said the man. “One plus one is two. If you don’t eat, you die. P implies not not P. Prices are controlled by the law of supply and demand, and are the only fair way of managing scarcity.”

Ana began to lose altitude.

“Organisms evolve according to the laws of natural selection. Reproductively fit organisms pass their genes on to the next generation. Uh. The wages of sin are death. Everybody dies. In a closed system, entropy always increases.”

Ana flapped her arms vigorously, trying to regain altitude, but her flight had never come from wings to begin with, and she fell further.

“Matter can’t be created or destroyed. Uh, calculus. Taxing a product disincentivizes its production. The light speed limit. No mathematical system can prove itself consistent, or else it would be inconsistent.”

Ana gently landed somewhere. She wasn’t in the tower. She was on a wharf. There were people all around her, dousing her with water, holding her hands, saying things to her.

“Prisoner’s dilemma! Can’t square the circle! Nothing exists but atoms and empty space, all else is opinion! Bad money drives out…no, look guys! She’s awake!”

Ana smiled, like someone awaking from a beatific dream. The men around her began to hoot and slap each other on the backs. She barely noticed.

In front of her was the most beautiful ship she had ever seen.

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164 Responses to Chapter 21: Thou Also Dwellest In Eternity

  1. Pickle says:

    So here we have the cover of Book 2, near a boat that might be The Comet King’s. Ana has been involved in both Book covers so far. There are probably kabbalistic implications to this.

    (man, all these things chanting holy holy holy, why do they never go on to use the next bit? I like both the versions: Isaiah follows up with “is the Lord of Hosts, the Earth is full of His glory,” and Revelations has “is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.”)

  2. Pink Jenkin says:

    All this New Jerusalem, rebuilt Jerusalem imagery … I told you, unbelievers! I am stronger than before in my belief that from Scott renaming Sandalphon “Uriel”, that supposedly good angel’s true allegiance was made known.

    As a (the?) King of Edom, Thamiel is the same infernal personage as Asmodeus.

    The wife of Asmodeus, and the queen of Sitra Ahra, is Lilith.

    “Lilith” was translated as “screech owl” in the KJV.

    And what are the three emanations of the Owl?

    U RIEL, the current ruler of the the material world

    YA RIEL, which is one of the names of the Gnostic Demiurge as well as a personification of Jerusalem

    NO BAI, who entered into the covenant with God after the rebuilding of Jerusalem in the Book of Nehemiah.

    Asiyah is re-created, Jerusalem is re-created, the Covenant is re-created. As above, so below. This is not a coincidence.

  3. Arancaytar says:

    “Transcendent joy,” a little boy told Ana as she passed him, heedless of her invisibility. “Universal love,” said the little girl he was playing with.

    Not a coincidence, because nothing is.

  4. Daniel Blank says:

    1. Is Cactus Person now part of the Unsongverse?

    2. With all the “Holy, holy, holy”, more evidence for Armstrong being the RHOG.

    3. Ana is probably on the ship in the title page, which means whoever woke her up is probably Cometspawn or otherwise affiliated with TCK.

    4. Is the first of those parenthesized voices the Messiah? (See http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/Unsong , apparently the Messiah reads Peter Singer)

    • Sniffnoy says:

      I was hoping we would meet the RHOG this chapter to resolve the matter, but apparently not. Still, my bet is still that there is a relation between what happened to Neil and the RHOG — see my comments on the last chapter — but that they are not the same.

    • gwern says:

      What part of

      And maybe the Right Hand of God descends upon Mount Davidson into the body of a drug-addled hippie and ushers in a city-specific version of the Messianic Age, leaving its neighbors deeply concerned.

      sounds like ‘Neil Armstrong’ to you? It was the dude in the earlier chapter, as we thought, since we know he’s not the Comet King now.

      • Daniel Blank says:

        As the comments said on the earlier chapter (Interlude He) when Kesey’s friend whose name I don’t remember asks the RHOG “Who are you?” the RHOG answers “KNEEL”, which is probably “NEIL”. This is what points toward Armstrong descending into the body of said drug-addled hippie.

        • But then how was he still transmitting praises up there in the nineties?

          • Daniel Blank says:

            His body could still be up there saying “oooo” while he remotely descends into Kesey’s body.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Oh, hm. That just might be possible. (Now where’s Raziel, is the question…)

          • boris says:

            I have a wild hunch that Raziel has something to do with Comet West. I can’t find anything to back in up in terms of myth, etymology, etc, hence “hunch”. We know the Comet King isn’t exactly human, he is “born of the heavens”, so whatever the other half is–presumably the half he got from Comet West–is either angelic or other. Since we haven’t seen or heard of any others besides demons (and those I think we can rule out), I’m assuming (dangerously I know) that Comet West was/is angelic, at least until better information comes along.

            The only Archangels left are Gabriel, Uriel, and Raziel. Gabriel has told a young woman she was knocked up before, so maybe he’s a better fit for being associated with Comet West, but based on their personalities this seems unlikely.

          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            The only Archangels left are Gabriel, Uriel, and Raziel.

            And Metatron, but it’s very very unlikely he’s Jala’s father.

          • Deiseach says:

            Ack! People, for a bunch of SF readers, I am very disappointed in you: it’s not that “his body is up there saying ‘oooooo'”; that is what we are hearing on this side of the event horizon – sound, like light, is Doppler shifted so we THE OBSERVERS (or in this case, listeners) THINK AN OBJECT IS INFINITELY APPROACHING BUT NEVER CROSSING:

            (A)ny object approaching the horizon from the observer’s side appears to slow down and never quite pass through the horizon

            and hence the SOUND has slowed down and become infinitely extended, hence the continuous “oooooooo” sound picked up by radio as mentioned in the last(?) chapter (or whichever chapter it was, I apologise for not checking).

            However, Armstrong himself has crossed in a finite amount of time and (presumably) entered the Empyrean (which is what lies outside and beyond and surpassing the nested crystalline spheres of the material cosmos) and is so now in Eternity, not Time (and can move back into or act upon the lower spheres).

        • dsotm says:

          I like that theory

          Ashes to ashes, funk to funky
          We know Major Tom’s a junkie
          Strung out in heaven’s high
          Hitting an all-time low

          • gwern says:

            I was going to say, the Neil theory was dumb because it implies his body is still singing (or something?) but now I see that there is good scriptural support for Neil simultaneously being beyond the heavenly sphere & doing stuff in SF.

          • LHC says:

            Frankly, the idea that it’s dumb for Neil Armstrong (who literally ascended to a higher plane of existence where he’s one with God) to simultaneously be saying “o” forever and controlling a human on Earth is itself unbelievably dumb.

          • But we haven’t seen anything violate locality yet, not even TCK or Uriel or Thamiel or Metatron.

          • LHC says:

            If we know enough about Thamiel or Metatron to feel comfortable knowing that they can’t violate locality, then that’s a surprise to me. The Comet King and Uriel, on the other hand, despite their great power and significance, are characters defined by general all-consuming doubt – and consequently are distinctly separated from God, contrary to Neil Armstrong.

          • HonoreDB says:

            No locality problem with the pattern theory of identity. “Kneel” seems to be a verb, and two can neil in different places. Now, if they have live master-master replicating memories with no speed-of-light syncing delay or occasional CAP issues, that’s a different matter.

    • Galle says:

      “Holy, holy, holy” is just the first part of a chant praising the holiness of God (which, given the definition of “holy” seems like an odd thing to consider specifically praiseworthy, but whatever) and is behavior typically associated with, among others, angels. All it tells us in connection to Armstrong is that both are experiencing unusually highly concentrated amounts of divine light.

      • Deiseach says:

        (G)iven the definition of “holy” seems like an odd thing to consider specifically praiseworthy

        Ahem. Any excuse to quote the Catechism 🙂

        I. “HALLOWED BE THY NAME”

        2807 The term “to hallow” is to be understood here not primarily in its causative sense (only God hallows, makes holy), but above all in an evaluative sense: to recognize as holy, to treat in a holy way. And so, in adoration, this invocation is sometimes understood as praise and thanksgiving.66 But this petition is here taught to us by Jesus as an optative: a petition, a desire, and an expectation in which God and man are involved. Beginning with this first petition to our Father, we are immersed in the innermost mystery of his Godhead and the drama of the salvation of our humanity. Asking the Father that his name be made holy draws us into his plan of loving kindness for the fullness of time, “according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ,” that we might “be holy and blameless before him in love.”

        2808 In the decisive moments of his economy God reveals his name, but he does so by accomplishing his work. This work, then, is realized for us and in us only if his name is hallowed by us and in us.

        2809 The holiness of God is the inaccessible center of his eternal mystery. What is revealed of it in creation and history, Scripture calls “glory,” the radiance of his majesty. In making man in his image and likeness, God “crowned him with glory and honor,” but by sinning, man fell “short of the glory of God.” From that time on, God was to manifest his holiness by revealing and giving his name, in order to restore man to the image of his Creator.

        • wubbles says:

          As on many other issues, I think the Catholic understanding is not shared by the rabbis. It appears according to a source on rabbinical understandings that holiness of G-d is simply being apart from the mundane world. And so praising G-d for his holiness is to praise him for being distinct from physical reality and greater then it. However, one can bless the name by refusing to transgress the law (only certain law) at the cost of one’s own life, thus sacralizing the name, splitting it from the objects one would not sacrifice one’s life to.

          The holy-profane distinction of Durkheim is at work in the Mosaic law. It’s goal is to segregate the Holiest of Holies from the profane world, and does so through elaborate systems of purification. There isn’t much mystery here, unlike the Catechism: just the fact of separation.

          • Wouldn’t that make the atheist who never even thinks about God the most virtuous of all, since he has done the least to connect God and His Name with every day reality?

    • boris says:

      Re: 4–
      I think the reference on TV Tropes to the Messiah reading Peter Singer should be taken literally. It’s a wiki and whoever wrote it probably doesn’t know any more than we do. I think the author concluded, possibly incorrectly, that Interlude ג implied that effective altruism was the motive for the Comet King’s attack on Hell. But all we really know is that the Comet King and Singer share(d?) the belief that Hell must be destroyed. Plus, the Comet King was born of the heavens, and if he’s at all angelic he was probably pretty strongly incensed to smite evildoers by his very nature.

      • boris says:

        *TV Tropes comment should not be taken literally. I really tried hard to proofread that time, God Most High help me.

      • Daniel Blank says:

        There is, however, a possibility that Scott himself wrote the tvtropes page (Scott, confirm?), as evidenced by the bit about Henry Kissinger, which was on the tvtropes page before Strategic Angel Reserves were mentioned.

  5. boris says:

    (But the soul is still oracular, amid the market’s din / List the ominous stern whisper from the Delphic cave within / They enslave their children’s children who make compromise with sin.)

    (“I’m not saying make compromise with sin. I’m just saying it wouldn’t kill you to be less than maximally saintly sometimes.”)

    (“Exactly what do you think compromise with sin is?”)

    There it is again! Who is speaking? Notably, last time it was

    (“But the soul is still oracular; amid the market’s din,
    List the ominous stern whisper from the Delphic cave within,—
    ‘They enslave their children’s children who make compromise with sin.’”)

    (“We’re not making compromise with sin. We just want to be less than maximally saintly sometimes.”)

    (“Exactly what do you think compromise with sin is?”)

    • boris says:

      it sounds like a very Singer thing to say, I might add. In the sense of the person, who appears to have been uncompromisingly altruistic, though obviously singers should also aspire to be perfect since they’re trying to be good.

    • Ben Finkel says:

      I think they’re both metaphorical conversations. In this case, it’s a pretend conversation between St. Francis and his Father.

    • hnau says:

      The lines of poetry are from: http://www.bartleby.com/102/128.html

      As references go, this one seems pretty obscure. Any ideas what it might indicate?

      • boris says:

        Well, Erika recites some of it in Ch. 2. That stanza basically seems like it lays out the requirements of sainthood–basically everyone finds some excuse not to be perfect as God is perfect. These parenthetical might be the saints’ responses to that kind of moral laxitude–Singer’s response to conventional people with the conventional morality, perhaps, and maybe Francis with his father as Ben said.

        Strange that we didn’t get one for the Comet King yet. Though you have to be human to be a saint–have to have suffered all the temptations and travails of mortal life, which may well have been spared.

  6. Can they factor large numbers in San Francisco?

  7. Soumynona says:

    Is the continuing ungooglability of Unsong chapters a deliberate choice? People were complaining about it way back and I thought Scott wanted to fix it, but I’m not sure.

    • I asked the company managing this site for help. The representative told me she did fix the robots.txt, and now it’s Google’s fault if they’re still not indexing me. She suggested logging on to Google webmaster tools and doing something there, but my pitiful technical skills have made that a multi-day project and I’m still working on it.

      • Soumynona says:

        It’s not Google’s fault. There’s a robots meta tag in the page source:
        meta name='robots' content='noindex,follow'

        The noindex needs to be removed. Or the entire tag altogether, because the “follow” doesn’t seem to do anything. It seems like something that should be possible to do by mucking around with the site’s settings, unless there’s a bug of some sort. Maybe somebody boiled a goat in its mother’s milk.

        It kind of made the situation slightly worse because with robots.txt pages can still be indexed when there are external links to them, but when the crawler sees the noindex tag, it forgets the page completely.

        Google’s short summary of what the tag does is here:
        https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/93710

        More detailed documentation of the tag here:
        https://developers.google.com/webmasters/control-crawl-index/docs/robots_meta_tag?csw=1#abstract

  8. Argent says:

    There is no car.

  9. Kolya says:

    abalone or alabaster?

  10. Barbara says:

    This chapter makes me wonder what’s going on in actual Israel.

  11. John Buridan says:

    That St. Francis bit could have included more nudity. I almost worry he is being depicted as too TAME.

    This chapter almost made me depressed.
    Fides et ratio non miscuit in Unsong tamquam laetae spesque maximae hominum non permissit.

    or

    Being darkly wise and rudely great
    With too much weakness for the skeptic’s side
    With too much weakness for Stoic’s pride.

  12. Walter says:

    It’s interesting that the effect used to take as days to weeks, but Ana seems to fall under its sway in scant minutes. Is it stronger than it used to be, or is she just predisposed?

  13. Pink Jenkin says:

    “Churro” in Hebrew is “צורוס”, which is gematrically equivalent to “קרבני”, “offering”, in this passage from Numbers: “Command the children of Israel, and say unto them, My offering, and my bread for my sacrifices made by fire, for a sweet savour unto me, shall ye observe to offer unto me in their due season.”

  14. Subbak says:

    Meh. Didn’t click much for me. Maybe it’s because less snark than usual, or maybe it’s because the jokes don’t work so well if you’re not familiar with San Francisco (beyond the existence of the Golden Gate), or with Jerusalem for that matter, and the correspondences look completely arbitrary (which they are, but they shouldn’t look that way).

  15. Anonymous says:

    Uh, calculus.

    *dies*

  16. Sniffnoy says:

    Hm — earlier I suggested that the Comet King should have organized routine spaceflights to the cracks in the sky for the dying and suicidal. But this chapter raises the question: Maybe he should have sent them to San Francisco?

    Also, I can’t help but notice that Scott refers simply to the “US Navy” in this chapter, not expanding that acronym out. 🙂

    • It seems (almost) like the moral equivalent of just putting them on opium for the rest of their lives, which we could do now but don’t really.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Well, the benefit of the cracks in the sky plan was that that seems to be a definite way out of Hell. Whereas it seems like the inhabitants of San Francisco are probably still mortal. So yeah, it’s a big step down. But it’s hard to say; we don’t really know just what’s up with San Francisco at the moment. Even if they are mortal, it’s quite possible that living there for a while is also a way to avoid Hell.

    • LHC says:

      Why shouldn’t the Comet King simply take away the seals on San Francisco and allow the “contamination” to spread across the globe?

      • Oh goody, moral dilemmas!

        (though since the chapter made it unclear, I should note that people who go into San Francisco tend to get affected, but there’s no evidence that it spreads beyond San Francisco. Though I guess there’s no 100% certainty that it doesn’t either.)

        • Ninmesara says:

          The invisible name seems to be much less effective than advertised originally. Since people in San Francisco can see Ana, I wonder what they have in common with Malia. Did she used to live in San Francisco? Does she come from the earthly equivalent to hell? There are hints about the possibility of having angels and demons incarnate, and that is also a distinct possibility. Angels can’t sing names (she uses the Fulminant Name on Ana), but maybe demons might.

          • Murphy says:

            it did mention the children of angels and humans so perhaps partially angelic beings have special rules and can use names.

          • Pat says:

            My current theory is that Malia Ngo is the messiah, based on the comment about a not-nice messiahthat was declared official foreshadowing in the 2nd author’s note. If she is, and she has a special connection with God, then it would make sense that she has special abilities a la the Comet King. And the people in San Francisco have a special connection with God, that would give them special abilities with regard to the use of Names.

            Kind of a crackpot theory at this point, and I’m not sure how commonly-held it is.

        • Ninmesara says:

          The previous comment was meant to be a top level replay.

  17. Lambert says:

    I’m surprised more people didn’t try to enter San Francisco, especially the dying and impoverished.

    Random guess at an an important theme: blissful ignorance vs. bitter truth, as seen with angels and Ana, perhaps reflecting Raikoth’s truth/beauty dyad.

  18. Deiseach says:

    I appreciate the mention of Fr Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. (he was, of course, a Jesuit) in the chapter heading quote.

    Nicely done with St Francis, but as John Buridan says, needs a tiny bit more of the grittiness: the lepers and the nudity got left out. Scott thankfully avoided too much of the hippy-dippy that gets associated with St Francis, but he was not merely a passive dreamer who loved the little birdies and animals.

    The Marriage of St Francis and the Lady Poverty

    ‘For, still a youth, he fought against his father’s wish
    for the favor of a lady to whom, as to death,
    no one unlocks the door with gladness,

    ‘and before his spiritual court et coram patre
    he joined himself to her and, from then on,
    each passing day, he loved her more.

    ‘She, bereft of her first husband, scorned and unknown
    one thousand and one hundred years and more,
    remained without a suitor till he came.

    ‘Nor did it profit her when men heard that she stood
    unmoved, with Amyclas, despite the voice
    of him who put the whole wide world in fear.

    ‘Nor did it profit her when, being fiercely loyal
    and undaunted, while Mary stayed below,
    she wept with Christ upon the cross.

    ‘But, lest I make my meaning dark,
    let it be understood, in all that I have said,
    that these two lovers are Francis and Poverty.

    ‘Their happy countenances and their harmony,
    their love and wonder and sweet contemplation
    made them a cause for holy thoughts,

    ‘so that the venerable Bernard was the first
    to shed his shoes and run, pursuing such great peace,
    and, running, thought himself too slow.

    ‘O unknown riches and prolific good! Barefoot goes Giles,
    barefoot goes Sylvester, following the groom,
    so greatly pleasing is the bride.

    ‘Then that father and teacher went his way
    in company of his lady and that family,
    each one girt with the same humble cord.’

  19. hnau says:

    God in His wisdom alone knows which will happen first.

    I LOL’d. Nicely done.

  20. Anon. says:

    The annotated version of the book is really going to be something.

  21. neptunepink says:

    The northern end of the Golden Gate, shrouded in a luminous mist.

    The northern end of the Golden Gate is not in San Francisco, yet still is shrouded in luminous mist? Is that deliberate or an error?

    • I think it’s the bridge that’s supposed to be shrouded, not just the north end.

    • Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge is Mission San Rafael Arcangel; given the kabbalistic implications of Mission San Francisco, something pretty weird is probably going on there.

      • meyerkev248 says:

        Don’t forget Mission Santa Clara de Asis. Silicon Valley is probably really weird right about now.

        • Deiseach says:

          St Clare of Assisi is the patron saint of television (amongst other things), so the technology link works there. I don’t think the radical commitment to poverty is much in evidence in Silicon Valley, though (although it’s fascinating to imagine what it is like in the UNSONG universe where technology is breaking down and there is the direct presence of preternatural forces in the world):

          After Francis’s death, Clare continued to promote the growth of her order, writing letters to abbesses in other parts of Europe and thwarting every attempt by each successive pope to impose a rule on her order which watered down the radical commitment to corporate poverty she had originally embraced.

      • neophile says:

        It seems like “something pretty weird” is going on just about everywhere.

        Also: in ch20, Archangel Raphael was one of the people who objected to Sataniel’s ideas, and was noted as a skilled fighter (he guarded the Central Pacific). He died at Thamiel’s hands. There is no way this won’t influence things.

        • Nadav says:

          Nitpick: Raphael is not noted a skilled fighter. Gabriel says:

          “But one welcome truth had not changed: Uriel was weak. Very, very weak. Less skilled in combat even than Raphael. It was time to end this.”

  22. Ninmesara says:

    This chapter leaves us with lots of questions… Namely: what exactly did the Zephyr name do? Did it send Ana on an Astral trip? Did it call real winds? Were the winds somehow responsible for Ana’s rescue? And where did the compulsion to sing that particular name come from?

    I’m starting to feel that the main characters are acting like puppets of a higher force, probably Sarah (as in literally mind-controlled or at least getting subconscious hints on a regular basis), with stuff like Ana having a compulsion to sing a quite incongruous name and Aaron receiving the Spectral name over telepathy when nothing else seems to get through. Together with Aaron’s escape, I think it points to either mind-control, time travel, divination of the future or an improbable string of coincidences, and I really hope it’s not mind-control.

  23. LHC says:

    This is very much not the conflict between truth and beauty that other comments portray it as. At least within the context of the world of Unsong, it’s a conflict between awareness of a bigger-picture truth/beauty and awareness of the present, local situation – the latter of which is directly epistemologically inferior, as the former isn’t unaware of the present, local situation, it just realizes its true irrelevance.

    The Right Hand Of God isn’t ignorance, as the comments suggest; it’s the opposite, awareness. And the Left Hand Of God isn’t truth, either: it’s a lie.

    • Lambert says:

      THE LEFT HAND IS NOT EVIL! Severity is needed for God to guide mankind, lest we become spoiled children.

  24. Aegeus says:

    The chapter title, “Thou also dwellest in eternity,” loosely matches the Latin phrase “Et in arcadia ego,” (Even in Arcadia, I am there) which is an anagram for Unsong’s motto, “I tego arcana Dei.”

    I don’t know if this is relevant to the plot or if I’m just filling out my Kabbalist bingo card, but it’s definitely not a coincidence.

  25. Quixote says:

    I liked this chapter. It worked for me and I enjoyed the callbacks to some of your earlier works, but I think it would work also for those who miss the references.

  26. Daniel Speyer says:

    Gehenna? Really? Silicon valley isn’t *that* bad.

    • Deiseach says:

      Oh I don’t know, Daniel, I thought it was rather insulting to Gehenna to make the comparison 🙂

  27. Peter D says:

    OK, some questions/notes:
    – What is the significance of the “unclear symbolism” in the tower: “A man crumpling a newspaper. A library. Endless fruit trees, vast machinery, scenes of devastation”? Is “a woman swimming in a cloud, a thousand feet above what was recognizably San Francisco” Sohu, somehow?
    – Looks like feelings of “universal love” and “transcendent joy” are again connected with drug use (Ken Kesey)…
    – Ana is brought down with, among other things, the quote that is used in GotCHa and is associated with Moloch (“the wages of sin is death”)?

  28. Rand says:

    “The true servant unceasingly rebukes the wicked,” St. Francis had said, “but he does it most of all by his conduct, *but* the truth that shines in his words, by the light of his example, by all the radiance of his life.”

    but -> by

    (this threw me off)

  29. Rand says:

    “P implies not not P”.

    Do I hear a “but not vice-versa”?

    Of course I do. The Kabbalists have recognized the truth.

    There is no Truth but Intuitionistic Truth and Brouwer is its Prophet.

  30. The Tzelem- הצֶ֫לֶם says:

    Did Ana get out of the car?

  31. A. Quince says:

    I’m starting to get too much of a feeling that the characters of Aaron and Ana are being played like p(r)awns on a chessboard by some unknown forces. This has been building up for a while, but is starting to feel almost ridiculous, especially for Ana: she gets literally told what to do and that nothing will to wrong; gets handed some powerful names; gets helped run away from Ngo; and gets pulled away from San Fran before her mind gets fully sucked into transcendence. And Aaron gets telepathically told the invisibility name just when he needs it.

    The favourite candidate at this point for puppet-master seems to be Sarah the ensouled computer, who apparently still needs the help of humans for whatever purpose she is aiming for, even though she seems to teleport here and there. (Or is someone moving her around?)

    In any case, I’m starting to find it challenging to read Ana’s and Aaron’s adventures while keeping a modicum of belief in their agency. Whoever’s pulling the string had better show their faces soon, or start making mistakes, or somehow move on from being a perfect puppet master in the shadows.

    I also second the vague feeling that the story might involve time travel or future causality… might a future AI-overlord be manipulating the past to get Aaron and Ana to ensure its own creation in the shape of an ensouled Sarah? And might UNSONG know this and be tasked with avoiding it? But then what is TCK trying to do, and how does this fit with the whole abrahamic world of archangels and sephirot and the rest?

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m starting to get too much of a feeling that the characters of Aaron and Ana are being played like p(r)awns on a chessboard by some unknown forces.

      But that is exactly the fun (if you’re into schadenfreude as I am). Aaron and Ana had Big Plans about ruling the world, unimaginable riches, discovering and using Names for fun and profit and generally We’re On The Pig’s Back Now, Ma! after Aaron discovered the Vital Name:

      I bet you I can become emperor of the world within a month

      So they were going to be the new rulers of humanity or a fair facsimile thereof. And what happened? They’re running from/to all kinds of trouble and being pulled about like puppets by unknown beings, entities or forces yanking their strings.

      It couldn’t happen to a nicer megalomaniac 🙂

      That’s snippy of me, but whenever someone goes the James Bond Villain route (I shall rule the world, bwahaha!), I sit back and wait for reality to drop an anvil on their head, and so far the anvils are arriving right on schedule for Erica, Ana and Aaron.

  32. A. Quince says:

    … And going back to the early chapters where Sarah occurred, the fuss about Mac vs. PC seemed a bit overwrought and ridiculous, which could also point to Sarah coming back to the foreground as an important character with plenty of new info.

  33. Aran says:

    if you don’t eat, you die. … The wages of sin are death.

    GotCHa! (http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/30/meditations-on-moloch/)

  34. anon says:

    The first time the “universal love” and “transcendent joy” phrases were spoken, I thought it was a cute little reference.

    The twentieth, I was disappointed with Scott for his excessive indulgent self-reference.

    Still an enjoyable chapter overall, but weakened by the above.

    • LHC says:

      Get out of the fucking car.

    • LHC says:

      To put it more explicitly: the reference is relevant, not “cute”. The chapter would work very well if “Universal Love, Said The Cactus Person” didn’t exist, and the fact that it does just gives us more material to mine. You underestimate Scott and it’s incredibly grating.

      • anon says:

        I suppose. Maybe the repetition grates on me so much because things that get repeated so much could be expected to be significant, but not if it’s just a reference. But then perhaps I’m unfairly discounting the possibility that it will be a reference and incredibly important – I’m still kind of stunned that Charlatan’s Enochian is the true, honest-to-Name language of angels, given how utterly farcical and inGlorious that seems.

        • LHC says:

          Recontextualize. The angels didn’t decide that they all might as well speak a language some charlatan invented. Rather, some charlatan miraculously and accidentally happened upon the language of the angels.

          • anon says:

            This is true. However, the language of the angels is a bunch of English words adding up to a hard-on for England and a hate-on for Spain. That’s still nuts, however it came about.

          • Peter D says:

            Anon, looks like you are reading Unsong in a wrong mind frame. This whole book is based on the premise that that seemingly invented constructs (religious and otherwise) are in fact the reality or can affect the reality (eg, placebomancy. ) . Enochian beimg the actual language of the angels makes perfect sense in Unsong universe

          • anon says:

            All of that is true. I am not disputing that it makes perfect sense.

            I’m saying that it’s nuts. And I guess that it doesn’t tend toward the greater glory of god for his angels to be speaking such a thing.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m saying that it’s nuts.

            Well, yes. And in our-world, if anyone seriously tried to persuade me that Dr Dee and Kelley learned the actual tongue of angels, I’d laugh in their face because, as you say: “the language of the angels is a bunch of English words adding up to a hard-on for England and a hate-on for Spain”.

            But in the UNSONG universe, it happens to be true, crazy as it may sound, because all the crazy stuff people scoffed at as “mediaeval/Bronze Age mumbo-jumbo” turns out to be true. The fact that the language sounds like the names of European capitals is one of those coincidences where words in one language turn out to be homophones for words in another, unrelated language that have different meanings.

            For example, the Irish word “sinn” sounds the same as the English word “shin”, though one means “we, us” and the other means “the front part of the leg between knee and ankle”.

            You might as well complain that it’s crazy the word “calf” means both “the lower back part of the leg” and “the young of cattle” – how on earth are the two things related? 🙂

    • Actually, I wrote a very early draft of Unsong Book II around the same time as Cactus Person – they were both sort of inspired by the same thought process, but it ended up branching off into two different directions.

      • anon says:

        If God is a DMT entity I don’t even know what to think anymore, other than the farcical aspects of this universe making… more sense, maybe, I think.

        Anyway, thank you for giving my gripes the time of day. I also enjoyed Cactus Person and I don’t mean to discourage your creative endeavors.

      • LHC says:

        This completely dashes to hell all of the meta I’d had in my head about how Unsong’s content might be effected by your being behind schedule.

  35. Alexander Grothendieck would be at home in this San Francisco.

  36. Aris Katsaris says:

    “His faces sparkled like that of a young man looking into the eyes of his beloved. “

    Is the plural “faces” here deliberate or just a typo?

    • I’m not sure, myself. When reading it out loud (still an ongoing project), I decided to interpret it as deliberate.

      That said, I found a small grammatical issue (I think):

      She left the shoreline and begin to walk inland

      As a side-note: My primary is still really enjoying the story as I read it to him. 🙂 And of course I am very much enjoying reading it to him. Really looking forward to getting a chance to read some of the later chapters out loud! Thanks for writing Unsong, Scott.

  37. bean says:

    “In front of her was the most beautiful ship she had ever seen.”
    I may be very weird, but when I read this, my first thought was that it was a battleship. I know it’s probably not, both because I doubt Scott shares my ship aesthetics and because of the book cover.

  38. LHC says:

    Is Kesey inhabited by Kether?

  39. Anders Sandberg says:

    Yerba Buena means “good herb”. Passing through it to reach an earthly Jerusalem with blissed out inhabitants seems pretty obvious, especially in a SF context.

    But the actual plants refered to by the name are usually of the mint family. Makes sense that the mint is next to the treasury.

  40. If Ayn Rand visited this San Francisco …

  41. Dindane says:

    “Whatever had made them like this must have also –” wait, does Ana have a hypothesis about why they can see through her invisibility? Or about why Ngo can?

    • Deiseach says:

      Invisibility may work by shifting the subject out of this lower material plane to a slightly higher one, or a different dimension (I hesitate to start invoking vibrations here but it’s the kind of thing that gets invoked in late Victorian/early Edwardian pop-occultism all the time).

      However, for beings who reside in those higher planes, they can see the person who is moving on that higher plane as easily as those on the material plane see material bodies. And the San Franciscans are living in a place that is intersecting with a higher plane/other dimension at the very least, so they can see her aura/etheric body/material body at a higher rate of vibration.

  42. Wait a moment… How can a railroad start in this San Francisco?

  43. Eneasz Brodski says:

    Just wanted to drop a note to say that I’m LOVING book two. I mean, book one was good, but it was really the intermissions that kept me going. Book two is exactly the sort of mystical story that zaps all my pleasure centers! Thank you.

  44. Nadav says:

    Btw, did “Universal love/Transcendent joy” make anyone else think about the Uriel/Thamiel corresponding pairs? I’m talking about what’s discussed in (http://unsongbook.com/chapter-13-the-image-of-eternal-death/#comment-2468). This concept really intrigues me, especially considering things like the fact that in hebrew, Uriel (אוריאל) starts with an Aleph and Thamiel (תאומיאל) starts with a Tav, the first and last letters of the alphabet. And remember paragraphs 8 and 9 of interlude ד (N-Grammata), where Aleph is equated with good and godlieness, Tav is equated with evil and the relationshipbetween them is said to be the answer to Unsong.

  45. Quixote says:

    Wednesday is and remains a day of sadness and dreams deferred. I jones for an interlude.

  46. Dindane says:

    If San Francisco is supposed to correspond to St. Francis, where is the poverty? As far as I can tell, the chief form of poverty there is intellectual poverty, rather than material poverty. I find most of the support for this at the end of the chapter (“uh, calculus”); before that, for all we knew, the San Francisconians are really smart but just prefer to talk about transcendent joy et cetera.

    • Isn’t San Francisco also known for having a large homeless population?

    • Deiseach says:

      You are supposing that the mention of calculus refers to the intellectual poverty of the San Franciscans? But they are speaking to Ana to bring her out of her ecstatic state by using references to the mundane and material, to bring her back to earthly bounds.

      Since we know Uriel is replacing the Divine Light by mathematics, using “calculus” is a choice to emphasise that she must return to the material universe now running on maths, rather than remaining in the state of union with the Divine Light 🙂

  47. David says:

    So, here’s my out-there theory. Ana may or may not be the “she” referred to in this book’s verse of HaMephorash: “She saw his flag on the highest mast / She saw a dream that couldn’t last”

    That may make the “dream that couldn’t last” the “universal love, transcendent joy”.

    Immediate problems which come to mind are that seeing the flag on the highest mast precedes the dream which couldn’t last in the song but follows in the story. More significantly, the verse seems to imply that the “dream which couldn’t last” was a dream of “the Comet King recieving HaMephoresh”. Lastly, Cohen would need to have had prophetic powers to record this in anything like the actual time frame where Hallelujah was recorded for him to have written about events in 2017 (Hallelujah having been recorded in 1984). However, Alexander established that this was a possibility in the thread on the title page for book two.

    I wouldn’t call it ruled out at this point but I also wouldn’t be surprised if I was wrong. We’ll see if anything comes of it.

    • Deiseach says:

      Lastly, Cohen would need to have had prophetic powers to record this in anything like the actual time frame where Hallelujah was recorded for him to have written about events in 2017 (Hallelujah having been recorded in 1984).

      Lenny’s a poet, and poets are vates 🙂

  48. Surprised that Barclay’s Gate didn’t get a tie-in to Berkeley.

    Also, I think “the street signs seem to have been torn down” should be “the street signs seemed to have been torn down”

  49. Stuart Armstrong says:

    Sorry to be a pedant, but: “No mathematical system can prove itself consistent, or else it would be inconsistent.”

    This is only true of systems complex enough to encode arithmetic. Many geometric systems, for instance, could be extended to prove their own consistency, without contradiction.

  50. kornr says:

    “To the east of Jerusalem was the giant dungheap where the Israelites would throw their refuse; to the east of San Francisco is Oakland.”

    Oh look, a worthless racist libertarian reactionary thinks a place filled with black people is full of shit.

  51. yomikoma says:

    When doing an archive re-read I realized that the “Universal Love” / “Transcendent Joy” formula corresponds to the Wiccan law “An it harm none / Do what thou wilt”, or my preferred formulation “Be Excellent To Each Other / Party On, Dude!”.

  52. Aqua says:

    I expected the sign to read

    This area contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.

  53. Elizabeth says:

    In this world, the park in Berkeley right up on the Bay is Cesar Chavez Park. MLK Park is the one across from the police station downtown.

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