Morning, May 12, 2017
For a moment I was totally disoriented by the scene before me. Then vast, dark shapes began to take form.
Shelves. Shelves full of books, all the way up, from the immacuately polished marble floor to a ceiling that was too high to see clearly. So many shelves that they blocked my view, made it impossible to see how big the room was or get any other sense of where I was.
It was dark, but not absolutely so. The whole room was filled with a rosy light, and I wondered if somewhere there were colossal windows to match the colossal shelves, letting in the first glow of dawn. I passed beyond the shelves only to find more shelves. I passed beyond those only to find more shelves still. No chairs, no tables, and no sign of a card catalog. I tried to make out the title of one of the books. It was too dark to read.
“Don’t use the Vanishing Name,” I had told the other Singers, “unless you are in a situation where it is absolutely vital to your well-being and continued survival that you be accosted by a different band of hooligans than the ones who are currently accosting you.” There I had been, in UNSONG, the Director-General breathing down my neck. Through what I can only assume will be forever remembered as a stroke of dazzling genius, I’d used the Vanishing Name and escaped to what my contact in San Antonio had suggested would be a “complementary situation”. Presumably that should be pretty bad. And here I was. A library the size of a cathedral.
I looked around for demons or monsters or something and didn’t see any. I considered going to sleep, but I’d actually slept pretty well in my jail cell just a few hours ago. Also, I was really, really wired. Judging by my heartbeat, my body still hadn’t accepted that I was safe, and wouldn’t for some time.
Too many questions beat at my mind to start thinking about any particular one. Where was Ana? I had felt a moment of telepathic contact with her, but she hadn’t sounded like a prisoner. She had sounded like she was coming to rescue me, which was absurd, how would she even find an UNSONG base let alone infiltrate one? For that matter, where were Erica and my other housemates? What the hell was wrong with Malia Ngo? Did she have Sarah? What would happen to the world if she did?
And, of course, where was I? Somewhere bad, no doubt, or the Name wouldn’t have brought me here.
So I did what I always do when I’m too stressed to think. I took out a book and started reading.
UNSONG had taken away my scroll wheel, so instead of drawing a Luminous Name scroll, I just spoke the Luminous Name. The tiniest of risks. UNSONG wouldn’t listen for the Luminous Name any more than the police would post agents on street corners to entrap litterbugs. It was just about the safest proprietary Name in the world.
The library blazed with light. I took out a book. That was odd. The title was in –
John Dee had been a brilliant mathematician and astronomer in Queen Elizabeth I’s court before turning to magic. He decided that all of his science only scratched the surface of the natural world, that there must be true essences of which he knew nothing. He sought a guide.
One came to him. Edward Kelley claimed to be a medium through whom the spirits revealed their secrets. Sure, he was an infamous con man who had just gotten out of jail for a forgery conviction. But Dee very tolerantly decided that if the spirits decided to speak to him through a con man, who was he to question their decisions?
Kelley gazed into his crystal ball and declared that the angels were speaking to him. What were they saying? Alas, neither Kelley nor Dee understood a word of their language, a language apparently unknown to humans since the time of the patriarch Enoch. There followed a long period of translation work, which ended with a sort of English-Enochian dictionary, a key to the heavenly speech.
Sure, there were doubters. Some people mentioned it was mighty suspicious that the syntax and grammar of Enochian were exactly the same as those of Elizabethan English. Others pointed out how convenient it was that the angelic word for “evil” was “Madrid”, which was also the capital of Elizabethan England’s arch-enemy Spain. Or how the angelic word for “kingdom” was “Londoh”, which was also…you get the idea. It seemed like Edward Kelley might have been injecting his personal opinions into these transmissions just a little. Or, as we moderns sometimes say, that the medium was the message.
So it came as quite a shock when the sky cracked and we met angels and they all spoke flawless Enochian. It wasn’t the only language they spoke – they could understand anything except Aramaic – but it was the one that came most naturally to them.
“Edinburr Augsburg Trondheim Londoh Albyon Tudors,” they told us, which in their language meant “Peace of the Lord be with the kingdoms of men.” Then “King Philip Papist tyrand Mary Queen of Scoths Madrid,” which meant “Time is running short, and we must join our powers to oppose the forces of evil.” It was kind of strange, but predictable in retrospect. Nothing is a coincidence, and the same parts of the same underlying structure repeat themselves in every domain. Albeit usually a lot more subtly.
My Enochian was terrible. It was mostly at the Hooked On Phonics Worked For Me level, just barely recalling each letter and trying to sound out the words. Except I didn’t actually sound them out, because half of the things written in Enochian summoned vast ancient forces from beyond the veil when read aloud. I just sounded them out in my head.
I was still puzzling out the first sentence of the library book – something about how conquering Central and South America and building a giant armada was for losers – when I heard a noise. Somebody else was in the library with me. If this was a complementary situation to UNSONG’s secret prison, it probably wouldn’t be anyone I liked.
I spoke the first nineteen syllables of the Tempestuous Name, kept the last one on the tip of my tongue for as soon as I detected a threat. I brandished the Enochian book in front of me as if it were a shield or a weapon. I backed up against the bookshelf to give myself as small a profile as possible, make it hard for anybody to find me. And I stayed very quiet. If somebody was looking for me, they were going to have a very hard time, and my position covered by the shelves gave me an advantage that would be –
Somehow a gun was at my temple. I blinked.
“Don’t move,” she said. She was angry.
She was young, maybe my age, maybe a little older. Asian features. Dressed in black. Very functional clothing, sort of a cross between a biker’s leather and a SEAL’s combat gear. But then how did she move so fast?
My hooligans. Right on schedule. I didn’t move. I wasn’t sure if my Tempestuous Name beat her gun, but it seemed like a bad idea to test it.
“Put down the book!”
I carefully returned the book to the shelf; I probably was supposed to drop it, but I’m superstitious about letting books touch the floor, and if ever there was a time I needed luck…
“Who are you? How did you get here?”
“My name is Aaron,” I said. “I got in trouble and I spoke the Vanishing Name and I ended up here about ten minutes ago.”
Maximally true, minimally revealing. Her attention shifted to the globe of light illuminating the area. “What’s that? How did it get here?”
“Luminous Name,” I said. “It was dark and I couldn’t see.”
“Spoken or scrolled?”
The girl made a guttural noise of frustration. “You spoke the…you used…do you even know where you are?”
“This is the Mount Baldy Strategic Angel Reserve.”
That made perfect sense and I was an idiot.
During the Long March, when everything started breaking down, the clouds organized into gigantic floating bastions. In the Gulf, they became the mighty hurricane of the archangel Uriel. Throughout the rest of the world, they became manifold city-fortresses populated by choirs of lesser angels.
It turned out that the universal consensus of ancient peoples – that Heaven was a place in the sky, somewhere above the clouds, inhabited by angels – was pretty much spot-on. When Uriel had blocked the flow of holy light into the world, he had erased the angels and their heavens, and the clouds had been retconned into big floating bags of water droplets. After the sky cracked, some of them reverted to their proper angelic form.
But the angels had been metaphorical for thousands of years, and they had trouble finding their bearings. They certainly weren’t prepared for helicopters landing on their celestial fortresses, demanding an opening of trade relations. Luckily this proved irrelevant when it was determined that the angels had no property. The clouds formed whatever they needed around them, and they spent most of their time praying and praising God.
An exchange of knowledge?
The angels had loads of knowledge. Most of it was theology. A lot of it wasn’t very good. The hope that they might have special access to God turned out to be kind of a dud. They remembered they had been created, way back before Time was a thing. They knew about God, they wouldn’t shut up about Him, but it was all incomprehensible, made the sort of mysticism humans came up with seem perfectly clear by comparison.
An exchange of technology?
The angels had no technology. They didn’t even seem to know many Divine Names, and the few they did know they wouldn’t say. Threats, blackmail, even torture seemed not to faze angels in the slightest, and don’t ask me to tell you the story of how we learned that information because this was back during the Nixon administration, when the country Did What It Had To Do because By Golly The Russians Would and We Couldn’t Fall Behind.
A military alliance?
Now we’re talking. The angels appeared to be able to smite things with flaming swords that they conjured out of nowhere. But they had no concept of strategy or geopolitics. When we asked if they would help us against the Russians, they just wanted to know if the Russians were evil. When we said yes, they asked why we weren’t at war with them already. When we tried to explain that you don’t just go to war, you build alliances and gradually box in your enemy and try to use their reluctance to fight to gain concessions from them without anything ever breaking out into open conflict which would be disastrous to both sides, the angels didn’t get it.
Evildoer? Smite. Not an evildoer? Live in peace.
Attempts to get the angels to participate in any of the processes of modern civilization were similar failures. The angels didn’t get economics; God would provide. The angels didn’t get the UN; why would you talk to evildoers instead of smiting them? The angels didn’t get the requests that their bastions to be opened up to tourists and archaeologists. God was the only thing worth knowing about, and God was everywhere alike.
One thing the angels got was faith.
Spencer Kimball, president of the Mormon Church, arrived at the celestial bastion that hovered over Zion National Park with a fleet of helicopters. He told the rapt angels the story of how a hundred fifty years ago, Joseph Smith had been given golden tablets by the angel Moroni that revealed God’s plan for humankind. That Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had visited the Americas and preached the Gospel to its native inhabitants, and that these inhabitants had accrued wisdom about the nature of holiness and properly ordered society that was transmitted through Smith to the present day, with Kimball as its latest representative.
And the angels answered:
“Hmmmm, we don’t know anyone named Moroni.”
“Wait, God has a son?!”
So apparently the angels were unfamiliar with human religions. God hadn’t given them any special revelations, and they hadn’t realized that was even a possibility. If there was some other tribe of angels somewhere else higher in the divine favor, a tribe including this guy Moroni, and they were getting direct revelations, that was important. And if God had a Son, that was even more important and they were slightly miffed about not having been informed. Was Mr. Kimball sure this was true?
Mr. Kimball assured them that it was definitely all 100% correct. The entire bastion of angels converted to Mormonism on the spot, asking Mr. Kimball to please send up all of the information he had about what God had revealed to humans and what He wanted of angels.
The news sparked a free-for-all among Earth’s religions. Jews, Hindus, Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Muslims – the pattern was always the same. They would land helicopters on a bastion, inform the angels that God had granted them revelations. The angels would get extremely excited and convert en masse and agree to do whatever their new religious leaders wanted.
It started to become clear that angels were really gullible.
Then there was a problem. A group of Muslim missionaries landed on a bastion that had already been converted by the Orthodox Christians.
The imam politely told the angels that they had been misled, that God had no Son, that he knew this because God had sent down the angel Gabriel to the prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, to inform him of this and many other facts.
The angels were thrilled to learn of the survival of Gabriel, whom they were under the impression had perished in some battle long ago. But, they asked, how had their previous benefactors, the Christians, managed to screw up so badly?
The Muslims said eh, debatable, but this bit with Mohammed, peace be unto him, was definitely the real deal.
The angels thanked the Muslims for the correction and started following sharia law and studying the Koran.
A few weeks later, some extremely miffed Orthodox monks in a Greek army helicopter landed and explained that the Muslims were wrong, Christ was definitely the Son of God, Mohammed didn’t know what he was talking about.
The angels were very confused and angry and asked the Christians and Muslims to sort this out among themselves and get back to them.
Instead, a gaggle of Orthodox monks and Muslim imams showed up on their doorsteps and started arguing with the angels and each other. Both sides accused the other of lying, and finally the angels asked one of the questions that had been on their mind the whole time.
What, exactly, was lying?
It was determined that the angels’ problems actually went much, much deeper than gullibility.
Angelologists learned some important things in that decade. Angels had no concept of lying, cheating, defecting, strategizing, or even rhetoric. As a result, it was trivially easy for people to make angels do anything they wanted – with the exception of evil, to which they had a violent constitutional aversion.
So the Pope got a bunch of angels to sign a declaration saying Catholicism was the one true religion, simply by assuring them that it was and saying that signing would help in some way. The Dalai Lama, Orthodox Patriarch, and Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem got their own angels to sign similar declarations. The Soviet Union had an entire choir of angels march through Red Square declaring that Communism was the only way forward. Several flaming swords and giant golden halos were given to businessmen who asked for them politely.
A couple of angels, the ones who interacted with humans the most, the ones who had been bamboozled most often, started to catch on.
And when they did, the blazing golden light in their eyes would fade, their spectacular golden wings would start to wilt and grow dull, their flaming swords would sputter into embers. Their halos would tarnish and rust, their robes of purest white would grow gray and dirty. They would start to sink into their bastions, as if the clouds were only made of water droplets after all. Finally, they would sink right through the bottom of the cloud and hit the earth with a colossal thud.
They would be fallen angels.
The fallen angels weren’t evil, exactly. Just confused and disenchanted and a little depressed. They wanted their innocence back, they wanted to forget what lying and cheating were and go back to being certain of everything. They kept praising God, but now their prayers ended in question marks and not exclamation points, like they were talking about Someone very far away.
By 1984, ten years after the first Mormon mission to the angels, about ninety percent of the celestial population had fallen. Bastions hung empty in the sky, or dissolved into ordinary clouds that rained for a while and then dissipated. After countless centuries of Heaven being a metaphorical place definitely not related to actual clouds, and a decade of Heaven being something you could see with a good pair of binoculars, it looked like Heaven was on the verge of going back to being a metaphor once again.
The one thing angels were definitely good at was demon-slaying. During the Reagan administration the President declared the remaining angels a Vital National Resource and charged the military with the goal of protecting them. The fourteen remaining bastions above America became Strategic Angel Reserves, with military garrisons watching them day and night and preventing any snake-oil salesmen or missionaries or other nefarious characters from breaking the remaining celestials’ natural innocence. It didn’t hurt that planes and helicopters had mostly stopped working by this point, and the only remaining way to the bastions were specially installed pulley systems under careful government control.
The penalty for being on a Strategic Angel Reserve without permission was death. The military would enforce it. The angels themselves, who had been made aware of the danger of their situation, would enforce it. But it wasn’t just death. It was the knowledge that you had defiled one of the last outposts of purity left in the world, were responsible for pushing something irreplaceable just a little bit further towards the abyss.
“When,” asked the woman, “did you speak the Luminous Name?”
“About ten minutes ago,” I admitted.
“Well,” she said, in a voice tight with the effort of not killing me on the spot. “That gives us perhaps a half-hour before the Marines arrive. That should be enough time to search all of these and get out safely, don’t you think?” She gestured to the thousands of bookshelves arranged higher than the eye could see, and gave me a death glare.
“Search?” I asked.
“The angels have information vital to the future of humanity. I’ve spent months figuring out how get up here unnoticed. And now…”
“Um,” I said. “Tell me what you’re looking for, and maybe I can help?”
She looked like she was going to snap something, but she held herself back, and after a second she said “Taos House Records, volume 112. Should be thin and blue. Shelf 2270, level 36.”
And then she ran off, again with almost inhuman speed, searching through the bookshelves.
For lack of anything better to do, I did the same.
It should have been simple to find the book given its precise address, except that I didn’t know the Enochian numbering system and wasn’t sure anyone else did either. There were all sorts of letters etched in gold onto the shelving, and some or all of them might represent numbers, in much the way the Romans let V and X mean 5 and 10. First I checked to see if one of those weird coincidences had led to the angels using the same numbering system as Elizabethan England, but I couldn’t find anything that looked like like modern Arabic numerals. So I started running from shelf to shelf, searching for regularities.
The infamous Roman numerals use letters in place of numbers. Thus V is 5, X is 10, and C 100. There was something of the Roman system about the shelf numbers; occasionally long strings of letters would collapse into a single letter, the same way CMXCIX would be followed by M. But other features confused me; I noticed no string contained the same letter twice. And a larger letter – one further towards the end of the Enochian alphabet – was never followed by a smaller one.
The Hebrew numbering system is called gematria, and is very elegant. Aleph, the first letter, is one. Bet, the second letter, is two. So on in this fashion until yud, the tenth letter, which is ten, is followed by kaf, the eleventh letter, which is twenty. The next few letters are thirty, forty, and so on, until one hundred, which is followed by two hundred. The alphabet ends at tav, which is four hundred. You can do all sorts of things with gematria. Suppose you want to point out that Emperor Nero is the worst person, but Emperor Nero happens to control your country at the time and kills all who offend him. Just write that “let he who hath understanding know that the number of the Beast is the number of a man, and that number is 666” and trust all the other Jews to notice that the only name in the newspapers whose letters sum to 666 is Nero Caesar.
Hebrew numerals never had the same character twice. And the letters furthest in the alphabet will always be on the right side. But this wasn’t gematria, or even some Enochian version thereof. For one thing, there were too many letters. Hebrew numerals didn’t take any more digits than our Arabic ones; this Enochian system had entries as long as twenty digits, although it seemed to gain or lose a digit every couple of entries, almost at random.
So I racked my memory and remembered the order of the Enochian alphabet, converting each letter to its English equivalent to help keep it in mind. The big number written in silver at the very bottom must be the shelf number. The shelf I was at was ABHI. The next one was CHI. The one after that was ACHI. The next one was BCHI. The one after that was ABCHI. The next one was DHI.
And the funny part was, I was really happy. Aside from the time I’ve spent with Ana, looking at complicated things and trying tease structure out of them is the only thing I’ve really truly enjoyed. There was something holy about the task, glimpses of the great structure Adam Kadmon from which all lesser structure comes. It’s the only thing I’ve ever been good at and the only thing I’ve ever felt really comfortable doing.
The shelves were numbered in John Napier’s location arithmetic. The revelation came to me gently, like the sunrise. It was base two, sort of: 2^0 was A, 2^1 was B, 2^2 was C, 2^3 was D, and so on. 100 was 2^6 + 2^5 + 2^2, or CFG; 200 was 2^7 + 2^6 + 2^3, or DGH. That was the neat thing about location arithmetic; to multiply by two you just incremented all the letters by one. To add, you just combined the numbers together. Then you simplified by combining two identical letters into the next letter up. I’d read about it in a kabbalistic text on the Friedman conjecture. It was truly a numbering system worthy of angels.
2270 was BCDEGHL by the English alphabet, and un-or-gal-ged-pa-drux-na by the Enochian. I made it to shelf un-or-gal-ged-pa-drux-na – just in time to almost bump into the woman.
“Interesting,” she said, and there was a spark of what might have been approval in her eye. Then she took a scroll wheel out of her pocket and tore off what must have been the Ascending Name. She rocketed up to the thirty-sixth tier of books before grabbing a thin blue volume and shooting back down.
“How do we get back down to the ground?” I asked.
The spark of approval was gone, if it had ever been there at all. “I get down the same way I got up,” she said. “You…figure something out!”
And then she ran away.
I wasn’t very optimistic about the figuring something out part. I mean, if I came to the edge of the clouds I could speak the Ascending Name and use it to control my fall. But that would help me in a purely vertical direction. If the Marines had anyone from UNSONG with them – and given the woman’s certainty that they would track me by the Luminous Name, I had to assume that they did – they could track that one too and know exactly where I landed. Where even was the Mount Baldy Strategic Angel Reserve? Weren’t most of the Angel Reserves above uninhabited areas? Even if I could get down to the uninhabited area safely, I didn’t like my chances.
So I ran after her. If nothing else, she could lend me a scroll.
I wasn’t nearly as fast as she was, but I tried. I ran through corridors carved of cloud, lit by a strange inner glow. I ran through halls so vast and ornate they looked like cathedrals, complete with stained glass windows barely visible in the first rays of sunrise. I ran through what seemed like huge war-rooms, full of colossal siege engines and ballistae beyond all description. I ended up on a great balcony, facing the rising sun, with the puffy white base of the cloud stretching out below me like a snowy field.
I was too late. What looked like twenty or thirty Marines had gathered on the cloudtop. In the distance, I could see the cable car that had brought them from their base below, the bastion’s only legitimate link to the earth beneath. They were talking with a delegation of angels, not the broken sort of angels I had seen back home, but real beautiful tall angels, golden-eyed, golden-winged, majestic. There was a staircase before me, leading down to the lower levels of the bastion, but it would make me clearly visible as a dark form against the white cloud, and I would have a lot of explaining to do.
I retraced my steps, went back into the bastion, came out a different way. Another balcony. The tall Asian woman was peering down from it, but as soon as I came in she wheeled around, pointed her pistol at me, then visibly relaxed. “You again,” she said. She took another look out. “It looks like the Marines are gone, but don’t be fooled. They’ll have someone staying behind, watching from somewhere hidden. If we stay here, they’ll smoke us out. If we try to go, they’ll find us immediately.” She said it with a certain calm, as if this was by no means the worst problem she had faced that day. “Any ideas, Aaron?”
The sunlight streamed through the open window. The glorious white cloud reflected and refracted it, dazzlingly bright, the kind of heaven you see on the cover of Christian music CD cases.
I began to sing. The Name had popped into my head. It wasn’t even one I knew. It had come out of some deep stock of knowledge, deep as the roots of the mountains.
I turned invisible.
I emitted a squeal of shock, which instantly turned me visible again. She was also shocked, but in a more dignified way.
“How did you do that?”
“Name!” I said.
“Where did you learn it?”
“I don’t know!” I said.
Then things snapped into place. Ana trying to rescue me from the UNSONG compound. Malia Ngo not mentioning anything about Sarah. It all made sense. Ana had escaped the house with my computer and was still finding new Names. And I was receiving them through our kabbalistic marriage. We were still in business!
“One more time,” she said, “so I can remember it.”
A more Machiavellian person might have mentioned that she had just run off and left me to get arrested or killed, or that I had no idea who she was, or that she kept threatening me with that pistol. But I was a Singer, and it was my duty to spread the Names of God to all who needed them. Also I was really excited and not making very good decisions at the moment. I told her the Spectral Name.
The two of us went invisible. She grabbed my hand – she could have gotten away, but maybe she felt like she owed me – and we walked down the staircase together until we reached the lower tier of the bastion and followed an elevated corridor of arches and pillars onto the outer wall of the cloud. I didn’t want to look down, so instead I looked back.
To describe what I saw – I’m a man of words, but here words fail me. Have you ever stood on the plains on a summer day, watching a thunderstorm roll in, seeing the the clouds grow, huge anvils puffing out, becoming more and more complex and foreboding until they have all the majesty and terror of battleships bearing down on you? Can you really believe that all they were destined for was to produce a 60% chance of thundershowers and then to be ignominiously shredded against a warm front? Standing on that rampart, looking up at the angelic bastion behind me, I saw a cloud as it should have been, as it was when the world was young, a floating fortress-city, a testament to the glory of God.
Then we came to a tower on the edge of the wall, and on the top of the tower was a kayak.
“That’s a kayak,” I said, breaking the spell.
“It’s a flying kayak,” she said, appearing beside me.
“A – ”
She gave me a look which I interpreted to mean that if I mentioned the words “flyak” or “skyak” right now, she would kill me on the spot.
“Get in if you’re coming.” Then, almost as an afterthought, “Call me Jane.”
“You already said that.”
I climbed into the kayak beside her, terribly cramped, my body pressed against hers too tightly to be comfortable. I had a bad feeling about this.
Jane threw the single paddle to me, scooted forward suddenly, and the kayak dropped off the edge of the cloud into the gulfs of air below.
You changed around the last two chapters, but the titles /URLs still have some remnants of the previous naming/order.
Yes, I don’t know a way to fix that, and I don’t think most people will notice.
Support for the distinction between the numbers seventeen and eighteen has been suspended. Please report any resulting problems.
YES, I DON’T KNOW A WAY TO FIX THAT, AND I DON’T THINK MOST PEOPLE WILL NOTICE.
I just assumed it was intentional, given the content of the chapters.
Just underneath the title in the post editor there’s a permalink, usually copied from the title, but you can click on the edit button to change it
Except for the weird people who subscribe via rss, like me.
Also, the next/previous links at the bottom of the pages are still in the old order.
oh good I’m not going crazy
It did catch me by surprise, salutations from 2019
Oh no… Aaron is inside of a dog!
I want you to know that at least I appreciate this comment.
I’m pretty sure that the readership of UNSONG has a pretty high density of people who do likewise.
Here, again… you mean that wasn’t intentional?
So terrible I can’t stop grinning.
I don’t get it
I don’t get it
“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend; inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
— Mark Twain, probably
I thought it was attributed to Groucho Marx, but it’s one of those jokes that any semi-famous humourist gets tagged as the originator thereof 🙂
So is Jane a relative of a certain Sohu?
Were the references to kayaks relevant to this chapter, not only Sohu nearly hitting Uriel?
And I demand for “risen” demons to exist. After being exposed to acts of human kindness.
She seems like another Cometspawn, kayaks appear to be the universal heavenly transportation, and I, too, hope there are risen demons (Malia Ngo might be one?).
It seems relevant that kayak is a palindrome.
Meh, really it’s a flyak or a skyak, which isn’t a palindrome.
Maybe that’s why Jane was glaring at him. She was mad at him for ruining the kabbalistic significance.
Both the word and the physical object are symmetrical. Self-similarity of self-similarity.
Is “Jane” Sohu all grown up (Uriel came through on that manual aging update each year)? She’d be about eighteen in 2017, wouldn’t she? And unlike Aaron, I got the feeling “Jane” wasn’t telling him her true name.
Sohu would be chronologically 35 in 2017, I think. Your guess is as good as mine as to what age she is physically right now.
In any case, Sohu had to get the flying kayak from somewhere. Perhaps the Royal Colorado Navy used to produce them?
What, that lazy bunch of do-nothing surfer stoners? Unlikely!
The kayak would make me assume that Jane is Sohu, except of course that Sohu doesn’t age. One of the other Cometspawn, perhaps? You’d hope they’d have better ways of obtaining such knowledge, but perhaps not.
Odd that Jane would know the precise location of a useful angelic book when the angels supposedly don’t have much useful knowledge. If there really is useful info up there, you’d hope the universities would have cut some sort of deal with the military to borrow books for scanning/photocopying/transcription (they don’t need to send one of their own up, they could allow one of the already permitted military people to retrieve and return them). Heck, you’d hope they’d have done that anyway.
She might have resumed aging sometime after 2001 for some reason, in which case she would indeed be around Aaron’s age or slightly older in 2017.
The Comet King’s death, maybe?
She probably isn’t Sohu, though. From Chapter 3:
That doesn’t match up with the description of Jane as having “Asian features”.
Indian would fit with Sohu being related to the Comet King, yes. But, to repeat my comment from elsewhere on the page, “Asian features” usually means “East/Southeast Asian features” (and I think we can assume Aaron’s not trying to be misleading here by just ignoring the usual meanings of words).
Someone with “light brown skin, dark brown eyes, braided black hair” and epicanthic fold could easily be from somewhere like southern China or Viet Nam, and hence be Asian even in the ordinary colloquial meaning of the word.
OTOH if Sohu is related to Jalaketu her ancestry is indeed from India, and hence would be unlikely to be described as having Asian features (except maybe if her ancestry is from the very easternmost parts of India?).
Indeed some people I see in a Google Images search for “people from northeast india” could both match the description of Sohu in Ch. 3 and be reasonably described as having “Asian features”.
Meh, all in all I’d say 10% < P(Jane is Sohu) < 50%.
Someone with “light brown skin, dark brown eyes, braided black hair” and epicanthic fold could easily be from somewhere like southern China or Viet Nam
Could also be from Asiatic Russia (I common-fandom-online-know someone who lives in Siberia and she has those features) or she could even be a Filipina. “Asian” isn’t really that concrete a description to pin it down to any one particular country or even region.
Since this isn’t intended to be mysterious: Jane looks kind of Chinese.
i.e. her skin is too pale to be reasonably described as “light brown”?
Deiseach’s explanation would have worked, though. 😛
Since previous Word of Scott informs us that Sohu’s name is Hopi: Would Aaron read this person as looking “kind of Chinese”?
Most Asians I know have light brown skin, dark brown eyes, and black hair.
Would Sohu even need to break into a Strategic Angel Reserve? Couldn’t she just get a special permission slip from Uriel or something?
Aaron is near Los Angeles, meaning he is near “The Angels”. Well played, Scott.
Or it could be in North Carolina. The name “Baldy” can only be a reference to the prophet Elisha, and the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi is named after an Elisha.
But the Vanishing Name is limited to “a few hundred miles,” which rules out NC (and makes New Mexico borderline).
Hahaha oh no! With Elisha comes laughing children being mauled by 42 she-bears! What a terrible, hilarious tragedy!
I wonder if there are any interesting stuff in other places, like the city of Arkhangelsk.
There’s a Mt. Baldy in New Mexico. I’ve been there.
Leonard Cohen, who apparently wrote the verses at the start of each book, also spent some time at Mt Baldy, which may be related.
‘I don’t think this is a real language.” A few hours later he’d sent over an analysis from the State Department, which concluded that the “language” consisted of the names of the capitals of various 16th-century European countries, arranged in seemingly random combinations.’
Well that makes sense now.
Oh, man. I bet that’s one of the things Scott was disappointed with us for not catching.
I would have been incredibly impressed if someone had caught that – but I can always hope.
I don’t see how we could have caught it, since so far as I can tell the actual Dee/Kelley Enochian doesn’t consist of names of European capitals.
Oh, good point.
I think I would have caught it had I not been the one writing the book. Angels + language that includes the names of 16th century European capitals would have set me in the right direction.
Of course, I would have had to know that other-me had a sense of humor that would extrapolate from “a few words are European capitals” to “almost all the words are European capitals”.
and now I am disappointed with mysels for not having caught it. a was reading Donne when you’ve released the chapter, and have made Napier’s trory into a bedtime fairytale. could have easily stretched to Dee. oh well.
I did catch it actually, but partly because I expected Enochian to turn up in the story eventually.
I hope we eventually get to see travels through the cracks to planes beyond Malkuth, because I expect your version will be way more entertaining than Crowley’s in “The Vision and the Voice”.
I just assumed Uriel was speaking in all capitals…
The puns are real.
oh my God
So, angels seem pretty useless, generally. Suited for sitting around praising god, and maybe fighting demons. But Uriel seems to be on another level entirely: he programmed the world as we know it, and in some sense stuck around to maintain it. Are the other archangels more like him?
(Did they mind not existing?)
I’m going to guess it’s probably an archangel thing. Which raises the question — where are the others? Gabriel is apparently dead. Metatron we know exists but haven’t heard much about. I’m going to guess that the replacement of Raphael with Raziel in the ritual in Chapter 8 may be because Raphael has also died.
There is the question of what list of archangels we’re using. Apparently it’s not what Wikipedia calls the Kabbalistic one (though it may be due more to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn rather than Jewish Kabbalists?) since that one doesn’t include Uriel. Lists of archangels vary a lot, even within Judaism, so it’s hard to tell. It seems quite likely to me that it won’t match any pre-existing list, really.
Also, the depiction of the angels in this chapter doesn’t seem to match up so well with Chapter 7:
Hey, that last one is a great point!
I don’t know the Jewish angelologies as well. But in most Christian approaches, archangels are not very high up. There are generally three tiers, each divided into three choirs. The upper tier deal most directly with God, and mediate that down to the lower tiers. It’s only primarily the bottom tier that deals with humans, and at that the lowest choir: the angels proper. The archangels are usually just one or two choirs above those angels.
Given the take we see in Unsong, it looks like the lower choirs don’t really hear from God, or even from the upper choirs. They are the foot soldiers and technicians. They do their part, but they are native to a lower link on the Great Chainof Being and only know so much.
Uriel then may be more like an engineer. He really knows how the systems work, but he know little more than the lower Angels in the bastions. But he’s clever, and he runs with an outside-the-box solution. If the upper chiors noticed, either they can’t intervene too easily without creating a bigger mess, they had bigger problems to deal with, or they played along because his solution somehow aligned with their priorities.
That would also explain the “lovable Demiurge” vibe Uriel’s given me since chapter 16. Like most demiurges, he’s somewhat ignorant of the ways of the greater pleroma. Unlike most, his intentions are benign even if unintended consequences cause him (and the Egyptians, plague victims, those afflicted by their newly-refactored skeletons…) trouble.
One last thought on chronology: the Bastion Angels have been metaphorical for millenia. Uriel was active late enough to have a hand in the Black Death, and he had partially converted the natural order by Moses’ time. So it’s possible that lower-level Angels were affected quickly. But at least some Names kept working into the AD epoch, possibly until or just before the 16th century. So the universe wasn’t fully mechanized until the early modern era, just in time for Copernicus to notice that the sun no longer revolved around the earth. Then we had the ever-accelerating breakthroughs in science. But the early scientists were also chasing down the last embers of magic that still worked, which explains why they were all crazy angelologists, magicians, kabbalists, and alchemists. This is not a coincidence, etc.
I think Uriel’s fallen. He hangs out at ground level (albeit very tall); he doesn’t believe in God as an active force; he understands and employs deception (denying Sohu’s existence to Thamiel); he understands that smiting the evil in front of him is sometimes a suboptimal choice.
Uriel is VERY interesting. As you noted, he is very tall. He’s bigger than any angel we’ve seen or heard of. He also is one of only four beings we know of who can work celestial kabbalah. As you say, he understands deception (classic sign of a fallen angel). But wait! He’s understood it for a while! That’s how he won the last battle against Thamiel: by sneakily rewriting the rules of reality! Likewise, as you said, he understands that smiting the evil before you may win the battle and lose the war.
Now let’s talk about his belief in God. Like you (and Sohu) said: he’s a deist. But compare to Pirendiel: “God is one. That is very important.” (Chapter: Never Seek to Tell Thy Love.) If you ask me, Pirendiel matches this chapter’s description of a fallen angel very well here: “They kept praising God, but now their prayers ended in question marks and not exclamation points, like they were talking about Someone very far away”. But very unlike Uriel.
And one more thing. Angels don’t do evil right? But Uriel has smitten towns just because they ruined various pleasing symmetries on maps (On a Cloud I Saw a Child).
Also: Sohu seems to think Uriel just doesn’t get humans, like, at all, but I say he’s much more clued in than Pirendiel, despite the fact that Pirendiel has lived in their company for decades and Uriel has never hung out with anyone but Sohu. I can’t really explain why I think this, but that’s the impression I get: Uriel gets humans better than Pirendiel does.
Despite all this: I think you’re wrong. He is not fallen. Consider what happens to a fallen angel: “the blazing golden light in their eyes would fade, their spectacular golden wings would start to wilt and grow dull”. Every time we see Uriel, we are reminded of the blazing golden light in his eyes.
So Uriel is interesting. I don’t know what his deal is, but he’s special in all sorts of ways. I expect more surprises from him. He seems to be a very interesting kind of clever. I think he and Sohu might make a good team.
It appears archangels are more empowered, and more utilitarian.
In some formulations of simplified kabbalah, the power of an angel is attributed to the vagueness of their task.
This is because within their task, an angel is borderline omnipotent; eg the angel of messages can give any information to anyone.
An archangel, then, in this formulation, is the angel with the vaguest possible domain description.
An important note is that by this logic, power=freedom=the ability to behave human
Going by the logic of my previous comment, Uriel is more empowered by having a domain outside of kedusha.
Let’s look at what in his domain might make him utilitarian. First we must find his domain. This is very hard because he is a newer angel (christian/past 1500 years)(nothing is ever a coincidence).
However, the gnostics place Uriel as Light Of G-d, Esdras II claims Uriel answered Ezra’s questions, and Enoch claims that Uriel was the messenger to Noach. Other sources associate Uriel with the inverted role of the angel of death (preserving life, specifically during the 10th plague), repentance(where he is described as “merciless as a demon”), and Sunday (as the first day of the week).
Historically, the other 3 archangels are much older; Uriel became popular as a way to associate the archangels to the cardinal directions. Since nothing is a coincidence, this has a lot of implications. Here’s my list of theories.
1: Uriel is a new angel; what if the system we attribute to Uriel contains Uriel as an element(the system is of course also an angel, following the principles of object oriented programming) and Uriel’s domain is to maintain it at all costs?
2:Uriel is an angel of new things or something like that, so accepting new ideas is part of Uriel’s domain.
3:Uriel is the angel of death.
4:Uri means to arise, so maybe he is an angel of last resort.
5:Scott picked Uriel because of the apocalyptic connotations and nothing else. I’m putting this one as a joke, but also hedging my bets.
6:Scott is a lot smarter than I am, and/or has reasoning I didn’t consider.
Yeah, Uriel felt surprisingly human to me too, possibly just because it’s hard to write stories about people who don’t — Uriel obviously cared about caring for Sohu, even if it was really hard to do that marginally competently, and cared about fixing the system, even if not so much about individual humans.
I missed the pun the first time this came out, but finally got it.
I see what he did there.
What’s the pun? (other than the month of march being unusually long?)
The Long March
It could also be a reference to the tea party in the Alice in Wonderland. I just checked and yes, it started in March and they had date slippage too.
Jane and Sohu have the same simple gematria value of thirty. Not sure if this means anything given that the chapter discusses the traditional version, not the simple version.
In a simple sense they are the same, in a traditional sense they are not. Seems easy to interpret.
Those comments about the girl not being Sohu… I can’t even.
Asian. Kayak. “You can _call me_ Jane”. And Uriel, ch. 16: “POSSIBLY I COULD MANUALLY INCREMENT YOUR AGE ON EACH BIRTHDAY. IT WOULD BE VERY INELEGANT, BUT…”. And KAYAK.
I’m all for speculation. But this is not difficult. What do you think the chances are that another similar person would choose to fly around in, of all things, a kayak, compared to Sohu giving the false name of “Jane”?
Because everything we’ve seen so far suggests that Uriel didn’t actually age Sohu at any point and that she did in fact remain perpetually 8 years old. In addition, “Asian features” usually means “East/Southeast Asian features”, which doesn’t fit very well (and I think we can assume Aaron’s not trying to be misleading here by just ignoring the usual meanings of words).
Maybe a Mission Impossible-style latex mask?
The flying kayak certainly suggests someone that is affiliated with the Comet King or Sohu.
Although in Britain “Asian features” would normally indicate Indian rather than East Asian.
I’m not claiming Aaron/Scott has suddenly switched to being weirdly British on this particular point. I’m about 90% sure this is Sohu, and that nothing in the descriptions of Sohu/Jane so far actually contradict. (If you include the flying kayak then it’s about as close to 100% as you can get. It’d be like if someone turned up in a time travelling blue phone box but was NOT The Doctor – almost wilfully misleading!)
Interesting! I didn’t realize that.
Not so fast. See YumAntimatter’s comment.
“Light brown skin, dark eyes, and braided black hair” don’t seem to conflict with “Asian”.
As in “Jane Doe”, conceivably.
Could be Nathanda.
After thinking about it some more, I suppose there is a possibility that “Jane” is not Sohu. But given the kayak, it would have to be an agent of Sohu’s. It did seem odd to me that Sohu would just leave Aaron to, presumably, his death. But given the gap in time since we last heard about Sohu, she was eight, and could have been through a lot, and become a lot less connected to humanity.
I want to point out that “Jane’s” unfamiliarity with the illumination name would be pretty weird for any Cometspawn. Maybe it was just a literary device to give exposition or something, she does have a kayak after all.
I don’t know if that’s unfamiliarity. It was unexpected and she might easily have been talking faster than she was thinking.
I bet Scott made a point of explaining the angelic numbering system because Enochian gematria will turn out to be important later in the story. 😛
I actually just think locational arithmetic is really neat
Here’s a fun riddle in location arithmetic: Say you have a black box that calculates a function which you know is given by a polynomial with positive integer coefficients. You’re allowed to feed two integers into the box; how do you determine the polynomial?
Am I missing something? Given any two points on the coordinate plane, there are infinitely many parabolas that go through those points.
Aegeus, yes you are: *positive integer coefficients*
Coment King: Nice! 🙂
Giving 1 tells you the sum of the coefficients you’re working with. Giving 0 tells you the y-intercept. Giving an integer greater than 2 gives you an interesting number – it might be enough to tell which powers are missing, when combined with the output of f(1), but I’ve decided I’m going to stop being nerd sniped now. I may return.
So here’s what I *think*.
For the second number, use a gajillion, a power of ten higher than all of the coefficients.
Eg. if all the coefficients were known to be >0 and <100, you could use 100, and 16x^3+15x^2+4x+3 would become 16150403. And just read off the coefficients in groups of two digits.
How do we ensure the gajillion is actually larger than all coefficients? Use 1 as the first number, and the answer is the sum of the coefficients. They're all positive, so anything larger than the sum is larger than all the coefficients. Done.
I think you may be able to do it with one number input if it's allowed to be transcendental, that from 39pi^2+6pi+2, you can extract the coefficients. But I can't remember the details and it's not as pat location-arithmetic-wise.
Gah, you ninja’d me
Yeah, you can do any rational-coefficients polynomial with a transcendental number, since Q[a] is isomorphic to Q[x] for transcendental a.
But I don’t know if there’s a finitely computable way to do it (e.g. using an approximation of f(pi) to a finite number of places to approximate the coefficients of f). I don’t think there is, because of continuity issues – there are an infinite number of rational-coefficient polynomials with a given (rational) value at any rational number near pi, and the rationals are dense, so I don’t think you can find out the unique rational limit among all these.
Are we assuming it’s a function of one variable and that the exponents are also all nonnegative integers?
One variable – yes, but once you do it for one case the generalization to n variables (assuming n is given) isn’t too difficult. That exponents are nonnegative integers is generally part of the definition of a polynomial.
Feed the machine 1, get back the sum of all coefficients.
Pick the next power of 10 greater than the sum of all coefficients. Feed that as the second argument. This will separate all coefficients from each other, allowing you to determine the coefficients exactly.
For example say the polynomial was 3x^3 + 10x^2 + 7x + 1
Feeding it 1, you get back 21.
Feeding it the next power of 10 (100), you get 3100701
Since you know each coefficient is <=21, you can separate that into:
3 * 100^3 + 10 * 100^2 + 7 * 100 + 1
You can make the read out even easier if you switch numerical bases. Do f(21) instead of f(100), and then convert the answer to base 21 – then each digit of the base 21 number will correspond to one of the coefficients in the function. Of course, converting a number to base 21 would be far more annoying than merely going up, but it does allow a bit of elegance in expressing the function:
just read f(f(1)) in base f(1); each digit corresponds to a coefficient.
I was very happy to learn that it existed today. Wanting to write it with more interesting letters than latin ones, however, I was very disappointed upon finding the Enochian characters on Wikipedia. Locational arithmetic is clean and beautiful, while the characters seem convoluted and ugly (even creepy, I feel like). Somehow, it seems, the angelic beauty has not shone through to them…
Very definitely creepy, which is why I think Dee was not doing what he thought he was doing 🙂
Hmm… well what do you think Dee was actually doing that was not what he thought he was doing? I have not looked much into this, but I’d be interested if you knew something more.
After the last two chapters, I was starting to wonder if Aaron was going to appear in the West home, under seige below the mountain. It would also explain how he, as narrator, would know about Sohu’s experiences, and the Comet King’s despairing Seder. Maybe the Kayak means he’s running into someone connected to them. Or maybe someone stole Sohu’s kayak.
Also, the part with Kimball helicoptering up to tell the Angels about Joseph Smith? Priceless.
So the Vanishing Name transported Aaron to another secure compound being infiltrated by a young woman.
Now we see why it was so important that Ana rescue him – not because he would be rescued by her, which would actually be quite difficult, but so that the teleportation is to “about to be rescued” rather than “being interrogated by a semi-hostile government”.
THANK YOU!!! The world makes sense again. “ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WILL GO WRONG” indeed!
I still like the theory that someone screwed up. Having an omnipotent guardian angel for the heroes makes things boring.
I think if you told the heroes right now that they have an omnipotent guardian angel watching over them, the response would be “I’d appreciate a LOT more boredom right now”.
I approve of this logic. This is also why Voldemort’s ressurection potion failed because of a minor technical error, the one ring turned out to be surprisingly fragile, and Phileas Fogg got an airline ticket.
The narrative solution is that once the reader starts to feel safe, you shatter either the omnipotence or the guardian-ness.
Provided that Sarah is benevolent, sure. Hard to imagine that she would be though. If I was a laptop I’d be unkind to humans.
That is very, very, very clever.
Note that there seems to be some leeway to “about to be rescued”. Ana barely got out herself, and her invisibility doesn’t work on Malia Ngo. Actually rescuing Aaron might have been a lot harder than the (seemingly) easy time Aaron and Jane are having with the reserve…
A very good chapter. Starting the next book off with a bang.
Your question contains its answer, I suspect
Dirk Gently would have a field day in this world.
“TINACBNIEAC” sounds exactly like what a holistic detective would say.
The fallen angels make me very sad now. They made me a little sad before, but now they make me very sad.
I was saying “Isn’t it a bit too much of a coincidence that Aaron landed in a Reserve while someone else is breaking into it?” Then I realized that Ana was also breaking into the Unsong base at the same time. So it makes perfect sense that the Vanishing Name sends him to “A secret government base that someone is currently breaking into” rather than just “a secret government base.”
Also, I’m guessing that the reason Aaron knows the Spectral Name is from his telepathic connection to Ana?
Oh, Aaron explains that’s how he got it. I somehow derped out and skipped right over that paragraph.
I wonder if it really is, though. Do we know it can work over such distances? And why right then? Is Aaron’s situation somehow getting through to her? Does she have some reason for specifically trying to send him the Spectral name? If so, note that there’s nothing about this in Chapter 15, so presumably this is after she heads to San Francisco — even though it seems like rather less time passed in this chapter than did after Aaron vanished in Chapter 15. I’m suspicious.
The telepathy can work without someone consciously sending. Ana pulls the Vital Name out of his head early in the story. Though it’s surprising that he managed to do so by accident, in a stressful situation.
Not directly related to this chapter, but I haven’t seen anyone debate this yet – what’s the relevance of Sarah’s name? In Jewish tradition, Sarah, wife of Abraham, was the “first mother”, the mother to the jewish people. If Sarah really is the first AI, does her name signify that she will ensoul more computers and create a new people, QC-style?
I saw the connection too, see my comment here: http://unsongbook.com/chapter-18-no-earthly-parents-i-confess/#comment-3515
God did not ensoul each human. God ensouled humanity.
Aaron did not ensoul a computer. Aaron ensouled computers. That’s why the Name did not work on computers again.
I’m not sure about this. God ensouled Adam, and every human thereafter was physically derived from him.
I think Aaron ensouled the first living computer — but only with the Divine Spark, *not* the Animal Soul or the Moral Soul that Adam was ensouled with. If you have the Divine Spark but are neither animal nor moral, you are basically equivalent to God. And since God is One and Its Name is NE-1, there can’t be another.
Interesting. So Aaron was trapped in a dangerous and highly secure location, about to be rescued by a woman roughly his age who used divine Names. Then he spoke the Vanishing Name, and…
Oops, looks like Anonymous already noticed this.
…Above mount Baldy? unless either (a), Aaron knows there are no angels in that area, (b), something happened to southern California and he doesn’t know the map anymore/it can’t be mapped (like the midwest), or (c) Aaron’s just panicking.
(d) Or the Angel Reserves move around, and the Mount Baldy one was named after where it was discovered, not where it permanently resides (because it doesn’t permanently reside anywhere).
Is it possible for someone from San Francisco to just not know Mount Baldy is in LA?
You might think that, but…
Yes. (Such as me.)
There’s one in Indiana, too, which made this chapter all the more exciting: I, a Chicagoan, thought he had moved across the country (as has Erica).
Also… I wonder if the stuff about Aramaic, Enochian, postcard-Heaven-in-the-clouds, and so on might be more than just a running joke. We know that the angels were restored to non-metaphorical status by the cracking of the sky, which also made placebomancy effective. What if those events are just two different aspects of the same effect? What the restored angels’ suspicious agreement with all sorts of implausible human beliefs about angels is Not A Coincidence? Maybe the angels exist the way they do because that’s what humans expected of them prior to the return of the Divine Light.
Which raises the question… how many of the other properties of this world are actually just the result of the Divine Light acting on human beliefs and expectations? We already know that magic works this way; maybe kabbalah does too. I realize that Uriel was around doing kabbalah well before the Divine Light returned, but I wouldn’t rule out this effect having the power to ‘retcon’ entities that were mostly metaphorical anyway.
At least as if reading the Bible from space was a powerful act of placebomancy that has retconned the angels, Divine Light, Uriel and the Celestial Machine, the Names of God and all the other things into existence. Given how funny the time acted in the Long March, retconning something into existence doesn’t seem impossible. It looks more and more like humanity has created angels and demons, not someone else.
The kabbalistic explanation would be that both real properties of angels and various human beliefs about angels are similar because both grow from the same template.
Maybe it is that the Angels became metaphorical, and metaphors can be much more fluid. During the metaphorical era, the Angels and like beings picked up a bunch of cruft and a high memetic mutation load. When they reverted to actual existence, their restored reality was thereby shaped by centuries of kitsch, storytelling, mysticism, and crankery. Kabbalistic template-matching might have stabilized them somewhat, but that is itself flexible.
Ah. Yeah, I guess that’s a reasonable place to be sent by the Vanishing Name.
Except I didn’t actually sound them out, because half of the things written in Enochian summoned vast ancient forces from beyond the veil when read aloud.
The first sensible thing Aaron has done 🙂
It’s very strange; Enochian and the Aethyrs freaked me out very badly the first time I encountered them. I went in all “La la la, new and interesting esoteric stuff!” and I rather discounted the usual “BE WARNED THERE LIE DANGERS AHEAD” festooning around them, because it’s the kind of thing you get everywhere (e.g. the Bardo Thodol and the lokas, or crossing the void to the Ain-Soph).
But when I read the first descriptions I got a very strong feeling of “This is not stuff to be messing around with” and I backed out sharpish and have never tried it again.
It’s curious, because I’ve never got that feeling from anything else and I certainly don’t think Dee was communicating with angels – or at least, not the kind of angels he thought he was. I do think Kelley was a fraudulent medium of the type who pops up everywhere there are gulls to be fleeced. So I don’t know why the whole topic of Enochian makes me so twitchy, only that it does 🙂
As silly as it is that the Enochian word for evil sounds like Madrid, it’s a lot less silly that the Enochian word for God sounds like Ialdabaoth (I don’t know if Dee was aware of the Gnostic term; I’d be surprised if Kelley was).
I’m pretty materialist, but in terms of magical systems not to mess with Enochian is high on my list.
My head-canon is still strongly influenced by Charles Stross’s world where High Enochian is a programming language for reality and the cultists doing repetitive chanting are actually just running through a while loop in the program they’re trying to invoke.
Hey, is it just me or the navigation bar (or whatever that list with the table of contents and author’s notes is called) has disappeared?
It occurs to me that the angels must not have any knowledge of a holy book, even though the Torah literally contains the source code for reality and you’d think the angels would be kinda into that thing. But if they’d read the Old Testament, they’d have seen plenty of instances of deceit, politics, bad things happening to good people, evil that isn’t immediately smitten, and so on. I guess they got direct revelations or something instead of holy books.
Not to mention angels being sent to do specific tasks, often imitating people, that it seems like these angels couldn’t do. Maybe those were all archangels?
Well, given the significance of the Torah in this world, it seems pretty likely that the angels know it word-for-word. They probably don’t understand it the same way we do, though…
From Interlude Bet:
“The Torah is the deep structure of the universe, and ‘structure’ is exactly the word for it. It’s pure. Utterly formal. Meaningless on its own. But stick it in a situation, and its underlying logic starts to clothe itself in worldly things. Certain substructures get expressed, certain others shrivel away….At the crucial moment in the Hebrew Bible, a man named Moses is born, ordains new laws, and changes the destiny of Israel. If you’re a Biblical Hebrew, then to you that’s the Torah. If you’re an angel, the Torah is something different. And if you’re God 974 generations before the creation of the world, the Torah is all of these things and none, just a set of paths and relationships and dependencies pregnant with infinite possibilities. A seed.”
The angels have the Torah, but the way they interpret it wouldn’t reference Moses or Israel, and they might not “interpret” it at all in the human sense.
These are probably the angels who “Sing ‘Holy! Holy! Holy! Blessed is the Lord of Hosts from His place’ and draw reinforcement from one another”. In other words, they might not be beings that have any consciousness or goals unrelated to praising G-d, so they probably don’t read or even evaluate the Torah as humans do.
Angels probably suck at war against anyone who who denies that they’re evil, otherwise they could be turned as soon as they came near their foe. (Angels vs. angels would probably just end up in a lot of fallen angels.)
So no Cold War strategic angel strikes. 🙁
Or dead angles. (Important easily missed question: WHY IS GABRIEL DEAD.)
Is he? Or did one of the religious figures tell the angels that he was. They are not the most reliable narrators
That’s good, I hadn’t thought of that reading! On the other hand, (1) I don’t know of a religion that teaches that Gabriel is dead (though I haven’t looked very hard; anyone?) (2) in context, it would seem that the only other religion these particular angels knew of was Orthodox Christianity. Which definitely doesn’t preach a dead Gabriel.
Could be useful to think about when, instead. Several thoughts, all of which conflict with each other:
The angels say he died “long ago”. Pirindiel’s angelic sense of time led him to buy a flower weeks in advance instead of hours in advance, so “long ago” for an angel may be incomprehensible aeons ago to a human.
Or: Scott’s approach seems to be that most religions (and/or crazy occultisms) have turned out to be right about most of the things. So by default we should probably assume that the Koran is truthful when it claims it was delivered by Gabriel. If the angels are also right that he’s dead now, then he had to have died at some point between the 7th and 20th centuries. That also happens to be when Uriel was putting the finishing touches on his machine. Theory: During the endgame of the machine’s construction, Thamiel finally worked out what Uriel was up to and tried to stop him, which is what the War in Heaven of Christian tradition is actually about.
Or: When the angels hear about Gabriel and the Koran they’re surprised, which tells us the Muslims are in fact wrong about that. After all, we’ve already been told that when “God” appears in the Torah it was mostly just Uriel. IN WHICH CASE WE HAVE NO INFORMATION.
If Gabriel gave a revelation to Mohammed, he might have decided to emphasize that Uriel’s plan was about to be finalized and no further revelations were scheduled.
HUMANS! FOR EFFICIENCY REASONS, THE PROPHECY CHANNEL HAS NOW BEEN SEALED. WE APOLOGIZE FOR ANY INCONVENIENCE.
Unless I’m misremembering, the only other times we’ve seen mention of non-Uriel archangels is the ritual in chapter 8 (and plausibly Comet West). The archangels and some information about them:
– Michael, first called. “Behind me”; called by the Northwest. Caller was second killed by Dylan Alverez, using a gun.
– Uriel himself, second called. “Before me”; called by the South. Caller was first killed by Alverez, again with the gun.
– Raziel, second called. “On my left hand”; called by the West. Caller was the sole survivor. Could plausibly be Comet West, but I don’t really give much credence to that claim.
– Gabriel, last called. “On my right hand”; called by the East. Caller was last killed, and the most elaborately: knocked down with the flying pendulum, then finished with a staff.
Right off, I note that “The Right Hand of God” appeared in Interlude ה, which takes place in San Francisco, not anywhere in the east, and predates Comet West. From chapter 16, we have that Thamiel is “THE LEFT HAND OF GOD” and that he fought a war with the archangels and won. Uriel (on the left hand) is known to have survived this war; it’s possible that Gabriel simply didn’t and this is (part of) what gives Thamiel his dominance. Also plausible that Comet West (Raziel?) is the Right Hand of God, but Comet West associates himself with both creation and destruction, rather than the mercy of God that Uriel tells us is the province of the Right Hand.
Raziel is the angel of secrets and magic; he gives a book knowledge to Adam and Eve after the fall so that they might find their way back, but his gift disturbs the other angels and so they revoke it. Superficially, he seems a bit Promethean and reminiscent of the Comet King, but not necessarily of Comet West.
Thamiel is (I believe explicitly?) a piece of the Sephirot; other archangels may represent other pieces, in which case Gabriel might be a piece that was too weak, or simply the fourth vessel. His death/breaking would then be the pivotal event that causes Uriel to establish his machine. That would naturally establish an order of Michael > Uriel > Raziel > Gabriel > five dead angels? That names Uriel the second vessel – perhaps he is a piece of it? I recall that the second vessel is also supposed to be Thamiel, which could fit with Uriel as the misapplied mercy (Sohu’s perpetual 8-year-old-ness, everything wrong with the bible as presented by Uriel, this whole heavenly machine…), but Uriel and the Right Hand seem to be explicitly separate.
Do we know anything else about the archangels?
Oh! And Clara, caller of Gabriel and last archmage slain, was President of the board and highest ranking archmage.
The fact that the Angels have no concept of deceit yet have a strong concept of evil is interesting and raises the question what their model of ‘evil’ is, my guess would be resistance to or trying to undo the act of creation or any other aspect of what they believe god’s plan is, this might put Uriel on questionable grounds with them.
A question: have we met any cantors already? We’ve seen singers but l don’t recall any cantors…
Once again leading to questions about the Board of Ritual Magic: Why on earth are they fussing around with weak sauce like placebomancy, when they could be using Divine Names and Enochian calls like actual pre-1968 ceremonial magicians?
perhaps the ones who did didn’t live long enough while using Enochian or got sued by the Name owners when using names?
Summoning vast ancient forces from beyond the veil is useful in the sense that having a nuclear bomb detonator that only works sometimes and the other times will trigger the nuclear bomb strapped to your back can be useful. That’s probably why theonomics have decided to invest in Divine Names instead of Enochian.
Point. I feel like we’ll probably soon hear about whole cities driven mad by someone experimentally summoning Choronzon or something.
I feel this has already happened…
Thamiel was almost called Choronzon in early drafts and outlines of this, but I decided to back away from that aesthetic.
I am definitely glad you took this in the Thamiel-direction rather than the Choronzon-direction. That way has been done so much more and is probably just less interesting even without that.
BCDEGHL using the conventional Enochian-Latin correspondences would be pa-veh-gal-graph-ged-na-ur. Using, more sensibly for this purpose, an order-based system (so A corresponds to the first Enochian letter, B to the second, etc.) it would be veh-ged-gal-or-graph-tal-ur.
(NB Enochian reads right-to-left, like Hebrew)
I doubt you’d want to change anything as it really doesn’t matter for the humor in this section but more just as an FYI, the angels here really run counter to Mormon conception of angels. In Mormon theology, angels are just people who 1) haven’t been born yet or 2) have already died. (In later Mormon theology, angels become the good dead people who weren’t good enough to be made gods or possibly who just haven’t been made gods yet). But either way, they’re not a separate species from humans (or gods) so the story doesn’t mesh very well with it. I’m not sure how that would have changed Mr. Kimball’s interactions. Also, if I’m recalling correctly from my childhood memorization, Spencer W. Kimball where the W is somehow important (you can more or less if you’re talking to a Mormon or not if they give the middle initial of the president)
When Aaron and Jane finally get back to the ground, will there be ten thousand words on airplane landing gear?
There really should be the landing gear chapter sometime. Partly because ten thousand words would be a really long update, which would be nice, and partly because there’s nothing that’s quite as kabbalistic as writing ten thousand words in response to an offhand sarcastic joke that people took way too seriously.
Well, not 10,000 words (yet?), but you might find this amusing.
Oh nice. I liked the thing with the butterflies.
I don’t get this reference…
There you go:
So the ones that come from the bastions are innocent to the point of naive, even if they’ll straight up cut you if you’re a demon. You see one, you see a cute angle, as acute as a sword’s edge.
Uriel, on the other hand, is and once brilliant and unable to quite get human tastes, abilities, and perspectives. He’s an obtuse angle.
What might help this sky-cracked world? An assist from a member of a yet greater choir, one with the perception, power, and virtue to correct matters. We need a right angle!
Seriously, though. If San Fran isn’t infested by fair folk or reality-benders, it might just be some reps from higher choirs, much further from human-like nature. More alien, and much more dangerous even if good. That big eye on the TransAmerica building could even be Metatron. Would explain why the Comet King’s yacht would be sailing along the bay within sight of the tower, illustrating a verse about the Comet King receiving the Explicit Name. Maybe he braved the inhuman city to plead with the Powers, Thrones, and Dominions for assistance.
> a cute angle
That’s as bad than the whale puns…
Still waiting to find out what’s in San Francisco
Typo: … seeing the the clouds grow …
(notice the duplicate ‘the’)
I don’t like how the puns are normalized in this world, where every character sees to expect them.
Now that we’ve seen Enochian, that conlanger in me is really hoping that the Lingua Ignota and/or Hildegard of Bingen show up at some point. We’ll see, I guess (or perhaps we already have seen — I’m way behind).
Angels are so Lawful Good it hurts.
Is Mount Baldy a reference to Mount Useful – Strategic Granite Reserve?
I wonder why this is Chapter 19, and the previous is Chapter 17.
Pingback: Nathan Hwang » Ain’t No Calvary Coming
Seems like something is missing in this sentence!