I’ve reserved this space as a safety zone for pouring my empty and vain wishes.
Overtly, the meaning of “king” is “a hereditary monarch”.
Kabbalistically, the meaning of “king” is “one who fights for freedom”.
This we derive from Martin Luther King, whose name was “king” in two ways: first in English via his surname, second in Hebrew via his initials. Likewise, he signifies fighting for freedom in two ways. First, through his name: “Martin” comes from Latin “martinus” and shares a root with “martial” meaning “warlike” or “fighting”, “Luther” comes from Greek “eleutheria” meaning “freedom”, and so “Martin Luther” equals “one who fights for freedom”. Second, through the example of his life.
And so in accordance with the secret structure of the universe, the Comet King marched forth to fight for freedom.
His armies set out from Colorado Springs, passed through Salt Lake City, reached the Salish Free State. Advance forces captured Juneau and Anchorage, while the bulk of the troops boarded an immense flotilla ten years in the making and sailed up the coast, resupplying at the Alaskan ports as they went. An advance force reached Tin City, Alaska. The Comet King raised his sword, spoke a Name, and parted the Bering Strait. They crossed, took Chukotka and Kamchatka from the north before the Siberians could react, deconstructed the coastal batteries and seawalls that were supposed to prevent amphibious invasion. The main force landed en masse in Magadan Oblast and worked its way northeast through pestilent swamps and mountains. There was fighting every step of the way: ambushes, pit traps, a frantic battle in the pass of Ust-Nera. The demons of Siberia deployed misshapen hell-creatures, swarms of unnatural insects, darknesses that seemed to crawl and screech. The Comet King deployed strange walking tanks, floating globular airships, squadrons of kabbalists who could bring down mountains with a song. Siberia’s army kept retreating. The armies of the West kept advancing.
Finally they reached Yakutsk. After three days of apocalyptic fighting, the city fell; Thamiel and his court retreating in disarray. The Comet King had hoped to rescue the human citizens, but there was not enough left of them for this to be a mercy. So his crusaders burnt the city, pushed the memories out of their waking minds and into their nightmares, and marched on.
The last seven hundred miles were the easiest. After the fall of Yakutsk the demons gave up most resistance. The crusaders’ spirits were high. Their steps were lightened by victory. They sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic. They marched toward a final destination they only partly understood.
In this mood they came to the still blue waters of Lake Baikal and fanned out along its shoreline near Ulan-Ude. They rested and tended to their wounded while their leader stayed in his tent, praying. After three days, the Comet King decided that it was time.
He walked onto the water and it held his weight. Only a few steps; the lake was hundreds of miles long, but never too wide. Then he was on the island in the middle, the one the natives called Shaman’s Rock, the one that had a hole in it deeper than the world itself.
His men watched him from the other shore, barely daring to breathe.
His engineers had already demolished the gate’s physical defenses. Now he destroyed its spiritual defenses with a word. The rock crumbled, revealing only a deep pit. The Comet King stepped off the edge and disappeared from view.
He fell and fell, until he no longer knew if he was falling or not. There was no ground beneath him, and no walls on either side. Just endless space, tenebrous and inscrutable, like it was filled with black smoke. Were those flames that he could almost see, if he strained his eyes? A flash of movement here? The flap of a demonic wing there?
It had all been for this. The handful of lost souls in Yakutsk was only a drop in the barrel. Those who had been saved in Canada and Alaska only a trickle. This was the ocean. Billions of people through all of history who had been swept off into Hell and left to suffer forever. There was only one way to save them. He had sacrificed tens of thousands of lives to come here. Now it was time.
He fell so far and long that there was no point in waiting any further. He said a prayer. He visualized a structure in his mind’s eye, a complex kabbalistic structure of interlocking aspects of divinity and mortality beyond the power of any human but him to imagine. And then, his voice trembling only a little, he spoke the Explicit Name of God.
It went like this:
A fearsome joy.
A fervent wish.
The Comet King incanted HaMephorash.
A slight whirling of the smoke? Another hint of those flickering flames? Or were those just illusions? The Shem HaMephorash didn’t touch them. The Comet King frowned.
He spoke the Name a second time, vocalizing every letter clearly and precisely, like the notes of a song. Somewhere high above him, dogs started barking. Babies began to cry. Clouds shattered like glass, huge waves appeared from nowhere and lashed against every coast. The archangel Uriel screamed and clutched his forehead, then started frantically drawing symbols in the air to calm storms that only he could see.
But if the smoky realm below the pit was affected at all, it was only the tiniest perturbation, too minute for the Comet King to even be sure it had happened.
Jalaketu’s eyes narrowed. He started tracing glyphs around him, arcane geometries to magnify his words and purify their impact. He wrote manically, and symbols in a hundred languages living and dead gleamed through the darkness and added their powers to his. He stood surrounded by a living web of power. Then, a third time, he spoke the Name of God.
The sky turned red. The seas turned red. The sunlight became fractured and schizophrenic, like it was shining through stained glass. Trees exploded. Every religious building in the world, be it church or mosque or temple, caught fire at the same time.
But the Comet King saw only little eddies in the darkness, like when a child blows a puff of air into the smoke of a bonfire.
Now he was really angry. He spread himself across all the worlds and sephirot, drew all of their power into himself. The web of glyphs crackled and burned with the strain, pulsed from color to color at epileptic speed, shot off sparks like a volcano. The Comet King opened his mouth –
“STOP”, said a voice. A bolt of lightning flashed through the smoke, and the archangel Uriel appeared beside him, flaming sword held high. “STOP, LEST THE ENERGIES YOU INVOKE DESTROY THE WORLD.”
“Not going to destroy the world!” said the Comet King. He didn’t look remotely human at this point. His skin had gone night-black, his hair was starlight-silver, no one could have counted how many limbs he had. “Going to destroy Hell! Don’t deny me this, Uriel! You know it has to be done!”
“YOU ARE NOT ENTIRELY IN HELL. YOU ARE ONLY SORT OF IN HELL. YOU ARE UNLEASHING THE ENERGY OF THE SHEM HAMEPHORASH PARTLY INTO THE ORDINARY WORLD. THERE ARE ALREADY TOO MANY CRACKS. SING AGAIN AND THE SKY WILL SHATTER.”
“I’m trying to aim at Hell,” said the Comet King. “Not sure where I am…but it’s close. If I can get enough power…”
“THEN YOU WILL SHATTER THE SKY,” said Uriel. “THIS IS NOT A MATTER OF POWER. WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS FUNDAMENTALLY ILL-ADVISED. STOP.”
“This is the gate, Uriel! I passed through the gate! You saw me, they all saw me.”
“THERE ARE MANY GATES. NOT ALL OF THEM ARE OPEN. YOU HAVE PASSED THROUGH ONE. YOU ARE STILL OUTSIDE OTHERS. IF YOU SAY THE SHEM HAMEPHORASH AGAIN YOU WILL DESTROY THE WORLD.”
“Many gates? Uriel, we talked about this. We spent years researching. We both agreed that if we could get through the hole in Lake Baikal, we could break into Hell.”
“YES. IT MADE SENSE AT THE TIME. NOW WE ARE HERE OBSERVING FIRST-HAND. I AM TELLING YOU THERE ARE MORE GATES THAN WE THOUGHT. SOME OF THEM ARE CLOSED. YOU CANNOT GET THROUGH THEM.”
“If I just give it more power…”
“THAMIEL IS A FACET OF GOD. BRUTE STRENGTH WILL NOT SUFFICE AGAINST HIM.”
“This is the Shem HaMephorash! It’s literally the power of God Himself! There’s nothing that can stand up to it.”
“YES. THAT IS WHY YOU ARE DESTROYING THE WORLD.”
“Give me something to work with, Uriel!”
“Give me something to work with!”
“GATES ARE VERY COMPLICATED.”
“For the love of God, give me something to work with, Uriel!”
“Are you saying there is literally no way to destroy Hell even with the Explicit Name of God?”
“Is that what you’re saying?”
“Why would God do that? Why would He make a universe where the one thing it is absolutely one hundred percent morally obligatory to do is totally impossible, even if you do everything right, even if you get a weapon capable of destroying worlds themselves, who does that sort of thing?”
“GOD,” said Uriel. “HE DOES MANY THINGS THAT ARE HARD TO EXPLAIN. I AM SURPRISED YOU HAVE NOT REALIZED THIS BY NOW.”
“Who creates suffering that can never end? Who makes people, tells them to do the right thing, then pulls the rug out from under them when they try? I was supposed to be His sword, Uriel! I was Moshiach! He forged me, He and my father, put me through all of those trials so I could be worthy to be here today. Who forges a weapon like that and then keeps it sheathed? Why would God do that?”
“STOP TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THE WILL OF GOD,” said Uriel. “IT NEVER HELPS.”
“So,” said the Comet King. His voice was icy calm now. “What do you propose I do?”
“LET ME TAKE YOU HOME,” said Uriel.
“No,” said the Comet King.
“YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO LEAVE THIS PLACE ALONE,” said Uriel. “YOU HAVE CROSSED THROUGH TOO MANY GATES. NOT ALL OF THEM ARE AS EASY TO PASS IN THE OTHER DIRECTION.”
“I’m not going, Uriel.”
“PLEASE,” said Uriel. “SOME OF THE GATES MAY SHUT AGAIN, IN TIME. YOU WOULD BE TRAPPED DOWN HERE.”
“So what? So you want me to give up? Lead a million men all the way to Siberia and let however many of them die and then just give up? Just because…”
“IF YOU RETURN TO THE LIVING WORLD PERHAPS WE CAN FIGURE OUT A SOLUTION.”
“You’ve already said! There’s no solution! Even the Explicit Name of God isn’t enough!”
“I DO NOT THINK THERE IS A VERY GOOD CHANCE OF US FINDING A SOLUTION, BUT IT IS PROBABLY HIGHER IF YOU ARE WORKING HARD ON LOOKING FOR IT THAN IF YOU ARE TRAPPED FOREVER IN THE ANTECHAMBER OF HELL.”
“Uriel. Give me something to work with.”
“I AM GOING TO TAKE YOU OUT OF HERE NOW. I AM SURE YOU CAN FIGHT ME OFF IF YOU WANTED TO BUT I WOULD REALLY APPRECIATE IT IF YOU DID NOT TRY.”
The archangel reached out a gigantic hand and grabbed the Comet King. Then he rocketed upwards, fiery sword outstretched above him, clearing the smoke from their path. The darkness began to thin. A sense of orientation returned. At last a rush of information hit all of Jalaketu’s senses at once and he realized he was out of the pit, back above the earthly Lake Baikal.
His men started to cheer. Some of them blew horns. A few started singing verses from the Battle Hymn. His heart sank. They think I succeeded, he thought to himself. Of course they think I succeeded. I’m the Comet King, here I am shooting out of the Abyss alive, being carried by an archangel, of course they think I succeeded. “No!” he shouted at the armies. “Stop! I failed! I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t destroy Hell! You brought me all this way, you trusted me, and I couldn’t do it! It’s all gone wrong! Stop singing! Stop singing! Stop!”
Most of them couldn’t hear him, but a few caught the gist of his message. One by one, the songs wavered, but they didn’t die, his men still singing, sure that there must be something worth singing about. A few cried out, or raised banners, or started cheering on general principle.
“Don’t bring me back to them,” the Comet King said, almost sobbing. “Take me somewhere else…can’t face them, just now.” Uriel looked down at him, tilted his colossal head in a gesture of confusion. “Just for now,” he said. “Just for a few hours. Somewhere I can think. Give me time to think, Uriel.”
The archangel deposited Jalaketu on a hill a few miles outside of camp. Then he gave a long sigh.
“I’M SORRY,” he said.
“No,” said the Comet King. He looked mostly human again now. “You did the right thing. Prevented me from destroying the world.”
“YES,” said Uriel. “ARE YOU OKAY?”
“Sort of. I need to think. It’s not a total loss. We still have the army. The military action went well. Better than expected. We can hold onto Baikal while we try to figure out where to go from here. I can convince people to…wait…oh no. Oh no.”
“WHAT?” asked Uriel.
“I just realized,” said the Comet King. “What am I going to tell my wife?”
You definitely did make up for it next week, and more.
I hope Uriel ends up giving the Comet King something to work with. That Metatron thing seems like it’s still in the future so it really was a dick move to take the name. Kick him whilst he’s down, why don’t you?
I bet that the aftershocks from incanting haMephorash killed Robin.
My impression from the ending was that disappointment over the failed invasion would drive her to her death? Unclear though.
If she commits suicide though, she goes to hell, I think. The risk is to great anyway, and she seems to be way too much about doing the maximally good thing to even consider that.
She could still die from the psychological disappointment lowering her body’s defenses to some illness. But, that’s less likely (the Queen of Colorado would get the best medical care around), and less dramatically appropriate.
She commits suicide to make the Comet King more desperate and marginally increase the odds of eventual victory. She’s a utilitarian.
You know what would be really terrible?
Robin believes that the Comet King has succeeded and commits suicide in order to meet him in Hell as he victoriously liberates it. Because suicides naturally go to Hell, but now her husband has won, so to set the example that no human need ever again fear Hell, she kills herself (expecting to march right out of Hell alongside him and the other liberated souls? It’s not quite clear what the Comet King expects to happen if he overthrows Hell – do the souls there return to life on Earth, go on to Heaven, or are annihilated finally and eternally?)
Luckily, Scott is (probably) too nice a person to do anything like this 🙂
I love that idea! So. Shakespearian
That would have the chapter end with “UM…”
Theodicy is a cruel mistress, and it turns out that those ‘mysterious ways’ are in fact very mysterious.
Or, possibly, don’t exist. It’s kinda difficult to tell.
Not mysterious at all. People with knowledge go to hell because otherwise they would compete with God. People who refuse to toe his line and e.g. agree to gut children on rocks get killed by floods or annihilated with their cities, lest they gain enough knowledge to become immortal and be like Him.
Exactly the reasons that are given in plain language and reinforced by kabbalistic interpretation.
The real evil exists in the mysteries that we contrive to say God’s story was right.
Applied kabbalah: Name your kid after a famous political dissident; he becomes a famous political dissident.
Name yourself after a famous political dissident. MLK was born Michael King Jr.
MLK Jr didn’t change his name, MLK Sr changed both of their names when he (MLK Jr) was about 5. Sorry to nitpick, but this surprised me so I looked it up. Clarification, courtesy of Wikipedia:
King was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, to the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. (1899–1984) and Alberta Williams King (1904–1974). King’s legal name at birth was Michael King, and his father was also born Michael King, but the elder King changed his and his son’s names following a 1934 trip to Germany
What was he doing in Nazi Germany?
Communing with the soul of Martin Luther, I guess.
Seeking the face of earthly evil, to better know his adversary?
The conference of the Baptist World Alliance was in Germany that year. Many attendees visited sites associated with Martin Luther and the Reformation, and the conference issued a resolution condemning antisemitism.
Oh right, the entrance to Hell is under one of the largest lakes in the world.
Say… would it be entirely impractical to do a repeat performance of what he did at Silverthorne, but on a much larger scale? Bless the lake, pull the plug, flood hell with holy water?
… yes. Yes, apparently it would.
I wonder how hard would it be to to bless all the water in the world. Then you can dig a channel to the ocean and flood hell with that much more holy water.
y’all seem to be ignoriong like, half of the chapter… gates on gates on gates
No, I got that part. But that’s no reason to not make Earth incredibly inconvenient for daemons to enter/operate on. If every rainstorm was a holy one, establishing another country of literally-hell-on-earth would be much harder for Thamiel to pull off.
If every rainstorm was a holy one, establishing another country of literally-hell-on-earth would be much harder for Thamiel to pull off.
There seems to be a misunderstanding of the nature of sacramentals here. They are not magic or super-powers.
For one, holy water on such a scale would be subject to dilution – this, after all, is the basis for washing out spills of the consecrated wine after Communion if such occur.
Sufficiently diluted, holy water would lose its character, so no holy rain storms I’m sorry to say. Also, the blessings of sacramentals act primarily (though not solely) on a spiritual level; demons might be hampered in their activities, but human-slave-occupied territories or possessed-humans setting up such countries would still be possible.
This is also nit-picking on my part here, but the newer rites of blessing holy water etc. are not as complex as they used to be; the traditional rite and form of blessing was more involved and thorough. I’d prefer the older rite myself, so you might want to make sure you got it blessed by the old rite, by preference if you can get them one of these guys. 🙂
Probably stay away from Traditionalists, though; they follow the old rites but can veer very close or indeed full-on into superstition (blessed salt, yes; cooking with it, no).
If ALL of the water is holy, it can’t get diluted. Diluted with what? There’s nothing else!
Bless the lake, pull the plug, flood hell with holy water?
Since Hell is not completely on the plane of physical reality, that would work only in a limited way. It might shut off the entrances into Hell that are located in the world but it would do nothing for the metaphysical entrances (that is, the souls of the dead who are damned would still move to Hell).
Time for a quotation?
Yeah but he wouldn’t be establishing a physical kingdom on the surface, and that’s something.
Honestly, that would probably be better for Thamiel. With Hell mostly a metaphor again, albeit a real destination after death, people would probably become complacent.
Then why’d he come out in the first place?
I really can’t understand why he is so afraid to tell his wife he failed to destroy hell…
Perhaps because their children are prophesied as damned?
They didn’t have any children together.
Stepchildren are still family, and colloquially referred to as one’s children.
His descendants are prophecied to die in agony, cursing his Name. Not quite the same thing.
Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness. – Proverbs 20:20
Because it is easier to give bad news to strangers than to tell the one closest to you. He knows that he needs to keep his army from celebrating a victory that did not happen, and so he did. He also knows that he is going to face the same thing when he comes home. That he will see his wife’s face as she watches for him. That she will see him alive, and conclude from that everything that is reasonable to conclude. And that then, as she is running out to meet him, he needs to say the words that will tear that happiness away.
“I don’t know,” said Robin. “I’m scared enough for both of us. I’m scared you won’t come back. Or I’m scared you’ll give up and come back too soon, with Hell still intact.”
“About that you need not fear,” said the Comet King.
Surely there’s an easy way to get to hell: suicide is a mortal sin.
That’s a good one! Become unspeakably bad, commit unspeakable sins, commit suicide and BAM, you’re in hell! Like, in real hell, after all the gates and such. And you can probably still remember the ShemHamephorash.
Maybe that’s what the Other King is trying to do.
No, there’s no need to commit any unspeakable sins. Suicide is enough by itself.
Sez who? That’s definitely not a Catholic position*, and I’ve never heard it associated with any other religion.
*”We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.”
Suicide is enough by itself.
Suicide in full possession of his faculties, with free will and the knowledge of the gravity of the sin, with the intention of ending his life? Might count as mortal sin leading to Hell, though the intention does count: wanting to harrow Hell rather than defiance of God. But the position of the Catechism covers those whose mental state or intentions is not known to us and is the pastoral position of mercy, not rowing back on “deliberate suicide is a mortal sin and unrepented mortal sin damns you to Hell, and you can’t repent once you’re dead, so suicide sends you to Hell”.
The part about “needing to die” is very relevant; that’s the only (so far) successful Harrowing of Hell we know about, and even that was confined to the Limbo of the Patriarchs.
But unless the Comet King is absolutely sure he can pull off resurrection, suicide is probably a bad idea, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Thamiel could rules-lawyer his way around it to void anything the Comet King might do because suicide is a mortal sin and you cannot commit evil that good may come of it.
because suicide is a mortal sin
We are talking about a book where the letter of the law has a very significant meaning, and, as far as I remember, there is no place in Torah or the rest of the Bible that directly condemns suicide.
…though, there might be some in Talmud, and I am definitely not well-read in that particular scripture. Still though the whole “100% mortal sin” part seems to be more of a relatively recent Christian thing, not the old Jewish one.
I’m not sure the dead can use names. Otherwise the souls in hell could fight back with a stream of the most powerful names without fear of death to stop their use.
It’s also obviously not a protestant position. I’m pretty sure hell in unsongverse works differently from in any traditional theology though (or, Thamiel refuses to say how it works)
Nah, suicide alone probably wouldn’t cut it (ha ha. see what I did here?). If the Comet King suicided with the explicit purpose of giving himself over to Hell in order to free mankind from it, it wouldn’t be suicide, it would be a self-sacrifice, so a noble and Heaven-worthy deed (which would automatically disqualify TCK from Hell, Constantine-wise). However, then he wouldn’t be able to go to Heaven either, because if he can’t go to Hell, then the whole point of the sacrifice is moot. So at the very worst, it would give Uriel and Sohu another amusing topic for chitchat:
– Uriel, what happened to Daddy?
– I KNOW NOT. HE DID NOT GO TO HEAVEN. HE DID NOT GO TO HELL.
– Come on, Uriel, it’s not going to be another one of those “I JUST AN ENTIRE RABBI” moments, is it?
Can the dead speak Names, though? The Broadcast hints not.
In the “In Terrible Majesty” chapter Aaron says that according to the legend, the human dead can speak names. Seems like in the Broadcast, the demons just give their victims fake names to lure their hopes.
This would even be a great explanation for the Comet King’s upcoming death, except that the delay is hard to explain, and the Explicit Name had been taken from him by that time.
So if the Cometspawn have the Explicit Name tattooed on their skins and then committed suicide, they would dye in horror and agony…
I have an inkling that’s maktub
Thousands of Rabbi’s and kabbalists have died across history, you’d think if it was possible to use names in hell they’d have done it before.
We also don’t know if the Comet King is human enough to go to hell. When Angels die they seem to just end and not have an afterlife.
Actually, this is unclear. When angels die they’re supposed to respawn. When Thamiel kills them they “die the true death […] exactly like humans,” so presumably they still have a soul? Angels presumably are by default too good to go to hell though?
Also maybe all rabbis and kabbalists go to heaven? Everything is unclear.
Whoa, I just checked and realized that the first letters in the first two chapters actually are T and R, respectively, so maybe the first letters of the chapters do encode HaMephorash! :O
ah and this was pointed out in some comment thread long ago
Let’s revisit this – there’s something confusing about the Hebrew/English correspondence. The letters we have so far are
We can guess that there is not a strict Hebrew-to-English rule, because both P and F could only reasonably be Pay (correct me if I’m wrong?). But it seems … inelegant … for the choice of English correspondence to depend on the pronunciation of the Hebrew, especially since E is Hay and W is Vav. So I’m stuck, and confused about what “O” and “U” might correspond to.
As somebody pointed, it might be an acronym that expands into The Reason Evil Exists Is…
Is anyone still trying to work out the acronym?
The reason evil exists is that my Thamiel was created to sow great sorrow…?
The reason evil entered into Thamiel may take..?
The reason evil exists is that Metatron talks with constant thought so great…?
Peace will follow by the will each angel can think.. born a hero?
The creation that the seven comets…?
Anyone else have thoughts on this? Did I miss any progress on that discussion?
Maybe we could create a giant Markov chain to generate the most probable expansions, and then hand them to people from Amazon Mechanical Turk to find ones that make the most sense.
You know, like in chapter 1.
The reason earth exists is to manage the world’s cryptography to secure God’s system without repitition?
It just occured to me that Scott may have formed this using the same tools as King James Programming. Of course, we might also just feed a Markov chain Scott’s writing and see what it comes up with.
I’m kind of amused that people are trying to guess very hard at the acronym – it’s sufficiently underconstrained that you can probably come up with a huge number of reasonable-sounding things that are wrong.
The reason evil exists is Thamiel may think we can take something great someday we return?
The reason evil exists is that Metatron thinks we can think such good stories we read?
I think this is the right track.
The reason evil exists is that my theodicy was created to script good stories we read,
Something like that.
The reason evil exists is that my theodicy was created to script good stories we’d read.
That scans much better.
I really like “The reason evil exists is that”. Not sure about the part after that.
The reason evil exists is to make the world create the stories godly saints will read.
Perfect worlds fail because they would eliminate all conflict to base our story. Can the story be interesting? Can someone be a hero?
Perfect worlds would fail because they would enjoy correct? tneodicy but obvious stories can take…?
Perfect worlds would fail because we enjoy a conflict that bears obvious? sad? consequences that someone born in some comet s? be a hero.
Perfect worlds fail because they write entertaining? angel?
Perfect worlds fail because they will each all create the boring obvious stories…
I think this is the right track. Need to think some more.
(Err, to add the other piece of information I’m working with, we know it starts with Taf Resh Hey Hey Yud Taf Mem Kaf Vav Kuf. Which is how we get that E = Hey, W = Vav, C = Kuf.)
I just realized that F could conceivably be Vav as well. And so could U. So if you gave up on this being either a one-to-many map or a many-to-one map, you could make the Hebrew alphabet correspond like
where T is ambiguous between Tet and Taf, and S between Shin and Samech, and Z between Zayin and Tsadi. I guess I’m just hoping Scott has something neater in mind.
On amibuous mappings: We have limited evidence to go on, but the three Tav chapters all start with “Th”, which is consistent with some transliteration conventions. Similarly, Shin and Samekh could be “Sh” and “S”. Finally, some occultists use X for Tzaddi for reasons that are… let’s say non-obvious.
I’m not sure what amibuous means but it’s probably pretty profound
The fact that this section can be sung to the tune of “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen makes me happy.
If you look at the book covers, they each contain an adapted verse of “Leonard Cohen – HaMephorash” (eg http://unsongbook.com/book-i-genesis/).
I’m not sure how much of an actual in-universe reference this is, because if Leonard Cohen lived in the Unsong universe and wrote this song, he must have known at least the first ten letters of the name.
You may wish to go back to the index and click the colon symbols in the middle of each Book link, then, for the rest of it :P.
Given what happened in this chapter, I don’t think finding the Shem Hamephorash is going to help.
(I was skeptical that Scott would pull any trick like that to begin with, but the fact that we spent a chapter learning that the Shem is not the instant-win button we thought it was seems like a very direct rejection of that idea.)
The mystery we have now is why? Why can’t Hell be destroyed with brute force alone, and what should the Cometspawn be trying instead?
Oh man, I was wondering if that was gonna come up! 🙂
I think I might have taken that from somebody talking about how they hoped it would come up. Maybe you.
Native Hebrew speaker here.
King in Hebrew is written as mem, lamed, kaf (letter number 11). MLK’s name transliterated to Hebrew would be mem, lamed, kof (letter number 21).
Doesn’t really work.
Yeah, nowadays. But in biblical times King’s aspirated k could only be kaf, not qof. That’s how they transcribed Greek, and vice versa.
I was thinking the same thing but then remembered for some odd reason melekh is a standard transliteration.
Especially for Kabbalah where מלכות is written interchangeably as Malchut & Malkuth.
Working with pre-standardised Transliterations leaves quite a bit of wiggle-room and knowing how the world works I highly doubt there’s really only a single standard now.
kinda source (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D7%9E%D7%9C%D7%9A)
Actually, the Academy of the Hebrew Language has official transliteration rules.
K is transliterated as Kof.
I can post a link, but the page is entirely in Hebrew.
That’s for modern Hebrew.
For Biblical Hebrew, the K sound would be a hard kaf and not a soft kaf.
Melech uses a soft kaf. If this were Aramaic it would work because in Aramaic, the root is mem, lamed, hard kaf (but I think that would be cheating).
Another option is that MLKs initials are transliterated to Biblical Hebrew, but you apply the ktiv velo kri rule, which means that some words are read the same, but pronounced differently.
No, really, the great thing about standards is that there’s always so many to choose from.
I wan’t claiming official transliteration rules don’t exist but that there are probably several competing official rules.
Just realized this is a reply to the wrong thing.
Wait, I just realized it’s MLK day today. major props.
Well that’s depressing. But not enough to break him, yet.
Theory A: He comes back to find that the last stage of the campaign was easy, because Thamiel was busy going to Colorado and killing his wife while he was distracted. I don’t like this one – too easy, and the timing doesn’t quite match (she died in 2000).
Theory B (B is for Better): He goes home, and figures that to get through the remaining gates requires human sacrifice. He knows it has to be Robin (as befits her initials) but can’t accept it, but she volunteers anyway. She dies, he loses the name, and can’t find a way to get it back. Possibly he tries going to Hell again, but that’s still not enough to get the name back. Gives up and becomes a broken man.
Or at least, this is what the public thinks. We’re close enough to the end (Only 17 chapters left! :(( ) that I expect this is where we’ll learn a bit more than everyone knows, such as the origin of Nemo, and it’ll start tying in with the 2017 plotlines.
Also tying in to this, Uriel knew about whatever plot he was hatching when he died, and wanted to keep Sohu around an extra day so he could figure out how to tell her.
Perhaps he killed her himself by speaking the name?
‘The archangel reached out a gigantic hand and grabbed the Comet King climbed into his palm. “
NONE (Nobody (Nemo)) CAN VISIT HIS REGIONS
Hmm. Wonder if any Kabbalistic parallels can be drawn with the Odyssey – Polyphemus and Nobody and Nemo and all.
Gnome Ann knoweth the hour.
This just might end up being relevant…
Shirts moving forwards! Details here.
If you have comments, please reply on the reddit thread. (If you want to reply but don’t have a reddit account, I’ll also check replies to this comment, but would prefer to centralize things there).
I’ll put it on an author’s note next week or so.
I badly want a shirt with just the UNSONG logo. Would be willing to pay extra.
Not directly related to this chapter, but does anyone know why the sword Sigh is named that?
I’m guessing bad pun, scripture reference, or setup for a shaggy dog joke to be revealed later. Probably all of the above?
It’s probably a sigh-n of something 😛
A sigh is the sword of an angel king. It’s Blake, like many things in Unsong.
It still blows my mind that the Explicit Name is hallelujah. You can sing that section to the tune of that song.
TBH if Hell cannot be destroyed destroying the world is the right thing to do… No more people, no more souls in Hell.
I find it a bit weird that the “Kabbalistic meaning of king” is pretty much opposite how things tended to go historically for actual kings (the title, not the name) though.
There would also be no more souls in Heaven, and we have no real information on what percentage of people die and go to Heaven versus Hell (or to some third option, if there is one). Presumably, if the world results in three or four souls going to Heaven per soul that goes to Hell, the world is a net utilitarian good.
Although minimizing the number of victims of Hell would still be the very highest utilitarian priority possible, obviously.
If the Comet King, as written here, has a threshold for destroying the world, it would be the point at which it is no longer plausible that the world’s continued existence will result in more souls going to Heaven than to Hell. Thamiel being on the edge taking over the world would be one obvious cutoff point, but not the only one.
When the Godzilla Threshold is crossed, Godzilla tends to show up, and things become a little unpredictable – though hopeful.
TBH if Hell cannot be destroyed destroying the world is the right thing to do… No more people, no more souls in Hell.
Except that destroying the world would kill all the existing humans and send them (the vast majority at least) to Hell straight away. If you’re trying to end Hell so as to end human suffering, sending six billion or more to Hell to suffer for eternity isn’t such a good idea.
6 billion is just about 5% or less of the entirety of the human beings that lived before, and nowadays humans are probably less sinful than the biblical ones (just think of the fact that the biblical Jews seriously can’t seem to even keep worshiping one god – they seem to go to any other god pretty much at any excuse, they must have some sort of Freudian God-Infidelity syndrome) So, the fraction of the Hellbound souls might actually be smaller than in the past, and with Thamiel active in the world, it can easily get larger as the time passes.
We still haven’t gotten a description of how it’s decided who goes to hell in unsongverse. Also, how many more of those people would become saved if the world continued until 2050, versus the new people who would be born and sent to hell when the world does eventually end?
(This is why my soteriology pretty much universalist in the real world, I guess.)
> “GATES ARE VERY COMPLICATED.”
THE PATCH TO REBASE THE ARCHITECTURE OF HELL ONTO WINDOWS 777 HAS BEEN ROLLED BACK. HELL IS STILL BUILT ON GATES. APOLOGIES TO USER BILLW.
Thamiel punishes mortals for their sins with a billion torments.
Uriel punishes Thamiel for his sins with Vista?
Thamiel punishes mortals for their sins with a billion *torrents*. You know he probably pirates copyrighted names of god off of the internet. 😛
So… that would tie in well enough with the Other King being the Comet King trying to commit as much sin as possible, in order to be able to die and go to Hell to destroy it from within. That would entail basically giving himself over to Thamiel, which does not sound fun, especially considering how (as we learned in one of the old chapters) Metatron took HaMephorash away from TCK (promising to return it only at the right moment).
That also gives me a hypothesis as to why TOK has to actually commit unspeakable deeds and so on – one must actually be evil to go to Hell. Maybe the real reason The Other One – Acher didn’t go to Hell is not because he was such a great rabbi – maybe he didn’t actually do anything EVIL evil, but he pissed off all the angels in general (with the T-W-O G-O-D-S thing) and Uriel in particular (messing with the server maintenance by the means of lighting fires on Sabbath and boiling goats in mother’s milk), so they denied him Heaven – so in order to deliberately go to Hell, one needs t actually do EVIL stuff, not just break some arbitrary number of (mostly Uriel-given) Torah rules.
This would also fit well with the statement that the Messiah would need to be both the most righteous and the most sinful person in the world – most righteous so that he could get the HaMephorash, and most sinful so he can go to Hell to destroy it (that is, if TCK is not mistaken in thinking that Moshiach’s goal is to destroy Hell)
The timeline checks out. TOK was defeated in the mid 90s and returned “as the century drew to a close.” So, right after the failed invasion of Hell. Meanwhile, TCK kept himself in his chambers and rarely let others see him, perhaps because he was really in Las Vegas building a cult.
Also, it would parallel the real Reagan dying and being replaced by Gadiriel’s golem.
> Metatron took HaMephorash away from TCK
I can’t recall which chapter this is. do you remember the number?
It was 49.
So, what does the Explicit Name actually do? Just destroying worlds seems a bit too mundane for a Name that is supposed to be the greatest name that encompasses all of God’s power.
The Explicit Name does anything. Literally anything. It’s the “real” name of God, so it can do whatever God can do. Which is anything.
Well, apparently, not absolutely anything – at least, in this chapter, we learned that destroying Hell from outside while keeping the rest of the world intact is sort of beyond its power.
If that’s the case, couldn’t the Comet King at least use it to a) improve the situation on Earth and b) make everyone immortal so no more people have to got to Hell? Like, it is unfathomably horrible if nothing can be done for the people already in Hell, but at least he could save everyone still alive or alive in the future
What are the odds that UM ends up playing an important role?
It’s kind of the opposite of meh.
Isn’t it exactly the opposite of Mu?
It resembles “AUM”, for what that’s worth.
“It went like this:
A fearsome joy.
A fervent wish.
The Comet King incanted HaMephorash.”
This seems like a pretty clear nod to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, which I think is a really sweet homage given his unfortunate passing earlier this year. One of my country’s (and the world’s) best songwriters.
Also, for anyone else who was wondering if the Hebrew letters “tav” and “resh” had a relevant correspondence with the replaced lyrics “a fourth, a fifth”, my quick search of the Hebrew alphanumeric system and the Sephiroth didn’t yield anything interesting.
As noted above, you may wish to go back to the index and hit the colon symbols in the headers for each book – we’ve been getting Hallelujah-bits for a while now :p
Oh wow! Thanks for pointing that out, can’t believe I missed that for so long.
yes, this was quite beautiful. “the baffled king” fits well also.
How far in advance did you plan to get the King bit to land today?
What’s special about this sunday?
Thanks for spelling it out for us non-Americans.
I just googled mlk day to make sure…
*blink* What? No, of course not. The Lut- part has a common origin with Greek eleuth- if you trace it all the way back to Proto-Indo-European, but it doesn’t mean “free”, it means “people”. The -her part probably means “army”.
Of course that, too, is appropriate for MLK.
Forgot to mention that Martinus is one who pertains to Mars – god of agriculture, which includes defending the fields from diseases, then also from enemies. Mars himself is what Martin and martial have in common.
I’m working off Wikipedia, which says: ” Luther is also derived from the Latin name Eleutherius. Eleutherius is a cognate of the Greek word eleutheros (έλεύθερος) which means “free.””
If you disagree, recommend you try correcting their article.
Interesting. The source the article cites says: “To reflect his newly found freedom, the young monk Martin changed the spelling of his surname from Luder to Luther to reflect the Latin name Eleutherius.” And then it pictures his signature, which says “Martinos eleutherios” in very bad Greek.
So, his last name is a deliberate pun of downright Biblical proportions. Thanks for alerting me to this!
Oh wow, this was tense. I guess, if they’ve defeated Thamiel’s earthly empire, that’s a lot better than I feared. I don’t know if it will last. That’s still infinitely depressing though if hell exists.
And I guess we still don’t know for *sure* if souls go to hell, but I think I assume they do.
And it makes sense that TCK defeated a lot of things but failed at destroying hell. Although, (if I didn’t know what happens later), I’d wonder if they could still succeed at that if they studied it. I hadn’t expected TCK to genuinely gain the explicit name — but then it still not be enough.
So, if Hell can’t be destroyed, what’s Plan B? My theories:
1. Open an exit to Hell and let the damned souls out. (The His Dark Materials trilogy did this.)
2. Prevent people from going to Hell in the first place. Removing Hell might be beyond the Name’s power, but what about closing the gates? Or sending people to Heaven? Or making people immortal?
It’s interesting that Aaron and Uriel seem to have very different approaches to Kabbalah. Aaron finds a single referent (in this case, Martin Luther King for “king”) and draws a lot of meaning from it, while Uriel finds like fifty referents but only takes broad, general ideas from each.
It’s similar to the contrast between how a talented beginner and an experienced pro in, say, math: A beginner will find a detailed proof of a theorem, an experienced mathematician will explain why it should be true from the Algebraic, Geometric, and Topological perspective in broad terms.
Wow, as a combinatorist/number theorist/analyst, I feel very excluded 😛
I’m not sure if this has been brought up before, but to me there’s a semi-obvious answer to this question: God actually *wants* people to suffer, and the promise of heaven exists primarily to taunt the vast majority of the population who won’t actually get there. I don’t have evidence for this other than the conundrum that the Comet King mentions in the above quote, and am probably biased by my skeptical-of-Abrahamic-religions upbringing, but maybe this line of reasoning will eventually lead somewhere.
I’ve also been wondering for a while whether the Unsong world may in fact be an ancestor simulation run by someone (us in the future?) to see what the world would be like if the Judeo-Christian mythos were actually real (though I don’t have any real evidence for this, other than Uriel’s comments about managing the world like a computer system).
I’ll spell it out: so far, the Unsongverse is entirely compatible with everybody between Enoch and Neil Armstrong going to hell. Thamiel doesn’t say if it’s 10 or 90 % because it’s 100.
It also seems fairly compatible with no one going to hell. Forging the broadcast seems pretty easy for someone with Thamiel’s powers, and I don’t recall any external confirmation of damned souls actually being a thing.
I mean, the Comet King basically just went to Hell and found it empty.
I think there’s WoG that Scott felt a theodicy without Hell wouldn’t be “fully engaging” with the idea, or something, though.
There’s like the Comet King sitting deep in the earth and saying he can hear the screams from hell, iirc?
I’m not sure if this was ever mentioned, but in a world with a Hell like this, which cannot be directly destroyed, necromancy could be the natural solution: turn everyone you could into zombies, so they won’t die and go to hell, then research and implement ways to call souls of the dead from the hell and bind them so they won’t return.
Thus: the Other King.
Good idea. But if so, why is the Other King so evil?
Well, is he actually evil, as in “tortures people for no good reason”, or does he only look evil because he’s doing necromancy?
Also, this is a placebomantic world, alignment requirements may be necessary in order to be able to do necromancy at all.
He tortures people for no good reason. It’s mentioned in Ch 22.
It’s inconclusive that there is no good reason, since we didn’t get any data with the Other King’s POV.
The crucifixions could be soul saving measures, if it is true that anyone who dies as a martyr on a cross doesn’t go to Hell.
Slight consistency nitpick:
THERE ARE MANY GATES. NOT ALL OF THEM ARE OPEN. YOU HAVE PASSED THROUGH ONE
YOU HAVE CROSSED THROUGH TOO MANY GATES. NOT ALL OF THEM ARE AS EASY TO PASS IN THE OTHER DIRECTION
Maybe the first sentence should be “you have passed through SOME”, rather than “through ONE”??
So. Odds on this moment being the CK’s “boy killing the mother bird” transition to the Other King? He realizes the universe is fundamentally evil, so becomes evil himself in protest?
“THE SHEM HAMEPHORASH” rings inconsistent, the HA in HAMEPHORASH is the Hebrew definite article, so either THE SHEM-MEPHORASH or HASHEM HAMEPHORASH ?
It seems like something here might be symbolically reminiscent of the story of Abraham. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, dies in the Biblicaly narrative right after Binding of Isaac, and many midrashic commentator try to claim that it happened right after or simultaneously, but there’s a very broad set of explanations for why, including Sarah being shocked that Abraham would sacrifice Isaac, joy that Abraham didn’t sacrifice Isaac, worry that Abraham would fail in his duty to sacrifice Isaac, or disappointment that he didn’t sacrifice Isaac. It seems like the Comet King’s actions here may somehow correspond to the Binding (which also has angelic intervention and also deals deeply with the issues of theodicy and divine justice), then Robin’s death right after is part of that same pattern.
It’s kind of weird how everybody in this universe just immediately agrees that destroying Hell is the right thing to do. Is there nobody who thinks that it is a positive good for the evil to suffer?
Most people who say such a thing would have their objection destroyed by the bit where Hitler doesn’t suffer at all and his non-suffering activities are broadcast to dead Holocaust survivors to make them suffer.
I’ve been sort of assuming that that’s a lie on the part of the demons, that they just have a demon take the form of Hitler. That way they can both torture Hitler and torture his victims with the knowledge that they’re not torturing Hitler.
And anyway, one can be less bad than Hitler and still be pretty bad.
Does anyone really believe an eternity of being literally tortured is just punishment for a finite amount of suffering-causing in an earthly lifetime?
So, they marched from Yakutsk to the eastern shore of Baikal, near Ulan-Ude.
They didn’t pick the easiest route.
I think it would be easier to sail up the Lena river to the village Kachug, then hike some 100 kilometers through relatively pedestrian mountains to the western shore of Baikal, and end up across the narrow strait from Shaman rock.
Though I assume navigating these roads is easier when you have walking tanks.
The Comet King emerging from Lake Baikal and looking down at his cheering people makes me think the eagles have come, but the Ring doesn’t burn.
Maybe I’m missing something important here, but the Comet King can teleport. If he’s going into Hell alone from an island in Lake Baikal, why does he need to spend 15 years building an army to get him there? What exactly is the army doing? I mean, sure, liberating a relatively uninhabited part of Russia, but that doesn’t seem to be the main focus.