MYSTeriously Magical

I’m a total geek.  If this comes as a surprise to you and you’re not a first-time reader of this blog, I question your powers of observation.  Anyway, I’m a geek, but I used to be a bigger one; I used to be more into video games and computer games than I am now, but I’m still into literature and fantasy, not to mention the original occult sources that gave us D&D and genres of fantasy fiction and gaming that we have today. 

One of my all-time biggest fandoms is the MYST fandom.  Remember Myst, the game where you walked around the beautifully-rendered (for 1993) worlds, traveling from Age to Age using specially-written books?  Remember the sequel, Riven, which led more into the lost culture and society that made these Linking Books that?  Remember its other sequels which, though pretty, didn’t add particularly much to the gameplay but were still helpful in fleshing out the worlds of Atrus, Catherine, their (sometimes wayward and/or deadly) children and friends?  Surely you do.  Well, I recently got rid of all my MYST loot (the games, the novels, the soundtracks, everything but my coffeetable book “The Making of Riven”, which is damned hard to find anymore).  In my quest to get rid of everything I don’t use, want, or need, I gave it all to a friend who went “EEEEE” over the collection.  Of course, it was only after I gave him all this stuff that I started thinking more about the Myst universe and how profoundly relevant it is to my current life and workings.

For those of you who have forgotten and who never had the chance or pleasure to play the games, let me explain.  There’s a race of humans called the D’ni (deh-knee), with their own sets of technology and language and script.  One special technology they have is called the Art, which allows them to travel to various and sundry worlds (properly called Ages).  The Art involves writing using special ink on special paper using a special form of their language with difficult-to-translate words to write a particular kind of book, called a Descriptive Book.  This Descriptive Book essentially describes the whole cosmos, physics, and development of an Age, and upon completion generates a special picture in the book called a Linking Panel, which shows an animated picture of a particular spot in the world.  Someone who touches this image is physically transported from their current Age into the Age of the Descriptive Book, to the spot that the Linking Panel shows; this act is called linking. 

Any known Age can only be referenced by a single Descriptive Book, but a Linking Book can be written in that particular age with passages that refer to the Descriptive Book of the Age.   These Descriptive Books are huge, since they have to describe in full the entire mechanics of a given universe, while Linking Books, which are basically abridged Descriptive Books, are no bigger than a supermarket novel, and are thus easy to transport and make multiple copies of.

It makes sense in the game and story.

Now, the D’ni weren’t a superstitious people; they’re constantly presented as scientific, curious, and ingenious in nearly every possible way.  For one, they had to develop extreme engineering skills as a way of life: they lived in a huge cavern deep, deep underground, and had to learn how to excavate, ventilate, and power the cavern properly in order to survive.  They used the Art to obtain goods and resources, sure, and some D’ni lived in other Ages for most of their lives, but by and large the D’ni race lived in this one central subterranean city.  They used different Ages to explore different aspects of physics, meteorology, or zoology, experimenting with different theories by literally writing up an Age to test out all the “what ifs” they thought of. 

They didn’t consider the Art magic, but as simply an art gifted to them.  However, above all, they didn’t consider themselves to write the Ages into existence; they had a religion which involved a supreme deity called the Maker, who created all possible worlds on a vast cosmic (or even multiverse) tree.  The Art simply described an Age on a different part of the Tree from their own Age.  Consider different Ages like leaves on a tree: similar Ages are leaves close to each other on the same branch, while on nearby branches Ages become slightly more different, and on an entirely different limb and branch of the tree two Ages can be radically different.  Not all Ages were stable: some Ages were written with contradictory, impossible, or otherwise implausible physics that didn’t permit the Age to last long, if it lasted at all; linking to such an Age would be disastrous, if not outright fatal.  For this reason, the Art was restricted and required skill and talent to write for, and working Ages had to be regularly maintained and kept “functional” so that they wouldn’t go apocalyptic.

Catch all that?  Good.  Now I’ll start making sense of it in context of my Work.

You have these people who, with a bit of knowledge and innovation, travel to worlds wholly new and unexplored, but still sharing the same cosmos as we do.  They make contact these worlds, exploring them, and learning from them, maybe even contacting and learning from their inhabitants.  They have to constantly use every possible means available in order to survive and survive well.  They use specialized tools and magical language written in an arcane way to obtain access to these other worlds  They keep up their relationships and contacts with these worlds so that both they and these worlds never collapse, since they become dependent on these worlds the more they explore them, and these worlds become dependent on them.  They incorporate these worlds, their gifts, and their lessons into their own lives and world, becoming ever more understanding and powerful with each new world they know.  These worlds were described as being different parts of the same Tree made by the same Creator, all with ultimately the same root.

The words and language they use represent concepts and ideas that simply cannot be expressed in normal language, but only through the act of creation itself, things like particular patterns of air flow or how information is represented through physical or material media, or the lack thereof.  These writers have to learn these special words that can bring unmanifest and ineffable possibility into concrete reality, linking ideas into manifestation, using ritual implements and actions to do so.  The art they use is a tightly-guarded and close-kept secret, with only a few who are able naturally and with training to understand these mysteries. 

The mysteries of…well, you tell me.

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About polyphanes
I'm a software developer and Hermetic occultist living near Washington, DC, USA. I claim that I'm youthful, dashing, daring, and other things. I make things and chant stuff, and periodically write about them.

One Response to MYSTeriously Magical

  1. Pingback: Drinking Games to go with Myst and Riven | The Digital Ambler

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