the gross gloss: scorpioalan perry; illustrations in collaboration with richard domenico*
“Our own Middle Ages, it has been said, will be an age of ‘permanent transition’ for which new methods of adjustment will have to be employed. The problem will not so much be that of preserving the past scientifically as of developing hypotheses for the exploitation of disorder, entering into the logic of conflictuality. There will be born—it is already coming into existence—a culture of constant readjustment, fed on utopia.”
—Umberto Eco, “Living in the New Middle Ages,” Travels in Hyperreality (London: Picador, 1986), 84.
I. The Apparatus of Contemplation
1 As the source of light begins to rise to the left and cast long shadows upon the ground, you will find yourself before a partition separating yourself from a scrying mirror set within a white tablet. Mars, the god of strife, will watch over you and take the aspect of a thin waning crescent. As the stars would emanate from the firmament and influence the events upon the earth, so too shall the calculations exterior to the tablet emanate and influence the events within it. Thusly the constellation of calculations outside the material sphere you shall find yourself before is known as Scorpio, the Scorpion, or the Worm that Stings with its Tail.
2 Here you will see a similar sight as before: an ancient blue wall, which previously encircled a microcosm of the world without. You shall still be outside of this wall, but on the other side shall not be an interior but instead the scrying mirror set within a white tablet. You shall recognise this as an object of contemplation through which visions are presented as with scrying mirrors in ages past. The Chosen Communicants of the Algorithm shall project visions of great things upon this scrying mirror to those outside the walls of the Garden. The Algorithm shall determine what visions are shown upon the scrying mirror by its hidden computations. Those who cannot afford the privilege of access shall not be able to influence these disseminations.
3 This scrying mirror, which creates the Apparatus of Contemplation and gives power to the objects of contemplation, is an artefact of great presence. Those who find ownership of one shall assume that all have ownership of one, and shall not think of those without, and instead consider them to be like a pariah, or to be untrustworthy, as they cannot receive the visions of the Algorithm.
4 Thusly after all this has been experienced to you, the apparatus shall rotate again and the source of light beyond the whole field of understanding shall move along its prescribed track.
II. The Eighth Vision of the Somnambulist: Entrance to the Enclosed Garden
1 In a sudden fashion, I found myself at the edge of an enclosed Garden. The enclosure was made of minerals and other alchemical metals taken from the earth. Its form was alighted by thin threads of copper light as spider silk. Although I was on the outside, I saw above the enclosed Garden beautiful pine and olive trees. The sound of diverse birds and animals could be heard through a small gate, worn and rusted by centuries of waiting. Grass and other green plants grew at the edge of this gate but did not grow on the place where I stood. Outside the mineral and copper walls, a great and dry wilderness extended in all directions. The sky was red, and the clouds were like streaks of the dark blood of the planets. The ground had the appearance of dried mud, cracked and hard like bricks.
2 All around the walls a great host of individuals walked aimlessly. In their hands they held objects of contemplation and shook like trees in the breeze. They once held fear and desire to enter the enclosed Garden but became distracted by their objects of contemplation. They would walk into one another and change direction accordingly, saying nothing or little but continuing to focus on the object within their grasp. There was neither dread nor hope, but instead a great cloud of distraction descended upon these individuals. Their motion across and around this enclosed Garden had an effect upon the dried mud, and the presence of a depression upon the ground, as like a trench, was made known to me.
3 In this multitude I saw faces that were familiar to me: friends and acquaintances in my waking life, and individuals whose image I recalled from the books of history through which I had received some small education. My attempts to garner their attention were left unmet, their pallid faces unchanged by my petitions.
4 As I moved through this crowd, to my horror I found myself as if I were looking through a mirror or still pond; an individual with my very same appearance became known to me. Their eyes were sunken and tired, unblinking from an eternity of contemplation of their hands and object. Here, however, my petitions for attention were slowly met with careful and effortful motion.
5 As I put aside the most pressing concerns regarding my soul’s status and fate in this trench of distraction, I suffered to inquire about the Garden, and why this multitude was gathered in such a fashion. My anemic reflection spoke to me, and told me that this great host of individuals were falsely led to this Garden, and were told that they would be able to gain entrance into it.
6 “This host of fools that we have found ourselves in waits near this great enclosure, as the blood-red sky beats us with rain that hurts the flesh, and the wind puts dust into our mouths. We endure the suffering for entrance into the enclosed Garden, which we were promised a portion of. As we wait we turn to our objects of contemplation for respite and sustenance. For those within the Garden share with us visions of the Garden through them, and by seeing them our faith is restored. And truly those within the Garden show kindness to us through these objects, for there are those at the far side of the enclosure, where there is no gate or opportunity to see a fraction of the beautiful grass and other green plants, or hear the joyous sounds of birds and animals that wait on the other side of these walls made of minerals and precious things.
7 “Those other souls, on the far side of the exterior, do not have objects of contemplation, and although their flesh is not pallid and they cover their mouths when the wind comes, they are truly cursed as they cannot receive the visions of the interior of the Garden. We pity them for they are cut off from images of the secret knowledge and hidden pleasures that lay within. Yet still those within the Garden have knowledge of them and inscribe their knowledge of them within their secret language of numbers. For though they are observed and recorded, they are truly cursed through their inability to communicate with those inside the Garden, as we can. Their petitions are lost in the wind, while ours are captured by the objects of our contemplation.”
8 As these terrible things were made known to me, my thoughts and eyes became transfixed upon the pine and olive trees, which I could see above the wall of minerals and copper threads. I inquired to my gruesome reflection what could be found within the Garden. As I did so, they drew their object of contemplation closer to their breast, with great love and devotion.
9 “Through this object I have seen great and beautiful things. In the first season of our arrival here, when the sky was not red and the rain did not harm the flesh, I often looked to the pine and olive trees that we can see over the enclosure. But as the sky turned and the rain hurt, our objects became more comforting to look upon.
10 “I have seen visions of saffron and grapes, which we know to correspond to the Sun and to the Moon, and therefore to the constellations Leo and Cancer. I have seen visions of ginger and tulips, which correspond to Mars and Venus, and in turn to Aries and Scorpio, and Taurus and Libra. I have seen visions of flaxseed, honeysuckle, and morning glory, which correspond to Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn, and in turn to Gemini and Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces, and Capricorn and Aquarius. From this garden all influence from the constellations and from the numbers of the Chosen Communicants flows. 11 Those inside fashion circlets from morning glory and flaxseed, and eat grapes with saffron spices. A beautiful fountain is the jewel within the center of the Garden and provides life-giving waters to those within.”
12 At that moment, the gate near where I spoke to my reflection opened. A blinding light spilled forth from the interior of the Garden, and suddenly I felt my spirit and my body move into the garden as I looked upon the light. There I found that my reflection had disappeared, and the great host of individuals was replaced by a host of animated birds and animals made of metal that produced sounds from peculiar instruments. The petitions of those outside the enclosure were left unattended and unconsidered. I saw then before me the Chosen Communicants, preparing messages and letters to the Twice-Faced Scribe I saw in an earlier vision.
1.1–2. The Object of Contemplation, and the scrying mirror set within it, is clearly a tool through which images and pictures are sent and perhaps received, like a letter or a drawing.
2.6–7, 10. Surely the people within the Somnambulist’s vision are accustomed to rich and beautiful things, as they live their life in the shadow of a decorated enclosure. These precious things from the ground can only be jewels and other rare alchemical ingredients from deep within the earth that must be extracted at great expense. Perhaps even the blood-red sky and cursed rain follows from the construction of this wall.
2.12. The Enclosed Garden makes itself known as a barrier between that which is plentiful inside, and that which is desiccated outside. The construction of the enclosure indicates great wealth, but those outside are complacent or faithful, and do not remove the precious materials decorating the walls, as a thief would.
2.7. The varied people living outside the Garden are made of two groups: those near the gate, and those far from the gate. Those near the gate scorn those far from it but are jealous of their health and their ability to cover their mouth from the dust that the wind puts upon their tongues.
2.10. The grapes and saffron that those within the Garden eat have the hidden meaning of the two great lights of the world being consumed. As the grapes correspond with the Moon and saffron with the Sun, they represent those celestial bodies which bring light to dark spaces and cast shadows upon the ground.
2.11. The circlets of morning glory and flaxseed have the hidden meaning of a crown which binds communication. As flaxseed corresponds with Mercury, the ruler of communication, so too does the morning glory vine correspond with Saturn, the ruler of binding and restriction.
The Chosen Communicants of the Algorithm determine what those outside the Garden walls see. This perhaps references the time when the people of the world created great logical machines to determine what can be seen and what cannot be seen. These machines were created first to decide what might occur if a vehicle itself could choose between striking a passerby or destroying the passengers within. The responsibility then fell not to the passengers but to the logical machine, which, after application to all spheres of life, led to the people of the world eschewing the virtue of consideration. If we see the Somnambulist’s vision as a vision of their future, we may understand this as a description of a time wherein the people of the world have turned to distraction so that they are influenced by a shadow of the logical machine.