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The Devil Incarnate (Part 5)
Laboratories of evil
In the last part, I proposed a working definition of real monsters, including some examples from speculative fiction of how they might manifest. Now, it’s time to look at some actual monsters that already exist, and the new breed of sorcerers who are paving the way for more to come.
We’ll also be puncturing a certain widespread mythology about manifestation in general. What is it that builds and animates living structures?
If your answer was something like “genetics,” prepare to watch your most precious theories crumble into dust.
Part 1: Please allow me to introduce himself...
Part 2: Machina ex Deus
Part 3: Guardian of the Veil
Part 4: The Monster Mash
Given that all tales of monsters warn us of their horrific dangers, why would anyone ever want to make a real one?
I can think of two likely answers:
#1: Monsters are cool.
As I noted in a different context, we have been trained since birth to see what is strange and horrifying as fascinating and fun. This training included an affinity for all manner of transhuman monsters; through the magic of a new advertising-manufacturing model, novel and hybrid beings littered our toyboxes and youthful imaginations, with inevitable consequences for our adult minds.
With the proper intellectual and scientific tools in hand, we therefore wouldn’t hesitate to manifest them, even if we weren’t planning to license their specs to shady governments or sell tickets to Monster Zoos. We would be content to point and giggle.
#2: We want to find the Source.
The life source, that is.
And not just to find it, but to figure out how to manipulate its currents, in order to form precisely those structures we most desire. Monsters are a necessary byproduct of such a figuring-out process, for those who pursue this ancient and stupid version of the quest.
Note that these answers aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, I think they are inexorably entwined. Before Frankenstein builds his monster, he must convince himself that this is an interesting and morally permissible thing to do. But what he and/or his paymasters are ultimately gunning for is control of whichever root mechanism molds that monster’s shape and animates it, so they can use it to gain more power.
So what is the Source?
Like the fictional mad scientists of Jurassic Park, most theoreticians and field researchers assumed the Source was a kind of physicalized program or 3D printer, converting genetic “blueprints” into structure. They therefore thought structure could be mastered and rewritten by “cracking” the so-called genetic code.
For the past half-century, this shortsighted, material-reductionist theory has basically run the table when it comes to winning sweet monster-making grants and pursuing other flimflam cash-grabs (Ancestry-dot-com, anyone?). But — as I’ve been saying for most of my adult life — the notion of genes as the ultimate programmatic source that generates structure is just plain wrong, and is yet another side-effect of playing childish games with causality.
Working from first principles, we know that the builder of material structure can not be found in material structure itself. Yet this tautology is the primary delusion that drives genetic engineers, who confuse superficial damage (i.e. mutation) for alterations in structural design. Of course we can cut-and-paste gene sequences, and of course these micro surgeries will present as macro changes at the surface level of observation. We can also saw off your hands and feet and stitch them to the opposite ends of your body. The ramifications for function and/or long term viability are what’s in question. We haven’t redesigned structure, but wounded the animal in question so deeply that it might take several generations to heal the damage.
At a more basic level, living structures form by hardening available energy to fit an expanding pattern. This process of hardening and expansion occurs at multiple scales and degrees of complexity, until the desired shape is formed.
Then — mysteriously — the process stops.
Or, at the very least, we can say that it stabilizes. Each structure that forms our living material attains certain properties of length, mass, density and so forth, then tries to maintain that general size and shape for a period of time (in the case of humans, a few decades or so). This stabilizing process includes our genes, by the way, although the timescale of their own structural formation is intergenerational instead of individual. The point is that genes are just more produce, not the producer or designer of structure.
So if it’s not to produce structure, then what is the purpose of genes?
Like the wrinkled pathways that form in our brains in the wake of thought, I’ve long suspected that DNA was yet another optimization layer, positioned between the non-local consciousness and the interaction layer (i.e. the terminal layer of hard “stuff” we misname reality). Like the network of neural pathways, it is essentially a memory subsystem or ligature, recording past choices in order to smooth and optimize the pathways to similar choices in the future.
The ways in which DNA recombines across multiple generations therefore shows a chain of effects rather than causes. And like those canals and aqueducts we dig and carve through nature, these transgenerational pathways allow for faster and more efficient transactions for our offspring. In that light, we can think of both brain development and genetic adaptation as similar to industrial automation, allowing the consciousness to focus on more important matters.
None of this means that genetic engineers can’t make “monsters.” But it limits the formats of these mutants to the sort of cancerous corruptions and functional belly-flops that would be deemed too pathetic to haunt your Netflix feed, let alone the battlefields of Armageddon. At their scariest, they might “engineer” some super-bug that kills a bunch of creatures before the wound heals. Otherwise, you’re probably going to get a lot of lame bullshit like this:
That’s because the genetic theory of structure is located way, way too far downstream of the Source. Frankly, those who pursue it have barely made it past the river’s mouth. They are fixated on the Darwinian crags and muddy shoals there, wrongly thinking those are what propels the water into the sea.
When I’ve relayed my thoughts about genetics in the company of scientists and medical professionals, the first question they ask has always been something like:
“If genes don’t build structure, then what does?”
And my answer to that has always been something like:
Cue eye rolls and giggles.
Knowing my background and tastes in art, their thoughts likely run straight to James Whale's 1931 film Frankenstein, in which the monster is animated by a concentrated bolt of lightning. They therefore assume I’m just another tragic victim of Dawkinsian viral memes, or the sort of ignoramus who invokes magic to pave in the massive gaps in my education.
And yet, I’ve always known I was on the right track about this one: electrical signaling tools, wielded across a communications layer that is extremely difficult to isolate from noise. These electrical tools compress energy into collidable matter, while simultaneously carving the desired interactive shapes. It’s likely that this electrical communications layer is downriver from even lighter and simpler tools, but its toolset is certainly closer to hand than cells or genes.
Like the supernatural dragons from Chapter Four, the tool user is a conscious iteration of a supernatural human pattern, building and inhabiting a fractal segment of that pattern that is suitable for use in linear spacetime. It is immortal in the sense that it occupies what might be called a superposition that cannot be targeted for destruction.
I’ll add here that this has never been a “comforting” theory. One of the Enemy’s primary illusions is that spiritual belief is akin to a bedtime story, told to protect the child’s psyche from the Bad Big Truths of a brutal, pitiless, and ultimately meaningless universe. In reality, our roles are reversed: it’s those materialists scrabbling on the muddy riverbanks who are afraid. They cling to precious theories of self-animating, auto-replicating and ultimately unconscious structure in order to avoid the horrible truth:
You are an immortal consciousness that is temporarily bound to flesh. What you choose to do with that flesh will stay with you forever.
Eternal existence is the most fearsome and brutal truth of all. The “thing” that builds and animates your material cannot be destroyed. But neither can your memories of what you choose to do with said material.
To some, that sounds like a pretty good bargain. The more boneheaded of atheists will tell you the worst part of death will be the obliteration of their memories, which they confuse not just with material structure but with consciousness itself. Rest assured you will keep your memories forever, although you may discover you’d prefer not to. The blade has two edges, as always.
In death, we will also have a chance to see and experience the Source firsthand. But will we recognize it for what it is? I think that depends on many factors, and humility prevents me from speculating too much in that regard. I will say I think art, philosophy and religion find their best purpose in helping to build those recognition powers.
Science can do that too. But the way forward is very treacherous for scientists.
In the comments sections of this series, some readers have wondered if I’m attacking scientists, or even the scientific method more generally. This isn’t the case; as I’ve said before, tools of science are the tools of God, when wielded by those with spiritual insight. If I have any grievance it’s with a particular form of institutional science, and a certain doom-loop with artists that continually plays out.
In the proper arrangement, the Artist and the Scientist are brothers, working in tandem on the project of knowing truth. Doyle tried to explain this in the relationship between Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes. Mycroft sees the truth directly, then Sherlock is charged with demonstrating it for those who cannot see. In that sense, there is a bit of the scientist in the artist and vice versa. Otherwise they could not even communicate let alone cooperate.
The problem as I see it is that in racing upriver towards our uncanny, artistic observations, a spiritually blind scientist will stop short of our current position, plant his flag in the soil, and declare the race to be over (with himself as the winner, of course). This happened with genetics, and it will happen with electricity as well. No matter where they stop on the riverbanks, they always conclude they’ve “discovered” the Source. They become blind to any additional observations humanity’s artistic scouts have made upstream. And at each of these stopgaps and premature declarations of victory, the physical and spiritual dangers loom ever larger.
In other words, inching further towards the Source along the scientific path doesn’t necessarily translate into wisdom, let alone into spiritual growth or the revelation of truth. In fact, it could mislead towards a different destination, forking off into the dark and twisted woods.
Straight into the Devil’s jaws, one might say.
To illustrate this dark path, I’d like to introduce you to an actual Frankenstein, and his batch of actual monsters.
He’s not the only one: at the end of the previous article, I hinted at roboticists, A.I. developers and other lunatics who are speeding drunkenly down the monster superhighway. But for now, let’s stick with monsters of the flesh and blood variety.
Michael Levin, a Distinguished Professor in the Biology department at Tufts (University), holds the Vannevar Bush endowed Chair and serves as director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts and the Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology.
You can read about the rest of Prof. Levin’s impressive CV here and elsewhere. Suffice it to say that it’s festooned with medals and laurels of the sort that might make his peers salivate. In fact, it’s not clear that Levin even has peers; the word “pioneer” would easily attach. But a pioneer in what?
The phrase “a new bioinformatics of shape” is used to describe his work, and I think that about covers it. Conducted well upriver from genetic engineering, his experiments blend ML programmatic designs with permanent, radical and pseudo-fundamental changes in biological structure. If we were to use the artist’s tongue, we might call him a flesh sculptor.
What is the medium of this flesh sculpture?
Electricity, of course.
As per usual, his twisted experiments are candy-coated in the rationale of future medical miracles. They will someday regenerate lost limbs, cure cancers and so forth. They’ll even cure the “disease” of aging, we are told. But to reach these sunny uplands of progress will require much funding, experiment and sacrifice. You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs, so to speak.
Who and what those broken eggs might look like is typically left to your imagination. But Levin isn’t like most other Frankensteins, who pursue their midnight labors in the shadows. He’s quite proud of his work, and wants everyone to see exactly what he has done.
Many thanks tofor bringing the following video to my attention. I was vaguely aware of Levin and his experiments, but had no idea just how far he’d taken them.
In this video, you will be introduced to several of his egg-breaking monsters. If we are to believe him — and I do — not one iota of their genetic material has been altered in any way. The radical and disturbing anatomical changes you will see were born on that upstream electrical communications layer of my hypothesis.
Watch it all. When you’re finished, take a few minutes to let the implications sink in. Then, read on.
Let’s start with a brief recap of Levin’s bestiary:
A pair of two-headed planarian flatworms.
A six-legged tadpole.
A three-eyed tadpole (with the third eye positioned on its gut)
A novel organism built from a frog’s skin cell, which uses its cilia as oars to navigate a maze.
Here are some of the implications as I see them.
1. DNA is not the origin of structure.
I think our first and most important takeaway should be as follows:
Genes aren’t a blueprint for structure. There is no such thing as a “selfish gene”, pursuing its own propagation via some blind, robotic instinct. Genes do not “want” anything, anymore than a hand or a foot can “want” something. They are a medium of multigenerational memory. Full stop.
The argument is over. The player-piano geneticists have lost.
It doesn’t matter what your credentials are, where you completed your post-doc, how many awards and grants you’ve won, etc. If you are one of those pseudoscientists addicted to this ignorant, upside-down, obsolete twaddle, please watch the video again, then proceed to slap yourself in the face until you sober up. I’ll wait.
And while you’re at it, you might as well dispose of all your extrapolated evo-bio models, game theoretic conclusions and other false maps derived from this fundamental misunderstanding of causality.
You are not an illusion crafted by the sum of your genes. Selections — choices — occur before genomes form, which explains why we can’t precisely predict how they will recombine. That’s because your consciousness is the actual selector. At best, your genes constitute a suggestion box, stuffed with choices made by your ancestors.
They are not responsible for your structure or your choices.
2. All structures are possible.
At his present stage of technique (or, at least, what he’s shown us of it), Levin’s experimental subjects are organisms that demonstrate a high degree of plasticity. He will likely move to creatures like moth pupae and reptiles next, then proceed up the line to mammals (and ultimately, to humans, as that is his explicitly stated goal).
So let’s talk about frogs.
For now, I won’t dwell on their mythological, magical and religious connotations. Suffice it to say, frogs have been a “thing” in those domains for a very long time. But what most people know about frogs at the level of simple observation is their innate shapeshifting abilities. Unlike most vertebrates of similar size and complexity, their lives begin in a form that’s radically different than the ones they end in. They can also shapeshift in other ways, including changing sexes as adults. No wonder they were considered to be a biblical plague.
Since Levin has demonstrated that the frog’s plasticity isn’t located in their genes, we can assume it’s the supernatural “frog pattern” that is highly plastic and pliable. As with all lifeforms, the frog’s particular genes are merely the footprints or fossil records left behind. We can identify them as shapeshifters by matching up the records to the subject, but those genes aren’t the source of their transformational power.
To put it another way, unmodified frog souls are oriented towards radical structural change. But Levin suspects that all such supernatural patterns can be altered electrically. So while the geneticists are still playing in the mud, he is busy building aqueducts and dams in the water itself.
Furthermore, the growth of a functional eye on the tadpole’s gut implies that the organization of living matter conforms to the supernatural pattern pseudo-optimally, but not inevitably. Given a sufficiently advanced version of his technique, any number and format of eyes, limbs and other anatomical structures can develop anywhere, and be assembled in any order imaginable.
To make this point crystal clear:
Another, more subtle implication is that no structure was ever impossible, independent of a particular toolset or technique. If you can communicate across the bioelectric layer with sufficient clarity, you can essentially “speak” any structure into existence.
But consider the fact that we — and all other lifeforms — are always interacting with that layer, all the time. It’s the medium in which all consciousness swims, and the transactional layer between one side of the Veil and the other. In a certain sense, we might even say it is the Veil (or the closest approximation of it that we can measure in spacetime, at least). Therefore, interaction with that layer doesn’t necessitate a particular set of fancy tools. In fact, it may require nothing more than mental concentration.
If the word that just sprang to mind was something like “sorcery,” congratulations. You have finally glimpsed the strange and treacherous land that artists have been warning you about forever.
But monsters and magic are only the tip of the iceberg. Levin’s experiments across the supernatural comms-grid don’t merely threaten our physical bodies. They offer a window into our Enemy’s ultimate goal:
The destruction of the Source itself.
3. The Enemy makes stupid mistakes.
Now that we’ve finally disposed of Darwinian genetic robots, the “impossibility” of magic and other post-Enlightenment bullshit, let’s dive into the substance of the TED Talk itself.
Honestly, there isn’t a lot of meat on that bone. Both interviewer and subject fling around the usual hackneyed hardware/software analogies and pie-eyed promises, but the heart of the matter — the obvious and sinister crimes which Levin has committed — is studiously avoided.
ANDERSON: By the way, just looking at these ones, what is life like for a two-headed flatworm? I mean, it seems like it’s kind of a trade-off. The good news is you have this amazing three-dimensional view of the world but the bad news is you have to… poop through both of your mouths?
LEVIN: So, the worms have these little tubes called pharynxes, and the tubes are located sort of in the middle of the body, and they excrete through that. These animals are perfectly viable. They are completely happy, I think. The problem is that the two heads don’t cooperate all that well, and so they don’t really eat all that well. But if you manage to feed them by hand, they will go on forever. In fact you should know these worms are basically immortal. Because they are so highly regenerative, they have no age limit.
Not content to leave off there, Levin goes on to explain that if we can “crack the secret of regeneration”, we will become masters of structure who can also achieve physical immortality. The mask comes off, as always. And as always, beneath it is yet another Ponce de León/Gilgamesh, questing for whichever latest spring or grotto he confuses for the Source. Rip that mask off, Scooby-Doo style, you might see an even more familiar face, as sketched by artists, priests and shamans since time immemorial.
If you squint hard, you can even see the outlines of that demonic visage here, in their discussion about whether the two-headed worm monster is “happy.” As Levin correctly notes up front, planarians are animals equipped with true brains (as opposed to less sophisticated structures that are more akin to reactive nerve bundles). Or, in the artist’s tongue, the worms are gifted with seats for consciousness, from which they can exercise their wills.
Now roll back the tape, and watch one of Levin’s monsters writhe and struggle in place. See how each head — each conscious will — strives fruitlessly to escape the other. Consider that such an escape route has not only been rendered impossible, but eternally so. Even if you were to cut the monster into twenty pieces, you would merely wind up with twenty two-headed, two-brained, two-willed beings, imprisoned forever in an unnatural and agonizing shape.
Levin just shrugs and says “they seem happy enough.”
And maybe you are shrugging too. Maybe you look at this miniature monster, and just think it’s cool. But look closely, and you can see the portrait of living Hell that this idiot has so casually wrought.
I’m not ashamed to admit I wept when I saw it: sensitive artist, and all that. But I also felt enraged. I still feel some of that anger, compounded by the memory of these smug dickheads laughing at the worm’s cruel fate. It brought to mind a passage from Matthew 25, which I suddenly understood in a different light:
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
Riding shotgun with rage was disgust: not at the monster, but at the man. I felt disgusted to be such close kin to him. In fact, just about the only negative emotion I didn’t feel was the one I should’ve felt the most, given our working definition of monsters.
As I’ve mentioned, horror is a monster’s key battlefield quality, functioning as trumpet, cannon, sword and shield. And here were actual monsters and their manifestation agent, being showcased on a TED Talk for all to see. But through all my grief and anger, I never felt that spine-chilling, skin-crawling sensation that the sight of monsters should naturally trigger. I never felt horrified.
I immediately began to wonder why, and check to see if there was something wrong with me. So I subjected myself to the full video again, and immediately saw two truths that I was too sad and angry to notice before.
First: Levin’s presentation of the tadpoles was intentionally restrained. While we’re once more told the creatures are “viable”, he only shows us still photographs of them.
My guess is that one of Levin’s backers or associates understood the animation trendline of the Uncanny Valley graph, and talked him out of presenting these pitiable freaks in motion. Worms are one thing. But the moment we inch towards a similar body plan, like that of a frog, even the biggest proponent of “monsters are cool” is likely to feel that dreadful chill up their spine. And, if they’re anything like me, that horror would quickly turn to outrage. At the very least, they might not be so keen on funding such experiments.
Second: the “xenobot” built from a frog’s skin cell accidentally gave us a glimpse of a truth that the Enemy is usually desperate to conceal. Watch that part again, and see if you can catch it.
As this tragic little ferryman rows its way through the maze, the card its summoner accidentally flashed was this:
Intelligence precedes and exists independently of physical structure, and its root purpose is to explore.
Not to reproduce. Not to dominate. Not to eat-rape-murder its way to the top of some theoretical hierarchy of meta-capital. To investigate and explore. That is the seed of intelligence, and of consciousness itself.
To pursue this purpose, the soul uses whatever resources happen to be available to it at the time. When the soul was lured to Levin’s novel material, it immediately started improvising tools of exploration, then got straight to the business of exploring the maze. When we extrapolate upwards/outwards in the fractal, we see that all souls are in the business of exploring mazes, at every level of scale and complexity.
Why does the reveal of this information constitute such a big blunder?
Because the false, pyramidal eat-rape-murder model of reality is one that can only end in its total destruction (or in a final entropic state that is indistinguishable from total destruction). I’ll say more about that false model and Omega state in a separate article. For now, imagine a vast, Cthulhu-like ouroboros that hovers in a lightless void, perpetually eating and defecating its own body for all eternity. You’re welcome.
But if human beings learn to see ourselves as we really are — brave explorers of the finest lineage and caliber — the universe will take on a much different and staggeringly beautiful shape. We will venture forth into the cosmos, be fruitful and multiply amongst the stars. We will spread Eru to every corner of the universe, and bask in the glory of God’s intellect and love.
But first, there’s the matter of a certain battle we need to win. Lucky for us, our Enemy has a nasty habit of turning its biggest advantages into exploits. Like all of the Devil’s strategic errors, this one is rooted in hubris; in its ever bolder efforts to frighten and manipulate us, the Satanic entity and its minions always risk revealing a bit too much of the truth.
This error is reflected and compounded in the mistakes of its human agents. Levin himself doesn’t recognize the secret that his monster revealed. That’s why he finishes up his talk by blathering on about artificial general intelligence. He still believes the stupid lie that he can “create” life, instead of merely corrupt and damage those pathways into which it naturally flows.
And not only did Frankenstein blow the gaff on souls and their purpose. He accidentally spilled the beans on next phase of the Enemy’s big, dumb plan.
So I didn’t cry or shrink in horror, as I watched the microscopic minotaur prowl its labyrinth that second time.
I laughed instead.
Because I suddenly realized why the Enemy was almost certainly doomed to lose, no matter what shape it ultimately took.
Thank you for your continued friendship and support. My wife and I are on shaky ground financially at the moment, so I’m extremely grateful to all my paid subscribers and donors.
In the the next chapter, we’ll be taking a closer look at robots, demons and other monsters that are supposedly “invincible” due to their atypical and/or distributed structures. Then I’ll explain what I believe to be their fatal weaknesses, and the best weapons and battle strategies to employ.
In other words: saddle up, adventurers. We’re goin’ on a monster hunt.
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Coincidentally, this question is asked at the 666th second of their conversation. Or maybe it’s not such a coincidence after all. 🤔