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CHAPTER 7


ANCIENT GOODNESS

As Robert headed home that night, he thought about his plan to investigate the rooms in their “Truth,” “Goodness,” “Beauty” order. He decided it might be a good time to move from the Truth division into the Goodness division. Since he’d found the Pangaea of Goodness in the Astrology Room, he thought he would take a look in there to see whether he could find anything on ethics that might connect with the more general logic materials he’d discovered in the Theoretics Library. Would there be, for instance, objects or texts that would guide a novice (as he was beginning to see himself) from the pure logic of the library to skills for managing Truth-Engine books dedicated to ethical issues?

The next day, Robert, on his way to the Astrology Room, went into Kholoruuf’s bedroom, where Janice and Sam had set up a table and were dissecting Kholoruuf’s computer.

“How’s it going?” Robert asked. He got along better with the newer people.

“We’re completely stumped,” Janice said, shaking her head. “We don’t even know where the files were stored in this thing. Look at this.”

She lifted a metal plate to show Robert the inside of the computer. The cabinet was filled with a pile of thousands of white grains.

Robert leaned closer. “Someone dumped salt in there?” he said.

“That’s the circuitry,” Janice said. “Their electronic components were nothing like ours. What you’re looking at is a conglomeration of a vast number of tiny crystals cemented together. Go ahead and touch it.”

Robert reached out and ran his finger across the pile. “It’s like a rock,” he said.

Sam gestured toward a microscope on their table. “We’ve examined the grains,” he said. Each grain is a crystalline structure enclosing an incredible number of tiny specks. We don’t know what they are. We have absolutely no idea how they functioned, but we can apply electric current and get a modified response. We think that whatever these components are, there’s every reason to believe they don’t degrade. We don’t understand how to relate these structures to modern-day components—resistors, capacitors, coils, and so forth—but if we could just figure out how to start this computer, it might function just as it did fourteen thousand years ago.”

“These components, if they were preserved as they have been up ’til now, would still work in a million years,” Janice said. “Really, really high tech. These people were extremely advanced.”

“Do you think any files can be recovered?” Robert asked.

Sam looked up at him. “We think the information that was stored in this thing back then is still there. If we could just figure out how to operate the thing…“

“That’s incredible,” Robert said. “There’s no telling what might be stored in that memory.” He stepped back from the table and scanned the room. It occurred to him that, although he wanted to investigate the Astrology Room soon, it might be a good time to take a look at the dream pages Eddy had been translating. “Do you know where the dream pages are?” he asked.

Sam pointed in the direction of the library to a set of shelves built into the wall. “Right there,” he replied.

Robert walked over to the shelves and carefully pulled out a dream page. Within a night-themed decorative border, Kholoruuf had written a short couple of sentences in longhand across the top. Below these were several word-processed paragraphs that, as Eddy had made clear at the meeting, were also written by Kholoruuf.

“Do you know if Eddy handed out any copies of his translations of these?” Robert asked.

Sam and Janice told him they didn’t know. Robert took the page into the Theoretics Library, where he learned from John that Eddy had been ordered to put his work on the dream pages aside.

“Orten’s obsessed about documenting the flying machine,” John told him. “He wanted Eddy to assist Scott and the others out there,” he said, gesturing toward the room that contained the airship.

Robert spent the next several hours at his table in the Library working on his own translation of the page. The handwritten part described the dream itself: “A viper is biting my hand. Then I realize there is no poison in the wound at all.”

The word-processed part was commentary:

This dream came to me just when I had been considering the question of a dream’s ability to reveal future events, or ordinarily unknowable facts of the past or present.

I awoke and wrote down the dream. Then I went over to T’s shop on the northern Akhri. At one point T asked me to hold a board while he drilled into it. The kash [chuck?] hit my hand, leaving two red marks exactly like those a viper would make. And just as the snake bite to my hand in the dream delivered no venom, the wounds I received from the drill weren’t at all serious.

But how can a dream possibly reveal a past, present, or future that is neither presented to our senses nor knowable by ordinary inference? Our thinkers are starting to ask these old questions again, and if we consult the old dialectics, we can find hypotheses. For instance, we find there this argument by the third logician:

Randomness yields an opening into the transcendental realm and so can give us nontrivial knowledge a priori. Look at the coin-toss readings, the cards, astrology, and other oracles. (Astrol. Dialectic 142)


Our thoughts become random in sleep, so dreams are oracular. In death our thoughts’ randomness is maximized, and so then is our experience of the other realm. [Astrol. Dialectic 363]


So dreams apparently are oracular, but is astrology oracular? Can it reveal what we might otherwise expect to be unknowable? We should revive the astrology dialectic to find out. But whether or not the study of planets, signs, and houses is oracular, it is surely a true science of irrational dispositions (what we call the “curtains”), so it gives us a key to the primary irrational and destructive element in the psyche of a good person. Whereas the Pangaea of Theory represents the unification of the world via the Truth Engine, the Pangaea of Goodness symbolizes the unity of the individual, via the overcoming of the negative aspects of these predispositions. Individual (psychic) unity of the Truth-Engine participants empowers us by perfecting the Truth Engine.

the bed, computer, and cabinet

Reconstruction. The bed, the bedroom computer, and the cabinet.

the washbasin

Reconstruction. The washbasin

the dream shelf

Reconstruction. The bedroom door to the Theoretics Library and the dream-book shelf

into the astrology room

Reconstruction. The bedroom door into the astrology room

the dream page

The dream page

After lunch Robert began to investigate the astrology room. His attention was immediately drawn to a thin notebook on a table in the corner of the room. He carefully opened it and looked at the first page. Across the top, written in Kholoruuf’s handwriting, was a heading Robert found he could translate without consulting the lexicon. It read, “Notes on Goodness.” Realizing this document could help guide his investigations of the “Goodness” rooms in the house, he took it into the Theoretics Library and photographed every page. After putting the notebook back on the table in the astrology room, he transferred the image files to his laptop and went out to the white camper to study them more carefully. He was able to translate enough of the text to determine it was a good, succinct introduction to how Kholoruuf himself conceived of moral issues. He decided to go home and translate it.

He spent several days translating the seven notebook pages. In one section of the notebook, Kholoruuf listed the ethical theories with which he was familiar. Robert wondered whether there were modern versions of these theories and, if there were, what they were called, so he e-mailed descriptions of the theories on Kholoruuf’s list to a colleague who had a PhD in philosophy and asked for the modern names. His friend wrote back:


Hi, Robert. As you suggested, we would call your theory number one (maximizing happiness) a utilitarian theory.

I think we’d call theory number two an altruism theory—you might tack “radical” in front of it: radical altruism.

As you surmised, we’d call number three an egalitarian theory.

Number four: I’ve never come across such a theory—it’s a hybrid. I suppose you could call it a utilitarian-egalitarian theory. Interesting.

Five: an egoist theory. You might call it a conscientious-egoist theory.

Six: Sounds like what you might describe as a radical-libertarian theory.

Seven: deontological theory.


Hope this helps and hope you are doing well.


Best,

Thomas


Robert wasn’t trained in ethics and never had looked closely at his own moral feelings in an analytical way, yet he saw himself as a person who always tried to do what was right and who was prepared to sacrifice his own happiness when it was the right thing to do.

Despite his lack of expert knowledge, he felt that with the help he’d gotten from Thomas he could prepare a faithful translation of Kholoruuf’s notebook.

As Robert worked on the translation, he became aware that Kholoruuf chose the conscience as the focal point of his guide to ethics. Kholoruuf wrote:

We keep the ivory Goodness Box inside the ivory Truth Box, and we keep the ivory Truth Box in the Grand Truth Engine. When the novice opens the Goodness Box, he will find only one template slide there. But I keep six more Goodness template slides on hand. Why?

I am the director of the Grand Truth Engine. If I could know with clarity what the directive or directives of my conscience are (and surely my conscience is like the consciences of good people in general), then I would maintain only a single Goodness template slide for the projector.

But the nature of our conscience is hidden even from ourselves. There are a number of respected theories on this, and since it is not completely clear which theory is correct, I have directed that templates representing the thought of each of the following seven kinds of dialectician be kept at the Grand Truth Engine and that the slide that the third chief logician placed inside the Goodness Box (the utilitarian slide) remain there. Here are the seven kinds of dialecticians:

1. The utilitarian [Atl: kashtshanehr—literally “smile maker”] believes our conscience contains only this one directive: “Maximize the probable happiness of all people.”

2. The radical altruist [Atl: petehrbat—literally “sufferer”] believes our conscience contains only this one directive: “Maximize the probable happiness of all people except yourself.”

3. The egalitarian [Atl: kezhtankk—literally “balancer”] believes our conscience contains only this one directive: “Maximize the equality of the distribution of probable happiness among all people.”

4. The utilitarian egalitarian [Atl: shomash—literally: ?] believes our conscience contains only this one directive: “Maximize everyone’s probable happiness, and maximize the equality of its distribution.”

5. The conscientious egoist [Atl: tahettke—literally “self alone”] believes our conscience contains only this one directive: “Maximize the potential happiness of yourself.”

6. The radical libertarian [Atl: mekhatshar—literally “unencumbered”] believes our conscience contains only this one directive: “Do not harm innocent people.”

7. The deontologist [Atl: alekattuparu—literally “here-now theorist”] believes our conscience contains at least one “nonconsequentialist” directive (that is, one directive that does not have to do with results of the action). For instance a deontologist might believe our conscience contains this set of directives: “Be beneficent. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Keep your promises. Don’t kill,” wherein only the first directive is consequentialist.


Robert noted Kholoruuf’s comment about the nested ivory boxes in the Grand Truth Engine and remembered finding just such a set of boxes in the building in the Catskills. He was now convinced he’d been correct in identifying that building with the Grand Truth Engine. The boxes he’d seen there had seemed empty—but was a “utilitarian slide” hidden in one of them?

Robert wondered which if any of the possible conscience types on Kholoruuf’s list corresponded to his own conscience. He thought about how it seemed right to make people—that is, himself and others—happy and how sharing seemed right, so he decided the utilitarian-egalitarian version was the closest match.

He was taken with the idea of the cause/effect/action/nonaction, or CEANA (in Atl, NEOSHO) statement. A Kholoruufian CEANA statement was a complex, diagram-like statement that laid out all the major possible actions a person could take in a given a situation and showed the possible results of those actions in terms of happiness, assigning probabilities to each result.

Months earlier, in the large central room of the Grand Truth Engine in the Catskills, Robert had found several horoscopes and had added the Atlanian names of the planets, signs, and houses to his lexicon. But since he’d known nothing about astrology and always had assumed that astrology was a pseudoscience, he had made no attempt to understand the Atlanian astrological system. Kholoruuf, though, apparently had seen the discipline as being an essential part of the study of goodness, and Robert now resolved to give Atlanian astrology the attention it deserved. He went back to his favorite bookstore, Exclusive Books, at the V&A Waterfront, and bought the most technical astrology book he could find, and did some Internet research as well. He wanted to learn how the modern western version of this esoteric discipline was similar and dissimilar to Kholoruuf’s version.

astrology devices

Reconstruction. Astrology devices in the Astrology Room

the desk in the astrology room

Reconstruction. The desk in the Astrology Room

the small astrology table

Reconstruction. The small astrology table

an astrology table

Reconstruction. An astrological table that shows the earth (with the South Pole protruding) and segments representing the twelve signs of the zodiac

astrological pieces

Pieces representing the sun, moon, and planets:
Sun   Moon   Mercury   Venus   Mars
Jupiter   Saturn   Uranus   Neptune   Pluto

Robert soon realized he didn’t have enough information about the Atlanian astrology system to allow him to get a clear picture of it.

At one of the group’s morning meetings in the white camper, he handed out copies of his translation of Kholoruuf’s “Notes on Goodness.” He stayed after the meeting to talk to Orten alone.

“Has anyone come across any texts on astrology in the house?” Robert asked him.

“Not that I know of,” Orten said. “We still haven’t been able to open the door to the basement, though—we’ve been remiss about that—or the door to the Core Room.”

“It was apparently a big part of Kholoruuf’s belief system. You’d think there’d be some books about it around.”

“Well,” Orten said, “the fact that there aren’t any astrology books here doesn’t mean it wasn’t important to them. You know, there aren’t any medical books here that we know of, but we can assume that medicine was important to them. On the other hand, maybe astrology wasn’t a big part of his belief system. Maybe he was rational about this one thing and just liked to collect astrology stuff—you know, quaint relics from a more superstitious time. Maybe Kholoruuf just didn’t treat the subject seriously enough to have any books on it.”

Robert had seen the astrology machine in the Grand Truth Engine and knew Orten was wrong. “I think he was serious about it.”

“Here I’m saying he wasn’t a crackpot about everything, and you’re arguing with me about it. Won’t you allow me my fantasies?”

“I think he treated the subject in a serious way, and I don’t think he was a crackpot.”

Orten shook his head. “Oh. OK. You believe in astrology too. Look, Robert, if you insist on following up on this crazy stuff, there are a couple pages of what we were pretty sure was an astrological discourse, or whatever, up there in Finland, in the House of Birth.”

“That’s interesting,” Robert said. “Were a lot of books found there?” For some reason he hadn’t imagined that the house in Finland might have interesting texts in it.

“Yeah. Mostly children’s books. We couldn’t translate them really—a lot of pictures but not much text.”

“Why is it called the House of Birth?”

“Probably because there’s a cradle there, kids’ books, and the astrology materials.”

“How can I see the astrology texts?”

Orten smiled. “You can go up there and look at them.”

“Can’t they send copies here?”

“No. We can’t send copies here, because we’re here, not there.”

“So we’re the team.”

“I thought you knew that, Robert. We’re the archaeological team.”

“So I can actually get in there and see the place myself?”

“Oh, yeah. Any member of the team can.”

Robert didn’t know why Orten was being so helpful; perhaps he just wanted him out of his hair for a while. Whatever the reason, Robert wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip away. “I’d love to go up there and take a look,” he said.

“When do you want to go?”

“Right away? Day after tomorrow—or tomorrow?”

Orten smiled. “OK.” He grabbed a piece of paper, drew a map, wrote some notes on it, and handed it to Robert. “Here’s a map to one of the great archaeological discoveries of our time. Don’t let anyone else see it. Stop by the office tomorrow morning, and the receptionist will have a key for you.”

“I’ll be at the site alone?”

“Why not? You can get into this site alone. You should probably stop in at the Grayling office in Helsinki first. I wrote the address on the map. There’s a slight chance someone will be there. If no one’s there, just go on up to the site.”

Robert decided to spend the rest of the day preparing for his journey. He left the camper thinking about how, very soon, he would be the only person alive to have seen the three Atlanian sites. He thought again about the great responsibility that his knowledge of these discoveries carried with it and about how he could not falter in his resolve to do everything in his power to prevent a wholesale cover-up. He was completely aware of the difficulties he faced—the Grayling group and its overseers would act determinedly to quash any attempted release of information about the sites—but he would not lose hope. He would keep watching for an opportunity to accomplish his goal. For now, though, he could allow himself the excitement of a new adventure.

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