To next chapter (Chapter 9)




At the guesthouse, Robert made plans for the trip. He was excited by the prospect of seeing the other site. According to Orten’s map and notes, he should fly to Helsinki, visit the Grayling Conservancy office there, then either fly to Rovaniemi and drive to the site or drive all the way from Helsinki. He figured he’d arrive and take care of things in Helsinki early in the day, start the drive north, and after eight hours on the road—or more, depending on the winter road conditions—he’d spend the night at a hotel en route to his destination. He’d stay at the hotel for a few days, traveling to and from the site. He checked weather forecasts and realized that if he left for Finland soon he’d be sure not to run into any snowstorms, so on the Internet, he booked a flight to Helsinki then made a reservation for three nights at a hotel on the shore of the Baltic Sea. He also made reservations for his flight out of Finland.

The next morning he got the key at the conservancy office and in the evening flew out of Cape Town, slept on the plane, and arrived at Helsinki at 7:00 a.m. He rented a Ford Explorer at the airport and drove to the Graying office on Pursimiehenkatu, a street near the city center. Like the reading room in Cape Town, the storefront had a single plate-glass window and a glass door. Written on the glass door were the words, GRAYLING CONSERVANCY.

Robert tried the door, but it was locked. Looking through the windows, he saw an unlit office-like setup inside. He pressed the doorbell and heard it ring inside, but no one came. He waited two minutes and walked away, feeling relieved that he wouldn’t have to deal with any conservancy people.

He had brunch at a restaurant with an English name, the Old Mill, then drove north out of Helsinki toward the city of Oulu. Snow covered the landscape, but the road was clear. Robert made good time, stopping only twice and arriving at Oulu at about five thirty in the afternoon. He went right through Oulu and headed up the coast to the hotel.

An hour and a half later, he had checked into a cozy cabin-style accommodation with a daytime view of the frozen Bay of Bothnia, the northern arm of the Baltic Sea. He had dinner at the hotel restaurant, watched some American TV shows, and went to bed early.

The next morning, after breakfast, he headed toward Rovaniemi on the road that would take him to the site. Orten’s map indicated that the turnoff to the site was marked by a red sign with GC written on it—the GPS coordinates were on the map. After about an hour and a half, he found the turnoff and drove up the side road, which was little more than a trail through the evergreen forest. There was a little snow on the trail, but it recently had been plowed.

Arriving at a high chain link security fence, Robert got out and opened the fence’s gate with the key the receptionist in Cape Town had given him. He drove through the gate, got out, relocked it, and continued up the road. The road curved left and then right as the upward incline grew steeper. To his left, through the trees, he noticed an even steeper snow-covered slope and wondered whether it was the hill that enclosed the House of Birth. Robert drove another thirty yards up to more level terrain. He judged he was now on top of the hill he’d spotted from the road. When he rounded a curve to his left, a small windowless metal building came into view in front of him near where the road ended. Next to the building was a small shed. Wires extended from the shed to the building, so Robert assumed that the shed housed a generator.

He pulled up and stopped near the metal building’s door. Not seeing any other vehicles, he concluded the place was deserted. He grabbed a flashlight and his camera equipment, got out of the SUV, and walked up to the door, which had the word YKSITYISALUE stenciled on it. He used the same key he’d used to unlock the gate to unlock the door’s lock, opened the door, and shined his flashlight into the enclosure.

The place was empty. Near the back wall, he saw a square opening in the floor. Walking over to the opening and shining his light into it, Robert noticed a modern-looking metal staircase that led down into a cave-like area.

Outside, Robert turned off his flashlight and put it in his pocket, opened the shed, and started the generator. Then he went back into the building and down the metal steps into the now well-lit subterranean space, finding himself at one end of a straight, down-sloping, rock-walled corridor. Making sure he still had his flashlight in his pocket, he walked down the incline.

After about forty-five feet, he came to a plastic-like wall and a breached doorway with the familiar two-ringed Truth-Engine symbol above it. He went through the opening and emerged into a large space not farther than ten feet from the front of Kholoruuf’s House of Birth.

The house was tiny, perhaps only sixteen feet long, nine or ten feet wide, and sixteen feet high. Was this really Kholoruuf’s birthplace? he wondered. He examined the ancient, gray, wooden façade, trying to imagine what it must have looked like when a little boy named Kholoruuf might have lived there so many millennia before.

The door was open, and Robert walked into the house’s musty main room, which was now lit by a modern lamp mounted on a stand in the middle of the room. The dilapidated state of the objects in the room created an atmosphere of great antiquity. To his right was a door, perhaps to a closet or a bathroom. Beyond that was a stove with a range hood above it. On the floor to his left was a wooden cradle and beyond that a bookcase. In the far right corner, he saw a nightstand next to a bed. He noticed some letters inconspicuously carved into the side of the cradle. He looked closely at them—they spelled “KERE ESHANU KHOLORUUF,” Our Dear Kholoruuf. It had been Kholoruuf’s cradle.

On the night stand were some pages of ancient paper or parchment. He walked over and looked at the top sheet. On the page were two drawings, each showing what appeared to be an ecliptic disc with the earth in the middle. Looking at the text, he recognized Kholoruuf’s handwriting. Robert immediately concluded that these pages might well be the very astrological papers he’d come here to see. These pages probably should be protected better, he thought. Robert didn’t know who the caretaker of this site was, but he had the impression that he or she could be doing a better job of it.

He took a photo of the top page, looked at the back side of it and saw nothing on it, then carefully moved it aside. Then he took a photo of the next page and so forth until he’d documented all five pages. As he restacked them, he inspected each page. He found he could understand enough of the writing to be able to discern that the text was everything he’d hoped it would be: a concise exposition of the basics of the Atlanian system of astrology.

He spent the rest of the day looking through the books in the bookcase and in the nightstand. They were indeed children’s books—illustrated stories. He found some to be delightful. There was a book whose main character was a delicately drawn flying bear. In another book, a boy built a city in the trees. There was a beautifully illustrated book about a young prince living in a luxurious palace on a tropical island.

the house of birth

The House of Birth

the stove in the house of birth

The stove in the House of Birth

the stove in the house of birth

The bed and the nightstand

the stove in the house of birth

Kholoruuf’s cradle

He arrived back at the hotel around eight in the evening. Because he hadn’t eaten since breakfast, he had a big dinner in the hotel restaurant. In his room he loaded the photos he’d taken at the House of Birth into his laptop and spent about an hour studying them. On the next day’s visit to the site, he decided, he would document some of the more interesting-looking books.

The next morning he arrived at the House of Birth at around nine thirty. This time he brought a lunch with him. He spent the morning documenting several of the more charming children’s books. His favorite was a beautifully illustrated story about a boy’s fantastic nighttime journey. In this book, the boy, named Chanak, following a trail left in the sky by an owl he’d dusted with a glowing powder, traveled by boat on a smooth sea, under a huge moon, to attend a convention of night birds. Robert liked the book because of its especially beautiful artwork.

After lunch he decided to take a look at the ancient car Orten had told him about. He found a little garage on the side of the house and opened the door. The car inside was similar to the one in the cave in the Catskills but was still in one piece. He saw the engine and noticed that the tiny power supply was missing.

Back inside the house, he looked for the map that had pointed the conservancy people toward South Africa but couldn’t find it. Then he took photos of the room.

He left the site at seven thirty, satisfied that he’d accomplished everything he’d intended to do there. He planned to spend one more night at the hotel then leave Finland. He would not be going straight back to Cape Town, though, because he wanted to take another look at the Grand Truth Engine in the Catskills.

When Robert got onto the 926 roadway, he noticed that the northern lights had begun to put on a display in the night sky. He could make out cloud-like patches of changing colors overhead. He’d never seen the northern lights before and wanted to get a better view, so he pulled off the road and got out. Now the colors were taking the shape of flickering streamers that became undulating green-and-yellow curtains. He watched for a while then got back into his Explorer and resumed his journey back to the hotel.

He’d expected the display to end before he arrived at the hotel, but as he pulled into the parking lot, the sky was alive with color. He got out and walked to his cabin behind the hotel’s main building. It looked to him as if all the hotel’s guests and staff were there, looking out over the Baltic Sea, watching the incredible sight—the bright, shifting lights reflecting off the frozen bay.

Robert felt strangely compelled to watch the display alone. He walked away from the other guests and toward the sea, getting near the shoreline. Now the streamers, radiating from a central point in space and filling the sky, were a brilliant red, as pure a red as any he’d ever seen. The color flowed slowly along the streamers, making them look like columns of bright, fiery, smoke. He was enthralled.

Suddenly he saw something that sent a chill through him. No more than eighteen feet away, between him and the sea, stood a man about four feet tall with huge almond-shaped black eyes and dressed in a wide-brimmed hat and heavy coat. Robert almost said hello to this being but checked his impulse. The light from the aurora and from the hotel lamps reflecting off of the snow allowed him to make out the image fairly clearly. To Robert the strange creature looked for all the world like an alien as our culture would picture one. It stared at Robert as it detached what appeared to be the hood of its coat then tugged at two strings attached to it. The creature seemed to be having difficulty manipulating these strings. It pulled one string out, then the other, put them back in, and pulled them out again. It did this several times. Then the little creature, carrying the hood in its hand, walked away, disappearing behind one of the small hills of ice that lined the shore.

Robert felt dazed. What in the world just happened? he wondered. That had to be the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. That wasn’t a human being. And what on earth was it doing?

Just then a brilliantly glowing orange disk-shaped object, perhaps thirty feet in diameter, appeared from behind the hill of ice and, after hovering for a moment, took a trajectory out to sea. It flew away silently and quickly, disappearing in the distance.

Robert was shocked. He stood transfixed for a moment, trying to make sense of what he had just seen.

He felt a need to be around people, humans, so he walked back up toward where the others were still assembled. He spoke out loud to himself as he walked. “I’ve seen an actual, bona fide flying saucer—and its alien occupant too!” This is unreal, he thought, unbelievable. Yet the experience seemed to have a familiar quality about it. Why would it be familiar? he wondered.

As he approached the group of spectators, a man said something to him in Finnish.

“I’m sorry, I don’t speak Finnish,” Robert said.

Another man, in accented English, asked him, “Did you see the orange light?”

“Yes,” Robert said. “I was right there. It took off right in front of me.”

“What was it?”

“I don’t know…a flying saucer?”

A woman laughed, but the man said, “Maybe so.”

So now Robert knew the alien visitors were real. There was nothing eccentric about Kholoruuf—the logician had known they were real too. Later, as Robert walked back to his cabin, he felt as if everything was different…yet it wasn’t really.

The next day he boarded a plane in Oulu and flew to Philadelphia. He suspected the conservancy might be following his movements. He was certain they wanted to learn the location of his discoveries, and he knew there was a close connection between Grayling and the US military, so he had to be careful. He decided that if anyone was tracking him, he’d give them the impression that he was stopping off at his Pennsylvania home. He rented a car in Philadelphia, bought a slide-copying adapter for his camera at a photography-supply store, and making sure he wasn’t followed, drove up to the Catskills. He didn’t want anyone to see him at his home, so, using cash, he checked into a motel near his site.

He had a feeling there was something more to be found at the Grand Truth Engine. Just as Kholoruuf’s house was meant to convey a symbolic meaning, he sensed the Grand Truth Engine was too.

Noting that the astrological artifacts were located in the middle division of the Grand Truth Engine, and that the sculpture halls were in the building’s right side, Robert was beginning to form the opinion that the building’s three physical parts corresponded to the three divisions—Truth, Goodness, and Beauty—of the Truth Engine. So he was starting to see the design of the Grand Truth Engine as representing one aspect of the Truth Engine’s theoretical structure. But he felt the edifice expressed a deeper layer of symbolic significance as well. He wanted to understand that deeper significance better. To do that, he believed he had to learn the functions of the left side’s telescope and the right side’s projector.

Before he’d left New York on his search for Nell’s Rock, Robert had discovered that the left side’s telescope was used to view the screen in the building’s right side—the telescope was used to view whatever the projector was projecting onto the screen. He had found some transparencies near the telescope, but they were solid black and possibly degraded. Robert guessed that the left side’s slides would have been inserted into the telescope so that when the projected right-side image was viewed through the telescope, the slide frame’s image would overlay the projected image.

More recently he had carefully made note of Kholoruuf’s words in the Enginist’s “Notes on Goodness”: “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.”

Robert remembered that in the right side of the house, inside the templelike building, there was an ivory box on a table. His examination of the box had revealed nothing more than two other boxes inside. He wanted to inspect the boxes more closely now to see whether he could find any transparencies inside them.

He spent the night at the motel. The next morning he stopped at a sporting goods store and bought a couple of flashlights and an LED lantern. He also purchased a 20x pocket magnifier to use in case he discovered the “template slide” Kholoruuf had mentioned in his “Notes on Goodness.”

Around noon Robert filled up the car with gas and set off for the site. When he got near the cave, he turned onto a back road and parked in a field. He got out and grabbed the flashlights and magnifier and put them in his pocket. After picking up the lantern and the camera with the twenty-millimeter extension tube and slide holder attached to it, he put the camera’s strap around his neck and walked through the woods toward the cave entrance. When he arrived, he pushed the camouflage cover aside, turned on the lantern, and went down through the cave.

As he stepped into the cluttered Room of the Truth Examiner, he thought about how long it had been since he’d first entered it, how long he had kept the secret of this place. He wished he could tell the world about it, but he knew if he revealed his discovery to anyone and the Conservancy people got wind of it, they might prevent the disclosure, and he also would lose his ability to influence the work being done at Nell’s Koppie.

He went into the Grand Truth Engine’s large central room, then through the eastern door, up the stairs, through the sculpture hallway, and over to the main room on the right side—the room that contained the projector, the screen, and the templelike building. He went up the steps and into the templelike building and walked over to the ivory box. There he held up the lantern and opened the box.

Robert’s attention was drawn to a flattish, rectangular object attached to the inside of the front of the box, near the top. He’d overlooked it before because he’d assumed it contained some sort of locking mechanism. But now, examining it more carefully, he saw there was no keyhole on the outside of the box. The rectangular object could not have housed a lock. He lifted the lid of the next box, which he reasoned must be the Goodness Box. It too had a little rectangular box on the inside surface. He saw there were two tabs at the top edge of the little box. Grabbing them between thumb and forefinger, he pulled them up, and what looked like a slide mount with a film frame inside it slid out with a little hiss, as if a vacuum seal had been broken. Holding the slide up to the lantern, he saw there was some kind of patterning, perhaps writing, on the glass. Still visible after fourteen thousand years, he thought. He took out his magnifier and studied the glass; there indeed was writing on it. Even without using the lexicon, he could translate almost every word: “If an act…[something]…the potential happiness of all persons, then it is right. Insert the CEANA statement here. Combine the potential happiness…[something]…for each action.”

The ancient slide was a little smaller than typical modern slides, so it fit easily into the slide holder in the copying adapter. He aimed the camera at the lantern and snapped a picture.

He returned the slide to its holder in the Goodness Box and pulled a similar slide out of the holder attached to the Truth Box, again breaking a seal. Using the magnifier, he could translate most of the text on this slide too: “[Something] true…One and only one of these is…Deny-Other Law.” He inserted the slide into the slide holder and snapped a picture.

He put the Truth slide back where he’d found it and checked the smallest of the boxes, the Beauty box, but its slide holder was empty.

Holding the lantern in front of him, Robert walked back over to the building’s left side. He went up the stairs and into the room below the telescope, where he knew the three black slides were. He walked over to the table, picked up the top slide, and examined it more closely than he had before. The film was completely opaque. Looking closely at the metal mount that held the slide, he noticed a tiny button in one corner. He pressed the button with his fingernail, and the mount opened up. He now saw that the black material wasn’t a slide but a protective sleeve wrapped around a slide. He very carefully pulled the slide frame out by holding it by its edges without touching its face, inserted it into the camera’s slide holder, aimed the camera at the lantern, and took a picture.

Using the same procedure, he photographed the remaining two slide frames.

Robert wanted to get back to Cape Town as soon as possible. The longer he stayed in New York, the greater the chances the Conservancy would check out the house he owned here, and he didn’t want to be seen. A longer delay also might make it more likely that questions would be asked when he got back to Nell’s Koppie, and he didn’t want to answer any questions. His plan was to go to the motel and examine his photos of the slides. If he decided the photos would help him decode the Grand Truth Engine’s architecture, he’d return to Fresnaye immediately.

A little past eight in the evening, he placed the camouflage covering over the cave entrance and drove to a restaurant, where he had his first meal of the day. Then he returned to his motel room and transferred the photos he’d taken at the site to his laptop.

In his mind, Robert went over the strange way in which the slide projector and the telescope seem to have worked together in the Grand Truth Engine. A slide, from one of the ivory boxes for instance, was placed into the projector in the building’s right side and projected onto the screen in the same room. Then, on the other side of the building, another slide was inserted into the telescope. Viewing the screen through the telescope, one would see the telescope transparency superimposed over the projected image.

He wondered why the Atlanians of the Grand Truth Engine would use such an elaborate method of combining two images.

Robert wanted to simulate this compound image. Using a black pen on paper, he made a sketch of the slide frame he’d pulled from the Goodness Box, substituting the words in Atl with their English translations. Then he looked through his images of the left-side telescope slides and found the one that, if superimposed over the Goodness-Box slide, would create a coherent whole, and, using a red pen he’d gotten from the motel office and translating as required, added a rendering of this image to his sketch.

Studying his sketch, Robert realized the dual image constituted a kind of exam question, such as might be passed out to students in a classroom. The answer to the implicit question was missing, and clearly would have somehow been supplied by the student, perhaps the Truth-Engine novice, as he or she peered through the telescope. Referring to Kholoruuf’s “Notes on Goodness,” which was stored on his laptop, Robert fairly easily answered the question. He recognized that the question had been framed in accordance with utilitarian theory. Using a pencil, he wrote the answer on his sketch.

What he found most interesting was that the parts of the composite text representing the most general concepts and propositions, the forms of thought, were those parts that came from the projector slides on the right side of the building. The parts that came from the telescope slides on the left side were those that represented very particular propositions. Robert thought about something he’d read in a book on Plato about how some philosophers—Plato, Aquinas, and others—said that we immediately grasp the fundamental principles, the primitive foundations for all knowledge, intuitively and that the intuitive intellect was to be contrasted with the discursive intellect, which knows not directly but through reason and argument. It occurred to Robert that some people took the intuitive and the discursive to belong to different parts of the human mind, namely, to the right-brained part and to the left-brained part, respectively. The discursive materials, the logical Truth-Engine books, were in the building’s left side, and the intuitive materials, including an apparently revered picture book, were in the right side. Robert finally felt he could discern the symbolism of the Grand Truth Engine’s architecture: the structure of the building, he decided, symbolized the structure of the mind of the dialectician.

But more than this, he realized that the Logos of the Truth Engine itself, in the abstract, had been said by Apporiopasshe in the Guide for Dialecticians to correspond to the discursive realm and the Ikon to the intuitive. So the Truth Engine itself represented the mind of the dialectician too, Robert thought.

It also occurred to him that since the building in the Catskills was a Truth Engine—the Grand Truth Engine in fact—it would be appropriate to call the building’s three parts the Logos, the Logikon, and the Ikon. The Ikon’s defining feature was the open book in the templelike structure, the book that expressed the dialectician’s respect for the values of truth, goodness, and beauty. He would call this book the Ikon Core.

Robert decided to use his laptop’s graphics program to create a neater version of his sketch to include in a report to the group. Of course he wouldn’t be able to explain to the others the true source of this material, but he figured he could pass it off as his own illustration of how the Atlanian dialecticians treated ethical issues.

In Robert’s computer-graphics version, the black text came from the projector slide in the Ikon; the red text and figures were from the telescope transparency in the Logos; and his own additions appeared in blue.

the goodness slides combined

In Kholoruuf’s “Notes on Goodness,” Robert had read that in a CEANA statement such as this, a rectangle’s horizontal dimension represented the probability of the described result, and the vertical dimension represented the amount of the resultant happiness (clear) or unhappiness (solid). The areas of the irregular shapes at the bottom represented the amount of probable happiness (or unhappiness) expected to result from the specified choice.

It occurred to Robert that if the examination of novices constituted such a central feature of what had occurred inside the Grand Truth Engine, then he could begin to see, vaguely, how the three “Examiner” rooms might have fit in.

Now he saw why the examiners might have used the elaborate telescope-projector method of testing the novice: The examiners were communicating symbolic meaning at the same time. If the building symbolized the dialectician’s mind, the method represented the way the left and right joined with each other to produce unified thought. Robert entertained the idea that the astrology machine in the Logikon somehow may have played a role in the telescope-screen examination but had no idea how it might have done that.

There was still more that he wanted to investigate at the Grand Truth Engine, and he planned to do with the other slides—the Truth slides—what he’d just done with the Goodness slides, but he felt he had learned enough on this trip so that he could now return to Cape Town.

To next chapter (Chapter 9)