Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Hidden Metamorphoses

The Hidden Metamorphoses is devoted to penetrating the occult secrets of organic life. The work appears to be the product of a brilliant and disturbed mind. Although it's author's identity is unknown, he is traditionally referred to as Mosekes. On the one hand, the book contains such a wealth of penetrating insight and potent sorcery that it seems as though its heretical doctrines must be true. And yet, almost no one who has read the book believes them.

The book consists of three parts. The first part, entitled "The Secret Changes", defends the heresy of transworld ontogenesis. The second, entitled "Autnomous Organs", defends the heresy of bio-archonism. The third, entitled "Organism as Transworld Dominion", attempts a synthesis of these possibly contradictory heresies into a unified theory of the organism. Most editions of the book are curiously bound so that one must open the cover in a different way to read each part of the book.

Early editions of the work contained only one or the other of the first two parts. Furthermore, in sources contemporary with the work the third part is completely unattested. This has led scholars to speculate that the work was originally two separate books by different authors, and that Mosekes was a late synthesizer who joined the two works, appending his own disturbed commentary in the third part. However, recently an apparently ancient copy has been unearthed containing all three parts. The authorship and composition of the work is still a matter of dispute.

Part I: The Secret Changes

The first part deals especially with unlocking the slumbering potential for occult metamorphoses that the book calls "the secret changes": the hidden forms, and unknown stages in the life cycle of organisms that can be produced only through arcane intervention, or by the most unusual concatenation of circumstances. Its subject can be best illustrated with an example.

The chapter on heterocera teaches that the known natural history of the attractive but otherwise apparently unremarkable velvet moth is radically incomplete. For, if one immerses a specimen during its pupal stage in an oneiric bath derived from the cerebellum of certain creatures from the dreamlands, development continues beyond the moth stage at which it is normally stymied. Once the velvet moth has passed through a sequence of unpleasant and dangerous "stag" forms, it comes to true maturity as a Resplendent Queen.

An erroneous conventional representation of the complete life cycle of the velvet moth
Intermediary Stag Form
Hector Pintoro
The Resplendent Queen
Mark A. Facey

The Resplendent Queen has many uses alchemical and arcane. A teaspoon of absinthe infused with the Queen's wings taken just before bed provides a slumberer with reliable passage to the Unbidden Shores. Stronger decoctions can be made with quicksilver that serve as a lure for drawing the rarest denizens of the dreamlands to the waking world, but it is not wise to do. Furthermore, the strange, if at times uncomfortable, symbiosis that the Resplendent Queen can develop with a sensitive human subject also makes them remarkable familiars. This cloying bond grants the user mastery over unusual and puissant phantasms. 

This is a representative sample of "the secret changes" discussed in Part I. But there is an obvious and much rehearsed objection to less sophisticated formulations of the doctrine of the secret changes that predated this work, of which Mosekes was well aware. It begins with the observation that the environment of an organism is contained in a proper account of its natural history, as its natural home and sustaining life-world. Given this fact, critics ask, how can  it belong, for example, to the natural history of the terrestrial velvet moth to be placed in an oneiric bath composed of fluids drawn from the cerebellum of entities from the dreamworld? Mustn't we view this as an alien intervention that produces mutations and horrors, cancers and aberrations, rather than the unfolding of the previously stymied life cycle of natural beings? It is in answer to this question that Mosekes defends the heresy of Transworld Ontogenesis. According to this doctrine, all organisms are transworld phenomena, developing simultaneously--and sometimes serially--on multiple planes of existence. What we know as organisms are really only the thin terrestrial shells of unimaginably complicated beings, unfolding through countless stages across many worlds. Thus, what appears to our blinkered view as arcane and artificial interventions unlocking one of the secret changes in fact introduces elements that belong properly to the development of the organism as it unfolds in other worlds. 

Part II: Autonomous Organs

The second part deals with organs and biological subsystems of what are naively called "single organisms". Mosekes treats these as possessing natural histories independent of their host organism. The implication is that these organs as they appear in ordinary nature are prevented from fully developing owing to constant interference from the organism itself, often through the unwitting violence of the other organs with which they enmeshed. When provided with proper conditions, their unfettered development passes through many unknown stages, blooming in splendid and terrible forms. Through this development constructs and bio-artifacts of great value may be produced.

For example, the book treats the cardiovascular system of large mammals at length, including the techniques through which this system may be developed into an entity Mosekes calls the Sanguinary. This technique involves first liberating the intact cardiovascular system from a still living mammal. Needless to say, this process involves terrible life sustaining magics, and requires mastery of anatomy, surgical precision, and an iron stomach. Once the cardiovascular system has been removed, the bleeding heart along with its veinous root system must be carefully buried in elemental earth that has been fertilized with potent semen from the Aboleth. If properly tended to, the heart bulb will sprout a strange growth, blossoming within a fortnight into a Sanguinary ripe for the harvesting.

The heart bulb
Martin Diaz

The Sanguinary
Walter Oltmann

The Sanguinary is a potent construction that will only serve willingly under a master who is able to feed it. The feeding process is, unfortunately, quite grotesque. The Sanguinary feeds by pressing its twisting and writhing thirsty capillaries against the flesh of a living victim. These drill beneath the skin to the sweet well-springs of life sustaining blood beneath that refreshes the substance of the Sanguinary. The ex-sanguination is horrifically painful, and if carried to completion, leaves the victim a desiccated husk. This is take but one of many examples from this dark work.

As Mosekes is well aware, the thesis of organic autonomy flies in the face of the traditional understanding of the principles of life. For the organism is ordinarily thought to be a harmonious unity, the parts of which sustain each other reciprocally, and work together to reproduce the whole, on which they depend in turn for their nourishment and repair. Mosekes replaces this conception with the heresy of bio-archonism. According to this strange doctrine, the organism considered as a whole is an illusion. In reality it is composed, on the one hand, of the multitude of dominated organs that often stand in antagonistic and limiting relations, and on the other hand, of a separate vital force that exercises dominion over the multitude, working to bind them together, and contain them through violence within the composite. Dimly perceived under the erroneously name of the soul, Mosekes refers to this entity instead as "the bio-archon".   

Part III: Organism as Transworld Tyranny

On the face of it, the first two parts work with incompatible models of life. For, the first part treats the entire organism as a proper unit of development in the tradition fashion, only relativizing its development to many worlds. The second part, although limiting itself to the terrestrial sphere, treats the entire organism as an illusion, and introduces the model of organic antagonism and the division of the composite into bio-archon and multitude. The third part attempts a synthesis of these doctrines by presenting the bio-archon as the principle of unity holding together through its tyranny a multitude of organs developing across many worlds. The question of what sort of transworld entity the bio-archon must be to play this role receives some attention of a speculative sort. But the bulk of the third part is dedicated to something else entirely: the development of a symbolism, a concept script, for mapping and representing the baroque relations of transworld dominion that constitute the essence of life. 

Mosekes' Symbolism

This symbolism is developed with little explanation (intentionally?), and is extremely difficult to grasp. For it employs alien concepts and entirely novel modes of representation. What is worse, at crucial and unannounced points, it relies implicitly on theorems not otherwise discussed in the book. To most readers it appears to be the incomprehensible fruit of a degenerate mind. But there are some, with exceptional intelligence and a deep understanding of the earlier parts of the work, to whom the symbolism speaks, revealing glimpses of an alien reality lying behind ordinary life. Such reader often find themselves drawn in to an obsessive study of the symbolism, against their better judgments.

The book ends with its most disturbing and frightening section, owing to which most copies have been lost to the fires of the censors. For, here Mosekes applies the symbolism he has developed in the third part to the human being, endeavoring to map the transworld dominion of the human bio-archon.

The human organism as transworld dominion
Martin Diaz
The work only begins this project, but it darkly hints that great power can be gained through further progress. For if one could peel back the terrestrial shell of man, and lay eyes on the unimaginably alien transworld unfolding of his being, then the secret changes of mankind too might be unlocked through which mankind ascend to unimaginable heights. And if one could only come to grasp the principle of the human bio-archon's dominion, then one could in theory extend it to encompass new organs of untold powers and potentialities, in this world and in others. Whether such evolutions promise a heaven or hell remains to be seen.

Those readers who have made progress with the abstract symbolism often turn away when they reach the final section, for it is an exercise almost beyond human endurance to recognize oneself in the terrible symbolism of Mosekes. Of those who persist, most are claimed by madness, left raving about the strange concordance between the human nervous system and the roots of certain plants found on the astral plane. It is said that during the age of the Sorcerer Lords, a few of the greatest and most depraved practitioners of the vivimantic arts mastered Mosekes symbolism and executed his research program with many daring discoveries. But it is just as likely that no man has ever, or will ever do so, and that the symbolism of the book is a contagious madness, or an intentionally laid trap for those of overweening pride and grasping ambition.

A complete, early edition of The Book of Changes can be found in area 32 of theSubmerged Spire of Sarpedon the Shaper. I will present mechanics for this book in a later post.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. This is one of the very best blog posts I have ever read. It’s marvelous. I’ll be running “Submerged Spire of Sarpedon” tomorrow and I can wait to have the PCs find this tome.