Before we begin, I’d like to remind everyone that this is my own understanding of CHIM and the ideas surrounding it, and not a definite answer. You may have other ideas. If so, I’d love to hear them. Please feel free to leave a comment below, tweet me @aramithius or join the Written in Uncertainty Discord.
CHIM is something that is described extensively in metaphor and figurative speech, so getting a precise answer on what it is is difficult. Add to that the fact that the biggest sources we have on CHIM are known to be liars or untustworthy, and certainty on the state is perhaps a little too much to ask. The sources that we do have are mostly Vivec, with some side-notes from Mankar Camoran and Heimskr from Whiterun. Despite this untrustworthiness, I’m having to assume that they are at least not attempting to deliberately mislead us simply that so that we have something to talk about; if we start thinking that the metaphors that we are given that relate to CHIM are all junk then we don’t have an awful lot to go on. And that’s no fun.
What is CHIM?
CHIM is one of the Walking Ways, one of the formulas to “reach heaven by violence”. It is a state that’s a form of enlightenment or power that an individual attains. I’ll be discussing what the Walking Ways are precisely later, but we’ll start with this reasonably succinct definition from Vehk’s Teaching, an unlicensed text that was written by Michael Kirkbride:
To transcend mortal boundaries set in place by immortal rulers. At its simplest, the state of chim provides an escape from all known laws of the divine worlds and the corruptions of the black sea of Oblivion. It is a return to the first brush of Anu-Padomay, where stasis and change created possibility. Moreso, it the essence needed to hold that ‘dawning’ together without disaster. One that knows CHIM observes the Tower without fear. Moreso: he resides within.
That statement will take quite a bit of unpacking. I’m going to use that as a framework to talk through the first part of this cast when we talk about what CHIM is.
First of all, CHIM provides “an escape from all known laws of the divine worlds and the corruption of the black sea of Oblivion”.
That’s about as close as we can get to an explanation of its effects from Vivec. We get a sense of it allows you to do things that normal mortals can’t, and to a degree what gods can’t. We get this in a more explicit form from Mankar Camoran, who talks about it in the Commentaries on the Mysterium Xarxes as:
CHIM. Those who know it can reshape the land. Witness the home of the Red King Once Jungled.
So you have CHIM and you can reshape the land, you reshape the world. That’s a pretty huge deal, which leaves a huge question of why it doesn’t get used more, which I’ll get to later.
Is it a fourth wall joke?
One explanation for CHIM within the community has been that it’s a fourth wall joke, as you can manipulate reality by using the construction kit or the Creation Kit. There’s a fantastic blog series that looks at that particular form of interpretation of the 36 Lessons of Vivec and CHIM particularly, called the Metaphysics of Morrowind.
It goes into more detail about the various jokes that are in the 36 Lessons things like “cutting sleep holes” in order to give yourself potions and heal yourself up while the game is paused, reaching the edge of map and finding pointed water which is a reference to a glitch within The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard. So it’s entirely possible that you can read all the stuff about CHIM and think it’s a fourth wall joke.
That’s a perfectly valid interpretation but it’s not one that I particularly agree with, because I think it personally cheapens the idea of CHIM and everything that goes on within the Elder Scrolls universe. This is because it comes off as self-referential, and you can’t dig any deeper because the ultimate explanation is “it’s a computer game”, and so you don’t need to think about it any more.
Is it lucid dreaming?
One of the other simpler explanations that is perhaps more useful is that CHIM is like lucid dreaming, but with reality; the idea being that you have a lucid dreaming-type awareness of reality, which then allows you to control it as you would a lucid dream.
This goes into something of the fundamental structure of the Elder Scrolls universe, which is hinted at in various places, but most blatantly in the 36 Lessons of Vivec, that “the waking world is the amnesia of dream”. In other words, reality is a dream that has forgotten it’s a dream. And so by attaining CHIM you realise the world is a dream and can thereby control it, as you would while lucid dreaming.
Is it enlightenment and understanding the universe?
The second part of the quote from Vehk’s Teaching mentions “it is a return to the first brush of Anu/Padomay, where stasis and change created possibility”. This is going back to what the Aurbis fundamentally is; the CHIMster understands it’s a dream but also more than that. It’s understanding the structure of the Aurbis, and everything that happens within the Grey Maybe that is the Elder Scrolls universe.
The 36 Lessons and other texts within TES point to the structure of the universe being that of a wheel, with Mundus being the hub and the 8 main Aedra (often referred to as the Gift-Limbs) being the spokes. With 8 spokes, you get 16 gaps in between, which are the 16 Daedric princes.
This isn’t a precise picture, particularly given how The Elder Scrolls: Online presents the relationship between Mundus in Oblivion. However, it’s a way of conceptualising The Elder Scrolls universe. And then what do you think about the wheel outside of the spokes and spaces, the rim, which gets stated as the biggest secret in the Elder Scrolls universe in Sermon 21 of the 36 Lessons:
‘Look at the majesty sideways and all you see is the Tower, which our ancestors made idols from. Look at its center and all you see is the begotten hole, second serpent, womb-ready for the Right Reaching, exact and without enchantment.’
‘The heart of the second serpent holds the secret triangular gate.’
‘Look at the secret triangular gate sideways and you see the secret Tower.’
‘The secret Tower within the Tower is the shape of the only name of God, I.’
Remembering that the Elder Scrolls universe is a wheel, what happens when you turn a wheel on its side? When you look at it head on, you’re not looking at the spokes or the hub, but you are looking straight at the outside of the wheel itself, you have an “I” which is the Secret Tower talked about here.
And thanks to some wordplay here, it then implies that the I that is the universe is also the self. So you think “I am the universe”, “I am both part of this dream and the whole dream itself”, which is a paradox, which will cause problems that we will talk about a bit later. The 36 Lessons also talks about being about being as a Ruling King, which is a term that kind of connects to the king of the enantiomorph; check the previous podcast on the Enantiomorph if you want more information on that.
CHIM and Ruling Kings
But the phrase “Ruling King” in 36 Lessons is also used to refer to someone who has CHIM. They’re often described as being a city or state, which is both a thing and many things at once within it. If you’re talking about a particular city, there are buildings within the city that make it what it is, the residents and landmarks and everything that make up that city . That’s the kind of contradictions and parallels that have been drawn within CHIM here; both being everything and particular things at once.
And that’s also why it’s not used to defeat your enemy, which we mentioned earlier. If you realize that, in a fundamental way, you are the universe, if you then destroying people, if you are blinking them out of existence, you are changing yourself as well.
You are harming yourself. And so nevermind, that changed the self isn’t inherently hard process anyway, which I think may have something to do with that. But if you are using it to defeat your enemies, you are, in essence, committing some kind of self harm, which is I think why we don’t see people using CHIM to obliterate everyone they don’t like.
CHIM and Zero Sum
I also think it’s important to point out here that the CHIMster still retains their sense of individuality, that’s key to the whole state. And it’s going to frame the discussion that we go through for the next part of the quote from Vehk’s Teaching which is:
moreso it is the essence needed to hold that dawning together without disaster, one that knows CHIM observes the tower without fear
Vehk’s Teaching elaborates on this a bit more in a later section, which says:
What is the Tower’s secret?
How to permanently exist beyond duplexity, antithesis, or trouble. This is not an easy concept, I know. Imagine being able to feel with all of your senses the relentless alien terror that is God and your place in it, which is everywhere and therefore nowhere, and realizing that it means the total dissolution of your individuality into boundless being. Imagine that and then still being able to say “I”. The “I” is the Tower.
That also brings us back to the feeling of the city and state and potentially being lost in it. That’s the kind of realisation we’re talking here, the sense of, “you are in everything, and therefore are nothing, but you ARE something”, is the core realization of CHIM.
The Elder Scrolls lore community community have connected this with the idea of Zero Summing which was presented in one of Michael Kirkbride’s unlicensed texts called et’Ada, Eight Aedra, Eat the Dreamer. This is where a Moth Priest reaches the realisation that there is no real reality that there is that reality within The Elder Scrolls is inherently uncertain and balanced between Aka and Lorkhan in a very precarious way.
I think it’s beautifully with the kind of starting quote of that particular piece which is:
The Aedroth Aka, who goes by so many names as to perhaps already suggest what I’m about to commit to memospore, is completely insane. His mind broke when his “perch from Eternity allowed the day” and we of all the Aurbis live on through its fragments, ensnared in the temporal writings and erasures of the acausal whim that he begat by saying “I AM”. In the aetheric thunder of self-applause that followed (nay, rippled until convention, that is, amnesia), is it any wonder that the Time God would hate the same-twin on the other end of the aurbrilical cord, the Space God? That any Creation would become so utterly dangerous because of that singular fear of a singular word’s addition: “I AM NOT”?
CHIM is holding the ideas of I AM and I AM NOT in balance, the idea that you can be able to say I both am an individual and not an individual, because I am everything at once. The lore community has connected Zero Sum and CHIM because of that kind of contradiction, that maths of:
I AM + I AM NOT
1 + – 1
being still equal to 1 in the case CHIM.
I’m not a huge fan of that particular interpretation, because it implies that Zero Sum
is a failure state, and the text itself doesn’t really support that idea, because it talks about someone who achieves Zero Sum, and there are various things that happen
after the text’s recordings that suggest it’s something beyond that.
While we’re here I also want to clear up some things that the community seem to have got into its head about Zero Summing, because it’s not really a big enough topic for its own podcast. The biggest issue is that Zero Sum is some sort of retroactive erasure; that if you fail to do the maths of CHIM that you will then Zero Sum and then no one will ever remember you existed, that you will just wind out of existence and be absorbed into the cosmic everything and you will never have existed. That is utter rubbish. The only text we have about Zero Sum comes from someone who achieved Zero Sum, and an orchestra score was made from that recording. He in no way disappeared from existence as if he had never been.
CHIM and Mastery
CHIM is also linked with the notion of mastery in this sense; it’s holding those elements and concepts in balance. The 36 Lessons also point to the notion of being able to hold two contradictory ideas and either express or balance them out as being mastery. It’s also something that’s present in Chinese thought somewhere (I think!), I certainly heard it within reference to something to do with Journey to the West. The idea being that if you can do multiple things, if you can hold multiple contradictory and potentially contradictory things in balance and still function, you are a master, which is what CHIM is here; you are balancing the I AM with the I AM NOT to a degree, and can thus exploit both.
I think exploit is probably the right word here if you look at those two who have apparently attained CHIM, that both Vivec and Talos they are incredibly egotistical, incredibly selfish people. They aren’t the ones who say that in the face of this cosmic oneness, “oh, this is wonderful. I’m going to be one with everything and dissolve”. No, they’re going to say, “screw that I want stuff for me, me, me, me”. And there’s that sense of that arrogance that they would express in the face of such a cosmic truth which I think contributes to why they have attained CHIM.
Or have they?
Is CHIM even real?
It’s particularly vague in the case of Talos or Tiber Septim whether or not he’s attained CHIM because we have the text from Lady Cinnabar in Elder Scrolls Online Subtropical Cyrodiil: A Speculation. The main thing that Talos is supposed to have done with CHIM is change Cyrodiil from jungle into temporal forest. We have the text From the Many-Headed Talos which is quoted by Heimskr in the in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
You have suffered for me to win this throne, and I see how you hate jungle. Let me show you the power of Talos Stormcrown, born of the North, where my breath is long winter. I breathe now, in royalty, and reshape this land which is mine. I do this for you, Red Legions, for I love you
Notice we have the little nod there have “breath now in royalty” for CHIM, and we also have Mankar’s account which talks about the home of the “Red King once Jungled” in reference to CHIM, noted above. However, we do have Lady Cinnabar’s Text which suggests that manipulation of the White-Gold Tower is what changed Cyrodiil’s climate, rather than CHIM. So we got an alternate answer here:
At one of these mystical joint-points the Aedra erected a great structure, the Adamantine Tower, where they held a conclave to decide the fate of Lorkhan and the Mundus. In later times mortal mages discovered the Tower, and deduced its reality-affirming properties. The Merethic Elves then imitated it, erecting the White-Gold and Crystal Towers at other joint-points.
In doing this, what did the Ur-Elves hope to achieve? I would posit that, through their collective “possession” of such Towers in their realms, over time the Elves actually amended their local reality to conform to their desires.
Thus the Summerset archipelago, in the sphere of the Crystal Tower, is a warm and paradisiacal domain perfectly adapted to the Altmer. And Cyrodiil, in the sphere of the even-more-powerful White-Gold Tower, became a warm and subtropical jungle—which suited the ease-loving Ayleids.
But then the slaves of the Heartland High Elves rose up against their masters, conquered the valley of the Nibenay, and the Ayleids ruled no more. Thereafter, White-Gold Tower was the center of a human empire, peopled by Nedes and Cyro-Nords who originated in cooler, northern climes. And so the Tower of Cyrodiil responded to the desires of its new masters.
This means that the one thing that we know that Tiber Septim did, or at least thought we knew that Tiber Septim did with CHIM is not necessarily done by CHIM at all.
We have reason to doubt Vivec as well; he’s he’s a poet (and therefore a liar), and ze also had access to the Heart of Lorkhan through the use of Kagrenac’s Tools, which grants a fair amount of power its own. So it’s entirely possible that everything that ze did was down to the power of the Heart and not CHIM itself.
So how do you attain CHIM?
we’ve talked through the knowledge that you need to get to to understand what CHIM is, but you can have that knowledge without attaining the state itself, Mankar shows knowledge of CHIM and its capabilities at least, and he plainly doesn’t have it. So what do we need to do in order to attain CHIM? I think I’ve got an answer here, so bear with me with my speculation.
I personally think it has something to do with understanding the enantiomorph as a fundamental pattern of the Aurbis, but I don’t know for sure. But from some of the wordings we get from Sermon 21 and Sermon 13. In the Sermon 21 wordings we already talked about, “the heart of the second serpent holds the secret triangular gate,” the enantiomorph has three participants. I can’t hear Vivec talking about triangles and not think ze’s talking about an enantiomorph of some sort. So when ze’s talking about opening of the tower and so on being enabled through the secret triangular gate saying, “Look at the secret triangular gate sideways, and you see the secret Tower” and we also have in sermon 13:
‘The secret syllable of royalty is this: (You must learn this elsewhere.)
‘The temporal myth is man.
‘The magical cross is an integration of the worth of mortals at the expense of their spirits. Surround it with the triangle and you begin to see the Triune house. It becomes divided into corners, which are ruled by our brethren, the Four Corners: BAL DAGON MALAC SHEOG. Rotate the triangle and you pierce the heart of the Beginning Place, the foul lie, the testament of the irrefutable-for-a-span.
Some quick notes before we dig in here:
- The Secret Syllable of Royalty is CHIM
- The Triune House is the Trbunal
The key here is “rotate the triangle”, if the triangle is the enantiomorph, rotating the triangle, moving one corner from one place to another is similar to moving the Rebel to the King, maybe, is one way of “piercing the heart of the beginning place,” going back to “the first brush of Anu-Padomay”, that “first-begotten-hole” as the Marukhati would have it.
I think that has to be that way, that what Vivec is saying here is that in order to understand enough of the universe to attain CHIM you need to be an Observer in an enantiomorph and make one part of the triangle the other, which is also a reference, in my opinion, to the sermon of the master and mastery in general, which is
Sermon 11, which has:
Hortator and Sharmat, one and one, eleven, an inelegant number. Which of the ones is the more important? Could you ever tell if they switched places? I can and that is why you will need me.
In that passage, Vivec is talking about why ze is necessary, that ze is an observer in an enantiomorph again, I think that’s very, very relevant to potentially going on some steps to CHIM and understanding how the enantiomorph works fundamental pattern, as a gateway to seeing the fullness of the Aurbis and that is the Tower.
Now, I’m not saying that if your observer in an anti more you have attained CHIM, but I think that’s the first step. Maybe, it’s a little unclear. If we look at the 36 Lessons and think that a Ruling King is a reference to someone who has CHIM, when Vivec talks about when he became a ruling King, it’s when ze drank the folded up parts of an “old bone of the earth”, which “became akin to milk,” in Sermon 4. That really doesn’t sound anything like either like the lessons of the Ruling Kings that Vivec gives to Nerevar or anything like an enantiomorph. If anything, it might be a tacit admit admittance that hir power is dependent upon the Heart of Lorkhan (referred to as a Heart Bone elsewhere in the 36 Lessons), but that’s one of the ones I’m really not sure about. Because working out exactly what that means is not something that I’ve been able to do, no matter how long I’ve stared at it.
I recommend checking out The New Whirling School, see if Rottendeadite and Buckneybos have had any ideas for that because I had met that’s fairly shaky in my understanding.
What is Love?
One of the things you should definitely check out with respect to CHIM is Rottendeadite’s essay What is Love? I want to discuss that a bit here and how it links to CHIM.
We’ve mentioned Love in passing , and it’s also quite core concept in understanding Vivec’s thinking about the world, and, I think, in understanding how CHIM works as a realisation. It’s no love as in the romantic sense, by the way, we’re talking here about Love in the sense as as used by the 20th century mystic Aleister Crowley. Crowley formed Thelema as a religious and philosophical tradition. He talked about Love (note the capital L) as being an action taken under Will. We have several nods to this in the 36 Lessons, with the phrase “love is under my will only” cropping up multiple times.
So what is what is Will? Will, according to Crowley is the idea of whatever the core of your being is, “do what thou wilt” is a big quote of his, as in do what you will. That’s not “do as you like”, but that’s “do what you would do if you weren’t chasing results”, doing what you would naturally be inclined to do. In a situation like this, your natural inclination would be your Will, which would be the only thing guiding your actions.
If we think about the central understanding of CHIM as being the “I” that is the universe and the self, that fits the idea that you need to find Love (act under Will), act with the intention of becoming a god or understanding your place in the world, both as an element of the Aurbis and the Aurbis itself. Which sounds very like Thelmic Will, particularly with other quotes from Crowley, such as “each man is a star”, or something like it.
That’s what Vivec is (probably) talking about when he talks about Love, and the attainer of CHIM being a Lover, which is in the Scripture of Love (Sermon 35), about and that’s why love is important in terms of CHIM. It’s also potentially a thing for self-love, which feeds into the arrogance we spoke about earlier, as a way of maintaining your individuality in the face of the realization that you are both you’re both a person and a part of this, this overarching dream.
Also note the, from the From the Many-Headed Talos quote, “I do this, Red Legions, for I love you.” That’s potentially poetic license and expression of mundane love, but it could also be an expression of Love in the sense that means that in 36 lessons where you’re looking at an action taken using Talos’ Will, that would do things that he would only do without without thinking about the result.
This is also potentially another reason for those with CHIM using it so sparingly; it’s only doing things in accordance with their core nature that they can really do with CHIM. Maybe. It’s not really clear, as I say to what the extent of things that people can do with CIM when they have it. There are also those within the Elder Scrolls lore community that consider that CHIM just gives you the knowledge to do something, it’s not the granting of the power to do it. It’s it’s the knowledge to hack reality, not the keyboard, to use a absolutely bizarre metaphor.
CHIM and the Walking Ways
To put CHIM in a bit of a broader context, it is talked about as one of the formulas to reach heaven by violence, of which there are six that we know of. These are also talked about as the Walking Ways, and CHIM is numbered as the fifth of these in the 36 Lessons. We don’t really know what many of the others are. We know that mantling or “the steps of the dead” is the fourth, and there are potentially other ones out there that have been disclosed in the Loveletter from the Fifth Era. We have this quote:
You in the Fourth Era have already witnessed many of the attempts at reaching the final subgradient of all AE, that state that exists beyond mortal death. The Numidium. The Endeavor. The Prolix Tower. CHIM. The Enantiomorph. The Scarab that Transforms into the New Man.
I’m not totally convinced that this is a total list of the Walking Ways because although there are six of them, it doesn’t totally add up to me there’s a text called More on the Psijic Endeavour, part of Vehk’s Teaching, which claims that the Endeavor is a way to achieve CHIM. So this doesn’t feel like a totally comprehensive list if you like of all the walking of all the ways unless there’s some difference between the Psijic Endeavour and CHIM itself.
The Walking Ways are quite uncertain in what they are but I think we know enough about the ones that we can idenitfy and in particular the perspectives that we get in the 36 lessons about truth that we can have some into how they work. If you look at truth within 36 Lessons it is always paired with violence, pretty much; you have:
- “Truth is like my husband: instructed to smash, filled with procedure and noise, hammering, weighty, heaviness made schematic, lessons learned only by a mace (Sermon 21)
- When Nerevar become a Minister of Truth after he realises Vivec is threatening the residents of Vivec City with Baar Dau, he’s understanding how the threat of violence is being used against the done the people (Sermon 33)
- “destroyed in the manner of truth: by a great hammering” (Sermon 36)
This to me says that Vivec considers truth a form of is a form of violence. Truth is a way of imposing your will on the world, of saying you want reality to be this way and forcing reality to comply with that, and the Walking Ways are various techniques through which that is done. CHIM is part of those because it’s understanding that you are part of the universe and therefore in control of it and can manipulate it.
That’s as well-structured a ramble through CHIM as I could manage at this point. The amount of redrafting we’ve done for this particular episode is frankly scary because there are so many tangents and so many points that you can fit in here, and I’m sure I haven’t covered everything so please feel free to leave a comment below or join the conversation at the Written in Uncertainty Discord. I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts. If you liked this podcast, please subscribe.
Having talked extensively about the I that is the Secret Tower in this episode, I’ll be moving on to the ones that were made idols of it for the next podcast. Next time, we’ll be asking, what are the towers? Until then, this podcast remains a letter written in uncertainty.
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