Before we kick off in general, I just like to say my usual disclaimer: this is my own understanding of the idea and not necessarily the whole truth of the matter, although I’ll do my best to bring in what other viewpoints I can as I go. If you have any other ideas, I’d absolutely love to hear them. Please leave a comment below, or join the conversation at the Written in Uncertainty Discord server. Also, please go through and examine the sources that I’m talking about yourself, rather than just taking what I say at face value.
CHIM and the Godhead
When we start thinking about what the Godhead is, it’s something that’s hinted at in the nature of CHIM, which I’ve talked about previously in this cast. To have a quick recap of that central realisation, that the Aurbis is a wheel, and a wheel turned on its side is a tower, which is “I”, which means that you are the same thing as the universe, that you are both the universe and a part of it. Still being able to maintain your individuality as part of that is CHIM. The understanding of the fundamental structure of the universe and the fundamental unreality of your own being is that you realise as part of it that reality is the dream of the Godhead. In particular, the 36 Lessons of Vivec will repeatedly state “the waking world is the amnesia of dream”, in other words, it’s a world that’s forgotten that it’s a dream. That’s how reality works here, a reality and that’s formed because it’s forgotten that it’s unreality.
It’s also worth noting here that the Godhead as talked about is not a god in the sense that the beings of the Elder Scrolls universe understand it, but the universe itself. In the same way as the universe is a dream of Brahman in Hinduism, the world of The Elder Scrolls is a dream of the dreaming godhead, and godhead doesn’t necessarily act in and of itself within the dream, although I think that we do see that happening, and we’ll see why when we get into the identity of the current dreamer a little later.
What is the Amaranth?
When we look at the amaranth in the real world, it is is a particular type of flower. It derives from the Greek ἀμάραντος (amárantos), which means unfading, which is fascinating to me. It hints at the eternal nature of the universe. It’s most often associated by the Elder Scrolls fans with the flower amaranthus caudatus, which also goes by the name love-lies-bleeding. I’m not sure whether that’s something that’s explicitly been stated by Michael Kirkbride as being part of his intent in using the word amaranth describe it, but it’s got some interesting connotations when you think about the nature of love, and the idea of the trauma that potentially forms The Elder Scrolls’ Amaranth.
But first of all, we need to understand what the Amaranth is I want to outline the concept before we get into the specific example that is the Elder Scrolls universe. We first hear about it (as far as I can tell) from a forum post made by Michael Kirkbride in 2010:
3) To the close dreamers, don’t forget the Amaranth. There *is* one step beyond CHIM, but you’re right in that it is not godhood. It’s the flowering of a statehood where the images you give birth to in your dream– stolen (?) from first dreamer– wakes up. Wails knowing free will. And begins to dream in the same way. Children of liberty without end, and then the music lives forever as a pirate radio tuned against the rules of Heaven and the vulgarities of Hell.
The word statehood as it’s used here isn’t an accident. If you think about statehood, as in becoming a state becoming a nation state is something that only really happens when you separate off from something else. The United States only became a nation when it was separated from the various colonies from Europe, Kosovo only became a state when it’s separated from Yugoslavia, and so on and so forth. It’s realising the fundamental separation of the self from everything else.
Quite what that separation is, I think we have some hints at if we look at Existentialist philosophy, in particular, Satre’s notion of angst. I’ll talk about it using angst as the term from here on out because although it translates more strictly as anxiety, angst has become a commonly used shorthand for it when you look at the literature around this. It’s the idea of that you realise that you are fundamentally free, the “wails knowing free will”, in that if you are standing on the edge of the cliff, there is practically nothing stopping you from jumping off the edge. If you are walking down the street with a heavy object in your hand there is nothing really stopping you from bludgeoning the next passerby to death with that heavy object. The biggest thing stopping you is your notions inside your own head, that you should be a good person, that you have a particular set of ideas within your own mind about how you should be, and that you also have to live out the consequences of your own actions because of your connectivity, but you could still do it that’s the full consequence is all free will in an existentialist sense, which is essentially what this is hinting at. It’s the idea as Satre put it forward is “radical freedom”, its freedom without limits, because the only limits you impose are the ones you put on yourself. And that is terrifying, in its way. Within the context of The Elder Scrolls it has some interesting implications in the form of thoughts from Mankar Camoran, but that’s for later.
The key takeaway here is that Amaranth is the formulation of a new dream, of a new universe, a new state. This is stated quite explicitly in the Loveletter from the Fifth Era, which was first published online by Kirkbride in 2005:
Those who do not fail become the New Men: an individual beyond all AE, unerased and all-being. Jumping beyond the last bridge of all existence is the Last Existence, The Eternal I.
A whole World of You.
God outside of all else but his own free consciousness, hallucinating for eternity and falling into love: I AM AND I ARE ALL WE.
Now remember that when I was talking about Existentialism, we were talking about separation, that’s what this means here, it’s being separate from everything else apart from your own free consciousness. So it’s a consciousness that is free to make whatever it will out of itself.
If we look at the way that the Hebrew name of God is constructed, just to take a complete tangent here, the Hebrew name of god (YHWH) is literally “I am that which I am”; God’s true name is a statement of his own being. So that state that is possibly being hinted that in that last quote, the eternal “I” it’s the state that existence itself is self-contained, self caused and everything that that means.
How do you achieve Amaranth?
The way to achieve Amaranth that it’s been put forward in a few sources within the lore so far is that you get to Amaranth through sensory deprivation. The Loveletter has it as this:
C0DA Digitals have confirmed that a subject in sensory deprivation begins to hallucinate after only twenty minutes. Scale unto this along the magical spectrum and maintenance of time, which is forever, and you begin to see the Lunar God’s failure as Greatest Gift. As above, “This is the love of God.”
Know Love to avoid the Landfall, my brothers and sisters of the past.
The New Man becomes God becomes Amaranth, everlasting hypnogogic. Hallucinations become lucid under His eye and therefore, like all parents of their children, the Amaranth cherishes and adores all that is come from Him.
It’s being cut off from everything, from this passage. So in the absence of anything but themselves the one in sensory deprivation starts to hallucinate and if this lights along some kind of metaphysical touchpaper, or if you’re just held in it for long enough, possibly from that quote (“which is forever”), then you can see that it’s the realisation of the self as a god but just the realisation of CHIM that the reality which you are currently part of is the same thing as you, Amaranth goes beyond that to a state where there is absolutely nothing else apart from you, so that the universe is you.
If we think about some of Mankar Camoran’s things from the Commentaries on the Mysterium Xarxes, particularly “he who enters paradise enters his own mother”. Apart from being a potentially icky reference to some things in John’s gospel, it is in essence, saying that you exist within a context; the things that are stopping you from bludgeoning the passer-by in the street are the same thing that creates the passer-by in the street in the first place: that you are already existing in a context with previous experiences with a previous knowledge and predisposition to do certain things, because of your environment. If you go back to the moment of your own birth, and influence that event, and how everything that unfolds from that goes, you are self creating, becoming your own universe with its own rules, which is what the Amaranth does to you.
Within this particular universe, it feels like there’s been several attempts to get beyond it, to transcend which is hinted at in the line from Loveletter, which talks about Lorkhan’s “failure as Greatest Gift”. There’s a quote in Vehk’s Teaching which claims that Lorkhan may have “failed [at CHIM] so you might know how not to.” The idea is that Lorkhan created Mundus as something which creates things which will transcend Mundus, possibly through achieving Amaranth. I’ve mentioned this in several podcasts now and I’m sorry if I’m repeating myself but it comes into an awful lot of this stuff that Lorkhan’s plan in creating Mundus as something to go to move beyond. Several of those attempts are also mentioned in the Loveletter:
The Digitals’ record of the Lunar God’s involvement in all of this is called the Great Pain: “The Lunar God failed by his own devices, to show the new progeny how they might not.”
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.
Simply put, as the Gods cannot know joy as mortals, their creation, so mortals may only understand the joy of Liberty by becoming the progenitors of the models that can make the jump past mortal death.
And so many of you give up.
Mortal Death to Z (Z being the state-gradient echo of Mundus Centerex): antinymic to [untranslatable].
This particular passage also brings up another idea that the Et’ada cannot know Amaranth, that they “can’t know joy as mortals” because they are in essence limitless, they are bound only by themselves. This means they’re already self-imposing their own limits and not able to see beyond them. But mortals, being contained by limits that are created by both themselves and others can strive to go beyond limits, and in doing so go beyond all limits. And that’s the striving towards Amaranth, or striving towards CHIM depending on the vagaries of exactly who’s doing it.
To get back on track, the Loveletter also talks about some attempt made to reach beyond the final sub gradient, which is to reach Amaranth. The Numidium, the Endeavour and all that list are ways of tweaking divinity and trying to fiddle with it enough to break the system in some ways; Numidium in particular, is a thing that tries to break a lot of stuff. This list is one of the more common answers to what the Walking Ways are as well, although I’m a little sceptical here, because there are some slight doubling going on; the Endeavour and CHIM gets lumped into the same bucket by some of the writing in Vehk’s Teaching, which means that the Endeavor is part of the process of trying to attain CHIM, but they’re separated out here for some reason. I’m not really sure was a lot of these are or what they could be, there’s not a lot of information out there about them beyond this, particularly the Prolix Tower and the Scarab that Transforms into the New Man, there’s an awful lot of theory crafting that’s happened around these and there’s some beautiful writing that At-Hatoor/IceFireWarden and Brynjar in particular have done on them on the /r/teslore subreddit.
Each Walking Way is an attempt to transcend and transform, to try and move beyond that is the core of this particular statement. And we also have one or two other attempts at it, the most conspicuous of which I think is Sermon 28 at the 36 Lessons where Vivec talks to the sages of the Number Rooms and the mystics start wrapping one of their number in shells, and all sorts of other things that feel to me like essentially like Plaster of Paris, to totally encase a sage. This process cuts them off entirely from the world. It feels like an attempt to put someone into the sensory deprivation, which is the gateway to the Amaranth.
Who is the the Amaranth of the Elder Scrolls Universe?
So now we’ve got a rough idea of what the Amaranth is, and the processes you need to go through to get there, why is this relevant to the Elder Scrolls, and who is the amaranth of the Elder Scrolls universe? the amaranth of the Elder Scrolls universe is Anu of the Children’s/Annotated Anuad, “Children’s” being particularly important in this case.
This was started off on the Bethesda forums in 2012 was the topic Vivec? god? CHIM? jerk? what? what where Michael Kirkbride stated this:
No one has achieved Amaranth yet.*
(Toesock, sorry you took offense at the description of the demise of Barfok.)
*Except for the one being or idea that no one has found yet, which is still just sitting there.
That kicked off a huge hunt on the forums that lasted for about six or seven months of throwing ideas around as to what the Amaranth could possibly have been. It went on for 13 threads within the Bethesda forums, and the amount of ideas and references and everything that got booted around at that time trying to work out what this thing was, who it could possibly be, was a fantastic journey to be part of. If you want to see some of the ideas that were around during that particular hunt, and some of the other connections that got made to other more obscure bits of the Elder Scrolls lore, check out these threads:
- Hunt the Amaranth I
- Hunt the Amaranth II
- Hunt the Amaranth III
- Hunt the Amaranth IV
- Hunt the Amaranth V
- Hunt the Amaranth VI
- Hunt the Amaranth VII
- Hunt the Amaranth VIII
- Hunt the Amaranth IX
- Hunt the Amaranth X
- Hunt the Amaranth XI
- Hunt the Amaranth XII
- Summing up the Amaranth, which includes the reveal
It was eventually revealed to be Anu after some time and a chance to relating to the nature of the Magna Ge, and the bizarre connections that get made there. The moment of the Amaranth for Anu was when he sleeps in the sun, which is kind of weird if you think about it being all within one self contained universe; Anu slept in the sun before the sun exists. It’s not something that I saw talked about much before that point and now seems ridiculously obvious, but Anu sleeping in the sun before Magnus escapes into Atherius it is something that with a whacking right hand.
Apparently that moment of Anu running away, separating himself from everything and grieving for Nir, and then sleeping in the sun is the moment of Amaranth, the way that MK put it was this:
[22:41] <%MK> “Amaranth anon Anew AE I, which is said to have occupied the passageways of heaven and earth, because everyone above and below asks Amaranth anon Anew AE I if they cannot find the passage. Amaranth anon Anew AE I is the Godhead who caused to be visible. Amaranth anon Anew AE I stands as a post at the turning point. The others say of Amaranth anon Anew AE I the post: “The one and one (an
[22:41] <%MK> inelegant numner) who crosses the middle of the Z the Centrex without calm, may his name be I and no other, for he takes up the center of it in sleep. The path of the stars of the sky should be kept unchanged but will not, for he dreams in the sun and now has dreamed of orphans, anon Magne-Ge, the colors he still wishes to dream.”
That’s incredibly garbled, but it puts a particular spin on what Magnus and the Magna Ge are, remembering, of course, that Magnus created the sun in his escape to Atherius, running away and refusing to face what was going on what had been created. This is very similar to Anu’s actions, who, after having dealt with Padomay didn’t want to face the death of Nir, ran away and slept in the sun. If you want to think about it in that way, Magnus is the self-insert character in this particular way of thinking that he is reflecting on everything is done, and acting out his own action again, within his dream. If we think about the Magna Ge as the “colors that [Anu] still wishes to dream”, it’s appropriate that the Anuad talks about the Magna Ge as the pure blood of Anu, so they are Anu’s children, which, if you think back to becoming pregnant, which could make the Magna Ge a reflection of the original Twelve Worlds, maybe, or at least, how Anu imagines the Twelve Worlds to have been. That’s my own rough idea of it.
As much as this seems to kind of flow together in a really bizarre way, I remember seeing a thread where MK admitted that Amaranth was not something that he originally thought about when writing the Anuad and 36 Lessons and everything that in theory, links to it. It’s not so much authorial intent that’s created this, but the way that the world itself has evolved, which is a really bizarre idea, but I just thought I’d flag that before we go any further.
Does this mean that everything in The Elder Scrolls Universe is a dream?
Because I now want to talk about some of the problems and questions that I’ve seen bounced around when people encounter the Amaranth.
The first of these is that because everything is all the dream, people start saying that means that nothing that we do matters and so why bother playing? Why bother telling story if it’s all something that’s going to be obliterated when the Dreamer wakes up?
I’m a little hesitant to even answer that sort of a question, because, yes, it is a dream in some way, because it is something that’s being conceptualised within the mind of something. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter; it doesn’t mean that the things in themselves happening within the dream don’t have their own self-aware existence. If we go back to the metaphors of the gamma round and CHIM as state and city etc, just because you consider something to be in London, it doesn’t mean that the Houses of Parliament don’t exist on their own. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have their own frames of reference further down the chain, which can have meaning . That’s particularly the case when you’ve got those things being living things, and if they can create their own meaning within it. My question in response to that is, why does that make that any less real?
That then starts to boil down into larger questions of what is reality, how is reality defined, etc. I think it’s enough to say that there is a reality being experienced by these beings, which is enough to imbue it with some sort of meaning anyway.
Moreover, if we look at some similar ideas within philosophy, that point of everything being trivialised just because it’s in a dream is not something that’s ever come up. There was a philosopher in the 18th century, George Berkeley, who posited that the only things that we could know to exist are minds and ideas within minds. So the idea that your desks, or your bodies, or anything else was actually real was a nonsense, or at least very uncertain. However, that didn’t trivialise anything, it didn’t make it any less real. Berkeley does go one step further than The Elder Scrolls in affirming reality as such, because although only minds and ideas existed, he believed there was an objective reality because everything existed as an idea within the mind of God. Which sounds eerily familiar…
Quite apart from the similarity between the Godhead in The Elder Scrolls and the ideas of Berkeley having things within the mind of God, there’s a little bit of a wrinkle, I feel I should point out. Berkeley believed in an objective reality because God was the guarantor of everything, there was the idea that things could potentially be in flux if they weren’t being experienced by someone. One of the phrases that comes up in Barclays philosophy is esse est percpi (to be is to be perceived), which means that if you’re not perceiving something, you can’t know if it exists, therefore, does it exist? In Berkeley’s model God exists as the guarantor of reality; just because you’re not looking at something, it doesn’t mean it vanishes, because God’s still looking at it. The Elder Scrolls form of the Godhead seems to be a bit more into some activity, the overall attitude of the Elder Scrolls to truth feels like it’s a bit more sketchy than that. Truth is possibly being defined by the beings within The Elder Scrolls; If they’re powerful enough, they can define their own truth and make that reality. There’s no objective guarantor in the Godhead; the Godhead is almost a passive agent here, having things done to it. It’s not really in a position to do anything apart from create the reality that everything else is living in.
Is the Amaranth dependent on the Dreamer before it?
I’ve also seen people asked questions about, well, what happens when you have someone who is dreaming a new dream, is that dream then dependent upon the original dreamer?
The thought here is that if we have a chain of people who are dreaming a new dream, and another dream, and another dream in another dream, what happens if that first dreamer is then struck down while they’re in a coma in sudden re-connection with the original reality?
I don’t think that it would be the case, I don’t think we can know for sure. However, if you remember the quotes that started this whole cast off, which talks about, “the images you give birth to in your dream– stolen (?) from first dreamer– wakes up. Wails knowing free will. And begins to dream in the same way”. That idea of free will, and going along with the separation we discussed earlier, that is an inherent part of the process, as far as I’m concerned. It means that the dreamer wouldn’t be dependent upon the original Godhead. I don’t think that we can quite see it that way.
We also have the image of the Amaranth as a flower, if you think about the image of a flower in its most stereotypical form, you’ve got petals around the outside, and then the central image of the flower that connected to all the petals. That’s not quite the case with the flower amaranth, you’ve got a central stem, and then lots of trailing fronds, that come off this central stem. So we’ve not got the kind of nested Amaranths idea, that everything is dependent on the one that came before it that, if disrupted, destroys everything. What we do have, if the Elder Scrolls amaranth is like the real world amaranth: a central supporting column from which everything diverges. If something happens to that single source, then potentially, we could have a problem. But in viewing the original source, I don’t think that you get the position of within amaranth within amaranth within amaranth within amaranth that people will potentially talk about.
Is the Amaranth canon?
I don’t really want to answer that directly (again!). because I’m not sure that kind of honesty is relevant in The Elder Scrolls. If you want to hear more about my perspective on that you can go back and listen to the first episode of this podcast, where I talked through my perspective on canonicity, and what it is how it might be relevant to The Elder Scrolls.
For the sake of completeness, I would flag that an awful lot of these sources are from outside of the games, so if that’s something that concerns you, then you may want to disregard this. I don’t think you miss out on a lot of the content from the games in the series if you don’t think about the Amaranth particularly, but there are quite a few things around the edges of the games that hint at the Amaranth being a thing.
The most blatant of these has come up in The Elder Scrolls: Online, which has Sermon 37 of the 36 Lessons of Vivec end with the phrase “the worldling of the words is AMARANTH”, which is a nod to the idea of world creation coming from other sources. The idea of a worldling, a child of a world, is kind of what the amaranth is, it’s the being birthed and escaping from a previous reality and becoming its own reality. We also have the discourse around theme given as a quest reward in Apocrypha in The Elder Scrolls Online for completing the quests called “Waking Dream” that feels like huge references to the idea to me. But again, it’s not something that is stated directly in games.
I’m not sure it really can be if I’m brutally honest, because you’re then getting beyond the scope of traditional fantasy and almost traditional narrative. If you’re going to start trying to model how you move beyond this reality into new one and create one out of yourself, that’s not something that your average gaming studio is going to be able to pull off, at least not pull off well, even if it in thinks about it. So I’m not sure that the Amaranth having an explicit place within the series would be something that’s even worthwhile.
And on that note, I think that’s pretty much all that got say on the subject of the Amaranth. I hope I’ve brought in some interesting perspectives on it, because as I said, we don’t have too much in the way of concrete sources on this. There’s been an awful lot of speculation around it, and particularly on the /r/teslore subreddit, I’d urge you to hunt out and various things on that, particularly if you can find the writings from MareloRyan and the the subreddit that he created, called /r/godheadmodel.
Thank you ever so much for taking the time to listen/read, if you like this podcast, please consider subscribing. If you have any particular questions that you want me to look into or answer please let me know; I’m trying to pull together some more bits and pieces for another series of this once I’m done with my original questions, or if I get enough small questions that I can answer I’d love to do a Q&A episode. So please send me your topics, your questions, however you want to I’m available in most places.
Now that we’ve discussed some of the biggest things in the Elder Scrolls universe and gone beyond that, I thought we’d crushed back down to earth a little bit and bring things back to what we know for next time. Back to the player character. Next time we’re going to be asking why is the protagonist of the Elder Scrolls games always a prisoner?
Until then, this podcast remains a letter written in uncertainty.
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