Excerpt from Work In Progress: “Mephistopheles’ Monologue”

Over the summer I began work on a novel. I got fairly far, though I couldn’t finish it, and I probably couldn’t finish it without major revisions. Nonetheless, I wish to publish some of the better passages. This section I call “Mephistopheles’ Monolgoue,” for reasons that will become clear.

When Mephistopheles enters a room full of new people, his first order of business after charming the hosts is to identify the most beautiful person in the room. Everyone else falls away into a low-humming background noise from that point forward, intruding for a moment but ultimately distracting him from his primary objective. This one was a gorgeous woman named Constanza. We both noticed her this evening—it’s hard not to be drawn to such transcendent beauty—but since Mephistopheles’ presence dominates any encounter, I knew instantly to leave it alone. I wasn’t going to compete with my best friend for the affections of a woman. Even as Constanza sat beside me, laughing cutely and lightly grazing the back of my hand, I had the subtle ringing of my Gretchen in the back of my skull, like a buzzing mosquito that overtakes all other distractions. 

What followed was a hazy tangle of hallways, momentary glimpses of faces, names half-remembered, stewing frustrations, lusts and a loosening grasp of reality. There was a room of overlapping ovals, the curves subliminally directing the patrons directly towards the humming fridges stocked with cheap wines, racks of beer, energy drinks and orange juice. The annoyed manager impatiently waited for us to drop our extra-large bottles of merlot, inspecting a mixture of real and forged IDs for just long enough to make it seem like he cared, sighing, rolling his eyes after one of us suggests we get a pack of cigs, since we’re running low. 

Back on the prowl for a new spot to post up, Mephistopheles magically finds a trail into the woods. The trail was impromptu, a twisted path between the trees where the ferns, nettles and moss had receded. I remember wondering, the Native Americans—I couldn’t tell you what tribe it would’ve been here—did they use these trails? Were we treading on pathways they walked millennia before us? Were their slaughtered souls still present on this trail? 

By the time we reached this hidden smoke spot in the woods, our two- or three-person conversations converged into one. Naturally, the largest personality around, Mephistopheles, overtook everyone else. When he spoke, we were enthralled. We couldn’t tell if it was genius or insane; the boundary between those two being so thin already, just a tip away or towards comprehension by “normal” people. But by this point, we were gone enough to be receptive to these schizoid ramblings. We sat listening, stunned. We barely understood what he was saying, or could even remember it, but we knew we were in the presence of a mind beyond this universe. No one knew how to respond. I saw in his conversation a synthesis of many things I had said to him before, my own thoughts which I had entrusted to Mephistopheles, though in this scenario he was the brilliant, blinding, humble center, sol, and I was merely a planet orbiting him, who could only bear meaning with his rays descending upon me. I was angry, but I couldn’t say anything. I didn’t want take away from his moment. He was great at turning any situation into his moment. He could hold anyone’s attention through his deep, ambiguously-accented voice, droning on like he was incanting the liturgy of some as-yet-undiscovered religion.

“…that is Lucretius, it’s Epicureanism. The nature of reality bounded by the vicissitudes of pagan violence. At bottom, the world is vibrations; that is what String Theory tells us. I studied a bit of physics in my day, and physics is all about uncovering the fundamental mathematical and structural basis of reality, letting loose the annals of being through scientific inquiry. It’s almost Deleuzean, Heideggerian. You know, Faust here was telling me that Heidegger uncovered in Being and Time, Sein und Zeit, the Being of Humanity—although he doesn’t call it that, he calls it dasein, German for “being there,” since we as conscious beings have no choice but to be aware of our own existence. We wouldn’t be here if we weren’t, right? Furthermore, dasein comes to pains to understand what the whole point of it all is, which for him is authenticity, being true to oneself. When one digs deeper into one’s consciousness, aided by what Freud called ‘the Oceanic Feeling,’ the ego becoming subsumed by the outside world, aided by massive weather phenomena, a religious experience, maybe even a music festival or psychedelic trip down the rabbit hole—this burrowing down into one’s being can uncover secret truths about the self: who one’s authentic being really is. If anything, I see that as my goal in this world: to help people find themselves. Faust here can attest to that. He’s come to me, crying lovesick about some-or-other thing the cathexis of his desire said to him that day—or sometimes the things she didn’t say—a displaced light in the distance, an empty window one hopes a shadow crosses by from inside. He asked me, what can I do? Well, we went outside, found the most secluded place we could in the blackened evening, perhaps one or two in the morning, lit up a few cigarettes and Faust bore his soul before me, a confusing jumble of words and images and feelings—being a Pisces of course, he feels things so powerfully—spewing forth from the bottom of his soul this wondrous stream of prose, speaking of tangled loves and lusts, coalescing into a brilliant constellation radiating forth from his words of passionate longing for something more. I could tell that Faust wished for transcendence, not only from his physical and spiritual self but from the world as it has existed. He’s in a sense a true romantic, Tristan who has yet to recover his Isolde, that green light always flashing forth. She is a specter, haunting his day-to-day; she is Robin Vote, drifting endlessly from lover to lover searching for something she is missing within herself. And while Faust here sits by her side this whole time, he wishes that someday she would come to see him for who he is, to validate his being through a mystical climax of life, the ecstatic wresting forth of one’s being. You guys know anything about category theory? Faust can tell you more about it. But it is a relatively new field of mathematics that is a fundamental restructuring of the way we do things, and since mathematics underlies everything, it can literally change the tendrils of reality. You see, when we do mathematics right now it is within something we call set theory, where all objects belong to sets, obeying the Zermelo-Frankel axioms, sometimes with the Axiom of Choice and sometimes without—math’s funny like that. But categories contain within them these sets: you can do set theory within category theory, but you can do so much more. Category theory concerns itself with objects and morphisms, in the same way that logic conceives of propositions and proofs, or computers deal with data types and programs, or physics with systems and processes, topology with manifolds and cobordisms between manifolds. These are analogous structures—which is what category theory’s whole concern is; identifying the fundamental architecture underling formal systems. If we could understand category theory, we could even understand the basis of human interactions, the movement of peoples and societies and systems; it could be the most powerful system of thought ever devised. You ever see Fenymann Diagrams? They describe the motion and collisions of particles at a subatomic level: you’ve got your protons, neutrons and electrons, which everyone knows, but protons and neutrons are composed of even smaller particles, quarks, gluons, bosons. Then you’ve got your quarks of six flavors, defined by their spin and other tiny properties that emerge as a consequence of the Weak atomic force: up, down, top, bottom, strange and charm. The charm quarks are my favorite. But anyway, then you have your bosons, including the elusive Higgs-Boson you’ve probably heard about. You know that they’re about to uncover the particles that create the force of gravity? That will be revolutionary! Prior to this we just had the world of Albert Einstein, who is of course a brilliant man, just like dear Faust here, who will eventually uncover secrets of the universe more profound than even Einstein, who merely recognized that Hilbert’s understanding of the 4-dimensional manifold could produce this new thing: spacetime, the aufhebung in Hegel’s words of space, in three dimensions, and time, of one dimension, moving linearly ever forward. This is where Heidegger comes into the whole thing: is not his analysis of zeit just like Einstein’s discovery of the nature of gravity and spacetime? And then authenticity becomes a subatomic necessity for all of us. To be true to yourself you have to dig deeper and deeper within yourself, like you will eventually at the bottom of that cavern discover your truest self and become like no person has become before. And then once you put into the whole equation Kurt Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, which many have misinterpreted in all manner of ways, people saying that he proves the existence of God or all sorts of nonsense from people who don’t seem to realize that Thomas Aquinas died almost a millennium ago; our understanding has advanced exponentially since then. Technological progress speeds up exponentially, where hard drives get smaller and storage spaces get bigger and cheaper, processing power exploding via e-to-the-x growth. At some point, processing power will overtake humanity! Then, will the computers go on? Yes, in fact people right now are working on quantum computing: especially with those Department of Defense contracts some of our professors are getting, they are looking into using the granular dimensions that I was talking about earlier to increase processing power even further. But they know that it would be nearly impossible to create quantum computers who match our existing ones; but they have quantum chips that will augment the existing data structures of these massive supercomputers. All computers only work in binary, ones and zeroes as you know, everything built upon this Boolean logic, and this at a subatomic level is based on the flow of electrons, which can only be in two states, giving us those binary decisions—and once you start stacking those up you get enormously complex computational schema which are capable of Teraflops and even Petaflops (though to be fair those are floating point operations which are a bit different); but you get quantum computers in there and then you have what are called q-bits—quantum bits—that can take more than two states, sitting in a super-position between states, thus exploding the possibility of data storage and computation. These computers can process only a couple hundred, maybe a thousand, q-bits of data, as opposed to traditional electron-based silicon wafer microprocessors which can handle millions or billions. But what’s important is that as the q-bits collapse, all sorts of fun things start to happen. RSA encryption fails, since these hashing algorithms and cryptographic schemes depend on traditional computers being unable to handle the computations necessary to break the encryption since it would take trillions of years to break it, and by that point the universe has undergone heat death or perhaps some other process that brings everything—everything—to an end: everything you’ve ever known, everything that can be known, crushed into an infinitesimally small being of non-being. But how can one have nothing, no-thing? Well that’s what Heidegger asks, as he stood for hours opening and closing his office door just to understand what exactly was happening here: what is the being-ness of this door? The universe is Minkowski space time, envisioned as a series of three-dimensional manifolds connected by the cobordism of time, that giving us the fundamentally different nature of that particular dimension. When you consider the oracularity of metaphysics, and then once you get into string theory, it gets even weirder since they being to pack these dimension—they think twelve or so—into ever tinier vibrational models. The greatest symphony ever composed reverberates atomically through the universe, ever outwards and through the beings of all who hear it. Prove those lemmas about category theory, and you don’t know where the hell it will take you. And did I mention higher category theory? Oh yes! there are even greater structures of categories, because once you get categories creating analogous structures between topologies and geometries, between physics and genetics, between music and literature, between anything and everything, you can find analogous structures between categories, unifying into the grand structure called the topos: the mathematical abstraction through which we can understand and codify everything, it all being collapsed into a beautifully complex logic beyond any logic Aristotle knew for sure, and even beyond Russell and Whitehead in their admirably misguided attempts to create this universal logic in the Principia Mathematica. Lambda calculus provides the theoretical basis for many functional programming languages. Once you understand that, you take into account the Curry-Howard correspondence and Intuitionistic type-theory, and you find the synthesis with another field of mathematics, homotopy theory, which is a subset of abstract algebra concerning homotopies—those analogous structures once again—and then you erect upon that abstract algebra the basis of Algebraic Topology, where you understand these manifolds through algebra, and once you have that, you can create homotopies. But what happens when you see that these homotopies between manifolds share a unique similarity with type theory? Homotopy type theory! This is the vanguard of mathematics. These guys at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton are so close to making it all make sense, like Voevoedsky, rest in peace. And once you get there, our notions of universal “truths” start to break down. Alain Badiou wrote a fair bit about this in some of his texts, once he realized that the mere set theory he was using to try and unseat Teutonic Metaphysics in his Being and Event—and here’s Heidegger cropping up again, that Nazi bastard—was insufficient, he needed to advance to the topos as the main object of understanding. Classical logic is based upon capital-t Truth, as this metaphysically pure thing, in a duality between truth and falsehood, but as we’ve seen these binaries and dialectics aren’t so simple—especially when it comes to things like being and non-being, dasein und nichtdasein, or perhaps keindasein—or even life and death. How can we be certain that anything is true? This truth is the absolute independent of reasoning or observation, but this comes with the sticky problem of the Law of The Excluded Middle. There is no middle here, no state in which it can exist in a state of tension, much like those quantum particles. So you see that at the bottom of all of this, the Law of Excluded Middle is a mere fantasy we concocted for ourselves to convince ourselves that the universe is simpler than it really is. We have to exist in these states of low-burning tension, that sometimes flare up as the waveform is observed and collapses, love-death, the eternal, true duality recognized by all the great writers, since love is the highest form of life, it is life amplified to the maximum, so powerfully enveloping that no world exists outside of that love: you love everyone, because you love someone, because that someone is you and you love yourself. Isn’t that what love is? That you see someone and see yourself? You see your best self in their eyes, those jaded irises of majestic color and sunbursts, a pit of blackness in the center like the eye of a hurricane, bringing a temporary reprieve from the tumults of your life, even your life within them. Love, much like life, isn’t supposed to be easy: it is difficult, it is challenging, it is confusing and frustrating—people cry from tears of joy as much as they do tears of sadness and anger, right? It is magical and terrifying how much power a person can hold over another, when you understand what they want deep down. Some people will even tell you what they want! And then when you know what they want, they will do anything you say when you tell them that you will provide them with that desire—or even providing the mere act of desiring, since to have those lusts ratified is to experience a sort of death as you realize that what you really wanted was not the other person, of course, but really just yourself, your broken self reassembled into something that works, into some consciousness where everything makes sense. Well anyways, these whole semantic tableaus are exhausting, but I could go on for ages about all this stuff. I love having an audience. Anyways, the Curry-Howard Isomorphism expresses a fundamental analogy between the formalisms of effective functions (lambda calculus) and the expression of proofs (natural deduction in intuitionistic logic). Any derivation in Intuitionistic Propositional Logic corresponds to a typeable lambda-term via Church and vise-versa. And yes, that is the same Alonzo Church of the Church-Turing thesis, concerning the computability of functions via Turing Machines. But as we’re creating these higher-order structures of knowledge, you’ve got your objects and morphisms, the things that describe the transformation of whatever objects exist within the given category; then you have your functors, which describe operations between categories (this thus creates the category CAT, the category of categories, where objects are categories and the morphisms are functors—this is the sort of recursion you’ll encounter when you start diving into this sort of thing), and then you have natural transformations as maps between functors, and so on and so forth. You can prove that functors and natural transformations preserve isomorphisms, which is essential for this whole operation to work—did I explain what an isomorphism was? To say that x is isomorphic to y, you are no longer talking about quantities but the structures to which those quantities belong; and of course there are many types of isomorphisms, but the most important thing is that we can use these to span the breadth of human knowledge, even further out beyond the isomorphisms of topology, which are homotopies of course, or the isomorphisms between vector spaces or the transformations of groups; then of course you’ve got your adjoin functors and mathematical foundations, where the problem with defining sets in terms of its properties is that it leads to paradoxes. In a way it’s like to Heidegger’s notion of the pre-ontological understanding of being: when we define what something is in terms of its properties, we already are assuming what the definition of that thing is in a metaphysical, eternal sense; for how do we know what the properties of the the thing we are defining are, unless we already know what that thing is? Putting aside all the sorts of Wittgensteinian problems with that whole thing, we already must have this innate sense for this thing, even before we examine it in a scientific sense to ascertain its properties. So what is this? Is it defined by our use of these objects? By some transcendental objektgeist, or maybe der ich. But even beyond all this mathematical business, from within the eternal trinity of math, music and philosophy—all else radiates out from this trivium—you can extend this outwards into other disciplines. Is not the process of protein synthesis similar to a computer program? We have our DNA, consisting of not binary but mostly quaternary codes of adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine, deoxyribose and phosphates, which are unzipped, unpacked or decompiled if you will into RNA, which then is used to create the proteins that serve as the stones upon which life is laid by our Masonic god-creator. Why do you think they are called computer viruses? They inject false code into the computer, causing it to run some malicious duplication program blue-screening your machine, like magic, just as viruses inject false RNA to hijack your cells into replicating the viruses, giving white blood cells something to do. You’ve got turtles all the way up and down, as they say, with your infinity-groupoids, when you start stacking these transformations and striations and abstractions. Homotopies are a sort of continuous deformation, which is of utmost importance to topology. There are two important developments for the groupoid interpretation of Type Theory, where the solutions to mathematical proofs as expressed by types—which, to remind you, are the basis of functional programming languages—as well as the homotopy hypothesis, as devised by the aforementioned Grothendiek, who realized that you could represent homotopy types as infinity-groupoids. And groupoids, of course, are categories in which all morphisms are isomorphisms. Continuity thus becomes a model for computability, with fibrations becoming the model for these homotopy types; bringing us to the univalent axiom, which is to say that isomorphisms are isomorphic to equivalence, so these similarities are in fact almost verisimilitudinous. So when you look to the world, what do you see, but analogies, metaphors, fundamental structures underlying everything? Homotopy Type Theory is the internal language of the infinity-one-topos, which before we even get further down into James Lurie’s higher topos theory when we start to uncover these digressive structures between universes, which can’t even be described as parallel anymore. Faust described all this to me in wondrous detail, he’s a genius and I’m proud to have him as my best friend among all my incredible friends. He told me, ‘I think I disappeared into a scary pit of nothingness trying to have it all make sense.’ How poetic! You start to see the hyperlinked, webbed spinordial entropic majesty of human interknowledge, interfacing between the broken self and the pure, unperturbed perfection of computerized, mechanized, algorithmatic knowledge. We have only one trajectory, towards universal destruction. There is nothing left to do but to accelerate, drink the hemlock in order to unsheathe the grandest truths on the nature of justice. At the end is our annihilation, but what a wondrous annihilation it will be! I’ve been talking about math and physics and philosophy and fundamental natures and such, but I have to bring economics into this grand schematic of the cosmos. I began to study economics more recently and I discovered that, to really understand all this in a human sense, you have to bring into it the flows of monetary capital, the lubrication for human society. The brilliant men who work on Wall Street have devised these awe-inducing financial instruments that guide the flows of capital: derivatives, stocks and bonds, they use a lot of advanced mathematics in all this. People don’t know this, they think that Wall Street is a bunch of greedy, uncaring individuals who are only in those glass obelisks to get rich. Which, to be fair, they do get rich; but that is a side-effect of their most important function, which is to keep this thing going. They guide and manage money, the intangible reality of our economy, the incomprehensible quarks and objects that circulate through the global market, through encrypted computer networks, through fiber-optical cables where electrons pass their charge, zooming at light-speed to the other side of the planet to generate new capital in a microsecond on these transactions—particles colliding a trillion times a second to explode and reform, curdling and coalescing into the solid matter that we see as reality. Money is this solid reality of goods and services rendered liquid through a chemical transformation between states, melting as all will into air. Solids transformed into gases, facing immense increases in enthalpy, undergo a process of sublimation, beneath-the-liminal changes. Does it not take some form of genius to recognize, comprehend and guide the flows of capital? It is the sub-atomic structure of our reality. These are the best men, from the best universities, many of whom came to economics from mathematics or physics, reaching the highest strata of our social hierarchies, a system of competition that produces the best-of-the-best. What would the Deleuzean schematics laid forth here have to say about our markets today? You have to understand that this is how the world works, and many self-proclaimed communists and anarchists devised some incredible systems of thought in order to understand our world, but they lack the pure vision and understanding of the fundamental necessity of capital, dynamic flows ping-ponging around the universe in endlessly complicated patterns.”

In our drunken stupor, every word from Mephistopheles’ grand monologue took on new significance. We could barely even identify the words. Like a sleep-deprived friend dozing off and muttering words in his native language smashed together with English to form new nonsense words, recognizable language but semantically void. Despite this, we still felt like we were in the presence of some divine, extra-terrestrial intelligence. We let a piece of the universe invade our souls for a moment. 

We remain crouched beneath a massive pine tree, the wet pine needles on the ground sticking to our jeans. Exhaled smoke mingled with the frost of the November air. The blackening night became stronger with each passing minute, but our eyes quickly adjusted. The only light glowed from the tips of our cigarettes and distant street lamps, incandescent miniature suns. 

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