A Theory About Yesod

Razors Through Flesh proudly presents a guest article by Auburney, a devoted KULTIST, that helped to bring KULT: Divinity Lost to life. Here he takes us on a philosophical inquiry regarding the Archon Yesod.

A Theory About Yesod

When looking at the Archons and Death Angels and their Principles, we find that some of the pairs don’t exactly match up very perfectly or obviously.

In some cases, an Archon and its corresponding Death Angel are pretty much the opposites of each other. For example: Hierarchy vs. Usurpation, Safety vs. Fear, or Community vs. Exclusion.

In other cases, the DA’s principles are sort of “dark corruptions” or “evil excess” versions of their Archon counterparts (Honor/Vengeance, Victory/Conflict).

But some don’t really match up. Laws vs. Torment for example doesn’t seems immediately obvious, as does Allure vs. Compulsion… but the most obviously weird one is clearly the Yesod/Gamaliel pair-up: Avarice/Lust.

Now, how to make sense of this?

Well, under the earlier editions (when we had little to no information about any of the “dead” Archons), I had always houseruled Yesod to stand for Chastity, simply out of the obvious consideration – to counterpoint Gamaliel’s Perverted Sexuality.

It seemed to fit well with the whole Christian shtick of the Archons, and also with the fact that Yesod was one of the Lost Archons – since Chastity is observably all but dead in the modern 1st world.

The whole Capitalism thing I gave to Netzach (since competition and the drive to make the biggest profit seemed close to his principle; also, the military-industrial complex does nicely combine capitalistic and martialistic agendas into one whole clusterfuck of a mess, which was an added bonus) in cooperation with Tipharet (global networks seem to be her thing, which may easily include economic networks and cooperations).

Geburah copy

But it turns out the new edition’s authors have their own drift on things – and why wouldn’t they?

It is possible to see some similarity between Yesod and Gamaliel, though. One theory I have contemplated is that perhaps the terms are just not so ideal for easy understanding. “Lust” perhaps isn’t really all that Gamaliel is about, and therefore it looks weird next to “Greed” for Yesod. But it can make sense if you see Yesod’s principle as being “the urge to accumulate and own things”*

… and Gamaliel as the perversion of that, “the perverted Lust, the excessive Greed, the overboarding Craving to control and own stuff/people/money – an overreaching and transgressive desire which then destroys the thing that is desired”

* under the Demiurge’s system, this would have been an important part of “keeping the order of things”, to know what belongs to whom. For example, the Feudal system determined very precisely who owned what, and who had rights to claim/covet which things in life – and who didn’t.

Gamaliel would pervert and corrupt this “divine order”, of course, by making people want the “forbidden” things…

(Similar to how Kether’s principle of Hierarchy” (another important part of the “divine order”) is subverted, undermined, and corrupted by Thaumiel’s usurpation and urge for unlawful ascendance…)

Geburah copy

But I was still not quite ready to give up on my “Chastity” spin for Yesod, just yet – and I came up with another theory.  One that might reconcile the two versions outlined above:

 

Yesod copyThe symbol of Yesod

Yesod could have changed his Principle.

Now stick with me on this for a minute.

Malkuth did it as well, switching from her initial principle of Conformity (as opposed to Nahemoth’s Discord) to Awakening.

Why not have Yesod stand for Chastity (and modesty, monogamy, celibate, heteronormativity, and repressive sexual morals in general) initially, but either drift away from that slowly or change more abruptly after being destroyed in the War between the Archons that followed Malkuth’s rebellion?

After his (near) destruction, canon now tells us that some part(s) of him survived, and have found shelter under Tipharet’s protection – exploited by her for the time being, but growing stronger and more forceful as time goes by.

And his new Principle is now Avarice, thus associating him with greed, wealth, thriftiness, capitalism… but also theft, debt, poverty, and bankruptcy (there are always victims of excessive greed and wealth after all)

I’m thinking that maybe this change in Principle might:

1.) have been brought upon (or enabled somehow) by his near destruction. Arguably, Malkuth’s initial rebellion, which went hand in hand with her changing her Principle (however that happened, we have no idea) could have weakened the Divine Order between the Archons which the Demiurge initially constructed. Such a drastic disruption as one Archon going completely rogue on the whole system could well have left some major rifts in the underlying metaphysical structure of Reality itself ([i]our reality[/i] at least, if not the True Reality necessarily) – and if Yesod somehow “fell into one of these rifts”, so to speak, it would stand to reason that a change of Principle was, while perhaps not inevitable, but at least was “in the cards” for things that could happen when (and if) he (or what was left of him) emerged again.

2.) in fact be less random than it might on first glance appear.

If his Principle originally was Chastity, that would be strongly associated with suppressing sexual urges and energies. In fact, Yesod might have been one of the most important Archons for the purpose of keeping the Illusion upright, since his job would have been to ward off humanity against Passion. Which is after all one of the fundamental, all-pervading pillars of Reality as we all know.

But what happens with suppressed sexual energy? It is described in the Passion chapter as an elementary drive and a direct connection to our inner divinity. Psychology tells us that such energies can either be repressed (which is bad because they will fester and boil in your subconscious mind) or sublimated, i.e. transformed and channeled into other endeavors.

After many centuries of Yesod’s influence in the world, we see great empires rise across all cultures. Incidentally, the height of Imperialism, namely the British Empire’s largest expansion (they owned and/or controlled fully 1/4th of the earth’s land mass at one point!), occurred during the Victorian era – a time well known, even notorious, for its repressive sexual mores, such as its obsession with chastity, modesty, marital faithfulness, virginity, etc. (and it’s supplementary demonization of extramarital sex, adultery, prostitution, etc.)

Could it be argued, therefore, that Yesod’s influence has always (or for a very long time anyways) caused people to find ways how to release their sexual tensions and primal urges in sublimated forms?

Could we therefore assume that where such forms led to industriousness and diligence, financial and material success was not far off? (Even under the strict hierarchy of Kether, with its feudal systems and castes and whatnot, one might advance oneself some tiny little bit – such as the rise of the middle class during the late medieval period showcases on a grand scale)

With financial and material success come wealth, jealousy, greed and so on…

So, arguably, the Avarice aspect has been a part of Yesod, if not since forever, then at least for a very long time: All organized religions everywhere have always tended to amass large amounts of money, after all – most commonly collected from their followers, but also often from church-owned business ventures (e.g. medieval monasteries with their trade of wine, honey, and other refined goods).

(There might be a good reason the Lictors included “Thou shalt not covet anything that is thy neighbor’s” in the laws they gave to (who we remember as) Moses. And why it’s put right next to “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” in that list – as both seem pretty close to Yesod’s principle / agenda…)  

So possibly, by the time Yesod got destroyed, the prevalence for avarice was so widespread and deeply ingrained in many of his followers and agents, that when he came back, that was all that was left of him. Cue the rise of capitalism, the sexual revolution happening, resulting in chastity and modesty being all but dead in the modern 1st world, but rampant greed and crass extremes of rich and poor at an all-time high…

Geburah copy

Thank you Auburney for this great article. It is really interesting to speculate about Yesod and the principles for the other Archons.

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Why you roll two 10 sided dice

I just realized something that gave me a smile. The penny dropped you could say. Okay, so here is a question for you? Why do you roll two ten sided dice in KULT: Divinity Lost?

In most Apocalypse World games you roll 2D6. So why the change? Sure, it might be that the Enlightened Archetypes have a higher top score in their attributes but it is really everything?

Well, I got a clue when I looked at the dice from the official dice set. They are red and black and look nice but the only real difference is that nr 1 on both dice are changed to the Sephiroth/Qliphoth symbol.

Dice

The official Kult dice. They are nice but overpriced. If you have a pair of D10s use them instead. Still they was the clue I needed to unlock the symbolic riddle. 

Then it hit me. The dice represent the Illusion. One dice is the 10 Archons, the other is the 10 Death Angels. For a human it does not matter. Both side will always try to chain you down. You are bound by the rules that the illusion dictates. And of course, when you roll a 1, or worse two 1s. Well you are completely in the grip of the Higher powers.

To me this is just the perfect when the game design is mixed with symbolism and the very spirit of the game in this profound way. And then I realized. We have 10 Attributes. And there is a pattern there as well.

I love the minds that made this game. 

The whole game is a ritual. Each dice roll is a part of a ceremony. And it shows that there is no escape from the illusion by playing the game by the rules, we need to find another path to escape our prison. 

Seek gnosis my brothers and sisters. Seek and you shall find in this life or the next. 

Oakwood Heights (Scenario Review)

Oakwood Heights art

Oakwood Heights was the first scenario published for KULT: Divinity Lost. It is free to download on their homepage. It can also be found in Taroticum and Other Tales. It is written by Petter Nallo, the creative director of the game and the writer of the mythos chapters in the rulebook.

Set during a crime scene reconstruction in Detroit the players assume the role of people connected to the justice system trying to discover what exactly happened during a murder spree committed in the area Oakwood Heights. The man arrested for the crimes, Franklin Mills, claims to have lost his memory. But during that day of blood and terror a boy disappeared, and they did not find his body. So the goal is to get Franklin Mills to tell (or remember) what he did to the boy.

It’s a scenario written for one session. The characters (four of them) are premade and tightly woven into the story. They each have personal motivations and hidden agendas. Especially two of them are extremely fascinating and creepy with a lot of hidden baggage that might (and probably will) be revealed during play. There are also several handouts.

Oakwood zugZug Island is one of the places that the characters get to visit in this scenario. 

This is an excellent scenario. One of the strongest I’ve read (and not just for KULT). Deep and complex characters, Locations that are memorable and varied and countless surprises and twists and turns. You are constantly forced to reassess the situations and the people involved and the deeper you go into it you discover the darkness that is underneath.

I don’t want to spoil the story and what happens since I think this is something that should be read, or even better, played. Everything is tied together in an elegant way. Franklin is a fascinating character. It also includes one of the scariest nepharites and a truly haunting purgatory.

If I would say anything bad about it, it would be that there are quite some information to take in up front. But, it is done as a scene in the beginning of the scenario so it still works.

I have played this scenario twice and both times it has been a memorable experience and really pushed the players to explore their own, inner, darkness.

If you want to dive into it and don’t mind to be spoiled you can of course read it but Red Moon Roleplaying has done an excellent playthrough of it. So listen to it here.

The Archetypes & The Movies

When you look at the archetypes in KULT: Divinity Lost. What characters come to mind? What images from movies and TV first pop up into your brain? Well here are the characters that me and my players first thought about.

The AgentThe ArtistThe AvengerThe BrokenThe CareeristThe CriminalThe CursedThe DeciverThe DescendantThe DetectiveThe DollThe DrifterThe FixerThe OccultistThe ProphetThe RoninThe ScientistThe SeekerThe Veteran

Does it seem sensible? Does some of them feel completely wrong in their category?

When your players have trouble deciding what archetype to play you can show them this list and hopefully it might inspire them.

Also, thanks to Jenny for the hours spent in Photoshop.

The Atrocity Exhibition, playthrough

Ae art2

I have now played the scenario  The Atrocity Exhibition with my group. I thought we would finish it in one session but no, it took two 6 hour sessions. I just did not want to rush through it since we had such a good time.

I moved the scenario in time to the mid 1990s and the players had a really fun idea when it came to characters. Since my playgroup have stuck together for a long time we played KULT in the late 90s. And one campaign that we played was abandoned and we sort of left it unfinished. So then Jenny got the idea that they should re-make them for new KULT and the scenario would be sort of a story about what happened to them.

So, everyone re-made the characters based on the old Archetypes. So we had a Ronin, a Artist, a Deceiver, a Veteran and an Occultist. The Veteran was not part of the old group since he was a new player.

The scenario played very well and we had quite some time just with the characters before the opening. And then all hell, literally, broke loose. It became very weird and dramatic.

One memorable scene was when the Ronin in the group was trapped in a room with Purgatides that danced around him, playing instruments of bone and with the melodies spread madness. In a desperate act he pierced his eardums to silence them and then was both broken and deaf for the rest of the scenario.

The most tragic scene was in Djeraba when the Femme Fatale managed to seduce/still Vauquelins wrath and save the Artist by offering herself to him. But in their act of passion he slit her throat. And in the final scene the surviving characters faced her as a purgatide. The Ronin that had a relationship with her could not bear himself to kill her and was strangled by her.

In the end only The Artist and the Veteran survived. The others were lost in the Purgatory or slain by Vauquelin himself.

It was a truly great experiece. A masterly written scenario by Jason Fryer and I highly recommend it. My advice is to let it take its time. Don’t rush it. And use the images in the book when you show the exhibition.