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Science and the Lunar Way

What is "science"? 

When I was young, and still could only read the eastern letters(1), I encountered this word in a codex and I went to ask the teachers what it meant. I said it incorrectly, I feel certain, but the teacher I spoke to only pronounced it correctly, and went on to say this-

"Science" is "knowledge", xe said. Science is that which we know, that which is certain and holds true. Science is light, and it has a counterpart, ignorance, which is darkness. We know what we can see, what light shows to us, but whenever light falls upon a thing, there is also a shadow created, and when the shadow is deep enough, we cannot see what is within it. So to know something means to be ignorant of other things. 

I think I asked, "Is it possible to know everything?" Xer answer was simple. "How could you know if you had?" 

Years later, I learned that what I had thought was the great difficulty there- the fact that some facts would block the view of other facts, just as one can only see the first few ranks of trees in a forest- was not that at all, because what I had been taught was a metaphor. 

"Knowledge," the sagacious lady said, "Is not simply a matter of sensory experience. Do you know that the Sun will rise tomorrow?" I nodded, hesitantly. "How do you know this?" She pointed at me with a curved rule. 

"I have seen the Sun rise many times before, regardless of what the night had been like, so I know that it will probably rise again." I felt proud of myself for getting the words out in the right order. 

"And yet you have not, and by definition cannot, see the Sun rise before it does so," she said. "It is impossible to know via the senses what will happen in the future. But it is also absurd to say that we live in a state of ignorance over what will happen in the future, without any ability to predict, to foresee, and to calculate." She paced in a little circle at the center of the small auditorium where she taught classes. 

"So it is possible to have knowledge via reasoning as well as via the senses?" I played my part as a student. 

"Is it?" She continued her circular walk. "One answer is yes, it must be so, because we can make predictions and foresee what will happen, if imperfectly. Another answer is no, it cannot be so, because our predictions are imperfect. If knowledge is that which is true, predictions cannot be knowledge even if they turn out to be correct." 

"But they cannot be ignorance either, as you said." 

"Indeed." She came to a halt and faced me. "The question is more difficult than this, of course. Even if we hold knowledge to that which we have already experienced... have you drunk moonflower tea before? Or swallowed a bite from the mushroom called Gerra's Finger? Taken the tincture that is made from the seeds of the morning glory? Inhaled the smoke that comes from the diviner's sage?" 

I didn't get a chance to open my mouth before she pressed on. "That which you saw, that which you experienced, when you did so... some of it was not 'real'. You might see something but not touch it, hear sounds which to anyone else weren't there, or mishear completely what other people said. But when the effects faded, so did these experiences." She smiled, a harsh slash across her weathered face. "Is that knowledge? Or is that ignorance? Or is it something else?" 

Of course, I was still not much more than a child. With the knowledge of a adulthood, I can say this in more learned terms. The ancient goddess Orenoar who embodied Absolute Truth did not exist anymore. She broke herself apart into many separate truths under the questioning of the tlilaniteca(2) and there is not now and cannot be one absolute truth, one single torch which lights everything. The less ancient goddess Elasa, the keeper of the Light of Knowledge, let that light go and watched it spread outward into the world, until it was embedded in everything which took it up and accepted the ability and the duty to know and to think and to reason and to speculate. 

That is to say, knowledge is not a substance, whether a material or metaphysical one. Knowledge is a process, a tension, a glamour. Knowledge is under the domain of She who has taken up the cause of the many glamours and speaks for the processes, the lady of tensions, the changer. 

Knowledge exists between Illusion (knowledge has a knower) and Truth (knowledge is formed by the knower interacting with that which is outside of the knower). It is possible to achieve knowledge through reasoning, through sensory experience, through sudden intuition, through meditative contemplation, through indulgence to drown the senses, through careful and careless readings, through labor, through sound, through stillness, through joining, through separation, and especially through ejem(3). 

How does one know that one has acquired knowledge for sure, something that is more than just a passing delusion or misinterpretation? Sedenya only ever smiles at this question. Great Sister says, "If you can extinguish your selfness and become an object, you can be truly objective, but for the rest of us, we must welcome doubt into our hearts and our homes and love doubt and kiss doubt and give doubt what doubt needs." Or so she said to me without using her lips, but I was somewhat distracted at the time by what her lips were doing instead of speaking. 

 Of course, there was one once who did know, who offered the extinction of doubt. One who knew so strongly and so purely that he knew himself into an unhealable wound from an unbreakable sword, all self-inflicted. But then, one day, he knew differently, and the wound closed, and he went away south over the mountains in shame, to try and build where he had once burned. That is the peril, that is the consequence. Be very careful when you make bold assertions, for the life you shape may be your own. 

I suppose that you who hear this(4) may have thought that I would begin with categorization and by describing the domains of knowledge, set up a definition of language or of metaphysics and physics. This too has its place, but here and now, we shall begin at the root(5), the philosophy of knowledge, and from there we shall proceed into the art of knowledge and the craft of knowing. 

 I have kept you here listening to my wandering words and ill-starred musings for long enough. Read through the Sorrowful Codex, section three, the Essay on Significance(6), before we meet again. If you have questions, I will answer them for the rest of the class period, but you are otherwise dismissed.

 

(1) Written New Pelorian in the high mode used a rationalized and simplified set of the Dara Happan letters along with a similarly rationalized Pelandan logographic script. Distinguishing between the two when relevant was normally done by calling the alphabetic script "the eastern letters" and the logographic script "the western signs". Certain low modes (such as the Altinaetic script, the Western abjad, the "barbarian" syllabaries) would be called, rudely, "the [direction] scrawlings", or more formally, "the [direction] calligraphy", treating them almost as variants of New Pelorian. 

(2) "The sketched/drawn with a thick black outline people." Otherwise known as the boggles.

(3) Ejem is a kind of psychic interplay that involves a very intimate meeting of the minds, a kind of sharing of essences and expansion of the self. Frequently pursued as a kind of recreational activity by the mystically-inclined Lunar citizen. 

(4) This was originally delivered as an opening lecture for a course on the philosophical approach to the Lunar Way and its limits by the well-known academic Tlacuilolixochitltzin ("Noble Flower of Writing"). They taught this course at the University of the Seven Phases, the University of the Provinces, and the Academica Pelandana, as well as a modified form that was offered at the viharas of Graclodont for a period during the later Seventh Wane.

(5) This term is difficult to translate. I have chosen clarity over the more literal "void of beginning." 

(6) This essay was a common foundational text for both semiotics and probabilities as fields of academic study in Lunar society. 

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