Form is the Illusion is a book about Relationship Theory, an unusual system of metaphysics developed by the late David Douglas Thompson. Relationship Theory addresses questions of ontology and epistemology in a way that is likely to be of interest to pagans and occultists.
“All paths are eventually cyclical.” (The Six Axioms; David Douglas Thompson)
“Time is a catalogue of cyclical zeds.” (Notes on Relationships; David Douglas Thompson)
Some of the most important aspects of Relationship Theory were never fully explained by my father, only hinted at in cryptic notes and conversations. One section near the end of “Notes on Relationships” shows a diagram of a spiral with two dots at the center, and another diagram showing that a quarter of a wave slope could be interpreted as a radius. The two dots at the center of the spiral are linked by a curved line and seem to indicate the same quarter-wave, but the underlying logic is not explained. There is only the statement that “A quarter wave contains all the info of a full wave,” although this statement takes on added interest when paired with another statement in the notes: “Time is a catalogue of cyclical zeds.”
This may remind some readers of True Detective’s “time is a flat circle,” and it actually means something very similar. A zed cycle or cyclical zed is a repeating pattern of interactions. This relates to one of the six axiom or corollaries to the Ten Laws: “All paths are eventually cyclical.”
The “paths” in question are opposing tendencies in a relationship pattern. As previously discussed, the process of differentiation and opposition is necessary for perception to be possible. When opposites are differentiated, the interaction of those opposing forces will reverse and then repeat itself in an infinite number of iterations. This is essentially the same concept as Yin and Yang in Chinese classical philosophy. When either Yin or Yang becomes too dominant it begins to transform into its own opposite. (This concept was developed at some length by Jason Thompson as the “Zed Tree,” a diagram based on the same idea as the 64 hexagrams of Yin-Yang interactions. The Zed Tree is a very complex topic in its own right but is a separate concept from the original version of Relationship Theory.)
The important point for our current discussion is that relationship patterns loop and repeat themselves in an endless cycle, so “time is a catalogue of cyclical zeds.” Nobody trapped in one of these information loops could ever escape it on their own, because a third party would have to intervene to create any change in the system. Of course, this happens all the time – although most likely as part of an even larger repeating cycle.
At this point in the discussion, David Thompson’s ideas become much stranger, no longer grounded in the theoretical side of the theory although still connected to it. There is a short passage elsewhere in the notebook, separate from the “Notes on Relationships”:
“The way things are is the way they’ve always been. We, the race we call human, are being used, misused, and often abused. By the cold blooded manipulation of our spiritual and emotional lives our 3-D existence is shaped and our minds are programmed toward ends not our own. We are not, as some think, the pawns in some cosmic war but the battleground itself. As battlegrounds are seldom improved by having wars fought on them, it is time to consider whether choosing sides is wise”
As bizarre and paranoid as this may seem, what he’s talking about here is a form of Gnosticism. The passage suggests that our reality is controlled by Archons, entities capable of manipulating us into perceiving what they wish – shaping our reality against our will and without our knowledge. These beings don’t come to us from outside but from within, using our minds as battlegrounds in their secret wars.
“The way things are is the way they’ve always been,” because “time is a catalogue of cyclical zeds” – relationship cycles that repeat and repeat forever without ever really changing. We are effectively trapped into a particular experience of reality by these repeating loops or cycles. Two objects in a relationship with each other can never change that relationship on their own, because cause and effect requires a third party to introduce new information energy into what would otherwise be a static situation. This implies an infinite regress, but not to the benign First Mover of Thomas Aquinas. Instead the cycle of cause and effect goes back to some undefined yet far from benevolent group of entities manipulating our perception and thus our whole reality.
We’re obviously no longer in the realm of rational argumentation here. No arguments are given to support these assertions, only a dark mysticism based on a frightening personal experience.
When David Douglas Thompson first came up with Relationship Theory it was in a dream or a visionary experience. In the same experience he perceived the presence of these entities, Archons as the Gnostics would have called them although my father always referred to them as “the gods.” His interpretation of the vision is one particular worldview, and Relationship Theory tells us to ring the changes on different worldviews. There is no reason to adopt his Gnosticism as a dogma or fixed belief-system, although it is necessary to understand it and ring the changes on it.
My father was a composer as well as an armchair philosopher. While much of his music was light-hearted or even whimsical, some of his most interesting work was heavy to the point of morbidity, including a classical piece called “Jacob at the Pond.” The piano in “Jacob at the Pond” tells a story of tragedy, of some heartbreaking wrong that will never be made right, and of hopeless anger. When asked, he would invariably claim it was about a cat named Jacob playing at a pond. It was actually inspired by a scene in the BBC documentary series The Ascent of Man where Jacob Bronowski visits the pond at Auschwitz and speaks the following words:
“Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz, this is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.”
Relationship Theory was all about the death of absolute knowledge, the necessity of playing with multiple perspectives at the same time in order to approximate a larger truth. He would always say that mankind must somehow overthrow the gods, achieving a new freedom and an apotheosis.
In the final year of his life he composed an album of dark ambient electronic music, Whom the Gods Would Destroy, for which he chose a painting of Prometheus as the intended cover. “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” The music in Whom the Gods Would Destroy sounds discordant and alien, unsettling and anxious. On October 3, 2006 he passed away while competing in the Sunfish World Championships in Charleston, South Carolina.
Although he always referred to the entities he saw in his vision as “the gods” and spoke of overthrowing them, I do not see them as being equivalent to the pagan deities. Pagan deities in general are numinous powers associated with aspects of nature or human culture. They are part of our world, not aliens manipulating it. The entities he was talking about are more like the Gnostic Archons, holding humanity back from its full potential and manipulating the human experience of reality. Thompson seems to have thought of these Archons as supremely powerful (and thus needing to be “overthrown”), but it isn’t necessary to take this position to make use of the concept. The important point here is simply that we can become trapped in repeating patterns and that some entities in information space actively use these patterns to control human consciousness.
If these entities are responsible for keeping us trapped in a looping cycle of relationship patterns that can never really change, there is only one way to overthrow them and achieve the apotheosis my father always spoke of. We must learn how to do what they do. We must become magicians.
By resisting the Archons, we also resist their servants on Earth – the leaders of men. These people seek to manipulate our consciousness to maintain their own wealth and power, just as the Archons do. To resist one is to resist the other.
Image by Theodoor Rombouts