Mar 15, 2013

The Jar that Was Bigger than the World

On the seventh day I got a pulse on the radar. I woke up the others.
"We found the Interface," I told Mira.
"Are you sure?" she asked, blinking in the green light of dawn.

To be honest, I expected to bump up against another invisible wall.


For this prompt, I imagined a society of scavengers using technology they can't date or comprehend, and the inevitable upset that occurs when they discover that their world is finite, i.e., not only does it feature impassable barriers but it also becomes evident that the world was designed that way. Then there's the concomitant discovery of a book which reveals the way to a unique "Interface" where the creatures can address their creator. Directly. No middlemen.

A page from the Codex Seraphinianus.
Click to enlarge

What price forbidden knowledge?

Occult, where that term refers to the esoteric arts, used to mean "buried" or "lost." Now it's a label marketers use to sell a certain kind of product.

Perhaps the birth of a new occult lies at the intersection of magic, technology, cryptography and art. That's where works like the Codex Seraphinianus come in. Mysteries like number stations and the Voynich Manuscript make life more interesting, don't they?

But, let us return to the Codex. It was created by an Italian architect, Luigi Serafini (hence the Seraphinianus) whose official website is a blank page. A look at the html source reveals this:

Nothing special. Curiouser and curiouser. Is this the result of neglect?
Or is it something else?

Like the Voynich Manuscript, its spiritual forebear, the Codex resists decryption. Not knowing what the Codex is keeps you wondering. To admit that the constructed language of the Codex might not mean anything feels like a bitter concession.

Serafini (b. 1949) has designed chairs, illustrated Kafka's work, collaborated with Federico Fellini. Yet he remains something of a cipher. Where do his ideas come from? What if he taps into something deeply personal and that is the source of his power? There's a lot to learn from this man.

Another page from the Codex.
You can read more about the Codex Seraphinianus at The Believer.

Mysteries have staying power. Aesthetics, which to me represents both the analysis and language of beauty, needs unknown quantities -- like a real-time strategy game needs fog of war. Once you've mapped all the territory, the story ends. What's left to do when the story ends? Go to a place you've never been and start a new one.

by Luigi Serafini

A quick word about the ads that Disqus has decided to display on my site: I can't do anything about them. No matter how often I change the settings on my Disqus dashboard, they won't go away.

But I've decided to keep Disqus. It's a decent commenting system and over two years I've accumulated hundreds of comments on this blog. Imagine losing all that.

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