by Fake Zen Master and his friends
In a rocky hollow below the mountainside, Taro stood before
the rock of Decision, staring at the stone pillar that rose almost
to the level of his head and concentrating his inner energy into
his hand as he held it before him, To one side, the Master,
Rob, looked on impassively, while the three other initi-
ates of the school sat watching from behind and the monks
stood in a silent circle, projecting sympathetic thought rays.
"Believe now," Rob told him. "There must be no
holding back. Let no part of you doubt."
This had to be the moment of complete faith. Taro focused
all the effort that he had learned to muster. His hand glowed,
then shone with an inner light.
"Now!" the Master commanded.
Taro drove his hand against the solid rock. The rock
yielded, and his hand passed through. He held it steady, inside
the pillar, feeling the strange sensation of directed energy cours-
ing through him, and the exhilaration of mater being subor-
dinated to his will.
The power was starting to ebb. If he faltered now, the rock
would rematerialize with all the crushing force that bound its
particles together. Gathering his remaining strength, he passed
his hand slowly sideways, causing the rock to part before and
reconstitute itself behind, flowing over him as if it were water,
until his hand emerged unscathed from the other side of the
pillar. The glow flickered and died. Exhausted but ecstatic,
Taro stood while rob placed across his shoulder a
sash bearing the emblem of the purple spiral. He then moved to
take his place among the new adepts on one side of the circle.
Later, when the rites were over, the new adepts sat facing the
Master across a hearth of stones in which a fire had been lit.
From the night sky above, Duchamp looked down upon his own.
A few filaments of currents traced their lines toward it-Thrax
had learned to see them by now. In earlier times, the longer-
established monks said, to the eyes of an adept the entire vista
of the skies had writhed and twisted in fantastic patterns of
"What shall we find in Cyberia?" one of the novices asked
the Master. Rob had seen the visions borne by the
"It will happen suddenly," Rob answered. "You will
emerge as a new being, a being born to the ways of Cyberia. All
will be new and strange."
"Is it true that madness lurks to afflict the unwary?" another
"There are risks. You will be tested. The being which thou art
must subdue the being which thou strivest to become. Madness
indeed lies in wait for those who ride up on the currents, but
whose training is not complete. Beware those of divided minds,
whom the conflict rages within. Seek strength from Nieru when
"What?" Taro queried. "Does Duchamp exist, then, even in the
world beyond Art, also?"
"Seek his sign of the pruple spiral," Rob replied.
"For that shall be the sign under which his followers gather.
Know then that these are thy kind, and let that be the source
of thy strength."
"And will they teach us of the Cyberian magic?" the next
"Cyberia will teach you its own magic."
"Magical laws?" Thrax said. "Artifacts that repeat? Objects
"Artifacts beyond your wildest imaginings," the Master an-
"Everywhere? So does Cyberian magic extend over the
"The whole world...and places far beyond, and across the
voids between. Cyberians journey among many, magical
A sysop nodded. "For one thing, they're all very unscientific.
Chronically unscientific. I don't mean simply low in aptitude;
they lack the basic conceptual machinery that makes any ratio-
nal account of an objective world possible. They don't seem to
share the ordinary, commonsense notions of causality and con-
sistency that you have to have, even to begin understanding the
universe. You'd almost think they weren't from this universe at
"Can you give some instances?"
"Fundamental things-things that any six-year-old wouldn't
think twice about," Sysop answered. "We take it for granted,
for example, that objects remain unaltered by changes in loca-
tion or orientation; that things measure the same in the evening
as they do in the morning; that the same causes always produce
the same results. Children grasp such fundamentals naturally.
But the-what did you call them?"
"A number of common themes
reappear continually beneath the superficial differences of what
the various cults preach. They go back a long way, and cut
across boundaries of nation, race, creed, geographic area and
historical age. One of them is this notion we've already men-
tioned of persons being suddenly 'possessed,' somehow. It's
always in the same kind of way: they usually switch to a new
life-style; their value system and their conceptual world model
change; and they lose rationality."
A sysop watched the screen, grim-faced. "They might be crazy.
But we're not dealing with any Hare Krishnas," he mu-
tered. "Whatever's going on here, those guys are serious."
Some inner inspiration had told Taro, the Deliverer, that
the time to act was now. One of the qualities that characterized
greatness was the gift of judging tide and moment by an un-
sensed, intuitive process that dwelt deep below thought, and
then delivered its verdict to consciousness fully formed and
complete, like the solution to an elaborate, invisible piece of
computation appearing suddenly on a screen.
With the removal of Rob, the Art's entire organization
was not only in disarray, but fragmenting. Already, its mem-
bers were being racked with doubts, and warring factions
claimed their shares of followers as rival worthies expounded
different interpretations of what had taken place. Some dis-
missed the event as a spectacular piece of chicanery engineered
by some hostile interest; at the opposite extreme, others had no
doubt of its authenticity as a manifestation of powers operating
from beyond the purview of everyday experience. If the Art's
archprelate and guide had been defenseless against such pow-
ers, then the most fundamental tenets of its doctrines were
Taro had good reason to be pleased.
Even if the means had been a little dishonest, the
believers needed this demonstration to prepare them for the
supreme effort. It was a temporary deception, made necessary
by the circumstances. True powers would come to him again
when active art system was restored.
Taro firmly believed that in the convolutions of complex-
ity that became the active art system, there had come into being a channel
to forces beyond the physical, which his affinity with the ma-
chine enabled him to access. Indeed, he believed himself to be,
literally, an embodiment of those forces: a personification of
the method that the active art system, through the genius that had emerged
within its confines, had created to extend itself into the external
He didn't know the precise procedure the active art system had fol-
lowed to free itself; he left matters of technical detail to lesser
intellects. There had been a confused period many years before
in his early life on Jevlen, after which he was able to recall
nothing of what went before. But in compensation he found
that he possessed uncommon abilities. In particular, when he
discovered the neurocoupler links into the active art system, he could con-
verse with voices inside the system in ways that others around
him seemed unable to do. Or at least, most others. For as he
continued groping his way and reorienting himself to the sud-
den changes that he was told had taken possession of him, he
met others who were apart, like himself: the "artists," as
they were called. Some of them proclaimed it openly and were
received as inspired or insane. Others harbored their knowledge
secretly. But all shared the experience of remembering a world
beyond the senses which the unenlightened were incapable of
grasping, save in only the most simplistic and symbolic terms.
Taro saw himself as one of psychos such as van Gogh, Nietzsche,
Lawrence, and Nijinsky, by the sensitivity of seeing too much
and too deep. Every body was born with the mystical spark
dormant within them, but its potential was quenched by the
modern world's delusions of objectivity and rationality. Preoc-
cupation with the external, and the false elevation of science as
the way to find knowledge and salvation, had diverted human-
ity from the inner paths that mattered. He particularly detested
the general adulation accorded to the "practical." Aristo-
phanes had ridiculed Socrates, and Blake had hated Newton
for the same reason.