The Elder Scrolls

Sotha Sil against Numidium: Some observations on “The Truth in Sequence”

If you've read The Truth in Sequence, you'll probably remember the eye-catching description of Numidium in Book 5:

But most profane is this: the walking horror that bears the Name, NM. The Brass Tower of Vanity. The mindless guardian of the Nirn-Prior. The Antipodal-God-Thing that reigns on the darkest pole of the sacred Nirn-Sphere. Of all the threats to Tamriel Final, NM is the greatest. Anuvanna'si. The Daedra can be banished in thought, but NM must be sundered on Nirn. It is the welded knot at the center of Anu that must be untied. The God-Puzzle. The Mainspring Ever-Wound remains silent on this point. And where there is silence, there is great wisdom. (Book 5)

And there are other indications that Sotha Sil views Numidium as his primary enemy. ESO reveals that Clockwork City's regulating intelligence AIOS is programmed to recognise three existential threats to the city, naming Numidium as the first:

Threat analysis prepared: Prospect Numidium: negative. Prospect Almalexia: negative. Prospect Erasure: negative. No existential threat detected. (Aios)

Any giant stompy time-breaking robot is going to be threatening to most people, but being listed alongside and even before Seht's own future murderer and "erasure" is some prestigious company. Why is Numidium so threatening and "profane"?

The answer seems to lie in the project of the Dwemer embodied by Numidium, which TiS presents as an exact inverse of Sotha Sil's own plan:

The glorious unity of Tamriel Final demands convergence. Anuvanna'si. Mer and machine made whole. Nature and engineering made whole. The past and the future made whole. (Book 11)

vs.

Where the Mainspring Ever-Wound seeks the convergence of the Nirn-Ensuing, the ghosts of the Dwemer cry out: "Multitudes! Multitudes!" Mer and machine, parted. Wisdom and ambition, parted. Made and Unmade, parted. (Book 5)

The headline is "convergence" vs. "multitude". In the metaphysics of The Truth in Sequence, Everything is Anu is One, yet in the imperfection of the existing Nirn-Prior the One is divided into multitudes:

Our lessers know the Source as two forms: Anu and Padomay, but this binary is without merit. One of the Lorkhan's Great Lies, meant to sunder us from the truth of Anuic unity. Our father, Sotha Sil, would have us know the truth: there is no Padomay. Padomay is the absence of value. The lack. A ghost that vanishes at first light. A Nothing. There is only Anu, sundered and known by many names, possessing many faces. The one. (Book 1)

The Truth in Sequence presents the goal as to repair this, ushering in the Nirn-Ensuing by banishing multiplicity—the assertion of specific identities and names. What is blessed by Sotha Sil, repeatedly, is the "Nameless".

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In contrast, "the ghosts of the Dwemer cry out: 'Multitudes!'" They assert identity as supreme. They refuse identification with the Anuic one.

Numidium is particularly threatening to Sotha Sil, then, because it represents the embodied refusal of the Dwemer of the unity of creation. Its activations break the established order of creation—and in the hands of Tiber Septim, it becomes the vehicle for the enormous ambitions of one man (or several).

This explains the somewhat strange reference to Numidium as the "guardian of the Nirn-Prior". It, above anything else, is the ultimate symbol and protector of the multiplicity that keeps Nirn in its "imperfect" state.

TiS further brings out the opposition between Seht and the Dwemer by contrasting the Dwemer ruins and their "skittering machines" with the Clockwork City. Clockwork is founded on a principle of synthesis. The Fabricants are cyborgs, not pure machines. TiS describes the city itself in organic terms:

Drink His truth, thick as blood, from the broad black rivers. Feel His breath on your skin—let its dreamy redolence fill your nostrils and sting your eyes. … Great turbines drive memory through a thousand thousand pipes that stretch out like tangled veins, or the golden roots of an ageless tree. (Book 6)

In this sense, for all the superficial similarities, the Dwemer and Sotha Sil can be seen as opposites.

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One of the obscure parts of The Truth in Sequence seems to give a more detailed overview of Sotha Sil's project: the discussion of the three motions in Book 7. First we have the "Motion of Lines", linear motion towards clearly defined end goals, which the book dismisses:

But what profits a man or mer to gaze deep into a single future? The aims of mortals are narrow, far too narrow! To move forward is to ignore infinite angles in favor of one.

Next:

"The Pendulum" or "Named Oscillation" is the tic-tock motion—the motion of entropy and false hope. None but the Clockwork God may claim its dark power. With each wide swing it shouts Lorkhan's lie. "Hail, intentions divided! Hail, cursed multitudes!" … Only the Mainspring Ever-Wound may bear its weight.

I suspect this is something to do with CHIM—recognising the dreamlike unity of existence yet asserting identity against it. The shadow of Numidium looms large here, and the description is in keeping with Sotha Sil's fatalism and the goal of convergence into the one: it weighs on him as necessary for his own divine existence yet ultimately contrary to his final project.

Finally,

Last is the reciprocating motion. "The Sublime Piston." The lover's embrace. Like the Father of Mystery, it gives and takes in equal measure. As the bow upon the strings, it calls forth the sublime. As the carpenter's saw, it wrenches back and forth, sundering the Named pursuits of lesser mer. Only a Nameless heart may harness its strength. The artist, the star-counter, and the engineer call it "muse." The truth-blind multitudes call it "destroyer."

This passage struck me as making virtually the same point that Vivec does, more succinctly, at the end of Sermon 37:

"Love alone and you shall know only mistakes of salt." The worlding of the words is AMARANTH.

And indeed AMARANTH is namedropped outright:

In the Nirn-Ensuing, that which does not move shall be fed to the Kiln-Amaranthine where Seht's quiet wrath burns like the sun (Book 4)

The Truth in Sequence and Sermon 37 both suggest that the ultimate project of the Tribunal's living gods—or at least two of them—was their groping, imperfectly, towards AMARANTH, the birthing of a new world (or "worlding of the words"). In Sotha Sil's case, Clockwork City is his own attempt to realise this—an attempt that we know is rather more flawed than TiS lets on—and Numidium, the God-puzzle and embodied spirit of the Dwemer, is its ultimate obstacle.

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