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On Ether, Magic, and Zohar
by Ricky Romaya


The other day, Seraphim Ephyon email me with his Ether Transfer theory, explaining how, at least for Contacts, can undergo body-swapping, but still retain several characteristics intact. This is a response to my questions in "About The Memories of Miang" article. The argument (correct me if I'm wrong) is, for every Contact, Elhayym, and Miang, they have the same Ether Reaction Analysis regardless who the specific Contact, Elhaym, or Miang is. By this, it means that Abel, Kim, Lacan, and Fei all have the same Ether Reaction Analysis, because all of them are Contacts. All Elhayym have the same Ether Reaction Analysis, but not necessarily the same to those of Contacts or Miang.

As a matter of fact, I haven't give this Ether Transfer, or all general references of Ether in the game, much of a thought, until he brought it up. I have to admit that his theory is plausible in explaining memory transfers, if only I haven't read Perfect Works (PW). Now, I'm torn, and thinking seriously about tossing information from the PW out of the window.

I hope with this article I can explain why.

Ether, as Defined in PW

--<start quote>--

"Ether" is a form of energy that certain people can use in conjunction with Zohar and works much like the Slave Generator; since energy requests placed by humans are not subject to the limits of a Slave Generator, a more precise amount of energy may be requested of Zohar.

Strictly speaking, the phenomenon alteration that occurs while energy is being allotted to a Slave Generator functions similarly to the energy allotment process of humans; those who access Zohar can change the outcome of events through Ether.

--<end quote>--

Now, the quote from PW above about Ether implicitly suggests that a human (animus) who interact directly with Zohar receives energy to alter the future, which means it is the human which alter the future. This is misleading, if not contradictive. It is Zohar which have the ability to directly, or in other word, magically, alter the future.

Zohar Mechanics in a Nutshell

Zohar mechanics, I suspect, borrows from Alternate History Interpretation (AHI) of quantum mechanics.

You may know Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics, as it's been commonly exploited in many Science Fiction movies/stories (like Sliders). In this interpretation, all possibilities exists in parallel, creating many parallel worlds. The world we live is only one of many such worlds. In other world, other possibilities which are not exist in our world exists, i.e. in our world Nazi lost the WWII, but on other world, Nazi wins.

In 1997, Max Tegmark proposed an experiment to prove the MWI. It requires you holding a gun to your head and fire it. MWI says that at least 2 worlds came to existence, the one where you're dead, and the other (for whatever reasons) you're not. But, as we know from common experience, the world where you're dead is the most probable to be our next reality. Until this day, I've known no (sane) scientist dare to undergo the experiment.

AHI is similar to MWI, except instead of many worlds existing in parallel, only the actual outcome exists as the real world, and the ones which are not does not exists (for the scientifically inclined, search for "wave function collapse" keywords on the web, in the context of quantum mechanics, and find out how you can be everywhere in the universe in the same time).

In Xenogears, the idea of AHI/MWI is extended, in which the potential probability of a phenomenon in becoming the next reality is known in advance. In the gun experiment, it is highly probable that you're dead, only a tiniest possibility (if any) that you're not dead after shooting yourself in the head.

Zohar, as PW explains, alters the probability of the future phenomenon, from the most probable, to the most improbable. In the gun experiment, Zohar make the probability of you're not dead to be the most probable outcome. It done this by tilting the temporal axis from it's original inclination. As the temporal axis resets to it's original inclination (after phenomenon alteration), energy is generated. This is how Zohar produces energy.

General Mechanics of Magic

The word magic generally means:

"Bending the physical world to achieve desired outcome"

Magic, however it may defined, in whatever world (be it fantasy or the real world), always incorporate these steps, either implicitly or explicitly:

  1. Drawing raw energy from some source
  2. Refining the drawn energy
  3. Targeting
  4. Releasing refined energy to the target

You must have energy to bend the future, hence the drawing of energy. The drawn energy could not be used at will. It must be refined to achieve maximum, or any, effect. After refining, you must know where you're targeting the energy at, know what have to be changed to achieve the desired effects. If all done, then you release the energy to the intended target, hoping the change will bend the future as you see fit.

Of all the steps above, the most dangerous and tiring step is the refining process. Even the tiniest mistake will cost you your life. Contrary of many RPG out there which based magic solely on IQ, INT, or WISDOM attribute, a magician must also have strong stamina. The generic name of the ability to refine the drawn energy is Mana. As for the energy, it have many names, and one of the common one is Ether.

Magics and Zohar

Magic in Xenogears, at a glance, is similar to other RPG/Fantasy story out there. However, PW details that magic in Xeno is unique. It is all because of Zohar, the pseudo-perpetual engine, the machine which generate infinite energy by altering the future phenomenon.

Now, let's take an example of what have been discussed so far. The source of all energy in Xeno world is from Zohar. So the mechanics of a sample case of you against Mike Tyson would be like this:

  1. Imagine you're ultra frail, where a slight gush of wind would knock you dead, are challenging Mike Tyson in a duel to the death, over a girl.
  2. You're thinking as hard as you can that you can kill Tyson in a single blow.
  3. Zohar receive your thoughts, altering some future events and generates energy, which is then sent to you.
  4. You receive the energy from Zohar, and use it somehow to alter future event (at least, you think the future event is Tyson uses his pinky to knock you dead).
  5. Because of your "future alteration," you blow Tyson to death only with your breath.

In step 2 and 3 you draw energy from a source, which is Zohar. In 4 you refine, target, and release that energy, and on 5 you got what you want. What is wrong with this picture?

Remember, Zohar generates energy by changing future phenomenon, from the most probable to most improbable. In this sense, see the similarity of what magic generally means, changing the future.

Now, why do you want to use magic again? To change the future you say. You draw the energy that you'll be using to change the future. Only AFTER you have the energy, you change the future. But Zohar mechanics says that Zohar generates energy, the very energy you use to change the future, by changing the future. This is the same as saying you are changing a future which have been changed. The future have changed TWICE, one made by Zohar, then another by you. IMHO this is a paradox, and I call it Double Alteration Paradox.

Now let's view this in another way, say that there are two futures involved, the immediate and final future. The immediate future comes before the final future in the time line. Let's see, the final future in the above illustration is you some how kill Tyson. To this end, you draw energy from Zohar to be refined, target, and release. Zohar, on the other hand, needs to change the future in order to supply you with the energy. Let's say that the future changed by Zohar is the immediate future. That solve the Double Alteration Paradox, right? Not quite.

What if, the immediate future, as changed by Zohar contradicts the final future you're working on? Say that you're drawing energy from Zohar to make yourself stronger, but the immediate future is Tyson is Superman. Now you need more energy from Zohar to counter Superman, but who knows what other immediate future Zohar have in store for you.

Even if the immediate future does not (directly) contradict, you may not like the overall outcome. Remember that you're fighting Tyson over a girl, which let's say, is your girlfriend. How do you like the immediate future of having your girlfriend switched to be his, in order to supply you with energy to beat Tyson? This kinda beat the purpose of challenging Tyson in the first place, isn't it? Or having the immediate future of your mother died. Does beating Tyson worth losing your mother?

The moral of Double Alteration Paradox is: you may not like the overall outcome of magic, or you may have to undo the alteration made earlier by Zohar when it generates the energy for you.

PW to The Rescue: Actual Magic Mechanics in Xeno

The actual mechanics listed in PW is like this:

  1. You're an ultra frail person, challenging Tyson in a duel.
  2. You're thinking as hard as you can that you can kill Tyson in a single blow.
  3. Zohar receives the thought and alters the future according to that thought, and generate energy along the way.
  4. You kill Tyson by a single blow because of future alteration made by Zohar.

Now, there's no paradox. Zohar alters the future for you. There are no Double Alteration Paradox, no alteration which you may need to alter/undo. Zohar reads your thought and understand what is need to be altered. This mechanics is indeed enforced in the PW again and again (at least in the science chapter).

I guess it is safe to say, that unlike any other RPG/Fantasy story, magic, as defined in PW, is (in my own words):

"An alteration of future phenomena done by Zohar on behalf of conscious (human/animus) being"

If Ether is the energy generated by Zohar as it change the future, then Ether is not the fuel of magic, but the byproduct of it.

Where It All Go?

This raise the question though, what happens to the energy Zohar sent to you? What become of Ether as in the quote in the beginning of this article? This is one of the contradiction I want to highlight. PW doesn't explain this in a bit. So, I must say,

"Surgeon General's Notice: Using magic IS extremely hazardous for your health!"

Remember the discussion of general magic mechanics. Usually, it's the refinement process which is the most hazardous. But in magic as defined in PW, it is the drawing process which causes problems.

From the ether/magic mechanics listed in PW, you don't have to refine the energy, target it, and release it, because the mere act of drawing energy already realize what you intended to do with magic. Zohar made it real for you. Which means, you draw more and more energy as you use more "magic." But your body, no matter who you are, animus or not, could only store so much energy. When this capacity overloaded, your body will begin to take it's toll, and eventually you're dead from energy overdose.

You must release/channel your energy you get from Zohar. Maybe, this is what those fancy lights you see in the game when you use Ether meant to be, energy release:)

Ether Transfer and Ether as a Soul

As can be seen from previous discussion, I assume you can see why I don't think much of Ether Transfer, at least up until now. What good does it make transferring a byproduct from one body to another. If the analogy is soul transfer, then it's the same as saying that souls are byproducts.

Yes, in the game, Ether is treated as the fuel of magic, hence there should be no surprise if anyone relate it to soul. But the PW made it clear (or half clear) that this is not the case. Heck even PW contradicts itself when discussing about what ether is, and ether mechanics. The quoted text from PW seemed to support Ether as magical fuel, but the mechanics illustration says that it is Zohar that alters the future.

Seraphim Ephyon, and all who agrees with Energy Transfer theory, don't get me wrong. I didn't say that you're wrong, but I merely shows that there are contradictions between your theory and PW. If PW doesn't exists, or I haven't read it, I surely will agree with you. This is why I said I'm thinking of tossing PW information out the window. Just too many contradictions.

The concept of Ether Reaction Analysis reminds me of the concept of Aura, the energy (IINM) which emanates from all living beings. Each individual beings have a distinct signature, but this signature is affected by numerous factors. If Ether Reaction Analysis is the parallel for aura detection, yes anyone could argue (to a limited extent) that all Contacts have the same readings. If the concepts of ether as discussed earlier is incorporated, it can mean that each ether user have a distinct way in releasing ether received from Zohar, but that's it. The Ether Reaction Analysis do not explain how it is possible for two persons, separated by many generations, have the same readings.

Let's continue to one of profound question about Ether, in that matter the overall of Zohar, mechanics I have. I've told you when discussing about Ether mechanics as listed in PW as non-paradox solution. Scratch that. There is one fundamental paradox in all Zohar mechanics.

The Ultimate Question of Zohar Mechanics

In closing of this already long article, I'll leave you with this.

Let's see an example, two Ether user (animus) is on each other's throat. Let's call them A an B. Both of them are using Ether to kill each other. The mechanics, according to PW, should be:

  1. A and B is thinking really heard on how each kill another.
  2. Zohar receives both thought.
  3. Zohar generates energy by altering the future according to BOTH thought
  4. A and B get what they desire

You can see both step 3 and 4 have paradox. Zohar receives both A's thought to kill B, and the opposite, B's thought to kill A. Which then will Zohar realize? And because step 4 stems directly from step 3, the paradox continues. This is what I call the Opposition Paradox.

There are 2 ways to resolve the Opposition Paradox:

  1. Zohar must decide which thought it will comply to (either A or B, but not both), or comply to both thought (A and B end up dead), or none at all (A and B back to square one)
  2. Use approaches which risks Double Alteration Paradox (i.e. using ether to empower the requestor to alter the future by himself)

Actually, there is a third alternative, which I call Universal States. I won't delve it here, cause it's long, and based solely on a world view which may be foreign to scientific/western mindset.

There's nothing I want to add to the second alternative, but the first alternative have huge impact. In short, it means that Zohar is God himself, acting as the ultimate jury and determine all fate. Then, the one who control Zohar is controlling a God, and himself is beyond God.

This raises a mind boggling question, why WE, if he controls Zohar (as suggested by someone to me) do not use the phenomenon alteration mechanism to free himself. After all, with Zohar, he could alter the most probable future phenomenon of still confined in Zohar to the improbable future phenomenon of being freed from Zohar. Heck, he could alter the future of the universe to undergone the great contraction (opposite of big bang) at a whim. Then why need Deus as a weapon when you could wipe out your enemies with phenomenon alteration.

Maybe there's some limitation to Zohar, but the charts of Zohar mechanics section sure don't show this, cause it shows that it can make a phenomenon of probability 0 (ultimately not possible) to be the most probable future phenomenon.

Gah, now I'm rambling out of context. Maybe it's best to end this article here.

Thanks for reading this far

PS: I'm using U-Tic.org's translation of Perfect Works, plus the scanned pages of the original pages of the Science chapter (page 71-77), provided by someone whose name remains anonymous until I get his permission to disclose it.

Even I'm thinking of tossing PW out of the window, I would be delighted if someone could provide me the scans of the history chapter (page 6-17) and translations of the Social Structure, Characters, and Gear chapters (direct translations, no additional information added, please). Maybe I could use it not to understand Xeno, but as an entirely (alternate) different story.

Xenogears and everything in it are copyright Squaresoft. I claim no credit for their work/property. All artwork and stories belong to their respective artists and authors.