Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Glistening Chamber Codex (or The Nyctythatic Text)

The earliest fragments containing any element of the text appear in Chalcolithic-era Sumeria in cuneiform script. It has been convincingly argued that they are not Sumerian in origin, showing a certain rigidity of grammar suggesting metaphors too-literally translated from older sources.  Even in this earliest incarnation the text references the “narrow tower banded in red higher than all the city” (alu) under the domed roof of whose “highest room” (itima) sits the “glistening” heresiarch by whom the text was commissioned, as well as calculations and (accurate) astronomical observations relevant to the system of “chambers” which forms the text’s core. In some versions the author describes their work as both “counting the city” and in others as “counting the gods”.

Later Assyrian sources are extremely similar, as are Babylonian fragments—though the latter describe the work as “counting the roads” and “counting the prisoners”. There is some evidence of the Babylonian text having been politicized. A version found in Beth Nuhadra refers to the work being commissioned by “a lord in a chamber” with “eyes that speak and this mouth is light”.

A Chinese oracular text of the Spring and Autumn Period (ruthlessly suppressed by the Zhou dynasty) known as the “Court of the Red Marquess” or “Palace of Folding Rooms” is mathematically similar to all of these versions in many respects, though some of the astronomical data appears to contain bodies not yet identified.

The first reference to the necessity of “dividing” or “disordering the chambers” appears in the works of an unnamed Ionian geometer of the 5th century BCE. Modern scholarship is unsure whether the suggestion that dividing the chapters of the “concentric text” one from the next into an “anti-text” is a serious philosophical suggestion or ironic in the manner of Xenophanes’ satires of Pythagoras around the same time.

A papyrus with related formulae distributed around the late first century in a mixture of Coptic and Demotic Egyptian refers to “Sixty Devices and Twelve Plagues Yet Unnamed” (Thirteen in one version). Like many texts of this period it is alleged to be a copy or fragment of the so-called “Book of Thoth”. Some scholars have claimed the Library of Alexandria was burned specifically to destroy it.

The actual Glistening Chamber Codex appears in the historical record thereafter: 12.5 inches tall, 8.4 inches wide, bound in an unidentified leather and written on goat(?)skin parchment, purporting to be a Latin translation of a Greek translation of a text discovered in “The script of Canaanites” (probably Hebrew). By all accounts it was, despite clear evidence of handling and travel, a textually undamaged and continuous mathematical and philosophical treatise describing a system of occult knowledge based on the concept of a series of 78 (“sixty and then six and six and six again”) “essential chambers” in which certain archetypal events and persons occur and, properly manipulated, can be expected to “swallow themselves” and reveal other “chambers of another city”. The most intriguing fact about the Codex was not appreciated until the 19th century, when the logosyllabic cuneiform of the aforementioned Sumerian fragments was translated and the texts were found to be nearly identical to the Codex.

The book was first found in the library of the astronomer and gambler Nyctythasis, condemned to death by dismemberment after the synod of Zaragoza in 380 as an addendum to the condemnation of Priscillianism. Sources within the church thereafter refer to the book (inevitably in hushed tones and only in private commnications) as “The Nyctythatic Text”.

Efforts to destroy the codex and the philosophy it espoused (or was alleged to espouse) had decidedly mixed success—throughout the esoteric writings of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, even in Christian texts, there are allusions to “a locus concentrycal”, “a chambred laborynth”, “chambres that go glisnynge a midde towres” and “blacker sterres incased wythyn the brycht sterres visyble” and 15th century grimoires such as the Synapothanumenon are considerably more explicit.

Certain temples in Uttar Pradesh constructed during India’s Pala period seem to be mathematically inconceivable without access to the Glistening Chamber formulae.

The book itself does not reappear in any records until the late 1400s when the Italian-suited Tarot de Marseille had become popular as a gaming deck, likely originating across the Mediterranean. At this point the Codex fell into the hands of the Augsburg merchant, occultist and manuscript collector Claus Spaun who immediately recognized the congruity of imagery and numerology between the system described in the Codex and the then-current version of the tarot playing-card deck, especially considering Classical commentary that the chambers should be “disordered” and “divided”. The Tarot was simply an attempt to place the Chambers in their proper order. Rather than publish his discoveries, Spaun elected to continue his researches in secret and the book itself passed into rumor for the next 500 years. Word of the conjunctions Spaun had found within esoteric circles eventually lead Antoine Court de Gébelin to publish his own theories of the occult meaning of the Tarot in 1781, although there is no evidence Gébelin ever had access to the Codex.

The original Codex was last seen in the hands of British linguist and architect Frederick Chester-Harping (a protege of Sir John Soane and Joseph Michael Gandy) who suffocated to death in 1873 while attempting to construct a building replicating the principles of the Codex in an unknown location. However, handmade copies have allegedly been found in the archives of industrialist and art collector J Paul Getty and in a public library in the abandoned coal-fire town of Centralia, Pennsylvania.

From Demon City, which you can support here.



Al Sotack said...

Yes! Sweet Centralia reference! (But there’s no library there.)

Charles A said...

Love the Borgesian vibe.