Monday, March 10, 2014

PPSY 311: A Lexicon of Devils

Here's another player-facing handout from my old Unknown Armies-esque City of Ocean campaign. As I mentioned in the last post, it had high weirdness. I actually only began planning and thinking about the campaign after I wrote this piece. Originally I'd thought of it as a weird fiction-experiment, a syllabus from a world with an infestation of demons and debate about what that implied. 

PPSY 311: A Lexicon of Devils
Class Prerequisites: PPSY101: Introduction to Parapsychology; PPSY231: Experimental Methodology; either PPSY263: Case Studies in Parapsychology or PPSY271: Symbolic State Manipulation; or Instructor Approval.

Course Description: The problem of Devils has plagued humanity since the earliest records; the cave paintings of Lascauex include references to at least two of the seventeen archetypes. Archaeologists have uncovered skeletal remains from the earliest periods of humanity showing that the physical effects of Devil Manifestation. Most theological writings deal with Devils in some form or another, usually associating archetypal manifestations with primarchs. Nearly all that the common man on the street knows about devils comes from a tradition of superstition and hearsay, rather than actual science.

The nineteenth and twentieth centuries, however, witnessed a move to realistically assess devils in light of modern knowledge of social science, physics and parapsychology. To that end, this course will explore the major theories concerning devils, their origins, manifestation sources, historical contradictions, symbolic importance, archetypal and primarch differences, and methodology of control.

The most influential theories can be summed up as follows:
Theological: The devils represent a force of evil in opposition to whatever greater force of good (or simply creation) a person follows. Manifestation of a devil must be tied to a particular sin or failing on the part of a person. Alternatively, it represents a divine punishment on a community as a whole. Which of the seventeen archetypes a person manifests depends on the nature of the transgression or sin. This is probably the most influential theory today. Note, however, that there are enough variations on this model (Gnostic, Islamic, Christian Scientist) as to make calling it a single theory laughable.

Historical: The devils existed in prehominid times. Their civilization, known as Mu or more commonly Atlantis, was for the most part destroyed by physical crisis of some kind. From that point forward, the remaining “devils” degenerated and declined. During the middle ages, a small civilization of devils involved themselves in human society with the creation and subsequent collapse of what has come to be called Atlantis Omega. From them on, devils only existed in obscure places as fodder for cryptozoological parapsychologists to uncover in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This model focuses solely on “primarch” devils, those not manifested in human beings. Indeed, this theory denies any connection between manifested devils and primarchs, which are simply another species.

Atavistic/Genetic: The devils represent a “racial” or genetic memory. The claim is that the DNA of devils from the times of the Atlantis Alpha civilization intermingled with that of humans. The manifestation of a devil and the subsequent psychic abilities and physical changes in a person represent a throwback. The seventeen archetypes are simply bloodlines or ethnic groups from Atlantis Alpha civilization. Yet, the exact genetic cause of these throwbacks remains uncertain. This theory has many highly respected supporters. However, its most dangerous application came in the Nazi Era, making it suspect to many today. The completion of the Human Geneome Project has also been sadly lacking in providing any real evidence for this theory.

Liminal: This theory suggests that the devils are simply an important set of symbolic concepts, developed through history in legend and based on earlier contacts with primarch or “in-the-flesh” devils. From this, the seventeen devil archetypes emerged. When a person undergoes a significant transformation, moving into a “liminal” or “in-between” state, associated with the manifestation of psychic powers, this crisis causes them to fall back on these archetypes to explain the changes happening to them. These stories then reshape and warp their own natural transformation into these “devils.” Supporters of this theory point to the “non-devil” psychics of the last three decades as evidence that acceptance and understanding can prevent transformation into devils. This theory has gained strength in modern times. However, the connection between the archetypes and the devils leads to a “chicken or the egg” question. Much of the evidence for this theory also rests on negative proof and anecdote.

Other Theories: Beyond these theories, we will also look at discredited and fringe ideas including the Fortean “Alien Invader” theory and the argument for the presence of angels.

Throughout this course we will be dealing will issues and beliefs which make run against the grain of what you have been previously taught. You must come to class with an open mind and a willingness to engage in reasoned debate on these topics. If you cannot, then this is not the class for you.

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