For the past several weeks, I’ve been immersed in the pages of Alan Moore’s magnum opus Jerusalem. I’m still shy of the halfway mark in this mammoth, 1,250 page tome, but so far as I can tell from what I’ve read, the overarching theme of the book seems to be an exploration of the four-dimensional topology of divine providence.
This past New Year’s Eve, a few hours before midnight, when I ought to have been at a bar, I was instead in Moore’s fictional realm of Mansoul – though, to be fair, it’s neither Moore’s nor fictional. Mansoul was a name first given by Bunyan in his lesser known allegorical work The Holy War Made by King Shaddai Upon Diabolus, to Regain the Metropolis of the World, Or, The Losing and Taking Again of the Town of Mansoul. As to its fictitiousness, it aligns with Moore’s actual theology as expressed in interviews and encoded throughout his writings, particularly Promethea.
Moore’s own version of Mansoul, or the Second Borough as he also calls it, corresponds closely with the sephirot of Yesod in the Hermetic Qabalah, which served as the setting of Promethea #14. Mansoul is the habitation of the dead and dreaming, made of memories and evanescent imagery. Likewise, dead shades, fictional characters and men’s memories mingle with one another all in Yesod, a realm of imagination, sexual fantasy, and unconsciousness, whether that be due to death or dreaming. This Second Borough occupies a position just “Upstairs” of the First Borough, which is itself the material world with which we’re most familiar.
Yesod is the Ninth Sphere, located directly above the Tenth Sphere of Malkuth, also associated with the material plane and waking life, though it is the second sphere on Promethea’s path (or any pilgrim’s) into higher consciousness. Above Mansoul, in what is presumably the Third Borough, of which the characters have caught only far-off glimpses, is a realm of mathematics made manifest, of platonic forms contorted into hypercubic cumuli composed of twisted-up tesseracts. Above Yesod is the eighth sphere of Hod, associated with math and language, which give shape and structure and form to ideas. Jerusalem and Promethea seem to share the same roadmap of reality.
Realizing this connection, I decided to take a break from the former to quickly reread Promethea #14, to parse out potentially more parallels between Mansoul and Yesod. But in seeing the covers to the series on the screen of my iPad, I was instantly reminded that issue 11 took place on New Year’s Eve of 1999, and it struck me as appropriate to begin there instead. Reading on through issue 12 – inarguably the greatest comic in the history of the medium, and unlikely ever to be topped – I came across a prophecy Moore made, but which in all my many times reading through had never struck me as significant till then. Indeed, I had forgotten it was there at all. To be clear, as a work of metafiction, the prophecy in question was not in reference to the fictional world of Promethea, but to the “real” world of the reader (Moore would point out that fictions are no less real, one of the overarching themes of Promethea).
Moore predicted that, due to Moore’s Law (a different Moore, though the former would deny mere coincidence), the end of the world as we know it would occur by the end of 2017. Strictly speaking, Moore’s Law merely refers to the doubling in density of transistors per integrated circuit at around a pace of eighteen to thirty-six months. But since Intel co-founder Gordon Moore first applied such to circuitry, others have observed similar trends of exponential growth across technological fields and even in the sum total of human knowledge, referred to as accelerated change.
Futurists such as Ray Kurzweil use the argument from accelerated change to extrapolate a technological singularity – the point past which no predictions can be made, as the paradigm of human intelligence is finally overtaken by either artificial or augmented superintelligence. Alan Moore’s own interpretation is less focused on the technological means of processing information and more so on sum total of such and our access to it, resulting in a vision of the future closer to Teilhard and Tipler’s Omega Point.
The text of the prophecy, found on the penultimate page of the issue, is as follows:
“Apocalypse, as “world’s end” seen,
Need only Revelation mean.
Our world of ideas, set alight,
By information, fierce and bright.
Man’s knowledge doubles, it appears,
Just less than every couple years.
Man’s last two years more breakthroughs see
Than all your previous history.
It’s said, by twenty-seventeen
This doubling’s each half-second seen.
Here information’s flashpoint looms.
Its blaze reveals, as it consumes.
Men judge themselves in this new light.
One worldview’s crashed, the next takes flight.
One aeon’s burned by this knowledge-flash,
New consciousness born from its ash….”
To this Promethea asks, “Then the world ends by 2017? What happens next?” In reply, she’s told:
“Mankind moves from the earthly plane
To moon’s imaginary domain.
(Already work and play take place,
Increasingly, in virtual space).
Man’s path through matter’s warfields, led
To this dream-realm that waits ahead.
Where we may lift our gaze and see,
O’er head the soul’s infinity.
Rejoice! This is the promised time
Of earth’s ascent to realms sublime.
Imagination’s endless dance
Is mankind’s jeweled inheritance.”
The reference here to an ascent from an earthly plane to a lunar one should be read in the light of what Moore says elsewhere about the earthly sphere of Malkuth/the First Borough and the lunar sphere of Yesod/the Second Borough. Essentially, his claim is such that even as materialism as a worldview has declined in the waning years of the 20th century and on through the early days of the new millennium, a parallel development has seen both an increase in new means of accessing information as well as an exponential growth in the sum total of that information, with the result of these developments being an impending imaginative and spiritual revolution for mankind.
That his magnum opus should drop right on the eve of this prophesied revolution suggests to me that, even if he does not regard such as self-fulfilling, he himself nevertheless intends for it to be fulfilled through his actions instead of in spite of them. After first reading Promethea, and once again in reading Jerusalem, my own thinking has become closely aligned to Moore’s, to the point that he and Grant Morrison are among the few men I’d consider coreligionists. I strongly differ from Moore only in regards to my deism (versus his pantheism), and disagree with him only on the fluidity (versus the fixity) of gender. In most other matters, I’ve been persuaded by the explanatory power and architectonic structure of the metanarrative he proposes, or else found preexisting agreement with him.
Not that I imagine I’d be the only individual such a renowned voice would influence. While Promethea is woefully obscure in comparison to other works of his, such as Watchmen or Miracleman, Jerusalem has already assured its place as the first literary work of the 21st century to be one day included in the Western Canon. This is an enduring epic of the same skill and scale as Dante’s Divine Comedy and Milton’s Paradise Lost, and will be similarly studied in schools and critiqued by critics for as long as language endures. Thus, even as the mode of men’s consciousness is changed, according to his prediction, the content of their beliefs will likewise be profoundly influenced by the cultural and individual impact this work is sure to produce – slowly at first, but accumulating over time, not merely as more individuals begin to engage and agree with Moore, but even as each individual comes to agree more with Moore through rereading these new sacred texts and exegeting new insights each time.
As an example, the twin snakes spiraled around the caduceus who give Promethea the prophecy are named Mike and Mack. Although I’d read this issue over a dozen times, it was only on New Year’s Eve that I’d realized that this was in reference to the principle of Microcosm and Macrocosm, which postulates that both the human soul and the heavens and earth share the same structure as one another, simply on different scales, otherwise stated “As above, so below” (which, more than any Christian adage, is the most repeated phrase across the writings of C.S. Lewis). Indeed, it is not merely the grand totality of existence and the individual man which shares the structure of the Tree of Life, but such is an omnipresent pattern, a fractal repeating endlessly in infinitely larger and smaller scales.
As I was interrupted from meditating on this matter by a seemingly unrelated crisis, I called a close friend to consult with him as to a proper course of action, and once that business had been settled he began to tell me that he’d been ringing in the New Year by reading William Blake, trying to find where specifically in Blake’s writings he’d gotten the impression that the poet was conceiving of fractal patterns when he’d used the word “infinity.” It’s then that I shared my own insights from that evening and, even as I did, recognized that in reading so much regarding the patterns of providence, I’d begun to see the world more readily through that lens, not accepting as mere chance or coincidence that I’d rediscover Moore’s musing on 2017 mere moments before that auspicious year rang in. Nor that a friend and I should have exactly the same insight at exactly the same moment despite the distance which separated us.
I cannot exhort you enough to read both Promethea and Jerusalem. They are powerfully profound works that will prove both mind-changing and, indeed, life-changing.