The MUD as a Basis for Western Mysticism


  1. Realms and Worlds
  2. Multi-User Dimensions (MUDs)
  3. The CyberMUD or Cyber Realm, and the NONcyber Realm
  4. Reality, Virtual Reality, and Real Life (RL)
  5. The Real World and RL
  6. RL and MUDs
  7. InterMUD Studies
  8. Entrenchment and Abstraction
  9. The Science of Artistry
by Thyagi NagaSiva

Realms and Worlds

'Realm', 'world' and 'MUD' (Multi-User Dimension, to be defined below), are here synonyms. They describe a bounded sphere of perception. A 'virtual world' is a realm which is apparent to some senses but not to others (whether or not they appear within all dimensions of sensation).

Multi-User Dimensions (MUD)

More specifically then, by MUD we refer to a realm of measurement (dimension) which makes possible or allows more than one (multi) locus of change (user). Where 'realm' and 'world' are fairly ambiguous, MUD is a technical term with specific meaning and synonomous application.

The CyberMUD or Cyber Realm, and the NONcyber Realm

A cybermMUD or 'cyber realm' is one which is reached via a computer (by whatever definition). It may be contrasted with a NONcyber realm in two major ways: A) The cyber realm seems to depend upon the NONcyber realm for its existence (but this cannot be proven), and B) The cyber realm is dependent upon some computer for its ultimate form (whether or not this computer is NONcyber-based).

Reality, Virtual Reality, and Real Life (RL)

The term 'reality' is commonly used as a substitute for 'realm', yet we reserve it for a specific meaning. Here the phrase 'virtual reality' is an oxymoron, and this will become apparent below.

The common assumption is that cyber realms are MUDs and NONcyber realms are NOT (i.e. that NONcyber realms are 'reality'). However, given the definitions above we can posit that what most people call 'real life' (RL) is actually an experience within a NONcyber realm of subjective or objective dimensions.

We have multiple selves, arising from the combined complex of our social roles, that vie for supremacy within the dimension of our personal mindspace. This is the subject dimension, the 'me-MUD'. It includes feelings, thoughts and the entire range of subjective experience.

There appears to be a world of shapes and objects around us. We maneuver, physically, through the familiar subrealms of 'height', 'width' and 'depth' and manipulate or interact with entities and objects within them. This is the object dimension, the 'space-MUD'. It is the one which people assume to be more 'real' based upon their perception that it contains cyberMUDs and gives rise to the me-MUD.

Taking one (NONcyber, space-MUD) as pre-eminent based solely on the grounds of origin (cyber realms seem to originate from NONcyber technologies) is quite commom. For example, many people assume that NONcyber personalities are somehow more 'real' than their cyber counterpart, even if these personae (socially imagined constructs deriving from communication styles and appearance) are comparable in all respects save origin.

That they distinguish one as 'real' and the other as 'virtual' or 'imaginary' displays the bias toward the default dimension (quite reasonably), but tells us nothing about what 'real' means aside from 'preferred' or 'longer-lasting'.

The Real World and RL

We shall here take for our definition of the 'real world' that realm which is a superset of all MUDs. That superset upon which all other dimensions depend is logically the 'real'. Plato claimed that the real world is the world of Forms or Ideas, and many other philosophers offer their own speculation as to what constitutes the 'Source Code of Existence' as we know it.

'The superset of all MUDs' is not an easy concept to understand. It transcends both the MUD of our subjective experience and the MUD of 'space' (I leave 'time', which connects and/or interweaves these two, for future speculation). It is easy to see why any aspect of RL in THIS context must be beyond words to some extent, especially when attempting to ascertain information about 'you' or 'me', or indeed any isolated object/subject.

To say 'I went shopping in RL' would seem not only fallacious, but completely dishonest. No separate 'individual' can ever 'do' anything in 'RL', not when we take it to be this superset, this Unity which includes all dimensions of subject and object.

A note about Unity seems necessary. When speaking of 'Unity', it is not meaningful to compare this with 'Diversity'. The reason for this is that the unity here implied transcends all lingual expressions. For the same reason that 'Spirit' cannot be compared with 'Matter' because in the nondual realm Spirit and Matter are One, so also is Diversity identical to Unity and vice versa. The term is only a useful indicator of the realm or dimension (that superset) to which we refer.

Given this, the real world is a subject/object Unity, toward which many religious paths point and about which we shall never obtain a completely accurate lingual expression (due to the disunitive nature of language).

Comments about RL, therefore, are of a MYSTICAL nature, within this context, rather than a 'practical' one. They apply, perhaps abstractly, to that superset which some Christians call 'Heaven' and some Buddhists might call 'Nirvana'.

RL and MUDs

RL is mystical experience, since it occurs in the dimension of Unified nonduality and it would seem to depend upon the QUALITY of its manifestation rather than on the location of particular objects or subjects. We may thus find RL in any MUD, since all MUDs are contained by the real world and may include Unitive experiences.

A MUD is a world of flux, where the real is in some ways beyond change, enveloping a 'becoming beingness' that is not usually perceived in ordinary states of consciousness. To encounter RL, therefore, is to become unified with the divine, the God of Platonic and Hermetic Christians, who is both beyond and within the MUD experience, at once transcending and subsuming it.

A MUD is the equivalent of Carse's 'finite game', in which we assume for the purposes of the game that certain rules are unbreakable (i.e. the subject/object division) and that our goal is to somehow 'win'. Carse speculates that the goal of the infinite game (the real world) is to continue playing, and no foolish notions about 'death' or 'morality' or 'identity' get in the way of an infinite player.

InterMUD Studies

The 'real' would seem to be approachable by examining all experiences and coming to some determination as to their source. Modern Science's objective examination of the nature of matter is one aspect of this search. Mystical exploration and experimentation in the world of the subject is another.

Searches of these types are limited by the techniques used within the particular MUD. We shall not determine a purely physical source for experience because experience is not entirely objective. Likewise, we shall not discover a purely mental source because experience is not entirely subjective.

InterMUD studies such as those by Fritjof Capra and Gary Zukav, popular scientific explanations of the comparisons between objective and subjective explorations, are quite important. They point out the boundaries and connections between MUDs (not only the subject/object MUDs but also those of academic and popular cultures).

They indicate the paradoxes, the eddies and vortices that arise as a result of entering one particular finite game and looking at another. They show us the similarities between worlds, how one can be used to understand another, and how the real world surpasses our ability to explain.

Entrenchment and Abstraction

Of course those who entrench themselves within one particular MUD (such as those who argue vehemently for the 'reality' of the object MUD, for example) will not understand such interMUD studies, nor will they acknowledge the meaning and accuracy of terms which apply to realms outside their entrenchment. This is to be expected.

When my 'reality' is comprised solely of objects, of surface tension and physical principles, I cannot then see the veracity of descriptions regarding subjective referents. 'Soul', 'spirit', 'emotion' and even 'mind' are to be described in physical terms if they are to have any meaning for me.

Those who speak of objects in 'abstract' terminology as if they were in any sense 'real' are either mistaken or confusing to me due to their 'abstractness'. 'Abstraction' is indeed a relative qualifier which describes one's position and one's relationship to the qualified noun.

If I say that 'mind' is an abstraction, then the MUD of my entrenchment does not contain direct associations with what is being called 'mind'. If I say, on the other hand that 'brain' is an abstraction due to the relativity of subjective experience, then I find my position identical yet I am inhabiting a different MUD (the subject-MUD).

Neither position can be said to be in the real world as we have defined it here. Both MUDs are subsets of that superset, identified as such by the PRESENCE of abstraction within them. 'Abstraction', or that quality which admits of disUnity, is an indication of incompleteness, of a MUD which is not the real world.

The Science of Artistry

The challenge, therefore, is to find our way into a 'Concreteness' which admits of the Concrete not because of arbitrary definition (as we may obtain by denying the existence of 'mind' by virtue of its abstraction), but because there is no other alternative. RL is that experience which penetrates all known MUDs, that concentration of indescribable perfection which is implied but never described by language.

InterMUD studies are therefore the study of ALL MUDs and their origins, differences and similarities. While they may begin in cyber realms, of necessity they shall permeate noncyber worlds as well, linking the video MUDs of the picture, movie, television and arcade/pc games; the lingual realms of the letter, telephone, cb, short-wave and internet; the sporting gameworlds of dice, boards, words, role-playing, and 'MU*'; the realms of personal expression such as lecture, conversation, music, concert, dance, sports, war, romance and sexuality.

Moreover, interMUD studies may be considered interdisciplinary studies of Art in general. The realms in which we 'do' things each have their own specializations and techniques. Over time they develop into what are called 'spiritual disciplines' (those which we may use to reach the real). In very old and rich spiritual traditions we can see this manifested quite readily.

The japanese 'tea ceremony' is an artform which has been developed into spiritual practice. So are Chinese and Arabian calligraphy. Martial arts in the East and West have grown along similar lines, and, while the martial arts of the East have seen greater popularity (being of the body), those of the West (called 'ceremonial magick') have integrated both Western and Eastern esoteric concepts as elements of their foundation.

These particulars are less important than what they imply in general: Art is a process of coming to the real and Science in its most relevant form is the study of Art and that Source toward which we may return. The science of Artistry, in its broadest sense, is what such interMUD studies comprise.

The real world that such a science seeks to reveal is beyond its capacity to describe in language, yet well within its power to make available by direct experience. The metaphor of the MUD and its application to the disciplines of philosophy, psychology, religion and mysticism are monumental and breath-taking in scope.

Drawing on the concepts of the 'worldview' and 'paradigm', the MUD both exemplifies (in its cyber forms) and symbolizes (within the mystical model herein portrayed) ordinary experience and its relation to the real. May we each use it to move closer to our source and begin to live what can truly be called Real Lives.

Books proving inspirational to this essay included:

9212.16 e.v. Thyagi Morgoth NagaSiva Tagi@Cup.Portal.Com 871 Ironwood Dr. San Jose, CA 95125-2815