Sciasma

26 Mar

Nothing else shaped the life and career of Alcmaeon  as much as the invisible being he came to call his sciasma.

At an early age, as soon as he discovered his shadow, he determined that he had to become a physician. This was facilitated by where he was born and grew up: Croton. This Greek colony had become the intellectual and educational capital of Magna Graecia, the seat of the great School of Pythagoras. Alcmaeon absorbed the most advanced knowledge of his age from the leading lecturers in Greek Italy there in Croton.

The unseen entity would speak to its lifetime companion most often immediately after waking up in the morning. That was the hour when the sciasma unfolded a grand plan for the advancement of human learning to its host.

“You must become the primary authority on the human body, mind, and soul. That will be possible because you shall become the pioneer explorer of the internal organs. Your present task is to obtain deceased bodies and cut into them in order to chart the varied parts and find out how they operate together.”

Obedient to these instructions from his sciasma, Alcmaeon became the first systematic student of the anatomy and physiology of human beings. In a short time, he was a popular lecturer at the famous school at Croton. Not only future physicians, but general students of philosophy came to his classes to learn from what he told them.

Alcmaeon applied the Pythagorean theory of harmonics to his findings in biology and psychology. He kept secret the guidance provided him by the sciasma, always with him. But then a crisis struck when a new assistant was assigned him, the intelligent and ambitious Tydeos.

The lanky aide towered over his short, light superior.

“I shall be deeply gratified to be working with you, sir,” smiled the young man. “All my life, I have dreamed of helping advance the knowledge of our kind.”

Alcmaeon, encouraged by the evident enthusiasm of his new helper, decided to reveal his plans for the days to come.

“As you know from my lectures, I have for years concentrated on the problem of the health of humans. The three component parts are body, mind, and soul, and I have determined that they are connected by unseen pores and tunnels. These invisible tubes exist to create and maintain the balance between the three areas of our existence. My goal has been to determine what the proportions are among the three factors. These cannot be the same for all persons. I aim to learn the numerical ratios that prevail between the three of them in different individuals.

“Within each human, there is a unique, original balance between body, mind, and soul.

“I have cut deeply into human corpses looking for the channels, the tubes that connect the three parts. My hope is that you can assist me in these explorations.”

“Indeed!” beamed the young man. “That is my dream: to locate what you are hunting for.”

“We must go to work at once,” declared Alcmaeon. “Our labors will be long, but we shall be untiring.”

The next morning, at the break of dawn, a message of warning came from the sciasma of the doctor-philosopher.

“You must be wary of your assistant, Tydeos. There is great danger represented by him. The man is unworthy of trust because of his twisted inner nature.”

“What can be wrong with him?” asked the suddenly anxious Alcmaeon. “I do not understand you.”

“He may appear to be loyal and cooperative, but there is an evil force that accompanies his person.”

“Evil force?” questioned the thinker. “What sort of evil force?”

The answer came slowly, as if with reluctance.

“Few persons in the world have ever lived with a companion spirit such as you have. These have been exceptional individuals, such as you are. Either great achievement or enormous destruction came from such human beings.” There followed a considerably long pause.

“Tydeos is one of the few who can communicate with a sciasma of their own. Such a situation can lead him to stray away from your direction into mistaken paths. Seeking his own ends, the assistant can do much harm to our project of exploration, especially to the charting of the soul

“Be on watchful guard. There will be justification for the dismissal of Tydeos.”

That was the extent of what was revealed to Alcmaeon at the time.

As dissection of corpses continued, the assistant began to express growing independence of thought by criticizing established Pythagorean concepts.

Tydeos spoke with candor late one afternoon in the chamber they used as a laboratory.

“I do not understand how the opposition of hot and cold, wet and dry can be applied to the human soul, the way they are to the body and the mind. Such thinking can lead to absurd conclusions. For example, the teaching that death occurs when a soul reaches an extreme condition of moistness or dryness. At that point, the soul is ready to migrate into another body somewhere, where balance can be restored to it.

“To my mind, such an interpretation is pure nonsense.”

Alcmaeon found himself unable to conceal his surprise and outrage at this.

“Do you doubt what Pythagoras himself holds to be true?” He exploded in anger, his face reddening with blood. “Are you claiming that his ideas are to be rejected?”

The older man suddenly realized how unusual it was for him to lose his temper this way. Here was a very odd circumstance for him, he knew at once.

Tydeos, sensing that he had stepped forward too far, decided on a tactical retreat.

“I am not criticizing the thought of our great philosopher, only its method of application in a defined area, the human soul. Some degree of modification, greater or smaller, may be called for in that single instance. That is all that I meant to say, sir.”

Alcmaeon felt his ire subside. It was best to let the matter go, he decided.

“We can always improve and sharpen our understanding without abandoning what is already known as well-established truth,” he said in a moderated tone, turning away and going on with the examination of a dead body.

Contact with his sciasma customarily came to Tydeos at night, as he was falling asleep.

“Do not be afraid, do not hesitate. Now is the time to strike forth on your own. Whatever others may say, however your superior may react, it is your duty to bring out an interpretation specific and original to you. Will you take the initiative as soon as you can?”

“A new framework will not be understood,” mentally argued the assistant. “I am certain that Alcmaeon will not tolerate such a surprising revision by me. His reaction will be a terrible sight to see.”

“But the entire school and all its students can be converted to the new path I have drawn for you. And you will shine as the innovator who illuminated the soul for all to see and understand it.”

“That is possible?” asked Tydeos.

“Trust me. The concept I provide shall be triumphant over the old ones.”

The young man fell asleep with his shadow’s message governing his mind.

Alcmaeon listened in amazement to the theory described to him by his assistant.

“The closest analogy to the soul is a lyre with three strings to it. Each of them vibrates within a separate zone of the spiritual self of a person. The oscillation that comes out of the instrument then echo through the mind and the body, influencing the life of each. These undulations of the spirit result in an unheard vibration that resounds throughout a person’s being. The hub of all life is in this palpitating beat of the three strings, each one separate, creating either harmony or chaos within a person.”

The two stared at each other, until Alcmaeon’s voice sounded from deep in his throat.

“What are you going to do with these outlandish ideas of yours? They are not provable and I am certain that no one in our school will accept them.”

“I must, then, take the responsibility of presenting them in public as my personal thesis.”

Tydeos looked with bold impudence into the dark eyes of his superior.

What can be done about such a threat? wondered the dumbfounded Alcmaeon.

The latter, without another word, turned around and withdrew from possible confrontation.

After a night of restless worry and little sleep, Alcmaeon recapitulated all he had heard from his defiant assistant, reviewing it with his sciasma. The latter was first to come to a decision on what had to be done about the matter.

“You are to do nothing until I tell you what must be done. The responsibility for what is to come will be mine. I believe that there must be some arrangement made with this man’s sciasma. Only I am capable of doing so.”

“What is your intention, then?” asked the now confused Alcmaeon.

“I must find and have a meeting with the shadow of your assistant. Until then, nothing can be brought to any conclusion.”

But how do sciasmas communicate with each other?

Since they do not exist with the limits within which humans live, their links are indescribable and unimaginable in an ordinary way.

There was a lengthy exchange between these two shadows. The means that they used must remain a question beyond the ability of any story to explain, though.

Each sciasma expressed its own opinion about the situation they faced.

They encountered each other beyond space, outside of time. The two became engulfed in profound speculations beyond rational understanding.

When the pair disconnected, all their conflicts had evaporated.

One of them had absorbed and assimilated all of the other one. They had become a united mass of shadow.

Only at the next dawn was one of the human beings informed of this result.

Alcmaeon learned from his sciasma what the final conclusion consisted of.

“Your assistant, Tydeos, no longer has his own sciasma, for I succeeded in swallowing that invisible entity. It is now a part of my own being, along with all that it contained. That means that his theory of soul now resides within me. It cannot be the property of Tydeos alone. It is now the possession of the new whole that we have formed.

“I now give it to you to be your own original idea. The assistant will soon forget it, for it will disappear out of his mind. Without his own prior sciasma, the conception will have no continuity or substance to it. The idea will vanish from him, as if it were erased.

“The image of the soul as a lyre with three harmonic strings shall be presented to the world as belonging to you alone.

“Can you accept and carry that out?”

Alcmaeon nodded yes, agreeing to the settlement devised by his accompanying sciasma, one of the few that still existed in human beings.

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