Sims 3 Seasons

Screenshot Sims 3 Seasons (winter)

My self-sim built an alien snowman and a snow hut for it, but the aliens did not take the hint.

For a review, this is far too late. Even I bought the Seasons expansion pack months ago, but hesitated to install it. This was not a bad decision, as it turns out. Luckily I got it on sale, and after I have installed it and played with it a few days, I still would not recommend buying it at full price. Actually I am not sure I would recommend buying it at all, but if you get it as a gift and have a machine that runs The Sims 3 fast without hiccups, it does add some variation and realism to the game. Unfortunately for the new player, this realism mostly makes the game harder, not easier.

The expansion is centered on seasons (each with a holiday), weather and aliens. No, I have no idea either, except I think perhaps they could not fit aliens into any of the other expansions. Or perhaps they were worried people would not buy a mostly cosmetic expansion. Aliens came with the base game in The Sims 2, so there has probably been some demand for this. The expansion also adds some food recipes with a seasonal theme, like pumpkin for the fall. The recipes are available all year though. (As are the aliens.)

Now for the bad news:

If your computer was already working up a heat running the game, this expansion pack may be hard on it. Rain, snow, hail, fog, moving branches and falling leaves all put some strain on the video card. I am not sure how much of a problem this is, since any computer with enough memory to run the game without long pauses will probably also have a video card able to pull off the new graphics. But for the borderline cases where the computer is already struggling, this is not a recommended purchase. It adds more new graphics load than any of the others, since there is now much more movement on the screen.

If your sims are rural, back to nature types, you should be aware that gardening is now possible only approximately half the year, fishing a bit longer. (You can however change the seasons in the settings panel if this bothers you.) For outdoorsy types in general, there is now a risk of freezing to death in winter and catching fire in summer, so you should perhaps not leave them unattended as much as you could before. This makes the game more challenging, especially if you already have a lot of things going on and are taken by surprise. Save your game regularly.

Lightning is a risk in rainy weather regardless of season. Sims wearing an umbrella are more likely to get struck. Thunder and lightning are quite common on rainy days, so save your game regularly if you value your sims.

Alien abductions can now happen even if you don’t have a telescope. The deciding factor seems to be space rocks. If your sim has recently collected a number of these, they may be abducted in the middle of their daily (or rather nightly) activities. So if you don’t want your male sims to get pregnant, you should probably be careful about collecting rocks. I am still not sure why aliens have a place in an expansion focused on realism; I hear the game is made in California, though, so that might explain it. Anyway, avoid picking up meteorites if your idea of realism does not include male pregnancy and green babies.

New features:

The four seasons are each 1 week long unless you change the length in the game settings panel. As mentioned, you may want a longer summer if gardening is important to your sims, because both spring and fall include cold snaps of random length when your plants go into hibernation. It takes a bit more to freeze the ponds and sea, but winter will do it.

Near the end of each season, there is a season-themed festival. The sims will have the day off from school and work, and one of the public lots in town will become a festival lot for the duration of the day, where your sims can have fun and get some special stuff. You can also arrange parties with a seasonal theme on this day. There is also a small positive moodlet all day regarding of whether you engage in the festivities.

Summer is the first season when you start a new game. Many of the summer days are quite hot. You can have your sims change into bathing suits to avoid overheating, but sometimes this may not be enough. A parasol helps, and swimming and eating ice should also cool them down, although I have not needed these so far. Staying indoors should keep them cool as well. Summer is the only seasons safe from cold snaps, so get your garden going.

Autumn is visually appealing, with red leaves slowly falling. Unfortunately your garden may go dormant even early in the season if the weather is clear, bringing frost at night. If it rains, expect thunder. A Halloween-like celebration occurs near the end, complete with trick or treat and costume parties. Sims can woohoo in leaf if you rake it together.

Winter is the greatest difference. Snow falls frequently and covers the ground most of the season, radically altering the neighborhood view. Your sims can have fun building snowmen (different types can be discovered depending on their personalities) and snow huts that can be slept in. Sims can woohoo in snow huts. Flu is almost certain if you don’t get vaccinated, but there is also a super immunity trait that can be bought for lifetime happiness point. Finally, you can also freeze to death.

Spring doesn’t look all that different from summer, once the garden thaws out at least. But there are now wildflowers, a new type of collectible. I am not sure if they can be used for anything except selling. Probably. I doubt sims can woohoo in them though, there are just scattered individual flowers. Allergies are almost certain if you don’t get vaccinated or have bought the super immunity trait. The thunder is back. Save early, save often. Preferably get Awesomemod, since it has an autosave-feature with adjustable interval. I use half an hour.

The aliens have been strangely quiet in my game: I have played for about 3 generations and had only one abduction (a young teenager, no pregnancy) and one friendly visit (the game crashed while talking to the alien). I’ve heaped up space rocks, which is now supposed to be what attracts them, but they remain shy. So not much to tell about them. They supposedly have superior brain powers, so I wouldn’t mind try playing one.

Are the new features worth the hassle? For me as a highly skilled player with a fast computer, yes, but just barely. For a new player, the game can be hard enough without being harassed by lightning, spontaneous combustion, freezing to death or getting pregnant by alien abduction.


Edit to add: In the end, I was on the verge of uninstalling the expansion, but decided to actually open the game settings panel (F5 in-game) and look at the Weather and Environment tab. It allows some fine-tuning, but in the end I just turned off rain altogether. It is not realistic, but far more realistic than having to stay indoors a quarter of the time due to lightning. Well, I suppose the realism depends on where in the world you live. But here in southern Norway I estimate rain to take up perhaps 15% of the time and lightning 3% or so. My best guess for the game was around 30% and 25% respectively. At least that is what it felt like, and in a game that is all that counts.


The Many Faces of Go

Screenshot Many Faces of Go, newbie mode

“Play the obvious local response to last move” – which of these three will it be?

As recently mentioned, I imagined an alternative timeline starting around the end of October 2009, in which I devoted substantially more time and attention to mastering Go (igo / baduk / weiqi), the classical Asian board game. One important factor was the computer program “The Many Faces of Go”, a Windows program created by David Fotland at The program doubles as either a tutor or an opponent, depending on your needs.

Daydreaming with dice is serious business, so naturally I have gone and bought the program so that I could verify for myself whether it would have the necessary impact on my alternate timeline. (That, and mostly I was curious, having read good things about it, except the price.) My estimate is that yes, it is a good alternative for people who don’t have access to a Go club or other human players. It set me back $90, which is insignificant here in Norway but may be a problem in less developed countries.

You can download the game for free, but in that case it simply plays as an opponent with strength of 18 kyu. If you shell out the $90, you get a bunch of other features, and variable opponent strength from newbie up to early dan levels.

In addition to being one of the strongest artificial intelligence Go players, the game is a versatile tutor. If you know nothing about Go, it will even teach you the basic rules. (But if you know nothing about Go, I am not sure if I would recommend you pay $90 up front…)

The program has a database of thousands of commented games, both by professionals and amateurs, so there is a good chance that you will find something interesting there. You can step through these and read the comments. However, the Internet is overflowing with such commented games which you can read with a free kifu reader (kifu = game record in Go). In fact, many amateur games in this database is from the Go Teaching Ladder, which I am pretty sure I have praised before. It is nice that this is included in The Many Faces of Go, but this is not where the program justifies its price.

There are also databases of fuseki (opening patterns) and joseki (corner patterns), which more advanced Go players may want to study. These are also things that you can scrounge together for free with a little work, but integrated into the same package.

Where The Many Faces of Go really shines, in my opinion, is as an interactive tutor. You estimate your strength (starting at 30 kyu for a brand newbie) and the game gives you the suitable number of handicap stones and adjusts its playing strength. Then, as you play against the program, you can ask it to explain its moves, why it does what it does. You can either ask about individual moves, or turn on the function so that it explains each move as the program makes it. The explanations are very general, but give a good idea of things to think of. If you keep this commentary running, you just might get into the habit of thinking that way yourself. It also marks other spots of interest on the board that it considered but did not play, so you can learn from that as well, although it does not explain why it did not pick any of them.

Perhaps even better, you can at any time ask MFoG to give you a hint. It will then list three alternative moves in order, with the reasons for making each of them. It is then up to you to choose which of them to play, or perhaps none of them. Again, it marks other spots of interest on the board as well, if you want to branch out further.

Of course, if all you do is ask for the next move and click there, you are not quite playing Go. It may not be a bad idea for a beginner, though! In the anime Hikaru no Go, which is written in close collaboration with an expert, the main character learns Go by being the hands of an expert player. (In the anime the expert player happens to be a ghost, so having someone place the stones for him is pretty important, and Hikaru is the only person who can see him.) Sai, the 1000 year old Go player, reads out the coordinates of each stone Hikaru should place on the board, but he also adds a word that describes the type of move it is. Japanese have many such words that describe the function of a move. It is not quite as detailed as the explanations in MFoG, but it teaches the young boy some aspects of the game. In one memorable scene, Sai tells him: “Don’t just place the stones, try to feel the flow of them.” This is good advice for anyone using Many Faces of Go as well.

In the anime, Hikaru became so good that he eventually did not need the ghost anymore. Hopefully the same will happen with the “ghost in the machine” here. But with someone as anti-talented at Go as me, that could easily take many years. I am not sure I will spend years of my real life (such as it is) playing Go. But for those who have that intention, this might be a good way to get started.

Endlessly alone

Screenshot anime Yahari Ore no Seishun...

“Maybe your finger muscles are just shriveling up because you don’t have anyone to text?” I can do better than that, Yui: My throat is actually shriveled up because I have barely talked for so many years. And it still isn’t enough, it seems:

“Not alone as in single, or alone as in lonely, but alone as if my life in this world is a single-player game” was how I put it in my imaginary diary.

Yes, I have written imaginary diaries about my daydreams with dice. The dice, as long-time readers might have remembered, are supposed to cause a certain level of randomness in the story. By and large, I strive for realism except for the few (sometimes just one) specific change that separates the story in my mind from real life. The current reboot has basically just one change: In it, I have the ability of mental time travel, to send my mind back in time to an earlier point in time. The length of how far back I can go increases with practice. The balancing force is that the past is not really altered: Once the past catches up with the present, it disappears and I find myself in Real Time again, the altered past simply a pocket dimension leaving no trace except in my own mind.

So yeah, I am kind of daydreaming about daydreaming, I guess? Only more elaborately.

Having traveled back in time to late 2009, it is now early 2011 and my imaginary self has mainly been studying Go (the Asian board game). And that is when my imaginary self wakes up one day and asks: “Have you noticed something weird about this story? I am alone. Not alone as in single, or alone as in lonely, but alone as if my life in this world  is a single-player game”.

So I am sitting here alone and daydreaming about being alone all over again, a kind of near unlimited groundhog years. (I refer of course to the movie “Groundhog Day”, which is one of the few movies I can watch repeatedly, although not every day!) If I had unlimited time, it seems I would spend it reading books, playing games, learning new skills. Alone. The more I am freed from my constraints, the more I seek solitude. Year after year of being alone, is what I dream of.

I have a feeling that this is not exactly normal. Or even a good thing, as such. But it is not a suffering. It is, as I just stated, something I daydream about, something that feels relaxing and natural to me. I’ve never heard of anything like this before, but I bet it is more common that I have thought. Perhaps it is just that most who feel that way, eventually disappear from view and live out their lives outside our horizon of attention.

We say that humans are social animals, but perhaps we only see those who are. We are necessarily the children of those who did not prefer to live and die alone. Well, even I would perhaps not go that far. I feel a moral obligation to pay back to humanity or civilization for the benefits that have been given to me. But I’d love to take a few years vacation from people now and then, if that had been possible … but it only is in my dreams.

Afterlife before death

Screenshot anime Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Com

Heaven, Hell or Limbo? Where do we spend our free time, if any?

There are various ideas about what the afterlife of the soul is like. Some people don’t believe in an afterlife at all. That sounds very convenient, actually. “What you see is what you get.” Except that materialism is kind of insane once you try to spell it out. “My opinions are simply electrical impulses in my brain; if there is a truth, I can never know it, and if I did, I don’t have free will so there would be no connection between the truth and whatever came out of my mouth.” So, most of us like to think that we have some kind of soul or something like that, so that we are not just lumps of protoplasm ambling pointlessly through the world.

With the idea of the soul comes the idea that it may survive death somehow, although that is not really obvious. I could write at length about this, but today I’ll just assume that the soul has an afterlife, probably, and talk about how we can estimate what that might be.

My proposition is that the soul actually gravitates toward one of the realms that make up a possible afterlife. Lately, I have begun to notice how this happens in daily life, when I don’t make an effort in some direction. If I just relax and watch my thoughts as if I were observing something outside myself, eventually the thoughts will gravitate toward something. I would not be surprised if this happens in full after death, when we are no longer recalled to (or by) the body with its interrupts from the outside world. Perchance to daydream, if you will.

Sometimes I will just sit there and wait for my psyche to drift toward something, so I can observe what it is. But often it will start moving on its own simply because it is not strongly tied to something else. Even at work if there is not something going on that grabs and holds attention, the mind may start to drift. Definitely on the bus or other places where boredom might otherwise have been an option. When this happens, it happens while my heart looks another way, so I won’t notice until I have already arrived and my mind is starting to interact with the other world.

So what are these other worlds? For simplicity, we could divide them into Hell, Limbo and Heaven.


Hellish thoughts and feelings become obvious as soon as we return to self-awareness. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.…” (Jesus Christ, in Mark 7.) “He abused me, he ill-treated me, he got the better of me, he stole my belongings;”… the enmity of those harbouring such thoughts cannot be appeased. (The Buddha, Dhammapada part 1).

You don’t even need to be religious to be aware of this. I read this year about a modern man, a left-thinking man and a would-be feminist, who was deeply disturbed by the fact that he could not see an attractive woman without being assailed by vivid visions of sexual interactions with her. He went in search of various cures, and eventually made progress by making a habit of not allowing such thoughts to linger. This was possible because he became aware of himself quickly. This ability of self-reflection is given to people to various degrees, but can be trained. We can become more aware of our thoughts and feelings by paying attention to them during the moments when we are aware, then there will gradually be more such moments.


What I called Limbo is more like the Ghost Realm, in which the world of the mind is much like this world on Earth. It frequently involves traveling in time, either to a past that was or a future that may be, or even to a past that could have been or a future that might have been. “If I had said this instead of that, this could have happened, and then that, and then one thing and then another” is the kind of thought that belong here. This kind of thought is actually very common. A beautiful example of this is found in the ending song for the anime Yahari Ore no Seishun… “Before the plane’s contrail were dissolved in the wind, if I could have said ‘I wanted to see you’ … maybe I could have avoided this endless sadness; maybe I could’ve been here alone with you…” (This is arguably a borderline case as the endless sadness is itself an aspect of Hell, but then Hell is said to be bordering on Limbo or the Ghost Realm.)


Above this earth-like limbo lies the first genuine Heaven, the Realm of the Good. In this life we can enter this when we spontaneously think warm, happy thoughts about others, thoughts of friendship or gratitude, thoughts about the joy of seeing others smile, things like that. Probably also thoughts of beauty and pure nature, playing children and animals. If you relax and let your mind wander and find yourself smiling innocently, this Realm of the Good is probably where your soul naturally gravitates. That bodes well for your afterlife, probably. And at the very least for this life!

There is also a second Heaven, different in some ways from the first. This is the Realm of Light, the home of the nurturing love, of those who are born to be teachers or leaders, a world of inspiration. If you relax and your thoughts by themselves go to how you can help others, or how you can improve yourself, or how things can be improved or something new invented … this may be your eternal home, for where your heart is, there also will your afterlife be. Probably.

Where else? Would you spend your eternity as a guest in a place where you could never relax, on the risk of drifting away to somewhere else? After all, without the body to anchor you, are you not yourself the soul that gravitates toward this or that spiritual “location” or state of mind?


I am not sure exactly why or how I began to become acutely aware of this recently. I am sure it has been a sobering experience for me. I like to tell myself that my home is in the six-dimensional Realm of Light, but the truth is that this is more like my highest aspiration, a place where a rope is fastened which I might have tried to climb up, or to which I might be pulled up. But it is not really my home in the sense that it is now my center of gravity and the place where my soul naturally finds its rest. I am probably not daydreaming in the sense that neurotypical humans do – I am half Aspie after all – so for the most part I will talk to myself inside, tell myself stories. And this summer they are almost all about time travel. More about that next time, perhaps.

Pharisee or taxman?

Screenshot anime Sakurasou

“I am not as nice as you think I am.” I guess all over the world we have times when we don’t want to look people in the eyes. Christianity teaches that this can be a good thing.

Jesus Christ once told a symbolic story about a pharisee and a taxman who went up to the temple to pray. The pharisee thanked God that he was not like common people, who were various kinds of sinners, but that he fasted more than the Law required and was very careful about paying the dues required by his religion. The taxman, on the other hand, dared not approach too close to the holy place or lift his eyes, but prayed: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” According to Jesus, the taxman went home justified – righteous before God – but the other not.

People these days have a somewhat inaccurate idea about pharisees. It is used as a general synonym for hypocrite. Indeed, Jesus did call them hypocrites. But the hypocrisy he talked about is not the crude form where people lie about good things they don’t actually do, or exaggerate the good deeds they do and hide some deep dark secret. I suppose you could call that hypocrisy too, and a bad case of it! But there is no hint that the pharisee was lying before God, at least not intentionally. He really was a man who went to great lengths to fulfill the rules of his religion, and he probably did not do anything hideous behind closed doors. The pharisees were the cream of the Jewish religion at the time.

Likewise the taxman, or publican, was probably not someone you’d like to be seen with. Even today, when the taxes are collected for the benefit of the poor among us, there are many who would dearly like to push a taxman down the stairs. But these guys back then were collecting taxes for the occupying Roman administration, to maintain the continued occupation and generally keep the Jews under the thumb. So not only was he a taxman, but a traitor as well. This was generally not a job that attracted idealists, as you can imagine.

So the thing here is not that the pharisee was actually evil and the taxman was actually good. They both were able to assess themselves as seen from outside, rather than conveniently forgetting their weaknesses and exaggerating their good points, as we naturally tend to do. There is no reason to doubt that the pharisee was a certified Good Guy by human standards, and the taxman not so much.

You may want to ask God about this, but I believe the big deal here is that one of them saw the huge distance between himself and God, while the other did not. I think so because these things happen to me from time to time. Something happens that reminds me that God is in Heaven and I am on Earth, and bragging and preening is a bad idea, particularly in the sight of God or Heaven.


For the ease of talking about it, let us divide people into three groups. It is really more like a seamless spectrum, I think, but this makes it easier to look at it. On one end, you have the hardened criminal. Even though he does disturbing things, he does not feel bad about it. He is adept at blaming other, and is keenly aware of his own rights and needs. If those cause trouble for others, they got what was coming to them, for not taking care.

In the middle, we have all the common people who try to be good but sometimes fail. When these failures are revealed to cause suffering, we feel bad about it. We did not mean to hurt anyone, we did not think it would end up like this. When we see the consequences of our mistakes, not just to ourselves but also to others, we can easily say with the taxman: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” We are aware of our sinner status … for a while. But when we don’t see any obvious mistakes, or there don’t seem to be any consequences, this feeling fades and we start feeling pretty good about not being like that creep over there.

And then we have the saints. They hardly have any vices at all, and although they have temptations, they don’t usually fall in them. But the very fact that they feel something very different from what God would feel, that distance bothers them greatly. The fact that they don’t have divine nature in every aspect of their life and thought makes them feel keenly their lack of holiness, and they feel unworthy before God. Even though they live good lives and try to bless people in their hearts, they still feel the need to pray: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”


Despite my talking at length about these things, I am not actually one of the saints. Unless something amazing happens, I am unlikely to be in that number, when the saints come marching in. I can join the pharisee in thanking God that I have not actually killed anyone (so far, long may it last) – but I don’t really feel like “Oh my God I’m seriously a sinner!” except when the poisoned fangs of evil sink deep into my soul and horrible thoughts feel disturbingly natural. As long as I am not led into temptation but delivered from evil, I feel pretty good about myself.

So that is why failure is not optional for people like me, who talk about things that are too big for our breeches, above our pray grade etc. But sometimes it can’t be helped. Sometimes we must say all the words that should be spoken, before they are lost forever.

And as a bonus, I can enjoy feeling like a certified sinner for a little while, instead of the usual pharisee…

Failure is not optional

Screenshot anime Minami-ke : Kana is a failure!

“But I am a failure as a human being.”  But I did not really know that until I was put to the test.

I was not really surprised to be tried. You see, I may be foolish, but I am not entirely ignorant. Having lived and learned and even occasionally listened for decades now, I know that there are consequences to things on the spiritual plane. Teaching others, for instance, leads to certain backlash from the Satanic Force, a subset of the General Law that keeps most of us in place. I have explained this already, which is part of the irony.

For a materialist, life is very simple. It is also very random. For the spiritually curious, this combination of simplicity and randomness dissolves and forms a new and different pattern: Horizontal causes and vertical causes.

People tend to think vaguely, which is why we have the gray zone of cause, reason and purpose, words often used interchangeably even though two of them mean very different things. For instance, we may say: “There is a reason for everything that happens . For instance a large lump of ice fell from a roof, hit a woman in the head and killed her. The reason for this was gravity.” That is certainly true, but not really what people mean when they say “There is a reason for everything that happens.” Usually those who say this mean purpose, not cause, although both of these can go under the name reason at different times.

Instead, today I will use the concepts of “horizontal cause” which is what we usually mean by cause – in the example above, gravity. The other concept is “vertical cause”, which is what the materialist perceives as randomness. So a person happens to be at a certain place at a certain time, entirely by chance, and something bad – or something good – happens. Most marriages these days happen in this fashion, for instance. Whether they later turn out to be a good or a bad thing is primarily a matter of vertical forces, that is to say, the forces that work between Heaven and people, or Hell and people. (Obviously I am not talking about Heaven and Hell as actual locations that you can reach by traveling, but as spiritual attractors. Any other meanings are outside the scope of this text.)

If we live remote from all spiritual thought, vertical causes are hard to register. Things seem to happen randomly. Occasionally common sense can point out that something happens because of our choices: We choose not to pay our bills, and they are collected. To some people even this causation is too vague, and they remain mystified when unpleasant things happen to them: The bills are collected, friends stop being friends, others are promoted instead of them etc. They lack the capacity for self-reflection, so even basic karma is lost to them.

Conversely, people who live in a steady state of self-reflection and see things in the light of Heaven: They notice karma that seems straight out supernatural. To their materialist friends, these synchronicities are just coincidences. Indeed, the definition of synchronicity is meaningful coincidence; but it is not meaningful to everyone. The materialist will say: “You read too much into it, it is just a coincidence.” The challenge about this is that there are indeed coincidences that are just coincidences, and people who read too much into them. That way lies madness. Indeed, it is a classical symptom of some of the most troublesome psychoses, so it is not without reason that people are wary when you start talking about how everything is a Sign filled with profound meaning. Crazy people do this as well, and it is not easy for the bystander to tell the two apart.

There are however certain laws in vertical causation. And one of these is that when you rock the boat, you will be tested. When you start revealing the hidden rules, the forces that stabilize the human world will act to silence you. In religious context this is the Satanic force, and it works on different levels. The most personal of these is inside us. When we try to be good, we experience a surge of temptations. (Those who try to be evil will experience a surge of temptation to good, but this is obviously rather rare.) If we try to be spiritual, we are tempted to coarse sensuality. (Which does not translate simply as sexuality – food works great too, binding out thoughts to the material plane, and so do various other comforts.)

The Satanic force also attacks from the outside, whipping up people against you in various ways. They do not necessarily attack you at first: They may express their concern, explain that acting the way you do could hurt your career, the way others see you, your romantic opportunities where that is relevant, or hurt the feelings of your loved one. This will often be enough to make people fall in line. But if not, outright aggression can also happen. The history of the saints and prophets is a bloody one.


But I am not a saint or prophet. I am just a curious person who has picked up things that are really too big and strange for me. I don’t live in a world where the passing of a cloud has a deep spiritual significance. So all the Dark One has to do to bring me down is stress me a bit, like for instance have my Ingress alarm go off while I am surrounded by beggars and pickpockets, and immediately I will start planning the Next Great Genocide. That is just the kind of person I am.

So I am not surprised that I am put to the test, and I am not surprised that I fail it. Talking about things that are above my pray grade will naturally cause such things to happen, through the laws of vertical causation. It is unfortunate, sure, but all is not lost.

You see, when you scrape the varnish, you see what’s hiding beneath. And there is some good in this as well. Even one of the robbers who was crucified along with Jesus realized his mistakes in the end. There are exits to Heaven even from the gates of Hell. You don’t actually need to be a hardened criminal to pray “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” – in fact, most criminals don’t – but sometimes getting a glimpse of the abyss within is a good thing. If you can get that without actually ripping the beating heart from the chest of your fallen enemies, so much the better. Light send it stays that way.

To reign in Hell

Screenshot anime Yahari Ore no Seishun

We may be unaware that there are people among us who have, in this life, in a certain sense “fallen to hell”. Sometimes they are quite hard to spot, at least early enough to help them.

In his influential little book “Paradise Lost”, John Milton does a new and disturbing thing: Making Satan understandable, a person one might sympathize with. I believe his purpose was not to spread goodwill for Satan, but rather to make us recognize the part of ourselves that is similar. By far the most famous line from this book is the statement from the fallen Satan: “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” Many young men in particular quote this as if they agree with it.

I will hold up the opinion that a lot of us have chosen to reign in Hell without knowing it, not in any literal sense (if there even is a literal sense, I do not know) but in a sense proportionate to our nature and abilities. This is something that I just now saw more clearly, although I have mentioned related topics over the years.


When I was around 19 years old, I had an idea for a novel and it would not let go of me. Months turned to years, I prayed but did not get rid of it. It bothered me for a number of reasons that would be ironic to bring up now. It was basically a science-fiction story, and I saw it as nothing more at the time.

In this story, our world was one of several worlds, not just side by side, but also vertically. The world right up from ours would be similar, with life and a breathable atmosphere, but not identical. More importantly, the higher world is more real, more solid, more energetic. It is more “dense”, less “porous” in all aspects. When a man from this world arrives in that higher world, he finds himself in a world of pain: The light of the sun sears him, the cold of the night freezes him, gravity sends him crawling on his belly; even the air burns in his lungs with each breath, and water seems to etch him like acid. This is not because these elements are particularly intense – the temperature is the same as on our earth – but because they are more real, and he is less. He is reduced to a fraction of his strength and solidity in every way. Like a snail trying to cross a road on a sunny day. At first he is only able to survive in this higher world for minutes at most before he has to crawl back to the alien mechanism that transports him between worlds. But gradually he becomes able to tolerate it, as each breath he takes replaces some of his low-reality atoms with high-reality atoms from the higher world. As he begins to adapt a little to this new world, he discovers that he is becoming inhumanly strong and durable in the normal world.

Conversely, there is a world below ours. A man who finds the same alien means of traveling between worlds, chooses to instead descend to the lower world. In it, he suddenly all at once finds himself extremely powerful, able to jump buildings in a single leap and resist damage that would kill a normal man. He thoroughly enjoys his newfound abilities, impresses the locals and becomes a hero and an influential person. Unfortunately after a while he discovers that his newfound strength slowly evaporates. And returning to his own world, he finds himself weak and sick, to the point where he returns to the lower world to recover. But the longer he stays there, the more he exchanges matter with that world, and becomes a normal person there. By now he is unable to safely return to his birth world, and he fears revenge now that he is vulnerable. He starts searching for a similar device to descend to the next world down, resolving to be more careful this time. But on his descent to the next lower world, he notices that each world down is uglier and more chaotic than the one above. Unable to return safely even to the first “underworld”, he is trapped in a disturbing world where even his strength cannot bring him happiness, even as it slowly leaks from him and he faces the prospect of having to descend into pure chaos or else live as an ordinary man in an inferior world.


Looking back at this peculiar “science fiction” story, I am surprised that it took me decades to realize that it was a parable of the worlds of the mind. I live in Norway and had never read or heard of C.S. Lewis’ book The Great Divorce, which has a similar theme but is straightforward allegorical.

The lower worlds should be familiar for any even partly neurotypical man, for the world of daydreams is just such a place. This world is less real than ours, and therefore it is easily malleable. We have the power to shape and rearrange things just as we like them. In the world of daydreams we can suddenly be rich, or powerful, or beautiful. We can go anywhere we want, have anything we want … and anyone we want, if we so decide. There is nothing and no one except our conscience (if any) to keep us from exercising godlike powers in an ungodly manner – in other words, to reign (rule) in Hell.

For Hell it is: Not when we first arrive, but when we find ourselves trapped there. I have mention the Japanese phenomenon of the “hikikomori”, young men (and occasionally women) who confine themselves to their room in their parents’ house and emerge only briefly at night to buy food, or not at all if their family feeds them. These started as ordinary “otaku”, nerds obsessed with anime, manga and games. But at some point they became unable to live in the ordinary world. They sleep during the day and watch anime through the night, seeking refuge in a 2-dimensional world, unable to bear the hardness of the ordinary world. (Admittedly the ordinary world for adult Japanese is somewhat harder than here in the west.)

If we think of such a thing as computer games, they often fall in the category of “the world just below ours”, in the sense that they are less real and bestow greater power on us, but still have rules. If you play World of Warcraft, you have to start at level 1 and work your way up, and you cannot be a great sword fighter and wizard at the same time. But in daydreams, there is nothing you can’t do. But there is also nothing that does not turn to dust and blow away on the wind.


Conversely, there are higher worlds also in this life. The worlds of mathematics, for example, are such worlds. Math is hard, which is why so few people study it, despite its obvious usefulness. The prosperity of a nation is tied closely to the number of engineers. The more engineers a nation has, the more other people can it also employ. But physics and math are higher realms, in which the human mind finds itself weak and struggling against hard and unyielding realities. Vague ideas and approximate guesses will not let you survive long in these worlds, and so you quit and begin studying psychology or feminism or some other topic that does not make your mind bleed if you collide with it.

In this same category is traditional religion, although today there are many forms of religion that are soft and woolly and require very little from us. But the traditional worlds of religion required a lifetime of discipline, denying oneself not just outward luxuries such as delicious food or various sexual experiences, but even “inward luxuries” of being allowed to think whatever we want. Naturally most people find this hard. They do not realize that when they conform to a higher reality, they become personally more real as well, and this carries over to whichever world they may be in. They also do not realize that when the pain fades, they notice that the higher world is amazingly beautiful, larger than life, shining with an inner glory that captivates the soul’s eye.

Or so I’ve heard, when I’m not busy playing The Sims 3. ^_^

What dreams may come

Screenshot anime Rebirth of Buddha

In the anime “The Rebirth of Buddha” by Happy Science, hospitals are places where the astral bodies of the deceased roam the corridors, desperately seeking help for their ailments because they don’t want to die, unaware that they have already passed away. But this is not the first movie where the dead are unaware of their death. Then again, in our dreams we are unaware of our sleep… Coincidence, or…?

In June this year, prolific writer Richard Matheson passed away at the age of 87. This is generally not something to celebrate, but in his case at least it means he got the chance to test his theories about the afterlife, in which he had taken a keen interest. While most known for his horror and science fiction novels, one of his best loved books was “What Dreams May Come”, in which the main character experienced three main realms of the afterlife: The Ghost Realm, Heaven, and Hell. Well, I guess two of these qualify as horror!

Matheson used realistic settings for his stories, and he researched the afterlife thoroughly before writing this novel. While the story is fictional, the setting mostly represents what the author believed about the afterlife, based on reading and thinking about the matter, mostly from oriental sources.

I am not really writing about Matheson or his book or the movie based on it, but I need to give a spoiler here because it illustrates a point that is otherwise difficult to make. Having seen the movie or read the book – preferably not right before bedtime – may help make this distinction that I briefly mentioned in my recent entry, between the “bodysoul” and the “spiritsoul”.

In Matheson’s story, the main character dies in a traffic accident. However, he does not realize that he is dead and that it is perfectly normal to hang around for a while after your passing. He suppresses the memories of his own death and burial and keeps trying to contact his family, especially his wife, with whom he was very close. Occasionally a vaguely seen person tries to contact him, but he ignores this and keeps haunting his home.

At some point, however, a new split occurs, and his soul parts with this astral body which he wore when he haunted his family. Suddenly he can think much more clearly and feel fully himself. He can now see the spirit that tried to contact him and recognizes it as someone important to him. Together they go to a Heaven, of sorts.

So if you remember that scene, you understand the concept of a person having several bodies (three in this case).

Ryuho Okawa, founder of the Japanese New Religion Happy Science, describes a similar situation, probably based on the same sources. According to Okawa, people in the 4th dimension wear astral bodies, but when they ascend to the 5th dimension, they discard these bodies and live as souls. Later, they may discard these as well and live as spirits in the even higher Heavens.


Let us talk a little about dreams. Not only Shakespeare but also Ryuho Okawa compares the afterlife to a sleep with dreams. Other sources claim that our dreams at night actually take place in the astral realm, and Okawa teaches that the Spirit World (or to use his favorite name for it, the Real World) is a world of the mind. So in that sense we certainly spend time in the world of the mind every night, but it is very rare indeed that two people share a dream and remember it. Often you dream about someone else but they have no memory of the dream at all. This may be just as well, but this leaves open the question of whether, if we meet others in the afterlife, do they also meet us? If not, it is kind of pointless, is it not?

Well, no one is saying that our dreams actually are our afterlife, just that they have certain things in common. Most notably, our dreams are made out of the content of our psyche at the time we dream, which is also the content that we are going to drag with us into the afterlife in the unfortunate case that we die before we wake. So if we carry a lot of fear or anger with us in our subconscious, then we may have a problem when we pass over and still carry this stuff with us.


Now let me talk about my dreams. I am the Viewpoint Character, after all! And my dreams are pretty unusual. I think I may have met two people who dream the way I do with any regularity, or even at all; but it may be just Drew, I am not sure now who the other person was.

You see, when you dream, you feel as if you wear a body (or even are a body, if that is how you usually think of yourself), and it is typically the body you have in your daily life. Associated with this body is your body-soul, the personality you have acquired in this life: Your name, your most common memories, your habits, your relationships to family, friends, job and home. Basically, you are you, even in your dream. Sometimes I am, too. But often I am not.

In my dreams, I can have a completely different body and the personality that goes with it. For the duration of the dream, I have other memories (although I later only remember those that I recalled during the dream), another home, a family, friends, another job or school. It is a completely different life. And it is indeed complete, for the duration of the dream. I don’t find these circumstances strange or unfamiliar; they are part of the web of life for that person I am there. Only when I wake up do I realize that I don’t know any of these people, including the person that was me in the dream.

In some dreams, not often but it has happened several times, I actually move from one person to another in the dream. It is usually only two or three people, but I once moved in rapid succession through half a dozen different people of both sexes, experiencing their different view of the same situation. Like I was some kind of spirit possessing people. Yeah, that sounds creepy to me as well. They did not seem to mind or notice though. Now that I think about it, I believe this tends to happen only when people are agitated. This may deserve further study (although I am not sure how I would do that).

So in my dreams, I seem to possess many different “astral bodies”, but I have not laid off these bodies and their personalities and become my real self, if there is such a person. It seems to me that the person inside or underneath my body-soul is simply an observer. When I meditate, I can observe my mind. My mind is not me. There is another me inside “me”, the Witness which watches the outer world and the inner world both, watches silently and without really engaging. When I engage, I fall back into the mind, and become part of the personality, the surface consciousness, the bodysoul. I cannot really imagine existing as a spiritsoul, without even an astral body. This may be a good thing, because it is not obvious that I would ever return if that happened, even if it happened in a dream.

And I think I still have a lot to learn from the “dream” that is my life in this world, in this body, in this time.


“The Book of Hell”

Screenshot anime Sukunai NEXT

“Hell is going a bit too far” is how most of us feel, I am sure. But it still fascinates people, for some reason.

The other day while I was writing on my JulNoWriMo story (which seems about to become an AugNoWriMo story now…) the viewpoint character was browsing his uncle’s library of Master Ljoset’s 1000 books. He was actually looking for the Book of Learning, but his eyes fell on something called the Book of Hell and his curiosity got the better of him, as it probably would with quite a few of us.

Ironically, the book begins with the question: “Why is there so much interest in Hell, when no one intends to go there?” I think that is a pretty good question. The Christian Bible, for instance, has very little information about Hell. And yet the Christian west has developed elaborate traditions, and Hell has become one of the facets of the religion that has spread over in popular culture. Nor is this a specifically Christian thing: Buddhism has also developed similar elaborate descriptions of Hell, and even paintings including the mandatory naked sinners. Because, it’s not Hell unless there are naked people? Well, that’s a story in itself, but Hell has captivated the minds of many from China to Europe, despite the sparse source material.

The author of the imaginary book continues to posit two kinds of readers. The soft-hearted ones vaguely fear that their flaws will yet condemn them, despite their fervent wish for this to not happen. So they want to be prepared, or better yet, warned away. Meanwhile the cold-hearted may imagine their enemies in Hell, or just feel a thrill of excitement from thinking about human suffering.

The book presents the view that Hell is not a punishment, but a necessary mercy. He compares it to a grisly surgery where a mother dies shortly before she was due to give birth. In order to free the living child, it is necessary to cut open the dead mother, no matter how sickening the process may seem. The living child in this case is the spirit, also known as spirit-soul or “immortal soul”, whereas the dead mother is the body-soul or the personality acquired in this lifetime. This “soul” is mortal, albeit less so than the body, and its annihilation is the second death. Through the destruction of the lost “soul”, the “spirit” is set free and can return to the higher realms where it has its home.

Ideally, it would not have been necessary to destroy the personality. It could have been influenced and reshaped into a being that could live in the light-filled realms. In this case, there is no need for a hell. Both mother and child are well. The personality goes on to a blessed afterlife. The spirit may eventually return to Earth again to power another body and soul, a process known as reincarnation. This does not negatively affect the first personality, which remains “saved” in its appropriate Heaven.

The book goes into some detail on the process of destruction and why the specific procedures are necessary. Basically they are an “unwinding” of the personality, based on facing the consequences of its choices. Because they were not able to reflect on themselves in life, they are drawn to situation where they meet their own reflection and get to see themselves when it is too late to change. This is what causes them to unravel and eventually give up the ghost, or spirit, which returns to its origin, presumably to try again at a later time.

Well, that’s how my utterly imaginary character understands this utterly imaginary book written by another of my utterly imaginary characters. I find it interesting, but who knows whether there is any truth in it.