More Fun Tree of Life Speculation

  • @453 reminded us on Discord about the connection between the arrangement of braziers in Alaric's void room and the Sefirot tied to Kabbalah in Judaism. It's come up before in various contexts, but I'd completely forgotten. Given the lack of ongoing topics, I thought we could use a bit of pointless speculation around here 😛!

    Anyways, the arrangement is indeed tied to the Sefirot because, apart from the obvious match in layout, each sefirot, the word itself meaning "sapphire", corresponds with the name of a Sapphire Book in Cythera. If you use the order given by Selinus (Crown, Wisdom, Understanding, Mercy, Power, Beauty, Victory, Splendor, Foundation, and the Kingdom), you'll get the layout Visitor described here:


    You'll notice there is no "Da'at" in Cythera's Sapphire Books. This is "Knowledge", which Wikipedia describes as the "Central state of unity of the 10 sefirot, also called the Tree of Life". This brings in the connection to the Tree of Life. Presumably, once you light all 10 in the order given by Selinus, you were to be teleported to the Tree of Life map. This would also explain why we never found a zone entrance for the Tree of Life, just a point that puts you somewhere on that map and an exit that puts you somewhere west of the mountains.

    Another thing I'd forgotten is that the logic for detecting the lighting and ordering is already in place. If you do it, the screen flickers and you'll get the message "It is not in the lightning bolt that one finds knowledge, but the tortuous serpent path that returns."



    So then I thought a bit more about the layout of the Tree of Life map, and I wondered if the finished map was meant to be something like this:


    Basically, you could go to the region at the beginning of the game, but the bridge would first require repair to proceed. Once you've developed a character to the point of having the tools to do this, you would enter the "tortuous serpent path". This is supported by the fact that there is a zone entrance there, but it currently points to the default "Nothing" map. I would expect a labyrinth similar to the teleporting one below Pnyx. For that matter, parts of the crypt below Pnyx may have originally been intended for the Tree of Life given its proximity to that zone in the data, but then repurposed as a puzzle for Pnyx when Gandreas decided not to finish the Tree of Life. Once all that's done, you would be able to exit and finally reach the Tree of Life! As we know from BW's testing, each of the three apples can max out the hunger stat. You could probably go the whole game on nothing but these apples.

    I know it's retreading familiar ground; I'm just hoping to centralize some of the discussion for easier reference and commenting. It also made me wonder what would be involved in making the Tree of Life actually work in-game. Of course, the zone itself would have to be completed in some form, which isn't particularly easy, but is possible thanks to delvmod and redelv. Then would be connecting the trigger that shows the message about knowledge with a teleportation action. I'm admittedly ignorant of how Cythera handles these types of events, so I'm not sure if it's a change to the LKH environment or what. Anyhow... speculative ramblings.

  • And for bonus discussion points, the Sapphire texts!

    Sapphire Book of the Crown
    Location: Land King Hall, Alaric's private study

    As all can be derived from nothing, the Unity of all that exists is the basis for all that exists, and this is the first step from the Infinite to the final expression. This is the first principle of consciousness...

    Sapphire Book of Wisdom
    Location: Abydos, Tavara's workshop

    The first step of creation is the raw energy or force, which gives life. It is excitement without known cause, raw and unbridled...

    Sapphire Book of Understanding
    Location: Pnyx, empty room in the southeast corner from the main library

    Without the capacity to take form, all is naught, so one must be able to this very abstract reasoning to the results of the raw energy of Wisdom...

    Sapphire Book of Mercy
    Location: Kosha, Itanos' study

    It is the creation of form that is the first step across the abyss from the abstract to the concrete, and within this creation of form one can experience feelings of spiritual well-being...

    Sapphire Book of Power
    Location: Cademia, Machaon's workshop

    As there is the creation of form, so must there be the destruction of form, just as one gains reasoning about right and wrong, and through that, a true understanding of power...

    Sapphire Book of Beauty
    Location: Prusa carries it

    Beauty is the consciousness of consciousness, as expressed by a perspective on life which is Beauty. It is an abstract between force and form...

    Sapphire Book of Victory
    Location: Loose dirt south of Odemia

    It is the consciousness of force that is needed to go beyond abstracted consciousness, which can be expressed as emotional feelings about material things, in this last abstraction of force...

    Sapphire Book of Splendor
    Location: Catamarca, hidden under Polydamas bed in the Citadel

    The last abstraction of form that yields the consciousness of form. One experiences this with reasoning about material things, which forces that which is into form, but is not the form itself...

    Sapphire Book of Foundation
    Location: Ayrit, Unhayt carries it

    The power of dream and imagination is but one step removed from the physical world, making it the foundation for that which is manifest. One can view this as the consciousness of the world.

    Sapphire Book of the Kingdom
    Location: Cademia, Berossus' study in the northeast corner of the Tyrant's Castle

    All works are ultimately experienced in terms of physical sensation, and thus physical sensation can be viewed at the final determinant in magical expressions. It is within this physical world that man lives, the matter of the world...

    Overall, I don't see much connection to the brazier lighting and path to Tree of Life in the texts, although there's some clear references at the beginning and ending. The "first step" as the Crown and then Foundation being "one step removed" and Kingdom is finally "experienced in terms of physical sensation" (teleportation to the tree?).

  • To me, the message seems to be a reference to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil more so than the Tree of Life. They are, apparently, different:

    8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

    But there’s only one tree on the map, so maybe they’re one and the same here.

  • The zone script for LandKing Hall (1403) just does the usual things to configure the music, ambient lighting, etc. The logic for this puzzle is found in the code for the Brazier (113F):

    ; This was disassembled by redelv. The labels/identifiers were assigned
    ; by Bryce for clarity; they are not found in the data file.
    include Delver.Model
    include Delver.Main
    include Cythera
    use System
    resource 0x113F
    field_order (0x0009, 0x0009, 0x0008)
    class Object
    function Use(self) (
        ; If the brazier is already lit, put it out
            arg self
            get_field DObj.aspect
            byte 0
        then Already_Lit
        ; Light the brazier (i.e. change its aspect to 1.)
        set_field DObj.aspect
            arg self
            byte 1
        'It is now lit.\n'
            arg self
            get_field DObj.data1
            sys GetState
                byte 10
            byte 1
        then FailedPuzzle
            arg self
            get_field DObj.data1
            byte 10
        then ContinuePuzzle
        ; Flash the screen (invert)
        sys SpecialView
            byte 1
        'It is not in the lightning bolt that one finds knowledge, but the tortuous serpent path that returns...\n'
        sys SetState
            byte 10
            arg self
            get_field DObj.data1
        branch RedundantEndLabel
        sys SetState
            byte 10
            byte 0
        branch End
        set_field DObj.aspect
            arg self
            byte 0
        'It is now extinguished.\n'
        sys SetState
            byte 10
            byte 0
            byte 0
    class_field Object.Examine none

  • @Pallas-Athene said in More Fun Tree of Life Speculation:

    To me, the message seems to be a reference to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil more so than the Tree of Life. They are, apparently, different

    Good point about the message. I'm not very familiar with Kaballah, but I found an interesting blog at the Kaballah Centre:

    Whenever the Torah talks about the Tree of Life, it is talking about the Ten Sefirot – the ten levels of consciousness. The upper three Sefirot are a part of the Tree of Knowledge and are not connected to our physical world. The lower seven Sefirot are a part of the Tree of Life and are connected to our physical world.

    So both trees are referenced by the Sefirot. Perhaps another tree was going to be added? Or the message referencing knowledge alludes to that while the "physical" experience would be the Tree of Life?

    Notably, their representation of the Sefirot is missing "Da'at". According to this reference:

    Generally, da’at is only enumerated among the sefirot when keter is not. This is due to the fact that da’at represents the reflection of (the inner dimension of) keter itself within the realm of consciousness

    So in a way, it's an unnecessary addition, but at the same time, it's omission is also relevant given its interpretation as the "Tree of Life".

    @Bryce said in More Fun Tree of Life Speculation:

    The zone script for LandKing Hall (1403) just does the usual things to configure the music, ambient lighting, etc. The logic for this puzzle is found in the code for the Brazier (113F)

    Great find, Bryce! That's an interesting place to handle it, but I suppose there's not many other braziers in the game, and no other puzzles based on them. It looks like the screen flash is definitely intended -- matching the reference to a lightning bolt -- but the "tortuous serpent path that is returned" remains a mystery.

    Edit: I found a video discussing the sefirot; at least it has pronunciations... I'm really amused about doing a Kaballah deep dive to figure out how it might tie into Cythera. While most of Cythera's lore references Greek mythology, I'd say Gandreas' has a clear interest in religion, mythology, mysticism, and all things generally associated with belief or spirituality. It's definitely tied into all his old Mac games, and even on the iPhone

  • Several years back I read a lot about the Kaballah stuff, learning that the Tree of Life, the braziers, and the Sapphire books are definitely connected. I wanted to write an article about it for the Cythera wiki, but I didn't understand it well enough to explain it, so I gave up. Relevant to this discussion is this old thread, where some guy discovered 19 years ago that Cythera had a Tree of Life zone, and instantly recognized the braziers as being related. Unfortunately, at the time no one seemed interested in investigating it.

  • That's interesting. I actually don't know why there are string resources with the zone names. The name that you see in the game is a string constant embedded in the script that runs when you enter a zone (14xx resources). It might have something to do with debugging (compiled-out debugging features would probably include something to teleport to any coordinates in any zone) or the name seen when loading from saved games (does Cythera do that? I forget; it's been a while since I've played it.)

  • A very interesting theory. It makes sense though it would incline one to suspect there was some additional hint to the significance of the braziers or to the Tree of Life that was omitted in the final game.

    How does the location of the books on the main Cythera map compare to the brazier pattern? I'm guessing there's no similarity but am curious if there's any general significance to their placement.

  • That's an intriguing thought. Here's the layout on the main map:


    I don't see much similarity with the brazier layout, although 1-6 kind of have the same general idea. They look more like a star pattern, or like the points of a stick figure person, with 7-10 off to the side. It almost reminds me of a constellation or something.

  • Are you listing Foundation as in LKH? Seems like it should be farther south. But yeah, the map doesn't really match up to the Tree of Life pattern :\

  • You're right, the underground path basically traces along the mountains. So it's probably nearer the headwater ruins area.


Log in to reply