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Eschaton Excerpt

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Sorcerous powers are a staple feature of any compelling conspiracy thriller. It is now uncommon to believe in magic, but for many centuries the existence of miracles and artifacts such as the philosophers stone were considered scholarly fact. The cognitive upheaval of the enlightenment is often portrayed as being the result of abstract philosophical ideas, such as John Locke’s notion of the social contract. A great deal of the transformation however was changing standards of evidence. Scholars had up to that point accepted as sufficient proof the eyewitness testimony of dozens or hundreds of people as to the truth of what is and isn’t real. “After all…” went the thinking, “are you really going to claim that all those people are lying?”. When it was eventually discovered that it’s possible to have mass hysterias, and for people to tell lies which scale to dozens or even hundreds of individuals, all beliefs based on such testimonies came into question. The situation is very much analogous to our current replication crisis. As we realize that the standards of evidence we had heretofore accepted as being bulletproof evidence for a phenomena vanish under even moderate scrutiny, our default reaction to new ‘scientific’ findings becomes immediate cynical skepticism.

If you’re not inclined to believe in magic, try not to take the artifacts in this section too literally. Narratively, these 22 items represent the unknowable aspect of history. Those things which cannot be predicted, and would only look foolish if an attempt was made to put them to paper. It would not be appropriate to discuss these elements in secular terms because they are either ineffable or as yet undiscovered. They might be spiritual insights, norms, unconceived of technologies, new physics, perhaps even truly supernatural. A sword, useless in any modern battlefield, might be merely the symbol of some deeper more adaptive principle or technique. The mysteries are to be underestimated at one’s own peril.