Sermon One of the 36 Lessons of Vivec starts the series off by telling us the story of the realization of ALMSIVI when Almalexia and Sotha Sil begin the creation of Vivec, the third element of their holy trinity.

From the first paragraph the tone of the story is obvious. In Sermon One, Vivec is conceived by Sotha Sil and Almalexia and carried by a common Netchiman's wife. Vivec receives prophecies, wisdom, and powers from Daedric visitors.

In the end we are given a prophecy, that Vivec will give a strange and powerful secret to hir people.

In Morrowind, Sermon One grants a bonus to the Athletics skill. It is worth 200 Septims and weighs 3 units. A copy can be found in the Falas Ancestral Tomb. Another can be purchased from Vasesius Viciulus, a trader in Molag Mar.

Sermon 29 names this Sermon "The Dragon Break, or the Tower." Its number is 1, which references the word "He."

Note that, though ze is born intersexed, Vivec is referred to in the masculine instead of using a genderless or gender-neutral pronoun. This could a decision based on Vivec's own preference, (which I think is unlikely) or just the standard English system of generic antecedent.

It has also been indicated to me, by Michael Kirkbride, that Vivec is a "He" because of, as Kirkbride put it, "the BEST thing." I suspect that this is a reference to the concept of Vivec playing a Feminine (metaphysically, I mean) role in the formation of the Future Amaranth, a story that is described in Kirkbride's "C0DA." Until that time comes, Vivec's role is Masculine, in the metaphysical sense, which makes hir a force of Will, of effort and purpose.

For the purposes of these commentaries, I will be using Kate Bornstein's system. Please let me know if I screw it up.

"Born in the Ash" implies that ze was born in the Ashlands, an area that defines most of the volcano island of Morrowind.

The Velothi were a secondary race of Elves, split from the Altmer as the result of a religious schism caused by Boethiah when she "ate" the et-Ada hero-God Trinimac and spoke with Trinimac's words of the benefits of worshipping the "good" Daedra and the evils committed against mortality by the Aedra.

Calling themselves "Chimer," the Velothi practitioners moved East to the land of Morrowind, following the trail of Godsblood left by the Heart of Lorkhan before it fell into (or formed) Morrowind's volcano.

The Velothi religion involves the careful but dutiful worship of the Daedra Princes, and the guidelines of the Psijic Endeavor, a set of practices and theories it shares with the Psijic Order.

Being born a Chimer, Vivec would have been born with golden eyes and skin. We have very little in-game evidence of the appearance of the Chimer, other than Almalexia's appearance and half of Vivec's.

"The War with the Northern Men" might refer to the war between the Chimer and the Nords during the first Era. This war technically began sometime around 1E222 when the Nords began their occupation of Morrowind and High Rock and ended in 1E416 when the Chimer and Dwemer united to force the Nords back into neighboring Skyrim.

However, "The War" probably refers to the rebellion against the Nords in 1E416 (and we'll read about that war in Sermon 09), which means that Vivec would be at least 284 years old in 1E700. Still an impressive age by the standards of Man.

This union between the Chimer and Dwemer caused the Dwemer clan Rourken to rebel and leave Vvardenfell. Legends state that the leader of the Rourken Clan threw his hammer into the air, stating that he would lead his Clan wherever the hammer fell. The land where they settled became known as Volenfell, or "Hammerfell."

"Ayem" being yet another one of Almalexia's numerous names.

Here's a list I'm working on of the various names and titles of the members of ALMSIVI:

Netchimen are the Morrowind equivalent of a cattle rancher, I suspect. Netch are captured and penned using "Netch Longhooks" or "Sky Hooks," long barbed spears attached to ropes. Netch are commonly harvested for their leather, meat, and "Netch Jelly."

It seems to me that the Netchimen are relegated to a lower caste or class in Velothi society, a bit like cattle ranchers or cowboys. I say this because of the way Vehk speaks of hir longhook, although this could just be a comment about hir "weapon" being intended more as a tool of a trade and not a device for killing.

Consider also the mythic relevance of having Vivec's birth occur in the lands of those of low station. Ze was once but a simple Netchiman's Son, but now ze is a Living God. It's a political device akin to "I was born in a little town down South called [YOUR HOMETOWN HERE] and things were simpler then..." Vivec has become a God and So Can You. Except in the Elder Scrolls universe, that happens to be true.

Almalexia is anticipated by Boethiah, the Prince of Plots.

The origin of the Anticipations concept is largely unknown, but there is a symbolic connection that can be made between ALMSIVI and their Anticipations, although some are easier to make than others.

Boethiah is the "mother" of Veloth, for example, as the Daedric Prince ate Trinimac and in so doing created the entire Velothi religion and also (in a way) the Chimer race itself. Almalexia is the "mother" of the Tribunal and therefore the two are joined, thematically, as "mothers." You could also say that Boethiah felt mercy towards the Chimer when she unveiled the Aedric plot, and Almalexia's characteristic of ALMSIVI is "mercy."

Mephala is a little harder to align with the Thief, but I've written before about Mephala and the concept of Mastery, Vivec's characteristic.

Don't ask me about Azura and Sotha Sil, I don't know what's going on there. Sotha Sil's characteristic is "Mystery," after all. And that's in no way a cop-out answer. Yes it is.

Almalexia's "domain" is said to be that of the stars. Sotha Sil's domain is the sea, and Vivec's the middle-air.

Currently the only solid connection I can make here is that Sotha Sil's nature as "Mystery" and the Sea have some connections in the mythical sense of the feminine mystique.

In the context of the Lessons, Vivec's Mother is much like an object. I find it interesting that Vivec's Mother is treated so casually, like a possession. She is only the vessel within which Vivec is incubated. She is chosen seemingly at random, being "a" netchiman's wife, which implies that who she was before Ayem found her is entirely irrelevant.

Vivec's Father does not exist in the classical sense. Hir mother is selected by Almalexia and fertilized by Sotha Sil. From a modern psychological standpoint, the nullification of Vivec's Father and the objectification of Vivec's biological mother is complex. But from a mystical standpoint it makes perfect sense.

Part of the divinity granted to ALMSIVI in the 36 Lessons comes from the concept of self-creation, the idea that the ALMSIVI collective entity was created by the individuals of that collective. Almalexia chose the womb, Sotha Sil impregnated it, and Vivec, once born, completed the mystic triangle.

Notice that it's "Face-Snaked," not "Snake-Faced." Her face is not that of a snake, but rather it has taken on a snake-like quality. It has been "snaked."

Again, the symbolism here is myth-inspired. The snake symbol has a wide range of interpretations depending on culture, from death & rebirth to spiritual cleansing and the connection to Mother Earth. And since Almalexia is the "mother" in the Tribunal, all these connections are pretty solid.

The Three In One is another one of ALMSIVI's titles. It refers to the concept that the three members of the Tribunal, Almalexia, Sotha Sil, and Vivec, are all one being, their minds and souls combined together as one entity, though they occupy separate bodies.

Keep that in mind, and a lot of seemingly strange concepts in the 36 Lessons will suddenly make a lot more sense.

Note that Almalexia refers to Vivec as an "Image" here.

Vivec's progression through the 36 Lessons mirrors the Promise of the PSJJJJ:

  1. Egg
  2. Image
  3. Man
  4. God
  5. City
  6. State

While Vivec is referred to as an Egg, referring to hir in this sentence as an Image suggests that the Egg "contains" the Image, or that the Image "evolves" from the Egg. It might also be correct to assume that every stage is contained within the stage before it. This fits with the current thinking that an Egg contains the possibility of all future stages, as an unborn child contains an infinite number of possible lifetimes, as the Egg-shaped Aurbis contains all the known and the unknown.

This also resonates with the concept of sub-gradiency, as discussed in the Loveletter from the 5th Era, which propses a model of the universe that resembles a layered series of echoes of the original creation, each layer a fractal iteration of the first, exponentially more complex in nature and existence.

The Ehlnofex for this line is thought to translate as "Almalexia is Sotha Sil is Vivec." It is clearly an invocation of the concept of ALMSIVI, the three-souled multi-being.

The individual words are mostly obvious. AYEM is Almalexia, SEHTI is Sotha Sil, and VEHK is of course Vivec. AE is "is" or "are" as in AEDRA ("is/are our ancestors").

Ehlnofex, as a language, repeats a common theme in The Elder Scrolls, that Words are magical, far more than just marks on a paper or vibrations of air. But at the same time, language is immobile. Words are just meat. They have the appearance of power, but they are still subject to the whims of the Aedric system. And when it comes to Words as a method of communication, they are a poor reflection of the substance of the original thought.

Keep in mind that every word in Ehlnofex is a magic spell. Repeating the seven-syllable spell to Egg-Vivec is akin to casting magic on it.

It's probably safe to assume that AYEM AE SEHTI AE VEHK in some way attuned the Vivec-possibility closer to the Tribunal.

"Mystery" is, of course, Sotha Sil.

Here's a list I'm working on of the various names and titles of the members of ALMSIVI:

Hello, Sotha Sil!

Vivec's mother is chucked casually into the ocean so that she can wait for Seht, whose domain is the ocean.

The Dreugh are a race of crab-like humanoids. Additional material provided externally from the TES games suggests that the Dreugh originate from an earlier Kalpa, a previous cycle of the life and death of the Aurbic universe. How the Dreugh survived to this current Kalpa is unknown, but one out of game text infers that this may have been the doing of Mehrunes Dagon in an earlier, mischievous form.

The Dreugh play a few more parts in the story of the 36 Lessons of Vivec. They seem to have their own motivations and goals, but I'm not yet sure what those are. At least, not with any specificity.

In order to keep her alive, the Dreughs give the Netchiman's Wife gills so that she can breathe underwater. But in order to make her physically capable of carrying Vivec in hir egg form, they give her "milk fingers," one or more penises, and she becomes as Vivec is, or will be: a hermaphrodite.

It's interesting that the Netchiman's Wife stays underwater for an unspecified amount of time. This might have some kind of hidden numerological meaning, but I suspect it doesn't. In fact, I think the reason why the duration of time is intentionally vague is to keep us from assigning meaning to that span of time, because no meaning exists.

"Seven or eight months," I think, simply serves as a way of illustrating an amount of time required for a transformation or acclimation of some kind. The specific span of time is probably irrelevant.

"Invisible" knowledge, I think, could be a colorful way of illustrating the obscurity or difficulty of this knowledge.

Vivec posesses knowledge of Words and Swords because Vivec is the middle-point between Almalexia, the Warrior who uses Swords, and Sotha Sil, the Mage who uses Words. Vivec, who is The Thief, and therefore Mastery, is the Master of both Swords and Words.

Interestingly, this does not diminish the potency or relevancy of Sotha Sil or Almalexia. Instead, Vivec's Mastery serves as the unifying element in the trio. Ze makes the Tribunal complete, more powerful, more themselves.

The word "hortator" is Latin in origin and means "An inciter or encourager."

The Hortator is the title awarded to any Dunmer (or, presumably, Chimer) hero who can unite all the Velothi Great Houses together under one banner. In this case, the title refers directly to Nerevar, although he has not, by this point, united anybody.

The fact that Sotha Sil refers to Nerevar as the Hortator might indicate that Sotha Sil has forseen future events. But since all the members of ALMSIVI demonstrate God-like powers in the 36 Lessons, this is probably just something we should get used to.

Homunculus is Latin for "little man." So sperm, in this context.

This is how Sotha Sil and Almalexia give birth to Vivec, by choosing a donor in a haphazard and careless manner, as Gods would treat lesser beings. Almalexia prepares the Netchiman's Wife, and Sotha Sil impregnates her with magical powers. This is their method of self-creation, as I mentioned earlier.

Again, it's important to remember that, mystically, ALMSIVI are one being, a single entity comprised of three souls melded into one.

Part of the divinity granted to ALMSIVI in the 36 Lessons comes from the concept of self-creation, the idea that the ALMSIVI collective entity was created by the individuals of that collective. Almalexia chose the womb, Sotha Sil impregnated it, and Vivec, once born, completed the mystic triangle.

"Shoals" are basically just a sandy bank, like a poor excuse for a beach.

Azura's Coast is the name assigned to the entire Eastern side of Vvardenfell. Unfortunately this stretch is so large that it doesn't make finding Vivec's birthplace any easier, should you be into that sort of thing.

It's interesting that the Netchiman's Wife stays underwater for an unspecified amount of time. This might have some kind of hidden numerological meaning, but I suspect it doesn't. In fact, I think the reason why the duration of time is intentionally vague is to keep us from assigning meaning to that span of time, because no meaning exists.

"Seven or eight months," I think, simply serves as a way of illustrating an amount of time required for a transformation or acclimation of some kind. The specific span of time is probably irrelevant.

Are we to infer from this that Vivec, born as an egg, had no previous knowledge? Born a blank slate, perhaps? Was this also the case for hir Mother and Father, Almalexia and Sotha Sil?

Either way, at this point it becomes the Netchiman's Wife's responsibility to educate egg-Vehk, and the egg, as a shape of potential, absorbs this education and becomes molded by it.

We're never given the complete list of the Codes of Mephala, but from what we know about Mephala and the Prince's relationship with the Dunmer and Mundus in general, we can make a few guesses.

We know that Mephala "taught the Velothi at the beginning of days all the arts of sex and murder." If we interpret this literally, Mephala becomes a Daedric Prince of kinky warfare, but then we'd be doing it wrong. Instead, as I've explained elsewhere, "sex" and "murder" can be viewed as metaphors for "creation" and "destruction," respectively. In that light, Mephala's sphere becomes far more mythically important.

Mephala and Azura form the "twin gates of tradition." We also know, in a general sense, that the Codes of Mephala dictate that "there can be no official art, only fixation points of complexity that will erase from the awe of the people given enough time," and that "there is no difference between the theorist and the terrorist."

So what can we infer from this? Mephala's codes probably dictate several philosophies, but the core value, I think, is the impermanence of all things. Even Mephala's murder is undone by his sex, and contrariwise. Nothing lasts, and every task will be accomplished eventually.

The prophecies of Veloth are never given to us verbatim, but we know a few things about St. Veloth so we can probably speculate a bit.

Long ago, before the First Era, Boethiah "ate" the Aldmer God Trinimac and used his voice to speak to Trinimac's loyal worshippers. Boethiah declared that the Aedra were using the mortals of Mundus, feeding off their souls, trapping them in an inescapable prison for all eternity.

Saint Veloth was among Trinimac's faithful and was so moved by Boethiah's words that he began teaching other Aldmer how to worship the Good Daedra while also benefiting from careful negotiation with the Bad Daedra.

Having announced that the culture of the Aldmer was decadent and evil, he led his followers out of Summerset Isle and into Morrowind.

Veloth's prophecies, if they are not also teachings, likely have a lot to do with how Daedra react to Mortal requests, and if he didn't see ALMSIVI coming I'd be very surprised. He certainly saw the Nerevarine coming, as described in his prophecy of the Seven Visions.

Trinimac's teachings would be forbidden because of the Velothi rebellion from Aldmer society. Since Boethiah "ate" Trinimac, it's considered that anything Trinimac said before he was transformed into Malacath was probably unfit for Velothi consumption.

Being an Aldmer God, Trinimac's teachings were likely variations on the theme of order and proper servitude. But Trinimac's role as the Aldmer warrior spirit-God probably means that there was a healthy amount of lessons involving warfare and honorable behavior.

Even more offensive to the Velothi was the legend that Trinimac spread "lies" about Lorkhan, and that he encouraged Aldmer to mourn the creation of Mundus, the event that severed their connection to divinity.

If the Netchiman's Wife taught the Vehk-egg Trinimac's teachings, it may have been motivated by a desire to give the egg every possible advantage of knowledge and power, even if such knowledge was culturally abohrrent.

It's possible that there might be some numerological significance behind the number of Daedra who visit Vivec. The number Seven is The Sword at the Center, symbolizing destruction or transformation or the inevitable entropy of all existence.

Alternatively, the last Daedra to show up, the Eighth, might have significance as well, since the number Eight is the number of The Wheel, or the Eight Givers. So perhaps these eight Daedra are lending their powers to Vivec in the same way that the Eight Aedra lent their gift-limbs to form The Wheel of Mundus?

By "new motions" I assume we're talking about fighting styles, but also perhaps by the general principle of "martial knowledge," which is to say the knowledge of all the arts of warfare. And by "warfare" I mean any kind of conflict you can imagine: spiritual, physical, emotional...

A Demiprince, not a full-fledged Daedric Prince. So just a hair beneath the 16 Voids.

Fa-Nuit-Hen's name seems to be another Crowley reference, being both similar in form to many of the Gods and Demons mentioned by Crowley in his various books, but also from the Goddess "Nuit," the equivalent (or renaming) of the Goddess Nut from Egyptian mythology.

There doesn't seem to be an immediate connection between Nuit and Fa-Nuit-Hen, but the hyphenized naming convention suggests the possibility that Fa-Nuit-Hen is a composite diety, a common concept in Egyptian mythology, where aspects of one God blends into aspects of another. So perhaps one-third of Fa-Nuit-Hen contains aspects similar to those of Nuit?

Also catch Fa-Nuit-Hen guest-starring in Lord Vivec's Sword-Meeting with Cyrus the Restless. In the Sword Meeting, Vivec invokes the name of Fa-Nuit-Hen in an attack that produces "eight wounds that appeared without mortal notice." He's the multiplier of motions known.

"The land of the Indoril" being the lands owned by House Indoril, which is run by Almalexia.

The warriors Fa-Nuit-Hen speaks of are probably warriors who either died in battle after being caught by surprise, or warriors who are troubled after their deaths because they died for a cause they did not understand or comprehend. But "haunting" them seems to connote some form of punishment, perhaps? How odd...

Or maybe that was just the kinda thing Fa-Nuit-Hen was into at the time, you know? It's just a phase. He'll grow out of it. Like water-skiing or collectible plates.

Just in case you're having trouble with the language, "Bladed Carriage" describes the image of the eight Daedra joined together as one. A big cylinder spiked with swords.

The "Unmixed Conflict Path" is an interesting concept for a number of reasons. Like many terms in the 36 Lessons, it uses words that we're all familiar with, but in infuriatingly unintuitive ways.

"Unmixed Conflict" seems to be a contradiction in terms, because conflict is always caused by interaction, or "mixing," in some way. But the very presence of that contradiction reveals the true meaning behind the term.

Unmixed Conflict references the concept of Love, a very complicated idea that Vivec has about the true purpose of Lorkhan's Mundus. I've written before about Vivec's Love, and how it seems to parallel Aleister Crowley's use of the same word, but in the context of the 36 Lessons and the Elder Scrolls universe its meaning is similar but noticeably different.

Therefore I would suggest that the "Unmixed Conflict Path" is the path of Love, the path someone must walk in order to avoid Landfall. "Know Love to avoid Landfall." And if that's still confusing, wait until we get to Sermon 35.

Fa-Nuit-Hen's "bladed carriage" contains the secret of the Unmixed Conflict Path because it is the combination of Daedric forces, all combined and fighting as one entity. This union holds the secret to Love.

What is it's number? Hell if I know.

It's easy to make the mistake of trying to find out what a Tibrol tree is. Don't bother. Similarly, this "puzzle" is not actually intended to be solved. It's a stylistic technique, a reference to the style of other stories to which the 36 Lessons resembles, such as Journey to the West and the Bhagavad Gita, to name a few.

So what is this Secret? There's a lot of Secrets addressed in the 36 Lessons, but none of them seem to be very obvious. Of course, if they were obvious, they wouldn't be very secret, now would they?

But we know that one of the hidden messages in the 36 Lessons is the concept of CHIM, the structure of the Aurbic Wheel, and of course the prophecy of the Amaranth, the latter being expounded upon in the Loveletter from the Fifth Era. And that secret, that of the Amaranth and the oncoming Landfall disaster, is probably the Secret Vivec gave to hir people. Because we must know Love to avoid Landfall, and Love is under Vivec's will only. If Love has a number, that would be the number discussed here.

Does Love have a number? Maybe. My first guess is that its number is 35.

The Left and Right hands have a lot of significance in many religious beliefs, so interpreting the symbolism here is really just a matter of finding the most appropriate one from a long list of goodies.

Personally I like the Western Esoteric explanation, and if we apply it here it suggests that Vivec holds in hir Left Hand the forces of change, destructive and impartial, but in hir Right Hand ze holds the forces of salvation and mercy. And perhaps this symbolism can be extended to mesh with those of the Word and the Sword, but I'll leave that activity for you to complete on your own.

Understanding this phrase, both as Crowley intended it and how Vivec intends it, is difficult. It's one of the many aspects of Thelema that upsets people when they first start exploring it, mostly because in its original form ("Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is under Will only.") it sounds like some hedonistic concept. "Do whatever you want, no matter the consequences."

I've written quite a bit about Vivec's Love and how it compares to Crowley's. But even after all that research, aside from the mystical similarities it's still unclear to me exactly how Vivec's Love works.

Crowley, in contrast to Vivec, has commented extensively on his own writings and the practice of Thelema explains in great detail how the combination of Divine and Mortal forces can lead to the discovery and implementation of one's Will.

But since this commentary is meant to be read sequentially, I'll forgo further comments for now, and pick things back up when we hit Sermon 35. Until then, consider this line from the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6, Verse 31:

The yogi who knows that I and the Supersoul within all creatures are one worships Me and remains always in Me in all circumstances.

Every Lesson ends with this phrase, or some variation on it. On the surface it's another Crowley reference: "The ending of the words is Abrahadabra." We could interpret it here as an homage to the ALMSIVI concept as the "last word" in all the Sermons.

We could also think of each Sermon as a magical spell itself, which seems in keeping with the theme, and the last word of each spell is ALMSIVI.

But I wonder if this does not also refer to the mystical concept of "words" in the 36 Lessons. But we'll talk more about that later. In the meantime, on to Sermon Two!

Lesson One

Synopsis | Narration

He was born in the ash among the Velothi, anon Chimer, before the war with the northern men. Ayem came first to the village of the netchimen, and her shadow was that of Boethiah, who was the Prince of Plots, and things unknown and known would fold themselves around her until they were like stars or the messages of stars. Ayem took a netchiman's wife and said:

'I am the Face-Snaked Queen of the Three in One. In you is an image and a seven-syllable spell, AYEM AE SEHTI AE VEHK, which you will repeat to it until mystery comes.'

Then Ayem threw the netchiman's wife into the ocean water where dreughs took her into castles of glass and coral. They gifted the netchiman's wife with gills and milk fingers, changing her sex so that she might give birth to the image as an egg. There she stayed for seven or eight months.

Then Seht came to the netchiman's wife and said:

'I am the Clockwork King of the Three in One. In you is an egg of my brother-sister, who possesses invisible knowledge of words and swords, which you shall nurture until the Hortator comes.'

And Seht then extended his hands and multitudes of homunculi came forth, each like a glimmering rope through the water, and they raised the netchiman's wife back to the surface world and set her down on the shoals of Azura's coast. There she lay for seven or eight more months, caring for the egg-knowledge by whispering to it the Codes of Mephala and the prophecies of Veloth and even the forbidden teachings of Trinimac.

Seven Daedra came to her one night and each one gave to the egg new motions that could be achieved by certain movements of the bones. These are called the Barons of Move Like This. Then an eighth Daedroth came, and he was a Demiprince, called Fa-Nuit-Hen, or the Multiplier of Motions Known. And Fa-Nuit-Hen said:

'Whom do you wait for?'

To which the netchiman's wife said the Hortator.

'Go to the land of the Indoril in three months' time, for that is when war comes. I return now to haunt the warriors who fell and still wonder why. But first I show you this.'

Then the Barons and the Demiprince joined together into a pillar of fighting styles terrible to behold and they danced before the egg and its learning image.

'Look, little Vehk, and find the face behind the splendor of my bladed carriage, for in it is delivered the unmixed conflict path, perfect in every way. What is its number?'

It is said the number is the number of birds that can nest in an ancient tibrol tree, less three grams of honest work, but Vivec in his later years found a better one and so gave this secret to his people.

'For I have crushed a world with my left hand,' he will say, 'but in my right hand is how it could have won against me. Love is under my will only.'

The ending of the words is ALMSIVI.