The theories presented in this document rely heavily upon concepts that are often the source of controversy within the Elder Scrolls Lore community. The ideas I discuss accept out-of-game (OOG) sources, such as Michael Kirkbride’s C0DA and MareloRyan’s “A Model of the Godhead and its Contents.” I highly recommend reading both – some of the jargon I throw around assumes that you have a decent grasp on TES lore outside of the surface presentations of the games on their own.
Before we start, let’s tack down some nomenclature so we’re all on the same page.
ANU – The Dreamer, whose Dream contains the Tamriel we know and love.
Ald-Amaranth – The name I ascribe to the Dreamer before ANU. We know nothing about the world ANU came from aside from Yokuda. Sort of.
Jubal – Jubal-lun Sul, the Dreamer of Akavir, a joint pillar of the House of We, and husband of Vivec.
The suffix “-Actual” – I will use this phrase to reference a perception that is as close to 100% objectivity as possible, without the taint of outside influence or perspective. It is the Dream (or aspect of a Dream; a person, a race, an idea, etc) as perceived by its respective Dreamer.
The suffix “-A” – Take this to mean “As ANU perceives it”
The suffix “-J” – Take this to mean “As Jubal perceives it”
It is commonly understood that not all continents on Nirn are created equal. Some are flat-out fictional, some are subject to unorthodox ideas of Time, and some are other Dreams with their own respective Dreamers. The latter are the ones I’ll be talking about.
East represents the future, and West represents the past. What this means is that Yokuda and Akavir are the Past and Future Dreams, respectively. There are three Dreams, ergo there are three Dreamers.
What does it mean to be a Dreamer?
To be a Dreamer, one must perform the greatest act of self-sacrifice – Amaranth. To become Amaranth is to forego one’s physical existence and use one’s mind to create a new reality. Effectively Amaranth causes a metaphorical and existential sleep wherein new possibilities make manifest. The previous Dream is left behind, and a new Dream is birthed.
In ANU’s Dream, for example, we know that metaphor makes manifest. The notion is the namesake of a Dawn-era war, for Pete’s sake. Races and people (usually in groups) tend to wear their “ideology-as-skin” which is why we have differences in, say, the Khajiit and the Bosmer, or the Falmer and the Dwemer, the Chimer and the Altmer, et cetera. The worldviews of each people have manifested themselves into their physical appearance.
What’s more, we know that mythopoeia is a thing. What’s mythopoeia? It’s the idea that the belief of many can change reality. If everyone in Tamriel agreed that Fargoth was a god, well by gum, he’s a god now.
But why does it work that way? It’s really simple – everyone and everything within the Dream is a part of the Dreamer, whether they know it or not. As more and more of them agree on something, more and more portions of the Dreamer itself believe that thing. One individual might equal one-one-millionth of the Dreamer, but it stands to reason that each individual is one set of eyes/ears/hands with which the Dreamer can explore his Dream. This is why CHIM is special, because it allows the individual to realize their relationship to the Dreamer – they ARE the Dreamer.
Good so far? Cool.
How does a Dream differentiate from a Godhead?
There is some contention on this matter. Some will insist that there is a supreme Godhead in which all other Dreamers and realities exist. The Godhead is the container for all conceivable existence within a closed system. A contained 10th-dimensional nexus, if you will – filled with Dreams, with the Dreamsleeve occupying the space between them.
Alternatively, the Godhead is synonymous with the Dreamer. Any Dreamer. All Dreamers. Jubal is a Godhead, ANU is a Godhead, Ald-Amaranth is a Godhead. The implication here is that to achieve Amaranth is to become a Godhead, and that Dreamer and Godhead can be used interchangeably. The main point of dispute is whether Dreamers are Godheads by rights.
I tend to take a reconciliatory middle-ground approach.The latter idea doesn’t necessarily rule out the existence of an original Godhead, but can imply that within THE Godhead are multiple other godheads, as one Amaranth built inside another Amaranth built inside another Amaranth, ad infinitum. This is an interesting notion because it implies that, somewhere at the beginning of the Dream/Amaranth chain, there’s a “real world” wherein the rules of the singular Godhead don’t apply. I like to think this could be OUR world.
But to that end, there is no definitive answer. Lore is what you make it to be.
At any rate, we understand that a Dreamer is a different individual from another Dreamer. I am different from you and both of us are different from George Clooney. We have separate feelings, thought processes, experiences, worldviews, opinions, and methods of making sense of the world and information with which we are presented. I like to call this phenomenon, in the context of TES at least, the “Lens of Perception.” Where you see the color red, I may in fact see blue and have been taught and conditioned that it is red and always has been. In psychological circles, these tidbits, these uncommunicatable facets of our own subjective experiences are called “qualia.” I cannot see through your eyes with your brain to see if our reds look the same. It just isn’t possible.
What is the Lens of Perception and what does it have to do with Dreams?
We’ve established that the Dreamers are different individuals with their own qualia, their own subjective experiences that can’t conceivably translate from one mind to another. And so the notion of the Lens of Perception is one I coined to help potentially explain more abstract metaphysics of the TES universe and above. Consider the following from an outside, omniscient perspective.
Consider this: Yokuda, Tamriel, and Akavir are separate Dreams, each with their own simulacrum of each other modified by the Lens of Perception. I know this is confusing, but let me try to break it down.
Let’s take Tamriel, for example. We know that it’s possible to travel between Tamriel and Akavir, despite the illusions of linear time separating the two into Dreams before and after each other. The Reman dynasty spent a lot of time trying to invade Akavir bearing little fruit. The Akaviri, however, have successfully made several incursions into Tamriel virtually unimpeded. How is this possible? Well here’s my thought.
What we see in the TES games, the TES books, and in OOG sources is Tamriel-Actual. It is the truest Tamriel we can see because it is seen by the Dreamer observing his own Dream. ANU doesn’t have to re-interpret his own interpretations. The Tamriel seen from within ANU’s Dream is the closest to a real Tamriel we can get.
Now what if ANU shifts his gaze to Akavir? Do you think he’s seeing the same Akavir that Jubal sees from HIS perspective as a Dreamer? Is ANU’s red the same as Jubal’s red? I’m guessing not, and here’s why: ANU is caught in a cycle of grief, pain, and conflict. Jubal is not – his Dream was built upon Love, not grief.
Here’s where things get a bit more abstract.
The Akaviri we see in TES are not the true Akaviri. They are ANU’s interpretation of the Akaviri, which is why they are so weird and exotic. But what does that mean for the ACTUAL Akaviri, the ones who originated in Akavir-Actual?
Here’s the thing – the Tsaesci (who may not even be Tsaesci from Jubal’s perspective in Akavir-Actual and may be something different entirely) are ideas within Jubal’s mind. They, as ideas, are travelling from Akavir-Actual into Tamriel-J. Now, according to MareloRyan, if a being understands the similarities between two Dreams, the Godhead(s) creates a bridge for metaphorical crossing from one mind into another. Bearing that in mind, the Tsaesci can certainly travel from Akavir-Actual to Tamriel-Actual, but they don’t remain unchanged in the process.
This is where the Lens of Perception comes in. The Lens of Perception is effectively how ANU interprets the things that come from other Dreamers. The Tsaesci-Actual might be golden-skinned Men or something similar to Mer with a peaceful society (Jubal’s Dream is built on Love, after all). Their written and oral histories may reflect this idea. But when they cross the Lens, they become Tsaesci-A, and all that stuff, the physical appearance, the cultural minutiae, the oral and written histories, it’s all put through the Lens. ANU looks at these ideas and (with them being so alien to him) uses metaphor to make sense of them. And metaphor makes reality within ANU’s Dream.
Yes, I am implying that everything we know about the real Tsaesci is objectively wrong.
By the simple fact that we are only seeing them as ANU interprets and metaphorizes them, we have no idea what Tsaesci-Actual are, only what Tsaesci-A are. It’s nearly impossible to work backwards with metaphor to arrive at a more literal description that can account for Tsaesci-Actual with any degree of reliability. We see them as snake people who eat language, “we eat it to become it,” with aesthetic elements that echo feudal Japan. But what assurance do we have that that is how Jubal sees them? I assert that these elements are simply the metaphors that ANU uses to adapt Jubal’s concepts (that don’t translate, remember my red versus your red) into his own. It is quintessentially trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Do the Tsaesci know they’ve been changed?
Why would they? If you understand the retroactivity of CHIM, you can make sense of this idea. As soon as a people, like the Tsaesci, cross the threshold of the Lens of Perception, their history, their physical appearances and cultural minutiae have ALWAYS been how ANU perceives them. ANU is interpreting these ideas, and the individual Tsaesci that cross over have ceased to be a tiny part of Jubal’s consciousness and have become a part of ANU’s consciousness – they effectively are a transmitter for ANU’s perception, now. The ideas don’t change, the interpretations of them do. My red isn’t any more or less valid than your red, and the thing that IS red, objectively speaking, doesn’t actually change. The same is true for these cultural/visual ideas. Objectively speaking, these ideas are in continuity regardless of who interprets them.
Does this apply to Yokuda, too?
Yes, this applies to Yokuda and the Yokudans. But it works in a slightly different way. The difference lies in the reasonable assertion that ANU, as a mortal being, came from Yokuda-Actual prior to becoming Amaranth. Yokuda is the past Dream, after all. It stands to reason that Yokuda-A is informed by ANU’s Memory. He was there. He knows what to expect. Yokuda isn’t alien to him – he was born there. This means that ANU’s interpretation of Yokuda is much closer to Yokuda-Actual without actually BEING Yokuda-Actual. Despite its similarities, Yokuda-A IS subject to ANU’s metaphors, just like Akavir-A. Did Yokuda actually fall into the sea in Ald-Amaranth’s Dream? Or is that the metaphor ANU uses to suggest that it was torn apart by war? Were the Left-Handed Elves actual Mer? Or is that a metaphor for some kind of othered enemy?
In summary, the Lens of Perception is an idea that does not necessarily mesh with other ideas/headcanons of what constitutes TES cosmology and metaphysical concepts. If you don’t accept MareloRyan’s ideas on how Dreams and Godheads work, you won’t accept this idea. And that’s fine, I’m not here to police ideas, I’m just here to offer another lens (haha) with which to view the lore we all know and love.
That being said, I find that this theory opens all kinds of new possibilities, even more open ideas about other Dreams, multiverses, and string theory.