Shards of the Diamond Matrix
                                   Selections from the Notebooks of Lance Daybreak
                                                by Erik Davis

     Originally appeared in FringeWare Review, no. 5

     In January, while attempting to scrounge up my first assignment for
Wired, I visited a Tibetan Buddhist
     monastery located in the Indian state of Karnataka. Along with
their usual tasks, the young monks at Sera
     They were inputting rare and crumbling woodblock sutras onto cheap
XTs. Under the auspices of the Asian
     Classics Input Project, mountains of this digital dharma eventually
found its way onto freely-distributed
     CD-ROMs and the Internet.

     One evening, after the monks served me a bowl of noodles and beef
my vegetarians self choked down out
     of politeness, an older monk sidled up to the table. Furtively he
reached into his maroon robes and handed
     me a thick dog-eared notebook, wrapped in a pair of sweat socks. He
made sure I secured the book in my
     satchel, but when I asked what was going on, he only smiled, bowed
and walked quickly from the dining

     I unwrapped the package late that night. The words "Open the
Folds!!" were scrawled on the notebook
     cover and the sticky pages gave off a faint odor of opium. The
yellowing pages were covered with a minute,
     seemingly impenetrable scrawl. Like a printed circuit or a magical
grimoire, the indecipherable density of
     these bug doodles signified, and when I returned to the States, a
microscope confirmed my suspicions: the
     scrawl was a dense molecular text, written in English, and
employing a curious variant of the arcane Chinese
     art of microscopic calligraphy.

     The author himself turned out to be no less arcane, though in a
manner far closer to home. His name was
     Lance Daybreak, and a subsequent call to a Southern California pop
historian corroborated his claim to be
     one of the first surfers to hang around the Santa Monica pier in
the late 1940s. In fact, all Daybreak's
     assertions about his Stateside activities checked out. After
getting his B.A. in archeology from UCLA in
     under two years, he did a long stint as a merchant seamen and
treasure hunter. In 1965, he enrolled in
     Stanford, where he was working on a thesis that combined Maturana's
cybernetics with Nagarjuna's
     second-century Madhyamika Buddhist philosophy in order to solve
some dizzying problems in data sets and
     computational linguistics. Socially, Daybreak covered all the
fronts: he huffed it over the Bay Bridge for SDS
     actions, designed psychedelic light shows for the Pranksters and
the Family Dog, and cranked out
     idiosyncratic code with the hackers at SAIL. In 1968, Daybreak
either dropped out or was expelled. On
     July 20, 1969, the day Apollo 11 landed on the moon, the man left
for Asia.

     It's here that Daybreak's tale becomes pretty ludicrous. In the
manuscript, he claims to have somehow
     eluded the Soviet authorities and entered East Turkestan. There, in
the savage gullies of the Karakorum
     Mountains, a few hundred kilometers southwest of the Taklamakan
Desert, on the southern fork of the
     ancient Silk Road, he "discovered" an unknown and isolated
people—the ngHolos. Though the lay ngHolos
     had settled down into a sedentary life of subsistence farming,
weaving, and hash-growing, the community's
     religious order of monks and nuns, known as the Virtuous Ones
remained nomadic. The Virtuous Ones
     wandered on foot or horseback through the "Folds:" the high passes,
hidden valleys, and endless plateaus of
     their severe mountain surroundings. But Daybreak's descriptions
also make it clear that for the Virtuals, this
     bleak physical environment "unfolded" into an abstract, visionary
realm, a constantly-shifting locus of cosmic
     memory and oracular landscapes haunted by demons, "alien gods" and
insectoid Buddhas. Daybreak
     repeatedly cites one of the ng Holo's countless slogans: Here your
eye does not follow the warp of the
     land. Here you follow the warp of your own eye.

     To judge from his tone, Daybreak does not seem to have gone insane
or sunk into the mire of narcotic
     psychosis. I choose to read his text as I read Castaneda, with an
open mind not particularly concerned with
     anthropological accuracy I wouldn't really be able to judge anyway.
In any case, from the fragments I've
     been able to decipher, the Virtuous Ones—or "Virtuals," as Daybreak
sometimes calls them—are
     fascinating. Their radically eclectic and syncretic religious
philosophy juggles elements from the various faiths
     that passed along the Silk Road—gnostic Manicheaism, Mahayana
Buddhism, Mongolian shamanism,
     Catholicism, heretical Sufism, Taoism—without trying to tie them up
into one grand system.[1] As Daybreak
     writes, "The path is a network of paths."

     Even more fascinating that the ngHolo's religious collages are
their spiritual machines. In the early 17th
     century, a Jesuit named Francis Lumiere brought the first clock to
the region. Daybreak writes: "Having long
     since assimilated whatever Christian motifs that compelled them,
the ngHolos found the man's
     uncompromising theology obnoxious and his clothes in poor taste.
But they loved his machine." The lay
     community put great store in their bronze prayer wheels, whose
constant revolution supposedly generated
     the compassionate energy that kept dreams alive and that cloaked
the Virtuous Ones from wild animals and
     enemies during their mystic peregrinations. Inspired by Lumiere's
device and ngHolo beliefs about the
     cosmic implications of metallurgy, a Virtual nun named Aieda made
the spiritual link between metals and
     mechanics. Along with the somewhat baffled Jesuit, she set about
applying the clock's mechanism to the
     ngHolo prayer wheels.

     Their subsequent machine not only relieved the peasants of the
daily chore of spinning the wheels, but it led
     within decades to a number of inventions, including irrigation
pumps, automated pottery wheels, and a
     programmable loom used to weave the mystical patterns of the
ngHolo's rugs (apparently, they never
     bothered making more clocks). Aieda believed that the punched cards
used to program the looms—an
     incomplete Italian Tarocco (tarot]) deck still venerated
today—allowed the ngHolos to communicate with
     the "Metal-mind," the spiritual consciousness that lay asleep in
all metals and was awakened through

     After a yearlong nomadic meditation, during which she never stopped
walking, Aieda "received" the
     knowledge of how to program open-ended and unpredictable
combinatory sequences into the mechanical
     looms. The spontaneous patterns that appeared on subsequent rugs
were read as auguries from the
     Metal-Mind. Despite a tradition of symmetrical mandalic forms, the
ngHolo rug patterns Daybreak
     reproduces from this period show a striking asymmetry, density, and
self-similar fractal dimensionality.

     Daybreak reports that the ngHolos were mythologically prepared for
this development because of one of
     their quasi-Manichean metallurgic myths. While the four elements
familiar to the West—air, earth, fire, and
     water—were considered to emerge from the earth's eternally fertile
womb, metals were considered the
     remains of the Alien God's semen, which had fallen upon earth
following a celestial tantric rite. For the
     ngHolos, metals were not only sacred but contained the potential
"seeds" for a powerful galactic
     consciousness. Through the slow process of metallurgy, these seeds
would ripen into Metal-Minds, which
     were imagined to be (or at least represented iconographically as)
colossal grasshopper bodhisattvas. At the
     end of the world, these beings would shed the material substance of
their magical green-grey bodies until
     only the metallic shine remained. Millions of these ghostly and
angular light-bodies of light would then
     combine into a boundless and collective temple that would draw the
Alien God back to earth.

     Aieda interpreted the gears of Lumiere's clock as the grasshopper's
mandibles, and the random patterns
     from the loom as the first stirrings of the Metal-Mind. Though a
few traditionalists labeled her a heretic,
     Aieda's work transformed ngHolo spiritual life. The dense patterns
emerging from the loom were magically
     mapped onto the semi-mythic landscape of the Folds, where they
formed an immense and lucid matrix of
     mind known as the "Jewel-Net". Daybreak calls this net "a symphony
of interpenetrating mandalas, an
     immense and luminous enfolded architecture." The ngHolos came to
believe that the Jewel-Net maintained
     its coherence through the the automated prayer wheels and the
psychic intensity generated by the ngHolo's
     most dangerous and esoteric rites: equestrian tantra.

     Daybreak estimates that by the 18th century, the Virtuous Ones
lived an almost entirely psychic existence on
     the Jewel-Net, their nomadism having shifted from the Karakorum
mountains to the more visionary and
     abstract plateaus of the Folds. For apparently, just as the myth
had predicted, the Jewel-Net was growing.

     In the Tibetan regions to the South, the Nyingmapas and the
shamanic Bon follow the terma tradition, which
     holds that the sage Padmasambhava hid hundreds of sacred texts in
the earth (and the spirit realm), texts that
     would only be discovered centuries later by tuned-in lamas (the
so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead is such
     a text). Many were encoded in mystical "Dakini" scripts.[2] The
ngHolos carried this tradition into the
     Jewel-Net, where hundreds of thousands of encoded sacred texts were
uncovered—or "unfolded"—from
     their visionary plateaus: texts of theology, philosophy, history,
iconography, sacred geography. Various
     spiritual beings co-operated to decode these "treasures." Using a
collective form of the ars memoria, or
     memory palaces, picked up from Lumiere or another Jesuit,[3] the
Virtuals then stored, swapped, and
     recombined their termas throughout the ever-expanding Jewel-Net.

     The overwhelming amount of this information, combined with the
ngHolo's already intense eclecticism,
     resulted in radical spiritual anarchy. Reflecting the philosophical
shift from transcendent renunciation to
     immanent becoming, the plateaus of the Fold were no longer
considered to be "revealed" forms of spiritual
     reality, but as spaces created "on the wing" out of the infinite
potential of the Jewel-Net. Lineages broke
     down into splinter groups, impartial agnostic "librarians",
iconoclastic magicians, and "anti-monks." As the
     Virtuous Ones continued to discover, interpret, and store an
increasingly boundless supply of termas, they
     formed constantly shifting and precarious alliances, frequently
struggling with rivals through endless debates
     or magical "pattern-wars."

     By the time Daybreak arrived, most of these fierce power struggles
had relaxed. The following comments,
     which "unfold" a number of the ngHolo's countless mnemonic slogans,
describe the more balanced
     philosophy that developed after generations of nomadism in the
Jewel-Net. The slogans are in italics, and the
     text is all Daybreak's, except for a few of my explanations which
appear in brackets. Much of Daybreak's
     text remain thoroughly obscure.


     The eye is furrow, seed, and source. The eye symbolizes attention.
Everything follows from attention, and
     the awareness of attention is the beginning of awakening: "the
cock-crow." The Jewel-Net pre-exists the eye
     only as a field of total potential. Attention cuts furrows into
this field, preparing the ground for the objects we
     perceive—the seeds—to both appear and find a place. But this grid
of furrows and seeds, of points and
     tangents, is not enough to produce "reality"—you need the "source,"
the energetic of desire or fascination
     that operates "behind" the eye, to water the seeds. This eye of
attention is like a spring which can choose its
     direction of flow, though over time this spontaneous power is
reduced to a habit. But awareness and control
     begin with this awake gaze, and it should be cultivated.

     The Virtuals recognize the inevitability of constantly producing
reality, at least as long as one has not
     achieved "the flight of gnosis." The plateau grows to fit your
shadow is one slogan which Jungians would
     probably enjoy. But since ngHolo society was evenly divided between
agriculture and nomadism, they
     pictured this reifying tendency in profoundly ambivalent terms. Our
habits of perception and action are seen
     as ruts as much as furrows. In this sense, seeds are materialistic
delusions that karmically grow into
     something larger and more demanding than they initially appear.
Sift the seeds, they warn. Some Virtuals
     interpret Adam and Eve's expulsion from Eden into the toil of
agriculture as a fall into the ruts of perception.
     The rain that feeds the wild poppy falls from the sky, they say,
indicating the "pure production" that is to
     be aimed for: a spontaneous growth of unpredictable objects
generated from the ultimate field of emptiness
     (the "sky-like mind" of Ch'an).

     We ourselves are nothing but seeds grown within furrows dug and
watered by the attention of others.
     Assessing the value of this prepared plot of land that is our
"given" world is of primary spiritual importance.
     The path towards the Jewel-Net comes through preparing our own
ground, for the furrows dug by the
     attention (our patterns of perception) in many way determine the
seeds, or objects, that will appear.
     (Because they farmed on hillsides, ngHolo plots are rarely regular,
but follow the various possible folds of
     the land). So we should carefully prepare the patterns of our
attention, its mode of organization, its blend of
     curves and grids, randomness and order. For the ngHolos, the
chaotic woven mandalas that issued from the
     loom of the Metal-Mind were occult keys to these patterns. But the
ngHolos also emphasized the supreme
     momentum of rootless flight, the nomadic spread of weeds and wild
poppies rather than the conscious
     cultivation of philosophical or material ground. As a famous slogan
puts it, I become mushroom, without
     root, my dharma seeds scattered to the wind.

                                            * * *

     The soul weaves Indra's net.

     Following the anatman doctrines of Buddhism, the Virtuals insist
that any fixed notion of self, even the
     Universal Self, is an illusion. At the same time, the ngHolos
emphasize that the self and the world are
     constantly produced, that the cosmos is both network and void. The
allusion here to the Hindu myth of
     Indra's web, which the ngHolo's fused with the image of the
universe as pictured in the Avatamsaka
     Sutra[4]: an infinitely nested and interrelated monadology in which
each singularity reflects and embodies a
     boundless totality.

     The Virtuals did not deny the conventional self, but rather filled
it with space and emptiness. They call this
     "weaving the net." Like a net, the conventional self or ego is
something we toss into the infinite potential of
     reality in order to "catch" our karmic desires, but it too is
composed of emptiness[5]. If the net is too thick
     and tightly-wound, it will retain everything, for there is no void
to escape into, and everything will become
     very heavy and egocentric. If the net is too loose and weakly
bound, it will not function—larger catches will
     break its threads, and the smaller will escape.

     We never stop weaving the net or trawling the world of potential.
Newly woven patterns catch new fish. Of
     course, the net of the self relates to the larger Jewel-Net. For
the ngHolos, the fractal mandalas of the looms
     were the keys to maintaining the conventional self while weaving
them into this larger pattern of multiplicity.

                                            * * *

     The path is a plateau.

     For the ngHolos, the notion of a spiritual "path" is a misnomer,
for spiritual reality is an endlessly proliferating
     manifold. The path is a network of paths, a plateau. One can not
"follow" a network, but must constantly
     probe it. Each footprint is a node, which constantly re-produces a
number of possible directions. Arrival and
     departure are fused. As such, immediate and fragmentary spiritual
tactics (including these slogans) are prized
     more than grand strategic methods which attempt to lay out a
well-organized hierarchy of stages towards
     gnosis. Many Virtual Masters achieved fame not for their diligence
in pursuing one of the ngHolo's countless
     philosophical cults, but for the specific topology of the plateaus
they created as they moved through different
     and frequently antagonistic fields of thought and experience.

                                            * * *

     Webs mar the Jewel-Net.

     The Virtuous Ones contrast the image of the suppleness of the open
net with the centralized and sticky
     organization of the web. In a web, the self becomes a spider, a
solidified, grasping ego which sits at the
     center and relates everything to itself. Because a tremendous
amount of power over others can be generated
     through webs, black magicians worshipped the spider of their own
egos. The greatest ngHolo necromancers
     would clandestinely seed patterns in the Jewel Net in order to
"catch" the eye of others, adepts who would
     slowly become bound in an immense pattern they believed to be a new
revelation. This "revelation" was
     actually a web, which would capture the victims in a paranoid
spell. Many such victims went mad or become
     so convinced of having discovered the ultimata pattern that they
would be ostracized from the collective.
     Jewel-Net healers would often attempt to free such individuals by
binding them in "devotional webs,"
     patterns of compassionate paranoia that would "kill the spider."

                                            * * *

     The flow extinguishes the flame.

     An even more aggressive form of magical Jewel-Net combat was the
flame. After binding their opponents in
     a web, vengeful Virtuals would them destroy them with psychic fire.
Those victims who were too caught up
     in the web of their illusory convictions to release themselves
would be unable to move, and would either
     suffer greatly or return the flame. Like the Tibetans, the ngHolos
believed that the violent flames were
     ultimately compassionate, in that they destroyed the unregenerate
selfhood. Still, the Virtuals prefer to
     contrast flames with the flow of water. By flowing, one escapes
through the path of least resistance,
     dissolving the web of selfhood and extinguishing the flame. The
flow also becomes the subtlest and most
     powerful form of counter-attack: the unceasing yet gentle pressure
of water eventually erodes the hardest

                                            * * *

     The horseman is poised as he flies through the night.

     Found on many prayer wheels, saddles and shrines, this slogan
contains both an exoteric and esoteric
     meaning. Esoterically, it refers to a crucial component of the
astounding Virtual art of high-speed equestrian
     tantra. Exoterically, it refers to the quality of balance needed to
properly navigate the Jewel-Net: the subtle
     contrast between the knowledge you accumulate and your beginner's
mind before the new. Given the
     encyclopedic density of the Net, the Virtuals obviously put great
emphasis on the proper gathering,
     organizing, and storage of termas. But as the masters say, The
greater your store, the slower your flight.
     The greatest Net nomads are as naive as they are wise, know when to
jettison information, and avoid the
     hoarding of knowledge for its own sake. The "web" here also
symbolizes the spider-nests that grow around
     stored or hidden containers. By compassionately sharing this
wealth, you unbind yourself from the sticky
     burdens of knowledge.

                                            * * *

     Answer the Call with a Call

     Here the ngHolos alter a crucial element of Manichean soteriology
[science of salvation]. For the
     Manicheans, the couple "Call" and "Answer" are hypostasized
[simultaneously considered abstract concepts
     and mythological beings], and result from the separation of the
fragments of cosmic light imprisoned in fallen
     matter and the Voice of the Alien God who calls these sparks to
redemption.[7] The ngHolos mapped this
     communication system onto the Jewel-Net. Delivering and receiving
information, the Virtuals would take on
     the roles of Call and Answer, foreshadowing the final apocalyptic
communication with the Alien God. But
     the roles would continually change—individuals would always Answer
the Call with another Call, thus
     constantly fluctuating between master and student, God and
aspirant. Cosmic knowledge was both
     continually revealed and continually displaced, and the
transcendence of the gnostic flash was woven into the
     phenomenal world of the Jewel-Net. The Folds became an incandescent
matrix of communication, a
     perpetually postponed apocalypse.

                                            * * *

     Crack the dawn!

     The Virtuals seek many different modes of gnosis or enlightenment.
This slogan refers to one of the foremost
     of these "horizonless goals:" the gnosis of "staying awake", or
more specifically, always waking up. This is the
     most exalted yet everyday mode of enlightenment, one which is not
attained so much as continually
     rediscovered. There is only waking up and rubbing your eyes . One
of the techniques to developing these
     moments—which we err in considering "states" of consciousness—is to
allow these very slogans to
     randomly erupt in the mind. Spontaneously "mad" behavior, tricks,
and optical illusions are also common
     approaches, but the moment they become fixed as "techniques" they
begin to lose their efficacy. The point is
     to cut against established patterns—to "kill the Buddha," as the
Ch'an patriarchs say. For example, rather
     than staring at a beautiful object that catches your eye in the
market, observe how others relate to the object.

     As in English, ngHolo's Indo-Chinese dialect contains the image of
the dawn as a "crack" or "break." The
     peasants believe this crack is real—that a day literally ossifies
over its 24-hour period, trapping the earth
     inside a cosmic shell. The shell is then ruptured by the rising
sun. But the Virtuals play with this image to
     emphasize both the violent and nurturing aspects of "always waking
up". On the one hand, perpetual gnosis
     constantly rends the dreamlike illusion—or more exactly, the
tentative construction—of your present plateau.
     On the other hand, such gnosis pervades the mind with the empty but
pregnant emptiness of the glowing
     dawn sky.

     Some compare perpetual gnosis to a chick breaking through an
endless series of nested eggs. While this
     image of gnosis as a movement through a cosmic collection of
Chinese boxes may remind Westerners of the
     "existential" myth of Sisyphus, the Virtuals saw it as the supreme
affirmation of perpetual nomadism. In
     contrast to Sisyphus, with the heavy burden of his self and his
ceaseless linear ascent towards a goal, the
     Virtuals open up a perpetual field of becoming. Cracking the dawn
not only continually grounds the lucidity
     of gnosis in the present moment, but it also cuts against the
mind's tendency to make gnosis a goal. Even
     cosmic knowledge must be rent if it becomes a web. The nomad knows
that there is no escape, for
     liberation is achieved only in the act of flight.

Back to What's New