Monday, February 22, 2010

Orson Scott Card's "philotic twining" Theory

In Xenocide, the third science fiction book of the Ender's Game series by author Orson Scott Card, I was surprised to find the physics theory of philotic twining to have a gnostic slant. From Wikipedia, here is the best description I can find of the theory, in three distinct sections

Pay particular attention to the theory of 'ai
ùas.'My own notes and thoughts are at the end.


A philote is the basic building block of matter, the true indivisible particle that is not made up of smaller ones. Philotes take up no space and are essential to the theory of philotic energy. Each atom has a philote of its own, each molecule likewise, and ultimately each human has an aiùa, an intelligent philote. It is suggested that perhaps a single philote, which could be referred to as God, contains the essence of humanity, and/or all sentient species in the known universe.

Early in the series, philotic energy is used as a form of faster-than-light communication, in which messages are transmitted instantaneously via ansible. Later, it is used as a form of near-instantaneous travel, with items to be transported being sent Outside and then back In, arriving at the specified destination (which may be any distance from the origin).

Philotes combine or 'twine' to make up all matter in the universe. This twining also makes possible the ansibles, which allow instantaneous communication over any distance via quantum entanglement. Philotes have no mass or inertia, only location (similar to a geometric point), and extend infinitely in two directions. All philotes are qualitatively different from each other, in that some are 'smarter' than others. As one moves up the levels, from philotes to quarks to atoms to molecules and so on, the patterns in which the philotes twine become increasingly complex. Not all philotes are 'smart' enough to be able to control and maintain these patterns. It takes very 'smart' ones, which are called aiúas, to inhabit actual life forms, and an organism's 'master' philote, or its aiùaSanskrit for life), is considered to be the physical site of its soul. (

The Hive Queens of the Formic race are born like the rest of the Formics: unintelligent. The mother of the new queen calls a philote from another place, a non-place, and it comes. The Hive Queen also mentions that humans do the same thing when born. It's the act of becoming sentient. It is discovered that these philotes come from Outside, where there is no sense of location and all matter resides in one geometrical point (see above section for more detail).

In the study of philotics, philotes are essential threads of energy, which have no mass, and the measurable dimension of a mathematical point, which entwine or "twine" and create holons, which are then interpreted as solid sensory phenomena by sentient beings.

The theory of philotics

Philotes are the fundamental building blocks of all matter and energy. Philotes have neither mass, dimension, nor inertia. Philotes have only location, duration and connection. When philotes combine to make durable structures, protons, neutrons, atoms, molecules, organisms, planets, etc., they "twine up". Each philote connects itself to the rest of the universe along a single ray, a one-dimensional line that connects it to all other philotes in its nearest immediate structure.

All of those strands from philotes in that structure are twined into a single philotic thread that connects to the next largest structure. The threads twine into a yarn to the next largest structure, and then into a greater rope of larger structures. This has nothing to do with nuclear forces or gravity, nothing to do with chemical bonds. Philotes are beneath all observable manifestations of matter and energy.

The individual philotic rays are always there, present in the twines, going on apparently forever. The rays twine together to the planet, and each planet's philotic twine reaches to its star, and each star to the center of the galaxy — and who knows where after that.

The philotic twines from substances like rock or sand all connect directly from each molecule to the center of the planet. But when a molecule is incorporated into a sentient living organism, its ray shifts. Instead of reaching to the planet, it gets twined up into the individual cells, the rays from all the cells are all twined together so that each organism sends a single fiber of philotic connections to twine up with the central philotic rope of the planet.

When a twined structure is broken — as when a molecule breaks apart — the old philotic twining remains for a time. Fragments that are no longer physically connected remain philotically connected for a while. The smaller the particle the longer the connection lasts after the break up. The more complex the structure the faster it responds to change. After nuclear fission, theoretically, it takes hours for the philotic rays to sort themselves out again, perhaps not in an identical manner. The energy released in fission may result from the breaking of philotic twines.

At one point, Jane hints that she is responsible for the ansibles's safety. The philotic rays themselves have never broken, only the machinery, but shouldn't they have, after at least 3000 years? She says she keeps them entwined, using her power being a sentient being that lives in the ansibles's connections.

Philotic Web

The Philotic Web is a philosophical and metaphysical construct of the Ender's Game series of books by Orson Scott Card. The philosophy of philotes and the philotic web they create first appeared in Xenocide, the third book of the series. It describes the interconnection of not only all the aiuas in the universe, but also the lesser-intelligent philotes. The "web" itself is used by Jane to access not only the combined knowledge of humanity, but also as a pseudo-storage device to house her memory and higher reasoning functions.

The web is the direct result of every philotic connection in the universe. These connections never touch each other in the truer sense of the word "web," but every being can be linked to every other being by their interconnected philotes. These philotic connections are not static, and can be strengthened or weakened over time. For example, Si Wang-Mu and Peter Wiggin begin their journey together having only a small philotic connection. As they spend more time together and grow increasingly more affectionate and emotionally attached to each other, their connection grows stronger and stronger.

The philotic connections spoken of in the Enderverse can grow to monumental proportions based solely on emotional and "spiritual" connectedness. Grego is spoken of as having formed a very intense philotic web with the angry mob in Xenocide in a matter of minutes. Additionally, philotic connections can cause physical disturbance or emotional distress when severed.

It is also important to note that philotic connections exist between living and non-living things alike.


The very last sentence strikes me deeply in the sense that we are all very materialistic creatures. Our wants. Our things-we-think-we-need but in essence can do perfectly fine without. If this philotic twining of ours with material items comes to be too important to us then WHO are we so strongly connected with? No one. And nothing except our own greed for more 'things' to surround ourselves with to distract us from how hollow our lives are without more meaning.


Anonymous said...

That was cool I think you got it. Anyway, that's the way I imagined it.

Angel said...

Gnosis is everywhere. It's still funky to me that such a basic concept of gnosis is found in a sci-fi book.

Ender's Game, the first book in the series, was made into a movie. It's coming out this November. The OSC fangirl in me is squeeing with joy. My boys are psyched to see it now that they've read the books.