The Ego Machine


Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius


The displayed plates were reproduced from Volume 11 of the Anglo-American Cyclopaedia which itself was a literal translation of the  Encyclopædia Britannica of 1902. An article titled ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’, detailed the cultural traditions of Uqbar and its environs in Asia Minor. The article also gave a short account of the significance of a 15th century manuscript discovered in an Algerian coffee shop in 1890.

The plates reproduced from this manuscript apparently depict a mechanism that models man's consciousness though the accompanying textual fragments state categorically that the mechanism does not simulate but rather is a man's consciousness - "one mechanism at once in work and stopped under partial draping of breathing flesh."


The following extracts are taken from the article. 



The mechanism transcribes sight and sound onto a spinning disc whose spinning serves also to stabilise and propel. Impressions received by the main funnel and embedded ocular apparatus are conveyed via vibrations to a needle that engraves the disc surface. The recorded sound impressions are transmitted to the Consciousness Sphere via the vibrational energy experienced by another needle. A single lens attached to the Sphere reads visual impressions from the disc surface. The mechanism function therefore posits that Human Consciousness is nothing more than Awareness. Specifically, awareness of the recorded contents on the disc surface or what we may now interpret as the Mind or Ego.


Madness and Suffering

The disc spins continually and the ocular mechanism and auditory needle are, for the most part, fixed onto the surface of the disc though both the ocular mechanism and needle, despite the operation of various damping mechanisms, can be thought to randomly jump the grooves on the surface of the disc. The Consciousness Sphere is therefore subjected to a continual stream of semi-random impressions, impressions which become more salient in delirium and madness though even temperate dispositions experience wayward thoughts numbering in the hundreds every moment.


Death and Sleep

The disc stops spinning periodically, an event which generally coincides with a regular absence of light. Spinning restarts when the light has been reinstated. Sometimes the spinning cannot restart. This coincides with a critical stage of mechanism damage whether by a gradual time related erosion or by sudden trauma. Sleep and death, in terms of awareness or consciousness are therefore identical.



There is a small flexibility inherent in the ocular mechanism attached to the Consciousness Sphere which allows the lens to peer over the edge of the disc. The overlooking of the Mind/Ego disc can be thought to correspond to the state of Buddah/Christ awareness state achieved in advanced meditative states. The flexing of the ocular mechanism is difficult and effortful. Some manage to momentarily look over the rim of the spinning disc. Others contemplate the serene darkness and are forever changed. Most never achieve more than a reflexive twitching of the ocular mechanism and are condemned to understand existence through the Ego until the disc ceases spinning completely.

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius Plate 1

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius Plate 2

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius Plate 3

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius Plate 4