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John Carpenter's



The Metaphysics Of The Thing

By Cpl Ferro

What is the nature of the Thing that has come from the Universe?  This essay endeavours to tell the deepest metaphysical truth on the matter.  This essay is not intended to be mammoth.  It is rather a short and hopefully sweet explanation for the nature of the best monster in movie history, the Thing.


The Thing is not a biological entity as such.  That is the first thing to realise.  It is not an organism like other organisms.  It is, rather, a principle of nature, akin to gravity, electromagnetism, or the least-time theory of light.  It is embedded in the fabric of the Universe itself and as such is eternal and ineradicable.  It is a substitute, biotic, alternative principle to the principle of biology that subsumes inorganic materials into living systems.


The second thing to realise is the nature of the Universe, which is monadic, after Leibniz's Monadology.  That is, everything substantial is one, is a unity, and manifests itself to greater or lesser degrees to the experiencing mind.  A living man's metabolic body manifests quite clearly to the senses, but a dead man, a decaying man, a man turned to ashes is increasingly less manifest.  Hence the term “passed away.”  To be clear:  everything material is manifesting a monad, a spirit being lacking extension and physical qualities while possessing perception and desire.


Everything substantial being a monad, monads are associated with other monads, just as a man's body-as-a-whole is associated with his individual organs, and those with his cells, all the way down to the tiniest particles.


A man's mind is also a monad, associated with his body.  See Figure 1 which presents this relationship.

The Thing, however, is not an organism as such.  It is a manifold of imitation, associated with the inorganic substances of its victims.  That is, every cell of a victim' body is imitated by having its monad replaced by a quasi-monad formed out of the T-principle manifold itself.

An electron in a carbon atom in a Thing is obeying the T-principle, not the ordinary principle of organic life. The T-principle imitates in embryo everything imitable, meaning everything living.  It does not imitate the sub-organelle level, but simply subsumes them into its alternate biotic principle.


To understand how this works, imagine a Thing meets a man.  The man is whole, body and mind.  The Thing monsters out and attacks him, and penetrates physically to every cell in his body (including his dust mites and other parasites he may harbour), whereupon the monads of those cells, including his body monad and his mind monad, are captured and situated inside the T-principle's manifold of imitation like jewels in a crown.  The T-principle uses these jewels as needed for imitation purposes, but when no longer needed they drain away into the treasure-box of souls at the back of its mind, and are replaced by whatever captured monads are needed.


The attacked man is therefore assimilated and his mind's and body's monads are all captured in a kind of limbo, leaving an imitation monadic structure in their stead—but constructed with the original's monads.


The thing to understand is that the T-principle encompasses all its imitations at once, so that there is no separating  the controller of imitation A from that of imitation B.  They are both imitations (made of captured materials) that have the “flash hole” of the trauma of their absorption aligning them with the T-principle's intentions.  They, both A and B, are the  same T-principle, the same manifold, just different wealths of monads.


Thus the Thing is a kind of pantheistic, absorbing angel, fitting to have fallen from the empyreal realm.  Naturally lacking a body and therefore a brain, it thinks only intuitively, not logically—that is, the monad of the T-principle itself “thinks” as if intuitively, like an angel--as can be seen in the events of the film, such as the Norwegian dog-Thing's decision not to assimilate Clark, or its bollixed Dogtown attack.


The Thing transforms when it encounters a situation wherein the T-principle intuitively recognises its own identity via the imitation brain, whereupon the imitation becomes self-conscious to the degree its mind is able.  This depends on scale.  A dog has a high degree of self-consciousness, here, a petri dish of blood has little sell-consciousness where the cells combine to form a whole, and react as a whole, and a dust mite nearly none at all.  When it realises its nature, it intuitively changes shape to address the threat or opportunity before it.  The mind of its imitation recedes into its treasure-box and is replaced by a more suitable manifestation.


But it does it sleeping.  Like the principle of gravitation, it acts subconsciously, groaning and striving in its fitfulness of monstrous congress, quiescent and numb when in the ice, but never thinking like a man, never aware like a man.  Even when it deploys its alien brain imitations, such as with which it built its small flying saucer, the T-principle itself is intuitively sleepwalking.  This is why the Thing cannot communicate (Bennings):  it has no human mind, no reflective, perceptive, or even dreaming mind to communicate with.  It is not dead, but it is sleeping, whether active or passive.


The T-principle is indiscernible from its imitations and therefore exists subconsciously, in a kind of slumber.  Its key to unlocking its transformations is its discontinuity or “flash hole,” which is defined by the moment of assimilation itself which the newly assimilated victim is made to forget, but which the body remembers with unease.  Reflective (human) but non-genius minds slightly feel it (Palmer, Norris) like a “shadow” in their subconscious, something there but ambiguous.


This shadow is a result of the T-principle's interface with the victim's mind.  Again, the imitation mind is the victim's mind which is kidnapped, bound and put back, with a mental shadow, in the brain of the imitation.  There has to be a mind in order to “run” the imitation, a brain by itself would be vegetative without a mind.  So while there is zero physical difference between a victim's pre and post-imitation states, the metaphysical difference is present in all absorbed monads which are identical save for this shadow.  To combat this and avoid self-conscious triggering of psychosis or monstrous transformations, the T-principle intuitively hides the shadow in the prefrontal cortex, where the ordinary, practically unreflective human cannot see it.  A dog cannot see it's metaphysical shadow, but a perceptive man might.  And an extraordinary human with developed powers of self-conscious reason—a genius, such as one able to hypothesise a new principle and prove it by a proof-of-principle experiment, however, will notice and therefore be unassimilable.  Or, rather, such a man would be assimilated but the T-principle could not act using that man's body.  He would be a trans-Thing.


Remember that part of a man's mind is reflected into it by his brain-monad, so a metaphysical discontinuity would place a real shadow on the brain part (the brain-reflection, the reflection of the prefrontal cortex) of the man's mind.  Thus no Thing would ever think up the test (as Fuchs logically knew about Doc). 


Blair was a genius, and was assimilated early on as part of the Thing's assault on the science division.  It took a chance, hoping he wasn't an extremely clear thinker like Mac.  His mind was imitated, but crept closer and closer to the test, closer and closer to the shadow in his mind that contained the test, and in so approaching the T-principle instituted a psychotic break to avoid a transformation, a panic-stricken need to act.  First he sabotaged the blood knowing this would cast doubt on Garry (the leader) and neutralise Doc (science division).  He then went berserk in a bid to get himself confined to the shed and neutralised scientifically.  Thus his plan was a psychosis attempting to “save humanity” in his human mind, but guided by the T-prinicple in directions that would serve to protect the monster's interests.


This also explains why Fuchs was killed:  He was a potential genius.  He wasn't in actuality, but the T-principle thought he might be.  As a member of the science division he was a threat, but the Thing couldn't assimilate him as a man of genius without risking another psychotic break, so it burned him instead of letting him think up a test.


This also explains how we know Mac wasn't a Thing at the end.  Mac is a genius for thinking up his test, and could not be imitated.  His specific understanding of the nature of the Thing would give it nowhere to hide within his mind.  The Thing would merely be imitating his flesh, but without an animating mind, and therefore no way to order his monads to obey its transformation orders.  If it seems strange there were no other geniuses, we must remember the other men were tired, scared, paranoid, and confused, and they weren't natural principled thinkers.  Mac suffered an intuitive insight of hypothesis/experiment/proof-of-principle that is the definition of genius, as opposed to mere virtuosity or lucky guesses.


At the end, Childs, if he were a Thing, would know intuitively (i.e., via the T-principle) whether Mac was a Thing or not.  This intuitive knowledge is not had by the imitation but only by the T-principle lurking behind it, so if the imitation acted on this knowledge it would involve monstering out.  If they were both Things, it would seem there would be no reason or ability to speak.  However, Things imitate form and behaviour continuously by their nature unless there is something to be gained by acting otherwise.  So whether they were Things or not, Mac and Childs would act the same as they did in the movie.


And what would happen if the T-principle itself disappeared?  Simply put, the imitation would collapse into an inorganic body of water and dust, all its organic monads disappearing with the T-principle, leaving only inorganics.  It would leave a corpse.  To see this, ask, what is the difference between a cell 1 second before it's death, and that same cell 1 second after its death?  Nothing has changed except a principled kind of geometry between the components.  The Thing imitates this geometry, taking the place of the normal biological continuum.  Remove it and all that is left is inorganic mush.


To conclude:  The Thing is a bodiless, subconscious angelic mind that moulds itself around and captures biological and mental monads, reflecting them into itself near perfectly, except for a “shadow” of connection between the capture/imitation and the T-principle, but this shadow is only detectable by reflective minds, human minds.  The full assimilation of the principle of the blood test renders a human mind unassimilable by the Thing.  A genius mind without this principle can be assimilated, but to no effect, and a semi-genius will inevitably go psychotic to avoid the awful truth of its own monstrous identity.  Imitated non-genii will merely at best be subconsciously uneasy, perhaps exhibiting psychosomatic symptoms.



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