The following material consists of extracts from early theoretical speculations by Dr. James Robert (Col. USAF, Ret.) which eventually led to his decision to use the game of Chess as the prime metagram of his controversial experimental school for virtual-operated-weapon (VOW) pilots, the top-secret SCAM Fac-One. "The Metaphysics of Chess" was published in 1978 by Esoteric Publications, Cottonwood, Arizona. Writer and veteran combat pilot James Nathan Post was at that time an associate editor for the small publisher, and correspondence between him and Dr. Robert led to the development of Robert's seminal work, "Psycholognostics." Post's prophetic novella King's Knight was a fictionalized account of what Dr. Robert was actually beginning at the Speesmeyer main laboratory at Woodstock, New York.
THE METAPHYSICS OF CHESS
What kind of person or activity is represented by the concept of the Pawn? "Just a Pawn in someone's game," we hear, "just being manipulated." The peasant or peon is also seen as a Pawn's role, and also the unionized worker. Pawns have the least power on the board, and by virtue of their numbers, the least individual reconition--that is the least fame. The association which comes to mind first is to declare those people with the least rank or influence in their games to be the Pawns. The commanding positions are the Queens and Rooks, the masses of followers the Pawns. This hierarchy of power and command is easily seen in the structure of a military organization, which immediately suggests another concept of alignment. In an army the individual soldier can be seen as a Pawn on a team where his company commander is the Queen and the Lieutenants are the Knights. Likewise, we may see the company as a Pawn where the Battalions are the Knights, and the General and his staff are the Queen. In a major war, Battalions are moved about like Pawns where Divisions or Fleets are the greater pieces. It is important to consider the scale of the game-metaphor being used.
This pyramid-of-command concept is useful in examining the roles, but it is not actually present in the game of Chess. There is no element of command of lesser pieces by the more powerful. Something more is indicated here.
Another approach to aligning the Chessboard roles to real life is to disregard the rank and scale and consider the factor of behavior. In government, for example, one might see the General as a Knight and the ambassador as a Bishop. One is more active, more physical, the other more intellectrual and abstract. Notice that the distinction here is taken not so much from the pieces' rules of motion, but rather from their names and the attributes of those real-life roles. The Knight is a fighter, highly mobile, aggressive and direct, and very nimble. He is easily seen as cocky and adventurous in personailty, in contrast to his more careful and conservative counterpart, the contemplative and deliberate Bishop.
I would like to clear up any notion about the pieces or roles being "more valuable" than others in some absolute sense. True, within the game, one will quickly scrifice a Pawn to save the Queen, but that certainly does not make the Pawn's role something to be ashamed of. There are times when a player will sacrifice the Queen to save a Pawn if that Pawn is critical to the accomplishment of the checkmate. The Pawn's ability to blunt an opponent's thrust without severe loss to the team is a valuable asset. It is impossible for a Knight to accomplish so economical a sacrifice, if such sacrifice becomes the team's best option for victory. It is the nature of service that is valuable, and not the particulars of that service. The best service provides that which is truly needed at the time, rather than simply offering some spectacularly valuable service should it ever be needed. In the final analysis, the Pawn and the Queen, though possessed of very different powers and responsibilities, are both Chessmen, both bound by the same vision of reality, both obedient to the same order of play, and both consecrated to promote the victory of the team to the death. They are therefore equal in the vision of one whose "selfness" is with the team, rather than any one of the team members.
We very quickly approach the metaphysical when we consider human roles like unto the pieces on a Chessboard, and then try to include in the reality the concept which parallels the player. There is an idea going about these days that each of our higher selves or "oversouls" may create or operate or "live" several human persons in different parts of time and space "simultaneously." It is not impossible to consider then the strange possibility of several human lives being played out in the world in different times and places, or perhaps even together and relating to one another, working toward a common goal--even if one that none of them may be aware of--and "operated" by the same single higher self. "Soulmates" may be a far more accurate word than we suspect.
At least in the early game, the Pawn can be said to be "apprenticed" to a higher piece, that piece before whom it stands at commencement. One is a Rook's Pawn, or a Knight's Pawn. These have very different likely roles in the game. Rook's Pawn is seldom a flashy role, and its moves are limited and usually very similar from game to game. On the other hand, King's Pawn is almost always a prominant figure in the opening game's struggle for control of the center of the board.
Knight and Bishop
Most Chess authorities rank these two pieces equally, though they have very different sets of specialties. Their roles are best understood by viewing them in contrast together. The most significant distinctions are their differences in range and the nature of their motion. The Knight is highly manouverable, but that motion is always made in an indirect manner. He never moves in straight lines, but weaves his way back and forth in what the other pieces must surely see as unpredictable and roundabout. Contrast this with the Bishop's long, direct penetrations, slipping through the narrow "corners" in encounter situations to reach opponents seemingly shielded by the pieces in front of them.
In the opening game, where the board is crowded, the Knight's ability to jump over other pieces to thread his way through the groups of pieces makes him appear less vulnerable to limitation than his counterpart, the Bishop. Since Pawns, Bishops, and Queens all use diagonals in their motion and capture, diagonally aligned structures of pieces are common on the board, and these get in the Bishop's way. However, in the later stages of the game, where the board is more open, the Bishop's long range enables it to make the extended penetrating attacks which are impossible for the Knight. This gives the Bishop an end-game advantage, for the Knight then finds its need to change color and lateral and diagonal alignment with each move a hindrance in making long-range attacks against an opponent in an open field.
Among the most significant distinctions in terms of the metaphysics of the roles is the fact that the Bishop remains on the same color squares throughout the entire game, and the Knight changes its square color with every move. In this regard the Knight is considered to be of an inconsistent nature by the Bishop, and the Knight tends to regard the Bishop as absurdly limited and somewhat narrow-minded and stuffy. These practices reveal the personality characteristics of the pieces. Knight-type people can be seen in life to be constantly changing their apparent approach to life, taking up new careers and interests changing their attitudes and values, moving from place to place and living in many different cultues and social circles. The people who play predominantly Bishop roles, on the other hand, are more likely to be specialists who devote their lives to the pursuit of a single cause, discipline, or career, often accomplishing effects which are far-reaching even if somewhat narrow in scope.
The Knight is the classical warrior, the adventurous seeker for great causes, the active and enthusiastic contender for championships, volatile, easily excited, and aggressive in a flashy way. The Bishop is conservative, careful and deliberate, methodically pursuing his objective with a single-minded seriousness. There is something to be said for the notion that people may be of a basically "Knightlike" or "Bishoplike" character. For example, though each of them held similar posts as top-ranked generals, Eisenhower's behavior was far more Bishoplike than Patton's hot-blooded Knightlike actions in World War II.
Knights and Bishops are not high-ranking pieces on the Chessboard. For the most part, they look upward into the mass of the organization of which they are a part. They are in service to their seniors, the Rooks, Queen, and King. The Queen, by comparison, for the most part looks down into the mass of the team.
The Rook is senior in power to the Bishop and the Knight. Its motion demands an open rank or file, an situation uncommon in the crowded early encounters of the game. Its opening game liability is furthered by the difficulty of opening a way for the Rook to get out of its corner square and into the active center of the board. It is an end-game piece, and a very powerful one in that situation. In fact, it is the only piece besides the Queen with which the King can checkmate his opponent with one piece only, all other pieces having been removed from play.
The rook's real-life roles are easily taken from the shape and "common name' of the piece--the castle--and from its unique practice of "castling." This move is the only circumstance in Chess where two pieces are moved in a single game move. The Rook is moved to a position beside the King, and then the King is moved past the Rook to a protected place behind it. That is, the King can be said to have entered his castle, which, now moved into the center, becomes a prominent piece in the action. It is interesting to note that one of the limiting rules to castling demands that neither piece can have been previously moved in the game. A King forced to move his flag is denied retreat; a castle once breached is no longer a sanctuary.
The Rook is senior in rank to Knights and Bishops. What does this imply in terms of life? I see that distinction to lie in the factors of organization and establishment. Rook roles demand that one organize people, or create a base of operations from which a group of people may conduct their activities. There is a factor of time involved here. Whereas the Knight can be a "loner" conducting his part in the game single-handedly, the Rook is responsible to a group and may control substantial material holdings, making it difficult to bring about rapid changes in his situation. He is a "heavy" so his actions are often ponderous and slow. (The Queen, also a heavy, does not find this problem limiting. She merely uses the vast power available to her to move as she wishes.)
The Queen has the most individual power and motion of any piece on the board. She duplicates the power of both the Bishop and the Rook. Her role is not subtle; she has no intriguing "exceptional rule" situations to add color to her performance. She is straightforward power.
It seems to me that people in Queen roles must necessarily be quite visible. They may be presidents, leaders of great movements, shapers of schools of thought. One hears frequent grumbling among the ranks of lesser pieces that the Quen's role is "more free" than theirs, and blessed with more privileges. It is true that most Queen roles seem to carry an inordinate amount of the available wealth in the world. Perhaps it is an absolute that rank has its privileges, and wealth is apparently one of them. All things seem to have their compensations, however. The Queen is no less bound by the responsibilities of office than the Pawn. Persons holding Queen roles almost universally admit to a yearning for even a few moments of privacy, for someone on whom even for a day they could place their heavy responsibilities and regard life free of the game in which they are so significantly involved. These are the superstars who cannot enjoy a glass of beer with a friend without dodging hordes of groupies, or go to a movie with a date without starting nationwide gossip. They are the generals who cannot sleep without an ominous red phone crouching beside their cots, the presidents and prophets who cannot speak a casual word without it being quoted and acted upon by their sheep, and the master surgeons besieged by demands they drop all and run to the aid of "important" people whose empires would collapse without their immediate service. More than any other role in life perhaps, the Queen's is the most difficult to set aside.
His is the most intriguing role in Chess, and surely to understand fully its metaphysical implications would be a great asset to a soul. The King is not personally powerful. His range of motion is hardly greater than that of a Pawn. He seldom engages in actual combat unless severely pressed by his opponent. The outcome of the game is determined by the trapping of the King. His is a position of honor in that all of his pieces will sacrifice themselves to preserve him, and in the end he is never actually captured. He is permitted to surrender with dignity, grounding his crown when forced to a position from which there is no retreat, no protection--but he is untouched. Yet the victory he enjoys or the defeat he endures is not so much a result of his own actions as those of his teammates.
On the Chessboard he may appear to be only a figurehead, a symbol for power he does not himself possess. The "real power" on the board is represented by the Queen. There are monarchies on earth which appear to manifest this, where the crown has little real authority, and merely represents the seat of power actually held by a parliament or prime minister.
I think there is a more profound message here, however. Though any other piece--even the powerful Queen--can be removed from the board and yet the player is still in the game, when the King is defeated, the player is defeated. Perhaps then he is a symbol not of abstract or figurehead power, but of the metaphysical equivalent of the player. And if we are to assume that our analogy is complete, then there must be Kingly roles in life also. The power of the Queen (board-ly power) is readily observed; it is the earth-ly power by which the masses are moved. But who are the Kings? What "above the board" or "above the world" power do they represent? I am of the opinion that they are among those whom we call sages, the often spoken of but seldom seen wise men who are able to avoid the tumultous life of personal world power, but whose subtle unseen influences cause great changes in the whole consciousness of mankind. When I view the concept of Metachess as a set of progressive classes through which an entity moves as a learning process, the King appears to be like a participating instructor, for the most part unrecognized by the "students." He is the one who is "in the world, but not of the world," who is aware of the life each piece-player has in the world "above" the Chessboard, and who yet remains on the board as any other player to provide the focus of the learning situations needed for the growth of his lesser brethren.
Consider the strange attitude of Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes. "I have seen," he said, " the heights of worldly power. All that can be ruled and owned in the world of men I have ruled and owned. I have plumbed the depths of human wisdom, tasted all of the sins common to man, and shaped the destiny of the world to come with my actions and words. But I see that all these things are vain." Queens and Pawns are likewise Chessmen and their acts equally important--and equally meaningless. Even from the viewpoint of a great worldly "Queen," Solomon could see that the board is incomplete in its worldly power. He recognized that some "higher" field of activity must exist, and that the results of his earthly training were in some way relevant to life in that higher realm--that the details of the lessons he had undergone as a man, the subject matter of the classes, and the various awards and punishments given in the games/lessons were not in themselves important. The importance of the lessons was that the entity was shaped to conformed to a pattern desirable in that realm beyond the world.
In spite of his reputation, I infer from Ecclesiastes that Solomon did not have a particularly clear picture of that higher realm which he postulated must exist if life is to have meaning. Perhaps that is only because I see only dimly that higher realm which I am also persuaded must exist, and I resort to such devices as Metachess to take "hints" from things about me in the hope of locating keys through known limitations or directions to unsuspected new horizons.
The King is the enlightened one, the Buddha, the Christ, who sees clearly in the higher realm and yet behaves as one still bound to the Chessboard. His role is to be the piece-players' reason for the game they play. That is, his existence imposes upon them the need to play, in order that they may progress by learning to accept limitation, understand it, and free themselves of it. One who is fully able to at will accept, understand, and exceed limitations is truly free to choose whatever set of limitations pleases him. One who is King with respect to the worldly life, then would be one who could knowingly transcend all of the limitations of the world, knowing them to be artificially contrived for training. He would be able to fully manipulate the physical reality, knowing that the limitations which define physical reality are imposed by the higher realm, which is itself not so limited. He, being aware in that higher realm, would also be not limited, and could perform "miracles," that is, acts which exceed the limitations of those before whom they are performed.
If Metachess is more than just a flight of speculative fancy, and does in fact relate to some real program of spiritual training, then many of these strange teaching miracles we find scattered about the world may begin to make more sense. Through them we are given much confidence that the limitations we now suffer are only for a time, and that we ourselves do exist in a realm which transcends them all, and we are encouraged to make diligent progress.
There are no secrets in this universe. The answers to all of man's questions are revealed in the structure of every living cell, in the motion of every atom, in the courting dance of every bird. To the open-minded, all things and all beings are teachers, and every child is born a prophet--and the open mind is a product of an open heart. He who can believe that the only absolute truth is best represented by that overworked and totally undefinable word "love" can shed the fears that drive men to seek the artificial security of answers, and can joyfully take his place in the great Metagames and Dances which make up the beautiful illusion called life, confident that when all things have passed, as it seem all things do, the creative spirit of love which is the center of his own being shall remain unchanged, eternal, and complete.