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"CHIM. Those who know it can reshape the land. Witness the home of the Red King Once Jungled."
Mankar Camoran, Commentaries on the Mysterium Xarxes

There's been quite a few questions about the nature of CHIM in these parts lately, so I thought I might as well add my two-penn'orth to the discussion. Bear in mind that I will liberally mix what we find in the games and MK's other comments in my analysis here. You have been warned.

Defining CHIM, and the Walking Ways

The first thing to bear in mind about CHIM is that we know very little about it. What we do know is steeped in metaphor and uncertain, and you'll likely get slightly different answers to the question depending on who you ask. Which is kind of appropriate, really, given this definition we get from Vivec:

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"From the Ehlnofex: an ancient sigil connoting 'royalty', 'starlight', and 'high splendor'. As with most characters of that dangerous language, the sigil CHIM constantly distorts itself.Those scholars that can perceive its shape regard it as a Crowned Tower that threatens to break apart at the slightest break in concentration."
Vehk's Teaching
CHIM is also numbered among the Walking Ways, which are also called ways to "reach heaven by violence". I personally think that this has something to do with the imposition of your truth on Mundus, so this violence is more metaphysical than anything else. We will discuss that briefly later, but for now, let's just go with the notion of CHIM as part of a collection of one of these ways, which means that CHIM can be reasonably described as some form of "ascension" or "godhood", but this isn't a literal ascension, if Vivec and Tiber Septim are reliable examples of the phenomenon.

CHIM and the Ruling King

The term 'Royalty' is the one most often applied to CHIM, which is often used as/conflated with the term the Ruling King in the 36 Lessons of Vivec, our most comprehensive source on CHIM. The notion of a King, if not a Ruling King, is present in the Enantiomorph, where the Rebel becomes King. There are constant references to the Enantiomorph throughout the 36 Lessons, with the repeated refrain that a Ruling King with an equal rules nothing:

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"The ruling king that sees in another his equivalent rules nothing.

"The ruling king is armored head to toe in brilliant flame. He is redeemed by each act he undertakes. His death is only a diagram back to the waking world. He sleeps the second way. The Sharmat is his double, and therefore you wonder if you rule nothing...

..."Hortator and Sharmat, one and one, eleven, an inelegant number. Which of the ones is the more important? Could you ever tell if they switched places? I can and that is why you will need me."

36 Lessons of Vivec, Sermon 11
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"Late is the lover that comes to this by any other walking way than the fifth, which is the number of the limit of this world. The lover is the highest country and a series of beliefs. He is the sacred city bereft of a double."
36 Lessons of Vivec, Sermon 35

CHIM and the Enantiomorph

This is one of those bits that seems to conflate the enantiomorph and CHIM, and also lets us know that if you would attain CHIM you need to be a Rebel who becomes King. So perhaps one leads to the other? I certainly think so, given this quote from Sermon 21:

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"

Fifth:

'Look at the majesty sideways and all you see is the Tower, which our ancestors made idols from. Look at its center and all you see is the begotten hole, second serpent, womb-ready for the Right Reaching, exact and without enchantment.'

Sixth:

'The heart of the second serpent holds the secret triangular gate.'

Seventh:

'Look at the secret triangular gate sideways and you see the secret Tower.'

Eighth:

'The secret Tower within the Tower is the shape of the only name of God, I.'"

―36 Lessons of Vivec, Sermon 21
The Secret Triangular Gate leads to the Secret Tower. CHIM is referred to as a crowned tower in the quote from Vehk's Teaching, which is too much of a coincidence as far as I'm concerned, particularly as we are told to "look at the majesty sideways". So the enantiomorph is a gateway to CHIM, which leads to a revelation about the name of God, which implies that the CHIMster and God are one and the same.

And just for the icing on the cake, it should be noted that one of the charges of the Thief constellation in Tamrielic astrology is the Tower. So the Rebel guards, and possibly resides within, the Tower.

However, it's not just that one who achieves CHIM is the Rebel who becomes King. There are hints that they need ot be more than just the Rebel, and potentially involved in another enantiomorph as the Observer, that is deciding who wins out of the Rebel and the King. We get this from Sermon 13:

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"'The secret syllable of royalty is this: (You must learn this elsewhere.)

'The temporal myth is man. 'The magical cross is an integration of the worth of mortals at the expense of their spirits. Surround it with the triangle and you begin to see the Triune house. It becomes divided into corners, which are ruled by our brethren, the Four Corners: BAL DAGON MALAC SHEOG. Rotate the triangle and you pierce the heart of the Beginning Place, the foul lie, the testament of the irrefutable-for-a-span."

―36 Lessons of Vivec, Sermon 13

We know that the triangle is the Enantiomorph, with Rebel, King and Observer as the corners. So how do you rotate it, what does that mean? I think it means that you make one become the other, you make the Rebel become the King. And that is the role of the Observer, who collapses the waveform. So to attain CHIM you not only become a Ruling King, but you also decide the fate of others. Quite fitting for a King, I think.

So what does CHIM actually do, then?

We don't actually know for sure, on this one. Both CHIMsters we know about were already powerful in their own right, and it's therefore questionable exactly what they did with their abilities. We do have these quotes:

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"I breathe now, in royalty, and reshape this land which is mine."
―From the Many-Headed Talos
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"CHIM. Those who know it can reshape the land. Witness the home of the Red King Once Jungled."
―Commentaries on the Mysterium Xarxes, vol 3

However, we also have the idea that it is the White-Gold Tower, rather than CHIM, which reshaped the heartland jungle:

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"Thus the Summerset archipelago, in the sphere of the Crystal Tower, is a warm and paradisiacal domain perfectly adapted to the Altmer. And Cyrodiil, in the sphere of the even-more-powerful White-Gold Tower, became a warm and subtropical jungle—which suited the ease-loving Ayleids.

But then the slaves of the Heartland High Elves rose up against their masters, conquered the valley of the Nibenay, and the Ayleids ruled no more. Thereafter, White-Gold Tower was the center of a human empire, peopled by Nedes and Cyro-Nords who originated in cooler, northern climes. And so the Tower of Cyrodiil responded to the desires of its new masters."

Subtropical Cyrodiil: A Speculation

It is also possible that Vivec altered his past so that he was always a god with CHIM, which I think is borne out with this quote:

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"The ruling king is armored head to toe in brilliant flame. He is redeemed by each act he undertakes."
―36 Lessons of Vivec, Sermon 11

In other words, the actions of the Ruling King affirm that status by their nature. This may be a bit of a tangent, but it ties in really nicely with some teachings from Boethiah:

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""I am alive because that one is dead. I exist because I have the will to do so. And I shall remain as long as there are signs of my handwork, such as the blood dripping from this blade.""
Boethiah's Calling

That someone is known by their actions is what that line from Sermon 11 implies to me. And given that Boethiah is tied to the idea of leading Veloth and the Chimer out of Summerset Isles to Morrowind in order to make themselves better than the Aldmer they left.

CHIM and Being

Because of this, the state of CHIM is, I believe, akin to a state of mind more than anything else. This is something that can be achieved at various points in a person's life, but is unlikely to be a permanent state. From Sermon 11:

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"All motifs can be mortally wounded. Once slain, themes turn into the structure of future nostalgia. Do not abuse your powers or they will lead you astray. They will leave you like rebellious daughters. They will lose their virtue. They will become lost and resentful and finally become pregnant with the seed of folly. Soon you will be the grandparent of a broken state. You will be mocked. It will fall apart like a stone that recalls that it is really water."
―36 Lessons of Vivec, Sermon 11
This, to me, is also a warning that all patterns (motifs) can end, and so to use the abilities CHIM grants excessively may ultimately be futile, as their impact will ultimately fall back into the state of chaos that is mundane existence. This may explain why those who claim to have CHIM have not used it excessively. But it's also likely to be because CHIM is more to do with their actions and their nature being essentially the same thing.
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"The Tower touches all the mantles of Heaven, brother-noviates, and by its apex one can be as he will. More: be as he was and yet changed for all else on that path for those that walk after. This is the third key of Nu-mantia and the secret of how mortals become makers, and makers back to mortals. The Bones of the Wheel need their flesh, and that is mankind's heirloom."
―Commentaries on the Mysterium Xarxes, Book 3
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"This is the promise of the PSJJJJ: egg, image, man, god, city, state. I serve and am served. I am made of wire and string and mortar and I accede my own precedent, world without am."
―36 Lessons of Vivec, Sermon 25

These quotes, apart from being beautifully dense, highlight that the Tower and the Psijic Endeavor, the latter of which is explicitly about achieving CHIM, are both ways of reshaping self, which, if we are to believe the structure of the world is the Tower, is I, is the same thing as reshaping the world. This links to an idea in Existentialist philosophy, that life is a process of self-creation.

In order to truly self-create, one needs to go back to the beginning of one's life to the moment of one's creation and conception. This is why Vivec declares "I accede my own precedent", why the Tower is described as "womb-ready", and Mankar says that "he that enters Paradise enters his own mother" elsewhere in the Commentaries. However, Mankar may be talking about a different process than that of CHIM, which puts it beyond this particular discussion.

The self-creation of CHIM feels, to me, like a delicate balancing act between asserting your will on the entirety of the world and not falling into its pattern, which requires that the CHIMster is not defined by the world, but constantly defines and re-defines themself, asserting the truth of their existence on the world, which is also associated with violence throughout the 36 Lessons. CHIMsters reach Heaven by violence through imposing themselves on the world, expressing the truth that they are the one and only god.

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