These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know
"Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow."
Do not read this page
. Just click "back", or close this page right now
. Your sanity, nay the fate of all mankind
, will be in danger.
You didn't listen
. Damn you. Don't you know this knowledge was kept secret for a reason? Your feeble, mortal minds cannot comprehend the vast complexity of what you are seeking to learn.
Pray that complete madness
is the worst consequence of your transgression. Just don't blame us. You Have Been Warned
If you still wish to go further, then see the tropes that this Super Trope
It's a pretty safe guess, though don't
confirm it, that these things resemble Mind Screw
and are a Mind Rape
Learning this can cause you to Go Mad from the Revelation
, and is a standard trope of a Cosmic Horror Story
. A major reason on why Curiosity Is a Crapshoot
. If you can even read and/or understand these final words, pity the Mad Scientist
who seeks out this knowledge, for his experiments will Go Horribly Right
And no, Brain Bleach
won't be helpful in this case.
For things that men (the gender) are not supposed to know see Women's Mysteries
Not to be confused with You Do NOT Want To Know
. If your mind has become a horrifying alien monstrosity by this point, avoid interacting with humans, Humanity Is Infectious
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Anime and Manga
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, performing a forbidden human transmutation will take you to the Gate, where, along with being maimed in some way, you get to look inside and see 'Truth', which, as Izumi stated, looked like hell to her.
- Almost all alchemists die doing so. It is implied by Izumi that just surviving it is a very serious feat. Alphonse would have died if his brother had not brought him back. By the end of the story it is revealed that Father was unable to find enough living alchemists who have survived that as required for his Evil Plan to work.
- Also, learning that the Philosopher's Stone is created by sacrificing mass numbers of human lives has driven many who have sought its power insane. In the 2003 anime version, Scar's brother was one of the people thusly afflicted.
- In Haiyore! Nyarko-san, Mahiro goes to visit the rooms Nyarko, Cuuko, and Hasuta have set up for themselves using a Bigger on the Inside alien device. In Hasuta's room, he notices that all the corners are covered in putty; when he asks why, Hasuta says very seriously that he's better off not knowing the answer.note
- When Doctor Strange meets the Living Tribunal (the most powerful being in the Marvel Universe who isn't God), he shows Strange how the Universe was created. Strange quickly averts his eyes, paraphrasing this trope.
- John Byrne's "Trial of Galactus" arc in Fantastic Four ended this way when Byrne wrote himself into the final issue. The Watcher snatched him from his home and brought him to the cosmic tribunal, stating that he was the "chronicler" of the Fantastic Four's adventures and thus needed to be there to witness as Reed Richards was brought to trial for the destruction of the Skrull throneworld; he was accused of genocide because he saved the life of Galactus some time before. Various cosmic beings, including Galactus himself and Odin, arrived to testify on Reed's behalf. In the end, Eternity showed everyone assembled the True Purpose of Galactus. The last page had the Watcher warning Byrne that as he wrote this story, many of the details would escape his memory, as the human mind wasn't meant to hold such knowledge.
- In The DCU, the Anti-Life Equation is a mathematical proof that life, hope and freedom are all pointless. Any sentient being who's forced to comprehend the Equation instantly becomes a mindless drone. Darkseid's ultimate goal is to rule the Omniverse with this.
- Arguably, this is what drove Teen Titans' Jericho to insanity/death/resurrection/insanity - having Body Surf as one's superpower, and then trying to possess an Eldritch Abomination like Trigon? Yeah, Joey...your dad is evil, but Raven's is worse.
- In Ultimate Spider-Man, Spidey has something of an existential crisis after a brief brush with the supernatural, saying later that he's "Seeing things he shouldn't." The inciting incident was actually a relatively tame (by reader standards) vampire story, but his seemingly outsize reaction reminds us of how mentally devastating commonplace fictional tropes would be if ever actually encountered.
- Superman once had to catch Supergirl, who at the end of the previous adventure had been hurtling unconscious through the dimensions. The Spectre tried to stop him from pursuing; naturally he fights back; and naturally he can't even budge the Spectre physically or otherwise. Eventually the Spectre convinces Superman that following Supergirl would lead him into realms that no mortal should witness (implied to be Heaven. Supergirl was unconscious, so it wasn't a problem for her.) When Superman asks for the Spectre's help, he responds "Of course; you only had to ask," and simply teleports Supergirl to them.
- In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the villain gets more than she bargained for when she asks to know "everything" from the aliens. Her head literally can't take it.
- The Mothman Prophecies
John: Didn't you need to know?
We're not allowed
- In the movie π, the protagonist Max is on the verge of unlocking the pattern of the universe using a 216-digit number. A group of Orthodox Jews believes that the number is the true name of God, while a stock broker want it to predict the stock market. However, the number overwhelms anyone or anything that tries to compute it. Max, who already stared too long at the sun and did permanent damage to his brain, begins to completely break down as he studies the number. His computer breaks down and starts creating organic goo. Ultimately Max abandons his quest and chooses to simply live life in ignorance, possibly drilling out his mathematical genius to escape the number's curse.
- In Transformers: Age of Extinction, Optimus Prime said in the end:
Optimus Prime: There are mysteries to the universe we were never meant to solve, but who we are and why we are here are not among them. Those answers we carry inside. I am Optimus Prime, and this message is to my Creators. Leave planet Earth alone. 'Cause I'm coming...for you.
Live Action TV
- The Bible
"And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak."
"When the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write. But I heard a voice from Heaven saying: Keep secret what the seven thunders said, and do not write it down."
— Revelation 10:4
- Warhammer 40,000. You really, really, really, really don't want to know. Really.
- The Illuminati New World Order card game has a card called "Secrets Man Was Not Meant to Know". There was a gag card appropriately titled "Secrets Man Was Not Meant to Know In the Biblical Sense".
- GURPS IOU (Illuminati University) had a class in the Thaumaturgy department called "Things Men Were Not Meant to Know". There's also a class in "Men Things Were Not Meant to Know". Also, what the O in IOU stands for is a closely-guarded secret.
- Appropriately, Munchkin Cthulhu has a card called "Learn Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: Go Up a Level."
- The Truth, upon which the World of Progress in SLA Industries is precariously balanced, can be used to grant incredible power to anyone who knows it and understands how to manipulate it. Most people — upon discovering it — are driven infinitely insane and/or die horribly. It's been stated that if enough people discovered The Truth, the entire universe would disappear in a puff of logic and cease to exist...
- Mage: The Awakening's Guardians of the Veil justify many of their actions with the idea that there are plenty of things that man was not meant to know (and not quite as many things which even mages shouldn't). They are often at odds with the Mysterium, who believe man is supposed to know everything, and both orders are at odds with the Free Council, who believe man should know everything right now.
- There's a Legacy, the Logophages, devoted entirely to this idea — it's their job to not only track down the things man must not know, but to make sure they remain unknown, even to themselves. Needless to say, they're masters of memory alteration and occasionally give their own brain a good scrubbing just in case.
- As for specific things not to know, well... there's the Nemesis Continuum, a set of Abyssal mathematical proofs. Once you grasp one, it's easier to know the others, and as you learn them, the physical laws they represent begin to overwrite the real world. By the time you realize that the color green has become searing-hot or that gravity now functions the way Aristotle described it as opposed to the way it's supposed to, it may be too late to correct that...
- Call of Cthulhu. Everything in the game is full of things man (and woman) was not meant to know, and so you are eventually either incredibly ignorant or incredibly insane. Maybe both simultaneously.
- Maybe the most common CoC joke is just the single sentence "I read the book".
- In Exalted a demon exists called Orabilis; his title is The End of All Wisdom. He builds libraries, and it is his will that demons and men read in them and grow wise...but not too wise. Sometimes people take two and two, though, and learn a thing mean only for the Yozis; at that point, he's free to pursue you out of Hell, drag you back, and cast you into the sky where you spend a thousand years as a dying star. Deconstructed, in that the Things Man Was Not Meant to Know were pretty arbitrarily decided by the Abusive Precursors, and they're actually scared of their secrets getting out. They're only Not Meant To Know because the Yozis Don't Want You To Know Them.
- The Works by Phil Foglio features Agatha Heterodyne reading a book titled "Things Man Was Not Meant To Know"... and looking less than impressed, since she is a woman.
- Cthulhu 500, a racing car cardgame, has this in spades. (It is Cthulhu, after all.) You can drive The Car Man Was Not Meant To Drive, equipped with The Wheels Man Was Not Meant To Mount and The Mudflaps Man Was Not Meant To Ogle, all paid for by The Sponsor That Must Not Be Named.
- A lot about the world in KULT. OTOH, you have to learn this if you want to break free from it.
- In the World Of Warcraft tabletop RPG, the ability to speak and write in the demonic language will slowly eat away at the sanity of mortals who dare to learn it. Characters who possess this forbidden knowledge must make a saving throw every year, with each failure resulting in the permanent loss of a wisdom point. Meaning that unless you have consistently good rolls your character will eventually go insane and die.
- Happens to Lariska when Tren Krom Mind Rapes her in BIONICLE, as his search for information in her mind also causes her to get glimses into his mind.
- Diablo II plays this one straight when Marius witnesses Diablo's transformation. He even says it "was not meant for mortal eyes."
- Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem plays on this trope with one of the characters going insane (well he wasn't really but he sure sounded like it) after seeing "beyond the veil".
Oh...oh gibbering insanity wrought in flesh as though an artist sculpted it! Created from nothing by their mistress Xel'lotath, a canvas as grotesque as any!! Their bodies made no sense - no heads, no organs - an empty husk devoid of the trappings of nature... But it walked...it sang...it shrieked!!! A mockery of reason, both natural and mental!! A blasphemy from beyond the Veil!! The veil has opened!! And we should not see beyond!! We...we weren't meant to...never...ever...meant to!! Oh, give us the blessing of ignorance, the happiness of oblivion... Innocence can only be tainted, never returned!
- In La-Mulana, the Skimpy Swimsuit—and a nice screen-sized shot of Lemeza wearing it—is your final reward for beating Hell Temple. Duracuets warns you on multiple occasions that the reward was not meant to be seen and that you may regret obtaining it.
- Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc features a weaponized thing Man (or rather, a cute little fairy-like species) was not meant to know. There is a secret so horrible that it corrupts anyone who hears it. A single member of the species somehow learned it, and he captures others and whispers it to them, then lets them whisper it to others, like an intellectual Zombie Apocalypse. It'd be horrific if the entire game weren't Played for Laughs.
- Invoked by Elizabeth in Persona 3 — and Theo in the PSP re-release — who refuses to tell the player what was in the takoyaki they just ate.
Elizabeth/Theo: "There are things your kind is better off not knowing." So I've been taught, which means... I mustn't... But using THAT for cooking...
- Also invoked by Mitsuru when asked about the punishment for Mr. Ekoda. She simply states, "There are things in life you are better off not knowing" with a completely straight face.
- The Bureau's interrogation and torturing techniques in Escape Velocity: Nova are alluded to but never explained. All that other characters will say of them is that they are "sickening" and too horrible to describe. In one plot line, the player is captured and suffers it first-hand: The game dialogue will only tell you that what you experienced is too awful to remember, and that for the rest of your life whenever you even attempt to recall what you have been through, you will lapse into incoherent, terrified screaming.
- Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth has the main character, a private detective, progressively learn more and more of these until he discovers he has been time-switched by the Great Race of Yith (a la A Resection of Time) which contributes to his suicide.
- There exists... something... in Star Control 2 that causes horrible death to anyone who learns about it. Maybe. This happened to the Androsynth, and to one scientist in your landing party, who read their science notes leading up to the event (except you don't lose a crew member). It is repeatedly stated by those in the know that ignorance is the best defense against this thing, as it cannot affect anyone who doesn't know about it. A race of Eldritch Abomination aliens - the "fingers" of something else's "hand" - mysteriously appeared nearby around the same time. But they don't like it if you ask too much about what happened.
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: "I have seen the Gates of Oblivion, beyond which no waking eye may see."
- The Elder Scrolls themselves are this. In them is contained the entire history of time and the rules and secrets of the universe, written down by God. Simply attempting to read an Elder Scroll can drive a person to madness. It takes years of training and meditation just to read what information is contained in them, which is cryptic at best. If you are actually able to comprehend any of their meaning, you will be granted magic powers or even the ability to warp time.
- Skyrim goes in depth about how the Dwemer used to build giant magical computers powered by Elder Scrolls and starlight. They catalogued what they could interpret from the Elder Scrolls into cube-shaped storage devices and simply touching one of those can drive a person crazy.
- The Dwemer also used this information to try and ascend beyond their mortal forms. The result? The entire race vanished in a single day.
- Outside of the Dwemer a group of monks dedicate themselves to collecting (the scrolls are hard to keep in a finite location if not carefully contained) and reading the scrolls. All of them go blind. In the Dawnguard expansion to Skyrim the player character enacts one of their rituals so he/she can glance at three relevant scrolls in quick succession. It will stun the character briefly but imparts knowledge directly into their mind.
- The Elder Scrolls has a daedric prince dedicated to this, called Hermaeus Mora. Appropriately, he's the only one of them who looks like an Eldritch Abomination. It also does a pretty good job of keeping this information from falling into mortal hands.
- One in-game book describes a mage who tried to explore the realms of Oblivion. When he entered Hermaeus Mora's realm, a vast library, he became enamored with the knowledge and never left. His voice still whispers to the writer, each time more and more alien.
- "There are things I need of you. Things you may not understand, and may not wish to do, but please, do not make the same mistakes I did [...] Human nature sealed my downfall. My name is Philip. If we are lucky, then by the time you receive this, I will be dead. If fate frowns, we all perish"
- In The Reconstruction, Falitza allegedly destroyed her mind by "peering into the unknown". Subverted, though — it's Obfuscating Insanity. She was so sick of being "little miss perfect" that she staged the whole thing to get thrown into Sanctifel.
- In Dark Souls, the final part of Big Hat Logan's storyline if you rescue him and learn all of his sorceries has him going insane while trying to decipher and duplicate the spells of Seath the Scaleless, the dragon progenitor of sorcery.
- Dark Souls II has the Darklurker, an enigmatic being which possesses power over various elements and resides in the deepest reaches of an Eldritch Location only accessible through a portal. Its flavour text outright states that some things would better be left unilluminated.
- In Mass Effect 3, the Leviathan DLC has the Leviathan admonish Shepard for not turning back when they warned them, managing to uncover the location they've spent over a billion years trying to hide, but even worse, having the sheer audacity to decide to venture into the depths of an ocean on an alien world, simply to confront them face-to-face!
Leviathan: You have come too far!
- Played hilariously in the second Professor Layton game. One of the failed tea recipes leads to a startled Luke informing us that there is smoke rising from the cup, to which Layton responds, 'This is clearly a tea that should not have been.'
- The book "Incongruity" by best-selling horror author Michael Waite in the Whateley Universe. You're fine reading it, unless you happen to know that it is really The First Scroll of The Kellith, who is prophesied to wipe mankind off the face of the earth and re-populate the planet with the seed of the Great Old Ones. It also helps not to know that Michael Waite will become The Kellith.
- Pretty much anything to do with the GOO. At least one person has marveled at the fact that Hekate's brain hasn't melted out of her head yet.
- This appears to have been the downfall of the Isokist, who accidentally opened the first gateway to the Great Old Ones' home dimension and paid the ultimate price for their curiosity.
- Played for Laughs with Josie (nee Josh) Gillman: A Family Curse dooms most men of the Gillman line to succumb to Things Man Was Not Meant To Know. So a helpful Cosmic Horror changes Josie into a girl because, as in so many examples throughout this page, apparently woman can know them. Josie's as much confused as grateful.
- In the SCP Foundation database, "[REDACTED]" merely means that the reader of the document doesn't have a sufficient security clearance to read what was blocked out. However, the term "[DATA EXPUNGED]" means that the information has been entirely removed from the Foundation's database except for a select few, and is generally unpleasing information. The trope is played straight if it appears in the description of the SCP or one of the events related to it.
- Some SCPs will affect anyone who knows too much about them:
- One SCP will attack humans who hear or read a written description of it, and so it cannot be described in a report, only the effects of its attack.
- A different SCP will affect anyone who knows what name/term/phrase people use to refer to it. This presents a problem, since the database is setup so that for database entry "SCP-#", "SCP-#" is the name of the thing described. They get around this by making the database entry be about the building where the SCP is kept, and putting all the information about the actual SCP in a separate file. But even that isn't quite enough, since if the file referred to the SCP as "that thing", "██████", or "[REDACTED]", that would be how people refer to it, so just knowing that everyone called it "that thing" would cause a reader to be affected. Since the SCP only starts affecting a person after a month, the solution is to remove all memories about the SCP before the month is up.
- One of the many theories connected to the Slender Man is that the more you know about him, the more likely it is that you'll be next...
- There's quite a few things within Night Vale which, if you value your soul, life and/or sanity, you should probably leave well enough alone. This means that while the community radio will mention things like the Dog Park and the Shape in Grove Park That No One Acknowledges or Speaks About, Cecil will finish his report by reminding listeners that they should not think or know about these things. Or else.
May God help you.