The Asp invented a product called brain gel, of which there were two types: one comparable to the familiar body gel, and the other comparable to hair gel. Both types were a viscous, cold ooze packaged in metal tubes. While both were transparent, the first type was silvery, and the second was faintly rose colored. Brain gel users found that the best method of application was rubbing it onto the forehead and lying down for about half an hour, allowing the chemicals to slowly descend upon the brain. Brain gels were scented with artificial flower scents that were designed to resemble artificial flower scents, since true flower scents would seem inappropriate in an artificial product.
The body gel style brain gel cleansed thoughts, rendering them pristine.
The hair gel style brain gel added firmness, crispness, and strength to thoughts.
The body gel style brain gel was used primarily by priests. The hair gel style brain gel was used mainly by lunatics. The priests who used the brain gel were able to keep their vows; they became perfectly sinless. The lunatics who used brain gel found that their minds stopped wandering and leaping crazily between unrelated planes of logic; images stopped mixing together haphazardly in their minds.
But both types of brain gel began causing cancer. Not a physical sort of tumerous growth, but a thought-cancer. The priests thought processes became disrupted; their ideas were now strangely unrelated to anything; they imagined things that made no sense; their notions about feelings became warped, so they became emotionally isolated and they lost all compassion. The lunatics' naturally warped thought processes were altered in the same way, but with the opposite effect: their own thoughts became sensible, and were uprooted from their private insane worlds. Thus plunged into moral companionship with society, the lunatics became intensely emotionally enlivened, and their hearts reached out to everyone.
So the priests became lunatics, and the lunatics became very compassionate priests.
The priests who turned into lunatics started using the hair-gel style brain gel to turn back into priests. So, finally, they became identical to the lunatics who had turned into priests.
The lunatics who had turned into priests kept using the hair-gel style brain gel, hoping to continue the infusion of thought cancer that made them compassionate priests. But instead, new cancers formed, and these negated their previous cancers, so that they reverted to lunatics. But they discovered that if they kept using the hair gel style brain gel, they would eventually turn into priests -- if only for a while.
The priests and lunatics were thus constantly changing in their identity. To make matters worse, the life-cycle of the cancers was entirely unpredictable.
The brain gel users developed ways of training themselves in one state so that their behavior in that state would continue habitually into the next state. But this worked equally well while they were in their lunatic states as it did when they were in their priest states; their lunatic selves had every bit as much of an urge to supremacy and survival as their priest selves. Thus it became impossible for people to distinguish who was truly a priest and who was a truly lunatic.
Except, of course, by the actual evaluation of their words. This was exceedingly difficult for most people, of course. The Asp recommended using brain gel as an aid to critically evaluating the messages of the lunatic-priests that inhabited the churches and street corners of the city. Soon most of the people who were committed to following lunatic-priests became lunatic-priests themselves.
Thus lunatic-priests no longer needed each other's counsel; they no longer sought each other out for advice, and so they became extremely lonely.