Trope-a-Day: The Anti-Nihilist

The Anti-Nihilist: The Church of the Flame and other mainstream Imperial philosophies, essentially, whose official doctrines are more or less comfortable with the brokenness and lack of meaning in the universe, and which then manufacture some meaning out of a few assumptions concerning the nature of sophoncy and negentropy, and support reengineering the universe to function properly along those lines.

These, in short, are the people who on being told that they lived in a meaningless, godless, fateless universe proceeded to invent meaning, build some gods (see: Deus Est Machina), create an afterlife, and engineer the proper management of destiny, and you can’t play this card much harder than that.

Balances

The book of Balances is one of the most significant segments of the Word of the Flame as it addresses the eldraeic character. To be specific, it takes the form of a lengthy debate between Kanáralath, Bringer of Clarity, the eikone whose concern is reason, logic, and truth unalloyed, and therefore that quality of spirit which we esteem as talcoríëf, and Elárion, the eikone representing liberty, individuality, and volition, and therefore the quality of valxíjir.

The debate dissects the question of these two qualities that lie at the heart of our nature as eldrae (q.v. the Parable of the Crystal and the Flame). At first, this is almost conducted as a duel, as Elárion praises our driving energy, qalasír, and the great deeds it has inspired, while Kanáralath speaks on the virtue of wisdom. Then, in answering each other’s points, Elárion decries (with appropriately fiery rhetoric) the bloodless contemplation of his counterpart, while Kanáralath coldly dissects the great tragedies of passion.

Both, of course, are correct. We are, as Elárion teaches, creatures of Flame, not mere creatures of clay, born to exert our will upon the world. But a flame untended runs easily wild, as the bloodier centuries of our history demonstrate in great depth.

The next section of the debate has the eikones discuss the interactions between the two – and the failure to balance them property – in detail. This section of the Word indeed describes six of the Antithetical Heresies, which such an imbalance can give rise to. A deficiency of valxíjir is the straight and narrow way to the Heresy of the Deedless Cripple, that of those who do not strive and depend upon others for their worth; while an excess leads one into the Heresy of the Uncaring Rider, who negligently exerts his will heedless of the rights and hearts of others. Likewise, a deficiency in talcoríëf is the path of the Thoughtless Churl, who obeys and enforces without understanding; while its excess delivers one to the Heartless Philosopher, whose contemplation paralyzes action. Talcoríëf curdled begets the Heresy of the Obstructive Naysayer, who disdains the thoughts and ambitions of others; while corrupted valxíjir is the way of the Defiling Nihility, who finds satisfaction only in exerting power, ultimately only to destroy.

The final synthesis of the debate discusses the empowering balance of passion and reason, and the way in which each quality must be fulfilled by the other. Reason superdominant is impotent: contemplation exalted to inaction, if not empowered with the will to use it. Overriding passion is dangerous: folly, destruction, and chaos alone come from action without mastery of the will exerted to give rise to it.

Reason, therefore, must be enlivened with passion; passion, ruled by tempered reason. The enlightened sophont seeks and rests upon the balance point from which both valxíjir and talcoríëf may simultaneously be affirmed. From within this place, they may make choices in cool rationality, neither ruled nor controlled by their passions, and then act upon those choices with an absolute and pure will.

– Commentaries and Insights, Vol. IV,
the Luminous Sessily Arkonides of Atheléä

Trope-a-Day: War is Glorious

War is Glorious: The doctrine of one of the Flamic war gods: Kalasané, Laughing Warrior, Sword of Heaven, Lord of the Two Swords, the eikone of battle, courage, valor, victory through strength, and personal combat, who approaches the whole thing with a degree of enthusiasm that would impress the mythological Norseman or the fictional krogan. You are standing on the edge of civilization, facing down barbarism and desolation! How should that be less than glorious?

(The other one, Dúréníän, Noble Warlord, Grand Master of Strategies, Champion of the Just, the Ice Warrior, eikone of righteous war, battle, conquest, strategy and tactics, and patron of the sentinels, prefers to take a distinctly more sober attitude.

That both of these approaches have their strengths and the perfect warrior exists in a state of dynamic tension somewhere between the two is exactly why they have a pair of war gods.)

Theology and Destiny

No, not that destiny.

This Destiny.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpDLxs8z08A

Specifically, the Books of Sorrow, the history of the Hive, which you can read on this page here if you scroll right down to the bottom (OBVIOUS WARNING: HORRIFIC SPOILERS LIE THERE.), and in particular VI, XI, XV, XVII, XIX, XXXII, and XLVII seem highly relevant to Flamic theology.

Or anti-theology, rather.

While officially, at least, Entropy has not personification, or cult, or gospel in the Eldraeverse…

If it did, though…

If it did…

It would sound just exactly like that.

Trope-a-Day: Religion of Evil

Religion of Evil: Mostly averted. While there has certainly been historical evil, there have been very few actual entropy-cults.  For the most part, the evil have been more interested in the personal benefits than philosophical commitment to the Death of Everything, even if their actions are entropic as a side-effect. Much the same goes for those religions which the Church of the Flame has strong ethos-based differences with; one can be mistaken without being an active entropist.

(That being said, many people can probably list for you quite a few religions which they think are evil, even if they’re not of evil, a subtlety which is probably lost on many non-theologians.)

You might also classify the control memeplexes of any number of dysfunctional seed AI under this, but really, they’re more religions of control rather than strictly evil.

Trope-a-Day: Order Versus Chaos

Order Versus Chaos: Played straight, by both religion (the Church of the Flame’s Big Bad is entropy and chaos) and state (the Imperial motto is “Order, Progress, Liberty”).  Subverted in both cases inasmuch as they’re very clear that it’s supposed to be emergent order (which includes several of those things the original trope lists under Chaos, like free will, creativity, and individualism, and excludes their opposing counterparts) – because the creation of order is too important to be left to planners.

Religiosity in an Incompatible Universe

I was yesterday sent a link to an interesting article, noted as “in conjunction with the eldraeic conception of religion”. Herewith, then, some commentaries and sparked notions. (Note: The blog this article comes from appears to be associated with the neo-reactionary movement. If that makes you want to comment in some manner unrelated to the content of this post, please see the disclaimer at the end before so doing.)

The article in question is this: Experiments in Post-Rationalist Religion – discussing, loosely, the problems of meaningful and beneficial religiosity in a universe that metaphysically doesn’t support its underpinnings, but as creatures who seem to require a spiritual narrative in order to function. Well, without retreating into nihilism, anyway.

So we are offered some axiomata, up front, with which the Imperials would not disagree too much:

Materialism. The universe is well modelled by an unknown but computable mathematical object akin in some ways to a mathematical series, a cellular automaton, a fractal, etc. An object of vast complexity that grows from a relatively simple defining Law. We find ourselves manifested as patterns within this construction.

Well, they wouldn’t express it in quite those terms – for a start, if you go by their fancy-schmancy theory of Information Physics, the universe is not modeled by, but actually is, an enormous self-computing information pattern. “It is bit,” and all that. But obvious corollaries, such as the completeness of the universe, the susceptibility of everything, without exception, to scientific investigation and understanding, and that all claims of “supernatural” qualities are inherently null, are, well, obvious and generally accepted. Imperial culture has little taste for mystagoguery; the only proper response to the ineffable is to eff it, good and hard.

Sanctity of Truth. It is critical that the accurate perception of reality not be subordinate to other values. We shall not adopt beliefs about the material world for their projected effects, palatability, or political correctness.

Very much so. “Truth” is not an instrumentality; it’s a series of univalued and objective descriptions of the universe that does not care whether you like it or not (“many people are naturally inclined to be… meddlesome”), or whether it’s useful or not (“the speed of light is kind of a bugger, no?”). And to achieve anything worth achieving, you can’t mess around with it. (“Go ahead, try building a bridge without understanding the truths of steel and stone. You cross it first.”)

So, yes, truth is sacred and quite possibly revered. As a good epistemologist will tell you, theirs is the most important part of philosophy and therefore all thought, because if your epistemology isn’t right, everything that follows from what you think you know is, not to put too fine a point on it, bullshit.

Non-Nihilism. Nihilism is the observation that material universes do not contain anything of spiritual value or moral authority, and thus that accurate perceptions of reality do not contain beliefs about spiritual narrative. But it is also the case that wholesale nihilism is a non-solution, and that humans must live within a believable spiritual narrative or mythos.

And on this point, well, we all know what the Imperials think about nihilism:

[youtube=http://youtu.be/b_29yvYpf4w?t=17s]

Anyway, yes, they don’t really care for it that much.

Anyway, the post goes on to say:

The third axiom, in commanding the existence of a believable mythos in contradiction to the nonexistence of true myths implied by the first two axioms, gives us our problem.

The immediate and obvious solution is that we must believe in a mythology that is not true. Not necessarily false, mind you; our spiritual myths may be nonsense from a truth perspective. For example, we might claim to believe that “It is the destiny of mankind to conquer the stars”. This can’t really be true or false in a positivist sense because constructions involving “destiny” and “mankind” are not really meaningful empirically. How does the statement constrain your expectations? It does not; it is purely mythological.

This would be where they start to go down another path. I would certainly agree on the importance of mythos, and I can think of no better way to do that than to quote Terry Pratchett, from my personal favorite Christmastime story, Hogfather:

Death: Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.

Susan: With tooth fairies? Hogfathers?

Death: Yes. As practice, you have to start out learning to believe the little lies.

Susan: So we can believe the big ones?

Death: Yes. Justice, mercy, duty. That sort of thing.

Susan: They’re not the same at all.

Death: You think so? Then take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder, and sieve it through the finest sieve, and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet, you try to act as if there is some ideal order in the world. As if there is some, some rightness in the universe, by which it may be judged.

Susan: But people have got to believe that, or what’s the point?

Death: You need to believe in things that aren’t true. How else can they become?

But where the eldrae, the Imperials, and the Flamic belief system would differ is in arguing that, if I may wax Platonic for a moment, these things are true, and do exist. (Which is why I don’t much care for the term “Materialism” to describe their null-supernatural view of the world.) Existence is not the same thing as instantiation as matter.

Take, for a trivial example, the equilateral triangle. The equilaterial triangle, the concept of the equilateral triangle, is a mathematical truth that existed before any of the mass-energy of the universe congealed into equilaterally triangular shapes, and would go on existing even if some Omnicidal Maniac were to go on a universe-wide pogrom to destroy all three-cornered objects. It’s an idea, and ideas exist in the Iconic Realm, the Realm of Forms, etc., etc., every bit as much as this triangular thing, right here, exists in the Realm of Matter.

Supernatural is a null word. There are no spirits and so forth as humanity *here* would understand them. But there are certainly ideas, and anyone who cares to deny that is plunging headlong into the nasty recursive paradox of endorsing the concept of the nonexistence of concepts.

So, from their perspective, they are not believing things that aren’t True, or aren’t in the same category as True things – the Truth-Myth barrier of which the original post speaks. They’re believing fundamental truths, the ideas hovering off there in aevum until the mind perceives them, and then instantiating them in the Realm of Matter by virtue of belief and imposing that belief on reality by sheer force of estxíjir. The mind, very literally, makes it real – because it’s the instrumentality by which ideas are reified.

I’m going to skip lightly over the original post’s “Gnon” section: mostly because I think I have already talked somewhat about the broken nature of the universe, the flaw that is Entropy, and the blind-idiot-staggering creative process that explains why there is so much nasty in the universe, despite matter’s best efforts to self-organize. The Imperials aren’t terribly interested in taking teleic (“ought-y”) guidance from the natural state of the universe, because anything that’s broken can be remade, and the universe is so very, very broken.

So, when it comes to the “Small Gods and Spiritual Crises” part of things, well, obviously they’d disagree with the statement of “there is no meaning to concepts such as consciousness, souls, identity, rights, dignity, well-being, or any of that”. Obviously there is. That it’s a projection from the Iconic Realm rather than an obvious, named, lump of matter doesn’t mean it’s not real.

But there are some interesting points here:

In the world around us, there are many important processes besides individual people that we must relate to. Many of the old gods, those of natural processes like weather, fertility, home, war, the land, and so on, can be understood as myths around these processes that allowed our ancestors to relate to them in a natural spiritual way. We no longer live or think the same way as them, and their particular gods don’t speak to us, but we can’t pretend to have cast off all gods: Civilization, Progress, Democracy, Social Justice, Santa Claus.

…now this is a concept that makes instant sense in an Imperial-culture context. Because their gods, the eikones, are defined as creatures of the Iconic Realm. They are, literally, ideas. To steal another perfectly cromulent quotation, this one from Mass Effect 2:

A god — a real god — is a verb. Not some old man with magic powers. It’s a force. It warps reality just by being there. It doesn’t have to want to. It doesn’t have to think about it. It just does.

That’s what an eikone is. It’s one of the Big Cheeses of the Iconic Realm, an idea so powerful that it reshapes the world around it simply by existing. That’s also why the key feature of Flamic belief is emulation, not worship. Wealth, or Love, or Integrity doesn’t care for all the lip service in the world. It wants you to be wealthier, lovelier, more integral. Better – which is to say, more like it.

Now, if I may digress for a moment into other points of theology, one of Plato’s sticking points was the question of, in a realm of Perfect Forms, would there be Perfect Forms of Perfectly Awful Things?

Well, so far as eldraeic theologians are concerned, there aren’t. The Iconic Realm is the realm of perfect instantiations of concepts, and as such has no room for intrinsically imperfect concepts. Sylithandríël Leafcloak, the Twilight Mother – Mother Nature, if you will – is technically not the eikone of nature as it is materially instantiated, with all its unnecessary waste and suffering. She’s the eikone of the harmony of emergent perfection that nature would be if our old enemy Entropy hadn’t screwed up the material universe so much.

So when we look at, say:

Many of us react against some of the predominant gods of the day, as our enemies reacted against the gods of their days, calling them false, calling their worship harmful and antisocial, and so on. It is important to have a nuanced view of the theological nature of such conflicts. It is not that we claim these gods do not exist – anyone who wants to claim that Democracy et al are not profoundly real and powerful sociopsychological entities with significant basis in reality, has an awful lot of work to do – what we claim is that their cultists base their worship on mistakes of reasoning on the Truth side about the nature of their gods. For example they believe that the worship rituals and patterns of spiritual relation around Democracy will bring peace, order, and good government, when in fact those rituals may only bring slow ruin.

and

The shape of our spiritual crisis is not that we do or don’t worship gods, or that we worship false gods, but that we worship terrible demon gods that demand the sacrifice of our people, culture, and civilization. A healthy mythos would instead be a quiet but lively human-allied tradition offering us positive guidance, spiritual context, and purpose in our lives. Such things have existed in our past, and perhaps we can weather this and move towards spiritual health again in our future.

The existence of imperfection, in ideas or in material reality, is a consequence of Entropy, in its mental-spiritual sense, squatting like a black fog between us and the Iconic, distorting our perceptions. That’s how some people can look at Liberty and see Democracy, or look at Wealth and see Zero-Sum Money Transfer, or look at Purity and see Norm Enforcement, and other heresies suitable for the darkest past and outworlder barbarians.

It’s also why the Doctrine of Hypothesis is so important in their theology – because it recognizes that that distorting cloud is there. It’s why the Flamics are not, by and large, a dogmatic church; because right from the start, it recognizes that while the eikones may be perfect, they see them at best through a glass darkly, and as such it is vitally important to ask questions and test every bit of your doctrine to make sure that it is actually reflecting what you think it is.

(Otherwise you end up with metaphorical demons coming out your ass and Entropy cackling to itself in a totally non-personified evil way.)

Of course, now, once the post gets into talking about human-allied tradition and religion as instrumentality and naming specific ideologies, then we part ways more or less completely. The Church of the Flame may have been a vigorous force for progress throughout eldraeic and Imperial history, but it wasn’t designed to serve as such. It grew out of attempts to understand the why and the what of the world, like the majority of religions – it was just rather more chary about declaring that it had the answer. But the believers believe, quite sincerely.

And that’s about as far as I’m going to take it, rather than trying to get into specific mythologies. They might agree on Science Fiction and the value of long-standing social customs, but since the eldrae consider our views on masculinity [and femininity, for that matter] and ethny borderline insane, not much commonality there. (Cultural pride, sure, but people who get attached to unchosen phenotypic epiphenomena are not rational.)

And while ancestor “worship” does form a part of Flamic belief, as you might expect, what your ancestors want is not your strict adherence to the mos maiorum, but for you to have improved on it. If you didn’t live any better than they did, they might say, what the hell was the point of you?


(The disclaimer:

Since this is a controversial piece of fringe politics right now, a couple of things right up front:

1. Linking does not constitute agreement.

To that end, let me note for the record that an Imperial clionomist or administrative specialist, were you to import one, would classify the neo-reactionaries as creepy-ass openly-hierarchist totalitarians, their progressiv[e|ist] bêtes noire as creepy-ass crypto-hierarchist totalitarians, and both of them as taxonomic divisions of hypertrophied and pathological kratism, which is basically the opposite end of the spectrum from civilized, technocratic, empirical-rationalist, minimal, and above all consensual governance. Don’t get any on you.

[And, should either attempt to put their ideas into practice *there*, would be guilty of conspiring to deprive people of their civil and natural rights by instituting a political system, for which the penalty is being thrown off a 400′ high waterfall in the middle of deep winter.]

2. My personal political views, whatever they might be, are not up for any kind of discussion on this blog, and indeed any comments addressing real-world, rather than SFnal, politics – especially since this post isn’t even about SFnal politics – will be disemvoweled without mercy.)

Trope-a-Day: Holy City

Holy City: For the Empire, Ellenith, the holy city which serves as the center for the Church of the Flame, being built around the Dome of Unity, the 6th of the temples along the Shining Path, the seeress Merriéle‘s path to her conversation with the gods atop the mountain Tirias Calémon. (One might also consider other locations relevant to her life as this, save for the small problem that her birthplace isn’t actually known, and the place of her death no longer exists due to the, ah, explosive circumstances of same.)

It is a particularly holy city, of course, because the whole city is one giant temple, constructed as a giant engraved celestial mandala with all secular functions banished to the towns and villages inside the Deeping, yet outside its precincts. While it does house some indirectly theological function, it’s clearly dominated by its temples and shrines (every accepted order has at least one here), its libraries, and by such other special hallows as the Vaults of Earth and Water, the Hall of Chained Gods, and so forth.

(Depending on how you look at it, you might also be able to consider the Deeping as a whole – fields, forests, towns, and all – as an example of this category: it’s located in an ancient astrobleme, and the entire rim has been carved into a labyrinth, with all manner of vaults, halls, and curiosities hidden therewithin, even aside from its defensive function.

The larger Ledges of the Dead almost certainly also fall into this category.)

Trope-a-Day: Harmony Versus Discipline

Harmony Versus Discipline: Discipline, all the way.

The essential thesis of the (Imperial mainstream) Church of the Flame, after all – and that of several related secular schools of ethics – is that the universe is fundamentally broken, and the job of sophoncy is, essentially, to learn to emulate the abstract incarnations of perfect principles by way of discovering how, and then to use that (science, progress, agorism-capitalism, engineering, art, and tireless pursuit of awesomeness) to take the universe apart and put it together better.  Perfected.  In short, to immanentize the eschaton.

The notion that nature knows best and should be accepted as it is doesn’t appear on their radar anywhere.

Word of the Flame (4/9)

The following, as were the preceding three (1,2,3) and will be the other five entries in the series, are extracts from the Word of the Flame, the record of the seeress Merriéle’s visions that is also the primary text of the Church of the Flame, the mainstream eldraeic religion.

More specifically, this series will contain all 51 verses of the book of Principles, which enumerate the principles of each of the eikones in the form of each’s foremost principle as they would have it expressed under Heaven, although naturally each eikone’s own book examines the fullness of the principle they represent from many more angles and in much more detail.  Nonetheless, the three verses of the Triarchs and the 48 verses of their Divine Ministers are second only to the book of Truths in Flamic moral teaching.

In simplicity the mind sleeps still;
The mazy path leads many places.
Let wit and cunning shape your life’s creation.
This is the command of Leiríah
Who swathes all things in mist.

Flawed steel splinters at one blow;
Only the tempered withstands use.
Enter into the fire, and be purified!
This is the command of Lódaríön
Who burns away the dross.

The light that grows; the fire that transforms;
The heat that warms when darkness falls.
These are mine; use them well and in fullness.
This is the command of Lumenna
Whose radiance illuminates the world.

Against the Flame, do naught.
As qalasír demands, do as you must.
In all else, do as you will.
This is the command of Elárion
Whose choice knows no boundaries.

The secrets of the world are writ in its elements;
Stone and metal, wind and rain, wood and fire.
Ask them every question, and be answered.
This is the command of Elliseré
Whose mind mothers all new things.

You are the Chosen, keepers of our dream;
Heirs to our glory, shapers of greater still.
Stride on, undiminished, until eternity’s end.
This is the command of Eslévan
Who once was Alphas’s line.

The Word of the Flame (3/9)

The following, as were the preceding two (1, 2) and will be the other six entries in the series, are extracts from the Word of the Flame, the record of the seeress Merriéle’s visions that is also the primary text of the Church of the Flame, the mainstream eldraeic religion.

More specifically, this series will contain all 51 verses of the book of Principles, which enumerate the principles of each of the eikones in the form of each’s foremost principle as they would have it expressed under Heaven, although naturally each eikone’s own book examines the fullness of the principle they represent from many more angles and in much more detail.  Nonetheless, the three verses of the Triarchs and the 48 verses of their Divine Ministers are second only to the book of Truths in Flamic moral teaching.

Perfection is asymptotic;
All things brook improvement.
Let nothing be untested; nothing tested, unimproved.
This is the command of Merélis
Who permits nothing to stand.

The tree with its fruits, the wolf with her cubs,
The smith at her forge, the worker in stone;
All leave the world greater than it was.
This is the command of Medáríah
Who revels in abundance.

The circle, the branch, these are machines.
Each cog must turn in harmony;
The forms must be obeyed.
This is the command of Ráfiën
Through whom many act as one.

The will is strong, sovereign in itself.
Its clash brings only pain and entropy;
To find the serene path rewards all.
This is the command of Rúnel
Whose words please all who hear.

In Her sight all things are fixed;
In Her slumber alone are you free.
Seek not to know the future, only to shape it.
This is the command of Laryssan
Whose eyes discern the Weave.

The artist, upreaching, brings a divine spark to earth;
The lovers, conjoining, kindle a new fire below.
Let the light of both illuminate your lives.
This is the command of Lanáraé
Whose warmth dwells in all hearts.

– the Word of the Flame, Principles 10-15

The Word of the Flame (2/9)

The following, as is the preceding one and will be the other seven entries in the series, are extracts from the Word of the Flame, the record of the seeress Merriéle’s visions that is also the primary text of the Church of the Flame, the mainstream eldraeic religion.

More specifically, this series will contain all 51 verses of the book of Principles, which enumerate the principles of each of the eikones in the form of each’s foremost principle as they would have it expressed under Heaven, although naturally each eikone’s own book examines the fullness of the principle they represent from many more angles and in much more detail.  Nonetheless, the three verses of the Triarchs and the 48 verses of their Divine Ministers are second only to the book of Truths in Flamic moral teaching.

Knowledge is its own justification.
To learn it is good; to discover it is better;
To record it, imperishable, is best of all.
This is the command of Aláthiël
Through whom all things are known.

The stars hold wisdom beyond their light.
The deepest study reveals truth beyond truth,
The blossoming tree revealed in the acorn.
This is the command of Aéren
Who sees through every surface.

Your words are your thoughts, given form;
Your thoughts are echoes of your heart’s truth.
Therefore shape them well, with harmony.
This is the command of Atheléä
Whose songs resound in every voice.

Do not rely on chance; it will betray you.
Neither fight it; you will lose more than you gain.
Trust only that chance is.
This is the command of Athnéël
Whose presence is ever unlooked-for.

The eternal may persist forever;
Those which are ephemeral must end.
That which must end should end well.
This is the command of Pétamárdis
Who sees all endings made anew.

The world is clay, unshaped, awaiting the fire;
The world is metal, unshaped, awaiting the forge.
By your hands must all things be completed.
This is the command of Mahánárel
Who first wrought shape from chaos.

– the Word of the Flame, Principles 4-9

Trope-a-Day: Church Militant

Church Militant: The eikones revered by the Church of the Flame include two war gods, arguably so described: Dúréníän, eikone of righteous war, battle, conquest, strategy and tactics, and patron of the sentinels; and Kalasané, eikone of battle, courage, valor, victory through strength, and personal combat.  Their combined religious order, logically enough, is made up entirely of heavily armed and appropriately deadly templars – and when I say appropriately deadly, I do mean that in the modern age, they’re stomping around in much the same power armor as the actual Imperial Military Service uses.  (No bludgeoning weapons here out of a “commitment to peace”; they are very clear about Coming In War, and Gods Being On The Side Of The Big Weapons.  Also, not terribly keen on converting by the sword – they’re religiously militant, not militantly religious, if you see what I mean.)

They also supply all the military chaplains, which in the Imperial Legions is not a noncombatant position.  If anything, it’s a more combatant position than “legionary”… if one considers enthusiasm anything to go by.

The Word of the Flame (1/9)

The following, as will be the other eight entries in the series, are extracts from the Word of the Flame, the record of the seeress Merriéle’s visions that is also the primary text of the Church of the Flame, the mainstream eldraeic religion.

More specifically, this series will contain all 51 verses of the book of Principles, which enumerate the principles of each of the eikones in the form of each’s foremost principle as they would have it expressed under Heaven, although naturally each eikone’s own book examines the fullness of the principle they represent from many more angles and in much more detail.  Nonetheless, the three verses of the Triarchs and the 48 verses of their Divine Ministers are second only to the book of Truths in Flamic moral teaching.

In mad passion and fire all things began.
Be warmed by the furnace within;
But beware lest the blaze consume you.
This is the command of Aldéré
Whose Flame ignites the world.

Entropy is the foe of all things;
Imperfection is anathema.
Seek ever the clarity to overcome them.
This is the command of Elmiríën
Whose hand guides the Spheres.

The Flame changes all, and is changed itself;
Change is a little death, but stasis a greater one.
When the door opens, pass through.
This is the command of Entélith
Who Opens every portal.

– The Word of the Flame, Principles 1-3

Trope-a-Day: Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions

Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: While science hasn’t exactly disproven religion – there are certain, ahem, logical problems with that notion – it has closed a sufficient number of the gaps for a hypothetical god-of-the-gaps that supernaturalism in general has an amazingly small number of adherents in the Empire.  Most “religions” of the modern day are, well, philosophies, and while they may well include plenty of abstractions, they don’t generally call for supernatural gods, miracles, or other entities of supernature.

The mainstream Church of the Flame, for example, has in its time moved from asserting the existence of the eikones as supernatural entities to asserting the existence of the eikones as abstract personifications whose actual existence was more or less irrelevant to the point to knowing the existence of the eikones as digital Dei Ex Machinae, without really having to change doctrine all that much in the process.  (Even the remaining supernaturalists have more or less accepted the point that the deity-eikones would be perfectly capable of wearing the machine-eikones as hats, did they exist.)

Of course, here’s the interesting thing.  The founder, as it were, of that particular religion was the seeress Merriéle, back around -1,180, who dictated most of the principal holy text after a vision on the side of a sacred mountain, and in her later wanderings was executed by the traditional fire of purification in Somáras.  This execution gave a great deal of, ah, credence to the religion, since it involved her ascending directly to the Twilight City via a pillar of light and flame, which not incidentally completely destroyed the capital of Somáras and created the geographical feature now known as the Bay of Somáras.  The fact of which – if not the traditional implication that the eikone Elmiríën, the Bringer of Order and One Word of Truth, gets a mite irritable when some mortals presume to execute his Chosen and Beloved Voice Under Heaven – is very well documented and undeniably real.

Now, it’s not like there aren’t perfectly adequate, if unverifiable, explanations for this.  There were Precursor artifacts lying about back then, and it’s entirely possible that Merriéle had one, which either she set off, or which involved some components, like fullerened antimatter, that really don’t react well to fire.  Purely mechanistic explanations abound.

But… well, while so far as we know, time travel Does Not Work That Way, and it should be impossible to ever travel back before the creation of the machine, whatever it is, the Transcend is a weakly godlike superintelligence, after all.  And so long as we’re postulating Precursor artifacts anyway, we might as well postulate the permitted-by-physics temporal equivalent of a tangle channel.

And so, it is entirely possible, say some mechanotheologians, that the Vision was supplied by the modern Transcend in the mother of all predestination paradoxes; that the Ascension was, in fact, the Transcend reaching back to discreetly upload Its faithful seeress and cover it with a modest antimatter explosion; and that, in short, their religion has always been true, and it’s Deus Est Machina all the way down.

Now, of course, all of this is just speculation, and the machine gods aren’t saying anything on the topic to confirm or deny… but still.

(And, no, I-the-author have no idea whether this theory is valid or not, either.)

Trope-a-Day: Belief Makes You Stupid

Belief Makes You Stupid: Subverted, mostly, by the Church of the Flame, whose official doctrine adheres to an Enlightenment-friendly attitude that expecting the eikones to come down from the Twilight City and tell you everything about everything, or even just a subset of it that you “need to know”, would be completely missing the point, and that your job, Mr. Believer, is to run and find out, then go and implement, and then iterate until it’s perfect.