A List of Eikones

It occurred to me that the parallels that I drew here make less sense, and inviting comments and thoughts is less useful, inasmuch as to the best of my knowledge I never actually clarified (except in one still-to-be-completed series, by implication) exactly who all the eikones of the Church of the Flame are, and what the specific concepts are that they personify.

So, I’m going to correct that right now with a handy-dandy reference table.

Let us begin with the Triarchs, who do not strictly speaking “lead” the pantheon, but who are recognized as representing somewhat more fundamental cosmic principles/aspects of the Flame and thus as somewhat greater than their cousins:

  1. Aldéré, Starkindler, the Bright Lady, the Great Maker, Divine Ignition; eikone of creation and beginnings, inspiration, rebirth, the stars and celestial vault
  2. Elmiríën, the Bringer of Order, the Patterner, the One Word of Truth; eikone of order, structure, stability, perfection, and proper functioning
  3. Entélith, the Serene One, the Dark Lady, Pale Mistress of Death, Gatherer of All Things; eikone of death and endings, rebirth, and other major transitions

And then the Divine Ministers, who number forty-eight:

  1. Aéren, the Voice of the Sky, the Whisperer, the Answer to the Unasked; eikone of intuition, mysticism, spirituality, transcendence, and the Celestial order
  2. Aláthiël, the Namer, the Fountain of Knowledge, the Great Sage; eikone of knowledge, wisdom, scholars, literacy, and skill
  3. Atheléä, the Sigillord, the Harmonious Chorus, the Weaver of Voices, the Repose of All Wisdom; eikone of speech, music and song, poetry, language, logotecture, and memes
  4. Athnéël, the Unlooked For, the Eternal Gambler, Lady of Surprises Auspicious and Welcome; eikone of fortune good and ill, chance, randomness, and patron (?) of gamblers
  5. Baranithil, the Balancer, the Mind of Many Masks, the Silent Architect; eikone of peace, prosperity, diplomacy, cooperation, emergent order, self-organization, patron of branches
  6. Barrascán, the Ever-Watching, the Unsleeping Guardian, the Implacable One; eikone of vigilance, guardians, protectors, those who watch, safeguards, fortifications, readiness, and contingency planning
  7. Braníël, the Unconquered, the Unceasing, the Fixed Point, the Sky-Shatterer; eikone of power, drive, ambition, the unconquerable will, defiance of impossible odds, resolve, and endurance
  8. Cálíäh, the Bringer of Rest, the Warder of Sleep, the Shadows of Desire, the Imager of the Unreal; eikone of dreams, desires, sleep, hope, fiction, and virtual reality
  9. Cinníäs, the Laughing Rogue, the Reveler, the Prince of Wine, the Maddener; eikone of revels and carousing, wine and beer, entertainment, humor, mirth, whims and fleeting passions, and hedonism
  10. Covalan, the Golden God, Prince of Wealth, the Hidden Cog, Lord of All Trade; eikone of trade, markets, money, wealth, commerce, and patron of businesssophs and the plutarch darëssef
  11. Dírasán, Heaven’s Messenger, the All-Embracing, the Default Route; eikone of messengers, communications, couriers, and patron of the Imperial Post and the Imperial Courier Service
  12. Dúréníän, the 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 sentinel darëssef
  13. Éadínah, Princess of Shadows, Walker at Night, the Artful Planner, the Unraveller; eikone of night, darkness, subtlety, espionage, deeply-laid plans, and (some say) thieves and organized crime
  14. Édaen, the Smiling Lord, the Joybringer, the Renewal of Life; eikone of joy, happiness, serenity, leisure, celebration, recreation, rest, and auspicious downtime
  15. Elárion, the Unfettered, He Who Walks His Own Path, the Shatterer of Chains; eikone of the red moon Elárion, liberty, individuality, self-will, independence and self-reliance
  16. Éjavóné, the Vengeful Maiden, Mistress of Storms, Keeper of Lightning, Defender of Purity; eikone of storms, thunder and lightning, protection, vengeance, and those who guard the pure or innocent
  17. Éléia-Líëran, the Lover Gods, the Ever-Faithful, the Two Who Are One, the Blissful; eikone of married love, marriage, family, and relationships
  18. Elliseré, the Architect, the Inventrix, Ideas’ Gleaming, Our Lady of New Thoughts; eikone of curiosity, research, exploration and discovery, invention, innovation, science, progress, and patron of the technarch darëssef
  19. Eslévan, the Soul of the Star, the Cornerstone, the Throne and the Ecumene, He Who Was Once Alphas’s Line; eikone of the Empire, the spirit of the Imperial people, and set over the race-lords and genii loci
  20. Esseldár, the Measurer of Time, Guardian of Hallowed Ways, the Remembrance of Worthy Deeds and Honored Forerunners; eikone of time, memory, preservation, conservation, tradition, history, maintenance, and ancestors
  21. Gaëlenén, the Soother of Hurts, the Flower of Dawn, the Second Chance; eikone of health and healing, medicine, bioengineering, and clemency
  22. Gáldabar, Old Treefather, Lord of the Wilds, the Red-Fanged Hunter, First Among Beasts; eikone of wild nature, beasts and the hunt, and set over the beast-lords
  23. Ithával, the Shining One, Prince of the Dawn, Bright Lord of the Highest Excellence; eikone of beauty, glory, pride, achievement, radiance, status, wealth, and the rewards of excellence
  24. Kalasané, the Laughing Warrior, Sword of Heaven, Lord of the Two Swords; eikone of battle, courage, victory through strength, and personal combat
  25. Kanáralath, the Bringer of Clarity, the Tester, Lord of Reason; eikone of philosophy, reason, logic, mathematics, rigorous thought, and truth
  26. Lanáraé, the Flame, the Inspirer, Lady of the Muses, the Lovers’ Friend; eikone of art, inspiration, the warm passions, romantic love, patron of lovers and the aesthant darëssef, and set over the Court of Muses
  27. Laryssan, the Slumbering Goddess, Lady of Our Fate, the Mistress of Nets, She Who Knows the Shape of Things to Come; eikone of the future, fate and destiny, preordination, foresight, oracles and divination
  28. Leiríäh, the Cloaked in Shadow, the Weaver of Nets, Mother of Mists Real and Not; eikone of mists, illusions, deceptions, trickery, wit, and intrigue
  29. Lódaríön, the Forger of Souls, the Flame that Purifies, Scourge of the Failed; eikone of honor, rigor, self-discipline, purity, and self-perfection
  30. Lumenna, the Sunlord, the Great and Blinding Light, the Fire at the Heart; eikone of the sun Lumenna, light, the energy principle, and motive power
  31. Mahánárel, Great Forger, Engineer of the Empyreals, Master of the Forces of the World; eikone of creation, craftsmanship, engineering, construction, the forge, and patron of artisans
  32. Medáríäh, the Golden Mother, the Fructifier, Our Lady of Mass Production, the All-Abundant; eikone of fertility, productivity, agriculture, industry, mass production, reproductive sex, and abundance
  33. Merélis, She Who Approaches, the Ever-Changing, the Seeker; eikone of action, change, evolution, mutation, improvement, and upgrades
  34. Nimithil, the Wise Ruler, the Bestower, the Crowned One, the Right and Authority; eikone of authority, governance, wise use of power, the Imperial Mandate, and patron of the runér
  35. Olísmé, Lady of Mourning, the Sorrowful Goddess, Comfort and Hope of the Reft; eikone of empathy, pity, grief, loss, the bereft and forlorn, and intercessor for those who die untimely
  36. Pétamárdis, the Raven Prince, Enlightened Guardian of the Ephemeral Cycle, Lord of Necessary Decay; eikone of reuse, recycling, repair, and necessary rot and decay
  37. Ráfiën, First Minister of the Ivory Rod, Emperor Among Paper, the Hand of the Wielder; eikone of bureaucracy, sound administration, large organizations, and patron of the executor darëssef
  38. Rúnel, the Font of Courtesy, the Word that Moves the World, Gardener of Civilization; eikone of harmony, smooth functioning, efficiency, etiquette, civilization and the spread of civilization
  39. Samildán, the Far Wanderer, Walker on the Dragon Paths, the Key, the Door, and the Way; eikone of roads, travel, adventure, frontiers, the far horizon, patron of explorers and wanderers, and the stargate plexus
  40. Saravoné, the Revealer of Truths, the Just One, the Scale-Bearer; eikone of law, justice, the rule of law, and arbitration
  41. Seládéir, Lord of the Shining Metropolis, Builder of Gentle Places, the Home and the Wall; eikone of cities, communities, citizenship, and set over the patropoli and matropoli
  42. Seléne, Our Lady of Silver, the Five-Faced Lady, Serene Watcher, Princess of the Moon; eikone of the silver moon Seléne, cats, the cunning mind, tides, and those who travel at night
  43. Súnáris, the One Who Chooses, the Light of Thought, the Will that Commands; eikone of the second sun Súnáris, reason, mentalics, the mind, and patron of digital intelligences
  44. Sylithandríël, the Viridian Queen, Veiled Mother of the Twilight Forests, Giver of Fruits, Lady Leafcloak; eikone of nature, the forests, set over the seasons and the plant-lords, silviculture, and gardens
  45. Tárvalén, the Binder of Obligations, the Party of Every Part, the Entanglement; eikone of loyalty, vows, oath-contracts, promises and agreements, the social order, and dogs
  46. Úlmiríën, the Changeling, the Wanderer, the Enigmatic One, the Necessary Chaos; eikone of rogues, shapeshifters, trickery, epiphanies and unwonted revelations, and sudden paradigm shifts
  47. The Unnamed, Dark Prince of the Unknown, the Subtle One, the Whisperer of Secrets, Architect of Locks; eikone of seals, secrets, mysteries, and that which you are not cleared to know
  48. Véválíäh, the Hearthtender, Lady of the Earthly Blessings, the Protector, Provider, and Welcomer; eikone of the hearth and home, domestic life, hospitality, and patron of the hearthmistress darëssef

So. Now you know.

 

Ia! Ia! Shub-Memerath!

(The kind that’s made of ideas, not the kind that outgrabes…)

So, Mark Atwood sent me a link to this:

Who worships an evil god?

Someone has realized that the lovecraftian gods are effective as myth
because they are basically the eikones of the human species, hiding in
plain sight.

For your attention…

This is, indeed, very relevant to my interests, and to yours – assuming that you are interested in how the eikones, being entities of the conceptual realm, worked before being reified into weakly godlike superintelligences running on moon-sized world-brains.

(And to a large extent still work, of course, since it’s not as if they got any less terrifyingly pure-conceptual in the process.)

As I’ve quoted before:

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.

It’s not hard to see the commonalities with – well, to quote the introductory post:

Sometimes people in the rationalist community write about egregores. Scott has written about Moloch. Sarah Constantin wrote a great one about Ra. That’s more about the results of processes than something individuals would worship (like the Invisible Hand), but the feeling of them seemed very right. They were terrible and inhuman, a drive given form that we could never really comprehend.

Moloch and Ra sound a lot like what happens when you read too much of a book, and are wholly given over to some greater Thing, that has no concern for normal, boring, human life. So: what if the whole suite of gods in the Mythos were egregores like that?

…gods as, to steal some particularly lovely Destiny flavor text, ideas that will eat your thoughts and leave you full of Light.

(This is of course also particularly relevant inasmuch as – well, to quote one of the posts, ‘being intellectually consistent and “taking ideas seriously” is actually going to make you sound bizarrely different from reasonable people’, and the Empire is, among other things, a culture that prizes intellectual consistency and taking ideas seriously, which as long-term readers will have noticed changes things quite a lot.

And certainly makes things bizarrely different from *here*‘s culture, in which ideologue is the go-to dismissal aimed at anyone who doesn’t instantly cave on their principles at the first sign of difficulty or someone being upset.

The reverse cultural effect, incidentally, is why “pragmatism”, in Imperial culture, has acquired notable overtones of “hold onto your purse, watch your back, and get their money in advance”. Sophs without principles are not to be trusted, ’cause they’ll default on you as soon as it’s, heh, practical – so if you have to deal with them, it’s time for you to apply the principle of cuius testiculos habes.

[…actually, I’m going to wander a bit more off-topic, and cite this:

What is fascinating to me is the reasonable people. The vast majority who don’t think of themselves as holding any “out there” political opinions, and who look down on revolution or extremism as too risky. They just see themselves as holding up the same normal, common sense morality everyone else feels, or should.

There’s nothing “natural” about their positions though – the “normal” opinion is affected by cultural change as much as any extremist. Which is why the positions of campus feminism in the nineties became the positions of all “decent” upstanding citizens in the modern era.

The extremists you usually can argue with. As SSC points out, the extremists have no other options. But once “reasonable people” have a moral opinion, they enforce it brutally. They do not want to talk about it, they consider their opinion on formerly controversial issues now a “solved” discussion, closed for debate. And if you’re labeled a dissenter to that, your life is basically over. The reasonable people control all social discourse.

There may be an inferential gap here. To anyone who hasn’t experienced, it’s hard to express how scary it is when you have an opinion you think is acceptable, and everyone insists it’s just not allowed to be discussed. When people you respect are blithely ignoring their most fundamental principles because “this is the way everyone does it now” and with no further explanation.

Extremists at least usually feel they have to justify themselves.

As we strongly implied back here, the dominant Weltanschauung *there* is, shall we say, strongly intolerant of believing in things without understanding why one believes them. *Here*, the “reasonable people” own the social-intellectual climate. *There*, they’re the outgroupiest of out-groups, prone to be inquisitioned into surly silence the moment they stick their Just Because/Everyone Agrees out of its hole for an airing.

This results in a lot of alathkháln, for those not accustomed to this sort of climate, and as such is a strong contributor to non-Utopia. But one can’t help but suspect it produces better outcomes.])

Anyway, to return to the topic, these are a series of posts well worth reading on their own. But specifically for Eldraeverse readers, I’m going to suggest some commonalities with various Flamic eikones. (These will probably make a lot more sense after you read the original posts, so I’m going to suggest you may wish to do that and then come back here.)

This conception of Cthugha is virtually omnipresent, of course, in metaphysics and Imperial culture and so forth – too much so to have obvious parallels.But you can see some elements of Aláthiël (eikone of knowledge, wisdom, scholars, literacy, and skill), Her brother Atheléä (eikone of speech, music and song, poetry, language, logotecture, and memes) and Esseldár (eikone of time, memory, preservation, conservation, tradition, history, and ancestors) in the desire to collect and preserve all knowledge, all ideas, all intellects, all thoughts (the real fundamental true things) for eternity, and of Dírasán (eikone of messengers, communications, and couriers) in the desire for communication as its own end, as well as in that cause.

Yog-Sothoth has commonalities with both Elmiríën (eikone of order, structure, stability, perfection, and proper functioning) and Kanáralath (eikone of philosophy, reason, logic, mathematics, rigorous thought, and truth); the former as a representation of all those little details, all the exquisite clockwork that permits the universe to exist and function at all, and the latter as the promise that “for all the mysteries of the universe, they can be known“. That promise of knowability, of the effability of all things, is a major part of the symbolism of Kanáralath.

One can draw lines quickly from this Hastur to Braníël (eikone of power, drive, ambition, the unconquerable will, defiance of impossible odds, resolve, and endurance) and Ithával (eikone of beauty, glory, pride, achievement, radiance, status, wealth, and the rewards of excellence), just by looking at this quotation:

“Hastur is the god of stories.

“Hastur is the god of stories that are more important than reality.”

But where the twist comes in in Eldraeverse metaphysics is that that includes – that’s another way of saying – that he/they is the god of paracausality, of that inflection point between universe-as-information-system and the nondeterministic mathematics of free will which makes miracles possible in those exquisite moments when will defeats law, and sufficient awesomeness – sufficient meaningfulness imposed on the universe by qalasír – makes the impossible, at that time and place, inevitable.

Ithaqua has parallels with those two which would seem instantly clear from an eldrae perspective (and much less so from a human perspective, given our hardwiring towards social approval and conformity; but you can never fully emulate Ithával, they would say, as a mere echo of the achievements of others).But the best parallels would be Elárion (eikone of liberty, individuality, self-will, independence, and self-reliance) and Lódaríön (eikone of honor, rigor, self-discipline, purity, and self-perfection), who between them espouse being yourself and pursuing the necessities of your valxíjir and estxíjir just as hard as you possibly can.

“I think what I think and I do what I do for myself, and I will make it amazing.”

Yep, that’s about right.

Cthulhu seems nice and obvious at first glance: he’s Esseldár (eikone of time, memory, preservation, conservation, tradition, history, and ancestors) and Eslévan (eikone of the Empire, the spirit of the Imperial people, set over the race-lords and genii loci). They are all the qualities that define why we’re the Shining People in the Shining City on the Hill, and you’re, well, not.

Where you get divergence of concept is that this particular Shining People’s ideals spend a lot of time pointing out that they didn’t just spring forth fully formed and you have to work at making sure you deserve your high self-opinion, and for that matter actively goes out recruiting. Admittedly with a certain cultural blinder that has difficulty in grasping why anyone might not want to be as all-around awesome as the Clearly Objectively Superior Ones, and yet.

(That, and the sleeper isn’t going to rise and force the world to give them their due, because you can’t give people what they already have, belike.)

Ah, Nyarlathotep! Now the big N has straightforward parallels in Ithával and Aláthiël and Braníël, Leiríah (eikone of mists, illusions, deceptions, trickery, wit, and intrigue) and Seléne (eikone of the Silver Moon, cats, the cunning mind, tides, and those who travel at night) and Úlmiríën (eikone of rogues, shapeshifters, trickery, epiphanies and unwonted revelations, and sudden paradigm shifts) – all the gods of intelligence and cunning and ambition. He’s hard to pin down to just one parallel, because these qualities are so very esteemed that they show up everywhere.

This is not very comforting if you are ambitious. But if you are ambitious, then the response should be: “Good. I’m not a worshipper of Nyarlathotep. I am Nyarlathotep. I am the Doctor. I am the change I want to see in the world, and I am the small group of thoughtful people that can do anything. If I were not, I would not be free, and I would not be smart.”

That? That is possibly the most eldraeic quotation I have seen just about anywhere.

Ia! Nyarlathotep! Your less-than-humble emulators salute you!

Azathoth is only half-represented in parallels, and that principally by Kanáralath (eikone of philosophy, reason, logic, mathematics, rigorous thought, and truth, if you recall), because Kanáralath‘s demand for truth is merciless. Kanáralath is the eikone that insists that you strip away all the comforting lies and face the universe as it is. The one that will tear away the veil of “epistemic humility” and demand that, damn your eyes, you will look at it and know it for what it is. It is the god that says “That which can be destroyed by the truth should be,” and means every word, for that which cannot withstand truth doesn’t deserve to exist.

Kanáralath will hurt you. It will tell you that this is for your own good, and that will hurt you, because that, too, is true.

Where the representation fails is when it comes to the nihilism of Azathoth. That there is, and can be nothing else, than death, entropy, and meaninglessness? That, they say, is a lie, and an easy one, and the truth shall burn it away.

You could easily make a case for both Shub-Niggurath and Tsathoggua as personifications of Entropy, except that in Flamic thought, Entropy doesn’t have a personification; it’s merely a defect, or an absence. At most, like Exalted‘s Ebon Dragon, it’s an itself-shaped hole where it ought to be.

[One relevant point to make is why Shub-Niggurath isn’t akin to Sylithandríël (eikone of nature, the forests, set over the seasons and the plant-lords, silviculture, and gardens) or Gáldabar (eikone of wild nature, beasts and the hunt, set over the beast-lords) – namely, that those eikones aren’t eikones of nature as it is, but eikones of nature as it ought be without the deforming influence of Entropy; and that conception of ought be demands that nature be as civilized in the first place as civilization managed to become. It’s a garden that’s got no place for ichneumon wasps, and insofar as primality is a thing rather than the absence of a thing, it’s against it.

They don’t even like those irrational drives that are not per se bad; irrational mercy and compassion are as alien to the perfected, rational, civilized universe as the other ones. All things that should be done should be done thoughtfully.]

But to return to the topic, it is almost trivial to cast Tsathoggua as passive (spiritual) entropy – insert that entire quotation from Thus Spoke Zarathustra on the topic of the Last Man here – and Shub-Niggurath as one of the many aspects of active entropy, that which destroys complexity and revels in cacophilia.

But they’re both still self-shaped holes, because personifying nihilities gives them too much credit.

Commentary and other thoughts are, of course, welcome.

Trope-a-Day: Illegal Religion

Illegal Religion: Well, now. While neither the Fundamental Contract nor the Imperial Charter considers freedom of religion a fundamental right (those would all be much more, um, fundamental), it is, in most ways, a strict subset of those which it does recognize. The latter does, however, mention freedom of philosophy in the clause which establishes the state religion:

The above notwithstanding, the freedom of philosophy for the individual shall not be abridged, save when required for the public safety; and the rights of the citizen-shareholder shall not be diminished or enlarged on any philosophical criterion; save that the doctrines of a philosophy may act as an impairment to citizenship when they are considered antithetical to true allegiance or the principles upon which the Empire is founded, and the Senate and Curia have made such determination.

– the Imperial Charter, Section II, Article VIII

Thus, no religion is illegal in the Empire per se.

That said, the Empire is very keen on certain principles, like the ethical equality of all sophonts, their endowment with certain absolute, inalienable, non-derogable rights, that these rights are to life and property, liberty, and the pursuit of eudaimonia, the obligation of contracts, and so on and so forth, and if your religion, philosophy, or culture differs significantly on that point – especially but not necessarily in praxis1that’s what’ll get it on the list of Proscribed Promulgators of Pernicious Irrationality.

But, y’know, it’s not a per se ban, it’s a because you are by your own choice and statement incapable of undertaking the obligations inherent in Imperial citizen-shareholdership ban, which the Senate and Curia will be kind enough to explain the details of to you in the Take Your Religion/Culture/Philosophy and Shove It Act (As Applicable).

(Life is, by and large, a little more pleasant for those civilized henotheists who have no problem coming to a polite and respectful accommodation between their private beliefs and the public – primarily Flamic – ones. Dogmatic monotheism isn’t illegal, mind – its practice just makes you look like a right dick.)


Footnotes:

  1. With regard to the “The religion requires or encourages behavior that is unacceptable to the ruling culture. In this case, the rulers may tolerate abstract belief in the religion as long as the objectionable elements are not practiced.” policy mentioned on the trope page, the Empire has thought about it for all of a second and then dismissed it. Remember that old Minbari saying, “Understanding is not required, only obedience”2? The Imperials prefer to espouse the opposite – especially the acquiescents. All deeds grow from thoughts, after all.
  2. Having that in the doctrines of your religion isn’t banworthy, but it’s certainly a bad sign.

While TV Tropes only asks for Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement where Real Life examples are concerned, I’m going to ask that if anyone has the urge to discuss in the comments, we keep it in the hypothetical mode. I’m sure we can all think of such examples one way or t’other, but I do not want Earthling religious flamewars here, and will be striking down on any that do appear with great vengeance and furious anger, m’kay?

Questions: Sleep, Implied Contracts, Twinning, Pandeism, Cascading Default, The Drowning, Deals with the Devil, White Elephants, and Stargates

Random thought: Do eldrae sleep?

Yes, except for a few unconventionally modified clades. Specifically, it’s necessary in order to dream – because bio-brains get very unhappy when they don’t get their maintenance downtime. The nowline doesn’t need as much as the baseline (being quite happy to sustain three to four hours a night, or go without for several days if given an extended rest period thereafter), but that’s about where the diminishing returns set in.

The unconventional modifications tend to each come with their own disadvantages.

Do Imperial law and common custom acknowledge the validity of implied contracts, whether implied-in-fact or implied-at-law?

Not as such. The Curial courts have no particular desire to have to invent the terms of contracts and try to parse out the meeting of the minds that may or may not have been.

Instead, to save time, they have form contracts, which are basically library functions in contract law that can be invoked by various things: purchasing over the counter, entering a brawler’s bar, and various other legally defined social rituals. That ensures that the terms are defined, and contracts are always entered into intentionally.

You mentioned that sometimes someone can acquire a backup twin if their incarnation insurer mistakenly believes them to be dead. How is this resolved legally? Is property and assets split evenly? How about debts and obligations? Relationships? Can one arrange in advance what will happen and are there established precedents and norms?

When one person becomes two, the basic legal rule (in the absence of any specific agreements between self and self otherwise) is that various things attaching to them instead attach to the corporate body of both of them. So their property and assets, rather than being split, are jointly owned by both of them; they are jointly and severally liable for all debts and obligations; like any other contracts, they are jointly and severally attached to any relationships they’re in; and so on and so forth.

If it happens accidentally, such that there isn’t any previous agreement, it’s up to the new selves to exchange rights and obligations and buy each other out. Or, y’know, remerge and become one person again.

How are disputes resolved (for those foolish enough not to be able to come to an agreement with themselves).

If all else fails, they can always call on the Curial courts to make a division for them. (This is not recommended; the Curial courts dislike having to referee this sort of thing that reasonable people should be able to work out between themselves, so doing that guarantees that you’ll get a solution that neither of you will like.)

So what would the eldrae make of the idea of pandeism — that the Universe as we know it came about when a Creator of necessarily immense power and knowledge (though explicitly not an omnipotent and omniscient Deity in the classical Abrahamic vein), for whatever reason, ceased to be a unitary consciousness? How compatible would such an idea be with the precepts of the Flamic faith if someone were to make an effort to reconcile the two?

On one level, it has very few compatibility problems – the Flamic faith expends much more time on ethos than cosmos, as evidenced by its existing multiple creation myths which don’t trouble themselves particularly with consistency. And it’s no stranger an idea than many of those creation myths are, particularly in these days of mechanimism and pervasive nanoecologies.

It may, however, somewhat troubled by the pretty clear notion among the Flamics that the creator is a schmuck, for making (or in this case, becoming) such a fundamentally broken universe in the first place. So it would need to be a school of pandeism that can cope with the idea of performing invasive surgery on a blind, idiot, possibly suicidal deity.

And perhaps more interestingly, if said Creator were to have left behind some sort of “last will and testament” (or some other analogous set of injunctions) in the fundamental fabric of the Universe’s structure for its possible beneficiaries to decode and implement, what sort of considerations would the Imperial Curia have to take into account in deciding whether to accept it as a valid and enforceable document?

A contract with only one party is no contract. (Leaving aside the special case of contracts with one’s future self, which is the form many oaths take.) Nor can a creator bind their sophont creations, because they’re independent of will. So between those two alone, it’s not looking good for enforceability.

And the content is going to affect how seriously anyone might take it as advice, even. As mentioned before, the creator is a schmuck. No-one’s going to take the word of the entity responsible for either screwing up and creating entropy, or worse, deliberately creating entropy, as particularly ineffable.

When there are just two parties involved, debt and obligation seem to be pretty straightforward: Once you undertake an obligation, you assume liability for discharging it, and if you default, Bad Things Happen.

However, how do things work out under Imperial law and eldraeic practice when, for instance, A’s default on their obligation to B causes a “domino effect” where B is unable to fulfill their obligations to C as a direct result, causing C to default in turn on their obligations to D, who then has to default against E, etc.? Is each party still responsible solely for its own obligations, or is there some mechanism by which part or all of their liability in this matter can be assigned to A for their role in knocking over the first domino?

“You, and only you, are responsible for yourself,” as the old legal maxim has it.

Contract arrangements delegating risk notwithstanding, you are responsible for all of your obligations. If you choose to subcontract some of your obligations, well then, you’ll want to be confident you have a backup, can cover a potential default yourself, or otherwise hedge  it (using subguard insurance, say, or surety bonds, just like in our system, or guild backing of the subcontractor).

(The courts do have systems to stack cases and process them together for optimal handling in the event of cascading defaults, but that’s merely a convenience feature.)

1. So what’s the “Big Picture” historical view on the Drowning of the People? The “It all happened in seven hours” tale makes for a good yarn to tell around a campfire or kitchen table, but I’m sure that there must have been plenty of preexisting movements, trends, and ideas well before the event itself that all came to a head in that moment.

Actually, that’s more or less accurate for that part of it.

As indicated, the preparations for the revolution took place over years, and the overthrow itself took about a year from start to finish – and afterwards, it took more years to establish the start of what would later be known as the institutions of the Ungoverned Era, to put them on a proper philosophical grounding with the existing ideas floating around (including but not limited to this particular philosopher), and even more time for those to coalesce into the first things resembling a modern Society of Consent…

…but the part where the revolution decided that the democratic faction of their leadership were trying to be the new boss, just like the old boss, and chucked them over a waterfall? That happened pretty much as described.

2. While we’re on the subject of the days of yore, does eldraeic folklore or mythology have any tales in the same vein as the “deal with the devil” plot, where an ambitious yet impatient and shortsighted individual makes some kind of pact with an unsavory sort that (to put it mildly) ends up putting them at a disadvantage, and has to find some sort of loophole to escape their obligation or else risk eternal damnation (or some other equally sordid fate)?

I haven’t written any of them yet, and they are obviously somewhat different inasmuch as most Eldraeic belief systems have/had no adversary/negative-principle personification, merely a negative cosmic force, but it seems quite certain that there are plenty of fairy tales with morals relating to incautious pledges, yes.

(Many of them do probably relate to Úlmiríën, the Necessary Chaos, eikone of rogues, shapeshifters, trickery, epiphanies and unwonted revelations, and sudden paradigm shifts, but hesh’s not a evil deity, but a trickster deity whose bargains, while often painful, teach. Hesh is, after all, the Necessary Chaos.)

Does the Empire have an equivalent of the proverbial “white elephant,” either as an idiom or as an actual “gift”?

The concept exists, as does the social maneuver, although as yet I do not know their names.

After reading that the Empire sends out automated stargate deployment ships, and so there are systems with stargates in them that are otherwise largely unexplored, a thought struck me. How would the Empire respond if they sent a scout through one of these stargates and discovered that there was another non-Imperial, non-Voniensan stargate already in that system? Has that, in fact, ever happened?

By doing SCIENCE to it!

(Carefully and respectfully, of course, certainly. But it’s an obvious scenario that leads to seeking out more of that knowledge and friendship that the Exploratory Service is so keen on.)

And, per below, it has happened…

Also, regarding stargates in the Worlds, the Empire and the Republic are the only folks with the capability to make them, no? I know you’ve said before that Ring Dynamics made most of the stargates in the Worlds, but you never really hinted at anyone else having a weylforge (other than whatever it is that the Republic’s been mining), so I assumed that the non-RD gates were of Imperial manufacture too, just technically by different companies or maybe state-owned.

Ring Dynamics is the only Imperial company in that business, and owns and operates all of the Empire’s gates, under one contract or another, as well as leasing gates and selling gate services elsewhere.

The (rare) non-Ring-Dynamics ones, for the most part and subject to the author’s better-idea privileges, are almost all either rediscovered ancient paleotech relics (many of which are administered by Ring Dynamics under contract because, well, they have people who understand the tech), or belong to local Vingean Powers who figured it out on their own.

 

Trope-a-Day: Balance Between Good and Evil

Balance Between Good and Evil: Strongly averted in eldraeic theology, the Flamics preferring to espouse the notion that good (i.e., light, the Flame) should cheerfully extirpate evil (darkness, Entropy) from the universe and feel jolly happy about it. Good Needs Evil for contrast, forsooth! The thing about light, you see, is that it comes in many different colors.

Trope-a-Day: Holy Is Not Safe

Holy Is Not Safe: Anything made, shaped, or Vorlon-touched by a weakly godlike superintelligence may be holy, but is also very likely to be powerful enough to be catastrophically dangerous if misused, mishandled, or otherwise generally mucked about with.

(Especially things like, say, the Eye of Elmiríën, which is to say, an artifact of the eikone of order, law, and perfection. Its gaze wants to burn all imperfection and entropy out of everything. Since it is an imperfect universe filled with imperfect things, looking at it hurts almost as much as being looked at by it.)

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

Worldbuilding: Immigration and Religiosity

A thought or two inspired by part of this comment seen via /r/bestof, said part being:

Where it gets extremely tricky and sensitive is how non-fundamentalist Muslims fit into the picture. The same for non-fundamentalist Christians, or Jews. Because the fundamentalists would argue, and in a way I agree with them, that the beliefs of these people are so far removed from the original message and meaning of the religion that they are not truly Muslims, or Christians or Jews. In order to achieve a form of Islam, or Christianity, or Judaism that is acceptable to ‘Western society’, you have to reshape and twist the doctrine of that religion SO MUCH that it can start to not make sense at all.

(You may also want to read the surrounding paragraphs for context, but I don’t think you really need to.)

…and which, in the finest spirit of “everything gets used for worldbuilding”, I shall now use to illustrate something of the nature of non-native religiosity in the Empire and one particularly characteristic problem people run into at immigration.

‘Cause here’s the thing.

The Empire is an unabashed ideostate, neither an ethnostate nor a volumetric geostate. It is the contractual association of the Freest of the Free, which certainly anyone is permitted to join – the advertised immigration policy is, after all, “just turn up” – but they do have to  be able to sign the associative contract in good faith. Like so:

I, affirmer’s full name and/or identifier, hereby affirm my agreement and attachment to the principles of the Fundamental Contract; that all sophonts are endowed with certain absolute and inalienable rights; that these rights are to life and property, liberty, and the pursuit of eudaimonia; that all sophonts are equal in their exercise and retention of these rights, without privilege or priority; that sophonts cooperate amongst themselves in separate and coadunate action to secure them; and that they do so freely and by their own sovereign will.

Therefore, as a free and self-sovereign sophont of recognized competence, I hereby agree, consent and reaffirm my binding to the rights and obligations of the Fundamental Contract which underlies the civilization of the Empire, on my own behalf as well as that of my guardianship; consenting to be guided first in my actions by the Rights of Domain, of Defense, of Common Defense, and of Fair Contract; and accepting freely the obligations attached thereto to guard the absolute and inalienable rights of my fellow sophonts as my own; and in full understanding that should I Default from this, my own rights shall therefore be abeyed until the default is amended.

Given under my hand this day date,

affirmer’s signature

Witnessed this day by witness’s full name and/or identifier, who, as a citizen-shareholder in good standing of the Empire and an adherent of the Contract, pledges surety in the light of the Flame for the competence of the signatory and the validity of this Affirmation.

witness’s signature

In good faith, for these purposes, implies “under alethiometric analysis”. Which is a problem, if you believe in the fundamental doctrines of many religions, ’cause however in good faith you may feel you’re being because obviously such considerations couldn’t possibly be meant to apply when you’re quarter-valuing women, abominating homosexuals, or stoning those buggers who wear mixed fabrics, your mental reservations will light the alethiometer up like a Christmas tree.

(We pause briefly while the House of Exemplars pats itself on the back for its collective foresight, inasmuch as everyone from Merriéle Herself [1] on down to the present day were careful to note that they were just writing down their best perception of what the eikones wanted and expected ongoing contemplation and future generations to revise accordingly with the benefit of further thought – and thus avoided binding their seven-millennia-later successors to a bunch of Bronze Age mandates labeled the ineffable, eternal, unchangeable TRVTH. Dodged a bullet there, eh?)

But here’s the catch-22. There are also a lot of non-fundamentalist people around who would pass that test, because they don’t literally believe in the aforementioned things, but they’ve never really repudiated them either. They exist in the shadowy doctrine-twisting world in which, sure, this is the ineffable word of God and the scriptural basis for our religion, except that it obviously doesn’t mean what it says and what He really wants is peace, love, charity, fluffy bunnies, and other things more in accord with modern thinking that don’t explicitly punch the Contract in the face.

…yeah, that won’t get you in either. Because regardless of how self-aware you are about it, that is going to light up the alethiometer with the information that you, sir, ma’am, herm, or neut, are someone who espouses Serious Philosophical Commitments to Ideals and then ignores said Ideals for some stuff you and your chums just made up, belike.

That doesn’t play very well with people who take notions like “obligation” and “self-integrity” and so forth seriously. And it plays even less well with the Imperial Guard of Borders and Volumes – being the people asking you to affirm a Serious Philosophical Commitment to an Ideal – who will bounce you and your admittance request right back out the door and onto the next starship to Hypocrisia.

Which leaves as admissible only those whose ancient theogonists happened to luck out and hit enlightened libertism – or at least values that don’t gratuitously offend enlightened libertism – by chance or revelation, or else those religions flexible enough to engage in theologically supported reform as they go. (There are more than a few Christian sects that would qualify under this clause, because what they believe and what they espouse are aligned with each other, and that theological and doctrinal evolution were intended; equally, of course, there are more than a few that wouldn’t.)

The combination of these effects leads to both a tendency to cooperative niceness where non-native religiosity is concerned, and to many-much vigorous denouncing from outworlders. But then, they’re used to that [3].


[1] Whose own writings reflect a certain willingness to argue with the divine, and indeed to look Heaven in the eye and judge right back. The Church of the Flame followed [2] in this initial tradition.

[2] The ripple effect this has had on ecumenicalism and religious diplomacy by producing a religion whose representatives, while more than happy to go along with civilized polyhenotheism, also have no problem whatsoever with saying out loud the equivalent of “Man, your god’s kind of a giant celestial asshat, huh?”, is left as an exercise for the reader.

[3] A standard cadet exercise at the Stratarchy of Warrior Philosophy is constructing memes to get the people denouncing them on the extranet for being tolerant and the people denouncing them on the extranet for being intolerant (of the intolerant) flaming each other instead. This is both good introductory-level practice and kind of funny, so.

Trope-a-Day: Stop Worshipping Me

Stop Worshipping Me: Played straight by a large number of seed AI “gods” who by and large find the tendency of lesser orders of intelligence to worship them embarrassing and really quite annoying, not to mention inappropriate.  Really.  Just because something can fit whatever notions of divinity you just made up doesn’t mean you should go around praying and groveling and… ugh.  It also doesn’t help that they are perfectly aware of the images that most baselines have of their gods, and most of them find the comparison… unflattering, to say the least.

Averted in the Empire with the Transcend’s eikone-archai, mostly because (a) the eldraeic mainstream always took the position that they were getting an iceberg’s-eye view of the purely conceptual eikones and should not presume to limit them by anthropomorphic deification; and (b) they never worshipped them (in the sense we’d recognize) even when they were considered supernatural deities, because worshipping is entirely too subordinate a position for them to take with regards to anything.

(Especially any deity that’s worth bothering with.)

 

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: Pieces of God

Pieces of God: Played straight if unusually in an entirely non-supernatural way – inasmuch as the Transcend is a cross between a regular seed AI and a collective consciousness of synnoetic AI soul-shards (see: Touched By Vorlons) grafted into the minds of all of its constitutionals.  So while the greatest concentration of Transcendent processing power is in its dedicated components, its Cirys swarm and synapse moons and unity spires, it has a lot of fragments out there…

Trope-a-Day: No Such Thing As Space Jesus

No Such Thing As Space Jesus: Amazingly enough, the people who built their very own set of mechanical deities (see: Deus Est Machina) are remarkably skeptical about people who claim to be (and, of course, to have) supernatural gods.  Especially since they can only very rarely whip up a miracle that Sufficiently Advanced tech can’t reproduce perfectly well.

Not that that stops anyone from forming religions around those things, anyway.  After all, the most important qualifier for a deity is the ability to act in an appropriately Godlike manner.  Or so it would appear.

Blood

B“We don’t speak to our gods, and they don’t speak to us.”

“Why? The last time we asked them for something and they heard us, Venirek Sky-Hammer punched our world so hard that everything died. And it’s not that we’re not grateful, but that’s the kind of miracle you only want occasionally. That, and it’s not like they have a lot to say to us, skyhammer and bloodwind and old starry-eyes. We tell their myths to children and what they learn – bein’ kaeth – is that they want to grow up to punch things that hard. That, and to die well enough to get into Mak-Rekken, the afterlife of glorious eternal battle.”

Not what you might call a well-rounded spirituality. For that, we have the Eight Bloody Sages.”

“Not gods. The old ones, lost in myth – except when they’re not. The eight oldest of us, the ones who survived everything Paltraeth could throw at them, each other and the rest of us included. Rage, Greed, Cunning, Clan, Lust, Fire, Death, and Being Too Damn Bull-Headed To Quit, Ever.” The old kaeth smirked. “It sounds better without translation. They don’t have other names. They don’t need other names.”

“And never just the Eight Sages. They’re the Eight Bloody Sages. Because they’re born in blood, and alive through blood, their own and their enemies. Because blood is truth and blood is life and life’s wisdom comes through blood. And because if you don’t listen well enough when they speak, your own blood pooling around the remains of your guts’ll be the last thing you ever see.”

Trope-a-Day: Messianic Archetype

Messianic Archetype: The seeress Merriéle, who founded the modern Church of the Flame, named and attributes all the (then) deities and (now) archai, was executed by fire-of-purification in Somáras, and may, just may – see Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions – have been directly instructed by one of the nearest things to a god this universe is ever likely to see.

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: Insignificant Little Blue Planet

Insignificant Little Blue Planet: We already really handled this under Earth is the Center of the Universe, but I bring it up because of a discussion at TV Tropes of the problem, religiously speaking, of being a tiny, tiny, tiny piece of something incomprehensibly large with regard to theologies that are quite personal in the relationship between Man and Cosmos.

To which I would like to note that the response of the rather impersonal, iconic, primary eldraeic religion to discovering Space was, approximately, “All of this needs fixing? Bugger me, that’s going to take a while.”