Hersey, with a side of Aristotelianism

From: Peter Larsen <plarsen_at_mail.utexas.edu>
Date: Sat, 11 Nov 2000 13:32:16 -0600

Peter Metcalfe says:

>So is the Lunar religion and the worship of Ompalam. What I am
>pointing out that its practice (Soul Perfection, Mystical States)
>does not involve _rational thought_ which is what the Zzaburi do.

        I don't know; it seems to me that the Zzaburi would dismiss the soul entirely, conflating it with the mind. Purifying and Perfecting the Mind might hold the same place for them as Perfection of the Soul does for mystics (and Mystics). After all, the "aha!" of intellectual discovery is not that different from the "aha!" of mystical revelation.

>The Buserian do get their magic through worship of the Heavens
>(and to particular stars and planets) which is not what a
>(gloranthan) western astrologer would do.

        That's because the Busarian's rigor is Theistic (specifically Dara Happan) and moral, while the Zzaburi (at least) pursue a Sorcerorous and mental rigor. I assume the practice of, say a Sheshnegi Wizard would combine the two somewhat; not as mental as the Zzaburi but less moral than the Busarian (much closer to the Zzaburi, though).

> > I like this as a succinct statement of Zzaburite philosophy. My
> > only quibble is that many of Gloranthan natural laws do not
> > resemble RW laws.
>Neither does Aristotle's framework of natural laws which are closer
>to the gloranthan conception than the actual RW (or to be pomo about
>it - our current conception of those laws). Yet despite this, reason
>and the practice of such still was prominent in his system.

        OK, fair enough. I just want to make sure the ZZaburi are sorcerors, not mad scientists (to risk reigniting a recent argument).

While the Tabourites did have a shortage of knights
>they were far from being "extremely poorly equipped". Each
>wagon was supposed to have two handgunners, six crossbowmen, two
>flail-carriers, four halberdiers, two shield carriers, and two
>well-armed drivers. Generals have swapped sides for less...

        These wagons made a big splash, but I'm unsure how typical of the Taborite forces they were. You make the point (edited out) that most armies consisted of large numbers of peasants, but the difference with the Taborites is that they were not conscripts or professional soldiers (I realize Medieval Europe didn't exactly have what we would call professional soldiers, but stay with me) but desperate urban and rural poor (below serfs, even) driven by both economic and religious (and political, to some degree) anxieties to fanatical revolution. They cannot have been very effective as troops; that Zizka did as well as he did is a testimony to his (alone among the Taborites, as far as I can tell) military skill (and the fact that he had some trained soldiers and officers).

        The Hussite revolution makes a fair model for Ralios -- you have all these groups who buy into the same basic cultural and mythological background struggling against the power of Sheshnela. Within the Ralian ranks you have a number of creeds, some compatable, some not, all jockeying for power betraying one another, and so on. Besides, as I think you'll agree, Zizka and his wagons are really too nifty not to use....

>And to argue from this that the Tabourites were badly led is
>to confuse its military leadership (the leadership that makes
>the troops effective on the battlefield) with its political
>direction (the aims in which it fights for).

        Well, yes, but I've been more concerned with the political and spiritual direction all along. Bands of "Taborite mercenaries" existed in Eastern Europe long after 1434, but they were Taborites in name only. They had (as far as I know) no political or spiritual aspirations than any other mercenaries. Furthermore, no army is better led than the political forces that drive it; military gains, no matter how substantial, serve little purpose if the state (or whatever) is unable to make use of them. But this is a little off the topic. Zizka's mistake was choosing the wrong side; if he'd been an Utaquist, Bohemia might have gained political freedom. The Taborites as a whole squandared their early successes on creating utopian communities that fell apart under the pressures of reality.

        Which brings us to another point: in Glorantha, a community of fanatical devotees of a creed might be able to maintain a "spiritual community." Mana might fall from heaven and feed them; their enemies might be struck blind, and so on.

>But you originally said that you found their success to be startling
>considering their poor leadership and equipment whereas the Hussites
>weren't either of these things and the Muenster Anabaptists was pretty
>much what one would expected if they had sezied control of the city.

        We disagree about the Hussites (actually, I think we're arguing two different things). And seizing control of a city is pretty unusual; not many other groups managed even that much (at least not for a year). Both the Hussites and the Anabaptists managed (relatively) long term success; the other groups during the period were more like a Whack-a-Mole game; the powers that be stamped them down, executed their leaders, and ten or twenty or fifty years later it would all happen again; the exact elements would be a little different, but there are very clear themes that run through the whole period. The fact that so many people were willing to die quite horrible deaths for fairly ridiculous creeds is indicative of the allure of these fantasies.

>Not really. Siege warfare was a real pain in those days as German
>cities often walled themselves quite well to preserve their

        You have a point here. On the other hand, a very small number of true believers managed to keep the city's population in line for a whole year under fairly desperate circumstances. That isn't that common even today, when the various tools of control can make the situation much more one-sided.

>>The wider impact of Millenial groups is the way elements of their
>>philosophies kept getting recycled by similar groups.

>I do not consider that because Millenial philosophy
>was recycled, it had some special resonance within the human
>psyche that set the downtrodden free. Rather they reappeared
>because they were a legitimate interpretation of the standard
>religious texts that could be used to justify the uprising
>(or whatever political deed one desires).

        It definitely had a special resonance for the Medieval peasant. It also had enough attraction for the Medieval intelligensia that these themes recurred again and again until Luther and Calvin managed to make them palatable to the middle and upper classes. Even then, the Reformation produced its share of fringe religions. Heck, the same themes appear today in the Branch Davidians, the People's Temple, and Aum Shin Rikyo.

>You seem to be implying from the dramatic example of Muenster
>that this sort of thing should be a not unusual occurrence in
>Ralios. I find this difficult to accept. Muenster was unusual
>in that a bunch of loons took over, while most religious change
>was actually far less dramatic. For a domination by a religious
>group, I would take Savonarola and Florence as being more typical.

        No; I suspect that, like in Medieval Europe, most Gloranthan uprisings fail. Certainly, Florence makes a much more likely model than Muenster, if only because I'm not sure what wouuld be left after a Ralian Muenster. Religious contagion can be literally true in Glorantha; after a radical theocracy and "New Jerusalem," it might be better to burn the city to the ground, salt the earth, and start over elsewhere (e.g. Arkat in Dorastor). It might be a good background for a campaign, though.

>>(The Flagellants were relatively low key and orthodox in Italy; they
>>might have had another Muenster had they been more "German" in their
>>approach to flagellism.)
>In the first outbreak, they were prominent in Germany and the
>Netherlands for instigating anti-Semitic violence (which lead
>to their suppression).

        Flagellation was modestly common in monastic life before the end of the 11th C. As a public behavior, it caught on in Italy in the mid-1200s, fizzling out when the Millenium failed to show up on schedule in 1260. However, the movement had spread north by then, and recurred sporatically for the next 2 centuries or so. While the Flagellants remained relatively orthodox and under church control in Italy and southern France, in Germany they developed the usual symptoms of hatred for the rich, hatred for the Jews, and religious revolutionary fervor.

>>The longing in the Middle Ages wasn't for the Roman Empire, it was
>>for a fantasy kingdom loosely based on Biblical stories.
>But the longing in Safelster _is_ for the Autarchy which Arkat
>founded. There's a discussion about this in the Glorantha: Intro
>p54-57. The world of losers movement (the Gloranthan Flagellants)
>even worships Arkat the Martyr (Ibid p60).

        Can't it be for both? Many of the religious revolutionaries of Germany looked not only to the Second Coming of Christ but to the return of Fredrick II (or, occasionally other dead kings). Different movements emphasized different aspects, but they seem to have slipped from one to the other fairly readily. Especially for the Farmer caste, there has to be a longing for an imaginary time where everything was good for them; presumably, Danmalastan or a fantasy of it. Conflations should be common: Arkat and Hrestol, the Autarchy and Danmalastan, the current dynasty of Seshnela and the Godlearner conquorers, and so on. I think our image of Gloranthan politics and religion is probably still too cut and dried; there should be currents within Rokarianism, for example, and I can easily imagine some Perfecti being more like Cathars, some more like the Brethern of the Free Spirit, and some like the Sufis. Similarly, I'd like to see the World of Losers be as much a set of ideas as a cult; maybe some Arkat worship, maybe some Flagellants, maybe a justification for Farmer rebellion, and maybe some elements of it make their way into orthodox sects; while Hrestol's "passion" is not (as I understand it) venerated in the West, I can image that certain groups of Losers and Hrestoli give it greater importance.

Peter Larsen

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