More philosophy

From: Peter Larsen <>
Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2001 20:13:47 -0500

Peter Metcalfe says:

>>I wouldn't say "rudiments" and "keenly developed" are equivalent,
>>but if the philosophy would (for example) help the Uroxi separate
>>what is necessary and unnecessary in his religious practice, then yes.
>What _is_ necessary and unnecessary in Orlanthi religion? I do
>not get the understanding in Thunder Rebels that the Orlanthi
>religion is cluttered up by unnecessary things that impede the
>understanding of their god.

        I have no idea what's exactly necessary or unnecessary in Orlanthi religion -- but it's clear that it's pretty flexible. "no one expects other Orlanthi to agree whether a sacrificed cow should be red, black, or white, or whether boars and rams can be substituted for bulls without provoking the god's disfavor." (TR, p.61) On the same page, we have the notion that the worshipper is the central sacrifice and that some material elements may be necessary or useful, but devotion is the key ingredient. Maybe your clan thinks that the ceremony to welcome Ohorlanth requires a red blanket, a black bull, and a counter clockwise dance. You could probably change the ritual a lot and still welcome the god -- should you sweat that all the red blankets got burned or that the Black Oaks stole your last black bull, or do you go ahead and present your god with your very deepest devotion?

>>Mind you, I
>>don't think the Uroxi have much superfluous material in their religious
>>practice -- Urox is the Scouring Wind, after all, and his followers can't
>>remember all that much... As long as we're raising extreme examples,
>So my example of Uroxi religion being improved by abstract
>speculation is now extreme and thus useless as a rebuttal.
>Rightio. So how about telling us how the aspects of Orlanth,
>Yinkin and Odayla are improved by abstract speculation? An
>example of it in action might be nice too...

        I didn't say useless, but I will point out that Urox is about as "gut and body" oriented as an Orlanthi diety can get. His worship probably has virtually no intellectual component (Conan's prayer to Crom at the end of the John Milius film comes to mind), little in the way of theology and ritual -- it's pretty basic. Uroxi can hardly be held up as an example of Orlanthi culture in general, so, yeah, they are extreme, and yes, they are not particularly good support for your argument.

>>you imagine Lhakor Mhy followers not engaging in abstract speculation?
>No, I can't. But the topic happens to be about engaging in
>abstract speculation to improve the religion. And I can quite
>happily conceive of Lhankhor Mhy types quite happily engaging
>in Abstract Thought about the nature of their god without doing
>anything to improve their understanding of him. In thinking
>about meaningless drivel, they are acting like their god and so
>draw closer to him (the same could also be said about their
>progressive inability to think about the real world).

        Now, I'll cheerfully admit that Lhankor Mhy is as inappropriate a god as Urox for this argument, as he is extreme in the other direction. I don't, by the way, think that LM worshippers think about "meaningless drivel" -- LM is all about meaning. Trivia is only trivial, after all, until you need it to kill a dragon.

>> >Likewise
>> >the purpose of Dara Happan philosophy was not to improve their
>> >religion but to resolve troubling questions of doctrine and
>> >myth.
>>And these "troubling questions of doctrine and myth" never involve
>>feats or magic or the worshipper's understanding of them?
>No. If you want to know what went on, look at the Fortunate
>Succession for details. Secondly just what is it about feats
>that philosophy has to deal with them?

        Not "has to," _can_. As I keep saying, abstract thought and philosophy are tools for aproaching your god, in the same way that heroquesting, ernest devotion, practicing the clan rites for decades, and all other kinds of religious practice are. They all deepen and improve the religion which, even if it is utterly incapable of affecting the god, strengthens the worshippers and their theistic understanding. Which would result, in Glorantha, in better magic, at least sometimes. When Obduran proves that Orlanth is not necessarily opposed to dragons, that had an immense effect on the Orlanthi of his area, some of whom (at least), learned new magics.

>>Theism in Glorantha has always seemed like a two-way street to me, with
>>gods and their worshippers influencing each other;
>You have been arguing for something stronger than that. That a
>god's power be dependent on his worshippers is more than a matter
>of influence IMO.

        Certainly the power of a religion, including the benefits it offers its adherents, depends as much on the worshippers and their understanding of their gods than on the gods themselves. If you don't know the myths of Dar or Vingkot, your clan is going to have trouble with leadership. If you've never heard of Finovan, raiding won't go so well for you. So yeah, I think that the understanding of the worshippers deeply affects the way the god is perceived and what magics the worshippers can get. Look at the difference between Maran in Tarsh and Maran in Sartar. The relationship between and individual and the god is a dynamic relationship based on power, personality, culture, and other factors. It's not one thing.

>>There's the evidence of the Orlanthi involvement in the Bright
>>Empire and EWF.
>The "average Orlanthi" engaged in abstract thought during
>the Bright Empire and the EWF? Please.

        Maybe, maybe not. But some Orlanthi did, which is my point. I'm not saying that every Orlanthi is off in the hills working out logical proofs of the Storm or charting the Geometries of the Earth or even speculating about the Secret Nature of Heler and why he joined with Orlanth, but some Orlanthi do. It's one thing to say that these things are not part of regular Orlanthi culture and another thing to say that they are completely alien to the Orlanthi mind.

>>but as I have pointed out repeatedly, a quick study of history
>>shows that religious speculation is endemic in the human race
>But religious speculation is far from the same thing as abstract
>thought. Could you at least recognize this?

        If you mean formal logical systems, sure (or rather, they are two different things that may or may not overlap).

>>Why you deny the Orlanthi this basic human trait I have no idea.
>I am not denying it. I am denying that the Orlanthi think
>about their gods in terms of abstract thought, platonic dialogues
>and any other such philosophical tools. I have repeatedly
>distinguished between using reason and using abstract thought
>even to the extent of providing examples of such. For some
>reason, this distinction continues to evade you.

        No, I don't think the Orlanthi are a hotbed of platonic thought. On the other hand, I have no idea if the Dara Happans are, either. The Dara Happa philosophies seem to be based as much on mystic insights about Yelm as by any kind of greek-style logic.

        If you're defining abstract thought that narrowly, then I agree with you. If you want to make the point that Orlanthi are not Ancient Greeks or Computer Programmers, I'll agree with that, too.

Peter Larsen

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