Re: Three-world model

From: simon_hibbs2 <simon.hibbs_at_2cKUieSr6cgbQfjWOAA0i7NFnY6BOjxbX572lx3kimNHdPkyTVvskv2MA2c5Lkc2>
Date: Mon, 02 Apr 2012 14:01:11 -0000

> > I'm sure most here have read, heard or watched stories where the mystic is a
> > protagonist. One obvious example is Kung Fu ( -
> > Wikipedia link).
> He's not really a mystic. His magic is best handled by using the
> harmony rune for combat which can be done with any one of the three
> magic systems. Since he doesn't invoke a god or spirit, his fighting
> style can be treated as a grimoire with many of the fancy moves being
> individual spells.
> The trouble with a true mystic as a PC hero is that the main course of
> spiritual advancement is not attempting to remove yourself from
> societies but spending all your life in a monastery or being alone in
> the wilderness beating your chest with a rock, reciting the Jerusalem
> Prayer or meditating on the Diamond Lotus Sutra. And when any of your
> companions come along and say "Hi, we're going adventuring. Wanna
> come?", the correct mystical answer is no.

I think the Lunar religion, and in fact Budhism shows that mysticism can exist in a society which also has methods available to access animist, theist and sorcerous magic.

Mysticism can be considered a meta-religion or meta-philosophy. In the east of Glorantha you will still have temples, shrines, schools etc that teach conventional forms of animist, theist and sorcerous magic but which also acknowledge that the great mysteries are mystical in nature. There are paths available from these institutions to graduate to mystical teachings and withdraw from the world to pursue mystical enlightenment.

The people who attend these institutions and learn magical techniques are very definitely entangled with the world. Grasshopper and Li Mu Bai are such people and I think it's right that their magical powers be characterised using one of the three magic systems. However they also get exposed to mystical concepts and techniques that are also useful for their magical education.

The term 'failed mystic' gets bandied about a lot. To my mind, the term failed mystic means that it is impossible for that character to become a mystic. They have failed. Transcendence is impossible for them. I think such people do exist. I think Sheng Seleris is one of them, and occluded illuminates also fall into this category. They are on a downward path away from true transcendence, burning up psychic energy in the form of expressions of magical power along the way.

To me, just because you attend a Shaolin-style temple and have learned cool Kung Fu style powers, that doesn't mean that as a result transcendence is forever beyond your reach. Are all Lunars that initiate into a Lunar cult and use the magic they gain thereby forever beyond the possibility of enlighetment? Surely not. Are they all Failed Mystics?

To my mind there are a number of challenges a Mystic must pass on their road to enlightenment. For Lunars, one of these is Kindling and another is Sevening, but I am sure there are others. Nysalorians had Illumination. Undergoing these challenges is perilous. At any one of them, the mystic can definitively fail and fall into error. However if you haven't even undegone any one of these challenges, how can you be said to be a failed mystic?

I think it's possible to pass some of these challenges, be on the way to enlightenment, but still occasionally express some magical abilities commensurate with your level of development. I am perfectly willing to accept that these powers are not mystical in nature in themselves. They are signs of continuing entanglement with the world - including the otherworld associated with that form of magic. However I don't think characterising them as badges of failure is useful. Signs of incomplete progress or distraction from mystical goals, yes.

Lets look at Li Mu Bai, from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. He's a kick-ass kung fu warrior, but has decided he wants to retire from engagement with the world and pursue ultimate enlightenment.

Is his kick-ass kung fu a sure sign that this is impossible for him? Is he indelibly marked with the stain of Fail? To my mind, no he isn't. At this point calling him a Failed Mystic is just a slur. He has come to realise that kicking ass with kung fu is ultimately unimportant, it's just entanglement with the world and he is ready to leave all that behind, as symbolised by his surrendering his sword to Sir Te. At the start of the film he's a real mystic heading towards enlightenment, which is within his grasp. Such enlightenment is not possible for Michelle Yeoh because she's in love with Li Mu Bai, an entanglement with the world she cannot free herself from. Unfortunately for Li Mu Bai, he gets distracted by Jen and does actually fail to achieve enlightenment because he gets himself killed, and frankly he was asking for it. He should have gone up to the temple and withdrawn from the world while he had the chance. However it's getting mixed up with Jen that dooms him, not his bodacious kung fu.

Now it's quite possible I'm being blinded by my obsession with cheesy chop socky fiction. Maybe that particular entanglement with the world is an impediment to my realising the true nature of mysticism.

Simon Hibbs            

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