On the Doctrine of Human Destiny
To conduct Historical Research into the context, politics, rationale and personalities pertinent to the formulation and ratification of the Doctrine of Human DestinyAnnounced by Severin von Holberg, Minister for Historical Research, WInter 383YE
This report was put together in Spring 384YE by the Department of Historical Research at the behest of the Minister of Historical Research, Severin Teyhard von Holberg. It looks into the origins of the Doctrine of Human Destiny, one of the Doctrines of the Faith that help guide pilgrims along the Way. This particular doctrine has proven increasingly controversial since the Imperial Orcs became part of the nation, and has also fuelled conflict with the Sumaah Republic.
The document begins with a foreword written by Leontes the Scribe, with the rest being written by a Wintermark scholar named Siward the Beacon, a lecturer at Holberg University.
I spent quite a bit of time looking at this question - of how the Doctrine of Human Destiny came about - and the problem is that there isn't a lot to go on. I can say with certainty that the first time the Doctrines of the Faith appear with the wording we recognise today is in 73YE. I can say that the most well-known commentary on the Doctrines - the one many school children are familiar with - wasn't actually written until 106YE by a bishop of the League. None of that will help with the fundamental question of where the Doctrine of Human Destiny came from.
So I made the decision to invite Siward the Beacon, a scholar from Hahnmark who lectures at Holberg University, to write this document. He's spent considerably longer than three months reading,writing, and thinking about the Doctrines. He's also a devout dedicate of Wisdom. We have to delve into speculation, and I'd rather have someone who I know is passionate and well-informed about the subject do that speculation.
But when you grab a duck in the dark, you have to stick with it.
Only human spirits reincarnate, therefore humans are the greatest of all beings in creation for only human spirits gain strength, knowledge and enlightenment through rebirth. The paragons not only personify Virtue but the full potential of humanity.The Doctrine of Human Destiny
The Doctrine of Human Destiny was enshrined in the years before the Empire was founded. This is a period that is clouded in mystery, with much of the historical records having been destroyed. While we're all familiar with Emperor Nicovar's legacy, it is important to stress that it looks strongly like his decision to destroy as many of the original contemporaneous documents as possible, was not the only act of sabotage. The records of the early years of the Empire show signs of being tampered with, both before Nicovar's time and since. The department are experienced at identifying the more obvious distortions, but it is impossible to speak with certainty about what went on during this period. This is our best effort to collate and present the events of the period and in particular the context and politics that led the first Imperial Synod to adopt the Doctrine of Human Destiny.
To fully appreciate the crucial role of the Doctrine of Human Destiny, it is essential to be clear on the political and historical context that predates it. After the fall of Terunael, humanity was split into a dozen different nation kingdoms. Some of those nations may well have been descendants of the Terunael: there is speculation that the Urizeni were once part of Terunael, and the Navarr almost certainly were. However these appear to be the only direct descendent of the Terunael Empire that survive to this day, despite the fact that we know that nation was extensive and covered much of the lands that form the modern Empire. That raises the rather obvious question of what happened to them.
It is possible that other Imperial nations are also descended from the survivors of the Terunael disaster, but historians of those nations argue strongly, and with substantial evidence to back them up, that that is not the case. There's good evidence to suggest that the Highborn came to these lands, long after Terunael fell. Dawnish historians likewise trace their ancestry back to foreign shores, while the Steinr and the Vard claim to have fallen from the sky. While that is clearly allegorical, it is presumably a mythic retelling of an arrival here from somewhere.
The point of this meandering is to demonstrate that there was a patchwork of human kingdoms scattered across the geographical lands of the modern Empire at this point, none of which had any basis, historical or otherwise, for cooperation. Indeed some of them such as Dawn and the Marches, or the Brass Coast and Highguard, had solid reasons for not cooperating. Modern citizens often assume that these nations enjoyed harmonious relations with each. Everyone knows that they were engaged in an existential war with the various orc powers that threated them. Urizen, for example, came close to being wiped out by the Grendel and by the Druj on separate occasions. What is far less commonly appreciated is that these human kingdoms fought brutal wars with each other.Highborn cataphracts rode into battle against the Dawnish with the same fervour and the same frequency that they attacked the Druj.
So it's quite wrong to think of this period as being constituted of human nations threatened by orc powers, in fact the period is more properly characterized by a back and forth of hostilities between a dozen rival powers, all of whom were vying for supremacy over all of those who surrounded them. To understand the significance of the Doctrine of Human Destiny you first need to appreciate that the average Highborn citizen of that era would likely have treated a Dawnish folk or an Urizeni with the same distrust with which we might look upon the Grendel or the Thule today.
The First Empress
The moment that changes history is the arrival of the First Empress, specifically with her revelation that she had undergone a true liao vision that demonstrated conclusively that she was the reborn soul of someone other than a Highborn citizen - perhaps she was Dawnish, or Navarri or a Suaq in a previous life. The details are frustratingly absent, curiously so given the importance of what she had to say.
What we do know is that her revelation had an enormous effect on Highguard - it transformed their understanding of the world. As far as we know, before the First Empress vision, the common assumption of the Highborn was that each of them was the reincarnation of a previous Highborn soul returned to this world. While it seems difficult to credit, there are some reasons why they might have thought this. We know that the First Empress was particularly well travelled. She is known to have visited many lands, so she would have been familiar with the clothes, the culture, the customs, when she encountered them in a vision - she would have recognized them for what they were.
Before her, if a Highborn citizen had a vision of being a Kallavesi mystic on the edge of Rundhal Marsh, they might have assumed that they were witnessing something from Highguard's past, from centuries earlier. They might have simply ignored the details that made no sense to them when they reported the vision. They may even have lied about what they saw - it sounds outrageous, but it's easy to imagine there might have been social pressures to recount a vision of yourself as a Highborn scion. The modern Faraden for example still claim that reincarnation only takes place along family lines.
The Patrician War
To understand the significance of this, we need to consider the social impact of the Way and the broader context of the Patrician War. As far as we can tell, a central tenet of Patrician society was that their leaders could trace their ancestry back to the foundation of their nation. Effectively the claim was one of a historical right to rule through this link to the navigators and the great figures of Highborn history, of Atuman and Atun. This seems so astonishing to our modern sensibilities, honed as they are by the Way, that it is easy to discount the importance of it. But rank and privilege were central to Highborn life at that time, and they were predicated not on Virtue, as the modern Empire does, but on birthright. Those who could claim a link to Autuman ruled, those who did not or could not prove such a link were, by inference, lesser, and were ruled over.
The revelations of the Way and the facts of reincarnation inevitably led to the Patrician War because they demonstrated that any one of us might have been one of Atuman's navigators in a past life, or we might have been nobody. Reincarnation transforms your world view, because it creates a more powerful link between the present and the past. How can your right to rule be based on your line of descent from Atuman, if I can prove that I was Atuman in a previous life? Reincarnation undermined the justification for Patrician rule - and it led to their downfall.
The people who cast down the Patricians, the people we think of as the modern Highborn, chose to replace patrician rule with a system of governance based on virtue. Rather than birthright, they would chose their leaders based on their Virtue. This new approach was built on the ruins of the old, on a rejection of the idea that anyone had a right to rule over the others by dint of their birth. This sentiment comes through very clearly in one of the early speeches attributed to Miriam of Hardin's Waters one of the earliest firebrands to denounce the Patricians (and who was brutally executed for her efforts).
"The Patricians tell us that they were born to rule, that their authority is given to them by Atuman. We know this now for a lie! Our bonds are not brother to sister, not mother to child, but rather one soul to another. Any one of us could be the reincarnation of Atuman. I could be Atun or you - or you - or you. The truth is that we are all High Born."
The chapters cast down the Patricians, but they didn't just replace a venal aristocracy with rule by the Virtuous, they discarded the idea that people were born different, born special. They replaced it with the idea that everyone was High Born, that everyone in their nation should be seen as part of one great family, the basis for which was the simple fact that in a previous life I might be your brother, your father, your sister or your daughter. The souls of the Highborn were one great river, flowing down to the sea.
And then the First Empress provided unequivocal proof that it was not just all Highborn who were born from one great family, souls moving through the world endlessly reincarnating. That in fact all humanity are united by this simple fact.
The Foundation of the Way
There is no evidence of any kind to suggest that the claims made by the Doctrine of Human Destiny are based on a careful weighing of evidence. There's nothing to suggest that the First Empress and her friends had access to any information than we now lack - in fact all the evidence is to the contrary. The First Empress may be the greatest human being who ever lived, but we have vastly more learning and understanding available to us than she possessed, not by dint of our Virtue, but by weight of accumulated years.
The people who founded the Way, who enshrined the Doctrine of Human Destiny didn't do so on the basis of a careful assessment of how great each species was. Rather it was a leap of faith, brought about by the First Empress' revelation that all humanity is united through the bonds created by our countless lives across the generations. Crucially it was a statement made at a time when a Dawnish noble or Urizen mage would have no more reason to consider a Highborn Empress to be an ally than they would a Druj buruk tepel or a Thule warlock. The Empress wanted to end the constant wars between the human nations, she wanted to unify them politically because she understood that they were one people spiritually.
The modern Imperial Synod presents the Doctrines of Faith as metaphysical statements of reality, but the historical context for these claims was that of a burning need to spread revelation to all humanity, to make bold inspiring statements that opened people's eyes to the truth, to covert them to the Way. The Doctrine of Human Destiny isn't a cold statement of facts about the nature of the human soul, it's a inspirational call to Virtue based on the commonality of the Human condition. It states that human being are the greatest of all beings in creation, not because the founders of the Way concluded that on the basis of the facts available to them but long since lost, but because they wanted all human beings to put aside their differences and unite behind this lofty Ambition.
The founders of the Way did not create the Doctrine of Human Destiny to convince humans everywhere that orcs or trolls should be seen as lesser. Their words might have had that effect, but there's precious little evidence to suggest that they gave those species any real thought at all. What the founders cared about, what they wanted was for Dawnish people to stop thinking of themselves as better than the Highborn, for the Highborn to stop thinking of themselves as better than the Winterfolk. They wanted human beings in every land that we now think of as the Empire to see themselves as part of one great whole.