Urizen magical traditions
To conquer yourself is the first and noblest of all victories.
When a citizen of the Empire thinks of the Urizen, it’s usually a magician they imagine. Whether a priest, a soldier or a merchant, it is quite common for an Urizen to know an incantation or the fundamentals of a magical lore.
The mountains of Urizen are rich in raw magical resources but they are even more rich in lore and recorded knowledge. There are libraries here that have been collected and expanded over five hundred years, but the magicians don’t rest on their laurels; they quest constantly to improve and increase their understanding of magic.
When Urizen joined the Empire they were instrumental in the creation of the Conclave, the great body of magicians that support the Empire with their arcane skills.
Magic is viewed as the most potent tool an individual can wield to change the world. As nodes in the Net of the Heavens, mages are inherently more pivotal than those around them because they can use magic to achieve far-reaching and dramatic changes. Magic can be dangerous, however: too much magic can warp an individual’s consciousness or taint an area of land. Reliance on one realm of magic can create imbalances with terrible consequences. What is more the Urizen know that individual magicians in other nations rival or even exceed the power of the Urizen though they lack their perspective and understanding and this makes them dangerous. Yet at the same time these magicians are the peers and potential allies of the Urizen magi, they just need guidance.
By bringing magicians together, the Conclave makes it easy for the Urizen to assess their peers, to identify those magicians amongst the other nations who are pivotal nodes. By working together in the Conclave, they can more easily influence their colleagues and thus ensure that the magicians of the Empire are effective and work to improve the Empire.
Some Urizen take an interest in the workings of other Imperial bodies, like the Senate, the Synod or the Bourse, but the majority regard the Conclave as the most important political arena in the Empire, a reflection of the importance which the Urizen place on magic. One exception to this attitude are the magi, the political magicians of Urizen. A magus sees an equivalence between politics and magic. In both, carefully chosen words and gestures, a strong will and a keen intellect allow one to achieve results far beyond what one could achieve using only one's body. Magic is notoriously unreliable at influencing the hearts and minds of thinking beings, whereas a charismatic steward of the Marches or a silver-tongued Sarvosian Mountebank can achieve incredible results without using the tiniest bit of actual magic.
Whereas the stargazers and seers look beyond the world, and beyond the present, the magi are focused on the here and now. Using the Net of the Heavens as a model, they seek to become powerful nodes in their own right, building alliances and exerting influence over others to achieve their ends. They feel a natural affinity for other magicians, but they also realise the value of using their magical abilities to help their allies and build interlocking webs of favour and influence. Where reason and debate are insufficient, the magi use magic and more mundane methods to learn everything they can about their political opponents, reasoning that the more they know the more likely they are to find some lever that will allow them to bring their rival around to their way of thinking.
Magi do not restrict their political ambitions to the mortal world; the eternals are powerful and are clearly pivotal nodes in their own rights, even if they are not part of the Empire. Where other nations may find the eternals suspect, the magi believe fundamentally that the eternals are a “knowable quantity.” Their restricted nature as compared to humans means that mortals will always eventually get the better of them, provided they approach them rationally and with care not to become overconfident.
Some Urizen magi have little or no interest in politics. The stargazers are interested in magic itself, performing research and experiments seeking to advance understanding and exceed the known limits of magic. They study magic not just for the power it grants, but so that they can understand both it and the complex laws that govern it. Although only a few stargazers are interested in astronomy they take their name from those amongst them who meticulously chart the course of the heavens.
A common theory among the stargazers is that there is at least one more realm – the seventh realm that represents the unknown. This seventh realm, if it exists, is concerned with things that humans cannot conceive of, and may be related to the process of reincarnation. Attempting to understand the seventh realm is a complex mental exercise – how does a human mind conceive of something that is by its very nature impossible to imagine?
Another common theory held by stargazers is that there are probably eight realms, although there is bitter division over what these realms might be. The most widespread belief is that the four “physical” realms – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter – should be mirrored by four “spiritual and mental” realms – that there are at least two more realms, the counterparts to Day and Night.
The stargazers maintain that the realms can be a positive influence on the world, but only so long as no one realm dominates the others. All six realms possess qualities that are valuable, especially in moderation. Many stargazers perform experiments designed to create balance between the influence of the realms, or to highlight positive elements rather than negative. The ultimate goal is to create a fabled state they variously call “celestial harmony” or “the omnihedron” that will help usher in a state of perfection on the mortal realm.
Stargazers are also interested in the eternals, for obvious reasons. As denizens of realms beyond the mundane, the eternals may offer insights that can unlock the secrets of the realms and the physical world. Stargazers relish the opportunity to engage with friendly eternals in discussions about philosophy and theorising about the nature of existence.
The seers of Urizen maintain libraries of lore gathered from across the Empire and beyond. Honed and refined by generations of study and discussion, these libraries rival the great libraries of Highguard. Urizen does not limit itself to magical lore; everything can be quantified, charted and recorded and to lose or waste knowledge is a dreadful thing. Recording and gathering wisdom and knowledge of the mundane world helps them to a greater understanding of how to apply their magic to the best effect.
The seers always attempt to maintain perfect detachment from the events they are recording, no matter how painful or unpopular those facts might be. Most seers are masters of the Day realm, able to perform powerful divination rituals. They know that success in divination relies upon having the most accurate possible information, so they regard personal opinions and interpretations as flaws. It is perfectly appropriate for an Urizen to hold an opinion on their data, to have interpretation of what it means, the seers just don’t believe that mere opinions merit being written down.
The clashes between Highborn archivists and Urizen seers and torchbearers are notorious. Seers are outraged by what they see as the archivists' cavalier approach to the facts while the archivists are infuriated by the torchbearers' insistence on spreading information to everyone. There is rarely much love lost between scholars of the two nations and they often compete with each other to possess information.