Urizen religious beliefs
Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage.
With its emphasis on philosophy and an ordered and rational life, it is no surprise that virtue and religion are important in Urizen. Most Urizen try to live virtuous lives and many believe that virtue is essential for Arete, that people can only be truly effective when they act in a virtuous manner, or that Poise cannot be achieved while giving in to base urges. In particular, a philosophical understanding of the Way of Virtue is regarded by most Urizen as a matter of concern and interest to all, rather than the prerogative and business of priests.
The Way of Virtue promotes behaviours that allow civilisation to prosper. Individuals who are virtuous encourage others around them to be more virtuous, and discourage self-serving or slothful attitudes. Highguard priests argue that virtue and vice are “contagious”, that virtuous individuals promote virtuous behaviour in those around them, and vice versa. The priests of the Urizen do not deny this idea, but from their understanding of the Net of the Heavens the priests of Urizen perceive a deeper truth.
The Illuminates of Urizen are priests who combine a unique appreciation of the Net of the Heavens with a dedication to the Way of Virtue. Where other Urizen seek to understand the world around them in terms of pivotal nodes, individuals and events which dominate and control those around them. The Illuminates seek, instead, to identify virtuous individuals and work to make them into pivotal nodes, to put them in positions or bring them to events that will prove pivotal.
The idea is compellingly simple; by making a virtuous individual into a pivotal node, that node then influences all those nodes that are connected to it. The more pivotal the node, the greater the influence – the more virtue takes root and spreads across the Empire. The obvious way to make an individual into a pivotal node is to put them in a position of command within the Empire; a courageous general will inspire their troops to greater loyalty and courage, a prosperous senator will enable prosperity and ambition throughout their nation. Ultimately though anything that serves to make a virtuous person become a pivotal individual achieves the Illuminate’s objectives.
Vice is just as contagious as virtue, so Illuminates also seek to identify vile individuals, those who lack the virtues, and eliminate them. There is nothing particularly underhand about this; most Illuminates are priests who actively serve in the Synod, which has the power to remove anyone from Imperial office if their behaviour is deemed sufficiently unvirtuous. By bringing evidence of vile behaviour before the Synod, the Illuminates can remove those whose behaviour is influencing the Empire in the wrong way.
On the face of it, the Illuminates appear little different to most Highguard Inquisitors or to any other priests concerned with vile behaviour. The difference is that the Illuminates are not concerned with the behaviour itself, but rather with the influence that the behaviour has on others, by way of the connections between them. A high ranking Imperial general whose selfish behaviour does not affect their ability to do their job is of little concern to an Illuminate.
The other approach for Illuminates is to identify pivotal individuals and encourage them to become more virtuous. All the nodes in the Net of the Heavens influence each other, as well as the space between them, so a powerful node can still be affected by bringing another node into contact with it. A powerful senator prone to graft and corruption may be made more prosperous and loyal simply by the presence of a secretary in their entourage who is known for their honesty.
The goal of the Illuminates is to work to make the entire Empire more virtuous. But rather than deliver sermons to a congregation of dozens they seek to transform pivotal individuals; the ultimate goal is that all the nodes of the Net of the Heavens should be occupied by virtuous individuals. By such methods the Illuminates will transform the entire Empire.
Some Urizen regard the Way of Virtue as an unfinished work, as incomplete revelation. These individuals, often called Questors, seek to challenge themselves and others by questioning the dogma of other priests. They use doubt and logic as tools to explore the meaning of faith and the purpose of virtue. They are often at odds with the priests of Highguard, and are known to question what the exact role of priests should be in religion – they regularly propose that priests have a responsibility to guide and offer advice, but that they should not attempt to make individuals undertake or avoid certain types of behaviour because by doing so they are damaging the soul’s progression towards enlightenment.
There is a subset of Questors who go so far as to actively discourage the use of evocative liao ceremonies, such as consecration or anointing, claiming that they interfere with the pure rational and objective pursuit of a virtue. These Questors, referred to by some as Lucidians for their commitment to clarity, are often excellent exorcists but who are as like to banish a virtuous aura as a malign spiritual presence, an attitude which has caused some tensions and conflicts with other priests, including accusations of Idolatry (from the Lucidians) and Blasphemy (from Wayfarers and other priests).