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The philosopher-priests of Urizen embrace an image they poetically call the Net of the Heavens. This philosophy is related to the Dance Navarr, but the Urizen would claim it represents a more refined understanding of the cosmos. It is a metaphor that defines Creation as being made up of “nodes” or “knots” – pivotal people and events that shape everything around them. By influencing a powerful node, a philosopher can exert influence over events and individuals he has no personal connection to.
 
 
The First Empress was a pivotal individual who changed and influenced thousands of other individuals, both when she was alive and in every generation since her death. She influenced other nodes and they in turn influenced the nodes around them. Another example might be an orc chieftan. A powerful node that influences and directs countless other individuals, if that node is neutralised then those other nodes are irrevocably changed.
 
 
Likewise the Paragons are some of the most pivotal individuals in history. They shape the world around themselves, and do so in a durable and far-reaching way. Their appearance is difficult or impossible to predict, which is unfortunate as influencing a Paragon would allow the Urizen people to influence vast swathes of other people.
 
 
Not only people can be pivotal, and a person may become pivotal through a combination of time and space. The first meeting where the Empress outlined her idea for the Empire was a pivotal event, where dozens of influential nodes come together. Likewise, an individual may become pivotal for a few moments through their proximity to another node – the soldier who assassinated the Mad Emperor became absolutely pivotal as a result of that action, and her choice could have moved the entire Empire in a number of very different directions.
 
 
Not all nodes are equally influential or pivotal. An orc chieftan is a pivotal individual, for example, one that influences dozens of other individuals and events. Removing the orc chieftan is often a much more effective way to deal with their army than fighting the army directly.
 
 
This philosophy is core to all areas of Urizen life, and identifying individuals, times and places where effort can be expended to enact massive changes is a constant drive.
 
 
The Navarr expend a lot of energy trying to influence every single node in the Net of the Heavens through their metaphor of the Dance Navarr. The Urizen philosophers argue that it is a much more sensible approach to identify pivotal individuals and events and by influencing them enact far-reaching and durable change.
 
  
 
<quote-right>The Paragons have shown us the way, but they will not carry  
 
<quote-right>The Paragons have shown us the way, but they will not carry  

Revision as of 15:59, 27 July 2012

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The Paragons have shown us the way, but they will not carry us up the mountain on their backs.

The teachings of the Imperial Faith found fertile ground in Urizen, partly due to their understanding of the Net of the Heavens. The Highguard priests argued early on that Virtue is “contagious” and this idea proved influential among the Urizen. The idea runs that an individual who puruses Virtue encourages other people to be “better.” Virtuous individuals easily become pivotal individuals, inspiring and influencing everyone round them.

The Path 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.

The illuminates of Orsion are priests who believe that each person has the potential to advance to a higher state of being – to equal and eventually surpass the Paragons in their enlightenment and understanding of the divine. They encourage people to pursue a personal connection with the divine, to unlock their own potential through both study and righteous action.

Many illuminates 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 force individuals to undertake or avoid certain types of behaviour because by doing so they are damaging the soul’s progression towards enlightenment.

They reason that while there are unlikely to be any more Paragons, if they do appear they will benefit from being shepherded – they are perfect examples of incredibly influential individuals with the power to change the destinies of thousands of people. If no more Paragons appear, they believe that there will be more and more Exemplars – individuals who through their virtue inspire others and achieve great things. By encouraging these Exemplars to explore their divine nature, they reason that eventually all humans will be born with an innate understanding of virtue and that the human species will be irrevocably changed.

The ultimate goal of the illuminates is nothing less than a transcendent understanding of creation and their place in it, and to use that understanding to inspire others to transcend their understanding. They want, effectively, to make themselves into Paragons through reason and Virtue, and catalyse a change that will see everyone in the Empire achieve a higher state of being.

It is quite an ambitious aim.

Better to doubt and find the truth than to be given it as a gift

Most Urizen wholeheartedly embrace the idea that this flesh is just a vessel through which the soul happens to be passing on its road to enlightenment. After an individual is dead, the body should be treated with respect but it is fundamentally an empty husk. Bodies are interred with minimal ceremony in quiet mausoleums built on the lower slopes beneath a Spire. They are rarely entombed with grave goods or marked with great ornamentation. Influential and inspiring figures are recalled in bas-reliefs and statuary that decorates an Orsiond Spire, but it is a rare Urizen whose biography, journals and collected letters cannot be found in the library at the heart of a Spire.