I'm currently planning out my ArM5 campaign, and one of the features I'm not keen on is the wide-spread knowledge and integration of magic within the setting. Depending what source material you read, the impression could be that all of the major spiritual and temporal powers are well aware of the Order of Hermes and tolerate or even encourage their activity. Personally, I'd like the Order to be far more secretive and for there to be a great deal more cynicism about magic among the cognoscenti of society.
However, I'm also struggling a little with the philosophy of the isolationism and non-intervention in mundane matters. Why?! There are no secular powers in Europe that could stand up to a serious assault by the Order - a Rego specialist and Ignem specialist working together could destroy whole armies, given enough time. Which suggests that the true concern is either with divine power, faerie power or infernal power. And here is where my problem begins.
I hate the near-omnipotence of faeries in earlier ArM editions. Faerie's ability to shape reality within high Faerie auras / regios makes a degree of sense to me (although this might be better reflected as a +2 on magic rolls per level of aura, rather than the deus ex machina way it is often phrased). However, when faerie displeasure allows them to extend effects into Divine and Magical auras, or even grow the boundaries of their own aura, then I get uncomfortable. I am also not at all convinced about continual suggestions that villagers still worship their pagan faerie gods alongside participating in Christian ritual - we're talking about 1220 after all, some 800 years after conversion in Western Europe.
I'm not a huge fan of the absolute omnipotence of the Divine either. Perhaps the ArM5 sourcebook will clear it up (if I ever get it!) but it strikes me that the power of the divine is largely a defensive one - it prevents corruption, it removes the power of fake idols, it cowers demons. However, I'm not interested in the introduction of theomancy, as that seems to go against much of the nature of the Divine, which isn't about wielding divine power so much as placing your trust in the divine to wield it where and when it's appropriate. Divine power should significantly undermine the use of magic, perhaps to a greater extent than it currently does, but my vision of mythic europe does not include the calling down of miracles (and it certainly doesnt include absurd flying elephant-lions, as per The Winter's Tale!)
I am thinking that what the Order are afraid of is a union of Secular and Sacred power, however. True Faith combined with secular authority could potentially undo the Order, if a sufficiently righteous holyman were to march with a mundane army, his purity might extend his magical immunity to those he put under-his-wing, as it were. Might this be another reason why second-sons of nobles frequently entered the clergy?
However, this approach might suggest a deal more politicking within the Order as well. The only houses that one would think crave the secrecy and isolation that the order traditionally preserves is Bonisagus and perhaps Verditius and Criamon. Jerbiton might actually be forging closer ties with secular authority in order to undermine the delicate balance of power and present an opportunity to wage war on the Divine (or at least secure the Order from pre-emptive strikes). Bjornaer and Merinita might similarly have their own agendas for weakening divine authority by enhancing other traditions of power.
Might we see the children of Magi born without the Gift replicating nobles and entering clerical careers? After all, true faith is by no means a requisite for serving in the church in these times! Just ask Thomas a Beckett (although of course, he had a miraculous conversion to True Faith on assuming high office - the Divine works in mysterious ways!).
I wonder whether weakening those elements in the background that currently grate with me might have too many knock on consequences. Although in part, this also makes me wonder whether current background hasn't really been thought through quite well enough. Which perhaps boils down to the fundamental of: What is the Order of Hermes for? Why do these magi sit for up to 200 years in hidden towers delving into the secrets of the universe? What is their ultimate goal? What do they seek to achieve? If it's personal power, why do they have a rule that says they shall not exercise it?! This isn't something I'm sure we have a truly convincing answer for.....