Cathars, Heresy, and the Divine

I have explained on several occasions my reasoning with regard to what I perceived to be severe problems with the depiction of the Divine in relation to other forces in Fifth Edition. The most recent declaration by Marko that in this Saga the Cathars are “Damned” for their heresy has pushed my tolerance beyond a critical threshold.

In the interests of making everyone understand why this is such a profound issue, I’ll present a more coherent analysis in this one location.

Why the Cathars matter

This question has been directed at me repeatedly. I’m astonished that I have to explain myself on this point, for reasons which I will now present. For those without the familiarity which I have generally assumed all AM players possess, I must attribute my attitude toward my long experience with the game. I forget that not everyone has the same degree of awareness of pre-5th Ed. Versions of the game and Mythic Earth.

  1. Politically, the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars may be the single biggest issue in Provencal and Normany Tribunals affairs in the 13th Century. Only the Reconquesta in Iberia is comparable in terms of scope in Western Europe, and it has been going on a very long time.

The Cathar movement reached its pinnacle at the turn of 13th Century in Provence and the regions around the Pyrennes. It interpenetrated the very fabric of society, finding converts and sympathizers at all levels, from the lowliest peasants to the Counts of Toulouse. The Covenants of Bellaquin and Mistridge were both deeply involved with the Cathars, achieving close, positive relations with them. Other Covenants in the region maintained their own affiliations with the Cathars who, unlike the Church, did not condemn the Magi. Doissetep, the greatest Covenant in the region, was, however, aloof from the Cathars, and quite willing to use the issue as a means of opposing those Covenants which did not yield to its domination.

Within the history of the game, the relationship with the Cathars and the trauma inflicted by the Albigensian Crusade were pivotal, long-term Saga issues from the very first edition through at least 3rd Edition. Nearly every last adventure module and sourcebook dealt with the area, which was described as “the political and cultural heart of the Order”. Whichever side one ultimately chose, it was understood that it would matter. Friendship with the Cathars would test the limits on non-intervention with the mundanes and with the generally hostile or at least deeply suspicious views of the Catholic Church. Association was as good as an admission of guilt. Those who supported the Cathars in any capacity would share their fate.

This is the most important point of all. Prior to the Albigensian Crusade the Langue D’oc region was one of thriving commerce, cultural and intellectual development and one of the wealthiest parts of Western Europe. Philosophically tolerant, it permitted the cultivation of various “heresies” which were at odds with the dogma of the Church. Permissive in other fashions, the Langue D’oc was the most “liberal” of Tribunals. This liberalism manifested in a political independence from the King of France and from other centers of power. Several monasteries in the region were mother-houses of religious orders, with their influence felt far across Europe. The Templars were present as well, though no more so than in the rest of France. Like the Templars, the liberal Langue d’Oc accumulated a tremendous amount of wealth and power. Both of which sparked considerable jealousy.

Without delving into an extremely detailed history of the Albigensian Crusade, the salient points are that once it was unleashed the entire Langue D’oc became the target of rapacious nobles, mercenaries, and soliders all working under the blessing and flag of the “Holy” war against the “Cathar heretics”. The property of those accused of heresy--even posthumously--was forfeit to the Church, with a percentage going to those who named them as heretics. The relentless process of denunciation and seizure, accompanied frequently by the execution of the accused, resulted in the dismantling of that prosperity, the destruction of that tolerance, and the slaughter of upwards of two million people. All with the profound “blessing” of the Catholic Church.

During this period, the Inquisiton was formed expressly to hunt Cathars and then other “heretics”. Torture would be sanctioned and endorsed as a method of extracting confessions. The most extreme practices were promoted by bishops, cardinals, and popes, and often carried out by the Dominicans. Or, more accurately, supervised by them, as they gave themselves the “moral” remove of having temporal authorities do the torture and execution with official blessing or at least absolution. An absolution that applied to the many, many participants in the atrocities commited during the Albigensian Cruasde--as with the Crusades in the Near East.

  1. With respect to the Covenant of Andorra, these events are happening right next door. I’ve read several books on the issue and this period in history, and it is profoundly evident that Catharism ran throughout the Pyrennes and beyond. Montsegur, site of the most famous “last stand” of the Cathars, is maybe twenty-five to thirty miles from the Covenant of Andorra. Mistridge is only about twenty-one miles. For those who would declare that the mountains prevent any interaction, I invite a closer scrutiny of the history record.

Every single year the herders of the Pyrennes would take their flocks down through the passes into Iberia, going as far south as Valencia. Going with them were merchants and pilgrims--and not just Catholic pilgrims. Catharism extended well into Iberia, with sympathizers and major leaders present there as well. Extended families had relations sweeping for more than a hundred miles, and their friends could extend even farther. News, songs, stories, and beliefs traveled with the herds and the commerce. People in Andorra know those in the zone of the Crusade, and may well have relatives who are suffering from the calamity being inflicted. They know that the Crusade is expanding, and may reach Andorra within a few years. The cycle of vendettas and feuds which are prominent in the region are already being exploited to the fullest, with various parties denouncing one another as “heretics”. Whether or not one IS a Cathar or a sympathizer is as irrelevant as it is in France, where hundreds of thousands have been butchered and their communities destroyed merely because they lived alongside Cathars or suspected or denounced Cathars.

It is acknowledged tha the Inquisition and the Church may turn its attention toward the Magi. Relations with the Church have always been extremely tense, at least in those versions of Mythic Europe where the existence of the Magi is known to the Church outside of a select few. Any connection to the Cathars by any Magi--and Bellaquin, THE most open and famous among mundanes of all Covenants, was and may still be intimately connected with the Cathars, hosting them as guests and allies--would be a perfect excuse to declare the Order as “heretical”, as if its pursuit of Magic was not cause enough.

Wherever one stands on the issue, the Cathar question and that of the Albigensian Crusade against them matters a very great deal to Magi and to mundanes in the Langue d’Oc and the Pyrennes, including Andorra.

  1. On a personal level, Vares is from Provence. He grew up there, has traveled extensively across the Langue d’Oc, and knows what it was like before the Crusade. He has also crisscrossed the war zone in recent years and witnessed the devastation, learned of the gross travesties committed under the banner of the “Holy Crusade”, and observed the aftermath of its campaigns. Countless innocents have been slaughtered with Church blessing, entire communities obliterated, and the wealth of the region ransacked. The Crown of France is among the most explicit perpetrators, seizing that wealth to enrich itself while others from as far away as Germany and England if not farther participate in the murder, destruction, and a scale of looting that is almost without precedent in Western Europe since the fall of the Roman Empire.

Why the metaphysical status of the Cathars matters

This issue runs much wider and deeper than the previous section. One can argue the above on a political and historical basis in terms of wealth, power, culture, authority, and the nature of war. Without any actual supernatural imprimature, there is a degree of subjectivity that can lead to multiple interpetations. Once a “Divine” sanction exists, however, everything changes radically.

  1. One must understand the nature of the Cathar heresy. If requested, I will attempt to convey it in depth, however, for the purposes of this immediate debate I will summarise. The Cathars are Manicheanist heretics who posit that there are two “Gods”: one is the Old Testament Biblical “God”, full of wrath, envy, and other perilous qualities who has trapped humanity in the material world where it is subjected to repeated torment; the other is a quasi-New Testament “God” who is embodied in Christ as a Savior intent on freeing humanity from the trap of the material world.

Cathars are philosophically pacificist and preferentially vegetarian. They oppose the shedding of blood, the consuming of meat, and, in the more “advanced” stages of belief, any type of procreative congress. This is not entirely dissimilar from the Church’s imposition of oaths of chastity, though the goal has an added dimension. Not only does it free the soul from the appetites of the flesh, enabling it to attain a “Pure” state which will allow it to exit the material world upon death instead of being forced into another incarnation over and over (the Cathars believed in reincarnation, only as part of the punishment of mortality), it can, theoretically, lead to the ultimate end of mortal existence with conscious if peaceful extinction of the vessels being used to trap souls. Personally, I view this last part of their theology to be insane, however, they never forced anyone to accept it, acknowledged that it could be many, many centuries before everyone was “Purified”, and were, intriguingly, actually known for an appreciation of beauty and romantic as well as Platonic love.

The Cathars opposed the corruption of the Church and the nobility. They believed in the very Christian ideals of compassion, altruism, aiding the sick and the poor, and had their own rites meant to reaffirm these values. They had only a very loose religious hierarchy, unlike the Church, because they saw it as yet another method by which humans became ensnared in the world and corrupted to serve it. Cathar philosophers and orators were renowned as being extremely knowledgeable and eloquent, beating Church representatives at nearly every single debate, swaying audiences with their logic and their honesty. Many of their virtues were New Testament Christian virtues--and those of the Gnostics, with whom they shared a common origin.

On the whole, the Cathars represented a reformist “heresy” that sought to embrace Christian virtues free of the Church and the established temporal power structure wedded to it. For these reasons, they were deemed to be an extreme threat to the existing order, and after repeated attempts to convince the inhabitants of the Langue d’Oc to abandon Catharism or turn on the Cathars failed, a few minor incidents served as the pretext to launch the Albigensian Crusade.

  1. Consider the above. If the Albigensian Crusade is “Holy”, if the participants receive absolution for all their sins in exchange for annihilating the Cathars, then the Divine must be sanctioning the mass murder of millions of people. This type of genocidal conduct was found in the Old Testament, and the resort to it by the contemporary Church “proves” the true nature of the Catholic God in the eyes of the Cathars. If the Cathars are “Damned” because they do not Believe as the Church would have them Believe and their Faith--which holds to so many of the core New Testament Virtues--is responsible for that, then the Divine is guilty of repeatedly overweighing “good” with any variance from a set dogma. This goes beyond “good intentions”. The Cathars had extreme levels of “good conduct” frequently exceeding those within the Church in their age. Whereas the followers of the Church, regardless of their atrocities, may be granted “Salvation” even as they commit those acts, any opposing the Church is consigned to “Hell”.

It isn’t hard to extend this to all the other “heretics”--including the Greek Orthodox Church. Remember that the Fourth Crusade against Byzantium, although originally opposed by the Pope, subsequently received Vatican blessing as “The Will of God”. The destruction of the the heart of the Eastern Church was deemed to be a glorious thing. Those who had followed it must have been “heretics” or at least “schismatists” whose souls were, at a minimum, imperiled by their refusal to adhere to Roman Church dogma.

Separately, the Cathars are Manichean. Much as I have severe issues with Fifth Edition and its wholesale revision of Mythic Earth cosmology, it DOES recognise Zoroastrianism as a “Divine” religion. Manicheanism IS a form of Zoroastrianism. The Cathars, therefore, are a “Divine” religion. If the Crusades are valid--or the Jihads--then it is within the power of one “Divine” religion to effectively condemn and “Damn” another. Faith doesn’t really matter. The “Divine” is on the side of whomever figures out how to invoke it successfully.

That is not the expression of a genuinely “Good” force. Something else, perhaps, that defies mortal comprehension, but NOT one that is uniformly “Good” nor remotely “just” nor consistent. There can be no “One Truth”, and the religions of Man are all false in some degree.

If the “Cathars” are “Damned” then “good” doesn’t really matter--only dogma. Dogma that requires adherence to murderous, jealous “Faiths”. The Divine is implicitly, inherently hypocritical. It demands absolute devotion to it and it alone, yet even that is not enough. The Divine is fickle and capricious. It is also, if it is, indeed, the Creator of All, responsible for every piece of misery, every single iota of cruelty, every misdeed, every misunderstanding, every failure, and every injustice in existence because it had perfect knowledge of what form its Creation would take and what would become of those within it. The Cathars rationalised this with their dichotomy: the author of the world did all of these terrible things, and continues to inflict them. Another Divinity seeks to free them from it, ending the tormet, and it is this Salvation that they seek. “Suffering” is not “Holy”--it is only suffering. Hatred and violence are not “Holy”, either. Not to any Power that claims to be genuinely “Good”.

  1. An "Absolute" Divine is something which goes against "Ars Magica's" history. In prior editions, the Divine was a far-reaching and influential force, but it was not "the" Word on anything and everything. Subjectivism was an underlying theme throughout. In some permutations of Mythic Earth different views and interpretations were valid. What the "Medieval Paradigm" held was true--to a point, and within a certain scope. There were things outside of it, agencies which did not match and did not conform. The Magic Realm and regions of Faerie could and did exist separate from the Dominion and the Infernal. They embodied alternative paths for those willing to risk them.

If the Absolutist Divine is the ONLY "reality", and it is as hypocritical and destructive as the above suggests, then there is ultimately no choice at all. Free Will exists only in that it enables one to be "Damned"--though the Divine KNEW that from the start because it knows everything. The system was set up, rigged, and the only "choices" are slavery to the Divine and its Absolute Will or else the inevitably doomed course of rebellion, be it in seeking a more benevolet version of the "Divine", seeking to exist apart from the "Divine" scheme, or in active opposition as either a would-be independent rebel or a willing recruit of the Infernal (which is itself the realm of the already-defeated).

I see no point in pursuing any course in such a universe. The only possible outcomes are "Damnation" or slavery to a "Divine" which is unbearable and hypocritical in the extreme.

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Okay, lets Trash some of these assumptions.

#1) THere was no magic realm in prior versions of Ars MAgica. The So called magic realm was a creation of 5th edition. Arcadia existed at realm of high faerie but it was not overwhelming realm of itself but very much like level 10 regio. Detached from the world but part of the world. These concepts of a Magic realm and faerie realm that you say are as powerful and true as Heaven and Hell are inventions of 5th edition.

#2) All powerful divine is invention of 5th edition. 5th is actually more balanced than 3rd in this respect. In 5th edition, where an area has Magic 3 aura and Divine 1 aura, the aura is MAgic 3 except in the vary rare cases to make the divine swell over its normal aura (say Easter or midnight on christmas). 3rd edition had the crusadors that carried a dominion aura with them based on number of crusader in any particular battle and this aura replaced the aura of whereever they were attacking. MAgic aura 5 became Dominion 1 when the crusaders attacked.

  1. There is good and evil in the church. There are those of the church that do great evils in the NAME of good but they are not necessarily doing good. There are those that believe fully in their faith and through faith go to heaven for their fighting in the name of god, their sins forgive. In fact the Divine book even makes it clear that crusaders call upon God for aid in battle, Muslim calls upon Allah for aid in battle Both can get help from god through their extreme faith and both will go to heaven when killed in that battle.

  2. this said, pagans that are killed without being part of one of the divine religions are going to go to hell. Permanent twilight might merge you with the magic realm but it doesn't say what happens to your soul.

  3. Murder, theft, deception, lies, rape and such are cardinal sins and they aren't sanctioned. I would even go out on a limb and say that conditional forgiveness of sin of crusadors covers killing and torture in battle against the heretics to defend the faith but would not cover certain sins. Those need to be confessed and even those would only get you to Purgatory if they were deadly sins. Wikipedia is not the best source but is clear and we can always look up better sources if it is not good enough: The deadly sins require " sacrament of Penance or forgiven through perfect contrition on the part of the penitent.".

That said, when God choses to act with a Miracle, in all editions, it effectively can not be opposed. It was the greatest power. The Divine book is clear that No angel has ever been slain that god pulls them to him where they are at risk of being destroyed, also that angels and saints can not be forced to act or compelled. So God and his agents are omnipotent and God is omniscient that only he can understand the good or bad of any particular combination of actions.

Keep in mind that Saint Francis is out doing miracles at this time, helping and healing and not that far from us at this time. St Dominic is still around and active.

The albegesian crusade is focused around Toulouse (spelling?) right now and will end in less than 4 years. Some of the cathars might be going to heaven for faith but that remains to be seen. The catholic church though has no power to damn jews and muslims to hell no matter what it might say. God knows his own faithful and gathers them to him.

To go back to your crusade example, the deadly sins originate in scriptures in Proverbs as things God hateth.

Haughty eyes
A lying tongue
Hands that shed innocent blood
A heart that devises wicked plots
Feet that are swift to run into mischief
A deceitful witness that uttereth lies
Him that soweth discord among brethren

The Crusaders are not shedding innocent blood for many of them. The cathars had much that in modern times fits our theology but there is also a lot of discord, deceitful witness, and haughty eyes (including refusing tithes and Taxes). There are likely some that are going to hell for abuses on crusade for they are not acting with the will of God but rather will of evil. Remember, the forgiveness of sin is for the deeds they do for GOD, not that they do out their own deadly sins.

I would scarcely call the points presented as being “trashed”.

  1. The Magic Realm is a general term to apply to those Places and beings associated with Magic. In reference to any supernatural, otherworldly terriotry aligned with Magic, there are several throughout the history of “Ars Magica”. The Regiones of Magic Aura are the lowest and most familiar, belonging only partly to the material world and partly to somewhere else.

Explicit reference to what would be called the Magic Realm (i.e. an otherworldly expanse of Magic Aura 10+) can be found in the 3rd Ed. sourcebook “The Hidden Paths: Shamans”. A highly controversial work, it blends fascinating ideas with a definite, undeniable skew of the original material toward the World of Darkness which White Wolf was publishing at the time. The Near and Far Lands of the spirit world are, however, present in a more anthropologically accurate form in the oustanding 4th Ed. sourcebook “The Dragon and the Bear: The Novgorod Tribunal” (my personal favourite among virtually all AM sourcebooks in any and all editions). I will reference this again.

Magic is described, alternately, as a thing of the Earth and a thing of the spirit world from which Magic flows into the Earthly plane. It can be changed and alloyed with other Realms, because it is at once fundamentally mutable and connected with the Essences. Paradoxical qualities are a characteristic of Magic (I mean this in the general sense, with no reference to the Paradox of “Mage: The Ascension”).

Faerie, similarly, exists as a wide and varied place as early as the seminal 2nd Ed. sourcebook "Faeries", which included a lengthy list of territories within Faerie. By 4th Ed. there were entire worlds held within the bourne of Faerie.

  1. I remember the infamous Crusading Temper. It is both problematic and instructive. I would not pretend that “Pax Dei” is a superb sourcebook. Far from it. Instead, it should be taken as an example of the multiple perspectives found in earlier editions of “Ars Magica” in which certain things are true within specific domains, but none are absolutely true universally. “Reality” is, again, subjective (though NOT to the degree of “Mage: the Ascension”, which I refer to here solely because some who know it may think of the comparsion).

Mircales are, indeed, the strongest known Power to manifest in Mythic Europe. That has always been a fact of the setting. See my point above, however, for how there are other forms of “miracles” that agencies belonging to other Realms may be able to invoke. The Dominion is the focus of more concerted Belief than any other Realm in Mythic Europe. It has usurped the Places of Power of many Magic and Faerie agencies (the sheer number of churches and shrines built atop these sites is staggering; it serves to cut off those other Realms from their deeper Auras and to rechannel anything which would go to them into the Dominion). There is a more pervasive connection to the Dominion in one form or another than to any given pagan deity or pantheon in history. It is thus very much manifest in the world, wielding exceptional influence.

The 5th Ed version of the Judeo-Christian Dominion (not the Islamic Dominion, which functions differently, nor all of the “heretical” Dominions) is significantly more anti-Magical than in any prior edition. As I have reiterated repeatedly, the negative influence serves to nearly crush any successful use of a Minor or Major Supernatural Ability that is not granted by the Dominion. The Gifted may persevere and achieve sufficient skill that they can overcome this effect, but for those with weaker Talents it amounts to a smothering of any Magical or Faerie expression. The idea of Faerie or Magical forces being able to coexist with the Dominion becomes almost ludicrous, making it into a palpable struggle for survival against an encroaching, ever-spreading Realm which, if it triumphs, could mean the end of these other Realms as independent forces.

Holy Magic is a special exception. It is one in which Magic is clearly and utterly subordinate to the Divine. The hybrid tradition in entirely conceivable, and I for one have no objection to it. I note, however, that it is definitely an extreme rarity and a fate that proves that the only future of Magic under such a Dominion is survival through total submission and subservience.

Prior to 5th Edition only some Magi were Christians or Muslims, and next to none were observant Jews (they may have been born and reared Jewish prior to Apprenticeship, or else are members of a non-Hermetic Ex Miscellanea tradition). The declaration that the pagans were mostly “purged” from the Order during the Schism War is a 5th Ed. invention that runs completely counter to repeated statements to the contrary in all prior editions. It was treated as exceptional for any Covenant to be on good terms with the Church with devout Magi. There was precedent for it, but it was not the norm. Most Magi were somewhat aloof from religion because Magic and the Dominion did not mix well. In 5th Ed, outside of Holy Magic, Magic and the Dominion are almost irreconcilable.

  1. It is my understanding that a Crusader receives absolution for any and all sins for participating in a Crusade. There is some question as to whether it applies strictly to those committed prior to the Crusade or during as well. Most indications are that it is taken to apply to sins committed during a Crusade, as the Crusader is likely to fall in battle after committing yet more in the name of the Church. This is often used as a license to indulge in all manner of atrocities, as these “sins” have already been forgiven. I will not say that the Church explicitly endorses it--it does not--but the fact is that we are looking at a “Holy” invocation that has the effect of blessing and absolving the worst excesses of war yet which officially declares that heretics who do not commit these excesses are Damned.

The fact that different Divine factions can call on Divine help (“Realms of Power: The Divine, page 42) when battling one another is almost inconceivable if it is genuinely a purely benevolent agency. In effect, it condones everything that will happen in the Divine Name because it knows what will happen. It permits the schisms between Sun’ni and Shi’a, between Catholic and Orthodox, between Church and heretic, Muslim and Christian, and lends its Power to their wars.

At a minimum, this Divine is a violent, bloodthirsty agency as well as one that promotes “peace”. As a primal force of Creation, this works very well indeed. As something that is supposed to be “pure Good”, it does not. Very abstruse and convoluted theological arguments can and have been made on this topic. One could claim that it is “testing and tempering” the Faithful, as purportedly happened with Job. In this, it really resembles any number of pagan deities and not an abstract benevolent agency.

What it comes down to is this: the Divine cannot rightly claim to be a force of universal “Good”. Immensely Powerful--perhaps the greatest known Power of all--and pervasive, but NOT a singularly positive entity.

Theologically, there are plenty of references to “Divine wrath”. The Divine seems to be war-like and to have a fetish for blood like many other deities. A dichotomic model of the Divine would thus seem to be far more accurate. An aspect of it might be reassuring, comforting, compassionate, and benevolent. Another doesn’t hesitate to use mortals as pawns, to unleash its violent temper on bystanders as well as those who have worked terrible, destructive “Evil” on the world (an entire generation of first-born Egyptians and the inhabitants of Jericho {historically, vacant at the time, but we’re talking mythology, not history} can attest to this mood--probably from Hell if they didn’t actually make it to their respective, intended afterlives), and has no compunction about condemning those who weren’t set to be in the right place at the right time on the right course.

The Albigensian Crusade’s initial phase may be over by the mid-1220s, but the impact of it will have repercussions long, long after. The Inquisition will only gain in strength and will continue to hunt the Cathars into the 14th Century in the region around the Pyrennes, including, again, places immediately adjacent to Andorra, north and south. The destruction of the Langue d’Oc culture and society is deeply felt and responsible for tremendous suffering.

The death toll will not be matched in any subsequent war in Western Europe until WWI--which, unlike the Albigensian Crusade, was not a “Holy” War called for by the Catholic Church.

  1. I had not been speaking of the fates of pagans per se as the principal focus of this debate. The disposition of pagan souls is, however, a related issue.

In “Mythic Places”, there are references to ancient gods and the potential, alternative resting places of pagans. This 2nd Ed. sourcebook also introduced the Animal Powers--then aligned with Faerie, realigned with Magic in 5th Ed (I don’t have any real issue with this, as they could be aligned with either)--as beings with a strength and Power equal in measure to “God or an archangel; the Devil; or the King and Queen of Faerie”. This is one of the clearest references to the subjective authority of each ranking Power within its own respective Realm, and of just how expansive the Animal Powers are as the “gods of animals”.

The Near and Far Lands include places where some of the pagan souls and those who wish nothing to do with the Divine nor the Infernal reside. This is true in both 3rd and 4th Ed.

Slavic Arcadia as described in “The Dragon and the Bear” is manifestly a destination for Slavic pagan souls, particularly Slavic Elysium. There is an interchangeable reference between spirits and souls, however, the word “souls” is used explicitly, so it is not merely the place where the “Spirit” component of a pagan’s identity resides after death. “Ultimate Thule” would seem to indicate that Norse Arcadia has a similar role for Norse pagans. Both of these are 4th Ed. works published after Atlas took over from White Wolf and have no connection at all to White Wolf’s World of Darkness setting. The same holds for the revised version of the Near and Far Lands as well as the Twilight Void.

  1. See "3" above.

  2. There is a crucial piece of information that has come to light as I reference “Realms of Power: The Divine”.

Cathars are explicitly stated as heretical, but Divine. Pages 7, 9, and 80 all refer to the Cathars as practitioners of a Divine religion. This is exactly what I have been stating--and, if it is taken to be true, it actually serves to alleviate some (though not all) of my key grievances.

If Cathars are a facet of the Divine and so are other “heretics” then the Divine returns to being more of a Principle. One that can be accessed in numerous ways, and which does not require the same reconciliation of doctrine because the Truth is that parts of each are True, but the none are correct in their entirety. The Church is a Divine agency, but not a “pure” one. The same is true of Islam, of Judaism, and of other “heresies”. We have yet another example of "Holy" wars committed against other aspects of the Divine. It is itself schismatic.

This is extremely important for Magi because as even “Realms of Power: the Divine” outlines, the prohibitions against magic in the established Church canon and Jewish law are so great that nearly every last Magus and Maga would have to be either a heretic or seek to become a Practitioner of Holy Magic in order to reconcile Magic and the Divine.

The summation should be, don’t declare others are going to Hell because they don’t match your Beliefs. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t, maybe they have their own way to attain Enlightenment or Paradise or whatever or wherever.

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The crusading aura/temper is example of dominion dominating everything with hte grace of God. Nothing in 5th edition comes close to it. In fact if mass is not kept up, the strongest holy auras fade and weaken where 3rd edition, dominion never fades. Reality is not subjective. THe minute you start defining this game as reality is subjective, you have left Ars Magica and definately left the game that the rest of us are playing. You have been told repeatedly by marko that such is not the case and others of us have chimed in.

The concept that reality is subjective and that belief defines reality is not part of Ars Magica. You want to play that, there is an interesting game called 'MAGE' that follows that paradigm. THat is not Ars MAgica. While faeries and magical beings have power, they do not grant miracles as God does. The devils do give power but it is tainted and has consequences.

Yes, this is one new element of 5th edition. It is explicitly spelled out that the divine aura penalties apply to all supernatural abilities, not just hermetic magic. It is only implied in prior verions.

Holy magic has been around since Pax Dei and it is many times weaker than Pax Dei's version with a lot more limitations and lot more drawbacks even if it has a few unique advantages.

In prior editions there were MANY christian mages, not a near majority but mages that had some faith and were christian were not rare. Admittedly Meriinita, Bjornaer and Ex Misc were mostly pagan while 5th edition added strong christian elements to Bjornaer. They are not irreconcilable and infact Lion and the Lily have a wonderful covenant that is monestary like with magic regio for the labs inside a strong christian aura and with christian mages.

This is not true and in fact some members of certain crusades were almost wholy excommunicated for their activities during the crusade. So the fact is that being on crusade does get conditional forgiveness of sins if you die in battle for God but it is not a blanket pardon.

No one said God is a purely benevolent force. Pure Good can be as terrifying in its own way as pure evil. Still God is good and kind and forgiving to his children and rewards faith in him. Not that he rewards all battles, that he rewards killing, he rewards faith in him.

Yes, it is violent and blood thirsty at times, especially in opposition to evil. Martyrs are made dying in battle against great evils. Where evil arises, Good does not just lay down and die. It does not abandon the sheep to the slaughter but like the shephard kills the wolf. Still the faithful are tested and tempers and the holier you are the more Job comes to mind.

It is a force for good but man full of sin has often perverted it and directed things wrong. The medieval church has many that has fallen to the devil and deceived the so called forces for good and misdirected them. God rewards the faithful but the reward is not in this world, it is in the next. God Punishes the evil but again, that is in the next world more than this one.

At times he acts in this world but does so thorough his saints and priests or angels.

YEs, Torah level God is a lot harsher and nastier than Christian Jesus God. I mean if you read the Torah, Good actually hardened the heart of Pharaoh a couple of times so that some of the additional plagues were required. There a prophet and cause of a bear ripping apart some children and yeah, God dropped the walls of Jericho that the Isrealites could take full possession of the holy land. THe chosen and holy people got the land from the pagan sinners.

The slaying of the first born though was turning Pharoah's owe decree back upon him and his people. Especially when you consider that moses was set adrrift in the basket in the first place because Pharoah had decreed a slaying of all first born to reduce jewish numbers.

He is not being evil, he is smiting evil by definitiion (Pagans, idolators, killers of the chosen people).

EVery change, every war, every shift in history has lasting and powerful effects. And keep in mind too that sometimes the church has persecuted those that were God's chosen. We are only a hundred years from a young lady named Joan who was god's chosen and yet was killed by the CHURCH because they saw her as a threat to them. She is now known as a Saint.

I have not read Ultimate Thule but my reading of the Dragon and bear does not say that pagan souls go elsewhere. That there are those that believe such, yes, but that it actually happens is not stated.

The church <> the divine.

While the church is strongly aligned and strong advocate for the divine and spreads the divine, the Divine is far more than the church and in some cases, the church is corrupted or goes very much against the divine thanks to corrupted priests. In fact the Maus tower from Guardians of the forest is a case of infernal place where a Bishop acted against God's teachings and was punished and damned for it.

Man is imperfect, Man commits sins and has since Adam and eve. Jesus's words ring true about "let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.". All the mortal religions and institutions are flaws because they are of Man and yet they represent God's word to man and seeking of God and spreading God's word.

Yes, A truly devout christian mage would seek to become holy Magic, but but few have the fortitude for it that the others practice their magic, confess and try to do good while keeping faith.


Pardon me, but I find all this most boring.

While I may understand your issues, I can't understand why this is so important to you so as to, as far as I understand, stop you from enjoying this game utterly and provoque these lengthy (which indicates the importance of the subject to you!!!) arguments.

Let's try to give some answers, although I know this'll change nothing in the end: This matters too much to you.

  1. The crusade.
    Yes, you are right.
    Thing is, this is a game.
    And Marko may not have the time, or the desire, to take this into account.
    Is this unrealistic? Probably.
    Should he abandon all the stories he wishes to tell in order to tell stories about something he may not care? IMO, no. Especially as I suspect that if he tells the stories in a way that don't follow either history or your personnal convictions (like, by making the cathars bad guys), this'll only make things worse.
    My suggestion? Tell the political, mundane tales, of that crusade. Go for it!!! Political intrigue and moral dilemnas may be great, and I sincerely think you have the knowledge to tell a great story out of it.

  2. God and the crusades.
    I, as a person, agree with you.
    But that's not the way the world works, and we must view things differently. If I can do it, surely, you can too?

         2.1) Evil Cathars

First, in Marko's saga, the Cathars may truly be "evil". Not that there may not be an awful lot of good people with them. But if, say, Catharism was created (and secretely controlled) by a demon in order to sow doubt and distrust?
If the church is mostly the tool of God, wouldn't it be great for a demon to:

  • Depict and convince people that the church is entirely corrupt, pointing out a few prelates, some of which may have been corrupted by that precise demon, or illusions, or fasle rumors? This'd deturn people from the one thing that can protect them from evil, which is worth having a few really pure cathars in the mix, aside from a lot of hypocrite preachers with devilish tongue and devil-given gifts of persuasion. And once that protection is gone, slowly, it can corrupt and control the land. After all, it has already began: People there amass riches, which, other time, may turn to greed and promote jealousy. And they're more tolerant, which mean that, in time, thay may come to accept wicker and wicker acts under the guise of tolerance. And that whole non-reproduction thing? It goes right against "grow and multiply", right against one of god's gifts to man!
  • Convince people that the world is evil because of God (while in fact, evil here is because of Demons and Men), thus turning them away from God? All the better if our demon poses as a "gentle god", but this isn't nescessary, especially as it may make people curse god for their suffering (our demon knows the common man is imperfect and will do it)?

You'll say "but the cathars promoted christian virtues"... Please, make this effort. I agree with you. IRL. But shift your focus, darken things up a bit. Wouldn't this do a great tale? Remember how, in Sub Rosa, they managed to depict the Templars (a very real agency, with historical records) as either divine/infernal... agents? The same thing could be done with the cathars. Which could explain:

  • Marko's declaration of them being damned

  • How even "good" church officials could declare a crusade on them, as they're a plague that could engulf the world.

          2.2) Conflicting faiths and  crusades

I don't know if you read sf, but I'll try.
Do you really think you could understand a post-singularity planet-sized IA?
Because, by 5th edition concepts, that's exactly what you're doing by deducing motives from world events and the fact that god do or doesn't do some things.

First, you seem to really, really ignore the difference between God and Church, which really surprises me: Not only is this a pretty simple concept, but it is also stated in RoP: tD, which you have read and know. I suspect this comes mostly from real-life beliefs about God. I can understand, but, then again, try to discard these, and consider.
Churmen may be wrong. They may be motivated by base human desires. They may declare a crusade. They may declare people who kill cathars will have their sins forgiven. Sure. Is it to say that God will help them and forgive the sins?

But what if God support both sides? First, it puts them on equal terms. And then again, it comes back to free will.
But also, lets come back to that IA. You can no more understand why a good god would do that than you can understand that IA's actions and motives
Let's first discard the cases where god supports an army which is "right", as in fighting evil and all. Let's say it's divine vs divine, both with holy backup.

  • Who's to say that most of the people who die are either wicked (away with them) or good men (going straight to heaven while they otherwise could have sinned later), whereas, with non-divine backup, this'd have been random slaughter? Remember that, to the medieval (and I'd say to the "believing" mind), earthly life is less important that afterlife.
  • Maybe, somewhere in the future, this'll bring a greater good? Like, say, people being dusgusted of needless slaughter 500 years later, and teaching religious tolerance? Or someone being never born or instead being born? Or a town being never created/destroyed? Or whatever? That's the whole 5th point about it: We CAN'T understand, because we're not omniscient and all.

There's also the possibility that God doesn't back up the crusade, that the cathars are holy, and yet he doesn't help them. Martyrs, everyone? They all go straight to heaven. Which is, medievally speaking, well enough. Oh, and some centuries later, their exemple still inspire people and the church, while otherwise, they'd have grown and died like a firefly, buried by dust and time..

Is it so difficult to make "as if" this is true? I find this gives the game a flavor that no other medfan game has, and helps getting into that medieval frame of mind.

  1. Too powerful dominion
    Sure, Dominion aura are harsh.
    Read again the fluff of all previous editions about the blanketing of the dominion, that deadened magic and all.
    It was laughable. Even wirth from novus mane, not even 5 years after apprenticeship, could cast all of his spells into a cathedral. Half of them without fatigue.
    Now, at last, that fluff is real, which makes magic and faerie all the more attractive, while protecting a little the mundanes. Personally, I think this to be a vast improvement.

But in the end, tell me, what do you want?
Do you really think we should throw away all of 5th background of this, in order to come to what? God = Faerie = Magic = Infernal? A kind of Polytheism, where Zeus can say "go fuck yourself"to god? Where a Queen of Faerie can take a holy character without any of his prayers being able to help him? This is so anti-medieval I can't even conceive the interest. I've said it before: There'd be little difference between such a game and any other fantasy RPG (or worse, MMO), alhtough I can understand why you'd be more comfortable with this, in light of your apparent difficulty to embrace all the above (for this is not the first time we've said this to you).

I'd add that 5th is not as black and white as you seem to believe. There's still a place for the Hidden paths. it's just that, officially, we don't know if it's just the spirit of the pagan dead that goes there, or also their souls. This allow each saga to decide as they want, even if they take everything else (Omnipotent and benevolent god) as true. In a given saga, your spirit will go to faerie and your soul in hell. In another (maybe with the same players), both will go to valhalla.

In retrospect, I feel foolish, and dunno why I've lost all this time, as i think this'll have no more effect than previous discussions.
In the end... Marko could have the whole "omnipotent god but you can still go to Faerie after your death". He could even have good cathars being exterminated by a corrupt, infernally-backed, branch of the church, using False miracles (in fact infernal deceptions). Absolutely no problem here, and this'd be all OK by 5th edition concepts.
But you want him to:

  • Play the historical stories you want to play. I'm sorry, but if this doesn't interest him... He's not our employee. We can ask, but that's all. Who knows? Maybe he sucks at these, and knows it. And if he doesn't want, we have the possibility to do it. Do it!! Then again, I think this could be really enjoyable
  • Utterly change all the metaphysical medieval background in favor of... An mostly wicked and jealous god (and I, as a person, think he's often acted as such in the bible. Not everyone agrees, and I remind you that Marko is a christian. You're asking him to trash his faith to favor your beliefs) which is at best equivalent in power to the other realms.
    While, from a RL standpoint, I agree with most of what you've said, from a game POW, I just can't.

An incomprehensible Divine is, perversely, a more comprehensible one. As a Principle or force is exhibits certain properties that are deducible and which, in esoteric terms, can be explored as a method of "spiritual progress".

My issue is that too many Faiths are trumpeting "One Truth" which excludes and/or assaults others, including those highly similar. Within the context of the Mythic Earth milieu, the Divine is effectively being used to war against other Divine-aligned factions, condemning them as "Evil". The Divine, as a purportedly omniscient, omnipotent agency, is aiding, abetting, and, one might argue, ultimately orchestrating all of these things while setting itself up as the purported "Ultimate Good".

The forces of Ars Magica Earth are not equal. The Divine/Dominion is unquestionably the strongest in terms of reach and pervasiveness, at least in the contemporary (13 Century A.D.) era. The Infernal is inherently flawed, and, while more-or-less coexisting anywhere the Divine does (one can't seem to have one without the other--almost), does not have the same potency. It is incredibly dangerous, yet limited. Faerie is in decline, and is now suffering from a lack of creative energy. Magic is fading, too. Both of the latter are a consequence of the Dominion's spread.

But a key point is that they are not of a piece. Specifically, Magic and Faerie are not intrinsically a part of the Dominion and/or the Infernal. They may interact with, be affected by, and potentially even blend with one another, but they are not part of a singular cosmology/mythology, inasmuch as the terminology is applicable. There are forces within Magic and Faerie which do not owe themselves to the Dominion-Inferno axis, and which may not be able to even recognise them. Others apprehend the Dominion and the Inferno very well. There is a diversity.

The theological cosmology propounded and promulgated by the Divine Faiths denies that. They each seem to insist on a singularity of Creation, a singularity of being, while failing hideously to reconcile with even one another, with whom there should be the greatest similarity and commonality. The Divine Faiths reject the possibility that they may be wrong even as each manifestly IS in error, IS "false" in some if not multiple capacities. They behave very much like their "pagan" counterparts, with each facet warring with the others for a greater percentage of the whole.

The Crusades and Jihad are the most blatant occurrences of this issue. Voices that claim and are supported by dogma as speaking "Divine Truth" promote the slaughter of others, including those who are "Faithful" in their own way, and in accordance with "Divinely-given" creeds. Either they are in error or they are lying, and the people do not challenge them because they are supposed to "take it on Faith". Or, rather, if they DO challenge them they are "heretics". Which happens repeatedly to any number of "Saints".

I'm trying to work out how to phrase this properly.

The incomplete shorthand is that the more one knows, the less one can Believe in dogma. This leads to almost inevitable heresy of one kind or another, from one starting belief system or another. Magi, being in possession of far greater knowledge and scope of Power than most, will therefore be driven toward heresy in order to reconcile their own existence and potential with any desire for "good" or Enlightenment. They are not the ones to take the arguments of dogma ON "Faith", but they also know that there is much that they have yet to learn.

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All I know is that there is so much that I do not know. The words of a true thinking and wise man.

Fixer has the golden truth. I am not interested in Cathar stories, and if I were to run such a story, the Cathars would be the bad guys and you would be most unhappy. I have said time and time again, if you want a Cathar story, then go ahead and run one! In the past two years, there has only been one Beta story in this saga, the one run by Scott. I keep hoping that someone else will run a Beta story, but no one ever takes up the challenge.

It might help if I explain the triggering sequence of events.

Vares was accused by Ameline of engaging in a dire sin for participating in any plan to trick Khryom. Her exact words were, “You will go to Hell.” Any plan to engage in actual battle against the Efreet seemed to generate essentially the same response.

Vares was incensed by Ameline’s statement, but for reasons reaching far beyond any personal outcome.

Those reasons are what I have tried to detail to you here.

To put the Albigensian Crusade into perspective, one must realise that it is something as horrifying and calamitous as the Rhwandan genocide. Only transpiring in the most developed, sophisticated, and cultured part of Europe, directly adjacent to Andorra.

It is an ongoing event.

And it has been called for and “blessed” by the same Church the dogma of which Ameline is energetically spouting.

On an IC level, this kind of thing can and does happen. It is monumentally frustrating and smack of gross hypocrisy on the part of the most “pious”, but that is scarcely without precedent.

Marko then declared that it was correct: the Cathars are all “Damned” anyway.

This is a breaking point because it effectively means that genocide is fine as long as the Divine or its agents endorse it.

Think about that.


Divine genocide.

One cannot, in such a circumstance, lay the blame on the Inferno, or on mortal failings. The Divine invested its authoirty (supposedly) in the Church. It backed up the Church’s decision to “purge” the “heretical” Cathars. It placed its blessing on genocide. And continues to do so during the time period of the Saga.

It is not a unique occurrence, but it is the most immediate to the Covenant’s experience.

The moral, ethical, philosophical, and metaphysical repercussions of such a state of affairs are so profound, so far-reaching, to terrifying that they cannot be ignored nor glossed over.

What I have been striving to do is to explore and fathom the milieu from a number of different IC and OOC perspectives. It isn’t evident in this particular Saga, but I’ve worked with devout characters from time to time, trying to examine the cosmology of the milieu in different combinations. I endeavour to approach them from the vantage point of culturally-appropriate characters who have access to the abilities and therefore scope of knowledge described. Fixer said that I seek a strongly historical Saga, and that is relatively accurate. Yet I also seek something that is anthropologically appropriate--and one that considers the fundamental fact that Magi are generally extremely intelligent individuals who have an unparalleled potential to interact with and explore their world. They are not bound by the same limitations as most, and whereas mundanes are frequently helpless against the supernatural, Magi are not. They move and act on a different level.

I realise that this is at odds with the trend perpetuated under the current regime at Atlas Games. It is unquestionably rooted in the original conceptualisation of Magi. There is no coincidence in the fact that the Bonisagus is the “stereotypical” Magus--even as each House has its own stereotype. Magi are different and highly idiosyncratic. Not all are as gifted mentally, but even the “average” Magus or Maga is much more intelligent (Int +2 to +3) than those around them, and vastly better educated. With this intelligence and the Gift comes an incredible curiosity. A Magus wants to know, whatever his respective motives or area of specialisation. Knowledge is, after all, Power.

Herein is the heart of it. A Magus seeks to know more and more. In so doing, a Magus will perceive the failings of dogma, will be exposed to ideas and experiences which offer to open and expand the mind. Obsession is not an unusual characteristic in Magi. That opening can also close them off to other views. It happens. But they will almost never think in a “conventional” fashion. Not when they can reorder the world around them with their Gift, learn its secrets in a staggering diversity of ways, and apprehend things far outside the “norm”.

Vares has been pursuing esoteric wisdom. He is a Flambeau Magus whose Gift is focused on subtlety, on seeing the hidden connections of the world, on discovering the information that is all around and which bears the signs of deeper knowledge. In that quest he has gained insight into many different aspects of the metaphysical world--and is constantly expanding his philosophical horizons. The Divine is a major element in the puzzle of existence. One that is the center of numerous Mystery traditions (by which I mean actual “Mystery traditions”, NOT just the sort described in “The Mysteries, Revised”) as well as more popular belief systems. Gnosticism is part of that.

The Gnostics are some of the forebears and cousins of the Cathars. They posit that the Divine is Knowable, that seeking it is one of (if not THE) path to Enlightenment (which may take the form of Divine Communion).

The Gnostics realise that the observable world is not indicative of a “pure” Divine. Something, somewhere, has gone dreadfully wrong. They do not agree uniformly on what that might be. Manicheanism is, however, a common thread. Faced with the manifest implications of a Divine sanction for the worst atrocities, they conclude that it cannot be the “real” Divine. Whatever is loose in the world is something else, and the dogma that holds one to it is inherently flawed or the product of corruption.

Catharism embodies this appreciation of the suffering and misery in the world, and the desire to seek something beyond it.

And the Cathars and anyone who befriended them are being slaughtered by the Church’s command, with ostensible “Divine” support. Slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands and possibly into the millions.

While the Church proclaims itself the true agency of the Divine on Earth.

The same Church that Ameline promotes. Its dogma the same one that has her condemn Vares even as it exalts the glory of the Crusaders engaged in a campaign of genocide under the pretense of a “Holy” cause of eliminating heresy.

If that Church is right, if its dogma is true, then all of the searching, all of the questing, all of the endeavours seeking knowledge and wisdom beyond its dogma are for nought. Any attempt to uplift humanity that is not of its dogma is “heresy”, and those “heretics” are genuinely “Damned”

In such a world, there would be no point to anything at all. Everything was decreed by a monumentally hypocritical “Divine” which Created the world and filled it with all the “Evil” in it as well as all the ostensible “Good”. The sum of one’s choice is slavery to dogma and the Divine, or else “Damnation” due to a seeking of wisdom or Life or being outside that dogma.

I don’t think that the Divine can be encapsulated that way. More accurately, the dogma isn’t correct. Whatever the Divine might be, it isn’t really whatever the various dogmas of the various religions describe it to be, though they may have pieces of the whole. But the evidence doesn’t point toward that whole being “pure Good”. It is more primal than that. It may have Created “Good” within itself. It may be in the course of Perfecting itself (I’ve outlined this hypothesis in previous debates). But none of the Books contain the full Truth, and some of what they contain isn’t true at all, either due to mortal error in transcription, error in transmission (no matter how much the Muslims may deny this), or some unfathomably tolerated corruption by Infernal agents (just suggesting this possibility is a “heresy” in its own right).

There is also much more to Mythic Earth and the Realms connected to it than that which has been dictated by the Divine. It may have contributed something along the way; it doesn’t control them, and isn’t ubiquitous. It is possible that the paths to a king of “Enlightenment” may lead through one of them instead of to the Divine. Or maybe they hold a different route to the Divine than that accessible from the mortal, material world. That is some of what I mean by subjectivism. Which path is “right”? Quite possibly several of them--if one finds, blazes, or makes it.

That is what I’ve been hoping to pursue. The wonderful complexity and detail of a Mythic setting that is infused and informed by historical knowledge, an appreciation of the depth and difficulty of the subject matter, and a somewhat thoughtful, intensive examination of esoteric concepts within the milieu as they might be approached by its inhabitants.

If anyone is still reading at this stage, I’d like to add that I think that Ameline may be onto something. She comes across as being much more “moral” than the Church she serves--but is still bound by its dogma. It would be interesting to see if she can grow beyond it, or how she reconciles herself if she doesn’t.

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There may well be groups of Infernalist Cathars. Some of the ideas presented in "Realms of Power: The Inferno" with regard to seriously misguided Gnostics is worth considering. They are, after all, as prone toward corruption as any other Divine "Faith".

See what I've said here for why events concerning the Cathars and the Albigensian Crusade matter a great deal, even if they don't actually appear directly in the stories.

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You are still missing my point. The Cathars hold no interest to me. I seriously just don't care. My snide comment was inspired by the fact that you scream "Cathars" every single time the topic of the divine comes up. Yes, they are very close to Andorra. But in real history, Andorra never ever gets involved in the issue and the crusades never enter her borders.
Look, LadyP is trying to play a Christian magus the best she can. There are some aspects of theology that she is simply dead wrong about. I politely try to correct her and mark results in my notes for future story ideas. For example; the use of deception and violence is not the road to hell. You can commit all kinds of horrible deeds and still be forgiven. Lacking faith, no matter how righteous you believe your actions to be, is what sends you to hell. Actions or lack thereof, good or bad, is not in any way connected to salvation or damnation. Only faith saves, and only lack of faith damns.
My other issue is that you keep attacking my religion. Christianity is a real world faith that still exists today and has many followers. I am one of them. You are not a Cathar, I am a Christian. I am very open mided though, and do not mind playing a game with a fictional divine that encompasses multiple faiths. I do resent (and will not participate in) and game that bashes the divine or in any way tries to subordinate it to another power.
That is just that.
Make your decision and stick with it. This whole debate is boring and a drag on the game.

You have accurately observed a core issue and problem: religion and belief.

I am approaching it from an analytical, philosophical perspective based on known history and an examination of how it might function within a cosmological model akin to that observable on Mythic Earth. I acknowledge freely that I've been challenging the 5th Ed. physical cosmology, however, I've tried to base those challenges on either prior Ars Magica precedent or confirmable, 13th Century (or previous) scientific and philosophical observations.

If you'll note, I've made frequent positive references to ecumenicalism. It is fanaticism and the exclusivist Belief in a "One True (Path)" that fuel destruction and suffering. This has happened over and over throughout history as religions and ideologies have committed atrocity after atrocity. A supernaturally-oriented belief system is not required, as Communism proved irrefutably with the tens of millions slain in its purges.

The distinction here is that if there IS a Divine, then it, too, should be held accountable for its actions and its claims. Judaism has actually placed JHVH on "trial" at multiple points in its history for the apparent failures to deliver protection to His "Chosen". Gnosticism came about out of a theological inability on their part to reconcile the suffering and destruction of the physical world and in the Old Testament with the benevolence espoused in the New Testament.

My emphasis has been on the failings and invitation to fanaticism brought about by inflexible, absolutist dogma. Dogma is far from uniquely Christian, monotheist, or even religious (again, there is the precedent of Communism, or even Aristotaleanism). It shuts off any possibility of serious debate that questions postulates or doctrine.

What I have been endeavouring to make understood is that questioning and challenging of the Divine is not a modern concept. It has existed for thousands of years. In the presence of a manifestly "real" Divine with empirically provable existence and actions, the urge and need to understand it only increases. An imperfect dogma that perpetuates a disruptive, destructive apprehension of it is something to be challenged with the aim of perfecting it. Fathoming the true nature of the Divine is paramount.

At the juncture in which "Ars Magica" takes place most dogmas are exclusivist. Not all, but most. They are also highly intolerant of any questioning. The Almohads, for example, executed many Andalusian Muslims for the "sin" of tolerating other sects of Islam--including Sufism. In other historical examples, Jerusalem fell to the Romans when the original Zealots turned on the other Jews in the city as imperfectly "pure", destroying the city's vast food stores in the process, effectively ending its ability to withstand the siege in the late 60s A.D. Although not directly germane to the milieu, the various sects of Hinduism were just as ruthless, and, incredibly, Buddhists fought wars over relics (Theravadan Buddhism is aniconic; Mahayana Buddhism embraces them with a fervour).

The reconciliation of beliefs is often far more productive. What would become humanism emerged in the 13th-14th centuries A.D./C.E. as devoutly Catholic individuals in Italy (initially) adopted the philosophies of Classical teachings to the Catholic urge to good works, charity, compassion, and community. They redirected their energies and resources from the recitation of masses for the dead and the expansion of yet more Church holdings to the relief of poverty, to the promotion of a wider basis of education, the support of hospitals (themselves a decidedly Christian phenomenon), and the encouragement of a thriving civic life. This didn't stop the nobles and the merchant classes from engaging in aggressive competition and outright conflict with other Italian city-states, but it was a major step forward.

I can cite intensely positive reforms originating with the teachings of Islam and Judaism as well, if requested.

The greatest difficulty appears if one accepts the assertion of an all-"Good" yet omniscient and omnipotent Divine that endorses strife, suffering, and destruction among its followers. The character of such a Divine must, rationally, be held to account. Railing against its perceived biases and injustices is an old, old course. The question is also: what can and should one do about it?

In the interest of honesty, I am agnostic. I am also a humanist. I recognise the beneficial contributions of many different religions--and I see their failings. Whatever we may "think" we know doesn't encompass the totality of whatever may exist.

My objections are not to Christianity per se. They have been to the highly destructive actions perpetuated in the name of Christianity (in this instance) with the sanction and blessing of religious authority. In this milieu, that means the Medieval Catholic Church. The extent to which any Divine might support and endorse this conduct is of serious IC concern.

At least to me. Theoretically, they should be of concern to everyone, because it affects everyone. I recognise, however, that I am in the minority in terms of my fascination with philosophy and metaphysics.

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Same player, try again...

So, you're actually saying me that you'd be able to comprehend the motives and actions of that planetary-sized post-singularity IA??? :unamused:
Something that can perfectly model you and countless other humans, run you as simulations in a virtual box, and take what seems like centuries of reflexion and planning in a single second?


Let's take the BIG BOLD pencils out there.

Say that an evil secret empire of devil worshippers is slowly spreading its roots in order to destroy the world, and won't listen to reason. Wouldn't declaring war on it be the right thing to do?
Don't forget that the Cathars were given the choice to "repent" and convert back. In that perspective, if they don't, and if you know they'll corrupt the land and ultimately bring back the Great Old Ones, what'll you do?

Oh, and you do realize that, in Lord of the Rings, the orks were genocided?

You've outlined yourself the difference between God and the Books, the religions. A difference which is heavily emphasized by the background. Yet, at the same time, you use conflict between the books and religions to argument about God. Case in point, the above:
Where did you read the crusade enjoyed divine support in this?
Let's do this. In vain. Again.

  • Campain #1: The church declare a crusade on innocent cathars. God isn't obliged to back it up, and may not.
  • Campain #2: The church declare a crusade on innocent cathars. God backs it up to test if the cathar's faith is true, while having them become an exemple to the world (like previous Saints and Martyrs, thus betttering the world), and send them all to Heaven. Perfectly acceptable, medievally/religious speaking
  • Campain #3: The church declare a crusade on infernally-infested cathars. God backs it up

Oh yeah, this all proves that God is evil and all :unamused:
But you choose, despite me having proposed alternate views, to see it like this, and only like this:

  • Campain #4: The church declare a crusade on innocent cathars for very bad reasons. God backs it up because he's an asshole.

You do realize that you may have all sort of campains, ranging from "retired god with warring religions for human reasons" to "active god backing good church vs evil everything else"?

Note also that

  • I'm not sure Ameline is backing up the church
  • The Church is pretty divided at the time
  • Ameline's views are probably heretical by one standard or another.

The fact that Magi are (supposedly) more intelligent, educated and live longer may also mean one thing: That, were you and I would see randomness and arbitrary, they may sometimes discern a Pattern in that IA's actions. Like future generations being influenced by the positive aspects of a cathar cult's, idealized and magnified by its termination.

That is your view, and nothing else.

IIRC, by 5th canon, God created everything, including Magic and Faerie (Albeit it may be indirectly).
This doesn' t mean (and on that, 5th canon is pretty clear) that, as I've said above, you can't have a campain in which pagan dead's souls go to Faerie. You may also have a campain in which their spirits go there, and their souls to heaven/hell.
LadyP had some pretty good lines on this in the OOC thread.

So, you're actually saying me that you'd be able to comprehend the motives and actions of that planetary-sized post-singularity IA??? :unamused:
Something that can perfectly model you and countless other humans, run you as simulations in a virtual box, and take what seems like centuries of reflexion and planning in a single second?

It endorses it? Where do you read it? Book? Page?
The religions endorse it, bu 5th canon. God doesn't.
Let's repeat myself: Maybe he (among other things) just lets humans and religions mostly live out their lives and may their own choices, because he want's them to grow into adults? Maybe that's what those super-intelligent and curious christian magi perceive and that you don't.
Hell, what would you say about an Ars world where god smothe everyone who didn't behave as a proper christian? Would you want to play in such a game?

But whatever. This is useless.
Stop running in circles, and tell us, in simple words and short phrases: What do you want?
Because it really, really seems that you want:

  • Everyone and the whole campain to adopt your cosmology and submit to it (answer by yes/no. If no, tell us in a similarly simple sentence what you want)
  • Marko to design an adventure revolving around the crusade (answer by yes/no)
  • The cathars to be innocents and good guys (answer by yes/no)
  • God being a Jerk (answer by yes/no), which be as offensive to marko's beliefs than the reverse is being to you.

What the cathars have to do with any of this is meaningless. Cathars didn't take Carmen, Cathars aren't working for the efreet, the cathars crusade is across the border but Andorra is taking a very neutral stance of not sheltering them but not hunting them either. It is staying out the mundane affairs in that respect.

The core of the matter is that the Alpha storyguide has said that the following belief is true. GOD CREATED THE HEAVENS AND EARTH. . If you can't accept that God is the supreme power that created everything and that dominion is related to God's spreading his blessing over lands of those that follow him, you are out of touch with the game and you will never be happy in this game. Accept that god created realms of faerie and magic as well as heaven, earth and hell. Accept that God's words to man really do not mean much for a good life on earth. All the divine religions have this in common that living/believing right is what gets you eternal life in heaven/paradise. Suffering inthis world doesn't matter much since your reward is in the next one. So what if those of God fight among each other: It tests their faith and it also means that many (maybe most) of them come to heaven for eternal life. That might be part of the divine plan (as well as who knows what else he knows will come of the conflicts).

As for Ameline:

Ameline owes obediance to the church. This is her vow and she obey it. At the same time, she owns loyalty to order of hermes and since she does have to reconcile it, she does to in a way that might seem Heretical at times. She also has true faith and a deep understanding of God.

That said, she does occassionally violate the laws of the church (though she always confesses it and regrets it) in that she still at times practices Chirurgy rather than summoning a lay barber to do it (1215, it was prohibitied for church medics to cut into flesh). She will be developing spells to remove diseases that would normally require cutting into flesh once she actually has her labs. Then again, Once she has a lab, she will be inventing a level 40 spell to heal light wounds without vis. ameline has helped heal cathar women and children to try to bring them back to God but that is because she believes in protecting God's innocents.

This isn't all about Ameline though. This is currently a plot dealing with kidnapped mage and her recovery. Ameline cares about the state of Vares's soul. She doesn't want anything to happen to him as this dangerous journey could cause and having him die in state of sin. To have him base his actions on lies to the Efreet and die means he goes to hell and she doesn't want that. That is the concern of a true believer in God that knows heaven and hell are real and wanting Vares to go to heaven when he finally does die. That is what is shaping her arguments but things are still focused on rescuing Carmen.

Look Arawn, Fixer and LadyP are right. The Cathars have nothing to do with anything in the current story, and you have de-railed my game with your narrow minded anti-christian bigotry. There is no more room for discussion. Either suck it up or just go your way peacefully.
I backed you over Octavian because he was issuing ultimatums. I obviously backed the wrong horse, but I don't deal well with ultimatums.
In fact, don't suck it up. Just leave peacefully.
Half of the problems I have had in keeping this game afloat are pretty much based on you; from your min-maxed character design (which you still have never completed), to your driving Octavian to leave, and now this incessent dogmatic complaining concerning Cathars. This saga is very important to me. It is my life's work and I am not about to let you ruin it for me. Yes, it will be a blow to loose another player, but I think the game will be better for it in the long run.
Then again, I just don't like being the oger. If you can calm the F down and accept the paradigm, you can stay. No more arguments, no more pointless off topic discussions.

Make a choice, stick with it.

All being said...

It was just badly said, in (exceded?) response to vares comments about god, and I can understand Arawn on this, just like I understand marko. Even then, the only badly thing said was the bit about the cathars.

Take it like this, Arawn: "In my game, the cathars are bad guys and corrupted by the devil, so, unless they repend (and they can at any time, whatever their sins and errors, because God is forgiving), they're goind to hell"

Note that marko separes church and god. This is a very important distinction, and one you should make.

Good phrasing, yes.
Can we get back to the game now?

Heard and acknowledged.

You have poured tremendous creative effort and time into this Saga, Marko. It IS your game.

My voiced objections run far beyond that, into 5th Ed and what I see as an usurpation of the original and developed traditions of "Ars Magica". It is not, in truth, entirely fair to appear to take them out on you. I will state that none of this was intended as directly personal. Philosophical and political debates often seem to wind up seeming that way.

I will be leaving. I thought I would at least explain to you my reasoning. What I sought was an understanding of my logic.

Lady Phoenix, from the start "Ars Magica" wasn't clear on the origins of the world or the exact role of the Divine. You'll find more in some of the references I've cited.

Fixer, the post-singularity AI is more comprehensible because it evolved from human creations and human memes, however removed.

We create and recreate the concept of "gods" as we learn and grow. We may one day become that which can fathom and create entire worlds, or something even greater yet.

For now, we have the realms of our imagination.

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When you play a role playing game, you accept certain premises and those rules are the ones that dominate and you leave your personal vision/ideas at home to play in the world of the game.

You don't play a wizard in cyberpunk 2020 where you have solos and rockerboys running around a violent techical world.

You aren't the high priest with powers from the Gods when you are playing a clone in the alpha complex of PAranoia

The gods of magic rule and dominate when you are playing D&D and you don't have a long range rifle or flying man vulnerable to Krytonite.

"Moon prism power...Make-up" is for Sailor moon RPG, not Teenagers from Outer Space or Palladium.

When you are playing Ars MAgica in this world where the ASG has repeatedly stated certain things about God and the Medieval Paradigm here, you accept it. You have repeatedly brought this game to halt with arguing that Magic and faerie realms are equal to God. That fits no where in the Ars world that I see it. We have to leave modern biases behind and instead focus on living in the world of the game, if you can't then we have a problem.

This is one of the core reasons Octavian left.

I would really like to reply to both Fixer and Lady Phoenix in great detail, however, I told Marko that I wouldn't say anything further about the Divine here, and so I shall not. If either one wants further debate, contact me via the mail system here and perhaps something can be arranged.

I will say that I greatly appreciate the amount of other research and character development that has gone into this Saga. I concur with an entire slate of ideas that have been worked on here, the emphasis on the mythology of Iberia, long-range stories and histories within the Order of Hermes, and many points of interaction between the Magi and the inhabitants of the Covenant of Andorra. Marko has done an excellent job in numerous areas, and generally been a very responsive GM/SG.

Whatever disagreements may be in effect, they are philosophical or "canonical", and in no way intended as disparaging of personal contributions.

I am glad that I had the opportunity to participate in the Saga and hope that it can continue for some time.

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