Maninism, known to its adherents as The Faith, is an atheistic religion based around the pursuit of virtue and the idea of the Path. Maninists believe essentially in the perfectibility of mankind, and that by following the teachings of the Faith and pursuing ever greater virtue mankind may eventually achieve its liberation from the bonds of the world; conversely, should mankind depart from the Path, it will ultimately fall into ruination and destruction.
The term "Maninism", derived from the name of the faith's mythological founder, is a foreign construct. To its adherents it is known simply as the Faith, and when describing it to outsiders its missionaries typically refer to it as the Path or the Way, and make much reference to the Light of virtue.
Maninism is among the world's most ancient religions. The somewhat fuzzy nature of the faith's teachings, especially in the early period, make exact dating virtually impossible, but evidence for the existence of religious traditions and practices that might broadly be termed Maninist pre-dates the introduction of the written word to Gallat. Firm pronouncements cannot be made until the arrival of literacy and the establishment of the polity of Gallat around -400 RM. The early growth of the religion was closely tied to the political fortunes of that nation, and as Gallat to dominate its eponymous peninsula Maninism followed. In the 1st century RM Gallatene mercantile activites brought the faith to the Nahsjad tribes of the Jadhai, who proved enthusiastic converts. The expansion of Sira across the whole of the Jadhai and into the Peko valley carried Maninism to the shores of the Lovi. The High Ward of the Faith came to be the theocratic ruler of Gallat, and intensive missionary activity driven by the powerful Maninist states of the western littoral pushed the Faith deep into the Face of the Moon and the Stetin lands of the north, and across the sea to Cyve and the Taudo. By 380 RM Maninism dominated the western half of Athis.
The Crisis of the Fifth CenturyEdit
The 5th century RM saw a series of catastrophes befall Maninism. The authority of the High Ward was only shakily maintained even in Gallat itself, let alone across the rest of Athis, and the regional Wards acted with relative independence. The power of these Wards was resented by the local elites, creating fertile ground for heresy.
The first crack appeared when at the end of the 4th century a Maninist Acolyte in the northern Face of the Moon, reputed to possess powers of healing, attracted a following, and ultimately declared herself the Aitah and raised a rebellion. She was opposed by the Maninist Wards of the area and by the Savirai Emperor Qasaarai III, but rather than fight this Aitah requested a meeting with the Emperor. At that famous meeting the Emperor was convinced of her divinity and the Cult of the Goddess was born. With the enthusiastic support of the rulers of the Dual Empire, the Cult swept across the Face of the Moon as the desert tribes converted almost en masse. The Dual Empire would follow a militantly Aitahist policy from that point until its demise. The Khivani Roshate was overrun by Imperial forces and backstabbed by the Airani, establishing the Cult in the Peko valley and severing the Maninists of Astria from their northern brethren. Imperial persuasion even convinced the despot of Tarena to convert to the new faith, and the Aitahists were briefly lodged in the ancient heart of Maninism. The effort to repulse them led to the War of the Empty Throne, which temporarily forced the Cult back beyond the Allato hills.
After Khatai was assassinated at the end of the War of the Empty Throne, his widowed wife, Aelona cuCyve, the Fourth Aitah, fled across the Haidali to Brunn, and there converted another Maninist king to Aitahism. Brunnekt conquests and evangelism by Aelona and her daughter Kintyra, the Fifth Aitah, saw the Stetin lands almost completely lost to Maninism. This second burst of Aitahist activity culminated in the War of the Ashen Throne and the Immolation, in the course of which the High Ward was killed, Gallasa destroyed, and Maninism brought to the brink of destruction. The exploits of the Halyr Altaro Javan would reverse the military situation, destroy the Dual Empire and put an end to Maninism's decades of catastrophe, but the psychological effect remained enormous.
The Transformation of the Sixth CenturyEdit
As the crisis reached a crescendo in the last decade of the 5th century, Maninism began to undergo a radical series of changes. The first Synod began the long process of reestablishing the faith's credibility in the outlying areas, the official recognition of the Haradim hero-cults reduced the pressure on Maninist orthodoxy, and the close association of the faith and the ascendant Halyrate brought a renewed sense of purpose. The forces of reaction were crushed during the brief Airani schism, the conciliar principle firmly established by the second Synod, and the supremacy of the faith, long a tacit belief, clearly enshrined. The Haradim cults, already well on their way to becoming Orders, proliferated, and when the Halyrate collapsed into anarchy the faith gradually acquired the majority of the resources it had once wielded.
By the end of the sixth century the transformation of the organization of the Maninist faith was mostly complete, but the new order remained ill-defined and unstable. A series of Synods, called as needed, addressed the innumerable conflicts between the various Orders and provided a robust mechanism of internal reform, while missionaries carried the faith deep into the east, reclaiming much of the ground that had been lost to the Cult during the years of crisis. This expansion made the Synod system increasingly unwieldy, and this led ultimately to the establishment of Concourse and the final regularization of faith governance. The Concourse system has thus far proved sufficiently resilient and flexible to meet the needs of the faith without reference to a Synod.
Maninism is, broadly speaking, a dualist religion. Virtue, light, and good are generally viewed as opposed to and at war with vice, darkness, and evil. However, as Maninism denies the existence of any and all gods, these two sides are not personified in any way: it is simply known that if the mankind pursues virtue the world will become ever purer and more perfect, and that if it does not the world will decay and ultimately be destroyed.
Maninism holds that the world known to men is one of many, and that these were formed out of the Void-Between-the-Worlds by powerful beings known as Makers-of-Worlds. These beings are not believed to be gods, in the usual sense of the word, but rather creatures like to men, only possessed of sufficient knowledge and virtue as to create a world, as a lesser man might create a statue. When this World was created, its Maker, Manin Othor Dorom, dwelt on it for a time and Made also all the things that now inhabit the world. Alone of all things, however, man proved able to surpass the design of his Maker. Seeing this, Manin Othor Dorom recognized that man was like to himself, and so came to mankind and taught them many things. Most importantly he taught them of virtue, and first set them on the Path, the means by which mankind might surpass entirely the bonds of the World. Growing weary of this World he then departed, and has not returned, but promised man that they should meet again at the end of the Path.
Maninism includes the belief that there are many different worlds, but it is held that mankind, confined and bound as he is by his present World, cannot know anything of the other worlds save what was revealed at the beginning of this one by its Maker. In his present state, neither can he learn anything more of the Void, the Makers, or the ultimate origin of either. These are held to be mysteries that will be uncovered when mankind has progressed far enough down the Path.
Soteriology and AfterlifeEdit
The idea of a personal salvation is typically absent from the religion. In and of itself mankind is not held to have done anything requiring salvation, and there are no gods to whom he must be reconciled, or whose dictates assure perfection. Man is responsible to himself alone, and while the ultimate fate of the world depends on his choices, the desirability of virtue is based on fairly material concerns: vice will lead to ruination (see also Maninism#Eschatology) and pain. Consequently there is no heaven or hell, as such (although see Celadism for a caveat) and Maninism takes a somewhat vague approach to the idea of life after death. Neither High Wards nor Synods have declared a canonical theology, and there are two main branches of thought. The first is that men are reincarnated upon death, and that this cycle continues until the man becomes a Harada or Dalotha, or Terminus is reached. The second holds that there is not yet any life after death, but that upon reaching Terminus the dead will be resurrected by the arts of an ascended mankind; conversely, should the world fall the dead will be lost forever along with the living. This latter train of thought adds an additional urgency to the Path, and tends to be associated with that strand of Maninist theology that holds the purpose of the religion is not to worship gods but to become them.
Main article: Haradim
In contemporary Maninism much of the practice of the religion revolves around cults following the teachings or examples of a particularly virtuous member of mankind. It is believed that some men attain sufficient virtue as to become guardians of the Path, not mere travellers upon it, and then guide those who attempt to follow their example. Each hero cult, known as an Order, considers itself to be attempting to follow the Path set out by one such Harada. Here, again, there is no truly definitive theology - most of the faithful regard the Haradim as still existing and actively, if obscurely, engaged in the faith, and this remains the most popular theological position, but there are some theologians who hold that they are merely great exemplars.
For further information see: Sartaskori
Maninism is an intensely political faith. For much of its early existence, Maninism was virtually indistinguishable between political allegiance to Sira or Gallat, and during the sixth century transformation the faith apparatus came to assume the powers and prerogatives of most states practicing the religion. Maninism theology and political thought therefore tend to be difficult to separate, and the faith sets forth very definite ideas on the correct ordering of the world. The key concept is of association by vocation, rather than location; Maninism recognizes that the Faithful cannot form a single, undifferentiated mass, but sets forth that the correct set of divisions is one based on the particular skills and virtues of the individual Faithful. To mainstream Maninist thought, the divisions that matter are those of class, trade and inclination, not language, ethnicity or place of birth. The faith is consequently generally hostile to the ideas both of monarchy and republic, and indeed to the very concept of a state existing within regional boundaries, though in practice this hostility is generally limited to intellectual circles. This somewhat peculiar political philosophy forms a feedback loop with the actual situation, both justifying and advancing the region known as the Halyrate.
Maninism is not teleogical: there are many possible ends for the world. The vast majority of these are terrible, and see the world and everything in it destroyed forever. One alone is different. This is the Terminus of Light. Only by following the Path can mankind reach Terminus; should he deviate, he will eventually meet a darker end. The nature of this desirable apocalypse is somewhat open to debate, but generally agreed that it will involve in some way mankind escaping the world, and becoming as Manin Othor Dorom was.
Maninism has a dual-track organizational structure, meeting with the High Ward at the top. The clerical branch consists of ordained Wards and Acolytes in a linear hierarchy. Acolytes minister to the people and proselytize to the unconverted, and are overseen by Wards who have administrative responsibilty for a particular region or mission. In present day Maninism the ordained clergy play a relatively minor role, their presence mostly limited to areas where the Faith is newly introduced, or officially suppressed. The cenobitic branch is far more prominent, consisting of innumerable Orders organized under the oversight of Concourse.
Main article: Orders
The majority of the Faithful are organized into the Haradim Orders. These might broadly be described as vast networks of monasteries, but with the important proviso that they are not necessarily cloistered from the world. Indeed, there are relatively few cloistered Orders, and most are so intimately engaged with the social and economic life of their surroundings that little occurs outside their collective purview. Their social and economic status is both responsible and a result of their legal status, as most functions exercised elsewhere by monarchs have been usurped by Orders. The great Orders typically maintain branches in all major Maninist cities, and compete with one another for resources and adherents across a tremendous geographic swathe. These networks provide much of the connective tissues unifying the Maninist realm.
Main article: Concourse
Standards of governance within each Order vary considerably, from the strict military discipline of the Sadorishi to the autonomy of the Eskarites, but unlike the clergy the Orders themselves have wide latitude in their dealings. While nominally subject to the High Ward, in practice the closest thing the Orders have to a governing body is the council known as Concourse. This is formed of the heads of the thirteen most powerful and prestigious Orders, known as the Synothal Orders, and is responsible for overseeing the conduct of individual Orders and organizing events on a faith-wide scale.