Philosophy and Religion

Philosophy Overview

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, an abundance of philosophical thought, discussions and writings sprang forth, and contributed a dizzying array of explanations of the nature of humanity, the universe and reality itself from which the modern person could choose. In the 18th century, the radical David Hume completely denied the existence of material reality, and claimed that all existence was merely perception, that there was no way to know whether anything was real or not. His contemporary, Immanuel Kant, believed he had a point in that our senses may misguide us, but went on to say that some knowledge is universally true, and that a person does not need to experience some things to know them. This theory of "a priori" knowledge relieved many educated people of the time, who feared they would have to live in Hume's world where all experience was illusory. Philosophers such as Hegel and Schopenhauer came along toward the end of the century, and turned everyone's attention toward the Self, the Not-Self, and absolute reason. Hegel claimed that the Will drove humans in the ideal direction of absolute reason, while the pessimistic Schopenhauer claimed the Will simply drove humans - not in any particular direction, but simply created a sense of unfulfilled urgency which explained the constant suffering of life. Clearly, these theories were not entirely reassuring to those familiar with them, and did little to explain the eternal question of the meaning of human existence. Later in the 19th century, Nietzsche went on to say that the suffering of life was in fact beneficial, and that it would result in the creation of the ultimate "superman". By this time, the Industrial Revolution (broadly defined as the application of power-driven machinery to manufacturing) was in full swing, and the philosophy of Materialism cropped up, which denied or disregarded everything spiritual and supernatural. Naturalism, one form of Materialism, held that humans need no power but their own, and that life has no aim beyond this world. These theories and their advocates, such as Mill and Spencer, received broad attention as the Industrial Revolution began to make material gain more of a priority than moral righteousness. The spiritualist movement, which gained momentum starting in the 1850s, sought to add some belief in an unseen world or higher power back into the equation of modern thinking. However, when the philosophy of Parallelism began to emerge, much of Industrial Revolution society seemed to embrace the balance of the spiritual and material world it suggested.

Parallelism first began to get public attention around 1850, when the availability of electricity and cheap steel accelerated the Industrial Revolution. Unlike the other philosophies popular around this time, Parallelism was not attributed to a specific philosopher or scholar; rather, it refers to school of thinking which covers several related, more specific philosophies which developed in various places simultaneously, over the first half of the 19th century. As the disillusioned or dissatisfied began abandoning Materialism in increasing numbers, the philosophies promoting the Will as the ultimate drive of humanity gained ground, and a number of ideas regarding the direction of the Will began to develop. The most persistent were those that centered on sets of two opposing but related concepts to which the Will could be said to apply its force, which combined Hegel's idealist claims and Schopenhauer's pessimistic ones about the goal toward which the Will drives humans. Examples of Parallelistic philosophies included Creation and Destruction, Civilization and The Wild, and Truth and Mystery. By describing the Will as an inherent human drive toward achieving a specific goal or state of being, the Parallelists presented a positive outcome of human existence. But by attributing to the Will the basic conflicting urge toward opposing paths, Parallelism effectively accounted for the suffering which is a part of all human life. Most Parallelist philosophies further claimed that these opposing goals were actually not contradictory at all, but symbiotic in the sense that one can not exist without the other, and that further, in the perfect attainment of one is found the perfect attainment of the other. Advocates of the various Parallelist branches spent as much time examining the idea that any given set of two opposing forces are in fact one unified state (only supposed different through the imperfect perception of humans - an observation that harkened all the way back to Hume) as they did investigating the idea of how the Will attains its goal - a difficult task, given the (at least superficial) contradiction inherent in each Parallelist branch. Regardless, by 1900 Parallelism in its various forms had amassed a tremendous following not limited to academic circles; on the contrary, it enjoyed a greater popularity among common society than any other philosophical theory had theretofore managed. Parallelism's popularity was further bolstered by the fact that it did not in any way contradict the ideas of the spiritualism movement, and was seen by many to form with it a partnership of ideals and beliefs. Although some specific Parallelistic movements are noted for an amount of secrecy in their practices and discussions, nevertheless a good deal is known about the general pronouncements of each. Currently, there are seven major Parallelist philosophies which have a significant following. These are described below.

Conflict and Resolution
Truth and Mystery
Finity and Infinity
Creation and Destruction
Health and Suffering
Civilization and The Wild
Luck and Wisdom

Religion Overview

Conflict and Resolution: The Dissonance Movement

The philosophy of Dissonance is typical of the philosophies of Parallelism. I say this as it adheres to the basic tenet of taking two dichotomous ideals and merging them into an encompassing whole. Two halves of a circle requiring both to achieve completeness. The actual origins of this particular vein of Parallelism is uncertain but most credit the American Philosopher Aiden McAllister as its greatest and most prolific philosopher.

McAllister wrote extensively during the 1840's through the end of the American Civil War. Most adherents of the philosophy follow the positive aspects of McAllister's earlier writings such as "The Advancement of Humanity". Therein McAllister details the essence of the Dissonance movement. That is that the successful resolutions of conflicts served as building stones in an individual's development. The ability to overcome adversity, crisis and resolve various disputes leads directly to the expansion of the person's horizons both in the material and spiritual sense. It is essentially a teaching and philosophy not just of hope but also of self-reliance and perseverance. However McAllister was more critical in his later writings.

His last and most significant, entitled "Civilization: Man's Growth Through the Creation and Resolution of Conflict" was published in 1869. This work expanded upon McAllister's earlier view that each individual grew and developed through the resolution of conflicts that arose in their life. He traced the development of Nation States from the Ancients through the dominant world powers of 1860's. Comparing the growth of a nation to that of an individual he concluded that the great nations only rose into prominence through the resolution of crisis. That each crisis was a step in the ladder of greatness and without these steps there would be no further movement. In essence that conflict and crises had to exist or the nation would become stagnant and die. Thus McAllister asserted that an individual or nation to continue its growth it must seek out or even fabricate conflicts.

While McAllister is credited with the proliferation of this particular Parallelism philosophy little is actually known about him. Only three years after his death his date and place of birth remain unknown. What is known about him is that he fought at the Battle of Gettysburg with the 20th Maine Infantry and undoubtedly his experiences in there impacted his final writings. Colonel Joshua Chamberlain who remained a close friend to McAllister after the war, said of McAllister at his funeral, "He was skilled with both his bayonet and his tongue. To this day I still don't know which was sharper. I owe my successes after the War to his teachings and I will miss him dearly."

Published in the Bowdoin College Journal Fall Quarterly 1899

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Truth and Mystery

Tracing its roots to the ancient Greek mystery cults, the Order of the Initiates of Truth and Mystery is the most secretive (some would say 'paranoid') of the modern philosophies.

The Order is devoted to the pursuit of truth and investigation into the mysteries of the world. Anyone may join the Order and take advantage of its considerable resources...for a small contribution of money or knowledge, of course. The Order has been known to sponsor archaeological digs, equip exploring expeditions, fund scientific research, and investigate psychic phenomena. While the Order embraces scientists and technologists, it recognizes that the pursuit of knowledge would be meaningless without mysteries to investigate, and that some truths may remain unknowable. As such, it is also a refuge for philosophers, spiritualists, and other devotees of the ineffable.

Although any may join the Order at the lowest level, advancing in the Order requires initiation, which is by invitation only. The philosophy guards its secrets carefully, and details on the inner workings of the initiated are near-impossible for outsiders to come by. Some whisper that there are in fact several levels of initiation, and that the initiate must prove his or her worth in order to rise to the higher levels. What, exactly, this proof entails is unknown.

Some information comes from those who claim to have left the Inner Order, but such "former initiates" are rare, and there is some question as to their legitimacy. Perhaps the knowledge and support gained from the Order are simply so great that few wish to leave after they have attained initiation.

Some historians claim that the Order used to be a much more open society, but that early in its history the Order suffered a grave betrayal from within. Whatever the cause, over the years the Order has turned in upon itself, growing gradually more secretive and difficult to penetrate. Only the inner circle can say what knowledge is worth guarding so carefully.

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Finity and Infinity

"The essence of life is not how much time is accorded you. It is limitless. The essence of life is what you will contribute, what you will do with that time." - Martin James Annory

"Trust me, we have all the time in the world." - Mary Franklin-Denmark, speaking to an Annory Foundation trustee who threatened not to renew the Foundation's grant in light of their failure to publish in the field of archaeoastronomy for over a year. This was prior to date the Foundation published its first Opinion Paper. (Anecdotal)

The Parallelist philosophy of Finity/Infinity is attributed to a group of archeaoastronomers in Littleton, Massachusetts known as the Annory Foundation. Immersed in the study of the knowledge, interpretations, and practices of ancient cultures regarding celestial objects or phenomena, this scholarly community also began to publish "Opinion Papers" about the significance of the mortality of the human mind compared to the immortality of knowledge and thought. Astronomy by definition must include a vigorous inspection of the theory of time (particularly as it applies to the age and size of the universe), and this group of bright minds spent much of their time intensely discussing the theorized infinite size of the universe. They hypothesized a corollary that since time itself must be infinite, any event, regardless of when it happens, becomes immediately infinite or "timeless" as soon as it occurs. All events enter the stream of time, which extends forwards and backwards forever, and thus all events become infinite. They called this theory the "Law of Chronological Extension."

This theory led to intense discussion about the nature of humanity - is it finite or infinite? We take countless actions and have countless thoughts during our lives; according to the Law of Chronological Extension this means that each of our actions and thoughts is infinite, existing for all time. However, because we ourselves die, we can only exist for a finite, isolated period of time. Does our personal impermanence mean that we as people are finite, that we affect only a specific, discrete period of time, although our actions become part of the infinity of time? Or is our very existence an indelible mark on time, making us as people infinite? The Foundation published several works on this quandary, with different authors defending a variety of hypotheses. Adherents of this philosophy still debate this issue. Indeed, proponents of this branch of Parallelism are known for delighting in lively philosophical debate of all kinds.

More recently, enthusiasts of the Law of Chronological Extension have taken up the debate of the nature of death, and whether according to Annory's Law death can really exist. Some claim that because the nature of humanity is infinite, death does not exist but is only a description of a being's state in time. Others argue that since death is a physical state, it is evidence that the nature of humanity is indeed finite. Members of the Foundation itself have not published any opinions on this. It is rumored that in Littleton, where the Foundation's home campus is still located, discussions have been revolving around a completely different topic: Is humanity finite and time infinite, or is time finite and humanity infinite? This question seems to strain the boundaries of Annory's Law itself, and many scholarly communities seem to be holding their collective breath as they anticipate the Foundation's next publication.

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Creation and Destruction

The philosophy of Creation is a simple one. There is no rigid structure of hierarchy. There are no secret orders, or rituals under the light of the moon. In our own way, we all follow the philosophy, for we all create at one time or another. There are others though who strive to create things never before seen or heard in the history of humanity. These are the strictest adherents of the philosophy. For them, the desire to create dominates their life.

Most of the original writing of the philosophy has been lost in the various wars that have ravaged Europe and America in the past 80 years. The only writing known to have survived is the original manuscript, written by Giacamo Magagli. He was a craftsman for most of his life, and later, a mystic, and a philosopher. It was he who put to ink the foundation of the philosophy, born from the dreams that haunted his slumber. Below, is a translation of the original manuscript written by Magagli.

-Thomas Alva Edison, March 21, 1880

Once, I was a simple glass blower. I was content in my life until the dreams began...strange, repetitive dreams. In my dreams two voices spoke to me. Once voice was melodic, crystal, and ethereal. The second voice was deep, dark, and foreboding. The melodic voice would speak, and then the dark voice would speak right after, opposing what the first had spoken. The words they spoke were as such:

I am the beginning.
And I - Am the end.
I am the mountains, spine of stone.
I am the wind, which grinds the bone.
I am the wheat.
I am the scythe.
I am the bread.
I am the mouth that devours.
I am the castle. I am the town.
I am the fire that burns them down.
The better I build, the longer it stays
But in the end, in ruin it lays.

If you walk the path from beginning to end
And find the place where creation is born
Between the sword and the hammer
You will find what you seek.

For months this dream haunted my sleep. I ignored it, for I worked hard and was often fatigued. Fatigue often bears strange dreams. It reached the point where I could no longer sleep, so I began to tell people of what I dreamt. Some thought me mad. They amused others. There were some though who were genuinely interested. We debated and discussed the meaning of the dream. Over time we developed the very simply philosophy of creation, and made it part of our lives. We spread the word to those who would listen, and the dream stopped haunting my slumber.

The simple philosophy of creation is as follows:

The message is clear. Delight in what you create. Mourn not in its destruction. It is the natural way of things. Be inspired to create durable things, so they will stave off the inevitable for as long as possible. Destroy if you must, but create something to replace what is lost. Destruction will always keep pace with creation, but the converse is not so. Destruction can easily overtake creation if we are not inspired. Be it sculpture, architecture, paint, or prose - create, share, and above all, never covet your work.

Giacamo Magagli, Milano , Italia - durante l'anno 1799

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Health and Suffering

"Endure. In enduring, grow strong."

The Philosophy of Health and Suffering was best encapsulated by Nietzche when he wrote "that which does not kill me makes me stronger." Whether these beliefs are taught informally on harsh frontier settlements or in Spartan spiritual communes, adherents of this Philosophy believe that pain, sickness, and ill fortune are tests of endurance and worth, and part of the process to becoming a more perfect being. The endurance of suffering refines the mind and body, making an individual adaptable and resistant to hardship. It is only by learning to live with and conquer adversity that true wisdom can be gained; only those who have endured are entitled to lead or rule. Furthermore, only those who have experienced pain and hardship can truly understand and value happiness; it is the presence of misery that defines joy.

Most adherents of this Philosophy believe that some people suffer more than others because people are destined only to encounter as much hardship as they can handle. To be unfortunate, therefore, is also to be destined for greatness; fate has chosen that individual to be refined and strengthened for some great purpose.

The Philosophy does not advocate inflicting suffering - on oneself or others - as a method of betterment. Doing harm is incompatible with becoming great. In order to become enlightened, you must be chosen to suffer. A single person cannot see the grand scheme of things, or whether any one person is destined to suffer and achieve.

In other words, walking on broken glass and picking fights will not make you a better person. Adherents are, however, encouraged to spend part of their lives devoid of personal comforts. They may choose to retreat to a commune in a remote and harsh part of the world, or seek out a particularly squalid community and work to improve the living conditions there.

It is widely known that President Roosevelt - who was a weak and asthmatic child, and who went on to become a statesman, soldier and adventurer - is a devotee of this particular philosophy.

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Civilization and The Wild

Henry David Thoreau understood that for one to truly understand one's self, one must understand the world that surrounds you And in order to understand the world, one must experience all it's aspects, from the highest peaks of civilization to the darkest forests of the wild. Followers of the philosophies of Civilization and the Wild hold that knowing your place in the world allows you to know yourself, regardless of where you happen to be. More importantly, they believe that in mastering your environment, you master yourself.

The philosophy has its roots in ancient Rome, where it was thought that the existence of the wild was necessary to the advancement of civilization. Without new frontiers to explore, civilizations have no reason to advance. This served as a foundation for the American policy of Manifest Destiny, as the United States moved westward in the 19th Century, as the American Spirit of the time was to explore, improve, and advance. So long as something remains unexplored, there is always room for improvement.

Adherents to this philosophy are just as often urban socialites as wilderness explorers, and in fact, many are both. They seek to overcome whatever obstacles happen to be in their way, be they wild beasts or social rivals, to achieve the pinnacle of self-worth. While they do tend to see a natural order to the world, they believe that anyone can advance and surpass their place in that order. Some may see them as ruthless and adversarial, but they see themselves as contently striving to better themselves.

There are two main schools of thought among the adherents to this philosophy. The first are those who seek to master all environments, and the second are those who seek to completely dominate just one. The first group is mainly represented by individual explorers, hunters, and adventurers, who travel from place to place to experience as much as possible. They have great respect for the world around them, and constantly strive to understand the underlying order of things. The second group is largely represented by wealthy socialites and businessmen, who view this philosophy as a tool to achieve more and more social, political, and economic power. They see power as a tool to be used, and have high respect for those who use it. Both groups tend to learn the philosophy on an individual basis, as one would from a mentor. However, in recent years, many individuals have written of it as a way to achieve personal success.

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Luck and Wisdom

Extensive examination has been given to the juxtaposition of the random nature of "luck" with the acquisition and application of wisdom. None have been so influential in this pursuit as the American gambler known as Morgan. With roots tracing back to the river boat casinos that were so prevalent on the Mississippi River in the latter half of the 19th century, Morgan holds strongly the position that, of every hand dealt, luck brings the cards to the player, but the wisdom of the player determines the outcome of the game. So, it is held, are events and circumstances in life encountered by the "luck of the draw". The application of wisdom (experience, knowledge, and the wherewithal to use them) affects, by degrees, the outcome.

There are many who summarize this idea with the axiom, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." However, the elderly Morgan cautions against such unbridled optimism. By way of example, during a recent high stakes poker game in Monte Carlo, a young player put forth the above thought in an attempt to impress Morgan with his grasp of the concept. Morgan was quoted in the papers as responding, "As a youngster I set off to see the country on a river boat. I met there a traveler who told me the most fertile pasture, with all the right weather for a bountiful crop, could be a kingdom of mud and rot in the wrong hands." Rumors abound that the traveler referred to was a mentor of Morgan's, and the true progenitor of this branch of Parallelist philosophy. Espoused and embraced by gamers and businessmen alike all throughout America and Europe, this philosophy rapidly became popular all along the major trade and tourist routes. One can find adherents currently in all parts of the world touched by commerce or international tourism.

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Atlas Adventures does not allow the use of modern religions in the game. By modern religions, we refer to any religion which is currently practiced, or was practiced during the period in which the game is set. This means that players may not include in their character history any religious information on their character, nor may they include religion in their role-playing or make any reference to it during game play. This does not mean that modern religions do not exist in the Atlas Adventures game world. It simply means that they are not included in the material and subjects dealt with in the game. Please refrain from including religion in any way in your character, character concept, and role-playing at events. While players may notice storylines and adventures related to ancient religions, we are careful to exclude elements which may offend modern-day participants in those religions as well.

Atlas Adventures actively encourages players to incorporate any of the philosophies described above into their character concepts, and to use them to enliven their role-playing. The Parallelist philosophies listed above will figure actively in storylines and adventures. Philosophies do not have associated game skills, but are role-playing choices. Although it is certainly not necessary that your character choose a philosophy to adhere to, if you desire to add a dimension to your character that religion otherwise might, we encourage you to consider including a philosophy in your character concept. To round out this area of your character, you may also wish to read carefully the section on Metaphysics in this chapter.

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