retreating to the wilderness where God lives,
following "the Forest Tradition" of Shufrantei
--"The Hermit," iosoce in Nacateca, is the usual metaphor for anyone who turns his or her back on society. While iosoce in one common meaning refers to introversion, in another it refers to introversion of a group. Both the solitary individual and the iconoclastic group have turned their backs on society.
Legend, traditions, histories and biographies describe sages who lived alone or in small groups in the
wilderness, to remove themselves from the corrupting distractions of
society and pursue the strict
disciplines of prayerful meditation. These were the
similar to the sages of Buddhist and other Eastern traditions.
The legends also described not-so-friendly sorcerers who retired to the caves, clefts and deep forests to practice magic, a shamanic remnant of an earlier layer of culture, the archaic pre-Neolithic layer populated by hunters & gatherers.The construction of temples and the organization of priesthoods did not eliminate the shaman's way, but rather altered it and benefited from it. The shamans of the pre-literate, pre-urban did not go away when the first cities were raised up. Some became magicians, sorcerers, physicians of the spirit, powerful men. Such men are described in the great ancient chronicle called the Mineoathi, especially with regard to the destruction of Atlantis. In ancient times it was supposed that sorcerers proliferated the earth. Sorcerers helped keep evil at bay in the great wild times after the destruction of Atlantis. Some protected the tribal remnants of humankind on Bergonia, while others used their gifts for vainglorious and petty purposes.
More demonstrably, the pre-historic shamans evolved into the hermit sages of historical times who lived deep in the forest away from cities and towns.
The religious quest: The hermit, especially the Shufrantei hermit, was devoted to purifying his soul and finding union with the god-head. This he did through a regimen of fasting, prayer and chanting, and varieties of meditation. He might experience visions, though the disciplines taught that many visions experienced in such states were illusory. Other times he had visions which were clear openings into other, holier worlds. He might acquire great power-- astral travel, distant vision, telepathy, seeing auras, spell casting, even telekinesis. If he is a man of ego, he might succumb to the lures of such power and descend into sorcery, but if he is a true holy man such powers are incidentals, mere trifles, virtually irrelevant to the real pursuit.
The ascetic life: The sage of legend wore either rags or nothing. He ate what the forest offered, fruit, nuts and wild greens. He owned nothing, except maybe a wooden bowl in which he crushed acorns and mixed the acorn flour with water to make gruel. He drank water from the creek and bathed in the creek. (Even the hermits in Bergonia washed-- as purification and washing has always been central to the core cultural sensibilities.) He slept in a cave, under a lean-to, or in the open. Many if not most real hermits lived a little better than this, and a few stimulated some scandal by living in comfortable cottages with a servant or two. The average hermit lived in a lean-tos or the smallest conceivable hovels, but in proximity to a village with which he had a good, helpful relationship. Villagers often gave him bread, cooked bans and squash, and even some clothes. In exchange the hermit brought them baskets of greens, berries and nuts, prayed for the villagers, taught a little of the disciplines to them, did a little physical labor with the villagers, and acted as their eyes and ears in the forest and over the hill.
ascetic communities:Many so-called hermits lived in clusters-- perhaps five to twelve living within the same half square mile of woodland. Though their disciplines were largely solitary, a number of them sometimes slept and ate together in small huts, in order to conserve resources. Even hermits often found irresistible the pull of the social instinct, and invaluable the mutual reinforcement that community provides. Sometimes the distinction between "hermit cluster" and monastery was blurry.
the "forest tradition": Many hermits took time to wander the land, and became visitors at temples or monasteries, and roamed through the forests and the hills making contact with other hermits. Over the years the hermits generated a tradition of wisdom that became very important to the entire body of Shufrantei, which included practices and techniques of prayer, meditation and fasting. This became called the "Forest Tradition."
Both the temple priests, including the priests in the palaces and cities, and the religious men of the villages and forests shared the same gods and the same ideas about religion, but showed their devotion in very different ways. The "temple priests" belonged to hierarchical orders and practiced precise rites. There was a certain degree of collegial exchange between the hermit sages and the temple priests. Often individual temple priests retreated into the forests to visit the hermit sages and learn from them.
The sages maintained a bond, however long and loose, with the temple priests and the urban, political order they served. On the other hand the sorcerers remained completely antithetical to the "civilized" world, and had no truck with it. The sorcerers hid, and then became completely unknown to the priests, so that one ceased to know if they really existed or not. But of course in legend, tall-tales and fiction the sorcerers have multiplied and prospered.
hermits today:Yes, there are a handful of hermits now, in our time. They are Miradi practitioners. Modern capitalist society, in which every square foot of soil is owned by someone, precludes and outlaws the hermit. Christ could most probably not go now into the wilderness for 40 days & nights without criminally trespassing. There is a tradition of hermits suffered to live on English manorial estates, but they are not very religious. Throughout Bergonia's colonial and republican days Miradi devotees persisted living as hermits, despite prosecutions for trespassing. They retired into the deep forests. When the loggers came in the 1800s they moved into the high mountains, and earned some heroic notoriety in Miradi newspapers. The socialist government now indulges them, and they are allowed to live (within limits) in any public wilderness or forest.
(note to self: Japanese short story)
Rev. 10 June 06
The religious ways of reclusiveness possibly reflect a powerful introversion within the Bergonian ur-personality that manifests in modern times as the meditative practitioner of Miradi, the perpetual rebel, the isolationist, the tendency to withdraw.
Shufrantei doctrine taught that the introspective urge to detachment-- Icotesi's way-- it is an appropriate way for humankind, and sometimes even necessary, providing that it is not the dominant way.
Current Isolationist Communities:
▪ The "Vagabonds"
The name derives from the French "vagabond" meaning wanderers, like the "Travelers" of the British Isles, people of the local ethnicity who do not live in settled communities, but instead go from place to place, often as unwelcome guests to the locals.
This group is nearly all Sherei (folks of mixed atrei and European descent), demonstrating the diverse ethnic origins of this group. They originated in late colonial or early republican times, when, of course, they moved around with horses, mules and wagons. Now they rely upon automobiles and vans, and they throw up tents wherever they settle-- unless they find a vacant house to squat in. They are accused, sometimes accurately, as thieves, but many of them enlist in the local temporary labor pools and work hard. There are no more than 60,000 Vagabonds today.
▪ Echecenar (Min) / Eshecenei (Nac), a group of anti-technology Miradi agriculturists.
The name derives from the Nacateca word for "rejectionists." They live in small agricultural villages, in a communal lifestyle, including common kitchens and dining. In most suh communes, they distinctively locate a collective nursery and playroom next to the communal kitchen. Like the Amish in the U.S., they reject all modern technology, including electricity and internal combustion engines. They are a Miradi sect, with their own network of temples and monasteries, all remarkable for their small size and elegant simplicity.
The Echecenar have been around since the early 1800s, part of the atrei resurgence that included the Zaomitan movement. They have rejected all European influences, including Western technology and science. They wear old-fashion atrei clothing (men: tunic & kilt, women: the ileia dress), and mean to preserve old fashion pre-Columbian ways. They allied themselves disastrously with the Kilitan during the revolutionary civil war, and suffered discrimination afterwards from the victorious revolutionaries. Moreover their population decreased, from losing so many sons in battle. In 1944 Congress felt compelled to enact legislation recognizing the Echecenar as a group with distinct communal rights, and outlawing discrimination against them. Before the revolution there were as many as 250,000 of them, but now there are only 180,000, concentrated in the inland Lesre, and in Pasiana and Coninipati.
▪ The Apei, Bergonia's version of "Back to the Land Hippies.
The Apei grew out of the very recent wave of anti-modernist rejectionists who retreated from the cities in the 1970s and 1980s to form rural communes.
The word Apei, is a Nacateca corruption of the word "Hippie." These anti-modernists do not reject all technology-- only dirty, polluting technology. They are among the radical "dark greens" of the original Harmony party movement back in the 1960s and 70s, but they have tended to reject all politics since. They build their communes with solar and wind power, they farm organically, and they practice herbal and alternative medicine, and even delve into Miradi mysticism. Many of them reject all internal combustion machinery, even agricultural equipment, relying instead on farm animals. But all the Apei depend on the Internet and computer technology.
Apei live in every Lesre in the country, but seem to concentrate in Sansan, Halemarec, Paiatri and Lampanira, four disparate states that have nothing relevant in common, other than the fact that Apei seem to prefer to settle among hills.
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