Krathnami, Prophet of the Miradi Religion
922 - 999 AD
Table of Contents
Glossary All terms are Minidun.
acuatle -- masks, persona, appearances.
avoshe-canu -- “epistemological eclecticism."
beni-kalatrea, the "study of the means of discovering truth.”irlei.
irlei -- visionary or intuitive knowledge; Kathnami argued could be the most reliable type of knowledge. The level of knowledge desired by religious adepts, but it often came in mere glimpses and flashes.
edelei -- spirits existing and moving about in our world.
froloro -- unleavened bread, a flat bread common in Bergonia both in ancient times and now.
gavlonre --“dead souls,” people who lack active religious or philosophical sensibility, who lack an active consideration of the mysteries.
Semilarein -- a discipline of stretches and poses similar to Tai Chi.
uisic -- a pre-columbian slide-rule.
vai -- the divine, the ineffable divinity underlying and in the world.
Bergonia's second great prophet did not leave behind a copious body of writing as did the first prophet, Ierecina, eleven hundred years earlier. Kathnami left behind eight letters written in his own hand, totaling only 2,423 words. His followers transcribed what they could recall of his words in discourses and debates, and his disciple and friend Secmone Tremaila collected the transcriptions, edited them and issued them as a single volume entitled Krathnami’s Words in year 1007 AD. Secmone also co-authored a biography of Kathnami that became the foundation of what we know of Kathnami today.
To answer critics of the simply entitled Biography of Kathnami, the first church leader Nshere Partenla in 1015 collected all the contemporaneous documentation of Kathnami’s life he could find. By this time, Kathnami’s old order, the Pashluashri, were well disposed to him, and they opened up their internal documentation to him, which included several journals. The government of Varscin, following the Bergonian penchant for meticulous record-keeping, produced three intelligence reports concerning Krathnami that had been prepared during his lifetime and stored in archives. Nshere also sent several scribes to interview people who knew Kathnami, who had been dead only 16 years. All this material was organized into a book called Biographical Evidence and published in 1018. These three works comprise the primary materials concerning this interesting man.
Krathnami was born in the year 922 into a world of peaceful ruin, a world tired from strife and disputation. The Endless War had only concluded in 888, a generation earlier. He was born into a world corrupt and glutted on materialist ambitions and greed. He was born into a world of alienation, where the souls of men were dispersed by war, political and religious factionalism, and rich in bitter recollection of previous century’s wars. These conflicts, appropriately called the Endless War, had ended—finally—just thirty years before. The victor, Tiericoatli, was consolidating its hold on the world.
The world was a place of tension and eternal labor for the masses. Tyranny reigned in nearly every corner, and traders and land-owning nobles got richer and richer. Great demands were made on the poor by the elites who sought to rebuild the war-weary world and enhance their own luxury. The peasants were required to labor long in order to raise the harvest necessary for their own survival and to the enrichment of the Iregemi. Forever did they labor in fear of drought, conscription or invasion. In the crowded cities the unemployed beggars the itinerants, the menials and thieves lived in constant feat of being impressed into work gangs by desperate tyrants.
Krathnami’s world was one of meanness, scarcity and greed. Shufrantei, the dominant religion, did little to uplift or console. Men and women who strived for truth or consolation were given empty cups and left confused. The intellectual flavor of the times was cynical, critical, and bleakly imitative. People were disillusioned following the destruction of Pueoi. Atheism, Epicureanism and self-denial filled the air. Art was moribund, as imitative of the inspired forms of earlier times as was the product of the intellectual community. It was produced at the bidding of tyrants seeking self-aggrandizement and the wealthy seeking mere sensual stimulation. Shufrantei religion itself was split into the orthodox conservatives, who maintained the efficacy of ritual and believed in the truth of the many Gods and Goddesses, and revisionists who reinterpreted orthodoxy and sought a “truer” faith, while Hiestat religion was slowly gaining adherents among the lower classes.
“Krathnami” was a nick-name his devotes conferred upon him. It meant “shattering voice,” an obvious reference to the shattering effect his preaching had on the established religions and culture of the time. He was born Kivon Bechenre, of the small Rattlesnake Clan.
Krathnami grew up the only son of a peasant family in a peasant village close to the city of Varsca. When he was fourteen his family left their village and fled to the city. It was during the three-year drought of 934-37 that afflicted the entire island of Bergonia. A letter by a follower quotes Krathnami’s recollection of this time, “when my little sister died after months of shriveling, we had no moisture for tears, so devoid was he world of moisture, so full of dry bitterness it had become.” KW 2:8 In the city many peasants who could not force food out of the parched earth at home hoped to fine food in the city.
One wonders how he spent his adolescence. One wonders how he survived. He himself spoke no more than a few spare words about this period. “My family lived with thousands of others in the slums of Varsca, where suffering became mundane. Then I saw how little the preaching of the priesthood mattered to people whose stomachs ached.”
Undoubtedly he knew the beggars, thieves, the women who sold their bodies for a meal or a single coin, the dissolute drunkards who had surrendered in the fight and waited for death in the dull haze of their intoxication, and the lucky ones who found steady menial work. He must have known of the dragooners who organized the work armies.
Krathnami must have seen the profusion of temples of gods and religions. In the time of disillusionment many turned away from the mainstream sects of Shufrantei and embraced esoteric fringe sects. Others broke with Shufrantei altogether and turned to the Hiestat and other underground religions that promised either salvation in life after death or access to hidden holy mysteries. These were Dionysian or Faustian responses to the Apollonian Shufrantei mainstream than began to seem empty. In times of trouble a religion that says “stay the course” will often lose adherents.
Whether he was genuinely attracted to the religious life, or whether he was simply looking for an assurance of survival, we do know that he left Varsca when he was and became a neophyte at a Shufrantei temple located on a hill overlooking a village called Sumechec, located some thirteen miles west of the town of Chambolet.
The temple was of the Pashluashri sect. Its colors were green and white. It was closely related to the politically dominant Militrashri sect, and the two sects regarded each other as allies in the inevitable sectarian disputes. The Pashluashri however had simplified rite and liturgy, and it differed from Mrilitashi in its embrace of the doctrine of revelation by dreams, which the Mrilitashi rejected. But Pashluashri was no less hostile toward Hiestat than Mrilitashri, which sponsored persecutions in Tiericoatli and in other states where it dominated. In Tiericoatli, the state made it a crime to practice any Hiestat rite or to even possess a Hiestat charm.
If Krathnami spent his time in accordance with the rules and practices of the Pashluashri, as they are known to us, he spent a great deal of time in manual labor, likely in the fields on the monastery’s farm. When not at hard labor he was either in class or in prayer, preparing for the day when the elders would make him a full priest. The life was rigid and austere. He wore a simple grey cassock and grew his hair long and tied in a pigtail. He ate likely once, maybe twice, a day, each meal including simple froloro bread served with red beans. Sometimes he ate some white goat cheese, scrambled eggs, peas, lentils or watercress. He like all the other monastic priests and priestesses never considered eating meat. He and the other neophytes ate in a large dining hall in silence, while the full priests and priestesses were allowed this time to chatter. He and the others slept on mats together under a veranda.
After his twentieth birthday he underwent the long ritual of initiation into the full ranks. He had to fast for at least a month, and remain the entire time in seclusion chanting and subjugating himself to rigorous meditation. After he became a full member of the monastery e received a permanent assignment, a role to play in the life of the sect for the rest of his life. He became a scribe and messenger and served faithfully in this regard for years, with regular access to the monastery’s modest but well-rounded library.
One early summer day, when Krathnami was 31 (953 AD), the abbot called Krathnami forth. He had a special assignment for Krathnami, to carry a sealed message to the Prelate of the order, who resided in a grand monastery located high in the desolate mountains called Ransearamao to the north of Pusuraino. The way led through the heavily wooded foothills of the Kaflein Mountains. The account of his life, recorded by his disciples, relates that he was very much afraid. Legends abounded about the Kaflein. There was little doubt that the steep wooded mountains were he haunts of criminals and refugees, but some said these forests also were frequented by demons and dangerous spirits. The popular legend stated that Hiestat priests and priestess held sway in the mountains, supported by zombie slaves. In fact a regularly traveled road ran over the mountains and through the woods. Neither the militias of Varsca nor Pusuraino patrolled the road assiduously, but the surviving records do not describe any accounts of robbery or ambush.
Krathnami set off by himself, a rather unusual arrangement, since messages were usually carried by two or more priests in a group. Later tales concerning the prophet speculate that the abbot had already tired of Krthnami’s contentious ways and sent him off thusly in hopes that highwaymen or outcasts would dispatch him along he way. He carried nothing more than a sack that contained a rolled blanket for sleeping, some large bread rolls, some hard salted cheese, the sealed message itself, and some copper coins to allow him to purchase more food along the way. In earlier times a traveling priest was entitled to gifts of food along the road, but times had changed and no priest could expect such generosity in this meaner age. Krathnami also had a staff. The abbot had told him that the journey was about two hundred miles, and that it would take no more than twenty days.
On the second day he reached the Kaflein. No longer was he walking amidst wide flat fields planted with the young sprouting wheat of winter. Now he was ascending the steep slopes along a path that wound its way back and forth up the mountain. The woods were peaceful, quiet but for the occasional chatter of bids and the stirring f a million leaves in the breeze. Krathnami had never been in the mountains before, and he felt unexpected delight. He relished the solitude, having been born into a dense warren-like peasant village, then grew up in the warren-like slums of the city, and now confined in the disciplined cloister. Many Bergonians who had been raised as he had would have felt apprehension and anxiety, but Krathnami found peace. He later said tat here in the forest he found that he could pray without tension.
The forest is the place where the breath of God is heavy and delicious. His face is everywhere pure and self-evident. There is no interposition of humankind. In the woods Krathnami found the purity so desperately sought in the monastery.
He stopped several times to enjoy the dark beauty and quiet of the forest. The allure was great and he even abandoned the roadway to plunge into the forest to see all that he could see under the canopy, stopping to marvel at all the wee things on the forest floor. He spent a night in the forest, rolled in his blanket, not even bothering to make a fire.
The next morning he found the pathway again and continued. As the sun climbed the ladder of heaven, Krathnami descended from the high places and traveled into a deep ravine, full of plane trees, laurels and bushy pines clustered on the banks of a rushing creek. By noon Krathnami reached a place where the ravine widened, and the thick copses of pine gave way to elegant oaks, that rose straight up like proud men. The roadway passed through the oaks.
A shriek broke the silence. A monstrous face appeared, painted grotesquely with stripes of green, red and ocher paint, the colors and patterns of a warrior. But there was nothing else banda-like about the man, save for his heavy steel dagger, that he thrust at the priest. Krathnami fell to the acorn-littered ground While he lie there bleeding, the thief who had tried to disguise himself as a warrior took his sack and fled.
The thief had thrust his dagger with an unsteady and inexpert hand, and the blade cut without killing, though it entered through his ribs and pierced his lungs, and he gasped for air. He lay on the ground for an indeterminable time dreaming the dreams of the dying. He said he recalled looking up at the bole of the oak trees high above, the trunks shooting high above him into the air. All was as peaceful as before the attack, save for the noises of his own labored breath.
Suddenly another face appeared, no less sudden than the first. This was the soft face of a maiden, dominated by almond eyes that bore down on Krathnami as endlessly as the great oaks. She wore a shawl over her head, of white linen. He was drawn into her eyes. He saw the dark warm abyss that every man both yearns for and fears. The breeze rippled and momentarily pushed one edge of the shawl over, covering one of the almond eyes The edge of the shawl was embroidered in a pattern of green, red and gold, the pattern that identified her as a Hiestat witch, a herema. But in jut a moment the breeze ceased and the shawl fell back, again he could see both eyes.
The witch leaned and touched the wounded Pashluashri priest. She touched him on the cheek with the tips of her small fingers, the touch of heat that cools a man’s throbbing skin. A man, or woman for that matter, who is bleeding and dying is different only in degree from the person who is troubled or tired, aching from a hard day’s work. There may be no understanding or even conscious appreciation of the process, indeed one who does try to seek understanding, like the scientists, reductionists and other grubbers of data, are forced to withdraw from the touch. To the one in pain the sublimity of he process is compete, the touch heals, cleanses, and liberates, and he does not need to understand anything. The man who accepts the succor offered, who surrenders to it, is relived of his burden.
Artists in the succeeding centuries have portrayed the Hiestat priestess—her name is famously Sesnan Canol, with fevered passion and with cool devotion. From the canvases and murals of later ages we have seen her eyes shine with cool lunar brilliance and with fiery light. In her is reflected the devotion that men have given to goddesses, and she has been portrayed as Icotesi or Mara incarnate, and as the women we see every day in the plaza. There is an aspect of this which is plainly sexist, the desire, ultimately sexual, for incarnate beauty, but to thee people that which is holy is beautiful and putting great store in the explicitly beautify, they tended to equate all that is beautiful with the holy. Thus, in answer to the charge that Bergonian religion is sexist, the Bergonian would reply that they have sanctified sexuality.
But all the renderings of Sesnan have stamped in the viewer’s mind one indelible point, that she was a beautiful woman. The artists all adopted as their object the object of Krathnami’s subsequent love, and they thusly idolized her, to render her in such a manner that the viewer would want to love her too, worship her, and vicariously share in the purifying experience by which Krathnami was blessed. Women, the power that compels men like gravity, that excites his passions, stimulates is ardor, that he idealizes, serves in supplication, and labors to protect, this power that draws man then nurtures him, motivates him and gives him vitality. It is a multi-faceted light of blue lighting the void.
While it seemed to Krathnami that hours and days passed under her gaze, she in her time quickly tore his tunic and used it to bind his wound to staunch the bleeding. She found two limbs and made a litter, and then she struggled to roll him onto it and bind him to it. She dragged him through the forest to the fortuitously nearby hut where she lived. She cleaned his wound, staunched the bleeding and applied a poultice to it. She forced him to drink a brew of herbs, and spoon fed him all the food he would take. She kept him with her and cared for him, preventing infection from setting in, and nursing him back to health.
During the long hot weeks of summer it took for Krathnami to regain his strength, the two of them traded the secrets of their faiths. Alone together in the quiet green fastness, they taught each other their beliefs, prayers and rites.
Krathnami learned the Hiestat prayer to the winds and the greetings the Hiestat spoke to all the animals and plants. He learned the mediation on the moon and the stars. He learned how to sing the songs of liberty. He learned the secret names of many things in the world, names that revealed the essences of the named things, and the meanings of all the numbers. He learned the Hiestat teachings about the ways to see into the other worlds.
He decided that the Hiestat way was as good as the Shufrantei way. He learned that it was as strong. But his revelation did not come about by learning Hiestat ideology or from witnessing the fruits of Sesnan’s magic or vision. Instead he learned that a faith that could produce one as good as Sesnan must be itself capable of great good, just has he thought about his own Shufrantei faith. He had grown to love Sesnan, and hence learned to love Hiestat.
The important part of our lives come not from the traumatic evens that we remember the most vividly, but rather the reflective, day-to-day voids in time between the crystalline images of events. We associate changes in our lives to the remembered events, but the unremembered times of routine and casual thought are not without change themselves, in fact they are the times when the most profound, deepest changes occur in our souls. These times of reposeful routine are the eras of our lives, and the dramatic events ultimately mean nothing except as markers when one era ends and another begins. They are the bursts of birth and the exploding terminations of those eras. The final explosions are frequently the culminations of those long, seemingly dead times.
Other Hiestat practitioners visited Sesnan from time to time. It barely matters whether we call them priests, sages, witches or shaman. She did not conceal Krathnami’s presence from them. She wanted to introduce them to him. At first he was fearful, for he expected them to act as enemies, and they did. They indignantly objected to her and wanted little to do with him. Most of them told her they expected her to be rid of him, but she shook her head and they scorned her and left.
Later they returned with a chief priestess of sorts form a great distance, the woman who had trained Sesnan. Sesnan left Krathnami in her hut and went with the group of them to one of the holy places they identified in the woods to confer. There the senior priestess repeated the demand. Sesnan refused, and the senior priestess declared her apostate.
She returned to her hut trembling and tearful. Krathnami was still weak, but he attempted to leave, saying, “I cannot stay here and be your ruin.”
But she jumped up and grabbed the hem of his tunic. “No you cannot go. You have to stay. I’ve given up to much for you to leave.”
“What do you mean?”
“I wanted it all. But if a choice had to be made, then I have made it.”
The Hiestat and the Shufrantei were enemies, but not to such a degree that their respective followers didn’t talk and trade gossip and information. The priests of both frequented the same marketplaces and other public places. It was a matter of time before news spread into the nearby towns that a Hiestat reverend mother had spurned one of her students for harboring a Shufrantei priest. When this news reached the ears of Shufrantei priests, every priest and priestess of every temple and monastery wanted to know if any order was missing a single priest. And indeed when the news reached the ears of Krathnami’s abbot at his monastery he immediately apprehended the truth, for he had gotten word that Krathnami had never reached the far-away monastery.
In the meanwhile Kathnami and Sesnan left the hut in the woods and traveled to the small town of Carei, capital of the local county, named Aslevin. They went to the office of the registrar and obtained a civil marriage, which was legal in this post-imperial bureaucratic age, and traveled to what was now regarded as their home.
One day in the autumn, a group of Hiestat priests and priestesses stopped some Pashluashri monks in the main market plaza of Chambolet, amidst the market day crowd. One of them shouted, “Have you not heard that one of your own men lies with one of our priestesses in a hut I the woods?” This stopped them in their tracks. “Have you not heard that they live almost as a husband and wife, and that she trades our mysteries with him for knowledge of your claptrap religion.” A Hiestat priestess said, “Do you not find this deplorable? Do you not sanction your own?”
The monks trotted quickly home and told the Abbot of this, and he fumed in abounding fury. To his most trusted one, he said, “Fetch me several of our lay supporters, and tell them to bring their weapons.”
The obedient monk went forth and entered the nearby lodge hall of the Bear Clan, that which was traditionally aligned with the Pashluashri, and requested five of the young men come back with them to the monastery. “Bring daggers, for you may be called upon to act as feticinai.”
The clan house men consulted among each other and appointed five of their number to go with the monks. They watch their five younger companions leave with apprehension.
The five were ushered into the monastery’s inner chapel, where the abbot met them. He led them through the rite of purification, and then the rite of total absolution, which included absolution for act to be committed. All this was the prelude to the administration of an oath. The abbot was going to bind them by an oath of obedience and then order them to do something horrible.
The abbot spoke, “You are asked to commit your souls into the service of the rites and the order, whereby you will protect the order to which your clan has given loyalty, whereby you will purify the order and the body of devout men and preserve this body of Shufrantei men from heresy and perfidy and dissolution, whereby you will act upon the sound information and wisdom of the priesthood, all according to the Divine Law of the Holy Couple at the beginning of time. Do you swear to obedience?”
The five swore their allegiance by the ritual words, “Guide my hand and take my soul. I give both to you willingly.”
The abbot smiled and let a long moment pass in cloudy silence. Then he spoke quietly, very softly, like down, requiring the men to draw close to him. “You will arm yourselves and paint your faces like warriors, and you will go into the forest in the northwest, to the Black Cat Mountain. Somewhere, we think on the northern face you will find a Hiestat witch living in a shack with one of our own priests. I want you to kill her and fetch him back to us here. And if he refuses to return you should kill him too. Now I want you to swear to me that you will do this thing to avenge the horrible breach of our order’s integrity.”
The five knelt, but abruptly one of them, a man named Creinan Tabarec, rose back to his feet and raise both hands in a sign of defiance. “No, Honorable Abbot, I won’t kill a woman like this. It is an unholy deed you demand from us.”
The Abbot sputtered, “You do as I command. Your clan is linked to our order, and you must act to help us. I have absolved you and you will not break the divine law and weaken your souls. You must end this weak impudence and steel yourself—“
“And I will not lay a hand, much less a blade, on a woman,” the youth cried back. Icotesi will not forgive me, and you cannot speak for her.”
“This woman is a Hiestat witch, apostate and beyond the pale, and she has subverted one of my priests.”
“That matters not.”
“Then into the black void with your miserable disobedient soul.”
With a final thrust of his fists into the air the youth shouted back, “I’ll meet you there, Lord Abbot. How dare you say to kill a woman?” And he ran from the monastery, shouting indignantly the entire way.
The other four were highly perplexed, and tempted to run away too, but the Abbot upbraided them relentlessly and made repeated appeals until they agreed to take the binding oath. Then they went forth.
Creinan had returned to his home, but thought to himself that no acting to stop a murder is only a little less culpable than the murder itself, and so he went forth as well, seeking the Big Cat Mountain to warn the Hiestat woman and the priest.
It took the Abbot’s four men days to find the north side of Black Cat Mountain, and after several days of searching they came upon the two of them picking berries along a meadow’s edge. They immediately set upon Sesnan and stabbed her. As she fell to the ground bleeding one of them cried out, “Look what evil we have done,” and instead of turning on Krathnami they fled. Sesnan died in Krathnami’s arms. The scarlet color of the berries matched the hue of her blood. He was alone in the forest now.
Then arrived Creinan, attracted by the shouts. When he saw Sesnan’s bloodied body he dropped to his knees and cried to the heavens, “I am too late.”
Creinan helped Krathnami cremate her. The legend grew up that an assembly of the forest animals in the woods came forth and helped them build the pyre for her and shared her grief. The animals became his first disciples and helpmates. This became a recurring motif in Miradi devotional art. This reinforced the commandment of kindness to animals so that it became an absolute value among the mores that his disciples evolved after his passing. Creinan of course was the credible witness to this miracle.
Creinan had a wife and five young children, so he had to return home. But he wanted to do something for the grieving priest, and he offered to take Kathnami home with him. Kathnami pointed out that he might still attract the attention of men with blades. Creinan said that he thought his companions, the murderers, would have no remaining taste for killing. Bu Kathnami sent him on his way back home alone. “I can do well enough on my own.”
“Still, if you ever need a friend or a favor, you will always have me,” Creinan said before departing. Kathnami was now alone. He stayed in Sesnan’s hut, where the two of them had lived together.
Krathnami thereafter did not enjoy a great illumination, as did Buddha, he did not receive an anointment, as did Christ, nor a visitation or direct revelation as did Mohammed or Joseph Smith. But he did achieve a great cognitive breakthrough while alone in the forest grieving.
After a month he left the mountain forest and returned to civilization. He begged for food, as was common at the time with pilgrims and itinerate priests.
One man who passed him said, “Why should I give anything to you? A priest once promised me my mother would survive her fever, but my mother died.”
Kathnami asked if he had loved his mother well enough during the time he had with her, and the man answered yes.
“There’s no honest accounting for death and injustice, and foolishness as well, but they are everywhere and they are inevitable. I hope you are satisfied that you could love her as you did.”
The man dropped a silver coin in Kathnami’s bowl and went on his way.
He arrived at Chambolet. He went to the main plaza. On one end of the plaza was a fine temple to the God Aranet, with gold-gilt Baroque decoration, belonging to the powerful Artirteshri order, one of the orthodox denominations of Shufrantei. There on the steps a member of priests were engaged in debate, an old-fashion debate among (supposedly) wise men. A small crowd of people had gathered to listen. Kathnami listened for a while himself.
A man approached him and said, “You’re that Pashluashri priest everyone is talking about, the one whose woman was murdered. Listen here. The gossip says that your Abbot was furious with his men when they returned and told how they left you alone when they fled. The gossip says that he has hired a gang to kidnap you and bring you in.”
This prompted Kathnami to go straight to the monastery on his own and knock on the door. His astonished brothers greeted him happily, but the Abbot who summoned him for a private audience was less thrilled to see him.
“So you have returned to us of your own accord. I praise the Gods.”
“I don’t think I could search for divine awareness under the roof of a man who murdered my wife.”
“Your wife? Married by what bizarre rite?”
“It matters not. What matters is that you are a murderer.”
“What matters here is that I am your superior and that we have both taken vows of obedience.”
“Vows that bind one to evil no longer have any power to bind.”
“As long as you wear that priestly robe, which I put over your shoulder myself, you shall submit to my authority.”
“Then I’ll no longer wear it,” and Kathnami took off his clothes in front of the astonished Abbot. He stood in front of the Abbot dressed only in his underwear, a mere breach-clout. “This is what I came here today to do. So my business here is done.” He turned and left, and walked out the front door of the monastery almost nude, with only his underwear.
Several of the priests remonstrated directly to the Abbot. “It is dishonorable to the man to let him walk out of here in such a state.”
The Abbot said, “I forbid that any of you help him in any way.”
But a group of them conspired to send one of their number over the monastery wall to go after him with a change of clothes and a bag of provisions, and when they did catch up with him on the road, he was very grateful. They returned to the monastery and endured the Abbot’s tirade and punishment, but it was the beginning of a rebellion by the priests against the Abbot for his continuing cruelty.
Krathnami went back to Chambolet and wanted for another week to pass, for another debate on the temple steps. He spent the time in the local library, for it had been a long time since he had studied any written works, and he reveled in it.
Several members of his monastery came to the temple steps to listen, for word of Krathnami’s intentions had gotten out. At the open-air debate on the temple steps, he got all those assembled to agree with the proposition that the primary worth of religious practice and faith was the benefit it had on the believer—improved spirituality, guaranteed afterlife in the Mansions of Heaven, improved psychic abilities, closeness to the Gods and spirits and harmonies. He got all the followers of al the different denominations, as well as the handful of Hiestat beliers, to all admit this. No matter what the specific way it works, there is a promised payoff to the believer and practitioner. He asked the representative of each denomination to confirm that for them individual they believed adherence to their regimens would deliver a devotee to a superior state on earth and then transmigration across the cosmos to the Mansions of Heavens.
“That tells me that all your ways, by your own admissions, you claim achieves the same thing.” Then he surprised them by insisting. “Each one of you claims a great benefit, and that tells me that you all receive the same benefit. Should I believe all of you, or must I believe that some of you are somehow deluded, or perhaps lying?”
And after further disputation he said, “I am left to conclude that the content of a devotees’ belief matters little. Instead what matters is the effect of belief itself on the believer.” (KW 4:20)
He left many of the participants and observers dangerously close to facing the fact that all their religions and sects were ultimately the same. All this created a sensation. He spent the rest of the week debating religion on the street.
A by-passer spotted Kathnami at a tavern and said to him, “You are a priest, still with a priest’s authority. Please administer the rite of healing for my sick wife.”
He replied, “As far as my priestly robes go, I am a naked man. It’s not appropriate for anyone to call me priest or monk anymore.”
The bypassed cried in replay, “Then you are an oise, one of the forest hermits, and so you have as much authority as anyone else.”
Kathnami saw the wisdom of that, and he went to the man’s home and administered the rites to his wife, and sat with the two of them until she died.
It was soon said that any priest or philosopher who approached him to debate him would go away with a new set of beliefs.
He spent the next six years wandering a great swath of central Bergonia, entering Pusuraino, then Tiericoatli and next to Letlari. He then traveled through desolate Kalicon and also entered densely farmed Rarsecin and finally visiting monstrously urban Ceiolai. He returned to Chambolet briefly and then went off to Amota, saw the ocean, and visited the happy city of Glen.
He finally returned to the Chambolet area with thoughts of settling there for good. He was now 38 years old (960 AD). By this time the religious situation in the state of Varscin was utterly unsettled as every priest and priestess was discussing and debating his challenges. Since he was no longer a priest, he refused every invitation he received from priests and monks to stay with them in their temples and monasteries, although he spent a great deal of time talking and debating with them whenever he encountered them along the city street or the country road. But when he heard of their disputations, and then when a number of them appealed to him for guidance, he agreed to meet with them for a debate on the steps of the Temple of Aranet in Varsca.
He converted through debating. He could wear down and break his foes by asking, “How do you know that?” a hundred different ways.
In Krathnami's time, hermits in pursuit of perfect vision could live in huts near a peasant village and claim an entitlement to the village’s produce. Krathnami built a hut on the bank of a stream just upstream from a little peasant village called Zamiramei, a Rattlesnake Clan village, about twelve miles southwest of the city of Chambolet. The stream flowed into the Zein River only a kilometer downstream from the village, and his hut was a kilometer or so up stream from the village. Just upstream was a splendid waterfall, where he and hiss friends and visitors went to pray and meditate. The waterfall, called Ishloron, is still there, now under protection, and draws pilgrims.
Krathnami started a garden in a clearing, and grew vegetables and flowers. The peasants of Zamiramei gave him bread and watched out after him, for they immediately liked him. He built a grape arbor. The animals favored him; deer and bear came up to him, and birds flew around his head and landed on his outstretched fingers.
His disciples wrote that he never ate mat, slept only four hours a night, prayed six times a day to Arcan and Icotesi, and gave everyone who visited him some time. Above all they say he was the personification of kindness. He performed ritual purification, but lit candles in the Hiestat manner when he did so. The candlelight showed the nature of life, including our own lives—delicate, contingent, limited, beautiful, and illuminating, until the candle, like our bodies, burn out. At the end of the ritual the candles were all extinguished.
When troubled people approached him, he pulled them close and whispered private things to them that caused them to gasp in wonder and then smile in relief and gladness.
Disciples, mainly converted priests and priestesses, but some laypeople too, came to him and sought to learn his wisdom. He had five close friends and disciples.
(a) One was Secmone Tremaila, a scribe-trained priest from his own Pashluashri order (but a different temple), who turned out to be a splendid logician. After Krathnami’s death, Secmone published the famous collection of Krathanmi’s words, and co-authored the famous of biography of Kathnami.
(b) One was a priestess named Colvren Tamafer, who excelled in mystical practices, and who was said to have disappeared into the forests of Kaflein in pursuit of her mystical union with the divine. She exemplified the strength of the Forest Tradition in Krathnami’s new formulation. Distracters suggested that Colvren was Krathanmi’s consort or lover, and indeed in moral pronouncements Krathnami conspicuously said almost nothing about sexual mores, so while his biographers and followers maintained that he became celibate in later years, the distracters still continued. Miradi believers have always maintained that speculation about the relationship is, at the very least, rude and irrelevant.
(c) One was Nshere Partenla who, twenty-two years younger than Krathnami, became the man who began the organization of Miradi as a new faith. Nshere spoke convincingly at the great Debate Under the Elms in 1014 AD. And he founded the center at Chambolet.
(d) Cuseia Ketimer was a Shufrantei priestess who rose to be powerful in the post-Krathnami organization of the new church. She didn’t so much as challenge Nshere, as to keep him honest and humble, and although at least some of her criticisms of him are recorded for us in surviving chronicles, Nshere apparently appreciated and loved her and apparently accepted her as his conscience as he became a powerful figure.
(e) The fifth was Cadolin Canol, Sesnan’s nephew (her brother’s son), who had become a Hiestat witch as well.
He lived for decades, dieing at the age of 77 absolutely alone in his hut. Because he had no visitors at the time, no one knew of his death until the next visitors came. These were two peasant women and their young daughters from the nearby village, who knew him well, and who had come to bring him some fresh apple cider the villagers had just uncorked. Then came three Hiestat priests who had come to see him, followed by three Shufrantei priests who had refused to walk with them. The six priests paused in wonder as they approached Krathnami’s hut, because the air was thick with little yellow and orange butterflies (Anthrocarus Varscane, as in Varsca) so thick that one had trouble seeing to walk, and in the midst of the butterfly swarm were the two women and three small girls kneeling around his peaceful body.
All his thought commenced with the inquiry, “how do we know?” The first step of his thought was the epistemology of religious (or philosophical) truth. Epistemology is of course the study or theory of the origin, nature, method and limits of human knowledge. In classical Bergonian philosophy this area of philosophical inquiry was called beni-kalatrea, which meant roughly “study of the means of discovering truth.” Whenever Bergonian philosophers in previous ages had addressed beni-kalatrea they confidently accentuated the breadth and reach of human knowledge, but Krathnami was, as a reflection of his own times, more skeptical, and he accentuated the limits to human knowledge. He often expressed this as human blindness.
His delineation of these limits formed the basis of his attack on all organized religions of his time.
He first considered the various means by which people acquire knowledge. Knowledge achieved directly through the senses was of course the most basic form, although Kathnami considered here the possibility of hallucinations. The second form was the knowledge born of memory, which allowed people to consolidate their sense experiences into additional knowledge. Memory forms the basis of skill, and in this respect works almost automatically with little conscious volition. However, Kathnami stressed time and time again, that in the realm of recollecting past experiences memory is a weak and undependable tool. We consciously remember very little of what we do in our lives, and the memories we do have are often distorted, selective and vague.
Speech was the third form of knowledge. In the most basic sense this is what we understand as “hearsay” knowledge. But it is more than one person telling another person that he saw a bear down the path. Memory, coupled with speech, became shared memory among many people, and formed a social or historical memory. Krathnami told the story of a man living in the north who traveled to the forests of the south, saw monkeys in the cloud forests, and then returned north and tried to describe them to his family and friends. It was impossible for the man to convey the sight of the monkeys to them.
He ended by pointing out how the weakness of memory and the inadequacies of language combine to produce a world of falsehood. He discussed ideas of “referred” or “external” knowledge, which included the knowledge stored and accessible in books and pictures, and the knowledge circulating by words among one’s fellows, and all this in a body he reasoned was “social” knowledge, which consisted of all the things that an infant, a child, a young adult and a receptive, obedient man acquires from parents, family, elders, teachers and cohorts. All these are forms of speech knowledge, each with its own sort of tendency toward distortion, and among them are the more pernicious forms of distortion such as gossip, rumor, folk tales, and superstitions.
The fourth form was reason, the process inherent to the mind, necessary for the correct interpretation of sense and memory. In an almost off-hand way, he once observed that language and formal logic in essence came out of the same mental capacity, and that both were dependant on what later Berg philosophers called “process logic.” Here Kathnami did not see language or reason as something possible to segregate from empirical knowledge, because to Bergonian philosophers both were processes that by themselves were empty, requiring content and purpose, in the sense that a tool in incomplete without the worker and the material to which the tool is applied.
Fifth came intuition or visionary experience, which was called irlei. This irlei Kathnami argued could be the most reliable of knowledge, and was the level of knowledge desired by religious adepts, but it often came in mere glimpses and flashes. Kathnami said, “Irlei is the vision of the gods and the edelei [spirits], but we have as much of it as a dog has of reason or a squirrel has of language.” (KW 6:40) Worse, he observed, much self-delusion passes for irlei. In our time, the propensity of American-style Evangelical Christians to brag about the messages they get from God is a blatant form of pseudo-irlei.
Looking at these “five avenues of knowledge” comprehensively, Kathnami considered how the quality of knowledge degrades whenever it is translated from one form to another. Immediate sense knowledge is sharp and accurate, but immediately begins to degrade when the present becomes past and the sense knowledge is reduced to a memory that is recalled to consciousness broken and blurry sometime in the future. This holds true as well for a moment’s immediate intuition or vision, which can never be recalled by memory with the same vividness. Many things perceived by the physical senses, and most intuitions and visionary experiences can never be adequately translated into words, and thus can never be adequately or accurately shared with other people. These are all forms of degradation of knowledge.
With all this, he carefully assessed the likelihood of error in what we take for knowledge, and discussed gradated categories of in the quality of knowledge, which included “conscious” and “unconscious” knowledge, and several categories of distorted knowledge, which included social knowledge, “misunderstood knowledge,” “false knowledge,” and “invented knowledge.”
With all this he concluded that human capacity for knowledge was severely limited, and thus any religious or philosophical inquiry had to admit the inability of men and women to know certain things. Men and women could not possibly know what lies beyond death, or whether God existed in this form or that, or how the universe began, or why there was a universe, or why everything must die. Men and women couldn’t even explain sexual reproduction, the sun and other astronomical bodies, or what caused lightening. There is a tremendous gap between the “desire for knowledge” and the “capacity for knowledge,” and the desire for knowledge beyond the pale is so great that imagination, i.e. “invented knowledge,” fills the gap. This is the mythology that constitutes all religion, Krathnami concluded, all equally false. The massive mythological undertaking, and the utmost seriousness by which it is always undertaken (purges, inquisitions, prisons), informs a very large part of every culture, i.e. the body of “social knowledge” that become inbred. All this “imaginary invention” is motivated by a denial of the fundamental human blindness and a desperate attempt to leap the gap and satisfy the desire for knowledge. This altogether worsens the effect of humanity’s original blindness. The refusal to acknowledge the limits to human understanding just compound the effects of the original condition— the one thing certainly worse than suffering from “blindness” (Krathnami’s own recurring term), mental impairment or any other form of disability is not understanding it.
He gave detailed consideration of reason, the fourth type of knowledge, and enlisted it in the service of religion. He considered that logic, both conscious and unconscious, was necessary to guard against the degradation of real knowledge and the inaccuracies of what passes for knowledge among people. Logical critique was crucial to his method, for he and Sesnan had used logical criticism to pick apart each other’s religions.
Krathnami said, “When the police hunt a fugitive who has disappeared into the warrens of the city, they assemble clues, use their wits, and take nothing at face value. We should do the same as we hunt for the truth of the divine. Both the fugitive and the divine are hidden from the hunters, and they wear disguises, hide their tracks and leave false clues. Care is required by the hunter, the type of care entirely unknown to the priests of our time, the type of care unknown to anyone who depends on dogma. Let it be agreed to by everyone that dogma is no substitute for every-active reason.” KW 6:6
Here Kathnami did something unique for a religious prophet: he explicitly embraced reason as a primary means of delineating religious truth, even though he made it clear enough in his many discussions with people that he had direct visionary experiences of the divine. Even though he allowed that men and women could—and should—seek mystical exchanges with the divine, he cautioned against any presumptions arising from such experiences, and used logic to keep everything in modest perspective.
Reason is also necessary to critique all reliance on the third form of knowledge, language and hearsay. Medieval philosophers had previous made inquiry into the fundamental relationship between language and reason, suspecting that our use of logic is often stifled by the terms and categories of language (as well as culture), and that all ue of language is subject to logical deconstruction. Krathnami emphasized their teaching that if words cannot describe or name it, it is beyond the realm of reason, and in this way he was careful to delineate the limits to reason. So there is a very intimate relationship between logic and language, where all sorts of knowledge error occurs.
For Krathanmi, every conceivable claim is subject to logical inquiry. Here we discover the true value of reason to Krathnami—he used it as a deconstructive device to pick apart the intellectual arrogance behind invented and false knowledge. The intellectual arrogance of religious dogmatists in the priesthood is as bad a variety of ego as any other sort of ego-driven tyranny. For him, reason was a tool of humility, as much a tool of truth-seeking.
Reason is a hammer, and we should use it knock down doors and walls. Reason is a scythe, and we should swing it to knock down the weeds. Reason is the rude hand that rips the mask (acuatle) aside. Reason is the fire that burns up the temple. In its rubble and ashes we shall start to find the first blooms of truth. KW 6:10
In the religion that we see today in Bergonia, reason enjoys the exalted central position that revelation has in Christianity (including Mormanism and other neo-Christian variants) and Islam, and that sudden enlightenment (e.g. satori) has in the East Asian religions. He applied reason in all his discourse, and made no claims to knowledge not already available to his listeners. He appealed to the hope of logical enlightenment. Of course some of his logical conclusions defy western materialist logic, since he operated in a world of religious assumptions, so modern readers should not be surprised to see Kathnami making a logical argument for why people should pray to God and meditate upon the ineffable, nor should anyone every forget that his careful applications of logic always served the central cause of alerting people to the reality of the hidden divine. Yet the prime value he placed on logic married religion with philosophy, and the prime value he placed both on epistemology and on religious practice married religion with psychology, which in modern times has made Miradi the most materialistic of religions, and the religion most ready to embrace modern science, more so than even Buddhism.
Kathnami’s use of reason was not what we can call “scientific” because modern science is more limited in its epistemological method than his. Modern science is limited to the application of reason to empirically received and quantified knowledge, while Kathnami allowed that all five methods of knowledge—which included religious experience—should be employed in exploring the divine. This included the fifth type of knowledge, irlei, the intuitive and visionary capacity that many if not most people had. Modern materialists of course refuse to credit this path with any validity, but of course no armchair philosopher in Germany or England ever pursued visionary experience.
Krathnami credited this type of knowledge because he partook of it. Although he spoke as analytically about questions of philosophy as any modern materialist, he was in this respect a thoroughly pre-modern man. During his life he experienced different specific forms of visionary experience (visions in meditation, vivid dreams), enjoyed enhancement of his intuitive capacities (e.g. mind-reading and wisdom, future-awareness, a healing touch), and had the great and ineffable direct experience of the divine. Of course here we find the basis for his ultimate bedrock imperative—in contrast to his prevailing agnosticism on most metaphysical questions, he was, based on his irlei perceptions, absolutely sure as an a priori imperative that vai, the divine, existed and prevailed.
The one life-force, the one God, has come flowering forth as the universe, in billions of manifestations, in all substances and forms, and everything is of God and animated by his force. This is vai (the divine). KW 1:14
He was trained in standard Shufrantei disciplines of meditative prayer (usually involving chanting), mindfulness meditation, and thought-disciplining meditation. Sesnan as well was an adept in ways of Hiestat meditative prayer (employing chanting too, but also image meditation), and also knew the witch’s way of trance. Together, during their summer together, they developed a proto-type for a simplified synthetic practice, and during the rest of his life Kr continued this work, apparently making it a collaborative process involving his closest “disciples” and students, so that by the time he died he had prescribed a menu of spiritual practice that he recommended as a good balanced method of devotion for the life-sacrificing devotee, involving (a) spoken, intentional prayer, optionally in a rite such as the ancient Shufrantei purification rite (with Hiestat candles), or alone, (b) chanted mantra worship meditation, either in group or individual and (c) silent individual mindfulness meditation, including breath meditation, all of which could be augmented by other practice.
All this practice method was intended to cultivate the capacity for irlei, which was a way of expanding the human capacity for knowledge. Of course he cautioned about the abuse or misunderstanding of mystical experiences, and guarded against any sense of pride.
If men and women cultivated their powers of reason and applied their critical facilities, and if they also cultivated their capacity for irlei, they would achieve increased “vision.” From our perspective, this appears to have been an attempt to marry philosophical and scientific logic with Buddhist-style metaphysics, but in fact it is only an attempt to involve Buddhist-style religious practice in the service of far more modest claims about metaphysical reality.
Here Krathnami expresses his ultimate solution to beni-kalatrea. His ultimate solution became known later as avoshe-canu (Min), translating evenly as “epistemological eclecticism." As he explained:
“Whether one takes the wide avenue of reason, or the meandering forest path of visions and dreams, one can still reach the doorstep to heaven. But risk of error abounds every way as well, and it is easy to stray. The surest road to heaven is the way that combines all ways. Reject no road. Take them all.” KW 8:19
“Do not think of moving along the ground, as a creature on legs, confined to taking one road or another. It is best to take all roads. You have heard me say that before. By that I mean that you must rise above all the roads, and look down upon them all, as a bird does. This is the eagle’s way.” KW 8:38
(The eagle was a reference to Ierecina that no Bergonian of the time would have missed.)
“One cannot know of the world by sitting in a chair in a room, or looking out windows. One must walk outside.” KW 4:48
Kathnami undeviatingly viewed religion as a process for gaining knowledge and discovering the divine, not as an embodiment of truth or cosmic reality. Again and again he repeated his agnostic assertion, that humankind could not possibly know the truth of any theology, and cited the limitations of human knowledge and the unknowability of the cosmos.
In one essential discourse (KW 7:19) Kathnami admired the grandeur of the Shufrantei cosmological concept of the Hundred-Thousand Mansions of Heavens. Originally these were the various places to where men’s souls transmigrated after death, assuming they could survive the trip over the Abyss. But revisionist Shufrantei theologians came up with the idea that our world is one of the Mansions, and that the other Mansions are worlds like our own, each “an island world floating on a sea of absorbing silence.” Although he admired this concept, he said that no priest could serious accept it if priests and priestesses could only tentatively explain disease or how plants grow or what the moon really is.
Kathnami observed that every religion identifies an ideal realm or order which it then contrasts with this world of ours, the imperfect world. Shufrantei had contrives an elaborate cosmos that included Star City and the Mansions of Heavens, all other godly worlds of perfect harmony that floated upon the “sea of light” of holy law. The Hiestat contrasted the corporal world contrasted with the better realm of dream and light where dwelt the phantom form of God. Kathnami also studies the ancient Nine-God worship which perceived a holy world in the sky where the gods lived and the devout went after they died. He had some knowledge of the beliefs of peripheral tribal peoples, such as the Faroi in the south, who resisted Shufrantei encroachment so they could ply their fascination with the other-world of ghosts.
This dichotomy arises from humankind’s imperfect perfection and epistemological error. People can see this world of sky, sunlight, love affair, books, tyrants, sweat, and illness, which they manipulate the best they can between the time of birth and the moment of death. But human sensitivities compel most people to recognize the existence of forces and entities beyond what they can actually perceive, and they are also compelled to imagine what makes the sun rise and set and rise again, and to question the rotation of the stars, and to question death. Because this world is a world of pain and fear, it is easy for humankind to imagine an imaginary reprieve. These sensitivities, when coupled with the facility of imagination, propel the human mind beyond the range of human perceptions, projecting its content into that gap between the desire for knowledge and the capacity for knowledge.
In many people, these sensitivities also include an active sensitivity to the divine that compels them toward the truth and ultimately toward God, but imagination is a power dangerous as well as wondrous, and when speculation turns into myth then imagination produces blinding error.
In all cases the religions identify “this” world and the “other” world as a necessary consequence of knowing that things exist outside the fixed human field of vision. Instead, he preferred to think that as a consequence there was no separate world, but rather a continuation of this world, that part of the world that lay in shadow.
Kathnami’s conclusions gave some analytical justification for agnosticism or even atheism. In fact, as his preaching spread, many Shufrantei believers complained that Kathnami had done little more than destroy the foundations of all faith. The cynics among the population embraced Kathnami’s analysis, saying, “he had exposed all these priests as lairs and fools. He confirms that we should all just live in this life.”
But he turned on such agnostics with a bitter attack. He said they were guilty of “closing one eye,” and denying that portion of the universe He reminded them that they all possessed a natural sensitivity to the world beyond their immediate senses, the natural capacity for irlei, and that knowledge in general often came from indirect sources. People lacking sensitivities for the “other,” that is the atheists who believe only in the immediately material, were the people whom Kathnami named gavlonre, “dead souls,” recycling an ancient term.
If a man claimed to have had a vision, the gavlonre would dismiss it as false, not even presumptively false, but absolutely false, limiting all knowledge to a question of the five senses. There had been an ancient school of empiricists was prominent in the time of the First Ceiolaian Empire, and empiricism was again current in Kathnami’s time among skeptics. While no ancient Bergonian ever conceived of anything as rigorous as the scientific method of experimentation, the empiricists would have demanded an analysis defined by broad notions of “show me.” They would ask if others were present at the time of the vision and why they did not see the vision also. But Kathnami pointed out that no matter what answer the person who experienced the vision may give, they would close their mind to any possibility that the vision might signify what it seemed to the subject to be. He condemned them for denying altogether the fifth means to knowledge. Kathnami would credit the man’s vision as having some validity and substance, although he would exert great caution in interpreting it.
Kathnami insisted that people should employ all the means at their disposal to gain knowledge of the singular universe. He found no virtue in ignorance, and he saw no reason why, having recognized the degree of human ignorance, humans should not push gently against the range of perception. He thus established as a goal of religion the expansion of human knowledge as part of the quest for the divine.
Kathnami’s stress on epistemology began with his reckless dabbling in Hiestat practices with Sesnan. However that dabbling alone would not have sparked the bold originality in his thought. When he saw how both his and Sesnan’s religious colleagues treated them, he made a moral judgment that opened up an important truth to him—which to him was a matter of basic logic—that neither Shufrantei nor Hiestat could claim superiority. His moral judgment was crucial: “know a tree by its fruit,” which meant that perhaps it doesn’t matter much what you believe if you are going to refrain from doing any good in the world. If either Shufrantei or Hiestat were capable of such evil, then perhaps he could reject them altogether, including their epistemological claims.
This required him to admit, and he did so explicitly to his followers who took down his words, that he at first did not understand by what right he had to criticize the religions on this basis. He admitted that he offered his initial criticisms solely on the basis of simple rational reductionism, but that to base the validity of a religion on the actions of its adherents required something much more. He observed that his initial criticisms sprang forth from his instinctive or intuitive response and commented that instinct and intuition could often be valid verifiers of things, so long as reason is also applied. And with this test he offered a set of imperative principles.
“By any measure and by all means, sound minds agree upon certain propositions, such as these: Life bears enough suffering. The divine rejects any increase that one does to another’s suffering. Cruelty offends the divine. Compassion for others is the gateway to the divine.” KW 20:8
In an appeal to common sense Kathnami said,
"Whether we consider it from the viewpoint of human brotherhood, mutual respect, gentlemanly consideration, personal honor, a tradesman’s desire to avoid waste, or a common sense desire to avoid repercussions, any form of cruelty against a fellow is indefensible.” KW 21:6
He repeated it time and time again as his primary imperative,
“You should respect the life of the universe, refrain from causing any suffering, and show compassion to all people.” KW 30:4
His rejection of the religions could not be complete, because he knew that they could be in their purer forms they could be entirely at ease with these imperatives. He and Sesnan had cultivated the sublimity of each religion, the good in both, and their common potential for opening up humanity to the divine. It was not Kathnami’s goal to destroy the existing religions and sects. Instead he found it necessary to reject the redundant and unsupportable elements of each religion and every sect, and distill religious thought down to verifiable fundamentals. This emerged as his great goal.
The most controversial part of his project came when he questioned the literal existence of the Shufrantei gods and the gods of Hiestat. In debates, when he asked how did people know that any particular god existed, he got no convincing answer. For two centuries before his birth, Shufrantei revisionists had begun to question the discrete identity of the many grandchildren gods, and contrived a variety of theories that regarded them as manifestations of a unitary god-head. Before that Shufrantei theologians from the prophet’s own time espoused the idea that Arcan and Ictesi were dual aspects of the one overarching God. Just as Christians conceive of the Trinity, the Shfrantei theologians conceived of a “Duinity,” with the generations of children and grandchildren gods emerging therefrom as the central act of creation. These revisionists relegated the stories of the gods, so important to Ierecina himself, to the status of myths. It appeared that Shufrantei was evolving toward monotheism of a sort, but Kathnami took this debate to an altogether level when he disputed the existence of all gods, and concluded that the individual gods and goddesses, and the various symbols and rites, were products of the human mind and culture, which is to say in the realm of “invented knowledge” and “false knowledge.” These cultural products sprang up as a result of the limited and hence incorrect perceptions if the true universe by the different religions. He railed against them, dismissing them as acuatle, which translates as masks or affectations.
“[The Gods and Goddesses] are but empty vessels set up by truth-seekers against other truth-seekers. They have no worth unless they are filled with the wine of faith. But in this age the vessels all leak and hold nothing but dregs.” KW 13:2
But after distilling the gods and goddesses down to nothing, Kathnami worked himself around a full logical circle to accepting worship of them. His final argument worked like this: Men and women cannot possibly comprehend the universal truths, although his nature allows him the means to taste it. We do not know why we suffer such limitations, but we should stand content with our lot and not struggle against them with falsehoods and pretensions. Our insecurities put our imaginations to work, which contrives acuatle, faces, for the mysterious and divine “other.” Our imaginations have collectively contrived the acuatle, the faces, of Arcan, Icotesi and the other gods and goddesses. If we assume that the divine is within us, and if we assume that we should worship with the means that we have, then it is inevitable, necessary and even good that men and women use their vivid imaginations as a way of focusing religious intention.
Kathnami had already discussed the good in using all the available “means of knowledge,” and he discussed the broad-minded use of all religious facilities available to men and women, so he was consistent in adding imagination to the list of proper facilities to use in seeking the divine.
However, whenever he discussed the abuse of human facilities, he ranked the abuse of imagination at the top of the list. Our imaginations, after all, give us the power to lie, to bear false witness, to deceive, to covet, and to lust. Thus, while our imaginations give us the ability to put faces on the ineffable, we should still use all our other facilities, and we should not take our faces too seriously. The goal is the thing—which is pursuit of the ineffable divine—and one must not allow any distractions. Arcan, and any other identity-bearing god, is merely a gate that leads to the divine. And since any gate is good, it is good to focus worship on an identity-bearing god.
In one famous incident Shufrantei theologians pressed Kathnami to confirm that Arcan and Icotesi incorporated the divine, but he refused to concede the point, which endeared him to his Hiestat converts:
…Priest: “Do you mean to suggest that Arcan and Icotesi do not exist?”
Kathnami: “I cannot say that they do not, and you cannot say that they do.”
Priest: “When I pray to Arcan and Icotesi, they answer my prayers. That is my substantial proof.”
Kathnami: “Then through Arcan and Icotesi you have found a door to God. Keep praying.”
Priest: “I have found a door to Arcan and Icotesi.”
Kathnami: “See here, I can introduce you to a man over yonder who prays to the Hiestat god of Shenan, and who will say that Shenan answers his prayers. Do you suggest that Shenan is as real as Arcan?”
Priest: “I know my god is real, and if my god is real then his cannot be.”
Kathnami: “Which of you two should I believe? I do not know either of you.” When the priest could not answer, Kathnami said, “I believe both of you. I believe you both pray to the divine, and the divine finds pleasure in both your devotions.” KW 13:30
Kathnami spent much of his time defending his utter disregard of Shufrantei conventions. He answered and won over his critics by concentrating on the question of religious practice, and analyzing all existing norms and rites by a uniform, logical standard. This was a liberal, comparative standard, which complimented the broad-mindedness of eclectic epistemology. If a rite or practice sharpened an individual’s devotion and personal awareness, then it was useful and good. So, just as there were many roads to the divine, there were many useful religious practices. He ended up stressing religious practice, consistent with what he said here:
“We should speak little about religious truth, and do much practice to achieve it. We will not find God through theology or any other wordy disputation. We will find the thing that matters better by cultivating our own minds (often translated as soul), through prayer, meditation, right thought, right action and other useful practice.” KW 29:12
So he spoke a great deal about forms of and uses of prayer. He likewise discussed proper daily devotions, efficacious methods of meditation, and the duty of charity. He discussed how self-realization, confession, penitence and expiation were necessary steps along the road toward the divinity. But rather than prescribing a strict rule, he discussed gradations, or levels, of religious practice, ranging from people who lived everyday lives to the pure devotees who withdrew from the world, and endorsed anything that anyone could do to improve themselves along the sliding scale.
“We should use a slide-rule (“uisic”) to accurately measure a person, rather than a rule of thumb, and we should use the uisic generously to measure not the deficits in a person’s heart, but rather the degree of his fullness.” KW 30:39
Medieval Bergonians used a form of slide rule to make, record and calculate linear measurements, called an uisic in Min. This was his way of accepting any degree of spiritual practice from individuals, each according to his circumstances. The divine accepts anyone who moved toward it. The divine forgives to the degree that one admits his wrongs.
The religion Kathnami engendered deserves the modern appellation as “the agnostic religion.”
“Can you tell us whether many Gods dance over us, or whether a singular deity presides?
Kathnami: “No, and neither can anyone else.”
“What can you tell us about the nature of god?”
Kathnami: “I can tell you that with your own eyes the divine surrounds us and fills the world, but nothing more.”
“What can you tell us about the afterlife?”
Kathnami: “Since I have not been there, nothing.”
“What can you tell us about our rewards in heaven?”
“What can you tell us about heaven?”
“What can you tell us about the moral judgment of holy law?”
“What then can you tell us, if anything?”
“I cannot deny the divine, because I know of it by all the ways of knowing, and I seek it the best I can, without obstruction by self-delusion or ego, and I know that one finds the divine only through compassion, simplicity, humility and devotion. That is all.” KW 13:18
It should be noted that these four words, “compassion, simplicity, humility and devotion” are especially loaded terms. “Compassion” entails universal consistency—it is inconceivable that compassion might be reserved for only some, and denied to others, and so compassion should define one’s attitude toward enemies and those who think, worship and live differently. “Simplicity” refers to simplicity of thought, analysis and dogma in addition to simplicity in lifestyle. “Humility” refers to intellectual humility, and also to a lack of authoritarianism. “Devotion” refers to a person’s actions, not just his intentions or other kind of thought, and the time that a person spends in actual practice.
Krathnami, because he kept saying “I don’t know,” because he constantly resisted being cast as a leader, and because of the generosity and broadness of his way, he declined to prescribe any rules of doctrine or practice. Shufantei proliferated with codes of conduct, precise ways of practice, and volumes of dogma. Hiestat had longish incantations and secret spells and rituals, as well as a system of taboos and behavior.
But again and again he was urged to lay down a set of principles and a rule, and he finally relented. He said,
Humankind cannot know the nature of God or the nature of the cosmos or of death, because mankind has limited tools for knowledge, and can see and understand only so much. Thus we are surrounded by beautiful and terrifying mystery. We are flawed creatures who imagine more and desire more than we should, and thus we become unhappy. In the face of death, and with our awareness of it, we react with ego and myth, and unreasonable desire, and increase our suffering a hundred-fold. But we may abnegate ego, myth and desire through disciplined devotion, and we may redeem our offenses against our brothers and the universal law through honest contrition, and by these things we may attain the divine, and find it in our own hearts, and in everything else as well. KW 1:8
On another occasion he said:
The one life-force, the one Godly power, has come flowering forth as the universe, in billions of manifestations, and everything is of the divine and animated by it.
Humankind, being flawed and blind, lacks the capacity to know very much about God or about the universe. Because of our blindness, we are separated from the divine and do not feel the divine as she touches us, so we feel alone and alienated, and we drift, slaves of our desire, pretending we know more than what we do, and do great mischief.
If we cultivate and cleanse ourselves and go to God with devotion, he will transform us with new vision. so that we can see the light of the divine. We gain focus, and behold the world's true beauty that before was concealed from us. Once we apperceive the true harmonic, we join it and come to recognize the presence of God in all things.
Any man or woman who opens his eyes becomes a prophet, and that no words exist for what of God a person can see. KW 32:10
For a rule he offered this:
Since you have asked me, let me give you this advice on how to live. Cultivate love for the divine in your heart with prayer and meditation and ritual purification. Do not harm anyone, instead have compassion for all others. Be mindful of everything you do, and act and speak inoffensively. Help the less fortunate. Live modestly and cleanly. Avoid meat, but if you do kill animals or eat meat, do so with respect and prayer to the animal. And lastly, value beauty. KW 32:8
After his death in 999 AD, his followers and disciples persisted in advancing his philosophy. One can wonder whether Krathnami would have been more than an insightful, relatively unknown philosopher if he had not had such aggressive followers. For the next fifteen years the five disciples went hither and yon to argue Krathnami’s unique perspective. Nshere Partenla, short, wiry, animated, relentless, in particular was an organizer, and he started a school in Chambolet to spread the new ideas, and then begin training skilled debaters.
In 1014 AD the Shufrantei elite had became quite alarmed about how far and how deeply Krathnami’s ideas had spread. Several of them decided that they had to embarrass Nshere and challenged him to a debate. He readily agreed and met five senior Shufrantei abbots in a shady park outside the big city of Varsca. Over two thousand people came to watch. Debunking the importance of ritual and the reality of polytheism, Nshere won most of them as converts, and he won for himself an impressive reputation.
The next year Nchere organized a new priestly order and used the word "Miradi" to describe it. He ordained 32 abbots and over 1500 priests & priestesses that year into the new order. Eight of the 32 abbots were women.
All this sparked a great wave of conversions among the faithful of all religions to Miradi's new way. Priests and priestesses, in couples, often husband and wife, went all across Bergonia visiting monasteries and temples to spread the new ideas. This religion spread first among the priests of the various denominations and sects. Laity everywhere witnessed their priests converting to a new religion. This made the new religion compelling to them.
In 1024 Nchere summoned all Miradi priests and priestesses to a convention in Chambolet. The convention was a great success, and the participants agreed to convene again every four years thereafter. This became the Iritlema festival, held in a huge field on one side of Ser-Alei, the new Miradi temple complex in Chambolet. The visiting priests, priestesses and devotees pitched tents. In order to give some cohesion to the mass and the space, the hosts set out eight huge flagpoles around the field, arranged in a circle around a central obelisk. A different flag flew from each pole, identifying the different directions, making it possible for the thousands of priests and priestesses to find their way around the sea of tents. In time, as differences slowly emerged among the priesthood, like-minded priests & priestesses gathered around one particular flag, and the flags became emblematic of the evolving Miradi sects.
In 1030 AD Nchere became ill. His people gathered around him and asked about the future of the leadership of the Miradi. He said, "Only the faith can lead the faithful, only the sought can lead the seekers," and he refused any suggestion that a single prelate should lead the movement. When he died a few weeks later the leadership devolved to the 32 abbots, most of who had gone forth from Chambolet to spread Miradi across the land.
Kurt Vonnuget in one of his novels wrote that every successful religion involves blood sacrifice and martyrdom. Alexandre Monnier and other Bergonian neo-Freudians in the mid 1900s believed that most religions manifest the sado-masochism innate to humans, as do many authority relationships, and that religious sado-masochism will sooner or later involves blood. If any of this is true, then here is the pivotal instance of Miradi blood.
The city of Chambolet was inside the borders of the state of Varsca. In 1035 AD the tieri of Varsca had a dispute with the Miradi priesthood in Chambolet about taxing the pilgrims who were coming there in growing numbers. By now the believers had held three Iritlema festivals, and the fourth was scheduled for the next year. Cichon Tlaron, the tieri of neighboring Ceiolai, sent a letter urging him not to tax the pilgrims excessively.
When Ceiolai's interest in protecting the growing Miradi community became apparent, the tieri of Varsca chose to defy him. He did so entirely out of pride. He personally led an army to Chambolet. They drove the Miradi priests and priestesses from their temple complex and wrecked the place. The tieri's men torched the Miradi library. They smashed the urn containing Krathnami's ashes. They killed, according to Miradi documentation, 458 people. Secmone was among the casualties. The tieri’s men drove the pilgrims away. The priests & priestesses who survived fled across the border into Ceiolai's territory.
Cichon, Ceiolai's tieri, immediately mobilized his army and marched on the city of Varsca itself. After his victory Cichon occupied Chambolet and gave the place back to the Miradi. A man produced a shard of a clay urn. The priests passed it around and reached the consensus that it came from the urn that had held Krathnami's ashes. They placed it on a pillar and venerated it. The ashes and bones of the 458 priests, priestesses and others killed were placed in a tomb.
With a friendly government, the Miradi commenced work on a great new complex at Ser-Alei, with temples, a new library, dormitories for pilgrims and the priesthood, and school buildings, all grouped around a central forum. To the south was an expanded field for Iritlema. All the buildings were of a red brick and had slate roofs. It was all designed to accommodate the increasing numbers of pilgrims, as the Miradi faith continued to spread. The numbers created a demand for artisan shops, markets, inns and restaurants. Chambolet grew into a holy city, with a government that enjoyed a guarantee of autonomy from the rulers in Varsca.
By 1100 the big majority of Shufrantei and Hiestat priests & priestesses had voluntarily converted to the simpler, more psychological and less theological faith. The old orders, including the Mrilitasrhi and the Pashluashri, all melted away as the priests in the temples and monasteries one by one and in groups simply abandoned the old ways and professed Krathnami’s new way. In this process the people easily adopted the new faith. It was a process utterly breath-taking in its near unanimity. The ease of this mass conversion had as much to do with the Shufranteization of Miradi as it did with the Miradization of Shufrantei. The big majority was quite willing to finally jettison all of Shufrantei's arcane theology about ritual purification and the complex polytheistic metaphysics. In other words, like Enlightenment secularists jettisoning Christian orthodoxy. But nearly all the converted priests & priestesses continued performing rites of purification every six days, the annual feasts and at least some of the mythological dramas. They continued doing the superficial stuff because the people expected them to do so, and because as empty as the theology had become everyone still loved the mythological characters. This meant that Miradi accepted by default the Shufrantei calendar, the major Shufrantei feasts-- especially the Festival of Light, and Shufrantei expressions of piety and other metaphors.
So Miradi subsumed and replaced Shufrantei, but at the cost of adopting for its own many of the Shufrantei masks.
Early on, soon after the Prophet's death, his disciples started a practice of holding huge conventions in the city of Chambolet every four years. Doctrinal disputes were taken up then, and everyone assembled offered up intercessory prayers to the Divine.
The five square mile complex of Ser-Alei, "Place of the willows, in Chambolet became the center of the new faith, and there at the center the priests and priestesses laid out a festival ground for the conventions. Thousands of priests, priestesses and believers every four years attend the Festival of Iritlema-- it was always understood that this convocation was for the clergy and not for the laity, though the laity has never been turned away, and as many as a hundred-thousand lay people do attend each time.
The convention grounds within Ser-Alei were laid out around eight big flagpoles, themselves arranged in a circle. Around each of the flagpoles was a mess tent, lecterns for preaching and speeches, for the priests & priestesses came to hear each other, and a prayer chapel. Every priest & priestess upon arrival went to one of the eight flags and settled in there. It was a system of free association, producing eight caucuses or communities at the convention.
In time these evolved into eight permanent factions or denominations-- still called eshiva (Min.), meaning “Flags.” Every temples and every other Miradi institution is connected with one-- and in some cases two or three-- of the Flags.
Each of the Eight Flags has its own emphasis and slant, but it is important to understand that the similarities far outweigh the distinctions. In a religion where doctrine is frowned upon, there should be few doctrinal differences, and the differences are in fact related almost entirely to practice and works. None of these sects profess to follow the best way, but each has its own preferences. The Eight Flags are:
Kaldomon-- the "spirit-fighters" who still admit to magic and miracles in the world, and engage in practices of faith healing and other intercessionary prayer and ritual. A great many former Hiestat entered this group.
Caifroite-- these are the "purifiers" who stress the old Shufrantei rite of purification that survived into Miradi. In this sect, the old Shufrantei myths and traditions are more alive than anywhere else. Not surprisingly, this sect was formed largely by former Shufrantei believers. They conduct the ritual often with much enthusiasm, joy and song, and they are mystical.
Gleire -- the "devotionalists" inherited all the mystical and meditative tendencies in Bergonian religion, dating back to the "Forest Tradition" of Shufrantei. They stress the need to withdraw from mundane life and meditate. This is the most monastic of the eight.
Suvana -- the "common" tradition, stressing everyday prayer and simple practice for the devotee who works full time and has family responsibilities. The Suvana devote their attentions to teaching, community work, developing therapy services, and promoting everyday practice. This is the sect that sponsor the most television programming. This is the sect that also buys billboards, ad space in subway stations and television ads urging people to “say a prayer to God right now.”
Sheluva -- the "simplifiers" are less rigorous than most of the other sects, and tend to be "in the world," like the Suvana. They are the most political of the Flags, but also stress the everyday practice of the faith.
Cumen -- the "methodical" sect, the "winter" sect. This sect was probably most influenced by Hiestat of any of the eight.
Icoren -- the "happy" sect, the "crickets," specializing in schools, orphanages and work with children. The most likely of the sects to refer back to pre-Miradi traditions & myths.
Paminocein -- the "worker" sect, known for its outreach, its common ways, its devotion to community service. They are the one Flag that sends missionaries overseas to do relief work.
These descriptions are almost as much caricatures as anything else.
Every four years at the Chambolet convocations each of the Flags elects a prelate to coordinate the affairs of the denomination until the next convocation. Each denomination has a permanent headquarters, with staff; all eight are located in countryside monasteries.
Arising along side the Eight Flags is a movement of traditional medicine and herbology, therapeutic massage, spiritual healing, and self-healing mediation, all based on pre-Columbian Bergonian folk traditions that have been (presumably) harmonized with Miradi. Thus all the traditional arts were reformulated to claim some basis in the “universal system of harmonies” attributed to Miradi. This is collectively called the Night Way, although the movement actually consists of five separate “Night Ways.”
One of these ways, the Kulacamai advocated a strict form of “personal quest” involving deprivations of food and sleep and the use of pain and sweat lodges to induce visions. Most mainstream Miradi practitioners disassociate themselves from such ascetic extremes. They have been known to employ hallucinogenic mushrooms.
The Shima stresses health and natural responses to illness, and to that end they prescribe vegetarian diets and rigorous physical exercise, especially martial arts, religious dance, and the practice of Semilarein, a discipline of stretches and poses similar to Tai Chi. They heavily stress the relationship between the mind and body, and relate one’s susceptibility to illness to one’s spiritual health, and thus they seek to promote health and recovery through meditation and prayer. From a strictly Christian perspective they would seem to advocate something very close to “faith healing.”
The Atritama is very much like the Shima, advocating and practicing fairly mainline traditional ideas, including the practice of Semilarein, except that they exclude martial arts and stress personal peace and bliss as an important component to fighting disease. The Atritama have a more organized body of practitioners, and actually has formed a national guild. They often encourage their practitioners to see medical doctors and go to the hospital, and they often can be found in hospitals helping their patients.
The Solora and the Comloran are both universalist in their outlook, which is to say that they maintain interest in all the traditional ways, but the Comloran has contrived a great elaborate theory of spiritual healing that the Solara and the other schools regard as Baroque and contrary to the minimal spirit of Miradi. It seems that humans almost inevitably invent complicated explanations and theories, even when none are merited.