Given the distances between worlds, and the slowness of communications given contemporary technologies, Local orders have a lot of autonomy. So the model of the armed buddhist monastery is valid.
As for the theology, it’s this in a nutshell (posted elsewhere, now in the Wiki):
My inspiration for the Wheel was the medieval “Wheel of Fortune” which raises men up and then casts them down in an inevitable cycle. The fire refers to the soul, which the Mundus Humanitas symbolizes as a flame. Each individual, when born, is imbued with a bit of the great, universal flame which he or she is charged with tending (ie: living a holy life). It’s possible, by living a pure life, to “give back” to the universal flame more light than you began with. It’s also possible to let a portion of your soul bleed off into nothingness, so that the great light is diminshed by your life. In ancient times, men were better, greater, with souls that burned higher than they do now. That’s part of the fatalistic cast of the times… “we are not the men we once were.”
In the grand scheme of things, humanity rides the wheel of fire over cycles that measure in thousands of years. In the great days, humanity was at the top of the cycle (Apex), and was vital and holy. In the time of the Iron Empires, humanity is at or approaching the bottom of the cycle (Nadir), and is corrupt and weak. If left to its own devices, humanity would eventually return to greatness, but the Vaylen are an outside force, more vital than humanity, and may snuff us out before we can rise again.