What does the Mundus Humanitas actually believe?

At the very end of Faith Conquers, Trevor Faith actually says something that appears to be Mundus Humanitas doctrine (as opposed to proverbs, swears, and snatches of scripture): that the Prophet Ahmilahk taught that free will was like a cloak of stone draped over the shoulders of a child, which had to be broken by the fist of fate – or something very close, I’ve not got my book handy at the moment. And then he finishes with, “There is only one real path, the river of fire. Everything else is an illusion.”

And Chris Moeller has talked about the imagery of the burning wheel http://burningwheel.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2998&start=14

And the rulebook says (p. 31)

This faith is a doctrine of fatalism and mystery. The Church believes everything is preordained. There is no way to alter one’s destiny. The only true way to live is to observe the natural order of things and live in harmony with fate’s plans. Resistance to this truth only begets misery. By accepting this mystery and one’s unknowable destiny, one can profit and even gain insight into one’s purpose. However, it does not bode well to be too presumptuous about one’s fate. It cannot truly be known. In the end, destiny will unfold as it desires, not as human beings try to make it or hope for it to occur. Only by observing the patterns of the Wheel of Fire—the symbol of Ahmilahk’s religion—can humanity hope to prosper. The flames of the wheel represent the living souls of all humanity.
Following fate doesn’t mean blindly stumbling around in the dark waiting to see what happens. By divining the patterns of fire on the wheel with guidance of the Mundus Humanitas’ Cotars, one can fulfill one’s destiny. Fate is a path to be followed with open eyes, not a road to blindly stumble down.

But other than that, we know almost nothing from either comics or game about what the Mundus Humanitas believes (or at least, it teaches people to believe). Almost all the visible details are clearly inspired by western Christianity of about 1100 to 1600 (high medieval and early Renaissance), with the burning wheel (itself an image of death and rebirth) used in place of the cross. The Hotok Cathedral is even gothic!

More fundamentally, there’s a clear “church and state” division, with a strict and elaborate ecclesiastical hierarchy existing alongside that of the secular (Imperial) government, not always easily, with its own armed forces, the right to select its own leaders, and problematic allegiance to a foreign power where church and state are combined (the Theocracy). The only time and place in human history where this ever existed was in Christian Europe. The Eastern Orthodox hierarchy was never so independent of the secular authority; the Jewish rabbinate and the Islamic ulema were never so formally and hierarchically structured, even among the Shia (witness how easily Moqtada al-Sadr has displaced Sistani as the key Shiite power broker in Iraq); Hindu and Buddhist monastic orders could prove tremendously independent and well-armed, but as far as I know never had a unifying structure above the individual monastery.

But clearly this isn’t a Christian doctrine. So what is it? If I Burn up an ardently devout character, what do I believe?

Hindu and Buddhist monastic orders could prove tremendously independent and well-armed, but as far as I know never had a unifying structure above the individual monastery.

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.

I’m very interested in this discussion and also in other sects and cults. Have people created any additional, world-specific background material for Burning Empire religions? In our game (just starting), we chose to have a Merchant League as the primary form of government, but religious cults as a faction, handling the military; different cults are in control of the Anvil and Hammer (the merchants went for the low bid, and cultists were cheaper than mercenary!) We have to design a few cults, and I’m trying to decide whether my contribution will be a radical faction of the Mundus Humanitas or a completely different cult like the Church of Transition. I’m leaning towards the former.

Anemone, if your world is in the Comoran Worlds, Northern Gonzagin Empire or the Phaesian arm, the Cyreans are the way to go. They’re a heretical splinter of the MH. The only details I’ve established are that they differ from the main religion only in terms of doctrine, their fundamental beliefs are the same (ie: Calvanists, Anabaptists, etc… vs. Catholocism during the reformation).


Chris, got it, they’re fatalistic-within-limits – which I personally think is an entirely valid and useful worldview: You can’t change the flow of history, but if you’re quick-witted and observant, you sure can surf.

But what constitutes “living a pure life” for a Mundus Humanitas follower, and what constitutes “let[ting] a portion of your soul bleed off into nothingness”? How wide a range of variation is there among orthodox practitioners, and how big is the difference between the orthodox and the heretics, e.g. CHOT?

Obviously political issues will loom large in any Burning Empires game or story, just as they did in the historical Pope vs. Emperor struggle of the High Middle Ages, in the Inquisition, and in the Reformation / Counter-reformation / Wars of Religion. But there must be some differences in personal life, as well. For example:

Trevor Faith talks about clergy being officially celibate, but prone to “open secret” liaisons with prostitutes, while the church has “no illusions of purity” about its troops; but the service at the end of Sheva’s War talks about the divine spark of the dead returning as “light in the eyes of your children,” which strongly implies that the Church thinks someone ought to be out there having children.
So are sex, procreation, and marriage viewed as a necessary evil, something the rank-and-file do to perpetuate this sinful world while the clergy rise above such things? (Similar to the Cathar “perfecti” of southern France, before the Albigensian Crusade wiped them out, and to Or is sex for pleasure wrong, and only sex for procreation within marriage allowed (modern Catholicism)?
Or is sex for pleasure tolerable, really, as long as you don’t get married and have kids and start tying yourself to the secular world with a family that distracts you from your loyalty to the Church (high medieval Catholicism when Pope Gregory first instituted the celibacy rules ca. 1200 AD; before then priests were mostly priest’s sons)?
Or is having kids and perpetuating the human race one of the highest duties a person can perform, with celibacy as an unusual requirement imposed on religious specialists (a common stance in Judaism and Islam)?

Is the use of force to defend the weak, the social order, and the Church a necessary evil (typical Christian), or is it one of the highest acts of virtue possible (typical Muslim)?
Is it virtuous to offer no resistance to one who harms you (early Christian), or is it one’s sacred duty to fight and destroy evil (medieval Christian)?
Or is the use of force a sacred art in its own right, entirely independent of the purposes for which it is used (certain forms of samurai Zen Buddhism, as I understand them)?

Is being rich a mark of divine favor to the virtuous (“Gospel of Wealth” evangelism, certain forms of Hindu karma-and-reincarnation thought), an inherently sinful state that distracts one from holiness and makes it as hard for the rich to enter Heaven as for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle (early Christian; see also Luke 6:20, “Blessed are the poor,” vs. Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”), or irrelevant either way?
Are certain professions to be avoided because they make it almost impossible to avoid sin, e.g. used car salesman, arms dealer (early Buddhism), or can even corrupt tax collectors be redeemed (early Christianity)?
Is it the role of the ordinary people to toil to support a handful of spiritual specialists (various forms of monasticism both Christian and Buddhist), or should the rich support the church out of their responsibility as leaders of society and, perhaps, people with a lot to atone for (medieval Christianity), or should the church dispense with material possessions and live humbly (Franciscans)?

Is art the enemy of holiness or the instrument of holiness? Are there certain forms of art which inherently lead people into sin (e.g. images of human forms in classical Judaism and Islam, the “iconoclast” heresy in the Christian church) while other forms are especially laudable (e.g. Koranic calligraphy in Islam, choral music in Christianity)?
Should religious services be sumptuous, full of beautiful music, elaborate vestments, and golden chalices, to impress the seriousness and glory of the divine on the common folk (medieval Christianity), or should they be plain and simple, even deliberately awkward, to avoid placing any distractions between the worshipper and the divine (Quakers, Shakers, Puritans)?

Should the faithful concentrate on their personal holiness and ignore the world altogether (certain forms of Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist monasticism)?
Or should they concentrate on helping their “neighbors,” one person at a time, and humbly submit to secular authority, except when it directly threatens their community and faith, in which case they should stand ready to die (early Christianity)?
Or is it impossible for anyone to achieve true holiness in a society whose rulers do not follow the true faith (medieval Christianity, Islam)?

Most religions agree on basics – “do not do to others what you wouldn’t want them to do to you,” “don’t lie,” “don’t kill,” “don’t worship other gods,” etc. – but they tend to disagree violently (often literally violently) on the points above, and that’s all raw juicy story-meat. It’s not abstract doctrinal stuff way out there in the sky, it affects every day of people’s lives here and now.

Oh, and on celibacy, I just remembered this – page 250:

Born on the Wheel Dt 3 pts
This character was born into the clergy and is marked with a tattoo above his right shoulder of the eightspoked burning wheel. The trait grants a 1D affiliation with others who were Born on the Wheel.
Restrictions: Born on the Wheel LP only.

So they can have sex – at least sometimes.

Hi, Chris (and thank you for all the great art!) That was pretty much the flavour I was planning to go for, with a dash of Pshychology since we set our world in the outer reaches of the Karsan League. (The Karsan League has so much potential for convoluted stories!) I’m playing Hammer Captain Inquisitor Minerva Yordanova, a figure of note; we decribed her personality as a cross between Ivanova and Bester in Babylon 5, packaged like an Adepta Sororitas from WH40K. :slight_smile: Therefore, I wanted the sect/cult to remain fairly close to the MH baseline, but concerned with keeping the flame pure and burning high. But I want to articulate not only what the sect does or how it behaves, but also what it believes in. I will post what I come up with in a few days. Others in the group are designing other sects or cults, so this should be fun.

By the way, this may appear simplistic but I find the article “8 Ways To Spice Up A Campaign With Religion”, on RelePlayingTips.com, to be a good starting point when thinking about making up religions.