Irreanism

From Almeopedia

Irreanism is the religion professed by most flaids, and a small but influential minority of humans in the north of Eretald.

Contents

Origins

The religion was founded about 2250 by the great flaidish philosopher Irrean, whose ideas of cosmic struggle between good and evil replaced the flaids’ own form of paganism.

The religion was further developed by the “hermit prince” Mornio Saxys, in the 2500s.

Philological notes. The Flaidish name of the founder is ʔirran; Irrean is the Verdurian spelling, which goes better into English. The name of the religion is Irreanát in Verdurian, ʔirranatt in Flaidish.

Good vs. Evil

Irrean taught that all existence is torn by a great conflict between Good (mell) and Evil (churk)— two equal and independent realms, each tireless, ineffable, nameless, and potent. Every thinking creature is a soldier in their eternal battle; every act, from the movements of the stars to the merest of human mumblings, is a blow advancing the fortunes of one side or the other.

An outsider knowing something of the flaids is often taken aback by the ferocity of this worldview. After learning of the teachings of Irrean, the peaceful villas and bright flowers of the flaidish countryside seem nestled on the brink of a volcano. Irreanists give the same impression of unruffled calm covering an intense and rarely revealed energy.

There is nothing inherent in the nature of things to make Good superior to Evil; Irrean himself admits that it is only our preference. “If any flaid, knowing the nature of Good and Evil, chooses Evil, I have nothing to say to him,” notes Irrean. “But I have chosen the Good.” Irrean makes rather a virtue of his ignorance, as if his choice were the nobler for being, strictly speaking, unwarranted.

To be precise, one may be a partisan for Good; Good is not required to make way for Evil nor to respect it. One must simply remember that, in effect, the universe disagrees. Good disapproves of Evil, but that is simply Good’s opinion.

Nonetheless, Irrean endeavors to make it clear exactly what is meant by the two sides. Evil is slavery, cruelty, discord, terror, violence, despair, and arrogance; Good is joy, freedom, love, knowledge, courage, wisdom, and sacrifice. Irrean would have no patience with the modern terrestrial half-embrace of evil— by the ideas that good may be boring or sanctimonious, and that evil is mostly a matter of rebelliousness, raucousness, and sexiness. He would say that our judgments have been corrupted by crimes masquerading as Good, and discrediting it.

According to Irrean, the Thinking Kinds are by nature tresspo, half good and half evil. (Alone among Almeans, the flaids believe that the iliu are not all good, nor the ktuvoks all evil.) A person normally does good by chance, and evil by ignorance. We act carelessly because we don’t know the stakes. It’s the struggle of a lifetime to consistently follow Good. Partly this is due to the limitations of the organism, and the counter-moves of Evil; but the chief struggle is one of self-education. We learn to recognize Good and Evil, not merely in the large obvious instances, but hidden in small actions and in all the corners of our minds.

One might expect the morality (mellbit) of the flaids to be black and white; but in fact it is complex and nuanced, insisting that no person or institution or system is entirely good, and understanding the myriad errors one may fall into. Furthermore, moral advice is never offered de haut en bas, but as friendly guidance, for the advisor is fully conscious of the evil within himself. The Screwtape Letters would be a perfect Irreanist book— helpful advice from one sinner to another, designed to spur rueful introspection rather than self-righteousness. Its heavy dosage of humor and fantasy is very flaidish as well.

Irreanists also carefully distinguish the Good from mere convention (juur). Flaids are in fact rather conservative by nature, and for them to call something jurick (conventional) is no insult. But they are perfectly aware that many choices are made not because they are good but because they are comfortable, and that it is an evil to use convention to browbeat the young or the eccentric.

Philosophy

Irreanists are dualist, believing that matter and mind are distinct realms, each with their own laws— an unremarkable doctrine in the ages before any purely material science has anything helpful to say about reason, morality, or behavior.

They teach that the highest faculty is reason (curaya), and indeed maintain that all Irreanist beliefs can be derived and explained by reason alone; there is no need for faith, though prooz (feeling, emotion, passion) is considered a desirable adjunct to reason. They have gladly welcomed the Verdurian elaboration of the žuyse onteca, the scientific method. They enjoy abstract mathematics as well; on Almea the invention of calculus (korbit) is due to the flaids.

They accept the Caďinorian doctrine of the seven elements (ptoconder), but they emphasize the incessant change of the physical world, and believe in transmutation. Alchemy has long been a flaidish passion.

Good and Evil are purely spiritual; matter is neither good nor evil (nor even tresspo) in itself. If matter causes good or evil, it is generally because there is a good or evil mind using it. Some substances (such as toxins and healing potions) seem imbued with a moral power; they exist as a sort of suspension (jirchet) of matter and one of the spiritual powers. Mixing Irreanist dualism with the seven Caďinorian elements, flaidish alchemists and physicians have worked out a theory of fourteen suspensions: good and evil airs, good and evil waters, and so on.

The two cosmic sides are spiritual but impersonal. Good is not a god that can be prayed to (Irrean devotes considerable scorn to the idea); it is not conscious and has no plans or desires. Still, it is not an abstraction; it’s more like what our physics would call energy. Indeed, the more the mind is devoted to one side or the other, the more mental and physical energy it has. Dullness and lethargy are the surest symptoms of the confused, tresspo soul.

Saxys believed in life after death (though strictly speaking not in immortality; he estimated that one’s post-death experience would last less than a thousand years), but Irrean himself was mute on the subject, and his writings suggest that a person should be content with no reward but the approval of his conscience. Irreanism, like ancient Judaism, is thus agnostic rather than adamant in its views on the next world, preferring to concentrate its energy on this one.

Irreanism teaches that the universe is eternal: it has always existed and always will. This doesn’t mean that it won’t change, perhaps dramatically. Indeed, it's always in flux.

As a corollary, there is no ancient paradise, nor any final triumph of Good or Evil. One might imagine that this is less inspiring than more historicist dogmas; but Irreanists consider it foolish to worry about cosmic trends. If the world is improving, it should be helped along; if it’s falling apart, all the more reason to establish islands of Good.

Irreanist practice

Irreanists have no organized worship, no prayer, no saints, no holy days, no myths, no accounts of creation, no priests, no rituals, and no missionaries.

However, they do believe that it is easier to follow Good with the help of others, and there do exist communities of Irreanists, which build temples (chendmoryr ‘quiet places’). There they meet in small groups, dine together, meditate, confess their sins, study the writings of the sages, and reflect on the cosmic struggle, away from the distractions of everyday life. There is nothing showy or vulgar. It is a religious life exactly suited to the flaids, who love nothing better than a fine meal in pleasant surroundings, followed by earnest conversation till dawn.

Irrean advised, “Never let any of your temples be larger than those of the polytheists.” Therefore the Irreanist temple in a (human) town is always smaller than the main Caďinorian pagan ones— though sometimes it is larger than the Eleďe church.

There are Irreanist monasteries (bidmoryr); but perhaps because the flaids experienced neither the ordered prosperity of the Caďinorian Empire nor its subsequent fall, the monasteries were never focussed on community-building or on the preservation of ancient knowledge. Irreanism, with its focus on individual struggle, encourages hermitism; yet flaids are by their nature sociable, and prefer to do their hermiting like they do everything else, in groups. Some monasteries are particularly known for their scholarship; others focus on visions and ecstatic experience; yet others on meditation or art.

There are Irreanist clerics (buxeler ‘wise ones’), who serve as counselors, teachers, and confessors, while pursuing their own meditations and studies. The difference between a temple and a monastery is one of degree rather than kind; both are open to the public, but the monastery is more inward-directed; dealing with pilgrims is only a minor portion of the monks' duties. The head of either institution is a fedjel; the mornfedjel or ‘first foreman’ oversees a very large institution with branches in other areas or towns. There is no hierarchy above this, but the mornfedjel of Syxesteer has a highly respected place.

The flaidish love of stories and humor finds expression in fables and parables— the Irreanist who wishes to teach more often than not cloaks his message in a story. These stories find a wide audience; many of the folktales of Eretald are flaidish in origin.

Human converts

Irreanism also suits a cultured minority of humans, though among men the religion acquires a faint tincture of aristocracy and disdain. Human Irreanists are a bit like Marcus Aurelius or Jean-Paul Sartre, lamenting the evils of human existence as if they were helpless spectators and not, on the whole, leisured and influential. (On the other hand, there are very few flaids who follow Eleďát and none at all who follow any human paganism.)

Most human Irreanists are found in Verduria, Kebri, Ismahi, and Érenat. As each temple is independent, there is no organizational connection to Flora, and the chief writings have been translated into human languages. Nonetheless Irreanist scholars will learn Flaidish to read more obscure works, or to visit flaidish temples and monasteries.

In Verduria, the Eleďe dynasty gave Irreanism equal legal status with paganism and Eleďát, though this did not extend to the creation of Irreanist seats in the Esčambra.

Morality

Irreanist morality is passionately interested in the family, but do not provide it with any rites. Flaids celebrate births, school graduations, comings of age (at age 23), marriages, and deaths with a feast, punctuated by speeches and toasts and games and dances; but the notion of the performative, and of the legal act in general, eludes them. They find it highly amusing that humans insist that they are not married till an old man reads some words to the couple in a language nobody understands.

They are interested, rather, in behavior. Irreanist thinkers have written long tomes on Good and Evil Within the Family— as flaidish society revolves around the family, the basic unit for social life and work, naturally flaidish morality does as well. The philosophers usually begin by noting that living together in a group is more difficult morally than fighting a war.

The temptations they recognize are mostly the frictions and annoyance of everyday life, disputes over goals and finances, and abuses of power. Flaids find sex to be fairly straightforward, perhaps because they pair-bond late and very strongly; they almost never philander.

They have no cult of virginity, probably because, for biological reasons, flaid women do not become pregnant except when pair-bonded. Youngsters are expected to play around sexually, as they are expected in general to get into energetic mischief. There’s plenty of time for maturity after the coming of age.

Irreanism has a strong interest in justice, insisting that no institution is good in itself, but becomes something to resist once it moves from its normal tresspo nature into tyranny, which is evil. (When the royal family started to accumulate too much wealth and power two centuries ago, Parliament rebelled, supported by the mornfedjel of Syxesteer— who ultimately prevailed upon the king to resign; Flora became a republic.)

In their ancient institutions the flaids are largely egalitarian— they have never evolved a native aristocracy— and extreme concentrations of wealth are considered not only vulgar but criminal. It is not evil to indulge oneself; but it is evil to choose to do so if others live in want.