From: D M McNamara (D.M.McNamara@durham.ac.uk)
Date: Sun 19 May 1996 - 14:29:00 EEST
I am new to this digest, and aren't sure how to phrase my opinion, but
here goes anyway....(blame it on the praxian llama kvass)
I have had some interesting discussions about the nature of illumination,
and have noted some curious contradictions within the philosophy as i see it.
I feel this is an important issue, as i have noted that some people are
ambivalent towards it, whereas others embrace it...some even despise it
with all their being. I suppose this is what makes glorantha so vibrant,
in that we can actively take part in the more 'ephemeral' aspects of
everyday 'being in the world.'
yet, i am troubled, because there has been so little discussion of what
it may exactly mean. For example, a few years ago i remember talking with
Andrew Rilstone about illumination (he will have forgotten now i think),
and he seemed quite welcoming with respects to the illumination approach,
but as a player as well as a 'player character.' I may be wrong, but he
seemed, at the time at least, to see illumination as promoting a
liberating philosophy which would potentially unite glorantha. Obviously,
illumination is a great game concept, but in the long term it may be
potentially detrimental to the world (and as Braudel says 'the long
term always wins out in the end').
Let me explain - illumination, as i am sure many will agree, promotes
some form of relativism with respect to an existential consciousness;
therefore one may immediately conjure up images of riddlers wandering
around the landscape, acting chaotically and 'spreading the word.'
However, here lies the inconsistency - 'true,' 'absolute' relativism is
by its very nature a tautalogical concept, because the very thing defies
categorisation. Furthermore, it presupposes that there also exists a
phenomenon of 'true,' 'absolute' order at the other end of the scale,
which is also a logical impossibility. Therefore, the way to approach
illumination as i see it is as a contradictory dialectic between order
and chaos, which resists compartmentalisation by formal logic (which we
often use in everyday life). This approach is of course derived
originally from Aristotle (isn't that the origin of solipsism also?),
and eventually Hegel and Marx.
Therefore, i finally come to my point (after much blustering, i
admit). To speak of illumination (existential relativism) in absolutist
terms is false; by its very nature there cannot be one 'solid'
philosophy of illumination, because it is a philosophy which demands
indeterminacy and fluidity of meaning. Of course, illumination exists
in glorantha, that cannot be denied, but 'whose' illumination, and for
I feel therefore illumination ought to be perceived as not being a
neutral, 'scientific' phenomenon, but as a politicised cognitive space
which can be used for different ends. I therefore come back to Andrew
Rilstone and his 'good' interpretation for illumination (of course, he
jokingly brought up the old gbaji/nysalor duality, but i felt he also
'personally' advocated its nature in some way - please forgive my
I used to play a storm bull bison rider. He hated chaos
and illumination with a passion. However, he also travelled the beyond
the edges of the world, beyond Prax, and saw the different ways of life
there. The wars between orlanth and the red goddess seemed to just
demonstrate a 'change of personnel' with respect to rune control, and
great carnage was wrought, over both sides making claims for ontological
truth. Fighting was fun for awhile....but it the situation also seemed
to reveal that knowledge had no absolute value, that there were no
'meanings' to existence, and that life was just what you made of it.
Therefore, if everyone was truly relativist, there would be no more
world conflict, we would be like the 'gods' in the sky. He was not
illuminated, but could see illumination as a potential source for 'good'
if it was used for different ends. Riddlers often seem to use their
deconstructive riddles for narcissistic ends..ie. submit to the peace of
nysalor, revel in chaos, etc. Therefore ultimately it could promote the
end of the world. However, if illumination was used for a different end -
to empower living beings, to make them strive against 'truth' (which is
oppressive, even chaos uses the concept), then glorantha could be a
The problem as i see it is that chaos' use of illumination will
ultimately destroy cultural variability, even though it initially seems
to be offering this; in the long run of history glorantha will be
swallowed back into the primordial chaos slime. However, a more
enterprising and liberating form of illumination could be used to
ultimately promote critical thinking, and create even greater variablity
than before. However, i feel a RealWorld parallel is useful here.
Inevitably a single monolithic 'world system' will be created. The
lunar empire tried and failed, just like the romans, because technology
(lack of) and internal contradictions tore it apart. This process is
inevitable because of the power of a philosophy like illumination.
Glorantha is not an ahistorical world, it is always changing. The beings
on it, however, have a choice, to plunge their world into a new darkness,
or create a greater world than ever before, and it all depends on how
illumination is used. Illumination now cannot be stopped, it has been
created, and you can't turn back the clock, therefore it must be maturely
dealt with ie. even 10 million storm kahns cannot destroy a philosophy.
Instead it must be sublimated back into the consciousness, and USED.
I therefore would like to solidify the message of this - that
illumination, used by chaosites, is not true pluralism, it has a deep
authoritarian streak. I would call this contradiction 'evil.' 'True'
pluralism, if possible at all, would make concepts like 'good' and 'evil'
redundant, but through transcendence, not senseless ignorant barbarism.
Dominic McNamara (postgrad History and philosophy of archaeology,
durham uni, UK)
P.S. hence, when my llankhor mhy priest is asked about illumination, he
says, 'it doesn't exist, my son.'
P.P.S. Can any of you out there think of some fun illumination riddles?
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