A God Learning we will go....

From: David Cake (davidc@cyllene.uwa.edu.au)
Date: Tue 21 Jan 1997 - 14:20:51 EET

Peter said
>What makes you think that the God Learner exploitation of the
>Other Side was a piece of cake?

        Nah, it was difficult. But it was easier than the Arkati way of
achieving the same things.....
        To offer a little more explanation, an Arkati who wanted to
heroquest from multiple viewpoints would do so after joining several cults
and performing several heroquests. A God Learner would instead use methods
such as contacting a few of the beings involved and using the God Learning
ritual (and many other methods besides) before attempting the quest
themselves, not to mention a lot of theoretical analysis.

>> 'mercurial mimicry' sounds more like Illumination, which I think
>>was a small part of the God Learner arsenal, though sometimes an important
>No, it isn't Illumination. The Illuminate never changes his
>spots, the God Learners did.

        Gregs RQ Con DU explanations of Illumination talked about it as
'reconciling the impossible' or something like that. Having both very cruel

and very merciful natures, for example. Which is not mercurial change from
the illuminates viewpoint (it all makes sense to them) but certainly might
appear like a changable nature to others.
        Which was what I was talking about. While I always thought of the
classic (un-illuminated) God Learner as approaching heroquesting in an
intellectual manner, behaving as they felt to be appropriate for the

>They could analyse the world by
>using the RuneQuest Sight, seeing the multiform radiations
>in terms of runic power. What they did was to use the RuneQuest
>Sight to see within _themselves_. Thus they knew what it meant
>to be Kind in terms of the Runes.

        I think this simply amounts to understanding the nature of what is
required of them on the heroplane. The God Learners are able to understand
what various heroquest encounters are in terms of the underlying symbology,
and choose appropriate behaviour accordingly. I don't think we have any
particular evidence for the God Learners reshaping their own psyches.

        (though I think its possible the God Learners had the tools to
reshape their own psyches temporarily in the form of conventional magic.
Self-applied emotion affecting magic might well have been a useful tool for
the God Learning heroquester.)

        Nick continues to dump on the poor God Learners
>Arkat was, in turn, a sympathetic/responsible Brithini,
>Hrestoli, Humakti, and Zorak Zorani - however odd that may sound. He worked
>for each of his cults as a fanatical True Believer, not a cynic.

        and as a fanatic Zorak Zorani, for example, used his knowledge of
the Humakt vs Zorak Zoran heroquest paths to stomp on any Humakti
opposition who got in his way, rather than simply behaving as a typical
Zorak Zorani would. Not unlike the way the God Learners (and at least the
early God Learners were fanatic True Believers) used their knowledge of
pagan gods to squash the opposition.

>the God Learners are universally said
>to have been a unique evil for the manipulative way in which they behaved
>on the Hero Plane, abusing it *as the Arkati had not*

        But try and distinguish between early God Learner behaviour
(rampaging through the heroplanes armed with powerful sorcery, monomyth
techniques, Arkati knowledge, and a Joseph Campbell library) and late God
Learner behaviour (attempting wholesale changes to the heroplane such the
Goddess Switch). I think both the Arkati and the God Learners heroquested
in a knowledgeable and somewhat calculated way, deviating from the 'script'
when they felt there was a good reason to do so and they had some idea what
would happen. The Arkati did so and got away with it, probably because they
did so when they felt it was necessary, and never on a wholesale scale. The
God Learners eventually came to fiddle with the structure of the heroplane
just to see what would happen. Their initial heroquesting techniques
started the same, but ended up very different. I'm just saying its possible

to start on the God Learner path, and that initially it doesn't look all
that different from the Arkati path.
        Besides, don't believe all the propaganda. I think the God Learners
probably get better press than the Arkati from many Malkioni. They may have
been eventually destroyed by demons due to foolishness, but at least they
weren't Krjalki.

>I believe, at least, that priests in Third Age cults would stress to their
>worshippers that they must ensure they have the proper motivations before
>participating in any worship or heroquest.

        Well, so do I. I just don't believe that the reason the priest says
that is not because it doesn't work. He has lots of other good reasons for
saying that.

>The Cakeian model, in which most
>heroquesters assume their profession will involve twisting and abusing
>myths in a manipulative manner, seems wrong to me:

        I think for most theists, behaving in a somewhat calculating manner
(ie letting your knowledge overrule your emotions in determining your
behaviour) has the opposite effect. Your average theist heroquester knows
whats supposed to happen, and sometimes he just follows the script even if
he himself has some reservations, if he is that sort. Others might leap off
into the creative heroquesting arena, but I think many don't - your average
theist knows only the one script, and sticks to it. Its only the God
Learners and Arkati who are able to act in a calculating way and creatively
heroquest at the same time. I think most theists do their best to follow
the script.
        Lets take an example from personal experience. In John Hughes
fascinating Musik of the Spears at RQ Con DU (my first experience with the
Sydney cathartic school of freeforming), I had a big choice in one of the
final moments of the heroquest. A powerful and mysterious trollish dark
woman was in front of me, calling me to embrace her, to ease her pain. Most
of my companions had come to her when she called, and they had suffered
terribly because of it (one, played by Saravan, ripped into pieces),
without seemingly achieving anything. I had every reason to be utterly
terrified of her, I was desperate for something that might help my people,
and I can think of no emotional response that that character might have
felt that might have convinced him to go to her *if he had been completely
ignorant of the situation and/or responded purely emotionally*. But he knew
that Orlanth had lain with the Dark Woman, and I felt that his faith in the
Orlanthi Way was the only thing holding him together at that point, so he
did just that, because it sounded crazy, but if Orlanth did it, it had to
be right. Which, sure enough, turned out to be the right thing to do.

        So, opinions? Certainly there was a degree of calculation there.
Probably if I hadn't had a very good idea of what was going on, and reacted
according to that knowledge, I would have chosen a different reaction. So
you could call that calculation. On the other hand, I reacted according to
a different emotion - religious faith - so you could say I was acting
emotionally if you'd rather (illustrating my point to Peter that emotions
can't be boiled down to simple dualisms in any useful way, or easily
separated from the intellectual understanding of whats going on). Then

again, early God Learners were motivated by religious fanaticism too.

>as the popular notion that much HeroQuesting is done "to make your god
>better" seems daft to me:

        Well, I think most heroquesters will certainly try to make their
god better at what he is good at already. I don't think anyone thinks there
is anything wrong with a Humakti seeking out new ways of fighting undead,
like Indrodar Greydog. But I thoroughly agree that deliberately setting out
to change your gods mythology to improve the bits you don't like is rare
and perverse. Then again, creative heroquesting is pretty rare anyway.
        But I certainly wouldn't put such perverse heroquesting past some
folks, the Seven Mothers for example. And the God Learners, almost
certainly. And as for PCs....

        (Then again, the heroquest paths that go against your gods myths
are weak and unexplored, while the ones that go with your gods way are
strong and powerful, even if rarely fully completed. The Hill of Gold being
the classic example - the heretic Yelmalion that beats up Orlanth and then
beats up Zorak Zoran either dies fighting chaos later or leaves at that
point (quite possibly being plagued by chaos later) (or if he is a
superhero beats the chaos anyway and starts his own cult, but thats hardly
likely, and had never been accomplished). He gains the relatively minor
prize of being a Yelmalio with Sunspear and Fire spells. But the Yelmalion
that follows the quest to the end gains complete immortality, and becomes a
great hero of the already widespread Yelmalio cult. It doesn't pay to buck
the status quo, but its possible).

>Humakti don't *want* to be resurrectable.

        Except Yanafals Tarnils.....
        Which pretty much sums it up. Heroquesting against your gods
mythology is possible, isn't done by your average theist, might be done by
people with more complex motivations, requires enormous ability, and has

>> c) the world fundamentally changed at the end of the Second
>> Age? Well, I've always been sceptical about this...
>Fair enuf: it's your world too. But at least you know you're chucking out a
>general Gloranthan given when you state your theory that everyone can (and
>does!) carry on God Learning, just as if nothing had changed.

        I was really just asking for the reference where it says that God
Learning is no longer possible - I believe that most people don't DO it,
and least in the sense of experimenting with the heroplane to see what they
can achieve. But I think a lot of heroes try and work out what the various

myths are, including from another cultures perspective, before
heroquesting, and a lot of heroes try and behave in a way that they think
will produce the desired mythic result rather than just winging it on their
emotional response.
        I don't think it really matters, or indeed can be really clear,
whether the great excesses of the God Learners such as the Goddess Switch
or the creation of Zistor are theoretically possible or not in the Third
Age. No one wants to do it, people will try and stop you, and conditions
are not right to do it (though perhaps you could make them right if you had
the resources of an empire). But if there is a reference that says the
initial God Learner approach to heroquesting is no longer useful, I'd like
to know of it, thanks.

        I have a PC who is currently leading a heroquest, a reenactment of
the Orlanth and the Dragon quest. He knows the myth. He has also studied
the myths of other cultures, and is consciously making connections (he

tells Praxians he will free Thunder Bird). His motivations are not entirely
pure, either - he is not averse to some personal power, and is certainly
motivated in large part by hatred of the Lunars and Sun worshippers. And I

think when it comes down to it, he will do his best to follow the script of
the heropath rather than just react emotionally - I think if he thought his
troll friend had the Lower Wind and refused to give it up, he'd take it by
force, for example. So, is he a filthy God Learner, or just an Orlanthi
hero who happens to have some understanding of how the heroplane works?



Respect and Humility? Sure, I'm terrified of it. So damn scared of doing
the wrong thing, you won't catch me going of on some wild emotional


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.7 : Fri 13 Jun 2003 - 16:56:27 EEST