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The Philosophy of Pvârism

One of the things I miss now that Robin has left us are the long conversations we had about the world of Hârn and all its wonderful and intricate details. One of the most vivid of those conversations ocurred when I asked him why there was a restriction on the importation of technology in Mèlderýn. While this led to a long and involved discussion that crossed many boundaries, the part I’m going to discuss here is what I recall he told me about Pvârism, the philosophy at the heart of things.

Before I continue, I have to warn you that I am operating from my memory of the conversation, and my own personal interpretation of what Robin told me…or that I remember that Robin told me (which you’ll appreciate may not be the same thing). So, my memory might be faulty, or my interpretation, or both. Or neither! Your mileage may vary, as they say.

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What is the Pvâric Philosophy? From Hârndex, it is “essentially a way of perceiving Kelestia (the cosmic all) in terms of key elemental principles”. In HârnMaster Gold, The Shèk-Pvâr, Robin states in part “…it is more a  style of enlightenment that must be embraced by the whole being.”

But what does that all mean??

Adhering to the Pvâric Philosophy and learning to manipulate the elemental principles (that is, casting spells) is a method of improving one’s self. It has exactly the same goal as alchemy and religion; a means of achieving enlightenment, or moving one’s soul (for want of a better term) to the next higher plane of existence. In other words, obtaining eternal life. On Earth, Buddhism has a similar goal; enlightenment, achievement of nirvana. Heck, Christianity, Judaism and Islam all have Heaven or Paradise (eternal life) as a basic tenet.

As an aside; the primary difference between Earthly religions and philosophies and Pvârism is that the former all allow one to learn from the lessons of others (indeed many use parables as a teaching tool), while the latter requires you to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.

Learning to cast spells is not the goal of a shèk-pvâr. In fact, thinking that way is dangerously close to being heretical; power for the sake of power. That goes against the Shèk-Pvâr Code. No, learning to cast spells is merely a step on the path. The goal of a true shèk-pvâr is to understand and manipulate the fundamental elements of nature so as to achieve enlightenment. And with enlightenment comes eternal life, or so goes the thinking.

So there you have it. Priests, alchemists and shèk-pvâr all have the same purpose, struggle to achieve the same goal. They just do it in different ways.

  • Priests try to achieve piety so they gain the favour of a higher power, and thus be granted eternal life.
  • Alchemists attempt to understand and manipulate physical properties of matter so they can construct the elixir of life (ie, the Philosopher’s Stone) and thus gain eternal life.
  • Shèk-pvâr attempt to understand and manipulate the fundamental elemental forces of the cosmic all so they can create and cast the ultimate incantation and thus gain eternal life.

For me, this made the whole idea of the shèk-pvâr real. It meant that they are struggling in isolation, each man or women bending all their effort into understanding something that is inherently beyond normal understanding as we know it. It screams of utter devotion, of a mindset and outlook that is totally different to the ordinary Hârnic dweller. It also implies failure, greed, avarice, subtle bending of the rules, desperation,and all the base human emotions as these highly individualistic people try to force their minds into different paths to gain just a little bit more understanding. Which makes for more fodder for gaming, of course.

And once in perhaps a millennium, a shèk-pvâr disappears from his study leaving no trace. Did he just walk out, disillusioned and empty? Was he abducted? Was he obliterated by a rival? Did a casting go horribly wrong? Or did he achieve enlightenment? The rest of his chantry will probably never know.

And so the shèk-pvâr’s struggle to understand continues…

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Feel free to leave a comment about the article or about how you play mages.

3 comments on The Philosophy of Pvârism

  1. Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

    I have some concerns about the meaning of “eternal life”, for the posting does not differentiate here. However, I think it is necessary to do so.

    A religious person believes, that its existence depends on some other – usually personalized – entity. To meet with that entitie’s wishes is the meaning of the believer’s very existence. It is not required to be a – literally – “eternal live” or a concrete afterlive to reach. After death, the personal existence may cease, but that might be OK as long as during lifetime, the conduct of life, thought etc. met with the divine expectations and therefore were “meaningful”. E.g. the ancient jews did not believe in “eternal live”, but tried to meet the expectations of god, because that was what they thought mankind and everyone was created for. Believers may accept, that they have only bounded capabilities to reach their goal (meet with the godly expectations) and rely on divine assistance (like rules to follow, etc.) or mercy and grace, that overcome their incompletion. Religion always implies a teleological perspective.

    For a Buddhist, and maybe for an alchemist or Shek Pvar, the goal to reach might be “total insight”, “becoming one with all” or “gaining total freedom”. It is all about getting rid of ties, binding you to corporal existence, hindering you to perceive clarity. They rely on their own powers to overcome obstacles on their way and may have developed methods to help them do so.
    What they do not do is dealing with is the teleological perspective, any potential “meaning”. To them, this would be a completely different category.

    An intriguing question is, whether the principles of Pvarism and religion necessarily and /or practically contradict each other (personally, I don’t believe so).
    From a “canonical” point of view – there are Shek-Pvar on Yashain – but what does that mean?

  2. “So there you have it. Priests, alchemists and shèk-pvâr all have the same purpose, struggle to achieve the same goal. They just do it in different ways.”

    I would argue that everyone shares this purpose (elightenment and eternal life). It is just that these lovers of sophistication are particularly adept at deifying their own labyrintine path 🙂

    The crafstman knows his path to immortality lies in mastery of his craft and transmission of this knowledge….

    The lowly peasant knows eternal life comes from the seed in the ground and his wifes belly…

    However, such base types surrender to the metaphor much more easily; not being confounded by the maze of complexities that is the favoured pastime of the wise. But then, ignorance is bliss.

    Ergo; for me, mages etc are to be in part admired and in part pitied. They have the lonely torturous mountain path to enlightenment: whilst most take the direct , well paved, and busy short route on the valley floor.

    Part of me thinks Philosophers eulogise their path so much because they are pissed at having worked so hard to achieve what the rest seem to manage easily!!!! 🙂

  3. I think one needs to keep religion apart from the Shek-Pvar and Alchemists. Actually, their goals belong to two different categories:

    1) Arcanist (Shek-Pvar, Alchemists) try to gain understanding (and thereby power). They may want to help themselves out of their miserable situation of being constraint in their perception of the true nature of the things and how they are related. It is not required, that the goal is “eternal life” (look at the real world bhuddists). Arcanists have developed some ways to help with this task. But following the path is not *required* to be the meaning of their (or any other) existence. It is some kind of option.

    2) Believers first of all have some teleological perspective. They are not required to “reach eternal life”, but they try to fulfill their meaning of life, that is somehow defined or revelated by a divine entity. Motivation may be a hope for some “reward” – or the fear of “punishment” if they don’t meet the requirements. That does not necessarily rely on any expectation of “gaining eternal life”. But if you believe in some higher being, that has set your path or goals, you have no option to chose whether they are really relevant or not.

    There is no reason, why arcanists should not be (also) religious. You see – in canon there are mages on Yashain (beeing Kethira’s “after world”).

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