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47 minutes ago, Darius West said:

Okay, basically a mystic is a devotee of a form of asceticism, generally linked to a religious philosophy.  They practice austerities, and seek through their denial of the flesh and their desires to transcend the limits of the merely mortal world.  Real world examples of ascetics would include religions such as Buddhism, Sikhism, some parts of the Hindu tradition (though it is mainly pantheistic).  The most commonly existing Gloranthan mystic would probably be a Kralori Martial Artist, though the Lunars are trying to mass produce illuminates.

I think this definition is a little restrictive. There are Christian and Muslim mystics as well, who often don't practice ascetism (at least not a very strong one - excess should typically be avoided). There's an ecstatic aspect to it that is almost universal, though, as in Sufi whirling. The idea is to achieve direct contact with an otherwise inaccessible Ultimate, whatever that is pictured as being (God for Christians, unsurprisingly).

So an Old Wind Orlanthi mystic might seek to achieve a direct connection with Transcendent Orlanth (painting himself blue, breathing in a controlled manner, and reciting the Laws of Umath and Orlanth).

*

This was an idea I had for such an Orlanthi mantra recitation:

No-one can make you do anything.
No-one can make you do anything.
No-one can make you do anything.
No-one can make you do anything.
No-one can make you do anything.
No-one can make you do anything.
No-one can make you do anything.
No-one can make you do anything.
[repeat]

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51 minutes ago, Akhôrahil said:

I think this definition is a little restrictive. There are Christian and Muslim mystics as well, who often don't practice ascetism (at least not a very strong one - excess should typically be avoided). There's an ecstatic aspect to it that is almost universal, though, as in Sufi whirling. The idea is to achieve direct contact with an otherwise inaccessible Ultimate, whatever that is pictured as being (God for Christians, unsurprisingly).

A good read on the topic is Gershom Scholem's On The Kabbalah And Its Symbolism, 1965. Obviously the book is mostly about the Jewish / Kabbalistic perspective, but he places it in the context of Christian, Muslim and (to some extent Buddhist) theories on the subject. The first chapter in particular, "Religious Authority and Mysticism" is particularly relevant here - exploring the idea that the mystic upturns the orthodoxy of their source religious tradition even as they cling to it as a framework and claim to legitimacy. 

As an example: the ideas put forth in the Zohar about the Ein Sof and its Emanations to the uninitiated observer may come across as nearly polytheistic. But the Kabbalist mystic, initiated into its mysteries, understands that not only are these ideas not heretical, but that in fact this is a deeper understanding of the Torah, passed down from the eminent tannaitic scholar, Rabbi Shimon bar Zochai! Instead of attempting to supplant the established text, it takes great pains to support the orthodox theology even as it suggests radically new ways to interpret it. Furthermore, the book draws on the history of religious practice to further bind itself to it, by presenting itself not as the mystical insights of the  probable historical 16th century author, but a figure of great importance from the religion's distant, mythological past.

I can see there being similarities here to the Larnsting traditon. Here too we see a mystical tradition being attributed to a mythical figure of great importance (King Sartar); we also see a seemingly radically different philosophy than that of the established Orlanthi orthodoxy which is, however, a deepened mystical understanding of those same beliefs (or so it claims).

I'm not really doing the book justice - I'd recommend picking up a copy and giving it a look. It's a really good read, if nothing else.

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The large focus on Nysalorean Illumination with its frequent outcome of "nothing is true, everything is permitted" seems like short-changing the mystical tradition as well. No-one would do Kabbalah and then suddenly realize that no divine laws apply to them any longer.

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10 minutes ago, Akhôrahil said:

The large focus on Nysalorean Illumination with its frequent outcome of "nothing is true, everything is permitted" seems like short-changing the mystical tradition as well. No-one would do Kabbalah and then suddenly realize that no divine laws apply to them any longer.

Precisely - practice of Kabbalah mandates rigorous Torah and Talmud study separate from study of mystical texts, as well as strict observance of dietary, purity, and worship laws and of the Sabbath. It's where the old rule comes from: one must study the Torah for forty years before one can start learning Kabbalah.

Side note: this is one of the many reasons the Kabbalah Institute and organisations like it are basically nonsense-peddlers for bored celebrities and have nothing to do with real Kabbalah, which is by definition a closed practice!

Thus, I agree that the Illumination described in the rulebook is specifically that of the Nysalorean/Lunar variety, which makes sense as that is the kind most likely to be encountered by adventurers. The "nothing is true, everything is permitted" outcome, as you put it, isn't universal to all traditions but in fact the effect of an ecstatic understanding of the concept: "We Are All Us". The Lunar philosophy of universal acceptance is what allows the mystic to accept universally!

Thus the way I see it, a Larnsting would not gain the ability to mix and match cults and runes (since that's specifically the Lunar thing) but rather would gain powers appropriate to the Orlanthi mantra: "No-one can make you do anything"! In practice, I see them not rejecting Orlanthi practices but in fact following them to a degree as strict as the most devout Wind Lord.

A tangent: with this in mind, could one potentially make the argument that Brithini immortality is also the result of some kind of mystical practice? It's a stretch, but an amusing one to think about 🙂

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29 minutes ago, Akhôrahil said:

The large focus on Nysalorean Illumination with its frequent outcome of "nothing is true, everything is permitted" seems like short-changing the mystical tradition as well. No-one would do Kabbalah and then suddenly realize that no divine laws apply to them any longer.

Everything is permitted in a rules and metaphysical sense -- not necessarily in a moral one.  But whether Practical Kabbalah has anything much in common with rules stabs at 'mysticism' such as Illumination or Refutation does seem pretty dubious to me.  Much less how one might map that to Monotheistic/Liturgical mysticism in Glorantha, as meaningfully distinct from 'normal' sorcery and IG worship.

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13 minutes ago, Ladygolem said:

A tangent: with this in mind, could one potentially make the argument that Brithini immortality is also the result of some kind of mystical practice? It's a stretch, but an amusing one to think about 🙂

I sometimes imagine Brithini immortality as a successful (for a value of "successful") denial of the Man rune, but this has a bunch of issues to it and probably doesn't actually work. Perhaps a denial of the change to the Man rune introduced by the killing of Grandfather Mortal instead? Replacing parts of the Man rune with the Law rune? A Law-based caste system is clearly related to immortality in Glorantha, as Dwarves do the same thing and with the same consequences for failure (or in the case of dwarves, "failure").

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34 minutes ago, Alex said:

Everything is permitted in a rules and metaphysical sense -- not necessarily in a moral one.  

Right. Just because you could do anything - "everything is permitted" or perhaps "do as thou wilt" - doesn't mean you should. But any moral restrictions to your actions are now completely up to you, personally, in an existentialist kind of way. A Humakti who gets Illuminated is not forced to adhere to Humakti rules any longer, but can still decide to, possibly even doubling down on them. Aware that they are in a sense arbitrary, but still committing.

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6 minutes ago, Alex said:

Everything is permitted in a rules and metaphysical sense -- not necessarily in a moral one.  But whether Practical Kabbalah has anything much in common with rules stabs at 'mysticism' such as Illumination or Refutation does seem pretty dubious to me.  Much less how one might map that to Monotheistic/Liturgical mysticism in Glorantha, as meaningfully distinct from 'normal' sorcery and IG worship.

Nobody is saying "Kabbalah works like this, therefore Illumination must also work like this". Rather, since we're discussing fictional mystical practice, it's helpful to look at IRL mystical practice for reference, much like how one might look at a Corinthian helmet to help determine what a Humakti might wear to battle, or read up on Mesopotamian city states and Roman provincesto help determine how a Lunar satrapy might govern itself.

 

Aside: Another reason to read On The Kabbalah And Its Symbolism that I just remembered is the part where Scholem describes Paracelsus coming up with the idea of the homonculus by reading rabbinical texts on creating golems and going "hm, sounds neat! But I think instead of clay, I'll make it out of my own blood, shit and cum - because I really, really hate women".

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2 hours ago, Akhôrahil said:

I think this definition is a little restrictive. There are Christian and Muslim mystics as well, who often don't practice ascetism (at least not a very strong one - excess should typically be avoided). There's an ecstatic aspect to it that is almost universal, though, as in Sufi whirling. The idea is to achieve direct contact with an otherwise inaccessible Ultimate, whatever that is pictured as being (God for Christians, unsurprisingly).

So an Old Wind Orlanthi mystic might seek to achieve a direct connection with Transcendent Orlanth (painting himself blue, breathing in a controlled manner, and reciting the Laws of Umath and Orlanth).

Back in the HW era, and in the parallel track of Greg's draughtier ideas around the same period, we got sucked down the vortex of equating the method and the object.  Thus if we were doing a spell on something, it was an Essence, even if it filled a part of the magical ecology that made it look a lot like what would otherwise be called a spirit (say).  In that sort of concept, we'd declare that you got to the Transcendent Orlanth by some sort of High Theism, ecstatic worship was the shamanic method, so 'Manifest Mysticism' and 'High Animism' were essentially the same thing, and so on.  Liberally issued -20s all round.  Not exactly the pinnacle of the roleplaying or metaphysical arts.

So I think we have to unpick those:  what's the method, and what's the object.  And the third dimension is then of course what the magical consequences of the interaction of the those two.  And then yet another particular to the medium:  if 'mystics' eschew magical powers per se, but grandiose magical effects 'just happen' around them, how are we choosing to handle that?

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6 minutes ago, Ladygolem said:

Nobody is saying "Kabbalah works like this, therefore Illumination must also work like this".

I took the implication to be the reverse, if anything.  Perhaps I made myself obscure.

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Just now, Alex said:

I took the implication to be the reverse, if anything.  Perhaps I made myself obscure.

"Illumination works like this, therefore Kabbalah also works like this?" That would be a ridiculous thing to claim, if I'm understanding you correctly. I'm simply mentioning Kabbalah a lot because, as a Jewish person with some formal religious training, it's the form of mysticism I'm the most familiar with - I can't help if it colours my ideas, much as anyone's background influences theirs. (And that's a good thing!)

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9 minutes ago, Akhôrahil said:

Right. Just because you could do anything - "everything is permitted" or perhaps "do as thou wilt" - doesn't mean you should. But any moral restrictions to your actions are now completely up to you, personally, in an existentialist kind of way. A Humakti who gets Illuminated is not forced to adhere to Humakti rules any longer, but can still decide to, possibly even doubling down on them.

Indeed, and we have a very close parallel to that 'in canon' -- or in what I think is still canon this lunchtime, check recent updates on that, or at least in a document Chaosium will still be happy to take your money for.  That's the best-known of the possible interactions -- (poly)theism+Illumination.  How that generalises to other possible parts of the grid -- shamanism+Draconic Realization?  sorcery+High Worship of a Greater God(dess)? -- gets sketchier and sketchier.  Especially when we're trying to cross-pollinate two things that haven't been entirely satisfactorily described independently in the first place.

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6 minutes ago, Alex said:

Back in the HW era, and in the parallel track of Greg's draughtier ideas around the same period, we got sucked down the vortex of equating the method and the object.  Thus if we were doing a spell on something, it was an Essence, even if it filled a part of the magical ecology that made it look a lot like what would otherwise be called a spirit (say).  In that sort of concept, we'd declare that you got to the Transcendent Orlanth by some sort of High Theism, ecstatic worship was the shamanic method, so 'Manifest Mysticism' and 'High Animism' were essentially the same thing, and so on.  Liberally issued -20s all round.  Not exactly the pinnacle of the roleplaying or metaphysical arts.

So I think we have to unpick those:  what's the method, and what's the object.  And the third dimension is then of course what the magical consequences of the interaction of the those two.  And then yet another particular to the medium:  if 'mystics' eschew magical powers per se, but grandiose magical effects 'just happen' around them, how are we choosing to handle that?

I'm sorry, but I'm not sure I follow what this has to do with what we're describing here? Where do -20s come into play? I'm not even sure I disagree, I just don't understand your argument.

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5 minutes ago, Ladygolem said:

"Illumination works like this, therefore Kabbalah also works like this?" That would be a ridiculous thing to claim, if I'm understanding you correctly. I'm simply mentioning Kabbalah a lot because, as a Jewish person with some formal religious training, it's the form of mysticism I'm the most familiar with - I can't help if it colours my ideas, much as anyone's background influences theirs. (And that's a good thing!)

No, that would be the converse, not at all what I meant either. :)

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1 minute ago, Ladygolem said:

I'm sorry, but I'm not sure I follow what this has to do with what we're describing here? Where do -20s come into play? I'm not even sure I disagree, I just don't understand your argument.

-20 in HW due to Misapplied Worship, i.e. using the wrong kind of magical system to approach an entity. Like Aeolians trying to approach Orlanth through sorcery.

Very few people think it was a good idea these days.

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Just now, Akhôrahil said:

-20 in HW due to Misapplied Worship, i.e. using the wrong kind of magical system to approach an entity. Like Aeolians trying to approach Orlanth through sorcery.

Very few people think it was a good idea these days.

Right, though I think I was arguing for exactly the reverse (or is that converse? Maybe inverse? I'm lost here...)

 

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Just now, Akhôrahil said:

think this is how we're supposed to think of Tarumath?

A very good question.  HW had one version of this -- you sunk more HPs than it would take to beat up the entirely Lunar Army into all the aspects of a Greater God, then you disappeared from play.  I don't know if the implication is that's what Lokamayadon -- or some 'failed mysticism' version of it where you go thus far, then do a handbrake turn right before you Become One with the GG, and go around with your cheesy new mystical magic.  Or if was supposed to entirely different.  It strikes me that there at least some parallels, in that he seems to have been in some sense (re)assembling the Orlanth cult from fragmentary, isolated pieces of storm worship.  (A ball the God Learners in their own way picked up and ran with.)

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16 minutes ago, Ladygolem said:

I'm sorry, but I'm not sure I follow what this has to do with what we're describing here? Where do -20s come into play? I'm not even sure I disagree, I just don't understand your argument.

My apologies, that was unduly cryptic, I a) need more tea, and b) have a nasty habit of forgetting that not everybody has internalised every Gloranthan ruleset published in the last 40-odd years!  Essentially way back when there was a rather crude model of the Other Side where you needed to divide everything metaphysical up three -- or maybe four, as we're adding mystical concepts back in -- ways, and then decide if you were interacting with them the One True Correct Way (grand, work away), or Wrongly Any Other Way (get an utterly absurdly large penalty).

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34 minutes ago, Ladygolem said:

Right, though I think I was arguing for exactly the reverse (or is that converse? Maybe inverse? I'm lost here...)

I was tempted to say inverse too (in relation to our other sidebar), but decided at least another two cups of tea were needed before I strayed any further into formal or rhetorical logic.  I was making that observation not directly in response to you, but in the context of the broader method vs. object point.  I'm not sure how that immediately applies to the Kabbalah (or Gloranthan analogues), but am happy to have a bash at teasing that out, with the big disclaimer that you could walk through my knowledge about (or even of, as Bart Simpson might say) the Kabbalah without getting your feet wet.

Let me try to frame it as the following questions:-

If one were writing up RQ (or HQ, etc) Practical Kabbalah -- or some fictional Kabbalah-inspired practice -- how would it crucially differ from 'normal' Sorcery?  (Assuming that's the closest available starting point.)  Which 'rules' of sorcery might it 'break'?

And likewise, what're the gameable effects of Ecstatic Kabbalah (or fictionalised analogue again), beyond what we'd see with the standard Worship [liturgical entity] sort of thing?

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5 hours ago, Darius West said:

Real world examples of ascetics would include religions such as Buddhism, Sikhism, some parts of the Hindu tradition (though it is mainly pantheistic).

I wondered if Sikhism was maybe a slip for Jainism here (which is pretty consistently ascetic, moreso than Buddhism, or the (poly)theistic aspects of Hinduism), but apparently not as you repeat this later.  As I understand it, Sikhism is significantly influenced by the Abrahamic religions, consequently adheres to ascetic practices much less than (other) Dharmic religions, and indeed is doctrinally anti-ascetist.

 

5 hours ago, Darius West said:

Mystics would have powers to overcome physical limitations of their bodies.  They can ignore privations like extremes of temperature, needs for sustenance, the need to breathe, and even ignore certain types of physical damage.  A mystic could perform feats of levitation, bi-location, or even telepathy and teleportation.  Your classic Shaolin martial arts Monk likely supplements his fighting ability with a measure of ascetic mystical training.

These are all possible examples, but all also problematic ones, given the (both RW and Gloranthan) arguments that such practices are not mystical in nature at all.  (Or are 'false' mysticism, which may or may not be the same thing.)

 

5 hours ago, Darius West said:

The most commonly existing Gloranthan mystic would probably be a Kralori Martial Artist, [...]

Those are pretty common, but the semantic question is 'but are they mystics'?  And the answer from the pount of view of the 'purists' -- the precepts of Buddhism, Vithelan mysticer-than-thous, Greg most (but not all!) the time he was asked about this, would be 'no'.  But given that they exist, and certainly do exhibit magic powers, the more practical question is, how best to describe them?  And one argument is that since they do, and since magical manifestations are pretty much by definition sorcerous, theistic, and/or animist, martial artists do one or more of those.  And if they do more than one, we're starting to edge back into the realm of 'Illumination-like effects', in rules terms.  (Loath though I personally am to get anywhere near the area of declaring whether different such practices are ultimately 'the same' or not.)

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20 minutes ago, Alex said:

Let me try to frame it as the following questions:-

If one were writing up RQ (or HQ, etc) Practical Kabbalah -- or some fictional Kabbalah-inspired practice -- how would it crucially differ from 'normal' Sorcery?  (Assuming that's the closest available starting point.)  Which 'rules' of sorcery might it 'break'?

And likewise, what're the gameable effects of Ecstatic Kabbalah (or fictionalised analogue again), beyond what we'd see with the standard Worship [liturgical entity] sort of thing?

It's hard for me to say exactly, even harder to explain in a forum post. I don't think any form of Kabbalah maps neatly onto a Gloranthan analogue. I was merely using it as an example of mysticism, in order to explain my thoughts on the Gloranthan version of it. It's really quite hard to explain Kabbalah in concrete terms because most of the concepts are vague and meant to be understood intuitively after years of meditation and study.

My initial sense would be that Meditative-Ecstatic Kabbalah is to Judaism as Illumination is to The Seven Mothers or Larnstings are to the Orlanthi - a deeper understanding of religious practice that allows a new perspective. Practical Kabbalah, to throw you a curveball, could actually be described as closest possibly to spirit magic - a lot of it deals with deriving enlightenment through positive possession by angels or ghosts of deceased sages (ibburim) or expelling or repelling evil ghosts or demons that negatively possess people (dybbuks), with an understanding that all of these are ultimately subservient to G-d, whom the practitioner obviously still worships in the regular way. Almost everything else falls under divination (dream interpretation mostly) which I'm unsure how to categorise. The Golem myth, the part that everyone's most familiar with, is most similar to a heroquest than anything else - a magical reenactment of a mythical event in the hopes of recreating its effect.

(Note: historically, it's unlikely anyone actually attempted to create a literal man out of clay - rather, it referred to an ecstatic ritual where participants would induce an altered mind state through meditation, chanting and walking in circles until a particular transcendent state of mind was achieved for the briefest of moments, emulating/witnessing the formation of Adam, after which the steps of the ritual were reversed to "return the golem to the earth" and thus, safely return the participants to the mortal world)

Anyway I'd really recommend reading the book I mentioned earlier (Gershom Scholem's On Kabbalah And Its Mysticism) or even just the wikipedia page for an understanding of what it's about. Gloranthan sorcery has seemingly not very much in common with it.

Anyway, enough about Kabbalah, it was only ever tangential to the point and the thread threatens to derail completely. I have thoughts on how mysticism works and, more importantly, how it might work in the context of game mechanics, but this post is long enough as is and I should really try to sleep at some point (it's 10:30 am and I've been up nearly a full 24 hours)

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10 minutes ago, Alex said:

These are all possible examples, but all also problematic ones, given the (both RW and Gloranthan) arguments that such practices are not mystical in nature at all.  (Or are 'false' mysticism, which may or may not be the same thing.

The results of mysticism should probably be extremely variegated - I don't exactly see Teresa of Ávila leaping around doing Kung Fu in the tops of bamboo forests.

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5 minutes ago, Akhôrahil said:

The results of mysticism should probably be extremely variegated - I don't exactly see Teresa of Ávila leaping around doing Kung Fu in the tops of bamboo forests.

Although maybe she can blast you into your own Dark Night of the Soul if she overcomes your POW with hers?

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10 minutes ago, Ladygolem said:

It's hard for me to say exactly, even harder to explain in a forum post. I don't think any form of Kabbalah maps neatly onto a Gloranthan analogue. I was merely using it as an example of mysticism, in order to explain my thoughts on the Gloranthan version of it. It's really quite hard to explain Kabbalah in concrete terms because most of the concepts are vague and meant to be understood intuitively after years of meditation and study.

Mysticism situation normal, in other words.

Neat analogues are rarely fun.  And rarely even neat, as people then get annoyed at something being too direct a steal, cue maHOOsive argument.  (I was about to throw in an example or two, then sanity prevailed.)  But my thinking was roughly on the following lines:  the Kabbalah is, on the face of it (but see also below!) a type of liturgical mysticism.  Seems likely that Glorantha has at least one example of liturgical mysticism.  In fleshing that (or those) out, how do RW examples from the same part of the Big Chart potentially inform those?  Or more crudely, how much can we nick without it being too cheesy or too awkward a fit.

 

10 minutes ago, Ladygolem said:

My initial sense would be that Meditative-Ecstatic Kabbalah is to Judaism as Illumination is to The Seven Mothers or Larnstings are to the Orlanthi - a deeper understanding of religious practice that allows a new perspective. Practical Kabbalah, to throw you a curveball, could actually be described as closest possibly to spirit magic - a lot of it deals with deriving enlightenment through positive possession by angels or ghosts of deceased sages (ibburim) or expelling or repelling evil ghosts or demons that negatively possess people (dybbuks), with an understanding that all of these are ultimately subservient to G-d, whom the practitioner obviously still worships in the regular way.

That actually fits into the Four World/System concept rather well, as it's another strand that could also be seen as liturgical animism, rather than -- or as well as? -- liturgical mysticism.

 

10 minutes ago, Ladygolem said:

Almost everything else falls under divination (dream interpretation mostly) which I'm unsure how to categorise. The Golem myth, the part that everyone's most familiar with, is most similar to a heroquest than anything else - a magical reenactment of a mythical event in the hopes of recreating its effect.

Those are both essentially universal, I think, just varying the 'detail' -- not that the 'details' aren't pretty large and significant.

 

10 minutes ago, Ladygolem said:

(Note: historically, it's unlikely anyone actually attempted to create a literal man out of clay - rather, it referred to an ecstatic ritual where participants would induce an altered mind state through meditation, chanting and walking in circles until a particular transcendent state of mind was achieved for the briefest of moments, emulating/witnessing the formation of Adam, after which the steps of the ritual were reversed to "return the golem to the earth" and thus, safely return the participants to the mortal world)

Yeah, that's (with a lot of informative detail I didn't know, for which thanks) the sort of thing I was filing under 'Worship [Liturgical Deity] (only in a much more ecstatic rite)', in broad-strokes game terms.  Conceptually the divination angle might tie in here, as the type of narrative structures you might need for each seem to me at first wink to be similar.

 

10 minutes ago, Ladygolem said:

Anyway, enough about Kabbalah, it was only ever tangential to the point and the thread threatens to derail completely. I have thoughts on how mysticism works and, more importantly, how it might work in the context of game mechanics, but this post is long enough as is and I should really try to sleep at some point (it's 10:30 am and I've been up nearly a full 24 hours)

Hey, it's a mystical thread -- the rails were only ever illusions! @.@ I look forward to your other thoughts on that generally.  Rest well, middle way, don't be overdoing the Austerities!

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