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Shimozakura

On illumination and real world enlightenment

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On 6/7/2018 at 12:51 AM, jajagappa said:

Sorry, I'm not buying that.  I think that's reading something via game rules that doesn't feel like it fits.  Wisdom/knowledge does not equal illumination.  

I agree. Nysaloran Illumination was something you could have just by answering a few riddles and meditating on it. Going around the Puzzle Canal gives you an increase in your chance of becoming Illuminated.

Soltak Strormspear, my main PC, became Illuminated by meeting Nysalor on the Spirit Plane and speaking to him, he gained his Riddles by meeting him again, but he never answered a single Nysalor Risddle or studied the mysteries of the world.

Gaining Wisdom might lead to a different kind of Illumination, or deeper knowledge. I have always believed that those who study/concentrate on/embody/whatever certain runes could get some deeper understanding of those runes, through Mysticism. So a Suberer cultists might concentrate on Darkness and gain some deeper understanding, The Old Wind mystics did the same by concentrating on Air/Srtorm, Yelmalio worshippers concentrate on the Light and Truth runes in their retirement towers and so on.

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On 6/6/2018 at 7:06 PM, Tarumath said:

Nothing special probably happen to dead Illuminated people : without completing a transcendental practice they are still as bound as anyone else even if they can ignore some magical and mental restrictions, they are not automatically accomplished mystics and a lot of them actually end up unhinged because they are merely deeply aware that the world is an illusion without having access to the Ultimate after the first contact that caused their Illumination.

Greg has said that Illuminates are not contactable after death and do not have an afterlife. It's possible that they may become immortal and therefore not die and stay contactable, and Lunar deities such as the Seven Mothers probably fall into this category, but I've been there at many conventions and in many discussions on this and he was quite clear on it. If your Illuminated character dies, they are gone and that's it.

As we have discussed there are many forms of 'awakened consciousness', and Nysalorian illumination is just one, and this may not apply to all forms, but t's the one I'll focus on.

I think what Greg's talking about - and this is just my understanding - is that Nysalorian Illuminations includes a realisation of the illusory nature of the personal self, similar in some ways to some beliefs in Budhism. It follows then that if the Illuminate dies, there is no personal self to continue. That doesn't mean that what they were ceases to exist though, any more than that their physical body disappears on death. They may have spiritual components that continue to exist, but they know that these are not 'them' in a personal sense even in the way that a ghost of your non-illuminated ancestor presents itself as being 'them'. These spiritual components might even still be mistaken for that person by others. However for the Illuminate, their Illuminated state makes them immediately and deeply aware that they will not have a personal existence beyond death. 

Simon Hibbs

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Sorry for that, all I know is from the books and the old digest so most of what was said in conventions is unknown to me if they are not also in the runequest compendiums and things like that. (I could have missed some transcripts though)

I'm curious about something though, is personal existence after death an illusion for everyone in Glorantha or is that somehow a consequence of Illumination? 

By personal existence, do you mean identity or even the consciousness of the dead person? (None of the components can be considered them but their consciouness still exists somewhere vs they simply cease to exist and the survival of at least some of their spiritual components is not more signifiant than the continued existence of the atoms of our bodies in a materialistic universe, they don't experience anything anymore : true death as people generally think of IRL)

Edited by Tarumath
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Sorry, I didn't mean to squash and lines of thought. It's complicated :)

Illumination is not transcendence, but it is a kind of awareness of the relationship between the personal self, the cosmos and of the possibility of transcendence. It's one step on that path. For those still attached to their personal existence this is kind of potentially disastrous though, because if they die before transcending, they're gone. Caring about that too much or trying to forestall it can lead Illuminates down dark paths though.

The thing is there are 'illuminates' out there that have become immortals, so they are still around even though they might at one time or other have seemed to die, but for them death isn't the same thing as for us plebs. I think these terms in their common usage just don't really capture the nuances of what is going on with these beings. I suspect becoming an Immortal is another step, or perhapse one possible path towards transcendence. Or maybe it's a blind alley? Who knows.

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1 hour ago, simonh said:

Illumination is not transcendence, but it is a kind of awareness of the relationship between the personal self, the cosmos and of the possibility of transcendence. It's one step on that path. For those still attached to their personal existence this is kind of potentially disastrous though, because if they die before transcending, they're gone. Caring about that too much or trying to forestall it can lead Illuminates down dark paths though.

Well, that does sounds like actual annihilation, the kind that is just as bad as non-retroactive destruction by Chaos so it's hard to blame them IMO.

Mystics probably eventually stop caring about these kinds of things but what they seek is probably not the equivalent of being devoured by the Crimson Bat, transcended people probably still exist and experience things even if they are above personal identity; it's a desirable form of salvation from the wordly and definitively not eternal Glorantha. (And I do think that things look grim in the far future for those who will not transcend in some way)

Illuminating someone would be an awful thing to do unless you are really sure that they will transcend, I wonder what that says about the Lunars and Nysalor. (and probably a lot of other mystical beings and deities who endow people with similar states of consciousness, even Arkat teached Illumination and Orlanth has his Liberating Bolt,etc...)

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33 minutes ago, Tarumath said:

Illuminating someone would be an awful thing to do unless you are really sure that they will transcend, I wonder what that says about the Lunars and Nysalor. (and probably a lot of other mystical beings and deities who endow people with similar states of consciousness, even Arkat teached Illumination and Orlanth has his Liberating Bolt,etc...)

Is it though? If you know for a fact that personal identity, for anyone, is not real and that the only thing that matters is transcendence and the only path to that is through illumination, then what harm are you doing? What does it matter?

Also I'm not entirely sure that being consumed by the bat is especially terrible, from the perspective of an Illuminated being. We're all just shadows and masks anyway.

Edited by simonh

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To be honest I'm not sure to understand what you mean by personal identity and existence and how dead Illuminates are gone.

If it's only identity then yes it's not a big deal and essentially what happens to everyone in Glorantha when they die, if Illumination means that you stop to exist after a normal death then that's really bad unless you are sure to transcend in this life because otherwise you lose all forms of existence and thus all hope of transcendance. 

It's possible that a lot of Mystics and Illuminates develop a mentality where they don't care anymore about annihilation but that's suicidal even from a mystical perspective : someone who is destroyed by Chaos ceases to exist and will never ever transcend.

If Illumination is a prerequisite for transcendance then yes is it worth it even if failure means destruction but then someone who can Illuminate others ought to be extremely careful about who they choose otherwise they are just dooming them to oblivion and ruining all their chances.

Edited by Tarumath

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A case of an illuminate who is contactable after death is Mashunasan who after defeating Oorsu Sara defeated Avanapdur in the Empty Mountain of Vithalash.  Since Vithalash is where the dead Eastern Islanders go, Mashunasan's retirement is simply that he died.  A similar case could be made for the Dragon Emperors that now live in Summer Land Heaven.  

As for whether Illuminates cease to exist upon death, I think it's fair to say their attachments (the people they knew, loved or fought) keep them contactable within the mortal world and it is only when those attachments themselves have become illuminated then the illuminates will finally vanish from the mortal world.

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On 6/7/2018 at 5:18 AM, Joerg said:

The Kralori and the Lunars do practice rather bad austerities to prepare for mystical revelations

It's also canon that the Red Emperor's excessive, decadent parties can be sufficient to cause Illumination.

"Many came to the Party and most left as burnt out husks, shattered by the delights of spirit and flesh that were designed for the enjoyment of a demi-god and his kin. Yet for every dozen who used themselves up in this way, there emerged one who saw the world with new eyes. The extremity of the acts they’d partaken of had shocked their souls into an appreciation of the Goddess’ message and their own oneness with the Cosmos. They had become enlightened, illuminated, Seventhed by the power of their bodily experience."

http://www.glorantha.com/docs/does-the-emperor-party-or-not/

Or as Blake had it, "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom."

My issue isn't about austerities or not, it's that Illumination seems to require a mystical, holistic experience of oneness with the cosmos, a disintegration of the Self – which isn't at all what God Learnerism is about as far as I can tell. I don't think God Learners saw themselves as one with the Cosmos - rather, they had a super impressive set of tools to poke and slice the Cosmos with.

Edited by Akhôrahil
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21 minutes ago, Akhôrahil said:

My issue isn't about austerities or not, it's that Illumination seems to require a mystical, holistic experience of oneness with the cosmos, a disintegration of the Self – which isn't at all what God Learnerism is about as far as I can tell. I don't think God Learners saw themselves as one with the Cosmos - rather, they had a super impressive set of tools to poke and slice the Cosmos with.

The God Learners, like all Malkioni, had henosis - unity with the One Mind, which is part of doing sorcery.  My feeling is that the God Learners abused this ritual, performed it in the wrong place and ended up with knowledge that they weren't supposed to have.

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3 hours ago, Tarumath said:

To be honest I'm not sure to understand what you mean by personal identity and existence and how dead Illuminates are gone.

If it's only identity then yes it's not a big deal and essentially what happens to everyone in Glorantha when they die, if Illumination means that you stop to exist after a normal death then that's really bad unless you are sure to transcend in this life because otherwise you lose all forms of existence and thus all hope of transcendance. 

Most Gloranthans absolutely believe that they have a personal existence after death, and have evidence to back that up. Their ancestors are in the afterlife and contactable during some cult ceremonies or on heroquest. I think I can say that this is a 'true thing' about Glorantha. However....

Ilumination is the realisation that all personal existence is an illusion. Not just in death, but right now as well. 'You' as a conscious persistent self don't matter and are not real at a cosmic level. You become aware that the common conception of these things is a fantasy and none of it matters. The thing is, it depends how you experience this revelation. If you're just rudely thrust into this realisation with no preparation, it can be utterly devastating and many unprepared Illuminates just go mad. To those with a better grasp of philosophy and having under gone preparatory training and meditation to distance themselves from personal entanglements and petty concerns, often they are able transition into the enlightened state without mentally falling off a cliff.

 

3 hours ago, Tarumath said:

It's possible that a lot of Mystics and Illuminates develop a mentality where they don't care anymore about annihilation but that's suicidal even from a mystical perspective : someone who is destroyed by Chaos ceases to exist and will never ever transcend.

Transcendence isn't some sort of salvation of the personal self for eternity. You need to stop worrying about what happens to 'the person'. The personal self is scorched away by transcendence, so personal oblivion is a necessary part of the process. That's why Illuminates don't care about Chaos. Fearing destruction by Chaos is something the muggles trapped in the eternal torture of death and rebirth worry about. Illuminates have been freed form all of that. It;s not a bad thing, it's cosmic liberation.

 

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2 hours ago, Akhôrahil said:

My issue isn't about austerities or not, it's that Illumination seems to require a mystical, holistic experience of oneness with the cosmos, a disintegration of the Self – which isn't at all what God Learnerism is about as far as I can tell. I don't think God Learners saw themselves as one with the Cosmos - rather, they had a super impressive set of tools to poke and slice the Cosmos with.

In Vithelan practices, Enlightenment through oneness with the cosmos is only one (early) form of mysticism, taught by Venforn, a pupil of Oorduren. The other pupils of Oorduren (Mashunasan -> Void, Nenduren -> Atrilith, Larn Hasamador -> Nothing) practice separation from the Cosmos and seek Oneness with what lies beyond. The local Kralori, Vormaini and Teshnan sages appear to be mostly of Mashunasan or Nenduren derived practices (seeking Void or Atrilith).

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 I think classifying God Learner wisdom (of which there were many forms) as a form of illumination is using the term illumination in it's broadest possible sense, as just a form of enlightened insight into the nature of reality. It's certainly not the same as e.g. Nysalorean Illumination and I'm not ever sure it's similar in any specific sense.

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Sorry for the long silence.

The discussion of whether or not God Learnerism can lead to illumination has some counterparts in real life. For one thing there exists the Kyoto School of Philosophy, whose thinkers attempted to reconcile the spiritual traditions of East Asia with Western thought. If we think of God Learnerism as the Gloranthan manifestation of real-world Western naturalism and the scientific method, then the attempt would come close to attempting to define the Invisible God in draconic or lunar terms (something like this is definately taking place at the Lunar College of Magic). 

I think with God Learnerism and illumination, the matter ultimately comes down to whether the founding myths of Glorantha, with the Ultimate and such, are real to everybody or not. If there is an objective monomyth at the bottom of it, then I guess digging deep enough using the tools of rationalism should reveal something fundamental. Then again, Glorantha is all about relativity, so maybe there exists no single truth to attain. In that case I would rule enlightenment out of the scope of Western rationalism.

By the way, one thing that came to mind is whether the division of theravada and mahayana exists in Glorantha. The basic difference is that in theravada-buddhism, only the true practitioners who withdraw from worldly life can hope to achieve enlightenment, whereas in mahayana even a lay member can achieve enlightenment or other form of salvation. One example of this is the Pure Land Buddhism, where it is believed (on a general level) that a normal person who chants a prayer repeatedly or engages in other form of meditation can be reborn by the mercy of a boddhisattwa in a buddhist paradise where attainment of enlightenment is easier. The religious practices include things such as repeating a prayer for every prayer bead in your rosary or for every bean in a whole vat of them. Of course, the enlightenment in Pure Land Buddhism is mostly attained after death, if ever.

As far as I know, most paths to illumination in Glorantha rely on closed monastic orders (I count the draconewts as such) or heroic events. But is there a popular cult that sets illumination of the layperson as its goal? The most likely place to look for would probably be the Lunar empire, since most of the leading figures of the Empire are supposed to be illuminated (also there was the excellent entry above about Moonson's parties). Still, I feel that even these people have to be novices first and nobles second if they're going to unveil the secrets of the black moon. The street demagogues are another questionmark for me, but I'm under the impression that bread, circus and politics are more of their thing.

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Wandering Nysalorian riddlers just spread their pearls of wisdom wherever they go and to whoever will listen, so thy are very much out in the world and believe that anyone can potentially achieve enlightenment. There are also Lunar mystics that will preach their insights to anyone who will listen.

Of course the Lunar, and before that the Dara Happan authorities crack down on this sort of thing, to varying degrees at different places and times. There's a history of this in the GtG.

I think anyone can become Iluminated, but that's not the same as achieving Transcendence and doing that might be a lot harder to a spontaneous Illuminate than for a trained reclusive monk, but there are many paths to both Illumination and Transcendence.

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1 hour ago, Shimozakura said:

there exists no single truth to attain.

We know that attainment uncovers different and often contradictory insights because in Glorantha illuminates can and frequently do come into violent conflict. Fewer gentle monks, more Castanedan warriors gesturing at one another across history.

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I would suggest not drawing too many parallels between real life spiritual traditions and Gloranthan mysticism. Yes, it is obvious that they refer to similar phenomena, on some basic level but real life is real life and Glorantha is a high fantasy setting so how these things play out is vastly different. We can look at the basics of spiritual realization in real life and adapt those to Glorantha, but it will morph very quickly from there into something different.

These basics are things that have already been mentioned here several times. I especially liked simonh's concise explanation:

Quote

Ilumination is the realisation that all personal existence is an illusion. Not just in death, but right now as well. 'You' as a conscious persistent self don't matter and are not real at a cosmic level. You become aware that the common conception of these things is a fantasy and none of it matters. The thing is, it depends how you experience this revelation. If you're just rudely thrust into this realisation with no preparation, it can be utterly devastating and many unprepared Illuminates just go mad. To those with a better grasp of philosophy and having under gone preparatory training and meditation to distance themselves from personal entanglements and petty concerns, often they are able transition into the enlightened state without mentally falling off a cliff.

To discuss a few other themes briefly, the idea of ego-death also comes with the idea that existence is illusion. This tends to come along (in almost paradoxical fashion) with an experience of the essential unity of existence, which usually keeps this from becoming a descent into nihilism. Also, the idea that one-becomes-many, or that the many-become-one, so that the concept of one almost becomes interchangeable for the concept of many, is another traditional hallmark. Indeed, the conciliation and bringing together of various oppositions is a definite feature - a move beyond dualism - and somewhat difficult to put into words,  being more of a shared experience leading into patterns of thought that appear novel (at least to the initiate). Various spiritual traditions then splice these things up in various ways, but the essential experiences are remarkably similar. From these relatively similar beginnings, different directions are taken, though. 

As for whether Gloranthan mysticism is more theravada or mahayana, I feel this is getting too much into the weeds by bringing in real life stuff (though I'll do add a personal observation that I'd take it usually to be closer to vajrayana, actually). I'm pretty sure we can come up with belief systems which are analogous to either that could find places in Gloranthan cultures. I think it's more fruitful to take the basics of spiritual insights, then take the ball with it and run into the Gloranthan high fantasy wilderness, rather than necessarily compare in this manner. 

Edited by Grievous
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On 6/11/2018 at 7:31 PM, simonh said:

Greg has said that Illuminates are not contactable after death and do not have an afterlife. It's possible that they may become immortal and therefore not die and stay contactable, and Lunar deities such as the Seven Mothers probably fall into this category, but I've been there at many conventions and in many discussions on this and he was quite clear on it. If your Illuminated character dies, they are gone and that's it.

What about Arkat? He was illuminated, died, came back and was pretty much OK with it.

Nysalor died and then became a sprit that the Red Goddess contacted on a HeroQuest.

I would guess that was Greg musing about something. Not something I would have in my games.

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34 minutes ago, soltakss said:

What about Arkat? He was illuminated, died, came back and was pretty much OK with it.

Nysalor died and then became a sprit that the Red Goddess contacted on a HeroQuest.

I would guess that was Greg musing about something. Not something I would have in my games.

I won't pretend to understand all this completely, but they became Immortal. I should have caveated that I was talking about mortals but I think I said up thread somewhere that this is how e.g. the Seven Mothers get to still be contactable.

Edited by simonh
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2 hours ago, soltakss said:

What about Arkat? He was illuminated, died, came back and was pretty much OK with it.

Nysalor died and then became a sprit that the Red Goddess contacted on a HeroQuest.

I would guess that was Greg musing about something. Not something I would have in my games.

 

Sometimes I think folks take creators words too seriously or as too much dogma. Greg's interesting to listen to and created a fascinating setting that I admire deeply. But like, YGMV. And TBH, his G is probably pretty V from any of anyone else's Gs.

2 hours ago, simonh said:

I won't pretend to understand all this completely, but they became Immortal. I should have caveated that I was talking about mortals but I think I said up thread somewhere that this is how e.g. the Seven Mothers get to still be contactable. 

If I was to suppose, it'd be that illuminated people who aren't superpowered in some way, are usually too one with the background noise to be individually contacted.

 

Edited by Madrona

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9 hours ago, Madrona said:

If I was to suppose, it'd be that illuminated people who aren't superpowered in some way, are usually too one with the background noise to be individually contacted.

 

Well firstly how come that doesn’t apply to non-illuminated plebs like old uncle Bob? He turns up for the Dance of the Ancestors every Holy Season just fine.

That also implies Illumination really doesn’t have anything to do with the realisation of the illusory nature of personal existence. Which is basically all we know about Illumination.

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Just now, simonh said:

Well firstly how come that doesn’t apply to non-illuminated plebs like old uncle Bob? He turns up for the Dance of the Ancestors every Holy Season just fine.

That also implies Illumination really doesn’t have anything to do with the realisation of the illusory nature of personal existence. Which is basically all we know about Illumination.

Some cults in the past have embraced that to become truly Christian, involves becoming simply part of Christ. It involves becoming illuminated in the truth of the cosmos and heavens. Upon achieving that form of enlightenment, upon reaching that perfection, they do not have an afterlife in the traditional sense, for they follow Christ's journey and become one with him and God. In Glorantha, their afterlife would diffuse them from being contactable as their enlightenment would imply they were no longer individuals.

Still others, say a certain monk in the 16th century, wrote erotic, obsessive poetry about Christ, and believed he would live in heaven as one of the 'infinite wives' of Christ, reborn a woman and living in eternal ecstasy, a dutiful servant and loving wife of Christ. But maintaining, if transforming theirself in the afterlife. In Glorantha, they would be contactable as their afterlife told them they would be an individual.

Basically, becoming one with the red goddess=/=Individuality.
Becoming a servant of the red goddess=individuality.

Least that's my reading of it.

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21 minutes ago, Madrona said:

Basically, becoming one with the red goddess=/=Individuality.
Becoming a servant of the red goddess=individuality.

Yeah, I think that is a good sounding board. Before a Lunar is Sevened, they serve the Red Goddess, but are not really of the Red Goddess. Once their Seventh Soul awakens, they recognize that "We are all Us", and could in a sense said to be sharing in the essence of their goddess. They would also recognize that all others are also part of the same unity, they just don't realize it yet.

However, I also think a true Illuminate can lose and retain their individuality at the same time. In terms of the seven souls, you could say that the other layers aren't evaporated when you awaken your Seventh Soul. In terms of spiritual experience, this sense of being and non-being corresponds to concepts of transcending dualism (which in Lunar terms I would explain via an understanding of the cyclical nature of the universe: day is the opposite of night, but day turns into night and vice versa, so we might just as well call night day-in-the-making). So, I think an Illuminated Lunar priestess can really be said to be both at the same time: a part of the Red Goddess and her servant. 

As for what Greg said about reaching the dead souls of Illuminates, it is more difficult to say. It can certainly be argued that their experience with the unity of all makes them turn away from the many, and their individuality, and thus the need to maintain a contactable dead soul (which is an identity of sorts). On the other hand and to continue with the Lunar example I could also see the dead soul of a Lunar Illuminate to be contactable at least via the Red Goddess. I think I'd like to hear more about what Greg was musing about here before really jumping to more far reaching conclusions.

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On 6/13/2018 at 2:38 PM, Grievous said:

I would suggest not drawing too many parallels between real life spiritual traditions and Gloranthan mysticism. Yes, it is obvious that they refer to similar phenomena, on some basic level but real life is real life and Glorantha is a high fantasy setting so how these things play out is vastly different. We can look at the basics of spiritual realization in real life and adapt those to Glorantha, but it will morph very quickly from there into something different.

I absolutely agree with you on a general sense. The real world is not Glorantha, and Glorantha is not just some cheap jumbled imitation of real world phenomena but a truly independent, vibrant universe that makes use of these phenomena but only on its own terms. This is also something that I am going to respect in the actual talk that will be partly based on this thread (see the first post). However, for the interests of gathering material gathering phase for the talk, I'm after the kind of input that allows me to see some of the similarities and differences between Glorantha and the real world, and that's why I'm provoking the good people of the forum with real world examples even though it doesn't quite fit. Like you, I was concerned that it would narrow down the view too much, but I'm happy to see that people seem to be having no trouble "running off into the Gloranthan high fantasy wilderness" like you put it, despite my occasional attempts to ground the conversation with Eartly topics.

 

On 6/11/2018 at 9:31 PM, simonh said:

Greg has said that Illuminates are not contactable after death and do not have an afterlife. It's possible that they may become immortal and therefore not die and stay contactable, and Lunar deities such as the Seven Mothers probably fall into this category, but I've been there at many conventions and in many discussions on this and he was quite clear on it. If your Illuminated character dies, they are gone and that's it.

 

4 hours ago, Madrona said:

Basically, becoming one with the red goddess=/=Individuality.

Becoming a servant of the red goddess=individuality.

 

3 hours ago, Grievous said:

However, I also think a true Illuminate can lose and retain their individuality at the same time. In terms of the seven souls, you could say that the other layers aren't evaporated when you awaken your Seventh Soul. In terms of spiritual experience, this sense of being and non-being corresponds to concepts of transcending dualism (which in Lunar terms I would explain via an understanding of the cyclical nature of the universe: day is the opposite of night, but day turns into night and vice versa, so we might just as well call night day-in-the-making). So, I think an Illuminated Lunar priestess can really be said to be both at the same time: a part of the Red Goddess and her servant.

This supports my understanding of buddhist illumination (at least the kind that happens when you're still alive): you can be illuminated but you still have to do your taxes, clip your toenails and be an individual human being like everybody else. You don't lose the ability to be an individual, you can just choose not to be one.

As for contacting illuminati after death; maybe we can raise a parallel from the draconic side. Does anyone know if it is possible to contact an illuminated draconic entity who has performed utuma?

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Sorry for bumping. Ropecon event took place this weekend and I had the talk there. Everything went nicely, and I very much wanted to thank all the participants of this thread for helping me with the Gloranthan side. Unfortunately I didn't see anybody in the audience with a worker pass and a camera, so I'm sorry to say there won't be a video of the talk coming up after all. Nevertheless, I'm very grateful to all of you.

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